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

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Aliens, Monsters, and the Unknown in Thirteen Parsecs

Alien girl by Hernán Toro
Alien girl by Hernán Toro

It's a sci-fi Monstrous Monday and I wanted to talk a little about monsters and aliens in Thirteen Parsecs.

Like our other RPG NIGHT SHIFT, Thirteen Parsecs is a "tool kit" game. That is, we will give all sorts of rules, some sample settings ("Solar Frontiers"), and let you build your own.

Some of our settings will have aliens. Jason has a few he has been working on for his Solar Frontiers. Derek has some others. 

For my Solar Frontiers, aliens are treated very differently.

In "Space Truckers," aliens only add flavor to the game. The eponymous Dixie of Dixie's Truck Stop is described as an "attractive alien girl with blue skin and bug-like antennae."  But otherwise, she is pretty much a human. There are Ursians, bear-like aliens who make up the police force of the "Colony Hyperspace Patrol" or CHyPs. There are Porcines who control most of the Badlands where Space Truckers have their shipping lanes. And finally, there are Lot Lizards, who are lizard people. I have a chimpanzee-like species that are the best engineers on the Frontier and more. But again, these are just for dressing. They still all more or less act human. Maybe exaggerated traits, but human enough to relate to. This is part of the fun of this particular setting. It is meant to feel like a 1970s Trucker movie in space.

"Darker Stars" is very different. 

In this Solar Frontier, humankind has moved out into space and found monsters waiting for them. 

While we will have some monsters in the core rules, my goals here was to re-purpose monsters from both NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands. Indeed this is the source of those monsters. Darker Stars is my "horror in space" setting.

Let's take an example of a typical Darker Stars sort of adventure.

The crew of your starship encounters a derelict spacecraft. You send a landing party to investigate only to be attacked by the crew. The long-dead crew.

Our dead crew, and they could be human or aliens, will use the Zombie stats from NIGHT SHIFT. If you think about it, what are the Borg or even Cybermen but fancy zombies? The commanding officer? A mummy or a lich.

Does this mean there is magic here? Well...I take Arthur C. Clark's view here with his Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The captain of this ship, knowing his crew was in danger makes a radical adjustment to ship's life support and keeps everyone from not dying. "Not Dying" isn't the same as "Alive" though.

But don't worry. There will be aliens, both as playable races and as creatures to encounter.  

It will be up to you whether your encounter with them is more like Ripley's or Kirk's.

Monday, April 29, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: Y is for Yeti (and Other Cryptids)

 It is another Monstrous Monday in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, so let's talk about a Y monster. And really there is only one I am going to need for today. The Yeti.

I have often done the Yeti and other cryptids for my A to Z.

And in regular postings,

Pursuing the AD&D Monster Manual back in 1979, I could not help but notice that while most of the monsters were obviously mythological in origin, one stood out.  There are on the next to last entry stood tall and proud, was the Yeti.

Yeti from the Monster Manual

Now you have to remember what the late 70s / early 80s were like.  Bigfoot fever was all over the place then; there were no less than a dozen movies about Bigfoot in the '70s alone. Only the 2010s exceed it.  So seeing a Yeti, who I knew was a relative, was very interesting.  At first, I didn't want to use him; it seemed so "off" to me.  But over the years, I have changed my mind, and now I use all sorts of hominid cryptozoological creatures.   

I think that is one of the great things about this game. I can have my Greek Myths monsters right next to my Horror Movie monsters and my urban legend cryptids. 

The monsters do feel different of course, but that is also part of the fun. But D&D doesn't have to be about fighting monsters all the time. A perfectly acceptable adventure would be a group of cryptid hunters that don't hunt the monsters but instead discover these hidden, supposedly legendary creatures. 

This is one of the things I have wanted to do with my own NIGHT SHIFT game; modern-day cryptid hunting. So not just yetis, but sasquatches, skunk-apes, chupacabras, moth men, greys, and lake monsters. All sorts of fun. Bring the grocery store tabloids to life!


Tomorrow is the Last Day of the Challenge with Z Day, so I'll discuss the Z-Library of Dungeons & Dragons.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

Monday, April 15, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: M is for Monster Manual

 Today is Monday. It is also "M" Day. Here at The Other Side, Mondays are used for Monstrous Mondays, where I talk about monsters. Since I am doing the A to Z of Dungeons and Dragons my topic for today was pretty much handed to me.  Today I am going to talk about the Monster Manual.

All printings of the 1st Edition Monster Manual
All printings of the 1st Edition Monster Manual

Monster Manual for AD&D 1st Edition

This is the book that got me into D&D and RPGs. Along with The Hobbit, this is where my journey began. 

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

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

D'Aularires' Book of Greek Myths and the Monster Manual

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

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

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

The Book (and PDF)
The Monster Manual's PDF has been available since July 2015. The book has three different covers from the various printings in 1977, 1983 and 2012.

Monster Manual 1977Monster Manual 1983Monster Manual 2012

Regardless of what cover you have, the insides are all the same. The book is 112 pages long and features black-and-white art from some of the biggest names to grace the pages of an RPG book.
This book was the first of so many things we now take for granted in this industry. The first hardcover, the first dedicated monster tome, and the first AD&D book.

The book contains 350+ monsters of various difficulties for all character levels. Some of the most iconic monsters in D&D began right here. Mostly culled from the pages of OD&D—even some of the art is similar—and the pages of The Dragon, this was and is the definitive book on monsters.

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

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

Flipping through one of my physical copies or paging through the PDF, I now feel the same sense of wonder I did 45 years ago.

Thankfully, you can get the PDF of the Monster Manual for just a little more than the hardcover cost 45 years ago.

