Showing posts with label Monstrous Mondays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Monstrous Mondays. Show all posts

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Sand Ghoul

We are on vacation this week.  Were supposed to drive down to see my wife's sister, but instead we are holed up here.  So I am starting my mini-campaign of "The Deserts of Desolation & Death" today.

Going through my books last night I figured I needed something new.  Everyone has seen all the old monsters.  Plus I wanted to up the feeling of necromantic dread.  So this guy popped into my head.

Besides. I like undead beasties.

So here it is for 5e D&D (what I am playing today).

Sand Ghoul
The Ghoul by Les Edwards
Sand Ghouls are formed when naturally occurring mummies in the desert are possessed with demonic or necromantic power.  They are stronger and faster than normal ghouls.  The drying process also robs them of their stench.
Elves are immune to the Paralyzing touch of the Sand Ghoul.  Desert Orcs living in a combined Desert Elven / Desert Orc community are also immune.

Medium undead (Desert), chaotic evil
Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 31 (7d8)
Speed 30 ft., burrow 40 ft., climb 20 ft.

STR 14 (+2)
DEX 16 (+3)
CON 10 (+0)
INT 10 (+0)
WIS 9 (-1)
CHA 5 (-3)

Saving Throws Str +4, Dex +5
Skills Acrobatics +5, Perception +1, Survival +3
Damage Vulnerabilities fire, radiant
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities poisoned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages Common
Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the sand ghoul to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the sand ghoul drops to 1 hit point instead.

Keen Sight and Smell. The sand ghoul has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.

Actions
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 2) slashing damage. If the target is a creature other than an elf or undead, it must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.


Stat block Generator: https://tetra-cube.com/dnd/dnd-statblock.html



Monday, March 16, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Bodhmal and Liath Luchara for OSE and the Pagan Witch

Not monsters really, but NPCs from my upcoming The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition.  Bodhmal is a Bándrui witch, Liath is her Cowan, or witch's companion or champion. A cowan is a non-witch class that has the ability to learn some witch magics. I detail the benefits of a cowan in the new book.

Bodhmal
Female Witch 7th level, Pagan Tradition (Bándrui)
Armor Class 8 [11]
Hit Dice/Level 7+ 7 (25 hp)
Attacks 1 × weapon
THAC0 18 [+2]
Movement Rate 90’ (30’)
Saves D8 W9 P9 B12 S11 (Witch 7, Bracers +2)
Morale 10
Alignment Lawful
XP for Defeating 1,250
Number Appearing Unique
Treasure Type P (J)

Str 10 Int 14 Wis 14 Dex 10 Con 14 Cha 18

Bodhmal has the following witch spells and Occult Powers.
She casts as a 7th level witch.

Occult Powers
Familiar: Wolf
7th level: Shape Change

Spells by Level
1st (3): Cure Light Wounds, Empathic Senses, Ceremony
2nd (2): Animal Messenger, Pins and Needles
3rd (2): Call Lightning, Scry
4th (1): Polymorph

Magic Items
Bracers of Protection +2

Bodhmal’s father was a druid but she chose the path of the Bándrui.  She is the foster mother to Fionn MacCumhail and also his aunt. Fionn is her sister’s son.  She has been bonded to Liath, the Grey warrior, as Cowan for many years.

'Sí mo laoch mo ghile mear
'Sí mo Scáthach, gile mear
Suan gan séan ní bhfuair mé féin
Ó chuaigh I gcéin mo ghile mear


Liath Luchara
Female Ranger 8th level (Cowan)
Armor Class 5 [14] +2
Hit Dice/Level 8 + 16 (52 hp)
Attacks 1 × weapon (1d8) 
THAC0 18 [+2]
Movement Rate 90’ (30’)
Saves D8 W9 P10 B10 S12 (Ranger 8)
Morale 12
Alignment Lawful
XP for Defeating 1,750
Number Appearing Unique
Treasure Type None

Str 13 Int 12 Wis 14 Dex 16 Con 16 Cha 12

Ranger Abilities
Tracking: 90%

Spells by level
Druid, 1st (1): Animal friendship
Witch, 0 (3): Ensure a Successful Hunt, Merry Greetings, Summon a Witch

Items
Long Sword, Witchlight +2
Leather Armor
Spear, Gáe Assail

Liath Luchara, the Grey Warrior, has been defending her clan since she was old enough to hold a spear.  She has joined with Bodhmal as Cowan to help protect the babe Fionn MacCumhail, who she has started calling “Deimne” because of his fair hair.

Special shout out to Brian O'Sullivan who has also written a lot about Liath and Bodhmal. These stats are based more on the versions I have used over the years, but his characters are great too.  Pick up his books if you want to read more.

The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition out tomorrow!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Acolytes to Initiates

I think if I was hard-pressed into it I could recall all of the monsters from the Moldavy Basic D&D book.  I read that section over and over.  In my pre-adolescent mind, I felt I had to memorize the monsters so I could properly run a D&D game.

"Acolyte, Ape (white), Bandit, Bat, ..."  I didn't try to memorize the order, but it came with the territory.  I would pour over the Monster Manual with the same enthusiasm and likewise the Cook/Marsh Expert book.   But they did not "attach" themselves to my psyche the same way that the Basic book did.  The Monster Manual did so in different ways and the Expert monsters provided me with some of my all-time favorites.

Largely due to something called "The Serial Position Effect" in psychology it was easiest to remember the endpoints; Acolytes and Zombies.  So my earliest games had a lot of these.  Sometimes, oftentimes, in the same encounters. 

