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Mummies are widely considered to be one of the most iconic undead monsters, but are often overshadowed by their vampire & zombie brethren.

Furthermore, while the vampire has a bevy of supernatural abilities aside from their bloodsucking repertoire, and zombies can eat the brains of living creatures to make more of their own via biological pathogens or magick hexes, the mummy has never been able to compete against them what with their fragility (desiccation, flammability, heat/cold weakness) without the aid of some vague 'magick'. One can't help but feel that the mummies' quantifiable existence & reproduction in reality has more or less come to encompass their 'curse' in this regard.

The only example of "mummy danger" that didn't come from vengeful spirits or magick (e.g., The Mummy franchise) I know of is:

El Dorado in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune where the sarcophagus its mummy is sealed in contained an extremely-infectious, immediately-debilitating virus presumably infecting the mummy.

While this works on its own, I feel it only doubles-down on the supremacy of the zombie camp.

Various cultures throughout history have used various materials (Egyptian papyri/linen wrappings, Han dynasty jade suits, layers of heavy cloth of the Incas or other Andean peoples) to insulate the body from natural phenomena which could exacerbate decay. Whereas others have specific methods (Inca refrigeration, Kabayan fire mummies) to the same ends. Moreover, an extra step of preservation - post-embalming or not - is established by encasing the body in a storage medium (Egyptian sarcophagi, Chachapoyas purunmachu) with a hermetic seal or vacuum even provided in some circumstances (Rosalia Lombardo, Vladimir Lenin, incorruptible saints).

If we humans have used embalming & preservation on our dead since antiquity - if not for the veneration of the specific dead and/or the comfort of their admired - then what exactly is the practicality of separating our dead from our living with as many 'layers' as necessary? If a vampire would start drinking human/animal/medical blood (and creating more vampires) if one went loose today, what could a mummy do to pose an active danger to the living & society if let loose today? How & why? The best reason(s) for the unique threat of the mummy don't require any specific materials, methods, or climates to work - use as many of them as you want! The best answer shouldn't require viral or magick agents as a requirement of the danger.

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    $\begingroup$ As another example of "mummy danger not from vengeful spirits or magick": The 2018 Tomb Raider movie. $\endgroup$
    – Nzall
    Mar 22, 2021 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Nzall While this example is distinct from magick danger, you could also find it somewhere in the OP. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2021 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure where it was referenced. Unless you mean the Uncharted spoiler. $\endgroup$
    – Nzall
    Mar 23, 2021 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ Don't the details in the exposition here seem to be quite different from the Question itself? $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2021 at 13:58

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It could rule.

ramses

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramesses_II

Your nation is a shadow of what it was. Foreigners walk your streets and command your kings. The ancient pharaohs conquered many lands and made monuments that have stood 1000 years. Could one of the rulers of old return to restore the glory that once was?

Zombies are mindless horrors. Vampires are evil predators. Mummies were great and revered persons, carefully preserved so that in need, they could once again take up their bodies and do what they did before.

The danger of a mummy is that its like is no longer on the earth. It could be shrewd, ruthless, farsighted, ferocious, benevolent and loved by the masses. Again.

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    $\begingroup$ +1. Hard to put term limits on an immortal god king. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2021 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ A Pharaoh is accustomed to being worshipped, and believes that he is descended from a god. If he or she actually, factually rose from the dead, they could start a cult. $\endgroup$
    – Robyn
    Mar 22, 2021 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Robyn - the Pharaohs didn't believe they were descended from gods, they believed they were one. (And if they can't die, are we sure they're wrong?) $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Mar 22, 2021 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ In addition to all the religious/cult credibility that resurrection gives you (as @Robyn said), I don't think it's a stretch to give your resurrected king superhuman authority – that hard-to-define trait that makes people trust you and follow you, because they instinctively understand that you are more important and powerful than them. The specific military/economic/tech/whatever details are easily picked up with the help of a few competent advisers who will attach themselves to what they see as the winning team. $\endgroup$
    – dbmag9
    Mar 22, 2021 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ In a time of political instability (mass disaffection with current rulers civil war, etc), an unknown outsider with a clear voice of authority could draw lots of support quickly. You don't need much pre-existing political capital if the current powers that be wasted theirs away. $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2021 at 0:38
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It Knows Too Much

Whatever culture created this mummy has a means of making someone literally immortal. Even if the mummy themselves doesn't know the mechanism - though, under the conditions of your question, we can assume they do - they would know where to look to rediscover it. They know the right magic words/the right alchemical processes/the right gods to pray to to make it so that a recipient won't die for real/forever.

Wars have been fought over (much, much) less.

Moreover, while this immortality has its downsides, unlike vampirism, the mummy doesn't need a supply of blood to stay alive, nor is it a thrall to its creator, and unlike a zombie, it also keeps its intelligence. On top of all that, unlike either, a mummy can die of natural causes and then be resurrected, allowing it to live out a human life first.

