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Imagine a magical world similar to this question, where everyone uses skeletons as soldiers.

There are mages running around searching graves for bones to summon them into skeletons.

How do I keep my remains and those of my family and friends from getting brought back to some kind of life as supposed-to-be-scary warriors if I don't want to cremate them and keep the bones largely intact for at least some years so they decay more or less naturally?

Furthermore, the solution should require only very few resources. Powerful people arrange to have their corpses guarded, but poor people need a way of protecting their corpses preferably without using magic or with very little magic (=little energy and complexity) bought somewhere. Further assume energy conservation, so search spells as well as shield spells are possible, but the further you look and the longer or more often you have to deceive someone looking, the more energy is needed.


Guarded graveyards became available but are regularly attacked or robbed as selling that many corpses is very lucrative and the few guards just get sold too.


FAQ / importing comments into the question:


Why not cremate?

Because the soul gets damaged then. Or that's what people say.


So the shape of the body must be largely intact? What about amputees? Can we remove limbs?

The bones should be preserved. What happens if they are shattered is not known (because I didn't have that idea tbh and haven't thought about it), but cremation or pulverization is bad. Casting them in metal seems like a good option, but very costly.


Who does the searching and how? Do mages pay grave robbers like medical schools used to do? Do they use area spells to locate suitable corpses? Is it acceptable to bury in alkaline soil so that decomposition is faster?

All of those as long as decomposition is not too fast (years are okay, days are not). They search themselfs, they send someone, you can even sell your remains to get some coins for your family, but that's generally despised


How do the mages reanimate a body? If you could describe the process for us we may be able to provide methods of prevention.

They say something along the lines make those bones assemble like a skeleton and attack everything that moves behind this line after I was buried there just in more words and more detail. Then the magic energy rushes out of their body depending on how much they wanted to invest and that's it. Pulling the bones out of the earth or anything can be treated as a different spell needing as much energy as it would need to do that manually (apart from the energy waste manual labour has).


So what is actually going on? They say some words and magic goes in...but what does the magic do? How does it bond to the bones and know to bond to bones rather than a stick buried underground? Perhaps there is some trick where the magic cannot tell the difference but we need to know the details in order to determine this.

The magic follows the intent of the caster so as long as the caster is focussed and has the details figured out (like this bone belongs here and should be moving d'accord with that other bone to form a leg), the spell does what it's supposed to do. A mage could use a spell to find bones but the further away they are the more energy that spell needs, so finding every bone in a graveyard that's buried within a few meters deep, yes, finding every bone in the world, definitly no. So as long as the mage can tell the difference, the magic can.


How much are bones worth to those necromancers? If guarded cemeteries are attacked and the guards are used as bones too, are the poor even save from being murdered just to get their bones? How common are those bone thefts?

Getting a cemetery worth of hundreds or thousands of skeletons is a different thing than earning a little money by murder.


Aren't skeletons a waste of magic/energy?

YES.

It's a kind of sport to have thousands of skeletons guard your tomb. Plus all the heroes running around need to be able to brag about the vast numbers of opponents they "killed". Skeletons are far from an effective use of magic, but I'm pretty sure that's so in any set of magic rules unless you make them exactly to basically allow only summoning of skeletons and almost nothing else.


How easy is it to reprogram a skeleton?

Drain the energy in there (you'll need approx. the same amount for that), put your own in. So not so easy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Mar 21 '17 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ you can't. there are no draft dodgers in the Skeleton war. $\endgroup$ – USA owns the moon Mar 21 '17 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ But what do I do if I want to keep my remains safe from being summoned as a skeleton in this world? $\endgroup$ – n_b Mar 21 '17 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ Protect the grave in one way or another. There seemed to be some civilization which built huge monuments or unmarked graves to preserve their body of their god-kings. $\endgroup$ – Maciej Piechotka Mar 21 '17 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ reminds me of the reasons why the Dwarf Fortress developer nerfed the undead some time ago -- any body part could be resurrected, so fighting zombies (e.g. severing body parts) actually made the problem worse. The way it went was, body parts get "destroyed" at some point and can not rise again. $\endgroup$ – Florian Castellane Mar 23 '17 at 11:12

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Set them in concrete

Very simple. You dig the grave, place the deceased at the bottom but not in any notable coffin. Instead of pouring in earth you pour in concrete.

Expense: Cost of a few dozen square feet of concrete. No ongoing expense.

Security: Your corpse is not completely secure but anyone who wants it will need to dig through several feet of solid concrete and is likely to damage the body in the process of breaking through.

