MONSTERS IN THE MACHINE 4: HUMAN AFTER ALL

I’m back for another episode in my ongoing duel/duet with the OpenAI. I riff from it, it learns from me, and together we build something that neither of us could achieve alone. Also I prove conclusively that I’m the better writer and more creative.

Anyway, bring on the monsters!


Blightbeast

Biological / Synthetic
HD: 10, Armour: 18, Morale: 12, Appearing: d3
Attacks: Claws (d10) + Bite (2d6) / Blight Breath (d12 TOX, blast)

Colossal cacogenic Gila Monsters, imbued with nanomachinery and armoured with thick black scales. Keratin bristles sprout from their backs in burnt-looking clumps. Their eyes and throats gleam with a sickly green radiance. If threatened they will breathe out a noxious cloud of radioactive gas before lunging to attack with their powerful jaws.

The creatures seek out radioactive blightstone and gain sustenance from basking near it, although they supplement this nourishment with a more conventional diet of raw meat. Blightbeasts are immune to damage caused by energy weapons or radiation, and heal d8 HP per round when in the presence of radioactive material.

Blightbeasts have no natural predators, their flesh and blood being thoroughly poisonous. Their corpses cannot be used as a source of rations.


Brain Worm

Biological / Psychic
HD: 0 (1 HP), Armour: 12, Morale: 8, Appearing: d4
Attacks: Hypnosis (EGO save vs Special) / Mind Bomb (EGO save vs d6 EGO damage)

The human nervous system is an instrument of unsurpassed sophistication, deserving of a master capable of using it to the fullest. Lacking limbs and faces but gifted with unimaginable patience they wait in dry clotted cocoons, until the brainwaves of a likely Cheval rouse them from pleasant dreams.

To mount a new Cheval is no small matter but they have had millennia of practise. Hypnotic songs hold the initiate in place and once the entry point has healed there is no record of the Chevalier’s passage. Rider and steed embark together upon a slow but glorious journey towards apotheosis, the cunning of the Chevalier and the strength of the Cheval in working in harmony.

Hypnosis: biological targets must EGO save, or be rooted in place while the Brain Worm approaches. If unimpeded the worm bores into the skull of the victim and begins to supplant the native brain tissue and spinal cord. The infected character loses d4 INT per day, until they reach 0 INT and become a ‘Cheval’ – a puppet of the Worm. Removal of the Worm requires an auto-surgery pod or similar.


Chevals

When a Brain Worm is encountered, roll d8 on the table below to determine what (if any) body they inhabit. The Worm can use the stats and attacks of their Cheval in combat, only emerging from the skull of their mount once their Cheval has died. An ‘unhorsed’ Brain Worm uses the stat block given above, and will be desperate to acquire another body as soon as possible.

d8The Worm’s Cheval
1None; the Worm is naked and seeking a new mount
2Faa Nomad [Bio, HD 1, Armour 12, Rifle (d8)], their head wrapped in a blood-stained cloth.
3Blue Baboon [Bio, HD 1/2, Armour 14, Claws (d6)], walking as if drunk.
4Cliff Ghul [Bio, HD 1, Armour 12, Festering Bite (d6 + d6 TOX)] flightless and listless.
5Cacklemaw Warrior [Bio, HD 2, Armour 13, Weapon (d8) + Bite (d6)], strangely solemn.
6Gnomonian Merchant [Bio, HD 1, Armour 11, Fists (d4)], unable to explain where their caravan has gone.
7Regenerator [Bio, HD 6, Armour 15, Claw (d6) + Claw (d6) + Bite (d8) if both claws hit same target], wound healing in its skull.
8Alzabo [Bio, HD 8, Armour 15, Claw (d8) + Claw (d8) + Bite (2d6) if both claws hit same target], overwhelming the Worm with stolen memories.

Playing as a Brain Worm

A sneaky bonus class! Choose whatever biological Ancestry you please and generate as normal. However you have a dark secret: you are actually a mature Brain Worm inside a Cheval.

Switching Bodies: you heal and level up as normal. If your Cheval dies, you must eject from their brain and lose all your Levels, becoming a Level 0 Brain Worm with 1 HP and a 10/+0 in all stats. If you do not successfully mount a new Cheval within 24 hours, you will perish.

Your new Cheval must be a living Biological creature, and must be unable to stop you boring a hole in their skull. You can try to Hypnotise them (opposed EGO save), but if you fail you can’t target the same creature again.

