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

Monday, March 15, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Drude

Today is an interesting monster from German folklore.  The Drude is a type of malevolent nocturnal spirit.  Depending on who is doing the classification it could be a spirit, an elf, a kobold, a demon, a hag, or even a witch.  Like many creatures of folklore, they do not conform to the notions of RPG creatures.

The question is what sort of thing a Drude (pl. Druden) is.   Even when one considers it a kobold, there is a lot of debate about what THAT is as well.  

But I think I have an interesting idea.


Drude
Small Humanoid

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1d2 (1d4)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 3d8* (14 hp)
   Small: 3d6* (11 hp)
Attacks: dagger or witch spell
Damage: 1d4-1
Special: daylight sensitivity, infravision, witch magic. 
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 6 (8)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 50 (OSE) 65 (LL)

Kobolds can be found in the underground caverns of nearly any climate or environment.  Their ability to adapt and even thrive in areas where other creatures would perish is one of their greatest strengths is a world that only recognizes strength.

When a kobold group moves into an area near a hag the hag's corrupting influence will cause a Drude to be born among the Kobolds.  A drude, plural druden, is a type of kobold but is usually smarter and has the ability to use magic.  Often called "kobold witches" these creatures will seek out the hag, or hags, that caused them to spawn in an attempt to serve them.  The hag will often teach the kobold their magic instead of killing and eating them.  No one is exactly sure why this happens, save that it might grant the hags a bit of attention and even veneration they crave.

A drude can cast spells as a 3rd level witch and may advance to as high as the 7th level.  They are treated as if they are either part of the Faerie or Malefic Traditions. A drude typically favors spells that create fire or cause fire damage.  A drude will typically take a hag as their patron, usually the hag that is local to them.  The hag teaches the drude witchcraft and magic and in return, the kobold tribe serves the hag or hags.

In combat, the drude, despite their eldritch powers, are still weak in a battle.  They will avoid combat when they can and would rather strike an opponent from a distance.  A drude among a group of kobolds will raise their overall morale by 2 since the combination of both magic and normal kobold strike tactics mesh well. 

Druden are vulnerable to sunlight. They attack at -2 in any form of bright sunlight or at -1 for reduced sunlight or a Continual Light spell.  They have infravision to 90'.

The offspring of a drude and a kobold will be a drude.

--

Klash-Nak is a kobold witch of the 4th level. Her patron is an Annis hag she calls "Mother Nightmare." 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Gwragedd Annwn (Swan Maidens)

I have been digging through some old documents this past week. Some old Ravenloft ones (the new Ravenloft book has me excited), some stuff on Irish myths (it is March after all), and even some of my old Color Computer files (I have...my reasons).  One thing that came up a few times was an adventure I had written for Ravenloft back in 88 or 89 that featured a group of Swanmays and their betrayal and the hands of a drow assassin. 

While the adventure itself would need some serious reworking to make it ready for primetime, I did do a lot of research on Swanmaidens, Swan women, and other similar creatures.

I figured an update was in order.

Gwragedd Annwn (Swan Maidens)

Medium Humanoid (Fey)

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Alignment: Lawful [Neutral Good]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
   Fly (in swan form): 180' (60') [18"]
   Swim: 150' (50') [15"]

Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 2d8* (9 hp)
   Gwragedd Annwn, 3rd level: 3d8* (14 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 4th level: 4d8* (18 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 5th level: 5d8* (23 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 6th level: 6d8* (27 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 7th level: 7d8* (32 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 8th level: 8d8* (36 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 9th level: 9d8* (41 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 10th level: 10d8* (45 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 11th level: 11d8* (50 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 12th level: 12d8* (54 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 13th level: 13d8* (59 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 14th level: 14d8* (63 hp)
 
