Creatures of the Night

This article originally appeared in Pyramid #3

By Scott Paul Maykrantz


ST: 22Move/Dodge: 8/8 (12/6)Size: 1
DX: 12PD/DR: 3/6Weight: 250
IQ: 6Damage: 1d+3 cutHabitat: cold climates
HT: 15/35Reach: COther Names: Howlers, nightmari

A chiller is an Arctic horror, an undead creature with a bite that freezes its victim. It is attracted to cold and vulnerable to heat. It's encountered in rural areas and wilderness in the coldest parts of the world (though it is not impossible for a chiller to hunt in the towns and cities of Scandinavia, Iceland, Alaska or Canada). Chillers are usually encountered alone. In the deepest wilderness, they can be found in small groups of two to six.

A chiller resembles a furry gargoyle. It is the size of a human child, with ape-like features, horns, a small tail and oversized hands ending in sharp claws. A pair of wings sprout from the middle of its back (its flying Move/Dodge is 12/6). The chiller is covered with thick, coarse black fur. It moves quickly but awkwardly, with a lumbering gait and hunched posture. It eats loudly and breathes heavily. When hunting, it sometimes emits intense gurgling howls.

Chillers heal 1 hit every five minutes if the surrounding temperature is at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In environments between 32 and 100 degrees, they heal normally. Between 100 and 150 degrees, they cannot heal. They cannot heal damage from burns, regardless of temperature. At or above 150 degrees, a chiller becomes immobilized, "freezing" in place. If touched, it will crumble to dust. A dead chiller can regenerate back to life if the temperature is right, unless its body has crumbled to dust or burned to ash.

Chillers are gluttonous and violent. They will eat humans, but prefer easier prey. They usually eat livestock from farms, children, infants, and forest animals. Even if a chiller has fed, it will attack anything edible -- uneaten kills are taken back to its lair.

During the day, chillers hibernate underground. Each has a well-hidden cave or hole to hide in and to store food in. The lair is strewn with carrion and bones. It defends its lair with berserk rage.

The bite of a chiller injects a venom that causes the victim to freeze. The venom lowers the victim's body temperature, making it hard for him to breathe or move. The victim will shiver to the point of seizure, begging for heat as a relief. In the first 24 hours, blankets and fires will help. After this period, roll against HT twice a day. If a roll fails by 10 or more, he is comatose. If a comatose victim is not saved within a week, he will be dead, frozen solid. There are rumors of tribal antidotes and spell cures.

Chillers are created from the corpse of a murdered human, buried in frozen ground. If the moon is full on the night of the burial, there is a 1-in-6 chance that the corpse will rise as a chiller. In Aleutian legend, the corpse becomes a chiller when "the spirits blow upon the grave," placing a demon's soul in the cadaver.

The Sand Ghouls

Sand ghouls are distant cousins of chillers. They live in extremely hot environments, typically deserts. They are encountered in the same numbers as chillers, and have the same statistics. Sand ghouls look the same, but their skin is parched and hairless.

Sand ghouls automatically heal 1 hit every five minutes, if the surrounding temperature is at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In environments between 100 and 32, they heal normally. Between zero and 32, they cannot heal. They are immobilized when the temperature drops below zero, with the same brittle effects and regenerative qualities. All other qualities of sand ghouls are identical to those of chillers, including the freezing bite.

Chiller Adventure Seeds

Chillers and sand ghouls are primarily combat monsters. In an adventure, however, they can be part of local myths and legends, seen from a distance before they are encountered. This makes them more than a set of stats with wings -- the players will use the legends and sightings to build up the suspense, maximizing the shock of actually seeing one.

Orphans. The PCs come upon a farm family that has been victimized by a chiller. The parents are dead. Their nine children remain, living like savages and taking great care to keep their independent existence a secret from the locals. Two winters ago, their mother was attacked by a chiller. She soon "froze to death." The next year, their father suffered the same fate. Now, this winter, the children have decided that one of them must be offered to the chiller, as a sacrifice to ensure the safety of the others.

The visitors discover the children just after the oldest child, a sixteen-year-old boy, has discovered that the chiller has returned. The orphans were in the middle of deciding who would die when the strangers approach the lonely farmhouse for shelter from the snow storm.

The orphans realize they could all live... if they sacrifice one of the strangers.

