Posts Tagged “Monsters”
Promotional photograph from Underworld 3. An underrated movie, in my most humble opinion.
Last week I posted regarding Vampiric Hierarchy, detailing how the hidden society of vampires interact with one another in my campaign worlds. With that out of the way, I’ll move on to specific vampire types, and a broad generalization about what those types represent. But that’s all which can be offered here: generalizations. A player would be a fool to assume two vampires of the same type will present the same challenge, because the curse of the nosferatu affects each of its victims in a unique way. As the great monster hunter Van Richten wrote, “Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a ‘typical vampire.’ Vampires are perhaps the most individualistic of undead. What is true for one is an outright–and dangerously misleading–falsehood for another.”
Types According to Hierarchical Ranking
Fledgelings are newly created vampires, and the lowest on the vampiric hierarchy. Since vampires gain in power as they progress in age, a fledgelings powers are understandably weak compared to most of their brethren. Their strength and spell-like abilities have not yet come into their full potential. Each fledgeling develops at a different rate, but it is common for the vampire’s physical abilities–great strength and speed, the ability to climb walls as a spider would, resistance to mundane weapons, etc.–to be available immediately upon the vampire’s creation. While the more mystical and subtle of a vampire’s abilities, such as domination or changing shape, often take longer to develop. Conversely, all of a vampire’s weaknesses are in full effect immediately after a fledgelings creation, and in most cases the fledgeling is significantly more vulnerable to them than a more powerful vampire would be. While a vampire Lord, for example, might survive several seconds in sunlight, a vampire fledgeling would be instantly incinerated by it.
Coven Vampire. Though stronger than fledgelings, coven vampires are considered weak because they were unable to rise to the rank of soldier or lord/lady. Most commonly, coven vampires live in groups of 5-30, though larger covens have been known to exist. A coven vampire’s abilities are developed more fully than a fledgeling’s, but coven vampires cannot create spawn. In a game like Pathfinder, coven vampires would not have PC class levels.
Soldiers are most likely the vampires which you find under “V” in your Bestiary, Monster Manual, or what have you. They are fearsome foes with full mastery of all the basic vampire abilities. They can create fledgelings if they so choose, but the creation of fledgelings is often considered a declaration that the Vampire wishes to establish themselves as a Lord or Lady in their own right. Despite the title ‘soldier,’ this rank does not necessarily imply that the vampire fills a combat role. In addition to bodyguards and warriors, soldier vampires can include advisers, diplomats, or even consorts. A fully developed vampire who is in direct service to their Lord or Lady is termed a soldier, regardless of specific occupation.
Lord and Lady vampires are undead aristocracy. They rule over impressive lairs or even castles. Occasionally they will even rule over a populace of the living, keeping their unlife a secret by shrouding themselves behind layers of bureaucracy, or using a trusted majordomo to carry out their edicts. Vampiric Lords and Ladies have grown in power beyond anything which could be called ‘typical.’ It is at this level of power which a vampire’s unique traits truly begin to emerge. Some vampires gain physical prowess in the extreme, becoming far stronger and faster even than their already strong and fast fellows. Others may gain unnatural mystical prowess, allowing them to call upon more powerful versions of their spell like abilities, or even developing new abilities altogether. Still others may actually become resistant to their vampire weaknesses, allowing them to ignore the upheld holy symbol of a cleric, or walk freely across running water. And the older a vampire grows, the more powerful they will inevitably become.
First is a rank which cannot be achieved through a vampire’s growing power. While even a commoner could rise to the level of Vampire Lord if they had enough ambition and talent, the rank of First Lord and First Lady is reserved for those who are a direct descendent of the Highlord or Queen of their bloodline. And while a Lord or Lady’s power may be immense, the power of a first dwarfs it. The purity of the curse which afflicts a vampiric first allows them to evolve at twice the speed of any vampires they or their descendents create.
