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

Monday, July 26, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Shadowcat

Here is another monster that has been rolling around in the back of my head for a bit. I am fairly certain I came up with this one while reading old Dragon magazines back in the day.  It is not 100% original, but then again nothing ever is. My take on it though I think is unique or at least new enough to merit a posting of it today.

I imagine this creature is distantly related to the Displacer Beast, but for OGL reasons I can't claim that. 

Artwork © 2021 Eric Lofgren, used with permission. All rights reserved. Sale #30805661
Artwork © 2021 Eric Lofgren, used with permission.
All rights reserved.
Shadowcat
Large Beast, Magical

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4 (1d4)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Flying 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 1 [18]
Hit Dice: 7d8+7**** (39 hp)
  Large 7d10**** (46 hp)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite
Damage: 1d6+2 x2, 1d8+2
Special: Fly, etherealness, hide in shadows (90%), magic resistance 30%, senses (night vision, smell), speech, telepathy 
Save: Monster 7
Morale: 10 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 2,050 (OSE) 2,100 (LL)

Str: 16 (+2) Dex: 18 (+3) Con: 13 (+1) Int: 12 (0) Wis: 12 (0) Cha: 14 (+2)


Shadowcats are, as the name implies, great cats from the plane of shadow.  They manifest in physical form on the mortal planes but can become ethereal at will.   They appear as large cats, usually panthers or lions, with shadow black coats and large bat-like wings. They can walk or fly as they choose. Shadowcats have telepathic abilities they use to communicate amongst themselves and can use it to learn the language of anyone they come in contact with. They can then speak using human languages.  Despite appearances, Shadowcats are not related to Lamassu, though they may be distantly related to sphinxes. 

Shadowcats are experts in stealth. Their superior abilities to sense prey via smell, night vision, and even taste means they can surprise on a roll of 4-6 on a d6.  Likewise, they are only surprised themselves on a 1 on a d6.   Shadowcats come to the mortal realms to hunt prey. They are carnivores and prefer to hunt magical beasts though they have been known to hunt humanoids from time to time.  

They are intelligent creatures but driven by the hunt. They will attack with a claw/claw/bite routine, often stalking their prey on the ground and then using their wings to jump and attack from above.  When fighting they typically keep their wings folded up to prevent them from becoming damaged.

A group of shadowcats is called a "pard" with an alpha female, 1 to 2 breeding males, and the rest younger male and female offspring.  Both males and females will hunt, only the alpha female does not hunt.  A pard will venture to the mortal planes to partake in a hunt that usually lasts 2 to 3 months then they will return.  Younger males are always challenging the older male for breeding rights and if a single shadowcat is encountered it will be an outcast male.  Shadowcats have no need for or interest in treasure.  

Sometimes a shadowcat can be employed by a chaotic wizard or demon lord of sufficient power.  As natives of the plane of shadow any spell that can bind a creature from other planes can be used on a single (usually independent male) shadowcat.  Members of a pard cannot be bound.  These bound shadowcats will typically agree on a length of service if they are also allowed the freedom to hunt as they choose.  Larger specimens can be used as mounts.

Shadowcats and Shedu despise each other.  This has little to do with alignment. The shadowcat's telepathic abilities can be heard by the shedu and vice versa. Heard might be putting it mildly, the abilities of one interfere with the other.  Also, the shedu are often offended at the actions of the shadowcat; choosing prey to hunt.  Shadowcats find the shedu to be pompous and arrogant.  While their fights will rarely become more than grandstanding threats, a large pard has been known to attack a shedu.  Often the shedu's greater magical ability, and their ability to make strong allies, give them the edge. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Qliphoth, Gamaliel

One of the things I am most looking forward to in my Basic Bestiaries is developing new and different demonic lineages. One of these I have spoken about in the past is the Qliphoth.

The Qliphoth are the discarded husks of primordial beings.  It is natural to think of them like the husks or used exoskeletons of cicadas, or even the skins of snakes. Since these beings were more than mortals currently are and became even more ascended, their husks are more than just leftover skins or skeletons.

Case in point the Gamaliel.  

Gamaliel as a Sensory Homunculus

When the Primordials shed their "husks" or "peels" to be the Luminous Beings, one such husk was their dark sexual desires.  As hyper-intelligent immortal and immoral kindred, their desires were particularly dark. As they shed their evil desires their conscious and subconscious sexual desires and yearnings became the Gamaliel.

Gamaliel based on the Sensory Homunculus
Gamaliel

Medium Fiend, Qliphoth (demon)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d6)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Hit Dice: 6d8+6*** (45 hp)
Attacks: 2 hands, 1 tongue + special
Damage: 1d6+1 x2, 1d4+1
Special: Cause delirium, Qliphoth immunities
Save: Monster 6 
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,250 (OSE) 1,280 (LL)

Str: 14 (+1) Dex: 14 (+1) Con: 18 (+3) Int: 12 (0) Wis: 7 (-1) Cha: 2 (-4)

The Gamaliel, or the Obscene Ones, were among the first of the Qliphoth to be formed.  They appear as medium-sized nearly humanoid-looking creatures.  Their hands, feet, lips, tongue, and sexual organs are enlarged to grotesque sizes in comparison to their otherwise small bodies.  They always appear nude as a mockery of the forms their progenitors eventually took on. They may appear as male or female.

Gamaliel lives for one thing only, sensory stimuli. They want to feel everything, touch, taste, smell and hear everything they can.  Yes, when possible they also try to copulate with anything and everything they can.  They lack the subtlety of the Liliam or Baalseraph or even the guile of Calabim or Shedim.  They are nearly mindless beasts that take no heed of anything but their own twisted desires.

They can attack with their huge hands for 1d6+1 points of damage each.  They may also attack with their tongues at 1d4+1.  Their saliva is such that anyone exposed to it via an attack or touch must save vs Paralysis or become delirious.  This state lasts for 2d6 turns in which case the victim is completely unaware of what is going on around them.  There is a 1 in 6 chance that if they were in a combat situation they will keep on fighting with melee attacks. Targets are chosen at random.

Gamaliel can be easily distracted by auditory and visual illusions. They save at a -2 penalty against such magics and can be effectively distracted long enough to be attacked. 

