Friday, January 27, 2012

The Limb Gypsies

This one's essentially a 'reverse' Hamburger Soup post - ie, not something The Boy said, but something which came out of my mouth in response to the boy.  Weeks of Hamburger Soup sensitivity immediately turned the phrase into game-fodder.

[trying to close the car door] "Get in there, kiddo.  You keep sticking your arm out there and I'll have to take off your arm and leg and sell 'em to the gypsies."
"Gypsies?  What gypsies?"
"I dunno.  The Limb Gypsies.  Now get in the car".
"Terrible luck about those kissing-maidens, sir." said Bertram.  "Never fear, we'll have you back on your feet in no time, and at a very reasonable price, too, if I may say so."


Wampus Country has its share of wanderers, from babbling desert madmen to peripatetic traders.  One wandering group, however, has managed to leave a bit of a dread legend in its wake - and that is the Limb Gypsies.

Never seen in town, the Limb Gypsies are always encountered on the road - so the tales go - and usually not long after someone has lost a limb.  The mercenary Hugo the Barn-Burner came across them not forty-eight hours after losing his left foot to a bear, and it is said that the mysterious beauty Driselda Diamond procured her own prosthetic arm from these gypsies mere hours after losing her own in a trap-laden ruin.

The Limb Gypsies are oddly attired, dressing in a rather antique mode, with long coats and feathered hats, eschewing any modern sartorial sense; in all reported cases there are six or seven of them, mixed male and female - perhaps an extended family unit.  They arrive on the scene on horseback, along with a brightly-painted cart strung with bells.  The lead gypsy - sometimes called Bertram - has been said to ride a snow-white jackass.  Bertram himself is clean-shaven, which is unusual enough in Wampus Country, and wears a linen bandage wrapped around his left palm from a purported woodcutting accident recently incurred.  The other gypsies do not speak, but will lean in close and whisper wordlessly to Bertram from time to time.

Inside the cart, in addition to bedrolls, cooking utensils, and the like, are several boxes of hand-carved wooden limbs.  Arms, legs, feet, and hands have all been mentioned in the tales, all tossed haphazardly in crates, but beautifully carved from exotic woods.  If asked, Bertram says the wood is 'crimson mahogany from beyond the desert' and little more. The limb gypsies offer to sell a replacement limb to the recent amputee, and at a seemingly fair price given the obvious craftsmanship (only a few dollars or gold pieces each).  Each limb proffered is a very nice match for the one lost in terms of length, circumference, shape of the digits, etc.  The prosthetics bear no straps or rivets, but elbows, knees, ankles, and knuckles are well-articulated.  Once the deal is sealed, Bertram fits the new limb to the stump of the old; and, strangely enough, the gypsies always seem to have just the right 'part' to fit the injury, whether it be a full amputation or something less.

As the new wooden limb is pressed up against the buyer's flesh, the weird wood reaches out to grip the stub, and bonds for life.  Almost immediately, the wooden limb functions fairly well - in a matter of days, it is as dextrous as the limb it replaced; fingers move as directed, wooden legs allow a nice swift run or kick, and so forth.  Of course, everyone assumes there is gypsy magic - or something beyond it - at work.  The cost paid and the limb fitted, Bertram and his family depart, continuing on down the road.  Once out of sight, they are gone - turning back down the road to catch up with the limb gypsies is to no avail.


If fitted with a limb gypsy prosthetic, the following occurs to a character:

1) Within hours, the limb is at full functionality.  Dexterity, nerves, pain sensation, the whole nine yards.

2) The replacement limb reacts like flesh, but is still wooden, and the recipient should be careful around fire and the like.

3) The character's new limb may (25%) develop extra 'abilities' over the course of a few days, per the table below.  If a character has two of the same limb (both arms, for example), the total chance of extra abilities jumps to 75%, but only one ability is rolled regardless.  Having more than two gypsy limbs is...a bad idea.

ARM:  1-2 +1 Strength; 3-6 +1 AC if the arm bears a shield or a parrying weapon and is unencumbered by heavy armor, as the arm occasionally parries blows on its own.

HAND:  1-2 +1 Dexterity; 3-4 the hand apparently can play the piano or harpsichord, and elects to do so when the opportunity avails; 5-6 the hand writes long, rambling letters in an unknown language while the character is sleeping.

LEG: 1-3 increase land speed by five feet or so; 4-6 add 25% to jumping distance.

FOOT:  In times of great stress that would stimulate the fight-or-flight response, the foot sprouts roots and attempts to (save vs paralysis) stick to the ground; the rootlets easily penetrate stockings, shoes, and boots, but are stopped by metal footwear.  The roots are easily cut with a blade, but not easily yanked from the ground.

4) All treants, dryads, and the like are immediately hostile to the character.

5) After 1d4 weeks, the receiving character slides one step along the alignment spectrum toward Chaos.  Another 2d4 weeks, another step toward Chaos if necessary.  (If using nine alignments, continue steps first toward Chaos, then toward Evil, every 2d4 weeks.)