Thursday, August 30, 2018

Make sure they stay dead

It's a familiar tale: live, die, get buried, crawl back out of your grave.  Just about every culture has stories of malevolent undead.

In a world where the undead are real, people will eventually find a way to stop the dead from rising (if it can be done at all).  Choose one or two methods that work:

How to prevent the undead (d10)
1Burn the body so no part remains.
2Remove an essential part of the body (eyes, heart, teeth, head) so the undead can't act.
3Stab/cut the body to release the spirit.
4Feed the body to carrion beasts (or eat it yourselves) so its potency is divided up.
5Have a ceremony to make sure the dead person has no reason to come back (releasing them from debts/obligations, banishing them from the community, promising to make grave offerings).
6Bury the body under a large stone or deep in the ground to make sure it stays buried.
7Dispose of dead bodies far from the settlement on the far side of some obstacle (river, mountains, cliff, lake) so they won't walk back.
8Give their spirit somewhere more suitable to live (graveyard shrine, temple, offerings, carved wooden body).
9Make a false village (or just a model, a picture, trinkets from the village) to confuse the undead and keep them away from the real one.
10Sacrifice animals/servants at the funeral so the person who died isn't alone and angry in the afterlife.

There's a certain amount of Darwinism at play.  Like species, cultures evolve over time.  After tens of thousands of years, cultures that couldn't deal with the undead are outcompeted by cultures that found a solution.  But that's assuming the undead are actually a threat.

How correct their methods are (d8)
1The undead are a major threat and always have been.  Correct procedure for dead bodies is part of their religion.
2The undead haven't been a problem for many centuries.  They keep using their method for the sake of tradition, but they've made it simpler/easier.
3-4The undead are a sporadic threat that comes and goes, based on something people haven't figured out (planetary alignment, 11-year locusts, humidity).  They use several methods at once, with more complexity than necessary.  Methods vary from culture to culture, but the correct method is included in all of them.
5-6The undead are a new threat (a recent plague, new arrivals to the area, new planetary era) and people are still figuring out how to deal with them.  Different groups are trying different methods, prone to switching rapidly and falling for scams.
7-8The undead are just rumors and myths.  Some cultures have a method, some don't.

The threat of undead could be the entire explanation for why a culture handles dead bodies the way they do.  Try rolling up some death culture for yourself:

death culture
How to prevent the undead
How correct their methods are

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