Before opening a sarcophagus, light a torch.X the Mystic’s 7th Rule of Dungeon Survival
Alright! We’ve got an ominous opening quote and a terrible joke in the title! This week’s Best of the Bestiary is off to a wonderful start!
Lore: Eternal Lorekeepers and Undying Tyrants
Buried long ago in an extensive dark ritual, a mummy rises from its slumber in the ancient ruins of history. Imbued with necrotic magic by a priest of a dark deity (usually the death god), a mummy rises upon a condition set by the runes drawn upon its wrappings, such as to ward off intruders or protect a valuable artifact. Many corpses were used to make mummies, from the bodies of rulers who displeased powerful priests to common criminals or even slaves. None had a say in their fate, for how can a corpse say no to the call of another’s greater purpose?
Breaking the curse placed on a mummy is no easy feat. Rare magics are capable of it, but a more common method is to simply undo the crime against its orders that made it rise to begin with, such as by returning a sacred treasure. However, some offenses are not so easily forgiven, and nothing can sate the cursed creature’s wrath, not even revenge.
Unlike other undead, mummies are capable of speech, though they are slow to do so. Some are even used as keepers of ancient lore, made to pass knowledge down to the descendants of its creator. There are even those powerful enough who keep mummies hidden away for this specific purpose.
With a particularly powerful and dark spell, and the corpse of a particularly terrible tyrant, a mummy lord might be born. They retain their memories and personalities, allowing them to continue in their rule long after death, should their death god grant the priest-king their favor. Unlike other mummies, the mummy lord retains ownership of its heart, which it keeps in a jar. Only when that heart is destroyed can a mummy lord be truly defeated, and only by fire can the heart be stopped.
All of this together makes for some incredible storytelling potential! Perhaps the big-bad of your campaign is a powerful mummy lord who has ruled the land in tyranny for thousands of years! Or maybe the players stumble into an ancient tomb and accidentally awaken the mummy, who terrorizes a nearby town, thus forcing them to either beg its forgiveness or go and slay it. You could even use the mummy as an NPC for a bit of exposition, maybe even have it send them on a quest to fulfill some duty it needs completed. The options are incredibly versatile and all of them are fun and interesting!
Provided that you keep a lozenge on hand. The dry, raspy mummy voice is murder on the throat.
Design: A Zombie With Extra Steps
Okay guys, very funny. Now get that toilet paper off of the zombie.
The core concept of this design is exactly what you’d expect. It’s a dried out corpse wrapped in bandages. Who could have guessed? It’s almost like it’s a mummy or something!
Luckily, it does some stuff to help it stand out from something you might see in other fantasy media. Small touches, like adorning it with the jewelry it was buried in, giving it long black nails, and showing the rot of the bandages to expose the corpse beneath. It looks more zombie-like than anything, which is absolutely fitting! They’re minor additions, but they give the design some much needed personality. Plus, they’re super creepy!
Overall, this is a decent design. Yes, it’s almost exactly what you’d expect. But it is still just unique enough to call interesting. Not bad.
Stats: Rot With Me
For clarity’s sake: we’ll be discussing the regular mummy and the mummy lord in this article. I was tempted to divide it into two, but I don’t want to drag this out for too long. Not when there are weird mushroom people on the next page!
Regular mummies are fairly strong for a relatively low-level monster. Its AC is pretty pathetic (don’t laugh; it’s armor is rotting cloth) and its HP is alright. It might not sound too bad, but it has a list of invulnerabilities and immunities. You can’t damage it with poison or necrotic damage, and nonmagical melee does nothing. On top of that, it is immune to most status effects. That said, it is highly vulnerable to fire damage.
Again: rotting cloth. Give ‘im a break.
In terms of damage, the mummy has two options, and it can use both in any turn thanks to Multiattack. Rotting Fist is an incredibly dangerous attack for a low-level enemy; not only does it do pretty strong melee damage boosted with necrotic, it can also curse the victim with, and I quote, ‘mummy rot.’ While under this curse, victims can’t regain HP, and they take damage, 10(3d6), every 24 hours. Should the target’s HP reach 0 before the curse can be removed via magic, their bodies will turn to dust.
Then there’s Dreadful Glare, which paralyzes the victim if they fail the save. Which isn’t nearly as intimidating as Rotting Fist, is it?
That is the normal mummy. It’s a fairly terrifying monster that truly forces the players to be careful and creative. How do they exploit the fire weakness? How do they avoid the Rotting Fist? What in the hell do they do if they get the mummy curse? It makes for a great encounter!
And then there is the infinitely more terrifying mummy lord. In other words: the real boss fight.
