Sunday 8 December 2019

Class - The Corpse Doll

Because I like the idea of Nechronica but am unlikely to ever actually play it. And because I also like franken-fran, zombieland saga, and the general idea of melencholy gruesome corpse-girls. If your GM lets this in their game, they're fucked up and I approve.
I made a whole class of zombie waifus and nobody can stop me. 

I am a shameless weeb. Also this show is really good, y'all. S2 confirmed.

This was once a girl.
Somebody loved her, before she died. Couldn't face losing her. Refused to let the grave claim her. 
There are ways to bring the dead back, as well. Not wholesome, healthy, sane ways of course, but they work. Dig up your dead love, draw the right sigils, speak the right words, and that cold flesh will stir into... not life, exactly, but animation. Or perhaps inject her carcass with chemicals to kick-start the processes of life that have fallen still. Or make a pact with some dark patron to bring her back. Or hollow her lifeless body out, and fill it with clockwork and springs, set it back into motion. They're all insane, but they work every time.
Her body, moments ago lifeless and empty, stirs into motion. Eyelids flutter open, lips part to draw breath once more. On the surgeon's slab, she pulls herself upright. For any reanimator, it's a moment of elation to see her come back.  

A digression. 
Death, if you consider him really a person at all, has a sharp sense of humour. Why do you think he has that constantly-grinning skull-mask. Why is the last sensation when you die of hypothermia unexpected warmth? Life is a cruel joke, and Death is waiting at the end to share his punchline with us.

So. The clay corpse shifts and rises, as if waking from a long sleep. And here, then is Death's little jest at those who think they can defy him.

Maybe the soul doesn't return. Maybe clinical brain-death wipes the electrically-encoded memories. Maybe the waters of Lethe erase the spirit's memories. 
In any case, the thing that rises on the slab isn't her.

Her eyes are blank. Her face vacant. She doesn't remember him. She doesn't remember herself. Whatever he had hoped to achieve, she's a failure.

As I say, Death is laughing at us.

So, what happens to her? Most times, the reanimator destroys what he had created in disgust. The creature on the slab isn't his lost love, so what does she matter to him. Sometimes she's cast out into the world. Sometimes she escapes. 

Occasionally, she'll survive long enough to make a new life for herself on the fringes of society. 

Hit Dice: d6
Saves: As a Thief
Attacks: As a Thief
Equipment Restrictions: As a Thief
Experience: As a Magician
She can have any alignment; despite her gruesome origin, she is a blank slate morally and spiritually.
If your system uses it, her Prime Requisite is either Charisma or Constitution.

Unnatural Animation: A Corpse Doll is vulnerable to anything that targets undead things specifically, things created by evil magic, or unnatural things. She takes damage from holy water as normal. She takes double damage from holy things. Paladins have a tendency to try to smite her, and angry mobs have a tendency to run her out of town when they find out what she is.
Unambiguously Dead: A Corpse Doll doesn't really have functioning biology like a living thing. She functions just fine if her heart, brain, etc are destroyed, and so doesn't take additional damage from backstabs, critical hits, etc. She has no need to breath. She doesn't really age, although she will probably need to be careful to avoid rot setting in. While she doesn't 'sleep' per se, she must still spend an equivalent amount of time each day maintaining the stitching that keeps her together, keeping her embalming fresh, and so forth; if she neglects this, she suffers the same penalties as a human who doesn't sleep to represent the general degredation of her physical condition. She is immune to most poison and sickness (except those that might cause dead flesh to decay such as Mummy Rot).
Diet: It is an unfortunate fact that a Corpse Doll still requires sustenance to maintain animation. She must eat raw, fresh meat (ideally immediately after the prey has been killed), without which she will starve like any living being. There is no need for this to be human meat, but people often make assumptions.
Stitch Back Together: A Corpse Doll cannot be healed by most magic (certainly not by clerics), and doesn't heal naturally. Instead, she must physically replace her lost flesh by stitching new bits onto herself. This requires three hours' work for each HP to be restored, and a source of replacement body parts. As a rule of thumb, a human corpse is good for 6 HP if the whole thing is used. Larger or smaller corpses (or partial corpses) will vary how many HP the Corpse Doll can restore from them. Some monsters don't have flesh and bones suitable for this (it's no good trying to stitch on bits from a golem, ent or fire elemental, for example), and using non-human body-parts will result in the doll looking even more monstrous than normal; if she repairs herself by replacing an arm with one taken from a giant crab, people will see this and react accordingly. Which corpses can replenish the Doll's HP, and by how much, are a matter of GM discretion.
Staple Bits On: If a Corpse Doll can stitch an organ or body-part onto herself that is responsible for a monster having some power or ability, then she might (at the GM's discretion) gain that power. For example, she could gain a poison bite by grafting snake-fangs into her mouth, flight by stapling wings onto her back, or a rusting touch by stitching rust-monster feelers onto her hands. Like when she repairs damage, this requires a half-day's work.
We Can Rebuild Her! If a Corpse Doll dies completely, she's not necessarily gone. If her team-mates recover at least a bit of her body (even just a scrap of muscle is enough), and make a new doll, incorporating some of her previous body, the she can return. Essentially, this means that anybody who knows what she is can resurrect her exactly as if they were casting Clone on her, without needing to actually have access to the spell.
Damned Creepy: A Corpse Doll who openly reveals her unnatural nature causes enemies to make reaction and morale rolls at -1.
Damned Addictive: A Corpse Doll's flesh carries some lingering remnant of the obsession that spawned her. If she can trick, coerce or force somebody into physically ingesting some of her flesh or blood, then the victim must Save vs Magic or be Charmed by her as if by the spell. She can only have one such person Charmed in this way at a time, if she charms a new victim, the previous victim is released.
Angst: There's no mechanics for this, but honestly if you're gonna play the monstrous husk of a reanimated girl and not wallow in torment and self-doubt, what's even the point?