Attacks: claw, claw, bite
Damage: 1d6+4 x2, 1d8+4
Special: Shape change, magic required to hit, Swan Song
Size: Medium
Save: Fighter 2-14
Morale: 10 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: VI (U)
XP: 25 (OSE) 29 (LL) 
    3rd level: 50 (OSE) 65 (LL) 
    4th level: 125 (OSE) 135 (LL) 
    5th level: 300 (OSE) 350 (LL) 
    6th level: 500 (OSE) 570 (LL) 
    7th level: 850 (OSE) 790 (LL) 
    8th level: 1,200 (OSE) 1,060 (LL) 
    9th level: 1,600 (OSE) 1,700 (LL) 
   10th level: 1,600 (OSE) 1,700 (LL) 
   11th level: 1,900 (OSE) 2,000 (LL) 
   12th level: 1,900 (OSE) 2,000 (LL) 
   13th level: 2,300 (OSE) 2,450 (LL) 
   14th level: 2,300 (OSE) 2,450 (LL) 

The Gwragedd Annwn, also known as Swan Maidens, are humanoid maidens capable of turning into a swan. They only have this power while they remain unmarried. In this state, they are also considered to be creatures of the Fey.

All Gwragedd Annwn are rangers of a level equal to their HD. They will be equipped accordingly. Instead of cleric and magic-user spells these warriors may choose druid and witch spells respectively. They are fierce enemies of evil and chaos and fight it wherever they can.

They can attack with any weapon of their choosing. Most prefer to use finely crafted swords or longbows.

Employing a feather token they can transform into a large swan. It is believed that once they take a husband, they must give this token to him. Many are loathe to do that.

Many feel they can trace their lineage back to the great king Lir whose children were transformed into swans by their jealous step-mother.

Swan Song: If a Gwragedd Annwn is reduced to 0 hp she can begin a Swan Song.  This song is similar in power to the Banshee keening, and will cause all around her, foe and friend, to experience profound sadness and will be unable to take any further action (no saving throw permitted).  If she is heard by her sisters they will fly to her in swan shape to return her to their sanctuary.  At this point she will either be healed or will die.  It is believed that a swan song can only be used once in the life of a Gwragedd Annwn.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Aglæca

Here is a monster that has been rummaging around in the back of my mind for a while now. I have renewed my search for this creature thanks to getting all caught up on the new "Nancy Drew" series which has a solid supernatural vibe to it. 

The word seems to come from Beowulf, but there is a lot of debate over what it means exactly

We can go to the root word, āglāc, which can mean distress, torment, or misery.  It later derived the Middle-English word egleche meaning warlike or brave.  The Dictionary of Old English describes it as an awesome opponent, a ferocious fighter.  There is so much confusion and speculation on this word there is even a recent Master's Thesis on it, Robinson, Danielle, "The Schizophrenic Warrior: Exploring Aglæca in the Old English Corpus." Thesis, Georgia State University, 2015. 

Given the Beowulf connection, I did look to the troll connection; I always thought of Grendel as some sort of troll.  But I have already done a Troll-wife (a type of hag) and a Trolla (a type of troll witch).  There also seems to be a demonic or even diabolic association with this creature. But I have also already done demonic trolls.  Given the Old-English and Middle-English sources of the word I even thought that something along the lines of a proto-hag might work, but I have done those as well in the Ur-hag

Robinson details some comments from Tolkien on his reading of Beowulf and spends time talking about the monster (and true to her thesis, the noble warriors) that appear in the poem.

Both Grendel and his mother are described as aglæca. While I like to think of Grendel as a troll and his mother as more of a troll-wife, maybe there is more to it. 

Grendel by Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton
Grendel by Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton

Aglæca
Large Humanoid

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 8d8**+16 (52 hp)
  HD (Large): 8d10**+16 (60 hp)
Attacks: claw, claw, bite
Damage: 1d6+4 x2, 1d8+4
Special: Cause fear, magic required to hit, regenerate 1 hp per round, infravision, sunlight sensitivity. 
Size: Large
Save: Monster 8
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: XIX [D] x2
XP: 1,750 (OSE) 1,840 (LL)

The aglæca is a large humanoid creature that appears to be something of a mix of both ogre and troll. It is blue-ish grey in color with patches of dark blue that are the color of bruises. It smells of rotting meat,  decay, and the sea.  Its long muscular arms end in large hands with great claws. Its mouth has large fangs and tusks and maybe most disturbingly, its eyes burn with a fierce intelligence.

