Animated Skeletons are created through powerful necromatic magic, however there are a few variations of this spell that create different outcomes depending on the power and intention of the necromancer used to create them (as well as the bones themselves, for animated skeletons can also be animals or beasts, but generally refers to the bones of sentient humanoids – most commonly, humans).
As such, there are three main types of animated skeletons – but all have several characteristics in common: due to their relatively low weight, they are extremely fast in both running speed and their ability to leap and jump onto an opponent. This speed and agility is countered by their lack of substantial mass – and compared to a living human, they are relatively weak and can be pushed around and thrown down without too much effort, though with no flesh feel no fatigue, do not need to breathe, eat or sustain themselves, and often can overcome a stronger and larger opponent by sheer numbers.
At this point though, all commonalities disappear and the animated skeleton can be one of the following three variations:
Mindless Skeletons are little more than automatons that have no free will of their own, and are of limited use as they will frequently confuse even the most simple of instructions to such an extent that if there is any possible way to misinterpret their orders, they will tend towards error and their tasks should be kept deliberately simple and as straightforward as possible. Some spells bind them together only temporarily, other animate them permanently – but regardless of duration, creating a Mindless Skeleton is an easy task for any necromancer and despite the reputation for blindly following orders to the point of stupidity are at their best when a necromancer is present to order them about and correct any errors in interpretation.
Sentient Skeletons were the majority of the population of the so called Land of the Dead and only a handful of powerful necromancers (who are undead themselves) are capable of creating them – for the spell involved reaches deep into the underworld to bring back the very soul of the deceased and bind them once more to their ‘lost’ body..
A sentient skeleton retains all of their memories, even recalling the moment of their death and some have vague memories of the afterlife itself. While some would go insane from the transformation, because it became a cultural norm in the Land of the Dead, most simply woke up feeling very ‘different’ but still the same person who they were when they were truly alive.
Because of this, they also tend to retain family ties – both with the living and the dead though they do have one curious ability, for Sentient skeletons are able to enter a trance like state at will, and often do so when either commanded to by their ‘creator’ when working at a particular task so to the undead it feels as if they are in a kind of dream – and cannot clearly recall what they did during this state.
As workers or soldiers, they are extremely effective for they feel no pain, nor hunger or thirst, and will last for several hundred years in a dry climate if well maintained, making them an incredibly effective workforce (as unlike mindless skeletons, sentient skeletons can use their full intelligence when in ‘work mode’ and remember where they left off, so in a way live two separate lives – one with the remnants of their human personality, and another dreamline state).
There is no way to physically tell the difference between a mindless skeleton and a sentient one other than gait and demeanor (mindless skeletons move in a jerky, stiff manner, while animated skeletons move like they did in life, and individuals can be recognized by their gait and mannerisms).
If destroyed, the soul is lost forever, and the bones can only be animated again as a mindless skeleton.
Skeleton Warriors are a sub type of sentient skeletons, but who were trained as warriors when they were alive, and retain their skills and fighting ability. In the land of the dead, these warriors were encased in a magical, flexible terracotta like armor and garrissoned fortrresse in the thousands without the need for food, water or entertainment – but when activated, fight with ferocity, fearlessness and intelligence and have been described by some as the ‘ultimate’ soldier for these traits and the simple fact that they cannot disobey a direct command.
Zombies are simply animated skeletons whose flesh and blood body parts have not yet either rotted or otherwise come off.. As such, they can be either mindless or sentient depending on the spell used to animate them.
The flesh feels no pain and helps to bind the skeletons form together at the cost of social acceptance and hygiene.. In the Land of the Dead, the newly dead once had their flesh boiled away and the bones treated for longevity before the actual animation takes place (sentient skeletons can only be animated within 7 days of their death) while criminals were animated in their flesh,and are ‘treated’ at a separate location – condemned to suffer and toil without the ability to ‘turn off’ when working, and feel constantly hungry and constantly thirsty.
As a direct result, crime in the Land of the Dead was rare – for this punishment was far worse than death..