The Mystery of Lycanthropy- Nature of The Beast
I decided to shift and write this post after the basic details, since Lycanthropy, it's mystery and the troubles it arouses, will probably form the major issue in the campaign, and will pose the main questions the campaign will revolve around. Most other subjects are affected by it, or designed with it in mind.
It's been quite a challenge to think of how to write this subject. I've approached this subject on the forum twice before- latest in 2014, and earlier in 2012. Yep, the idea has been long brewing! I hope that this presentation will clarify and make it more... coherent.
The goals of the lycanthropy mystery
SpoilerThe main goals of introducing the mystery, are as follows:
1. Deal with the subject of CHANGE:
A change of body, a change of personality, a change of life, a change of society, a change of a region. CHANGE, as a theme, will have many layers, many interpretations, opinions and more. The change is, to an extent, an outside influence, but is dealt with by inside influences as well. Where does one begin? Where does one end?
2. Tough choices, in a non-obsolute situation- grey areas:
Due to the nature of Lycanthropy itself, it's status as a mystery, of which little is really known (Many rumors & opinions, little known fact), in a situation which demands action, with no clear moral, and a great complexity, will mean making tough decision, many times not fully clear or obvious ones, and with many there is a price (Not necessarily mechanical, but in-game-world price). Some of the main dilemmas I'd like to introduce (Though I imagine the game and players will introduce some more):
- Are civilization's laws and constructs better, or worse, than "the natural state"- our primal being, our more animalistic natures? What is the balance (Or imbalance?) between such forces- our own deep desires, and conforming to society? What does it say about us? About others? About the nature of soul? Of decision? To steal from Orson Scott Card- "What is the arrhythmic of your soul?"
- How much of the change is an outside influence? How much an inside choice? Where does responsibility begins? Where does it end? Who decides?
- How much can you trust someone? And if they change- does your trust change? Does it change if it's a loved one, vs. someone you have no connections to, or even hate? Is there "justice" for all, or a case-by-case basis?
- In a situation withe a highly concealable, fast spreading, very dangerous threat, which cannot be fully understood- What steps will you take? What limits? How far will you go? The freedom, liberty and rights of the few vs. safety of the many? Where does your compromise, between pragmatism and high morals, draw the line?
- How do you deal with fear? Rumors? Preconceptions? What when they appear to be true, or are true? What IS true? What is not? And does this have significance?
3. A tool for Expression:
This element of change, is of course WONDERFUL for those who like the Expression aesthetic. However, that might depends on the form of expression- if one seeks to portray a happy, successful, "All is ok!"/ "I am good, always!", type of character, this may not suit them. The campaign will certainly have a "Bad things can happen to good people, even without their control", premise. This premise, theme, will be known by the players when coming to play. May not be everyone's cup of tea, yet this campaign isn't necessarily meant for all.
4. A complex and multilayered mystery for Exploration:
The mystery has many parts, and is quite vague at first. Yet there will be LOTS of ways to explore it, be it from interactions with the denizens of the region, secrets found in adventure sites, player experimentation, and lots more! For players who like the Exploration aesthetic, the mystery offers a lot!
5. Nature of The Beast:
It's the campaign's name, but here I think I can explain the choice of that name better. Due to all of above, this phrase- Nature of The Beast, is another term for the mystery of lycanthropy. In it's way, it encompasses many of the questions above. In the setting, this will be a phrase, common with the more indigenous people, who may have rubbed on the new settlers as well. The Beast, can mean many things: One's soul, one's struggle with itself, the changes on the other races, the new settlement, the older races, the mysteries of the land, the hard choices and actions that will be made, the conflicts that will ensue, and more... What IS The Beast? And what IS it's nature? These are the questions that they campaign will pose, and the game may answer, in whatever fashion it will be. (I make no answer in advance. Where ever it may go, we will go as well).
Inspirations for the mystery
SpoilerThough I've touched on the main inspirations for the campaign on the first post, I'd like to address a few more. I may add more, as I remember them:
- Various shapeshifters, in literature and more:
There are MANY of these, either shifters, or a people with "animalistic traits". Some examples can be seen with X-men (Wolverine, Sabertooth, Toad and more), and quite a lot of other works. In many of these examples, the character takes upon itself some of the characteristics of the related animal- they are influenced by the connection, taking upon themselves some characteristics. Also, in most of them, this "animal aspect", often gives a more "savage/ uninhibited/ wild" feel. To many it may cause problems, and often the struggle with one self, and the growth form it are central to character.
- The Beast, from X-men:
A somewhat different case, as The Beast is very much in control of itself (Mostly), and is portrayed as a highly intelligent, sophisticated, spiritual and thoughtful being. Yet, even it may succumb to rage and destruction. There is a certain ambiguity in how The Beast considers it's his condition. Though it is many times evident that he would have liked to live without it, yet had to find a way to live with it.
