Wandering Monsters: Things From Beyond The Stars

Wandering Monsters  
Things From Beyond The Stars

By James Wyatt

Beholders, mind flayers, and aboleths have snagged the brains of monster handler James thisweek. Take a look at these three aberrations after you get a good feel for the current working definition of aberrations.

Talk about this column here.

What Do You Think?

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Very happy to hear about psionics again, not really heard anything since the 1st playtest packet (grey ooze); so mindflayers are often spellcasters, using arcane (rarely divine) magic or psionics. 

It doesn't mention that mindflayers are humans from an alternate future (blackened all the suns) or that aboleths predate the current cosmos, the last one being destroyed by the Leshay, but, maybe later. 
Both the Beholder, Mind Flayer and Aboleth's Lore pretty much spot IMO.

I also like the Aberration definition not tied to a particular plane and thus dissociated as much from the Far Realm as possible for those not using it.  

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Ironically, the idea that Aboleths onced ruled the world is baked right into the flavour, even though that is not necessary. The Far Realm is a good explanation for where these creatures came from without carving out a spot in the mortal world as their homeland, and is ignorable/mutable if you do have a place in mind.

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

* About beholder:

The future Monster Manual II should recover the beholder-kin (Death kiss, eye of the deep, gauth, orbus, spectator, undead, hive mother, director, examiner lensman, overseer, watcher, the eyeball familiar).

And about the anti-magic cone...what if PC aren´t spellcaster at all but other power source (like psionic or ki/incarnum..). 

If I could... the beholder had got lots of (half-daelkyr) humanoid cultist followers with symbionts and grafts, and spelljammer technology like alien mechas (= giant contructs).

*  Mind slayer. I wish the return of half-illithid template, the illihithitaed (cessirid, embrac, kigrid, and saltor) and the brainstealer dragon...(why not for Monster Manual II?).

What about the cult of thoon (MM V)? It was a interesting idea. Was there a link between thoon and incarnum or ki?

* Aboleth. They aren´t my favorites..and they could rebember lots of old dreams about things never happened. really. They are better to be used to campaings like Call of Chulthu or Spelljammer.

----

I miss other aberrations like ethergaunts and kaortis from Fiend Folio or Zerns (Monster Manual IV).

Kaorti could be like necromorphes mutants from Dead Space videogame. 
 
Flumphs could come back in a 1st April article.

I would like add a little tribute to a 1956 sci-fi film, The island Earth. The Metaluna mutant is like a umber hulk with a great brain (like devourer intelect).



I would like the idea of aberration infection or plague, like "ganado" from Resident Evil 4, majini "Resident Evil 5" and J´avos (Resident Evil 6) or "Oozes" (Resident Evil: Revelations). 

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

Love the aberrations general background and each of the individual monsters with a few minor exceptions.  

Steely_Dan, the things you talk about in your last paragraph sound like they should be setting specific, just like the Far Realm.  I wouldn't expect to see that stuff until much later in the playtest, or possibly not at all until settings actually are released.

Alter_Boy, I too would like to see the Aboleths ruled the world part removed from the general creature description.  There isn't any need for that to be in the creature description and every reason it should appear in a setting module. 

Kalex the Omen 
Dungeonmaster Extraordinaire

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...but even these abilities are alien and unusual, often involving the strange magic of psionics...

STOP DOING THAT! Psionic power is NOT magic!… Oh who am I kidding. People cry that Psionics don't fit in their LotR rip-off setting, so you want to water down the concept so it fits better in those odd games that want to be really down to earth despite the fact there's magic all over the place. Magic makes sense, but other supernatural things in the world? Well now, this is just getting silly. [/rant]

...I also like the Aberration definition not tied to a particular plane and thus dissociated as much from the Far Realm as possible for those not using it.

This. Not because I don't want the Far Realm in my game, but because I don't want it linked to things so conceivable and mortal. When there are Far Realm related things that are feared less than a bear, it doesn't really give off that "eldritch horror" feeling.
I want them to make cutesy models / sculptures of beholders now like they did with the owlbears.
I think James has been doing a pretty good job of distilling the basic essence of all the D&D creatures since he has moved on from the giants and humanoid ones.  The only reason I think there has been a problem with them was because they have so many different variations available in stories.

