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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default What's It Like to Be Undead?

    There's lots of undead - most of the sentient ones, in fact - that are made by taking somebody who's alive and turning them into a horrible abomination. What effect does that have on your personality? What does it feel like to be undead?

    Obviously it would differ depending on the type. We've got plenty of literary models for vampires. But is a necropolitan just a human who happens to be healed by negative energy? How much of their original personality does a wight retain after they rise from the dead? How about a lich, or a brain-in-a-jar? A lot of these templates forcibly change your type to Evil with a capitol E. How does that manifest?

    Obviously there's no One Right Answer, but I'm curious what people's thoughts are.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    It depends on whenever you own libris mortis or not(because they add a lot of rules and fluff to undead and for example I believe it is that manual who says that another mind take over the original person when it is turned into a vampire(I might be wrong but basically it says "players will never turn into vampires since their loose the control and so it is no longer their character"))
    Then there is the campaign setting and finally maybe ritual A for becoming a lich might not change your personality the same way as ritual B for becoming a lich or as being killed by a lich undead lord which turns you into a lich under his control.
    Last edited by noob; 2015-11-19 at 02:06 PM.

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Very vague and imprecise answer, but I believe Libris Mortis has some interesting things to say on the subject. If I recall correctly (hope that's not just my headcanon), in the case of a Lich for example, locking their soul away means they lose the ability to change, to evolve significantly morality-wise and personality-wise.
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    A lot of it depends on your mentality. But I see two major takes on it that one could pursue.

    First, liberation. Part of what makes people so stressed all the time is the time. It's limited. We get a certain amount, and then snuff it. So we dream, we despair, we struggle, because there's so much stuff we want to fit in and not enough time.

    An Undead, such as a Necropolitan, has all the time. Literally, all of it. Death is no longer an impediment. So all that stuff that was stressing you out because you never thought you'd have the time to get it done? Do it. Whenever you want.

    See the world. Practice every martial art. Take up painting. Read all of the great novels. Learn every language. An intelligent Undead enjoys limitless potential to explore every crevice of what life has to offer, virtually consequence-free. Few things can be more liberating than knowing that you can have whatever you put your mind to, whenever you're ready to take it.

    Second, and the other side of the coin, malaise. The same way life's brevity gives us despair, it gives us meaning. When a person only has so many decades to perfect his craft, he raises it to an artform. When we only have so long to pursue love, we dive into it wholeheartedly.

    When there is no more fear of an end, there is no more pressure to accomplish things before then. When you're no longer in a rush to do something, why rush to do anything? And as more and more of the world rises and falls around you, while you remain unchanging, you may find yourself disconnecting more and more from it. It ceases to matter as much.

    There's some science there, too. Some studies have suggested that our perception of time shifts as we age. Five minutes is a lifetime to an eight year-old, and a heartbeat to a thirty year-old. As the years pass, time seems to fly by even faster, because our ability to perceive it changes. Imagine what would happen if you lived for a century, two centuries, five. Blink your eyes and a month has come and gone, turn a corner and it's been a year.

    And what has changed, really? People have come and gone, but the buildings are still around. The trees bloom and wilt, the tides come and go. On the larger scale, very little changes from one year to the next. It's easy to fade out.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Something else that can make a big change in the person/creature is its mental state. Take H.P. Lovecraft's "The Outsider" short story as an example.

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    Before the creature emerges, one can surmise that it would function with a fine mental state albeit with some amnesia. It was the mental trauma of realizing it was an undead corpse that broke its mind. It is destined to degenerate mentally until it is destroyed.


    If it withstood the trauma, one can surmise that the protagonist would continue "living" as Red Fel had mentioned.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Quote Originally Posted by asnys View Post
    What does it feel like to be undead?
    Here's what I'd say:
    -Cold. All the time. Your body literally does not generate heat.
    -Empty. Since you lack a number of experiences which make people human. Also many of your organs are either vestigial or nonfunctional.
    -Unhappy. Cannot taste normal food. It may even turn to ash in your mouth. Other pleasures may be denied as well.
    -Bored. Your eternal life may leave you locked into a bland routine, always putting other things off for "later".
    -Tired. You may feel like you've enjoyed all that undeath has to offer (whether this is the case or not), and this can lead to feelings of despondence.
    -Lonely. Being a disgusting abomination results in either being expelled from society, or just marginalized. Even if you had some friends, they probably died a while ago.
    -Hateful. Being expelled from society, called a monster, and denied many of the joys of life likely results in some envy or outright hatred toward the living.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    -snip-
    I love nearly every post that you make.