- Bruce Banner/ The Hulk:
Another interesting example. I'm looking more at the psychological effects here, rather than the physical ones. The two are quite different, and for a long time Bruce considers The Hulk as almost a different being, living within it, which he needs to control. Yet The Hulk sometimes shows signs of Banner's personality, and in some iterations of the story, The Hulk is a manifestation of Banner's own rage, anger, and destructive tendencies. It makes for an intriguing process of self control, of losing control, and of self discovery, and of course- Change.
- V's own transformation:
Beware! Spoilers if you haven't read the OOTS comic! (What, are you insane? )Spoiler: You've been warned...When V becomes Darth V, and commits the Familycide, The dark 3 make a very insightful comment: "A good way to make a decent person do something horrible is to convince them they are not responsible for their actions." The matter of self responsibility, vs. outside responsibility will be a major issue in the campaign.
The core of the mystery- Nature of The Beast
SpoilerIn D&D/ PF/ d20, Lycanthropy is treated as a disease, transmitted by bite, who grants the ability to transform to the shapes of the were-creature who bit you. At first you cannot easily control the transformations, (usually 3 days a month, around the full moon) yet there are also "natural lycanthropes" who do control their shapes fully.
And yet, there was part of the description that intrigued me- were creatures had their alignment change, by the type of creature (Were wolves and were rats were evil, were bears were good...). I found this intriguing, since animals in the D&D game are either unaligned, or neutral. While I do not play with alignments, I did find the idea of a personality change quite... intriguing.
But where do the change/ personality come from? It's not from the animals themselves, so... One idea, that is used in a lot of fantasy concepts, is of an "animal spirit" or such, which DOES have it's own morals. A sort of "Spirit intrusion/ take over". In some fantasy concepts some have learned to live with the spirit, while some are corrupted. I'm taking a different outlook though. There are quite a lot of changes to the D&D concept:
Lycanthropy isn't exactly and outside influence, but rather the weakening/ breaking of one's own inhibitions, adherence to civilized norm and compliance.
In one of the 2014 thread, the concept that the personality change, comes from rising of inhibited, more subconscious, more primal parts of one's personality, rather than the personality take over of an outside influence/ power. "It makes you more YOU", as I've used the term. But as complex creatures, people who must make compromise in order to live in civilized society, is "being more you" favorable or unfavorable? Well, depends on whom you ask... Shere- Khan, the leader of the major lycanthropic faction and his followers might sum it as such:
But I guess I need to explain this a bit more, as this has caused some discussion when first introduced:"A curse? A blessing! You, pup of civilization, are a slave, who cannot see it's chains! You are whipped, and yet offer your back, over and over. You are lorded over by weaklings, weasels, snakes and manipulators, who uses the constructs of... "laws"... to rise more than their natural station. The Beast is an awakening, a breaking of chains of spirit, opening of your eyes, to what you TRULY are!"
1. Breaking down of inhibitions:
I will try to compare it a bit with other... dis-inhibiting agents, such as alcohol, drugs and more... Even the barbarian's rage? These often make people act differently, letting down their own guards, their own restraint, their own "breaks". Yet, where does the substance influence ends, and where does the person's personality begins? Different people react differently, yet many times, when under serious influences, Bad Things (TM) happen... When the guards are down, though a few just become more sociable, some become funnier, and so on, quite a few become aggressive, oppressive, and violent. One might argue that consuming such substances is a choice, while being afflicted usually isn't, and that is true. Yet, dealing with the addiction/ affliction/ curse/ blessing- Well, that is a far more complex question.
2. Enhanced power:
Unlike substance abuse, The Beast usually doesn't wreck your body, but rather enhances it- Better senses, increased attribute, animal vitality and powers, even increased survivability in the form of resistance to non-silvered weapons! Being a lycanthrope makes you physically better, stronger, more powerful! What happens when you get more powerful, more capable, along with facing your "new", stronger urges?
3. A long change & struggle:
] The mental/ emotional/ spiritual side may be more complex- as one deals with the breaking of their own inhibitions, they struggle with new thoughts, emotions, urges, instincts and more. Some may think of these as outside influence, yet they will also recognize that it's THEIR OWN hidden echoes... Dealing with the change, either trying to resist it or accepting it, is the focus of the lycanthropic experience. That, and dealing with the outcomes.
