Dissecting Monsters: The Watcher’s First Creature from “Better Than Any Man”

The_Watchers_First_Creature by Gennifer Bone
Art by Gennifer Bone

=The Watcher’s First Creature=
Armor 12, 6 Hit Dice, Movement 30’ fly, no attacks, Morale 12.
This is a tendril-growing eyeball imprisoned in an electrified gelatinous shell in the shape of a seven foot cube. And it flies.

The cubic creature can read the thoughts and memories of anything it looks at, including knowing what inanimate objects have done and what has been done to them. It is not able to communicate with humans however, so when it learns something that The Watcher (or anyone else) should know, it has no choice but to mime its message… difficult when one’s body is an eyeball surrounded by a mass of flailing tendrils and encased in a large cube.

As  one  might  expect  by  the  lightning  constantly  striking  across its insides, hitting the cube with a metal mêlée weapon is a bad idea. However much damage is inflicted on the creature, the attacker also takes that much in electrical damage (save versus Magic for half damage).

When struck, the creature also shoots a tendril out at the attacker (which  plugs  the  hole  in  the  shell,  preventing  caustic  liquid  from escaping). The attacker must save versus Paralyzation or the tendril wraps around both the weapon used to attack and the arm(s) holding the weapon. This will not only immobilize the arm(s) and prevent the attacker from making any more attacks, it will also prevent the character from moving away. Anyone entangled in the tendrils like so will also be affected if the creature is attacked and discharges electricity.

The tendril itself is Armor 17 (and metallic, so striking it causes a discharge), 1 Hit Die.

Those attacking the creature with missile weapons will also have tendrils grab them, but the tendrils grow thicker with distance; add 1 Hit Die per 20’ distance of the attacker.

The creature will let its tendrils loose only when those entangled have dropped their weapons, have surrendered, and there are allies waiting to take the prisoner into custody.

If the creature is destroyed, it will explode doing 6d8 damage in a 10’ radius, 5d8 damage out to 20’, 4d8 to 30’, etc. Save versus Breath Weapon for half damage.

Something I really love about Raggi’s publications is the way he skillfully integrates a sort of nonsensical silliness into everything. Sometimes it’s overt, as it is with Twinkly in “Fuck for Satan,” or as it is with The Defiler’s creature, which I’ll get to soon. Here it’s a little more subtle, with a creature who can know everything about anything it looks at, but is completely incapable of sharing that information reliably. I can just imagine how frantic it would look trying to get someone’s attention. “These aren’t just random tentacle wigglings, I’m trying to tell you something!” I would have a lot of fun explaining weird tentacle motions, and watching my players try to decipher their meaning. I may need to come up with a reason for a similar creature to appear in one of my games as an ally of the players, just so I can have that opportunity.

In combat, this is perhaps one of the more straightforward beasts described in this series. “Hit it until it is dead” is a perfectly viable strategy. And while there are roadblocks which prevent that task from being easy, none of them are liable to overwhelm the players immediately. Players foolish enough to use metal weapons will take damage equal to that they inflict, but unless they’re low level they’ll probably survive this once. And even then, it’s the consequence of a mistake, and they receive a saving throw. So that’s quite generous.

The entangling attack the creature has similarly tame. It restricts the players actions, which could lead to the player being harmed by others, but is not in itself directly harmful. It would be a small matter to stop, destroy the tentacle, and retreat. Interestingly, the tentacles are much more challenging for those who attack from range, which is a great trick. It turns the tables on what is often assumed to be a ‘safe’ strategy.

The explosion when the creature dies is somewhat problematic for me. It’s also the only real threat this creature poses. It functions like a trap. One which can easily be deadly, and the player receives no sufficient warning of. Add to that the fact that the players are incentiveized by the mechanics discussed above to move into melee range where the damage they take will be greater. Note also, however, that every single way in which this creature causes damage is reactive. If the players leave it entirely alone, then at the very worst it is a spy who cannot effectively communicate with its master. Bearing that in mind, it could be argued that the PCs deserve whatever fate they bring upon themselves.

None the less, I think it’s important to describe the creature’s appearance and actions in a way which hints at the potential danger of destroying it. It’s (essentially) a glass cube filled with acid.* When that glass is cracked, and a tentacle shoots out to plug the hole, I would say something to the effect of: “One of the tentacles inside the cube moves impossibly fast, shooting out to plug the hole and grab at you. But it’s not fast enough to stop a squirt of green liquid from leaving a smoking black mark on the ground.”

*At least, this is how I read it. The initial description makes it sound as though the gelatin which surrounds the creature is of a single consistency: a gel. Later, though, it’s stated that the outer shell needs to be plugged by tentacles to prevent “caustic liquid” from escaping.

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