If you touch a sticky, you become the sticky and the sticky becomes you. If you are a sticky and someone touches you, tough luck. You’re going to merge now, like it or not. The core gameplay idea of this alien race is a gross blob with the involuntary possession trait.
Something monstrous poured out of the bottom of the cloak. Something the color of blood and mucous, thick and oleaginous, shiny on the top, puckered here and there. It looked like an inside-out stomach. It quivered. Out of the center of it as though by terrible effort came a chuffing sound, and then a breathy voice. “Not … eating … you. Not … ugly.”
I hereby declare it to be “alien week” on the Requires Concentrate blog. I have two somewhat over-the-top space operatic alien races for you, with a combat playtest and some modeling notes thrown in over the next five posts. Let’s start with the Stickies:
The stickies are an intelligent, non-technological race of wet, viscous globs. They move in a snail-like manner, and sometimes roll. They live in damp places and communicate via pheromones, although they can make audible noises and even “talk” if necessary via a kind of bellows they create by folding their own bodies. (Think: humans imitating flatulence with their armpits.) A sticky’s capability to see and hear is similar to humans, but they perform these senses–in addition to breathing–through their skin.
Stickies appear monstrous to humans, most closely resembling a giant stomach that has been turned inside-out. They have no limbs or appendages of any kind, but they can fold, stretch, and manipulate themselves to some degree. They are translucent and can slightly control their coloring, making them difficult to see if they choose to hide.
Stickies avoid contact with other races and have an insular, tribal society. They live together but (for reasons explained below) are careful not to touch each other. In their proper, damp habitat they need nothing to survive except themselves. Stickies absorb water through the skin and can attract game by releasing appropriate pheromones. They can then trap and eat prey like a cross between a piece of sentient flypaper and the drosera capensis plant.
Their most significant distinguishing trait is that they have the bizarre supernatural ability to absorb creatures that they touch. In this process, which they call “eating,” they wrap around, then absorb body of their victim, which is destroyed by the digestive juices that they carry on and in their body. However, if the victim is sapient, they call this event “merging,” and their own mind combines with the mind of their victim. Merging incapacitates them for about a day, a period known as “processing.”
Stickies vary quite drastically because each individual’s personality will depend on who they have merged in the past. Since stickies can also absorb each other, and thus pass on memories and minds indefinitely, it is possible to meet a sticky who has the personality and knowledge of someone who was alive hundreds of years ago. Yet the process of assimilation is not wholly additive: each time a sticky merges with another mind some aspects of each may be lost. (If a sticky merges with another sticky, the younger sticky’s body is the one which survives.)
Merging and eating are involuntary whenever flesh touches the sticky. This can create many practical difficulties and makes stickies quite dangerous–you wouldn’t want to jostle one in a crowded hallway. Still, merging is not a requirement of sticky life. Stickies reproduce by splitting, but the child sticky (as we would expect of any human child) has a newborn’s consciousness and does not inherit any memories or skills from their parent. It is therefore possible that a sticky is born and lives a full life managing to touch nothing sapient. It therefore merges with no one, and dies always having remained a single consciousness.
Although stickies are intelligent and can learn human language, they think very slowly and it can be frustrating to talk to them for this reason.
Stickies — 72 points
Attribute Modifiers: ST -2, DX -2, HT +2.
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Will +4.
Advantages: Binding (18); Chameleon (1); Communicates With Pheremones (new trait, see below); Corrosion Attack: 1d-2 cor (Always On: Physically Inconvenient; Contact Agent; Melee Attack, Reach C; Aura; Cyclic, 1 second); Doesn’t Breathe (Oxygen Absorber); Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Injury Tolerance (Diffuse, No Eyes, No Head, No Neck); Permeation (Flesh); Possession (Based on Will, Own Roll; Assimilation; Full Memory Access; Limited Use: Once per day; Nuisance Effect: Incapacitating: Coma for 3dx2 hours; Specialized: Sapient Creatures Only; Visible; Parasitic; Uncontrollable Trigger, Touches Flesh); Stretching.
Disadvantages: Appearance (Monstrous, -5); Decreased Time Rate; Invertebrate; No Legs (Slithers); No Manipulators; Numb; Unusual Biochemistry; Vulnerability (Dehydration Attacks x2).
Quirks: Extremely unusual voice, Occasionally makes involuntary wet noises while moving.
Features: Can see, hear, smell, and “taste” through skin; Can make patches of skin slightly tougher at will to facilitate movement and shoving objects around; Can make audible sounds by pushing air through a big fold of itself, like a bellows. If it knows human languages, it can talk to humans in this breathy, strange way.