Wait, so is The Beast good or bad for you? Well, as the entire concept tries to suggest- it's complex. Yes, you may get more power, more confidence, and be able to accomplish more, but you may also lose yourself to instinct, to urges on the way. You may strike at the tyrant, but you may strike at your loved ones, or your boss as well. Many of civilization rules try to cull violent behavior, make order (And sometimes justice, but not always), enable people to work together, less it devolves into chaos and mayhem. Yet, as Shere-Khan might say:
4. The animal part of you:You say the wild is savage? The wild is dangerous? Death can come to you every day? Then tell me, shackled one- when did a wolf pack declared wars that lasted years, if not decades? When did bears invent torture, cruelty? When did rats invent prisons, executions? The "sentient beings" as you call them, and your precious "civilization", are but masks, an illusion to cover the brutality, the inherent violence in the thinking animal that is you. And an animal you are, make no mistake, and your kind preys upon each other, not for body, but for soul, servitude, and bending of knees... You prey on others WHOLE LIVES...
We however are free. Yes, we can be violent, we can be passionate we can be extreme, we can be dangerous... Yet we LIVE! Our lives are our own! Our freedom is our own! Our lives are true! We do not live the lie of... "civilization..."
In the D&D concept, you turn into the same were-animal type of the were-creature that bit you. Yet I've changed that- The type of animal one "acquires", depends on the fusion of two parts: The type of person you are, and the perceived cultural role of the animal. I'll explain:
- Each culture gives meaning to different animals in their culture, through stories, proverbs, imagery, symbols and more. As such, each culture allocates different qualities for different animals. In one culture Wolf is an evil murderer, killer, and cunning. In another Wolf is the loyal companion, the hunter, one of the pack. In one society Rat is sneaky, thieving, coward and diseased. In another Rat is wise, careful, and practical. These "Totemic animal traditions" affect the type of animal one may become, according to how he is perceived in society. Some of you may raise questions at this point: What, the animal type is influenced by how OTHERS see me? Partly yes, since The Beast is more than just a transmittable disease, it is a sort of pseudo-spiritual power, which is affected by preconceived concepts, learned through tradition, history, and more, to shape some of our OWN perceptions of the animal types. The subconscious, influenced by society, given form. (Quite literally!) Yet there is another important factor:
- The personality if the affected individual, and the way it views itself, it's nature, it's "Inner animal", is also a major influence. All may see you as a coward, but you see yourself as a fighter, a warrior against odds, one who does what needs to be done to survive, so you might become Tiger. One's own perceptions of self may be less, of equal power, or more influential than the cultural concept.
In short, depending on how much one perceives their "animal self" by society's pre-conceptions, or by their own individual conception, plays a great deal in the type of animal "type" one gains.
I'm planning on having quite a few potential animal types, though all will be mammals. For NPCs that might change, I will decide myself on the animal type. For PCs, if it comes to that, they will chose, as long as it's justified by their personality and character. The campaign will include quite a lot of cultural influences, for the different cultures in the region (You may have noticed some already- Pig country, meaning most farmers/ poor folks are likely to turn into were boars, for example).
None of this is initially known by the characters though, and as such it may raise more questions:
- What does animal type mean? Does one type always means the same personality? A very similar personality? Can you stereotype by it? (This can be a major question when the threat is established in the public's eye)
- Why can two were creatures with different personalities have the same animal type? We thought we knew how this worked!
I'll finish with some words from Shere- Khan:
Shere-Khan might have words on this as well:
Your... leaders? What makes them such? Kings old, passing hereditary titles, or scheming treacherous nobles, weaseling their way by "pedigree"/ "titles" and such? Words, without any REAL content! How many times have you looked at your "leaders", and you KNEW they didn't really deserve to lead? You see- despite the words, the masks, the lies, all people have a core, have a true nature, which we all feel, and cannot avoid... Yet you, shackled one, dance around to the weasel's flute of lies, and not claim your true place, your true nature. Me? I'm The White Lion. Ask yourself- What are YOU?"
Afflicting The Beast:
SpoilerIn the D&D rules, lycanthropy spread by a bite from a natural lycanthrope. Keith Baker. the creator of Eberron, once explained that the fast spread (and threat) of lycanthropy at this time period was due to the fact threat the affliction was also transferred by inflicted lycans, not just natural ones. (Due to a special arrangement of the moons or such). But I will do this a bit differently. I wish for the spread of lycanthropy (At this time) to not be just transmitted by bites/ physical means. That feels too... "scientific/ disease spread" to me, while I see it as a magical condition, and as such it's transition is less scientific, and more mysterious...
On the 2014 thread, I've discussed the "structure" of affliction with Alberic Strein quite extensively, and we came upon a sort of way to describe who, how and why, does an individual get transformed.
