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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Greywander's Avatar

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    Default An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    I've done some work off and on on an undead race for D&D 5e, although I don't think mechanics will play a huge role here. I've recent gone back and done some updating and tweaking, and part of that involved doubling the number of different types of undead. I had a pretty decent idea of how the original three types I had fit into their culture, but I'm still trying to figure out the place of these new types. I'm also struggling a bit with the mechanics, so I'm hoping that figuring out the cultural side will help the mechanical side.

    The backstory for the race is a bit vague for now. A wizard got caught in a magical accident that turned him into a skeleton. He joins an adventuring party in search of a way to change back. However, while adventuring, he gets increasingly bitter about the way he's treated by others, and ends up embracing undeath. Through his research into his condition, he ends up creating a spell that can create more undead like himself. Practically a demigod at this point, he established a new kingdom of undead, with him as their king and god. He later regrets creating a new race of undead, recognizing the potential threat they could present to the world, so he makes it his mission to insure they never get out of hand, while also looking after them and protecting them from those who would condemn them as monsters.

    Originally, there were three different "subraces": the stillbloods, the skulgrims, and the shadowlurks (names might change, but this is them for now).

    One thing to note is that I've given these undead a trait that prevents them from dying except under certain circumstances. These include: simply taking enough damage to instantly kill them (see skulgrims and fall damage), having their body destroyed by acid or fire, taking radiant ("holy" or "light") damage while unconscious, or having their lichstone (discount phylactery) destroyed by a magic weapon. Each different type has it's own weakness that ties back into these different methods of destroying them.

    The skulgrims, or skeletons, where the first undead he created, made in his own image. As such, they sometimes consider themselves to be a sort of nobility, and also make up a good chunk of the priesthood. Because of their weakness to bludgeoning damage, they tend to be afraid of heights, and often live in single-storey homes. Since skeletons tend to all look the same, they will often dress in bright colors or in distinct clothing, or will paint their bones to express themselves and give themselves more of an identity. They make good smugglers, since they have a lot of empty space in their bodies (they can hide a lot under a robe). They can also detach and reattach their bones, making it easier for them to smuggle themselves into places, in several boxes for later reassembly. In the military, they often serve as archers and magic users.

    The stillbloods were developed with some of the traits of vampires, partly in an attempt to get more human-looking undead. Many of the vampire's weaknesses were expunged, but with them went much of the vampire's power. The notable traits of stillbloods are that they can pass themselves off as living without need for a disguise, and that running water will burn them like acid. The first made them ideal ambassadors and spies in the lands of the living, though they prefer to avoid places with lots of water.

    The process of creating an undead would put great stress on the body, and in some cases the subject's physicality was almost entirely stripped away. The result was a shadowlurk, who held together what little physicality remained with powerful shadow magic. They have the ability to turn invisible and pass through walls, but bright light prevents them from using these abilities. Furthermore, they grow weak when in direct sunlight, and are vulnerable to radiant damage. Shadowlurks make excellent thieves and assassins because of their abilities, but still tend to get treated with suspicion and disdain by their fellow undead. Many undead keep their homes brightly lit despite being able to see in the dark, if only to stop shadowlurks from entering their homes without invitation.

    As you can see, each of these is already fairly well fleshed out. In the process of updating, I've added three new subraces: the fleshdolls, the wytherds, and the phantomarions. What I need is some help figuring out how these all fit into the culture I've established above.

    Fleshdolls are corpses that have been stitched together (usually just a single corpse, but, you know). Some can be more monstrous, but often they still look mostly human (or elven, dwarven, etc.). Unlike the stillbloods, however, they don't look quite... alive. If one remains still, it's easier to mistake them for a realistic life-sized doll rather than a corpse, such is the uncanniness of their appearance. Severed body parts can be reattached with a needle and thread, and their bodies are full of stitching from old wounds that will never heal. If struck by lightning, they will become supercharged, becoming stronger and faster while the charge lasts. They are afraid of fire. Perhaps they are doctors, scientists, and acrobats?

    Wytherds are more or less a decayed corpse, probably more like the draugr from Skyrim than mummies. They are weak to fire. I haven't really figured much else out. Maybe they can be more frontline troops and common laborers? I need to give them more mechanical traits, which will probably inform their role in society, or vice versa. Reading the Wikipedia entry for draugr, it says they can grow in size, pass through rock, and enter people's dreams, so maybe I can draw something from that.

