Friday, August 7, 2020

10 Awful Fantasy Parasites & How to Treat them

[1] Skinflint
Little worm that burrows under your skin around your wrist and hands. Whenever you pick up or grab something interesting (1 in 3 chance for food, 1 in 6 chance for coin/small curio) the worm will strike out faster then you can see, grab the item, and pull it back under your skin. This creates horrible little discolored bumps and painful welts where objects are trapped under your skin around your wrist and upper arm. It can only drag away things very small, so it's only likely to grab food you're eating in tiny pieces or very small types of food like rice or noodles. Also, the parasite excretes an anti-bacterial oil which means you can't get infected from this either, and uses sticky saliva to meld any wounds it causes when it exists your skin shut instantly before you can grab some tweezers and pull it out.

Typically, Skinflit is cured by basic surgery and some strong alcohol or painkiller for the victim. It's a simple process, just painful and looks disgusting. Healers will sometimes intentionally allow themselves to be infected by the skinflint, or pay students to do it, that way the worms can be extracted and their healing enzymes can be used for themselves.

[2] Bender Gnome
Tiny, parasitic relative of the gnome, though perhaps more similar to a gremlin. They can change their appearance (thought tend to look like old, red-hat wearing garden gnomes to disarm people) and live inside people's bones. Unlike most parasites they also cannot enter your body without permission; typically they seek people who are lonely and want a “friend”, and they'll tell people that they'll “always be with them” if they let them inside. They enter the body by just opening up a “door” on your skin, which swings open and causes no blood or injury once it shuts. However, as long as they live inside people's bones they'll slowly warp their skeletal structure to better suite the gnomes as they reproduce and become more and more prolific throughout the victim's body.

Bender Gnomes are best treated through amputation of the offending limb before infection spreads through the rest of the body; but only if the victim is unknowing (and perhaps unwilling) for the treatment. It can also be treated by ingestion or injection of a specific acid (based on Gnomeblight), though this will cause significant pain and 1d6 damage to the subject as it flows through them. Bender gnome cases in the advanced stage are especially dangerous as the gnomes can pilot the person's body through jerky puppet movements (though only when they are asleep) and can rapidly flee the victim by opening up tons of magical doors and windows to jump out of all over their bodies if threatened with extermination, and they seem to know whatever the victim knows in regards to their treatment plans, hence any treatment must be both fast and unknown to the subject.

[3] Giant Hole Disease
This parasite appears more like a virus or infection, and is intentionally vague and hard to notice to avoid detection and treatment. Anyone infected with this parasite starts to see a giant “hole” following them around, or suddenly appearing in various walls or the ground. It will start as a small hole at first, looking more like a trick of the light or a minor bad spot in their vision, but will spread and look like a real, genuine giant hole that suddenly appears right in front of them. This hallucination is so convincing that anyone who “falls” into the hole in the view of the victim becomes invisible and inaudible to the infected person, and likewise objects which just shatter against the wall convincing disappear inside of the black yawning holes depths. The ultimate goal of the disease is to make people despair and, eventually, “jump into” the giant hole where they feel a constant sensation of falling and darkness all around. Eventually they will die in this comatose state and can spread the actual parasite, a nearly transparent spider which lays its eggs in their body, from their corpse.

The Giant Hole Disease is difficult to diagnose from regular insanity, but once it is discovered it can be cured through a simple surgery on the back of the ear (which is where the spider burrows to mess with the inner ear to create the sensation of following and dizziness). The spider can also be forced out by those with heavy amounts of willpower- if someone is convinced that the hole is not real and their senses are fooling them (such as proof somebody they thought fell in is actually still right here next to them) then they can make a saving throw to disbelieve. After three or four days of disbelieving, the spider will starve and fall out of their body dead.

[4] Flying Hex-Newts
These newts are very fat, slow, and easy to see. As such, they only try to infect their prey at night with sleeping targets. Usually only people who are camping or sleeping nearby stagnant water or a swamp. The newt will crawl down their throats and hook themselves in- the subject will awaken with a scratchy sore throat and significantly deeper voice. The newt eats a small amount of whatever the person eats until it is ready to reproduce. It will lay sticky eggs down the person's throat which stick to the sides of their esophagus, and then try to get them to cough. Usually it can do this just by wiggling around, but the newt also has the power to control luck. Strangely, it can enchant a person with bad luck, usually in the effort to have them spill or hit something dusty to trigger a coughing fit, or to have them choke on something they're eating to cough. They will also only ever make a person cough when they're in a group- the newt flies from the person's mouth with a projectile force from their cough and attempts to angle inside the mouth of anyone else and wriggle down their throat to begin the process. Eventually, the first subject will have their eggs hatch into a new newt, which will then trigger them to cough to spread the adult newt into a new host, and so on.

