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The Background

I have an early medieval/late dark ages society roughly equivalent to Anglo-Saxon Britain or Viking Scandinavia. Everything's fairly normal...apart from the fact that people who drown in the sea come back as draugr.

This has always been a low-level nuisance throughout their history, but over the past decade or so (timescale flexible) they have started showing up in increasing numbers (perhaps a disastrous naval battle offered them an influx of bodies allowing them to gain a bit of a foothold).

Draugr

A draug in this instance is a semi-intelligent zombie-like creature that's generally vindictive and malicious. They're intelligent enough to use basic hand-weapons, rudimentary tactics and communication, but are generally pretty slow thinkers.

Their motivations amount to not a great deal more than 'kill people, make more draugr', which they achieve by dragging bodies back into the sea whereupon they will emerge as more draugr after a short period of time.

Killing one isn't a great deal more difficult than killing a regular person, and a reasonably trained person will usually prevail against a draug one-on-one as draugr are a little sluggish, but they don't stay dead for long. After about a week, they start getting back up again unless their bodies are burnt.

The Question

What measures might my not-anglo-saxons/vikings start taking to protect themselves from this new threat?

For clarification: the draugr are the only magical element of this world. Everything else is mundane.

Any other questions or clarifications please ask!

Edit:

Thanks for all the excellent answers. I'm not sure I pitched the intelligence level right, but I won't edit the original question as the answers provided answer it perfectly.

So, as a corollary if it's not too broad, how might these precautions change if the draugr above were intelligent? If you split intelligence into capacity and thought-rate, they have the same capacity for intelligent thought as humans but a lower rate. Same ideas, just takes them longer to get there.

If this is too broad, please let me know and I'll split it out into a separate question.

Quick clarification

Non-rotting undead.

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    $\begingroup$ I was going to answer, but the other answers already cover most of what I had to say. I would just mention that the peoples you talk about, especially the Norse, were very religious and had superstitions about this sort of thing (draugr is actually the Old Norse word for zombie, more or less). The very first thing they would do is perform their rituals to appease the gods. $\endgroup$ – bendl May 4 '18 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ Reminder to close-voters: The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it. (I also don't see how this is VTC-worthy.) $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 4 '18 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ @bendl thanks for the additional comment, that's very realistic :) $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @Frostfyre: I am voting to Leave Open. $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name May 4 '18 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ Fus Ro Dah obviously $\endgroup$ – Cyrus May 4 '18 at 14:27

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Fight draugr with dogr.

If you have weird dudes sneaking around the village looking for trouble, there is nothing better than a watchdog. They will be even better for draugr. Dogs will smell these guys coming a half mile away. They will bark like mad and alert the humans. They will do their best to hold off the draugr themselves, and for a dog their best is pretty good. Dog packs work as a team - one big dog might be a match for a single draugr but 5 dogs working together will make short work of it. Also if a human gets killed it gets turned into a draugr. If a dog gets killed it stays a dead dog.

Dogs have been the wingmen of humans for thirty thousand years. They get along fine with us. They eat what we eat. They are cheap and you can get a big supply quick. If you have human enemies they will figure out the dog thing pretty quick and come up with antidog measures like poison or ranged weapons. Even a sabretooth tiger will figure out the dogs are there and steer clear. Not the draugr. They will never figure it out. Dogs are draugr kryptonite.

There would be one dog whose special job is to bring back the head.

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer too :) gives a lot of flavour and realism to the world as well. Interestingly, I was just thinking how things might change if it turns out that whatever makes draugr isn't quite so picky over the species... $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ Is it spoiling the joke to say that the Old Norse word was hundr? Of course, they’re not exactly Norse or Saxon. $\endgroup$ – Davislor May 4 '18 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ The smarter you make them the more it is like fighting humans. For example - do the draugr make tactical retreats? Can they make fire? Do they set traps? Could they make alliances with groups of humans? It is all good and it does not need to all be stated up front - it gives narrative energy when the characters realize their enemy is smarter than they thought. $\endgroup$ – Willk May 4 '18 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ It's fortunate for this proposal that dogs stay dead. Generally the rule is that you shouldn't fight zombies with anything you wouldn't want to face as a zombie! $\endgroup$ – user2781 May 6 '18 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl That is one of the variable in the draugr. In another answer we came up with the option that if draugr can create draug-carthorses then then can start shipping bodies back to the sea in large numbers. I expect dogs would make a nasty option too (although to keep the balance you might make it so that a human-draug would need to actively make a dog-draug. Otherwise you'd end up with animal-draugs running rampant. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 6 '18 at 10:51
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The dark ages were not without their threats, as such fortifications were not uncommon. These would seem to be pretty Draugr proof. So if there was a Draugr bloom, people could withdraw to the castle and let the archers handle it. Once no Draugr were standing a pire could be arranged to effectively deal with the bodies.

