They say that you can't take it with you. "They" have clearly never encountered one of these rapacious undead.
A sepulchral thief is an undead criminal, a thief, burglar, or bandit. Unlike other undead whom it resembles, such as the lich, the sepulchral thief does not deliberately seek out an undead existence. Rather, like some ghosts or ghouls, it rises spontaneously on rare occasions when the proper circumstances align. First, an evil-aligned and malicious thief must die in the midst of planning or executing the greatest theft (or similar criminal activity) of his career, an endeavor in which he has devoted his greatest efforts and on which he has staked his future. Perhaps he is slain by a terrible trap, or by a guard or rival thief. He must die in both anger and frustration, within reach of his goal, or even having just managed to acquire it.
Creating a Sepulchral Thief
"Sepulchral thief" is a template that can be added to any humanoid creature of 5 HD or more (referred to hereafter as the base creature), provided it is of chaotic neutral or any evil alignment, and possesses the appropriate ability and skill requirements. The base creature must have a Dexterity score of at least 13, and must possess at least 5 ranks each in any five of the following skills: Balance, Climb, Disable Device, Hide, Jump, Move Silently, Open Lock, and Sleight of Hand.
A sepulchral thief has all the base creature's statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
Size and Type: The creature's type changes to undead. Do not recalculate base attack bonus, saves, or skill points. Size is unchanged.
Hit Dice: Increase all current and future Hit Dice to d12s.
Armor Class: The base creature's natural armor bonus increases by +5.
Attack: A sepulchral thief has a touch attack that it can use once per round. If the base creature can use weapons, the sepulchral thief retains this ability. A creature with natural weapons retains those natural weapons. A sepulchral thief fighting without weapons uses either its touch attack or its primary natural weapon (if it has any). A sepulchral thief armed with a weapon uses its touch or a weapon, as it desires.
Full Attack: A sepulchral thief fighting without weapons uses either its touch attack (see above) or its natural weapons (if it has any). If armed with a weapon, it usually uses the weapon as its primary attack along with a touch as a natural secondary attack, provided it has a way to make that attack (either a free hand or a natural weapon that it can use as a secondary attack).
Damage: A sepulchral thief without natural weapons has a touch attack that uses negative energy to deal 1d8+5 points of damage to living creatures; a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 sepulchral thief's HD + sepulchral thief's Cha modifier) halves the damage. A sepulchral thief with natural weapons can use its touch attack or its natural weaponry, as it prefers. If it chooses the latter, it deals 1d8+5 points of extra damage on one natural weapon attack.
Special Attacks: A sepulchral thief retains all the base creature's special attacks and gains those described below. Save DCs are equal to 10 + 1/2 thief's HD + thief's Cha modifier unless otherwise noted.
- Draining Touch (Su): Any time the sepulchral thief deals damage with its touch attack, it gains a number of hit points equal to 1/4 the damage dealt (for this reason, the creature often attempts to begin combat with a sneak attack delivered with this method). If this raises its hit point total above its normal maximum, it gains the excess as temporary hit points that disappear after 1 hour. It can never have more temporary hit points than its total normal hit points.
- Obscuring Aura (Su): Sepulchral thieves are shrouded in a mind- and senses-clouding aura of negative energy. Living creatures in a 30-foot radius must succeed on a Will save or be affected by the aura. Creatures with fewer than one-half the sepulchral thief's Hit Dice are blinded and deafened. For example, if the sepulchral thief has 9 HD, this applies to creatures of 4 HD or fewer. All other creatures take a -2 penalty on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. A creature that successfully saves cannot be affected again by the same thief's aura for 24 hours.
- Sneak Attack (Ex): The sepulchral thief deals 1d6 points of extra damage when flanking an opponent or at any time when a target would be denied its Dexterity bonus. This extra damage applies to ranged attacks only if the target is within 30 feet. If the creature already has sneak-attack bonuses due to class levels or some other source, these bonus dice stack.
Special Qualities: A sepulchral thief retains all the base creature's special qualities and gains those described below.
- Turn Resistance (Ex): A sepulchral thief has turn resistance +4.
- Damage Reduction (Su): A sepulchral thief's undead body is powered by hatred and negative energies, giving the creature damage reduction 15/magic and either good or lawful (regardless of the thief's actual alignment). Its natural weapons are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.
- Hide in Plain Sight (Ex): A sepulchral thief with at least 14 ranks in Hide can use the Hide skill even while being observed, as long as he is within 10 feet of some sort of shadow, as per the assassin class feature.
- Immunities (Ex): Sepulchral thieves have immunity to cold, electricity, and mind-affecting attacks.
- Reanimation (Su): The greed and malevolence that animate the sepulchral thief cannot be dispersed through mere physical destruction. When a sepulchral thief is destroyed, its life force immediately inhabits the single most valuable item it has on its possession (often but not always a weapon). Unless the item is destroyed or mystically cleansed, the sepulchral thief reappears 1d10 days after its apparent death. Casting dispel evil or hallow on the item destroys the thief's essence if the caster makes a successful caster level check against a DC equal to 11 + the sepulchral thief's HD. Destroying the item also destroys the inhabiting essence.
If the thief has two or more items of equal value as its "most valuable" possessions, it inhabits a weapon in favor of any other item; otherwise, choose randomly. So long as the sepulchral thief inhabits an item, that item radiates moderate necromancy and evil, in addition to its normal auras.
- See in Darkness (Sp): Moreso even than other undead, the sepulchral thief is fully comfortable in the black of night. They can see perfectly in darkness - retaining the ability to distinguish color and texture—to a distance of 60 feet. This applies even to magical darkness.
