Bodaks loathe sunlight, for its merest touch burns their impure flesh. Each round of exposure to direct sunlight deals 2d6 points of damage to a bodak.
Bodaks vehemently despise all living creatures and immediately seek to destroy any they encounter. A bodak retains the ability to speak one language it knew in life (typically Common), but it rarely engages in conversation, instead spitting out an incomprehensible stream of vile accusations, curses, and threats. On occasion, a bodak might wield weapons, but most rely primarily upon the effects of their deadly gaze. Bodaks are rarely encountered outside of the Abyss. As they are slow-witted, powerful evil creatures such as liches and nabasu demons sometimes use bodaks as thralls, assassins, or guardians. Bodaks encountered on the Material Plane exude extreme malevolence when forced to confront the realization of their abhorrent transformations. So great is their desire to fascinate ability their fate upon others that many attempt to drag off the bodies of their slain victims and guard them until they rise as undead.
More Information on Bodak’s from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Undead Revisited
The world is filled with evil and unspeakable things. Dark clerics pray to vile gods, and wizards seeking unbridled power make pacts with foul demons, all of which allow sinister things to take root among the living. Yet evil is not merely a supernatural phenomenon—man’s own inhumanity to man also brings with it a pall of evil and malevolence. Terrible wars and genocide spawn untold numbers of personal tragedies and events that scar the minds and souls of those unlucky enough to witness them. Torture victims endure days, weeks, or years of horrible, mind-bending pain and misery. Those lucky (or unlucky) enough to survive these horrors are forever changed.
Yet for some, bearing witness to true horror and supernatural evil does more than twist their minds— it ravages their souls to such a degree that they are themselves transformed. Requiring evil far beyond that normally found among mortals, this rare transformation occurs when unprepared mortals venture deep into those extraplanar spaces where humanity was not meant to tread—the deepest hiding holes of the evil planes. In these repositories of unholy knowledge, things are seen that cannot be unseen, and which indelibly stain the souls of the foolish. The creatures that emerge from these places are mortal no longer. Rather they are bodaks— misanthropic husks whose very eyes smoke with the horror of all they’ve seen, destined to wander the planes and bring their terrible visions to the living.
The transformation into a bodak is as physically painful as it is spiritually damning. As the images of the horror are replayed over and over in the victim’s mind, his body is wracked with pain, causing him to thrash about in debilitating seizures. The victim’s eyelids clamp shut in a nearly unbreakable bond—nothing short of prying or cutting the eyelids apart will force them open. Those who witness this transformation and live to tell of it say that the victim’s eyes seem to migrate about the face, growing and shrinking in size as if trying to escape from the person’s head. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the body undergoes a change as well, with the limbs elongating, hair falling off, and skin drying out on the bones, giving the victim an emaciated, androgynous frame.
Within 24 hours, the conversion is complete and the victim has become a bodak. Only then do its eyes open once more, though now they are blank orbs set deep in cavernous sockets, constantly weeping foul, smoky vapors. The conversion seriously damages the muscles, giving the bodak a slow, shambling gait. The intellect of the victim also dwindles to pure, base instincts—yet strangely, it does not lose the ability to speak. When a bodak speaks, its words are full of venom, gibberish, and horrific threats and insults, reflecting its extreme anger and desire to fascinate ability its own terrible fate on others. The purifying touch of sunlight also becomes intolerable to the bodak. Even a tiny sliver of sunlight damages and burns the creature, enraging it and forcing it to flee. For this reason, bodaks on the Material Plane only come out at night and must find a secluded place to hide during the day.
The eyes of the bodak serve as a conduit to the horrors that spawned its transformation. The shimmering, milky orbs briefly mesmerize anyone unlucky enough to catch a direct glimpse of them. If a victim lacks the will to break the gaze, he is quickly overwhelmed by its power and dies shortly thereafter—the transformation into another bodak begins immediately. Survivors of the bodak’s deadly gaze speak of a flood of bizarre memories, flashes and snippets of the event that caused the bodak’s transformation. Although a person lucky enough to resist the gaze is unharmed, these memories of the darkest reaches of the planes may haunt the survivor periodically for the rest of his life.
