Tuesday, July 24, 2018

GvM: The Toxic: Fighting the Half-Dead

This is a post about the Toxic, the living, intelligent half-dead.  I wrote about them here, but they are borrowed from the absolutely fabulous I am Zombie, which you can and should buy.  I haven't played it based on their rules, as I'm married to the d20 system, but the fluff alone makes it worth the modest price.

Know your Enemy

It has long been debated whether life produces consciousness, or consciousness produces life.  Irregardless, they seem to go hand in hand.  All living beings have a SOUL, though they vary in type, nature and magnitude.  And I do mean everything.  Bacteria have souls as well.  As such, one can think of a bacterial or viral infection as an invasion, with the offending cells being the invaders storming the beaches of the Human body.  But because of their simple nature, most bacteria have collective souls, where the individual souls merge together to form an over-consciousness, in a way that some would suggest that is very similar to what humans do.  Though such an opinion is strictly heretical, I'm afraid.

However, if two over-souls from the same type of bacteria but infecting two different people were to be shown to each other, they would recognize each other as different entities. 

This is the difference between a disease and a plague.  Each person infected with a plague does not have an individual over-soul inhabiting their body, instead they all have a connection the the Plague Spirit, the personification of the whole Plague.  Most of these Plague spirits live once, enjoying a single, shining moment of grandeur before being curb-stomped by the whole of Humanity.  These Plagues can do enormous amounts of damage, but they can be beaten back. 

However, there is a nightmare scenario that keeps much of the Company's leadership up at night.  If a Plague Spirit were to encounter Magick and be given true sentience, given the ability to defy the natural limits placed upon it, it could ravage the world, and bring about an end to Humanity and the current World Order.  We know this is possible, because it already happened.

That disease is the Plague of Amirani, and its carriers are still with us, even thousands of years later.  Most people infected with it die within 2 hours, and reanimate, driven by the Plague Spirit's power, rising to consume and feed.  Their souls are gone, only the meat remains, a crude puppet for the Plague to perpetuate itself.  But some survive.  Their souls are molded, flayed, but they somehow endure, and when those two hours have passed, they wake up.  A living, half-dead corpse, but one with a soul, with the ability to think, to plan, and to reason.     

To us, they're all Zombies.  But they don't use the name, to them it is a slur.  To them the faceless, shambling soulless ones are called Skags.  As for themselves, they prefer the name Toxic.

Toxic are the lepers of the Downworld, those poor victims of Amirani, the butt of every joke in the book.  But the Toxic are  no joke, not if you want to stay alive.

Toxic look a lot like us.  They were once Human, after all.  They range in appearance, from being just above a rotting corpse to young, beautiful people without blemishes or oddly-placed moles.  The former are cold, or malign, and the latter are warm, or benign.  You likely won't be able to tell a Toxic that is Warm is anything but a Human unless they tell you, or do something significantly out of character for a Human.  Cold Toxic, on the other hand, find their faculties degrade until they degenerate into something little more than a Skag.  Most that make it that far lose their consciousness and become indistinguishable from common Skags.  For most that find themselves in such a position, they never make it back to consciousness. 

But, despite how they look, they are not like us.  Toxic, first of all, Toxic are toxic.  Their blood, sweat, tears and other fluids will infect you with the Amirani virus if you're not careful.  And being infected is almost always a death sentence.  At best, you'll end up like them.  At worst, you'll end up a mindless Skag.  So don't share a toothbrush or a cup with one, don't kiss one, and don't sleep with one, for God's sake.  Secondly, Toxic can regenerate from almost anything.  Bullets only slow them down, and unless they've been burnt to ash, they're coming back.  The only sure-fire way to put them down is with Magic.  A Semblance will do the trick, but so will a magical weapon or bullet.  They know this, and they're very careful around anyone they think has Magic, and very arrogant around those who they think don't.  Thirdly, Toxic can hear the Plague Spirit of Amirani, it speaks to them through visions, dreams and warnings.  Some Toxic also report hearing audible warnings or being awoken from sleep even when no one is there to wake them.  There are some other abilities that Toxic are famous for, the most notable of these being that Skags, mindless zombies, reanimated by the Plague Spirit will seek them out and want to serve them like loyal hounds. 

