Say what you will about Brendan Fraser—Lord knows everyone else has—but the Mummy franchise completely reshuffled how we think of mummies on the power scale. When I was a kid, they were the joke of the monster world: a fourth-stringer, a Halloween costume made out of toilet paper. Now we expect our mummies to not just deliver the mummy rot, but also whip up a sandstorm, explode into a swarm of beetles, summon elementals out of stone, and generally wreak havoc. Which is hella RPG fodder right there.
So when you want recreate that cinematic feel at the table, adding class levels to the base mummy isn’t good enough. Nor is defaulting to the lich template—there’s just not enough flavor in the lich’s special ability list. Besides, when your PCs finally kill the mummy, you want them grabbing all the treasure they can and running for the exit as the mummy’s pyramid falls apart around them, not setting up an archaeological dig to hunt for a phylactery for the next three play sessions. Liches are symbols of eternity, but they can slow play down. Mummies are also symbols of eternity, but once you crack open their tomb, they hit with the fury of a sudden sandstorm.
That’s why we have the mummy lord template. He’s everything you want in a caster, able to command undead and spit superheated sand, and if you don’t kill him right he’ll return for the sequel. Sounds like the perfect post-1999 mummy to me.
Assuming you weren’t reading this blog in 2013, here’s the original “Mummy” entry. And since I’m pretty sure you know how to deploy the mummy lord in a desert setting, here are some seeds that try to get beyond the usual Pyramids & Pharaohs shtick.
Elves have spirits rather than souls—when they die, they return to the earth, only sometimes to be born again. When a matriarch of a destroyed elven kingdom perishes while her fugitive nation is crossing the desert, rather than surrender her spirit to the unfriendly terrain, her indomitable will causes her to rise as a mummy lord. The result is a part-elf, part-sand creature. No longer tethered to the forests of her birth, she begins to build a new kingdom of terror right there in the desert.
A cardinal believed he could not die if his heart was removed. In a sense, he was right, because the ritual he used turned him into a mummy lord. Years later, adventurers investigating the illegal trade in saints’ preserved body parts comes across the canopic jar in which the cardinal’s liver is stored (it was stolen without the prelate’s knowledge and placed on the black market). While they are tracking down the mysterious jar’s provenance, the cardinal (who now secretly rules a principality with an iron fist) assumes they are the original thieves and sets about having them killed.
Private school isn’t easy. Especially a private school founded on the site of a mass grave. Led by their debate teacher, who has quietly taught them thaumaturgy on the side, along with a helpful dose of fencing lessons from one of the phys. ed. staff, a ragtag group of students has managed to thwart an invasion of shambling corpses, escaped a book that tried to trap them in a demiplane, and driven off an immature color out of space. Now corpses begin piling up, each one drained of blood. The students suspect a vampire, but it is actually their dean, a mummy lord wrapped in layers of illusion, who is the culprit—courtesy of a blood-drinking kukri.
—Pathfinder Adventure Path #84 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 176–177
Having medical-professional parents, my mummy costumes at least featured real bandages. #whitecoatprivilege
BTW, I actually like Brendan Fraser a lot. I think he needs to strangle his agent, though. Also I love Universal Studios’ Revenge of the Mummy ride, even if mechanical and operator errors did force us to go through it three times in a row once. (Or was it four? It was a lot.)
Speaking of which, what are we feeling about the Tom Cruise Mummy reboot? It looked like a standard B.B.N. (???) F. film to me, so I skipped it. (Speaking of which, I’ve taking to calling these crappy 2000s franchise movies film bleu, in a nod to the great film noir genre, because among other similarities they are color-graded to filth. And because they tend to blow. Who’s with me?)
Hey, here’s last night's radio show. We played melancholic songs about the end of summer and defiant songs with Charlottesville in mind, including the new benefit song from Wilco. Stream/download now through Monday, 08/21/17, at midnight. (PS: No show next week; we’re down for station maintenance.)