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Updating Abyssal Spiders (Intruders) With Some New Mechanics

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  • Updating Abyssal Spiders (Intruders) With Some New Mechanics

    To put it simply, these little hive-minded neural arachnids are the most frustrating things in Intruders; they're so cool both thematically and fluff-wise, but mechanically? You're creepy and forbidden from raising your Morality stat or equivalent until they're gone. That is...an incalculable waste of literal brain parasites, which I think the hooks knew, because one of them literally ignored the fact they can only override will for one turn per day. So, I'm making a new Condition for them that I think combined both the puppeteer concept and the fact they're more a byproduct of temptation than anything.

    Neural Webs (Persistent)

    A nest of Abyssal spiders has colonized your arachnoid layer and developed into a mature infection - a cluster, in Scelestus parlance. Their numbers have grown to the point where their neural communication has matured into a semisentient hive mind, one with an agenda of its own - and rewards you for assisting. In addition to your normal Aspirations, you have a Spider Aspiration that furthers the goals of the spiders, usually something that allows more colonies through or preparing the way for the pantheon of Annunaki gods they worship. If you have a Emissary cluster, this is invariably "find a supernatural being and transfer us to them," but Workers, Warriors, and Priests are more varied and often involve other infected. You gain a +3 bonus to any action that furthers this, as the spiders enhance your central nervous system and invoke antinomian Imagos from their hive mind to cover for the areas that aren't directly enhanced. Being clever, the Spider Aspiration usually dovetails neatly with your own Aspirations and your Anchors, though invariably it winds up destructive in the long term, as the Abyss tends to be. The gulmoth arachnids are impatient masters, though, inflicting massive headaches and hallucinations when irritated; any attempt to resist the Spider Aspiration for more than a day results in a stacking -1 penalty per day it has been ignored to any action without the bonus, until it has been advanced significantly in some manner. In addition, the spiders enhance any attempt to learn new ways to open the way for them; every Beat taken from pursuing the Spider Aspiration also comes with a bonus Dominator Beat, which can be used in place of normal Experience for learning any power or Merit based around controlling sentient minds or sentient emotions (if you happen to be a hapless Emissary, the fact this is literally useless to you is even more reason to transfer the infection before you lose all your cerebrospinal fluid). On the downside, the amoral and alien enticers also block strong guilty impulses that would prevent you from exercising that same mind control frequently; you cannot increase Integrity or equivalent stat while infected. In addition, the constant psychic static produced, while useful to any attempt to lure out a new potential host, is not pleasant; you suffer a -2 penalty to all Social Skills minus Intimidation and Subterfuge towards any being that can perceive it and does not have this Condition. Once per day, they may also automatically override your motor neurons for one turn to accomplish any action; just enough to really ruin someone's day.

    In addition, each cluster diversifies into a caste based on circumstances; these aren't biological changes, they're more like vocations or roles in a battlefield unit. Today's Worker just needs a day to reconfigure into a Warrior, or a Priest can go to ground and become a Worker if they need stealth.

    Emissary: Most sacred and yet most cursed of all castes, Emissaries are the term for the "patients zero" of the spiders, the original mortal so abused mentally a crack formed in her brain that let the gulmoths through from their otherworldly void-web hanging between dead worlds. They are unique, in that they can survive in a baseline human, but need to feed on cerebrospinal fluid far faster than it can be replaced, as their digestion is inefficient without a source of supernatural energy to serve as catalyst; every week, an Emissary host suffers one point of aggravated damage from her neurons becoming damaged due to CBS deficiency; rather than spreading the infection, the host transfers it, as the spiders universally flee into the new host, allowing more chance at the infection taking, and thus curing the host. If she wasn't quick, it may be the last thing she ever does; she rolls Stamina + Resolve, with a penalty equal to the amount of weeks she was infected. A dramatic failure indicates she loses three dots from her Mental Attributes, divided by her player, to a minimum of zero (in which case she falls into a vegetative state), along with the normal amnesia inflicted by a failure (these dots are subject to Sanctity of Merits). Failure indicates a mild seizure that leaves her with two points of lethal damage and amnesia, gradually regaining memory of her life before infection over the course of a month, her time as a host completely blanked out. Success indicates that there is no damage, but all memories from her infection on are dreamlike, confused, and likely written off as mental illness (very plausibly - and not wrong, the spiders are indeed a neural disease). Exceptional success indicated the spiders accidentally broke to heal; she remembers everything (including her odd urges) and becomes a Sleepwalker, gaining three free dots of Merits to spend on Supernatural Merits, which will manifest over the course of a week in the form of newly kindled psychic potential. The enticers are fine with this, this means she's now a potential host for secondary infections.

    Worker: The basic form of cluster, they might as well be called "spies" or "vectors", as they generally are observers or the primary workhouses of direct infection. By spending a Willpower point, the Worker host can silence the psychic static for a scene, causing this Condition to go dormant or until the enticers assume direct control; he still has the bonus from working towards the Spider Aspiration, but does not have the frustration penalty or disturbs other supernatural beings. Technically, this means a Worker host can fight against their influence the most, but the gulmoth parasites have a lot more reserves to force him to do their work than he likely does Willpower to force them into long-term dormancy - and the kind of actions that supply it are likely to isolate him away from anyone who believes he has an alien hive mind in his brain.

