Dissecting Monsters: The Provider’s Creature from “Better Than Any Man”

The Provider's Creature by Gennifer Bone
Illustration by Gennifer Bone

Something I’ve been doing a lot of lately is finding monsters, particularly from books people seem to like, and dissecting them to find what I like, what I don’t, and how I cam make monsters which are as good or better. Nifty content for a blog post, save that it would pretty much require me to post someone else’s content. But the other day I had a bright idea. See, the monsters which really elevated my perspective on monster design were those found in James Raggi’s “Better Than Any Man” module. Those are the monsters which really started my mind working, and helped me make the decision to start this project off in earnest. They’re also from a module which is free! So I asked for Raggi’s permission to post the creatures from that book, he gave it, and here we are.  I really do recommend you download Better Than Any Man, And if you are so inclined, toss a few bucks at it before you download it. It’s worth more than a lot of other books I’ve shelled out cash for.

And while I’m telling you how to spend your hard earned money, hurry up and fund the LotFP Referee Book IndieGoGo campaign! It’s already fully funded, but by the time this goes up I think there will only be 2 days left. So if you want to be a part of improving the book, your time is limited. I highly recommend it.

Now, lets get on with it:

-The Provider’s Creature-
Armor 17, 6 Hit Dice, Movement 30’, 1 tentacle attack for every
mêlée opponent doing 1d10-(number of opponents) damage
each, Morale 12.
The Provider’s creature is a ten foot tall thorny tentacle monster
that behaves as a magic receptacle. When a Magic-User spell is cast
at it (and it must be at it and not just the creature being within
the area of an area effect spell), the spell does not leave the caster’s
mind, but the creature gains the ability to cast it once a day, effective
immediately. This effect is cumulative. The spell does not actually
affect the creature.
The Provider has been casting her “Create Food” spell at the
creature every day, and so as the adventure begins it can cast the spell
ten times per day, thus “feeding” one meal to 300 people every day. It
is often all those people eat.

I thought I’d start off with one of the simpler creatures. It’s a slow (human standard is 120′) moving land octopus with barbs and a wicked beak. There are really two interesting things about it.

First is its attack. “1 tentacle attack for every melee opponent doing 1d10-(number of opponents) damage each.” It’s an unusual way to model the creature’s many appendages. If there’s only one person present, the creature can deal massive damage by focusing all of its attention on that one character. But as more people engage it, and it’s forced to divide its attention (and its tentacles) between more targets, it begins to lose effectiveness. If you have a party of 10 people or more, the creature’s base attack becomes effectively useless. That’s not even a very large party! All you’d need are 5 PCs who each brought one mercenary hireling along with them.

I can’t decide if I view this as a flaw or a feature. On the one hand it seems ridiculous that being struck with one of those huge devilish looking barbs isn’t going to hurt at all. On the other hand, it’s an interesting indication that perhaps there’s something wrong with the creature’s mind. It can’t focus on a single target if many are present, and as it divides its focus, it becomes unable to effectively attack at all. It may hit you, but its so distracted, that it just gently bumps you without causing any harm. An effective strategy for defeating the creature is just to surround it with too many targets to focus on, turning it into a harmless fish out of water which can be killed at the player’s leisure.

I think the monster could be improved either by explicitly spelling out the above speculative explanation for its inability to fight too many targets at once, or or by capping the number of melee opponents which can modify its abilities at 5.

The second interesting aspect of The Provider’s Creature is the way it reacts to magic. Conceivably, the creature could have any number of spells already in its repertoire when the players encounter it, though in the case of this particular module it only has numerous iterations of “Create Stuff That Seems to Be Food But Isn’t,” which isn’t much of a threat to the players unless they’re hungry. And I think this actually works a lot better.

If the players encounter the monster, and they have no magic user, or no spells on hand, or just choose not to cast anything, then the fight is fairly straightforward. It’ll be a brutal slugging fest if you don’t have 10 melee combatants to dilute the creature’s damage roll, but there won’t be any deadly tricks to come bite you in the ass. If the magic user DOES get involved, though, the beast suddenly becomes much more threatening.

The challenge of the monster is mutable, depending on player action. I like that a lot.

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2 thoughts on “Dissecting Monsters: The Provider’s Creature from “Better Than Any Man””

  1. Now what I am thinking is that this is a “trick monster”. That sounds like a bad thing but it’s not. The best monsters are trick monsters that require a tactic or secret to defeat.

    You could do a whole game with trick monsters – from green slime, to shadows and trolls. I bet it would feel much more fairy tale and much less combat oriented because you can throw impossible horrors at the party as long as they can think a way to defeat them. Trick monsters though should telegraph thier trick in some way or the trick should be logical. Rumors, physical features, observable oddity or magical research. They also can’t be instant TPKs. Like green slime is a great trick. If detected and the party knows that fire hurts it – easy, if detected and no idea about the trick – an obstacle where lack of caution kills. If known & undetected – may kill a PC quite memorably and if undetected and unknown a PC is dying, maybe more than one and retreat is in order.

    Does the Provider above show any signs of being mob violence susceptible? Magic immune? Because the bad trick monster is the “gotcha monster” which can’t be defeated without playing “Guess the GMs mood” and punishes mistakes harshly. Not saying the provider is. Personally I would say it’s susceptible to an arrow storm which is an obvious solurion.

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