Like all Qliphoth Gamaliel have the following adjustments to damage types: 
Immune: Mundane/Cold Iron/Silver weapons, Poison
Half Damage (save for none): Acid, Cold, Electricity, Fire (Dragon/Magic/Mundane), Gas
Full Damage: Magic Missile, magic weapons, holy/blessed weapons

Unlike other Qliphoth death (their's or others) is not the goal of the Gamaliel.  A dead foe might have an interesting smell or touch, a live one is more interesting and you can do more with them.  For this reason, the Gamaliel are sometimes considered to be not as evil as other Qliphoth; this is a very erroneous and dangerous assumption. They are every bit as evil.  A quick death is far more merciful than being captured and becoming the plaything of a Gamaliel.

--

The mental image I had of the Gamaliel was immediate. They were life-sized versions of the "Sensory Homunculus" we used to talk about back in cognitive psychology undergrad days.  I always knew I aw going to make a monster out that one day.

They are the Qliphoth counterparts to the succubi with roughly the same HD and some powers.  As I define the Qliphoth more I might increase or decrease various abilities, powers or HD/hp. I might even make them Small sized.  Still working out all the details, but that is where the fun is!

Monday, July 12, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Goblin, Mad Hatter

Goblins are ubiquitous in many game worlds.  In some, they are a constant threat, in others a nuisance. The goblins of Lord of the Rings are pretty far removed from the ones of Labyrinth, or even the fairy tales of Grimm.  But they are always a good foil for low-level parties.  In my games goblins tend to be more Chaotic Neutral. Not evil really, but maybe a little naughty time to time.

No one though will ever confuse the Mad Hatter Goblin for anything than what it is, pure evil.

goblin and victim
Goblin, Mad Hatter
Small Humanoid (Fey)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil [Chaotic]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 2d8+2* (11 hp)
  Small 2d6+2* (9 hp)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6
Special: Cause Fear
Size: Small
Save: Monster 2 
Morale: 8 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 35 (OSE) 47 (LL)

Str: 9 (0) Dex: 17 (+2) Con: 14 (+1) Int: 10 (0) Wis: 8 (-1) Cha: 5 (-2)

The Mad Hatter Goblin gets its name from the gruesome way it displays the remains of its kills,  by stacking the severed heads of its victims on top of its own head.   These goblins appear as do other goblins, save for maybe slightly larger.  They have a look in their eyes that speaks of desperation and maybe no small amount of madness.

Each time a Mad Hatter Goblin makes a kill they remove the head from the body.  The goblin then takes the heads of previous victims and ties them to the top of the new head and then all of these are tied to the goblin's own head.  The oldest, and most decayed, heads are at the top.  The sight of a mad hatter is such that anyone under 4 HD/level must make a saving throw vs. paralysis or be stunned in fear, unable to move or react for 1d4+1 rounds.    The mad hatter will go after these targets first.  Creatures greater than 4 HD/level are immune to this effect.

Mad hatters are both reviled and respected in a goblin community.  The number of heads one has is their level of prestige. When one mad hatter encounters another there is usually a duel of some sort.  The loser gets to contribute their head to the victorious mad hatter's collection.

The only treasure kept by a mad hatter is their collection of heads.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Bonnacon

Bonnacon

Spend any time reading Medieval Bestiaries you will run into all sorts of fantastic animals such as dragons, unicorns, griffins, and the bonnacon.

Ah. The majestic bonnacon. It is a large bull-like creature with inward-turned horns, the mane of a horse, and it attacks by shooting flaming caustic dung at you.

Wait. What?

Yes, the bonnacon (also called bonasus or bonacho) is a great mythic beast that has appeared in numerous bestiaries.  Its horns are useless for defense, it instead will shoot caustic feces out of its anus while it is running away.

It was first described by none other than Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia.  This history is a great source of monsters.

And there are some GREAT pictures of this awful beast.

Bonnacon

Bonnacon

Bonnacon

Bonnacon

Bonnacon

Bonnacon
Large Beast (Magical)

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Alignment: Neutral [Unaligned]
Movement: 150' (50') [5"]
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 2d8+2* (11 hp)
  Large 2d10+2* (13 hp)
Attacks: 1 head butt or special
Damage: 1d6
Special: Caustic dung
Size: Large
Save: Monster 2 
Morale: 6 (8)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 35 (OSE) 47 (LL)

Str: 14 (+1) Dex: 12 (0) Con: 15 (+1) Int: 4 (-2) Wis: 7 (+1) Cha: 5 (-2)

The bonnacon is a large bull-like creature.  It is typically red or brown in color with a long horse-like mane running from its head, down the back of its neck.  They have two large bull-like horns, but they are turned inside and thus provide no effective means of protecting the creature.  The bonnacon is also spectacularly stupid, even judging it compared to other heard animals.

The bonnacon can attack with a head butt but would rather run away. It will use its only special attack at this point. When retreating the bonnacon will eject burning, caustic dung from its anus.  This dung will stick to clothes, skin, and just about everything.  When hit the victim must save vs poison or take 4d6 hit points of damage; save for half.  The dung will continue to burn any skin it touches causing 1d6 hp of damage per round.  A previous save means that no skin was touched.  The only way to remove these caustic feces is to wash them off with at least a quart of water.  A running stream or a decanter of endless water is also good.  Thankfully a bonnacon can only use this attack once per day.

The meat of the bonnacon is vile and rank. Goblins, who can eat anything, will not eat the meat of this animal. It does however eat a lot on its own. So a small herd (1d4) can destroy up to 40 lbs of grain or plants per day each. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Groundling

 Been playing around with this one for a bit.  They started out as something akin to a mushroom person and changed.  Was out working in the garden with my wife all weekend and they kind of came together for me.

Groundlings
Groundling
Small Elemental (Earth, Fey)

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4 (2d8)
Alignment: Lawful [Neutral Good]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Burrow: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Hit Dice: 1d8* (5 hp)
  Small 1d6* (4 hp)
Attacks: 1 weapon (garden tools)
Damage: 1d4
Special: Camouflage, damage by cold-iron, druid magic, spores, See below
Size: Small
Save: Elf 1
Morale: 8 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: See below
XP: 13 (OSE) 13 (LL)

Str: 9 (0) Dex: 13 (+1) Con: 11 (0) Int: 12 (0) Wis: 15 (+1) Cha: 16 (+2)

Groundlings are small earth elementals that live on the material plane and parts of the lands of faerie.  They are distantly related to gnomes and other faerie races, in particular brownies.  They appear much as gnomes or brownies do; small with long noses and ears, quick and nimble fingers.  They are small, just under 2 ft in size with some only reaching 1 ft.  Their skin tone range from dark browns, to lighter shades all the way to a pale almost white.  They wear similar shades of light clothing making them 90% undetectable when they are hiding in the underbrush of their preferred forest homes. They wear large mushroom caps for hats. Groundling my travel underground via a natural burrowing ability.

