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I have an upper level NPC druid that I plan on killing and then making undead, along with his animal companion.

  1. Do the rules allow the undead animal companion in this situation? (If so does it require a feat & are there any negative consequences to the companion?)

  2. Do his druidic abilities & spells continue to function the same? (Alignment will shift to NE so the neutral requirement will be met)

  3. If he has a feat that is no longer compatible/allowed/etc can I convert it to another feat of my choice or is it simply "lost"

  4. Does he lose a level as if resurrected? (I don't think so but I need reassurance)

I don't mean by the spell "Animate undead" - I'm trying to make him undead in a way that maintains all his abilities/feats/stats (-con of course)/etc.

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An aside: You might want to look at the Blighter prestige class in Complete Divine. It's got a "fallen druid" theme; they get abilities to suck energy from plant life, wildshape into undead animals, spread plague, etc. –  starwed Jan 14 '13 at 22:49
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Background: This is an NPC the players have been friendly with for the past 10+ lvls. The plan is to have him killed while helping the NPCs fight one of my mini-bosses and then the boss will use him against the PCs in a later fight –  Ben-Jamin Jan 15 '13 at 0:22

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted

This answer depends a lot upon the method you use to animate him. Your options are basically these:

  • animate dead – Core and lowest-level, but applies the very-weak Skeleton or Zombie templates.

  • Ritual of Crucimigration – From Libris Mortis, this applies the quite good Necropolitan template. On the other hand, it’s a voluntary ritual that gives the one performing it no control over the participant.

  • animate dread warrior – From Unapproachable East, and thus on some level Faerûn-specific, this spell applies the excellent Dread Warrior template, while still granting the caster control.

Animate Dead

Using animate dead is probably undesirable, since it will make him mindless, have 10 Wisdom, and 1 Charisma, and remove most (all?) of his class features thanks to the way Skeleton and Zombie work.

The Animal Companion, on the other hand, cannot be animated with the Ritual of Crucimigration or animate dread warrior, which makes animate dead the only option out of these three. I’m still looking for a better one, though, since the Skeleton and Zombie templates are still weak for an Animal Companion. Ultimately, though, I think it’s best to just leave the Animal Companion alive. Maybe give it the Tomb-Tainted Soul feat, so it heals from Negative Energy (and is harmed by Positive Energy), like Undead creatures, to represent its bond to an Undead creature.

Anyway, your questions:

  1. Animating his Animal Companion makes it no longer an Animal Companion; it is under the control of whoever did the animating. He would be eligible to take a new Animal Companion; there may be a feat or something that would allow the Animal Companion to be Undead, in which case he could re-bond his newly-animated Animal Companion if the animator releases it. He could just keep his (living) Animal Companion, though.

  2. The alignment change certainly isn’t going to be a problem; NE is a legitimate Druid alignment. The problem, at least for animate dead, is that the Skeleton and Zombie templates both remove all existing special qualities and special attacks – there goes your Druid class features.

  3. By RAW, it is lost. Reasonable DMs will allow replacement, probably with the caveat that the new feat was something you could have taken at that time.

  4. No, animate dead does not have any rule that causes level loss as with raise dead. Note that the compulsory templates do have Level Adjustments that will cause him to take longer to level up. As an NPC, though, that doesn’t really matter. Just pay attention to the CR rules.

Ritual of Crucimigration

The Necropolitan template is basically “gain the Undead type, and otherwise get left alone,” which is great. It also has no Level Adjustment, which is even better.

  1. The Necropolitan template cannot be added to any creatures that are not Humanoid or Monstrous Humanoid, so it doesn’ come into play for the Animal Companion.

  2. The Necropolitan template does not change the base creature’s alignment, and does not interfere with Druid class features in any way. See the section on Corrupted Wild Shape, below, for details on Wild Shape.

  3. Feats that cannot be taken by the Undead or those with Con — are lost. Again, replacement is typically appropriate.

  4. The Ritual of Crucimigration results in a level loss, as if a negative level became permanent, and a further loss of 1,000 XP.

Animate Dread Warrior

A Sorcerer/Wizard 6 spell in Unapproachable East, animate dread warrior applies the Dread Warrior template. This template turns any Humanoid into an Undead, with all of his original special attacks and qualities intact. He does lose a great deal of Intelligence and Charisma, but gains some Strength to partially make up for that.

  1. The Dread Warrior template cannot be applied to the Animal Companion.

  2. Dread Warriors are “always NE,” which is a valid Druid alignment, and the template does not interfere with any of the Druid class features. See the section on Corrupted Wild Shape, below, for details on Wild Shape.

  3. Feats: Same as the base creature, except that the dread warrior loses any feats for which it no longer qualifies.” Again, if you allow the players to replace feats lost like this, then it’s fine for the NPC to.

  4. As far as I can tell, the Dread Warrior template has neither a CR adjustment nor an LA. A Dread Warrior Human Warrior 4 is listed as CR 2, for whatever that’s worth. Anyway, I’d say that this template certainly does make your Druid a fair bit more powerful, so keep that in mind. There is no explicit level loss.

Corrupted Wild Shape: Huh?

Libris Mortis has a feat called Corrupted Wild Shape, which basically claims that you need it to Wild Shape if you’re Undead, because Wild Shape is based on polymorph which only targets living creatures.

There’s a problem with this: it completely ignores the errata for the Player’s Handbook.

