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Would Frankenstein's Monster be considered undead?

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In the Champions Universe, the undead do not have civil rights but life forms descended from "human stock" do:

 

A number of Supreme Court rulings have stated that the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection do not apply to sentient aliens, extradimensional entities, artifcial intelligences, and the undead, because they are not “persons” under the law. On the other hand, they do apply to mutants, mutates, clones, and genetic constructs based on human stock. Congress has, however, passed laws granting at least limited rights to all “independent, freewilled, sentient entities” in American territory.

 

In my current Champions Universe game, the PC has met and rescued a pair of flesh golems from a would-be wizard (he used a book to make them). They are basically like Frankenstein's Monster and the Bride, free willed creatures made from human body parts sewn together and animated by alchemical magic. They have decided to turn themselves in to PRIMUS/DOSPA and request assistance in establishing themselves as sentient beings with civil rights under the law (Android, Artificial Intelligence, and Alien Life-form Rights act of 1979). My concern is that according to Stronghold (pg 30) even the Triple-A Act does not apply to the Undead:

 

However this law and all related laws state and federal make one exception: The undead do not have civil rights. The legal ramifications of that, particularly the question of who owns the formerly deceased's property, combined with the typically evil or destructive nature of such beings, has kept them outside the ambit of the laws.

 

I'm imagining the difficulty that a social worker or attorney would have in convincing a judge that a being made of the body parts of multiple murder victims and animated with magic has more in common with an AI robot than with a zombie.

 

How do you all think this should go?

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I think some version of the American Civil Liberties Union would challenge that ruling saying that the standard should be sentience, rather than as arbitrary one as "undead" or "Human Stock".

I don't know if it's got a place in a campaign other than as background info or plot point for a PC who's secret ID is a lawyer.

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They are re-animated (i.e., resurrected) humans. There is no legal precedent for such beings, so you're going to have a hard time finding applicable interpretations of case law that will help you here. I think that any court in the US would get stuck in the same "they're sub-human" quagmire that denied rights to non-caucasians for centuries in this country.

 

Granted, in Shelley's book the monster is incredibly intelligent, and except for being potentially immortal, he is as alive and sentient as you or I. But the whole basis for the "horror" of this scenario is the manner in which he was "reborn", and so pretty much every religious person on the planet would object to Man Playing God, and would work mightily to deny such a creature any rights whatsoever. If you want a comedy movie take on this subject, go watch Ted 2, where the same legal obstacles were directed at Ted, a sentient teddy bear who wanted human rights, and wanted to redraw the legal boundaries around sentience instead of biology.

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That's an interesting question. I've had debates over the Triple-A Act with other lorehounds in the past. Naturally, the decision as to whether Triple-A applies in this case would best be decided in favor of whatever a given game group would enjoy, and which would advance the plot the GM is going for. ;)  However, taken logically from the precedents set in the lore, I think there would be a couple of key determining issues.

 

One would be whether these "flesh golems" are "alive" in the scientific sense. Obviously they were made from human bodies, so would be genetically human; but do their bodies function as if they were alive? Do their organs perform the same functions? Do their cells reproduce? Do they still eat, excrete, breathe? If there's no significant biological difference between them and other living humans, I don't think they would count as "undead." (Magic would not be a determinant here, since more than one official Champions character has returned from death via non-magical means.)

 

The other issue is identity. A key concern cited for exempting the undead from civil rights is the issue of the deceased's property -- if rights are equal, who has a claim to inheritance, the lawful heirs or the "returned" original owner? If these constructs are new personalities, not a reincarnation of the psyches of any of their body-part donors, then there's no inheritance debate. It's like an organ transplant recipient, who has no claim on his organ donor's possessions, even though part of the donor lives on in them.

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I think some version of the American Civil Liberties Union would challenge that ruling saying that the standard should be sentience, rather than as arbitrary one as "undead" or "Human Stock".

