How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

For writers working on documentation, story prose, announcements, and all kinds of Wesnoth text.

Moderators: Forum Moderators, Developers

User avatar
A Guy
Posts: 790
Joined: May 24th, 2008, 1:55 am

How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by A Guy »

Although they are controlled by a sorcerer, indivudual undead seem to have a decent amount of individual intelligence. To what extent, and how much of it reflects on their former personality?

- It is mentioned in the banebow's unit description that they were typically great archers in life, which would mean that undead possess some natural talent from their previous life.
- In the DiD scenario "A Haunting in Winter", a ghost breaks free from you and can make you lose control over other units. In many other scenarios, undead other than a sorcerer are commanding undead forces, which means that they either act on behalf of the sorcerer or have gained autonomy. Also, the wraith Abhai gains complete autonomy in the Northern Rebirth scenario "The Pursuit."
- While ghosts are described as being held against their will, in a few DiD scenarios, a ghost advises Malin on what to do, and even encourages his aggression. Maybe not all ghosts are tortured in captivity? Or perhaps its will has been twisted?
I'm just... a guy...
I'm back for now, I might get started on some work again.

User avatar
zookeeper
WML Wizard
Posts: 9741
Joined: September 11th, 2004, 10:40 pm
Location: Finland

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by zookeeper »

Not canon, but here's my thoughts:

I'd guess it depends both on the undead and on the necromancer. I'd expect that a novice necromancer would be much less in control of their creations and thus occasionally have some of them go rogue, whereas an experienced practitioner has a better understanding of techniques of bending a soul to their will and probably also how to form some kind of connections between an undead creature and their skills or personality in life. The potential intelligence of an undead creature likely depends greatly on the intelligence of its living, past self, but it still takes considerable skill from the necromancer's part to get there.

If a novice raises some corpses, they might get a drooling corpse which is really hard to get to even lift their finger, or they might get a berserking corpse that tries to eat their face. A veteran necromancer on the other hand will know how to get what they want, whether it's tormented berserkers or more individually-thinking servants or scouts.

alluton
Posts: 420
Joined: June 26th, 2010, 6:49 pm
Location: Finland

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by alluton »

I think lich may transfer control of his undead to one of their minions to lead. Also I think during the raising of undead lich takes the mind under of his subject under his control. Less skilled lich or more powerfull invidual raised may lead to lich being unable to completly subjugate his minion.

Edit: I was thinking wether liches are immortal or just really long living? And how about their minions? Do skeletons keep walking forever if not destroyed?And if necromancer who raised the skeleton dies, will the skeleton continue to excists or will entire army immeaditly collapse when head is cut off?
"This game cured me of my real life addiction."
-Flameslash

Anonymissimus
Inactive Developer
Posts: 2460
Joined: August 15th, 2008, 8:46 pm
Location: Germany

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by Anonymissimus »

DiD has a huge problem with that wraith there. There's just nobody present who Malin could speak or interact with. The wraith feels like a mistake to me, it would be better to rewrite the thing to not need him. Malin commands the wraith with his voice to kill him even though he should be controlling him just using his mind !?

In DM however, the ghosts are portrayed pretty differently. There they are souls who come from the land of the dead, interact with Delfador and join him by free will. It makes absolutely sense.
projects (BfW 1.12):
A Simple Campaign: campaign draft for wml startersPlan Your Advancements: mp mod
The Earth's Gut: sp campaignSettlers of Wesnoth: mp scenarioWesnoth Lua Pack: lua tags and utils
updated to 1.8 and handed over: A Gryphon's Tale: sp campaign

User avatar
sur.nhm
Posts: 630
Joined: September 4th, 2008, 12:10 pm
Location: in /dev/null...

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by sur.nhm »

