Undead Clerics in 13th Age

I don’t mind stealing flesh
From the hides of decadence.

–Temple of the Darakhul, “Hunger Strike”

You can thank MTV Live for infecting my brain while I was sick, if you like the horrible mashup in the epigram.

But my musings on sickness were for last post. This time around, I want to focus on player-characters in 13th Age who were living, died, and live again. Not in a warboy way, but in the way of the living dead. As part of the 12 Days of Cleric-mas, I thought it important to muse on how to accommodate the possibility of an undead cleric in 13th Age.

The Midgard setting that I’ve been mining introduces a couple of PC race options that are not among the living: the darakhul and some goblins of the Ghost Goblin tribe. In both cases, a living individual either contracted a disease (darakhul fever) or took part in a ritual (Ghost Goblins), and were reborn after death with their faculties still fully in place. It’s a type of character that has become prominent in pop culture of late — iZombie being the most recent I can think of — where the trope of the mindless and terrifying undead character is portrayed in a way that subverts their traditional role.

Undead (or Living Dead) Clerics

Using the undead or living dead provides some challenges for the standard cleric class in 13th Age. (I’ll use “undead” to refer to a racial template that does not allow healing, and “living dead” for those that do.) Aside from the role as a party healer and the use of holy (i.e., anti-undead) damage, the idea of a priestly ghoul or undead goblin doesn’t seem to sync up. But the Midgard does a good job of giving reasons to have such clerics. After all, the Ghost Goblin tribe needs someone to perform the sacred rituals. And among the darakhul of legend is Cimbrai, a blessed cleric of the hunger-god Vardesain. If you want to create an undead cleric in 13th Age, here’s how I’d do it:

  • Any of your cleric spells that deal holy damage instead deal negative energy damage. You’re encouraged to re-name them to be more ghoulish.
  • You cannot take the Sun/Anti-Undead domain nor the turn undead spell, no matter how much self-loathing your undead cleric possesses.
  • If you’re using an undead PC template that doesn’t allow magical healing, like the darakhul from the Midgard Bestiary, then healing spells still don’t heal you. They heal your allies, sure, but probably aren’t as pleasant as they might be used to with other clerics.
  • If you’re using a living dead PC template like the one I wrote up for darakhul, your healing works as normal. That said, it’s not advisable to take domains or feats that allow you to “gift” your recoveries for allies’ healing. The insatiable hunger ability can cause you to burn through recoveries awfully quick.
  • No matter which template you use, if you’re a darakhul or a Ghost Goblin, you should really take the Hunger/Survival domain. Mechanically and thematically, this is your domain. Your GM has every reason to make un-life difficult for your cleric if you don’t take it.
  • Some of your high-level cleric spells function differently. For example, overworld travel is now underworld travel. Perhaps when you cast resurrection, the target comes back as a darakhul instead of its original race. Work with your GM to define which spells work slightly different.

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