Monday, February 1, 2016

Cerebric Cyst

Cousins of brain oozes, cerebric cysts feed on the mental energy of psychically gifted people.  Now, lots of psychic creatures do that, and lots of them look like brains*, so you’d think I would hate the cerebric cyst.  And I would, except for this line from the Occult Bestiary:

[C]erebric cysts occasionally establish facades such as fake schools for gifted children in order to lure such pliable chattel to them and thus avoid the need for arduous hunts for psychic sensitives.

The notion of Tiny floating purple brains (shades of Futurama?) covered in eldritch symbols being able to set up entire fake schools(!) despite being Tiny floating purple brains (and being only one rung up the evolutionary ladder from brain oozes, to boot) is really appealing to me for some odd reason.  Go on with your bad, barely-there selves, cysts!

Where cerebric cysts really shine is reaction time.  Not only are they never surprised or flat-footed, but if they get in a tentacle strike they can lash out at that target with a spell-like ability as a swift action.  And given that list of spell-like abilities—including mind thrust II and dominate monster—it’s no wonder these floating oozes are so effective in their plots and subterfuges.

Adventurers investigating arson at a school for gifted children come across far stranger crimes.  The school was actually a front for a flight of cerebric cysts.  But when the king’s chamberlain inquired about the crown prince attending the academy, the cerebric cysts decided the risk of exposure wasn’t worth the proximity to the throne.  The cysts attempted to have their dominated thralls torch the school so they could relocate without offending the royal family.  Unfortunately, these troublesome adventurers now represent a loose end…

Astral caravels run on brainpower—often, the harnessed power of batteries of brain oozes.  But too much time in the psychic winds of the Astral can prompt these oozes to mature into cerebric cysts.  Then it is only a matter of time before the cysts stage a mutiny and take the helm of the caravel for themselves, with their former masters now serving as both crew and provisions.

Malfus isn’t a familiar per se. But the foul-mouthed—or rather, foul-cerebrumed—perches like a loathsome parrot on the shoulder of his blood kineticist “master,” Ephril.   Really the relationship is more like that of an abusive, cigar-chomping older uncle…but it works, as Malfus’s guidance has helped Ephril unlock darker and darker talents, while Ephril’s growing status and wealth help Malfus find new minds upon which he can snack.  (In fact, in social situations Malfus has a disturbing habit of telepathically broadcasting just how delicious he thinks future victims’ minds will be—but only to Ephril and the victim in question.

Occult Bestiary 13

*Every Psionic Book Ever: “Behold, we have unlocked the infinite and inscrutable mysteries of the mind!”
Me: “Do all the monsters on your pages have big heads or look like brains?  And do they eat thoughts, usually with tentacles?”
Every Psionic Book Ever: “Um…yes.  And yes.  Also yes.”
Me: “So kind of finite then.  Also scrutable.”

That said, Occult Bestiary suffers this a lot less than most psionic monster books.  Again, the Pathfinder team’s skill at synthesis comes to the fore.  By making the Occult Adventures/Bestiary/Realms rules about other mental and mystic phenomena besides psionics—from phantoms to chakras to ley lines to the migration of souls—the authors broadened the scope of the books and avoided a lot of the traps other games/editions fall into when tackling psionics.  I heartily approve.

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