Far Corners of the World11/23/2002


The Hidden Depths Below:
Monsters of the Deep Underdark



The twisting ways of the Underdark have spawned some of the most infamous and notorious creatures and races to haunt the nightmares of adventurers. Truth be told, though, the drow, illithids, umber hulks, purple worms, and beholders are merely a tiny fraction of the terrors that lurk in the hidden depths below. There exist creatures that not only have never seen the light of the sun or moon, but that have no idea that such things even exist! The majority of these obscure creatures are scavengers or parasites like the skitterhaunt, or efficient killers like the pale flenser. A few of them, however, are remnants of ancient civilizations long since lost. The sickstone golem is an example of this type since it is the last remaining trace of a truly alien race of deep dwelling monstrosities.

Pale Flenser
Medium-Size Plant
Hit Dice: 3d8+6 (19 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: Fly 50 ft. (average)
AC: 15 (+3 Dex, +2 natural), touch 13, flat-footed 12
Attacks: 6 tendrils +5 ranged
Damage: Tendril 1d4/18-20/x3
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Augmented critical, disease, explosive
Special Qualities: Blindsight 80 ft., plant traits, sunlight vulnerability
Saves: Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +3
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 17, Con 15, Int 8, Wis 15, Cha 10
Climate/Terrain: Any underground
Organization: Solitary, pair, cluster (2-5), or swarm (7-12)
Challenge Rating: 3
Treasure: None
Alignment: Usually neutral evil
Advancement: 4-6 HD (Large); 7-9 HD (Huge)

The pale flenser may at first look like nothing more than a strange fungus inhabitant of the Underdark, but in truth these cruel and hateful plants are fairly intelligent. Despite this intelligence, the pale flensers seem to have no interest in forming societies or achieving anything apart from frugal survival. More likely, the actual needs and desires of these fungi menaces are so alien in nature that they simply cannot be comprehended by humanity.

A pale flenser consists of a collection of bulbous, leathery, gas-filled bags, each of which is about the size of a human head. From atop this mass of bags seethes a writhing forest of hundreds of 15-foot-long, terribly thin tendrils. These tendrils are studded with tiny razor-sharp barbs. The whole mass is either pale yellow or pale brown in color; the tendrils are milky and almost translucent. The pale flenser's leathery bags quickly fill with volatile gas, allowing it to float on air currents. It can propel itself through the air with great speed by venting this foul-smelling gas.

A pale flenser weighs about 80 pounds. They communicate with others of their kind with a complex sign language; although understanding of the languages of other creatures is not above their intellect, it certainly seems to be above their interest.

Pale flensers can grow to Huge size. Once a pale flenser becomes Huge, it can no longer fly and gains a ground speed of 5 feet.

Combat

A pale flenser gains nourishment from feeding on the blood and other vital fluids of vertebrate creatures. It prefers to stalk and attack landbound creatures, and it takes advantage of its ability to fly and stay out of reach of dangerous melee attacks while lashing with its tendrils. Although a pale flenser has hundreds of tendrils, it can make a maximum of six attacks per round with them. The flenser's tendrils are treated as ranged attacks with a maximum range increment of 15 feet, similar to the way attacks with a whip are made. The flenser's tendrils inflict lethal damage on a hit and tend to carve large shallow wounds that provide the fungus with lots of blood to settle down on and soak up. A flenser feeds only on helpless targets; the act of feeding inflicts no additional damage on the victim since the flenser feeds so slowly. A pale flenser has no melee attacks; if it is confronted in melee it attempts to flee and resume making ranged attacks.

Augmented Critical (Ex): A pale flenser threatens a critical hit on a natural attack roll of 18-20. On a successful critical hit with a tendril attack, it deals triple damage.

Disease (Ex): Anyone wounded by a pale flenser must succeed at a Fortitude saving throw (DC 13) or become infected by its spores. Pale flenser spores have an incubation period of 1d3 days, after which their growth manifests as itchy pale streaks just under the skin. The growth deals 1d3 points of temporary Dexterity damage (see Disease in Chapter 3 of the Dungeon Master's Guide).

