How often do dead people spontaneously rise from the grave?


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This has been bothering me for a while. Obviously the real answer is "Rule of Cool," but from a worldbuilding perspective, executing a bandit that rapes and murders his victims is actually against your best interests, because he might become a guecubu and destroy your entire town.

Likewise, does every lecherous opium-smoking drunkard that doesn't understand "no means no, no matter how drunk I am" become an eyeless totenmaske? Obviously not, but at least some portion of such people do, because that's where they come from.

Some undead don't have this problem. In a world where gods are obviously real, there aren't nearly as many heretics as there would be in a world where apostasy doesn't cost you considerable supernatural power, so the huecuva is already quite limited in a way that already falls under "Rule of Cool." But most undead don't require you to have PC class levels to become one, and can thus pop up almost anywhere.

One thing that also struck me was how few ways a good character could become undead (sans create spawn abilities). If peace, forgiveness, and mercy are part of your character, you aren't coming back as a revenant or poltergeist. But if you're a spiteful bastard? Say hello to new natural weapons and supernatural abilities.

I suppose overall this might work to the greater good as a form of deterrence, since getting away with betrayal or murder is much harder. Still, Pathfinder undead are inherently evil, and this ad hoc system of checks and balances spawns evil creatures in the process of punishing evil. Some of these creatures are indiscriminate killers and perpetuate their own evil. That's just messed up.

But back to my original point.

Everybody is the center of their own personal universe. Given the chance, a sizable portion of the world's population would jump at the chance to avenge their own murder, or haunt the crap out of important people until they've ensured their family's financial security.

And of the portion of the population that is evil, amoral, or narcissistic, pretty much all of them would rather rise from the grave than burn in Hell, be eaten by a cacodaemon, or become a maggot cowering under a rock in the Abyss.

So who chooses? How common are they? Is it a supernatural lottery? Not every undead is there to be destroyed by the player characters. Some exist because of the self-consistent application of the assumptions of a fantasy setting, even when that means lawful authorities in the course of executing their duty accidentally empower a heinous criminal with the means to destroy their entire town and dance over their corpses. Hell, some of those corpses might rise from the grave themselves; revenants can still function when their murderers are undead.

On a related note, Vaarsuvius's comment in the final panel of strip 163 remains one of the loudest laughs I have ever received from the series, not to mention poking fun at the absurdities inherent to this exact subject.


While the rules, of course, are open enough to interpretation that you can decide for your ownself; I think the term "choose" is incorrect when thinking of the dead rising.

The amoral punk looking to avoid life as a maggot in the Abyss doesn't "choose" to rise as a ghoul. It's a punishment inflicted by the gods, at their discretion. If you don't like the "divine interference" approach, it has to do with how bad his "sins" were, not how much he wants to avoid maggotry. Or, a combination of the power of his drives and the ambient levels of negative energy around his gravesite.

Rarely, though, is it a conscious decision by the soul of the corpse. Consider the ghost, the first line in the bestiary stipulates that the soul "is not allowed to rest". Not that it "doesn't choose to rest". So some outside agency or circumstance has chosen that particular soul to spend its time trapped on the material plane.

The other catch for those evil guys trying to avoid maggotry, most of the undead no longer possess their original soul. The dearly departed are, in fact, a maggot down in the abyss, while something else is going for a joyride in their old body. As always, there are exceptions & it's up to GM interpretation.

None of the Pathfinder books has a detailed and definitive dissertation on the nature of souls, death, undeath, and the afterlife. And frankly, it should stay that way. Because without it, the decision is yours.


One thing to keep in mind is that your hit die don't change when you res. So a 1 hit die hobo isn't going to rise as one of the stronger undead. So its gated by how strong you were in life.


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Thelemic_Noun wrote:
If peace, forgiveness, and mercy are part of your character, you aren't coming back as a revenant or poltergeist. But if you're a spiteful bastard? Say hello to new natural weapons and supernatural abilities.

My take on it: When someone "comes back" as an undead, it's not the original person coming back, but a foul corruption of their body fueled by a mockery of a soul.

The evil person doesn't get magic goodies for being evil.


Distant Scholar wrote:
Thelemic_Noun wrote:
If peace, forgiveness, and mercy are part of your character, you aren't coming back as a revenant or poltergeist. But if you're a spiteful bastard? Say hello to new natural weapons and supernatural abilities.

