Volume 69: The Grinders
“There is darkness inside you. A frightening magic I cling to.”
At a glance: The Grinders are the “lost boys” of the multiverse. They have given up the greedy ways of their parents and have entered the multiverse in search of their own fate. Their unique abilities make them an asset to any team and very fun to play.
History: From the very beginnings of our story we have had the O-Boys. From their humble beginnings they have risen to be one of the most powerful forces in the multiverse. They run an immensely powerful, mafia style organization that excels at organized crime. They provide “protection”, can be hired as muscle, and specialize in “acquiring” almost anything for a price.
Their power, which is derived from absorbing the Oblivion, twists their bodies and minds and souls, making them selfish, greedy, and arrogant. (See the Oblivion Ghouls write up for full details.) But it also grants them exceptional power. Its this power in part that has allowed the O-Boys to become such a potent presence throughout the multiverse.
O-Boy culture can be hard for some to understand. This group of misfits who seem to care about nothing other than themselves have particularly strong bonds to each other. For some reason all O-Boys see all other O-Boys as brothers and sisters. This is especially true of higher cycle O-Boys who see any cycle lower than them as siblings to be protected and encouraged. This almost magical bond is the only thing that has allowed a group of otherwise self-serving individuals to thrive. Also remember that O-Boys can be any gender. Very rarely some female O-Boys will prefer to be called O-Girls, but this is very rare. Again, the O-Boys take pride in being recognized as a group and the vast majority of female O-Boys would rather be included in the group title than be called something else.
Regardless it is also known that O-boys live hedonistic lives. When they are not plundering, they are often found partying hard. Drinking and doing drugs both mundane and magical, and fornicating with each other, their enthralled, and anyone else they desire. For most of their existence the O-boys were considered sterile, unable to bear children. So, the constant fornication was never looked upon as a problem for the O-Boys themselves. However, as time passed this ended up not always being true…
Very VERY rarely an O-boy can become pregnant. As one may imagine the O-boys are not considered to be “parent material”. Without regard to this it can happen, and when an O-Boy becomes pregnant a very unique set of biological processes start to take place in the body of the O-Boy that has become impregnated. First, they will suddenly begin to have an almost insatiable hunger for Oblivion Wraiths. O-Boys are known to hunt for Oblivion Wraiths anyway when enough of them build up the courage to do it, but a pregnant O-Boy will all but demand to go out searching for them. The mother to be will take in Oblivion Wraiths with an almost orgasmic satisfaction during this time. What is actually happening is the baby is absorbing these Oblivion Wraiths. For every Oblivion Wraith the mother consumes they baby advances 1 month in development! It is common for O-Boy mothers to expand at a rapid rate in this way. Many O-Boys may not even know they are pregnant. They may see their growing size as simply another side effect of being an O-Boy and most take it in stride. This is was especially true in the beginning of O-Boy culture as they too believed themselves to be sterile. Nevertheless, it is this expedited gestation period that probably allows the small number of children who are born to survive to birth. It is not uncommon for an O-Boy mother to give birth in only a few weeks!
Despite this most O-Boy children are still birthed as stillborn. Pregnant O-Boys do not suspend their partying and violent lifestyles simply because they are growing a baby inside, and while the unborn is absorbing Oblivion Wraiths, they are also absorbing the drugs, alcohol and the violence of their mothers and most do not survive the process. These still born are usually discarded with little thought and the mother continues with her life. Remarkably this is also a onetime experience for the mother. An O-Boy who has given birth will never be able to have a child again. Further adding to the rarity of birth among them.
Occasionally a baby will beat all the odds and be born alive. But the struggles for the child are just beginning. O-Boy mothers feel very little bond to the child. This is not to say any O-Boys would go out of their way to harm a baby, but their selfish lifestyles and dangerous lives simply seem to offer no time to care for a newborn. In the best circumstances the mother will be of a higher cycle and will conscript lower cycle O-Boys into caring for the child. As one could imagine though this also rarely works out. The number of children that make it to 3 years old is only about 1%. All of this adds up to reinforcing the myth that O-Boys can never get pregnant. On the very rare occasions that someone outside the O-Boy community has seen an O-Boy child (very much akin to seeing a unicorn) They are usually not believed when they tell the story to others. Because everyone knows O-Boys are sterile.
