The Plague of Undeath

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The Plague of Undeath

Postby Ivellius » Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:02 am

I don't know why, but in the discussion about the Forsaken's actions, I got to thinking about the plague and its effects on different species in Azeroth. When we look at the Scourge and the Lich King's initial plague, we know it affects the following sentient creatures in life:

Humans - It seems designed to kill them specifically, so if it hadn't there wouldn't be much plot. Apparently humanity is the easiest race to bring back into undeath, too.
High elves - I think we should count the elves here; there seem quite a number of dark rangers these days. I will note that Sylvanas wasn't specifically raised by the plague but by Arthas himself.
Trolls - The Mossflayer trolls of Zul'Mashar certainly seem plagued as do some in Northrend. If elves can be raised by it, it makes sense that their progenitor race can as well. Or maybe it's the other way around, as the ice trolls were one of the strongest groups in Northrend.
Gnolls - The Rothides are (well, were) under control of the Scourge.
Quilboar - The Scourge tried to get a foothold in Kalimdor, and it more or less worked.

On the other hand, we know it doesn't work on nerubians and seemingly not on dwarves. It might do something to gnomes, if the leper gnomes around Undercity are meant to be plagued. It also does a number on plants and wildlife, as the Plaguelands show. The Lich King has nevertheless shown the ability to raise dead nerubians, dragons, and dead members of all the major playable races without using the plague.

The Forsaken, meanwhile, don't have a similar plague (theirs just reduces everything to goo). They have to rely on the val'kyr, who have proven capable of raising humans and their vrykul ancestors from death. They can even sacrifice themselves to bring back at least Sylvanas, if not other Forsaken. But they can't bring non-humans or those afflicted with the worgen curse back, so their abilities are considerably more limited.

So what does this mean? I'm going to ponder the idea and see what I can figure.
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Deckenpuppel » Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:37 am

Necromancy as a hole has become very blurry in its rules and capabilities over the years. In Warcraft III, the majority of all undead were mindless drones (zombies, skeletons, abominations etc). Ghouls were a little more than that, feral and animalistic, but I still would not regard them as sentient beings, despite their limited speech capabilities. Anyway, ghouls were always more than just animated flesh, the result of some sort of experiments/rituals, and therefore of a more complex nature. We had banshees, who are tormented spirits/souls, who kept their intelligence, but are a completely different category of undead. And we had the crypt fiends, former nerubians, who, interestingly enough, also appear to have kept their intelligence, without any apparent reason.

The leaders of the scourge however, are mortals who have willingly joined the Lich King, corrupted mages (necromancers, liches) or paladins (death knights). Back then, this made perfect sense to me. Undead are tools, but you still need people to handle these tools and because said persons were willing, the Lich King was somehow able to turn them into undead without turning them into mindless drones. This also explained why the Lich King did not simply raise every powerful foe he slew to gain a new super commander.

“The frozen throne” already did complicate things. Two new undead heroes were introduced. Sylvanas and Anub'arak. Sylvanas, as a sentient forsaken, was not really a problem, until the p&p sources gave her sentient, independent thoughts before she broke free from the Lich Kings control. Anub'arak, on the other hand, was a little more complicated. He was a former enemy of the Lich King, but was killed and raised to do his bidding, surprisingly keeping his intelligence and character in the process.

The p&p makes this fairly simple. The Manual of Monsters simply introduced the “withered creature” template, used to make sentient frost wyrms and other undead. For me, this does not really work, because there is no explanation why monsters and animals can be raised this way, where humans cannot.

Personally I would explain Anub'arak case (and all crypt fiends, for that matter) with the unique nature of the nerubians. The p&p supplies at least their females with a special kind of memory:

Queens have something akin to genetic memory, transferred through arcane memory from mother to daughter.

Manual of Monsters, 71


I would make this a part of the hole nerubian race and say that necromantic magic is able to link with his “arcane memory” and this way is able to keep a personality intact. Yet, I wonder when nerubians are supposed to have developed an “arcane memory”.

