Thursday, October 11, 2012

HMS Apollyon - Merrowmen as a Character Class

A typical Merrowman, with bio-sword
Recently, after several sessions of lead in, the party has managed to smuggle a pitiful remnant of the once threatening Merrowman tribe that hunted the rust vault back to the relative safety of Sterntown.  The creatures - The Shaman Red Bones, 14 Merrowman hunters, 1 Merrowman warrior and 34 Merrowmen juveniles/noncombatants (Merrowmen gender is only apparent to Merrowmen and they are an egalitarian lot) disappeared into the cavernous basements of the Rustgate's vice queen "Madam Introuvibibi" in exchange for her sponsorship of the adventurers as productive members of Apollyon society.

Still this is an ancomplishment, and while there are currently less than a hundred of the creepy little eel things, their numbers will grow, and their strange flesh-melding magics are a powerful force, added to the arsenals of Sterntown's underworld.  On a lighter note, if someone wants to roll up one of the little creepers they can now.  It should be noted that these humanoids started as goblin equivalents and share many traits with their more common cousins.

As a game matter I am excited to introduce these creatures as a class, they have become "important" to the dungeon ecology of the Apollyon by player choice, and not my own.  When I introduced them I figured they would be creepy goblins - they are stated as such, but there trapped lair and mutagenic technologies apparently made player's interested in them.  They have suffered a cruel fate, being the most alien and weakest enemy for NPC parties to pick on - but through a combination of the misguided player view that leech goblins are cute, and player hatred of certain NPC adventurers the Merrowmen survive and prosper as indentured servants of some dangerous Sterntown factions.

Below is the class as I intend to play it:
Merrowmen may be played as a racial class, having recently arrived in Sterntown as a downtrodden and reviled minority, tolerated largely because of their amazing magical ability to work with and sculpt living flesh.

Common Merrowmen, are 4.5 foot tall greyish humanoids, with an unpleasant combination of human and eel like features.  Their small mouths filled with rows of teeth and surrounded by dangling fleshy tentacles that twitch as they taste the air.  These tentacles are a Merrowman's sense organs for taste, hearing and smell. Merrowmen's skin is supple and greyish in color, but often they have mottled or speckled patterns, in colors ranging from whitish green to yellows and browns. These speckles tend to mirror the color of Merrowman eyes, which are large and strangely human like. Merrowmen have webbed hands and feet with a varying number of fingers and toes (sometimes varying on the same Merrowman).  The Merrowmen do not favor a great deal of clothing, and generally wear armor of their own making, crafted from living meat and bone.

Merrowmen are tribal humanoids who are the result of bizarre crossbreeding between humans and Merrow, a form of alien deep sea mermaid who are magical and psychic predators.  Merrowmen worship these ancestors (occassioanlly directly), and revere their Merrow ancestry. In the hull they live in tribal groups with outlandish names, with each tribe clustered around a "factory" of tissue that creates both crafting material and food (though Merrowmen are primarily herbivores).  Merrowmen are highly protective of their tribe, and their tribal "recipes" for crafting useful items from flesh and bone.  They tend to be xenophobic, quick to violence and prefer to fight from ambush or lead enemies into their trapped lairs.  As some of the weaker denizens of the hull Merrowmen depend on concealment and mercilessness to protect themselves, but they are also always looking to make self-serving alliances with those they perceive as more powerful.

Such an attempt at alliance brought the Fisheye tribe of Merrowmen into the hands of Sterntown's criminal underworld as adventurers, bandits and finally a force of unaligned undead pushed them from their dens in the Buried Vault.  The Merrowmen are still unsure of what to make of the bustling and resurgent society they are part of.  Faction fighting and cooperation are somewhat alien to Merrowmen sensibilities, and they are torn between loyalty to their criminal saviors and a desire to find a place of their.  While Merrowmen flesh sculpting and medical skills are a new technology to Sterntown, and much valued - individual Merrowmen are seen as some sort of 3rd class Frogling, generally regarded as stupid and disposable, even by the Vory who shelter them, but especially by the Froglings.  This is partially the result of the very small number of Merrowmen in Sterntown, and the lack of common speakers among them.

Despite the sequestered and insular nature of Merrowman society, their numbers are increasing, and some, especially the younger without flesh sculpting talent, seek fame and adventure as a way of gaining status among their tribe and possibly at the direction of their current shaman leader "Red Bones" in an effort to find other allies and factions to play off against the Vory.  The 'civilized' Merrowmen have also given up the worship of Merrow, and many are finding thier way into the cult of the Leviathan or the worship of the Ship Spirits (though there may be some confusion among these new converts as many seem to confuse or combine the two deities).  It is unclear if these conversions are that natural result of feeling that the Merrow have deserted the Fisheye, or a concious encouragement of assimilation on the part of the Merrowman leaders.

STR 2D6+1*
INT 2D6+1*
WIS 2D6 +3
CON 2D6+6
CHR 2D6+3

*Add 1D6 if Merrowman is a mutant of either the warrior or shaman subspecies

Scavenger - A typical Merrowman of the adventuring sort, they retain the stats as rolled and advance/gain skills as Specialists.  These Merrowmen roll 1D6 for HP and
generally make decent light infantry or scavangers - in addition to the there normal skills they gain 1 point of Survival. They cannot take points in the more technical "Urban" skills - except for Poison-craft and Medicine (which many are actually quite good at).  Scavenger Merrowmen gain an automatic racial bonus of +1 to hit with thrown weapons such as javelins and throwing knives.  They are typically armed in light armor (often a coat of teeth - see below) and must obey Strength restrictions on heavier armor.

