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Though I noticed this some time ago, it's oddly never come up in my game before so I've never raised it here. But an Inhabitation that results in a Flesh Form is rather weak, not getting the Force bonus to attributes that Hybrid merges get.

It's just come up because I statting a certain notorious gang (long-time players will know who I mean), and given that they are all necessarily Flesh Forms to pass as human, they're actually turning out pretty weak. Yes - the Immunity to Normal Weapons is good, but stating up the leader as a Force 7 Mantid, she comes out as pretty weak for what she is. I suppose I can load up the original host with cyberware, but it doesn't suit the flavour or background that I wanted and if I made the original host an adept, then I understand those powers would be lost. Best I can come up with is to give the spirit some spells (though not being a "Mother" spirit, she technically lacks the Magician quality) and load her up with some Sustaining Foci. It's a bit disappointing because they don't really seem to be able to fulfil the role they're intended to of hunting down other bugs. Any mid-force Hybrid could tear them limb from limb in close combat.

It's also disappointing because a couple of the villains in my game are intended to be Flesh Forms are significant power. But whilst the Immunity to Normal Weapons makes them tough to hurt right away, they're going to have regular human stats and most of the PCs in the group could wrestle one to the ground quite easily.

Am I reading all this correctly? Any suggestions? I dislike house-ruling things, but I suppose if I absolutely have to, I will.

I was confused at first because i mistook the SR2 term Flesh Form with what it means in SR4.
Hybrid Forms (which where formerly known as Flesh Forms) have actually become a whole lot more powerful when compared to their SR2 equivalent.
Unfortunaltely, Flesh Forms have not benefitted to the same degree.

While the changes make bugs as a whole a much greater threat (SR2 hybrids where not more than cannon fodder, decrepit grunts with lowered stats and mostly useles powers), it has undoubtedly made the gang you mention a whole lot less plausible indeed.
Flesh Forms are by now mostly useful for infiltrating metahuman society, whereas direct combat is not the field they would excel the most in.

Let's see what we can do to enable said gang to function in the way it was intended back when Bug City originally came out.

If we take a look at inhabitation, we find the following :

QUOTE (Street Magic P.100)
Flesh Form
A spirit which attains a good merge with
its vessel becomes a near perfect flesh form.
The combined entity retains all of the memories,
abilities, and skills (both Active and
Knowledge) of the host, and its appearance
is virtually indistinguishable from that of the
original vessel. A flesh form spirit is a dualnatured
creature (p. 287, SR4), has Immunity
to Normal Weapons (p. 288, SR4), any of the
vessel’s natural and augmented abilities, and
also gains the powers of Realistic Form (p. 102)
and Aura Masking (p. 98).

The question here is what "abilities" means, as this term is not defined anywhere in SR.
Does it refer to critter powers of a potential host?
Things such as flight, increased movement speeds, natural abilites like the enhanced senses of certain animals?
Positive qualities?
All of them?
Would a spirit gain qualities such as Adept or Magician?
Normally, these would be supressed because the host's Magic attribute is replaced by that of the spirit- but the unclear implications of the term ability makes me wonder wether this is handled differently here.
The issue has been discussed in another thread, but there was neither a consensus among forumites nor any helpful comments from the devs as far as i can remember.

In any case, the best way to make your NPCs a significant thread without houseruling is to choose hosts which are already dangerous enough to harm a hybrid form spirit before they are posessed.
Undoubtedly, these are the kind of hosts a gang of female Mantid Spirits would look out for.

Also, one should utilize their spirit powers to the fullest.
Mantids posess Energy Drain (Force, Insect Spirits only, physical damage) and can convert drained Force to Karma at a 1:1 ratio, using it in the same way as free spirits.
This means that they can become very powerful over time if they hunt down enough low-level bugs.
It would easily be possible to give them powers such as Regeneration in the process.

Edit :
To further elaborate on this, here's what Street Magic has to say on free spirits and karma.
I've taken the liberty to emphasize the parts most interesting for your purposes :

QUOTE (Street Magic @ Pp 107-108)
A free spirit can use Karma in several ways at normal character
costs (see Character Improvement, p. 263, SR4). Spirits normally
have no racial maximums on their skills or attributes.

• It may raise its attributes separately (which all begin at the Force
it had when it went free).
• It may raise or purchase additional skills.
It may initiate as a magician does, though the process grants
one additional free spirit power per grade rather than a
metamagic technique

• It may raise its Force by 1 point at a time at the cost of new Force
rating x 10. Raising Force raises all of the spirit’s attributes and
powers that are based on Force.

Given these possibilites, i wonder wether F7 is really that appropriate for the leader of a Mantid gang that has hunted other bugs for about 15 years now and has apparently rarely wasted drained Force to create new spirits.

Nymph Spirits can also be competent illusionists, whereas Soldier Spirits of a sufficiently high force can be formidable snipers.
A F7 Mantid Spirit Flesh Form Soldier doesn't have to get into melee with a bug- she just pumps him full of SnS or APDS.
Knasser, you might want to edit the first entry to show SR4, i made the same logic jump that Rasumichin did about what you were talking about.

