Deep Dive - The Mummy
To celebrate Halloween, our Deep Dive series this month will feature some of the most iconic creatures from film, literature and of course, D&D. This week, we will be taking a look at the Mummy, and it’s not the one that gives you hugs and tells you, you’re special.
The mummy of ancient Egypt may not be the mummy we know from D&D, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t any less creepy. The earliest ancient Egyptian mummies were not the ones we think of, sitting in museums with their tattered cloth and fancy tombs. The first mummies were created by nature, as the Egyptians buried the dead in shallow pit graves. Being in a really big desert, it was mother nature that created the first mummies by dehydrating the bodies, which resulted in natural mummification.
Soon though, Egyptians saw the preservation of the body after death as a way to allow the dead to live comfortably in the afterlife. As Egypt grew in power and wealth, the rich and nobility began to demand a higher quality of embalming to preserve their social status in the afterlife. This socio-economic structure in Egypt led to the creation of incredibly elaborate tombs, and more sophisticated methods of embalming. You may have heard of a couple of them… like the Pyramids.
The concept of the undead mummy was introduced in literature in 1827 with the novel, The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century, written by Jane C. Loudon. The book was meant to be a science fiction book and not horror, as the plot revolves around the Egyptian mummy named Cheops, who is brought back to life in the 22nd century. Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, is credited by many as writing the first gothic horror story revolving about mummies, but it’s H.P. Lovecraft who takes the monster and transforms the undead creature into the thing nightmares are made of. In the early to mid 20th century, mummy movies dominate the undead movie genre, trumping vampires, zombies and all of the other great classic monsters. Our love affair continues to this day with the undead horror, as Hollywood continues to produce movies based on the mummy. Of course, sometimes they create an accidental comedy, such as the Mummy remake starring Tom Cruise. Two hours of my life we’ll never get back.
OD&D - Mummy
Number per Encounter: 1-12
Armor Class: 3
Move in Inches: 6
Hit Dice: 5+1
Number of Attacks: 1 + Special
Points of Damage/Per Attack: 1d6 + Special Save: F6/C6
% in Lair: 50%
Type or amount of Treasure: D
The Mummy was first released in the Dungeons & Dragons White Box (1974) and they were part of an undead category of monsters that included Skeletons, Vampires, Wights, and Wraiths. Interestingly, the description goes out of its way to say that the Mummy does not drain life force, like Wights or Wraiths, but rather their touch causes a rotting disease which makes wounds take ten times as long to heal. Luckily, if your friendly cleric has the Cure Disease spell, they can reduce the length of time to twice as long, but only if the spell is cast within an hour of contracting the disease.
For those of you that have only played the latest edition and are scratching your head wondering how that works, we’ll take a second to describe how healing works in OD&D. Common wounds can be healed by “the passage of time” or by magic. Your first full day of complete rest gets you nothing but time to read your spellbook or sharpen your sword. Every other day of full rest gets you one hit point per day until you are fully healed. Our favorite part of the healing description in the manual is the last line which simply says, “This can take a long time.” Thank you Captain Obvious.
It’s vague on how magical healing works in conjunction with the rotting touch, but based on the limited information available, one would assume that cure light/serious wounds would do their normal amount of healing, which is why every party should have a cleric and be thankful for the cleric. Otherwise, getting back 1 hit point every 10 days means your character better have some hobbies they enjoy, like roleplaying or dice.
The Mummy is also only affected by magical weapons, which may not seem like such a big deal now, but magic items were pretty rare in OD&D. To screw you over even more, when you do land an attack all damage, including bonus damage, is half its normal amount. The characters do have a big advantage though, and that is that the Mummy is vulnerable to fire, even regular old fire from a torch. What does being a vulnerable mean in Original Dungeons & Dragons? There are no defined rules for it, though the only creature with a vulnerability in the White Box is the Mummy, so maybe it never came up. Regardless, all attacks deal 1d6 of damage in the original game, unless they have a magical bonus, so your torch would probably deal the full 1d6 damage and maybe if your DM is kind, would have the Mummy be on fire. That way when it hit you, it hurts even more.
AD&D - Mummy
No. Appearing: 2-8
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 6+3
% in Lair: 80%
Treasure Type: D
No. of Attacks: 1
Special Attacks: Fear
Special Defenses: See Description
Magic Resistance: See Description
Alignment: Lawful evil
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes. Nil
The Mummy returns in the Monster Manual (1977) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. With new abilities, more hit points and the chance of running into multiples of them at the same time, the Mummy has become an even tougher fight for ill-prepared parties.
