Out of the entire menagerie of D&D monsters, one gives me trouble more than any other. Given that there’s a whole host of critters out there with potentially headache inducing abilties (not least Beholders and – the king of them all, the dragons), that’s pretty impressive and a testament to the skill of the monster deisgners. But this one really, really breaks things.
It’s not even a particularly high-challenge monster either, but it’s one that, IMHO, would impact the campaign world massively. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is entirely up to the DM
That creature is the Bodak.
As far as critters go, it’s a fairly run of the mill undead that’s marked as a fair challenge for an 8th level party. It ranks alongside the mummy as a decent corporeal relentless evil undead type. At first glance, at least.
What breaks it is this ability:
- Death Gaze (Su): Death, range 30 feet, Fortitude DC 15 negates. Humanoids who die from this attack are transformed into bodaks 24 hours later.
Now, a vampire has to drain the blood of it’s victim. Mummies infect them with Mummy Rot and other undead can drain levels, but nothing compares to being able to kill with a glance and spawn their own kind 24 hours later. In either case there’s a window of opportunity for the adventurers to battle the bad guys and restore order. Bodaks don’t give that window.
Let’s work out the math. A single Bodak in a village would take out 3/4 of the 1st-level commoners in the first day. 24 hours later they all rise as bodaks, the village is overrun and the rest of the village is either wiped out or Bodakized too. Let’s say you’ve got 200 Bodaks after 48 hours. They split into gangs of 2-4 as per the monster description and spread out. Each of these Bodak gangs reaches another village or a town and the cycle continues. The Goblin and orc tribes are Bodakized too. Soon, the cities are facing off against thousands of Bodaks and the clerics are hard pressed to keep them at bay. After all, how do you Turn a creature you can’t even look in the eye? Just one glance and that cleric by your side is dead. 24 hours later and he’s your enemy. With a Move Silently skill of +10, Bodaks could walk up to the city gates in the dead of night and the guards wouldn’t even notice until they turn around. By then it’s too late.
The borg have nothing on these monsters. Seriously.
It gets worse. The Bodak’s gaze is a supernatural ability which can’t be dispeled, works in an anti-magic shell and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity when it’s used. If you’re within 30’ of a Bodak, just hope the dice like you. Bodaks are immune to electricity, resistant to acid and fire and have damage reduction. Only cold iron works to full effect against them, meaning you’re stuck with either accepting that your best spells and missile weapons are less effective or using hit-and-run attacks with cold-iron crossbow bolts. The last thing you want to do is get within 30’ of them of course.
Their only real vulnerability is that sunglight burns them, but that’s only at a rate of 1hp per round. With an average of 58hp, a cornered Bodak is likely to risk a little sunburn. With an INT of 6 a bodak might not be the brightest undead out there, but it’s not stupid either. This is one cunning critter.
We can take the Bodak one of two ways. Either it’s completly unplayable because of it’s lethality and should never be used, or it’s a campaign-making monster. Bodaks have the potential to turn any game into a post-apocalyptic Resident Evil-style game where it’s a race against time to find the progenitor Bodak within the first 24 hours and destroy all of it’s victims before they rise – or fail, and fight a losing battle against the growing Bodak hordes. Perhaps the only reason why Bodaks haven’t taken over the world already is because vampires are in constant war against them, protecting their foodsource. Now, there’s a campaign worth thinking about………
One last note; Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary has a template for a Dread Bodak which can be applied to any creature (not just humanoids). The abilities are similar but the Bodaks rise after just 1d6 rounds and are under the command of their maker. Imagine an entire Rat Swarm under control of a Dread Bodak where each rat has a death gaze……. I’d give the city 48 hours before it’s overrun completely.
For my money, no other monster in the game is quite so campaign changing. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing is up to you