Today, some creatures for Pat’s first adventure, including the Neurovorg that I wrote up the first version of at my now-defunct blog Cyphers and Oddities.
Level: 4 (12)
At first glance, the neurovorg seems to be a wholly artificial construct, made of stained metal, synth, and glass in the form of a large hound or humanoid, depending on whether it chooses to be bipedal or quadrupedal at the time. The limbs are partly exposed, with pistons and thick metal cables visibly shifting as the creature moves, while the head of it is a disturbing mass of articulated digits wrapped around a few drills and other surgical equipment. A single optic system glows above the surgical gear like some kind of infernal eye.
A closer look reveals the real horror of the neurovorg; the translucent synth and glass houses gray and pink organic material, glistening wetly in available light. Much of the mass is arrayed in lumpy coils along the creature’s armored neck, the repurposed mass of brain matter the neurovorg has forcibly extracted from victims as a combination of supplemental processing power and feedstock for the creature’s chemosynthesis factories. Arrayed along the underside are a variety of needles, each one capable of producing a different chemical compound with a wide variety of effects.
Perhaps most disquieting of all is the fact that these brain-eaters speak, but in a distressing amalgam of voices, as if drawing individual words from the original owners of the brains that fill it.
Motive: Hungers for neural tissue
Environment: The fringes of any region populated by intelligent creatures
Damage Inflicted: 4 damage, plus possible drug injection
Movement: Short when bipedal, long when quadrupedal
Modifications: Perception as a level 6; Stealth as level 2; all intellect-based tasks as level 8 when recently fed, or level 2 when hungry.
Combat: Neurovorgs have no concerns about whether or not their prey are aware of them when closing in; the stink of decaying tissue surrounds all neurovorgs, making it hard to avoid noticing their presence. The creatures prefer to strike fast and withdraw with a victim clutched to them rather than engaging in a drawn-out battle. If forced into an extended fight, the neurovorg is more than willing to switch stances to its advantage, as well as using the wide array of chemicals at its disposal.
Neurovorgs prefer to focus their attention on a single foe; if their victim fails a Speed Defense roll, they must make an additional Might Defense roll to avoid being caught in the manipulators on the creature’s head. Victims who are captured by a neurovorg can make an additional Might Defense check each round to break free, but are subject to an Intellect attack each round the deals 3 Intellect damage as the creature drills into their head and begins harvesting fresh brain matter for its own use.
Bipedal neurovorgs are capable of bringing their injection manipulators to bear, stabbing opponents and delivering various chemicals with successful attacks. A bipedal neurovorg finds it difficult to capture a victim, and will typically switch to quadrupedal mode as an action once they have pacified an opponent with their drug cocktail.
Possible effects of the drug injections include:
Corrosive: The neurovorg injects a strong acid in its opponent, bypassing Armor and dealing 5 damage.
Hallucinogen: Victims of this injection must make a Might Defense check or spend the next fie rounds unable to tell friend, foe, or nonexistent terror apart.
Poison: Victims of this injection must make a Might Defense check each round until successful; each failure deals 3 Might damage.
Soporific: Victims of this injection must make a Might Defense check or have all their actions modified by one level to their detriment for ten minutes; additional injections of this drug extend the duration without adding to the effect.
Anesthetic: Victims of this injection must make a Might Defense check each round or drop whatever they happen to be holding; they also gain 1 point of Armor for ten minutes due to the numbness of their flesh failing to register damage dealt to it.
Paralytic: Victims of this injection need to make a Might Defense check each round or move one step down the damage track; if lowered to ‘dead’ by this drug, treat it as being paralyzed – alive but unable to interact physically with the world, although purely mental actions remain possible – although this will quickly change unless the neurovorg is driven off by the victim’s companions.
Regenerative: Neurovorgs have no use for deceased neural tissue, and may inject a chemical cocktail that restores 3 to Might and Speed if their victim shows signs of being at risk of death prior to harvesting.
Antivenin: This functions as a level 5 cure for poisons, as well as a certain cure for the neurovorg’s own poison, anesthetic, and hallucinogenic injections.
Interaction: Neurovorgs are intelligent and can be reasoned with, although their craving for brain tissue means that they will spend much of any social interaction attempting to bargain for brains. A neurovorg who is given a steady supply of brain matter can be convinced to provide usable doses of many chemical compounds, including the regenerative compound it sometimes uses to stabilize victims. Of course, to obtain such a supply, the characters have to be willing to regularly sacrifice other living, thinking beings to the neurovorg as feedstock.
Use: A series of disappearances in a major city and the sudden availability of a wondrous new healing compound is linked by rumors of some strange automaton lurking in a noble’s menagerie.
