Saturday 25 March 2023

Bracklings - A Seasonal PC Class

The true Brackling is a huge horse-chestnut the size of your chest, but most people look at their face when they talk to them. A hard wooden face like a theatre mask or a Green Man, but moving as though in a stop-motion movie. Fluid, expressive, and animated on twos.
Their arms and legs are a thick mass of thorny vines winding around whippy wooden stems, a living hedgerow or shrubbery. Indeed many birds, bugs, and crawling beasts might live amongst a Brackling, and there are at least a few species which have adapted to life in a Brackling over any other home.

They have a short and seasonal life.

In the Spring a Brackling's thorny limbs are skinny and covered with countless flowers, hopefully meeting with other Bracklings in a cloud of pollen. This is the Brackling mating period, and the genderless (or more likely twice-sexed) Bracklings seek to share their pollens far and wide.
The flowers themselves are most often rose-shaped in a variety of colours and patterns, but they also tend to really like bulbs like daffodils, tulips, and crocuses. Bracklings can even take cuttings of particularly lovely flowers and incorporate them into their forms, which is used to show that they have taste, refinement, and a good potential for hybrid vigour. Having a flower arrangement of foreign flowers in your foliage is pretty sexy.

The pollen can also be weaponised. This is great fun for most Bracklings, who feel that it's amusingly uncouth to force another creature to breathe in their gametophytes and choke on them. It's a useful trick! The thick cloud of allergenic pollen slows their foes and makes it hard to see the Brackling in the billowing mist.

In Summer the Bracklings grow thicker and bushier. Their stem-bones are strong and covered with crinkled bark, their vines turning a rich ochre.  Woody branches grow from their core and out from their shoulders, and without careful pruning they can begin to lose their person-shape!
This is a time for prideful Bracklings to groom themselves into fanciful topiaries, and to tend to the birds and beetles who are attracted to the sweet fruits that grow from their branches.
More slovenly Bracklings will just let it all grow out, becoming a sort of tall walking shrub, home to the less savoury type of insect and the more rambunctious kinds of bird.

In any case, this is the age when a Brackling learns to control its plant-body better, growing into interesting shapes, self-pruning, and consciously directing their vital energies.
Their fruits come in many shapes and sizes. Most people assume that their fruits look like apples, but this is actually fairly rare. Bracklings tend to prefer blackberries, pears, or pomegranates.
The ripest fruits are plucked easily from the stem, and as the Brackling walks over fertile ground they unconsciously pluck these soft squishy fruits and stamp them into the ground with their step.

Amongst the sweet fruits of a Summer Brackling are a few of a more rare lustre - fruits containing the latent life-essence of a Brackling. These wriggle and writhe with barely contained vital energies, a proto-Brackling formed before it should be formed.
If planted these fruits will immediately grow into a frenetic Brackling-Ling, all flailing limbs and unfettered life, brambles clawing as it desperately clings to existence.
If eaten by another the fruits contain incredible vitality, healing wounds and restoring the spirit - at the morally ambiguous cost of eating the pre-unborn.

If unplanted and uneaten they get stamped into the earth anyway, so why not use them for some useful end...?

Come on bruv at least get the shears out

In the Autumn the Bracklings begin to lose their leaves and are soon bare, shameless of their nudity. Their twigs have the tough and yielding whip-like tension of green wood.
The rushing sap-mind that once embedded in their fruit seeds is slowing, but has nowhere to go but within. Their mind, and the minds remembered by the minds before, slowly well into their consciousness. Old knowledge to be reexamined. Ancient memories recontextualised for a new age.
Their control of their own body is far more impressive. They can mould themselves into other forms with some small but focused effort. The bone-deep casual confidence of ancient sires making it easy to slip into this or that social group.
This makes it far easier for them to blend in with other creatures' societies, but they may reject this and take on various beastly forms. This is the twilight of the lifecycle, and given their imminent mortality there are many Bracklings who find it easier to just root down and watch the world go by.

Their thorns, which have grown jagged and tough, serve as vicious weapons. Stories tell of criminals who, having cornered a seemingly unarmed person in an alleyway, discover that their wood-masked quarry is more than they bargained for.

