Six Vile Vampires

Today, I introduce you to six vile vampires who stalk the streets of Nod, or your own campaign. Note, for Blood & Treasure players and TK’s – I’m varying the Hit Dice of these vamps – feel free to do the same in your games.

Typhus the Rat

Typhus is a small man, both in terms of physique and spirit. A peddler of tin items he hammered himself, he was bitten one night as he cut through an alley on the way home, hoping to avoid the city guard. Buried* in a pauper’s cemetery in a cheap coffin, he soon arose from his grave and place several of the city’s beggars under his control. With their help, he exhumed his coffin and secreted it in a cave just outside the city. Here, he has become something of a pack rat, hoarding baubles that he steals from the luminaries of the city and feasting on drunks who have fallen asleep in alleys, so as not to alert the authorities of his presence.

Typhus the Rat: HD 6; HP 18; AC 15 [silver]; Atk 1 bite (1d6) and slam (1d6 + energy drain); Move 30; F12 R12 W9; AL Chaotic (CE); XP 1,500; Special – See B&T – seriously, vampires are loaded with special abilities and vulnerabilities.

Viliann the Bat

Viliann the Bat was a simple tavern wench in life, a tavern wench subjected to much unwanted attention because of her bonny looks, and subjected to an especially unwanted attack one night in the wine cellar of her tavern by a vampire. Viliann was buried in a simple ceremony in a graveyard just outside town and rose as a vampire in her own right one week later. She now haunts the city as an avenger in a dark, hooded cloak, destroying the undead when she can and preying only on men of an evil disposition. She has only once created a spawn herself, and came to regret it. She keep’s that spawn’s head in a box in her cramped hiding place (in the sewers of the city) as a reminder of her mistake. Viliann appears as a beautiful woman of about 18 years, with spooky eyes and jet black hair.

Viliann the Bat: HD 11; HP 50; AC 15 [silver]; Atk 1 bite (1d6) and slam (1d6 + energy drain); Move 30; F10 R10 W7; AL Chaotic (LE); XP 2,750; Special – See B&T – seriously, vampires are loaded with special abilities and vulnerabilities.

Alaron the Owl

Alaron was a sage in life, and an easy target for a visiting vampire. Killed one night after he invited a stranger in for a late consultation, the sage’s body was hidden in a trunk, which now serves as his coffin. Most folk never noticed when the man stopped leaving his home in the daytime, and he still makes himself available for consultations at night. Alaron is fairly selective about whose blood he consumes, preferring the blood of noble students, but taking just enough to sate his thirst and not rouse suspicions. He has managed to enthrall several of the apprentice mages in the city, and uses them to spy on their masters. He carries a hope that a spell or formula might one day appear that can reverse his curse.

Alaron the Owl: HD 8; HP 29; AC 15 [silver]; Atk 1 bite (1d6) and slam (1d6 + energy drain); Move 30; F11 R11 W8; AL Chaotic (NE); XP 2,000; Special – See B&T – seriously, vampires are loaded with special abilities and vulnerabilities.

Dallach the Cat

Dallach the cat is a wanderer, settling in a city long enough to hunt down the most powerful game and then moving on. He usually finds a lonely place to hide his coffin near a city, and then spends about a week in the city sizing up the possible prey – if adventurers are not present, he usually focuses on the local lord, captain of the guard or parish priest. Dallach appears as a tall, ruggedly handsome man with pale, green eyes and long, platinum blond hair tied in a tail. He dresses well, but not too well, and carries a sword and dagger on his belt.

Dallach the Cat: HD 9; HP 36; AC 15 [silver]; Atk 1 bite (1d6) and slam (1d6 + energy drain); Move 30; F11 R11 W8; AL Chaotic (CE); XP 2,250; Special – See B&T – seriously, vampires are loaded with special abilities and vulnerabilities.

Mithlo the Cricket

Mithlo was an itinerant minstrel in life, roaming a large region and stopping for a week or two at different road houses and taverns to entertain before moving on. A handsome lad, he was always popular with the local females, but was careful not to overstay his welcome with the local men. On one of his nocturnal travels to woo the daughter of a local lord, he was taken by a vampire and left in the woods, his body stuffed in a hollow log in a gully. A few days later, he awoke as a vampire, the log serving as his “coffin”. His looks, alas, did not survive his death completely intact, as some rotting had set in. He now continues to roam the same region, using his music (he has the musical and spell casting abilities of a 7th level bard) to serenade women at night and lure them to their death. Mithlo has created several spawn, who sometimes gather for moonlight revels around his coffin. His finest conquest was the Lady Bethony, who serves him willingly in hopes of achieving eternal life.

