Thursday, March 26, 2020

3rd and 4th Flavours of Skeleton: Runequest III and Tunnels & Trolls 5e to D&D adjacent.
Image: mixed heap of armed and armoured Skeletons.
Josh Kirby for Tunnels & Trolls.

Runequest III.

The Runequest 3rd Edition (Games Workshop took out almost all the Glorantha) Skeleton is very close to the 5e Call of Cthulhu Skeleton.

It has 2d6+6 SIZ (same as a Normal Human) and no POW, but is otherwise much the same simple thing. This gives it, by my reckoning, a hit point equivalent of 13 (the average of SIZ 13 + CON 0).

They are much stronger fighters than CoC Skeletons(because of the expectations of the game?), with DEX x 5% for weapon attacks and Dodge ability (10.5 x 5 = 52.5%).

In RQIII, Skeletons are animated objects, 'magical artifacts, not true undead', and can be given much greater STR and DEX (and presumably SIZ) if the creator is willing to expend the POW to do so. There are no specified limits.

The creator can also put Magic Points into the Skeleton so it can resist spells cast against it; there is no specified limit.

If hit through their armour, that hit location is destroyed. Skull and/or ribcage hits destroy the Skeleton, and they are even more resistant to piercing weapons than in CoC.

Skeletons with a Damage Bonus (those with high combined STR and SIZ) get 1 armour point per +d6 db.


There will be more involved RQ specific conversion methods out there, but I'm for old school simplicity, so I'll use the same one as I did previously.

  • (HP 13)/5 = 2.6 HD
  • Attack/10 = 52.5/10 = 5.25 = BAB +5


  • destroyed on a single hit, but can save vs. dragon breath to dodge a successful hit, or +1 or more AC bonus to reflect Dodge/DEX
    • larger specimens might not dodge, but are intrinsically more robust
  • immune to piercing weapons, unless critical hit
  • immune to fatigue
  • mindless
  • option: immune to Turning (if you decide they are not undead)
  • option: +1 or more bonus to save vs. spells

d6 Flavours of Skeleton:

  1. Multi-Armed: extra pairs of arms were added at creation (max. 6); at least one extra attack and can split between two targets. Probably really good at parrying as well as dodging.
  2. Skeletaur: if there are no Centaurs in your setting, this was constructed from parts; could be as strong as an Ogre/Bull. Could have a horned animal skull. Often used for heavy work as much as a guardian.
  3. Bone Colossus: dozens, hundreds of corpses have been rendered down and reformed into a towering Skeleton. A necromantic siege engine. Can throw boulders and make stomp attacks. Not destroyed on a single hit, unless it's from a trebuchet or a cannon.
  4. Catacomb Byte: constructions more bizarre than the Skeletaur, bursting out of the massed bones and skulls of ossuaries. Scorpion forms with biting skulls instead of stinger and pincers; lengths of vertebrae coiling like serpents (or Necrophidius); sentries that look and reach in all directions at once; finger bone tentacles etc. The animating force is not confined and infuses the whole catacomb.
  5. Skeleton Kettle Drummers: they keep excellent time, march in formation and won't betray you; de rigueur for necromancer triremes and armies of darkness.
  6. Prehistoric Skeleton: some colossus of the past. Mammoth, Woolly Rhinoceros, Styracosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex are all good choices

Tunnels & Trolls 5e.

There's no Monster Rated Skeleton in my/the UK Corgi edition, but reversing the MR to Prime Attributes conversion (assuming average rolls) in section 2.41 Personalizing Monsters you get a 10 MR monster (2 dice + 5 adds - this is pretty close to the RQ hp to Hit Dice conversion, so might work for RQ/CoC to T&T; I'll explore later).

Against the table in section 1.6 Creating Monsters, the Skeleton above would fall between Rats (MR 8; 1d +4) and Black Hobbits (MR 12; 2d +6).

Because there is no simple established threat hierarchy in T&T (other than deeper dungeon level = deadlier monsters), comparisons are not always useful. For example, the same table has (1st dungeon level) Centaurs, Ghouls, Goblins, Vampires and Werewolves all on c. 30 MR, and Ogres (MR 26) are weaker than Orcs (40), which are weaker than Half-Orcs (74).

I can't be sure that these are not typos, but I tend towards them being a quirk of T&T (by the 6th dungeon level, Ogres are almost 8 times tougher than the Orcs sharing the space, and Trolls end up tougher than Balrogs).


T&T, I think, defies conversion methods because things are not so set as they are in other systems (or at least, this is how I saw/see it with what is available to me). And for those who would poo-poo MR as too simplistic, I argue that mechanically tying so much to HD is an obvious old school parallel.

I'm also stymied by the lack of a 'canonical' MR for Skeletons, as I'd been thinking of using combat dice = HD or MR/10 = HD.

In sections 2.41 and 3.6 (Alternative Humanoid Characters), we do get multipliers to apply to Prime Attributes to generate monsters like you would a character.

The Living Skeleton gets x1 for everything (except in 3.6, where it gets x2 for negative Charisma, so twice as scary, I suppose): it's comparable to a Normal Human, including INT and LUCK.

d6 Flavours of Skeleton:

  1. Skeleton Gambler: walks the earth with a brace of bone dice, one black, one white; test your luck against it; rumoured to have been thrown out of the Skeleton Army. Might have two pistols and a cheroot, depending on the setting.
  2. Flesh Collector: at least twice as terrifying - reduced to bare bones, this ghoulish thing stalks and murders to fill its emptiness with organs, rub its dry bones with blood and fat, and drapes itself in skin; it can talk, does not think of itself as evil, just unfortunate and deserving. Persistent. Obsessive. Intermittently reasonable.
  3. Winged Skeleton: (d6) feathered; bat/dragon; butterfly/moth; bee/fly/wasp; paper fans; knives (2nd d6: bronze; flint; obsidian; iron; steel; special).
  4. Dragonfolk Skeletons: armed, armoured, winged skeletons of a species that does not exist and has never existed, or just dragonborn - if you like that sort of thing. Can't breath fire, but maybe an inky cloud, cold as death.
  5. Danse Macabre: a host of Skeletons dancing their sinister secret dance; (d6) 1-2 invite or force you to join in, 3-4 dance on as if you aren't there, 5-6 stop and stare with empty eyes. The dance is (d6) 1-2 antic, 3-4 stately, 5-6 interpretative. There may or may not be music you can hear.
  6. Nobody: polite and confused Skeleton; it has lost its body and its identity with it, and would like help getting it back, thank you. Roll d6, and on a 1, it's lying about some or all of this. This might be how Flesh Collectors start out.


  1. I always thought they screwed up the RuneQuest Skeleton.
    A skeleton would not have the same mass as an a normal human.

  2. To me, the RQ Skeleton looks broken compared to the CoC equivalent - unless it was always intended as a single-hit victory (you smash through dozens to reach the necromancer).
    I wonder if the 2d6+6 SIZ is a legacy mistake that hung around; I'm not familiar enough with RQ as a whole to judge.