It would be more of a threat in smaller settlements but a watch could be placed and people warned if a Draugr approached.

If things got out of hand, move inland. The Draugr are connected to the sea dragging a body 10 or so miles is going to take a while and be obvious. So you could pick off Draugr more easily if you were further inland.

You would have to also watch out for Draugr trials, and general superstition and hysteria.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks :) great answer, especially with the addition of superstition and hysteria given the belief systems extant at the time. Also, thanks for a terminology 'draugr bloom'. Awesome phrase ;) $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ +1. One can see parallels with the Roman Empire of the Byzantine era. When they were too weak to fight the Saracens, they would retreat to fortifications, and then ambush them as they returned laden with plunder - which for the Draugr are the dead bodies. $\endgroup$ – André Paramés May 4 '18 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ "a watch could be placed and people warned" is easier said than done. In a small village, pretty much every able-bodied male is going to be working the fields. Putting the kids on watch duty out past the fields is going to have problems (kids have pretty short attention spans), plus it puts them in harm's way and they can't really defend themselves. Dark ages villages simply didn't have the surplus resources to provide full-time soldiers (or other non-productive types). $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 4 '18 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast Very valid point. There's a reason 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' has a boy watching the flocks, aside from appealing to the intended audience. It's a definite point of weakness, and I can definitely see children having fables about watchfulness drummed into them. Ooh, and there's also a neat narrative arc if a group of watches gets bored and wanders off to play... $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 6 '18 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Ynneadwraith - There's a difference in situations, as well. Generally, wolves are interested in sheep, not shepherds. So putting a kid to watch the sheep generally works, especially since the kid can roam around the flock, look at bugs, play with rocks, etc. If an attack occurs the kid can use a sling but is not in much danger. Plus, for what it's worth, shepherds spend rather more time keeping the stupid sheep out of trouble than defending them against predators. If the kids themselves are the targets, the situation is different. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 6 '18 at 13:50
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Guard the places where new Draugr will appear

If there is one location where the new Draugr will regularly appear you will want to have some guards trained in fast dispatching of Draugr to be stationed nearby. There should be multiple people and they should be far enough away to not be overwhelmed by half a dozen or so emerging at the same time, but I take it that they are not going out there en masse as a big army or your problem wouldn't be a continuous slowly rising threat.

The same would be done with people who drown. If you know someone drowned in the river and you can't reach them without having to fear drowning yourself you would station people nearby to deal with maybe a handful off Draugr. Better safe than sorry, you don't want a single guard at the river and suddenly dealing with more Draugr than necessary.

Other than that all dead would be burnt as a general rule of thumb. Again, better safe than sorry. Who knows, maybe they can get the recently deceased out of their grave after some time and put them in the ocean to revive them? People will have a lot of additional superstitions and prefer everyone to be burnt as a general precaution.

As they are not the brightest and not the strongest they pose a little threat and there is not really any need to go against them on a large scale. Slowly decreasing their number will put them back into a reasonable number range sooner or later. If you pay the guards enough this will be a great job opportunity - guards that have to be trained and paid, outposts that have to be built, rations and weapons that have to be delivered, ... It's probably good for your economy.

If their numbers are so high that they will pose a more serious threat you should think about securing common river passages better. Again, guards are a great thing to make sure that you at least know where someone died and will be coming back to life soon. Just don't take money for people to cross the bridges or they will find other ways and then you are back to the root problem.

If there are a lot of these things you should make sure that no small villages will be overrun. The biggest problem with zombie-like hordes is if they start with small villages and are suddenly able to take big villages - because then large cities are not far anymore... Your higher ranked people should therefore reinforce the small villages, which will probably again be good for commerce.

Basically you have the most harmless zombie apocalypse scenario I have ever encountered on this site - good job and have fun with your undead enhanced economy!


