They want what you take for granted—an arm and a leg!
TORSO: THE RUSTLINGEdit
“On your belly you shall crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life.” –Genesis 3:14
“He walks, he talks, he crawls on his belly like a reptile!”—traditional carnival barker’s cry
Torsos are among the strangest and rarest of the bizarre inhabitants of the World of Darkness. Their origins are unknown as are their ultimate intentions. A Torso appears to be a quadripeligic, a normal human being who has lost both arms and both legs. Indeed, most Torsos began their existence as a normal mortal, before falling prey to another of their kind.
“Torsos”, there is no other name for them currently in use, are actually supernatural assassins. They have retractable fangs which inject a paralytic poison (Potency of Poison is equal to the Torso’s “Spine” rating as a dice pool). Their tongue conceals a tubular proboscis which they use to suck the spinal fluid out of human beings. They use this spinal fluid, “Tap” in their parlance, to power supernatural abilities. Every Torso requires at least one point of “Tap” per day to survive, or rather to remain active. Torsos also create more of their kind by paralyzing a victim, then slowly chewing off one limb at a time. Limbs have about three Health Levels. Once the Torso has inflicted three levels of lethal damage by gnawing, the limb will become totally unusable and fall off. All Torsos have the ability to attach a severed limb to their own stumps. This costs three points of Tap per limb. The attached limb slowly rots, losing one Health Level per day unless more Tap is poured into it. Each point of Tap spent per day will keep the limb from losing one Health Level to rot. Without borrowed limbs, a Torso can only move at 1/5 the normal movement rate. (calculate movement as normal then reduce it to 20%) If a victim survives having all four limbs gnawed off, a Torso can spend 1 Tap (pouring spinal fluid from their own mouth into the mouth of the victim) and 1 Willpower to create a new Torso.
Torsos have prehensile lips and six inch long tongues, enabling them to handle small objects and operate some types of machinery. They can use these for all manner of recreational purposes, perhaps best not mentioned.
The single greatest joy a Torso experiences is during the “Spoon of Death”. A Torso will gain access to a victim, curling tightly against their back and inserting their proboscis into the base of the spine. They can drain 1 Tap per turn but, since their bite immobilizes the victim for the entire evening, they prefer to take a long time and slowly sip the spinal fluid. A Torso can drain 3 pts of Tap from a single person before the victim requires medical treatment. Past that point, the victim will lose feeling and movement in their own limbs. Past 5 pts the human is paralyzed from the neck down. Tap does not regenerate very quickly. At most, a normal human can regain 1 Tap point per week. Torsos find the act of “Tapping” so delightful that “Spoon!” is a cry of glee or lust among them.
Sometimes a victim acquires a sick addiction to the paralytic poison of a Torso, and actually relishes the act of being Spooned. Such beings become palsied from too frequent loss of spinal fluid and are completely under the control of their Torso Tapper. These addicts often serve as servants and slaves to the Torsos. Their Physical Attributes suffer from this treatment, assume that any long-term Tap Addict has “ones’ in all Physical Attributes and their Resolve will also be “1”.
Torsos take only Bashing damage from any source other than the bite or claw of another Supernatural. The only way to kill one permanently is to decapitate it. Even then there is a chance that the head will continue its unnatural existence unchecked.
Stories of creatures such as the Torsos have been whispered in Supernatural circles for quite some time. The earliest accounts describe the maimed bodies of men or women executed by being "drawn and quartered" returning to wiggly unlife to avenge themselves. This suggests that the original Torsos were some variant of Revenant. These early accounts seem to describe beings most like the Stumpers or "Stubwalkers". They were described as being virtually indestructible and unstoppable, but vanished once their mission of vengeance had been accomplished.