Flying Hex-Newts can be treated in three ways. The first is the easiest, and that is to simple scrap out the eggs after the adult newt has left the patient's throat- this doesn't stop new infections from happening, just cures a subject from their old infection. Unfortunately, if the adult newt is still within their throat, it will puff up angrily and eject any tools placed inside, as well as choking the poor subject. The second method is to force the patient to chug as much cold ice water as they can; this will cause minor hypothermia and stomach bloating, dealing 1d4 damage to their Constitution stat. If done enough, the cold-blooded newt will lose its grip and fall into the patient's stomach to be digested. The third and final method involves trapping the adult newt as it is fired from the subject into another subject's mouth; creating lifelike traps in the shape of a person's head or catching it mid air with various nets are all valid methods, but unfortunately due to the newts ability to manipulate luck these plans almost always seem to fail and its nigh-impossible to catch the newt mid flight.

Finally, the newt itself is highly prized among witches and sorcerers; a dried newt hung on a string is a powerful talisman to hang over a person's bed or door to hex them- or can be used in potion brewing to grant improved magical energy to any concoction.

[5] Picker String
This parasite is a mimic. It conveniently disguises itself as the string on a lute or a bowstring after eating the original strings. Some musicians swear on metal cords for this reason; dead Pickers can be found around their instruments in storage since they broke their teeth trying to replace the string. If the Picker is in place and the string is pulled, it suddenly snaps and wraps around the offending person's finger multiple times, causing the finger to be constricted and the flow of blood to be lessened. It will then feed off the flow of blood and cause pain for the person, becoming almost impossible to remove without cutting off the finger. This causes a great lack of manual dexterity while attached; you get -2 to hit rolls and can't use bows (since usually you used your bow-finger to pluck the string) while you are infected with the parasite.

This parasite is easily removed by cutting off the finger. Exposing the finger tip to an open flame for 1d4 exploration turns can also make the parasite loosen up from the heat, giving you a moment to pull it off with a pair of forceps.

[6] Sweaty Frog
This gross parasite prefers overweight victims, but anyone who works in manual labor is also a juicy target. The frog in its tadpole stage lives in water; people swimming or bathing are open to infection. The tadpoles crawl underneath the person's armpits and/or rolls of fat to have a good home. Then they grow to adult size, becoming small green frogs. They live by drinking the sweat of the person and eating the flies attracted by their newfound stink. The frogs cause the person's body odor to smell many times worse, similar to rotting flesh or feces, and make bathing and soap only get rid of the odor for a few minutes at most. This also means that while adventuring, you have an extra +1 in 6 chance to encounter wandering monsters, as you reek to high heaven.

This parasite is tough to remove. Whenever the armpit or roll of fat is opened up and exposed- the frogs magically disappear. They can only be seen sticking their heads out when it is closed between the folds of skin- you can ply them off one by one but they're very slippery and will regain their numbers very fast. The best way to end this infection is through allowing a specific breed of heron to peck and devour the toads as you lay still, though you will get several painful beak bites from this.

[7] Winesharks
This parasite doesn't really infect people so much as liquid- specifically wine. The sharks live and reproduce in wine, and are usually spread by wine when it is stolen and enjoyed by pirates or other thieves tied with the ocean. The further inland you go and the more and more rare these become. The winesharks look like tiny, dark red colored sharks that swim around in wine and bite the lips of anyone trying to drink it. Attempts to use a straw to drink the wine usually fail, since the sharks will just chew through the straw. For the most part, Winesharks are just vermin that destroy foodstuffs. However, the winesharks have an unusual method of transference- they can seemingly spread from sealed wine barrel to another one nearby in the same room. In the same way, it seems possible for winesharks to transfer into the belly of a person who is very, very drunk with wine- the sharks will accidentally bite and swim into the sides of their belly, causing 1 damage per exploration turn of tiny bites.

