Sunday, January 8, 2017

Meditation and water are wedded for ever - Part 1

It's coming at ye! Art By: Me

Author's Note: This post is about mutant, psychic whales that ply the Inner City Sea of the Infinite City. While this 'monster' type is designed for my own setting, it can be very useful as a tool for GM's to have a bit of fun with PC's without any real backstory. Using the creature and the tables included in this post you can convince your lax player that their character is actually an extension of a psychic whale. This is part 1, containing the methodology on convincing the PC they are a psychic whale. Part 2 will contain stats for the whales as well as some weird equipment that they are associated with. I look forward to any suggestions, questions, and comments any of you fine readers might have.

Journal of Edmund Faulk, Ship's Naturalist, The Mary Celestine (Fluff)
Day 1,
I have decided to seek my fortune on the sea, and have found it on the Mary Celestine, as the ship's naturalist. While father thought me mad for undertaking the study of whales during my time at university, but my erudition in said subject has brought me to my current post.

The captain, Meyer Soborits, sought me out while I languished in my meager lodgings on the floating city, the Great Southern. I had come to the sea-going city in hopes to sign onto a ship, but no captain was willing to take on an untested youth. Captain Soborists informed me that he is seeking out a Thought Whale, and he had gathered that I may be of use to his endeavor.

A floating city. Art By: Jules Ferrat
 

Though I am loath to undertake a journey to kill a being I have come to know so much about, having specialized in the study of Thought Whales, I felt compelled to join Captain Soborits on his quest.

We set sail tomorrow, just before sunrise, I believe I will not sleep this night, though the cabin I have been provided is comfortable, though small. The crew, a ragged bunch from all across the city and the world at large, seems to be under the impression that I am somehow related to the captain. I must admit, that despite the great difference of age between us, there are many physical characteristics that we seem to share.

Day 7,
The majority of the crew seem to view me with a mix of disdain and even a touch of fear due to my physical similarity to the captain. While I persist in my claims that we are not related, my crew-mates doubt me. Captain Soborits appears to be a calm and even man, but the crew fear him none the less.

Captain Soborits

I can only count one man my friend upon this ship, and despite our substantial differences, I feel that I can trust him. His name is Anewa, and he claims to once have been a king in the Kibu islands in the far south of the Inner City Sea. He further claims that he owes me a life debt for having saved him as a child. Despite that he is ten years my senior, he insists that I had saved him from a mad 'Sah-say-lees' when he was a boy. His description a the attacker appears to be similar to the Cecaelia, which if true, means they were not driven to extinction...

Day 13,
We came upon another ship today, the Lady Poet, another whaling ship. The captain went over to parley with the the crew of the Lady Poet. He returned in high spirits, saying that a Thought Whale was sighted further north. If we sail hard, we can make it to coordinates of the sighting in a fortnight.

Last evening I had a very peculiar dream. I was searching for a spoon in a palace on the back of a giant whale. Before I was able to locate it, I was awakened by the commotion of the crew spotting the Lady Poet.

The Mary Celestine.

Day 16,
I had a repetition of my 'whale dream'. Once again I was searching a palace that was upon the back of a giant whale, looking for a special spoon. I found it, though its location troubles me still.

The spoon was beneath a family portrait of five figures, each subject bearing a close resemblance to one another despite differences in age and sex. Images of myself and the captain were among this 'family'. A plaque was mounted to the portrait that read:
We are all whales. We are all the same.”

Upon waking I had a strong notion that our heading was off somehow. I attempted to ignore this notion, but it became stronger as the day progressed. Once it became near maddening, I went to speak with our captain and explain my feeling that we should alter our course 2 degrees to the west. To my considerable surprise, the captain agreed with me, and made the order to shift the heading.

Tools of the whaling trade.

The captain and I spoke for some time after confirming our new heading. He seemed to be keenly interested in my past, as well as my education. I thought some of his questions were rather peculiar, once we covered my past. He wished to know if I was familiar with 'Dream Matter', 'Dream Objects', and 'Dream Engines'. While I professed ignorance, these terms somehow felt familiar, like a bearly remembered boyhood lesson.

