by Terry Pratchett and Phil Masters
Art by Paul Kidby
"Zombies" are defined here as any dead people who have been re-animated, generally with the original mind in control, but without any change to the fundamental fact of their being dead. Usually, this is the result of a spell favoured by voodoo witches, but similar results can be achieved in several ways, including the creation of magical mummies. They have more in the way of free will and personality than their counterparts on other worlds, but a rather marginal place in the Disc scheme of things. Zombies are all obvious walking corpses, which humans may just tolerate, but generally find distasteful. They are hard to kill, being dead already, and usually very strong; they are powered by a combination of magic and willpower, not by conventional biological processes. They have an (exaggerated) reputation for tearing people in half. Because their glands don't do very much any more, they behave in a calm, even lethargic way, although they do not necessarily lose all their emotions.
Zombies' main problem is that, although they can withstand a lot of damage, and even be stitched back together again afterwards, they do not heal the way that living things do, and cannot use magical effects or stolen life-energy to patch themselves up like vampires. Thus, over time, however careful they are, they deteriorate. In short, bits fall off, and cannot always be found for replacement. Zombies who have been created by powerful magical adepts for important long-term purposes may last for years; unimportant servitors may only get months. Eventually, their entire body goes to pieces, at which point, Death shows up to complete the deferred job.
Zombie Character Package
Zombies have +5 ST (60 points), -2 DX (-15 points), and +8 Hit Points (40 points). Their advantages are Composed (5 points), Doesn't Breathe (20 points), Doesn't Eat or Drink (10 points), High Pain Threshold (10 points), Immunity to Disease (10 points), Immunity to Poison (15 points), and Injury Tolerance (the full set: no blood, brain, cutting or impaling bonus, neck or vitals: 50 points). Their disadvantages are Ugly Appearance (-10 points), No Body Heat (-5 points), Odious Personal Habit (some smell of grave-soil or decay, bits fall off: -10 points), Pallor (-10 points), Social Stigma: Undead (-10 points), Unhealing (-20 points), and Unnatural Feature (prominent stitching: -5 points). It costs a basic 135 points to play a zombie. Note that many buy their ST up, and many more have special Vulnerabilities linked to the way they were created. For example, the traditional voodoo spell often creates zombies with a vulnerability to direct contact with salt (usually two levels, rare: -10 points), while a mummy may well have the traditional problem with fire, which can ignite the resins and dry bandages that have been used to preserve the body (at least one level, occasional: -10 points). The extra hit points represent the fact that a zombie has to be hacked to pieces to slow it down; zombies may buy these up or down.
Damage and Repairs: The zombie Unhealing disadvantage takes the lower possible value, because zombies can be repaired. Unfortunately, effective healing magic is rare on the Disc, but a zombie can be stitched back together, at which point, normal healing rules apply. Small repairs -- a point or two of damage -- can be handled by anyone with a strong stomach and a needle and catgut, or by the zombie itself if its hands are still attached; larger amounts of damage may require an IQ roll, or even basic knowledge of Physiology, at the GM's option. Also, for every 5 full hit points lost before repairs are possible, the zombie loses one hit point permanently. This represents the inevitable process of deterioration. GMs may, if they wish, apply additional minor physical disadvantages to deteriorating zombies, such as Missing Digit, along with worsening appearance. The zombie does not get any extra points for these.
Incidentally, a mummy, or any zombie specially prepared to guard a spot for centuries, may have the Unaging advantage (15 points). Most, however, decay and deteriorate with time, and hence are subject to the ageing rules for convenience. Treat their starting age as that of the original human.
Zombie Build: Zombie height and weight are not very closely related to their ST, which is magical rather than biological in origin. They can be given any values that would be plausible for a human. They tend to lose weight as time goes by; at best, their flesh shrivels, while at worst, large bits fall off.
Playing a Zombie: Zombies are free-willed creatures, but they have an obvious problem in long-term campaigns; they slowly but surely fall apart. Of course, some games minimise violence, but zombies have equally wearisome problems with social skills. They are probably best limited to tongue-in-cheek "monster club" games, or one-off scenarios. (They also have a fairly high points cost, but it's rarely hard to find additional disadvantages for a zombie character.)
