Questions of Death

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bigkahuna
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Questions of Death

Post by bigkahuna »

Sorry for the morbid title, but I felt it was the only one that fit the occasion :wink:
Undead have been the main fascination of most campaigns since Wesnoth was started. My questions are:

How do the mechanics of raising a body work? I would assume the necromancer summons the soul back into its own remains, but why does the soul have to be put into its own body in the first place? Could it be used to animate some other object?

Also, what about re-re-animating? Could there be a second undeath? What is the limit on reanimating a single soul?

Finally, what are the 'dark magicks'? How do mages learn these secrets? Is it some morbid inner power within them? How does one become a Lich?

I have played DiD and read the fan-fic 'the White Lich', but I feel these questions need to be solved for certain :)

On another slightly related note: Has Kalenz died yet? He hasn't been mentioned dying in the history or any events. Could he have survived the Fall? Biding his time to reveal himself again? Or is he just simply in solitary...
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by pauxlo »

bigkahuna wrote:Sorry for the morbid title, but I felt it was the only one that fit the occasion :wink:
Undead have been the main fascination of most campaigns since Wesnoth was started. My questions are:

How do the mechanics of raising a body work? I would assume the necromancer summons the soul back into its own remains, but why does the soul have to be put into its own body in the first place? Could it be used to animate some other object?
It is not really defined in lore, for now, but from what I understand:
  • Walking corpses (+ soulless) have no soul anymore, only a reanimated body (with animated mount for mounted units).
  • Skeleton-likes (skeleton, skeleton archer, dead knight, chocobone, skeleton dragon, lich lines) have body (the bones) and soul, supposedly by the same person.
  • Ghosts (+ upgrades) have no body, only a soul.
  • Ghouls (+ necrophage) are not really (un)dead, but transformed while still living (so they still have their original soul).
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by bigkahuna »

pauxlo wrote:Walking corpses (+ soulless) have no soul anymore, only a reanimated body
What are they reanimated with... I suppose some strange magic would have to control them?
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by johndh »

There's already a thread about this. :|

http://forums.wesnoth.org/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=31270


None of this has been established to be canon, but it's what I've gleaned from the discussion:
johndh wrote: WC/Soulless - No soul, no real mind to speak of. They just follow orders or, sans master, wander around looking for living creatures to slap into undeath (like the Soulless in TSG). I think this goes along well with what we know from DiD. Darken Volk was only in town for a little while, and in that brief time (maybe over the course of an afternoon) Malin learned from him how to make a corpse stand up and fight. Thus, it must be a pretty trivial thing to do if someone with no background in necromancy can do it.

Skeletons - They have a little bit of a mind left over from their former lives, so they still remember how to fight. They also have a soul, but it is perhaps only partially there (and partially passed on to the Great Beyond) or is suppressed/bound/enslaved. There doesn't seem to be much to go on other than unit descriptions.

Ghouls - Not undead. The impression I get is something akin to the wendigo. A person's greed, gluttony, and evil pollutes their mind so much that it corrupts their body into something other than human. This brings up the issue of how they are controlled. Maybe they're mindless (or nearly so) and dark mages just sort of "hijack" them, or maybe they're aware and just follow in promise of succulent living flesh to eat. I tend to favor the former, because it seems more consistent with the nature of necromancy, and fits more with Darken and Malin's conversation in DiD (Malin felt bad about enslaving them).

Ghosts - The physical manifestation of a soul. Most of them that we see are bound/enslaved by dark magic, but there are also wild ones such as in UtBS, which tend to degrade over time, becoming little more than mindless killers. They tend to dislike being enslaved and can break free of the mind control of weak-willed mages, like in DiD.

Liches and Death Knights - They retain sentience and full use of a soul. Liches die on purpose.