I grew rather fond of acolytes to be honest.  Not only did they have more flexibility than veterans (the "monster" type for fighters) but they could be used in a variety of ways.  Devotees on pilgrimages, wandering friars or monks, cultists, and yes, these guys.

With the Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition on the way, why not do the same with witches?

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay
Initiates
Initiates are 1st level witches on personal quests.  They usually travel in small groups, but larger groups can have higher level witches.  Groups of 4 or more are led by a higher level witch (1d10: 1–4: 2nd level, 5–7: 3rd level, 8–9: 4th level, 10: 5th level).

These witches will typically all be from the same coven and tradition.  For example, a coven of Bandrui witches can be Pagan Witch and/or Green Witch Traditions.

Initiates
(Labyrinth Lord)
No. Enc.: 1d6+1  (2d6+1)
Alignment: Any
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 1* (3 hp)
Attacks: 1 (dagger)
Damage: 1d6
Special: Witch spells
Save: Witch 1
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: IV
XP: 10

Initiates
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 9 [10]
HD: 1d4
Move: 60
Attacks: 1 (dagger, 1d6), Witch spell
Alignment: Any
Treasure: 0 (3)
XP: 10

Initiate 
(Old-School Essentials)
1st level witches on personal quests.

Armor Class 9 [10]
Hit Dice 1 (5 hp)
Attacks 1 × dagger (1d6) or spell
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement Rate 60’ (20’)
Saves D11 W12 P14 B16 S15 (W1)
Morale 8
Alignment Any
XP for Defeating 10
Number Appearing 1d6+1 (2d6+1)
Treasure Type U
  • Demi-Human witches. Elven NPC witches are known as “Kuruni,” and Dwarven NPC witches are called “Xothia.”
  • Leader. Groups of 4+ are led by a higher level witch (1d10: 1–4: 2nd level, 5–7: 3rd level, 8–9: 4th level, 10: 5th level). Choose or roll the leader’s spells.
  • Person. Considered a “person” for magical effects.
Initiate
(Iron Falcon)
Armor Class 9
Hit Dice 1
No. Attacks 1
Damage 1d6, by weapon
Move 6"
Alignment Any
No. Appearing 2d6+1
% in Lair None
Treasure C

Coming Soon!



The Craft of the Wise - The Pagan Witch Tradition for Old-School Essentials

Monday, March 2, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Gwragedd Annwn

An old favorite for today's Monstrous Monday.  The Swanmay from Monster Manual II featured heavily in my Ravenloft games of late First Ed and Early 2nd Ed. 
While there are creatures like these found all over Europe, it is the Welsh Gwragedd Annwn that remains my favorite.  Though not 100% the same as the Swanmay, it is close enough for my liking.

Here she is for Old-School Essentials.

swan maiden by liga-marta
Gwragedd Annwn (swan-maidens)
Human maidens capable of turning into a swan. They only have this power while they remain unmarried.

Armor Class 7 [12]
Hit Dice 2 or more (9 hp)
Attacks 1 weapon (by weapon type)
THAC0 19 [+1]
Movement Rate 120’ (40’) or 150’ (50’) swim or 180’ (60’) flying
Saves D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (2)
Morale 10
Alignment Lawful
XP for Defeating 25
Number Appearing 1 (1d4+1)
Treasure Type U (A)

  • Enemy of Evil. Gwragedd Annwn are fierce enemies of evil and chaos and fight it wherever they can.
  • Rangers. All Gwragedd Annwn are rangers of level equal to their HD. They will be equipped accordingly.
  • Swan Transformation. By means of a feather token they can transform into a large swan. It is believed that once they take a husband they must give this token to him.  Many are loathe to do that.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Monster of Lake Fagua for OSE

Today I wanted to get into a monster from my recent re-discovery of Daniel Cohen and a bunch of books I read as a kid and critical to my early ideas of what could be part of my D&D games.  One of those books was "Monsters, Giants and Little Green Men from Mars."

And one of those monsters was the Monster of Lake Fagua.

Appearing something like a large manticore, it reminded me a lot of the Piasa Bird.

The monster was said to have been "found in the kingdom of Santa Fe," in Peru, in the province of Chile, "in Lake Fagua, which is in the" lands of Prosper - Voston."  At least as reported in France on several prints sold in Paris in October 1784.

The creature was described as follows:

"Its length is eleven feet; the face is almost that of a man; the mouth is as wide as the face; it is furnished with two-inch teeth length. It has two 24 inch long horns which resemble those of a bull; hair hanging down to the ground; the ears are four inches long and are similar to those of a donkey; it has two wings like those of a bat, the thighs and legs are 25 inches; it has two tails, one very flexible, which it uses to grip the prey; the other, which ends in an arrow, is used to kill him; his whole body is covered with scales.”

It had been described as a relative to the harpy.  So let's keep that.  Potentially a manticore/harpy crossbreed.

Monster of Lake Fagua
(Old-School Essentials)

Armor Class 2 [18]
Hit Dice 8 (36hp)
Attacks [2 × claw (1d6), 1 × bite (2d4)] or 1 × tail spike (1d6+poison) or 2 x horn gore (1d4+1)
THAC0 13 [+7]
Movement Rate 90' (30') / 180' (60) flying / 360' (120')  swimming
Saves D8 W9 P10 B10 S12 (8)
Morale 9
Alignment Chaotic
XP for Defeating 1200
Number Appearing 1d4 (2d10)
Treasure Type None
  • Amphibious Movement. This creature is equally at home on land, water or sky.  The fagua monster can spend up to 12 hours underwater. 
  • Nocturnal. The creature is only active at night and can seel equally well in the dark. 
  • Tail Grab. On a critical success on a tail attack (natural 20) the Fugua Monster can instead grab a victim and squeeze them each round for 1d6 points of damage. A Strength check is needed to escape.
  • Tail Spike. The spike of the Fugua Monster has a paralytic poison. Save vs. Poison or become paralyzed for 1d4+2 rounds.

