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Once more we return to the hallowed halls of Miskatonic University, this time to the research laboratories, where keen and possibly unhinged minds push the boundaries of interdisciplinary knowledge!
Helen Salinger here (dark hair, clipboard) is one of the keenest. Whether it's fauna mutated by exposure to colors out of space, or crystals growing at hypergeometrical angles, she's on the job.
(Colleagues have been seen before under the Miskatonic tag, but I gave them a touch-up recently so these are Better Pictures.)
Jessica in the long coat is from Brigade Games, while the tousled fellow with the tentacled horror is from Crooked Dice. The commanding lady in the pink skirt is from Black Cat.
Bonus! Updated pics of Laura Pringle, 50052;
and chemists Friedman (50046) and Froschmeister (50061), with updated chemiluminescent glows. (Glowing means science, and the glowyier something is, the more science it is, as we all know).
Here's our brave Science Department, ever progressing towards truth (madness). Sometimes to make an omelette you have to TRANSGRESS a few BOUNDARIES! You'll show them, you'll show the ALL!
Also here: a Zombiesmith scientist, Reaper's Mad Scientist 59014, and Psychologist 80066.
(I've had these finished for a while and THOUGHT I'd posted them already, but the search engine can't find them.)
In the ancient days when the Solar System was young, the Martian Empire spread far and wide through the local outer spiral arm before the Veiled Catastrophe ended their hegemony. They built miracles and left behind marvels. Sometimes they left behind colonies. A few of these, such as the ancestors of the Andromedan Dominion, flourished. Others saw the colonists die off, to be replaced aeons later by evolved descendants of flora and fauna brought along during the terraforming (Martiaforming?) process.
Still others suffered resource collapse, and the colonists relapsed into centuries of barbarism. Witness one such case.
Here are representatives of the Skull-Fang tribe, wielders of the sacred xolchu knife-axe (similar to our huckable Earth mambele knives):
And here their great rivals, the spear-wielding Moonspike tribe.
Skirmishes between the two are a way of life since time immemorial. Only the greatest warriors go without a shield, preferring instead to dual-wield their own weapons and those taken from the enemy.
Even in their reduced state, though, they have not lost the Martian intellect. Between clashes their bards create great sagas and carvings of incredibly advanced mathematics. Their shamans have deduced nuclear and relativistic physics from first principles. There simply isn't enough smeltable metal left to put their designs to use.
Three local years after the disastrous First Contact with outward-expanding Earth forces, a temporary alliance of the tribes managed to build a working hyperdrive out of scrap metal bits and a stolen ray gun. Since then, their ballooning fleet of pirated ships has been kept in check only by internal struggles. Kinetic projectiles on gravity-slingshot orbits are their specialty, and the shock of having your ship depressurized by a knife thrown from several light-seconds away is one few spacers are prepared to deal with.
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.
The new student assistant at Miskatonic's Orne Library! Already Ms Dinklage (Hasslefree's "Louise") has proven to be adept at scholarship and library science, and not easily frightened (this latter being a VERY useful job skill at Ol' Misk). When asked about her tremendous sang-froid she was evasive, mentioning 'friends from [her] summer job' and 'travels in dark corners of the earth.'
With some of her fellow-students:
And with others on the library faculty:
I've had this one in the works for a while. She's a little more cheerful and Art Noveau than most of the rest of my Miskatonic staff, but that's okay! Misk.U. cultivates eccentrics of all types. She seems to be handling the job just fine. And those pointed ears indicate she's already survived a brush with chaos, or perhaps has a little bit of eldritch in her.
Her colleagues are a Stonehaven halfling librarian and a Black Cat librarian/cultist. Gave them both a minor touch-up for this shoot.