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Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead: A 4th Edition D&D Supplement Hardcover – January 20, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: D&D Supplement
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (January 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786950692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786950690
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.6 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Burgess Smith on January 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Wizards of the Coast has released three books over the last few months (Draconomicon I, Manual of the Planes and this) that basically follow the same formula: start with a fluffy descriptive section with no real gameplay value, follow that up with some pre-fab encounters / maps / adventure hooks, and follow that up with some monsters. This book does that formula the best out of those three books by far.

Two things stand out: the encounters / maps are short and varied, allowing you to easily plug them into an ongoing adventure; and, there are a LOT of interesting undead monsters to use. (I particularly love the brain in the jar - way to go WotC). As an added bonus there are a lot of exciting artifacts that work a lot differently from the typical magic item (for example, undead grafts allow you to actually add undead body parts to a PC or NPC for an effect).

IMO, this one ranks up with Adventurer's Vault and Martial Power as one of the best supplements of 4th Edition's first year. Worth a purchase.
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Format: Hardcover
I'll get right to the review: The book is very useful, probably 60/40 flavor/function split.

-Undead Lore:
This section deals with the most flavor. It talks about the creation of undead, their physiology, mentality, and society. The most useful parts pertained to locations, especially Hantumah, a totally undead city, which seems a nice place to siege. My major gripes about this section are the attempts to mix magic and biological processes, and the fact that the author can't seem to go three paragraphs without bringing up Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead, and how he wages a constant struggle with the very generic Raven Queen.

-DM's Guide to Undead
This might be my favorite part of the book. Right off, it gives some skill challenges, which are predictably of the 'appease this creature or else' sort, but welcome nonetheless. Then it goes into hauntings, presenting them as plot, traps, terrain, and skill challenges! Three short undead adventures are then given, culminating with advice on running a big zombie battle. A swarm of medium creatures which is also a skill challenge? Looks good to me. The chapter also gives three short campaign arcs about undead, a good quantity of pro- and anti- undead artifacts, a handful of rituals, and undead grafts.
I am taking an extra bit here to talk about undead grafts, because I feel it is a great idea that wasn't handled very well. The book explains grafts first by saying it's an unorthodox way to enhance characters in a macabre setting, but the first example is a giant flaming bone claw! Uhh? Two more examples- a graft that gives you fangs... and also a vampire's thirst for blood. The last example gives you a Lich's brain, and I have no idea how. So, grafting undead body parts? Sure. These particular ones? Nahhh.
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Format: Hardcover
The coolest thing about this book is that it takes time to talk about 'how' undead work in the D&D fantasy universe. That includes physiology, psychology, and tactics. Throw in there some cool templates to drop on Monsters, a few excellent critters, and some useful rituals and your golden. There was an editing snafu that left out the Zombie Plague illness, and I'd love to see some PC feats or starting backgrounds to go hand and hand with this. (Though that stuff is in this months Dragon (Feb 09) but still. Dang near perfect. Oh, and it's loads of Vecna and Vecna is cool and smart for a primary baddie.
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Format: Hardcover
Quickly: interesting, basically an addition to the Monster Manual.

Summary:
This is a hardcover Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition sourcebook containing 223 page about Undead. This is mainly a DM book and I would actually suggest player's not read it in the way I suggest they not read the Monster Manual: it takes away some of the fun and discovery.

The book is divided into 4 chapters.

Chapter 1 deals with undead lore. This strongly reminded me of the Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons book (which I just realized I failed to review here). There are details about Physiology, Outlook and Psychology and Society with a section in the back looking at The Shadowfell.

Chapter 2 is called the DM's Guide to Undead and contains some great out of the ordinary encounter ideas. By out of the ordinary I mean social encounters, skill challenges and even idea on using Undead as Patrons. Three different Campaign arcs are given as well. Quite a few artifacts, some new rituals and a great section of undead Grafts round out this chapter.

Chapter 3 presents a series of lairs. These are fully detailed encounter locations including 2-3 set combat encounters and many suggestions for more. There are 3 lairs included for each Tier of play.

Chapter 4 contains almost 100 pages of new monsters. Most of these are typical Monster Manual style monsters and include some great new mobs like: "The Brain in the Jar" and "Crawling Gauntlet". Many old mobs are given new types (your typical undead, zombies, ghouls, skeletons etc). There are 7 famous undead stated out near the end of the book. These include famous characters like Vecna and Strad. Quite a few new templates are included.
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