Brain, Living


Brain, Living
Climate/Terrain:Dementlieu (Port-a-Lucine)
Activity Cycle:Any
Intelligence:Supra-genius (20)
Alignment:Neutral evil
No. Appearing:1
Armor Class:10
Hit Dice:1 (8 hp)
No. of Attacks:1
Damage/Attack:See below
Special Attacks:See below
Special Defenses:See below
Magic Resistance:Nil
Size:Tiny (about 8” diameter)
Morale:Average (9)
XP Value:975

The Living Brain is a horrible result of Victor Mordenheim’s early experiments in the creation and artificial sustenance of life. Like many of his other projects, the gods looked upon this as a violation of their sacred tenets. Mordenheim has long since forgotten this experiment, but the evil that he created on that stormy night years ago lives on in the demiplane of Dread.

Externally, the Living Brain looks exactly as one might expect of a disembodied brain. The only difference that might be noticed by a careful and knowledgeable observer is an unusual enlargement of the frontal lobes and a “capping off” of the brain stem by a network of cells not unlike those that generate and store an electric eel’s shocking attack.

In order to remain alive, the brain must be maintained at a temperature of between 95° and 105° Fahrenheit. Further, it must remain immersed in a nutritive saline solution which is artificially oxygenated by means of a mechanical pump. This fluid (and thus the brain itself) is contained in a thick glass jar.

The vessel which holds the brain is connected by a pair of thick conduits to a two-foot-wide cube that contains the apparatus which keeps it alive. Inside the sealed black cube is the pumping machine that circulates the solution upon which the brain depends for life. There is no known power source associated with this mechanism; many sages speculate that Mordenheim was actually able to create a perpetual motion machine for his experiment. If this is indeed the case, the secret behind such a wondrous device has been lost during Mordenheim’s descent into madness.

The brain is able to communicate with any sentient creature (that is, any being with low Intelligence or better) by means of a limited telepathy. This transcends language barriers but allows only the most simple of concepts to be conveyed. Although the brain is able to take control of others via its terrible psychic powers, it is unable to converse with those it dominates. Attempts have been made by Mordenheim and others to construct speech machines for the brain, but these have always failed. When communication is vital to its plans, the brain simply uses its mental powers to dominate someone and then speak through that person.

Combat: Obviously, the Living Brain is utterly helpless in all physical matters. However, the isolation of this terrible organ from all physical concerns has enabled it to focus wholly on its mental powers. Further, the addition of various chemicals to the nutrient bath and the mild electrical current running through the solution which houses the brain have stimulated its development. Combined, these factors make the brain one of the most dangerous creatures in Ravenloft.

The actual appearance of the brain can give characters quite a shock. While the sight of a brain floating in a jar is probably not enough to inspire fear or horror in the average adventurer, the realization that the brain is a living, sentient thing is far more unsettling. At the DM’s discretion, anyone who has the true nature of the Living Brain thrust upon him or her might well be required to make a fear, honor, or even madness check.

The primary weapon of the brain is a simple bolt of mental energy that does damage based on the Intelligence of the victim. Because the attack turns the target’s own mind against itself, creatures with lower intelligences are far less vulnerable to it. Against highly intelligent creatures, however, the attack can be devastating. When employing its mental blast, the brain must make a normal attack roll. The “Armor Class” of the victim is determined not by armor worn but by the mental fortitude, or Wisdom, of the target. This mental Armor Class is assumed to begin at 10, just as normal Armor Class does. However, every 3 full points of Wisdom provides a -1 reduction to this base. Thus, a character with a Wisdom of 15 has a mental Armor Class of five (15÷3=5; 10-5=5). Obviously, Dexterity will not modify the mental Armor Class of a target. At the Dungeon Master’s option, however, other factors might. Any psionic defense mode will double the natural Wisdom bonus if employed.

