Category Archives: Merciless Monsters

How I Construct Dragons

Erol Otus DragonLast week, I intended to write an explanation of how I run dragons in my games. I started the post with a little preamble about what I think the current state of dragons is, and what I don’t like about it. Somewhere around the 900 word mark, I realized my preamble had become an impassioned essay all its own. So I opted to split the post into two parts: the angry rant, and the sober rules discussion.

Welcome to the boring half of that split.

Most encounter tables I use have 2d6 possible encounters on them. On on every one of those tables, a result of 2 means the party has encountered a dragon. Because dragons are like any other kind of vermin: they can survive just about everywhere, and you’re never really going to get rid of them entirely.

The formula for a dragon has 8 parts. There’s description, hoard, toll, statline, breath, spells, minions, and specials.

The Description is a few sentences (3 or 4 max) which can be read at the table to give the referee a snapshot of who and what this dragon is. Usually I try to include a little physical description, and some details about personality.

For physical descriptions, I assume anyone reading has a basic sense of what a dragon looks like, so I limit myself to describing deviations from that norm. More relevant than appearance is personality. What drives this dragon? Do they have a particular love, hate, or desire? Give the referee something to work from while the dragon is conversing with the PCs.

(I say “the referee” as if anybody but me has read these. I do plan to publish my dragons someday, but so far they’re just my personal game aides).

As a sample, here’s the description for Grogund the Mammal:

Shaggy grey fur, a long snout, and deer antlers. She is doubly cruel to humans to mask her own insecurities about being a non-reptilian dragon.

Each dragon’s Hoard is unique. They’re not all sitting on heaps of gold. Why should they? What special significance should gold have to them? It’s not like they’re ever going to spend it, or that they need it to survive. The way dragons assign value to objects is based on a logic completely removed from human economics. Indeed, what a dragon values may seem like trash to us.

Of course, like any narcissist, dragons seek the adoration of others. Not just for their raw power, but for their fine taste. So, often, dragons do hoard objects others would consider to be of great value. But even then, it’s not necessarily going to be gold. Grogund, for example, hoards fine rugs. She rests upon a nice soft heap, and has plenty of minions meticulously cleaning her rugs day and night to keep them in beautiful condition.

The Toll of dragon is the cost of having a nonviolent encounter with them. They expect tribute, and will punish anyone who thinks themselves too good to offer it. Generally speaking, a toll will be something the dragon could add to its hoard. So, for Grogund, anyone who meets her must offer a rug, or meet their doom.

It is a quirk of the draconic psyche that that must accept an appropriate toll if it is offered. A mildewed old bathroom rug would be an insult to Grogund, but she would accept it none the less, and allow those who offered it to pass her unmolested. Of course, insulting a dragon may be fun, but it carries its own consequences.

Remember, that if a dragon leaps out in a surprise attack, you may not have time to offer them a toll before they eat you.

Note also that paying a dragon’s toll only entitles a person to turn around and walk away. If the dragon is pleased with the toll, they may be willing to converse, but they will still spring to attack if the toll payer offers any insult or encroachment.

The Statline for dragons is just a basic statline. Armor Rating, Movement, Hit Dice, Attack, and Morale. Normally I wouldn’t bother talking about this part too much, because it’s pretty boring and you already know how to do it. But, for dragons, I do have a very particular set of guidelines for how I put the basic stats together.

Armor Rating tends towards the mid-to-high end. Between 15 and 19 most of the time. Morale tends towards the low end, with 5-8 being average. Dragons are tough to hurt, but cowardly if they feel at all disadvantaged.

Weaker dragons will have around 7 Hit Dice, with the average being around 10 or 11, and tougher dragons having 16 or 17. Of course, there’s no reason you can’t throw together some 30hd dragons for higher level players, but there’s also value in letting players outpace dragons if they reach such loftily high levels. Dragons being scary should not be an inviolate, sacrosanct part of the game. If the players become badass enough, it’s okay for dragons to become less threatening. They can be replaced by other horrors.

ProJared Final Fantasy 1 NES 4 Four FrostD IceD Dragon

For Movement, I just pull directly from AD&D. Dragons are typically fairly slow on the ground, with a speed of 90′ (30′). Of course, they often have flying, or some other type of unusual movement speed (swimming, burrowing, climbing, etc) with which they are much faster. 240′ (80′) is my baseline for their second type of movment.

The two types of movement at different speeds are useful. On the one hand it makes it much easier for players to flee when the dragon is stuck on foot. Most adventurers are going to be able to outrun a dragon in the corridors of a dungeon. However, if the players make the mistake of going into an open area, where the dragon can use its secondary movement, they’ve got no chance. You’ve gotta have mad runaway strats, son.