Not only does it keep its half damage against magical weapons, but it also comes with plenty of immunities to keep the party scared, like they can't be put to sleep, charmed, poisoned, paralyzed or held with a hold or cold-based spell. It just gets worse for our would-be heroes for the new abilities truly make the Mummy a creature of horror.
Before you can even fight the Mummy, you have to look at it, and this ability of the Mummy is what separates the living from the dead. Just looking at the Mummy causes you to become so overcome with fear and revulsion you have to save vs. magic or become paralyzed for 1d4 rounds. If you have at least 5 friends with you, you get a +1 to the saving throw, if you are human, you get +2 to the saving throw. Now, there is a problem, because you are likely to run into multiple Mummies when you are plundering tombs, in fact, you are likely to run into 2-8 of them at a time... just imagine having to make that save 2 times back-to-back, let alone 8 saves.
Now, once you get over your revulsion of Mummies, you can go and fight them sword to hand, and you must pray to all that is good that they don't touch you. If you are touched by the Mummy, you are infected with a horrible rotting disease that is guaranteed to kill you in 1 to 6 months, there is no save, only death. But that isn't enough for the Mummy to kill you, it also causes you to lose 2 points of Charisma every month while you are diseased, which is just salt in the wound at this point. At this point, you are probably racing over to your cleric for a bit of divine magic, except all healing spells don't work on you while diseased. Your cleric first needs to heal you with Cure Disease, hopefully, you've been nice and tithed to their god recently and often.
But, all is not lost when it comes to fighting Mummies, you can, and should be, well prepared when facing a Mummy. Obviously, you need your magical weapon to even deal half damage, but if you are short on that, you can still use a torch to deal 1-3 points of damage, which isn't great. If you are prepared though, you will know to bring in flasks of oil for big spikes of damage, 1-8 on the first turn and 2-16 on the second, as well bringing in vials of holy water which deal 2-8 points of damage. Also, if your spellcaster has fire-based spells, this is the time to use them as you get an extra die to roll for damage!
It's not all bad when facing a Mummy so long as you make that first save to not be repulsed by the horror, you have a cleric close and you come prepared to not use your silly sword. As a final note for this edition, your cleric can cast Raise Dead on them, turning them back to life as a level 7 fighter… there is no information on what happens next so maybe they’ll be your best friend… or you get to make them dead again, who knows!
2e - Mummy
Climate/Terrain: Desert Subterranean
Activity Cycle: Night
Treasure: P, (D)
Intelligence: Low (5-7)
Alignment: Lawful Evil
No. Appearing: 2-8
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 6+3
No. of Attacks: 1
Special Attacks: Fear, disease
Special Defenses: See Description
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: M 6’ Tall
Morale: Champion (15)
XP Value: 3,000
With the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons comes the next rendition of the Mummy in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989) followed by the Monstrous Manual (1993). As this is a very spooky Deep Dive, let's step a bit back from Dungeons & Dragons, and see what's going on outside the game. Mummies haven’t hit the big time quite yet, but they can be found in some TV and film. Scooby-Doo has a couple of cartoon movies with mummies in them but of course, they aren’t really mummies, thanks to those meddling kids! Monster Squad (1987) and Tales from the Darkside (1990) both had some cool mummy scenes, but our pal in the tattered wrappings wasn’t the star of the show yet, and we are not going to get into The Mummy Lives, a 1993 film starring an aging Tony Curtis because despite popular opinion... we have standards.
Getting back to 2nd edition, the Mummy comes on strong, with the addition of the Greater Mummy. Our regular Mummy pretty much stays the same, you never want to touch them, you need magic weapons and make sure you show up prepared. Though, if you were hoping to turn the Mummy, human, again, make sure you pack a Resurrection or Wish spell, and maybe something to appease the now-human-level-7-fighter as they come back with all their former memories.
The Monstrous Manual (1993) goes on to tell us how our tattered-rags best friend came to be a Mummy, and it's not from having children. Sticking to historical facts, we are told that mummies are the product of an embalming process used on wealthy and important people. A corpse would be soaked in a preserving solution for several weeks during which time they are covered with spices and resins. The corpses’ organs, such as the heart, brain, and liver, are typically removed and sealed in jars.
Most of the time these corpses sit in their tombs content to slowly rot away over thousands of years.
