The Life Cycle of the Couch Tiger

Red sofa

The coloring agent is actually blood you know.

The cubs start out as simple footstools, and typically hide in the corners, waiting to be fed with wood, and bits of metal, and fiber. If no more substantial furniture is available, they will graze on carpets and plant fibers – which is better than nothing. Still, too much of such junk food and they will soon become overstuffed, a condition which may plague them all their lives.

On a proper diet they will swiftly grow into upholstered chairs, unfolding a back and arms in the dead of night.

From there, the seat broadens, and they will become double-chairs, or “love seats”. At this point their fabric will begin to lose the simple patterns of childhood, and begins to develop the intricate embroiderings and brocades of adulthood. Now capable of pulling down and devouring wooden benches, tables, and other serious prey, it will not be long before the Couch Tiger molts it’s outer fabric – creating a layer of crudely degraded cloth often known as a “dust cover”. When it emerges from beneath that cover, it will have attained full adulthood as a sleek modern couch, capable of pulling down anything short of a full-grown banquet table.

As Couch Tigers age, they grow thicker layers of upholstery, and sometimes develop thick fabric callouses known as “slip covers” – further defenses against the wear and tear of their predatory lives.

Elder Couch Tigers may begin to seek out gold, gems, and similar ornamental materials as they age, incorporating them into their fabric and reinforcing it – and, incidentally, developing the magnificent coats for which they are justly famed. After a secondary molt-and-“dust-cover” stage, they may emerge as so-called “Antique Couches” – magnificent beasts with their curled, clawed legs, massive structure, and scarred finishes. There is no mightier predator to be found within the furnished world.

Sadly, even the mightiest of Couches will fade at last. While human aid can preserve the best of the breed for a remarkably long time, wear and tear will eventually accumulate, their vitality will fade, their joints will become old and creaky, and – finally – the remains of the best specimens may be restuffed to become museum pieces, their final flickers of vitality barely enough to remain standing.

Still, if well-fed and cared for, a Couch Tiger is readily domesticated, and will make a reliable companion, always ready to hold a few things for you – or to support you when you’re tired or are simply looking to relax with a friend.

All right then; the original question was about building “living” furnishings and household utensils – the sort of things you see in some cartoons – in Eclipse.

The quick-and-dirty way is pretty simple: I’ll call it the “Talking Teapot Template” (+0 CP and +0 ECL).

  • Select an animal with some vague resemblance to what you want. Want flying teacups? Bats or Birds might do nicely.
  • Remove it’s Constitution attribute. Whatever magic makes these things “alive”, it’s not any kind of normal metabolism. Since most animals have decent constitution modifiers (+2 or +4) after dropping the size modifiers this will save you 12 to 24 CP and provides a long list of immunities – even if it does often cost the larger animals some hit points. Coupled with the usual “converted character get a few bonus points” rule, call it 24 CP as a general template.
  • For larger creatures buy Advanced Finesse/Bonus Hit Points are based on Strength instead of Constitution. For smaller creatures just buy the size-based bonus hit points available with the “No Constitution” option. 12 CP either way.
  • Buy Universal DR 3/-, applicable to both physical and energy damage. That’s enough to let teapots sit over small fires without harm (after all, even peasants with 1d4 hit points tend to stay conscious after stepping into small fires or burning themselves on stoves – so such episodes can’t to too much damage in d20 terms) and to reasonably represent the durability of things like ceramics, thin metal, and jointed wood. That’s 6 CP.
  • Add some minor special talent worth 6 CP. If you want the usual talkative-but-not-too-bright candlesticks and utensils, add +1 Int. Since a lot of animals are Int 2, that gets you to the sentient-and-talking (if not too bright outside of their specialty) stage. Go ahead. Give that animated weapons-rack the equivalent of Combat Reflexes, or let that lumbering lion-stove generate the occasional small burst of flame or count it’s door as a shield or some such.
  • Shift their skills (and sometimes bonuses). If you’re making a classical Badger Teapot, drop the “Escape” skill and put a few points into Craft/Cooking. Let it boss the other utensils around and make your dinner. For a Couch Tiger change the stealth bonus from “hiding in tall grass” to “hiding in furnished rooms”.
  • Describe your creatures new look. That should be pretty easy. It’s motivations are usually pretty straightforward too; hungry Couch Tigers want to eat your gear. Well-fed Couch Tigers want to nap, usually in front of a nice warm fireplace. Teapots usually want to make and serve tea. Upset flying teacups may pour hot tea over your head and be REALLY REALLY ANNOYING as they complain at you in high squeaky voices.

