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This article is about the living dead in general. For the undead Forsaken playable race, see Undead (playable). For the two main undead factions, see Forsaken and Scourge.
Army of the Dead.jpg
Character classes
Racial capital
Racial leader(s)
Racial mount

The undead are beings that have died and have had their souls trapped between life and death. They derive power from necromantic magic.[1] Most common examples being zombies or ghosts, undead are typically mindless, bloodthirsty fiends hostile toward any living thing that comes across their path. But some have managed to retain their memories and be who they were in life.


Necromancy and the creation of undead soldiers were invented by the necrolords of Maldraxxus in the Shadowlands who use undead as a militia force to use in defense of that entire plane, should it come under attack.[citation needed]  Somehow, their knowledge came to be known by the nathrezim, as well as (and, in some cases, through them) various mortals.

Undead have appeared all throughout Azeroth, most commonly in nature as revenants[citation needed]  or wraiths. They were used as a combat tool during the War of the Ancients when the nathrezim used them to scour the remains of Suramar, and once again during First War when the necrolytes of the Orcish Horde animated skeletal warriors to fight against the humans. During the Second War, the essence of those necrolytes was used to power the Horde's death knights during their creation.

Later, the studies of necromancy took an important role and were used heavily in the Third War when the Cult of the Damned spread the plague across Lordaeron resurrecting the majority of the dead denizens, including sapient races and animals. In modern times, the two main groups of undead are the Scourge and the Forsaken.

Racial history

Undead Forsaken

A great portion of the human denizens of the Kingdom of Lordaeron were resurrected by the plague propagated by the Cult of the Damned. First under the Lich King influence, they managed to get free thanks to Sylvanas Windrunner and weakening of the Lich King in Northrend. After a civil war led by Sylvanas, the undeath survivors proclaimed themselves as the Forsaken, with Sylvanas Windrunner as their Queen, and vowed to defeat the Scourge and ultimately the Lich King himself.

The Forsaken capital, the Undercity, is located under the ruins of Capital City. It is a place of dark, somber colors but it has inns, forges, and businesses that cater not only to the undead but visitors from the Horde, with whom the Forsaken have allied themselves.

Free will is one of the cornerstones of Forsaken culture, with the great capacity for both good and evil that it entails. However, some undead, especially those who die in combat or under extreme stress and are raised soon after, enter into a violent, frenzied state. Undead in this state are easily manipulated and their rage is often directed at the foes of those who raised them. After the effects wear off, if the risen corpse has not been destroyed, they are given the same ultimatum that other Forsaken are offered: join the Dark Lady or return to the grave.[2]

Each Forsaken member follow their queen for various reasons: fear, loyalty, no where else to go.[3]

Undead elves

Undead creatures

The majority of undead elves were High elves that were resurrected in the Third War by Arthas Menethil and in the later years by Sylvanas Windrunner herself. There are also some resurrected blood elves for example the San'layn and some death knights. Normally these elves have blood-red eyes and deathly pale skin.


The San'layn mostly retain the builds of their still-living kin. However, unlike blood elves, their flesh appears necrotic and, though universally pale, ranges from fleshy pinks and red to gray and light green, and they tend to have either white, blond or dark hair while their eyes have white, green, blue or black glows. Some San'layn have clawed fingers and ears more closely resembling those of a bat; in addition, a few have developed wings and horns.


There are a lot of different undead but they have some common traits like their skin is deteriorating or if they have hair is normally unkempt.

Some undead[4][5] have Ichor of Undeath running through their bodies. They bleed this green liquid when wounded,[6] though some have no blood or liquid running through their bodies at all.[7] The majority of undead are in a mindless state, without knowing or controlling their bodies but if the body is kept intact, they could potentially avoid this altogether and live forever.[8] Normally the undead do not sleep as it is not necessary for them[9] but there are cases were they have done it but it seems to only rest their bodies, especially Death knights or Forsaken. Some undeath feel the need to breathe, though they can last at least a dozen days without taking a fresh breath of air,[10] depending of the type of undeath but as they are undead, they don't need air to live[11] Undead are capable of eating, but they don't need to.[12] Some undead can smell.[13][14]