It is believed to be a descendant of the great giants and Jötunns of the north and the ancestor to the more common ogre and troll. Some scholars speculate that there is a bit of demonic blood in this creature, or even something more evil and primal.   

The aglæca causes fear (as per the magic-user spell cause fear) to any that sees it.  It will use this power to fearlessly attack opponents.  It will use its claws and bite in an attack. While it is intelligent and knows the value of weapons in combat, its berserker-like fury will cause it to abandon weapons in favor of its own hands.  The aglæca will take anything it kills back to their caves to eat. Their preferred food is humans followed by elves, halflings, and dwarves.  

Only magic weapons or magic can hit it and it can regenerate 1 hp per round.  The aglæca prefers to fight at night or in the dark.  It attacks at -1 in light and at -2 in bright sunlight. Aglæca speaks the local languages and giant. They are fearless in battle.

The origins of the aglæca are a mystery. It is speculated that they are very, very old creatures. Thankfully they are very rare and getting rarer to find all the time.

Grendel's Mother by Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton
Grendel's Mother by Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton

Aglæc-wif
Medium Humanoid

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Lawful Evil]
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
  Swim: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 6d8**+12 (39 hp)
Attacks: claw, claw, bite
Damage: 1d6+3 x2, 1d8+3
Special: Cause fear, magic required to hit, regenerate 1 hp per round, infravision, witch magic. 
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 6
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: XIX [D] x2
XP: 1,250 (OSE) 1,280 (LL)

The aglæc-wif is the smaller female of the aglæca species.  It is conjectured that there may in fact be larger female aglæca that are not aglæc-wif and the aglæc-wif might be another related creature.  So far the only aglæc-wif that have been recorded have been a pair with a larger aglæca.

Like the aglæca, the aglæc-wif appears to be related to the troll and/or ogres.  They also are quite intelligent and while they are perfectly happy to murder and eat any human they see, they are not just ravenous monsters.  The aglæc-wif also possesses the infravision of the aglæca but is not hampered by light or sunlight.  Also, like the aglæca, these creatures feed on humanoids, but they prefer humans to all other forms of food.

An aglæc-wif can attack with claws and bite like the aglæca, but she is also capable of using spells as a 4th level witch of the faerie, sea, or winter traditions.  Their preferred spells are charm-based. Any magic that provided protection from or special damage to Sea Hags is also effective on an aglæc-wif.

It is speculated that like a troll-wife the aglæc-wif can join a covey of hags as a third hag. Though none have ever been reported as doing so.


Monday, February 15, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Buer, The Great President of Hell

Today is President's Day. Since we just got rid of the President from Hell, let's talk about a President of Hell. One of the things that I always found interesting reading demonology texts was the term President of Hell. One, in particular, is the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, The False Monarchy of Demons.  

One of the first Presidents mentioned was Buer.  Here is what is said about him.

Buer is a great president, and is seene in this signe [*]; he absolutelie teacheth philosophie morall and naturall, and also logicke, and the vertue of herbes: he giveth the best familiars, he can heale all diseases, speciallie of men, and reigneth over fiftie legions.

Kind of cool really. In this case, a President is someone that runs a government. The Pseudomonarchia Daemonum lists 14 such Presidents. How they fit into the Gygaxian vision of the Nine Hells and the Archdukes remains to be figured out; likely two presidents per layer of hell. 

Buer also appears as a President in the Ars Goetia of The Lesser Key of Solomon.  

Buer then would be classified as a devil in the Gygaxian taxonomy. 