Highlords and Queens are without peer. Often they are so powerful, that they are immune to typical vampire weaknesses. Even sunlights, while painful and disorienting, cannot destroy without prolonged exposure. These rulers of vampiric bloodlines frequently have unique and devastating powers. For example, The Blind Empress, a vampiric queen, was actually capable of causing a solar eclipse, allowing herself and her vampire warriors to devastate rival bloodlines easily by attacking them during the day. Highlords and Queens also develop physical changes as well. To again use The Blind Empress as an example, she had permanent wings, and skin which cut like a blade.
A feral vampire, as depicted in ’30 Days of Night,’ without question one of the worst films I’ve seen in my entire life. The vampires looked pretty, though.
Feral Vampires are hungry. They have been without any blood for months, or even years, and they have lost their grip on reality. A feral vampire is a beast who pursues blood without a thought for subtlety or personal safety. Mind you, feral vampires will not foolishly destroy themselves, and they maintain enough intelligence to recognize and avoid danger. But they will brazenly attack in plain view of dozens of people, and they are not very good at keeping track of how much time they have remaining until sunrise. The only cure for a feral vampire is to consume massive amounts of blood. The equivalent of about 100-200 people in the space of a week. Any fledgelings created by a feral vampire will be feral themselves, and incurable.
When a vampire goes feral, it draws a great deal of attention to itself. For this reason, feral vampires are typically hunted down and killed by other vampires. The last thing anybody wants is for one vampire to go on a killing spree, and inspire a dozen towns to put bounties on vampire teeth.
Recovered Feral vampires are uncommon, since most are either killed by those they wish to hunt, or by their fellow vampires. However, it does occur, and when it does the effects of their feral period are not kind to the vampire’s appearance. Their face becomes much more sunken, and their teeth and fingers both become much longer, even to the point of being somewhat unwieldy. While most vampires are able to pass for human if the need arises, a feral vampire would be unable to do that without great difficulty. They appear much more like an animated corpse than their fellows, and will always lust for blood more than a typical vampire would. Recovered ferals are generally looked down upon within vampire society.
Rhonin Vampires are a rare breed. Somehow they managed to overcome the powerful magics which prevent a vampire from ever attacking their master. Every time their attention was diverted, or they lost consciousness, they powered through, until they had broken the magic’s hold over them. At this ponit they are already dangerously unbalanced, and the final act of killing their own master drives them fully into maddness. They become completely severed from their bloodline. Normally they are left to their own devices, and their maddness is used as a deterring example to other vampires.
Damphyr, or ‘half vampires’ can come about in several ways, none of them common. A pregnant woman who is turned into a fledgeling, for example, will not give birth to a full vampire, since the child was already partially formed prior to her transformation. Likewise, it is sometimes possible for congress between a vampire and a living mortal to result in pregnancy. The child who is born part vampire does not have access to the full range of vampiric abilities, but does have many of the traits of their vampiric parent, though to a lesser degree. Damphyrs are also afflicted by a vampire’s weaknesses, though again, to a lesser degree than their parent. A Damphyr can go out in daylight, for example, but will find the experience both painful and disorienting. If a damphyr refrains from consuming blood, then both their powers, and their weaknesses, will lessen over time, allowing them to live as a normal member of their species. If at any time they do consume blood, though, their powers will return in full force.
Survivor Vampire. After a vampire is nearly destroyed by one of its weaknesses, they occasionally develop an illness which incapacitates them for weeks. This illness is extremely painful and draining, requiring the vampire to feed a great deal more often than normal. When the illness ends, the vampire will find they have become resistant to the harmful agent which caused the illness. For example, a vampire who was nearly destroyed by sunlight would be able to last in sunlight for up to a minute without dying. Or a vampire who was doused in holy water would find they now had greater resistance to holy magics.
Revenant – Spectral vampires. The exact method of their creation is unknown, but it is suspected that they are destroyed vampires who have been reanimated through the most powerful and evil necromatic magics imaginable. Revenants lose the ability to create spawn, as well as any interest in participating in the political machinations of vampire society. They are indiscriminate death-dealers who spread disease and discord wherever they go. In many ways they are like feral vampires. But while ferals are driven by hunger to become beasts without intellect, revenants are driven by hate to become beasts without affection or restraint.
