The Bard knew it had been stupid venture into the world alone; that kind of thing was normally done in parties, but clearly he didn’t need anyone else. His armor was well-made, his neck and fingers adorned with magical jewelry that he’d plundered from tombs without any help. So how could this be different? Never did it occur to him coming out here was so reckless, because, well, it hadn’t been. He simply didn’t think about the danger and kept on going, completing job after job success after success. The burning pain of teeth crushing through bone snapped something in his mind, or rather, snapped him out. Then, he remembered: the Cleric healing a near-fatal wound he’d sustained, the Barbarian holding off a horde on his own to buy them time, the many nights of drinking by the fire. His friends. It wasn’t until the Bard’s final moments he remembered he hadn’t been alone. Not at all. Until one by one they fell.
The False Hydra has gained a lot of popularity over recent years, greatly aided by being featured on some YouTube channels, which makes it all the more confusing. You see, this isn’t actually an official Dungeons & Dragons monster, not even from editions past; it is a homebrew creature nobody seems to know whose creation it is.
Subconscious, Subterranean Fear
The False Hydra is a creature which dwells under the earth, growing from seemingly nothing at first but becoming larger and more powerful through the consumption of intelligent creatures. At first, it has only a single head, which it uses to sing a terrible song that grants the aberration its greatest power: being unnoticeable. Whilst it sings, any creature who can hear the False Hydra’s song will ignore seeing it, as well as ignore any consequences of its presence, which becomes eerie quickly when a consequence is the devouring of locals.
As the False Hydra drags people underground to devour, the song causes the remaining populace to simply forget they existed, explaining away empty homes, vacancies at places of work, and even the belongings of spouses people forgot they even married. In a cruel twist of the gods, the only rest people receive from this song is whilst they’re losing the ones they love, as the False Hydra can’t sing and feast at the same time.
As the False Hydra consumes more people, it becomes larger and is able to sprout more heads, allowing it to reach further across communities to consume even more people, in a horrific cycle. Due to the nature of its song, a head of the creature can even be staring at a player character through the window, and they wouldn’t even notice. Talk about a peeping Tom, huh?
An Overbearing Song Against Fragile Minds
The song of the False Hydra gives it more effective protection than something simple like invisibility, but it isn’t without its weaknesses and drawbacks. Afterall, most people can see as well as hear, and humanoids have brains with two hemispheres. As the song overpowers the consciousness of the characters, the side of their brain that controls sight may try to raise the alarm, with disturbing consequences. Notes written in the PC’s own handwriting are hard to explain away, but when those notes start taking the form of self inflicted scars even the song has a hard time hand-waving them away.
The constant pressure of the song on a mind can lead to headaches, paranoia, and other symptoms of growing insanity if the truth is not discovered by the conscious characters. When the truth is revealed, perhaps by a chance casting of the Silence spell, the PCs might discover they’ve forgotten entire party members, siblings, partners. That’s what makes the False Hydra a terrifying enemy to fight, you don’t know you’re fighting it until it’s almost over and along the way you won’t even remember the sacrifices you make and the loved ones you lost.
If you enjoyed reading about this creepy monster and want to use it in a campaign, then read this article for tips on how to get started. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Good luck, adventurers, and keep those ear plugs to hand!