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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Undead Management and City Fathers

    Okay if I'm an aristocrat and I'm important enough to have a wizard and cleric advisor. Here's my plan.

    All funerals will end in cremation rather then burial by law.

    It is illegal to sell black onyx gems to anyone but the government.

    I rarely play a low level game where one of the first villains isn't going crazy creating zombies and/or skeletons.

    If I were a good ruler, I wouldn't want anyone creating undead. If I were an evil ruler, I wouldn't want anyone but me or my minions creating undead (but I would keep the undead secret).

    Why do D&D clerics keep burying the dead, graveyards are always undead warrens
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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Scalenex View Post
    Why do D&D clerics keep burying the dead, graveyards are always undead warrens
    Because basic Skellies and Zombies and the low-level necromancers who raise them are a reliable source of experience for adventurers (and if they're not around, town guards, militia, or proper military units.) Allowing a low-level, sustainable but not really threatening undead presence ensures that you have people with proper experience to handle things when something really dangerous shows up.

    On a less metagamey/OotS level, cremation programs are more difficult and more expensive to set up and run. You must build a furnace that can reliably reach sufficient heat levels to incinerate bone, and you have to have a reliable source of good fuel for said furnace (you'll be keeping a good number of charcoal burners in business if you aren't lucky enough to have a coal mine and know what coal is good for.) You also need at least semi-skilled people to tend to that furnace or furnaces, for a larger city. Much cheaper to have a couple of unskilled guys dig and refill a hole in some bit of otherwise unneeded land.

    I would think controlling the Onyx trade would cut out like 75% of necromantic activities alone; there aren't that many ways to get to cast spells while ignoring expensive material components (although, metagaming again, those low level villains are probably ignoring both the onyx requirements and the control limits in order to get any decent amount of undead), and the people who can do it are high enough level that they shouldn't be bothering with dinky human zombies and skeletons.. they're looking for dragon corpses to raise.
    Last edited by tyckspoon; 2008-01-18 at 02:50 AM.

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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    And if I were a neutral ruler I would offer to pay 25 gold per undead to anyone who could raise an army for me. Besides, what's wrong with the plebs having a few undead slaves? thier cheaper on the upkeep than real slaves, and more loyal to boot. Sure the initial cost might be higher, but we've got standards where I come from.

    And graveyards are obviously build as storage devices for my eventual army of the dead. I cant just go about killing everyone and raising thier corpses now can I? That lowers overall production.

    Bottom line? The occasional death cult, mad necromancer and ravaging undead are worth the increased production and moral. Besides, they'd be trying it anyway even if we banned it. This way we profit.

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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Yami View Post
    And if I were a neutral ruler I would offer to pay 25 gold per undead to anyone who could raise an army for me. Besides, what's wrong with the plebs having a few undead slaves? thier cheaper on the upkeep than real slaves, and more loyal to boot. Sure the initial cost might be higher, but we've got standards where I come from.

    And graveyards are obviously build as storage devices for my eventual army of the dead. I cant just go about killing everyone and raising thier corpses now can I? That lowers overall production.

    Bottom line? The occasional death cult, mad necromancer and ravaging undead are worth the increased production and moral. Besides, they'd be trying it anyway even if we banned it. This way we profit.

    Typical human slaves sell for 50gp if in good condition, in many campaign worlds. Initial cost is roughly equivalent.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    As an alternative to burial or cremation, I remember hearing of real world ancient cultures (but I can't remember which ones) where the traditional method of disposal of the dead was to leave them out and allow the various carrion eaters to dispose of them. Not, like, just dump them in the street or whatever but at specific sacred sites. Whole sort of "circle of life" kind of vibe.

    Not sure it would work so well with a city-building culture. Perhaps temples would keep flock of holy vultures just for funerals...

    You'd have to arrange for someone to watch over the bodies, make sure no naughty necromancers were pilfering them, maybe give him a big stick in case any get up of they're own accord... But you'd need trustworthy gravediggers/cremators anyway.
    If a tree falls in the forest and the PCs aren't around to hear it... what do I roll to see how loud it is?

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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    I do think this is something that ought to be taken account of in worldbuilding. You don't need to be terribly original, though.

    F'rinstance, in the world I run at the moment, a lawful neutral god of death (among other things) is a significant part of the pantheon. One of his priests' main duties is to make jolly sure that the dead don't come back, and everyone from civilised society is buried in ground they consecrate. It would take world-shaking amounts of power* to break into ordinary graveyards and raise the occupants as undead.

