... now with 35% more arrogance!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fearful Undead

I noticed something in OD&D I overlooked before: the undead might have to make morale rolls.

This came up because of the recent Delving Deeper errata. There's a note that ghouls have -2 to morale rolls in daylight. That's not in the LBBs, but it turns out that it *is* in Chainmail. In fact, Chainmail lists morale numbers for wraiths, specters and vampires, too. Only skeletons and zombies are fearless.

In contrast, the AD&D monster manual says that ghouls attack without fear. I seem to recall that later AD&D materials explicitly exempt undead from feeling fear -- so, no morale rolls.

My first reaction was "Screw it, the living dead shouldn't be afraid of anything except a cleric showing true faith. The Turn Undead roll is the only morale roll needed."

But we do have vampires afraid of the cross and of garlic. And a fear of sunlight or bright light isn't too far from genre expectations. Also, holy water. Not to mention that we could add unique fears to unique undead: forcing a ghost to view its own corpse might act like Turn Undead on that corpse, and zombies might be afraid of carrion birds.

So my current thinking is: the undead are not afraid of simple death and cannot normally be intimidated, but certain symbols of faith, light, or purity can trigger morale rolls.


  1. My instinct is that it makes sense for intelligent undead to make morale rolls because they, well, are intelligent and are interested in their own self-preservation.

  2. I'm fine with the undead experiencing fear etc., in light of the fact that so many are allegories of extreme emotion anyway (liches = pride, vampires = lust, wights = greed, spectres =anger, etc ... wait a minute, maybe those are sins ...).
    Anyway I assume the undead would usually be clinging to whatever existence they have and fear destruction, but I guess not all of them would necessarily want to keep existing; there are ghosts that want to be 'laid'.

    I'm also reminded of old versions of Warhammer where skeletons never rout but other undead can. Zombies IIRC were even prone to panicking.