Occult Lore: The Control of Evil & the Secrets of the Dead

(From the Journal of Jearomy, former Squire to Sir Du’Port of Gettybury)

I remember the first time which I first saw a hint of weakness in my former master. All four of the Knights of Gettybury were busy praying for courage and wisdom while myself and the other squires waited solemnly, fearful of the task ahead of us, for this night, we were to enter the dark church of Orion and take back the crypts and mausoleums which they had stolen from the people. Word had it that they were using our loved ones, many of whom died in the great Plague just 24 moons ago, in rituals designed to defile the land, and bring more death and destruction upon the innocent heads of Gettybury.

Nobody saw him come in, and before anyone could react we found ourselves to be surrounded. This man, I shall never forget his face, for it was hideous! This desecrater of mankind was but a scarecrow of a man, yet strange and bizarre powers radiated from him. He said that he knew what they were planning, and he could had let them just come to him, but he wished to use the order as a lesson to all whom appose his powers. He said his name was Wrath, and told us the he was the new way.

Sir Gledis drew his sword, and meant to strike the evil apostle down, however with a simple gesture, the dark shadow of Wrath stopped Sir Gledis in his tracks. What he began uttering will always remain unknown to me, but I saw him holding the seal of Orion, and I watched as all of these brave knights, who have fought larger and stronger monstrosities, coward from the little man. I, seeing this, covered my ears, and I am sad to say that I ran away. That was the last that I have seen of Sir Du’Port, and indeed, of any of the Knights of Gettybury.

Evil clerics have powers which many people have forgotten about. Chief among them is the ability to turn paladins! Granted, that it is very difficult. Paladins are living beings, not undead, therefore an evil cleric turns a paladin as if the cleric were 3 levels lower then what he is. Paladins are turned according to their level, and weaker paladins are turned first. Because paladins are living people, they cannot be destroyed by words alone, therefore, when D is indicated, this simply means that the paladin has been turned automatically.

Evil clerics can also dominate and control undead, if a D is indicated in a turning attempt, the unintelligent undead is permanently dominated by the cleric. This generally doesn’t effect player characters, at least not directly, but many a messy war has been caused between evil magicusers, and this tends to quickly become the problem of adventurers.

Intelligent undead also will hold a grudge if they are forced to do the evil cleric’s bidding, they will comply as required, however at the first opportunity, the undead will punish the cleric in some horrible way.

I have seen Leopald, he and I go back to our time as squires to the Knights of Gettybury. He is a ghost of a man now, I almost didn’t recognize him! Fore, I found him cowering in the streets like a common begger, we saw each other at the same time and he instantly bolted, however a man in his condition was no hard task to outpace.

Once I convinced him that I meant no harm, and wanted nothing more then just information to his wellbeing, did he talk, insisting a pint of grog in some dank hole of a tavern before complying with my request.

What he told me chilled my bones. Apparently Sir Rapaport, escaped the night of slaughter with his life, and contacted my old friend, together they secretly attempted to enter the graveyard of Gettybury, however the evil was even stronger then what was made apparent on that terrible night all those years ago.

Leopald shuddered as he recounted how Sir Rapaport kneeled before the grave of Saint Thomas, praying for his blessing and aid so that he may avenge his fallen brothers, and defeat the unspeakable evils which punish this fine city with their wickedness.

At this point it took a deal more rum and water before I could convince Leopald to finish his story, and what he told me was shocking, for, as he has reported, the spirit of Saint Thomas himself rose from the stone, however the evil that has corrupted the cemetery had also corrupted even the soul of our fine hero! Without warning, and with a single touch, Leopald says, Saint Thomas drained the life of brave Sir Rapaport as a weed sucks the life of the plants around it, leaving the brave paladin a dry husk.

Understandably, Leopald took flight, but, and this is more shocking and unsettling still! This was not the last that he had seen of Sir Rapaport, for a year after that dark night Leopald says that he saw him again, and he was angery. Rapaport called him a gutless coward, and that Leopald was going to make sure that he lived the rest of his life as a coward as well.

It appears that Sir Rapaport haunts my old friend, taking away anything which he earns for himself. He swears that the spirit of Sir Rapaport murdered his sick mother, as well as his wife Helen. Rapaport had murdered two of his three children, burned down his family home, and slays anyone brave enough to give him employment. Leopald is convinced that one day soon, Sir Rapaport is going to arrive again, and this will be the last time that anybody will see him alive.

Indeed, after that meeting, I let Leopald go on his way, but a few weeks when I went to look him up again, I discovered that just moments after our talk, his body was discovered drained of both life and blood. I instantly reported to the church, offering to pay for a full funeral, however they told me that this was impossible as the corpse was brought in to be cleaned and blessed, but when the priest pulled back the shrouds, the corpse of Leopald was gone.