If you want them a lot more dangerous than you have proposed - Only allow certain people near oceans/rivers and make drowning someone a serious crime

First problem: undead rot. If you have rotting undead they don't have a lot of time to make more rotting undead, so they won't be able to formulate a bigger strategy. Especially because "kill people, make more Draugr" is currently their only motto. Change this to "Kill all the people and make them ever-lasting Draugr" to get a far more serious threat.

Next problem: communication. You need to have a way for them to talk to each other. If you can give them telepathy of some kind to communicate with other Draugr via magic you would get perfect communication that can't be intercepted and can be used to change battle strategies extremely fast. Without that they are basically humans, so in theory written communication would still be possible. But paper and water don't go too well with one another and leaving message written in the sand of your beaches will be akin to crop circles - you can't get much more obvious.

Problem number three: Intelligence. You need to raise their intelligence, cunning and patience to make them a more capable threat. A bunch of children that drowned in the nearby river will hardly be a threat for a castle. A bunch of enhanced war strategists that were fighting a naval battle might be better, but naval battle is still different from battles on the land and if they drown they probably weren't that good or they would have killed the other one or would have seen the storm coming. Of course there can be any number of additional reasons, but capable strategists are often not fighting on the frontlines so the dead from the frontlines won't be the best strategists that your capital can send to fight this threat.

Four: Make them stronger and faster. You want them to drag people back into the ocean/river/... That requires strength. And it takes a long time during which you are incredibly vulnerable. To take a former example: a bunch of kids that drowned in the local river will hardly be able to drag the village's smith from the village center to the river. No additional Draugr and any searching party, no matter how inexperienced, will find their trail and pick them off while they are a basically non-moving target trying to drag something that is far too heavy for them. This gets easier with adult Draugr, but only so much - have you ever tried dragging a body across the ground for a few kilometers alone? (I hope not, but this should be very, very difficult for your Joe Average. So give your Joe Draugr more power so he's back to hunting faster.)

Five: Your Draugr need to arrange raiding parties. But raising an army takes time and you need to communicate across distances and you need spies. If you have your Draugr be faster and more patient you could have Draugr spies, but currently any spy would easily be detected. Still, fishing villages would notice real quick that there is an army of undead in their waters. And if you kill every fisher that comes too close the village will know that there something is not right. This happens two or three times, they send someone to the capital, the capital sends someone to deal with the Draugr. A little war party should be enough - the Draugr have at most the drowned from the latest naval battle and a village of untrained Draugr at their disposal.

Six: Drowning someone to murder them becomes a serious crime and is something you have to take care of because you suddenly have Draugr behind your walls. Imagine it works by simply drowning someone in a bucket of water - your Draugr, if he is really intelligent, could kill quite a few people without being detected and suddenly you have an attack from the insight. Combine this with telepathy and you can get some reasonable attacks - though you would need a human to be extremely careless or extremely hostile towards the city inside the walls for this to work. To counter this drowning someone would be a serious crime that will be punished by torture of you, your family, your pets, everyone you care about - you could unleash a zombie hell after all. Together with the supserstitions you would therefore have more laws to handle deaths and crimes in that direction.


If you want to make them a threat

Have all animals be susceptible to the Draugr curse - and all Draugr be capable of communication and comparable human-like intelligence. If it's not limited to humans and allows all Draugr, no matter the former species to communicate, things start to get interesting. People wonder why the hunting grounds are less dense when suddenly an army of wolves and boars rise from the tides to swallow whole villages in a sweeping attack with the humanoids carrying the prey off to make more infantry soldiers. It would still be a somewhat known threat as you say they have been around before, so people would know the signs and some may be prepared. But some would not be prepared and suddenly you have localized raids that start to grow into a mass scale attack. This would be horrifying zombie apocalypse - but it would need a lot of time and patience on the side of the Draugr where they are trying to covertly infiltrate the human regions and amass more soldiers for their army. This means a lot of time for people to figure out how to fight them and to prepare counter-attacks. If they are not vastly stronger it would be a normal battle and the best commander on each side might play the most important role in deciding humanities faith.

