Thursday, September 4, 2014

False Hydra

Common wisdom holds that false hydras come from the ground.  They spontaneously originate as undifferentiated masses of flesh. Potatoes that sprout from no seed.  Supposedly, they germinate in response to lies, and that each falsehood causes a false hydra to swell larger.

Scholars agree, because they have no better idea.  In fact, so much about these abominations boggles the mind that scholars really don't know where to begin.

Paranoia dominates any discussion about it.  Everyone wants to know: Is it here?  Is it in my town?  Is that long, flaccid face watching me through the window even now?

i want you to focus on the neck
and also on the mouth
There are false alarms.  Criminals and deserters have pleaded that they were merely under the influence of the false hydra, or that they were merely trying to escape it's influence.  And sometimes that was the truth.

There are ghost towns in the Grey Waste.  Victims of false hydras.  People do not revisit those sites, out of fear of vengeful ghosts.  And perhaps the false hydra is still there, the black rot at the center of the bone.  And how would you know?

In gentler lands you will find skeptics.  These erudite scholars will stroke their chin and calmly tell you that there is no such thing as a false hydra.  It is some confabulation.  Villages seized by some infectious insanity, or perhaps some subtle demon.  

But they are wrong.

so there's no pictures of a false hydra because no ones ever drawn one
but just let me pontificate about this guy for a while
How to Use This Article

Use it however you want.  But I would use it to challenge the PCs as they wander.  It'd fit very well in an episodic game.  The PCs wander into a new town--a new threat emerges.  

Can someone make a random table titled "What's the Deal With the Town?"  1 - People are all friendly, evil believers of the Worm God.  2 - Plot of Tremors.  3 - False Hydra.  4 - Et cetera.

this is dead hand, from zelda

The false hydra enters a town through a humble enough method.  Fattened on worms, it has been growing upwards these last few days (weeks? years?), but has only now broken through the soil.  It emerges in a basement, from behind the jars of fruit preserve.  Or pushes its face up through a broken cobblestone.  And then it begins to sing.

While it sings, it is ignored.  It just creates gaps in your attention and then slips through them.  It is subtler than invisibility, and more reliable.

At this point, the false hydra is only a torso--presumably about the same size as a man's--buried somewhere in the ground.  The neck grows up, up until the head emerges from the ground.  The head is only the size of a man's head at this point.  It resembles a man's head, too, but white, hairless, and with thick deformities of the brow and lips.  The eyes are wet holes.

But of course, none of this is noticed.  While it sings, the hydra exists in our blind spot.

also make sure that your head is level with regards to the image
also make sure that the image is not too small

The hydra eats people, of course.  To eat someone, it must usually stop singing, which endangers the hydra someone, since it can now be noticed.  To make this task easier, the hydra usually drags the unfortunate victim a short distance underground, into a basement, sewer, or small chamber that it has excavated, and devours them there.

A man is walking along a deserted street.  Suddenly he realizes that the silence is more profound, as if a loud noise had just ceased.  There is a rattle as a sewer grate slides over rough stone.  In that darkness, a fleshy face, leering with undisguised hunger.  It lunges forward on a thick neck that slides out of the darkness like a sheath, one foot, three feet, six feet long.  And then it bites him on the arm and drags him down that narrow gap, yanking and twisting to fit the man's body through that too-small space.  And when the sounds of eating have ceased, the song resumes.

The man has family, friends who will notice his absence.  But the song of the hydra massages their mind, smoothing the wrinkles on their brain.  The hydra has eaten the man, who is now known to the hydra.  The song erases the memories from their soft heads.  They will not notice his absence, nor remember him.

And in this way, the hydra grows.  It's neck stretches long. . . longer.  And with it, its influence.

there is so much good fanart of this guy

The false hydra's song hides the memories of the devoured victims in the same way that it hides the false hydra, but this is not a perfect system.

Wives will wonder why there are men's clothes in her closet.  People will notice that no one has lit the street lanterns these last few nights.  Churches suddenly find themselves without a bell ringer.

By and large, these gaps close themselves up.  The wife will forget about the clothes as soon as she stops looking at them.  Or she will conveniently remember how her brother left them there the last time he visited.  Or she will, on some level, recognize the wrongness implicit in the clothes, and throw them away one moonless night.  She will confabulate, powerfully and constantly.

But part of her mind is cognizant of the disturbance.  That part of her mind is distrusted, and sealed away.  But that primordial cluster of neurons still fires.  A syphilitic madman who has been locked in the attic by his family, but whose mutters can sometimes be heard during the lulls in the dinner party downstairs.

This creates pressure.  In the early stages, this feels like paranoia, especially the sense that someone is watching you (and the hydra is watching you, pressing its moony face up against the window and fogging up the glass).  More severe symptoms develop.  Reminiscing becomes a stressful and uneasy experience, and so is avoided.  Distortions of memory.  The confabulations pile up, identities become muddled.  Friend's faces seems subtly deformed.  

Human brains were not meant to bear this weight.  Mundane insanities sprout like mushrooms.  Nervous disorders. Psychotic breaks.

look how happy he is

In severe cases, split-brain occurs, when one part of the brain strives to communicate with the other.  One of the PC's limbs might suddenly become its own entity, one that crudely and violently struggles to convey the danger to the PC.

A PC might wake up and discover that someone has scratched "IT'S WACHING YOU RIGHT NOW.  THE WINDOW." into their chest, and there is skin beneath the fingernails of their left arm, great.  If they receive a distressed letter from their mother, wanting to know why the last letter the PC sent contained the sentence "it ate him ate him in front of me but i did not see it ate him" inserted in the middle, great.  If they decide that their hand is possessed by demons and cut it off, best of all.