Gary Gygax's Daughter with the Monster Manual
Gary Gygax's oldest daughter, Elise, with the Monster Manual

The original Monster Manual is still so popular today that Wizards of the Coast is still making minis for D&D 5th Edition in the style of the monsters from AD&D 1st Edition. Granted, those sets are not aimed at casual 5e players but rather old gamers like me with fond memories and more disposable income than we had in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I feel it is difficult for me to truly convey how I felt when I first read this book. But I think I have approached explaining it.

One thing is certain. This is the reason I have been working on my own Basic Bestiary.

Tomorrow is N Day. I plan to discuss the infamous Appendix N from the Dungeon Master's Guide.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Faerie Lord, Rübezahl

"Rübezahl" by Moritz von Schwind (1859)
"Rübezahl" by Moritz von Schwind (1859)
 I am working on a post for tomorrow, and while doing some reading, this guy came up. Since I am still in the middle of editing the "F's," I figure I might as well add him. 

The concept of having Faerie Lords in my games goes way back—maybe to the first time I read "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The machinations of Oberon and Titania were so much fun that I had hoped the whole play had just been about them. I added them to my games immediately, and I was disappointed that AD&D had nothing of the sort then. Faerie Lords next appear in Ghosts of Albion and many of my WitchCraft games. 

Adding them to my Basic games is a no-brainer, really.

Faerie Lord Rübezahl
Krakonos; Lord of the Mountains
Medium Humanoid (Fey, Faerie Lord)

Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 14d8+42 (105 hp)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 fist slams, 1 weapon (staff) 
Damage: 1d6+2 x2, 1d6+2
Special: Magic resistance (25%), immune to poison; can communicate telepathically, Magic +1 weapons to hit, grow to giant size, druid spells, alter appearance
No. Appearing: 1 (unique)
Save As: Monster 14
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Type: C x5
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral)
XP: 6,100

Languages: Elven, Sylvan, Telepathic, Goblin

S: 17 (+2) D: 16 (+2) C: 18 (+3) I: 14 (+1) W: 15 (+1) Ch: 20 (+4) 

Faerie Lord Rübezahl lives in a large mountain range and avoids civilized human contact. He often appears as a tall (6'5") wild man with long gray, unkempt hair and a beard. He wears very tattered clothing and looks like a wild man or a woodwose. He can also appear as a gruff stone giant or a beautiful young maiden. He takes pleasure in transforming between all his forms to confuse and bedevil others who enter his lands. He is the lord of bugbears, ogres, trolls, and other wild fey creatures not given over completely to evil. 

His true form is shrouded in mystery, but his presence is undeniable.  Rüberzahl is a force of nature, as unpredictable as the mountain storms he commands.  While he protects the mountains and those who respect them, he delights in testing mortals by shifting his form and blocking passages with rocks and fallen trees.  He is the guardian of his range of mountains, and he does not tolerate the greedy, arrogant, or environmentally destructive who cross his path, for Rübezahl may lead them astray or unleash the fury of the mountains upon them.

Rüberzahl is a formidable opponent in combat.  He wields his staff with devastating power.  His true strength lies in his magic, however. In addition to being able to change his form to a giant, he also has the abilities and spells of a 14th-level druid. He will use spells to deal with large groups and shift to giant form to attack (use Stone Giant for combat). He is fond of casting barkskin on himself and call lightning on large groups.

Rüberzahl is a solitary creature who does not need companionship. His capricious nature makes it difficult for him to get along. However, he has a grudging respect for other powerful beings who dwell in the world's wild places. He avoids the other faerie lords, and they avoid him. The stone giants give him respect, and he avoids getting into their affairs. He has been known to aid those lost in the mountains in finding their way out. Whether he does this out of benevolence or simply to get people out of his mountains is not entirely clear. 

His home is a large cave near an expansive field of turnips. This has also given him the title of Lord of Turnips. A name he does not much care for. 


The editing of Basic Bestiary continues.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Giants Apes and Progress on Basic Bestiary 1

 Editing continues to Basic Bestiary 1. Right now, I am working under the assumption that is will be one very large book for Vol. 1, currently subtitled: "Monstrous Maleficarum."

How big?

Well. Right now, it is at 340 pages and 138,000 words.  That is not counting art or introductory text.  Or problems like what I have today.

As I am editing and sending stuff out of peer review and editing, I am also seeing more gaps. Not gaps in content per se, but gaps in things I wanted but forgot to add. This next monster is a pretty obvious one to me. 

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do my own monster book was largely due to a love affair with monsters since I was a child. My mom always had great horror stories to tell us while growing up, and more than a few monsters in BB1 were her ideas. But my dad and I watched all sorts of horror movies together. In particular, we loved what I called "Monster Movies," which featured a monster or creature. Among these were of course a lot of "Dracula movies," Godzilla, and one of the first movies I can ever remember watching with my dad. The 1933 King Kong. I have seen every Kong movie since then and the always remind me of sitting down when I was little and watching them with my dad.

The fact that my first pass of the Basic Bestiary didn't have a Giant Ape in it is criminal. 

Now in my defense I was sure that Giant Ape had already been done in the classic monster books. But it turns out it wasn't. Well, today, I will change that. 

This is also the format I plan to use for the Basic Bestiaries. Some "Advanced" information here is helpful and Descending and Ascending AC. I added a "To Hit AC 0" line and a line for Languages.  Also, each monster will get ability scores. AC, hp, and damage adjustments have all already been added.

Ape, Gargantuan
Gargantuan Beast (Primate), Very Rare

Armor Class: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 14d8+56 (119)
Move:  360' (120')
Attacks: 2 fist (bash), 1 bite
Damage: 3d6+5 x2, 1d10+5
Special: Gargantuan size
To Hit AC 0: 4
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: Monster 14
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Type: None
Alignment: Neutral (Unaligned)
XP Value: 2,300

Languages: Own

S: 24 I:W: 8 D: 10 C: 20 Ch:

The gargantuan ape is a rare and awe-inspiring creature to behold. It appears as an ordinary ape, though it makes more use of bipedal movement than a typical low-land gorilla, which also uses its forearms. There is also more than just a hint of intelligence in its eyes. The overall effect is one that this could have been, if not for its great size, some lost link between humanity and apes. Its most distinguishing feature, though, completely rules out this possibility. The gargantuan ape towers over ordinary apes and humans at an astonishing 25' tall. Thankfully, such creatures are rare and often only found in remote parts of the world.

The gargantuan ape's behaviors are similar to that of its smaller cousins. It eats prodigious amounts of plant food and lives in isolated plant-rich areas like rainforests and jungles. This creature is also known to add various animal life to its diet, likely resulting in their slimmer frames, like that of a carnivorous ape, and keener intellect. They are not hunters per se; their massive size prevents sneaking or ambush hunting, and they can typically pick up and eat any smaller animal. They are more opportunistic hunters. Culling herds of their weakest members. They typically eat giant-sized insects, large birds, or the occasional large lizard.  

These creatures are often found in "lost world" locations where explorers have also found great lizards of an ancient and bygone age (dinosaurs). Their battles with dinosaurs are awesome and terrifying to behold. Sometimes, they are even worshiped as gods by local primitive human populations.  

Gargantuan apes have no treasure. They have no concept of it and have no use for it. However, the land they live in is often filled with items collectors find valuable. In addition, and perhaps the most troubling, are their graveyards. Not only does this mean these creatures are intelligent enough to have a concept of death and rituals around them, but also what some of these remains imply. There have been skulls located in these burials that suggest that some of these creatures grew to 150' or more in height. Some of the largest skulls have even been decorated to honor the dead. Others still have damage to them, suggesting an even larger predator with large, sharp teeth.


Currently, I do not have a solid publication date for Basic Bestiary 1 save for sometime this year.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Trollkönig (Troll King)

 Playing around with different layouts for Basic Bestiary. I did a few, and I didn't like most of them. Not a big deal, I have time.

Right now, I am trying to figure out if I want to break up BB1 into smaller 64-page volumes or one larger one. I like the idea of smaller volumes. To round that out, I might need to develop a couple more monsters here and there. Again, not a big deal.

If I did break up BB1 into say three volumes, they would have about 120-130 monsters each. Do I break them up by themes or alphabetically? I guess I need to see how big it is when I am done.

The "theme" of Basic Bestiary 1 is "Monstrous Maleficarum," or monsters I have read about, used, or developed while working on my various witch books. There are also more than a few here from various monster books I loved reading as a child and spent some time hunting down as an adult. 

In any case here is a new one I worked on when I was supposed to be doing editing and layouts.

Troll King Arthur Rackman
Trollkönig (Troll King)
Large Humanoid (Fey, Faerie Lord)

Armor Class: -5 [24]
Hit Dice: 18d8+108 (189 hp)
   Large: 18d10+108 (207 hp)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 fist slams, 1 bite or 1 weapon (x2) or thrown rock, or roar
Damage: 1d12+5 x2, 1d8+5 or by weapon (x2) or thrown rock 2d12, roar for fear
Special: Magic resistance (45%), immune to  poison;  half damage to cold, can communicate telepathically, Magic +2 weapons to hit, regenerate, roar, summon trolls, sunlight sensitivity
No. Appearing: 1 (unique)
Save As: Monster 18
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Type: C x20
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil)
XP: 8,900

Languages: Elven, Sylvan, Telepathic, Trollspeak

The King of Trolls may not be the most eloquent or attractive of the faerie lords, but he is one of the most physically impressive.  He appears as a 13' tall troll of massive build. His skin appears to be a dense rock-like hide with patchy bits of hair and numerous scars from his many battles. His eyes, though, betray a keen and malign intelligence not seen in lesser trolls.

Like his subjects, the trolls, he attacks with fist slams and a bite. Though, unlike the lesser trolls, he is also intelligent enough to use weapons. He often chooses to use a giant battle axe doing 1d10+5 hp of damage per attack.  Like a giant, he can throw rocks. The Trollkönig can roar 3 times per day. This roar can cause fear (as per the spell) in any creature of 7 HD or lower, save vs. Petrification to ignore. Creatures less than 1 HD are not allowed a saving throw.  

As their king the Troll King can summon 3d8 trolls to his side. The trolls must be nearby, and they arrive in one turn.   

The King of Trolls also has 45% magic resistance, can only be hit by +2 or better weapons, and is immune to poison and only half damage from cold. This creature also regenerates like lesser trolls, but at an alarming rate of 10 hp per round; starting on the first round, he takes damage. Unlike common trolls, the Trollkönig can regenerate even from fire and acid damage. He can't regenerate if exposed to sunlight.

The Troll King is a powerful individual who has risen above the typical troll, ruling over a vast network of tunnels and caves with utter brutality. Driven by a twisted sense of hierarchy and ambition, the Troll King seeks to assert its dominance over anything smaller or weaker. It hoards treasures stolen from those unfortunate enough to cross its path.  The Faerie Lords tolerate the Troll King, not due to any sense of loyalty or familial ties, but because they often employ him to take care of their enemies and the physical fighting they can't be bothered to do themselves. 

There is a heated rivalry between the Troll King and the Goblin King, largely due to their respective subjects' own rivalries.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Thunderbird (and Basic Bestiary updates)

Work on Basic Bestiary has picked back up. I have 360 completed monsters for it now. I still have my next pass at editing and mechanics tweaking to complete.  What I really need is art. I don't have any, and while I am happy to use some PD art for it (and it fits the look I want), I will need more. A lot more. While I don't mind AI art (and appreciate the computer science that went into it), I can't in good conscience use any in this. 