1. Exposure to a Source:
There are different sources for the lycanthropic change. I'm not talking about it's origins, but rather sort of "centers of affliction", the preliminary requirement for any change to occur. I'm currently thinking of several ideas:
- Interaction with a lycanthrope: This does not necessarily means violence, but any interaction in which one is exposed to the less restrained, more primal, less inhibited nature of the lycanthrope. This can be anger, desire, obsession, love, free spirit, and more...The stronger the emotion and experience, the shorter time of needed exposure.
- Special locals: Very few special locals in the world, have "echoes of The Beast" in them- areas which are wilder, more primal, and may have had a strong connection to the history of The Beast. In the region, some of these will be tied to the fey, some to ancient ruins, some to old places of the transformed denizens (Old sites of the gnoll and centauri culture for example).
- Special rituals: Taking from the D&D concepts of "rituals" (called "incantations"), very strict magical acts, under very specific and sensitive conditions may serve as greater sources of lycanthropy.
Some people are more prone to transform than others. Yeah, I can just make that a will and/ or con save, but I'd like to make it more attuned with the concept of The Beast. And that is- "A failing of civilized constraint, and accepting/ seeking a more primal/ bestial/ instinctive side." This can come from many paths- being an outcast of society, disagreeing with it's rules (Even a vigilante type of character, who decides to take things upon themselves), basically anything which might make you want to act upon your inner desires, despite more accepted/ "normal" ones.
The transforming event: (Here I changed a bit from the design discussed with Alberic Strein. My apologies, but I think this may work better. )
If exposure to a source has been sufficient, and the target is susceptible enough, then there is but one element missing for the affliction to take place- the triggering event. The event is any situation, in which the person experiences two strong factors:
- A strong emotion/ sensation that is more related to animal/ primal/ sensations- Fear, Lust, Love, anger, violence, passion and so on. The emotion needs to be beyond the normal scope of the person's experiences, something powerful enough, unique enough to feel exceptional, beyond their "control".
- Acting upon that emotion/ sensation. A willingness to go beyond normal constraints and self imposed limitations, to do something different than your normal behavior. This can be instinctual, subconscious, a sort of lashing out, or a conscious, self aware, accepting act. This of course can be played upon- how much of the act was instinctual, and how much was it truly desired?
Various examples can include striking in violence, willingness to pursue a loved on despite danger, protecting someone against immense danger, fleeing your duty and more... I've intentionally detailed some acts that are not "violent/ dangerous" to show that the affliction can spread in many ways. Yet, for many, even the threat of life, being attacked by a savage half humanoid- half animal creature, may be sufficient. You don't have to BITE them...
How will this work, mechanics wise?
The above are the principles. They live a great deal for maneuvering, which is the purpose. There are different elements, which means different ways of affecting this. I'm not fully sure how I'll play it out number-crunching wise, but a few thoughts:
- Exposure to a Source may be as easy as tracking "exposure points", which differ by different sources- Stronger vs. weaker lycans, the form they are in, the level of intimacy, the local's exposure, and so on... Shere- Khan might seek to increase exposure, by infiltrating lycans, who need to interact with many people, or get people to special locals, create locals perhaps? And of course- special rituals and so on... If the PCs understand this element of the mystery, they can act upon it, but this may mean distancing people, lycans and more...
- Susceptibility might be played in different ways: A modifer to save/ checks, or even a sort of "resistance measure" against various kind of exposure. A "normal being" may have a certain resistance factor, more susceptible ones can have it lowered, while more resilient ones will have it higher, so they can withstand exposure better. Shere- Khan might try and "recruit" more susceptible ones, or mess with the lives, the beliefs, and the social structure to reduce the resistance of more resilient population. The PCs can also affect the situation, by the same means.
- The triggering events can be varied, but they will stand out (At least in that person's view). As "lashing out" usually happens under duress, desperation, and possibly hopelessness, Shere- Khan might try to create such occurrence, which the PCs may try to prevent.
Of course, if Shere- Khan or his followers decide to target the PCs, when they might become too much of a hindrance, or if they intrigue the White Lion, all of the above measures may make the PCs lives very... interesting.
Coming to terms with The Beast:
SpoilerIn D&D, once you contact lycanthropy, there are basically 3 stages: Being afflicted but not knowing it, transforming in full moons and then forgetting about it on the next day, becoming aware of your condition (So you can try and control the transformations, and maybe seek a way to counter it), and being a natural lycanthrope. (Or possibly fully in control?)
I'd like to make living and adjusting to lycanthropy a complex struggle, a sort of a tough choice between trying to remain mostly as your "former self", or succumb/ accept the more primal/ bestial parts of yourself. This is tricky, as part of it is forced (You can't choose NOT to have the affliction once you contacted it, and it does "urge" you for lose of control at times), but a great part of it should also be choice (How do you deal with it, what do you choose, and what steps do you take now that you're aware?)
