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A barren, frozen planet. A pristine icefield, burnished and cleared by constant katabatic gales. Graven in elegant Old High Martian glyphs a meter deep in the never-thawing ice, a mathematical proof of such beauty and elegance as to make a genius weep...and a series of universal planetary coordinates. No advanced species could forbear to investigate further!
These are the work of the Neh-Thalggu, more commonly known as the Braincrabs. Know them. Fear them. Do not trust them.
Rugose and four-limbed, the first instar is little more than a brain-shaped crustacean beast. (Little Nolzur's Intellect Devourers, came with the Alhoon or Illithilich.) They are shed when the parent has a surfeit of brains and wishes to jettison lesser ones to make room for greater.
Most perish, being less clever than their prey. But if one can bring down a sentient creature through luck and stealth and devour its central ganglion or brain...it begins to grow, absorbing the knowledge and cunning of its prey, much as some sea slugs repurpose the stinging cells of their prey and make them their own.
After absorbing a few brains, the instar grows into a juvenile. This involves generating more frontal eyes and a pair of brutal skull-cracking pincers. Recently-added brains are sequestered into thin-shelled bubbles, an adaptation to make sure other, stronger Braincrabs do not kill them when marauding.
The juveniles are very dangerous, acting as psionic predators with the strength of a tiger and the intelligence of three or four sentient creatures, all brought to bear on the problem of obtaining more brains. Depending on its previous history, it is very likely to outwit the average sentient being.
A Braincrab that has assimilated more than eight brains again metamorphoses, this time into a mountainous, many-limbed hulk, a spiny rugose colossus with a first-class think tank worth of neural tissue working for it. Psionic power abounds, and the elder Braincrab can create immersive illusions at-will or psychically dominate lesser wills.
The really unpleasant bit is the way it will out-argue you and succeed. It can make an excellent claim to being a Utility Monster, better at experiencing both reality and pleasure in the cosmos than us single-brained chumps. And what gives it the most pleasure, on the level you and I could never experience? (for so it claims, and has data to back it up--is the data faked? if so, it's too good for us to be able to tell!)? Why, devouring and assimilating more sentient brains! Do you have inconvenient brains in your society? Antisocial or sociopathic ones? It can redirect those energies! Oh, it's a persuasive monstrosity!
The Martians fear and detest them, of course, having as they do great juicy brains practically dripping psionic energy.
But hunting something that is hunting you, while your strongest weapon is their favorite prey--it's not easy!
A Martian High Intelligencer can outwit all but the eldest Braincrabs, but the gamble is a perilous one indeed. You do NOT want a braincrab with the powers of a High Intelligencer. That's how you get a planet converted to a brain farm, which in turn leads to Great Old Ones. Not even once!
Oddly, the best defense against the Braincrab is a hive of the insectoid Mandibulate Commonweal. One has the intelligence of a beast, two of a slightly smarter beast, five of an average human...and a whole hive can rival a supercomputer. Their individual brains are not worth a Braincrab's attention, and yet the hivemind can outmaneuver it intellectually as easily as the workers can swarm and savage it physically.
The Commonweal will not gain knowledge from the reclaimed brains, though. Only nourishment.
Below, how to make a juvenile Braincrab.
Been doing some butchery, some Frankensteining lately. Particularly for my sci-fi setting. And has it produced results!
First, the ingredients.
A while ago, I ordered a Reaper Burrowing Behemoth (44058) and it was a fantastic sculpt. But I got two left feet, to match my own. Customer service quickly replaced it, because Reaper is THE BEST--but now I had some leftover insectile CLAWS!
Then, Nolzur's came out with an Ankheg. Segmented, metameric abdomen, mantid-like foreclaws, two pairs of limbs, shield-like, many-eyed spiky head.
And also with a set of hideous ...Quori? Never heard of, maybe a Pathfinder thing apparently an Eberron aberration. One of them is a grotesque tailed many-limbed squirmer with big ol' pincers.
And with an Alhoon with many spell-effect tentacles.
Now, I have a few factions of spacemonsters. One is insectile, and I gave a Burrowing Horror a third set of ankheg limbs to bring us to six total...
...while giving the burly Horror claws to an Umber Hulk:
Now everyone has six limbs and I can rest easy!
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE
Another faction is the horrid Crawlers. These I have posted before, and are mostly Bathalians. Shield-like heads, mouth tentacles, squirmy bodies, appendages made to mutilate and maul.
The Tsucora Quori are warty and rugose and squirmy and pincered, but lack the characteristic head and tentacles.
But a Chronoscope Hound of Tindalos (50289) has just the right kind of head on a lean and easily repurposed body! A little green stuff to fill in the Quori's unmistakable eyes and nostrils, and a little work with some wire cutters, and behold!
Oh yeah, that's a Bathalian!
I also snipped some tentacles from the Nolzur's Alhoon to give our Craboid Black Cat Alien (see link to Crawlers, above) the mouth-tendrils it deserves.
Wait, but what of the mutilated Ankheg?
Oh, it fits in with the Crawlers just fine now.
Happy crafting, folks!
FROM SPACE IT CAME! Its motives--INSCRUTABLE! Its desires--UNKNOWN! This is why the Galacteer Academy requires three semesters of Xenodiplomacy, cadet!
This spacefella was an excellent excuse to experiment with colorshift paints.
Betty (50150) and Rizzo investigate.
Further scans are necessary!
Good news! It seems to be benevolent, desiring only TO SERVE MAN. Whew! What a relief! That could have gone so much worse. Another crisis averted, thanks to the Galacteers!
These have been pending for a while, but waiting on an impenetrable and incomprehensible bureaucracy is very much in character.
A formidable trio of problem solvers and troubleshooters, here to defend Lunar-Kompleks Alfa!
Comrade Janiss has Blue-level clearance for equipment needed to contain 'unscheduled reality incursions.'
Comrade Jonesy prefers to rely on tried-and-true methods of containing ideologically impossible entities (i.e., more radiation is a good thing):
whilst Comrade Janey, knowing that incorporeal entities are degenerate religious propaganda of Earth pig-dogs, has never met a ghost she couldn't punch.
POW! RIGHT in the dialectically-material kisser!
Lunar-Kompleks Alfa is not proud of eccentric elements such as these, but they have saved the station on several occasions. Space Ghosts are, of course, a delusion...but a particularly persistent one. And on the barren, cratered moon, who ARE you going to call?
Look at this dude. What a sculpt. I choose to believe he's convinced he's 'undercover,' 'perfectly disguised as a human.' This is Broose Axe from Zombiesmith.
There is just a lot of personality and backstory implicit in that surly face and sloppy casual wear. The Andromedan's deep-cover specialist, perhaps? Or perhaps just a slacker enjoying some Terran culture.
Either way, I'm going to say there's some sneaking involved.
And that in the Juvenalian Jeeves and Wooster tradition, that his valet/baggage handler (Zombiesmith's Vaelant Goos) is the brains behind any particular operation.
Leave Broose on his own and it's just going to be a disaster. Medical science isn't even sure how an Andromedan can even GET that kind of disease!
Guest appearances by a Hydra Valkeeri Leader and Galacteer Cadet Skippy, along with a couple other fellas, one an Ape Medic a friend was kind enough to give me.