Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Skairosian Bestiary Revisited: Shadow Serpents

Along with the Glance Hound, this one didn't get many comments and I suppose that's fair.  What I wanted here was a third critter and I found the phase serpent in DF and it seemed like a nice bit of inspiration that I borrowed.  Originally, the Skairosian hound had a hallucinatory venom, but I just moved it over to the Shadow Serpent and gave it phasing powers and called it a day.  This helps explain alternatives to the source of Akashic deep time, as it might have stemmed from the venom of the Shadow Serpent, which might be showing them visions of possible, alternate futures in a great cacophany of imagery.  I also like the imagery of Labyrinthine Cults engaging in "miraculous" snake handling.

As a threat, this wasn't much of one, because it's pretty hard to justify the fangs of a snake, even one the size of a python, punching through armor.  But based on a suggestion, I went with the idea of ignoring DR entirely, with the excuse that they can "phase" through the armor.  This allows them to have remarkably low damage, which mostly acts as a vehicle for their venom, which is what they're really about.  I also added a constriction attack, but in practice this won't really make them more lethal. They're defensiveness is fine: they're tough enough to hit and touch enough to hurt, but in practice, any well-armed opponent will make short work of a single shadow serpent.  I see their purpose as more of an irritation, a problem to be stacked atop other issues, rather than a singularly terrifying boss-monster.

Given their ability to vanish for 10 seconds at a time, they should have no problem ambushing a commando and punching through their armor with their fangs to give the commando a tough time.  Commandos will fare better against swarms, though. Gunslingers might fair a little better with superior active defenses, and they don't rely on armor anyway, and they might be able to fast draw quickly enough to shoot the serpent before it phases away again.  The space knight may also be able to respond in time to the shadow serpent, and may be able to react to its presence if he's able to detect it psychically, attacking it swiftly once it comes out of the "shadows." A single sweep of a force sword is enough to defeat most shadow serpents, and space knights often have the will to work through a hallucination spell.

Shadow Serpent

These Skairosian serpents slither the line between timelines deftly. They can shift in and out of a particular timeline, allowing them to pass through doors or fade away from attacks, and then reappear a few seconds later to bite and inject the victim with their hallucinatory venom.
A shadow serpent resembles a length of inky darkness with a bony, eyeless crest over the top of its head. Similar to the glance hound, shadow serpents have several rows of teeth, all of which drip with a beautiful, prismatic venom.
Like most Labyrinthine beasts, they loath planetary surfaces, but they’re not especially fond of bright light either. If bathed in light, most will choose to vanish into an alternate timeline, and then strike the light-wielder from a more shadowy angle. Travelers have found hissing pits crawking with Shadow Serpents that vanished like a bad dream when lights were turned on them to verify their presence.
The shadow serpent featured strongly in early Akashic literature and imagery, and can still be found in the statuary of the oldest temples, though its symbolism has been phased out over time. Early Akashics are believed to have “snake handled” shadow serpents, and used their venom to improve their visions; while hallucinating on shadow serpent venom, add +1 to all Vision or Oracle rolls, if this legend is true. Certain labyinthine cults continue this practice.
Some labyrinth explores report Skairos with tamed examples of shadow serpents, and some labyrinthine cults manage to tame them. If so, for examples of tame shadow serpents, replace Wild Animal with Domestic Animal.
ST: 15 HP: 15 Speed: 7.0
DX: 13 Will: 10 Move: 7
IQ: 2 Per: 12
HT: 13 FP: 13 SM: +1
Dodge: 10 (20*)
Parry: NA
DR: 5
Fright Check: +0
Bite (13): 1d-1 imp + 2d toxic (HT-4 to resist), 1d if resisted; roll HT -1 per 2 damage inflicted by toxic follow up or Hallucinate for one minute per margin of failure; Reach C. This attack ignores DR that does not come from a psionic or anti-psi source, against which it has an armor divisor of (3). This attack is made as a Deceptive Attack (-1 to defend).
Constriction (17): This attack automatically hits if the Shadow Serpent has grappled the target; roll a quick contest of ST with a +2 from Wrestling (17) vs the target’s ST of HT. Inflict 1 point of crushing damage per margin of victory, DR protects normally (but remember, for every 5 points of damage, a minimum of 1 point of injury must be inflicted). If even a single point of damage bypasses DR, the target begins to Suffocate, losing 1 fatigue per turn until the constriction is eased.