My take on it: When someone "comes back" as an undead, it's not the original person coming back, but a foul corruption of their body fueled by a mockery of a soul.

The evil person doesn't get magic goodies for being evil.

In general, this is my take on it as well. For example, the wight is formed when an "evil spirit" enters the body of a person who experienced a "violent death", or was "extremely malevolent" in life.

However, you have to be careful not to over-apply this interpretation. There are specific undead where it stipulates that the soul/mind of the deceased is still present. Ghosts being the most obvious example of "spontaneously formed" undead.

Ghouls and ghasts hold the middle ground, they are intelligent undead. But, the bestiary is silent on whether or not they maintain their original mind and if the "soul" is present. I'm inclined to argue against the soul's presence, but in favor of the original mind, for the "rule of cool" argument. Whether the loss of a soul is a concern to that mind is an individual question. "Classic Horrors Revisited" seems to imply that it's an entirely new mind, but I didn't read word-for-word to verify.


It will always depend on that particular situation and the person. That is the best answer you will get.

Example:

If you kill John just as he is about to secure the Mcguffin that will allow him to save his dying wife his soul may be tortured due to fact that he died just when he was at the point of success.

If you kill John after he saves his wife he may still be heartbroken that he did not get to spend the rest of his life with her, but not enough to not move on.


Thelemic_Noun wrote:
This has been bothering me for a while. Obviously the real answer is "Rule of Cool," but from a worldbuilding perspective, executing a bandit that rapes and murders his victims is actually against your best interests, because he might become a guecubu and destroy your entire town.

Well, in real life, executing a bandit that rapes and murders his victims is also against your best interests, because he might have a brother that will swear vengeance against you and your entire country and fly a plane or a dragon or something into one of your buildings.

I submit that, even in Pathfinder, the former happens less often than the latter.


My feeling is that flavor text is usually just the ideas generally accepted by society and many scholars, and may or may not be accurate. People try to understand the things that make life scary and determine that it must be murderers and rapists coming back from the dead to harass them. I usually assume that the person who died may have their soul pulled back (or their body possessed) by the collective fears and malevolence of society. So I would say, the more fearful, hateful, and generally negative the society is, the more likely undead will spontaneously rise.

But you make a very good point, if being undead makes you stronger, then why not always try to become a vampire, or something. Historically, local gods, or saints have been common, just like stories of local ghosts and monsters. Perhaps it would also be appropriate to assume that good people can also return from the afterlife to perform benevolent deeds or watch over loved ones.

In the end, I think that, whether undead are common or rare, good or evil, simple or complex should be determined by whatever makes your game the most fun for everyone involved.


relativemass wrote:


But you make a very good point, if being undead makes you stronger, then why not always try to become a vampire, or something.

Because there are lots of things more fun than just sitting around saying "Hurg, look at how strong I am."? Being a vampire traditionally has cut you off from most of things that are actually fun to do. The cool sexy Twilight-Lestat-Dracula version of vampirism is extremely modern and not (IMHO) well supported in Pathfinder.

There is actually a medieval tradition -- mostly literary, I hope -- of the "saints of Hell," basically former mortals who so personified a specific type of evil or sin that Satan spared them from torment and made them part of the management team, acting as tempter devils to snare more souls (because who knows more about sexual perversion than Caligula, et cetera...). A further part of this tradition is that some people, when they realized just how far they had strayed from the True Path, would actively seek to specialize in some particular sin, hoping thereby to be spared the fires of the damned. These people might be regarded in some sense as "people trying to come back as undead"....

But by and large, undeath is not something normal people would want. It's a means to an end, but it also generally makes the end itself not worth pursuing. Unless you really want power for its own sake rather than the pleasures that power gives you,... it's a fool's bargain.


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Assuming a town's torch and pitchfork-wielding riot managed to brutally kill the level 15 chaotic evil necromancer that lives a stones throw away, I'm pretty sure (can't recall at the moment) there's a spell that specifically prevents them from rising if they're given a proper burial.

In the same scenario, in the bloody battle that ensued, several commoners would likely be killed in the process. Even though way they are justified, they would be full of rage and agony when they died, so perhaps if the necromancer did reanimate, some commoners may reanimate when their life's biggest accomplishment (dying to destroy a great evil) suddenly becomes 'unfinished business', resulting in a battle that will rage nightly for eternity: ghosts vs the necromancer wight, or whatever is CR appropriate.

