Monday, August 5, 2019

Cosmic Monster: Geminoids

This is a continuation of my series on the non-Euclidean, this time a non-Euclidean monster.

Imagine a 2-dimensional world, full of 2-dimensional castle and 2-dimensional people.  Now imagine a person standing to the left of that world, so that their body doesn't intersect with it in any way.  Now imagine that they have a couple of paper puppets, and that they insert into the 2-dimensional world, making them stand on top of that 2D castle as if they belonged there.

Now you know what a geminoid is.

completely inaccurate
a 2-dimensional drawing of a 4-dimensional fellow
and the geminoids should be larger relative to the puppeteer
They look like twins, with a strange look about them.

Their shapes are crude, with odd ridges and flat spots, like wax pressed into the shape of a human.  They seem like imitations, because they are.  They wear thin cloaks to obscure their clumsy shapes.

They are hand-puppets, pieces of a much larger creature that is projected into our world.  The puppeteer cannot be seen, cannot be felt, cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.  It is sideways to our world, and you cannot reach it any easier than Mario can turn sideways and leave your television.

Beneath their cloaks, they do not wear much.  They are always hot to the touch.  The puppeteer, floating in the vacuum of the void, struggles to radiate heat.  There is no air there.  And so the hand-puppets must manage the temperature of the entire beast.

Sometimes the puppeteer relaxes, and turns the puppets slightly sideways.  One arm might shrink to a stump; another arm might grow thick and untextured.  A normal-seeming eye might relax into a colored spot on featureless skin, like a giant freckle.  If you pull back the hood of a sleeping geminoid, this is what you will see.

(I will speak of geminoids in the plural.  This deception is for your players.)

Their arms are as bony as their fused ribs.  Their legs are thick, calloused things, made to support more weight than you'd expect.

If you watch closely, you will notice that geminoids don't seem to breathe.  Their extra-long breaths form condensation in cold places, but their chests don't rise and fall.  This is because the lungs are in the puppeteer, not the puppet (although the puppeteer must still breath through his hands).

Inside a geminoids spindly body, you will find almost nothing except muscle, bone, and circulatory system.  Some of these will seem illogical or impossible, such as an artery that forms a loop with itself, and connects to no other part.  (Their heart and lungs are located inside the puppeteer--you will not find them.)

what looks like levitation is really just a geminoid raising its hand behind the scenes
If the attack deals low damage, this may indicate that they are striking you with their puppet-limbs, like you would expect a skinny fellow to do.  If the attack deals high damage, this may indicate that the geminoid has curled themselves up into a ball and flown at you, as if hurled telekinetically.

Geminoids can hit you a lot harder than you think.  (A hand-puppet curled up into a fist can hit you a lot harder than a man the size of a hand-puppet.)

Geminoid
HD 6  (HP 24)  Def chain  Slam 1d10 each
MoveInt 10  Mor 4

If you define them according to the format of a game system, geminoids have a lot of abilities.  But once you grasp the concept, it's really simple.

Shared Body -- Geminoids share an HP pool: 24 points.  They also share their weight, which fluctuates depending on how much of the overall creature remains in the void (which has no gravity).  They share a blood supply and a mind.  They function as two creatures against AoE damage, but against spells that target creatures, treat them as a single creature.

Flight -- One geminoid can fly anywhere within 20' of the other geminoid, provided the other geminoid remains on the ground.  (This is equivalent to the puppeteer using one hand to pull themself higher while reaching with the other hand.)

Exit -- A geminoid can leave our dimension.  This looks like the creature being sucked down its own bellybutton, and then shrinking until it is just a small sphere of flesh the size of a basketball.  It looks like new types of skin are flowing from the asshole on the back of the basketball and swirling down the bellybutton on the front.  Smaller and faster and then it is gone.  (This is equivalent to the puppeteer taking his hand-puppet off the stage.)

The puppeteer needs to have both hands in our dimension in order to hold on.  Without at least one geminoid to anchor it, it will come untethered, and starve to death in the void.

A geminoid can grab a character and pull them sideways into the void.  This requires one turn to grab, and another turn to pull them sideways.  The character gets a Cha save to resist, and if they are holding on to something, they also get a Cha save.  If they are tied down, the geminoid must break the ropes before it can pull them sideways.

Once a character has been pulled into the void, they gain 5 Trauma and begin to suffocate and overheat.  There is no light in the void.  The geminoid can attempt to throw them away or pass them to the unborn twins (see below).

Entrance -- A geminoid that is in the void can enter the world the same way it left.  It can appear anywhere within 20' of its twin, even on the other side of walls.

The puppeteer may carry items on its extradimensional body, similar to a bag of holding.