Still playing around with stat block ideas. Since this is a "Basic" Bestiary, I figure I should get closer to the Basic-era stat block details as I can. I am adding some "modern" ideas like creature size and type (something we see in BECMI and RC, but not BX), and Ascending AC (Basic Fantasy, OSE and LL).  I need to decide if I want to include other details like Advanced era alignments (I am leaning towards yes), Languages (also yes), and Frequency. I am also still considering hp adjustment due to size. I like it a lot, and it makes creatures a lot tougher.

I believe I have settled on using BX/OSE style XP awards and having a table in the back for all the other games I think people might want to use this for, as long as they are OGC.  Edited: I noticed my math might be off on some higher HD monsters. 

The stat block below is what I am thinking so far. Love to hear some feedback on it.

Yes. I am still going to use the OGL for this one. I have gone too far down that road to go back.

Here is one of the last monsters I worked on for the book. As always, the final version might be different.

Giant Bird
Thunder Bird
Gargantuan Beast (Magical)

Armor Class: -5 [24]
Hit Dice: 17d8+68 (145 hp)
   Gargantuan: 17d20+68 (264 hp)
Move: 90' (30')
   Flying: 360' (120')
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, special
Damage: 1d12+5 x2, 2d8+5, special
Special: Lighting bolt, thunder, wing buffet
No. Appearing: 1 (1, or 1d4+1, mated pair with chicks)
Save As: Monster 17
Morale: 10 (12)
Treasure Type: None, See below
Alignment: Neutral (True Neutral)
XP: 6,600

Languages: Avian

Thunderbirds are gargantuan birds that appear as storm gray-colored eagles. They have a 70' wing span that can blot out the sun and talons that can carry off livestock, usually one or two cattle each. Their eyes flash with electrical light and can shoot lightning bolts. When their wings flap, they can cause storms and thunder. Natives of the lands the thunderbird calls home to revere the bird as a messenger of the forces of good and liken it to a spirit. It is a mortal animal, albeit a very powerful one. 

The thunderbird can attack with its massive beak and talons.  It swoops down from their mountain homes, which can be hundreds of miles away, to attack its prey. It prefers large cattle, like horses, cows, and bison, and can carry off up to 2,000 pounds worth at a time. Thunderbirds that live near oceans will even make a dinner out of whales when they can catch them. They do not attack humans if they can avoid it. They do not like the taste and attack humans since humans often return in greater numbers and with weapons. If attacked by humans on the ground, the thunderbird will often just opt to fly away. Thunderbirds and Rocs do not get along as they tend to go after the same prey. Their relationship is similar to that of eagles and hawks.  

The thunderbird gets its name from the magical storm-creation powers it has. By flapping its wings and remaining stationary, it can create a thunderclap that does 10d6 hp of damage; Breath Weapon saves for half the damage. Which will also define anyone within a 120' long cone, 60' at its widest.  Targets outside of the 120' are unaffected by either the damage or the deafness. It can also 3 times per day cast a 10d6 lighting bolt from its eyes. The range on this is 100', save vs. Breath Weapon for half damage. Ranges outside of 100' to 300' are at half-damage or save for no damage.  The thunderbird will not use this attack against food prey but rather to defend itself from humanoids or other large creatures it finds itself engaging with.  A thunderbird can also summon storms as per the Summon Weather spell. 

Thunderbirds have no need nor interest in treasure. The feathers of the thunderbird are highly prized as a main ingredient for a staff of lightning bolts and other magical staffs. Their feathers are also used in other magic item creations, typically Wings of Flying. Any item that requires a roc feather can use a thunderbird feather instead for a 50% increase in either speed or duration. The feathers of a thunderbird usually can bring in 1,000 gp on the right markets (usually only 2d6 are viable for arcane use). The eggs of thunderbirds are so rare to discover that bounties of 12,000 gp and more are sometimes offered. The lairs of the thunderbird are usually at the tops of mountains so high they are very nearly impossible to reach. 

Tales tell of a great thunderbird so large that when it flies, the land below is thrust into night. This could be a single unique specimen or an undiscovered variety.  

Monday, February 12, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Dragon, Wood

 On Saturday, February 10th we ushered in the Chinese Year of the Dragon.  Since this is 2024, it is the Year of the Wood Dragon.

Reflecting on my last This Old Dragon, I have always tried to balance how powerful dragons need to be in an old-school game.   I want to keep dragons powerful but not so powerful that they make 1st edition Tiamat and Bahamut look weak. 

It is a balancing act. I also want to consider how much more powerful they get as they age. 

Wood Dragon, by GrumpyBeere
Dragon, Wood

Huge Dragon

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Fly: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 7d8+28** (66 hp) (6HD to 8HD)
  Huge: 7d12+28** (74 hp)
THAC0: 8 (+11)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, + special
Damage: 1d6+3x2, 2d8+3
Special: Breath weapons (Choking Cloud), camouflage, dragon fear, low-light vision (120’), magic use, shape change
Save: Monster 7
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special

Habitat: Temperate Forests
Probability Asleep: 25% 
Probability of Speech: 90%
Breath Weapon: Choking Cloud
Spells: First: 3, Second: 3, Third: 1

Wood dragons appear similar to green dragons in general form but lack wings. They can still fly due to their innate magic. Their coloration is usually some sort of brown that looks like polished wood, accented with bits of green and yellow. This gives them a natural camouflage ability (75% hide outdoors) in their preferred environment, temperate forests.

These dragons can attack with a claw-and-claw-and-bite routine in dragon form. In human form, they can wield a weapon. In either form, they can use magic as a magic-user of the 6th level. 

