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In the (roughly) D&D based world of ..., The Abyss, which birthed magic, gives men the power to fulfill the deepest and darkest desires of their hearts, unleashing great suffering upon their brethren.

So, when mastered, necromancy can do some pretty wicked (cool) stuff. For necromancers, it allows them to raise an army out of nothing. While zombies have the same physical characteristics as ordinary humans, they can be created much faster, will always be loyal to their master, have no sense of fear, and can also be put into and woken up from hibernation at convenience.

So, yeah, that's how necromancy is. While it isn't inherently evil, is the hardest to master. This field typically attracts warlords like William Walker, who now have a way to raise hell in a certain region, then, when the king's army comes to give them a spank, he can easily bail, rinse and repeat. However, regular people can't handle this cycle, which would eventually lead to societal breakdown if left unimpeded.

These zombie armies are excellent at guerilla warfare and can swell up to ~10 000 in number, making them a rather significant force to deal with.

Ideally, a world with these zombie-making filibusters should look something like this. However, I'm struggling to create a "guarantee" that ensures a status quo where filibusters pose a threat to kingdoms, but can't easily take them over or cause lasting damage to settlements they take over.

What limitation should necromancy and/or the zombie army have to ensure that?

The world in which filibusters exist is the same, as far as the structure of society and technology is concerned, as medieval Europe.

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  • $\begingroup$ Necronom sounds better and could be a real word, necromancer... Meh kinda doesn't make sense, one doesn't mance and mancing is not a verb $\endgroup$ – user75545 May 9 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ Bah! Necromancers get all the glory, but I'll have the last laugh. I, a lowly fecomancer, will get them all... In The End. (ba-dum tsh) $\endgroup$ – Mark Storer May 11 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkStorer What do you do? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles May 11 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ Feco: Latin for excrement or dung. So.. Fecomancer: Poop wizard. "get the all in the end" is a suggestion that a fecomancer would be capable of doing something deeply unpleasant to their enemies backsides. And explaining jokes makes them funnier. :\ $\endgroup$ – Mark Storer May 11 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkStorer Sigh, you're supposed to fight constipation, not zombies. Also, what are you planning to do if said necromancer's wearing diapers (ya know, because it's their fetish)? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles May 11 at 21:28
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Knights and money.

Quality beats quantity when it comes to warfare, Necromancers are always opposed by the church, the church is rich and can afford to pay for glorious knights.

Imagine the situation, you are a knight covered in steel armor, underneath your plated steel armor you are wearing some chain mail or some gambeson armor or both!

What happens if someone strikes you with a sword? Nothing! A spear? Unless the spear is used by a rider on a horse who had the time to gallop and build momentum then a normal spear trust will feel like a normal punch. It's gonna hurt but it's not gonna damage you, and humans can take a lot of punches. Or what about a war hammer or maces built for the only purpose of destroying steel armor? Well its gonna take a lot of time to Pierce your plate armor but then, you still have lots of other armor underneath.

What if you are against riders on horse? Well, don't be a cheap knight, cheap knights are dead knights, buy a warhorse and a shield.

Warhorses are different than normal horses, they are like the batmobiles of the medieval era.

With this combo of equipment a horde of zombies will have a hard time killing you.

You can see an example on this video https://youtu.be/x80hOR42szg

A group of bandits scared to death, almost peeing their pants when seeing a knight in full armor, because Steel is hard as hell to Pierce, so hard in fact it is still used for some types of body armor against bullets today and can be stronger than kevlar.

So your only hope is the pope to defend the world from zombies, and it better be a really rich pope.

Now ask yourself, what's stopping knights from taking over Europe and banishing those pagan necromancers from the face of earth?

TL:DR

Juggernauts, financed by some other political party to fight the zombies.

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Raising zombies is easy, but getting them all under control takes time. Getting zombies to start crawling out of the mud in a 50 mile radius is fast, but it's gonna take a few months months to get all of them together and be controllable by the warlock. While on their own they are just mindlessly wandering around and maybe try to unmotivataly gnaw on some lone peasent they encounter.

Envisoned effect:

  • Necromancer starts raising stuff

  • Locals notice zombies around and start an effort to eradicate them before the number of controlled ones become a serious issue

  • Anyways there is plenty of time to get help and a zombie invasion against prepared defenses with reinforcements is actually very unlikely to succeed

  • Nobody is interested in having a necromancer as a neighbour as the established power base will allow him to safely amass a huge number and potentially overwhelm his rivals, therefore help will be provided to settlements under threat by the responisble lord and surrounding ones, if a necromancer does win nonetheless a grand coalition will form in the region to take him on.

  • As a result the actual damage caused by the necromancers will be rather limited, but everyone will always be on the lookout for zombies, full-time milita will be employed in even smaller settlements, patrolling the woods and training for emergencies, mercenary companies will be plentiful.

  • And all these armed men being around and bored will look for something productive to do if no necromancer comes around for some time. Like for example "acquiring" some additional cows from the idiots in that village over there. So violence, raids, warlords etc will become quite common in this world.

