Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gelatinous Cubes: Let's review!

I was pleasantly surprised by the interest and nice comments about the Cosmic Dungeon Project! While I've done a fair amount of research on the topic of gelatinous cubes, it always helps to do a review.

Let's dive into the cube!

As expected, the entry for g. cubes has changed though the years, through various manuals, and under various editors. It's primary function has always been the same--to clean and clear dungeons of "living" matter. A quick excerpt from the Gospel of Gygax (Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, 1979, p. 43):
The gelatinous cube is one of the scavengers not uncommon in dungeons. Its cubic form is ideal for cleaning all living organisms, as well as carrion from the floor and walls of underground passageways. Certain very large cubes are taller so as to be able to garner masses and the like from ceilings as well.  
Gelatinous cubes are nearly transparent and are difficult to see (thus surprise on 1-3). As these monsters travel about they sweep up metallic and other items which are "indigestible" to them.
If a gelatinous cube touches (hits) an opponent, a saving throw verses paralyzation must be made, or the creature touches is anesthetize for 5-20 melee rounds. The cube then surrounds the victim, secretes digestive fluids, and digests a meal. Damage caused to opponents is due to the digestive secretions. 
It goes on to say that while they can be hit with all forms of weapons, fire is really your best bet. Cold has no effect (except failing a saving throw, which only serves to slow them down). Several other energy and magical attacks have no effect, including electricity, fear, holds, paralyzation, polymorph spells and attempts to put it to sleep. I would think that a giant specimen in space would need to be much hardier to survive radiation and extreme temperature swings.

Page 178 of the Dungeons & Dragons Game Rules Cyclopedia (1991) states that a cube is in fact, "10' x 10' x 10' and surprises 1-4 on a d6." So it became quite the crafty, ninja cube in the ensuing years. The Cyclopedia gives a few other particulars, but says that it "...will continue attacking creatures until it dies or they do..." making special note of it's blind ruthlessness. 

This entry is also notable in that it mentions how a cube reproduces:
The lair of these strange monsters may contain 1d4 cubes (each with treasure type V, but usually no additional treasure). The lair will not have any "young" gelatinous cubes; adults split into two fully grown cubes. 
The notion that gelatinous cubes reproduced asexually has been around for years. Somehow though I'd had the misconception that they sloughed off material that became an independent entity. When I began work on this project, I'd decided that the Giant Gelatinous Space Cube should calve--like an arctic ice shelf, shedding icebergs. 

But the official explanation of the entire individual cube cleaving--much like a single celled organism--is quite evocative. If that's to be the case, then I'd like to think that the stuff inside swirls around a bit before it divides. Whatever the visual might be, the end result is two separate fresh cubes, not just one parent and one offspring. 

A likely side effect would be that any previous map of a giant space cube that was charted while trapped inside, would be rendered worthless. Contents would change position. Not sure if that's something I'll incorporate or not, time will tell. Maybe there can be more than one variety with different properties? Hmmm....

And then there's the not-so-small matter of what substances can and cannot be digested. You better believe that's going to be a dial that gets played with. Organics get digested first, but certain organisms might be resistant. Metals and rock would of course take longer, but some might be mostly immune aside from some corrosive effects.

Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself! ;-)

No comments:

Post a Comment