Sunday, June 24, 2018

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Forsaker

As was mentioned on my Google+ post of this image, it was inspired by beholder doodle from Dyson Logos. It's a a forsaker (the opposite of a beholder?). Instead of one gaping maw and a bunch of eyes, it has one eye and a bunch of gaping maws with different bite effects. So here is the full set of stats/description as promised.

The forsaker (mouth slave, flail of many mouths) is the stuff of nightmares—an aberration likely originating from the kind chaos that can only be birthed from the Beyond. These freakish things are found mainly underground but encountered occasionally in desolate wilderness locations.

The “body” of this savage is a central unblinking eye, set on all sides by a septet of gaping maws filled with dagger-like teeth. They are often referred to as “mouth slaves” for they are servants to their own insatiable appetites, always on a quest to eat, to consume, to devour—never fulfilled. Ironically, it moves regretfully slowly about as it wills through the power of levitation. Nonetheless, those who encounter such a beast have their work cut out for them.

Any seeing creature that gazes upon its unblinking eye must save vs. spells or flee in fear for 2 turns, and those with 3 Hit Dice or fewer fail automatically.

Each round, the first four of its mouths may strike to its front side and the last three may strike to its rear side. Those strikes to the rear suffer a –2 “to hit” penalty due to limited scope of vision. Sneak attacks to the creatures rear (e.g., theives’ backstabbing) are unaffected. Each successful attack not only does 2d4 damage from the bite, the victim of such a bite must save vs. poision or suffer a venomous effect that coordinates with each mouth as outlined below:
  1. confusion (as spell): 2d4 rounds
  2. charm (as philter of love, with the forsaker as its love interest): 3d6 turns
  3. paralysis: 1d4 turns
  4. acid: +1d6 damage
  5. slow: movement halved, –1 “to hit,” and +1 AC for 2d4 rounds
  6. disease: temporary loss of 1 point of Strength and 1 point of Constitution until cured, then recovered at a rate of 1 point of each per full day’s rest
  7. blindness: 4d4 turns

Rarely does a forsaker establish a true lair, opting instead to take up residence only temporarily in the den of a previous victim, resting as needed before continuing on its quest to consume. However, it has been known for some forsakers with a slightly higher intelligence to stay in locations that potential prey is known to frequent (e.g., watering holes in the wilderness, places where treasure hunters regularly seek reward, etc.). The latter conditions are represented by the Percent in Lair and Treasure Types indications noted in parentheses above.

Forsakers speak deep speech (barely), and have their own language which is incomprehensible when spoken (even with the use of an ability like comprehend languages). Telepathic communication with a forsaker is possible, but mentally draining on the creature trying to communicate with it. Those communicating telepathically with a forsaker must save vs. paralysis each round or temporarily lose 1 point of Intelligence (recovered at a rate of 1 point per full day’s rest).
FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: //3"
% IN LAIR: 0 (30%)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (15' across)
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

MOVE: //30'(10')
ATTACKS: 7 bites/1 ray
DAMAGE: See below
SAVE AS: Fighter:7

What Makes A Good Monster Book?

I'm sure many (if not most or all) of us share one of two different first experiences with a monster book... OD&D's Monster & Treasure book, or AD&D's Monster Manual. My first experiences with monster stats were those ubiquitous red and blue saddle-stitched paperbacks of classic D&D. But those are simply not monster books. As I define it here, I'm talking specifically about those books which were (and are) filled cover to cover with monster stats, preferably with pictures.

While I doubt many of us rarely stop to critically examine monster books as I'm suggesting here, I'm sure that many of us know by osmosis if we like a monster book or not. We may not be able to objectively state that the Monster Manual or the Fiend Folio are far superior to Monster Manual II, but we know it... we know it.

So what happens when we start to look critically at monster books? Well, I can't speak for all of you (though the comments below will give everyone plenty of chance to chime in), I can tell you what does or doesn't stand out to me about various books noted below.

