Chris Van Deelen

Chris Van Deelen is the author of the Skirmisher Publishing LLC sourcebook Creatures of the Tropical Wastes sourcebook, co-author of its Wisdom from the Wastelands game supplement and contributor to the 'Sword of Kos: Hekaton' Anthology.

No. Enc: 1
Alignment:  Chaotic
Movement: 150’ (50’)
AC: 3
HD: 18
Attacks: 4 (bite, claw, claw, tail)
Damage: 2d4/2d6/2d6/1d4
Save: l16
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None

Pumpkinhead is the name given to a strange creature that is not encountered very often in the wasteland. The reason is quite simple, the creature has to be created and controlled by another!

Wasteland scholars specializing in the new and unique life-forms that have appeared after the final wars speculate as to the origin of this creature. Most agree that it was a biological weapon created for covert operations, or simply to spread terror among the enemies of the state, while others say that yes, this might be the case, but it had its inspiration in an old series of less-than-stellar movies that originated back in the 20th century.

No matter the origin, the creature always appears as a tall, almost skeletally-thin humanoid with white or yellowish skin. The typical specimen stands around 7 feet in height and despite the rail-thin body, weighs around 300 pounds. The hands and feet are equipped with wicked claws and it has a long tail that it can use not only for balance, but as a weapon. The head is quite large, almost too large appearing for the neck, and is shaped somewhat like a pumpkin gourd, thus the way the creature got its name. The face is always feral, animalistic in nature, but can have recognizable human or humanoid features. The mouth is filled with sharp teeth, perfectly suited for ripping and tearing. Lastly, each creature appears to be utterly sexless.

As stated, these creatures are not born, but instead created by using the genetic material of a host, and then quickly grown over a 7 day period in a vat, hidden away in one of many tiny redoubts scattered across the globe for this very purpose. During this growth period, the host is locked away in a special chamber in which its mind is imprinted onto that of the creature, and a telepathic and empathic bond is created. Due to the genetic material used to create the creature, all non-drawback physical mutations will be passed to it, which the creature can use as it so desires, or when directed to by the user.

After the 7 days has passed, the fully-grown creature emerges from the artificial womb and is in effect, a full extension of the user. The user can then send the creature out to do its bidding, usually for less than honorable reasons.

Despite the fact that the creature shares a mental link with its host, the creature has a mind of its own, and will develop a personality if it is allowed to survive long enough. It may even grow to disagree with the host, but due to the control exerted over it by the host, it will not be able to disobey the host.

In combat, the creature will use its exceptionally formidable natural weapons, and the user can use any mental mutations that it possesses through the creature itself. If the host passed down any useful physical mutations, the creature can use these as it needs.

On top of this, the creature has several mutations built into it that were not transferred from the host. This includes invisibility, regeneration, teleportation and heightened senses (smell and hearing) to help the creature more easily track down a target, or group of targets.

After its birth, the creature can be given targets to hunt down and destroy through several methods. First, it can be given actual genetic samples (if there are any) of the target or targets. This is the fastest and easiest way to dispose of the target, since the creature will be able to locate the target anywhere on the planet. Only targets that are off-world will be safe. If the target is on the planet, the creature can teleport directly to it, use its invisibility to remain unseen, and attack, usually quickly and easily dispatching the target.

Second, the creature can be given a piece of clothing that will contain the targets scent or traces of the targets DNA. The creature can use this to track the terget using its heightened sense of smell, but will not be able to teleport directly to it. The time it takes to track down the target via this method can be days to months, depending on where the target is located. Again however, if the target is off planet, the creature will not be able to track it.

Lastly, the creature can be given a generic series of targets, such as the soldiers and officers of a particular political faction, or members of a specific company or even the general populace of a town or country, although this wasn’t done very often as the creators found that it was a waste of effort and resources that could be otherwise used more productively.

The creature itself is very hard to kill. Despite the creature’s appearance, it is immensely strong and the skin is very, very tough. Often the creature is more hardy and resilient to damage than compared to the host. Also any damage that is inflicted on the creature is likewise inflicted on the host, wounds appearing suddenly on the host, no matter how distant it is from the creature. Often, these wounds end up killing the host. The one thing that won’t affect the creature is mental attacks. Any attack that the creature is effected by will automatically be transferred to the host, who will have to make the saving throws, take the damage, or suffer the effects of the attack.

In the case where the host is killed through the link, the creature must make a saving throw against death with a –4 to the roll. If the roll fails, the creature is killed as well. Another factor to consider is that if the host itself is hurt or killed, the empathic link will cause the same wounds to appear on the creature, and if the host is killed from damage not obtained through the link, the creature is killed.  But any wounds that it sustains that don’t kill the host will quickly be healed by the creature’s natural regenerative capability, which gives the creature 3+2d3 hit points back per round.

In the event that the creature manages to survive the death of its host (see above), it becomes free-willed and can act upon its own needs and desires. The creature is neutral, but more often than not it is chaotic, living only to inflict as much death and terror as it can upon the world. However, there have been the rare occasions that a freed creature will be of lawful nature.

If someone is able to kill the creature and the host isn’t killed outright by the empathic transfer of damage, it too must save versus death at a –4 or be killed instantly. If by some miracle the host survives, it will permanently lose 1d3+2 points of both Intelligence and Will Power, and 1d3 randomly chosen mental mutations.

Power such as this does have a horrific price.

Mutations: Aberrant form (natural weapons, xenomorphism), control light waves, empathy, increased senses (smell and hearing), neural telepathy, regeneration (special), teleportation, plus any non-drawback physical mutations possessed by the host.

Source: Pumpkinhead (1988)