The flesh of this walking corpse is rotting and putrid, its body skeletal in places and its eye sockets glowing with red light.
Wight CR 3
Str 12, Dex 12, Con —, Int 11, Wis 13, Cha 15
Base Atk +3; CMB +4; CMD 15
Feats Blind-Fight, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Intimidate +9, Knowledge (religion) +7, Perception +11, Stealth +16; Racial Modifier +8 Stealth
SQ create spawn
Any humanoid creature that is slain by a wight becomes a wight itself in only 1d4 rounds. Spawn so created are less powerful than typical wights, and suffer a –2 penalty on all d20 rolls and checks, as well as –2 hp per HD. Spawn are under the command of the wight that created them and remain enslaved until its death, at which point they lose their spawn penalties and become full-fledged and free-willed wights. They do not possess any of the abilities they had in life.
Organization solitary, pair, gang (3–6), or pack (7–12)
Wights are humanoids who rise as undead due to necromancy, a violent death, or an extremely malevolent personality. In some cases, a wight arises when an evil undead spirit permanently bonds with a corpse, often the corpse of a slain warrior. They are barely recognizable to those who knew them in life; their flesh is twisted by evil and undeath, the eyes burn with hatred, and the teeth become beast-like. In some ways, a wight bridges the gap between a ghoul and a spectre—a warped animated corpse whose touch steals living energy.
As undead, wights do not need to breathe, so they are sometimes found underwater, though they are not particularly good swimmers unless they were originally swimming creatures such as aquatic elves or merfolk. Underwater wights prefer low-ceilinged caves where their limited swimming isn’t as much of a liability.
Brute Wight (CR 5): Giants that are killed by wights become hunchbacked, simple-minded undead. Brute wights are giant advanced wights, but cannot create spawn of their own.
Cairn Wight (CR 4): Some societies deliberately create these specialized wights to serve as guardians for barrows or other burial sites. A cairn wight is an advanced wight that fights with a weapon, typically a sword, that channels its energy drain attack and affects creatures damaged by the weapon as if they had been struck by the wight’s slam attack.
Dust Wight (+1 CR): Just as wights that rise from the dead in frozen environments can become infused with the dangerous qualities of their harsh environs, dust wights carry in their desiccated, crumbling frames the scorching punishment of the searing desert. These wights are typically found in desert tombs or ruins, and have fiery orange eyes and very little flesh save for leathery scraps clinging to their bones. A dust wight gains DR 5/bludgeoning, and when it hits a foe with its slam attack, causes the creature struck to become dehydrated if this victim fails a Fortitude save (same DC as the wight’s energy drain attack). A dehydrated foe becomes fatigued (or exhausted if already fatigued).
Frost Wight (CR 4): Wights created in cold environments sometimes become pale undead with blue-white eyes and ice in their hair. Frost wights have the cold subtype and their slam attacks deal 1d6 cold damage in addition to the normal effects. A creature touching a frost wight with natural weapons or unarmed strikes takes 1d6 cold damage.
Mist Wight (+1 CR): A mist wight can exhale black breath at will as a standard action, creating a 10-foot cube of thick mist that acts as obscuring mist. This tainted air causes living creatures to become fatigued as long as they remain within the mist and for 1 round thereafter. The cloud of mist remains in place for 1 round per HD possessed by the mist wight. Once per day, a mist wight can infuse its breath with the choking stench of the grave, creating an effect identical to a stinking cloud (Fortitude DC 14 negates; the save DC is Charisma-based). Mist wights can sense the subtle intake of breath in creatures around them, and they gain blindsense 60 feet against living creatures who aren’t holding their breath.
Salt Wight (CR 2): Wights created in particularly dry deserts or in the desiccating confines of salt mines sometimes become shriveled, emaciated undead encrusted with salt crystals. Salt wights have the desiccating touch special attack, which replaces a normal wight’s energy drain attack.
Desiccating Touch (Su)
As part of its slam attack, a salt wight draws the water out of its opponent’s body, causing the victim to wither. The target must make a DC 14 Fortitude save or take 1d3 points of Constitution damage.
