Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts

Monday, May 18, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Gladyolus

One of the big influences I have had for my Monstrous Mondays and my new monster book has been my mom.

No kidding.

My mom loves sci-fi and horror. When I started playing D&D back in the 80s she took one of my D&D books, I think it was the AD&D DMG, and she proclaimed "this is just mythology and math!"  But she loved all the monsters and she had always loved telling all us kids stories about them.

Here is one of them!

She told us this story back when I was in sixth grade.  I know that it is not 100% original, but it still thrilled us as kids. Though in my mom's defense, she never read any Clark Ashton Smith.

Gladyolus
Monstrous Plant
Frequency: Very Rare
No. Enc.: 2-20 (5-100)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil)
Movement: 0' (0') [0"]
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 1d8 (5 hp)
Attacks: 1 (blood drain)
Damage: 1d4+1
Special: Nag (see below), takes 2x damage from fire
Size: Small
Save: Monster 1
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class: Nil
XP: 15

According to tales, the Gladyolus flower began not as a plant but as a woman named Gladys.  Gladys was not a happy woman.  She nagged her adult children, her friends, but most of all she nagged her husband.  One day she was complaining about something when her husband finally snapped and he killed her.  Seeing what he had done he decided to dig up his garden and bury Gladys in it.
The next spring the flowers he had planted grew, but all had Gladys' face and voice.
The nagging drove her husband to kill himself and the Gladyolus fed on the corpse.

The Gladoylus is a monstrous plant that feeds on the blood of warm-blooded creatures.  Humanoids are its favorite source of food.  The plant flower has the face of a woman.  When encountering humanoid creatures each flower begins to talk to berate the creatures.  On a failed save vs. Spells the creatures will wade into the plants to attempt to get them to be quiet.  Once in the midst of the plants they will all begin to attack, up to 1d10 plants per round, doing 1d4+1 per plant.

The plants can't move and take double damage from fire.

--

So I am solidifying my stat-block for this book.  I am going to opt for Advanced Labyrinth Lord compatibility.  This solves two really big issues.  First, it gives a solid XP matrix to work with.  Since LL is one of the most popular retro-clones on the market, this covers a lot of players.  Second, it also gives me a Treasure Type/Horde Class that is easier to use and I don't need to invent my own.

I am still going to add Type, Frequency, and Size.  But I don't think I am going use the size = different HD as I talked about last week.  Adding Type, Frequency, and Size. is easy and won't detract too much on people's games.  Changing HD type might be a bridge too far.  So my current plan is to provide them as an Appendix.  So this creature would be listed as: "Gladyolus, Small, 1d6 (4 hp)."

This is going to be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

OMG: Central American Mythos

One Man's God: Central American Mythos

I return to One Man's God today with one of my favorite groups of Mythos, and the one that is the most problematic in terms of dealing with real-world history and myths.


Central American Mythos is a catch-all section that includes gods and monsters from a variety of societies and times.

Olmec: 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE, Mexico
Maya: 2000 BCE to 1697 CE, southeastern Mexico (Yucatan), all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador.
Mezcala: 700 BCE to 650 CE, Central Mexico.
Zapotec: 700 BCE to 1521 CE, Central/South Central Mexico.
Toltec:  900 CE to 1168 CE, Central Mexico. (and there is still debate on this)
Aztec: 1300 CE to 1521 CE, Central Mexico.

While these people and civilizations overlapped and had influences on each other, there are a number of distinct differences.


Another issue to deal with here is the nature of demons and the gods of these myths.  In a very real sense, these myths are the epitome of "One Man's God is Another Man's Demon."

Even according to scholars it is difficult to tell what is a demon and what is a god.  From the outsider's point of view, many of the Aztec and Mayan gods can be considered "Demonic" and were certainly called that by the Catholic Priests that would come to these lands from Spain (predominantly).

A good example are the Aztec Tzitzimitl, or demons (or gods) from the stars.  They were thought to have been the demons that attack the sun during a solar eclipse and also been the gods that protected to place where humans were created.

Tzitzimitl
Undead Demon
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-6
ARMOR CLASS: 3
MOVE:  12" Fly 24"
HIT DICE:  9+9 (50 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  10%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3 or 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-6 (claw)/1-6 (claw)/2-12 (bite) or bone club (1-10) + Special
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: Cause Darkness
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1  or  better weapon to hit; double damage from sunlight
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  25%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (9')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Tzitzimitl are the demonic spirits of women who have died in child-birth or stillborn babies.  They appear as giant skeletal women wearing skirts decorated with the skulls and bones of their enemies. Around their necks, they wear the still-beating hearts of these enemies.  They are charged with protecting the lands where humans were created and thus they are invoked by a Curandero when a woman is giving birth.  They protect the mother and the child but demand that the ones that die be turned over to them.
They have been known to attack the sun during eclipses and this the time when they manifest in the Prime Plane. 
They attack with a claw-claw-bite routine or with a legbone from a defeated enemy.  On any successful hit with this leg bone, the victim must save vs. Paralysis or be blinded.
These creatures are semi-undead and can be turned by a cleric as Special.

