Excerpts 04/08/2005

Lords of Madness Excerpt
By Bruce R. Cordell, Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes, JD Wiker

Aberrations and more await you within the pages of Lords of Madness! With this D&D accessory, you can learn more about aboleths, beholders, mind flayers, neogi, grell, Tsochari, and more. Additionally, PCs who wish to hunt these creatures can add new feats, spells, magic items, and grafts to their list of options. (Plenty of choices abound, so be prepared to start making even tougher decisions on what your character should do or get next!) Our sneak peek of this book includes a look at chuuls, beholder magic, mind flayer goals, neogi defilers, grell anatomy, Tsochari, half-farspawn, some sample feats, and a couple of prestige classes.

Grell Anatomy

Grell cutaway view

Grell are the product of some dark and distant creation. They arose in a parallel world or alternate plane where the laws of nature are very different from those of humanoid worlds. While adventurers might mistake a grell's wrinkled, gray hide for naked brain tissue, the monster is not in fact a disembodied brain. Its skin is damp and gleams wetly in poor light, but its epidermis is quite tough and leathery, measuring several inches thick on its upper body. The coloration varies from a pale pink-gray to a faint purple-pink hue. Older grell are darker in color than younger grell.

A grell's ten tentacles are rubbery and strong. Each is comprised of hundreds of ring-shaped muscles sheathed in a tough, almost fibrous, hide that is much thinner than the epidermis of the main body. Sharp, bony barbs or needles stud each tentacle every 2 to 3 inches, almost to its very tip. These hollow barbs inject the grell's paralytic venom into its victims. The grell can partially retract its barbs into its tentacles to handle or manipulate objects it doesn't want to pierce or tear. Each tentacle is 5 to 8 feet long, although larger grell have longer tentacles.

A grell's beak is made of the same bony substance as its tentacle barbs. It is more similar to the calcified shells secreted by some mollusks than it is to true bone, having neither blood vessels nor marrow. Grell have no "bones" other than their beaks and their barbs. Their bodies are supported by a flexible, soft cagework of cartilage beneath the thick epidermis.

Although they don't like to do so, grell can easily squeeze through surprisingly small openings, compressing their bodies to about half their height or width with little trouble.

The inner arrangement of a grell is quite unusual. The creature's brain (1) is a rumpled membrane or sheet that looks like a crumpled piece of paper. It is located above the beak, near the front of the creature's body. Above the brain, at the top of the anterior portion of the body, lies a tangled mass of ganglia (2) that serves as the center of the grell's electroreceptive sense. Its lungs (3) are behind the brain, near the top center of the monster. A grell has no heart, but instead has ten powerful vascular chambers (4) located in the body, near the base of each tentacle. Constricting and relaxing in concert, these vascular chambers serve to circulate its green, copper-based blood. The stomach (5) is near the center of its mass, and its digestive tract fills the posterior third of its body.

Grell do not need to eat often. They favor large meals, with long intervals in between. An adult grell can easily devour a 150-pound human in a sitting, but afterward might not need to eat for up to three months. If food is plentiful or the opportunity presents itself, a grell does not hesitate to eat even if it is not particularly hungry. A grell has to be very full indeed to turn down a meal.

Grell Senses

Grell do not have eyes and are completely sightless. They have keen hearing (the entire epidermis serves as a single ear), and they possess a mysterious sense best described as electroreception. A grell senses the faint electrical auras of living creatures and inanimate objects in its immediate vicinity. While this ability is relatively short-ranged (60 feet), it is quite discriminating. A grell can easily distinguish between two humans of different sizes, a living human and a dead human, or boulders composed of different types of stone by means of its electroreception. A grell has some difficulty in distinguishing between two humans of similar size unless they speak -- its keen hearing allows it to identify individuals by their voices.

Taken together, grell hearing and electrical sense give the creature blindsight out to 60 feet. Even in areas of magical silence, grell electroreception keeps the creature from being truly blinded by its lack of eyes.

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