Finally, most dragons have 3 basic physical Attacks. Two claws that each deal a single die of damage, and a bite which deals multiple dice of damage. That’s the baseline, but there’s a lot of room for variation here. Some dragons have more than the usual number of claws, and so more attacks. Some have powerful tail swipes or horn gores that are more worthy of mention than their bite. The baseline only exists for those instances where no better ideas present themselves.

The Breath of a dragon is its signature. I try to be as creative with these as I can. I have my fair share of fire breathers, of course. To some extent, such traditions have to be maintained, so that deviations from them will continue to be notable. But most of my dragons tend to breath things like boiling oil, a flurry of angry pecking birds, or a suicidal sense of self loathing. Be as weird as you can be.

If a dragon’s breath deals damage, that damage is equal to the dragon’s current hit points. (So, the closer the dragon is to death, the less effective its breath is).

Traditionally, some dragons in D&D have Spells. I prefer to avoid any spells that deal direct damage, since their breath and claws and bite are already such reliable sources for damage. Rather, I like to give dragons spells which buff, debuff, ensnare, control, or alter the environment. Something that adds a new dimension to the threat they pose.

I should note that these days, when I’m giving a monster or an NPC spells, I typically don’t bother describing those spells’ effects beforehand. Usually I just put in a spell name, and maybe add a brief description if I have a good idea I want to remember at the table. Then, if the spell actually comes up in play, that’s when I’ll decide what the powers and limitations of the spell are.

I realize this may seem damaging to agency, and I admit that in some ways it is. But so long as the rules of the spell don’t change once they’ve been decided upon, I think it’s a fairly small sacrifice to make to prevent spells from becoming an overly burdensome part of monster creation.

Minions exist to feed a dragon’s need for adoration. Not every dragon will have them. Some are too moody or misanthropic to keep anyone around them for too long. Others, though, will revel in surrounding themselves with sycophants, slaves, and worshipers. These may perform any number of services for the dragon, but ultimately their true purpose is always to feed the dragon’s ego.

There’s no limit on what form the minions may take. Some dragons may prefer to have only one or two highly capable body-servants. Creatures who can become intimately familiar with the dragon’s habits, and respond to their desires before they’re even expressed. Others may have more extravagant preferences, dragging a cult of worshipers, or a harem of consorts behind them.

Last of all, I try to give every dragon at least one notable Special thing. These can be powers which make the dragon harder to deal with. They can be weaknesses, which make the dragon vulnerable if known. Other times, the special trait is just some incidental thing. Something unlikely to come up in play, but potentially interesting if it does.

So while one dragon’s special might be an immunity to fire, another dragon may take extra damage from fire, while a third perhaps has multiple personalities which they switch between every time they see fire. As with everything else, the sky’s the limit.

Now, generally speaking, I don’t bother paying the Joesky Tax. But last week was particularly gratuitous, and I’ve literally got hundreds of dragons written up that probably aren’t going to be published anytime soon. So here’s 5 of them, all created using the guidelines discussed in this post. Iguanamouth Hoard of Sex ToysXulamara the Serpent Slave

A mammalian dragon with a serpentine body, white fur, eight long cloven legs, and a pair of twisting horns. Fire licks from her mouth with every word she speaks. She has no wings, but a pair of flat-toothed serpents grow from her shoulders. She is simple minded, and territorial.
Hoards: Various dyes, some of which are able to do seemingly impossible things, like dye elaborate patterns directly into cloth.
Armor 19, Move 120′(40′), 9HD, 2 Snakes 2d6, Bite 3d8, Morale 7
Snake Attack: The two snakes attack by spitting acid, which has a range of 30′.
Breath: A wall of fire, 100′ long and 10′ tall. Remains in place for 24 hours before burning out.
Special: Immune to normal missiles.
Special: Xulamara is cursed to remain forever ignorant of the snakes growing from his back. If he is told about them, or even shown a reflection of them, he will deny that they exist. The snakes whisper into his ears constantly, tricking him into doing whatever they want.

