Jan 27, 2021 8:49 AM
Changeling falls on an Outer Plane (D&D 2e)
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"Thanks! To both of you. Maybe I'll figure out a way to pay you back. What's your name, what do you get up to?"

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Repetition ensues.

"I should thank you! We never have visitors in Ursis unless they need us to cure them of lycanthropy or some curse or other. People call me Brother Berrypaw. Most of my days, I spend on preparing fish for the town and thinking of stories. What did you get up to in your home?"

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"Depends on my mood and my current shape. Travel a lot. Music, telling interesting stories about interesting places, putting that on the internet. Video games. Uh- Sorry if some of that's hard to translate. Changing myself often. Learning stuff and upgrading myself. Sports, sex. I pick up hobbies and obsess over them and then forget about them entirely for years, because getting good at something is the fun part."

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"I don't know what you could mean by half of those things. What else have you gotten good at? Around here, we improve very specific skills to higher and higher levels; none of us try broaden our skillsets."

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"Music and biology would be what I'm best at, I guess. I'm a very broad person by nature. Easily bored. Music never gets old and I have to know my biology really well to change myself without fucking up."

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"Biology? Odd to have a field of study about that, when it can be so different for every creature. Maybe you'll enjoy seeing different animals up close without the dangers of a prime world. I don't study animals, just eat them."

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"Well if you have lots of people who've done a lot of work on it and written stuff down for hundreds of years and collaborate on everything you can learn genetics and biochemistry - does that translate - and the potential to do cool stuff goes really high. I don't actually have a medical degree though."

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"Genetics does sound incredibly interesting! In your world, your philosophers understand how inheritance among families and species works?"

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"Yeah! It's super fucking complicated and kind of amazing. Evolution's a blind optimizer making random changes over eons, you can see how something developed on top of itself again and again over millions of years. Giraffes and lions and bears and humans all have the same basic structure if you look at the bones, just that a lot of them are different sizes. That's mammilia, mammals. All originally descended from the same critter, who knows how long ago, and diverging from there by living in different places or different ways so that slow mutations and selection pressure add up- Also, like, bats and birds are only very distantly related even though they're the same basic kind of thing, because something that flies around and eats fruit or bugs can survive and mate, it's a good enough strategy that a species that ends up doing it is likely enough to prosper. I could go on for hours."

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"Amazing! Can we discover those patterns in ourselves and the other animals? How do geneticists measure the divergences?"

Father Bear makes a gesture of raising one paw into the air.

"If I may interrupt?"

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"-Oh, sure. You probably don't want to be a translator all day, huh? I can figure out enough words to explain dee-en-ay later."

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"I am happy to translate as long as you need. I only wish to clarify: sometimes the powers will interfere in the normal process of evolution, so things often become more complicated than a general analysis would suggest. I have never heard of genetics or evolution but from your description, it sounds as though it operates normally until and unless the powers carve out an exception."

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"Yeah that'll do it. Humanity interfering does that at home too, even before we did science we made dogs outta wolves. And nowadays most things have been genetically engineered. So, the way we discovered all this is long-winded, but bodies are made up of cells, small enclosed life forms that cooperate to make one big being. There's a structure called deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA, inside the cells, and that DNA describes instructions for how the cell should assemble proteins. Proteins do all the heavy lifting of cells being alive. Change the DNA, change the being carrying it. DNA is ultimately just an absurdly long string of pieces stuck together that can have one of four values on each piece - libraries and libraries full for even the smallest creatures. The cells in the main body have full copies. Reproductive cells have half copies, assembled semi-randomly, it's complicated. And when the gametes combine they assemble into one full copy that has pieces from both the father and mother. Some traits involve just one tiny piece of DNA and will show up in kids by a pattern called a Punnet square, after the guy who figured it out I think, but some are influenced slightly by lots and lots of pieces spread all throughout, or by how well a kid eats growing up or whatever, and vary a lot. Like height. There's lots of complications but that's the basic idea."

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This part takes a bit longer than previous ones to repeat! They can go back and forth like this for a bit longer before it's time to eat!

Most times seem like time to eat, around here.

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Biology: Is complicated.

Fish: Is delicious, especially in her more carnivorous forms.

She doesn't play music or sing again. She has enough vocabulary to participate in conversations now. Does anybody except Brother Berrypaw and Father Bear seem particularly interesting? If not she'll say her goodbyes for the moment and walk out into the wilds. To a nice cliff that seems like it would have a good view, perhaps. 

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No one else seems to have much to say. As she explores the rest of the mountain, the sounds and smells of the campsite fade away. In the sky, she can see the sun and moon, in the exact same positions they were when she arrived. The light is the same, no darker or brighter. There are animals of various kinds, though few as large as the bears. Looking out over a cliff, she sees vast swathes of wilderness.

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A bit creepy that the sky isn't moving.

She tries talking to a few of the animals, figuring that if they turn out not to be people there'll be nobody to see her embarrassed. Just polite greetings and asking if there's any particularly good views around here for lack of a better small-talk subject.

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Most of them do not speak to her. One bird does suggest flying out until she sees signs of the wandering tigers. A beetle recommends visiting the singing place.

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She asks for directions to the Singing Place and shifts forms again, then starts bounding away in a long-distance-running body with digitigrade legs.

Does night prove to not come at all, here? She introspects on her fatigue levels and watches her stack's clock, attempting to discern further weirdness.

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The sky does appear to change in hue, although never to become day or night. It remains, perpetually, in various states of twilight. Unlike the sun and moon, which remain fixed near the horizon, the stars come and go in a manner perhaps more familiar. She continues to tire at her ordinary rate, however, and time seems to pass normally. The beetle's instructions lead her through a number of zones of what appears to be different kinds of weather: rising fog and morning dew, pattering rain, gentle snow, and the warm heat of a summer day as just as it begins to cool with night's arrival.

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This is all exceedingly weird.

This body is good for meditative exercise and she covers a lot of ground, but after a while she starts looking around for forage, not really sure where to find it. If push comes to shove she can eat leaves and grass and even sticks and be... Fine-ish. But it would suck. She builds a quick lean-to in the 'summer day' region - it takes barely half an hour - occupies herself worrying about being lost in weirdass endless wilderness, and making a crude wooden spear with her nice knife because that seems to be the 'caveman thing' to do here, then... Drifts off to sleep.

If nothing interrupts her sleep, she continues towards the 'singing place' the next day.

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So she continues. The landscape changes as well, at times, though rarely in ways that might impede travel. There are different kinds of plant and animal life, as well as the part-humanoid beings. Most do not particularly take an interest in her, as she fits right in.

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She does eventually notice a shadow over her that is not her own. Something has been flying directly above her.

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Her description of this brain-state's general mood is 'vigilant' if she's feeling charitable 'paranoid' if not. She's snuck a couple of looks at whatever it is already, hopefully without revealing that she's done so.

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It is reasonably similar in body plan to her, except for the wings, and the yellow light that covers its entire body.

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