Bury them very deep under extremely heavy rocks.

This option is probably more work but simply burying the corpse very deep under some very heavy rocks will go a long way towards making it slow and difficult to recover the corpse. For bonus points the heavy rocks may naturally crush/shatter many bones over time making the corpse less usable.

Bury them in the middle of nowhere in an unmarked grave.

Combine with burying them fairly deep and the investment of simply finding the grave becomes significant.

Expand your criteria for "decay more or less naturally" to include other natural ways for bodies to decompose

Sky burial sky burial

If your people are willing to accept that as "natural" then the corpse and even bones can be disposed of in short order.

Burial at sea

You've established that it's important that the body remain un-pulverized and reasonably whole for a reasonable length of time.

This opens another option: Wrap the body in netting/rope/wire netting, tie many rocks to it and bury them at sea a few miles out.

The body will decay after a few years but should be held together my the netting for some time. recovering the body should be fairly difficult. Finding it even harder.

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    $\begingroup$ ok so, set them in concrete, under extremely heavy rocks, out in the middle of nowhere at sea it is, then! $\endgroup$ – Michael Mar 20 '17 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Some good ideas. Here are more: abdn.ac.uk/bodysnatchers/background.php $\endgroup$ – Shautieh Mar 21 '17 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ Spread some sort of metal like powdered magnesium over the body. If someone tries to reanimate the skeleton, the magnesium will ignite from the exothermic magical reaction, and destroy the skeleton warrior or at least the spell around it. $\endgroup$ – JFA Mar 22 '17 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JFA only if the magic is an exothermic reaction, it could be an endothermic one for all we know pulling in energy to animate the Skelton. This would explain the unatural cold reported by many around the undead, particularly if they continued to do so all the time they are animated. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Mar 23 '17 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ A word on sea burial - it would be very, very important to scatter the burials a good distance out to sea, rather than just designating a nearby Graveyard Reef. If generations of villagers are all in basically the same spot, it's actually easier to mass-animate them than it would be to dig up an entire cemetery one skeleton at a time. Instead of months of secret excavating, a sorcerer need only be able to breathe (and cast) underwater for a few minutes before his entire underwater skeleton army simply walks to shore. $\endgroup$ – brichins Mar 28 '17 at 16:39
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Remove the femur and bury it or guard it separately. A one legged skeleton is of no use to a mage. But for the family, their relative is intact except for one missing bone.

Their society could develop special repositories where they store only thigh bones. They would take much less space than an entire skeleton and could be guarded by fewer people.

Depending on the cost to the soul, the femur could be destroyed, rendering the skeleton useless for mages, but only partially damaging the soul.

But I have to wonder, what damage is incurred by a soul when the skeleton is reanimated?

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  • $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest scattering the bones, but this seems much more expedient. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Mar 22 '17 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ One downside to this is that mages might just rearrange the bones to be relatively usable and reanimate that, by taking a femur from another skeleton and using that, or forgoing the legs, taking two arms from another skeleton and making a skelespider. $\endgroup$ – IllusiveBrian Mar 22 '17 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @IllusiveBrian That is a possible downside, but there are a lot of unknowns with the magic involved in this question. The problem with magic questions is that magic can overcome everything. But at a minimum this strategy would require additional mental energy from the mage, and energy spent solving bone puzzles is energy not spent terrorizing the people (as seems to be their wont). To partially counteract this, villages could even choose a different bone, so the mage has to learn which bones are missing in each village. $\endgroup$ – Leatherwing Mar 23 '17 at 13:24
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Let the bones defend themselves.

In a world where "everyone uses skeletons", it must be relatively easy to convert a corpse into a skeleton. In that case, poor people might sell their corpses to serve as crypt guardians. I suspect that people might be less inclined to steal corpses if there was a risk of them fighting back.

As mentioned by @Leatherwing, there might be damage to the volunteer's soul, but I suspect an appropriate price could be found to pay for that. One might even argue that it is the responsibility of the city government to provide that service, much as it provides regular police.