One god in the book that works very well as a demon is Camazotz, the God of Bats.
His name means "Death Bat" and as I have pointed out before he could be a God, a demon or even a very, very powerful vampire.  In the Popol Vuh his description is very much demon-like.

Demon Lord, Camazotz
The Death Bat, Bat God, Sudden Bloodletter, Slaughter Lord 
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -2
MOVE:  12" Fly 24" (infinite at night)
HIT DICE:  24+24 (132 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  10%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Qx10
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-8 (claw)/1-8 (claw)/1-12 (bite) + Special, Blood Drain 3 Points of Con
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: Cause Darkness, See in Darkness
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +2  or  better weapon to hit; see below
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  50%
INTELLIGENCE:  Genius
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (15')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Camazotz is the demon god of bats and vampires. But he is not truly a god or a demon or a vampire but something that is thousands of years old and akin to all three.  Vampires pay him homage more out of fear than actual piety. Humans on the other hand worship and hope that he will reward them with the gift of immortality (vampirism).  He requires blood sacrifices every new moon.  Camazotz himself goes through periods of extreme torpor and frenzied blood lust.

Camazotz dreams of one day destroying the god of the sun.

Camazotz attacks as a vampire with a claw/claw/bite routine of 1d8/1d18/1d12.  His bite (any natural roll of 18, 19 or 20) will drain 3 points of Constitution per round.  Anyone reduced to 0 becomes a vampire under his control.

He can see perfectly well in even the most complete of darkness, magical or mundane. He can also cause darkness as per the spell to 100’.  In darkness his AC is reduced to -4 and +4 or better weapons are needed to strike him.

He lives in a dark cave-like plane know as Xibalba on the Abyss where he serves as a vassal to Orcus. Again this is not out of fidelity but out of fear of the Demon Prince of Undead.  The cave is dark and the floors are stained with blood.  In this cave, Camazotz can summon up to 1000 bats to do his will.

Camazozt appears as a giant bat whose mouth is filled with bloody fangs.  He can also appear as an old man or a young warrior with bat wings.

He also makes a great demon lord to the Nabassu demons from Monster Manual II.

Tlazōlteōtl
This goddess is listed as the Goddess of Vice in the book.  She is also a "sin-eater" or someone that takes on the sins of others.   Among other things she is also the Goddess of Healing, Midwifery, Childbirth and the Goddess of Sweeping and Brooms.

Sounds like a perfect witch goddess to me!

What is Missing?

As to be expected with several lands, cultures, and 3,000 years of history, a few things are missing from the pages of the Deities and Demigods.

For example Dwarves. Dwarves in earlier Olmec culture and then in later Aztec culture are considered to be "touched by the gods" or the offspring of "witches."

Werejaguars are also an important creature with many warriors having the ability to become jaguars in battle.

Werejaguars
FREQUENCY:  Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-4
ARMOR CLASS: 3
MOVE:  12"
HIT DICE:  6+12 (39 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  50%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-4 (claw)/1-4 (claw)/1-6 (bite) + Special
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: Lycanthropic curse, see below
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  Obsidian or +1  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  0%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Neutral Evil
SIZE:  M  (6')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Werejaguars are often found in tropical cities and ancient jungle ruins, but will appear in more temperate climates as well. These lycanthropes can assume the form of a jaguar, a human, or a bipedal, jaguar-like hybrid of the two forms.
Lycanthropy: If a victim is reduced to half total HP will become a werejaguar on next new moon.
Werejaguars can only be hit by obsidian weapons or by magic.

But the biggest miss, in my opinion, is the God Seven Macaw.

Vucub Caquix, or Seven Macaw, as a trickster demi-god and thus has the best chances of interacting with the characters.  Like many tricksters, he is chaotic, and also in this case evil.  He is associated with the Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque.  He tricks them into thinking he is the God of the Sun, Moon, and Corn.  They respond by killing him and becoming the gods of the Sun and Moon themselves while their father also becomes the new Corn God.  But like all good tricksters, he comes back.

I don't fault the authors and editors of the D&DG for missing certain aspects of these myths or getting them "wrong."  While researching this I was reading that new translations going on in the 1980s and into the 1990s changed how we now view these stories.  And again, with 3,000 years of myths told and retold across seven or more civilizations there would be more to put in than the book could allow.

There is a lot more I could go about here, but one of my goals is to contain myself to the entries in the book and only add when needed.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Cù Sìth and Monster book Progress

Last week I spent some time going over my proposed monster book.  Presently I have about 240 monsters and sitting at 170 pages without art.  Respectable but I am certain to make some cuts.   I have gone through all my Witch books and the majority of Monstrous Mondays.

