Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Mohrgs may be one of my favorite undead. But if I could only have one undead type in a campaign, I’d have mummies.

Mummies are created by cynical priest castes to consolidate their power even in the afterlife.  Mummies are created from fervent believers whose faith carries them on even in death.  Mummies are created by necromancers seeking powerful minions.  Mummies can boast clerical power to rival the greatest hierophants, and they can be windows into the rites of dead cults and forgotten gods.  The threat of a mummy’s curse can provoke any number of folk superstitions and taboos.  And mummies are created (super)naturally in barrow mounds, in peat bogs, in trackless tundra wastes, in hot baking deserts.  Wherever a corpse is wrapped or where nature preserves rather than decays, there is a chance of a mummy.

Oh right, and pharaohs and pyramids.  I seem to remember something about mummies and pharaohs and pyramids.  And curses.  And canopic jars.  Does that ring a bell?

Hrothdar Foxmantle was denied glorious death in battle, succumbing to disease in peacetime.  As if to compensate for this insult from fate, his plans for his funeral boat grew overambitious—and when he was finally laid to rest, it sank from the weight of its construction (and Foxmantle’s treasure) before the pyre could send his soul to Valhalla.  Preserved in the icy water, the dead jarl returned in rage and slaughtered his kinsmen.  Still seeking death in battle, he rules draugr minions and works to build a new fleet of undead raiders.  And instead of dust, his mummy rot causes his victims to burn with phantom flames till they collapse into ash—fate’s nod to the pyre that failed to consume him.

Priest of a god of assassins, Snake-Hearted Enomedjou still rules from the funeral city outside Lower Mashalkol.  The dead guildmaster and politician is actually two undead sharing one mind.  His mummy self worships, plots, and plans; meanwhile his preserved innards animate a mohrg that executes Enomedjou’s dire will.

The ecclesiastic life is not meant to be a route to temporal power—but it often is.  Bishop Niall O’Melaghlin chased the mitre his entire life, and refused to relinquish it in death.  He still rules from the crypt beneath his cathedral in a withered body redolent of peat and spilt blood.  Those clerics and friars who would not serve him were turned to dust, and the remainder follow him out of fear even as he flirts with devotions to ever-darker and older powers.  (A party wishing to face him would do well to befriend the brownies who still tend the cathedral grounds, unbeknownst even to the dread bishop.)

Pathfinder Bestiary 210

Paizo’s Classic Horrors Revisited has some really smart looks at the undead.  The mummy entry is one of the best and—no surprise—it’s written by F. Wesley Schneider, who points to covetousness as the classic mummy’s animating vice—they cannot relinquish the trappings, power, and treasure of their mortal lives.  He also lays out some perfectly (in every sense of the word) revolting variations on mummy rot.

(I also wish I’d read his Ossa Stormseer write-up more closely—I just noticed my Hrothdar seed above echoes it more than I’d like.)

One of the neat details of the Dark Sun setting (I never owned the products, but believe me I pored over every scrap of info Dragon and Dungeon let slip) was that there were supposed to be no stock undead—each was meant to be treated as a full-fledged NPC.  I particularly remember a line in Dragon #173 (which I may have echoed here before) that strange superstitions taboos can sometimes outline the borders of old kingdoms—after a series of attacks, people quickly learn to adopt an undead’s favorite customs to keep it from rising.  That’s a great concept to steal for your campaign, especially if mummies are involved.

Also, I have seen real mummies in the basement of a church in Ireland.  It was amazing and haunting.  Acidic bogs, man—they are a thing.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite unconventional mummy is the savage and squishy Bites-The-Rattlesnake, keen on murdering as many of these new white interlopers he can find: