First, where did this come from? Several things inspired this concept. First was a religious look at serving a god of gluttony and what powers he would bestow upon his clergy and there was Supernatural, first season, episode entitled Wendigo. Maybe a little inspiration came from mad cow disease.
Second, for purposes of this submission I will be adjusting the definition of cannibalism. As per wikipedia, cannabalism is the practice of humans eating the flesh of other humans, or a species consuming members of it's own kind. For the purposes of this submission, cannabalism is any sentient, intelligent, biological humanoid who consumes any other sentient, intelligent, biological humanoid. Therefore a human who eats an elf or a troll who eats a dwarf is a cannibal for the purposes of this submission, whereas wikipedia and other sources disagree. You might feel the need to return to the original definition after reading this submission or tamper with it further. Up to you.
Thirdly, I truely hope that this magic and idea will be used by GMs for NPCs, particularly NPC villians and not PCs. This is dark magic intended for the evil & weak to get power. The power is therefore a bit over the top and has severe drawbacks and therefore not ideal for PCs. However, again I leave it up to your discretion.
With these things said, bon appetite.
The magic of Cannibalism or Asuramancy is the weird sister of Necromancy and a distant cousin to Alchemy, although Alchemy denies it. Where Necromancy, bridles the power of the dead often using death or undead to achieve it's goals, Asuramancy consumes the dead and its power giving it to the living. It is a rare art and like Necromancy has huge social stigma around it in the civilized world, although Asuramancy tends to have a worse reputation.
Asuramancy is a ritual magic most notably used by witch doctors of jungle tribes and the occassional shaman of a barbarian clan. Among other humanoids, goblin, hobgoblin, kobold, and orc shaman or witch doctors are likely to know this art and rarely troll, minotaur, lizardman, troglodytes, and ogres have been known to know it. Others who seek it out are those willing to pay any price to attain their goals. These individuals must be desperate and consumed by a need that no other source (except perhaps witchcraft) can supply. This art is not complex and creatures of lower intelligence can learn it in many months or a year. A wizard or alchemist who is already familiar with magic can be taught all there is to know about Asuramancy in a number of weeks. It is kept alive mostly out of tradition and for survival. Not all cannabalism is Asuramancy, as without the right magic catalysts, cannabalism will have no lasting affect on the cannibal, except the social stigma of course.
Like the magic, the idea behind it is simple... to consume the flesh of an enemy is to gain their strength. Their inner strength or their powers will become mingled with your own life and power, creating a new and often unstable life and power. The Asuramancer can use his power on either himself or another. The changes prompted by the act are permanent (except being possessed by an evil spirit explained below) and cannot be undone except by wish.
Eater – the one who is the target of the Auramancy, the one to eat and be modified
Asuramancer – the one who is using art, can also be the Eater
Victim – the one who is going to be eaten
There are two degrees to which the ritual might be performed. To perform the greatest the victim must be killed by the hand of the one who will be the Eater no less than 12 hours before the ritual, and the ritual must happen at midnight. The Asuramancer paints blood symbols on the Eater in the victim's blood, parts of the victim are removed and treated with special magical herbal ingredients and is sometimes cooked depending on the victim (some Asuramancers have complex cookbooks that may or may not affect the outcome of the ritual), the Eater and Asuramancer chant quietly all while this happens. As an hour progresses the chanting gets louder and at the end of the hour or so, the meal is prepared. All become silent as the Eater eats and the magic soaks through his body. The Eater is then often tied and gagged by friends or family until dawn. The Eater is likely to cause damage to himself or others as he will be stricken with seizures, sweats, twitches, and muscle spasms all night and will remember the night as a painful and terrifying ordeal. By morning the ritual is done and the Eater will be different. This is the basic ritual, but many tribes add chanting, dancing, a feast of other bizarre animals for guests, and other events to bring the whole tribe together to celebrate the event.
To do the lesser ritual an Asuramancer must be present and up to two other components of the ritual are not done as per specs above. (i.e. the Eater is not the killer, the ritual is done in broad daylight, the herbal ingredients are lacking, the corpse is older than 12 hours, no blood symbols can be painted on the Eater probably due to an old/dehydrated corpse)
The Favourable Changes -
The Greater Ritual – the attributes of the victim and the Eater are compared. The Eater's old attributes are replaced with the higher of each compared attribute. The Eater is randomly given up to three of the victim's racial abilities, innate magical abilities, skills, feats, or unique abilities. Most abilities gained are frozen at the level of the victim and never get better or worse with time (see special outcomes below). The Eater's maximum vitality or hit points is increased by many points.
The Lesser Ritual – same as above, except all but two of the attributes of the victim (randomly determined) and the Eater are compared. The Eater is randomly given up to two of the victim's racial abilities, innate magical abilites, skills, feats, or unique abilites instead of three. The Eater's maximum vitality or hit points is increased by a few points instead of many.
After the ritual has been performed on the Eater, later rituals have an increased effect on the Eater. The Eater gets the Basic Changes with the below modifications. For the list below, the victim's best attribute would be the prerequisite attribute or the highest, in case of a tie the best attribute is randomly determined among the tied attributes.
