MONSTERS IN THE MACHINE 2: HUMANITY RESTORED

Earlier this month I conducted an experiment with machine learning. Could OpenAI, when fed prompts taken from the Vaarn Bestiary, create convincing and interesting Vaarnish monsters? The answer seemed to be a cautious ‘yes’. The natural language AI did create some interesting new creatures, including psychic lunar beasts, void-swimming sharks, and a really horrible limb-grafting flesh monster.

That said, I felt like the details needed some work. OpenAI is good, but it isn’t ready to fully consume my brain, Alzabo-like, and usurp my position as creator of science-fantasy monsters. Mankind is still in control, at least for now. To reassure myself and my readers of this fact, I’m going to revisit the creatures from the OpenAI session and edit them into a more refined form.


Gnawer of the Moon

Biological
HD 3, Armour 13, Morale 4, Appearing d8
Attacks: Bite (d8) + Claw (d6)

The forests of Luna are the backdrop to many a romantic legend on Urth. The moon’s trees have grown vast and wild in the eons since humanity first planted them, attaining sizes not possible in Urth’s heavier gravity. Arboreal creatures have grown along with them, creating a prodigious ecosystem of lunar giants.

The Gnawers of the Moon are surely descended from squirrels, although in their size and temperament they now resemble colossal kangaroos or hares. They are grey and white in colour, with powerful back legs and long furry tails. The creatures are named for their protruding chisel-like teeth, with which they gnaw holes in the bark of the gargantuan lunar trees they nest inside. Vaarnish nursemaids tell their charges that Luna’s changing shape is because the Gnawers strip away her skin with their teeth, although she always renews her face as the month progresses. In truth the Gnawers are omnivorous, existing on a diet of leaves, berries, insects, and lunar shellfish. They are not predatory to other mammals, but will defend their nests and young with ferocious lunging bites.

Gnawers of the Moon are rarely seen in Vaarn, although voyagers to Luna report their existence in great numbers. Some specimens have been brought to languish in the private zoos of Autarchs, but they are adapted to lower gravity and have never flourished on Urth. Their powerful leaping movements, so graceful to observe in the canopies of Luna, are hobbled by the grasp of our mother-sphere. A nobleman titled Khemos-Na is said to have bred a pair of lunar Gnawers in captivity, hoping that specimens raised from birth on our world might grow stronger, but the fate of the kittlings is not recorded.


Voidmaw

Biological / Synthetic
HD 10, Armour 20, Morale 12, Appearing 1
Attacks: Bite (d12) + Swallow Whole (Special)
Swallow Whole: If a Voidmaw’s attack roll exceeds the target’s Armour score by five or more, they will be swallowed whole and crushed inside the creature’s body, taking 3d6 damage each round they are inside the Voidmaw.

The void between spheres mirrors the depths of the ocean in many respects: the freezing silent darkness, the lack of boundaries and barriers, and the manner in which death may approach from any direction. Small wonder that gene-sculptors who sought to breed fighting beasts to defend Urth’s orbital habitats dredged the abyssal regions of the sea for their raw materials.

Voidmaws are cyborg organisms, designed to live and hunt in the vacuum of space and Urth’s upper atmosphere. They once defended space elevators and orbital structures from sabotage, although the days of their servitude are long gone and they are driven now only to eat and grow.

They resemble the Pelican eels that dwelt in Urth’s oceans millennia ago, but large enough to swallow a hippo in one gulp. They are black ropes of muscle and synthetic void-dermis, blind but attuned to heat signatures, drifting through the dark places behind the sky in search of warm provender. They ‘swim’ in zero gravity using their powerful tails and implanted gas-jets, and are capable of making ‘dives’ into the gravity-wells of Luna and Urth for brief hunting trips. Voidmaws are not encountered on Vaarn’s desert surface, but the creatures have been known to lurk around the highest spires of the Great Wall, where the air is thin.


Moonbeast (Imago)

Outsider / Psychic
HD 5, Armour 16, Morale 10, Appearing d4 (+ d6 Nymphs in Lair)
Attacks: Lunatic Gaze (EGO Save vs d6 EGO damage) / Radioactive Vomit (Blast, d8 TOX)

Luna, once the stepping stone to the stars, was lost to the Autarchs and is no longer under the dominion of man. The squamous pallid monstrosities known as ‘Moonbeasts’ may be the cause of this defeat or merely a symptom of it; in either case the creatures are inimical to humanity, hated interlopers that dwell in flooded caverns below Luna’s surface.