This could also be the hook for the PCs: an acquaintance sends them an innocuous letter that somehow contains the phrase "help me for the love of god help me help".  When they get there, the acquaintance has no memory of writing it, but looks nervous (and a little bit insane) while claiming that it's probably just some wizard's prank.  

"And where is your wife?"  

"Why, I've never married.  Why would you joke about this?"

And the next day, tell the players that their PCs have forgotten about the wife as well.  You can't get rid of the metagame knowledge in their heads, but allow them to act on their metagame knowledge whenever they can roleplay an intense feeling of paranoia or distress.

Their dreams are filled with dirges, spilling from the mouths of faceless people.  And somewhere, a pale face, whose eyes are nothing but wet, black holes.

which is impressive, given that he only had about three polygons when he scared the crap out of all of us as kids

As the false hydra matures, it grows more heads.  The process accelerates exponentially.  More blood on the cobblestones.  More incongruities festering in heads like gangrenous limbs.

The false hydra gets careless.  With every meal, it becomes more powerful, more able to smother mankind.  It doesn't need to be careful anymore.

The heads stretch up higher.  Their gracile necks sway above the rooftops.  Their heads have grown feral.  The skull bulges with masses of bone.  The lower jaw juts out, low-slung, like a dagger in a fist.  Soon,  it will finish devouring this city.

But darling, my darling, there isn't enough blood in all the world to slake its thirst.

three polygons that DO NOT FUCK AROUND

The players may suspect that something is invisible, but the usual magical countermeasures for fighting invisibility won't work here.  The song is closer to charm or suggestion, than anything else; I would allow anti-charm magic to have a temporary or partial effect.  Just enough for a few gargled words of exposition.  "It's watching us right now!  Look!"  That sort of thing.

But how do we actually position the false hydra where the players can find it with good play?

One option is to make the hydra visible in mirrors.  They might come across this solution relatively early in the investigation process.  Arming the populace with hand mirrors is a solution (but also how many hand mirrors does a medieval town have, really?), and will probably stop the daytime predation.  But the hydra will continue to eat people during the night, when there is no light to make the mirrors useful.

Do cats see it?  They probably freak out around it.  Dogs have no idea, though.

A more interesting, but also more challenging option is to allow them to investigate strange occurrences.  If the lamp lighter was eaten halfway through his task, the last lit lantern is a bit ominous.  If a player slips on a blood spill, the PC will have to suffer through the cognitive dissonance of having to rationalize a huge, obvious piece of evidence, but the player is under no such compunction.  They can investigate the nearby alley.

just pretend that the hands are extra heads and you've pretty much got it
Other options present themselves.  They could figure out where the necks stand in the sky by triangulating with an ally on a different rooftop, by discovering which cloud patterns are obscured from each other (because the false hydra's neck occludes them).  Bizarre ideas might work, like shooting arrows around randomly or constantly swinging a grappling hook around.  

If the grappling hook bangs into the false hydra, the psychic suppression will probably just force the PC to absentmindedly pick up the rope and resume swinging it, but a second PC watching the first PC would notice this irregularity, because that's another degree of separation from the hydra.  The mind-song hides the hydra, not the irregular behavior of a fellow adventurer who swore to shout an alarm if the grappling hook hit something invisible.

Baiting the hydra would also work well, and is probably the easiest method.  While the hydra bites, it stops singing, making it visible again.  (Or more accurately, allowing the PCs to stop ignoring it.)

If it is wounded, it will probably retreat down to its subterranean lair.  The PCs will have to kill it now, before they fall under the sway of its song, which it has now resumed (and the PCs can hear again, properly.  It is a nightmarish howl.)

If the PCs tarry, they'll forget they ever saw the false hydra.  The fictive paranoia (and actual metagaming) will be rampant, but this is okay.  Their left hand is just giving them more useful messages today, as more as more of the PC's brain rebels.

The HD of the false hydra depends entirely on how large it has grown, which depends on how fast the PCs have acted.  The fight could be a cakewalk or a meatgrinder.

god, that worm-neck

The PCs abandon the town to its fate.  Or perhaps they just fail utterly at investigating this weirdness.  Either way, the worst has come to pass.

The false hydra doesn't just eat everyone and then die.  That would be too easy.  Things Get Worse.

When a false hydra is mature (some texts localize this event to the day when it has grown seven heads) it begins to sing a new song.  This song mentally enslaves everyone within hearing range.  It's like a broadcast of dominate person.

Yes, give the PCs a saving throw.  But even if they make it, they're going to be in the middle of a town where everyone is trying to kill them.  The colossal apparatus of the false hydra is now visible.  Monstrous heads on tree-trunk necks tower above the town, leaning over rooftops and peering into windows.  Its bellowing voices order its mindslaves to kill that man over there, or to capture the fleeing child over there.  (Of course it can talk.  It always could.  It just never had anything to say.)

and you're left wondering
what do the parts of it look like that are still underground?

Only when the town has been purged, the false hydra orders its servants to exhume its body, now grown swollen and fat.  And while they dig, it eats.

And then the false hydra orders that it should be transported to a new city, where there is new flesh to be eaten.  It will be borne there atop the backs of its slaves, grateful legs staggering under its cold tonnage.  When it gets too large to carry they will lash it with chains and drag it behind them like a wailing, blubbery siege engine.  (Which it is.)