    Lastly is our second attempt at a ghostly undead, the phantomarion. Like the shadowlurks, they can go through walls, and can even fly, and aren't limited by light the way the shadowlurk is. However, phantomarions have even less physicality than the shadowlurks, and are unable to carry or use objects. This is particularly a problem for them, as their lichstone, a black pearl that normally resides in the chest of an undead, is instead outside their body. As the lichstone is the source of their unlife and where their souls reside, they're unable to go too far from it. In order to regain physicality so that they can carry their lichstone around, they can possess a corpse, an object, or a willing or unwilling creature. Because of their ability to possess objects, I'm thinking they might have a role in theater (literal puppet shows) and manufacturing (where they possess machinery and control it). I figure they might also make good guards, both bodyguards that follow you around while you carry their lichstone, and sentries that guard a location near their lichstone. It's all fun and games until the suit of armor comes to life and asks what you think you're doing there.

    I feel like just typing all of this out has helped me a bit, but I should probably still post it and hear what you guys have to say.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Do these undead have subsistence needs equivalent to food and water? Because if they don't, or just have far less, that's a lot of labor that doesn't have to be done, just to survive. That manpower could be switched over to something else profitably.

    Shelter means buildings, and different types have different shelter needs w/r/t specific vulnerabilities, so it's likely that enclaves would be more homogeneous and cities would have districts to meet different needs. Do these undead have comfort zones or worry about the equivalent of exposure to excess heat/cold/moisture? I ask because a prominent feature of an undead community would be that they could live in large numbers in extreme-to-the-point-of-unliveable environments, like in the permafrost or the death zone atop a high mountain...which would make them safe from most things not actively seeking them out.

    I'd propose the undead have fewer barriers to urbanization since they duck the downfalls of dense living--disease, waste disposal issues, imported food supply--and cities would make sense since their primary need is common defense against existential threat. I'd further propose that with no need for a peasant agricultural sector, their labor could be displaced into specializations...craftsmen, scholars, bureaucrats...even agriculturalists, but not growing necessary staple foods for the domestic market. And if the undead are trying to normalize relations with living beings they'd likely lean heavily into trade, trying to make themselves necessary to their neighbors they need to appease. Specifically what they need is something that can't be taken away from them, like good land or a strategically-located city...and two things that spring to mind are (1) their accumulated knowledge and skills, (2) their unique forms.

    Since different undead types have different advantages, they'd likely find it easier to operate in different sectors...and if there's central planning, they'd likely be assigned.

    Skulgrims would likely be allocated heavily in areas of governance and knowledge economy. Scribes, scholars, mages, legal experts...both because of their limited application in hard physical labor and because they're the "oldest" type who seem to have cultural status and religious-political power. Their ability to disassemble is interesting, but if this is a world with scrying, it becomes a tremendous long-term strategy to have a few fingerbones removed and seeded in critical locations. So you can tell a skulgrim from a government position by their missing bits of fingers and toes, and the very wealthy ones by the ostentatious substitutes they wear as decor.

    Stillbloods are important because they resemble humans and can pass. Since I'm proposing a state policy of aggressive trade to keep the fleshies content, stillbloods assuming most roles that involve contact with the living and traveling out into the world make sense because they're the least likely to cause visceral panic. As such, they dominate trade jobs, diplomacy, and espionage. Though I rather love the idea that because of this role they have tremendous economic clout that makes them rivals to the skulgrim, so maybe the major use of skulgrim disassembly is that stillbloods are required to either carry a skulgrim with them...literally a talking skull that serves as the foil in decision-making and a line home...or have to bear a scry-able bone fragment on them. The most dangerous and critical task of stillbloods is to take up long-term residence in living communities, passing as one of them.

    Shadowlurks' abilities don't just make them excellent crooks, they also make them excellent cops...ground-level law enforcement. Which would even better explain why they're not liked. Given their ability to pass through things...if this was a somewhat conscientious society that worried about individual undead being harmed, there'd be high-risk jobs assigned to shadowlurks because of their greater chance of survival.

