“You lash out with your sword, which passes right through the tentacled cat-like beast as if it is not there. Suddenly, you are knocked aside and huge gashes open in your side as something attacks you from the flank. Something unseen…”
All right, time for a change of pace. Let’s talk about monsters. Specifically, a monster whose name I’m not allowed to mention. But I will give you a hint. It is a six-legged cat-like BEAST with tentacle shoulders that projects an illusion that makes it appear to be DISPLACED from its actual location. It is a DISPLACED BEAST if you get my meaning. *wink* *wink*
So this thing, this beast, has been a part of Dungeons and Dragons forever, or at least since the Greyhawk supplment written by Gary Gygax and Robert Kuntz in 1975. It has since then appeared in every edition’s Monster Manual so far, though we’re still waiting for the official release of the 5E Monster Manual to be sure. It was considered so iconic by Wizards of the Coast, that along with certain other beasties, it was classified as Product Identity and not released under the Open Gaming License. That’s right. You just can’t use the beast that shall not be named in your RPG unless you’re Wizards of the Coast.
Unless you’re Paizo and you’re clever and you know where E. Gary G. ripped off the thing I am talking about from. Which brings us to the actual word of the week.
Way, way, way back in 1939, a science fiction author with the AMAZING name of A. E. van Vogt published a short story called “Black Destroyer” in which the sterilized, all male crew of the science vessel “The Space Beagle” lands on a planet and encounter these terrible, psychic, six-legged, tentacled cats call Coeurl. The sentient, evil beings deceive the crew and hang out with the scientists in order to learn more about them, but eventually they give in to their hunger and feed on the humans. The humans eventually figure out that maybe the tentacled, black alien creature is the one eating them and the alien kills itself.
Anyhoo, in the 4th part of the Pathfinder Adenture Path “Legacy of Fire” entitled “The End of Eternity” Paizo included a coeurl as an alien creature that came to Golarion via a magical portal and feeds on the “id” of other sentient creatures. Which is also what the coeurl fed on in The Voyages of the Space Beagle. Except, weird, id did not refer to some pyschological construct or anything. It was phosphorus. I s$&% you not. Id was just phosophorus. That’s how the Space Beagle crew proved the alien was the one murdering them.
There were other stories of the Space Beagle (a reference to Charlie Darwin’s ship) which inspired all sorts of other things, including many episodes of Star Trek. But it is interesting to end with another legal battle. See, there was this other evil alien called the Ixtl which came aboard the ship and started implanting people with parasitic eggs in their abdomens. And they actually bore a striking similarity to a certain Xenomorph (which, by the way, just means “alien shaped”) in a certain movie about an Alien which spawned a sequel about more Aliens and eventually lead to me trying to beat my $15 bucks out of a theater manager while the end credits to Prometheus rolled.
Now, while Ridley Scott and the folks behind Alien insisted they were not in any way inspired or influenced by the Ixtl that attacked the Space Beagle, there WAS a lawsuit for plagiarism, but it never went to court. It was quietly settled out of court. So you can be the judge.
Meanwhile, one might also wonder about the Xill that appeared in the 1981 Fiend Folio and eventually in the 3rd Edition Monster Manuals who lay parasitic eggs in the chest cavities of their victims. What a weird coincidence.
How do you use this s$%& in your game? Well, I actually want to go back and talk about the original monster I started talking about whose name I dare not utter. Because, there’s a lot of in-game lore about the damned thing. Its pelt is usual for making magical items based on illusions. Its eyes are said to have magical powers that mask the bearers location. It is the mortal enemy of blink dogs, which are teleporting magic dog creatures. And so on. And I have to be honest, I kind of miss some of that crap. Not the specifics. But I like the idea of bits of monsters being useful for things or sallable. In point of fact, in my current Pathfinder game, the PCs are often able to (with the use of the right profession and craft skills) harvest useful bits from magical creatures which they can then sell to wizards, alchemists, and artificers. It’s actually a really cool way to put “treasure” in the game. My displacer beasts don’t carry around money, but those pelts and eyes fetch a decent price if they are harvested well.