Monday, June 19, 2017

Monster Monday: Colossal Octopus, Tentacle of the Deep

Today's Monster Monday (apologies for missing last week's post) is the colossal octopus, a tremendous being from the inky black depths of the sea, larger even than the legendary kraken. This being is a force of nature; a terror to shipping and to coastal communities.

Drawing by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, via Wikimedia
The kraken is a threat thanks not only to its immense size but also to its cunning (Int 21, Wis 20) and its innate magic. The colossal octopus, on the other hand, is a wholly non-magical animal, but nonetheless a true monster of the seas. With eight tentacle attacks and a powerful bite, this beast is built to take on a whole ship full of adventurers. It clocks in at Challenge Rating 13, which means it is an accessible opponent for more adventuring parties than the CR 18 kraken. The description also includes rules for hacking off its tentacles individually, because how could there not be? I'm actually kind of baffled by how the tentacle chopping that was a part of the kraken's stat block in D&D 3.5 disappeared in the Pathfinder version.

Back in the days of the Enlightenment, as humankind's approach to studying the natural world transitioned from the natural philosophy of earlier times to the more rigorous scientific method, both the kraken and the gigantic octopus were occasionally considered to be real creatures. Carl Linnaeus, the father of the modern taxonomy himself, included the kraken (under the scientific name Microcosmus marinus) in the first edition of Systema Naturae, published in 1735. The French naturalist Pierre Dénys de Montfort included both the kraken and what he described as the larger "poulpe colossal" (colossal octopus) in his 1802 work, Histoire Naturelle Générale et Particulière des Mollusques.

Drawing by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, via Wikimedia
These vestiges of myth and legend were soon scrubbed from scientific literature due to a lack of evidence, but it is worth noting why they ever made it to those pages in the first place. While we may take for granted that creatures like the colossal octopus are pure myth, early naturalists did not have the luxury of such certainty, especially when it came to the mysterious ocean depths. Naturalists used not only their own observations in their descriptions of the natural world, but also reports from others, studiously collecting and analyzing eyewitness accounts, local legends, and the writings of their ancient and medieval fore-bearers. The kraken and colossal octopus were represented in those sources just as the real monsters of the deep were; the fact that the immense carcasses of the otherwise unbelievable giant squid and blue whale occasionally washed ashore only served to lend credence to the idea that these other abyssal titans might exist somewhere out there in the unplumbed depths of the boundless ocean.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

This tremendous purple octopus flexes tentacles the size of tree trunks
Colossal Octopus                CR 13
XP 25,600
N Colossal animal (aquatic)
Init +5; Senses low-light vision; Perception +11
AC 22, touch 3, flat-footed 21 (+1 Dex, +19 natural, -8 size)
hp 199 (19d8+114)
Fort +17, Ref +14, Will +9
Defensive Abilities ink cloud (100-foot-radius sphere)
Speed 10 ft., swim 50 ft., jet 250 ft.
Melee bite +16 (2d8+10 plus grab), 8 tentacles +15 (1d8+5 plus grab)
Space 30 ft.; Reach 30 ft. (60 ft. with tentacle)
Special Attacks constrict (tentacle, 1d8+7), rend ship, swallow whole (4d6 acid damage, AC 19, 19 hp)
Str 30, Dex 13, Con 23, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 3
Base Atk +14; CMB +24; CMD 35 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Multiattack, Power Attack, Skill Focus (Perception, Stealth), Stealthy, Weapon Focus (tentacle)
Skills Acrobatics +5, Climb+15, Escape Artist +20, Perception +11, Stealth +13, Swim +25; Racial Modifiers +10 Escape Artist, +8 Stealth
SQ compression, tenacious grapple
Ink Cloud (Ex)
 A colossal octopus can emit a cloud of black ink in a 100-foot spread once per minute as a free action while underwater. This cloud provides total concealment. Creatures within the cloud are considered to be in darkness.
Jet (Ex)
 A colossal octopus can jet backward as a full-round action, at a speed of 250 feet. It must move in a straight line, and does not provoke attacks of opportunity while jetting.
Rend Ship (Ex)
 As a full-round action, a colossal octopus can attempt to use four of its tentacles to grapple a ship of its size or smaller. It makes a CMB check opposed by the ship's captain's Profession (sailor) check, but the octopus gets a cumulative +4 bonus on the check for each size category smaller than Colossal the ship is. If the octopus grapples the ship, it holds the ship motionless; it can attack targets anywhere on or within the ship with its tentacles, but can only attack foes on deck with its free tentacles and can't attack foes at all with its beak. Each round it maintains its hold on the ship, it automatically inflicts bite damage on the ship's hull.
Tenacious Grapple (Ex)
A colossal octopus does not gain the grappled condition if it grapples a foe with its tentacles.
Tentacles (Ex)
A colossal octopus has eight tentacles, which can be targeted individually in combat. Each tentacle has an AC of 29 (+1 Dex, +19 natural, -1 size), DR 10/slashing, and 38 hp. Damage dealt to a tentacle is also dealt to the colossal octopus itself. If a tentacle reaches 0 hp, it is severed, and the colossal octopus loses one tentacle attack. A colossal octopus that loses four to six tentacles has its swim speed reduced to 20 feet, and if it loses seven to eight tentacles, its swim speed is reduced to 10 feet and it cannot control the direction of its jet ability. A colossal octopus regrows lost limbs in 1d10+10 days.
Environment any ocean
Organization solitary
Treasure standard

The colossal octopus is a cephalopod that has grown to tremendous size in the black depths of the ocean.  It is often mistaken for a kraken, although it lacks the magical abilities and cold cunning of that sea monster.  These gigantic creatures are mysterious, appearing on the surface only rarely, usually to attack whales, rip apart ships, or terrorize coastal communities.  


In a recent session of one of my campaigns, the party sorceress used the spell magic jar to possess a colossal octopus that they were fighting, and proceeded to continue through the dungeon as an unstoppable tentacled killing machine. To commemorate this occasion, my wife devised a cocktail called the Colossal Octopus. The recipe is as follows:

2 oz Kraken black spiced rum
1 oz port
1 oz grenadine
4 oz blood orange soda

Serve neat or on the rocks. Drink responsibly.

-your malacological d20 despot

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