Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Into the Labyrinth: the Nerlochs and the God Below



Not every creature of the Labyrinth is Skairosian in origin. Other things have invaded the winding tunnels beneath the surfaces of Labyrinthine Worlds.  They might be elder things from beyond space and time, or they might be the corruptions twisted by the influence of Broken Communion.

The Nerlochs are one such race that lurks in the Labyrinth, coming out of the tunnels for furtive raids to steal sustenance (and recruits) for their God Below.  They'r eoriginally found in GURPS Creatures of the Night 1. I think they're one of the better entries in the Creatures of the Night Series and thematically very appropriate to Psi-Wars.

I would have just pointed you to them and been done with it, but they have some problems fitting into Psi-Wars as written. By default, Nerlochs are clearly designed to be a modern horror that takes on opponents of about 100 points, not sci-fi space knights of 300+ points. Thus, these have been heavily adapted and cleaned up for Psi-Wars.  What's below is a highly specific and highly adapted version of the Nerlochs more suitable for Psi-Wars.  I'd say they were just "inspired" by the original entry, but I wanted to highlight their origins and point you to where they came from, rather than completely erasing the serial number, because I think CotN is a good series worth supporting. Thus, I've completely left off any discussion of Anagon himself, except for hints in the form of the new Children of Anagon.  An appropriate new version of the God Below would probably be much bigger and much more terrifying than what Creatures of the Night lists. So, if you want to know more, check out the book!

Even in this current iteration, Nerlochs aren't that much of a threat. A well-entrenched commando will mow through them; space knights might have more trouble, as they're in range of those dangerous eldritch talons.  Gunslingers might also suffer, as they tend not to wear a lot of sealed armor.  Ultimately, Nerloch hunting comes down to be able to outsmart them, and standing up to a mob of paralytic talons lead by a hungry, hulking thing-beast. It might be fun to hit a party with a small Nerloch raid of 3-5 nerlochs, and then have the gibbering ghouls following them at a distance, visible only as the glow of their gems, as anticipation mounts for a sudden, major assault of hordes of Nerlochs over some treacherous precipice.


Nerlochs

Something has infested the bowels of the Labyrinth. The Nerlochs are its creation and its servants. These crawling ghouls clad in tattered black robes resemble skeletons with flesh drawn over them with a glowing gem in their brow and long, flickering, semi-real talons extending from their claws. They worship the God Below, some monstrous, fleshy horror from beyond space and time. It hungers, so they seek out prey for it. They use the paralytic venom on their talons to paralyze small rodents or animals that have crept into, or near the entrance of, the Labyrinth and feed it to their master. If they get lucky, they capture a human, or raid a small community, and feed them to their master. But while the God Below devours the flesh of animals, it consumes the minds of the sapient and turns them into new Nerlochs to serve it.

Nerlochs tend to be very vigorous below ground and use the light of their gems to see and to find the living. They can move quickly and with ferocity when they need to. Above ground, they find the remoteness of their God Below quickly drains them of their vitality, and thus cannot spend long outside of the labyrinth. When their strength drains away, whether from use in battle or from spending too long beyond the labyrinth, they grow easily frightened and flee. Their ultimate sanctuary and solace is the God Below itself, and all Nerlochs can vanish in shadows to reach their master. They may use this to rapidly retreat, or to reinforce their numbers of their God Below is threatened. When they die, the eldritch psionic energy that keeps them animated dissipates and they collapse into a pile of bone, skin and bile with an unholy stench.

Nerlochs represent a dangerous infestation. They can quickly swell their own numbers to stealing out to kidnap victims whom they can convert into new Nerlochs. If allowed to continue to grow beyond a small band, they begin to become a small civilization in the bowels of the the planet. When not hunting, they might even engage in primitive trade or seek out basic alliances. They’re generally dim-witted and driven by the will of hungry Elder Thing, but they can be reasoned with and negotiated with.

ST: 8

HP: 5

Speed: 5.25

DX: 12

Will: 10

Move: 5

IQ: 8

Per: 10


HT: 9

FP: 9 (15)

SM: +0

Dodge: 8

Parry: 9

DR: 0

Fright Check: +0

Eldritch Talons (12): 1d-3 cut + Follow Up 2 tox; Reach C; toxic damage is resistible (halved if the target rolls HT); if the target loses ½ their HP to this damage, they are Paralyzed until they recover from the injuries, or for 2d hours, which ever is less. They may spend 1 fatigue to apply an armor divisor (100) to these attacks; this is telegraphed by a queer flickering of their talons; this effect is psychic in nature.

Death Stench (Resisted with HT): Anyone within 3 yards of a dead Nerloch must resist the stench of their dead or become Nauseated (-2 to attribute and skill rolls, -1 to active defenses, and possible vomiting; see p. B428) for minutes equal to margin of failure. If there are many corpses, this is cumulative; compare the number of bodies to the SSR table, using distance for number of bodies, and the listed penalty as the HT penalty.

