Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Big City Madness, Comfort My Soul

Oh what strange avenues we shall find in this city of change. Art by Quique Alcatena
 
In this city, fear and desire are found in a pound of flesh. Backstreet surgeons sling scalpels to rearrange the form, taking the undesired in return for idealized shapes. Hidden clinics, obscured not for a lack of legality, rather to ensure readiness for change, a discovery quest to give seekers time to examine driving desires. Washed upon a shore of clinic stoops, the pilgrim pays Sarxists to lay them upon alters and awaken within flesh looms. Here we will see what it is to be pnuema within sarx, a ghost in bone and flesh.

I shall show you fear in a handful of flesh.
Those that shape the body form two camps, magical and mystical. Mages can cast Polymorph Other, and in doing so, grant desired shapes. These granted shapes are generic, with the magic only capable of granting idealized beauty, rather than exotic allure. Vulgar magic, is not only imprecise but also expensive, with mages being stingy with their time and ask much for it. Those searching for a change in flesh, and willing to search for for it, will find incredible skill and economy in the temple clinics of the Sarxists of Saint Sushruta, most often just called Sarxists.

To Sarxists, the changing of flesh is a sacrament, and the search for their clinics a holy pilgrimage. Their clinics are never in the same place twice, having a different location for each seeker. The City knows when a man or woman is searching for the Sarxists and will adjust itself accordingly. For some, the door to their goal is found in the fist back alley they ventured. For others it is a journey of days, with nights spent scouring obscure streets.

An example of a pilgrimage scarf.

Those on a pilgrimage to find temple-clinics traditionally wear a sash or scarf of many colors, visible to any who look upon them. It is by tradition, and more over by fear, that such pilgrims are not harmed or impeded by even the most vicious of street gangs. Alley-folklore is filled with tales of those who broke the tradition of safety for the scarf and sash wearers. These tales are rife with gang members found with blank faces, devoid of features, their bodies still twitching as they suffocate from a lack of nose or mouth. Other tales tell of men and women found screaming in dark corners, every bone below the waist removed without a single cut to the skin. The same tales are told of those who abused the tradition of the scarf and sash, those who wore such accoutrements without an intention for change. This tradition is kept by most so strictly as to be religious, a thing born of fear and now held sacred.

While the Sarxist mark can take many forms, it usually includes a labyrinth (to symbolize a journey) with a figure of dual natures at its center (to symbolize change).
 
On Reaching Destinations
OSR / AD&D / LotFP / Into the Odd
To determine the number of hours needed to find the door of a Sarxist temple clinic, roll 1D20, add the character's Wisdom score to result, and subtract it from 36. (ex: Bob the Bard wants to find a temple clinic. He rolls 11 on 1D20 and adds it to his Wisdom score of 13 for a total of 24. Subtracting 24 from 36 gives a sum of 12, meaning it will take 12 hours of searching to find the door.) A character must not leave the streets for longer than a hour, such as going inside a building, those that do lose all progress they have made on the journey and must start over again. In starting over again, they must search for the same number of hours as per the roll they made when they first began searching for the temple clinic. Any result that is equal to or greater than 36 means that the character finds the clinic temple down the first street they search. 

A Sarxist cleric.
 
On Gaining What is Sought
Those that find the door with the Sarxist mark are always warmly welcomed by an androgynous human in dark robes. Different for each person, though always the same for each person, even with multiple visits in different areas. Each visit begins with a formal sharing of tea while the Sarxist interviews the pilgrim to determine what they are searching for. Once they understand what the pilgrim wants, and their price is paid, they lead the searcher from a dark tapestry filled room into place called the Theater.

The Theater is a large, circular room of white marble, almost unbearably bright. Atop a circular dais in the center is a simple altar, made of the same marble as the room, with a device of metal arms and silk mesh. When the procedure begins, called the Ecdysis, the room is filled with a soporific hum that numbs the body of the pilgrim as they are laid on the altar by the Sarxist. Lowering the device over the altar, the device being called a Flesh Loom, its metallic arms shuttle and pivot as it unravels the pilgrim's old form on the altar and reweaves the new one atop its silk mesh. In its unraveling and reweaving the form of the pilgrim, the Flesh Loom plays a particular note that is unique to each alteration procedure. For a procedure in where multiple changes are made, the Flesh Loom will play the notes in a song like pattern. It is unknown as to if it is the mechanics of the Flesh Loom or the note it plays that causes the changes produced.

What faces might we have, if they were sculpted not by the womb, but by desire.

No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Neitzsche
To ask for payment of goods or money in exchange for a change in identity expression is sacrilegious to the Sarxists. A change of identity expression is paid for by an act that brings further change to the world. Further forms of change, changes in the utility of the body, are paid for in gold and goods.

A change in identity is defined by the Sarxists as a change of physical features (e.g. face, skin coloration, sex, etc...). Sarxists believe in the fluidity of the form and the permanence of the identity. It is held by the group that the identity is who a person truly is, while the body is the expression of identity. The musical note of this procedure is a C.