    Warrior: When the spiders need an elite soldier or guardian of their schemes, or sometimes just a unique power for a more difficult mission, they make a hallucinatory offer to a host who has proven she really does not mind the influence of the Spider Aspiration, even revels in the mental power they give her; further abilities in return for becoming more inhuman. The host who accepts finds the spiders remaking her flesh into something alien and likely reminiscent of the earthly arachnids they resemble (which has led to tragedy for more than one Uratha pack who thought they were pursuing their own people's version of spiritual spider parasites). This would normally be agonizing, except the spiders control her nerves; to the host, it comes off as sheer ecstasy to be remade like this. She gains seven dots of Dread Powers to distribute as she pleases, generally phrased around physical mutations or manipulation of the static to better dominate others with mental powers (assuming a Warrior host is a dumb brute, when by definition she is host to a species that is more drawn to manipulators and generals, is generally a sign one isn't much of a challenge to her). In exchange, she invariably now sports at least one truly aberrant feature (even purely mental mutations result in things like extra, insectile eyes sprouting out of her forehead or spinnerets in her fingers that weave mystical cat's cradles as a focus) and develops a unique Bane (which remains the same if she changes caste and then back to Warrior again).

    Priest: It's thankfully infrequent that the spiders feel confident enough to manifest this caste and have someone willing to play host to it. Generally, manifestation is only considered if there's at least fifteen established hosts in the area and a secure area to serve as a base; the spiders know their own, and when they signal they've got the proper conditions, the enticers look for a host who feels the infection doesn't go far enough in granting him powers over others, usually an experienced Warrior host or an uninfected who willingly subjects himself to it to sharpen his domination abilities; almost invariably, they tend to be narcissists or megalomaniacs of some stripe. The spiders provoke a hallucination in which the prospective Priest is tested on his willingness to sacrifice parts of his identity to dominate others, often in the form of a religious or otherwise important figure in the host's life aping back what the host likely already believes about his superiority. This often involves real-world and very dark actions as he loses his self to his desires - when satisfied, the spiders open a direct line of communication to the void-web that is their home, filling his mind with dreams of the Annunaki as celestial beings and paradise worlds where he has all his wants satisfied, as all fear him and rejoice. The new Priest suffers a breaking point or equivalent with a -3 penalty (ST's call on how variant scales like Clarity are affected), as he fundamentally embraces a mad world for selfish reasons, but when his perceptions return to reality, he is filled with a dark vision. He gets five dots of Dread Powers to distribute as he will, with the unique ability to spend a Willpower point to change a non-Priest host's Spider Aspiration to something of his choosing for a scene, often becoming the leader of a powerful cult. Unlike Warriors, he does not physically mutate (his power comes from being a channel of the void-web; even natural weapons are really him briefly manifesting the claws of a God-Spider over his hands to slice, letting out a horde of thumb-sized spiders from a portal in his mouth to bite, or even just inexplicable cytotoxic rot as he touches his foes). but he gains both a Bane and a Ban, due to his similarity to a true gulmoth.

    Causes: Being infested, obviously. This happens in one of two ways, Emissary intrusion or from an existing host. For an Emissary cluster to cross over from the Abyss, either a true Sleeper (one who lacks any form of Supernatural Merit, even Unseen Sense) is repeatedly treated to supernatural mind control more times in a week than she has Willpower dots, occasionally when coming into contact with an Abyssal anomaly if she has been subject to mind control less frequently but over a long period of time. The enticers get their other name from the way they jump hosts; by use of occult patterns of electrical signals across the parts of the brain that control supernatural abilities, the gulmoths create a "psychic static" that can be sensed by their defining hosts; Sleepwalkers and supernatural beings. Invariably, an uninfested person's interprets this in disturbing ways, often by making the host seem inexplicably menacing, hearing a low chittering drone in their proximity, or feeling like there are spiders landing on his skin. Should the lured target touch the host, the spiders focus the static into a scream, using the the target's nerves in contact with the host as a medium, as a mental taser, paralyzing him - and automatically taking control of the host to kiss some part of the target's anatomy (usually their hand), a microscopic colonizing force erupting from her lips to burrow into the new host and follow the nerves to the brain (the infector is advised to use the few moments where the new host is writhing with pain to run or think of a good explanation). Either way, the new host begins to suffer migraines as the spiders learn the anatomy of their new home and tangle with the immune system around his nerves; he must roll Stamina + Resolve over an extended roll, one per day, and needs to gain 15 successes to resist full infestation - during this period, he gains the Sick Tilt, and any further mental control performed on him - or that he performs - creates an ideal neurochemical environment for the spiders, inflicting a -5 penalty to the roll for that day (and if infected by an Emissary, he has a straight -2 to all rolls, as the entire mature cluster crossed over to lay their eggs). A failed roll cannot be retried with a Condition - he just manifests the Neural Webs as the cluster comes into its own.

