View Full Version : Pathfinder Thirtysixes [AKA Swamp Stars, Mudhuggers] [Weird Race]

Admiral Squish
2014-11-25, 09:45 PM
*It's very difficult to properly put the names of these creatures into our language. They refer to their species with a gesture that consists of all six manipulator tentacles curled, then uncurling so the tips drag over each of the six suckers on each tentacle, ending with the tentacles fully extended. Due to similarity with other gestures, it is believed that this gesture is a variant indicating something approximate to 'six times six manipulator tentacles', referencing their distinct body plan. Most simply call them 'thirtysixes', the preferred term, 'swamp stars', a somewhat more informal address, or 'mudhuggers', a derogatory.

Thirtysixes are a race of boneless creatures that superficially seem similar to cephalopods or sea stars, but in truth they are a very distinct form of life. Their body consists of somewhat domed main body surrounded by six thick, muscular tentacles of equal length, ending in manipulators. Despite their dramatically non-standard appearance and way of life, in truth, they are sentient, friendly beings with an innate curiosity.

Personality: Thirtysixes are inherently friendly and curious beings, with an eagerness to understand their world and the creatures that share it with. They seem to think in strange ways, which is not particularly surprising, but can give them the impression of being less intelligent or focused than other races. Thirtysixes are also highly competitive, particularly in tests of strength, and most will eagerly accept any challenge offered. Wrestling is a favored sport for them, and those who have experience wrestling with a thirtysix will often compare an overwhelming or hopeless situation to the experience.

Physical Description: A thirtysix's body is a highly unusual form by any standard other than their own. They typically have smooth, rubbery skin, ranging through a wide variety of colors, including red, blue, yellow, orange, purple, brown, and several other uncommon shades. Though soft to the touch when at rest, when the muscles are tensed they can be extremely firm and are can be incredibly strong. Thirtysixes are capable of living very long lives, some elders claiming to be too old to count on their suckers, which, if accurate, would make them in excess of 200 years old. Thirtysixes have three possible genders, male, female, and both, and it's possible for them to actually change genders based on a variety of factors, but genders are not visually notable and generally thirtysixes pay little attention to them. Specific description of a thirtysix's body requires one to assume the creature is relaxed, as its dimensions can dramatically change under muscular force or external pressure.
A thirtysix's main body is slightly domed, and possesses six eyes, spaced evenly around the sides of the central dome, above the points where the limbs meet. The main body is between eighteen and twenty four inches across at the shortest measurement, from the meeting of two limbs to the opposite meeting. This structure contains a flexible, semi-stiff bubble filled with fluid and containing the majority of their vital organs, apart from the stomach. This bubble is surrounded by muscle, allowing the thirtysix to compress its main body to slip through tiny spaces, some as narrow as six inches across. The rest of the body is composed almost entirely of muscle. Each thirtysix has unique, radially symmetrical patterns on their main body, allowing them to be identified. Thirtysixes have only a single orifice, located on the underside of their body, consisting of a loop of muscle surrounded by six tentacles. The loop of muscle opens to allow specialized internal structures out. There are structures for feeding, excreting, mating, and propulsion through open water. The thirtysixes believe the orifice to be shameful. As such, the only garment they typically wear consists of a small disk of material fastened around the bases of the tentacles surrounding the orifice, some garments pinning them under the material, others not. Typically, hiding the tentacles is expected in formal situations.
Surrounding the main body are six thick, muscular tentacles, evenly spaced around the central body. These limbs are all of equal length, between two and three feet long, wedge-shaped and tapering down to a manipulator at the end. The limbs are usually lighter colored on the underside, but otherwise are largely featureless on the surface. At the center of each tentacle is a highly unique structure composed of cylindrical fluid-filled chambers approximately three inches long and one and a half inches in diameter. These chambers are stacked together, reaching both the manipulator and the central cartilage, and are tightly connected. Each chamber is connected together by a tough muscular cylinder. These cylinders contract to apply force to these chambers, the fluid within transferring force to either end, allowing them to function as rigid structures. This design allows the thirtysix's limbs to remain flexible, withstand tension, or withstand compression, at their option.
At the end of each limb is a manipulator, consisting of six short tentacles emerging from the narrowest point of the limb. The manipulator has a short 'wrist', which contains the final ring of muscle and fluid chamber. When this wrist chamber is flexed, a tough section of skin in the middle of the manipulator is pushed out by the fluid pressure, functioning as a hard surface, much like a heel, and can be used to support the thirtysix's weight or to strike with. Each manipulator tentacle has six suckers along its length, which the thirtysix uses to enhance its grip. If a thirtysix chooses to stiffen a limb to support itself, it will often curl its manipulator tentacles tight to protect the sensitive inner surfaces and suckers, and use the tough, curled digits as 'toes', to keep it balanced.