I'm not fully certain of the mechanics, but a few core guiding principles for this:
1. A long process:
Being a lycan will not be a "Yes/ no" status, (Well, not exactly). It's not a "Wham! Bam! Thank you Lycan!", but rather a process, with various stages and transformations. One will start with a few personality changes, and a feeling of goign through a change (A sort of a prodromal phase/ incubation period) Including potential involuntary changes. Yet once aware, the lycan needs to figure out what to do with their new condition, with the new wanted/ unwanted emotions and feelings, and with the transformations. I'd like to make it more than "just rolling will saves". I'd like to make it a process, in which the afflicted chooses how to deal- to accept the affliction? Fight to control it? Run from it? Face it? What path will s/he choose? And how? I'm calling this "Paths of The Beast".
In D&D terms, Paths of The Beast isn't a template, but rather the paths are similar to entering a PRC, (Prestige class), with multiple "level/ feature options", which rely on the way you deal with the situation. Transition between levels/ power is very much determined by the process you go through- the choices (Willing or unwilling choices, conscious or subconscious) of your character and personality. You might ask "PRCs? But this is 6P! You might only get 1 level at most in a PRC!" The way I'm thinking of handling this as a sort of "semi-gestalt" PRCs. I'll touch upon this later... The Were-Master shifter PRC is the rough basis for it (After the various erratas, and adjustment to pathfinder) in terms of physical changes, but there will be significant changes, which will include the mental/ emotional/ personality struggles.
2. Different paths, changing paths:
There isn't just "one way" to be a lycan (Though it may seem so at first). Dealing with The Beast can be handled in several forms (And the PCs may even create their own?), which can lead to different paths, different "evolution", different features and more. As a very rough example- one who gladly accept the affliction may learn to shift more, to more powerful shifting, perhaps faster, but may find it harder to keep it's humanoid form. While someone who does his best to control The Beast, may be able to gain more control of transformations, and added benefits of learning self control, but suffer from remorse/ fatigue after shifting, or lose himself more when s/he does shift.
Two main features about the different paths:
- They should be different in power, but on the whole, fairly equal, if used right. No one should be "obviously better" than the other.
- A lycan might find it moves between paths, if they change their personality, nature, reflect by their choices. In the Wrath of The Righteous Paizo module, they introduced a mechanic of a Redemption Scale, of a sort, which gives numeric significance to "Acts of redemption", and a sort of scale to "become good". While I won't use the exact same thing (Which is not that well designed in my opinion), I will be using a similar idea, a sort of "Beast Scale", which may move upon choices made, and reverting your course will be more difficult the more extreme you are on the scale. So change is possible, but that option is not always known...
3. An unknown process:
The Beast is a mystery. Unlike other classes (Or my version of PRCs), very little is known about how to be or how to deal with lycanthropy. As such, when one does become one, the process of dealing with it, is quite unknown... In flavor terms, this means that aside from some folk tales, most afflicted people won't know much about their condition, and it will be a learning process. And there won't be many others who may have actual experience/ concrete knowledge of how to deal with it. There will be a few potential mentors in the campaign (The lycanthrope faction is an obvious one, so some of the shifters, and potentially another lycanthrope faction, a more minor one), but finding them, even knowing about them may not be evident at first...
Mechanically speaking, this may be odd- when entering The paths of The Beast, one enters a PRC which they don't know it's specifics- not the class features, not the different choices, not what affects these choices. (The Beast scale for example will be a mechanic not shown to the players, but it's presence and general function should become evident, though in flavor terms, not numbers). This is part of the mystery, and the terror of it all.
All of this will require quite some work, and may very well also develop in game. I expect to make a few paths, yet as the game progresses, new ones might arise.
4. In game flavor implications:
When a person change, people around him may welcome the change, embrace it or dislike the change, even fear it. Both the personal relationships, as well as the social effect will most likely play a major part of the process, and may in fact be major forces that accompany, and influence the afflicted person's changes. And these in turn, might be influenced by various factions, and the PCs. (An example from Babylon 5, with Mr. Morden assassinating Lando Molari's loved one, and how far this had driven him...). Some major themes include rejection, stereotyping, fear of the different (Which may be justified at times, but how far?), fear of getting afflicted, religious concern (The Silver Flame's initial fear of this was due to their fear of corruption of souls, as the affliction changed a person behaviors, and made them violent at many times. The entire Sovereign Host vs. Dark Six schism hinges on one side promoting civilization, while the other promoted savagery).
