Category Archives: Merciless Monsters

NES OSR Bestiary 2: Ninja Gaiden 2

I realize it might seem odd to jump straight to Ninja Gaiden 2. What about Ninja Gaiden 1? Well, the first game was good, but I didn’t grow up with it. I didn’t even play it for the first time until I was an adult. For whatever reason, I only got NG2 as a hand-me-down from my uncle, and I spent countless summer hours holed up in the cool basement, playing this game on the old color TV my parents had left down there. The one with woodgrain siding, that you turned on by twisting a knob.

Plus, Ninja Gaiden 2 is just the objectively superior game.

CroMagMan
In the early 2000s, the Geico car insurance company engaged in a little ill-fated bio-advertising. They tried to engineer a small army of their “cave men,” for use in sales events. They did not take into account just how violent their creations would be.

CroMagMen are the ubiquitous mercenary tough-guys of the future. They’ll take on any job, just so long as you don’t mind how violent they get while they’re doing it.

When dealing with a CroMagMan, expect them to ask at least a few questions about your car insurance.

BeetleBoi
When a barrel full of beetles is boiled in the blood of of a boy, a BeetleBoi is born. The process only takes a few hours, until the blood has been reduced to a thick sludge, and the horrid little creature can be safely fished out.

They’re hunched creatures, standing about waist-high to a full grown adult, and covered in a glistening black shell. Their forearms are just long sharp exoskeletal blades, which they tap along the ground in front of them, making a click-click-click sound as they approach.

BeetleBois are blind. They don’t have particularly good hearing, or much of a sense of smell either. They get around by tapping their forearms. They do have one strong sense, though. They know where the nearest sources of blood are, and will move quickly to tear open and consume any bloodbags they perceive.

Vommo
Nobody loves Vommo. Even Vommo’s mother left him in a dumpster when he was 6 months old, because she couldn’t take the smell of him anymore. It is not Vommo’s fault that he sweats vomit out of his pores.

A lifetime of solitude on the streets has robbed Vommo of whatever mental faculties he may have been born with. He’s a sort of pathetic, foul-smelling simpleton. He deserves nothing but compassion, though you should try never to be alone with him. If he thinks no one will protect you, he’ll wrap you in a big bear hug and force you to smell him. It’s an obsession; half cry for attention, half fetishistic sex act. More than one person has been crushed to death by Vommo’s mighty hug.

Gota Getchums
A failed attempt at genetic resequencing left Gota both highly suggestible, and intensely, passionately, insatiably violent. Gota doesn’t have any sexual organs left anymore, and the “squish” sound your brain makes when he smashes your head in with a club is the most satisfaction he gets out of life.

He prefers to rush in and get his kills quickly, because as soon as people start talking, he gets confused. Gota will more or less obey any command or request uttered in his presence. He literally confuses any such statements with being his own thoughts, and it takes him a few moments for his own identity to reassert itself.

Überthought
A group of amoral (and frankly, stupid) scientists thought they might be able to make a lot of money if they found a way to combine different creatures into the perfect murder-soldier. The Überthought was the furthest they got before they ran out of funding.

It’s a man, with the head of a jackal, the hands of a Hook Horror, and the spine of a Dire Armadillo. It’s an insanely wasteful concoction, considering that at least one of those animals had to be genetically engineered before it could be harvested for parts.

Compliment Fisher
This resolutely cheerful chap somehow finds a way to take just about everything as a compliment. If you attack it, it takes pride in being considered enough of a threat to warrant violence from you. If you insult it, it knows you’re only doing so because it managed to make you feel something. The damn thing is infuriatingly cheerful, and honestly there’s no reason for you to hate it or want to hurt it, but fuck if that kind of relentless optimism doesn’t grate on the nerves.

The easiest way to kill a compliment fisher is to feed it as many sincere compliments as you can manage. The more you stroke its ego, the larger its head will become. Eventually, its neck won’t be able to support the weight any longer, and the creature will crumple under its own weight.

No-Grandma Jones
Ya know how your grandma was always complained that you were just “skin and bones” right before she started feeding you like some kind of creepy fat fetishist? Well No-Grandma Jones is literally that. Skin, bones, and nothing else.

Every one of his movements is uncomfortably fast. He is obsessively competitive as well. If he sees you do just about anything, he’ll make sure to let you know that he can do it better. He frequently challenges people to duels, or to place bets, over just about anything conceivable. If no better options present themselves, he’ll just challenge you to a duel.

No-G is a gracious winner, but gods help you if you win.

Muscleboys and Musclegirls of the Cult of the Horned Serpent
Remember in the 1982 Conan the Barbarian (unquestionably the best film of all time),  where the king refers to Thulza-Doom’s cult as “Just another snake cult?” This is another one of them.

The Muscleboys and Musclegirls are stolen from their parents at birth, and raised with only two principals. The first is strength. They lift wheels and push weights for hours every day, building their bodies up into rock-solid death machines. The second is oral sex.

Specifically, the Muscleboys and Musclegirls have oral sex performed on them frequently by the cult’s most attractive priestesses and priestos. Furthermore, they’re told that this pleasure is a secret ritual, not known to anyone outside of the cult. A gift from their snake god, to its loyal followers.

Unsurprisingly, this makes the Muscleboys and Musclegirls very loyal, and very willing to murder anyone who threatens their beloved blowjobs and cunnilingi.

Little Rethorbs
Whenever a teenager dies, if they had a younger sibling who is now the oldest child, then something of that sibling dies as well. Their essential “younger sibling-ness” is lost to the ether, flows into the earth or out into space, or, on occasion, forms into a Little Rethorb.

Little Rethorbs think you’re really cool, and just want attention. Once they latch on to a person, they will hop around, being loud, jibbering constantly, and getting in the way until they are killed.

If humored for an extended period, they will gradually calm down, and may even become useful. After about a year, they might learn not to be so noisy, or to speak so constantly. After three or four years, they might even become helpful companions.

But, for real, what kind of adventurer would tolerate that shit for that long? They’re just gonna stab it and move on.

Senoj Darb
An insufferable snob with a fish-like head, no eyes, and dozens of snake-like bodies. Senoj is a critic of absolutely everything it encounters, and somehow manages to find everything wanting. Your swordfighting style is too plebeian, your singing is off key, your paintings are bourgeois.  Anything without 6 layers of irony to it is hack.

Normally this would just be annoying, save for the fact that Senoj is able to summon Spheres of Annihilation to destroy whatever it deems unworthy.

NES OSR Bestiary 1: Dragon Warrior

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.

Bouncery Boos
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.

Drakee
A draconic period. Each month, when a female dragon menstruates, a flock of unfertilized Drakees are expelled from her body.

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.

Spell Bundle
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.

Walking Wall
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.

Exiled Seabrain
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.

Boner
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.

Phloato
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.

 

 

 

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
Breath:
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.

Arasemnin

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.

Uruk’An

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?
Nooooooooooooooo…

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.

Simonlefera

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


DEFENSE


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


OFFENSE


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


SPECIAL ABILITIES


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.


ECOLOGY


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

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