Wights are animate corpses, infused with a dire spirit of unlife and a hunger for the souls of the living. At first glance, they may seem no different from withered zombies or even slightly fleshy skeletons, save for the glowing pinpoints of light that burn within their vacant sockets. Many wights are partially dismembered, desiccated, withered, and horrible to behold. They sometimes prowl in the midst of lesser undead, emulating the lurching gait common to such creatures so those facing them may never realize the true danger until it is too late, as the wight’s very touch saps their life force.
When wights hunt in groups of their own kind, however, they are far more dangerous. Their awkward lurching disappears as they creep, prowl, and lurk with a deadly cunning and terrifying stealth. Hunting singly or in packs, they slink through the shadows to ambush their prey, sometimes engaging in hit-and-run battles to inspire terror in their enemies and drain their resources even as they drain the living spirits of those facing them, slowly leaching the will to fight from their enemies until their prey are all consumed and absorbed into the pack.
As undead, wights no longer need to breathe, and indeed can exist in vacuum or on the ocean floor without a problem. Yet for unknown reasons, some wights still retain small habits and physical affectations from their lives, of which going through the motions of breathing is the most common. For some wights, the sound is like the gurgling croak of a man with his throat slit, drowning in his own blood. For others, it is the dry, rattling wheeze of a timorous lung collapsing. In all cases, however, the fresh air they draw in is exhaled again as a befouled, tainted eff luvium—wisps of thin, tainted mist that drift out from their nostrils, mouth, and any gaping wounds on their tattered torsos. Those who have survived close contact with a wight describe these exhalations as the stink of death, air that has been stolen from the living and now fit only for the dead, musty like a long-sealed crypt or layered with the cold loamy, scent of a fresh-turned grave—all smells that some undead hunters have collectively labeled “the Black Breath.” Sadly for the undead’s victims, the stench of a wight’s decayed body and misty breath rarely betrays its presence prematurely, as it can prevent its rotted lungs from exhaling as long as it wishes, releasing its foul reek only when it is ready to make its presence known. The same is true of the lambent glow of a wight’s gaze. The power of unlife burns within wights as a darkling fire, and the eyes of a wight mirror this unholy energy within. These glowing pinpoints of light are a telltale clue distinguishing wights from simple shambling corpses, but wights can suppress their glow when seeking stealth. When a wight attacks, however, its deathless rage and hatred cannot be extinguished, and the sallow radiance returns to their eyes once more. Some sages theorize that those wights who still draw breath do so because they linger nearer to life than most of the undead, and that it is this very nearness to life that feeds their rage and hunger for life. The necromantic energies that empower them scour their bound spirits and compel them to inflict their torment on others in the hope that, in consuming others’ lives and souls, their own hunger can be slaked. Could they but sup deeply enough from the trough of others’ life force, they might rekindle their own, and their endless frustration in this quest only enrages them further and redoubles their obsessive quest for life. If the theft and consumption of a dozen souls is not enough, then perhaps a score would suffice. If not a score, then perhaps a hundred or a thousand. Yet it is never enough. Their existence is thus one of unending frustration and bitterness, as even when gorged on the lives of the fallen, their hunger is never satisfied for more than a moment.
The origins of wights are highly varied. Some are created through obscure necromantic rites (usually create undead) and bound to the service of necromancers or evil priests. More commonly, wights are simply the unfortunate victims of other wights, the light of their lives turned to a corrupted mockery by the undead’s touch. Typically, wights’ hatred for themselves is as strong as their hate for the living. Wights seek to recover enough stolen life force to reignite the fires of their souls or, failing that, to slake the bitterness in their hearts by creating a legion of minions who share and spread their anguish and pain. It is well known that the bitter chill of a wight’s touch draws forth a portion of the living soul of its victim; less well known, however, is that at the same time a portion of the wight’s undead spirit flows back into the victim, replacing the victim’s living essence with the raw stuff of death. Every touch draws the target farther from life and deeper into death, until the last of its life force ebbs and the target is transformed in an instant into a dreadful thing of suffering and hate, leavened with a tormented enslavement to the will of its creator.
Wights in History
The word wight dates to Middle English, wherein it referred to a living human, and was used by Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton in their writings. However, the word and its Old English and Old High German antecedents descend from the Old Norse vaettir, which referred to a type of nature spirit or a supernatural being; for example, the landvaettir were guardian spirits of the land.
