Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Long Time, No Post

Yes, the game is still in progress.  Yes it's still being worked on.

The creator just had a difficult and distracting holiday season and has been working on other projects for a bit.

That being said there is art coming down the pipeline.  It will be posted here as soon as she finishes, but being done by by the wonderful Kaly Davis whose website you can see over at http://hanyousblood.tumblr.com/ where she has works in progress.

She was given free reign to read through the source material, and chose to illustrate the nameless kami, Entropy.  Specifically in the form of a penumbra called Bloom, with cordyceps infected husks.  She's done a great job with the theme so far, but lets share the text of the book and break down the source a bit.

First of all, the husk in question:

Cordyceps - 
Entropy’s children hardly are misrecognized, though often times victims don’t even realize what they are.  They prefer keeping their victims fully aware and concious, sometimes even giving them the appearance of freedom and control and only nudging them in the direction they’d like.  Other times they take full control, or even colonize the victim’s flesh converting it into a living fungal colony.  The fungus interfaces with the nervous system, and the Kami rides that fungus.Animals and humans unfortunate enough to be infected by Cordyceps find themselves increasingly sick, dizzy and out of sorts.   
Eventually they may be pushed into a location to bloom, becoming a static colony rooted in place but kept conscious and aware as the fungus spreads outward over their body. They spread through spores, choosing ripe and prime locations to have the new husk bloom and spread.They may appear in a range of shapes, usually preferring intelligent creatures, though they are hardly picky.  Their stalks grow out from flesh, looking like palid grey tentacles or strange fleshy puffballs, or large masses and stalks in colonies.

I had this idea at one point while watching a nature programme, long before the now infamous (and beautifully done game), The Last of Us. They are just one of many creations within this book, and remain very creepy when used properly. They fit the thematic elements of Kami possession well, especially because of the vector of controlling the body without having to defeat the creature's will.

Bloom - 
The air smells faintly sweet with a tinge of unpleasantness.  A greenish tint in the sky on the horizon signalling thunder and the breeze whipping in the wind.  The sound of the breeze covers up the groans.  An alleyway nearby a person doubles over in pain, grasping at their stomach as if trying to hold it in.  Their eyes open and are milky white, glossed over and unfocused, and a shiver runs up their spine.  A thin whitish tendril burst from their chest as they try to scream, but are silenced when another bursts from their throat, and three more from various places.  Little fibrous tendrils break free from their skin covering it as the stalks grow and bloom.  The eerie fleshy gray stalks turn light blue, and then the breeze strikes, and tiny flecks take to the air spreading out in the wind.  The poor creature’s eyes still showing horror as their limbs twitch, rooted inside the fungal bloom that consumed them. 
The bloom grows as more victims share and spread Entropy’s gift, the fungus creating a colony out of its new hosts, keeping them alive to watch as they are slowly covered by more and more of the stuff.

Umbral Effects - 
Spore Clouds: 
The clouds in the area spread the deadly infection, though natural resistance of those touched by the Day of Slumber have made them resistant to the stuff, it still has a tendency to bury in the lungs and fleshy tissue ready to strike an unwary immune system.  In the meantime it makes things very difficult to breath and gain oxygen, adding 2 to Fraying of any difficult physical activity, therefore any skill that costs or consumes Physical Fortitude on use or failure. 
The whole area has a sort of weirdness to it, especially coming into contact with partially infected or bloomed victims.  This drives a mixture of nausea and malaise that hurts morale more than causes physical harm.  While within the Bloom, Spiritual Fortitude recharge is reduced by 1. 
Infection (Triggered): 
The spores turn into fungus that attacks the nervous system.  While most living beings have enough defense to resist, time spent within the Bloom exposed provides risk.  Once per long rest while exposed, or when bitten in combat by a Cordceps infected husk once per short rest, the character must make a Resistance check.  For each failed check, they add an infection counter.  Each infection counter reduces their Max Physical Fortitude by 1.  Once the counter hits 0, the character becomes fully infected and the fungus gains control over their flesh.  Removing the character from Bloom does not remove these counters, and they must be treated as Frayed Conditions for purpose of removal when outside the Bloom.

Coping - 
This penumbra is probably the single fastest growing of them all.  All it takes is one infection vector to tear a hole in the Veil and turn a new place into the living nightmare of a fungal bloom.  These cordyceps husks are all connected to the entity known as Entropy, and his edict is to spread the decay and change far and wide.  Currently many areas in northern mexico, and even southern texas have blooms, targeting areas of high population. 
Infection isn’t immediate for most now, but once the spores take old and the fungus interfaces with the hosts nervous system its too late to stop the inevitable, though Entropy does make bargains with those who wish to help their cause, though eventually the time comes for all who follow this path.Defeating even a single bloom may pose difficulty for most, though they do have weaknesses to discover, it could be a long process to try to undo the damage done by Entropy and require significant long term effort to see the blooms cleansed from the new world.

The penumbra works to undermine characters defenses, and this penumbra is particularly nasty due to the inhabitants and so many sources providing a vector of infection. While characters certainly have a chance to resist, the body horror aspect can be very unsettling and useful from a storytelling perspective. Like many elements of horror though they depend on being used minimally and precisely for full effect.