The biggest issue at the moment is that I have done Monstrous Mondays for so long there are at least five OSR systems I have used, not to mention original monsters I created for other systems.  I can use those monsters, but just like the OSR ones I need to convert everything to a single system.

For a while, I was working on the notion that I should do this as an "Advanced" era book.  Trouble is I really don't see a lot of Advanced era books for sale on DriveThru.  It is pretty much dominated by Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry.  I want to make the book I want, but if I want to pay for art it also needs to be a book people will buy.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord seems like the best compromise, but even then it is missing a couple things I want. Well. That is where Monstrous Mondays come back in!

I think I'll use this space to workshop a few monster stat blocks that work with what I want.
In particular, I want to have something similar to what I was doing in the early 80s; the free mixing of "Basic" and "Advanced" eras.

Something that plays like this.



I could start with a standard Labyrinth Lord stat block, add-in ability scores or ability score adjustments like Blueholme does.  Maybe include some of the OGC elements I like best from Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary and OSRIC.

To be honest, I have not quite made up my mind just yet.
But let's try something out.

Here is a good test. I'll convert a Ghosts of Albion creature to this new format.  A good choice is one that was inspired by a 1st creature that was in turn inspired by the mythical fairy creature.
So here is my Monstrous Monday version of the Cù Sìth.

Cù Sìth
Cu Sith by NyssaShaw
Faerie Animal
Frequency: Very Rare
No. Enc.: 1 (1), Pack 1d4 (1d6+1)
Alignment: Lawful (Chaotic Good)
Movement: 150' (50') [15"], Run 210' (70') [21"]
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 4d8+4 (22 hp)
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d6+5
Special: Blink, Detect Magic, Hide (5 in 6), takes 2x damage from cold iron
Size: Large
Save: Monster 4
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class: Nil
XP: (working on this, see below)

The Celts were well known for their love of dogs. But the Cù Sìth (“coo shee”) or “Fairy Hound” has a special place in Celtic lore. Often described as a large hound that is either all green or all white with red ears. They have been alternately seen as bad omens, horrible stealers of children, or a fierce and loyal protector, the Cù Sìth features in many tales.

Tales feature the Cù Sìth as a spectral hound, one that forebodes doom like the Barghest, though those hounds are more often black in color and their malevolence is more universal than that of the Cù Sìth. Also, the Cù Sìth is more commonly associated with the Faerie and sometimes valiant, but tragic, warriors and the Barghest is more closely associated with witchcraft.

The Cù Sìth can be found most often near or around fairy mounds. A good sign that a mound is, in fact, a faerie mound is the proximity of a Cù Sìth to it.

Cù Sìth can also interbreed with other dogs which will typically produce one Cù Sìth per liter; sometimes more, sometimes less. Odd are the ways of the faerie folk.

Cù Sìth pups are rarely if ever tamed. If one wishes to remain with a non-faerie then it is of their own choosing.

--
OK.  Let's talk through this stat block.

Creature Type: Faerie Animal

I am going to include a creature type. This will be a short-hand for a few things.  Faerie in this case means can speak elven and sylvan, takes double damage from iron and *maybe* need silver or magic weapons to hit.

Frequency: Very Rare

I like frequency.  One of my favorite Advance era stats that we don't see in Basic era.

No. Enc.: 1 (1), Pack 1d4 (1d6+1)

Fairly self-explanatory.

Alignment: Lawful (Chaotic Good)

I want to include the Good-Evil axis along with the Law-Chaos one.  Both will be listed.

Movement: 150' (50') [15"], Run 210' (70') [21"]

Movement is listed for Basic era Turns and (Rounds) and [Advanced era].  Special moves will be spelled out.  So no //# /# to confuse anyone.

Armor Class: 7 [12]

Armor Class is listed with both Descending and [Ascending] types.

Hit Dice: 4d8+4 (22 hp)

For HD I am going to include the die type, any extra hp and hp (the average of the die type).

Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d6+5

Attacks and Damage are split up.  Though I could easily put these on one line.

Special: Blink, Detect Magic, Hide (5 in 6), takes 2x damage from cold iron

Special attacks, moves, and defenses are here.  This is vaguely Basic era, but also from other games I have used.

Size: Large

I like including size here. Also, I am considering using size to change HD type as it does in newer games.

Size HD Type Space Examples
Tiny d4 2½ by 2 ½ ft. Imp, sprite
Small d6 5 by 5 ft. Giant rat, goblin
Medium d8 5 by 5 ft. Orc, werewolf
Large d10 10 by 10 ft. Hippogriff, ogre
Huge d12 15 by 15 ft. Fire giant, treant
Gargantuan d20 20 by 20 ft. or larger Kraken, purple worm

Save: Monster 4

Most often monsters save as monsters, but sometimes a class might be used for special cases.

Morale: 12

I really enjoy Basic era style morale.