Their breath weapon is a cloud of choking smoke. It requires a save vs. breath weapon or take damage equal to the dragon's current hit points. Save results in half-damage. The area of effect is 50 ft by 50 ft in front of the dragon, which has reduced vision to all but the dragon. Attacks are at -2 for the next round following the breath weapon attack.

Wood dragons are lively, dynamic creatures. They can be quite friendly, but their moods switch easily and quickly. Many pursue some artistic or academic endeavor that takes all of their time and focus. It is in this pursuit they are most likely to engage with others.  Like all dragons, they hoard their treasures, which are always related to their interests. So, instead of gold and jewels, it will be art, paintings, or books. 

Wood Dragon encounters both Green and Orange dragons in their home environments and finds both sorts unpleasant and distasteful.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Monstrous Monday: Greater Astral Spiders

 For the next few weeks, I will be posting monsters for use in the various "Powered by O.G.R.E.S." games I work on and use. These are NIGHT SHIFT, Wasted Lands, and the upcoming Thirteen Parsecs. I would also like to use this space to feature some new artists and their work. 

Up first is a favorite around here. This one is bigger.

Astral Spider by John Kozlowski
Astral Spider by John Kozlowski

Astral Spider, Greater

No. Appearing: 1
AC: 4
Move: 40 ft and Special (Astral)
ViD: 8
Special: Wits and toughness drain. 1 point/day each
XP VALUE: 1,600

Greater Astral Spiders are larger and more terrifying versions of the smaller Astral Spiders. Like their smaller cousins, they are not true spiders but creatures of the deeper dark.  These creatures are about three feet high and six feet long when manifesting in the material world. Since they are not true spiders but creatures of fear from the Deeper Dark, they are not limited to just 8 legs.

As their name suggests, these creatures are native to the astral plane, but they are attracted to people with psychic or empathic abilities.  These creatures drain Wits (wisdom) and Toughness (constitution). Like the smaller varieties, these creatures are invisible. They find targets that have high levels of empathy (psychics, witches, sorcerers) and attach themselves to feed. They do not have a physical attack in terms of Vitality damage.

An astrally projected or sensitive witch can see these creatures, either on themselves or others. A Dismissal spell can remove the spider, but they can only be attacked in the Astral Plane. A Dimensional Anchor used against it can prevent it from latching back onto a victim.  A Lesser Restoration and one week of bed rest for each day of ability loss will cure the victim. Without magic, the recovery period is one week per point of Wits and Toughness lost each. Thus, a minimum of two weeks.

Use in the Wasted Lands

During the Dreaming Age the Astral Spiders were far more common and could manifest in the Material World more easily. There is conjecture on their relationship to the other denizens of the Deeper Dark, but few are willing to study them up close.  These creatures can sometimes be summoned by dark-aligned Sorcerers, but with no real means of controlling them, they can be the victim just as often.


These creatures cause much fear in the communities of psychics and witches. There is a lot of talk on various online groups on how to best deal with them, but there is little to no consensus.

Astral Spiders online

Use in Thirteen Parsecs

As in the Dreaming Age, Astral Spiders are able to manifest in the Material World. What is worse that due to their ability to travel via the Astral, attacking starships on the Solar Frontier is as easy to them as attacking a sleeping person back on Earth.  The closer a planet is to the Solar Frontier, the more likely an attack by an Astral Spider will become. 

Monday, December 11, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: Lamassu and Shedu

 We decorated our "Geek Tree" this past weekend.  Even though my kids are older now and not really "kids" anymore (my oldest is a professional and is saving for a house, and my youngest is in school and has a girlfriend), we all still like to watch the old Christmas specials like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph, in particular, is a favorite, not for itself but for how badly it has aged. There is one character in it, though, that is redeemable...well, two. Yukon Cornelius and King Moonracer.  We were talking while hanging up ornaments of starships, astromechs, and TARDISes about what sort of monster Moonracer was.  Manticore? No. Androsphinx? Maybe. Shedu? Maybe. Lammasu? Likely closer. 

This got me thinking later on while indulging in our other favorite Christmas-time indulgence, our re-watch of Game of Thrones.  I was digging around in my notes about Lammasu and Shedu for my One Man's God posts and thought I would resurrect them for today.

Lamassu and Shedu

One thing that bugged me way back when reading the Monster Manual was that many of the monsters were very similar. For example, there are Manticores (Greek), Sphinxes (Egyptian and Greek), the Lammasu, and Shedu, with these last two based on Babylonian/Sumerian/Akkadian myths. Sort of. The Lamassu and Shedu in these myths are actually two different names for the same creature. Also, the name in the Monster Manual has a different spelling ("Lammasu").

I always considered these to be related creatures. Something I would later see in the Forgotten Realms lore.  AD&D 2nd Ed made their differences a little more pronounced by making the Shedu the "psionic one."

Large Celestial (Outsider, Lawful)

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1-4 (2-8)
Alignment: Lawful [Lawful Good]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
   Fly: 240' (80') [24"']
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 8d8+8**** (44 hp)
   Large: 8d10+8**** (52 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 12 (+7)
Attacks: 2 claws + Special
Damage: 1d4+2 x2
Special: Magical abilities, spell use.
Save: Monster 8
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: XVI (G)
XP: 2,608 (OSE) 3,040 (LL)
Languages: Celestial, Common, Telepathy

Str: 16 (+2) Dex: 14 (+1) Con: 15 (+1) Int: 16 (+2) Wis: 18 (+3) Cha: 17 (+2)

Lamassu are spiritual guardians,  often in the service of a Lawful Good god or order, who spend their lives on the Material Planes guarding houses and temples. They can be found in the wild, typically warmer climes. They appear as winged lions with human faces. They are loath to attack mortals but will attack demons, undead, and evil creatures with fear or hesitation.  