World of Warcraft, in my humble opinion, then knocked down what little rules and boundaries we had. We have Sir Zeliek, a death knight, still sentient and uncorrupted, able to wield the holy light (completely different story), so a knight killed and raised by the scourge without becoming enslaved to the Lich King (in mind at least). We got a new generation of death knights, produced in great numbers from common corpses, corpses that in Warcraft III were only able to become mindless zombies and skeletons. And finally we got the val'kyr, along with numerous other new types of undead, and new powers.

I think one cannot bring all of those things into harmony, at least not without establishing some ground rules and then trying to adapt the given lore to those rules where it otherwise would not make sense.

I think this holds true for the plague as well.
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Bonetti » Tue Jan 10, 2012 8:47 pm

One of the things to bear in mind when pulling from the MMO: they will sacrifice lore and consistency for gameplay. They've already done a massive rewrite of Draenor/Eredar/Draenei/etc. for Burning Crusade. While one can take cues from what they do in the MMO, there will be times when it should be ignored for the sake of a tabletop game.

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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Deckenpuppel » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:09 am

Thanks ;).
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Ivellius » Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:02 pm

Ghouls seem to me like the Taxxons in Animorphs--possessing some intelligence, but so consumed with hunger that they can't really focus on anything else. They're smart enough to understand instructions such as "gather firewood" but can't plan well because of their desire for flesh.

But the Lich King's use of nerubians (crypt fiends and crypt lords alike) wasn't based on the plague--they were raised after being slain, seeing as how they were immune to the plague of undeath itself. Too, while zombies and skeletons don't seem intelligent, it may just be that being raised as the Lich King's puppets necessarily subsumed their intelligence to make them useful. That is, if they were left to act on their own, they'd work against him (or maybe even just kill themselves out of horror)--exactly like the Forsaken. (Ouch, that was a lot of Fridge Horror.) Along with Sylvanas' previous existence, Sir Zeliek might be a good example: he obviously retains his mind, but serving the Lich King leaves him no control over his actions. My pondering had more to do with why the plague (Scourge and Forsaken) affects certain creatures and only the creatures that it does. It makes sense that it affects humans, engineered as it was to bring down Lordaeron. Why are high elves, gnolls, and trolls also affected?

With the Forsaken blight, why can they not seem to affect other races? You could make the argument that humans have gotten further away from their elemental nature than dwarves and gnomes, and the curse of the worgen apparently grounds its victims in the "pure" state of Azeroth/the Emerald Dream more so than unafflicted humans. It is also, seemingly, capable of destroying undead creatures. If they used the Scourge plague as a base, can it work on trolls and high elves as well? And as a separate note, why can they val'kyr raise only humans? My theory is that their power over undeath was limited to vrykul and by extension their human descendants, but then they can bring Sylvanas back. It's harder for them to do it, though--is it harder because she's already undead, or is that what makes it possible? If they could do it with her, why not with the Lich King? They actually seem to have some sort of plan going on; I'd love to know what it is, and Blizzard may one day expand on that.
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Telenil » Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:42 pm

I remember having a conversation on these themes on the French forums a few years ago.

The intelligent/mindless is probably determined by the equivalent of the RPG animate dead and create undead. Your average necromancer can only raise mindless undeads like skeletons, while sentient, more powerful undead can only be created with advanced spells and magical powers. Also, Reign of Chaos implies that powerful creatures (Kel'thuzad) are more difficult to raise.

The Plague: I'd say that the Scourge optimised it so it would work best against humans, because Lordaeron was their most formidable opponent, but I don't see any reason why it couldn't affect anyone else. Humans are different from elves and trolls, but not too different either. It also seems that most Forsaken had died from the Plague, which implies it was one of these spells that created conscious undeads.

If by Forsaken blight you refer to the green barrels their catapults fire, it works on everyone. The Wrathgate video shows it killing orcs, dwarves, trolls, and so on. From what I understood, the Forsaken didn't replicate the Scourge plague as originally planned, presumably because they couldn't. Rather, their research on various Scourge and natural toxins brought them to this particular weapon. The hardest part was to make their stuff affect undeads as well, creating a poison that kills the living wasn't too complicated.

