The most fearsome drow aren’t satisfied with the mere defeat and death of their foes, preferring to defile their enemies in horrific ways. The most gruesome form of transformation assaults their enemies’ very essence through the complicated process of fleshwarping.
Fleshwarping is the practice of altering a creature’s physical form and mental state by way of a grisly mystical and alchemical process. It starts with submerging the subject in a vat filled with a magical and alchemical goo concocted of strange reagents, and infused with a multitude of living insects and other vermin. The goo dissolves and reshapes the flesh and bone of the subject while the vermin eat away at unwanted flesh, making way for the new, alchemically grown flesh to take hold. The process is torturous, and the subject is kept alive and conscious throughout it.
Depending on the base creature being fleshwarped, the heinous process lasts days, weeks, or even months. The entire time, it’s overseen by a fleshwarper—a craftsperson whose perverse curiosity trumps any regard for life or sanity. This fleshwarper pokes and prods at the subject, flaying the skin and committing other atrocious tortures when necessary, manipulating the vermin as needed, and making sure the mix of reagents in the fleshwarping goo is correct at every stage of the occult process. Once the process is complete, the transformed abomination is expected to free itself from the fleshwarping goo; those that fail to do so are summarily slaughtered.
The end result is something both more and less than the base form. Though the process is basically the same for every type of creature the drow experiment on, the results are drastically different. A fleshwarped drow becomes a drider. A fleshwarped elf becomes an irnakurse, and a fleshwarped troglodyte becomes a ghonhatine. Some races seem to resist the process of fleshwarping altogether—dwarves have never been successfully fleshwarped, and most fey are particularly resilient to the process. What is generally true about fleshwarping is that inherently evil creatures that go through the process tend to be more useful to the drow than those who start out good. The most useful of the fleshwarps are those created from other drow. These unfortunate subjects are typically those who fail their house or are born with physical or mental defects. Unlike other fleshwarps, who tend to be sterile or lack the organs or ability to procreate, driders are a race unto themselves and are capable of procreation.
The process of creating a fleshwarp is dangerous to the base creature and expensive for the creator. During the process, the subject is wracked with excruciating pain, and takes 2d6 points of Constitution damage (Fortitude DC 15 half ). The reagents that constitute the goo cost at least 10,000 gp, and the rarer specimens of vermin used to facilitate fleshwarping can cost just as much if bought on the open market.
It’s often said that the drow learned the gruesome art of fleshwarping as a reward for obscene pacts they made with some demon lord, but the identity of the demon lord who bestowed knowledge of the foul process changes with each telling of the tale.
There are other cultures that also understand and use fleshwarping, but they tend to be either ancient or very secretive and xenophobic. Sinspawn, fleshdregs, and the lamia-based hungerer are just some examples of non-drow fleshwarps.
While the pain of physical torture and of a ghoul stripping flesh from the bones of its alive-but-paralyzed prey are horrible ends, few fates are as ghastly as the dire transformations made by the fleshwarper. Fleshwarping is the general term for two main magical and alchemical practices: “true fleshwarping” and fleshcrafting. It is also used to describe transformative mutations caused by exposure to polluted alchemy labs, magical radiation, or either cursed or corrupted magic, which are properly known as fleshwarp mutations.
True fleshwarping is a vile and violent practice, both alchemical and magical, used to transform one creature into an entirely new form. It’s a horrific art practiced by the drow and other depraved societies to create servants or to bind creatures into twisted forms as sadistic punishment.
Fleshcrafting uses a similar process to physically modify the subject by mutating or replacing a body part with that of another creature. This gruesome discipline can also be used to create fleshcraft elixirs that grant creatures temporary versions of fleshcraft grafts.
In addition to the intentional practices of true fleshwarping and fleshcrafting is a transformation called a fleshwarp mutation, which also involves the nightmarish metamorphosis of a creature into a new form. This type of fleshwarping, however, is a phenomenon rather than a willful act, and typically occurs after a creature interacts with a particularly strong magical or alchemical hazard. The more a creature is exposed to that hazard, the greater the effects of the fleshwarp mutation.
Willfully transforming one creature into another through magical and alchemical processes is a terrifying technique performed by the most cruel and vicious of creatures.
Power-hungry necromancers, heartless alchemists, demon worshipers, aboleths, and the drow are some of the bestknown practitioners of this foul art, using dark knowledge and secret formulas to flay the creature’s flesh and twist them into amalgamated forms.
