Miscreated Creatures: Revisiting the Rotocula

At some point, as a young college student, I heard some quote or other about how it was impossible for humans to imagine a truly unique creature. All the various mythological beasts are just combinations of different animals: the head of a this, the body of a that, and the tail of another thing. I don’t recall where this quote came from. It might have been something Rene Descartes said while trying to provide rational evidence of god, but google isn’t backing me up on that.

Regardless, as a young man who had always prided himself on his ability to come up with new creatures, I took this as a challenge. Could I come up with a body part for a creature that had no analogue in the natural world?

After some thought, I came up with an orb which would spin in a fleshy socket, allowing a creature to roll on a kind of organic wheel. I was proud of myself for the originality, despite failing to actually disprove the proposition. All I had really done is take an eyeball, sever the optic nerve, and make it a foot. I could claim creativity, but not originality.

Anyway, the idea stuck with me, and five years ago when this blog was just starting to hit its stride, I used the idea to create a sexually dimorphic creature called The Rotocula. The Male Rotocula was my 11th entry in the Merciless Monsters series, and the Female Rotocula was the 12th. Both are dragged down by being Pathfinder monsters. Lots of pointless statblocks and mechanical information, without any real life to them beyond a clever idea.

When I got started on Miscreated Creatures, I knew I wanted to revisit the idea to see what could be done better. Here is the result:

The Rotocula, as illustrated by cbMorrie

Rotocula (Female)

(Unintelligent)(Solitary)

Armor 12, 10 HD + 35 HP, Move 420’(140’), 1 Atk for 1d12/Xd6, Morale 9

Rotocula are a sexually dimorphic species. The females and males have significant differences in their anatomy, requiring separate entries for the genders.

Female rotocula appear to be an elongated lump of sagging blue skin, with a head on one end and a short tail on the other. On its back is a white diamond shape, matched by the white underside of the tail. The female rotocula has a vertical mouth which completely bisects its head, and can be opened wide enough for the tongue and tonsils to be in front of the teeth.

Rotocula move on a set of wet, rotating orbs. Alzazi the Bloody Hand, a wizard who captured and dissected a number of these creatures, wrote:

“These strange appendages–I hesitates to term them ‘feet’–are not (as heretofore suspected) completely unique. Upon vivisection, it cannot be ignored that these spheres closely resemble an organ found in our own bodies: the eye. Without the binding tassel of the optic nerve, it is allowed to roll freely, lending the creature a remarkable level of speed and silence of movement, but denying it the ability to travel outside the flatlands of its home.” -Alzazi the Bloody Hand, Archmage of the First Rank, from his seminal work, “Aberrant Anatomy”

    • Female rotocula prefer to attack victims which are fleeing by keeping pace with them, and moving forward to envelop them in their jaws. On a successful attack roll, the target takes 1d12 damage and is swallowed whole. (Standard swallowed whole rules apply)
    • If the female rotocula’s prey is standing still or moving towards her, she tends to clumsily slam into her target with force. On a successful attack roll, this deals 1d6 damage for each 30’ of movement traveled this round to both the target and the rotocula. (1d6 if the rotocula/target moved 30’ this round, 2d6 if they moved 60’, etc.)
    • Due to their high rate of speed, poor stopping power, and leading with the soft tissue of their mouths, female rotocula take x4 damage from weapons which have been set to receive a charge, and have a 5-in-6 chance to break any such weapon into pieces.
    • Female rotocula have a 5-in-6 stealth skill for the purposes of moving silently over flat terrain. If they must also hide from visual detection while moving, their stealth skill is only 1-in-6.
    • While the female rotocula is perfectly adapted to movement through the flatlands of its home, any kind of rough terrain provides a significant obstacle. Underbrush or trees do not hinder them, but any attempt to enter rocky terrain puts them in danger of getting stuck without purchase for their ‘wheels.’
    • The first time the referee would normally roll the female rotocula’s morale, she instead raises her tail and bellows a mating chirp that echoes loudly. There is a one-time chance that there are male rotocula nearby who will respond to the call and come defend their potential mate. Roll 1d20:
      • 1-13: No male Rotocula nearby.
      • 14-17: A single male rotocula comes to assist in 1d6 rounds.
      • 18-19: Two male rotocula come to assist, roll 1d6 for each.
      • 20: Three male rotocula come to assist, roll 1d6 for each

Whether or not any male rotocula are around, the next time the referee would check for morale they should do so normally.

While there is a kind of skull on each side of the female’s bisected head, only one side has a brain. Which side varies between individual specimens. There is a noticeable visual weakness from the eye on the non-brain side. It only vaguely sees hints of color and motion. If the weaker visual side is identified, it could be exploited by characters wishing to slay or trap the creature.

When mating, the female opens her mouth to its maximum degree. The male must place his snout in her throat. Once the act is complete, the female’s jaws snap closed, killing her mate.

While not ‘minions’ per se, it is notable that female rotocula don’t view insect people as prey. Often, small groups of insect people will climb on the backs of a rotocula to spend days feeding on the parasites that live there. If the rotocula is threatened while they are present, they attack with bows or by spitting acid.

The Rotocula, as illustrated by cbMorrieRotocula (Male)

(Animal Intelligence)(Solitary, or Mounds of 1d4 + 1)

AC 16, 6 HD, Move 360’(120’), 1 Atk for Xd8, Morale 7

Male Rotocula have sagging, reddish-brown skin. When they draw their three trunk-like legs up inside their bodies, it’s easy to mistake them for a pile of mud or dirt. They spend much of their time concealed like this, waiting for prey to wander into their territory. When they spring up, they move by rolling the three spheres at the end of their legs, much like the female does. Allowing them to move incredible speeds over flat terrain, but limiting them significantly elsewhere. The male’s mouth, filled with yellow teeth, is at the end of a fatty snout appendage dangling from beneath its body.

  • Characters who do not notice a hiding male Rotocula have a 4-in-6 chance of being surprised when it attacks.
  • Rotocula have a 6-in-6 stealth skill for the purposes of moving silently over flat terrain, or disguising themselves as a pile of dirt. If they must also hide from visual detection while moving, their stealth skill is only 2-in-6.
  • Thanks to their legs, male Rotocula are less hindered by rough terrain than the females are. They can move up to 90’(30’) in any terrain which they cannot reasonably roll through.
  • Male Rotocula attack by slamming their heavy bodies into targets, dealing 1d8 damage for every 30’ of movement between themselves and their target at the start of the round. (1d8 if they must travel 30’ to attack, 2d8 if they must travel 60’ to attack, and so on, to a maximum of 4d8). A successful hit roll is required for this attack to succeed.
  • Due to their high rate of speed and poor stopping power, male Rotocula take x2 damage from weapons which have been set to receive a charge, and have a 5-in-6 chance to break any such weapon into pieces.

Duchess Annabelle Drocellia, a student of the anatomical sciences, once successfully removed the creature’s brain and most of its internal organs and rode it around from the inside like a kind of carriage by pulling at the creature’s various ligaments. The body quickly atrophied and ceased to function further, and her notes on her methodology are spotty. But it is theoretically possible to turn the male’s corpse into a kind of rudimentary automobile.

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