BTW, thanks for the inspiration. I'm totally using this in my homebrew :D


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Thelemic_Noun wrote:
This has been bothering me for a while. Obviously the real answer is "Rule of Cool," but from a worldbuilding perspective, executing a bandit that rapes and murders his victims is actually against your best interests, because he might become a guecubu and destroy your entire town.

Something else to consider: Historically, medieval villagers were aware of this issue. If they did run up against some hideous criminal that they considered likely to rise as undead, there were certain precautions that could and would be taken to prevent this. Staking the heart of the corpse is probably the best known,.... but, yes, archeologists have uncovered graves that have obviously had some sort of ritual performed upon them (staking the heart, binding/chaining the corpse, burying the head separately, whatever) that was out of keeping with the normal burial traditions but in keeping with what we know of folk monster legends.

I suspect any area that knows about totenmaskes also knows about cutting off their hands and burying them with a sprig of rosemary (or whatever).


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Thelemic_Noun wrote:
This has been bothering me for a while. Obviously the real answer is "Rule of Cool," but from a worldbuilding perspective, executing a bandit that rapes and murders his victims is actually against your best interests, because he might become a guecubu and destroy your entire town.

Something else to consider: Historically, medieval villagers were aware of this issue. If they did run up against some hideous criminal that they considered likely to rise as undead, there were certain precautions that could and would be taken to prevent this. Staking the heart of the corpse is probably the best known,.... but, yes, archeologists have uncovered graves that have obviously had some sort of ritual performed upon them (staking the heart, binding/chaining the corpse, burying the head separately, whatever) that was out of keeping with the normal burial traditions but in keeping with what we know of folk monster legends.

I suspect any area that knows about totenmaskes also knows about cutting off their hands and burying them with a sprig of rosemary (or whatever).

The reason I chose guecubus (bestiary 3 pg 145) as an example is because it specifically says in the description that folk rituals actually end up causing the criminal to rise as a guecubu (whereas if you don't use the rituals, it becomes a wight or whatever)


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Does cremation stop people from rising from their graves or is there some kind of undead ash monster around? Because that sounds like a pretty cool monster if you ask me, but it'd make commoners' lives a lot more difficult.


Lemmy wrote:
Does cremation stop people from rising from their graves or is there some kind of undead ash monster around? Because that sounds like a pretty cool monster if you ask me, but it'd make commoners' lives a lot more difficult.

Guecubus arise when a criminal's body is burned, the bones ground into dust, and the whole pile hurled into a river or forest.


Still easy enough to justify by assuming the ritual works most of the time. If 95% of the time the ritual works, I think your average peasant village would rather face a guecubu every century than a spectre every five years.


Thelemic_Noun wrote:
Lemmy wrote:
Does cremation stop people from rising from their graves or is there some kind of undead ash monster around? Because that sounds like a pretty cool monster if you ask me, but it'd make commoners' lives a lot more difficult.
Guecubus arise when a criminal's body is burned, the bones ground into dust, and the whole pile hurled into a river or forest.

Ah, I see... Yeah... That might be a problem... What if they hurl the pile somewhere else?

I guess in a world where the walking dead are real, pretty much every village needs an Adept or two to bless the cemetery or take whatever precautions are necessary to avoid undead creatures.

Also, I'd say an individual needs some remarkable drive to spontaneously come back as any sort of undead creature, so unless you have a necromancer toying around, I'd say 98% of low-level dead people stay dead.


Lemmy wrote:
Thelemic_Noun wrote:
Lemmy wrote:
Does cremation stop people from rising from their graves or is there some kind of undead ash monster around? Because that sounds like a pretty cool monster if you ask me, but it'd make commoners' lives a lot more difficult.
Guecubus arise when a criminal's body is burned, the bones ground into dust, and the whole pile hurled into a river or forest.

Ah, I see... Yeah... That might be a problem... What if they hurl the pile somewhere else?

I guess in a world where the walking dead are real, pretty much every village needs an Adept or two to bless the cemetery or take whatever precautions are necessary to avoid undead creatures.