Gressen the Shedded

A translucent white creature; the shed skin of another dragon somehow animated to life and intelligence. Able to move and act as her own person. Gressen was originally shed from a male dragon, but chose a female aspect for herself. She has a tendency to sarcastically goad people into attacking her. (“Go on, I’m clearly just a waif of a thing. It’ll be easy to slay me and take my treasure. Just try it!”) In truth, she is terrified of how fragile her body is.
Hoards: Spell books.
Armor 20, Move 90′(30′)/Fly 240′(80′), 4HD, 2 Claw 1d3, Bite 2d6, Morale 5
Cone of cold.
Spells: Enbrittle Skin, Gust of Wind, Baleful Polymorph, Charm Monster, Sow Discord, Geas, Illusory Disguise, Magic Web (An invisible web that ‘catches’ spells, so they can be studied later), Detect Lies, Maze, Invisibility, Magic Armor
Special: Any wind-based attacks used against her deal double damage, and may blow her away.

Jakasset the Silver Teeth

Jakassat wears  golden rings on her talons and tail, a bejeweled necklace, and a diadem on her brow. One of these pieces of jewelry works a magical gender changing effect on her, and all the rest are worn to keep the significance of that one item a secret. Jakasset has also replaced all of her teeth with little silver daggers. She is a contemplative creature, with an unusually short temper, even for a dragon.
Hoards: Polearms of various types.
Armor 17, Move 90′(30′)/Fly 240′(80′), 8HD, 2 Claw 1d6, Bite 3d10, Morale 6
Breath: A hail of spinning knives. These remain on the ground in heaps, and can be used for about 24 hours before they rot away.
Spells: Sleep, Water From the Earth, Teleport, Stone To Mud
Minions: A murder of 6d6 crows which fly around above her, and obey her orders to the best of their crow-abilities.
Special: One of the rings on her tail protects her from all elemental based damage. Special: One of her tail rings protects her from all elemental based damage

Special: Jakasset is highly respected among dragon kind, for some unknown deed that dragons refuse to discuss with outsiders.


A bluescale with 53 large white horns running down her back, from head to tail tip. Her body is slender and lithe, with muscles that twitch as if always ready to pounce. She is the daughter of Uruk’An, and was exiled from her father’s territory years ago for defying him. She spends hours of every day imagining elaborate ways of getting revenge on the old fool.
Hoards: Tapestries depicting historical events.
Armor 19, Move 90′(30′)/Fly 240′(80′), 2 Claw 1d6, Bite 3d8, Morale 6
Breath: Cone of fire.
Spells: Bear’s Strength, Sphere of Insubstantiality, Animate Object, Imbue Hatred
Special: Her horns act as grounding against spells. Each horn can absorb one spell cast against her per day. After she is killed, the horns retain their function. If cut off, they can each be used once before becoming useless.


An elderly blusescale, with a cascade of soft white horns growing from his chin. Uruk’An is father to 12 other dragons–unusually prolific, even for such an elderly and distinguished patriarch. Uruk’An belives in law, and has scribed 3 tomes of law which anyone in his domains must obey, or face is wrath. Most of his laws are common sense (at least, from a dragon’s perspective), but there are some strange ones. Most notalby, there is an extensive code governing acceptable clothing for halflings, and several statues regarding the proper rate of breathing for various activities.
Hoards: Lawbooks.
Armor 20, Move 60′(20′)/Fly 210′(70′), 2 Claw 1d10, Bite 4d8, Morale 8
Breath: Cone of fire.
Spells: Wall of Spears, Detect Lies, Farsight, Dispell Illusions, Anti-Magic Field, Ring of Law, Hold Person, Dimension Door, Break Weapons, Rust, Imprison, Speak with Animals, Mend Wound, Passwall,  Shrink Person
Minions: 2d6 bluescaled lizard folk. 3 dragon whelps that each have 4 hit dice, and don’t have any breath yet.
Special: When Uruk’An dies, he will leave an egg behind, with himself inside. He will be reborn out of his own death. Even he does not know this will happen.

LotFP Monster: The Seamster

The Seamster

The world is imperfect. It is unmolded clay crying out for a sculptor. Within every pebble is a statue, within every pen is a poem, and within every group of people is a single perfect person waiting to be born.

The Seamster is a gangly creature. Human shaped, but not quite correctly so. It would be difficult to put a finger on precisely what makes the Seamster look wrong, but anyone who sees it knows that it is. It wears simple clothing that hangs loosly over its slight frame. The pockets of its leather jerkin are filled with threads and needles and other useful odds and ends.