The mummy lord is far more durable than its regular counterpart, with a much higher AC and nearly twice as much HP. It has all the same resistances (and the same fiery weakness), only now it has Magic Resistance, giving it advantage on all saving throws related to spells or magic effects. Not only that, it’s Rejuvenation ability allows it to regrow a destroyed body 24 hours after its defeat, provided its heart remains intact.
It also has spells! A lot of them, in fact! They are:
- Cantrips (at will): sacred flame, thaumaturgy
- 1st level (4 slots): command, guiding bolt, shield of faith
- 2nd level (3 slots): hold person, silence, spiritual weapon
- 3rd level (3 slots): animate dead, dispel magic
- 4th level (3 slots): divination, guardian of faith
- 5th level (2 slots): contagion, insect plague
- 6th level (1 slot): harm
God damn, that is one scary spell list! Give him Shield next, why don’tcha?!
On top of having all of the normal mummy’s attacks, the mummy lord has Legendary Actions! It can use up to three, and only at the end of someone else’s turn. It regains all of them at the start of its own turn. They are:
- Attack: use Rotting Fist or Dreadful Glare
- Blinding Dust: conjure a cloud of dust that can blind everyone in a 5 foot radius of the mummy lord
- Blasphemous Word (Costs 2 Actions): all non-undead creatures within 10 feet of the mummy lord must make a save or be stunned until the end of the mummy lord’s next turn
- Channel Negative Energy (Costs 2 Actions): all creatures within 60 feet of the mummy lord are unable to regain HP until the end of its next turn, regardless of cover or magic
- Whirlwind of Sand (Costs 2 Actions): the mummy lord transforms into a cloud of sand and travels up to 60 feet before transforming back; during this time, it is completely immune to damage and cannot be halted in any way
And dear lord, we’re still not done! Because then there’s the mummy lord’s lair! Fight it in there, and it has access to three dangerous Lair Actions! These are:
- Each undead creature in the lair can locate all living creatures within the lair, up until initiative count 20 of the next turn
- Each undead has advantage on saving throws until initiative count 20 of the next turn
- Any non-undead creature takes necrotic damage upon casting a spell, should they fail a saving throw; this effect lasts until initiative count 20 of the next turn
With all of this combined, the mummy lord is one of the best bosses you could possibly throw at your players! It has so many spells and effects that it could employ at basically any time during combat, making it an enemy that the players will need to constantly adapt to. They’ll need to bust out all of the stops and push their creative muscles to their limits in order to survive, let alone win!
Maybe this entry really is Brendan Frasier, because it’s awesome (I’m a big Brendan Frasier stan and I can’t let this terrible joke go)! The lore is rich and full of potential for fun sessions or full campaigns! The design, while predictable, is a cut above what you might expect. The stats for either version can make for one of the best possible boss fights in the entire game; whatever weakness the design might have, the fight more than makes up for it!
Placing this one is gonna be tough! While it is definitely top five material, I’m not sure if even it can surpass the players in the top four. Those guys are just way too good, and it’ll take a special kind of monster to usurp their current places. As good as the mummy is, and it is a spectacular monster, it just isn’t quite that good.
With all that in mind, let’s put the Mummy on the Best of the Bestiary!
- Death Tyrant
- Mind Flayer
- Dragon Turtle
- Mummy/Mummy Lord <—————-
- Green Dragons
- Red Dragons
- Blue Dragons
- Black Dragons
- White Dragons
- Silver Dragons
- Sea Hag
- Bronze Dragons
- Brass Dragons
- Copper Dragons
- Gold Dragons
- Gibbering Mouther
- Intellect Devourer
- Death Knight
- Bone Devil
- Faerie Dragon
- Night Hag
- Green Hag
- Hook Horror
- Storm Giant
- Hill Giant
- Cloud Giant
- Drow (all four of ’em)
- Shadow Demon
- Modrons (all five of ’em)
- Fire Giant
- Animated Armor
- Ghoul and Ghast
- Pit Fiend
- Chain Devil
- Bearded Devil
- Barbed Devil
- Spined Devil
- Ice Devil
- Horned Devil
- Shadow Dragon
- Gnolls (all three)
- Frost Giant
- Clay Golem
- Displacer Beast
- Carrion Crawler
- Invisible Stalker
- Rug of Smothering
- Bugbear Chief
- Flesh Golem
- Vine Blight
- Twig Blight
- Needle Blight
- Mephits (all six of ’em)
- Gas Spore
- Fire Elemental
- Water Elemental
- Air Elemental
- Stone Giant
- Deep Gnome
- Dinosaurs (All six of them)
- Iron Golem
- Stone Golem
- Earth Elemental
- Galeb Duhr
- Helmed Horror
- Flying Sword
- Crawling Claw
- Violet Fungus