Treasure Hoard Class: Nil
XP:

These two are trickier since they rely a lot more on the game they are emulating AND the specific rules.  For the book I might create my own Treasure Type but I am also considering just going with the LL Horde Class and repeating the table in an appendix.

XP will really vary from system to system.  I have a Google Sheet that calculates for different games based on HD, special abilities, and the like.

Here is the output for the Cù Sìth for various games.

Base+hp*/ SA1**/ SA2***/SA3Total
Basic75123070187
Advanced75783070253
LL802405555430
BF24004040320
OSRIC75783070253
SW1200120120360
SS4010420300194
OSE755050175
289mean
253median
253mode

Not at all the same is it.

I might forgo putting in XP and letting Game Masters calculate it themselves based on their game of choice.  Mind you there might even be some error in my sheet above.  I built it years ago and have added to it but I have not back-checked my math in a while.

How often do you all use the XP line?

So I have ways to go just yet.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Upcoming Projects from The Other Side: Warlocks, Monsters, More Basic, and the LAST Witch Book

Well. April was kind of crazy.

I thought I take a moment to catch my breath and discuss some future projects here at the Other Side.

The Warlock
First up, I want to get the POD version of The Warlock out to you all. I am going to try for softcover and hardcover options. That way they can fit into whatever collection you like.
The printing is a little slow at DriveThru at the moment, so as soon as I get the proofs I'll get them up to you all.

Once I get that done I am going to release another Warlock book, this time for 5th Edition D&D.  No set date on that right now, but optimistically this Summer.

BECMI Month
Another big project I am starting now but won't start to roll out till June is my month-long overview of the ONLY D&D I never really played; BECMI.  I am going to spend roughly a week on each boxed set. Doing detailed reviews, overviews, and related topics. It should be fairly enlightening for me and I hope you all enjoy it.  I am looking forward to learning something new about this system.


If you know of anything BECMI related you think I should cover, let me know!

Monsters
Another project with no specific date in mind yet is the book-form of my Monstrous Mondays' posts.
The posts have been in a variety of formats and systems over the years, so I think I am going to opt to do this book to be compatible with "Advanced era" gaming, or some Basic/Advance hybrid.  So not really OSRIC compatible and not really Advanced Labyrinth Lord compatible, but something of an OGC combination of the two.  Much like how my Basic Witch is not designed for any single system, but an amalgam of Basic-era OGC.

So this would not be a simple "copy and paste" deal, I would want to rework all the monsters to fit the Advanced play better.  My goal is to have a book that would sit next to my Monster Manuals and Fiend Folio and play just like them.


Still workshoping names, but I think my own OCD requires that the name be an alliteration.

In truth, I am looking forward to trying out a "new" system for a change.

The High Secret Order: The Book of High Witchcraft
Ah. Now this one is a big one for me.  Why? Well. I am going to use this to get back to the witch class I was playing circa 1986, the dawn of my fully realized witch.  But more importantly, this will very likely be my last of the Old-School Witch books.
While I wanted this book to be the last of my Back to Basic books, this one might also need to be an Advanced Era book. Or some mix. I am not sure yet.

No date on this one either.  But this one will include the High Secret Order Witches, the Academic Warlock (with expanded Secret Masters of the Invisible College Lodge),  Hermetic Wizards and more.
I am also going to finally get my spell creation rules into one place, the same ones I have been using for years since the goals of the High Secret Order and the Invisible College is to create more magic.

This book, along with the monster book above, will represent my transition period from Basic-era to Advanced-era.   I think it is going to be a lot of fun.

The Books of the D_____
This is a brand new project. 100% Advanced-era with maybe parallel versions for 5th Edition.  Don't want to say to much about these just yet but they represent a new direction in my writing and I can't wait to get started on them.

So. I have enough to keep me busy for some time to come now.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: How Much for a Book?

I had a Monstrous Monday planned for today but in the process of going through my monsters to make sure I hadn't already done it (spoiler: I hadn't, expect to see a Hodag soon!) I began to notice a couple of things.

1. I have been doing Monstrous Mondays for a while now.
2. I have a ton of monsters.

I went back through all my data and found I have done 230 monsters for my witch books.  About 80 for Monstrous Mondays and another 75 or so in just A to Z posts.

Counting for duplicates and overlaps that gives me over 300 monsters.

That's more than the Monster Manual had.

It got me thinking. Would a new monster book be fun to do?



Well, the answer is yes, it would be fun. I have enough monsters for sure.  They all have a general "theme" of witches, demons, undead, and the occult.  So that is something.

The biggest issues are:

1. Art. Art is not cheap and I would like to have as much as possible.  The biggest cost of the book will be this.

2. System. As of now I have written monsters for Basic-era (at least four different clones), S&W, AD&D, Unisystem, AGE, Ubiquity, and D&D5 with a smattering of others.  What system would be best to use?  AD&D/OSRIC gives me more detail, Basic/LL & S&W gives me the most audience. D&D5 gives me a little of both, but the art requirements are much higher.