Explosive (Ex): The gas filling the pale flenser's bags is quite explosive. If a pale flenser ever takes fire damage, it must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 10 + half the fire damage it takes), or it explodes. This explosion has a burst of 20 feet and deals 3d6 points of fire damage to all in this area (Reflex DC 13 half).

Blindsight (Ex): A pale flenser is blind, but it maneuvers and fights as well as a sighted creature by detecting heat and subtle shifts in air currents. This ability enables it to discern objects and creatures within 80 feet. The pale flenser usually does not need to make Spot or Listen checks to notice living creatures within range of its blindsight.

Plant Traits (Ex): A pale flenser is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and polymorphing. It is not subject to critical hits or mind-affecting effects.

Sunlight Vulnerabilty (Ex): A pale flenser is susceptible to sunlight and takes 1 point of temporary Constitution damage per minute of exposure to such conditions (no saving throw allowed). A pale flenser reduced to 0 Constitution in this manner melts into a steaming puddle of noxious white paste.

Sickstone Golem
Large Construct
Hit Dice: 24d10 (132 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 20 ft. (can't run), climb 20 ft.
AC: 29 (-1 size, +20 natural), touch 9, flat-footed 29
Attacks: 2 slams +30 melee
Damage: Slam 2d10+13 plus sickening touch
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Nauseating aura, sickening touch
Special Qualities: Construct traits, DR 40/+4, magic immunity, sicken stone and metal
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +8
Abilities: Str 36, Dex 10, Con --, Int --, Wis 11, Cha 1
Skills: Climb +21
Climate/Terrain: Any deep underground
Organization: Solitary, pair, or gang (3-4)
Challenge Rating: 15
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 25-36 HD (Large); 37-60 HD (Huge); 61-72 HD (Gargantuan)

In the deepest reaches of the Underdark, the lightlessness gives way to a sickly greenish glow. Desperate and lost explorers may mistake the glow for safety, when in truth their situation has gone from bad to worse, for in the deepest regions the stone itself is deadly. This glowing, sickening material is known as sickstone, a rare and dangerous material used by long-dead races for numerous projects. The most resilient of these projects is the terrible sickstone golem.

The appearance of the sickstone golem may be the only remaining clue as to the nature and appearance of their creators. A sickstone golem's lower body looks like a set of three centipedes joined at the head, though at this juncture a tangled mass of stony spikes rises. From within the spikes protrude a pair of multijointed arms with seven fingers arranged in a radial manner on the hand, and above the nest of spikes towers a leering spiny batlike head atop a serpentine neck. The entire thing is fashioned of small interlocking segments of greenish silver glowing sickstone, which is a material not quite metal and not quite volcanic stone. (Full details on this material can be found in next month's installment of the Far Corners of the World).

What service the sickstone golems provided for their ancient creators is a mystery. Today, these destructive and dangerous creatures patrol the deep reaches of the Underdark, possibly fulfilling their final orders as guardians. When they come across intruders, their attacks are swift and decisive.

Combat

Like most golems, the sickstone golem is a slow and lumbering creature. It lacks any sense of planning and simply lumbers up to its target and smashes at it with its arms until the foe is dead or victorious. When a sickstone golem is destroyed, the magical enhancements on its body fail and the resulting wash of magical energies cause the thing to crumble into inert silvery dust.

Nauseating Aura (Su): The magical properties of the sickstone golem's poisonous body are enhanced and magnified when it is created. These sickening energies provide a silvery-green illumination to a 60-foot radius. Any living creature in this area must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 22) each round or become nauseated for the duration of that round. A new saving throw must be made each round.

Sickening Touch (Su): A living creature struck by a sickstone golem must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 22) or take 1d6 points of permanent Constitution drain as the magical energies of the creature's sickstone body leach away life and energy. Stone or metal creatures struck by a sickstone golem are immune to this effect, but they may suffer from its ability to sicken stone and metal (see below).

Construct Traits: A sickstone golem is immune to mind-affecting effects, and to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromantic effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. The creature is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, or death from massive damage. It cannot heal itself but can be healed through repair. It cannot be raised or resurrected. A sickstone golem has darkvision (60-foot range).

