|ST: 3d6||Move/Dodge: 10/7||Size: 1
|DX: 2d6+2||PD/DR: 1/2||Wght: 60-70 lbs.
|IQ: 2d6||Damage: by ST or weapon||Habitat: any
|HT: 7/35||Reach: C,1
Carcassites are strange spider-like creatures that reanimate corpses. When outside a corpse, they resemble abnormally large spiders, about a foot in diameter. The characteristics above apply to carcassites who have a host carcass, called "nested carcassites."
Carcassites spin a thick, sticky substance similar to spider's webbing. They have the ability to contract and relax this substance to create a muscle-like action. When a carcassite finds a ready host (a carcass that has reached a suitable level of decay), it goes immediately to work, spinning webbing around the bones and joints. Within a day's time, the host will be covered almost entirely in webbing. At this point, the carcassite crawls inside the rib cage and takes the place of the heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Curled up within the sanctity of the protective ribs, it will remain until it dies or until its host is destroyed. Technically, the corpse is the "host" and the carcassite is the actual creature, but the term "carcassite" is often applied to the combination of the two.
The webbing is connected to a nexus on the underside of the carcassite's abdomen, and it is from here that the creature directs the actions of its new body. To accommodate sight, the carcassite grows two long cords which allow it to maneuver its eyes into the sockets of the skull. The carcassite is a traditional arachnid in that it has eight compound eyes, so each socket is occupied by four. From here the carcassite can see as well as a human, and it also develops a keen ability to detect movement. It is these eyes that make it apparent to a skilled observer that the carcassite is a living creature rather than one of the undead.
Carcassites are marginally intelligent, but lack any capability to communicate with humans. They communicate with each other via pheromones, conveying only simple messages such as danger or hunger . Except for the detection of pheromones, they are more or less devoid of the sense of smell. This does not impair their ability to hunt, however, because all animals release at least some pheromones.
Carcassites are quite deaf. They simply lack any sort of apparatus for the detection of sound.
Carcassites can eat all sorts of animals, but prefer mammals. When outside a host, they are relatively harmless and must be fed by other carcassites. Lucky ones may be able to find a partially decomposed corpse. If they do, they can drain any remaining nutrients and use them to occupy the new skeleton. Nested carcassites are far from helpless. They can manipulate their body to perform any action a human can, and are smart enough to use simple weapons like swords and bows. They are even smart enough to fire a gun, but will have difficulty figuring out how to reload one or ready a single shot weapon. They prefer to hunt with weapons, but are quite capable of acquiring prey without them.
Carcassites eat by absorbing nutrients from digested flesh. The slain creature is chopped or bitten into pieces and placed in the jaws of the skull. Here special enzymes go to work, digesting the flesh as the teeth mash it into a pulpy substance. The entire digestion process takes place in the mouth, and the nutrient fluid is absorbed by a special membrane in the throat area. Carcassites have been known to drink their prey's blood before digesting the flesh, absorbing nutrients directly from the blood as it flows past their throat and splashes on the ground below. Even seeing a carcassite is an unpleasant experience, and watching one eat requires a basic fright check to avoid retching. A carcassite's body is a great deal more energy efficient than a human's, and a creature with the mass of a rat is more than enough to sustain a carcassite for a day.
In a campaign world where bipedal races abound, carcassites are content to inhabit any corpse of more or less humanoid design. In fact, they are perfectly capable of inhabiting any suitably large corpse, but prefer human corpses, as they are much more versatile.
It is possible for carcassites to inhabit structures other than skeletons. In a low TL campaign world it will be difficult to build a suitable one, but high TL characters could very well build metal, jointed frames, possibly even inhabited by multiple carcassites at once. When multiple carcassites inhabit a single structure they are remarkably well coordinated, walking and fighting with all the dexterity of a living creature. The statistics of such a machination are left to the game master.
Fighting a carcassite is quite a trick indeed. Unless the actual carcassite is hit, little is accomplished as the webbing and bone are not actually part of the creature and do not feel pain. Humans are unlikely to see the creature for what it truly is, and only the particularly astute will suspect the creature's existence within. Weapons are likely to get stuck in the thick strands (ST check for each successful blow), and the webbing will not bleed. Severing a section from the control nexus will render it inoperable, but this is difficult as the musculature has a tendency to simply compress rather than cut or break. In general, it takes a single blow of 10 HT, or combined damage of 30 HT to incapacitate a limb. Such is the tough nature of the webbing. Incapacitating each limb will therefore require a lot of damage. Clever fighters may find this to be a useful way of defeating the creature without actually killing it. It will bite (for 1d), but is not poisonous and so is easily pacified when its host is destroyed.
By far the most effective way of killing the beast is to pierce the rib cage and hit the naked carcassite. A stab to the chest with an impaling weapon will do the job quite nicely. Carcassites will dodge or even parry and Have PD/DR as follows:
All limbs have PD 0 and DR 3
Chest and head have PD 1 and DR 3
Attacking the actual creature means defeating a PD 3, DR 4.
The naked carcassite has 6 HT. A wounded carcassite heals at the same rate as a typical mammal, and the host can be repaired during any suitable pause if the carcassite has eaten sufficiently for a week.
Striking the carcassite in the eyes may also be an effective tactic. The eyes are difficult to hit (use the normal rules) but will be destroyed by even a single HT of damage. This will knock out the creature's vision and send it reeling.
Bitter Victory. Huhmle valley is a fertile paradise, where both crops and grazing grass grow well and the people are prosperous. No wonder it has recently become the site of an intense land dispute between two great warlords.
The armies of the victorious lord leave the broken bodies of their enemies in the field. An eccentric priest by the name of Grifus curses the lord for his disrespect of human bodies, but is ignored in the raucous victory celebrations. When townspeople start disappearing the lord takes Grifus's threats more seriously, but now Grifus is nowhere to be found.
The PCs might be soldiers in the lord's army, or just passing through. Perhaps they have lost a personal friend to this mysterious menace and are trying to find him/her. They travel to the battlefield, where they find that the corpses of the fallen soldiers have all disappeared. They must find Grifus and determine whether he is behind the disappearances. Maybe he is avenging the soldiers, or maybe he has fallen victim himself. Maybe the other warlord hasn't yet accepted defeat . . .
Crazy Willie's Crazy Inventions. While visiting an oddities shop, the characters oversee a diagram on the owner's desk labeled simply "Dragontraption." The dragontraption is a strange machine on wheels built from wood and metal. Something else is scribbled randomly over the regular lines that denote the frame. The scale is large, and the dragontraption doesn't look very benign. As they are looking the diagram over, they hear a strange rumbling noise from beneath the foundation. What is Willie up to?
Copyright © 1999 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.