3. New content. This is a big one for me really.  Despite the fact that there are over 300 monsters, all of them have appeared in one of my books or blog already. While an individual may find something they have not seen before, anyone who has purchased a book from me will see something they have already seen.

Granted, this is the exact same thing as the Fiend Folio with content from the Fiend Factory and most of the Tome of Horrors books are filled with monsters we have all already seen. In fact there is a group of demons I have taken to calling "The Usual Suspects" because they are in every book of demons there is.  I have even gone as far as to look into commissioning some art with them all in a police lineup.

Even Monsters of Mayhem #1, a book I rather enjoy, is made up completely of monsters from all the adventures from Dark wizard Games.

Obviously, I could do this as a book and sell it anyway. The enjoyment would be for me to have my very own book of monsters.  If other people enjoy it, then fantastic!
BUT that assumes that I either have all the art I need and any I need to buy will be cheap. 
I like my witch books to make a profit (so I can buy more books!) and just breaking even is not a good business strategy.

Under any circumstance, I would HAVE to include new, never before seen monsters.

Now just figure out which ones make the cut and where some gaps might be.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: More Monster Book Reviews

Been kinda busy the last few days.  Today is my last day of vacation, so back to work tomorrow. We set up a pro Role20 account this past week and we are going to try that out.  Maybe I'll even run a game or two online.

I went looking for a monster today for something I am working on.  About a couple hours into my search of PDFs it dawned on me.  I have a lot of monster books.  I mean an obscene amount.
One of the problems I run into is not finding a monster but finding the monster and 4 or 5 different versions.


These books are my big "go-to" books for monsters.  Even though they have significant overlap each one offers me something new and fun.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
PDF and Hardcover, 457 pages. B&W Interior.
If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.
I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard.  While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise.  Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.
Let be honest upfront.  We have seen most if not all the monsters in this book somewhere else before.
Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.
And none of that matters.  This is still a great book.
At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in.  So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes.  But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor.  Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day.  Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself.  Maybe I'll see if I can do that here.  The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.
The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions.
Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not a score but an adjustment.  Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules.  Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt.  Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text.  Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful Kickstarter for this (more on that later).  The illustrations are great too as you can see here.
All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.
Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries.  Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines.  This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages.  I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900.  Anyway it's a lot.  I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were.  Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those.  There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.
The book sections are:
Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters
Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books.
Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.
Appendix A details creating your own monsters.
Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes.
Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes.  This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book.  Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago..
Appendix D is magic resistance table
and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.
All of this in a PDF for just under $15.
I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark.  Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early.
You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.
So should you get this book?
If you like monsters then yes.  If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes.  If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book.  It is also the best book in his line. Kudos to Joseph Bloch.

Amazing Adventures! Manual of Monsters
PDF and Hardcover, 95 Pages. B&W interior art.
The Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters manages to give me monsters I have seen before, but with a whole new take. I mean a mummy is a mummy right? Well...your old monster book won't tell you how it reacts when you fire your .38 into it. But beyond that, this book also has a lot of new monsters. Enough to make it worthwhile in my opinion.
Also as an added bonus feature is an appendix of monsters from different countries. So fight that Kelpie on its native soil. Or tangle with the machinations of the Greys.
If you play Amazing Adventures or Castles & Crusades then you need this book.

Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure
PDF and Hardcover 178 Pages. B&W interior art.
This is the main monster and treasure book for C&C. Here you will find what I call the "classic" monsters from the great Monster Manual. If you are familiar with 3.x then these are all the monsters from the SRD in C&C's format. There is plenty of new text here though to make this more than just another SRD-derived book. Like all the C&C books the art and layout is great. I have the physical book, the pdf and a printout of the PDF and all read great.
The Castles & Crusades Monster stat block is a nice combination of Basic's simplicity, 1st AD&D's comprehensiveness, and some 3.x style rules. Saves are simple (Physical, Mental or both), AC is ascending and there is a "Challenge Rating" stat and XP all factored in. Honestly, it really is a synthesis of the best of D&D. Grabbing a monster from another source and converting it on the fly really could not be easier.
This book though is more than just a monster book, all the treasure and magic items (normally found in a Game Master's book) are here. This is a nice feature really. One place to have your encounter information.
This really is a must-have book for any C&C fan. 178 pages and full of everything you need.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities
PDF 544 Pages. B&W interior art.
Some of these monsters we have seen before either in the SRD or other books.  That though does not detract from its value as this is a 540+ page book. In addition to all that there are some new monsters.  The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre-1980) covers.
There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, descriptions and a plot hook.  While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art.  Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new.  Actually, the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art.
Honestly, there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top-notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have.
I am even going as far as to say it is a must-have for any serious S&W GM.

