Concept and creation: White Knights

This is one of a series of posts Grant wrote looking at the creation of the game’s various monsters for Zombie LARP: Payday, our seventh event. White Knights have evolved significantly since the game began, and some of what’s written here no longer really reflects our thinking about them – but it’s an interesting snapshot of their history and how we were thinking of them in the run-up to their redesign.

Initial concept for White Knights

Initial concept for White Knights

What are White Knights?

White Knights are the end result of an offshoot of the Zombie project.  They’re so named due to the virus that resulted in the first stable specimen – a substance called White Knight 23.

They’ve been developed through means both scientific and occult (depending on who’s making them) and their behaviour fluctuates wildly.  One WK-23 (as they are called by operatives) could be a wide-eyed and insane creature who can plan assaults, handle ranged firearms, and talk coherently. The next one might be a screaming, wheezing, knife-wielding psychopath who hides in shadows and stabs people to death.

A female, maniacal concept for the White Knight

A female, maniacal concept for the White Knight

They are flesh eaters, like Zombies, but their intelligence and increased dexterity allows them to handle themselves a little better.  Plus, the virus (combined with whatever occult hoodoo the black-robed boys in Arcane R&D have infused them with) actively repairs their body at a hugely accelerated rate.  Reports of a White Knight fleeing one fire-fight and turning up seemingly unharmed five minutes later are not uncommon.

A terrifying White Knight leap attack

A terrifying White Knight leap attack

Bioflex uses these monsters as terror weapons because they’re not infectious, like Zombies, so they’re great if you want to mess up a rival companies’ share price without the risk of infection.  They’re especially keen to note when employees resign due to unfair treatment, or are laid off due to mental problems – these poor unfortunates are dragged off to some Bioflex complex, remade into frothing mad regenerating killers, and unleashed into their workplace to wreak their “revenge.”

Why are White Knights in Zombie?

White Knights represent the other half of horror. Zombies are a tide of evil, almost an environmental effect like floods or lightning or rockslides. They’re not sentient and exist solely to eat your face off.

White Knight costume with eyeholes

White Knight costume with eyeholes

White Knights are the killer in slasher films. They’re the Alien in Alien. They hide in the darkness and they have the capacity to take a fair few hits before they go down, and they can quite happily leap out and murder someone who gets separated from the pack.

Zombies are a lingering fear, and White Knights – we hope – are proper terror. Nothing motivates you more than realising that somewhere in the complex, amongst all the Zombies, is a nigh-invulnerable killer who wants you dead.

How were White Knights created?

Our very first White Knight was Todd, who has reprised the role on many different occasions due to his ability to do The Voice. Sadly, in their current form, White Knights don’t talk – they can scream, wheeze, shout, yell and whisper incoherently but not actually form words. I’m sure we’ll find a role for The Voice somewhere, though, rest assured. Do not ask Todd to do The Voice while out of game. It is not an experience that you will enjoy.

Tim wearing an early prototype White Knight costume

Tim wearing an early prototype White Knight costume

You can see Todd bursting out of a corridor at the chaps in our Pro Team Run video, in one of the very early games – he shouts “MEAT!” and is promptly killed. He played a maniac in the very first game, and scared the crap out of everyone involved by breathing heavily and giggling in darkened corridors.

Since then, White Knights have gone through a few changes and twists. Our opening gambit of the Second Incident featured, amongother things, the dramatic reveal of a White Knight (ably played by Jos) who finished messily devouring some guy and ran full tilt at the players. They’ve changed in power (from a lot to too much to hopefully about right and back to too much again, at least once) and deployment – we’re no longer leading teams of the buggers running down corridors to help things along. Hopefully, if a White Knight does their job properly, you won’t see them until it’s too late.

A sketch of a more developed White Knight design

A more developed White Knight design

The pictures attached to this article include a work-in-progress shot of the original costume for Payday, using a Rorscach-style facemask to obliterate the humanity of the person playing the hideous monster. This went through a lot of R&D before it came into common use, as we weren’t sure whether people would be able to run around a dark building while wearing the damn thing – maybe cut some eyeholes?

The last sketch shows our (probably) final version of the costume, with eyeholes, twin large melee weapons, and plenty of blood. This is the costume that’s currently in use, with gauze head coverings with a black Bioflex symbol painted on, rather than opaque cutouts over the top.

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