OSR: Homunculi and Bears (Class: Homunculator)

Newborn cubs are a shapeless lump of white flesh, with no eyes or hair, though the claws are visible. The mother bear gradually licks her cubs into their proper shape, and keeps them warm by hugging them to her breast and lying on them, just as birds do with their eggs.
-Pliny the Elder
Everyone knows bear cubs are born shapeless and licked into form by their mother. Hence, "to lick into shape".

Many folk tales among the northern kingdoms begin this way. An old man and an old women have no children. One day, the old man finds a bear cub. He takes it home. The old woman licks it and nurses it. The child grows up big and strong, with wild hair and a great appetite.

What happens next varies, but the story never ends well. Cautionary tales about reproductive taboos never do. The child flies into a terrible rage. The mother bear returns for her child. The child becomes a warrior, a berserker, whose strength is turned against their friends. Etc.

Everyone knows it's possible, of course. But the tales make it clear that it's a bad idea.

Goblins don't have cautionary tales. Goblins sometimes steal bear cubs and lick them into a goblin shape. That's how you get hobgoblins. Or possibly bugbears. Something big, hairy, and goblinish. Personality traits that would be unwelcome in most societies are unremarkable among goblins, and being able to swat someone's head off with an open palm is a much more useful ability.

And for centuries, that's all there was to the story: a bit of trivia about bears, a tired old chestnut of a joke about northerners, and a weird thing goblins are rumored to do. Then the alchemists got involved.
Sherbakov Stanislav
Most creatures start as small undifferentiated nodules of flesh. Myths of generative fluids containing tiny people have been dispelled; life seems to arise from nothing, or next to nothing. In most living creatures, development proceeds until the creature is a miniature of the parent.

But bears are born undifferentiated. They slowly "learn" bear-ish-ness from contact with the flesh of their mother. If captured early enough, contact with other mammals can alter the bear-embryo, though a few traces of bear-nature remain.

(Beast-summoning magic occasionally produces baffling creatures such as giant rats or dim climbing bears that share this property, but their homeland, if they have one, has yet to be discovered.)

But licking an embryonic bear is an imprecise and quaint method of imprinting. Costly experiments revealed only some secretions influenced the unformed flesh. The rediscovered art of the alembic and the retort allowed alchemists to extract, combine, and carefully add selected doses of these ingredients. Just as a cook seasons a soup, they seasoned the flesh of an entirely new creature. Not a bear, or a bear-made-man, but something entirely new. Malleable, adaptable, and obedient.

A homunculus. 

Sherbakov Stanislav

GLOG Class - Homunculator

Starting Equipment: dagger, 3 flasks, 3 syringes
Starting Skill: Medicine

A: Homunculus, Gift of Flesh (Choose from 1-10 or roll 1d10)
B: Gift of Flesh (roll 1d20), Curse of Flesh (roll 1d20)
C: Shared Senses, Regeneration
D: Gift of Flesh (Choose 1-20), Curse of Flesh (roll 1d20)

A: Homunculus
You have an obedient servant. You made it from a newborn bear. It is, in a way, your child. It is as intelligent as a well-trained dog.

A default Homonculus has 10 in all stats, 10 HP, and is the size of a person. They make 1 melee attack per round and deal 1d6 damage on a hit. Gifts and Curses of Flesh can alter these stats. They do not need to test Morale. A Homonculus is a hireling that thinks you're a mother-god.

Non-magic damage cannot kill a Homunculus. Making cancer obedient is easy when it knows nothing but obedience from birth. Vital organs are not required when any cell can perform any function. Any damage beyond 0 (negative HP) instead incapacitates a Homunculus for that many hours. Acid, fire, magic, or being spread over a square mile will kill a Homunculus permanently. Creating a new one takes 3 weeks, 500gp in components, and access to an area where bears are likely to be found.

Homunculi still need to eat (and heal as a normal PC), sleep, and breathe. They are not proficient with weapons, have no inventory slots (but can temporarily carry up to 10 slots of items if carefully supervised), and will try to remove clothes and armour.

Injecting the vital extracts (blood or spinal fluid are traditional) of a creature into a homunculus grants it temporary powers, typically for 1 hour. Roll on a Monster Menu-All table, bearing in mind that negative effects only last 1 hour. Injecting 2 or more things (or injecting something very powerful) requires the Homunculus to Save or become torpid for 1d6 hours. On a critical failure, it dies instead. It uses your Save. You can take 1d12 damage to let the Homunculus reroll a failed Save.

C: Shared Senses
You share senses with your Homunculus. This ability has a 500' range.

C: Regeneration
Instead of healing like a PC, a Homunculus heals 1 HP every 10 minutes. If you are touching your Homunculus, you can transfer 1 HP from it to you per round.

