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Intelligent undead

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Intelligent undead Ñ is a generalized name for all undead night creatures that are sentient (not zombies), yet don’t fit into the molds for vampires, necromancers, ghosts or mummies.

Intelligent undead are former historical figures, raised by necromancers to serve as lieutenants in their undead armies. Unlike zombies, intelligent undead retain their soul, and much of their original personality once revived.

Intelligent undead all belong to a type, dependent on the secret known by the one who raised them. Each type is assigned a unique name and a set of magic powers, making no two types truly alike.

They are relatively common – if you set your tavern to be open to all visitors, you are very likely to host a few guests of the intelligent undead variety. Despite their scary-sounding names, these are not hostile and will behave as any guest would. In the object testing arena, when choosing what type of condition the creature can be spawned as (such as a werebeast, necromancer, etc.), two intelligent undead choices are among them, albeit randomized. For example, loading the arena may have the choices as "raised sallow hunter" and "raised crypt hunter" in one playthrough, but they could change to "raised dark corpse" and "raised interred ghoul".

Graphically, sprites of intelligent undead will show as humanoids with light blue skin. Animal people will appear as they are, with no color palette changes.


Rosmo Queenales was a faded hunter, slayer of weregiraffes and savior of puppies. (story)
Art by Sarasti

The phrase "intelligent undead" does not actually appear within the game. Instead, each kind of intelligent undead receives a procedurally-generated name, composed of two parts. The first part alludes to it being undead (e.g. "putrid", "risen", "grave") or its nature as a night creature (e.g. "night", "grim"). The second part is always a noun, and sometimes describes it as being undead (e.g. "zombie", "ghoul") but just as often simply makes it sound threatening (e.g. "one", "slayer", "butcher", "stalker").


Each type of intelligent undead is given a set of 1-5 magical powers, with the possibility of acquiring more if they are raised multiple times by different necromancers. Undead may target themselves with their own powers, which has niche applications. The following powers have been reported:

  • Blisters – Causes the target to grow blisters all over their bodies. Does not hamper fighting ability, making it mostly useless in a fight.
  • Dizziness – The target is affected by dizziness, possibly inconveniencing them in combat.
  • Pain – The target is afflicted with pain, to the point of being stunned by it.
  • Suffocate – Causes the target to become winded. Does not last long enough to kill by suffocation, but will make the target take longer to take actions.
  • Bleeding – The target suffers blood damage across the body. Can stack, leading to death by blood loss if multiple undead use it on the same target.
  • Sicken – The target becomes nauseated and starts vomiting, leaving them vulnerable.
  • Blind – The undead deprives its victim of sight temporarily, making them appear as if blind. In adventurer mode, it appears to have a typo, giving the message "You your sight is fading!"Bug:11858 Creatures with [EXTRAVISION] are immune to this power.
  • Rot – A random body part of the target will suffer minor necrosis. Can lead to extreme fun if the body part ends up being your adventurer's eyes.
  • Paralysis – The target is completely paralyzed. Generally leads to near-instant death in most creatures, as paralysis of the diaphragm leads to suffocation.
  • Raise Fog – The undead changes the weather to create a temporary fog, limiting vision.
  • Ice Bolt – The undead launches a sharpened bolt of ice at the target, causing varying physical harm.
  • Vanish – The undead immediately enters stealth, becoming invisible. Players are unable to retaliate, block, or dodge against the undead's attacks, due to not being able to target them, but may hit them with thrown items. Creatures with [EXTRAVISION] can see the undead normally, negating the power.
  • Propel Away – The undead blasts the target with force, launching them away from it. Effect varies on the foe's weight; smaller creatures can be seriously injured if they impact with a surface, while heavier targets can resist or flat-out shrug off the blow. Can be used to free the undead from a grapple.

Getting intelligent undead citizens[edit]

If you happen to have a necromancer among your citizens, they may very well revive some of your recently fallen dwarves as intelligent undead if they are nearby and involved in combat. Unlike run-of-the-mill zombies, they will not be hostile and will eventually re-petition for citizenship in your fortress. Intelligent undead are impervious to stress and emotions – any event in their Thoughts and Preferences screen will cause them to "not feel anything". However, they inevitably become Distracted due to unmet needs, despite performing most of the jobs (Worship, Socialize, Read etc.) that should fulfill those needs. Intelligent undead children are immune to this distraction.