The best way to get rid of Winesharks from an infected barrel or tavern is just to destroy all their stores. Obviously this is a huge financial loss, but there's no other way to remove them from infected an entire cellar's worth of stock. If the Winesharks have infected a persons belly though, removal becomes much harder. Forcing them to vomit is very dangerous as the sharks could tear open their throat from the inside out- likewise letting them pass is also dangerous and painful for obvious reasons. The best solution to cure Winesharks is to force the patient to swallow several large, dry sponges to absorb the liquid to make vomiting them up safer. The other method is for quiet contemplation and reverence to the Gods in prayer- since alcoholism is a common sin, temperance is a virtue. Those who pray to be freed from the Winesharks inside them will have them disappear, but reappear inside them the next time they drink even a thimble of wine. Basically curing the Winesharks with religion is easy and safe, but requires lifelong abstinence from drink afterwards or else the problem returns.

[8] Lanky-Sun
The name of this parasite has seemingly nothing to do with the creature itself, but is instead inspired by the random gibberish it causes infected people to say. The Lanky-Sun is a small flesh colored crab which burrows its scuttling legs and two larger claws into the tops of people's heads once it has found a suitable host. It tends to prefer hosts with lots of hair- which may act like bedding or keep it warmer once anchored, but will take any opportunity to anchor itself inside a persons skull. The Lanky-Sun is capable of sucking in large amounts of air and then rapidly firing it out which allows it the ability to jump taller then most human heights or glide around freely. Once anchored to the subject's head, it also uses this ability as a form of self defense against attempts to remove it. Once attached, the crab will suck in huge amounts of air and any puncture or crack in its shell, such as from a knife trying to cut it off or a blunt weapon used to smash it, will cause the crab to explode. This will cause the death of the host as it explodes the entire upper part of their skull open and their brain will be peppered with shrapnel, or just fly out of their skull entirely.

The constant pressure from the legs being attached to the host's head makes the victim start vocalizing and making random gibberish- at first they'll simply cycle through swear words or alternate languages, until eventually devolving into screaming. It is said the crabs do this to attract more of themselves to more hosts- they specifically prey on intelligent, social creatures and have only very rarely, if ever, seen on the heads of lesser animals and solitary beings. Eventually, when the host is isolated or has gone hoarse from too much babbling; the crab will tighten its grip to kill the host and split open the skull. It will then feed on their brain as its main source of nutrition. For this reason, many consider it more of a predator then a parasite, but these crabs are smart. They don't kill their hosts when other beings of the same species are nearby and are uninfected; the crabs will even synchronize the killing of multiple hosts if they are together in a group and there are no more uninfected beings left. The crabs seem to know that killing the host makes them lose their leverage- as such a single person stuck with a crab won't be killed as long as they aren't left alone with it- but will continue to babble and be a problem, hence why it is also viewed as a parasite.

Due to how incredibly dangerous these crabs are, the best method to curing the Lanky-Sun is to avoid infection entirely. Never pass through hot zones and if you do, wearing a sturdy metal skullcap will avoid being targeted. Leather or thick cloth caps will give you one round to make a saving throw to throw it off, otherwise the crabs are unerring in their flight and will attach to your head. When somebody inevitably gets stuck with a crab, there is a difficult procedure to remove it safely. The first step is to tie down the person with weights or stones, usually in a sitting position. The second is to then use several pry-bars, ropes, and stone or metal slats. One by one, the crab must be lifted up as hard as possible and each leg pried free from the victim's skull. Once a leg is free, a small smooth stone or bit of metal must be tied in place to prevent the leg from burrowing in that spot again. Then, the next leg and then the next leg are pried off. This procedure takes 2d6 hours and is both very painful for the victim and loud- there is a +1 in 6 chance of random encounters due to the noise of the babbling and screaming victim, unless a gag is used to keep them from crying out. Once the crab is freed, it can be smashed (causing a minor explosion, 1d4 damage for the attacker), contained, or killed by immersion in boiling water.

[9] Egg of Edgga
The “Egg” of Edgga is a sort of fleshy tumor that can move around according to its own will. The Egg is seemingly a partially astral creature, as it infects people with no physical access- it seeks prey through ideological means. People who have their minds too open; too full of day dreams and too considerate to the views and opinions of other people- even those with no redeeming qualities or any consideration for the views of others. These people are considered vulnerable, unguarded, and the parasite can find root. The egg appears as an egg-sharped tumorous skin bump which is usually located on the upper back, but can selectively move at about a snails pace- for example, it will move from the back onto the chest if the host tries to sleep on their back.

