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The Undead: Lecture Notes

What follows is a transcription of a lecture on the Undead given by Humact MacLeish and Pathfinder Brom during the events in 111AE on a digsite near the village of Maiden Ery.

So, being that you’re off to fight the Undead scourge – and believe me, no matter what Churchill says you will be fighting them – with the help of Pathfinder Brom here – stand up, man – we’ve put together this little talk on what we know of the undead and the best way to put the beggars back in the ground where they belong. It’s going to be long, so I hope you’re all awake and paying attention – the only exam you’ll get on this is whether you come back alive and in one piece.

We’ll start with a few general notes. The Undead are, without reservation, evil. Oh, some people will tell you that there are various spirits around that are just confused or are protecting something against evil, but believe me, you’re doing them a favour by treating them as evil and putting them out of their misery. People who create the Undead are also, by definition, evil, as if they’re not casting innocents to the Plane of Tortured Souls they’re favoured enough by the Gods of Death to be guaranteed murderous bastards.

The Undead themselves don’t feel pain or any other emotion – if it looks like they’re experiencing either, it’s a trap to get you close enough to kill. All they want to do is kill the living, to the point that all of them can feel if there’s a living person near – don’t rely on any tricks that only work against the eyes, it won’t work. The ones that can think do so in a way that’s so different to us that most spells that work on the mind won’t take, although some miracles will. Doesn’t stop the bastards using those selfsame spells on us though – they can certainly cast from the school of Necromancy and the Principle of Death, often as an innate force of their own twisted natures, and some of them can use other Schools and Paths as well.

The other nasty trick the bastards have is reforming themselves from the pile of mush you’ve just turned them into. At this point, don’t panic – you have about a minute, and the Blessings of the Path of Life will give you longer.

Let’s start off with the mindless undead – the ones that will keep coming until they’re put down.

First up, you’ve got Zombies, your basic shambling corpse. Big, immensely strong, unless you manage to do real damage to them you can whale on them forever without them even noticing. They’re usually slow but determined – once they get moving, they can go through your ranks and do a lot of damage. If you have enough people work in pairs, one to attack from behind and one as bait – if the choice is between making the hit and avoiding being hit, go for the latter.

Then you’ve got Skeletons – fast, vicious, blades will bounce right off them unless you can put in a lot of force so pound on them with maces and staves to break their bones. If they lose their weapons those finger bones are as good as claws, and while they’re weaker than a Zombie they often make up for it by having some skill with their weapons. They’ll also pounce on holes in the line created by Zombies given half a chance.

Next up, your semi-intelligent undead – Ghouls and Shadows mostly.

Ghouls are tricky little bastards, usually made when human-blooded folk start eating bits of other human-blooded folk. Think of them as the Undead’s hunting dogs – they have about that amount of intelligence, they prefer an ambush to an outright attack, and they’re a lot more dangerous in a pack then on their own. Usually quite weak, their main weapon is the ability to Paralyse their targets, either by poisons from their claws or using Necromantic abilities. Your best bet is to stop them moving from a distance then beat them to death before they can move again – being able to dodge their claws can help, but not always, and some of them will use the powers of Death to cut through armour anyway.

You’ll usually only see Shadows at night or in caves – they hate light utterly and will avoid it at all costs. They also tend to be made of shadows rather than being a physical being, so unless you’ve got some magic or the powers of Life or Chaos on your blades you’re better off keeping your distance. If they can get in close enough they’ll drain the strength right out of you, and often back it up with the powers of Death as well.

Intelligent undead are a much nastier breed, and unfortunately there’s a lot of types, most of which look like much ‘softer’ unintelligent ones or even living creatures. Things to look for are pale skin and acting in an intelligent way – otherwise, make sure your scouts and Humacti know exactly what they’re looking for and tell you about it before you get in trouble.

Wights are hard to spot – they look a lot like a very pale normal person. They tend to remember their old life, but don’t expect this to make any difference when it comes to them trying to kill you. They usually have some skill with a weapon, and as well as the powers of Death and Necromancy may also cast from the other Schools of Magic.

Banshee are always female and always look harmless. Don’t believe it for a second – their screams can throw the minds of any nearby into fear and confusion, and they’re another sort that need help from the powers of Life or Magic to do any damage to them as they’re as solid as smoke.

While we’re on the subject of evil bodiless beasties, there’s three sorts of spirits you need to keep an eye out for – Ghosts, Warrior Ghosts and Guardian Spirits. Problem with all three of them is they all look alike, and they can go invisible at will, but someone with training should be able to tell and you can still ‘see’ them with the Sight. The big difference between the three is that Ghosts will simply try to kill you, Warrior Ghosts will possess any dead bodies around, pick up a weapon and try to kill you, and Guardian Spirits will possess anything that they can – including your own patrol members – and try to kill you. The Blessings of Life are your biggest protection here.

You remember what was said earlier about some intelligent undead looking like their unintelligent cohorts? Well, if a Skeleton starts talking to you, it’s probably a Death Knight, and if a Zombie wearing bandages does it it’s probably a Mummy. Both much nastier and better protected than their unintelligent cousins, and both usually capable warriors and casters to boot. They’re also both very likely to need putting down several times before they stay down.

Liches are scum. Before they became undead they were probably powerful Necromancers or favoured Priests of Death, and they don’t lose any of that skill – if any are spotted, make sure that everyone in your patrol that will take it is given a Blessing of Life, as if any of them die around a Lich then chances are they’ll be a Zombie before you know it. They’re another sort that take a lot of putting down repeatedly as well.

Last on the list are Vampires. I don’t know what you’ve heard about Vampires, but if any of them are…romantic *spits* then get that out of your head now. Vampires are killers. They only care about you as a food source or a potential minion – oh, they may talk prettily, but remember that while they’re doing that they’re using the opportunity to get their claws into your mind, and once they’re in they’ll most likely either use you against your friends or persuade you to walk away with them, never to be seen among the living again. They’re creatures of fear and hunger and manipulation, and as well as all that they’re usually adept casters and often not bad with a weapon to boot. Don’t give them a chance – the moment someone identifies one, kill it with the powers of Life and Fire and anything else you have to hand.

So, to bring this to a close – if it’s undead, kill it. Rely on your scouts and Humacti to tell you what things are, and rely on yourselves to know how to respond, because you won’t often get a second chance. If in doubt, fall back on your faith – it may work on some of the bastards at least.