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Posted by LS on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 5:45 am
Categories: System Independant
Tags: Homebrew, Monsters, My Games
Strahd, von Zarovich, as depicted in the 1983 Ravenloft module.
If I had to select a single fantasy creature as my favorite, I don’t think there’s any competition for the vampire. I know it’s not a particularly original answer, but I don’t care even slightly. Vampires take everything I love about the macabre, and inject it with intellect, and grace. As monsters they tap into something so primal within the human psyche, that an equivalent to the vampire can be found in dozens of folkloric traditions. And as characters, vampires project an air of dignity, and elegance. The allure of the vampire is strong, which is why so many excellent tomes have been written about them already. The AD&D 2nd edition Ravenloft supplement “Van Richten’s Guide to Vampires” has a special place on the shelf above my desk.
I don’t think my take on vampires is even particularly original. At best you could call it an amalgam of traditions. Regardless of how original it is, though, the way I depict vampires in my games is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. I’m happy with it, and the Halloween season seems like as good a time as any to share what I’ve devised. In this post I’ll cover the hierarchy of vampire society, while a later post will detail specific types of vampires.
The basic structure of vampiric hierarchies is the bloodline. Each campaign world has between one and five elder bloodlines active. Typically a bloodline will include hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of vampires, scattered all throughout the world. Relationships between different bloodlines may vary, but no two will ever form anything more than a temporary alliance. It is always the ultimate goal of every vampiric bloodline to eliminate all others.
While vampires of different bloodlines may not have any distinguishing features to a casual observer, the creatures themselves are able to determine what bloodline another vampire belongs to based on appearance. This ability is not magical in any way, but instead is based on minor physical features which may not be regarded as important to a mortal. The shape and size of teeth is a common indication, as is the hue of the eyes and the palor of the skin.
My vampire Hierarchy. Made before I came up with the name “Bloodlines,” and was just calling them “Families.” Background image is from Nosferatu (1922 film)
Each bloodline is led by either a highlord, or a queen vampire. Every other member of a bloodline is descended directly from them. Unlike most vampires, highlords and queens were not (for the most part) created by having their blood consumed by another vampire. Instead they are rare creatures who were granted the gift of eternal unlife by a powerful demon or evil god. Rarely the Logos itself creates a vampire when a person of sufficient evil and temperament dies. It is also possible for a mortal to become a highlord or queen if they fully consume the blood of a vampire. This would both destroy the vampire, and cause the mortal to die and rise again as the first of a new bloodline. This last method is almost entirely unheard of, and only a select few know that it is even possible.
Often, young highlords and queens do not last long, unless they sequester themselves in a small area of the world and make no attempt to grow their bloodline. Even then, elder bloodlines are uncomfortable with the prospect of young bloodlines growing powerful enough to challenge them. A newly risen highlord or queen may quickly find themselves marked for assassination by the elder bloodlines if they are not careful to maintain a low profile.
The vast majority of vampires are not highlords or queens, though. Most are created when another vampire drains the blood of a mortal, killing them. The victim (whether they are willing or not), then rises as a fledgeling vampire subservient to their creator. At first, a fledgeling will be completely obedient to and reliant upon their master. As time passes and the fledgeling grows stronger, however, they will gain some measure of independence from their creator. As they grow in power, a fledgeling may become a member of a coven, or soldier for their master. Someday they may even become powerful enough to be a Lord or Lady in their own right. Though no matter how powerful a vampire becomes, they can never disobey a direct order from, nor can they plot against their creator. Nor can they disobey or plot against their creator’s creator, nor any other vampire they are descended from, all the way back to the highlord or queen of their bloodline. This restriction is not a social one, but rather it is a simple fact of a vampire’s nature. Any attempt to plot against one’s master would likely result in immediate distraction, and a concerted effort would only cause a loss of consciousness.
Which isn’t to say vampires haven’t found loopholes in the past. But it is not easy, nor is it common.
