Creature Feature Friday: Bloodbrother

Consider the humble vampire. Now combine it with a leech, make it big enough to crush a car in its coils, throw in some body horror, and set it loose in the eternal night of a polar landscape. You’re now marginally closer to imagining the horror that is the bloodbrother.

The bloodbrother is a CR 7 magical beast found on the dark side of Verces in the Starfinder® Roleplaying Game setting, a Huge creature that’s after your blood. Unlike most hemovore monsters, it doesn’t have to kill you to get it, and in fact prefers to leave you alive. This is far from a good thing. Its primary ability is Rib Cage Prison (Su), which defies common sense by not just calling it Rib Cage. This allows the bloodbrother to attempt a grapple combat maneuver, and on a success transfer any creature it’s already grappling to the rib cage prison on its chest so long as the target is smaller than the bloodbrother itself. Once a creature is inside its rib cage, the bloodbrother can use a reaction to force its captive to attempt a Fortitude save. Upon a failure, the prisoner take 1 point of Con damage and the bloodbrother gains fast healing 5 for one round. The bloodbrother may have only one captive at a time and may release its current captive as a free action. The bloodbrother’s secondary ability is Cold (Su), which adds 1d6 cold damage to all the bloodbrother’s melee attacks, as well as inflicting this damage on any foe that strikes the bloodbrother with an unarmed or natural attack, as well as any enemy the bloodbrother has grappled. Rounding out its abilities, the bloodbrother has immunity to cold damage and blindsight (thermal), with a balancing vulnerability to fire damage.

The bloodbrother is, quite rankly, the most horrifying monster I’ve covered so far. Sure, the asteray would tear you apart for its own alien amusement and the assembly ooze would disassemble you for your base elements, but they at least had the decency to kill you. The bloodbrother leaves you alive, then does its level best to make you wish it hadn’t. As their entry in the Alien Archive explains, bloodbrothers trap their prey in the bony cages on their chests, where the bones of this organic iron maiden clamp down on their unfortunate victim. Once their meal is restrained, thin tendrils extend from the interior of the cage to worm their way into the flesh of their captured victim and tap into their circulatory system. Though these, the bloodbrother reroutes their bloodflow to travel through it as well, draining nutrients out of the blood and warming itself. Only when the prey has been tapped dry, a process which can take months as the bloodbrother takes steps to keep its unfortunate victim alive, does the bloodbrother finally discard the drained husk. There’s no jokes to be made about that, it’s just a gruesome, drawn-out demise that would make a kyton wince.

Oh, and it gets worse. As their entry lovingly points out, they’re far from dumb. Checking their base stats shows there’s not a penalty to be found, with a 10 in all their mental scores. So not only do these creatures inflict one of the worst ways to die, they’re as smart as people. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re social, an attribute to be praised by most sentient species and your players. Even then there are outliers, as bloodbrothers sometimes gather into groups called clans that hunt as a pack. And if you want to try and chat with the blood draining horror that’s not impossible. They understand languages, though they lack the mouthparts necessary to speak most of them. The issue arises when they just don’t care to listen.

Examining bloodbrothers shows an alien mindset, one that’s fairly understandable. Humans developed tools because we needed them. Clothes kept us warm, weapons let us fight off predators, shelter kept us safe. Bloodbrothers need none of that. Clothes? They’re already adapted to live in subzero temperatures 24/7/365 and their main method of feeding also helps warm them. A few scraps of animal skin are kind of pointless. Weapons? They’re predators, over 15 feet long and with a melee attack that can reduce most smaller creatures to a bloody pulp in a few blows. Shelter? They have caves and burrows, and if they can’t find one, they can just burrow their own in the ice and snow. In short, bloodbrothers just never had the need to make technology. And even if they did, what would they have done it with? They live on the dark side of a planet without a rotation, which means no plants grow there. No plants, no wood. No wood, no easy to obtain and shape material that started out entire civilization. So bloodbrothers never progress beyond Paleolithic intelligence, which means they remain consummate predators. How could you expect something like that to adjust to living with others? Their entire lifestyle revolves around keeping a living creature imprisoned and suffering for their own benefit, something frowned upon by, let’s see here, everyone who isn’t evil.

Keep in mind, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. A bloodbrother raised in the right conditions or exposed to the right ideas could come around to a less primal lifestyle. Imagine how that could fit into a society. If undead already function in society thanks to fleshfarms, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to find a market for artificial “hearts” to sell to bloodbrothers. With their hunger taken care of, you could explore how they view the world. A being used to perpetual cold, where other sentient beings were little more than human resources, would make an interesting NPC for your players to run into, whether as an ally or an enemy. Here’s a few plot hooks to use bloodbrothers in your game:

  • It’s not an easy task to infect a bloodbrother with true vampirism, but it can be managed. One such individual has lasted longer than most, long enough to find vampiric hunger easier to master than the constant need for a heart it once had. On the dark side of a world, it has been able to carve out a small empire for itself without fear of the sun. Calling itself the Sanguine Monk, a bit of wordplay it’s quite proud of, it runs a city of smugglers, space pirates, and criminals with an icy fist. many have tried to depose it over the decades, but it’s mastered the art of long-term schemes every undead lord must learn. And when those fail, well, it’s still an apex predator.
  • A world wobbles on its axis through the year, creating a regular seasonal cycle. Throughout most of the world it’s little more than a climate issue, but at the northern pole it’s much more. The natives have long since come to fear the weeks long darkness that accompanies the peak of winter and the disappearances that accompany it, but none have yet to discover the cause. As the cold and darkness set it, the environment becomes correct to awaken an ancient species of predator. Starving from their months long hibernation they scour the land for prey, draining victims dry over the course of hours before moving on to the next. Only those attacked at the end of the winter night are prolonged as meals, helping them transition back into sleep for the next year.
  • A cabal of vampires has recently arrived on a new world, discovering the existence of the bloodbrothers. Insulted by what they view to be shoddy aberrations compared to the glorious creatures they are, they set about exterminating the creatures. The task proves more difficult than they anticipated and they turn to using mercenaries and adventurers as proxies to eliminate them. Unfortunately, they failed to take two factors into account. One, the bloodbrothers are perfectly capable of communicating when they so desire and they have choice words of their own about the attempted xenocide. Two, not having technology doesn’t mean incapable of using it, and the bloodbrothers now have all the high-tech weapons and gadgets used by the vampire’s massacred first strike. 

About nwright

A freelance writer for the Open Gaming website who looks forward to building plots out of monster entries for you to enjoy as a player or DM.

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