Friday, September 2, 2011

Sharpened Hooks: The Azoth Symbiote

Another parasite?  All right, then.

I have a signature character named Paul St. Claire.  In at least one of his appearances, his background involves falling in with a postmodern alchemist and engaging in some experiments.  Paul is just an apprentice at this time, he doesn't really remember how the experiment is put together; he only recalls some of the reagents he used.

Once again, this can be used in any setting by changing the tone or the ingredients.  Obviously, the currently alchemical feel fits best in fantasy, but give it science trappings and it can be a new synthetic organ.  And everyone has one, now.

Anyway, as written, Paul doesn't remember the ritual that makes the Azoth symbiote, just some of the ingredients.  They are (in no particular order):

Aqua regia (nitric acid and hydrochloric acid in a 1:3 ratio)
The subject's blood, urine, semen, and other base secretions
Red Bull

Once mixed properly, these reagents coalesce into a small, fleshy object about the size and shape of an egg.  The caster must consume this — it's soft enough to swallow, but it tests your gag reflex; if you chew it, you'll ruin the working and you'll almost certainly vomit because the bilious substance in the egg tastes wretched.

After a bit of waiting, some transformation takes place (most likely, the egg hatches, although it's impossible to see what's happening).  The symbiote nestles into your body somewhere around your heart.  Over the course of a day or so, it starts making changes — you might look a little younger, and all your blemishes and scars fade.  When this is done, the symbiote has melded with you completely.

The Azoth symbiote keeps the host alive, pure and simple.  The symbiote might help the host resist disease and poison (including alcohol and recreational drugs), or it might nullify them completely.  The symbiote will regenerate damage, regrow limbs, and even bring its host back from the dead (in most game systems where I've used this character, regenerating limbs and returning from dead require power expenditures — mana, Quintessence, Willpower, charges; whatever your game system uses — though this requirement was largely for game balance, I suppose).  It is possible that it becomes more powerful with time, perhaps regenerating its host more quickly or without expenditures.

The most interesting part of the symbiote is what it eats, though.  It can eat just about anything, but it gains power by eating alchemical reagents — gold and mercury are classics, but any appropriate substance can apply (typically, if it's expensive or disgusting, go for it).  The symbiote's maw will even help chew substances that human teeth were never meant to chew (when I was LARPing Paul St. Claire once, I bit a golem made of mercury because my other weapons weren't affecting it).  In general, if it eats alchemical substances, I allow the character to regenerate the aforementioned "power expenditures" — so a character might regain Willpower by eating gold, for example.

And one more thing: the symbiote can regenerate, but it's fragile.  The character can still die if his heart is targeted (the attack will probably hit the symbiote, too), or if somebody physically beats him down and cuts out the symbiote.  This will instantly kill the host, and the symbiote will likely die shortly thereafter.  Unless, of course, one could somehow transplant it...

As usual, customize as you feel fit.  And it is highly unlikely that the symbiote would ever gain enough intelligence to emulate its host's brain functions, causing it to take over the host's body like a puppet.

It similarly stands to reason that, in your science-fiction setting where lots of people have Azoth organs, these organs don't all attain sentience and create a mass of future-zombies that are trying to feast on human flesh for organic nutrients.  For example.

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