The Slayer's Guide to Undead
Written by Gary Gygax, this book contains undead that have come and gone, and remain! Because they are so integral a part of any fantasy role-playing game campaign, these creatures of the night will be forever a part of the deadly dangers adventurers must face. Of all the different sorts of monsters, the undead lend themselves best to augmentation, combination, and variation so as to present a new and shuddersome face to what seems a familiar theme in both folklore and game lore.
Animate dead things that should not be, malign human spirits roving the earth, are mainly a thing of legend and fable. Of course Greek mythology speaks of skeletal warriors and the shades of the dead, and more current primitive myth deals with the whole spectrum of what we consider here as the undead. That said, the whole class, physical undead and non-corporeal spirits alike, are basically the stuff of horror rather than fantasy. Why were such creatures included back when the original game was being written? There are two main reasons. First, the undead make simply marvelous monsters for the player characters to contend with. Second, the existence of living dead and Evil spirits gave the cleric class more meaning, empowered them beyond mere healers and the casters of spells less generally effective that those of mages.
Here is a brief survey of how such creatures came into being for the game, the genesis starting all the way back with the Chainmail rules in 1971. Delving into mythology, legends, and fable brought some of the undead to the fore in the works. It was authored fiction that lent the main inspiration for the creation of the whole class though. For example, the lich as presented had no roots in any of the sources mentioned, but building from the monsters that were created thus, that monster came into being as the top of the corporeal undead food chain, if you will. Who can resist the lure of a malign spell-worker using dark arts to retail a semblance of life after dying? In the film Big Trouble in Little China, the villain was certainly a lich of sorts, a specter-lich perhaps.
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