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seto View Post
    locking their soul away means they lose the ability to change, to evolve significantly morality-wise and personality-wise.
    Seems that long-live alive people (elves and such) are similar though!

    We seem to be describing immortality, not undeath. Huh.
    Last edited by goto124; 2015-11-19 at 08:07 PM.

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    To me, it's a mixture of three principle parts:

    1. The base personality. Since you're a sentient undead, your base personality will have a notable determining factor in how you see things as an undead. A power hungry monster of a human would naturally only get worse as a ghoul, revenant, vampire, or what have you. Particularly if they sought out that change on purpose. By contrast, a genuinely decent person may not turn out to be awful as an undead, depending on circumstances. Personality changes will be most prominent during the transition stage, which is different for most people, but afterwards it usually ends up fairly consistent over time, barring major events.

    2. The type of undead. A skeleton, even a sentient one, simply does not have the capacity to experience the world as something with fleshy bits still attached. This may generally lead to an empty, hollow existence (hah) or it might lead to jovial mockery of its circumstance (and an unnecessary number of bad skeleton puns and practical jokes). By contrast, your average vampire is practically still alive and by extension able to experience the world in a way quite similar to how it did in life. With hundreds of potential in-betweens, all dependent on the worlds mechanics of the particular type, the possibilities are quite diverse.

    3. Outsider perceptions. Most worlds don't look kindly on the undead. So, if you are not accepted among your own kind then you'll likely end up lonely, bitter, and vengeful, even if you were a decent person to begin with. However, there are some worlds where being undead doesn't necessarily mean everyone will hate you. For example, in Tyria (the world of Guild Wars) necromancy is openly practiced and an undead being is viewed more for its beliefs and actions than the simple fact of its existence. The final boss of the original campaign may be a lich, but you encounter legions of other undead along the way, most as mindless fodder, but plenty of others who are decent people.

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    It feels Great! You should try it too!
    Hmm, seem to have left the last letter out of my name I wonder if I can change that somehow...

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mindtour View Post
    I love nearly every post that you make.
    ... Nearly?
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    One game I was in, we naturally became evil just by survival. We had to feed as vampires, and sometimes it is just easier to drain a man without consent than to put up a sign asking for blood donors, especially when you're being attacked by a vampire hunter and time is of the essence. I went in fully intending to retain who my character was, and while he remained overall lawful, he also became quite an evil fellow, and at the point that you realize that you have killed dozens for sport and anyone you could ask for redemption will likely just point a sunblade in your direction, you might as well go with it.
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Personally, I like 3e and Buffy's view on undeath. The body is occupied by an outsider. The soul is gone. But the personality, memories, ideas, and opinions are all still there, under the command of the new presence.

    Whether that is a dark soul from the Negative Energy plane or a Demon.

    Which brings the question of Existentialism to bear: if it has your memories, your emotions, and your existence how can it be anything else but you? Is a soul an immutable and central part of a being's identity or are you just replacing the sails on a boat and still have the same boat, despite the slight change?

    Undeath should feel like death. Every breath is your last, painful and shallow. Every light too bright if close, too dim if distant. Each face a reminder of a thousand painful memories and a hundred wishes for a tomorrow that cannot come...

    For within that is the lament and torment of the damned who walk the land, twisted mockeries of what once was and what can never be, again.

    Or. You know. Sparkles on your skin. Whatever.
    Last edited by Steampunkette; 2015-11-20 at 05:25 AM.
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    I wouldn't call being infested with alien-made nanites "being undead," Steampunkette.
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Depending on your setting, you may lose a bunch of senses, bodily functions, and urges. A lot depends on whether you have a body/soul duality, and what ideas and urges are part of which half, if any.

    For example:
    When you become undead, your entire gastrointestinal system is no longer useful, and neither is the lymphic system, the blood circulatory system or the reproductive system. This frees up torso space for a) more muscles, fat, thick skin, or b) whatever organ produces magical power (my favourite here is 'brains'), or c) storage, a convenient place to keep your spellbook.

    Muscles may not be required at all, though I prefer to say they become powered by 'magic', else I see no point in keeping a body altogether. Of course, becoming a ghost, spirit, spectre, wraith, shade, or allip may carry its own advantages.

    The status of the nervous system is a bit less obvious - most undead do feel, see, and hear things, although they do not neccessarily feel pain, tastes, or smells. If you rule that it's all taken over by 'magic', undead may experience faster reaction times, sharpened senses, and the ability to sense magic, life, death, and thoughts, all as side effect of undeath.