Mithlo the Cricket: HD 7; HP 26; AC 15 [silver]; Atk 1 bite (1d6) and slam (1d6 + energy drain); Move 30; F12 R12 W9; AL Chaotic (NE); XP 1,750; Special – See B&T – seriously, vampires are loaded with special abilities and vulnerabilities; he also has the spellcasting ability and musical abilities of a 7th level bard.

Lothic the Wolf

Lothic was an adventuring fighter who made the greatest mistake of his life when he delved into a haunted ruin in the mountains and drank from a magical fountain. Killed by the blood red wine of the fountain and turned, his already chaotic nature drove him to hunt down his former companions and establish himself in the ruin as a petty robber baron. Soon, he gathered a small army of outlaws to him, and now he preys on the nearby villages and towns, plundering them and seizing women for his vampire harem. Lothic is known for his wolf-skin cape, crimson plate armor and two-handed axe.

Lothic the Wolf: HD 10; HP 44; AC 18 [silver]; Atk 1 bite (1d6) and slam (1d6 + energy drain) or battleaxe (1d8+3); Move 30; F10 R10 W7; AL Chaotic (CE); XP 2,500; Special – See B&T – seriously, vampires are loaded with special abilities and vulnerabilities.

* This just occurred to me: In games and fiction (especially modern fiction), we often see people bitten and drained and turned into vampires right on the spot. But part of the vampire mythos is that they must return to their coffin in dawn – so wouldn’t these insta-vamps be toast the next day (or, at least in game terms, be unable to regenerate/heal) if they had never had a coffin in the first place? I think it would make more sense to allow the person to die, be buried, and then begin appearing as a vampire – maybe give it a few days. This might make for more atmosphere, as the person’s friends and family would never be sure unless they cut off the corpse’s head or took some other precautions. Just a thought.

Monsters by Email

No, this isn’t a project I’m working on – but it is a project I’m supporting. Artist Nicholas Cloister has started a new project to deliver images of original monsters by email to subscribers, monsters that they can use in their publishing ventures provided they follow a few provisos and a couple quid pro quo (to quote a famous genie).

The price is super reasonable, and, as you can see from the following images, the art is top notch. He’s looking for more subscribers to make this a going concern, so if you’d like to see a few of these beauties (well, not these beauties, but new beauties) given monster stats in the pages of NOD or other of my publications, and if you have some projects of your own or just want some nice art to use at your table, give it a look HERE. For more samples of his art, click HERE.

Copyright Nicholas Cloister

Copyright Nicholas Cloister

Copyright Nicholas Cloister

Six Ghastly Ghouls

What follows are six ghastly ghouls (well, actually five ghastly ghouls and a single ghoulish ghast), men and women who circumstances (or not) made into cannibals and death made into ghouls.

VEDORINA

Vedorina and her family were part of a large caravan making its way across the mountains in early fall. Winter came early that year, and the band became trapped in a high valley. It didn’t take long before the food ran out, and the party was forced to consume their dead. Vedorina’s mother and father did their best to hide this from their daughter, but when in desperation her mother turned on her father, she fled the encampment and soon froze to death in the wilderness. Naturally, she arose as a ghoul, and now haunts the mountain passes to this day, a blue-skinned girl in a threadbare tunic, her face still wearing a look of shocked horror.

Vedorina, Ghoul: HD 2; HP 7; AC 14; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + paralysis) and bite (1d6); Move 30; F15 R15 W13; AL C (CE); XP 200; Special – Paralysis.

SCARSDALE

Scarsdale was one of many who succumbed to a plague that ravaged the towns and villages on the edge of the great desert. One by one, people were falling ill and dying, until bodies littered the streets as a feast for the rats and ravens. When the caravan of merchants came to the town with word of a cure – an efficacious powder – those who retained the strength crawled to them and promised them everything they owned for the cure. The merchants acquiesced, and left the village laden with wealth. What they left behind was a powder ground from the bodies of mummified corpses that had been uncovered during a desert storm. As the villagers continued to die, they rose one by one as ghouls and trod into the desert in search of the merchants. Scarsdale was one of many, and to this day he attacks caravans in the desert along with his feral friends, their faces grotesque, twisted masks of hate and rage, their bodies browned and wrinkled from the sun.