Note: I wrote this primarily as a racial template for a player who wants to be a sticky. I’d assume the sticky has merged with a human once, thus allowing the player to add human traits. In settings where psionics exist it is strongly recommended that the player add some form of psionic ability. Without it the stickies are fairly helpless in combat situations against sapient opponents–they can either ooze away or merge with an enemy (which only works once a day and puts them into a coma). And they aren’t useful in many other situations due to their lack of hands, limbs, etc.
The sticky template is also useful as an NPC enemy to fill out a strange planet, or possibly as a strange ally for a very multi-racial spaceship crew. A sticky who has merged with knowledgeable humans in the past might be a useful individual contact or patron, although it is unusual that a sticky wants that much to do with humans. The stickies do not have organizations complicated enough to count as patron organizations.
The Human Impersonators
Stickies in the Land of the True Game campaign live on a planet where there is also human society, but most of human society doesn’t realize that the race of stickies exists. (Stickies live in a damp riparian area at the bottom of a canyon where no one goes.)
A few stickies have learned human speech by merging with humans. They sometimes masquerade as humans in order to trade gems from the river bottom for human objects they can’t make. Their few human allies have manufactured human-shaped cloaks with billowing bottoms, full masks, and the sleeves sewn shut. The inside of these cloak-disguises is stiffened with dried tree roots or wire until it stands upright on its own like a wire dress form. Here is an example (see picture).
Stickies wear these cloak-disguises somewhat like hats or puppets: they ooze into the bottom and then awkwardly propel the mannequin-like thing around. They can lengthen and reshape themselves to occasionally wave the cloak’s arms a little and move the head slightly. The stickies that are the most skilled at impersonating humans can manage a slight up-and-down motion when that resembles a human gait.
The sticky doing this this needs Acting skill. The cloak requires the Disguise skill to create, but not to put on. In a multi-species environment the Disguise skill requires specialization to work across races, so the creator of a cloak-disguise should have Disguise (Human) or more realistically Disguise (Sticky as Human) since they are themselves a human. Note the stickies can’t make these cloak-disguises themselves, they don’t have hands.
Generally the cloak-disguise is pretty good, but the stickies aren’t that good at using them. This is relevant because in situations where Disguise and Acting are combined, the rules say the worse skill of the two is used in a contest with the opponent’s Perception or Observation to detect the deception.
Stickies are clever and they realize they are ill-suited to this acting task. They will likely only try to don these disguises and pass as human on a foggy night, outdoors, for a very good reason. And they are going to be careful not to stand near lamplight or a torch. It will be easy to notice that something is weird about them — they move stiffly, and slowly, and have very strange voices. To cover their general strangeness the cloaked stickies will often pass themselves off as maimed, disabled people. They also sometimes deploy intentionally scruffy cloaks to masquerade as beggars. More rarely, they pretend to be ghosts or spirits.
Variant: Spacefaring Stickies
It isn’t very plausible that a race with no hands or limbs is going to become tool-using, technologically advanced, and take to the stars. However, a sticky could certainly merge with a human spacer, producing a blob that has the mental capabilities of a spacer (but no hands or limbs). Spacer mental skills could still be quite relevant in space (like Navigation).
A spacer caught in this situation might convince her companions to construct a sticky-friendly computer terminal on board ship. Stickies can see screens, but they would require a pheromone-based user-interface for input, which is plausible (smell printers exist today). Perhaps this would be combined with input from something similar to a dance pad that allows the sticky’s blob-body to make crude motor movement into computer inputs by pressing giant buttons with itself.
Of course, this sort of space sticky would need to travel with robots or crew that could perform physical manipulation of objects, such as piloting or repairs.
A spacefaring sticky would be an interesting NPC encounter. As noted above, as the result of many mergings a sticky could have the knowledge and personality of someone very old.
In a setting filled with many sapient alien races, a space sticky might even be a xeno-merging-fetishist–an interstellar scout who travels through space to new worlds in order to become other people, er… aliens.
In an environment where they have helping hands to make things for them, stickies would be likely to wear “clothes” in order to reduce the chances of an involuntary merge. They might want a thick, loose-fitting cloth bag made of heavy mesh that can prevent touching but still allow them to see, smell, and emit smells. Given the dangers of bumping into them, their non-sticky companions surely want them to wear clothes as well.
Gameplay: Touching a Sticky
In the build I’ve given here, touching a sticky is going to kill you. Or at least… your body. Think of this as a ball of gluey goo that is attracted to skin and sucks people up.
But as stated above, since the sticky’s powers require skin-to-sticky contact, you would be safe if you wrapped the sticky (or yourself) in a bag. This is a feature for the sticky, not a limitation, as it allows the sticky to easily handle things in the world without sticking to or absorbing them. This also allows the sticky to impersonate people as described above.
