Friday, March 1, 2019

Death and Cannibalism

I read a post on the OSR subreddit about death in old school games and it got me thinking. How do I want to treat death in my next LotFP campaign? My last one had surprisingly(disappointingly) few deaths. When it did happen I allowed new characters to start at half the level of their old one. That seems super boring to me now. Someone in the post linked to Tenfootpolemic's blog post about character funerals and letting surviving characters buy the deceased’s XP. I like that alot but I want another option, something weirder.

Death & Cannibalism
Many cultures held(some still do) the belief that eating the flesh of your enemies would bestow special powers like bellowing courage or spiritual knowledge. In our age of easily accessible information we know that the only thing you'll get from eating human flesh is Kuru, a ailment similar to mad cow disease. However in our campaign world maybe the lore held some modicum of truth. You see player characters(PCs) are different, they have something the NPCs of the world don't. I always called it Fate or Essence(Vacant Ritual Assembly #1), but whatever you call it the PCs have it and it makes eating them special.

Da Rules
Whenever another Fated(Player Character) dies you may consume that character’s flesh to gain special properties. Roll 3d6 and note them separately. If the first roll was a 1(2-in-6 for Magic-Users) consult the tables below:

Seeing a Fated die triggers a horrible, graphic vision of you eating this person's…(2nd d6 result)
  1. Brain
  2. Heart
  3. Genitals
  4. Skin
  5. Eyes
  6. Liver (with fava beans and a nice chianti)
And your certain it will bestow…(3rd d6 result.)
  1. +1 Skill Point.
  2. +1 Hit Point.
  3. +1 to Charisma.
  4. +1 to Saves.
  5. +1 to AB.
  6. Euphoria(as a one time Bless Spell)
If the PC wants to act on this intrusive thought and eat the dead character let them. There will be terrible consequences.

Some Notes
  • The cannibal vision only procs rarely. I don't want everyone eating each other all the time. Just on occasion. Feel free to mess with the numbers or even proc the vision when you want!
  • Put a Magic book about Ritualistic Cannibalism somewhere in the world. Reading it let's the player's learn about the benefits without needing the vision.
  • If the needed flesh is missing then your out of luck. No cannibalism perks for you.
  • Each Fated’s flesh only produces the effect once. So no passing or spitting of the corpse for everyone to take a nibble.
  • Eating hirelings or retainers does nothing. Only Leveled Characters(Fated) give up the goods.
  • Said Flesh must be fresh(still warm), no saving for later.
  • Obviously eating human flesh in front of any retainers or hirelings incites an immediate loyalty check.

Eating Magic-users as a Magic-User
Those who weave the strands of chaos have a different flavor than their non-spellcasting companions. A Magic-User who eats the [tasty] brain of another magic-user may decipher that person's spellbook as if it were their own. No need for those pesky Read Magic/Comprehend Languages spells now.

The Consequences
I'm all about Consequences. I usually let my players do whatever they want but they know every action as a reaction. Eating the flesh of your dead companion is pretty messed up yo.

The Laughing Disease(Kuru)
Those who partake of human flesh risk infection of Kuru, a nasty disease that leaves holes in the victim's brain like swiss cheese. Each time a character or NPC digests human flesh have them make a Save vs Paralyzation. A failure means they contract Kuru and begin at Stage 1 with each additional failure moving them to the next stage. IRL the disease takes years to manifest but this a game and that's boring. So inflicted characters start getting symptoms 1d4 weeks after failing their save. If no further flesh is eaten the disease progresses naturally and slowly. Stage 1 progresses to Stage 2 after 3d4 weeks and to Stage 3 after 2d4 weeks.

-Stage 1-
Infected begins to show signs of Kuru. Muscle spasms, difficulty speaking.
-1 to Initiative rolls, -1 to physical saves, Save vs. Paralyzation for Spellcasters to attempt to cast spells.

-Stage 2-
IRL people become unable to walk without support but we want our cannibals to suffer a bit more. We'll focus more on the uncontrollable Laughter the infected experiences at this stage.

Infected must make a Save Vs. Paralyzation whenever attempting to make a skill check(or anything REALLY important). A failure means they are overcome with heaving, tear-filled laugher that leaves them incapacitated for 1 turn. Also triggers Wandering Monster Checks & Loyalty checks.

-Stage 3-
Once the infected reaches this stage they are now terminal. They must make a Save Vs. Paralyzation each night slept. After 3 failures they expire in their sleep with their eyes open and mouth agape.
If infected died in the new world(Colonial America) due to Kuru theres a 1-in-6 chance their spirit becomes a Wendigo, or if in Europe a 1-in-6 chance their corpse becomes a Ghoul.
Cannibalism & Carcosa
Now that I think about it this would make a great mechanic for Carcosa. Instead of a low chance of seeing the cannibal vision, I would just make it a culture thing. Everyone knows eating people is good! and I would also get rid of Kuru, residents of Carcosa would have been bred to eat themselves!

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