Of course, this is unsustainable.  As soon as a mindslave is outside the range of the false hydra's voice, they'll flee.  (Unless they tamp some wax in their ears and return for their loved ones hahahahahaha.)  Unless it raids other food stores, it will starve.  It cannot farm or hunt sufficient food without spreading its servants across an unacceptably broad area.

And the uncommon adulthood of false hydras is marked by desperate aggression.  An animal convulsing as it dies, crushing people and cities under its hungry bulk.  It usually heads for the largest cities (or whichever one the PCs have fled to) while seeking the largest food source.  Sometimes it succeeds long enough to grow larger and move on to the next city.  A tour of death.

The "traditional" tactic is to set fire to the granaries and evacuate the city.  The false hydra will starve to death in a few weeks, while everyone visits their relatives in the countryside.  The false hydra's movements are tracked by scouts on horseback, who watch the abomination from the horizons and communicate by flags.  Many of them choose to mutilate their own ear canals, in order to deafen themselves.  

These tactics failed spectacularly in the summer of 882 TFM, when there were multiple false hydras colluding with each other.  (The exact number is still disputed.)

alternatively, it could just mature into this fucked up thing
with sphinx powers
A more pressing problem is bandits, preying on families traveling alone with all their wealth.  Looters also linger in the cities after the evacuation order has been given, and many eventually fall victim to the false hydra, and allow it to grow larger.  Assassinations and power struggles are also common, as different parties use the chaos to seize an advantage.  

And lastly, a military presence must ensure that no mercenary company, slavelord, or evil wizard is allowed to open up lines of communication with the false hydra (using messengers).  Those avenues of exploitation have allowed some absolutely horrific tragedies in the past.  The cancer must be isolated until it is forced to eat itself.

If the game gets to this point and the PCs want to stay involved, I would turn the focus on the latent possibilities in the last four paragraphs, instead of assaulting the god-monster head-on.  Because who wants to fight a false hydra at the height of it's power.  (Lots of players, probably.)

NisseLindblom drew this one.

god, false hydras are freakish
their fragmented minds are mirrored in the people they devour

fun fact: dragon hydras are awesome
i should write a post about them specifically

fun fact: there was a false hydra in the house of hours
but the party never discovered him
he was at the bottom of a looooong stairwell

fun fact: lonely, lonely hydra
no one to talk to
except himself
fun fact: I'm actually pretty good-natured and pleasant to be around
I don't know why I keep writing such horrible things
fun fact: raaaaaaaaa

fun fact: aaaaaaaaaaawr


  1. Holy shit Arnold, you are on fire this week.

  2. This is the kind of thing that's so beautiful I want to put aside what I've been working on and place this into the campaign instead.

  3. SOLUTION: Write worlds greatest play titled "The Monster That Didn't Exist', persuade entire town to play parts in 24-hr live action 'art happening' in which they perform the roles of people hunting a monster they cannot see. If anyone questions it, say 'its just a metaphor for the modern condition, but make it look as real as possible'

  4. This would make a great Doctor Who episode. Also, I hope you don't mind that I'm going to steal all of your ideas because they're so awesome.

    1. You are the second person to mention Dr. Who to me after reading this post.

    2. Because this is basically a Dr. Who episode and people's subconscious' are probably picking up on that.

    3. The silence is basicly a watered down false hydra.

    4. The silence is basically the idea of a false Buddha's heading out off and growing legs and walking around...oh that gives me a twisted idea what it after 7 heads the th where any excess heads and they walk around with the memory of those eaten but act like signal doublers.

    5. Can you please say more about that, Quatro? What is a signal doubler? :)

    6. Our DM threw this at us the last couple sessions and we asked the previous session if we were fighting the Silence.

    7. I found this post after being reminded of it BY doctor who

  5. This is amazing. Thank you for sharing, as always.

  6. Hey, uh, I'm Alex! :D
    Stopping in to ask about one of the pictures. If I wanted to use it, would I ask you? Did you create all of these?

    1. I made none of these. Use google's reverse image search to figure out where they came from.

  7. I just used this over the last three sessions or so. The players loved it, it was the first time I managed to really get them to experiment with their powers etc (it's a mutants and masterminds game). One of the players told me they were going to have nightmares after the first session with it. Just wanted to say thanks and I love all the stuff on this site.

  8. This frigHtEned me, actually fRightEned me. I feel weird on the inSide nOw. Why are there so maNy porcElain dolls HERE IN MY HOUSE.

    1. Four years late to say this comment made me chuckle out loud. Thank you, and also sorry for making you remember the False Hydra.

    2. Who are you talking to, Iwasphone?

    3. MidnightMuse, you going crazy? There's nobody around!

  9. I'm using these as a recurring thing in my DnD campaign, and the party is going to fight one next time we meet. Thanks for the post, it's been received incredibly well.

  10. I imagine that as it grows more heads it needs more singing to hide it. When just one head is eating it looks like a shimmering patch. I imagine it eats on hot days, so the shimmer looks like heat haze . . .

    1. You're sure that your hearing is fine, but for some reason you can't hear your fingers tapping against the wooden picnic table in the town square.

  11. This is fantastic! The only issues I have is the hydra getting dug up and carried to a new city. It seems rather clumsy to me. Also, False Hydras manifesting from lies seems rather nebulous to me as well, so I came up with a slight variation on the beast that addresses both of those issues.

