Spring sprung early, a month or more too soon. Tulips and hyacinths are out and about, daffodils are up, and the lilac bush has budded, as have the apple and cherry blossom trees. The bird feeder is busy with finches and chickadees, while robins and cardinals busily build nests. It’s the hot topic of conversation and everyone chats about how non-existent our notoriously vicious Finger Lakes winter was. I never pulled our heaviest winter coats from the closet – Aug and I have a variety of foul weather gear, ranging from “slightly chilly” to “minus ten below” – and now we are in t-shirts and shorts. Yesterday was so warm that we could have run our daily mile bare-chested. We didn’t because we were in a group and modesty prevailed, but we could have, and I have to force myself to remember that this is the end of March, not the beginning of May.
Some newscaster has pointed out that our winter hasn’t been this light since 1932, which means that we have essentially skipped winter before and survived. The world didn’t end and regular, savagely heavy with snowfall and bitter temperature winters did, and will, return. It is a once in an eighty year event. Now if I lived in a mythic land, say the Mythic Finger Lakes, then there might be some other event that followed such a once-in-a-lifetime event. Maybe some rare and mystical creature arrives on the coattails of an early spring. And with that in mind as I walked into the library on my way to my office, I saw a poster notification heralding an upcoming horticultural lecture, emblazoned with this image,
and in idea formed.
Naturally, when I think about magical creatures I think about the Ars Magica role-playing game. Realizing that I hadn’t posted anything Ars in a while I thought I might stat up one of these dancing tubers for your edification and enjoyment. Early in the process my mind jogged back to former days spent exploring the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, an D&D module that forever changed my connection to the game, both spoiling my original naivety and adding depths of wonder and imagination. That conversation is another post, however, but I encourage the reader to chide me if I have strayed too close to Mr. Gygax’s vegepygmy.
Magic Might: 15 (Herbam)
Characteristics: Int —2, Per +1, Pre —3, Com +2, Str +2, Sta +3, Dex +3, Qik —2
Virtues & Flaws: Magic Thing; Magical Monster; Entrancement, Essential Virtue (Lissome Dancer), Ways of the Fields; Unaffected by the Gift; Bound to Magic, Hunger for Herbam Magic, Sensitive Sight
Magical Qualities & Inferiorities: No Fatigue (free), ; Greater Power, Ritual Power (x4); Gift of Speech, Improved Powers; Temporary Might,
Personality Traits: Lissome Dancer (Dexterity) +6*, Meddlesome +3, Persistant +3
Fist: Init —2, Atk +8, Dfn +3, Dam +2
Wound Penalties: —1 (1—5), —3 (6—10), —5 (11—15), Incapacitated (16— 20), Dead (21+)
Abilities: Athletics 3 (dancing), Brawl 4 (fist), Entrancement 5 (“Dance with me”), Garden Lore 3 (crop species), Leadership 5 (trained groups),
Tanzen Sie der Knolletanz!, 5 points, Init —12, Corpus: This ritual power, “Dance the Tuber Dance!”, transforms a human dancer into a Tübermensch. The Mentem requisite changes the target’s mind into that of a Tübermensch’s, and the other requisites give the transformed Tübermensch its magical powers.
(Base 25, +1 Touch, +1 Herbam requisite, +1 Corpus requisite, +1 Mentem requisite, +1 Terram requisite).
The Dance of Nerthus, 10 points, Init —12, Herbam: By dancing around the perimeter of a planted field, this ritual power forces all seeds to mature into fully developed plants in a single day. Nerthus is a pagan Germanic fertility goddess.
(Base 15, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +4 Boundary)
Summon the Orchard Sentinel, 3 points, Init —5, Herbam: This power animates a tree and places it under the Tübermensch’s mental control. The tree may walk, slowly.
(Base 5, +2 Voice, +2 Sun, +2 Size adjustment)
The Earth’s Carbuncle, 1 point, Init —3, Terram: As the spell, ArM5, page 156.
Vis: 3 pawns of Herbam in its “heart”
Appearance: A man-sized, bipedal, anthropomorphic dancing carrot or parsnip (or other tuber).
Tübermensch or Knollemensch (German for “the Tuber men”) are magic things that exist deep within the Magic Realm. Their sole delight is procreation, and every instinct propels them to make more of themselves. Asexual beings, a Tübermensch can only reproduce by transforming other people into Tübermensch, which they do through a magical, ritualistic dance.
A Tübermensch has a special form of the Entrancement Ability that it activates through dance. Instead of the usual Presence + Entrancement roll, the Tübermensch makes a Dexterity + Entrancement roll to entice a target to dance, which is a Questionable command (see ArM5, page 65). If successful, the target dances with the Tübermench, at which point the creature activates its ritual power, Tanzen Sie der Knolletanz. This process is not instantaneous; the dancer must dance with the Tübermensch for 2 hours before the transformation is complete.
A beneficial power of the Tübermensch is its ability to make a planted field grow into fully matured crops in a single day. Some farmers will try to entice the Tübermensch to their fields, making offerings and supplications to the Germanic goddess Nerthus in hopes that the Tübermensch will come. There is no connection between the pagan goddess and the magical tubers, but superstitious farmers don’t know that.
Tübermensch don’t often venture forth from their mystical garden home, tucked away in some verdant niche regio of the Magic Realm. But once every 80 or so years they venture forth, uncomprehendingly drawn to an especially early spring. Under such circumstances their regio will develop a new exit, a portal that suddenly forms and connects to location in the mundane world. They will issue forth, first singularly but then in larger groups, looking for humans to dance with. If threatened the Tübermensch will form into a trained group for combat purposes (ArM5, page 173). They will also animate trees from a nearby orchard or forest to serve as guards.
Tübermensch aren’t particularly dangerous, especially since their transformation power takes so long to affect an individual. But they could seriously terrorize a spring covenant. I’d run the session like a Hammer Horror film. Spring comes early and the covenant grogs are ecstatic. Even the magi, sequestered in their laboratories and libraries, notice the good cheer. Most of the covenfolk head for the fields, reading the sod for an early planting.
Several days go by and the weather holds. The fields are plowed and planted. The activity spurs other springtime pursuits, and some of the younger covenfolk idle after work with the opposite sex, lingering in the fields to plant a kiss on a rosy cheek. One couple, Hans and Greta, stay too long, and after dark their parents notice that they haven’t returned home. A sleepless night for mother and father and in the morning there is no trace of the couple. Do they initially ask the magi for help? The covenant autocrat says the magi are too busy, but promises send a man to look for them. The search proves fruitless and in a few days someone else disappears.
The Tübermensch can slip in and out of their regio at will. Since they are sensitive to bright light, they do most of their prowling at dawn, dusk, and at night. Eventually the autocrat posts guards in the fields, who discover and stalk a lone Tübermensch but cannot bring him down. The magi are roused, and as the freshly-gauntleted magi stand ready, eager to do battle with a single Tübermensch, a host appears, augmented with animated orchard trees and ready to turn the whole covenant into Root People. As silly as Tübermensch initially appear, played right they could seriously threatened the troupe.