First created by the necromancer Maire, the Monsters are the fusing of an undead being (the zombie father) and a living one (the human mother) and thus carry the properties of both.
Like their father, Monsters have beyond normal strength and stamina and are very difficult to kill. The only ways to reliably do so are decapitation and burning them to ashes. Wounding a Monster may make it break off the attack, but a Monster can keep walking with even the most dire wounds (although the mental discipline needed to withstand the pain is enormous).
Also like their father, their bodies do not replenish on their own. If a Monster is cut, the bloodless wound will not heal, no matter how much time passes. The same is true for broken bones, scrapes -- all the big and little hurts that life visits upon them. The pain continues to pile up until the Monster chooses to heal them, at some cost to itself.
A Monster can only heal itself through tapping one of two energy sources: Flesh or Soul (yes, Monsters do have a soul of their own -- more on that later).
Flesh and Soul
Flesh is the energy that a Monster receives from consuming living beings -- human or animal. Metaphysically, this is akin to tearing off a chunk of the victim's own soul to use as fuel, and is incredibly painful and psychologically scarring to the individual. The Monster receives less energy from freshly killed corpses than they do from live ones, and no energy at all from corpses more than a few minutes old (so ground hamburger is NOT a substitute). Any flesh -- down to grubs -- will provide the Monster with some life energy, but as a rule, the more intelligent the life-form is, the more Flesh energy a Monster can get from it. This appetite for living flesh is greatest when the Monster is a child, during the period of quick-growth from infancy through adolescence. This is also when they have the least self-control.
Soul is a limited pool of energy that the Monster carries within itself. Burning it ages them slightly, but it is roughly ten times as efficient as burning Flesh. That is to say, the monster will gain ten times the speed/strength etc when burning Soul as opposed to burning Flesh. Wound heal almost instantly, all physical attributes are enhanced to superhuman levels. Burning Soul alone will fuel a Monster's growth from infancy through late childhood, but is generally not enough to get them through adolescence. A Monster must consume Flesh in order to arrive at full adulthood.
Given the control they have over their own life-force, a careful Monster
can essentially choose when it is going to die. If it wishes, it can
expend all of its remaining Soul in one fast burn, assuming a nearly
ethereal appearance while doing so.
Or it can preserve its Soul with scrooge-like care, expending tiny sips
at a time when its hurts finally become too much for it to bear.
Monsters in the World
Monsters are unable to reproduce, being sterile hybrids of two different beings. As such they are
exceedingly rare. Six were originally created in Maire’s dark
experiments, but the rituals required to produce more were encoded in The Book of Mother Monster and sent out into the world. Most who have tried to replicate them have failed, but some have undoubtedly succeeded. Being so rare, Monsters have no society of their own, and most ordinary people have no knowledge of them.
The most notable part about them, however, is probably their special status in the eyes of the gods. No god -- not even the God of Death -- can touch them, or lay claim to their soul in any way. They are essentially "outside the jurisdiction" of the gods, and thus immune from most clerical magic (including healing). This can be an advantage for a Monster, but can also prove very frightening as well, as the Monster is given absolutely no assurance of an afterlife.
Playing a Monster
Like their human mothers, Monsters have human-level intelligence and their personalities vary wildly with the individual. They also appear quite human-like, save for a few small quirks; cool, waxy skin, the inability to bleed, and the fact that their hair and fingernails do not grow (they must burn Soul for that) come to mind. A full-grown Monster will often sport a completely bald head, because their hair has a tendency to fall out unless they are actively burning Soul to replenish it. Monsters also have no need for sleep and can work tirelessly, though resting is still beneficial for their very human-like brains.
The closest thing to "family" that a Monster has is typically the
necromancer who presided over his or her creation (the father having
long since decayed, and the mother most often dying in childbirth). As
such, Monsters can be fairly twisted individuals -- a reflection of
their twisted home life and upbringing.
The Original Six
Anndrais, the Patron:
The first-born and eldest of Maire's monster children, albeit only by
several months. Anndrais's mother was Siùsan, the timid redhead who
Maire first found wrapped around her husbands loins. Being the first and
most volatile of Maire's experiments, Anndrais has some troubles with
his regeneration; it seems he must expunge twice as much of his soul to
replenish just as much flesh as his younger brothers and sisters do. In
spite of his increased need for flesh consumption, he only rarely preys
on humankind for sustenance; only when his wounds dire or his craving
Anndrais took much of Maire's teachings to heart and became quite well learned. In adult life, he is a land owner; playing the game of politics and holding quite a high standing in the courts. Anndrais hides his 'affliction' well, and very few people know of his true nature.