If a character is seeking a change in identity-expression, the Sarxists of Saint Sushruta ask for simple acts of change in the world. Below is a table of possible acts asked for by the Sarxists.

Deeds of Recompense - 1D8
  1. Repaint a door in the city that it not owned by the character.
  2. Pull up 3 cobblestones from two different parts of the city and switch their locations.
  3. Explore and find a new area of the city, then leave a small personal item there.
  4. Find another pilgrim and follow them on their journey to a temple-clinic.
  5. Learn a new skill that will be useful to the character.
  6. Make a piece of art, working as hard as possible to create it, then give it away.
  7. Trade a piece of clothing with a random stranger.
  8. Find a place where music is being played, and ask a random stranger to dance.
For those who look for a change in utility (i.e a change that changes the game mechanics of a character) must pay for the improvements. Below, are commonly sought after changes in physical abilities. Prices are listed by gp/sp depending on the base currency of the game system gold for AD&D and most OSR's, silver for LotFP.

OSR / AD&D / LotFP
Wernicke's Potence: This improvement to the character allows them to perfectly understand any written and spoken language they encounter. However, they are unable to understand magical or purposely obscured language. This improvement does not allow a character to speak or write any language, only understand them. A character must be physically able to see or hear the language in order for the ability to function. Price: 5,000 gp/sp
Note: A sharp.

It is my mind that understands the world, but it is my soul that shapes it.

Broca's Empowerment: This improvement allows the user to accurately communicate concepts and feelings with utterances, gestures, or pictures to anyone capable of understanding such things despite any barriers in language or mentality. The character does not use any specific language, rather they innately understand what sounds to make, what gestures to perform, and what images to make in order to get across their point. Broca's Empowerment only allows the character to communicate simple messages, advanced concepts are beyond the capabilities of this improvement. The byproduct of this ability is it allows the character to communicate simple concepts to animals. It provides a +2 bonus to the Bushcraft skill when interacting with animals (X out of 6 system) or +6 bonus to the Animal Handling or +30% to the base chance of success for those without the proficiency (Skill Proficiency System).
Price: 4,000 gp/sp
Note: G flat.

Fortified Keratin Bellicoso: This improvement bolsters the strength of a character's nails (finger and toe) making them far more resilient and thicker. A character who grows out their nails, and sharpens them, may use them to injure others and improve their climbing ability. The claws do 1D3 damage and grant a +2 (X out of 6 system) or +6 (Stat Rolls or Skill Proficiency System) bonus to a rolls made for climbing attempts. However, these claws are very obvious to anyone looking at the character's hands or feet, requiring gloves or shoes to hide them.
Price: 800 gp/sp Per Appendage
Note: D.

That which might bring mercy, and bear away evil.

Protractile Keratin: This improvement improves the character's ability to grow keratin in order to grow claws. The improvement also allows the character to retract these claws, allowing them to hide the presence of these claws. The claws do 1D3 damage and grant a +2 (X out of 6 system) or +6 (Stat Rolls or Skill Proficiency System) bonus to a rolls made for climbing attempts. However, these claws are very obvious to anyone looking at the character's hands or feet, requiring gloves or shoes to hide them. If the character already possesses the Fortified Keratin ability, or gets it later, the damage done by the claws improves to 1D3+2 damage and improves the climbing bonus by +1 (X out of 6 system) or +3 (Stat Rolls or Skill Proficiency System).
Price: 900 gp/sp Per Appendage
Note: D sharp.

Fortify Quadriceps: This improvement increases the character's running/walking speed by 50% and doubles their maximum jump height and distance. (ex: A character with a base speed of 40 feet would have their speed improved to 60 feet. A character who is able to jump vertically 18 inches (average human jump height), would gain a jump height of 36 inches with the improvement).
Price: 2,500 gp/sp
Note: E.

Fortified Trapezius and Deltoid: This improvement increases a character's carrying capacity, without being encumbered, by 50%. For the Lamentations of the Flame Princess system:

0 – 15 pts: Unencumbered
16 – 23 pts: Lightly Encumbered
24 – 30 pts: Heavily Encumbered
31 – 38 pts: Severely Encumbered
39+ pts: Over Encumbered
Price: 1,000 gp/sp
Note: A.

I share flee this place upon wings of my own making.

Blessings of Daedalus: This grants the user a pair of wings with a base flight speed equal to the character's unimproved based walking/running speed. The character's flight maneuverability is considered clumsy. A character can improve their flight speed with an improvement similar to Fortify Quadriceps, and a cost 1,800 gp/sp.
Price: 7,500 gp/sp for Bat Wings.
Price: 7,800 gp/sp for Feathered Wings (Feathered Wings require more alterations to the physical makeup of the individual in order for the wings to be natural)
Notes: F (Bat Wings) F sharp (Feathered Wings).