Unborn Twin -- Every geminoid has 1d3-2 (min 0) immature buds.  The yare the unborn twins gestating in the void, like unfinished hand puppets.  If it needs reinforcements, the geminoid can put these unborn twins into the world, effectively doubling the number of geminoids.  The unborn twins have the same stats and abilities as their siblings, they just look wet and unfinished (because they are) and have AC as unarmored.

Full Entrance -- The puppeteer has no reason to ever enter our dimension.  It has no reason to.  Besides, it is too Thick to exist here, much like a puppeteer can never put their whole body atop a paper-thin diorama.  (The only reason I can think: it might need to pass its body through our dimension to hide on the other side from a larger predator.)

Still, nothing is preventing the puppeteer from pulling its whole body sideways and materializing in front of a stunned party.  This would make it look like an inside-out octopus, with each of its four tentacles connected to an inside-out human.  Viewed from the side, its head looks like a three-dimensional version of a CAT scan of the human head, magnified to monstrous proportions.

These would be inappropriate structures for Super Mario World
A geminoid's true body is an inappropriate body for our world.
Extradimensional -- The puppeteer can see if you are carrying a bag of holding.  It can rip it open and steal its content without you ever knowing.



Biology

When describing geminoids and the puppetmaster, remember that they are not natives of the Void.  (True natives have no interest in an incomplete dimension, and would actually struggle to affect it in a systematic way.)

This is because they were human before they were aliens.  They have adapted to the liminal spaces between worlds, like penguins, pelicans, or flying fish.

It is believed that the first proto-geminoids were created by mishaps while investigating extradimensional spaces.  (Beware the bag of holding.  Never allow the extradimensional space to detach from the burlap and attach to you.)

They are not a true species.  They are created by the induction of a fourth-dimensional uterine prolapse during the first trimester.

Psychology

Their minds are completely human.  They are not Outsiders.  (But they know strange things.  They have met Outsiders.)

When they are born, they seem almost like a regular pair of twins.  The puppeteer is still undeveloped at this point, and they seem like two creatures instead of one.

The easiest way to test a newborn is to attempt to separate it from its twin.  Newborn geminoids cannot be moved more than a few feet away from their twin.

If you forcibly try to separate a pair of geminoids, you might rupture their sac-like body.  Their blood will spill out into the Void, and the two babies will blanch, weaken, and die. 

More likely, though, you'll just succeed in pulling the baby sideways.  It will volute in your hands, shrinking through a thousand stages of deformity in the second before vanishing.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Helpfuls



In my current ruleset, characters stop gaining HP at level 3.  From level 4 onward, they gain +1 Helpful every time they level up.

Level 1
HP = 1/3 of Con
Level 2
HP = 2/3 of Con
Level 3
HP = Con
Level 4+
+1 Helpful

Helpfuls are a renewable resource.  They replenish whenever the character gets a good night's sleep.

A player can spend Helpfuls to modify an ally's roll by an equal amount, up or down.  There is no limit to how many Helpfuls you can spend at once, and multiple people can contribute simultaneously.

The only caveat is that you must have a feasible way to affect their ally's action.
  • The fighter feints, helping the wizard land a hit on the orc.
  • The wizard shouts a warning, and the arrow meant for the warrior's throat hits him in the shoulder instead.
  • The fighter reaches up with his shield, catching the arrow like an outfielder.
  • The rogue sticks out his foot while the fighter shoves the zombie hog.
The fiction doesn't matter too much.  Let them be badasses.

Thieves

Thieves get an extra Helpful for every template.  Unlike other classes, Thieves can spend Helpfuls on themselves.

Discussion

GLOG characters don't really get much more powerful beyond level 3.  Instead, they get more versatile.  Helpfuls fit this philosophy well.

+1 Helpful is comparable to getting +1 HP (since you can use your Helpful to reduce incoming damage by 1 point).

They are similar to getting +1 HP at each level, since you can use Helpfuls to reduce incoming damage by an equal amount.  +1 HP is better at a single thing, while +1 Helpful is more versatile.

The biggest tweak over Luck Points (the previous incarnation) is that you can only use Helpfuls on other people, rather than yourself.  This has a few effects.

  • It helps higher-level characters keep lower-level characters alive.
  • It encourages players to stick together.  It hopefully fosters camaraderie, too, since players will be saving each other a lot.
  • It works as insurance, insulating the player against a streak of bad luck.  If a lot of bad luck befalls one player, the other players can dump Helpfuls to keep them alive.
  • It gives players something to do when its not their turn.  Hopefully, they'll be watching each other's rolls, looking for places where they can turn a miss into a hit.
I don't know if I want to put a cap on Helpfuls.  I've never had a game where players had more than a handful.

Trois Monstres

Shrifling

Named for the noise it makes.