  1. "Angst: There's no mechanics for this, but honestly if you're gonna play the monstrous husk of a reanimated girl and not wallow in torment and self-doubt, what's even the point?"

    To be Unity from Skin Horse! XD

    Played straight or subverted, I love this. A friend of mine is running a game at some point here soon, and I might see if I can get him to let me hack this into form for whatever system he's using.

  2. The Corpse Doll sort of becomes a Trigger's Broom/ Ship of Theseus over time, as her parts are replaced... but with the added paradox of not really knowing who she was to begin with... double angst!

  3. Finally,someone who knows about Franken-Fran lol. Love that manga. Nice post btw.

  4. Mechanical nitpicks:
    *I don't like "immunity to Sneak Attack" on account of it (usually) being bad game design to deny players their regular toolset. If fluff is an issue, just say backstabbing is a good opportunity to do damage, rather than an opportunity for a single supergood hit.
    *As HP scales up that healing mechanic is going to be really obnoxious.

    Other reactions:
    *Huh. I like gonzo mad science settings, so "this always works" is actually really cool. I don't normally care for "all means of resurrection are false", but I guess you didn't actually say that? ...And now I want a Corpse Doll fighting her own resurrected original, and probably being sad about it.
    *Wait, why aren't Golem arms valid? I guess they're clay, but still - going by how easy it is to make them, Corpse Dolls are clearly more symbolic than biological in their animation.
    *Extra arms? Cool! Oh, and I suppose it gets better with stitching one's way to apotheosis. Kind of reminds me of Rotting Johnny, actually, from Zokusho. Nearly the same powerset. Now I want to find a way to graft a hyper-regenerator's limbs on...
    *I get a very faux-Victorian-Gothic feel from the backstory/intro, which makes me think you're missing a trick if all Corpse Dolls are female. Specifically, it seems entirely on-theme to make them from the remains of young-pretty-and-murderous anime boys who are popularly shipped with their butlers. (...Although I could be wrong about that, because the class powers seem like they're from a significantly different genre.)

    1. I don't see giving *PCs* 'immune to sneak attack' as being a problem. You are correct about denying PCs their tools being bad, but unless PvP is going down (which is kind of a fail-state already) it doesn't affect a PC thief if their fellow PC is hurt by sneak attacks.
      The healing mechanic is intended to be a massive fucking pain, but I possibly went overboard. Possibly I'd have how many HP you can heal scale with your level: IE at 2nd level three hours work and a body-part heals 2 HP, at 3rd it heals 3, etc. I'd need to test this more to see which maths works best.
      I think you're right about the reanimation being symbolic, so an argument could be made for grafting on non-fleshy bits. Perhaps learning to graft ever more inhuman body parts reflects the doll's state of mind: the less they think of themselves as 'a real person', the more weird the stuff they can graft.

      Now, I only use 'she' in the text, because all the inspiration I was drawing off had female victim-protagonists. Buuuut, there's nothing stopping you going Full Yaoi with it and having a pretty-boy Corpse Doll. So long as it puts the ROMANCE in necromancy, and makes everybody at the table a bit squicked out, it's all good, I think?

      To a certain extent, I like to think the class really *is* whoever they tried to reanimate, just amnesiac. Or maybe not. It's all fuel for angst. A corpse-doll slowly regaining their memories over time could be a very sweet arc.
      I think the point is more that the reanimator always rejects the doll once she's reanimated: he'd do this regardless of how successful the procedure was, because he's blinded by obsession, and can't accept the subject of that obsession for who she really is: when the person on the slap fails to live up to the idealised version he's been trying to create, the result is ugly.