Thursday, January 8, 2015

Flying Polyp

Flying polyps only come from one Lovecraft short storyhe doesn’t even name them—but fans have been happy to keep them alive anyway.  Masters of wind, dipping in and out of the visible spectrum, enemies (even destroyers!) of the yithans, and with infinite lifespans until felled in combat…all these traits describe these bizarre aberrations.  Flying polyps are geniuses, so they will use every ability and tactic they have available against PCs.  But PCs will never have to engage those genius intellects in, say, a riddle contest, as the polyps’ only interest seems to be making war and building their strange cities in the life-scoured landscape that remains afterward. 

It should also be noted that, while these are creatures with the air subtype, flying polyps are often found underground—the 3.5 Call of Cthulhu book mentions them haunting bottomless abysses, living trapped inside ancient vaults, and so forth.  They are creatures of air, but they are creatures of hate and isolation first.

For GMs, I think the most interesting thing about flying polyps is representing their impossible cities—this is your excuse to throw out the graph paper and pull out your M.C. Escher coffee table books.  What kind of cities can a being construct out of blasts of air alone?  Most PCs at that level will be able to fly, so you can cheat and just have encounters be in a series of unlikely chambers and towers.  Otherwise…well, the party fighter better have some pitons and a ring of feather falling handy, because he’s going to be making some Climb checks.

Obsessed with monsters not just from other planets, but from other realities and times as well, a scholar leads a party of explorers to unlock the fabled Vault of the Yith.  (Just the mention of these mind-swapping, time-traveling aliens has the scholar giddy with anticipation.)  Yet soon the deep-delving expedition will learn to its horror that the Vault was made by the yithians not as a repository, but as a prison.  The dizzying geometries of the vault have kept the flying polyp prisoners inside contained...but cracking the seal hands the polyps three gifts at once: a point of orientation, an escape route, and a new set of living targets upon which to vent their genocidal impulses.

Strange basalt towers seem to be the work of giant termites, or even ankhegs.  In truth, the towers merely comprise the postern gate to a flying polyp citadel on another world.  How the city’s back door crosses the void of space is a mystery.  How adventurers get back to their world after the door closes on them and sucking winds draw them deeper into the citadel is another…

Sky dragons are going missing.  Already a reclusive race, tienlungs everywhere seem to be vanishing one by one.  Sent by a celestial dragon lord who abhors disorder and riddles, adventurers discover the sky dragons are scouring the world for samples of rare air and winds from the farthest corners of the globe.  More mysterious still, the normally benevolent dragons attack anyone who tries to interrogate them, so as to prevent further questions.  It turns out the sky dragons have a shame they will not speak of: They owe tribute to a storm of flying polyps and must feed the polyps’ orb of wind as recompense for a past defeat.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #65 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 106–107

One final note: If you ever wanted to give the Age of Worms Adventure Path a more Lovecraftian makeover, flying polyps are perfect additions to the airy dungeon that is a focal point of that campaign.

So many reader comments to tackle!  But so many long workdays.  And so little sleep.  Sleep wins.  May all your polyps be benign, my chickadees.

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