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Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing

A small forest animal sits motionless atop a worn stump—and then the stump’s face peels open into a maw of sharp teeth.

Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing CR 8

XP 4,800
N Medium aberration
Init +4; Senses all-around vision, darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +14

DEFENSE

AC 21, touch 10, flat-footed 21 (+11 natural)
hp 97 (13d8+39)
Fort +9, Ref +6, Will +10

OFFENSE

Speed 5 ft., burrow 5 ft., climb 5 ft.
Melee bite +12 (1d6+3), 8 tentacles +11 (1d4+1 plus grab and pull)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (15 ft. with tentacle)
Special Attacks constrict (tentacle 1d4+3), implant, pull (tentacle, 5 ft.)

STATISTICS

Str 17, Dex 10, Con 17, Int 6, Wis 14, Cha 7
Base Atk +9; CMB +12 (+16 grapple); CMD 22 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Great Fortitude, Greater GrappleB, Greater Weapon Focus (tentacle), Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Multiattack, Skill Focus (Perception), Weapon Focus (tentacle)
Skills Climb +15, Disguise -1 (+11 as tree stump), Knowledge (nature) +4, Perception +14, Sense Motive +8, Stealth +9; Racial Modifiers +12 Disguise as tree stump
SQ corpse lure

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Corpse Lure (Ex)

By setting a corpse atop its stump and riddling the body with small, extruded filaments, a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can crudely maneuver the corpse, manipulating it like a puppet. The corpse cannot leave the stump or perform complex actions, but is instead used to lure larger prey within range of the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing’s tentacles. The largest corpse a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can manipulate in this fashion is two size categories smaller than itself (thus Tiny creatures for a Medium wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing). When a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing uses a corpse like this, it gains a +8 bonus on Disguise checks beyond its normal racial bonus.

Implant (Ex)

A wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can infest a creature with its eggs in one of two ways. A creature that eats a carcass used by the monster as a corpse lure automatically becomes implanted. Alternatively, up to once per day, a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can implant an egg into a helpless or pinned creature as part of a grapple action. The target can resist being implanted with a DC 19 Fortitude save, but if it fails, the seed gestates and becomes a self-aware creature that slowly steals nourishment from its host before finally exploding free of its host’s gut. The parasite can be cut free of the host’s belly with a DC 25 Heal check, which takes 1 hour and deals 3d6 slashing damage regardless of success or failure. Remove disease (or any similar effect) also kills an implanted egg.

Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing Egg: Infestation—ingestion; save Fort 19; onset 1 day; frequency 1/day; effect 1d4 Str damage until host reaches 0, then 3d6 damage as parasite bursts free; cure 3 consecutive saves. The save DC is Constitution-based.


ECOLOGY

Environment any forest
Organization solitary
Treasure incidental

A wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing appears at first to be little more than a tree stump sitting in a clearing, perhaps with a small animal sitting atop it. Only when a predator comes close does it become clear that the small animal is in fact long dead, given false life by tendrils springing up through its form, but by then it’s too late, as the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing drags the would-be hunter into its waiting maw.

Though intelligent, these monsters see little need for the company of others. Their method of reproduction is as hideous as their tactic of using corpses as lures, for they implant their parasitic eggs in living hosts, giving their spawn a fresh meal to eat upon hatching.

A wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is usually about 4 to 5 feet across and weighs 200 pounds.

Expanded Ecology

The wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing appears at first to be little more than a tree stump sitting in a clearing, perhaps with a small animal sitting atop it. Only when a predator comes close does it become clear that the small animal is in fact long dead, given false life by tendrils springing up through its form, but by then it’s too late, as the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing drags the would-be hunter into its waiting maw. Wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing lure their true prey close by killing smaller creatures and animating them. Though intelligent, they see little need for the company of others, and slaughter all who enter their domains. During reproduction, they place strange seed-eggs inside their lures and either allow unfortunate creatures to devour the rotting carcasses or force the eggs down the throats of warier victims. Either method leads to sickness as the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing egg slowly gestates, then bursts forth horrifically.

