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The ritual has done its work. From a distance, an eerie light shines through the trees.
The ground quakes under the tread of colossal hooves.
There is a rushing wind, the sound of snapping branches.
An indescribable tune, notes in a strange scale and meter, music from beyond the stars, builds to a skirling crescendo.
HE is come. The PIPER IN THE WOODS is here.
Burning with potassium flame, attended by HIS servants.
Behold! The Horned Lord approaches!
Deception and concealment among HIS sacraments! The Masked Messenger, the False-Faced!
The power of a God, called to earth! HIS votaries rejoice, even as they cower!
WHAT. HAVE. WE. BROUGHT. FORTH
(This is a Nolzur's Nightwalker, given a little bit mote pizazz than the all-black example. I knew immediately that with the bone-mask face and the horns, it was the perfect avatar for the cultists. GW contrasts and good setting sunlight on the translucent flames; a GW demon skull from their Skullz set manifested in the upraised hand.)
Featuring Dulkathar, Gromtar, Dark Creeper, a couple of Crooked Dice cultists, and Dark Young from RAFM and Reaper. (Reaper's 77516 is the big one in green).
The Fisherman's Rest. You know the place. The smell of stale beer, sea salt, rum, and fish scales.
"Evenin,' Old Billy! How be ye these days?"
"Oh, I be well enough, exceptin' as how me fishin' trip t'other day went. Now listen, lads. 'Twere a fine calm sunny day and I were far from shore, a-castin line for snapper..."
"Nay, lad, there's none in town who can catch a minnow and sell a grouper like Old Billy."
"Nay, swear on me old mum's grave it happened! But if ye find that hard to swallow, ye might be ill-prepared for what came after..."
*urp* "no, now I think on it, twere more like this, aye, that sounds better."
"...but the long and the short of it, I never DID catch that snapper."
"Okay, Bill, time for ye to get some cold water in you."
Chronoscope Pulp Ship's Captain and Ship Hand. Had them painted up, and the shark, but didn't have a good story until a friend gave me one of the Juvenile Kraken mini.
Between the shark's integral splash-base, the squid's splash-stand, and the Water Elemental, we got some good scenery!
I had a lot of fun making the Fisherman's Rest backdrop, too. Old Barkeep has heard all of these yarns before.
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!
Sometimes happy accidents of design work out great! Wizkids/Nolzur's put out a two-pack of constructs recently, including this little Stone Defender. The box art has a lot of wooden components, but the overall shape is pure pulp robot, from the cycloptic lens to the bulbous lower legs to the weird backpack doohickeys. Looked a lot like a flashing strobe or siren light above some wind-up keys, and the tubes on its 'ankles' might be the same.
So here it is, a sentry-bot, on lone vigil at the spaceport.
and with some colleagues from Hydra's Robot Legion!
C&C welcome: I know there are a heck of a lot of mold lines and I feel the OSL could be better, especially on the red flasher.
Also featured: 72611, the Power Generator from CAV, and 72612, Small Storage Tank. Great sci-fi set dressing.