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Long one of my favorite monsters if only for its unique language, in an upcoming adventure I finally get to run an encounter with a neh-thalggu (EL 206–8). However, the creature is not without issues. Normally, a brain collector is incorporeal—and with that inevitably comes a certain amount of confusion and conflict—, yet what's worse is that the neh-thalggu has the (apparently natural) ability manifest maw that says

Though it is an incorporeal creature, a neh-thalggu can manifest its mouth in corporeal form as a standard action. While so manifested, the mouth can deliver bite attacks against corporeal creatures or pick up objects. The mouth bites as if it had Str 35. (208)

So, while the creature's maw is manifested, can foes make attacks normally against the neh-thalggu? Or, because the text leaves such an option unavailable, the manifested maw enjoys the same resistance to corporeal effects as the remainder of the still-largely-incorporeal creature?


Note: The neh-thalggu debuted in Castle Amber (1981) about which I have asked several questions. Worry not about the PCs! This DM is wise enough to tone down this epic creature so that it's an appropriate challenge for the nonepic PCs. The language Neh-thalggu, for the curious, "is a silent sign language 'spoken' with [the neh-thalggu's] writhing head-tentacles."

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I think this rule is a good model:

An incorporeal creature inside an object has total cover, but when it attacks a creature outside the object it only has cover, so a creature outside with a readied action could strike at it as it attacks.

When an incorporeal creature uses only a part of its body to attack, and characters strike at that body part, we treat that as though it had cover.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this a lot. And, as that's effectively the same as making the attackable maw Medium, that also neatly jibes with the suggestion in this answer's comments. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 3 '17 at 2:21
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My answer would be that the text does NOT need to specify in this case. Anything that is corporeal can be treated as such. That part of the creature is no longer incorporeal, and therefore could be attacked and otherwise affected just like it says --- corporeally.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ With that in mind, can you suggest how to handle this in play? I mean, just the brain collector's maw shouldn't be as easy to hit as its entire corporeal form, right? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 3 '17 at 1:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, the creature is huge, and it seems to have a big mouth :P. I would treat the Maw as a medium creature (possibly large) for the purposes of size/space, as well as other factors that are relevant only to the mouth. \$\endgroup\$ – Alphaeus Dec 3 '17 at 1:48

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