Doppleganger Infiltrators

Yesterday my group finished doing worldbuilding for our Burning Wheel game. Somehow we got the entire world infested with dopplegangers. This is always a good thing, but people want them to be a playable race. Whether this happens or not is still in the air, but making them as a playable race is good, especially if I will need to burn up a Doppleganger NPC.

The Dopplegangers here were created by the Nameless God of Darkness in order to spread his will throughout the land, and they quite early were split from their ancestral home, and spread throughout the world. They remained hidden for the past thousands of years, being discovered only by the psionic Dromites early in the existence. The Dromites’ had a being of mental energy who was smited by the Dark God, and destroying all of the Dromites for discovering his spies. A group of Dark Elves were then destroyed in a great spellsongs, and the Dopplegangers almost blew their own cover by slaying the Elven God, and fed its heart to the progenitor of the Dark Elves.

Therefore, the Dopplegangers have recently become targets as rumours of their existence have begun to cycle through the world.

My plan is to create a single Born Doppleganger lifepath that can become part of any setting, and replaces that setting’s Born Lifepath.

Born Doppleganger

  • yrs * - *
    Skills: 3 pts: General 2 pts: Disguise, Inconspicuous
    Traits: Doppleganger Common traits plus 1 pt: -

  • The Born Doppleganger lifepath grants the years, resource points, and leads of the lifepath it is replacing.

Doppleganger Common Traits:
Melted and Unformed: The Doppleganger does not have a proper nartural form. They look like a growth of melted wax, oozing in a humanoid form. They can form their forms into that of other beings. They can use Disguise without tools, and their disguises cannot be penatrated automatically, it must be actively looked for. Their stat caps are 8’s, except for Will and Power. Their Will cap is 9. Their Power cap is 7. Their stride is 7.

Spite: The Dark Elves do not have a monopoloy on the Spite of the Nameless Darkness, the Dopplegangers also succumb to Spite, but cannot learn Songs at character burning.

Vile Language: The Dopplegangers can all speak the language of their Dark Master.

Oddly Aged: The Doppleganger’s actual age is not reflected by the one they gain in character burning. They are long lived, like the Dwarves, but they only use their character burning age for factoring starting Stats.

Doppleganger Special Traits:
Void Embrace: Dopplegangers can take Void Embrace the same way as orcs. If they embrace the Void, they may learn the Rituals of Blood and Night.

Note: This is a first attempt, and I, sadly, don’t have the Monster Burner.

Can doppelgangers sense one another? Do they have a culture that they transmit among themselves, or are they magically aware of the will of the nameless god? How do they know they’re supposed to do evil, disruptive things?

How do they reproduce?

If they want to replace an individual, is there any way for them to get ahold of some of the individual’s memories so they can convincingly replace him?

Can they learn racial traits and skills from other races, like elven spell-songs? They’ll need them to infiltrate elven society.

I think if it were my project, I’d burn up a full set of lifepaths. I’d treat the other stocks in the game as settings, so there would be a Man Setting, an Elf Setting, a Dwarf Setting, etc. Within those settings I’d make lifepaths that roughly correlated to the settings that stock has access to. So in the Man setting there would be a Noble lifepath, a Peasant lifepath, a Clergy lifepath, City lifepath, Soldier lifepath, etc. So when you burn up a doppleganger you can say it was born in human society and spent the first portion of its life as a human townsman. Later it abandoned that disguise and imitated a soldier (an officer) long enough to cause a bloody war with the dwarves. Then it took a lead to the Dwarf setting in the dwarf noble lifepath, etc. etc.

Maybe a cool emotional trait for doppelgangers would be Self-loathing. They’re the hideous tools of an evil god, after all, not even given their own forms or their own lives. Their purpose is to betray people who treat them well. I’m thinking of My Life with Master, and how the servants of the wicked Master would eventually turn on him and often destroy themselves in the process. Maybe the ultimate destiny of a doppelganger is to destroy itself as an act of rebellion against the nameless god.

I eventually need to create skinwalkers for my Weird West game, which have some traits in common with your doppelgangers. I plan to give them the ability to borrow some of the skills of the owner of the skin they’re wearing, but only so long as they’re wearing the skin. So if a skinwalker dons the skin of a hare it gets access to burrowing, stealthy, and foraging at some echo of the hare’s own rating as long as it wears the skin. If it dons the skin of a general it gets access to strategy, tactics, command, etc. It’s a powerful ability, but I don’t intend my skinwalkers to be playable.

