The clattering of dried bones. The soft moan of anguish and the dragging of wet feet. The wail of a forlorn spirit. It is quite unfortunate that so many of us are familiar with some of the identifiable characteristics of the living dead. Despite laws restricting necromancy, adventurers may find themselves facing a horde of these monsters and if they are unprepared, they just might join their ranks.
What is an undead creature?
Undead are once-living creatures brought back through the practice of necromancy. While they may have characteristics of their form in life, they lack certain the requirements to be considered “alive.” However, these creatures are not truly dead; they continue to move, hunt, feed, and sometimes think and feel. Thus, with the lack of “life” and the incapability of being defined as “dead”, they are considered undead.
Undead creatures do not breathe. They do require sleep, nor do they truly require food to sustain themselves, though some desire it. They are not effected by impairment. Undead rarely rely on sight as their primary sense; they often have some other form of supernatural sense.
Where do the undead come from?
Undead creatures are not naturally born into the world. They are a corruption of, and an abomination to, life itself. They have no place in the natural world and disrupt the cycle of life. Undead creatures are born from dark necromantic arts in which the host form is nothing more than a surrogate for an unwilling soul. Some mages practice these arts in secret, animating undead minions to serve their cause and further their goals. On occasion, emanations of dark energy from the shadow realm may permeate to the material plane and take hold of the remains of creatures left behind.
The Undead are shattered, incomplete beings that have lost a part of themselves through death. They are divided into three distinct groups: Those that lack their own mind, but possess a body and soul; those that lack their own soul, but possess a mind and body; and those that lack their own body, but possess a soul and mind.
Mindless undead are by far the most common type. They are the zombies, ghouls, and wights. Their bodies are often wracked with decay, bloated with gasses, withered, or physically damaged in other ways. They are drawn to the living as relentless hunters, following only the most basic primal instincts of survival: feed.
The Mindless, however, gain no satiation from feeding on the flesh of the living. Certain anathanatologists believe the mindless long for pleasures they cannot gain in their current state. They cannot touch and they are drawn to those that can. They cannot taste and they are drawn to those that can. Their cannot feel and they are drawn to those that can.
The Mindless can be destroyed by destroying their physical form. This leaves no body for the soul to attach to and it is washed away by ethereal waves. Alternatively, the soul can be attacked directly. This leaves the body intact and this method is preferred as it is more respectful to the original form. On occasion the attached soul can be coerced to release its form, especially if the magic binding it to the body can be broken. Unwilling souls are distressed and angered when trapped in a body that isn’t their own.
Soulless undead are one of the most dangerous types that can be encountered. They are the skeletons, vampires, and liches. Soulless undead are dangerous because they maintain the intelligence of a living creature but lack the compassion. Their emotional sense is dulled and muted leaving only cold logic and stark reality.
Soulless undead are not common, though skeletons are far my common than any other type. The skeletons are often animated from the corpses of soldiers and uses in the same regard. They are not weighed down by their decaying bodies making them faster and significantly more deadly than zombies. They are intelligent, strategic, and capable of communicating and organizing.
Like mindless undead, destroying the body is the easiest way eliminate them as a threat. Like other undead, destroying the magic that binds their mind and body together is also very effective. Certain soulless, especially liches and vampires, are particularly threatening because of how much of their original mind remains. They enjoy their form and are willingly bound to their bodies. Liches, in particular, still have a connection to their soul through their phylactery. This prevents their mind from being wiped away when the body is destroyed.
Formless undead are the forsaken spirits often bound to the material world through magic or force of will. They are the ghosts, banshees, wraiths, and spirits. They have no physical body, but their their mind and soul are still bound. Not having as many senses, their sense of emotion is amplified greatly. Banshees wail in anguish and spirits cry in despair.
Formless undead are nearly unstoppable. Though they are capable of manifesting on the physical plane, they are still ethereal and untouchable by normal means. They are vulnerable to certain magic attacks, however, though many magic effects manifest their energy in the physical plane and thus pass through the formless with no harm. It is best to avoid them at all costs.