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Ex Libris Nocturnis - http://www.nocturnis.net By: J. Edward Tremlett (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) Summary: H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West: Reanimator for Wraith: The Great War This is a supplement for Wraith: The Great War that incorporates the titular character from H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West: Reanimator. It takes full advantage of Dr. West's participation in World War I, illustrating how his reanimation fluid would work, what he might create with it and how Storytellers could use him in their Great War Chronicles. According to Herbert West: Reanimator, Dr. West and his assistant were medical officers with the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) in Ypres, Belgium. Their entry into the war prefigured that of their own country, but they didn"t go out of any sense of duty, or concern for Europe. Their interests were in securing fresh bodies for Dr. West's hideous medical experiments: using the raw material to perfect his techniques of making the dead rise again. As written here, Dr. West was at Ypres from late November of 1914 to late November of 1917 - a timeline useful for Great War Storytellers. It not only incorporates all three major Skinlands battles around Ypres, but also incorporates the 4th Great Maelstrom's eruption at the Somme, and the Smiling Lord's Insurrection. This gives Storytellers a fairly wide range in which to use Dr. West and his gruesome experiments. In order to use this supplement, Storytellers will need copies of Wraith: The Oblivion and Wraith: the Great War. They will definitely want a copy of Herbert West: Reanimator on hand for roleplaying purposes, background and reference. They may also wish to have a copy of Vampire: The Masquerade handy if they plan to use the Giovanni, but can also just use the rules on pp. 201 - 203 of Wraith: The Great War. All quotations are from Herbert West: Reanimator.
Dr. Herbert West - Canadian Officer, Scientific Necromancer
When Canada pledged its support to Britain's war effort, Dr. West saw a golden opportunity to get more raw materials for experiments. He went up to Ottawa to speak to a colleague, Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, D.S.O. Through that man's help he secured a medical commission as a Major, as well as a First Lieutenants position for his assistant. He also managed to interest Clapham-Lee in his experiments. The three officers were with the 1st Canadian Contingent when it sailed across the Atlantic for England in 1914, with West taking the opportunity to expound on his theories for Clapham-Lee's benefit. When their ship arrived in England, Dr. West was asked to gather a unit of personnel to head for France straightaway, rather than waiting for the Canadians to be brought up to speed. The British needed more people on the continent immediately. West complied, taking his assistant along and leaving Major Clapham-Lee with some of his notes. They rendezvoused with the British 7th Division in Belgium, and have been in or around Ypres since then. (1)
The B.E.F's Medical Units and Dr. West
The British forces developed a systematic way of dealing with their wounded soldiers. After they were carried off the field, and had preliminary first aid performed by field medics, they were taken to "casualty clearing stations" for evaluation. Those who needed immediate care were retained for surgery, as were those who were too sick to be moved. Those whose injuries weren"t immediately life-threatening were put onto transports, and sent to better facilities far behind the lines. Dr. West will be working in the clearing stations for most of his time in the war, rarely leaving the mobile surgical units at all. Everyone is supposed to be on weekly duty rotation to keep their minds fresh, but West will insist on spending as much time "helping the boys" as possible. That sort of attitude is rarely rebuffed in time of dire need, but he"ll pull rank to stay if he has to. He may be entitled to more leave time, as an officer, but he will refuse to take a vacation. In the morning and early afternoons, Dr. West and his assistant will be found working in relays with other surgeons and nurses, tending to the wounded and maimed. When he can be persuaded to take a break, he will go out and evaluate incoming casualties. In both cases, he will do his best to secure specimens for his research: evaluating how someone's nervous system might be when deciding if they stay here or go somewhere else, or looking for interesting parts to amputate. In the evenings, the two of them will be in West's private laboratory. Astute onlookers will also see them wandering around the stacks of casualties outside the field hospital. They might also be seen taking one or two "out to bury," claiming the fellow was showing symptoms of some nasty disease they don"t want going around. Odd noises, like muffled gunshots, will come from the direction of the lab in the wee hours of the night. Dr. West's assistant 'drops things a lot"; He's terribly sorry for the fuss.
The Lab, its Contents and What Goes on There
Before late March of 1915, Dr. West's lab will be an east room in a barn-like field hospital. After that time it will be a large, abandoned shed. Both of them will be a few kilometers behind the lines of St. Eloi, four Kilometers south of Ypres along the Salient. West secures these facilities to devise "new and radical treatment" for maimed soldiers, pulling rank to keep onlookers out.
