This is a feature of powerful undead (and other particularly nasty monsters).
The energy drain is a particularly horrible power, since it causes the loss of
one or more experience levels!
When a character is hit by an energy-draining creature, he suffers normal
damage from the attack. In addition, the character loses one or more levels (and
thus, Hit Dice and hit points). For each level lost, roll the Hit Dice
appropriate to the character's class and subtract that number of hit points from the
character's total (subtract the Constitution bonus also, if applicable). If the
level(s) lost was one in which the character received a set number of hit points
rather than a die roll, subtract the appropriate number of hit points. The
adjusted hit point total is now the character's maximum (i.e., hit points lost by
energy drain are not taken as damage but are lost permanently).
The character's experience points drop to halfway between the minimum needed
for his new (post-drain) level and the minimum needed for the next level above
his new level.
Multi-class and dual-class characters lose their highest level first. If both
levels are equal, the one requiring the greater number of experience points is
All powers and abilities gained by the player character by virtue of his
former level are immediately lost, including spells. The character must instantly
forget any spells that are in excess of those allowed for his new level. In
addition, a wizard loses all understanding of spells in his spell books that are of
higher level than he can now cast. Upon regaining his previous level, the
spellcaster must make new rolls to see if he can relearn a spell, regardless of
whether he knew it before.
If a character is drained to 0 level but still retains hit points (i.e., he is
still alive), that character's adventuring career is over. He cannot regain
levels and has lost all benefits of a character class. The adventurer has become
an ordinary person. A restoration or wish spell can be used to allow the character to resume his adventuring career. If
a 0-level character suffers another energy drain, he is slain instantly,
regardless of the number of hit points he has remaining.
If the character is drained to less than 0 levels (thereby slain by the
undead), he returns as an undead of the same type as his slayer in 2d4 days. The
newly risen undead has the same character class abilities it had in normal life,
but with only half the experience it had at the beginning of its encounter with
the undead who slew it.
The new undead is automatically an NPC! His goals and ambitions are utterly
opposed to those he held before. He possesses great hatred and contempt for his
former colleagues, weaklings who failed him in his time of need. Indeed, one of
his main ambitions may be to destroy his former companions or cause them as
much grief as possible.
Furthermore, the newly undead NPC is under the total control of the undead who
slew it. If this master is slain, its undead minions gain one level for each
level they drain from victims until they reach the maximum Hit Dice for their
kind. Upon reaching full Hit Dice, these undead are able to acquire their own
minions (by slaying characters).
Appropriate actions on the part of the other player characters can prevent a
drained comrade from becoming undead. The steps necessary vary with each type of
undead and are explained in the monster descriptions in the Monstrous Manual supplement.
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