It might just be possible for a voodoo-working PC to bring another PC back from death as a zombie, although GMs are perfectly entitled to rule this out. (Generally, on the Disc, dead means dead; undeath is something that happens to other people.) If it does happen, add the above package to the original character, using unspent experience and reducing characteristics as necessary to balance their points total. The GM should not then be shy about having the zombie PC hacked about in melees until it finally dies completely; death can be deferred, but not avoided forever.
NPC Zombies: A zombie can either still be bound by the magic or other supernatural event that created it, or can be at a loose end. In the former case, its role in any plot is usually pretty simple, and tends to involve lurching at somebody until hacked to pieces. "Guardian" zombies rarely have particularly good weapon skills, but when they connect, the target notices. If not obliged to attack immediately, they may turn out to be willing to talk, and this can present ingenious adventurers with opportunities.
"Independent" zombies are one of the Disc's less happy minority communities; for all their physical power, they are not best placed to enjoy (un)life. They generally need some objective or self-appointed mission to keep them going; otherwise, it is all too easy for them to lie down and give up. A zombie with a (probably faintly ludicrous) self-appointed role in life can add an interesting twist to many plots.
Zombie (VH)      Regular
Note: Zombie creation on the Disc is a complex process, not much like the GURPS Magic spell (p. M73). Other, accidental effects can also lead to the creation of zombies and similar beings, but this is the deliberate version.
This spell is known to voodoo experts and a few others, mostly determinedly evil or warped wizards; it may require an Unusual Background for anyone but a voodoo expert to learn, as most other spell-casters regard it with distaste. For that matter, so do most ordinary folk; zombies themselves may be tolerated, but zombie-makers tend to suffer from -4 Reputations and neighbours with flaming torches.
Creation of a zombie requires a recently-dead human or dwarf body. (It does not appear to work with trolls, although a variant spell might be possible; animals lack the life-energy in their souls to empower the result.) It also requires a collection of exotic plant extracts and bizarre ingredients, costing about $100 per casting in locations such as Ankh-Morpork, but less in voodoo-rich tropical areas such as Genua. If some of these can be administered to the subject no more than twenty-four hours before death, the spell is cast at +3. The spell "recalls" the dead person's spirit from whatever afterlife it might have gone to, and re-binds it to their body, using its supernatural energy to empower the resulting zombie. It is cast at -1 for every half-hour that has past since the person's demise, as the delay makes the spirit harder to recall, and the body becomes more decomposed and less useful. A failure means that it is impossible for anyone to make a zombie out of this corpse.
To determine the abilities of this undead being, begin by adding the zombie package (p.00) to the original character. Then, subtract 50 points from the character total to reflect lost memories and abilities; for every point that the spell roll was made by, the zombie gets 10 points back, so a roll made by 5 or better means no loss of points. Lost points are taken away by the GM, and usually come off DX, IQ, and possibly Hit Points. A critical success on the spell roll gives the zombie +50 points, usually spent on ST or hit points. When the zombie awakens, roll a Quick Contest between the Will of the caster and that of the zombie. If the caster wins, the zombie must obey her instructions; this could be considered an Involuntary Duty, and may even give it a Slave Mentality (especially on a critical success for the caster), but neither gives the zombie any extra points. In the event of a tie, the zombie must obey for now, but gets another chance to break free with a Quick Contest every month thereafter, until it succeeds or the caster wins with a critical success. Any zombie may attempt to break free if its instructions ever go strongly against its nature, but merely dangerous or self-destructive instructions are not sufficient; the order must contradict a major Psychological Limitation.
If the zombie breaks the spell-caster's control, it becomes a free-willed being. Roll a reaction, with modifiers according to its personality, to determine its opinion of the spell-caster. It might be grateful for the chance of a new (un)life, or it might be outraged and attack.
A Further Note: Contrary to some beliefs, Death does not show up for the character who becomes a zombie until the zombie is destroyed. It's a matter of destiny or something. Therefore, logically, if Death is known to have shown up for someone, they cannot be made into a zombie; the spell automatically fails. GMs may use this as a plot device. It would also be possible for gods and beings of similar power to prevent individuals becoming zombies by whisking their souls off to an afterlife as soon as possible, insisting that Death should show up at that point. Getting too deep into the theory of Disc spirituality beyond this is just likely to lead to headaches.Cost: 10.