Other stories describe an "Order of the Naga" formed three hundred years ago in India. These stories describe babies that were born "of women and snakes"--born without limbs but with hyper-flexible spines and fangs. A ritual orgy of human females and a snakepit is mentioned, but not described in detail. Tantric magicks were invoked to create the supernatural hybrids, who were trained from birth to become assassins. By day, these human-snakes would pose as helpless streetbeggars, but by night, they would hunt--silent and deadly. The eldest of the Ophidios Squirm maintain that they are direct lineal descendants of the original hybrids. Truthfully, most modern Ophidios give at least lip service loyalty to the "Order of the Naga". While not all Torsos of any Squirm are Nagaist operatives, a fairly high portion of the overall Torso population have at one time or another, served the interests of the Order. Order of the Naga Torsos can be hired by any who know of their existence to kill any creature known to man or Supernatural.
There is a little known account of an Italian noble family who never left their manor for generation after generation. When a representative of the Church finally forced his way in, he found that the inbred clan had de-evolved to limbless "grubs" or "worms", all practicing some blasphemous religious abomination. The Church sent an armed band into the manor and sought to cleanse it through fire and steel. Despite assurances that all of the clan had been exterminated and the bodies buried in an unmarked, unhallowed common grave, there were whispers of sightings and encounters with these "Vermis" over the centuries.
A legend is told of a great but jealous ruler, some say an Ottoman Sultan--others a Chinese Emperor, who became outraged at the infidelities of his concubines. In a night of blood and wrath, he took away their ability to cheat on him or evade him. He had all of their limbs hacked off. What he created were helpless beings who could do nothing but give him pleasure upon his demand. Soon, however, he found himself cursed for his actions. The helpless became the ones who gave orders. He and his court could do nothing but beg them for their sweet favors. In time, the ruler and all of his court were utterly destroyed and the beautiful flesh "pillows" disappeared into the night.
Still, Torsos--or creatures resembling them were rare until the horrors of World War I. These creatures, as they are known today, were born on the shell-torn, gas-misted battlefields of that war. Somewhere out in the cratered mud of No Man's Land, the shattered revenant, the poisonous assassin, the inbred noblility and the precious prizes of war came together. In an awful night, ripped by bullets and shattered by artillery blasts and thunder, they found common ground. A shared lust that drove them all equally. They joined their disparate lineages together in a Diabolist ritual of gore and Tap, drained from a whole "lost battalion" who disappeared to a man one night. For the rest of the war, they procreated with mad abandon. The trenches swarmed with them at night. Under the cover of darkness, they swarmed across No Man's Land, feasting on Tap, chewing off limbs, while soldiers in the trenches not a hundred yards away cowered with hands on ears and prayed for the horror to go away. Tens of thousands of limbs were amputated during the First World War. Not all of them by scalpels. Not all of them by human beings.
Torsos divide themselves into three distinct types based on the nature of their locomotion and innate abilities. These divisions are called “Squirms” among their own kind.
Ophidios—The Ophidios possess long supple torsos. Their spines have altered in such a way that they can slither comfortably, like a snake. Often their necks enlongate, allowing them to hold their heads up from the ground. As they lose Humanity, they acquire snake-like features; forked tongues, vertical slit pupils, light scaling on their skin, odd coloration, etc. Ophidios Torsos often have beautiful features and attractive bodies. They are sensuous hedonists at heart and are noted for enjoying long Tap Spooning. Some use songs to mesmerize their prey. The Ophidios are quick and sinuous creatures. They gain a +1 to Dexterity. Ophidios Powers are: Mesmerize and Quick-Slither
Vermis—The Vermis possess thicker, stouter bodies. They move by an “inchworm” like motion which can range from a jerky lurching to an undulating wave. Their bodies tend to be well-padded with fat deposits, though not to such a degree that their movement is impaired. (beyond the impairment experienced by all Torsos, that is). Vermis Torsos tend to have round faces and both sexes are often bald. A side effect of their movement style is that they have very precise memories of distances traveled and relative positions. If a Vermis has crossed a particular area of terrain or rooms in a building, she will always remember exactly how many “inches” it took to cross that area. Vermis are stout, stocky creatures. They gain a +1 to Stamina. Vermis Powers are: Wall Crawling and Silent Movement