I don't know if it's got a place in a campaign other than as background info or plot point for a PC who's secret ID is a lawyer.

 

It's a matter of legal definition of the term, "person," which is the basis of rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the American Constitution. In real life there's never been a persuasive enough argument in American court to define something non-human as a "person" entitled to all the same protections as humans (although a few animal-rights advocates have tried). It wasn't until 1929 that the law in Canada recognized women as "persons." In the Champions Universe there has been good reason to consider such cases; and Steve Long being a lawyer, came up with what he considered a reasonable legal ruling. ;)

 

They are re-animated (i.e., resurrected) humans. There is no legal precedent for such beings, so you're going to have a hard time finding applicable interpretations of case law that will help you here. I think that any court in the US would get stuck in the same "they're sub-human" quagmire that denied rights to non-caucasians for centuries in this country.

 

To clarify, the OP was basing his question on the official Champions Universe, for which the legal precedents he quoted apply.

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Given that there are several sentient undead (or practically undead) villains in the Champions Universe, this is an issue that was bound to have come up long before now. I could see a clever lawyer arguing that your pair of reanimated humans are covered under "genetic constructs based on human stock", and that the use of magic as opposed to science is irrelevant in a world where courts have to try super-wizards as well as super-scientists. Elsewise they should be covered under the limited rights afforded to independent, free-willed, sentient creatures.

 

I imagine the success of such an argument would hinge on whether or not it can be proven that your monsters are actually living creatures (as opposed to simply being animate). I also imagine that the exclusion of Undead was intended to deal with the ramifications of events like the "Bloodmoon" incident of 2009 (Where Tekofanes reanimated the corpses of numerous superheroes and turned normals into werewolves).

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Interesting question, and one I hadn't considered before! My first reaction was that in game terms no they're not typically treated as undead because they're not created by foul necromancy, they're not inherently evil, they can't be "turned" by clerics, etc. But I'm not sure any of those points would be relevant in an in-universe courtroom!

 

It would definitely be an interesting and precedent-setting legal case. I would love to see it played out, with the PCs testifying on the creatures' behalf and trying to make arguments for (or against) their case. Especially if one of the PCs happens to be a lawyer in his SID! Regardless of what the "correct" answer is, the court's decision would likely come down to which side presents a better argument. (Subject to appeal, natch, but I wouldn't drag that out in game.) The creatures & their attorneys would have to provide evidence that they are much more like "genetic constructs based on human stock" and not what the law traditionally regards as zombies.

 

It could also be interesting if the villain wizard tries to claim them as his invention, therefore his property. Lots of sci-fi shows have addressed the question of when does a "creation" become a legal person rather than property. (See Orphan Black, Humans, even ST TNG.) But I don't how the fact they were created by magic instead of science would change the question? IIRC it seems like law in the CU treats magic and science as more-or-less interchangeable?

 

The other issue is identity. A key concern cited for exempting the undead from civil rights is the issue of the deceased's property -- if rights are equal, who has a claim to inheritance, the lawful heirs or the "returned" original owner? If these constructs are new personalities, not a reincarnation of the psyches of any of their body-part donors, then there's no inheritance debate. It's like an organ transplant recipient, who has no claim on his organ donor's possessions, even though part of the donor lives on in them.

Good point. Morally, I could argue that the question of basic human rights should not be dependent on questions like inheritance. But in practical terms, I agree the absence of a claim of inheritance simplifies the case significantly.

 

I also imagine that the exclusion of Undead was intended to deal with the ramifications of events like the "Bloodmoon" incident of 2009 (Where Tekofanes reanimated the corpses of numerous superheroes and turned normals into werewolves).

I'm fairly certain the undead exclusion was in 5ed CU, which predated Bloodmoon by several years. But I don't have that book with me. [/nitpick]

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I suppose you could consider them human with many illegal organ donations. How many organ transplants can you have before you are not considered human?

This argument would work if one of the donors could be identified (perhaps brain?) and claimed as the constructs' actual identity.

