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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Races of Finiens: Entomorphs

While the Children of Arachne have the most certain origins, being one of the most recent races created after the ascension of their ancestor, the Entomorphs have one of the most mysterious and, in many ways, one of the most tragic. These mothlike humanoids, with their complex compound eyes, chitinous exoskeleton, elaborately-patterned wings, small secondary arms, have a bizarre, disturbing, and ultimately unknown origin, tied inexorably with a small and seemingly innocuous creature of Wachara's Olori Lands - a fist-sized grasshopper/moth hybrid-like creature known as an Entonyd.

The average Entonyd is a large insect, generally between four and eight inches long full-grown, and is usually dull green, blue, blue-grey, or violet-grey in color. Their body structure is primarily similar to grasshoppers or locusts, with two shorter front pairs of legs and an exceptionally larger, longer set of rear legs. However, their heads are extremely moth-like, with rounder and smaller heads, circular compound eyes, prominent proboscis, and short and fuzzy antennae. Likewise, their wings are the broad, fan-shaped, pattern-laden wings of moths rather than the transparent gossamer, webbed, narrow and straight wings of grasshoppers. In addition, unlike either species, an Entonyd's abdomen does not end in an egg sac or ovipositor, but rather a set of spinnerets, more like those of a spider than of a cocooning larva such as a silkworm. Instead, reproductive organs are located on the back between the wings for the female, and on the belly between the legs for the male.

It's unknown if the Entonyds are native to central Wachara, and have been an inhabitant of those rolling plains, low hills, craggy canyons, and swaths of forest ever since the Age of Giants prior to the arrival of Pazioun expatriates and the founding of Anhur, or if they were created sometime more recently and set loose in the wilderness through accident or malevolence. What is known, however, is a bizarre stage in their life cycle that turns what is otherwise an irritating pest - spared the utter devastating potential of its locust look-alikes only by sheer lack of numbers - into a creature capable of utterly changing someone's life forever.

It does not affect all of the species, but Entonyds forced into long periods of hostility, solitude, or hunger develop a paralytic enzyme in their digestive fluids. Theorized to have originally been developed to ease the creature's ability to hunt larger prey in times of food shortage or difficulty, at some time - either through deliberate manipulation, strange evolution, or magical warping - it has instead turned the Entonyd into a bizarre symbiotic/parasitic hunter. The process that adds this enzyme to their digestion also causes the growth of a stinger formation on the end of their proboscis, allowing the delivery of the venom, and (theoretically) an alteration to their behavioral and hunting practices that drives them to pursue far larger game than they would normally consume. When the Entonyd has found a suitable target, it will attempt to sting the creature and attach itself to their body, usually on the back, chest, stomach, or spine at the neck; If the paralytic takes hold, the Entonyd's enzymes rapidly convert its legs and blood vessels into more proboscises, piercing the flesh where it grips and delivering more venom into the paralyzed victim's body. In a horrifying process, the Entonyd finishes the last act of its life by inserting one final proboscis - its spinnerets, which begin pumping silk-like fluids into the victim's bloodstream. Within hours, the victim has extruded silk through sweat glands, fur follicles, scale vents, or other skin-level exit points, wrapping themselves and the Entonyd attached to them in a self-grown chrysalis. This silk exudes foul odors to ward predators away while the metamorphosis within continues and is foul-tasting to most creatures to boot, and is far tougher than most such silks, requiring great effort to pierce or break.

It is within this chrysalis that the vast and terrifying changes begin. The Entonyd is absorbed into the victim's body, providing the blueprint for the metamorphosis to follow over the course of approximately five to eight hours. The creature's skin is replaced by exoskeleton, dissolving their bones and filling the space with strengthened muscle and internal fluids. The organs are rearranged and reshaped, adjusting the victim's diet and digestion to suit its new body, a primarily and ravenously herbivorous and fluids diet that, while capable of consuming meat and most synthetic products, requires they be eaten in small volumes in contrast. An extra pair of limbs - arms in bipedal creatures, legs otherwise - is created, growing out of the center of the body, slightly smaller than the primary limbs they mimic. Eyes are dissolved and reconstructed into a highly-complex compound structure, and antennae grown to assist in sensing as the brain is rewired to process the new methods of information input. While the mouth and early-digestive tract remain mostly the same, teeth and facial bones are extruded into exoskeleton and cartilage is dissolved, leaving the victim with no external ears or nose. Finally, wings grow from the back.