    An alternative "end-game" for the false hydra could be that they plant a "seedling" inside of a mind-slave and send that mind-slave to a new city. The seedling within it maintains the power over the host's mind, and the host seeks out sewers or caves beneath the city, digging down into the earth where it curls up and waits to die. The seedling feeds off of the host's body as it grows until it matures enough to start singing for itself, starting the cycle anew. A fully-grown false hydra can produce up to 6 offspring in this way. (An alternative to the seedling idea would be that the extra heads that grow become detached and a host carries it to the new town. The host would still dig into the earth under the city and sacrifice itself to the young Hydra)

    Soemthing else to consider; a fully-grown Hydra in a large enough town might control its slaves in such a way as to force them to reproduce so it has an indefinite food supply, essentially turning the people under its control into cattle.

    1. Good (and gruesome) ideas that would work, depending on if a false hydra had enough Intellegence and cognitive reasoning capacity to plan that out; I do agree that would be a good continuation method.

  12. I hope you see this since it has been years since you've posted this. I was hoping to use this in a 5e adventure with my group soon. The lore about this thing is amazing and would surely scare them out of their pants. What would you say are the stats for a False Hydra? Did you have specific ones in mind or did you base them off of another creature?

    1. I would say just use the stats for a hydra, with the song being an effect that constantly works (no save) unless the PC is immune to being charmed. Maybe once they start looking for the hydra, or they realize that there is a song happening, they might be able to Wisdom save (DC 20) to negate the effect for a short period of time (a minute?), or Counterspell as if the effect were a 7th level spell, again for a short period of time.
      If you want the power level of the false hydra to scale up, use the base ability scores of the hydra (MM 190), but the hydra starts at 3d12+15, or 33, HP, and gains another 2d12+10 for each head it has, and it has a proficiency bonus of 1, +1 for each head it has.
      I would start it at Small size (2 feet tall), and every time it eats a person it grows a foot in height. At 4 feet, it becomes Medium size, at 8 it becomes Large, at 16 it becomes Huge, and at 32 it becomes Gargantuan. Every ten feet of height, it grows a new head (2nd head at 10 feet, 3rd at 20, etc).

      Obviously, feel free to tweak these numbers to better work in the game you're running, and good luck!

    2. I wouldn't give them the use of Counterspell, though I would give an Insight check of DC = 25 and only to those with resistance to charm.

      DC of 20 is just too low that any players that would even stand a chance to deal with a false hydra could easily overcome that check. If not then they may not be ready to face one...

  13. This is amazing! Im so excitedd to using it in my company.

  14. Hey! So I really love this monster and I just recently bought an art tablet and decided to test it out by drawing this creepy asshole. Let me know what you think if you can!

    1. That's legit! Can I post it on this page? (With credit + link)

  15. Is this monster your creation or it is an official monster in dnd. If its your, could i use it as a material for my novel?

    1. My own. Do not directly use my ideas in a for-profit work.

      However, if you want to "draw inspiration" and incorporate bits and pieces into a work of your own synthesis, that's great. Most good ideas are remixes of other good ideas.

    2. Hi, I wanted to do a narration of this post on YouTube. Is it ok if I do it without monetization? Linking back to this page of course.

  16. reminds me of the White Whale from Re:Zero

    1. Never realized that until now, but yeah, quite similar.

  17. This is honestly my new fav monster from anything ever. I'm planning a DnD campaing rn and I will start the false hydra plot from the start of the campaign by planting seeds along the way of weird happnings that they will later find out was the false hydra distorting their memories.
    (One such is having enemies they fight "fight eachother", have unexplainable wounds or be dead after the party didn't look at them. This would be the a party member they have now forgot helping them.

  18. This is really awesome! And it creeped me out! Thanks for the thrills!

  19. Ok so making some adjustments to the monster I have created a table explaining what my version is like. Some of information is intentionally incorrect (all of the 30s are true). Please excuse the lack of pronouns.

    Questions and Suggestions welcome.

    DC | Intelligence (History or Arcana)

    19-20 | It is a type of Naga, called a Spectral Naga.

    21-23 | It is a type of Hydra, called a False Hydra.

    24-30 | It is a type of nondraconic Hydra, called a False Hydra.

    20 | The Spectral Naga attacks from a burrow and drags victims into the burrow to consume.

    21-30 | The False Hydra attacks from a burrow and drags victims into the burrow to consume.

    30 | The first False Hydra was accidentally created by a paranoid wizard experimenting on a Hydra head.

    20 | The head of a Spectral Naga has a human face.

    21-30 | The heads of a False Hydra have human faces.

    22-27 | The False Hydra comes from the ground, spontaneously originating as an undifferentiated mass of flesh. The False Hydra germinates in response to a preponderance of lies. Each falsehood causes the False Hydra to swell larger.

    28-30 | A False Hydra comes from a buried head of a dead False Hydra. The buried head of a dead False Hydra transforms in a week into a Small undifferentiated mass of flesh.

    28-30 | This mass of flesh differentiates into a Small False Hydra. The thick neck of a Small False Hydra can extend up to 100 ft.

    28-30 | A Medium False Hydra has two heads. The thick necks of a Medium False Hydra can extend up to 200 ft each.

    28-30 | A Large False Hydra has four heads. The thick necks of a Large False Hydra can extend up to 300 ft each.

    28-30 | A Huge False Hydra has eight heads. The thick necks of a Huge False Hydra can extend up to 400 ft each.

    28-30 | A Guargantuan False Hydra has sixteen heads. The thick necks of a Guargantuan False Hydra can extend up to 500 ft each.

    19-20 | The Spectral Naga can cast invisibility at will.

    21-23 | The False Hydra can cast greater invisibility at will.

    24-25 | As an action, the False Hydra can alter the perception of a creature the False Hydra can see within 30 ft to become undetectable to the creature affected.

