“Phagos” is the Greek suffix for “eating”, and “auto” means the self. The Autóphagos are humans who devour themselves while becoming an appalling creature. Whether they are infected with a disease, cursed, able to transcend death and transform through intense self hatred or, instead, are preternatural creatures incubating as homo sapiens has not been determined.
History and Occult skills provide a few clues to the affliction or apparition: According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Erysichthon, the King of Thessaly, ordered all trees in a grove sacred to Demeter, goddess of Earth’s fertility (syncretic antecedent = Shub-Niggurath?) to be felled. When his men refused the order, he wielded an axe himself, hewing a dryad (Dark Young?) in the process. For Erysichthon’s transgression he was damned with interminable hunger that eventually climaxed by swallowing himself whole.
Depicted in the Arthurian Vulgate Cycle from early 13th century France, Agrestes, a heathen king of Camelot, allowed Josephus, the son of Joseph of Arimathea, to convert his people to Christianity. After the holy man departed, Agrestes killed the disciples and forced his subjects to renounce Christ and return to paganism (possibly to The Thousand-Young Mother?). Madness then gripped the king: he killed his family, ate his own hands, and committed suicide by immolation.
Philip Rohr’s dissertation De Masticatione Mortuorum (transcribed from a lecture he gave at the Academy of Leipzig in 1679) mentions a number of dead, or seemingly dead people who, infused with devilish agency, gnawed their own flesh in their tomb: the Roman Emperor Zeno, “having been struck down by an epileptic fit was thought to be dead, and as such was actually interred, but afterwards he came to life again in his monument when, tortured by hunger, he gnawed the brawns of his own arms and even bit the leather of his buskins.” Rohr lists the following from other historical accounts: “In the year of our Lord 1345 at Levin, a town in Bohemia, the body of a woman ate in her grave (Georg. Phillipp. Harsdorffer in his Theatrum Tragicorum Exemplorum, which account is taken from the one hundred and fifteenth chapter of the Chronicon Bohemiae of Hegenezius). The same thing happened in the days of Martin Luther, when there was also seen the body of a woman who had gnawed her own flesh (Luther’s Colloquia xxiv). The same thing happened in the year 1552 at Luben in Silesia (Conrad Schlüsselburg, Gründlicher Erklarung des XCI Pf. Cons. XII, Part iii). The same happened in 1565 at Sangerhausen. (This example also from Schlüsselburg.) The same happened in the year 1579, in the neighborhood of Weismarien. (This is from the same author.)” Rohr concludes his evidence of self-cannibalism with a personal account: “Only seven years ago, in 1672, there was an exactly similar case in a certain village which lies at a distance of three miles from this very town, and it was observed by an intimate friend of mine, one who is worthy of the utmost confidence. The body of a man, whose name although known to me, I prefer not to mention, having been most rashly exhumed by the villagers was found to have eaten his own limbs.”
Modern rumors and reports of auto-cannibalism include: during the Siege of Leningrad (1941-44); after the 1991 Haitian coup d’etat; Andrew Thomas, a murderer on death row in Texas, removed his right eye in 2008 and ate it (he already took out his left eye in 2004); a 28- year-old man in New Zealand in 2009, “Mr. X,” amputated and cooked his own pinkie finger
following insomnia and suicidal thoughts; 29-year-old Jargget Washington, high on PCP, bit off and swallowed one of his own fingers after his arrest, and in 2014 a 34-year-old prisoner cut his thigh with a knife and ate the flesh.
Clearly, consuming one’s own body occurs in instances of extreme stress. In the rarest of occasions, the devouring person transmogrifies into another form, the Autóphagos. If a person is overwhelmed with suicidal ideation but unable, for whatever reason, to complete the act, they may resort to autophagia. The instant their meat reaches their throat, a hideous change happens and their cellular corpulence readjusts to afford more gorging: their neck extends to 1 meter, prehensile, to allow complete body consumption except for the head. Additional flesh ingested becomes a mass of greasy, amorphous mouths gaping upon a bubbling digestive system attached to the snaky nape that’s capped by a maddened, blood-and gristle-caked rictus on the crown of the original person, who can still talk. Each round that it can eat unhindered the Autóphagos converts 1 point of its own Strength from human to monster; this indicates how long it takes to complete the process. The person also loses 1D4/1D10 Sanity each round from the Unnatural compulsion. After completion it will try to satiate its limitless hunger by eating other people. It is unknown if it perishes without a constant food source or can continue self-nourishment. There is no evidence—yet—that normal cannibalism or being forced to eat yourself triggers the reaction; it appears to require a specific mindset or personage.
