“Yes, it is foul. Yes it is cursed. But it is also powerful. A thousand curses to kill one Osser, to see his skull crack beneath my fingers… it is a fair trade.”
-Tigran, Nehepi Dervish
Also known as Thornweavers or Spikes, the Thorn is a grisly augmentation technology created by the Sige of the First Age which was never intended to survive to the modern age in the way it has. Thorns implant themselves into the spine and cerebellum of a host and modify them. A fortunate subject gains a variety of advantages: enhanced power, grace, senses, reflexes, autonomic control, pain mitigation, rapid healing, adrenal control and more, however bloody practicality has seen these ancient weapons reclaimed from the corpses of the dead and passed down through a hundred generations leading to a variety of potential flaws. An unfortunate subject can be rendered into a mindless monstrosity driven only by pain and rage.
Prior to implantation a Thorn looks like little more than its namesake; a sharp spine approximately the size of a human thumb. Once pressed into the space between the vertebrae the device immediately uncoils and dozens of filaments invade the bearers body, wrapping themselves around the spinal column. Over time these filaments grow further into the body and brain, acting as a secondary nervous system and granting the Thornbearer significant control over their own anatomy. While an implanted Thorn can be concealed under clothing, on naked flesh it is entirely visible as an array of bio-mechanical filaments that exaggerate the spinal cord and create visible ridges on the back.
Thorns are almost exclusively utilized by the Nehepi. A few have made their way further abroad, but the Nehepi demonstrate a superior tolerance for the technology and its side effects. The advantage they grant in combat has led to their use among the Dervishes in their war against the Ossandrian occupiers. Thornbearers have gained a near legendary status and many Dervishes will go to great lengths to procure one. The technology to produce Thorns was lost with the First Imperium and due to their rarity and value many Dervishes have taken to harvesting them from the corpses of the fallen in a grisly ritual.
Thorns were never designed for re-implantation, much less the repeated and enduring use over generations they have seen and many thorns are dangerously degraded. Thorns are also not universally compatible and can only be used by certain people who possess specific genetic markers. Implantation in incompatible subjects typically causes severe psychosis and an ugly death. Even in compatible subjects thorn use can lead to hallucinations, paranoia, hyper aggression, or catatonia. Despite the dangers, Thorns are highly valued for obvious reasons.
Thorns are powered by an integrated helion core. A Thorn without a core will not operate, and it is impossible to remove the helion from a working thorn without either activating it or killing the wearer.
Any attempt to combine a Thorn and a Mantle fails; in the case of a Mantle wearer attempting to implant a Thorn, the Mantle acts to reject the device, treating it as hostile. Conversely, a Thornbearer attempting to don a Mantle finds that the Mantle will not accept them as a host.
Mechanics: The first step to utilizing a Thorn is surviving implantation. No check is needed to start the implantation process; the Thornbearer suffers a point of damage and must roll a Power + Will check at a difficulty of 18.
|2-10||Death or Derangement|
|11-15||Failure. Character is reduced to 0 health and requires immediate medical intervention.|
|16-17||Failure. Character is reduced to 1 health|
|18+||Success. The Thorn is now bound to the character until death|
Once the Thorn is implanted the bearer can begin to utilize it’s functions.
Advancement: The player can spend experience to advance the Thorns level at a cost of new level multiplied by 7. Increasing the level of the Thorn grants access to new advantages but the process is painful and each new level taken represents a deeper integration with the Thornbearers anatomy plus associated risks. The Thornbearer takes an amount of Health damage equal to the new level being taken and must roll a Will + Concentration check against a difficulty of 15. A result of 16+ represents a successful advancement but any result of 15 or below triggers a random flaw from the list below.
|Acuity||Once per day the Thornbearer can augment their senses, gaining a bonus to a Perception check equal to their Thorn level.|
|Adrenal Surge||The Thornbearer gains a bonus to Power or Grace equal to the level of the Thorn. This ability can be activated a number of times per day equal to the Thorn level and the effect lasts the Thorns level in rounds. E.g. A Thornbearer with a Level 3 Thorn can activate this ability 3 times per day and each use can last up to 3 rounds.|
|Autonomic control||The Thornbearer is able to take direct control of their stress response gaining a passive Stress Soak equal to the level of the Thorn.|
|Eidetic Memory||The Thornbearer triggers a flare in neural development grants them a perfect memory.|
|Flush Toxins||The Thornbearer becomes aware of any toxin in their system and can trigger a flush via excretion (sweating, urinating, vomiting, etc). Only instantly terminal poisons and toxins pose a danger to the Thornbearer.|
|Healing Cascade||Once per day the Thornbearer can regenerate a number of health equal to the level of the Thorn.|
|Immune Control||The Thornbearer has direct control over their immune response and can effectively fight off most natural diseases and parasites. This ability goes further than inoculation however; the Thornbearer can ‘sequester’ diseases, becoming an asymptomatic carrier of any disease they have caught and transmitting deadly illness without any risk to their own health.|
|Pain Mitigation||Once per day the Thornbearer is able to shut off their pain response, eliminating any penalty they may be suffering due to wounds or injuries.|
|Recuperation||The Thornbearer gains a passive bonus to their rate of healing equal to the level of the Thorn.|
|Redundancy||The Thornbearer can trigger the growth of a secondary heart and tertiary lung. The process is painful and takes several weeks. The next time the character might be reduced to zero health they may instead discard this advantage and ignore the damage, falling back on their redundant organs.|
|Reflex Arc||Once per day the Thornbearer can enhance their reflexes, slowing their perception of time and gaining a bonus to a defense check equal to their Thorn level.|
Each time an advancement check is failed roll 1d10 to determine the flaw.
|1||Disfigured||The Thornbearers flesh begins to decay painfully. While the Thorn keeps this decay from becoming a direct threat, the Thornbearer’s appearance is reduced by 2.|
|2||Putrid||The Thornbearers body begins to emit a ghastly smell from the Thorn wound, inflicting a -3 on all social checks.|
|3||Mute||The Thornbearers tongue is withered and they lose the ability to talk.|
|4||Festering Wound||The Thornbearer develops a wound which will not heal and suffers a permanent loss of health equal to the new level of the Thorn.|
|5||Sterile||The Thornbearer is rendered permanently sterile.|
|6||Voices||The Thornbearer begins to hear a voice in their head which they identify with the Thorn. The nature of this voice is up to the Storyteller|
|7||Berserk||The Thornbearer is driven into a sudden and blind rage, flooded with adrenaline and driven to attack any living entity nearby with full intent to kill. This rage lasts for a number of rounds equal to the level of the Thorn.|
|8||Cannibal||The Thornbearer develops a deep hunger for the flesh of humans. This hunger is not overriding and they can still eat normal food, but they are always fighting this dark urge. At the storytellers discretion, any time the character is exposed to blood or a wound they may need to roll a Will check against a difficulty of 15 to resist the urge.|
|9||Photosensitivity||The Thornbearer develops a severe sensitivity to bright light. Each round their flesh is exposed to light they lose a point of health and any attempt to act in bright light without proper clothing suffers a -3|
|10||Pain Addiction||The Thornbearers develops an addiction to pain. They cease to take stress from wounds and instead can only recover stress by taking injuries.|