Sunday, September 23, 2007

Create-a-Critter #1: Curse-y Thing

So, here I am, creating another non-skepticism-related series. Anyway, here's the rundown of how this'll go: I start with an undeveloped germ of a seed of a concept for a monster, and those of you oriented towards gaming (usually specifically for tabletop RPGs, may extend to other genres) help me flesh it out some. So, today's candidate:

I'm working on a campaign setting that's got a lot of spirits that kind of resemble a cross between some fey and various Japanese spirits/demons/whatever. They usually hang out in these dimensional pockets that form in the center of large areas of one biome type. Mortals can create different kinds of wards against them, usually designed to prevent them from entering an area, or from affecting people in the protected area.

Anyway, now that I've gotten that little bit of background down, I'm trying to think of some kind of critter with some kind of signature curse. The thing that keeps it from just spreading it around easily for its own benefit or amusement is that it only affects the target if it performs a specific action, which varies from cursing critter to cursing critter. If players go up against one of them wandering a city, part of the fun will be figuring out what triggers the curse.

So, here's some questions I'd like your help in brainstorming:

1. What does the curse do? (Maybe even a case of cursed with awesome)

2. What sort of interesting triggers could there be for the curse?

3. The players have figured it all out and track down the bugger. How does it defend itself?


Ranson said...

Hmm. The first thing that comes to mind for me is a little urban spirit that curses comeone to experience the worst of city life. Effects could be muggings/pickpocketing/crime; nearly getting run down crossing a street; depending on your time period, occasional showers of effluvia as people empty their chamber pots out of windows; that sort of thing.

Now, as this thing is sort of emobdying basic urban malevolence, the trigger could be minor acts of kindness that make city life easier. Helping the old lady across the street; complementing the apple vendor; snagging a pickpocket; chiding a child about to do something dangerous, etc.

Once tracked down, I see this thing fighting by summoning versions of the city things to fight for it. Hordes of rats, pigeons, crows, or seagulls (possibly infernal types of such, depending on what level the encounter is structured). Maybe it could be topped off with a shambling mound-type creature made from trash, or something like an otyugh.

Anyway, that's just the first thing to pop into my head.

Ranson said...

To make it a little clearer, if it's not obvious, I don't see this thing fighting for itself unless it has to. It's like a gang leader or someone running a street crew; it doesn't get it's hands dirty unless it gets personal. It has "people" to handle things, otherwise.

Bronze Dog said...

I can definitely see urban bad luck as a good curse effect. Can be humorous and/or really annoying to encourage an afflicted player to finish the quest.

Aside from employing/creating minions, I imagine stealthy/quick escape would be a decent strategy. Could make for an interesting chase scene, especially if it can employ the curse to aid its escape.

Joshua said...

1) Angst. Soul-crushing, emo-protagonist angst. The kind that would make Ikari Shinji say, "Oh, just fucking get over it, you piss-ant." However, while they're in their angsty state, absolutely nothing fatal or even permanently debilitating can happen to them; it's as if the universe is trying to keep them around and whole just so they can continue to be miserable.

2) Gratitude or praise of any kind. Even so much as a "thank you" or "nice shot" will trigger the curse.

3) It's a puppy (or universe-appropriate equivalent species). A really, really, supernaturally-adorable puppy. So adorable you couldn't even think of harming it, not in a million years, not if your life depended on it.

Bronze Dog said...

Anyway, keep ideas coming. Curious if anyone has interesting versions that involve being cursed with awesome.

Tom Foss said...

I think, speaking evolutionarily, that the best kinds of these creatures would have three traits:
1. The curse ultimately benefits them
2. They are somehow able to encourage people to trigger the curse
3. The act of triggering the curse is also an act that prevents harm to the creature.

So, how about a spider-like jungle critter, who builds large invisible magic webs in obvious paths? Anyone who disturbs one of these webs causes the curse to trigger, where the magic-web energy begins to wrap around their body, immobilizing them. The more the victim struggles, the faster the magic-web material (visible as it begins to cocoon them) wraps around them and immobilizes them. Ultimately, the victim is completely immobilized, and the critter comes down to feed. Of course, since the webs are invisible (though tactile), our victim's companions will have a difficult time disentangling him and killing the critter without becoming entangled themselves.

Another neat jungle creature would be like a sentient insect swarm, who feed on life energy the way mosquitoes feed on blood. The curse would be simply attracting members of this swarm to bite the target and slowly drain him of his life force, and the triggering event would be scratching skin. Naturally, the insect bites cause hideously uncomfortable itching, which is very, very difficult to resist. Our victim gets bitten, either by a stray swarm-critter or by some jungle bug, and scratches at the bite. This attracts a few of the swarm-critters, who bite him and feed on his life force, making him weaker (and imperceptibly older), and he bats them away, then scratches at the painful bites. And so on, until he's a shriveled husk, or until his teammates have restrained him to keep him from scratching at himself.