After the 2nd ritual, the victim's best attribute is counted as being two higher in the comparison.
After the 3rd ritual, the victim's best attribute is counted as being four higher in the comparison.
After the 4th ritual, the victim's best attribute is counted as being four higher in the comparison and the Eater gains all the victim's racial abilities, innate magical abilities, skills, feats, and unique abilities.
After the 5th ritual, the vicitm's best attribute is counted as being six higher in the comparison, the Eater gains all the victim's racial abilities, innate magical abilites, skills, feats, and unique abilities, and the Eater's maximum hit point total is 50% higher.
After the 6th ritual, the vicitm's best attribute is counted as being six higher in the comparison, the Eater gains all the victim's racial abilities, innate magical abilites, skills, feats, and unique abilities, and the Eater doubles their maximum hit point total.
After the 7th ritual, the vicitm's best attribute is counted as being eight higher in the comparison, the Eater gains all the victim's racial abilities, innate magical abilites, skills, feats, and unique abilities, and the Eater doubles their maximum hit point total. The Eater also gains demonic natural weaponry.
Special Outcomes – at the GMs discretion, if a special cookbook recipe was used on the Greater Ritual a special outcome might occur. Examples of this might include the Eater polymorphing/reincarnating into the victim's race, abilities stolen might be applied at the Eater's level and can improve with the Eater's other abilities at level changes, the Eater's level goes up to the victim's level (if lower), any favourable or unfavourable bond might transfer from the victim to the Eater (like a contract for a soul or a magic item hard wired for the victim's use only), the victim's memories are bestowed to the Eater, the victim's natural weapons are conferred to the Eater, all languages known by the victim are now known to the Eater, and so on. I would be extremely creative with this and use it in a case by case basis.
The Unfavourable Changes or Side Effects -
The victim is completely inferior to the Eater – if when comparing the attributes of the victim and the Eater, it is determined that the Eater gains no attributes, the Eater's attributes are replaced by the victim's and none of the other benefits are applied to the Eater. This phenomenon ensures that children, handicapped persons, village idiots, and other degenerates are rarely the victims of Asuramancy.
After the first time – If not Lawful Good (or the equivalent), the Eater has a moderate chance for an alignment change moving preferrably toward chaotic but also could be towards evil. If the Eater by some strange twist of fate was Lawful Good, he makes the aligment change no questions. The Eater also has a small chance of contracting an insanity (see the insanity table below). It is not uncommon for someone to have no adverse affects after just one use.
After the second time – The Eater has a high chance for an alignment change moving preferrably toward chaotic but also could be towards evil. The Eater also has a moderate chance of contracting an insanity. Finally the Eater has a small chance of being possessed by an evil spirit. It is rare, but not impossible to go through the ritual a second time with no adverse affects. Many Asuramancers stop here and will go no further.
After the third time – The Eater, if not Chaotic Evil (or an equivalent), will go through an alignment change if it wasn't triggered by the first or second time. The alignment change as specified above will be preferrably towards chaotic but could also be towards evil. The Eater has a high chance of contracting an insanity. Finally, the Eater has a small chance of being possessed by an evil spirit. The Eater now prefers humanoid flesh to all others. Few Asuramancers will go beyond this point.
After the fourth time – The Eater, if not Chaotic Evil (or an equivalent), will go through a second alignment change. This alignment change will be preferrably towards evil but could be towards chaotic. The Eater contracts an insanity if the previous rituals have not caused one yet or the Eater has a moderate chance of getting a second insanity. If the Eater already has two insanities from this ritual he has a small chance of getting a third but cannot contract a fourth yet. The Eater has a moderate chance of being possessed by an evil spirit. The Eater now has an uncontrollable craving for humanoid flesh and will need to be actively restrained when in the presence of humanoid bodies to avoid feeding.
After the fifth time – The Eater, if not Chaotic Evil (or an equivalent) will go through a third alignment change. This alignment change will be preferrably towards evil but could be towards chaotic as well. The Eater now contracts a second insanity if he hasn't already. If the Eater already has a second insanity he has a moderate chance of getting a third or a small chance of getting a fourth. The Eater has a moderate chance of being possessed by an evil spirit. The Eater's physical appearance is starting to warp. The Eater now is plagued by an insatiable hunger for humanoid flesh and must be restrained at most times to avoid attacking and eating humanoids (It's safe to talk to him if he has a full stomach, that's it). It is extremely rare to find a Asuramancer who will go beyond this point.
After the sixth time – This ritual has a small chance of killing the Eater. At the conclusion of the ritual, the surviving Eater is now Chaotic Evil (or an equivalent). The Eater now has four insanities, induced from these rituals. The Eater emerges possessed by an evil spirit. The Eater's physical appearance is very warped and vaguely demonic. The Eater has little humanity left and is basically a monster whether or not the evil spirit is removed.
After the seventh time – This ritual has a moderate chance of killing the Eater. At the conclusion of the ritual the surviving Eater has five insanities, is possessed by an evil spirit, and for all intents and purposes counts as a demon. The Eater's physical appearance is very demonic. Someone getting to this stage is almost unheard of... it's something of legend.