    Fleshdolls and wythered are both close enough to people that they'd be dispersed through the labor market very broadly...but since there are other undead with special qualities that limit the tasks they can take, they'd likely end up assigned to more unskilled and semi-skilled labor, plus the more physical varieties of craftwork (like forging or carpentry). The former's reaction to lightning could be harnessed into heavy construction like builiding. The latter might end up being the proletariat of the undead civ.

    The phatomarions' ability is so useful it would likely be considered a vital asset to the national welfare, to the point that I could see it being kept under wraps and never admitted to outsiders. So even if other undead types weren't jammed into roles in a planned economy, the phantomarion would likely be assigned to whatever was considered critical usage of their animation ability. This would be true of both the domestic economy--basically substituting as a power source for mechanical devices...but also military preparedness. Corpses of powerful beings become assets, even if not made undead themselves. The same for the corpses of fallen combatants of the other side of war.
    Last edited by Yanagi; 2019-09-08 at 03:20 AM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    i imagine stillbloods as nobility?
    Current characters:
    Drakirr (Blue Dragonborn Warlock)
    Alyfyldyr Hyalythki (Rock Gnome Wizard)
    Harilidir (Half-elf Bard)
    Kazaharad Akaztkl (Goliath Barbarian)
    Luft (air-genasi druid)
    And of course Lizard Wizard (Lizardfolk Sorcerer)

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    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    The fact that two classes are vulnerable to fire has implications for construction; it's likely that construction would be primarily stone-based to reduce risk of fire, though skulgrim might prefer wood since it's less likely to crush them wholesale. I'd also imagine that clothing becomes more utilitarian, ex. skulgrims stuffing themselves with cushioning material packing-peanut-style to reduce fall damage, and wytherds/fleshdolls wearing easily removable or fire-retardant clothing.

    Yanagi has a lot of good points about roles of society and the differing needs of undead, but I'd also point out that there's one major need that the undead have in place of food needs- they are tremendously dependent on corpses for reproduction, and individuals aren't particularly replaceable until they get a steady supply. As such, corpses are their most likely import. I'd expect one offer they make to neighboring kingdoms is handling corpse disposal in battlefields, cities afflicted by plague, etc, as well as offering their services putting down unintelligent undead. This last is additionally relevant to help them distinguish their reputation from "regular" undead.

    Wytherd as "rot zombies" over the "stitched" zombies of fleshdolls makes them better suited to work in damp and/or swampy areas; fleshdolls I imagine have problems with cleanliness and damage to their stitching, while wytherd are more suited for "dirty work" and agriculture-equivalents. Depending on the specifics of their nature, I could see individuals "tattooing" themselves by growing plant life.

    Fleshdolls are I think more appropriately suited for skilled labor than wytherd due to their relative cleanliness, so I would expect them in most classes of craftwork. It's not clear to me whether their limbs are fully replaceable (ex. if they lose a hand, can they get another?), but that's a relatively small factor. They may be some of the most rapidly-growing caste, because they can be constructed from "spare parts"; parts from animal corpses may be a major contributor to their population. They're also natural fits for tailors if they have practice stitching themselves up.

    Stillbloods are somewhat difficult to work with due to their lack of special abilities; when 'at home' there's no particular task they're suited for. They might take up administrative roles, since the diplomatic skills are somewhat transferable.

    I agree that shadowlurks would act well as cops; I'd also say that they have some function in architecture, since they can move through already-constructed walls and travel underground to check the geology of a region. They may also carry messages or act as aides indoors, where light is less of a risk.

    Phantomarions are pretty great and can do a whole lot of things.

    I would expect neither wytherd nor fleshdolls to work in a forge or in most alchemical/chemical work (ex. candlemaking) due to the proximity to fire; it's not clear to me which undead are best suited for these tasks, though phantomarion might do so due to their disposable bodies. Skulgrims, perhaps, if they can resist chemical burns- bone can resist very high temperatures and can be cleaned without much difficulty (I think? How porous is bone? They might need a dip in molten wax or something similar for protection.)
    My one piece of homebrew: The Shaman. A Druid replacement with more powerlevel control.
    The bargain bin- malfunctioning, missing, and broken magic items.
    Spirit Barbarian: The Barbarian, with heavy elements from the Shaman. Complete up to level 17.
    The Priest: A cleric reword which ran out of steam. Still a fun prestige class suitable for E6.
    The Coward: Not every hero can fight.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Greywander's Avatar

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Thanks for all the input. I'm reading, but it might take a while for me to process everything and type up a full reply. For now, I'll just respond to a few things. (Me, from the future: Lawl, a "few" things.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Do these undead have subsistence needs equivalent to food and water? Because if they don't, or just have far less, that's a lot of labor that doesn't have to be done, just to survive. That manpower could be switched over to something else profitably.