Nice to see this guy again!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Green Martians for AS&SH

No gaming for me this past weekend.  One game for Connor and two for Liam though, so I was left to my own devices.  Those devices were going over my Mōdiphiüs Star Trek and John Carter of Mars RPGs.  Both use the same 2d20 system, or close enough to make conversions and blending easy.   And Mōdiphiüs is also doing the new Dune RPG.   This has my desire to run an epic Space Opera up into hyperdrive.

BUT.  Let's be honest. There is no good way, thematically, to combine John Carter and Star Trek.  Their Mars' are too different.    The problem is, I love Mars.  Both in terms of fiction and back when I was studying to be an astrophysicist.   Scientific/realistic Mars would be great for a Trek game, especially with all the things going on on Mars in the new Picard series.  But what about my need for fantasy Mars?


I have talked about Clark Ashton Smith's Mars in relationship to BlackStar and my love of the various pulp games for Mars.  So I am not lacking in desire, or material, I just need a home game for it.  So this idea hit me over the weekend.

Why not Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Barsoom?

AS&SH is obviously more Clark Ashton Smith and less Edgar Rice Burroughs, but both are there.  While I enjoy the works of CAS much more, ERB's Barsoom captures my attention much more.  Besides, in a game I can mix and match as I please, especially in a game like AS&SH.

I am not planning, yet, to send any characters to Barsoom, but it makes perfect sense to bring some Martians to Hyperborea.

These Martians are designed for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Compleat Second Edition) and heavily based on Warriors of the Red Planet (which you should get if you love everything Mars, like me.)

Martian Princess by Will Nichols
Martian, Green
No. Encountered: 1 (1d3)
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L
Movement: 40
Dexterity: 16
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4+4 to 6+6
Attack Rate: 4/1 (sword x4 or radium pistol x4)
Damage: 1d8 (×4) or 1d8 (x4)
Saving Throw: 14 to 12
Morale: 12
Experience Points: 400 to  850
Treasure Class:  Nil (see below)

Green Martians are tall, 8' tall, humanoids with green skin and four arms.  The males are bald and have huge tusks. The females are just as tall but appear more human.  Some even have ancestry related to the ancient Red Martians.  Many of the Martians found in Hyperborea are these Green with Red Martian blood to adapt better to the Hyperborean world.
It has been assumed that came here centuries ago and have been able to return to Barsoom.  Those sages in the know claim they are here as advanced scouts prior to a Martian invasion.

Green Martians are a warrior race and adapt to the weapons found in Hyperborea with ease.  Green Chieftans, the Jedaks, also wield radium pistols that fire a bolt of burning radium.  The range is the same as a crossbow.

Martians eschew armor of any kind and rely on their dexterity and natural toughness.  They also do not keep any treasure they find.  The exception are any weapons. They have a 20% chance of having a magical sword, short sword or dagger.  They do not use bows, but will have a 10% of having a magical crossbow.

I like this. Can't wait to give it a go.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Lithobolia for OSE

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

So.  I missed my next deadline for the Pagan Witch for OSE.  I was working on getting things done for Night Shift and my day job has been pretty busy.  But this is fine, it has given me a chance to make it a better book and to review the OSE rules and style guide some more.

The OSE style guide has a short monster stat block template and a long one.  The short one is the one seen in the current OSE books and what I have been posting for a while.
The long one though is more to my liking.  So let's give it a go.



Lithobolia*
Stone-throwing "demons" summoned by witches to plague homes. They are invisible and intangible.

Armour Class 3 [17]
Hit Dice 5 (hp)
Attacks 1 × rock (1d4)
THAC0 15 [4]
Movement Rate 90’ (30’)
Saves D10 W11 P12 B13 S 14 (5)
Morale 10
Alignment Chaotic
XP for Defeating 300
Number Appearing 1d4 (2d10)
Treasure Type None
  • Intangible: Lithobolia are spirits and cannot be seen or hit by anything other than magic.  A Detect Invisible spell will locate them and they take damage from magic and magical weapons.
  • Elemental Spirit: Lithobolia are elemental spirits of the land.  They are not undead but can be turned by a Druid as if they were a cleric of the same level.
  • Immune to charm, hold or sleep spells.
  • Can be dismissed by clerics, druids or witches with Dispel Magic or Dispel Evil spell.  Creature can return after 24 hours.
I like this format better.

So. The Pagan Witch is coming. 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for me publication wise. I have heard from three publishers who have manuscripts of mine saying this is the year they will get them out.  Looking forward to it.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Bánánach for OSE

Working on all sorts of things, mostly getting my bits of Night Shift done and a TON of day job stuff.

I wanted to get The Pagan Witch out to you all soon, and I still might, it is done, minus some little bits. Here is something in the mean time.

Bánánach
Semi-transparent spectres of witches that haunt battlefields or other areas of great violence.
AC 3 [16], HD 5** (18hp), Att 1 × touch (1d6 +ability drain), THAC0 15 [+4], MV 120’ (40’) / 240’ (80’) flying, SV D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (5), ML 12, AL Chaotic, XP 175, NA 1d4 (1d6), TT None

▶ Undead: Make no noise, until they attack. Immune to effects that affect living creatures (e.g. poison). Immune to mind-affecting or mind-reading spells (e.g. charm, hold, sleep).
▶ Mundane weapon immunity: Only harmed by silver weapons or magic.
▶ Damage reduction: Half damage from silver weapons.
▶ Energy drain: A successfully hit target permanently loses one point of Wisdom. This incurs a loss of all other benefits due to the drained ability (e.g. spells, saving throws, etc.). A person drained of all Wisdom becomes a wraith in one day, under the control of the bánánach that killed him or her.

