The horror genre is wonderful for reaching down and forcing us to look at ourselves not as people, but as primal animals that want to live. They ask important and unpalatable questions and explore human nature stripped down and bared to its quivering, fearful core. How far would you go to keep living? How important are your friends and family? How long will it take for you to get desperate and do the unthinkable? Can compassion, morality and ethics survive in the face of terror and change?
Such Empty Creatures asks questions like these, but it phrases them inward. What would you do to yourself to survive? How important are you to other people? How will you deprave and abuse yourself if that's what it takes to move on?
Such Empty Creatures is a modern horror game about emotional acceptance, avoidance and abuse. It uses a modified and simplified framework of the La Vida system.
Who are you?
The characters are those known as ardents, who in the psychically scarred and deadly expanses of a world gone mad can harness the power of their emotions to do feats of sometimes desperate power. The general assumption is that ardents will use their power to protect the survivors of the scarred world but this is no means the only way the game can be played. Some ardents may want nothing to do with other people and instead only wish to investigate the mysteries of post-apocalyptic earth. Some may survive on loaning their powers out mercenary style while others use their powers instead to outright steal. Some may even believe their powers make them as gods to the rest of humanity and that they are answerable to no one… These last ones surely will prove a deadly obstacle in the way of their fellows.
Characters start with 2 2d4s and 4 d6s in their attributes.
Attributes are rated by the die you use when rolling them in a task. Each rating also has a static bonus used in certain circumstances, this bonus is recorded in parentheses next to the die rating. Whenever something references maximum die size it means the highest possible result on a roll using those dice.
(-1) d4: Less than average ability, a rating of d4 in an attribute means you're very poorly developed in that area or perhaps handicapped in some way.
(+1) d6: Average ability, most people have a rating in d6 in their attributes, describing the ease that comes with casual use.
(+2) 2d4: Above average development, this level describes an amount of training, perhaps informal or unknowing, in that level of personal ability.
(+3) d6+d4: Exceptional development, this level describes certainly focused training in an area, or perhaps a natural talent combined with constant use.
(+4) 2d6: Heroic development, this level describes an incredible, almost (or definitely) supernatural aptitude in an area of personal ability, this level requires hard training, discipline, talent and heroic action to reach.
Might: Power, health and musculature. Might is your body's raw strength and durability, giving you the ability to withstand physical hardships such as wound and disease as well as the ability to use your build and get the most lifting power out of it possible.
d4: A weak, underdeveloped body whether spindly or flabby.
d6: An average form, not underdeveloped but not too fit either.
2d4: A strong healthy body from regular exercise or labor.
d6+d4: A powerful body from regular training or battle, hale and hearty.
2d6: A godlike physique many can only dream of achieving, capable of legendary feats of strength.
Celerity: Suppleness, adroitness and flexibility, Celerity is the dexterity of your fingers and the grace of your movement, the ability to finely control your body.
d4: A clumsy, stiff form, slow and ungainly.
d6: The usual amount of grace, dropping some things and catching others.
2d4: A greater level of flexibility and poise, more adroit than average.
d6+d4: A truly dextrous physique, careful, swift and silent.
2d6: A form of legends, flowing like blood with the precision of a blade.
Acumen: The power of the mind, Acumen is a measure of intellect and reasoning. It measures how quickly and completely you learn whatever you wish to.
d4: Slow, simple or just plain dense.
d6: Not especially difficult to teach, but not terribly interested in learning.
2d4: Curious and inquisitive, a fast learner.
d6+d4: Knowledgable and insatiable for more, a mind that seeks and holds great secrets.
2d6: Sagely wisdom, the legendary intellect carves a path of knowledge through the world, and no mystery is safe from it.
Intuition: The shadows of the mind, Intuition is a measure of your awareness and ability to pick up on and understand things that can't be measured with logic.
d4: A distracted and unaware mind, finding it difficult to grasp what isn't right in front of it.
d6: The everyday ability to sense a little extra.
2d4: A little more awareness than usual, keen eyes and heart.
d6+d4: A piercing gaze that doesn't miss a thing, backed by an almost eerie sense of other people's intentions.
2d6: Nothing escapes the legendary intuition, their eyes see all, their ears hear above the noise and they unnerve people with their ability to predict their actions.
