Last Updated: December 6, 2022
The only undead character option not presented as an archetype, the Skeleton loses all semblance of its stats pre-undeath, and is functionally a new person driving the skeleton of the last person to use it. This means that you lose the specific distinctions between a dwarf skeleton and a tengu skeleton, but those minutiae don’t detract from the fact that you’re a super cool skeleton and you’re going to go on adventures.
Mechanically, the Skeleton is a good fit for a wide number of builds. They’re easy to build as a durable front-line fighter, a bone-rattling swashbuckler, a rogue with a perpetually toothy grin, or even just a completely regular sorcerer. Their Ancestry Feats don’t have any chains or trees, making your build choices flexible without giving up on the benefits of the Skeleton’s best high-level feats.
Tonally, the Skeleton is a bit of an oddball. Feats and traits seem to whip back and forth between “I am serious undead creature” and cartoony bone shenanigans. That’s not a complaint, of course. That’s pretty much exactly my sense of humor, so I’m on board.
I’m trying to come up with ways to sneak more bone jokes into this article, but it’s hard to fit that much comedy into the rigid skeletal structure that we use for these articles.
Table of Contents
- Skeleton Racial Traits
- Skeleton Heritages
- Skeleton Feats
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
Skeleton Racial Traits
- : 6 hp is low.
- : Usually medium, but the Compact Skeleton Heritage changes your size to small. Medium and small size have few functional differences in Pathfinder 2e.
- : 25 ft. is standard
- : A good combination for a variety of classes like rogues, sorcerers, and swashbucklers. Intelligence is an easy dump stat for many classes, and no one should judge you for being a bonehead.
- : Racial language plus Common is standard.
- : The Basic Undead Benefits give you low-light vision.
- : Negative healing, immunity to death effects, +1 circumstance bonus vs. disease and poison, you don’t need food, and you only need 4 hours of rest to get the benefits of a full rest. Aside from the risks of negative healing in a party which might rely on spells like Heal, these benefits are excellent. Your “hunger” requires you to collect bones, but it doesn’t specify what kind. You might make do with kitchen scraps.
- BotD: Being small is rarely beneficial compared to being medium, and squeezing is a rare inconvenience.
- BotD: Slightly faster than other skeletons.
- BotD: Appealing for unarmed combat builds, but the Skeleton doesn’t have any built-in feats to support using unarmed attacks. As in Life, So in Death to get Adopted Ancestry (Orc) might help a bit, but even then it’s not amazing. A different Heritage going into Monk will likely get you further.
- BotD: 4 more hit points and Diehard. The extra hp won’t feel impactful beyond low levels, but the feat is appealing if you’re planning to be in melee. Combine this with As in Life, So in Death to get Adopted Ancestry (Dwarf) and you can build yourself a nice, sturdy dwarf skeleton.
- BotD: Adopted Ancestry is the primary benefit here. If you have big plans for
your General Feats, it may be helpful to spen an Ancestry Feat on this
instead. The Skeleton also doesn’t have many Ancestry Feats available and is
unlikely to get more, so Adopted Ancestry is a great way to get access to
feats from other Ancestries which get more content (anything in the CRB or
You also get a benefit around disguising yourself, but “This disguise doesn’t provide any benefit against a creature actively attempting a Perception check against you,” so it basically only works as long as you’re not attracting notice so it’s not much of a disguise.
- BotD: Set aside how silly this feat is. Set aside mental images of taking a big hit and collapsing like a pile of dry bones. This will absolutely save your life. But keep in mind that the Stand Action may provoke reactions, so being a pile next to a big melee enemy may expose you to further harm.
- BotD: Unless you’re in a campaign where people are cool with random dead bodies lying about, no amount of pretending to be “an ordinary skeleton” is going to explain away the fact that you’re wearing adventuring gear and lying on the side of a road in the middle of a populated town. Even if you can justify lying down on the job, you’ll need to invest in Deception to keep people from noticing what you’re up to.
- BotD: In undead-heavy campaigns, this is a great tool for handling mindless undead like skeletons and zombies non-violently. Having living creatures visible nearby can prevent you from using this, so you may need to ask any living party members to make themselves scarce while you trade rib cage xylophon tips with your new friends.
- BotD: Trained in one skill, and you get a Lore skill which automatically increases. This can offset the Skeleton Ancestry’s Intelligence Flaw, but unless you desperately need that Lore skill, I don’t think this is worth the feat.
- BotD: Absolutely hilarious. If you’re using a one-handed reach weapon like a whip or a gnome flickmace, you can give up a second hand for another 5 feet of reach. Using this in combat to make your target Flat-Footed is fun, but may not a good use of your Action unless you’re going to make a big, high-impact attack, such as with a big spell. If you use this ahead of time to arm yourself (dis-arm yourself?) this is a great way to get a lot of reach for Reactions like Attack of Opportunity and for touch range spells.
- BotD: A small, easy damage boost for ranged martial builds, but be sure that you have enough maximum HP to make this safe to use, and make sure that your allies don’t mind healing you after every fight because you’ve been pulling ribs like you’re at a barbecue. Consider the Tough feat, and be sure someone in the party is good at Medicine.
- BotD: Undead creatures normally can’t be raised from the dead, which is a huge liability in a game that frequently involves combat. This effectively makes resurrection a possibility for the Skeleton, which is an expensive tax to be able to do something living creatures can do for free. Still, spending one feat to spite the god of death is tempting.
- BotD: The amount is small, but it’s 5 of the most common damage types. If you have Armor Specialization Effects, leather armor can cover the remaining physical damage type, giving you broad defense against damage.
- BotD: Very cool in theory, but you’re getting this several levels behind spellcasters, and the numerical benefits of the spells scale with spell level. In most cases, you’ll be giving up your finely-tuned combat capabilities for the novelty of being a shark made of bones (they’re cartilaginous).
- BotD: It’s time to settle down and raise a family. Create yourself some undead thralls and have them carry your fear around. Get yourself a skeletal horse that never tires.
- BotD: I love ongoing area damage effects. Now what if you could
become an ongoing are damage effect? Enter: Bone Swarm. You become
Huge, so you’re a 15-foot cube, which isn’t amazingly large but with the
ability to move that’s less of a problem. You do get Vulnerability to
area/splash damage, so this isn’t something you want to use in every fight,
but against multiple enemies it’s hard to beat 10d6 damage every turn. You
also get the ability to fly without resorting to magic items or spells,
which is a helpful asset for any character, though at this level you can
afford a magic item to fly.
The biggest challenge is the setup time. The initial 2 Actions don’t deal damage, so you don’t get to deal damage until the following turn, giving your enemies time to scatter. This is best used in close quarters or against groups of enemies who are unable to free, but at this level those situations are less common than they were at lower levels.
- BotD: For for the whole family, this gives you a replenishable source of healing for yourself and other undead (or undead-adjacent) party members, as well as a big damage spike against living foes.