Tuesday 1 December 2015

The Maimed

Remember the Cruel Ones? Invisible spirits of the wilderness, delighting in cruelty and mischief and acts of motiveless spite, whose highest joy was to lead travellers deep into the wastes and leave them to perish of exposure, hunger, and thirst? A bunch of them used to live in the deserts south of the Wicked City: but, one day, the Wicked King sent his Renunciates to catch them all and bring them to him. Now, the Cruel Ones are pretty inventive when it comes to thinking up ways of tricking people into humiliating and hurting themselves, but at the end of the day they're just not all that bright; and while they were messing around digging pits and cutting the reins of horses, the Renunciates just rounded them all up, nailed them to the ground with spears, manhandled them into cages, and dragged them off back to the Wicked City. The Wicked King was fascinated by their weird, regenerating bodies, and lost no time in experimenting with their potential uses; he soon discovered that when their limbs were severed, they simply dissolved into nothing, but that if spliced onto the stump of a freshly-severed limb on a human body, they could be 'tricked' into regrafting themselves there, instead. The resulting limbs lost their invisibility and bizarre flowing-sand consistency once human blood began flowing through them, but they retained their strength and regenerative qualities. For a while, before he vanished into his tower, the Wicked King was quite prolific in his creation of such patchwork creatures: and the freakish beings thus created came to be known as the Maimed. 

The original generation of Maimed are almost all dead, now; but they continue to be created, from time to time, by the Secret Police and the cultists of the Wicked King. Their grafted body parts are strong, ugly, and swift to heal, but they are capable only in matters of wickedness; a grafted eye will be perceptive only when it comes to spotting evil or ugliness, a grafted hand will be dexterous only when used to hurt or break, and so on. They live miserable lives, but they have their uses, especially in a place like the Wicked City.

Some popular grafts include the following:  

Cruel Eye: This eye is obviously inhuman, with a red iris and a cat-like pupil. For as long as it is open and uncovered, it will automatically spot all acts of evil, meanness, and cruelty nearby, no matter how hard people try to conceal them. If you attack someone for reasons of pure cruelty or spite, you gain +1 to all to hit rolls. While the eye is open and uncovered, everything looks ugly to you, and it takes a deliberate effort (and a Wisdom roll) to even notice acts of genuine kindness or self-sacrifice, even if they are taking place right in front of you. Unsurprisingly, most individuals with two Cruel eyes soon decide that the world is such a horrible place and they might as well be horrible too. Those who have only one wear an eye-patch whenever they can get away with doing so.

Cruel Ear: This ear is huge, batlike, warty, hairy, and rises to a prominent point. It will automatically overhear any words uttered with wicked or spiteful intent nearby, no matter how hard their speakers try to avoid being overheard; but, conversely, it will simply screen out any words of genuine kindness, even those spoken right in front of you. It horribly magnifies the sound of screams. 

Cruel Arm: This arm is covered in thick, red, warty skin, with weird bone barbs and rip-hooks sticking up out of it every few inches. It may be used to make unarmed attacks, inflicting 1d4 damage. It heals almost instantly: each time you are hit in combat, roll 1d6, and if the result is equal to or less than your total number of cruel limbs then all damage inflicted by that injury is healed back at the rate of 1 HP per round. Attacks made with a cruel arm gain a +1 bonus to hit and damage provided they are motivated by cruelty or spite; the arm also grants +2 Strength, usable only for breaking things, and +2 Dexterity, usable only for setting traps or hurting people. If used for anything else the arm is massively clumsy, imposing a -2 penalty to hit and a -4 penalty to dexterity. (If both your arms are Cruel, all these bonuses and penalties are doubled.) Any attempt to use the arm to do anything genuinely kind, or to create anything beautiful, always ends in spectacular failure: an attempt to paint a beautiful landscape will produce a grotesque and clumsy picture of a slaughterhouse instead, an attempt to hand a toy to a child will somehow end with the child getting punched in the face, and so on.

Demon Arm Concept by Jackalopette
Demonic arm by jackalopette.

Cruel Leg: This leg is covered in thick, red, warty skin, with cruel bone spurs on the knee and heel. It may be used to make unarmed attacks, inflicting 1d4 damage. It heals almost instantly: each time you are hit in combat, roll 1d6, and if the result is equal to or  less than your total number of cruel limbs then all damage inflicted by that injury is healed back at the rate of 1 HP per round. As long as you are doing something motivated by cruelty or spite, the leg is amazingly agile and tireless, allowing you to run twice as far without tiring, granting +2 Dexterity to all relevant feats of agility and a +1 bonus to REF saves. When doing anything else, the leg is enormously clumsy, imposing a -2 penalty to all other dexterity rolls and REF saves involving full-body movement. (If both your legs are Cruel, all these bonuses and penalties are doubled.) If you attempt to do something genuinely kind, or to carry out any kind of aesthetically pleasing movement (e.g. dancing, bowing gracefully, etc), the leg will actively try to trip you up, or - if you have two of them - simply refuse and walk off to find something nastier to do, carrying you with them.

Cruel Skin: A great expanse of your own skin has been flayed off and replaced with the thick, red, warty hide of a Cruel One. This grants +1 AC, and allows you to heal back 1 HP for every six damage you take, as the skin knits together over your wounds. However, all unpleasant and uncomfortable physical sensations are magnified by it, and all pleasant ones are muted; all clothes will feel uncomfortable, it will always feel too hot or too cold, sex becomes an unpleasant ordeal of bruising and chafing, and so on. Whenever you witness a scene of genuine beauty or kindness, your cruel skin will squirm painfully, as though trying to crawl off your body, inflicting -1 to all rolls until you get away.

- Cruel Innards: Some particularly insane individuals have experimented with swapping out the livers, kidneys, etc of their victims with those of the Cruel Ones. Such internal alterations are not obvious to observers, although they are attended with masses of ugly scar tissue. Whenever you engage in any kind of act of spiteful cruelty, wanton destructiveness, or general maliciousness, your cruel innards will go into overdrive, functioning with hugely increased efficiency which grants you +2 FORT for as long as you carry on being awful to people and 1d3 hours thereafter. The rest of the time they function sluggishly, giving you -1 FORT. Whenever you witness a scene of genuine beauty or kindness, your cruel innards will knot painfully, inflicting -1 to all rolls until you get away.
Demonic Arm by Boldo
Image by Boldo.

Healing the Maimed: For the most part, Maiming is permanent; Cruel body parts simply grow back if injured, so the only way to get rid of them is to cut them out along with the chunk of flesh to which they are attached. For Cruel arms or legs, this is drastic but usually survivable, and the missing limb can then be replaced with clockwork; for Cruel eyes, ears, skin, and innards, it is usually fatal. There are, however, two alternatives:

  • The Children of the Sun have had some success at removing them through fire ordeals, in which the affected body part is systematically burnt away with holy flame. The subject takes 1d6 damage, and must make both a FORT save and a WILL save; if they pass both, then the body part is burned to ashes and the corruption is purified. (Obviously, the body part in question is completely destroyed in the process.) If either save is failed, then the Cruel body part will regrow and the rite must be repeated. 
  • Because of their antipathy for love, kindness, and beauty, Cruel limbs can be neutralised through systematic exposure to the things they most revile. If one of the Maimed is completely surrounded by people who genuinely care for them and want to help them, not just briefly but for weeks on end, then they may make a WILL save at the end of each week; if they pass three saves in succession, then the corruption is purged from one Cruel body part, which retains its odd appearance but loses all its special powers. If they witness a single glimmer of pettiness, malice, or spite during this period, however, then the effect is undone and the whole process must begin again from the start. 

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