Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nymphs

It is impossible to see a nymph and not fall in love with her.

They are not beautiful in the strict definition of the word.  They don't conform to any particular beauty standard (such as a specific waist-to-hip ratio) and their body types vary wildly.  Some are tall, some are short, some are thin, some are fat.

This is because there is no universal beauty standard.  And nymphs, because they are literally constructed out of universal beauty, need no standard.  They are beautiful.  Purely, undeniably, and overwhelmingly.

Birds perch above her in order to sing to her.  Snakes will not bite her, even as she treads on them.  She is surrounded by admirers and suitors, and she encourages this.  She considers them her friends, and prefers to keep them close to her.

She will try to capture the entire party.  Adventurers are interesting, and will not be sent away.

Male nymphs are called nymbrils.

nymph art is shit but DeTerlizzi nymph is okay
After looking at a pile of it, I can tell you that nymphs:
- wear either white robestuff or leaves
- are always sprawling, sitting, or leaning (something passive)
- are always touching water or a tree
- are always grabbing something, most often themselves
Nymph
HD 9 (HP 1d8)  AC none  Attack as weapon
Move 12  Int 12  Morale 2

*Bound -- A nymph is bound to a certain location and cannot leave it.  The size of the location grows with the age of the nymph.  Young nymphs are bound to a specific pool or grove.  Ancient nymphs are bound to forests and oceans.

*Suggestion -- All of a nymph's suggestions are suggestions.  This includes written commands (if you have met her and believe the message to be from her) and letters caressed into your back with a fingernail.  If you are in love with her, you will obey even unreasonable commands, as well as suicidal commands if you fail a save.

*Love -- Anyone who sees a nymph falls in Love with her if they fail a save (made once every round for as long as you look at her).  If you are in Love with a nymph, you will protect her from things that might cause her pain (physical or emotional) or imprisonment.  You are also unwilling to do anything that might make her cry.

If a nymph ever causes you to shed tears over her, you get a new save to escape love.  Here is a list of all the things that might cause you to shed tears.

  • Jealousy (over something substantial).
  • Cruel treatment by the nymph.  (Unlikely).
  • Your devotion to the nymph incurs some great cost, such as:
    • The death of a friend.
    • The loss of a major item or resource.
    • The failure to obtain some major quest/goal.
  • Spending a full 24 hours away from the nymph.  If you fail this roll, you are compelled to return to her immediately.

After you escape Love, you still regard the nymph fondly and helpfully, you just aren't compelled to run to her and obey her every command.

How To Use Nymphs

Use them exactly how you would use vampires.

They aren't wandering monsters; they are major plot points in a location.  And like other major threats in a region, you should skip the foreshadowing and go straight to exposition.  Your players need to know "hey, there is a nymph in this place and everyone who sees her falls in love with her."

They are dangerous not because they kill you, but because they trap you.  It's entirely possible for the party to run into a nymph and become snared, working as her protector for a long period of time.  That's okay.

Think of it this way: if the party had run into a vampire or a medusa, they'd all be dead.  Compared to that, numph-capture is a very mild failure state.  They're just stuck here, loopy with love for a while.  If they had a timed task to do, they fail it.  It's still better than dying.

Again, just think of the nymph as a vampire or medusa that doesn't kill you, just traps you emotionally.  And unlike vampires and medusa, they're not Pure Evil, and therefor are (hopefully) due slightly more moral consideration, and (b) players will expect more complete behaviors from the nymph than just "try to kill everyone", which you should provide, of course.

Living with a nymph is exotic (because you're living alongside all the other creatures that are in love with the nymph) but it's also domestic.  Someone has to make food.  And so it's a bit like a polygynous household where the nymph is the de facto patriarch.

It's a form of imprisonment, but it's also a type of imprisonment that you can't escape by filching the keys off the guard.