But Toxic aren't undead.  Treating them as such is a very easy way to get killed, a magic designed to affect and repel the undead does nothing to them.  The Toxic are somewhere in the middle between life and death, half-dead if you will.  For example, Toxic still need to eat.  They need to survive, but they also need it to fuel their regeneration.  This is because regeneration takes calories, and lots of them.  I hear this is the same reason why Trolls are always so hungry, but I've never been unlucky enough to tangle with one.  But as you will find, any Toxic worth their salt will eat anything they can get their hands on.  They can and do eat human food, but they also have more eccentric tastes.  For example, Toxic can and do eat strange things such as motor oil, broken glass, embalming fluid and napalm.  And while it is illegal to eat Humans under Toxic law, and Company law, of course, some still do it.  This is called gorging to Toxic, and is one of the quickest ways for a Toxic to get themselves killed, with the fastest way being starting an outbreak, of course.

Other things Toxic can do is that they need to breathe, though less than you need to, sleep, again less than you do, and they do get tired.  But they can go out in sunlight without burning, and other things that would affect the Undead do not affect them.

In terms of personality and opinions, Toxic are just like Humans, in that they are as varied as anyone else.  But Toxic culture is not as varied as Human cultures are, tending toward a sort of bizarre hybrid of survivalist, pseudo-criminal and leper/outcast culture.  Toxic culture probably requires its own post to fully explain it, but since I'm mostly ripping off I am Zombie, just go read what they wrote, as they invented the idea, and explain it far better than I ever could.  And while I do not understand how the attached system works, the fluff built around it is divine.

But for our purposes, Toxic culture is weird and strange and closed off to Humans, and if their culture is strange and baroque, their politics are incomprehensible.  But here is what you need to know.

They'll call you a Breather.  Pointing out that they breathe too is a good way to get your ass kicked, so don't.  Most of them will probably dislike you on some level, either because you have what they have lost (a normal life, a place in the world, etc) or they will hate you because you represent the system, and they hate the system.  What the system is varies from Toxic to Toxic, but it generally includes the Company, most Human Governments, the International Order, and occassionally, the Military-Industrial Complex, Capitalism, and most large Technology firms.  Either way, they will probably dislike you.

Additionally, a note about the Company.  The Toxic hate the Company with every fiber of their being, which is a bit unusual. While most Xenos fear the Company, Toxic loathe it with a fury that puts most others to shame.  They accuse the Company of many loathsome things, some of which must be true, but many also have the reek of falsehood or paranoia.  Sure the Company could be covertly harassing them, but it has its hands full keeping the Masquerade under wraps and preventing the paranatural from spilling out onto the front page of every newspaper in the World.  Odds are the abuses the Toxic blame on the Company are actually the work of Those who Know, other Xeno tribes, or the Toxic themselves.  That final category is the most likely, as like almost all Xeno tribes, the Toxic find it much more entertaining to brawl and squabble rather then cooperate with each other.  Vicious intercine conflict between Toxic factions is commonplace, and the likely source of much of the trouble that the Toxic find themselves in.  But like I said, Toxic politics is far too complicated to delve into here.  So for our purposes, everyone in the Toxic world hates everyone else, and their arguments are a constant, ever-fluctuating list of grudges, blood-oaths and vendettas.

