I don't know who to pity more: those who flee from my presence or the damned who can withstand it.
Being dead sucks. On this most people agree. However, there are perks and this particular perk derives from the fact that there is very little imaginable that can happen to you that has not already happened. In works of fiction, The Undead
are usually depicted as being without fear and immune to supernatural attempts to inflict it. Other works justify it by having certain undead types being mindless meat automatons, so they have no will of their own.
See also Immortal Life Is Cheap
. Contrast Fearless Fool
, where a mortal character acts without fear in cases where they really
should be afraid.
Anime and Manga
- Kore wa Zombie desu ka?: This is Ayumu's view on his unlife. Eu will simply patch him up after action, what's to worry?
- The Ghosts in Keroro Gunsou aren’t particularly shocked when they come across the alien frogs. In one case, they come across the spirit of a dead pilot and the wreck of his plane, and they just sit down and make pleasant conversation for the rest of the night.
- The Apostle from Dogma states that the dead have few things to worry about.
- In The Death Gate Cycle, there are two kinds of undead—Cadavers (who are unable to properly perceive anything) and lazar (which are sentient). Both are completely fearless—cadavers because they are barely aware of what's going on around them, and lazar because they are aware of the agony of their undead condition and know for a fact that nothing is worse. Fireballs, sword thrusts, decapitation, arrows through the heart—none of it matters to something that's that far beyond our meager understanding of "pain".
- Reg Shoe and many other undead from Discworld, along with the Igors. Although if Night Watch is any indication, Reg was pretty fearless while alive, too.
- He does complain about this idea in Jingo though. Just because the ship sinking doesn't kill him doesn't mean he's not worried by it. Especially if a shark decides to eat him.
- The recently deceased, after a brief moment of disorientation, are usually rather calm and optimistic about what lies before them. Partly this is because they left their glands with their bodies, and without all those panic-inducing hormones it's easy to see things rationally. And partly it's because the worst has already happened - things can only go up from here (the exceptions usually deserved it).
- The Cauldron-Born in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles have no emotions at all, including fear.
- The High Seekers in the Novels Of The Change are an odd case. When they are killed, they are possessed by a fearless dark power until such time as the bodies are no longer useful - but then, when they're alive, they're possessed pretty regularly too, to similar results.
- This becomes a plot point during World War Z. As one of the interviewed soldiers points out, normal human warfare isn't about killing every last one of the enemy, it's about breaking the enemy's will to continue fighting. Zombies never get scared however, so at the Battle Of Yonkers, when the US Air Force lets loose some Death from Above that would make any normal enemy run for the hills and the zombies just keep coming, it begins breaking the will of the human troops on the ground. That, combined with other difficulties and ammunition shortages, winds up turning the battle into a rout and massacre.
You don’t have to be Sun freakin Tzu to know that real fighting isn’t about killing or even hurting the other guy, it’s about scaring him enough to call it a day. ...“Shock and Awe
”? Perfect name, “Shock and Awe”! But what if the enemy can’t be shocked and awed? Not just won’t
, but biologically can’t?
That’s what happened that day outside New York City
, that’s the failure that almost lost us the whole damn war. The fact that we couldn’t shock and awe Zack
boomeranged right back in our faces and actually allowed Zack to shock and awe us! They’re not afraid! No matter what we do, no matter how many we kill, they will never, ever be afraid!
- Later, this is used against the zombies. When the Army changes tactics, they lure zombies into a prearranged kill zone and calmly mow them down one after another. The zombies, unable to be deterred by the fact that thousands upon thousands of their fellow creatures have been killed without even getting close to the troops, keep coming, and keep getting mowed down. Essentially, the Army turned them into Fearless Fools, and made them pay the price for it.
- Parodied in Juggalo Championship Wrestling (the Insane Clown Posse-owned wrestling federation), where one of the commentators notes about wrestling dead guy Evil Dead:
"Evil Dead is just that guys, he's dead. But the benefits to death are as follows: Nothing hurts him, nothing scares him, he's dead."
- Dungeons & Dragons, to a varying degree in different editions. Undead are typically immune to all fear spells, and if morale is a factor, undead are unshakable. The only thing that will set undead running for the hills is holy power, such as that unleashed by the Cleric's ability to Turn Undead.
- It is also averted as far as intelligent undead are perfectly capable of a Tactical Withdrawal, and indeed will do so when a battle turns against them since they know firsthand just how much their situation beats the Nothing After Death. They just can't be forced to by anything short of Turn Undead.
- Also averted in the fourth edition. Undead are immune to things that specifically affect only living creatures and don't need to breathe or sleep, but that's it; the blanket immunity against mind-affecting spells and effects from previous editions is gone. (In fact, two undead of the exact same type equipped with charm or fear powers might plausibly affect each other with them if those powers aren't specifically limited to working only on the living. A mummy's despair aura comes to mind.)