Of course, since this is a fantasy game, it goes on to say that sometimes, great evil magic allows the spirit of the deceased not to die, but to become undead. These spirits tap into energy from the Positive Material Plane, which allows them to turn themselves into a Mummy. The Mummy’s sole purpose is to keep an eye on the treasures they accumulated throughout their mortal life and have been buried with. They will just lay around resting and waiting in tombs usually made up of a series of chambers filled with its possessions, favorite items and treasures, the bodies of dead pets and slaves, and foodstuffs to feed the spirit after death. It’s all peaceful and quiet until some poor adventurer comes along and tries to take their treasure. Then it’s on, and your face is rotting off and in 1-6 months, you'll be dead.
It’s the Greater Mummy that takes our undead friend to a whole new level. Greater Mummies also go by the moniker Anhktepot's Children, which will be explained later. They are created when a very powerful lawful evil cleric is mummified and charged with the guarding of a burial place. This sounds like a horrible job, but who knows what goes through the minds of lawful evil clerics?
These Mummies are ridiculously smart, as they can not only speak the same languages they did when they were alive but can telepathically command regular Mummies that they create. So, while the stat block may say that you would only run into one Greater Mummy, that doesn’t tell you the whole story. A Greater Mummy could have a half dozen of his little undead friends just hanging around, waiting on orders to kill.
And if that wasn't enough, Greater Mummies have an Age & Ability Table that was used to make them more powerful the older they got. Per the description in the Monstrous Manual (1993), this is because “Greater mummies, like vampires, become more powerful with the passing of time in Ravenloft”.
Yup, Mummies in Ravenloft. The first Greater Mummies were created by Anhktepot and in 2nd edition, he was granted a domain and it just happens to exist in Ravenloft. Not wanting to be alone, he took his creations with him and these undead are rumored to serve as spies for their lord, going out into Ravenloft and reporting back to him on the happenings throughout the plane. The more time they spent there, the older they got, and that in turn made them stronger. By the time a Greater Mummy had its 500th undead birthday, it was incredibly powerful.
We recreated the table to save time and so we won’t bore you to undeath trying to explain every bonus they get based on their age. Follow the link to the Age and Ability Table.
While the Mummy can still cause you to freeze in fear, it has nothing on the Greater Mummy's Aura of Fear, and it grows in power the older a Mummy gets and the effects of the Fear are doubled while you are in the Aura. Now that is just a passive power of the Greater Mummy, what happens when they want to be more active in your destruction? Well, they can choose to just smack you for 3d6 points of damage, and then it gets worse. They have the same disease that the Mummies have, but their disease will kill you in a matter of days, not months, based on the age of the mummy. Only the Regenerate spell will cure you of the disease, and even then you won't get any of your ability points back… they are gone until you find someone nice enough to cast Wish for you.
But what if you don't have someone in your party to cast Regenerate? Well, then you die. You can only be brought back if someone casts Cure Disease and Raise Dead on your body within 1 hour. After that, you’re rolling a new character, and maybe this time you'll avoid the Mummy.
Now, getting hit is bad enough, but what if you really wanted to learn how terrifying a Greater Mummy is? Since all Greater Mummies were once clerics in their past lives, they have spellcasting abilities equal to what they had when they weren’t undead. They will cast spells as if they were of 16th through 20th level, based on their age, and have the same access to spells as they did when alive.
But it isn't all bad for your adventurers! They just have to prepare and bring magical fire! That's right, these Greater Mummies aren't affected by non-magical fire or holy water, oh boy the party is going to die. Unless they are prepared! A major weakness is given for only Greater Mummies, and that's electricity! They take extra damage, more specifically, half again the amount of damage from a normal electricity spell, so that Lightning Bolt no one took because Fireball... well, it's going to be the only thing stopping the Greater Mummy from destroying everyone and turning you all into it's own personal Mummies, which is something they like to do to adventurers.
Dragon Magazine #238 gives us the Bog Mummy and the Ice Mummy. The Bog Mummy is based on men and women that were found in the bogs and marshes in Denmark, Ireland, and Belgium. These bodies were preserved by the peat in the bog, which caused the skin of the dead to turn brown and leathery. The Ice Mummy is based on the Marvel superhero Captain America. Ok not really, but it’s the same concept. Bodies trapped in the ice over hundreds of years are preserved, waiting for someone to dig them out, or an evil cleric to come along and change them into a creature of unspeakable horror.
3e/3.5e - Mummy
Hit Dice: 8d12+3 (55)
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class: 20 (+10 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 20
Base Attack/Grapple: +4/+11
Attack: Slam +11 melee (1d6+10 plus mummy rot)
Full Attack: Slam +11 melee (1d6+10 plus mummy rot)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./ 5 ft.