A bánánach is the specter of a witch.  They are attracted to areas of great death and suffering.  They can be seen flying about the areas of death.  They drain the willpower of those she attacks. 
They are often accompanied by 2-3 wraiths.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Horned Women

The Horned Women of Celtic Myth

The horned women, or horned witches, are magical hags of Irish myth and legend.  They pester newly married young women or new mothers.  They are also known to plague any sort of homeowner.


Horned Women are a particularly nasty creature that is related to both faeries and hags.
They will appear as ugly old women with a horn protruding from their forehead. How many horns will tell you how powerful they are. A woman with one horn has 1 HD and so on.  It is unknown if this is related to age, all appear to ancient hags.

They will rush into a home, especially that of a new young mother or wife, and begin performing chores at a breakneck speed. While they perform the chores each one will demand a task of the overwhelmed bride. Saying that if she does not complete the tasks, they will fly off and eat her baby. The tasks are designed to be seemingly impossible; chop wood with an ax handle with no blade, or collect water in a bucket full of holes, or make a cake with no flour. The tasks can be completed by the bride, but she has to be clever about it.

Their voice is compelling, as per the suggestion spell, to get the wife to do these tasks.  A save vs spells will keep this from happening, but the threat of eating her baby is still real.

If she can do all the tasks the Horned Women want they will scream and fly away never to return. If she doesn’t they will take the baby.

Horned Women cast witch spells at the same level as their HD. They do not have access to ritual magic or occult powers.

Witches are often employed to fight these creatures.
Using a simple spell (typically dispel evil or remove curse) and adding "Witch! Witch! Fly away from here!"
The horned women will fly away and never return to that house.

Horned Women
(Labyrinth Lord)
No. Enc.: 1-8 (1-12)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 80' (240')
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 1** (5 hp) to 8** (36 hp)
Attacks: 1 (claw)
Damage: 1d6
Special: Witch spells, compelling voice
Save: Witch 1 to Witch 8
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: HD 1: 13, HD 2: 29,  HD 3: 68, HD 4:  135, HD 5: 350, HD 6: 570,  HD 7: 790, HD 8: 1,060

Horned Women
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 3 [16]
HD: 1d8 to 8d8
Move: 80
Attacks: : 1 (claw, 1d6), Witch spells, compelling voice
Alignment: Chaotic
Treasure: None
XP: HD 1: 45, HD 2: 70,  HD 3: 95, HD 4:  145, HD 5: 255, HD 6: 395,  HD 7: 650, HD 8: 950

Horned Women
(Old-School Essentials)
AC 3 [16], HD 1 (5 hp) 8 (36 hp), Att 1 claw (1d6), THAC0 19 [+1], MV 240’ (80’), SV as W 1-8, ML 10, AL Chaotic, XP HD 1: 45, HD 2: 70,  HD 3: 95, HD 4:  145, HD 5: 255, HD 6: 395,  HD 7: 650, HD 8: 950, NA 1-8 (1-12), TT None
 Witch spells: The horned woman can cast spells as a witch at the same level as her HD.
 Compelling Voice: The horned woman's voice acts as a suggestion spell.  She may use this once per day.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Star Jellies for OSR games

"Seek a fallen star," said the hermit, "and thou shalt only light on some foul jelly, which, in shooting through the horizon, has assumed for a moment an appearance of splendour."
- Sir Walter Scott, The Talisman (1825)

Star Jelly

Star Jellies, also known as astromyxin or astral jellies, are creatures known to fall to the earth from celestial bodies.  They are often found where a shooting star is thought to have struck the earth.
These are chaotic and evil creatures of alien will.   They will attempt to attach themselves to other life forms and feed on them.

Upon landing they will move, slowly to the nearest warm-blooded creature it can find.  It prefers humans and humanoids.  Once attached the star jelly will excrete a poison that both paralyzes their victim and causes them to have vivid hallucinations or horrible phantasmagorias.  The victim feels they are being attacked by creatures unknown and will attempt to lash out at them.  In truth, the victim is paralyzed and the jelly is attempting to digest the victim from within.

The jelly's only attack is an attempt to latch on to the flesh of a humanoid.  The victim gets a saving throw vs. Paralyzation (to keep from being paralyzed) and a save vs. Poison each round afterward to realize they are hallucinating.   Once attached the jelly will dissolve flesh, causing 2 points of Constitution damage per round.  The only way to remove a jelly is to burn it off or expose it to direct sunlight.  Something about the combination of sunlight and air damages them and they take fire damage per round in the sun.

Constitution loss is permanent unless healing magic is used.

Star Jellies have an intelligence, albeit an alien one.  They are immune to charm, hold, sleep, and other mind-affecting magics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_jelly

Star Jelly
(Labyrinth Lord)
No. Enc.: 1 (1-2)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 10' (30')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2+2** (11 hp)
Attacks: 1 (special)
Damage: 2 points of Constitution damage
Special: Causes paralysis and hallucinations
Save: Monster 2
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None
XP: 50

Star Jelly
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 8
HD: 2d8+2
Move: 40
Attacks: : 1 (2 points of Constitution damage), causes paralysis and hallucinations
Alignment: Chaotic
Treasure: None
XP: 50

Star Jelly
(Old-School Essentials)
AC 8 [11], HD 2+2 (11hp), Att 1 touch (2 pts Con damage), THAC0 19 [+1], MV 30’ (10’), SV D17 W18 P17 B18 S17 (2), ML 12, AL Chaotic, XP 55, NA 1 (1), TT None
 Poison skin: Causes paralysis and hallucinations.