    Shelter means buildings, and different types have different shelter needs w/r/t specific vulnerabilities, so it's likely that enclaves would be more homogeneous and cities would have districts to meet different needs. Do these undead have comfort zones or worry about the equivalent of exposure to excess heat/cold/moisture? I ask because a prominent feature of an undead community would be that they could live in large numbers in extreme-to-the-point-of-unliveable environments, like in the permafrost or the death zone atop a high mountain...which would make them safe from most things not actively seeking them out.
    Undead explicitly do not require air, food, drink, or sleep, and are immune to disease and exhaustion. I believe the way D&D 5e implements extreme heat and cold is that the character suffers exhaustion on a failed saving throw unless they have fire or cold resistance, but as undead are immune to exhaustion I don't think these are a factor, either. So this would certainly suggest settling more extreme conditions, both as a defense measure and because it's less likely to be already settled.

    My initial conceptualization was that the undead would live in sort of undercities, with villages of living dotting the surface at various exit points from the undercity. A traveler passing across the surface might never know that undead lived there. As aimlessPolymath points out, fresh corpses are needed to repopulate, although given that undead don't age there'd probably be very few new undead allowed, at least during peace times. Corpses could also be used to create regular mindless undead to be used as slaves or soldiers. In any case, the living vassals of the undead would probably have some sort of feudal relationship with the undead. As the undead don't require a lot of what most feudal lords do (food, living soldiers, etc.), the burden would probably be much lighter, and the benefits of protection make it a worthwhile relationship. Also, just because they don't need to eat or sleep doesn't mean they can't. I'm leaning toward saying that those without tongues aren't able to taste even if they can eat, but I also don't want to give up the potential for milk jokes with the skeletons. So it's possible that some agriculture would be used for food-as-a-luxury, since it isn't a need.

    As undead are immune to disease, I could see them specifically cultivating disease around their settlements as a defensive measure. However, this makes less sense if they do have living vassals who would also be in danger. Also, even if it doesn't hurt them, that doesn't mean undead wouldn't be neat or hygienic. So biological weapons might be constructed and, if necessary, used, but it's less likely that they would turn their cities into biological hazards.

    Since different undead types have different advantages, they'd likely find it easier to operate in different sectors...and if there's central planning, they'd likely be assigned.
    I haven't thought a lot about the specific social systems. I do know that there would probably be some strict laws. The undead wizard who rules would be harsh, but fair. In particular, the spell to create more of these undead is heavily controlled, and only his clerics are allowed to cast it. Spellbooks or scrolls with this spell are hunted down and destroyed. One of the worst crimes is creating an undead child; as the undead don't age, they'll be stuck forever with the body and mind of a child. And a lot of undead still retain very human desires for family, so the black market for undead children is pretty active. I originally envisioned the ruler as Lawful Neutral rather than Good, so those caught facilitating the creation of undead children might have their souls taken and sold to devils (who are Lawful Evil in D&D, so one step away from Lawful Neutral), or some similarly horrible fate.

    I can also see the undead becoming quite a decadent society. They don't need anything to live, and they're (reasonably) hard to kill. The only goal I can think of for them to strive for is to save up enough gold to buy a resurrection in the event they do die. In a twist of irony, I'd expect a creature who can live forever to be even more concerned about their own mortality. That said, as they were once living, it's reasonably that their former passions would carry over into undeath, so I wouldn't be surprised if many of them carried on in their former labors even when they don't need to to survive. Besides, everybody likes having stuff, and stuff requires money, and money requires working.

    So the image taking shape is a society that appears strict and ordered on the surface, but with a seedy and decadent underbelly. In a way, it kind of sounds a lot like the Imperium from Warhammer 40k, except probably with less planet-wide genocides because some chucklefudge chaos cultist decided to summon a demon. A mix of those fanatically loyal to the ruler, those just trying to make an honest living (unliving?), and those who are the most disgusting pieces of filth engaging in every vice known and unknown.

