[HWBS] Creeping Dread of the Restless Dead: Corporeal Undead Monsters

The undead (see “Those Who Live in Shadow” for very basic information on corporeal and incorporeal undead) strike an uncomfortable cord in many minds. While the spectral figures of ghosts may be more common, it is the corporeal undead, the physical corpse-thing that drags its way back from death, that is often the more unnerving. Cultural norms that respect the burial of the dead paint them as a defilement of the final rest, some spread pestilence and discord in their wake, and many have a taste for the living. The following are a few of these restless dead that lurk in the dead of night, driven onward by magic, hunger, or unfulfilled desires, as well as two new spells related directly to them.

Some General Notes on Corporeal Undead

Undead and Fatigue

Unlike entities with the Machine template, the corporeal undead templates from GURPS Horror do not bestow the 0-point Feature that voids Fatigue Points. As a result, the decision is made here that undead do not innately have any alteration to Fatigue Points and the usage thereof. There are some undead that either have this feature or Indefatigable, however, depending on whether they have no FP at all or have FP but simply do not utilize it for many strenuous activities.

Common Undead Weaknesses

Salt: A ritualistic symbol of purification, some undead react poorly to salt. This usually requires pouring salt down the monster’s gullet (a risky proposition at the best of times), though some undead are agonized even by throwing salt on their bodies.

Sunlight: Almost all undead are creatures of the night. In some cases, this is as much literal as it is figurative, their necrotic essence being wounded as the radiant beams of the sun burn away the enshrouding darkness.

Running Water: As with salt and the sun, running water is a symbol of cleansing and purity. Some undead fear to cross running water, while others cannot do so at all without coming to harm.

Iron: Iron is a powerful arcane icon. It has the power to tame the ferocity of lightning, exists in the blood that runs through the living, and ushered in a new era of arms, armor, and tools that surpassed the softer bronze that ruled before it. Unsurprisingly, iron has a symbolic power over many supernatural beasts and beings as a result. From fae to shapeshifters to undead, iron can hinder or even harm a myriad of paranormal entities.

Meta-Trait: Necrotic Entity [-190 Points]

This meta-trait applies to an undead that has all of the above traditional undead weaknesses. It is the exemplar of things that have crawled from the grave, for all the flaws that entails. Corporeal undead without the Necrotic Entity meta-trait are almost always those who have some other deep-rooted flaw, such as the need for sustenance taken unwillingly from the living (the vampire’s need for blood, the ghoul’s desire for flesh, etc.).

Statistics: Add Dread (Running Water) [-20], Fragile (Unnatural) [-50], Unhealing (Total) [-30], Vulnerability (Iron x2) [-20]. Weakness (Salt, 1d per 5 minutes; difficult to administer1, ingested, -100%; irreversible1, +100%) [-10], and Weakness (Sunlight, 1d per minute) [-60].

  1. Source: GURPS Zombies, pg. 66.

Ghoul

Retaining the knowledge, experience, and skills they had in life, yet consumed by a hunger for the flesh of their own kind, the carnivorous cadavers referred to as ghouls have are emaciated rotting corpses whose jaws are lined with long, sharp teeth, ears have slightly lengthened into a point, and gnarled hands end in claws. Many skulk in the shadows and cannibalize corpses in graveyards, on battlefields, and in hospitals’ hazardous material disposal zones. Most only feed on carrion, though hunger or darker desires can drive them to attack the living as well. Many scholars of the necromantic arts have noted that ghouls are not only similar to vampires, but even typically arise in areas where a vampire is already present. This connection seems to be one ingrained in the necromantic energies that awaken both forms of undead and ultimately often put the two in close enough proximity that they often engage in either cooperation or competition. Most ghouls are sapient bipeds, though there are relatively uncommon cases of predatory animals such as bears and hyenas rising up in this form as well.

Augmenting Template: Ghoul [47 Points]

Meta-Traits: Rotting Undead [59].
Attributes: ST +2 [20].
Secondary Characteristics: Will +1 [5], Per +3 [15].
Advantages: Claws (Sharp) [5], Dark Vision [25], Super Climbing 2 [6], Teeth (Sharp) [1].
Perks: Pestilent [1].
Disadvantages: Dependency (Flesh or blood of the same or similar species, daily, illegal) [-45], Odious Racial Habit (Cannibalism) [-15], Unhealing (Total) [-30].
Applicable Creature Type: Must be applied to carnivorous or omnivorous Human, Animal, Beastfolk, or Cryptid Beast; type changes to Undead (Corporeal).

