Thursday, February 10, 2011

Every Skeleton An Enemy

As the saying goes: "Bare is the brotherless back."
Longtime gamers will recognize this iconic image from the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, and will stir memories of a time when every skeleton in a dungeon was looked on with suspicion -- while they may not have all reanimated when a trap was sprung or when backs were turned, enough did to make adventurers paranoid.

What strategies did people adopt to deal with these restless dead?
  • all-out war -- when not afraid of alerting other dungeon denizens with your noise, or if you're assaulting the demense of some necromancer or undead fiend, I recommend that you assume all skeletons are targets for attack; get them before they get you!
  • a measured response -- if silence or speed is a concern, then for unanimated skeletons take away any weapons that curiously seem to still be in hand or within reach. While this may trigger the undead fiend, if you're successful at least they are weaponless and you have an extra one when combat starts!
  • a watchful eye -- if you cannot risk triggering dormant skeletons, assign one member of the party with skeltonwatch duty, and to hiss if it moves. Everyone should be clear on what they will do once he does.
  • contingency tools -- throwing a net over them, placing a rope with bells around them, or (gasp) wasting a spell that can entangle these potential antagonists is usually best if there are a lot of them in the same room as you. With the net, you can retrieve it if nothing untoward happens in the room and you need to move on; with the spell -- usually best if you're planning on bedding down for the night in this otherwise ideal skeleton-filled room or cavern.
  • really bad signs -- if the skeleton appears to be large and non-human, perhaps even draconic in aspect, assume that the damn thing will animate, if it hasn't already begun attack you. I have a word for you: dracolich.
Some of you out there may have better ideas, but I think we can all agree -- ignoring a skeleton (or a bunch of them) just because "they look harmless" is the last thought that many otherwise promising adventurers had.

Oh, and watch out for bone golems. They're tough too.

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That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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