The most famous wights of fantasy are the barrow-wights of J. R. R. Tolkien, evil spirits bound by greater dark powers to the barrow-downs of a fallen kingdom to ensure it did not rise again. Their capture of the hobbits and attempt to corrupt them into wights themselves make for a horrifyingly iconic scene. The RPG genre has further instantiated the nature of wights as following Tolkien’s style, both in pen-and-paper and computer RPGs and in novels based on them. Some fictional wights vary from this tradition, such as the cavewights of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books, which are more akin to orcs than the living dead. Others hew very close to it: the Others of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series fit the bill admirably, being the tragic spirits of the fallen, bound to a greater evil but perhaps remembering a dim shadow of what they once were and compelled to pass on their curse.
More tragically, wights can also arise spontaneously. Scholars of the undead use the term “wights of anguish” to describe those whose birth into unlife occurred following a horrible trauma, often both mental and physical, that leaves their bodies broken, their psyches shattered, and their spirits consumed with hate and revenge. The depth of their suffering and the lingering shock are so intense that these unfortunates become enthralled to their own pain, clinging to it with every fiber of their being, crucifying themselves across the threshold of death’s door, unable to truly live but unwilling to truly die. More sinister are “wights of malevolence,” those who through the depravity of their own benighted souls have earned an eternity of roaming the world, cursed with an eternal hunger that can never be slaked and a ragged weariness unable to ever find rest. Popular legend says those sentenced to such an existence are the truly damned, so vile that Hell itself spat them up rather than take them to its bosom. Most are driven mad by their torments, their minds a degenerate stew of wrath and malice, but some wights of malevolence embrace their status not as a curse but as a darkling gift, a chance at life and power eternal, and an opportunity to carry on every cruel habit and hateful design that once drove them in life.
But perhaps most frightening are those known as “wights of possession.” These are wights created when an evil undead spirit bonds with a corpse in order to animate it, often choosing its host based on convenience or strength of body. Though the original spirits of these bodies may have long since fled to their just rewards, few things are more horrible for their grieving friends than to see their loved ones’ corpses suddenly come to life and begin slaughtering the mourners.
Habitat & Society
Wights can survive in virtually any environment and can be found from equatorial deserts and jungles to frozen mountains and tundra. Wherever humanoids die in utter anguish or are entombed in infamy (or even buried alive as punishment), wights may arise, and once they establish a foothold, they begin to spawn and proliferate. Wights can multiply as long as humanoid prey is available; however, they are no mindless beasts, and often react intelligently to changes in the available supply of prey. A pack of wights, whether full-strength wights or a pack of spawn under the control of their creator, often establishes an orderly pattern of attacks and migration to follow humanoid prey on the move, to make their numbers appear greater by attacking in different locations, and to evade reprisals against former bases of operation. This is not to say that wights are entirely nomadic, only that packs of wights are not tied to specific locations in the way some other undead are. They may return often to a defensible location, particularly a ruined fortification, city, battlefield, or barrow-down, and some wights may be bound to guard specific locations or objects or may be imprisoned within a tomb or necropolis, but most wights are cunning enough to move about as their tactical and strategic situation demands. As a result, the popular legends of ghost ships, crewed by the undead, that rise from the sea bottom or emerge from the fog at regular intervals, almost certainly refer to wights.