A former monarch - or other important person - is going to be canny, and is going to realize the value this knowledge holds in a world that has lost it. And then the danger simply lies in someone having something worth literal fortunes, and being willing to provide it to people in exchange for favours, treasure, or both. Even if they didn't have a globe-spanning empire on the first go-round, they certainly will this time!

Addendum - Why Fragile?

Many media (Dungeons and Dragons, for one) portray mummies as being incredibly strong and durable, even if fire is a bit more of a weakness to them than it is to say, me. Superhuman strength and unlimited endurance are definite upsides. Unless you're determined that your mummies be fragile things that crumble to dust on impact, they can have superhero/villain properties on top of the One Weird Trick That Morticians Hate!

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    $\begingroup$ I always liked that in AD&D, the mummy was one of the few undead animated by positive energy rather than negative (even if the mummy wasn't of a good alignment). It served a good and protective function rather than a malicious one. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Mar 22, 2021 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ How would the threat of virtual immortality best be achieved through its physiology? How does it protect its mortal coil from resisting permanent death? Starfish regrow lost limbs (and potentially duplicate themselves from a lost limb). One bone-dry mummy must harvest the moisture from the body tissue of humans by inflicting bubonic lesions or scleroses at the attack site. Regarding fragility, I haven't experienced enough media convincing me of endurance wrought from the preservation instead. Fire could still make for an iconic folk ward against dry mummies - like vampire garlic allergies. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2021 at 21:20
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The Mummy is a regional variation of Vampire

An immortal, nigh-unkillable creature with the intelligence of a human and vaguely defined magical powers?
Notably, resides in, and rises from, a tomb..

Known to drain victims of their life-force to sustain and repair itself?

Yup, sounds like a Vampire to me!

The bandages serve the purpose of protecting the Vamp/Mummy from the elements before it feeds enough to lose the fragility of eons of entombment and starvation.
They also provide limited protection from the sun, allowing the Mummy some mobility in daylight hours in the middle of the shadowless desert.

The Mummy's chief distinction is its total lack of familiarity with the present day, its regional flavour of magic, and its initial vulnerabilities due to long starvation. Once it finds its feet (and possibly reattaches them) it will be essentially a regular vampire with added headdress and pointy beard.

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Microbial and fungal spores that can infect animals and plants, ranging from anthrax to plague to wheat rust.

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  • $\begingroup$ While this may apply, it is more of a comment than a full answer. Flesh out this with details, and it could work. Otherwise it is likely to get closed. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Mar 29, 2021 at 3:11
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Now, there are two answers to this question. To which, I will answer with both. Feel free to choose any or all of them.

Intelligence

Now, while vampires also possess this, a mummy uses it in a bit of a different way. Vampires think small, to put it simply. Mummies raise armies. They used to be a leader, a pharaoh, so why shouldn't they have a kingdom? However, mummies are cowardly. They are quite weak, so they end up simply hiding behind their forces and running away from battle frequently. This counteracts the obvious bonus of having a military force.

Magic

Now, vampires, at least I assume, can do any sort of magic a human can, while zombies can replicate themselves using magic. So what do mummies have? Plague magic. They can summon any sort of disease or pestilence, from locusts to crop blight. Mummies can end up being a huge problem, as when they arise, they end up causing pandemics and famine wherever they go. They detest physical combat, instead simply keeping at a distance and killing their enemies with all kinds of sicknesses.

Conclusion

Mummies will end up being a monster you want to keep in check, as if they are allowed to get a foothold, they end up being quite a hard monster to kill. However, we can set a gradient of mummy power. You see, the mummies that have the aforementioned abilities are rare, as there's not that many pharaohs. The less standing a mummy had in life, the less intelligent and powerful it is. So you have very few smart, powerful pharaoh mummies and a lot of lesser mummies that can't summon much more than a dung beetle or the common cold. That, my friends, is my answer. Cheers.

Also, if you are a bored high school sophomore with a basic understanding of science like me who wants to help create a DnD style fantasy world, click this link.

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Well, the way I see it, there are two primary ways your mummies can cause havoc.

  1. Gold

    While not all mummies have loads of gold and other valuable materials in their crypts, the vast majority do (especially in fiction /s). As a result, most persnickety mummies will have large quantities of wealth with which to cause havoc. Depending on how comedic you're trying to be, this could play out in one of two ways:

    1. Causing a major scandal. For example, an annoyed mummy could use his wealth to very publicly give the Roman Catholic Church several hundred thousand sex toys.