With all these dramatic changes, it is actually the mind that takes the longest to be altered, especially in sapient creatures such as humanoids, monstrous humanoids, fey, and native outsiders. The body's physical changes are complete by the fourth or fifth hour of containment within the chrysalis; it is at this point that the victim can be safely removed, though they will be physically changed forever barring powerful magic. Enough of the brain and muscle memory will have been altered to instill the necessary instincts to operate the extra limbs, compound eyes, antennae, and wings that the metamorphosis adds, but the intelligence, memory, behaviors, and personality of the victim will be mostly unaltered. These are generally referred to as Unbound or Free-Willed Entomorphs.

Should the chrysalis remain unopened for the remainder of the metamorphosis, however, the Entonyd's enzymes and venom will complete their work. The Entomorph that emerges will have no shred of its former life, memory, behavior, or personality remaining, erased by the Entonyd's rewiring of its entire brain. Most Entomorphs that reach this fate are animals, non-sapient magical beasts, or other wild creatures who have the misfortune of being stung by a driven-to-symbiosis Entonyd; however, unlucky humanoids or other intelligent creatures who are stung and incapacitated somewhere they can't be reached or found are not immune to this unfortunate result. These are the Hive-Bound Entomorphs, as upon emerging from their chrysalis the first thing they will do is seek out a hive of similarly non-sapient Entomorphs to join themselves to.

Unbound Entomorphs are a strange breed. Regardless of their original species, appearance, or build, they all look relatively similar post-metamorphosis if they possessed any humanoid figure at all; smaller victims are enlarged during the transformation, while larger ones will manage to shrink, though the methods by which either is accomplished are unknown. They stand somewhere between 5'10" and 7" tall, not counting antennae. All are generally slender of build, having neither visible musculature nor fat. A mane or mat of fur along the back and sides of the head can be mistaken for hair, and is often treated as such, allowed to grow long or cut in styles; this mane can often also grow down the spine between the wings, though some either lack this trait or have it cut or shaved. The wings and exoskeleton generally match or are similar to those of the Entonyd that initiated the metamorphosis, and can have a wide variety of patterns, colorations, and even shapes. Gender differences between Entomorphs are very minimal - males tend to be slightly taller, have squarer or more angular heads, and tend toward longer limbs, while females have rounder faces, slightly stockier builds, and larger wings. All metamorphic Entomorphs posses a small bump or dome on their exoskeleton where the Entonyd attached itself prior to the cocooning and ensuing transformation.

Another strange thing about Entomorphs - both Hive-bound and Free-Willed - is that they breed true. Despite their bizarre morphic origins, Entomorphs are fully capable of creating more of their own kind through normal reproductive methods. Entomorphs lay eggs, usually in clutches of six to twelve, which hatch into grub-like larvae. These infants must be fed and cared for for approximately twelve to eighteen months, at which point they enter a chrysalis of their own and emerge as wingless nymph Entomorphs. At this point their development is about on par with Half-Elves, reaching adolescence around age fifteen, wherein their wings begin to grow, and being fully mature in their late twenties or early thirties. Nymph Entomorphs molt, like most insects, shedding their exoskeleton as their body grows; molting ceases upon reaching maturity. Natural-born Entomorphs lack the distinctive dome in their exoskeleton marking an Entonyd attachment; this is the only physical way to discern a transformed Entomorph from one born as they are.