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The well-equipped, harshly-lit lab is filled with horrors. Maimed, dead bodies lie on tables and the floor, and human parts and other, less identifiable things are piled up to the ankles in goopy, glistening rows. Some of these are piles of spare parts, and some are West's past and present projects, thoughtfully toe-tagged with amusing and descriptive names. Dr. West has a good supply of reanimation fluid handy both here and elsewhere, in a secure cache. He also has developed an embalming preservative of such strength that a single dose can arrest decay for up to a month. His most recent triumph is a reptilebased solution that allows for the improved preservation, and mismatched joining, of various body parts. The reptilian goo is usually left bubbling in a vat over a gas burner, and extracted in syringes when needed for an experiment. If nothing drastic happens to the two men over the course of the Chronicle, the two doctors will perform ghastly experiments using the war dead, and their parts, almost every night. This will mostly consist of West's creating any number of Incomplete Things (see "Vital Statistics", below). He usually dispatches these underfoot or with a revolver, causing the noises attributed to his assistant's "clumsiness". The only break this routine follows the reanimation of Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, D.S.O, in late March of 1915. A German shell tears into the clearing station late at night, nearly killing both West and his assistant. They are the only two survivors of the cataclysm. They will be sent to the nearest hospital and treated for their non-crippling injuries for five weeks, and then they will return to Ypres. After that, Dr. West will salvage what he can and go back to work. For the rest of his time in the war he could go back to making Incomplete Things, or might decide to retry his luck with Zombies (as described in Vital Statistics). Whatever happens is up to the Storyteller as best fits her game. (2)
The Reanimation Fluid
Dr. West's claim to infamy, the reanimation fluid is designed to force a cadaver's chemical processes back into motion, so it may "be set going again in the peculiar fashion known as life". West refuses to believe in the human soul, feeling that all notions of identity and memory are merely chemical and electrical processes that can be restarted through science. His ultimate goal, then, is to reanimate someone to the point where both mind and body are fully brought back from death. Unlike most zombies, the creatures that Dr. West reanimates ARE brought back to life - after a fashion. They have life signs and their biological processes all function, though these are very consistent with someone on their deathbed. Such creatures can continue like this for quite some time: Dr. Allan Halsey "lived" for sixteen years after his reanimation. The largest problem with the reanimation formula is that it is in no way a universal one: the strength and particulars have to be changed to meet the needs of each corpse. Dr. West is limited to the science and theories of his time, and while some of the chemical processes that govern life are known in 1915, the discovery that genes control chemical reactions in cells won"t be made until the early 1950's. So, for all his careful notes and tireless experimenting, Dr. West's research is still about a quarter guesswork, and half sheer luck. The other problem - as any wraith could tell you - is that West is very wrong about the veracity of the human soul, though you'd never know if just from looking at his results. He has unwittingly capitalized on the fact that dead bodies leave a chemical "imprint" of their former occupants" memories, personality and the like in the brain at death. In cases where he has restarted the mind's higher processes, it was this "imprint" that caused the bodies to act the way they did. This imprint isn"t very stable, though: it fades within anywhere from a few hours to a day after death. The reanimation fluid can cause the imprint to reactivate the brain's higher functions, but if he's too late injecting the fluid, it's gone, and the best he can get is a mindless Zombie. (3) Having a body for a Fetter is bad news when Dr. West comes to town. If he succeeds in the reanimation then nothing happens to the Wraith right away, though a Perception + Awareness roll (difficulty 7) will make her realize that someone's messing with one of her Fetters; A use of Lifeweb will also reveal this, and provide more details. But if the reanimated body 'dies" again, it ceases to be a Fetter and the Wraith will go into a Target Harrowing.
Reanimation System: Making a Zombie means properly mixing the fluid for a specific body, which requires an Intelligence +
Medicine at a difficulty of 10. This difficulty has a minus 1 modifier for every half an hour that the character spends examining the body, and preparing the fluid based on what she observes. The Storyteller should make this roll in secret, and if it succeeds, then the formula has a chance to work as outlined below. Failure means it won"t do anything, and a botch creates some spectacular mishap, which is up to the Storyteller to decide: animated, doctor-strangling lengths of intestine which burst out of the chest are always a fun problem... If a successful dose of Reanimation Fluid is injected into the corpse after death, there is a chance, however slim, that the mind will reactivate. The Storyteller should roll the former Willpower of the corpse at a difficulty of 9, and each success on that roll will bring back both one point of the corpse's former Intelligence Attribute and one point of Permanent Willpower. However, every hour that the body is dead prior to being given the fluid reduces that Willpower pool by one die. This, of course, includes the time that the characters spend properly preparing the solution! Failure on the Willpower roll, or using up the corpse's entire Willpower pool due to the passage of time, still produces a Zombie if the dose was successful. However, such a creature will be a mindless, bestial and uncontrollable thing. A botch will produce anything from failure of the solution to work, to a fairly weird "half-reanimation" where the body opens its eyes, does or says one thing and then goes back to being inert matter again. When making Incomplete Things, the Storyteller rolls the character's Intelligence + Medicine at a difficulty of 8, since these creatures
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aren"t as complicated as Zombies. However, they can only be reanimated if they are constructed using the reptilian tissue West has cultured. Without it, the reanimation fluid will not work on them. There is no chance of Intelligence coming back to these creations, even if made with a brain, so the Storyteller does not have to worry about making the second, secret roll. Use the stats for Zombies and Incomplete Things, given below under "Vital Statistics," when making or roleplaying such creatures.