Tome of Horrors Complete (S&W)
PDF 688 Pages. B&W interior art.
What can be said about this product? The original Tomes of Horrors were all great products that featured and number of "old school" monsters from previous editions of the game all under the OGL. It even had a breif "tutorial" on how to add these beasties to your own products. Now those very same monsters are back in one huge book "updated" to Swords & Wizardry stats. Nearly 700 monsters, all ready for your game. In addition to art and stat blocks for every monster there is also an adventure hook for each one. The monsters have been "scaled down" to fit the S&W rules better. One minor nit-pick. The original art is used (which I am happy about) but in their efforts to redo the layout sometimes that art is reduced in size (making it hard to see) and other times the art is placed over some text. Not often mind you and not enough for me to downgrade this product.
Now what I would like to have is one "Ultimate Tome of Horrors" that has the Pathfinder and S&W stats together with the plot hooks.

I have a few more I like.  I'll have to post about them the next time I run out of monster ideas!

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, 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, 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, September 30, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Piasa Bird for Basic era games

Well.  It is 85 degrees and humid here in Chicago today.  But I don't care. The calendar says October-eve and it's fall.  Time to get to some of my favorite monsters.

Top of that list is Illinois' favorite, The Piasa Bird. My dad introduced this monster to me.


The Piasa Bird
AKA: The Piasa, "The Bird That Devours Men", "The Destroyer"

According to the diary of Louis Joliet, the Piasa Bird "was as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face like a man, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs."

Piasa Birds in the game are larger and resemble a manticore or a dragon.
They do not keep treasure. They are only interested in killing for meat and sport.

Story of the Piasa Bird 
The following story appeared in the Alton Telegraph (1836) by John Russel. It is claimed that this is story told to Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet by the native tribes of the valley.

When Marquette and Joliet came down the Mississippi river in 1673 they encountered a bluff on the east side of the river with the painting of a giant monster. When they asked the natives what this monster was, they retold for them the story that had been handed down to them for generations. Marquette named the monster "Piasa," pronounced Pie-a-saw, which means "the Destroyer."

The Legend of the Piasa bird that was related to Marquette and Joliet went something like this. Many years ago a great bird roamed the land. Every morning the people would wake in fear to the shrill screams of the great Bird. The bird awoke hungry and would carry off dozens of boys and girls to its cave to be eaten. Chief Ouatoga [OO-wa-toe-ga] was getting old. He wanted to destroy this terrible monster before he died. He called his braves to a meeting and told them he was going to ask the Great Spirit what to do.

He went up on the highest bluff. He spoke with the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit told the Chief, "Dip your arrows deep into the poison of a copperhead snake and shoot them into the body of the Bird. It  will cause its death." He returned to the camp and told his people what the Great Spirit had told him. He gathered up a small army of the strongest braves and set out to hunt the Bird. Chief Ouatoga told his braves that the plan was for someone to stand on the cliff to lure the Bird down. When the great monster swoops down they were to shoot it with their poison arrows.

The braves all begged their chief to be the one to sacrifice themselves. But the chief told them no, he would be the one since he was older. While the braves practiced with their bows, Chief Ouatoga spoke with the Great Spirit. "Think not of my life," he said, "but the lives of the children."

The next morning the chief stood tall waiting for the great bird to come. Its screams could be heard as flew down the river looking for victims. The bird saw the old chief and swooped down on him with a terrible scream.

Just as the monster was ready to attack the braves shot their arrows and all 100 met their mark. The monster fell into the Mississippi River and died. The braves carried the broken and bruised body of their chief back to the tribe. The medicine man healed him and he awoke the next day surrounded by his grateful people. In remembrance of the act, the returned to the site and painted a life-size picture of the monster. Every time a member of the tribe went down the river after that, he fired an arrow at the bluff.
In alternate versions of the story, the youngest brave stands on the cliff instead of the Chief. When he is healed the next day he becomes the new Chief.

Piasa Bird
(Labyrinth Lord, Pumpkin Spice Editon)
No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Movement: 90’ (30’)
    Fly:  240' (80')
Armor Class: -2 (scales and hide)
Hit Dice: 11d8+6 (55 hp)
Attacks: 4 (claw/claw/bite/tail swipe) + fear
Damage: 1d6+2/1d6+2/2d8/1d6
Save: F11
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: None (The Piasa eats all meat and discards everything else.)
XP: 2,800

The Piasa can cause fear as per the spell once per day.

Piasa Bird
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: -2
HD: 11d8
Move: 90
   Fly: 240
Attacks: 4 (claw/claw/bite/tail swipe) + fear  (1d6+2 x2 2d6+2/1d6)
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
XP: 2,214

Piasa Bird
(Old-School Essentials)
A large creature with the body of a fish, the wings and claws of a dragon, the antlers of a stag and the face of an evil man.
AC -2 [22], HD 11* (55hp), Att 4 claw  (1d6+2) /claw  (1d6+2) /bite (2d8) /tail swipe (1d6), THAC0 10 [+10], MV 90’ (30’) flying 240' (90'), D6 W7 P8 B8 S10 (11), ML 9, AL Chaotic Evil, XP 2,214, NA 1 (1), TT None
 Attacks with claws, bite and tail sipe
 The Piasa can cause fear as per the spell once per day.