Presence: Your force of personality and raw magnetism, Presence is a measure of how you project your personality to others, bringing the best out of yourself even if you are physically plain.
d4: Timid, bland and forgettable, unable to really express themselves.
d6: Not exactly striking, but able to get one's point across.
2d4: A certain sense of charisma that makes one easy to get to know.
d6+d4: A truly memorable presence, the sort of person that turns heads and sticks in the mind.
2d6: The legendary presence cows or seduces without realizing, masters the social scene and the people around them.
Concord: Concord is your self-confidence, assurance, composure and resolve. Those with great Concord are able liars, strong-minded and have great aplomb.
d4: A weak-willed and spineless lack of passion and solidarity.
d6: The ability to hold one's principles, but not to be immune to having one's mind changed… or invaded.
2d4: A strong sense of self and purpose.
d6+d4: Firm convictions and strong personal virtues, able to stand the test of time and other's opinions.
2d6: A mind and soul like an iron fortress, steadfast and unbreakable.
Health: You have an amount of health equal to the maximum size of your Might die + half the maximum size of your presence die.
Health damage comes from sources that are actively trying to bring you harm, whether the claws of a creature or the guns of your fellow man. Health damage ticks down to 0, after which the character is unconscious and endangered. Damage in this state causes the characters' health to run into the negatives and if they take damage equal to half their maximum health they die and the player must make up a new character.
Damage comes in 3 levels of severity: Mild, Moderate and Critical.
Mild severity attacks deal d4 damage and include small animal bites, punches or kicks and other usually impact or small puncture based wounds.
Moderate severity attacks deal d6 damage and include knives, claws, baseball bats, crowbars and other medium-sized or dangerous but not fatal attacks.
Critical severity attacks deal d10 damage and include gunshots, terrifying monster attacks and large melee weapons, things that can take you down in one or two good hits.
Attacks add the attribute bonus of whatever attribute was used to roll the attack task to the damage roll. Environmental hazards use a bonus based on the scope of the hazard, as decided on by the GM.
Fatigue: You have maximum fatigue equal to the maximum size of your Concord die + half the maximum size of your might die.
Fatigue loss comes from sources that inactively cause you harm. Starvation, disease, lack of sleep, over-exertion or exposure to the elements, for example. Fatigue damage rolls over into health damage when you run out of fatigue points, representing when a situation has started to threaten your life. Fatigue hazards deal damage much like health hazards do. Fatigue hazards roll their damage dice either at the end of an action or at the end of an event depending on how fast the fatigue should compound.
Mild severity hazards deal d4 fatigue damage. These include being rolled per turn for running at full speed, per hour of moderately paced travel or per encounter for being hungry.
Moderate severity hazards deal d6 fatigue damage. These would be rolled per turn for hanging from a ledge by your fingers, per hour of forced marching or per encounter for being very hungry or being thirsty.
Critical severity hazards deal d10 fatigue damage. These would be rolled per turn for climbing up sharp ledges by your fingers while carrying someone else, per hour of hauling heavy equipment by hand while forced marching or per encounter of being starved and dying of thirst.
Recovery: A characters regains health points at a rate of their might bonus (minimum 1) for every 8 hours of sleep or every 16 hours of light labor. Any harder work than that impedes proper healing. A character who has been brought below 0 health cannot being regaining hp until treated by someone with the Medicine skill, with a TN equal to 9 + 1 for every point below 0 their health is. Success brings the patient back up to 0 health where they can rest to regain health at the normal rate.
Fatigue returns at a rate equal to twice your concord bonus (minimum 2) every 8 hours of sleep and at half that rate (minimum 1) after a full meal.
Hunger, Sleep and Thirst: Even ardent are still human and still have to observe general needs of living. Neglecting or being unable to meet these needs is a serious danger. Trying to go without basic needs creates adverse physical conditions represented through simple but hard-hitting penalties to all tasks until the situation can be rectified.
Hunger: For each day you go without eating anything at all you gain a -1 hunger penalty. You stop gaining hunger penalties when you have -3 in penalties and can actually survive in this lower-energy state for several weeks before being in danger of dying.
Thirst: For each day you go without water you gain a -2 penalty. Dehydration is far more deadly than starvation and death can come within 3-5 days of no water at all. If you are also suffering hunger penalties of -2 or higher you instead gain a -2 penalty for every 8 hours you go without water, water intake becomes far more necessary when starving.
