Rag marions are designed for the “No Strings” Anachronistic Adventures campaign setting for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. If not using Anachronistic Adventures, you can create a similar setting by allowing advanced firearms, humans and rag marions only for players and restricting classes to occult classes from Pathfinder Roelpalying Game Occult Adventures, and those classes with no access to innate spellcasting.
Rag marions are defined by their class levels—they do not possess racial Hit Dice.
Rag marions as constructs with the (marion) subtype.
*All rag marions have the following racial traits. –2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma: Rag marions are (literally) boneless and thus have difficulty lifting and applying leverage, but they are flexible and nimble, and generally have strong personalities. As constructs, rag marions do not have a Constitution score.
*Normal Speed: Rag marions have a base speed of 30 feet.
*Small: Rag marions are Small creatures and gain a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, a –1 penalty on combat maneuver checks and to combat maneuver defense, a +2 bonus on Fly checks, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks.
*Big Hands, Big Feet: Rag marions are constructed to operate in a human world, and thus are built with limbs that allow them to use Medium weapons in addition to small weapons. Because part of their eldritch self-identity focuses on this, the ability does not function if the marion changes size.
*Shiny Button Eyes: Rag marions have low-light vision, unless their eyes are made of glass, in which case they have 60 ft. darkvision. A DC 10 Craft (rag doll) check and the proper supplies can swap a rag marion’s eyes out, but the marion feels the entire process and must make a DC 20 Will save, or have it’s alignment shift one toward chaotic Evil for 1d4 days. If the roll is a natural 1, this shift lasts until the marion gains a level.
*Spark of Life: Spells that heal living creatures can heal a rag marion, as long as a piece of cloth is added as a power spell component. Whenever this happens, the marion must make a Will save. On a failed save, the marion’s alignment shifts by 1 in a random direction for 1 day per point of healing. If the saving throw is a natural 1, the alignment shift is permanent.
Additionally, despite being constructs, rag marions are subject to magic effects that cause ability damage, ability drain, fatigue, exhaustion, energy drain, and nonlethal damage. they not, however, eat, sleep, or breathe.
*Rags: Craft (rag doll) can be used like the Heal skill for rag marions. If the rag marion has suffered an effect normally only restored by a restoration spell, this can be fixed with a DC 30 skill check, but doing so requires a DC 15 Will save to avoid permanent alignment shift (as noted in Spark of Life).
*Stuffed: A rag marion has DR 10/piercing or slashing, and takes half damage from firearms and effects that allow a Reflex save and don’t deal fire damage. A rag marion takes no damage from a fall. Any time a rag marions fails a saving throw against a fire effect, or takes fire damage in excess of its Strength score from a single attack, it catches on fire.
*Floppy: Rag marions do not take constriction damage, and gain a +4 bonus on Escape Artist checks. They suffer a -4 penalty on bull rush, drag, grapple, overrun, and reposition maneuvers. However, a rag marion can leap onto a creature and be surprisingly difficult to dislodge. This is a standard action that is an opposed Dexterity check. The marion can maintain this grip as a move action with a new opposed check each round. The gripped creature is not considered grappled and can move freely, but the marion goes with them. The marion must use 3 limbs to maintain this grip.
*Musty: Rag marions absorb scents easily into their cloth boddies, and their internal rags are hard to clean. Creatures without scent can track marions as if they had scent, and creatures with scent gain a +5 bonus to scent-based Perception checks against a marion. A DC 20 Craft (rag doll) check that requires cleaning supplies and one hour can remove a rag marion’s stink for 2d4 days, but each combat encounter the rag marion is part of reduces this duration by a day.
*Languages: Rag marions speak the common language of their creators (usually English or German), but also have a knack for languages tied to the eldritch magics that brought them to life. A rag marion with a high Intelligence score can choose from the following: any common language, Abyssal, Aklo, Boggard, Dark Folk, Gnome, Goblin, Infernal, Necril, Terran.
The Great War revealed many truths the “modern” nations had pretended not to believe anymore. Perhaps if the Empire had not joined the fight, or if the Central Powers had failed to maintain and strengthen their Triple Alliance, things might have gone differently. But as it was by the time the British were introducing landships, the Central Powers had access to darker powers.
The most extreme battlefield reports are still attributed to shell shock and the panic of troops encountering chthonic horrors for the first time. Soldiers who fought in the field tend to be more credulous of even outlandish claims by those who fought in the war. Given what we now must all accept as real, who is to say that even werewolves and vampires might not have fought skirmishes in the War? They’d be too rare to make any difference now, but maybe they existed once.
