Merciless Monsters V: LOZAS Skeleton and Popo

Something Like a PoPo, but actually a Tube Anemone
This is a little what I imagine a Popo might look like, though it’s actually a Tube Anemone posted on Advanced Aquarist.

If you haven’t yet, there’s only today and tomorrow left to fill out the first annual Papers & Pencils survey! It honestly means a lot to me, so if you enjoy the blog, and you have a couple minutes, I would really appreciate your time!

It’s been a long while since I made a Merciless Monsters post. The Draugr were all the way back in March, and my only attempt since then was when I adapted Telecanter’s work in April. For awhile after the Draugr, I avoided writing another MM because they took so damned long to get done. Then I had my big rant denouncing Pathfinder’s complex methods of stat block creation. Since then I haven’t really been sure about how to approach making monsters. I figure I ought to come up with my own style of Pathfinder-compatible statblock which allows monsters to be built faster, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

So instead, I thought it would be fun to waste everyone’s time by working out some of the monsters for my in-progress LOZAS system. Below are two of the monsters which will appear in that game, built using the current iteration of the rules. First is the Skeleton, which I’ve included to serve as a connection between the tried-and-true (skeletons in fantasy RPGs) and the new-fangled (the LOZAS system). The other creature, which I’m currently calling a Popo, is a little more unusual, and to my knowledge hasn’t appeared in a tabletop RPG before.

None of these rules are quite pinned down yet, so these creatures may end up changing before I’m done. I’ve also added some commentary to the statblocks, to explain my reasons for making certain choices. Despite my joke above, I hope you find this enjoyable rather than annoying. The survey isn’t over until tomorrow, but a lot of people have noted that they’d like to read more about my amateur game design.

Skeleton

HP 8
AC 20
Body 10; Agility 26; Wisdom 3
Speed 40
Special Protection: Skeletons take no damage from piercing weapons unless it is a critical hit.
Special Weakness None
Attacks Claw (+5/1dmg); Throw Bone (50ft)(+8/1dmg)
Special Moves

Disengage: As an action, the skeleton may leap straight back 20-50ft. If there is a wall within that range, the skeleton is not harmed by colliding with it, instead gracefully sliding down the wall to land at the bottom.

Stealthy: A sneaking skeleton is able to move with complete silence, and hide itself within deep shadows. While sneaking, a skeleton can move at full speed. While hiding in deep shadows, it must remain still while it is being observed, or it will be revealed.

Description With magically animated joints the skeleton glides silently across the stone floors of a crypt. While the creature was once a person, all flesh and humanity have been stripped from it, leaving only a collection of bones with a fervent desire to harm the living. Skeletons are created either by powerful and evil sages, or by the sheer evil presence of a monster even more merciless than itself.

Tactics Skeletons much prefer to fight from range, breaking off spare bones from their rib cage and throwing them with deadly accuracy. If a skeleton ever ends up in melee range, it will sometimes attack with its claws, but its immediate reaction is to leap straight backward. Skeletons are not very bright creatures. They’re barely more than an automaton, with only a rudimentary understanding of friend & foe, and not much ability to think ahead. Clever players could potentially trick a skeleton into using its disengage ability to take a blind leap into lava, or some other dangerous substance.

Design Notes In this game, the the range of human ability can go as low as a score 2, and as high as a 22. Given that, the skeleton shown here has an average body score, extremely low wisdom score, and supernaturally high agility score. Lacking the constraints of flesh and sinew, skeletons are more flexible and fast than the world’s greatest gymnasts and runners. I’ve never liked the portrayal of skeletons as level 1 cannon fodder, possibly because of my love for the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts. My hope is to make them a little more menacing in this game.

While individual GMs are free to run the skeleton however they like, obviously, I thought it would be fun to play up the graceful aspect of the skeleton, making it a quick, stealthy foe. I particularly like the idea of skeletons being able to avoid melee range, thus allowing them to force their foes to use arrows–which they are immune to.

Popo

HP 2
AC 12
Body 16; Agility 11; Wisdom 5
Speed 30
Special Protection: None
Special Weakness None
Attacks Constricting Barbs (Auto-hit on entangled foes/1dmg)
Special Moves

Entangle: If a popo enters the same space as a target, then that target becomes entangled. The target cannot move until the popo is either killed or shaken free with a successful agility check. Once entangled, a target is vulnerable to the popo’s Constricting Barbs attack, which does not require any attack roll.

Description ‘A multicolored mass of wriggling tentacles with no other recognizable anatomy” is the simplest way to describe the popo’s appearance. While primarily colored in shades of orange and purple, a popo’s tentacles can fall anywhere on the color spectrum. The creature uses its bright colors and wriggling movements to attract potential predators. Once it is attacked, the popo latches on tightly, extruding small barbs which allow it to draw bloody sustenance from its would-be attacker. Even the strongest or most agile creatures find it difficult to rid themselves of a popo once it has latched on.

Tactics Popos are simple creatures who live in ‘clusters’ which generally range from 4-10. Often, members of a cluster will hunt separately. But when threatened, the creatures demonstrate remarkably unity by gathering together, and moving in union. In doing so, they cover a larger surface area than a single popo would, making it more difficult for attacks to avoid getting their feet entangled.

Design Notes I’m experimenting with mechanics which have ‘absolute’ results in this game. Above, you saw how the skeleton is almost completely immune to piercing weapons (as opposed to Pathfinder, where skeletons have DR/bludgeoning). The popo is another example of a mechanic with an absolute outcome: if the popo enters the same area as a PC, that PC is entangled. No saving throw or chance to avoid it. The player’s best chance to avoid being entangled by a popo is to deprive the monster of the opportunity in the first place.

You might note that all of the attacks mentioned deal a set amount of damage, rather than a dice range. At present, the game uses different rules for monsters and players in this regard. On the one hand, monsters can have any number of HP, and player weapons deal damage using a dice range. Players, on the other hand, start with only 3 HP, which can be increased one at a time by adventuring, and discovering magical items which allow them to resist wounds beyond what a normal human could sustain.

I don’t really like that method very much, but it’s what I’m working with for now.

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3 thoughts on “Merciless Monsters V: LOZAS Skeleton and Popo”

    1. “LOZAS” is the tentative name for the system, whose exact nature I’ve been keeping under my hat.

      I’ve decided that keeping it under my hat is stupid, though, so tomorrow’s post will explain the system and its origins in detail.

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