The lamassu can attack with two foreclaws for 1d4+2 hp damage each on a single target. They can also employ the following spell-like powers: Protection from Evil 10' at all times, become invisible, and cast dimension door at will.  Additionally, they have the spell-casting and undead-turning ability of a Lawful Good Cleric of the 7th level.

Lamassu are typically viewed as female due to their association with the Goddess Lama. As guardian spirits, though, they are neither male nor female and both at the same time.  They are often compared to sphinxes (whom they share areas with and tolerate), manticores (whom they despise), and shedu (qv.). As spirit guardians made flesh, they are not "born" but come into being at the will of their Goddess. Though it could be argued that She is their mother.

Large Celestial (Outsider, Lawful)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 2 (2-8)
Alignment: Lawful [Lawful Good]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
   Fly: 240' (80') [24"']
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 10d8+8**** (65 hp)
   Large: 10d10+8**** (75 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 12 (+8)
Attacks: 2 hooves + Special
Damage: 1d4+2 x2
Special: Magical abilities, spell use.
Save: Monster 10
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: XVI (G)
XP: 3,606 (OSE) 3,800 (LL)
Languages: Celestial, Common, Telepathy

Str: 16 (+2) Dex: 14 (+1) Con: 16 (+2) Int: 18 (+3) Wis: 16 (+1) Cha: 17 (+2)

Shedu are often considered to be the "male" versions of Lamassu. This comes from observations that shedu typically has thick, curly beards, and lamassu does not. Both, though, are genderless spirit creatures. Shedu have the bodies of great equines or bulls, with hooves of brass, the wings of an eagle, and the face of a human. 

Like lamassu, the sheu is loathe to attack mortals of any sort, save for the most evil. The will attacks demons and undead on sight.  They can attack with their great forehooves on a single target, each hoof getting an attack. Additionally, they have the following spell-like abilities they can use at will: Protection from Evil 10' radius, become Etheral or Astral, teleport without error.  They also can cast spells as a 9th-level magic User (wizard). 

Shedu are often found roaming the mortal planes, searching for evil to destroy and lawful good mortals to aid. They are always found in multiples of two. Sheu in their lair are often guarding a larger temple to a Lawful Good god, power, or order. Lamassu and Shedu are rarely found together unless they are working with a more powerful Lawful Good force. Even here, they are always found in multiples of two. When a Shedu is killed on the mortal planes, its spirit will return in seven days. 

Greater Shedu: There are shedu that are greater in power and size than the common Shedu.  These creatures have 14 HD, and their damage is +3 to each attack. They cast spells as a 13th-level Wizard. Greater shedu do travel and work in pairs, but they are also the only type of shedu that can be encountered alone. 

Monday, December 4, 2023

Monstorus Mondays: Saving Throw Clarifications

Edith Hamilton's Mythology
 Just a quick on today. Really busy.

I got an email over the weekend asking me to clarify some of my Saving Throw notations on my various monster stat blocks.

I can't say that I am surprised. I post a lot of monsters here for a variety of games, and sometimes I do hybrid stats without really thinking about them.

For example some of my recent demons I have posted for my Tomb of the Vampire Queen have OSE style saving throws, with the addition of another type of save, "SS."  In this case SS is "Single Save" and is the saving throw you roll if there is no other category that makes sense. These numbers are from Swords & Wizardry's saving throws.

Some recent examples:

I hope that clears things up.

Deities & Demigods II Updates

Still working on the PDF. Hope to get it out to you all for Christmas. A reminder this is will be a free product.

I was visiting my parents for my Dad's 94th birthday and his and my mom's 55th wedding anniversary this past weekend. Had a great time see family. My mom had a stack of books for me and in it was this copy of Edith Hamilton's classical work "Mythology."  

This was not my original, I think my cover was black, but this the same book I had. I thought this might have been the book I remembered that had Greek and Norse myths as well as Beowulf, but this one only has Greek and Norse.  Still. Wonderful to have again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Fata Norne, the Fates

I am now at my last set of gods (or whatever the Fates are), which brings me full circle. Today, I want to talk about the Fates.

Fata Norne

When I began this project I talked about this book of mythology I had that had stories of the Greek myths, the Norse myths, and ending in Beowulf. In my young mind, these looked like a continuum, one set of tales flowed into the next.  While age would teach me that these were separate myths, later age would also teach me they are still just one set of myths from an even older source (Proto-Indo-European, which I still want to tackle one day). But even way back then (I want to say 5th Grade) I saw the similarities between the Greek Fates and the Norse Norns. Three women, each representing the Past, Present, and Future, spinning, weaving, or otherwise looming the fate of humankind. Each person, from birth until death.

The image was powerful, and I was sure there was a connection between them. Even doing the briefest of surface research (ok, briefest of literature review. I am particular how people throw the word "research" around) one kind find similar beings all over the Earth and across time due to their PIE origins.

  • Albanian: Fatia
  • English: Wyrds
  • Greek: Moirai
  • Hinduism: Tridevi
  • Hittite: Gulses
  • Lithuanian: Deives Valdytojos
  • Norse: Norns

Those are only the most obvious. 

For my Pantheon here I want to include them. They were important to the Greeks and Romans in their guise of The Fates (Moirai) and very important in Norse myth. Indeed, in Norse mythology, every living creature had a corresponding set of Norns that measured out their fates. 

I will also admit (and a little begrudgingly now) that some of my ideas of the Fates have also been colored by the Piers Anthony book series, The Incarnations of Immortality, with Book 3 With a Tangled Skein chief among them. The first five books were fun. The next two ok to falling apart at the end (it's like he had painted himself into a corner among other issues) and the last one? Well I have not read it despite owning it, I heard it was terrible. 

