Friday, October 25, 2019

Things That Will Eat You and Where You Might Find Them

    Why did the g_ds allow Chaos to enter into their creation? The Heilagrians put forward that the plans the g_ds had for the world are beyond the ability of humans to understand and should never be questioned. The Palatian school held that Chaos is the fundamental substance of reality; the material world is encroaching on it, not the other way around. The modern Aeshean church teaches that the g_ds were not strong enough to resist the encroaching darkness. This is how we know the old folk-religions are false (G_d's reason for including Chaos is probably something like heilagrianism).

    The effects of Chaos corrupt the living and return life to the dead. From it the anti-clerics draw evil power, and in it dwell the strange creatures to which the heretic magnates sell their souls. Civilization clings to the ancient fortified cities whose walls were built when the g_ds dealt with man face to face. To leave the safety of those walls is to leave behind the world of light and sanity and to wager your soul against superstition and undying evil. Those who make that wager often look on their more cautious brothers with sneering superiority; and consider their own lives all the more noble for their painful brevity.

Know, O Prince, that between the years when Atlantis and her gleaming cities drank the bitter sea, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, where proud and ancient kingdoms lay spread out like silken mantles beneath the sky.

    The most common Chaotic threat in the wilderness is, of course, the Unburied. Corpses left unconsecrated and exposed to the night sky will rise again, motivated by unholy hatred of light and laughter. Even a single walking corpse is a serious threat to an unguarded settlement, as they are almost impossible to kill without sorcery or golden arms; small communities know they are only delaying the inevitable with their night watchmen and burning arrows.


Appearance: a walking corpse, usually in a state of advanced decay. Wears the clothing and carries the accoutrements of life.
Wants: to kill living things, to spread pain and fear, to avoid fires or to quench them if possible. To silence music and put an end to cheer.
Armor: as chain. Their flesh ablates when struck. They do not feel pain.
Move: 12 (normal human speed). The Unburied do not weary. They can run a human down over long distances.
Intelligence: animal-like.
Morale: 8 (very low for an undead with subhuman intellect; they are easily intimidated by fire or large groups)

Attacks: The Unburied make two clumsy claw attacks against a single target on its turn, for 1d4+1 damage each with no to-hit bonus. If both claws hit the zombie grabs its target and bites them for an additional 1d4+1 damage. This attack can kill a peasant in a single shot. Those who are killed have a 2-in-6 chance of immediately rising as an Unburied; otherwise, they have the normal chance of rising at sunset.
If the Unburied is carrying weapons or equipment they will use those instead. They still make two attacks but no longer bite.

Spontaneous Generation: A corpse left unburied and exposed to the sky has a 10% chance of rising as an Unburied every sunset. This is not cumulative, and a body may lie outside for weeks before rising.

Undead: Weapons, even enchanted ones (unless specifically enchanted for this purpose), deal half damage to the Unburied. Because of gold's affinity to the sun weapons made of the material deal normal damage, but any golden weapon larger than a knife is impractical. The Unburied are damaged (1d6 a round) by sunlight or fire. They know this and take steps to avoid both. Abandoned houses are their favorite.

Horde: These lesser undead are rarely found alone. If you encounter an Unburied randomly, there is a 5-in-6 chance you will almost immediately notice a second walking corpse. Roll again for this one, and the next one, and the next one. . .
From the Nuremberg Chronicles. I usually do a shitty traceover of woodcuts, but this one looks really nice and is colored.

    Adventurers who think they can avoid the undead menace by putting out to sea are likely to fall prey to the Drift-dead. A corpse left unburied and floating in water will rise again, motivated by inconsolable guilt and misplaced anger. Sailors who fear death by drowning wear golden body piercings — this does not prevent them from rising, but the superstition is common. Children in coastal communities learn young to never play by the water after dark.
    To drown is a deeply shameful way to die because it almost ensures that your body will rise again to plague the living. The Drift-dead understand this to some degree. They may attempt to revisit friends and family members from their past, or to follow captains they served under. Legends speak of pirate vessels trailed by legions of corpses, and of parents torn apart in their beds by prodigal children they sent to sea. 


Appearance: a disturbance in the water, or a mass of wriggling rot and sea-slime dragging itself up out of the surf.
Wants: to kill living things, to spread pain and misery, to quench fires and destroy light sources. To stalk happy families in well-lit homes, especially those it knew in life.
Armor: as plate. It is almost impossible to harm the Drift-dead with normal weaponry.
Move: 9 (burdened). Their rotting limbs struggle to propel them on land. They are faster in the water, however, and swimming humans have little chance of escape.
Intelligence: disjointed and confused.
Morale: 10 (despite advanced decay they will avoid certain destruction)

Attacks: The Drift-dead makes one lunging attack at a single target on its turn, for 1d6+4 damage, with a +4 to-hit bonus if both the target and the Drift-dead are in water. If it hits, the target is tangled in seaweed and rot. On land, a tangled creature moves at ½ speed; in water a creature that requires air immediately begins to drown. A human who is killed or drowned by a Drift-dead has a 4-in-6 chance of immediately rising immediately.

