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Definition of 'Undead'


svensson

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Is there a solid RQG definition of 'Undead' and the difference between an Undead and an ancestral spirit?

As I understand things, intelligent beings have souls that travel to their afterlife. Ghosts, however, are defined as 'spirits' and 'undead' and are generally considered malevolent. So what is the difference? The Undead label goes beyond an animated corpse, or taking possession of a body not your own, or being the malevolent shade of an intelligent being.

There are a lot of in-game consequences about these definitions that could also be clarified. Humakti would obviously need a clear definition of what constitutes undead. If a 'ghost' is haunting an area, isn't it a sin of some form to suppress an ancestral spirit with a legitimate complaint against their living descendants?

This has come up as a question more than once for more than one poster, so I'm asking for an official clarification of the matter.

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In RQG the world is made of runes not atoms.  Spirits have spirit runes in their make-up.  Undead have undead runes in their make-up.  It is these runes that Detect Spirit and Detect Undead can find. 

(Don't ask me how Detect Enemies works, I can only guess, but if anyone else has an answer, consider making a separate forum topic about it.)

As to what constitutes undeath? Well, in Glorantha it seems to be about making dead bodies move around, and also have no POW. (It may be that what POW they do have has been turned into CON but that is only a guess.)  This is true for skeletons, zombies, ghouls, vampires, and revenants.

Spirits can possess a living person, but that doesn't make them undead.  In fact within the Humakt temples of Glorantha, there will be many spirits of the Einherjar, who are dead Humakti returned in Ghost form to protect holy sites or serve as allied spirits for the cult.

I hope that helps.

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24 minutes ago, Darius West said:

In RQG the world is made of runes not atoms.  Spirits have spirit runes in their make-up.  Undead have undead runes in their make-up.  It is these runes that Detect Spirit and Detect Undead can find

Not what I previously thought but yes seems to me a nice answer (and very easy rule to apply).

from a non runic approach, I would say undead are those who should be on death side and are not (if it could help hahaha)

So people who were alive and are not anymore but did not "discuss" with Daka Fal.

 

Then what could be a spirit (not detected as undead) for me :

- a spirit by nature, always a spirit from its creation for ever

- a soul of a dead, but a dead who was "welcomed" by Daka Fal, and sent by a god later to do something in the mundane world.

Probably this last spirit could stay in the mundane world for ever. Note that I would play that, if the (dead's soul but already judge) spirit wanted to stay in mundane world when its god call it back, it would have to get undead or spirit (or chaos ?) rune

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First off: Ancestor Spirits aren't undead - they're just regularly dead. Popping up from the Underworld when you call on them. This is all As It Is Supposed To Be.

Ghosts though aren't properly undead either - for one thing, they have POW. So it's better to think of them as spirits of the dead rather than undead. This is presumably why Humakti are okay with creating them.

The "properly" undead in Glorantha are of two kinds - animated corpses (like skeletons, zombies and revenants) and "hungry dead" that feed off the living, like ghouls and vampires.

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2 hours ago, svensson said:

Is there a solid RQG definition of 'Undead' and the difference between an Undead and an ancestral spirit?

Undead are the Living Dead, i.e. those beings that are dead yet still move around.

Using Runes is problematic, for Zorak Zoran does not have the Hunger Rune yet still creates undead.

Ghosts are not Undead, but Wraiths are.

Zombies, skeletons, Ghouls, Revenants, Vampires and so on are undead. There will be more, especially if people create new types of monster.

The defining factor seems to be that they have Magic points and not POW, but not everything that has Magic Points is necessarily undead.

I can't think of any undead that have POW, though.

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

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4 hours ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

So people who were alive and are not anymore but did not "discuss" with Daka Fal.

 

I like that narrative/mythic explanation. 

If a spirit has been through the Court of the Dead and returned to the world, then clearly everything is in order (guardians spirits, ancestral ghosts, etc.). 

But if something that is dead circumvents or avoids the just judgment of the dead, to cling on to the world of the living regardless... that's unnatural and inimical to the living. 

You know, as a rule of thumb.

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5 hours ago, svensson said:

Is there a solid RQG definition of 'Undead' and the difference between an Undead and an ancestral spirit?

As I understand things, intelligent beings have souls that travel to their afterlife. Ghosts, however, are defined as 'spirits' and 'undead' and are generally considered malevolent. So what is the difference? The Undead label goes beyond an animated corpse, or taking possession of a body not your own, or being the malevolent shade of an intelligent being.

There are a lot of in-game consequences about these definitions that could also be clarified. Humakti would obviously need a clear definition of what constitutes undead. If a 'ghost' is haunting an area, isn't it a sin of some form to suppress an ancestral spirit with a legitimate complaint against their living descendants?

This has come up as a question more than once for more than one poster, so I'm asking for an official clarification of the matter.

Undead is something that by the laws of the cosmos should be in the world of the Dead but is now operating in the realm of the Living against the rules. Vampires, skeletons, zombies - these are all animated corpses, they are dead things acting in the realm of the Living. Spirits, even ghosts, are not undead, as they are spirits acting as spirits. Resurrected folk (even self-resurrected folk) are not undead - they Living beings that have defeated Death.