    Beat: Whenever your infection causes trouble for you or your loved ones.

    Resolution: Mundane surgery, besides being expensive and dangerous, cannot remove the enticers; they're simply too fast and small, being about the size of the head of a pin and a mature cluster usually having several million individuals in it. Actually killing the spiders usually means disrupting a cluster's hive mind - which ironically means more mind control. Focusing a mental supernatural power, the more intrusive the better, on the actual cluster inside a host rather than the host herself, will force the mental static into an extended Clash of Wills with the attacker, the spiders using their host's own Attributes to resist, plus bonus dice from the type of cluster itself; Workers add one die to the Clash, Warriors two, and Priests three. The aggressor winning this Clash causes him to penetrate the hive mind itself and communicate directly with the cluster itself - an unpleasant sensation, as this causes tactile hallucinations of spiders crawling over his flesh. Thankfully, once actually in the hive mind, the cluster is actually incredibly weak-willed; the aggressor can order them to do anything, even suicidal actions, such as sealing themselves up in a tube out of the host or holding still on a table with a very large hammer nearby, if the aggressor is an arachnophobe. If the host was a Warrior or Priest, their abilities instantly fade and any mutations are lost over the next few days. Other methods, like turning the static against the spiders, is up to the discretion of the ST.
    Last edited by Leliel; 06-07-2019, 11:29 AM.



  • #2
    Did some edits, putting in the Resolution mechanics.


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    • #3
      Are they physically materialized? Like do mundane sleeper machines like MRI-scan detect them?

      Also under the mage sight of which Arcana would that be observable? I mean treating it as a mystery. I guess:
      Any (peripheral) mage sight would be triggered by any (supernatural) action of the parasitic entity
      Mind (Active) will be positive. (Focused) will reveal the conflicting thought patterns between the host and something else.
      Life (Active) will be positive. (Focused) will reveal that a brain-damaging condition is afflicting the host.

      Life 1/Mind 1/Prime 1 knowing spells might reveal instantly the side effects (supernatural conditions) but maybe not the cause (entity).
      Mind 2 attainment that affects mage sight might reveal the entity if it is considered a goetic entity. Some might argue that since it is an alien entity it does not register.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Shadowjim12 View Post
        Are they physically materialized? Like do mundane sleeper machines like MRI-scan detect them?

        Also under the mage sight of which Arcana would that be observable? I mean treating it as a mystery. I guess:
        Any (peripheral) mage sight would be triggered by any (supernatural) action of the parasitic entity
        Mind (Active) will be positive. (Focused) will reveal the conflicting thought patterns between the host and something else.
        Life (Active) will be positive. (Focused) will reveal that a brain-damaging condition is afflicting the host.

        Life 1/Mind 1/Prime 1 knowing spells might reveal instantly the side effects (supernatural conditions) but maybe not the cause (entity).
        Mind 2 attainment that affects mage sight might reveal the entity if it is considered a goetic entity. Some might argue that since it is an alien entity it does not register.

        1) Yep. Apart from the castes and ability to influence their hosts directly with Aspirations, the spiders are as they are in Intruders, which is to say an MRI will detect odd clots of cerebrospinal fluid due to spider egg sacs and webs. Small ones, but a trained doctor is going to wonder WTF.

        2) Depends on what host they're in. The spiders mutate to feed efficiently on the CBS or equivalent in a supernatural being, so in a vampire they become quasi-undead to sip on Vitae (so Death would pick them up), in a changeling they develop hobgoblin traits so that can sit in the Thorns all day (Fate), and in a stigmatic they develop enzymes to digest whatever compounds are released by a brain having Aetheric oracular visions (which causes no effects apart from a slight change in the cadence of Mind and Life Resonance, but it's worth noting). The basic detection Arcana are Life, Mind, and Prime (the last one because they invoke Yantras to provoke the psychic static). It's fairly Opaque to undergo Scrutiny, as these are Abyssal entities, but it's there, albeit strange. Really, though, the spiders want mages to investigate them, so long as they don't start blocking plans; mages in the middle of unraveling the Mystery of the enticers tend to be following the psychic static but aren't quite willing to get into grabbing range, which means that the gulmoth can trick them into ideal situations to ambush and infest.


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        • #5
          Looking this over, feels like I might want to update fluff too, given I'm on an Abyss kick (I'm thinking of making the changeling equivalent of Red Worms, in the form of a mold that feeds on Glamour and induces Sleepers into emotional contact highs).

          My spin on the spiders is that they have something of a personality, but aren't quite sentient - what they are manifests in the form of urges and stray thoughts in their hosts. They're often called worshippers of the Annunaki, but that is due to limited language; it's more accurate to say they instinctively induce religious awe for the Abyss in their hosts and dissatisfaction with normal reality if they're trying to let other gulmoth through or summon an Annuaku Verge. They are not quite puppeteers, they're a devil on your shoulder. The real danger in hosting a cluster is that you may come to enjoy being infected, especially if you're the person who'd like the ability to learn mind control faster. They aren't an alien will taking you over; they're an alien will that is awfully hard to tell from your own.


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