Some predators find their prey by hunting, tracking, and devouring. Others wait passively for prey to fall into their clutches. Yet perhaps the most disturbing are those that actively lure their prey, using their victims’ own desires against them. From deep-sea angler fish with their bioluminescent appendages to carnivorous flowers with irresistibly lethal pheromones, the animal kingdom is full of such predators. Yet few can match the sheer versatility and deadly effectiveness of the strange creature known as the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing. No one knows how or when wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing first arrived, or from where precisely. Some believe them to be the denizens of other worlds, brought across the dark gulfs between stars in enormous vessels. Others say they come from a reality behind the conventional one, or from distant planes where strange gods yet walk. In truth, few enough people even know of this strange creature’s existence, let alone its origins—for those who stumble across the lure of a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing rarely make their way back home to tell the tale. Perhaps in the land of their birth, wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing are simply another part of the ecosystem, their tricks widely understood by their prey, and thus rendered no more dangerous than the great predators of our own forests and jungles. Yet here, where their tactics remain strange and novel, the wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing have found a land ripe for the devouring. And devour it they will.

Ecology

Upon first glance, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing appears to be a worn tree stump with many of its roots exposed, and often with a small creature resting upon it. Close examination, however, reveals the truth—that the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is in fact not a plant, but rather a bizarre aberration that chance or deliberate machinations have shaped into something alien that camouflages itself well among the living things of the forest. Its primary roots are actually powerful, sinewy tentacles, with two smaller, vine-like roots that emerge from either side of the stumpy body terminating in unblinking eyes that look like flower buds; these latter are frequently wrapped around nearby trees or plants to avoid detection. When its prey has been securely seized, a nearly undetectable slit in the stump’s side opens to reveal a mouth with rows of serrated teeth and a prehensile tongue.

While the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing relies on its powerful tentacles to seize and hold its prey, its long tongue is extremely dexterous, and accomplishes most of the creature’s fine manipulation, including scraping captured victims against the sharp teeth within the creature’s mouth. The rows of teeth themselves rotate side to side in alternating directions on ropy pieces of gristle, so that the victim’s flesh and bones are thoroughly shredded before the meal reaches the creature’s stomach. It absorbs this slurry effortlessly and quickly; its stomach acid is powerful enough to dissolve organic material in short order, but has no effect on metals or stone. These items it deposits into a dug-out hollow beneath its body, often changing location when this hollow becomes full. Yet the most notorious aspect of a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is not how it eats, but how it captures its food in the first place.

When it first establishes itself in a new area, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing seeks out a suitable clearing near a path or well-used game trail, sometimes trampling down the undergrowth to create one if necessary. Once this is completed, the creature settles itself in the middle of the clearing, halfway burying itself in the ground and holding itself perfectly still so that it resembles nothing more sinister than an old tree. Though constantly hungry, a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can hold this pose for days, waiting for a small creature to pass by. Once one does—often an unsuspecting squirrel, mouse, or bird—it lashes out with its tentacles, easily killing the creature, but attempting to do so without undue harm to the creature’s form. It’s then that the true strangeness begins. Setting the deceased creature atop its stump-like body, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing begins to extrude extremely fine, worm-like tendrils up out of the bark beneath the corpse. These burrow through the corpse with disgusting rapidity, growing up through its limbs and spreading out until the creature is thoroughly riddled. Using these tendrils, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing then begins to roughly animate the creature as a puppet, literally pulling strings to make it approximate the creature’s normal behavior. Though it cannot move off the stump’s surface, this seemingly vulnerable animal acts as a lure for larger predators, which the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing then kills and devours, continuing this process until the original lure decays too badly and must be replaced, or until the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing decides to “trade up” and animate a larger creature, in the hope of attracting bigger prey.

Wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing make their homes exclusively in forests, as their tree-shaped disguise is a permanent feature of their physiology rather than an active camouflage that can be changed. The older a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing grows, the grayer its trunk becomes, making the creature look ever more weathered. It blends more thoroughly with its surroundings, and chooses its prey more carefully, often gaining a taste for intelligent prey, which provide more of a challenge than small forest predators or dull, unobservant livestock. An adult wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing has a trunk roughly 3 feet in diameter, with tentacles that can stretch up to 15 feet beyond that, and weighs several hundred pounds, though there are rumors of massive versions resembling the stumps of redwoods or sequoias, and capable of animating much larger corpse lures.