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    $\begingroup$ This sounds like something you'd see in Discworld. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Mar 21 '17 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ Use the skeletons of hanged criminals for that. No need to worry about their souls... $\endgroup$ – ilkkachu Mar 21 '17 at 10:15
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. Why not arrange to have your own skeleton animated to defend itself? You'd have to ask the OP, I guess, if militant skeletons can be easily reprogrammed. $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Mar 22 '17 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ I was assuming that a soul whose body was used as a skeleton soldier might be damaged in some way; but some people in any culture may be considered less valuable, and thus useful for that job. Or if you're protecting someone you love, it'd be a worthwhile sacrifice. $\endgroup$ – papidave Mar 22 '17 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is the best answer over here. If in this world there is no anti-necromancy magic, so there's no easy way to just consecrate the remains, then by necessity people would fight necromancy with necromancy. I can imagine that in such a world there would exist licensed 'good' necromancers, whose job would be to prepare the dead for burial and cover the burial sites with massive magical wards that would reanimate the dead only when disturbed. Where the dead would be buried in the massive necropolei, with less privileged and less wealthy buried on the outsides, to be raised first. $\endgroup$ – Cumehtar Apr 18 at 13:39
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Cremation or otherwise destroying the persons bones after death seems to be the optimal solution here. You can't have your skeleton summoned if it is destroyed at death. But if this is not an option for some reason it would seem the only other possibility is putting the body in an inaccessible location.

Sinking in large deep bodies of water would seem to be the simplest option, I assume if the water is deep enough it would become too difficult to raise the skeleton warriors from the surface due to the distance involved. Bonus if it is a secret location so no one know to look there for human remains.

This should be accessible to even the poor, as all that is needed is a burial shroud, some heavy rocks, and a boat to get over deep water. I imagine in a world like this people would offer this type of burial service for a fee, undertaker services would involve a boat rental.

If at a coastal location this could also be combined with small funeral boats to allow the body to float out to sea on prevailing currents.

This does allow the scary possibility of a powerful magic wielder finding the secret burial lake and using their great magical power to raise a horde of skeletons from the depths (which would be awesome!)

Other thought, if dismembering is okay, have the parts of the body scattered to far flung location, possibly in a type of burial exchange with nearby towns, making it nearly impossible to get a complete skeleton to raise as an undead warrior (This assumes you need a skeleton from an individual and not just the correct amount of bones from different people, perhaps something to do with the persons bones being bonded together magically after death.)

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    $\begingroup$ The last assumption can be weakened if nearby towns only share certain bones, so you have one town which takes all the skulls, one for ribs, another for femurs, etc. $\endgroup$ – Marijn Stevering Mar 20 '17 at 16:20
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Use decoys

It seems you're intent on keeping the person's bones treated with a certain degree of respect (no cremating or crushing) so I thought I'd approach it from a different angle.

The mage needs to know which are your bones in order to get the spell to work, this is where I think we could fool them.

Once a family member has passed the next few days of mourning are filled with gathering branches of various sizes and wearing them down to be shaped like bones and creating an array of faux skeletons to be buried along side the actual deceased.

To by-pass certain spells for detecting bones another ritual requires the family to make small cuts on their hands whilst they work - their blood staining the wood. They can also fill the sticks with ground animal bones.

This way a mage may come up against mixed signals and spend his precious mana in attempts to raise wooden skeletons or will be required to stop and spend a long time discerning which is the true skeleton.

This solution allows for a fairly ritualised method so that even in areas which no longer have knowledge of mages the process can be continued.

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    $\begingroup$ Wooden skeletons might be revolution in the armed fights! $\endgroup$ – Antoine Hejlík Mar 23 '17 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ Definitely a possibility...Perhaps some mage finds out how to instead raise these wooden soldiers and has a much larger army on his side.. $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Mar 23 '17 at 23:33
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Boring I know but you could fracture the bones, that way they're shards and not useful bones.

Or cast them into some kind of metal, like Han Solo in carbonite. You get a nice life sized casting that holds the bones in place.

Additionally you could create guarded community burial sites. Guarding bodies will be an honorable profession. Of course a guard could be bribed but in a small community that could be a literal death sentense.

Maybe combine the above. Corpses could be gathered and guarded. People would be able to mourn till the end of the month. At the end they're piled on top of eachother and cast into metal.

This can obviously be impure cheap metal. Or even concrete works. The idea is that it's hard to remove without shattering the bones, turning them useless.

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Do what the relics maker used to do in the past to harvest relics from saints:

  1. wash and boil the corpse. This will make the flesh easily separable from the bones.
  2. poor people option: manually remove the bones from the corpse
  3. dissolve the bones in acid or calcinate them.
  4. bury the flesh
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  • $\begingroup$ He specifically lists cremation not as an option. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 20 '17 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Mormacil, I completely missed it. I edited my answer $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 20 '17 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Bury the flesh, that is an interesting option. Creepy but very interesting. Now we need flesh reanimation. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 20 '17 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Mormacil you mean a flesh golem? $\endgroup$ – MD-Tech Mar 21 '17 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @MD-Tech Those tend to be more frankstein with bones right? $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 21 '17 at 13:37
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The plague of necromancers has resulted in in a boom in the gravemaking industry. Rather than simple graves in the ground as became standard after the Romans "civilised" Europe, people are going for the traditional burial cairns.

