We often talk about a meme or an earworm burrowing into your brain. (In fact, it's what I count on. #askmeaboutmyadvertisingcareer) Well, if that’s what earworms do, brain moles are what prey on them.
Resembling naked mole rats, only more awful, brain moles use their clawed feet and terrible incisors to grapple the heads of humanoids (especially spellcasters) to drain their spells and mental energy. This makes them potentially terrifying pests for dungeoneers. And as they are able to sense psychic creatures while hiding from them at the same time, they not only fit well into their subterranean ecosystems, but are also useful familiars and service animals to spellcasters who can bring them to heel.
Of course, all of the above refers to ordinary brain moles. Those in the thrall of a brain mole monarch form a horrible hive mind…but that is an avenue we’ll explore in the next entry.
Also note that brain mole monarchs are described as having six limbs, but we don’t know how many limbs ordinary brain moles have. Perhaps the six limbs are just artifacts of the monarchs’ terrible transformation. But if all brain moles have six limbs…? Well, there’s an unofficial tradition in Pathfinder that creatures with too many limbs—aurumvoraxes, girallons, kasathas, etc.—are of alien origin…which is not a bad origin story for brain moles in campaigns with a pulp adventure bent.
Traveling through the Underchasm, young adventurers undertake a forced march through the Howling Deeps. They’ve been instructed that it is essential to get to a way station tended by svirfneblin before any wights or hobgoblins inevitably catch them. But when they reach the way station, they find it empty. A nest of brain moles sapped the minds and wills of the deep gnome scouts not long ago.
Smart adventurers keep their eyes peeled for the red tabards and chainmail uniforms of the Mindguard at Arkenmeer. The watchmen use caged brain moles to sniff out those with psychic talents, who are then promptly arrested. Halflings have it the worst; they are sometimes jailed on sight due to their race’s talent for telepathy and phrenic amplification.
With the Ælfingates’ ancient links shattered, desperate elves must find new ways to travel from world to world. Novice adventurers are helping to haul precious cargo, an elven Spirit Tree, when a fungal blight forces their ship to land and collect fresh soil. Unfortunately, the replacement earth they collect is rife with brain moles, who promptly begin devouring the mental energy of the crew during Nightwatch.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 5 46
Previous incarnations of brain moles have resembled star-nosed moles, but I like Bestiary 5’s way better.
That last seed combines tropes from Pathfinder, the Realms, pulp sci-fi, and Companion-level 80’s D&D.
Thanks again for everyone who boosted my call for comments to the CDC last night, especially those of you who went the extra mile and left a message. Very much appreciated! Seriously, it meant a lot on this end.