Rattling Bones. A pack of sand ghouls are preying upon the people of a desert village. The victims become so dry when they "freeze" that their bones rattle when they have seizures. The sand ghouls have kept away from a ranch on the edge of town, however -- coincidentally, it belongs to two old brothers rumored to be descendants of Gypsies.

The locals go to the ranch and find that the brothers are missing. And there are more sand ghouls trapped in the cellar. When the PCs become involved, the sand ghouls escape and the newcomers are blamed. The PCs have only a day or two to find out what's going on before there is a panic.


ST: 15Move/Dodge: 6/4Size: 1
DX: 7PD/DR: 0/1Weight: 100+
IQ: 7Damage: 2d+1 or by weaponHabitat: among computers
HT: 15Reach: C, 1Other Names: drones, terminal rovers

Zero zombies are the undead of the computer age. They are created when a human soul enters a computer and, when the computer is turned off, the soul is trapped while the body lives. The zero zombie can roam free, seeking more computer hardware or staying by its computer to protect it.

When someone causes a death through the use of a computer, the murderer's soul might become trapped in the machine. If it was a single, accidental death, the chance is very low (a 3 on three dice). If the death was intentional, or over a dozen people were killed, the chance increases (7 or less). The soul transfer is almost automatic if hundreds were killed, especially if the user did it intentionally and the victims were innocent. The chance can also be affected by (or limited to) curses and other special supernatural situations.

The actual transfer is quick. The user will feel a tingling sensation . . . and then their computer screen comes into sharper focus. If the player of the character suspects something is wrong, make an IQ roll. If successful, he realizes his consciousness is inside the machine.

The consciousness will pass into the circuits of the first CPU it encounters. If the user is at a stand-alone machine, his consciousness passes into that computer. If the computer is linked to another, the result is the same. If, however, the computer is merely a dumb terminal (a screen and keyboard linked to a remote computer), his consciousness passes into the server, not the terminal.

The trapped consciousness has an intuitive link to its cage. As a result, all skills used to operate the computer are increased by 50% or by +5, whichever is lower. The remote-controlled body is still needed for operation; the consciousness needs its body to use the keyboard, a mouse, or other input devices. Casual observers will not automatically know that anything is wrong, of course -- the user appears to be a normal zoned-out hacker until the link between consciousness and body is severed.

The trapped soul can move from one computer to another, if they are directly networked; once trapped, a consciousness may not move across infrared or radio networks. If trapped in a server, it may control the zero zombie from any of its terminals.

As long as the computer is on and the body is within twenty feet of it, the trapped consciousness can control the body. This is a form of telepathy, allowing the consciousness to simultaneously read the computer circuits and use the body's senses. The consciousness cannot contact or use the senses of another body. Once the body strays too far, or the computer is turned off, the link is severed -- the body becomes a zero zombie. The consciousness remains in limbo until it can resume contact.

Zero zombies are instinctively protective of the computer that holds their souls. They will carry it or, if it is too big or delicate, hide it (as well as an IQ 7 creature can hide a computer). It can then roam, searching for programs, locating a better computer for its consciousness, collecting weapons, and generally insuring its survival. Zero zombies are, however, prone to violence and easily tricked -- some never return from roaming and their consciousness stays trapped forever.

Among the general population, zero zombies are often thought to be retarded or on drugs. Many zero zombies will draw a circle on their foreheads, or wear a shirt with a zero on it. The reasons for this are unknown, but it is more likely among those who have been out of contact with their consciousness for a week or more.

All zero zombies are fascinated by computer hardware, from state-of-the-art monitors to battered old floppy disks laying in garbage cans.

The Ghost in the Machine

If you have GURPS Cyberpunk, use the rules for cyberspace to allow the trapped character's consciousness to explore the inside of the computer. He could "swim through the circuits" to other, linked computers, or use environment modules to better manipulate his own. This adds a new dimension to the game, bringing it fully into the cyberpunk genre while maintaining its flavor of horror.

Zero Zombie Adventure Seed: Terminal

A lonely computer programmer, a master of the computer network, discovers she has six months before a slow and painful death. After hearing about zero zombies, she realizes that would be the perfect way out -- but she doesn't want to kill anyone.

She contacts the PCs and asks them to discover a way to help her become a zero zombie through some less diabolical means. Her communication with them is secretive; she contacts them through cryptic messages, videotaped monologues and other high-tech means.

If they can't help her soon, she is prepared to kill hundreds to save herself. The PCs need to either find her and stop her, or discover another way to turn her into a zero zombie before it's too late.

Article publication date: October 1, 1993

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