Reanimants

The term “reanimant” refers to four forms of mindless undead created through the Zombie or Mass Zombie spells (conversions of these two spells from GURPS Magic to the Sorcery system by prolific GURPS blogger Enraged Eggplant can be found here).

Reanimant, Fresh [-285 Points]

Meta-Traits: Intact Undead [90], Automaton [-85], Necrotic Entity [-190].
Attributes: ST +1 [10], DX -1 [-20]; IQ -4 [-80].
Secondary Characteristics: Basic Move -1 [-5].
Advantages: Dark Vision [25], Injury Tolerance (Independent body parts; detachable head, +15%; no reattachment, -60%) [20], Single-Minded [5], Unfazeable [15].
Disadvantages: Cannot Learn [-30], Cannot Speak [-15], Reprogrammable [-10].
Features: Taboo Trait (Fixed IQ), Taboo Trait (No mental skills); Affected by spells that affect mindless undead; Neither has nor can spend FP.
Applicable Creature Type: Can be applied to a creature capable of leaving a corpse; type changes to Undead (Corporeal).

Created from a corpse that has yet to show more than superficial signs of decay, the fresh reanimant is effectively the best compromise between strength and flexibility. Unfortunately for prospective reanimant creators, fresh corpses aren’t exactly easy to get a hold of, which means they’re usually procured illicitly by either those too vain to utilize more decayed undead or wish to have a vessel for someone else’s mind and soul to be ritually transferred to.

Reanimant, Rotting [-303 Points]

Meta-Traits: Rotting Undead [59], Automaton [-85], Necrotic Entity [-190].
Attributes: ST +2 [20]; DX -2 [-40]; IQ -4 [-80].
Secondary Characteristics: Basic Move -1 [-5].
Advantages: Damage Resistance 1 (Tough skin, -40%) [3], Dark Vision [25], Injury Tolerance (Independent body parts; detachable head, +15%; no reattachment, -60%) [20], Single-Minded [5], Unfazeable [15].
Disadvantages: Cannot Learn [-30], Cannot Speak [-15], Reprogrammable [-10].
Features: Same as fresh reanimant.
Applicable Creature Type: Same as fresh reanimant.

Rotting reanimants are the characteristic shambling corpses that many immediately think of when the word “undead” comes up. While they are slow and stiff, their rotting frames belie surprising strength and durability that can often give them an upper hand in combat…not to mention the fact that their limbs keep moving when they are chopped apart! Many refer to rotting reanimants as zombies. While most rotting reanimants have further decay halted through their arcane creation, some allow them to continue to decompose for whatever reason they may have to do so; such continually rotting reanimants have the 0-point feature “Will become a skeletal reanimant”.

Reanimant, Mummified [-312 Points]

Meta-Traits: Mummified Undead [80], Automaton [-85], Necrotic Entity [-190].
Attributes: ST +1 [10]; DX -2 [-40]; IQ -4 [-80].
Advantages: Damage Resistance 1 (Tough Skin, -40%) [3], Dark Vision [25], Single-Minded [5], Unfazeable [15].
Disadvantages: Cannot Learn [-30], Cannot Speak [-15], Reprogrammable [-10].
Features: Same as fresh reanimant.
Applicable Creature Type: Can be applied to any creature capable of having a mummified corpse; type changes to Undead (Corporeal).

The desiccated form of the mummified reanimant is somewhat swifter than a rotting reanimant, though it is also slightly weaker and just as stiff in its movements. As with fresh reanimants, mummified reanimants do not have the luxury of being able to control detached body parts. In Victorian England and other portions of the British Empire of the day, it was popular among certain fraternal mage circles to cash in on the ancient Egypt mania and plunder of entombed mummies that was sweeping the empire at the time by creating mummified reanimants; in modern times, most see this practice as gauche at best and theft of cultural icons at worst, and as such the rare mummified reanimant seen around is either an older creation that has managed to survive into the present or created from a naturally mummified corpse.

Reanimant, Skeletal [-253 Points]

Meta-Traits: Skeletal Undead [68], Automaton [-85], Necrotic Entity (remove Weakness [Salt]) [-180].
Attributes: ST -2 [-20]; DX +1 [20]; IQ -4 [-80].
Advantages: Dark Vision [25], Injury Tolerance (Independent body parts; detachable head, +15%; no reattachment, -60%) [20], Single-Minded [5], Unfazeable [15].
Disadvantages: Cannot Learn [-30], Cannot Speak [-15], Reprogrammable [-10].
Features: Same as fresh reanimant.
Applicable Creature Type: Can be applied to any creature with a skeleton, exoskeleton, or cartilaginous frame; type changes to Undead (Corporeal).

