Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dopplegangers

So here's a race/class of dopplegangers.

I'm going to change the way that I do race/classes, because I want you to be able to use them in your home game, and everyone has a different way of doing things.

Here are all of the abilities that dopplegangers have, listed in the order that I think they should get them.  If you want to base them on a class, base them on clerics with all of the holy stuff stripped away.


Silver Weakness

You take double damage from silver weapons.  This also stops your regeneration for 1 hour and forces you out of any extraordinary shapes you were taking via your Impersonate or Extraordinary Biologies ability.

Impersonate

At will, you can shape your body as alter person.  This takes a round and lets you impersonate any human or demi-human to the degree of detail that is known to you, including clothing.  You can also alter your voice to impersonate someone else perfectly, and at any time.

Tool Shape

You can change a limb into a one-handed weapon or a common tool (with no moving parts, and not longer than 2').  Whenever you attack with a morph-weapon-limb and roll a natural 2, you take 1d4 damage to your limb.  (Natural 2s normally damage the weapon you were using.)  Most dopplegangers prefer to turn their fingernails into claws dealing damage as a dagger (short claws) or sword (giant claws).

Dramatic Infiltration

At any time during the session, the doppleganger can declare that they are walking off-screen in order to infiltrate stuff.  Later on in the session, when there is a minor NPC nearby, they can reveal themselves to have been the minor NPC all along.  The impersonated NPC usually walks into the scene at this time, apologizing for being late, unless logic requires them to be tied up in a closet somewhere.

For example, the doppleganger PC could announce "A-ha!  I was cultist #3 all along!" before backstabbing the evil cleric in the butt.

Squeezable

You are immune to squeeze damage.  You can squeeze through holes as small as 1" in diameter, or under most doors.  Extreme squeezes like this usually take 1 or 2 minutes, and you usually can't bring anything with you except objects that can normally fit through that opening.

Charming Fluids

Anyone you gets any of your bodily fluids in their body is subject to a charm person spell.  Traditionally, this is done via making out or putting a drop of your blood in their drink.  Your bodily fluids must be fresh (less than 1 minute).  This effect is subtle: the target doesn't know that they were the target of a magical spell unless they make a Wis save.

Extraordinary Biologies

Instead of using your impersonate ability to change into someone else, you can instead use it to gain the abilities of another humanoid species.  Pick one of these morphs; you can maintain it effortlessly unless knocked out.  It takes a turn to switch from one to another.

  • Darkvision.
  • Water breathing.
  • Regeneration 1 HP / 10 minutes.  Injures heal 24x faster (hour = day).  1 day = regrow limb.
  • Immunity from critical hits.

And here's the way that I will implement doppleganger in my home games (where they get all of their class abilities over the first 3 levels).

Doppleganger A - Silver Weakness, Impersonate
Doppleganger B - Tool Shape, Dramatic Infiltration
Doppleganger C - Squeezable, Charming Fluids
Doppleganger D - Extraordinary Biologies

If I wanted to have a sort of legendary destiny for a doppleganger PC, it would be to seek out a method to learn ESP and steal memories so they could impersonate people even better.  I don't want it to be a default ability they get, because impersonation is fun, and PCs should have to roleplay the confusion of trying to guess their name of the wife of the person they're impersonating.

As a quest goal though, that's a great one.  That's absolutely the sort of ability they should get at the end of a quest or a dungeon, after they drink milk from the teat of the Ur-chimaera, or gaze into the mirror of infinity.

If you have high levels in your game, at-will ESP is the sort of thing that you'd probably get at name-level.  Yeah, that's where I'd add it.  And it explains why NPC dopplegangers can read minds.  (Not that I think PCs and monsters need to follow the same rules.)

Actually, you don't need to steal minds to impersonate people most of the time.  You just need to read your interrogator's mind to see what kind of answer they expect.  Or better yet, what kind of answer they want.