Shadow Warp (14): While standing in shadows, the Nerloch can spend 1 fatigue and spend 1 second concentrating, then it rolls IQ+6. On a success, it vanishes and materializes in the shadows near the God Below or one of the Children of Anagon. It cannot carry anything more than No Encumbrance when doing this (so, it can bring a rat to its master, but not a person).

Traits: Accessory (Light Gem); Appearance (Monstrous); Bad Smell; Cowardly (12; only when low on fatigue); Detect (Life, Vague, Psi); Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Duty (The God Below); Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Energy Reserve 6 (Granted by the God Below; Physical); Fragile (Unnatural); High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Injury Tolerance (No Blood; Unliving); Nightvision 7; Reprogrammable; Rules Option (Extra Effort); Sexless; Susceptible -4 (Light); Silence 2; Social Stigma (Monster); Unfazeable (Only when they have plenty of fatigue or when defending the God Below); Warp (Anchored, the God Below, Environmental, Darkness; Psi; Reliable 10); Weakness (Planetary Surface, 1d per 5 minutes, Fatigue only).

Skills: Brawling-12; Climbing-12; Navigation (Underground)-12;

Notes: Truly Alien; Willing to negotiate, but highly driven by their connection with the God Below. If their God hungers, they will seek to capture targets to feed its hunger. If not, they might be more willing to negotiate. Alter their Reactions (+0 if the God Below does not hunger, -4 if it does) accordingly.

Nerlochs are animated by the power of the God Below. When it is near, when they are in the labyrinth, they have access to additional physical energy. The GM should consider allowing Nerlochs to spend fatigue on Extra Effort (in addition to powering up their claws). They will generally use it to increase damage or for improved active defenses. If treating Nerlochs as a group of mooks, grant a pool of 6 fatigue to the whole group of mooks. They lose this benefit when on planetary surfaces

Nerlochs will fight to the death while defending their God Below, or while not yet exhausted. When their fatigue begins to drain (at half or less) they lose unfazeable, and when it’s completely gone, they become cowardly. Roll a new reaction when they spend the last of their fatigue, and apply a -2 to resist any intimidation attempts. They will generally begin to flee, or use their warp ability to simply disappear, vanishing into the shadows as quickly as they appeared.

Nerlochs can detect the living via a brightening of their gem. Their gem normally provides light equivalent to an LED: -7 to vision with a radius of one yard. As they get closer to life, it brightens until they’re within close range of someone, where it still remains -7, but has “beam” of 5 yards. They can darken the gem through mental effort (Will rolls, if the GM needs a rule), but people may still notice them as they approach, especially as a group.

The paralytic effect from Nerloch talons is cumulative across all Nerlochs.  If a character takes more than half of of his HP in damage from Nerloch toxins, regardless of the source, then he's paralyzed.  Thus, track damage from the toxin for each character separately to determine if they are paralyzed.

Nerlochs are weak. They inflict little damage, and while they are largely immune to pain and metabolic hazards, a normal, unarmed human could likely defeat one with a few punches. Nerlochs are best handled as Mooks, and in large groups. Consider treating them as Hordes (See Speedy Horde Combat, starting on page 115 of GURPS Zombies). When a mook Nerloch is defeated, unless the player defeating the Nerloch states otherwise (and the GM may assign penalties to trying to keep Nerlochs alive), they die and dissolve into a putrid mess; see Death Stench for details! This means that as characters fight and defeat a horde, they’ll find it progressively harder to resist them, both from the slow build up of venom in their system, and from the stink of their opponents.



Nerloch Priest of Anagon

When Nerlochs capture a psychic or strong-willed individual and feed it to the God Below, the result is a smarter, more willful Nerloch who is in deep communion with its Elder God. They lose their psychic abilities, but gain access to Broken Communion instead.

These Nerlochs serve as a nexus for a Nerloch horde, directing and controlling the clawing frenzy of their race and bringing divine power with them. Treat them as a Henchman version of Nerlochs. They use the same stats, but gain +2 IQ and Will, and they improve the Energy Reserves of the Horde from 6 to 12 and have Clerical Investment and Unconscious Broken Communion 9 (Path of the Other). They have Leadership-12 and Religious Ritual (Cult of Anagon)-12. Finally, they enact a Religious Ritual to invoke a miracle. If the GM wishes to roll dice for it, the Priest must succeed at a Religious Ritual roll, and then roll their Unconscious Broken Communion, or a 9 or less. If both succeed, roll a Reaction Roll from the God Below and choose one Miracle. Or bypass all of that and pick a miracle that you think makes the encounter interesting.

As Nerlochs but with the following additions.