Skeletal reanimants are quicker and more agile than either other form of reanimant thanks to their lack of any flesh to keep them down. Of course, they also happen to be physically weak and prone to being broken by bludgeoning strikes to their body, which makes utilizing them in combat a situation that has as much risk as it does reward. For obvious reasons, skeletal reanimants are immune to the trick of stuffing a reanimant with salt to end its animation.

Variant: Awakened Reanimant [+200 Points]

Some reanimants end up having a consciousness, be it through a spontaneous freak occurrence or an intentional spell. Reanimants that have had someone else’s consciousness transferred into them also have this variant lens by default. Each type of reanimant is given a specific term for its awakened form: awakened fresh corpse for fresh reanimants, awakened rotting corpse for rotting reanimants, awakened mummy for mummified reanimants, and awakened skeleton for skeletal reanimants.

Statistics: Remove IQ penalty [80], Single-Minded [-5], Unfazeable [-15], Cannot Learn [30], Cannot Speak [15], Reprogrammable [10], Automaton [85],and all features except “Neither has nor can spend FP” [0].

Revenant

An unrelenting soul driven to complete one last task before relinquishing its grasp on life – or unlife, as it were – the revenant rises from the grave to enact vengeance for its suffering and untimely demise or to fulfill a desperately held final wish. While any decay has been reversed, causing the revenant to appear as it did upon death, it nonetheless reeks with the stench of rot and foul soil. While this purpose-driven corpse has all the memories of its time among the living, its emotions are cold and calculating, focused only on completing its final task; friends and loved ones that encounter a revenant will find that it will barely acknowledge them unless doing so would be prudent to the mission. Revenants will only attack people and things other than the target of their obsession if they are given no other option, seeing conflict with non-target individuals as a waste of time and effort that could be spent on fulfilling their mission. If  forced, however, the revenant will fight without fear or mercy. Its body will almost always simply reconstitute itself once destroyed, so little need is felt for caution in combat. Ultimately, only two things will truly stop a revenant: either its mission finally being fulfilled, or sprinkling its corpse with salt before it can regenerate once more.

Augmenting Template: Revenant [150 Points]

Meta-Traits: Intact Undead [90].
Attributes: ST +2 [20].
Secondary Characteristics: Will +1 [5], Per +1 [5].
Advantages: Detect Target of Obsession (Precise, +100%) [10], Doesn’t Eat or Drink [10], Indefatigable [30], Indomitable [15], Single-Minded [5], Unfazeable [15], Unkillable 2 (Hindrance, salt, -15%) [85].
Disadvantages: Bad Smell [-10], Low Empathy [-20], No Sense of Humor [-10], Obsession (Find and eliminate own killer or finish unfulfilled task; 6 or skills) [-10], Unhealing (Partial; heals if at rest in own grave) [-20], Weakness (Salt, 1d per 5 minutes; difficult to administer, ingested, -100%; irreversible, +100%) [-10], Weakness (Sunlight, 1d per minute) [-60].
Features: Will die and fade to dust once its Obsession is finally fulfilled.
Applicable Creature Type: Must be applied to a Human or Beastfolk with IQ 6 or higher; type changes to Undead (Corporeal).

Variant, Taxim [106 Points]

A term first utilized in the Balkan nations, the taxim is a revenant that retains its rotted appearance and has a penchant for violence when enacting its final tasks. Whereas most revenants try to avoid harming those not related to its direct task out of expedience, a taxim revels in carnage inflicted upon obstacles in its path. The taxim’s jagged teeth and nails can impart a supernatural malady that acts akin to a virulent cold.

Statistics: Replace Intact Undead with Rotting Undead [-31], increase ST to +3 [10], remove Doesn’t Eat or Drink [-10] and Bad Smell [10] (as they already part of the Rotting Undead meta-trait), and add DX -1 [-20], Claws (Blunt) [3], Defiling Wounds2 [8], Teeth (Sharp) [1], and Bloodlust (9 or less) [-15].

2. Defiling Wounds is Toxic Attack 1d (Cyclic, 1 day, 3 cycles, resistible, +10%; follow-up, claws or bite, +0; resistible, HT-4, -10%; symptom, 2/3 HP, coughing +20%; symptom, 1/2 HP, nauseated, +60%) [8].