Some sages theorize that other amalgamated creatures, such as chimeras, owlbears, and maybe even skum and bulettes, could have also been the result of an archaic form of fleshwarping. Legends involving the creation of the chimera give a certain amount of credence to this theory, but even it’s true, the secrets to these early fleshwarps are long lost.
While fleshwarping often yields results useful to those depraved enough to carry it out, the act of creating a fleshwarp is always evil, as it requires unspeakable acts and horrific physiological and psychological torture inflicted upon the subject of the transformation. Unfortunately, this has not stopped the occasional alchemist or arcanist from pursuing fleshwarping for the well-meaning but ultimately deluded purposes of species genesis.
Worse still, while the rare fleshwarp formula develops a truly unique race, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule. In the majority of cases, the process involves the utter corruption of sentient beings warped into lurching monstrosities that are both intellectually stunted and existentially compromised. As such, most fleshwarp creatures are sterile. The most famous fleshwarp mutation, the drider, is the chief exception to this rule. Still, the process of creating a drider is no blessing, but rather a cruel punishment perpetrated by the depraved dark elves upon their own kind.
If possible, the processes drow inflict on other creatures are even crueler. This also points to another rule of fleshwarping: creatures that are inherently evil tend to take forms that are useful and powerful, while good creatures tend to metamorphose into more twisted and helpless forms. Another quirk of true fleshwarping is that targets of mixed race, such has half-elves and half-orcs, usually transform into creatures that more strongly reflect their non-human parentage.
Fleshwarping Process: The creation of a true fleshwarp is partly magical and partly alchemical. While a team of alchemists, spellcasters, and torturers is often assembled to perform fleshwarping, it must be led by at least one creature that has the Fleshwarper feat and must be performed on a living creature or creatures. Any attempt to fleshwarp a corpse automatically fails.
Before the process, a fleshwarper usually restrains the subject or subjects. She then must make precise cuts in a subject’s flesh and insert tubes into those incisions. These tubes connect to vats of bubbling alchemical substances, which are pumped into the subject’s body, racking it with agony. These fluids break down the subject’s corporeal form, making it more malleable. Each subject undergoing the fleshwarping process must succeed at a DC 15 Fortitude save or instantly die from this procedure. If the fleshwarper succeeds at a DC 20 Heal check during this process, she grants the subject a +2 bonus on this saving throw.
Assuming a subject survives the fluid infusion, the fleshwarper then forces a breathing tube down the subject’s throat. Unable to speak, the subject is at best able to make strangled noises as the fleshwarper immerses it into the alchemical concoction that completes its transformation.
Once immersed in the alchemical compound, the subject’s body goes through a rapid series of transformations. During this arduous process, attendants must periodically remove necrotic tissue and organs, as well as flesh that has sloughed off the creature’s body.
The entire fleshwarping process requires 1 day per Hit Die of the final fleshwarped creature. During this time, the fleshwarper must succeed at a Craft (alchemy) check with a DC equal to the creation DC of the fleshwarped creature (typically, 15 + the final fleshwarped creature’s Hit Dice) each day. Creating a fleshwarped creature takes a number of days equal to 1 + the final fleshwarped creature’s CR. The fleshwarper can’t gain the benefit of aid another nor can she take 10 on these checks.
Failure indicates each subject undergoing the fleshwarping process takes 1d3 points of Constitution damage, which can’t be healed until the process is complete, and that day’s work doesn’t count toward the creation time. If a fleshwarping subject’s Constitution damage (whether from this failure or the final Constitution damage at the conclusion) ever equals or exceeds its Constitution score, its body collapses into protoplasmic goo. Creatures slain in such a fashion can’t be raised from the dead except by true resurrection or equally powerful magic, and if any of the component creatures breaks down in this way, the final fleshwarp fails.
During the entire process, the subject is racked with the agony of the change. At the conclusion of the fleshwarping process, the final creation takes 2d6 points of Constitution damage. A successful DC 25 Heal check made by an attending participant can mitigate the suffering a subject undergoes, reducing the Constitution damage to 1d6 points.
The alchemical components for fleshwarping are expensive, difficult to create, and expended after a single use.