Day 20,
My 'whale dreams' have occurred nightly for the past three nights. Each time I am searching for something new: a knife, a plate, and the most recent, a fork. Each night I find the object near an unsettling painting.

The knife was beneath a portrait of a Thought Whale, facing towards the viewer. Instead of an Olfactory Ampullae mounted to the whale's cranial tentacle, it was the captain's head.

The plate was beneath a portrait of myself, terribly realistic. I am laying on my side, my belly torn open by a harpoon, my innards spilling out onto the deck of the Mary Celestine.

A suspicious crew.
The knife was beneath a portrait of my mother holding a small Thought Whale to her exposed breast. Her eyes and grin are that of a maniac, and she seemed to have been leering directly at me. There was a plaque attached to the frame that read:
Behold! My true son!”

Each day I awoke with a new notion. Each day I opened my cabin door to find the captain waiting for me on the other side. In my unconscious wanderings, I seem to have picked up the skill of nautical navigation. Each of my notions applies to navigation, and have proven to be correct each time. I can never give a reason for my notion, but the captain accepts them as if I was a seasoned navigator.

I fear what I may be asked to dine upon when I sleep next, now that my place at the table has been set.

Day 24,
I ate at the table. I found my soul in the meal. I know now what we must do....

Day 27,
Anewa.
The crew is dead, the captain and I saw to each of them. Our cousins may now rest easy, the crews' deaths a tribute to their lost souls. Anewa is the single survivor, he will do his best to guide the Mary Celestine to an island two days from here once the captain and I depart, I wished him safe travels. I am breaching the surface of the water. I am standing on the last ship I will command. I am writing all of this. My memories were such a delightful story, one that lulled me into a forgetful slumber. I wake. I know. I return. 
 
In Plain Language (Crunch-ish)
What was hinted at in the fluff, was that these whales can create humanoid 'copies' of themselves, though copy is not the exact word. These whales possess an intellect that dwarfs anything a mundane sentient being is capable of; their minds are to those of human beings, as human minds are to those possessed by rats. Accordingly, the whales can only fit an aspect of themselves into lesser forms. But, why go through the trouble of jamming parts of themselves into lesser bodies?

The answer? I don't know, make something up. Allow me to explain. How well do you think a rat could understand the motivations of human beings? They could understand our need to socialize, our drives to: eat, sleep, and procreate, even some of our curiosity. However, our methodologies and aspirations beyond these basic motivations would be completely incomprehensible to them. Would a rat understand why you would rather read a book than eat until you felt too full to eat anything more? Could they understand why you get goosebumps looking at your favorite piece of art? The answer to all of these being 'No'.

Yarrr! There she be! Art By: Me

Just as our actions and reasons are incomprehensible to rats, the actions of Thought-Whales are incomprehensible to humans, which is a sneaky way of saying: no matter what the player does, its all part of the whale's plan. While the whale's may have unthinkable motivations, the reason why they create gestalt beings can be reasoned out, they aren't able to get things done themselves while swimming around in the oceans. Perhaps they want to create certain social creations? Or they are focused on the subtle effects created by certain actions, rather than the direct products themselves? It can be anything, so just smile at the antics of the player and know that it's all part of the show.

Why do this to a player? What do YOU get out of it? Well, if you are like me, you enjoy seeing the players squirm when they are presented with a really weird set of circumstances. The player gets something out of this as well, so this isn't a complete act of GM sadism. You do this to a player with no real backstory, and in doing so, you give them a backstory that they uncover as the game progresses, connecting them directly to the game-world.

This is something you reveal slowly, and so I have included a guide and some tables to make it a simple process for the majority of time. You will still have to work out how the interaction between the PC, the other gestalts, and the whale will go. But until you get there, just roll on a couple charts each game to drop clues.

Interesting fact: the Blue Whale's brain weighs about 15.26 lbs (6.92 kg) as compared to the human brain that weights about 3.1 pounds (1.4 kg). Scientists are still trying to figure out what this exactly means as far as how brain-size measures up to intelligence. Either Blue Whales are so pyschologically different from humans that their true intelligence can't be measured, or their brain structure is very inefficient and cannot generate the cognitive abilities that the small human brains are capable of generating.