Buer

Buer a Great President of Hell
President of Hell
Large Fiend (Diabolic)

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Lawful Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Centuar: 180' (60') [18"]
  Spirit: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 15d8***+45 (113 hp)
  HD (Large): 15d10***+45 (128 hp)
Attacks: trample, bite, spells
Damage: 1d6+2 x5, 1d8+2
Special: Devil abilities, spell casting
Size: Large
Save: Monster 16
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: XXI [B] x3
XP: 4,200 (OSE) 4,350 (LL)

Buer is a great President of Hell. He controls fifty legions of demons (a legion is 6,000 demons).  He will appear to mortals as a great red centaur. His true form is that of a lion's head with five goat legs radiating from this central head.  His whole body is aflame.  

Buer can cast spells as if he was a 13th level magic-user.  He can cast any spell dealing with fire (produce flame, fireball, etc) twice per day with additional memorization needed. 

He is a great patron of witches and warlocks, in particular warlocks.  The familiars he grants can heal their warlocks once per day for 1d6+ hp of damage and cure disease once per week. 

The Great Seal of Buer

Buer is summoned by demonologists and malefic witches for his knowledge on logic, moral philosophy, and the sciences, of which he is particularly knowledgeable on.  He can grant a familiar to those that summon him.  These will be imps but can appear as a natural animal.  These familiars will work to bring their master to greater and great acts of evil.  If the magic-user (or witch or warlock) dies while they have this familiar their souls will be sent to Hell where the familiar becomes the new Master and tortures the former magic-user for eternity

--

So a few things I have to consider.  Buer is a President, one of 14. I need to figure out which ones go where.  I am still thinking two per levels 2 to 8, with none for the 1st and 9th levels.  I also want to come up with new names for the levels and the rulers, more or less.

Now I know that Buer was featured in Dragon Magazine's famous "The Nine Hells Revisited, Part 1 and 2" and there is some written about him there. While it is all good stuff, I want to reorganize these as I like. 

I am certainly going to do a lot more with thses.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Yaoguai

Well, January was used up and Monday, February 1st was also taken, so that makes today the first free Monday in 2021 for Monstrous Mondays!  Let's get to it.

First I want to talk a little bit about my two monster books, the Basic Bestiaries.  I am far behind my original and revised, release dates.  Not that this is a big deal really save that I wanted to something more done. I mentioned a while back that I began with one book and I am now splitting it up into two books, one for witch and witchcraft associated monsters and another for various demons and devils.  Work has continued on both books, but I might get to a point where I need to split them up yet again.  No big details yet, but I have an overabundance of the undead, in particular, vampires.  Still, my choice is two books and I am extremely happy with my Fuseli and Goya covers.

This brings me to today's post.  The Yaoguai and Chinese demons.  


My demons are now over 500 individual monsters and I am just getting started. I have talked a lot about demons here. 

What I know about Chinese Mythology could fill a book.  A very small, poorly edited book.
Here is what I have learned over the last few months. 

Yaoguai are a class of mostly evil (but not always so) spirits.  The name is used for the collection of all such spirits and for a group of specific animal spirits.  The name comes from the characters 妖怪 which translate into "strange ghost." They are related to yaomo (妖魔 yāomó, lit. "strange devil") or yaojing (妖精 yāojīng, lit. "sprite" or "seductive") all start with the same character 妖. This (typically) refers to an awakened spirit.

And as expected it also far more complicated than that.  Though as I have mentioned before, I can't serve two masters, in this case, Chinese mythology and good Game Design.

Yaoguai

Lesser Yaoguai are all animal spirits that were normally benign but have sought out immortality by becoming demons. While they can generally be described as evil, they are often more selfish and amoral.  The ones most encountered are evil since they tend to work against mortals.

All lesser yaoguai can be recognized by their glowing eyes, preternatural strength, and enlarged teeth and claws. All yaoguai can speak common and any other local languages.