Sleep: Every 2 days that sleep eludes you gives you a -1 penalty.
Complications: Fatigue damage can start to pile up from these penalties accruing. When you have -2 in penalties you take a mild fatigue hit after each event, at -4 in penalties you take a moderate fatigue hit after each event. At -6 or above you take a critical fatigue hit after every encounter.
Solutions: A solution is simply an amount of resources or rest that fulfill your needs and reduce penalties you've already taken. Much like hazards, solutions also come in three levels of severity.
Mild solutions include preserved food or rations, a small amount of poor quality water and a small amount of sleep, between 2 and 4 hours. These solutions reduce accrued associated penalties by -1.
Moderate solutions easily meet everyday needs and include a good, hot meal, bottled water or sleep between 6 and 8 hours. These solutions reduce associated penalties by -3.
Critical solutions include a feast complete with delicious drinks or a whole day of getting to laze in bed. These solutions simply remove all penalties.
The core of every Such Empty Creatures character is an emotional one. It's from emotions they draw their power and emotions are what plague and hurt them just as often. Each emotion has a die rating just like attributes do and are used for many rolls important to the use of emotions and supernatural powers.
d4: An emotion without much importance to the character, it hasn't had strong ties to their life.
d6: An emotion of average impact. They feel it like most do.
d8: This emotion always has a strong press on the character and influences many of their actions.
d10: This emotion often pulls the character out of other moods entirely at the smallest reminder and characterizes their usual behavior.
d12: This emotion rules the character's life, they are swamped by it at all times and it has a hold on their heart like a vice.
2 emotions start with a d4, 3 with a d6 and 1 with a d8.
The emotion with the highest die type in it is considered your Ruling Emotion. It's much easier to accumulate and spend ruach for your ruling emotion than it is for your other emotions. Your ruling emotion should be taken carefully into account as the most powerful set of feelings your character tends to experience. If two or more emotions are at the highest die type you can't change your ruling emotion freely between them, one must climb higher than the rest and then it is your new ruling emotion.
Fear: Fear is the emotion of survival and movement, it triggers the flight or fight response, it makes you more aware of your surroundings and it motivates your to protect yourself one way or another. It can also be crippling and overwhelming, paradoxically freezing you in terror. Fearful sorts are alert and tend to be prepared for anything, but can also be cowardly and unable to take risks expected of them. A lack of fear can create someone who heedlessly ignores their own survival or marches into deadly situations.
Hope: Hope is the indescribable feeling that everything will turn out alright in the end, that things are worth trying even if they seem dangerous or desperate because it's alright, it will all be okay. Hope powers are those that characterize the spirit of not giving up, of pressing forward against opposition and being undaunted by obstacles. Hopeful people are uplifting to be around but are also naive and don't think about the small details that matter. A lack of hope creates someone uninterested in in their own goals and who has no sense of ambition or survival.
Anger: The fiery red flame of passion, anger is more than just blind rage, it is the spark of revolution and indignation. Anger is being willing to stand up for yourself, it is the drive to make yourself stronger and smash through obstacles before you. Anger powers offer strength and fire and toughness. Angry people don't stand for having their ways blocked and can be violently protective of what they have. At their worst they can be abusive and lash out thoughtlessly far too often. A lack of anger creates a lack of passion and an inability to stand up for yourself.
Serenity: Serenity is not a lack of passion or a neutral state, in this context serenity is the chill of calculation and thoughtfulness. Serenity and anger can just as easily go hand in hand as they can be wildly opposed to each other. Serenity offers power over the mind, they are manipulative and frosty abilities indeed. Serene people are careful, think things through completely and can operate under great stress. At their worst they are utilitarian, cold and slow to action. A lack of Serenity creates someone prone to outbursts and unable to control themselves.
Joy: Joy is that warm burst of delight in your chest, it is being in love, it is eating your favorite food. Some say Joy is what makes life truly worth living. Innocent joy is hard to maintain, but a joyful demeanor can protect you from all sorts of terrible hardships, just by focusing on what you enjoy and what keeps you going when you are being weighed down. Joy facilitates survival through making sure you are motivated to get what you want, through creating something to have ambition for. Too much joy can make one frivolous, can make one self-centered and unable to see what is important or necessary. A lack of joy makes someone prone to depression and kills off the desire for social contact.