One arm, one leg, one jaw, and one eye--it only needs one eye to see out of both sides of its paper-thin head.  If you reached out and touched it, it would squirm away, sharp hairs rushing under your fingers like the frayed rope connected to a falling boom.  The fibers are silky, but the tips are like knives.

Supposedly, they are born when rope kills its owner.

A competing theory maintains that they are cooperative colonies of tiny rockworms, akin to a migratory slime mold.  Everyone admits that this theory is less exciting, and therefor less likely to be true.

HD 4  (HP 1)  AC chain  Bite 1d12
Move horse  Climb spider  IntMor 10  Str 1

Threadlike -- Takes no fall damage.  Can creep along ceilings without falling.  Can leap through keyholes without slowing its gallop.  Looks like a thin strand of hair when it holds still.  Coiled up, a dead one barely fills your palm.


Confused by Hair -- Supposedly, it believe that the hair on a human's head is a baby.  It will attempt to 'rescue' the hair from a corpse, carry it to safety, and 'mourn' when it is unable to rouse the hair.

A shrifling I drew while waiting for the PCR to finish.
Barlutra

Giant carnivorous otters that hunt in packs.  Stats as wolves, except with a swim speed and a lower land speed.

They seem to show no fear of humans, and will occasionally prey on humans.  There is a tremendous amount of fear surrounding the barlutra, perhaps more than it deserves.

Superstitions:

1. Barlutra are drawn to pregnant women, who they seek to disembowel.
2. If a barlutra tail is waved over a sleeper, they will sicken.  Do every night for 7 days and they will die.
3. If a barlutra skull is buried beneath each room of a house, and the house is near a river, the house will be destroyed in a flood.
4. If a barlutra jumps over a corpse, the corpse will speak blasphemies until 3 am, damning the soul of the deceased.

When a pack of barlutra gets large enough, it will build a dam.  The dam forms a reservoir, and eventually multiple families of barlutra may take up residence around the reservoir.  Over a few years, they will dig and shape the reservoir until it is a perfect circle.

Then, the barlutra will contruct four false 'dams' at equidistant points around the circumference of this circular lake.  All dead creatures within the area will be raised as undead in service of the barlutra, who generally ignore the shambling, flopping things.

The rooms within their dams are lined with the skeletons of fish.  Animate, but waiting.  The corpses of their prey are often too scattered to recompose themselves, but those that can do so will drag themselves to the nearest 'dam' and incorporate themselves into the dam's structure.

Paladins and firebombs usually get involved long before this critical stage.  Still, barlutra in the remote parts of the world can remain undiscovered for generations, and the five towers of their reservoirs can grow to prodigious sizes.

Sidebar: Secret DM Knowledge

The reservoirs are summoning circles, waiting for someone with the knowledge to activate them.

Barlutra were corrupted long ago by Shadoom, in order to build his infernal infrastructure around Centerra.  Being beasts, they would never understand what they were building.  They would never betray him; they would never steal his secrets.  (Goblins were created for much the same reason.)

Grievous Insect Nebula

Insects rip each other apart with a cruelty that is unfathomable to humans, but these depredations are impersonal.  In fact, the insect kingdoms are closely allied with one another.  They speak freely to each other, even as they tear the legs off one another.  They are united in their alien morality.

When the insect kingdoms become overcome with grief (when sorrow crushes them like a boot), they will mourn.  They do not weep nor pace.  Instead, all of the holometabolous insects in an area (except moths) come together and form a cocoon.

When a caterpillar forms a cocoon, the first thing that it does it to release enzymes that dissolve itself.  If you were to cut open a cocoon at the right time, a thick soup would dribble out.  The only parts of the caterpillar to survive are the soul discs, maintained by a webbing of nerves.  Safely encased in this nutrient soup, the insect regrows itself.  Unbound by its previous form, it is free to take any shape it wishes.

A grievous cocoon follows much of the same steps.  Each grievous cocoon is formed from hundreds of immature insects, and each cocoon is about the size of a soda can.

What emerges is a globular cloud of scintillating hatred, about a meter across.

HD AC none  Bites 1d6
Fly moth  Int Mor 14

Gaseous -- All attacks against a nebula hit it.  Most attacks deal 1 damage.  Fans deal 1d4.  A bucket of water deals 1d3.  A strong gust of wind deals 2d6 (or perhaps [sum], if caused by a spell).  A nebula cannot enter the water.

Bites -- Small, deep punctures, like the wounds from buckshot.  (Feels like buckshot.)  These attacks leave debris: butterfly scales, insect legs, urticating hairs.  If you are bitten by a nebula, you will be unable to derive any benefit from non-vegetarian food, and will immediately vomit it back up.

By New York State Museum;University of the State of New York.