Magic Immunity (Ex): A sickstone golem is immune to all spells, spell-like abilities, and supernatural effects, except as follows. A transmute rock to mud spell slows it (as the slow spell) for 1d6 rounds, with no saving throw, while transmute rock to sickstone (see "The Hidden Depths Below: Spells of the Deep Underdark") {{link to October article}} heals it of all damage. Stone to flesh does not harm the golem, but it does make it vulnerable to any normal attack for the following round (this does not include spells, except for those that cause damage).

Sicken Stone and Metal (Su): Any stone or metal object that strikes a sickstone golem (or any stone or metal creature that comes in contact with it) must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 22) or become infused with the magical energies that course through the golem's body. Each time an object becomes infused with these energies, its hardness is permanently reduced by 1d6 points. If an object's hardness is reduced below 0, it crumbles to dust. A stone or metal creature also takes 1d6 points of permanent hit point loss each time it fails to resist this ability.

Construction

Although the exact method for creating sickstone golems has been lost for centuries, the details are given here should they be rediscovered (DM's option).

A sickstone golem's body is constructed from 7,000 pounds of sickstone fragments and shards, fitted together like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. The golem costs 120,000 gp to create, which includes 2,500 gp for the body. Assembling the body requires a successful Craft (sculpting or masonry) check (DC 23).

The creator must be 16th level and able to cast arcane spells. The creator need not be immune to the effects of sickstone, but since he must work with the stuff for quite some time, he should take suitable precautions. Completing the ritual drains 2,400 XP from the creator and requires geas/quest, limited wish, polymorph any object, and transmute rock to sickstone.

Skitterhaunt Spider
Large Ooze
Hit Dice: 4d10+27 (49 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 20 ft., climb 10 ft.
AC: 12 (-1 size, +1 Dex, +2 monstrous vermin shell), touch 10, flat-footed 11
Attacks: Bite +4 melee
Damage: Bite 1d8+3 plus 1d6 acid
Face/Reach: 10 ft. by 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Acid spray, infest vermin
Special Qualities: Blindsight 40 ft., ooze traits, sonic immunity
Saves: Fort +7, Ref +2, Will -4
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 13, Con 16, Int -- , Wis 1, Cha 1
Skills: Climb +10
Climate/Terrain: Any underground
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 3
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 6-9 HD (Large)

Skitterhaunts are strange oozes that cannot exist on their own. They are parasites that live inside the shells of monstrous vermin they have infested and killed. To outward appearances, a skitterhaunt appears the same as a normal version of the monstrous vermin it has infested. Close observation reveals that the "vermin" is slower and less spry than usual, and that it seems to weep clear, sticky fluid from the mouth and cracks in its armor. If a skitterhaunt is slain, the sticky ooze that comprises its body quickly liquefies and runs out of the host, leaving behind an empty shell.

The skitterhaunt presented above uses a Large monstrous spider as the base creature.

Combat

A skitterhaunt spider prowls the tunnels of the Underdark on the constant search for more vermin to infest or for anything else that moves (so that it can eat).

Acid Spray (Ex): Once every minute, the skitterhaunt spider can spray a line of acid out from any cracks or openings in its chitinous armor. To do so, the skitterhaunt spider makes a ranged touch attack against a target within 120 feet. If it hits, the target takes 3d6 points of acid damage.

Infest Vermin (Ex): If a skitterhaunt spider damages a living vermin, it can attempt to infest the creature. This is a free action for the skitterhaunt spider, although it can attempt it only once per round. The damaged vermin must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 15) to avoid becoming infested. An infested vermin takes 1d8 points of temporary Strength damage per day. Once its Strength score reaches 0, the vermin dies and the skitterhaunt spider begins to ooze from its previous shell into the new host's exoskeleton, replacing the creature's internal organs with its own body. This process rebuilds the host creature's lost Strength slowly, at the rate of 1 point per day. During this time, the skitterhaunt is helpless and immobile. When the host creature's Strength returns to its previous value, the skitterhaunt has completely taken over the new vermin's body. It then awakens, fully mobile, and begins to seek out new vermin to infest.