I'd like to offer an alternative explanation for characters like Lionel, since (it seems to me) we don't really know what happened to him in the intervening years between being alive and being undead, only that he was vengeful about something. Instead of the "he died and brought himself back" idea, maybe he didn't even realize he died. If his rage and vengeance was the only thing keeping him going, then he could have been killed and just kept on fighting and going about his daily business (á la The Sixth Sense) without noticing that he no longer hungered or thirsted, and his flesh gradually rotted away until he was a skeleton. Being dead and fully sentient, he has a strong connection with both the living and the dead, and this allows him to call upon the dead to fight for him.
bigkahuna wrote: What are they reanimated with... I suppose some strange magic would have to control them?
I think dark magic has some mind control aspects to it. This goes along with the fact that they can control bats, as well as when Darken Volk dominates some ghouls in DiD.
bigkahuna wrote: How do the mechanics of raising a body work? I would assume the necromancer summons the soul back into its own remains, but why does the soul have to be put into its own body in the first place? Could it be used to animate some other object?
I think the soul probably has a strong attachment to its own remains, and there's a fragment of it that sort of "hangs around" after the body dies. My take on it is that the dark magic hijacks this soul fragment and uses it to power the remains of the body. This is how skeletons work, and why they seem to have a little bit of intelligence to them. Walking corpses are different, in that they have no soul. Thus, a mage simply has to animate and control the body -- no soul tampering involved. The WC is motivated by its remaining bodily impulses like hunger, but its mind is a blank slate, easily controlled by magic.
Also, what about re-re-animating? Could there be a second undeath? What is the limit on reanimating a single soul?
There doesn't seem to be any precedent for it in canon. WCs are completely destroyed when they are re-killed, so there's nothing left to animate. When a ghost or skeleton is destroyed, I figure the tortured soul (or what's left of it) flees. When there is a soul or remaining bodily impulses, a mage might simply direct his minion to "go over there and kill that guy", and the minion decides the best way to get there (i.e. put right foot forward, put left foot forward, swing arm, etc.). Thus, to control a re-killed skeleton (no soul, no brain), a mage would have to direct its every move like a puppet instead of relying on basic commands.
Finally, what are the 'dark magicks'? How do mages learn these secrets? Is it some morbid inner power within them?
I suppose any magic that the mainstream "moral majority" of Wesnoth doesn't approve of would probably be labeled as "dark". So far we've seen magic dealing with death, mind control, animation of the body, binding of the soul, and draining of life. It seems to me that the art is passed down mostly from master to apprentice, so perhaps there is some unbroken lineage beginning with the White Lich and continuing on even after the fall of Wesnoth. Considering a lich can exist for a very long time and continue training adepts, one lich alone could be responsible for many generations of necromantic traditions. Also, some necromancers leave behind journals that detail their rituals and practices, like the one Malin finds.
How does one become a Lich?

I have played DiD and read the fan-fic 'the White Lich', but I feel these questions need to be solved for certain :)
I'd say DiD and tWL are both pretty consistent with what we know of liches. A mage decides he'd rather like to get rid of his "meat bag" exterior, so he performs a ritual to preserve his soul, and then he kills himself. (or she, but all of our examples so far have been male)
On another slightly related note: Has Kalenz died yet? He hasn't been mentioned dying in the history or any events. Could he have survived the Fall? Biding his time to reveal himself again? Or is he just simply in solitary...
Um... define "yet". I'm sure he dies eventually at some point in Irdyan history, but it really depends on what point we define as "now". As it stands, elves live a long time -- normally a couple of centuries -- but they don't live forever. I have no reason to believe that Kalenz is an exception.
It's spelled "definitely", not "definately". "Defiantly" is a different word entirely.
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by A-Red »

johndh wrote:As it stands, elves live a long time -- normally a couple of centuries -- but they don't live forever. I have no reason to believe that Kalenz is an exception.
He's cursed with immortality, as described in Legend of Wesmere. He'll be around until someone kills him.
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by Mountain_King »

bigkahuna wrote:Has Kalenz died yet? He hasn't been mentioned dying in the history or any events. Could he have survived the Fall? Biding his time to reveal himself again? Or is he just simply in solitary...
*Checks his old list of campaign ideas* That one's #3 or #4 on the list. I actually have most of the story figured out, I just haven't got around to it yet. So, if anybody asks...I thought it first!!! :D
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by Midnight_Carnival »

Ok, hope I'm not repeating anyone here.