Armor 15, Move 160′ (40′), Hit Dice 6 + 2, 32hp, Sew Attack (No Damage), Morale 8

  • On a successful attack roll, the Seamster has successfully sewn a few stitches into its target. The process is quick and painless, dealing no damage. The thread remains in place until the Seamster chooses to use an attack action to yank it out.
  • When the Seamster manages to get his stitches into you, roll 2d4 to determine the location of the stitch. This also determines the resulting consequence when the Seamster eventually yanks his thread out.
    2. Heart. Yank deals 2d12 damage.
    3. Eyelids. Blind until yanked out. Yank deals 1d8 damage.
    4. Arms. Yank deals 1d6 damage, and forces the victim to make an unmodified attack against a nearby ally, or against themselves.
    5. A shallow stitch on surface skin. 1d6 damage.
    6. Legs. Yank deals 1d6 damage, and the victim stumbles 20′ in the Seamster’s desired direction.
    7. Guts. Yank deals 2d6 damage, and 1d4 Constitution damage.
    8. Genitals. Yank deals 2d6 damage, pluse 2d4 Charisma damage.
  • The thread the Seamster uses is both very fine, and very strong. Every time you think you’ve found it, it slips through your fingers and it takes long moments to find again. Cutting the thread, or following it to the Seamster’s location, is impossible in a combat situation. It may be possible if slower, more deliberate action is an option.
  • As an attack action, the Seamster may attempt to vanish from sight. Any character who was specifically focusing on the Seamster may save versus magic. If anyone succeeds on their save, the Seamster’s vanishing attempt fails. If the save is universally failed, then the Seamster is functionally invisible until it attacks again. There is no limit on how many times the Seamster may attempt this.
  • When determining who is “specifically focusing on the Seamster” for the purposes of making a save against his vanishing ability, be strict. The save is not granted to anyone merely observing the combat, or who is focused on casting spells (in magic, the target is always something of an afterthought).In game terms, only characters whose last action was physically attacking the Seamster should be given a save. (Though, use your discretion in adjudicating edge cases).
  • In a hidden tome of ancient lore, it might be discovered that The Seamster has a weakness. It finds it difficult to attack anyone wearing a thimble. Wearing one of these grants +2 AC against attacks from The Seamster.

If you were ever to engage the Seamster in conversation–unlikely, given its murderous proclivities, but not impossible–it would likely bring the conversation around to its favorite little paradox:

It wonders, first, whether all things must be created by some other thing that came before it. Since this is obviously correct, it wonders where this chain of creation began. What first thing existed, with nothing prior to have created it. This, it posits, must be God. And since nothing other than God can create itself, the Seamster concludes that it must, itself, be God.

The exact details of how the Seamster came to create itself is not a thing it is willing to discuss. It may humor a guess or two, but will quickly demand that any questioning about its origins cease. The seamster sewed itself into existence, that is all anyone needs to know. To speak of the details would be vulgar in the extreme.

Regardless of whether the Seamster strikes at you from the shadows or engages you in an unlikely chat, its end goal is always the same: to find the masterpiece of human life that is hidden within a group of people. Once it has disabled or killed everyone in a group, it will begin its work: picking and choosing the best bits from this body or that. Shaving away all of the excess, leaving only the refined essence of a person. Tucking in a little here, padding out a little there. The Seamster’s masterful stitching will be invisible on the finished product.

When it is done, an entirely new character will exist, taking the best parts of every other character from the slain group. Its Strength will be the highest of their strengths, its Con the highest of their Cons, and so on. The new character’s maximum hit points will be equal to the highest max HP from the slain group. It will have all of their best skills, their best attack bonus, and all of their spellcasting ability. In short, this new character will be MinMax’d to fuck. And all of the players whose PCs were used for parts get to have a roll-off to determine which one of them gets to control this new character. Everybody else has to re-roll.

If The Seamster is somehow killed, then whomever dealt the killing blow is cursed. They must save versus Magic or all of the stitching on their person instantly becomes undone. Their clothing and armor fall to pieces, leaving them naked. Their backpack bursts open, spillings its contents everywhere. The effect is instantaneous, and will not repeat itself if the character acquires new stitched items.

The Miscreated Creatures Questions Applied to the Axe Beak

Axe_beakAs an exercise, I’m going to use  the monster development questions I posted yesterday to flesh out a classic D&D monster. Hopefully this will make the way I use the questions a little more clear.

I’m using the Axe Beak for a few reasons. First off, it’s kinda interesting, but is overall boring enough that it needs further development. Second, I’m almost completely unfamiliar with this monster. I never really read its entries in later editions of the game, and I’ve certainly never read any ecology articles or anything written about it. All I know is what’s written in the AD&D Monster Manual. Which is:

Axe beaks are prehistoric carnivorous flightless birds. They are very fast runners and aggressively hunt during daylight. An axe beak resembles an ostrich in its lower portions, with a strong neck and a heavy, sharp beak.

Can it be unique?
The monster is designed around encountering a herd of 1-6. Best not to make it entirely unique.