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1 hour ago, Jeff said:

Undead is something that by the laws of the cosmos should be in the world of the Dead but is now operating in the realm of the Living against the rules. Vampires, skeletons, zombies - these are all animated corpses, they are dead things acting in the realm of the Living. Spirits, even ghosts, are not undead, as they are spirits acting as spirits. Resurrected folk (even self-resurrected folk) are not undead - they Living beings that have defeated Death.

THANK YOU!

May I respectfully suggest that this definition make it into follow-on publications?

I realize this may seem like a small thing to many, but the confusion is frustrating if you've got a Humakt or two in your group.

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7 minutes ago, svensson said:

THANK YOU!

May I respectfully suggest that this definition make it into follow-on publications?

I realize this may seem like a small thing to many, but the confusion is frustrating if you've got a Humakt or two in your group.

This is what the Humakt Cult writeup says:

 Humakti philosophy does not believe in maintaining a body separated from its spirit. The forming of vampires, skeletons and other undead or undead-like creatures is anathema. Gark the Calm and the vampire cult of Vivamort are usual targets of Humakt’s aggression. The cult is not troubled by a spirit that maintains its existence separate from its body and ghosts are not considered undead by the cult.

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5 hours ago, soltakss said:

The defining factor seems to be that they have Magic points and not POW, but not everything that has Magic Points is necessarily undead.

The rules support this explicitly.

Turn undead spell, P101, red book of magic:

Quote

undead do not have POW

or p123 Bestiary, 

Quote

Revenants lack POW, like other undead

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13 minutes ago, Jeff said:

Resurrected folk (even self-resurrected folk) are not undead - they Living beings that have defeated Death.

Can't help but imagine some Humakti muttering a little about that.  "Very nasty, but we can't touch you for it."

3 hours ago, soltakss said:

The defining factor seems to be that they have Magic points and not POW, but not everything that has Magic Points is necessarily undead.

Help me out here...  are there also, say, enchanted creatures that fall into this category?

3 hours ago, soltakss said:

I can't think of any undead that have POW, though.

I believe we've had statements -- for example in the RQ3 Bestiary -- that this is a defining characteristic of undead.  (A necessary but not sufficient one.)  One can imagine some sort of lichoid counterexample -- a ghost bound into a non-living body, or permanently dominantly possessing a living past the point of extinction of its original consciousness? -- but evidently these are either cosmologically impossible or pragmatically non-occurring.

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49 minutes ago, Jeff said:

This is what the Humakt Cult writeup says:

 Humakti philosophy does not believe in maintaining a body separated from its spirit. The forming of vampires, skeletons and other undead or undead-like creatures is anathema. Gark the Calm and the vampire cult of Vivamort are usual targets of Humakt’s aggression. The cult is not troubled by a spirit that maintains its existence separate from its body and ghosts are not considered undead by the cult.

Sorry, should have been more clear.

What I mean is the difference between Spirits [benevolent or neutral, acting within their nature] and Ghosts [malevolent, acting outside of their nature].

For example, a the ghost of a mortal held against its will is angry and trying to take over the living. That ghost is 'Undead' by Humakti definition and should be put to rest. But an ancestral spirit haunting its descendants for just cause is NOT 'Undead' and therefore must be appeased rather than put down.

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20 minutes ago, Stephen L said:

Turn undead spell, P101, red book of magic:

Oh yeah, in fact that's covered by that same route in the core book, p347.  Should have remembered that, after quibbling about "POW vs MPs" rolls as against "POW vs POW" ones.

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5 minutes ago, Alex said:

Help me out here...  are there also, say, enchanted creatures that fall into this category?

Hellions, those flying head things from RQ3, they didn't have POW but were not necessarily undead.

 

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

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6 minutes ago, svensson said:

...

What I mean is the difference between Spirits [benevolent or neutral, acting within their nature] and Ghosts [malevolent, acting outside of their nature].

For example, a the ghost of a mortal held against its will is angry and trying to take over the living. That ghost is 'Undead' by Humakti definition and should be put to rest. But an ancestral spirit haunting its descendants for just cause is NOT 'Undead' and therefore must be appeased rather than put down.

I would look more to Daka Fal cultists (than Humakt) for the solution to this sort of problem.

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38 minutes ago, soltakss said:

Hellions, those flying head things from RQ3, they didn't have POW but were not necessarily undead.

Thanks, I'd have been a long while remembering those (and a while before thinking to check RQ3 Book 4).  Are those even Gloranthan?  Generic?  Sandy cheese dream? 🙂

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1 hour ago, svensson said:

For example, a the ghost of a mortal held against its will is angry and trying to take over the living.

The ghost is angry because it's unable to travel to the Underworld where it wants to go.  It takes over a body in the hope that it can find a way to free itself.  Humakti can help by freeing the ghost.

