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Common zombies are mindless beasts who fight in a clumsy, instinctual way. Dread warriors are… still mindless, but the ritual that creates them also imbues them with more refined combat skills.

The main purpose of a dread warrior is to act as a guard and protector. Their creation binds them to their master, whom they are compelled to protect and obey. When a dread warrior’s master dies, their reaction is a bit unpredictable. Some lose their animating force and drop lifelessly to the ground, others go berserk.

Instead of being bound to a person, they can be bound to an item instead, protecting it from theft and damage even after their creator passes away. Liches might use this to bind a troop of dread warriors to their soul receptacle, for example.

The Numbers

Dread Warriors are Medium Natural Animates with the Undead keyword. They have low-light vision and a natural speed of 6, modified by armor. They have a signature traits: Eyes of Undeath allows the warrior’s master to see and hear anything the creature sees and hears. It also allows the master to speak through it. There’s no range limit! This makes them excellent emissaries, decoys, or security “cameras”.

Individual warriors have additional traits related to their training and intended function.

Dread Protector

Your basic security model. Some necromancers like to fill their lairs with these things so that they always have the reassuring presence of a bodyguard no matter which room they are in. One does get used to the smell eventually.

Dread Protectors are Level 3 Soldiers with 47 HP. They wear heavy armor and wield greataxes. Their speed is 5.

Aside from Eyes Undeath, they also have a Shield of Undeath aura (1). If their master is inside this aura, they only take half damage from melee and ranged attacks. The protector does not take the other half of this damage, making this a very good power.

The greataxe marks on a hit, and though the protector doesn’t have any other abilities that make use of the mark it does make it harder to attack the master. Instead of moving normally they can use Protector’s Call to teleport their speed to square adjacent to the master. This makes it very hard for PCs to isolate them.

Dread Protectors will seek to always stay adjacent to their master and keep the most dangerous melee opponent marked. The best tactic for dealing with them is to hit them with close or area attacks. These will target both them and their master, ignoring both the mark penalty and Shield of Undeath.

Dread Marauder

This lightly armored warrior wields a short sword and a bow. It’s not any smarter than the other dread warriors, but Eyes of Undeath still makes it a superb scout since the master can see what it sees and order it from afar. If they die out there, it’s no great loss - the master knows what they need to know by that point.

Dread Marauders are Level 5 Skirmishers with 53 HP and speed 6. They deal extra damage when they have Combat Advantage, and In the Master’s Defense gives them combat advantage against anyone adjacent to their master.

The sword and bow give them both melee and ranged basic attacks, and Skirmish Strike allows them to shift 3 squares before making either one.

So aside from being good scouts, dread marauders also serve as good deterrents against melee PCs, since those PCs will be exposed to stronger attacks from the marauder as long as they remain adjacent to the master.

Dread Archers

These warriors are meant to act as sniper platforms and fire support for the master, and to man the ramparts of the master’s fortress. They’re Level 6 Artillery with 57 HP and speed 6. Their gear is similar to the marauder’s.

As artillery monsters, their bow attack is more accurate than the sword. Once per encounter they can make an arcing volley area attack.

Their greatest powers are their custom passive trait and reaction, however! Channel of Undeath allows the master to make implement attacks as if they occupied the archer’s square, as long as they can see the archer. And when the master hits with an attack, the archer can use the Sustained Attack reaction to make an immediate bow attack.

I am unsure whether I’d allow the master to “see” the archer through Eyes of Undeath, but I’d definitely allow them so see the archer through a telescope!

Dread Guardian

This is a more powerful version of the dread protector, a Level 7 Soldier with 79 HP. It’s equipped with heavy armor, a shield, a sword, and a bow.

Both the bow and sword attacks mark on a hit, and this time the protector can make a sword attack as an opportunity action when a marked enemy attacks the master.

Final Impressions

“Zombie warriors” are almost as classic as “skeleton warriors” in the dungeon fantasy genre, so I think these are pretty nifty. They’re also awesome mechanically, because Eyes of Undeath and the other passives allow for a lot if interesting underhanded tricks.