Finally, one last thing.  The Toxic have always been with us, for a long, long time, dating back at least to the time of Justinian.  You remember how the Plague of Justinian wiped out a quarter of Constantinople, but the Emperor survived?  Well he did, in a way.  If you call becoming Toxic living, then he did.  But odds are, they've been around much longer then that.  And for as long as their have been Toxic in any amount, there have been outbreaks of the Amirani virus.  Most of these outbreaks are small, and easily contained.  But some are not.  Remember the Plague of Justinian I just mentioned?  That is one of the notable ones.  What about the Spanish Flu?  What about the Black Death?  These were all among the Eight Plagues, the biggest outbreaks in history, the ones that changed the fate of the world and brought about drastic, irreversible change. But that's not the bad news.  The bad news is this.  It's going to happen again.  the Ninth Plague they call it, the Nine Extinction, the Final Outbreak.  It's a massive, world-ending outbreak that will finally wipe Humanity off the face of the Earth and usher in something else, or so they say.  Whatever comes next, nobody knows yet.  Some say the Final Outbreak is inevitable, that Humanity's end is tragic, but cannot be prevented.  I don't what the Company believes about this fact, but I do know this, this is one thing every prophet worth their salt agrees on, especially the Toxic one.  The Ninth Plague is coming.  However, whether or not this is the actual Final Outbreak is still up for debate, in my opinion.  As any good prophet will tell you, the future isn't set in stone. 

As for myself, I have no intention of laying down and letting a bunch of lepers take my planet from me.  Mankind was given this world by God, and it's going to take more then some half-dead, rotting corpses to take it from us.  So let them come.  I'd like to see them try and kill us.

Babylon Prevails,

Gary Charles   

Generating a Toxic Crew

When you encounter the Toxic, you'll either encounter them alone or in small groups.  Feel free to generate groups as you choose, but here are few guidelines in case you care.

Toe-Tag Friend Group: A group of luckless Toxic who were likely just born.  May not even know what they are. 

1d8 2 HD Toxic

Toxic Clique: A group of young Toxic.  Bitter, zealous, full of passion and drive.
1d6 1d3+2 HD Toxic

The Leader (one with the highest HD) is the only one who rolls for Vectors.

Veteran Tox-Squad: Criminals, hoodlums, and smooth operators.  Handle with caution if you must, but preferrably not at all.

1 7 HD Toxic +
1d4 1d6 HD Toxic with 1d4 2 HD Skags
The Leader has at least 1 Vector, roll to see if he has another, 1 of the other Toxic also rolls for Vectors.

Profaner Retinue: A Tox-Lord and his entourage.  Shooting at him would be unwise, even if it also didn't mean possibly starting a war.

1 8 HD Toxic +
1d6 3 HD Toxic +
1d8 2 HD Skags
The Leader has at least 2 Vectors, roll for more.  1d4 of the other Toxic also have Vectors.

The Enemy: Quantified

HD 1  AC 10  Fists 1d6
Mor 12  Saves 14+

Blow his Mind: The only way to kill a Skag for real is to destroy the brain.  Any attack that is a natural '20' automatically does this.  But for everything else, reducing a Skag to zero HP just disables it.  You still need to splatter its brains to kill it for real/again.

Simple-Minded: Skags have only one goal, to feed.  They will pursue food at the slightest hint of success.

Toxic's best Friend: If there is no food visible, and there are Toxic, the Skags will approach them and try to obey them.  Unbound Skags are rather dumb and hard to control, but they can do simple things.

Muscle Memory: Skags that have no food to pursue or Toxic to please will do whatever they normal did in life.  They may repeat stuff they said frequently, or carry out tasks they did frequently.  But they are not still Human, and any inspection will clearly show this.

- Pursue food with no regard for your safety
- Have no fear or self-awareness
- Find and please Toxic

HD Varies  AC as armor  Atk as Weapon
Mor 7    Saves Varies

Eldritch: Can only be killed by magic or magic weapons.  Damage that would have killed them from non-magic sources instead just stuns them.  They can make a save to recover from being stunned.

Bullet Sponge: Subtract -1d6 from all Firearm damage.

Regeneration: Toxic can regenerate 1 HD a round. 