Once a target has been hit by the mental attack, the damage inflicted by the attack is determined by rolling dice. The damage done varies according to the target’s Intelligence, as indicated in the following chart:

IntelligenceDamage Done
Non- (0)Nil
Animal (1)1d4
Semi- (2-4)1d6
Low (5-7)1d8
Average (8-10)1d10
Very (11-12)2d6
High (13-14)2d8
Exceptional (15-16)2d10
Genius (17-18)3d8
Supra-genius (19-20)3d10
Godlike (21+)4d10

The various psionic defense modes, magical spells like mind blank, and certain magical items will all provide protection from this attack.

In addition to this simple attack, the Living Brain is able to employ special mental powers that mimic a number of magical spells. Three times per day it may duplicate the effects of a charm person, command, or sleep spell. Twice per day, the brain may employ forget, hold person, and suggestion. Once per day, the foul thing may also make use of demand, domination, emotion, or mass suggestion. In all cases, normal language requirements are waived for the purposes of the brain’s special abilities, and all powers are employed as if by a 15th-level wizard. All normal ranges for these abilities are waived as well, as they are assumed to function within a 50-foot radius around the brain.

The brain maintains a low-level empathic field at all times. Because this aura senses any aggressive intent within 50 feet, it is impossible for anyone to achieve surprise when attacking the brain from within this range. This field also enables the brain to estimate the Intelligence, character class, and experience level of anyone entering it with great precision.

In addition to this rudimentary defense, the brain can invoke a protective shell three times per day. Tnis shell combines the effects of both a globe of invulnerability and a wall of force, making it a most effective defense.

Even if its mental defenses are somehow bypassed or negated, the brain is not utterly without protection. While it is helpless to ward off any physical attack, the Living Brain regenerate 1 hit point per round so long as it is immersed in its fluid bath.

Habitat/Society: The Living Brain was once Rudolph Von Aubrecker, youngest son of the political ruler of Lamordia. The boy had grown up in the pampered lifestyle that one associates with nobility and was by all accounts a spoiled brat. While not truly evil, he was extremely selfish and spiteful.

When Rudolph turned 18, he decided to celebrate with a week of shameless debauchery aboard his caravel, the Haifisch. As the revelers descended into drunken stupor, a fierce storm blew in from the Sea of Sorrows. Without a capable crew to respond to the deadly gale, the Haifisch was hurled against the rocky coast and shattered. There were no survivors – or so it seemed.

In actuality, Rudolph’s still-living body was found by a young man named Alexis Wilhaven, a young medical student who at the time was studying under Doctor Victor Mordenheim. Wilhaven carried the body to nearby Schloss Mordenheim for emergency medical care. Despite their best efforts, however, it became clear to the doctor that there was no hope for the dying young Aubrecker.

At this point in his life, Mordenheim was deeply involved in the first stages of his experiments into the origins of life. He was particularly interested in studying the problem of brain tissue degeneration and decided to remove the man’s brain prior to the death of the body and try to keep it alive in a tank. When Mordenheim told Wilhaven of his intent, the young man was horrified. He argued with the doctor, trying to dissuade him from the experiment. In the end, however, Mordenheim was able to calm his assistant’s fears enough to obtain his reluctant cooperation for the delicate operation.

As the storm raged outside, the pair did their butchers’ work and then destroyed the body. Despite Wilhaven’s pleas, Mordenheim made no effort to inform the Baron about his son’s true fate. Instead, he allowed the old man to believe that his youngest boy was simply lost at sea.

Mordenheim placed the brain in a glass container which he had filled with a saline solution. He circulated and aerated the fluid with a pump that was driven by a simple battery of his own design. Over the course of the next few weeks, he studied the brain and did all that he could to sustain it.