Being an undead has advantages such as dismemberment not being enough to be killed. Some can also reattach their limbs and joints,[15] or replace their body parts by harvesting and sewing on the body parts of others,[16] eat other humanoids and undead,[17] and drain the life force of others.[18] If you want to truly kill an undead for sure, you have to burn the remains of a destroyed body. The light is known to really cause pain to the undead, but if used with the intention of healing, though very painful, it is effective.[19]

Nature of undeath

The souls of the undead (Forsaken, PC death knights, ghouls, etc.) are imperfectly attached to their bodies; the dark magic that sustains them is a buffer that prevents their souls from properly joining with their bodies. This is why undead feel only faint sensations of pain or discomfort from most physical stimuli, and why the Light is so painful to their existence. The primary exception to this rule are liches, as liches bind their souls to a phylactery and then use the phylactery to generate a physical form; this process is why lich bodies look nothing like their mortal bodies, and also why you have to destroy a lich's phylactery to truly kill them.[20]

Aside from their affliction, some undead also suffer from an addiction to terrible vices. Death knights, for example, possess an addiction to inflicting pain. If death knights do not regularly inflict agony upon another creature, they begin to suffer wracking pains that could drive them into a mindless, blood-seeking hysteria.[21] Zombies and Forsaken have a hungering for living flesh[22][23] and San'layn have been known to consume blood.[24]

Generally, most enslaved undead are tormented and restless by their subjugation. Some welcome it if it grants them the benefits of eternal life. Many undead who are sentient enough to understand their circumstances appear emotionally dispassionate if not melancholy. The most known emotions that the undead seem to emote are remorse, pity,[25] or rage.[26]

Record of undead emoting positive emotions are rare, though there are reports, however, that some Forsaken have slowly experienced a sharpening of their dulled senses of touch, smell, and so on, as well as an increase in the flashes of positive emotions that have otherwise become so rare since their fall into undeath, when influenced by the Holy Light. The drawback, however, is that they also become disgusted with themselves and are likely to increase attempts at their own self-destruction; for regaining these senses would force the undead to smell their own rotting flesh, taste the decay in their mouths and throats, and even feel the maggots burrowing within their bodies.[14]

Some of those that freed themselves from the Lich King's grasp are tormented by memories of the unspeakable horrors that they committed as mindless Scourge agents and are driven into madness or consumed by regret, whereas others embrace their new condition and may go on to indulge in their vile vices. Others don't even remember their time as a mindless slave of the Scourge and so bear no emotional trauma from it at all.[27]

Characteristics in World of Warcraft

WoW Icon update.png This section concerns content related to the original World of Warcraft.

Types of undead


Corporeal undead are average corpses or body parts reanimated by the plague or necromancers, or are various body parts stitched together into abominations.


Skeletal undead are skeletons animated by magic.


Incorporeal undead are ghosts and spirits of the dead.

Undead factions

Faction Leader Description Capital Status
The Not-Living IconSmall Galakrond.gif Galakrond A group of undead proto-dragons created after being cannibalized by Galakrond. They served as his main army against the other proto-dragons, and they were the first undead threat that Azeroth ever faced. The not-living were ultimately destroyed during the future Aspects' final battle against Galakrond. Northrend Destroyed
The Scourge IconSmall NewLichKing.gif The Lich King Originally created by the Kil'jaeden to help usher the Burning Legion into Azeroth, it went rogue after the Battle of Mount Hyjal and waged a war to destroy all life on Azeroth. Icecrown Citadel Inactive
The Forsaken IconSmall Voss.gif Lilian Voss A breakaway group from the Scourge formed after they retook the Capital City of Lordaeron, they swore revenge against the Lich King and joined the Horde in an alliance of convenience. The Undercity † Active
Cult of the Damned IconSmall Arugal.gif Darkmaster Gandling A cult that seeks to obtain immortality through undeath. They served the Scourge while Arthas Menethil was the Lich King, and since his demise have struggled to hold their claims in the Plaguelands from encroaching Alliance, Horde, and Argent Crusade forces. Scholomance Active
Rotbrain Undead IconSmall Undead Male.gif Marcus Redpath A breakaway group from the Forsaken, raised by the Val'kyr and united by their refusal to join Forsaken society. The group was ultimately destroyed in its infancy by Forsaken adventurers. Rotbrain Encampment Disbanded
The Risen IconSmall Nathrezim.gif Balnazzar Created by Balnazzar by killing Scarlet Crusaders and raising them into undeath with the intention of using them to take conquer the Plaguelands for the Burning Legion. Ultimately they were stopped when adventurers killed their demonic leader. Scarlet Bastion Disbanded
Necrolord Covenant IconSmall Necrolord.gif Unknown A ruling faction of the Shadowlands and the inventors of necromancy. They use the souls of the strong, durable and ambitious to create an undead militia to protect the Shadowlands. At the time of the opening of the rift between the Shadowlands and Azeroth, they've lost their leader and are drawing dangerously close to civil war. Maldraxxus Active