Berzerk: If you push a Toxic too hard, wound them too badly, or drive them into a hole deep enough, they'll come back swinging, and hard.  All Toxic have a 1-in-6 chance of going Berzerk each round, with a +1 bonus to the roll (boosting it to 2-in-6, 3-in-6, etc) if there are any of the following affecting them:
- They are in a very intense situation that they feel they have no chance of getting out of
- They are under a lot of emotional stress
- They just ate human flesh
Do not roll for a Toxic to go Berzerk unless one or more of these factors is present.

- Attack the strongest enemy
- Fight intelligently
- Fear only Magic and Fire

How many HD does this Toxic have?

2: Toetag.  The new meat.  Wouldn't be surprised if they croaked tomorrow.
3-5: Toxic.  The rank and file.  Might make something of themselves, given a few years and some luck.
6-7: Veteran.  This Toxic knows what they're doing.  A smooth operator, a few notches on his pistol.
8: Profane.  This Toxic is considered one of the Elite.  They've been around, they have connections, power and money.
9: Influential.  When this Toxic talks, people listen.

What armor are they wearing?

1- Nothing.  AC 10.
2- Bulletproof vest.  AC 10, but can reduce damage from any firearm attack by 1d12.
3- Stabproof vest.  AC 13.
4- Improvised Steel armor.  AC 14. 
5- Tactical Gear.  AC 15.
6- Riot Gear + plastic shield.  AC 16, and can reduce damage from the first firearm attack that damages them by 12 damage, but after that the shield breaks.

What weapons do they have?

1- A big knife, machete, or sword.  Does 1d6 damage.
2- A pistol.  Does 2d6 damage.
3- A shotgun.  Does 3d6 damage at close range, 2d6 at medium, and 1d6 at far.
4- A rifle.  Does 2d8 damage.
5- A chainsaw.  Does 2d6+2 damage.
6- Roll again, and whatever it is, it is enchanted to have a special magical effect.

Do they have any Vectors?

1-n-6 chance they do, with a +1 bonus for each HD over 2.  For more powerful Toxic, they have more than 1.

Additionally, if the abilities below do not please you, you can also give the Toxic the following abilities:

Vector: The Toxic can cast the following Vectors at will.  The Toxic has a number of power dice equal to their HD.  These power dice burn out on a '5' or '6'.

To determine which Vectors the Toxic can use, roll here.

Or, roll below if you don't have time to futz about with specific spells.     

Well, what Vector(s) do they have?
1- Scry.  Can't stop remembering what I must forget.  This Toxic has visions of what is to come.

Future Sight: This Toxic can surprise you on a 5-in-6 chance, and has a 75% of knowing where you are before the combat starts.  They also have an equal chance of knowing if you are planning on starting a fight, and will take proper precautions.

2- Biofix.  Nothing is fixed.  My form is my will.  This Toxic can change their shape, for cosmetic or combat purposes.

Roll 1d6 to see what this Toxic has.

What specific Vector do they have?
1- Enhance Senses
2- Bone Grafter
3- Acid Blast
4- Mucus Master
5- Life Finds a Way
6- Liquefy Self

Enhance Senses: This Toxic can enhance their senses to a ludicrous degree, and has +4 to any checks made to find anything.  They can track as well as a dog, see like a cat in the dark, and hear like a bat.

Bone Grafter: This Toxic can create new bony protrusions such as claws, spurs, fins, etc, but also things like keys, lock picks, screwdrivers, hammers, etc.  Any weapons created by this do 1d8 damage on a hit.

Acid Blast: Usable every 1d4 rounds.  The Toxic can, as a full action, spew acid from their mouth in a 15' cone, with a 30' range.  This acid does 1d6, save for half.  Additionally, it does 1d6 additional damage for every round after that, until you take an action to wash it off.

Mucus Master: This Toxic can secrete mucus that is slippery, sticky, gelatinous, pliable or hard.  This Mucus can be used to make rope, webs, glue, or molded into objects.

