Sunday, December 18, 2011

Secret Santicore: New Fantasy Race: VAT- SPAWN

I never got the requester's name, but here's my entry for Secret Santicore this year:

Request: Dear Secret Santicore...

I request a new fantasy race, not system specific so pick whatever one you are most comfortable with or go system-less.

Thank you very much!

Well, here goes:

by Jeremy Duncan

The sorcerer-kings of old, already worshiped as living gods by their subjects, and having grown bored with merely warping and molding nature to their whim, sought to fully assume the mantle of godhood and create life itself. With arcane secrets dredged up from the earth and sea and called down from the stars, they set to work, their forbidden knowledge wed to the toil of a thousand slaves, alchemists, and sages. At the expense of vast wealth, countless lives, and unquantifiable human suffering, they at last achieved their goal, as the first tottering form rose by its own strength from the vats, to stand complete before its maker.

Pleased with their new plaything, the sorcerer-kings whiled away their idle hours by creating variations and refinements enough to satisfy their immortality-strained appetites. Whole armies of vat-spawn were called up to re-enact legendary battles or duel to the death in elaborately planned and scripted combats. Harems of pleasure-slaves, their every feature sculpted in exacting detail, were bred in the vats to serve at their makers' grand debauches, only to be dissolved again when their masters had tired of their ministrations. So it went, century after extravagant, heedless century, until at last the power of the sorcerer-kings waned, and their empires were toppled amid fire and slaughter. The sorcerer-kings were put to the sword, their pale, anemic blood seeping into the blackened earth to mingle with the spilled ichor of their artificial slaves.

While most of their kind were ruthlessly exterminated, a tiny minority escaped destruction, having been posted to remote corners of the world, or waiting in stasis in their vats in some hidden laboratory. Their makers long since dead, and their original purpose unknown, these creatures, upon awakening and learning something of the world, often turn to adventuring to satisfy their endless curiosity and challenge their strange abilities.

Each vat-spawn is a hairless humanoid, with height and weight in the standard human range, though their features are often somewhat alien to modern observers, recalling ethnicities no longer found among the contemporary population, but glimpsed on the pitted faces of ancient coins, and in worn bas-reliefs on the columns and pediments of sunken temples.

If undisturbed, Vat-spawn are functionally immortal, though they are as susceptible to violent death as any other adventurer. As they are inherently unnatural, they cannot be Raised after death, nor can they reincarnate. Whether they possess souls at all is a matter of considerable theological debate.

They possesses functional genitalia, but are completely sterile.

After every 100 years, the vat-spawn's memory and personality will reset, returning it to 1st level.

Vat-spawn have a vibrantly-colored ichor (roll on color chart) in their veins instead of blood. This ichor has many alleged magical properties, and unscrupulous Magic-Users are always on the lookout for experimental subjects.

All Vat-spawn can graft on and incorporate body parts from humanoids and other creatures, as long as there is sufficient space. Any special abilities or attacks inherent to those parts (a medusa's eyes, etc.) transfer to their new owner. Removing one limb, eye, hand, etc. to make room for a new part inflicts 1d4 damage, after which it it is rendered useless, withering away to nothing. Characters attempting to graft on a new part must Save vs. Poison + the creatures hit dice – PC's level. The grafting process requires one hour * ½ the creature's hit dice of uninterrupted concentration. There are undoubtedly opportunities for abuse, here, but just use common sense or whatever the GM thinks would be funniest.

Roll your character's Ability Scores as normal.

Roll twice (unless otherwise indicated) on Skin/Eye Color chart, twice on Variations A and twice on Variations B, re-rolling in the case of a conflicting result. These indicate the PCs original function, as well as any modifications during his/her unremembered past