Groundlings are rather peaceful and wish to be left alone to attend their mushroom patches and farms. If attacked they can defend themselves with their only weapons, their garden tools, for 1d4 points of damage. They can be hit by cold-iron to take an additional +1 points of damage.    If four or more groundlings are encountered then 1 will be a druid of the 2nd level and can cast spells.  Eight or more will have a druid of the 4th level.  Any creature or character foolish enough to try to attack a grounding within their own community is subject to a deadly spore attack that the entire community can release.  This attack affects all living animals in a 30-yard radius of the community.  The victim must save vs. poisons or choke to death. Groundlings are loathed to use this attack of last resort as they do not enjoy killing any creature.  

The most notable detail about groundlings is they do not have permanent biological sex or gender.  Groundlings reproduce via spores similar to mushrooms.  During the spring of each year, a grounding can choose to be "male" and release spores that are collected by groundlings who have chosen to be "female."  Within one month new groundlings are born and will maturity in 10 years.   Groundling may also choose either a male or female and maintain this choice for as long as they wish.  It is in this mode they will often try to relate to other species. It is during this time that they can also have offspring with brownies, gnomes, or other faerie creatures of similar size.

Groundlings have a simple society based around a family unit of 3 to 5 adults and up to 15 immature children. Their joys are tending their gardens, keeping small rodents as pets, and participating in a special form of community "theatre" where specialized spores are released to provide vivid hallucinations guided by the elders of their group. 

Groundlings do not keep treasure preferring to live off of the land. There is often enough in the community for the purchase of their garden tools.  They do make a particularly potent wine made from mushrooms that is a favorite among some of the wilder fey species. They do sell it, but often prefer to trade.

Groundlings as Characters:  A grounding may be used as a Player Character background.  They tend to favor classes like druids and witches of the Faerie, Green Witch, or Hedgewitch traditions.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Titania, Queen of Faerie

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, also known as Mid Summers Day.  So today's Monstrous Monday should celebrate that.  Here is a character that has been in my games a very long time.

The Lords and Ladies of Faerie in my games are at the level of lower-level deities or the demon princes.  At the highest levels are the various Queens and Kings, though there tend to be more Queens.  The two largest courts are the Winter Court, ruled by Queen Mab, and the Summer Court ruled by Queen Titania and King Oberon.  There are smaller courts of varying power, but almost all of the faerie folk pay homage to either the Summer or Winter courts. 

Dorothy Hyson as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, painting by Ethel Gabain
Dorothy Hyson as Titania byEthel Léontine Gabain
Titania, Queen of Faerie
Faerie Lady

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Chaotic Neutral, Good tendencies]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Fly: 150' (50') [15"]
Armor Class: 1 [18]
Hit Dice: 14d8+14*** (77 hp)
Attacks: Sword+4 or by spell
Damage: 1d6+4 or by spell
Special: Command any faerie, damaged only by magic weapons, 50% magic resistance, Witch spells (13th level) 
Size: Medium
Save: Witch 14
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: U (VI) x10
XP: 4,200 (OSE) 4,350 (LL)

Str: 12 (0) Dex: 17 (+) Con: 15 (+1) Int: 16 (+2) Wis: 18 (+3) Cha: 24 (+5)

The Faerie Court of Summer is co-ruled by King Oberon and Queen Titania, though ask anyone who has been to the faerie courts and they will tell you the true ruler is Titania alone.

Titania will seem soft-spoken, demure, and even gentle, but make no mistake she is the iron fist in the velvet glove of the Summer Court.   She helps keep up the pretense that her husband Oberon is the ruler of the Summer Courts. While she has "good tendencies" it is a mistake to assume that the Summer Courts are good where the Winter Courts are evil.  These distinctions are far too simplistic for these courts and this is even more true for their rulers.

Titania prefers to never enter into combat if she can avoid it.  She feels that anyone that goads her into fighting is a failure on her own part to remain the distant and untouchable Queen.  She will have any number of lords, knights, squires even down to the lowest serf in her kingdom ready to take up arms to defend her.  She can, if needed, use her ability to command any faerie to do her bidding.  This will work on any faerie including elves and half-elves.  They must save vs. spells to avoid this compulsion.  Half-elves gain a +1 to their rolls.

If she must fight she has a specially designed rapier that acts as a +4 Sword of Sharpness.  She can also cast spells as if she were a 13th level witch of the Faerie or Green Traditions.

Titania is a notorious adulteress and will attempt to seduce any elf, human, or half-elf with a charisma score of 17 or greater.  She in particular likes the challenge of a pure and virtuous knight or paladin.  She will soon grow tired of her new paramour and discard them for someone new.  Since time moves differently in the land of the Faerie the former lover may find themselves years or even decades removed from their own time.

Titania as a Witch Patron: Faerie witches and some Green Witches may have Titania as their Patron. She doesn't grant them spells as a god does a cleric, but she will, often through intermediaries, instruct the witch on the secrets of faerie magic.


Monday, June 14, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Boo Hag

Back at it!  I was on vacation all last week. I was down visiting my in-laws in South Carolina. It was fun, but the South is not for me.  I am happy to be back home in Chicago.

But while I was down there I looked into any monsters, cryptids, and urban legends they had.  There are a few, like all places, and many are familiar at least to readers of this blog.  There are lizardmen, bigfoot, and the usual variety of ghosts.  One of the creatures, from the Gullah descendants of African slaves, is the Boo Hag.

Boo Hag by Ashere
The Boo Hag by Ashere
Boo Hag

Medium Fey (Aquatic)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1 or 3 covey)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Swim  150' (50') [15"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 6d8+6*** (33 hp)
THAC0: 12 (+7)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or special
Damage: 1d6+1 x2, 1d4+1, special
Special: Constitution drain, fear, gaseous form, sleep, witch spells
Save: Witch 6
Morale: 10 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: U (VI)
XP: 1,250 (OSE) 1,280 (LL)

Str: 15 (+1) Dex: 17 (+2) Con: 13 (+1) Int: 14 (+1) Wis: 17 (+2) Cha: 4 (-2)

Boo hags are semi-amphibious hags without skin of their own. In their natural form, they appear as hunched humanoids with no skin and exposed musculature, stringy white hair, yellow bulging eyes, and grimacing mouths of jagged teeth.  They live in swamps.