In Winter the Brackling must finally die.
The natural fate of the Brackling is to find a safe place, root into the ground, and pass on their legacy.
The great conker-core nestles to the ground surrounded by the dry thornbush of the Brackling's body, and splits open to reveal a smaller fist-sized seed nestled in the fluffy innards.
The seed stirs, gathers the cottony fluff around itself, and awakens into the winter world.
This newgrown Brackling knows all of the old one's memories like stories told over and over by a grandparent. A new person with old knowledge.
It's maybe as tall as a shinbone, light as a feather, and knows that it if it survives the winter it can tell those stories to its siblings whose seeds still slumber beneath the cold earth.
Small and light as it is, the Cotton Brackling is not defenceless. It's light enough to float on a breeze, its body beneath the fluff is thin enough to fit through the smallest crack, and under the winter coat it hides impressively sharp fluff-fletched spears which it can shoot a surprising distance.
Plus, importantly, it can pilot the corpse of its dead sire like a horrible corpse-mecha. Cotton Bracklings must make their own decision. Some prefer to fly free on the breeze, unburdened by the thorny shrubbery that was once their parent. Others take their parents' empty shell with them for practical reasons - you can't carry much when you're the size of a toddler and nearly lighter than air. It's a bit morbid but very convenient.

But hatching from your parent's heart is not the fate of all Bracklings. There are those who decide to hold onto their own self, their own existence, rather than pass on their body and soul to the next generation.
These hulking beings are known as Crone Golems. They grow huge and twisted, barrel-chested and sharp. Lumbering tree-beings with a grip that can crush stone.
The stillborn Brackling in their core feeds poison through their mighty bodies, emerging in blood-red sap that drips from their sharp and evil thorns.
They will die in the Spring, of course, but for now they are a fearsome monolith of bark and bramble, a terrifying force of nature.

As for the seeds that were planted in the Summer, they slowly grow underground and sprout in late Winter with only the vaguest memory of their parent.
For those whose parent stayed in place throughout the Autumn, they will grow up into a little grove of new-sprouted siblings and be regaled by tales of the past by the Brackling which hatched from their parent's core. 
If their parent wandered, the newgrown Bracklings emerge alone with far-flung siblings and, if they're lucky, a particularly driven elder sibling who will backtrack along the sense-memories of their sire. A travelling seed-bard who finds their buried brethren and tells them tales of the previous years.
The most unlucky, and the most shamed, are those who were born of a Crone Golem. The memories of their forebears lost, the chain of generations broken. Forever marked by the will of a being who had barely been born before they had to choose how to die.


The intention is that in gameplay, these folks cycle through the classic dnd class archetypes before ending up as a weird new class. AC tank fighter in Spring, then a sort of healer/summoner in Summer, then thief in Autumn, and finally in Winter they're a whole new class that's a thorn-flinging flying horror or a massive unkillable Grootish motherfucker.


And so... to rules.


HP: 1d6, minimum 4 at 1st level.
Saves and Exp Track: As Specialist
As a fairly delicate class, you have a base AC of 8.

In Spring you are surrounded with pollen and good vibes. This gives you +level to your Charisma score, or cancel it to activate your 10' radius Pollen Cloud. Creatures in the cloud choose on their turn: Slowed or take -1 to hit per Brackling level.

In Summer you have fruit hanging from your branches. You have many, but you have one golden juicy fruit per level per day. Your fruits may be gifted or thrown. Gifted fruits heal 1d6 if eaten straight from the branch (this takes an action, either yours or theirs). Thrown fruits create a Fruitling who lasts for a 10 minute Turn when thrown onto good soil, or a round per level otherwise. It attacks at random in a 10' range with great whomping branches for 1d6 damage and a bonus to hit equal to your level.
Your bushy body grants +2 AC.

In Autumn a Brackling can send down their roots, take an hour, and assign themselves +1 per level to their Skills. They can also grow themselves into new forms during this time, with brack-wolves, brack-ponies and even brack-monkeys known. Their long jagged thorns grant a spear-ranged 1d6 damage unarmed attack, no matter what form they choose.
If you crit with this attack it activates Blossom Fall - a sweet-smelling rain of petals which extends the crit range of all in 10' by +1 per your level. During Blossom Fall you always act before initiative is rolled.
Your whip-thin and wiry body gives you +4 AC.

In Winter they must choose whether to become a Cotton Brackling who can pilot their dead sire, or a Crone Golem who is strong but must inevitably die.
- The Cotton Brackling can fly but can't carry much when they do. The only real weapon they've got is a ranged thorn attack which does d4 damage, or they can pilot their parent who has no special abilities but can at least carry a weapon.
When piloting your parent's corpse you have +4 AC, or otherwise +0 AC.
- The Crone Golem is huge and lumbering. Your Hit Die becomes a d10, rerolling your max HP as soon as you transform. You deal 1d10 damage with your crushing fists, and the red sap deals a point of Bleed per successful hit - affected enemies take 1 damage per round of Bleed Damage unless they skip their turn.
Your twisted and bark-coated body gives you +6 AC.

In Spring the Crone Golem dies permanently, but a Cotton Brackling grows into its Spring form and continues the cycle.