STR: 22 INT: 8 WIS: 8 DEX: 14 CON: 15  CHA: 4

Monday, July 8, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Calibans

Sorry for falling off the face of the web last week!  Took a little break from everything and it was nice.  But it's Monday and that means back to work and back to Monstrous Mondays!

Today I have a little beastie that has been in the back of my head ever since I reread The Tempest a few years back.  I am doing this one for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules since allows any monster species to also be played as a character species choice.

CALIBAN
AC: 7
HD: 2d8
Move: 30
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d4 (claw) x2/ 1d6 (bite) or 1d6 (weapon)
XP: 25
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
Abilities: +1 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
Climb Surfaces +5%, Hear Noise +10%, Hide in Shadows +10%, Move Silently +5%, Read Languages -10%, Read Scrolls -15%, Use Wand -10%

Calibans are creatures twisted by dark witchcraft.  No two calibans appear the same, though a full 20% can pass as an ugly human or orc.  They are humanoid, indeed many are born to human mothers or were human before their curse. They are usually covered in dark hair, scales or something that makes them monstrous. They have a resistance to magic, gaining a +1 on all saves vs any type of magical effect (spells, wands, staves) but they themselves have difficulty with magic.
A caliban share much in common with the Cambion, a creature that is the offspring of a human female and a demon. The caliban, while often demonic looking, is not the offspring of demons, but the victims/result of dark magic.
A caliban can take any class, but suffer a -5% XP penalty if they choose to be a witch and a -10% if they choose to become a magic-user/wizard.  Calibans can become clerics with no penalty since they tend to be devout servants of the gods.  Because of their low aptitude for magic wizards have taken to hiring on a caliban as cheap labor. They get a loyal (through fear) servant and one not likely to steal magic from them.

Behind the Monster
Calibans are obviously taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest.  Caliban is the monstrous son of the witch Sycorax. He is various described, but almost always as being half-human, half-monster.

An additional source for Calibans is the movie Clash of the Titans which features the character of Calibos.  He was a human that was cursed to be a monster.  Interesting to me is that his mother, Thetis, was played by Dame Maggie Smith (one of my all-time favorite actresses) who also played the most badass witch Minerva McGonagall. 

The 3rd Edition of Ravenloft from Sword and Sorcery Studios/Arthaus, now Onyx Path, featured a race called Calibans.  These calibans were no more than reskinned Half-Orcs in truth. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 3 Hecate

Hecate is getting her own post.

There is no way I am going to say everything about this Goddess; either for D&D or in general.  So keeping that in mind, let's go.

Hecate, or sometimes, Hekate, is the Goddess of Witches, Ghosts and the Crossroads OR she is a Titan. OR she is something different. 

Like some of the Olympian Gods, she is of the third or fourth generation.  Her Great grandparents are namely Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky), same as Zeus' own grandparents.  Their offspring was Crius, whom the D&DG gives as the Greater Titan of Gravity.  Gaia (Earth) and Pontos (Sea) gave birth to Eurybia (Winds and Constellations; things that seemingly comes from the sea). Crius and Eurybia give birth to Perses (Titan of Destruction). He joins with the Titaness Asteria the Titan of stars and nighttime oracles.  She herself was the daughter of Phoebe and Coeus, making her a half-sister to Leto the mother of Apollo and Artemis.   Though there are other claims to her parentage.  Some also claim she the daughter of Leto, which would make her Apollo and Artemis' half-sister.

Hecate then is the daughter of Peres and Asteria and of the same generation of Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Dionysus.  While she is their generation she is often considered to be a Titan.

Like many of the Greek and later Roman Gods, Hecate has more than one, in what D&D came to call Portfolio.  She is the Goddess of Nighttime as opposed to Nox the Personification of Night. She is the Goddess of Oracular power based on stars (as opposed to her semi-cousin Apollo who is the God of Oracles), one of the Goddess of the Moon.  Her torches light the night.  She is the goddess of the Crossroads. With her three faces, she can see the past, present, and future.  And most notably, she is the Goddess of Witchcraft, Creatures of the Night and Ghosts.
Due to her rather complicated lineage, she also has dominion over Earth, Sky, and Sea.

She has been associated with the Goddess Demeter having been mentioned int he Homeric Hymns to Demeter.  She is believed to have lit the way to Hades for Demeter to find Persephone. While Persephone is in the underworld she and Hecate are companions.  She helps Persephone on her trip to and from the underworld.  This gives us one of our first triple-goddesses, with Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate as the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

As a Goddess, she is often seen in the company of large dogs from the Underworld, the Hellhounds and common house cats.

