This is an entry for one of the beasts you may run into during your adventures in the CotV Universe. It is illustrated by the creature design master David Melvin and written by the very talented Ryan Costello Jr. of 3.5 Private Sanctuary fame. It will be included in the CotV Core Rulebook with full stats but this is a preview to whet your appetite.
Dedicated xenobiologists spend their lives analyzing lethal beasts for categorization, at once looking to influence the world through greater understanding and hoping to make their mark in history. A point of contention popularly debated amongst established xenobiologists is the nature of the Osteomorph. Is it a symbiotic creature born from within another? Is it one distinct creature developing through a prolonged animated chrysalis? All acquired knowledge confirms both theories equally, exciting learned aristocrats and baffling the game hunters who just want to know how to kill the hulking beasts.
The Osteomorph, or strigilis venaticus, hatches as a baiter slug. Baby baiter slugs often crack their egg tooth at birth on the hard shell and either cannot escape and starve or cannot defend themselves and become a predator’s treat. This tubular single-muscle creature secretes a potent slime that attracts predators. Predators follow the trail expecting a fine meal. Indeed, so succulent is this secretion, it is used to flavour red meat in the finest restaurants across the Universe. However, the baiter slug has a second gland which coats its fangs in an atrophying poison. One bite and the limb of the baiter slug’s victim swells until articulation is completely lost. Combined with the baiter slug’s powerful jaw, measured to have the crushing power of a mechadozer’s compactor vice, atrophied limbs are ripped off and snacked upon. In this stage, an Osteomorph digests one hundred pounds of meat a week, mostly in the form of stolen limbs. During digestion, it manipulates any bones it has eaten into a functioning skeletal structure, locking the disconnected bones together through a series of muscular contractions and mucus filament. When there is no longer room within the Osteomorph’s body, fragments force their way through the skin. Scabbing coats any protruding bones, eventually forming an approximate skeleton that signifies the start of the second stage of the Osteomorph’s development, the venaticus erectus, sometimes called the walking chrysalis (below).
This is the Osteomorph at its most recognizable. Although its body is shaped by its diet, a walking chrysalis Osteomorph is identified by massive musculature, asymmetrical limbs in a generally humanoid composition, bone protrusions, and a barrel neck that still resembles its baiter slug origins. Despite the piecemeal construction of its skeleton, a walking chrysalis’ bones, teeth, and claws are as dense as steel and reportedly can puncture almost anything they want.
In the walking chrysalis stage, the Osteomorph is particularly defensive. Jagged bone fragments make closing with the creature difficult, and its bite is more powerful than the baiter slug stage by tenfold. The best approach is to attack it from range, however its anatomy is so complex that rounds of ammunition are wasted determining how to target its vitals. Despite the resources required to take down a walking chrysalis, few pass on killing one if the opportunity presents itself.
The walking chrysalis stage lasts for years as the Osteomorph takes in the necessary nutrients. Its diet broadens in this stage of development, able to digest minerals, particularly metal. Consumed minerals are added to its skeletal structure in much the same way bones were added during the baiter slug stage. Occasionally an Osteomorph who eats a sufficient amount of technology during the walking chrysalis stage develops a techno-organic nerve system capable of integrating basic computer systems it digests. These Techno-Osteomorphs are highly sought after by developers and researchers.
The walking chrysalis hibernates for six months, its skin hardening before falling off and giving birth to a Monarch Osteomorph. An Osteomorph in the monarch stage (in both technical and rudimentary parlance) is nearly impossible to identify. All Monarch Osteomorphs are large beasts that possess an exoskeleton and act aggressively. Otherwise, each is unique in shape and abilities depending on their diet during the first two stages of development. Their bodies range from serpentine to centipedal. Some fly, some burrow, some race across continents. One brave xenobiologist captured an entire Osteomorph hibernation on time lapse only to find the monarch come forth as a thousand draconic insects. The discovery shattered conventional knowledge and two full years were spent verifying the video’s authenticity. The video inspired endless debate on the nature of known Osteomorphic lifecycles. Some went so far as to speculate that the first two stages of the Osteomorph’s existence could be responsible for the evolution of all beasts in the known Universe. Another debate that does nothing for the hunters with an Osteomorph is their sights.