“Where is Doctor Norris? I heard he didn’t make it.”
“He’s in the refrigerated trailer outside, there wasn’t any more room in the morgue.”
“No one was out there when I checked.”
Just then the alarm went off, and screams could be heard from the COVID-19 isolation ward.
Police were called, but none of them dared enter without protective gear.
A nurse came running out and explained what was going on….
Dr. Norris had returned for his Tuesday 18-hour shift.
These tragic undead have appeared countless times in history. In ancient Rome, there are accounts of them appearing during the Antonine Plague; they appeared several times across Europe during the various waves of the Black Plague; they appeared in the Americas and Caribbean during the waves of Yellow Fever; then again during the Spanish Flu pandemic. Unfortunately, with the rise of COVID-19 in 2020, they are appearing once more.
A plague martyr is a medical professional: a nurse or doctor, a paramedic or herbalist healer, an orderly or untrained assistant. All plague martyrs share one thing in common—in life they were utterly dedicated to helping others, passionate servants to the greater good, placing the lives of their patients above their own. They spend their final days desperately tending to the sick during a plague, often after weeks or months spent desperately treating wave after wave of patients. Surrounded by the dead and dying, day after day, feeling lost and overwhelmed, their focus remains on summoning the strength to keep going, to keep working, to keep fighting to save as many lives as they can, and offer comfort in the final moments to those they can’t.
Typically, they die of whatever illness they were trying to heal in their patients. At the time of their deaths they are consumed by feelings of hopelessness, dread, and utter exhaustion on both a physical and spiritual level. So strong are their resolve and dedication that some dark and mischievous force grants them these people their greatest wish as they die—the ability to keep working.
Sometimes, multiple plague martyrs manifest, forming undead teams, taking over clinics or hospital wards, going about their grisly rounds. There is one historical account of the HMS hospital ship Benevolence being completely overrun with more than a dozen plague martyrs during the Third Cholera Pandemic (1852-1859) off the coast of Malaysia. Accounts claim that all patients onboard ultimately died, the few surviving staff were forced to abandon ship, and the Benevolence was sunk by naval gunfire.
After death, a plague martyr rises from the dead and attempts to return to work. They shuffle along, with their medical bags and protective gear, and attempt to treat the sick. In their twisted minds they have simply recovered from their illness, some people do survive and recover after all, and they are simply trying to go back to work. There is no time to rest, and for them it is literally true. They cannot speak (although they think they do), communicating in grunts and groans and the occasional hand gesture.
Unfortunately, plague martyrs are walking corpses. Their decaying forms teem with pathogens, most often including whatever dire sickness they themselves died of. While trying to help, they spread illness and death wherever they go, a fact they are somehow incapable of comprehending. All First Aid and Medicine checks performed by a plague martyr suffer 2 penalty dice. If their roll fails, their patient’s already fragile condition drastically worsen.
Fighting a Plague Martyr: Those encountering plague martyrs up close (within 60 feet) feel what they are feeling, incredible physical and emotional exhaustion. It is nearly crippling, and causes all skill and ability checks rolled within this radius to be rolled with 1 penalty die. If a plague martyr is blocked, or prevented from treating their patients, they spiral out of control and become violent, trying to kill whoever is keeping them from their duty to tend to the sick. They attack with bites, blows, and rend flesh with their bare hands. Alternately they can also employ simple weapons that they find around them, usually bits of medical equipment.
In combat plague martyrs are very similar to zombies, in that they are incredibly resistant to harm and require specific damage to the head to dispatch. This is made more difficult than usual due to the aura of despair that they radiate, requiring attack rolls made with 2 penalty dice. However, plague martyrs can be reasoned with.
Reasoning with a Plague Martyr: If they are told that their shift is over, that they can rest, that they’ve done enough and others will handle things from here, and a successful Hard Persuade check is made, they may wander off to find a place to rest and then never rise up again. If they are lied to, with explanations such as the crisis is over, the plague was a hoax all along, or they are not needed, this requires a Hard Fast Talk check. Keepers can impose bonus or penalty dice as they like for things like having known the creature in life, being a fellow doctor, or one of their recovered patients.
(4D6+2) × 5
(6D6+6) × 5
(2D6+6) × 5
(2D3+6) × 5
(4D6+4) × 5
(2D6+6) × 5
Average Hit Points: 17
Average Damage Bonus: +1D4
Average Build: +1
Average Magic Points: 13
Attacks per round: 1 (rip, tear, bite or with simple weapon)
Most Plague Martyrs use their hands and teeth to tear and bite, some may use whatever item of medical equipment on hand as a melee weapons.
Fighting 30% (15/69), damage 1D4+DB
Dodge Plague Martyr’s rarely dodge
First Aid 65%*, Medicine 65%.
* = with 2 penalty dice.
Armor: none; a major wound results in the loss of a limb, otherwise, ignore damage except to the head (one penalty die on rolls to target the head). Projects aura of despair and exhaustion: 1 penalty die to all opponents in a 60-foot radius.
Sanity Loss: 0/1D4 Sanity points to encounter a “fresh” Plague Martyr; 1/1D6 to encounter a decaying Plague Martyr.