Necromancy spells, part 5

When creating and controlling dead creatures there is also the option to design a spell effect which creates and controls them with the one spell. The first spells in this set of blog posts used the two separate spells as there are two separate guidelines, but it need not be so.

As the baseline effect for directly controlling a dead animal is base 1 and creating the animal corpse is base 10, the control magic can be added to a creation spell with only a small increase in overall level. That is a significant saving if the caster desires to combine effects, particularly if the effect was going to be enchanted in an item.

Conjuring the Obedient Deceased Donkey

Creo Animal / Rego 30, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

This spell creates the corpse of a small donkey (size +1), animates it, and allows the caster to mentally concentrate to control it’s actions. The animation lacks any cunning or capacity to act independently, and commands from the caster will be followed literally. Appearance, size, and condition of the body is chosen by the caster.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Rego)

Such a beast could power a grindstone in a mill every day and never tire. My preference would still be to have the spells split for the times when the necromancer wants to animate a body they have acquired rather than created. I suppose a human zombie could also be used in the same way as an animal too.

The human corpse baselines are controlling as base 10 and creating as base 5. It is similar to the Animal magic scenario with the arts reversed. However a humanoid servant probably needs a basic intellect to be able to act as any type of servant, so a Mentem requisite is added.

Conjuring the Deceased Obedient Slave

Rego Corpus / Creo Mentem 35, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

This spell creates a human corpse (up to size +1), animates it, and allows the caster to mentally concentrate to control it’s actions. The animation has a dull intellect to act independently, however commands from the caster will be followed unimaginatively. Appearance, size, and condition of the body is chosen by the caster.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Creo, +1 Mentem)

Now onto stranger things: the animation of body parts.

Animation of the Creeping Hand

Rego Corpus 30, R: Touch, D: Sun, T: Individual

This spell grants an unnatural motion and dull intellect to a severed part of a human body so it may perform tasks as commanded by the caster. The body part is granted the ability to follow very simple instructions, and does so unimaginatively.

The spell is commonly used on the severed hand of thief, but might be used on any body part which could conceivably move under its own motion.

(Base 10, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Mentem)

Now that I look at the standard spell for animation a corpse and this one, the only difference is how much of the body is present. I’m not sure a separate spell is needed at all. Animating a hand to climb and crawl feels different from an entire corpse, but it really is just more corpus material.

Aside – Do troupes even want to answer meta-physical zombie questions? This spell is plausible if the story-guide rules that the bulk of a corpse must be present, or perhaps the head must be intact on the corpse for the more traditional spells to work.

And lastly some of the most thematically distasteful spells I can think of for a necromancer in the medieval setting – the construction of bespoke horrific human corpses for later animation.

To begin old materials and parts can be reworked to a new purpose.

Crafting of Shells and Strings from the Remains of Man

Rego Corpus 15 / Muto, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Group

This spell uses human remains as raw materials to construct strings, bone plates, splints, sockets, and many various segments and components which can then be used in human taxidermy or construction of automatons. The Muto requirement allows the materials to be made temporarily malleable during their transformation.

A finesse check determines the quality of the conversion, with 6+ required to convert raw materials into a prepared state. Suitable raw materials must be on hand for the spell to be cast successfully.

This spell was invented by Zharkune of Bonisagus who recognized that a necromancer’s arts could be expanded by a less conservative approach.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Group, +1 complexity)

Assembly of the Monstrous Humanoid Fiend

Rego Corpus 20, R: Touch, D: Momentary, T: Group

This spell constructs a range of prepared corpus materials into a large multi-limbed fiendish looking monster. A set of base raw ingredients must exceed the volume of the finished form and this is best achieved by having at least one reasonably complete human corpse and many extra components of various types.

The default configuration for the fiend is a size +1 humanoid with four arms, reinforced limbs and torso, sharpened teeth and claws, and a bone carapace over the body. The appearance and construction of the final form can be altered by the caster.

A finesse check determines the quality of the construction, with 9+ required to form the basic construct and a 12+ for a high quality outcome.

The additional strength of materials adds a +2 bonus to the soak score of a typical animated corpse. The corpse may also wear and wield armor and weapons.

If the optional group combat rules are used in the saga, then the additional limbs allow the animation to function as if it is an additional combatant in an untrained group.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +2 Group, +2 complexity)

For these and over 250 other new Ars Magics spells see the list of spells.


The Walking (un)Dead

Zombies are pretty darn cool, especially at the moment where we see mainstream film and TV creating survivalist shows, and kids TV features zombies as characters. With that firmly in mind as both an inspiration and also to avoid as formulaic – here is a rough take on the flavour of zombies for rpgs that I like.

For starters, no cheese. Brains!

The big cliche is that zombies just want brains, brains, brains. I’m loathe to re-use any of that trope as it creates a cheesy rather than creepy monster. There is no horror left in chewing on a skull. There is horror in the challenge that zombies can present though.

By contrast to shmuck TV, the wights and the Others in Game of Thrones are both scary and frigg’n nasty, and far more in tune with how I’d like Undead to be treated. Undead that are presented as tough enough to be very deadly, worthy of a few heroic deeds are where most rpgs should be aiming. An undead creature should exhibit at least some basic cunning, and some awareness of threat. The d8 HP skeleton was only a challenge for a very short period of time. Soon after running away the team could return to the undead parlor and have their way with the generic undead with ease.

The difference is really considering the purpose but also the intelligence of the creature. Do they have purpose, or simple decision powers, or able to perceive obvious vs subtle clues? I’d like to think that a range of answers is the most appropriate even within the one game setting so that the range of undead encountered varies, even if the physical appearance does not change. Keep the players on their toes in terms of expectations of foes.

Where are they from?

The undead created via magical necromancy (curses, stolen coins, etc) should be able to follow very simple commands, but be very literal in execution.This is so that the necromancer can use the undead as servants and guardians, while they carry on with other nefarious deeds. The magic provides a form of animation and automation that is very different from other zombie sources.

The undead created via a demonic pact should have more cunning and a vicious touch, being guided by a quasi-omnipotent malevolent force.This could be as simple as the infernal touch giving them the intellect of a dog or other animal, or right up to a blended purpose of a gestalt mind. The demonic power really gives as much of a hand-waving-power as introducing holy powers. Go biblical on the characters.

The viral or disease zombies are somewhat harder to steer, as this type of zombie is more used in modern stories where the source of the infestation and the mode are normally explained in a pseudo-science way. The Walking Dead deliberately does not explain the source of the zombie outbreak, but does maintain a consistency in the approach the undead take. The zombies moan, shamble, smell, and act like each other, and it seems more like a brutal virus more than poison. 28 days later has a similar approach, and Resident Evil uses the nasty drug formula as the cause, but maintains the zombies presence fairly consistently. Continue reading