Monday, 27 September 2021

Memory-Eaters: Giant Silkworms


The caterpillar is a most voracious creature. It is known that a brood will strip a tree of all its leaves — if they are not pecked off by birds first, that is. But those worms that weave silk are prized and protected... and provided with as many mulberry leaves as their mouths can munch... 

Such caterpillars won't stop eating until it's time to change... but for some, the time to change doesn't arrive when it's expected: those worms do not stop growing...

A Hint of What's Coming

Once silkworms reach the size of a fist they require flesh in order to feed. Once they reach the size of an arm or maybe a leg, they become particular about the flesh they imbibe. 

Humans are their favourite, for in the Here & Now the flesh and spirit are one, and in the spirit resides memories, which silkworms favour most of all: this is not widely known, but those close to the forest might warn travellers if they regard them favourably.

A sure sign is long strands of silk hanging from the boughs of tall fruit trees... Giant Silkworms descend on that strand of silk once their prey is directly beneath them. 50% of those encountered descend in an initial sortie.

Giant Silkworm [larva]

No. App: 4d4
HD: 1d8
Defence: 11
Attack: 1 bite (12; 1d8)
Morale: 6
Speed: crawl 15’ descend/ascend 40' 
Size: Small
Mind: Insectoid, predatory.
Terrain: Forests.

If their initial attack misses, they immediately ascend. If the attack hits, roll damage as normal, but they also latch on with their small but powerful jaws. Roll 1d12 to see where they land:

1-4: Shoulder or upper arm: quite common when arms flail upwards in an attempt to swat the worm away.
5-8: Forearm, hand or wrist.
8-10: Abdomen, upper thigh, rump.
11: Ear, nose or cheek
12: Top of the head

The following round, if they have not yet been removed, the silkworm will ascend upwards, tearing off a piece of flesh in the process, and causing automatic attribute damage or other complications as player and GM see fit. It will digest this meal for a round or two while its brothers and sisters descend in a second sortie. 

As it does so, the character feels a memory fade:
  1. Memory of the last ten minutes (or the ten minutes before that if already lost)
  2. Memory of the previous day (or the day before that if already lost)
  3. Memory of exile (roll again if already lost) 
  4. Memory of origin (roll again if already lost)
  5. Memory of a member of the party/band (Roll again if all band-mates are now forgotten)
  6. Memory of self (lose true name, become Nameless One: drop WIS or CHA to 0)
  7. Lose a curse affliction (roll again if not applicable)
  8. Lose a spell spirit (roll again if not applicable)
Clever PCs will be able to out-manoeuvre the worms from the ground (they can move faster than the slow-crawling, poorly-sighted silkworms) but they can't always be sure how many are above them, and can easily wander right into the descent path of a hitherto unseen worm. A wounded worm won't descend again if it has already eaten.

It takes a long time for a silkworm to fully digest a memory: a pariah cannot simply kill the worm, eat its flesh and reabsorb those lost thoughts... instead they must wait until it pupates.

Moon Cocoon [pupa]

As the giant silkworm accumulates delicious memories, it begins to build a fractured identity for itself. It comes in flashes at first, but ultimately the silkworm is overwhelmed.

At this stage it prepares to pupate: it finds a high, sheltered spot and wraps itself in a silk cocoon, a process that takes several hours.

It sleeps... dreaming only of the moon.

An encounter with a group of silkworms has a 5% chance of being merely cocoons: in this case there will be 4d4 of them hidden in the upper boughs of the tress, though they are detectable form the trails of silk. Otherwise there will be 1d4 cocoons. Finding and retrieving them will involve some risky climbing.

A single giant cocoon is approximately the size of a wild boar, and about half as light. A skilled craftsperson can spin it into a yard of silk in a day or so, as long as they have the proper tools.

The real prize is the pupa... therein resides the memories.

To gain the full benefits, the pupa must be eaten whole by one individual. It must be eaten raw: heat, acid or air-drying allows the memories to evaporate. A hardy constitution is required: any part not digested result sin no benefits conferred.