5. Role of the Moons:
To those who don't know of Eberron- Eberoon has 12 moons and 1 more alluded moon. And to those who DO know it- don't confuse the moons with the planes! (Xoriat, Dal- Quor, and all of those are NOT moons!). The confusion stems from them having the same number, and the picture showing the planes show them in orbits. yet the orbits are around the PLANE of Eberron, not the planet itself. This dragon shards article describe the moons themselves. The months of Eberron are named after the moons, and various qualities, dragon makred houses and more are believed to have a relation to them. IN the past, Wizards made a tool, which showed the state of both moons and the planes in relation to Eberron, which you could use to see their state at ANY time. I liked the tool a lot as it enabled me to foresee the different moons, a "Moon table", yet the link is now dysfunctional. Damn... If anyone saved it, or can provide me some algorithm (More for the moons than the planes), I'd be REALLY grateful!
The connection between moons and shifting is one of the core concepts of the mystery, strong enough that I do not wish to break it. Yet, as mentioned in the article as well, with 12 moons, there is almost no night where you don't have a full moon, or a few in fact! So how to deal with this? Well, some ideas:
- A full moon does not immediately triggers transformation. Rather, each adds a certain chance for transformation. More moons, mean more chance, more lycans transform.
- Each of the moons have their own themes, which may be the same as the ones in the article, or have another, more secretive meaning for lycanthropes. I'm thinking that when they are full, they may grant some minor power/ effect to lycanthrops (Such as Sypheros, the Shadow, possibly granting bonuses to stealth, or dark vision, or some such). As the lycanthropes "evolves" in their path, they may create a connection with one or more two moons, and draw more power from them. (A bit like the Moon Speaker shifter PRC).
- The moons, their cycles and influence, may well be related to special occurrences, or be requirements for special rituals/ incantations. By solving the mystery of the moons, the party might predict which nights might favor which lycanthropes, and which nights are more dangerous. Also, the lycanthropes may well be building/ preparing for a special night, with the right "alignment of the moons". Hey- got a time limit element now!
6. Spread, detection and social impact:
In Earth History, amongst the most major impacts on our civilizations, were major, fast spreading, highly damaging plagues. While lycanthropy isn't exactly a normal plague, it has quite similar features:
- Highly concealable: The Beast many times hide in plain site- it can practically be anyone, even those close to you. Now, though some D&D spells, abilities and items help find shapeshifters, I'm going to ban those at the start of the game. Flavour wise- It is only in the coming conflict (If played by Eberron's history), that these tools will be developed. The idea is to not enable any "easy" way to find out lycans in the humanoid form. The PCs may focus effort to be able to invent such a tool, but that will require effort, and unraveling enough of the mystery, to develop such tools.
- Highly confusing: Even the prodromal signs, the ones that accompany the change of behavior, can be easily misleading, since they can signify many other changes, stress, and process non related to lycanthropy.
- Highly contagious: While it doesn't exactly spread as a normal disease does, it will spread fairly fast, and the means of it's spread will be quite difficult to understand at first.
- Highly dangerous: It transforms people, often making them aggressive or violent unexpectedly, and it gives the afflicted far greater power and makes them harder to kill.
- Poorly understood: It is a mystery. There info known from legends and lore doesn't necessarily fits the current situation (A surge), a lot of it has been distorted/ lost, and understanding the danger, proves very difficult.
- No known cure/ control. A person who has been afflicted, cannot be turned back, by any known means (See below). And due to all of the above- there is no known/ proven way of dealing with it.
All of these will lead to one main thing: Panic, suspicion, prejudice, and quite possibly- chaos. It will begin slow, but will gain power, and speed. Soon enough the PCs may have to deal with not only the lycans, but the deteriorating situation in Home Base town. And what if their loved ones are afflicted? What if it themselves? As Shere- Khan might add:
7. A cure?Look at them... Some speak their mind, some find their selves, and this structure crumbles... Control, it's all about control. Control of the populace, control of your subordinates, workers, family, friends... Civilized, eh? I show you the true face- the lies, the savagery, the brutality in the protected masses, now unsheltered. How can they grow, how can they deal and evolve, when they deal with what's untrue all their lives? We are savage? The wild is murderous? See the atrocities and the horror your precious "civilization" will now descend to, under it's own accords... Tell me, who is the real monster?"
D&D enables curing lycnthropy, either by some uses of Wolf's bane (Belladonna), or by a high enough level cleric. I'd like to enable the party to search for the cure, but though they may be substances/ magic that can help minimize contacting the affliction, (Through the various parts of it,m described above), or help with the choices on the paths, The possibility of "getting rid" of lycanthropy would be non existent, or very, very rare (Possibly the equivalent of a very limited and hard to find campaign minor artifact), or the production of such a cure will require great expenses, time, other sacrifices, or all 3. I want the situation to be none- dismissable. It's not something you go to the cleric and ask for a "Cure disease/ remove curse" spell and it's done. Once it's there, how do you deal with it?
