Monday, March 26, 2012

M.A.R. Barker Homage Contest Winner

With a loud boom on the gigantic tunkul gong suspended above my writing desk, I am pleased as punch to announce the winner of the Barker Homage Contest, the first of the two-headed contest from last week (the HC travel tip winner coming in a couple hours).

And the winner is...Barry Blatt with his entry for the Gétlen, an ever-lovable arachnid found on that hot, metal poor planet. Just keep that nasty f*cker away from your skull cavity. Big congrats to Barry for this excellent bit.

Gétlen – The Phase Spider
NA: 1-6
HD: 2
AC: 2
T: nil
M: 12”/18”
L: 90%: 1-12
T in L: A:75

“One must beware the glowing eyes of the Gétlen; they hang in the dark and she espies all through their pallid light. Then she shall creep by way of the eighth corner of the Nexi, reaching grél-ward with her left claw and vráz-wise with the right and thus clutch the Báletl before extracting it and delivering it unto the Demon Chegéth…”
- Anonymous document on the Underworlds, found in the Library of the Temple of Qón in Khirgár.

“May a spider f**k your brain!”
- Traditional tomb-curse used by the Temple of Grugánu.

The Gétlen is usually only found in caves and in the underworld. It is the result of the wave of mutation that followed the fluxes of trans-planar power when Tékumel was isolated. It is 50-70 cm across, with eight very long and skinny legs, though when it runs it appears to have more than this and in repose it is hard to make out all its limbs at once as some project into other dimensional spaces.

It is usually a pale dirty white color, though it can change to black or any monochrome pattern it chooses using chameleon like color cells in its skin. Its dozen or so eyes are always a beady black, and have a disconcerting habit of disappearing and reappearing as the spider espies matters in other planes than our own.

They make labyrinthine webs up to 100m across in tunnels and caves, and even along especially dark and dank forest floors. These are hung every couple of meters or so with small glowing globules of transparent slime, each with a tiny black eyeball floating inside. These provide enough light for the spider to see normally, but are dim for humans. While the spider is hanging onto certain magically enhanced strands of its web they also enable it to spy on who is passing to and fro. Its sense of touch is also exquisitely sensitive and the merest breath of a draft from a moving creature will attract its notice and it will scuttle along its web to investigate.

The spider has two innate psychic abilities. It can detect invisible creatures and attack them at no penalty. It is alleged that some Gétlen have opened nexus points to escape foes or to summon demonic assistance and that they have driven people insane using magic.

Their poison induces hallucinations, terror and then convulsions and results in 3-18 hours of unconsciousness (see below). The fate of the victim depends on how hungry the Gétlen is; may insert its transplanar mouthparts through the skull and suck out the brain via the fourth dimension, leaving the rest of the corpse for scavengers or it may lay eggs inside the skull. A corpse with a missing brain but no visible sign of head injury is a sure sign of a Gétlen attack.

The host of a clutch of Gétlen eggs may not know anything about it, waking up in a dank underworld corridor or a grimy back alley in a city thanking their lucky stars that they are uninjured. Bit by bit they will succumb to a strange disease of the Pedhétl, losing emotional affect and becoming very placid and calm while also subject to random visions of the horrors and delights of the planes beyond, which they will relate in a deadpan fashion while stumbling around cross eyed. After a few weeks they will become possessed by an irritating urge to sneeze while being unable to do so.  When they do finally snort, the roof of their nasal cavity will collapse releasing what is left of their brain and dozens of Gétlen spiderlings from their nostrils.

The symptoms may be treated with Khapá cactus berries and even a mix of ordinary stimulant like Chúmaz with Mághz powder can keep a person awake and dull the intensity of the hallucinations. Treating the egg infestation itself is more difficult. Only an expert in psychological disorders will recognise the source of the problem, and those who know the spell Seeing Other Planes may perceive the infestation quite easily. A spell of Cure Disease will kill the eggs, which will then putrefy inside the skull causing the loss of 1d20 Intelligence and 1d20 Psychic Ability, requiring a Heal Serious Wounds spell and several months to repair. The priests of Meshmúr, the aspect of Thúmis who cures internal injuries, have a specific ritual to remove these eggs and expel them into another plane, but it requires many costly sacrifices and incenses to perform. The other alternative is brain surgery, an uncertain process in an age without antispectics, sterile operating rooms and anaesthetic.

It is alleged that the priests of Grugánu have spells that enable them to control these beasts and to use their webs as spying devices, and that some Thúnru’u keep them as pets. It is also thought by some scholars that the Gétlen is not native to Tékumel but is instead a demon, with the substance of Avánthe and the essence of Hrü’ü.

Those that know their underworld lore recognize that the presence of Gétlen is an indicator of high magical energy in the vicinity, perhaps a powerful magic item or a major protective spell on a secret shrine or tomb. It would appear that Gétlen require this kind of magical aura or an area of local interplanar weakness to survive; they have certainly never been encountered in any magically barren or semi-barren areas, and those who are very knowledgeable about the beasts know that surrounding it with a Sphere of Impermeable Quiescence will kill it outright, and a successful Dispel Magic spell renders the creature blind and stuns it for a few seconds. They induce utter terror in the uninitiated, but a knowledgeable sorcerer can handle them.