Creatures of
the Night

By Ric Heaton


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.

Enemies of Humanity

Carcassites are not inherently evil. Indeed, they have no conception of morality at all. However, they do not discriminate between humans and smaller prey. They sometimes combine into primitive social structures, and packs will often attack humans because a single human body can feed the entire pack. The skeleton will also provide a host for any new carcassites which are birthed. It is not unheard of for carcassites to attack humans for the specific purpose of acquiring new hosts. The simple fact that they inhabit human corpses is enough to make them abominations in the eyes of most societies.

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.


Carcassites are birthed by a strange process which involves the implantation of an egg into a source of blood. This can be a pool or even a ready corpse. It is a curious quirk of their nature that they will always ignore the person whose blood they were birthed in, a trait passed on to their progeny. It is therefore possible for a small group of people to combine their blood in a goblet or other suitable vessel and implant an egg to produce a carcassite which will be oblivious to their presence. As carcassites are territorial in nature, this method can be utilized to produce unwitting guards. When a carcassite dies, another will likely take up the discarded host, and so it is not difficult to establish a relatively permanent base of guards for an important site. In fact, it is rumored that the carcassites were originally created by a sorcerer who intended them for just this purpose. Carcassite eggs will not spawn unless placed in a source of blood, and will keep for years if suspended in water. They are very valuable because extracting them from living carcassites is an arduous process, and they will sell for an excellent price to anyone eccentric enough to grow them on purpose.

Non-Human Hosts

In general, a nested carcassite will have roughly the same physical characteristics as a living version of its host. Use this rule as a guideline to create carcassites who have infested dogs and other beasts. Remember that carcassites will always inhabit a human (or humanoid) corpse if they have the choice, and will only resort to lesser creatures if there is no other option.

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.

Killing the Beast

The combat related statistics above are sufficient for campaigns in which the hit location rules are not used. Using the hit location rules will make combat with carcassites a great deal more exciting and is advisable even for game masters who do not normally use them.

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.

Carcassite Adventure Seeds

Carcassites are most likely to be found where they can find hosts and work undisturbed - abandoned buildings, ruins, battlefields and the like. However, carcassites not tied to one place would be likely to increase in number rapidly, forming hordes of undead monsters. Adjusting their attitudes, hosts, and behavior patterns are the most effective ways for a game master to fit them to his particular campaign world. Remember that carcassites can exist in a high TL world, where they are likely to be minions of some malicious government agency or renegade genetic engineer.

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?

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