Roll 1d4 times on the chart below to receive the benefits of other memories:

Consequences eating the Moon Pupa (1d12):

  1. Fractured wisdom: insight into the lives of others damages the ability to separate illusion form reality, but grants greater warmth and empathy.
  2. Unseen servant: The composite memories assemble themselves into an entirely new organism which can be summoned once a day for an hour. It functions like an elemental of the Moon Realm.
  3. Family history: you learn the complex lineages of a far-of clan, sufficient to pass as a member of that group with minimal effort. 
  4. Lie Detector: you understand the worst lies are those that we tell ourselves and, once per day, may instinctively recognise when someone is attempting to deceive you.
  5. The Old Songs: The melodies of myriad cultures are burrowing into your ear like a silkworm through a mulberry leaf. Once (and only once) in your lifetime you may perform a song of such unnatural beauty that even the goddess Aziza would be charmed 
  6. Old Ways: you learn something of a peculiar magic from a time long past. This might manifest as a spell-spirit or a ritual.
  7. Wayfinding: you can never get lost, and can always trace the fastest route from your current location to anywhere you've been previously.
  8. Lore: you gain new knowledge pertaining to one of the following languages (including literacy), healing, entheogens, herbalism, horticulture, animal handling...
  9. Divination: once per moon, the pariah may peer up to ten minutes into the immediate future. How this works is discussed below.
  10. Alt: the pariah gains an alternate identity, almost all the memories of a charismatic victim of the silk-worm. Using disguises or illusions they may assume their identity entirely.
  11. Affliction: the pariah gains a curse template (chosen at random) and an affliction from that template.
  12. Inspiration: as with a heroic dose of sleepflower, the pariah is inspired to create a great piece of work (a sculpture, megalith, earthwork, rock painting etc.) that will surely be admired for generations.  
Of course, if this so happens to be the pupa of a worm that stole a pariah's memories, they regain these automatically.

Spirit Moths [imago]

The final form of the giant silkworm is that of Spirit Moth: they emerge from their cocoons on the night of a full moon and fly directly towards it, returning the memories to the silver lake.

It is rare indeed to witness this sight but, if pariahs are patient, they might be in for a great reward.

If they are able to capture and subdue the silk moth they gain D4 effects as above, but also the moth can be conjured once a day as an elemental ally.

No. App: 1
HD: 2d8
Defence: 12*
Attack: 1 bite (12; 1d8)
Morale: 7
Speed: fly 40’ (120'), walk 10' (30') 
Size: medium
Mind: Insectoid, alien, sapient.
Terrain: any.

instead of conjuring the moth the pariah may use them as a moon-spirit to invoke magic of divination, clairvoyance, sleep and creativity.  

Alternatively, it's wings may be ripped off and fashioned into a magical cloak, endowing the wearer with the power of flight.. This has the effect of destroying the beautiful spirit immediately

Sorcerer's Silk Garden

Due to the potential to harvest great magical power, many unscrupulous sorcerers (and what sorcerer is not without scruples?) will cultivate a silk garden close to their home, enabling them to harvest the memories of travellers. Indeed, a really cunning sorcerer might use glamers or charms to further trick travellers into sacrificing their flesh (and thus their memories) willingly.

Such sorcerers are obsessed with the moon and are almost always sleepflower addicts.

Divination [narrative mechanic]

A simple divination mechanic: Pariah is awarded the power to see up to ten minutes into the future (once a month)
  • Player declares when this is utilised: the party then play out the next ten minutes.
  • If they are happy with how things work out, they continue as normal.
  • If they wish, they may "rewind" the game to any point within that ten-minute window, to represent them seeing how things work out, and instead attempting a different approach


The domestication of plants and animals is a huge part of the Neolithic. Perhaps the big story is the domestication of cereal crops or  the transformation of wolf from sworn enemy to best friend... but its sericulture that has my attention at the moment. This is partly mainly due to their presence in someone else's  Louis' PARIAH game (as moon spirits) but I also wanted to nod (yet again) towards the Gardens of Ynn, which features carnivorous silkworms utilising sticky strands to ensnare wanderers in the gardens.   


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My new procedural hexcrawl adventure, Heart of the Primal Unknown, is currently available (PWYW) on DTRPG:

Please be aware that hard copies of PARIAH are STILL available to buy from Soul Muppet:

I'm informed this is not the case with Exalted Funeral, but hey- ask them, maybe they'll order some more!

You can obtain PDFs from the following online vendors:


  1. This is great. Absolutely love the idea of mundane creatures being able to reach a level of monsterousness through time lived and actions taken. Really cool.

    1. Thanks. I'm trying to think of things from the perspective of the people who live in a prehistoric world and work up from there.