Vampire

The vampire is an undead creature with pallid skin, eyes whose irises can be a sickly greenish-yellow or varying shades of yellow to red, clawed hands, long and pointed incisors like those of a vampire bat, and moderately- to sharply-pointed ears; otherwise, they appear as they did in life. These nocturnal predators are strong, durable, and keen-sensed hunters with a need for blood to survive augmented by a gnawing craving for the blood of their own kin in particular. Mentalities concerning being a vampire vary: some vampires eschew consuming the blood of their own kind in favor of hunting animals alone in spite of the gnawing cravings, some take advantage of blood banks and donation services, some find thralls willing to give blood to them, and still others are beasts of pure hunger, killing whenever they can to satisfy their addiction. A vampire can even forego blood of any sort for a short period of time, though this causes them to suffer physical strain that both injures them and slowly twists their appearance, the individual becoming more gaunt and monstrous in appearance until they more or less resemble non-rotting ghouls. Unlike the condition that creates ghouls, proper vampirism has never been recorded in animals.

Augmenting Template: Vampire [90 Points]

Meta-Traits: Intact Undead [90].
Attributes: ST +2 [20].
Secondary Characteristics: Will +2 [10].
Advantages: Acute Hearing 2 [4], Acute Taste and Smell 2 [4], Acute Vision 2 [4], Claws (Sharp) [5], Damage Resistance 1 (Tough skin, -40%) [3], Dark Vision [25], Doesn’t Eat or Drink [10], Fangs [2], Leech 2 (Accelerated healing, +25%; blood agent, -40%) [25], Less Sleep 1 [2], Super Climbing 2 [6].
Disadvantages: Dependency (Fresh blood, weekly; disfiguring3, +20%) [12], Fragile (Flammable) [-10], Infectious Attack (Leech; accessibility, fatal attacks only, -20%) [-4], Uncontrollable Appetite (Blood of the same or similar species; 12 or less) [-15], Unhealing (Partial, heals from Leech) [-20], Vulnerability (Silver x2) [-20], Vulnerability (Wood x2) [-20], Weakness (Sunlight, 1d per 5 minutes; variable, -40%) [-18].
Quirks: Photosensitivity [-1].
Applicable Creature Type: Must be applied to Human or Beastfolk.

3. Source: Pyramid issue #3-63, pg. 14.

Variant: Vampire Lord [240 Points]

Rare even in the already uncommon ranks of vampirism, those who undertake the Rite of Blood (see “New Spells” below) will on sporadic occasions rise as vampires with greater power than their kin and come to be known as lords. Vampire lords are capable of swaying the minds of ghouls, reading and cracking the minds of anyone who can’t resist, quickly recovering from grievous wounds, and shrouding themselves in an illusory veil that allows them to appear as anything of their size and general shape. These powerful undead have a perilous path to walk, as those willing to undertake the Rite of Blood are usually those who thirst for might and influence, and those traits combined with being a blood-sucking corpse mean causing more than a few ripples in the local paranormal community. Monster hunters, conspiracies, and other power players in the region will usually end up gunning for a vampire lord who isn’t careful or clever enough to cover their tracks.

Statistics: Remove Unhealing [20] and add Mind Control (Accessibility, ghouls only, -20%; puppet, -40%) [20], Mind Probe [20], Mind Reading [30], Morph (Cosmetic, -50%; glamour, Will -4, -10%; retains shape, -20%) [20], Very Rapid Healing [15], and Single-Minded [5].

Deathless

An ageless state of being as a soul bound to a nearly indestructible undead shell: such is the willing existence of the deathless. Either named after the Russian folkloric figure Koschei the Deathless or vice versa – occult historians have fiercely debated whether Koschei was a merely mythological figure or an actual mage who once held power in Medieval Russia – deathless could be easily mistaken for a mere reanimated skeleton were it not for the vermillion etchings on their bones. These etchings are mirrors of those used during the Rite of the Deathless used to create the deathless in question and signify their bond to the soul vessel also utilized in the ritual. A soul vessel is an inanimate object ritually consecrated with crushed cinnabar during the spell used to create a deathless (see the Rite of the Deathless in “New Spells” below), and acts as the vessel for the soul (as the name would imply) rather than the undead body itself. As long as a deathless has their soul vessel intact, they are capable of taking on mortal guise, walking freely in the sunlight, and calling on a wellspring of magical energy. Most importantly, they cannot truly die as long as the soul vessel can be used to keep their soul tethered to this existence. A deathless who has their soul vessel destroyed is weakened, burned by sunlight, and can be killed without the hope of another resurrection. As a result, most deathless hide and protect their soul vessel with great zeal, often going to great lengths and great expenses to furnish it. Thanks to modern popular culture, it has become en vogue to refer to deathless as liches, though few surviving deathless from before the 20th Century have any fondness for the term.

