Undead Leadership

Undead Leadership, by Camber

So, you want to lead the undead. First, take the following feat:

Undead Leadership (LM p.31)
It’s like Leadership, except for Undead. :thumbsup:

Requirements: 1 rank of Knowledge (Religion), character Level 6th, nongood alignment.

There are some ways you can get the feat for free. (The worst one imho is to enter a symbiotic relationship with blood-sucking extraplanar plants, which could give you it at level one with just an LA+1, but that’s hideously broken, and your mental stats would suck (you get the plant’s mental stats) so don’t do it if you don’t want your DM to hate you and throw the DMG at you. If you want to get Leadership for free, just take a flaw and hold that slot in reserve til level 6. Problem solved.)

As per normal Leadership, you are going to get a Cohort, and you might get followers depending on how high your level is, your Charisma bonus is, or even how hight your Strength bonus is (if you take the Might Makes Right feat). First, you’ll need to know your base Leadership score (level + Cha). Here’s a table:

Table 1: Leadership
ship Cohort
Score Level Number of Followers by Level
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
0-1 — — — — — — —
2 1st — — — — — —
3 2nd — — — — — —
4 3rd — — — — — —
5 3rd — — — — — —
6 4th — — — — — —
7 5th — — — — — —
8 5th — — — — — —
9 6th — — — — — —
10 7th 5 — — — — —
11 7th 6 — — — — —
12 8th 8 — — — — —
13 9th 10 1 — — — —
14 10th 15 1 — — — —
15 10th 20 2 1 — — —
16 11th 25 2 1 — — —
17 12th 30 3 1 1 — —
18 12th 35 3 1 1 — —
19 13th 40 4 2 1 1 —
20 14th 50 5 3 2 1 —
21 15th 60 6 3 2 1 1
22 15th 75 7 4 2 2 1
23 16th 90 9 5 3 2 1
24 17th 110 11 6 3 2 1
25+ 17th 135 13 7 4 2 2

Notice that the table ends at the Leadership score of 25, and everything above that counts as 25. This isn’t entirely true. Your BASE Leadership score (level + Cha) is capped at 25 until you take the Epic Leadership feat. Your Effective Leadership Score (modified by the following tables, and also by Str if you take Might Makes Right) isn’t.

So now you’re going to modify your base Leadership score with other things that will make your Cohort and Followers happy. But you lead the undead, right? So a lot of the things on your standard Effective Leadership (ELS) tables won’t apply. See the tables below for extra stuff that make the undead respect you more, and add these on to your base Leadership score, but only in certain cases. The first table is for both Cohorts and Followers. Next is Cohort only. Last is Followers only. Since you’re smart, I’ll assume you know what I mean.

Table 2: Reputation for Followers and Cohort
Leader’s Reputation ELS Modifier
Great renown +2
Special power +1
Failure -1
Can cast animate dead, create undead, +2
or create greater undead, or can create
undead spawn through a supernatural

Next, when attempting to recruit (and keep) a Cohort, the following factor affects JUST your Cohort’s perception of your Effective Leadership Score (ELS). (In other words, Followers ignore Table 3 completely!)

Table 3: Attracting Cohorts
The Leader… ELS Modifier
Recruits a cohort of a different -1

Notice that Cohorts don’t care if you kill them (normally you get a negative for that, and it stacks for each Cohort you’ve gotten killed). Nifty, huh? The interesting part about this is that Undead Leadership allows you to take living Cohorts (albeit at a penalty). So it’s not just because your Cohort is undead. You just simply have special rules.

Finally, there is a list of factors affecting your perceived ELS when attempting to recruit (and keep) Followers. (Cohorts ignore Table 4 completely!)

Table 4: Attracting Followers
The Leader… ELS Modifier
Has a stronghold, base of operations, +2
guildhouse, or the equivalent
Moves around a lot -1

Next, throw out the idea of attracting normal commoners, experts, or warriors as followers. Your Followers will still have NPC classes by default (that hasn’t changed). But they get to be moldy maggot-infested NPC classes!

Undead Leadership attracts skeletons and zombies as Followers by default (see below). The Hit Dice of these followers do not count against the number of Hit Dice under control for purposes of animate dead spells, rebuking, and so on.

Table 5: Types of Undead Followers
Leadership Undead Leadership
1st-level follower Medium-size* skeleton warrior
2nd-level follower Medium-size* zombie warrior
3rd-level follower Large* skeleton warrior
4th-level follower Large* zombie warrior
5th-level follower Huge* skeleton warrior
6th-level follower Huge* zombie warrior
* The character with Undead Leadership can always choose smaller skeletons or zombies. For instance, instead of a 3rd-level follower, the character chooses from a Tiny, Small, Medium-size, or Large skeleton or a Tiny, Small, or Medium-size zombie

You treat your effective Leadership score as 2 higher than normal for purposes of attracting undead Cohorts and Followers, and 4 lower than normal for purposes of attracting living Cohorts and Followers. So pile on those undead Followers!

A Cohort can usually be no higher than 2 levels below the Leader’s level (the Improved Cohort feat raises this to 1 level below the Leader).

With the DM’s permission, a Cohort from a race different from the usual PC races may be chosen. For undead, that means you are often going to have a level adjustment (LA) to deal with. In some exotic cases where an LA isn’t given for a creature type, the creature’s HD or Challenge Rating (CR), whichever is higher, can be used instead, but the DM might adjust it upward or downward depending on special abilities, etc. CRs are notoriously inaccurate substitutes for LA. Savage Species has guidelines for setting LAs for exotic races, starting on p.10. The Cohort’s Effective Character Level (ECL, which is usually level + racial HD + LA) is what’s used to determine what level of Cohort you can attract using Table 1 above.

