Different undeath types, questions

So, this has been bugging me a bit, and I’m wondering if lore people knows how this works.

For my understanding, we have 3 major types of undead playable characters.
Forsaken, Death knights and DarkFallen Elves.
Non playable, there is Calia that seems to be an unique case, being a light raised undead, so I will ignore her for my questions.

The main question here is the following:
Are the forsaken actively rotting? Or they were rotting but once raised their rotting stops?

Death Knights seem to be the “strongest” type of Undeath, their bodies seem mostly intact, they gain unique powers, It seems to be a special process, and while the original DK races have a more rotten look if we choose that, we have seen several DKs looking intact, so at first I thought forsaken were rotting because the magic that raised them isn’t the same, but I realized it was, the scourge, the plague, the DKs all have a shared origin in Nerzhul, and there is the elephant in the room, Darkfallen elves, they are raised in the same manner as regular Undeads, which was either the scourge im WC3 or Sylvanas via the val’kyr, and yet they look… fine, and spot that unique red eye (that nathanos also seems to sport ever since he was moved into a new body).

So to me, it makes more sense that the forsaken aren’t activelly rotting, but were rotten corpses that were put together and raised and remain that way once raised, but I’m not sure, whats the lore on the subject?

The lore is tricky and it does seem to change here and there. There are many, many different forms of undead even outside the Scourge variants, and can be produced through different methods and rituals.

Rank and file Forsaken do rot, though there’s variation and they’ve likely found alchemical and necromantic solutions to help mitigate that. The original Forsaken were stated to be the strongest willed of the undead, needing to resist the call of the Lich King as well as hold themselves together. A Forsaken can withstand fatal injuries and put themselves together as a result, but their bodies are slowly falling apart and need maintenance.

Darkfallen are a weird mix. The Dark Rangers, original batch, were all like Sylvanas, that is banshees who were taught how to possess their old bodies to become a unique brand of corporeal undead. One can assume that while they can’t come back to life, using their magicks they can keep their bodies intact and relatively safe from decay. The stronger the banshee, the more they can keep their body in a sort of necromantic stasis. The later Darkfallen are… weird, because they’re not banshees, but that can be chalked up to adapting methods used to make Nathanos ‘pretty’ again, as well as the valkyr gaining strength due to Sylvanas’ Jailer powers increasing. The valkyr and their necromantic powers are pretty varied, after all, as in Icecrown we even see they turn the worthy vrykul (male or female alike) into new valkyr.

Other Scourge variants that are stronger are the products of experiments or rituals that aren’t practical for the rank and file undead. San’layn are rooted in blood magic and life draining, for example, so they can stave off any rot. Death knights are similar in that they’re special undead.

So the answer is yes, the Forsaken are rotting, but have many tools at their disposal to solve this problem, and likely have. They’re probably not immortal, but they’re not falling apart anytime soon.


IMO there are only 2 types of Undead. The ones that retain their minds and personalities (or at least as close as possible) and then the ones who turn into bloodthirsty psycopaths.
Spare and work along side the good ones and kill off all the rest. That should make it simple.

A short story with Sylvanas and Nathanos stated that the Forsaken are indeed rotting, and Nathanos needed a new body immediately, else he just fall apart. The entire assumed arc of Sylvanas from Cata through the end of Legion concerned finding a solution to this very problem, but come BfA, something changed and they pivoted course to the Jailer as her motivated. That, and finding a reliable method of adding to their ranks.

The rotting body plot is probably soft-retconned now, really hard to say. Standby for now?


Two types of undead if you want to simplify it. First are the ELITE. These are the best preserved undead which are Death Knights and Darkfallen as well as the other elite types of undead who look as alive as an undead can look with minor exceptions. Master necromancers, banshees, and death knights can raise the premier types of undead.

Second and most common are the cannon-fodder undead. These are the rotting ones the ones raised by the plague of undeath or alchemical procedures or novice necromancers. These can include all playable Forsaken. Ghouls. Blightbeasts. Abominations and geists.

