Friday, 15 October 2010

Intellect Devourers AND Carrion Crawlers team up vs. Grell ... and Lose!

The poor intellect devourer. It never really had a chance, not when its whole effectiveness was tied up with those D&D psionic rules that almost nobody used. And without its Psychic Crush, followed up by an Ego Whip and a devastating Oedipus Complex Cathexis Suplex, it was just a big sponge with cougar legs.

What about the carrion crawler? Right, that's a more beloved monster. Very nice to spring on first level parties, because it doesn't actually hurt you. It doesn't bite, or rend, or maim. It just paralyzes you with a ridiculous number of tentacle attacks, and then one of your friends grabs you and pulls you away and you run from the slow-moving beastie and camp for a while. Or the ogre, who's waiting five paces behind it, grabs you and dismantles you like a Cornish hen. So basically, it's like the shrieker - a force multiplier for scarier things.

And then, the two half-a-monsters got together in the Fiend Folio and had one badass little baby. The grell.

See, if you're not going to use your brain, you might as well fill it up the ol' ventricles with buoyant gases, so you can float around - because a brain on the ceiling is a lot more scary than one on the floor. Oh yeah, also, tentacles that paralyze - long ones, too, that can grab you - and take you up to the beak to close the deal.

I think, therefore I maim.
 The result is one of the most iconic bad-acid-trip D&D monsters of all time - the one who would give the owlbear and mind flayer serious competition for space on the side of a van, dude, and would make a much more wicked bong. Plus: the grell, unlike the 'crawler, is Open Game Content. And oh yeah ... if you fast forward to 2nd and later editions you have Grell Philosophers. How sick is that?

Once again - sometimes the Fiend Folio is better.


  1. Carrion crawlers are okay en masse. Otherwise, the result is as you point out. I had a bunch of them once who lived in a cave at the end of a tunnel down which the party had to crawl single file. They would grab, paralyse and then drag the victims off to their cave to digest at their leisure.

    And while we're at it, how long does the paralysation last? It doesn't say anywhere in the MM. Is the victim supposed to make a save every round or what?

  2. Since the Crawler has no damage listed, I assume it eats slow. One time the entire party got paralyzed by a crawler, but I didn't rule it a TPK... instead I ruled that it'll have time to eat the face of one PC before everyone else recovers. So they had to dice off to see who died.

    Evil. :D

  3. Russ' Grell tableau from the FF is truly metal.

    All three of these monsters shriek D&D to me.

  4. Indeed, the crawler definitely has that "overestimate it ... underestimate it ... YAAAH" dynamic. I actually like the undefined length of paralyzation and what happens if the crawlers crawl over you. Gives more latitude to the DM in a combat situation that any way you slice it, is balanced in an unusual way.

  5. I made some great tension when a carrion crawler grabbed a paralyzed PC and ran down a pit to levels (err, floors, as this was a ruined inn) below. The other PCs had to run down the hall and down the stairs after it, trying to catch it before it ran completely away.
    Like Tucker's Kobolds, how you use a monster determines how dangerous it is.

  6. It's really too bad about the Intellect Devourer. The Dan Simmons books, Illium and Olympos, feature Setebos, a monster/villain modeled (it seems to me) after the Intellect Devourer - a giant brain with thousands of hands on the ends of tentacles that feeds on the memories of suffering and pain.

  7. The Intellect Devourer really needed some solid illusion powers, along with charm or hold person power, ala 'hypnotic stealth predator.'

    The Grell, in my 'explain it with science' mindset, always struck me as an evolved squid able to breath air; the brainlike body is made up of numerous small buoyant organs, and the tentacle spines are evolved toothed suckers.