Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blood on the Highway

While the autos are but one of the multitude of dangers on Krül, unlike most they are also highly prized by men. Daring mechanics patiently stalk wild vehicular packs and capture those autos that stray too far from the herd. These foolhardy adventurers have learned the secrets of disabling the autos' computer system, known to as the "Govenor" of the vehicle. After doing so, the triumphant mechanic will employ the long-disused manual controls, driving off in his grisly trophy to be resold in open markets known as "auto shows".

These mechanics risk much for gold and glory. The Govenor is a vengeful foe, but also a crafty one. Mechanics which fall prey to the pack are captured and brought back to the Mother Factory. There, they are forced to undergo a horrifying process - the merger between man and machine.

Once under the knife of the Govenor, the mechanic's lower limbs are removed and are replaced with parts from a motorcycle or dune buggy, somewhat akin to a centaur. After this process is accomplished, the cranium is split often and a Control Box is implanted, ensuring the Govenor's total dominance over the unfortunate thrill-seeker. The mechanic is then put into the service of the Govenor, working the pumps and providing repairs to damaged autos who are lost in the field and are unable to return to the Mother Factory. These slaves are referred to by their machine masters as "Centaurs".

Grease monkeys are most often seen leading large packs of autos, but some few have gone free. Mechanics in solidarity will often conspire to kidnap the Centaurs and remove the Control Box, allowing these unfortunates to lead a sort of half-life. Forever barred from a normal existence, most of these freed Centaurs turn to a life of adventuring, where their speed and power are highly-sought commodities.

To Be Continued in Part Three: Hot Rods of Krül

The Wild Ones

Before the annihilation event, Krül was interlaced with thousands of highways, service road, avenues, and back alleys, much like any modern planet. And, like any world facing the problems of modern life, automotive accidents were a near-constant, being one of the leading causes of death.

Xamod Tudot, civic engineer and visionary, sought a way to end the senseless violence of the blacktop. His premise was simple, but revolutionary in its ambition. The vast majority of accidents were caused by human error, therefore, man must be taken out of the equation. To accomplish this, a central computing system would be devised which could control and direct all traffic and all vehicles would be converted into remote drones. A "driver" would only plug in a GPS location and allow the car to do all the work.

Once everything was in place, it was truly a sight to behold. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles moved in a beautiful symmetry, like a ballet with thousands of dancers. Vehicular accidents moved from the Number 2 cause of death of the inhabitants of Krül to the 7,638th. A greater triumph could not be imagined.

That is, until the annihilation event.

The AI which directed all traffic, nicknamed "The Govenor", went mad as the grid disintegrated. In its hidden bunker, the Govenor came to the conclusion that man himself was the greatest threat to its directives and must be eliminated. Now, haunting the ruins of once-great cities and the crumbling pavement of forgotten highways are wild packs of autos with only one objective: vehicular genocide.

Operating much like packs of wolves, the autos prowl the wastes in search of lone victims, harrying them until exhausted before running them down in a great cacophony of triumphant horns. Their only weakness is dependence on oil, a precious commodity that brings them in constant conflict with those fortress-stations which surround the few remaining oil pumps still in service. Great packs of hungry autos will siege the fortress-stations, seeking to murder all inside and devour the treasures they seek to protect.

To Be Continued in Part Two: Blood on the Highway

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cancer-Cities of the Zoetic Moon Part Two: The Ravenous Planet

Although the protoplasmic sea that covered Diunma Nami continually spawned new life and ate the same, it burned with an insatiable hunger. Within months the entirety of the planetary mass had been broken down into its component nutrients and digested by the formless monstrosity whose mass grew to planetary proportions.

And still it hungered.

A decade later, the first tentative, probing appendages pushed upwards from the surface, seeking new life to feed upon. These miles-long tentacles were soon checked by a complex web of killer satellites designed to ensure that no living thing would find entrance or egress from Diunma Nami. As the trunks of these mighty pseudopods were severed by the tremendous onslaught in the upper atmosphere the planetoid responded in force, spawning a conflict that lit up the skies of Krül for a century.

