Crawling One

Originally from:

Happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For…the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth’s pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl.

You are the worms that, after eating enough corpses, come together and become something more than the diminished sum of their parts. Crawling Ones are what happens when maggots and worms feed on body (and soul?) of spellcasters. Over the centuries all that eldritch power builds up and usually it just requires one more corpse, spell misfire or arcana calamity before a Crawling One shows up.

Yes, this is the famous Worm That Walks and the main inspiration is Gareth Hanrahan’s amazing Black Iron Gods Trilogy where spellcasting is practically magic plutonian – it is powerful, but deadly and poisoning; and most humans can’t stand much of it before burning out or dying it. Experienced sorcerers are rare and extremely careful. Other races fare better in spellcasting such as Ghouls, but now one beats the Crawling Ones’ natural gift for it. I could go on and on about the origins of the Worm That Walks but someone one did that better, so take a look at TV Tropes and open the tabs on Tabletop Games, where you can the find the origins of the critter back to it’s Call of Cthulhu origin (besides a lot of other cool games.

The idea here is a DCC RPG class that you can use since level 1, it could even be used to continuing play with a 0-level character that didn’t survive his Funnel, but whose death triggered the emergence of a Crawling One. Is the Crawling One the soul of the dead character? Maybe a bit of that soul mixed with others eaten before? Or perhaps – as in Gareth Hanrahan’s Black Iron Gods – they really are their own bizarre thing, an entire race of worm-sorcerers who feeds on the memories of the dead.

The class herein try to play on all those angles, leaving the final answer to the player and Judge. This is a mash-up of D&D, Black Iron Gods and Kill Six Billion Demons (because I absolutely LOVE Gog Magog, which is like the uber-epic-Joker-version of a Crawling One).

So, to the Crawling Ones Class…

Hit Dice: d4. On physical combat a Crawling Ones are ridiculously easy to put down.

Attacks and Action Die: Again, like a Wizard. Your Critical Hit dice and table never improves, Crawling Ones are physically puny.

Saves: Crawling Ones are adaptable. They start with their saves as a Wizard, but when they REST for at least 8 hours they can “change” their saves between Fort, Will and Save, representing the worms rearranging and adapting.

Weapons: all one-handed weapons. The only ranged weapon that you can eventually master are crossbows. No thrown weapons.

Armor: None.

Conquering Worm: you are a mass of worms, so as long as one survives you are fine. At any moment a Crawling One can use an Action Die to scatter itself over the area. In this “unassembled” form they are immune to anything that is not an energy area attack. However, they do take a long time to reform.

A Crawling One risks death or a Roll the Body check only when brought to 0 hit points or less by an energy area attack (fire, acid, lightning, and other forms, like pure magic energy). Attacks from really big creatures also fit (Judge’s call, but this should be rare and forewarned to the player).

Otherwise, when brought to 0 hit points or less you require 1d6 turns to reform. You reduce this time to 1 turn by suffering 1d6 points of damage to Stamina AND Strength.

You are immune to diseases. Finally, if hit by a poison attack, instead of rolling a save you can “expel” the poisoned worms by suffering 1d6 Stamina damage.

Eldritch Might: Crawling Ones can spellburn any Ability Score to cast spells, not only physical ones.

Burning Magic: you ALWAYS must spellburn at least 1d3 points of damage to cast any spell. If a spell naturally requires at least 1 spellburn, the Crawling One don’t need to pay anything extra (yes, finally Chill Touch is not useless… actually, it might be a Crawling One spell).

Dead Memories: your memories are scattered through the worms and its hard to focus. You are not trained in any skill, but you can burn 1 point of Intelligence to become trained for 1 turn in things related to magic, worms, dead (and un-dead) things, graveyards (and the dungeons below them), and ghouls and other “rivals”. As usual, as the Judge.

A Mass of Horrors: you are disgusting and unnatural. Animals will flee in horror if they sense or smell you. Predators will attack you in rage if cornered. You are untrained in any social checks against humanoids (except intimidating attempts). However, you are trained in social checks against all un-dead, even mindless ones, and can try to avoid them or negotiate with them (Judge’s call). You can be turned by Law and Neutral Clerics.

Worm That Walks: you are a mass of worms and can thus pass through any place that an individual worm could given time. If time is not of essence, you could pass through a keyhole. To affect anything physically using your Strength or Agility you need to be fully assembled, which usually require 1d6 turns.

Corpse Eater: you can feed on one humanoid corpse during 1 turn to do one of the following (a) heal 1 Hit Dice; (b) heal your level in Ability Score damage (distributed as you choose); (c) gain your level in trained skills that the corpse possessed (Judge’s call) for 1 day; (d) gain 1d3 questions related to things that that corpse knew.

Finally, you can devour a corpse for magic power. This takes longer, usually 1 turn per HD/level, but it grants you 1 “spellburn point” per HD/level. These “spellburn points” last for 1d6 hours after you feasted. These are not cumulative (i.e. you can’t devour an entire village… of course, the Judge is welcome to create some grotesque Quest for the Impossible just to allow you to do that. May the Gods have mercy on her soul.)

In Unhallowed Ground: you can only regain hit points by eating corpses (or by magic).