Horrified at what he had done, Wilhaven planned to leave Schloss Mordenheim and take word of the doctor’s madness to the Baron. Before leaving, he made a final impassioned plea to Mordenheim, demanding that he destroy the brain and end this blasphemous experiment. Not only did he fail to convince the scientist, he found himself swayed by Mordenheim’s own assertion that he was as deeply involved in the experiment as the doctor himself. Struck by the seed of truth in this argument, Wilhaven realized that he would be judged just as harshly as Mordenheim should news of his son’s fate ever reach the Baron’s ears. Reluctantly, Wilhaven agreed to remain with Mordenheim and see the experiment through to its end.

Eventually, it became clear that the brain was not only living, but aware. Mordenheim began to make attempts at communication with the brain. He built all manner of mechanical devices that he hoped would enable the brain to speak. At one point, he even hoped to establish some manner of psychic contact with the thing and connected the brain directly to a trickle current of electricity to give it more energy for psychic communication. Lacking any real training in or understanding of psionics, however, he failed yet again and abandoned this effort.

When Mordenheim despaired of communicating with the brain, he began to lose interest in it. He had learned all he felt he needed to know about the degeneration of tissue, for he had not only halted the brain’s decay but reversed it. The brain was actually growing in some ways, for the frontal lobes had become unusually swollen and a new membrane had closed off the severed brain stem.

Mordenheim decided that it was time to end this experiment and get on with his other work, to disconnect the brain’s life-support systems and let it die the natural death he had denied it nearly a year earlier. To his horror, he found that he could not destroy the brain. His every effort in that direction met with failure as he either lost his resolve or found that his body simply refused to obey his will. Indeed, the thing seemed to have acquired the ability to control him.

As weeks and then months passed, Mordenheim found himself building a new pumping mechanism to support the brain. He would spend hours laboring away with no idea what his final goal was. Only the brain, with its intelligence boosted by side effects from Mordenheim’s experiments, knew what the device would do when completed. After nearly half a year of labor, Mordenheim put the finishing touches on a life support system that appeared to be fully self-contained.

Then, less than a week after he had finished this device, the brain and all its supporting equipment vanished, as did young Wilhaven. It didn’t take the doctor long to deduce that the boy had fallen under the brain’s spell just as he had. While Mordenheim was forced to construct the brain’s mechanism, Wilhaven must have been directed to plan the brain’s departure from remote Schloss Mordenheim to some other location.

Mordenheim made inquiries, attempting to discover what had happened to the sinister thing that he created, but was able to learn only that a man matching the description of his young assistant had been seen in the harbor at Ludendorf, directing the placement of several large crates aboard a ship bound for Dementlieu. The man had then boarded the ship, which left the harbor and sailed into the mists that roll eternally across the surface of the Sea of Sorrows. More than that, he was unable to learn.

Indeed, Mordenheim quickly lost interest in the affair. While he had no doubt that the brain would do evil wherever it went, he soon found himself absorbed in his own work again. Still, the scientist did not forget the lessons that he learned from this tragedy. As he began again to examine the question of life and its origins, he vowed that he would allow no future experiments to go as far astray as had this one…


The process which turned Rudolph Von Aubrecker into the Living Brain gave Mordenheim’s creation tremendous mental powers and a greatly increased intelligence. The brain recognizes that it can never again be a part of the human world but is little distressed by this fact. Instead, it considers itself quite superior to those “mere humans” around it, due to the ease with which it can manipulate and control them.

When it left Lamordia, the creature had great plans, desiring nothing less than the total domination of all it encountered. While it found controlling a man of Dr. Mordenheim’s brilliance very taxing, the doctor’s young assistant proved to be a far more pliable slave. It used the youth to leave Mordenheim and Lamordia behind and seek a new land to claim for its own.

By the time its ship dropped anchor in Port-a-Lucine, the entire crew was under the brain’s horrible control. Under its direction, its new lackeys quickly arranged for the purchase of an abandoned warehouse on the water front. Here, it ordered its hapless servants to begin assembling a collation of scientific apparatus that eventually grew into a formidable laboratory.

