Friday 20 February 2015

That Which Slips Between

Originally written for and published in The Undercroft #2. You should go and buy it.

It moves towards you, It’s gait leisurely. Each step It takes It moves too-far towards you, the distance seeming to warp with every step. A nightmarish child-drawing of a human figure - a jumble of lines masquerading as a man, a stick figure given malignant life and purpose. The sheer otherness of it radiates like a poison, defying the dimension of width as it pursues.
It leaks in. Slides. Slips. Infiltrates. Perhaps the cracks in the floorboards, the panelling of your carriage, the gap between a window and a pane, a mirror and its frame. It will always find a way to enter once brought here. Invoked by a madman or someone driven beyond that, a ritual-pattern of perfect geometry and precision. Complex and arcane, it would burn itself into the mind of those who knew it with its alien and foreign lines. If it could be written and consequently read, it would boil away the magic from a mages mind, unless they were able to resist (save vs. magic). The effort of this would deplete their energies for the day.
The ritual-designs themselves are consumed in the act of summoning, obliterating them entirely as their nature calls out to That Which Slips Between. Any slight damage to the designs results in complete failure - no summoning. The arrangement is not so much a ritual as an invitation – once complete, the designs scream for It to enter our world. Those completing the designs are best advised to have an escape route ready, or have prepared a binding method.
It is a thing of two dimensions, of straight lines and of vectors. Only a completely solid barrier with no gaps could hold it at bay, such as a huge slab of unworked stone. The limbs of the Stick Man are so thin that no object offers resistance. It can use this to climb and cut through those objects it cannot simply slip through. This also applies to those it attacks – armour does nothing, and is in fact ruined by the limb. Each successful hit reduces the protection the armour provides by 1 point. It punctures perfect holes the size of your index finger, dealing 1d10 damage with a 10% chance of hitting something vital. This is done by chance. It does not care, seemingly striking at random. If something vital is hit, the GM should determine the effect appropriately. Injuries bleed profusely, and the material once occupying the wound is gone.
It does not hate you. It knows not hate. It does not think, for it cannot – it is not of this place. It moves randomly, attacking for no reason before moving off in a different direction. Characters observing It should be encouraged to try and make sense of It’s actions. Roll a d20 on table 1 to determine It’s actions randomly.  When It Advances, roll on table 2.
If it has been loosed, rumours quickly spread of it. These rumours connect it to any of the things on table 3, perhaps several of these things. These rumours often contradict. People are unwilling to discover the validity of these rumours, and those that have tried have not been seen again. It makes no efforts to hide, leaving a trail of devastation.
It cannot be fought – weapons are cut around it. If not actively killing, it ignores those who attempt to strike it. Arrows are sliced in twain around it, though it is not an easy target to hit – treat as AC 19 for this purpose. Bullets are similarly cut, although the kinetic impact of them can impede it slightly. Magic has no effect on it – almost as if the magic cannot find a target. It is near impossible to spot without ample light, surprising 5 in 6 times when concealed in darkness. It does not usually consciously use this, but is merely an unhappy coincidence.
It can be bound. It loves/hates/loves/hates perfect circles. It will always stop to examine a perfect circle on any surface. If encircled by a perfect circle, it cannot leave. It will simply follow the curve endlessly, until something or someone ruins the circle. It will then kill the party responsible for the destruction of the circle, but will go further than usual – it will dice them into tiny cubes, slicing rather than simply piercing, going well beyond what is required to kill. It will then return to It’s normal behaviour. The same logic applies backwards - It cannot enter a perfect circle, rendering those inside perfectly safe against it.

