Finally, Abercrombie gets his time to shine! We first met the lovable little meatball back in “Strange Brews,” the same comic where we introduced Alchemist himself. That’s also where I first started talking about my love for “garbage pail” characters, named for the squicky 1980s IP that reveled in grossing out older sisters the world over. As some of you may have noticed, we haven’t seen much of everyone’s favorite tumor familiar lately. Or Alchemist’s freaky muscles. Or his growing tentacle collection. That would seem to be against his character, right? Well it so happens that there’s a reason for that, both in-fiction and out.

You see, Alchemist takes a regular dose of a homebrewed antimutagenic serum. It’s designed to keep his less aesthetically-pleasing side effects in check, which is useful when you run a popular storefront rather than a mysterious shack in the woods. Being driven out of town as a mutated freak show is bad for business after all. More importantly though, the antimutagenic device means that Alchemist’s monstrosity ebbs and flows. You might see the full on chaos beast in one comic and the mild-mannered dwarf in the next. And that has everything to do with horror.

I think we’re all familiar wit the concept of monster delay (TV Tropes warning). Basically, if you hint at the monster rather than showing it in all its glory, you wind up with a greater impact when it finally does emerge. For example, I remember running my players through a mythos-themed dungeon back in the day. After the third creepy room description, everyone was thoroughly sick of it.

“We get it! The walls are made out of tentacles. Geez.”

The principle doesn’t belong exclusively to GMs. When you set out to build a creepy PC, you quickly lose your edge when you’re constantly showing off your weirdness. That’s what today’s comic is all about. We’ve seen Alchemist’s bizarre body modifications in remission, and now they’re flaring up again. His character type isn’t just about being freaky-weird. It’s about the battle against monstrosity. If you let that monstrosity fly its freak flag all the time, then you’re guilty of “showing the monster.” Keep it in check, let it enter the story and recede by turns, and you’ll wind up more horrifying. The character seems normal for a time, mundane even, and then something unnatural begins wriggling underneath the loose-fitting robes. That’s how you wind up with properly squicked-out players. Or at the very least it’s how you wind up with an assistant store manager growing out of your neck.

Question of the day then! Have you ever been guilty of “showing the monster?” Conversely, have you ever managed to really freak out the rest of your group with garbage pail shenanigans? Let’s hear all about your creepiest characters down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Twice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.