Anyways good job with these three although, I do not see really anything different presented from how they have been traditonally been viewed in any of the editions, simply put they could be a 1st or 4th ed version of the creatures and work fine.  Since this is what I believe he was going for he suceeded with flying colors.
"Beholders have a high Intelligence score. Their strengths are their eye beams, their role as masterminds, and their antimagic eyes. Their weaknesses are physical combat (a beholder's bite should not be anywhere near as scary as its eye rays) and their inability to cooperate or work together."

I really hope this means that anti-magic has returned.


Not much to say here, because for once I prety much like most of this. I would quibble about aboleths having the once ruled the world stuff baked into the class but that isn't a huge issue. It is easy to change if it doesn't fit a particular campaign and I don't expect every bit of fluff to be totally generic. The theme and background for these races is actually easy, as abberation they are not supposed to make logical sense, even their appearance doesn't have to make sense. The backgrounds for all of these races has changed less then most over the versions, as they where unexplained horrors in early versions and have mostly kept the details where they have been listed.

The real trick with these races is in the mechanics. Getting the Beholders and Mind Flayers mechanics right is likely harder then the general theme. They need to be powerful and dangerous without being instant kill machines or being overly specialized.

I don't think it's possible to "bake in" that aboleths once ruled the world in the sense that most people mean "bake in", unless you, like, give them an ability that time warps people back to when aboleths ruled the world or something.

This is suuuuuuuuuuuper minor, but it's always bugged me that Beholders have both Charm Person and Charm Monster as eye rays for two reasons:

First, one is just a better version of the other. That's not crazy, but it feels kind of asymmetrical. For any other pair of eyestalks, it's possible to think of scenarios where having one would be advantageous over having the other and vice versa, but not for those two.

Second, it feels weird to me that a creature with such a bizarre and removed-from-humanity setup and essence would randomly have an ability that cares about something being a humanoid. I understand that beholders come into contact with humanoids, but the charm person eye ray always felt kind of randomly anthrocentric. (Although I guess you could also view it as eerie.)

Like I said, super minor, and probably not worth bucking tradition for.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
Both the Beholder, Mind Flayer and Aboleth's Lore pretty much spot IMO.

I also like the Aberration definition not tied to a particular plane and thus dissociated as much from the Far Realm as possible for those not using it.  



Agreed on all points.
I never was very thrilled about the Far Realm. I like my Lovecraftian horrors to not be spotted and someone immediately says, "Oh yeah...that thing's from the Far Realm. No big deal". Takes the mystery out of a mysterious creature right there on the spot. I want them from unknown vistas of the furthest reaches of space and time...not from a place that everyone knows about and has a name for.
Very happy every crustacean and cephalopod no longer causes insanity.
"Beholders have a high Intelligence score. Their strengths are their eye beams, their role as masterminds, and their antimagic eyes. Their weaknesses are physical combat (a beholder's bite should not be anywhere near as scary as its eye rays) and their inability to cooperate or work together."

I really hope this means that anti-magic has returned.


I dearly hope it does not.  Anti-magic is basically an admission of design defeat.  'We made our magic far too strong, so in order to make some semblance of balance, we'll have to make virtually every boss monster able to remove or negate it, just in order that they don't immediately get nuked.'

A balanced system basically obviates the need for anti-magic.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.

A balanced system basically obviates the need for anti-magic.




Not at all, a magic-user just has to not be in the cone.
I dearly hope it does not.  Anti-magic is basically an admission of design defeat.  'We made our magic far too strong, so in order to make some semblance of balance, we'll have to make virtually every boss monster able to remove or negate it, just in order that they don't immediately get nuked.'

A balanced system basically obviates the need for anti-magic.

What about if anti-magic wasn't a 100% removal. Like you just had to roll a saving throw in order to cast anything properly? I kind of agree that the 100% turn off thing is a bit harsh, but anti-magic itself if quite flavorful and cool IMO.

It's not about need, it's about want.
Personally I like the idea of an anti-magic eyeray, but not for the reasons why it existed in 3.5.

I think it'd be a great tactical capability for the beholder to blast at a wizard, and then have that area linger for some time, requiring the wizard to move out of it to be able to cast a spell.  Sure, it's disabling, but then again so is hitting a Fighter with an Immobilize ray when he's out of melee range.  Or hitting anyone with a Paralyze or Stun ray.