It seems that we have three ways do divvy the various "species" of Undead:
1. The Undead being either remembers its former life (Banebows, some Ghosts, Ghouls etc etc) or not (Walking Corpses, Skeleton Warriors, etc etc).
2. The Undead being either is sapient (Ghosts, Liches, etc) or not (again, WCs, Skeleton Warriors, etc).
3. The Undead being was either raised by a Necromancer (most of the Undead milling about), came into being on its own (Abhai IIRC, the Ghosts, Ghouls etc in DM) or was cursed like that guy in the Unlawful Orders scenario of Liberty.
alluton wrote:Edit: I was thinking wether liches are immortal or just really long living? And how about their minions? Do skeletons keep walking forever if not destroyed?And if necromancer who raised the skeleton dies, will the skeleton continue to excists or will entire army immeaditly collapse when head is cut off?
1. Liches are immortal - both the Dark Adept line's descriptions and various campaigns that deal with Undead (DiD, for example) state so. In fact, becoming immortal via lichdom is the stated objective of your run-of-the-mill bog-standard Necromancer.
2. I assume that since Skellies don't need food, water or air, their (and indeed most Undead beings', except the incorporeal ones) main concern is the erosion of their bodies. The way I get it is that a skeleton will walk around forever, unless a) its body is destroyed, whether by time's ravages or by someone using a 5-kilogramme hammer to smash it, or b) the Necromancer who animated the skeleton in the first place ceases to maintain the spell, whether by choice (to free resources) or not (said Necromancer enjoyed the ministrations of a trio of Arch Magi).
Incorporeal Undead, unless I'm missing something here, are mainly concerned with b, as they have no real body, so to speak; however, some cases defy this (the aforementioned Abhai and the Ghosts in DM, for example).
I'm not really around any more, but you can find me in TvTropes.

User avatar
Paulomat4
Moderator Emeritus
Posts: 720
Joined: October 16th, 2012, 3:32 pm
Location: Wesmere library, probably summoning Zhangor

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by Paulomat4 »

not to forget Lionel, who also wasn't raised by a necromancer
Creator of Dawn of Thunder and Global Unitmarkers

"I thought Naga's used semi-automatic crossbows with incendiary thermite arrows . . . my beliefs that this race is awesome are now shattered." - Evil Earl

User avatar
Telchin
Posts: 331
Joined: December 20th, 2010, 10:01 am
Location: Czech Republic

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by Telchin »

On the topic of undead dying, what exactly happens when you kill a skeleton? If it's an arcane attack it's clear - it removes the magic reanimating it, turning it from a walking corpse to a regular corpse. But what about breaking it with a mundane weapon (such as HI's mace)? Does it become truly dead or does it remain sentient, but in pieces and unable to pull itself back together?

aquileia
Developer
Posts: 120
Joined: August 25th, 2012, 5:13 pm

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by aquileia »

Abhai was raised by Malifor:
Abhai wrote:I was wrenched from my peace and forced into this ectoplasmic body by a terrible power. [...] He tried to break my spirit into mindless slavery, but I resisted his power and fled.
So mainline - excluding the direct transformation of ghouls, Lionel and Kestrel - is rather consistent: To create undead, their souls have to come from the land of the dead. Delfador is unique in that some spirits followed him out of free will while the biggest fear of necromancers is a ghost breaking his chains. This happened to Malifor as Abhai was extremely strong-minded, and to Malin as he himself was too weak.

User avatar
octalot
Developer
Posts: 469
Joined: July 17th, 2010, 7:40 pm

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by octalot »

Paulomat4 wrote:not to forget Lionel, who also wasn't raised by a necromancer
Lionel died in a remote location, but the person who sent him on that quest didn't want anyone to reach the quest item. It would fit the plot for him or his armor to have been "blessed" by an evil mage right at the start of the quest.
Currently updating the SurvivalXtreme Collection, and the SXC Pressure scenario. That's about a mermish necromancer, who's just found out that her Tentacles Of The Deep have been nerfed.

User avatar
revansurik
Posts: 550
Joined: October 17th, 2012, 11:40 pm
Location: Brazil
Contact:

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by revansurik »

Well, going by the Death Knight's description...
Tales are told of the mightiest warriors and generals, who, cursed with hate and stung by betrayal, have come back to this world as Death Knights. Wielding the same weapons as in life, they command the Undead in their quest for revenge.
...I would say that an undead does not need a necromancer's aid to exist; maybe someone who dies while taken by rage makes some sort of pact with beings of the darkness to have their souls remain in their dead bodies; that would fit Lionel's story, since he died thinking that he had been betrayed and abandoned.
On the topic of undead dying, what exactly happens when you kill a skeleton? If it's an arcane attack it's clear - it removes the magic reanimating it, turning it from a walking corpse to a regular corpse. But what about breaking it with a mundane weapon (such as HI's mace)? Does it become truly dead or does it remain sentient, but in pieces and unable to pull itself back together?
Arcane magic is said to be the most efficient way to destroy an undead, but not necessarily the only one; maybe the magic that sustains a skeleton or a walking corpse depends also on the physical integrity of the body in question; destroying it would release the magic from it, very like destroying a living body releases a soul from it. Otherwise, it would make absolutely no sense for ghosts to be destroyed by anything other than arcane magic, since they're practically immaterial.
Author of the Dragon Trilogy.