Why the Valkyr can raise Sylvanas but no the Lich King -> plot hole. Many, many Scourge generals were raised for no reason, even when you would expect any sane mortal to burn their corpses. A bunch of them *weren't* raised, and we don't have any explanation either. Maybe the latest WoW expansions made me cynical, but I honestly think it's just for the sake of drama, not some sort of elaborate plan.
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Ivellius » Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:33 pm

I think in my ponderings I was confusing all of the different methods of undeath-granting into a jumble. So I'm going to re-visit.

When I was talking about the blight, I actually melded two things into my mind. The worgen are supposedly resistant to it, seemingly far more so than those people at the Wrathgate. Belmont talks like the Forsaken aren't using a weaker version of it in Silverpine, just that he wants Cromush to think so. You're right, though, that this blight works on everything else we've seen. What I was confusing this with was the reason that the 7th Legion uses only non-humans in Gilneas, and that has to do with the val'kyr.

The mindless thing is kind of curious, though: we see the plague raise people into mindless zombie states as well as the smarter Forsaken states, but I think the feral ghouls are plagued individuals as well. Ghouls might undergo some kind of transition that gives them a glimmer of intellect, but what determines how the plague affects intelligence? It seems to vary.

The Lich King not being resurrected might easily be a plot hole, but I'm going to assume that the val'kyr didn't want to raise him for some reason. It's more sinister that way.
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Deckenpuppel » Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:03 am

Ivellius wrote:The mindless thing is kind of curious, though: we see the plague raise people into mindless zombie states as well as the smarter Forsaken states, but I think the feral ghouls are plagued individuals as well. Ghouls might undergo some kind of transition that gives them a glimmer of intellect, but what determines how the plague affects intelligence? It seems to vary.



Well, I think the Forsaken were simply mindless zombies before the power of the Lichking faded.

I personally like the idea that ghouls are not simply raised, but created.

Only the Scourge and a few other necromancers know the secret of creating ghouls. Rumors say that zombies transform into ghouls when they make the transcendence to “true undeath,” perhaps reclaiming a small portion of their former intelligence in the process.

Monster Guide, 77


I would link this transformation to the Ichor of Undeath that can be found in World of Warcraft. Storywise I would put a nice portion of demonblood into it, maybe even from a dreadlord. We all know how demonblood turns mortals into nightmarish monsters, and the dreadlord component would be a nice way of explaining the cannibalism ability (and I know the forsaken have it as well. I simply disagree with that).
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Bonetti » Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:40 pm

Deckenpuppel wrote:
Ivellius wrote:The mindless thing is kind of curious, though: we see the plague raise people into mindless zombie states as well as the smarter Forsaken states, but I think the feral ghouls are plagued individuals as well. Ghouls might undergo some kind of transition that gives them a glimmer of intellect, but what determines how the plague affects intelligence? It seems to vary.

Well, I think the Forsaken were simply mindless zombies before the power of the Lichking faded.


To me, that's actually a very interesting point. That implies that some subset of the "mindless" Scourge are having their self-will suppressed by the Lich King. While the MMO has technical and gameplay limits (faction balance, extra animations for playable races), the tabletop game could end up with very interesting stories based around specific undead types awakening.

I could imagine a Forsaken-style game in which part of the goal is to recruit free-willed ghouls/wights. It could be partly political, in fact, as a variety of factions arise from this awakening -- some would be bent on conquest, some would want to be left alone. some would want to reintegrate with their original race, some would be halfway to rotbrain (or all the way to rotbrain) and be simply mindlessly aggressive. It could even start out with a mixed party (a few standard forsaken, a wight, a ghoul, and a val'kyr, as one possibility).
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Ivellius » Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:46 am

We know Sylvanas and the Knights of the Ebon Blade had their will suppressed as well as other Scourge leaders. I'd think a lot of the Scourge under the Lich King are in similar situations (those that aren't are probably the zombies and skeletons)--and I don't think the Forsaken are any different any more. The Rotbrains rebel, yes, but it makes little sense for Hillsbrad refugees and the Dalaran magi to immediately turn and fight for the Forsaken without some kind of mind control involved. Obviously Sylvanas counted on Godfrey's hatred of the worgen to keep him loyal to her rather than whatever she's been using on her new recruits. The reason the Forsaken were so unified before was because of their former slavery to the Lich King. With his control broken, they couldn't go back to their old lives and so they made new ones under the Dark Lady, trying to regain some semblance of order. They were all victims. Now, with the new Forsaken being created by conquest, something sinister must be influencing most of these new recruits--why would they fight so zealously for the one who had killed and cursed them otherwise?