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    $\begingroup$ Haha I like the conclusion that a steady stream of dead people coming out of the sea would probably be quite a good thing for Anglo-Saxon Britain's economy ;) how might it change if draugr were a little more dangerous. Not necessarily physically, but more organised. The way I'd describe their intellect isn't so much lower than a person's, more just happening at a slower rate allowing them to strategise a little more. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ Haha awesome :) that's sort of what I was after. Less a zombie apocalypse, more a stable situation where there happen to be zombies (which can later be blown out into a proper threat if the draugr stumble upon a careless battlefield massacre near a coastline). I'll edit the question for intelligence level though as I'm not sure I pitched it quite right. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Ynneadwraith I added a few things about making them more of a threat. I still don't think they are a big threat to any reasonable kingdom, even with a couple enhancements (physically and mentally). $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name May 4 '18 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ Perfect thanks :) still happy that they're not a massive threat individually even with the changes, but could potentially pose a real threat if they start getting organised for whatever reason (a king going viking gets caught in a storm with all his advisors...and horses, if the draug-effect isn't limited to people). $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Ynneadwraith If you can get the important people who could rally an army to disagree with each other and simply do nothing, or you for example make a new religion that is preaching that stuff like the Draugr doesn't really exist, you could easily manage this. Imagine living in a world where people don't believe in zombies anymore/see them as entertainment because that is supposed to be occult and every time you hear that someone has disappeared without a trace you simply assume a madman/accident instead of the nearly forgotten Draugr. A few centuries would be enough to... wait a moment... $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name May 4 '18 at 13:39
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All current answers assume a military response. There is another solution.

Talk to them.

Contrary to popular belief, use of tools is hard mentally. Some species do, but it's rare to see invention happening. In apes, it tends to be a group thing, where some genius ape in the past has thought of the idea, and the others replicate it thereafter but can't translate it to new tool use. Crows are surprisingly good, but they still can't go beyond using bent sticks to retrieve something, and that's generally in response to human interaction which shows them how. The idea of using a tool as a weapon takes some serious mental agility. There's some fairly strong evidence that we're no more intelligent than the Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals who first started using tools to a significant extent - we just have a much bigger toolkit. This ties in with your concept of them being intelligent, just slower at processing.

If they're intelligent though, they're capable of being reasoned with. A constant state of stalemate and attrition on both sides is not good for humans or draugr. Sooner or later a draugr leader will realise this, and there will be peace deals and formal allocation of territory. This doesn't mean that wars won't still break out - humans manage that perfectly well on their own, after all. But since it isn't possible for one side to fully wipe out the other, they will learn to live with each other. Terry Pratchett's trolls and dwarfs spring immediately to mind here.

Since the draugr are intelligent, they presumably also have desires of their own, beyond simply "catch humans, make more draugr". Can they reproduce amongst themselves? Do they remember anything of their human lives? And how long do they live once they convert?

If they remember their human lives, and they are long-lived (or eternal), it is entirely possible that the draugr may outcompete humans on technology. Once humans and draugr stop killing each other, draugr numbers will only ever go up, whereas humans are vulnerable to famine and disease. This will build a phenomenal "brains trust". Imagine if we still had Newton, Hook, Leibniz, Laplace, Boyle, Davey, Faraday and Einstein still around, working alongside Stephen Hawking. The results they'd get to would still be incredible, and science develops exponentially with bouncing ideas off your peers. Even if their processing speed is slower, their potential will greatly surpass humans.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting indeed, and something I'll definitely consider. It's also roughly similar to an entirely separate idea for an elven culture in a magical world that has a habit of resurrecting its dead elders to form their council, which as you say would provide a sizeable advantage in continuous experienced leadership. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Ynneadwraith If you're thinking in that direction, I had a further idea along those lines. If draugr live forever (or for a long time) after conversion, and if they still retain their human memories, why would you not drown your old people (or anyone with a terminal illness) in the sure and certain knowledge of their resurrection? Maybe granny will smell like seaweed, but she'll still be the same person. Granny won't attack her children and grandchildren, and they won't attack their granny. This would give you an interesting society. $\endgroup$ – Graham May 4 '18 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham reminds Skyrim alittle. I have only vague recollection, there was a non-aggressive dead Thane you have to help.Also your offer to "talk" may be considered as element of ritual "magic" (which isn't magic), where certainly talented person - wise woman? - may able to bargain with or soothe dead so they would leave living alone (for time being). $\endgroup$ – Swift May 7 '18 at 8:47
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Enforce shore-watchers:

Since your draugrs come from the sea, it would be a good idea to reserve a share of the town guard / the army / the raiders to patrol the shores, killing and burning down any draugr they stumble upon.

It's pretty easy to have a few armed man caring for major cities, but it might be difficult to protect far away, poor fishing villages. Governments (medieval governments, a that!) can usually ignore the loss of the occasional farmer, but as you state in your questions, an increasing number of causalities will affect the general wellbeing of your people.

