Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Iconic Monster Use & GURPS 10' Gelatin Cube Monster

In my last session, my players ran into a gelatinous cube. Well, encountered. It would have been funny if they actually ran into it, of course.

Everyone identified it pretty quickly. Dryst's player knew it well enough to list its probable powers. But a couple guys said "I never actually ran into one."

Iconic old-school monster. A killer 10 x 10 x 10 foot cube of dungeon-clearing "so this is why stuff we leave behind is gone" monster.

But they never ran into it.

Heck, I rarely used them myself.

Why not?

I think part of this is that they are so iconic, so obvious, and so well-known that they are hard to use. You either feel they're overused, or too obvious, or that they are so special you need to save them up for a special occasion. This is also known as "dragon syndrome." You end up not using them at all or using them so late they're more of a campaign afterthought.

Well, that's not going to happen with gelatinous cubes in my game anyway.

And just because, here are some stats for a killer 10 x 10 x 10 foot cube of carrion-eating jelly statted for GURPS 4th edition.

Killer Cube O' Gelatin
A 10 foot cube of hunting gelatin. "Attacks" by moving into/onto a target and then digesting it. Usually motors along at less than 1 yard/second, eating mold, fungus, carrion, and wood (including doors in a pinch!), but it can and will speed up if attacked or it senses a large amount of food.

ST: 0 HP: 10 Speed: 4.00
DX: 6 Will: 10 Move: 2
IQ: 1 Per: 8
HT: 10 FP: 10 SM: +4

Dodge: N/A Parry: N/A DR: 0

Slam or Touch (N/A): 1 point corrosive damage (every 5 pts damage reduces DR by 1 and inflicts 1 damage) (doesn’t affect most metals or any stone/pottery) plus paralysis (contact agent, resisted by HT-2), lasts 1 minute after no longer in contact with cube.
Envelopment (N/A): It can fully envelop paralyzed foes; envelopment does 10 points of corrosive damage per second, plus paralysis as above.

Traits: Amphibious; Discriminatory Smell; Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Sleep; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Immunity to Mind Control; Injury Tolerance (Homogenous; No Blood); Invertebrate; No Legs (Slithers); No Manipulators; Regeneration (1 HP/Hour, not from fire); Silence 3; Universal Digestion; Vibration Sense (Air).
Skills: Stealth-12.
Class: Slime
Notes: Nonsentient and can’t negotiate. Plant/Slime spells won’t work. Gelatinous cube jelly is worth $10 a quart, 1d6 quarts can be gathered from a slain cube.

Editing Later: Check the comments if you want to see some suggestions for making this tougher. I didn't make it very tough, because I'm not sure why a scavenger should be a tough fight for even a slightly-prepared adventurer. This cube is a scavenger, meant for sweeping up the dungeon and making it perilous to leave the wounded behind, try to stash food, leave corpses you might want to zombie later, and so on. It's not a threat, although you can make it so if you prefer. I don't, so the version above isn't one. It's fodder at best. It's an obstacle, not an enemy, and it's really just a reminder that nothing that isn't alert and able to defend itself is safe in a megadungeon. It should be just as dangerous as a 10' pit - not at all if you're paying attention and ready, but potentially harmful if you aren't.


  1. It seems a bit weak. Even a standard guard (ST13, Polearm-14) with a dueling glaive can kill it in ~3 seconds (repeated telegraphed rapid strikes vs skill-16 for 2d+3 damage puts it to -5xHP in 4 strikes). The 1 pt of corrosive damage is also pretty low and the paralysis effect doesn't work through armor.

    The comparative listing from Moldvay Basic (p35) has 4HD and does 2d4 damage plus potential paralysis. 3-4 1st level fighters can certainly beat it, but I'd expect it to defeat a lone 1st level fighter with ease.

    Upping the HP to 40+ and increasing the damage to 1d or more would at least make delvers pay attention to the silly thing.

    1. For my game, it's supposed to be weak, it's supposed to be a scavenger, and it's supposed to be beatable pretty easily. I think the D&D versions are way too tough - why should a monster that lives by eating mold, corpses, and the occasional rat be a really tough armor-penetrating man-killing engine of destruction?