The ingredients for fleshwarping vary from one practitioner to the next, but often include corrosive fungi, poison from several breeds of giant insects, assorted pulverized oozes, essences from a chaos beast, protean spittle, and other exotic reagents. These reagents have a combined cost of 10,000 gp per subject to be fleshwarped in addition to other costs associated with specific fleshwarping procedures.
Fleshcrafting involves the same processes and applications as true fleshwarping, but is used to modify only a single portion of a living creature. Fleshcrafts are living pieces of tissue that can be attached to any corporeal, living creature via a graft or grown by a consumed elixir. Once attached, a fleshcraft immediately begins functioning and grants its listed abilities to the grafted creature. While a fleshcraft is partially magical in genesis, it doesn’t radiate magic or have a caster level, regardless of whether it has been grafted to the subject or supplied via an elixir.
Fleshcraft Grafts: Creating a fleshcraft graft requires the Fleshwarper feat and an alchemy lab worth at least 1,000 gp as well as 1 pound of living tissue per 1,000 gp value of the graft to be created. Creating a fleshcraft graft is like creating a magic item and requires 1 day of crafting time per 1,000 gp of the graft’s value.
Applying a fleshcraft graft to a target requires a 1-hour surgical procedure, during which time the subject must be either willing or helpless. At the end of the hour, the surgeon must attempt a Heal check against the graft’s listed DC. Failure indicates the patient’s body rejects the graft and the graft dies. Regardless of the surgery’s success, the subject takes 1d4 points of Constitution damage and 1d4 points of Wisdom damage (or 1d8 points of sanity damage, if employing the sanity system). Although fleshcraft grafts are not magical, some occupy a magic item slot on the body, preventing that slot from being used for any magic item or other graft.
A fleshcraft graft can be removed with another hour-long surgery and a successful Heal check against the original DC. On a failure, either the graft remains or the surgeon removes the graft, destroying it and killing the subject (surgeon’s choice).
Failing this Heal check always results in the destruction of both graft and subject. A successful surgery removes and destroys the graft. Regardless of the method used and the surgery’s success, the subject takes 1d4 points of Constitution damage and 1d4 points of Wisdom damage (or 1d8 points of sanity damage, if using the sanity system).
Not all fleshwarping is intentional. On occasion, creatures are exposed to environmental hazards that replicate the adverse results of fleshwarping with less grace and precision than the alchemical and magical process of true fleshwarping. Areas of intense magical radiation, alchemical pollution, wild magic, and corrupted ley lines all might cause spontaneous fleshwarp mutations, and in the presence of supremely alien creatures such as the Great Old Ones, the laws of reality can break down and sometimes create a similar effect, resulting in severe mutation and disfigurement.
Fleshwarp mutations come at an even higher cost to the target’s health, sanity, and life span than intentional fleshwarping. Fleshwarp mutations become more severe with greater exposure. Early mutations are typically cosmetic and act as a sign of something unnatural. Advanced fleshwarp mutations are always detrimental, causing physical and mental trauma to the creature.
Fleshwarp mutations progress similarly to corruptions, so at the GM’s discretion, spells or effects that help against corruptions might also apply to them.
Acquiring Fleshwarp Mutations: Any long-term magical hazard can potentially carry the risk of fleshwarp mutation.
Exposure to polluted alchemical labs, vile curses, bizarre rituals, wild magic zones, and cursed magic items are all good examples of fleshwarp mutations sources. A source of fleshwarp mutation is a hazard and is assigned a corresponding CR that reflects its relative severity.
For every hour a living creature is exposed to a fleshwarp mutation source, that creature must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC = 15 + the CR of the corruptive source). Success means the creature has fought off the fleshwarping effects for the time being. On the first failed save, the exposed creature immediate gains an early fleshwarp mutation and takes 1d3 points of Wisdom damage (or 1d6 points of sanity damage, if using the sanity system) due to the sudden and horrific nature of the metamorphosis. The second failed saving throw while the creature is within the same area increases the severity of the mutation. The creature gains an advanced mutation, and takes 1d6 points of Wisdom damage (or 2d4 points of sanity damage). Once a creature has at least one advanced mutation, further exposure within the same area causes another advanced mutation on a failed save. However, this level of physical deformity is extremely taxing on a mutated creature, and each subsequent new mutation imposes a cumulative –2 penalty to the creature’s Constitution score as long as the fleshwarped creature has the mutation. If the total penalties from mutations are greater than or equal to a character’s normal Constitution score, its body can’t support all the conflicting mutations, and it either dies or spontaneously warps into a mad, horrific creature.
