Dungeoneer’s Diary #8 – The Nasty Nosfer-roach

Posted: November 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

Even the Target mannequins must fear Nosfer-roach…

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Nosfer-roach. A vampire cockroach named after Nosferatu. Again, let’s not reinvent the wheel if we don’t have to. Bloodsucking or carnivorous insects aren’t actually all that new in either nature (fleas, mosquitos) or fantasy (Them!) and I’m certain somebody somewhere has stared down a pack of jaded players that has read all the listings in The Monster Manual and just gone – “Fine! What look like six cockroaches about the size of golf bags scuttle out from holes in the walls. Initiative rolls, please. (Dice rolls around table). And those of you that are on the ball notice that these large disgusting insects have fangs much like a vampire or maybe a tarantula and at least two sets of fangs are smeared in wet blood.”

As always the discriminating GM, will have to bend a little imagination to just how the nosfer-roach will interact with players (a.k.a. unsuspecting victims). What follows are my suggestions, blovius and reasoning to support such. Your mayhem will vary.

First question to answer – how intricately linked to vampires is the nosfer-roach species?

I’m pretty sure that the answer will almost uniformly trend towards – “Dude, calling the proposed beast nosfer-anything will automatically put it in the vampire lifecycle in a way that hopefully makes more sense than Alien Xenomorphs, Facehuggers and all fifty stops in between!” Sorry, I can’t resist bashing the Alien Franchise for its massively confusing cinematic pseudo-biology

Yes, the vampire is built into the name. But, from another point of view we do have to ask the question, if only to differentiate how real bloodsuckers and carnivorous bugs do things. Fleas and mosquitos take a little blood leaving behind small doses of the natural anticoagulant that itches like hell ten minutes after they leave. The mommy bug lays her eggs and the blood feeds them. And nothing else untoward happens to the blood donor.

Well, nothing else happens in a First World country with the budget to conduct baited bug traps so scientists can be paid modest sums of money to put dead bugs in a blender and test for the presence of various infectious viral vectors and bacteria. After which the health authorities in said First World country basically send out the helicopters to emulate certain scenes from Apocalypse Now (Wagner opera selections on the PA system optional) armed to the teeth with Malathion. The Third World basically needs to become intimately familiar with whatever naturally occurring bug repellent is known to the local wise man and bug nets…lots of bug nets.

However, nothing about malaria, yellow fever, West Nile and Plague have any symptoms that mimic what the movies teach us about vampires. Certainly no one is known to have come back from these bug born killers as a carrier likely to infect one’s innocent lover. Similarly the merely flesh eating among bugs just eat everything and then march to the next part of forest stripping everything in the army’s path. Again nothing about it says Vampire.

Second question to answer – Once we establish that there has to be a link between nosfer-roach and vampire, did the Vampire Curse arise in large mutated cockroaches first crossing over into humans and other humanoid RPG species, or did a vampire infect the bugs at some later point?

Basically, this is the Chicken and the Egg Question Vampire Style. Either way, the existence of the nosfer-roach exists as a hedge against the Vampire Curse dying out because of a lack of transmission. Why? The traditional post-Dracula narrative assumes that the bloodsucker is someone with a budget that can invite Brides (Grooms?) and other victims in for tea at which time he/she busts out the seduction and hypnotism skills.

However, seduction and hypnotism seem from a purely pseudo-biological point of view a grossly inefficient method of spreading the Curse that we assume acts like a virus. The vampire might receive the gift of magical seduction power upon turning, but magical seduction power is still going to demonstrate a wide range of results among different vampires. Dracula also has the castle, darkly handsome looks and Vlad Tepes’ former budget as the undead Prince of Walachia with which to woo unsuspecting young women. By contrast Dubchak of Dubchak the Polish Vampire (played by the immortal Eddie Deezen) is a dweeb vampire who might not ever win the Bed and Bite contest with any other vampires in the story.