Dopplegangers in Centerra

Creation

Dopplegangers are actually a type of homunculus.  They are created in an alchemical process that requires at least 10 living humans to be mixed together in an enormous cauldron, where they are fused both physically and psychically.  They become one.

The resultant creature is hideous.  Lumpy, irregular, asymmetrical.  It usually takes several days for the doppleganger to form eyes, ears, and a decent number of nerve endings.  During that time they exist is a nightmare state of sensory deprivation.

Once they learn how to form mouths and vocal cords, they usually spend a week screaming before remembering how to speak.

Eventually the memories come back to them.  Fragmented, piecemeal.  Eventually they invent a name, or, more commonly, are given one.  Dopplegangers are a very diverse bunch--it usually depends on the group that birthed them.

They are biologically immortal, but their brains age like any other brain.  They eventually develop Alzheimer's and dementia like anyone else.  And when that happens, they have the choice between merging (and passing their memories and dementia off on someone else) or existing.  Either way, the result is the dissolution of the self, and that is something that all dopplegangers fear more than anything else.

Well, most dopplegangers.


Biology

Dopplegangers are capable of merging with other dopplegangers, as well as anyone under the influence of meldwine (see below).  This takes about an hour of puddling, and afterwards, XP is equally redistributed among the participants.  Memories are likewise redistributed.  It is possible for melding to be performed on an unwilling doppleganger (although tying them up is awful hard).

This is very disorienting for the doppleganger, since they lose and gain random pieces of memory and personality--and how else can they construct an identity?  (Many dopplegangers fear becoming nobody.  Just a person who exists, full of fragmented memories, and without any context for themselves.  An intelligent beast.  An arbitrary person.)

Dopplegangers are naturally asexual.  When they take a form, however, they actually imitate the specific biology of that person.  Unless they specifically try to prevent it, this means that they form the anatomically correct genitals of the person they are imitating.  So, it follows that they can get pregnant.

Pregnant dopplegangers stay pregnant through shapechanges (which may require judicious arrangement of internal organs).  However, it's trivially easy for them to abort the pregnancy--they just excrete a lump of uterine tissue.

In the ninth month, there is a 10% baby that the baby will spontaneously meld with the parent, as detailed in the next section.  This creates a baby with half of the parents memories and XP.

Dopplegangers revert to their natural form when sleeping or unconscious.  Their faces, for example, usually become masses of undifferentiated flesh, with patchy hair, and lacking eyes, ears, and a nose.


Melding

Doppleganger blood (sometimes called mugwump jism) is a potent drug.  It causes euphoria and associated feelings of bonding, friendship, closeness, and even love.  Their blood is made into a liquid called meldwine, which is sold as a street drug.

A doppleganger can produce a bottle of meldwine with only a cursory knowledge of alchemy.  The loss of blood reduces their maximum HP by 1 point per HD for 24 hours.  Each bottle sells for about 1s to the street junkies who often buy it.  If killed, there is enough blood  in a dopplegangers body for 20 bottles.

A junky under the effects of meldwine is able to physically meld with other junkies under the effects of madwine.  This is identical to the melding that dopplegangers perform with each other, and in fact, a junky can even merge with a doppleganger if they wish.  XP is averaged between all participants, and memories are randomly redistributed, like cards dealt out of a shuffled deck.

You'll sometimes find these puddles of flesh in basements, inchoate limbs dissolving under the quivering skin.  Contented sighs and moans emit from lips.  Beads of sweat glisten atop eyelashes without an eye.

It's not just the poor, either.  Nobility sometimes indulge as well.  But honestly, they can afford better drugs.

Occasionally, junkies fuck up and wait too long to exit the merge.  This fuses the junkies together in an unhappy mass.  Sometimes they suffocate, if the mass lacks enough mouths at the surface.  (Those are always real messes to clean up.  And it complicates the funerals, too.)  Otherwise, the simple cure is more madwine, poured down their trembling, torturous throats.