    The phatomarions' ability is so useful it would likely be considered a vital asset to the national welfare, to the point that I could see it being kept under wraps and never admitted to outsiders.
    This idea intrigues me. An entire subrace of undead that is basically kept under wraps as a state secret. Do even other undead know? It would be kind of hard to hide it, and potentially too useful to keep it a secret from your own subjects. Their abilities, used correctly, definitely have a lot of potential. One thing I should probably clarify, as far as combat goes, if the body/object they're possessing takes damage, so do they. So if the body they're possessing is destroyed, they might not be in good enough shape to simply possess another object and keep fighting, and they might even go down before their body does. I felt this was necessary to balance it for players. That said, I've been thinking about the potential for things like possessing catapults and other siege engines or large machines, and there's definitely a lot of potential on the battlefield.

    Quote Originally Posted by aimlessPolymath View Post
    ex. skulgrims stuffing themselves with cushioning material packing-peanut-style to reduce fall damage,
    I chuckled at this.

    cities afflicted by plague,
    Given that they're immune to disease, they would be especially suited for dealing with plagues. This could be a great asset to their living neighbors.

    etc, as well as offering their services putting down unintelligent undead. This last is additionally relevant to help them distinguish their reputation from "regular" undead.
    I know different settings treat necromancy differently. The default D&D position seems to be that raising an undead is always evil, but never really explains why. I could understand if it did something to that person's soul. I generally opt for a more neutral and utilitarian perspective of necromancy; that person is dead and doesn't need the body anymore, and what you're creating is basically a robot so it can't really be abused or mistreated. They're the perfect slaves and soldiers. So I can see them making heavy use of mindless undead. I can even see their living vassals making arrangements where they sell their bodies on death in order to benefit their family, sort of like life insurance.

    That said, there are other undead out there, some mindless, some not, and most of them are malevolent. Hunting down and exterminating these other undead that have no interest cooperating with the living would probably be a worthwhile endeavor for them to pursue. Given their precarious position, anything they can do to improve their reputation among the living is helpful.

    It's not clear to me whether their limbs are fully replaceable (ex. if they lose a hand, can they get another?), but that's a relatively small factor. They may be some of the most rapidly-growing caste, because they can be constructed from "spare parts"; parts from animal corpses may be a major contributor to their population. They're also natural fits for tailors if they have practice stitching themselves up.
    By default, both fleshdolls and skulgrim can only reattach their own body parts, they can't replace them with parts from another creature. That said, since there are so many cool undead abilities, I made up a bunch of "racial" feats for undead PCs. One allows them to regenerate missing body parts. Another allows them to attach parts from other creatures, including adding new parts like extra limbs. While these are intended mostly for players, it's not unlikely that some NPC undead might have one of these special feats. That said, they're mostly reserved for the stronger undead.

    I hadn't quite thought through the implications of making them from spare parts, or incorporating animal parts. As the inspiration is (obviously) Frankenstein's monster, I probably should have seen that coming. Those made from (mostly) a single corpse might be more or less stable, while those who are a hodgepodge of different corpses might suffer from multiple personalities. Or maybe they gain an entirely new personality, which would make them distinct from all the other kinds of undead.

    Phantomarions are pretty great and can do a whole lot of things.
    I didn't think I could make something that was balanced for a player, but I'm pretty pleased with the concept. Being able to fly and go through walls would normally be laughably overpowered for a PC, but I think the restrictions on them keep it from getting too crazy while still allowing them to do some cool things. The possession mechanic will be pretty interesting to use, too, and I think it will give players a lot of incentive to use it instead of staying incorporeal all the time. That said, I still need to hammer out the specific mechanics. Although they share going through walls with the shadowlurks, the possession ability adds a whole new level to what they could do in the undead society, so it will be interesting to think of how that can be used.

    Speaking of shadowlurks, while the phantomarions are unable to carry their lichstones through walls (they can only pass through walls while incorporeal, and can't carry anything while incorporeal) a shadowlurk could, so by working together the phantomarion could get a lot more range. I feel like there's a buddy cop show there.