But Marions are everywhere.
In many ways, they have a stronger and more obvious presence in mythology than anything that had previously captured the public’s eye in the west. The rituals of Caloian. Bocio. Daruma. Dogū. Haniwa. Hina. Kachina. Kokeshi. Nkisi. Pippies. Around the world, for thousands of years, they appear in legends and spellcraft. We told ourselves they were just toys. Made of cornhusk, clay, potatoes, apples, wood, and stone, we looked at what the Egyptians buried and the Romans gave children, and convinced ourselves they were no more than trifles and effigies.
We should have known better.
The first Marions were definitely from the Empire, cruel-looking creatures of wood and clay, with knife-hands and poison. They were used as assassins more than anything else and the capture of one, still moving and cursing, shook the Allied powers to their roots. Living puppets, powered by magic, that could think, and talk, and plan. That seemed to live until they were smashed to pieces.
It took months to find experts in the right rituals and prayers for Western powers to create their own. Anyone who had ever written about the unknown, traveled to the far east, or claimed to be able to read palms was suddenly a national asset. It was a chaotic time, as charlatans, scholars, madmen, and true practitioners were all rounded up and put to the test. It didn’t help that the four categories turned out not to be mutually exclusive. And as magic was taken seriously, researched, and codified, the Allies discovered that Marions were just the beginning. The bogeyman was real, and came in dozens of forms.
There were mistakes made in building a magician corps, from minor miscalculations to deadly disasters, even traitors. But in time, the Allies came to have their own practitioners, including the masterminders who could create Marions-to-order. Military technology soon took over. Marions are too small and weak to armor, so the idea of making them of iron or steel was quickly abandoned. Some success was found with wood and bakelite to make Marions that were light but still fairly strong, and thousands of those models were produced, but they were all too fragile to be soldiers. As assassins they served fairly well, but wood and plastic crack and shatter as easily as bone.
The Allies wanted to replace soldiers, especially in units tasked with facing “Bogeys,” the military versions of children’s bogeyman tales. No Marion could carry enough reinforcement to ignore a landmine, or even a good crack with the butt of a rifle. So rigid structure was abandoned. Marions don’t need bones any more than they need strings, and it was a seamstress from the Bronx who made the real breakthrough. Ragdoll Marions, made from lair after lair of knotted cloth, were terrifically resilient. Shooting one put a hole through it, but simply didn’t do enough damage to slow it down. Punching and kicking were useless. Knives were better, but good coiled rag has to be sawed through, and can’t be casually slashed apart. Since they didn’t bleed, and kept going until massively mangled, ragdoll Marions became the preferred design for Allied masterminders.
They were, of course, vulnerable to fire. A few elite units were formed from (or more commonly wrapped in) asbestos, but for some reason those Marions nearly always turned murderous or went rogue within a few missions.
Marion units were attempted, but since a Marion seemed to be limited to a yard or so in height, and some went rogue after seeing too much bloodshed and “rending” (as they took to calling their own injuries), most Allied units instead added a Marion or two in the same kind of capacity as radiomen and explosives experts. Bogey-Hunter squads often had significantly more, along with a scholar (which were spread so thin that everything from yellow journalism reporters to underage students to women were pressed into front-line service), at least one practitioner, one priest (often of no Abrahamic faith), one sensitive (since theosophy seemed to work differently from magic), and one skeptic (who was often second-in-command).
Tens of thousands of Marions were produced by both sides. Many had to be modified in the field, repaired with knapsacks, flags, military socks, and even confiscated stuffed animals. Rending might not kill a Marion, but it could slow one down and weaken it until stuffing was replaced and seams repaired. The resulting “patchworks” were less predictable, as each new material they incorporated changed their personalities and abilities and, occasionally, even their loyalties. But they were also veterans, and most soldiers who survived the war have at least one story that ends with a Patchwork Marion flinging itself on a grenade, or sitting up to keep watch all night every night, or stabbing a tommyknocker to death in a trench. Patchworks earned their comrades’ respect. And when the War finally ended, and a few thousand Patchworks came home, that respect lead to the “No Strings” act, giving Constructed Americans a path to earn rights and even citizenship.
It can be tough for a Patchwork to adjust to civilian life. Some take roles as children’s bodyguards for the rich, or private detectives. Others find fulfilling jobs as chimneysweeps, cobblers, shoeshines, and farm hands. A sad number turn to crime. And, of course, some still hunt Bogeys…