Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Back from the Grave

Since the subject of epic heroes, demons, and gods has been touched upon in this blog, here’s another related aspect that was developed in Calidar’s CC1 “Beyond the Skies:” the incarnates—spirits given a mortal body and a mission to accomplish in the prime plane. This can be easily adapted to D&D BECMI, as agents of immortals.
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What Do They Do? Incarnates are usually chosen from the ranks of Divine Servants (see CC1, p. 211). Their objective is to return to the world of mortals, accomplish their missions however long they may take, and return to their liege deities’ spiritual domains. Under this system, a killed PC may very well return as an incarnate for some unfinished business. Incarnates do not age beyond maturity, therefore their quests may last centuries if need be. This is of interest in Calidar since raise dead spells don’t readily work there.

What Do They Look Like? Incarnates may retain their original forms, such as a deceased PC, or take the one of a baby abandoned in the reeds by a river, a diabolically intelligent animal, a monster, a demon, etc. Parents most likely aren’t aware of a child’s supernatural nature. Affected PCs may not remember a thing about their deaths and circumstances that led divine servants or deities to return them to life. Others may not remember anything (other than their skills and abilities) predating their "resurrections," as best fits a DM’s plot. In both cases, clues and dreams will guide them to their final fates. In time, they may piece together who they really are and why they stand among the living. Incarnates are driven to accomplish their quests.

Reviving Dead PCs: Players of dead PCs returning as incarnates would have to correctly roleplay amnesiac adventurers searching for their past histories. Feel free to play fast and loose with time*, as events in the netherworld and the gods’ dimension of Ambrosia conveniently do not have to follow the Prime Plane’s timeline. Another scheme would require the DM to create an entirely new character, one strangely similar to the deceased but with unexplained and possibly frightening abilities appropriate to an incarnate. “You see stumbling toward you this odd character, disheveled and visibly disoriented, muttering incomprehensibly…” Hopefully, the party does not try to kill the poor devil on the spot. They might find it harder than expected. Once past this hurdle, the DM then hands the new character sheet over to the distraught player who just "lost" a beloved character. I’m sure you get the idea.

(*) About Altered Timelines: Time in the astral plane (the netherworld), doesn't flow in a straight course. It can be faster, slower, or even reverse course for a while, compared with the prime plane**. The same can be said about the Ambrosian dimension where gods reside. All of this rests at the referee's discretion. It enables odd story developments where PCs, unaware that their present characters are soon to meet their dooms, run into their own incarnates returned from the future. The plot would have to be entirely premeditated on the referee's side, but nonetheless possible. What happens next is anyone's guess. Imagine a PC meeting a mysterious, hooded incarnate and discovering it bears the PC's facial traits... A forgotten twin sibling perhaps? A doppelganger? Who knows.

(**) Space Travel: The astral's time warp is a crucial element of space travel aboard Calidaran skyships (see CAL1 "In Stranger Skies" about this). As a result, time travel is possible in this universe, provided the referee sees a need for it. 

Abilities & Peculiarities: For the sake of making them unique among mortals, it may be a good idea to give incarnates immunity to non-magical weapons, or a natural AC that is uncannily good. Incarnates can be slain like any other living being, in which case their spirits return to the liege deities who’d sent them. Undead foes might also hesitate to confront incarnates, perhaps requiring a saving throw. PC incarnates may resume earning experience and leveling up. Two tables follow, which list innate abilities and other oddities called “stigmata” that you could have fun with. Roll or pick one of each.

Incarnates Innate Powers (d20)
The incarnate regenerates all physical damage at sunset or sunrise (or with some other specific event, such as a ritual offering, a sacrifice, touching a lake’s or a river’s waters, etc.)
A basic ability such as strength, intelligence, constitution, or other, increases just past the very limit of mortal capability.
Roll 1d6: 1-2. The incarnate only sustains half damage from spell effects; 3-4. Is immune to non-magical damage; 5-6. Is immune to a form of attack—roll 1d10: 1. Fire; 2. Cold; 3. Water; 4. Earth; 5. Air; 6. Electricity; 7. Poison; 8. Acid; 9-10. Certain weapons (roll 1d6: 1-2. Crushing; 3-4. Piercing; 5-6. Hacking/slashing).
The incarnate moves at twice the normal movement rate or is never hampered by vegetal growth, sticky webs, and any other magical effects intended to slow or immobilize.
Once per day, the incarnate can transfer some or all damage between creatures within a 15’ radius, including him/herself. The number of creatures receiving damage can never be less than those who suffered the original wounds. Damage is averaged among those receiving the wounds, healing the beneficiary/beneficiaries the same amount. Unwilling participants are allowed a save if death would result.
The incarnate radiates a 15’ radius aura of protection repelling incorporeal foes or a type of creature designed by the referee, or the incarnate obtains the loyal services of a monstrous creature, so long as the incarnate does not intentionally harm the creature or makes no effort to protect it.
If desirable, the incarnate may (roll 1d6): 1. Rust ferrous objects when touched; 2. Rot organic objects; 3. Wither plants; 4. Summon a crawling mass of bugs; 5. Freeze exposed liquids within 15’ radius and cover surfaces with frost; 6. Cause fear on sight. As an alternative, an incarnate may undo all of the above at will.
The incarnate has a 20% chance of resisting mortal magic, either from spells cast directly at the incarnate or from others cast nearby.
The incarnate’s attacks, whether inflicted with an open hand or some mundane weapon, are always considered magical in nature and at least sufficient to harm creatures relevant to the quest.
When touching a hated foe, the incarnate can (roll 1d4): 1. Drain a foe’s energy (as appropriate to the chosen game system), 2. Reduce a basic ability (strength, constitution, charisma), 3. Cause a disease, 4. Inflict a withering wound. The incarnate can reverse the selected effect, if desired.
The incarnate is able to detect lies, illusions, traps, or secret passages.
The incarnate can only be harmed with spells and (roll 1d10): 1. Bronze; 2. Copper; 3. Silver; 4. Gold; 5. Obsidian; 6. Ivory; 7. Bone (of a specific creature); 8. Jade; 9. Araldium (mythril); 10. Wooden stake in the heart.
If destroyed, the incarnate can rematerialize up to nine times in the world of the living during the next full moon and resumes its assigned quest. Also, roll 1d12 for an additional innate power at each occurrence.
Roll a d12 twice for two innate powers, ignoring duplicated scores.
Roll a d12 thrice for three innate powers, ignoring duplicated scores.