    Alright, it's 4am, I better stop for now.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    My specific thought re: unintelligent undead is that there might be some amount of naturally-occurring undead; the civilized undead could help hunting them down due to their immunity to most common undead attack forms (edition dependent) and the likelihood that unintelligent undead would just ignore it. Campaign specific, of course; it's also possible that they act as support in necromancer-hunting expeditions since they can disguise themselves as "controlled" undead and get close for an assassination.

    While undead don't necessarily have specific needs and are hard to outright kill, it seems to me that the damage they do take will heal relatively slowly; do they naturally heal or do they need to get inflict spells/be repaired manually? If a body part is indefinitely "lost" due to being buried under a bunch of rubble, are they just stuck with that for the rest of their life? This has implications for anyone in a high-risk scenario, especially military positions (and also adventuring PCs)

    Re: children and the desire for family, it occurs to me that living children would fill a somewhat similar role as "child to raise", which brings up very Addams Family-esque vibes. Would an undead that is raised have memories of its past self? The popular vampire myth of being 'turned' says yes to me, though with some personality changes involved; maybe losing more and more memories the more time between death and raising, or based on amount of brain destroyed (favoring stillbloods and the two zombies)?

    I chuckled at this.
    If the final canon of your setting has every skulgrim wearing a motorcycle helmet, I know I've done good.
    Last edited by aimlessPolymath; 2019-09-09 at 12:30 PM.
    My one piece of homebrew: The Shaman. A Druid replacement with more powerlevel control.
    The bargain bin- malfunctioning, missing, and broken magic items.
    Spirit Barbarian: The Barbarian, with heavy elements from the Shaman. Complete up to level 17.
    The Priest: A cleric reword which ran out of steam. Still a fun prestige class suitable for E6.
    The Coward: Not every hero can fight.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Zombies don't make a civilization. Mindless animateds corpses don't have a society. Typically the undead feed off the living. The high level undead that can think for themselves are not very numerous. Vampires often rule the living and make slaves of them, but they are not social among their own kind, they tend to want to rule and another vampire that is not their own spawn 8s competition. Vampires are pretenders, they pretend to be among the living. Ghosts tend to want to be left alone. Undead that feed off the living, tend not to engage in animal husbandry, that is humans aren't kept on farms so that vampires and suck their blood, so withoutw that agricultural base, there is no civilization of undead.

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    Kobold

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Just subscribing to the thread for now. Hopefully I'll come up with something cool a bit later.
    Easydamus says I'm a neutral half-elf wizard 1/druid 1.
    Strength- 11
    Dexterity- 13
    Constitution- 11
    Intelligence- 15
    Wisdom- 13
    Charisma- 12

    When in doubt, Hail Dread Cthulhu.

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

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    Wizard_Lizard's Avatar

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    the good thing about creating a skeletal race is thst you don't need to *flesh out* their lore.
    cue groans.
    Current characters:
    Drakirr (Blue Dragonborn Warlock)
    Alyfyldyr Hyalythki (Rock Gnome Wizard)
    Harilidir (Half-elf Bard)
    Kazaharad Akaztkl (Goliath Barbarian)
    Luft (air-genasi druid)
    And of course Lizard Wizard (Lizardfolk Sorcerer)

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    Kobold

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    Zombies don't make a civilization. Mindless animateds corpses don't have a society. Typically the undead feed off the living. The high level undead that can think for themselves are not very numerous. Vampires often rule the living and make slaves of them, but they are not social among their own kind, they tend to want to rule and another vampire that is not their own spawn 8s competition. Vampires are pretenders, they pretend to be among the living. Ghosts tend to want to be left alone. Undead that feed off the living, tend not to engage in animal husbandry, that is humans aren't kept on farms so that vampires and suck their blood, so withoutw that agricultural base, there is no civilization of undead.
    Did you read any of OP's post?
    Easydamus says I'm a neutral half-elf wizard 1/druid 1.
    Strength- 11
    Dexterity- 13
    Constitution- 11
    Intelligence- 15
    Wisdom- 13
    Charisma- 12

    When in doubt, Hail Dread Cthulhu.

