Gibbering Mouther: The flesh that slides, the teeth that gnash, the horror behind the jabber... the horror
Been a looooong time since I posted last. I was requested to write a gnoll entry, but unfortunately couldn't come up with enough inspiration for it. The Gibbering mouther have been touched upon in various D&D editions, and even in one of my most favorite books- Lords of Madness. But... though they made magnificent work with the major aberrations in the book, the GM was left... a bit uninspiring.
I hope to rectify this here!
Gibbering mouhter, MMI, Lords of Madness
SpoilerBad street rep:SpoilerWhile obviously meant for horror, the Gibbering Mouther have been left a bit hanging. There are two horrific aspects in it's description- Sprouting a new mouth and eyes while consuming a victim (Which i'll grant, is creepy) and that their gibbering can drive a person insane. That said... how do these two facts connect? What is the creature's purpose? How does it interact with it's surroundings? Does it just eat things?
I think it was mostly supposed to be a tricky combat encounter for low level parties- It has a bunch of none standard abilities, but I think most DMs don't know quite how to fit it except for "yay, another strange encounter". Yet sadly it fails in the main role of an aberration- inspiring horror.
Why do I care?SpoilerC'mon! An ooze of flesh and teeth, gibbering in many voices, speaking many tongues, driving you insane? This oozes (pardon the pun) of potential nasty roleplay goodness! The Gibbering mouther seems like an iconic creature of RAW horror! We have the imagination, we can built it!
And now, presenting to you- The new and improved Gibbering Mouther!
Role and concept
SpoilerRole:SpoilerThe main use for such a creature is in horror.As such, it's horrific aspects should be amplified. The main change is by integrating the Gibbering Mouther into the very framework of horror itself, and by expanding on the concept of "the victims eaten, will be joined with the whole"... the creature as a multitude in fact.
More than that, I aim to make the creature an interesting roleplay experience and a mystery experience, not just a combat encounter.A sort of... conversation with horror.
ConceptSpoilerGibbering Mouthers FEED of horror, they are attracted to it, it's echos and sometime create it. They are it's hounds, it's lap dogs. However, they are not a truly alien and incomprehensible horror, due to being made mostly out of it's victims, it has a disturbing quality upon it- it's a horror which one can somewhat relate to, somewhat understand... They are more common than most aberrations, but disturbing and unnerving in their own right.
The Gibbering mouthers are Aberrations, but they also have qualities resembling an ooze (They can split, change shape, slide and reform), and that of a multitude (acting as many creatures). They are complex creatures...
The last main change, is the place the Gibbering Mouthers hold in mysticism, cultures, and their connection to horror. The yare not just "A random strange monster", their presence in a place brings some worrying questions and relevence.
Place and interactions
SpoilerTheir place in the world:
SpoilerNo one exactly knows where these creatures came from. Some scholars theorize they came from the Far Realm, some say they were created by some mad wizards, some say they were punishment for the hubris of a long dead race or culture. It's difficult to know, since it's nearly impossible to make an informative conversation with a Mouther, and they leave little to explore behind.
Did they originate from the other aberrations such as the mind flayers or the aboleths? Both races have the power to create such beings. Yet even though the gibbering mouthers can sometime be found in their settlements, there doesn't seem to be any meaningful relationship. The more powerful aberrations seem to treat the mouthers more like stray dogs or packs of rats. Yet oddly enough, most mouthers are found far away from where other aberrations are found...
Mouthers feed on fear, they need it, crave it, and are drawn to it. And not just the simple fear, but the horrendous fear of true horror. No one knows how- but mouthers can sense occurrences of horrors from afar, and... somehow "get" there. (I'll explain this later). They dwell in places of past, current horror (Some even say at times they come to a place where FUTURE horror will happen), living up of echoes of atrocities, madness, abnormalities and transgressions linked to these places. Some old world cultures understandably see the presence of mouthers as a very, very bad omen!
Mouthers are capable voyagers, if a bit slow- few places are secure of a gibbering mouther's "visit". They are capable swimmers, they can climb walls and adhere to ceilings with their secreted adhesion, they can split to small parts and alter their forms, gaining entrance through small passages, but perhaps most disturbing at all is their ability to... "slide" or "slip" between dimensions and somehow arrive at the source of the terror they seek to feed upon.
