Roderick Robertson

According to Wikipedia (and what more learnéd source could there be?):

Zombie (Haitian Creole: zonbi; North Mbundu: nzumbe) is a term used to denote an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means such as witchcraft. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli. Since the late 19th century, zombies have acquired notable popularity, especially in North American and European folklore.
Wikipedia: Zombie

In Glorantha, animated corpses can have any number of sources. This article intends to list some of the ways that a “zombie” can be created in Glorantha.

Non-magical Zombies

Some zombies are not raised by an outside force, but are animated by their own spirits, who are either determined or absent-minded.

Frustrated Zombie - this type of zombie is the corpse of a person who died with some great deed undone. Usually, the deed is of a darker nature, such as Vengeance. The spirit of the person is so focused on performing this deed it refuses to die, animating its own corpse in an effort to fulfill its goal. A Frustrated zombie requires a great personal goal, and usually a high ability or social level - unskilled peasants rarely become Frustrated zombies! There is no magic involved in creating a Frustrated zombie, simply great need. The zombie will pursue its goal, finally “dying” when it accomplishes it.

Absent-Minded Zombie – this zombie simply hasn’t noticed that that it died and should take its final rest. It goes about its daily routine as if it was still alive. Again, there is no Magic involved in creating this type of zombie (though an “Absent-Minded Sorcerer” fits the stereotype).

Magical Zombies

Raising a zombie by magic usually requires Ritual magic, rather than simpler spells or feats. Necromancy is a specific study, limited to a few practitioners in any culture. Casting magic on the Dead is usually seen as a Bad Thing, though Resurrection is generally thought to be a Good Thing. Go figure.

Raised Corpse – this is a single corpse animated by some sort of magic. It has no “spirit” and only does what its master tells it. This is the “basic” zombie, skeleton or mummy. Unless the Necromancer wants to control the zombie directly, it can only perform a limited task, such as “guard this door”. The magic for this sort of zombie is usually theistic or sorcerous in nature.

Army of the Dead – mass animation of Raised Corpses (usually from a battlefield or graveyard) can be accomplished by sorcerers or theists who are well-versed in the Necromantic Arts. This sort of mass reanimation is not easy, and usually requires a high degree of skill and power.

Enslaved Spirit – Animists can raise the dead by re-uniting a spirit with its corpse, binding the two back into an imperfect whole. This is outwardly similar to Resurrection, but the bound spirit is a slave to the shaman. The Enslaved Spirit will have all (or, at least, most) of the memories of its life before death, and it can simulate its old self reasonably well, though someone might notice that “the King isn’t himself anymore”.

A variant is to put someone else’s spirit into the body, which can only fool people that didn’t know the deceased.

Thanatar Heads – The followers of the Than aspect of Thanatar can capture spirits of the deceased into their own ritually-decapitated skulls, using the captured spirits as a source of magical power and knowledge. While not a full-body zombie, it still fits.

Demonic Possession – some Chaos demons can “infect” bodies, killing and reanimating them. See Soluthor the Creeping Dead from Rule One issue 6 as an example. This form of Undeath often includes the “infectious disease” type of Zombie Apocalypse that we find in many zombie movies – those that infect others with a bite or wound.

Ridden Corpse – a magician may be able to send his own spirit into a recently-killed body and control it from the “inside”. This is a more direct version of an Enslaved Spirit. The zombie is only active while the magician is “riding” it – remove the mind and the zombie collapses.

Composite Corpses – the “Frankenstein’s Monster” type of walking corpse. Bits and pieces of several corpses are combined (either in a “normal” way, or in a bizarre mish-mash of body parts, such as the Centipede Men or Mock Hydra from Tales of the Reaching Moon issue 19). Delecti is a master of making composite corpses. Any type of magic can be used to animate such a thing.

Cursed to UnDeath – some curses can prevent a person from finding rest after death. The spirit is usually trapped in the body, and must watch its body perform the most heinous crimes, while unable to stop it.

Random Magic – some places or events can raise the dead simply by random chance. The Upland Marsh, the Eternal Battle, and similar phenomenon can cause the dead to rise spontaneously.

Living Corpse - where the mind-deadening effects of magic or drugs produce a mindless “zombie” that is still alive. “Killing” a living corpse is relatively easy – you kill it the same way as you kill any other living thing.

Dealing with True Zombies

True zombies are hard to kill, since they are already dead. They don’t feel pain, are never scared or have emotion, don’t bleed if cut, are usually immune to poison, and don’t need most of their internal organs to function. Depending on what sort of zombie the heroes are facing, “killing” a zombie might be accomplished by destroying a specific organ such as the brain or heart, cutting off the magic that powers it, casting out an empowering spirit, or simply hacking it to pieces too small to be a problem. Beware, however, of the animated dead whose severed parts remain active! A severed head can bite your ankle at an inopportune time, or a hand can drag itself across the floor. Even more dangerous are the undead that can put themselves back together!

Some magic guards a corpse against animation – the Humakti are masters at preventing the dead from rising, as well as putting them down if they do. The funerary practices of most cultures prevent a properly-treated corpse from rising. Cremation, of course, reduces the corpse to ashes, leaving nothing to raise. Unfortunately, wholesale death (such as after a battle or an epidemic) often means unconsecrated corpses lying around just waiting for the first necromancer to come along.

Zombies, skeletons and minor mummies are variations on a theme. The difference between a zombie and a skeleton is the amount of flesh on the corpse. Some zombies can turn into skeletons as their flesh falls off their bodies; others “die” a final death as their flesh putrefies. Mummies are dried-up zombies. Classic “Egyptian” style wrapped zombies are bodies prepared in such a way as to preserve the body, which makes them perfect fodder for necromantic spells. Other forms of mummification include burial in hot sand, exposure to the hot sun, or burial in snow and ice.

Vampires, Mummy Lords, Liches, and other “intelligent” undead creatures are different from zombies in that they can think and (usually) cast magic. Zombies are mindless – they can be given instructions or follow some other “programming”, but they can’t think for themselves. A closed door (as long as it is reasonably strong) is proof against zombies, as is a ladder (at least until enough zombies gather that they can stand on each other to reach the hero).


Resurrection is available to almost all cultures in Glorantha. Most don’t consider it to be Necromancy at all (though some fanatics, such as Lead-Cross Humakti, do). The body and soul of the Departed are brought back together and healed. All magical systems have some way to resurrect the dead: Theists have specialty healing cults such as Chalana Arroy; Animists can seek out the spirit and bring it back to its body; and Monotheists have special grimoires with forbidden knowledge.

The resurrectee will almost certainly experience “Resurrection Sickness”, which can manifest in several different forms:

Just Let Me Die – the resurrectee feels that they should not have been brought back to life. They will probably become suicidal and focus on thoughts and images of Death. They may become poets, artists, or musicians in a “Goth” style, dress all in black, and be no fun at all at parties.

Death is Nothing to Fear – the resurrectee embraces an “extreme” lifestyle, taking risks that would turn a Rune-Lord’s hair white. Death is no longer a fear; or maybe they need the extra adrenaline rush simply to feel anything.

Death is My Master Now – the resurrectee joins a Death cult, such as Humakt. She is living on borrowed time, and will probably take Geases like “Accept no Healing”. She’ll will have a specific goal in mind (such as killing Chalana Arroy revivicationists or hunting the Undead).

Life is My Master Now – the resurrectee joins an extreme Healing cult, such as Chalana Arroy. He will probably take oaths or geases to protect life, and never harm it.