As a spirit creature, a lesser yaoguai can be "Turned" by a cleric as if they were undead.  They do need to know their proper name.  So "begone rat demon" will not work, but "begone shǔ yaoguai" will.  A result of "T" will cause the creature to run away. A "D" result will force the spirit out of the animal in question, often killing the host animal. 

Lesser Yaoguai also all have the following powers.

  • Spirit. The natural form of the Yaoguai is a spirit. It will inhabit the body, living or dead, of the animal of their type.
  • Command Animals. Lesser Yaoguai can command animals of the same type. Niú Yaoguai can command oxen and other cattle for example.
  • Hybrid form. Yaoguai can shift between animal form and a humanoid form like a lycanthrope.
  • Immune to poison, gas, polymorph, and petrify effects. Immune to normal weapons.
  • Half damage from cold, fire, and electricity effects.  Half damage from silver weapons.
  • Full damage from magical weapons.
  • Double damage from a blessed weapon. These weapons specifically blessed by a priest to fight a particular type of Yaoguai spirit.

Shǔ Yaoguai  
Rat demon spirit
Medium Fiend (Demonic, Yaoguai)

Frequency: Uncommon
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment:  Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Hybrid: 120' (40') [12"]
  Spirit: 240' (80') [24"]

Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 5d8***+5 (28hp)
Attacks: claw/claw, bite
Damage: 2d4+1 x2, 1d6+1
Special: disease (demon fever), summon animals
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 5
Morale: 8 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 750 (OSE) 860 (LL)

Shǔ Yaoguai, or Rat demon spirit, is the most common of the lesser yaoguai encountered.  They appear as large rats with glowing eyes and human intelligence. In fact, they are often smarter than humans.  They can be found wherever large groups of rats are found.  They are often mistaken for wererats or dire rats of a, particularly evil mien.

Shǔ Yaoguai can attack with claw and bite and it is by these means that they deliver their curse of Demon Fever.  On a successful critical hit with a bite (a natural 20 rolled), they transmit Demon Fever.

The subject is allowed a saving throw vs poison.  A fail means death, a successful save means the victim has contracted a slower version of the fever. They will not be able to do anything but require complete bed rest. They will lose one Constitution point per day unless a Cure Disease is cast on them.  If they reach o Constitution they will die.

These demons can summon 10-100 normal rats, 2-40 dire rats, or 1-6 wererats in rat form.

Rat demons exist to cause chaos and suffering only. While they are intelligent their plans typically do not exist beyond this.

Niú Yaoguai
Ox demon spirit
Medium Fiend (Demonic, Yaoguai)

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Hybrid: 120' (40') [12"]
  Spirit: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 7d8**+21 (53hp)
Attacks: I headbutt
Damage: 2d8+3
Special: Trample (4d8+3)
Size: Medium
Save: Monster  7
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: XV [H]
XP: 1,250 (OSE) 1,200 (LL)

Niú Yaoguai, or Ox demon spirit, are among the least intelligent of the yaoguai.  They are also among the strongest and the greediest.  In their animal form, they appear as a black and red ox with fiery eyes. Their hybrid human form appears as a minotaur.

The main attack of the ox demon is a running headbutt. On any critical hit (a natural 20) they also knock their opponent prone and trample them as an automatic attack.  The prone victim needs 1 combat round to get back on their feet.  The ox demon is not very dexterous and needs a full round to turn around if they wish to attack the same victim twice.  

These demons are slow, dumb, and very materialistic.  They can also be bribed with treasure; at least double or triple what their current treasure hoard is worth (discounting magic items which they have value for).  If this offer is made even the chaotic ox demon will not attack.

