Thursday, 2 September 2021

Nightmare Fruit

The world is changing: the way of life of the hunters,  herders, foragers and fishers is compromised by those that grow and plan. With this new subsistence strategy comes new ideas: not just about how to obtain sustenance but also about our individual rights and responsibilities.

These rights seem to vary from one person to another, rather than equal among all peoples.

It is a curious and alien thing for outsider to observe: people having stopped being people, transforming into the parts of a grander mechanism. Behind this transformation might lie many hands: the servants of dusk, or the emerging cult of the Sun & Heavens... but most insidious of all is the cult of the Nightmare Fruit...

To understand the cult, we must first understand the fruit: but be warned... shaman warn that while it offers great insights, its final gift is the greatest lie yet told.

CONTENT WARNING: mild body horror, descriptions of horrible things, death, drowning, panic and being forced to swallow things.

The Fruit of Nightmares

  • A small tomato,  purplish-white when fully ripe.
  • It grows in shady, temperate forests, or at high altitudes in more tropical climes.
  • Incredibly poisonous at all times, but only potent when ripe.

Ingesting the fruit

  • The taste is bitter but also slightly spicy and slightly sour (the sourness is more intense the riper the fruit).
  • For each fruit an individual ingests, make a save vs. Poison, approx 20 mins after ingestion
  • Pariahs my add their entheogen dice to this save.

For each failed save gain an effect in order:

  • Blindness lasting one hour
  • Paralysis lasting one hour, trouble breathing
  • Splitting headache: 1d6 int damage (temporary)
  • Intense pain: 1d6 HP damage
  • Crippling fear: 1d6 damage to wis (temporary)
  • Coughing up blood: 1d6 con damage (temporary)
  • Save vs. Death or die; pass and receive 1d4 permanent damage each to con, int and wis

Insight of the Nightmare Fruit

For each ripe (and ONLY ripe berries) berry ingested, regardless of saves, the user gains one insight in sequence (alternatively, roll 1d8 and re-roll repeats):

  1. A warm liquid envelopes your entire body. It is warm, but it stings ever so slightly: it is accompanied by a sensation of floating. it is not entirely unpleasant, prompting the "wise" to remark it is a memory of the time before birth, carried in the womb of the all-mother. The enlightened know better.
  2. You are trapped in a box of some kind. You pound your fists on its sides, but the barrier is inescapable. The "wise" claim this represents the cage of the body. The enlightened know better.
  3. Liquid is filling your lungs. You are drowning. You struggle and fight but cannot pull yourself to the surface. The "wise" will remind you that this represents the futile struggle against death. The enlightened know better.
  4. Sharp shocks ripple through your body, causing your limbs to jerk and your body to convulse. The "wise" say this shows how we are never really in control of this shell: we are ghosts riding on the backs of flesh-and-bone beasts. The enlightened know better. 
  5. Something is stuck in your throat. It is cold and alien, and trying to work its way into your stomach. Already you know it is too late to do anything about it, if only you could accept it into you... yet still you resist, though you know it is futile. The "wise" believe this to be the refusal of humanity to swallow the bitter truths about existence. The enlightened know this to be only a small part of the bigger picture.
  6. With great effort, you open your eye: you see a world tinged by straw-rose, with crimson bubbles swimming upwards. Peering back at you, as if through a veil, is a chalky-complexioned cyclops. Its single is a deep red with a black, slit-like pupil. It tusked draw drops in tandem with your own gasp of astonishment: this monster is you. The "wise" say this is because we're all monsters inside or whatever... the enlightened shake their heads and smile, somewhat sadly.
  7. Dream Visions of the Frozen City of Polaris: in a fast-cut montage you behold visions of  an endless village carved from white ice, populated by humourless cyclopeans, worshipping  a White Sun. They speak only of preparation for a coming war, drilling endlessly for an invasion that never comes. They stamp out weakness and individuality, which they believe to be the same. The "wise" say this is the beginning of the lies of the nightmare fruit: were the enlightened to hear such things, they would strike down those that uttered them.
  8. The Panic: a combination of the first five insights, accompanied by an increasingly loud droning noise and a mounting sense of panic. The "wise" have no words. The enlightened know this is preparation for the next step.

If a pariah is able to witness all 8 insights in one sitting they obtain the fabled ninth insigh.

A Butterfly Dreaming it was a Person

Following all eight insights the user falls to the floor, apparently dead: though close listening reveals that their heart is still beating... just incredibly slowly. Their skin grows cold as their body goes into a form of hibernation.

In the land of Polaris, a new servant of the White Sun opens their eye.

As the liquid drains from the vat that has been your womb since your artificial conception, you sink to the cold floor. The feeding tube is pulled from your throat, and numerous cables and electrodes detach themselves from your chalky-white, hairless skin. A tall figure, similar in appearance to yourself—long-limbed, tusk-mouthed, cyclopean—hands you a crimson robe, similar to the one they are wearing.

"Aberration," they say, with a tinge of disgust, "send them to the front."

So begins their fabled campaign.

* * *

Polaris: Design Notes 

When I wrote the post Sketches for My Sweetheart, The Beyond, I included a reference to the realm Polaris as both an inversion of the realm of the Sun but also in homage to HP Lovecraft's short story Polaris

If you've read the story by Lovecraft, you'll know that a central theme of the protagonists decline is his inability to distinguish between dream and reality. So you see, dear readers, what a clever-clever thing I have done here! Look upon my blogposts and despair!

Granted this is not an original conceit (I'm not claiming to have done anything not already explored by Plato or Zhuangzi) but I think it's a fun possibility to present to your players: dropping into a parallel nightmare realm where their characters can lead different lives and chase different goals.

In fact, if you want to know the real Stewart Lee, clever sixth former type conceit at work here it's this: given a choice between the two lives (one as pariah, one as cyclopean frontier guard in the nightmare city of Polaris), what will they choose? Will they spend their waking days in the Here and Now, dreaming of that cold place and its simple, brutal auhoritarianism? 

Note that I said players, because they will make that choice after all, but where does the character end and player begin?

(Bong hit, exhales, utters banal truism and goes back to sleep)

Final note:

I was not at that time aware of the RPG Polaris. Reading between the lines I think there may have been some elements of that game in RRD's conception of High Elves in Spire.

Anyway, if through some weird google magic you were looking for that and instead found this, here's a link to that game:

It does look pretty cool.


* * *

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 the following retailers:

You can obtain PDFs from the following online vendors:

No comments:

Post a Comment