 

Of course, that gets right back into inheritance issues, and if the construct does not have that donor's memories nor identify with that person, that's another issue.

 

But it's still a very useful way of looking at the matter, along with asking if they still need to breathe, eat, defecate, etc. - all of which would establish them as living beings, not as animated undead.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary argues that if we deny rights to undead for being horrible disgusting bloodsucking monsters, should we deny rights to living people who happen to be horrible disgusting bloodsucking monsters?

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To make sure everyone has the working premise behind the question down, the test case that was brought before the CU American Supreme Court in 1978 consolidated six separate rights cases dealing with undead, clones, mutants, mutates, aliens, and artificial intelligences. The result was the following ruling, as presented on Stronghold p. 30::

 

"The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection extend to all persons within the United States or its territories. But... the term "persons" means humans. Neither alien and extra-dimensional life forms, nor artificial intelligences, nor the undead are "persons," and hence they have no rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Mutants, mutates, clones, and genetic constructs from human stock are a different matter. Essentially, they are "subspecies" of humanity. In many cases, even the most thorough examination of them cannot differentiate them from humans. The are so close to being human that there is no legal justification for considering them not to be human. We hold that free-willed mutants, mutates, clones, and genetic constructs, from human stock, are 'persons" under the Fourteenth Amendment and are possessed of all rights thereunder."

 

"In response, Congress passed the Android, Artificial Intelligence, and Alien Life-Form Rights Act of 1979 (usually known as the "Triple-A Act"). The Triple-A Act grants civil rights to most "sentient" beings who can prove that they are independent and free-willed. The law defines "sentience" in various ways, usually relating to the capacity for creative and philosophical thought, not just problem-solving capability. Most states have also enacted laws or passed their own constitutional amendments granting "alternate sentiences" various civil rights. However, this law and all related laws, state and federal, make one exception: the undead do not have civil rights. The legal ramifications of that, particularly the question of who owns the formerly deceased's property, combined with the typically evil or destructive nature of such beings, has kept them outside the ambit of the laws."

 

It was within the right of the legislature to define who/what would be granted rights by this law, and what those rights would be. It isn't a change to the Fourteenth Amendment, and could be revised or repealed by act of Congress like any other federal law.

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Under that ruling I'd have to say that as formerly deceased persons they are probably legally Undead. It has nothing to do with sorcery, ability to be turned and everything to do with estate law.

 

However, if their brains are vat-grown or transplanted from a living person who did not technically die there would be a strong case to consider them genetic constructs/clones in the first case or extreme organ donor recipients in the second.

 

Consider: Dr Fred is horribly mangled in a lab accident and reduced to being a brain in a jar. He has not stopped being a legal person, and may indeed qualify for disability benefits. Desiring a new organic body he collects corpses and stitches together a construct using machines, then arranges to have his mighty brain transplanted into it. Hahahaha! Now those fools shall indeed pay!

 

Legally, I can't see that he has ever ceased being a person, and the new body is basically in the same legal zone as any organ transplant (including laws that apply if they were stolen).

 

So, I think it's likely to come down to the brain. Dead brain = undead. Live brain = person.

 

(Just realised that this is basically the Ultra-Humanite's origin, only with a gorilla instead of a construct.)

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If I was a lawyer in this world, I would try to expand the Triple-A act to cover the Golems. What really is the difference between a robot and a golem? One is flesh, the other is metal. If the golem can pass the sentience threshold, then the Triple-A should apply.

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It might be even more difficult to argue for the rights of beings made of different organs especially if any one of the "donors" are still around.

 

Doctor Destroyer: "Wait, you grafted my missing arm to one of your experiments? Well I want it back! NOW!!!"

 

Repo_men_09.jpg

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I think the best way to represent the Frankenstein Monster is to deny that he's anything other than a big ugly dude.  How are they going to prove his origin story?  It's almost assuredly hearsay, unless you've got Doctor Frankenstein himself there to testify. 