d20 Skin/Eye Color Variations A Variations B
1 bottle green Series Number and /or Function title dyed or embossed on skin. You have infravision, but your eyes glow in the dark.
2 heliotrope Someone did a half-assed job sculpting your face. - 3 to reaction rolls when/where applicable, but on the plus side, you can easily frighten small children. Skin prominently stamped or dyed with personal rune of creator.
3 ocher Skin embossed with a pattern (1-2) spirals (3-4) deep hatching) (5-6) A “Persian rug” pattern that changes with your mood. One hand can semi-detach & extend + retract 50 ft., connected to arm by ropy tendons. Can support PC + 2d100 lbs and do any normal hand tasks.
4 vermillion Your skin can temporarily take on the properties of any surface you touch for 2 rounds or more. You retain full flexibility and mobility, and skin reverts to normal in 1d6 turns, which you can extend by spending 1d4 HP per extra round. Lungs can inflate to extraordinary capacity, meaning that you can go 1 hour of game time without having to breathe. DEX is halved, because you're walking around with your chest puffed out like a bullfrog.
5 turquoise One forearm is a (1-2) mace (3-4) shortsword (5-6) axe. It does damage as usual and you get a +2 to hit, but you can't really do much else with it. Your facial features are an exact replica of (1-2) Your creator's own (3-4) their most hated rival (5-6) a legendary hero/ine.
6 pearl Silly-putty skin: you pick up shallow impressions of anything pressed against your bare skin. This also works with anything drawn or written in ink. Impression lasts 4 days. You were a Pleasure-Slave! You have enhanced pheromones: +4 to reaction rolls when dealing with (1-4) humanoids of the appropriate persuasion (5-6) GM secretly rolls on wandering monster chart. Other complications may ensue. Also, take a +1 to DEX and CON-- what the hell. Also, your sweat is a mild aphrodisiac. If it's distilled and enters the bloodstream, it's a powerful aphrodisiac, unless they fail a save vs. poison roll, in which case, they take 3d6 damage.
7 indigo Your body has been indelibly imprinted with (1) an epic poem (2 ) obscene doggerel in an unknown tongue (3) instructions for your intended master/overseer (4) a hymn in praise to a forgotten god (5) the formula for your creation, in an elaborate code (6) a spell (roll randomly ) You have a functional mouth with teeth, tongue, etc. on your (1-3) pick the palm of one hand (4-6) pick sole of one foot. Mouth does 1d4 damage in combat w/ a +2 to hit, can absorb and transfer 1 hp/damage inflicted up to max. Other applications at GM discretion.
8 carmine Though you are completely hairless, your maker has given you stylized hair and/or a beard as with a clay sculpture. You have d4 eyes in the back of your head. Cannot be surprised from behind unless wearing helmet.
9 black You have a small, translucent, circular “panel” of skin over your (1-3) heart (4-6) intestines, allowing these organs to be observed. The ichor you bleed is phosphorescent (as candle flame)
10 Mottled skin /different colored eyes (roll twice) You have a ½” x 4” secret hollow compartment in your left forearm. Any item stored there is undetectable by mundane means. You have gills. These are almost imperceptible slits in the side of your neck when outside water.. Underwater they open up and you can breathe normally.
11 mauve Short, irregular spirals of a coral-like substance sprout from the top of your head (roll for color). You do an extra d4 damage with a headbutt, and the growths count as a helmet. Designed for infiltration: +2 to DEX, chameleon skin: acts as Invisibility spell, but it hurts and you must be naked. Every round you have it activated, roll a d4. On an odd result, you take that much damage each time until you pass out.
12 charcoal Eyes can extend/retract on flexible stalks up to 50 ft (while retaining function). While this is going on, you must remain absolutely still, and you are disoriented and completely helpless (worst possible AC) for one round after they pop back in. Your bones are weirdly flexible and easy to dislocate. With one round's worth of preparation, you may squeeze into a space normally accessible to Small creatures, but your ST and DEX are halved until you are able to pop yourself back into place (1 round).
13 violet Created for the Arena! : +2 to STR and CON, can spend 1d4 HP to immediately upon being hit to seal up wounds and take ½ damage. If the damage you would've taken was more than ½ current HP, you lose a limb (GM discretion) and gain a fresh, sealed-over stump. Every 6 months of game time, your character molts, his/her skin flaking off to reveal new skin underneath. Roll again on color table for your brand new skin! Everything else remains as it was.
14 sky blue Your ichor corrodes metals like a rust monster. When damaged, this applies to any metal armor you happen to be wearing. If you are struck and damaged by a metal or metal-tipped weapon, the attacker must roll a d6. On a 1-5, the weapon (or the metal part, anyway) dissolves into useless flakes of rust. Lots of other fun uses! Your saliva acts as a hallucinogen. In addition to everything else that might imply, if a Magic-User drinks a few drops of it, mixed into any beverage, it will impart startling revelations of the cosmos and the innate mystic potential of every star, drop of rain, and blade of grass. When they recover in d20 hours, they will have gained a one-time permanent +1 bonus to WIS.
15 lime When under considerable stress (like combat, taking a difficult exam, or being chased by monsters), your skin darkens slightly and hardens into tiny, raised spikes, like on a horned lizard, making you look even freakier and giving you a +1 bonus to AC. This effect lasts until the immediate danger is past. Depending on the material, your characters' clothing may then be covered with tiny holes. If PC is sneak- attacked, etc., the AC bonus isn't applied until after damage (if any) is taken. An hour after grafting on a new part, and until that part is detached or destroyed, you gain the ability to verbally communicate with and understand members of that species. For responding to non-verbal forms of communication, you have some ability, but are still somewhat limited by your own anatomy. For example, you would be able to perceive and understand scent-messages left by creatures that communicated by smell, but you would not be able to leave messages of your own without incorporating the necessary scent-glands, etc.
16 crimson You may perfectly mimic any sound you hear at least once, but the mimicry must be exact – no improvising. Body covered in tiny, iridescent scales.
17 Two-toned (roll twice, decide areas of division) You can absorb liquid through your pores at the rate of 1 pint/round, storing it in elastic subcutaneous pouches, to a maximum of 2 gallons, at which point, your Dex is halved until the moisture is expelled (the rate of which can be as fast or slow as the player desires). Your hands and toes have tiny suction cups on them allowing you to climb up and down (and cling to: max weight= PC+2d100 lbs.) sheer surfaces if gloveless and barefoot.
18 puce When struck and damaged by a (non magical) weapon, you may sacrifice an additional d4 hit points to make it stick – your flesh temporarily fuses with the striking surface, making it impossible for the wielder to dislodge it. The effect lasts 1d4 rounds + 1 for each point of damage the weapon originally inflicted. Such is your physical control that you can stop your own heartbeat and cease breathing, entering into a state completely indistinguishable from death. Since Vat-spawn are immortal, this can theoretically last indefinitely. To come out of stasis, the PC must either set a time beforehand, or arrange some signal (a tap on the forehead, a whispered word in the ear). If the signal isn't given, the PC will remain in stasis forever, and the player should probably roll up a new character.
19 rust You may transmit psychic messages via drops of your ichor, which may then be imbibed, injected, etc; by someone else. One word per drop. Message is not diluted if mixed with other liquids. Costs 1 HP, unless you're transmitting a novella or something. Your body can secrete sharp, hardened darts, which can be fired (once/round) through the palm of your hand. You have a +1 to hit with this “weapon” and each dart does 1d6 damage. Range is 20 feet. Generating darts costs 1 HP each, which are restored after a full night's rest.
20 amber Your skin is soft to the touch, but shiny and reflective like polished chrome. Opponents attacking you in bright sunlight (assuming at least some skin is visible) do so at a -2 penalty. Also, you have no body odor of any kind, making you impossible to track or detect by scent alone. The GM can impose penalties to attempts to hide as the situation warrants. Your palate is super-sensitive, and you can clearly distinguish and identify the ingredients of any compound. You know the joke about the wine snob, where he's given a glass of someone's urine to drink, and then asked, “But whose is it?” Well, you can narrow it down to species (if that's an issue) sex, age, diet, and habits (smokes, uses expensive hair pomade, etc.).