AC19 – No HD (cannot be harmed) – 1 attack, ignores armour, 1d10 piercing damage
Moves slightly faster than a galloping horse at maximum, but the length of It's stride never seems to change, only the distance covered does.
Size varies between sightings, but never smaller than a man and never taller than a church steeple.
Table 1
(Except where It specifically Advances, It will switch between Slipping Between and more conventional travel when moving. Advancing is always conventional travel.)
Advances. Kills anything that moves directly through It’s path. Keeps going for 8 minutes 12 seconds.
Stays perfectly still for 6 minutes 37 seconds. Does not engage in combat.
Move rapidly to the nearest light source. Does not engage in combat. Moves with the light source for 10 minutes 59 seconds.
Advances slowly, almost at a crawl. Impales any living thing within 50 foot, and carries it for 7 minutes 7 seconds.
Remains still until a living thing moves within 150 foot, whereupon it will charge and kill them. If it is a group of living things, it will kill only one before remaining still for 3 minutes 6 seconds.
Advances until it encounters a body of water. Does not engage in combat. Waits at the shore for 2 minutes 4 seconds.
Moves in a perfect spiral, slowly converging on one point. The spiral’s diameter is equal to 1d100 foot. Any living thing in the spiral is killed first. Once the spiral is complete, It waits for 2 minutes 18 seconds.
It waits until something moves within a 50 foot radius. It will then stalk this thing for 15 minutes 41 seconds.
It will Slip into the nearest available thin gap (thin being less than 5 mm). It will then exit from another similar gap within a 5 mile radius after 2 minutes 1 second.
It systematically hunts and kills any living thing with a total mass over 5 grams in a 200 foot radius. Each victim with be brought to the highest point in this area and vivisected, the various internal organs collected into piles. This activity continues for 12 minutes 18 seconds, or until there are no living creatures in the radius.
It will seek the lowest point in a 500 foot radius.  It will then kill anything deemed to be within this depression before standing perfectly still for 6 minutes 34 seconds. If anything enters this depression, it will kill them, even if they leave the area.
It will attack each living creature in a 250 foot radius once. It will not do this in a logical order, seemingly randomly choosing new targets. Anything that leaves the radius is safe.
It will attempt to cut perfect circles into the nearest flat surface. These attempts will be made of thousands of tiny angles rather than being true circles. Any living thing that comes within 20 foot of It attempting this will be diced rather than simply killed. This activity continues until it is disturbed or for 4 days 19 hours 57 minutes 8 seconds.
It will arrange fresh corpses within a 1 mile radius into a complex geometric pattern 1d100 foot in radius. If there are not enough bodies, it will make them, straying 2 miles from the origin point to find the bodies. If it cannot gather sufficient materials within 12 hours 6 minutes 50 seconds, it will use vegetation to complete it. If this is not possible, it will carve the patterns into the ground.
It will seek the largest concentration of inhabitants within 5 miles. It will stand in the approximate centre of this village/town/city for 1 week 2 days 1 hour 3 seconds.
It will flee at high-speed away from any signs of living creatures for 18 hours 6 minutes 42 seconds. It will not Slip Between.
It will mimic the actions of the first living thing to pass within 50 foot of it for 31 minutes 19 seconds, travelling a hair’s breadth away. It’s actions happen simultaneously to those It mimics - there is no delay between the two.
It will seek the darkest place in a 1 mile radius, and kill anything entering the area. Those already present are safe. It will lurk here for 5 hours 2 minutes 4 seconds.
It will return to the place it originally entered the world. It will remain there for 1 minute 2 seconds.
It will hunt the players using any of the methods described above. It will lay in ambush. It will Slip Between. It will continue until successful or 3 days, 7 hours 7 minutes 7 seconds have passed. It will terrorize the players rather than directly assaulting them. It may act as before to trick them.

Table 2
North East
South East
South West
North West

Table 3
Rumours link It to…
A black Mastiff with yellow eyes, watching from afar...
A wandering man in grey, crowned in pale leathers...
A mad merchant and her horse, selling exotic wares...
A rat with the face and tongue of a man…
A fresh-risen standing stone on a hill…
A dead forest sporting new growth….
A carved tablet from the sea, written in dead tongues...
A crimson candle burning-backward...
A healer-of-lepers, travelling only at night...
An old star, now burning bright only at day...

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