After the last satellite was ripped in twain by a multitude of massive claws, feelers, and mouths, the planetoid was reduced in size and enraged with hunger. Spawning from its surface came pseudopods of unimaginable length which braved the rigor of the void to seek flesh on its mother planet, Krül. Yet, Diunma Nami's hunger was checked once again - Krül was a Forbidden Planet, and was similarly isolated by a network of attack satellite AIs.

Unable to muster sufficient force across the vast gulfs of space to shatter the barricade surrounding the Savage World of Krül, Diunma Nami adapted its original strategy. Over the last several decades, the ravenous moon has sent precision strikes to penetrate the planetary defenses so that a single tentacle can approach the planet before being incinerated. From the tip of this massive appendage erupts a deluge of protoplasmic goo which quickly begins spreading and devouring everything within its path.

Unfortunately for the Diunma Nami, converting the Savage World of Krül has proven more difficult than originally conceived. The inhabitants of the Forbidden Planet have faced far more than their fair share of vicious monsters, and the spreading cancers have been checked time and again by those who would defend their territory from invaders of any stripe.

A fighting man of Krül faces off against a Moonbeast with a Cancer-City looms in the distance.
Art by David L. Johnson

Stymied, Diunma Nami has adapted again, birthing intelligent agents through which it will achieve its goals. These malignant creatures, nicknamed Moonbeasts by the people of Krül, are employed primarily as infiltration specialists. It is their unique method in doing so that has shown them to be the most effective agents of Diunma Nami.

Upon arrival on the planet, the cancer-colony will rapidly expand and fortify its territory, deploying moonbeasts and other scouts to map the region surrounding the city-state of the moon. Once serious opposition has been encountered, the Moonbeasts will stalk the outskirts of the enemy camp, waiting for a chance to catch one of their number alone. Once they have dragged their victim off into the night, the real horror begins.

The victim is subdued and pinned to the ground while the facial tentacles of the Moonbeast force themselves in the nasal cavity and begin to expand until the weak cartilage is shattered and can be easily removed. Once the nasal cavity has been cleared of debris and the olfactory bulb extracted, the brain is sucked through the nasal cavity and devoured by the Moonbeast, which is capable of gleaning memories and personality traits from the neural slurry.

It is at this point that the Moonbeast is at its most dangerous. Possessing all of the rapid adaptation traits of their parents, a Moonbeast will shift its form to fit that of the victim and will resume the life that they once led, being completely familiar with the life and habits of the person that they have replaced. The only difference, however, is that they will subtly work towards subverting their friends and neighbors, as well as looking for opportunities to lure their leaders into a situation where they may be replaced by the Moonbeasts.

To what extent the Moonbeasts have infiltrated the city-states of Krül, none may say for certain. Most, indeed, are not even aware of their foul existence. Their numbers will certainly continue to grow, however, as the insatiable moon impatiently awaits the day that it may consume its parent planet once and for all.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fucking Tourists!

Recently on Krül there has been a development which has puzzled and angered many, leading to the frequently-employed axiom "Fucking Tourist!"

The Tourists first appeared a little over a year ago, and their numbers were quite small. Over time, however, they have become a more frequent sight, with many resident marking them out for beatings, swindles, and scorn.

These barrel-chested fighting men are easily spotted, each being an exact duplicate of the last. Their defining traits are generally a complete cluelessness about the world around them, an inability to recognize the consequences of their actions, and a tendency to leap about at great heights, announcing their arrival in a most ostentatious manner.

None suspect the exact nature of the Tourist, being a simulacra produced by FunView LLC, an interstellar corporation that provides high-end leisure products for the sociopathically decadent and wealthy. Their newest product is the ultimate innovation in adventure vacationing - the ability to inhabit a clone on an isolated, barbaric world.

