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To celebrate Horror Flora‘s four year anniversary, I’ve prepared a special treat for you: a bestiary for a non-existent monster catching game inspired by this website’s Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction essay series. Welcome to 4 Horror War, where people raise different Archetypal Fears – “Arkies” for short – into powerful monsters, and then battle each other to prove the superiority of their chosen fears. I’ll be posting a different Arky family each day from now through Halloween – today’s Arky family of the day belongs to Gothic Horror, THE REVENANT FAMILY! Now, before we dive in to the gritty details, an explanation/reminder of how this non-existent mons game works. Unlike Pokemon, evolution is not necessarily an upgrade – in other words, the first stage of a given family is generally on par with the most “advanced” stage. Evolution reshuffles stats rather than straight-up improving them, allowing the Arky to function differently on the team. In addition to giving you alternate options/strategies for a given Arky, the family tree of each Archetypal Fear is sort of a huge meta-reference to how actual horror archetypes have, well, evolved in fiction. Though I’ve had to stretch now and then with the families to make every monster I wanted to make fit, the meta commentary is more or less accurate enough to make my inner horror nerd happy. Ok, enough pre-amble, let’s dive in: A dapper skeleton, Spookiscari may not seem like much at first glance, but it is one of the oldest Archetypal Fears ever to be created, and has a lot of tricks up its nonexistent sleeves. Even its talent for comedy can be weaponized, making it a versatile and enduring icon in the land of Dread. After exposing Spookiscari to lightning, it can evolve into Adamstein, a patchwork brute stitched together from pieces of several different corpses. Though it has immense raw strength, Adamstein is none too bright, and depends on its Fear Crafter to do the thinking for it. When wrapped in preserving bandages, Adamstein can evolve into Imhonet, a mummified corpse puppeteered by its own funeral wrappings. With a powerful set of curses in its arsenal, this fearsome ghoul can reduce its enemies to dessicated corpses without so much as lifting a finger. After undergoing an experimental galvanization procedure, Adamstein can evolve into Salleve, a patchwork monster similar to its predecessor in many respects, though it trades some of Adamstein’s raw strength for cunning and a more refined attack style. If allowed to consume an entire charnel house full of bones, Spookiscari evolves into the enormous Skullking, a titanic skeleton of endless hunger. Despite its immense size, this colossal skeleton is one of the stealthiest monsters around, sneaking up on others effortlessly and without a sound. If allowed to climb into an open grave, Spookiscari can emerge as Dedzed, a shambling corpse that hungers for the flesh of the living. Though slow and frail compared to most monsters, Dedzed sports a secret weapon: any Arky it manages to attack will turn into a Dedzed on its next turn, and on and on the infection will spread until all are Dedzeds. If allowed to consume some delicious Trioxin, Dedzed can evolve into Fedzed, a mutant zombie whose melting flesh barely clings to its bones. Sporting a massive tongue and acidic spit, this zombie is significantly more agile than its predecessor, though it lacks Dedzed’s ability to convert other monsters into itself. If Dedzed manages to win a fight without turning its foe into a Dedzed, i.e. knocking it out in one hit, then it can evolve into Redzed. Swelling with more muscle than its rotting skin can cover, Redzed trades its infectious powers for sheer brute force and speed, becoming a powerful flesh-eating juggernaut of doom.