The sight of a boo hag without its skin forces a creature to make a save or become frightened. A boo hag lives within a swamp but makes sure there are human or demi-human settlements nearby. At night, they venture from their swamp, find a lonely cabin or farmstead, and take gaseous form to enter the house.

They then pick a strong, male victim and sit on his chest, stealing away their breath and life energy. A hag squatting on a person inflicts one level of Constitution damage per 5 minutes. Every 5 minutes, the victim may attempt a new saving throw to awaken.  Victims killed by a boo hag are skinned. The skin is used as a disguise. While it is inside a person’s skin, the boo hag is affected as per the change self spell.

Boo hags can be distracted for 1d6 x10 minutes by brooms, the straws of which they are compelled to stop and count. If attacked while counting straws, the hags flee with their brooms, that they may count the straws at their leisure in a safe place.   Victims of a boo hag are recommended to keep a broom by their bed.  When the boo hag returns they will count the straws in the broom and not attack.  If morning comes they will flee back to their lairs. 

Boo Hags have a weaker spellcasting ability than most hags, only able to cast as a 4th level witch.

Boo Hags hate swamp hags, maybe more so than other forms of the hag.  Boo hags turn their anger onto the River Hags, who they see as a lesser type of hag. They avoid either kind whenever they can unless they form a covey with them.  A common covey with a swamp and boo hags includes a green or river hag.  A boo hag adds the powers of Gaseous Form to the covey once per day.

There is some relationship between the boo hag and the Soucouyant.  Some believe that the victims of the boo hag will become a soucouyant when they die.  Others believe that that soucouyant is an undead form of the boo hag.  The general consensus is on they are undead versions of the boo hag, but nothing definitive is known. 

--

Looking to expand the entries to all the hags I have. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: The Bagman

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft has been a lot of fun.  One of the most talked-about monsters featured in it, the Bagman, doesn't have stats. Now before you freak out about this, it is by design.  

In Chapter 5 the section Creating Unique Nightmares covers how one could make a Bagman. 

For example, perhaps you’ve got an idea for a troll that ambushes adventurers while they rest. Considering its origins and appearance, the troll literally being a troll isn’t important to you; you’re more interested in that general challenge and look for the creature. To make your troll feel notorious, you think of what would scare adventurers—where they’re vulnerable and what they’re sensitive about. You come up with an idea for a creature that can come from anywhere, maybe even within the adventurers’ own gear. With tactics and traits in mind, you think of your troll as an abductor and give it the Grappler trait of a mimic and the Amorphous trait of a black pudding so it can sneak in anywhere. Finally, you don’t think of the troll as a minion, but you give it the Alien Mind trait to reect its tormented psyche. Then you esh out its story and give it a name: the Bagman.

- Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, p. 225

The Bagman is described as an "Urban Legend," it is what happens when someone crawls into a bag of holding out of fear and dies inside.  Troll + Mimic + Black Pudding = scary monster that you can scale to meet the needs of your party.   Sounds great.  But MY Bagman would be a little different.  Sure Troll is a great place to start, but I want something a little scarier.

bagman
"I was an adventurer once just like yoooooou!"
Bagman

Large Undead (Corporeal)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 0 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 8d8+8** (44 hp)
 Large: 8d10+8** (52 hp)
THAC0: 8 (+11)
Attacks: 2 claws, fear aura
Damage: 1d8+3 x2
Special: Amorphous, fear aura, grab, magic required to hit, undead
Save: Monster 8
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,750 (OSE) 1,840 (LL)

Str: 18 (+3) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 13 (+1) Int: 7 (-1) Wis: 7 (-1) Cha: 6 (-1)

The bagman is an undead creature found hiding inside Bags of Holding.   Legend has it that the first bagman was an adventurer who in a fit of panic crawled inside a bag of holding to hide.  His fellow party members were all killed and the bag was tied up and stuffed into a troll's treasure hoard.  The adventurer died inside that bag and the extra-dimensional properties keep their spirit from moving on.  It also twisted their body into an elongated shape.  Their hair and nails have grown long and their bodies are thin and emaciated from dying of starvation.

The bagman is only encountered in their lair; a bag of holding.  Once the bag is picked up and carried away by an unsuspecting victim the bagman will wait until the bag is motionless again and then it will attack.  They emanate an aura of fear like the spell cause fear.  While the fear is creeping over the potential victims the bagman crawls out of their bag of holding. They will surprise on a 1-3 on a d6.  They move silently and stealthy as an 8th level thief with Dex 16. The bagman never speaks.  They attack with their long claws. 

On a successful critical hit (natural 20), it grabs the victim and pulls it into the Bag of Holding it was using as its lair.  Inside it will attempt to strangle the victim.  The bagman feeds on the dying energies of the victim.  

It is believed that to destroy a bagman one also must destroy the bag of holding they are attached to.

As undead monsters, they are immune to mind-affecting spells.  Magic spells or weapons are needed to hit it. They turn as Spectres.  Any "T" result will send them back inside their bag of holding.

--

I like it. A creepy-ass monster / urban legend.  Something old Grognards tell young adventurers before they head out on their first campaign.  "Watch out for those bags of holding!  The bagman will get yeah when you sleep!"  They laugh and drink their ales, and quietly, and hope no one notices, the slight tremble in their voice or the shake of their hand as they remember a time when the bagman came for them.

The best part about this?  Everyone should create their own bagman stats.  Some are slimy monsters. Others are extra-dimensional aberrations that enter our world via a bag of holding.  Others are stranger still.  Every campaign out there has a different bagman with different powers, attacks, weaknesses.

It might be interesting to see what others do!  

Monday, May 24, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Zinc Dragons

Saw this on social media. Got me thinking.


Yeah.  Where are they?  I mean we have had Orange, Yellow and Purple dragons

So what do we know here?  According to the Monster Manual for AD&D 1st Ed.:

Copper dragons live in warmer rocky regions, live in caves, and have acid or a cloud of gas as their breath weapons. They have 7 to 9 HD, the same as the Green.

Brass dragons live in sandy deserts and have two types of gas as their breath weapon, poison and sleep. They have 6 to 8 HD, the same as the Black.