    26 | As an action, the False Hydra can alter the perception of creatures the False Hydra can see within 30 ft to become undetectable to the creatures affected.

    27 | As an action, the False Hydra can alter the perception of creatures the False Hydra can see within 120 ft to become undetectable to the creatures affected.

    28 | As an action, the False Hydra can sing the Song of the False Hydra, affecting creatures that can hear it within 300 ft.

    29 | As an action, the False Hydra can sing the Song of the False Hydra, affecting creatures that can hear it within 1 mile.

    30 | As an action, the False Hydra can sing the Song of the False Hydra, affecting creatures that can hear it within 1 mile per head.

    30 | The Song of the False Hydra alters the perception of affected creatures to hide the existence of the Song of the False Hydra, the False Hydra, and the victims of the False Hydra.
    Affected creatures will confabulate the traces of consumed creatures. When the Song of the False Hydra can no longer be heard those perceptual alterations persist until magically restored, but new perceptions are not altered until the Song of the False Hydra can be heard once more.

    30 | Creatures with extensively altered perceptions have a high incidence of at least one mental illness (from 15% to 45%), including: anxiety (from 4% to 10%), paranoia (from 4.5% to 15%), split brain syndrome (from .7% to 5%), and others.

  20. Listen here, and listen now.
    For the tale I tell may save tho'u

    Beware the false Hydra, and all it brings
    Beware the lies from the song that it sings

    Borne from the earth with the fibs children tell
    It's head has grown straight out of the well.

    Some might say its a sight to behold
    But most are just liars, or so I am told

    With every soul missing a new head sprouts
    And every new tongue whispers seeds of doubt

    It'll eat your pets, your family and friends
    But you'll only take notice before your story ends.

    -excerpt from children's book

  21. Does anyone have a stat block for d&d 5e? I would love to run this in my campaign. Only with permission
    of course.

    1. Someone did

    2. Here! Someone did it:

  22. Hi I have a question I would like to ask.

    I am thinking of running a False Hydra scenario for my group. The thing is though, is that it is for Starfinder, a sci-fi campaign.

    I have everything all set but I cannot decide on one small horrifying detail and that is when the 'The song is no longer sung'.

    I want to know which choice does everyone think is more horrifying, when the song is no longer sung but the effects stays and all the deaths and occurrences still stay hidden and from then on they will continue to find out terrible discoveries as they go on with their lives? Where is that twin brother of yours? That one who has stuck through you through thick and thin through your entire life? Or that daughter, that sweet daughter you lovingly raised after the death of your wife? Who is that man in that woman in the photo giving you the biggest hug you have ever seen? She looks like she must be very proud something... or someone.


    The song is no longer sung, and they remember everything. All the deaths, all the close shaves, all those times those pale faces were but mere inches away from them. All those times they just stood there, probably having a nice sandwich while right beside them the False Hydra was devouring the wife as his repressed mind shed tears of irredeemible sorrow as he smiles at how good the sandwich was.

    1. I 100% vote for the first one. Way more horrifying.

      Also easier for the DM to narrate.

      When you run it, come back and let me know how it went!

    2. Oh I think option 2 is way more impactful. Picture legions of people staggering out of their homes, suddenly slammed with the reality of what's happened.

      It's the (spoiler alert!) end of Avengers Infinity War. The party just falls to their knees in the stunned revelation of their awesome failure.

      But then, do you need to give them a quest to acquire a Wish-granting artifact to undo it all? It is the most successful movie franchise of all time -- maybe that's a great template for your campaign.

      Just my 2 cents.

    3. I'm going to agree on the first one. The second is a jump scare, creepy but then it is over. The first is lingering dread. You're never sure if you're done finding out about all the things you lost. Is that all, or is there one more? No closure.

    4. Why not both? Like repressed memories in PTSD. One day you find something to remind you of the person you lost and boom--you get a flashback of how they died / your last memory before they died / when you first noticed they were gone. You get both the dread and the emotional turmoil of the realisation.

      (I am VERY late to this party.)

    5. I'll bet for a third option, that the memories will start to creep back very slowly, and not all of them at the same time and to the same people.

      Example: the triplets, always together since birth and earlier on, sharing all: food, clothes, secrets. Identical but unique, one of them hated the scent of vanilla. How strange! Everybody loves vanilla! The three siblings love it, sniffing from the kitchen counter when mom is baking pastries.
      But remember that time that one throw a tantrum over that smell, and flipped the whole tray of cookies, and mom went mad. Which one of the triplets was? I tell you, it was the fourth, the one that none but dad remembers, because there were quadruplets at first, but one night one of them disappeared in their sleep, and years passed until dad remembered his fourth child.
      But nobody else does, so he fears to speak aloud, part by guilt ("How I've forgot my child?"), part to avoid bringing more pain to the family ("I'll remember if we had a fourth child! What kind of mother do you think I'll by not remembering them?") and part to not being called mad.
      And in the following years, the others will remember, but not all of them, not at the same time,... And the dread and guilt will be marked to their brains forever, not absolutely sure if it was real or a dream.

      This can also work as a hook in a village that HAD a false hydra, and the remaining population works towards discovering what is true and what is fabricated. It can be more of and investigation adventure with an horror twist.

  23. Heh sure. It is still a a ways a head but I will definitely come back and let you all know what happens.

    ... omg I was sure I edited and double checked my writing before I posted it, what the heck happened with the second paragraph??? Does blogspot have some weird massaging rollback?

  24. Anyone know from Bleach about the Gillian, or the Menos Grande?

    I keep picturing False Hydra looking like a cluster of Gillian, odd.