So, either your shore-watchers are raised from the area's populace, or their are trained kingdom-wide and then dispatched on the field. The latter assumes a more stable, centralized form of government. It's your call, whatever feels more coherent with your society will work.

Of course, keep in mind that even a trained force won't be able to have the entire shoreline of your country in check, but it's a step in the right direction. A soldier is still better than a regular fisher armed with a pitchfork, even if your viking-like fishers will probably have axes or such.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice answer, thanks :) the bit around protecting isolated villages is interesting, as leaving them open to attack seems to be a good way of inadvertently creating a sizeable draugr army... $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ The Water's Watch. Just don't try and desert or they cut your head off. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 4 '18 at 17:34
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The problem is that many or all good sites for settlements lie on a shore or along a river. Add to that that in the erly middle ages, transport by ship was far superior to any land based transport. An early medieval society battling Draugr would need to radically change it's relationship to open water bodies. If you feel my answer assumes to many or too powerful Draugr, tone down the responses - only some are follwed at some places etc.

Draugr attack methods:

  • attack boats from below with grappling hooks, trying to capsize them
  • Sneak attack on villatges by the sea
  • Hiding in boats left on shore
  • sabotaging boats left on shore
  • March up rivers to attack towns further inland, along shores of rivers and lakes
  • Ambush in rivers at major fords, attack bridges to force the use of fording

Defenses and second order effects:

  • Don't build enclosed harbors, instead have fortifications with a wall between the shore and the houses
  • Every night, drag boats into the walled settlements (this would apply to fishing villages and the likes)
  • When this is not possible, each new day for sailors and fishers will begin with a ritual check of their vessels for hidden Draugr (possibly with dogs) and sabotage traces
  • Naval architecture 1: I guess a boat shape that is well suited to drag across a beach twice a day would be flat bottomed and fairly light, which would be susceptible capsizing by attacks from below. So maybe the go-to boat for fishers will be a sort of light catamaran, as a good compromise of stability and lightness.
  • Naval architecture 2: Build boats so heavy and stable, with so much draft and such high boards, they can't be capsized by grappling hook attack from below. These will of course not be dragged on shore. Since a few patient Draugrs with drills could sink one on the high seas, I don't see much high sea travels.
  • rafting timber or other goods along rivers will be a thing for the reckless, as will be crossing rivers through fords
  • The uselessness of rivers for transport will force the societies to use more road based transport, at some distance from the cities.
  • Rivers will be even stronger borders than before
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Consider what the volume of seawater necessary is to make draugr and whether the property is expended after a certain number of conversions. Is it due to a property within the sea itself? Another force, that can be reasoned with or dealt with at source?

You'll need to account for the fact that it simply can't be just draugr that are magical - there would need to be some property or entity in the water that handles this exchange. An undersea portal, a monster, etc. Perhaps it's something that resides in all humans from birth from some long ago war (tying into above pact making and intellectual exchange between societies?).

Could a malicious individual gather coffins of seawater, silently murder individuals, bind them, convert them, and raise a quiet batallion within city walls?

Could a plague + a tainted water supply cause the same occurence? Is full submersion necessary?

I'd develop the cause+effect further, at this point you should get some really interesting countermeasures (medieval desalination practices? rainwater gathering? waxing the skin in a religious pretense of protection, should one die? having some kind of dessicant on hand to take, similar to our cyanide?) Rivers and brackish water and previosuly thought-safe ponds that have connected to the sea through some intermediary become interesting pop-up issues.

humans can only survive a day without water, let's remember. damned if you do and damned if you don't.

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    $\begingroup$ Now that does move on to another revelation my people will make about the draugr (and why they're actively malevolent). The reason people who drown at sea rise as draugs is because there's the corpse of an ancient semi-lovecraftian entity on the sea bed in this area. As a little nod to lovecraftian things, when a 'god' is dead it doesn't mean it can't dream. Needless to say, it's not exactly pleased with the descendants of the people who killed it and sunk it to the sea floor... $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 6 '18 at 11:01
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    $\begingroup$ As for the process by which it converts draugr, I'm leaning towards it being a property of the salt-water itself (possibly finite). So yes, a malicious individual could gather coffins of seawater and raise himself an army. The draugr might even go along with it, but it would probably end very, very poorly for the would-be conqueror. Also, brackish water would be interesting, and I'd say would definitely pose a threat if connected to the sea. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 6 '18 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I love the idea of some of the stranger/more superstitious defences. People in the dark-ages were certainly inventive, but not necessarily scientifically rigorous in their solving of problems so you'd probably get a plethora of different measures in different places. I especially like the idea of rainwater gathering as a safe source of water, and waxing the skin to protect against seawater. Hum, perhaps it's ingesting of saltwater that produces the draug-effect (and that's why drowned men rise from the dead). That's an interesting avenue... $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 6 '18 at 11:09
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Draugr are basically stupid and aggressive people. You deal with them the way you would deal with the idiot of the village if he ever got drunk.

