City/ Ruin
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June 10, 2012, 5:48 am

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Time Zombie


Death is the fate of every birth, and life is only a brief loan of light before the eternal darkness swallows us.  The remaining years of life have been stolen from the creatures known as Time Zombies, who stalk the living in the hopes of stealing a few more years of precious life.

Time Zombies (also known as Paradox Wights) have no ecology.  They are created when a time-traveler creates a paradox, and attempts to return to a time and place that do not exist.  Because the condition transfers but does not multiply, Time Zombies are usually only found in Nihilum, the domain of Tovavel, the tortoise god of Time, Reptiles, and Endings.

A time Zombie resembles a zombie (at least until you see it move).  Its skin is drawn and tight, and evidence of long rot is apparent in all parts of the body.  Its limbs appear to teleport in place, appearing as flickering postures of time-spawned possibilities.  When not appearing to teleport, a Time Zombie moves slowly.  A time zombie speaks one phase mindlessly whenever it is closing in on prey: “Your time is up.”  This is decieving, since Time Zombies are not intelligent or even very perceptive.

A Time Zombie has three abilities.

Grim Potentialities

The future is a crossroads split by different possibilities, and Time Zombies stagger through these future options in the same way that they stagger though everything else.  Every few seconds, a Time Zombie appears to be in a different time stream, affected by a different reality.  This effect is purely cosmetic.

If this effect ever has an effect on a game, you’re doing it wrong.  It should be flavor, nothing more.  If the time zombie is fighting an archer, it might temporarily appear in a corner of the room, slumped over and pierced with many arrows.  If one of the party members fled the previous turn, it should appear in a different location for a fraction of a second, appearing to chase that party member.  Et cetera.  After this effect, it reverts to its normal movement and attacks.

The Turbulent Weave of Time

Every turn, roll a 1d4.

1 – The zombie jumps forward in time.  It disappears, and reappears in the same place one turn later.

2 – The zombie jumps backwards in time.  Before the ‘current zombie’ takes its turn, figure out where it is most likely to end its turn.  Place a ‘future zombie’ there (a copy of the zombie that will travel back in time at the end of this turn).  The ‘future zombie’ and the ‘current zombie’ take their turns simultaneously.  At the end of the turn, the ‘current zombie’ disappears (since it went back in time to become the ‘future zombie’ in the past).

3 – Step through time.  The zombie seems to teleport a short distance as its time accelerates relative to ours.

4 – Slow local time.  The zombie delays all damage and effects for one turn, by acting out an alternate time path where it wasn’t affected by them.

The Time-Stealing Claw

The Time Zombie can hit an enemy with a Time-Stealing Claw attack.  An opponent hit by this attack must resist the chrononecromantic energies of it, or be instantly aged—their hair falls out, their teeth rot, they die, and become a Time Zombie.  Although bodies have withered, their minds have not, and they have control over their zombie body for a few more seconds after death.

The original zombie who stole the time is instantly regenerated—their hair regrows, their skin un-shrivels, and they appear to be the age they were when they first turned into a Time Zombie.  This is an effective resurrection, and the person will have a rough memory of their time spent as a Time Zombie, and will probably flee from the newly forged time Zombie.

The new Time Zombie (e.g. the PC who got hit by the claw attack and turned into a zombie) will have an opportunity to steal their time back from the original Time Zombie (who is probably now a living dude fleeing from the PC) by hitting him with their own Time-Stealing Claw.  However, after a minute or two, the crushing strength of chrono-undeath will be too much to endure, and the new Time Zombie will lose all memory and motivation from their former life.

After this ability has succeeded, it may not be used again until the following day.


Powerful mortal spellcasters sometimes choose to become Time Zombies.  These powerful creatures are called Paradox Liches.  Although these creatures have sacrificed most of their spellcasting abilities, there is no limit to how many times they can use Time-Stealing Claw, and the ability creates normal Time Zombies under the lich's control (while the Lich remains a Lich).  Furthermore, the Paradox Lich has perfect control over their Weave of Time ability.  And unlike normal liches, Paradox Liches hide their phylacteries in time.