Star Jelly 
(WhiteStar)
ARMOR CLASS: 8 [11]
HIT DICE: 2
HDE/XP: 2/50
SAVING THROW: 18
TOTAL HIT BONUS: +1
MOVEMENT: 3
SPECIAL:  Causes paralysis and hallucination
ATTACK: by touch, 2 points Constitution damage
In the depths of space, their natural environment, Star Jellies are immune to the effects of sunlight.  They can also grow to very large size (up to 10hd) if given enough living organic matter to eat.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Painted Minis Edition

I am still on Christmas vacation and I barely remembered today was Monday.
So here are some minis my wife has painted over break.

First up, a blue dragon.







And, my favorite, a Demogorgon!







Here's to new monsters in 2020!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Catgirls for Old-School Essentials

"Cats" is out. And it is really, really bad. How bad? So bad that I am DYING to see it.  In fact, we are going to tomorrow as a family. And we are dressing as cats.   We are going 100% Rocky Horror Picture Show on this.

I figure let's have some Catgirls for Old-School Essentials!

Nekojin (Catgirl)

Requirements: Minimum DEX 9
Prime requisites: DEX and CHA
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 9
Weapons: Any (must be modified)
Armor: none or leather only
Languages: Alignment, Common, Elf, Nekojin*  

Catgirls, also known as Nekojin, are a humanoid race that have prominent cat-like features.  These include furry cat ears on the top of their head, cat eyes, canine...er...feline teeth and whiskers. Their pupils are slits like that of a cat. They also have long cattails and their hands and feet resemble a cross between cat paws and humanoid hands and feet.  Their nails are in fact retractable claws.   They typically weigh about 110 pounds and are between 5 and 5½ feet tall. Their human-ish faces give them the look of kittens. This, in addition, their size, often leads non-Nekojin to treat them as if they were younger than they truly are.

The typical nekojin can live to about 50 years of age. They reach maturity by age 7 and will begin adventuring between ages 6 and 8. Nekojin have their own language, but they can also learn the language of humans (Common) and Elves (Sylvan).

Combat
Nekojin can use any weapon that has been modified for their hands (increased cost +25%), but they avoid armor except for leather.

Detect Invisible / Spirits
Nekojin have a supernatural heritage, so they can see invisible creatures or spirits in the spirit planes on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6.

Infravision
Nekojin have infravision rp 90'.

After Reaching 9th Level
A nekojin that reaches 9th level may choose to retire and raise a brood of their own or be reborn into a new kitten (1st level) with no memories of their former life.  On their 9th life they will remember all past lives and skills.

Table 1: Nekojin Advancement and Saving Throws


Level
XP 
HD
D
W
P
B
S
1 0 1d6 12 14 12 16 15
2 2,000 2d6 12 14 12 16 15
3 4,000 3d6 12 14 12 16 15
4 8,000 4d6 10 12 11 14 13
5 16,000 5d6 10 12 11 14 13
6 32,000 6d6 10 12 11 14 13
7 64,000 7d6 8 10 9 12 11
8 128,000 8d6 8 10 9 12 11
9 256,000 9d6 8 10 9 12 11

Table 2: Nekojin to Hit vs. AC
To Hit
Level -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7
2 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7
3 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6
4 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6
5 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5
6 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5
7 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4
8 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4
9 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3


Monday, December 16, 2019

Monstrous Monday: The Yule Cat

In the same lands that gave us Grýla, The Christmas Witch we also get the Yule Cat, also known as Jólakötturinn or Jólaköttur in Iceland.
Described as a huge and vicious cat that preys on people that did not get new clothes for Yule/Christmas. 

The Yule Cat, and there is only one, can run across ice and snow with no difficulty.

The Yule Cat
(Labyrinth Lord)
No. Enc.: 1 (1) Unique
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 40' (120')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 5+5*** (28 hp)
Attacks: 3 (claw/claw/bite)
Damage: 1d6/1d6/1d8
Special: Can detect who did not get new clothes for Yule/Christmas
Save: Monster 5
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 500

The Yule Cat
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 4
HD: 5d8+5
Move: 40
Attacks: 2 claw (1d6 x2), 1 bite (1d6+2)
Alignment: Chaotic
Treasure: None
XP: 500

The Yule Cat
(Old-School Essentials)
AC 4 [15], HD 5+5 (28hp), Att 2 claw (1d6x2), 1 bite (1d6+2), THAC0 17 [+2], MV 120’ (40’), SV D14 W15 P14 B76 S15 (5), ML 10, AL Chaotic, XP 1,700, NA 1 (1) Unique, TT None
 Fleet-footed: Can travel over and ice and snow with no difficulty.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Grýla the Christmas Witch

Grýla, by Þrándur Þórarinsson
Baby, it's cold outside, so wear a coat over your armor and grab a sword since for the next few Monstrous Mondays I am going to deal with Christmas monsters.   Let's start with a classic, Grýla the Christmas Witch.

Grýla, The Christmas Witch

Grýla, and her husband Leppalúði, haunt the dark, frozen mountains far to the North.  Grýla is a foul hag that is rumored to be descended from the ancient Frost Giants.  Every year on the shortest day of the year Grýla comes down to find the naughtiest children in the lands. She captures them, stuffs them into a large magical sack (treat as a bag of holding). 
She takes these children to her 3rd husband (who is too lazy to leave their cave) where she puts these children into a large cauldron to make her favorite dish, a stew of naughty children.

