Monday, February 6, 2012

Ungeziefer (Wermspittle)

No. Enc.: 1
Alignment: random
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 1 (claw or bite)
Damage: 1d6 or 2d4
Save: MU4
Morale: 6

Victims of unexpected verminomorphosis, the Ungeziefer are filthy, sewer-dwelling bipedal insects that have lost their humanity to the malevolent sorcery of cruel and callous spell-casters. Bitter at their plight, and driven underground by the Sewer Militia who have standing orders to kill any of these supposedly diseased, plague-spreading creatures on sight, they have lost their place, lost their bodies, and in most cases even lost their minds. Those especially driven past all endurance or expectation of ever recovering any semblance of what they barely remember as their human existence have even lost their souls, giving over their disgusting, insectoid forms to possession by unclean spirits, lurking horrors, cthonic powers, demons and worse.

Legionaire Ungeziefer
No. Enc.: 1d4
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 8
Attacks: 2 (Claws, Bite, Spew, and or spells/powers)
Damage: 1d10/3d4/special
Save: MU8
Morale: 10*

Wicked, debased and completely, utterly given-over to dark powers, these hideous insects scuttle about in the deep, dismal declivities beneath Wermspittle prowling for victims. These things are more or less just walking shells of translucent chitin animated by groups of spirits, ghosts, or whatever. If the body is broken-up into small enough pieces, the intangible/immaterial parasites are dispersed. Each of these horrific things chitters insanely in a dozen or more voices at once and can use 1d6 random spell-like powers. They almost never use weapons. If pressed in combat by a foe that shows some sign of having a chance of beating them, they will attempt to spew a stream of psychic pollution at the most vulnerable-looking/wounded member of their opponents in the hopes that this lingering, toxic ectoplasmic stream will give the evil entities within the possessed Ungeziefer a chance to possess one or more of their foes. Anyone reduced to zero or lower hit points by one of these vile creatures will be animated as a cacozombie host to 2d8 unclean spirits within the following 1d4 days.

But Not All Have Given Up...Yet...
But not all are so far gone. A few, very few, of these forsaken and abandoned individuals still retain some sense of their previous identity. These few, human-thinking dreamers skitter about on the very periphery of society, watching from their subterranean vantage points, watching and waiting and hoping for some chance to redeem themselves, to reclaim the lives that have been stolen from them. In the darkness and filth, these Ungeziefer brood upon the wrong done to them, and they plot revenge both bloody and inhuman in its ultimate execution. But then, their humanity was taken away from them. They're just filthy, unwanted insects now...though they could maybe use a little help with their schemes...

Inspiration: In Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa wakes up to find himself transformed into an insect, at least in most translations of the text. A lot of what Kafka wrote is not strictly, directly convertible into easy-peasy English translations. For example, the word used most often by Kafka to describe Samsa's new form is 'ungeziefer,' which, in Middle German, means an "unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice," and it is more akin to a bug, vermin or some dirty-nasty thing best not directly described, rather than a straight-forward insect. In fact, Kafka did not want the form of his protagonist to be depicted at all--he wanted it to remain something indeterminate, unspecified, ambiguously disgusting so as to better demonstrate Gregor's own disgust at his situation, but alas, the book cover got a big cockroach put on it and the rest is history and be damned whatever the author intended or wanted. Nabokov was convinced that Samsa had been transformed into a beetle, not a cockroach, not a dung beetle, but just a big beetle with wings underneath its carapace, but then Nabokov was a lepidopterist as well as a play wright, so maybe that counts for something. Or not.

You can find a handy online version of Kafka's Metamorphosis at Project Gutenberg, another version is hosted at this site devoted to Kafka, and you can find a copy of Nabokov's lecture on The Metamorphosis including a link to his doodle of the Samsa-beetle on the first page of his teaching copy of the book, which wasn't as thrilling to actually see, really...kinda expected something a little bit more interesting after first hearing about his take on things...oh well; Great Literature can be pretty disappointing at times. That's probably one more reason why it has to be taught in schools, to captive audiences...

Also, so as not to be all literary and crap, the extreme metal band Imperial Vengeance did a song inspired by Kafka's Metamorphosis called 'Of Insect and Allegory,' so the Ungeziefer is not only literary, it is Very Metal as well. Just saying...


  1. This is very well-done. I don't suppose you have read Prof. J. Vandermeer's "Finch"? It is one of the most sustained icky, Kafkaesque narratives in the genre.

    You might find it has a bit of a Wermspittle vibe.

  2. Hello! Thank you. 'Finch' has been mentioned as something that we really need to read soon, by a friend. We have been reading a lot of old stuff, tons of really old stuff (Pre-Stapledonian Sci-Fi, Wells, Machen, etc.), including a large number of super-cheap paper-backs from our last trip down to Dreamhaven (including a few things from Norton, Monteleone, Akers, Dalms, van vogt, Simak...). We'll move Prof. J. Vandermeer and 'Finch' to the top of the must-get-now list. We've heard his work compared favorably to Mieville and that's good for sales, but we've been a bit hesitant to pick-up things that look like band-wagon jumping or squatting or derivative works rooted more in Mieville's work than in his source of inspirations. We love the root texts, the shared corpus we all get to draw upon and add to...but we're not so interested in the crassly derivative stuff calculated to sell X-units to 'people who liked (insert-Y/author-name-here).' From the looks of a quick You! We certainly DO need to take a good look into this stuff. I think this is something that Trey might have also suggested as being quite good. Might be worth taking a break from Piper and Heinlein, Rabelais and Agrippa, and all that really antique stuff...
    Oh damn. 'Finch' is part of a series, isn't it? Where to begin...

  3. I enjoyed "Finch" a LOT more than "The City and the City" (and Mieville's my favorite contemporary author - I even enjoyed "The Iron Council" which most of my fellow lefties seem to hate). I found "Finch" pretty accessible, and hadn't read the previous books in the Ambergris setting...

  4. I have not read 'The City and the City,' it just might manage to get picked-up eventually, but I'm far more intrigued with 'Kraken,' from the reviews I've noticed...but I'm incredibly slow to pick up new books right now--I have a lot of old stuff to get through first. After clearing-out several hundred old paper-backs, I've been gathering a lot of cheap Seventies paper-backs, old Pulp stuff, and that sort of thing. Thankfully, I do tend to read fairly fast, so I am making progress.

    I really enjoyed about a third to half of 'the Iron Council,' but the book seemed confused and like it was grafted together clumsily--now that is clumsily for Mieville, who has proven to be a stellar talent, mind you--that book might have benefited from being broken apart and re-written as two distinctly different books. The section where he deals with golem-making was quite good. And I am a big fan of rail-roads. I think that it might be possible that this particular book suffers because we've all come to expect so much more from this author. It also got a bit preachy, and well, that tends to kill even some of Heinlein's stuff for me.

    'Finch' sounds like it would be well worth getting right away. I am rather impressed with Vandermeer's work like 'The situation,' which is quite wonderful. His city of Ambergris sounds fascinating. I am very much looking forward to reading this--thanks again for the recommendation!


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