Creature Feature Friday: Deh-nolo

Quick question,  how attached are you to your brain? Very, you say? Both metaphorically and in the sense that it’s hooked up to some major parts of your biology? Well that’s a shame, because the deh-nolo is pretty attached to your brain too and it’ll cut your head open to get at it.

The deh-nolo is a CR 14 aberration that serves as engineers and inventors for the Dominion of the Black. Their primary ability is Brain Collection (Ex), which allows the deh-nolo to remove a brain from a recently dead being or a still-living one as a coup de grace action. The deh-nolo can then connect up to four of these collected brains to its own body, granting it knowledge of one language spoken by the creature. The main purpose of this ability is to stave off its Brain Dependency (Ex) weakness. Remember how they can hold up to four brains? Well for every brain they’re missing from that maximum, they take a negative level and their caster level is reduced by two, while a deh-nolo without any collected brains can’t cast spells at all. These penalties cannot be removed in any of the normal ways, requiring the deh-nolo to collect more brains.

Defensively, the deh-nolo has Open Pustules (Ex), which forces all adjacent creatures to make a DC 22 Reflex save whenever it takes over 20 damage in a single attack. Failing this save exposes them to Dominion Bile, a poison that follows the Constitution track and can be cured with two consecutive saves.

Offensively, it has Synthesized Projectile (Ex), which lets it fire a crystallized shard of metallic material it manufactures within its own body. This attack deals 4d6+14  piecing damage and has a range of 60 feet, while every shot deals 1d4 damage to the deh-nolo itself regardless of whether the attack hits. In addition, every shot is augmented in one of two ways. The first option is the simple addition of Dominion Bile to the projectile, forcing a Fortitude save to avoid the effects. The other allows it to expend spell slots in the process of firing, adding 1d6 acid, cold, electric, or fire damage to the projectile for every level of the spell slot.

Deh-nolos are pretty fun to work with because their specialty is creation. This allows you to use them as the source of just about any weird bio-tech item you can come up with, whether wholly original or meant to replicate an existing magic or technological item. They don’t seem to specialize in creations meant to mesh with other beings, but imagine the possibilities if you chose to run them that way. How many of your players do you think would jump at the chance for some neat biotech upgrade? A few simple things to start off would help ease them into it, like retractable blades in their arms that deal damage as a knife or additional sensory organs to help the poor sod without darkvision, but they can quickly spiral into more exotic creations. Decentralized organ meshes to make you immune to critical hits, symbiotic combat hives to spawn swarms of biting insects in combat, stinger limbs with ossifying venom, you name it. Such upgrades likely wouldn’t be cheap, if the deh-nolo was willing to service non-Dominion lifeforms at all, but players tend to be persuasive. Perhaps the deh-nolo would offer experimental upgrades at a discount or free of charge, with the price to be paid coming from the drawback these upgrades inflict. For ideas on upgrades like those, take a look at Pathfinder‘s fleshgrafts for some good examples of body modifications that blend bonus and penalty, with a  hefty dose of body horror as a bonus. And if your player’s are rightfully fearful of letting a bio-tech monstrosity fiddle around in their body, deh-nolos can easily be the source for more traditional items. Descriptions do wonders here to make players think something is more exotic than it is. A rifle made from bony crests entwined with twisted muscle and metallic veins sounds suitably alien and unsettling, but function just as any wand or gun of the setting in terms of gameplay. Of course, perfectly matching an item may not be the best idea, so make sure to keep in mind that such beings probably aren’t fans of theft. Having your weird gun suddenly explode into a cloud of acid would certainly dissuade thieves, as well as make players doubly fearful of what the deh-nolo may have put in their body along with their upgrades.

Here’s a few plot hooks to use deh-nolos in your games.

  • The criminal underworld has been turned upside down by a sudden influx of strange technology. Ranging from crates of rifles to body armor to living combat thralls, all are from the same source, a bizarre blend of magic, machinery, and living tissue. The culprit is not one being but a pair, a deh-nolo and a mi-go working together in an unheard of display of cooperation between the two groups. Despite this their trust in each other is strained and both suspect the other of including sabotage and booby traps in the devices they create. The criminals are merely guinea pigs, and if the devices show no signs of backfiring and killing their users the pair will soon return to collect their creations.
  • A deh-nolo’s experiments with stolen items have convinced it that technology is merely a flawed attempt to replicate magic, leading it to eschew the machinery and bioengineering of its kind for arcane power. Such actions have enraged its fellows, who seek to slay what they view as an aberrant mindset before it corrupts their empire. Their attempts have thus far failed, as the brains it’s collected from various spellcasters have allowed it to quickly progress in might. Besides the difficulty in pinning down a being with access to teleportation and plane shifting, it’s already making plans to sell its soul to fiends, an act that would make it even more dangerous than it already is.
  • The Corpse Consortium is an archive of history’s greatest minds, their bodies repaired through restoration magic and kept in stasis to prevent decay. Publicly, it serves as a repository of information where visitors can use speak with dead to entreat geniuses from other eras. In actuality, it’s closer to a larder. The organization is secretly run by a deh-nolo, who cycles out which brains it carries the way other beings would sample vintages of fine wine.

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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