Cairns vary in scale. From the simple cairn with charms to block scrying to elaborate mausoleums with active magical defences for those who can afford them, to the commoners' yards, where those who can't afford better are buried in catacombs maintained by the local authorities, who don't want a skeleton army at their doorstep.

Some rulers with too much time on their hands spend enormous amounts of money and labour to build elaborate traps within their future graves. There are rumours of an unofficial competition between rulers of whose mausoleum has the best (most vicious/effective) traps. Of course, since no raider bothers to visit the tomb while the prospective inhabitant is still alive, nobody has won yet.

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Cremate the Necromancers

From an economics point of view, if the value of the skeleton to a necromancer is greater than the cost of overcoming the protection, then skeletons will be ravaged.

Change the cost structure using law, introducing a barrier to entry: Make the criminal penalty for necromancy so high that most mages will be dissuaded. Since the scenario seems to involve a cultural (or magical) taboo against cremation or grinding bones, make it part of the penalty.

By order of the King, the penalty for Necromancy is Death.
The convicted mage will be cremated immediately.

After the first couple, word will get around.

If the King is too weak to enforce the law, then warlord mages already roam the countryside with their skeleton armies, and most of the peasants are probably already dead (and resurrected).

A clever king will, of course, promptly exempt crown-employed necromancers to maintain a fearsome crown army. This will lead to lots of palace intrigue, corruption, assassinations, and exploitation. The peasants will suffer grievously (see pre-revolutionary France), and many who expire will be promptly resurrected into the King's enormous magical army.

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A town or village may invest a lot of money in making a priest of high repute or known skill to come and bless a piece of land, to make it Hallow Ground, a place where necromancy doesn't work, and have sentinels patrol this cemetery the same as any other part of town.
There would be also a lot of common knowledge mixed with myth about what makes a body easier for a necromancer to raise it and people would take that into account.
Maybe they would bury them with stakes across their hearts, or extract the brain and organs like Egyptian mummies...

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  • $\begingroup$ Dungeons & Dragons had a clerical "Ceremony" spell that would, among other uses, let the caster perform a Funeral. Anyone attempting to disturb the grave afterwards was subject to a Fear spell or something. You could do something like this as a "contested skill roll": a powerful necromancer could overcome the graveyard blessings of a normal village priest, but not one done by a bishop. Maybe the blessings decay over time, so if the necromancer finds a forgotten tomb hundreds of years old, it doesn't matter that it was blessed by a legendary pope. $\endgroup$ – Shawn V. Wilson Mar 22 '17 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ So people would go out of their way to keep this grounds Hallowed, maybe going so far as to hire a cleric to travel far to the family's ancestral burial ground to renew the blessing. $\endgroup$ – ThreeLifes May 16 '17 at 11:48
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Hide the burying place (this will work when the mage has to be close to the corpse to summon it). Put gravestones on empty graves and bury the corpse in an unmarked place.

Make the graveyard unaccessible for the mages (e.g., by placing them in quarters that are populated by criminals and no-go areas for mages). You can see this as the poor men's version of a guarded area.

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You basically want to make recovering the bones as expensive as possible with the least effort possible.

Sealing the body in some hardening material (like metal, cement, etc.) may be a good step, but also needs you to get this material.

A very easy way to protect the bodies would be, to bury the bodies in a highly frequented place. But don't put them all in the same spot, don't create cemeteries. For the extremely poor, there could be a rock coffin on every major crossroad of a city. People who own their own house can bury their dead in their own cellar. As long as somebody is home, the bones will be safe. Just make sure, your neighbors have an eye on your house, when you're abroad.

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Depending on the landscape available to you, you might want to look for naturally hard to reach places. For example wrapping the deceased in linen, then drop them in a swamp. Maybe quicksand works too. If your necromancy requires some kind of ritual, embalming, seeing the corpse at least, etc then the necromancers would first have to retrieve the corpse.

Encasing them in ice in a glacier might also work, if that is the landscape available to you. This would however slow the decaying.

