The original game design included a character bloodline called beastfolk, a race of animal-human hybrids based on the novel The Island of Dr. Moreau. The bloodline was very popular with early play-testers and added a grotesque underdog quality to the larger storyline that allowed for interesting drama. However, as the game world developed, this bloodline became a bit of a hard sell for the design team.
We’d been towing this line of hard-science fiction where nothing absent from historical reality would exist in the game world. Obviously that means that there was no place for beastfolk in the Clockwork: Empire game. However, a few concessions were made for complex technologies that would have existed if disparate extant technologies were combined (i.e. they could have existed had people thought to put the pieces together). That opened the door for the question “Could someone actually have made a beastman with nineteenth century science?”
Of course, our original answer to this question was, “No.” However, a couple of contributors and designers refused to leave it at that. They really liked the role beastfolk had in the setting of Clockwork: Empire and the future setting, Clockwork: At War. So one contributor, Dr. Lisa Coughlin, a general surgeon by trade and education, set out to prove that xeno-transplantation was possible with nineteenth century medicine. To our great surprise, she came back to us with an entire treatise of notes, medical rationale, and historic precedence that gave us the answer: “Beastfolk could have happened.”
It turns out that the secret to xeno-transplantation is severe immunosuppression, which is very possible with nineteenth century medicine. One widely used immunosuppressant is the drug Ciclosporin, which was originally isolated from the entomopathogenic mushroom, Cordyceps subsessilis. In reality the importance of this fungus was not fully realized until just a few decades ago, yet it existed in a form usable to nineteenth century medicine, and it grew, among other places, along the pacific rim in areas close to where the beastfolk originate in the Clockwork world. With the proper medicines, surgical procedures we thought to be wholly in the realm of science fiction were actually possible. Cited surgeries in Dr. Coughlin’s work start with the repairing of a human skull with the bone of a dog in Russia in the seventeenth century and conclude with the grafting of two heads onto the same animal in Cleveland, OH in the twentieth century. Once we proved access to immunosuppressants was possible and had a list of bizarre historical surgeries to cite, beastfolk were back on the table for discussion.
The final draft of the beastfolk bloodline included the curse immunosuppressed as a result of this research. This state added an even more tragic quality to the story of the beastfolk’s plight and gave them an even more interesting role within the world of the game. We believe this results in fertile ground from which great stories can emerge. While admittedly a bit of a stretch, these fantastical creatures were not so far outside the realm of possibility as we had thought. So thanks to Dr. Coughlin and her research, we have included beastfolk as a bloodline in the core rules.
Image by gfpeck, some rights reserved.