Bronze dragons live underground near the water. Their breath weapons are lightning and a repulsion gas cloud. They have 8 to 10 HD, the same as the Blue.

There is then some parity then between the Chromatic and Metalic. It follows that if I create some "new" Chromatic dragons (Orange, Purple so far) I should have some new Metalic dragons too.

My Orange dragon has 9 HD (9 to 11), my Purple has 10 HD (10 to 12).  I am not saying I need to duplicate the parity of the 1st ed book, but it is a good place to start.

I know I need to work on my dragons a bit more.  There is not really enough detail in my stat block as it is right now.  

Dragon, Zinc
aka Draco Spodium Ailbum
Huge Dragon, Metalic

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Lawful [Chaotic Good]
Movement: 150' (50') [15"]
  Fly: 210' (70') [21"]
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 5d8+20** (26 hp) (5HD to 7HD)
  Huge: 5d12+20** (36 hp)
THAC0: 10 (+9)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, + special
Damage: 1d6+3x2, 2d8+3
Special: Breath weapons (Burning Cloud or Choking Cloud), dragon fear, low-light vision (120’), magic use
Save: Monster 5
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: XV (H) 
XP: 575 (OSE) 660 (LL)

Habitat: Populated temperate to tropical zones
Probability Asleep: 35% 
Probability of Speech: 90%
Breath Weapon: Burning Cloud or Choking Cloud, 
Spells: First: 3, Second: 2

Zinc dragons are silver-white dragons that are often confused with smaller silver or white dragons save that they prefer to live in warmer climates in populated areas.  They will often shape change into human or dwarven form to move among humanoids.  In either human or dwarf form, their hair tends to be a very light blond or white and their skin tones range from olive to dark tans, though they can alter this as they see fit. They are fond of humanoids but still remain a bit aloof from them.

Zinc dragons can attack with a claw, claw, bite routine in dragon form.  They also have two breath weapons they are capable of using. The first is a choking cloud of particulates the other is a cloud of burning smoke. Both require a save vs. breath weapon or take damage equal to the dragon's current hit points. Save results in half-damage.  In both cases, the area 50 ft by 50 ft in front of the dragon has reduced vision to all but the dragon. Attacks are at -2 for the next round following the breath weapon attack.  In dragon or human form they may cast spells as a 4th level magic-user; three 1st level and two 2nd level.

Zinc dragons keep their hoards nearby, usually buried under whatever urban-dwelling they live in, or if in the wilderness, in a deep cave. 

--

Certainly one of the weaker dragons.  Maybe adventurers never encounter them because they avoid adventurers and potential dragon-slayers.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Marching to Mars

It's still Sci-Fi month here at the Other Side and I wanted to do a monster today with some solid sci-fi and old-school roots.  I just couldn't get it to jell the way I wanted. 

Essentially I wanted D&D/OSR/Sci-Fi versions of  Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoomian Martians. I was going to give them a few twists, give them a Clark Ashton Smith twist or two, and a dash of Jack Vance. 

Here is what I have so far.

Red Martians

Warlike, intelligent. Most "Human-like" of the Martians.  I am even toying with the idea of making them Matriarchal as my homage to the great Dejah Thoris.

Red Martian
Red Martian, ePic Character Generator

White Martians

Psychic and the only truly evil Martian race.  Rulers are a caste of priests.  Borrowing heavily from Warhammer 40k, UFO myths, and a little bit of DC Comics.

White Martian
White Martian, ePic Character Generator

Green Martians

These guys are essentially my Tharks, but also are a noble race. They are violent and will kill you, but they can be reasoned with.  My goal here is not to make them Space Orcs, Space Dothraki, or Martian Klingons.

Green Martian
Green Martian, ePic Character Generator

There might be others.

All are genetically compatible with each other, more or less.  I'd love to work in "War of the Worlds" into this somehow too. 

For my OSR/D&D-style games, this might be a world within Spelljamming distance or even some sort of Astral Travel.  Adding in bits of Dark Sun might help smooth out some of the rough bits.  It would all work great for an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game

For BlackStar I would want the civilization dead and only recently had xeno-archeologists having discovered the ruins of an ancient and vast Martian culture. The horror will come in when they can't figure what it was that killed them all. 

Links to Mars Related Posts

Monday, May 3, 2021

Monstrous Monday: A to Z Recap and Reflections

winner #atozchallenge 2021That's another Blogging A to Z for April for the history books. It was nice to get back into this really. I enjoy the challenge of not just blogging every day (I kinda do that now anyway) but having a prompt for the blogging.

Let's See how I did.

According to my stats my visits were up 20% over other months, except for October (which are usually up 50% to 75%).   I gained followers across social media, with the most coming from Twitter.

That's all well and good really, but for me one of the important things was I found several new blogs to follow from here on out and many more I'll visit on the Blogging A to Z Road Trip.

My goal was to get some monsters done.  I published 26 days with 24 complete monsters, 3 variations, and 1 subtype. I also 2 categories of monsters, Qliphoth with 10 monsters and Vampires with 44 types.

A is for Allip
B is for Barghest
C is for Cat-sìth
D is for Dragon, Purple
E is for Elf, Shadow
F is for Faun
G is for Glaistig
H is for Hag, Chaos
I is for Incubus
J is for Jack O'Lantern
K is for Kelpie
L is for Lilith
M is for Merrow
N is for Nuckelavee
O is for Orc, Desert
P is for Púca
Q is for Qliphoth
R is for Rakshasa
S is for Skeleton, Electric
T is for Troll, Swamp
U is for Undine
V is for Vampire
W is for Wight, Barrow
X is for Xana
Y is for Yeti, Almas
Z is for Zombie, Drowned

For the visual types, here is a Pinterest board with links to each one.

Follow Timothy's board "April 2021 A to Z of Monsters" on Pinterest.

I started the challenge with over 330 monsters in my projects folder with 156 of those 100% complete.  I started with two ideas for monster books; one for normal monsters and another for demons and devils (and more).

Today I have split this all off into three books (maybe four) of normal monsters, undead, and fiends.  The fourth book is so early I am hesitant to even announce it.

I also have new cover art for all my books, even the proposed fourth book.  

By the numbers, Basic Bestiary I has (so far) 240 monsters with 220 at complete status.  Basic Bestiary II: The Undead has 178 monsters with 80 complete.  Basic Bestiary III: The Fiends has 87 entries, with 19 complete and an additional 616 proper names of demons, devils and other fiends that I need to sort through.  Basic Bestiary IV currently has a working list of 100 monsters, none are complete.