This ability is not well understood, but a few gibbering mouthers have been witnessed to do this when a new and potent source of horror arises, and seek it out, or leave a place once it's "potential" has been exhausted. This is how you can find a gibbering mouther in the middle of a city, on a ship, or in the vaults long forgotten and sealed. They don't seem to use it at will though, almost as if the horror draws them, like fishes on hooks... Few have ever tried to follow mouthers on these "voyages", through whatver realms they travel. Would you dare to go, where gibbering mouthers slide, on the cracks of reality?
The mouthers themselves have a strange existence- they are partly one creature, partly a multitude. They can converse or act as a singular creature, (possibly one of it's many parts takes charge? Who knows?) Yet at most times they act as many creatures- some grabbing the walls, some secreting acid, some trying to eat or bite, and most of them... gibbering madly... in their torment.
How is that so? When a mouther eats a sentient enough creature, it's not just the body that gets eaten, but also part of the soul- the creature's fear, terrors, secrets and regrets. And that little part keeps living inside the mouther, over and over and over again, blabbering about them, sharing them with the world, seeking some sort of release, which makes up the endless, insane sounding jabber. Yet here and there, one might catch something they... understand. It doesn't make the experience any better!
A mouther, with it's odd attraction to horror, senses the secrets and fears of all it is near to, to the limited degree of it's strange alien mind. It picks up pieces of secrets, of hidden thoughts and emotions, and yell them/ whisper them/ ask questions/ challenge and more! Many who have faced a gibbering mouther are faced with their own well kept secrets/ horrible misdeeds/ horrendous crimes. Ttogether with the ingrained horror of past victims, this truly can drive a person mad!
The creatures take up all kind of personality traits of those consumed, changing it's own personality a bit after each "meal". Some mouthers, if fed well enough, have an odd tendency at times- they themselves, the parts making them, or something inside them, is many times curious about those it encounters, and may converse, possibly barter and more, though for it's own strange and unsettling needs. It's an... off conversation at best! Since a mouther contains parts of people consumed, it may have flashes of memories, secrets and information, though often in some way connected to horrifying experiences.
One reason mouthers attack creatures is to generate enough horror in them (Often triggered most powerfully by the gibbering and being swallowed and devoured), but also to regenerate their bodies and grow larger. The flesh of others is usually used to replenish themselves, and grow ever larger to monstrous proportions of heaving gnashing gibbering masses of flesh.
But the flesh need not stay put together- being somewhat of an ooze the gibbering mouthers can split (Either voluntarily or upon being dealt enough damage) to pieces as small as strands of flesh supporting a single eye ball and mouth. (though usually the mouther uses larger forms). This... swarm of flesh tendrils, all act in unison, and they can spread, climb, crawl, swim or tunnel their way to hidden locations to rest, if too big a threat is apparent.
In locations where a gibbering mouther has been for long, it has created a multitude of tunnels using it's acid to enable it to slide through floors, walls and ceilings, appearing as coalescing flesh from a honey combed wall.
Which brings an interesting question- how are they created? Somethink gibbering mouthers are created by a massive mouther splitting up. Others theorize they leave sort of "flesh eggs" made of but a few devoured victims.Yet others think they have some mating ritual in the space they slide too. Some think they were created, some say that if something horrific enough happens, they may coalesce out of the sheer madness, horror and suffering. Who knows?
SpoilerGibbering Mouthers often haunt one place or another, feeding slowly on the echoes of horrors, old and new (and future?). They do not occupy themselves solely by feeding though... Though of limited intelligence, (Some say they have the intelligence of a young, sadistic child without any scruples), a mouther have often found a place to live amongst others, in some sort of a bizarre relationship.
Some people hunt them down. others people revere them as omens from the gods, and try to appease them. For some they are trash disposals, for more they are guardians. Gibbering mouthers tend to create their own unique relationships with their neighbors. Yet here are a few special mentions
- Other Mouthers: A strange little fact- There have never been a recorded event of two independent mouthers at the same place! At times people think they fight a few, only to find out that the parts act in unison- part of a bigger mouther. Why no two mouthers are ever present at the same place, no one knows.
