Friday, August 23, 2013

The Hill Cantons Bestiary: Polymufs

Yesterday's goofball post on the custom Reincarnation table (that I will henceforth be using in the eponymous campaign) reminded me that I have been slacking in my write-ups of the horde of custom monsters I have been using. My typical excuse is that I don't tip my hand to the players, but the qualities of many of these critters are well-known to them at this point—so here we go.

The following "poor dear" creatures are an homage to the work of late John Christopher, in particular the supremely dark, post-apocalyptic Sword of the Spirits series which I ate up with delicious pre-teen anguish. They played a starring role as relatively sympathetic NPCs in the mini-campaign “dragon hunt” sideshow that took place on two small islands far to the south of the Cantons. 

No. Enc: 2d6/1-100
Alignment: Chaotic (Good, Evil, Whatever)
Movement: 120’
Armor Class: variable by armor
Hit Dice: ½ (house polymuf)/1 (field polymuf)/ 2 (feral polymuf)
Attacks: 1
Damage: weapon
Save: F0/F1/F2
Morale: 6/7/10
A firm, but unfair social order greets newborns on the Southlands island of Ptuj. Plagued by two centuries of increasingly bizarre mutations among the population, the local Rada (council) long-ago issued a decree-- irrespective of family social station--that all residents would be divided into three castes on birth: (at least visibly) deformity-free “citizens” (who wear their feathered hair and pastel tunics tied over the shoulder as a sign of their superiority), the “dwarfs” (midgets who are second-class craftsmen but ostensibly free), and the enslaved “polymufs” (the visibly-deformed, semi-free underclass of the island).

While many polymufs remain cowed by the centuries of servitude, others who style themselves “polymuf and proud” have weathered the treacherous local currents and slipped off into the Weird to found “freegan” maroon colonies built around a life of hand-me-down ancient literature and communal living. Life is tough for the feral maroons, yet there is a certain panache and skill in arms that accompanies those that truly “live freegan or die.”

Deformation Table (Roll d20 for each polymuf)
1-2...Almost passable (deformation under the clothes line)
3-10...Minor visible deformation
11-17...Major visible deformation
18-19...1-4 deformations at least one visible
20...Major deformation and mutation (1-4 physical, 5-6 mental on Gamma World 1st edition mutations table)  


  1. I had completely forgotten this series, lost among similar mutie stories, which is odd as this series or Orphans in the Sky was likely the first place I encountered this trope. It's only when I'm looking at authors like Youd that I realize just how ephemeral children's fiction is, well and how often some things get recycled.

    1. Sadly yes, Youd may cling to some transitory relevance for the Tripods books but probably not terribly long. I think my other YA pillar from childhood, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books, may have a bit more long haul in them.

    2. Even the uniqueness of No Blade of Grass, with it's method of apocalypse, has been borrowed by Paolo Bacigalupi.

      I think someone is bound to rescue Alexander from his growing obscurity, he's a victim of a couple of bad attempts at movies. The sad thing is, no movie you end up unknown.

  2. I loved this post - will use the stat write up in my game. As for the books - I am re-reading them right now and it does give me a blast of nostalgia, however, I always thought they were ripe for converting into a series of games. I know them (in England) as The Prince In Waiting books.

    I guess they might fall somewhere in with the often-maligned John Wyndham genre of disaster books, but that does not diminish my fondness for either author.