Blindsight (Ex): A skitterhaunt's entire body is a primitive sensory organ that enables it to discern objects and creatures within 40 feet. The skitterhaunt usually does not need to make Spot or Listen checks to notice creatures within range of its blindsight. A silence spell negates this ability and forces the skitterhaunt to rely on its vision (which is as good as a human's).

Ooze Traits: A skitterhaunt is immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and polymorphing. It is not subject to critical hits or flanking.

Sonic Immunity (Ex): Skitterhaunts are immune to sonic damage and effects.

Creating a Skitterhaunt

"Skitterhaunt" is a template that can be added to any vermin (referred to hereafter as the "base creature"). Vermin with this template become oozes.

A skitterhaunt uses all the base creature's statistics and special abilities except as noted here.

Hit Dice: Change to d10. A skitterhaunt also gains bonus hit points for its size as if it were an ooze.

Speed: Reduce by 10; if this reduces a speed type to 0 or less, the skitterhaunt cannot use that movement type.

AC: The base creature's natural armor bonus becomes an armor bonus for the skitterhaunt, as if the creature were actually wearing armor made from its host's exoskeleton. The reduction of the base vermin's Dexterity score reduces the skitterhaunt's AC by 2 points.

Attacks: As base creature.

Damage: The skitterhaunt deals an additional 1d6 points of acid damage on a successful hit.

Special Attacks: The skitterhaunt loses any special attacks that require the manufacturing of a substance from the base creature's body. This includes poison, acid, and webs. Special attacks like improved grab and squeeze are unaffected. In addition, the skitterhaunt gains the following additional special attacks.

Acid Spray (Ex): Once every minute, the skitterhaunt can spray a line of acid out from any cracks or openings in its chitinous armor. The skitterhaunt makes a ranged touch attack against a target within 120 feet. If it hits, the target takes as many d6 of acid damage as the skitterhaunt has HD. For example, a 4-HD giant wasp skitterhaunt would inflict 4d6 points of acid damage with its acid spray.

Infest Vermin (Ex): If a skitterhaunt damages a living vermin, it can attempt to infest the vermin. This is a free action for the skitterhaunt, although it can attempt it only once per round. The damaged vermin must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 10 + half the skitterhaunt's HD + its Constitution modifier) to avoid becoming infested. An infested vermin takes 1d8 points of temporary Strength damage per day. Once its Strength score reaches 0, the vermin dies and the skitterhaunt begins to ooze from its previous shell into the new host's exoskeleton, replacing the creature's internal organs with its own body. This process rebuilds the host creature's lost Strength slowly, at the rate of 1 point per day. During this time, the skitterhaunt is helpless and immobile. When the host creature's Strength returns to its previous value, the skitterhaunt has completely taken over the new vermin's body. It then awakens, fully mobile, and begins to seek out new vermin to infest.

Special Qualities: The skitterhaunt loses all the special qualities granted for being a vermin, but gains all those granted for being an ooze. In addition, the skitterhaunt gains the following special qualities.

Blindsight (Ex): A skitterhaunt's entire body is a primitive sensory organ. This enables it to discern objects and creatures within 40 feet. The skitterhaunt usually does not need to make Spot or Listen checks to notice creatures within range of its blindsight. A silence spell negates this ability and forces the skitterhaunt to rely on its vision (which is as good as a human's).

Sonic Immunity (Ex): Skitterhaunts are immune to sonic damage and effects.

Ooze Traits: A skitterhaunt is immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and polymorphing. It is not subject to critical hits or flanking.

Saves: Same as the base creature, modified for new ability scores.

Abilities: A skitterhaunt's Dexterity gains a -4 penalty but its Constitution gains a +4 bonus. The skitterhaunt's Wisdom and Charisma scores both drop to 1. A skitterhaunt is an ooze, and as such it does not have an Intelligence score.

Skills:
A skitterhaunt loses all the skills it had as a vermin and gains no new ones.

Feats:
A skitterhaunt loses any feats it had as a vermin and gains no new ones.

Climate/Terrain:
Any underground.

Organization:
Solitary.

Challenge Rating:
Same as the base creature +1.

Alignment:
Always neutral.

Treasure:
None.

Advancement:
Same as the base creature.

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