Working on my mini-thesis on Death and Afterlife in ancient Mesopotamia. Necromancy is one of the main things I study (Bwahahahahaha :twisted: ) I don't know about the Wesnoth canon, but might be able to give a few insights.

Ok, the Mesopotamians did not believe in "the soul" as we know it. They did not have the distinction between "matter" and "spirit" that we do. What can crudely be aproximated as 'their idea of the soul' consisted of two entities, the etemmu, and the zaqiqu.

The etemmu, often translated as "ghost" was related especially to the body, in particular bodilly desires like hunger, etc... it was not imortal and had a sense of self. The zaqiqu, which can be translated as "breeze" was sexless and imortal, it did not seem to have a memory, it left the body during dreaming and returned. After death the two were still connected. The 'spirit' was so closely linked to the body that special rituals were thought necesarry to secure it's release for passage to the netherworld.

A "ghost" was the memory of a body, the feeling of deprivation and neglect of suffering without a body. Necromancy was practiced as part of everyday life in Mesopotamia, like astrology... During the festivities in which the dead where honoured, or when they were needed for the purposes of giving advice, or (being of the netherworld themselves) to help remove evil spirits, the 'spirit' of the departed ancestor was called up and invited to inhabit a figurine or a receptacle of some sort like a jar. Since offerings were made to the "ghost" and since the zaqiqu does not require food and is regarded as insubstatial, this was mostly the etemmu.

Ok, I thought that if "the soul" was regarded a little differently, perhaps in Wesnoth, the "memory of being alive" as a spirit could be called back and forced to inhabit or animate dead flesh, it would lack "the part of us which dreams": it would have no imagination, no apreciation of anything and exist only to serve the sorcerer who created it, motivated by desires which have become instatiable by virtue of death. This spirit could also be summoned and not given a body, but magically empowered to become a ghost.

-that's what I'd suggest.
...apparenly we can't go with it or something.
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by bigkahuna »

Mountain_King wrote:So, if anybody asks...I thought it first!!!
No offense (especially if you were joking), but you can't reserve campaign ideas. I and others have had the same idea, so it's really whoever makes it first and whose campaign catches on. So its on :lol2:

All of your answers have been interesting. Now someone needs to figure out the mechanics of the "Great Beyond", the Wesnoth afterlife. I would assume that it is pretty important...
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by johndh »

Midnight's idea is sort of along the same lines of what I meant by having a fragment of the soul left over after the body dies. I was thinking something more along the lines of Freud's psychic apparatus, though. For those unaware, Freud supposed that the psyche was made of three parts -- the id, the ego, and the super-ego. The dumbed down version and potentially flawed version goes something like this. The id is the most basic part of the mind, acting only on impulses like hunger. This is what we have as infants, before we develop a sense of self or morality. The ego is the second level, or the self, "a set of psychic functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality-testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory." Essentially, it is the part of the mind that has reasoning. The third level is the super-ego, which contains things like the conscience.

Applied to Wesnoth and the soul, I suppose the id is purely a function of the body. Even the most basic of organisms have a desire to consume and reproduce. The soul is split into two parts -- the lower and higher. Any creature capable of thought has some kind of lower soul, so an owl would but a cockroach likely wouldn't. Higher souls are reserved for intelligent beings capable of discerning right from wrong -- humans, woses, saurians, etc. The lower soul contains the ego and the higher soul contains the super-ego. When someone dies, their higher soul departs and their lower soul tends to stick around. Dark mages can only control things without a higher soul -- corpses, ghouls, and animals like bats.

Having no soul at all, the Walking Corpse has only his/her flesh. Everything the WC does is because of its basic desire to consume, as it has no rational thought, or because of the controlling power of a mage.

Ghouls are almost all id. Whatever humanity they once had is gone, and now they live to consume. Presumably, the process of making a ghoul involves violently ripping a victim's soul from the body, which is (one reason) why it's considered so dastardly.

