A Dragon

Suddenly, in my campaign, I needed a dragon. I use them rarely, but now the players would eventually meet one, and even though I doubt they will come to blows with it I felt it necessary to at least have some sort of stats for it. It got me thinking a lot about how stats for a dragon ought to look. For one, they should all be unique, at least I feel that way. They’re magical beasts, the worst adversaries, not common beasts. I did want a standard, red fire-breathing dragon though. An old warrior of his kind, a majestic, proud and greedy creature. This is what I wound up with.

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By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

IRONAX DRAIGHTUR

20 HD Ancient Dragon

HP 118; AC 18
Move as unburdened man
Flight is faster, but poor maneuverability

Fort 4; Ref 6; Wil 3
Magic Resistance 50%

2 Claws @ +10 (2D8)
Bite @ +10 (3D8)
Tail @ +5 (2D6, sweep, knockdown)

Fire Breath in 100’x100’ Cone, deals 6D8 Damage (Ref ½), D3 Rounds to recharge, replaces other attacks

Dragon’s Voice, SUGGESTIVE WORDS or POWER WORD: STUN at will.

Dragon’s Gaze, ESP or FEAR at will if gaze is met.

Dragon’s Nose, DETECT MAGIC or DETECT GOLD at will.

Dragon’s Blood, a non-dragon mortal may be bound by a GEAS (if willing).

Dragon’s Ears, 4/6 chance to detect invisible creatures, surprised 1/12.

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A fashion statement

My players are still plunging into the depths of the Barrowmaze, and as is typical for that dungeon they keep running into a LOT of undead. My “What’s up with these Undead” table does provide flavor now and then, but I use a D30 on it to avoid making the encounters too strange. Also, one of my players has the habit of asking what the creatures look like or are wearing, since they met a group of them in priestly robes who all had valuable holy symbols…

Sure, I could think on my feet as I have so far, but why not a table instead. Nothing too meaty, just something to give me a starting point. Find a suitable row on this – there should be one, most of the special undead types will slot nicely into one of these. Column seven feels like it might be “one use”, at least for some of these entries, but I’ll see when I get to use it in play.

Fashion_trends

Sorry for making this an image, but the tables formatting in WordPress is just too much of a hassle. I’ve provided a PDF for better usability and printing, if anyone should want it.

Beastmen

Beastmen come in many shapes and sizes; their chaotic nature means they are of an almost infite variety. There are some larger and slightly more homogenous groups, however, and these have been given names by the human tribes which are still in common usage. All beastmen are aligned with Chaos; a few very rare number of outcasts or isolated communities may control their beastial natures and act in more civilized manners, but their allegiance is in their blood and not so easily removed.

COMMON BEASTMEN
NAME #ATT LEVEL MOVE SIZE NUMBER TREASURE TYPICAL EQUIPMENT
Brood 1 1 50′ S 2-12 B/I Hand Weapon OR spear, bow (1/2) OR shield
Bray 1 2 40′ M 2-8 B/II Hand Weapon & shield OR Great Weapon, hides (+1)
Bray, shaman 1 3 40′ M 1 B/II Spear, hides (+1)
Bray, chief 1 5 40′ M 1 B/III Great Weapon, hides (+1) (or magic items)
Taurun 2 5 40′ L 1-3 B/II

BROOD are minor beastmen, often very twisted by their bestial parts, hunched and perverted and with limited intellect. They are easily dominated by the larger Bray and are seldom found alone. They are little more than slaves in Beastman society, and their morale is terrible; if their Bray leaders fall, they are sure to scatter. The Brood in a single area typically display the same animal traits (see below) which might modify their statistics and abilities slightly.

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BRAY are the powerful warrior caste among the Beastmen. They are the same species as Brood, but their chaotic and bestial nature is more pure leaving them taller, stronger and smarter, with an intellect approaching that of a human. Bray are lazy and boorish creatures, but fierce warriors who often lead raids into human lands to steal cattle, abduct fair young men or women or to simply kill and burn in the name of their Dragon gods. The Bray in a given area are usually of the same animalistic nature as each other, but not always, and frequently Bray of one animal nature dominate Brood of an entirely different one.

BRAY SHAMANS are devoted to worship of the Old Dragons, a practice almost unheard of among the other intelligent races. It is unclear if and how these dragons can answer prayers in a meaningful way; these shamans do use magic, but it appears to be of a sorcerous nature. They have all the powers of a 3rd level Magician with 5 randomly determined spells.