Scarsdale, Ghoul Thief: LVL 4 (Dodger); HP 15; AC 14; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + paralysis) and bite (1d6); Move 30; F14 R15 W13; AL C (CE); XP 400; Special – Paralysis, backstab x2.

KNORRA

Knorra was a great war-dame of the northern lands. Her feast hall was decorated with the skulls of hundreds she had bested at war, and after her glorious battles, when her war maidens gathered at her tables to partake of the spoils of war, Knorra sat enthroned above them, axe in her lap, serving lads carrying on silver trays the cooked entrails of whatever lord or lady she had just vanquished. Had Knorra’s warriors not been berserkers, they probably would have quit at the first of these macabre feasts, but they every one believed in the power of consuming one’s foes, though the honor was reserved for their lady alone. Eventually, the great Knorra was slain in battle, her corpse left to rot on a stinking field. She rose, not as a mere ghoul, but as a ghast, her flesh pock marked by the beaks of the ravenous crows, her once golden hair caked with mud and blood. She walked back to her feast hall to find it toppled, and now dwells in the ruins, gathering what undead she can find into an army to once again strike fear into the hearts of her enemies and their descendants.

Knorra, Ghast Barbarian: LVL 10 (Barbarian Princess); HP 55; AC 17; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + paralysis) and bite (1d8) or battle axe (1d8) and bite (1d8); Move 40; F8 R12 W11; AL C (CE); XP 1,000; Special – Paralysis, rage 3/day, sixth sense.

ZIMBOK

Zimbok was, like most of the folk of his tribe, a practicing cannibal. Unlike most of his tribe, he was possessed of a wanderlust, and eventually left his home island to serve on a whaling vessel that plied Mother Ocean for years. In many of its ports-of-call, Zimbok found the urge to consume human flesh more than he could resist, even among the foreigners, and in time his crimes were revealed. He was hung by the neck and cast into a communal grave for criminals and the indigent. Zimbok was too tough a customer, though, and in death he clawed his way out the grave as a ghoul. He now appears as a tall islander with a crooked neck, a necklace of teeth around his neck. He wears leather trousers, no boots, and carries a well-cared for harpoon and a razor-sharp knife with whale tooth inlay.

Zimbok, Ghoul Ranger: LVL 6 (Pathfinder); HP 34; AC 14; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + paralysis) and bite (1d6); Move 30; F10 R10 W13; AL C (CE); XP 200; Special – Paralysis, favored enemy (sea animals), spells (1).

OLD MARZA

Old Marza was called “Old Marza” even when she was still fairly young. For years, she worked in the “Tavern in the Wood”, a roadhouse frequented by adventurers and travelers. More than a few of the less friendly patrons who wound up fall-down drunk found their way into Marza’s wine cellar – more specifically in a secret room connected to the wine cellar. Bit-by-bit they would find themselves turned into sausages and meat pies for Marza’s own enjoyment. In time, her murderous reign was discovered and she was cornered in the tavern and burned along with it. After death, she became a ghoul who still haunts the woods, looking like a charred, gaunt old woman garbed in the tattered clothes of a harmless old woman, a bottle of wine from her cellar in one hand and a hatchet in the other.

Old Marza, Ghoul: HD 2; HP 7; AC 14; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + paralysis) and bite (1d6); Move 30; F15 R15 W13; XP 200; Special – Paralysis.

UGOLIO 

Ugolio was a minor aristocrat who found himself on the wrong side of a schism in the royal court. He and his son were cast into a dungeon in an old keep and literally forgotten when the royal city was attacked by a horde of orcs. Ugolio did not survive his captivity, but his son died first, and as a result of Ugolio’s hunger, his own death was followed by his undeath as a ghoul. Ugolio still dwells in his dungeon cell underneath what is now the old, ruined keep. Over time, he has managed to claw his way out, and he now hunts on the edges of the royal city by night and returns to his cell by day, dragging his victims behind him.

Ugolio, Ghoul Aristocrat: LVL 8; HP 38; AC 14; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + paralysis) and bite (1d6); Move 30; F12 R9 W9; XP 800; Special – Paralysis, legend lore, commanding voice (fascinate, suggestion).

