This past weekend I played a PnP (pen and paper) game for the first time. The most traditional PnP is Dungeons and Dragons, just to give you a reference point. Given that I love fantasy and creating stories and characters, it is quite a surprise to me that I have never played a PnP before. Numenera, what we are playing, is based millions of years in the future with the magic system being science and technology based. I am enjoying the game play, with the background lore and information creating an intriguing and rich world to play around with.
I have had the character of Oswald in my head for some time now but couldn’t decide what to do with him. I had to tweak him a little to make it fit in with the game play of Numenera, but I am really happy with him. So happy in fact that I got a bit carried away and made his background into a short story. The group seemed to like it so I thought I would share it with you all!
And yes, I did make minifigs of Oswald even though they aren’t needed to play. Like I said, I got a bit carried away…
Oswald looked down at his body. Something had gone terribly wrong. For a start looking down didn’t have the effect that he wanted. Instead of the usual two arms either side of a torso sitting on top of two legs, there was an expanse of belly made of silvery white scales and four stubby reptilian legs. His neck was all wrong too, he suddenly realised. He had never been able to look at his chest that closely before… whatever it was that had happened. He tried to wiggle his fingers, but instead sharp claws scraped the rug beneath him. Yes, it seemed quite clear to him now that his experiment hadn’t quite gone to plan. Remembering the mirror that was above the sink in his room, he turned around and promptly knocked his desk over, smashing glass vials, spilling liquids and toppling a stack of books into the fire. While this act of misfortune was fairly normal for Oswald, his changed body felt much larger than it used to. Using his new longer neck, he craned around to look behind him.
“Is that, is that a tail?!” he wailed. The sound that came from his mouth was still his voice, but deeper and gruffer. So much so that he looked around for a moment to see who had spoken. This action caused yet another avalanche of clutter to spew over the floor. How he had missed them on the first look he didn’t know, but as well as a tail he had acquired wings. Keeping the rest of his body as still as he could, though having no idea how to use his new body parts certainly hindered this, he stretched his neck to the mirror.
Bright yellow eyes set within a broad, scaled face stared back at him. He blinked in surprise a few times, the sharp click of scale meeting scale sounding much louder than it should have done to him in the quiet of his room.
”I’m an effing dragon!” he exclaimed. ”Bugger.”
Things had never gone quite as planned for Oswald. As soon as he was old enough his father had sent him off to the glaive training academy in the next town over, despite Oswald never having shown any aptitude towards the discipline. Also despite there being a perfectly good academy in their home town. After the first missed ‘parent visiting day’, Oswald was disappointed. By the fourth, and after countless unanswered letters, Oswald had accepted the fact that he had been dumped. Oswald hadn’t really minded though. He had enjoyed the training. Mostly. He ended up in the hospital wing more often than any of his classmates, and even when they did go, ”Oswald” became an accepted response when the healer asked “what happened?”. For the first year, he found it hard to make friends. It seemed people avoided you if you somehow put them in the hospital. Even if neither of you really knew how. His second year was much better as people accepted his clumsiness as an endearing quirk. By his fifth year however, his mentors had had enough. The cost of repairs around the academy had reached an alarming amount. Though Oswald still had a few years of training left, he was now an adult and could make his own choices. He could stay, they told him, but they were impressed with his strong connection with the numenera and thought he was much better suited to training as a nano. Oswald was surprised. He certainly found the lore and mystique surrounding numenera interesting, but he could barely use a basic cypher without it exploding in his face. Nevertheless, his mentors insisted- even going as far as arranging an apprenticeship with a well-respected, if a little eccentric, nano called Bobbin who lived just outside of the town.
So it went then, that instead of starting his sixth year of glaive training, he packed up his possessions and headed out of the town and up the mountain path. The nano’s home wasn’t too far up, but it did grant some quite lovely views of the town and surrounding ruins. Oswald noted that it was far enough away from town that he wouldn’t be able to cause any damage to it. The mayor still hadn’t forgiven him for the mishap with the singularity detonation cypher. In his defence, those curtains had been very ugly, and nobody in town seemed to miss the mayor’s daughter. With a sigh, remembering that the girl had at least managed to send a letter informing her family that she was well and living in an alternate universe, he knocked at the heavy wooden door. Oswald was greeted by an old man, a long white beard trailing down below his knobbly knees. Why he was wearing pink synth shorts, Oswald couldn’t fathom, but he smiled kindly he bustled Oswald inside to start his new life.
Oswald didn’t enjoy training as a nano as much as he had a glaive, but he was certainly better at it. It seemed that using his mind to connect to the surrounding nano-machines to manipulate the numenera caused less accidents than when he used his body. Though they did still happen. Fortunately, his master appeared to be constantly amused by Oswald’s clumsiness. They lived together in fair compatibility for a few years and Oswald became better at accessing the numenera and all its associated affairs. But he wasn’t happy. He missed interacting with his fellow students, and training his body to fight. He thought if only he could improve himself; be stronger, more powerful and less clumsy, then the academy would take him back.
He had only meant to change his body a little, but even that had been beyond his ability.
He looked down at himself again and then towards the closed door. There was no way he was going to fit.
”Help!” he called, his deeper voice surprising him again. ”Master Bobbin help me!”
Unfortunately for Oswald it wasn’t unusual for him to seek rescue, so it took a full 10 minutes for Bobbin to come to his aid.
”What is it now…. Oswald?” the old man’s eyes widened in shock.