Lexicon

A family of minds. Art By: Me

Gestalt: A composite being created by a Thought-Whale breaking off a part of their mind into a blank body. How these bodies are created and what they are is up to you in the end, but here are some suggestions:

Clones: These are exact replicas of a sentient race, without minds, which the whale provides.
Ectoplasmic Ambergris: Think of this material as psychic vomit, a substance the body, or in this case the mind, cannot digest and break down. The whale expels this ectoplasm, then shapes it into a body to store a mind in. How close this ecto-body can be made to resemble a real body is up to the GM.
Brain-Dead Sailors: The whale finds the bodies of sailors washed overboard, and brings the body alone back to life. Without a mind, the body is just a shell which the whale fills with a part of their own mind.

While each gestalt is an individual, they will have certain similarities to one another. The facial features of gestalt from the same whale will bear a close resemblance to one another as between immediate family members. Gestalt from the same whale will generally have the same ethical alignment (Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic). Finally, a gestalt will find it very difficult to harm another gestalt from the same whale as well as their whale creator, requiring a save each time they wish to engage in an action they know will bring harm.

Pathfinder: DC 20 Will Save.
OSR / AD&D / LotFP: Save versus Paralysis at a -2 penalty.
Pits & Perils: A save with a -1 penalty.
Into the Odd: A Will save at a -2 penalty.

Thought-Whales: A whale species that can measure as long as 67 ft (20.5 meters) and weigh up to 68,200 lbs (31,000 kg). Physically, their shape resembles that of the Blue Whale, save for its expanded cranial cavity, 6 tentacles attached to its skull, and 3 pairs of eyes. 

From the journal of the ship's naturalist. Art By: Me
 
Brain: The average weight of a Thought-Whale brain is 136.4 lbs (62 kg). An adult human could easily curl up and fit into the brain cavity of a Thought-Whale. Other whales consider Thought-Whales to be the most intelligent of their kind, as well as absolutely insane. Most whales can't comprehend why Thought-Whales do what they do.

Tentacles: The tentacles atop their skull act as their primary sensory organ, and are a way for the whale to deal with the time lag between sensation and action between their brains and lower body. Each tentacle has a Olfactory Ampullae attached to it, this organ is attached directly to the brain allowing the whale to react by a sort of sight and smell. The Ampullae is organ found in sharks that allows them to sense electric and magnetic fields as well as shifts in temperature gradients (In the real world it's called the Ampullae of Lorenzini). Olfactory Ampullae combine the ability to sense electric fields with smell, acting in concert to provide a high degree of sensory information for the whale to react to.

Eyes: Though the overall sight of whales is roughly equivalent to 20 / 240 vision, which isn't all that great (This real-world figure is fudged quite a bit, but it helps give you an idea of the relative difference in whale versus human sight). While having three eyes to the side doesn't improve the resolution of the images, it assists with resolving shapes in the dark.

Thought-Whale Olfactory Ampullae. Art By: Me

They live their entire lives in the sea, though there has been rumor of a whale seeking out the assistance of the Electric Life Church (CLICKHERE) for a more terrestrial body. Though they do little in the way of physical socialization, they are in frequent contact with one another over long distances through the use of whale song and strong electric pulses. They prefer the colder waters of the north, feeding on plankton, krill, and small fish. The lifespan of Thought-Whales is not know for sure, but it is believed that a whale can survive for upwards of 300 years.

Tables To Mess With Their Heads

Strange Events - 1D10
Something strange happens to the PC or someone they know.

