Notes By Chris Nichols
Picture by Rene Littek
An insectile horror steps into the torch light. Armored in black chitin, it glides on four heavy spider legs. Six arms fan outward, rising as if to embrace you and two end in long blades like a nightmare mantis. A maw with dozens of long teeth and glittering eyes crown the creature and hidden wings unfold from its back as a nightmare drone begins...
Millenia ago, the El Koth dwelt in what is now Hazlan, having come from across the stars and beyond the planes. Their empire here flourished for centuries, before falling and dieing of unknown causes. Today, nothing remains save artifacts such as the Lodestone of Toyalis and the bones and shells of the El Koth.
The El Koth are hulking alien insectoids spawned from biologies unknown to this world. Two of the primary features of El Koth physiology is their possession of both endo- and exo-skeletons and the fact that each El Koth possesses three brains.
El Koth have a generally tauric build, walking on four heavy spider-like legs, with a blunt, heavy stinger-bearing abdomen at the rear. The torso is massive, with a heavily hunched-back. Three nodules rise in a triangular arrangement from the rear of this hump; each is composed of a transparent green glass-like substance though which the El Koth's triple brains can be seen. (Each nodule has a hardness of 40 and 150 hp.) The El Koth's brain nodules glow a vile green (at about the intensity of faerie fire), but the creature can suppress this effect at will. The El Koth's head protrudes directly from its torso slightly below it's shoulders, though it is little more than a spike-filled maw surrounded by a jumble of fangs, mandibles, and rasping plates beneath twelve compound eyes arranged in a rectangle four eyes across and three eyes per column.
The four pairs of limbs grace the El Koth's torso. At the shoulders the largest of the limbs is found - a pair of mantis-like limbs bearing scythe-shaped claws of unnatural power. Below these claws one finds four shorter arms, design from grasping and fine manipulation. Unlike the chitinous hands of most insectile creatures, the hands of the El Koth are mollusk-like, strongly resembling primative shelled squid or nautilii. Each tentacle hand is pale white and has ten tentacles with extremely strong gripping suckers, a pair of beady black eyes, and a lamprey-like sucker mouth used to drain blood from gripped prey. A final set of limbs found at the mid-back, under the brain nodules, are normally folded up and hidden. Unfurled, these limbs resemble insectile versions of human arms, with the hands replaced with the membranous wings of a giant insect. When not in use, these wing membranes retract into the wing arms for protection.
At the crown of an El Koth's back is a knot of antennae. Two long whip-like antennae probe the surroundings in front of the El Koth. Four large feather-like antennae, two facing foreward and two facing back, complete the nest of sensory organs. The entire body of an El Koth is encased in thick exo-skeleton of black chitin. This shell is hairless, save for the thick, sparse, wire-like barbed hairs which serve as sensory organ for the El Koth's tremorsense. El Koth fly poorly and can not reach altitudes above 60 ft. Airborne, they resemble nothing so much as a heavy beetle in flight.
Of course, with the El Koth being a dead race from Hazlan's false history, who's to say that the El Koth ever really existed a more that bones and shells to begin with?
El Koth have a wide array of abilities they can make use of in combat. Most El Koth prefer to use psionics and spell-like abilities to subdue and capture opponents so that they may later be "made one." Obviously hostile forces or escaped prisoners are torn apart with the El Koth's scythe claws or drained of blood and eaten. Most El Koth prefer to be accompanied by at least one partially converted thrall, monster, or bio-sculpted servant. Many El Koth gain levels as psions, sorcerers, and wizards. A few are clerics to nightmare gods inimical to human life and sanity.
Improved Grab (Ex): If an El Koth hits an opponent of size category Medium or smaller with a tentacle hand, it starts a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. No initial touch attack is required. The El Koth has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use the part of its body it used in the improved grab to hold the opponent. If it chooses to do the latter, the El Koth takes a –20 penalty on grapple checks, but is not considered grappled itself; the El Koth does not lose its Dexterity bonus to AC, still threatens an area, and can use its remaining attacks against other opponents.
Psionics (Sp): At will - detect psionics, demoralize, destiny dissonance, matter agitation, dissipating touch, spider climb, charm person, recall pain, ectoplasmic cocoon, body equilibrium, chameleon, painful touch, brain lock, detect thoughts, inflict pain, suggestion; 3/day - charm monster, lesser domination. These abilities are as the powers manifested by a 10th-level psion.
Spells-like Abilities (Sp): At will - acid splash, detect magic, read magic, comprehend languages, cause fear, Melf's acid arrow, touch of idiocy, darkness, scare, tongues, web; 3/day - charm monster, fear, summon monster V; 1/day - acid fog. These abilities are as the spells cast by a 13th-level sorcerer (save DC 14 + spell level).
