Puppeteer

Chris Van Deelen

No. Enc: 1d12
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 210’ (70’) Flying
                    120’ (40’) Swimming
                    30’ (10’) Ground
AC: 5
HD: 3
Attacks: 1
Damage: see description
Save: L6
Morale: 11
Hoard Class: See description

It has been suggested that these creatures are the ancestors of an alien race that was trapped on Earth during the final wars and survived and adapted. There are those who believe that they are nothing more than mutant manta-rays that have developed the ability to possess other creatures and use them as meat-puppets for their own nefarious designs.

No matter what, the creatures are intelligent, and use others in order to take over entire communities for whatever reason they might have in their alien minds. They are capable of flight, are able to swim, and can even crawl, although they will do the latter only as a last resort.

The creatures bear a resemblance to the ocean-borne Manta Ray, but only a vague similarity. The underside looks raw, as if the flesh had been peeled away to reveal the nervous system. This is intentional, however, as it allows the creature to penetrate the flesh of a host and merge with the hosts nervous system, giving the creature full control over the host.

In combat, if the creature does not have a host, it will lay in wait, using the terrain to remain unseen. Often it will lay under garbage, piles of vegetation or the like until a hapless victim approaches. When this happens, the creature will attack, gaining surprise on a 1-3. If it is successful, it will attempt to latch onto the pack of the host. First it will use a modified version of mind thrust to attempt to stun the victim. This is considered a mental attack and if the attack succeeds, the victim is stunned for 1d6 rounds. The creature will then attempt to latch onto the victim’s back. If the victim is in fully encasing armor such as power armor, full plate, or other such armor, it cannot attach itself to a victim and as such will not bother even trying. It will use the stun attack to flee instead.

The process takes 1d3 rounds to complete, and while doing so the creature is vulnerable to attack, and they are not all that hearty and can be destroyed quickly and relatively easily. This is not the case when they have merged with a host.

Once the creature has merged with the host, it gains the hosts memories, skills, personality and of course any mutations. In order to harm the creature, one must harm the host first, unless they can get at the hosts back and attack the creature directly. Even then half of the damage done to the creature is inflicted upon the host.

The creature will then use the host to find and infect others with its progeny, and in some cases these monsters have been known to take over entire settlements. They set up strict hierarchies, with the oldest and most powerful having the best homes, the most riches and artifacts. They are collectors of knowledge, and hoard it the way mythological dragons hoarded gold.

No one really knows why, however.

If they have one serious vulnerability, it’s to disease. The hosts are kept meticulously clean and free of all disease and the creatures always have a supply of pre-fall medical drugs to combat any infection. If a host catches a disease, it will end up kill the creature in only 1d4 hours, and even if a cure is found and administered, the creature must make a saving throw versus death, at a -1 per hour it has been infected (it will die no matter what after 4 hours), or die instantly.

Killing the creature will instantly free the host, and they will not remember what happened, other than having vague nightmares about whatever the creature had them do during their time as a host.

It has been discovered that these creatures reproduce through a strange method. They use their hosts to stand back to back, removing their shirts or coverings. The creatures then extend tentacles which intertwine. After 1d6 turns, they release and then it’s over.

After 6d6 hours, the creatures will develop 1d8 pustules. These will grow for exactly 72 hours and then burst, causing the creature no harm, but will release a new version, fully intelligent and ready to hunt for food. The little monsters will be ravenous and will eat constantly for 4 days, at which point they will grow to the size of an adult. As long as they are in a community filled with hosts controlled by their parents, they will be fine. If they are not, then they must hunt. The can use a stinger to (which causes 1 point of damage), to inject a slightly paralytic poison (considered class 11, but lasts for 1d3 rounds), at which point they will exude an acid that causes 3d6 points of damage, which decreases by 1d6 per round until it is rendered harmless. They will absorb the liquefied flesh, gaining 1 hit dice for every 8 points consumed. This is the time they are most vulnerable to attack.

It should be noted that the creature can still use the acid attack, but loses the paralytic stinger once it reaches its full adult size. It is loath to use the acid however, as it does not want to harm its host until it has outlived its usefulness.

Another fairly easy way to deal with the creatures is to use area of effect mental attacks. It will harm the host, inflicting the same damage to the host as the creature, but many believe this is the best way to deal with them.

The creatures always ensure their hosts have heavy armor (at least plate or better), and lots of ranged artifact weapons (usually 1d4 per host). They also have a supply of 2d6 randomly determined medical drugs on hand and 2d100x1000 gold pieces hidden away in the oldest creature’s lair (or hosts home).

Mutations: flight - psionic, mind thrust (modified), parasitic control, toxic weapon, vulnerability (disease)

Source: The Puppet Masters (1994)