Level XP Hit Points Paralyze Poison Breath Weapon Magical Device Magic
1 0 1d8 10 8 12 14 15
2 2,500 +1d8 8 8 11 12 14
3 5,000 +1d8 8 8 10 12 14
4 10,000 +1d8 6 6 10 12 12
5 20,000 +1d8 4 6 8 12 12
6 40,000 +1d8 4 4 8 10 10
7 80,000 +1d8 4 4 8 10 10
8 160,000 +1d8 4 4 6 10 10
9 320,000 +1d8 4 2 6 8 10
10 480,000 +3* 2 2 4 8 8
11 720,000 +3* 2 2 4 6 8
12+ 150,000/level +3*/level 2 2 2 6 6

*constitution modifiers no longer apply


  1. I like it! How about internal organs? Could a Vat-Spawn add a ruminant's stomach for instance?

    It brings to mind a (likely forgotten) Marvel Comics character from the early 90s called Terror, who could graft on body-parts.

  2. I now have the endorsement of a medical professional!

    @Trey: Yes. I would probably make it a bit harder, though, and more potentially hazardous if the body rejects it (they fail the save).

    The Grafting rules are inherently a rules-lawyer minefield, and sometime I might draw up something more comprehensive, but for now I like the simplicity of it, and the back-and-forth haggling that will inevitably result if anyone uses these guys.

    All Vat-Spawn have a intuitive understanding of Pulp Medicine.

  3. Great stuff! This would be sure to add a very definite weird flavor to a campaign.

  4. I'm not sure why I find the whole "Secret Santicore" pun so amusing, but I do haha.

  5. This is very clever! Snagged!*

    *I must note that I am not a medical professional, but I have been seen by them.

  6. Wow.

    Talk about parallel development.

    Although I hadn't seen this when I wrote my "electric brain" concept for the Hill Cantons contest, I wish I had!

    By the way, your Galbaruc setting looks like a thing of beauty. I am so glad I stumbled upon this blog.

    @Trey I loved Terror, Inc! I definitely caught that vibe as well.