Acidic Bite (Ex): One round after succesfully grappling an opponent, an El Koth may use its bite attack. As the El Koth's saliva is highly acidic, an additional 1d4 acid damage is inflicted. (Bite +11 melee (vs. grappled opponent only) 1d8 + 1d4 acid.)
Blood Drain (Ex): One round after successfully grappling an opponent, an El Koth may choose to bite with the lamprey-like mouths of its tentacle hands. Each hand currently engaging in grappling an opponent inflicts 1 point of temporary Constitution damage per round.
Poison Sting (Ex): El Koth possess a poison-laden stinger, but its placement is such that it rarely comes into use. Only during a flyby attack (see feats) can an El Koth bring its stinger to bear. When used, the stinger does 1d4 damage and injects a poison doing 1d6 initial and secondary damage (DC 18).
Acidic blood (Ex): Anyone dealing sufficient slashing or piercing damage to an El Koth to overcome its damage reduction must make a Reflex save or take 1d4 acid damage as the El Koth's acidic blood spurts from the wound.
Regeneration (Ex): An El Koth takes normal damage from fire and magic weapons. El Koth can regrow lost portions of their bodies, but they can not reattach severed limbs or body parts.
Acid immunity (Ex): El Koth are completely immune to damage from acid. Additionally, El Koth can breathe acid as though it were air.
Blindsight (Ex): An El Koth's sensative antennae grant it blindsight. Destroying the creature's antennae disables its blindsight, though it can still see normally. (The reverse is also true, obviously - if an El Koth's eyes are destroyed, it may still use its blindsight.)
Tremorsense (Ex): El koth can automatically sense the location of anything within 60 feet that is in contact with the ground.
Terrible Claws (Su): The scythe claws of an El Koth acts for most purposes as +2 magic weapons (this is reflected in the stats above). They count as both natural weapons and melee weapons for the purposes of spell-casting (i.e. they can be affected by both magic fang andkeen edge, for instance). Some El Koth who have gained levels as psionicists or spell-casters have under gone rituals embuing their scythe claws with magic weapon enchantments such as the ghost touch,keen, or flaming special qualities.
Daylight vulnerability (Ex): Daylight is anethema to the El Koth. Abrupt exposure to bright light (such as sunlight or a daylight spell) blinds El Koth for 1 round. It is subsequently disoriented and can only take a single move or attack action each round. El Koth suffer a -1 circumstance penalty to their attack rolls, saves, and check during exposure. Finally, actual sunlight (not a daylight spell) causes El Koth to lose their regeneration special quality and deals 10 points of damage each round (this damage by passes El Koth damage reduction).
The El Koth's thoughts and motives are alien to nearly all forms life and it is speculated that they may once have been native to the Far Realms. What is known is that they wish to convert all life into more El Koth. Those who have survived contact with the El Koth and remained sane and human claim that these alien insects view their work as "uplifting" or "blessing" lesser beings, saving them from "one-mindness," "unreal-creatureness," and "lesserbeingstate." The El Koth use alien artifacts to tranform humans and others into the El Koth's alien mental and biological state.
El Koth cities have populations of perhaps 200 of the aberations and twice as many bio-sculpted servants and controlled monsters. Sentient beings equal to a third of the city's population are held as captives in various states of El Koth conversion. Areas the El Koth consider private or off-limits to non-El Koth are typically submurged under pools of acid and stocked with tool and effects crafted of strange acid-proof materials.
Perhaps due to this apparent desire to have all life "become as one" with them, the El Koth breed or create servant creatures via a psiono-magical art the refer to as "bio-sculpting." Such creatures are rarely without defenses. Many share the El Koth's immunity to acids.
El Koth Skeleton
The white-bleached shell of a massive insect lurches into view. Through holes in the tattered chitin, you can see another set of bones within.
El Koth skeletons are sometimes raised from deep ruins by arrogant necromancers in Hazlan. The exo-skeletons of these aberations resists decay surprisingly well, and even if it succombs to age, the endo-skeleton within is as resiliant as any other bone.
Interestingly, El Koth skeletons are difficult to maintain control of. For each week which passes after an El Koth skeleton is raised, there is a cumulative 5% chance that the skeleton slips free of its master's control, becoming a free-willed undead (up to a maximum chance of 50%; should the animator succeed in retaining control of the skeleton through this time, the El Koth skeleton calms and no further checks are required). Due to the fact that an El Koth's tentacle hands have no bone structure and rot away after death, an El Koth skeleton can not grapple its opponents.
Like all skeletons, El Koth skeletons lurch into combat at their animator's command. Free-willed El Koth skeletons either attempt to destroy their masters or disappear into deep ruins, perhaps trying to return to the ancient underground cities and lairs they kept in life.
Acid immunity (Ex): El Koth are completely immune to damage from acid and retain this quality in death.
Cold immunity (Ex): Skeletons are immune to damage from cold.
Damage reduction 5/bludgeoning (Ex): Skeletons lack flesh or internal organs.
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