Have a COW (Creature of the Week) #8: Undersea Horror

Environments themselves often suggest interesting creatures to introduce to the PCs. In a recent adventure, our heroes were a mile underwater on an alien ocean floor and attempting to help several terrified members of a science crew get away from an alien species who called the ocean home and were not all that keen on sharing. (I’m working on a new alien resource guide that should be available late summer/early fall that will include these aliens, which have some fun aspects.) However, one of the crew needing rescue was less lucky than the others…

Design Thoughts – Horrors from Earth

By Image courtesy of Islands in the Sea 2002, NOAA/OER. – U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain, Link

When I looked at critters in our own oceans that were fear-worthy, I immediately remembered the man-of-war, with an appearance something like a puddle of jelly but with venomous tentacles that not only sting victims, but help devour them. Interestingly enough, it’s not a single organism but a collection of organisms known as polyps and zooids, each with a distinct specialization. I figured that other worlds might have similar creatures in their arsenal.

In this case, the alien race used a combination of biohacking and nanotechnology to modify and control a similar creature as a torture method. These “fleth” polyps would essentially be applied to a victim for a time, shocking and draining them of the will to live until all natural resistance was worn away. (I didn’t say they were a NICE species of aliens on this planet and there’s a fun background as to why…)

Well, in this particular case, these modified creatures haven’t been used in centuries. And, as always, life finds a way to change.  They mutated right under their captor’s noses and when they were unleashed upon a poor human victim, it had unforeseen consequences. So I ended up with two creatures — a fleth polyp and a mutated creature I ended up calling a “kerafleth.”

When the fleth were introduced into the cell with the victim, they began integrating with her suit in an attempt to find ways through it. This created a feedback loop where they began to bond together and work their way into her very physical and mental being. The process was not only physically painful, but terrifying and painful to her very psyche. When it was complete, there wasn’t much left of the victim and the huge, mutated colony of creatures simply wanted to strike out at the world around it.

This is what I wrote:

[The victim] is no longer fully human and the Fleth Polyps are no longer themselves. They have merged into a colony led by the crazed, irrational mind of a woman in pain and an alien species confused but doing its best to stay alive with what it discovered. The creature is now a combination of an underwater environmental suit, a brain so far gone that it’s attacking everything around it, and a sticky mess of polyp colonies and tentacles.

It’s angry. It’s hungry. And the PCs will be its first victims.

The Fleth Polyp

The Fleth Polyp is applied en masse, grabs its victim, uses its acid tentacles to burn through any armored covering, then uses a combination of neurotoxin and digestion to slowly consume it. Depending on how many creatures are applied during this process, it can be amazingly slow or overwhelmingly fast. The alien controllers then apply an electrical current to the nanites embedded in these creatures to make them let go of their victim and make them easy to herd back into the large holding tanks where they are kept for the next victim(s).

  • Fleth Polyp (Low-level): Attribute 8; Locomotion: Swim/Float; Grab (Immobilize, Athletics check to break free, Immobilized creatures grant Advantage to Allies); Neurotoxin (if pierces armor, immobilizes target for 1d6 rounds to digest); Digest (drains 1d6 HP if immobilized); Acid Touch (d6+1 damage upon contact and 2 points ongoing each turn until removed, not cleared by water alone – must be cleared with a baking soda paste)

The Kerafleth

Movie: Space Chimps (2008)

In this particular instance, the nanites have malfunctioned after going unused for centuries and the blobs of fleth began to form many new abilities such as a more aggressive nature. As a result, they not only digest their prey but rip it to pieces to make it easier for the colony to consume. This more aggressive nature also accelerates its movement and makes it more resistant to harm, using its own colony nature to heal itself quickly. And when combined with the victims suit full of modern electronics and materials, it gained an armored coating that made it even more impressive.

As a result, it is a blob of immense and warped proportions. It’s size has quadrupled, filling the entirety of the cell it was confined in with the victim. As it erupts from that cell, it explodes to a huge size with hundreds of tentacles at impossible angles and the doctor’s head looks strange, still in the helmet, eyes closed and screaming…

  • Kerafleth (Super-level): Attribute 12, Toughness 14; Speed 10m; Locomotion Swim/Float/Pull; Traits: Tough Bastard (doubles HP to 28), Tough Hide (AR2), Accelerated (3 actions per turn), Regenerating Health (HP4/turn), Enhanced Plate Armor (AR4/AP20), Regenerating Armor (AP4/turn), Grab (Immobilize, Athletics check to break free, Immobilized creatures grant Advantage to Allies); Neurotoxin (if pierces armor, immobilizes target for 1d6 rounds to digest); Digest (drains 1d6 HP if immobilized); Acid Touch (d6+1 damage upon contact and 2 points ongoing each turn until removed, not cleared by water alone – must be cleared with a baking soda paste), Rip (can rip a grabbed target’s limb off, Save vs. Toughness to resist)

This creature’s preferred tactic is: Grab, Grab, Rip or Acid Touch, Neurotoxin, and Digest. It is looking for more food and will attack not only any humans in the vicinity but other alien creatures.

Possible Enhancements

There are quite a few warped ideas I pondered, but these are the best:

  • Cutting the creature spawns smaller blobs, dividing one colony into many. Those colonies would then seek additional material and victims to consume and grow accordingly. Depending on the time aspect, you could have many individual colonies causing pain and suffering like a sea of enormous killer jellyfish…
  • And a later creature I introduced (the ice kraken) would prove to be a delicious treat of enormous size and such a Krakenfleth would prove almost impossible.

Honestly these critters are already horrific and I could see them causing a great deal of damage as they float their way as islands of destruction in the deep…

Looking for more creatures for your Aliens & Asteroids campaign? Check out the rest of the Creature of the Week series!

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