Being the eldest, he considers himself guardian of his younger siblings and will always seek to help them in any way he can - whether financially, or using his political power to get them out of trouble (yet again!!), or finding his poor, weak youngest sister a tasty beggar to sate her thirst on. While Anndrais rarely gives into his craving for human flesh, he forgives even the most bloodthirsty of his family for their discretions.
Anndrais's Plot Hooks:
- The PC's have been invited to dinner at the manor of Anndrais. The lord is quite accomodating and pleasant. However, something does seem... odd, about him. Hopefully Anndrais isn't TOO hungry or the PC's may not make it out of his manor alive!
- The brave PC's have managed to slay/lock away an undead menace who has been terrorizing the town, killing beggars and prostitutes in alleyways! But soon, the militia is after them instead! The whole town has turned against the PC's, as Anndrais uses his power in the courts to criminalize them, as revenge for daring to attack his younger brother!
(Anndrais and plot hooks submitted by Shadoweagle)
Ghleanna, the Maggot Cruncher:
Second born, Ghleanna was possessed of the fiercest hunger. For her entire life, it has been a daily struggle to restrain herself -- leading her to seem unnaturally quiet and withdrawn as she fights for inner control. During her youth she lost the battle far more often than she won it, and very nearly gave into complete savagery during the turbulent years of adolescence.
Her saving grace was Iseabal, the youngest Monster. Ghleanna felt a fierce protective instinct for the weakling child, but had to learn to be gentle and safe when around her. After all, if Ghleanna really cut loose, she would terrify the kind-hearted Iseabal into tears. So profound was the impact of this relationship that Mother Monster required that the two go everywhere together, at least until Ghleanna had reached full adulthood.
By the time Iseabal passed away Ghleanna had gained a small measure of self-control, but without her sister she didn't feel safe around others anymore. Although Anndrais offered her protection -- including well-guarded seclusion -- Ghleanna opted instead for hermitage. She set out into the wilderness and walked until she found an uninhabited valley, far from the nearest human settlement.
There, she lives in a near-constant state of meditation. The only food she allows herself are maggots and other insects, which she cultivates in a large compost heap near her small wooden shack. These she keeps in a bowl or pouch near at hand, and can often be seen absently pulling a handful out to feed upon.
Ghleanna's Plot Hooks:
- It has been half a century years since the time of Mother Monster, and a hermitage has grown up around the valley where Ghleanna sits in seclusion. The monks believe that Ghleanna has found the path to holiness, and attempt to emulate her in every way (up to and including the consumption of live maggots). They believe that "the Lady of the Valley" has found the key to everlasting life, and rumours about the eternally unaging woman have slowly spread outwards, attracting visitors. Ghleanna is so deep in her meditation, that she takes little note of the people surrounding her. If she were to sustain a grave injury or be otherwise knocked out of her meditative state, however, the peaceful monks may find that there is a monster in their midst.
- Several centuries after her last sibling perished, Ghleanna is the only original monster left in the world. When a cult of human necromancers rises, intent on starting the zombie apocalypse, she may be the only creature who can give the PCs vital clues on how to stop them. Perhaps she can be convinced to leave her solitude to help protect her Mother's legacy. Or perhaps she will simply lose control when they manage to wake her.
Erienne and Tavis, the "Twins":
Clawing their way forth from their mothers' wombs within several hours of each other, Erienne and Tavis have been inseparable from birth. They had similar interests, similar senses of humor, and found that they could read each other very well as they grew into adulthood. For those in the close-knit circle of Maire's family, it came as no surprise when they announced their engagement on the eve of their 20th birthday.
Of the original six, these two were perhaps the most at peace with their dual parentage. They feel no remorse for their "unusual diet", and privately laugh at those of their siblings who cannot accept their own nature. As the twins grew, they applied themselves to their studies, and became their Mother's most trusted assistants and confidants.
When she died, they were not content to raise her as a mindless beast, forever a slave to her own hunger. No, nothing short of perfection would do for their dear mother. They carefully preserved her body in a state of non-decay, encased in a special box of their own design. They then expanded on her research, writing The Book of Mother Monster over the course of several years.
The twins remain aloof from Anndrais' meddling and from Faolin's blunders, living in solitude on their Mother's old "country estate".
The Twins' Plot Hooks:
- The twins constantly strive to perfect their craft, and the creation of new types of undead was a big part of that. Intelligent undead, in particular, were of primary interest. Using Anndrais' contacts, they managed to secure a steady source of live test subjects from the local slums and prisons (harnessing the intelligence and/or soul of a person after death was a much more difficult feat). The party gets involved when the wrong person gets fouled up in the twins' experiments, and are hired by the victim's relatives to track him down.
