A Preview from Beneath the Sea! - Threats!
As promised, the first of two Threat! previews for this week, before sharing the entire Threat! Chapter from the manuscript on Friday. One of the best things about the antagonists and creatures from They Came from Beneath the Sea! are the different roles and motivations that they slot into - these creatures and aliens don't all want the same thing, aren't always working toward a common purpose, and don't necessarily pose similar threats. By mixing it up, you can keep the action and intrigue flowing in your game and working to build an entertaining story!
Into every compelling narrative some tension must fall. The heroes, setting foot upon the stage of story, must face a challenge greater than themselves, or sometimes within themselves. The protagonist versus some intrinsic flaw in their own inner nature is one of the fundamental building blocks of narrative. So, too, is the valiant defender against an external threat. Supplication and deliverance, rivalry and vengeance, pursuit and daring enterprise, misfortune and disaster, love and self-sacrifice, all of these themes form one of the foundations of the plot.
The other corner of the foundation is the antagonists, which in this case are the They in the title of our enterprise. Much of both the drama and the humor of the stories to be played out upon the sound stage derives from these beings: the alien creatures from beneath the waves, the strange and previously unknown beings whose goals and ambitions for the surface world, and the human race, will likely form the core of any conflict. They are as many as, well, there are fishes in the sea, with their own forms, their own objectives, their own powers, and their own technologies.
They are all divided into several types — Destroyers, Enslavers, Invaders, Primordials, Spies, and other, more Terrestrial threats. Below you will find Them in all their scaly, web-fingered, slime-trailing, betentacled glory.
Unlike your characters, threats do not incur Injuries. Aliens just have Health, and the number of Health Points an alien possesses reduces when damaged. When an alien reaches 0 Health, it either dies or lies prone, depending on the Director’s preference and the manner by which it was attacked.
Destroyers are the most physically powerful of all the alien types either naturally, due to their enormous size or their gifts of biological weaponry, or by design, mechanical beasts constructed by physically less-impressive aliens to wreak havoc on their enemies. Many of these creatures are fundamentally mindless, rendered aggressive and perilous to others by the manipulations and technologies of more intelligent creatures. Those that are, themselves, intelligent are among the most dangerous of their kind, capable of precisely directed violence and absolute carnage unimaginable by lesser beings.
Destroyers exist in fundamental opposition to Survivors, individuals who have been forged in the fires of conflict and violence.
Survivors gain one additional die on all physical-based rolls made against Destroyers.
Destroyers gain one additional die on all physical-based rolls made against Survivors.
“Oh, God! Send help! They’re coming out of the water! They’re…they’re eating every—”
— Transmission received by the Shimmering Point Police Department
Aquatepillars are horrible, mindless, rampaging beasts. They pull themselves up from the depths of the ocean and slither up on land, where they hunt relentlessly for food. They’ll eat whatever organic matter they find, including plants of sufficient size, but they seem to prefer meat. Their appetites are enormous — a few aquatepillars can work through a herd of cattle in less than an hour, leaving behind nothing but piles of foul-smelling excreta and a few undigested bells.
Aquatepillars resemble huge, writhing maggots. They appear in a variety of colors — some are dark blue with yellow splotches, some are bright red or green, some are pure black, and some are bone-white. Scientists assume that these colorations mark differences in species or native region, but so far the subject hasn’t been extensively studied (mostly because anyone that gets close enough to examine them tends to get eaten). The smallest aquatepillars are roughly 10 feet in length and two feet in diameter, but much bigger ones (up to 30 feet in length and 10 feet in diameter) have been reported. The really big ones don’t venture too far from the ocean, however; it seems they run the risk of collapsing under their own weight if they stay out of the water too long.
Aquatepillars don’t have visible eyes, but they seem to be able to sense living things. When they do so, they charge at the potential food source, emitting horrible gurgling and roaring sounds (scientists speculate that these roars might function as a primitive echolocation method; they’re not sure about the gurgling, though). The beasts aren’t fast, and anyone in a motor vehicle can escape them easily. Despite their slowness, aquatepillars aren’t to be underestimated. They’re relentless and tough, and hiding in a structure just ensures the beast will batter down the walls to find the tasty morsel within. Likewise, touching them is unwise. They are covered with fine hairs that irritate and blister the skin of any living creature that comes into contact with them. Repeated exposure can cause illness or even paralysis.
In the ocean, aquatepillars are far more dangerous. Their bodies undulate with a graceful rhythm, and they swim faster than most boats. They can expel water from orifices at either end to propel themselves in short bursts, or to breach the water and land on the deck of a ship. So far, they haven’t figured out how to smash into the hull of a ship in order to sink it.
One of the most interesting questions about aquatepillars is: If they really are analogous to caterpillars, what might they turn into? No chrysalid or pupate form of them has ever been discovered, but if they retreat into the depths of the ocean to enter this form, it would be very difficult for humans to find. An aquatepillar that emerges from a cocoon might take on butterfly-like (or manta ray-like) characteristics, might be able to fly, or might simply become a gigantic sea centipede with enough legs and pincers to rip ships and buildings alike apart. Prevailing thought dictates it better just to kill the aquatepillars whenever possible.
Rumors speak of other seaborn races hating and fearing aquatepillars. The Suspended, in particular, avoid them because the aquatepillar is one of the few creatures not bothered by the vast quantities of slime the Suspended create. Indeed, the aquatepillars seem to find it delicious, greedily sucking down the slime blobs and eels within.
The goals of aquatepillars are simple: consumption and metamorphosis. Unintelligent to human minds, this species of crawling, slithering creatures has communicated nothing more detailed to its prey.
After a spate of disappearances and eyewitness accounts, Tumbleton puts itself on high alert against the aquatepillar menace. When a few plucky heroes track these creatures to their shorefront lair, however, they find an injured aquatepillar trying to care for its larvae. It looks at them sadly, snuffling and shaking in fear.
The stats below reflect an “average” sized aquatepillar. The Director should adjust these stats in either direction for a larger or smaller one.
Skills: Athletics 3, Close Combat 3
Attributes: Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Resolve 2; Might 4, Dexterity 2, Stamina 5; Presence 1, Manipulation 1, Composure 1
Setae: Aquatepillars have thousands of thin, bristle-like hairs on their bodies. Sometimes these hairs are easily visible, and sometimes they are fine enough that witnesses don’t notice them, but all aquatepillars have them. When living creatures touch these setae, their skin becomes itchy and irritated. Prolonged exposure can make organisms ill and even lead to paralysis. Roll four dice against a protagonist’s Stamina. On a success, the protagonist suffers an increased Difficulty on all actions until the area can be thoroughly cleansed. More severe effects (like paralysis or illness) should be reserved for supporting cast members, but might also appear as Complications.