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Bone Ship

Rarely does anything living remain after a bone ship's passing—only death, destruction, and waves red as blood that clash and foam in its wake. When a bone ship forms, necromantic magic dredges great bones from the seabed and slowly bends them into place with malicious intent. Whales' ribs typically form the timbers of the hull, and their great spinal columns twist into towering masts. Muscles and tendons lash the ship together, tightening and loosening to precisely turn the ship as it sails.

When a bone ship encounters another vessel or finds some other opportunity to sow death, smaller corpses strewn throughout the ship animate to form a crew and boarding party. Each crew member resembles a humanoid skeleton, but they might be made of bones from multiple creatures. For battle, the ship also creates magical cannons formed of bone that propel bone shards and debris with blasts of magic. The small black gemstones stippled across the ship's structure hold the souls of a drowned crew, for a bone ship is the cursed legacy of dead sailors.

When mass death happens at sea—often from an entire ship sinking far from shore—the anguish of the dying victims can spawn a bone ship. This event might occur when a sailor makes a final plea to a dark god or when a deity takes the opportunity to bind many dead sailors' souls together as a destructive show of divine power. When not created through divine intervention, a bone ship can grow slowly and organically from one of the ships piloted by the undead sailors known as draugr. As draugr ships plague the seas and sink other vessels, they can collect more souls and bones, eventually becoming bone ships. These vessels look different from many other bone ships with patchwork or asymmetrical appearances.

A bone ship is almost gluttonous, possessing an unceasing appetite for death, destruction, and new souls to add to its number. These desires stem from an underlying cause, either placed within the ship by its creator or accreted from the scattered final wishes of its component dead souls. For example, a deity might send a bone ship on a special mission to carry a message or dispose of a particularly persistent adversary or annoyance. Though bone ships usually travel upon the waves, they have no need to breathe and can carry out underwater missions at the behest of their creator.

Bone ships hold a legendary reputation among sailors. These undead can appear out of nowhere to wreak destruction, and if a crew's bodies are absent from a shipwreck, the calamity might be blamed on a bone ship. The sea can bring death suddenly in many ways, but eternal enslavement of the soul presents a more terrifying fate than death alone.