Also, I'd say an individual needs some remarkable drive to spontaneously come back as any sort of undead creature, so unless you have a necromancer toying around, I'd say 98% of low-level dead people stay dead.

Higher than that. I'd suggest we're talking about one in ten thousand or fewer coming back as undead. Bear in mind that a death rate of 3% (30 deaths per thousand people) isn't unreasonable in Golarion -- even that might be low -- and that would mean three deaths in an average village per year. If one dead person in fifty came back as undead, this would mean that every village would be facing a wight every 15 years or thereabouts, and a small town would have a wight episode every year. If you consider how much work people tend to put into flood prevention, events that happen every fifty years or so,.... how much more work would be put into wight prevention when they happen every October?


Jesus and Lazarus for sure. Caskets that raise during floods. Those count?


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Bear in mind that a death rate of 3% (30 deaths per thousand people) isn't unreasonable in Golarion -- even that might be low -- and that would mean three deaths in an average village per year.

Does that mean 97% of Golarion's population becomes immortal at some point in their lives?

Sorry, I see what you mean. I just couldn't resist the joke. ^^

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In the Midnight setting the material plane had been severed from heaven and ALL dead came back as undead unless prevented from doing so, so pretty much all cultured had some kind of anti-undead rituals- cremation, cutting heads off and filling mouth w consecrated earth, dwarves crushed bodies under huge stone slabs. Golarion isn't that bad, but it still seems like most villages would combine superstition and low level divine prevention into common burial rituals, especially for nasty, potentially coming back as angry undead folk.


Havoq wrote:

Jesus and Lazarus for sure. Caskets that raise during floods. Those count?

Lazarus wasn't spontaneous.


Lots of burial and funeral rites were to either appease the dead or to help it get where it is suppose to go. That was a major reason for wakes, have a party in the dead's honor so don't haunt and kill the living.
About the OP's question on why one person comes back and one doesn't, my take it is due to several, often contrary factors that when mixed together becomes "whatever is best for the narative


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Higher than that. I'd suggest we're talking about one in ten thousand or fewer coming back as undead. Bear in mind that a death rate of 3% (30 deaths per thousand people) isn't unreasonable in Golarion -- even that might be low -- and that would mean three deaths in an average village per year. If one dead person in fifty came back as undead, this would mean that every village would be facing a wight every 15 years or thereabouts, and a small town would have a wight episode every year. If you consider how much work people tend to put into flood prevention, events that happen every fifty years or so,.... how much more work would be put into wight prevention when they happen every October?

About 10,000? So there are about 2.5 undead incidents per year in a metropolis? Or did I muck up the calculation?

2.5 new undead per year sounds about right if PCs are the only people destroying them, but a little low if adventurers are commonplace.


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Thelemic_Noun wrote:


About 10,000? So there are about 2.5 undead incidents per year in a metropolis? Or did I muck up the calculation?

Fewer than that, I should think. One undead incident per 10,000 deaths: A metropolis has about 25,000 or more people,... call it 33,000 to allow for "spillage and ullage," so 1000 deaths per year, so one new "natural" undead per decade.

Of course, you'd also get "unnatural" undead, either undead created by other undead, or undead deliberately created by spellcasters, curses, and whatnot. Bear in mind that this metropolis has 8th level spellcasting "available," meaning there is at least one person in this city able and willing to cast "create greater undead" for hire at any given time. This to me suggests that he is likely to cast it for himself from time to time....


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Lemmy wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Bear in mind that a death rate of 3% (30 deaths per thousand people) isn't unreasonable in Golarion -- even that might be low -- and that would mean three deaths in an average village per year.
Does that mean 97% of Golarion's population becomes immortal at some point in their lives?

Temporarily immortal, yes. Almost all of the population spends nearly their entire lifespan not dying.


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Orfamay Quest wrote:


Of course, you'd also get "unnatural" undead, either undead created by other undead, or undead deliberately created by spellcasters, curses, and whatnot. Bear in mind that this metropolis has 8th level spellcasting "available," meaning there is at least one person in this city able and willing to cast "create greater undead" for hire at any given time. This to me suggests that he is likely to cast it for himself from time to time....

Further to previous. A scroll of create greater undead costs 6000gp plus the costs of the material components of the spell, 50gp per hit die. So 7000gp will buy me a scroll that will create up to a 20HD undead.

