OSR: 1d100 Variant Skeletons

Back in the day, variant monsters were classic GM dick moves.

"Oh, you thought you were going to fight a red dragon, so you stocked up on potions of fire resistance. You were deceived! This is a pthumeriarian blue dragon, which appears identical to red dragon but breathes ice instead. Hah! Got you now! Looks like you should have read the Monster Manual VI and anticipated such a possibility!"

Fred Augis
These days, that kind of behavior isn't well respected, and for good reason. Instead, I've tried to make 1d100 Variant Skeletons that are compact OSR-type challenges. Each type should be:
-interesting to fight
-potentially telegraphed

They are low on detail but, hopefully, provide some interesting ideas for a room, a dungeon, a random encounter, or a summonable undead helper.

If you want more skeletons and more stats, Paper Elemental has a PDF here.

1d100 Skeletons Description
1 Regular Skeleton Grabby hands.
2 Armed Skeleton Sword and shield. 
3 Armed Skeleton Big rusty axe. Swings overhand.
4 Armed Skeleton Spear and shield. Circles and stabs.
5 Armed Skeleton Bow and arrows. Shockingly accurate.
6 Armoured Skeleton Rusty horned helmet. Unusually tough.
7 Armoured Skeleton Scraps of leather and chain. Traps swords.
8 Armoured Skeleton Full plate, hinged visor, sword, shield. Clang. Clang. Clang.
9 Valuable Skeleton Gems in eye sockets.
10 Valuable Skeleton Coated in gold foil.
11 Royal Skeleton Wears a crown, carries a scepter, directs others.
12 Decorated Skeleton Covered in brightly coloured paint. Smears easily.
13 Knight Skeleton Skeleton with a sword on a skeleton horse.
14 Two-Headed Skeleton Slightly smarter than average.
15 Four-Armed Skeleton Additional attack. Lots of grappling.
16 Four-Armed Skeleton With four curved swords. Like a blender.
17 Long Arm Skeleton Attacks with whip-like many-jointed arms.
18 Ogre Skeleton Thick skull. Big and dumb and mean.
19 Giant Skeleton Crouched and bent. Way too fast for its size.
20 Gas Burst Skeleton Hollow bones filled with toxic green fumes.
21 Dust Skeleton Explodes into choking bone dust. Too easy to kill.
22 Floating Skelehead Flying skull dragging a flail body.
23 Skeleton Jelly Invulnerable skeleton coated in orange slime.
24 Vitrified Skeleton Blasted into cloudy glass and carbon chunks.
25 Ash Skeleton Coated in volcanic dust and stone.
26 Bloody Skeleton Coated in blood and scraps of flesh.
27 Tar Skeleton Coated in non-flammable sticky pitch.
28 Fire Skeleton On fire, somehow. Lobs fireballs and hops around.
29 Seductive Skeleton Poses against wall, waggles hips suggestively.
30 Beehive Skeleton Swarm of bees in the ribcage.
31 Hibernaculum Skeleton Tangle of snakes in the ribcage and skull.
32 Hibernaculum Skeleton Cluster of bats in the ribcage and skull.
33 Droning Skeleton Hive of stirges in the ribcage and skull.
34 Exo-Skeleton Giant crab shell. Attack its weak spot.
35 Exo-Skeleton Shed spider skin, coated in hair. 
36 Dog Skeleton Bites and hunts.
37 Bird Skeleton Small. Tries to peck out your eyes.
38 Horse Skeleton Panics. Not smart, but very leggy.
39 Giant Fish Skeleton Maw full of sharp teeth.
40 Giant Snake Skeleton Skitters on ribcage legs.
41 Nesting Skeleton Skeleton with another smaller skeleton inside, etc.
42 Inverted Skeleton Walks on hands, kicks you in the face.
43 Ball Skeleton Fifty skeletons mashed together. Crawls and rolls.
44 Wheel Skeleton Rolls at a blistering pace, runs people over.
45 Skelecopter Spinning knife-edged arms let the skeleton fly.
46 Rocket Punch Skeleton Fires one arm like a missile.
47 Ribcage Maw Skeleton Tries to bite people to death with its chest.
48 Ghost Skeleton Poltergeist manipulating bones. Floaty and wobbly.
49 Dancing Skeleton Will try to dance with the living. May pull their arms off.
50 Fossil Dinosaur Stuck halfway into the walls.
Not Undead
51 Painted Human Skinny person in black and white paint. Realistic.
52 Disguised Human Person in very deceptive black and white clothing.
53 Disguised Human Person in black clothing with a skeleton tied to it.
54 Disguised Human Person in skeleton armour.
55 Incredibly Old Human Nearly transparent skin, stringy hair, knobbly fingers.
56 Cursed Human Cursed by a witch to look like a skeleton. Can only say "Ack".
57 Wereskeleton Human by day, skeleton by the light of the moon. 
58 Cloth Skeleton Animated by painted spells. 
59 Paper Skeleton Folded from one sheet of enchanted paper.
60 Chalk Skeleton Carved and articulated golem. Squeaky and dusty.
61 Straw Skeleton Tightly wound straw limbed golem. Rustic.
62 Wood Skeleton Carved and articulated golem. Brass hinges.
63 Wired Skeleton Controlled by electrified wires and a golem brain. 
64 Wall Skeleton 2D cutout, slides along walls, takes over your shadow.
65 Ooze Skeleton Bones motivated by transparent jelly.
66 Plant Skeleton Bones motivated by parasitic vines.
67 Rat War-Engine Skeleton controlled by rats with pulleys and levers.
68 Mimic Skeleton Just another bizarre mimic disguise.
69 Puppet Skeleton Controlled from above by invisible wires.
70 Puppet Skeleton Controlled by a telekinetic wizard.
71 Illusory Skeleton Stop-motion, projected via a magic gem lantern.
72 Illusory Skeleton Realistic, but projected on a flat plane. Flickers between viewers.
73 Illusory Skeleton Magic projects an image of your skeleton. All actions are mirrored.
74 Worm Skeleton Bones motivated by flesh-eating red worms.
75 Delusion Skeleton Created by a spell. Only exists in your mind.
76 Delusion Skeleton Hallucinogenic dust from a rare plant makes you see skeletons.
77 Goblin Skeleton Too stupid to know it's undead, sneaky enough to get away with it.
78 Skeleton Bird Thin wading bird camouflaged as a hunched-over skeleton.
79 Skeleton Bird Feathers and legs make a convincing illusion 
80 Infernal Skeleton Summoned from hell itself. Sulphurous, daemonic. Tiny horns.
81 Angelic Skeleton Halo, wings, ragged white robes.
82 Ivory Skeleton Incredibly valuable if captured undamaged.
83 Stone Skeleton Golem carved from white marble. Beautiful. Loves to pose.
84 Ice Skeleton Summoned from an arctic plane, forced into this shape.
85 Smoke Skeleton Enchanted grey fog, forced into this shape.
86 Insect Skeleton Stick-like catacomb insect camouflaged as a skeleton.
87 Rope Skeleton Made of enchanted white rope, carefully knotted and coiled.
88 Glassflesh Creature Clear living tissue surrounding a coincidentally humanoid skeleton.
89 Skeleton Lure Anglerfish creature with wobbly skeleton lure.
90 Skeleton Hermit Crab Skull-shaped crab manipulates other bones with spindly legs.
91 Skeleton Hermit Crab Each bone is home to one small crab. They work together.
92 Inflatable Skeleton Special bladder deployed by a small turtle. Scares away predators.
93 Bony Lizard Armour plated in white. Skull looks very odd in profile.
94 Disguised Dryad Hidden inside of bones so people leave it alone. 
95 Lead Skeleton White lead golem. Dense but soft.
96 Wax Skeleton Candle golem with a macabre shape.
97 Paper Mache Skeleton Enchanted and full of delicious candy. Candy may be cursed.
98 Rogue Anatomy Model Clay organs inside an enchanted clay skeleton. Obeys commands.
99 Octopus Skeleton Controlled by thin terrestrial octopus. Skittish.
100 Glass Skeleton Enchanted artistry. Can use to deduce potion effects.