Now I'm wondering, why wouldn't Bolvar free all remaining free-willed undead? Is he worried they'll make the world a worse place somehow (maybe by joining the Forsaken)?
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Telenil » Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:13 pm

Are we talking about mindless, or mind-controlled? That's two distinct notions.

A mindless undead has no free will or memory and doesn't get one even if the control his master has over it is broken. In which case he roams around, well, mindlessly, until destroyed or until an other necromancer takes control of it. The dreadlords did turn Arthas' minions against him when the Lich King's power faded. Skeletons and zombies are mindless.
A sentient undead remembers his skills and former life (or parts of it). He is the same person as before he dies, except that he serves whatever entity created him faithfully and to the best of his ability - think Anub'arak or Sylvanas before her liberation. A sentient undead that breaks free has again full control of his personality. Being dead and having ripped off a child's throat with your teeth is likely to result in major trauma, but other than that he is essentially the same person as before he died.
Ghoul can be anywhere between the two, I guess. They are not mindless, and I was under the impression that your typical Forsaken could be modeled as a ghoul, but not all ghouls seem to have their personnality the way the Forsaken do. I don't think ghouls are related to demons in any way though, necromancy is just a type of magic.

When an undead is created, mindless or not, it usually spawns under the control of the necromancer that created him. The amount of undead any necromancer can control is limited, and though the Lich King exerted his influence over large numbers of undead, he needed necromancers as "officers" to actually hold the Scourge together (source the RPG). No undead has ever been reported to go rogue after a necromancer was killed, so I would guess that the Lich King keeps some sort of influence over his minions, even if he can't control them directly.

On a side note, Forsaken is a faction, not a type of creature. The term is also used as "a free undead that broke free of the Lich King's control", but it is improper. The undead that belongs to the Argent Dawn is technically not a Forsaken because he doesn't serve Sylvanas. So yes, you could totally have Forsaken trying to convince other undeads to join them. I think there was such a quest in the original WoW.

And I agree that this Bolvar-as-Lich-King scenario just sounds weird. If he can really commands the undead, he could also order them to kill each other, jump into a volcano or stand and do nothing as other people blast them apart - with or without releasing the sentient ones first.
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Bonetti » Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:29 pm

Telenil wrote:I think there was such a quest in the original WoW.


Bethor Iceshard and Gunther Arcanus. Ah, the memories :-)

That was probably the first quest I did in the MMO which really drew the distinction between tabletop's strengths, and the MMO's strengths. It was interesting, but I didn't feel very involved in the MMO version. Playing out the attempt to convince Gunther to join the Forsaken would have been less "walk to UC from island, walk to island from UC, summon and kill a banshee, walk to UC" and more social/interactive. There also could have been a chance of real failure.

Edit: A recent trip to Brightwater to collect snails reminded me that the lich on the island is Gunther -- Bethor is the quest giver in Undercity...
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Deckenpuppel » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:37 pm

With Cata, you can watch newly risen undead given a choice by the forsaken. Either to join them or to "die" again, or to set off on their own. Marshal Redpath for example moves off and then fights the forsaken until put down by the player.
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Seluen » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:53 pm

Sorry I'm late to the conversation -- but don't forget the murlocs! They seem to have either a strong will for breaking away from the Lich King's control, or simply a hefty resistance to the plague itself. As mentioned on WoWWiki (http://www.wowwiki.com/Murloc) under undeath, there have been reports of both murlocs being "Scourged" and sentient as undead. Or as close to sentient as murlocs get, I suppose.
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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Big Mac » Sun May 20, 2012 2:02 am

Ivellius wrote:It might do something to gnomes, if the leper gnomes around Undercity are meant to be plagued.