If it can’t be unique, can it be a small group?
Yeah, it can easily be a small group. Perhaps when you roll 1d6 to determine how many you encounter, you’re also determining how many exist in the whole world? They’re a dying breed. A darwinian loser, or perhaps something that was never very numerous in the first place? A small group created by some unusual means. Perhaps they’re unaging creatures, some 100 or so created in ages past, now reduced by the occasional violent death to a mere handful?

Can it be smart?
Each Axe Beak makes every other Axe Beak a little smarter. When there was 100+, they were geniuses. Now, with only a few left, they’re barely literate simpletons. They scratch simple symbols in the dirt with their claws to communicate with non-Axe Beaks. They’re also capable of using a roughly 500 word vocabulary of some appropriate human-learnable language.

If it is not unique, what is its culture?
Once, Axe Beaks practiced a kind of utilitarian artwork using the medium of trees. With their beaks, they’d carve still living trunks into complex patterns, leaving enough of the tree intact for it to survive and for the patterns to remain. These patterns carried messages to other groups of Axe Beaks, claimed territory, or told stories of events that had happened. here. Given the now much reduced mental abilities of Axe Beaks, they tend to simply feel the urge to hack at trees every now and again, which they do until the tree falls over.

What is its worldview?
Axe Beaks have always been brutish and aggressive. Confident in their own superiority over other creatures, who they view as ugly. They particularly look down on any creature that can fly. They’re deeply jealous, but that’s not something they would ever admit to an outsider.

Wooden structures made by humans are offensive to them, and will be destroyed with gusto.

Can it be an inverse swarm?

What does it do?
The remaining Axe Beaks believe that they simply need to breed more of their own kind in order to reclaim their greatness. To this end, they obsessively mate with any creature they can. They’ve already determined that mating with one another doesn’t work, and they’re willing to try pretty much anything.

The Axe Beaks have never seen an ostrich. I don’t know if mating with an ostrich would be successful for them or not, but they’d certainly be interested in the extreme.

Why does it do what it does?
Because it knows it’s not smart, and it wants to be smart.

How does it do what it does?
They do what comes naturally. Generally speaking they pursue animals of similar size, or other birds. Though most birds are too small.

Does it make anything?
Axe Beaks are actually pretty good at making simple bridges of wood. They don’t like to get wet at all. Due to their decreased intelligence, they can only cross small rivers with a nearby source of trees. But at their height, they built some marvelous bridges that were studied by human engineers.

Anyone tracking the Axe Beaks will probably come across a simple bridge at some point.

Might it deal peacefully with the characters?
They’re easily agitated and easily insulted, and they’re predisposed to think humans are troublesome and annoying. But they also know that there’s much easier prey than humans. They’re generally willing to parley unless they’re ravenously hungry.

Does it have minions?
Not at present.

What is the creature’s lair like?
Axe Beaks are nomads. They range far and wide in search of mates, marking trees as they go. When it rains, they find what shelter they can until it’s time to move on.

Does the creature’s presence affect its environment?
Not by itself, no.

Does it have any special treasures?
There is a pair of saddle bags which gets passed around between the Axe Beaks. Everyone takes their turn carrying it. Within its pouches are smooth stones, shiny rocks, bits of metal, seashells, and a variety of other things which the Axe Beaks have deemed valuable. There may be a number of gems and coins in the pouch.

How did the creature come to exist?
They don’t know it, but all of the Axe Beaks were once axes, wielded by woodsmen who encroached into the forest of Hellena the Kyphotic, a druid with a wicked temperament. With the first blow of each axe, the roots rose up to strangle the woodsmen. The trees grew tall and strong on their blood. The axes were eventually enveloped by the growing wood, and when the trees grew old and toppled over, the Axebeaks emerged from the rotted wood.

What are the portents of its arrival?
There are none.

What happens to the creature’s victims?
The creatures are carnivores. If a meat-creature is their victim, then they will be eaten.

Does the creature have any special weakness?
They find touching water incredibly uncomfortable. They take no damage from being wet, but they react to being wet the way you might expect them to react to being on fire.

Does anything special occur upon the killing blow being made against the monster?
Each Axe Beak that dies makes the whole dumber. When there is only one Axe Beak left, it will simply topple over. Brain dead.

When the creature dies, what happens?
It has a very boring, natural death. Followed by a boring, natural decay.

Is the dead body useful for anything?
Each creature actually has a woodsman’s axe inside of its body. The head of the axe is at the center of its beak, and their spinal column has taken the place of the shaft. If the spine is reinforced with a metal or wooden rod, then the the axe can be wielded as a +2 battle axe against druids. If used to chop down a tree, the tree will always fall in exactly the direction you want it to fall in.

