Monday, October 1, 2012

HMS Apollyon - The Taxonomy of the Dead


Corpse Chariot

No Enc. 1-2/(1-10)
Movement: 30'
Hit Dice: 6 -10
Attacks: 2 or Special
Damage:Claw (1D12)/Claw(1D12)
or Special
Save: CL 8
Hoard Class:
XP:920 - 2400

Corpse Chariots, War Machines or Animated Corporeal Amalgamations are a  form of undead colony.  These creatures arise from several co-mingled consciousness anchored to a single object.  In almost every case these undead colonies are anchored to pieces of siege weaponry.  It is unclear if the reason undead cannon are common is because the colony began with the souls of the weapon's crew who died at their posts or if colonies directed by more intelligent undead are herded to form around and animate abandoned weaponry.

 In appearance a Corpse Chariot is a self directed moving gun carriage heaped over with rotting corpses and with two large arms or claws formed from bones, cable, steel and wrappings of ragged cloth.  While the chariot's arms are deadly melee weapons, most of these abominations also have sufficient necromantic power to utilize the heavy weaponry that makes up their core, firing bursts of negative energy in the form of phantom shells.  Several different kinds of weapons exist in Corpse Chariot form - the most common are:

Flame Thrower (10' wide cone attack, range 20', 2D6 fire damage, save vs. Dragon Breath for 1/2 damage).  Fire every other round.
Millatreuse (1 target or small group of targets, range 80', Save vs. Dragon Breath, each point below save is a 1D6 bullet strike). Fire every other round.
Cannon (10' diameter impact, 20' diameter blast, range 300', Save vs. Dragon Breath or die within 10', take 1/2 damage within 20'.  Successful save in impact area does 3D6, blast does 4D6 with save for 1/2 damage).  Fire every 4 rounds 
Siege Gun The Seige gun is a short barreled close support cannon (20' wide cone attack, range 50' 5D6 flechette damage, save vs. Dragon Breath for 1/2 damage). Fire every 3 rounds

Generally the War dead use corpse carts to lead attacks and support their defenses as the slow witted colonies are immensely powerful.


The Undead within the hull of the Apollyon are numerous, and varied. Abdead horrors are almost ubiquitous in some areas and have become more and more common as the larger living cultures of the Apollyon: Sterntown humans, Fishmen and Froglings get pushed into smaller and smaller areas, depleting their strength in conflicts and slowly wearing done the vessel's enormous reserves of resources.

The Dead comprise roughly three categories – the shambling dead, the unaligned and the steerage dead (also known as the bloated dead or the ash plague).

The Shambling Dead are unintelligent, self generated by tragedy, loss or simply the result of immersing a body in the necromantic waters that fill many of the lower decks. They hunger, seeking to feast on life, without any intelligence or rationality. Most often Shambling dead are simple zombie like corpses, slow, and easily returned to rest by a shot or club blow. This group also includes various phantoms and entities – spectral conglomerations of necromantic humors that coalesce into dangerous phantasms that repeat scenes of tragedy and waylay passing scavengers out of frustration, fear and unfocused anger.

The Unaligned Dead are a spectrum from ghoulish living corpses slightly above the brute level of the Shambling Dead to sophisticate Liches. The most common form of unaligned dead are revenants, wights formed from the deaths of individuals with strong emotional attachments to the world. Revenants of pain, cruelty, abandonment and hatred are the most common, though revenants of sorrow, shame and even love have been encountered. These creatures can be reasoned with, though there needs are usually few and their wants most often antithetical to human life.

The Unaligned Dead also include whole factions of the undead that are not part of the Steerage dead, such as the "War Dead", risen after the retreat aft.  The war dead are primarily zombies and other corporeal dead made up of the refugees and soldiers who died in the flight from the undead attack on humanity.  In addition to relatively mundane reanimated corpses, larger bands of War Dead also contain ectoplasmic War Haints, and feared undead siege machines commonly refered to as corpse chariots (see above).

