Gibbering mouther

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Greyhawk creature
Gibbering mouther
Gibbering mouther02.jpg
A gibbering mouther, as depicted in Lords of Madness (2005). Art by Steve Ellis.
Alignment Usually neutral
Type Aberration
Subtype None
First appearance The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

A gibbering mouther is an aberration that resembles a man-sized amoeba covered in mouths and eyes.

Ecology

Gibbering mouthers desire only to eat, and they eat whatever they can digest, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, ravenously stripping bare the areas near their lairs. They feed primarily on blood and other bodily fluids, and prefer sapient prey, but their digestive enzymes eventually digest everything but certain bodily organs (see below), dental enamel, diamond, adamantine, mithral, and glass. Those who dwell near a gate to the Far Realm can subsist for long periods on nothing but the otherworldly taint that emanates from that other plane.

Gibbering mouthers reproduce by asexual fission. When gibbering mouthers have reached maximum hit points, they divide in two over the next four hours, creating two new mouthers, each with half the size and number of mouths and eyes as its parent. The young mouthers then seek their own territory, reaching maturity in 3-6 months. Greater gibbering mouthers reproduce similarly, but one half retains the knowledge and abilities of its parent, while the other half becomes a normal gibbering mouther. It is believed that if two gibbering mouthers touch, they may merge into a single larger being.

Gibbering mouthers are unnatural creatures, poorly adapted to the Prime Material Plane. They tend to strip their territories free of food and eventually starve to death, although they can establish stable breeding populations in lush swamps. More commonly, they're used as guards by wizards or foul cults, and fed regular sacrifices of criminals or prisoners.

Environment

Gibbering mouthers typically inhabit fetid swamps and caverns beneath the earth. They are common in the vicinity of Chetanicatla in the Amedio Jungle, but hate excessive heat and sun.

Typical physical characteristics

Gibbering mouthers are slimy, oozing, ochre or green flesh with eyes and mouths floating in them. The smell of ammonia and other noxious chemicals surrounds them. If they lie still with their eyes and mouths closed, they resemble piles of wet earth. The Monster Manual II said they had brains hidden away in the centers of their bodies where they are difficult to hit, but "The Ecology of the Gibbering Mouther" disputes this, saying that their nervous systems are distributed throughout their bulk.

Their eyes, teeth, and nervous system come from their victims, and commonly belonged to a variety of species originally. Because the mouther preserves the nervous tissue of its victims, those killed by gibbering mouthers never actually die, and they cannot be resurrected or reincarnated until the mouther that has devoured them (or its descendents) has been destroyed.

Gibbering mouthers are capable of shifting to anaerobic respiration if need be, so they are impossible to suffocate.

Gibbering mouthers warm the stone in their immediate vicinity, and have the ability (thanks to various acids secreted by the monster) to temporarily turn even the hardest rock into a substance with the consistency of quicksand. They can spit a volatile chemical (ammonium iodide) that combusts in a bright flash on impact, producing blinding light and little else.

Alignment

Gibbering mouthers are neutral in alignment.

Society

Most gibbering mouthers are solitary and too insane to have any recognizable societies. They avoid other members of their kind.

Religion

There's no indication that gibbering mouthers are pious creatures, though there are at least two examples of gibbering mouthers being worshipped as gods by the Olman: one in The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan being identified as the goddess Tlazoteotl, and the "greater gibbering mouther" Xuxeteanlahucuxolazapaminaco in The Scarlet Brotherhood, who has become god-king of the nation of Chetanicatla in the Amedio Jungle.

It is believed that gibbering mouthers are descended from gibbering orbs, who are said to have been created by the Great Mother worshipped by beholders.

Language

Gibbering mouthers howl and gibber constantly in whatever the local common tongue is, but their words are random, mad babble, impossible to make rational sense of. Their voices are a mixture of human sounds, animal sounds, and the voices of whatever other monsters whose vocal apparatuses they've stolen over the years.

History

Gibbering mouthers originated in the Far Realm, entering the Prime Material Plane through a portal known as the Vast Gate, which had been opened by Elder Elves many ages past. Some sages believe gibbering mouthers are related to beholders, gibbering orbs, and other, less well-known aberrations.

Greater gibbering mouther

The greater gibbering mouther, of which there is only one known, is an unexpected mutation of the typical gibbering mouther species. This unique creature is twice as massive as ordinary members of its kind. Its spittle bursts into flame, setting combustibles on fire as well, where ordinary gibbering mouthers only produce a blinding "flare." Finally, the greater gibbering mouther can, once per week, create a grapefruit-sized independent creature known as a gibberspawn, a tiny blob with only a few mouths and eyes which attaches itself parasitically to other creatures, draining a comparatively small amount of blood while keeping its host alive. Gibberspawns can wordlessly compel their hosts to obey their suggestions; the sole known greater gibbering mouther, Xuxeteanlahucuxolazapaminaco, uses this ability to control an entire kingdom whose human inhabitants worship it as a god.

Publishing history

Gibbering mouther01.jpg

The gibbering mouther was first introduced in The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, where one is apparently interpreted by the local Olman as an incarnation of Tlazoteotl, goddess of the earth. The statistics from that book were reprinted in the 1st edition Monster Manual II.

An ecology of the gibbering mouther was written by Nigel D. Findley in Dragon #160, describing a church whose treasury was guarded by a gibbering mouther in a piece of short fiction.

The creature was mostly ignored in 2nd edition AD&D until Wolfgang Baur included it in his Assassin Mountain for the Al-Qadim setting. In that book, a gibbering mouther is summoned (using "writings better left unread") by a sha'ir (a mage who gets his spells from genie allies) and used as a gruesome punishment for those holy slayers who violate the commandments of their order. The order refers to the mouther as Shakashik ("Many Clamors") or Al-Bakbuk ("the Babbler"), and the hole in which it is incarcerated as the Pit of a Thousand Voices. The statistics for this gibbering mouther were reprinted in the Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume One.

A gibbering mouther next made an appearance in The Gates of Firestorm Peak by Bruce R. Cordell, where they were defined as natives of the Far Realm, spreading throughout the Prime Material Plane from a "Vast Gate" located beneath the mountain.

The Scarlet Brotherhood accessory by Sean K. Reynolds included statistics for a "greater gibbering mouther," the god-king Xuxeteanlahucuxolazapaminaco of Chetanicatla.

In 3rd edition D&D, the gibbering mouther was less esoteric than it had been in 2nd edition, as it was included in the first Monster Manual to be released for that edition of the game. Lords of Madness suggested that gibbering mouthers were descended from more powerful monsters known as gibbering orbs, which had been originally described in the Epic Level Handbook. It suggested that beholders were descended from gibbering orbs as well, making beholders and gibbering mouthers cousins of a sort. A revised version of the gibbering mouther appeared on page 150 of Lords of Madness, incorporating official errata.

See also

Bibliography

  • Baker, Rich, James Jacobs, and Steve Winter. Lords of Madness. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2005.
  • Collins, Andy, and Bruce R. Cordell. Epic Level Handbook. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2002.
  • Cordell, Bruce. The Gates of Firestorm Peak. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
  • Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual II. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1982.
  • Williams, Skip. Monster Manual. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.
  • Wise, David, ed. Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume One. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.