Vines of Rust
Long ago, while the goddess Fruvemm was still mortal, she created the bellmer by tweaking and rooting through the disease spread by ghouls. Bellmer are undead that had contracted the disease in life and died of it, as ghouls do, but do not rot at death. Instead, as they die, their skin hardens and their joints become hinges as they move around before death. Their faces might gain a hinge for the jaw, but more often than not, the disease will force a permanent expression on their face before death. Attacks cause their skin to crack, which is how the disease passes; the flakes of skin must be broken off into pieces and consumed by a humanoid in order to infect others.
The most frightening part about this disease isn’t just the fact it turns a person into a walking doll-corpse, but that people often try to keep them around because they still look like their loved ones. This sentimentalism is only further exacerbated by the discovery that, unlike other undead, the brain has actually been partially preserved during the process of dollification, allowing bellmer to retain a few memories and even be able to—occasionally—recognize people and surroundings. They otherwise act like feral fighting machines with little or no higher thought, but these moments of clarity show that they don’t often become mentally warped like ghouls; instead, they have “protected” their minds via dissociation and are often not even aware they are now bellmer. This was a horrible discovery to be made public when people were already trying to hide their mannequined loved ones in their houses.
They often appear near wells and farms, but also show up frequently in food production factories. It isn’t uncommon to hear of one popping up in a clothing store, either. However, they often only appear in regions that have an outbreak since the means of passing the disease requires direct consumption.
Bellmer usually attack unexpectedly and by surprise when alone. They stay completely still usually until one or two people come right up beside them before they attack. In groups, they will merely swarm on anyone coming by, choosing to surround the one they can separate from the rest of the party more easily first. They highly prefer melee attacks over ranged, as to spread their infection more easily. They often charge and slam targets while dancing.
Marionette Dance (Ex): A bellmer moves about in disturbing and disjointed ways as a move action (this can be done during the bellmer’s movement as well, but a bellmer can’t full attack while dancing). All players in visual contact of the bellmer must make a Will Save DC equal to the bellmer’s Charisma modifier+10. If the bellmer is charging a player while dancing, they must make a Will Save DC equal to the bellmer’s Charisma score. If the player fails the save, they are Frightened for 2d4 rounds.
A jerky motion from the side of the shop steals away your attention. A mannequin, pale skinned like porcelain and a face frozen in an expression of awe moves towards you. Cracks form at the edges of her lips as she attempts to smile.
This example bellmer uses a 5th-level human commoner as the base creature.
Bellmer 5th Level Human Commoner
Hit Dice: 5d12 (32 hp)
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 13 (-1 Dex, 4
Attack: Dagger 2) or slam 2)
Full Attack: Dagger 2) or slam 2)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Marionette Dance
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/bludgeoning, darkvision 60 ft., undead traits.
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +0, Will +0
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 9, Con —, Int 3, Wis 8, Cha 10
Skills: Hide +6
Organization: Solitary or in roving groups.
Challenge Rating: 3
Alignment: Neutral Evil (True Neutral).
Advancement: Class level.
Level Adjustment: —
CREATING A BELLMER
“Bellmer” is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal humanoid (other than undead) that consumes food or water and has dermis/epidermis (referred to hereafter as the base creature).
Size and Type: The creature’s type changes to undead. It retains any subtypes except alignment subtypes (such as good). It does not gain the augmented subtype. It uses all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
Hit Dice: Raise Hit Dice to d12s.
Speed: Winged bellmer can’t use their wings to fly unless someone repaired the flesh with canvas or a similar material. If the base creature can fly magically, so can the bellmer.
Armor Class: Natural armor bonus changes to a number based on the bellmer’s size:
Tiny or smaller +0
Medium or Large +4
Attacks: A bellmer retains all the natural weapons, manufactured weapon attacks, and weapon proficiencies of the base creature, except for attacks that can’t work without soft flesh (such as a mind flayer’s tentacle attacks). A bellmer also gains a slam attack.