Once you’ve bored into the brain of your new Cheval, you are now that creature. Your Level is equal to their HD rounded up, maxing out at 10. Working with the Referee, identify two Abilities the Cheval is Good at (you get Bonuses equal to your Level), two Abilities the Cheval is Mediocre at (you you get Bonuses equal to half your Level, rounded down), and two Abilities the Cheval is Bad at (you get Bonuses of +0). You also get whatever special powers or weaknesses already applied to your chosen body.

Example 1: Eliam the Brain Worm successfully takes over the brain of a Phthalo-Jackal (HD 1/2). Eliam is now Level 1, with 4 HP. Eliam and the Referee decide the Jackal is good at dodging and is cunning, so gets DEX +1 and INT +1. All other stats are set to zero.

Example 2: Illgill the Brain Worm successfully takes over the brain of a Cosseting Chrysalid (HD 4). Illgill is now Level 4, with 20 HP. Illgill and the Referee decide the Chrysalid is strong (STR +4) and is good at sneaking (DEX +4). It is ok at enduring (CON +2) and is quite perceptive (PSY +2). The table agrees that Cosseting Chrysalids are not good at thinking logically or very charismatic, so INT and EGO are set to +0.

Hated: If anyone works out that you’re actually a Brain Worm, they will almost certainly want to kill you immediately. They definitely won’t trust you.

Enjoy!


Brood Mother

Biological
HD: 8, Armour: 16, Morale: 12, Appearing: 1
Attacks: Claws (d8) / Grapple (DEX save vs Webbed)

A mother’s first duty is to her children, and she is no exception. In fungal forests and wind-swept canyons she hunts, nurturing her brood inside her swollen abdomen. She approaches sleeping travellers from above, swaddling them in blankets tight enough to hush their cries before her sons and daughters emerge to feast.

The Brood: a Brood Mother births d6 Broodlings [HD 0 (1 hp), Armour 12, Bite (d4)] per combat round, and 2d6 Broodlings on death. Fire or explosive attacks prevent this.

Webbed: Webbed characters are hit automatically by enemy attacks. They must make a successful DEX save to break free.


Sallowman

Biological
HD: 4, Armour: 12, Morale: 8, Appearing: d8
Attacks: Claw (d4) + Claw (d4) + Extraction (STR save vs Special) if both claws hit same target

Ill-fated homunculi, the devolved detritus of flesh-sculpting experiments in eons long faded. Living puppets of scar-tissue and rugose grey skin, they stalk the lonely fringes of Vaarn in search of plunder. Sallowmen care not for coin or other fineries: the creatures seek organs to add to their ever-growing collections, housed inside the vaults of their blistered grey chests.

A Sallowman is esteemed amongst his peers for the health and variety of the organs he has grafted into his torso, and the creatures indulge in preening displays on moonless nights, strutting before their fellows and exposing the braces of spare hearts and livers that hang inside their hollow bodies.

Extraction: If both a Sallowman’s claw attacks hit the same Biological target, they will pin the target down and attempt to extract an internal organ from their victim’s body. If the victim makes an opposed STR save, they escape. If not, the Sallowman wrests an organ from the target’s body and flees the battle, cackling madly as they unzip the scars in their greying chest and stuff the organ inside. Roll a d6 to discern the organ stolen:

d6Organ Stolen
1Heart (victim dies in 5 rounds, unless the heart can be returned to their chest)
2Lung (-5 to CON)
3Eye (-5 to DEX)
4Small Intestines (cannot regain HP, will die in a week without surgery)
5Liver (auto-fail all CON saves, will die in a week without surgery)
6Appendix (no ill effects, now immune to Appendicitis)

Scythesliver

Hypergeometric / Synthetic
HD: 5, Armour: 15, Morale: 12, Appearing: d4
Attacks: Blades (d10) + Blades (d10)

The Ideal Image of Sharpness, an ever-morphing cruciform of hypergeometric metal that cuts through the hardest armour like it were wet paper. The being is forged of quicksilver poured into 2D rifts in the sky, a whirring flickering knife angel that strikes without mercy and spares without explanation. Presumed to be a creation of the Titans, these synths number amongst the most inscrutable and fearsome creatures that can be found in Vaarn’s sealed vaults.

Sharpness Beyond Measure: Scytheslivers can cut through any material, and hit as though their target were unarmoured (Armour 10). If a Sycthesliver rolls a natural 20 while attacking, it inflicts a Wound: Severed Limb (3 Slots, -10 STR, -10 DEX).


All images in this post were created by the MidJourney AI. The @ai_hexcrawl account on Twitter posted some alternate images that I really like as well.

The Sallowman organ-thief theme was suggested by @Matt_Sheridan.

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