Six Wicked Witches!

Starting a new series today for the Spooky Season. Below you will find six wicked witches (no, I’m not saying all practitioners of witchcraft are wicked … just that these particular ladies are) you might use in your game. Stats for Blood & Treasure are included.

Enjoy!

Beleve

Beleve is a homey little midwife who operates in a burgeoning village. Short and plump, with curly auburn hair and twinkling green eyes, she is a flurry of activity – everywhere doing everything for everyone is Beleve.

Unfortunately, Beleve is also deeply wicked. She harbors a terrible and irrational hatred of men and the women who attract them. Several of the children she has delivered have been replaced with changelings (demons, doppelgangers, whatever is appropriate for your campaign), and her wholesome stews often contain cunning poisons when they are delivered to villagers who she feels have crossed her (they are often unaware of the cross) or in some way hurt her feelings.

Beleve: Human Magic-User: LVL 1 (Adept); HP 3; AC 10; ATK by weapon -1 (1d4-1); MV 30; F14 R15 W12; XP 100; AL Chaotic (CE); Special – Spells (3/2); Str 7 Int 16 Wis 14 Dex 9 Con 8 Cha 12.

Mabel

Mabel is a morose woman of dark demeanor – she dresses in black, as though in constant mourning, her eyes are downcast, her face slack. She dwells in a small town, where she works with the local thieves’ guild, providing what magical assistance she can in exchange for protection and a small piece of the action. She does more than this, though. Mabel is in mourning – for the loss of her fiance many years ago at the hands of the local constabulary. The death came after he got into yet another of his drunken brawls and took a cudgel to the skull. A small guilt offering was made to the grieving bride-to-be, but it only stoked the flame of revenge in her heart. She will have the baron’s heart in payment for her beloved’s demise, and she is slowly worming her way into the luminaries of the guild as a way of getting it. Despite her grieving face, Mabel remains a beautiful woman, and her tale of woe pulls on the heartstrings. Two thieves have already fallen for her dolorous charms and have sacrificed themselves on foolish forays into the baron’s keep. How many more will follow?

Mabel: Human Magic-User: LVL 3 (Invoker); HP 7; AC 11; ATK by weapon +0 (1d4); MV 30; F14 R13 W12; XP 300; AL Chaotic (NE); Special – Spells (4/3/2); Str 8 Int 17 Wis 11 Dex 13 Con 11 Cha 16.

Gwynever

Gwynever is a bubbly woman with cascades of red, curly hair framing her pretty face and ample bosom and blue eyes so deep they almost count as a gaze attack. Most people thought her a pretty little scatterbrain – warm and wonderful and destined to make some lucky man a very expensive wife – and most folk believe that is precisely what happened. At the ripe old age of 16 she did marry, to a timber merchant in a large town. Ten years later, the blush of her youth still radiates from her rosy cheeks and her husband is now a silk and spice merchant, owner of two merchant cogs and proprietor of the estate vacated by old Lord Pasmere (who took ill and died so suddenly, and sadly after his three heirs died in a freak barn fire). Now, Squire Benthick looks forward to the lord mayorship and maybe an elevation into the peerage – no thanks to his silly, expensive, oh so lovely wife.

Gwynever: Human Sorcerer: LVL 5 (Whiz); HP 7; AC 10; ATK by weapon -2 (1d4-2); MV 30; F14 R14 W10; XP 500; AL Chaotic (NE); Special – Spells per day (6/7/5), spells known (6/4/2); Str 5 Int 9 Wis 14 Dex 8 Con 7 Cha 17.

Cadmina

Cadmina is a woman with a severely beautiful face and calm, almost passive demeanor that, when presented with wickedness and vice falls like a stone to reveal a frightening passion for denouncement and finger pointing. Well known in her town for her simple and goodly ways, she dresses simply despite being the wife of a wealthy man, and speaks simply despite coming from a family once known for its stagecraft and rhetoric. Most people know she possesses a talent for magic, and they know too that she has become a veritable bulwark against evil, her denouncements of people powerful and powerless whipping the population of the city-state into a frenzy of witch burning, despite the admonitions of the Lawful church. What people do not know is that Cadmina is the spawn of a succubus, who seduced her father and brought ruin on her family – a ruin that struck behind the scenes and is generally unknown by people at large. She delights in sewing the seeds of suspicion in her city-state, and has no greater aim than the spread of hatred between neighbors.