If the area effect isn't one's cup of tea, then a targeted effect on the caster would work fine.  Again, for the same reasons that temporary disabling any character is valid, anti-magic can fit right in even if spells aren't as stupidly overpowered as they were in 3.5.

The existence of anti-magic does not "prove" a failed design.  It is entirely possible for it to exist in the same system as balanced magic.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Personally I like the idea of an anti-magic eyeray, but not for the reasons why it existed in 3.5.

I think it'd be a great tactical capability for the beholder to blast at a wizard, and then have that area linger for some time, requiring the wizard to move out of it to be able to cast a spell.  Sure, it's disabling, but then again so is hitting a Fighter with an Immobilize ray when he's out of melee range.  Or hitting anyone with a Paralyze or Stun ray.

If the area effect isn't one's cup of tea, then a targeted effect on the caster would work fine.  Again, for the same reasons that temporary disabling any character is valid, anti-magic can fit right in even if spells aren't as stupidly overpowered as they were in 3.5.

The existence of anti-magic does not "prove" a failed design.  It is entirely possible for it to exist in the same system as balanced magic.



Not that this has anything much to do with your point but it also sucks for the fighter or really anyone else to get hit by the anti magic ray in 3rd ed.  I mean considering the fact that most of your awesome was in the magic of your weapons, and if you sucked at range the beholder could just float out of range and zap you to death with the other eyes.  Beholders were loaded with class gimping abilities in 3rd edition.

Also for those who say it is coming back the anti-magic ray never went away it has always been around. 
Also for those who say it is coming back the anti-magic ray never went away it has always been around. 

At least in my 4e Monster Manual, the Beholder Eye Tyrant (the closest thing to the classic beholder) doesn't have an anti-magic eye attack. Its central eye simply dazes. The other eyes are sort of mixed around too, but none are what I'd call an anti-magic effect. (Although being hit by the Death Ray certainly would stop you from using magic pretty quick.)

The beholder Eye of Chaos in MM2 does have a central eye attack that prevents characters from using major abilities, which is sort of thematically close.

Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
"Beholders have a high Intelligence score. Their strengths are their eye beams, their role as masterminds, and their antimagic eyes. Their weaknesses are physical combat (a beholder's bite should not be anywhere near as scary as its eye rays) and their inability to cooperate or work together."

I really hope this means that anti-magic has returned.


I dearly hope it does not.  Anti-magic is basically an admission of design defeat.  'We made our magic far too strong, so in order to make some semblance of balance, we'll have to make virtually every boss monster able to remove or negate it, just in order that they don't immediately get nuked.'

A balanced system basically obviates the need for anti-magic.




What do you mean that wizards shouldn't run in terror from a beholder?

Oh well..    Perhaps it will just work the holy Avenger. 


Personally I like the idea of an anti-magic eyeray, but not for the reasons why it existed in 3.5.

I think it'd be a great tactical capability for the beholder to blast at a wizard, and then have that area linger for some time, requiring the wizard to move out of it to be able to cast a spell.  Sure, it's disabling, but then again so is hitting a Fighter with an Immobilize ray when he's out of melee range.  Or hitting anyone with a Paralyze or Stun ray.

If the area effect isn't one's cup of tea, then a targeted effect on the caster would work fine.  Again, for the same reasons that temporary disabling any character is valid, anti-magic can fit right in even if spells aren't as stupidly overpowered as they were in 3.5.

The existence of anti-magic does not "prove" a failed design.  It is entirely possible for it to exist in the same system as balanced magic.



I agree.

We have other spells that nullify the wizard like Silence.  I see no reason why the beholder can't do the same.    

 


But if the group of PCs aren´t spellcasters, they aren´t really affected by anti-magic cone the XP should be different.

The DM guide should advice about the way to change XPs reward when there are certain circumstances like for example dead magic zone.  

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

Far Realm is a good idea that does not fit every game.
Module bound it should be.

A nod to Psionics makes me happy. As does most of this. Sorta hard to get wrong monsters that were either designed by/for D&D or from wholeclothe by another (Lovecraft).

...but even these abilities are alien and unusual, often involving the strange magic of psionics...