This love-imprisonment lasts until (a) the nymph decides to let the party go, which is code for "as long as you think is dramatic", but I'd recommend 1d20 years if you have no other numbers, or (b) the party thinks of a clever way to escape.  "You can do whatever you want as long as you don't make the nymph unhappy." is a hell of a restriction, but I can still think of some ways.  Such as:

  • Convince the nymph to marry one of her many suitors.  She'll send most of her admirers away.  This may involve counterfeiting love letters and playing matchmaker. (quest)
  • Spy on the nymph until they do something that makes you jealous.  Just don't get caught spying or you will have to suffer the punishment (a blindfold you are required to wear, dish-washing duty). Remember that the nymph might not be doing anything worthy of jealousy.  (risk)
  • If any of your friends die in the service of the nymph, or if you almost die, you get a new save to escape.  Just keep hurling yourself into danger.  (risk)
  • If the cost of being a suitor is too great, you also get a save.  Give the nymph your magic sword, demand to marry her, and when she refuses, you have a chilling moment where you realize that you are being strung along, and get a new save to escape love.  (material cost)
And once you have one or two character's free from love, they can kidnap the other characters and keep them tied up until the enchantment wears off.  Then they can depart, slowly and a little wistfully (is adventuring really preferable to the attentions of a nymph?)

Of course, if any of her admirers go missing, the nymph is sure to send out search parties with instructions to rescue her missing friend and bring him back home.  All your friends are worried sick!

As the DM, resist the temptation to really abuse the nymph's suggestion power.  You need to give players room to engineer their escape.  Remember that nymph's are not evil, not ambitious, and are willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

And yes, you could make the nymph tougher.  She only has 1d8 HP, no spells, and only a couple of special abilities.  But holy shit are her special abilities good.  Armies that march against her will fail.  If she commands one of her lovers to slit their own throat, she has a good chance of getting what she wants.

And 1d8 HP is a lot when there is no easy way to attack a nymph.  What are you going to do, invade her house while blindfolded and deafened?  Fuck that.


What is this Nymph All About? [d4]
To be honest, most nymphs incorporate all four of these things to some degree or another.  But roll on the table to see which is their prime motivator.
  1. Sex, and lots of it.
  2. Stories and entertainment.  Bread and circuses.  Parties and costumes.
  3. Vanity above all else.  Gifts and symbols of devotion.  She secretly enjoys seeing her admirers fighting over her.
  4. Peace on earth, and goodwill towards all.  Tolerance and understanding.
The Nymph's Admirers [d20]
Roll until you get a result of 16 or higher, or you roll a result twice.  Roll at least twice.  These are the people you'll be sharing a campfire with.