Timeline for Dr. West's Great War Service
Dr. West's actions and whereabouts are presented here, along with the historical record of things that happened along the Ypres Salient. Major events that happen in the Shadowlands are in italics.
Aug 5th: Britain declares war and takes Canada along with them. Late Aug: Dr. West goes to Canada and talks to Major Clapham-Lee about joining up; secures rank of Major for himself, and First
Lieutenant for his assistant; begins showing his notes and results to Clapham-Lee, who is very interested.
Oct 14th: 1st contingent Canadian Expeditionary Force arrives in England. Dr. West, his assistant and ten others sent ahead to join
the British Expeditionary Force already in France.
Oct 30th - Nov 24th: First Battle of Ypres; B.E.F.'s manages to take the town from the Germans, but can go no further; the trenches
go up and active engagement turns into stalemate punctuated by slaughter.
Mar 14th: Germans take 750 yards in front of St. Eloi, including high ground; British retake most of it, except for high ground. Late Mar: Major Clapham-Lee killed in airplane accident; Dr. West and his assistant reanimate his corpse; German shell obliterates
the field hospital moments later; West and assistant are the only survivors, and are sent away to recuperate.
Apr 22nd - May 25th: Second Battle of Ypres; first use of poison gas on Western Front by Germans on April 22nd; Dr. West and
assistant back at the front by May 3rd; Germans succeed in taking back a little of what they lost, but not nearly enough.
1916 Apr 06: The Battle of St. Eloi Craters. Jun: The 4th Great Maelstrom breaks out at the Somme; Necropoli fall and falter as the winds and Spectres cut their defenders to pieces 1917 Jan: The Insurrection begins; the Night of Short Chains(4) Jun 7th: 19 mines detonated under German lines. Jul 31st - Nov 10th: Third Battle of Ypres; British efforts hampered by inclement weather; first try at taking Passchendaele fails Oct 12; the town finally falls on November 10th; victory does not give the British the breakthrough they'd wanted. Late Nov: Dr. West and his assistant come to the end of their term and go back to America.
Things to do with Dr. West
Below are some ideas on how to utilize Dr. West in your Wraith: The Great War game. The Skinbag did WHAT? Probably the most obvious way to use Dr. West is to have him try to reanimate the body of one of the player's Wraiths. This could also be done to the body of an NPC, who then turns to the character for help or advice, but it's a lot more immediate if one of the characters has to deal with it from a first-hand basis. Lost Fetters need reattaching, especially here, and especially when the Maelstrom's on. Whoever has it happen will probably feel violated by the whole process and want revenge, or to stop it from happening again. And if the player characters can cross the Shroud using Embody or the like, and Dr. West successfully reanimates her body to the point where the chemical imprint is mostly or fully reactivated, the Wraith may wind up dealing with her own, reanimated body - a body that's intelligent, with her memories, personality and former goals.
