|Size||Natural Armor Bonus|
|Tiny or smaller||+0|
|Size||Claw Base Damage|
The similarity of dread skeletons to the mindless creatures so often animated by spellcasters leads many to underestimate them. A dread skeleton looks much like a normal skeleton (or exoskeleton, depending on the nature of the base creature), but it retains many qualities of the base creature that its lesser cousin does not. For example, a dread skeleton remorhaz still blurs the air with the heat from its body, and a dread skeleton troglodyte continues to fill the area around it with a terrible stench. Dread skeletons can speak and make any vocal noises their living forms could.
Most dread skeletons are motivated by hatred of the living and a desire to dominate all they survey. They seek the death of the living and even resent the existence of other thinking undead. Dread skeletons prefer to be the only free-willed creatures in the world, but they suffer the existence of others in order to attain their goal of dominance and gain more mindless skeleton servants.
“Dread skeleton” is an acquired template that can be added to any living creature with a skeleton or exoskeleton (referred to hereafter as the base creature). A dread skeleton uses all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
Challenge Rating: Same as the base creature +1.
Alignment: Always evil (any).
Hit Dice: Change all racial Hit Dice to d8s.
Speed: The dread skeleton retains the base creature’s speeds. If the base creature has a fly speed based on the possession of wings, the dread skeleton’s flight becomes a supernatural ability rather than a natural one.
Armor Class: The base creature’s natural armor bonus is replaced by a new one based on the dread skeleton’s size, as given in Table: Natural Armor Bonus by Size (at right.)
Attack: The dread skeleton retains all the base creature’s attacks using limbs that have bones, teeth, or exoskeletons, and it also retains the base creature’s weapon and armor proficiencies. Attacks with boneless limbs such as tentacles are lost. The dread skeleton’s attacks retain the same primary or secondary status they had for the base creature. If the base creature possesses at least one arm but has no natural attacks with it, the dread skeleton gains a claw attack with each such limb. The claws are primary attacks if the base creature has no other natural attacks, or secondary attacks otherwise.
Damage: If the dread skeleton gained claw attacks from the application of this template, the base damage for each is as given in Table: Claw Damage by Size (at right.)
Special Attacks: The dread skeleton retains all the base creature’s special attacks and gains those described here.
Feats: A dread skeleton gains Improved Initiative as a bonus feat.
Organization: Solitary or gang (1 dread skeleton plus 1d10 skeletons).