 

Not making the undead count as "living beings" seems like an intentional omission so that people can kill vampires, ghouls, and other creepy crawlies that go bump in the night without worrying about getting arrested.  But with Frank, you've really just got a big guy with a bunch of awful surgical scars.  "Judge, the state hasn't presented any evidence that my client is anything but what he claims to be -- a man who was in a horrible car accident in a place with third world medical care... West Virginia."

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Steve Long came up with that ruling before the sale of the Champions IP to Cryptic Studios for the use in the Champions Online MMORPG. I don't think he anticipated all the online gamers who want to play vampires. :snicker:

 

OTOH vampires don't necessarily appear inhuman, and in the CU certainly don't advertise their status. While some very living creatures happen to resemble various classical monsters. So I don't think the law would allow people to just bump off creatures based on how they look, or let off the perpetrators just because they claim their victims were undead. At best they'd have to provide proof, which after the fact may be very hard to come by.

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If I was a lawyer in this world, I would try to expand the Triple-A act to cover the Golems. What really is the difference between a robot and a golem? One is flesh, the other is metal. If the golem can pass the sentience threshold, then the Triple-A should apply.

 

Artificial Intelligence is excluded from this definition of "person", as are non-human alien species whose sentience is not in dispute. A traditional golem will fail the test of being a clone or genetic construct from human stock, as will a robot. Arguing that a golem is similar to a robot actually hurts the case for the golem to be considered a person, since robots DEFINITELY are not considered as such.

 

If it weren't for the specific undead clause, a Frankenstein type creature would probably qualify, and I can definitely see those having a chance of appeal, probably on the grounds that they should be considered a genetic construct and not undead, using the argument that their body parts are organ transplants and have no more claim on the previous owner's estate than a person with a transplanted heart does.

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As I always say, CU lore is meant to be a springboard, not a strait jacket. You shouldn't let any detail in the official setting stand if it gets in the way of everyone's fun. And as Steve Long always says, you bought the books, it's your game now, to change however works best for you. :)

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Ah, but where would we be without laws that had loopholes, kludges compromises and partisan clauses? :)

 

I'm sure Steve knew very well he was NOT providing a full solution, just a realistic bit of legislation for the situation that would be quite useful for generating plots.

 

Now... given that non-human aliens and AIs cannot be persons, I wonder how that affects their status to remain in the US? Immigration would NOT apply, since that sort of thing only covers persons. Machines are probably just covered under trade import and export laws. Animal control laws for the rest? Or would we have a specific act to cover non-human aliens?

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(Just realised that this is basically the Ultra-Humanite's origin, only with a gorilla instead of a construct.)

 

There is also the case of two of DC's Robotman characters, Dr, Robert Crane (1940s) and Cliff Steele (1960s). Robotman had a trial to prove his "humanity" in Star Spangled Comics (v1) #15 and later expanded in All-Star Squadron (v1) #17. Did Cliff Steele of Doom Patrol fame ever have to prove his "humanity"?

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There is also the case of two of DC's Robotman characters, Dr, Robert Crane (1940s) and Cliff Steele (1960s). Robotman had a trial to prove his "humanity" in Star Spangled Comics (v1) #15 and later expanded in All-Star Squadron (v1) #17. Did Cliff Steele of Doom Patrol fame ever have to prove his "humanity"?

Nope. Thanks Roboman 1, for Roboman 2 being considered a human freak in the eyes of the law.

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I'm fairly certain the undead exclusion was in 5ed CU, which predated Bloodmoon by several years. But I don't have that book with me. [/nitpick]

Bloodmoon was indeed added in 6th as part of the updating of the Cannon. However what I meant was that according to 6th edition Cannon Tekofanes has been running around creating undead since he arose in 1987 (more or less 30 years ago now), so likely the issue would have come up in court long before Bloodmoon specifically, which is why I said "events like the Bloodmoon incident".

