It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter.H. P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness (1931)
That’s the eye-witness description we find in “At the Mountains of Madness” for the terrible shoggoths, horrifying bio-engineered life-forms that H.P. Lovecraft name dropped in his other stories “The Thing on the Doorstep” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” However, their creators, the Old Ones (later rechristened Elder Things so as not to confuse them with the Great Old Ones) designed the shoggoths to be a kind of endlessly repurposable biological construction equipment.
“Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes – viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells – rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile – slaves of suggestion, builders of cities – more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative!”
The shoggoths were an endlessly adaptable life form that could act as a crane, an earthmover, a bulldozer, steamroller, or even (one supposes) weapons of war when the Elder Things warred with some of the other early inhabitants of the Earth. They were never meant to be able to chose what shapes they took, that was for their masters to decide, but like the quoted passage says, they developed independent intelligence and an agenda all their own, quite reminiscent of the common sci-fi trope about artificially intelligent robots and computers gaining consciousness and turning on their creators.
What’s missing, in my opinion, from our common concept of the Shoggoth is their imitative quality. As the shoggoths became more intelligence, they could chose what shapes to take on themselves, rather than just reacting to the will of their Elder Thing masters. And that amphibious characteristic is interesting in that it implies that these imitative shoggoths might encounter sea life that they could draw inspiration from.
SHOGGOTH, Fetid iridescences
18D6 × 5
12D6 × 5
24D6 × 5
1D6 × 5
2D6 × 5
3D6 × 5
Average Hit Points: 63
Average Damage Bonus: +8D6
Average Build: 9
Average Magic Points: 10
Move: 10 rolling / 10 swimming
Attacks per round: 2 (swipe, bite, crush, engulf)
A shoggoth covers an area 5 yards/meters square, able to produce tentacles, claws, or assume any manner of appendages at will with which to swipe, bit, and crush opponents. Those unfortunate enough to be hit by a shoggoth attach may also be engulfed.
Engulf: each person engulfed within a shoggothis attacked separately and each must make a successful opposed STR roll or be sucked apart (usually meaning instant death*). If the shoggoth attacks more than one target, it must divide its STR among all the targets. Those held within the shoggoth’s bulk can strike back only on rounds in which they make a successful STR roll. Once engulfed, for each round a victom is held within a shoggoth, they suffer the shoggoth’s damage bonus in damage—rupturing, crushing, and being sucked into pieces.
An embraced victim can escape if they have a successful opposed Strength roll with the Tindalosian shoggoth, or if the appendage embracing the victim suffers at least 10 points of damage in a single combat round. A shoggoth can engulf any number of enemies; however, the total SIZ of those engulfed may not exceed the shoggoth’s SIZ.
*Kind Keepers, or those playing Pulp Cthulhu, optionally may change instant death to 4D6 damage per round.
Fighting 70% (35/14), damage DB
Engulf (mnvr) 80% (40/16), damage DB (divided by number of targets, see above)
Dodge 8% (4/1)
Climb 80%, Jump 60%, Stealth 40%.
Armor: none; halve damage caused by fire and electrical attacks; mundane weapons (incl. bullets) deal only 1 point of damage per hit; regenerates 2 hit points per round (death at zero hit points),
Spells: none; however certain individuals of great age may possess the knowledge and ability to cast 1D4 or more spells.
Sanity Points: 1D6/1D20 Sanity points to encounter a shoggoth.
While that’s all well and good, it completely leaves out their imitative capability. How about for every 5 points of intelligence the shoggoth has, it can summon up a characteristic from the natural world that they can “remember” and deploy against a target. Each attack can act independently but their use means forgoing the very effective Engulf attack.
Obviously the ocean is an endless source of horrors, from Portuguese Man-o-Wars to Bobbit Worms. Tiny creatures are often the most hideous (like the Mantis Shrimp) and they can be enlarged by the shoggoth to hideous proportions. Shoggoths could even take on the characteristics of various life forms to add armor to their already impressive resistance to physical damage.
Salt Water Crocodile Jaws
Killer Whale Jaws
Morey Eel Jaws