The camp is quiet tonight. All you hear is the crackling of the fire and the sound of Boros sharpening his dagger. Thron feeds another few sticks to the flames and strikes up a conversation with you. After a short while, you notice that Boros has fallen silent. You glance around, but he’s nowhere in camp.
“Boros!” Thron calls out, obvious concern furrowing his forehead. “Boros, you out there?”
His voice echoes back, and then you hear it. The squelching, ripping sound of tearing flesh. You grab a brand from the fire and cast it toward the terrifying noises. There, standing in the firelight is a monstrosity of terrifying proportion. A half dozen arms tear apart Boros’ corpse, not shoveling the meat toward the beast’s many gaping mouths, but attaching the pieces to its form, making it ever more disturbing and grotesque. It cowers from the light, then turns its faces toward you, letting out a terrifying howl.
“MANGLE!” Thron screams before diving for his axe.
I’ve had the idea for the mangle in my head for quite a while. I just never put it down on paper. And No, it’s not the Five Nights At Freddy’s monster. I admittedly got the idea from FNAF, but that’s just because “Mangle” sounds way better than “corpse centipede” or something similar. I also wanted a monster that represented the consequences of rampant monster slaying in a dungeon crawl. Something a party might encounter on their way back from liberating the kobold tribe’s diamond of awesome sparkliness.
So, what is a mangle? In essence, a mangle is a large number of corpses that all come together through some profane necromancy and form a single, writhing undead monster. Arms, legs, and heads stick out of its body elongated composite body, reaching and clawing and propelling it forward. Teeth gnash as limbs claw and pummel prey to death. It then consumes the dead flesh by tearing its prey to pieces and attaching those pieces onto its own form.
How is a Mangle Made?
Mangles are not common undead. They are formed from not one, but many corpses, and only in deep, dark places like tombs, crypts, caves and the underdark. In some circles, mangles are known as the “residue of adventurers,” as the most common time for a mangle to form is after a group of adventurers has “cleared” a cave or dungeon, slaughtering dozens of monsters inside. Many a grave robber, tomb raider, and reclamation organization have run into mangles composed entirely of kobold, goblin, orc, and other monstrous body parts following an adventuring group’s delve.
Occasionally, particularly sadistic and insane necromancers and alchemists will create mangles as guardians and pets, though such practices are quite dangerous. Imagine if Victor Frankenstein built his monster using every corpse he dug up, and had no care for order or symmetry when putting the pieces together. A dozen howling faces surrounded by angry, flailing limbs, seeking nothing but its next meal.
How Does a Mangle Act?
Contrary to popular belief, mindless undead are not completely mindless. They do feel. Zombies hunger, skeletons hate, and mangles feel unending pain. Born through violence and insanity, mangles are beings that are in constant agony, and the only thing that relieves this torturous existence is to feed. Like a shot of morphine, the act of feeding and adding pieces to oneself relieves the pain for a short time, before it returns in full force. Therefore, they a mangle will feed at every opportunity.
However, mangles are also cowards. They have a constant desire to end their pain, but an incredible fear of the living. Therefore, mangles are mostly scavengers, picking up the dregs of battles fought in the deep places of the world. This cowardice, however, subsides the larger and more suffused with new body parts a mangle becomes. For as more parts are added to a mangle, it feels ever more pain. And eventually that pain will overrule the desire to stay hidden in the shadows, and the mangle will strike. Most of the time, a mangle is never seen in a dungeon, and adventurers will simply notice the corpses they leave behind disappearing off the battlefield after they leave. If they kill enough, however, and offer the mangle enough food, then its fear will fall away. The desire to end its pain will overrule its cowardice, and the adventurers will have to face a monster composed of the three dozen hobgoblins left in their wake.
How do you Fight a Mangle?
Blades are the weapons of choice when fighting a mangle. The larger a mangle is, the more dangerous it becomes, so the obvious answer is to make the mangle smaller by lopping off limbs and carving it to pieces. In addition, a small, highly trained group is more likely to take out a mangle than a larger mass of untrained warriors. The larger the force, the more food for the mangle, and the stronger it will eventually become.
The Meeting of the Mangles.
Mangles recognize their own. And while it is rare for more than one mangle to form in one location, it does happen. When this occurs, and on the occasion that they meet, one of two things happens. Either they tear each other apart in an attempt to feed off of the other beast, or they will recognize each other’s pain and unite in a strange, undead mating ritual. In the case that they choose to slaughter each other, it’s likely that anyone who comes by will just see a battlefield strewn with heads, limbs, and abdomens. If they unite, however, then the two mangles will combine into a massive undead beast with twice the size and twice the ferocity. There are even stories of entire cities forming into massive mangles in the underdark. Collossal beasts the size of titans, composed of thousands of corpses.
Mechanically, you may represent this however you like. A mangle with double hit points. A mangle with twice as many attacks. Maybe a legendary mangle that has 2x hit points and 5 legendary actions per turn. Whatever. Personally, I would take the two and smash them together to create a Paragon Mangle, as per the Angry GM’s Paragon Rules. But you may not be a fan of those rules. To each their own.
Tactics. Mangles attack from the shadows. They are silent predators, abducting the weak before assaulting the strong. Once they are discovered, however, they let out a piercing howl from their many mouths and become a whirlwind of hands, feet and teeth. Their goal is to overwhelm a single foe before moving onto the next. In this way, they use the same tactics to attack others that are most useful against them. Reduce the size of their foe in order to reduce its strength.
However, as noted, mangles are cowardly. If they are brought below half HP, they are very likely to flee. Even though theirs is an agonizing existence, they would rather exist than fall into the black mystery of true death.
Stat Blocks. Below are both the longform and abbreviated statistics for the Mangle. As noted, super-mangles or twin-mangles or whatever you want to call them are not specifically designed, and you should take whatever liberties you desire in building them yourself.
And, of course, here’s the PDF.
I’ve wanted to build this one for a while, and I hope you like it. Next week: we’ll take a look at how you can make your vampire encounters interesting, without actually modifying the vampires.