Dead characters belong solely to the Dungeon Master, unless this is part of an adventure. The Ravenloft box set, “The Grim Harvest” contains rules to running undead characters, but for this article, we are going to stick to core rules, and a dead character is lost to the PC.

Many intelligent undead have the ability to turn their enemies into undead servants. Player Characters who have been slain by an energy drain (reduced to 0 levels) are dead but rise as a form of the undead which killed them. All of their former levels are returned, and they have access to the skills which they possessed in life, however this is generally augmented and more effective to an undead. The new undead will serve the one who created it, if this creature has been slain, then he will be independent.

An undead classed character still gains experience until he reaches his max level, the max HD for the undead he has become, thus a 3rd level thief who has been slain by a Wraith will be able to gain 3 more levels to reach his max HD of 6th level. In regards to his class, mixed with undead abilities, he will always use the most beneficial system, thus a warrior who has becomes a ghost will roll hp with a 1d10, not the typical 1d8, he will also use the warrior THAC0 if this is better then the THAC0 of the undead.

A character of a higher level then the creature which slew him will only regain the max HD of his new form, and all benefits of levels above this number will be lost, however a DM must consider if some of this knowledge is kept, such as the case of a 12th level wizard who falls to the hands of a Wight, many of his stats will be dramatically lower, but he may still be able to cast spells as a 12th level wizard, granted that it still must have access to its old spellbooks. This is completely up to the DM and how he runs his campaign, but regardless, the wizard wight in question could still cast spells as a wizard of 5th level.

An undead character will always become evil and will usually blame those who he traveled with for allowing this to happen, and will seek revenge upon them. This can include henchmen and hirelings which feel wronged by the PCs who, with all of the powers and abilities, could have done something to help him.

The undead will typically wait until he is at max level before exacting his revenge, he may follow those whom he feels wronged him the most, and kill innocent victims until achieving the powers that it needs, and can concoct wild and intelligent schemes to get the most out of his revenge, knowing full well that time is on his side now.

Art by: Jeff Easley


Brooser Bear said...

Ripper, the writing of the examples is awesome. The undead, evil, and turning has never been adequately explained by Gygax. If you have an empty shell, where the rationale behind the invented phenomenon should be, then the undead will appear as just another opponent wearing a zombie costume and not the drastically different that it really is.

In Midlands (my gamneworld) the undead is rooted in the fabric of reality of that world. Magic in this world only works in minds of the people, self and others. Careful before you consider it hypnosis or illusion. 75% of all illness and siease is psychosomatic, and so you better respect that witch doctor with a bunch of figurines carved from bark and feathers in his medicine bag. You do not have to believe in it, know him, or fea him for him to touch you and either heal you or seriously hurt you. In real physical terms!

Having sais that, Haitian Zombification process as was uncoverd in haiti was basically a community ritual of social control, a chemical lobotomy. prime example, the one zombie who the western psychiatrists have recovered in the 1950's was young woman who was a fish merchant at the village market. She was staying open for oe hour longer than other merchants and was underselling them to gedt their busiess and to buy flashy clothes for her. Local Chriostian Priest talked to her about social responsibility. Her parents were warned and they talked to her. Finally, she was publically cursed, panicked, had nowhere to run, was turnd into a zombie (drugged, buried, recovered with severe brain damage affecting higher brain functions and motor skills), old to work on he plantation cutting sugar cane. Her parents were paid blood money.

This one will not bite you and will not need to TURN her with a cross. She has alread been TURNED by her community. Which was more evil? Turning her into a zombie and selling her into slavery or her forcing a fish merchant or two out of business and forcing theit families into poverty in a society where death from stavation is a very real threat? In historic European medieval legends, it was human cannibals, who came back to life as ghouls cured feast on the decaying dead in the graveyards. My guess to keep canibalism from developing during starvation. I guess, undeath happens only to evil people...

Real world be as it may, magic and the undead of course exist in my fantasy world. In that world, tere has to be soemthing different about the physics of it at the level of subatomic particles to make it possible for a magic user to produce a very real fireball that will blow out the windows and set the house on fire. And no, it's NOT a medieval handgrenade!

In our own mundane world, thre is a connection between aesthetic and spiritual for most people, hendce the grandeur of the cathedrals. In our world, in the spheres of psychological and social science, anythiung imagined is real in its consequences. In D&D world, emotional energy a being feels can be transformed into physical energy. Perhaps it is because the deitires that thought the D&D world into existance are so much closer to the mortal beings that inhabit it. In our world landscape and weather can bring out and change the mood the person is in, hence the appeal of landscape painting. In the D&D world, if the emotion is powerful enough, if enough people feel it, if it is channeled correctly, then the mood will affect tha landscape.

