Monday, September 24, 2007

Create-a-Critter #2: It's Anti-Life, Not Dead!

Well, it's a bit early, but I felt like bringing up another idea that sprang to mind that got inspired by Metroid. One area I just liked looking at was a lab-created phazon environment where the space pirates were attempting to breed nasty phazon versions of local life forms. Had this dark cave with radioactive blue stuff on the floor and giant mushrooms continuously shedding spores. After clearing out the enemies, the scene was strangely serene while remaining deadly.

So, I'm thinking of trying to capture that feeling with some critters in one of the few Underdarky areas of my setting: They live in underground caves flooded with negative energy, and aren't normally hostile or evil. Think xenobiology, not life-sucking undead.

Background of positive and negative energy in my setting: There's no association between souls and energy polarity. Positive energy is just something your typical biological life form eats up like crazy for generally beneficial ends. Negative energy is the opposite, inhibiting biological functions of us 'normal' critters. The critters in question, though, have adapted in the opposite manner than most, able to utilize negative energy at the cost of being vulnerable to positive energy.

Bonus: Environmental hazard: Help me think of some detrimental effects that'd be appropriate for normal characters traveling through one of these negatively charged regions for too long. Don't want it to be something as quick as 1d6 damage per round or negative levels (though those would be options if they get too close to whatever MacGuffin generates the bad stuff). I'd like it to be something that applies over hours, and takes a long time or exotic methods to fully recover from.


Ranson said...

Environmental hazard is easy, I think. Layer one is a reduction in movement speed, say by five feet for every four hours spent in the area, up to half your natural movement (sort of a gradual slow spell). Once that plateau is reached, I see a -2 to skill-based rolls, saves, attacks, or pretty much any check or action, up to say, a -10. I'd make that for the same time period or less (figure all times as you want, of course, tailoring them to the size of the area affected). This check modifier would also add time to things like taking 10 or 20 . . . the time stretches as appropriate, as these positive-energy characters are just feeling so dang lethargic. I mean, they can pay attention alright, and focus, but just getting your limbs to move is such an effort . . .

Third stage is a reduction to partial actions only in terms of round-based things like combat. Finally, if they've been lingering waaaaay too long, negative levels.

As for your critters, I see something that is actually burned by the touch of positive energy; even contact with the skin of a positive-energy creature is harmful in some small way. To this end, they hunt with a breath weapon of negative energy that does direct damage with an easy save against a negative level. That's how they eat, is by stunning and killing positive creatures. By removing the positive energy of small prey by bestowing the negative levels, it makes the food safe to touch, and thus consume. Bigger negative creature = more of a threat to larger prey, including adventurers.

Well, that's enough blathering for now. It just popped into my head, though, so I had to get it out.

Joshua said...

Wouldn't it rather be a self-contained ecosystem, though? Neg-creatures feeding on other neg-creatures? Sounds like positive energy is poison to them, and furthermore they would have no evolutionary reason to develop a means of converting it to a more palatable form. (Since most positive energy life that comes into the cave will be killed by the environment first.)

I might model the effects of the environment on radiation poisoning. There would perhaps be a separate stat to indicate level of exposure, and the effects on the character would vary by that level of exposure. At low levels (tier 0), there would be no noticeable effects. Then maybe at tier 1, the character starts feeling sick and taking hits to certain stats like agility or intelligence (losing focus) that increase as the exposure rises within that tier. Then tier 2 could start affecting other stats like endurance, as well, temporarily lowering the character's max HP but not imposing a steady drain. Then tier 3 could finally start causing an active drain on the character's HP as the negative energy starts building to fatal levels.

The character's exposure level would gradually rise within the negative-energy environment and gradually fall outside of it. Certain spells (this is a magical universe, right?) that are judged to impart positive energy could also cancel out (a fixed value of) the exposure effects.

One fairly obvious twist to the creatures is that all attacks, in addition to standard HP damage, would also add fairly considerably to the target's exposure level. Of course, it would work both ways. If the nega-creatures use physical attacks, they would be damaged in return by the positive energy of the target; since it's impractical to manage exposure levels for mobs, maybe they just take a simple 1 damage per physical attack. Nega-creature ranged attacks wouldn't be subject to this, of course.

As for what kinds of creatures there would be... Well, fungi are always cool. Maybe some slime mold-inspired creatures that shlup their way around as individuals and attack physically, but at a certain critical mass of individuals they can form up into a big blob that can launch bits of itself huge distances for a fairly powerful attack (normal physical attack for the species, plus a bonus from the launching and flying and going SPLAT at the end).

TabAtkins said...

I like a sensory deprivation kind of effect. Gradual blindness comes to mind - your sight radius (all-important in the Underdark) gradually shrinks as you are exposed. Minuses to Listen and Spot checks, as well.

A relatively simple option that might play *really* well is to adopt the Saga Condition Track, and have the exposure levels simply be Persistent condition penalties. That models general exhaustion/weakness/loss of senses and coordination very well, as that's precisely what the Condition Track is designed to do, in a simple, flexible way that interfaces well with other things.

Even if you only adopt it for these creatures, it could make a cool flavor point. Attacks from normal creatures just eat up HP. Nega creatures, though, can exhaust you as well.

Find the Saga condition track in a D&D-ified form here:
That's from one of my D&D wikis.