Saturday, December 17, 2011


No. Enc.: 2d4 (4d4)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 1+1 (improves with age)
Attacks: 3 (claw/claw/bite)
Damage: 1d6+2, 1d6+2, 3d4
Save: F2
Morale: 6

Special: Deliberate Adaptation, Closed Gestalt

Shell-Backs are an old, little regarded type of abhuman hybrid left-over from the grim days of the despot Mardalle and her blasphemous experiments in mixing and mingling the life-stuff of countless animals, plants and slaves. Most reputable scholars have long since rejected the methods first explored by Mardalle, but few can avoid the real and significant contributions that she made to science and natural philosophy, not the least of which are several varieties of abhumans and pseudohumans that survive, even thrive, to this very day. But few of them see themselves as any sort of living testament to their creator. Most revile her name and have rejected the society of those who would honor the dubious 'achievements' of the long-dead despot.

To Serve One's Betters
Originally bred to serve as laborers, porters, teamsters and the like within the dismal marshes and other wetland regions of Mardalle's demesne, the Shell-backs were also formed to act as an impromptu militia of sorts. They were intended to not only serve their masters, but to protect them from the giant leeches, bog worms and other dangerous flora and fauna of these areas.

Over time the Shell-Backs proved themselves to be eminently good at their various tasks and duties. Diligent and plodding, methodical and seemingly unimaginative, they served for generations without complaint or even the merest hint of displeasure or restiveness. But this may all have been part of an elaborate ruse...

More Than They Seem...
There are several varieties of Shell-Backs. Some truly are little more than animals, but these are by far in the minority. Most Shell-Backs are not only intelligent, they possess souls, harbor ambitions, and in some cases even develop sorcerous and/or psychic ability. But so far they have revealed only the very least of what they are truly capable of to outsiders. One major ability that few have ever suspected is that the Shell-Backs share a form of closed-loop telepathy, making them a Closed Gestalt -- a group-mind that remains withdrawn, hidden and so far unsuspected by outsiders. Whatever one Shell-Back sees, hears or learns, the rest likewise have access to according to their individual abilities (This is based on WIS).

A Shell-Back also has the innate ability to adapt to whatever natural environment they find themselves in, so long as they make a successful Save against any environmental effects. This takes the form of their shift from amphibian to desert-oriented bipeds who now have the means to store water and survive great amounts of heat, cold and deprivation. This capacity to adapt has not been fully studied, mostly for lack of funding and academic apathy--no one has ever really been all that interested in the Shell-Backs.

Until recently.

The More Some Things Tend To Stay The Same...
The prevailing expert opinion for centuries has been that the Shell-Backs are stable, amalgam-beings composed of only a small percentage of human characteristics, remaining mostly animals. They have been enslaved and taught simple tasks, even used as cannon-fodder (literally) during sieges and other extreme events, but for the most part no one has regarded the creatures as being more than slightly clever animals. This has been a mistake.

Shell-Backs are not just semi-mindless, bipedal animals that can be exploited as cheap labor and trained as simple servants. They are intelligent, very patient and have been extremely secretive about their true natures and capabilities. In effect, Shell-Backs have been hiding in plain sight, learning a great deal about the other races while serving them as slaves, lackeys, and the like.

The More Other Things Change...
The more advanced Shell-Backs have turned away from their ancestral wet-lands and have begun to establish enclaves deep in the dry wastes, deliberately adapting themselves to an alien environment as they master the arts and sciences that they have learned over the course of their long observation and service to the other races.

An army of Shell-Back pike-men is rumored to be forming out past the Ruined Perimeter...


  1. Interesting species. I like the write-up style, too. Sort of journalistic in structure. You guys are always forward-thinkers.

    1. I thought I'd already responded to your comment Trey. This format just sort of happened, and it seems to fit, at least for some of the critters we're making. We do try to keep things interesting.

  2. I'll bet there could be a few of these fellers in the implied Xeno-Meso setting I have been building my Petty Gods for... the Shell-Backs might be planning something with Tlacotani for all we know. Some sudden inundation that turns an isthmus into an archipelago...

    1. Could be--the Kalaramar Drifts bleed-over into a lot of different spaces and places. The Shell-backs seem like very appropriate allies of Tlacotani...sounds like you have an adventure already brewing there...


Thanks for your comment. We value your feedback and appreciate your support of our efforts.