‘Twas the night before Cleric-mas, camped near the lake,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mist drake;
Except for the party’s darakhul cleric,
Because the living dead never sleep a lick.
Next week begins the ’12 Days of Cleric-mas,’ a series of posts in the vein of 13th Age Monthly, but with a sillier name. Oh, and they’re all focused around new domains, spells, and possibilities for playing clerics in 13th Age.
A couple of the posts reference undead player-characters, due to the fact that I’m drawing from the Midgard setting for inspiration. This setting, published by Kobold Press, is a little more far-flung and Grimm than a lot of Western F20 settings. Its take on deities and how they overlap amongst cultures is what grabbed my attention.
Before I get to the clerics, though, I’m spending a moment on the darakhul, the high-functioning ghouls of Midgard whose subterranean empire is a constant threat to the above-ground world.
Undead v. “Living” Undead
If you’ve read the Midgard Bestiary for 13th Age, you know that ASH LAW has already designed a fabulous darakhul template for player characters. When I post a 13th Age version of the Domain of Hunger/Survival, it was designed with specific reference to ASH’s darakhul. So why the alternate mechanics?
Because I’m curious how 13 True Ways and D&D Fifth Edition would’ve influenced design.
The material for the Midgard setting is primarily for the Pathfinder system. The 13th Age darakhul rules were created before either of those books, and reflects a direct translation of Pathfinder mechanics. This makes sense; it gives GMs a clear path on how one might do a Pathfinder-to-13th Age translation for related setting material (Advanced Races: Darakhul, for example).
Since the original darakhul template was designed, 13 True Ways has introduced the Necromancer class to 13th Age, including some solid mechanics to mimic varying degrees of player-character undead-ness. In addition, Kobold Press released Midgard Heroes for 5E, which takes a different tack in adapting darakhul to a new system:
Using… humanoid (darakhul) [instead of undead] as the creature type allows the basic assumptions of the system to work, and specific traits then handle individual mechanical concerns.
If we took a 13th Age darakhul in this direction, what might it look like?
Ghouls & Objectives
I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, just provide another option for the Archmage Engine. The PC template below draws heavily upon ASH LAW’s original design, but also incorporates a lot of the language and ideas from the darakhul entry in the Midgard Heroes for 5E. Anyone who plays a “Sorta Dead” necromancer will also notice familiar mechanics.
The new thing is the insatiable hunger mechanics. As a 13th Age GM, I’m going to assume that a darakhul adventurer already has their must-consume-raw-flesh regimen in place. But when that regimen faces a campaign loss, or constant encounters that leave you staggered, how should that affect a darakhul?
The entry below also assumes that you have the Midgard Bestiary and/or the campaign setting book, including the setting-specific icons developed by Wade Rockett. If you’re looking to play this kind of ghoul outside of Midgard, you’ll want to adapt or ignore the subterranean ability.
+2 to Constitution OR +2 to Charisma
Before you were darakhul, you were something else. When you create your character, gain one racial power of your choice that is “once per battle” or occurs “at the start of battle.” Since you are no longer of that race, however, you cannot take any feats associated with that power.
The infection that turned you into darakhul has also infused you with negative energy that separates you from standard undead. You do not need to sleep, breathe, or drink (though you might affect them to blend in). Aside from your insatiable hunger, you don’t require food. In addition:
- You gain resist poison 16+ and resist negative energy 16+, but are vulnerable to holy damage.
- When you become confused, dazed, stunned, or weakened, you can immediately make a normal save to cancel that condition.
- You automatically fail death saves.
- You cannot be returned to life/undeath by anything that raises or reincarnates the dead. Resurrection returns you to life as your original race — not as a darakhul.
Adventurer Feat: When a spell or effect targets or applies to undead, you can decide whether you want to count as undead for that specific effect.
Darakhul live with a constant gnawing hunger that requires regular meals of raw meat. Under normal conditions, you can plan around your hunger. As an adventurer, though, conditions rarely remain normal. Whenever you become staggered or flee an encounter, roll a difficult Charisma skill check for your tier — no backgrounds can help you. Failure means you immediately lose a recovery. If you have no recoveries left to lose, you take the same penalty as though you were forced to heal with no recoveries left (13th Age core rulebook, p 169).
Champion Feat: Choose one of your backgrounds, and explain how it has helped you control your hunger. That background can be added to your insatiable hunger skill check.
Your jaw is powerful enough to crush bones to powder. When you hit with an unarmed attack, it deals 1d8 damage per level plus your Strength modifier. On miss, deal damage equal to your level.
Champion Feat: Once per battle, when your lethal bite attack staggers a creature or drops it to 0 hp, you may regain a recovery.
The lightless underworld is your natural habitat, and that world operates at the dictate of the Emperor of the Ghouls. When attacking a target or making a skill check in direct sunlight, you suffer a -2 penalty to your roll.
In addition, you must spend at least one relationship point with the Emperor of the Ghouls.
Epic Feat: You no longer suffer a penalty in direct sunlight, and your undead vitality is such that you are no longer vulnerable to attacks that deal holy damage.
The one thing I’d still want to playtest is how punishing insatiable hunger ought to be. Is it better to lose recoveries without the ability to prevent it, or does the skill check ensure the hunger doesn’t need the fun of playing a super-ghoul?
The darakhul is only one of the alternate player character templates I’ve been tweaking. Other Midgard races like alseids and trollkin open some fun design possibilities. I’m also planning to adapt some of the AR: Darakhul material and present it in the vein of the “Kroma Draconics” issue of 13th Age Monthly.
But first up is the 12 Days of Cleric-mas! You’ll probably want to grab a beer for day one…
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