The Beast Within

Blame this one on Doctor Who.

This guy gave me a devil of an idea.

I don’t actually watch Doctor Who (blasphemy, I know) but from time to time I’ll hear things about it from people who do. One such instance was someone online mentioning the episode “The Satan Pit.” Reading the synopsis, I was struck by how the Doctor deduced that the Beast’s animalistic behavior meant that it’s mind was quite literally elsewhere. That’s not how it works in Pathfinder!

In Pathfinder, whenever your mind (or spirit, etc.) leaves your body, your body immediately goes into a catatonic state. Only the autonomic functions continue, with everything else having exited along with your consciousness. Hence, I immediately started considering ways to make this alternate approach – allowing your body to function, but without sapience – possible in Pathfinder. The result is the following feat:

Retain Id

When you leave your body, your primal instincts take control of it.

Prerequisite: Charisma 13.

Benefit: When your mind leaves your body (e.g. astral projection), your subconscious mind remains and assumes direct control of your body, albeit in an animalistic state. In this condition your body has an Intelligence of 2 which cannot be raised (e.g. by fox’s cunning), and cannot speak or understand any languages. Your body is unable to use any tools (including manufactured weapons), spellcasting or psionic powers, or spell-like or psi-like abilities. It cannot use any Intelligence-, Wisdom-, or Charisma-based skills (save for Intimidate), nor the Ride skill. It cannot use any ability that requires patience or concentration.

Your subconscious mind retains your memories in this state, such as knowledge of who is friend or foe, but has an effective alignment of Neutral. While in this state, your body may be influenced with wild empathy as though it were an animal. Any consciousness that enters your body during this time (such as a ghost using malevolence) automatically overpowers your subconscious and takes control of your body. When your mind returns to your body, you do not remember what your subconscious did while in control.

Now admittedly, this is a situation that doesn’t come up very often. Few are the spells that separate your mind and body, and there are only marginally more psionic powers that do so. Still, I wanted to put this option out there for players who make a PC that, in some manner, spends a fair amount of time divorced from their physical body.

The major benefit from this feat is that it keeps your body active, preventing it from helplessly waiting for someone to coup de grace it. In this state, it may not be able to fight very well (particularly if it has no natural weapons or unarmed strikes), but it can at least detect danger and try to flee from it.

Of course, enterprising GMs can also use this feat as well, as there’s no telling what trouble your body may get into if left without a guiding intelligence. Characters who use this feat would be wise to leave someone behind to watch over their body, even if it can act on its own.

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5 Responses to “The Beast Within”

  1. Robert Autery II Says:

    Once again, I find your creativity and the thought you put into your concepts, very useful and understandable. I do wish you would express how you would alter an effect for use with the standard 3.5 D&D, though. Oddly, in most cases, I see little reason to change anything.
    Considering what you are doing with this and the idea you have in mind, would it not be feasable for someone to use simple mundane weapons that they are familiar with to defend themselves? I’m thinking, something akin to a raised skeleton using a weapon they died with would be because said skeleton can use said weapon. I use this principle for my low intelligence undead and it seems to keep the players on their toes.

    • alzrius Says:

      Robert, thanks for the kind words!

      As you noted, this particular feat should work exactly the same in 3.5 as it does in Pathfinder. No conversion necessary.

      In regards to the use of simple weapons, my reasoning was that the remaining mind is little more than an animal, and animals don’t use tools. Now, there are some instances of animals – mostly apes – using tools, even as weapons (rocks, or so I’ve been told), so there might be some precedent for using it that way.

      Mostly though, to avoid the feat being any longer, it seemed simplest to say that it couldn’t use tools at all (that also kept this feat from being too good, since otherwise your body was effectively at near-full power if it wasn’t a spellcaster, while your mind was elsewhere). That said, there’s no reason you can’t modify this for your own game as you like.

      • Robert Autery II Says:

        It wasn’t kind words, sir. I am acknowledging your ability to stay within the parameters of game balance, game mechanics, and you make very good sense. What you are and have been doing with the rules is something I find myself going to war over with my players. I could spend days giving examples of attempts to promote logic and realism in my games, only to have whiny squabbles prompted.
        As for changing it? No. I think you are very right in your thinking about how much one could do from another plane or otherwise. Perhaps, a feat that has this for a prerequisite to allow just a bit more would be more suitable.
        Thankyou for writing back. I do enjoy seeing and using this kind of information.

  2. Upper_Krust Says:

    You really should watch Doctor Who though mate. 😉

    • alzrius Says:

      Not the first time I’ve heard that. It’s on my list of “things I really need to start doing.”

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