Malifaux Faction Focus: The Resurrectionists

It has come to my attention that, since the Neverborn article went up, people are asking about Collodi: where did Collodi go, what happened to Collodi, that sort of thing. Gentle reader, I am sorry to say I have no idea what you are talking about.  I have never heard of “Collodi.”  I have no idea who that wretched puppet is.  There is no Collodi and there never was.

Welcome to the fourth Malifaux Faction Focus article! Today we’ll be spending some time grubbing in graves and slinking in sewers with the smelly, stinky, and slightly decomposed forces of the Resurrectionists!

The Lore of the Resurrectionists

The purpose of the ritual that created the Breach was to bring magic back into the world. And boy, did it ever! Soulstones allowed Earth mages to perform feats beyond their wildest imagination, but that’s nothing compared to the arcane power available to mages actually located in Malifaux itself. Magic suffuses the air there, the water, the fabric of reality. New vistas of possibility open up before the lucky mage who makes it through the Breach (and doesn’t get eaten on the other side).

Of course, not all vistas are equally inspiring.

There are forms of magic in Malifaux that simply did not exist on Earth prior to the opening of the Breach. Of these, the most notorious (and dangerous) is necromancy– or, as it is more commonly known, “Resurrectionism.” Resurrectionism comes from the Grave Spirit, the force of death summoned by Titania in Malifaux’s mythic past. The Spirit’s presence in Malifaux’s aether is what allows Resurrectionists to make the dead walk. Ancient, forbidden tomes carry the secrets to life after death. Such magic is universally proscribed; the Guild confiscates necromantic lore and kills or imprisons its owners on sight. And if that were all there was to Resurrectionism, it might be just another minor threat in a world all too full of them.

The Grave Spirit is not idle. It calls out to receptive minds, offering the seductive lure of power and knowledge. Who has not dreamt of immortality? Some people are more receptive to the Whisper, hearing it in their dreams and at the edge of their consciousness. In some places, the world is thinner and the Spirit’s voice can more readily be heard. Some books and artifacts are tainted by the Spirit’s touch and open their owners’ minds to darkness. The Whisper drives all who hear it mad, sooner or later. They are driven to experiment, first on stolen corpses, then on fresher ones, and finally on themselves.

Resurrectionists raise mindless zombies in bulk, but what makes them truly dangerous is their ability to create more advanced, self-directed undead. Some Resurrectionists stitch together pieces of the best corpses to make hulking abominations. Others combine human and animal parts, or amalgamate dead flesh with rusted steel. Others still summon incorporeal spirits from beyond the veil to serve them and rend their enemies. They are a loose-knit fraternity, jealously guarding their secrets from each other and killing for territory, treasure, or rivalry, but they are smart enough to cooperate in the face of the Guild (or anyone else– there aren’t many organizations that tolerate Resurrectionism).

Asura Roten makes some friends. Credit: Wyrd Games

Resurrectionists have a rather tough row to hoe. The closest thing they had to a leader was Nicodem, the Guild’s genteel mortician and secret Resurrectionist mastermind. Nicodem came close to conquering Malifaux city with an undead army, only to be stopped by the last-minute intervention of the Ten Thunders. Lady Justice tracked him down before he could raise a new horde and killed him– and while death isn’t the end in Malifaux (especially if you’re a Rezzer), he’s currently occupying a Soulstone held by his old flunky Mortimer. In his absence, the Resurrectionists are a fractious lot, which is probably a good thing for all other life in Malifaux (and on Earth). Nicodem’s attempt was the second time a Resurrectionist has gotten ambitious and set his sights on taking over Malifaux, and with a sufficiently large horde (Malifaux is full of corpses), you can do just about anything.

Resurrectionists skulk in the sewers, on the fringes, and in the rundown and abandoned portions of Malifaux City known as the Quarantine Zone. Most of them have some relic of dark power that set them on this path: a whispering grimoire, a cursed ring, something like that. They guard their secrets and their power, gathering rotten legions around themselves and plotting for the day when they can defeat death forever– or snuff out all life for their dark master.

Why Should I Play Resurrectionists?

Malifaux’s a place where bad things happen, and there are precious few “good guys.” Rezzers, though, are quite a bit more evil than the mine run of Malifaux nastiness. If you like playing vile villains, the Rezzers are pretty unambiguously that; the monstrous Neverborn are just defending their homes, and the Guild is trying to preserve human life, if only to serve their aims.  The Green Gang tends to be a bit yucky (get a load of McMourning’s Flesh Constructs), but for those who love painting up Great Unclean Ones and other heaving mounds of rotten flesh, the Rezzers have all the suppurating wounds you could want.

