D&D 3.5's Monster Manual 4 introduced "Bloodhulks", three new kinds of mindless undead which are not templated from a base creature.

The Spell Compendium has the most updated version of the spell "Awaken Undead", which adds intelligence to an undead creature, "subject to the limitation that an undead cannot be more intelligent than is typical of a living creature of the same kind." It also gives it a bunch of feats and abilities, based on what it had when alive.

How does this spell interact with mindless undead that don't have a base creature? I'm looking specifically at bloodhulks, but there are other mindless undead that this could apply to as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Bloodhulks actually do have a base creature: "Bloodhulks are corpses reanimated through an infusion of the blood of innocent victims in a dark and horrible ritual." They also can be created with the animate dead spell... \$\endgroup\$ – Peregrin Took Jan 16 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeregrinTook Yeah, kind of. I'm still not sure the "living creature of the same kind" would be. If you want to write an answer based on this though, I would probably upvote it. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Jan 16 at 18:07

It depends on what the bloodhulk originally was

You're correct that the bloodhulk is not implemented as a template that is applied to a base creature, so in that specific mechanical sense there is no base creature to refer to. However, the fuller description of the bloodhulk in MM4 makes it clear that there definitely was an original creature which is reanimated to create the bloodhulk:

Bloodhulks are corpses reanimated through an infusion of the blood of innocent victims in a dark and horrible ritual.

Creating a bloodhulk requires a ritual of bloody sacrifice culminating in a spell of animation. Most living corporeal beings can be made into these horrors.

You can create bloodhulk warriors [sic], giants, or crushers based solely on the size of the corpse you wish to animate: A Medium corpse is required for a bloodhulk fighter, Large for a giant, and Huge for a crusher. Smaller and larger corpses cannot be made into bloodhulks. The creation of a bloodhulk changes the original corpse too much for it to retain most of its original features.

That last justifies why the bloodhulk statistics derive solely from its size, rather than applying a template; the process simply changes the original body so much that its original features are no longer relevant.

Nonetheless, there clearly was an original creature that has been reanimated, so any effects of awaken undead which refer to the typical living creature of its kind must be taken to refer to the kind of creature that provided the original corpse - the spell description never specifically refers to the concept of a "base creature". Moreover, it is stated that most living creatures can potentially be animated in this way, so for a bloodhulk of unknown origin, it's really up to the DM to decide what the original creature was.

The simplest solution would probably just be to treat such bloodhulks as originally human - after all, humans can be found pretty much anywhere, they come in large numbers and most of them are no good at fighting, so they're readily available subjects for necromantic purposes. Of course, for bloodhulks that have been created by the PCs, this is a non-issue, since they should be well aware of whatever kind of creature it is they just murdered to perform the ritual.

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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "That last justifies why the bloodhulk statistics derive solely from its size, rather than applying a template…." Yet when a Huge storm giant or gold dragon or whatever is energy drained to death, wait a day, and out pops a regular ol' Medium wight. Sometimes D&D is just weird. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 16 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another of the amusing aspects of bloodhulks: if you take a tyrannosaur as your base creature, it no longer has a bite attack. Just slam. So you end up with a giant-size Barney. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Jan 17 at 18:35

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