Wights are most famously associated with burial mounds called barrows; such wights, known as cairn wights, are a variant created to fulfill the role of faithful (and merciless) guardians of tombs and burial sites. Akin to mummies, wights are rarely formed from the remains of the tomb’s primary resident, instead being interred alongside the tomb’s occupant to ward the chamber and its contents. Those slain by a guardian wight become new defenders of its charge, assisting in the protection of the warded area and the punishment of interlopers. Wight guardians are no more tolerant of undead interlopers than they are of other trespassers; all must be dealt with swiftly, finally, and with brutal efficiency. Not all entombed wights are simple guardians, however, as wights of malevolence sometimes arise from the unquiet remains of the exceptionally evil. Warlords of unspeakable cruelty may be sealed within barrows in the hope that, should their evil linger and stir even in death, they will be trapped and contained. Still, the great and mighty, however despicable, are often buried with great wealth, and in time their legends fade to ghost stories and fireside tales, but the lure of gold remains. Eventually, the greedy and the foolish may decide that surely the dead lie at peace, and would hardly begrudge the living a bit of scratch, learning only too late that they have broken into a place better left undisturbed. The lucky ones may grab a bit of dusty treasure and flee before the fell spirits within fully awaken, but even that reprieve is a temporary thing. Whatever the root of their evil in life, all wights of malevolence share an insatiable greed and possessiveness of the trappings of their mortal lives, however insignificant. Those who steal the tiniest portion of a wight’s wealth are hunted relentlessly, their steps harrowed day and night until the last coin is recovered and the wight’s terrible vengeance on the thief has been executed. Old legends suggest that the treasures of a wight of malevolence are themselves tainted with the wight’s foulness, causing a darkening of spirit and a growing psychosis, leading to murderous paranoia that consumes the victims, and causes them to become wights themselves. Depending on the legend, this fate can be averted by freely giving the wight’s treasures away to others; having them blessed by one of the fey (at whatever price the fey demands); or scattering them in the sunlight for 3 days, allowing anyone to take a portion, and then collecting whatever fate has decreed will remain. Only by breaking the cycle of greed can the wight’s treasure be safely recovered. Of course, legends frequently twist the truth, and those who steal from the undead had best be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Wights are a transitional kind of undead, a step up from the mindless walking dead and the grotesque corpse eaters of low levels, but a clear step down from the sinister, deathless masterminds PCs may encounter later in their careers, those with class levels and a host of supernatural abilities. Wights’ powers are straightforward enough to make them simple to run as adversaries, yet chilling enough to strike fear into players who have had time to grow attached to their characters but are not yet fully confident in the panoply of their own abilities. As such, they can be used to supply a sinister surprise in the midst of what might otherwise seem a mundane encounter. Wights are often miscast as solo opponents for PC parties, as an ordinary wight is simply not stout enough to do more than perhaps leave one or two characters with a temporary handicap in the form of a negative level. Lesser wights should be used in numbers, either in a group attack or using their stealth to set up a series of repeated ambushes that don’t give the PCs time to fully recover from the lingering effects of the last attack before the next one strikes. Especially in combination with darkness or fog, this can help set up the kind of fear wights should engender.
The reputed curse of a wight’s treasure and its murderous vengeance upon those who would rob it dissuades many would-be treasure hunters, but the truly bold will gladly risk all for fortune and glory. Common wights (and their spawn) and wights of anguish often have just tattered rags, or perhaps a few tokens or mementos from life, though the bodies of their victims may hold treasures long since forgotten. Wights born of necromancy are often equipped by their masters to better fulfill their intended missions. Wights of malevolence, on the other hand, retain much more of their intellect and memory from life and garb themselves in the trappings of the living. Warrior wights favor the same arms and armor they did in life, while usurious merchants may opt for fine clothing and jewels, though their resplendent accoutrements are mocked by their withered flesh and hateful, glowing gazes. Wights who were spellcasters in life may wear priestly vestments or sorcerous robes, carrying the tokens of their lost magical craft even as they flail hatefully at the living, seeking to enslave tormented souls in a vain attempt to reclaim some vestige of their lost power.
A wight’s treasure can become infused with its dark spirit, creating a gnawing, obsessive greed that saps the spirit and life of any creature that claims it. A character that possesses accursed wight treasure gains a number of negative levels equal to the total gp value of the stolen treasure divided by 10,000 (minimum of one negative level). These negative levels remain as long as the creature retains ownership of the treasure (even if this treasure is not carried)—they disappear as soon as the stolen treasure is destroyed, stolen, freely given away, or returned to the wight’s lair. If the treasure is merely sold, the negative levels become permanent negative levels that can then be removed via means like restoration.
A creature whose negative levels equal its Hit Dice perishes and rises as a wight. If the wight whose treasure it stole still exists, it becomes a wight spawn bound to that wight. If not, it becomes a free-willed wight. Removing these negative levels does not end the curse, but remove curse or break enchantment does, with a caster level check against a DC equal to the wight’s energy drain save DC. A wight’s treasure does not confer negative levels while in the area of a hallow spell.