Relations: The highly unusual physical form of these distinct beings unfortunately led to some unpleasant circumstances when they were first discovered. The records of the first explorer to encounter these creature mentions their flavor. It is only after extensive contact they were realized to be intelligent, and even in modern times there still occurs incidents where unfortunately uneducated individuals fail to recognize the thirtysixes are sentient.

Alignment: Thirtysixes are usually neutral, but more likely to be good than evil and show a slight tendency for chaos.


Thirtysix Lands: The thirtysix were first discovered in a massive, tangled tropical swamp that is still largely unexplored by races other than the thirtysix. They lived primitive lives with little technology, swimming and brachiating through the swamplands freely. However, since their introduction to more advanced technology, they have flourished, spreading beyond their native swamp into communities all around the world. They typically prefer to dwell in places with plenty of water, or places humid enough to keep their skin from drying out. Some more curious ones may move to more unusual locations, such as cities or drier climes, provided they can make the accommodations necessary to remain comfortable.

Religion: Thirtysixes have surprisingly tame religious beliefs, their primary deity being a creator god that made them and controls their homeland. However, they often take on religious practices of wherever they go, offering passing to respect to their creator deity for making them in the past. When questioned they often say their old deity controlled the swamp, and while they are grateful for his aid, he no longer holds authority in their new homeland.

Language: Thirtysix do not have a spoken language, lacking proper lungs or ears. They can detect the vibrations of speech, however, and learned to understand it once they realized what it was. Their language, known as six-point, is purely gestural, relating to the movements of the six manipulator tentacles of one manipulator and how those movement relate to each other and the suckers. Six-point can also be 'shouted', the thirtysix using their limbs to imitate the gestures of a manipulator more clearly over greater distances. Six-point is easy enough to understand once one grasps the fundamentals, but those fundamentals are challenging unless one's mind is particularly flexible. For example, six-point uses a base-six numerical system, which can be challenging to grasp. Most translators settle for trying to translate the intent rather than the exact wording, as there are no exact translations for many gestures. However, just as they lack the lungs to speak most languages, no other races possess the equipment to properly gesture in six-point. Six-point does have a written language, each character made of six lines arranged to imitate the position of the manipulator tentacles normally associated with a gesture, and words made of multiple such symbols in sequence to describe more complicated gesture. The thirtysixes had this written language long before contact with other races, and it's believed it arose via the thirtysixes examining manipulator prints in mud. Thirtysixes can hear almost as well as other races, but their hearing lacks fine fidelity, so it's often much easier for a thirtysix to learn to write in another language than to learn to understand it.

Names: Thirtysix names are written or gestured in six-point, but for the ease of use, most other races call them by some sort of nickname or translation.

Adventurers: Thirtysix adventurers are rather common. It often seems a natural way to satisfy their innate curiosity and their natural drive for competition. They often get plenty of opportunities to put their great strength to use, and most adventurers are at least reasonably tolerant of their sort of strangeness. Most enter classes that allow them to take advantage of their strength and engage in melee combat, and avoid more mentally focused classes.