Hǔ Yaoguai
Tiger demon spirit
Medium Fiend (Demonic, Yaoguai)

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Hybrid: 120' (40') [12"]
  Spirit: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 6[13]
Hit Dice: 9d8**+9 (50hp)
Attacks: claw/claw, bite
Damage: 1d6+2 x2, 2d8+1
Special: rake (back legs for 1d8+2 x2)
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 9
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: XXII [A]
XP: 2,350 (OSE) 2,400 (LL)

Hǔ Yaoguai or Tiger demon spirit are among the most violent of all the yaoguai. They appear as tigers with glowing eyes. Their hybrid form reminds one of a weretiger or even a type of Rakshasa; a comparison that both types of fiends abhor.

The tiger demon gleefully attacks with its claws and bite.  A critical hit on a bite attack (natural 20) will result in a pin and the demon can then attack with its hind legs for a rake. A hǔ yaoguai in hybrid form cannot rake.

This demon delights in sowing fear.  Its preferred attack is to seek out remote villages and begin to kill lone travelers.  It will leave the bodies where they can be found to raise the fear levels.  Its ultimate goal is to not just kill as many mortals as it can, but also to get the inhabitants of a village or local so scarred that normal life stops.  Fields are not attended, work ceases in other parts of the village, and so on.  Killing a handful of villagers with claw and bite is satisfying. Killing dozens because there are now not enough crops to feed them is a greater evil. 

Despite their propensity to violence they are a clever demon and will work towards the maximum fear they can.

Shé Yaoguai
Serpent demon spirit
Medium Fiend (Demonic, Yaoguai)

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 150' (50') [15"]
  Hybrid: 120' (40') [12"]
  Spirit: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 8d8***+16 (52hp)
Attacks: bite + poison
Damage: 1d6, save vs. poison
Special: Poison, summon normal animals
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 8
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: XX [C]
XP: 2,300 (OSE) 2,440 (LL)

Of all the lesser yaoguai the Shé Yaoguai, or Serpent demon spirit, is the most clever. Second only to the Hóu Yaoguai; but never mention that to these evil creatures.  They spend the most time in their animal form as a large constrictor snake with glowing eyes, large fangs, and strange markings on their skin.  They are never confused with normal snakes.  Their hybrid form is that of a large snake with a humanoid torso and arms with a snake's head.

This yaoguai prefers to attack with its bite only.  A critical hit (natural 20) means they have injected a paralytic poison into their victim. The victim needs to save vs. poison or die.  A successful save still infects the victim and they lose 1 point of Dexterity per round. This will affect any attack or armor class of the victim. When they reach 0 Dexterity they are paralyzed permanently unless a Remove or Neutralize Poison spell is cast. If all their victims are defeated then the serpent demon will feast on the corpses and the paralyzed.

Shé yaogaui demons can also summon 10-100 normal snakes, 1-10 poisonous vipers, and 1-10 constrictor snakes.

Among the most evil of these types of demons the Serpent Yaoguai attempt to tempt humans into hedonistic lifestyles where only their own pleasures matter.  To this end, they work through others to provide decadent parties, banquets, and houses of pleasure.

Hóu Yaoguai
Monkey demon spirit
Medium Fiend (Demonic, Yaoguai)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Hybrid: 120' (40') [12"]
  Spirit: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 10d8***+10 (55hp)
Attacks: claw/claw, bite
Damage: 1d4+1 x2, 1d6+1
Special: Yaoguai abilities
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 10
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: XXI [B]
XP: 3,000 (OSE) 3,100 (LL)

Hóu Yaoguai, or Monkey demon spirit, are among the most powerful, smartest, and evil of the lesser Yaoguai.  Their animal form is that of a particularly evil-looking monkey looking like a macaque combined with a chimpanzee.  In their hybrid form, they can pass for a hairy human. Given the proper clothing, they can be 90% indistinguishable.

Like all yaoguai, these creatures prefer to attack with their natural weapons. In this case two claws and a bite. Unlike others, there is no special attack by this demon. 

These demons are more subtle than their kindred.  There are no summonings of creatures or deadly diseases. What they can do is summon 2-20 thralls; mercenary humans they have brought over to their causes.  This suits the Hóu Yaoguai well in its chosen area of interest.  The breakup of human-run governments. 

