On the Legendary Creatures of Africa

A few months back I discovered a list of mythic creatures on Wikipedia and decided to have a go at concocting game stats for most of them, one culture or geographic area at a time. While most of the creatures on the Wikipedia list can be represented by existing monsters, a few were unique enough that I thought they deserved a write-up. The following monsters come from Africa, a fascinating continent often ignored in fantasy role-playing games. I based a few regions of my campaign on Africa, so expect more content in that vein in the near future. The following content is declared open game content.

ADZE [West Africa]
In its natural form, the adze looks like a large firefly with a vaguely humanoid face. It has green eyes and a fanged mouth. Adzes feed on coconut water, palm oil and blood, especially the blood of children. They are capable of casting change shape (usually into that of an old woman) once per day and suggestion three times per day. In combat, an adze will attempt to bite its opponent. If successful, the opponent must succeed at a saving throw or the adze will latch onto the victim and begin draining it of blood, inflicting 1d4 points of damage each round until the hold is broken. Bite victims must also succeed at a saving throw or contract malaria.

Adze: HD 5; AC 4 [15]; Atk Bite (1d6); Move 9 (Fly 15); Save 12; CL/XP 7/600; Special: Disease, drain blood, spells.

ABATWA [South Africa]
Abatwa, or ant men, are humanoids that measure only 6 inches tall. Although not malicious, abatwa are very sensitive about their size and do not hesitate to attack those who reference it. All abatwa hunters are skilled at tracking and survival. Abatwa use giant ants as mounts and carry tiny, poison-tipped spears and short bows with poisoned arrows. The poison inflicts 1d6 points of damage, or half that with a successful saving throw.

Abatwa hunters travel in small groups. Abatwa tribes number from 20-200 warriors with noncombatants equal to 150% of the warriors. All tribes are commanded by a 3 hit dice chief. For every twenty tribesmen beyond the chief, there will be a sub-chief with 2 hit dice.

Abatwa: HD 1 hp; AC 3 [16]; Atk Weapon (1 + poison); Move 3; Save 18; CL/XP A/5; Special: Poison.

ASIMAN [West Africa]
The asiman is an incorporeal spirit that mostly preys on children. They feed by possessing the body of a humanoid or animal (per the magic jar spell). A creature possessed by an asiman has shifty eyes and is obsessed with food. Once inside a creature, the asiman feeds by draining the wisdom of any creature within 30 feet that meets its gaze. The potential victim of the gaze must succeed at a saving throw each round or lose 1d3 points of wisdom. Asiman can be detected by the light they emit from the armpits and anus of a possessed victim and by the fact that all vegetation within 30 feet of them will suffer from the reverse of a plant growth spell.

Asiman: HD 3; AC 9 [10]; Atk Special; Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Incorporeal, possession, psychic vampire, only harmed by magic weapons.

BENNU [Egypt]
Bennu is a large heron with gray, purple and blue feathers that sprang from the heart of Serapis, the god of fertility. Bennu is immortal. It dwells in a temple attended by priests who wear heron-masks, blue mummy dresses and long, transparent coats. The bennu-priests are known for their knowledge of time-keeping and their temple has many time-keeping devices. Bennu can see in darkness, including magical darkness, and can use the following spells: Control water, daylight, detect magic, dispel evil (1/day), heal (3/day), plant growth, resurrection (1/month), time stop (1/day).

Bennu: HD 12 (96 hp); AC 1 [18]; Atk Beak (3d6); Move 12 (Fly 24); Save 3; CL/XP 16/3200; Special: Immortal, immune to fire, spells, only harmed by +3 or greater weapons.

CHIPEKWE [Central Africa]
The chipekwe is a massive creature that dwells in the shallow water of swamps. It is a herbivore. A chipekwe is as large as a rhinoceros. It has four stout legs that end in massive claws and a single horn on its snout and short fur banded brown and black. Chipekwe are extremely territorial and aggressive.

Chipekwe: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk Gore (2d6), 2 claws (1d6); Move 12 (Swim 12); Save 8; CL/XP 8/800; Special: None.