Stigmata of the Incarnates
Hallowed Marks (Lawful)
Unholy Stains (Chaotic)
The incarnate’s skin is slightly silvery or golden, and never soiled with dirt, blood, or sweat.
Skin appears somewhat scaly or with imperfections (moles or small scars which seem to shift when observed).
A lock of the incarnate’s hair glows and flies away as a butterfly when his/her name is spoken.
A lock of the incarnate’s hair grows into a spider and crawls away when his/her name is spoken.
When in pain, the incarnate cries tears of (roll 1d4): 1. Blood, 2. Milk, 3. Ink, 4. Ale.
In anger, the incarnate’s eyes turn entirely (roll 1d8): 1-2. White, 3. Green, 4. Blue, 5-6. Red, 7-8. Black.
The incarnate’s breath brings small plants and insects back to life.
The incarnate’s breath curdles milk or spoils varnish on furniture.
When singing, the incarnate attracts small birds and furry critters which happily tweet and chatter along.
Singing causes small birds and furry critters to (roll 1d6): 1-2. Flee, 3-4. Fight one another, 5-6. Explode in small balls of fur or feathers.
Cabalistic writings on the incarnate’s skin seem to change as events unfold.
If squeezed, sickly buboes squirt (1d6): 1. Acid, 2. Spiders, 3. Flies, 4. Worms, 5. Darkness, 6. Miasma.
The incarnate radiates a faint golden aura when praying.
A sense of despair pervades a chamber when the incarnate prays.
A birthmark or a scar appears on the incarnate’s forehead when in presence of the spiritual patron’s unveiled holy symbol.
The incarnate’s body bears one or more small unhealing wounds.
The incarnate’s flesh bears one or more small monstrous faces.
The incarnate is unharmed when walking barefoot on embers.
The incarnate can safely swallow nails and broken glass.
The incarnate can survive with as little as an ounce of food per day.
The incarnate eats and drinks as much as his/her own weight daily.
When the incarnate is introduced to newcomers, everyone involved seems to perceive faint echoes of a heavenly choir for a fleeting but glorious instant.
When the incarnate is introduced to newcomers, everyone involved seems to perceive ominous whispers for a fleeting but disturbing instant.
The incarnate walks on all surfaces as if weighing no more than a feather.
The incarnate’s footprints are those of a creature with cloven hooves pointing backward.
When gazing into a mirror, a glimpse of the incarnate’s home plane shimmers in the background.
The incarnate produces no mirror reflection.
Roll a d12+2 twice for two stigmata, ignoring duplicated scores.
Roll a d12 thrice for three stigmata, ignoring duplicated scores

Aside from PCs trapped in the role of incarnates, here are game stats for an alternative monster version that a party of adventurers could run into.

Incarnate*: AC 2 (1, 0, or –1, unarmored), HD 8+2 (12+3, 16+4, or 20+5), MV 150’ (50’), AT 1 punch or weapon, D punch 1d4+1 (1d6+2, 1d8+3, 1d10+4) or by weapon +1 (+2, +3, +4), Save as Fighter of equivalent level; Size M (6’ tall), Ability Scores 6+3d6 (discard the lowest roll; min Int 13), ML 11, AL as appropriate.
            Abilities: Spellcasting and character class abilities, if any are appropriate. Roll for one Power plus one Stigma of the appropriate kind for each 4 HD. Undead foes need to succeed a saving throw before touching/attacking an incarnate.

Bear in mind of course that rival deities may resort to sending agents of their own to interfere with the incarnate’s mission, if they know what it is, or eliminate the troublesome creature altogether. Incarnates are mere pawns in the gods' eternal games of chess.

Sorry for the messed up tables. They work fine on Chrome but not on some other browsers. You can thanks Google and Microsoft for not getting their digital ducks in row.
Qu*.*ck, qu*.*ck.

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