Most Entomorphs after transformation do attempt to seek out others of their kind, for purposes including community, security, sympathy, reproduction, and mentoring. The largest congregation of the species remains in the heartland of Entonyd territory, the north-central plains and hills regions of Wachara known as the Olori Lands. Others return to their original homes and families, where they are greeted with varying amounts of acceptance or rejection; in many places, but perhaps most in the Olori region and neighboring territories, becoming an Entomorph can make one a pariah, rejected from house and home as a twisted monstrosity that only shares the name of the person once welcomed there. Other regions are more welcoming, primarily the territories of the Stolen Lands, where the difficult terrain and rough lifestyle under the constant threat of the Long Game makes species a far lesser importance, and the hierarchy of Divus, where the wings gained with the transformation allow Entomorphs to reach the higher echelons of the Ael community and with it the acceptance of the other denizens of the sky-cities. Entomorphs are highly rare on other continents such as Paziou, Stormwind, Senkaku, or Teremvor, primarily due to the lack of Entonyds to initiate transformations; with that rarity comes a more varied, less predictable pattern of acceptance or rejection for the unlucky few who encounter the creature and succumb to its attacks, or the already-changed or natural-born Entomorph who chooses to wander beyond Wachara's shores.

But perhaps the most bizarre thing about the race and their transformation-based nature is how little is known about its origin. As stated, the reason Entonyds behave the way they do, and how or why they even exist, is a grand mystery yet unsolved. The most common scapegoat is Khemost, Avatar of Torment, patron of transmutation, experimentation, and mad science. His followers are known for their love of magical transformations, bizarre surgery and grafts, hellish experimentation, and unchecked unethical behavior; it seems almost too easy to lay the blame for the creation or alteration of the Entonyd and the eventual horrifying results of its attacks on victims. However, eager as the followers of the Good Doctor are to accept such accusations as praise, there seems to be no evidence - within Khemost's church or without - as to who or when such a thing might have been done, and despite the willingness to accept the blame no Khemostite clergy have stepped forward to explain the details of such a thing, though whether this is through innocence or an unwillingness to share their secrets is unknown.

Like the Murī, the search has been on for millennia for a method by which to return a transformed Entomorph to their original form without relying on the most immensely powerful mages' or clerics' magic. A wish or miracle can restore the victim's original body, as can a true resurrection after death (with the same Will save to resist as a Murī can choose to make); resurrection and lesser spells restore them to life as an Entomorph. Reincarnate of course can allow them to return in a new body, though there is obviously no guarantee that they'll return as what they once were.


Entomorphs are not a template; a creature that undergoes an Entonyd-induced metamorphosis loses all prior racial traits except feats, proficiencies, and languages, and gains all Entomorph racial traits (including the Hive language).

Entomorph Stats
* Ability Score Racial Traits: The insectoid form, sturdy exoskeleton, and hidden musculature of Entomorphs make them stronger than their size and frame would imply, and their partially-rewired minds are sharper, keener, and quicker than humans, but their insect nature and mannerisms make them alien and strange, and cause them difficulty in interacting as an individual. They gain +2 Strength, +2 Intelligence, and -2 Charisma.
* Type: Entomorphs are Monstrous Humanoids with the entonyd subtype.
* Size: Entomorphs are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Base Speed: Entomorphs rely primarily on flight for movement, and are slower on the ground; they have a base speed of 20 feet. They are, however, capable of carrying great burdens while doing so: an Entomorph's speed is never modified by armor or encumbrance.
* Flight: Entomorphs usually have large moth-like wings. They have a flight speed of 40 feet, with Poor maneuverability.
* Languages: Entomorphs begin play speaking Common and Hive. Natural-Born Entomorphs with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Aklo, Boggard/Grippli, Draconic, Giant, Goblin, Lupine, and Sylvan. Metamorphosed Entomorphs use the Language options of their previous race, though they gain Hive as a free language following their transformation.
* Hive Minded: While not connected to the true hivemind of their mindless kin and their Entonyd progenitors, free-willed Entomorphs still have an echo of that disconnected consciousness, and it makes it difficult to bend their minds toward outside influences. This grants them a +2 bonus to all will saves.
* Exoskeleton: An Entomorph's exoskeleton grants it a +1 bonus to Natural Armor.
* Darkvision: Entomorphs can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
* Secondary Arms: Entomorphs have a second pair of arms too small and weak to be properly suited for wielding weapons, aiding in combat maneuvers, or casting spells. These arms can however hold objects and wear "hand" and "ring" magic item slots (though the Entomorph can still only wear two rings and two hand magic items at a time).

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