At the top of the undead hierarchy are the Steerage Dead, an undead civilization that may be the true masters of the Apollyon.  These powerful entities are led by Plague Kings and Queens of varying appearance and abilitie who each direct legions of undead, all of whom still have rational thought and the ability to speak.  Therefore the Steerage Dead may be reasoned with, but their hatred of the Stewards and Passenger Class prevent any lasting peace.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, I was going to give it the sepia treatment but I refrained. I also just realized that it's remarkably similar to the carrion wagon or whatever it was called from Warcraft III. Oh well, that game had pretty good design. Also I kind of wish the flame thrower was more visible. Still I think it managed to strike fear into my players or at least trepidation.

  2. Love this idea. I imagine it features the worst bits of undeath and machine.

    1. I just decided I'd do your Monsterous Monday all month and this will be entry No. 1. I think that the Save vs. Death Howitzer is definitely the worst of machine - as to undeath, at least it's not level draining?

  3. The Undead Situation on the Apollyon seems to represent an interesting reversal of traditional roles of power. Through some mysterious tragedy the "steerage" class, has ascended to the dominant power position on the ship. The wealthy hide themselves away, under threat of violence from the masses.

    How do they maintain their position and priviledged status on this ship? A gold economy still seems to exist on the ship, which feels bizarre. Why hasn't the ship turned entirely to a barter system? Are the First-Class passengers somehow able to keep the gold economy going? Merchants in the Rustgate seem happy to accept coins.

    In a situation such as this, those with the means to provide/control the necessities of life should be those with the most power.

    The Steerage Dead have staked a claim to power via warfare. They deny access to all the necessities of life in their sphere of influence.

    Those that produce food (or control those that do) should be much more powerful/wealthy but seemingly aren't.

    The Stewards have staked a claim to power by controlling access to Shelter (and thus food to an extent). Their daily/weekly tax, taken in both coin (why?) and goods (smart) are the means of their control.

    The Eelmen were seemingly scavengers that have been driven from their shelter.

    The Buck Nakeds attempt to meet their needs via Extortion of those that pass through territory they claim, by scavenging and warfare.

    Again, I'm curious to know more about the passenger class and how they are holding on to their priviledged status. Also why the gold economy still exists at all. (If it's just a conceit to facilitate gameplay, then ok. But it might make for a more interestng game if the society went full barter)

  4. @Glipkero - Whoa that's a bit more thought then I have put into things put I can explain the following.

    A) Sterntown contains about 20,000 souls - it's not lacking in resources, though it's heavy industry has been depleted in recent years, but it's still a major point of civilization. hence it values money and resources from the hull - it has fisheries, kelp farms, mushroom farms, rat, pigeon and dog ranches - even green houses growing less creepy crops. In fact it has more food than most aboard the vessel. The Stewards and Passengers maintain power because 1) the stewards have access to all the heavy weapons, several generations of obedience, and the fact that they have previously protected the town, and its citizens. The Stewards only real rivals were the Marines, who are now a dying and hermetic order.

    The Passenger class is similar, tradition grants them power, but the fact that they are karcists of disturbing power and really no one knows how to deal with demons. Well the Fishmen, Froglings and Dead do but people don't really and demons have one hell of a reputation. Plus things aren't that bad really.

    The Dead.
    As to the Steerage Dead, it's unclear what their culture is but they control the flooded decks. It's been revealed that they hate the Stewards and less the Passengers because when the Apollyon was young and had a population of 150k the Stewards flooded the lower decks killing 75k to cut down on food consumption. Scavenger Parties have actually allied with Steerage dead temporarily against other things/peoples.

    The Eelmen are actually farmers and quite productive, though they're a bullshit eelman tribe despised by thier fellows.

    The Buck Nakeds are hunters and gathers, but they are mainly scavengers with some kind folks they sell to for food.

    Thanks for wondering these things.