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The greatest asset of an undead force is also its greatest weakness; the zombies have zero will of their own. This makes them 100% loyal and immune to fear, but it also means they have no independent initiative, and cannot do anything without a direct order from the necromancer who raised them. This makes using them for a large-scale campaign of conquest extremely difficult. Imagine one of those basic real-time strategy games where the player's units just sit there unless specifically instructed to do something. Now imagine that the player controls tens of thousands of units, and has to get them carry out all of the complex logistical, military, and administrative tasks involved in taking over an entire life-sized kingdom. Undead forces work best as guerilla warbands of 20-200 individuals, where the necromancer can remain in close contact with his slaves and command them flexibly as new situations arise. They can move fast and travel light (as they never need to rest or eat) and are excellent at spreading terror. Mustering a force of 10,000 is just about feasible, provided they march as a single field army; in a battle, the necromancer will just have to ride around frantically while shouting simple orders (e.g. "everyone within earshot, advance to that hill and kill anything in your way") and hope his troops' superior durability will win the day. Anything more complex than this is unfeasible. Trying to arrange for multiple field forces to operate a co-ordinated strategic campaign is a fool's errand, as is getting the zombies to handle a multifaceted and delicate operation like garrisoning an occupied town for weeks on end. Winning wars involves much more than just efficiently killing things, and for most of those other tasks there's no subsitute for a human with a brain.

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It's always a lot easier to cause trouble than to take over and be accepted as in power, so there are a lot of possibilities.

  • Necromancers tend to lack all the skills necessary to consolidate power, through a combination of needing to devote their time to necromancy and arrogant belief that necromancy is supreme. They may also lack the desire, just enjoying the thrill of the fight and the loot. Both of these would leave open the chance of a necromancer of unusual temperament, to be sure.

  • Zombies are not long lasting, making their forces very temporary. Also, those killed by zombies can not be made into zombies, making the necromancer limited by the number of dead bodies that are already available and suitable.

  • Zombies' limited minds can only handle the concept of attacking humans. Therefore, they do limited damage to homes, tools, crops, etc. This enables quicker recovery.

  • People don't like necromancers, so attempts to consolidate power result in openings for assassination.

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Equal and opposite

What you need is some sort of counter magic that either puts the zombies back to sleep or severs the necromancer's control of them.

Now of itself this isn't a particularly useful form of magic, so people won't go around trying to study it unless they have a particular problem with necromancers in the local area.

Being equally complicated to study means that these casters are even fewer and further between than the necromancers themselves. Effectively it's only a form studied by people in a specific role in government magical enforcement.

All this together means that when government power is brought to bear against the necromancers they're reasonably rapidly neutralised, but until such a time they remain a considerable threat, and governments that fail to maintain their provision against such an attack will fall.

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You can only raise bodies where there are bodies to be raised. A culture which ensures all its dead are cremated will not suffer from zombie armies.

Any would-be zombie master has to acquire bodies one at a time -- or slightly more than that once he gains momentum and undead helpers to assist with the gathering -- so its a rather laborious process.

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Possibilities:

Zombie hordes have some hard counter but each kingdom only has one. Perhaps its the head of the local state religion, or a kingdom's champion. Once this kingdom's counter is in place, they can rapidly destroy the local army with relative easy. Travel time becomes the issue... how much damage can the zombies do before they're wiped out?

Zombies have an expiration date, they don't last. Once raised, a zombie will crumble to dust after some useful-but-finite amount of time. Or there's a breed of insect with a short life cycle that plants hundreds or thousands of eggs in corpses, and the young feed on necrotic tissue. These bugs rapidly grow into vast swarms that will devour zombies, the more the better, but there's normally relatively few of them around. Poorer countries might use these bugs as a food source immediately after an army was consumed.

For some reason it's harder to create zombies. Perhaps only unconsecrated bodies can be raised. Or cremation is common, and they can't animate dust.

Necromancers can only control a maximum number of zombies at a time. This number would be large enough to be useful on the military level, but not enough to conquer a kingdom.

But all these are ways to establish a status quo. The story doesn't get interesting until something disturbs the balance one way or the other.

  • Some kingdom's champion is assassinated along with the next couple successors... The only remaining option is the obligatory untrained farm boy.
  • A necromancer figures out how to turn a corpse into something that won't break down like they usually do (zombies are eaten by the bugs, but skeleton's aren't affected).
  • Some clever bastard figures out how to some a semi-solid undead from cremated remains.
  • To overcome a max number limit, fill the head-count with something More Potent... Maybe a necromancer figures out how to fuse several corpses into a single fleshy juggernaut. More corpses, more power, but still a single point of control.
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It is hard to hide an undead army.

You present a situation where a necromancer arrives in town with their army and wrecks up the place. Then when the Royal guard arrives the necromancer throws his army at them and runs away to live another day.

The difficult part is the royal guard usually arrive before the army is ready. You cannot safely raise an army in the wilderness since there are relatively few corpses lying around.

The best source of corpses is graveyards, an these are always close to civilisation. So when some weirdo shows up in town and starts spending a lot of time at the graveyard people become suspicious and alert the authorities.

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