Warrior - Merrowmen sometimes spontaneously mutate in childhood, gaining more of the physical aspects of their monstrous pedigree.  When a Merrowman character rolls a 11,12 or 13 for thier Strength Statistic, the player may elect to create such a Warrior Merrowman.  They can roll an extra D6 for Strength and add it to their score, for a maximum of 18.

Warrior Merrowmen a much larger than normal Merrowmen (up to 7' tall) and hugely muscled.  They advance as Fighters and use Fighter skill tables.  These brutes also begin with 2D10 HP and gain HP as a fighter thereafter.

Merrowmen fighters tend to prefer heavy Bone Plate armor and two handed weapons use, but in Sterntown they are learning new ways of fighting and new weapons.  Merrowmen warriors still have a cultural affinity for two handed weapons and gain +1 to damage rolls when wielding them.  Unfortunately Merrowmen also have a strong cultural disdain for firearms, and cannot use them until fourth level or higher. 

Shaman - A subtle mutation, some Merrowmen have latent magical abilities that manifest in childhood.  These Merrowmen are rare in the hull, but in the civilized environment of Sterntown they are growing more common.  Such Shaman often focus on life magics, their race's specialty.

When a player rolls an 11,12 or 13 for the Intelligence Statistic the player may elect to create such a Shaman Merrowman.  They should roll an extra D6 for Intelligence and add it to their score, for a maximum of 18.

Merrowmen Shaman are Magic-Users and advance as such, using Magic-User Skill Tables. Merrowmen are study creatures and even their Shaman roll 1D6 for HP and  gain an automatic point in the discipline of Animancy (Life Magic) and may never learn Necromancy, Hospesmancy or Academic Magic.  They tend to use spell books that are made of specially manufactured organisms, such as beetles or worms whose trails, bodies or colonies will impart the necessary magical formula to the caster either when examined, or when exposed to specific stimuli.

Merrowmen advance and roll saves as the human class they most resemble (Specialist, Fighter or Magic-User).  Merrowmen are limited in the level they can obtain however, with a maximum of 8th level in magic use, 10th as Fighters and 14th as Specialists.

Amphibious - Merrowmen are amphibious, even moreso than Froglings and can hold their breath for 3D6 turns. They are not as active in the water as Froglings however and so gain no automatic Swimming Skill.  Merrowmen require daily soaking in water to remain healthy and will lose 1D4 HP (to a Minimum of 1) if they cannot spend at least 2 Hour submerged in reasonably clean water everyday, generally Merrowmen accomplish this by sleeping in shallow pools, their bodies naturally rising to the surface to breath occasionally.

Regenerating - Merrowmen's natural resilience is a result of their extraordinary connection to life magic.  This is perhaps because they are descended from a psychic predator, the Merrow, and like their maternal ancestors Merrowmen can feed on the psyche of other sentients, though except in the case of the most powerful shamans (who use a horrifying ritual spell akin to some undead's life draining to enhance their size, strength and power), they only do this in their sleep by feeding on tiny slivers of the dreams of other sleepers around them.  While this leads to Merrowmen having very interesting dreams, including ones that reveal occasional knowledge from the minds of others.  This strange ability grants a significant advantage, Merrowmen regenerate while sleeping, not quickly or in the flashy manner of a troll, but completely and steadily.  Merrowmen heal at twice the normal rate while resting, and even more importantly, even mutilating injuries (such as the loss of a limb) will heal if a Merrowman slumbers deeply enough.  In game-play terms a Merrowman can regenerate a lost limb or other serious injury  in 1D4 weeks of coma like slumber.  Assume the player must miss one session for each week

Flesh Crafting and Equipment

Living Leather (Coat of supple fibrous living flesh with a thick leathery skin) 7 3 Leather (L) 15GP
Coat of Teeth (A Living Leather apron studded with teeth and bone spurs) 5 5 Mail (M) 40GP
Horned Mail (Thick pads of living meat with a molded internal structure of bone, horns jut from the armor) 3 12 Splint (H) 80GP
Bone Plate (A full suit of molded living horn and bone, held together by tough ligaments and tendon.) 2 15 ½ Plate (H+) 250GP
*Cost are for Merrowmen, for non-Merrowmen who with to have flesh armor/weapons made cost is 200% higher (i.e. Bone plate is 750GP – still a steal compared to ½ plate), assuming that the player can get on good enough terms with the terrified, insular and sequestered eelmen.

Merrowman armor is sculpted from living flesh, it has no consciousness or intelligence (not usually at least) and is sustained by the strange magics known only to the Merrowmen. In appearance this equipment is often rather revolting, sheets of muscle and skin with strange bone or horn growths. Often a trace of the creature used (craydog, rat, shark, human or even Merrowman) can be seen in the coloration and accents of the final product. Armor crafted from fish flesh will be pale and scaly, while that from a cray dog will likely have fur accents and jagged ridges of greenish cray shell. Non- Merrowmen groups, especially Sterntowners, find this disturbing and a sign of someone who deals with bad or immoral forces (which is ironic as Sterntown is largely protected by Karcist's selling souls to evil outsider entities). While Merrowman armor seems a great deal - both lighter and cheaper then metal armor, Merrowman armor is susceptible to death magic.  If a necromantic spell or effect that causes life drain, or more than 1D6 of damage, is targeted at someone in living armor (or wielding living weapons) and it misses the armor or weapon must make a save vs. Poison or rot, suffering a permenant -1 to AC or Hit/Damage

All Merrowman weapons are identical in function to normal weapons, save they are immune to rust (but may be damaged by death magic). They appear as strange conglomerations of bone and horn, often sheathed in thin skin or with veins pumping ichorous sludge through them. For Merrowmen these weapons may be had at regular price. Axes and maces are the most common, though Merrowmen swords have a good reputation for flexibility and holding an edge.

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