    Poor peasants from tiny, isolated rural backwaters might not always be able to arrange this - neither might lonely woodsmen in remote parts of the forests - so get by on a mixture of superstition and taking their chances. Closer to civilisation, most people have an innate horror of being buried outside sacred ground - they're about as keen on it as you would be of being made into takeout cheeseburgers. So, on the whole, sources of undead are limited to small numbers on the fringes of society, and the sites of terrible battles or shipwrecks where not every body is accounted for.

    Most ancient cultures did similar things, though one notable one used magic rather than faith and some of it is starting to fade... other bits remain strong enough to be used by a handful of modern individuals who understand it, and the occasional folk tradition in remote places where religious orthodoxy isn't all that strong.

    Original? hell no, I'd never claim so. It's not a major aspect of my campaign so I didn't feel the need to work too hard on it, saving energy for other things. But it didn't take too long to work out a tolerable way of making all this internally consistent and make sense. There are many, many others, but this one's mine and it's already made things make sense several times... which is what background is for, I think. A society which preferred cremation would be a perfectly good alternative, just leading to different circumstances and scenarios.

    tyckspoon - quite a few ancient cultures did cremate. In prehistoric Europe it seems to have gone in phases, you get burial cultures then cremation cultures then burial cultures again... later, in the Roman era, burial and cremation co-existed to some extent. Historical cremation usually just used a wood fire and was much less complete than modern cremation. It left many bone fragments, but it very little for a necromancer to work with. Take a look at this X-ray of a Roman cremation urn, for instance... the necromancer who dug that up would be pretty disappointed, I think.

    hewhosaysfish - it's one form of excarnation and has been used in all sorts of times and places. Parsi in India still do it sometimes, though pollution has reduced vulture populations so it's becoming impractical and may not last much longer. However, if I understand correctly, this kind of "burial" does usually leave bones for further disposal - unlike exposure to land animals who carry them away or crack them. I'm probably not seeing the whole story on this one because I know it best from archaeology, where of course we only see the bones from those cultures who retrieved them for burial after the birds have done their bit, and not from those (if there were any) who left them out... I think you'd need to think carefully about the local wildlife if you went down this route, though it could be very cool.

    *(I don't have good or evil gods, only neutral ones who embody some good and some bad aspects. I don't think any of them would provide that much power to upset the order of things, so the classic "Evil Priest" supernecro doesn't fit. Any necromancer who wants access to modern graveyards is going to have to acquire god-threatening amounts of magical power... or just corrupt or coerce some priests... do I smell an adventure seed?)
    Last edited by raygungothic; 2008-01-18 at 07:43 AM.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    Quote Originally Posted by raygungothic View Post
    ... However, if I understand correctly, this kind of "burial" does usually leave bones for further disposal - unlike exposure to land animals who carry them away or crack them...
    ...I think you'd need to think
    carefully about the local wildlife if you went down this route, though it could be very cool.
    Well, it doesn't have to be vultures; some sort terrestrial scavenger could work, especially a large one. Aquatic creatures not so much. The body could be placed in a cage and lowered into the river/harbour, allowing fish, crabs, etc in but but you'd have very little way of stopping a water-breathing necromancer (or one that doesn't breathe) from stealing them.

    Alternatively, the remaining bones could be placed in some sort of mausoleum (hallowed, naturally). The excarnation (I like that word) would simply allow easier storage (and less smell).

    Another option, since animated dead requires a "mostly intact" corpse/skeleton, the skull alone could be interred. Create undead doesn't have that caveat but a headless vampire isn't that terrifying.
    If a tree falls in the forest and the PCs aren't around to hear it... what do I roll to see how loud it is?

    Is 3.5 a fried-egg, chili-chutney sandwich?

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    hewhosaysfish -

    Inventing "bonecruncher crabs" (who voraciously devour bones for shell-building calcium, so have natural armour of absurd strength) or something like them could be an interesting way around this.

    There's plenty of historical precedent for bones being placed in ossuaries or charnel houses or similar structures once defleshed. Most of it is secondary burial rather than after excarnation, but the two fit together very nicely. Sounds like you have the basis for an interesting snippet of background there! Could shape an adventure in interesting ways.

    I dimly remember reading somewhere that some Neolithic long barrows (Irish? The group of English ones I know best had whole bodies IIRC) didn't contain whole skeletons but rather a chamber of skulls, a chamber of longbones... so the bodies were certainly disarticulated before death and not every bone ended up in the same place. Whatever the historical reason, it seems to fit your scenario very nicely. Not that historical precedents for everything are necessary, but I find them such interesting starting points... and chambered long barrows are neat and atmospheric gaming environments.

    (Didn't some native American cultures also excarnate-then-inter?)