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Quote Originally Posted by aimlessPolymath View Post
    My specific thought re: unintelligent undead is that there might be some amount of naturally-occurring undead; the civilized undead could help hunting them down due to their immunity to most common undead attack forms (edition dependent) and the likelihood that unintelligent undead would just ignore it. Campaign specific, of course; it's also possible that they act as support in necromancer-hunting expeditions since they can disguise themselves as "controlled" undead and get close for an assassination.
    Interesting idea to have them pretend to be a necromancer's undead minion in order to get close to assassinate them. It would probably work, too. Reading 5e's Animate Dead spell description, though, it allows the necromancer to issue commands mentally, so that might be a bit of a hitch in that plan. Until I'd checked, I was assuming that there wasn't any kind of telepathic connection between undead and necromancer, and in such a case a plan like that should work flawlessly.

    While undead don't necessarily have specific needs and are hard to outright kill, it seems to me that the damage they do take will heal relatively slowly; do they naturally heal or do they need to get inflict spells/be repaired manually? If a body part is indefinitely "lost" due to being buried under a bunch of rubble, are they just stuck with that for the rest of their life? This has implications for anyone in a high-risk scenario, especially military positions (and also adventuring PCs)
    Canonically, fleshdolls are the only ones who specifically don't "heal", instead needing to stitch up their wounds, after which the threads integrate as living parts of their bodies. I haven't really written any lore for the other subraces, but stillbloods would probably need to heal normally or else it would make it difficult for them to maintain that "human" appearance. That said, this was written for use with D&D 5e, so for now (until I port them to another system) they use the 5e mechanics. In 5e, Inflict Wounds doesn't heal undead, nor does Cure Wounds harm them. Most healing spells don't affect undead at all, though a few do. Nothing in the rules of 5e prevents undead from taking long rests, which will restore all of a creature's HP. Now, HP doesn't equate to healing, so they could mechanically get all their HP back, but still have "wounds" from a narrative perspective, like the fleshdolls do.

    As for lost limbs, yeah, they would need to live without it if they couldn't retrieve it. But that only applies to skulgrims and fleshdolls. Stillbloods and wytherds can't reattach limbs at all, and shadowlurks and phantomarions don't have (entirely) physical bodies, so it's debatable if they even can lose body parts. All that said, if a limb is lost, it can be regained the normal way: via a Regenerate spell (one of the healing spells in 5e that surprisingly does work on undead). As also previously mentioned, one of the racial feats, which would likely be not very common among undead, allows them to regenerate lost body parts naturally, like a troll, while another allows them to attach body parts from other creatures. Any undead with one of these abilities would stand out and be noteworthy, much like someone with natural magical talent would stand out in a town or village.

    Re: children and the desire for family, it occurs to me that living children would fill a somewhat similar role as "child to raise", which brings up very Addams Family-esque vibes. Would an undead that is raised have memories of its past self? The popular vampire myth of being 'turned' says yes to me, though with some personality changes involved; maybe losing more and more memories the more time between death and raising, or based on amount of brain destroyed (favoring stillbloods and the two zombies)?
    I've assumed that memories are retained, maybe at some point I'll consider making that not the case, likely for specific subraces rather than in general.

    As for children, it's an interesting idea to have them raise living children, and some of them may opt to do so. That said, I don't think it would be viewed as ethical to take children away from living parents, so this might be restricted to orphans. However, you also have to consider that undead have a theoretically infinite lifespan, and can't reproduce naturally. For those wanting a child, to them it will probably more similar to getting a pet than to actually raising a family. And who wouldn't want a pet that lives as long as they do and stays a puppy/kitten the whole time? No matter how I twist this around, it seems like a black market for undead children would naturally arise in a society like this. Think about what happens to children once their "parents" get tired of them, and you can see why I decided to make this one of the most heinous crimes in this society. It's one of those things a DM can use if they want a darker tone for their game, or just never bring up if they don't.

    If the final canon of your setting has every skulgrim wearing a motorcycle helmet, I know I've done good.
    This will have to be a recurring NPC now. A skeleton in WW2 era motorcycle gear, complete with one of those motorcycles with a sidecar (maybe some skeletal animal mascot rides in the sidecar? a pug, perhaps?). Maybe he's a traveling merchant or crazy inventor. Or both.