So what happens when you touch a sticky?
I’d describe this as functioning like a water droplet on a smooth surface that touches another water droplet and quickly combines with it. Maybe with a *bloop* or wet noise. That’s what happens when you touch a sticky. Even though “contact agent” means that skin contact needs to occur in order to bind and damage, the sticky can still encompass your whole body mechanically even though it is only damaging and sticking to the exposed skin (per “contact agent”). If you stick your finger in a water snake toy you are engulfed by it even though it is not sticky. As the GM I’d say:
“With a wet *bloop* noise, you find that you’re inside the sticky. And it burns!”
What are the gameplay mechanics? (1) Binding: When you touch one, you’re (*bloop*) engulfed and effectively grappled (see Binding). This binding is involuntary for the sticky and cannot be turned off. You’re at -4 to DX. You cannot move, change postures, or change facing. Escape rolls are forbidden by the modifiers to Binding. I’d say it would quickly cover your whole body. ST is required to actually pull apart the sticky–to tear your way through and out of it. To escape you must win a quick contest of ST with the Sticky’s ST 18 binding. (On the plus side, the binding is the Sticky’s own body, so it cannot be layered turn-by-turn for extra ST. It is always ST 18.)
That benefit won’t apply to the next effect, the Sticky’s (2) corrosive innate attack from its juices, as it is cyclic. That means when you touch a Sticky with bare skin you’ll take 1d-2 cor damage every second until you wash off its liquids. Since you’ll likely not be able to move as per the last paragraph, things look bad for you. The first turn of contact you’ll take 1d-2, the second turn you’ll take 1d-2 from the first attack you didn’t wash off, PLUS an additional, new 1d-2 attack. The third second you’re at THREE 1d-2 attacks. These attacks are involuntary for the sticky.
Powers p. 42 states that the “engulfing” enhancement can clog the mouth, presumably even if you are only partially covered. If you are completely surrounded by the sticky there is also no way to get air (thanks to the Suffocation enhancement). That’s an additional effect: (3) suffocation. That means you are limited to HT seconds of air after you are *blooped*. Per the usual suffocation rules: When you run out, you lose 1 FP per second. At 0 FP you must make a Will roll every second or fall unconscious (and of course, every FP below 0 also costs 1 HP. At -1xFP you are automatically unconscious.
However the suffocation effect is probably not going to get you, as it’s too slow. What you really have to worry about is the (4) possession. The sticky is very good at it, with an enhanced Will stat and Possession re-statted to depend on Will.
From the Sticky Point of View: “Stay Away From Me!” Could be Mutual
Remember that the sticky has involuntary powers. That means you if you were playing as a sticky you would have to watch out for anyone you might touch that you don’t want to accidentally merge with. You cannot choose not to merge.
“Did … not … want … to … eat,” the thing slowly huffed.
The sapient restriction on Possession means you can grab birds and eat them without starting to think like a bird. However, this power arrangement might imply many strange and interesting consequences in a setting where the stickies and their powers became widely known. For instance:
Since the stickies are intelligent, a relevant consideration would be: does the sticky want to merge with you? In a world full of stickies with a sticky society, they would certainly know the consequences of the merge, and they might prefer not to have their mind cluttered up with your mind.
People with terminal diseases might seek out and jump inside a young sticky’s body. They’d get a new lease on life… sort of. They’d become a sticky.
Absorbing someone could then be a kind of last-resort defense mechanism for them, the way that a bee dies after a sting. Or between two stickies, perhaps it is like mating.
Alternate Rule: Merges Never Really “Fail”
In the Possession rules as written, a failure to possess means that the subject is immune. In this alien’s build, that would probably mean that the body of the victim of the sticky is dissolved and the sticky gains no part of their mind.
What a waste of a perfectly good mind!
A more fun interpretation of this situation would be that a failure to possess reverses the direction of the possession. Rather than rewriting the stickies character sheet to include skills from the person, the GM could rewrite the victim’s character sheet to become like the sticky. Since this is a failed roll, the GM should probably determine the crunchy details of the merge by fiat. (Cruel GM: “Here are some skills you don’t want.”)
The GM could also specify that the victim’s personality is dominant. The resulting merge could mean that the sticky is now effectively the person in mental terms, with full access to the sticky’s memories and access to some of their skills. That is:
“I woke up as a blob!”
A failed possession could also result in the Split Personality disadvantage.
Next up, I’ll write a post with a combat test between a sticky and a human. I’ll also share more details in a third post about how I came up with the racial template above.