Friday, May 11, 2012
Frankly, the idea of something like that floating around out there terrifies me. They can imitate ANYONE, perfectly. In a normal fantasy world, this should also terrify everyone, almost all the time. The average village or town should be ripe for the picking for these creatures, and there is no explanation as to why they haven't already taken over.
The main issue (IMHO) is the lack of any aim or objective for doppelgangers. Why do they spend their time skulking in damp ruins, at the beck and call of More Evil masters or mistresses? Why doesn't being forced to read every mind around them drive them mad?
Well, as far as I'm concerned, they are already mad. The voices running through their heads are the thoughts of others around them, and although they can 'pick off' the most relevant or useful thoughts to maintain their disguise and protect themselves (possibly an almost subconscious ability), the rest of their mind is a swirling, chaotic maelstrom.
Although they are excellent, high priced and capricious killers, assassins and spies, and willingly hired by those who need those skills, both 'good' and 'evil', none but a select few know that they serve a secret, truly dark force that plays a very long game.
A "Just So" Story....
In the confusion of the fall of the First Empire, a deep seated cult of a nameless Elder Power sought to achieve Godhood, by sacrificing the souls of the inhabitants of a major city at a critical astrological conjunction by the use of forbidden death magic.
Something failed at a critical time, possibly betrayal from within, and instead of godhood, the full membership of the cult was infused with a dark curse. This allows them to alter their physical appearance, etc, but has split them from who they were, and so they exist, unaging, and unable to reproduce, with no true identity of their own to return to.
The city still remains, forgotten, dead and haunted, half flooded by a shallow lake that has formed in the last three thousand years. None go near it, as although empty during daylight hours, some nights see soulless husks of once living bodies rise and roam the avenues.
And far underneath a mighty mountain range, in a huge underground fortress only reached by a long and twisting tunnel, a great black gem holds the souls of all 80,000 who perished in the city. It is a powerful but insane artifact, and tended by a twisted and deformed artificial construct on glass and metal, in the rough shape of a man. This holds the spirit of the cultist who betrayed the ritual.
It (he or she, whoever they originally were, has been erased in three millennia of stark sanity, as powerful magics prevent insanity, confusion or even sleep) apparently controls the long-term plots and strategies of the scattered doppelganger race, as they make their way here inbetween missions to lurk in the darkness.
So this one of the Great Secrets of my campaign world. Only half a dozen people in the entire world know even part of this, and most of them are running for their life, hunted by shapechanging assassins.