ELOKO [Central Africa]
Eloko are hideous dwarves that dwell in the deepest forests. They are vicious in the extreme and eat only human beings. Eloko live in hollow trees and dress in leaves. They are small, with grass growing on their bodies in place of hair. They have piercing eyes, large snouts, mouths that can open impossibly wide, long claws and gentle, child-like voices. The sight of an eloko causes fear (as the spell). The sound of their magic bell acts as a suggestion spell so powerful that the victim can even be driven to harm themselves. If an eloko hits a victim with both claw attacks in the same round, the victim must succeed at a saving throw or be swallowed whole. A swallowed victim will find themselves in a fetal position and completely incapable of moving. They suffer 1d4 points of damage each round until freed. An eloko that has swallowed a humanoid has its movement reduced to 3 and its armor class reduced to 7 [12].

Eloko: HD 3; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d6); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Cause fear, magic bell, swallow whole.

IMPUNDULU [South Africa]
The impundulu, or lightning bird, is a black and white bird as large as a human. Electricity courses across its feathers, delivering a shock for 1d6 points of damage to any creature it touches. Impundulus can discharge this electricity as a 4 dice lightning bolt, but lose their shocking touch for 3 rounds thereafter. Impundulus are capable of changing their shapes to that of beautiful young men, and often use this form to seduce maidens. Impundulu feed on blood, using their long beaks to pierce the skin.

Impundulu: HD 2; AC 6 [13]; Atk Beak (1d6); Move 9 (Fly 18); Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Change shape, shocking grasp, immune to lightning.

KISHI [Central Africa]
A kishi resembles an attractive man or woman with long, flowing hair. On the back of their heads, hidden by their hair, is a bestial face like that of a hyena. Kishi are hill dwellers who favor the flesh of humans and elfs. Kishi are eloquent and seductive, tricking their prey into accompanying them to their lairs. Once home, the kishi turns its head completely around and devours its hapless victim with its bestial face. Victims of a kishi’s bite must succeed at a saving throw to pry them off; those who fail suffer automatic bite damage each round until the kishi id dead. Kishi speak the language of humans and elfs.

Kishi: HD 2+2; AC 5 [14]; Atk Bite (2d6); Move 15; Save 16; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Grapple, two-faced.

SERPOLEOPARD [Egypt]
The serpoleopard is a creature with the body of a leopard, a 4-foot long serpentine neck and the head of a lioness. Serpoleopards attack by leaping out at a victim and delivering two claw attacks and a bite. If both claw attacks hit, the serpoleopard can make two additional claw attacks with a +2 bonus to hit. The victim of such an attack must also succeed at a saving throw or be constricted by the serpoleopard’s neck. Constriction inflicts 1d4 points of damage per round. A constricting serpoleopard cannot make bite attacks.

Serpoleopard: HD 4; AC 6 [13]; Atk Bite (1d6), 2 claws (1d6); Move 15; Save 13; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Constrict, rake with claws.

SWALLOWER [Egypt]
The swallower is not the most popular girl at her high school, but rather a beast with the torso and forelegs of a leopard, the hindquarters of a hippopotamus and the head of a crocodile. Swallowers prey on chaotic and evil creatures. Their bite inflicts 1-8 points of damage and drains one hit dice if the victim fails a charisma saving throw. The swallowers are ruled by Ammut the Devourer, a swallower with 15 hit dice and 120 hit points.

Swallower: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk Bite (1d8), 2 claws (1d6); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Immune to fire, life drain, only harmed by magic weapons.

Ammut the Devourer: HD 15 (120 hp); AC 0 [19]; Atk Bite (1d8), 2 claws (1d6); Move 12; Save 3; CL/XP 19/4100; Special: Immune to fire, life drain, only harmed by +2 or better weapons.

TIKOLOSHE [South Africa]
The tikoloshe is a bizarre creature that resembles a small, hairy humanoid with a bear-like head (pierced by a single hole), gouged out eyes and a bony head-ridge. Tikoloshes can become invisible by swallowing pebbles. Those foolish enough to fight a tikoloshe age 1d6 years during each round of combat. The tikoloshe is a nocturnal predator who likes to sneak into homes and assault people while they sleep.