Yet, the possibility of a cure, and the uncertainty of how one might find it (And if there is one, then who wil lget it?) Can be a VERY strong motivating power for afflicted people.
8. Natural lycanthropes:
Now this is quite tricky. In D&D/ pathfinder this means someone born with the condition, and had complete control of their transformations. In D&D they are also the only one that can transfer the affliction, while afflicted ones can't (And as mentioned- Keith Baker said that in this specific period lycanthropy was so dangerous since afflicted ones could also somehow afflict it). I'm not fully sure what to do with Natural Lycanthropes, other than the fact that they have been living with their condition for far longer than most, since childhood, and may have come to a later stage in their path, whatever that may be. Should it signify something different? I think mentally and emotionally yes, mechanics also perhaps, yet I'm not sure. Shere-Khan and some of his siblings though, are born out of a woman that had contacted lycanthropy early in her pregnancy, and have grown as such since early childhood.
Origins of The Beast
SpoilerI got some rough ideas about this, though not yet fully formed ones. I envision lycnthropy as something old, veryold, predating the rise of the Dhakaan empire, and a force that was sort of dormant most times, yet at times increased, and then it affected fates of entire peoples, entire races. What I hope to achieve here:
1. A feeling of an ancient, long lasting, history shaping power:
I want the party to feel the scope of things, that this happened before, and most likely happen again, and that it is SERIOUS. Giving The Beast a history, adds depth to it, shows it as evolving (of a sort), and greatly increases the magnitude of it.
2. Vast impact:
When the party meet the other races of the region, and realize that they are the result of lycanthropy, they once more understand the scope, and see how things might end... They will also see various ways others have dealt with it- mostly became monstrous humanoids of sorts, most of them quite savage, yet some (Like the shifters) seem to have found different routes. This is also a hint that the affliction cn be dealt with in more than one way, more than one path.
3. The matter of choice: In each of the major races transformed by The Beast, I'd like to emphasize at some point that part of this was a choice, and the tragedies of such choices. Also, a major part of it is the culture of the races transformed.
4. A (super) natural phenomenon:
This is important. Though the party may find the origins, clues, explanations of the nature of The Beast, there is no quick solution- No Mcguffin, no special ritual, no special entity to summon. It's here, and it's here to stay. No magical solution (At least not in a P6 campaign). I'd like to emphasize that you can't just "reverse the wheel" and make things better. The party may seek such a solution, to solve their problems (Their own, their loved ones, and more), yet once they found out there is no "big red shiny button", how do they deal with the grim reality?
5. Nature of The Beast:
Lycanthropy, despite having originated from the fey, is not an entity or a force unto it's own. It is a construct made, developed and maintained mostly by those afflicted with it. Yes, it's partly an outside force/ influence, yet the shape it takes is very much made by the people who experience it. The matter of responsibility... It is more YOU... As Shere-Khan tries to explain:
Rough ideas for originsYes... I've seen the wretched gnolls, and the centauri, lost to their woods... They have failed, but will we? I do not know yet. Each time it happened before, The Gift was either abused, or quelled, by those who feared what they cannot control. And we so CRAVE control, do we not? Yet, control, growth, does not come from locking, bordering, killing and silencing the different, the changing, the evolving. No, true control comes from learning from it, adapting, and growing stronger from it! I have seen it, I have seen and learned from the errors of the past. It is my vision, we can unshackle ourselves, both from the errors and fault of the past, and from the depression and chains of the present. Will you dare, will you join me, in our future? We do this now, or we perish. What is your choice?"
Ok, so about the origins. I've touched upon this briefly in the history, but the basic idea is as follows: A very old race, (Possibly an entirely home brewed one for this campaign) of which there are almost no remains, of quite advanced creatures, both technologically, magically and spiritually, sought to improve/ better themselves, and were on a search for "The Truth", at least of their own. They contacted some powerful Fey, and... somehow, got their wish- In the form of The Beast, which showed them their "True nature". This had quickly led to their disillusion of their culture, and the quick destruction of it, with most of it's afflicted members turning to their "true nature"- ogres... The party will find such clues in 1-2 remaining ruins of the culture, perhaps a few hints from the ogres own... eccentricities. And possibly a visit to 1-2 remains of fey courts, which have grown far weaker and more decadent, which may keep stories and tales of such a time.
Obviously, a lot to work on here. I'd like to focus somewhat on telling the history, beauty, and high standards of that lost race, and their immense downfall. Should feel like an immense tragedy, yet one with some sort of "lesson" or such. I'm not sure. Part of this may be the trickery of the fey, part of it accident or miscommunication, but a big part of it comes from the culture's own choices...