Special Attacks: Despair, mummy rot
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/-, darkvision 60 ft., undead traits, vulnerability to fire
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +8
Abilities: Str 24, Dex 10, Con -, Int 6, Wis 14, Cha 15
Skills: Hide +7, Listen +8, Move Silently +7, Spot +8.
Feats: Alertness, Great Fortitude, Toughness
Organization: Solitary, warden squad (2-4), or guardian detail (6-10)
Challenge Rating: 5
Alignment: Usually lawful evil
Advancement: 9-16 HD (Medium); 17-24 (Large)
Level Adjustment: —
In 2000, the Mummy is released in the Monster Manual (2000) and then for 3.5e, it is re-released in the Monster Manual (2003). During this time, the Mummy has truly hit the big time with the release of the Mummy (1999) and the Mummy Returns (2001). Each release in the series grossed over $400 million and was a huge success, placing the Mummy as a true BBEG.
With that being said, not much changes for our Mummy in the newest edition. The biggest change is that you get a save against the Mummy touching you with its rotting disease. If you fail the save, your Constitution and Charisma start taking 1d6 points of damage. To break this powerful curse, your Cleric has to first cast Remove Curse at a high difficulty and then cast Remove Disease. This really brings into question as to why you aren't best friends with the cleric yet? The best advice you can ever get is: be the cleric or be the cleric's best friend.
While you must wait until Deities and Demigods (2001) for the Greater Mummy, we are given the Mummy Lord in the Monster Manual. The Mummy Lord is a powerful Mummy that have been created to protect sites, tombs, and locations of great importance as they have given up their lives in protection of whatever it is they are protecting. On the other hand, a Mummy Lord could be being punished for treason or crimes so abhorrent as to demand such a powerful curse be put on someone. In the latter case, no one is ever supposed to find their tomb and they are cursed to live forever in undeath.
The Mummy Lord is a powerful spell caster that is still working off the Cleric's spell list and has a wide variety of spells that they start off with. And if spells aren't enough, they are also loaded down with loot like +2 half-plate armor, +2 cloak of resistance and a brooch of shielding.
Dragon Magazine keeps the Mummy going and in Dragon Magazine #300, provides an article on the Ecology of the Mummy, a template for creating your very own Mummy and an Ogre Mummy to throw at your players and watch them fall under its might! It also gives us a wonderful insight into Killer Creature Combos, specific creatures that might actually like being around a Mummy. Brown Mold, which loves fire, will happily grow along with some Mummies, and when a player gets all uppity thinking that Burning Hands will save the day, well... we've all had those types of days where nothing goes right.
Another great combo takes a small bit of setup... You walk into an ancient tomb to find yourself surrounded by gold, gems, and treasure chests filled to the brim with other shiny goodies. As you reach down to one of the chests, a mummy rises from behind you. You fail your saving throw and are paralyzed in despair. Then you realize that the chest you were reaching for isn’t a chest, but a mimic. While you are forced to watch in horror, it grapples you and begins eating. The mummy then comes around and starts pounding away and even when the paralyzation wears off, you’re still stuck in place by the mimic. Fun times.
4e - Mummy
Mummy Guardian - Medium natural humanoid (undead)
Level 8 Brute, XP 350
Initiative +6 / Perception +10; darkvision Despair (Fear) aura 5; enemies within the aura take a -2 penalty to attack rolls against the mummy guardian
HP 108; Bloodied 54 Regeneration 10 (if the mummy guardian takes radiant damage, regeneration doesn’t function on its next turn.
AC 20; Fortitude 18, Reflex 16, Will 217; see also despair above
Immune disease, poison; Resist 5 necrotic; Vulnerable 5 fire
Rotting Slam (Standard; At-Will) Disease, Necrotic
>+11 vs. AC; 2d8+3 necrotic damage, and the target contract level 8 mummy rot.
Str 16 (+7) | Dex 14 (+6) | Wis 12 (+5) | Con 18 (+8) | Int 6 (+2) | Cha 16 (+7) Alignment Unaligned / Languages Common
In 2008, the Mummy comes to us in the Monster Manual (2008) and out in the real world, monster movies have started to fade out of existence and horror movies start leaning toward the para and supernatural to horrify and make us keep a nightlight on. The Mummy series tries one more time to capture the magic with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon (2008), we don't talk about it. Unfortunately, the Mummy as a BBEG seems to have been lost to the sands of time and largely forgotten.