    2. Funding terrorism. All that dough could buy ISIS quite a few AKs.

  2. Disease

    Say you have an Egyptian Pharoah (let's call him Ptuyahapshut XV, or "Ptooey" for short). Unfortunately for him, he died a rather nasty death from a powerful plague. Due to handwavium, this plague survived two millenia on his mummified corpse, and starts spreading again when he comes in contact with modern humans. It's been a long time since he died; modern man has lost his immunity to the virus, so it starts killing people at an alarming rate. For added fun you could also make this a zombie virus.

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I hate to disagree with everyone but a Mummy is NOT immortal. Consider: Died @ age 50, raised 1000 years later, at 50. Lived for 30 years. Died again at 80, raised 1000 years later, at 80.

At some point, you are gonna have to let go. The dude is still aging at a normal rate. You are just adding pauses in the process, not making the living portion any longer

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    $\begingroup$ The other 3 answers as of now already imply finality in regards to maintaining a vessel for the soul. What I'm seeking is a design on the part of said vessel that causes its harm to others - AKA sustaining its dead body to some physiological semblance of life. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2021 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ This is more than a little incorrect. The cells and nervous system are no longer working, nor are they needed, so how can they age? How can dead cells break down even further? The mummy is simply a vessel, an automaton, if you will. While the mummy cannot heal in any other way than magic, this effectively still makes the mummy immortal till they are so decrepit that they just crumble to dust. $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2021 at 18:09
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Social chaos

People nowadays don't believe that vampires exist.

If you see an actual vampire, you will likely think it is a prank, or someone doing cosplay. This is actually a trope in the World of Darkness tabletop RPG system: wealthy vampires finance and produce vampire-related media so that when a mortal rwports to have seen one, most other mortals just think dude's a crackpot who watched too many movies.

People also don't believe in zombies.

For a similar reason as above, if you see a zombie you will think it's either a junkie or a very sleep-deprived white collar worker, specially in IT.

As recently as last decade people were biting each other's faces off in the US and China (see Rudy Eugene the "Miami Zombie"). No one cared then, no one cares now.

But mummies? Those are in history books and museums

Imagine that one day one of those mummies in some british museum were to take a walk around London. At first everybody would be really confused, specially since English hadn't been invented by the time they put Tut to sleep. But it's a matter of time until we find a translator, and dude will be on every form of media worldwide. When people find out that they can live forever by simply removing their guts and filling themselves from the mouth to the other end with spices and glue...

Let's just say that most major religions will be upended, and every social security system in the West will either collapse or cease paying pensions in a couple decades. Housing will become an even greater pain when you don't die in order to leave something for your descendants. The nursing home market will cease existing, removing billions of dollars from the economy overnight. Entire tropical forests will be burned to make place for arable land, so that the mummifying spices can be grown.

Even the nature of war will change. If a dead soldier can be brought back to life, then war will require you to pulverize every enemy to make sure you keep pressure on the enemy. No more rifles, everyone carries a grenade launcher from now on.

And don't get me started on the effects on monarchies. The monarch of England is chief of state in like one out of every four countries, many of which have their effigy on currency and stuff. Long live the Queen or King would go from a blessing to an understatement...

One of my favorite stories ever has this trope, but without mummies. One day some people disrespect the idea of death so much that the Grim Reaper decides to go on strike - she will still do her work everywhere, except within the borders of the country where they gave her lip. It's a page-turner of a comedy, with society getting more messed up by the moment. The book is called Death With Interruptions. From the wiki:

The Catholic Church feels threatened by this new turn of events, as the end of death would call into question one of the fundamental foundations of their dogma: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, common citizens generally enjoy their newfound immortality.

However, this joy is short-lived — it soon becomes apparent that the end of death presents unique demographic and financial challenges. The complete cessation of dying leads to a growing fear among healthcare workers that the system will collapse under its own weight: generations of incapacitated, but still living, people will populate care homes and hospitals for, presumably, all eternity. Funeral directors, on the other hand, fear the opposite problem: they will have no business, and will be forced to move to preparing animals for the afterlife.

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I think what at least for me differentiates mummies is their curses

Don't get near them

Generally speaking there is popular superstition that opening the grave of a mummy is going to be bad for all involved. I mean you are just with the people that opened up a pyramid and you are already cursed. This also extends to artefacts belonging to the mummy. I mean just imagine them getting passed around and cursing a lot of people just by holding them in their hands.

What do curses do?

Normally they are just curses of misfortune which i mean can kill but we can go further. Every cursed person could be under the mummy's influence and may for example be either resurrected by them as undead minions. Or they could become servants to the mummy allowing it to stay in the background and letting its minions do the work.

Let them work for you

In this manner a mummy might slowly build an army of followers and can stay in the background the whole time. It's minions could do its work for it spread the its curses further or bring people to it to maybe curse them personally.

Note: English is not my main language so don't judge me to hard for my bad grammar or spelling

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