Flying Polyps

The Flying Polyps are an enigmatic alien species which destroyed the Great Race of Yith some 50 million years ago. Available evidence indicates that at least one survived into the 1930s.

The following material is intended for use with The Fraternal Order of Librarians.

Monster Mash

Q: What happens if we nuke Cthulhu?
A: He reforms in 15 minutes. But now he’s radioactive!
Chaosium FAQ

Professor Klaus Scholz is quite correct in his speculations about the Flying Polyps. The direction in which evolution has taken them, after several hundred million years underground, is even more deadly than he feared.

The Polyps are symbiotic creatures, and their “plant” symbiote half feeds upon tachyonic or “temporal” energy (Magic Points for game purposes), which is emitted by the sun. As humans (save those who have indulged in time travel in some form, including mental, such as Yithian possession, auguries or use of the Liao drug) possess little temporal energy, Polyps do not really find us that nourishing a meal, which is one reason they have not bothered to stir from their ancient coral-like “cities”. On the other hand, their “animal” part is quite capable of absorbing nourishment from flesh by direct consumption, and the Polyps are quite territorial. Mentally, they are about the equivalent of tigers or other large predators, cunning and capable of deploying sophisticated hunting tactics, except that a) they live in colonies rather than alone and b) they are fundamentally “filter feeders” which prefer to wait for their prey to come within reach, rather than go after it themselves. Their normal diet consisted of temporal micro-organisms – “fleas of Tindalos” – but they would happily gorge themselves on bigger things.

When driven underground, away from sun and prey, the Polyps suffered a massive dieback. The Great Race allowed a limited amount of sun to penetrate the depths, opening the pits for “feeding time” every so often to ensure that enough Polyps survived to give them safety from Hounds and other such predators, but this was not nearly sufficient to support the total Polyp population. As always, survival stress eventually produced an evolutionary response, which then spread through the population.

The “plant” half developed the ability to subsist upon the only source of high-energy and tachyonic radiation available underground – nuclear decay. Australia, being a very old continent, is particularly rich in radioactive elements (which also helped speed up the evolutionary process by causing more mutations) and the polyps absorbed the rich background radiation and developed ways to store it biologically .

Although this background radiation enabled the species to survive, the “animal” half had to seek new prey if enough energy for growth and reproduction was to be accumulated. They soon encountered the only thing living underground that offered a source of tachyonic energy – the Formless Spawn of Tsathogghua (Australia’s lack of earthquakes shows that no Cthonians are in residence). While smaller and slower than the Polyps, the Spawn are sometimes intelligent and are capable of magic use. Their “formless” nature also meant that the Polyps’ wind blasts and space-twisting “sucking wind” were not very effective against them. The Polyps evolved their native space-time manipulation talents to be able to throw up “temporal shields” against the Spawn’s hostile magic. They also learnt to “twist” time around their own bodies’ energy stores to greatly accelerate the process of nuclear decay, forming a high-energy radioactive blast that could damage the Spawn.

When the K-T impact cracked open the Polyp’s caverns, the Great Race were overwhelmed by their hosts’ new talents. The “temporal shields” were at least partly effective in defending against lightning guns, and the radiation blasts were completely unexpected. Rather than re-fight a war of subjugation, the Great Race left, abandoning their former bodies with their new, confused insectile consciousnesses to consumption by the Polyps. For their part, having now evolved to suit life below ground, the Polyps now found sunlight and microorganisms less nourishing, and retreated to their new habitat.

Flying Polyps, Mark II (another product of Evolution!™)

Stats as per the Call of Cthulhu rulebook, except that Int is only 2d6, and Polyps do not know spells.

All Polyp powers (including their traditional invisibility and blasting and sucking “winds”) are caused by the Polyp’s manipulation of the local space-time field. For example, the “sucking wind” effect is caused by the Polyp shaping the local gravitational force so that the prey “falls” towards it. Polyps have a variety of new powers, listed below. These powers cost them energy, so Keepers should keep track of the Polyps’ MPs.

Shield: Polyps can defend themselves from magic or energy (e.g. lightning-gun or laser) based attacks by forming a space-time “shield” which diverts the energy somewhere/when else. This costs them magic points per round, and they cannot make any other supernatural attack while “shielding” (they can still move and attack with their tendrils). For every MP spent, 2d10 points of damage are deflected. Polyps will instinctively throw up a shield if attacked in this way. The shield has no effect on material weapons (e.g. bullets), though these are not very effective in the first place. Fire and explosives are also unaffected.

Blast: Polyps can emit a “blast” of heat and radioactivity by concentrating time around the radioactive substances and energies their plant halves are digesting. The rules for radiation damage below have been adapted from the excellent Call of Cthulhu-Delta Green scenarios A Handful of Dust, by David Conyers , and Future Perfect by Dennis Detwiller .