Regular skeletons have very little left of an id. They can't really be hungry, as they have no GI tract, and they can't really be horny, as they have no genitals. Those things are a function of the flesh, from which they've been separated. They're also missing their super-ego, since the higher soul already left. Skeletons have mostly only the ego -- memory, self-preservation, etc. They somewhat retain the skills they had in life, but lack any compunctions about murder. This makes them ruthless killers, not mindless zombies.

Ghosts are similar to skeletons, but lack a body. They act out of self-preservation, mind control, or madness (like the wild ghosts in UtBS). It's been shown that they can talk, so it's safe to assume that they have some level of consciousness. They have no real needs, so they're not savage killers, and they have no conscience because that part of them moved on. They're just there. I'd say that ghosts are all over the place, but only manifest themselves as ectoplasmic bodies when called up with magic or when their lives and deaths were exceptionally horrible.

Liches and death knights retain their higher and lower soul, but their undead state means their bodily urges are mostly negligible. Thus, they can become consumed by whatever motivated them in life (revenge, pursuit of power, etc.) without disruptions like food, sex, and sleep getting in the way.

Does that make sense? Did I miss any?
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by bumbadadabum »

A-Red wrote:
johndh wrote:As it stands, elves live a long time -- normally a couple of centuries -- but they don't live forever. I have no reason to believe that Kalenz is an exception.
He's cursed with immortality, as described in Legend of Wesmere. He'll be around until someone kills him.
IftU says almost all elves fled towards Wesmere and were sacrificed there.
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by bigkahuna »

LightFighter wrote:IftU says almost all elves fled towards Wesmere and were sacrificed there.
I doubt after living so long that Kalenz would've fallen into that trap. He's too smart for that :wink:

Last we have heard of Kalenz, he is either

A. Wandering the earth after HttT

B. Governing that small village in AToTB.

I'm not sure what the timeframe is for AToTB, so we may never know when... Someone needs to make a campaign on this already :D
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by A-Red »

AToTB doesn't say he stayed to govern the village, it says he's a patron for Arne's mercenary band. In other words, he's still traveling.
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by bumbadadabum »

But Kalenz’s story was not yet over. Aquagar’s curse was fulfilled; prolonged in life by Crelanu’s philter, he outlived not only his beloved but their children.
That said, UtbS is more than 1000 years after HttT.
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by bigkahuna »

LightFighter wrote:But Kalenz’s story was not yet over. Aquagar’s curse was fulfilled; prolonged in life by Crelanu’s philter, he outlived not only his beloved but their children.
That said, UtbS is more than 1000 years after HttT.
Well, even in the lich's description, it is unknown whether life is extended indefinitely or just "prolonged". Same word there. Malin Keshar lived ~1000 years before he even began to deteriorate, and that is only because he is just a bundle of bones. Kalenz, on the other hand, could live longer...
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Re: Questions of Death

Post by Mountain_King »

LightFighter wrote:But Kalenz's story was not yet over. Aquagar's curse was fulfilled; prolonged in life by Crelanu's philter, he outlived not only his beloved but their children.
That said, UtbS is more than 1000 years after HttT.
killjoy. :P
bigkahuna wrote:Well, even in the lich's description, it is unknown whether life is extended indefinitely or just "prolonged". Same word there. Malin Keshar lived ~1000 years before he even began to deteriorate, and that is only because he is just a bundle of bones. Kalenz, on the other hand, could live longer...
Haven't you ever heard of Rhino's Be-Awesome Plot DevicesTM? With only one of those, I can make Kalenz live for an indeterminable amount of time. With a second, I can (maybe) provide a gripping tale that most people love, including me. :D
That said, I was half-joking above (actually more like 80-90% joking) with the "I thought it firsts". :mrgreen: But since I see it's now officially "on" I just wanted to let you know I coded the development version of the first scenario, finished up the full storyboard today and will be starting a development thread very, very soon. :whistle:
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