Corpses, man, what are they good for? You’d probably say absolutely nothing, but you’d be wrong. Corpses have quite a lot of uses, and you don’t even need to be a cannibal. You’d be amazed at how often a dead body that’s just lounging about can save your bacon, or get you where you need to go… in D&D. I probably should have lead with that. Though some of these tips could probably work in the real world as well… probably… you’d also go to prison.
But let’s say you’ve just happened to accidentally murder one of your friends in an RPG session… I mean, his character, not your actual/former friend. Or, maybe you’ve managed to get an NPC killed, or you’ve run into a classic case of massacred village. Normally, you’d probably bury the corpse, to get some piety or role play experience, but that would be such a great loss. But why would you do that, when you’ve got so many other uses for a corpse!
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. You’re setting up camp, your ranger assures you that this area is safe, he is the expert after all. And then during the night, your halfling thief gets dragged off by a wolf. Wolves love to prey on the smaller and weaker of a herd. *ZING!*
Well, that ends now.
With a corpse in your party, you can be sure that any wolf in the area, if there are wolves in the area, will go for the corpse first, they are carrion eaters after all. Must be the smell. Sure, it may attract all sorts of other animals as well, but the sounds of flesh being devoured in the night will surely wake you all up. Now, if you’re worried about there being no smell, since you’re probably using some sort of corpse preservative, then you’re going to need some meat. Slap a few steaks on the corpse and by morning you’re bound to find something chewing on him, leaving you and your party safe and sound.
Carriage insurance scam
Strapped for cash? Need to make a quick buck? Not in the mood to rob someone because your thief is dead? Well, he can still be useful! And no, I’m not talking about selling his body for science. Science in D&D is really primitive and pays like crap. Instead, stake out the thief-corpse to a busy intersection and check to see if any swanky carriages are coming. The kind you just know have passengers that are loaded. Once one of them is close enough, all you’ve gotta do is throw his dead ass under the bus… carriage, and then run out crying and grieving at how this careless driver just murdered your brother. The poor man, he was just going to work, to feed his five starving kids. Why, oh why did this have to happen to him? Who’s going to pay for the expensive treatment for his wife’s rare disease? Maybe you, noble sir. You’re not to blame for this driver’s mistake, but you could surely afford a few gold pieces. A few more, maybe, he also has a mother that’s about to get kicked out of her home. Yes, that should do it. Don’t worry, I’ll work extra to make money for his funeral. Oh, you’ll pay for that too? Oh, bless you, bless you.
It helps if you’re somewhere near some bushes, and they don’t see you standing there with a corpse before the “accident”.
Emergency cannon fodder
The worst thing to happen to someone who just got a neat Animate Dead is not having anything to use it on. You’re in the middle of combat, your friends are low on life, your enemies are charging, what do you do, hot shot? What do you do? Shoot the hostage? Well, you don’t have a hostage. What you do have is a dead party member. You know you’ve been lugging him around for the past month for a reason, and this is it. One standard action and you’ve got yourself a brand new zombie thrall to boss around and sick on the enemy. He probably won’t be that strong or useful, but he’ll keep the enemy at bay long enough to get your act together. And if all else fails, you’ll probably have more allies to turn into a zombie army.
You’ve been in this situation before. You’re in combat, you don’t have Animate Dead, or the party member with Animate Dead is dead, and you find yourself at a disadvantage. Well, fret not, because that corpse still has a use. If your character is really strong, grab your former friend and swing him/her around like a mace. Bludgeon the enemy to death with your dead friend! It helps if it’s a halfling, they tend to be smaller, lighter and will usually die first in combat anyway. An feat to eliminate improvised weapon to hit penalty helps.
If the enemy is too far, and if they have bows, crossbows, or other ranged weapons/spells, you can use them as a shield. Either hide behind them, or just lug them around as a shield, even tie them to you, if you need to dual wield a weapon. Your friend won’t mind, they’re already dead. They can’t get any dead-er… well, yes, they could, but not in your typical combat encounter.
The problem with dungeons is that they’re all to often filled with traps. Pressure plates, the kind that are sometimes hard to disable, and need something heavy to trigger them safely. Just imagine how useful it would be to have a corpse on hand. Your thief detects a trap, everyone stand back and toss the corpse on it, see what happens from a safe distance. Once the it’s sprung, you can just pick what’s left of Bob up, and save it for later. another trap. It’s kinda like packing a lunch…sort of…not really…Aaaanywaaay the idea being that he doesn’t have to be called Bob.
And traps aren’t the only good place to substitute a player for a corpse. Let’s say you need to engage an enemy party. They seem like mean bastards, and you don’t have an illusion spell good enough to fool them. There is a solution for that, get a dead friend, rope him to a tree, or wheel him out in the open, maybe throw your voice so it sounds like Bob is speaking. The enemy will either attack him, or be put aback for a moment at the sight of a corpse on wheels rolling towards them. Setting Bob on fire would be a bonus. This would be a good enough distraction for your thief to get in position and stab them in the back, your ranger to fill them with arrows, and for your bard to rock a mean power ballad so that everyone can hit hard and hit often.
The Weekend at Bernie’s.
Little explanation needed. You’ve got the corpse of someone famous, use it for fun and profit. Throw a fundraiser for a dead politician. Throw a concert for a dead singer on a comeback tour, after faking his death, for tax reasons. Get a recently dead baron and try to convince his guards he wants to visit his treasury, but isn’t feeling all that well, and needs help, so that’s why he asked you, a bunch of armed strangers he found down the street from the cemetery. A Disguise Undead spell would really come in handy for this, but you could probably pull it off with some creativity, ropes, pulleys and ten foot poles. Yeah, all those poles you keep carrying around, they can be really useful to fake a living person.
If you’ve got your own ideas about how a corpse can be used, fell free to share them. I promise I won’t judge. Can’t promise you won’t be put on an FBI watch list.