Stumpers—Some Torsos possess more than the usual mere bump or smooth surface where their limbs once were. These Torsos, called "Stumpers" by others, but most often calling themselves “Stubwalkers”, have vestigial stubs and knobs at their shoulder and hip joints. Rarely more than a couple of inches long, these are still strong enough and broad enough to allow the Torso to use them as legs of a sort. Most Stubwalkers use a quadrapedal motion, walking on the stubs and holding their bodies just off the ground. Some can manage to rear up and do a slow waddle using only their hip knobs. Stubwalkers tend to be stronger than other types of Torsos. They have well-developed muscles and tend to look rather like body builders with huge pectorals and six-pack bellies. Their jaws are thicker than the human norm, a clue to the massive jaw muscles they possess. Stubwalkers are powerful creatures. They can flex their muscles and “leap” up off the ground, reaching eyelevel of a normal human. They gain a +1 to Strength. Stubwalker Powers are: Iron Jaws and Phantom Limbs
Pillowes--These Torsos are paradoxically among the most and least dangerous of their kind. Pillowes don't move at all, except to adjust their position slightly. They depend on servants and lovers to provide them transportation. A Pillowe is a creature of unimaginable beauty, perfect in all ways save that it is missing all four limbs. Their voices are melodious, their skin smells of lavender and roses. The touch of their lips sends an almost orgasmic thrill across the skin. However, necking with a Pillowe always ends up the same way, she bites into your spinal column and drinks your spinal fluid. Odds are, most victims end up thanking her for doing it, no matter how palsied they've become. They gain a +1 to Presence as well as the Striking Looks Merit. The Pillowes Powers are: Phantom Limbs, and Precious Thing.
Iron Jaws: cost 1 Tap. Enables the user to bite through wood and metal. If used in combat, adds three dice to the STR dice pool. Damage is Lethal to Mortals and Supernaturals both, but is not Aggravated.
Mesmerize: cost 1 Tap. The user makes either eye contact or voice contact with the target. When the power is activated, the user makes a contested roll using Presence +1 against the target’s Resolve. If the Torso gains more successes, the target is immobilized, held in a hypnotic state. Usually immobilization is the desired goal, but the Mesmerist can also choose to implant a simple idea or command that will be carried out at a later time. Such commands must be very simple “Open the door/window” “Go outside at ten o’clock” etc.
Phantom Limbs: cost 1 Tap per turn of use. Target acquires the use of a normal limb (number of phantom limbs created is equal to Spine rating). This invisible, immaterial but physically effective limb has the same STR as the user.
Precious/Wretched Thing: Cost 1 Tap per turn of use. Effect is identical to that of the Hunchback Twist "Cower". Hostile beings find that they cannot harm or strike the user of this power, either because the Torso appears too beautiful and harmless, too innocent to strike, or because it is just so awfully pathetic that potential attackers can't bring themselves to hit it.
Quick-Slither: cost 1 Tap/increased increment per turn. User can move much faster than normal. At 1 Tap the Torso can move at half of a normal human’s movement rate. At 2 Tap, full normal movement speed. At 3 Tap, twice normal movement. Movement cannot be boosted beyond four times normal human movement (cost 4 Tap).
Silent Movement: cost 1 Tap. User can move silently at full Torso normal rate through dried leaves or other obstacles without making a sound. Passage through grass or other vegetation will live no visible mark. (ie: no waving grass or disturbed leaves etc.) The user can even pass through liquids or over powders without leaving a trail.
Wall-Crawling: cost 1 Tap/turn. User can move over vertical surfaces at normal movement rate. With an additional 1 Willpower expenditure, the user can cling to or travel across ceilings as well. Very useful for dropping down on an opponent in ambush.
Create a character as per World of Darkness core rules. Add the Torso template. Character loses all four limbs. Chose Squirm the Torso belongs to. Add bonus Attribute Points. Torso automatically gains the two Powers of its Squirm. One additional Power from the other Squirms’ can be taken as well.
Spine Rating begins at “1”. But can be raised as per Blood Potency or Primal Rage.
Torsos have a “Tap Pool” of 1-10. Initial Tap is Stamina + 5.