- Shadow Jump (Sp): A sepulchral thief gains the ability to travel between shadows as if by means of a dimension door spell, just as a shadow dancer can. The thief can jump a total of 30 feet each day in this manner. If the sepulchral thief has the shadow jump ability from some other source, such as levels in the shadow dancer prestige class, these total daily distances stack.
Abilities: Increase from the base creature as follows: Dex +4, Int +2, Cha +2. Being undead, a sepulchral thief has no Constitution score.
Skills: Sepulchral thieves have a +8 racial bonus on Balance, Climb, Hide, Move Silently, and Sleight of Hand checks. Otherwise same as the base creature.
Challenge Rating: Same as the base creature +2.
Strategies and Tactics
Although a sepulchral thief enjoys causing pain and suffering, it prefers to do so as the result of its thefts, rather than through direct physical assault. Still, it is ready and willing to slay anyone in its way, or anyone who angers it. It prefers to attack from surprise, making use of its sneak attack (and perhaps draining touch) abilities. Under most circumstances, a sepulchral thief prefers to save its shadow jump ability for last-minute escapes, but it might use it to enter a particularly well guarded area or to obtain a tactical advantage in battle.
Because they are frequently of high intelligence, sepulchral thieves are fully capable of focusing their efforts on their most dangerous foes. When faced with a choice of targets, the thief often attempts to slaughter spellcasters first, then melee fighters. Their malice-driven nature makes them prone to holding grudges, and a sepulchral thief might take months or even years planning vengeance on one who thwarted it.
Only the greediest and most vile of criminals have a chance of rising as a sepulchral thief, even under the proper circumstances, but when they do, they become undead beings of nigh-unstoppable cunning and ability. Sepulchral thieves are scheming and clever, always planning their next acquisition. They are driven by a lusty greed more overpowering than that of any mortal. Like dragons and other monsters, they seek to hoard items of great value, from gold to artwork to items of potent magic. Sepulchral thieves make use of what items they can, but the others simply sit in hidden stockpiles, for it is not the expenditure of wealth that these undead love, but the act of stealing it - and, more important, the suffering such loss causes its original owner. Cruelty as much as greed motivates the sepulchral thief; it seeks out not only items of great monetary value, but great personal value. It desires the last handful of coins owned by a poor family as much as it does the most fabulous masterpiece in a lord's manor. The acquisition of wealth and valuables is of primary concern, but if the sepulchral thief can harm its victims in the process - causing a family to starve for want of coin, absconding with the holy icon that might end a war between nations, or removing the only cure for a plague spreading across a village - so much the better.
Environment: Any. Sepulchral thieves almost invariably dwell in urban regions, where both wealth and victims are plentiful, but they occasionally beleaguer smaller communities or seek out powerful magics and great riches in dungeons.
Typical Physical Characteristics: Sepulchral thieves look like their original race, but gaunt and desiccated. Their flesh hardens, almost like a mummy's, and darkens into shades of gray or dirty white. Their flesh frequently tears sufficiently to expose bits of bone, and their eyes disappear into dark and empty sockets.
Sepulchral thieves are parasites in humanoid communities, having no society of their own. They view others of their kind as potential rivals; alliances between sepulchral thieves are almost unheard of, and even those that do exist are short-lived and invariably end in betrayal.
Because they still retain intelligence and memories from their past lives, sepulchral thieves are most comfortable in cities that resemble their former homes.
Alignment: The malice and lawlessness inherent to the sepulchral thief makes every last one of them either neutral evil or chaotic evil. A base creature that was lawful evil becomes neutral evil; one that was chaotic neutral becomes chaotic evil; those that were neutral evil or chaotic evil retain that alignment. Although they are sentient, a sepulchral thief literally cannot change to any alignment other than these two, though shifting between the two is possible.
Sepulchral thieves hoard treasure they cannot use, but attempt to equip themselves with the best and most useful items they can. A sepulchral thief carries standard equipment for its CR, but always has one or more hidden stashes of treasure containing that same amount over again. Thus, when faced in their lair (a rare occurrence), such a creature has double normal goods, but when faced elsewhere has only the normal amount.
Sepulchral Thief Lore
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (religion) can learn more about sepulchral thieves. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.
Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (local) checks cannot reveal the nature of these creatures, but they might reveal the names of local criminals rumored to be undead or monstrous.
- DC 15: On very rare occasions, a villainous and obsessed thief might return from the dead to continue his larcenous ways.
- DC 20: Called "sepulchral thieves," these undead felons are somewhat resistant to the power of clerics and to mundane weapons. They radiate an aura that dulls the senses, and their touch can drain the life from a victim.
- DC 25: A sepulchral thief steals not merely objects, but life, gaining health even as it injures others. It seeks to steal objects with personal as well as monetary value, and enjoys causing pain and suffering in the process. Only weapons of goodness or law are effective against them.
- DC 30: A sepulchral thief can travel through shadows, disappearing from one spot to reappear in another, and can see perfectly well in any darkness.
- DC 35: Even when slain, a sepulchral thief might not be gone, as they can inhabit the magic items they possess, returning days later much as a lich with a phylactery. Only destroying the item is certain to eliminate the creature, though dispel evil and hallow often suffice.
Advanced Sepulchral Thieves
All sepulchral thieves advance using class levels. Rogue is by far the most common class, but a sepulchral thief with levels in bard, fighter, ranger, assassin, and shadow-dancer are not uncommon. A sepulchral thief retains its favored class from when it was alive, but considers rogue a favored class as well.
Level Adjustment: As base creature +6.
Sample Sepulchral Thief: Sepulchral Thief.