Known by the folk name of Springing Skulls of Doom, these strange creatures construct a lair and patiently wait to ambush passersby. Gambados are completely amoral, caring only for their own survival, their next meal, and their personal treasure.
These extraordinary-looking creatures are man-sized, with a powerful human torso and two arms, each ending in three curved claws. Supported on the strong, flat neck is what appears to be the creature's head, hut which is actually a skull of another creature. Gambados use found skulls to house their heads, similar in principle to the hermit crab. They have special muscles that secure the placement of the skull and work its jaw. Skulls of horned or long-toothed beasts, or other interesting animals, are favored by plains gambados, while those with subterranean lairs prefer humanoid skulls. A gambado's torso narrows downward into a 3'-long cylinder of cartilage and muscle which can be compressed, spring-style, and suddenly released for springing up and forward. This columnar leg ends abruptly in three long and flat single-toed feet.
Gambados are generally pale gray in color. They will often camou- flage themselves with soil and clays found in the course of digging their pit lairs.
Combat: The gambado moves by a series of springs; jumping vertically, it can just reach a 14'-high ceiling with its head, and it moves horizontally at a rate of 12. The radially arrayed and retractably clawed feet allow the gambado to rapidly shift direction or stop suddenly, and provide good traction during its springing travels.
A gambado's normal form of attack is to stand upright in its lair, which is a pit dug by it some 6 feet deep, with its head just at ground level and its leg contracted for springing. The gambado goes to considerable effort to construct a cover for its pit out of rock, wood, rags and old bones, with only a small hole in the center through which its skull head pokes out. An approaching adventurer will see only the skull, apparently simply lying on the ground. The cover will not support the weight of any creature larger than a wharf rat, and will not encumber the outward spring of the gambado when it strikes.
If a living creature comes within 4 feet or so of the skull head, the gambado will spring out and attack, first biting with its ersatz head for 1-8 points of damage. Thereafter it will also attack with the claws on its hands, each of which inflicts 1-4 / points of damage. The gambado will flee rather than fight to the death.
Habitat/Society: If a gambado kills a victim, it will ignore all booty on the victim except coins, gems, and small pieces of jewelry. These are compulsively sorted by type and color, grabbed back up to be fondled and held up to the light, then compulsively resorted again. Finally, the objects are taken into the pit and stored, although sometimes artifacts are scattered about or left on the ground in order to attract curious future victims. The gambado eats its victim, then laboriously reconstructs the cover for its lair, retreats into its lair to digest its meal, and awaits further prey. Gambados can go for several months between major meals. At least once every 10 days, the gambado will uncover its hoard and compulsively sort and admire the various objects again.
Though once thought to be solitary creatures, gambados are now often found in groups. Apparently, if a location is successful in terms of food and booty, a gambado will return to its former lair to collect its family to dig lairs in the immediate vicinity. In places where bones are common, as many as eight gambados may be found to have dug pits close together. Some believe that gambados communicate with one another through a quiet strumming of the ground, using extremely rapid and minute movements of their springing leg, although this may be nothing more than a means of keeping the leg muscles exercised and ready for action during long periods of waiting.
Ecology: The hide of the gambado s springing leg is naturally somewhat elastic. This elasticity makes cylinders of the hide useful as connectors to lengths of pipe and in similar applications. Gambado lairs are relatively easily noticed and avoided by those who have previously been victims of their traps. If left undisturbed, they may have the effect of guarding the rear of a passing party from less intelligent wandering monsters.
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