The bloodmoon incident just happened to be the only explicit example I know of of such an event, I'm sure there were numerous others which were simply less noteworthy.

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What could make things even more interesting would be various countries' own legislation on the matter. Perhaps Japan DOES recognise machine intelligence, or Haiti gives rights to zombies (but not vampires). Where does this leave American relations with non-human enclaves and friendly extraterrestrials? If the New Zealand ambassador is married to a lovely slime creature from Tau Ceti, what's their diplomatic status?

 

And then there are extradimensionals that are biologically near-human.

 

What legal status does an alternate timeline twin have?

 

Power Girl is SO screwed :)

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Question: are the Pilliar Men from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency considered intelligence undead? They are basically super vampires, but are born with it, not made or cursed or turned.

 

So, if they are not considered undead, then what Jojo did to Santana, A.C./D.C., and Wham considered murder and genocide? (Kars made himself immortal, but was launched into space).

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If they're not deceased persons with all the legal implications, and can interbreed with humans they'd likely be persons under this law. If they're genetically alien, they're non-persons and murder probably doesn't apply. Animal cruelty laws may possibly count.

 

Just had a look at the Pillar Men on a JoJo wiki, and I reckon they'd have a hard time proving humanity. Ancient humanoids that are immortal and do not normally breed. But, you never know what a DNA test might show.

 

It's not intelligence or sentience that matters for this act as far as I understand it but whether the subject is considered a human (or human subspecies). A brain dead human is usually still a person under law until formally declared deceased. Aliens that can interbreed with humans will likely set precedent for their species. So Kryptonians and Elves are likely okay. Inhumans and Marvel/DC Atlanteans pass the test, but they were always genetic offshoots of humanity anyway. Still, if a lost enclave has drifted far enough apart it might come up.

 

On that note, are CU Atlanteans interfertile with Landers? I know there was a marriage in the Golden Age, but IIRC they didn't have kids.

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Now... given that non-human aliens and AIs cannot be persons, I wonder how that affects their status to remain in the US? Immigration would NOT apply, since that sort of thing only covers persons. Machines are probably just covered under trade import and export laws. Animal control laws for the rest? Or would we have a specific act to cover non-human aliens?

 

The CU United States has that specific law, the aforementioned Triple-A Act, giving the same civil rights as humans to all sentient, free-willed beings, exempting undead.

 

 

Bloodmoon was indeed added in 6th as part of the updating of the Cannon. However what I meant was that according to 6th edition Cannon Tekofanes has been running around creating undead since he arose in 1987 (more or less 30 years ago now), so likely the issue would have come up in court long before Bloodmoon specifically, which is why I said "events like the Bloodmoon incident".

The bloodmoon incident just happened to be the only explicit example I know of of such an event, I'm sure there were numerous others which were simply less noteworthy.

 

The case which led to the definition of persons was in 1978, and included "Ohio vs. Julesz the Kind," a vampire. That led to Triple-A the following year.

 

What could make things even more interesting would be various countries' own legislation on the matter. Perhaps Japan DOES recognise machine intelligence, or Haiti gives rights to zombies (but not vampires). Where does this leave American relations with non-human enclaves and friendly extraterrestrials? If the New Zealand ambassador is married to a lovely slime creature from Tau Ceti, what's their diplomatic status?

 

And then there are extradimensionals that are biologically near-human.

 

What legal status does an alternate timeline twin have?

 

Power Girl is SO screwed :)

 

The only case I can remember specifically dealing with that issue outside the United States was the simian super-scientist, Dr. Silverback, winning his petition to the United Kingdom courts to be recognized as equal to a human. He's now a naturalized UK citizen. But there are regimes which treat all non-humans or superhumans far more harshly. In some countries just having superpowers is considered a crime.

 

There's much story potential there should a game group be interested in mining it. But if not, the setting won't break if all that is ignored in play. :)

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