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 vocal noises as 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 to 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 base creature +1.
Alignment: Any evil.
Type: The creature's type changes to undead. Do not recalculate base attack bonuses, saves, or skill points.
Aura: A dread skeleton gains the unnatural aura (30 ft.) special ability.
Armor Class: The base creature's natural armor bonus is replaced by a new one based on the dread skeleton's size, as given on the Table: Dread Skeleton AC.
|Size||Natural Armor Bonus|
|Tiny or smaller||+0|
|Medium or Large||+2|
Hit Dice: Change all of the base creature's racial HD to d8s.
Attacks: The dread skeleton retains all the base creature's attacks, using limbs that have bones, teeth, or exoskeletons. Attacks with boneless limbs, such as tentacles, are lost. 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; otherwise, they are secondary attacks.
If the dread skeleton gains claw attacks from the application of this template, the damage for the attacks depends on the base creature's size.
Special Attacks: The dread skeleton retains all the base creature's special attacks and gains those described here.
As a free action, a dread skeleton can automatically command all normal skeletons within 30 feet (as command undead). It can attempt to command skeleton warriors, but they get a Will save to resist (caster level equal to dread skeleton's total HD; save DC is Charisma-based). Normal skeletons never attack a dread skeleton unless compelled.
Feats: A dread skeleton gains Improved Initiative as a bonus feat.
Environment: Change to any.
Treasure: Change to incidental.
A dread skeleton makes a great villain for a low-level campaign. While in some ways fulfilling the same role as the skeletal champion template. A dread skeleton, with its command skeletons ability, can fill different roles in your game. It could be a mastermind of a skeleton army with skeletal champions as its generals. A dread skeleton could also be the servant of a more powerful undead creature.