In 1st-3rd ed the Flesh form good merges were the spies who could set you up for a situation that made death look like the best choice. Mantids were the out because they could go from good merge flesh form to full power pure form in momments. Less said about mantids, the better.

By 4th Ed the whole point is less firepower than Lovecraftian deceit and entrapment.
In reading over the subject I think the advantage of the True Form is it's ablility to infiltrate Metahuman life to futher there goal. Plus with the errata the only that changes is the skills open to the spirit. With the Hybid there more your "solider" type with the power boost. Then the True forms are the real deal of the types.

Edit: Sorry, at work so when I got this posted you already have better replies.
QUOTE (Snow_Fox @ Aug 29 2009, 01:16 PM) *
Mantids were the out because they could go from good merge flesh form to full power pure form in momments.

If you want to do some houseruling, you could give mantids the ability to change to true forms at will.

However, i'd rather utilize the ability to increase their own power by draining other bugs.
If a given hive is to big for them to take on, they could just hire a runner team and send them in to weaken the hive enough for them to come in with SnS ammo, stun every bug around and devour them to boost their own power.
QUOTE (Rasumichin @ Aug 29 2009, 03:27 PM) *
If you want to do some houseruling, you could give mantids the ability to change to true forms at will.

However, i'd rather utilize the ability to increase their own power by draining other bugs.

I agree. And thank you for all replies. I have been rather dense on this subject. When they first appeared, Mantids were much stronger and at first glance they are much weaker now. Often are much weaker now. However, I somehow forgot to consider how they could progress post-inhabitation.

Spending consumed Force as karma, lets the mantids do any of the following: raise attributes, purchase / raise skills, initiate (gaining powers instead of metamagics) and raise Force.

It's the first one that interests me the most, actually. I normally tie physical attributes to appearance in a realistic manner. A player from my old game asked me how high she could put her elf's Strength score before the character started looking especially butch. I told her Strength 3 would be noticeably strong on a woman but just about passable without people doing double-takes all the time (and then muscle replacement I told her was simply more powerful, rather than bulkier). But spirits are magical and even a good merge / flesh form (in 4e terms) is still a spirit. So I have no real problem with a spirit keeping the same appearance as it raises its Strength or Body scores above unaugmented human maximums. I guess this is what I'm after more than anything - to have my normal looking humans or elves throw someone across the room. wink.gif

Technically, none of the mantids would be able to get the Magician quality unless they became a Free Spirit. But this is possible. The powers they can purchase on initiation can be metamagic techniques.

So I've been quite daft in thinking I couldn't make some terrifyingly powerful Good Merges. The only thing that seems to be out of reach are Adept abilities - assuming that a good merge doesn't retain them). We could really do with that added to the FAQ. It states the the spirit's mental and special attributes take precendence (so that includes the Magic rating which fluff-wise you could guess might encompass Adept abilities), but it's far from conclusive.

Again, thanks for the replies, especially Rasumichin's first response. I can stat up the gang members the way I want, now. smile.gif

Glad that i could help.
Bugs have always been among my favorite antagonists in SR and even though i personally like locusts and beetles best, mantids may actually the most powerful of all bugs in the long run.

As far as adept abilities are concerned, the question remains what is meant with "all of the host's natural and augmented abilities".
The only thing i'd rule out for certain are Resonance (as the spirit autoamtically has a Magic attribute and is dual natured) and any possible Conjuring skills, as spirits seem to be unable to learn them even if they have the Magician quality (cf. the rules on Ally Spirits in SM and the rules for free spirit PCs in RC).
Otherwise, until there is an official statement towards what exactly is meant by abilities, i'd probably grant a Flesh Form magical Qualities the host has posessed, including known spells and Magical Active Skills (even though anything from the Conjuring skill group would become a knowledge skill).

There's a lot of adept powers which may actually be quite helpful when it comes to fighting other bugs, but if one doesn't want to grant Flesh Forms potential adept powers of the host, there's still the option of cyberware, which can be fully used by Flesh and Hybrid Forms (at least as long as it was implanted previously).

In fact, i could well imagine how a cabal of mantids is specifically searching out particularly tough razorgirls as potential hosts.
Some of the fluff in Bug City seems to indicate that they rather go for influence and good looks, but i recall the picture of a riot grrrl mantid spirit wielding an SMG as well.

If one of the mantids has the wealth power (or if they just make enough money on the side by ripping people's heads off), they could even pay for augmenting a potential victim before the inhabitation- if they are really planning ahead, they could even search out a qualified surgeon as one of their first hosts for a Flesh Form, as the spirit would retain all of the necessary medical skills.
Then buy some 'ware, find another suitable victim, put her in an artificial coma, augment her, heal her up and start inhabitation.
The key to really powerful bugs are powerful hosts and i'm quite sure that after a couple run-ins with heavily cybered street sams, at least some of the hive mothers hace become aware of the fact that in SR, physical power isn't only -oe even mainly- measured by the host's natural physique.
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