So roughly 320 100% complete monsters, more than doubling my pre-April count of 156. 

That was my true goal here.  I did not think I would walk out of this with a complete book in hand.  There is still a lot of editing to do and my target per book is still 300+ monsters.  The demons and devils book will be more; I might snarkily have 666 monsters.  So far I am within reach of that.

Will I do this next year?  At first, I was thinking no, but in truth, I did forget how much fun it was to visit all sorts of blogs outside my normal reading. Plus in terms of my goals, this was a success.  Maybe I'll do this for my Book IV.

Right now I have a lot of monsters to clean up and get ready for BBI.  


A to Z 2021 Reflections
http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2021/05/atozchallenge-reflections-2021.html

Monday, April 5, 2021

#AtoZChallenge2021: D is for Dragon, Purple

I am SO glad I watched Dragonslayer over the weekend because it really puts me in the mood for today's monster.  

Dragons are a huge part of the games we play at home. My oldest son LOVES dragons and has, well, I have no idea how many, scattered all over the place. His games are filled with dragons.  So when I want to add new dragons to my games or books, I first turn to him.  Especially if I want a fresh take.

I remember the Purple, Yellow, and Orange dragons from Dragon Magazine 65 and then updated in Dragon magazine 248.   I included my own take on an Orange dragon in my Pumpkin Spice Witch book.   This dragon was originally conceived for my High Witchcraft book.  This is the dragon that has given us so many draconic bloodline sorcerers.

Dragon Henry Justice Ford
Dragon, Purple

aka Draco Arcanis Occultis, Arcane Dragon
Huge Dragon

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Neutral Evil]
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
  Fly: 240' (80') [24"]
  Burrow: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 10d8+20* (65 hp)
  Huge: 10d12+20** (85 hp)
THAC0: 11 (+8)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, + special
Damage: 1d6+3x2, 2d8+3
Special: Breath weapon (magical energy), dragon fear, low-light vision (120’), magic use
Save: Monster 10
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: XV (H) 
XP: 2,300 (OSE) 2,400 (LL)

Habitat: Underground or Urban areas
Probability Asleep: 25% 
Probability of Speech: 100%
Breath Weapon: 75’ long, 5' wide beam of magical energy
Spells: First: 3, Second: 3, Third: 3, Fouth: 2, Fifth: 1

Purple dragons are a very rare mutation among prismatic dragons.  They are born mostly to red, blue, or black dragons and rarely among green or white. Even then only 5% of all dragon births can result in a purple dragon.  It is believed they are born most often in areas of high magic.  Since all of the prismatic dragons are very vain, the wyrmling purple is often abandoned. Green dragons usually kill them outright.  The ones that survive learn that their most important weapon is guile, trickery, and deceit. 

Like all dragons, the purple can fight with its claws and bite. Their breath weapon is a 75' long beam of magical energy. They will also fight with spells in any form. 

The purple dragons are among the smartest of all dragon-kind. They will always speak and use magic. They can cast spells as a magic-user/wizard of 9th level. These dragons are fond of casting Polymorph Self  (fourth level) and masquerading as a human.  In this form, they will be found living in cities where they will often study magic and accumulate wealth.  Their lairs will have an underground area where they will keep their treasures and sleep in their dragon form.

These dragons are very solitary in regards to other dragons, but they do keep humanoids nearby. These are often servants, slaves, thralls, and the occasional victim.  They have been known to also become the patrons of Draconic Warlocks and Witches.  Wizards will also seek them out for advanced training in the magical arts.  A purple dragon can speak draconic, common, its alignment language, and up to four more languages.  Typically elven is learned. 

--

This block has the extra details needed for dragons.  Additionally, we see our first Huge creature.  It can use the normal d8 for hp if you wish to stick to the rules of your particular Basic game, or you can use a d12 instead to reflect its larger size. In the case of this 10 HD monster, the difference is 20 hp.

April 2021 A to Z


AND

If you are doing the A to Z Challenge Scavenger Hunt, you just found a Dragon!



Monday, March 29, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Monster Collections

So no monster today.  I am getting ready for my big April A to Z of Monsters later this week. 

I was on vacation last week and getting these "new" AD&D 2nd Edition setting books made me think a bit about what I might do with them.  But since monsters are also on my mind I decided it was high time to pull out my old Monstrous Compendiums for AD&D 2nd Ed, and finally get them organized.

AD&D Monstrous Compendiums

I don't recall exactly when, but I misplaced, lost, or sold my original Monstrous Compendiums.  I kinda regret it really, I got them on the days they were released.  I loved the idea of them.  A monster per page full of information.  Even some bits on the ecology of each.  I had ideas of cutting out the various "Ecology of" articles from Dragon and putting them in each one for a full encyclopedic entry of every monster.

While the idea sounds great, in practice the Monstrous Compendiums were a bit of a hassle.  They were large and unwieldy and yes the pages kept getting torn.  The big thing for me was the fact I could note "really" put the monsters in true alphabetical order since they were printed back to back.  I know, gamer problems.

So I pulled everything I had, everything I have managed to round up at actions, used book stores and even a few others, and got both folders finally put together.

Forgotten Realms

Dragonlance

Outer Planes

Ravenloft

In addition to the first two sets (all in the first binder) I got the sets for the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, the Outer Planes, and my beloved Ravenloft all in the second binder.

I just need to replace my Greyhawk and Mystara ones now. 

I know I have some more in boxes somewhere, so I'll get those added as well.  Since I am not longer a transient college student with all my D&D books in a couple of milk crates they can live nicely on my bookshelves. Here they would likely to get more use and less wear and tear.

Binders of monsters

They live nicely next to my Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure Compendium,  Next to them is something I am working on printing out; the contents of the Swords & Wizardry versions of Monstrosities and Tome of Horrors Complete.  It is going to be about 1200 or more pages of monsters.  This time I am not printing them back to back, but a true one page per monster.  Yeah, that means a lot more paper, but also a lot more ease of use and lots of room for me to include notes. IT will also be hard on my printer.

While there is a core of about 400-500 monsters that are shared across all editions of D&D and clones, there are something like 6,000+ monsters that have been stated up in official products.  Once upon a time, I would have wanted all of them.  Today I am a bit more reasonable.  