Life Finds a Way: This Toxic can modify its body so you can survive in almost any environment, from extreme heat to cold to vacuum to underwater.  These changes are slow, and take about a minute to carry out.

Liquefy Self: This Toxic can liquefy its body and flow down a drain or through a tiny space, only to reconstitute later.

3- Velox.  If you go fast enough, the Thrill overcomes the Fear.  This Toxic can move incredibly fast.

How fast are they?
1- Faster then a Human sprinter.
2- Faster then a Cheetah.
3- Faster then a car on the highway.
4- Faster then an arrow in Flight.
5- Faster then a Airsoft beebee.
6- Faster then a bullet.

Speed: This Toxic is fast.  Roll 1d6 and consult the table above.  This is how fast that they can go.  Add this number to initiative rolls, melee attack rolls, and to any saving throw based on speed.

Dodge this: A Toxic with the Velox Vector is hard to hit with a bullet.  For them, if they are not surprised by the bullet, all firearm atttacks made against them from close or medium range count as medium range, and all firearm attacks from far range automatically miss.    

4- Leprox.  Everything is infection, even Consciousness.  This Toxic can manipulate disease, filth and the virus manipulating them.  This Toxic represents an extreme risk of contamination.

Roll 1d6 to see what this Toxic has.

What specific Vector do they have?
1- Infection
2- Expel Worms
3- Animate Virus
4- Toxic Gas
5- Induce Necrosis
6- Body Politics

Infection: This Toxic can, as a full action, force you to make a Saving throw.  On a failure, you are infected with a common disease.  The Toxic must be touching you to use this Vector.   

Expel Worms: This Toxic can vomit a swarm of worms that obey its commands.  These worms, if they touch you, can inflict the same effects the Toxic's touch does.  They can also easily spread the Amirani virus by burrowing through your skin, slipping through your tear duct, or passing in through an open wound.

Animate Virus: This Toxic can, as a full action take their own Odium out and animate it into tiny little organisms, which obey its commands.  These tiny Odium Imps spread the Amirani virus as easily as breathing.  If they enter an open wound, touch the surface of your eye, or enter your body through any other means, you immediately contract the Amirani virus.

Toxic Gas: This Vector is usuable every 1d4 rounds.  This Toxic can expel a cloud of gas from their mouth that fills a 30' space.  Anyone within the cloud of gas must save or begin projectile vomiting uncontrollably.  This effect persists for as long as they are within the cloud.

Induce Necrosis: This Toxic can, as a full action touch another creature.  This touch does 1d6 Con damage and causes the affected body part to begin rotting from the outside in.  This disables the area affected.  If the amount of Con damage taken ever equals or exceeds your Constitution score, you die.

Body Politics: This Toxic can control their body parts and make them move, even if they are separated from its body.

5- Necro.  Flesh made bionic, the Body a Machine.  This Toxic can change their flesh into artificial things, for combat or utility purposes.

Roll 1d6 to see what this Toxic has.

What specific Vector do they have?
1- Strength of Ten Men
2- Scab-Skin
3- Primal Yell
4- Flesh Grenade
5- Flame On
6- Detonation Me

Strength of Ten Men: This Toxic can, as a free action, increase their STR to superhuman levels.  This causes them to get +4 to any checks requiring STR, and do +4 damage when they roll for damage for a melee attack.

Scab-Skin: The Toxic can, as a full action, harden their skin.  Until they deactivate this power as a free action, they subtract 2 from all damage taken.

Primal Yell: Thix Toxic can, as a full action, create a screaming, wailing sound that forces everyone near it to save.  On a failure, those who hear it get -1 to all attack rolls against the Toxic, and are filled with the urge to flee.

Flesh Grenade: Thix Toxic can, as a full action, grow explosives from their body.  These explosives do 1d8 damage, for 10', save for half and can be detonated with a thought.  They can still damage the Toxic. 