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19 hours ago, Darius West said:

In RQG the world is made of runes not atoms.  Spirits have spirit runes in their make-up.  Undead have undead runes in their make-up.  It is these runes that Detect Spirit and Detect Undead can find. 

(Don't ask me how Detect Enemies works, I can only guess, but if anyone else has an answer, consider making a separate forum topic about it.)

As to what constitutes undeath? Well, in Glorantha it seems to be about making dead bodies move around, and also have no POW. (It may be that what POW they do have has been turned into CON but that is only a guess.)  This is true for skeletons, zombies, ghouls, vampires, and revenants.

Spirits can possess a living person, but that doesn't make them undead.  In fact within the Humakt temples of Glorantha, there will be many spirits of the Einherjar, who are dead Humakti returned in Ghost form to protect holy sites or serve as allied spirits for the cult.

I hope that helps.

Are Thanatari severed heads undead? While in the possession of their owner, and afterwards as insane ghosts?

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11 hours ago, soltakss said:

Hellions, those flying head things from RQ3, they didn't have POW but were not necessarily undead.

Yeah, hellions (sentient bubbles of entropy) and chonchons (the flying head things) we’re both weird otherworld beings in RQ3, and both had magic points but not POW. Neither counted as Undead, because they weren’t truly alive (in , but they seemed related.
Hellions had just SIZ of 1 and INT, plus their hit points, magic points and armour points are equal, like RQG demons. Weirdly, they had no means of gaining magic points given, unless they happened to know sorcery and learn Tap. There was no indication of how they survived otherwise. Chonchons did not have permanent physical bodies, but could only exist in Darkness. They could drain magic points with a bite. 
 

In RQ3 Creatures book, it says creatures without POW are soulless, and says all undead are soulless - but by implication not all soulless are dead. This seems like reasonable terminology for the rare times we need the distinction in RQG. 
Most soulless things in RQ3 are undead, such as zombies, mummies, ghouls, vampires. Lamiae are soulless in RQ3 and described as vampiric, but do not appear to be undead - they are Chaotic, however. Wraiths are described as a form of ghosts, but are soulless, in RQ3 - but in RQG they have POW again. And none of the other things in RQ3 that are soulless but not undead have been written up for RQG yet. They may not appear in RQG at all - none of them ever had a clear mythical role that I am aware of. 
The RQ3 Gloranthan Bestiary added only one to this list - Jolanti. And they are soulless in RQG still. 

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1 hour ago, EricW said:

Are Thanatari severed heads undead? While in the possession of their owner, and afterwards as insane ghosts?

A good question. They appear a bit borderline - you could consider them a ghost whose binding object just happens to be it’s own previous skull. Or you could consider them a weird half life, at least when they still have flesh (that they seem to have some limited ability to move). I tend to not think of them as undead in the standard sense, not dead things that returned to life, but suspended on the borderline indefinitely. 

In RQ3 ‘standard’ zombies, different to ZZ zombies (more like classic Haitian voudou zombies), we’re undead, but it was a temporary state. They were bound back to the body forcibly by an enchantment spell, and their POW ‘suppressed’, and if it became free they desperately sought destruction to free their ghost from the body it was imprisoned in. It’s a similar case - but a head ghost having no body cannot destroy itself, only go mad. 

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12 hours ago, svensson said:

For example, a the ghost of a mortal held against its will is angry and trying to take over the living. That ghost is 'Undead' by Humakti definition and should be put to rest.

No, that ghost is not in the underworld, but is not undead. Humakt cultists can volunteer to become ghosts themselves, such as to guard a temple, and such a ghost is not angry, or held against its will (The Bind Ghost spell)
Humakt I think do often get asked to deal with such angry spirits. Possibly because a lot of people don’t really know the difference and think they might be undead. But I think not because Humakt is against all ghosts, actually the opposite - the dead are in Humakts care (among others), and he wishes to help them. But they do not always assume that such a ghost is wrong or malevolent by it’s nature. They will try to find out why it remains. Sometimes they might decide a ghost is being treated unjustly and should be freed by dispelling what binds it. Sometimes they may want to help it complete its task, including seeking justice for it. Sometimes they may decided it is right to continue doing what it is doing, whether it’s keeping a vigil or being punished for an ancient dead. 
Humakt have some tools at their disposal for these tasks, including being able to fight ghosts using their swords with Truesword rather than in spirit combat, and freeing them using Sever Spirit. But they are often less useful than others, such as Ty Kora Tek or Daka Fal. 

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1 hour ago, EricW said:

Are Thanatari severed heads undead? While in the possession of their owner, and afterwards as insane ghosts?

In my campaign I'm considering them undead, or at least undead in Humakt's eyes. Thanatar and Humakt are enemy cults per Cults of Terror.

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5 hours ago, EricW said:

Are Thanatari severed heads undead?

We have never played them as such. After all, they have POW.

4 hours ago, davecake said:

Yeah, hellions (sentient bubbles of entropy) and chonchons (the flying head things)

Sorry, I was getting my obscure RQ3 beasts mixed up.

 

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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