Ah, the brain collector. Apparently it first showed up in the “basic” D&D module X2 Castle Amber (which my brother got me for Christmas! #soexcited #haven’topenedityet). My first encounter with it was in the AC9 Creature Catalogue—the first D&D accessory I ever purchased. A very chatty and urbane example popped up in “The Voyage of the Princess Ark” (I don’t have the exact issue in front of me, but I believe it was Dragon Magazine #185; Prince Haldemar defeats it by getting it to access the schizoid brain of a Herathian aranea wizard). Then in migrated to AD&D in the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix, and in 3.0 it got a giant power bump in the Epic Level Handbook.
Paizo’s entry cuts it back to approximately its original size (but hints at much more powerful versions in distant realms). Why it’s awesome: You can see the lumps of the brains it has collected moving under the skin. Oh, and it needs those brains to fuel its sorcerous power. And I did mention it’s called a “brain collector,” right?
The original neh-thalggus came from the Dimension of Nightmares along with the diaboli (see The Dragon Compendium, Volume 1 or treat as magic-resistant, blue-skinned chaotic good tieflings). 3.0/3.5’s came from the mad Far Realm. And Pathfinder’s come from space. How about yours?
A party of adventurers discovers a subterranean town that appears to be a haven where humanoids of all races live in peace. An invisible secret agent working via telepathy or through a message-bearing unseen servant alerts them that the inhabitants are actually thralls to intellect devourers. Thankfully, the party’s ally gives them the guidance they need to defeat the aberrations. But in reality, the agent is a neh-thalggu who wants the succulent brains for itself—and if the adventurers have demonstrated singular magical might or were sorely weakened by the devourers, the alien might reveal itself and sup from their skulls as well.
A goat-footed, blue-skinned man is about to be burned for being a devilspawn. He begs for help, claiming to be a lost traveler from another world. If rescued, the diabolus rewards his helpers with strange but useful minor magical items and tries to recruit them to help him hunt down a criminal from his reality, a “collector of brains.”
A lashunta warship and a disturbing biomechanical vessel fall to earth from space, still locked together from the collision that crippled them. The wounded humanoids need medical attention; meanwhile the other vessel begins to dissolve almost immediately, with no sign of the pilot. By the time the creature is revealed to be a brain collector, its trail has vanished deep underground. There it allies with an umbral dragon, and the two begin to collect slaves to serve as servants, soldiers, and meals.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 2 197
In case you couldn’t tell from the above, I like the term brain collector, no matter what the neh-thalggu call themselves (ditto mind flayer vs. illithid). I vaguely remember reading Skip Williams say that one of the things 3.0 tried to do was cut out the number of monster names that were just strings of syllables. But clearly that effort must have collapsed almost immediately, judging by every subsequent D&D product WotC put out ever.
For a real master class in naming monsters, check out Sword & Sorcery’s Creature Collections, which did a phenomenal job of creating scary beasties out of real words.
Also, last chance to download last week’s show. It vanishes in just over an hour…