Ytaleh are a coiling mist of nervous tissue, beautiful and strange. Evolved to drift in the gelatinous depths of their world’s oceans, they are almost helpless on dry land. As they evolved, their species developed the ability to infiltrate another creature’s body, binding to its nervous system and guiding their actions. Now able to explore the world, build and experiment, the parasites developed an advanced society with galactic reach.
Modern ytaleh are no longer parasites but symbiotes, co-evolved with certain other species, neither able to survive without the other. Their host species develop only rudimentary brains and nervous systems, relying on the ytaleh to be their minds, while they are the hands. Scaled ytaleh-igophi dance in the oceans, great fins beating through the waters as they explore the depths. The ytaleh-horoth scamper through forests, and the ytaleh-affah lumber on the plains. Even the skies echo to the song of swooping ytaleh-barra. Each pairing-caste brings its own strengths and insights to the greater ytaleh civilisation.
In exploring new worlds and civilisations, the ytaleh’s parasitic abilities are a great asset. Rather than rely on disguise, they can take on the very bodies of the native species. Ytaleh scientists produce tailored implants to match the intended host species, allowing an agent to bind effectively to a human nervous system while its normal body remains in cryostatis. It is a far cry from their intimate connection with their symbiote, but sufficient for their purposes.
Most ytaleh would be horrified at the thought of bonding with a sentient being, partly on moral grounds, and partly through superstitions that the host’s spirit will corrupt them. The dead are a different matter, however. Fresh human corpses can be preserved, repaired and prepared for implantation. In some cases, the ytaleh can simply take over the deceased’s life in its entirety.
Of course, not all ytaleh are so scrupulous. There are rumours of humans being killed specifically for implantation, either by criminals or by secretive agencies. A few ytaleh are even callous, determined or simply desperate enough to hijack a living human body and bend it to their will.
As ytaleh inhabit the body of an actual human, there is always someone out there who can recognise them. If the human is registered deceased, all kinds of confusion and complication can ensure. If the body was taken before any death could be recorded, the human’s life can easily come back to haunt the ytaleh. Having a match on official records can be both a blessing and a problem. An ytaleh who takes over the life of their host gains an authentic cover identity, but also takes a great risk that abnormal behaviour will attract attention from those who knew them well.
Their symbiotic nature means ytaleh experience the physical world through a filter. They rarely suffer pain, but also feel little physical pleasure. As a result, the species inclines towards mental pursuits, seeking enjoyment in intellectual stimulation and contemplation. They can be a wise and reasonable species, with a broad-minded attitude born of their manifold symbiote-castes, but this tendency can also make them impractical. Theory and philosophy do not always transfer well to the real world, and they often struggle to empathise with more physical species. In human guise, Ytaleh may seem tranquil and meditative, tough and practical, or intellectual to a fault.
Host: any ytaleh is defined partly by the capabilities of the body they inhabit. An ytaleh should briefly describe the nature of their host in a few words. This background affects the use of some ytaleh abilities. For example, ‘wealthy Polish fitness-freak accountant’, ‘punk-loving barrista from the sticks’ or ‘retired silver-tongued army engineer’. Of course, a player can write a more extensive background if they wish.
Second-Hand Senses: Ytaleh experience most physical sensations as an observer, rather than the subject. They are aware of pleasure, pain and discomfort, but more as feedback than as personal experience; they can easily ignore such sensations when convenient. An ytaleh whose host body has suffered agonising burns can still function, and they can ignore warning signals and push their bodies hard enough to tear muscle and break bone.
Ytaleh can ignore Wound penalties caused by Bashing damage. They can ignore Wound penalties for Lethal damage on non-physical rolls. An ytaleh may choose to ignore Wound penalties for Lethal damage on a physical roll, but suffers one automatic Lethal damage as they force their host body beyond its limits. Aggravated damage cannot be ignored.
Whenever a roll is required to withstand pain in their human body (such as picking up a hot item, keeping hold of a rope or staying conscious after an injury) the ytaleh gains +3 dice. This bonus does not apply to effects that target the nervous system or affect the entire body, such as certain Gifts or electrical shocks. Use the same rules for other intense sensations, such as pleasure.
Symbiote Lineage: Any ytaleh bloodline has co-evolved with a certain host species, though individuals may deviate from the family tradition. This lineage affects the neural pathways of the ytaleh, as well as the culture they inherit.
- ytaleh-igophi: specialised in Swimming, and in detecting and evaluating water currents, pressures and similar properties. Can always orient themselves underwater.
- ytaleh-horoth: specialised in Climbing, in Jumping, and in Navigation in woodlands or similar crowded environments.
- ytaleh-affah: specialised in Navigation, in Long-Distance Running, and in Perception rolls to detect movement.
- ytaleh-barra: specialised in Falling, in tasks judging speed and distance (typically Throwing and Catching), and in detecting and evaluating air currents and pressures. Can always orient themselves while in the air.
Excarnation: in extremis, an ytaleh may be forced to abandon its human host. This is never a decision taken lightly; a dead host body will become useless within a short time unless preserved with the utmost care, while a live host will regain control. Moreover, the ytaleh is extremely vulnerable when exposed.
An excarnated ytaleh has Size and Speed 1 (Speed 3 in water), and its physical attributes are reduced to 0. Its only attack is a mild electrical shock dealing 1 Bashing damage (Intelligence + Focus).
Finding a new host body is not an easy matter. A host must be helpless (or willing), and infiltrating the host takes approximately ten minutes, while forming a neural bond takes several hours. A visitant ytaleh can bond with a number of earthly species, primarily humans, but also mammals of similar size. The process requires an extended roll of Resolve + Focus.
- for a fresh human corpse prepared for ytaleh implantation, 5 successes
- if not prepared for implantation, +5 successes
- for a non-human corpse, +3 successes
- for each full 24 hours since death, +1 success
- for each point of size difference from Size 5, +1 success
- for a live host, accumulate successes equal to the host’s Resolve + Presence if resisting, or equal to Presence if willing.
- returning to a long-term host, -5 successes
- ytaleh doctor available to monitor the process, -1 success per dot in Medicine
Because the ytaleh inhabit an actual human body, they have many advantages in appearing human. As well as outward appearance, their skin capacitance, fingerprints and DNA read as human, and they can eat, sleep, and even develop human diseases. Only the most advanced tissue scans can detect the presence of the symbiote; X-rays show nothing. However, they can unconsciously betray themselves by abnormal movements or responses to stimuli.
Ytaleh do experience physical pain and pleasure, but muted and at second hand. Reactions are often delayed or misjudged; an ytaleh might be stabbed with a pin, and only react a second later. They are also prone to ignore moderate discomfort, such as being cold enough to show goose pimples or hot enough to sweat. This is typically a Subtle Tell, but becomes a Major Tell in cases of serious injury, torture, sex, and other intense situations.
Under medical examination, ytaleh appear mostly human. However, automatic behaviours such as blinking and pupil dilation are erratic, which is a Subtle Tell.
The Ytaleh Gift pools are Mentalism and Neuromancy.
Ytaleh are a cerebral species, with affinity for Mental Attributes.