- After years of research and experimentation, the Erienne and Tavis have finally done it! They have created a form of undead that is both intelligent and stable, yet doesn't require the lengthy breeding process developed by their mother. These new "blood-drinkers" are strong, fast, and can create new offspring via a simple bite to a living host. The twins have created about a dozen to serve as their personal slaves, but are considering the creation of a whole guard. Doubtless Anndrais would be interested in securing a company for himself. What happens, then, when the blood drinkers rebel against their masters and escape into the general populace?
Faolan, the Wolf:
Faolan is a predator, and he knows it. He revels in his superior strength and burns "flesh energy" almost constantly to give him an extra edge in speed and endurance. He fuels this burn by feeding far more often than any of his siblings, to the point where it becomes a real problem to hide from the general public. While not completely feral, Faolan sees everything but himself and his siblings as potential prey, to be treated with contempt.
Above all, Faolan loves the hunt. When he was young, small animals like cats and dogs were enough to satisfy his need for the chase, but they became boring once he learned all their tricks. He moved onto bigger game then, like elk or even bears. By far the most interesting opponents he faces, however, are human -- particularly strong, capable folk with some fighting ability.
Anndrais keeps Faolan pacified by taking him on regular hunting excursions to the wilds, and by occasionally finding a suitable mortal or two to loose within the vast grounds surrounding his manor. As such, the two brothers are very close. Anndrais appreciates Faolan's carefree demeanor and wicked sense of humor, though he dislikes his younger brother's carelessness. Faolan benefits from Anndrais' calm control, and sees in his brother a fellow hunter (albeit a frequently boring one).
Faolan's Plot Hooks:
- Faolan is sick of running down the occasional guard or mercenary, and wants a real challenge for once. The party has been "volunteered" for this purpose. Perhaps Anndrais was upfront with them about it, they were offered a rich reward to attempt the challenge. Or perhaps they were lured into it with the promise of wealth, only to be betrayed later. Or maybe they were just clubbed over the head and dumped on the grounds. However it happens, the party is stripped of all magical weapons/aids/supplies and left with common weapons. Will they be able to outwit their supernaturally strong opponent and make it out alive? Even if they do, zombie bites are contagious you know . . .
Iseabal, the Heartsick:
Most in touch with her human side, and most despising of her own nature, Iseabal is a very sick child. She refuses to eat except in the most dire circumstances, and thus has very little energy with which to grow. She has spent most of her own soul's energy to get through childhood, but has no reserve with which to attempt puberty.
Iseabal hates and loves her mother in equal parts, but adores her elder brother Anndrais who takes care of her. Though somewhat frightened of Ghleanna's latent ferocity, Iseabal makes a special point to accompany her sister everywhere so long as she stays within the manor grounds. But Iseabal fears to go outside, for any injury she sustains at all will add to her mounting pile of hurts.
She has tried everything to get over her "affliction", including consuming normal foods, fasting for extended periods of time, and praying -- always praying. Iseabal fears death with as much fervor as she hates her life, and so is stuck between both. Her greatest wish (apart from being a normal human girl) is to gain some insight about what will happen to her soul after death. Will she burn up into nothingness, or will she be cast adrift, unclaimed by any of the gods?
Iseabal's Plot Hooks:
- Erienne and Tavis have developed a process by which they hope to "cure" Iseabal of her humanity, making her more accepting of her whole predicament. They plan to do a "soul-graft" between Ghleanna and Iseabal, thereby helping both of them immensely . . . if the procedure works. Iseabal has gotten wind of the plan and has run away, taking Ghleanna with her. There is a rich reward posted for the return of the two missing monsters.
- Iseabal has been entertaining various clergy within Anndrais' manor home, a practice he tolerates because it seems to calm her. She has befriended one of them, a monk by the name of Odhran, to whom she has revealed her family's dark secret. Odhran has promised her that a cure exists for her condition, in a monastery far to the South. This is, of course, a lie. Odhran is attempting to buy time in which to make the journey and warn his brothers about the new undead "menace". Odhran departed over a day ago and Anndrais needs someone to hunt him down before he reveals the family secrets to anyone. He hires the party for that purpose. Expect Iseabal to try and thwart the party in whatever way she can (up to and including hiring mercenaries of her own to protect Brother Odhran or to intercept and intimidate the party). (seed idea provided by caesar193, expanded upon here).