Damage: Natural and manufactured weapons deal damage normally. A slam attack deals damage depending on the bellmer’s size. (Use the base creature’s slam damage if it’s better.)
Special Attacks: A bellmer retains none of the base creature’s special attacks. A bellmer gains the special attack described below.
Marionette Dance(Ex): A bellmer moves about in disturbing and disjointed ways as a move action (this can be done during the bellmer’s movement as well, but a bellmer can’t full attack while dancing). All players in visual contact of the bellmer must make a Will Save DC equal to the bellmer’s Charisma modifier+10. If the bellmer is charging a player while dancing, they must make a Will Save DC equal to the bellmer’s Charisma score. If the player fails the save, they are Frightened for 2d4 rounds.
Special Qualities: A bellmer loses most special qualities of the base creature. It retains any extraordinary special qualities that improve its melee or ranged attacks. A bellmer gains the following special quality.
Damage Reduction 5/Bludgeoning: Bellmer have brittle, ceramic-like flesh.
Abilities: A bellmer’s Strength increases by +2, its Dexterity decreases by 2, it has no Constitution, its Intelligence changes to 3 (DM’s choice with the brain itself).
Skills: Bellmer have a +6 circumstantial bonus to Hide as they can be completely still and can easily imitate statues, mannequins, and dolls, and otherwise retain any skills of the base creature that do not require intelligence.
Feats: Bellmer retain any feats that do not require use of intelligence or soft flesh.
Environment: Any, often as base creature.
Organization: Solitary or in roving groups.
Challenge Rating: Increases by +1.
Treasure: Equipment/treasure the creature died or was buried with.
Alignment: Always chaotic evil (brain retains old alignment).
Advancement: As base creature (or — if the base creature advances by character class).
Level Adjustment: —
A portmanteau of “bisque” and “skin”, this disease is also known colloquially as “Fruvemm’s Curse” (or “Fruvemm’s Blessing”, depending on who you’re talking to). The scientific name attributed to it by the Library is “nevrospastodermopathy”, but most people don’t bother trying to figure out how to pronounce the term so it’s rarely used. Bisskin is an autoimmune disease that has been identified as a prion infection. The misfolded protein strains act as a viral infection, rewriting similar proteins found in the dermis. The quick production of prions in the dermis causes the infected person’s immune system to attack the skin itself, causing a reaction much like rapidly accelerated scleroderma, making the skin harden and their joints become ball-like hinges from their movement before death. The face may get a ventriloquist-dummy-like hinge for the jaw, but most likely is frozen. Part of the design of the disease forces a random facial expression (DM’s discretion) on the victim’s face before death, freezing it in place. The entire process is incredibly painful up until the eventual death of the victim. The cause of death is often from the joint-making process; if they bend at the waist a lot, a joint may be made there, severely damaging vital organs. A person who died while infected by bisskin will become a bellmer as early as one day after their body has completely hardened (if the body dies or is killed before it finishes, the process of hardening continues until it is finished unless the body is completely destroyed).
Bisskin is contracted by ingesting the prion-infected skin of a bellmer. Since bellmer’s skin is brittle, it breaks off easily, either from attacking others, or simply from wear-and-tear of the joints. Their skin often flakes off and even gets pulverized, getting into soil and groundwater undetected. It is not unheard of for an entire village to get infected because their well-water had been tainted by bellmer skin. It is also possible that a character could breathe in dust from pulverized skin during combat and accidentally ingest it, although infection by these means isn’t common. The incubation period is 2d6+3 days, Fortitude DC 14 (Charisma based). After the infection takes hold, the character takes 1d3 Constitution damage and 1d3 Dexterity damage daily as their skin hardens. 1d4 days after their Constitution drops to 0 (they continue to take Constitution damage if they die before their Constitution reaches 0), they rise with the bellmer template.