Now that may be a few CP off in particular cases, just as any general procedure will have it’s exceptions – but these are typically going to be NPC’s, and being a few CP off really doesn’t matter all that much.

What, you want a lot of these things? “Leadership” is best if you expect to ride to battle on your banquet table (Elephant), accompanied by a pair of Couch-Tigers and a dozen or so Flying Knives (Hawks).

For background features – if you really want an animated teapot that makes tea in the morning before you get up – you can just “buy a trained animal”. If the GM makes you pay a point or two to know an artificer who makes these things – well, that is the GM’s privilege. It’s not like this is going to make a serious difference.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 183b – With an Order of Mushrooms

Fungus on Fungus

The classical version was prettier...

The seas were otherwise calm, and the wind was blowing in a favorable quarter – but about six hours into the journey it seemed that one of the crewman had fallen overboard.

He was still visible at least – but he was… swimming off into the distance?

That was STUPID!

(Kevin, to the Thralls) “Fish him out again! If he wants to go and isn’t a spy, he needs a small boat! If he’s a spy, we may still want to let him go, but we want to know who he’s spying for!”

It wasn’t like they didn’t have a dozen different ways to fish him out. The way he frantically struggled to get back into the water again was a little disconcerting though. What, had someone thrown a spell on him to turn him aquatic?

(Marty) “What’s up wolfy?

(Wolf) “It smells so good! I must have it! You can’t keep me away from that sweet, sweet aroma! You just want it all to yourself!”

Well, that was an interesting local variant on the old ‘Sirens’ routine!

(Marty) “Noseplugs for everybody!”

(Cook) “Are you insinuating that my food has given everyone indigestion?! Well, I never!”

(Marty) “No! Angkor can explain.”

(Kevin/Angkor) “Nope! That someone is trying to lure you all into drowning yourselves with supernaturally-enticing odors!”

(Cook, doubtfully sniffing the air) “Hmm, I must say that is an enticing aroma………”

(Marty, who could not cook) “Oh no you don’t!”

Kevin threw a mass noseplugs spell!

Raphael started holding his breath until he was sure that he wouldn’t get hit!

OK, there would have been a serious flaw with that plan if Kevin HADN’T promptly gone with the noseplugs solution – but the kid was pretty predictable sometimes.

Still, after a few hours, the odor would saturate their clothes, food, and supplies. That was going to be a headache later unless the effect was short-term or something (in which case it might be a boon to trade).

Marty tried pleasure magic. Cleaning was definitely on the fringe of the field, but it had to be there… He whipped up a large-area deodorizing spell – even if it did leave everything lemon scented.

Raphael went with the mind-magic again – some psychic void spells to negate the compulsion.

That didn’t work entirely – it was pretty strong – but it neatly handled what got past Marty and the Noseplugs.

Kevin had some of the Thralls in dolphin-form take a look; they were already immune to most compulsions induced through the senses – and it couldn’t be affecting dolphins much anyway because, if it did, (1) they’d be there from all over the seas, and (2) they had very little sense of smell anyway.

The Thralls reported the presence of some sort of vegetative mass the size of a small island floating in the waters. It looked like the usual sea life was avoiding the thing. Tentacles or roots reached down below it, and disappeared into the murky depths below.

They also reported a faintly repugnant scent.

A giant venus fly-trap from another realm? Or just a rare native species? If it was THIS effective it would be really hard for the locals to figure out what caused the occasional disappearances…

Kevin had the Thralls try communicating; after all, it might have some kind of mind!

More of a floating forest. There were quite a lot of little minds – but nothing at all advanced. The scent seemed to be coming from a fungal growth on top of the thing. The largest mushroom was over twenty feet tall and had a strange orange mist about itself.

Underneath it there were a lot of slowly-crumbling bones… sailors and birds mostly.

Marty had to wonder… Was the whole setup symbiotic? Would it attack them if they tried to chop the fungus off? Would the roots will pop up to strangle them? He remembered how the Truffle hunt had gone back home! 80% casualties! Those oak trees could be brutal!

The longest available “pole” to poke it with was a line-of-sight forcebolt spell – even if it was a rather weak one.