Time to cast: 10 minutes.
Prerequisites: Magery 2, Sense Life, Persuasion, Enchantment, Lend Strength, Rejoin, and ten other spells of any type.
Bogeymen are a true race of Personifications. It is unlikely that they actually breed; they probably just pop into existence when belief reaches a critical threshold in an area. They embody the childish fear of scary monsters under the bed or in the cellar, and do so very competently.
Bogeymen are not actually evil; it is simply their nature to hide in dark corners, frightening people, and perhaps occasionally to jump out. They can no more help this than a troll can help being made of rock. Some could even be called shy or retiring; after all, their main attribute is the ability to remain hidden. However, they are no nicer than other races, either, and many actively enjoy being a nuisance.
Bogeymen look the part. They are hideous, shaggy creatures, with fangs, claws, and dinner-plate eyes. Or so most accounts go, although even those who meet one rarely get a clear view of a bogeyman. Humans might be grateful for bogeymen's preference for lurking in the dark, except of course that they perpetually seem to be threatening to jump out. They certainly have the equipment to be dangerous in a fight, although they rarely use it.
Bogeymen have the ability to get into hiding places without apparently crossing any intervening space (although sometimes, when among friends, they ask people not to look while they move). This can be treated as low-level psionic teleportation, but it is an innate ability; there is no reason to think that they have any other psionic powers. (On the other hand, a really competent bogeyman might be able to read minds to find out what worries people . . . ) They can also see in pitch darkness.
Bogeymen live on rats, spiders, and other edible stuff that they find under the stairs and in the backs of disused wardrobes. They are clearly not fussy eaters.
Bogeymen are not exactly subtle, by and large, but nor are they actually the monsters they appear. They are simply professional lurkers-in-the-dark. This could make them far more interesting and useful as contacts than as opponents; after all, someone trying to solve the Mystery of the Murder in the Mansion might well learn a lot from the creature that was hiding under the stairs when the duke fell down them.
Bogeyman Character Package
Bogeymen have +7 ST (80 points), Cast Iron Stomach (15 points), short Claws (+2 damage on attacks: 15 points), Dark Vision (25 points), Fangs (bite does impaling damage: 10 points), Light Fur (DR 1: 4 points), and Immunity to Disease (10 points). They have psionic Teleportation at power 6, with the skill of Autoteleport at IQ+3 (40 points). They also have the racial skills of Body Sense at DX (4 points) and Stealth at DX+4 (24 points). Their disadvantages are Monstrous Appearance (-25 points), Bogeyman Existentialism (see below: -15 points), the Odious Personal Habit of Lurking (-5 points), and a racial quirk; Loves cupboards and cellars (-1 point).
It costs 181 points to play a bogeyman. Some may also possess Psychic Invisibility at some level.
Bogeyman Build: To find a Bogeyman's height, add 3" to that for a human of the same strength; its weight will be 5 lbs. more than that of a human of the same (adjusted) height. Bogeymen are designed to look formidable. However, their weird appearance and habit of bending and stretching in strange ways makes it hard to judge precisely.
Playing a Bogeyman: High points cost aside, bogeymen are rather one-dimensional for extended play. Their disadvantages are innate rather than cultural, and can only be bought off with some kind of Unusual Background, and many also have Agoraphobia or a Sense of Duty to their function in life. However, if any player in a high-points-base game really wants to play a bogeyman, the GM is welcome to stand back and watch the ensuing weirdness. Few bogeymen add much to the above package apart from further disadvantages, although the odd psychological foible could be interesting, and even a professional nightmare can have off-duty hobbies.
Special Disadvantage: Bogeyman Existentialism -15 points
Bogeymen are formidable creatures, but as figments of childish imaginations, they have one big vulnerability. If everyone else in the room with them has their heads under a blanket, they simply and silently cease to exist, temporarily, fading back into reality Mentally Stunned 1d minutes later (provided that their existence is no longer being denied by then). If a bogeyman somehow gets his own head under a blanket, he goes into severe existential shock, as he himself can no longer believe he exists; he will stand around stupidly until 1d minutes after the blanket is removed, not even defending himself if attacked.
Fluffy blue woolen blankets seem to work best. The Ankh-Morpork Watch all carry squares of blanket material in case bogeymen cause them trouble.