Related Posts:

The questions themselves.

Merciless Monsters 13: Simonlefera, or “Cricket Wizard”

SimonleferaI’ve always hesitated to share the monsters I make for my games, because I believe monsters require art in order to be communicated clearly. Previous entries in the Merciless Monsters series have either relied on finding an image which looks kinda-sorta like what I imagine in my head, or on my ladyfriend’s marvelous art. If I had my way, she’d illustrate all of my posts, but she has this whole “life of her own” which gets in the way of that.

By now, though, I’ve accumulated quite a bestiary of monsters I created for fun or for my personal use It seems a shame not to share them, so I’m going to experiment with subjecting you all to my own doodles of my monsters. I’m sorry for the general lack of quality this will probably lead to. (Though, truth be told, I’m quite happy with how this one turned out).

Simonlefera are unnatural creatures, and no one is quite certain where they come from. They’ve been observed congregating around areas of profound magical energy–or places where such energy is later discovered. No mating rituals have ever been recognized, nor have the dissected bodies of the creatures revealed any obvious reproductive organs. Some scholars have suggested that Simonlefera may be proof of the long-discredited theory of spontaneous generation. Lacking any other hypothesis, this idea has begun to gain some traction.

In appearance, simonlefera resemble a bald human head with tough, rubbery skin. From where a normal human’s head would have ears, the Simonlefera has a massive pair of legs which resemble the hind legs of a grasshopper. When laid flat, these legs can be as much as 12ft long! These legs are used for moving quickly, and jumping as much as 30 times the creature’s height. Four smaller legs sprouting from the underside of the ‘head’ provide stability for forward motion. These legs can also cling to walls, allowing the Simonlefera to climb them as a spider does.

The eyes, while small and mounted much as a human’s eyes are, are multi-faceted like the eye of an insect. From the lower jaw grow two weak, spindly arms ending in 3-fingered hands. While capable of significant dexterity, these hands are largely useless. They seem to exist primarily as a means to interact with magic, though they are also used when the creature eats. Finally, from the creature’s chin grows what appears to be a long beard which drags across the ground. In fact this is a sensory device. It allows the Simonlefera to sense vibrations in the ground, replacing the functionality of the ears.

Bodies, or body parts from a simonlefera can often be sold to a wizard for a very good price. Various parts of their anatomy are of immeasurable use in magical research.

In terms of diet, simonlefera primarily sustain themselves on small mammals, such as rats, mice, rabbits, or ferrets. However, if need be, any meaty animal of this size will suffice, such as a frog or small bird. In addition to this diet, it is speculated that simonlefera also sustain themselves by drawing upon magic. None which have been removed from areas of strong magical energy have ever survived for more than a day; after which their head appears to “deflate.”

The most notable aspect of the simonlefera is their ability to use magic. This appears to be a natural trait, and draws on no known source of magical power. They are often able to cast both arcane and divine spells (though all of their magic use in fact registers as arcane). And as they grow older, their spell repertoire becomes even more diverse. While most of them can only access the most mundane spells, there appears to be no limit on their ability to cast. And when working in groups, even a skilled adventurer can be overwhelmed.

Despite their appearance, Simonlefera are not intelligent creatures. The chittering sounds they make do not have linguistic content.


You hear a strange chittering sound, and what appears to be a human’s head on insect legs hops into view.

Simonlefera; CR 3; [Aberration] [Near Leylines] [Diurnal]

XP: 800
N Medium Aberration
Init +8; Senses Perception +10


AC 16, touch 11, flat-footed 6 [10 + Dex(4) + Natural(2)]
HP 12 (4 HD, 4d6 + 0)
Fort +6 Ref +10 Will +10;


Speed 50ft Climb Speed 20ft
Melee Kick + 7 (2d6 + 2) [May only use this attack on opponents behind it]


Natural Caster(Su) Each time a Simonlefera gains a new hit die, it also gains access to a new spell which can be cast at will. The spells are determined randomly from the lists below. Any duplicate entries should be re-rolled.