Gifts of Flesh

1d20 Gifts of Flesh
1 Corded Muscles. Strength becomes 14. Deals +2 melee damage. Can climb at running speed.
2 Serpentine Grace. Dexterity becomes 14. Moves at double speed. If you fail a Save to dodge, the Homonculus can take full damage to push you out of the way.
3 Pulsating Flesh. Constitution becomes 14. HP becomes 12. Immune to poison. 
4 Near Relation. Can speak a few words. Can obey more complex or conditional commands.
5 Twitchy. Wisdom becomes 14. Has a 50% chance to act in surprise rounds.
6 Charisma. Charisma becomes 14. Save becomes 6. For 1 hour per day, can shift to resemble a human. An obvious and unnerving fake close-up, but not easy to detect from a distance or in a crowd.
7 Collapsible. Can shrink to the size of a dog. Slightly bulbous and windy when fully inflated.
8 Aquatic. Can breathe underwater. Swim at running speed.
9 Quilled. Any successful melee hit against the Homunculus deals 1 damage to the attacker. Cannot be swallowed.
10 Plated Skin. Armour as leather. Can conceal features or other gifts of flesh behind smooth leather sections.
11 Serrated Claws. Makes 2 melee attacks per round, dealing 1d8 damage on a hit.
12 Acid Glands. Attacks deal +1 acid damage. Instead of making a melee attack, can eat a ration and then spit 30', dealing 1d6 acid damage on a hit. 
13 Mimic. Can adjust skin tone and pattern. +4 Stealth. Can also imitate voices and other sounds (without understanding them). 
14 Furred. A thick, even, and unnatural coat. Immune to weather and cold damage.
15 Lamprey. On a hit, all subsequent melee attacks against the same target automatically hit.
16 Rubberized. Immune to fall damage. Reduces incoming bludgeoning damage by 2. 
17 Electrified. Attacks deal +1 lightning damage. On a hit, can choose to stun a living target for 1d6 rounds instead of dealing damage. 
18 Winged. Fly at running speed. Can carry a person for 1 minute before dropping them. Not very strong or nimble in the air.
19 Bioluminescent. Casts light as a torch. Can adjust luminescence to a dim glow. Once per day, can emit a a 60' radius light pulse.
20 Hypersensitive. 30' darkvision. Can detect strong magic at 60'. May detect secret doors or traps.

1d20 Curses of Flesh
1 Timid. In dangerous or novel situations, the  Homunculus must test Morale to leave your sight for more than a few minutes.
2 Fragile. If the Homunculus takes 3 or more damage in a round, it must Save or spend the next round writhing in agony.
3 Wrong Scent. Animals fear the Homunculus. Small creatures flee, dogs bark, horses shy, and larger creatures target the Homunculus with furious hostility.
4 Territorial. If ordered to attack, the Homunculus must test Morale to attack anything but the largest and most dangerous target. Does not appreciate close contact with your friends or allies.
5 Easily Bored. If inactive, will knock things over, swat people, or make alarming noises.
6 Auorovore. Every time the party obtains treasure worth more than 10gp, at least 5% of the total (or 25% of your share, whichever is easiest) must be given to the Homunculus to hoard and devour.
7 Treacherous. During non-adventuring times (at night, in town, etc.), the Homunculus sneaks off to commit crimes, devour livestock, or terrorize travelers.
8 Truly Hideous. If visible, minimum of a -4 penalty to reaction rolls. Other hirelings have a -2 penalty to Morale. Face not even a mother-god could love.
9 Lazy. Unless threatened (by you or by an enemy), the Homunculus takes 1 round to start to do anything urgent, or 10 minutes to start to do anything non-urgent.
10 Umbilicus. You are connected to your Homunculus by a 20' flesh cord. You can sever it, but while separated your and your Homunculus' maximum HP is reduced by 4. You must reattach the cord to sleep.
11 Molting. Once per week, the Homunculus must spend 6 hours shedding and regrowing its skin in a truly disgusting and noisy process. It consumes 3 rations immediately after molting.
12 Superstitious. The Homunculus must test Morale or cower when a holy symbol is visible.
13 Carnivorous. The Homunculus must eat fresh raw meat as rations.
14 Slime Trail. Leaves behind a slightly sticky trail of mucus.
15 Light-Fearing. The Homunculus has a -4 penalty to Attack and Save in bright sunlight.
16 Full Reformation. If reduced below 0 HP or killed, covers a 30' radius in acidic sludge, dealing 1d6 acid damage per round to anything in the area. Effect lasts until the Homunculus reforms.
17 Fire-Fear. Must test Morale to remain within 30' of a torch-sized fire or larger. Lanterns, matches, and candles are eyed with distrust.
18 Growing Distrust. The Homunculus knows what it is and knows it is being used. It may disobey suicidal commands, plot to replace you, or try to gain power on its own.
19 Disease-Bearing. Automatically fails all Saves against disease. Does not suffer any negative effects from diseases, but is contagious.
20 Tumorous. Any attack that deals 2 or more damage to the Homonculus knocks off disgusting lumps of flesh, blood, and ichor. No mechanical effect but it's extremely gross.

Mechanical Notes

I haven't tested this yet. Some bits are based on B44L's Biopunk Ranger: Handler class.

Having a functionally immortal hireling is kind of neat. Compared to other PC abilities or magic items, the Gifts of Flesh aren't too impressive, but a constantly regenerating HP pool is very handy.

What happens when the Homunculator dies? Nothing good. They're too new and too rare for it to be a problem, but loose and unrestrained Homunculi are going to be a problem in a few years.


  1. If these things can breed, there's going to be serious trouble down the line.

  2. This is amazing. I was just thinking about homunculi the other day, as my PC has, um, an idea...

  3. Oh my god. I love this. Just when I thought my "Night of 1,000 Bears" adventure couldn't get more hideous.

  4. ... can you have multiple homunculi at once? if you have the money and the bear cubs and the time...

    1. Possibly! But typically they devour each other until only the strongest remains.

  5. The introduction completely blew me away, homonculi works even better than mutants for this concept, as the method of controlling and guiding mutations are not built into the mutation trope.

    Great stuff! :)

  6. "Making cancer obedient is easy when it knows nothing but obedience from birth." What a great line.

    I like the negative HP = "hours incapacitated" bit. That's pretty elegant.