Although a PC can pick the class, alignment, race, and other basic demographics of a Cohort, the DM is responsible for the ability rolls, starting equipment, spells chosen, and other details in place before the cohort is recruited by you. The Cohort then becomes a player-controlled character.

The Cohort can gain experience and levels, as long as they remain at least 1 xp below the level that would cause them to break their level cap. Cohorts gain experience based on their level (formula: Cohort level divided by PC level, multiplied by the PC’s XP awarded in an encounter), but do not reduce the party’s share of XP. They generally take a PC-sized share of loot, but this is up to the party to decide.

Table 6: Sample Undead Cohort ECLs
Creature Level Equivalent
Wight 4
Ghoul 5
Ghost 5 + character level
Vampire 5 + character level
Ghast 7
Shadow 10
Mummy 11
Lich 4 + character level (minimum 11th level cleric, sorcerer, or wizard)

All Followers are NPCs and are designed and controlled by the DM. The DM might allow the PC to control them in battle, but that is up to the DM.

By default all Followers have NPC classes (even the undead ones – so sorry) and do not advance in levels. Followers are normally Warriors, Experts, or Commoners (even the undead ones!) Any who are Adepts or Aristocrats count as +2 ECL. Any who have levels in a player class count as +3 ECL. Any with a Prestige Class (PrC) count as +5 ECL. (see ELG p.37). Followers and Cohorts must have an alignment within one step of the leader’s.

Table 7: ECL Adjustments for Follower Classes
Class ECL Adjustment
Warrior, Expert, or Commoner +0
Adept or Aristocrat +2
Any base player class (PC) +3
Any prestige class (Prc)* +5
* Stacks with any ECL for base class

Note that changes to your reputation or effective Leadership score (ELS) have an immediate impact. If a player’s action causes their ELS to rise or fall (or if their Cha or level gets reduced, damaging their base Leadership score), the player could gain or lose Followers (and possibly their Cohort) accordingly. This is called a leadership check.

Likewise, if a leader changes drastically (such as switching sides in a war, abandoning a temple they had sworn to defend, or changing their faith or alignment), this can also cause all or some of their Cohort / Followers to abandon them.

If you fail a Leadership check, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your people will abandon you in the middle of a fight. But they become free-willed NPCs with an attitude of indifferent or worse, depending on the situation. You might be able to win them back, or recruit new ones over time (typically the base rate is 1d4 months).

Next, you’ll want to saddle up a Prestige Class that maximizes your Undead Leadership.

PRESTIGE CLASS: Lady/Lord of the Dead

I will not repeat the full features of the PrC. Usually what most players want to know is what the entrance requirements are, whether it has full BAB, good saves, full casting progression, and what the link is.

So here they are:

To qualify to become a lady/lord of the dead, a character must fulfill the following criteria.

Race: Any undead.
Alignment: Any nongood.
Feats: Iron Will, Undead Leadership.

Since you need to be undead, you might want to look at the Necropolitan template. But there are other methods of becoming undead.

Hit Die: d12. Great!

Class Skills: Alchemy (this is usually listed as a craft skill!), Concentration, Craft (any), Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge (any), Listen, Profession (any), Sense Motive, Spellcraft, Spot. Not bad!

Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier. Poor!

BAB and Saves: Poor and Poor (Will-focused)

Spellcasting: Full spellcasting progression for five levels. Great!

Abilities: Turning resistance +1 at Level 1, which increases by one for each of your 5 levels. Beginning at 2nd level you also gain an aura that gives all undead withing 30 feet of you +1 turning resistance. This goes up by +1 for each of the 4 remaining levels. Finally, at 4th level you can animate undead for free once a day, and at 5th level you can cast unholy aura once a day.

This feat and PrC originally appeared in the web enhancement: Dead Life. Here’s the link: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/article.asp?x=dnd/dx20021031x
It also came with some special items and three alternative familiars (tiny monstrous centipede, giant fly, and wiggling maggot). Ewww! Go check it out.


This Prestige Class grants an undead cohort for “free” (though at 9th level is hardly for free).

Alignment: Any nongood
Skills: Knowledge (religion) 8 ranks
Feats: Skill Focus (Knowledge[religion])
Spells: Able to cast command undead and vampiric touch as arcane spells.
Special: The candidate must have spent three or more days locked in a tomb with animate undead. This contact may be peaceful or violent. A character who is slain by the undead and later raised still meets the requirement, although the resulting level loss may delay compliance with other prerequisites.

Hit Die d4. Poor!

Class Skills: Concentration, Craft (any), Diplomacy, Hide, Knowledge (any), Listen, Move Silently, Profession (any), Spellcraft. Pretty good list.

Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier. Poor!

BAB and Saves: Poor and Poor (Will-focused)

Spellcasting: Full spellcasting progression after 2nd Level, for 9 more levels. Good!

Abilities: Gain an undead cohort at 9th level, undead graft at 6th, control undead at 5th, animate undead at 2nd, and other abilities. The big downside hear is that although levels 2-9 all have good features, the first level is a completely dead level, with no increase to BAB, and just a +2 to Will.

Might be worth a shot as something to do until you qualify for Lady/Lord of the Dead, but there are better PrC out there.

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