The Blast of microwave radiation does 4d6 points of heat damage per MP spent by the polyp (resist Damage versus Con for half) to prey within 3 metres, 2d6 to prey within 10 metres and 1d6 to prey within 30 metres. It affects a cone-shaped area, with its apex at the polyp and about 2 metres in diameter at the maximum range. In addition, the prey also takes 0.2 grays (20 Rads for Americans: 1 gray = 100 Rads) of radiation exposure per d6 of damage – this means that PCs hit by the point-blank blast will start feeling the effects of radiation sickness almost immediately. Note that Radiation exposure (and the effect on skills and stats) is cumulative: a character who catches 0.4 grays one round and 0.4 the next has a total of 0.8 and will start feeling ill effects. Radiation is worse if it comes in large doses in a short period of time: if a character takes 2 or more grays in one blast, double the effective blast for the purposes of the chart. Symptoms appear 15-30 minutes after exposure.

Radiation Exposure Chart
Grays Effects
0-0.6 Practically no effect.
0.6-1 Roll CON*2 or suffer nausea and sickness, losing 1d6+2 HP.
1-2 Roll CON*1 or suffer nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hair loss, livid skin spots, fever and fatigue, taking 1d10+2 HP damage. Lose 1 HP per day for 25-CON days and lose 1d10 CON PERMANENTLY. Recovery time of 2+1d4 weeks. Physical skills like Climb and Jump are halved until recovery.
2-4 Increased severity, automatically suffer nausea etc. Lose 1 HP per day for 30-CON days. Lose 1d20 CON PERMANENTLY. Recovery time of 4+1d4 weeks. STR and DEX are halved until recovery.
4-6 Worsening symptoms. Bleeding from the mouth, under the skin and in the kidneys. Lose 1 HP every 6 hours for 40-CON hours. Roll CON*3 or be permanently blinded and/or sterile. Recovery period of 10+2d10 months. Bone marrow transplants required.
6-8 As above, plus malfunction of nervous system (lose 1d10 DEX permanently) and circulatory system (lose a further 1d10 CON permanently). Lose 1 HP per hour for 50-CON hours. Roll CON*1 or be permanently blinded and/or sterile. Recovery period of 1d4 years. Bone marrow transplants required.
8+ Death is certain within a few hours. All the above symptoms, and lose 1HP every hour until death.

A merciful Keeper might allow a resistance roll of Polyp POW versus investigator POW, to represent the investigator’s chance of mystically deflecting this quasi-magical attack, or a roll of Con vs 100*grays (or vs Rads) for half exposure. Success might move the victim up a notch or two on the ladder. The radioactivity can only be screened against with magic or radiation-proof materials (an inch of lead would be good). A radiation suit would have to resist the microwave “blast” to provide effective protection against the radiation. A good radiation suit will cut the radiation by a factor of 10.

A Polyp exposed to the blast of another Polyp (friendly fire) will take blast damage but no radiation damage. In fact, for each gray the polyp is exposed to (round down), it gains a Magic Point.

Suicide Bomb: A Polyp on the point of death may, given a few rounds, choose to fold its temporal fields within itself, accelerating the process of nuclear decay to the point at which a nuclear chain reaction takes place – effectively converting itself into a small fission bomb or “Baby Nuke”. This kills the Polyp and anything else in the vicinity. The yield is one TNT equivalent ton per POW point of the Polyp. A Polyp with average POW of 16 could explode with a force of 0.16 Kilotons (6.7 *108 Joules) or about one hundredth of the force of the Hiroshima bomb. In general, Polyps will not blow up in the presence of other Polyps from the same colony.

Polyps do have some weaknesses. Although gunfire and other material attacks do only minimum damage, the polyp’s sucking attack will also draw bullets (grenades/shells/etc) to it, greatly raising their chance to hit. Polyps are not used to projectile weapons. A machine gun or other fully automatic weapon could do a significant amount of cumulative damage, and the Polyp’s first reaction would probably be to assume it was facing hostile magic and throw up an energy shield, which would not work against bullets, thus buying investigators time. Chemical weapons and heat or cold are also effective. Explosives do twice minimum damage. If a polyp could be tricked into contact with an electric fence or something similar, it would soon run out of MPs to shield and begin taking damage from electricity or magic as normal.

Polyps will be turned back by Elder Signs, Pnakotic Pentagrams and Hypatian Ankhs, and damaged by enchanted weapons and the Baneful Dust of Hermes Trismegistus. The Powders of Ibn-Ghazi or Identify Spirit will make them visible and stun them for 1d4 rounds, as they are forced to fully materialise in this spatio-temporal plane. This effect would also disrupt any “shield” the Polyp might be maintaining at the time.

Finally, the piping, whistling sound which accompanies Polyps sounds on all electromagnetic frequencies as well as audibly. Investigators with radios or mobile phones can hear them coming, but will also have their communications drowned out as the Polyp draws close. The sound is quite similar to the piping of the Servitors of the Outer Gods and the song of Ghroth the Harbinger: SAN rolls (0/1d3) may be called for from any investigators who have previously encountered either .

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