This article originally appeared in Pyramid #2
By Scott Paul Maykrantz
ST: n/a Move/Dodge: n/a Size: less than 1 DX: n/a PD/DR: 0/0 Weight: 1 oz. IQ: n/a Damage: n/a Habitat: dead brains HT: 1 hit Reach: n/a Other Names: Cipherids, brood leeches
Bookworms are found in the brains of corpses. They feed on the evil thoughts of the deceased and, if they are captured and handled properly, they can be used to transcribe those thoughts.
Each bookworm is five to ten inches long. Their slimy, translucent black skin is filled with a thick, odorous juice. They have no eyes, mouths, or other features. If touched, they twitch and writhe defensively.
Bookworms are very rare. They live only in those brains that have held significant concentrations of evil thoughts. If such a brain has bookworms (roll of 2 on 2d), one to six will be found. If the corpse is old and the brain has decayed completely, they will be found hibernating in the skull cavity. Hibernating bookworms can survive for decades, but their ability to hold evil thoughts is reduced (see below).
To transcribe the evil thoughts, a character must drain the bookworm and drink its juice. Because of their grotesque habitat (and the taste of the juice), a Will roll is required to keep from vomiting. If successful, the drinker's mind is filled with the evil thoughts. Absorbing evil thoughts results in an immediate Fright Check. The thoughts are understood in the drinker's native tongue.
The thoughts will fade from memory in (drinker's IQ/5) minutes. Eidetic memory (either level) doubles this length of time. They can be preserved if the drinker writes them down. They cannot be transferred or preserved by any other means - not by psionics, speaking aloud, gestures, or voice recording. They can be written in any language the drinker knows. The transcribed text lasts as long as any written material; it will not fade from the page as the thoughts do in the drinker's memory. As the drinker transcribes the thoughts, make additional Fright Checks during passages of particular intensity.
There is a second, less disgusting, means of extracting the thoughts. If a writing utensil is soaked in the juice of a bookworm for one full night, a spellcaster can transcribe the thoughts by casting the Manipulate spell. If successful, the juice is absorbed by the utensil and it begins to write. Fright Checks may still be necessary when the caster reads the text.
Bookworms from the same brain (or skull cavity) hold the same thoughts. Multiple bookworms allow multiple attempts to absorb the evil thoughts, or to allow multiple characters to absorb the same thoughts.
The exceptions are the hibernating bookworms. In this case, the thoughts are divided evenly among them. If two characters drink from different hibernating bookworms in the same skull, they will absorb different thoughts from the same source (i.e., one character absorbs the corpse's evil young-adult thoughts, while the other character absorbs the evil thoughts from middle age). The content of the thoughts - their depth, detail and potency - is up to the Game Master. Their structure will depend on the personality of the source. The evil obsessions of a madman could be received as a massive puzzle of scattered ideas. The brutal strategies of a deranged dictator could be received as a cohesive dissertation. And the careful record of a serial killer's career could be received as a remorseless reminiscence.
Bookworms come from an unknown source. Some scholars think they spontaneously generate from the brain tissue of the dead. Others feel that the worms are mystic mutations of earthworms. Whoever discovers their true origin will wield great power, especially if a method is devised to grow or plant bookworms in targeted brains.
Bookworm Adventure Seeds
These creatures give characters something they need (information), but with a price. Adventures do not have to involve drinking bookworm juice. The PCs can try to find bookworms, rescue bookworms from someone who will misuse them, destroy some bookworms, or use them for another purpose. No matter what happens, however, make sure the PCs have to handle these slimy little creatures (or at least dig them out of a skull).
The Fourth Reich. The PCs uncover a truly horrifying plot: Hitler set up a secret organization just before he died, a strategy that will make the Fourth Reich an inevitable global power in the early 21th Century. The plot is well underway, but the PCs cannot find any evidence of its structure, members, or methods to combat it. Then they discover that Hitler's brain is being held somewhere in Russia . . . and it is full of bookworms.
The Library. In a quiet nearby suburb there is a well-stocked library. The librarian, an ancient and paranoid crone, is a spellcaster who knows how to breed bookworms. She has used the creatures to transcribe the evil thoughts of hundreds of people. Some are famous, others are not. Each has his or her own volume. The librarian researches all additional details about the subject and documents this in the book as well.
The librarian is trying to develop a special spell, with materials the player characters can provide for her. When cast upon one of the books, its subject is reborn. But she needs a human body to act as the host for each of her reincarnations.
