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Playing Undead

Source Book of the Dead pg. 44
Few undead can be called heroes, but a small number overcome the challenges of unlife to become something more. Durable and adaptable, they might even become adventurers and thrive. The tools in this section enable you to be undead as a player character

Playable Undead Options

Source Book of the Dead pg. 44
This chapter provides options for playing undead characters. Most leave a fair amount of your previous “self” intact, so they're presented as archetypes. The skeleton is the exception—when reduced to bones, your old body doesn't make as big a difference. Because these types of undead characters occur so seldom, and because a game using them needs special adjustments to play out like a normal campaign, these archetypes and ancestry are all rare. The options are ghost, ghoul, lich, mummy, skeleton, vampire, and zombie.

Basic Undead Benefits

Source Book of the Dead pg. 44
The archetypes and skeleton ancestry that follow can give the basic undead benefits detailed here. These are somewhat different from the normal undead creature abilities to better fit player characters.

Necril: You know the Necril language.
Undead Vision: You gain low-light vision, or you gain darkvision if your ancestry already has low-light vision.
Negative Healing: You are damaged by positive damage and aren't healed by positive healing effects. You don't take negative damage and are healed by negative effects that heal undead.
Negative Survival: Unlike normal undead, you aren't destroyed when reduced to 0 Hit Points. Instead, powerful negative energy attempts to keep you from being destroyed even in dire straits. You are knocked out and begin dying when reduced to 0 Hit Points. Because you're undead, many methods of bringing someone back from dying, such as stabilize, don't benefit you. When you would die, you're destroyed rather than dead, just like other undead.
Immunity to Death Effects: You're immune to death effects. This keeps you from being automatically killed or from having your dying value automatically increase, but it doesn't make you immune to other parts of the spell or effect. For example, you can still take mental damage and become frightened by a phantasmal killer, you just don't instantly die from it.
Disease and Poison Protection: You gain a +1 circumstance bonus to saving throws (or any other defense) against disease and poison.
Undead Hunger: While you don't eat or drink the same food as humanoids do, you usually have thirsts and hungers related to your undead state, such as a ghoul's hunger for humanoid flesh, a zombie's craving for brains, and a vampire's desire for blood. Additionally, while you don't sleep, you enter a state of quiescence for at least 4 hours a day to recuperate, which lets your undead flesh reknit and recover naturally. Many undead choose to rest when the sun is at its highest.

Advanced Undead Benefits

Source Book of the Dead pg. 44
If your archetype has a feat that gives you advanced undead benefits, you gain the following.

Darkvision: You gain darkvision if you don't already have it.
Greater Disease and Poison Protection: Your bonus against disease and poison increases to +2. You gain poison resistance equal to half your level.
Paralysis and Sleep Protection: You gain a +1 circumstance bonus to saving throws (or any other defense) against effects that would make you paralyzed or have the sleep trait.

Roleplaying Undead

Source Book of the Dead pg. 45
An undead PC has a different mindset and priorities than a living creature. Consider your character's place in both the societies of the living and undead. Consider what ordinary concerns an undead creature wouldn't have to deal with and what new ones might arise from their unliving state. For instance, you might deal with your undead stench with perfumes or magic, much as the undead in the courts of Geb do.

Undead Origins

Source Book of the Dead pg. 45
You can't become undead without dying first, so the manner of your death can both inform the kind of undead you become and further your story. If you're making an undead PC without having played the character while alive, think about who they were before dying and what the process of becoming undead felt like to them.

Running a Game with Undead PCs

Source Book of the Dead pg. 45
The options for playing undead are built to closely match the normal play style of adventuring, but not all types of adventures or adversaries work well with undead in the party. Many abilities of enemy creatures become weak or pointless against undead. Take note of the basic undead benefits so you can avoid using enemies who rely on death effects, for example. You'll also need to reconsider adversaries who have heal or harm spells, and potentially switch out the spells they know. Harm isn't useful as an offensive spell against undead, so living creatures with harm won't get any use out of it against a party of undead. Heal, on the other hand, becomes extra useful and valuable for living creatures, as it can both heal their allies and hurt the PCs. Running a game with undead means taking these elements into account but not necessarily removing them all. Sometimes undead shrug off powerful spells and sometimes they get wrecked by a heal spell.

Unleashing the Undead

Source Book of the Dead pg. 45
The rules for undead PCs make some adjustments for playability. The main differences are reducing the undead immunity to disease, paralyzed, poison, and sleep to bonuses, and not having the undead destroyed when they reach 0 HP. If you want something more similar to standard undead for the PCs, you can give them the immunities fully. This means quite a few spells, enemies, and hazards could become useless. You can remove a fair number of these from your campaign and skip rewarding XP for dangers that don't actually endanger anyone. For instance, if undead PCs immune to poison battled enemies that made heavy use of poison, that might be a trivial encounter for your group.

Having the PCs be destroyed at 0 HP is a trickier change. This removes a safeguard intended to prevent total party kills (TPKs) and avoid the need to monitor the whole group's HP very carefully at all times. Implementing it works best if you're playing a high-intensity one-shot game or are playing troupe-style play, with more characters than players, so a character who dies can quickly be replaced.