Sorrow: Sorrow is the blue, heavy feeling of distress, at truly experiencing loss. Sorrow isn't just personal, though, sorrow is also the engine of compassion and sympathy, it is understanding the pain of others and not wanting them to experience what you have. Every tear shed in sorrow is a tear of remembrance to lost loved ones, to pain and history gone by. Sorrowful people are compassionate, empathetic and thoughtful of others. At their worst they are consumed by their sorrow and fall into depression and a glut of tears. A lack of sorrow creates someone who cannot empathize with others, who has no time to look at the world and see that there are changes that could be made for the better.
Ruach is the measure of raw psychic energy that a character can summon up by dint of their powerful emotions. By focusing on one of the 6 core psychic emotions characters can call up the sparks of power they need just to survive. These aren't world-bending superpowers, they are desperation tactics that draw on your innermost self, stress your mind and soul and possibly break your own heart.
You have a pool of Ruach for each emotion equal in size to the die type. A d4 emotion has a maximum pool of 4 Ruach, a d6 of 6 and so on.
Ruach can be spent in a variety of ways, based on the emotion it comes from. The most powerful usage of ruach is in the channeling of supernatural powers, but the psychic charges they provide can be used for less overt tasks as well.
You may use a point of ruach to boost a skill by adding its supporting emotion's die to an associated task.
Skills are divided into sections based on a ruling emotion. These skills don't necessarily make you feel that emotion or are even better when feeling that emotion, certain kinds of psychic charge just affect aptitude with different skills.
A skill is paired with an attribute as appropriate to the situation. For instance the Athletics skill might be best paired with Celerity for more acrobatic movements but with Might for endurance running. Medicine might be paired with Intuition for figuring out what symptoms someone might have or be hiding but with Acumen for actually performing surgery.
Skills are rated on a 1-10 scale and simply add a flat, predictable bonus to your attributes when rolling tasks.
You start with 70 XP to spend on skills, with each level of skill costing that much XP to buy. (Buying the first level in a skill costs 1, the second costs 2 and so on.) You may not purchase a skill above level 4 at character generation.
Athletics: The ability to push your body to extremes to run, jump and in general move.
Avoidance: The art of not being where a blow is about to fall. Can only be rolled with celerity or acumen.
Awareness: Spotting a hiding creature or avoiding an ambush, awareness is how sharp your senses are but not how thorough or careful you are.
Unarmed: When you have nothing else, your greatest weapon is an empty fist. At 3 this skill makes your fists a moderate hazard weapon rather than mild.
Empathy: A skill to sense how someone else is feeling and to discern lies being thrown at you. Can give one a sense of how much emotional ruach someone has and whether they are suffering from any emotional highs or exhaustion.
Sense: A refined sixth sense, this skill gives one a good nose for supernatural phenomena and a sensitivity to seeking out THEM.
Parley: The skill to make deals and avoid bad ones when speaking with people and to in general be diplomatic.
Survival : Knowledge of the wilderness and how to get by on little, vital for avoiding deprivation hazards.
Labor: Physical conditioning for doing anything that needs brute strength such as lifting, breaking and bending.
Melee: Picking up things and smashing with them.
Intimidation: The ability to be terrifying when one needs to be.
Endurance: Resistance to health hazards such as disease and poison. This may also be added to rolls to resist fatigue at the GMs discretion.
Academics: Reading, writing, history, arithmetic and many fields of academic study.
Ranged: The use of guns and thrown implements, a mastery of hand-eye coordination.
Investigation: Connecting the dots, combing an area, noticing the world around you.
Composure: Training to deal with social pressures with the side effect of making one resistant to mental control of many types.
Medicine: Knowledge of the body, it's workings and how to heal it.
Security: Knowledge of the workings of locks and security systems, a larcenous art.
Focus: A powerful will that can resist the psychic influences of the scarred world and the powers of some creatures.
Parry: Interposing a weapon or your limbs in order to defend yourself from attacks. Takes a -1 penalty against ranged attacks. Can only be rolled with might or concord.
Control (Choose): Manipulating vehicles or animals. You must select vehicles or animals in general, so this skill is, essentially, two skills.
Legerdemain: Sleight of hand, the art of quick fingers.
Guile: Lying through your teeth or in general being deceitful and manipulative.