STOP DOING THAT! Psionic power is NOT magic!… Oh who am I kidding. People cry that Psionics don't fit in their LotR rip-off setting, so you want to water down the concept so it fits better in those odd games that want to be really down to earth despite the fact there's magic all over the place. Magic makes sense, but other supernatural things in the world? Well now, this is just getting silly. [/rant]


To any primitive mind, sufficiently advanced sciences shall seem as magic.
Scorn them not for being unevolved beings, not blessed with udnerstanding, they are incapable of knowing better. They even consider the power that divinities wield to be the same as the tricks mages play with numbers and words. sufficient skill at arms and perfectly normal transcendance of their percieved limitations are also thought "magic".



I have an answer for you, it may even be the truth.
A nod to Psionics makes me happy.



Me too, the 1st nod to Psionics in 5th was in the 1st Bestiary (grey ooze).

So, first he says psionic magic, then mentions arcane spellcasting or psionics, so I wonder if psionics will be another spellcaster, or its own deal.
Also for those who say it is coming back the anti-magic ray never went away it has always been around. 

At least in my 4e Monster Manual, the Beholder Eye Tyrant (the closest thing to the classic beholder) doesn't have an anti-magic eye attack. Its central eye simply dazes. The other eyes are sort of mixed around too, but none are what I'd call an anti-magic effect. (Although being hit by the Death Ray certainly would stop you from using magic pretty quick.)

The beholder Eye of Chaos in MM2 does have a central eye attack that prevents characters from using major abilities, which is sort of thematically close.




Yeah pretty much I view it as the same, although I think the Monster Vault beholder is even closer, although I can't check on it now.  Thankfully the internet will probably deliver.
Some aberrations (= unnutural criatures) need cult of followers who lick their .. feet. With lots of symbiontic grafts.

I know beholders are loner because they are too proud to live together but..  they are too smart to live like oucasts. They want rule somebody. They need followers or servants.


I would like a aboleth subrace could "ride" humanoid like a symbiont or parasite, like aliens from the 1951 novel and 1994 movie "The puppet masters". Do you rebember the template "simbiotic" from "Savage Species"?



 
Do imagine Brute host + Controller guest simbiont... I feel fear.


* Psionic is supernatural, but it isn´t arcane nor divine (nor primal) magic. It has got a exclusive game mechanic.

Wilder class could come back, but when he "bet" his psionic powers by the wild surge..and he fails, the effects should be like optional rule of mixing potions or scroll mirshaps. (Don´t laugh... do imagine fighting wilder cult follower).


* How can you tell the differencie between a echantress and a witch? 
...and a angel and a harpy?
 
- Five years of marriage!!!! Wink 


"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

But if the group of PCs aren´t spellcasters, they aren´t really affected by anti-magic cone the XP should be different.

The DM guide should advice about the way to change XPs reward when there are certain circumstances like for example dead magic zone.  



What if the party is facing a group of fire elementals and they all have protection from fire active?  Would that mean less XP?   


The descriptions are spot on iconic D&D versions of the monsters, but am I the only one who thinks the beholder actually does not really fit the definition of the aberration.

Quote: "Their bodies and minds are so unlike natural creatures that they are virtually incomprehensible to the human mind."

Granted, their bodies are weird, but that in itself is not really what defines aberrations. Their minds though make perfect sense to humans. They are greedy, ego centric, meglomaniacal and tyranical and have no problem leading human organizations.

O well, I have never been a big fan of beholders even though I really like mindflayers and aboleths.
But if the group of PCs aren´t spellcasters, they aren´t really affected by anti-magic cone the XP should be different.

The DM guide should advice about the way to change XPs reward when there are certain circumstances like for example dead magic zone.  



What if the party is facing a group of fire elementals and they all have protection from fire active?  Would that mean less XP?   



The next time the DM will use white dragons, ice giants and frost salamanders. Fire resistance will be useless.


Let´s imagine the scene: 

Beholder with anti-magic cone. (DM said psionic powers aren´t affected by anti-magic cone and they can be used)

Group 1: Duskblade/Hexblade + cleric + spellthief + wizard.

Group 2: Psychic warrior (I suggest the name psiloi) + Ardent + wilder + lurker/soulknife



Aberration: unnatural creature whose origin wasn´t the natural material plane too different of the rest of beings.

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius