View Full Version : Rules for Undead/Constructs

2010-04-17, 02:59 PM
Hey there! So, for several weeks now, I've been playing in a solo game as a necromancer. After several sessions, I'm at level 6 now. The game started at one. Thanks to some generous homebrew on how many undead I can rule on the part of my DM, I can have as many one hitdice skeletons as I want. Right now I'm at about 22. I have a standing agreement with the blacksmith in her hometown to supply her with a full set of armor and weaponry for each, at about 110 gold.

With corpsecrafter feats and all the stuff they have on them, each numbered Skeleton has 11 HP, 24AC, and +5 to Hit. On an attack, they deal 1d8+5 with 19-20/x2 Criticals. As well as all their undead traits of course.

In my DMs world, undead are not inherently evil, rather, mindless undead are like constructs. Robots, which in the absence of a command will do absolutely nothing, ever. So, for a start, I told them all to obey a modified version of Aasimov's rules of robotics, with myself as the beneficiary instead of "Humans" or "Humanity". This gives them a bit of initiative to defend themselves and such, but that's about it. It's also a bit flawed in that it assumes they're smart enough to interpret a command as broad as "Protect your own existence".

So I'm trying to come up with better rules. I keep running into the problem of them requiring me to plan for just about every contingency. For example, if I say "Attack in turn any creature that causes harm against you by proceeding to its location and doing battle with it.", it becomes much more complex when I have to add in "But do not walk off that cliff to do it, take the bridge instead.", and later "Also, if they've already destroyed three of your fellows and you have not made any ground against them, retreat instead, rather than proceeding at them in a straight line.", and then eventually "Except in times of war, when heavy losses are expected."

Basically, I need to program them to be sentient. Or at least workably not-stupid. I have a huge leg up on people trying to create an Artificial Intelligence nowadays because I don't have to work through the medium of programming. Rather, I have to devise a body of rules that will cause them to react in appropriate ways to outside stimuli.

Can anyone think of anything that would be useful for this? Is there like, a set of rules for this sort of thing already written up somewhere? Should I go get a book on logic or something? Before saying "This is pointlessly involved and you should just do _____ instead", assume that I am completely insane and have infinite free time.

2010-04-17, 03:38 PM
For defending themselves: Upon being hurt by a creature/construct/ect., take a path that will not obviously cause harm to you and attack said creature. If the creature is unreachable without hurting yourself, take cover. If you cannot take cover, take a defensive stance.

2010-04-17, 03:59 PM
Ooh, that's good.

It comes to mind that the few times I've constructed something in game at my players house, I've hired a trained consultant with skill in specifically this sort of thing. Paying for him lets me use my undead as the labor, because he's basically trained in telling them what to do intelligently.

Trying to think, other things that might be of note...

They've all got about Str 22 or so.

For most purposes, their joints (arms, legs, etc.) work like normal, but I can deliberately disassemble them and store them in little boxes about as big around as their ribs. On the cool side, this means that I can send a skeleton out with a backpack full of reinforcements. A scouting party of two is actually a squad of six. A troop of 30 with some wagons could be an army of hundreds.

2010-04-17, 10:09 PM
"take a path that will not obviously cause harm" is risky, you do not know what a skeleton finds "obvius" or what they considers to be "harm"...

2010-04-18, 01:14 AM
Right, and therein lies the scope of my undertaking.

2010-04-18, 01:24 AM
Can you tell them to define "harm" as anything that reduces their structural integrity? Their mass?

2010-04-18, 01:32 AM
So long as their death results in the death of others why do you care if they die? you have a supply only limited by the body count, in which I suggest using suicide tactics like having your skeletons explode on death, though for getting them to avoid walking off of cliffs, ask them to "check, if the fall is more than 3 feet do not proceed."

2010-04-18, 01:48 AM
Actually, there's a corpsecrafter feat that lets my undead explode with negative energy on destruction. But if at all possible, I want to reduce the attrition of my forces to an absolute minimum. I don't really need more corpses. I'm working on a deal wherein the empire itself will sell me its condemned prisoners and unwanted dead. Anyway, Trekkin, I'd really hate to have my undead try to seek out and slay the God of Entropy.

2010-04-18, 01:56 AM
Actually, there's a corpsecrafter feat that lets my undead explode with negative energy on destruction. But if at all possible, I want to reduce the attrition of my forces to an absolute minimum. I don't really need more corpses. I'm working on a deal wherein the empire itself will sell me its condemned prisoners and unwanted dead. Anyway, Trekkin, I'd really hate to have my undead try to seek out and slay the God of Entropy.

What kind of necromancer are you?! :smallbiggrin: your supposed to fight and claw your way up to godhood that way you don't die and get used like you did to all those others. Stereotyping of necromancers aside, simply tell them to avoid there own destruction/damage as long as it doesn't interfere with other orders.

2010-04-18, 02:20 AM
IIRC skeletons have a very low int score. If you give them asimov's laws I don't think they'll ever attack anything or instead attack everything.

2010-04-18, 02:23 AM
if they are able to speak a phrase, just fill the with exploding runes, and then tell them to hug whatever hurt them and speak the word :smallwink:

2010-04-18, 02:45 AM
Skeletons actually don't have an Int score at all, Icewraith. They're mindless.

Also, Krossbow, Eploding Rune is based on reading or examining the runes, not speaking them. So even if a skeleton was capable of speaking, (which they may or may not be at the DM's discretion) doing so would not activate te runes. However, any literate creature that saw the skeleton in question would likely be obliterated.

2010-04-18, 03:49 AM
Hmm... Skeleton covered in explosive runes and some kind of cloak/cape/robe. Also built with corpse-crafter stuff that causes it to explode with negative energy upon death.

Moves into melee range and reveals its explosive runes. Boom. Dies. Boom again.

Wonder why this one hasn't come up but chicken bombs have. Maybe because the chicken bombs are basically free with either a level sacrificed to chicken-infested commoner or a minion of that type...

Actually, there's a corpsecrafter feat that lets my undead explode with negative energy on destruction. But if at all possible, I want to reduce the attrition of my forces to an absolute minimum.

And this corpsecrafter feat gets you that. Because if one dies, it heals all of its fellows that it is near, while also damaging enemies (unless they're undead/tomb-tainted).

I don't really need more corpses.

Lies. You always need more dakkacorpses. You're a PC, EVERYTHING is never quite enough.

OP: Basically, the long and short of it is that you can't think of every situation they're going to run into. If you try to make things too complicated, odds are you'll end up hampering their effectiveness more than make them self-sufficient. If you could do it, even, the best you could expect to come up with is the battle droids from the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. And no one wants that.

More likely, a workable set of rules for general purposes can be done, but there'll still be loopholes that someone that's observed them enough can easily exploit. Or, worse, conflicts in the programming. The insanity only makes conflicts in the programming and loopholes more likely due to bringing the quality down, as does the infinite free time leading to second-guessing and probably different generations having different programming.

Though, if you want an approximation of the system you'd be better off with the programming being done to the specific designation of the undead. Only give the "don't fight to the re-death" clause to units fast enough to return somewhere to bring word by their unescorted arrival, of something untoward happening. The fact that they can't communicate with one another or with you or even a hireling/follower means that the built-in reaction of the skeletons there has a fair chance of being wrong and implemented haphazardly as the skeletons on duty encounter the reporting survivor. If you or a sapient CO that answers to you are there, well, at least there's the capability of making a judgment about whether a sortie must be made or if holing up for a siege is the appropriate response. Or going to observe what caused them to disappear near the water and decide whether to bother retrieving the skeletons that got washed away by a flash flood.

Lieutenants of some sort are an absolute necessity.

So, get some. I believe the mummified creature template is the simplest intelligent undead that is not consumed by any especially exploitable vices.

Also, the tome of necromancy (http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19527634/Tome_of_Necromancy) if you haven't yet reviewed it should have some suggestions on both the subject of minions and what sort of things to deal with primitive computer programming of the unintelligent undead.

2010-04-18, 04:49 PM
Oh, yeah. Definitely been through the Tome of Necromancy. As for lieutenants, I've taken Leadership specifically for that. The first skeleton I ever made (as an Alternate Ability instead of a familiar) became my Cohort and got a few levels of fighter and an Int score out of it. So, Zero is my right hand man, and after yesterday's session I'm up to about 30 skeletons plus a 12HD Hill Giant for a heavy. What I really need is to find some evil medium biped that noone will miss if I totally genocide several thousand of them. Orcs don't fit because they're fairly rare in the world, and they're practically Klingons. They'd probably whup my butt.

2010-04-18, 05:05 PM
Is it possible to tell a mindless thing to be nonlethal? At some point some poor lad's gonna trip and drop something on one of these skeletons, or otherwise inadvertently deal damage to (and thus 'attack') one of them. As what sounds like the closest thing possible to a state-sponsored necromancer, it could pay off to invest in a bit of Skeleton Safety Protocols.

2010-04-18, 05:15 PM
Don't mindless creatures "defend themselves" anyway? I don't think you need to put that in. In which case the three laws become "Do whatever anyone tells you as long as it doesn't harm me".

2010-04-18, 05:25 PM
Nah, it's like in the Tome of Necromancy. My undead don't do ANYTHING unless I tell them to. There is no like, self-defense or anything in there by default. It's like I animated a robot without programming, a blank slate. Rather than "Crawling Darkness", where the undead have to be told what they CAN'T do and are inherently evil, the undead in this world are just there. Neutral forces. As for the nonlethal thing, that's a very good point Parvum. I don't see it coming up in town much. Maybe I'll keep my undead in different states of alert. Like, Code Green, if an intruder tries to get in, you subdue them with minimum necessary force and then use a blessed bandage on them if they're still alive. Bring me the body and I'll figure out what to do with them. Code Yellow would be like, kill unauthorized intruders upon entry into the estate, and then if Code Red is in effect they start a sort of scorched earth policy and retreat into rows around the necromancer, walking in circles in varying directions and murdering anything that comes close except for the higher ranking undead. Like the Ghoul who moved in and lives on the floor in my magic lab.

2010-04-18, 05:29 PM
Is there anything you have access to which is small and sentient? Their combat ability doesn't matter - one is assigned to each undead to give it orders.

I've seen people use their familiar, but you could use intelligent magic items. What's the cheapest you could get one?
EDIT: An intelligent item which can both see and speak but has no other powers is 4,000gp. If it can only be used by your troops that cuts the cost by 30%, to 2800gp. If you're crafting them yourself they're 1400gp each, or less if you have some way to reduce costs (http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=7274.msg240025#new).

Or you could have something like
Skeleton 1: "Raise this flag if someone enters."
Skeleton 2: "Lower this flag if I am in the room."
Skeleton 3+: "If both flags are raised, attack."

2010-04-18, 05:40 PM
Or you could have something like
Skeleton 1: "Raise this flag if someone enters."
Skeleton 2: "Lower this flag if I am in the room."
Skeleton 3+: "If both flags are raised, attack."

Binary code with undeads? BRILLIANT! Tippy would be proud!:smallbiggrin:

2010-04-18, 06:05 PM
I'm actually a Gestalt Specialist Wizard/Artificer, so crafting stuff would be easy enough. But the thing is that a scroll of Awaken Undead is only like 4K and would make all the undead within like a Close range sentient. That's not what I'm trying to do, and so multiplying the cost of every single undead by like thirty wouldn't be very good for business. Part of the upside of my army is that it has no upkeep costs. You buy them their 110GP worth of equipment and that's it. They never need anything else.

The binary undead thing is kinda funny though. It'd be easy enough to make items of message or sending or whatever. "Voice of the Titans" spell maybe? But yeah, for around my castle a system like that would be cool enough for at least informing the undead of some basic things. The status of the castle, whether we're under attack, how they should react to intruders.