Fleshwarp mutation effects are transmutation effects, and may also be poison effects based on the nature of the corruption causing the mutations. All mutations are extraordinary abilities. Fleshwarp mutations can be healed with curative magic. Lesser restoration, restoration, or greater healing magic can remove all early fleshwarp mutations. Greater restoration, heal, or restoration can remove all advanced fleshwarp mutations.
|1–4||Animal Traits||Fur or scales grow all over the creature’s body.|
|5–8||Bloated Neck||The creature’s neck becomes inflated and toadlike.|
|9–12||Bone Protrusions||Bony protrusions grow across the creature’s body.|
|13–16||Bulbous Cranium||Misshapen lumps and nodules cover the creature’s head.|
|17–20||Elongated Tongue||The creature’s tongue elongates and cannot fit inside its mouth properly.|
|21–24||Eye Stalks||The creature’s eyes protrude from their sockets on short stalks.|
|25–28||Forked Tongue||The creature’s tongue becomes forked like a snake’s.|
|29–32||Gnarled||The creature’s flesh takes on knotty, whorled patterns all over the body.|
|33–36||Hair Loss||Hair falls out in clumpy patches across the creature’s body.|
|37–40||Huge Ears||The creature’s ears become large and floppy, like those of an elephant.|
|41–44||Lidless Eyes||The creature’s eyes become saucerlike and lidless.|
|45–48||Lipless Mouth||The creature’s mouth becomes lipless, with exposed teeth and gums.|
|49–52||Long Fingers||The creature’s digits elongate and gain additional joints.|
|53–56||Lurching||The creature grows a few inches taller, becomes gaunter, and walks with a lurching and ponderous gait.|
|57–60||Molten Flesh||The creature’s skin sags, appearing to run like a melted candle.|
|61–64||Noseless||The creature’s nose rots away, exposing its sinus cavity.|
|65–68||Pallid||The creature’s flesh becomes translucent, revealing the veins and muscle beneath.|
|69–72||Ridges||Prominent ridged protrusions grow on the creature’s forehead.|
|73–76||Sores||Painful blisters and sores erupt all over the creature’s body.|
|77–80||Tumors||Tumorous growths appear across the creature’s body.|
|81–84||Unnatural Eyes||The creature’s pupils become unnaturally shaped or colored.|
|85–88||Vertical Eyelids||The creature’s eyelids now form vertical slits that open and close from side to side.|
|89–92||Vestigial Digits||Additional vestigial digits grow from the creature’s hands and feet.|
|93–96||Webbing||Webbing grows between the creature’s fingers and toes.|
|97–100||Wide Eyes||The creature’s eyes subtly migrate toward the sides of its head.|
|1–5||Bioluminescent||The creature’s flesh sheds an eerie light, the strength of a candle’s. The creature takes a –4 penalty on Stealth checks.|
|6–11||Clogged Ears||The creature’s ears close up and become useless. The creature is deafened.|
|12–17||Crooked Spine||Strange ridges and dislocations mar the creature’s spine. Reduce its carrying capacity by half.|
|18–25||Deformed Joints||The creature’s joints are knobby and twisted. It takes a –4 penalty on Dexterity-based skill checks.|
|26–30||Deformed Legs||The creature’s legs are warped or misshapen in some fashion. Reduce its land speed by half.|
|31–37||Dermal Fissures||The creature’s flesh painfully splits in dry cracks and exposes tender tissue beneath. Double the armor check penalty of any armor it wears and increases any bleed damage it takes by 1 point.|
|38–43||Elongated Limbs||The creature’s limbs elongate slightly, causing bone aches. It takes a –2 penalty on attack rolls and Strength-based skill checks.|
|44–59||Eye Clusters||The creature’s eyes divide and cluster into multiple, smaller eyes contained in each socket. It takes a –4 penalty on visual Perception checks.|
|60–62||Frail||The creature’s organs fail easily. It takes a –2 penalty on Fortitude saves and on Constitution checks to stabilize while dying.|
|63–68||Light Sensitivity||The creature’s eyes take on a reflective sheen, and it gains the light sensitivity universal monster ability.|
|69–74||Malformed Gills||The creature gains nonfunctional gills that don’t allow it to breathe water, but it also has difficulty breathing air and develops a wet, labored breathing. Additionally, it becomes fatigued for 1 hour anytime it runs or charges on land, though this condition ends if it submerges itself in water for 1 minute.|
|75–80||Misshapen Mouth||The creature’s mouth is warped and deformed. All spells with verbal components suffer a 10% spell-failure chance and the creature takes a –4 penalty on checks that require it to speak, such as Diplomacy or Perform (oratory) checks.|
|81–87||Rubbery Flesh||Thick, rubbery hide replaces the creature’s skin. It takes a –2 penalty on Dexteritybased skill checks and Reflex saves.|
|88–94||Tumorous Brain||Large tumors form in the creature’s brain, causing its skull to deform. Anytime the creature casts a spell or attempts an Intelligence-based skill check, it becomes staggered for 1 round.|
|95–100||Weeping Sores||Open sores weep strange fluids down the creature’s body. The creature takes a –4 penalty on Fortitude saves to resist diseases.|
Below is a list of creatures commonly created by fleshwarping. Those that include requirements to create them are from PZO1135. The cost listed in each entry refers to the cost beyond the base reagents. If you want to create a new fleshwarp, you can develop a new monster using the various monsters below as guidelines or choose an existing monster and apply the simple fleshwarped template.