The elites usually are fully sentient and are usually enhanced beyond mortal capacities in ways which make them difficult to kill even more so than your regular undead. These undeads usually are the warlords, champions and ruling class of the Scourge. The lesser undead or rotters well they don’t last and aren’t meant to last. They are meant to be thrown at the enemy until the last one breaks down and falls apart.

Not addressed. The actual Undead player race does have cannibalise to recover hit points so presumably they can repair damage that way.

Aging is not addressed for any player race because this is an action game, not a simulation.

Undeath physiology is really all over the place.
It just sorta works as the plot needs it.

The closest to current canon I think we have is that standard Forsaken don’t “rot”, but they do degrade over time through casual wear and tear.

Consider your own body.
As you go through life, you’re constantly damaging it in ways you don’t perceive.
You shed skin on most things you touch.
Your muscles ache cause they’re physically tearing.
Even your bones suffer microfractures.
But all of that is quickly healed up.

Forsaken don’t have that. Any damage their body suffers is permanent.
In Dark Mirror, Nathanos laments that every time he draws back his bow string, he loses a bit more of his thumb.

Now, that said, it’s difficult to say what effect this wear and tear would actually have on an undead. Again, the lore doesn’t often agree.

Nathanos believed once all the flesh was gone from his thumb, he wouldn’t have the traction to fire a bow anymore.
A Forsaken Blacksmith gets a new arm and is dismayed that it isn’t as strong as his old arm. And, being dead, he can’t build more muscle mass.

Yet, also, in BfA a Forsaken gets completely bisected at the waste. The PC jams their spine back into their pelvis and they’re immediately back fighting shape.
The Traveler books reveal that, if an Undead is “strong” enough, they can just disassemble and reassemble themselves.

There also are plenty of avenues for Forsaken to “heal” themselves.

The Cannibalism racial isn’t just a fun time. They literally use flesh to reconstitute their bodies.
There’s also the ability to replace any damaged limbs with new ones.
And also the use of alchemy and dark magic can be used to heal/empower.

At the end of the day, it’s best not to think too deeply into how Undeath works.
Even Blizz isn’t sure.


undeath lore hahaha crazed phase haahaaaa


True! Though in the case of the Forsaken they’re basically wasting away due to attrition. Everyday wear and tear as well as life and the realities of undeath for those raised as they were is doomed to end with their extinction. Not much can be done and the more they fight and put themselves in danger the quicker they are reduced in numbers and strength not just of their forms, but of the very collective body that is the Forsaken population.

Ideally, Calia should learn how to raise undead via the Light and create new undead of a better condition than what presently exists to maintain her nation and her people, but as of today… Undead lore has only one consistency - It’s very inconsistent.

The best think Forsaken can do is to start getting along with what little population of friendly humans from Lordaeron (we saw there were humans willing to do it) and build up a new and improved nation until they slowly die off. It’s the natural order of all things to eventually die and move on. From that moment on, those humans can keep Lordaeron going.

So there’s really no firm lore on any of this but as far as I can tell Forsaken crave the flesh of the living whereas Death Knights have a strong urge to cause suffering upon humanoids souls.

Given that the Forsaken’s are vampire zombie dudes and the Death Knight is connected to soul eating rune blades this makes sense as it’s a desire that both heals them and demands unceasing violence against an enemy which was very in league with the Lich King’s design philosophy.

Undead Elves though are kinda ???. They’ve been classified as Darkfallen which used to be synonymous with San’Layn; IE knife eared Draculas.

But I’ve not seen that definition stick too hard so the unnelves are still very ???. And the lore is vague enough that you can really have your personal alternative mortality character subsist off whatever.

But personally no matter what I think the undead are basically apex predators who’s mockery of life should be continued through predation of the living. How they deal with this varies.

For example I’ve this character surviving off alchemy and dining on the undesirables with dignity. Nobody’s going to complain about Murloc filets fried in ogre fat and served with Blackrock orc clarinet. But I’ve others like my necrobionic rogue tinkerer who lives off corpse starch. And my obliquely malevolent Death Knight who torments her prey before turning them into a bath / stew.

It’s really up to you.

So, based on everything here.

Forsaken undead don’t exactly rot, but their bodies need to be cared for because of regular wear and tear being permanent.