    As undead, your lungs are only used for providing air flow when talking. Most likely, you're a talented singer, because you don't need to breathe at inconvenient moments.

    In my opinion, a prudent undead uses restorative magic to keep the body up-and-functioning as if it's only split-second deceased, and then selectively removes those organs they no longer deem neccessary. The reproductive system is especially important, I think. Chances are, you never get hungry as an undead, because you lack a blood sugar level, but the urge to procreate is very possibly ingrained in the 'soul' part of the person, and it just wouldn't do to lose the ability to do so, before you properly figure out whether you want to.
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Would you donate your organs?

    Why did I think of this?

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    I'm with Slipperychicken here. I'd tend to go a bit further, even. I think undeath should be inherently evil, rather than merely a different state of being. So I'd add that it is
    Painful: As your body crumbles it becomes numb, and indifference sets in gradually. But the pain of the mind and soul never ceases, and as time passes and memory of life fades, the pain keeps growing in relative terms, until it feels like the better part of your existence is given over to it. Eventually, even the very strongest mind collapses in destructive madness. For most it takes less than a day.
    Last edited by hymer; 2015-11-20 at 07:49 AM.
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    The itchy dry skin might be a problem... till it all flakes off.
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    ... Nearly?
    Nearly. Some of your posts are purely informative, while not poor, are lacking in the deliciously evil rhetoric that I associate your forum presence with. Some posts just aren't bad enough. Savvy?
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Awesome. Stupendously awesome.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    My take on the lich:

    The ritual that made you into a lich requires willingly performing acts of unspeakable, puppy kicking, mustache twirling evil. When it is done, your soul is locked away for eternity, and from that point on you are unable to change or grow ... and the last thing you did, was an act of pure megalomaniacal evil. This is now what you are, forever cackling at the suffering of others, especially if you caused it, trapped in a shell of a body that is literally powered by evil.

    As a DM, if you ever want an excuse to use a villain that is an unsympathetic caricature of evil, you can't go wrong with a lich.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    The most common undead in my settings is the ghost. A ghost is immaterial, yet bound to the location and context of their death. They can perceive the world, but they cannot affect it.

    They are forced to watch, for days, weeks, months, years as their loved mourn for them, or those who wronged them escape justice, and they can do nothing about it despite being right there. They cannot be seen, heard, felt, spoken to etc.

    As a result, most ghost tend to go quite insane. They might desperately want to see their loved ones dead, just so they could see them, hear them, feel them, speak to them again.

    If a medium comes along, a ghost will jump at the chance to have their presence known. They will invade their dreams, possess their bodies, hound their every step until what binds them to the this world is resolved.
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    The second most common type is the vampire. First and most importantly, a vampire is not the original person, save for extremely rare cases. They are a vengeful spirit inhabiting a dead body, typically that of a wild animal who was wronged by humans. Bestial traits of a vampire, such as reduced intelligence, predatory behavior, fangs, claws, heightened senses etc. are caused by the inhabiting spirit. While a vampire can sustain themselves by drinking blood, that's usually an understatement - a vampire will typically tear their prey apart and eat as much of it as its hunger demands. They have no particular need to eat humans, they just really, really hate them, so humans tend to be their preferred prey.

    However, the body of a vampire is still (mostly) human, so if they can be restrained (preferably by people who had no part in offending the inhabiting spirit), they can be taught human habits such as speech and etiquette. The demands of the occupying spirit and supernatural restrictions of their undead bodies usually prevent them from ever truly passing as normal people, though. If vampires are not taught this, they will regress closer and closer to habits of the occupying spirit, and eventually transform bodily into animals. A particularly clever vampire can control their shape-shifting, turning from human to animal and back on whim, usually to lure in naive humans to feast upon.

    Vampires can live for ages, but age is no guarantee of intelligence nor wisdom. A vampire might never rise above a common beast, relying on brute strength until some random occurrence destroys them.
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mindtour View Post
    Nearly. Some of your posts are purely informative, while not poor, are lacking in the deliciously evil rhetoric that I associate your forum presence with. Some posts just aren't bad enough. Savvy?
    ... Good answer.
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    An interesting question to me is why fantasy fiction seldom explores other states of being than the trifecta of ordinary mortality, immortality, and undeath.

    Why are themes like extended, living lifespan created by magical means -- surely something that mages capable of bending reality to their will would investigate -- never explored? A lifespan of 300 years or 500 years is very far from immortality, but its implications still seem interesting and perhaps worthy of a special term meaning "one with a magically enhanced lifespan" in the same way that "one returned from the grave but not alive" has "undead" as a special term.
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    Blend in with the old, old rhyme
    That was traced in the score of the strata marks
    While millenniums winked like campfire sparks
    Down the winds of unguessed time. -- 4th Stanza, The Bad Lands, Badger Clark

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    And what about undead made with positive energy?
    Is there any difference?