GargoylesAn example of high-speed Disc evolution in action, gargoyles are a type of troll that has developed a symbiotic relationship with architecture. They are filter-feeders; they sit around on building ledges, funnelling water from gutters through their ears and out through fine sieves in their mouths. They occasionally augment this diet with a passing pigeon, althouggh birds and bats have mostly learnt to avoid them. They are immensely patient; some do not move for years. They are usually quite amiable, but hard to talk to, as their mouths cannot close properly. They have names reflecting their lifestyle, such as "Cornice Overlooking Broadway" or "Downspout." Their ability to survive on gutter out-pourings is reflected by Cast Iron Stomach and Decreased Life Support advantages.
Gargoyles have +10 ST with the "Natural" limitation (66 points), -1 DX (-10 points), -3 IQ (-20 points), +2 Hit Points (10 points, 4 levels of Body of Stone, non-switchable (24 points: gives PD 1, DR 2), Cast Iron Stomach (15 points), +2 Damage Resistance (6 points), Decreased Life Support (10 points), one level of Extended Lifespan (5 points), Extra Encumbrance (5 points), High Pain Threshold (10 points), 2 levels of Increased Density (10 points: gives +2 DR vs. crushing damage), Longevity (5 points), Night Vision (10 points), Reduced Sleep (10 points), Single-Minded (5 points), 4 levels of Temperature Tolerance (4 points; effects as for trolls), and Unfazeable (15 points). Their disadvantages are Disturbing Voice (-10 points), Fully Illiterate (-5 points), Hidebound (-5 points), Reduced Move -1 (-5 points), Troll Brain (-10 points or more), and Ugly Appearance (-10 points), and they have the racial quirks of Infinite Patience (-1 point) and Innumerate (-1 point). It costs 133 points to play a gargoyle.
Elf-Kin Character Package
The extra-dimensional race of elves are detailed in Chapter 9. In the past, during their visits to the Disc, these beings sometimes mated with humans, producing a number of bloodlines which are sometimes referred to as "elves," but which can more accurately be called elf-kin. Some such individuals can still be encountered -- either the progeny of recognised "elf" clans, or "throwbacks" produced by families with dark secrets.Elf-kin have +1 DX (10 points) and Attractive Appearance (slim and graceful: 5 points), along with the racial quirks "Giggles a Lot" (-1 point) and "Sunburns Easily" (-1 point). They also have a reputation, which gives them +1 from romantics who would think positively of true elves (2 points), -3 from dwarfs and trolls, and humans who have heard certain rumours or had really bad experiences with elves or elf-kin (a large class: -7 points), and -1 from humans who just consider elven ancestry nothing to boast about (a small class: -2 points).*
Note: Full-blood elves might react to them at -3, considering them to be contemptible and pretentious mongrels, or might laugh coldly and treat them no worse than humans; as full elves are not widely encountered, this is not worth any points.
It costs 6 points to play elf-kin.
Elf-kin have neither the power nor the weaknesses of their full-blooded ancestors; in most cases, they are little more than thin, pale humans with a tendency to mildly unpleasant personalities. However, some of them may have inherited certain elven powers, although probably in weaker form. Thus, while this might seem a fairly pointless character concept, it does give a plausible excuse for all sorts of exotic abilities. On the other hand, being attacked by pretty well every dwarf or troll one meets is rather limiting.
Thus they should only be played with caution and the specific consent of the GM. Alternatively and optionally, GMs might permit characters with "a touch of the elf" -- thin, pale humans with a weak "wild talent" of some kind, and a dangerous Secret to keep from dwarfs and trolls.
Elf-kin might fit into the modernising world of Ankh-Morpork in the sort of professions where style is more important than empathy. One which has warped its elvish instincts into Fashion Sense could doubtless make a living selling haute couture to Ankhian aristocrats, for example.
NPC Elf-kin should generally be treated as a lower-key versions of elves, although it is not impossible to imagine one which favours its human heritage, and has a good side of sorts. An elf-kin might not become a pleasant person, but it might feel obliged to live up to other parts of the elf-myth; it could, say, possess an aristocratic Code of Honour. Heredity is not always destiny on the Disc.
Article publication date: July 17, 1998
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