I can buy one of these "off the shelf" at a well stocked magic store in a large city.

Out of a city of 25,000, are there two people angry enough and rich enough to spend 7000gp on a revenge fantasy each year?


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Lemmy wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Bear in mind that a death rate of 3% (30 deaths per thousand people) isn't unreasonable in Golarion -- even that might be low -- and that would mean three deaths in an average village per year.
Does that mean 97% of Golarion's population becomes immortal at some point in their lives?
Temporarily immortal, yes. Almost all of the population spends nearly their entire lifespan not dying.

Heh... Good answer!


In places on earth where the dead returning was seen as a legitimate concern, steps were taken to keep these "revenants" from rising. The ones I know about are:
Burying a corpse of a criminal at a crossroads, so if they arise they will be lost/ paralyzed with indecision and not make it back to you.
Staking/nailing a copse down into its grave.
burying with a handful of beads, beans or flax seeds. When the revenant awoke at night it would be compelled to count the seeds until morning when it becomes a corpse again.
Beheading the body and burying the head by the feet.
Binding the body with cords.


Brambleman wrote:

In places on earth where the dead returning was seen as a legitimate concern, steps were taken to keep these "revenants" from rising. The ones I know about are:

Burying a corpse of a criminal at a crossroads, so if they arise they will be lost/ paralyzed with indecision and not make it back to you.
Staking/nailing a copse down into its grave.
burying with a handful of beads, beans or flax seeds. When the revenant awoke at night it would be compelled to count the seeds until morning when it becomes a corpse again.
Beheading the body and burying the head by the feet.
Binding the body with cords.

Barring the presence of a cleric, adept, or expert with ranks in Knowledge (religion), the average mob has an average Knowledge (Religion) modifier of 0.

As such, unless the DM chooses to set the DC for determining an effective means of preventing the rise of undead to be 10 or lower, the villagers may have rites and rituals. But that doesn't mean they're effective. Or properly executed.


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One thing about living in Absalom I never could stomach, all the da** undead.


BillyGoat wrote:


Barring the presence of a cleric, adept, or expert with ranks in Knowledge (religion), the average mob has an average Knowledge (Religion) modifier of 0.

As such, unless the DM chooses to set the DC for determining an effective means of preventing the rise of undead to be 10 or lower, the villagers may have rites and rituals. But that doesn't mean they're effective. Or properly executed.

No, but the village that guessed wrongly 500 years ago no longer exists. The village that guessed rightly does. Or the village that paid attention to the adept who lived there long ago. Traditions are often effective ways of preserving knowledge long after the original events have been forgotten. You may not know who the steward to Richard Whiting, the 16th century Bishop of Glastonbury, was, but I'll bet you've heard of Little Jack Horner.

All it really would take would be one cleric five hundred years ago and people could still be pouring handfuls of peas into the coffins of suspected murderers and burying them with a red macrame fishing net. Or whatever.


The Hallow spell is an option. It's pretty high level, but in fairly civilized areas, one could imagine either a circuit riding highish level cleric who goes around cast Hallow on new churches and burial sites, etc.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
BillyGoat wrote:


Barring the presence of a cleric, adept, or expert with ranks in Knowledge (religion), the average mob has an average Knowledge (Religion) modifier of 0.

As such, unless the DM chooses to set the DC for determining an effective means of preventing the rise of undead to be 10 or lower, the villagers may have rites and rituals. But that doesn't mean they're effective. Or properly executed.

No, but the village that guessed wrongly 500 years ago no longer exists. The village that guessed rightly does. Or the village that paid attention to the adept who lived there long ago. Traditions are often effective ways of preserving knowledge long after the original events have been forgotten. You may not know who the steward to Richard Whiting, the 16th century Bishop of Glastonbury, was, but I'll bet you've heard of Little Jack Horner.

All it really would take would be one cleric five hundred years ago and people could still be pouring handfuls of peas into the coffins of suspected murderers and burying them with a red macrame fishing net. Or whatever.

While you're not wrong, you're still talking about knowledge, as represented by a knowledge skill. The townsfolk's ability to apply those traditions and folklore are still measured in the mechanics of the game by a Knowledge skill. You might allow a Knowledge (History) or Knowledge (local) check, in lieu of a Knowledge (religion), but someone still has to recall (know) the legend, and understand (know) how to apply its lessons.

