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Skull Lord

Powerful, three-headed commanders of the undead that can potentially be encountered in the pen-and-paper roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. The first Skull Lords appeared shortly after the destruction of the necromancer Vumerion's black fortress--it is unknown whether Vumerion himself created the creatures or if they were a nightmarish byproduct of the dark energies released by the fall of the magic tower itself. Regardless, other monsters and sages with no respect for the sanctity of life have since discovered the rituals necessary to create and animate their own Skull Lords. These unredeemably evil creatures scheme to increase their own might and influence, raise other horrid things from the dead, and work to corrupt or destroy all that is good and wholesome in the Prime Material plane. The vile fiends are most often seen leading motley bands of lesser undead, but Skull Lords are sometimes found serving masters more fearsome than themselves.

Each of a Skull Lord's three heads has a unique power. The Skull of Bonechilling Fear can unleash an icy blast (Range: 50 feet) that inflicts cold damage and flings the target 25 feet away (possibly into something that will cause additional injury, or even outright kill the victim--the Skull Lord could use this ability to knock an opponent off a cliff or bridge for example). The Skull of Withering Flame emits a scathing ray (Range: 50 feet) that deals both fire and necrotic damage to whomever it strikes. But it is the Skull of Death's Command that is the most feared of all--it can instantly resurrect any single slain undead creature (that isn't more than 2 experience levels above the Skull Lord's level) with full hit points (Range: 50 feet). Additionally, the Skull of Death's Command constantly radiates a "Master of the Grave" healing aura effect around the Skull Lord (10 foot radius)--any undead allies standing inside the aura's range regenerate 5 hit points every turn and gain a +2 bonus to all saving throws. So long as the Skull of Death's Command remains intact, any defeat of the Skull Lord's undead minions is temporary at best. Further, instead of dying when its own hit points are reduced to nothing, a Skull Lord can instead choose to sacrifice one of its' three skulls, losing the individual power of the relevant skull in the process, to return itself to full health--as such, every Skull Lord has to effectively be slain three times before it will stay down for good (the final skull can't be sacrificed like the first two, as the creature cannot survive headless). If it has no other options, a Skull Lord can also attack with its' bone staff--this magical weapon inflicts necrotic damage in addition to blunt force trauma.

Skull Lords avoid engaging in close quarters combat if they can help it. They make their undead minions do the melee fighting for them, resurrecting and healing them as necessary with the Skull of Death's Command, while blasting away at the enemy from afar with the Skulls of Bonechilling Fear and Withering Flame. If a party of adventurers is to stand a chance of surviving the encounter, they must kill or neutralize the Skull Lord as quickly as possible, or, at the very least, somehow prevent the Skull of Death's Command from constantly reviving its lackeys. Needless to say, multiple Skull Lords supporting and directing a host of lesser undead is a daunting challenge indeed.

While incredibly dangerous in the company of other nonliving monsters, a solitary Skull Lord, or one accompanied only by creatures that still draw breath, is relatively handicapped as its' Skull of Death's Command is useless under those conditions (other than as a sacrifice to heal itself). Skull Lords have a relatively low hit point total (40), so, even with their limited ability to restore themselves, they tend to go down quickly if their comrades can't, or won't, keep the enemy from focusing all of their attacks on them. In order to benefit from the Master of the Grave aura, a Skull Lord's minions must remain close to their leader--bunching together in such a manner, while mutually beneficial for all the undead involved, could prove tactically disastrous if their opponent(s) can employ attacks that affect a large area and/or cause splash damage, such as a fireball spell. Like most of their nonliving brethren, Skull Lords are resistant to necrotic damage, vulnerable to radiant/holy energies, and enjoy the usual undead immunities to poison, disease, etc.

Newsprint, tissue paper, white glue, super glue, plastic, and acrylic paint.

4.8 cm/1.9 in. x 4.4 cm/1.7 in. (widest point x highest point)

Four days: July 29 and 31; August 2 and 4, 2010.

Skull Lord photo collage.

For comparison/informational purposes, below are some images from various Dungeons & Dragons media:

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Monster Manual artwork, by Franz Vohwinkel, of a Skull Lord.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Monster Manual V artwork of a Skull Lord.

Wizards of The Coast commercially available Dungeons & Dragons Skull Lord miniature.

(In no particular order of importance.)

  •   Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Monster Manual I.
    Wizard of The Coast Inc., First Printing: June 2008.

  •   Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Monster Manual V.
    Wizard of The Coast Inc., First Printing: July 2007.

  •   Google Dungeons & Dragons Skull Lord image search.

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The background stone image is a fill pattern from the GIMP computer art program that I edited.