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The Giovanni Connection A few of the more intrepid members of the Clan head north to try and milk the conflict for all its worth. If anyone would smoke out Dr. West's doings in Ypres, it would be one of their number. Though what West is doing is crude by their standards, his explorer's zeal and perverse methods would be much to their liking. West, of course, will no more believe in vampires than Ghosts. If Dominated, ghouled or embraced he will strive to find the most logical explanation for his unusual behaviors and/or physical changes, denying to the last that anything 'supernatural" has happened to him. His assistant might not be so blasé, though, and how that plays out is up to the Storyteller to decide. For more details on Giovanni activities during WWI, see pp 201 - 203 of Wraith: The Great War. I got your Dictum Mortuum right here... One day, Dr. West makes the mistake of messing with the wrong bag of bones. Someone with the connections to get a group out of DM-violation trouble has cause to see that law broken over Dr. West's head, and the characters" talents in that field have made them the ones to talk to. And they"ll be paid well, too... Promises and assurances aside, the Circle will still have to be careful. Even if the person offering them the cash or favors for the job says she can get them out of the mess if they"re found out, there's no guarantee her word will have any sway. And they don"t know that she won"t hang them out to dry when West's dead, either. Charge of the Dead Brigade West's experiments in Chapter V of Herbert West: Reanimator are mostly aimed at reanimating mismatched piles of human tissue. However, after his raising of Clapham-Lee - proving his theories on the central nervous system's being unnecessary for mental reanimation to occur - he might change tacks and go back to perfecting the reanimation of full corpses. And if those efforts are anything like previous ones, there will be lots of cases where he considers something a failure and has it buried, only to find it's crawled out of its hole and is wreaking havoc somewhere. So there might well be cases where dead men rise up and shamble about a day or so after their internment. In the general confusion of the trenches they might be mistaken for shell-shocked soldiers and taken off to hospital, at which point someone will say "But he's dead, sir! I buried him two days ago!" Loads of fun, and also a great way to get the characters to know that something unusual is going on. At the very least, it might prompt the characters" superiors into having them see what the hell is happening. And who's to say that West might not try to raise a whole squad of dead men from the dirt, and let them loose on the battlefield just to see what happens? At the very least it would make for an amusing spectacle. He might even learn something...
Dr. (Major) Herbert West: Tow-headed Technological Necromancer "He was small, blond, clean-shaven, soft-voiced, and spectacled, with only an occasional flash of a cold blue eye to tell of the hardening and growing fanaticism of his character..." Nature: Fanatic Demeanor: Scientist Physical: Strength 3, Dexterity 4, Stamina 3 Social: Charisma 2, Manipulation 4, Appearance 3 Mental: Perception 3, Intelligence 4, Wits 3 Talents: Alertness 3, Athletics 2, Dodge 2, Expression 3, Subterfuge 4 (making plausible excuses) Skills: Firearms 2, Leadership 3, Stealth 3 Knowledges: Bureaucracy 3, Investigation 2, Law 2, Linguistics 1 (Latin), Medicine 4 (unorthodox surgery), Science 3 Willpower: 9 Derangements: Paranoia, extreme Panzaism Roleplaying: speak softly and convincingly, and giggle slightly at your "novel" ideas, or when results take a turn for the unexpected. Look people over as though they were experiments in waiting, and always be ready to let loose with the glassy, unyielding stare of a fanatic. (5)
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Derangements: Dr. West's paranoia stems from his fear that some of his earlier experiments might still be out there. This lessened a bit once he got across the Atlantic, but once he starts making more of his ghastly experiments he will start jumping at noises he can"t account for. His panzaism means that he will absolutely refuse to believe in the existence of the supernatural, no matter what happens around him, or to him. Everything outre or otherworldly has some scientific explanation, which he will be happy to find once his current experiment is done. The Nameless Assistant: First Lt. and Willing Witness to Terror H.P. Lovecraft neither named nor described the narrator of Herbert West: Reanimator. Storytellers are encouraged to portray Dr. West's sycophantic companion any way they'd like to. A recommended Nature and Demeanor is "Follower". He is a licensed M.D, so he should have reasonable Intelligence and Medicine scores. He should also have a Linguistics of at least 1 (Latin). In roleplaying him, remember that he seems rather nervous around Dr. West at times. He has become more aware of the extent of his friend's mania in the five years since Robert Leavitt's reanimation, and is starting to fear West as much as he holds him in awe. However, he still does whatever he's asked to without complaint. Zombies: The Reanimated "For it has been a man. This much was clear despite the nauseous eyes, the voiceless simianism, and the daemonic savagery... what had most disgusted the searchers of Arkham was the thing they noticed when the monster's face was cleaned -- the mocking, unbelievable resemblance to a learned and self-sacrificing martyr who had been entombed but three days before..." For this supplement, a Zombie is a fully or mostly complete human cadaver reanimated by using reanimation fluid. They are not the same as "traditional" Zombies created through Vampiric Necromancy or other, darker means. To turn a body into a Zombie, decrease its Appearance by however much you feel is appropriate, but at least by 1, and increase its Stamina by 2. If this takes the Zombie's Appearance to zero, or increases the Stamina over 5, that's fine. If the reanimation