Honestly, I actually like the idea of recalling, with knowledge (local), how two farmers and a cleric put down the last uprising of Vlad's undead horde five hundred years ago.

And while that puts it closer to the reach of the masses, it's still less sure fire than just assuming that any folklore works, the way some seem to in this thread. After all, five hundred years is plenty of time to forget whether it's "Klaatu verata nicto" or "Klaatu verata *cough, clear throat*".


... and pretty expensive (1000gp), but it lasts forever and it's the sort of thing one could save up for. Or that a sufficiently anti-undead church would subsidize from the mothership.

Definitely an option.


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It happens as frequently as the story requires it.


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BillyGoat wrote:


While you're not wrong, you're still talking about knowledge, as represented by a knowledge skill.

I don't believe I am.

Quote:
The townsfolk's ability to apply those traditions and folklore are still measured in the mechanics of the game by a Knowledge skill.

Citation, please?

I don't believe anyone needs to understand the purpose behind the legend. They simply need to follow the dictates of tradition. Ethnologists have catalogued literally thousands of folk traditions across the world that have been followed for hundreds of years "just because." Morris dancing is a good example; the actual origins have been lost, but given the ritualistic aspect and its association with the May Day holiday, I'd be very surprised if there wasn't an origin in folk religion or folk magic.

Obviously, in our world, it's just a fun dance. But in a world where dancing and pounding sticks together scares away evil spirits, you don't need to understand why you're doing it to make the spirits go away.

500 years before present: 'You need to dance wearing bells and hit sticks together to keep grues away."
400 years before present: "Granny said we need to dance wearing bells and hit sticks together, but I don't remember why."
300 years before present: "Hey, tonight's the night we do that fun dancing with bells and sticks tradition!"
200 years before present: "COME ONE AND ALL TO THE SPRING BELL-AND-STICK DANCE FESTIVAL!"
100 years before present: "You know, this bell-and-stick festival is so old-fashioned. Let's reimagine it without the bells and sticks."
Present : "Didn't there used to be a village here?"//"Yes, but it was wiped out by a grue about seventy years ago."

That's a good long run for operating completely on tradition without comprehension.


You can follow a tradition without understanding it. A knowledge skill implies understanding the reason behind a tradition. The villager may not understand why when someone is buried they are wrapped up in a sheet, but he does it anyways. The cleric on the other hand will know why he is doing it. That may be the reason behind any spontaneous undead. Maybe undead only arise when the ritual is not performed, or not performed correctly. Also may villages have some form of clergy. It may not be an adventuring cleric, and he may not have any spell casting at all. Also the rituals for burial can be considered common knowledge so they could be made untrained.


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If even one spawn-creating undead rises a year in a metropolis you have a problem. For example, if some poor hobo was beaten, tortured, then murdered in a back alleyway by an old child abusing rogue so that he could take his last dock dumpling and then he returned as a wight...

Now we have a hobo-wight who has a baller Stealth check. He can slink around the city and do as he pleases. So maybe he decides to take vengeance, or maybe he's the sort that just goes mad from his immortality. Regardless, your average citizen only has 1-2 HD. All he has to do is slap a few people in the head with his slam attack and bam, wights everywhere. Each person slain by a wight rises in 1d4 rounds, which means if a wight really wanted to screw with people he could just wander through a market square and slap people in the back of the head and keep moving through the crowd.

Wightocalypse.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
BillyGoat wrote:


While you're not wrong, you're still talking about knowledge, as represented by a knowledge skill.

I don't believe I am.

Quote:
The townsfolk's ability to apply those traditions and folklore are still measured in the mechanics of the game by a Knowledge skill.

Citation, please?

Pathfinder Core Rulebook, pages 99 & 100 wrote:

You are educated in a field of study and can answer both simple and complex questions...

* Arcana (ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, constructs, dragons, magical beasts)
...
* Local (legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions humanoids)
...
* Religion (gods and goddesses, mythic history, ecclesiastic tradition, holy symbols, undead
[b]Check:[b/] Answering a question within your field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions).
You can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities.

How to keep a ghoul from forming is definitely a question of:

1. identifying the monster (knowledge religion) and then
2. Recalling either magical traditions (knowledge arcana), folk traditions (knowledge local), or ecclesiastic traditions (knowledge religion) that can prevent their rising from the grave.

