May of the Dead: Undead Items

A Hero with a Jabbering Prophet (Actually "David with Goliath" by Caravaggio) It’s Friday again, which means it’s time for another undead-themed post as part of the May of the Dead Blog Carnival! This week’s entry is a new type of magic item which I call an “Undead Item.”

An Undead Item is not simply a magic item with an undead theme. Plenty of magic items have skull or death motifs, and many have effects which are related to undead. But though these items have an obvious connection to undeath, they are not themselves undead items. An undead item has an un-life all its own. While not necessarily intelligent, undead items are created by taking dead matter (such as a limb from a corpse) and empowering it with negative energy through an evil crafting ritual which creates–in essence–a very simple undead creature. A creature which usually cannot move or act on its own, but which instead serves to bestow its powers upon whoever wields it.

It is important to note that while many undead items are named for more well recognized types of undead creatures, the item itself is not necessarily made from that creature. In fact, as with other forms of undead, an undead cannot normally be created from a corpse which has ever been animated before.

Zombie Juice This swirling red concoction comes in vials of about 6 ounces each. If it is imbibed, then unintelligent undead will view the user as ‘one of them’ for one hour per ounce which is consumed. Zombies, skeletons, and other such creatures will not attack the user unless specifically direct to do so by their master. And, in such a case, commands such as “destroy the human!” will not work. The undead creature’s master must very specifically indicate which creature is to be attacked.

If anyone wishes to consume more than 6 ounces at a time, they must succeed on a constitution check (DC: 12 + the number of ounces over 6 which are being consumed). Failure causes the user to be incapacitated for 10 minutes while they violently vomit. After 5 minutes of vomiting, the any effects gained by the Zombie Juice disappear, and the incapacitated user is subject to attacks from unintelligent undead.

Crafting Materials: Blood from an intelligent creature which was alive when the blood was taken but has since died, Unholy Water

Deadman’s Gaze A Deadman’s Gaze appears as an eyeball wrapped in flesh, with eyelids intact. It sleeps much of the time when it is not in use, but occasionally looks around on its own, taking in its surroundings. From the back of the orb protrudes a 20ft long ocular nerve, thick and tough like a rope. Anyone whose skin comes in contact with this ocular nerve will see whatever the Deadman’s Gaze sees so long as their own eyes are closed. Whoever holds the end of the ocular nerve will also be able to control the eye, opening and closing it, and looking in whatever direction they desire.

The eye’s primary use is to scout dangerous areas without putting the user in jeopardy. It has also occasionally been used as a torture device, since it can be used to force someone to watch something they wish to look away from, even when their eyes are closed. One of its most useful applications is as an impromptu nighttime guardian. Someone holding the ocular nerve and closing their eyes will not find it difficult to sleep. They will see what the eye sees as though it is a noiseless dream. The eye will attempt to observe everything it can from wherever it is positioned, and will focus on anything which visually seems threatening, but it cannot sense audio indicators of danger.

Crafting Materials: The eye of a humanoid creature, a sliver of brain tissue from a humanoid creature, an ounce of freshly shorn humanoid skin, 20ft of finely crafted rope.

Dead Messenger This simple skull and jawbone can record any message which is whispered into its “ear.” Once the message has been spoken, a set of necromatic command words are used to determine when the message should be activated. The parameters of its activation must be relatively simple, such as:

  • A command word, or phrase is uttered within “earshot” of the Dead Messenger.
  • A creature of a certain type comes within 20ft of the Dead Messenger.
  • When the area the skull is in becomes illuminated.

When the parameters are met, the Dead Messenger will then repeat the message in its own, guttural, clattering voice. It will continue to do this, repeating the message any time the parameters are met, until it is given a new message set of necromatic commands.

Crafting Materials: One skull and jawbone from the same creature, one silver piece placed between the skull and jawbone.

Food Taster This un-decomposing humanoid tongue is wet with saliva. Though it is not necessary, many are mounted on a handle, since it is unpleasant to hold them in your hand. When a Food Taster is touched to a substance, it will turn green if that substance would have a negative chemical or biological reaction to the user’s body. It can be used to detect any kind of poison, whether it is an ingested, inhaled, intravenous, or contact poison. It can also be used to locate dangerous diseases by touching it to an infected individual. Note that this item cannot be used to determine any information about a dangerous substance, only that the substance is dangerous to the user. Note also that if the user is immune to a substance which might be dangerous to others, the Food Taster will will not turn green in the presence of that substance.