I am a little intimidated about Lifepath creation. I feel like they should be properly balanced, and I understand they’re not on a basic level, but I don’t have a sense of the inherit logic behind that creation.

Not thought about Doppleganger reproduction much, I expect that it’s sexual reproduction. I guess the extra trait:
Vile Sense: The Doppleganger can tell if a creature follows the path of Hatred, Spite, Void Embrace, or none of these. This is treated as Aura Reading, although does not take a roll.

This allows the Dopplegangers to sense one another pretty easily, and also lets them sense other allies of their master.

The Dark God has some influence over them, in that he appears in their dreams, they get together in the middle of the night for dark rituals. It was through one of these that the corrupted the First Etharch to Spite, bringing him to consume the heart of the First Born Goddess to steal power. It was their power rituals that corrupted him to darkness. Also their rituals lead to the destruction the Nature God, but at their own hands.

The Dopplegangers definitely can learn Spellsongs, although, not during character burning to keep them weaker than they would otherwise be, but they are deeply linked to the Elves historically, and their actions created both Spite and Grief (the killing of their Goddess lead to the Elven soul weaking, and the elves succumbing to Isolation and Grief). Dopplegangers cannot however become Faithful or Gifted (Void Embrace is their following of the Nameless Darkness and the rituals thereof). They cannot become Noggers or War Artists. However, they can stay to the fringes of Dwarven Society as they become the merchants (hawkers), minor warriors, or those who row their ships.

I wouldn’t create LPs at the start. Burn em up as “burning rogues” or as normal NPCs of whatever stock and slap on the relevant traits.

The MonBu actually has a trait for dopplegangers (it might even be called Doppleganger) for the disguise, with the mechanic to see through it.

I want to build this lifepath so a PC can be one, since there is someone interested. All the others are going to be rogues. But, that is primarily the best advice I think.

Have you played BW straight yet?

No, I’ve not.

The guy who wants to be a Doppleganger has.

My group is mostly newbies.

Now I want to make a Doppleganger lifepath set. Born Changling, with the Cuckoo trait.

That is a red flag. I’d ask him not to, if only so he can better instruct the n00bs on how to play right.

I trust him well enough. And if he does play a Dop, the goal of this is to make a Dopplegangers a simple paint over other races.

I have a pretty good bunch of players. The main reason we’re doing this is that we want to have a bunch of evil throughout the world. And the player who wants to play the weird character seems like he’s going to be a good focal point for story.

Knowing the player, he’s not trying to play a Doppleganger because he wants to do something wrong, but instead, because he wants to do something wierd, which all of his characters have. Dopplegangers give that to him without being too different. I expect.

The player does kind of run a risk.

The players will know that he is a member of a species that prey upon the human species. It makes me think of a payer who was playing a Zhodhani in an Imperial traveller game. The Zhodhani are psionicaly aware and the Imperials are paraniod about “mind control”. So even though the players were very happy to have a mind reading, teleporting member of the party. Their characters frequently made disparaging comments about the brainwashing dispicable mind controllers. They made sure player knew that if their characters ever found out that he was a Zhodhani, they would kill him in his sleep. While he slept so that there was no chance that he would be able to mindcontrol them first. It made for a real tension when he used his powers.

If the other characters found out that he was a bodysnatcher, they would be well within their rights to kill him out of hand. It would be the only humane thing to do. One can not suffer a murdering bodysnatcher to live. Let us be clear, Dopplegangers are evil. They don’t just murder people, they steal their lives as well. They are worse than murderers.

Since I’m the one who ran the game he played in, I can tell the Doppleganger player’s knowledge of the game is limited at best (as is mine, still learning and preparing for my first real BW game).

So - attempting to steer back onto course.

Keeping things simple, and straying as far from the core game as possible is going to be my primary goal in designing the things, since as Luke rightly points out, I don’t know the game very well, and keeping things simple is good.

Of course Justin’s point is I think exactly the reason I want a player able to do this.

My players have decided they’re going to be part of a secret society (most likely, we’re doing Group Design right now, before we get into character design), and so the double layers of deception and infiltration should be really awesome, or at least, something that will lead to tension and conflict.