Use standard weapons and armor, as if the draugr were a raiding party.

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    $\begingroup$ Kill him and burn his corpse? Wouldn't want to get drunk in your village ;) get your point though $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ But how do you deal with the idiot? $\endgroup$ – Vincent May 4 '18 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Ynneadwraith You are not the village idiot, are you? ;-) ;-) $\endgroup$ – Censored to protect the guilty May 4 '18 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Censoredtoprotecttheguilty Depends on how smart the rest of the village is ;) $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 4 '18 at 15:45
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Heavy walls, spike/pit traps to slow them down and fire traps to destroy them. Greeks at the time of the Vikings had a few versions but they all amount to oil or tar in a pot thrown like a grenade. Bonus version, its tar with hay or cloth mixed in to form primative napalm. Combine with fire arrows.... if the threat is significant enough you see the culture over time shifting from a bunch of small scattered villages to focused towns around castles (heavy walls to go run behind).

Ive only listened to one retelling of viking lore with draugr and that was in the Myths and Legends podcast, those draugr were everything the human was but stronger (tear through brick walls), a little dimmer, way more agressive, effectivly immortal and with the ability to curse people (guess being cursed is a quick way to getting magic).

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While world in general would be mundane, it wouldn't mean that population would be completely "meta" and know that. Along with basic security measures - watch duties, watchdogs, signal light network, not leaving shore-side settlements open to ingress (especially during nighttime), they would employ little things like ritual "magic" wards, amulets, etc both on personal and social (settlement) level. E.g. some kind of effigies.

Part of that would function just as "safety of mind", a morale support for folks, so they should be visual. Effectiveness and practices would depend on level of superstition in particular region.

Also it's quite possible, that some of those methods might have an effect, especially use of some herb or substance to ward off walking dead (here I come from existing folklore).

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    $\begingroup$ Absolutely correct. In our own entirely mundane world people have devised countless superstitions and 'magical' methods for controlling the world in the absence of sufficient explanation. I see no reason for these people to be any different :) oh, and thanks for the tip about herbs warding off the dead in folklore. I'll see if there's anything suitable to pinch :) $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 7 '18 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Ynneadwraith Well, I can name some popular ones: blessed thristle (name alone suggests that), hawthorne, wolfsbane (also known as aconite, a ward not only from wolves but any dark forces), and, of course, garlic. Anothes line is use of holy or mystic scriptures. How that can even work aside from placebo? Daugrs are sentient, maybe they remember the ominous rune. $\endgroup$ – Swift May 7 '18 at 10:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Ynneadwraith it might be even comical, if you're into grimdark style. Because living ones believe that particular signature harms dead, the dead got phobia of said signature - remnant of belief. All fun and games, until we get undead hailing from different culture... $\endgroup$ – Swift May 7 '18 at 10:25
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    $\begingroup$ Haha brilliant! Superstition that actually works, because the draugr remember the superstition and think it'll work on them! Love it :) $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith May 7 '18 at 10:44
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Answering the revised 'intelligent draugr' question: The same way you deal with humans

Dark Ages/Medieval communities frequently dealt with intelligent raiders coming from the sea and seemingly killing, looting and raping at random: the Vikings. The only difference between a draugr and a Viking in this scenario is the rate and means of reproduction (which is well-covered by other answers). Draugr may even (since they are intelligent) wait to form raiding parties rather than attacking individually.

So, do what inhabitants of the British isles did: build fortifications, band together to raise armies for defense, or perhaps just hope it won't be you that gets raided.

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  • $\begingroup$ Viking raids were also discrete events heralded by a very visible ship landing on the shore, which would signal the villagers to head for the hills. Draugr would give no such warning. $\endgroup$ – BobTheAverage May 4 '18 at 21:31

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