- Averted in Exalted, where the undead have fear normally (although Mindless Necrotech automatons don't). Abyssal exalted have fear and so on too, but the virtues (including Valour) are warped by their association with the Neverborn.
- In another White Wolf example, this is steadily averted in both Vampire: The Masquerade games. Vampires have the Beast, the predatory half of their vampiric nature that has a tendency to hijack their bodies in certain circumstances. One of those is mortal fear (such as when sunlight or fire make an appearance), in which case the Beast might grab hold and make the vampire run screaming into the night.
- In GURPS, the templates for most undead include Unfazeable and Indomitable, making them disregard all reaction rolls and fear effects.
- Referenced in Magic: The Gathering, where several Black creatures cannot be blocked except by Black and Artifact creatures, defined in the flavour text as fear-based.
- The easiest way to give a creature this skill is to cast the black spell "Fear" on them.
- Another great example is the black spell "Terror". It instantly destroys a creature, provided they are not Black or an Artifact.
- In Warhammer, undead units never have to make leadership tests.
- Averted, however, in Warhammer 40,000, where the Necrons are basically Zombie Robots: The game explains that while they do ignore fear (comes with having your soul eaten by your gods and your entire body transferred into a machine), they can still judge when it would be advantageous to flee if in presence of a stronger enemy, and so must still take morale tests.
- Played straight with the Plague Marines, who are described as being so rotten they can barely sense what's going on around them and are completely immune to pain. Perfectly represented on the tabletop in that they're far more durable than the standard marines, have the actual Feel No Pain rule, is slower than the average marines, and is completely and utterly fearless. Small wonder why they're one of the best units in the book.
- This trope is taken even further in Warhammer where the undead mooks don't feel anything at all (including fear). No emotions means the Chaos gods can't control them, which is why one Well-Intentioned Extremist vampire count's plan was to convert the entire world population into zobies, starving the Ruinous Powers. Strangely enough, most people not even associated with Chaos objected to this plan.
- MSF High Forums: Leanne the Chibi Vampire. Apparently, undeath keeps the worst of her health issues at bay, the reason being that it means her most of her flawed organs don't need to work at all.
- In the Heroes of Might and Magic games, undead are immune to both good and bad morale.
- Averted in World of Warcraft. While The Forsaken Undead gain a bonus against fear abilities, it is implied to be willpower rather than an innate ability. Played straight with the rest of the Undead Scourge.
- This is something of Gameplay and Story Segregation. In the original alpha, forsaken were treated as undead and had all the benefits that came with, including immunity to fear. They also had the downsides, which allowed priests and paladins(then exclusive to the opposing faction, the Alliance) to utterly dominate them. In Warcraft's tabletop rpg companion, they're treated as undead and are immune to fear.
- The Will Of The Forsaken racial ability that all Undead players get is essentially this trope in ability form. Activate it and it will negate any Fear, Charm or Sleep debuff the player is currently suffering from (it's not immunity per se, as it needs to be activated by the player, and then you won't be able to do it again until it's cooled down).
- As mentioned, this is still played straight with the undead mobs, which is immune to most fears. (Pallies can still turn them, through.)
- Ace Attorney ghosts can fear loved ones coming to harm but don't need to worry about any repercussions of their own, something Dahlia Hawthorne uses quite skillfully.
- The skeletons in Dungeon Keeper 2 are immune to fear traps, and will never retreat in battle... which can cause problems when they pull a Leeroy Jenkins against stronger opponents.
- Especially considering that skeletons cannot be recovered to lairs by imps, so dying means they are Lost Forever, and that with no need to eat or sleep, they will usually spend all their time training - which costs gold.
- Then again, skeletons are implicitly free Cannon Fodder anyway.
- Bizarrely averted in Gladius. Undead aren't immune to any stats effects. Skeletons can bizarrely be effected by the "bleeding" condition.
- Most undead in Dominions have a morale of 50, a purely symbolic value meaning that they are completely unbreakable.
- The Undead monster family in one of two types (machine is the other) that cannot be intimidated in Dragon Quest VIII.
- The Secret World has Säid, who responds to a gun pointed at his face with insulting the wielder and nonchalantly pushing it out of the way.
- Averted in Dawn of War, where the Necrons have morale bars like everyone else, and become less effective in combat if broken (except the Pariahs, who are immune). The in-game explanation is that while they don't feel fear, they can still recognize when the situation is against them, and when to run and regroup.
- Averted with High Five Ghost in Regular Show. While he can pass through things and cannot die, he is still very much afraid of things that can risk losing his job or his friends.