Flavor Text:

Hesperion the Wizard was started casting a spell to immolate the zombie long before it noticed him.  The zombie’s figure shifted, strobing between hunched and outreaching as it shambled towards him.  For a moment, the zombie appeared as a charred corpse in the corner, but then the moment was over, and the zombie was even closer than before.  This was creepy, Hesperion decided, as he unleashed his spell and bathed the zombie in a wreath of flame.

But it was not enough to kill it.  From 50 feet away, the Time Zombie seemed to stall on a time-loop, repeating a fpotstep exactly as a record skips a beat.  Then, without warning or explanation, the Time Zombie was beside Hesperion, rending him with its claws.  There was dire magic in those talons, and Hesperion felt himself fall under its influence.

Three feet away, the original Time Zombie gasped and coughed grave dust from its lungs.  It tripled in weight as its withered flesh was flushed with renewed life.  The stolen time returned to the Time Zombie, and it suddenly turned into a puffy-faced merchant named Oscario.  “I’m alive again!  It was all just a nightmare,” Oscario said before he noticed the wizard-turned-zombie.  “Aaah!  An abomination!  I won’t have you steal my life!  Not again!”  And Oscario the merchant turned and fled from Hesperion the wizard.

All the deaths that Hesperion could have died across his entire life flickered through him as he succumbed to the Time Zombie’s claw.  He watched his flesh dessicate and peel back.  His eyes rolled back and his skin shriveled.  He had become a Time Zombie.  Already a pressure was clamping down on his mind like a vice—a few more seconds and he would lose all sense of identity and self.  As Hesperion watched Oscario flee, he knew that he must catch the man and steal his time back, or remain forever as a zombie.  But wheezing Oscario was hustling away, and Hesperion's rotted legs were so very slow. . .

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Comments ( 16 )
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Voted Mourngrymn
June 9, 2012, 8:48
Ok. I like this. Some crazy form of a Romero movie meets The movie In Time. It's really creepy to have undead act in a way we normally wouldn't think such as have intelligence, move exceptionally fast, or shift through time. I like it it's unique to me.

I can see a pack of these however taking over and effectively beating a powerful group off players having three or four of these in a group could decimate the ranks of powerful characters which begs the question, how many do you encounter at once? If it is just one then these Time Zombies must be really powerful.

One aspect you didn't hit on was why they were created. They don't look to me as being very good guards since they have a main goal of stealing time from someone to get their life back and the fact they can teleport through time seems unstable to have them in a keep or fortification to protect an evil bad guy without having the worry of them turning on them.

Another thing I don't understand is you said it is not contagious which leads me to believe they are only created as Time Zombies, see previous remark, yet they Turn their victims into a Time Zombie taking their place. Quite quickly i might add. It seems it is inevitable once they hit you your doomed.

Not that this is bad, but it seems far to over powered. If you see one of these things it seems almost impossible to kill it because of the shifting ability and it seems it's a sure thing that it will turn someone.

If that is what you were going for than kudos. I love impossible encounters that the players can not win by might alone. Which makes me wonder if there is only one of these since they seem so damn impossible to destroy then perhaps there is only one of them.

I can see my group of players trap their companion that was infected by the zombie and await an evil bad guy to infect to transfer the condition.

Like I said I love it. It's devious and brutal, other than the few issues I noted personally, I think this is a grand zombie.
June 9, 2012, 14:43
Yeah, they are really powerful for a zombie. Maybe I should have called them "time geists" or something. I think I should limit Time-Stealing claw to 1/day, though.

Their weakness = they are still zombies. They are slow, don't do much damage, aren't supernaturally durabale, and have poor perception. Most turns, they just shuffle towards you. If they start really close to you, they might hit you with their Time-Stealing Claw. They aren't really intelligent, even though they speak.

You're right. Contagious is the wrong word. What I meant was they can't multiply (only exchange the condition).

They are created when a person creates a paradox by time-traveling and is unable to reenter the normal flow of time. They are shunted into the timestream as a Time Zombie. (I forgot to add a background section, Thanks).

And while the travel in groups (the five adventurers who killed their common grandfather), what would happen in practice is: the party would kill a couple before the zombies even got to them, and they would 'catch' the revived NPC (who stole time from one of the players) and throw him back to the transformed player.

Having said that, I like your vision of a 'hard mode' version of these things. I'll add something about that.