Putting them on a small boat and let them sail out on the sea. With a strong current you could provide certainty that they end up on the ocean. Maybe also prep the boat with a small mechanism (maybe fire?) to fail after some hours and sink.

Another idea would be something with hazardous properties. Maybe a cave in a volcano or filled with poisonous gas that has a small opening at the top. Walls are steep so climbing out is impossible. You can use a rope to get the body in but retrieval will be much harder. That is, if magic does not allow telekinesis...

Another thing which maybe wouldn't be ideal, you could make the bodies into traps. Like, add explosives in them. That might scare necromancers away. It would however damage the body if it was activated.

Depending on what you deem as destroying the skeleton, you could weaken it. Maybe make it a burial ritual. All bones have to get specific areas filed off. So when you reanimate it those points would be severly weakended and prone to break. The ritual should be visible at point blank. That way a necromancer would see the corpse as unfit for his purposes. Maybe there's a substance that does this with bones in general. Pouring it over bodies makes bones weak as thin twigs but keeps them intact. Some kind of ointment maybe.

As far as rituals go, maybe shackling the dead would be a good idea too. If they are dropped into something or buried and the necromancer uses magicto raise them and let them crawl out or climb out, shackles would make them unable to do so. This assumes being raised in itself is not damaging the soul, but just the fact that they serve a necromancer is the sole problem.

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In a tower of silence. Specifically one modified to allow bodies to be added, but not removed.

Powerful families can have their guarded tombs as expected, less well-off people will be interred in public sites. Imagine a tall, circular stone wall with stairs leading up to the top edge and open space in the middle. After funerary rites and dressing of the body have been performed, it can be brought to the tower and dropped in. Not the most dignified burial, but if necromancy is such a concern for society, a necessity.

The inside of the wall will be far too steep and solid to make climbing out feasible, and since this is a holy site, magic-dampening wards should be built into the very walls, which limits a necromancer's access to his tools which might otherwise let him get corpses out without getting his hands dirty. Once a certain number of bodies are added to the tower, it can be left to the carrion birds to clean the skeletons for a time and then filled with cement and the walls broken down, and left as an ossuary. It will still be considered a sacred site as such, but can be used for other purposes and the tower rebuilt elsewhere.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice idea, they could be built by the church allowing a powerful church protecting the necromancers from kings because they need the necromancers as a thread to the remains to stay in power. $\endgroup$ – DonQuiKong Mar 21 '17 at 15:12
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There are approximately three major options:

  1. Destroy the bones - burning, breaking, or dissolving the bones would prevent them from being used. Granted, if this harms the soul, you should only do this with relatives you don't like.

  2. Hide the bones - a few possibilities here:

    • Keep the bones in crypts, a guarded warehouse of bones. Cheap for the individual, as flesh-free bones take up very little space.
    • Drill holes into solid rock; the holes should be just big enough to drop bones in, but too small for a full skeleton to climb out, or a human to climb in to retrieve them.
    • Scatter the bones somewhere irretrievable, like the ocean
    • Bury the dead deep, and place very large rocks over the grave; this may work better for mass graves, where bodies are placed under massive slabs of stone, inaccessible to outsiders
  3. Keep the bones from traveling - drill a small hole in important bones, like the femur, humerus, and skull. The hole isn't big enough to damage the bone (people may even have these wires installed while they are alive), but once deceased, the bones have a wire run through them, and are bound to a large stone. Moving the bones will break them, but leaving them to rest will keep them whole.

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1a - A variation on options already here - the Iron Maiden Coffin.

The coffin is made in two parts, with pairs of hooked iron spikes pointing up from the main part, and down from the lid. The spikes are lined up with the major bones, and have the backward facing hooks are between them. The body is pressed onto the bottom spikes where they will hold it in place, and each major bone has one or more pairs of spikes holding it down and in place.

When the lid is placed it lines up so there are matching spikes in one or more places, causing it to be very difficult to get the coffin open again - and any attempt to do so will likely break bones and cause the skeleton to be useless.

1b - Added options include the spikes being in a metal body-shaped cage (like a personal body prison) that is welded closed (meaning the the skeleton can't move without removing it from the cage first). The body can then be buried in a normal coffin, and several buckets of black powder put in there too (woe betide any grave robber who tries to remove the frame in a way to cause sparks).

2 - If the body is buried vertically (in a frame and not a coffin) then it also makes it far harder to dig out, as digging the original hole for it is relatively easy compared to making a hole big big enough to get the body out - especially if buried in a gravel rich area.