They are somewhat like a toad and somewhat like an insect, although such phrases only capture a fragment of their extra-dimensional morphology. Their heads are a grotesque bloom of spines and tendrils, lacking eyes or identifiable mandibles. Moonbeasts are primarily aquatic, occupying Luna’s underground rivers and lakes. Their primary method of attack is to vomit up a sticky radioactive bile, which rapidly kills most terrestrial organisms. Once an organic creature has been pre-digested by this vomit, the Moonbeasts will feed upon the corpse using their long facial tendrils.

Moonbeasts are evidently intelligent, but make little use of complex technology, with most specimens being observed only to utilise stone tools, metal-working being perhaps unfeasible for a race that lives underwater. However, Moonbeasts also make use of extremely complex technology, such as hypergeometric stone ‘coracles’ in which they can sail between Luna and Urth, or bio-mechanical ‘lightning projectors’ that they use in their wars against one another. Some sages believe the creatures to be the descendants of a more advanced race, using inherited technology that they cannot produce themselves. If this is the case, they have more in common with humanity than it may first appear.

The beings are rarely found in Vaarn, and seem to have little desire to spread to Urth’s surface. However, during certain celestial configurations they become far more active, and venture down from the moon in their stone coracles to conduct raids. Vaarnish settlements have been the targets of such incursions, especially on nights prior to eclipses. Prisoners are taken alive back to Luna’s flooded caves, destined no doubt for awful fates.

Moonbeast (Nymph)
Outsider / Psychic
HD 2, Armour 12, Morale 5, Appearing d6
Attack: Lashing Tendrils (d8)
Notes: The immature form of a Moonbeast. Lacking limbs or the projectile vomiting of their parents, they instead swarm over their prey and drain the life from their bodies with questing tendrils.


Fleshwarp

Biological
HD #Limbs, Armour 13, Morale #Limbs, Appearing 1
Attack: Fists (#Limbs x d4) / Graft (STR Save vs Special)
Limbs: Roll 2d6 to determine the Fleshwarp’s number of limbs (#Limbs). The creature’s HD is equal to this number.
Regeneration: The Fleshwarp regains 4hp per combat round, unless burned or dipped in acid.

A grotesque, fast-moving biotech horror. Fleshwarps are cacogenic abhumans, consisting of an atrophied, vestigal head and torso, and a multitude of powerful questing limbs. The creatures are blessed with rapid cellular regeneration, and can heal even mortal wounds within minutes. As they grow, more and more biomass is extruded into their limbs, creating skittering spiderlike abominations.

Grafting

Fleshwarps get their name not solely due to their warped bodies, but also due to the bizarre grafting procedures they inflict on their victims. If the Fleshwarp has a biological target to attack, it will pounce. If the victim fails an opposed STR save, the Fleshwarp attaches one of its limbs to the victim’s torso. The Fleshwarp’s #Limbs and corresponding HD are lowered by 1.

The victim must fill an item slots with a special Wound: Grafted Arm. The Grafted Arm has 1 HD and the Armour score of its host. Damage dealt to the Grafted Arm is shared between the host and the limb.

Each round, the Grafted Arm will continue to fight on behalf of the Fleshwarp. It does this by attacking its host (d4 damage), and by trying to restrain or impede other efforts by the host to harm the Fleshwarp (grabbing at weapons, trying to throw sand in their eyes, etc). Treat this as imposing Disadvantage on all attacks against the Fleshwarp.

Killing the arm without hurting the host requires a surgical setting. If the body of the Fleshwarp dies but the Grafted Arm remains alive, it will cease its attempts to harm its host. If the host makes a successful EGO save during sleep, the Grafted Arm can be mastered and becomes part of their body. They gain an extra d4 fist attack in melee combat.


I had fun with this one. Hopefully I demonstrated my continued creative superiority to the thinking machines. They can only mimic, like clockwork cuckoos, while I blaze new trails. That said OpenAI did provide some good prompts here, and I’ll certainly consider collaborating with it again in future.

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