Cadmina: Fiendish Human Magic-User: LVL 7 (Marvel); HP 20; AC 10; ATK by weapon +0 (1d4-2); MV 30; F13 R13 W10; XP 1,750; AL Chaotic (LE); Special – Spells (4/5/3/2/1), +1 or better weapon to hit, resistance to fire, magic resistance 10%, +2 to hit and damage vs. Lawful (Good) creatures; Str 5 Int 13 Wis 10 Dex 10 Con 9 Cha 12.

Avira

Avira is a strange woman who dwells in the rugged hills around Kalok’s Bowl – a wooded valley watered by natural springs that is surrounded by granite hills. The hills are haunted by trolls, who avoid their “sister” Avira, the daughter of a green hag by a trader from the valley who disappeared 20 years ago. The people of the valley are farmers who do their best to avoid the notice of neighboring kingdoms. When they’ve no other choice, they send delegations into the hills with gifts for Avira and any troll they might run into. Avira looks like a gaunt, but attractive woman. She brews potions for sale and looks forward to adding to the collection of maidens she keeps chained in her gloomy cellar.

Avira: Fiendish* Human Magic-User: LVL 9 (Wizard); HP 17; AC 10; ATK by weapon +3 (1d4); MV 30; F12 R12 W9; XP 2,250; AL Chaotic (CE); Special – Spells (4/5/4/3/2/1), +1 or better weapon to hit, resistance to fire, magic resistance 10%, +2 to hit and damage vs. Lawful (Good) creatures; Str 12 Int 13 Wis 10 Dex 11 Con 12 Cha 8.

Saphon

Saphon is a glorious, radiant queen who took the throne of a small mountain kingdom after her husband, the lake Duke Elleran, was slain by rebellious hill people while on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Walwick. The Duchess quickly took control of the situation and rallied Elleran’s knights to her cause, though the beloved court magician Aswill was sadly slain in the peasant uprising that followed the duke’s death (an uprising few peasant remember having happened). Since then, many of the duke’s heirs have died in the campaign by malefactors that the duchess’ constable has been trying to stamp out. One now remains, the duke’s daughter Alwisse, from his first marriage. A small body of knights worries over her safety, and might look to foreign adventurers to steal her away from Saphon’s reach.

Saphon: Human Magic-User: LVL 11 (Wizard); HP 21; AC 10; ATK by weapon +3 (1d4-1); MV 30; F11 R11 W7; XP 1,100; AL Chaotic (LE); Special – Spells (4/5/4/4/3/2/1); Str 8 Int 14 Wis 13 Dex 9 Con 10 Cha 13.

Next up … Six Groovy Ghouls

18 Strength! – A Goofy Google Experiment

I’m laid up with a sore foot at the moment and trying to get some work done on NOD 17, which is due out this month (God willing), and needed a break. Checked email, Lulu.com (2 sales today – yippee!) and a few other sites and was still bored. What to do? Google image sort, of course. I started with “most beautiful woman in the world”, just wondering what would come up, and then thought – “hey, could be an interesting experiment to see, via Google, what people with 18’s in their ability scores would look like. Here’s what I found:

STRENGTH 18 – “Strongest woman in the world”

Now, the list below tends to be male dominated – don’t blame me, blame the internet community. So, for strength I decided to specifically search for the strongest woman in the world, and found Becca Swanson (no relation to Ron, as far as I know). Why don’t we get more women like this in fantasy games? I don’t know – but we really should.

INTELLIGENCE 18 – “Smartest person in the world”

The smartest person in the world is an easy search, but a tough choice, as there are many claimants to the throne, some of whom draw a very sharp distinction between “intelligence” and “wisdom” (see below for more on that) – the smartest man in the world who thinks eugenics is a great idea in particular. In the end, I had to go with Hawking.

WISDOM 18 – “Wisest person in the world”

Ah yes, wisdom. A tough stat, originally designed to govern how good one was at being a cleric and later expanded into “that stat kinda like intelligence, only not intelligence”.  When I searched for “wisest” on Google, I mostly got “smartest”, except for the gentleman pictured above. Apparently, humanity has gone through a real dry spell in terms of wisdom for the last few thousand years.

