Monday, April 15, 2013

Dealing With The Dead

This is why I love DragonsFoot Forums. so much food for thought.  Sometimes though, the discussions move on in other directions  but I want  to focus on a particular point or another direction, this is why I blog.

A recent few new discussions popped up on whether animating or raising dead is inherently evil and if those raised/animated are evil themselves inherently.  This was also related to another discussion on the whole process of turning undead.

In AD&D 1E/OSRIC, there are three basic types of "dead".  The un-dead, the animated dead and the resurrected dead. 

Animated Dead

According to the core books, animated dead are simply physical bodies that are made to get up and move around.  They have no independent thought process, they have no desire or intent.  they are no more "alive" than a broomstick.  They are classified as "Neutral" because in and of themselves, they are just there, doing what they were made to do.

The PHB lists skeletons and zombies as un-dead and thus able to be turned.  Personally, I think there is a distinction to be made in that zombies and skeletons are not un-dead but only animated dead.  Having said that,   I still include them as being able to be turned by a Cleric, if only because the magic to so falls under necromancy which is historically considered an "evil" form of magic even if it is occasionally performed by someone of good alignment accidentally, unknowingly or with good intentions.

Resurrected Dead

Now we have the resurrected dead, which is often your once slain party member and having been resurrected, are no longer dead, but are alive just as they were before.  They retain the alignment they started out with.

I wonder though, if the process of resurrection BtB isn't overlooking some fun in said resurrection?  Aside from costing a lot of gold pieces, having a powerful enough Cleric around that is willing and able to do it and the loss of a Con point (not to mention rolling against the resurrection chance) what else might happen during a resurrection? To me, there's a lot of room for "oh shit" to happen in the process that goes beyond simply being successful at the attempt.

For example, what are the odds of being resurrected possessed by a demon or some other lost soul and as the PC is being resurrected, they may or may not even realize something else is in their body with them?  Hmmmm, interesting.

What about the possibility of "waking up" and as has been touched on in several books and movies, the once deceased now is affected in a manner that they have new abilities to perceive or otherwise see or have knowledge of the dead?  This could seriously mess with a PC's sanity if they don't learn how to handle it in time.

What is the chance that said Cleric casting the spell might not "oops" slightly resulting in some change in the PC as a consequence of being resurrected.  a born again cannibal perhaps?  or causing people to die at their simple touch (save vs death) but the PC isn't aware of it right away.  Lots of fun stuff that can happen with resurrection.


The un-dead are pretty much inherently evil.  Their goal in un-life is to bring misery, woe, death and destruction to the living.  They are intelligent, self controlled creatures operating under their own willpower and intent.

The un-dead are perhaps the arch-nemesis of the Cleric.  This is what Clerics are made for, to wit, the ability to "turn un-dead" as a regular function.

Some un-dead are able to cause energy drain in a PC by some type of contact  While BtB, this contact is simple and the energy drain effects experience levels,  I think that is ridiculous and instead have a specific act or contact required for energy drain to happen and it affects Con points instead of XP/levels.

Turning Un-Dead

According to BtB, to turn un-dead, the Cleric must hold a holy symbol and focus their attention on the chant or verbal component until the un-dead in question are so "turned". 

According to the DMG, pg 65, the Cleric by default can turn un-dead with success starting with the lowest level of un-dead and if so successful, move to turn the next "level" up of un-dead until they fail at it then are unable to continue the effort after said failure.

The alternative offered is if a high level un-dead has followers along with it, then the DM can say that to turn any, the "Master" un-dead must be turned or none will.

All leading up to add that turning may occur at the same time of missile discharge, spell casting and magic weapon usage.  It doesn't say whether those are things being done by the Cleric at the same time or if the Cleric is able to turn while those things are going on, but I interpret that as the Cleric is not able to turn un-dead while doing those things.  I'll explain later.

Now I come to my questions about turning un-dead. What is really happening here is a result of "turning"?  The books indicate that un-dead that are turned essentially can't hang and are repelled from the area of the Cleric, seeking to flee elsewhere.

There is some limited usefulness to having this result, but it pretty much only delays the danger.   I have a table for turning.  for animated dead,  I have it that one of two things can happen if success is rolled for turning.  Animated dead can;

a) animation is ended, they just drop like rocks and do not rise again.

b) are "deflected" like a pinball hitting a bumper as they do not "think" in terms to consciously flee, they simply are bounced away from the Cleric to some other area.

Now, when it comes to un-dead, again,  I have customized it so that based on level of the un-dead and the level of the cleric these possibilities can happen;

a) if the Cleric is at least 2 levels above the undead, the undead are simply destroyed.

b) if the Cleric is at least 1 level above the un-dead, said un-dead are permanently repelled and will go find new haunts if able to leave at all.  Un-dead Elvis has left the building.

c) if the Cleric is at least same level of un-dead, the un-dead are simply repelled from the vicinity.

I think this way makes things more interesting when we play the turning game.

Going back to the being able to do things while turning un-dead, like firing missile weapons.   I said earlier that my interpretation is that Clerics are not doing these things themselves, only able to turn while those things are happening.  Why?  Mostly because Clerics BtB aren't able to use pointed weapons such as darts, arrows, bolts, etc.. So they can't be firing them at all, let alone while turning right? 

Well maybe.  I'm also the guy who allows Clerics to use the favored weapons of their deity.  So if Athena prefers a Bow and arrow or a crossbow (just for example) then a Cleric of Athena can use those weapons in my game.  However, because turning is also affected by initiative, it is an act in and of itself and thus again,  I see it that the Cleric is putting all their attention into turning and not on firing anything.

Anyway, that's where I am in terms of the various dead.

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