  25. If one of the heads is eating, then can another head be singing so that it can stay hidden?

    1. I say that the other heads keep singing but it is less powerful? Maybe you could catch a glimpse of a shimmer in the air like a mirage?

  26. Just curious if someone has a recommendation for a song to play in the back ground when running a game for this? I plan on running a 1 to 3 shot for this monster and want a song for the back ground to represent the monster singing.

    1. I saw something where someone used white noise at a barely audible level to unnerve his players.

    2. Pretty sure itd be singing all the time. Having a song on loop for however many hours is going to get old. If you're just after spookiness, I can suggest the Call of Cthulhu soundtrack on spotify.

    3. The FTL soundtrack has two good ones that I use regularly: Slug (Explore) and Horror. It's on Spotify.

    4. I used static and switched it on and off depending on whether the creature was feeding or not. Because I'm using roll20, I could keep the volume to something they could hear, but not loud enough to be overtly noticed. Only one party member noticed the sound but it was quickly dismissed by them when the party stated they hadn't noticed anything.

    5. Bro, it's been so many years. If you still need this song, here it is.

  27. Theres a video narrated by All Things D&D on YouTube where the DM used a white noise static loop to signify when it was singing, innocuously quiet at first before slowly raising the volume without telling the players. When the hydra stopped singing, he'd shut it off suddenly, making them paranoid at the sudden loss of sound they'd not really been paying attention to.

  28. How did I run that tavern all those years back, with just me and Gareth?

  29. Yeah, I'm so stealing this for a 3.5e game with ALL the utility afforded to me by all of my 30+ rulebooks, including Heroes of Horror.

    My personal spin on the lore of the beast: A monster born from the vengeful spirit of a person sentenced to death under false accusations with manufactured evidence.

    My reason for using 3.5e? I like it more and by god you need countersong for this thing.

  30. This is exactly what I've been looking for! I just started a campaign involving a mind flayer colony basically waking up after an untold amount of time and slowly introducing things to destabilize society so they can rebuild. This creature is brilliant in that it can topple a whole city, while perhaps it's 'allies' can move around unhindered.


    Combining a few of the things I've found and adding a bit I've made a more detailed stat block for the False Hydra.

  32. Arnold, I wanted to share my group's encounter with this monster with you. I made a post on reddit's worldbuilding sub if you're interested in the art!

  33. I'm converting this into a specialized type of Banshee instead. This is amazing, but I don't want any of my more well-read players to recognize it.

  34. IMO a really cool thing here is the psychological horror of fighting the hydra but not knowing how and that you're fighting the hydra - walking into alleys without knowing why, casting Fireball at thin air, having to trust that some part of your brain knows what it's doing - but does it? In the end, what differentiates the instructions of the player to the PC, whose source is studiously ignored, from the predation of the hydra?

    (Note: players should avoid developing actual dpd.)

  35. Question: since this thing works via song does that mean deaf creatures would be immune to its effects?

  36. I'm going to suggest a variant on this. The Gaslight Hydra. The undead revenant of a starved FH. These aberrant undead feed on memories of the living. choosing a victim and then stealing the memories of all those surrounding them. Example: A woman awakens one day and goes about her business, but the townsfolk start treating her as a stranger. It starts with infrequent associates. She initially attributes it to her reading too much into past interactions.
    Over the next few days, the circle of those who remember her closes in. Shopkeepers she has known for years forget her name and habits, neighbors forget interactions they just had with her. As it continues, she increasingly questions her own sanity, but then she is sure it is a mass conspiracy. Finally, even her own husband and children forget her, their memories consumed by the hydra.
    That's when the hydra lures her using a disguise/illusion of someone who remembers her. She's desperate and runs to the small hope and her soul is consumed by the hydra. The hydra gains another face/head and use her memories to seek a new victim and branches from there.

  37. Is it alright for me to try and make some 3.5e versions of this on the dand wiki?

  38. Would you mind if I used this in one of the future books I'm writing?

  39. Pathfinder has the "Detect Charm" spell, good for 1 minute per level. So if the wizard realizes it is a charm effect, they might serve as a form of geiger counter to spot the ares where more people are charmed -

  40. In January 2018 I found my way to this article somehow, and got incredibly excited about fucking with my brothers' heads using the false hydra. We were all living in different places, and we hadn't had much opportunity to hang out with all three of us for a while. I hadn't run D&D for like...6 years? 8 years? Totally fallen off, and I realized all at once how much I missed it and how badly I wanted to play again.

    So I wrote an adventure around the false hydra, and in the process realized that one game wouldn't be enough to fulfill my sudden rpg-lust. I started hanging around seedy lfg boards on reddit and facebook, and randomly jumped on one advertisement for a game for west coast US players (even though I lived in the Midwest at the time). Someone else had already offered to DM, and I was so pumped to actually get to play a character for once.

    Of course, the DM had to bail at the last minute, and nobody else felt like running, so I offered to fill in a couple of hours before our first session and reached for the only adventure I had to hand - my homebrew false hydra mystery. We had a socially awkward street orphan tiefling warlock who, not knowing better and never having met her patron, believed she was a wizard, and a once-famous half-elf bard who had lost his husband on a previous adventure and was cursed to hear his whispering voice in his lute as he roamed listlessly, waiting to die. There were other PCs, but those were the two that stuck around.