Even if we act like school bullies and shove Dubchak into a locker to improve the field for Dracula, seduction and hypnosis lose much of their potency the minute we contemplate the vampire’s natural enemy, the highly educated hunter…Abraham van Helsing. I’ve never seen a movie with Van Helsing or one of his descendants where the doctor-hunter didn’t come to the party armed with his own hypnosis that cancels out Vlad’s powers. Watch Love at First Bite for the funny version of this hypno-fight.

Seduction and hypnosis methodology continues to break down when we at least pretend to consider the agency of the selected Bride/protagonist. Experience teaches if you live. A selected Bride that rises up to find her inner Wonder Woman would probably laugh at the second vampire in her life.

We assume from getting our biology and pseudo-biology from Wikipedia that viruses and Curses that act like viruses do so to maximize the potential to spread. Therefore whether Dubchak dweebs his way through the dance or Dracula folds her up in his arms to speak sweet nothings in her ear the vampire seduction method can only work some of the time. The pseudo-biology of the Curse wants more surety. Enter the nosfer-roach.

The idea here for the discriminating GM is to create an alternative vector that maximizes the Curse spreading using a beast that lives in filth and attacks by regular old non-seductive ambush and fades back into the shadows. Earlier vampire lore that resulted in the actual silent movie classic Nosferatu assumed just that methodology. He snuck up on you and it was all over but the shouting within seconds.

Nosferatu’s weakness was being an ugly beast sure to inspire fear. When you get to see him coming you have a chance to leave him out in the sun. Giving the Curse an additional vector using disgusting bugs might seem more of the same, but the GM gets to play with how large the roaches are. Smaller bugs than the ones I propose (golf bag size) can hide anywhere and bite more people and even larger bugs still retain much of that ability compared to the ugly beast presented in the classic movie.

Regardless of how the GM chooses to answer my second Chicken or Egg question, here’s how I see the process going. The vampire gets frustrated with his diminishing returns, as the local peasant women become hard targets with mental and physical kung fu and summons his Renfield. Luckily, the wretched soul that aids and abets the vampire typically just loves eating all kinds of insects, roaches among them. Renfield leads his master to the nest whereupon the vampire opens up his wrist and sprinkles blood all over the roach eggs. Presto! The eggs mutate into nosfer-roach growing to whatever size is deemed scariest by the Author/GM. Again, don’t reinvent the wheel.

The weakness of this method in your story is that the open the wrist and drink from the vampire’s blood motif, represents a conscious choice to become a vampire. Nobody that gets bit by a nosfer-roach makes this choice. My own meager imagination fails in this exact spot, but trust me much Author/GM tap-dancing will take place.

To aid the nosfer-roach in its mission to spread the Vampire Curse, I will suggest a few rule changes to vampires to make these vile bastards just a little tougher for your game. I would drop the whole sunlight kills thing (selectively edited out of vampire mythology anyways). I would argue that the insect exoskeleton is made from substances impervious to ultraviolet light. This allows transmission during the day (doesn’t matter that I see roaches at night).

In the nosfer-roach stage only, I would also drop the mirror thing. When contemplating the mirror trick for regular vampires it just goes bye-bye the minute we read the page for Optics on Wikipedia and it’s a dead giveaway. But for the roaches, the mirror trick seems even more of an obvious thing. But, your mayhem and the logic behind it will vary.

Lastly, the Vampire Curse wants to spread so whatever armor class the GM would give the average giant insect, I would add a little more, just because. Tough beasts last longer and are more fun in a game. Again, don’t reinvent the wheel.

The stats I propose for my version of nosfer-roach – SIZE 4-5 feet (golf bag size), HIT DICE 6-8 D8, AC equivalent to a pissed off barbarian in chain mail. Walks during the day, but prefers the dark. Spreads the Curse just through the bite bypassing the whole open wrist thing requiring Constitution saving throws or a Remove Curse Spell. But, of course, your mayhem will vary.

Now we get to my personal why. What is it about the nosfer-roach that fascinates me enough to spend 1,608 words wishing the beast into being with suggestions that GMs may tweak as they see fit? Sometimes I just do gory stuff to justify gory pictures at the top of the post. Your mayhem will vary.

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