Levels 1-4: 1. Cause Fear, 2. Cure Light Wounds, 3. Doom, 4. Inflict Light Wounds, 5. Obscuring Mist, 6. Shield, 7. Magic Missile, 8. Mage Armor, 9. Sleep, 10. Reduce Person, 11. Shocking Grasp, 12. True Strike
Levels 5-8: 1. Acid Arrow, 2. Summon Swarm, 3. Web, 4. Hideous Laughter, 5. Darkness, 6. Gust of Wind, 7. Scorching Ray, 8. Blur, 9. Cure Moderate Wounds, 10. Hold Person, 11. Sound Burst, 12. Inflict Moderate Wounds
Levels 9-12: 1. Bestow Curse, 2. Contagion, 3. Cure Serious Wounds, 4. Inflict Serious Wounds, 5. Meld to Stone, 6. Stinking Cloud, 7. Deep Slumber, 8. Fireball, 9. Lightning Bolt, 10. Gaseous Form, 11. Blink, 12. Haste

Jump(Ex): Using its powerful hind legs, the Simonlefera can easily leap as high as 150 feet in the air, and land again safely.


Environment Anywhere magic is strong. They often gravitate towards leylines, and such can be found in nearly any environment.
Organization Solitary or cabal (4-8)
Activity Cycle Diurnal
Diet Magical Energies, tiny mammals; Natural Enemies Wizards

Merciless Monsters 12: Rotocula (Female)

The Rotocula, as illustrated by cbMorrie
The Rotocula, as illustrated by my ladyfriend, cbMorrie

The Rotocula is a sexually dimorphic creature which makes its home in mud flats. The adult forms of the male and female are so different that they have often been confused for completely different species. As such, they warrant separate monster entries. The male was posted last week.

Like her male counterpart, the bulk of the female rotocula appears to be a large pile of sagging mud. The female also shares the male’s unique rolling-orb appendages, which serve as organic wheels that provide the rotocula with mobility. The similarities between the two do not go far beyond that, however.

The female of the species has no legs. Nor does it share the male’s tough skull structure. Nor does it spend most of its time at rest while camouflaged. Quite the opposite! From the moment a female rotocula rises in the morning, to the moment it digs a small muddy pit to sleep in, the creature howls across the plains. The female’s constant screeching is meant to terrify its prey into running, as the female actually finds it more difficult to attack creatures at rest.

The beast’s mouth completely separates the left and right halves of its head, and can potentially open so wide that the tips of the teeth are behind the esophagus. This, in conjunction with the rotocula’s long prehensile tongue, allows prey to be consumed without subduing it first. The female merely positions itself being a running creature. Then, using her immense speed, she surges forward, trapping the fleeing meat within her jowls.

While there is a skull-like bone mass on each side of the female’s head, only one side contains a brain. And, curiously, which side of the head the brain is on varies between individual specimens. The only noticeable effect of this is that one of the rotocula’s eyes (due to the long path the optic nerve must travel) is often much weaker than the other. It sees only vague blurs of color and motion. There is no simple way to determine which eye is weaker, but if it is discovered, it could give those wishing to fight the beast an advantage.

Female rotocula have a distinctive patch on their back which is a smooth brown and tan. When they wish to mate, they raise their tail to display its underside (as shown). The sight of this long patch of smooth skin–in conjunction with a differently pitched howling the female emits–entices males to approach. The female then opens her mouth as wide as possible, and the male inserts his snout into her throat. Once the act is complete, the female’s jaws snap closed, killing their mate.

Female Rotocula

A loud screeching howl alerts you to the presence of a mud colored mass with razor teeth speeding towards you.

Rotocula; CR 14; [Aberration] [Mud Flats] [Diurnal]

XP: 38,400
N Huge Aberration
Init +10; Senses Perception +8


AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 6 [10 + Dex(-2) + Size(-2) + Natural(5)]
HP 217 (16 HD, 16d8 + 176)
Fort +21 Ref +3 Will +2;


Speed 120ft (1ft on non-flat ground, cannot climb even simple structures)
Melee Slam + 24 (2d8 + 10)
Melee Bite + 28 (6d10 + 12) [A bitten creature may be grappled as a free action]


Str 35 Dex 6 Con 33 Int 2 Wis 3 Cha 4
BAB +16/11/6/1; CMB 28; CMD 36
Languages None
SQ Running Start, Swallow Whole, Attract Male


Biting Charge(Ex) Like her male counterpart, the female Rotocula’s slam attack is greatly enhanced if it has enough space to build momentum. The effect can be even more devastating for the female, given that her powerful jaws are positioned at the front of her mass. If the female Rotocula makes a 50ft charge in a straight line prior to a bite attack, then she is granted an additional +6 to her attack roll.

Swallow Whole(Ex) If the female Rotocula begins a turn with an opponent grappled in its mouth, it can attempt a combat maneuver check. If the check succeeds, the grappled character takes bite damage, and is swallowed. Character must be of large size or smaller to be swallowed whole. Swallowed creatures are considered grappled, and take 5d6 acid damage each turn until they die, or escape. The armor class of the inside of a Rotocula is 12. A hole can be cut in the Rotocula from the inside by dealing 20 hit points of damage.

