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I'm working on a story where all the characters are various Undead (we're talking typical D&D Ghosts, Wraiths, Zombies, and Skeletons, albeit with sentience) that all live together in the highly stratified kingdom of Nekros.

Clarifications:

  • Corporal and non-corporeal undead exist in this world. Basically, if it's undead, and appears in the D&D MM or MToF for the 5th edition, it appears in this society.
  • All are sentient and sapient and capable of some means of communication. Sign language is common, as not all the undead have vocal cords.
  • Humans do exist, but they are largely regarded as 'boogeymen' of sorts, a scapegoat the upper class uses to justify the state of things. Basically an "at least we aren't being enslaved/eradicated by the humans" excuse. Either way, humans don't show up with any amount of frequency, and if one did show, it would be the first in the vast majority of people's memories.
  • The undead don't decay. They also don't conduct heat well at all. They feel discomfort at either extreme heat or extreme cold.

Basically, I'm wondering if a literal representation of the class-based hierarchy flipped on its head, where the ruling class lives a life of luxury deep underground while the lower class toil near the cold surface above them, makes any sort of sense for a kingdom like this.

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    $\begingroup$ It's your story, whatever you want will work. What is the problem you want us to solve? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 15 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ people, please put answers in the ANSWER section, not the comments on the Original question. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 15 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ It's not a rule but it's often better to wait at least 24 hours b4 choosing a best answer to give anyone in different time zones time to see it. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Mar 15 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Just a heads-up, I've edited this to clarify some things. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 16 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what the actual question is here. It could be "How can I explain this situation arising 'naturally'?" or "Could the Undead Leaders convince the Lesser Undead that this is the best way to order society?" or "Could a society/economy this stratified actually function?" or.... several other things. A more specific question might get better answers. $\endgroup$
    – codeMonkey
    Mar 16 at 15:46

5 Answers 5

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The Undead Hate the Cold

The dead actually have really poor circulation, and so, like reptiles, they prefer somewhere they can absorb radiant energy. Unfortunately the surface is undergoing another ice age, so the Earth's core is the best source of heat.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah. They wouldn't be killed by it, as they are already dead, but they would find it uncomfortable. I was imagining the surface as a barren wasteland where the sun is blocked out, but that works too. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 15 at 12:44
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Weaker monsters can deal with the riffraff

As one goes farther into a dungeon or the like one encounters stronger monsters. I have always presumed that the weaker monsters near the entrance serve as a buffer for the more advanced, fancier monsters. Various annoyances are dealt with by dispensible underlings before they can bring their annoying ways to the bosses below.

The undead are still tied in some ways to the sunlit world, being as they were once live surface creatures. I am thinking an interesting undead city would also have a layer of underlings (literally) at the very bottom, to deal with threats coming up from deeper yet.

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  • $\begingroup$ So, basically, the Upper Class undead use the Lower Class undead as (metaphorical) human shields. Grim, but effective. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 15 at 13:37
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The Undead hate the Sun

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The city is in the tropical country of Bangladesh. The surface is hot and sunny and humid. The undead don't like the sunlight. They also don't like decomposing. This is a problem since the heat and moisture are ideal conditions for all sorts of flesh recycling microorganisms.

The nobles live underground where it is drier and cooler. The lower class labour on the surface. That's where all the farms and mines and forestry is after all.

Perhaps their nobles are called "lower class" and the peasants are "upper class" since that is where they live.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point, though I was imagining a world where the dead were attracted to warmth rather than being repelled by it. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 15 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Brinstar77 You are thinking of bears, not undead. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 15 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ Who says they can't be attracted to the same things? One of the key elements of Undead is a feeling of loss associated with not being living anymore, and the cold and loneliness that comes with it. Thus, an Undead, being cold, would therefore associate warmth with non-undead and would therefore be attracted to warm places. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Mar 15 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ You can rationalise one or the other depending on what you prefer. Perhaps the undead like warmth and not cold since the cannot produce their own heat. Or perhaps their nerves are all dead and they cannot feel the difference, so they like cold and not warmth since they rot slower. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 15 at 12:58
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The old parts of town are trashy

I've seen this effect in (some) real cities. The center of town is a poorer, more run down area with smaller houses while the edges of town have "nicer" newer suburbs.

If the undead started close to the ground and then worked their way down (which makes logical sense), this means that the parts nearest to the ground are the oldest (and if you want, lower-class) and the deeper you go the newer and "fancier" developments are.

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    $\begingroup$ Necrogentrification $\endgroup$
    – Atog
    Mar 15 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Atog that is the natural conclusion. I'd read a story about a hipster lich moving to the less cool part of the underground $\endgroup$ Mar 15 at 19:07
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Yes. CS Lewis did this (sort of - it wasn't a class thing, but they all preferred the deeps) for a race of gnomes in The Silver Chair. The result was charming, arguably the best thing in the weakest Narnia book.

In his version, the deeps ("Bism") had lower ceilings and lots of gems and were warmer, all of which were desirable.

Gems and temperature could work in your setting. Maybe there's relics underground too?

And TBH, 'the boss monster is at the bottom of the dungeon' is almost the default expectation.

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