She is depicted in the D&DG as being Lawful Evil.  I am not buying it.  Lawful I can live with, but so much of what she does is both good and evil that Lawful Neutral is the much better choice.

Hecate is one of the few gods that retains her name in both the Greek and Roman versions.  Though there is the Roman Goddess Trivia that also takes on some of what makes Hecate.

Goddess of Witchcraft
We know that many tablets and surviving scrolls have her mentioned in many curses and spells of protection against creatures of the night.  According to Hesiod, "Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods."

Interestingly enough her domain over witchcraft relates to her being worshipped by Circe and Medea. Medea, in fact, is called a Priestess of Hecate. Medea is almost always described as a witch.

Hecate also appears in Shakespeare's Macbeth and mentioned in Hamlet. Each time due to her association with witches.

Lampad the Nymphae Avernales
The lampads are described as Underworld Nymphs.  They were the constant companions to Hecate as a reward for Hecate taking part in the war against the Titans.  Sometimes described as the Daughters of Nyx or of Daimones, they share a similar relationship to Hecate as the forest nymphs do with Artemis.

Lampads appear in the Pathfinder game, in Bestiary 4.  Here is my interpretation.

Lampad (Nymph)
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d8 +16 (30)
Attacks: 0 (see below)
Damage: None
Special Attacks & Defenses: Cause feeblemindedness, malaise and death
Movement: 120’ (40’)
No. Appearing: 0 (1d4)
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: IX, XI x 10
Alignment: Neutral (Chaotic)
XP: 100
Nymphs are stunningly beautiful female fey creatures that closely resemble elven women. The lampad are nymphs of the underworld and desolate places.  They appear similar to drow (dark elves), with grey ashen skin and long white hair.  Anyone that sees a lampad must make a save vs. spells or become feebleminded as per the spell.  If more than one lampad is present the victim is instantly killed on a failed save.
Lampads have the spell-casting abilities of a 6th level witch. They have their own language and speak common and the languages of the infernal realms.

Tears of the Lampad:  These tears are extremely magical if a tear touches a mortal (not an elf though) they must make a save vs. poison at -4 or enter into a depression so deep they are unwilling to move or do anything.  A victim will starve to death before they will attempt to bring themselves out of this malaise. Only a remove curse spell will allow them to return to their normal life.

The Empusa
I have used the Empusa many times in a lot of games.  I have often categorized them as Lilim, or the Daughters of Lilith (who also shares a lot with Hecate) but in ancient myth they are the daughters, or at least the offspring, of Hecate.

Empusa (Lilim)
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 8d8+4** (40 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 claws and 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6 / 1d6 / 1d6 or 1d10
Special Attacks & Defenses:  Magic resistance (25%), Lilim abilities, magical abilities, +1 magic weapons to hit, Intelligence drain
Movement: 120' (40')
   Flying: 240’ (80’)
No. Appearing: 1d4
Save As: Witch 9
Morale: 8
Horde Class: X, XI
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
XP:  2,380
These are believed to be the daughters of Lilith or Hecate and the various proto-demons. They are the most “demonic” of all of the Lilim. The Empusae (or “forcers-in”), like all Lilim, can appear as a stunningly beautiful woman or as a demon. The demonic form of the Empusa is one of the most hideous of all of the Lilim. The body remains mostly humanoid and female but covered in fine scales. Its legs become like those of a horse or ass and end in hooves that are made of brass or bronze. Its back supports a set of large leathery bat-like wings, similar to that of a succubus. It is its head that features its most horrible transformation. The creature’s long flowing tresses are replaced with a mass of snakes similar to that of a medusa. Its facial features are blocked by an area of complete darkness, only it’s glowing eyes are visible. It is said among sages that face of the Empusa is not shrouded in darkness, but it is so horrible that our minds block the vision from us. It is also said that other demons can actually see the Empusa’s face and run in fear from it. Its former delicate hands now end in razor-tipped claws. A long reptilian tail completes the picture.
An Empusa can appear as human, or it can also shapeshift into a large dire wolf (statistics as per Dire Wolf).
Unlike the combat avoidant Succubus, Empusae live for battle. They can either use their natural claw/claw/bite routine or use a flaming sword that strikes for 2d6 points of damage plus 1d6 of flame damage. Empusa gain to hit and damage bonuses due to their high strength as well.
The touch of an Empusa drains the Intelligence of the victim at 1 point per barehanded, not weaponed, attack.



Hecate / Heka Connections
The Greeks and the Egyptians had a long and complicated relationship.  Greeks scholars used to say that everything they know came from the Egyptians.  Back when I was doing the research for OMG: Egyptian Mythos I came across this saying all the time.  This lead me to the Egyptian God of magic Heka.  Like many before I noticed some similarities with Hecate and Heka.  Both are their respective gods of magic. Both are heralded as "gifts" to the human race by their respective heads of their pantheon.  Despite the similar portfolios and similarity in names there is no linguistic connection between the two.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...