Hmm… The roots didn’t seem to react much beyond swaying in the currents. The vegetative mass responded by bunching up and releasing some sort of clear gel. The fungus responded via the release of more orange haze.

They talked Raphael into testing the gel and the haze and various other samples. He was a general scientist, and a biologist, and an arcanist, and who knew what all…

Well, presumably he did – but with a divination mage, it was really hard to tell what he was an expert on besides “knowing stuff”.

It looked like… the root system was an odd form of a sulfur-breathing creature anchored to a volcanic vent. The top vegetative portion appeared to be a combination of symbiotic plant species doing nitrogen fixation and other species that captured animals for additional nutrients. The root system for the plant was intermingled with the roots coming from below with significant nutrient exchange going on. The fungus is more of a parasitic organism that had infected the plants on top and was busily breaking the plants down into food for itself, and in the process was using it’s spores to lure in potential compost.

Removing the fungus wouldn’t harm the plant, and the funguses only major defense mechanisms were it’s attractive and sophoric scent and highly-addictive tissues. Damage would cause it to release more spores, but that was fairly easily dealt with.

That really was quite interesting! There could be a wide variety of commercial uses… Perfume, foods, and more!

Of course, it might well be magical enough to only work when it’s alive and it would have to be carefully sealed in airtight containers or else shipboard productivity would plummet.

It looked like they’d have to rid the forest of some parasitic fungus. Of course, the spores were all over the place… They’d have to decontaminate the fleet after this – and the crews too; it might be able to grow on or in them too.

Hrm. Highly attractive smelling mushroom zombies?

As far as eating them went… that “addictive” bit WAS a problem. Worse, Marty suspected that these were not like BBW mushrooms, which often DID heal you or grant special powers for a bit!

Sadly, the psychological and physiological effects ranged from stupor to depression and a weakened immune system.

Drat!

(Marty) “Hey, I think Jenkins’ ex took that one for weeks after the divorce! You don’t want that in you.”

(Raphael) “Well, now that we have decided to get rid of the fungus, how do we get rid of the fungus?”

(Kevin) “Rain of fungicide? Transform a few local bugs to eat it right up?”

(Raphael) “Wait!! it’s a parasite; giant heal spell?”

(Kevin, rather doubtfully) “Well, it is a single infection-organism…”

(Raphael) “It’s growing on two other plants, and there’s no land there for it to root in other than the rotting corpses it has gathered… Still, bugs might be the better option; that will keep working if the spores make another – and doesn’t take nearly as much magic.”

Huh! Raphael didn’t seem to have ANY idea how much work making species could be! It took HOURS!

For a moment, Raphael suddenly found Kevin looking doubtful a little frightening… What if he took this as a reason to suddenly revise the world again? He was NOT stitching reality back together twice in one day!

Well, at least he didn’t want to have to try!

Marty had to agree there. He suspected that they hadn’t yet sailed out of the radius of Kevin’s FIRST major magical act on this voyage!

Bugs it was!

For a moment, Kevin had an impulse to create a giant moth creature designed to eat anything vaguely looking like a mushroom – and to battle any giant lizard creatures that might be roaming around – but that passed quickly.

Of course, things might easily warp a bit after they left. That kind of thing DID happen, and Pirate Mothra (and, for that matter, Ninja Godzilla) had both been mentioned on occasion… And it WOULD do wonders to disrupt Otter shipping!

Everyone else’s too though – and they’d probably done enough of that for one day.

Kevin settled for a variant on ladybugs that could easily digest these particular mushrooms, trace them by scent, breed effectively, and to slow up (eating far smaller amounts of other fungi) – or even drop into hibernation – when the supply of their preferred fungus ran down.

That just used magic, no mana, and so wouldn’t distort the local reality again.

Marty and Raphael kept a few carefully-contained fungus samples for further investigation and possible commercial use, but let the bugs have the rest. Marty felt that – between Escrima and Kadia – there had to be some way to make it profitable and safe as a perfume or something.

It took an hour or two before Kevin was happy with his bugs anyway.

After that… It was cleaning and scrubbing the ships and crew. Fortunately the Thralls had their smartclothes to help filter it out and were at last finding that immunity to sensory-based mind control coming in handy. So was Raphael’s endless supply of Unseen Servants…

And the fleet continued southward.