Homunculi are creatures, of predominantly humanoid shape, stitched together from pieces of humans and brought to a semblance of life through powerful magic. The rituals and alchemy that provide their vital spark were secrets long preserved by the Tarsikkans, but have been recently learned by the rest of the world. Many homunculi serve the ritualists or alchemists who created them, willingly or otherwise. Other homunculi have escaped cruel masters, or awoken with no memory of how they came to be. Homunculi are despised by the Redwood Throne and by the majority of humans, as it is commonly known that they do not have souls. Homunculi are able to graft the flesh of other creatures onto their bodies in place of their own limbs. The only magics they are able to learn are alchemy, inscription, and forge magic.
Homunculi At a Glance
Government Style: By nature homunculi do not gravitate to one form of government or another, but when left to their own devices they are egalitarian. Most see other homunculi as equals, since they are all made out of the same materials, sometimes literally.Homunculi generally have no say in actual government, since at best they are second-class citizens.
Population: 50,000 estimated throughout the world, with 30,000 in Tarsikka alone
Capital: None officially, Eurst unofficially
Ritualism: None; homunculi cannot perform rituals, but can assist in them
Forge Magic: Widespread
Racial Symbol: Stitches, needle and thread, blood and bloodstains. Homunculi have no official racial insignia but use the most obvious signs of their nature as their symbols. Such symbols are often disallowed by law for fear of the homunculi developing any sense of racial identity or loyalty.
The origin of the knowledge of how to create homunculi is lost to time, but the form of this knowledge, the Codex of Hand of Creation, is now in broad circulation. For ages it was a secret closely guarded within Tarsikka, but in 991, the wizard Haragand stole a copy of the Codex and sold it to others across the length and breadth of the continent. The Codex of the Hand of Creation was passed down within Tarsikka for at least one thousand years, and in that time has been copied, translated, and transcribed hundreds of times, creating myriad versions, translations, and interpretations. The core practice, the creation of a homunculus, has survived these alterations mostly intact, though some regional variations have occurred. There is a constant argument among cabals as to who has the oldest and truest copy of the Codex. These debates are largely posturing and bragging, with little way to measure the age of a copy definitively. Every few decades, a version is unearthed in a long-forgotten library or tomb that may predate existing copies, starting the debate all over again.
Homunculi are not widely represented in common versions of history, only occasionally appearing as minor characters. It is therefore difficult to create their history as a people, with so much of their past unknown or concealed. Among the free homunculi there is a common belief that ritualists and others in power actively suppress the history of the homunculi to keep them subjugated, ignorant of whatever great feats their people may have achieved. Such ideas rarely find much of audience among bound homunculi or others. In the games used to educate in many regions, homunculi are depicted as pawns, or pieces with unusual abilities but of little use to the overall conflict of the game.
The first legends to mention homunculi begin in around two millennia ago with the Ballad of Oyer Taise, a story of a ritualist warrior in Tarsikka who fought shadow creatures with the help of his homunculus sidekick, Rotgut. From there, homunculi appear in histories and stories, never commonplace but slowly increasing in frequency, as the sidekick, fool, or villain. Indeed, the stories of the common folk of Tarsikka and the Principalities paint homunculi as villains, blaming them for stealing the dead, children, and the infirm for their body parts. The exact origin of the homunculi is unknown, but it is clear they were first created in large numbers in Tarsikka and remained limited to Tarsikka for centuries before ritualists in other nations gained access to the Codex of the Hand of Creation. Homunculi spread through Akathia, Oresund, and the Principalities before reaching their current distribution. Emigration from Tarsikka began around four centuries ago, and was completed two centuries ago once homunculi became known on Athral Isle.
Tarsikka began using criminals as parts to create homunculi during the Crawling War, bolstering the nation's defense against the monsters assaulting them by creating monsters of their own. This was initially meant as a temporary measure to be maintained as long as the war continued, but after its end more soldiers were needed to secure the borders. Once the borders were secured, they needed still more manpower to repair the damage done during the war, and the cycle of reliance on executions to expand the homunculus workforce began. Tarsikka has relied on criminal-created labor by homunculi for almost four hundred years now and the system shows no sign of change.
Homunculi have been outlawed in the Principalities of Verdien as a product of ritualism since the creation of the Principalities, even though homunculi were not widely known at the time. Once homunculi became common in neighboring Tarsikka, the Patriarch placed them under the same proscription as ritual wizards. Writs of bondage were introduced when ritualists in service to the Redwood Throne began seeing some value to having their own homunculi. Patriarch Harman IV issued the first writ in 1080. This has allowed some homunculi to enter the Principalities legally, but they are by no means welcome.
In more recent times the homunculi population has begun to outstrip the population of ritualists due to the long lifespan and hardiness of homunculi. Many ritualists know how to create homunculi, but few know the rituals to bind them to service, relying instead on mundane means of control. As time passes, a larger proportion of the homunculi population is free from ritual control, and many of these free homunculi decide that servitude is not for them. Bandit groups like the Scorpions of Abendroth count homunculi among their ranks, while other free homunculi simply leave their masters and seek a peaceful existence elsewhere. This trend toward homunculi independence has caused many ritualists and lords to crack down on homunculi disobedience, especially in Tarsikka where homunculi are vital to national defense. This has had the desired effect, but also fanned the flames of rebellion. Yet the homunculi cannot exist as a people without the ritualists who create them. Homunculi are incapable of reproducing, or of learning the rituals necessary to create more of their number, so they can never be truly free.
