The amount of time I’m able to devote to writing has been dramatically cut back for the next few months. More or less this is actually good news for me, but it does make keeping up with the blog bit more difficult. So, I thought this might be a good time for a nice simple little series.
Like many people my age, the NES was a pivotal part of my childhood. It shaped my perceptions of concepts like fantasy, adventure, and good game design. The bare-bones nature of everything from the graphics to the narrative to the sound left a lot of room for my imagination to stretch itself as it filled in the blanks. So, I figured it might be fun to pick four of those games that are particularly meaningful to me, and turn some of their enemies into OSR monsters.
Of course, there’s a certain innocence to many of these, which presents a bit of a creative challenge. By “innocent,” I don’t mean that they’re kid-friendly, I mean that they were created in a time before many of the foundational monster types had become too cliche to bear. In an NES game, skeletons, bats, and dragons were all still novel ideas, if only because the medium itself was novel.
Fortunately, I’m not boring enough to try and write faithful adaptations of these monsters. I’m just going to get weird, drawing on my own childhood interpretations of what these sprites represented, and filling in the rest with whatever oddity I can come up with.
Teardrop-shaped creatures, with smiling faces and rubbery skin. They are extremely talkative, and very friendly. Many people “de-claw” them using a set of heavy garden shears, and keep them around as a sort of pet.
Friendly as they may be, though, they really want to bathe in your blood. See, anytime they douse themselves in blood, they grow bigger, and it feels really good to grow bigger. Really REALLY good. They love bouncing just right so that the spike on their head plunges deep into some friendly person. Then the warm goo flows out. It flows all over them, and they can feel little explosions of pleasure inside them as they absorb the blood and their bodies swell larger.
Drakees are angry little creatures, who feel they’ve been denied their right to be dragons. For many years, draconic mothers had to be extra protective of their young, because Drakees liked to murder baby dragons out of jealousy. Eventually, the dragons spread a rumor that if a Drakee killed 10,000 humans, they would become a dragon themselves.
The rumor effectively focused the Drakee’s rage away from dragon youth, and onto humans. If any Drakee gets too close to the 10,000 mark, an elder dragon will quietly have them killed, to prevent the conspiracy from being revealed.
Careless magic users sometimes allow spells to slip out of their minds, uncast. Maybe it’s been a long day, and you just never needed that Fireball, so you go to sleep. When you wake up the next morning, your mind is empty, and ready to be filled with new spells.
These lost spells wander the ether at random, eventually meeting up with other forgotten spells. A school forms, growing larger and larger as new spells latch on to it, until the whole group coalesces into the form of a robed figure. The only goal of the Spell Bundle is to find some appropriate circumstance in which each of its many tangled spells can be cast, until there’s nothing left, and the robed figure dissipates away into nothingness.
A favorite construct of powerful wizards. First, they need some structure made of bricks, such as a wall, a bridge, or a tower. Once enchanted, this structure can rearrange itself into a large humanoid shape.
Walking Walls travel with the wizard, serving as guardians. Whenever then need arises, a command word will cause them to rearrange their bodies back into structures. The specifics of the form they return to can be tweaked, but they cannot become a different sort of structure. So, for example, a creature made from a straight length of wall can become a circular wall, but cannot become a tower.
In water, Seabrains are polite and peaceful intellectuals. However, when one of their kind has committed a particularly hateful crime, they are banished to the surface world, and condemned never to enter any body of water again. This seems like an unenforceable edit, and yet no exile ever seems to disobey it.
Deprived of their natural environment, Seabrains become obsessed with the water inside living creatures. They go on an apologetic rampage, tearing apart any creature within range of their powerful psychic abilities. They continue on in this way until they are killed, or until they finally die of exposure away from the water. An Exile can sometimes live for months before finally succumbing.
These particular skeletons come from the corpses of self-hating fat people. After a lifetime of being blamed for the person’s insecurities (“big boned,”) these bones have come to find flesh and meat deeply offensive. They particularly hate fat people, but really anything with skin is disgusting to them, and must be purged. They are almost religious in this zealotry.
A bulbous creature, which can inflate its body with helium, and float on the wind like a balloon. Despite being composed of mostly empty space, Phloatos are somewhat intelligent, and even capable of human speech. They’re insufferable to talk to, though. They think absolutely everything is boring, and make snide comments about anyone who expresses sincere emotions.
A Phloato’s tendrils are dangerously radioactive. Avoid letting them touch you.
Heralds of the Next Empire
These bear-sized, scorpion-like creatures have traveled from an alternate version of our world. They are the heralds of an empire which will someday extend its boarders into our reality. This is not a question of “if,” only of “when,” and the heralds are here to ensure the transition is smooth.
They do not speak, and are not particularly violent. They merely travel our world, plunging their stingers into everyone they meet. If they encounter no trouble doing this, then they will move on. If their stinger is deflected, they’ll use their powerful claws to hold the victim down. If the victim puts up too much of a fight, it might be better just to tear them apart rather than deal with it.
If a person survives being stung, then within the next few days they will realize they now speak a new language. The language isn’t spoken natively anywhere in our world. Only those who have been stung understand it.
Laughy Jims & Jills
Likes to say shitty things to people, and always defends themselves by claiming it was “just a joke,” or insisting that the offended party needs to “get a sense of humor.” Laughy Jims and Laughy Jills are notorious for being able to dish it out, but absolutely can’t take it. If you say anything to bruise their fragile ego, they will immediately become belligerent, and possibly even violent.
The creature attacks using its body as a club. They’re honestly pretty bad at fighting, and will often just get in a few hits, then fly out of range and declare victory. If you can’t reach them, it must mean that they win, you pathetic, ground-bound loser.