The Hóu Yaoguai will insert itself into a government as a low-level official and work its way up to power where it can influence governors, princes, or even the Emporer.  Its goal is always the same bring as much chaos as it can.  The ultimate goal for any Monkey demon is civil war.

--

Not too bad for a start.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Amphicyon, the Bear-Dog (Memory and the Mandela Effect)

I am sure by now many of my readers are familiar with the "Mandela Effect" or a large collective false memory effect OR example of how we, or some of us, switched over to a parallel universe.  It is named this because there are some people that "remember" that Nelson Mandela had died in a South African prison and did not later become the first President of post-Apartheid South Africa. 

There plenty of people that claim that the comic Sinbad was a genie in a movie called "Shazam" (and not the similar "Kazaam" from Shaq) or The Berenstein Bears was a book series and not The Berenstain Bears.

While it might be fun to explore the whole parallel universe or our world as a simulation narrative to all of this, that doesn't interest me as much as the truth; the collective false memories people have.  I did my Master's Thesis on Long-term memory activation, my first Doctoral Dissertation was on information processing cognition and memory.  I find memory to be a fascinating topic.  I don't want to claim to be an expert in this, but I am well informed and have done plenty of original, published scientific research on it.

So when I fall "victim" to the Mandela Effect myself, I pay attention.

At this point, you might be asking what does all of this have to do with Monstrous Monday? Well simply put, I have a creature in my memory that none of the rest of you have.

Let's go back a bit to 2002.  My oldest son was a baby, my youngest had not yet been born.  We would go to the library and pick up DVDs to watch.  One of my son's favorite was Ice Age. I have talked here before about how his love of prehistoric beasts, especially sea creatures, had been an influence on him getting into D&D.  Well this was before D&D and before his love of dragons.  I think I watched Ice Age a hundred times with him back then.  The disc we got also had a special "behind the scenes/making of" section that I would watch as well.  This section talked about all the characters that were in the movie; Manny, Sid, Diego, Scrat, and one other.  This other character was an Amphicyon or a bear-dog. They showed how the character was designed and even rough cuts of the character and a draft of the poster featuring this other character.  I remember telling my wife about it one day after we had returned the DVD to the library.

Fast forward a couple of years and we get the DVD, but no behind the scenes feature on it.  Hmm.  No problem I think, I'll just grab it from the library again.  Well, this stretches into a long period of time and I never grabbed it until a few years back.  I liked the creature and used it in a couple of games. I rewatched the DVD behind the scenes and...nothing.  No Amphicyon, no bear-dog, nothing at all.  I searched online. Nothing.  I asked my wife. She didn't remember it.  I have a very distinct memory of this short and this character.

But it never happened.

I know that over the years I have constructed and reconstructed the memory.  Memory is not a hard drive where things are stored unaltered.  We encode our memories with our surroundings; like how a smell or a song will trigger a memory, or in the case of my research in the 90s, how a word can affect which memories are retrieved.  For me, I know how my memories were altered.  At this time (2001 to 2005) I was suffering a fairly major bout of deep depression.  I have studied the effects of depression on memory.  I know what can happen.  Yet here I am, 2020, searching on the Internet for a character I *know* did not exist, but somehow I am still not 100% convinced I am wrong. (I am wrong, I know this logically)

BUT that doesn't mean I can't have a little fun with this.

Amphicyon

Amphicyon-ingens reconstruction
aka Bear-Dog
Large Beast (Prehistoric)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Alignment:
Neutral [True Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Swim: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 8d8+8 (44 hp); 
  Alternate (Large) 8d10+8 (52 hp)
Attacks: claw/claw, bite
Damage: 1d6+1 x2, 1d10+1
Special: Swimming, Omnivore
Size: Large
Save: Monster 8
Morale: 8
Treasure Hoard Class:
None
XP: 650 (B/X, OSE), 640 (LL)

The Amphicyon, or bear-dog, is a large prehistoric mammal that is the forerunner of all modern canines and bears. It was active some 16.9 million years ago and died out 2.6 million years ago.  