fluid worked on the chemical imprint in the brain, give back 1 Intelligence and 1 Permanent Willpower for each success on the Willpower roll and retain the old Perception and Wits. If it didn"t, drop Perception and Wits to 1, and Intelligence and Willpower to zero. Such mindless Zombies have no willpower to spend, but resist Willpower attacks as though they had a Willpower of 10. Zombies can soak normal damage. They do not lose any dice from their pools from damage unless they take Aggravated damage. In that instance, subtract 1 die for every level lost, down to a minimum of zero. They can heal, but their healing times are three times that of a normal human. They have seven health levels. Anyone who's been successfully Reanimated will have awakened from the dead, which is no little thing at all. Mindless Zombies tend to shamble in a stupor unless caused pain or discomfort, at which point the "fight or flight" reflex takes over. Those who retained some of their mind have a better range of actions, but will invariably gain a permanent derangement. This derangement usually manifests through manic, destructive or bestial behavior amongst those of low Intelligence, and a burning hatred of their recreator amongst those who regain all, or most, of their Intelligence. Incomplete Things: Mismatched Horrors "(He) had sought new worlds to conquer by experimenting on the reanimation of detached parts of bodies. He had wild and original ideas... and achieved some hideous preliminary results..." These are the small, frightful little creations that Dr. West makes from leftover body parts when he's researching "the independent vital properties of organic cells", or just bored and lacking fresh bodies: sometimes it's hard to tell. These blasphemies are made by sewing various parts together with a slathering of the reptilian tissue, and then injecting them with reanimation fluid. They make for disturbing little experiments, for as long as they last, anyway. Such grotesque creations are all unique, made according to whatever perverse whims colored Dr. West's researches that day: joined pairs of hands that crawl like crabs; gobs of raw, heaving muscle that undulate across the floor and walls; human heads stitched directly to a pair of feet, and whatever other sickening things the Storyteller might wish to have fall out of a wastebin, or shudder to life on the floor. They are weak, and useless in combat. They should not have any physical Attributes over 1, and should have the
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same Mental Attributes as a Zombie whose Reanimation Fluid failed to do anything to the brain. They soak normal damage, but their flimsy construction gives them only one health level: if they lose it, they"ve smooshed or fallen apart.
(1) Most of this paragraph is a historical fudge on my part to keep with the timeline of the story. The first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force didn"t arrive in France until December 21st of 1914, and they didn"t get to Ypres until April 1st, 1915. However, Lovecraft places Dr. West and his assistant in St. Eloi in late March of 1915, and it seems they had been there for some time. Since some countries" units were sent ahead of the main group to fill certain needs, it stood to reason that medical personnel would be desperately needed, hence his being ahead of the main group. (2) The events in this section that take place after the destruction of West's first lab are entirely of my own devising. The story, as written by Lovecraft, ends Chapter V with the German shell hitting the makeshift laboratory, and begins Chapter VI with Dr. West and his assistant going about their ghastly business in Boston, six years later. How they spent the rest of the Great War, or how they got out of it, was not mentioned in the story. Given that their injuries weren"t serious enough to have been mentioned in Chapter VI, it's unlikely they were invalided out of the war after the explosion. And, since they still had two years left to go on their three year, officer's tour of duty, it's more than likely they went right back to the front after being judged fit to serve. Knowing Dr. West and his needs, it's unlikely he would have settled for any less. It's also more than likely they would have secured a new lab and gone back to work. Storytellers should feel free to have West and his assistant stay for the rest of the war, should they desire. (3) The whole notion of a chemical "imprint" is also a fudge on my part. Lovecraft felt that the human soul did not exist, calling any notion of spiritual reality an "irresponsible myth", and this feeling is echoed by Dr. West and his narrating assistant in the story. As that philosophy seems to have been borne out by their gruesome experiments, a half-and-half explanation was needed to fit Dr. West's researches into the continuum of Wraith: The Oblivion. (4) The starting date of the Insurrection was left vague for Storyteller convenience by the writers of Wraith: The Great War. I"ve placed it in January of 1917, but Storytellers are free to ignore this and have it take place anytime in 1917 they would like. (5) Storytellers are highly encouraged to see the films "Reanimator" and "Bride of Reanimator" in preparing to portray Dr. West. Though set in modern times, and not always following the story as written, these movies capture the fanaticism and sheer determination at the core of his being. Veteran Lovecraftian actor Jeffrey Combs creates a convincing - if somewhat camp - portrayal of the driven, manipulative and amoral West.
Baugh, Dansky, Stolze et al, Wraith: The Great War, White Wolf Publishing, Clarkston, Ga.: 1999. Gilbert, Martin, The First World War: a Complete History, Henry Holt & co., New York, NY.:1994. Lovecraft, H.P., Herbert West: Reanimator, from The Transition of H.P. Lovecraft: The Road to Madness, Del Rey, New York, NY.: 1996. Petersen, Willis et al, Call of Cthulhu, ed 5.5, Chaosium Inc., Oakland, CA.: 1998. Winter, J.M., The Experience of World War I, Oxford University Press, New York, NY.: 1995.
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