Crafting Materials: One humanoid tongue from a creature who was killed by a poison, venom, or disease.

Grip of Despair Two skeletal hands connected by a single radius and ulna (the bones of the forearm). When not in use, the hands clasp and unclasp, or waggle their fingers, looking for something to grab hold of. When placed on the arms or legs of a small or medium creature, the Grip of Despair functions as a pair of masterwork manacles. In addition to binding a creature, the Grip of Despair cause any creature they grab hold of to act as though Shaken for as long as the manacles are on. No saving throw against this effect is allowed, though creatures which are immune to fear effects are not affected. In addition, any creature bound by a Grip of Despair takes a -2 on all will saves, with an additional -2 for any will save against fear.

Crafting Materials: Two skeletal hands (one left, one right), one skeletal forearm.

Spinal Column Scimitar This +1 scimitar, composed entirely of vertebrae, pulsates with negative energy. When not in use, it can occasionally be seen flexing back and forth with its limited mobility. On a successful hit, the victim must succeed on a fortitude save (DC: 18) or be paralyzed for 6 rounds. Even on a successful saving throw, the victim will be paralyzed for 1 round.

Crafting Materials: The spinal column of a paralyzed humanoid.

Funeral Procession Carriage The body of this carriage has a largely normal construction–though many are ornamented with depictions of skulls or other deathly imagery. It differs from a normal carriage in that it has no wheels, nor any harness for horses. Instead, the carriage is supported and propelled by row after row of skeletal legs which move in unison. Each pair of legs is mounted to a pelvic bone, which is mounted directly into the bottom of the carriage’s coach compartment. The legs are speedy and agile, which allows the Funeral Procession Carriage to move faster, and across more difficult terrain than most carriages could manage.The legs are also capable of shifting to a kneeling position to facilitate easy entry and exit from the carriage.

In order to function properly, the skulls associated with each pair of legs must be included in the construction of the coach. This is sometimes accomplished by mounting the skulls on the carriage, but more often the skulls are broken into smaller pieces, and their shards embedded in the wood used to construct the coach. The shards are spread evenly throughout all the wood of the carriage, and so long as one skull fragment from a given skull remains as part of the coach, the associated legs will continue to function. This prevents minor damage from disabling any of the legs.

Most necromancers are able to control a Funeral Procession Carriage using necromatic command words. Most of these carriages are also designed to accept any commands spoken by someone within the the cabin, though some are intended for use as prisoner transports, and do not include this function.

Crafting Materials: One carriage, at least twenty skeletons (four rows, five columns. Torsos are not required), the brain of a carriage driver.

Jabbering Prophet An un-decomposed head with emeralds embedded in each eye socket. The stump where the neck would normally connect to the head is capped with a metal plate which has been bolted in place. The jabbering prophet speaks constantly about things which seem to be of little or no importance. In fact, these nonsensical utterances are a constant stream of information about the past, present, or future of random creatures which exist throughout the multiverse. Were anyone able to record and catalog all of this information, it would no doubt reveal a great many secrets, but the task would be an impossibly monumental undertaking.

Once every hour, the jabbering prophet pauses for 30 seconds, then its emerald ‘eyes’ look towards someone within its field of vision, and it speaks a prophecy relevant to that individual. This effect can be controlled by facing the jabbering prophet towards a specific individual, and ensuring that no one else stands within the head’s field of vision. The prophecy which is spoken will most often relate to events which can take place within an hour’s time, but occasionally an event of great importance which may not happen for many years will be prophesied. Examples of such prophecies include:

  • If you travel south, you will be ambushed by orcs.
  • If you visit the elves, a blade in hand will be more deadly to you than to your enemies.
  • The Duke of Elloron will deceive you thrice when you meet.

Aside from the pause it takes each hour, the jabbering prophet never stops speaking, though it does know to whisper if its wielder is attempting to be quiet. This causes a -6 penalty on all stealth checks. The sound of the prophet’s speaking can be muffled by cloth, or magically silenced. However, if the jabbering prophet is ever physically forced not to speak (such as with a muzzle) then it will strain to speak until it destroys itself.

Crafting Materials: The head of a diviner 12th level or higher, two emeralds with a spell of True Seeing cast upon them.

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