Attributes: IQ +2

Traits: Clerical Investment (Cult of the God Below); Energy Reserve 12 (Physical); Unconscious Communion (Broken, Path of the Other) 9;

Skills: Leadership-12; Religious Ritual-12;

Miracles of Anagon

The following are organized by Reaction level; The GM may also feel free to simply assign one miracle to a group of Nerlochs led by a Priest.

A Neutral or better reaction:

  • Unspeakable Knowledge: The Nerloch Priest has a unique tactical insight against his opponents. All attempts to use the Tactics skill against the Nerlochs suffers a -4 (in addition to other penalties).

  • Inured Mind: The Nerloch Priest and its Nerlochs are immune to fear. They cannot be intimidated and will not break (ignore their Cowardice rules!). In addition, they gain Intimidation-12, and apply a -1 to any Fright Check they might provoke in characters.

A Good or better reaction:

  • Sanity Blasting Horror: The characters encountering the priest must roll a Fright Check; they may not apply non-cosmic Fearlessness or Unfazeable.

  • Corrupt Labyrinth: The caverns of the Labyrinth (out to less than a mile) become temporarily Corrupted and have a Twisted Psionic Energy field, applying a -2 to all Psionic rolls, and treat failures as critical failures.

Very Good or better reaction:

  • Chaotic Interference: as the Nerlochs attack, a selection of electronics will fail among the attacked party. This definitely includes all lights and communication equipment, but will not include sapient robots or most weapons. If the GM is uncertain, allow players to roll their weapons’ HT.

  • Summon Child of Anagon: A Child of Anagon arrives in the midst of the fight to join the attacking Nerlochs.



The Children of Anagon

The God Below is a great thing of flesh and hunger. It’s Nerlochs serve it well, but sometimes it needs a more direct hand. If so, it spawns one of its Children of Anagon. These creatures are crafted from the flesh of the God Below itself, and tend to tower over their nerloch servants and mere humans with their great bulk. They have pallid, white flesh that’s translucent enough to see their veins, viscera and pulsing hearts in the midst of their white and pink flesh, as though the creature were a gelatinous mist of dead flesh. Most Children of Anagon have a great maw of gnashing teeth, long talons on the end of their fingers, four great tentacles rising from their back, and an otherwise vaguely humanoid form. But the flesh of the God Below is mercurial and different Children have different mutations: some are covered in tentacles or arms, others have long, worm-like tails and some seem barely real, fading in and out of reality.

The Children of Anagon act like the lieutenants of the God Below. The Nerlochs worship them as avatars of the God Below (leading some misguided observers to believe that a Child of Anagon is the God Below, and their destruction would lead to the end of a Nerloch infestation). The Child can command its minions in great, guttural tones. It has the same motivations of the God Below, and hungers for flesh, though it cannot create new Nerlochs as its master can. They may demand a tithe of victims to sate their appetite, but they pass most victims on to the voracious temples deeper in the Labyrinth.

In battle, the Children of Anagon act as a juggernaut, plowing straight into their targets with their great bulk and using their strength to grapple and devour targets. With focus drawn onto it, the rest of the Nerlochs can swarm the target with their paralyzing talons. Despite their size, their delicate flesh makes them vulnerable to damage, but the Children of Anagon are not so easily slain. When they “die,” the burst in a great, toxic morass of corrosive, digestive enzymes. If allowed to linger, a new Child of Anagon may rise from the puddles left by the previous one.

ST: 25/50

HP: 50

Speed: 5.75

DX: 12

Will: 10

Move: 5

IQ: 10

Per: 10


HT: 16

FP: 9 (21)

SM: +1

Dodge: 8

Parry: 9

DR: 0

Fright Check: -3

Crush (22): A Child of Anagon can strangle/crush opponents with their sheer bulk and many arms. Roll a Quick Contest of the Child’s (lower) ST-5, +2 from Wrestling (all included in the default roll), +2 from each additional pair of arms added to the crushing roll, vs the better of the target’s HT or ST. The target takes 1 point of crushing damage per margin of victory, with DR protecting as normal (remember, every 5 points of crushing damage always inflicts a minimum of 1 injury!). If any damage bypasses DR, the target also begins to Suffocate and loses 1 fatigue per round until the crushing ends.

Grapple (15): Children of Anagon grapple SM +0 targets at +1, and may grapple with just their tentacles at up to reach 2. Each pair of arms (by default, Children of Anagon have three pairs) beyond the first adds +2 to grapple rolls. Use the lower ST+2 for the purposes of follow-up actions on a successful grapple.

Ravenous Maw (15): 5d (5) imp, Reach C; treat the Child of Anagon as +2 SM for the purposes of bites; he may attack any hit location, and a bite counts as a two-handed grapple for all purposes, and it may attempt to pin a standing foe by engulfing them in its jaws.. This attack is at +1 to hit SM +0 targets.