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    In my campaign, people do cremate their dead if possible, since the whole reason for graveyards in our world was the Christian belief that you are resurrected bodily during the Final Days and if a part is missing, you... I don't know, you can't get into heaven? Don't ask me how that works in light of the fact that corpses, you know, decompose to nothing if you wait long enough... unless the conditions are such that they mummify (deserts, crypts, glaciers, bods and swamps) or turn into icky wax corpses (in airless cold wet conditions such as certain caskets and loamy grounds). For similar reasons the ancient Egyptians (and modern-day Americans) were fond of embalming.

    Let's sum up the options in D&D worlds to prevent undead rising:

    - Cremation (as Hindus, Buddhists and the Vikings did, while the Romans practiced both cremation and inhumation). Optionally, you can then ritually eat the ashes of your beloved dead.

    - Dismemberment of the corpse (for Animate Dead or Create Greater Undead, corpse must be resonably intact) or at least cutting off its head. Stake through the heart and stuffing its mouth with garlic is optional.

    - Ritually feeding the dead body to animals (i.e. ravens, vultures). Some Indian tribes were fond of that. It's usually birds, not predator animals, because birds symbolized the ascent to heaven and the sun. Feeding the dead to crocodiles might be considered appropriate if the crocodiles are holy animals, but it makes for a messy goodbye. Feeding a corpse to swine, on the other hand, was a horrible desecration. Feeding a fresh corpse to a barghest of similar moster is strongly discouraged, since there's a high percentage chance that someone eaten by a barghest cannot be resurrected later, even with True Resurrection, since the barghest eats the victim's soul. Ouch.

    - Burial at a sanctified site. In D&D, that's where spells like Consecrate and Hallow come in. Of course, such a graveyard could later be desecrated and defiled... GM's call if this turns formerly protected corpses and skeletons into material for raising. Still, an ossuary where bones are stacked according to type, not owner, would drive any necromancer nuts. Assemble-your-own-skeletons! "The thigh bone is connected to the hip bone..."

    - Last but not least, turn the dead into Deathless... positive-energy powered undead. Then they can beat up any necromancer who comes near them.

    Inhumation does have one big advantage over all the other options that destroy the body: you can come back later to exhume your friend once you have the ability to raise him from the dead.

    Consecrate
    Evocation [Good]
    Level: Clr 2
    Components: V, S, M, DF
    Casting Time: 1 standard action
    Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
    Area: 20-ft.-radius emanation
    Duration: 2 hours/level
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    This spell blesses an area with positive energy. Each Charisma check made to turn undead within this area gains a +3 sacred bonus. Every undead creature entering a consecrated area suffers minor disruption, giving it a -1 penalty on attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves. Undead cannot be created within or summoned into a consecrated area.

    Hallow
    Evocation [Good]
    Level: Clr 5, Drd 5
    Components: V, S, M, DF
    Casting Time: 24 hours
    Range: Touch
    Area: 40-ft. radius emanating from the touched point
    Duration: Instantaneous
    Saving Throw: See text
    Spell Resistance: See text

    Hallow makes a particular site, building, or structure a holy site. This has four major effects.

    First, the site or structure is guarded by a magic circle against evil effect.

    Second, all Charisma checks made to turn undead gain a +4 sacred bonus, and Charisma checks to command undead take a -4 penalty. Spell resistance does not apply to this effect. (This provision does not apply to the druid version of the spell.)

    Third, any dead body interred in a hallowed site cannot be turned into an undead creature.
    Of course, the small radious sucks when you try to set up a graveyard around a church. Meh. That means you either have to bury important people in sarcophagi under stone slabs set in the church floor (you can still find old graves like that in old European churches), or use the fact that "radius" extends downwards as well and dig catacombs under the church, putting the dead into alcoves or filling the tunnels and halls with stacked bones (ossuaries) to save space. Examples can be seen under Paris and in monasteries in Greece.

    I could have sworn that casting Gentle Repose on a corpse made it impossible to raise it as undead, but either I mistook it for another spell that protects people from being raised, or WotC changed how the spells works under 3.5.? Since Gentle Repose is useful to graverobbers, too, I guess I must have been mistaken.


    Edited to add: Nevermind, Raygungothic beat me to the discussion of burial customs. Are the forums unusually slow and wonky, or is it only me? Sometimes I have to try to load a page half a dozen times.
    Last edited by Tobrian; 2008-01-19 at 07:51 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sardia View Post
    Well, if you spent the main part of your career seeing ungodly monstrosities, violations of the laws of physics, occasionally coming back from the dead, being attacked by creatures natural and unnatural, chased by things a hundred times your size, etc, etc...I'd see the need for some stress release.
    Quote Originally Posted by Attilargh View Post
    "Laughter", while a necessary part of the word "manslaughter", is considered poor taste when committing the act itself.

