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

The Defender's Creature
Illustration by Jennifer Rodgers

Lets go!

The Defender’s Creature
See the description for statistics. Morale 12.

While the creature appears as a brain resting in a tentacle-laden pod, it is actually an adaptive creature which drains the abilities of those around it in order to have any abilities of its own.

This draining of abilities is applicable to whoever and whatever is near (within 100’) and takes them for itself and its master. The character or creature with the best Armor rating loses it and both the creature and The Defender instead have it. The character or creature with the weapon doing the most damage loses it and the creature and The Defender instead have it each. The character or creature with the fastest movement becomes unable to move and the creature and The Defender instead have that movement capability. The character or creature with the most Hit Points loses them (being reduced to 1d6 Hit Points), and the creature and The Defender instead have them as their Hit Points each.

Special abilities or attacks are likewise absorbed. Any character or creature with Magic-User spell capabilities loses them, and the creature and Defender instead have the spell capabilities between them. Cleric spell ability is not absorbed.

Once an “absorbed” character or creature moves out of the 100’ range of this ability, they regain their abilities and the creature and Defender lose them (although spells cast by The Defender, or the creature, are still expended).

My first impression of The Defender’s Creature was that it was a pain in the ass. So much bookkeeping! Everybody announce the amount of damage your weapon does. Uh oh, two people have weapons which deal the same damage? Um, do either weapons have tie-breaking special abilities? What about speed? Everyone is playing a human with 120′ speed, so I guess we randomly determine someone to be stuck, yeah?

Buuuuuuut despite some minor frustrations at the start of this combat, the effect it has on battle is (I think) a very interesting one. If the PCs attack this creature, they lose all of their best abilities, quite literally. Abilities which likely formed the basis for any typical attack strategy. The beefy fighter who normally charges in to protect the casters suddenly has less HP and less armor than the party’s magic user. And the party’s magic user, lacking her spells, is reduced to attacking with sticks and stones.

If this comes as a surprise to the party, their immediate response should probably be to retreat. Unfortunately, one of their number (either the fastest, or just a random person if they all have the same move speed) cannot move under their own power. The party is forced either to abandon their companion, or attempt to carry her while under assault by two creatures wailing on them with the fighter’s badass magic sword.

Just now I notice that, interestingly, the creature’s description doesn’t say that this effect only occurs when it is attacking. It merely says that it draws abilities from everyone within 100′. Within the context of the module, the creatures obey their masters perfectly (thus why all of them have morale 12), and it is entirely possible for the players to encounter their masters (known as “The Seven”) on friendly terms. So, when the party arrive to have a friendly discussion with The Defender, the magic user loses her spells, and the fighter’s HP and armor class drop. That’s a curious detail–a warning to let the players know that engaging this creature is dangerous.

Also interesting that, like The Provider’s creature, there’s a very simple, hidden way to kill this creature with ease: make sure there’s no one within 100′ of it. The description is explicit. It drains the abilities of those around it “in order to have any abilities of its own.” A generous interpretation of this would leave the best completely vulnerable. Unable to move or fight or avoid attacks. As I read it, though, the monster wouldn’t even have HP if there was no one at all within 100′.

The moment it is alone, it dies. I like that.

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