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Old 06-24-2020, 08:55 PM   #1
SolemnGolem
 
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Default Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

I'm writing up a modified Ravenloft setting (kingdom of Darkon, a dark magic fantasy realm). The leadership of the kingdom is intentionally secretive and runs things generally through a cabinet of barons, and a sinister secret police - the Kargat.

The Kargat heads are said to be all vampires or other top-rank undead in the base game. I'm okay with this, but I want to have vampires that are high-powered, rare, and each fairly distinct from each other.

I've come up with these concepts so far, after looking through undead manuals and GURPS Blood Types:
  • The standard "magical blood-drinking nobleman". He has wolf/bat/mist alternate forms, some arcane spellcasting, drinks blood, etc. His resting focus is the traditional coffin.
  • The cosmopolitan temptress. Physically less powerful, but doesn't fear sunlight and doesn't need blood to survive. Instead, she leeches off the energy and emotional vitality of her thralls, leaving them listless and indifferent to death.
  • The military revenant. Based on a draug template, this is a physical powerhouse of a dead soldier. It carries a returning spear, an axe for carving through armor, and a broadsword for lifestealing healing.
  • The faithless preacher. She can command emotions in living listeners, swaying the skeptics to faith, and moving the faithful to tears. As the harbinger of a false religion, she also projects a Static aura around her which obscures and disrupts priestly magic.
  • The jiangshi alchemist. This Kargat head hails from an Eastern land, and has mastered a mix of herbalism and alchemy, as well as two of the five wuxing elements (water and wood).
  • The parasite collective. This Kargat head is a collection of wormlike parasites (tsochar) that grow more intelligent the larger their number. Limited by the mass of their human hosts, they seek a massive sapient creature to infect and overcome.
  • The Pyrewraith. An elven agent once betrayed her people in return for the king's favor - her fellows burned her at the stake. The Kargat brought her back, as an ash-flaked spirit full of vengeance.
  • The barrener. A dwarven Kargat head ruling over the mountain forests, who drains the essence of the earth he stands on, leaving a trail of blasted and stunted vegetation. He cannot be killed as long as he touches the earth.

I hope to post some NPC builds in greater detail in this thread for comment and critique. Several of these were posted in GURPS discussions elsewhere, before being removed. Hopefully they'll do better here, on GURPS' home turf.

I'm puttering around with building my NPCs in GURPS Character Sheet. I don't know if there's an easy way to output a forum-friendly format.

Last edited by SolemnGolem; 06-28-2020 at 08:24 PM.
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Old 06-24-2020, 11:33 PM   #2
AlexanderHowl
 
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

I would add a human necromancer who gains energy from corrupting her sexual conquests and uses it to fuel her magic. In effect, she uses a modified form of Leech to transfer her Corruption to her lovers during sex, allowing her to practice magic without any cost to herself. She maintains her immortality through mastery of the College of Necromancy, which she uses to Steal Youth from her lovers as she corrupts them. She was granted baronial status after she used Eviscerate to extract the brains of a dozen vampire nobles who were disrespecting her territory.
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Old 06-25-2020, 07:06 AM   #3
Kromm
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

Two of my favorites. They're rather similar, so perhaps pick just one or combine them:
  • The Salesman. "I'm undead . . . and you can be, too!" Sees undeath as purely beneficial, and encourages others to "take the pledge" and join the ranks of the undead. All smiles and promises on the surface, but that inevitably conceals a dark secret:

    • Everybody who wants to become undead has to sign a contract that appears to establish the terms of inheritance (the Salesman gets a big cut in return for helping you keep the rest after you come back from the dead, despite laws that normally stand in the way of that) and absolve the Salesman from liability (say, when you come back all crumbly or whatever). But hidden in the contract – perhaps in the legalese, maybe concealed in the physical document – is a magic that sells the signee's soul to the Salesman's dark master: the demon who made him undead in the first place.

    • It's a pyramid scheme! The Salesman eludes final death because he creates more undead and sucks energy from them slowly . . . they're undead rather than simply dead because they do the same . . . and so on. Of course, no pyramid scheme is sustainable indefinitely.

  • The Industrialist. An undead master whose ghouls or zombies are tireless workers – turning capstans, hammering metal, hauling loads, etc. Whatever the majority view of undeath in the surrounding culture, this has led to great prosperity that the locals are extremely reluctant to let go of for mere "moral" reasons. Of course, even undead wear out, and doubtless the Industrialist depletes his workers by drawing energy from his infernal machines, so new blood is needed . . . and the locals are happy to provide it through various criminal means, up to and including abducting travelers and raiding for slaves.
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Old 06-25-2020, 07:56 AM   #4
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

What about:

The tactician:
A vampire who has done his best to eliminate emotion from all his decisions. He doesn't kill unless necessary. He looks down on his emotional brethren as wasteful, and spend endless hours studying. Life under him seems comparatively good at first as he wants his subjects to be productive and therefore uses psychology to keep them happier. Under the surface, though, there's eugenics, population control, and criminals are treated mercilessly. He's playing the long waiting game knowing that his low-risk strategies and immortality will eventually see him rise to the top. He doesn't have to assassinate or backstab anybody as long as others take risks and he doesn't.

