In my fantasy world, a society depends greatly on the practice of ritualistic sacrifice on large scales. This is because of the world's magic system, that allows the wielders to insert a piece of the "spirit" into one of these sacrificed dead bodies. But inserting their spirit into one of these bodies, they will become mental clones of the original wielder (but do not have the magic powers), but the magician does not control the person, rather they have the same mentality of the magician. Not only that, but they can also communicate telepathically with the original magician and not with other clones. Clearly, this power is a real advantage in a medieval fantasy world, with these bodies being very expendable and thus useful in more dangerous jobs. Also because of the telepathy, they are extremely useful for communication and gaining information. However, these bodies "decompose" in a time of one week under the magical influence.

So, in order to make the society function, the government would need to get a reasonable number of these bodies. But at the rate, they would need to take people in to become mental clones, the society would eventually just kill themselves off if the citizens do not retaliate first.

So, can you help the government figure out a solution to this problem, by both getting a reasonable number of bodies as well as keep their citizens content with is all?

Notes: The society has the technology equivalent to that of Imperial China as well as knowledge of sailing similar to that of the Polynesian people from 1800 B.C. to 700 C.E. Additional information about the mental clones and their magicians can be found on my question: Possible uses for mental clone(s)

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    $\begingroup$ When you say the society is dependent on this, what do you mean? Do you mean the continuous care and feeding of the society can only be accomplished by massive armies of clones, or are you thinking about occasional events where lots of sacrifices are called for (such as war)? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 28 '17 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds like your culture is so extraordinarily dependent on these "things no respectable person would do" and "big operations" that the value of 1 week of clone labor is more valuable than 50 years (2600 weeks) of non-clone labor. Is the work that bad, and are your citizens so bad at working together that they can accomplish less than 1/2600th of the work a clone can do? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 29 '17 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH downvote is also ok when question does not make sense. If you think this is not the case here, see comments by Cort Ammon. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 29 '17 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ It is not the ethics of using humans as fuel that makes me dislike the question... the Warhammer 40,000 universe makes this kind of atrocity credible and part of its completely f-ed up grimdark setting... and it is awesome*. So the idea can work. But then you need to have a thought through, well developed background that makes it work, and not just another "Like medieval Earth, but..." thing. Provide motivation as to why "society depends on it", and then we have a question that can be answered. But before you do that we are stuck, because we can never beat the ethics hurdle. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Nov 29 '17 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ Needs editing. Does not need my downvotes. I gave it an upvote. The 1 week bit is troubling. What is the win here? In a medieval world 1 week barely gets you out of the county, let alone anywhere useful. Consider changing it to 1 year. Or indefinaitely. What would be the effect if one person had 60 telepathically controlled clones spread over his empire. Makes a whole new meaning to 'viceroy' $\endgroup$ – Sherwood Botsford Nov 29 '17 at 23:26

It's called slavery.

Your society would likely start foreign wars to provide these bodies. It keeps everyone at home happy that they aren't being sacrificed and winning wars of conquest usually comes with economic prosperity for the country. It's win win for everyone, but the slaves.

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    $\begingroup$ As a bonus using necromancy in the war means you don't even need to conscript (as many of) your citizens. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Nov 28 '17 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Josh King Good answer. I will consider it, but I want to see what other options there might be that would work best for my story. However, this does fit in pretty well. $\endgroup$ – Unhappymarshmellow Nov 28 '17 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ I believe this to be the only sensible answer. Read this for what happens without compulsion. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 29 '17 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ while I agree slavery is probably the best way to provide bodies, how do you force slaves to do what you want because: the magician does not control the person, they are dead and have only 3 days to be undead, and so why serve their masters? what could they do to force them to do anything? they're dead, their family is lost or soon to be dead, etc $\endgroup$ – depperm Nov 29 '17 at 14:12

The best source of bodies will depend on their required number. If you are sticking with 3 days usage limit and necessity of a physical contact to reanimate them you might have enough bodies without implementation of any special system except body collection. So, let's examine possible sources.

1. Bodies of country residents died of natural (or not so natural) causes

Your own citizens die every day. Some of them are just old, some are sick, and some were victims of a bar brawl gone wrong. Instead of burning, burying, or any other disposal procedure, all those bodies must be submitted to a special temple, government office, etc. It can be a great honour for a family if a body of their deceased was used for a magic ritual.

This will work very well if the ruler is perceived as a deity. "Serve your God in life and after it, as well!" If approached correctly, the government may even get some money as families will pay for the bodies to be used.

Country residents will provide a steady supply of bodies. It might be not enough for an army, but it should be fine for small magic applications. Tropical climates would result in faster degradation of flesh. Cold climates would preserve them longer and fresher.

2. Bodies of fallen soldiers

If your country constantly wages wars, you can collect bodies from battlefields and put them to good use. That would be an ideal source for a battle mage.

You need to consider that as soon as your enemies realise what's going on, they will start to destroy bodies. Something like Greek fire would be an effective way to prevent mages from getting anything useful. The downside is that the land will be damaged in the process (probably, not to the point that it cannot recover).

