Yesterday, Angela and I went out for brunch and had a chat about the undead. In her game, a minor theme that's continually crept up has been that undeath is boring. A necromancer had a recreation room for his ghouls (kept in a portable hole, which we stole... filled with ghouls. Yes... the same portable hole that now has an iron golem in it.). Liches and other intelligent/magic-using undead subscribe to a newsletter (which we refer to as Undead Home and Gardens).
It makes sense. If you are undead, you probably don't have a lot of friends. You probably don't actually sleep. You don't even have the ambient noise of your own heartbeat and breathing. Depending upon what, exactly, you are, you probably don't need any sort of sustenance... if you sit down in the corner and don't move, you'll just keep existing forever. . .
Maybe intelligent undead aren't necessarily evil... they are just really bored - often to the point of insanity.
So, I posited some slightly-alternate motivations for intelligent undead:
Ghouls: They aren't really hungry. In fact, they can't normally smell or taste anything, but they can eat. . . and when they eat the tongues and brains of living things, they gain the ability to smell and taste like their victims could. Naturally, they prefer to taste things like they did when alive. . . and they have a tendency to get addicted to such things. They will cunningly eat something with a good sense of smell in order to track down their preferred meals.
Vampires: They can't normally sleep during the day. Instead, they involuntarily enter a numb, paralyzed state in which they are fully conscious. They don't actually need blood to survive, but drinking it allows them to sleep. It isn't as if they really have to kill anyone, either. . . and the value of being able to sleep for a day instead of staring at the same few inches of coffin lid is incalculable.
At this point, our conversation turned to mummies... and we began talking about how different the D&D/fantasy stereotype mummy is from Egyptian beliefs about mummies and the afterlife. That is a topic for another post, but I must ask you all about mummy rot. Don't mummies specifically, you know, not rot? Is there some sort of conservation of rot principle that allows the mummy to transfer its rot to others?