I'm making a world where I want domesticated Mimics to be a thing.
These Mimics are pretty similar to the original concept of D&D Mimics: shapeshifters that imitate objects, and hunt by imitating something desirable to their prey, then attacking when the prey comes close using a sticky secretion and a bludgeoning pseudopod.
The questions I have are as follows:
- Why would a creature with this kind of lifestyle be trainable, let alone domesticatable?
- How might one go about domesticating and training them?
Animals that humans have domesticated tend to have similar characteristics: social, active, and preferably herbivorous (with a few exceptions). Mimics are none of these.
I want them to be roughly similar to dogs in intelligence: not civilized creatures, but smart enough to learn and sociable enough to train for various diverse purposes (the most obvious being as house guards, but can also make good pets, can be used by hunters as decoys, and can even help the disabled using the versatility a tentacled shapeshifter has to offer). As with dogs, they come in various different breeds that vary in size and disposition.
The exact details of their evolutionary progress aren't important (they can be presumed to have evolved from an already existing class of amorphous muscular blobs) but they are a natural creature that evolved in a natural environment, without magic or human involvement ("wild" Mimics usually imitate plants or dead animals to lure their prey). As such, their intelligence and disposition should make sense for a creature with their lifestyle to have.
(Interestingly, D&D does have a precedent for the occasional friendly Mimic and even talking Mimics, though these are rarely used. But this is more for gameplay reasons and isn't really explained in a plausible manner.)
The main goal is to design a creature that, while functionally a traditional shapeshifting Mimic, also has a plausible survival-based reason for having a "domestication-friendly" brain despite its solitary, ambush-predator hunting strategy.
Additional details about these Mimics:
Mimics are obligate carnivores. Like snakes and crocodiles, they prefer large single meals over regular small ones, at least in the wild.
While they can change their topography, color, and texture, and are capable of "locking" their muscles into place to remain stationary for long periods of time without expending excess energy, they are basically muscular blobs and can't really maintain a convincing shape while in motion (though they are capable of "jiggling" a part of their body to attract prey, and can form basic shapes like tentacles). They also can't change their mass, though some cleverer ones can change their apparent volume by expanding hollow spaces inside their bodies.
They are not good at moving quickly (the fastest they run is about the speed of a brisk human walk, and they don't like to do this often) but they can lash out with a pseudopod extremely fast, and they can climb walls using a combination of shapeshifting and their sticky glue. House Mimics can be trained not to "slime" but this is difficult.
Wild Mimics rarely prey on humans (not enough opportunity for the risk, and not enough overlap between the items humans go for and those that more common prey go for). Most "chest Mimics" are domesticated Mimics who have been specifically trained to guard a house by imitating an object that a thief is likely to go for. Some notorious Mimics have been known to target humans though; as with other "man-eating" animals they are usually hunted down and killed.
They can see using any part of their body, but their "eyes" must be dark and smooth for them to see effectively. This makes it difficult for them to disguise themselves perfectly and see at the same time.
Mimics are not born knowing how to shapeshift, nor can they imitate an object perfectly on sight: they learn through experience and observation (usually by extending an "eye" on a pseudopod to look at themselves). The more a Mimic has practiced a particular form, the quicker it is able to take that shape and the more accurate the imitation will be. Young Mimics can take a few hours taking on a new form; more experienced ones can adopt a shape in seconds.
Mimics can pass the mirror test, and learn much faster when they have a mirror available.