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Through the Vast Gate
Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

Y ou might recall that when I discussed aberrations a while back, I tried to formulate a definition of the creature type that didn't rely on the Far Realm, which might not be part of every DM's cosmology and campaign. I figure that the Far Realm is best when it can take center stage, at least to some extent, and extend its presence into the world in incomprehensible, horrible ways.

What's more, the Far Realm as originally described (in Bruce Cordell's 2nd Edition Gates of Firestorm Peak adventure) was an alien place where even beholders and aboleths wouldn't quite feel at home:

However, on their fourth Bridging they found disaster. They opened the Vast Gate to a world so distant in space, and possibly even time, that it may not even have been part of the cosmology of worlds and planes as it is presently understood. Instead, the Gate opened into a realm with its own closed geometry, a multiverse utterly unlike our own.

There were inhabitants abiding beyond the gate, but only by the slimmest margin could these monstrosities be described as "alive." Herculean minds absorbed in alien contemplations of madness—this is how the Elder Elves perceived the new vista before them. The lunatic might of these incomprehensible beings warped reality in horrid, unaccountable ways by their very presence. Lethal contradictions and bizarre physical laws came into existence at the very whim of these beings, only to dissolve like vapor to make way for newer, more insane imaginings. This world was a danger even to a madman, and to the rational ancients the implications of such potent power unchecked rocked the very foundations of their theological faith. When beings of such vast power began to show a vague interest in the opening, the Elder Elves knew that they had made a mistake of possibly catastrophic magnitude.

(Thanks, Bruce! We miss you!)

So, mind flayers, beholders, aboleths, and aberrations are alien and bizarre, but not quite akin to the Lovecraftian horrors of the Far Realm. In our recent monster discussions, though, we've come up with two other kinds of aberrations that are tied to the influence of the Far Realm, though they're not actually native to that alien place: foulspawn and gibbering mouthers.

Foulspawn

Small to Large Aberration
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Level: Medium
Environment: Any

Foulspawn are humanoids that have been corrupted by contact with the Far Realm. When a portal (like the Vast Gate of Firestorm Peak) opens into that alien realm, incomprehensible energies spill back into the world that corrupt the very nature of life itself. The halls of Firestorm Peak are a fine example, populated by mutated duergar and trolls, as well as more alien creatures. Foulspawn are the result of that corruptive process taken to its unnatural conclusion.

There are four main kinds of foulspawn—in order from weakest and most common to rarest and strongest, they are foulspawn grues, foulspawn berserkers, foulspawn seers, and foulspawn hulks.

Foulspawn grues are Small and attack with their claws. They constantly mutter to themselves, which other creatures in earshot find unsettling. They can teleport short distances by virtue of their unnatural relationship with the geometric laws of the universe, but they are otherwise not complex creatures. Utterly fearless, they tear normal life-forms apart in blind hatred.

Foulspawn berserkers are Medium and fight with weapons. The hatred of the grues is intensified into blind rage in the berserkers, making them dangerously uncontrollable. When a berserker dies, it unleashes a mental cry of anguished fury that assaults the minds of nearby creatures.

Foulspawn seers get their name from an uncanny insight derived from standing slightly outside the normal flow of time. Their insights aid themselves and their allies in avoiding danger and attacking their foes. The distortion of reality around them causes actual mental harm (psychic damage) to nearby creatures, and they can propel knots of distorted space through the air to dismantle enemies' physical structure. They are Medium, like the berserkers.

Foulspawn hulks are Large, and they like to tear things apart with their claws and their great strength. They are much like overgrown grues, driven by hatred and rage that builds over the course of a battle to truly terrifying proportions.

For the most part, foulspawn are an uncontrolled force of destruction that spreads along with the growing influence of the Far Realm and withers when the connection to the Far Realm is severed. A powerful (and mad) mage might be able to harness their hatred and rage, even as he or she seeks to contact the alien entities of the distant realm.

Gibbering Mouther

Medium to Large Aberration
Alignment: Neutral
Level: Medium
Environment: Any

A foulspawn's original humanoid form is warped and corrupted, but in the case of a gibbering mouther it is almost entirely destroyed. When an entire population of humanoid creatures is warped by direct contact with the alien physics of the Far Realm, what little remains of their physical forms is agglomerated into the mad, amoeboid form of a gibbering mouther.

The substance of a gibbering mouther resembles humanoid flesh in any of a rainbow of skin tones, from the angry red of a hobgoblin to the deep black of a drow. Eyes constantly appear and open in its surface, then close and vanish again as new ones appear. Similarly, a constant stream of mouths open and emit a maddening cacophony of noise—babbling, wailing, muttering words in countless languages as well as alien syllables that can't be formed by human tongues. These mouths have sharp teeth the mouther can bite with, drawing its prey into its amorphous, fleshy substance for absorption.

The gibbering of its many mouths can confuse other creatures, causing chaos to erupt around it. It can spit a stream of blinding, acidic spittle, beginning the process of digestion before it even gets a mouth on its prey. After a creature is engulfed by the mouther, the creature's physical form is dissolved and broken apart into alien molecular forms that obey no earthly rules of chemistry or physics.

The alien laws of the Far Realm surround a mouther, allowing it to manipulate anything it touches. Most commonly, it alters the substance of the ground around it, transforming even solid stone into a morass of alien sludge.

What Do You Think?

So here are a couple of the ultimate aberrations. (The Gates of Firestorm Peak also introduced alien, multidimensional creatures like the dharculus and the wyste.) How do they look to you?

Previous Poll Results

How do you think this description of helmed horrors squares with their history in the game?
1—Well, the horror part is right. 11 1%
2—It’s not working for me at all. 31 3%
3—It could work, but it needs improvement first. 155 17%
4—It’s pretty good, and I can suddenly imagine using a helmed horror in my game. 482 54%
5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use a helmed horror in my game. 203 23%
Total 882 100.0%

A key element of the 3rd Edition incarnation of the helmed horror was that it always used a magic weapon. Is this essential?
• No, it’s ridiculous that they would have one. 69 8%
• No, it works just fine with or without one. 681 76%
• Yes, it’s not really a helmed horror without one. 135 15%
Total 885 100.0%

How do you think this description of shield guardians squares with their history in the game?
1—It should be cut to ribbons by animated scissors. 10 1%
2—It doesn’t make sense to me at all. 9 1%
3—It could work, but it needs improvement first. 133 15%
4—It’s pretty good, and I can suddenly imagine using animated objects in my game. 491 55%
5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use animated objects in my game. 235 26%
Total 878 100.0%

Should players who cast the animate objects spell be referred to the Monster Manual, or should the spell description contain everything they need to know?
• Send them to the Monster Manual for a richly complex set of options 154 17%
• Don’t clutter the Player’s Handbook spell description with all that information. 65 7%
• Keep it simple and put it in the spell description. 518 58%
• Put a richly complex set of options in the Player’s Handbook. 147 16%
Total 884 100.0%

How do you think this description of the homunculus squares with their history in the game?
1—It’s a warty little toad-thing that I abhor. 12 1%
2—It doesn’t make sense to me at all. 29 3%
3—It could work, but it needs improvement first. 211 24%
4—It’s pretty good, and I can suddenly imagine using a homunculus in my game. 475 53%
5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use a homunculus in my game. 156 17%
Total 883 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
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