Within the first hundred years or so of their existence, fledgeling vampires are expected to become powerful enough to serve their masters as soldiers. Soldier vampires, while not independent from their creator as a lord or lady is, are none the less respected, and normally well treated by their masters. Some vampires are even content to remain soldiers, without seeking to establish themselves as a lord or lady in their own right.
When a fledgeling is not strong enough to rise to the rank of soldier, they are relegated to a coven. These groups, often composed of several dozen vampires, are the lowest rung of a vampiric bloodline. They are regarded as failures who must band together in order to survive. While they do ostensibly serve their creators directly, as soldiers do, most vampire lords and ladies have no use for their covens. Most covens are thus established far from their master’s home, and are called upon only rarely to serve. Covens are only created by common Lords and Ladies. The vampires created by Highlords, Queens, and Firsts are always powerful enough to become soldiers and lords. Though there has been some speculation that these high ranking vampires may merely kill their weak fledgelings to maintain this illusion.
Occasionally an upstart adventurer will actually succeed in killing a vampire lord or lady, creating a hole in the hierarchy of the bloodline. Any fledgelings created by that vampire are immediately destroyed or driven mad by the destruction of their master. Any soldier vampires which do not die protecting their master will likely be recruited by another vampire lord or lady in the same bloodline. If they do not wish to serve another, the soldier may attempt to become a lord or lady in their own right. Covens left behind by a destroyed vampire are either forgotten about and left entirely to their own devices, or destroyed by more powerful vampires who do not wish to leave any loose ends which may cause problems down the line. All of the vampires which were created by a deceased lord or lady become a little more free. However, they are still subservient to the remaining vampires from which they are descended.
In the rare event that a Highlord or Queen vampire is killed, every vampire in their bloodline with 6HD or less is immediately destroyed. Every other vampire in their bloodline takes 1d12 damage per hit die. So a vampire with 10HD would take 10d12 damage if the Queen of their bloodline were destroyed. A bloodline which loses its leader is often reduced to beneath half of its former strength in the space of a heartbeat. When this happens, any surviving first lords and ladies are presented with an interesting choice. They may opt to separate from their bloodline, and declare themselves and their descendants to be a new bloodline altogether. Alternatively, if a single First is able to consume the blood from, and destroy, every other First within their bloodline, then they may seize control of whatever remains.
Given the nature of vampires, the destruction of a Highlord or Queen almost always results in a bloody scramble for power among the remaining Firsts. After which the victor must move quickly to defend their severely weakened bloodline from any challenger bloodlines who would use this opportunity to destroy them.
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Posted by LS on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 5:45 am
Categories: System Independant
Tags: Homebrew, Monsters, My Games
Fotavyon, illustrated by my talented ladyfriend cbMorrie
The Fotavyon is a huge reptilian creature which lives primarily near swamps and bogs, or occasionally around underground pools. When standing on all four of its spindly, almost spider-like limbs, the creature is about 8ft tall, and 20ft from nose to tail. It is covered in hard scales, with small groupings of feathers on certain areas of its body. The coloring and location of these feathers is unique to each fotavyon, sometimes lining the jaw or forming a crest on the head, or even covering the entirety of the tail. The only feathers which are consistent for each fotavyon are the ones on the the creatures legs, which flay black like vestigial wings. These do not allow the creature to fly, but it does sometimes use them to leap, or to flap threateningly at an intruder while emitting a deafeningly loud, chrip-squawk sound.
Fotayvons have an elongated jaw, with numerous rows of teeth, and eyes mounted on the sides of their head. Their body is lean, and ends in a strange tube-like tail, with a large orifice on the end of it. The creatures four legs are lean and muscular. While at rest, these limbs orient upwards from the creature’s body, and are turned down at the elbow, with long forelegs so they can reach the ground. Each of the four legs ends in a three fingered claw with an oppasble digit, allowing Fotayvons to pick up objects and manipulate them as a human would, though they lack the intelligence to make use of this ability to make tools or other objects. Though they have occasionally been known to improvise crude weapons such as clubs or stones.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this species is that all of its members are female. Or, more accurately, the females of the species are the only ones anyone is likely to recognize as a living creature. The males of the species are microscopic organisms which live in a slimy substance which is excreted whenever the creature lays an egg from the orifice on its tail. When the egg hatches, the newly born female eats this slime for sustenance, and in doing so, also consumes the fotayvon males. The microscopic creatures then live as parasites within their mate’s stomach for the rest of her life.