This particularly gruesome type of Supernatural have their origins in a conversation I had with one of my long-time friends. I was describing my other demented brain-child, "Hunchback: the Lurching", with a certain amount of glee--I admit. Craig disagreed with my contention that I could make a game (or an add-on at least) for just about anything he could come up with. I relish the creative challenge and frankly, have fairly long sleepless nights to mull such things over. Craig blurted out, "Yeah? I want to see you write a game for quadripeligic ninjas!" Oh foolish Mortal! Be careful what you wish for! This is the result of that particular challenge. Though, in truth "quadripeligic" refers to anyone who has some measure of disability in all four limbs. What I have here are more properly "quadrupel amputees"--in whom all four limbs have been removed.
Hunchback is already skirting the far fringes of good taste, but at least there is a pre-existing cultural archetype and a fairly impressive body of references to justify it. Sort of. Torso is, even to my sensibilities well over that far fringe and deep, deep, deep into extreme ickiness. Which is one of the reasons why I bothered to type it up and present it to such of the public as may be interested. First off, this is HORROR gaming, after all. Revulsion and disgust sort of go with the territory. If nothing else, I am proud of the fact that these "quadripeligic ninjas" are certainly horrifying. Revolting and disgusting. Totally unnerving.
I do not seriously propose that this sort of thing should be used as a PC (though I'd contend that it COULD be done). The Torsos work best, I believe, as Antagonists. Specifically, I'm planning to use them as one of the main types of Antagonist for the Hunchback game. Which actually makes this sort of the first support book in the H:tL line! Sort of. As Antagonists, they have the advantage of being probably the last sort of person/creature a PC troupe would ever expect to be a threat. The underlying theme, if there is one, to "Torso" is that underestimating or pitying someone with an obvious disability runs the risk of being greivously WRONG. Never judge a person by their supposed limitations because that leaves you vulnerable to whatever special abilities they might possess. It's the same sort of message that "Murderball" conveys, only in a horrific context instead of a sympathetic one.
Sources and InspirationsEdit
Freaks(1932) Unsettling classic horror film that was banned in numerous locations for using actual circus "freaks" for its cast. In that respect at least, it was unusually honest for its time and brutally frank. Prince Randian plays "The Living Torso"--a minor character, whose image was probably THE central inspiration for the whole notion of Torsos. Randian, who toured extensively with "10 in one" shows was actually quite erudite, fluent in three languages and able to manage a surprisingly wide variety of tasks with ease and good humor. The classic image of a "Torso" and a classic example of how deceptive a man's perceived "disabilities" can be.
Monkey Shines(1988) A quadriplegic man finds himself at the virtual mercy of his once devoted trained monkey. While the film stresses the feeling of helplessness of its main character, it also shows how intellect and cunning can help even the playing field between man and beast, and it's a great for inspirations for a Torso with a monkey Retainer!
Boxing Helena(1993) A bizarre tale of obsession and amputation, dependency and doom. And really, really messed up dreams. Julian Sands plays the surgeon who wants Sherilyn Fenn's torso. She would make a rather perfect Pillowe. Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch, David Lynch's daughter.
The Bone Collector(1999) Ex-detective Lincoln Rhyme puts off planning his assisted suicide in order to match wits with a serial killer. Again, the emphasis is on helplessness and limitations, but could still be used as inspiration for a Torso who carries out activities through minions and relies on his intellect to make up for his limitations. In this game, the scene where the serial killer confronts the former detective would have gone much differently! "Spoon!"
Murderball(2005) Must-see viewing! An all quadriplegic "wheelchair rugby" team practices and works toward the Paralympics championship. Full contact, hard hitting, merciless rivalries, this flick should dispel any notions that quadripeligics are "helpless" in any way! With the armored, customized wheelchairs, hard-drinking, womanizing tough as nails athletes, this is practically "Quadpunk"! "Freaks" has the archetypal image, "Murderball" has the attitude.
Beyond these scarce examples, there are also a number of Japanese manga that cater to fetishist portrayals of quadripeligics, often with violent or gory action. The wise and good gamer-boy simply would not go there. But in case you feel tempted to explore anyway...well, you've been warned!