Bodaks are tortured creatures, driven by endless sorrow, terrible longing, and an extreme bitterness and jealousy toward the living. Bodaks lack even the malevolent joy that fiends seem to feel when tormenting and killing mortal creatures. Only by forcing living creatures to gaze into their eyes and perish do they find anything resembling relief, although that too is very short lived, forcing the bodak to find even more victims in an endless cycle. Some bodaks are so overwhelmed by their desire to turn the living into more of their kind that they drag off victims of their deadly gazes to secluded places in order to watch over the transformation and make sure nothing interrupts it. Once the new bodak arises, however, its creator typically loses interest, leaving the spawn on its own. In rare instances, however, bodaks band together in small units called gangs. This does not seem to reflect any true sense of companionship, but is most common when a bodak kills either a former loved one or the person who led it to the point of its original transformation—the bond between them is now twisted together into hate and loathing, but still unbreakable.
Though inclined to wander the planes when given their freedom, the slow-witted bodaks are rarely seen outside the evil-aligned planes, and especially the Abyss, where powerful demons find them useful minions. On that plane, they often serve as guardians, assassins, or thralls, particularly for nabasu demons or liches (both of which are immune to its gaze). Extremely skilled necromancers are able to use powerful magic, notably create greater undead, to create bodaks, but only if the spellcaster is located on one of the evil Outer Planes. Mortal spellcasters who dare to summon a bodak must protect themselves with other magic to keep its deadly gaze at bay.
Scholars and theologians have long debated the exact nature of these strange undead, positing that it’s the very act that creates a bodak—witnessing some evil and hideous occurrence beyond all mortal capacity for understanding—that gives unholy life and purpose to these creatures. In some sense, the bodak is the very manifestation of such an act, a curse upon the living, its life force scarred to such a degree that only causing others to gaze into its eyes and share its agony gives it some sort of relief. Most researchers believe that mundane evil is not enough, arguing that only traumatic deaths in the darkest pits of the planes are pure enough to form a bodak, with the creature’s animating energy being drawn from the evil Outer Planes where it met its fate. Yet others insist that it’s not the place that causes the transformation, but rather the purity of the evil and horror involved, thus making it possible for an ordinary human (or, more likely, a summoned demon) to spark the transformation, provided the horrors it shows to the victim are heinous enough. Regardless, such quibbles are academic and unimportant in the face of the dangerous creatures themselves.
Bodaks exist only to find the living and damn their souls to a similar fate. In many ways, bodaks found on the Outer Planes are worse off than those on the Material Plane, if only for the distinct lack of living humanoids upon which to fascinate ability their particular method of torment. The longing of Abyssal bodaks is akin to an eternal, insatiable hunger, which is perhaps mirrored in the bodak’s emaciated form, and helps to explain their slowwitted willingness to serve demons who provide them with living fodder from time to time. No bodak has ever been witnessed feasting on the meat of its victims, but some have been seen to enter into a violent frenzy after having killed a living creature with its deadly gaze.
Habitat & Society
Driven by their insatiable urge to bring misery and death to the living, most bodaks are solitary creatures. For the most part, they wander the planes, stumbling through portals and occasionally succumbing to the wills of powerful fiends and evildoers. When brought to the Material Plane as individuals, they wander the world on their own, seeking out population centers in which to bring the destruction they desire. If applicable, a freshly created bodak typically attempts to bring its gaze to bear upon the person or people responsible for the transformation—the wizard who cast it into the Abyss, the party members who accompanied it on the doomed planar adventure, the demonic cultist who offered it up to another bodak as sacrifice, and so on.
When given the opportunity, many bodaks return to the places that once brought them comfort and joy in their mortal lives, following their fragmented memories to destroy their loved ones and acquaintances with their deadly gazes. Astute investigators can sometimes deduce the former identity of a bodak based on the trail of dead and missing persons, especially if the bodak is the spawn of an attack rather than the result of unholy visions. Yet ultimately, a bodak wanders with little control over where it ends up, and those who succumb far from home rarely make it back, simply taking what victims they can find.
Although rather dim-witted, bodaks possess both a low cunning and animalistic instincts that let them know when daylight approaches or living creatures are nearby. A bodak is savvy enough to know when it is outnumbered or facing more powerful foes, at which point it switches from direct assault to silent stalking, waiting for the right moment to attack individuals away from the protection of the group. Some have been known to wield weapons, but most prefer to rely solely on their gaze, as merely killing a creature is nothing compared to sharing its horrible gift.