The eighth ritual – kills the Eater... everytime.
If possessed by an evil spirit – There are probably other guides out there that you might want to use at this point to determine what happens here. However, the jist is that the evil spirit will attempt to use the Eater to do some damage in one way or another. The spirit can be banished, exorcised, or otherwise trapped. When that occurs the Eater returns to his old, ahem, new self.
Here is a list of possible spirits you might want to use:
The Warmonger – this spirit is the essence of non-functional mindless aggression. The possessed Eater will try to destroy everyone and everything in it's path. If the Eater were properly bound during the ceremony, this spirit might act docile until the host is freed.
The Traitor – this spirit is very subtle, and possibly the most dangerous. The Eater will act just like he always has only perhaps a little more sedate than usual. At some time in the near future will do something to try to kill everyone around him, like poisoning food or a well or lighting the buildings on fire, or maybe more extravagent like summoning a demon lord.
The Shrieker – this spirit is the most obvious and will shriek and wail until removed from the host. The shrieking makes eating or drinking impossible for the host and if the spirit isn't expelled in a number of days the shrieker will leave taking the host's life as it goes.
The Psychic – this spirit has it's own set of psionic powers and uses them to abuse the locals.
You most likely have better reference material, than what I mention here and I encourage you to use other Stolen submissions, role-playing references, or psychology text books. However, that being said there are a few insanities I think deserve special mention. If you don't understand what I'm referring to below please consult other sources for full definitions, etc.
Multiple personality disorder – this fits the situation like a glove. You may or may not want the extra personalities to be the victims. Alternatively, they could be representatives of victim's personnas only greatly exaggerated. Going with the Special Outcomes (above) you could have a physical characteristic of the Eater change depending on the personality in charge of the moment. Also if the Eater gets to advanced stages, you could have one or more of the personalities beat the curve and not be cannabalistic like the dominant personality.
Schizophrenia – the ghosts of the Eater's victim's tend to talk to him making him paranoid, hostile, and constantly seeking relief. Again this could be played up as real or as an insanity.
Finally other suitable insanities include: an irrational power lust, phobia of sunlight, necrophelia, manic depression, social anxiety disorder, paranoia, and kleptomania
An Example -
Just in case my explanations were inadequate and some of the mechanic's of the magic were not understood, I present this example:
A chaotic neutral shaman (an Asuramancer) of the Clan of Cloud's Reach has just scored the killing shot on a rampaging troll. The shaman realized this is a golden opportunity to increase his power and influence with his own tribe and well as other tribes. Aware of the risks, he ordered his apprentice to cut certain parts of the charred troll's remains and harvest as much blood as possible. That night he performed the one and only ritual of the Asuramancer, which he had only completed one time before. With the ritual completed, his apprentice left him in a cave a short distance from camp, having tied his bonds tightly. He attempted to wrestle through the agony until dawn. When the dawn finally came, everything was different... his intelligence was the same (his intelligence was higher than the troll's and stayed the same)and his arms were freakishly strong (his strength has been replaced by the troll's strength as it was higher). With a simple twitch, his bands broke and fell from him. He stood gazing at where his bonds had gouged his flesh. After a few moments he cursed his luck... of all things he hoped for, he had hoped and prayed that he could heal like a troll. Why hadn't it worked? He remembered there was no sure things with this, but the rage consumed him. As he looked around he realized the cave was much brighter than it should be. That was the power he had taken from the troll, not healing but the ability to see in the dark. He fumed and he fumed and fumed... why was he so badly cheated? Surely the magic and the gods should have given him the healing. If he'd been given the healing he could stop now but no... he had to hunt another troll immediately and try again. Suddenly, he noticed his apprentice in the mouth of the cave. He was being addressed.
A short time later the shaman looked down on the body of his apprentice. There is no way he could tolerate being spoken to in that way by a mere apprentice. Why had he been so disrespectful? It's not like it's the chief's right to summon me whenever he wants. I'm the Shaman... I control the magic of this tribe, I'm not to be trifled with. The fog of anger lifted for short moment and the shaman realized what he had done. Shedding not a single tear for his now dead apprentice, the now chaotic evil shaman left, abandoning his home in search of another troll, to try again.
Randomness vs Prechosen -
As GM there is a bit of tailoring yet to do. I propose that Asuramancy is best used in a controlled manner with any randomness done and agreed with long before the gaming session. If, as GM, you may want to transfer a more powerful magic like a spell casting ability such as a sorcerer, wizardry, or a dragon mark, you might want to adjust the character in such a way as to now multi-class. For example if a goblin were to slay a wizard and then consume him using asuramancy... as described you could have a smart goblin with all the wizard's spell knowledge and perhaps guild secrets. Keep the game in your court... or this ability is useless.
Large Sized Humanoids -
In my example I used a troll. I can fully understand why you would want to leave large and huge sized humanoids out of the range of this ability. If you do decide to allow it, I would attribute at least some of these creatures strength to their frames, their size, and due to mechanics (leverage), with these considerations not all the strength attribute would be transferred. I suggest lowering it by at least a few points if not several. I would consider a percentage as well. Your game, your call.