”Yes, it’s me.” Oswald replied sadly. Bobbin’s face twitched and he burst into a full belly laugh.
”My boy, what did you do?” he guffawed.
”I didn’t mean to!” Oswald protested, slightly annoyed, ”change me back!”
Bobbin stopped laughing.
”My boy, I have no idea what you have done or how to change you back.”
”WHAT?!” shouted Oswald and in a puff of red smoke, in place of the dragon stood a small, somewhat fluffy, grey and white kitten. A few moments of stunned silence passed between them. Then the old man burst into laughter again.
”Dear oh dear, what have you done to yourself.” he chuckled.
”Don’t laugh at me!” Oswald hissed angrily, spitting and fluffing his tail in annoyance.
”Aw, so cute!” Bobbin cooed.
Oswald snarled in response.
”If you don’t change me back I’m going to… “
”Going to what my dear boy? You barely reach my ankles. But alas, even if I wanted to change you back, I couldn’t. If you got yourself into this state, you’ll have to work out how to get out of it too.” Oswald sat back on his haunches, tail whipping around him angrily.
”But I failed the first time. If I try to reverse it I might make it worse!” he growled.
”You’ll have to learn how you went wrong then.” Bobbin said in a soothing voice that just seemed to irritate Oswald further.
”So teach me!” Oswald hissed.
”It is beyond even my understanding dear boy.” he said calmly, “you’ll have to find the knowledge for yourself.”
Oswald sniffed sadly and in another flash of red smoke, and a rather large crash as furniture broke around him, he returned to his dragon form.
”Bugger.” he said again, as Bobbin stifled another laugh. ”How do I get out of this room now?”
”I imagine that you’ll either need to discover what triggers you to change into the cat, or break down my wall. I do not recommend the latter.” With that, Bobbin turned and left the room, closing the door behind him. Oswald scowled, annoyed, and went to retrieve one of his books on the numenera. However, as he turned his large head towards what used to be his desk, he saw their burning remains on the fire. With a howl of rage and yet another puff of smoke, he was a cat again.
”Oh!” he said with understanding.
Over the next month Oswald read his only remaining book and Bobbin’s vast collection on the numenera but was unable to find an answer to his predicament. Though reluctant at first, he finally made the journey down to the library. To his surprise, no one in the town seemed at all shocked to see him in his new form. In fact, as he hesitantly approached the town gates, one of the guards, a glaive he had originally trained with, gave him a cheery wave and a “hello Oswald!”. When another month of reading provided nothing, Oswald became a frequent visitor to the local tavern. It was there that he met a group that he hoped would lead him towards the knowledge he so desperately sought.
So it became that Oswald set out on his journey.
Oswald is not a dragon. He is a person, and anyone thinking otherwise annoys him. However, getting annoyed makes him change form into a small cat. This makes him even more annoyed contributing to an ever perpetuating circle of anger and adorable, fluffy malice.
As a dragon he is the size of a large horse. He uses this to his advantage in combat, utilising his glaive background to stand like a bastion and protect others while using his nano abilities to attack or defend. After a year looking for instructions, a cypher, or anything that could change him back into his original human body, he has some control over his new form. He can sometimes stop himself from changing into a cat [GM to decide if annoyance/anger is triggered, and sets roll difficulty] and is certainly more aware of his bulk, but his clumsiness and lack of awareness of his extra limbs still make for accidents.
If he is unable to stop himself from changing into cat form, all his anger and frustration at his peculiar affliction and his own ineptitude becomes super concentrated in this small body, creating a bubbling bundle of aggression. He switches from defence to attack (though is still clumsy) and uses a slightly different skill set to become a fluffy fighting machine who needs no weapon. This is partly because his cat form is far too small to use his armour, weapons and shield. Fortunately, by some strange quirk of the numenera (or so Oswald thinks), they disappear and reappear with his dragon shaped body. In actuality, he is much better using the numenera that he believes he is, and he has managed to link these pieces of equipment to the nanite part of his body that traps him in the dragon form. Though that doesn’t stop them being lost/stolen/damaged/sold while in that form. After the encounter the rage usually subsides and he returns to his dragon form [GM to set roll difficulty]. His stats and skills remain the same for both bodies.
Due to him actually being a human, he can do things that a normal dragon or cat can’t do, but also is unable to do some things that the animals can. He can talk and has more dexterity in his digits but he cannot fly (yet). He also absolutely refuses to groom himself as a cat. This allows him to interact with his environment and tools mostly as he could before, but for all else he uses hedge magic. While as a cat, he can retract his claws (which is particularly useful for his focus), but he keeps his dragon claws fairly dull so as to not accidentally scratch himself. This means that his dragon unarmed attacks are no more powerful than a regular person’s. Also, as he controls the numenera via a psychic talent [psionics], neither of his forms hinder his nano abilities.
Oswald as a dragon goes into a bar and knocks all the groups drinks over, but he does offer to buy them a new round and uses some of his self-deprecating humour to win them over. Over their drinks they tell him of their campaign and Oswald joins them, hoping that on their journey he will find something to cure him.
Possible Angry Cat Triggers:
- His clumsiness causes negative effects for the group e.g.:
- He breaks important cyphers or equipment
- Hurts one of the other PCs
- Is treated like an animal e.g.:
- People pet him
- People try to use him like a horse to ride or carry baggage
- People believe he is actually a dragon/cat