STR same as human form, but can go higher (See FLESH CONVERSION)
CON same as human form
DEX same as human form
INT same as human form
POW same as human form, but can go higher
HP same as human form, but can go higher (See FLESH CONVERSION)
WP same as human form
ARMOR varies, see FLESH CONVERSION; UNNATURAL BIOLOGY; HUGE (at STR 20+)
SKILLS All mental skills remain the same as human as it retains the same knowledge, but all Social and Physical skills such as Persuade or Athletics are broken down by the digestive juices.
Bite Self: 100% (FLESH CONVERSION) or
Bite (others): 5% per point of converted Strength, e.g., after three rounds of FLESH CONVERSION (3 points of its own Strength/flesh turned), it has a 15% chance to bite others. At 18 Strength, it has a 90% attack. Unless interrupted, it will not attack others until it has finished gobbling itself.
Damage: varies/special (See FLESH CONVERSION, INFECTION).
FLESH CONVERSION: As The Autóphagos eats itself, it converts its own human flesh into a tougher Unnatural tissue. For every quarter of Strength points that it eats of itself (round up) it gains 1 point of armor and 2 additional hit points (it does not lose any hit points for auto-
cannibalism). Thus, after completing the transformation it will have 4 points of armor and an additional 8 hit points beyond what it had before the change; halfway through (however long it takes based on starting STR) it has 2 points of armor and 4 additional HP.
Once conversion is complete, insatiable hunger constrains it to cannibalize other living humans, which gives it additional Strength, size, Power, Armor, Hit Points, and Bite Damage. In a fashion related to a ghoul’s GIFT OF THE GRAVE, for every 4 points of damage that it inflicts (cumulative across multiple attacks against the same or different targets), it gains 2 Strength (and increased mass), 1 Armor, 1 Power, and 2 Hit Points. It can heal itself of wounds by eating others. Every successful Bite Attack costs the Autóphagos 1D4/1D10 Sanity, if any are left.
For every 10 points of converted Strength the Bite damage goes up as follows: STR 1-10: 1D4
STR 11-20: 1D6
STR 21-30: 2D6
STR 31-40: 3D6, etc.
Add 1D6 damage for every 10 points of STR.
INFECTION: Any successful Bite Attack infects/curses the victim. If the person has Depression, any acute episode catalyzes the infection and supercharges the mental disorder: rather than a penalty to skills, the character will attempt suicide. If they are prevented or unsuccessful and
still conscious, they will try to commit autosarcophagy and become The Autóphagos. The episode can end and the disorder can be healed without taking a bite out of their brawn, but the Infection always remains.
Psychotherapy at -20% can be used at the start of the episode while they are attempting suicide. If successful, the episode ends. If they are physically restrained, however, the autophagia activates and therapy will no longer work; a force stronger than the human mind is in charge. If they chomp, it’s too late.
UNNATURAL BIOLOGY: The instant The Autóphagos bites itself its biology shifts despite an outward human appearance. Called shots for vital organs are useless.
HUGE: If it eats enough to reach 20 STR, Lethality rolls are no longer required and it takes damage equal to the Lethality rating less its current Armor score.
FIRE VULNERABILITY: Supposedly, one can distract The Autóphagos with a fire large enough to cover it entirely (size equal to its STR). It will pause and watch as long as the flames are big enough for self-immolation. If the original human is still present in the beast (has not reached 0 Sanity), one can use Persuade at -20% or Psychotherapy (without penalty) to convince it to end its misery by entering the pyre and complete the suicide. For the darkest of games, and with player consent, Handlers can ask PCs to roleplay the scene, no roll needed.
TRICHOBEZOAR: Autóphagos that have been killed contain a stone in their gut-pouch that is prized by alchemists. It is an antidote to many poisons if ground into a powder and consumed. If left intact and worn, the wearer can resist Depression—they will not have an acute episode of that disorder.
SAN LOSS: 0/1D4 to witness the transformation (Helpless)
Sanity losses are higher if the Autóphagos was known to the Agent, especially if a Bond. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Aaron has published game material for Pelgrane Press, Miskatonic Repository, Arc Dream Publishing, and more. He teaches games design for middle school children.