Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Juju Zombie

I’m honestly kind of surprised the term “juju zombie” has survived.  Juju, after all, is part of an actual belief system—one that was imported to the U.S. via slavery.  And while we’ve sort of informally adopted similar notions like kismet and karma into our lives and language, we don’t name our monsters after them. 

(Then again, we regularly use angels and devils, but that gets into a whole debate about 1) borrowing from a dominant culture vs. appropriating from a less privileged/oppressed one and 2) are religions not fair game but myths and legends are and 3) where do you draw the line when it comes to folklore and 4) aaaaaugh!  Let’s stop there.  You get the idea.  This stuff is hard.  Sometimes you just have to acknowledge a vague feeling of icky and move on.  At least we can be glad our hobby never gave a race of evil elves black skin and ohcrapitneverends—)

That said, it’s easy to see why juju zombies themselves survived—they’re simply great monsters.  Players very quickly get used to what undead can do and the recipes for defeating each, so “surprise undead” are crucial tools for the mid- to high-level GM.  Juju zombies are one of the first of these surprise undead: looks like a minion, fights like an NPC.

Story-wise, that’s automatically interesting: What sworn oaths/animating impulse/fell magicks allow them to retain such life?  Their special abilities also suggest that they are specifically created by evil priests and necromancers as mage-killers (fire resistance 10; immunity to cold, electricity, and—tellingly—magic missile). 

Finally, let’s go back to that problematic source material.  Juju often suggests a physical fetish or a magical geis has been invoked, so juju zombies might have spirits preserved/trapped in certain objects or be punishments for broken contracts—if they would not serve in life, they will in death.  Meanwhile, the original Vodou zombies were supposedly called back as slave labor…or might not even have died in the first place, being instead the result of psychological trauma or illness.  In a fantasy world, perhaps juju zombies didn’t start as undead, but became such when someone forgot to feed them or buried them alive while they were still charmed or dominated

Mage duels in the magocracy of Harsk are ritual, highly regimented, rarely lethal affairs.  As this rarely satisfies the haughty Harsk spellslingers, mage killings are taken care of in a more direct fashion: zombies released into a rival’s tower to set off the magical defenses, with a juju zombie in the rear to make the kill.

Enchanters tend to hate necromancy, as their school is nearly useless against undead.  Quell Vartin, however, has a passion for collecting unique servants—a tengu battlemage, a female Briell dervish, a nagaji wrestler, and so on.  Rather than let death take her playthings, she seals them in glass coffins to be displayed as trophies and animated as juju zombies as needed.

The ninjas of the White Cicada Clan swear oaths that last beyond the grave.  Even after death, they serve the dojo as juju zombie guards.  The men are not the only undying sentinels, either—even the deathly white carp in the koi ponds are juju zombies (use giant gar as the base creature).

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 291

I…totally did not mean to write an essay.  I totally don’t have time to be writing essays.  D’oh!  (And I have more on the way.)

But!  Enough of that now.  It’s time to talk about Reader-Generated Random Hooks!

Friday we start on the K monsters (which is actually a lousy place to start this experiment, but we shall boldly forge on anyway).  And I want to give you, the readers, a chance to help generate the adventure seeds.

So grab your Core Rulebook or Game Mastery Guide or favorite Pathfinder Adventure Path or whatever and start rolling on the random tables.  Give me three results for whatever tables you like—perhaps a monster, a magic item, and a planar location, or a natural disaster, an NPC trait, and a terrain type—whichever tables catch your eye or that you use most in your campaign.  Send me your three results (and let me know if they come from someplace obscure like a single Adventure Path issue if they’re not from the core books), and I’ll do my very best to put them in an upcoming post. 

Deal?  I’m excited.  Hope you are, too.  Submit your roll results to my Gmail account (dailybestiary at you know the rest) or use the Ask About Monsters link.

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