Grýla can move across ice and snow with no difficulty.  Her nose is infallible, she can dependently detect alignments.  She will avoid Lawful (Good) and Neutral characters if possible.  She will approach any Chaotic (Evil) characters to see if they have any children. She will also abduct children from their homes.

Much like the Callieach, Grýla is inactive in the warm summer months.  Her husband never takes action; he is simply too lazy.

Grýla can cast spells as 4th level witch of the Pagan or Winter Witch traditions.


Grýla, The Christmas Witch
(Labyrinth Lord)
No. Enc.: 1 (1) Unique
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 30' (90')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8+8*** (44 hp)
Attacks: 3 (claw/claw/bite)
Damage: 1d6/1d6/1d8
Special: Enhanced sense of smell, acts as "Detect Alignment", witch spells
Save: Witch 9
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,700

Grýla, The Christmas Witch
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 2
HD: 8d8+8
Move: 30
Attacks: 2 claw (1d6 x2), 1 bite (1d6+2), witch spells
Alignment: Chaotic
Treasure: None
XP: 1,700

Grýla, The Christmas Witch
(Old-School Essentials)
AC 2 [17], HD 8+8 (44hp), Att 2 claw (1d6x2), 1 bite (1d6+2) + detect alignment and witch spells, THAC0 17 [+2], MV 90’ (30’), SV D13 W14 P13 B16 S14 (8), ML 10, AL Chaotic, XP 1,700, NA 1 (1) Unique, TT None
 Detect Alignment: Grýla can "smell" evil. This enhanced sense works as a Detect Alignment spell.
 Vulnerability: Vulnerable to silver, magic weapons and holy items. 
 Witch spells: Grýla can cast spells as 4th level witch of the Pagan or Winter Witch traditions.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Pyewacket for Basic era games

Working on some content for various projects.  One of which is the Craft of the Wise The Pagan Witch Tradition for Basic Era Games and designed for Old-School Essentials.

Pyewacket


Pyewacket is a familiar spirit, similar in many ways to the witch's normal familiar but more powerful.  They usually take the shape of a larger cat, often of some rare breed.  A couple of things set it apart from normal cat kind.  A pyewacket usually has some odd features about it.  Odd colored fur like green or purple, mismatched eyes,  or even small horns. Most often the observer can't tell you why the cat looks odd, just that it does. The paws of a pyewacket are particularly dexterous, allowing them to pick up small objects with ease.  Also, all pyewackets can speak.  They typically know 3-4 languages including the language of cats and that of woodland creatures (Sylvan).  Additionally, they are all arrogant and convinced of their own superiority over most creatures.
Some occult scholars claim they are fae in nature, others claim they are more akin to the nether planes of the hells.  Whatever the case the pyewackets will not say, claiming only they have been part of this world for thousands of years and remember a time when they were worshipped like gods.
A pyewacket can also cast spells as 2nd level witch.

Pyewacket
(Old-School Essentials)
A large strange cat with odd features. It speaks to you in an intelligent but bored, condescending voice.
AC 7 [12], HD 2* (6 hp), Att 2 × claw (1d4) + spells, THAC0 19 [0], MV 90’ (30’) , SV D12 W13 P13 B15 S15 (E1), ML 7, AL Neutral, XP 35, NA 1d2 (1d6), TT None
 Attacks with clawa
 Cast spells as a Witch 2nd level
 Serves as a familiar to special witches.



Monday, November 25, 2019

Monstrous Monday Review: Monster Manual II

Continuing my review of the monster books of my youth with what can be called the most polished of all the AD&D/D&D monster books, the AD&D Monster Manual II

This was the first book to feature the new "orange spine" and Jeff Easley cover art.   It is also one of the larger AD&D first ed books at 160 pages (save for the massive DMG).  Sometimes I wonder what an old-school cover would have looked like, something drawn by Tramp maybe.  That all aside, the cover of this book is great, but it doesn't quite grab you the same way that the MM1 or the FF did.  But inside is more than makes up for this "perceived" slight.

For this review, I am as usual considering the original hardcover and the newer PDF from DriveThruRPG.  There is no Print on Demand option yet for this title, but as a special feature, I'll also have a look at the miniature book from Twenty First Century Games S.r.i.

The book(s) and the PDF have full-color covers featuring art from Jeff Easley.  Inside is all black and white art from  Jim Holloway, Harry Quinn, Dave Sutherland, and Larry Elmore.  No slight to the previous book's artists, but the style and quality here is more consistent.  Some might see this as an improvement (I do) but others will point to this as a sign of the change from the Golden Age of TSR to the Silver Age.  Of course, it features the byline of Gary Gygax, though we now know that some of them were created by Frank Mentzer and Jeff Grubb.  In some ways, you can see this change in tone and feel that is happening at TSR in this book.

The Monster Manual II was the first hardcover after a year hiatus.  The book is better organized and layout than most of the AD&D hardcover books.  I have to admit I always credited this to TSR finally moving over to computer layout, but I have nothing to support this claim save for how the book looks.

There is a lot to this book too.  OVer 250 monsters there are a ton more demons, devils, and more from the outer planes, like the daemons, demodands, modrons, and even good-aligned creatures like the devas and solars.  We get a few more dragons and some giants.  We get a lot of monsters that feel inspired by the first Monster Manual. There are also many from previous adventure modules.  This book also gave us the Tarrasque, the Catlord, the Swanmay, the Wolfwere. and more.