Augmenting Template: Deathless [145 Points]

Meta-Traits: Skeletal Undead [68].
Attributes: DX +1 [20], ST -2 (Mitigator, soul vessel, -50%) [-10].
Advantages: Dark Vision [25], Energy Reserve 15 (Soul vessel4, -65%) [16], Fatigue Attack 2 (Freezing, +20%; requires grapple5, -10%; resistible, HT -4, -10%) [20], Living Mask6 [3], Unkillable 3 (Soul vessel, -65%) [53].
Disadvantages: Vulnerability (Iron x2) [-20], Weakness (Sunlight, 1d per minute; mitigator, soul vessel, -50%) [-30].
Applicable Creature Type: Must be applied to Human or Beastfolk.

4. This is the collective limitation “Gadget: breakable, cannot repair, DR 2 or less, SM -7, unique, -65%”.

5. Source: GURPS Powers: The Weird, pg. 21.

6. This is Alternate Form (Cosmetic, -50%; soul vessel, -65%), with the illusory second form being the form the deathless had as a living being.

New Spells

The following two spells are related to the corporeal undead, though one works for undead spirits as well.

Might of the Grave

College: Necromantic.
Keywords: Buff.
Full Cost: 65 points.
Casting Roll: None. Use Innate Attack (Gaze) to aim.
Range: 100 yards.
Duration: 30 minutes.

This spell influences the power of the undead, granting them enhanced power and durability. An ominous reddish-gray field of energy surrounds the undead and adds to its resistance to damaging effects, while internal magical energies boost its ST and HT attributes by 2. Intelligent undead mages often learn this spell to utilize on themselves in times of need.

Statistics: Affliction 1 (HT; Accessibility, only on undead, -40%; advantage, Might of the Grave, +530%; extended duration, x10, +40%; increased 1/2D, x10, +15%; no signature, +20%; sorcery, -15%) [65]. Note: “Might of the Grave” is Damage Resistance 3 (Force field, +20%; magical, -10%) [17], HT +2 (Magical, -10%) [18], and ST +2 (Magical, -10%) [18].

Rite of Blood

College: Necromantic.
Keywords: Ritual (see “New Spell Keyword” below).
Full Cost: 42 points.
Casting Roll: None.
Range: Touch.
Duration: Indefinite.

A powerful ritual spell, the Rite of Blood grants the certainty of vampiric unlife to the recipient (either the caster or a willing target). The ritual performer must take an hour carving a magic circle and reciting select invocations before culminating in the ceremonial consumption of an ounce of the blood of their own species. The ritual infuses the subject with the vigor of a spirit of blood, guaranteeing that upon their death they will transform into a vampire or vampire lord. This effect can be dispelled, however, meaning that the recipient must either work in secrecy or be sure that their death will come soon after the ritual in order to prevent others from stopping their undead resurrection.

Statistics: Affliction 1 (Accessibility, only nonvolitional or non-resisting subjects, -20%; accessibility, requires complex ritual, -20%; advantage, Guaranteed Vampirism, +200%; extended duration, permanent, +150%; no signature, +20%; sorcery, -15%) [42]. Note: “Guaranteed Vampirism” is Extra Life 1 (Reanimation7, guaranteed to rise as a vampire, -20%) [20].

7. Source: GURPS Zombies, pg. 52.

-Variant, Rite of the Deathless: The ritual to create a deathless is mechanically the same as the Rite of Blood, save for the guaranteed undeath being the deathless template rather than the vampire template. Its ritual performance is different, however; rather than consuming blood, the ritual performer must use powdered cinnabar to ceremonially anoint the item meant to act as the soul vessel.

New Spell Keyword: Ritual

Most spells are meant to be cast instantaneously, or at the very least quite swiftly; ritual spells, by contrast, take minutes or even hours to cast. Some spells are always rituals, while others are “ritualized” to help the caster through rote memorization and ceremony. A spell with the Ritual keyword must have one of the three ritual Accessibility modifiers (GURPS Power-Ups 8: Limitations, pg. 5). Quick rituals are appropriate for a spell that is simple but ritualized, complex rituals are apt for those that create a fundamentally life-changing, widespread, or otherwise very powerful effect, and typical rituals are good for anything in between.

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