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BRAY CHIEFS are the warlords and chieftains of their people; very few of these creatures remain alive, but at this power these beings do not appear to age normally and thus some of them have been around for a very long time (these ancient individuals should be granted anywhere from 1-3 additional levels). Many of them carry magical treasures or wield magical weapons (as per the treasure rules, they are apt enough to use any items they possess not specifically restricted to Magicians).

TAURUN are rare among the beastmen; an individual whose nature is so powerful it makes them grow to a huge size (around 12′ tall is the norm, but this varies widely). Unfortunately, most higher intellectual function shrinks with it, and these beasts remain among their lesser brethren serving as laborers and bodyguards. They attack twice in combat, using huge fists, horns, beaks, claws or whichever natural weaponry their chaotic nature has bestowed them with.

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ANIMAL NATURE

Beastmen are hybrids of men and beast, in essence; their chaotic nature means they are both less and more than that, and they are able to breed amongst themselves indiscriminately as well as breeding true with humans and sometimes even with animals. In an area, tribe or clan of these creatures, one or possibly two traits usually hold sway due to inbreeding and natural selection based on the environment. Below are some examples, although many more possibilities exist.

BEASTMEN ANIMAL NATURE
2D6 ANIMAL NOTES
2 Snake 1/3 poison bite (D6)
3 Lizard Swim, skin as Leather
4 Sheep
5 Rodent One size-category smaller
6 Feline Dexterity
7 Goat
8 Dog Constitution and tracking
9 Elk Movement +10′
10 Cattle Skin as Leather
11 Bird Wings and flight
12 Bear One size-category larger

What’s up with these undead?

I’ve been running Barrowmaze with one of my groups recently; they’re venturing into its depths looking for a cache of Elven Spell Gems needed to use a magical portal, but I wonder if they’ll want to leave even after finding that cache considering all the treasure they’ve found so far.

This module is really good, and it mostly contains everything you need to run it. I’ve been making use of my recent Spicing up Randomness rules for random encounters, but even with foreshadowing there are still a lot of encounters with “generic” undead in the catacombs (especially considering how thorough and noisy my players are), and I wanted to use something simple to spice up some of the “1D6 zombies” encounters. Thus, I’ve created the table below. The way I use it is to roll a D30 on it, with 13-30 meaning nothing out of the ordinary, but that’s really just a matter of taste.

Some of these refer to rules here on the blog (such as the “treat as Lung Sickness” bit) but they are probably fairly self-explanatory and you should probably be able to make a ruling on the fly.

1 An Enchanted Weapon is either (mindless) stuck in or (intelligent) wielded by one of the creatures (GM’s choice what weapon).
2 The creatures are Armored, or more heavily armored than usual if they normally wear protection. Treat their AC as two steps better. The actual armor is rusted, rotted or worn and can be of any specific type.
3 The creatures are stalked by an entourage of 3D6 Giant Rats that devour the scraps they leave behind. They will fall upon and devour any fallen PC’s, and possibly attack the party after combat if the PC’s appear sufficiently weakened.
4 A Lesser Demon is bound in one of the creatures (quite visibly, the creature has a large red pentagram painted on its chest). If the pentagram is disturbed, such as by slaying the creature (except perhaps using called shots or similar), the demon (6 HD, AC 15, 2@+6,D8, Fire Breath 3/day, 20’ cone for 2D8 dmg, save for half) will be released into this plane. Roll Reaction at -4. An intelligent creature marked in this way will use it to threaten the party and attempt to make them release the demon, and then flee to escape its wrath.
5 The creatures are dressed in Clerical Robes and wear gilded holy symbols of an appropriate lawful deity. They possess no special powers. Each holy symbol is worth 50 SP.
6 A number (2D4) of Giant Centipedes live on or in the creatures in a symbiotic relationship. These centipedes will remain on the creatures until brought into melee range, and will then attempt to scurry onto opponents and paralyze them with their venom.
7 One of the creatures has an Arrow of Dragonslaying stuck in it.
8 The creatures are, for some reason, chained together. They make a lot of noise while moving around, they move slower than normal and the chain can possibly cause them any number of practical problems. Intelligent undead will know to minimize these problems, and perhaps even use the chain to their advantage.
9 The creatures are dragging a small cart along. Mindless undead will simply drag it behind them, set on some ancient task now probably pointless. Intelligent undead will use it as a mobile food supply, and in it can be found random valuables worth 500 SP along with a lot of bones and disgusting bits. The cart itself is rickety and worn, but functional.
10 One of the creatures is exceptionally large, at least 7’ tall if the beings are of human size. This creature is hung with decorative bone jewellery, and automatically has maximum HP.
11 The creatures carry a Fungal Infection which has covered them in strange growths. This has granted them an extra HD each. Spores release in a 5’ radius cloud on a successful hit which causes physical damage (i.e. not fire, cold or the like). Those caught in a spore cloud must make a Fortitude save (one per round) or begin to choke (-4 to all activity for a Turn) and become infected with a Fungal Rot (treat as Lung Sickness, but accompanied by growths which spread infectious spores as per above).
12 Someone has hung a string of bells on one of the creatures. Mindless undead will announce their approach from far off and cannot surprise anything. Intelligent undead will attempt a diversion, hiding in ambush while one of them skulks around in a room while wearing the bells.