The individual infected by this egg will have their ideas “stolen”, or more accurately, they will lose focus when following a though to its conclusion. In other words, spells and magic items are used as though the person is a level lower as their focus falls off near the end of casting. Even for non-spellcasters, this egg steals away some of their mental ability and gives brain fog- reduce your Intelligence modifier by -1 for the first week of infection and then -2 for the first month of infection and beyond. The egg does get bigger as it feeds, and becomes more powerful as well as capable of moving faster on the host's body. Some scholars theorize that, if allowed to grow enough, the egg will grow to the size and shape of a second head and consume the host's own, essentially taking over their body and life of someone without the will to have a brain of their own, but this has never been proven.

The treatment for the Egg of Edgga isn't simple, and early detection is key. During the first week of infection, the Egg will be smaller then a chicken's egg, and significantly less powerful. During the first month of infection beyond the week, it will be as large as a chicken egg and will be stronger. After the first month of infection the egg will be quite formidable, and will have similar mental powers to a mind flayer- it will warp the minds of both its host and others to continue its will and avoid both detection and treatment. It is vital the egg is removed before this can happen.

In order to remove the Egg, a surgery isn't very effective. Whenever the skin is cut, the egg will simply move away from the cut location, meaning the host is harmed but the egg isn't, since it crawls under the skin. This means you cannot remove the egg both quickly and safely; instead, a strong chop with a +1 magic axe or sword by a steady hand can remove the egg, but will obviously cause significant harm to the host. There is also a complex metal brace which locks the egg in place that could be placed over it, but this will cause the egg to lash out as explained in the final paragraph. Finally, burning the Egg out by holding a searing-hot metal brand to the egg will cause it to wither and shrink in size, eventually killing it if pressure and heat is continually applied enough to permanently scar the host.

Finally- the mental powers of the Egg are the real threat. The Egg can be defeated in a contest of wills- anyone capable of initiating psychic combat or hypnotising people can stare down the egg and attempt to destroy it with a mind battle. Both the psychic and the egg roll 3d6, adding the Intelligence modifier of the psychic and the age of the Egg in weeks as its Intelligence modifier (up to a maximum of +4). Whoever loses a round must reduce the number of dice they get to roll by -1 and then another round commences. When one being has run out of dice, they have lost the battle. If the egg loses, it will die. If the egg wins the battle, the offending psychic is thrown across the room in a show of psychic force and takes 1d6 + the Egg's Intelligence modifier in damage.

[10] Slitherbaal
The Slitherbaal is a brown-and-black slug that crawls into the nose of its victims. It prefers males, intelligent humanoids, and especially those of martial cultures, but once it has hatched from its eggs it will take any host to avoid death from the sun, which kills it completely. The Slitherbaal joins with the brain of its host, and causes several significant changes over the long course of its infection. First, it stimulates parts of the victim's body tied with growth and health, making them grow a few inches of height and improving their frame- gain +1d4 maximum hit points. It also suppresses fear and increases senses of spatial awareness and aggression- the subject gains +1 To-Hit and AC leading to improved combat ability. Second, the subject will become a more magnanimous and arrogant individual, becoming more and more self centered and having a bombastic personality- the slug gets a kind of high from any euphoria the host feels, and as such it pushes the host towards a life of sex, drink, drugs, and glory in combat!

This parasite doesn't want its host to die so it can continue to leech off their emotions, but neither is it too concerned about keeping them safe or cowardly either; it moreso wants them to live fast and die young. While the benefits from having this parasite are significant, it damages the Wisdom score by 1d2 points every Season, causing more pigheadedness and lowering spirituality until it reaches the minimum possible for this species to have at character creation. (Usually 3)

Unfortunately, there is very little one can do about the Slitherbaal once it has interfaced with the host. Traditionally, these slugs are removed from the host's head by a hook through the nose after the host's death; some ancient cultures infested their rulers with these slugs intentionally to make them better warriors, but their cultures would collapse and be taken over by more practical, conniving peoples. Meditation and instilling a value in discipline and inner-peace are the only thing that can reduce the influence this slug has on its host.

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