- Mind Flayers: As little as anyone can tell, mind flayers seem... "amused' by the mouthers at best, or indifferent at worst to the mouthers. They have been found as odd pets, or garbage disposal in Illithid settlements. As dealing with illithids usually have more pressing matters, this little oddity was never touched upon. Perhaps the illithids like to see how their "dogs" inspire horror, perhaps they like to sense the tormented fractured souls... Who knows?
- Undead: Gibbering mouthers often pray in undead heavy areas, as theare often linked to horror, or horrifying places. The undead itself can be a tale of tragedy and woe, and provide a constant "source" for the mouthers. Many intelligent undead find the gibbering mouther a handy (And unexpected!) guardian, especially against those pesky clerics!
- Constructs: Since most of these are unintelligent, and made of non living material, gibbering mouthers usually have no interest in them, and would leave them alone. Sometime a gibbering mouther will linger in the ruins of a devastated civilization, feeding on it's echoes of destruction, while proving to be an opportunistic predator, joining fights with constructs against ungainly adventurers.
- Far Realm cults: These maddened cults often revere gibbering mouthers as sort of true offsprings of Far Realms, or "prophets of the realm". Some cults have gained a way to predict where a gibbering mouther will appear, and focus their worship there. On it's part, the gibbering mouthers enjoy the worship and
ritual offeringsfree food.
- Primitive cultures: These sometime also revere these as omens of portents. Some tribes have created their "gibbering holes" (similar to an otyugh holes), a place to test their new warriors, and throw in captives.
SpoilerHere are a few ideas of how to change the basic Mouther, so as to support it's role in horror, and also make him a more interesting and varied combat encounter. I quite suck at CR and such, this is more conceptual. Feel free to make the numbers that fit you.
Size and splitting
- A gibbering mouther has some semblance to oozes and a swarms. A gibbering mouther can "split off" portions of itself (Each with an appropriate chunk of hp). 2 small mouthers equal 1 medium. 4 medium are equal 1 large. 4 large are one huge, and so on...
- However, a gibbering mouther can split itself to as many small part he wants, till each one has 1 hp. (For example. split a tiny part of it, to spy on the party from a tiny hole). All the parts act on the same initiative, and they must remain 120 feet from all other segments or die within 10 minutes. Each part can move and act individually, though they share their combined senses.
- The gibbering mouther has 20ft climb, 20 ft swim, and is considered to be under the "Spider climb" effect the whole time.
- The mouther can burrow at 5ft, due to an acid it produces. The size of the tunnels depends on the segment creating the tunnel, and is often shifting, twisting, and impossible to follow by anyone not having an amorphous form.
- "Sliding"/ "slipping": A mouther can use this power in two ways. First as a full round action the mouther can transport itself up to 60 feet, but must end it's movement 30 ft or less from a creature of at least 3 intelligence. This ability can be used once every 2d6 rounds only.
Secondly it can be used as a plot device- the mouther can travel a great distance through some means (Sliding between cracks in reality or such) to a site of existing or potential horror. This effect is equal to teleport without error, but the mouther loses half it's hit points, and then is usually hungry.
- For every 1 point of con damage the mouther drains (Through devouring), it regenerates 5 hp. These hp CAN go over the hp limit, when they become temp hp. After the time passes, 1d10 of such hit points remain permanent hit point increase. Upon reaching enough hp (I'll leave that to you) the mouther increases in size and HD. This is how mouthers grow.
- Every creature eaten by the mouther is devoured, and part of it's soul/ essence is trapped within the mouther. Raising/ reincarnating such creatures forces an insanity check (as the spell) upon the raised creature (Or you can go with wisdom drain? Possibly cannot be restored by restoration?). Only full restoration avoids this. If the mouther is killed a special ceremony can be done to release the spirit, and prevent the needed insanity check.
- The first round failing the gibbering does bring madness, (As in the description) but further failures bring wis damage. (I suggest playing this by either maddening music, or telling the PCs horrific secrets/ transgressions and the like)
- Revealing hidden knowledge: The mouther can sense secrets, fear and such horrors that afflict you, and will shout/ speak/ whisper them to you... and perhaps others. Mechanics wise, this is an always active "read thoughts/ emotions" ability, and treated as if the mother concentrated maximum rounds. It is free and always active in an aura around it. this can be prevented by a fairly high Will save. (good for character growth? )