      You're welcome to do whatever you like with it. Feel free to up-gun it if you want it tougher for your own games.

    2. Your edit and explanation make it a pretty cool monster, actually. At least, for megadungeons.

    3. Thanks. Yeah, I'm assuming a megadungeon here. If it's a monster in a smaller dungeon, and needs to be a threat, upgun the heck out of it. Or deploy them by the dozens as support for the 10 x 10 x 10 yard Mother Cube that does 3d corrosive or so and has a boatload more HP.

      You could make them harder to kill by making them diffuse, instead of homogenous - more airy than gelatinous, and much harder to just wipe out.

    4. I am Jello of Borg. Resistance . . . is gooey.

    5. I believe you mean resistance is at HT-2

  2. For hit points, you're basically dealing with 27 cubic meters of material. If your gelatin has the same density as water, it will mass 27,000 kg, or about 30 standard tons. That's about 300 HP if it's Homongenous based on mass alone.

    1. You're right about mass, but I'm assuming low structural integrity here. They break up pretty easily, when it comes right down to it. They don't have many natural threats, so it wouldn't matter - anything without a weapon and some good reach (it has Move 2, and can just run you over) will get run over quickly. If it somehow runs over a PC, that PC is in serious trouble unless he's got sealed armor. So wounded guys left behind, unconcious enemies left for "questioning later," corpses left for eventual resurrection - all have some real concerns with this thing.

      Armed and ready adventurers? None. Giving it 300 HP wouldn't change that.

    2. Interesting, and valid. Thirty tons of non-sentient but mobile jello is tough to square, of course. :-)

  3. Also, the amount of matter in the cube itself is huge. Water is 1 kg per liter (call it a quart), which means a slain cube is 27,000 or so quarts of raw stuff. Sorting the VALUABLE glop out of that will be a job of work - I suggest that what you're doing is extracting the magical binding/animating agent that makes this thing do what it does. There can be rather less of that kicking around.

    1. Yes. That's the valuable remnants. Of course, you could say it is all valuable - but then you'll need to dramatically lower the $ value. Say, $0.01 per quart. I mean, if it's basically a cube of money, why would any be around? They'd get hunted to extinction.

  4. 10'x10'10' is about 30,000 quarts. You might want to specify that certain internal organs (requiring a good hidden lore/alchemy roll to find, since they're as transparent as the rest of the thing) are worth decent money and that the rest is worth about $1 per cubic foot if less than 1 day old, just to see your players try to haul 30,000 pounds of semi-paralytic goo out of the dungeon post-haste.

    I agree with Mark that the thing you posted is too weak, stat-wise. The old-school one had pseudopods that hit pretty hard in addition to all the rest.

    Old school version often had random interesting inorganic stuff stuck inside as well. Seems a shame to toss that.

    Non-canonical, but fun:
    -How about a paralytic acid spray/jet just to catch the PCs off guard? If it is a good aerosolized explosive, even better, given how many of these things have been burned to death over the years.
    -An interesting possibility is that if you kill them with anything but fire they don't so much die as get cut up into chunks small enough that they run away into cracks etc. (They seem to instinctively fill any passage they navigate).
    -Maybe they taste great if prepared properly (another good opportunity for lore/survival skills). This might be the major reason there are so many of them - they are a way for denizens to turn garbage and sewage into delicious Cube-poi.
    -Consider giving it the ability to slowly squeeze through narrow gaps.
    -Consider giving it a chemical weakness (for example salt). In addition to being another opportunity for lore/survival goodness, it is another reason that the other dungeoncritters haven't exterminated the slow, stupid, soft things. Sure, it will eat your children when they sleep, but only if you are a dumbass and don't put a salt-trough around your living area. Added plus - after the PCs figure out what's going on, someone will probably by a SOP perk to put a wide circle of salt around any campsite/rest area...

    1. All good suggestions, but see above (in my responses to Doug, and Mark, and in the edited post) why I didn't do things like that.

      The old-school one had psuedopods? Did it? It doesn't in my AD&D MM (which I just checked), or Moldvay D&D Basic Set, or in Holmes Basic. So that's new to me if it's true.