Them I'd like there to be several "Surges" where lycanthropy spreads far faster in past historical times. I'd focus on the periods which have created the gnolls, centauri, and the shifters. With the last giving quite a few hints of a new way to deal with the affliction. Here and there might be hints of other races (Minotaurs, Harpies) yet with far less history to work with.
I'll need to find a way to explain why these "surges" occur, and when they end. Not sure right now, but I'm thinking of either tying these to the moons and/ or planes, or to some changes in major societies in the region. Perhaps some sort of a cultural/ people feel, that "awakens/ triggers" lycanthropy? This is important, as it will be tied to the current rise as well.
The mystery, unraveling it, and it's progression in the campaign
SpoilerKeeping lycanthropy a mystery, which gets revealed part by part, is a big challenge. Especially in a sandbox-ish campaign. There are various tools I'll be using:
- A slow start, NOT focused on lycanthropy: At first, the party will deal with quite a few other adventures and issues. The main thing here is for them to feel the people, the region, it's culture. In the culture there will be quite a few animalistic themes- titles, names of places, legends, animals, organizations and more. The party will also most likely form quite a few NPC contacts. This will enable the party to make some links between personality, choice, culture and the afflictions. When they do start investigating such cases, it will most likely be with either strangers, or people with whom they have less contact. But later on, the affliction will strike closer to home, possibly at the PCs themselves?
- A slow start of the spread: Part of Shere- Khan's faction's goals are to "recruit" and "teach/ guide" as many as they can before their presence becomes exposed. At the start they will target loners/ outcasts and such more. People who can go missing easily. Yet, the spread picks up later, more than they anticipated- Each lycan is a source unto themselves, not all cases are controlled, and there are disagreements in the faction itself, on how to pursue things. This will gradually raise alarm, and more cases.
- Various efforts: Due to the various parts of The Beast (As stated above), the faction can try and affect many parts of the spread: Sources, Susceptibility, Triggers, and guiding on the path. All of these may give many options to investigate the affliction from many angles.
- Various levels of misinformation: Be it from old legends/ rumors, theories spawned by the populace (Some of which may also be lycans in disguise, some of them stem out of fear, prejudice, and such).
- Keeping the pressure: Most factions won't stand idle, and will initiate all kind of trouble and such in the region. The party will need to divide their time, make choices.
- Key info: Can be gained in many ways- leaders of the lycans, key sites (Like the old ruins), and more. The key here is to allude to these at some point, yet make it quite difficult to learn, but VERY rewarding.
- Useful info: Learning about the mystery does not just add to the learning experience, but can be used "in the field"- ways to fight the lycans, ways to oppose them, ways to deal with the affliction themselves or by loved ones, and more. It may even serve as the basis for developing magic/ tactics. So exploring the mysteries, will be rewarded, in more ways than one.
How will it end?
SpoilerA good enough answer.
Well, it's possible, but not a must. Truth is? I have no idea how it'll end. The Beast, as I hope I have made myself clear by this point, will pose a real and serious threat. Yet I have no pre-planned solution for the problem, I do not wish to predict the outcome. I wish to set the pieces on the board, and see... A few things I'd like to note though:
- Despite posting various opinions of Shere-Khan in this part, his counters may have other, just as legitimate ideas and perceptions upon The Beast. The party can pick either side, someone elses side, their own side or whatever they want. I know where they start, but it's all up to them from that point on.
- They don't "have to" unravel all aspects of the mystery, and I think it unlikely they will. Part will most likely remain mysterious, parts will be discovered, and quite a few decisions and actions will be based on necessity, and incomplete info. Which is part of what the campaign wishes to explore.
- The situation will escalate. I imagine there will be some attempts to "control the situation"/ "Find a definite solution/ cure/ McGuffin", but there won't be one, not without seriously delving and uncovering the mystery, which may take time, in which the situation will continue to escalate. If the party manages to do something very clever, I'll roll with it, but I imagine that at one point the panic and chaos will prove VERY hard to control.
- Enter The Silver Flame? A faction that has nearly no presence at the start, may come in when the threat becomes real obvious. The Flame suspects this threat at the start, but hasn't got sufficient proof to get the Galifar powers behind it. Yet it has been preparing... One the threat reveals itself in full, they may well enter the region, this time as a shocker, a major faction, that may lead a small war against the lycans. Most of it's intentions are good, yet the means to secure their goals, and some side interests, may well taint this noble effort. Again- tough choices.
- I am unsure how far I'll play this. Will we play the start of The Purge? Where will the PC be in this conflict? How far in do we play? This I will decide with the gaming group, once we've reached a satisfactory, and when we came to our own answer to the question- "What is, the Nature of The Beast?" I'll guess we'll have to discover that together.
I hope I've explained this well enough. Feel free to ask, comment, or suggest. Next up will be "Faction design"!
Thanks for reading!