Voted chilled
June 9, 2012, 17:19
Only voted
Voted Cheka Man
June 9, 2012, 18:28
They must be what happens when a time machine breaks. 5/5
Voted Kassy
June 9, 2012, 19:00
An interesting foe. I like the idea of there only being one at a time too.

June 9, 2012, 21:31
These are very interesting and the time effects are quite cool.Am not a fan of save-or-die, so I would have a multi-round 'wrestling match' once the zombie caught hold, all the while battering the victims defenses. should the victim manage to break free, the zombie would disappear screaming and no ill effect on the victim, otherwise they take the zombies place.
Voted valadaar
June 9, 2012, 21:31
These are very interesting and the time effects are quite cool.Am not a fan of save-or-die, so I would have a multi-round 'wrestling match' once the zombie caught hold, all the while battering the victims defenses. should the victim manage to break free, the zombie would disappear screaming and no ill effect on the victim, otherwise they take the zombies place.
June 10, 2012, 0:47
It's not quite save-or-die. The next turn, you get a chance to steal your time back. I imagine it being more save-or-be-traumatized-forever.
June 10, 2012, 8:25
I think what Val is saying it seems that the zombie only has to hit you once in order to steal your life force. There are creatures in other systems that have a specialized attack that takes affect only after a series of attacks.

For instance claw, claw, bite. The zombie claws at their victim with each claw. Each successful claw is a wounding hit but is intended to sink in and grab a hold. Once both claws are successful and their victim is held they make a bite attack to drain their victim. Similar to a vampire, which is what I was thinking in the beginning but instead of blood they drink it is your "soul" or your "chi".

Doing it this way gives the victim a chance to break free with a contested strength check or some such roll. Some people may not be strong enough to break free or even fast enough to defend from the two claw attacks. Not saying you need to change it but I think that is what Val is kind of getting at.
Voted Silveressa
June 10, 2012, 4:21
A fun and unique take on zombies, the kind of thing that lends itself extremely well to a one shot adventure of to wrap up a convention marathon.

I can see these things making an appearance in Doctor Who RPG or TORG adventures easily; they could be plugged into Rifts with a little work as well.

Fun Stuff!
Voted Dragonlordmax
June 10, 2012, 16:55
I'll agree with everyone else and say that I like them. They're flexible, evocative, interesting... what's not to like?

One thing that I think could potentially be interesting would be to use these guys like an involuntary time machine. You know: they catch the PCs, infect the PCs, and the PCs wake up 100 years later when they've caught someone else.

I'm also a bit curious what happens if you kill one. Does the universe go into time debt? Or do things just kind of go back to normal?
June 11, 2012, 1:16

Holy smokes, that's a really good idea, Dragon. (Max?) Involuntary time machines are fun. Or the person that the party needs to find is a Time Zombie. Time debt is a good idea, too. I'd imagine that when you kill them, they might just leave an ordinary corpse. Destruction de-zombifies them.

Voted MysticMoon
June 16, 2012, 18:12
An excellent idea and a fitting danger lurking for those who too casually mess with time.
Voted Chaosmark
June 16, 2012, 22:34
I agree with Val and Mourn about the Time-Claw being a smidge too unfightable. Were I to use these, it'd probably be a multi-turn combo, not just a single successful attack.

That minor bit aside, I really like the rest of it. The Liche version seems like a standard upgrade, but I'm not too sure most groups of NPCs would survive such an encounter. One Time Zombie is dangerous enough as is; a swarm of them is likely to be short and brutal. Combined with a boss-level master controlling and backing up said swarm, you've got a TPK on your hands.

As an aside, do you envision them being killable? Or just eternally passing on their condition from one person to another?
Voted Agar
June 17, 2012, 3:19
They are a powerful undead being lost in time, more powerful than I'd like my mindless shamblers to be. I am more intrigued by the "Time Lich" idea than the zombie, but the idea itself is fleshed out well, for certain views of time.
Voted caesar193
December 13, 2012, 22:20
I like these things. I, like other, feel that the time claw is perhaps to powerful- perhaps they can latch on and suck the time out of you while you try to fight them off? Then you could have multiple rolls/saves to see if you still live, but have each progressive roll/save get harder because as your age get higher, your strength gets lower.

Other than that, I love these guys.

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