Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Weird Wonder Wednesday: Mantis Shrimp

Stomatopods, commonly known as "mantis shrimp," are crustaceans characterized by large, raptorial forelimbs.  The forelimbs can be employed with the dactyl closed to make smashing attacks against the shells of armoured prey, or with the dactyl open to spear soft-bodied prey.  This dactyl strike is one of the fastest of all known animal movements.  It can be completed in as little as five milliseconds under water, generating enormous percussive force, comparable to the impact of a .22 calibre bullet, and has been known to shatter aquarium glass.

Stomatopods are territorial and pugnacious, and frequently fight amongst themselves.  Keeping two stomatopods unseparated in a tank will usually result in one of them killing the other.  This video demonstrates the effectiveness of the stomatopod's strike.

Not only do mantis shrimp possess a remarkably efficient attack mechanism, they have the most sophisticated and complex eyes in the animal kingdom.  They are able to see objects with three different parts of each eye, giving them trinocular vision and depth perception with each of their eyes.  They are also able to see in the infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths.

The Burgess Shale animal, Yohoia tenuis has many features in common with living stomatopods, including forelimbs similar to the raptorial appendages of the mantis shrimp.  A large number of fossil brachiopods that I've collected from the Middle Cambrian Deadwood Formation in South Dakota have shell damage identical to that of modern shells that have been attacked by stomatopods.  No other known Cambrian predator could have caused such damage, and Yohoia may have been responsible, making it the earliest known durophagous (smashing) predator.

The aggressive nature of mantis shrimp, combined with their devastatingly effective forelimb strike and superior vision make these creatures something you wouldn't want to stumble upon in a dark cave, thus make excellent monsters for your players to encounter in their next subterranean delve.

2 comments:

Trey said...

Cool. But tell me, how do they taste? ;)

Sean said...

I haven't tried them, myself, but I understand that they taste much like lobster.