Tikloshe: HD 5; AC 3 [16]; Atk Head butt (2d6); Move 9; Save 12; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Invisibility, rapid aging, only harmed by magic weapons.

On Dotting T’s and Crossing I’s

Before I go further, I figured I should drop in the Open Game License to make things official. All of the content on this blog is declared to be product identity unless specifically designated as open game content.

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Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

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OSRIC copyright 2006-08 by Stuart Marshall, adapting material prepared by Matthew J. Finch, based on the System Reference Document, inspired by the works of E. Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, and many others.

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, Copyright 2008, Matthew J. Finch




Apparition from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Authors Scott Greene and Clark Peterson, based on original material by Underworld Oracle.


Aurumvorax from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Baric from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Jean Wells.


Barrow Wight from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.


Basidirond from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Belabra from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Ed Greenwood.
 

Bhuta from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.

Brain Rat from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.

Caryatid Column from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Jean Wells.


Charonadaemon from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.
 


Coffer Corpse from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Simon Eaton.

Crypt Thing from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Roger Musson.
 

Death Watch Beetle from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, and Clark Peterson, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Demiurge from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.
 


Demon: The “Faceless Lord” from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Ear Seeker from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Eblis from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Ethereal Rat from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.

Eye of the Deep from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Fire Drake from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Dave Waring.

Flail Snail from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Simon Tilbrook.

Froghemoth from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Giant Clam from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Greater Medusa from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc,; Authot Scott Greene, based on original material by Wizards of the Coast.
Groaning Spirit from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Authors Scott Greene and Clark Peterson, based on original material by Gary Gygax.
 


Lionwere from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.

Mercury Ooze from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.

Mihstu from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Mist Dragon from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.
 
Monadic Deva from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Movanic Deva from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Mudman from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Ogrillon from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene and Erica Balsley, based on original material by R. K. R. Chilman.

Phycomid from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Piercer from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Authors Scott Greene and Clark Peterson, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Poltergeist from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Lewis Pulsipher.

Rot Grub from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Shadow Rat from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Clark Peterson and Scott Greene.

Slithering Tracker from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Spinal Leech from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.

Stegacentipede from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

Stymphalian Bird from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene.

Throat Leech from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Ian Livingstone.

Vulchling from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.


Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.



Yellow Musk Creeper from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Albie Fiore.

Yellow Musk Zombie from the Tome of Horrors, Copyright 2002, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Albie Fiore.

The Grand OGL Wiki, http://grandwiki.wikidot.com Copyright 2008-2009 Purple Duck Creations; Authors: Mark Gedak, Alex Schroeder, Joel Arellano, George Fields, Yair Rezek, Mike Whalen, Shane O’Connor, Mike Rickard, John Whamond, Bill Browne, Eric Williamson, Slatz Grubnik, Charles R. Wenzler Jr, John Fraser.

Open game content from Monster Encyclopaedia Volume 1 copyright 2004, Mongoose Publishing Ltd.

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Open game content from Epic Player’s Guide – Renegade Cleric’s Spellbook is copyright 2006, Mongoose Publishing Ltd.

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Spells & Magic Copyright 2002, Bastion Press, Inc.

Tome of Horrors II Copyright 2004, Necromancer Games, Inc.; Author Scott Greene; Additional Authors: Erica Balsley, Kevin Baase, Casey Christofferson, Jim Collura, Meghan Greene, Lance Hawvermale, Travis Hawvermale, Bill Kenower, Patrick Lawinger, Nathan Paul, Clark Peterson, Bill Webb and Monte Cook.

Tome of Horrors III. Copyright 2005 Necromancer Games, Inc. Author Scott Greene, with Casey Christofferson, Erica Balsley, Kevin Baase, Lance Hawvermale, Travis Hawvermale, Ian S. Johnson, Patrick Lawringer, Nathan Paul, Clark Peterson, Greg Ragland, Robert Schwalb, and Bill Webb.