Insofar as they have a unifying mechanical theme, Rezzers are inhumanly resilient. It’s hard to put down what’s already dead. Models tend to have lots of wounds, the ability to heal, and plenty of other defensive tech. Some are armored, some are hard to wound, and others are so terrifying that enemies must pass a test even to attack them. And of course, necromancers of all types are famous for making their own friends; even with the death of Nicodem, one of the game’s best summoners, the faction still has more summoners than any other, and even masters that don’t primarily summon have a few ways to add models to their Crew.

Their symbol (and associated suit) is the Crow, representing the carrion feeders that follow in their wake.

Play Resurrectionists if:

  • You want to be tough enough to take the first punch and give it back twice as hard. Some Rezzer models are fragile, but every crew has access to a few high-health beaters with defensive rules.
  • You like the “summoning” mechanic. Broad availability of summons has long been a defining feature of Malifaux as compared to similar games, and the Resurrectionists are the summoner faction– everyone gets a bit of summoning, but the Rezzers take it to the next level.
  • Your approach to horror is classic– rotting flesh and scabrous talons. None of this artsy-fartsy modern “psychological” horror for you. Smash the boards over the window and stick your rotten arm inside!

The Masters

Rezzer masters are a fairly diverse lot in terms of appearance and playstyle– fitting, since unlike most of the other factions they’re not really an “organization.” Even the Neverborn have a Queen. Fortunately, that means almost anyone can find at least one Keyword they like.

Seamus

Seamus, Madam Sybelle, three Rotten Belles, and the Copycat Killer. Credit: Third Floor Wars

One of the most prolific serial killers in human history, Seamus actually used to be a pretty normal guy. He came across the Breach as a humble haberdasher, hoping to make his fame selling his wares to the fashion-forward of Malifaux City.  Nobody knows exactly where he first laid his hands on a forbidden tome from Malifaux’s history, but the book’s whispers destroyed his sanity and led him down a dark path. Seamus the Hatter was gone, leaving only Seamus the Redchapel killer. He first gained notoriety by massacring the entire staff of Sybelle’s Saloon, a house of ill repute, and raising his victims as his Belles. From there, his crimes became legendary: the murder of the journalist Molly Squidpiddge; the subsequent crashing of her funeral to raise her as an intelligent, self-willed undead; his attempt to summon the Grave Spirit into Malifaux, thwarted at the last second by Samael Hopkins’s bullet; his own resurrection, seemingly none the worse for wear.

Seamus is, quite obviously, a take on Jack the Ripper, but a Jack who is (if anything) even more deranged and hungry for attention. He is followed everywhere by his “Belles,” the risen corpses of those he’s killed, who despite their undead state retain some of their charms from life (and his Dead Dandies show that he’s indiscriminate in his serial murderin’). Wherever Seamus goes, the Copycat Killer isn’t far behind, a cackling little imp with a pint-sized version of Seamus’s signature oversized pistol. He’s the Guild’s most wanted criminal, a bogeyman about whom mothers warn their children, and a living example of how Malifaux can warp even the most innocent man or woman into a monster.

Seamus’s playstyle reflects his “serial killer” theming to a T. He can teleport around between pieces of blocking terrain, darting from alley to alley and popping up where you least expect him. Just when you think you’ve laid hands on him, it turns out that you’ve only managed to grab the giggling Copycat. His Belles lure enemies around, distract and confuse them, and hold them in place while Seamus does his work. He carries a gigantic .50 flintlock capable of killing all but the toughest models in a single hit– which is good news for him, since that thing takes a while to reload. And he’s frightfully tough to put down, since he feeds on your fear…

Play Seamus if: 

  • You can do a dead-on Cockney accent
  • Your favorite type of computer game is “point and click adventure”
  • You like sideburns, but not horses (trust me, the payoff on this one is coming)

Dr. Douglas McMourning

Dr. McMourning, Sebastian, the Zombie Chihuahua, and three Flesh Constructs. Credit: Wyrd Games

Dr. McMourning is having a bit of a professional crisis lately. For a long time, he served as the Guild’s coroner, dutifully performing autopsies on fallen Guard and determining cause of death. If a body or two went missing from his care, what of it? Guild record-keeping isn’t perfect, and in any case, Malifaux is full of secrets. But in a hidden lab below the Guild Enclave, McMourning set about perfecting his craft: cutting corpses apart, sewing them back together, all in the hopes of creating the perfect Experimental specimen.