The intelligent undead can still make friends and be involved in relationships and will retain the ones they had when they died. (The only exception is that marriages do end upon the death of one spouse, and if resurrected their relationship status will be reset to "Friend".). If, for some reason, an intelligent undead was pregnant at the time of its death, the baby will be lost, as pregnancy is reset at the death of the creature.

Intelligent undead do not need to eat, drink, or sleep and can function normally despite very severe damage, such as a brain and skull "mangled beyond recognition", providing excellent practice for your medical dwarves. They do not age, reproduce, or gain or rust physical attributes (but do still gain or rust skills), and count as [NOT_LIVING], so other undead will be neutral to them. They also have many of the immunities undead have, such as [NOEXERT], [NOPAIN], [NOBREATHE], [NOSTUN], [NONAUSEA], [NO_DIZZINESS], [NO_FEVERS], [PARALYZEIMMUNE], [NOFEAR], [NO_THOUGHT_CENTER_FOR_MOVEMENT], [NO_CONNECTIONS_FOR_MOVEMENT] and [EXTRAVISION]. They also cannot bleed to death. This, in addition to the magical powers granted to them when they were raised, makes them very useful assets to your fortress. Lastly, as a consequence of them not aging, any intelligent undead child will remain a child for eternity (even after becoming 18 years old, the in-game trigger will not remove the Child token)

Like all undead, intelligent undead dwarves cannot enter trances anymore, and intelligent undead gremlins are no longer [MISCHIEVOUS].

It is possible for those who have contracted a were-curse to be resurrected as intelligent undead; those that do will retain the curse on their undeath and will transform on a monthly basis according to the date they were originally bitten/turned.

If corpse is intact but the soul of a dwarf is haunting the fortress, the body cannot be resurrected as an Intelligent Undead. To make it possible, you need to engrave a memorial slab for deceased dwarf, and after placing it, resurrecting your dead citizen as an Intelligent Undead becomes possible.

Also, if you save before your Necromancer raises a corpse, if they resurrect your citizen as a zombie, reload the game and try again - this time there's a chance they'd become Intelligent Undead.

Intelligent undead mechanics[edit]

Intelligent undead only require a center of mass. Therefore, you can raise headless creatures or butchered skin as intelligent undead. You can also raise your own severed head as a zombie, if you are playing as an intelligent undead necromancer – bonus points if you pet it once in a while and wonder "to be or not to be".

Necromancers may also raise invaders as intelligent undead. They may be hostile, even against the necromancer who created them, or marked as "Friendly" and sit around doing nothing – this is because many of the loyalty links the creature had are retained. For this reason, do not attempt to raise an enemy you have slain in adventure mode as an intelligent undead – they will remember they're your foe, and will attack you. To avoid this in adventure mode, you can destroy someone's soul by first raising a corpse as a non-intelligent undead. This rewrites their faction and soul traits, and any subsequent resurrection will raise them as a soulless creature loyal to you. This is very useful when you are in mass combat.

A necromancer animates the corpses of some invading elves as intelligent undead, with the procedural name "pale slayer". They immediately turn on him.

Notes and exploits[edit]

Goden Dedukoshur, the undying overseer, was a forlorn ghoul raised in 153, legendary warrior and militia commander, it participated in many raids until it faded away, haunting the fort in 158. Eventually, dwarven ingenuity brought it back to a fleshy form, and it rules Smallhands' military since then (full story).
Art by Nogoodgames
  • It is possible for a civilized intelligent undead to turn into a ghost. In order to be ghostified, the creature needs to leave the map. Assigning the undead to a squad and sending it on raids seems to do the trick as, eventually, the intelligent undead's ghost will rise. The risen ghost will not be interactable, but will still be part of the military. This behavior can be exploited further to resurrect the undead back into its original creature form. Here's how to do it: keep the undead's ghost in a squad, and send this squad on another mission. While the squad is off-map, engrave a memorial slab to the ghost and place it down – when the squad comes back, your undead should now be alive, and its skills will have persisted. It is unknown if a creature brought back to life this way can be raised as undead again.
  • In adventure mode, it seems to be possible to animate mangled corpses as intelligent undead. Whether this is a bug or an intentional effect of using more powerful magic is unclear.
  • You can interrogate criminals after killing them, at least intelligent undead.

See also[edit]