OR at least that is what I tell myself.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Detailing a "Universal" Stat-block

It is a Monstrous Monday, but since I am going to be spending all of April dedicated to monsters I wanted to take this one to discuss something I am working on and working out for April.   That is what form should my stat block take?

If you have followed my Monstrous Mondays over the years you may have seen the evolution of my monster stat blocks.  There have been variances depending on which system I am favoring at that time, but I had not settled on one until the last year or so.  After working with it for a while I am now looking to make some minor tweaks to it. 

But before I do that I want to do some baselines and see what has been used in the past and by other OSR designers.  Keep in mind that each stat block represented below was designed with that system in mind, I am not making any claims for cross-system use in these blocks, but I do hope to find something like that for my own.

Since I am going to be comparing several versions of the D&D game and various clones, I am going to need to pick a monster that is present in each one.   

I can think of no better creature than the humble orc.

Actually, I have other reasons for that as well.  Among the reasons, they are the archetypical D&D/Fantasy monster.  Goblins would have worked too.

Hang on, this is going to be a long one.

Basic Stat Blocks

Let's look at the various stat blocks among what I call Basic Era Compatible games.  I am not going to put up images of the entire entry.

Original Edition

Like much of OD&D it is simple enough IF you know where to go digging for all the data.  But this one leaves some details to be desired.  The emphasis on what sort of things orcs do in a wargame are nice.

Holmes Basic 

Here we get to what can be considered the first of the true stat blocks. We can get the basic information we need at a glance. Movement, HD, AC, Treasure, Alignment, Attacks, and damage.  There is more, but for now, let's consider this the absolute minimum. 

Moldvay Basic B/X

Here the stat block expands to take on features from the new Basic game. Largely they are the same. A slight change in AC and Move is different.  We now also have a No. Appearing category and Morale. Also, there is more description here. Moldvay is not assuming that readers already know what an orc is. 

Mentzer Basic / BECMI


As expected this one is very much like Moldvay.  We do have variance in Morale now based on leaders and Treasure Type is divided into individuals and hordes. The most useful though, and this is the influence from later in AD&D, we get a line for XP value.  It's a straight number as opposed to a variable one based on hp (like in AD&D's later books).

Rules Cyclopedia/ RC


The Rules Cyclopedia follows the same evolution from Holmes as we see in Moldvay to Mentzer.  For the number appearing, we get the actual dice mechanic, not the range, and there is an added line of Monster Type.  Now all of these are largely compatible with the others and you can see how each one is describing the same creature.  Also, all the blocks are very much the same.

Let's make things a little more Advanced.

Advanced Stat Blocks

Essentially this includes AD&D 1st Ed and AD&D 2nd, but I am going to include Editions 3 to 5 for completeness sake. I want to map some of the later editions' additions.

First Edition AD&D

Now here are few more changes.  To get the right feel for the evolution here we need to go back to Holmes Basic.  What is new?  Well we get Frequency, Move is now map-based, Treasure Types lair and individuals, special attacks and defenses (even when they are nil), Magic Resistance (in a percentage), Intelligence (not a score, but a nominal rank), Size, and Psionic ability.  

A few notes.  Orcs switch over from Holmes Chaotic Evil to Lawful Evil. The art makes their pig-like features more prominent.  These are largely the same creatures from Holmes and even other Basic games, but differences are beginning to creep in.   Everything from the Basic stat block is here except for Morale (not used) and Save As (there is a chart).

Second Edition AD&D


OK.  AD&D 2nd Ed was the king of robust monster write-ups.  I loved the one full page per monster format even though I admit there was often a lot of fluff added.  This stat block adds a lot more information.  We are still talking about the same creature and the Holmes stat block is still visible here.  Morale is back, though based on a d20 rather than d12/2d6. Still Lawful Evil.  This block includes the Orog or half-orc/half-ogre creature.  Do we know more about the orc than before? A little.  A lot more in the descriptions.

While later AD&D 1 blocks included calculations, AD&D 2 made them standard from the start.

I want to take the next editions of D&D largely as a whole even though the compatibility between the newer editions (of the last 20 years) is less than the editions that came before them.

Post-2000 D&D: 3rd, 4th, and 5th Editions

Third Edition D&D


Third edition had a noble goal. Monsters should be built just like characters. It was good. Yes, it made creating high-level monsters more difficult but it all held together mechanically.  3e also introduced some new ideas in a stat block that I believe are worth looking into.

Things are grouped together well. Something that Pathfinder would later improve on.  On our orc here we see a few things. AC is broken down into what is worn, what is natural, and what is due to dexterity.  What is the orc's dex?  Well that, and all their average abilities are listed here. Nice touch. Same with the saves.  Alignment gets a shift. Not just that the orc here is back to Chaotic Evil (ala Holmes) but also there is the qualifier Often.  Orcs by the way shifted to Chaotic because Barbarians can't be of Lawful alignment and that was their "Prefered" class.  Though by looking at the level and advancement an orc can start out in any class and move up.  So again this one harkens back to Holmes in terms of monsters as characters.  

As we move through the editions the more verbose the stat block gets.  In some ways this good and expected as the complexity of the game increased and more rules to cover more of the things DMs run into are needed.  The downside is how much of that information is needed in combat?  3e added skills and feats, so we need to know those.  Knowing the typical strength of an Orc is 17 is nice.  But we are a long way from the seven lines in Holmes.

The biggest addition here though is the notion of CR or Challenge Rating. This gave DMs an idea of how tough the monster was when setting them against an average party.  A CR 1/2 is easy for a party of 1st level characters.  It was also how XP is calculated. A CR 1/2 orc is worth 150 xp by itself to a party of 1st level characters. But to a party of 8th level characters it is only worth 100xp. To 9th level characters it is worth 0 XP unless there are a lot of them.  I liked this sliding scale and it made sense given the combat abilities of higher-level D&D 3 characters.

Fourth Edition D&D

Building monsters like characters is a great idea on paper, but in practice, we get some very, very complicated monsters at a high level.  Quick. How many feats does an Adult Gold Dragon have?  4e attempted to fix that issue some. 


Where previous editions (2nd is the best example here) gave us additional lines for different types of orcs or gave us the tools to advance them (3rd edition), 4th edition gave us different stat blocks that could get more detailed as needed. 

Monsters are built less like characters, but still use some of the same principles.  The stat blocks are tighter than 1st through 3rd, but you need a lot more of them.  For example, in the 4e Monster Manual, there are seven orc stat blocks to cover the different sorts of orcs.  