Spontaneous Generation: A corpse left unburied and floating in water has a 35% chance of rising as a Drift-dead every sunset. This is not cumulative, and a body may float unattended for days before rising.

Undead: Weapons, even enchanted ones (unless specifically enchanted for this purpose), deal half damage to the Drift-dead. Because of gold's affinity to the sun weapons made of the material deal normal damage (this knowledge is even less useful in the water). The Drift-dead are damaged (1d6 a round) by sunlight or fire. They know this, which is why they spend most of their time underwater.

Scavenger: The Drift-dead follow ships as eels and sharks do, and for the same reason. A small ship has a 2-in-6 chance of being followed by 1d4 undead, a medium-sized ship 3-in-6 for 1d4+2, and a large ship or a pirate vessel is always followed by 2d4+2 Drift-dead. A fair wind or a full day of hard rowing can leave them behind, but becalmed vessels will gather more dead soon enough The Drift-dead aren't quite nimble enough to climb the hull, but small vessels might be vulnerable to being tipped or dragged. . .
That boat is barely bigger than they are! Poor bastards never stood a chance.

    One of the worst ways to die is to be lost underground. Miners rarely speak of this (to prevent their fearful words from jinxing the beams and supports of the tunnels), but the thought never leaves their minds. A corpse unburied will rise again, but what happens to someone who is buried while still alive? Battered and bleeding after a cave-in or accidental fall, wandering alone in the perfect darkness, growing colder and colder — you wouldn't even realize it when you died. Not until you came across some other poor lost soul, and woke to find yourself picking your teeth with their gnawed bones.
    The Cobolds, as they are called, are the most dangerous of the common undead. Something about their manner of dying twisted them up, turning them cruel and insane while preserving their intelligence. In life they were trapped beneath the earth; in death they are trapped in their own mummifying bodies, unable to escape even if they were standing before the very gates of the adit. They have nothing to hope for but true death.


Appearance: a man or woman dressed in work clothes, their skin oil-black and taut across their bones, peeling away in some places.
Wants: to kill living things, to spread fear, to commit acts of sabotage and create more Cobolds. To be destroyed in fire.
Armor: as unarmored. It isn't that it's difficult to hit their brittle bodies, it's that they are totally incapable of caring about physical damage.
Move: 15 (faster than a man). Miners move slowly for fear of low ceilings; Cobolds no longer care if they shatter themselves on the rocks.
Intelligence: Human-level, but malicious and irrational.
Morale: 12 (they fear nothing. they might even go out of their way to attack powerful groups in the hopes of being destroyed)

Attacks: A Cobold makes three quick claw attacks against a single target on its turn, for 1d4+2 damage with a +2 to-hit. If two attacks hit it makes a fourth. Cobolds will use darkness and cramped passageways to their advantage, and are intelligent enough to plan complex ambushes or chase opponents into pits or other hazards.

Spontaneous Generation: A corpse left unburied and far away from the light of the sun has a 5% chance of rising as a Trapped every seventy-two hours. This is not cumulative, and a body may lie undisturbed for months before rising. Someone who dies very slowly while conscious, however, has a 75% chance of immediately becoming a Cobold; this chance may be increased if they were terrified when they died, or by natural affinity for Chaos.

Undead:Weapons, even enchanted ones (unless specifically enchanted for this purpose), deal half damage to Cobolds.  Because of gold's affinity to the sun weapons made of the material deal normal damage, and miners may carry a golden dagger or cosh for this reason. Cobolds are also damaged (2d6 a round) by sunlight or fire. They flee from both of these as if Turned, and will attempt to set up traps to get rid of torches.

Dark Influence: Cobolds wants to create more Cobolds, and a walking corpse is a tireless saboteur. A single Cobold can take down an entire complex. Rumors that one is lurking in the darkness can shut down a mine. The bosses protest; the workers are cajoled back into the tunnels — and then, suddenly, the entrances collapse, and the mine is plunged into insanity. One such catastrophe can create a dozen new high-level undead.
Specialist hunters will be called into mines where such activity is suspected. The rewards are high; the risks of pursuing an intelligent undead in its own home are higher. . .
Is that a light? Have you found your way out at last?

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I've been clicking through blog posts and these are very useful and interesting. I like that this take on undead carries weight in world building. The constant threat has to be addressed in every settlement. Clerics/others have an important societal role not just in adventuring etc. nice!