If you’re not a fan of lampreys, you probably won’t like them any more when there’s a swarm of them being used as attack drones by an apex predator. The caypin is the predator in question, a CR 6 amphibious predator with a symbiotic relationship it uses to hunt.
The caypin has only one ability, Feeding Appendages (Ex), which allows it to detach some of the squirming leech-like creatures that it has instead of a mouth as a move action. The appendages have all the senses of the full caypin and the caypin itself can perceive anything they can, with the caveat that they die if they get farther than 100 feet away. While a single feeding appendage is harmless, they can swarm together in groups to attack independently of their main body. Such a swarm is medium sized with half the movement speed of the caypin itself and 18 hit points, but uses the caypin’s armor class, ability check bonuses, save bonuses, and other qualities. As an standard action, a swarm can enter another creatures square, though two swarms cannot share the same space. While in another creature’s space, they can attack using the caypin’s bite attack, including all to-hit and damage statistics, as a swift action. The caypin has enough feeding appendages to create two of these swarms at once, but while all of its feeding appendages are detached it is blind and cannot use its bite attack. It can reattach any adjacent feeding appendages as a move action, as well as grow a new set of feeding appendages in three days if necessary.
As a magical creature, the caypin is only slightly smarter than a bag of rocks, which rather limits its ability to be a conscious participant in a major plot. On the other hand, its bizarre biology means it’s the perfect monster for a smaller scale session. The caypin is a bizarre creature by any standard, so how could such a being come about? Mutation would be one way, whether magical or technological. But where did that mutation come from? Perhaps a dangerous and contaminated area, like a desert scorched barren by sorcerous energies in a long-forgotten war, the leaking reactor of a spaceship crashed in a swamp, or strange energies emanating from cracks leading even deeper into a series of caverns. These areas can be filled with hazardous energy and warned of by every traveler, but there’s little way to teach your players to fear an area like some sort of strange monster. Mutated versions of existing creatures are all well and good, but there’s a freakish charm to entirely new monsters evolved and mutated into being by a particular hazard. Your players may be hardened veterans, but a reptilian hound with a face covered in writhing tentacles that drop to the ground and slither towards them in a swarm will at least make them hesitate.
But maybe your players are the type who would waltz through Chernobyl without a care for how many aberrant monsters crawl out of the radioactive swamps. Never fear, mad science is always willing to step up and create bizarre creatures without stopping to consider the “ethics” or the “rationale” or the “dear God, why” of it. Maybe someone needed a guard dog and just got really creative with the definition of “dog.” Maybe someone just wanted to test some theories on symbiotic relationships. Or maybe it’s because of the nature of the connection between feeding tendrils and caypin. The information in the Alien Archive on the caypin delves into the method of the information relay between the caypin and its feeding tendrils, or more specifically, the lack of any detectable method. The feeding tendrils transmit their sensory data back to the caypin and the caypin transmits orders to the feeding tendrils, but no one has been able to detect how either of them does so. Perhaps the caypin is merely a biological prototype for a new form of communications system, one deliberately tweaked and nudged into evolving along certain pathways so the mechanism could be reverse engineered from its brain.
Even without its origins, the caypin is a useful creature as an ordinary predator. Voraciously hungry, capable of hibernating for years without food, and with a lifespan of centuries, the caypin is more dangerous than any land predator found on Earth. A big part of its danger lies in its ability to hide its presence. With its feeding tendrils, the caypin can stalk intruders in its domain unobserved from the bottom of a riverbed, emerging to attack only when its spying eyes tell it they’ve settled down for the night. With its ability to fall into a torpor, what seems like a barren field could hide half a dozen caypins burrowed just below the surface, waiting for some unfortunate creature to inform them that food is back. Here’s a few plot threads to use caypins in your games:
- A village built besides and onto a river is threatened when unknown creatures begin emerging from the water to prey on fishermen and swimmers. Resembling mutated lampreys longer than a man, they resemble much larger versions of a pest from old myths. These creatures are actually the feeding tendrils of an ancient caypin, the same one spoken of in the stories. Deprived of food long ago after it devoured everything in the vicinity, it fell into a centuries long slumber, only occasionally stirring to dispatch a few tendrils to see if the surrounding area had replenished in prey. With a populated village now erected above its buried form, it will soon emerge to rule its old hunting ground once more if the feeding tendrils aren’t quickly slain before the information they’re transmitting rouses it to full wakefulness.
- The caypin has been the symbol of a noble house since ancient times, representing the balance between a powerful leader and those they command. The current ruler places great pride on the symbol and has issued a public challenge, offering a grand reward to the group who can bring the fittest, most powerful caypin back to be the living symbol of the house. The challenge is complicated not only by the need to bring the caypin back alive and unharmed but by the fact that the most accessible caypin swamp is home to a pack of the creatures, forcing would-be hunters to fight the whole group to capture one.
- The Academy of Bone and Flesh is the most prestigious school for fleshcrafting and biological experimentation in the world. Those who study there learn much in the course of their rigorous studies, and their final exam is to create a new complex life form. A good enough creation can set a student up for life or even secure a position as a professor, while failure ensures one will never rise higher than a lab assistant in the organization’s ranks. In an attempt to secure his place in the cutthroat maneuverings of the scientists he hopes to join, one student sabotaged his classmates by releasing their experiments before they could be inspected. Most were recaptured or eliminated by security before they could become a problem, but one student’s creation escaped into the sewers of the surrounding city. Meant to be groundbreaking work on linking input between brains, the creature has managed to avoid capture thanks to its ability to detach its sensory organs even as it devours the unfortunate citizens it happens upon.