To answer Ron's questions:
The biggest question is whether the Weird West campaign focuses on battling the OTHER undead, or social and psychological consequences of being the walking dead in a world made for the living. I was hoping to strike a balance between "let's kill something" and "let's just get along", but I think that would depend on the players. The one thing I don't want to happen is to make the game an angst-fest. Ideally, PCs would earn the trust and respect of Live Folks by defending them against other threats, natural and uncanny.
There are four basic types of Dead Folks: "ghouls" (Romero-style flesh-eaters), "zombies" (mindless and mostly passive creatures), "revenants" (undead with the personality and memories of their former lives), and a sort of uber-ghoul I'm thinking of calling a "wendigo" or "vardolak": intelligent and resourceful, but wholly dedicated to feeding on the living. These uber-ghouls frequently hate the living, and lead other ghouls (and zombies?) in a campaign of chaos and destruction over and beyond raids for human flesh.
Physically, undead are corpses animated by (CENSORED BY GM). This (CENSORED) preserves and augments their central nervous system, and revitalizes their muscles. They all require X pounds of fresh raw human meat, or X + Y pounds of fresh raw animal meat, on average, per day (where X and Y are TBD). Cooked or preserved meat in sufficient quantities may suffice, but they can't metabolize plant matter at all.
Normally, the undead cannot heal; they have to sew up their flesh and bolt together or replace broken bones, which does mean that over time PCs would become lurching wrecks. However, the only damage that can kill them is a bullet to the head; spinal injuries will incapacitate them, but anything above the break can still move. (Ghouls don't have the wits to repair themselves, so they'll keep crawling until you put a bullet in their skulls.) Consuming more meat per day, combined with exposure to (CENSORED), may move their internal (CENSORED) into overdrive; their flesh will begin to heal, they might regrow bones, and they might develop other abilities like (CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED). Unfortunately, when the (CENSORED) grants them abilities, it can go strong enough to influence or dominate their wills, leading to (CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED). Worst case, the PC would himself become a Wendigo, and become an NPC ... until the others restrained him and subjected him to (CENSORED) to snap him out of it.
BTW, I'll probably assume all revenants are Freshly Dead for simplicity, and mark off decay as flesh that doesn't heal, bones that aren't repaired right, and cosmetic damage caused by time and exposure to the elements.
Psychologically, the PC revenants have their own reasons for continuing on. One may follow the classic pattern of avenging their own murderer; others may be content with gambling and whoring (although unlife severely cuts down on the latter), or conversely may continue to Protect and Serve the living. One of the sample PCs in my demo game was a miser who still wanted to take it with him. Another one that I wrote up was a girl who died before she could marry the love of her life; I imagined a story arc where she discovered how being dead hampers a romantic relationship, reluctantly giving up on her fiancee, and dying for real this time. My working theory, though, is that a revenant needs a strong purpose to keep him or her going; otherwise the difficulties of maintaining a crumbling body and becoming a monster in the eyes of his former friends will cause a revenant to give up and die.
Oh, and since I'm leaning toward a materialistic, weird science sort of world, there probably won't be ghosts, certainly not as PCs. However, there are (CENSORED), (CENSORED) from the stars, giant (CENSORED), and, worst of all, (CENSORED).
P.S. I forgot to clarify: undead can only move using muscles, so completely blowing apart or burning a limb destroys it beyond repair. (If it's cleanly severed, though, and the undead can heal itself, the limb could be sewn back on and eventually work again. Or perhaps a replacement limb from another undead would work ...) Some sort of weird science prosthesis may be possible, if a living amputee could use it, or if some mad scientist discovered how to get a machine to respond to a Dead Folk's (CENSORED).
Last edited by fmitchell; 07-12-2008 at 05:57 PM.
"On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
- Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)