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In my new high-fantasy world there is a race of wasp-like humanoid parasitic wasps with a culture that adheres to a 'no-waste' mentality, extending to a mainstream veneration of necromancy as part of this.

Being a race based on wasps, there exists a number of castes that serve the interests of their society, the one in focus here are the 'liches' a sort of magically-inclined priestly sect. In their society they undertake the raising of the dead to serve in a variety of tasks. Furthermore, they have the ability to possess the undead through magical means, controlling them directly like a drone from a distance.

Knowing this, I have come upon a dilemma: How can I keep the liches from being able to possess the undead of other hive nations? Unlike real life hives, they are generally more or less countries, where citizens are allowed travel. In warfare, these liches on the sidelines can manipulate a variety of husks to aid in the fight from a safe distance.

I have thought about magical 'signatures' that bind the raised undead to them specifically, but this keeps me from allowing the liches from cooperation between them, controlling the undead within one group, while not losing time and an upper-hand trying to figure which undead is uniquely theirs. Perhaps their magics could be linked so to speak? Allowing a, pardon the pun, hivemind between them that gives them control of an undead unit they desire?

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    $\begingroup$ Not relevant to your actual question, but I tripped over your premise a bit: A no-waste mentality is already in place for many communal insects. It results in eating the dead. Communal wasps are indeed usually cannibalistic. So to me it sounds like first you would need a reason why they would not eat their dead, so they can get started with necromancy. A possibility might be disease - there are instances of communal insects discarding members instead of eating them when they recognize infectious diseases. $\endgroup$ – R. Schmitz Feb 10 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ @R.Schmitz What about a mix of both? Communal cannibalism for the bodies not needed/used, or those undead too battered? $\endgroup$ – McGerridae Feb 10 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ My point was only that the direct connection "they are wasps, they do not waste, therefor necromancy" didn't make sense to me. The mix you proposed can make sense, too, but ultimately my question comes down to "what, at some point in their history, made the wasp people not immediately eat their dead, so that they could actually develop necromancy?". The discarded diseased ones would provide a plausible resource for this. $\endgroup$ – R. Schmitz Feb 10 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ If you compare to our "standard human necromancy" - we're burying our dead, so that's our resource. But burying means it's not a no-waste society in that sense anymore. At least for starting the field of necromancy, using the diseased makes sense for the society as "even the diseased ones we can still put to use now". However, if that's how it started, it would have further cultural implications. For example, you probably don't want the undead (but still disease carriers) near your hive. Or they get a ritual cleaning that would be deadly to the living. etc etc $\endgroup$ – R. Schmitz Feb 10 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ OK I'm not gonna pretend, that idea surprised me... and it sounds really interesting! Could be something about "the great calamity"/"the great plague"/etc., so far back that only legends remain... there's so much potential to spin lore around that. The concept itself ("the big evil happening way back") isn't new, but I've never before heard of a no-waste insect society turning towards necromancy because of it. $\endgroup$ – R. Schmitz Feb 10 at 14:17
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This will likely be closed as any answer will be subjective and you get to choose which one you like best. Still:

You can use a magical connection. The summoner is basically the admin with full access. When another Lich tries to access someone else's raised dead the owning Lich "feels" the other Lich's presence. This allows Lich's to recognize someone's personal presence assuming they have done this often enough to recognize each other. If he doesnt recognize the presence the owning Lich has the ability to bar access, making it either impossible or much more costly to posess that particular undead. Otherwise the owning Lich can give access.

You can even use this as a part of your story, where they try to overwhelm a Lich by identifying which undead are his and overwhelming said Lich with too many Lich's accessing his undead at the same time, slowing his reaction or ability to share undead with Lich's he does recognize.

