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Old 07-31-2016, 05:34 AM   #1
Tallor
 
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Default Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

Something always bothered me about skeletons being Homogenous, and now I can finally put to paper why that is.

Let's start with physics. Human skeletons--dry ones anyway--are only around 20-30 lbs. As far as I know, the femurs (upper leg bones) are the only bones to stay in place without ligaments, due to being ball-and-socket joints. Without the support of magic and/or some bindings, a skeleton simply won't stand on its own, and it certainly won't be swinging any maces around! My conclusion is that skeletons are bound to the material plane by their physical shape, and they take damage more like a machine than a totally homogenous object.

Even though skeletons are physically rather homogenous, being bones and marrow and whatnot, they're supported with necromantic magic, which (in my opinion) relies heavily on the physical intact-ness of the original body. As such, they need all their bones in some decent-enough condition. As they take damage, they begin to less resemble their necessary form, and if they hit -HP or fail a HT save, they fall apart!

The main reason I wanted to change skeletons was the steep difference between living, unliving, and homogenous creatures. Rules for limb damage and impaling attacks really made things confusing for me. I decided to slim the whole thing down by allowing undead to be Unliving, with extra HP (over their living selves) depending on the strength of their enchantments rather than a x2 to HP.

What do you think? Am I just doing the math wrong?
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Old 07-31-2016, 08:32 AM   #2
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

If by "doing the math wrong" you mean "visualizing the metaphysics of your game world differently than mine", perhaps, but that's not very wrong and not very math.

I agree that skeletons are clearly held together by magic, and having no muscles, are operated by magic. I come to an entirely different conclusion from that than you, however - since the 'nuts and bolts' are magic, and not attack-able, and since the "engine, gears, transmission belts, and pistons" are magic, and not attack-able, they might as well not be there for the hitting-it-with-things rules.

I'm with you on the magic being entangled with symbolism, but I think that's well represented simply with Fragile (Unnatural), where needed.

I've also been known to toss in Unkillable 2 and Fast Regeneration (only when dead) because skeleton bones skittering across the floor and reassembling is boss. Unfortunately one of my players has a habit of specifically collecting skeleton thigh bones and tying them up in bundles or putting them behind locked doors to interfere with this sort of effect :)

On the other hand I let Dispel Magic and Static and similar effects pop skeletons really trivially.
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Old 07-31-2016, 12:35 PM   #3
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

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If by "doing the math wrong" you mean "visualizing the metaphysics of your game world differently than mine", perhaps, but that's not very wrong and not very math.

I agree that skeletons are clearly held together by magic, and having no muscles, are operated by magic. I come to an entirely different conclusion from that than you, however - since the 'nuts and bolts' are magic, and not attack-able, and since the "engine, gears, transmission belts, and pistons" are magic, and not attack-able, they might as well not be there for the hitting-it-with-things rules.

I'm with you on the magic being entangled with symbolism, but I think that's well represented simply with Fragile (Unnatural), where needed.

I've also been known to toss in Unkillable 2 and Fast Regeneration (only when dead) because skeleton bones skittering across the floor and reassembling is boss. Unfortunately one of my players has a habit of specifically collecting skeleton thigh bones and tying them up in bundles or putting them behind locked doors to interfere with this sort of effect :)

On the other hand I let Dispel Magic and Static and similar effects pop skeletons really trivially.
Sounds like someone needs a Holy Warrior. :P
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Old 07-31-2016, 12:47 PM   #4
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

Fwiw, an average human skeleton comprises 13% of an average human's body. Interestingly, assuming a homogenous undead skeleton, this works out to right about 10 HP.

As for the metaphysics of it, i like homogenous for skeletons, myself. To me, there is no machine - only magically animated bones, so destroying the bones or the magic destroys the skeleton.

Also, skittering terminator 2-style skeletons are awesome and henceforth stolen!
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Old 07-31-2016, 01:09 PM   #5
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

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...
I've also been known to toss in Unkillable 2 and Fast Regeneration (only when dead) because skeleton bones skittering across the floor and reassembling is boss. Unfortunately one of my players has a habit of specifically collecting skeleton thigh bones and tying them up in bundles or putting them behind locked doors to interfere with this sort of effect :) ...
"The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" 1962 movie shows us that all it takes is one bone turned into a flute and played to summon the rest of the skeleton, maybe even resurrecting the original owner in the process. :)

(Interestingly, I so fully remembered only that small vignette I couldn't remember anything else from the movie. That made it a bit difficult finding the actual title. Only Buddy Hacket being the bone's owner made it possible at all.)
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Old 07-31-2016, 01:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

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Fwiw, an average human skeleton comprises 13% of an average human's body. Interestingly, assuming a homogenous undead skeleton, this works out to right about 10 HP. ...
Of course that's 13% of lean body mass. Morbidly obese and/or muscular people have slightly thicker skeletons but not by that much.
Compared to similarly sized mammals, we are a bit bony, probably from being all precarisously stacked up vertically. Elephants', depending on source, mass in at 12-15% for bones and 16% for skeleton entire.
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Old 07-31-2016, 06:07 PM   #7
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

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Of course that's 13% of lean body mass. Morbidly obese and/or muscular people have slightly thicker skeletons but not by that much.

Compared to similarly sized mammals, we are a bit bony, probably from being all precariously stacked up vertically. Elephants, depending on source, mass in at 12-15% for bones and 16% for skeleton entire.
Indian or African? How much of that weight is just "tusk"? :o
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Old 07-31-2016, 06:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

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Indian or African? How much of that weight is just "tusk"? :o
Tusks are teeth not bone, so I would hope no one includes them in their calculations. Looking around, I'd think the large size differences between the two or three species of African and the one Indian elephant would all but require some variation in that. But I just used them, because the square cube law renders them the most in need of support structures making them the "boniest "extant terrestrial mammals that I know of.
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Old 07-31-2016, 07:30 PM   #9
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

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Tusks are teeth not bone, so I would hope no one includes them in their calculations. Looking around, I'd think the large size differences between the two or three species of African and the one Indian elephant would all but require some variation in that. But I just used them, because the square cube law renders them the most in need of support structures making them the "boniest "extant terrestrial mammals that I know of.
I'll keep your calculations in mind when I do another edit for my "poaching rules" I'm working on.

Suffice to say undead skeletons are easy for that system. :P
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Old 07-31-2016, 09:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: Undead Skeletons: Unliving or Homogenous

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Of course that's 13% of lean body mass.
I did say "average" twice. I didn't think I was unclear on that point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
Elephants', depending on source, mass in at 12-15% for bones and 16% for skeleton entire.
Interesting. Excuse me, but I need to stat up some undead elephants now.
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