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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    Why do D&D clerics keep burying the dead?

    Boccob: Remains are neccesary for Speak with Dead, so a community where the primary temple is to Boccob would have burials to better preserve knowledge.

    Corellon Larethian: Nourishment for the plants that in turn nourish the elves, giving the departed the opportunity to support their kinsmen one last time.

    Ehlonna: Similiar logic, but supporting the natural cycle in general.

    Erythnul: It's easier to animate dead after burying someone alive than after burning someone alive.

    Fharlanghn: They'd probably burn their dead so the ashes can travel on the winds, but then they don't have many temples either.

    Garl Glittergold: They live in hills, they die in hills.

    Gruumsh: I think it'd be less burial and more leave them where they died.

    Heironeous: Let the glorious knight be entombed, so that they might be observed by the legacy they fought and died for.

    Hextor: Skeletons are like slaves, but more obedient and no long-term investment. Buy in bulk!

    Kord: Similiar to Heironeous, but replace knight with champion, legacy with arena, and for with in.

    Moradin: This has to be the most obvious one.

    Nerull: ...I stand corrected.

    Obad-Hai: Natural cycle, as with Ehlonna.

    Olidammara: Gives future generations of thieves a great place to stash loot and/or equipment.

    Pelor: Probably another cremation one, with some dogma about the fire of the noonday sun and protecting the sanctity of the departed from necromantic desecration.

    St. Cuthbert: Go with the legally recognized tradition, which tendency would shift in favor of burial.

    Vecna: Can you think of any deity that would be more interested in death magic?

    Wee Jas: Yeah, me too.

    Yondalla: Halfling tombstones are probably disguised to avoid necromancers, but apparent enough to those in the know, like a cleric of Dallah Thaun, that the caravan can use them as guidepoints or, if forced to scatter, meeting points.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    When zombies are outlawed, only outlaws will have zombies!

    The lengths to which a given community goes to prevent its dead from coming back as monsters will depend on how big a problem undead are for that community, as well as on how difficult the means of prevention is.

    Generally speaking, though, a lot of humans in the real world with the means to do so will go through a bunch of time-consuming and/or expensive rituals to show their respect for deceased relatives. Ensuring that your deceased relative doesn't come back as a walking corpse is likely to figure into a a lot of the rituals anywhere where that's a significant possibility. So, as with so many of the ways in which a D&D campaign world works differently from the real world, it's definitely something to consider when fleshing out a setting.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobrian View Post
    In my campaign, people do cremate their dead if possible, since the whole reason for graveyards in our world was the Christian belief that you are resurrected bodily during the Final Days and if a part is missing, you... I don't know, you can't get into heaven? Don't ask me how that works in light of the fact that corpses, you know, decompose to nothing if you wait long enough...
    Are you talking medieval or modern-day? Because as a Christian, I feel I can safely say that for the most part, the theology indicates that the current physical body, while it should be cared for because it's essentially a rental, won't matter because the Final Days give you a new and better one.

    Anyway, what about extending the castle itself so that the basement goes miles into the Earth, then having a special warded door that goes directly to those new floors which will serve as a tomb. Then require that corpses be handed over to the government -- or better. Take them secretly. That way you can still have a graveyard and loved ones can visit their deceased friends and family, but the Necromancer gets the short end of the stick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VanBuren View Post
    ...the current physical body, while it should be cared for because it's essentially a rental,
    I'm currently reading through the "creepy events thread" on Wizards' d20 Horror. That statement, sir, is damn creepy. You may have just inspired a sect in my home setting.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamikasei View Post
    I'm currently reading through the "creepy events thread" on Wizards' d20 Horror. That statement, sir, is damn creepy. You may have just inspired a sect in my home setting.
    It's a lot less creepy than it might sound. But I don't want to derail the thread here. Glad I could inspire something, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VanBuren View Post
    It's a lot less creepy than it might sound. But I don't want to derail the thread here. Glad I could inspire something, though.
    I'm familiar with the thinking behind it. What it put in my mind was (yes, this is actually thread-relevant) the flip side of the question, where instead of going, "well, now I'm dead, thanks for the loan body, I'll go ascend now" you take the viewpoint of "well, customer 1324A is dead. That body you had on order should be back in the shop and ready for you by tomorrow morning".