Despite this if by some miracle the child survives to 3 years of age the odds shift slightly in its favor. O-Boy children are born with the appearance of cycle 1 O-Boys. By age 3 these features become very distinct and the child’s physiology drastically changes almost overnight. The child will gain significant stamina and endurance. They also gain the ability to turn invisible! (As the spell “lesser invisibility” at level 1) Its is not very strong and doesn’t last long but it does allow the child to steal food and escape when necessary and do many other things it needs to survive. They will retain this ability and their increased stamina for the rest of their young lives.
Also, by this age most if not all O-Boy children are fully abandoned. They must survive on their own eking out whatever meager existence they can. Making matter worse the O-Boys do not share the bond they share with other O-Boys with the children. O-Boy children are usually seen simply as nuisances and scavengers. As such most of these children still do not survive. Most die cold and alone in the alleys of O-Boy cities. A truly sad existence. Further compounding this problem is their unique biology slows the physical aging process. O-Boy children develop normally until about 3 years old but then development all but stops. After this an O-Boy child will only develop one year physically for every 5 years that passes! This is also why O-Boy children will come to be called, “The Lost Boys of the Multiverse” as they look like children for a very very long time.
Sadly, this was the norm for untold lifetimes. The chance that an O-Boy child would survive to adulthood was unbelievably low. For the very few that have they are usually so jaded by their experiences growing up in a world without love that they become hermits or hardened criminals. Uneducated when confronted by others they will claim to be O-boys, looking just like them but having none of their power. They die alone and unknown.
Luckily this terrible fate began to change around the beginning of the Second Crush. By this time several Multiverse Warriors had begun to tell tales at their various academies of sighting “O-Boys who look like children but disappear when you blink.” Multiverse Warriors are not known to tell tall tales so as word spread more and more of them began to be on the lookout for these “childlike O-Boys”. But even with this it was still, as mentioned, like looking for a Unicorn. But then one day it happened. At one of their hidden academies a Multiverse Warrior returned, with an O-Boy child. The child had been found near death, starving in an alley. Multiverse Warriors can never abandon those in need, so they took the child, nurtured them back to health and then brought it home with her.
But this represented a new set of problems for the Multiverse Warriors. First was that they could no longer turn a blind eye to this problem. When they were finally able to speak to the child the stories he told were harrowing. Despite incredible hardship, and torture, this child had survived, and according to him there were others. In the deepest parts of most O-Boy cities there existed a handful of O-Boy children trying to survive together, and failing. The child said when they gathered together, they were in the most danger. The real O-Boys saw them as an infestation if they were ever seen in groups of more than one and they were often hunted down and exterminated like rats. Their inferior invisibility was easy to track, and they had no real power. Few escaped.
This incensed the Multiverse Warriors and across the multiverse they sent word to their secret academies and a campaign was launched to find these children. Teams of Multiverse Warriors began entering the O-Boy cities wherever they were. The O-Boys do not welcome visitors that have not come to do business and battles erupted constantly. Moreover, the O-Boys thought these claims were outrageous. Most still believed their kind to be sterile so the idea that they had “Baby O-Boys” hiding in their cities usually sent them into peels of horrible laughter. Even O-Boys who had seen the children would not usually make the connection as they felt no bond when looking at them like they did for every other O-Boy they came across. Further complicating things was that most of these children did everything they could to remain hidden. They had no sense of trust knowing nothing but fear their entire lives, most considered the Multiverse Warriors just to be another extermination team looking to kill them. Many of the children were quite feral and had to be captured in cages or in other (humane and safe) devices to eventually be rescued. It wasn’t long before the academies had dozens of small O-Boy children running around wild.