Crafting (Choose): Making new things whether artistic or useful. You must select a type of thing you can make or repair, which should be a broad category or field rather than something specific. Examples include electronics, engineering, art and chemistry.
Each time you max out an emotion on points of Ruach you have a chance of entering a state of emotional high. You roll your Concord die and compare the result to a roll of that emotion die. If Concord is higher, you keep control of yourself, if the emotion die is higher you enter a state of emotional high for the rest of the day. An emotional high only ends when you have the chance to sleep it off or when that ruach's pool is completely emptied, threatening emotional exhaustion. You may voluntarily fail a roll to resist emotional high if you wish.
While riding an emotional high you gain the benefit of having all ruach expenditures for that emotion reduced by 1 (minimum 0). However you also lose the ability to spend any other emotion's ruach at all and task rolls for skills associated with any emotion other than your own are penalized by -1 as well.
When you spend enough ruach to empty an emotion's pool you run the risk of falling into emotional exhaustion, that emotion going totally numb and burned out. Roll your Presence die and compare the roll to a roll of that emotion die. If presence is higher then you stave off emotional exhaustion, if the emotion die is higher than that emotion is exhausted. Emotional exhaustion only ends if you refill the ruach pool for that emotion half full or for getting a good night's sleep to sleep it off. You may voluntarily fail a roll to resist emotional exhaustion if you wish.
While emotionally exhausted you cannot use any supernatural abilities or spend ruach dealing with that emotion at all and any tasks involving skills associated with that emotion take a -2 penalty.
Momentos are the most efficient way to restore lost points of ruach. A momento is an item that has a particular pathos to it, it causes the character to powerfully relive an emotion and charges them with psychic energy. Most momentos are found items that have a powerful psychic imprint on them that an Ardent can pick up on and inflict themselves with. Some moments, though, are created involuntarily by an ardent in a state of emotional high.
Once per game session you may ruminate on a momento to regain an amount of ruach equal to the level of the momento the emotion it is associated with.
If you end an emotional high by spending all of that emotion's ruach and then end up in a state of emotional exhaustion you may choose an item you possess and make it a weak momento for that emotion, If you already have a weak momento or a momento of higher power you may increase it in power by one step to a maximum of desperate.
Task resolution is done by rolling your attribute die, adding your skill bonus and any other applicable bonuses then subtracting any penalties and matching the final result to a target number, trying to exceed or meet it. Target numbers exist on a hierarchy of difficulty. The most basic tasks don't require rolls, the most complex ones almost surely need emotional investment to succeed. Each level of difficulty increases the final TN by 2.
Performing a task is as such: You declare your intention for your action, either suggest a skill/attribute combo to the GM or use the roll the GM gives to you to use and then roll the dice, comparing the result to the task's target number (which the GM may keep a secret at their discretion!) If the result is higher than the target number then you have succeeded! On top of that, for every factor of 2 above the TN you succeed by you earn a degree of success. Degrees make the action more efficient and impressive. On a basic task, each degree can be spent to do one of the following: Reduce the amount of time the task would take by 10%, increase the TN to oppose or undo the task by 1, reduce the TN of a followup skill roll by yourself or an ally by 1, or otherwise improve the action or make it more impressive by a subjective factor of 10%.
Extended tasks are tasks that take a long time to perform, such as crafting items, making art, repairing lost technology or the like. Extended tasks have three statistics to track: TN like a normal task, Duration and Threshold. TN is as normal, a number you must meet or beat in order to succeed. Duration is the amount of time each roll takes, from a minute to an hour. Threshold is the number of successful tasks you need to complete all told in order to achieve your desired outcome. Succeeding on a task adds 1 to the Threshold of your extended task, with every 2 points you exceed the TN adding an additional 1 threshold for the total.
Contested tasks are tasks where you are directly competing with someone, or something, else for victory. Sometimes this can be resolved by all parties participating in a normal task and seeing who beats the TN with the highest number. Sometimes, however, it's better handled by a direct roll off with each party rolling with the highest number winning out in the end. Attacking and defending is considered a contested task.
The difficulty of a task is both just how complicated it is and how much skill, training and luck it requires. However it should also be taken into account that the TN can be adjusted up or down based on several factors. The TN goes up or down usually by 2 or 4 based on the severity of the situation and whether it is negative or positive.
