D&D: The Best Mid-Level Undead for Your Campaign’s Zombie Takeover
It’s spooky season and nothing’s spookier than the undead. So we’re taking a look at the best in D&D. Today it’s the best mid-level undead.
Undead are perhaps the best monsters in D&D. They’re pretty easy to grasp: things that used to be alive and now are not. And they are either animated bodies that hint at an evil wizard. Or they lean on the folkloric roots of real-world mythologies about the undead. That is, they’re warnings or punishments of wicked people in life, now living a cursed existence. Whether it’s greed or hunger or worse.
And in D&D, there’s a lot of low-level undead. And the high-level ones can cap a campaign. But when you’re in the mid-levels, that’s when it’s hard to find good foes. But we’re here to help with the best mid-level undead in D&D. What is mid-level? From about 6-10. Ironically enough, this is where most games stop. But take a look at these!
The Drowned are one of my favorite categories of the undead. They’re newer to 5th Edition, but they go way back in D&D history. Drowned are the waterlogged undead, bound to rise from their watery graves.
And a drowned master is the link that binds them all. Tethered to a source of powerful magic that prevents them from leaving, a drowned master commands other Drowned, compelling them to serve as agents in its dark plots.
And weighing in at CR 9, this undead has some powerful abilities to help it out. It wields a greatsword that deals 6d6 + 3 damage as well as inflicts the disease Bluerot. It has a life-draining tentacle to harvest the life force of people and can create new Drowned Ones. And on top of it, it can blind foes with ink. And it deals cold damage in an aura. A perfect mastermind threat in one waterlogged package.
It’s a CR 8, zombified T. Rex. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about it. But this zombie T. Rex goes a step further. It has gorged itself on other zombies. As a bonus action, it can vomit up normal zombies to aid it in its battles against the PCs.
On top of that, it has a mean bite and a powerful tail attack. When it dies, it explodes into more zombies (assuming it hasn’t run out). A gift that keeps on giving (zombies).
Alhoons are the perfect mastermind undead for a mid-level party. Sometimes called Illithiliches, alhoons are undead Mind Flayers. But that’s not what makes them cool.
They’re undead mind flayers who rejected the will of the Elder Brain. They sought to pursue magical power on their own. Seeking out forbidden knowledge in spellbooks and discovering freedom and individuality that they then carefully guard. Once they flee the colony and hive mind that would excise them and destroy them if they are caught, they savor their freedom but face a terrifying prospect. Illithids who reject the Elder Brain are not accepted by the Elder Brain even in death.
Deviant minds are cast into oblivion. Which is why many mind flayers sought the power of undeath.
In addition to this cool backstory, Alhoons are a beefy mid-level undead boss fight unto themselves. They can three times per day negate a spell of 3rd level or lower. On top of that, it can blast enemies with magic and psionics and can cast spells.
There’s just something about evil undead spellcasters that makes for fantastic villains. And mid-level undead are surprisingly full of them. Like the alhoons, deathlock masterminds are undead mages. These were bound by their patron beyond death.
Warlocks who fail to live up to the bargains with their evil patrons might rise from death as a deathlock. These undead beings are driven to serve their otherworldly patrons even in death.
They do get plenty of cool powers though. Deathly claws that deal necrotic damage. Grave bolts that let them restrain foes with shadowy tendrils, keeping them at bay. And of course a handful of spells are mostly useful for escaping from enemies who have turned the fight around.
Finally, the Nightveil Specter out of Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica rounds out our list. These specters are agents of House Dimir. They’re hooded stalkers who ride shadowy creatures called Gloamwings.
They fight with wickedly sharp scythes that deal psychic damage and have the ability to steal memories away from creatures, permanently if they can escape. This is their most dreaded ability and can make for an interesting plot twist.
What are your picks for the best mid-level undead?