OD&D Monsters & Treasure
There's no doubt this is the great-grandaddy of all monster books. Though it be very skimpy compared to later monster descriptions, there's something very important happening here that I think is crucial to a good monster book... IDEAS! I'm not just talking about ideas on the part of the writers. I'm talking about the kinds of monsters that give DMs ideas, particularly those kinds of ideas that act as fuel for dungeon designing and adventure building. It's a given that the classic monsters of myth and literature are here (gargoyles, dragons, orcs, etc.), but there are also some interesting inventions here: the purple worms, gray ooze, yellow mold, and gelatinous cube. How many of you didn't fall in love at first sight with the idea of the gelatinous cube? And springing it on those unsuspecting friends of ours that had never heard of such a thing (because they didn't own the book)?

AD&D Monster Manual
If M&T is the great-grandaddy, the Monster Manual is the grandaddy. Hands down. For somebody that was introduced to D&D by red/blue (as noted above), the Monster Manual stat blocks were a revelation. To this day, the one stat in that block that continues to stand out to me is the monster's intelligence. 13-year old me had no concept of monsters that spoke, or bargained. They were simply dangerous things that needed to be killed so you could take their treasure and/or earn experience points. The more important thing about the MM that stood out to me was that close-to-every monster entry had an accompanying picture. To me, this is a critical componentn of a good monster book. I can't be the only idiot who looked at the caecilia image on page X28 in the Cook/Marsh Expert Rulebook for the first time and thinking it was supposed to go with the blink dog entry above it. Sure, after you read the entries you know with which entry it's supposed to go, but to this day those caecilia eyes keep staring at me, without blinking, mocking me for thinking it was a blink dog. So apart from things like Intelligence stats and pics for each entry, how does the Monster Manual do on the idea front? Admittedly pretty well. Granted, many of the classics came from Monsters & Treasure, or had already appeared in Dragon Magazine, but given that I didn't pick up my first copy of Dragon until issue #68, this was the first time I saw many of those creatures. And there are more of those ideas there. However, what the MM really does is say, "Okay... here are all of the ubiquitous classics you're going to need, and a few cool new fun things that you'll want."

AD&D Fiend Folio
I have to admit that I love the AD&D Fiend Folio mostly for the illustrations. While I know that Russ Nicholson has influenced many an old-school artist, I'm an Alan Hunter man all the way. Granted, I love Russ's work, but Hunter's style is one of the biggest influences on me. Too this day, the hook horror and crab men illustrations are among my favorite old school RPG illustrations. But I think the FF art is reflective of the "slant" of the things inside — there is very little in the way of ubiquitous classic (formorians, e.g.), and much more in the way of interesting takes on classic archetypes (e.g., the blindheim or the carbuncle). Why is this? Is it because these things were created by Brits? Was it because they appeared first in White Dwarf Magazine, which means you're not creating creatures to serve an adventure, but rather to grasp the reader? Neither? Both? Who cares? It's fun and funky and it works! (BTW, I've heard many comment that my Creature Compendium reminds them of the Fiend Folio. That is one of the best compliments a guy like me could ask for.)

Monster Manual II
To me, this is an example of what not to do with a monster book. It feels like filler, gathered from the back pages of modules and the innards of Dragon. Why does the Fiend Folio (which has similar beginnings) seem to work, while the MM2 seems to fall short? My take here is that there are two issues which lead to the shortcomings of this book: 1) it's much too "specific" in some places, and 2) in other places it's trying WAY too hard. What do I mean by specific? Well, let's just say, unless you're traveling the planes, those 5 pages dedicated to modrons isn't going to do you much good. And past a certain point, aren't dinosaurs just dinosaurs? Don't get me wrong. I think there is some good stuff in Monster Manual II. It just doesn't give me enough of that "smile in the mind" feeling as I'd like in a monster book. As I'm writing this, I'm starting to figure out what it is about this book. Take for example the vegepygmies. In the context of a monster book, they're not much more than "vegetable-men." However, in the context of a good adventure (in this case, Expedition to Barrier Peaks they come alive. I think maybe that's what it is about this book — if you've got a good adventure, then there's stuff here that's going to work for you. But, on the whole, these monsters don't give me ideas for adventures.