The poor of a city have begun disappearing with alarming regularity, only to turn up some time later with a hole drilled in their heads and much of their brain missing from their skulls. Sooner or later a NPC important to the PCs goes missing, only to turn up on their doorstep with a hole in their head and clear signs of brain damage, ranting about the translucent brain-eater with the voice of the damned.
The PCs encounter an ancient neurovorg chained up in a ruin of a prior world; the creature is starving, barely above animal sapience, and will bargain desperately to either be freed or provided with brains, promising to provide drugs in exchange for either. If freed, it may attack the group out of desperate hunger – or it may attack a nearby town, leaving the settlement full of warm, vacant-eyed bodies when the PCs arrive, the neurovorg sitting in the middle of the town as it processes the freshly acquired neural tissue into the promised drugs.
The group comes across a town that seems overly welcoming to unknown outsiders, happily pressing gifts and trinkets on them. The truth comes out when the party is ambushed in the inn the next night, with the villagers intent on subduing them to be fed to their local god – a neurovore that dispenses hallucinogenic drugs and regeneratives in return for a steady supply of neural tissue.
A butcher has surprisingly few staff tending to the slaughter of the animals that come in; investigation when a worker (or the butcher herself) goes missing reveals the presence of a captive neurovorg being fed the brains of the animals in exchange for powerful preservative compounds.
Loot: A neurovorg’s body can be salvaged to produce 1d6+1 chemical cyphers and possibly a single cybernetic artifact.
GM Intrusions: The neurovorg shifts stances from biped to quadruped unusually quickly, taking a PC by surprise; unless the character makes a Speed Defense roll at a two step detriment, they find themselves caught in the creature’s grip, the main drill whirring up to speed only an inch or two from their forehead.
The neurovorg sprays an anesthetic mist from an injector, causing everyone in immediate range to make a Might Defense check or drop whatever they’re holding as their flesh goes numb for a few seconds.
The neurovorg, recently fed, has prepared the area with sharp objects coated in soporific chemicals. The PC steps the wrong way and is cut by one, taking one point of damage and having to make a Might Defense roll or suffer the effects of the soporific injection.
Level: 2 (6)
These predatory creatures resemble leopards at first glance, until the six eyes on the head and the two extra pairs of legs become evident; their paws are outfitted with gripping digits that enable them to climb nearly sheer surfaces with phenomenal speed. In addition to the claws on each of their feet, they have sharp teeth and a set of fangs capable of injecting venom through a bite. Mange-cats are somewhere between pack predators and scavengers in the southern foothills of the Black Riage, they remain a persistent nuisance in the settlements of the area.
Some attempts at domesticating the creatures as guard animals have been made, but they do poorly without the social environment of a pack, and any attempt to confine them results in the creatures frantically trying to find a way out to run and hide. Their keen hearing enables them to live in abandoned structures as well as above ground, using their ears as sonar to let them track potential prey, leading to occasional infestations in abandoned mines.
Motive: Hungers for flesh
Environment: The foothills and caves of the foothills of the southern Black Riage.
Damage Inflicted: Claws deal 4 damage, while the bite deals 2 plus a Might poison that inflicts 2 per turn until two successful defense checks are made against it.
Movement: Long when running; short when climbing
Modifications: Running, climbing, and leaping as level 4; auditory and visual perception as level 5; resistance to fear and intimidation as level 1
Combat: Mange-cats prefer to attack as a pack from ambush, leaping from trees, cave walls, and ledges in groups of three to six, attempting to target a single large creature as prey; one will typically try to bite the target while the others dash around it and claw, trying to weaken and cripple it. If they successfully down their prey, the one trying to bite will try to start dragging the victim off, with the others acting as a defensive screen or acting to help carry the weight. Given their tightly-knit pack mentality, successfully scaring one off or killing it will usually break the morale of the entire pack and send the rest scattering.
Interaction: Mange-cats are opportunistic vermin, lurking out of sight until the players let their guard down (taking a ten-minute or hour-long recovery break, for example) before springing an ambus on the most-injured or weakest-looking character. Clever players may be able to scare or trick them into charging into another threat, if they want.
Use: Mange-cats are little more than annoying nuisances, but their ambushes can be a surprising thing the first time, and a reminder that the Ninth World is full of life later on.
Loot: Mange-cat lairs typically hold 2D6 shins in shiny bits of metal and glass, and occasionally have a cypher buried in the midst of the refuse of former victims.
Hopefully these two creatures give you a taste of what kind of weird and unsettling creatures the Ninth World can hold; next time, we’ll look at the Eye Man and the Convergence agent.