  1. An acquaintance sees the PC (it's actually an identical gestalt) do something they didn't actually do. Roll 1D10, 1 being something mean or cruel while a 10 is something noble and altruistic.
  2. The PC or a close acquaintance (roll a die: even the PC, and odd an acquaintance) sees an identical gestalt wandering around. When chased, the doppelganger always manages to give them the slip.
  3. The next NPC meets either really likes or hates the PC due to something a doppelganger did. The NPC is sure that is was the PC that acted for/against them. Roll a D6, on a 3+ the NPC is positively disposed towards the PC, otherwise they hate the PC.
  4. A doppelganger drops off a note for the PC somewhere they normally spend a lot of time at. Roll 1D6: Odd, the doppelganger leaves a note chiding the PC about a recent failure. Even, the doppelganger leaves a note providing a useful bit of info about a problem the PC is working on.
  5. The PC finds a very old photograph/painting/statue that looks exactly like the PC. The object was made long before PC believes they were born.
  6. The PC gets a delivery that was intended for the Doppelganger. The item delivered doesn't seem to have an immediate use for the PC, but they might find use for it later. Roll 1D6: 1-Rare Spice/Herb, 2-A book of fiction, 3-A signet ring w/ a strange design, 4-A notebook filled with strange notation, 5-An organ of a rare animal, 6-A vial of blood.
  7. A loan-shark (low level thug) tries to shake down the PC for a moderate amount of money (1D6 x 50 gp/sp/s). They swear that the PC owes them the money, though they call the PC by a different name.
  8. A spurned man or woman accosts the PC (accusations, yelling, slaps, possible challenge to a duel) for walking out after a few nights of passion. Of course, it was the doppelganger, and the spurned lover calls the PC by a different name.
  9. An irate man or woman challenges the PC to a duel for engaging in an affair with their husband/wife.
  10. A craftsman delivers an outrageous outfit/portrait/play/statue to the PC and demands payment, stating that the PC had ordered it from them weeks ago.

Staring out into the dark depths. Art By: Me

Strange Dreams
The PC has a reoccurring dream where they must find an object in a palace on the back of an incredibly massive whale. Each time they find the desired object, the PC wakes up with a clue or a valuable piece of info for their current situation. Usually the object is near a piece of strange art with an unsettling plaque.

Object - 1D20
  1. Fork
  2. Spoon
  3. Plate
  4. Knife
  5. Napkin
  6. Hat
  7. Cloak
  8. Umbrella or Rain Tarp
  9. Bottle of Wine
  10. Boots
  11. Book of Poetry
  12. Animal Pelt (1D6: 1-Fox, 2-Bear, 3-Wolf, 4-Lion, 5-Horse, 6-Human)
  13. Fruit (1D6: 1-Pear, 2-Apple, 3-Berry, 4-Mellon, 5-Pomegranate, 6-Fig)
  14. Chess Piece (1D3: 1-Red, 2-White, 3-Black. 1D6: 1-Pawn, 2-Bishop, 3-Knight, 4-Rook, 5-King, 6-Queen)
  15. Piece of Chalk
  16. Pie (1D6: 1-Mince Meat, 2-Apple, 3-Plum, 4-Cherry, 5-Pot Pie, 6-Fish)
  17. Cheese
  18. Mirror (Reflects a different Person)
  19. Crown
  20. Pantaloons

Type of Art the Object Was Found Near - 1D8
This is the medium of the art.
  1. Marble Sculpture
  2. Bronze Sculpture
  3. Watercolor Painting
  4. Oil Painting
  5. Fresco
  6. Etching
  7. Sketch
  8. Decorative Plate

Art Subject - 1D8
This is what the art object depicts.
  1. The PC's mother breastfeeding a baby-sized whale.
  2. The PC and a number of people that resemble the PC, whom they don't know.
  3. The PC lying on their side with a harpoon in their gut.
  4. The PC with a whale body.
  5. The PC hung upside down, gutted like a fish.
  6. Ocean waves with the face of the PC's father.
  7. The PC at a table playing cards with 6 other people that look exactly like the PC.
  8. The PC dining on portions of themselves.

Plaque
This is what the plaque attached to the art reads.
  1. Behold! My Son.
  2. We are all family. We are all whales.
  3. A call to yourself, from the depths.
  4. See the sea. See yourself.
  5. Hold your breath. Dive deep.
  6. The flesh lies.
  7. Your cries are carried by the waves.
  8. You are the dream.

Finding Things in Your Dreams
Pathfinder: Character must pass a DC 20 Perception check.
OSR / AD&D / LotFP: Roll under or equal to their Wisdom score with 1D20
Pits & Perils: Roll 2D6, on a 9+ the character finds the object.
Into the Odd: A successful Will save.