Attract Male(Ex) If in dire need, a female Rotocula may raise her tail and issue a mating roar. If the creature is encountered in its natural environment, there is a one-time chance that there is a male Rotocula nearby who will respond to the call and come defend its potential mate. Roll 1d20:

  • 1-13; No male Rotocula are nearby.
  • 14-17; a single male Rotocula comes to assist. (Will arrive in 1d6 rounds)
  • 18-19; two male Rotocula come to assist. (Each will arrive in 1d6 rounds)
  • 20; three male Rotocula come to assist. (Each will arrive in 1d6 rounds)


Environment Mudflats. Very occasionally found in areas of plains.
Organization Solitary
Activity Cycle Diurnal
Diet Any living creature of small large or smaller; Natural Enemies Dragons
Treasure None

Merciless Monsters 11: Rotocula (Male)

The Rotocula, as illustrated by cbMorrie
The Rotocula, as illustrated by my ladyfriend, cbMorrie

The Rotocula is a sexually dimorphic creature which makes its home in mud flats. The adult forms of the male and female are so different that they have often been confused for completely different species. As such, they warrant separate monster entries.

The male of the species might be described as an oversized head mounted on a tripod of trunk-like legs. The average adult male stands nearly 11ft tall, with legs which can easily top 18 inches thick. The actual brain of the creature is quite small, allowing nearly all of the creatures organs to fit comfortably within its massive skull. This layer of protection makes the rotocula very difficult to harm.

The skin of the rotocula ranges from a earthy red, to brown, and is quite loose on the creature’s frame. Large folds of skin flop around on the creature’s body, making it appear as though it is perpetually melting. This “sloshing” look helps the rotocula appear to be pile of dirt, rather than a dangerous predator, while it waits for potential food to approach.

The most striking oddity of the Rotocula, and a feature shared by both genders, is their profoundly unusual feet. Rather than moving them up and down in a walking motion, or even gesticulating them to move as a snake does, the Rotocula rolls. Each leg ends in a massive, spherical mucus membrane with a core of solid bone.

Alzazi The Bloody Hand, a wizard who captured and dissected a number of the creatures, writes:

“These strange appendages–which this researcher hesitates to term ‘feet’–are not (as heretofore suspected) completely unique. Upon vivisection and further inspection, it cannot be ignored that these spheres closely resemble an organ found in our own bodies: the eye. Without the binding tassel of the optic nerve, it is allowed to roll freely, lending the creature a remarkable level of speed and silence of movement, while simultaneously denying it the ability to travel outside the flatlands of its home.” Alzazi the Bloody Hand, Archmage of the First Rank, from his seminal work, “Aberrant Anatomy”

Male Rotocula, in opposition to their female counterparts, spend most of their time at rest. They spread their legs flat on the ground, and wiggle them back and forth in the mud until they are mostly submerged. Once they are positioned, they close their eyes, and dig their snow into the earth, stick out their tongue and waiting for small vibrations to alert them to the presence of food–or females.

Male Rotocula

A flabby mass of mud is gliding towards you…very very quickly.

Rotocula; CR 10; [Aberration] [Mud Flats] [Active at 10-40 minute intervals, when food is near]

XP: 9,600
N Large Aberration
Init +4; Senses Perception +16, Tremorsense 100ft (Only when ‘burrowed.’)


AC 20, touch 10, flat-footed 20 [10 + Dex(1) + Size(-1) + Natural(10)]
HP 196 (12 HD, 12d8 + 132)
DR 8/-
Fort +19 Ref +5 Will +4;


Speed 100ft (10ft on non-flat ground)
Melee Slam + 15 (2d10 + 10) [+2d10 with Running Start]
Melee Bite + 6 (6d6 + 6)


Str 22 Dex 12 Con 33 Int 2 Wis 11 Cha 7
BAB +12/7/2; CMB 18; CMD 29
Languages None
SQ Running Start


Running Start(Ex) A male Rotocula’s slam attack is painful no matter what. But if the creature has enough space to reach its full speed, it can be even more devastating. If a male rotocula travels in a straight line for 50ft prior to making its slam attack, it deals an additional 2d10 damage.


Environment Mudflats. Very occasionally found in areas of plains.
Organization Solitary
Activity Cycle Active at 10-40 minute intervals, when food is near
Diet Any living creature of small size or larger; Natural Enemies Rotocula Females
Treasure None

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