Through an immersive virtual reality interface, space yuppies burn off their frustrations in the consequence-free environment of a forbidden planet without undertaking any actual risk (excepting a small chance of lethal feedback should one's clone be killed).

Requirements: STR 12, CON 10, CHA >9
Prime Requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 10

Tourists are wealthy blowhards from elsewhere in the galaxy who cybernetically inhabit a clone body on the Savage World of Krül. As their bodies were constructed to be the disposable soldiers of a made-to-order army, Tourists excel as warriors despite the shortcomings of their end-user.

As only a single clone bank survived the Annihilation Event, every Tourist looks exactly alike, and many inhabitants do not bother to distinguish one from another. Complicating this is a legal directive by FunView LLC that absolutely no information about the client's life outside of Krül can be divulged, nor can anything be revealed about events or individuals off-planet. Failure to follow these guidelines result in the immediate remote termination of the clone.

Birthed from an undisclosed location outside the City-State of Val-Soth, the Tourist begins with only a single piece of equipment, a longsword, although they can use any weapons or armor. As all Tourists are gifted with extraordinarily strong leg muscles designed for leaping, they are capable of leaping 30' straight up and long jumping up to 60' with ease.

The interplanetary cybernetic connection provided by FunView LLC is not an entirely stable piece of equipment, however. This manifests in two distinct ways. First, all Tourists are vulnerable to Charm-based effects, saving as if they are 3 levels lower than they actually are (Tourists level 1-3 save as a 0-level human). The second effect is much more dangerous. While normal PCs will roll on a Death and Dismemberment chart if they reach 0 HP or less, a Tourist must immediately make a Savings Throw versus Death. If they fail, both clone and host die from a system shock. Success means that only the clone expires and the client may inhabit a new clone body in 1d6 weeks. Labyrinth Lords are encouraged to have the Tourist PC play hirelings until their primary character returns.

Tourists employ the Fighting Man Attack Table and Saving Throws and gain levels on the Magic-User XP Chart.

EDIT: I initially set a movement penalty for the first two levels, but a group of fellow bloggers dissuaded me. Ultimately, the most persuasive argument was from Cole, who said, "How many of these guys do you think ever live beyond first level? And, really, don't you want these idiots leaping around shouting, 'Woo-hoo! Look at me, guys!'?"

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cancer-Cities of the Zoetic Moon Part One: Ex Nihilo

"For Ubbo-Sathla is the source and the end. Before the coming of Zhothaqquah or Yok-Zothoth or Kthulhut from the stars, Ubbo-Sathla dwelt in the steaming fens of the newmade Earth: a mass without head or members, spawning the grey, formless efts of the prime and the grisly prototypes of terrene life . . . And all earthly life, it is told, shall go back at last through the great circle of time to Ubbo-Sathla.
     —The Book of Eibon."
- Clark Ashton Smith, "Ubbo-Sathla"

An age before the Annihilation Event would cause the collapse of Krül's ecosystem, a thousand man team of scientists would push further into the "inner space" of the human genome than a hundred generations previous. Beyond gene splicing, cloning, and other arts long mastered, these learned men unraveled the deepest secrets of genetic exploration and discover truths which shattered all previous notions of biology and evolution.

This team, pooled from the finest science cities of a hundred worlds, was given a planetary budget, unlimited test subjects culled from orbital prisons and failed colones, and a simple mandate: Reshape barren worlds into places where man could not only survive, but thrive. Failing that, create men which could withstand the punishment inflicted by such environments. For the Oligarchs, this was a practical solution to the dangers of exploration and overpopulation; why expand the boundaries of their territory when so many planets in their grasp lay fallow? For the scientists, it was an opportunity unlike any they had ever known. The project was dubbed Ex Nihilo.