Unfortunately for the good Doctor, all good things come to an end. Near the end of second edition, the Guild obtained an ancient artifact called Bran’s Cauldron and attempted to perform a ritual that would have banished the Grave Spirit (and therefore Resurrectionism) from Malifaux forever. It was a good idea, but the Rezzers caught wind and attacked the ritual. McMourning was forced to make a decision, and ended up destroying the Cauldron to save his art. Of course, he had to blow his cover to do so, and has been reduced to slinking in sewers ever since. Still, he’s a chipper fellow. Surrounded by his Nurses (living people who have accepted McMourning’s “gift” of stolen skin to remain youthful) and his faithful assistant Sebastian, McMourning is still focused on perfecting his art. And when he runs out of raw materials, a new corpse is just a scalpel’s throw away…

McMourning may be a madman, but he’s forgotten none of the anatomical skills that made him such an effective surgeon. That makes him deadly in melee, and he’s happy to use whatever parts he manages to carve off of you to patch himself up. Even on the battlefield, he’s capable of whipping up new Flesh Constructs given enough “raw materials.” He also loves to spread around poison; he and his crew heal from it rather than take damage, increasing their already high resilience to enormous levels.

Play Dr. McMourning if:

  • You like painting blood, pus, and vomit. Yum!
  • Your favorite horror genre is “gorno”
  • You don’t mind tracking lots of fiddly little counters

Molly Squidpiddge

Molly, the Necrotic Machine, three Crooligans, and Philip and the Nanny (Philip’s the head in the pram). Credit: what.the.faux on Instagram

Alas, poor Molly. She wasn’t Seamus’s first victim, and certainly nowhere close to his last, but probably she was his most infamous. Killing Molly Squidpiddge, beloved journalist of the Malifaux Record, put Seamus on the map, and so of course he had to keep her. It’s rather unfair to Molly, who was better known for her death than anything she did while she was alive. It helps that she didn’t end up like one of his near-mindless, leering Belles; Molly retained every bit of her intellect upon her resurrection, a side effect of the special Soulstone Seamus used to do it: the massive, perfect gem known as the Gorgon’s Tear.

For a while, Molly tagged along on Seamus’s misadventures, but much like Harley Quinn (who she is absolutely not based on, don’t even think it), she eventually split from her selfish and cruel master and set out on her own. Molly has a gentle heart, and she found herself drawn to the Forgotten— those undead who, for one reason or another, have slipped through the cracks. Failed experiments. Abandoned zombies. Lonely ghouls, who just want a big, friendly hug. And maybe some ice cream.

They follow Molly around, and she takes care of them to the best of her ability. They take care of her, too. Many of Molly’s “friends” are lumbering monsters out of an anatomist’s nightmare, and even the ones that aren’t tend to be deft with a blade or claw. Molly has long since ceased to mourn her own death. After all, she gets to meet so many interesting people now! Most of them briefly, of course, but it’s the thought that counts. And she’s even found the time to write critical letters to her successor-in-journalism, that no-account muckraker Nellie Cochrane, under the moniker “Polly Sagequid, MD.”

Molly’s playstyle is quite unusual. All of her models have an ability that triggers when they discard cards, and various abilities that require discarding as a cost. Molly herself enables prodigious card draw if set up properly, so a well-run Molly crew allows you to constantly cycle your hand, triggering abilities as you pitch bad cards and replacing them with (hopefully) good ones

Play Molly if:

  • You like the undead, but want to be a bit less villainous than the average Resurrectionist
  • Your favorite member of the Suicide Squad is [censored by order of DC comics]
  • You play every wheel effect you can in your blue-red EDH deck.

Reva Cortinas

Reva Cortinas, Vincent St. Claire, three Shieldbearers, and two Corpse Candles. Credit: Wyrd Games

Speaking of nice Resurrectionists…

Reva was always an odd girl. She was born to a wealthy Malifaux family and wanted for nothing, but preferred to spend her days walking through graveyards and having conversations with thin air.  Her despairing parents took her first to doctors, then to an exorcist. Vincent St. Clair came to examine the “possessed” girl and found a sense of purpose he’d never felt, even as a member of the Death Marshals. He freed her from the attic where her parents had kept her, and the two of them left for the Quarantine Zone.

Reva is a natural leader of both the living and the dead. Those who meet her are awed by her presence, instilled with a sense of purpose and devotion. Some, the most desperate, are driven to follow her… and that extends beyond just the living. Zombies and spirits alike are cowed by her presence and obey her without question. She instills a burning sense of purpose in her Revenant followers, and that fire serves as a beacon that draws more and more lost and purposeless seekers to her side.  Perhaps she hears the Whisper, but rather than seduce and corrupt her, it simply empowers her to help her followers achieve peace.