3. Slaves (warriors and citizens of the lost side)

As Josh King mentioned it can be a good source of bodies. There is a problem here, though. Wars are very expensive. It is also not very practical for a conqueror to kill or enslave the entire population of a conquered country. Land with no people to work it does not bring prosperity, it is a liability (too hard to protect).

So, you'll have to settle for PoW and some kind of tribute paid in humans. Unfortunately, this also poses a problem. PoW are mostly warriors, so you'll have to deal with higher security requirements, frequent revolts, jailbreaks, etc. Too much pain, if you ask me. Slaves that come as a part of tributes might be more timid and complacent, but they also know freedom and will not be very happy to be sacrificed. So, again, security problems...

4. Sacrificial, home-bred slaves*

If you are interested mainly in bodies, breeding slaves is a much more effective solution than enslaving other peoples. Here and now you can add fresh blood, of course, but the main population of slaves should be very low intelligence with high fertility rates. Think human rabbits.

No revolts, no uprisings, no war expenses, and as many slaves as you need just on the next corner. Moreover, you'll have a wide choice of bodies to pick from. Your government will be very pleased.

5. Other options

You may also choose to have sacrificial castes, third children of third children, pilgrims, sick and deformed people, etc. It really depends on how much you want to 1) explore moral and ethical norms, and 2) get things done.

*This idea might sound very wrong to a modern person, but in your world, the ideas of humanism haven't spread, so no need to worry about an ethic side of this.

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  • $\begingroup$ I especially like the part about the slave eugenics/selective breeding program. +1 $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Nov 29 '17 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ Yup enslaved baby makers was a wonderfully dark addition $\endgroup$ – anon Nov 29 '17 at 14:49

Castes. Almost as good as slavery.

Your Necromancers come from high castes, your soldiers and farmers and artisans and merchants come from middle castes, and sacrifices come from low castes. Your entire society is structured around the privileges and power of each caste, of justifying apartheid-like oppression of the lower, and of justifying abuses (like necromancy) by the higher.

The religions justify the castes. The Emperor enforces the castes...with the help of the trusty Necromancers. Only the higher castes are educated. Only the middle castes become merchants and artisans and Soldiers (with high-caste officers). The Holy men ministering to the lower castes are middle-caste members of the Emperor's secret police so revolutions cannot be organized. Strong social taboos about interacting with lower-caste folks outside of specific venues or situations.

However, the sacrificial caste(s) must be simply enormous compared to the others in order to maintain a stable population. A high birth rate is 30 per 1000 in one year. Before modern sanitation and medicine, half of those 30 children will die before age 5. More will die of accident, diseases, duels, etc. Less than half will be boys (if that matters for the story). Many will buy, steal, or seduce their way into a false-identity with a different caste or some other form of non-availability for sacrifice.

That's a whole city (~15,000 to reliably supply 1 male sacrifice each week) of sacrificial-caste to be fed and housed and employed merely to keep them breeding new sacrifices. That kind of population imbalance (15,000 low-case : 1 necromancer) does not seem politically stable over the long term, unless you introduce other factors.

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  • $\begingroup$ Caste systems rely on keeping people in castes, and that means they have to be able to survive and thrive. The scale of ritualistic sacrifice described would simply decimate the lower castes, causing an imbalance within the caste system which would ultimately collapse. $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Nov 29 '17 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ @LeeLeon while I mostly agree you could argue that slavery could collapse the system too, the decimation would depend on the number of wizards, and how large each caste is (if the lowest was 90% of the population it could be sustainable). $\endgroup$ – depperm Nov 29 '17 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @depperm - yes, but the advantage of slavery is that you can acquire slaves by conquest - though this also has limitations. The main problem as I see it is more a matter of logistics - not so much getting fresh dead bodies as getting those fresh bodies to wherever they are needed, either before re-animation, or afterwards. Provided the bodies are needed close to where they are acquired there is no problem. Live transportation brings even more problems and requirements for more manpower, especially considering that recently taken slaves are not going to be very compliant at all. $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Nov 29 '17 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @LeeLeon Big edit to address your excellent points. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Nov 29 '17 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ @depperm Big edit to address your excellent point $\endgroup$ – user535733 Nov 29 '17 at 14:23

One idea that came to mind based on a discussion with Lee Leon about @user535733's caste system idea is a caste system where those in the lowest caste don't know they are fodder. The movie The Island

is about clones living in a colony believing they are the last survivors of some horrible event. Occasionally some will 'win' and go to the island, a paradise. They are actually killed/farmed for organs or other uses of the rich and famous.

This could be adapted so that:

If the lowest caste believes they are protected by the higher caste, kept within an area by a guarded wall, and occasionally some would be invited to 'live in the palace' or 'be with family' it would solve the transportation issue of getting bodies where they need to be for the wizards. If any of the lower caste showed skill they could actually move up and be indoctrinated to the higher caste, then they could visit and prove that some people 'just choose not to visit'.

Other nations could be conquered and join the 'protected' worker caste.

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