    Imagine a town like the Dustmen faction in Sigil where people view their living bodies as merely rentals which they pay for through their life's work. In exchange for some benefit - not necessarily to them - the body is given up at death to necromancers. Perhaps a community tithes bodies in good condition to an order of "protectors". Perhaps the rental is in fact from the parents - they made the body and when your time in it is up they'll want it back to inhabit as undead.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    Ooooh. And if you can't pay the monthly fee or something, they repossess it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by VanBuren View Post
    Ooooh. And if you can't pay the monthly fee or something, they repossess it?
    Perhaps. Or if you aren't careful and die in a way that damages the corpse beyond animation potential, someone else is collected on in your place.

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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    An easier way than cremation- Slip the gravedigger a few extra silver, and after the funeral, he will break the corpse's arms and legs. Sure, they can be raised as undead in that situation, but they won't be very useful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Terraneaux View Post
    Adventurers. Murderous hobos with near-deific power who are both merciless and incredibly competent at personal combat.
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    Devil

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    L5R geek chiming in!

    It's a setting where cremation is the rule for just such a reason. There are necromancers hiding in every nook and cranny of the Empire. Since burial is outlawed, the necromancers tend to take things into their own hands. A cult of necromancers could spend decades amassing a large number of bodies. Take a villager here, a lone traveller there. Add in members of the cult when they pass on. By and large, no one will notice. Find some out of the way spot. Chuck them in the clay and save them for a rainy day.

    ........

    Funny, I'm currently working on a kingdom ruled by the undead. The twist is that it's a rather benevolent society. Details behind the spoiler

    Spoiler
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    1. Intellegent undead generally keep a low profile. There are living representatives that form a figurehead government, but the real decisions happen behind the scenes. The creation of mindless undead is limited to emergencies (see burial customs) and to areas where the living public don't go. (they make tireless miners and take care of a host of other menial, behind the scenes jobs.)

    2. Burial customs and Religion. There are state maintained graveyards in every province. They're located in militarily strategic locations and tended by wizards and clerics capable of mobilizing the corpses in a moment's notice. To aid in keeping their human sheep docile, The undead have subtly promoted ancestor worship. It's commonly believed that your forebearers will protect you from danger should the need arise.

    3.Control of the Undead population. Materials associated with necromantic magic require a licsence to be granted, and are usually only granted to those already in the in-crowd.(undead or their living pawns) Punishment for a living lawbreaker is undead slavery, preferably intellegent. Undead lawbreakers are rare, but special punishments can be metted out to them.

    The undead king (wight) has a good number of spawn under his command, they're his personal law enforcement and the only entities he really trusts. All other intellegent undead in his kingdom must submit to a binding spell (in this case a variant of Bestow Curse.) The rules of the curse are pretty simple. As long as you follow a set code of behavior the curse remains latent, manifesting only as a visible rune on the creature's body.(code is written by the king himself and subject to his and only his amendment) If the undead breaks the code, then the curse becomes active, bestowing an appropriate penalty as the rune flares with unholy green flames. The curse remains active and visible until the offender seeks out the king or one of his spawn for forgiveness. They set a task for the offender and upon its completion forgiveness is granted and the curse goes dormant. The severity of the transgression dictates the difficulty of the task. Those who are discovered of breaking the curse upon themselves are destroyed without question. Anyone who inadvertantly has his curse lifted must surrender themselves to the authorities as soon as possible to restore it.

    The code of conduct is pretty simple and easy to follow. basic themes are keeping a low profile from the living, limiting the number of spawn undead can have. Types of forbidden behavior (treason, etc) and not being an undead jerk.

    Living criminals are often turned to mindless or enslaved undead to work off their debt to society. Only the most dangerous among the living are turned into mindless undead, others become some other form easily controlled creature (usually wight) under the watchful eye of the undead that spawned it. (note that criminals who become intellegent undead are always raised as spawn under the control another undead.)

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Undead Management and City Fathers

    I once created a villain who is an evil dragon trapped in human form. The elven wizards and dragon sorcerers who cursed him thought he'd grow old and die miserable and alone, but he was turned into an unaging human.

    After lying low for a few centuries, he dabbled in being an adventurer to become the head of a small kingdom. Over many generations he expanded his holdings. To hide the fact that he is immortal, he has created an elaborate deception, where he pretends to be a vampire pretending to be a human. He never makes public appearances during the day and makes sure that the wenches sent to him are never seen again.

    While super evil and everything, he shows great restraint with undead. His nation is the only major nation that publicly worships an evil diety, but undead are heavily restricted. Only those who commit capital crimes (or foreign nationals killed in battle) are eligble to be turned into undead. Also, the undead are never seen outside of war situations. The king fears it would demoralize his populace and lead to revolt if troupes of skeletons clattered up and down the streets.
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