She is kind, and solemn, but Reva is also an incipient cult leader, whether she wants to be or not. It’s certainly not a great sign that ever since the Burning Man appeared over Malifaux, her dreams have been wracked by strange voices and flickering lights… and that her control over fire has grown ever greater and more potent…

Reva’s followers are both living and dead, but both kinds make use of the funeral pyres she leaves in her wake. Her crew drops Pyre Markers and, like Kaeris’s, benefits from them– some of her models are immune to Burning damage, others can convert the Burning condition to bonuses, and all of them can set enemies aflame. Reva herself can attack through any corpse marker nearby, and the Corpse Candles that follow her everywhere will certainly do.

Play Reva if:

  • You like attacking with your master, but don’t like putting her in danger.
  • You want to play at least a few living humans in your undead crew
  • You have an idea for how to make some neat-looking pyre markers

Yan Lo

Yan Lo, the Soul Porter, Izamu the Armor, and three Gokudo. Credit: Wyrd Games

Magic… The darkest magic. His soul swims in it… scattered across time, trapped in the world of formlessness…

Yan Lo, who is not David Lo Pan, is a man out of time. Once, long ago, he was part of an order of sages and mystics. His fellows sought to bargain with the terrible extradimensional entities known as oni for power. Yan Lo stopped them, but at a terrible cost: an oni curse fractured his soul and trapped him in the netherworld between life and death. He was cursed to wander the Paths, never finding the peace of death but forever beyond the joys of life. For untold centuries he existed in this state, his consciousness so diffuse that he was barely sentient. Chiaki Katanaka, a distant descendent, called out to him, and through her power he found focus and regained his memories. He was able to manifest as a spirit, and for a while that was enough.

Not forever. Yan Lo’s heart was hardened by his time on the Paths. He will never go back there, not if he can help it. By killing hundreds of his descendants, he was able to harvest their souls and rebuild a body that let him walk the world once more. He serves the Ten Thunders as well as the Resurrectionists, but his true loyalty is to himself– he wants nothing more than power, power enough to avenge himself on the oni who cursed him, power enough to rule this world and the next.

Walking the Paths, he saw some of his greatest descendants in action: Ancestors like Izamu the Armor, Yin the Penanggalan, Toshiro the Daimyo, and Manos the Risen. Collecting their reliquaries, he conjured them forth to walk again and serve him. His Retainers serve as his foot soldiers: living, dead, and construct alike, they are vessels for the rebirth of the Ancestors and, eventually, Yan Lo himself.

Yan Lo is another dual-keyword master with a unique, multi-part gameplan. Ancestors are powerful, singular warriors. When they die, they leave behind Reliquaries, which impart a portion of their abilities to the Retainer who carries them. Yan Lo himself starts off weak but powers up every turn as he Ascends, gaining new abilities and improving his stats. Once he has Ascended far enough, he can resummon fallen Ancestors… at the cost of the luckless Retainer who happens to be holding their Reliquary. Sorry, Steve, you’ve been loyal, but Grandpa needs the body now.

Play Yan Lo if:

  • You think John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China is an underrated gem
  • You’re very patient and willing to invest now for payoff later
  • You like character-heavy crews with lots of unique personalities

Kirai Ankoku

Top: Kirai, the Lost Love, and Ikiryo. Bottom: three Gaki. Credit: what.the.faux on Instagram

Yes, I know what her name means. No, I don’t know why anyone would name their daughter that. Seems like you’re asking for trouble.

Kirai came to Malifaux penniless and desperate, and soon found herself working in a house of ill repute under the control of the Ten Thunders. This is not generally considered to be an auspicious start, but her life appeared to be looking up when she caught the eye of a young man. Kirai and Francis quickly fell in love and laid plans together: she would leave this life behind, marry him, escape the terrors of Malifaux…

Sadly, it was not to be. Francis’s last name was Kitchener, and his father was the notorious Governor-General. When Kitchener Senior found out about what his son was up to, he sent assassins to kill the lowborn girl who’d dared believe she could have a chance with Francis. This worked out poorly for everyone involved: Kirai lived, but Francis died saving her. She was bereft, left with nothing but the massive ring Francis had given her as a token of his love.