Creature Compendiums
So with the Creature Compendium, I tried to create monsters that, even without to much ecological information scripted out, DMs would have ideas for how to use such creatures in their adventures and encounters. And that's what I'm trying to do as I continue (albeit slowly) to flesh out Creature Compendium II.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

New Psionic Oe/1e/BX Monster: Ghaozeg

This is an adaptation of the guardian creature from Robert E. Howard's story The Fire of Asshurbanipal. The creature is unnamed in the story (and is referenced only as the "guardian"), so I created something to that lived alongside some of the other things in the campaign world I've been developing over the last few years (to support the BX Psionics stuff I've been running off and on).

If you've never read it/heard of it, check out this blog post from Black Gate.

Originating from the Beyond, a ghaozeg is gigantic, black and shadowy thing—a hulking monstrosity that walks upright like a man, but like a toad too, winged and tentacled.

Borne of the eternal chaos of the Beyond, ghaozeg are primordially tied to the Elemental Plane of Sand. When these things are encountered in the Material Plane, it most often in lost desert cities, guardians of soul gems and jarred demons.

A chill hangs in the air about this atrocity. Even unseen, its mere presence is detected up to 60' away as a drop in temperature of approximately 5°. In shadow, this creature is near invisible, surprising on a 1-4 (on 1d6) when emerging from or encountered in shadow or low light conditions (even if the drop in temperature has been discerned). Ghaozeg are immune to damage from both heat and cold.

The loathsome visage of a ghaozeg causes stark black madness. Creatures looking upon such a thing must save vs. death or fall into a coma-like state for a number of days equal to the difference between the target number and the result of the saving throw (e.g., a result of 9 when a 12 or better is needed results in 3 days of the coma-like state). This state cannot be removed or negated by any means. After the victim awakes, an additional save is made vs. paralysis: on a successful save, the victim is conscious but stunned for a number of hours equal to the number of days spent in the coma-like state, then returns to normal; on a failed save, the victim awakes but indefinitely remains in the conscious-but-stunned state. At any time after the victim emerges from the coma-like state, the woken catatonia may be negated with a remove curse spell or the psionic discipline psychic surgery.

A ghaozeg has soul-shakingly foul breath. All caught in its 30' diameter cloud must save vs. breath or have their sleep filled with nightmares for 1d6 days’ worth of restless sleep. After such nights, spells cannot be memorized and PSPs cannot be restored through meditation. Remove fear will cause the nightmares to cease (restoring restful sleep), but remove curse will not. It may use this breath weapon once every 3 rounds in lieu of its bite attack.

The touch of each ghaozeg tentacle drains 1d6 hp (on a successful “to hit” roll), and its bite does 1d4 damage.

Surviving the unearthly horror of a ghaozeg bolsters one’s resilience to the horrors of the world and the chaos beyond it. For 24 hours after encountering such a thing, survivors make their saving throws vs. fear as if 1 level/HD higher.

FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 12"/24"
% IN LAIR: 65%
Immune to heat and cold
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (10' long)
Attack/Defense Modes:

MOVE: 120'(40')/240'(80')
4 tentacles/
1 bite or breath
1d6+special (×4)/
1-4 or special
NO. APPEARING: 1 (1-2)
SAVE AS: Fighter:6

Attack modes: ego whip, id insinuation
Defense modes: mind blank, mental barrier, thought shield

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

d30 PDF Download: d30 Minotaur Variations

Now that life is settling back in from being uber-crazy for the last 6 months or so, I'm going to try to start making some regular posts to this blog.

This table is one that prepared for the d30 Adventure I ran at this year's NTRPGCon, only the players didn't make it to this level of the tower before time ran out. I prepped 15 tower levels (each was essentially 1 encounter area--some as a single large room, others with several rooms to go through). The minotaur was on Level 7, and they had just made it past Level 5.

Here's the deal, I just can't go an NTRPGCon without an adventure that includes a labyrinth and a minotaur. This year, there were two labyrinths... the d30 players didn't make it far enough to reach theirs, and the intro level animal class party chose a different route in their game. The animal class players heard "labyrinth" and assumed "minotaur"; there was a labyrinth, but there was no minotaur there. Instead, they fought a wave of undead. But I digress...

Here's the minotaur d30 table I created for the d30 adventure at the con. Enjoy!

Click here (or on the image below) to download
a free PDF of d30 Minotaur Variations PDF from MediaFire.