At the same time, the Living Brain began to mentally enslave more and more people in pursuit of its long-range goal. But when it tried to take control of Marcel Guignol, the Lord Governor of Dementlieu, it discovered he was already under someone else’s control, the man’s mind filled with hypnotic blocks and mental suggestions – and that the sophistication of these techniques exceeded even its own powers. Looking further into the matter, it eventually deduced the identity of this mysterious rival: mesmerist Dominic d’Honaire, the lord of this domain.

In the years since its arrival in Dementlieu, the Living Brain has clashed with d’Honaire several times. The two are now hated enemies who play an incredibly subtle game of cat and mouse as they each strive to destroy the other. The fact that d’Honaire has not yet been able to destroy his enemy is directly attributable to the cunning intelligence of Aubrecker and the care that it takes to protect itself from discovery. Further, d’Honaire has never seen the Living Brain and does not yet understand the nature of his enemy. Indeed, the lord of Dementlieu is fairly certain that he opposes a man who, like himself, is a master of the hypnotic arts. That his enemy might be the result of an unhallowed operation by a brilliant mad scientist in another land has not occured to him.

The brain has created a network of informants, most of whom do not realize the nature of the thing they serve. Thus, although they frequently refer to their hidden master as “The Brain”, they have no idea that this is anything other than a nickname. So extensive is the intelligence network set up by the Living Brain that it knows almost everything that happens in the domain nearly as son as d’Honaire himself does.

The Living Brain has several lairs in the waterfront district of Port-a-Lucine, Dementlieu’s largest city, and can easily be moved to a place of hiding on short notice. Its main base of operations, secured with the help of young Wilhaven and the crew of the ship that carried it out of Lamordia, is an old warehouse building indistinguishable from the many other such edifices in this part of the city.

Inside, crates and barrels fill the large structure to the roof, and laborers seem to be always at work bringing in new cargoes and hauling out old ones. In actuality, these poor creatures are totally under the control of the brain and spend their entire lives moving things from one place in the building to another. If the brain is ever attacked, these men form its first line of defense. Each of them is nothing more than a 1st-level fighter, but there are upwards of 20 available at any time.

Behind the warehouse and conceded to it by both a narrow alleyway and a secret underground tunnel is an old two-story house. This smaller building is used as a home by the brain’s most important minions. These are people who know the true nature of the creature they serve and act willingly on its behalf. To the outside world, they are the owners and operators of the warehouse. In actuality, they are murderers and assassins. They have been permitted to retain their free will only because the brain has searched their minds and found their loyalty to be beyond question.

Below the warehouse in a secret sub-basement whose very existence is known only to a trusted few, lies the Living Brain’s lair and laboratory.

Ecology: The Living Brain is free of the burdens imposed upon natural creatures. It has no need of food, save for the nutrients that are carried in its fluid bath, or most other biological requirements. It does require sleep, however, for only in dreams can it experience the physical sensations it requires to remain sane.

Although the pumping mechanism and electrical generator that keep the brain alive are perpetual and have no need of charging or, at least to date, repair, it is not an utterly closed system. As the disembodied brain extracts chemicals and nutrients from the solution in which it floats, the mixture must be replenished. While the brain itself is unable to do this, this simple task is one that it can easily command any of its minions to do. The procedure takes one hour, during which period the brain is effectively helpless and comatose. During this time, player characters might be entitled to a saving throw to escape the brain’s influence over them. Few, if any, NPCs should gain such a saving throw, however, as the brain’s hold over a minion strengthens with time.

Young Wilhaven, the poor lad who found the body of the dying Aubrecker, has become the absolute slave of the Living Brain. Years of mental domination by the fiend have left the man’s soul a dessicated husk. When the brain is not directly instructing him to act in some way, he generally sits listlessly looking out over the Sea of Sorrows. From time to time, a tear rolls from his eye – the result of some lingering fragment of his personality? Or merely a speck of dust carried in the air? None can say.

Last Modified: June 10, 2010, 11:53:09 GMT

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition

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