This book also has nearly 30 pages of encounter tables at the end that covers all three books, very useful to have really and a selling point for the PDF. Get the PDF and print out the tables.

The Monster Manual II is still by all rights a classic.  While I don't get the same thrill from it as I do the Monster Manual or the Fiend Folio, but the monsters individually are great.

It remains to this day a lot of fun and a book I still get great enjoyment from.



The book from Twenty First Century Games S.r.i. is a great little reproduction. I picked this up back when it was new and paid $9.95 for it.  Now it goes for a lot more.  It is great to have but no way I can read it anymore.   The text is way too small.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monstrous Monday Review: Fiend Folio

Last week I reviewed the penultimate monster tome ever created, the AD&D Monster Manual. this week I look at the second-ever produced AD&D monster book, and maybe one of the most loved OR most hated books, depending on who you ask; I mean of course 1981's Fiend Folio.

I will admit upfront, I enjoyed the hell out of this book.  There was something so different, so strange and so British about it.  I loved listening to Pink Floyd, The Who, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin while watching Monte Python, the Young Ones, Doctor Who and more I was a died in the wool Anglophile.  In the 80s if it was British it was good was my thinking.  The Fiend Folio was all that to me.

Yes. I am 100% in the "I Loved It!" camp.

Now, that doesn't mean I was immune to the problems it had.  But I'll get into that in detail in a bit.

Fiend Folio Tome

First available as a hardcover in 1981.  Available as PDF ($9.99) and PoD ($11.99 or $13.99 combined) via DriveThruRPG.  128 pages, color covers, black & white interior art.
The Fiend Folio is something of the lost forgotten middle child of AD&D.  Don Turnbull, then editor of White Dwarf magazine had been collecting monsters for his magazine since 1976.   In 1979 He wanted to publish a book of these monsters through Games Workshop as a new monster tome companion to the then released Monster Manual.  Through various legal wranglings which included TSR wanting to buy GW and then starting TSR UK, the book came to be published by TSR in 1981.

The hardcover was the fifth hardcover overall, the second "in a series of AD&D roleplaying aids", the last to use the classic cover art style and dress, and the only AD&D hardcover never updated to a new Jeff Easley cover.    To cement the perception that this book was the "middle child" every book after it had the new Jeff Easley covers and about as many were published before it as after it.

When released the book caused a bit of a stir.  In Dragon Magazine #55 we had no less of a personage than Ed Greenwood blasting the book with his Flat Taste Didn't Go Away.  Ouch. That is a bit harsh Ed and the article doesn't get much lighter. I am sure there were plenty of old-school AD&D fans who were at the time saying "Who the hell is this Ed Greenwood guy and why do I care about his opinion?"  Sy though, Ed is no fan of this book and calls many of the monsters incomplete, inadequate and many are redundant.  AND to be 100% fair he is making some very good points here. The editing is all over the place, many of the monsters are useless or way overpowered in some respects.
Alan Zumwalt follows this with Observations of a Semi-Satisfied Customer.  An endorsement, but not the ringing endorsement one might want.
Not to be forgotten Don Turnbull,  Managing Director of TSR UK, Ltd. and Editor of the FIEND FOLIO Tome ends with his Apologies - and Arguments; his defense of the Fiend Folio.
All three articles make good points and overreach in others. In the end, I still love the Fiend Folio, not despite its weirdness, but because of it.  I have decided though that when I run a pure Forgotten Realms game that I will not include any of the monsters that Ed found objectionable.  I was going to say not include any from this book, but that includes Drow and we know that isn't going to happen!

There are some "translation" errors here too.  In particular when the monster was written for OD&D and then later updated to AD&D.  Others the art didn't seem to fit the description.  I still find it hard to see how the T-Rex looking Babbler is supposed to be a mutation of the Lizard Man.


That is all great and a wonderful bit of historical context, but none of that had any effect on the way I played and how I used the book.

Everyone will talk about how that is the book that gave us the Adherer, the Flumph, Flail Snail, Lava Children,  and my least favorite, the CIFAL.    But it is also the book that gave us the Death Knight, Skeleton Warriors, Revenant, the Slaadi, Son of Kyuss and more.

The D&D cartoon featured the Shadow Demon and Hooked Horrors.  The D&D toy line used the Bullywugs.  And creatures like the Aarakocra, Kenku, Githyanki and Githzerai would go on to greater fame and use in future editions of D&D.  Some even first appeared in other D&D modules that got their first-ever hardcover representations here; like the Daemons, Kuo-Toa, and the Drow.

Many monsters came from the pages of White Dwarf's Fiend Factory.  Even these monsters were a mixed bag, but there were so many.  So many in fact that there could have been a Fiend Folio II.

Flipping through this book I am struck with one thing.  For a tome called the "Fiend Folio" there are not really a lot of fiends in it.  Lolth, the Styx Devil, Mezzodaemon, Nycadaemon and maybe the Guardian Daemon.

While this book does not fill me with the deep nostalgia of the discover of D&D like the Monster Manual does, it fills me with another type of nostalgia.  The nostalgia of long night playing and coming up with new and exciting adventures and using monsters that my players have never seen before.



