Realm of the Undead?

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Dwimmermount BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2012-04-05 12:37
Realm of the Undead?

One of the realms I am interested in making for my campaign is a High level Necromancers realm.

Has anyone got any experience of doing this?

Using the slave rules here: -

and treating the cost for slaves as the cost of maintaining an undead realm? 

How would one express the use of undead labour to achieve things?

Morale becomes non-existant? ... or does it have some other effect over the undead inhabitants?

Mass creation of undead via the Undead Legion ritual is the most obvious method to generate the initial group of undead?

Use some kind of Nomad horde rules to represent a moving army of undead?

Is the exercise even worth doing? ... or is it just a simple case of handwaving an undead realm into existance without mechanics to "support" it?

Any guidance or input would be helpful!










Joined: 2018-02-09 09:54

IANAA, and I do not have experience with necromancer realms, but I'll take a stab at it. 

Firstly, I don't think an purely undead realm would function at all like a normal realm. Your subjects would not need to farm to sustain themselves, and couldn't even if they wanted too (since they require simple and specific instructions). They likewise couldn't be skilled laborers or craftsmen. They would just stand around waiting for their master to command them. 

However, I think you could have a realm where undead beings supplement living populations as slave laborers. I would say that a skeleton or zombie would function as an unskilled laborer, and require one living skilled laborer to lead each three undead (D@W page 50). The tricky part is that undead can only be controlled "by the spellcaster that animated them, through control undead magic, or by chaotic clerics turning them with a “D” result" (D@W page 32). So this would mean you would need legions of spellcasters to make your undead slaves useful. Alternatively, you could rule that non-magic users can control undead in your setting. 

For morale, I would say that for undead, the morale is meaningless, but that it can apply to any living "handlers". 

Undead Legion looks like it should work for raising a large number of undead. It will probably need to be cast on new corpses regularly to make up for those lost to accident or any kind of "spell entropy", since the undead won't replace themselves. If the necromancer has other necromancers under him, they could be tasked with replacing the lost undead. 

Undead armies could be treated as a normal army, aside from the special considerations mentioned in D@W pages 31-32 and 38.

Joined: 2015-07-18 18:59


What kind of undead are you considering? Skeletons and Zombies are probably incapable of many skills that make a regular peasant family profitable. For example, fruit picking. IMO, mindless undead would be unable to differentiate between unripe, rotten and fresh produce. Similarily, most forms of undead would probably be fairly alarming to most kinds of animals. As noted above supervision becomes a question. Now... milling operation... that is interesting. Attach the undead to a mill and watch it turn the machinery. This would tend to suggest a hybrid realm. Peasant families do the agriculture and undead provide mechanical energy. But the moral would probably suffer. I would imagine that even beastman families would probably object to undead being in any kind of proximity. 


Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2013-01-04 12:56

Taking Maledict's point a little further, the primary benefit of undead as a labour force is that they don't tire and don't consume resources (though they do presumably wear out after a while). They actually have a lot more use as a motive source for engines than they do as traditional labourers: If an undead can turn a crank or capistan, it can be used to pump water, raise and lower elevators, power conveyor belts and signalling stations and human-steered horseless wagons, maybe even combine harvesters... Basically, if you can build a simple human-powered machine, a skeleton can power it indefinitely.

I guess you could model this by allowing your skilled artisans (wagon makers, smiths, etc.) to create machines whose value counts as agricultural investment - in that each 1000 gp worth of such constructions would allow 1d10*5 undead to be pressed into service as a productive source of motive power, or something. (That's assuming undead are freely available, of course; If you have to pay extra to create them or bring them under your control before they can be harnessed, that cost should also be counted towards agricultural investment.)

Or I guess you could create a spell that temporarily grants a mindless undead creature the ability to use the craft and labour proficiencies it posessed in life. Given how spells can already be used to generate profit to some extent, it wouldn't be that hard to balance.

Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters ContributorBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2012-07-11 23:23

Aside from the physics of using undead as a power source, eternal forced physical labor seems like something normally reserved for the 9 hells.  If there are devils in your cosmology, there's no way they're going to take you horning in on their territory laying down :-P

Joined: 2018-02-14 22:07

Aside from the physics of using undead as a power source, eternal forced physical labor seems like something normally reserved for the 9 hells.  If there are devils in your cosmology, there's no way they're going to take you horning in on their territory laying down :-P


Nah, it's a shared labor deal. The devils get the souls, the necromancer gets the bodies. Win-win. ;)