ST: 13 Move/Dodge: 6/6 Size: 1 DX: 8 PD/DR: 2/1 Weight: 90-150 lbs. IQ: 1d+6 Damage: by ST or weapon Habitat: any HT: 20 Reach: C,1 Other Names: Bugbastards
A breeder is a dead human filled with breederbugs. Breederbugs are centipede-like black insects that invade corpses, reproducing rapidly as they eat the organs and bones inside. Leaving only the husk of outer flesh, they continue to multiply until they form a tightly-packed mass. They secrete a fluid that preserves the flesh of the husk. The fluid also binds them together, allowing them to imitate muscles as they twitch and shift in a complex series of movements.
Breederbugs share a single consciousness, a hive mind of mutual instincts and collective decisions. While one breederbug has the intelligence of an ant, a mass inside a corpse has an IQ of a normal human, occasionally higher.
A breeder appears to be a normal, living being. As long as a breeder wears sunglasses (or squints its eyes) and never opens its mouth, it can blend in with society. Breeders cannot talk, smell, or taste. They can, however, learn how to behave by observing humans. This includes gesturing, shaking hands, walking, running, using simple tools and weapons, and pretending to sleep.
Breeders can see - dozens of breederbugs peer from the eye sockets, communicating visual information to the hive mind. Each breeder also develops some unique mannerisms such as a distinct walk (a slight limp), habitual gestures (itching behind the ear), length of sleeping periods (midnight to dawn), etc.
Extreme heat is very painful to breeders, causing the breederbugs to evacuate the husk immediately. A burning breeder will shudder and then vomit a thick, continuous stream of squirming black bugs. The husk collapses and the breederbugs scatter.
Occasionally, a breederbug will fall out of a breeder's mouth. Conventional injury (bullets, impact, blades, etc.). will spill a few from the inflicted gashes and holes. A firm shake or solid punch will cause breederbugs to fall out the ears and nostrils. Breederbugs outside a husk will die. The fluid that holds them together and preserves the husk's skin dries quickly - in five minutes, the fluid is gone and the breederbug will be reduced to a pile of black ash.
Breeders are stimulated by static. They thrive on the sound of radios tuned between stations and televisions showing "snow." This sound is their food; without regular doses, they cannot secrete their precious fluid. After a day without static, breeders lose one hit every two hours.
The Life of Breeders
All breeders want to do is listen to static and occasionally create another breeder. They do not naturally cooperate with each other, and they do not want to take over the world. They will eagerly infest any corpse they encounter (or create), but they do not go out of their way to kill or multiply.
If the breeder stays inconspicuous and avoids conversations, it can survive among humans for years. They are not capable of elaborate ruses, and always assume roles that combine minimum interaction with maximum proliferation: they pretend to be people who are everywhere, but never need to converse. This includes the homeless, retarded people, transients, the elderly, children and mutes.
Breeders are ruthless and deadly if provoked. If a breeder is backed into a corner, attacked with fire, or nearly dead from lack of static, it will go Berserk (p. B31). They also have Bad Tempers and a Mild Phobia of fire.
Because they do not have an agenda of their own, they can be controlled by a suitably powerful and intelligent being - a mad scientist, for example, might devise a way to lead them, building a breeder army for his own ends.
Breeder Adventure Seeds
Breeders can be a new brand of zombie, docile cannon-fodder for a greater power, a secret sect of humanity, or (if encountered on an individual basis) creeping horrors in the guise of normal humans. Use the special types of humans who become breeders as a starting point for adventures - think about where you'll find these types of people, and what they do when you encounter them.
Fingered. Ever wonder why Secret Service bodyguards never speak, always wear sunglasses, and have those radios in their ears? In this adventure, the PCs receive an anonymous tip leading them to discover that most Secret Service agents are breeders. Digging deeper, they find a document, prepared by an unknown U.S. intelligence agency, describing how to use breeders in a variety of clandestine ways - as guerrillas, stormtroopers, bodyguards, assassins, etc. Who leaked this to the PCs, and why? What other branches of the government know about this?
The Dregs. In the near future, a whole class of humanity has been given up for dead - the dregs. These are the pitifully poor, the human refuse who lie in gutters in the darkest ghettos of the city. Few people can stand to look at them. Entire neighborhoods, the dreg zones, are neglected because only the dregs live there.
The dregs are fast becoming breeders. One after another, they are dying and rising again. The dreg zones buzz at night with the sound of static from radios and televisions. People nearby are getting nervous. When the PCs become involved, they find two evil forces among the dregs. One is a shady businessman with a fortune and an army of henchmen at his disposal. The other is a secret society of bug-worshippers.
The battle for control of the dregs is about to begin. The winner may be able to control this part of the city.
Article publication date: August 1, 1993
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