After decades of struggle to find a cost-effective solution to their problems, the Ex Nihilo team stumbled upon a potential solution almost by accident. They discovered that, encoded in the DNA sequence of every living being, was a series of "switches" which lay dormant. When activated, biological adaptation could be dramatically accelerated in direct reaction to stimuli, with rapid mutation occurring within the body. Lungs became gills when submerged in water, bodies grew fur when exposed to a colder climate, and bone density increased in high-gravity environments. It was, simply put, miraculous.

Unfortunately, there were some dramatic side-effects. First, this state of genetic flux burned tremendous amounts of energy, with test subjects consuming hundreds of thousands of calories daily to survive. Second, and more alarmingly, the subjects' genetic instability consistently resulted in the development of rapidly spreading cancers. Worse, these tumors were nothing like man had ever seen before. They reacted with a malign proto-intelligence and would not only war against the host body but against other tumors within the system. Being just as capable of rapid adaptation as their hosts, the tumors would quickly develop new traits for defense, consumption, and self-propagation. Within a few days of the initial testing, early subjects were reduced into a mass of protoplasmic blobs that would not only survive the death of its unwilling "parent" but also seek out new food to live.

Art by David L. Johnson

Although horrified by these early failures, the Ex Nihilo team continued to push forward at the cost of thousands of lives. Eventually, through generations of trial and error, they learned not only to destabilize the genome, but direct its mutagenic properties into desirable results. Working from a "base" form of protoplasmic life in a nutrient vat, they could program it to evolve into whatever state was necessary and then turn the switches "off", locking the creature into a single shape. Therefore, it was possible for the project to imagine, design, and create sustainable biospheres to order. 

As Krül had recently been reclassified as a Forbidden Planet, the Ex Nihilo team chose the single moon in its orbit, Diunma Nami, as the test bed for seeding a pleasure planet of infinite bounty. Initially, the experiment met the greatest hopes of the Ex Nihilo team. Within a week, the entire planet had been covered with a breathable atmosphere, lush vegetation, glittering pools, and a variety of animals bred for the purpose of serving the elites of the galaxy.

It was at this point that these men of learning grew too confident in their own self-appointed godhood. While they dutifully monitored Diunma Nami for the next twelve rotations of that moon around the Savage World of Krül, the institutional memory of the "bad old days" had faded and the cancer-beasts had taken on a near-mythical status. Thus, they hailed their creation a success and themselves gods, declaring the pleasure planet "a new Garden of Eden, the first among many."

The unveiling of Ex Nihilo was a banner event, and the galaxy's elites flocked to Diunma Nami to celebrate in style. As thousands of star kings, sycophants, and dilettantes poured into the ecosystem, something was brewing just beneath the surface, a will unsuspected by those who sought to tame nature itself.

On the 17th day of celebration, just as the party was really starting to warm up, Diunma Nami shuddered as the directives of the Ex Nihilo team were shrugged off and the biosphere revolted. The genetic programming, which had supposedly stabilized the rapid-mutation effect, proved to be completely ineffective outside of a controlled environment. Within moments, every living thing was set upon by every other. This left the ultra-wealthy and their entourages surrounded by an ever-escalating conflict between monstrosities beyond imagination. Florid peacocks which had only lived to be touched and coo in pleasure suddenly grew six toothy maws and ripped Princess Maidala in a bloody heap while carefully-cultivated ivy developed proboscis with which they drained the entire court of Eihdimmeden, leaving only paper-thin husks which danced on the wind.

Within hours, the entire planet was covered with one congealed mass of tumorous life, a turbulent sea locked in an endless riotous cycle of birth, consumption, and death. The Galacic Oligarchs were horrified, those few Ex Nihilo staffers who were not in attendance of the celebration were quickly put to death, and Diunma Nami declared a Forbidden Planet like its parent. During the official inquiry in the months following, Exalted Investigation Tukakli referred to the events as an "Expulsion from Eden," a term that would stick with the public for years to come.

Continued in Part Two: The Ravenous Planet

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