Fata Norne

The Fates of the Black Forest Mythos are not gods in the traditional sense. They are immortal, or more accurately, unending. They often appear as three young, mature, and old women in similar aspects of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone, though that is not who they are. Instead, they are Future, Present, and Past respectively. They can also appear as three identical sisters of indeterminate age. It is their job to measure the fates of the Gods and Mortals alike. No one, not even the Gods, can escape their decrees. It has led to a saying, "Once Fate has spoken, it is so."



MOVE: 24" 
HIT POINTS: 300 each

SIZE: M (5')
SYMBOL: The faces of three women or a loom
PLANE: Erde (Prime Material)

CLERIC/DRUID: 15th level Cleric
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 15th level Magic-user
MONK/BARD: 10th level Bard
WITCH/WARLOCK: 15th level Witch
S: 23 I: 25 W: 25 D: 16 C: 24 CH: 10

Fata Norne, the Fates, are the goddesses in charge of all fates, from the lowest vermin to the mightiest gods. They do not interact with mortals save in the direst of circumstances. They avoid direct contact with the other gods; likewise, the gods avoid and possibly fear them.

If the Fates are encountered, they need a mortal agent of fate to complete some quest. They will give this mortal what they need but no more than that. It is assumed that since they know all creatures' fates, their choice is correct, but that is not the same thing as the mortal succeeding or even living through the quest.

If anyone is foolish enough to attack the Fata Norne, they can pass the Decree of Fate. Which removes the threat permanently. They decree that the attacker was never born and they cease to exist; no saving throw is permitted. In some cases, the offending mortal (or god) is instantly replaced with an alternate version who lived the same life but was not as foolish as to attack them. 

They can't be hit by normal weapons; even magic is ineffective. In addition to the radical removal of the offending attacker from all existence, they can, more simply, remove their attacker's knowledge of whatever magic they would use to attack. 

At their choice, they can cast spells as a 15th-level spell caster, either as a Cleric, Magic-user, or Witch.

No one worships the Fata Norne, and they do not grant spells to clerics.


There you have it! All the gods and monsters of this syncretized set of myths. Hope you can find some uses for them.

Now to produce a PDF of these.


Monday, November 27, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: D&DGII Ulmenfrau

Ok. Back it! We had some measurable snow here in Chicagoland, and I thought a snow monster might be nice for today. But while working on it, it morphed into something else.  So I might bring those original ideas back later, but for today let do the monster that came out of this process. The Ulmenfrau.


The Ulmenfrau, or "Elm Wives" are what my Roman-Germanic/Norse Pagans call the tree spirits of the Black Forest Mythos. They are related to the Norse Askafroa of the Ash Trees.  They also fold in elements of the Nisse of the Scandinavian countries, the Greek Pteleai (Elm Dryads), and the nymph Chione.  There are some elements of the Norse myth of Ask and Embla here as well.

Ulmenfrau are tree nymphs, so they most like dryads but can move further away from their trees. It is believed that Ulmenfrau are actually tied to a grove of elm trees rather than a specific singular tree.  It is said they are the daughters of the North Wind and can be encountered most frequently after the first snowfall.

They are closely associated with the European White Elm ("Ulmus laevis").

NO. APPEARING: 1 (2-12)
MOVE: 90"
HIT DICE: 5+10 (32 hp)
% IN LAIR: 100%
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1 club or spell
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Immune to charm, hold, sleep, and other mind-affecting spells. Immune to Cold attacks, vulnerable to fire and iron.
ALIGNMENT: Neutral (Good)
SIZE: M (under 5')

The Ulmenfrau, or Elm Woman or Elm Wife, is a type of woodland faerie creature similar to nymphs and dryads. Indeed, she may be a type of dryad and shows many similarities to the Askafroa found in ash tree groves. The Ulmenfrau as the name suggests, is the spirit of the Elm tree, though this fae is not tied to any specific tree, but rather the grove at large. A grove of 100 trees can support a dozen or so ulmenfraus. Larger groves can support more but often no more than a dozen will ever be spotted. When dealing with mortals they typically agree on a single ulmenfrau to interact.

Ulmenfraus are not combative as a rule. They can attack with a club when needed, but they mostly will attack and defend with magical spells, typically that of a 4th-level Druid or Witch. They will avoid using fire-based magic.  If their need is dire then a group or three or more ulmenfrau can cast Control Weather as if they were a druid circle or a coven of witches. They will use this to blanket their grove in deep snow and sub-freezing temperatures. 

All ulmenfraus are immune to mind-affecting and altering magics. They can not be charmed, held, or put to sleep. They are also immune to the effects of cold, either magical or mundane, and thus do not take damage from cold-based magic. Like many fae creatures, they take extra damage (+3 to damage per hit) weapons made of cold iron. Cold iron weapons are those that lack carbon to make them steel. They are hard and heavy weapons that break easily. Also, they take double the damage from any fire-based attacks.

Ulmenfrau are hard to find in summer months, where they are busy making sure their grove is growing, they can be spoted in their humanoid form most often in the winter. Here, they appear as slight (only 5' tall) elven women light grayish brown skin that gets lighter as they age with white hair. Like many dryads their hair changes with the seasons, but green-haired and red-haired ulmenfrau are harder to find. They are thought to venture out in winter to explore and potentially find mates. Though unlike other dryads the ulmenfrau have no magical ability to charm. 

It is believed that the ulmenfrau are the offspring of the North Wind and the Wood Maidens.


Monday, November 13, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: D&DGII Doppelsauger

 Trying to wrap-up my entries for my Deities & Demigods II: The Black Forest Mythos this week. Here is a monster I have always wanted to include somewhere. A particularly horrific little monster.