But here is more. In this world, it is Light, not the Energy, that can not be created or destroyed. That's why crystal balls work, but yiou need gems to focus that light and aid in the recovery of light from past and from faraway places. Perhaps the D&D world exists in the minds of the beings that created it and light is stored in the positive energy plane where things are cerated out of it. It flows throug the reality and drains through the negative materia plane into ocean of light in which the cosmic conscousness floats. Enterig the Positive energy p[lane is lioke entering the Sun. Entering the Negative matrial plane is like entering the Black Hole. When a dead person lives i the memories and in minds of the peple as a hero or villain, that person remains linked to that D&D world after death. hence tghe power of the spirits and ancestor worship. Very evil, cruel tyrants will be summoned back fro the afterlife as monstrocities. Necroimancy is that branch of magic that deals with the Darkness. Possesion of bodies by these spirits is one of the features of this gameworld. Good will not become undead because the Good is selfless and can let this world go after its death. If summoned by the living, the good spirits are kind and unselfish enough to endure the temptations of the material life and ignore, entertain, or escape from the pleas of the living. Maybe it's not unselfishness, but the unplesantnes and sickness of possessing a dead body that repels good fro doing it.

The evil and selfish are weak, insane and depraved enough to start competing for the corporeal body orforsome sort of an existance as the undead. It is not a pleasant existance. These beings are unstable. They forever feel freesing cold and can not find warmth or comfort. Whatever binds tem to this world keeps driving them through the haze of exhaustion and nausea. Their body ios crumbling into decay, they have to struggle to keep it in one piece, feel no pain, save the pain caused to their own spirit. Injuries to the unead body cause them pain because the undad spirit feels tremendous fear of going through death again. It is that that causes the undead pain and not the physical discomfort of the dead body. More pwoerful demonsa and undead creatures exert mental and emotional control over the weaker undead spirits, and Necromancers can actually splinter spirits and enslave spirits to make the weaker undead - skeletons and D&D game zombies. With the undead there is an interaction between the "natural" undea ecology - spirits brought forth by the colective unconsciousnes of humanity, and the unnatural - Residue of Necromantic experiments, Liches, and the slaves of the more powerful undead.

With regards to the mchanics of the undead and the "energy drain". (BTW the description of the Tunred paladin as a broken man is an accurate descrioption of hat happens during level drain by the undead.) In this world, the only substinents we need is physical nutrition, we eat, we drink, we breathe we live. We might cerate and reproduce. In the game world The living beings are integrated into the game reality and hence, the Light flows through them, is yrasformed through the actuons of the living and flows into the negative material plane. The undead are not part of that Light cycle. Tey are not part of the gameworld and light does not flow through them. A living being inthe gameworld is like a faucet - Light flows through them like water. The ndead is like a Pot with a hole in the bottom - unless you keep refilling it, the spirit will leave the world leaving its undead shell behind.And the way the higher and conscious undead keep themselves alive is by consuming the Light of Beings in the world. Bound by the forms imposed on the undead by the undead ecology and collective beliefs, this feeding migh take the form of blood drinking by the Vampires. Mutant ghoul, who are still in their own bodies, but are slowly eing sucked out of them. Their bodies metabolize putrescin the way the livng bodies metabolize glucose.

There is a plane of the Undead, its is a spiritual shadowy existance on the Event Horizon threshold of the Black Hole that is Negative Material Plane. The weakened undad spirits fall through the floor into the Darkess never to be seen again. That's where destroyed undead fall. The rest are trying to escape the plane by latching on to a body in the gameworld and becoming the undead.

When the Prist of Good turns the Undead, s/he channels forth the Light of the Consciousness of the Deity that the Priests worships and focuses that Divine Awareness on the abomination that is the Undead facing the priest. Light Of the World flashes on the Undead and sepaartes the physical body that is part of tghe game world from the shadow that lurks within it. The Shadow is cast into Darkness, where it belongs, into which it dissolves, the great cosmic non-being. To the udead it's like a searing flash of white light and burnig flame, from which it tries to get away.