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    $\begingroup$ This raises questions about UAC (Undead Access Control). Is it better to use an active directory style system like you suggest or would corpse-level permission sets (a’la linux) be more efficient? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 9 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ I think corpse-level permission sets would be great on the fly for husks used in combat as it could allow quicker access with some security, perhaps liches are able to set up either. $\endgroup$ – McGerridae Feb 9 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ @McGerridae sudo chown Venterion_The_Unholy:CommunionOfTheDamned specter* $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 9 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ You are in tech and a sys admin, I assume. What you are proposing is DDOSing a firewall. :D $\endgroup$ – kaiser Feb 10 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder, with the DDOS analogy, should a group of enemy liches be able to overcome the possession of an undead? Forcing control away from a lich, to steal their own undead from them for their own plans. $\endgroup$ – McGerridae Feb 10 at 9:10
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Proximity. First liche gets the carcass. This leads to a highly sophisticated system of detecting and getting to the carcass before it is animated. Animated carcasses belong to the liche/liche collective that animated them.

From a "hive" location, the most likely liches that will animate carcasses in their hive or near environs are those from that common hive. Further afield, the competition becomes more intense and stakes are higher to find and reanimate before a competitor arrives.

In a combat situation, the stakes are driven even higher. Maybe the magic of reanimation depends on a collection of carcasses to be gathered before the magic can be applied. Think in magic numbers 3, 7, 9... while this collection is pending, it is vulnerable to special attacks by carcass gatherers who specialize in this part of combat activity.

Part of the "magic" is the way in which each carcass is animated which can entail an enchanting period, a set of prepared materials and the required "mana" or "magic" that these liches derive their power from.

Clearly defining what happens when an animated carcass is attacked and "killed"... does it destroy the carcass or does it destroy the magic that animated it and therefore make it eligible for reanimation?

What is the value of these animated carcasses? Are they prized and therefore to be defended for that value or are they more disposable for some purpose that a living creature wouldn't do (as in your combat situation)? Does the controlling liche get something for having performed this reanimation? Is there power to how many animations they each get? Is there hive power that depends on the animations?

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  • $\begingroup$ Generally, the type of body that was raised defines the value of the undead. For example in combat, the lesser civilian drones are often raised with a weapon or two, and deployed out into the field as quick fodder, using horde rush tactics. These, I don't think have the common attention of the liches like the other types gather. Male drones even less so for their lack of wings, and two arms. Female drones, to male and female soldiers would gather more attention with their stronger forms, and ability to use wings. You'd see them being used as a method for recon by the liches. $\endgroup$ – McGerridae Feb 10 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ Continued. Better yet, if they're of the race of the enemy. Some liches dedicate themselves to a singular raised undead warrior, championing it as a guardian so to speak, that they utilise to fight and develop. In terms of purple, I'd say its a safe way for the liches to defend their people without risking physical deployment deep on the frontlines, so to speak. I'd compare them to traditional fantasy medics/priests on the sidelines healing their wounded. But, mortally wounded soldiers don't get the healing treatment often, most are simply raised when they expire, rejoining the battle. $\endgroup$ – McGerridae Feb 10 at 3:02
  • $\begingroup$ Generally undead can take quite a beating in this world, more so due to their exoskeletons compared to a typical zombie. They can fight until they have little left, and even then, their remaining parts are taken to be used again, the liches using them to form ungodly undead insectoid abominations. $\endgroup$ – McGerridae Feb 10 at 3:06
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The liches could indeed use a magical signature to bind them. The problem of it preventing collaboration between liches from the same hive can be solved by having the signature be temporary, customizable and - most importantly - making it work like an account.

Essentially, signatures could have a "login" mechanic so that liches of the same hive can share "passwords" with one another and thus lock down all of their hive's undead to their use only.

A way to do it by essentially making signatures "feel" like a labyrinth that bars another lich's entry/control, with the "password" working essentially like a mental and metaphorical map to guide other liches through.

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The title is unanswerable but you said wasps, so the answer is: it isn't magic, it's pheromones. And you don't really control them so much, it's more like they just do what their job was: worker, soldier, etc. They just do it for you now. The animal kingdom already does this, but not by raising the dead (that's the only difference here).

Limited commands can be issued by touching antennae together (or perhaps broadcasting a scent), but any attempts of unauthorized control would use an enemy pheromone and will be descended upon immediately by the entire colony. "Tracers work both ways."

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