      Besides, I have a pseudopod-using acid-secreting scavenger already, the slugbeast. It's in DFM1. Doing another one would have been boring, since I already use the slugbeast in my game.

    2. Oh, and note that Invertebrate will allow it to squeeze through small holes already - since this thing has no internal structure, it stands to reason it could eventually squeeze through anything. It's a good way to explain how they get around.

    3. d20 GCs have pseudopods, but that's hardly conclusive.

      I distinctly remember an illio of a fighter type being butchslapped by a GC pseudopod from my MooseJa[1] days, which would put it around '85. Doesn't appear to be online though, and I can't place the source. Apparently not the AD&D1 MM.
      (This is online though:
      and it's awesome.)

      There's no real requirement for you to exactly copy the old one anyway - I'd actually rather argue the converse. Keep the most (ahem) flavorful parts and punt the rest for fun.

      I see what you are trying for with the fragile dungeon janitor approach, but I'm not sure I like it more than a more threatening approach. Yes, unless it gets the drop on the PCs they will murderize it, but if it *does* get the drop on them it traditionally puts up a good fight. On the other hand, the dungeon ecosystem is usually ridiculously overslanted towards the deadly[2], so you may have a point.

      [1] A MooseJa is like a Canadian version of a Ninja. [3]

      [2] Your average dungeon ecosystem puts stuff like civilizations of humanoids and tigers in the role that bunny rabbits play in the outside world.

      [3] OK,OK, it's a small town in Western Canada, but I like my story better.

  5. Speaking of 10' pits, putting one of these in one of those is a time-honored trick.

    Even as scavengers they can be pretty nasty. Consider monsters intelligent enough to use and direct them as traps and obstacles, especially if they're immune or resistant to paralysis and digestion.

    1. Yeah, and statted as I did, if you fall into the pit you fall into 10 corrosive damage per second. No reasonable GM is going to say your armor protects fully if it's not sealed, I think. So that's 0 to - 5 x HP in 6 seconds for a ST 10 type, 0 - cannot be resurrected in 11 seconds. Ouch.

      I'll post something later about this kind of thing - monster as obstacle, not monster as foe. I think everyone has good points about how inconsequentially weak this is as a foe, but it isn't a foe. It's an obstacle, and it's a tax on people who don't take elementary precautions.

  6. Why is the ST so low? Per the FAQ, if it has a Strength of zero, it can move only if it has no encumbrance at all. That means it's trivially easy to immobilize one.

    Also, I don't have my books with me, but isn't Knockback based on ST? That's going to cause odd effects.

    1. You can up ST. I figure it just can't push anything around, and stops when it hits something. Give it a ST 10 if you want it able to keep going with a victim or two in it, if they're small enough.

      Knockback is based on ST, but honestly, this is a case of ignoring the rules when they don't make sense. How do you knock it back? It's got 0 DR, anything will penetrate it, and it's going to be heavy even if it's less dense than water. I suppose you could give it a given ST for resisting knockback, but I just eyeball it and say, it's not going anywhere. If I gave it ST 10, then 8 damage would knock it back a yard. I don't see that happening. You might just want to say it can't get knocked back except in special circumstances.

    2. IT (No Knockback). There. Problem solved.

      Eyeballing it, I'd price this at 5 points, if anyone cares. That's just a feel-good approximation, though.

    3. 5 points is cheap, since Immovable Stance is so high. I should just tag a note on saying it doesn't suffer any knockback because it's too big and soft.

  7. I wrote up a "hexagonal colloid" monster for a web-Pyramid adventure, more suitable than the gelatinous cube for GURPS. I'd look up the stats, but I'm a lazy, lazy man.

  8. Would it make sense to treat the cube as a swarm? Or is that basically what you've statted anyway?

  9. Would it make sense to treat the cube as a swarm? Or is that basically what you've statted anyway?

    1. It's effectively a Homogenous swarm - it attacks by contact, or by moving over you. It can't miss if it does that.

      An interesting variation on the cube would be to make it Diffuse, and make it a cloud of corrosive digestive vapor-slime instead. That would make it much harder to kill.


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