Undead were once-living creatures that had been animated by spiritual or supernatural forces.[1] Some deities employed undead as divine servants; for example, the dwarven god Dumathoin used undead dwarves as divine messengers.[2]

Undead were extremely resilient to a number of effects and substances that were extremely harmful to the living. They were immune to all mind-affecting effects, poison,[3] sleep effects,[4] paralysis, stunning, disease, and death effects. In addition, it was not possible to drain their life force in any manner.[citation needed]

Origins[edit | edit source]

Undead. They got back up and started fighting again—this time, against the rest of us... They fell, they died, they got back up.

There were six basic ways a living creature could become undead:

Purposeful personal reanimation
A living creature could willingly undergo the transformation to undeath. In most cases, the creature possessed a disposition towards evil, but this was not always the case. More common reasons included fear of dying of old age, fear of dying from a grievous wound, and a thirst for power.[6]
Minions
An intelligent creature might create undead servants as a means to their own ends. These mindless minions were created by malevolent spellcasters to serve as guards or otherwise carry out their bidding.[7]
Atrocity calls to unlife
Sometimes, a living creature committed an evil and heinous act that transformed them into an undead creature. The intensity and specificity of the required act was somewhat random and not entirely uncommon.[8]
Unfinished business
An intelligent creature died or was killed with an important deed left incomplete. In a similar manner to atrocities, the specifications surrounding undeath achieved in this manner were often left up to chance.[9]
Dark forces
Malign forces created undead beings seemingly at random. This had the potential to befall any creature, at any location and seemingly at any time.[10] In Cormyr, it was thought that wandering evil spirits would take over corpses and use them to slay and scare the living.[11]
Death by wounds caused by another undead
Many forms of undead creatures inflicted their undeath upon others when striking them with a mortal wound. Perhaps most famously, this occurred in the case of vampires and their bite.[12]

Types of Undead[edit | edit source]

Adventurers defending against a horde of undead.

Skeletal[edit | edit source]

Corporeal[edit | edit source]

A ghoul feasting in a graveyard.

A good lesson for us. Always leave tomb doors closed. You never know what might come in and possess your corpse.
— Benelaius on the animation of Fastred's skeleton[11]

Incorporeal[edit | edit source]

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

AD&D 1e[edit | edit source]

AD&D 2e[edit | edit source]

3e[edit | edit source]

3.5e[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins (2014-09-30). Monster Manual 5th edition. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 7. ISBN 978-0786965614.
  2. Sean K. Reynolds (2002-05-04). Deity Do's and Don'ts (Zipped PDF). Wizards of the Coast. p. 11. Archived from the original on 2016-11-01. Retrieved on 2018-09-08.
  3. Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins (2014-09-30). Monster Manual 5th edition. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 978-0786965614.
  4. Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
  5. R.A. Salvatore (July 2010). The Ghost King. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7869-5499-5.
  6. Ed Greenwood et al. (1989). Lords of Darkness. (TSR, Inc), p. 73. ISBN 0-88038-622-3.
  7. Ed Greenwood et al. (1989). Lords of Darkness. (TSR, Inc), p. 8. ISBN 0-88038-622-3.
  8. Ed Greenwood et al. (1989). Lords of Darkness. (TSR, Inc), p. 19. ISBN 0-88038-622-3.
  9. Ed Greenwood et al. (1989). Lords of Darkness. (TSR, Inc), p. 57. ISBN 0-88038-622-3.
  10. Ed Greenwood et al. (1989). Lords of Darkness. (TSR, Inc), pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-88038-622-3.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Chet Williamson (July 1998). Murder in Cormyr. (TSR, Inc.), chap. 37, pp. 243, 245. ISBN 0-7869-0486-0.
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