-The presence or absence of tools and supplies. Scarcity is a serious problem but even a simple tool kit is a boon.
-Fatigue and stress can raise the TNs of actions, becoming worse the less rest and food the character has gotten.
-If the characters have less time than they need to perform an action the TN is raised to reflect trying to work too fast, if the character has much more time they can choose to go at a relaxed pace to lower the TN.
-The twisting effects of some of THEM can also maniplate TNs for themselves or others.
-Any other situation the players can argue for or the GM can arbitrate would lower or raise the TN of an action.
How Everything Ended
It ended with a scar. It was like a great claw ripped across the sky and everything was bathed in bloody radiance, the entire planet assaulted as one with unbound terror and anger. People sobbed as they uncontrollably attacked one another, using whatever was at hand to destroy each other. Others felt their hearts torn by sorrow and found the nearest means to end their own lives instead. It was a momentary but impossibly brutal and deadly chaos where all control was lost and all sense disappeared.
When the chaos ended people blacked out and awoke in terror to see what had become of the world around them. Bloody, ruined, lessened, they might not have had time to do much damage to the environment but millions died at each others or their own hands. Records later show that the scarring only lasted for 3 hours. It was enough.
The reasons for the scarring still elude scholars. But one thing is clear, it was only a prelude.
A Scarred World
In the months of cleanup after the scarring a few things become clear. First, the red haze that circled the planet was not going to go away any time soon. At night it was nearly impossible to see anything, the haze preventing moon or starlight from reaching the earth so that the red sky turned black instead. When the sun was visible it was only dimly filtered through a crimson veil that threatened to offer too little sunlight for plant life to live. Plants grew more slowly and crops came in late and in small amounts, causing food shortages that only compounded roiling global panic.
Science could not offer solutions to what had happened and while people flocked to the churches and temples the scarring was in no one's scripture. The world thirsted for answers to quench its paranoia but none were forthcoming, people needed things but countries rapidly closed their borders, thinking that it was some terrible unleashed weapon that had caused the scarring.
On top of all of this, soon disturbing things began to appear on the web… short glimpses of groups twisted humanoid things flickering in and out of existence down alleys and streets… people disappearing without a trace with sometimes whole rural communities coming up empty… What started as rumor and hearsay and difficult to corroborate internet stories soon became news objects as respected sources began to report seeing the same things. Fact became horror as these reports started to take shape more often.
It was subtle, it was in the middle of multiple crises that held global attention and it was quiet, but these were predators that were always quiet. THEY had come and we were not ready.
It isn't certain whether or not THEY are the cause of the scarring or merely an aftereffect, but either way they caused far more damage in the long run than the three-hour-carnage. THEY were insatiable, appearing without warning in small packs often in places that were crowded, quickly hunting down everyone around them, kill and devouring. Even the worlds most powerful modern military was helpless against THEM. THEIR advance was both inexorable and in many places already decided, they didn't have a single origin point they emerged into our world as if from another plane, flickering into being as if they'd been watching us and knew where they could appear to cause the most damage.
Millions of THEM appeared globally and we had no way to fight THEM. Not yet. Today THEY have hunted down humanity to where the survivors now estimate perhaps 20% of the world's former global population remains. A generous 10% of that remaining population are now ardents.
There is no other collective word for THEM. THEY are impossible to examine or study and THEY do not speak, at least not to us. THEY are a total mystery and only a few things are truly known about THEM. Calling THEM the way we do with all capital letters started as a trend on the internet and since the internet is the only remaining reliable form of communication the trend has remained.
THEY come in a variety of shapes, some more recognizable than others, with the most common being a featureless, faceless, faintly glowing perfectly white yet bloodstained humanoid figure, tall and thin. The more recognizable THEY become, the more powerful THEY are. Some fear that settlements are being infiltrated by THEM, hiding in the forms of humans or animals. THEY often have an array of mysterious powers, of the same kinds that ardent can use, which causes some serious questions to pop up on the origin of the powers that seem to be mankind's salvation. As opposed to ardents, however, THEY seem to exhibit these powers without exhibiting the emotion they are usually drawn from. Some ardents think of THEM as the anthithesis to themselves, they use emotion to draw out power, THEY use a lack of emotion to do the same.