    It was janky. I didn't stick the landing with my DMPC bait character that disappeared between the first and second session inexplicably - everyone was too nice to call me out over the fact that I'd apparently forgotten entirely about this dragonborn paladin that had grown up on the streets with our warlock. Content was cut and added in a panic on the fly to make the too-rigid timeline I'd set out work with the players' brilliant investigations. But over the course of a couple of months we made it through, and, incredibly, people still wanted to continue the campaign after the beast was slain and the horrific extent of the hydra's predations revealed. The bard's player reached out to me with his notes on the tragic half-elf's backstory, and we started to work together on a way we might break his curse and bring his husband back from the dead.

    We're playing the final session of the campaign tonight. I don't know how many sessions we've played in this hastily cobbled-together world we created, but easily over a hundred. I've started a dozen campaigns since, read countless pages of rpg content, made this dumb goofy hobby my primary leisure activity. It's my obsession.

    I've made lifelong friends, from this game and others. I was in kind of a bad, lonely place in my life when we started our game, but now my social docket is about as full as I can handle. It's exhausting, and wonderful.

    I proposed to the bard's player this past valentine's day, around the second anniversary of our first session together. I did it in a one on one game, like a huge fucking dork. I stammered and blushed and haltingly sang a song in character that I wrote for his half-elf, and for him. I moved across the country to be with him this summer, and we're getting married sometime in the new year.

    It would be trite to lay all of this stuff at your feet. There was a lot of happenstance to change my life so dramatically and so quickly for the better. But one thing that's incontrovertibly true: you led me back to rpgs, and storytelling, and the love of creating for the sake of creating, and those things have given me so much joy.


    1. Damn. That's tremendous. I'm so happy for you. I'm glad I could play a part in this. (Something similar happened when I ran a small guild in WoW, and I'm getting flashbacks.)

      If you let me know your address, I'll send you a card. You can reach me at glogsbody at gee male dawt com. (You'll have to decode that email, though.)


  41. Obviously I'm years late to this party, but I've been pondering this and I think I have an elegant solution to the metagaming issue that this creature presents. Instead of trying to police the players and cajole them into not metagaming, what about using a table of effects to simulate the manifestations of the psychic divergence in the PC's minds caused by the hydra? Once they reach the point at which they are learning what is really going on- don't tell them not to metagame, rather whenever they use mega-knowledge make them roll on the table. This will not only discourage metagaming, but it is also a great way to insert the side effects of the hydra into the game. Even better, tell the players that THEY THEMSELVES now represent the portion of their character's brain that knows what is happening, and that they can try to communicate to their character, BUT there are side effects. This allows the players to decide to actually roleplay metagaming, but they have to accept there will be consequences. So in game this could be leaving themselves a note (on paper or their own skin). The DM could rule that the player has full control over one of the character's arms at certain times. Anyway, here is a quick stab at the table:


    1. An incredible pain tears through your mind. You are stunned for 1 minute.

    2. For the next 24 hours from time to time you catch yourself idly trying to sing the hydra's song. It is, after all, a tune that is stuck in your head. Your rudimentary vocal chords could never come close to replicating its terrible and perfect grandeur, and after a few moments of singing you can't seem to remember how the notes go anyway, or even what the song was your were trying to sing in the first place. You have disadvantage on WIS saves for 24 hours. Anyone else who hears your attempts at singing the song and has also heard the real hydra song does not recognize it and finds your singing particularly irritating.

    3. The next action you take you instead stop and completely forget what you were going to do, forgoing the action.

    4. You have a panic attack. Make a CON save. On a fail all checks, saves, and attacks are at disadvantage and you are frightened for 1 minute. On a success you make checks at disadvantage only and are not frightened.

    5. You try to hold two contrary realities in your head simultaneously, take 2d6 psychic damage.

    6. You suddenly remember that your last long rest was fitful and plagued with dreams in which you were running through a seemingly endless labyrinth of underground tunnels, lost with no end in sight. Add 1 point of exhaustion.

    7. Your vision goes black as your mind struggles to keep a grip on what is occurring. Make a CON save. On a fail you speak only in gibberish for 1 minute. On a success the PLAYER is able to speak through their PC for 1 minute, though only in one or two word phrases. The player may use this time to communicate meta-knowledge to the PCs. Each time this is done however their character takes 1d4 psychic damage.

    8. Your mind rages against itself, you take 1d4 +1 psychic damage and are blinded for 1 minute.

    9. During the next long rest you dream of a group of people all standing together screaming at you trying to tell you something. They gesture wildly and seem terrified and frustrated, but you hear only a deafening white noise and can not make out anything they are saying. When the long rest ends you gain no benefits from it and take 1 point of exhaustion. (The people in the dream group of course represent those consumed by the false hydra. Describe them to the players, but if there are any that they knew use only vague terms as if you were describing a stranger or a new NPC.)

    10. Make an INT save. On a success you take 1d6 psychic damage. On a fail choose 1d4 prepared spells at random to become no longer prepared for that day. If you do not use magic or do not prepare spells you simply get the sensation that you were trying to remember something very important, but you have forgotten it.

  42. I had an absolute blast running a 5e one shot with the false hydra as the monster of the week, thank you for making it! If I drafted up the game outline would you be opposed to me releasing it for free, and with credits?

  43. This will be the backstory arc on a sorcerer in my next champaign he already told me how she was adopted after birth by her high elven parents who told her that her parents died in a fire...well in reality she was raised till the age of 10 when her powers kicked in she needed to be hidden letters to the high elven parents will be found from her parents asking for help. That's strange they didn't know her parents. The letters will lead them to her home town empty homes shops will raise questions but when they see her house...not burned down thats when the real quest begins.