For the record, here are some of my favorites:  Apparition, Berbalang, Booka, Coffer Corpse, Crypt Thing, Dark Creeper, Dark Stalker (Labyrinth anyone?), Death Dog, Death Knight, Lolth, the new Dragons, the Elemental Princes of Evil, Drow, Errercap, Eye of Fear and Flame, Firedrake, Forlarren, Githyanki, Githzerai, Gorilla Bear (yes! I loved these guys), Grell, Grimlocks, Guardian Familiar, Hellcat, Hook Horrors (though I felt I had to use them), Hounds of Ill Omen, Huecuva, Kelpie, Kuo-toa, Lamia Noble, Lizard King (Jim Morrison jokes for D&D at last!), Meazel, Mephit, Mezzodaemon, Necrophidius, Neeleman (well...I didn't like the monster, I liked the SNL skit he reminded me of), Nilbogs (ok, no I didn't like these guys unless I was running the adventure), Norker, Nycadaemon, Ogrillon, Penanggalan (yes! loved these, but they should have been closer to the vampire as described in the MM), Poltergiest, Revenant, Scarecrow, Shadow Demon, Skeleton Warrior, Slaad, Son of Kyuss, Sussurus, Svirfneblin, the new trolls, Yellow Musk Creeper and Yellow Mush Zombie (Clark Ashton Smith for the win!).

The remainder of the book is given over to expanded tables.

The Future of the Folio

When I have talked about the Fiend Folio in the past most of the time I get a lot of positive remarks, so maybe the ages have been kind to the odd little middle child of D&D.

Since it's publication the Fiend Folio has seen a little more love.
The 14th (!) Monstrous Compendium Appendix for AD&D 2nd Edition was based on the Fiend Folio, though it would be almost 10 years after the hardcover version.   MC14 Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix is available in PDF.

The 3rd Edition years gave us TWO different versions of the Fiend Folio.  The 3e Fiend Folio from WotC features many of the original Fiend Folio monsters, but also a lot more fiends; so living up to it's name a bit more.  Not to be outdone, Necromancer Games gave us the first of the Tome of Horrors books which feature many more of the original Fiend Folio monsters for OGL/d20.



Back in Print

So imagine my delight when I saw that the Fiend Folio on DriveThruRPG was now offering a Print on Demand option.  So, of course, I had to get it.  It was soft cover only, but I thought it would work nicely next to my Games Workshop printing softcover Monster Manual.
I was not wrong.



Other than one is a hardcover and the other is a softcover it is very difficult to tell the two prints apart.  Even the interiors compare well.

So maybe time has been kinder to the Fiend Folio. I still enjoy using it.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monstrous Monday Review: Monster Manual

For today's Monstrous Monday I want to do another review. For this one, it still follows my 'Back to Basic' theme I have been doing all year even though it is not a Basic-era D&D book.  It is though one of my Basic era books.  The book is the Monster Manual and it was just about 40 years ago that I first held this book in my hand.

This is the book. This is the book that got me into D&D and RPGs.

But how does one review such a genre-defining classic?

My son had made himself a triple cheeseburger covered in bacon, onions, and mushrooms.  I asked him how he was going to fit that into his mouth. He said, "with determination".

How does one review such a genre-defining classic?  With determination.

My History
The Monster Manual was the book for me.  The one that got me hooked.  The one, sitting in "silent reading" back in 1979 at Washington Elementary School in Jacksonville, IL that I became the über-geek you all know today. How über? I used the freaking umlauts, that's my street cred right there.

Back in '79 I was reading a lot of Greek Myths, I loved reading about all the gods, goddesses and monsters.  So I saw my friend's Monster Manual and saw all those cool monsters and I knew I had to have a copy. Though getting one in my tiny near-bible-belt town was not easy.  Not hard mind you, by the early 1980s the local book store stocked them, but I was not there yet.  So I borrowed his and read.  And read.  And read.  I think I had the damn thing memorized long before I ever got my own game going.

Since that time I judge a gamebook on the "Monster Manual" scale.  How close of a feeling do I get from a book or game compared to the scale limit of holding the Monster Manual for the first time?  Some games have come close and others have hit the mark as well.  C.J. Carella's WitchCraft gave me the same feeling.

Also, I like to go to the monster section of any book or get their monster books.  Sure I guess sometimes there are diminishing returns, Monster Manual V for 3.5 anyone?  But even then sometimes you get a Fiend Folio (which I liked thankyouverymuch).

This book captured my imagination like no other gamebook.  Even the 1st DMG, which is a work of art, had to wait till I was older to appreciate it.  The Monster Manual grabbed me and took me for a ride.

The Book (and PDF)
The PDF of the Monster Manual has been available since July of 2015.  The book itself has seen three different covers.


Regardless of what cover you have the insides are all the same.  The book is 112 pages, black and white art from some of the biggest names that ever graced the pages of an RPG book.
This book was the first of so many things we now take for granted in this industry.   The first hardcover, the first dedicated monster tome, the first AD&D book.
The book contains 350 plus monsters of various difficulties for all character levels.  Some of the most iconic monsters in D&D began right here.  Mostly culled from the pages of OD&D, even some of the art is similar, and the pages of The Dragon, this was and is the definitive book on monsters.

Eldritch Wizardry gave us the demons, but the Monster Manual gave us those and all the new devils.  The Monster Manual introduced us to the devils and the Nine Hells.  Additionally, we got the new metallic dragons, more powerful and more diverse undead and many more monsters.  We also got many sub-races of the "big 3". Elves get wood, aquatic, half and drow.  Dwarves get hill and mountain varieties. Halflings get the Tallfellows and Stouts.   So not just more monsters, but more details on the monsters we already knew.

While designed for AD&D I used it with the Holmes Basic book.  The two products had a similar style and to me seemed to work great together.  It was 1979 and honestly, we did all sorts of things with our games back then.  The games worked very well together.



Flipping through one of my physical copies, or paging through the PDF, now I get the same sense of wonder I did 40 years ago.

Thankfully, you can get the PDF of the Monster Manual for just a little more than the hardcover cost 40 years ago.





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