END OF LICENSE

On Monstrously Large Fantasy Coinage

How big are fantasy role-playing coins? In older editions of D&D, there were 10 coins to the pound, and since different metals have different masses they would vary in size. In more recent incarnations there are 50 coins to the pound, and I’ve often used 100 coins to the pound to keep things more realistic (yeah, I know) and to make encumbrance accounting less of a chore. If you peruse the internet you can find a fair amount of information on ancient and medieval coins, how much they weigh and how much they were worth. For the purposes of a game, none of the minutia of coinage is all that important. One can simply imagine a “gold piece” to be an expression of weight (and therefore value) rather than a coin itself. A chest of 100 gold pieces could contain a thousand delicate golden leaves minted by the elves or 10 large trade coins used by the merchants of Antigoon, the city of merchant-princes. It could also be two or three bags of gold dust or a large gold plate. Doesn’t really matter. But, since it’s fun to imagine the things your players find while delving into their neighborhood mythic underworld, the following picture might be of interest. It depicts several different thaler coins (the forebear of the dollar) along with a modern U.S. quarter for size comparison.

Thaler

These coins might represent the 10 gold pieces to a pound coinage of OD&D. In fact, the real coins pictured above would come in a bit lighter than that, but their existence at least makes such large and heavy coinage not entirely out of the realm of possibilities. In my own game, I went back and forth with coin size, weighing the cool factor of giant coins with the logistical problems of toting them around. After all, I wanted the focus of the game to be on exploration rather than logistics, and I had a group of players that weren’t terribly excited about hiring mules, mule drivers, torchbearers, etc. I finally went for the 100 coin pound, but had I to do it all over again, I think I might go for the 10 coin pound.

And check out the lower lip-chin on that mug in the lower right-hand corner. The reformation was not kind to the royal gene pool in Europe.

Save

On Standards and Practices

The funny thing about writing a blog that nobody is reading is that, well, you’re writing a blog that nobody is reading. In case somebody does read this blog, though, they should have some idea of what they’re getting themselves into. So …

I am not going to discuss politics or real-world religion. Not at all. I’ve had my share of bad experiences in this arena, and I, for one, would like the world of hobbies to be a no-pundit zone.

I am not going to discuss blog dramas within the Old School Renaissance. Just not interested.

I am going to be light on theory, and heavy on practice. I’ve been running a game for many years now (unfortunately on hiatus) and have, like most Refs, accumulated tons of content. That content is what I’m going to highlight on this blog. We’re talking new monsters, a few new classes, some notions on rules and some of the encounters that dot my sandbox setting.

Although I’ve played Moldvay D&D (what I cut my teeth on in 6th grade), AD&D in all its editions except the 4th, and Castles & Crusades, my system currently my favorite is Swords & Wizardry. That’s the system that will lie behind my flowery prose. I prefer it, because it allows for a minimum of mechanical intrusion.

So, that’s the plan. Let’s get to the (hopefully) good stuff.

First Post

The Land of Nod is an old school rpg campaign I’ve been running for the past few years, initially using the 3rd edition of D&D, and then moving to the Castles & Crusades system and finally to something between Castles & Crusades and the excellent Swords & Wizardry clone of the original D&D rules. It seems as I get older, I look for ways to simplify my life – less static and more living.

The Land of Nod is my attempt at making a setting that allows players and referees to get down to the business of playing games. It doesn’t have a grand, thousand page history to memorize, or abundant restrictions on what you can play and how. It is a grand sandbox with all the requisites for the heroic adventures that have driven people’s imaginations for decades. Most importantly, it is a collection of places to see and things to do.

Over the coming months (and years?), this blog will serve as a place I can present my little imaginary world, and maybe a few notions that other role-players will find useful. So, consider this my entry into the Old School Renaissance.

And may I add: Swords & Wizardry, S&W, and Mythmere Games are the trademarks of Matthew J. Finch, and that I am not affiliated with Matthew J. Finch or Mythmere Games™.