Scything Talons (15): 2d+2 (5) cut, Reach C, 1; This attack is at -1 to hit SM +0 targets.

Chaotic Dissolution (Automatically hits anyone in range): Upon death, the Child dissolves into a pool of viscous corrosive liquid. Contact with the liquid inflicts 1d corrosive damage every turn until wiped off, and only Sealed DR protects, but treat the corrosive liquid as erosive, attacking the seals of sealed armor (roll the armor’s HT or the damage gets through and the armor’s HT is reduces by a level). Then roll; on a 9 or less, the Child of Anagon reforms out of the pool of viscera in 1d seconds; if it fails, the pool naturally dissipates in 1d minutes. The Child can be truly destroyed by reducing it to -10xHP; this can be done in a single stroke, or by attacking the pool it dissolved into (treat it as having the Child’s remaining HP, but as though it had Injury Tolerance (Diffuse)).

Traits: Appearance (Horrific); Bad Smell; Chaotic Dissolution; Dark Vision; Disturbing Voice; Duty (The God Below); Extra Arms 4 (Extra-Flexible; Weak, ½ ST; Reach 2); Extra Attack 2; Fragile (Unnatural); Frightens Animals; Gluttony (12); Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Indomitable; Injury Tolerance (No Brain; No Vitals; Unliving); Twisted Energy Generator (8 yard radius); Lifebane; Low Empathy; No Sense of Humor; Penetrating Voice; Terror 4 (Appearance); Unfazeable; Warp Beacon; Unkillable 1 (Achilles Heel, Planetary Surface).

Skills: Brawling-15; Leadership-12; Navigation (Underground)-12; Wrestling-15;

Notes: Truly Alien; Willing to negotiate, but highly driven by their hungers. If a Child of Anagon agrees to the terms of a party, all its nerlochs will automatically follow suite.

The Child tends to attack in a straight forward manner. It will move to within range and attempt to grapple with its tentacles and draw people in range, where it will either bite them or slash at them with its talons; it tends to be far better at grapples and bites than it is with its claws, but its claws have a bit more reach and can generally slash while its mouth is otherwise occupied. Note that by default, the Child of Anagon can make three attacks per turn!

Children of Anagon should always be treated as Bosses. They’re not that tough, however. While they lack vitals or brains and have a huge pile of hitpoints and sufficient HT to essentially ignore all Consciousness rolls, they automatically die at -1xHP, and have no DR to speak of. Thus, they generally die after 100 damage, which any sufficiently determined opponent can do relatively quickly. However, this will trigger their Chaotic Dissolution, which results in a new Child spawning relatively quickly, again and again. Rather than roll, the GM might simply allow it to return X number of times, as though it had a number of Extra Lives; one suggestion is 1d+1 Extra Lives!

If using the Nerloch Shadow Warp ability, treat the Child of Anagon as a nexus to which they may warp. Thus, as long as it lives, it can call more Nerloch recruits to its side.

Children of Anagon vary greatly. Consider using the Mutations of Anagon below to further customize a specific encounter.

Mutations of Anagon

Not all Children of Anagon were created alike. Some have one or more of the following mutations. The more mutations they have, the more that the resemble the God Below, and the more fervently the Nerlochs worship these Angels of Flesh. The GM can select one or more of the following, or roll a d6 and assign it based on the number rolled.

  1. Mutation of Arms: The Child of Anagon has 1-6 more arms (roll 1d). These arms may be shorter, stronger, clawed arms, or longer, flexible tentacles. Every new pair increases Extra Attack by 1 level.

  2. Mutation of Bone: The Child of Anagon becomes even more wormlike, its interior structure becoming supple and hydrostatic, while its surface becomes slippery with slime. It gains Double-Jointed, Slipper +2 and gains Stretch 1, which adds +1 to the reach of all attacks.

  3. Mutation of Hunger: The Child of Anagon restores its life by devouring on the life of others. The target must be living and sapient. The Child converts 1/3rd of all Biting Damage into restored HP.

  4. Mutation of Legs: The Child of Anagon has a wormlike bulk in place of its legs. Improve HP to 75, add No Legs (Slithering) and reduce Move to 3.

  5. Mutation of Maw: The Child of Anagon has mouths and eyes all over its body. It gains 360* Vision and 1d6 extra Ravenous Maws, and one Extra Attack with these additional maws only if the target is at C range.

  6. Mutation of Phase: The Child of Anagon is not wholly within the timeline. It may see and attack insubstantial time shades at no penalty, gains Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 2, Temporal), and may make “Phase” dodges once per turn; this allows it to Dodge at +5 and move its full Move immediately as part of its dodge, even if that movement would take it through a wall.

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