This led to the second enormous problem. What to do with these children. The Multiverse Warrior academies were no place for children. (See the Multiverse Warrior write up for more details) The training there was beyond grueling and the warriors were constantly being called upon at a moments notice to go to some other universe and vanquish dangerous evils and aberrations. It was considered for some time that they might look for families to adopt these children, but their appearance and wild behavior made this an unlikely solution. Even if they could find a suitable home for one of the children, their very existence was a danger to them. O-Boy children would stick out like a sore thumb and perhaps even be hunted by other O-Boys to cover up their existence. Not to mention most of the multiverse had little love for the O-Boys unless they needed something from them. This prevailing attitude would also be a danger to the children wherever they went.
So, in the end the Multiverse Warriors launched a bold plan. They would open a new secret academy, one shrouded in even more secrecy than any of their others, and they would gather any O-Boy children they could find there and raise them. The school would be run by Multiverse Warriors either to injured or to old to work in the field giving them continued purpose. And so, the Academy for Unique Children was established. The AUC would become the saving grace for O-Boy children everywhere. The existence of the AUC was kept a secret even from fledgling Multiverse Warriors. Only warriors who graduated from an academy would eventually learn of its existence.
Thus it began. As one would expect the beginning was hard. But Multiverse Warriors thrive under hardship. Gaining the children’s trust was the first step. It took time but they prevailed. And overtime when new children came it became easier, as they saw others like them being treated with compassion and respect. It soon became a right of passage for graduating Multiverse Warriors to be assigned as their first mission the infiltration of an O-Boy city to look for these children. The realization of these children’s existence was a shock to most new graduates. Some thought it might be a “fake mission” with some other purpose. Some sort of test for new graduates. However, those that found these children in the field were met with a sense of great surprise and wonder.
The training at Multiverse Academies was known to be unbelievably hard and the training for these children was set up to be equally as challenging. This was for several reasons. First it seemed most of these children shared the O-Boy trait of being selfish. This was usually thought to be a side effect of growing up in such a hard environment, but many warriors thought it may be due to their O-Boy heritage. The intense training helped hold their focus, but most of all taught them the value to teamwork. Also, the children had an almost supernatural like endurance, so their training had to be hard to be effective. What resulted was quite a shocking sight. Incredibly young-looking children training in extreme situations. It was hard for many of the warriors to grasp that by a physical age of 7 or 8 most of these “children” were technically adults. It didn’t really help that despite their actual age most of these “children” retained their childlike attitudes until much later in life. Their long lifespans also proved a hurtle as the children started to outlive instructors many times over.
Overtime there came to be quite a few children at the AUC. When new children came in the older ones would introduce them to the “Daily Grind” that was their lives. The school was run very much like a military academy. But without exception most children quickly grew to love it. They had food at every meal, companionship, and the instructors where encouraged to take on a more “parental” role for their students. These children had never known the love of mothers and fathers, so the affection showed to them by their teachers was like giving water to someone dying of thirst. The O-Boy children were happy to be here.
Eventually they came to call themselves “The Grinders.” This was for several reasons. The daily regiment had long since been referred to by all of them as, “The Grind.” Also, as they grew older many began to hate being called “O-Boy Children” Not only were they not children anymore but the only thing they saw they had in common with the O-Boys was their appearance. As such they eventually decided they would prefer to be called the Grinders and the teachers were happy to comply.
By the beginning of the Panic several generations of these long-lived Grinders had lived and died at the AUC. Many became instructors themselves. But the Multiverse Warriors still demanded that they keep their existence a secret. They understood it was cruel but for most Warriors they saw the Grinders as their very real children. They still feared that if the multiverse discovered their existence they would be hunted and killed. They could not see a multiverse that was ready to except “O-Boys” who walked around in the general public. Like O-Boys, Grinders cannot use magic or psionics, and Grinders possess none of the abilities the O-Boys have, other than an inferior invisibility. The warriors also feared that despite their training Grinders would be unable to defend themselves in a multiverse likely to hate them for their appearance.