DKs don’t have that struggle due to being held by a more specific magic?

Do forsaken get to rebuild their flesh with animal flesh or it has to be specifically human flesh? And Is it by eating or just attaching and sewing to missing pieces?

True. But it’d like to point out that even this lore isn’t portrayed well.
Suffering from wear and tear implies Forsaken are dependent on their physiology for movement.
That is to say, they need muscle and sinew and ligaments to move around.

Yet a Forsaken cut completely in half is good as new by jamming his spine back into his pelvis.
And if Forsaken needed muscles and such to move about, then their rotten character model would be “noncanon” since I can move my arms without elbow meat.
So it’s still kinda confusing how physical damage impacts their ability to move.

Deathknights and Darkfallen (elves) are animated using stronger magic. The result of this is that their bodies aren’t prone to wear and tear.
The entire reason Nathanos got his Darkfallen-esque body in Legion was because his old body was getting worn out.

The lore going into the specifics of the Cannibalism ability come from the RPG, so it’s canon-ocity is iffy. But it has to be humanoid flesh. Once eaten, “dark magic” reconstitutes it into vitality and strength for the undead.

But also replacement parts can be used if a limb is flat out missing.

Cannibalism won’t regrow a zombie’s arm. It’ll just make em feel better if they’ve been stabbed a few times.

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That’s not true. When the Forsaken use the Light they have their senses restored they can taste the rot in their mouths. The maggots in their skin. Their skin flaking away. The more they use the Light the more do they feel that they are in fact rotting and the agony is often to great. So, they do rot, but slowly through wear and tear only makes it worse. Just imagine feeling the maggots in your skin flies popping out like boils each generation burrowing in and eating at what flesh remains.

Only the most preserved undead via magic or alchemy will avoid this. Not all Forsaken are lucky. I think they mentioned it years ago. Also when they had their reunion in Arathi the Forsaken with a family was so fragile his child was afraid of hugging him in fear he may fall apart.

Why should the Forsaken follow the natural order? If they can recruit humans who want to remain immortal, that’s a perfectly fine way of living and continuing on. I see no reason for them to subscribe to IRL philosophies of naturalism.

The Forsaken don’t pretend to be in tune with nature or the natural order, they embraced that they are rejected by it, atleast to the extent that their unlives are threatened by it. They have no reason to embrace the cycle of life, unless they hate being undead in the first place.

Heck, even the night elves as recently as DF were looking for ways to reject their natural mortality through time magic blessings and other sources of power, and pretty much lived against the cycle for 10000 years. Modern humans are constantly trying to live longer and find ways to become immortal(ised).
Is it really a surprise that there are in-game humans who might want to remain longer than their short lifespans and Forsaken who want to create a culture that transcends the natural order of life and death?


Largely agree, but you can be an elite undead and have a rotten appearing corpse. There are some forsaken type death knights for instance.

The black knight, etc.

It’s just that raising new Undead is irresponsible at best and at worst it is a complete psycopath behavior.
It’s always a gamble if a new undead is the same as when they were alive or just turn into a person who only wants to kill and torture. On top of that there are many instances of undead claiming they are misserable with that curse, how they feel hollow and cold inside, or when slain they feel relieved exclaiming how they are finally free from the hell of being undead.
So to actively spread that curse and allow it to continue is absurd, even if someone is willingly asking to be turned into one.

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The answer is at best loose canon.

My personal theory is the undead player race doesn’t decay. If they did characters like Faranell would be piles of bones on the floor.

Rather they’re stuck in their resurrected state and can only return to that through the consumption of biomatter. If they want to improve their status they have to turn to body building in the most literal sense.

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I just did the DK starting zone on an alt, and there is a character there named Koltira, and when we release him from being tortured he mentions having broken ribs and probably internal bleeding.

Thats interesting, the implication here that at least DK type undeath restore bodily functions, i just assume they were walking frozen corpses.


IIRC, think it’s from some lore book(s), Death Knights have to eat, and while they can, and probably should, sleep the Lich Kings forces actively kept the Death Knights from sleeping. On top of that Death Knights have to breath.