Darien, GA (WKQ News): State police today arrested a man on the Altamaha River for driving under the influence. The driver’s fishing boat flipped during a dangerous one craft incident. Both the driver and his passenger received only minor injuries. “We are determined to crack down on irresponsible operators who insist on driving while intoxicated,” said police spokeswoman Lt. Cheryl McGovern. Witnesses tell WKQ News that the operator – whose name has not yet been released by police – was mumbling about a large eel-like creature in the water.
Robert fished the waters of the Altamaha River and surrounding rice fields and streams all his life. Ever since he was a young boy, his grandfather warned him of the river monster, known as Altamaha-ha, which patrolled these waters. Robert never believed the stories. His grandfather was known to tell great fish tales, and this was just another. Or so Robert thought. [More…]
He was along the banks fishing for catfish. Shortly after he cast his line, Robert was pleased to feel a nibble and a bite – this day was starting out great. He let the line run for a moment then pulled to reel the fish in. The fish resisted. “Must be a big one,” said Robert, and fought harder to pull in the fish. “He’ll stop and turn around soon. They always do.” Robert wasn’t talking to anybody, but the words reassured him.
The fish on his line continued to behave oddly, and it ran his line straight out into the river. Robert struggled, pulling futilely to bring the fish back. In a matter of seconds his line ran out. For a brief moment, Robert thought he finally had the better of the creature. Then the fish started again, yanking the rod from his hands.
As Robert stood on the banks of the river staring at the water, dumbfounded, he saw a wake heading his way. Then a black hump rose from the water. The wake picked up speed, and all Robert could do was stare. His instincts told him to run, but he stood there, mouth agape.
The fish broke the surface of the water and lunged at Robert. It opened its mouth impossibly far to devour the hapless fisherman. Robert laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, just before the altamaha-ha bit down.
Sightings of altamaha-ha are common, with eye-witness descriptions consistently describing the creature as an eel-like fish. Length varies in each description, ranging from 12 feet up to as long as 60 feet. Its skin ranges in color from dark gray to black. Some witnesses say its underbelly is a lighter color than its back.
Like many predators, Altamaha-ha has forward-facing eyes, giving it depth perception to hunt prey. Its highly developed ears can hear potential prey – or threats – from great distances. Unlike most fish, altamaha-ha’s tailfin is horizontal, like a dolphin’s. This leads some marine experts to theorize altamaha-ha isn’t a fish, but a relative of dolphins and whales. Altamaha-ha swims with an undulating motion, and two or three humps propel it through the water. Onlookers see it only when these humps breach the surface of the water, and by then it is often almost too late.
In Your Modern Game
The two primary theories about Altamaha-ha both presume the creature is a cryptid. A cryptid is a creature that’s presumed to exist, but no actual scientific proof is present. The first theory states that altamaha-ha is a fish. Some postulate it’s a fresh-water fish, but the more likely scenario is that it’s a salt-water fish that uses the Altamaha River and surrounding waterways as a spawning ground.
The second theory says that altamaha-ha is more closely related to dolphins than fish. It’s a deep sea creature that enters the shallow river waters and rice fields to breed before heading back out to sea.
Either way, player characters investigating yet another sighting of the fabled creature will stumble around southeastern Georgia before finding the truth. Tweak the stats below to use plain animal Hit Dice; the abilities can remain the same. Once the PCs discover the truth, they could be hailed as scientific heroes, with the press meetings, interviews, and associated fame that comes with such a marvelous discovery.
In Your Fantasy Game
In a fantasy-themed game, altamaha-ha can inhabit any temperate fresh-water region. The creature is more intelligent than a normal animal, and can avoid detection. While altamaha-ha is neutral in alignment, its an aggressive temperament, as well as a strong territorial nature. Player characters seeking out altamaha-ha are in for a strong fight; PCs randomly encountering the creature – perhaps as it capsizes a vessel – might just be in for a deadly fight.
Altamaha-ha CR 8
N Huge dragon (aquatic)
Init –2; Senses Darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Listen +13, Spot +13
Defense 21, touch 6, flat-footed 21 (–2 size, –2 Dex, +15 natural)
hp 103 (9d12+45)
Massive Damage 21
Fort +11, Ref +6, Will +7
Immunities Magic sleep, paralysis
Spd 10 ft., swim 50 ft.
Melee Bite +17 (2d6+13/19–20)
Space 15 ft. by 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks Capsize, improved grab, swallow whole
Before Combat Most altamaha-ha prefer to strike from concealment, hiding under the water until ready to attack.
During Combat An altamaha-ha capsizes any boats in the area and (for larger vessels) knocks sailors into the water. Once it capsizes a boat, it attacks creatures in the water one at a time, attempting to swallow them at the earliest opportunity.
Morale Altamaha-ha is aggressive and territorial, but it isn’t suicidal. If reduced to one-quarter or few hit points, it flees by diving deep and swimming away from its attackers.
Str 29, Dex 7, Con 21, Int 5, Wis 12, Cha 12
Base Atk +9; Grp +26
AP 0; Rep 0
Feats Improved critical (bite), Lightning Reflexes, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (bite)
Skills Hide –6*, Intimidate +17, Listen +13, Spot +13, Swim +17
Capsize (Ex): A submerged altamaha-ha that surfaces under a boat or ship less than 20 feet long capsizes the vessel 95% of the time. It has a 50% chance to capsize a vessel from 20 to 60 feet long and a 20% chance to capsize one over 60 feet long.
Improved Grab (Ex): If altamaha-ha hits a creature at least one size category smaller than itself with its bite attack it can attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can try to swallow the foe the following round.
Swallow Whole (Ex): Altamaha-ha can try to swallow a grabbed opponent at least one size category smaller than itself by making a successful grapple check. Once inside, the opponent takes 1d8 points of crushing damage plus 1d6 points of acid damage per round from altamaha-ha’s digestive juices. A swallowed creature can cut its way out by dealing 20 points of damage to altamaha-ha’s digestive tract (AC 17). Once the creature exits, muscular action closes the hole; another swallowed opponent must cut its own way out. Altamaha-ha’s gullet can 2 Large, 4 Medium, 8 Small, or 32 Tiny or smaller creatures.
Skills: Altamaha-ha has a +8 species bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. It can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered.
It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line.
*An altamaha-ha has a +12 species bonus on Hide checks when submerged. It receives a +4 species bonus on Intimidate checks.
Environment Eastern Georgia rivers and Atlantic Ocean
Organization Solitary, pair, or school (4–12, ocean waters only)
Advancement 10–19 HD (Huge), 20–34 HD (Gargantuan)
Level Adjustment —
We’re pleased to say that this mighty Georgia dragon is the last of our modern monsters, but Monday Monsters will continue next week in a new direction.