In the RPG

Icon-RPG.png This section contains information from the Warcraft RPG which is considered non-canon.

Independent undead

Independent undead are undead who maintain their own free will. Not all undead from Azeroth fall under the auspices of the Scourge. Some undead resisted the command of the Lich King or his minions, while others arose through individual circumstances. Although they have no direct ties to the Scourge, such monsters are no less dangerous.[29] Despite being free of the Lich King's influence, some independent undead still choose to serve the Lich King.[30]

Notes and trivia

  • Tears are not possible for an undead.[31]
  • Some may be able to become drunk. This, however, is debatable as the only known source is Delvar Ironfist, who was an Arms Warrior in the Warlords of Draenor beta, and his written dialogue remained unaffected when he was changed into a Blood Death Knight.[32]
  • The Forsaken male player character claims to be colorblind due to undeath.[33]
  • For game balance, Forsaken players are classified as humanoids for gameplay reasons because, in a PvP setting, they would be massacred with [Exorcism], [Holy Wrath], [Turn Evil], and [Shackle Undead], but they would also be immune to other CC such as [Polymorph] and [Fear]. Forsaken were classified as undead in the World of Warcraft beta, but it proved to be too problematic with PvP balance. Many Forsaken NPCs are also considered humanoid.

See also


  1. ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1
  2. ^ Ask CDev - Round 3 Answers
  3. ^ Loreology on Twitter (dead link)
  4. ^ N Priest [52] The Ichor of Undeath
  5. ^ http://www.wowhead.com/item=7972/ichor-of-undeath#dropped-by
  6. ^ http://i.imgur.com/pJalOPY.jpg A playable Forsaken character bleeding green
  7. ^ World of Warcraft: Traveler, pg. 96
  8. ^ Dave Kosak on Twitter (2012-09-29)
  9. ^ Knaak, Richard A.. Stormrage, 56. ISBN 978-1439-18946-7. 
  10. ^  [Diving Log]
  11. ^ Loreology on Twitter (2013-11-19)
  12. ^ H [110 - 120] Crabulous Feast
  13. ^ Lieutenant Dennis Grimtale#Gossip - "I can actually smell the stink of the ocean here."
  14. ^ a b Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 2
  15. ^ World of Warcraft: Traveler, pg. 220
  16. ^ H IconSmall Undead Male.gifIconSmall Undead Female.gif [1 - 60] The Wakening
  17. ^ [Cannibalize]
  18. ^ [Touch of the Grave]
  19. ^ Bloodsworn
  20. ^ Nyorloth on the Official Forums - 09/02/2012
  21. ^ Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 2
  22. ^  [Dual-Plagued Brain]: "Living Flesh eases the pain... Please, I just need a little. A finger or ear would do..."
  23. ^ Baron Ashbury#Quotes: "And perhaps the best part, I now have a hungering for the flesh of other humanoids. Cannibalizing their rotten corpses grants me power. Yes, DE-LI-CIOUS..."
  24. ^ H [72] Shatter the Orbs!
  25. ^ Micky Neilson on Twitter
  26. ^ Lord Walden#Quotes
  27. ^ Before the Storm, chapter 19
  28. ^ a b Traveler: The Spiral Path, chapter 21
  29. ^ Borgstrom, Rebecca; Eric Brennan, Genevieve Cogman, and Michael Goodwin. Manual of Monsters, 132. ISBN 978-1588-4607-07. 
  30. ^ Johnstone, Mike. Magic & Mayhem, ?. ISBN 9781588469540. 
  31. ^ Fate
  32. ^ Delvar Ironfist
  33. ^ Forsaken /silly emote: "Roses are grey, violets are grey, I'm dead and colorblind."