In the Abyss, bodaks sometimes unite in small gangs, roaming the chaotic terrain in an often-fruitless search for living creatures. Considering the scarcity of mortal beings in the Abyss, most bodaks make do with recently arrived souls. Other demons sometimes round up bodaks, individually or in small bands, for use as mindless shock troops—though demons and other outsiders cannot be transformed into new bodaks, many of these can still be killed by the creatures’ attacks. Bodaks are smart enough to follow basic orders, which they do to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, if these thrall bodaks ever encounter living humanoids while undertaking a mission, they almost always become distracted, hunting down and killing any mortals that they find. Bodak-wrangling demons generally expect this sort of behavior, and rarely give the creatures orders that require much in the way of finesse. Bodaks that enter into these sorts of relationships do not seem to know or care they are being used, and take to their given role with great gusto, gazing upon or tearing apart anything that gets in their way.
Bodaks are the physical manifestation of a metaphysical event— what happens when a mortal being is exposed to pure supernatural horror. In this way, bodaks are a great way to introduce themes of innocence lost or illustrate for players the price of unbridled curiosity into the dark arts. Bodaks are perfect wandering monsters for adventures that take place on the Outer Planes (especially the evil ones), as well as creatures that evoke both pity and horror—particularly if the bodak used to be a friendly NPC.
Bodaks work well as bogeymen, waiting patiently in the shadows until they find lone victims to ambush and transform into others of their kind. If a bodak fails to kill a victim with its gaze, it may still tear him apart with its claws, leaving behind bloody gobbets and few clues as to the true nature of the killer. Adventurers who make it to the Abyss itself may find themselves hunted by bodaks almost immediately, drawn by the presence of living creatures in their infernal realm.
As relatively slow monsters, bodaks are better ambush predators than outright combatants, as most PCs who survive the initial meeting can quickly distance themselves and run for safety. This shortcoming can be mitigated by having the PCs encounter the bodaks in confined areas, or can be played up for greater effect, with the PCs fleeing but knowing that the bodak is still behind them, following slowly, tirelessly, and utterly without mercy.
Fueled only by the urge to destroy the living, bodaks rarely hoard treasure or coins on purpose. Those rare individuals that remain in one place, however, may acquire a small stash of incidental treasure from their victims. Perhaps harkening back to hazy memories of their living life, these bodaks tend to collect clothes and other personal items worn by the living, while ignoring coins, gems, scrolls, and other “impersonal” items. Some bodaks even arrange these items inside their lairs to simulate a living person, using pants, shirts, and boots to create a sort of scarecrow humanoid. Given the rage that bubbles inside them, however, these effigies commonly become the target of the bodak’s wrath, with the creature tearing them up and scattering them in anger, only to reassemble them again later. While such spoils are not treasure per se, bodaks have also been known to pluck the eyes out of victims they kill but do not transform with their deadly gaze attack. Bodaks that stick to a general location adorn their lairs with these “prizes,” dangling them from trees or neatly lining them up on cave shelves, but otherwise shun collecting valuable items.
Bodaks that roam the Abyss never seek out or collect treasure of any kind—victims are too far and few between to hoard prizes, and the scant few mortals found roaming the plane are killed and transformed without thought to the gear they carry.
Because of their ability to propagate through their deadly gaze attack, bodaks can spread through an area in a frighteningly short period of time. GMs could set up a scenario where local people speak of people being turned into the undead at an alarming rate, with those attacked by the creatures turning into undead as well. Most players would immediately presume that the town or area was under assault by zombies or some other relatively weak undead that spread quickly. This is a perfect setup for fooling the adventurers into thinking that they can walk into the area and easily clean up the mess.
Over time, a village or other lightly populated area may turn into a literal graveyard, as the entire population is transformed into a small army of potent undead. Adventurers that expect to clean out a low-level undead infestation will find themselves in for quite a shock upon discovering high-CR bodaks running amok, so bodaks make perfect candidates for bringing the classic “zombie apocalypse” adventure to higher-level characters. And of course, the original bodak in the town had to come from somewhere, and adventurers may also have to deal with a powerful cleric, wizard, or demon, making the situation even more perilous.
Section 15: Copyright Notice – Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Undead Revisited
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Undead Revisited. © 2011, Paizo Publishing, LLC. Authors: Eric Cagle, Brian Cortijo, Brandon Hodge, Steve Kenson, Hal Maclean, Colin McComb, Jason Nelson, Todd Stewart, and Russ Taylor.