But it would soon come to a boiling point. By now many Grinders had themselves sought to join true Multiverse Warrior academies. For a long time, none were allowed entry, but eventually the parents had to relent, and the children of the warriors began to train as real Multiverse Warriors. The warriors set up a special academy connected to AUC and used it to train “adult” Grinders in the ways of the Multiverse Warriors. And to no one’s surprise they dominated their training. After lives spent at “the grind”, coupled with their supernatural endurance, they quickly proved themselves to be true warriors. And then the Multiverse Warriors were met with a final problem. What to do with these new warriors…
At first, they insisted the Grinders only go out in disguise for missions. (All Grinders start with the disguise skill at 98%) Most Grinders saw the necessity of this and complied readily. It was during these first missions out the true power of the Grinders began to blossom. Multiverse Warriors are known to frequent missions in areas being ravaged by the Oblivion. They often work with members of the Trinity to battle Oblivion Wraiths and the Oblivion directly. Here is where something astonishing occurred. Most O-Boys must make a conscious effort to absorb an Oblivion Wraith into their bodies. With Grinders it would seem this absorption is automatic. If a Grinder comes into viewing range of an Oblivion Wraith it will zero in on them and once its close enough, be absorbed directly into the Grinder! The first few times this happen it caused panic on ships as it seemed the Oblivion Wraiths were targeting them! But soon they realized it was the Grinders they were after and once they were absorbed no harm came to the ships. Moreover, it was soon found that Grinders could also achieve higher cycles and new powers of their own! (Powers listed below in the “powers and abilities” section) Grinders began to change and soon took on the appearance of higher cycle O-Boys but with strikingly different powers. Soon there were cycle 2 and even cycle 3 Grinders. This however started making disguise a near impossibility.
And mistakes began to happen. Getting caught in a sudden storm ruins makeup and prosthetics. Various magical impediments destroyed magical disguises placed on various Grinders. And often this would cause panic in innocent people at crucial parts of a mission. Someone being rescued by a group of Multiverse Warriors suddenly coming face to face with an “O-Boy” caused much fear. Likewise, they were often mistakenly attacked by friendly forces when these disguises failed. Some were imprisoned, tortured, and killed. There was much turmoil. The Grinders were pulled back from doing missions and their fate seemed uncertain.
Finally, it was decided the time had come to let the existence of the Grinders be known. The Multiverse Warriors, who were well respected throughout the multiverse as champions of truth would come forward as a united front and let the whole of reality know about the Grinders. They would become their own separate elite force governed by the Multiverse Warriors. Warriors and Grinders alike knew it would be a rough transition, but they all believed it was time. Working with Trinity Smiths the Multiverse Warriors had special badges made that Grinders would wear distinguishing them from other O-Boys. Each badge was shaped like a 7-point star and had a fully realized T-Traxt in it. The badges were infused with several enchantments. Firstly, they were attuned to only be worn by Grinders. Anyone else trying to wear them (especially O-Boys) would take continuous painful damage. This made it very easy to verify who a Grinder was by touching the badge. If it was a real Grinder whoever touches the badge will receive a light shock. A bit painful but worth it to many who wanted to authenticate who they are working with. It also provides the Grinder with a +1 enhancement to a stat of their choice as long as they are wearing the badge! Once the stat is chosen it cannot be changed but the Grinder will always have that bonus as long as they keep their badge. Finally, it also provides a front facing nearly invisible shield that can be used once a day to absorb 30 points worth of damage!
But when and how to introduce them to the multiverse was the question. Many were in favor of “ripping the Band-Aid off” and just doing it. There would never be a right time. And they almost did it that way. But then a day before the announcement they received alarming news. From their network of informants the Multiverse Warriors learned there was an attack being planned at the location of construction for the new Elysium. They decided this would be where the Grinders would make their initial appearance, protecting the new Elysium.