I thought the leper gnomes were accidentally created when Gnomeregon was invaded and the gnomes used some sort of (radioactive?) uber-weapon. :?

Deckenpuppel wrote:The p&p makes this fairly simple. The Manual of Monsters simply introduced the “withered creature” template, used to make sentient frost wyrms and other undead. For me, this does not really work, because there is no explanation why monsters and animals can be raised this way, where humans cannot.


Welcome to The PIazza, Deckenpuppel!

Maybe it is something to do with sentience. :?

The word "withered" sounds like a process that happens to something, while it is still living, rather than something that is already dead. Perhaps sentient creatures can be drained of life by other withered creatures and humanoid creatures are immune to the process. :?

Mind you, you did mention animals, so maybe that does not work. Do all the critters that can be withered have something in common (like a lack of ability to have class levels)? Maybe we can retcon a backstory into the crunch that makes it make more sense.

Deckenpuppel wrote:World of Warcraft, in my humble opinion, then knocked down what little rules and boundaries we had. We have Sir Zeliek, a death knight, still sentient and uncorrupted, able to wield the holy light (completely different story), so a knight killed and raised by the scourge without becoming enslaved to the Lich King (in mind at least). We got a new generation of death knights, produced in great numbers from common corpses, corpses that in Warcraft III were only able to become mindless zombies and skeletons. And finally we got the val'kyr, along with numerous other new types of undead, and new powers.

I think one cannot bring all of those things into harmony, at least not without establishing some ground rules and then trying to adapt the given lore to those rules where it otherwise would not make sense.


Going back to the D&D Death Knight is possibly the way to start creating ground rules.

Ivellius wrote:But the Lich King's use of nerubians (crypt fiends and crypt lords alike) wasn't based on the plague--they were raised after being slain, seeing as how they were immune to the plague of undeath itself. Too, while zombies and skeletons don't seem intelligent, it may just be that being raised as the Lich King's puppets necessarily subsumed their intelligence to make them useful.


I may be chased by people with tourches and pitchforks for saying this ;) but as Warcraft RPG was labled as a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, I'd be tempted to suggest that if Warcraft RPG and WoW RPG don't give us a logical explanation for things (and if we can't infer anything specifically special from the MMO or the Warcraft computer games) we should just go with the default behavior from D&D. I don't see that zombies and skelletons need a special explanation, as they are fairly generic concepts.

Telenil wrote:I remember having a conversation on these themes on the French forums a few years ago.


Welcome to The Piazza, Telenil!

French forums? You mean ones for the Warcraft RPG (rather than the MMO)? If they have French forums, would you mind dropping a link in the Other Warcraft Websites (& Free Downloads) thread, for me.

Telenil wrote:The intelligent/mindless is probably determined by the equivalent of the RPG animate dead and create undead. Your average necromancer can only raise mindless undeads like skeletons, while sentient, more powerful undead can only be created with advanced spells and magical powers. Also, Reign of Chaos implies that powerful creatures (Kel'thuzad) are more difficult to raise.


That makes a lot of sense.

In D&D terms, there should really be different procedures for creating each type of undead. I think that some would be a lot harder to create than others and the ultimate proceedures would be the ones for transforming yourself into an undead (like a lich).

For mindless undead, you only need the body, while for sentient undead you either need to capture and/or corrupt the original soul or locate an alternative soul to throw into a body that has no soul of its own. That would seem to suggest that the process for mindless undead is a lot more simple.

Bonetti wrote:
Deckenpuppel wrote:
Ivellius wrote:The mindless thing is kind of curious, though: we see the plague raise people into mindless zombie states as well as the smarter Forsaken states, but I think the feral ghouls are plagued individuals as well. Ghouls might undergo some kind of transition that gives them a glimmer of intellect, but what determines how the plague affects intelligence? It seems to vary.

Well, I think the Forsaken were simply mindless zombies before the power of the Lichking faded.


