Copyright 2008 Wizards of the Coast

This is part of a series! Go here to see the other entries.

Mummies have been in D&D since its beginnings, when they were part of the rather large Undead Power Ladder. Here they are present in both the Monster Manual and the Vault.

The Lore

Mummies are corpses preserved through elaborate funeral rituals and procedures. While this immediately calls to mind pyramids and sarcophagy, there are several real world cultures that practiced other methods of mummification and that can be used as inspiration here. You could have mummies buried in a bog, or in high-altitude mountain tombs. Whatever the details of the mummification ritual, it can give mummies the power to rise again!

Mummies are creatures of wrath. They rise in response to some transgression, which is usually “thieves broke into my tomb” since most mummies are purposefully created to guard tombs or other sacred places. These guardian mummies are semi-intelligent at best and retain nothing of who they were in life, but they’re very strong, emanate an aura of fear, and can inflict terrible curses on their victims. These can take the form of the classic rotting disease, or something else. Their main disadvantage is that they burn easily, being dry corpses wrapped in flammable material.

Some mummies do retain most of their personality, memories and powers. These were usually already powerful in life: high priests, royalty, or other legends. They’re known as “mummy lords” or “royal mummies”, though of course each such lord should be a named individual. They’re often prepared to rise automatically after the burial ceremony, in order to continue their rule from beyond the gates of death. If that’s not the case, they can still be riled up by the usual tomb invasion, or by some more personal offense specific to the individual they were in life.

The Monster Manual says Yuan-ti often create royal mummies to guard the temples of Zehir, which works as a reminder that humans aren’t the only people to make mummies in D&D and provides a nice bit of nightmare fuel for your players.

The Numbers

Mummies are Natural Humanoids with the Undead keyword, and are usually Medium (with one notable exception). Their common traits vary between books:

Monster Manual mummies are immune to poison and disease, and have both necrotic resistance and a vulnerability to fire, with the exact amounts varying per stat block. They also have Regeneration 10, which can be turned off for a turn with radiant damage, and project an aura of Despair out to 5 squares. This is a fear effect that inflicts a -2 penalty on attacks against the mummy.

Additionally, MM mummies are capable of inflicting Mummy Rot with one of their attacks. This is a disease whose level is the same as that of the mummy (which affects its Endurance DCs). Stage 1 halves the HP you recover from any healing effects. Stage 2 does the same and deals you 10 necrotic damage that can’t be healed until your condition improves. And Stage 3 kills you!

Unlike in some previous editions, it seems Mummy Rot can be cured in the same way as any other disease: through successive Endurance checks, or through the Cure Disease ritual. It’s worth nothing that Cure Disease is a risky proposition here: it requires a Heal check penalized by the disease’s level, with a negative result killing the patient and anything below a net 30 dealing between 25%-100% of their maximum HP in damage. Even though it’s a level 6 ritual, an epic disease still requires an epic healer to cure.

The traits of Monster Vault mummies are a bit weaker. They’re merely resistant to poison instead of immune, and their weakness to fire causes them to take ongoing damage instead of being a standard vulnerability. They lack the continuous fear aura, though some have fear powers. And instead of transmitting mummy rot they have more varied curses whose effects are less lethal and rarely last beyond an encounter.

In both books, all mummies have darkvision. They’re also all Unaligned, which is quite interesting. Perhaps some of those royal mummies aren’t hatching sinister plots at all! Maybe they only wish for the safety of their kingdom, or to redress a genuine wrong committed against it, and the PCs might be able to reason or even ally with them.

Mummy Guardian (MM)

This Medium mummy is a Level 8 Brute with 108 HP and all MM common traits. Its necrotic resistance and fire vulnerability are 5, as is its land speed.

The mummy guardian’s sole attack is a slam that does low-ish necrotic damage and automatically spreads level 8 mummy rot on a hit. Since you’re likely to have more than one mummy guardian in an encounter, it’s a good bet your whole party will end up diseased by the end of the fight unless they’re super-careful.

Shambling Mummy (MV)

Pretty much an update to the Guardian above, this mummy is also a Level 8 Brute and has 104 HP and all common MV traits. It shambles along at Speed 4, and has Resist 10 Necrotic and Poison.

Its basic attack is a rotting grasp that does necrotic damage and prevents the target from regaining HP for a turn. As a minor action it can also inflict a warding curse (Ranged 10), which hits automatically and causes the target to take 5 necrotic damage whenever it attacks. This lasts until the end of the encounter, or until the mummy curses someone else.

The curse is a good way to suppress any high-damage PC, particularly those Twin Strike rangers. The “no healing” rider on the basic attack also makes focusing on a single PC at a time a very rewarding tactic for the mummy.

Moldering Mummy (MV)

This is a Level 10 Minion Brute with all common MV traits. Its speed is 4, and it still has Necrotic and Poison resistances of 10. I believe this means an attack using these damage types would need to do at least 11 damage to kill the minion.

Its basic attack is the Clutch of the Dead (melee 1 vs. Fortitude), which does some damage and grabs the target (escape DC 18). When killed by anything other than fire damage, it can use a Final Curse (ranged 10 vs. Will), which on a hit halves the HP recovery from the next healing surge spent by the target.