They moved quickly and gathered together a battalion of Light Finders and quickly boarded ships they had stolen from the O-Boys and retrofitted with their own technology. The Light Finders were more than shocked to arrive to see the Multiverse Warriors ushering them onto O-Boy ships with what appeared to be O-Boy children and teenagers manning it! Hasty and tense explanations were given, but the Light Finders chose to have faith in the Multiverse Warriors in the end and boarded the ships anyway. And soon they were headed to the secret location of the new Elysium. The Grinders were about to appear on stage for the very first time…
Powers and Abilities: Grinders possess many unique and interesting abilities. Some of which were mentioned above. Their badges provide them with the abilities listed above. They also have supernatural endurance (natural Constitution of 17 + 1d4!)
It should be noted that Grinders DO NOT receive any of the powers and abilities of the Multiverse Warriors. Their training by its very nature is adapted only to them. There is only one Warrior School attended by Grinders and it is adapted to them only. After graduating they are recognized by the Multiverse Warriors as being absolutely equals, but also as a separate elite force that uses their own unique abilities. Likewise, though they move through the same cycles by the same means as the O-Boys, they gain none of the abilities of the O-Boys. Unlike O-Boys who have an inherent sense of trepidation about moving to hire cycles, Grinders seem to have an eagerness to move up in cycles. Their progress is similarly slowed however in that they do not go out of their way to hunt Oblivion Ghouls. They take missions as they are assigned by the academies and will only absorb Oblivion Ghouls as they happen upon them. Let’s look at each cycle individually.
One other interesting note is that Grinders are NOT sterile! If they have a child there is a 50% chance it will be born as a regular child. The remaining 50% are born as Grinders! Twins or more will ALWAYS be Grinders.
Cycle 1 Grinder-
Grinders are born this way. They have the exact appearance of a Cycle 1 O-Boy. At age 3 their powers develop which are supernatural endurance and the ability to turn invisible. (As the spell “Lesser Invisibility” at their current level.) Note all Grinder abilities can be used with a physical action! They do not count as spells!
Cycle 2 Grinder-
To become a Cycle 2 Grinder, they must absorb 2 more Oblivion Wraiths. This cannot be attempted until level 5. At this point their lesser invisibility changes to “Invisibility Superior” cast at their current level. They gain 1d6 HP. Over the next month they will gain 300 or more pounds of weight which cannot be lost. Surprisingly they lose none of their speed, dexterity, or endurance with this weight. They will be prone to outbreaks of body acne and body dandruff. They will take on an “earthy body odor” which cannot be washed off and is hard to mask with colognes or perfumes.
Cycle 3 Grinder-
To become a Cycle 3 Grinder, they must absorb 5 more Oblivion Wraiths. This cannot be attempted until level 7 or higher. At this cycle the Grinder will gain 1d6 hp and 1d6 to their speed stat! They also gain the ability to make others invisible by touch! This is cast as Invisibility Superior at their current level!
At this cycle the Grinder will sweat profusely almost constantly. They will also become extremely emotional and will cry over the slightest things. The have a sort of “manic sorrow” always bubbling at their surface. Since most Grinders still look like children even at this stage some call this “The Cry Baby Stage” for the Grinders. Their earthy odor is replaced by a cloyingly sweet scent that is particularly strong in their sweat and tears.
Cycle 4 Grinder-
To enter this cycle the Grinder must absorb 10 Oblivion Wraiths. This cannot be attempted until Level 10. This transformation is the most dramatic. As each Wraith is absorbed, they will start dropping weight. They will have epic bouts of intense smelling flatulence and belching. By time they absorb they 10th wraith they will look like an emaciated version of their former selves. Within 24 hours of absorbing the 10th wraith they will collapse, slipping into a coma. This coma lasts for 7 days during which time a crystalline pink “crust” will fully cover their bodies. On the 7th day the crust will shatter, and they will awaken looking better than ever! (+1 to charisma/physical beauty) They will also gain 1d6 HP.