Wild Shape

Player’s Handbook, page 37

Replace sentence 3 of this class feature with the following text:

This ability functions like the alternate form special ability (see Monster Manual), except as noted here.

Note that some versions of the PHB, including the one I own, have added this errata to the text:

Wild Shape (Su): At 5th level, a druid gains the ability to turn herself into any Small or Medium animal and back again once per day. Her options for new forms include all creatures with the animal type (see the Monster Manual). This ability functions like the alternate form special ability, See Errata.

(emphasis mine)

The most popular website for the SRD (so far as I can tell), d20srd.org, has also incorporated the errata into itself, though it did drop the note indicating that it was errata.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that Alternate Form, unlike polymorph, says nothing about the target being living. An Undead Druid can use Wild Shape without any feat.

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The answer is even better after the edit. Sadly I cant +1 again even though it definitely deserves another one –  Ben-Jamin Jan 17 '13 at 14:19

You are the GM. There are some important rules to go by before you consider the rules of the game.

  1. Will the players enjoy facing against the villain?
  2. Will you enjoy playing this villain?

If the answer to both the above is yes, you can go ahead with this. The only problem is if adding all the stuff on will make the NPC more powerful than you expected. This is a case of trial and error.

If you are worried about the rules, remember that there are unique, one-of-a-kind effects that can break them. So long as the final result isn't too far out of whack, it's ok to say A Wizard Did It.

The flavour of the NPC as you've outlined the bare bones sound interesting. I'd like to know that you gave your players some fun sessions rather than got dismayed by the rules as they are written.

Edit: This answer was based on the previous title "Undead NPC Druid".

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1. Yes, I think the players will enjoy it but I hope the PCs are mortified by discovering their friend literally turned against them. 2. I think of this "villain" more of an extension of the main boss and I'm definitely enjoying this. See my comment on my question to see the background –  Ben-Jamin Jan 15 '13 at 4:34
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I know I can always wave the DM hand to make it happen but I want it to stay as true as possible to the rules. Plus if the PCs later decide they want an undead animal companion then it'd be good to have reference material showing what they can and can't do. –  Ben-Jamin Jan 15 '13 at 4:35

Have you thought of having him killed by a vampire? Specifically with an energy drain attack causing him to raise as a vampire a few days later. (This will obviously require you to succeed on your plan to have his dead body abandoned by the PCs)

+2CR with a slew of bonuses & alignment will shift to Evil (NE is still acceptable)

Bonus: Every time he attacks with a natural weapon in wild-shape he's now delivering a negative level in addition to his damage!!

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+1 I hadn't thought of this option..it gets me a believable way for him to become undead. This might make him too powerful for my purposes so I'll have to weigh his level if I go this route. –  Ben-Jamin Feb 7 '13 at 4:16

1) The outdated Masters of the Wild might have something on undead animal companions. The MM1 vampire (though not the text in the SRD) suggests that one should replace their animal companion with a rat or a bat, if I remember correctly - if you cannot find an undead animal companion precedent then you might follow precedent with that.

2) Class abilities depends on the undead type chosen. I'm assuming you're going to not make him anything mindless or anything that is universally the same (many undead just are, and they lose class abilities in their transformation). Vampires, liches, necropolitans (LM) as @KRyan mentioned, gravetouched ghoul (LM), and mummified creatures (LM). In Elder Evils there's even a quell (LM) who, when created, retained his class abilities (a precedent for an undead type capable of being applied though it's not a template).

Since druids must be any neutral, NE doesn't mess with his druidism. Spells will continue to work, wild shape will not. From Libris Mortis, page 25:

Normal: Since it is based on the polymorph spell, wild shape only works on living creatures.

The feat "corrupted wild shape" bridges this for undead wild-shapers, from the same book and page. They don't regain lost hit points, though, since they have no con score.

EDIT: As KRyan addressed, the SRD wild shape strangely does not work on polymorph but instead the special ability alternate form.

3) Since you're the DM, yes, but my advice is to open this option to the PCs as well. There's an adventure somewhere that allows for feat retraining, once I find it I'll come back and edit it in. There's also this excerpt from the PHB2:

Retraining involves small-scale changes to your character, such as reallocation of feat slots and skill ranks. Such changes are relatively simple to apply, and they don't usually lead to dramatic changes in the character's capabilities or party role.

4) Depends on how you, er, raise him. You don't need to have him lose a level, he can instead just be that undead as per DM fiat. If you're like me and prefer as little "blue lightning from the sky" as possible, then this is covered in Libris Mortis.

Since you're concerned about his level, one might presume that it's not a static-levelled NPC? There are undead monster classes if you want them to become undead progressively, but since they include the level adjustment (since they're designed for PCs) then I'm not sure they're what you're looking for. A character advancing in those classes does lose a level, as though they were raised from the dead. I don't know of other instances where this level loss would happen for gaining an undead monster type, though.

Libris Mortis would be your friend, in this.

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I don't know what Libris Mortis is talking about, Wild Shape is based on Alternate Form, which does not require that the one using it be living. –  KRyan Jan 16 '13 at 6:30
    
Hm, that it does. Good eye –  LitheOhm Jan 16 '13 at 6:42
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That's because of the wide-reaching polymorph errata WotC issued late in the 3.5 lifecycle. All core abilities that depended on polymorph were rewritten to depend on alternate form. The SRD has the updated text, but they didn't bother to errata most of the splat books. –  starwed Jan 16 '13 at 17:10

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