THEY only seem to want one thing: to eat. THEY do not need to eat, THEY have been observed doing nothing but staring into space for weeks on end and consuming nothing yet move just as spryly and readily as ever when a living creature enters the range of their senses. THEY don't appear to use senses the way we think of them, THEY detect other beings solely based on tracking the emotional output they provide. One of the few known ways to avoid detection by THEM is to purge all emotion from oneself and move through THEIR areas quietly and carefully.
The first thing THEY do upon entering an area is usually strip it of all animal life, the raw emotion exuded by a terrified beast seems to be especially attractive to THEM. Some of THEM then begin to roam for new places while the rest seem to kind of hibernate or at least become inactive, waiting in an area like landmines for people to come along, trigger THEM awake and then be devoured. The roamers then mark out a new area and this same pattern happens until there are no longer any roamers left in a group. THEY seed whole city blocks and simply wait, like THEY know THEY can starve us out and flush us towards THEM eventually. THEY never appear to get 'full' just as THEY never seem to really get hungry, even a single one of THEM being led to a settlement threatens every single person there, as IT will not stop until IT has devoured anyone IT can get IT's hands on.
Some may ask how a creature without a mouth even begins to eat someone. Others tell them please not to bother asking at all. The sight of flesh disappearing as if dissolving when pressed to a featureless face isn't one most want to remember having seen.
The most important and terrifying aspect that THEY share is an unholy tolerance for damage. Conventional weaponry of any kind takes an immense amount of effort to kill even one of THEM. Even unleashing a nuclear weapon didn't clear an area of THEM, just made it uninhabitable. The only exceptions to this fact are ardents, who can deal lethal damage to THEM with any personal weapon they are holding. Ardents are one of the few hopes humanity has to fight back.
Variations on THEM
Here are a few examples of the forms that THEY can take and the general behaviors they exhibit.
Lurks are the most common form of THEM. THEY are approximately 6-6 1/2 feet tall and quite slender, appearing as bare, bone-white, slightly glowing but usually smeared with red that looks like blood. Lurks have no distinguishing features, utterly smooth and without obvious eyes, mouth, ears or nose. THEY have long limbs that end in pointed digits that can be quite sharp, sharper than it seems.
Lurks have the least intellect and initiative out of all of THEM. THEY follow the roam and wait pattern as described above and tend to travel in packs of 2 or 3 at the very most.
Nemeses appear as faceless owls, with wings and backs with spotted inkblot black patterns against THEIR otherwise perfectly white surface. THEY do not seem to have feathers, just flat mottled black and white flesh, how THEY fly is poorly understood. Nemesis act as scouts and harriers for THEM, chasing other creatures into the arms of their fellows or motivating even the lethargic Lurks into action by making high pitched shrieks upon sensing life. Nemeses usually come in flocks of around 6, spread out in an area for maximum coverage.
Hounds are extremely active and intelligent variations of THEM in comparison with many of THEIR fellows. THEY appear as humanoid beasts with long black claws, elongated snouts, a bulky muscular hide, visible pointed wolfish ears and dripping maws full of bone-white teeth and drooling black tongue. Hounds don't seem to have an inactive state like most of THEM do and eschew subtlety and waiting for growling impatience and sometimes arbitrarily cruelly drawn-out stalking. THEY make sure THEIR prey knows something is coming for them and sometimes will injure one of a group to keep the rest moving along more slowly before moving along for the kill. Hounds are totally solitary.
Sometimes derogatorily referred to as 'sheet ghosts.' Smilers appear as around 5-1/2 to 6 foot tall figures draped in solid veils of gauzy white substance, with only flat black curved gashes and void-like ovals for mouth and eyes visible on THEM. THEY defy gravity, floating with impunity and seem to prefer ranged supernatural effects to take down THEIR foes before wrapping them in THEIR gauzy forms, crushing them into something palatable before the remains disappear beneath the mysterious veils.
Matters of the Heart
The one ray of hope left in this endless pandora's box of torments are the ardents, people who since the scarring have exhibited psychic powers based upon the drawing out and use of various emotions.
Ardents are complicated and often tormented people, trapped in cycles of emotional abuse and neglect in order to maintain their powers. They are also needed in order to effectively combat THEM, causing them to also be people under a lot of societal pressure to use their powers. The remains of many governments find and begin training and securing the loyalty of their ardents as soon as their powers become clear.