3 - Another addition to the coffin (or final resting place) would be copious amounts of slaked lime (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_hydroxide#Health_risks) - it is relatively easy to make, and can cause severe skin irritation, chemical burns, lung damage and even blindness - again, make it something that people really don't want to contend with to dig up.

4 - As a related note to that (and with a small amount of magic) - a magically triggered grenade of slaked lime - assuming that the wizard needs to be present to raise the skeleton, having it potentially blind (or worse) the wizard doing the raising might make raising the dead a far more risky operation...

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Assuming the aim is to prevent your skeleton being used as a soldier (presumably because there is risk of damage to the bones, which would damage your soul, as with cremation. Assuming further that the act of necromancy does not damage the soul of the skeleton.

Use Necromancy.

It sounds like a Necromancer could command a skeleton to 'lie perfectly still forever'. This would use 0 energy for the Necromancer, and the spell would thus last forever. Generally speaking (by which I mean in Dungeons and Dragons), it is accepted that an animated Skeleton is not a valid target for the 'raise dead' spell.

Necromancers would charge relatively small amounts for this spell, as there is 0 energy required, making it a relatively easy spell to cast.

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The cheapest solution would probably be big rocks. Specifically, a simple pulley and a big rock held up by rope. Lift the rock, put the body underneath, drop the rock. Repeat until the bones are in too many pieces to do anything useful with.

This could be automated with something akin to a windmill or waterwheel-powered flour mill.

These are fairly grisly options but would be easily available to people with almost no money.

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You've indicated that it is fairly difficult to "reprogram" a skeleton that has been previously programmed by another.

drain the energy in there (you'll need approx. the same amount for that), put your own in. So not so easy.

If so, I recommend asking a close friend to program your skeleton to defend itself! The bones don't have to be commanded to move until necessary, if I understand your command system properly. Your sample command is "make those bones assemble like a skeleton and attack everything that moves behind this line after I was buried there," which allows your tired bones to rest until some opportunistic necromancer comes to collect them.

The energy cost of deprogramming your skeleton, besides the fighting involved, should be high enough to discourage the use of those bones in warfare.

If you'd rather your bones not move at all after death, consider programming them to lie still forever.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's viable if you can pay a strong mage for some strong magic, wich costs money. $\endgroup$ – DonQuiKong Mar 22 '17 at 14:21
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A geographically somewhat limited solution to at least make access to the bodies more difficult, would be to use mines or tunnels - similar to catacombs, to store bodies. By placing explosive charges in the access tunnel, you can either trap the wizard, should he slip by and start summoning skeletons, or when one is active in the vicinity, block the access to the burial site.

If explosives are not available, you may consider flooding the burial site, but that is less effective, and also may present some sanitary issues, as the water may mix with ground water. You could also use sand or gravel to fill the access tunnel(s), which is stacked near the entrance and held back by some wooden mechanism.

This should at least prevent small-time necromancers from sneaking/running off with your hot neighbor's corpse.

The downside to this solution is, that it only really works if there's an actual interest in tunneling deeply into mountains or underground, since it's unlikely to that people will invest that effort just to keep some dead bodies around. Also, it's very much a dissuasive method, since once you sealed your mass grave off, preparing another one is going to be costly.

Hence, I would very much focus on disabling the necromancer, not the skeletons/corpses. Plant some traps, build some walls, and if you're really fancy, invest into some magic triggers, which detect necromancy and sound an alarm or set off further traps.

For bonus points: animate the necromancer's corpse and have it walk around town. Putting heads on a spike is so medieval!

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In this world, can the church not bless the grounds?

Also, bless the corpse. Use magic that doesn't damage the soul. Then the necromancers have to overcome that magic first before they can animate it. The goal is to make it more expensive to animate.

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I would think that encasing in metal or concrete, though not yet invented, would simply be a deterrent. A strong mage could melt/wear away the metal or concrete, possibly damaging the bones in the process. In summoning the skeleton, is it going to dig itself out? I was thinking of burial in a segmented coffin where all the bones are separated and reordered in different compartments. If anything, this might make it too much trouble and they will move on to the next body.

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Coffins made of Yew wood will block a necromancer's search bones spell, and are toxic to necromancers. Families save up money to buy the (now somewhat rare) yew wood for coffins. the poorest people can't afford it, though the church provides mass burials of many people's bones in a single yew coffin to reduce the cost.

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You can try using reinforced coffins, making life harder for the thief, who will then hopefully try looking in someone else's grave.

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