Small animals are not the only things that wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing use as lures. Smart enough to recognize when intelligent creatures assign obvious value to certain items, such as weapons or other objects that prey creatures employ or obviously guard while in the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing’s presence, older wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing sometimes gather such objects from their victims and attempt to use them as lures. Yet while this tactic is sometimes useful to those aged individuals interested only in intelligent prey, most wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing scorn the practice as impractical, since such lures are useless for catching the vast majority of creatures that wander by, and even greedy humanoids tend to be suspicious when they come across a jeweled sword just sitting on a tree stump in the middle of nowhere.

The wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is perfectly capable of assessing threats. If a party traveling nearby seems too powerful for it, it retracts its tendrils from its corpse lure and remains quiescent until the threats have passed beyond its reach. Likewise, as creatures capable of going weeks without food when necessary, wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing are perfectly willing to let small prey pass them by if they believe that something larger or more satisfying is just around the bend. Though given individuals sometimes develop a preference for one prey type over another, the only consistent trend guiding a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing’s feeding habits is its tendency to slowly grow dissatisfied with unintelligent prey as it ages, relishing the challenge and triumph of taking down those who think themselves the top of the food chain (and sometimes consuming them slowly to draw out the victory). With no natural predators—something that lends credence to the idea that the creatures may originally have come from another world—wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing can live for several decades before gradually losing interest in hunting, spending longer and longer periods of time in dreamless slumber, and finally giving up and expiring, allowing their wood-like flesh to decompose (ironically drawing the carrion-eaters of the forest back with one final lure). On rare occasions, however, individual wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing seem unusually immune to this racial torpor, and instead live for hundreds of years, growing steadily larger until their bodies finally give out or—as is more common—they finally tackle a creature capable of dispatching them, ending their reigns of terror in a flurry of snapping branches and sap-like blood.

Habitat & Society

The wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is a solitary creature in the wilderness, and requires no interaction with any of its kind to find fulfillment. Even its reproduction is solitary, and should two wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing meet while attempting to find suitable hunting grounds, the result is an enraged territorial flailing and a keening scream so high that most humanoids cannot hear it, though small animals with better senses flee before it. This screech is the creatures’ only concession to communication—despite its intelligence, they have no interest in attempting to make intellectual or empathic contact with others, and even regular exposure to language is not enough to interest them in the medium. Theirs are truly alien minds, and this reluctance to organize or communicate leads some to wonder how the wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing managed to reach their current world from the distant and mysterious origins, and lends credence to the belief among scholars (and, according to mind-reading magic, among wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing themselves) that all such creatures in this world stem from the same individual forebear.

When a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing decides to reproduce—usually after a decade of life, and following a particularly large meal—it does so by “budding,” extruding a small polyp from the top of its stump that carries all the necessary genetic information and instructions to create a perfect copy of its parent. This small, glistening red mass, roughly the size and shape of a large berry, is then hidden within the body of the next lure the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing captures and animates. Instead of attacking the next predator that comes by, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing withdraws its tendrils and allows the corpse to be eaten, transmitting its seed to the creature’s gut. This process is repeated several times over the course of an individual’s life. Once an infested lure has been eaten, the seed hibernates for a time in the host’s gut, drawing sustenance like a tapeworm.

When it reaches a large enough size (an intestine-filling mass weighing almost a pound), the young monster sends tendrils through its host’s body, seeking control of the nervous system. It replaces the eyes of the host with its own, and directs it to the nearby wilderness. There the host clears a space for the monster to grow in, after which the parasite explodes from the stomach of its carrier, killing the victim in the process and turning the resulting corpse into its first meal. Nestled in a mound of gore, the juvenile wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing sends its tendrils into the ground to thicken into proper root-tentacles, and its flesh hardens into its new, stump-like form. These deadly hitchhikers quickly grow in size over a space of a few months, and possess all the basic instincts and rudimentary racial memories necessary to immediately begin crafting their own lures and preying on passersby in the style of the creatures’ parents.

Though not sociable in any sense of the word, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing has been known to work in conjunction with lesser local monsters and animals to lure more powerful prey into its clutches. After establishing itself in an area, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing begins to learn the habits of the local fauna. If any of these appear to be capable of learning and are the chronic victims of larger creatures, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing waits for both victim and hunter to pass nearby during a frantic forest chase. As the predator enters the monster’s area of influence in search of the prey, the wolf-in-sheep’s clothing snatches up both creatures, devours the predator, then releases the would-be prey. Even some normally unintelligent animals are capable of understanding the benefits of this relationship, resulting in the prey creature luring other predators close to the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing and taking refuge beneath the thrashing tendrils. Of course, this arrangement only works so long as the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing doesn’t tire of eating the same predators over and over; when it does, it’s likely to devour the smaller creature and take the larger one as its new lure, or find something else altogether to animate.

Wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing may look like trees, but their flesh is far less flammable than wood. When threatened by forest fires, either natural or targeted, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing thrashes out embers that fall near it and uses its powerful roots to dig a shelter for itself. Once it has created a deep enough hole, it covers itself with dirt and waits for the inferno to pass by. If too much of the surrounding area has been devastated, it relocates. Otherwise, it adjusts its coloration, smudging itself with charred wood and fallen branches to blend into the surroundings.

Campaign Role

In most campaigns, a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is a single-use monster—once your party has been fooled by it, they’re unlikely to fall prey to its tricks anytime soon. Yet this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Rather than casting the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing aside, GMs should consider that having a monster they only plan to use once gives them an opportunity to make a truly memorable encounter. If the fighter spends the rest of his life flinching and drawing his sword at every squirrel perched on a tree stump, so much the better.

When considering the placement of a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing encounter, there are many options. Though the creatures live exclusively in forests, that doesn’t mean that a wandering-monster-style encounter set along a forest path or road is the only option. Ambush comes in many forms—perhaps the creature is part of a menagerie in some weird and twisted circus, the lurking menace responsible for driving all the game (and some of the residents) from a nearby farm town, or the craggy stump with the perching crow standing just outside the door to the haunted house. Maybe it’s even a treasured emplacement in a decadent sultan’s garden of death—should the PCs reach the far side, they’ll achieve riches beyond their wildest dreams, but the aristocrats watching from the balcony are counting on the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing that defends the exit to handle any heroes who deal with the garden’s more obvious threats.

Yet even once the element of surprise is taken away, a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can still potentially be useful, its inclusion adding all the more impact if the PCs are familiar with the creature. Perhaps an evil nymph has dominated one of them and turned it into her throne as both a show of her power and a convenient way of dealing with those supplicants who displease her. Maybe it’s responsible for the death of a child’s pet or wizard’s familiar, and the worried parties are now anxious to recover their apparently still-living comrade from the top of the stump—without hurting the “animal,” of course. Or maybe the top of the creature’s stump has been carved with a map to some important location, or carefully hollowed out into a hidey-hole, and the PCs must figure out some way to get close enough to the furiously thrashing creature to read the map or recover the embedded object. The possibilities are far broader than one might think.

Treasure

Though the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing does not acquire any particular type of treasure, if it remains in an area long enough, it hollows out a depression under its base to conceal the indigestible remnants of its previous victims. Thus, depending on the strength and age of the monster, treasure might include anything from a battered tin mug and spoon from some unfortunate prospector hoping to sit and eat his lunch, to a huntsman’s dagger and horn, to the magical sword of a great warrior not quite quick enough to avoid the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing’s deadly tentacles.

Variants

The wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is a strange creature, little studied by scholars because of both its relative scarcity and the fact that by the time explorers recognize one, it’s often too late for them to escape and report on their find. Still, enough encounters have made it into record books and fireside tales that those in the know generally recognize two distinct types: the standard adults, and the engorged elder monstrosities.

Normal wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing can animate Tiny or smaller creatures with their lures, yet as they age and grow older, their ability to animate larger and larger lures grows correspondingly. Ancient wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing with centuries to increase in size and perfect their art have been known to grow large enough to animate grown humans or half lings, and rumors exist of enormous individuals—grotesque giants of the forest—capable of animating still larger creatures. The wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can only create corpse lures from creatures at least two size categories smaller than itself (so a Huge wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing can animate a Medium or smaller creature, and so on).

Source:  Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Misfit Monsters Redeemed. Copyright 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Adam Daigle, Crystal Frasier, Colin McComb, Rob McCreary, Jason Nelson, and James L. Sutter.

Section 15: Copyright Notice – Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3, © 2011, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors Jesse Benner, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, James Jacobs, Michael Kenway, Rob McCreary, Patrick Renie, Chris Sims, F. Wesley Schneider, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.