The lumbering bulk of a treelike monster lurches out of the mist, its branches tentacles, its roots ending in hooves, and its trunk decorated with numerous drooling maws.
|Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath||CR 12|
Speed 30 ft.
Melee 4 tentacles +19 (1d8+10/19–20 plus grab)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks constrict (1d8+10), sucking maws, trample (1d8+15, DC 27)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 12th; concentration +17)
Str 30, Dex 17, Con 24, Int 16, Wis 19, Cha 21
Base Atk +10; CMB +22 (+26 grapple); CMD 35 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Combat Reflexes, Improved Critical (tentacles), Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Power Attack, Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (tentacles)
Skills Knowledge (arcana) +17, Knowledge (nature) +17, Knowledge (religion) +17, Perception +21, Sense Motive +18, Spellcraft +20, Stealth +12 (+20 in forests); Racial Modifiers +8 Stealth in forests
A dark young of Shub-Niggurath that successfully pins a creature it is grappling automatically inflicts 1d4 points of Strength drain on that creature. A DC 24 Fortitude save reduces this effect to 1 point of Strength drain. A creature drained to 0 Strength does not die, but must make a DC 24 Will save at that point to resist being driven mad by the experience, as the foul green waste exuded from the same sucking mouths that drink life implant in the emptied shells strange visions and horrifying certainties. This madness manifests as schizophrenia, but with a save DC equal to the dark young’s Strength drain save DC listed above (DC 24 for most dark young). One common result of this unfortunate madness is a strange desire to return to the site of their original encounter in hopes of being consumed entirely by the creature that only drank a part of their body and mind—many of those who survive this horrific ordeal go on to found dark young cults of their own. The madness element of a dark young’s sucking maws is a mind-affecting effect. The save DC for all of the saving throws involved with this special ability is Constitution-based.
Environment temperate forest or swamp
Organization solitary, pair, or grove (3–6)
The Elder God known in whispered circles as Shub-Niggurath is reputed to have a thousand young, when in fact her spawn are myriad. Yet some of her children are more fecund and successful than others, and the monstrosities known as her dark young are perhaps the best known of this legion of monstrosities.
In combat, a dark young usually starts by using entangle and command plants to seize control of the surrounding terrain—its ability to constantly use freedom of movement affords it mobility through such regions, allowing it to move through the areas and select its prey with ease. Intelligent and canny, dark young know that spellcasters are more difficult to affect with insanity, and save that spell-like ability for use against rogues, fighters, and similar foes. Flight offers no guarantee of safety from the dark young, for they can pursue their foes through the air as surely as across land.
A dark young superficially resembles a tree, and while it possesses magic that allows it some ability to appear as a tree or to control the plants of the trackless forests it favors, upon close inspection a dark young is manifestly something far more than a mere tree. Even the smallest of these creatures stand taller than a house, while the largest of them shake the very earth with their cloven hooves and crush cities and forests alike with their passage.
A typical dark young of Shub-Niggurath stands nearly 30 feet tall and weighs 12,000 pounds, but many are much larger. While most are encountered in temperate regions, they can also be found in subarctic or tropical forests. These dark young appear no different than their temperate dwelling kin, but when they use their tree shape ability, they assume the forms of plants native to the region.
Dark young prefer to dwell in large wilderness regions, particularly within temperate woodlands or swamps. While their presence amid cults of Shub-Niggurath have given rise to assumptions that these foul lunatics possess strange secrets that allow them to conjure the dark young to serve their cabals as guardians, in fact the reverse is true. Cultists of Shub-Niggurath often seek out the dark young and offer themselves to the creatures in sacrifice, in hopes of either being transported to the embrace of their goddess Shub-Niggurath in the process of being digested or impressing the dark young with their devotion so they might be granted reincarnation as one of them—or simply out of madness. In most cases, these offerings end poorly for the cultist, for the dark young of Shub-Niggurath are ravenous—the numerous sucking mouths that stud their trunks drain blood, drink flesh, and devour life rapidly, causing the victim’s body to wither and atrophy. Often, a dark young takes pains to avoid damaging those it grabs and holds against its hungry flanks, for a living, squirming meal is so much more delicious than a lifeless husk. Those drained to zero Strength by a dark young are sometimes left hideously alive, perhaps draped across high branches in a tree where the paralyzed victim has no choice but a slow death from thirst and exposure, or maybe left for hungrier jaws in the woods amid the cloven prints and pools of thick green waste that drain from these creatures as they feed.
Yet not all cultists who seek the dark young meet such ends, for some of the dark young have strange needs and uses for mortal minions. These dark young serve as objects of veneration and obsession for their cults, and happily accept their sacrifices in Shub-Niggurath’s name, even though most dark young themselves feel no great debt of loyalty to their fecund progenitor. The actual uses the dark young put their cults to vary wildly—these aberrations are quite intelligent, and many have their own goals and plans that are made much easier to achieve with the addition of a blindly loyal cult. Most dark young merely enjoy the idea of being worshiped as a god, while others stand apart from their kin and do feel a strong link to Shub-Niggurath, seeing these cults as a way to honor their inhuman mother with mortal minions. Yet the dark young of Shub-Niggurath are the spawn of a body and mind alien to most forms of mortal life, and as such the majority of these monsters have plans and goals that may seem nonsensical at best (such as a strange desire to drive all avian life from a swamp, or a drive to build a series of stone menhirs in a massive spiral shape recognizable only from absurdly great heights) or wantonly destructive at worst (such as the destruction of all settlements within a mile of a forest’s edge). It’s rare for the cultists themselves to be privy to the dark young’s reasoning, and most worshipers content themselves with their own interpretations of why they serve one of the Thousand Young.