It turned out to be more than just a piece of jewelry. With the help of the ring, Kirai can summon spirits from the realm of the dead into our world. The Grave Spirit’s power binds these spirits to serve her, but it is her mind and will that channel them, and so the spirits appear the way she expects them to: incarnations of traditional Japanese ghosts, seishin and gaki and shikome. Worst of all is the ikiryo, a manifestation of Kirai’s soul itself, twisted by suffering and hell-bent on vengeance at any cost. These Urami serve Kirai and are merciless to her foes, tearing them to ribbons and feeding on their essence.

Kirai quickly used her powers to avenge herself against the Guild, although the Governor-General’s ascension to the Burning Man robbed her of her ultimate vengeance. She is wracked by guilt over the innocents who die at the claws of her spirits, yet there are so many evil people out there: pimps, thieves, tyrants. She will kill as many of them as she can, but her true goal is to see her Francis resurrected: not as a trapped spirit, but alive again, whole and loving. Such a thing may be possible, but at what price?

Kirai can summon swarms of spirits, including the fearsome Ikiryo, and her models are all incorporeal and therefore resistant to the blades and bullets of enemies. It drains her lifeforce to keep her summoned allies in our world, but as they rip enemies to pieces, she absorbs the essence of the fallen and heals. She’s somewhat fragile, but her spirits take blows meant for her, and anyone striking one is subject to instant vengeance.

Play Kirai if:

  • J-horror is where it’s at. The Ring, the Grudge, Uzumaki, take your pick
  • You get flustered and nervous when planning moves around terrain and other models and would rather not think about it
  • You don’t mind marking damage… and erasing it… and marking it…

Prof. Albus von Schtook

Albus von Schtook, the Research Assistant, Anna Lovelace, and three Undergraduates. Credit: what.the.faux on Instagram

The newest member of the Resurrectionist cadre, Albus von Schtook was an esteemed professor of astronomy back on Earth. He came to Malifaux, eager to study the night skies of a new world, but the constellations he saw plagued him. The stars of Malifaux did not obey the laws of physics as he understood them, shifting and changing night upon night, and none of his observations seemed to correlate with any understood principles of astronomy. What had seemed to him solid as bedrock Earthside turned out to be a shifting quagmire on the other side of the Breach, and every night his mind slipped a little further into madness. Falling into a deep depression, von Schtook absconded into the sewers so as to not have to look at the sky that plagued him so.

What he found down there, nobody knows. Maybe the same Whisper that eroded his sanity led him to a forgotten tomb full of ancient secrets. Whatever it was, down there in the lightless underworld, von Schtook had a revelation. He could return to academia. He could teach again! He would found his own university, and recruit his own students. Hence, the University of Transmortis was born.

Professor von Schtook’s students are as diverse and varied as any earthside. Students of Steel clomp forward on hulking, piston-driven limbs. Students of Sinew slither on articulated metal snake bodies. Students of Viscera flex their hydraulic arms. Even Undergraduates make use of a variety of bladed or weighted appendages. The only thing they have in common is that they are all dead, reanimated by Schtook’s sorcery and amalgamated with rusting machine parts from the scrapheaps beneath Malifaux City. Anna Lovelace, the University’s only other professor, has persuaded him to allow a few living students to enroll… but their undead peers are often all too happy to arrange “accidents” for the newcomers so that they can properly join the student body.

Von Schtook, like any good professor, supports his students with a variety of buffs, while attacking and debuffing enemies. His zombies are tougher and stronger than the average undead, and with von Schtook’s support, can convert dead enemies into more of their kind. Many Transmortis raids are part of von Schtook’s recruitment drive. He’s got a solid all-rounder crew, and despite having taken a round of nerfs in one of the early balance updates, is still a solidly competitive choice.

Play Professor von Schtook if:

  • You’re an undead player at heart, but you want some of that steampunk flavor Malifaux is famous for
  • You think Harry Potter would have been more compelling with a hard R rating
  • You are quite sure that the flesh is weak

I didn’t intend for this to become the traditional signoff on these articles, but since it seems to have done: the newest Rezzer nightmare crew re-imagines Molly as Captain Mary “Blanktongue” Bonnet, Scourge of the High Sea! Yo-ho-ho and etc.! I quite like Philip and the Nanny turning into Nani and the Voice– that’s some neat reimagining. Shame that in either incarnation, (s)he’s probably not worth fielding.

L-R: A Skellywag, the Wayward Mariner, another Skellywag, the Salty Seadevil, Captain Mary “Blacktongue” Bonnet, Nani and the Voice, and a third Skellywag. Credit: White Weasel Studios

Join us next time, when we’ll look at the game’s equivalent of the Misc file or the drawer full of rarely-used kitchen implements (the one you can open easily but never close without employing graduate-level topography skills): the Outcasts!