To me, that's actually a very interesting point. That implies that some subset of the "mindless" Scourge are having their self-will suppressed by the Lich King. While the MMO has technical and gameplay limits (faction balance, extra animations for playable races), the tabletop game could end up with very interesting stories based around specific undead types awakening.


The forsaken certainly seem to have souls...and I get the impression that the NPC forsaken are supposed to remember who they were before they died. That suggests to me that the souls were probably there all along and that the Lich King had some sort of process for creating undead that retained their souls, but which had no will of their own.

This would seem to be a third type of process (mindless undead, sentient undead and sentient undead that have no awareness of their existence). I'm not too sure why the Lich King would want to create this sort of process (given that if it went wrong the Forsaken would awaken and become a rival faction). I guess that the "rule of cool" was applied without them coming up with a motivation. Perhaps sentient undead can be a lot more powerful and supressed sentient undead can be as obidente as mindless undead, but also as adaptable as sentient undead. Or maybe a soul trapped in an undead body can somehow be used as a power source. (Undead certainly seem to have some sort of force that holds their rotting bodies together and that allows them to move bones without necessarily having all the muscles and tendons. There must be some sort of "laws of nature" - or "laws of unnature" - that govern them.)

Bonetti wrote:I could imagine a Forsaken-style game in which part of the goal is to recruit free-willed ghouls/wights. It could be partly political, in fact, as a variety of factions arise from this awakening -- some would be bent on conquest, some would want to be left alone. some would want to reintegrate with their original race, some would be halfway to rotbrain (or all the way to rotbrain) and be simply mindlessly aggressive. It could even start out with a mixed party (a few standard forsaken, a wight, a ghoul, and a val'kyr, as one possibility).


There was supposed to be a Ravenloft adventure where the PCs converted into undead. Maybe someone somewhere had converted that to 3e (or 4e).

For 3e I think that one of the biggest problems is that almost everyone has wanted to define undead as unplayable, so you don't have much to work with. The Ghostwalk Campaign Setting is one exception, and the undead elves of Aerenal, but neither of those seem to work as standard undead. (Both seem to be more like "deathless", and that seems to me to be a new concept that 3e D&D has introduced to try to allow for "cool undead PCs". :? )

Seluen wrote:Sorry I'm late to the conversation -- but don't forget the murlocs! They seem to have either a strong will for breaking away from the Lich King's control, or simply a hefty resistance to the plague itself. As mentioned on WoWWiki (http://www.wowwiki.com/Murloc) under undeath, there have been reports of both murlocs being "Scourged" and sentient as undead. Or as close to sentient as murlocs get, I suppose.


Welcome to The PIazza Seluen!

I've never thought of undead murlocs before. :o

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Re: The Plague of Undeath

Postby Bonetti » Mon May 21, 2012 7:41 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Ivellius wrote:It might do something to gnomes, if the leper gnomes around Undercity are meant to be plagued.


I thought the leper gnomes were accidentally created when Gnomeregon was invaded and the gnomes used some sort of (radioactive?) uber-weapon. :?

They were.

However, there's a leper gnome (Ganoosh) which wanders around the Apothecarium in Undercity (and has since the beginning). As far as I know, whether he's undead or a "normal" leper gnome, and how that fits into lore, has never really been explained. He's neither caged nor shadowed, so if he's a research subject, they're not keeping close tabs on him.

Speculation has been either that he's an ally, or that "leper gnome" is the default state for a plagued gnome. (That might fit in with the idea that the plague might only work on humans to raise undead.)

I should add that there are two more: Jennings is at Agmar's Hammer, and Apprentice Crispin (in the rework of Tirisfal Glade). Both are associated with Apothecaries and acting more like apprentices than test subjects.

If I were building the lore, Ganoosh would be a failed test subject (turned mindless, aimless leper gnome after being infected), Jennings would be an intermediate level undead (some mental activity, but given his behavior, not particularly bright), and Crispin would be the best results yet. The suggestion is that he joined Sylvanas of his own free will, but that doesn't preclude the Royal Apothecary Society infecting him and effectively brainwashing him...
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NaNoWriMo: Winner 2013-2016; Camp NaNoWriMo: 2014-2017
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Bonetti
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