The hedonist:
Eat! Drink! Fight! Mate! Probably a short-term ruler of a smaller area. Personally powerful and easily manipulated by the others. He attracts other powerful entities who compete for favor and scraps. He's quick to anger and to forgive. Administration is left to others while he sets about the more "fun" aspects of ruling.
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Old 06-25-2020, 09:01 AM   #5
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

I just want to say this is the most positive and supportive response I've gotten online for this humble question. Thanks again to the gracious hivemind and you make me happy to be a GURPS player.

Great ideas, all. I especially like the wry tongue-in-cheek utilitarianism of Kromm's Industrialist Necromancer. Reminds me of a Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri quote, suitably garbled:

Quote:
"My gift to industry is the Necromantically-Revived worker, or Necrojack for short. Unthinking, uncomplaining, an ideal drone. Tyranny, you say? How can there be tyranny when they cannot feel pain?"
I'm trying to figure out GCS to output to a forum-viewable format before I post here. OR, I could output to .png graphics and post them remotely, then post links here (the main problem being that they're a bit of a bear to update if I need any changes).

I'll try statting up the quirks and foibles of the NPCs posted here by others too, I love these alternative takes on the vampire motif.
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Old 06-25-2020, 09:26 AM   #6
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

A great example of an undead ruled kingdom is Geb in Pathfinder. It’s ruled by a Lich Queen, it’s original ruler That the country is named after is an insane ghost, it treats its living citizens well, sentient undead like vampires and ghouls have full citizen rights, pretty much all manual labor is done by zombies and skeletons. All citizens who don’t become a sentient undead are animated as zombies after they die, and there are some unpleasant realities that are swept under the rug. Not to mention that there are several other countries that would love to see it wiped off the map. But it’s remote and mostly peaceful, and entrenched enough that it’s mostly left alone.
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Old 06-25-2020, 11:17 AM   #7
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

I've never played Ravenloft, but I hear the mood is bleak as explitive! How about a church outpost where all are welcome? It gives hope throughout the world and is fabled for resisting the encroachment of the vampiric overlords. Every slave who dares dream of escape dreams of this place.

But the reality is more grim. Tithing is 10% of every transaction AND 10% of income. The Archbishop lives like a king while the constant stream of refugees struggle for food. Religious adherance is mandatory and skipping service or other sins are punished by public flogging.

To top it all off, they will never attack the neighboring lands. The Archbishop is on the vampire lord's payroll like everyone else. They tolerate him because all the rebels flock to one place instead of having rebellions crop up randomly.

But, hey, you can buy holy weapons here.
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Old 06-25-2020, 01:50 PM   #8
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

A wraith who has several mortal hosts scattered about as semi-permanent partners/thralls (perhaps its mortal descendants). It can hop between them at will, and can also possess other mortals on a more temporary basis, with ill-effects on the temporary hosts. Obviously very good at the secret policing business...
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Old 06-25-2020, 02:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

Another, more traditional addition to the collection of undead masters ruling over mortals and playing politics among themselves is the phony undead master. This person alters their appearance, scent, and even supernatural aura via some sort of magic, in order to appear undead. They raise zombies, ban holy water, tear down temples, banish priests, decorate their lair with creepy Gothic stuff, alter local statuary and written archives to support crazy stories about them being someone who died 500 years ago, etc. And they use the fear generated by their fake undead status – and likely real and very powerful magic – to control the locals. If heroes show up looking to exorcise ghosts, stake vampires, and so on, they might find themselves unprepared for the true danger (especially if this person can just switch off the disguise and show up as a random villager . . .).

Plot twist: Nobody said this person was human. They might be the member of some long-lived, unnatural race (faerie, squidfaced brainsuckers, extraterrestrials, ultraterrestrials . . .). That could really mess up the plans of fearless vampire killers.
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Old 06-25-2020, 03:30 PM   #10
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Default Re: Concepts for powerful undead ruling over live subjects

What about the centuries old scholarly wizard who became a lich just so they had enough time to finish their lenghty experiments for the benefit of the lands they live in. And since the lich has existed for so long while being a (mostly) positive influence, the citizens have accepted the lich's role first as a trusted advisor and later as the stable and "benevolent" ruler who has been around for longer than most elves live.

And anyone with an interest in and aptitude for magical experiments can gain wealth and status, regardless of what or who they experiment with as long as it doesn't interfere with the experiments of someone more powerful. All in the name of advancing magical knowledge.
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