Traits: 360° Vision; Blindness (Mitigator, Psi); Born Biter; Cold Blooded (50°); Dark Vision; Dislikes Light; Dread (Planetary Surface); Injury Tolerance (Damage Resistance 2 (Temporal); No Eyes); Insubstantial (Temporal); Invisible (Substantial Only; Only when Insubstantial); Psychic Beacon 4; Vermiform; Wild Animal.
Skills: Brawling-15; Stealth-14; Wrestling-15;
Notes: Truly Alien; Too dumb to negotiate or use normal Telepathy on (use Animal Telepathy or appropriate Telepathic techniques instead).
A Shadow Serpent has the following powers:
  • Temporal Dodge: the shadow serpent may reflexively slip into an alternate timeline as a Dodge attempt. It dodges this way with a Power Dodge of 20; each attempt costs 1 fatigue, and each subsequent attempt in one turn applies a -5 to the roll. This cannot be used against attacks that harm insubstantial targets.
  • Temporal Slip: the shadow serpent can go completely into an alternate timeline and become insubstantial for up to 10 seconds. This can be done as a concentrate action once per turn and its insubstantiality activates at the start of its action; it can return to substantiality as a free action. Each use costs 1 fatigue.
While insubstantial, the shadow serpent is functionally the same as a time shade: it can be affected by anything that affects them, including other time shades, and is invisible. If the shadow serpent goes insubstantial while grappling a target, even for just an instant (via a Temporal Dodge), the target is freed.
The Shadow Serpent can temporarily apply this insubstantiability to its teeth, allowing it to completely bypass physical armor for an instant. This allows it to ignore all DR unless the DR comes from a psychic or anti-psi source.
All forms of insubstantiability are psychic and temporal in nature. If something disrupts the Shadow Serpent’s psychic powers, or “grounds” it in the current timeline, it loses its ability to go insubstantial, make Power Dodges, or ignore DR with its teeth.
The venom of the Shadow Serpent is a powerful hallucinogenic with strong, psychic properties. Psychics who are afflicted with it gain a +2 to Visions, Prognostication and Oracle rolls. This venom can be harvested from a slain Shadow Serpent, and results in 10 doses. They lose their potency if removed from the labyrinth, however.
Shadow Serpents will often attack in groups, and will suddenly appear out of thin air to simply begin striking at targets with their venom and then vanish again, just as quickly. They must remain substantial for a full turn when attacking, thus allowing potential reprisals. They will not bother with a constriction attempt unless their target is relatively unarmored and they’re alone with the target. They’re especially likely to do it if the target is hallucinating and cannot retaliate. Shadow Serpents should generally be treated as mooks and should attack en masse, or assist by attacking along side another beast. Shadow Snake swarms (below) make a nice surprise at a bottom of a pit.
This represents a large, python-sized Shadow Serpent. Smaller Shadow Serpents sometimes gather in Swarms. Their attacks ignore DR as normal; they cannot meaningfully make a temporal dodge as some will fail and some will succeed, so instead, simply assume they always have the equivalent of Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 4 (Temporal)). They can make a Temporal Slip, but some will always remain substantial, betraying their presence. Their have less venom in their system, and it does 1d toxic, halved with a successful HT roll, and applies the same hallucinatory effect.
Shadow Serpents Swarm
1d-3 cut

Rituals of the Shadow Serpents

  • Great, writhing masses of shadow serpents swarms will gather in the bowels of pits and begin to devour themselves, turning into circles until they vanish. The last remaining will rapidly expand into a much larger specimen of Shadow Serpent, as noted above. Perhaps larger Shadow Serpents do the same and the Far Labyrinth is haunted by giant, oversized Shadow Serpents?
  • Shadow Serpents react positively to music and may approach to dance and sway before the music player. If interrupted, they may simply turn insubstantial and leave.
  • Sleeping Shadow Serpents will carefully arrange their coils into specific, labyrinthine patterns; those reading the coils can derive portentous meaning from them, gaining a +1 to Oracle rolls to find Omens.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...