The digestive process of the fotayvon female creates a large amount of noxious, poison gas. An interesting aspect of the fotayvon anatomy is that this gas is expelled not directly through an orifice, but is instead placed within the creature’s unfertilized eggs, which it must constantly produce in order to siphon off this gas. The unfertilized eggs are under immense pressure from this gas, and if an egg is cracked, the gas will tear the egg apart quickly. Once exposed to oxygen, the gas ignites, and expands rapidly. Occasionally, however, one of the fotayvon males will travel to the egg sac of its mate, and enter one of its eggs. The male then dies, releasing a chemical which neutralizes the dangerous gas, as well as fertilizing the egg.
Fotayvons typically bury their eggs, if it is possible, leaving only a small part of it exposed for the potential child to climb out of. Most fotayvon lairs are surrounded by a small field of slime and mostly buried eggs. The fact that 99% of these eggs are explosive prevents most predators from attempting to eat the eggs, and surroundings its lair with what is essentially a minefield is the fotayvon’s best defense against aggressors.
Moving on spider-like legs, a reptilian creature approaches, ruffling the feathers that cover its body menacingly.
Fotavyon; CR 10; [Aberration] [Wetlands, Caves] [Temperate/Warm Climate] [Diurnal Cycle]
N Huge Aberration
Init +11; Senses Darkvision 60ft, Perception +11
AC 19, touch 15, flat-footed 12 [10 + Dex(7) - Size(2) + Natural(4)]
HP 116 (11 HD, 1d10)
Fort +8 Ref +14 Will +4;
Speed 100 ft. Climb 40ft. Swim 20ft (Water’s surface only)
Melee +22/+17 Bite (2d8)(Piercing)(May choose to grapple on successful bite attack)
Melee +22/+17 Slam (2d6)(Bludgeoning)
Ranged +17 Egg Hurl (5d6)(2d6 splash)(40ft)(Fire Damage)(Noxious Cloud)
Str 33 Dex 24 Con 16 Int 2 Wis 13 Cha 08
BAB +10/5; CMB 32; CMD 39
SQ Quick Initiative, Egg Hurl, flying leap
Quick Initiative +4 to Initiative Rolls
Egg Hurl Once per day, the Fotavyon expels an egg through its tail orifice. If in combat, it can make a ranged attack to attempt to hurl one of its eggs at an attacker. An egg created during the stress of combat will never be fertilized.
Flying Leap Using its feathered limbs, a fotavyon can make impressive flying leaps, easily covering distances of up to 50ft with a single bound.
Explosive Eggs When a fotavyon’s egg explodes, it deals 5d6 damage to anyone standing within 5ft of it, and 2d6 damage to anyone standing within 10ft of it. This damage is from the flames and pressure of the gas expanding and igniting. After the initial explosion, a cloud of fumes is left in a 15ft radius from the egg’s location. Anyone who ends their turn in these fumes will be paralyzed until they are taken out of the fumes and given a turn to rest, or until the fumes dissipate 10 rounds later. The fotavyon will often attack this paralyzed character first.
‘Mine’ field The slime covering a fotavyon’s egg field is harmless in and of itself. It is slightly slippery, but not enough to cause any penalties.
Environment Wetlands, or dank caves. They enjoy moist, cool environments.
Activity Cycle Fotavyons are diurnal, so they function during the day and sleep at night.
Diet Fish, small mammals; Natural Enemies Dragons, occasionally.
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Posted by LS on Friday, September 14th, 2012 at 5:45 am
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Pathfinder
Tags: Merciless Monsters, Monsters