Mummy Lord (MM)

“Mummy Lord” is one of those monster templates that can be applied to NPC stat blocks to make them elite, introduced in the DMG. We already saw one of these in the Death Knight entry, and as I discussed there they would eventually be dropped in favor of elite monsters built from scratch along the same lines. Unlike common mummies they’re quite smart and likely to have a story role beyond that of a simple dungeon denizen.

The example mummy lord here in the MM was a Level 13 Human Cleric in life. Now, it’s a Level 13 Elite Controller with 205 HP and all MM mummy traits. Its Necrotic resistance is 10, and its vulnerability to fire remains at 5.

The mummy lord fights with a mace, and its basic attack is Warding Mace, which does damage and gives both the mummy and an adjacent ally +1 AC for a turn.

It also has some encounter powers: Awe Strike (melee 1 vs. Will) does lots of damage and immobilizes (save ends); Plague of Doom (ranged 10 vs. Fortitude) does the same damage and inflicts a -2 to defenses for a turn; and Second Wind recovers 51 HP an gives the mummy a +2 to defenses for a turn, like it would for PCs.

Rounding out the set are a couple of triggered actions: Unholy Aid (recharge 6) is an interrupt that triggers when the mummy is hit by a (save ends) effect, and immediately cancels the effect. And when the mummy dies it utters its curse (Close Burst 10 vs. Will), infecting any it hits with level 13 mummy rot.

This set makes for less sophisticated tactics than I anticipated. The lord will likely spend its encounter powers early and join the melee with Warding Mace, where it will be annoyingly resilient. The mummy’s most dangerous attack is the curse, which only triggers when it dies.

Royal Mummy (MV)

The Monster Vault update is a Level 12 Elite Controller (Leader) with 236 HP - the second wind has been folded into its HP total. It has all the standard MV traits, with resistance 10 to poison and necrotic.

Royal mummies project two auras out to 5 squares: Regal Presence allows it to slide allies that start their turns inside up to 2 squares as a free action; and Curse of Fear inflicts a -2 penalty to enemy attacks. This is the same aura all MM mummies get - out of the MV ones, only the royal gets it.

The royal mummy fights in melee with its Scepter, which is a basic attack. At range it uses the much more interesting Plague Chant (ranged 10 vs. Fortitude) which deals immediate and ongoing necrotic damage (save ends). Whenever a victim takes ongoing necrotic damage from the chant, any other enemies adjacent to it also take that damage.

Grip of Despair (ranged 10 vs. Will) is a focusing of the mummy’s fear aura, dealing psychic damage, immobilizing, and inflicting the -2 attack penalty for a turn. I think this stacks with the aura for a -4 total.

Sow Fear and Pestilence allows the royal mummy to use both Plague Chant and Grip of Despair at the same time! It will likely do this most rounds, unless forced into melee or an opportunity to use its strongest attack comes up.

Once per encounter it can lean even harder into the fear magic by using Grave Terror (Close Burst 3 vs. Will; enemies only) which does a lot of psychic damage and pushes targets 4 squares. A miss still does half damage and pushes two squares.

I love how fear effects are implemented as pushes. Feels a lot better than taking control away from the players by making their PCs waste their actions running away and cowering.

Royal mummies can use an enfeebling curse as a minor action once per round. This ranged 10 attack hits automatically and makes it so the target becomes weakened for a turn whenever it spends a healing surge. This lasts until the mummy curses someone else or until the target takes an extended rest!

That’s a rare long-term effect from a MM stat-block. Particularly cruel mummies will curse a striker with this as the party enters the dungeon and retreat to its depths so they have to delve the whole thing under its effects.

Giant Mummy (MM)

When your party makes it into epic level, they might think they left mummies behind. That’s when they learn giants also know how to make mummies.

Giant mummies are Level 21 Brutes with 240 HP and all MM mummy traits. Like guardian mummies, they’re only Int 6, so they don’t do much more than shamble towards their enemies at a respectable speed of 6 and punch them to death. The funny thing is that if they were hill giants in life, they’re actually smarter as mummies!

Their rotting slams do respectable damage and spread level 21 mummy rot! When they die, they release a cloud of Dust of Blinding Death, so named because of its corrosive nature. This is a Close Burst 2 attack against Fortitude, which does both immediate and ongoing acid damage on a hit. Giant embalming fluids are strong stuff!

Sample Encounters and Final Impressions

We have three sample encounters in the MM:

  • Level 8: 2 mummy guardians, 2 rot scarab swarms, 1 flameskull. Tomb denizens, with the flameskull perhaps being the person actually buried there.

  • Level 15: 1 mummy lord and a bunch of yuan-ti, the honor guard for an important temple of Zehir.

  • Level 21: 3 giant mummies, 1 dark naga. Likely hanging out in a temple complex in Fantasy Vietnam.

I love the idea of a giant mummy. I suppose it’s perfectly possible to also apply the mummy lord template to a giant stat block, preferably one that could cast spells. Pyramid of the Death Giant Pharaoh, anyone?

Speaking of lords, I find the MM cleric version a little underwhelming, since its non-basic attacks are all encounter powers. The MV update is a lot more flexible, with more at-will magic attacks and a strong fear theme.

I’m not ready to discard the Monster Manual mummies entirely, though. They cause mummy rot! That’s classic D&D! Giving that ability to at least some mummies that use the MV stats would help keep PCs on their toes even if the disease is a little easier to get rid of than it used to be.