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Long-lived people are well-explored in fantasy and sci-fi, they just use mostly same tropes as immortals, to the point the distinction becomes nearly irrelevant.

    Ditto for "positive" versus "negative" undead. Vampires, for example, have been romanticized to Hell and back, and even in serious vampire stories can be completely benign and well-adjusted. Typically they're a far cry from devils inhabiting corpses and flesh-eating ghouls folklore, or even the predatory sociopaths of Stoker.
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    "What is it like to be undead?" Mu. Too much depends on the details, and the details are rarely consistent, either for one undead type across multiple settings/franchises or different types of undead within the same world. It's hard to make generalizations or guidelines that apply specifically to undead, so I'll just give some more general guidelines that work for any kind of nonhuman.

    There are two types of undead (or other monsters)—the kind which are born that way, and the kind which are made from other sentient beings. Creatures like wraiths which have no memory of their prior life and mindless creatures like zombies fall into the former category for all intents and purposes, and figuring out how their natural neurology, psychology, spirit...ology and so forth affect their personality is left as an exercise for the DM.

    As for those who are transformed, there are a number of vital factors to consider.
    1. The basic personality. Obviously, this plays a part. Not only is it the input, it also determines how the mind reacts to the other factors.
    2. Pre-existing beliefs about undead. A cleric who thinks that vampires are all inherently evil may be more likely to turn to evil than an ignorant peasant who hasn't even heard of vampires, while a necromancer might have more academic interest in her new state than actual changes to her psychology.
    3. The process. Trauma or lack thereof from the transformation will play an enormous role in how the undead reacts to its undead-ness, and hence how his mind reacts to any changes. An archmage who walks away from his liching ritual without any flesh will have a different reaction than someone who transformed into a similar monster while asleep, or through some violent demonic ritual.
    4. What was lost, its importance to the now-undead, and what it can be replaced with. Turning undead is unlikely to be consequence-free. If a wine connoisseur found himself turned into something without a tongue, he would be far more devastated than a teetotaler monk or a lower-class drunkard. On the other hand, immunity to alcohol would affect the drunkard more than the monk or the snob, and the monk might lose the scent of flowers. Typically, the undead will try to replace any such pleasures; if the drunkard finds that a certain type of acid provides a tingling similar to being drunk, he would try to find it, while the monk may turn to music for the bliss it once found in gardening. If it can't find anything like that, expect depression or insanity. (Depression is more likely, insanity is more interesting.)
    5. What was gained, how useful or enjoyable it is, and how avoidable it is. Vampires can climb up walls; a crippled explorer might enjoy the extra movement and climb whenever possible, but a former hunter might simply never think about it. Unlikely to matter much compared to the prior factors, unless it fills one of the gaps lets in 4.
    6. Spiritual changes. This depends less on the effects of the transformation and more on the mechanics. Is a lich simply the same soul and mind in an immortal body, or is the soul degraded somehow by the process, or is it a new spirit in the husk (or the ghost of the original mage)? Are vampires vessels for ghosts, do they have corrupted mortal souls, or are they soulless abominations? Are mohrgs demonic spirits possessing the corpses of the damned, prisons for the souls of the damned, or sentient zombies whose minds happen to be those of serial killers?

    If you can determine these six factors and their interactions, you have a good grasp on how turning undead would affect your mind.
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Would it feel cold? Your temperature sense is based on contrast, not true temperature - if you have one hand in iced water, one in hot water, and then put both hands into the same container of water, the one that was previously in the cold water will feel warmer due to the greater contrast. Similarly, you'll feel overheated when you walk from the cold outdoors into a warm room.

    If your whole body is cold, and you are used to that, what was previously a comfortable temperature for a living person might feel uncomfortably hot to you now. Perhaps this is why undead inhabit cold crypts and draughty castles, and have an aversion to fire?

    In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, the corporeal undead bemoan that they no longer feel the movement of blood under their skin - they weren't consciously aware of it in life, but they know it's gone now.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Default Re: What's It Like to Be Undead?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kami2awa View Post
    Would it feel cold?
    Undeath not exactly making any sense, you can decide either way and get away with it.
    Edit: Pardon me if the question was purely rhetorical.
    Last edited by hymer; 2015-11-21 at 02:19 PM.
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