- Drider (CR 7; drow): Driders are the first and most numerous of the fleshwarped creatures created by the drow. They are the only fleshwarped creatures known to breed true. Cost 1,500 gp; Creation DC 24, 8 days; Creatures 1 drow with at least 6 class levels, 1 giant spider.
- Fleshdreg (CR 1); Cost 500 gp; Creation DC 17, 2 days; Creatures 1 humanoid.
- Ghonhatine (CR 10; troglodytes): These fleshwarps are nearly twice the size of troglodytes and are far more bestial and fearsome. Cost 4,600 gp; Creation DC 27, 11 days; Creatures 1 troglodyte paragon or 1 troglodyte with at least 8 class levels.
- Gomnits (gnomes): Gnomes subjected to this process are transformed into something that resembles a vicious, mushroom-like humanoid.
- Grothlut (CR 3; humans): Fleshwarped humans are transformed into mindless, sluglike things. Cost 1,050 gp; Creation DC 20, 4 days; Creatures 1 human.
- Gublasks (goblins): Goblins transformed by fleshwarping grow a chitinous skin, and their arms are transformed into whiplike stingers.
- Halsora (vegepygmies): Fleshwarped vegepygmies grow stockier and stronger, and their sunken eyes release a stream of acidic black tears.
- Halsora (CR 7); Cost 1,475 gp; Creation DC 25, 8 days; Creatures 1 vegepygmy chieftain.
- Irnakurse (CR 9; elves): Drow particularly prize these tentacled treelike horrors created from their hated kin. Cost 3,500 gp; Creation DC 25, 10 days; Creatures 1 elf with at least 8 class levels.
- Jashoi (halfling): Fleshwarped halflings become bizarre, doglike quadrupeds which are annoying and difficult to control. As a result, drow rarely fleshwarp halflings.
- Oronci (orcs): An oronci has the upper body of an orc and the lower body of a centipede, complete with poisonous spittle.
- Sinspawn (CR 2); Cost 1,000 gp; Creation DC 18, 3 days; Creatures 1 human.
- Urgoci (ogre): An ogre’s hind legs shrink down to vestigial stumps. Its forearms lengthen, and are used to pull the vestigial lower body along. A mass of serpentine tentacles sprouts from its shoulders and upper torso.
“Fleshwarped” is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature. The resulting creature retains all of the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
CR: +1, unless the fleshwarping weakens the creature’s primary means of attacking and defending.
Special Abilities: A fleshwarped creature gains a single special attack, defense, or quality chosen by its creator—typically a physical ability, such as +2 to natural armor, a new natural attack like a bite or a tentacle attack, a new movement mode, a new sense, or an ability such as a breath weapon, ferocity, or grab. The new ability should be comparable to those of other monsters of the base creature’s CR.
Abilities: A fleshwarped creature gains a +4 bonus on one ability score and a –4 penalty on two other ability scores, as chosen by its creator.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Magic. © 2011, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Jesse Benner, Jason Nelson, Sean K Reynolds, Owen K.C. Stephens, Russ Taylor.