Homunculi tend to adopt the cultural traits of the nation they call home, which is usually the nation of the ritualist or alchemist to whom they are bound. They have no culture of their own; they rarely gather in large numbers, and those who control them actively suppress the development of culture. Only in Eurst has any sort of purely homunculi culture begun to form, but that settlement is too new for a new culture to have overridden the traditions that the inhabitants brought with them. A few common practices appear among homunculi in defiance of cultural or national borders, leading some to believe that these are somehow instilled in them at creation, much like language and basic motor skills.
The Gift of Flesh
The process of creating homunculi requires at least some small piece from an existing homunculi, usually a finger, foot, internal organ, eye, or other moderately complex body part. This body part must be used shortly after removal from the donor. Parts from more than one homunculus can be used, but it is not necessary. Most homunculi have only one parent or sire, though some have as many as a dozen. Generally this body part is taken from any convenient homunculus, and the newly created homunculus is not told about the donor. Only particularly kind ritualists allow homunculi to know who their sire or sires were, and those are rare.
This requirement of a body part from an existing homunculus has created lineages of homunculi among those lucky enough to know their sires, which is only a fraction of the overall homunculi population. Learning of one’s sire and ancestors has become a major social drive among homunculi, representing the only family they can have. It is entirely possible to have five or even ten generations of living ancestors. Free homunculi often research their ancestry to create a sense of family where they had none. In Eurst, these lineages are recited, honored, memorized, and recorded. None of the known lineages reach back more than fifteen generations, though that is far enough for many of them to find common ancestors.
There are rumors of a ritual that detects if two homunculi are from the same lineage and the strength of their relation, but this ritual has been nothing more but whispers among homunculi for decades. If it were to surface, its value would be immense to homunculi seeking to learn of their past.
As far as is known, homunculi do not die of old age. When a homunculus dies and is not resuscitated, humans burn or bury the body as is their custom, but when homunculi are see to the burial, they cut up the deceased and incorporate their organs and major limbs into the homunculi present. This practice seems to occur spontaneously among homunculi as a natural reaction to death, and has been witnessed even among newly created homunculi who have had no contact with other homunculi. Those who take part in this ritual, commonly called the Last Day, claim to see the memories of the deceased in dreams, but this is hardly provable.
What makes Homunculi great?
Homunculi have an incredible ability to recover from lethal physical trauma, given the relatively aid of any competent chirurgeon. Through grafting, they can adapt to a wide variety of situations and demands. Ritualists seek the aid of homunculi (and Ultaf warriors even more so) for many purposes in their magic, including some of their beneficial spells that work only on homunculi. The Ultaf warrior order can teach homunculi to be better bodyguards for ritualists, or to strike down spellcasters of all kinds. Those on the Path of Exaltation, the Krudrunis, derive even greater benefits from their grafts, becoming monsters. If you want to play a monster, a rebel, or a tireless and faithful bodyguard, or if you just think being a little creepy is cool, homunculi are ideal.
What makes Homunculi less than desirable?
Homunculi are among the most universally despised and downtrodden of all sentient beings, worse off even than the Tharici. Most people actively oppose the notion that homunculi have souls, in part to justify the things that are done to them. Some find reasonable or kindly masters to serve, but for most, life is pretty unpleasant. The mere existence of a homunculus is an abomination to some, while others look at them as a potential labor force or a source of power for rituals. Ultaf warriors of the Way of the Sentinel become even more tightly bound to their masters, while Krudrunis are hunted and feared more than other homunculi. Playing a homunculus is a kind of challenge that is significantly different from that faced by any other type of character.
Homunculi are still trying to find a place in the world so that they are not subjugated to the will of another. They are slaves, and even those who yearn for freedom rely on their enslavers for their kind to continue. As a people, the homunculi have only the place in this world their creators forced upon them. What will it take to break out of that?
- Homunculi may accept Grafts of various creature parts. These items directly modify their abilities. No homunculus may incorporate more than one Graft at a time, and a Graft must be completely removed to incorporate a new one. Doing so destroys the old Graft.
- The spark of unnatural life in a homunculus is surprisingly easy to re-ignite. If a mostly-intact homunculus has been dead less than five minutes (seven minutes with Improved Stamina), and the chirurgeon has at least one other natural creature within reach that has been dead for less than five minutes, the chirurgeon may resurrect the homunculus with five minutes of chirurgery. The homunculus suffers no weakening of the spirit as a result. The other dead creature is no longer “intact” afterward for purposes of resurrection.
- Homunculi may never initiate a ritual. A homunculus who buys ritual bones, however, may contribute them to a ritual as normal.
- All homunculi must start with one Disadvantage, for which they receive no additional character points. They gain points for other Disadvantages as normal, and this racial drawback does not count against the normal limit of 10 points of Disadvantages. Tarsikkan homunculi must select the Weak Willed disadvantage.
Makeup Requirements: At the very least, a line of stitches should be marked on the player’s face. Most homunculi have sharply contrasting skin tones making up their “complexion,” as they are composed of several people, in varying stages of decay.