It’s the holiday season, and Dawn is already happy as a zombie in brains because her Cintiq drawing tablet arrived. Unlike her previous tablet, the cat hasn’t chewed on the connection cord for this one (yet), so it should much improve her ability to color the comic.

One tradition of the holidays seems to be just about any and every media franchise out there doing their own versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. You know the one, I’m sure. Scrooge? Marley? Tiny Tim? Bah humbug? Some are clever, some… well, some seem to just be done out of tradition, or at least the idea of “this script already exists, and it works, so all we have to do is shove our own characters into the roles, make a few pop-culture references for the kids, and we’re good”.

If you’ve somehow avoided all contact with A Christmas Carol or any number of its derivatives, the basic premise is this: old miser is visited by the ghost of his equally miserly business partner and also ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, shown how the joyless greed of his life will lead to ruin, miser reforms himself and helps his downtrodded employee celebrate Christmas. And his little crippled son, too.

In other words, it’s an age old morality fable, and that’s why it still can resonate today over a hundred and fifty years since its publication. Arguably it would have resonated with people a hundred and fifty years before its publication, as well. Maybe even a thousand years before, although they didn’t really have Christmas to speak of so some details would need changing.

Certainly the morality plays of the Middle Ages would have recognized similar elements. The story has been told innumerable times since, but was also most likely told before. The trick is in the twists you bring to the tale, and the skill you have in presenting it.

I’m getting somewhere with this, honest. There’s a well-known maxim that there are no truly original ideas, and even something as bizarre as people ranching zombies for profit falls into that realm. When we were searching for a domain name and title for our series back in September, we ran across the remains of a few fellow travelers. They are the Ghosts of Zombie Ranches past, and in honor of Mr. Scrooge I name them now. Fittingly enough, these ghosts are three in number.

#1: I can’t quite call these folks fellow travelers since they’re the ones I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that have had the URL of zombieranch.com reserved since the year 2000 without having seemed to have done anything with it. Flying M Design, and their zombie ranching intentions, remain a mystery.

#2: This is more like it, but as far as I can tell has been defunct since 2006. Someone’s school project from the College of New Jersey, now abandoned? Anyhow, some of the site either loads very slow or doesn’t load at all. The concept seems like fun, where you have to defend your own ranch “fortress” and your zombie herd while locating other ranches to mess around with. As for the larger world setting, who knows? All we really have to go by is the tantalizing “How to Play” page linked above.

#3: Last but not least is the Zombie Rancher game from Invisible City Productions. It’s a boardgame which is still available as a free PDF for download and play, and if you feel like doing so I highly encourage giving it a try, because these folks had a great concept. Now I promise you, any similarities between their setting and ours are very coincidental. We are fellow travelers on a shambling, rotting path, but I do have to admit I opted for our zombies tasting terrible partially out of respect for what they came up with. The designer’s story of a combination of reading the Zombie Survival Guide and a visit to the Texas Land and Cattle eatery is golden. I really should try to track down Jonathan A. Leistiko and offer him a virtual beer, both for that, and for game design decisions such as “The hungriest player goes first”.

So there we have it. We have been visited by three ghosts, although only one of them (Zombie Rancher) still seems to be around in some form that might be able to benefit from my pointing out their existence.

And yes, I know, why use ghosts for all this when I could have used zombies. What can I say? Blame Dickens.