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Reactions and Interactions

My latest project, slowed down by summer vacation, has been to examine types of encounters and try to open up the interaction between me and the players with regards to the Reaction Roll, the setup of an encounter and the PC’s options, Parley is an option chosen rarely in D&D as far as I’ve found, and I think that’s regrettable.

One major concern for me is that the Reaction roll would somehow be rolled in secret and it would be for the players to determine if parley is an option. With most groups of players you end up with a situation where attacking instantly to have a chance to perhaps surprise your opponent, or at least not cede any tactical advantage, seems the most prudent choice.

Gustave_dore_crusades_mourzoufle_parleying_with_dandoloMy first step in this process was picking up the excellent On the Non-player Character by Courtney Campbell of Hack & Slash. It’s a very ambitious system for putting these sorts of interactions into a framework, and though I’ve wound up using only the basic bits of it myself I can’t recommend it enough as a starting point if you’re thinking about these kinds of things.

I wound up with a system which basically opens up the Reaction Roll to the players, making them participate and if they so want make that roll themselves. The Reaction Roll also further defines how much the characters can interact with an NPC or a monster before the encounter ends or dissolves into a fight; the guidelines are very basic, and the actions the party can take are broad and subject to some modification on the spot. Generally speaking, the characters can attempt one interaction for each point on the modified Reaction Roll, typically around 5-9 or so depending on the situation. Some of these will call for rolls, possibly further modifying Reaction, while others are automatic or have other interesting circumstances.

It does suit my GM’ing style perfectly though! We usually play along through an encounter naturally, and I sometimes stop and point out that the characters have used up an interaction, that the NPC’s seem to change their attitude or that a roll would be called for if the players press on. So far, I’m very happy with it.

Since I don’t want to leave you empty-handed, I’ll share a single-page handout I prepared based on my thoughts and the lists from On the Non-player Character. You can download it here or in the Library.

The Void Slime

This slime is a strange mindless being, deadly to organic life and organic matter, summoned forth from the black void of Uathagl’Chak.

It is attracted to movement or life, and will slowly slither towards it at a rate of 5’ per round. In any round when a living being is within 10’ of the slime, there is a 50 % chance that it will emit an elongated feeler pseudopod as a standard attack, aimed with a form of alien sense that suffers no penalties for lack of visibility. On a hit, the target is coated in a thick, viscous black fluid that is highly corrosive. This substance is extremely dangerous, and will inflict a total of 2d4 damage, but at a rate of one point per round per hit. During this time, washing the struck area off thoroughly with water (the entire contents of a water skin, or access to water from a river, lake or well for example) will stop the damage from occurring that round and any further. A character suffering a total amount (during one battle) of damage from a Void Slime equal to half his total hit points or above will be scarred and debilitated, losing 1 point of constitution and 1d3 points of charisma permanently.

The creature is only susceptible to damage from other acidic substances and fire. A hit from a torch will cause 1d3 damage. Flaming oil and other fire based attacks will cause damage as normal. It is utterly mindless, and is thus immune to any mind-affecting spells, and also does not have a nervous system or normal body, which makes it immune to almost any other source of damage. If a weapon made in any part from organic material is used to strike at it (including a torch), the wielder must save versus Paralyze or the weapon will be ruined.

The only basic instinct a Void Slime has is a slight tendency towards spatial territoriality. If left alone for a turn, it will slowly slither back to where it lairs.

Void Slime; HD2; AC12; Morale 12; pseudopod (+2/2d4 spec); special immunities, mindless, 50 % attack chance, only damaged by fire and acid; speed 5’ per round