As we come into our weekly chat once again, I found myself a bit stretched with work that I had been completing this week. There was one chapter in the upcoming 1879 Game Master’s Companion that I decided needed some reworking. We’ve set the material aside for now and will revisit it at a later date. In its place, I have something entirely new, and I’m going to keep exactly what it is hidden for now. Given the long development time on these books, I think most items inside have had some sort of sneak peek shared about them at some point in prior blog posts, so I’ve got to have something to keep people guessing a bit. You are of course free to wildly speculate what exactly it is in the 1879 channel on Discord; I may or may not drop some helpful (or not so helpful) hints as we get closer to release.
The good news is that the completion of the text for that chapter marks the last of the writing. From here it’s edits, layout, and art to contend with, and those have already been in progress on the rest of the material, so we should have a Kickstarter coming out very soon.
The bad news is that with my focus on finishing that writing, I haven’t had much chance to come up with something new for the blog post for this week. So I’m going to be taking the easy route for today and delving into our back stock of material for things that may or may not come up down the road. This one comes from our fiction folder, and is part of an idea that has been floated in development discussions previously, but we haven’t narrowed down exactly how or where we might want to implement it, if we decide to. So for now, take it as a work of fiction as it is labeled, and have a thought as to what implications it might have in your own game world.
“What you’re proposing is blasphemous!” Colonel Pomeroy’s expression of shocked outrage matched his tone. He slammed a fist down on the conference table. “The rankest sort of violation!”
Major Fitzhugh shrugged. “Only by the lights of the Anglican Church, really.”
“Does anything else matter?” Colonel Pomeroy started up out of his chair.
“Attitudes like that are what set off the sepoys back before the Raj,” Brigadier Hanover-Welles said quietly. Colonel Pomeroy froze, and slowly sat back down.
“All I’m suggesting is that we make use of the available resources and fight fire with fire,” Major Fitzhugh said after a moment of silence.
“Those who battle monsters must take care, lest monsters they too become,” the brigadier quoted. “But let’s at least hear this out.”
“Thank you, sir.” The major slid a photographic plate out of a cardstock envelope and laid it on the table. “Here you see one of the Haitian priests – “
“Find another word for those damned heathen savages,” the colonel growled.
“Houngans, then, if you will.” Major Fitzhugh cocked an eyebrow at the colonel and waited for a reply, but got no more than a grunt. “One of the houngans, having just raised three cadavers that our doctor certified had been dead at least four days. They had neither heartbeat, pulse, nor respiration afterward. The effort drained the houngan considerably, or at least he gave the impression, although I suspect he played it up a bit to get more of our whiskey.”
“Giving alcohol to savages never works out well,” Colonel Pomeroy harrumphed. “Didn’t in the Americas, hasn’t in the Gruv, won’t in Haiti.”
“So these cadavers,” the brigadier mused, pulling the plate closer for an inspection. “They were able to follow simple orders, do basic work?”
“Quite readily,” Major Fitzhugh confirmed. “They did not respond to anyone but the houngan initially, but he put two of them at my command – “
“There’s more for the confessional,” the colonel growled. The brigadier shot him a look and he subsided.
“The two under my command responded to orders that you’d expect a Haitian native to understand. About face, they just stood there, but turn round and around they went, not smartly, a bit uncoordinated, but being dead and all, that’s understandable.”
“Mm-hm.” The brigadier continued his study of the photograph. “What about shooting? How was their marksmanship?”
“Terrible, I’m afraid. The houngan said they could only do what they knew when they were alive, and neither man had ever handled a rifle before. Once you’re dead, your ability to learn comes to a halt,it seems.”
The brigadier nodded. “Well, that makes a sort of sense.”
“There’s a bit more.” The major slid another plate out of the envelope. “The process works on animals as well.”
“Really?” The brigadier pulled the plate over. Colonel Pomeroy sat up a bit straighter.
“He raised a dog and a cayman, one of those alligator sort of beasts. The dog obeyed a few basic commands, sit, stay, fetch, like you’d expect a dog to, but the cayman went wild, absolutely mad, attacked everything it could reach. Fortunately, we’d staked it down with a heavy chain before the ritual, so all it could actually get its jaws on was a goat we’d tied up nearby. Poor thing was ripped apart in seconds.”
“Doesn’t sound all that useful,” Colonel Pomeroy grumbled.
“About as useful as those soda bottle grenades we used in the Crimean,” the major replied confidently. “Put a dead cayman in a strong crate, then raise it. Open the crate when it’s pointing at a squad of Samsut troops. Out comes the cayman and goes straight for the first thing it sees. Damned things keep snapping until their jaws are shot away or the spell is broken.”
“So they can be put back down?” the brigadier asked.
“Oh, yes. The houngan who raises a zombie, so we’ve got it on passable authority, there is no really good authority on these matters you understand, can put it back down with just a few words. He’s got the off switch in his hand, so to speak, because he created the on switch. Another houngan can put it down, but it takes a bit of work, as he hasn’t got the switch ready to hand and has to sort of build one on the fly. I’m sorry, the analogy totally breaks down.”
“No, that’s fine.” The brigadier waved a demurring hand. “I’ve got the idea.”
“We’ve got a ready supply of molecrabs from the Alice and Gruv,” Captain Jarrod put in, the meeting finally getting round to his part. “Tusk’rs and cheshires and such ought to be easy enough to come by, if we offer a bounty for intact specimens.”
“Right then.” The brigadier stood. The rest of the officers did likewise.
“You’re not seriously going to consider this, are you?” Colonel Pomeroy asked querulously.
“Pommie, old boy, I’ll give serious consideration to anything that might win us this war. Dismissed, gentlemen.”