Saturday, January 14, 2012

Horla (Wermspittle)

No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 1
Damage: Special
Save: F2
Morale: 6

Wicked, invisible creatures, the Horla literally prey upon the minds of humanoid beings whom they regard as little more than slaves, chattel, food or playthings. They look upon most other living organisms as crude animal-machines. Arrogant and ruthless, the Horla move about among humanoids at will, unseen and aloof, tormenting those whom they choose to toy with, and dominating the minds of others who might somehow serve them in their inscrutible schemes of world conquest.

Horla can use Arcane Eye and ESP at will. They use Cause Fear and Confusion once per HD per day (some have more than 3HD). Some Horla have the ability to use Antipathy, Mind Blank, and/or Maze. Others have begun to master the fine art of spell-casting and are conducting horrific human experiments aimed at making the knowledge and memories of their victims available for the Horla's use. Other, more subtle and duplicitous Horlas pose as servitor-spirits, even acting as familiars to those sorcerers and magicians they've managed to fool and in that way have gained access to various spell-books or begun to learn how to cast spells by studying their 'masters.' At least until the Horla finally learns how to cast their own spells, or the 'master' begins to suspect that something might be amiss, at which point the Horla strikes them down. There are rumors of spell-casting Horla who have taken human slave-familiars, but this sounds like a bad joke and is hardly credible. Or is it?

A Horla will attach itself to a victim and regularly intrude upon their mind, body and soul while they are sleeping. Each dedicated night of haunting drains one point of any one attribute from the victim, as chosen by the player. A Horla using this ability to slowly drain their victim grants the Horla either the temporary (1d4 hours) use of the drained attribute point, or if the Horla accumulates six such points over the course of consecutive nights, the gain of one permanent point in any of its attributes (CON, INT, WIS, DEX, CHAR only--no STR as they are immaterial). There are rumors of Horla rituals that drain a victim of their physical vitality in order to grant the Horla a physical, material form...but this has not been corroborated by any reputable expert. Such a rite would be both heinous and quite dangerous to possess, and would no doubt attract the attention of any number of Horlas interested in such things.

A Horla can feed upon the vital essence of those whom they slay by means of a variant form of Trap the Soul that they can only use upon those who die as a direct result of the Horla's torment. Each such soul devoured grants the Horla one additional HD. Horla are obsessed with gaining personal power and will go to great lengths to consume the essence of their victims. Once they have begun to feed upon someone, it is often a psychic duel to death.

The Horla cannot be seen, except with the aid of such things as various occult powders, spells or perhaps a fine spray of enchanted ink. What one might actually see once they do succeed in making the Horla somewhat visible is uncertain. Attempting to reveal their form will provoke the Horla to a murderous rage and this is probably why no recorded image exists for Horlas in any of the established literature. Claims of capturing the image of a Horla in some self-etching mirror, daugherrotypes, enchanted cameras, and so forth have all turned out to be fraudulent or at least highly suspect. So far. The new-fangled Phantasmotype process touted in several of the more popular journals seems like it might be able to settle this matter once and for all...if anyone can manage to successfully bring the mechanism to bear and survive the encounter...

The Horla consider themselves to be the next step in evolution, as far above humanity and its relations as they see themselves as being from cattle. The Horla intend to take over the world and relegate all other sentient beings to a slave-status. Those who oppose them are threats that must be disposed of summarily. Those who would serve them are disposable tools to use-up quickly, before they betray their masters as they would their own kind. Horla are unforgiving, ruthless and care nothing for loyalty.

An Imperfect Remedy
Many back-alley magic peddlers sell a wide selection of charms, trinkets and talismans that they claim will ward off the Horla, but most are just so much trash and worthless junk suited only for making money off of the gullible. One thing that has been proven to give at least temporary relief against the depredations of Horlas is to encircle one's bed with a rope braided from the tanned hide of an Unseen Beast. This tends to confuse the Horla and has a base 30% chance to drive them off for a night. It may also be possible to modify a Planar Lens or a properly prepared and Tinted Mirror to either drive off or (theoretically at least) destroy a Horla...but very little has been actually attempted or accomplished in this area to date.

Source: The Horla was originally written by Guy De Maupassant in 1887. You can read the text of this story at the East of the Web or the Online Literature sites, among dozens of other options. It is an excellent story that takes inspiration from night-terrors, the lore of being hag-ridden, psychic vampirism, and the notion of being haunted as usually dealt with in ghost stories and transforms all of it into a new form, a fresh motif that remains fairly modern and eminently creepy even today.

1 comment:

  1. I think you've hit the mark. It looks like you've added plenty of depth, but it fits, and develops out into other genres. It may even be you've made the thing scarier, but staying very true to the kind of fear it is. The Enigmatic section is superb, and chilling, and the haunting mechanism could be used very well to add a growing terror to a campaign.


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