Thirtysix Racial Traits: (Advanced race, ~20 RP)
+4 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma Thirtysixes are exceptionally powerful creatures, but their alien biology makes them hard to relate to, and they think in very different ways than most races.
Aberration Thirtysixes are aberrations.
Medium Size Thirtysixes are medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties based on size.
Darkvision Thirtysixes can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
Varied Movement: Thirtysixes have a wide variety of movement options available.
Thirtysixes have a base speed of 20 feet.
Thirtysixes have a climb speed of 20 feet, and gain the +8 racial bonus to climb checks that a climb speed normally grants.
Thirtysixes have a swim speed of 20 feet, and gain the +8 racial bonus to swim checks that a swim speed normally grants.
Varied Stance: Thirtysixes have six limbs, all of which are capable of wielding weapons, but they normally must use at least some of these limbs to carry themselves. As a swift action, a thirtysix can change their stance. No matter which limbs or how many limbs they can use to wield weapons, they designate one limb at a time as a primary hand, and all other limbs are off hands.
No Limbs Thirtysixes in this stance abandon movement and turn all their limbs to the purpose of manipulating objects. While in this stance they are considered to be prone and cannot move, but they can bring all six arms to bear, allowing them to manipulate objects in all six manipulators. If they take this stance while climbing, flying, or swimming, they begin to fall or sink, unless they have some other method of maintaining their position that does not require the use of their limbs.
Two Limbs Thirtysixes in this stance propel themselves on two limbs, allowing them to manipulate objects with four manipulators. While in this stance they are slow-moving and unsteady. They take a -2 penalty to CMD against bull rush and trip attempts, and take a 10-foot penalty to their base speed, climb speed, and swim speed. They lose the benefits of all-around vision in this stance.
Four Limbs Thirtysixes in this stance support themselves on four limbs, allowing them to manipulate objects with two manipulators. They gain no special bonuses or penalties while in this stance.
Six Limbs Thirtysixes in this stance support themselves on all six limbs, allowing them greater mobility, at the cost of their ability to manipulate objects. While in this stance, they cannot manipulate objects, but they gain a +10 racial bonus to their base speed, climb speed, and swim speed, and a +2 racial bonus to CMD against bull rush and trip attempts.
Amphibious Thirtysixes can breathe both air and water.
All-around Vision Thirtysixes can see in all directions, and cannot be flanked. However, see the varied stance description, as some stances cause them to lose this benefit.
Grabby Thirtysixes have many strong limbs and suckered hands. They gain a +8 racial bonus on combat maneuver checks to start and maintain a grapple.
Compression Thirtysixes are boneless, and can squeeze and slip through even tiny gaps. They can squeeze through spaces as though they were two sizes smaller than they actually are, and gain a +10 racial bonus to escape artist checks.
Alien Mind Thirtysixes have a strange thought pattern and unusual logic paths. They gain a +2 racial bonus to saves against mind-affecting spells and abilities. This bonus increases to +4 against charm or compulsion effects.
Regrowth Thirtysixes heal quickly, and can even regrow lost limbs. When resting or undergoing complete bed rest, a thirtysix requires half the normal time period to heal normally (4 hours of resting or 12 hours or complete bed rest). If they continue to rest or undergo complete bed rest for the full normal time period, they heal a second time at the end of the period. In addition, a thirtysix can regrow a lost body part, if given enough time. Any lost body part can be fully regrown in 1d4+1 weeks.
Desiccation Thirtysixes must stay moist. In some humid environments, they can be fine indefinitely, but most require frequent exposure to water to avoid a painful cracking of the skin. A thirtysix can remain away from water without risk for a number of hours equal to their constitution modifier (minimum 1). After that, the thirtysix must make a constitution check (DC 10 +1 per previous check) each hour or dry out. While dried out, the thirtysix is considered to be sickened, and takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage each hour. The sickened condition and damage cannot be removed until the thirtysix rehydrates, at which point he sickened condition is removed and the damage begins to heal normally. A thirtysix can rehydrate by wetting itself with a gallon of fresh water or submerging in a body of fresh water.
Mute Thirtysixes have no lungs, and cannot speak or produce any audible sound. They cannot cast spells with a verbal component or use items that require a command word.
Languages Thirtysixes begin play speaking six-points. Thirtysixes with a high intelligence score can choose to learn any languages they want (except secret languages), but due to their inability to produce sounds and their limited hearing, they learn to read and write the language first, even if they learn the language through the linguistics skill. A thirtysix can spend a skill point to learn to understand the spoken form of any language they can write.

To use with 3.5:
Apply +1 LA.
Two limbs imposes a -2 penalty to strength checks to resist bull rush and trip attempts.
Six limbs grants a +2 to strength checks to resist bull rush and trip attempts.
Grabby grants a +8 racial bonus to grapple checks.

2014-11-28, 05:13 PM
I've been meaning all week to give this another look; I was intrigued when you first posted but didn't have a chance to really look it through.

Overall impression: very cool, very interesting, decidedly odd. It's always great to see an inventive species that borrows from real-world biology, and without being yet another variant of elf with white eyebrows or whatnot.

Even after reading it through a couple of times, however, I still have a difficult time really visualizing these creatures. This is a case where artwork would give an intuitive overview of the organism's design, although I can understand that would probably involve a commission. I have a general sense of what they look like--sort of a fusion of starfish and jellyfish--but the design of the manipulators is still difficult to imagine, and there are a lot of details that aren't entirely clear.

For instance, I'm not sure if the tentacles are long and tubular, like a set of eels glommed onto the body, or if they're stubby and wedgelike, closer to the arms of a starfish. Also not clear about the eyes and their position on the central dome, relative to its crest and to the bases of the arms. And what kind of eyes? Are these expressionless pools of inhuman darkness? Are they capable of swiveling, or fixed forever in one direction? Can they see color? Is there any overlap between the fields of view of different eyes? And given their apparent 360-degree view, can they be flanked?