  1. A tiger that brings her food.
  2. Three ogres (HD 4) that are trying to entertain the nymph with a comedy act.  Roll a d6 to see how well they're doing.
  3. 1d20 villagers building her a house.  They're arguing over where to put the chimney.
  4. A troll (HD 6) who has learned to braid hair.
  5. 1d20 bandits who are mostly interested in stealing jewelry to use as gifts.
  6. The queen of a local colony of giant ants.  The queen is plotting to turn the nymph into another queen, and then the two of them will rule the colony alongside each other.  This plan has a 3-in-6 chance of succeeding if the players do nothing.  In the meantime, the ant queen is allowing the nymph to use many of her ants to play complex games of strategy.
  7. 1d6 angry trees have decided that they are perhaps not so angry after all.
  8. 1d6 pilgrims and a cleric (HD 1d4) are trying to convert the nymph to Hesaya.  They are making progress.  Once they succeed, they will want to bring her to the holy city of Coramont, which will be an absolute disaster.
  9. A tirapheg.  It used to bring her corpses that it 'decorated', but this horrified the nymph and she sent it away.  It now lurks nearby, sad and desperate to find a way to please the nymph.  Fancy corpses were really the only thing that it knows how to do.
  10. An owlbear, serene for the first time in its life.  When it lays its head in her lap, it knows peace.
  11. A death knight, doing something very out-of-character.  Repairing a dress, cleaning up a tea party, reading a story to another one of the nymph's admirers.
  12. 3d6 goblins, building a statue of the nymph out of sticks, stones, and earwax.  They are looking for things to decorate it with.
  13. A poet, filling up books with love poetry as fast as she can make ink.  She may commit suicide soon.
  14. A wall of flesh.
  15. Another nymph, who lost a beauty duel and is now hopelessly besotted by the victor.  Her powers are greatly weakened while she is in the thrall of the victorious nymph.  She is currently attempting to write the victorious nymph's name on every tree in the forest, and on every stone.  She is about halfway done.
  16. Korgoth, The King of Axes.  Level 8 fighter.  Has an army located about a day away.  Here alone.  Wants the nymph to marry him.
  17. Stargod, a dragon.  HD 12.  She wants the nymph to accept her hoard.  She is here with 1d6 of her dragoncult barbarians, who are camped over the next ridge; they are not allowed near the nymph.
  18. Thazridul, a HD 9 lich, believes her to be the only truly good thing in the world.  She wants to protect the nymph from the cruelties of the world; the nymph only wants Thazridul to tell stories.
  19. King Acrodel is here to give another lamb as a gift (the most perfect lamb born in the kingdom).  No one knows he is here, not even his wife.  He runs the kingdom.
  20. One of the surviving Satans is here.  He/she is trying to get the nymph to raise an army.
Things That Happen While Living With The Nymph [d6]
How much time happens between these things?  I'd say at least a month if you're DMing softly.  Several years if you DM with strong, firm strokes.
  1. An enemy attacks with creatures resistant to the nymph's charms.  Undead, constructs, elementals, oozes, forest fires.  First a small wave of enemies, then a larger one.
  2. The nymph goes missing.  Tensions flare.
  3. Treachery!  One of the suitors attempts a coup.
  4. The nymph falls ill, and all of you must go off into some local dungeon in order to fetch a cure.  This is complicated by the fact that each of you wants to be the one to present it to her.
  5. You are tasked with throwing a surprise party for the nymph.  If you please her, she will grant you a boon.
  6. Just some serious conversation around a campfire one night, while the nymph is in a somber mood.  She is sitting atop a pile of all of her admirers (including you).  She wants to talk about love, especially how other people experience love, and she wants you to do most of the talking.  Or she asks about death, since she has seen so little of it.  Or perhaps wonders about the nature of good and evil, and the value of charity and/or callousness.
Those are just some ideas.  

Just because you are basically imprisoned on a loveseat, doesn't mean that it has to be a boring imprisonment.  And if it is boring, skip over it quickly.  ("You live with the nymph for three years, until one day. . .")

And honestly, if you are spending your nights around a campfire with 15 bandits, a tiger, a lich, and a nymph, there's probably something interesting that you can cook up.  (That's what my random rolls generated.)  Perhaps the tiger attempts to get you indirectly killed when you go hunting alongside it, or maybe the lich is offering you the secrets of undeath in exchange for an advantage with the nymph, or perhaps the bandits just put on a puppet show mocking the lich and the nymph has now tasked you with protecting the bandits from the lich's wrath, or perhaps. . .

6 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this post.

    I have until now been a lurker, but here is something I absolutely have to include in my next campaign. I fear for the derailment of the PCs goals if they encounter her, but unlike a TPK, it should introduce a warm, sad, wistful atmosphere to the plot.

    I absolutely love the idea of their current (whatever it is at the time), urgent mission being catastrophically ignored while they're busy playing house. 17 years later they finally emerge and they get to know the world as it has changed. PErhaps they will pursue old goals, perhaps not.

    One of the best posts on RPGs I've read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do it! And then let me know how it goes.

      Just make sure to let the players know what they're getting into. Much like a gorgon, players need to be informed of the risks before they meet her. (Maybe meet someone who was her lover for 7 years, and is still in love with her, but is afraid to go back, etc. . .)

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  2. I've introduced Avalon the Nymph to the party through stories today. They have been tasked with taking her soul for a Demon that has been the party's benefactor for the first half of their adventure. They've decided to go into her territory. She is totally based off of everything from this post.

    I'm thinking of expanding all the lists you have to make their "stay" with her memorable. Have you put any more thought into nymphs yet?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Previous poster here,

    I actually made the adventure, wrote it up and everything. I've got a lot of your ideas in it for the Nymph. My party is going through it right now and it's equal parts dangerous and outrageous.

    http://www.dmsguild.com/product/188968/Avalons-Retreat-Mid-Level-Hex-Crawl?src=newest_in_dmg

    ReplyDelete
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