Looking at Table 4-6, we can even see such examples as:
"Know a common rumor or local tradition" is a DC 15 Knowledge (Local) check
"Know common mythology and tenets" is a DC 15 Knowledge (Religion) check

Orfamay Quest wrote:
I don't believe anyone needs to understand the purpose behind the legend. They simply need to follow the dictates of tradition. Ethnologists have catalogued literally thousands of folk traditions across the world that have been followed for hundreds of years "just because." Morris dancing is a good example; the actual origins have been lost, but given the ritualistic aspect and its association with the May Day holiday, I'd be very surprised if there wasn't an origin in folk religion or folk magic.

Knowing the tradition is covered by the Knowledge skill, as outlined above. If you, as a GM, don't want to use the knowledge skill to represent knowledge, you're free to do so. Just warn your players not to bother with them, first.


Riggler wrote:
It happens as frequently as the story requires it.

e.g "Rule of Cool," as I mentioned in my first post. I'm trying to get a handle on what the baseline is before I change it to fit the needs of the story.


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Riggler wrote:
It happens as frequently as the story requires it.

So my 10 ranks in Profession(Statistician) means nothing to you!?


Ashiel wrote:

If even one spawn-creating undead rises a year in a metropolis you have a problem. For example, if some poor hobo was beaten, tortured, then murdered in a back alleyway by an old child abusing rogue so that he could take his last dock dumpling and then he returned as a wight...

Now we have a hobo-wight who has a baller Stealth check. He can slink around the city and do as he pleases. So maybe he decides to take vengeance, or maybe he's the sort that just goes mad from his immortality. Regardless, your average citizen only has 1-2 HD. All he has to do is slap a few people in the head with his slam attack and bam, wights everywhere. Each person slain by a wight rises in 1d4 rounds, which means if a wight really wanted to screw with people he could just wander through a market square and slap people in the back of the head and keep moving through the crowd.

Wightocalypse.

Sweet Jeebus you're right. Crowds are difficult terrain, so nobody's outrunning the wight. Corpses don't hinder movement, so he can just keep on trucking.

True, your standard wight could be killed by a squad of guardsmen with crossbows, but it would take rapid response to kill them all before they started fanning out and became impossible to box in. At that point, only clerics or adventurers could possibly contain the damage.


Thelemic_Noun wrote:

Sweet Jeebus you're right. Crowds are difficult terrain, so nobody's outrunning the wight. Corpses don't hinder movement, so he can just keep on trucking.

True, your standard wight could be killed by a squad of guardsmen with crossbows, but it would take rapid response to kill them all before they started fanning out and became impossible to box in. At that point, only clerics or adventurers could possibly contain the damage.

This is why you don't go incorporeal in a major city, and you never, ever cast Shadow Projection.


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Thelemic_Noun wrote:
Ashiel wrote:

If even one spawn-creating undead rises a year in a metropolis you have a problem. For example, if some poor hobo was beaten, tortured, then murdered in a back alleyway by an old child abusing rogue so that he could take his last dock dumpling and then he returned as a wight...

Now we have a hobo-wight who has a baller Stealth check. He can slink around the city and do as he pleases. So maybe he decides to take vengeance, or maybe he's the sort that just goes mad from his immortality. Regardless, your average citizen only has 1-2 HD. All he has to do is slap a few people in the head with his slam attack and bam, wights everywhere. Each person slain by a wight rises in 1d4 rounds, which means if a wight really wanted to screw with people he could just wander through a market square and slap people in the back of the head and keep moving through the crowd.

Wightocalypse.

Sweet Jeebus you're right. Crowds are difficult terrain, so nobody's outrunning the wight. Corpses don't hinder movement, so he can just keep on trucking.

True, your standard wight could be killed by a squad of guardsmen with crossbows, but it would take rapid response to kill them all before they started fanning out and became impossible to box in. At that point, only clerics or adventurers could possibly contain the damage.

Undead are funny that way. Each wight propogates more wights which propogate more wights. See, IF wights are mindless killers (as a lot of undead are - perhaps wrongly - supposed to be) then the wight would slam 1 commoner who in 6-24 seconds spawns as a new wight. During that 6-24 seconds the first wight has slapped a few more people. Then each wight jumps up and slaps some more people, and you have exponential wight spawning. And if you kill the leader, then all the wights become full-power wights.

