Variations on Zombies

By James Walker



Zombis are often abandoned: left for dead, sent on one way missions, given orders and forgotten. Other outlast their creators, or were created purely out of spite. Most of these zombis wander aimlessly until destroyed. A handful, driven by Obsessions or Hatreds, form small communities which exist as mockeries of the living. These zombis are known as Ghouls.

Ghouls are simply zombis which have their own society. Ghouls hunt as packs, seeking humans to devour. Ghouls only eat the part of the body which their Need requires; the remainder of the corpse is dumped in a public place. Most mortals assume that this is done to terrify them; in fact, the goal is to attract other zombis with different Needs. A zombi who Needs the same substance as an existing pack member will not be welcomed into the pack (unless a corpse can provide sufficient substance for two {e.g., kidneys} or more {e.g., blood} Ghouls) - the pack will devour the zombi the way they would any other victim.

The pack's goals are determined by it's leaders Obsession/Hatred. Note that the leader is unlikely to be able to motivate the pack with Fast-Talk or Emote; their Will-less nature means that only the most skilled can do so. Status in a Ghoul pack is normally dependant on the Savoir-Faire (Ghoul) skill;this skill revolts the living but is essential among zombis. Additionally a leader will need to be skilled in Tactics and will pander to the weaknesses of the other ghouls - many have secret Fears, which can be exploited; or Lust for the living. Those who are Angry or Murderous rarely need persuasion to wreak havoc on the leaders enemies.

If a Ghoul pack survives (and once they have learned to hunt as a pack, they can survive for centuries) they swiftly grow powerful as they learn each others skills and Songs. Having high Corporeal Forces, Ghouls often become skilled at Stealth & Throwing; they all have at least one Numinous Corpus; an old Ghoul is often a Virtuoso, knowing several NC at level 6. Some packs know other Songs. Ghouls are surprisingly skilled dancers - it is a useful skill for their Songs, and on of the few social skills they can possess. A successful pack may feed at sunset and then spend the next 24 hours dancing together in preparation for their Songs, ready for the next hunt. This is how the legend of the Danse Macabre began.

The Risen

Rumoured to be the first of the undead, the Risen are zombis animated by the ghost of the corpse. A ghost who chooses his corpse as an anchor may make a Will roll at a penalty equal to his Total Forces; success animates the corpse and creates a telepathic bond between the two minds (which invariably drives both insane, but hey!). The zombi isn't, strictly speaking, under the control of the ghost; however the fact that they have identical minds makes control unnecessary. Destroyinging a Risen can be achieved in a number of ways. The simplest is for someone to animate the body as a zombi - this disrupts the ghost's link and forces it to find a different anchor, or abandon the Corporeal plane. The Animate Zombi ritual does not need to be successful; the Last Rites of many churches are actually stripped down versions of the Create Zombi ritual, used to prevent the corpse returning as either Risen or Zombi. Destroying the zombi, by combat or Exorcism, will also destroy the Risen. However, doing so completely destroys the ghost, whose Forces were interlinked with the Forces of the Zombi. Finally the Risen can be destroyed by persuading the ghost to abandon the Corporeal plane. If the ghost choses to accept their final reward, the zombi takes a Body Hit of damage for every day it has been active; if it is not destroyed by this it is treated as an ordinary zombi, acquiring it's Need/3. (Other than not having that Need, the body of a Risen is treated the same as a zombi; the ghost is a standard ghost).

The Guardians

Zombis kept the Disadvantages they possessed in life (excepting Addictions, which they cannot feed, and so must forcibly withdraw from). So occasionally a Necromancer finds themselves with a Selfless, Merciful or Pitying Zombi. These are normally destroyed as useless, but some survive and their Disadvantages drive them to help their 'fellows'. The living rarely tolerate their existence, and never their presence; however a zombi which takes up residence in a cemetery or necropolis can fulfill a useful and appreciated role as a tomb guardian. Even if unwilling/unable to kill, these zombis can usually chase off robbers; in regions where offerings are made to the dead the zombi may have it's Need provided daily. These zombis are rarely powerful, having been abandoned soon after creation. The exceptions are the zombis created from the corpses of Soldiers of God, who (in addition to having six Forces) often know useful Songs, including Healing and Thunder. Many tombs have become the sites of pilgrimage after becoming the homes of Guardians who use their Songs of Healing on the mortal guardians of the tomb.


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