On their internal anatomy, I would recommend replacing the cartilaginous framework with something based on internal fluid pressure, such as the hydrovascular system in echinoderms. Cartilage may be flexible, but it won't deform as readily as structures which are based on liquids. (Note that sharks and rays have cartilaginous skeletons, and they can't deform themselves to slip through narrow cracks, etc.) You might also look into cuttlefish and other fleshy cephalopods to see how their bodies are structured.

I would suggest adding some penalty for desiccation, since that would be my major concern if they're not in a very humid environment. Without magic I'm not sure how they'd survive in a dry Mediterranean climate, for instance.

As for languages, I'm a little confused. It makes perfect sense that they're unable to speak humanoid languages, with no lungs and all. But how, then, is a thirtysix able to select any language it wants as a bonus language? Does this mean they can only understand and write humanoid languages? That seems like a safe assumption, but it would be better to clarify exactly what a thirtysix can and cannot do with humanoid speech. Without being able to speak a language I'm not sure how they'd learn it.

On the mechanics, I would only suggest two changes. The first would be to increase the racial bonus to grapple to a +8, since they have 150% more limbs than most humanoids will be grappling with, plus sucker-thingies all along those limbs. I'm not an adept with the grappling rules, but these things look like grapplemonsters to me.

And second, I'd suggest something like a +4 racial bonus to resist charm effects, since they're so radically different in mind and body from most things being charmed. I know that Charm Monster would probably be the spell of choice, rather than Charm Person…but even as an aberration, it feels they should have some additional bonus from being so peculiar.

Overall these are really interesting creatures. I like the musing on the development of their written language, and I'd be especially interested to see their indigenous spells, since presumably they'd have divine spellcasters of some form. There's a whole funky culture waiting to be developed here.

Admiral Squish
2014-11-28, 08:41 PM
Wow! Now that's some lovely, detailed commentary!

I'm glad you like these guys! They've sorta run away with my brain over the last few days, so there's all sorts of weird factoids about them in my head.

I can understand the difficulty visualizing them, they are really, really odd. I doodled something earlier back when they just had one eye, but I decided to update and draw something a little more comprehensive to help explain them to other people. I apologize in advance, because I am NOT A GOOD ARTIST.


Arms are mostly like starfish, but they don't have all the millions of little feet on the underside.
There are six eyes, positioned over the joints where the arms meet. They look like simple eyes, but they do focus and rotate in their sockets, and can be used to see directly 'up'. The flanking is a... tricky question. They can see in all directions in some poses, in others they can only look forward and to the sides. Basically they can see in a slightly-more-than-half sphere, and depending on the orientation of the central body and arms that may or may not block their view, that could cover all viable approaches or give them a range of view similar to humans. I hadn't thought about color vision, but I suspect they would be able to see color, though whether their color vision is anything like ours is a more difficult question.

Regarding cartilage, I wanted something that would compress to a certain degree, but wouldn't completely flatten, and cartilage was just what came to mind. A fluid pressure system would make more sense, though, it would be odd for them to develop to completely independent methods of supporting structures. They're not supposed to be able to squish totally flat, though, a complex brain requires some rigidity. By the rules on squeezing, they can fit through spaces that are like... 6-12 inches, I think.

I did have a thing about desiccation in there, but I axed that and another ability about regrowing lost limbs because I figured they had a whole bunch of abilities already, and it wasn't really all that vital to the fun.

I thought I was clear that they can't speak under 'mute', but I could throw a note in there under the languages bit. The intention was indeed that they could learn to understand/write the languages they chose.

Mechanical stuffs:
I considered making the grapple bonus higher, but I didn't want to make it TOO crazy. I could knock it up a few notches, though.
I could see some sort of 'alien mindset' thing in there.

I'm really glad you like them! I'll fiddle around with the stuff to clarify the various issues. I'm sorely tempted to make up a whole culture thing for these guys... We'll see if I can resist.

2014-11-28, 10:45 PM
Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
Wow! Now that's some lovely, detailed commentary!

Happy to share some thoughts on these critters. Your enthusiasm comes through clearly, which helps sell the concept.

Also, by typical gaming standards these are downright outré, which I enjoy.

Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
They look like simple eyes, but they do focus and rotate in their sockets, and can be used to see directly 'up'.

I was going to suggest that the primary eyes be supplemented with a ring of secondary eyes around the apex of the central dome. These wouldn't need to be complex eyes, but rather very simple light-sensitive proto-eyes, which together would serve as an early-warning system for predators moving directly above them. If the thirtysixes evolved in a flooded tropical rainforest, and moved into an arboreal lifestyle, flying predators would be a major concern.

Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
They're not supposed to be able to squish totally flat, though, a complex brain requires some rigidity.