Flame On: This Toxic can, as a free action, light itself on fire.  They can extinguish the flames at will.  Anyone touching them takes 1d6 damage.  Their melee attacks also do +1d6 fire damage.  The flames do not damage the Toxic.

Detonation Me: This Toxic can, as a full action, blow themselves up.  This explosion does damage equal to Xd6s, where X is the number of HD the Toxic has.  A saving throw is allowed to halve the damage.  The Toxic will then reconstitute itself in 1d6 rounds.

6- Toxo.  Mind control is Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.  This Toxic can control other Toxic and Skags.  The annointed of Amirani.  Not dangerous because of the Vector itself, but because of how those around them will act under its control.  As with all Zombies, destroy the brain. 

Teamwork: Because of this Toxic's control, all Toxic and Skags with them get +2 to attack if two or more of them are attacking the same target, and get +2 to AC and saving throws.  These bonuses disappear if the Toxic with these vectors die.

7- Dox.  From Suffering, Strength.  This Toxic can heal other Toxic and Skags.

Dox Touch: As a full action, this Toxic can restore 1d6 HD to any Toxic or Skag they touch.  This cannot bring the one being healed over their maximum HD.

8- Gizmo.  Life is an inefficient machine that reproduces efficiently.  This Toxic can infect machines and electrocute people who come near them. 

Lightning Fist: This Toxic can, as a full action, touch someone and release an electrical shock.  This does 1d6 nonlethal damage and forces the target to make a save.  On a failure, they are paralyzed and cannot move because of their muscle spasms.  They can repeat this save every turn.

The Company's Perspective

I cannot say for sure, and I am not one of the Company's Men, so I will instead let their own words speak for them.

"The Sons of Amirani, that is the Toxic and the Skags who attend them, are perhaps the greatest threat to Humanity today.  In this age of instant communication and global travel, outbreaks bloom faster and faster, and spread farther then they ever have been able to.  This problem itself is bad enough, but the fact that the Toxic population has been exploding since 1955 should worry all sane men.  Furthermore, the ones who once protected us, the Order and the Company, they are both stretched to their breaking point, full of opportunists and narcissists, lacking real conviction.  If an outbreak on par with one of the Great Plagues started today, I fear our only chance would be to crush it in its infancy.  If it grew to say, half the size of the Black Death or a quarter of the size of the Spanish Flu, the Masquerade would be rent, and as soon as it was, the Peace would follow, and War will engulf the whole world."

- Joshua Norton Esq. III, White King 1965-2010

"We should have killed them all when we had the chance.  Those twisted Horrors they worship may have been able to resist the bomb, but that doesn't mean that lead and cold steel wouldn't.  Let their Gods wallow in their pools of filth, if we hunted down their worshipers and put them all to the torch, wouldn't that solve our problem?"

- Brian A. Armstrong, Lord Director of the United States, 1977-

"Make no mistake my brothers, the Ninth Plague is coming.  The Zombies grow impatient.  They hate us, loathe us, for we are all they aspire to be.  Living, pure, the holy ones, chosen by God to rule over the World, but more importantly, to rule over them.  They will try and destroy us, that is the truth.  But notice what I said: the Ninth Plague is coming.  Not the Final Outbreak, not the Ninth Extinction, the Ninth Plague.  The Toxic, they want us to accept our ends as tragic yet inevitable, to roll over and die.  They want this because they know what will happen, if Humanity fights, they will lose!"

- Tyler West, Agent of the Chicago Office, 1986-1999

"I am sorry, my friends.  All omens point toward your end.  Whose end, specifically?  No, you misunderstand.  Yes.  They all end.  Everything ends.  But you, Mr. West, you'll never have to live with the shame of knowing you could have stopped it.  Though in truth, those hear will likely only feel that.  In truth, it was inevitable, and no action on your part could have changed it.  The game was rigged from the Start."

- Julia Estafan, Prophet, speaking to Team SWRD, 1998 

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