A dark and tattered robe partly covers a humanoid body that appears to be formed entirely of squirming, writhing tendrils in hues of off-white, corpse-gray, and sickly purples and blues. Lengths of these tendrils hang from its sleeves as hands, while others make up a visage that cannot, in any sense of the word, be called a face. It steps forward with a shambling, yet somehow graceful, gait.
Phrenic Scourge CR 8
Str 10, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 19, Wis 17, Cha 15
Base Atk +6; CMB +6; CMD 20
Feats Dodge, Mobility, Toughness, Weapon Finesse
Skills Climb +19, Escape Artist +14, Diplomacy +10, Intimidate +13, Knowledge (arcana) +15, Perception +14, Sense Motive +11, Stealth +14
Languages Alko, Undercommon; telepathy 100 ft.
Although they normally stand as humanoids, phrenic scourges are not bound to that form. By shifting and relaxing their tendrils, they can flatten themselves into a mass of writhing limbs no thicker than a snake. As a full-round action, a phrenic scourge can pass through a space as narrow as two or three inches in one dimension, as long as it’s at least a foot or more in the other dimension.
The tips of a phrenic scourge’s tendrils constantly die and regrow, much like a human’s fingernails. In any round in which the scourge successfully strikes the same victim with both tendril attacks, the tip of a tendril breaks off in the flesh and begins to burrow, unless the victim succeeds on a DC 16 Fortitude save. The larva burrows through the host, following its nervous system until it reaches the brain. This takes 1d4+1 rounds, causing 2d4 points of damage per round. When the larvae reaches the brain, the subject dies instantly. At any point in this process, the larvae can be destroyed with remove disease or heal. The save DC is Constitution-based.
This psionic attack manifests as a 20-ft. radius sphere, which the scourge can center anywhere within 30 ft. Anyone caught in this sphere must succeed on a DC 18 Will save or lose the will to act for 3d4 rounds. They may defend themselves if attacked, but may not initiate any action. Phrenic scourge are immune to this ability. This ability is the equivalent of a 4th-level spell. The save DC is Intelligence-based.
Environment any underground
Organization solitary, pair, brood (3-5), or horde (3-5 plus servitor races)
Treasure double standard
The phrenic scourge is a walking nightmare, a writhing horror with an inhuman appearance and alien thought patterns utterly incomprehensible to humans. They view other sentient creatures as nothing more than slaves and breeding chambers, and they have assimilated entire communities in the distant wilds, and deep beneath the earth. They maintain order with their psionic abilities, turning even the most rebellious subjects into loyal thralls.
Even the race’s true name — the ochthichthuruch — is almost unpronounceable by humans. The phrenic scourge is made up entirely of thin tendrils, ranging in length from six inches to four feet, clustered around a tiny core that serves as the creature’s nerve center. They prefer to hold themselves upright, maintaining a vaguely humanoid shape through muscular control. Whether this is simply a cultural tradition on their part, or actually a physiological imperative, is unclear. Most scourges prefer to garb themselves in dark clothing.
Phrenic scourges prefer to remain out of melee, battering foes with their psionic abilities or sending thralls to fight in their stead. When facing weaker or lone foes, however, they close and attempt to lash the victim with their tendrils in hopes of implanting him with larvae and breeding a new scourge.
Phrenic scourges do not form cities of their own race. Rather, they insinuate themselves into existing communities, both underground and on the surface. They begin by making the community’s leaders into thralls, and then spread out among the populace. More than a few communities have been conquered by the ochthichthuruch, without any outsiders the wiser. Once they have assimilated a community, the scourges often direct them to war against other communities, in hopes of expanding their territories.
In the center of any conquered community, the phrenic scourges maintain a literal stable of humanoids intended entirely for breeding purposes. The scourges mentally enslave every one of the community’s inhabitants as soon as they exist in sufficient numbers to do so.
The ochthichthuruch’s breeding cycle is simple and invasive. The larvae formed by their tendril tips burrow through the host to the brain. The brain is instantly slain and then slowly consumed as the larva grows. Once the brain is entirely digested, the growing scourge starts to feed on the rest of the host’s body. This entire process requires roughly a month; after this time, the (presumably rotting) body rips open, suddenly erupting with tendrils. The new scourge crawls from the shattered body and stands upright, fully intelligent and in possession of all its racial abilities. Sages postulate that the scourges actually consume the memories and intelligence of the subject as well as the physical aspects of the brain. Because their thought processes are so alien, the scourge cannot access the victim’s specific memories, such as identity or class abilities, but it does obtain general knowledge, such as the basic facts of the world. This allows the young scourge to function until it first makes telepathic contact with another member of its species; doing so instantly transfers the remainder of the knowledge it needs.
Although they have an innate desire to dominate other creatures, phrenic scourges do not normally struggle with one another. They are very cooperative amongst themselves, and seem to possess the basic rudiments of a hive mind. Indeed, it is perhaps it’s propensity for enslaving others that is the first instinctual step in the development of a hive mind ability.
Forgotten Foes © 2010 Tricky Owlbear Publishing, Inc.; Authors Mark Gedak and Stefen Styrsky.