I would suggest a composite approach: a cartilaginous braincase at the very core of the central dome, and a hydrovascular system for everything else. This way the brain is protected by the rubbery exoderm, the impact-absorbing interior, and the braincase at the core.

Note, however, that cuttlefish have one of the most complex brains in the invertebrate world, and I don't think it has any special protection.

Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
I did have a thing about desiccation in there, but I axed that and another ability about regrowing lost limbs because I figured they had a whole bunch of abilities already, and it wasn't really all that vital to the fun.

Wait, you think regrowing an arm isn't fun? :smalltongue:

I would definitely include both desiccation and regeneration in the list of racial traits. Regrowing a limb is a classic feature of starfish, and it's something your typical humanoid just can't manage too well.

And a drawback involving desiccation is both biologically sensible and a good counterbalance to the ability to breathe both water and air, naturally and indefinitely, which is something else most humanoids aren't good at.

Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
I thought I was clear that they can't speak under 'mute', but I could throw a note in there under the languages bit. The intention was indeed that they could learn to understand/write the languages they chose.

Looking back over it, I think you were clearer than I was able to see at the time. :smallredface:

I suppose my main hangup is learning a language without being able to speak it. It's so integral to the process of learning a human language I have a hard time imagining how it could be done otherwise. Given how radically different the thirtysixes are from mainstream humanoids, my inclination would be to make communication much more difficult, to emphasize the immense differences in body design, as well as mental processes and worldview.

It might actually be easier for them to learn sign language than spoken language, since gestures and postures are the basis of their native communication. I could see the "first contact" between humans and thirtysixes only becoming fruitful when one of the humans happened to be a signer, and was able to recognize the movements of the tentacles as structured and meaningful.

Originally Posted by Admiral Squish
I'm sorely tempted to make up a whole culture thing for these guys... We'll see if I can resist.

Resistance is futile. Search your feelings…you know it to be true. :smallbiggrin:

Seriously, it feels like you're on the cusp of developing a whole lot more with this species. You briefly mentioned mating; I'm interested in how they'd reproduce and raise their young, and how their culture is organized. I'd also be very interested to know what sorts of magic they might use--could be something as different as everything else about them--and more details about what sort of habitat they originally came from. There's a clear marine origin here, and yet they seem to be both amphibious and arboreal, which means there's a really interesting biological story to tell.

Admiral Squish
2014-11-29, 09:36 AM
To be fair, I think the fact that they're six-to-eight feet across kinda makes most concerns of aerial predators irrelevant. Though, I suppose gryphons are a thing in most fantasy worlds.
But I think the eyes as they are will serve fine, honestly. I think it would be impractical if they were unable to look up (which becomes forward in two-limb stance), since if I used proto-eyes, they wouldn't be able to see detail in that direction.
I went through and clarified the placement of the eyes and added some all-around vision.

You have a good point about cuttlefish. Octopuses, too, actually. I thought the cuttlebone was a skull-like remnant from a nautilus-like shell they were evolving out of, but it seems it's more of a flotation device
I edited the wordiness to describe a semi-stiff fluid-filled bubble that they can deform through muscular action.

Not that it's not fun, really, just that it wasn't vital to the fun. Plus, there's relatively few situations that would actually cause them to lose limbs.
I suppose I could step it up a notch, perhaps say they heal at twice the normal rate while resting, then throw on the limb-regrowing thing as part of that.

Alright, I added a thing about it. They can remain out of water for a few hours then start making scaling con checks to avoid drying out. While dried out, they're sickened and take nonlethal damage each hour. An average one could safely remain out of water for an hour plus a handful of extra hours depending on their luck. they can rehydrate with a gallon of water, which removes the sickened condition and allows the nonlethal damage to heal.

Hmm. You have a point. Hearing's not a strong sense for them, and audible communication would be outside their normal head-space. I don't think humanoid sign languages would be suitable, either, though, they have too many fingers and not in the correct arrangement for most gestures. How would you be able to tell which tentacle was being used as which finger, and such? They also lack a lot of familiar points of reference, such as jaw, forehead, chest...

Perhaps reverse-illiteracy? They can learn to write any language normally, but must spend a skill point to learn to understand the speech.

Of course, this would make it very difficult for them to communicate outside their own species, and I kinda want them to be able to function outside their enclaves. Maybe some sort of magic geegaw that can interpret gestures and produce speech, and translate speech to six-points?

Yeah, I'm probably kidding myself about my potential to resist really filing these guys out. I'm having too much fun approaching things from such a dramatically different direction. They're just so alien, so strange, I'm enjoying the process of wrapping my brain around their way of life.