But Shadows (the CR 3 kind) are worse. They are incorporeal and can travel unseen through the ground and the like. At night when people are asleep and helpless they can slip into their houses undetected (they make no sounds, have no scent, etc). At which point they can coup de grace some poor commoner, possibly starting with the children (who have lower Strength scores most likely). Once you have about 3 shadows hovering around a sleeping victim, the coup de grace is not going to be survived. A single shadow can turn an entire village into a ghost town overnight.

We can deduce that since wights and shadows are intelligent, they must be letting us live out of a choice. It would be effortless for a shadow to travel from place to place destroying the lives of countless villagers and forming an army of life-hating strength-sucking fiends. So...why don't they?

It is perhaps a question best left to scholars and undead sympathizers. It confuses those who would see undead put to the sword. Why do these seemingly evil creatures allow us to live? Well perhaps the folktales aren't as accurate as we'd like to believe. Ghouls are supposedly evil monsters for example, but we know from their descriptions that all they really want is to be left alone (and don't even like fresh meat, prefering the long since dead).

The reason you can sleep soundly at night...is because the shadows will it so and see fit to allow you to go on living.


Ashiel wrote:
We can deduce that since wights and shadows are intelligent, they must be letting us live out of a choice. It would be effortless for a shadow to travel from place to place destroying the lives of countless villagers and forming an army of life-hating strength-sucking fiends. So...why don't they?

Erroneous conclusion. You fail out of wizarding/cleric/god(?) school.


Shadowpocalypse!


I chalk it up to rarity and fear of reprisal if they suddenly go through a metropolis to turn everyone. A thorp or hamlet though? Fresh meat.


Drachasor wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
We can deduce that since wights and shadows are intelligent, they must be letting us live out of a choice. It would be effortless for a shadow to travel from place to place destroying the lives of countless villagers and forming an army of life-hating strength-sucking fiends. So...why don't they?
Erroneous conclusion. You fail out of wizarding/cleric/god(?) school.

Can you explain why? Shadows are not bound to a particular location and they are strong willed and intelligent. Sentiently so. For example:

PRD wrote:
The sinister shadow skirts the border between the gloom of darkness and the harsh truth of light. The shadow prefers to haunt ruins where civilization has moved on, where it hunts living creatures foolish enough to stumble into its territory. The shadow is an undead horror, and as such has no goals or outwardly visible motivations other than to sap life and vitality from living beings.

It notes them as an undead horror with no visible motivations other than to sap life and vitality from living beings. Except for some reason they actively avoid the living, preferring to haunt ruins where civilization has moved on. Very strange for a creature that is smart enough to know how to find all those lovely life-bags to suck dry. Why then does it choose to hang out in places that fell to ruin and lack life-bags?

Though they are seemingly unmotivated, clearly an underlying motivation must be there. They are not mindless undead nor constructs. They are thinking, feeling creatures as proven by their sentience and their personal awareness. Perhaps they drive people away from great tragic sites to prevent the rediscovery of an ancient power. Perhaps because they know they desire to suck the life from the living and thus they distance themselves from them. For some reason they are choosing to not kill everyone despite being more than capable of doing so - even when they are believed to desire nothing more than to do so.

The plot thickens. Something is fishy here.


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It depends. Is it election season? ;)


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Hell, shadows show more restraint than the average evil PC. Even moreso than the average villain. For an evil creature with much Charisma and human intelligence, who theoretically loves to suck out the life of living creatures and spawn minions under your control, slaughtering a village of humanoids would be both effortless and silent. It would be easy. So very easy. Nothing could stand against you. Unless everyone was covered in 24/7 death ward, you can kill it, and if you can't, avoiding it is effortless.

You could wreak terror through the populace. If the mortals hole up in their sacred places you can kill their livestock, haunt their dreams, make them fearful of the outdoors and triply fearful of the night sky.

A thorpe of twenty people, then a village of three hundred, tomorrow a metropolis. All under your control to do with as you see fit. So why don't you?

Why do you stay your hand at something you are seemingly motivated - almost engineered - to do? Why indeed. That is the question. Why do the shadows let us live?

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