Whenghe undead feeds on the living, it takes away the Light that is preceived by the character that life is good and that it is good to be alive and keeps people from committing suicide, Undead take that, and to them it feels like a little bit of warmth. To a wight, the zerlo level man will feel like a cup of ho coffee into a bath filled with cold water with ice cubes floating on he surface. The grater the power of the being and the more damage they do, the warmer the undead feels. If they kill a creature equal to their level, they get a fix. the feel warm and comfortable for a time, and the feelings of insecurity and rage and fear leaves them wth a high, which usually means that the undead will be sleeping like the dead until the Cold wakes them again. Undad ar addicts in the last stages of addiction to Life.

For the livjng that has been drained, te efects are primarily spiritual and psychological. In the world where belief can alter the phyhsical reality and Gods are real and present, the Living get a a glimpse into the mind of he undead, in wich there is only cold, hunger, fear, misery and terror ofthe darkness and non-being (The living wouldn't have the fear of motality that we have since their beliefs are so much stronger sine religion gets such stronger reenforcement). IIn this world, the Light, the Spirit cosists of emnories and feelings assocxiated with all the strong deeds that build character - good or evil, and it is reenfirced by the feelings of others who know the person. Undead, however, see none of this, to them it's just basic food, a fic of morphine or heroin to take away the pain. Undead seek MOMENTARY RELIEF. Because of that, the traumatic daage they do to their pey (victims) is tremedous. Recovery fro this is based on how much the drained vicitom is loved by others, Priests and Clergy can restore the lost faith, compassionate comrades in arms can restole the lost confidence. The Living heal, undead decay. If the victoim is alienated and weak, s/he will not struggle to live and will give up all of its light to the undead predator. Undead will then have captured the entire Soul and some undead can ride it so that they are removed from the Black Hole. Even if slain, the spirit of the powerful ndead will remain in the spirits of the undead which it created. With enough undead under their control, certain undead are as removbed from darkenss as the living, and if slain, will come back in soem other incorporeal form.

One of the reassons that Necromancy is forbidden i the fantsasy world as witchcraft was in this on, is because Necromancers experiment on living human beings and try to master the technique of this Light/Level drain. It is conceivable that priests of evil religions can "TURN" Paladins. If the evil Priest or Wizard has mastered the technique of the life energy drain and will drain enough Spirit from a Paladin to Break their faith, but you wouldn't be able to turnthe Living the way Undead is tuned. But that's just my world... heh-heh...

Anonymous said...

@Brooze the Bear-
Dude this is a comment page, not a soapbox or your own blog page. Comments on somebody's blog are cool, but when you start rambling about stuff, then who the hell cares. Especially when it takes up a whole page and is damn near longer than the original post. Make your point and move on for crying out loud.

Me thinks you suffer from diarrhea of the mouth...

Brooser Bear said...

Anonymous, I was merely discussing the underlying concepts concerning the undead. I don't blog much, wasn't aware of this etiquette, and besides, this is Ripper's page, not yours but I will take it under consideration.

As to you, Anonymous, me you got no balls, no brains, got nothing of substance to add, hence you hide behind etiquette. If I ever meet you in the woods, I will dismbowel you, tear your face off, and urinate on your remains so that the whole world would you to be my kill.

Anonymous said...

Brooze, if I was you, I would watch my tongue...I happen to be Ripper's wife.

Next time, know who you're threatening first before you run your mouth.

Brooser Bear said...

Oh, in the real world it makes no difference who you are, I just destroy... But I am guest here and I shall depart quietly, with all due respect to Ripper for all his great writing.

RipperX said...

I would appreciate it if nobody would flame anybody on the blog, but thanks for at least keeping it PG.

Brooze: Turning undead comes from the fiction and mythology. What it looks like is completely up to the DM. Personally, for my games, a priest shows his holy item and attempts to control the undead in the name of his god. The power of the god effects them and they are forced to flee. "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!"

Once a priest gets high enough levels, capable of destroying minor forms of undead, then a bright light is issued from the priest using his holy item, he is even more terrifying to the creatures of evil, but essentially the cleric is armed only with his faith.

Not all religions are capable of turning undead, as this is a very powerful ability which should only be used for nonviolent religions; In other words, Clerics to gods of War or who allow blades shouldn't have access to this ability.

In regard to creating your own blog, I think that my wife may have stumbled upon an idea! You certainly have a lot of ideas and content. Blogger space is 100% free and who knows, you might have some fun doing it! Let me know if you do decide to do it and I'll make sure to link you.

That is exactly how I started, I would write these long posts to Chatty over at Chatty's blog, and his readers told me the same thing. It's been almost a year now and I think that I'm finally getting the hang of it ;)

Brooser Bear said...

Ripper, thank you for the kind words and for the great offer about linking my blog. I have one, Notes From Midlands, just click on my avatar. It's a lot of theoretical stuff to give AD&D new depth any discussion or criticisn is welcome.

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