They also gain a unique ability. Upon coming out of invisibility they will gain Supernatural Strength as the spell cast at their current level! This will happen automatically every time they come out of invisibility and can not be shut off. Grinders must be careful to remember they have this power. A simple high-five after coming out of invisibility could break someone’s arm! The strength fades away after the spell’s duration has expended but will be renewed every time the Grinder leaves invisibility.
Cycle 5 Grinder-
To reach this cycle the Grinder must absorb 25 Oblivion Wraiths. This cannot be attempted until Level 15. With each wraith absorbed patterns will begin to emerge on their skin. By time they absorb the 25th wraith they will be covered head to toe in a unique series of markings. These markings are different for every single Grinder, unique only to them, like a fingerprint.
The Grinder receives and additional 1d6 hp. They will also gain an amazing singing voice. (Gain singing skill at 95%) This vocal prowess can also be focused into a piercing sonic attack. As an action the Grinder can use a shout attack that comes out of their mouth in a cone reaching 20’ doing 2d8 +4 damage! Crystalline, glass, and fragile/brittle objects will shatter taking triple damage! Those hit by the shout are deafened for 1d4 rounds (saving throw for half damage and half deafening duration) Additionally if this shout attack is used as the first action after breaking invisibility it will deal and additional 1d8 +1 damage!
Cycle 6 Grinder-
This, as far as anyone knows, is the highest cycle a Grinder can reach. This can not be attempted until level 17 and 100 Oblivion Wraiths must be absorbed to reach this cycle. Upon starting the attempt for this cycle tiny nubs will sprout from the Grinders head. These nubs will eventually turn into horns or antlers. These horns and antlers can be of any type seen in nature. VERY rarely (1% chance) they will instead grow a single Unicorn horn!
The Grinder will gain 2d6 HP. They also gain the ability to summon a “Wraith Buddy.” The Wraith Buddy appears as a human sized Oblivion Wraith. For those who have never seen one before they must make a horror factor save of 14 or higher or they will flee in terror before the Wraith Buddy. Wraith Buddies have 50 HP and can attack at the Grinders command twice per round. Attacks cause 2d6 crushing damage each. The Wraith Buddy will persist until it is destroyed or dismissed by the Grinder. A Grinder can only have one Wraith Buddy in existence at a time. If the Wraith Buddy is summoned as the first action after breaking invisibility the wraith gains an additional 25 HP and its attacks increase to 3d6 damage each! Finally, if the Grinder uses its shout attack on this enhanced Wraith Buddy immediately after summoning it the Wraith will gain ANOTHER 25 Hp and its attacks will increase to 3d6+4 each!
If the Grinder does not want to use the wraith to attack, they can choose to have the wraith envelop them, creating a wraith armor around their body. This process takes 15 seconds, but the Grinder can move freely and take actions as normal as the armor is forming around them. The finished Wraith Armor will have a ghoulish appearance and cover the entire body including the head. This armor will absorb 50 HP of damage and will last until destroyed or dismissed by the Grinder. If the Grinder begins summoning the armor as the first action after breaking invisibility it will have an additional 25 HP. If they use their shout attack as their next action after the armor is fully formed it will gain an additional 25 HP, but the shout will be muted causing no damage or other ill effect. This most enhanced armor gains the ability of Flight as the spell cast at the same level of the Grinder! The armor also allows the Grinder to exist in the vacuum of space! It will additionally filter out toxic gasses and smoke allowing the Grinder to breath freely with no harm in the presence of both. Finally, Grinders wearing this armor can if they choose, move freely in and out of the Oblivions Crawl. They will be able to sense where the Oblivion proper begins and are easily able to avoid it. This can be used to hide in the Oblivion or to launch sneak attacks from it.
About the Illustration: Today we have a pic of Graze in a business suit, an insect-like being, and a robot. In the second picture we have a gigantic Agriculture Bot, built by the Technorganic Conglomerate to help the humans produce more food.
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