Eyes of the Pit Viper: This grants the user the ability to see in the thermal spectrum, similar to that found in Pit Vipers. Two small 'pits' are implanted in the space between the character's eyes, these 'pits' resemble very small nostrils. These pits allow the character to sense variances in ambient temperature. The improvement also doubles the number of rod cells in the character's eyes, which increases their ability to see in the dark. All of these improvements grant the user the ability to see in total darkness, not including darkness created through magic. This improvement grants the user Dark-Vision and Thermal Vision.
Price: 2,000 gp/sp
Note: E flat.

What might you see if I shaped myself, rather than being shaped by another.

Perfection of the Soma and Pneuma: This is the catch all term for the improvement of the basic capabilities of the body. These improvements can only push a character's body to the maximum their species is capable of. In game terms, this improvement increases a character's base stats to their racial maximum, and cannot improve them beyond that point. A character may improve a stat to their racial maximum all at once, or over multiple visits.
Price: 10,000 gp/sp per point of improvement.
Notes:
Strength – C
Dexterity – C sharp
Constitution – D flat
Intelligence – G
Wisdom – G sharp
Charisma – A flat

Into the Odd

At the heart of all fantastic creations, is a truly strange mind.

Wernicke's Potence: This improvement to the character allows them to perfectly understand any written and spoken language they encounter. However, they are unable to understand magical or purposely obscured language. This improvement does not allow a character to speak or write any language, only understand them. A character must be physically able to see or hear the language in order for the ability to function. Price: 25 Guilders
Note: A sharp.

Broca's Empowerment: This improvement allows the user to accurately communicate concepts and feelings with utterances, gestures, or pictures to anyone capable of understanding such things despite any barriers in language or mentality. The character does not use any specific language, rather they innately understand what sounds to make, what gestures to perform, and what images to make in order to get across their point. Broca's Empowerment only allows the character to communicate simple messages, advanced concepts are beyond the capabilities of this improvement. The byproduct of this ability is it allows the character to communicate simple concepts to animals. It provides a +5 bonus to Will saves or other rolls when interacting with an animal.
Price: 20 Gilders
Note: G flat.

Fortified Keratin: This improvement bolsters the strength of a character's nails (finger and toe) making them far more resilient and thicker. A character who grows out their nails, and sharpens them, may use them to injure others and improve their climbing ability. The claws do 1D4 damage and grant a +5 to Strength saves or other rolls for climbing attempts. However, these claws are very obvious to anyone looking at the character's hands or feet, requiring gloves or shoes to hide them.
Price: 4 Guilders Per Appendage
Note: D.

Protractile Keratin: This improvement improves the character's ability to grow keratin in order to grow claws. The improvement also allows the character to retract these claws, allowing them to hide the presence of these claws. The claws do 1D4 damage and grant a +5 to Strength saves or other rolls for climbing attempts. However, these claws are very obvious to anyone looking at the character's hands or feet, requiring gloves or shoes to hide them. If the character already possesses the Fortified Keratin ability, or gets it later, the damage done by the claws improves to 1D6 damage and improves the climbing bonus by +2.
Price: 4 Guilders and 50 Shillings Per Appendage
Note: D sharp.

Fortify Quadriceps: This improvement increases the character's running/walking speed by 50% and doubles their maximum jump height and distance. (ex: A character with a base speed of 40 feet would have their speed improved to 60 feet. A character who is able to jump vertically 18 inches (average human jump height), would gain a jump height of 36 inches with the improvement).
Price: 11 Guilders and 25 Shillings
Note: E.

I can fly in my dreams.

Blessings of Daedalus: This grants the user a pair of wings with a base flight speed equal to the character's unimproved based walking/running speed. The character's flight maneuverability is considered clumsy. A character can improve their flight speed with an improvement similar to Fortify Quadriceps, and a cost 9 Guilders.
Price: 37 Guilders and 50 Shillings for Bat Wings.
Price: 39 Guilders for Feathered Wings (Feathered Wings require more alterations to the physical makeup of the individual in order for the wings to be natural)
Notes: F (Bat Wings) F sharp (Feathered Wings).

Eyes of the Pit Viper: This grants the user the ability to see in the thermal spectrum, similar to that found in Pit Vipers. Two small 'pits' are implanted in the space between the character's eyes, these 'pits' resemble very small nostrils. These pits allow the character to sense variances in ambient temperature. The improvement also doubles the number of rod cells in the character's eyes, which increases their ability to see in the dark. All of these improvements grant the user the ability to see in total darkness, not including darkness created through magic. This improvement grants the user Dark-Vision and Thermal Vision.
Price: 10 Guilders
Note: E flat.

My face and I are not the same, but we coexist out of necessity.

Perfection of the Soma and Pneuma: This is the catch all term for the improvement of the basic capabilities of the body. These improvements can only push a character's body to the maximum their species is capable of. In game terms, this improvement increases a character's base stats to their racial maximum of 18, and cannot improve them beyond that point. A character may improve a stat to their racial maximum all at once, or over multiple visits.
Price: 50 Guilders per point of improvement.
Notes:
Strength – C and D flat (Played in Harmony)
Dexterity – C sharp
Will – G, G sharp, and A flat (Played in Harmony)