Recall Knowledge - Undead (Religion): DC 43

Elite | Normal | Weak

Bone ShipCreature 18

RareCEGargantuanUndead
Source Bestiary 3 pg. 34
Perception +32; darkvision
Languages Common, Necril; (can't speak any language)
Skills Athletics +33, Intimidation +31, Sailing Lore +37
Str +9, Dex +5, Con +9, Int +1, Wis +6, Cha +5
Skeleton Crew (divine, evil, necromancy) The bone ship is compelled not by a single mind, but by the collective consciousness of dead sailors' souls. The ship is immune to mental effects that target only a specific number of creatures. It's still subject to mental effects that affect all creatures in an area. Any creature that tries to communicate with the ship via telepathy or read its thoughts hears the dying screams and gasps of the crew, and is targeted with a 9th-level warp mind spell (DC 41).
The ship animates skeletal crew members out of its own bones, arming them with rusty old cutlasses or other armaments so they can attack anyone who comes next to the ship. These entities have appearances matching those the bound souls had in life but aren't truly individuals; anything that targets them in fact targets the bone ship they're a part of.
Hundreds of black soul gems decorate the ship's exterior, each holding one soul. These gems can hold souls of creatures whose level was 16th or lower, and they have no value. If the ship is destroyed, all these gems shatter, freeing the souls within.
Trawl for Bones (downtime) The bone ship spends 1 day scavenging bones from the sea and restores itself to full Hit Points.
AC 42 all-around vision; Fort +33, Ref +27, Will +30
HP 415; Immunities death effects, disease, paralyzed, poison, skeleton crew, unconscious; Resistances cold 10, electricity 10, fire 10, piercing 10, slashing 10
Blood Wake (aura, divine, enchantment, fear, mental) 30 feet. The churning water around the bone ship tinges red with seeping blood. A living creature that enters water in the aura sees visions of itself drowning in the blood and must attempt a DC 37 Will save. After attempting this saving throw, the creature is temporarily immune for 1 hour. On a failure, the creature becomes frightened 2 (frightened 4 on a critical failure) and stunned 1, and it takes a –4 status penalty to Athletics checks to Swim.
Speed swim 40 feet
Melee Single ActionSingle Action hull +35 [+30/+25] (reach 20 feet), Damage 3d10+17 bludgeoning plus 2d10 negativeMelee Single ActionSingle Action skeleton crew +35 [+31/+27] (agile), Damage 3d6+17 slashing plus 2d10 negativeRanged Single ActionSingle Action bone cannon +35 [+30/+25] (brutal, divine, negative, range increment 100 feet), Damage 2d12+12 bludgeoning damage plus 2d10 negativeCannonade Two ActionsTwo Actions The bone ship makes four bone cannon Strikes, each targeting a different creature.Chain Shot Single ActionSingle Action The bone ship makes a special bone cannon Strike, firing a chain made of bones. A creature hit by this Strike is grabbed by the chain (Escape DC 41). The bone ship can use Interact actions to reel in a grabbed creature 50 feet per action spent, and when the ship moves, it pulls the grabbed creature along with it.Crew's Call Two ActionsTwo Actions (divine) The crew let out an anguished cry in unison. This is a wail of the banshee spell with 100-foot emanation (DC 39). In addition, any creature within 5 feet of the ship is grabbed by the crew. The ship can't use Crew's Call again for 1d4+1 rounds.Keelhaul Three ActionsThree Actions As Trample (Huge or smaller, hull, DC 43), but the bone ship Swims up to double its swim Speed instead of Striding, and each creature that fails its save is also dragged under the ship. The GM places each creature dragged along in an underwater space adjacent to the bone ship at the end of the ship's movement.Pressgang Soul Single ActionSingle Action (divine) The bone ship casts bind soul. The target must have died due to the bone ship's assault or from drowning. The creature's soul becomes part of the ghostly crew. A new soul gem grows on the ship, and the bone ship is quickened for 1 minute. It can use the extra action only to Strike or Swim.

Sidebar - Additional Lore Famed Bone Ships

Bone ships don't choose names of their own, instead being christened by dread gods who create them or sailors fortunate enough to survive encounters with them. Some names still whispered in seaside taverns follow.
  • Captain Aster's Eulogy
  • Crimson Mirage
  • Starved Whale
  • Horseman's Herald
  • Wail upon the Winds

Sidebar - Advice and Rules Piloting a Bone Ship

When a bone ship is defeated without being destroyed, or is commandeered by a more powerful undead, it can be used as a vehicle, following the Vehicle rules. It uses its normal Speed and defenses, and adds the following statistics.
Space 100 feet long, 20 feet wide, 25 feet high
Crew 1 pilot, 12 crew; Passengers 12
Piloting Check Sailing Lore (DC 40), Religion (DC 38); the ship's propulsion is wind if Sailing Lore is used, or magical if Religion is used
Collision 9d10 bludgeoning plus 5d6 negative (DC 38)

Sidebar - Additional Lore Vessels of the Dark Gods

Evil deities sometimes raise bone ships bound to them. These flagships herald destruction done at the creator's will.

Urgathoa occasionally makes bone ships to carry her revered acolytes to distant lands or cultures at sea. One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Charon the Boatman, counts many bone ships among his followers; some ply the River Styx in Abaddon; while others ferry his apostles to other planes. Charon's bone ships approach slowly rather than speeding toward their quarry, giving more time for the hearts of those who witness them to lose all hope.

Kelizandri, elemental lord of water, holds power over the drowned. He gives them new purpose crewing bone ships, where they can live eternally in the moment of their death under the waves. His ships frequently plumb the depths of great seas, casting ghostly green light down in the blackness.