The creature appears as a large bear, 8 to 9 ft. in length and weighing 1,300 to 1,400 pounds.  Its muzzle is more wolf-like than bear-like as are it's teeth and jaw.  

Unlike wolves and modern canines, the amphicyon is more of a solitary creature. Groups greater than one and up to four are family units consisting of a mother and her cubs. Also like bears, the amphicyon is a carnivore but can survive on an omnivorous diet.  Amphicyons are good if slow, swimmers and will make a diet of fish when they can.

Generally, the amphicyon will avoid contact with humanoids, but it can attack with a claw, claw, bite routine. 

Lycanthrope, Were-Amphicyonidae
Medium Humanoid (Shapeshifter, Prehistoric)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Alignment:
Neutral [True Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 9d8*+18 (59 hp)
Attacks: claw/claw, bite, or by weapon
Damage: 1d4+2 x2, 1d8+2
Special: Shapechange, harmed by silver
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 9
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class:
C (XX)
XP: 1,600 (B/X, OSE), 1,700 (LL)

Amphicyonidae Lycanthropes are similar to werebears and werewolves, likely the forerunner to both types of creatures. Like all lycanthropes, the were-amphicyonidae can shift between an animal form (an amphicyon), a human, and a hybrid creature. These lycanthropes though are found exclusively among prehistoric humans like cavemen and Neanderthals, and almost exclusively in colder climates.

Were-Amphicyonidae are affected by the phases of the full moon as are werebears and werewolves.  Like werebears they retain some human intelligence, though a primitive intelligence focused on survival.

The first were-amphicyonidae, and indeed, among the first lycanthropes ever, were shamans that had mastered the abilities of shape-shifting long before there were druids, clerics, or even witches. They passed their gift on to others and now all that remains of the great shamans of old are these creatures.

In combat, the were-amphicyonidae fight with a claw, claw bite routine. They cannot "hug" as a werebear can.   They can only be harmed by silver or magical weapons.  Their bite can transmit the lycanthropy curse but only Neanderthals will become were-amphicyonidae. Normal humans will become werebears (lawful and neutral) or werewolves (chaotic) depending on their alignment. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Nøkk

Work continues on Basic Bestiary, playing around with a few ideas.  Here is one I have been working off and on with over the last year.  Most off, since I notice it has been a year since I looked at it last.

Nøkk
Medium/Large Fey (Water)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral (True Neutral)
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
   Swim: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 6d8+12* (39 hp)
Attacks: 1 fist or 1 hoof or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6+1 or 1d8+1 or by weapon
Special: Song (Charm), Spell-like abilities
Size: Medium or Large
Save: Monster 6
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 650 (B/X, OSE) 680 (LL)

The Nøkk, also Neck, Näcken, and Nokken, is a type of fey creature that lives in temperate to arctic waters.  They can appear as a man playing a lyre, flute, or violin, or as a large horse made partially of water.  They are related to the nixie and other water-based faerie creatures.  Some scholars debate if they are in truth water spirits of water elementals.  They are not unduly affected by cold-iron as other fey are.  

The nøkk is content to spend his days sitting on rocks near the shore and playing his instrument and singing.  They avoid combat when they can preferring to use their song of charm to ward off possible attacks.  If a character approaches the nøkk with respect he may teach them a song.  For bards, this equates to a once in a lifetime gift of 500 XP.  For spellcasters such as magic-users, druids, or witches they learn to cast a Charm Person spell once without the need to memorize the spell.  

Nøkk also have the following spell-like abilities they can use once per day (x1 day), Animal Friendship, Charm Animal, Cure Light Wounds, Predict Weather, and cast Water Breathing on up to six others.  A nøkk can breathe air or water as it chooses.