    He's the guy who fixes your airship, and also the guy who inexplicably shows up to sell you items in the final dungeon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wizard_Lizard View Post
    the good thing about creating a skeletal race is thst you don't need to *flesh out* their lore.
    cue groans.
    You also don't need to flesh out their cities, because they're ghost towns. *ba dum tsh*

    Quote Originally Posted by Sizzlefoot View Post
    Did you read any of OP's post?
    I assume they read the title, saw how long the OP was, and wrote a post based solely on the thread title. Which, under other circumstances, might have yielded a productive post. Not so here.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywander View Post
    This will have to be a recurring NPC now. A skeleton in WW2 era motorcycle gear, complete with one of those motorcycles with a sidecar (maybe some skeletal animal mascot rides in the sidecar? a pug, perhaps?). Maybe he's a traveling merchant or crazy inventor. Or both.
    Clearly a master of skulduggery.
    Easydamus says I'm a neutral half-elf wizard 1/druid 1.
    Strength- 11
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    When in doubt, Hail Dread Cthulhu.

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Interesting idea to have them pretend to be a necromancer's undead minion in order to get close to assassinate them. It would probably work, too. Reading 5e's Animate Dead spell description, though, it allows the necromancer to issue commands mentally, so that might be a bit of a hitch in that plan. Until I'd checked, I was assuming that there wasn't any kind of telepathic connection between undead and necromancer, and in such a case a plan like that should work flawlessly.
    If the assassin is in a place where they would be issued orders and could be seen disobeying, they are close enough to attack, I assume.


    As for children, it's an interesting idea to have them raise living children, and some of them may opt to do so. That said, I don't think it would be viewed as ethical to take children away from living parents, so this might be restricted to orphans. However, you also have to consider that undead have a theoretically infinite lifespan, and can't reproduce naturally. For those wanting a child, to them it will probably more similar to getting a pet than to actually raising a family. And who wouldn't want a pet that lives as long as they do and stays a puppy/kitten the whole time? No matter how I twist this around, it seems like a black market for undead children would naturally arise in a society like this. Think about what happens to children once their "parents" get tired of them, and you can see why I decided to make this one of the most heinous crimes in this society. It's one of those things a DM can use if they want a darker tone for their game, or just never bring up if they don't.
    Orphans are the most likely source, yes; I'd disagree that this is similar to having a pet, since the intent (in my mind) is that at some point the raised child gets old, dies naturally, and is raised as undead, becoming an indefinite member of the family as an "adult".
    Also consider that even undead children can have experiences and grow as a person; their exteriors will not reflect their actual maturity, but they can be relatively normal people, relatively speaking. Given that phantomarions can appear in essentially any form, those undead with the body of children would I think receieve similar reactions to a phantomarion that is inhabiting a nonhumanoid body.

    This will have to be a recurring NPC now. A skeleton in WW2 era motorcycle gear, complete with one of those motorcycles with a sidecar (maybe some skeletal animal mascot rides in the sidecar? a pug, perhaps?). Maybe he's a traveling merchant or crazy inventor. Or both.

    He's the guy who fixes your airship, and also the guy who inexplicably shows up to sell you items in the final dungeon.
    I was picturing a nerd wearing an oversized bicycle helmet:
    "Listen, it may be unfashionable, but safety is no laughing matter- hey, who turned out the lights?" *readjusts helmet to uncover eyes*
    Last edited by aimlessPolymath; 2019-09-27 at 11:37 PM.
    My one piece of homebrew: The Shaman. A Druid replacement with more powerlevel control.
    The bargain bin- malfunctioning, missing, and broken magic items.
    Spirit Barbarian: The Barbarian, with heavy elements from the Shaman. Complete up to level 17.
    The Priest: A cleric reword which ran out of steam. Still a fun prestige class suitable for E6.
    The Coward: Not every hero can fight.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Do skullgrims have the same intelligence as regular skeletons?

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: An undead civilization, how does each type of undead fit in?

    Quote Originally Posted by noob View Post
    Do skullgrims have the same intelligence as regular skeletons?
    No. These are species of intelligence similar to humans.

    As such, they sometimes consider themselves to be a sort of nobility, and also make up a good chunk of the priesthood.
    Last edited by aimlessPolymath; 2019-09-28 at 08:15 PM.
    My one piece of homebrew: The Shaman. A Druid replacement with more powerlevel control.
    The bargain bin- malfunctioning, missing, and broken magic items.
    Spirit Barbarian: The Barbarian, with heavy elements from the Shaman. Complete up to level 17.
    The Priest: A cleric reword which ran out of steam. Still a fun prestige class suitable for E6.
    The Coward: Not every hero can fight.

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