  44. Does anyone know how to get in touch with the creator of the False Hydra? I would like to use the Hydra and its overall theme (a weird town with weird stuff happening) in a podcast that will be going out on YouTube at some point but I don't want there to be any copyright claim or legal issues. Do I need to get permission to use it? Thanks!

    1. Email me at duscuro at and we can talk about it.

  45. Hi, I wanted to write and publish an adventure that uses the False Hydra as the crux of the plot; is this something you are okay with? If so what attributions would you like me to include; can I link to this article under the "Running the False Hydra" segment?

    1. Email me at duscuro at and we can talk about it.

  46. Hi Arnold,

    I would like to make a False Hydra one-shot and publish it on a virtual tabletop platform, since I am the first DM that would like to run it without having to prepare it from zero and I want to give this to the community.

    However, virtual tabletop do not allow to do this for free (I already asked them) and they require a payment for buying the item, even if just representative, like $1 for the entire one-shot prepared with all the maps, tokens, char sheets, handouts, resources etc. Then, to make this available to the community, I need some copyright permission from you. Of course, I would share with you the (ridiculous small) profit XD or maybe just subscribe to your Patreon? That could be more money. But please, give me your permission to create this resource, so other DMs won't have to spend +100 hours of pre-time to play a False Hydra game.

  47. This would be a really interesting monster to deal with if there was a character with anti-charm abilities in the party (I'm thinking specifically of the Church Inquisitor prestige class from 3.5). Some great role-playing opportunities lie that way.

  48. I remember the day the deaf vagrant went crazy and wrote a message on the town board. "I've seen it kill the woodcutter, why wont you do anything?", it said. Funny thing though, i dont remember this town having a deaf vagrant, or a woodcutter.

  49. I took this idea and fucking SPRINTED with it. I have have had it eat a whole city, but what the players (who have almost certainly found this article) don't know is that I expanded on the idea. They think they are messing with the adolescent form, that is still confined to a single city.

    It isn't.

    They found writings of a similar problem that afflicted a town a century ago. They found the insane scrawlings of a deeply fragmented mind in a journal that was kept by a man who wandered into a village, completely insane. The healer of the village recorded her own notes in the back of the journal, that the man was incoherent and could neither sleep nor be said to have been completely awake. He was stuck in some half-dream state. Additionally, he seemed to have had all his fingernails torn out, leaving bloody, mangled, and twisted roots in the nail beds. His body was found to be covered in scars as if someone had slowly torn steps of his flesh out and let them heal before moving on to more tearing. A few places had almost legible letters or parts of words formed in the scarring, but overlapping scars made it impossible to decode any meaning. The man refused to eat and died just a few weeks later. Autopsy of the man's bowels were inconclusive, but his brain showed signs of severe lesions and decay. The man appeared to be in his late twenties, but the brain looked like one that had suffered syphilis for half a century. It was a wonder the man could walk at all. Without information on where the man came from, he was buried with the name in the journal, Edgan Finne. Four messengers were sent out along the roads to see if neighboring towns might know who he was, but none of the three were able to find any information.

    The players didn't pick up on the four out and three back, so they have no idea that the thing was still in the village that the journal's original author was from. They assumed it starved to death from lack of food and they are facing a new false hydra.

    The hydra had used the man to lure people to it's lair, which they sorta picked up on with an okay insight check on the journal writings. It was very difficult to decipher in the more insane pages of the journal. The hydra continued to grow, but remained hidden. It used messengers to bring food, and rather than become fat and move above ground, it burrowed through the first like a deep root, until it reached another town, and grew another branch. Now it's sprawled throughout the entire kingdom, with a massive heart in the center, where it was born from a lie told by a cleric to his god. The heart is hidden inside the catacombs of a once great church, now a slowly crumbling mausoleum in the center of an empty town at the crossroads of two trade routes.

    The players will figure out soon that killing the beast that ate most of their home city is only the beginning.

  50. Would you mind if I used some of these in a book I am writing?

  51. What if when reading the mind of the False-Hydra you find it has a distorted version of each mind it's eaten, they know everything they once knew but believe with the fervent intensity of the most crazed cultists that it never happened, constantly trying to rationalize away the events of their own lives as merely coincidence and delusion and proselytizes with their enchanting voice, this is how the song is customized. How thoroughly a life is removed would then rely on the intelligence, charisma and memory of that person, it might be relatively easy to think around the song of a simple thug while a scholar might produce elaborate and detailed histories that don't include them. The False-Hydra is not immune to the effects of it's own song. This is also how it picks people to attack, "How could Fredrik maintain an entire farm of that size on his own since he was definetly never married to Julia since there's no such person? Clearly there's no Fredrik either!", this is also why it attacks anyone who manages to acknowledge it's existence, not out of self preservation ("preservation of WHAT") but because it's an assault on it's most cherished belief that it isn't.

  52. Hi Arnold, I'd like to purchase a license or other rights to use the False Hydra for a 1-shot my company wants to publish. Is that something you'd consider?

    1. Yeah! Contact me at glogsbody at geemale dot com.

  53. Hey!
    I'm a Brazilian artist, and me and a friend have a Catarse project (that works like Patreon) where we create tokens for Tabletop RPG's and we did a token of your False Hydra, because we simply loved this concept and design but never saw a token of it, so we thought it would be fun to try.
    Is that a problem if we distribute it to our supporters with all the credits and link to your Patreon and blog?

  54. Expanding on these aspects, sharing your insights into incorporating the false hydra into game sessions, and discussing its role in creating suspense and surprise would enrich the conversation and engage your readers who are passionate about role-playing games.

    While jeff goldblum assets may be an interesting topic in its own right.