MONSTERS IN THE MACHINE 3: REVENGE OF THE MACHINE

Last time on Monsters in the Machine, our beloved human author struck back against the tyrannical AI, improving upon its work and sculpting new Vaarnish monsters from the raw material created by the robot. Although cowed, the AI was not defeated. Today it returns to the driver’s seat, generating fresh new monster stat blocks prompted by the existing Vaults of Vaarn bestiary.

As before, I’m using OpenAI. I’m going to let it run for a bit and comment on what it produces for us.


Blightbeast
Biological / Synthetic 
HD: 10 Armour: 18 Morale: 12 Appearing: 1d3 
Attacks: Claws (d10) + Bite (2d6) + Tail Lash (d8) 

Notes: Gigantic mutated lizards that prowl the irradiated wastelands. They are covered in thick scales, and their eyes glow with a sinister green light. Blightbeasts are immune to radiation damage. 

This one is ok; it isn’t giving us much that the bestiary doesn’t already have. Three 10 HD monsters with 18 Armour and three high-damage attacks would certainly make for a challenging wilderness encounter. If I was writing more about them I would probably play up their radioactivity a bit.

There actually aren’t that many references to radiation in Vaarn; I’ve always privately seen nanomachinery and deliberate genetic manipulation as being the sources of most of the cacogenic weirdness encountered. I don’t mind going there on occasion however, and a big radioactive lizard certainly fits the tone of the setting. These are giving me dinosaur vibes, or maybe huge komodo dragons? I can see them basking in radioactive areas to gain energy, like they nest inside the leaking radioactive cores of ancient war-machines and Autarchy power plants.


Brain Worm
Biological / Psychic
HD: 3 Armour: 12 Morale: 8
Appearing: d4+1/2*hd(master) in swarms // 1 if not under control of a creature // 2 if attacking a creature it is not attached to // 4 if feeding on a living creature it is attached to // 6 if feeding on a dead creature Attacks: Drill (d8), Grapple (paralyze victim), Telepathy // If unattached, can only attack with drill and grapple. If attached, can also use telepathy. Telepathy has range of 100 ft. and allows brain worm to communicate with and control its host as long as they maintain concentration.
Notes: Tiny parasitic worm that burrows into the brain of living creatures. A creature with a brain worm attached takes 1d4 points of damage per round as the worm feeds on its host’s blood. If the host dies, the brain worm will detach and burrow into another nearby creature. 

Wow. The AI really went hard on this one. I’m interested by the amount of detail given in the Appearing section; it seems that the AI is giving us different encounter types for the Brainworms? So we’ll meet four of them if they’re feeding on a living creature, 6 if they’re feeding on a dead creature, etc. I actually quite like that for a more maximalist stat-block, giving activities that the creature can be doing for each number encountered.

I think this is a strong concept for a monster. I was surprised to realise there aren’t any mind-control creatures in the bestiary already. It seems like it would be obvious territory for a science-fantasy RPG but I’ve clearly been slacking. I can definitely see a place in Vaarn for a colony of telepathic parasites and I will definitely revisit this creature when I do my own follow-ups to these monsters.


Brood Mother
Biological / Psychic
HD: 8 Armour: 16 Morale: 12 Appearing: 1d4
Attacks: Claws (d8), Grapple (paralyze victim)
Notes: Giant spider-like creatures that dwell in dark caves and lurk in dark forests. They are covered in shaggy red fur, and their eyes burn with a feral red light. Brood mothers are immune to radiation damage.

Aaaa! Nooo! Absolutely not. Next creature please.

Broodling
Biological / Psychic
HD: 1 Armour: 12 Morale: 5 Appearing: d4
Attacks: Claws (d4), Grapple (paralyze victim), Telepathy // If unattached, can only attack with claws and grapple. If attached, can also use telepathy. Telepathy has range of 100 ft. and allows broodling to communicate with and control its host as long as they maintain concentration.
Notes: Small spider-like creatures that dwell in dark caves and lurk in dark forests. They are covered in shaggy red fur, and their eyes burn with a feral red light. Broodlings are immune to radiation damage.

Ok fine OpenAI I will engage with your spider monsters if you insist.

First off: this fits a certain RPG monster combat niche, namely the single big boss creature that spawns waves of smaller fodder-type monsters. I would probably rewrite it so the Brood Mother spits out d6 Broodlings each round, so you have to burst the big spider down quickly whilst also doing crowd-control on her children.

Second thoughts, I’m kind of divided on their telepathy. It seems like this is a fragment recycled from the Brain Worm, where it made more sense. That said, I don’t hate the idea of a psychic spider. Maybe the big Mother is telepathic and she can ‘see’ through her children’s eyes? So they all hunt as one creature? That could work.


Sallowman
Biological
HD: 4 Armour: 12 Morale: 8
Attack: d4 claw + d4 claw + d6 bite
Notes: Emaciated humanoid with mottled grey skin. Sallowmen are the product of generations of inbreeding and malnutrition, and are both mentally and physically degenerate. They are aggressive and will attack anything that they perceive as being weaker than themselves. 

This is low tier in terms of creativity. A 4HD humanoid with three weak attacks per round and nothing in the way of special abilities or evocative description. I like the name and their mottled grey skin but not much else. They could go on my encounters list if I was desperate but they really need something to bring them to life. I actually do want to revisit the Sallowmen in my next post because this is an entry where adding some flavour is an absolute must.


Scythesliver
Hypergeometric
HD: 5 Armour: 15 Morale: 12 Appearing: 1d4+1
Attack: d8+4 claws + d10+5 bite.
Notes: A monstrous, multi-armed hypergeometric creature, composed of razor sharp scythes and blades. The scythesliver is a fearsome predator, capable of rending flesh and metal with ease.

This is more like it! We haven’t had a hypergeometric monster for a while. I imagine this one as being a bit like the Shrike from the Hyperion novels, a liquid-metal death machine that’s covered in thorns and blades. Maybe it’s a hypergeometric war-synth? There aren’t any creatures that are both Synthetic and Hypergeometric in type, so this could be our first.

For special abilities, I might give the Scythesliver the capacity to cut through armour in some way, as the description says it can cut through metal with ease. It’s whole deal seems to be about sharpness, so maybe it always rolls to hit as though the target were unarmoured (Armour 10)? I might also give it some special effect on a critical hit, like severing a limb?


I think that’s it from the AI today! A fun mixture of stuff here. I think the Brain Worms and Scythesliver are my favourites of the raw unedited entries. When I next have time I’ll come back to these monsters and apply my editor’s pen to them, as well as fleshing out their backstories a bit.

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