The Doppelsauger, or "double sucker," was a creature I ran into very early in my vampire research. Back when I was known more as "the vampire guy" than "the witch guy."  It appealed to me then because the name is so evocative and descriptive of what it was; a creature that sucks twice. The first time when nursing milk from its mother and then again with blood.

MOVE: 6"
HIT DICE: 4+8 (26 hp)
% IN LAIR: 60%
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1 bite
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d4 + Blood (Con) Drain
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Vampire traits
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
SIZE: S (under 2')

The Doppelsauger, or "twice sucker" is the vampire revenant of a child that had been weaned, but had gone back to the breast later on. It would have died sometime after this point. Some claim that the death of the child needs to be intentional, such as leaving it out to die of exposure or via disease. In either case, the undead creature returns to feed on the blood of its mother and other close family members. 

The doppelsauger needs to find a way into the home of its victims. This must be their former home, and their victims can only be family members. It won't feed on non-family members.

Like the common vampire, this creature can charm its victims. The charm is similar to the spell of the same name and the vampire ability. Family members save at a penalty of -2 and its own mother at a penalty of -4. The doppelsauger can turn into mist like a common vampire and can summon 2d10 rats. It takes damage from sunlight, holy items, and holy water, as do other vampires. It can't enter another home, but its home is always open to it. It said that it must enter via the same way it left their home. If this entryway is blocked, the doppelsauger cannot enter.  Garlic flowers, wolvesbane, and holy items will keep it at bay. They are turned as Shadows (Type 4).

Their attacks are weak, causing only 1d4 hp per attack, but its greatest attack is its ability to drain 1 point of Constitution via blood loss. The doppelsauger prefers to feed off of their mothers first, then other family members. One of the ways to know a family is being attacked by a doppelsauger is if they all start showing signs of anemia and losing weight. 

To stop (or prevent) a doppelsauger a board with a semi-circle cut-out must be fitted over the neck of the creature and hammered into its coffin. One can also be stopped via a stake in the heart and then removing their head with a sharpened shovel. 


Monday, November 6, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: D&DGII Strix

 Today's monster is a bit based on creatures like the harpy and siren of Greek and Roman myth with features of the Swan maiden of Northern European lore. I started thinking about what kind of creature this could be. Some sort of bird-woman, either cursed or can transform via a cloak of feathers (like Swan Maidens or Freya), but also would have lived in the environs of the area I am using; the Black Forest region.

This got me thinking about how scary the forest would have been to a pagan in the 6th or 7th centuries. All sorts of monsters live there. Certainly witch-like monsters.  So I decided to adapt another idea I had had. Something of an "Owl Witch" or a Strix.  The name is Latin in origin, and the concept is largely a Norse/Germanic one.



The Strix are a type of evil witch that lives alone in dark woods. They have the ability to transform into large owls. This ability comes from a magical cloak of feathers they can don. Typically they do this at night to hunt for prey; their favorite food is children that wander too close to the forests.

MOVE: 12" [6"/24"]
HIT DICE: 6+12 (39 hp)
% IN LAIR: 90%
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2 talons or Spell
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d6, 1d6 or by Spell
SPECIAL DEFENSES: None [+1 or better weapon to hit]
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
SIZE: M (5')

Strixes are witches that can assume the shape of a large owl via the use of a magical cloak of feathers. The witch is connected to the cloak, and only she can use it.  Numbers in brackets [] indicate her stats in owl form.

The Strix in owl form can attack via two talons on a single target. Three times per day, they can also scream for 4d8 hp of damage, save vs. Spells for half. In this form, she can't use magic.

In her human form, she can cast spells as a witch (or magic-user) of the 5th level. In this form, she can only scream once per day.

It is said that if a man can steal the Strix's cloak of feathers, then she will be forced to marry him. She will be a dutiful wife as long as the feather cloak stays hidden. If she finds it she will devour her children and fly off, never to be seen again.  Any children who manage to live to adulthood will become powerful wizards or shamans. 


Monday, October 30, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: D&DGII Draugr

I am surprised I have not tried to stat these guys up before this. But this seems the perfect time to do it.  


Draugr are powerful undead creatures of former warriors under a powerful curse. Typically, they are cursed to guard a large treasure or powerful tomb of a lord or king. However, it is said that the curse would not take hold if there was not already some evil in their hearts. 

The process of creating a draugr involves dark necromancy and the ritual sacrifice of warriors of at least 7th level of experience. 

They are sacrificed and their corpses are dumped into whatever burial pit or hole they are set to guard.

MOVE: 24" 
HIT DICE: 8+16 (52 hp)
% IN LAIR: 100%
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2 weapons or touch
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d8+3, 1d8+3
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Constitution Drain
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +2 or better weapon to hit
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
SIZE: M (6' at shoulder)

Draugr are undead warriors of exceptional ability and strength placed under a curse. They are set to guard some larger treasure of a powerful lord or chieftain.  Typically 1 to 3 draugr are found per tomb along with the treasures of their lord.  Disturbing the tomb will cause the draugr to attack. 

The creatures attack with a sword twice per round. They add +3 to each attack due to high strength. They can as an option, touch an opponent and drain one (1) point of Constitution per successful touch attack. Victims drained to 0 Constitution become wights under the control of the draugr that drained them. Lost Constitution points can be restored at the rate of 1 point per week of bed rest or via any magic that can restore lost levels. 

Draugr can only be hit by magic, +2 weapons, or better weapons. They turn as Vampires. They are harmed by holy water and cannot enter sanctified or holy ground save for where they were buried. They are not harmed 

If the draugr's treasure is taken and the draugr is not completely destroyed it will hunt down every piece of it down to the last copper piece. The only way to completely destroy a draugr is to burn its remains to ash.  


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