Doppleganger Cultures

No one is a monoculture.  Dopplegangers may fall under one, none, or many of the categories listed below.  A great deal of dopplegangers infiltrate a society and become happy there.  You'll find dopplegangers among barbarian clans and the clergy who have no desire to use their doppleganger abilities.

Nobodies

This is it.  What every doppleganger fears to become.  They wake up in the morning in a house they don't recognize.  They have a head full of memories but none of them feel like their own.  They have forms that they take, and routines that they sometimes perform, but it all feels fake.  People call them names and clap them on the back, but it is all meaningless.  If they ever had a purpose, they've forgotten it.  They don't know where they came from and where they are going.  They are an intelligent animal--not a person--filled with unrelated memories and no real intention.

These dopplegangers are deeply disturbed and depressed.  They tend towards suicide and/or murder.  Some of them seek out religion for guidance.

A few dopplegangers see this state as a good thing.  They feel free by being a non-person.  No form.  No history.  No personality.  Just the coins in their pocket and a tune on their lips.  These dopplegangers are the most dangerous, because they are all mad.

Communes

Some dopplegangers wish to live in communes of their own people.  These are often xenophobic little enclaves, and are usually obsessed with honor.  Many are deeply religious.  This is because societies where anyone can impersonate anyone will quickly devolve into crime unless there is a culture of strong morals, either philosophical or religious.

Some of these communes are strongly expansionistic.  They know enough alchemy to make additional dopplegangers.  Outsiders are kidnapped, thrown into big cauldrons, and blended into new dopplegangers.  Any resentment is removed by blending the newcomers, so that they new dopplegangers end up well-mixed.

Politically Ambitious

These dopplegangers try to infiltrate the highest circles of society and bend them to their will.  They sometimes form secretive cabals; they sometimes work alone.  A great many conspiracy theories involve them.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, it is not so easy for a doppleganger to impersonate a king permanently.  Dopplegangers revert to their natural form when unconscious or asleep.  Servants and wives have eyes, and viziers have more subtle methods of ascertaining the humanity of of their ruler.  (More than vizier has blackmailed a doppleganger-king.)

Doppleganger Hunters

A great many dopplegangers fear other dopplegangers.  They are afraid of being merged against their will.  They are afraid of loss-of-self.  They cling to their identity.  They need to be seen as human.  They need their social context.  They need sincere kisses from their husband, who doesn't know.

And so they carefully, quietly, set about to find other dopplegangers and kill them.  They have their ways.

Druglords

A great many dopplegangers infiltrate society at its lowest rung, selling their own alchemized blood as meldwine.  Many of their trusted buyers know that they are dopplegangers.  Some of these drug-dealers are at the centers of personality cults.  Some of them engage in frequent melds with their groupies, who sometimes display signs of physical aberration.  Mismatched eyes, patches of discolored skin, etc.

Hermit

Sometimes dopplegangers retreat from the world entirely.  There are so many names, faces, and memories in a city that sometimes it is hard to form your own.  So these dopplegangers seek out desolate places, where their powers are useless.  This is how they find peace.

Wizard Servant

And of course, a great deal of dopplegangers are still in the service of the wizard or alchemist who created them.  They mostly function as spies, concubines, and/or assistants.  There's no "default" personality or loyalty among them.  Some are loyal, some are not.  Some are uniform in their personality, some are muted, and some are fragmented--freely shifting between the faces and half-remembered personas of their original people.

Cults

Cults sometimes reward their loyal servants by forming them into a doppleganger.  Or, doppleganger-hood is something that they use to entice new converts.  Who wouldn't want to become a beautiful, immortal creature that will have a ruling position in the new world order?  (Or at least, 1/10th of one--but that's not how they see it.)

Other

There have even been cases where villages turned a great deal of their number into dopplegangers during a food shortage or a migration, in order to turn 100 people into 10 (which is sometimes a great deal simpler logistically.)  Or 10 ancient wizards, fearing death, choose the partial immortality of a doppleganger over looming, crude death.


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