If you enjoyed A Song of Fire, War of the Jewel, Aria of the Dragon-Slayer and Soldier of Wesnoth, you may like my new project: Star of Chaos, a science-fiction mystery/adventure intended to be a trilogy
;-)

User avatar
Elfarion
Posts: 139
Joined: January 26th, 2013, 4:29 pm
Location: Göttingen, Germany

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by Elfarion »

Anonymissimus wrote:DiD has a huge problem with that wraith there. There's just nobody present who Malin could speak or interact with. The wraith feels like a mistake to me, it would be better to rewrite the thing to not need him. Malin commands the wraith with his voice to kill him even though he should be controlling him just using his mind !?
I like the dialogues with the wraith. Also the dialogue when Malin orders it to kill him: there's no reason to assume, that they're actually speaking. Could be as well a telepathic conversation.

On the original topic: I imagine that every undead creature has own motives and aims. The stronger a conjuror is, the stronger Undead he can control. As for becoming undead: the descrption of the Death Knight implies that one can not only become undead by being raised by a lich, but also because of dying with a task being unfullfilled or because they're bound to mundane realm through strong feelings.
"Each of mankind's steps towards tomorrow is a breaking of today's laws."
- Sergej Lukianenko

Patch
Posts: 33
Joined: January 20th, 2011, 4:22 am

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by Patch »

This is a really interesting topic, though I would like to say, Elfarion said they could come back for vengeance or such, but what about loyalty? It could be seen as an unfulfilled task, like helping certain General or King finish something? Or with the General/King's son? The (Ghost/Skeleton or Walking Corpse) died whilst fighting alongside the General/King and promised he'd take care of the General or King's son, and comes back from death to do that? Hmm. What do you think?

User avatar
Elfarion
Posts: 139
Joined: January 26th, 2013, 4:29 pm
Location: Göttingen, Germany

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by Elfarion »

I'd think, one needs a very strong will and sense of duty. Also this person has to be a very "strong" (not in the physical sense - I can't think of a better word) person during lifetime. And the incomplete task needs to be of great importance for this person. Also the circumstances have to be fortunate. In general it happens very rarely, otherwise Wesnoth would be haunted by Undead.
"Each of mankind's steps towards tomorrow is a breaking of today's laws."
- Sergej Lukianenko

User avatar
Dugi
Posts: 4955
Joined: July 22nd, 2010, 10:29 am
Location: Carpathian Mountains
Contact:

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by Dugi »

I think that undead can appear for different reasons (the first one should agree with folklore, the second one is typical for fantasy games):
1. A man dies with some unfinished business in our world, and it makes him return to this world, either as a corporeal revenant or a ghost, and do some actions that were related to this unfinished business. They are either sapient and feel a constant pain that makes them try to do what the purpose of their undeath is (possibly in an endless loop), or mindless and simply do what they are supposed to do. This return is still supernatural, and therefore prone to arcane damage. This is typical for Death Knights. They will rest in peace once that they are destroyed or their unfinished business gets finished (they punished their killer, for example, but if the killer is already dead, this can't be done and they have to be destroyed).
2. A dark sorcerer imbues a body with dark power, making it raise as undead, now with the purpose to obey his will. The mindless ones just obey him and the sapient ones feel terrible pain whenever they disobey (but if it is not strong enough, they might rebel, free themselves and go rogue). Their dependence on external energy source (the necromancer) might or might not be, depending on the kind of spell (what if the spell is fuelled by some kind of spiritual energy from the spirit itself?), and that also affects the destiny of the revenant after his master's death, if it dies (they don't usually crumble to dust, but they might deteriorate later) or remains roaming the world, without any purpose except some final orders of their master (that might transform them into undead of the first kind, whose purpose is now obeying the master's last order, like guarding the hideout).
3. A man raises himself as undead and becomes a lich in order to 'live' forever, until his improbable destruction.

User avatar
Elfarion
Posts: 139
Joined: January 26th, 2013, 4:29 pm
Location: Göttingen, Germany

Re: How autonomous/intelligent are individual undead?

Post by Elfarion »

I think, Dugi's suggestion fits quite well with folklore and wesnothian canon. However it brings up another question:
What does it need to keep an Undead walking?
Do they depend on some source of energy? Do they have to feed on the living? Does the conjuror have to "feed" them with magic energy? Or is it just necessary to raise them?
"Each of mankind's steps towards tomorrow is a breaking of today's laws."
- Sergej Lukianenko

Post Reply