  1. Tar skeleton should totally be flammable. And not give a flying flumph about morphing into the Fire skeleton. Exo-skeleton is excellent. I shall inform you how a Wasp Skeleton goes shortly.

  2. Tar definetly catches fire bro.

    1. At elevated temperatures, absolutely, but not at room temperature with a match or a candle or possibly a torch. With a blowtorch or a furnace, sure.

    2. So what you're saying is that you'd need to put at least three Spellcasting Dice into a fire spell to get one to light.

    3. Depends on the spell, the local temperature, the volatile components in the tar...
      Really, what you need to do is cast "GC-MS" first, then figure out how many dice you need to put into your Fireball...

  3. Tell me more about the disguised dryad- would the bones split open and be full of vines and leaves?

    1. Sure! Or it's just a dryad with black and white bark. Or a dryad painting itself and sneaking around to frighten people.

    2. d6 Dryad Disguises, in Ascending Order of Dubiousness:
      1-Vines acting as ligaments holding together hollowed-out bones full of vines and seeds
      2-Dryad with realistic skeleton costume bought from travelling merchants.
      3- Leafless dryad with skeletal engravings in its bark.
      4-Bones wrapped around the wooden core of a dryad. Act as both armor and intimidation.
      5-Dryad with black and white bark that, if you squint, looks vaguely skeletal.
      6-Skeleton painted on the trunk of a tree.

      Spooky skeletons

    3. Did you make that drawing? It's great!

  4. The most useful undead bestiary.

    Would you mind providing an example of one of them as an OSR-style challenge?

    1. Take this entry: 37 Bird Skeleton. Small. Tries to peck out your eyes.

      Add these little buggers as a bit of flavor. I wouldn't even give them stats, have them hanging around the entrance to a secret cache of items... the players have to make saves to avoid a point of damage and impaired vision for a round or two.

    2. Sure, have three.
      Skeleton Jellies are indestructible. They're dumb, they're slow, but they can't be killed. Players have to think of outside-the-box solutions (tie it up, push it into a trap, put a rock on it).

      Dust Skeletons, on the other hand, are too easy to kill. Kill one and the room fills with choking opaque bone dust. Put a few of them in a room with a 20' pit and a treasure chest. Again, players need to find a way to get past them without going blind, falling in the pit, and dying.

      Ball Skeletons are too big to fight effectively. They roll too fast and squish people. Maybe they can be lured into a room with a locked door and smash it for you? Maybe you can trick them into rolling over your enemies?