As with a lot of the creatures we've looked at in the past, the 4th edition takes the Mummy and twists it into something different, but something very familiar. It has it's aura effect, but instead of paralyzing a foolish adventurer, it just provides a -2 to all attack rolls. It can regenerate hit points every turn, so long as it hasn't take radiant damage, and keeps it's vulnerability to fire. The Mummy Rot disease is still incredibly potent and still has your death at the very end of the track, but you don't have to worry about losing any of your Charisma, so you'll still look good when you die!
In the Monster Manual, we are also given the Mummy Lord and the Giant Mummy. They are very similar to the Mummy Guardian, though the Mummy Lord has access to a wide array of abilities that can immobilize targets, take penalties to their defenses and can automatically succeed on saving throws if things are getting dicey for it. The Giant Mummy is much like the Mummy Guardian, but far more dangerous for your health. When it gets taken to half its health and is destroyed, it releases clouds of corrosive dust that causes acid damage and blindness.
The lore goes onto explain that the Mummies guard sacred tombs and are often created by the Yaun-ti to protect their temples to Zehir. The Mummies of 4th edition are simple, but quite effective at dealing damage and being shambling humanoids ready to inflict deadly diseases.
5e - Mummy
Medium undead, lawful evil Armor Class 11 (Natural Armor) / Hit Points 58 (9d8 + 418) / Speed 20 ft.
STR 16 (+3) | DEX 8 (-1) | CON 15 (+2) | INT 6 (-2) | WIS 10 (+0) | CHA 12 (+1)
Saving Throws Wis +2
Damage Vulnerabilities fire
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slash from non magical attacks
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages the languages it knew in life
Challenge 3 (700 XP)
Mulitattack. The mummy can use its Dreadful Glare and makes one attack with its rotting fist.
Rotting Fist. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5ft., one target. Ht: 10 (2d6+3) bludgeoning damage plus 10 (3d6) necrotic damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be cursed by the mummy rot. The cursed target cannot regain hit points, and its hit point maximum decreases by 10 (3d6) for every 24 hours that elapse. If the curse reduces the target’s hit point maximum to 0, the target dies, and its body turns to dust. The curse lasts until removed by the remove curse spell or other magic. Dreadful Glare: The mummy targets one creature it can see within 60 ft. of it. If the target can see the mummy, it must succeed on a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw against the magic or become frightened until the end of the mummy’s next turn. If the target fails the saving throw by 5 or more, it is also paralyzed for the same duration. A target that succeeds on the saving throw is immune to the Dreadful Glare of all mummies (but not mummy lords) for the next 24 hours.
After a long undeath through the editions, the Mummy arrives in the Monster Manual (2014) and out in the real world, the mummy-like creatures known as zombies have take over the world. Also, there was that one terrible movie with Tom Cruise in it, but we like to think that that was some fever dream we had long ago and it was never actually made. At least, that's what we like to tell ourselves.
In 5th edition, we are back to just a Mummy and its Mummy Lord. We are given a lot of information about the Mummies and that they are created when the priest of a death god or other dark deity ritually imbues a prepared corse with necromantic magic, usually by inscribing markings on the wrappings of the Mummy. The dead individual gets no say in this, probably because they are already dead. The dead bodies are usually from people who piss off a high priest or ruler, criminals, and other miscreants.
If you wish to end a Mummy's curse, it's a bit more straight forward, some rare magic can undo curses or simply returning stolen treasure or sanctifying a temple. Of course, if you killed someone important to the Mummy, you probably aren't going to get them to stop shambling slowly after you.
Another interesting tidbit is that since Mummies can talk, since 3rd edition at least, they can speak of lost histories and lore from when they once lived. The powerful will keep a Mummy locked up somewhere nice and secure and ask them questions when they feel like it.
The Mummy Lord is much more powerful than the common Mummy and features magic resistance, regeneration and is a powerful spell caster. If that still doesn't wet your whistle, Mummy Lords are given extra abilities to use against your players, like stopping them from healing or turning into a literal cloud of dust and moving around the battlefield.
One last new ability for the Mummy Lord is that they can reform if they are ever killed. Because Mummies get their viscera removed pre-mummification, the Mummy Lord has what amounts to a Mummy Phylactory that takes on the shape of their dead, withered heart. They keep these hearts in safe locations, locked away in secret drawers and if they are ever killed, they will reform within 24 hours next to their heart.
Unfortunately for our Mummy Lord, its ferocious abilities and horrifying BBEG status is overwritten by its paltry hit points of only 97. Add on the fact that Mummies and Mummy Lords are still vulnerable to fire damage, and you have a fireball ready to wipe the entire fight in a turn.