Like 2nd Ed, the stat blocks and monster descriptions are "modular."  That is that the entry for most monsters are limited to one full page.  In fact all of D&D 4 is like that. One could conceivably make D&D 4 so modular it is an à la carte D&D.  I could assemble my own monster book with entries from the three monster manuals plus any adventure or other source book.  As a game designer, it is appealing.

What is new here though?  Well, 4e introduces the idea of "unaligned" alignment.  It's like "True Neutral" but more of a "you do you and I'll do me and we will be fine" and less of "the balance must be preserved."  There is also a line for languages known which is a good addition in my mind.  Though I notice that orcs no longer speak "orc."  Well. Actually, they do, "orc" is just a corrupt form of "Giant" here, which in turn is a debased form of Primordial.

Fifth Edition D&D


In its goal to be all things to everyone 5th edition tries to strike a balance.  The stat blocks are robust enough to give you all the information you need, but significantly different versions of the monsters are separated off.

I can't help but think that D&D5 was looking over the shoulder of Pathfinder when organizing their blocks.  Basic combat "Defense" is at the top. What do I need to hit and how often do I need to hit it? Size and type appear right under the name as they have since 3e and a little bit of the Rules Cyclopedia. We get their typical abilities.  We get skill listings that are not just +0. Senses, Languages (oh look! "Orc" is back!) AND a combo CR and XP.  While not listed above, 5e retains the "unaligned" alignment.

Hitpoints are more important than HD here.  All their attacks and saves are already calculated and listed.  They do follow the same rules as do characters, but not slavishly so like 3e.  The war chief has a Gruumsh's Fury ability that you won't find in a character write-up.  I mean yeah they are similar to barbarians, but not exactly. 

Like 1st ed and 3rd ed these monster entries span pages.  While this messes with my sense of design, it does mean that we don't 300 pages where 250 pages will suffice. The unneeded padding and white space is gone.   

Judging solely by this it looks like Orcs are back to being a threat to 1st levels.  The 4e orc could mow through first-level characters.

That is the evolution of the D&D monster stat block over the first 40 years of D&D.  They say hindsight is 20/20 so what have the retro-clone designers done?

Retro Clones of the OSR

Here are a couple of stat blocks.


Starting with OSRIC it does exactly as we would expect.  It lays material out much like AD&D 1st ed with the knowledge that Level/XP will be useful in the block.  Orcs come out to an average of 15 XP this way; same as 1st and 2nd ed.  Movement is now done in terms relative to the creature, not map movement.  For various reasons, there is no treasure type listed.  Treasure is spelled out in the description. This does give the DM more flexibility.  

Labyrinth Lord comes very, close to OSRIC, but is more Basic in its presentation. The same information is given.  LL gets past the Treasure Type and goes with Horde Class, but there are translations out there.  Again when talking about hindsight; the XP value is included. Morale is back.


Basic Fantasy covers similar ground, but its 3rd Ed DNA shows through in AC. The block also leaves room for expansion as see here with N. Appearing.

I am posting more of the Old-School Essentials block to make a point here about design.  Gavin Norman at Necrotic Gnome took the idea of modularity and really went with it.  I can't say for certain he played D&D 4, but there are some ideas here that really call back to it.  OSE gives us the most compact basic stat block so far.  Like 5e all the defense and attack information is upfront.  Brief description.  Saves are detailed, morale is back and detailed. There are even XP values.  The text of the monster is bullet-pointed.  It is a model of efficiency really. We know nothing about languages or climate these creatures favor, but that is fine. It is mimicking the detail of the source game; Moldvay Basic.


Dark Dungeons, a Rules Cyclopedia clone, uses long columns for their monster entries, usually three to a page and filling a page.  So similar modularity as 4e and OSE.  In fact the stat blocks could be used with OSE with no issues. No surprise given the relationship of their spiritual ancestors; RC to Dark Dungeons and Moldvay Basic/Cook Expert to OSE.   Morale is presented a bit differently, but average hp is included along with the XP values.  Saves are listed out.  There is a habitat now included along with Type. 

Moving out to other games that don't specifically try to emulate any game in particular but the "D&D experience in general.

Adventurer, Conquerer, King System (ACKS) is largely based on Basic-era D&D and Moldvay Basic in particular, though it has some house rules.  Move is back to Basic (as was LL and OSE).  Percent in lair is lifted from AD&D style games.  The text descriptions match the world ACKS works in.  Notably these orcs seem to be a little harder to hit.


If ACKS is Basic moving towards Advanced, then Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperboria (AS&SH) is Advanced presented like Basic.   Again we see similar entries.  Saves are a single number (more on that in a bit), morale is present (like Basic) and XP (still 10) are listed.  Like ACKS, the orcs of AS&SH fit their world a little differently than a generic D&D world.   Here they are offspring of humans and dæmons. This also uses the 1st and 2nd ed (and really Basic) means of displaying variants; via a table.  3e leaves you to recalculate everything and 4e and 5e have separate sub-entries.

Moving out to even more different games.

Swords & Wizardry shares DNA with OSRIC but has become its own thing. While many will claim it emulates OD&D it is a really slimed-down version of AD&D to Basic-era levels. The stat block is more basic in its organization and content.  Alignment is a simple three-axis (like Basic), the move is "map relative" like AD&D and Challenge Level is from AD&D.  XP values are also AD&D derived.

The big thing that you should notice here is the advent of the single saving throw number.  AS&SH does this too, but S&W did it first.  It does simplify things to a large degree.  It does have a very simple layout.  The massive monster books for S&W; Monstrosities (544 pages) and Tomes of Horrors Complete (688 pages) are huge books. Both books expand the monster entries to fill a complete page in the same manner as 2nd Ed or 4th Ed.

There are a few more. Castles & Crusades and Adventures Dark & Deep are two more that also take our Orc to different places, but are still close enough to be familiar. 

Looking at all of these, knowing that each is needed for their own specific game, I need to figure out what is necessary for my own stat block, or even what is needed for a good "universal" stat block.  One that can be read and used for any "old school" version of *D&D or clone.  I also want to learn from what has come after that as well.

What seems to be central are HD, hp, AC, attacks.   Saves, XP, Treasure can all be derived.  Alignment can be figured out.  I am hoping to figure that all out during April.   In the meantime, lets use my obsessive-compulsive nature to have some fun with monsters!