Entropy - 
The world decays naturally, and the Nameless of that gradual force has grown since the Day of Slumber, particularly due to the loss of life all over.  That fed into many creatures, but none more than the Fungus, one of the few multicellular animals not able to dream.  Penumbra infected lands have let fungus swarms grow into sizeable amounts, and even started to warp it into monstrous and even intelligent forms.These fungal growths are most frightening in the shape of Cordyceps, taking living creatures and warping them while still aware into husks physically, blends of fungus and animal.  They all in essence are servants of Entropy, the constant decay and don’t take no for an answer to those infected.  Some living creatures may give themselves over entirely, willingly joining the contract and with it immunity to the death or immobility that eventually comes, but it also tries the mind, which may fracture when they eventually uncontrollably bloom.

Signing the Contract Grants: 
The host gains the trait regeneration, as the fungal growth will repair injuries with new flesh rather quickly.  However this process slowly digests the host body and replaces it with a different type of matter, making the host slowly into a mobile colony of fungus. 
The infected are very sensitive to sound, allowing Hearing to be used without costing mental fortitude, and can hear through the ground and vibration allowing for a significant boost in distance. 
The infected gains no penalties while in the Penumbra, and in fact may remove one fray from any roll while within the Penumbra.There’s a loss in the creature’s coordination and muscle movements due to the interface with the Fungus, and they tend to move less smoothly, gaining the flaw Rigid Movement.

The greater bond grants: 
Waken may be used to call fungus from the ground and protect allies in Reality.  It may be used reactively to remove a threat completely  as well as actively as a minor action to block passages or provide cover.  The amount of fungal growth is determined by the Dreamweaver and relative presence of Penumbra.  Ritual may be used to weaken the veil and increase the effect. 
The infection continues to take hold, numbing limbs and granting Skilled (Pain Tolerance) and +3 Weaving bonus to Pain Tolerance.

The greatest bond grants:
As the presence of the fungus inside grows, it slowly converts the infected’s mind, reducing Mental Force by 1, but increasing Spiritual Force by 2.  They also lose significant coordination, disabling the Acrobatics skill.Tendrils of the Fungus bloom out your flesh and can be controlled by the infected like extra limbs.   
Gain the trait Unusual Dexterity, and you gain two additional Minor Actions on top of what your default shapes limbs grant.You may infect non-entropy aligned husks by expending a Destiny and succeeding with a martial attack. It will use the fungus to cause long term change of allegiance, as the infection overtakes the spirit controlling them, the rate of change determined by the Dreamweaver.   
Those aligned with Entropy will no longer attack you or your allies, though may still attempt to bloom and spread their spores.Occasionally Entropy may take control of them, functioning as per the Crushed Personality in The Possessed section.  The duration and actions determined by the Dreamweaver though the occurrence should be rare and generally short lived until the time comes to bloom.

Joining a contract - 
Entropy’s Husk’s in Penumbra can be quite infectious, their spores take root in flesh whether the host chooses to or not.  While other Kami may provide protection, and medical treatment can prevent infection from taking root, if it does the body won’t last long.  At that point Entropy will offer a contract in exchange for the host’s life, and if they are willing they will enter agreement.  What they don’t realize is they are tools to spread Entropy regardless of their choices.

Breaking a contract - 
Curing the character may break the contract, but it will be exceedingly difficult to do in many cases as the network of fungus living in the bloodstream reacts intelligently and will control the host if it senses it.  Should a successful cure happen it would free the host, though the process will cost them 2 LF, but it will leave them with some strange powers and side effects. The contract may break when Entropy decides it’s time to bloom, or the character reaches 0 LF. Blooming will kill the character, as the fungus grows and expands out of the body and spores bloom.  Sometimes the character’s intelligence may have become so integrated with the fungal colony that they will survive this metamorphosis and their consciousness divided among the spore’s eventual home, though at this point they will be considered a Kami as their soul will pass on.
This is entropy. It should be noted all contracts have upsides and downsides to them. There is no real sense of good and evil in the world of Dreamcatcher, but one can certainly see Entropy as a negative element, and frequently associated with the death of the characters who follow. Though often times they may not have a choice, or the contract might be the better option of the choice of fates.
Entropy is not only associated with Cordyceps, merely it is a potent expression of Entropy's desires. Always a powerful nameless, Entropy has existed longer than any of the other nameless, and often referred to and revered as Death, associated with the end of all things and passing. A view rarely seen in positive light by humanity. However without Fungus, life as it is on the planet could not exist, and would be buried in decaying flesh and matter. Without entropy, there would be no expansion of the universe, no heating and cooling of stars, no heat transfer to warm planets for life to grow. Entropy is a neccessity, and is feared, worshipped and revered and very very powerful.
They may make for a powerful adversary for some groups, or an interesting ally, but the point remains they will always be creepy and unnerving to those who interact with the Kami, and helps set the overall thematics of Dreamcatcher itself.

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