DEXTERITY 18 – “Greatest archer in the world”

Anybody who has put any thought into the dexterity stat knows that it is highly problematic, as it encompasses quickness of action, aim, how steady one’s hands are and how nimble one’s fingers are. A search for “most dextrous” yielded nothing (we geeks have larger vocabularies than many of our fellow human beings, thanks to Uncle Gary). Quickest went to Usain Bolt, but of course one’s dexterity score has nothing to do with one’s movement rate in D&D. “Most agile” got me a monkey. But, since D&D is about killing things and taking their stuff, I decided on “greatest archer in the world”, and according to the Denver Post, that’s Brady Ellison.

CONSTITUTION 18 – “Toughest person in the world”

If Minnesota Monthly can be believed, this gentleman, Pierre Ostor (last name would make a good D&D name) is the toughest man alive.

CHARISMA 18 – “Most beautiful person in the world”

Gawker asks if this is the most beautiful woman in the world – and I reply “I dunno”. Science says she is, but science once thought forced sterilization was a good idea, and that you could determine a person’s intelligence by measuring their skulls. Still, she looks pretty good to me.

A World With Multiple Sentient Races?

I was reading an article about primitive humans gettin’ busy (yeah, I’m street like that) with Neanderthals. Apparently, we did share the planet with a few other homo sapiens – maybe not as exotic as sharing it with elves, dwarves and halflings (well, maybe halflings), but it makes me think again about the fun of running a game with neanderthals and other “humanoids”, especially if you smash it together with an REH-style Atlantean age of fantastic adventures and ancient civilizations. Imagine an ancient, pre-ice age Europe swarming with prehistoric beasts and powerful stone age (maybe even Flintstone-style) civilizations that are antecedents to the known ancient civilizations of Europe. Naturally, we’re going to bend reality a bit to make this work.

First, let’s look at our players:

Humans

You probably know these guys. Just use whatever rules you would normally use for humans in your favorite system.

For our purposes, we’ll say the humans are the new kids on the block, moving in from Africa, so they’re going to take the roll of nomadic raiders and conquerors, a’ la the Huns or Mongols. Maybe they ride swift hill ponies, and use stone-tipped spears and arrows and stone axes in combat. Assume that stone weapons do one dice-type less of damage than metal versions – so spears do 1d6, hand axes 1d4 and short bows/arrows 1d4.

Armor in this setting is simple enough anyhow, but for humans it probably consists of furs (AC +1) or cured hide armor (AC +2). Maybe they use wicker shields as well.

If you use something like “favored classes”, maybe these humans favor the barbarian class.

Neanderthals

Neanderthals are close kin to human beings. In our setting, they are the high tech stone users, building cities of stone (again, Flintstone-style) and building primordial empires (maybe on the bones of pre-human civilizations like those of the ophidians and elder things). Since we’re used to Neanderthals being depicted as the “dumb cousins”, I like the idea of them being the most civilized people in the game, with a well-organized chieftain system, armies, organized religion (probably druids, but clerics would be cool as well), etc. Of course, the greatest of the Neanderthal kingdoms should be in the Neander valley – this is their Carolingian Empire – imagine how cool their Roland would be!

(Oh – what about theme-ing the Neanderthal city-states off of different stones – the Sapphire City, the Emerald City (well, maybe not that one), the Obsidian City, etc.)

You can probably use the dwarf racial abilities for your Neanderthals, making them tough guys who are hard to kill and who have expertise when working with stone and delving into cave systems. Neanderthal males stand 5.5 feet tall, females 5 feet tall.

Neanderthals have the same basic weapons as human beings, but also have armor that uses horn and bone in its construction (AC +3).

If you use favored classes, neanderthals probably favor the fighter class.

Homo Erectus

Homo erectus appear to have been slightly more primitive hominids than the early humans and Neanderthals. They are hunter-gatherers who use primitive tools and rely more on brawn than brains, and could therefore be an analog for half-orcs in the game (without the mixed parentage). Since homo erectus is more primitive and “close to nature”, you could use the druid as their favored class.

Otherwise, they might make good brigands and pirates, sniping at the edges of Neanderthal civilization without any real ability to conquer it. Heck, maybe the Neanderthal legions use homo erectus and hobbit (see below) auxiliaries as scouts and light infantry in their battles with the orcs and hobgoblins.

Flores Man (‘hobbits’)

So they weren’t discovered in Europe – how do you do cave man fantasy gaming without including the recently discovered ‘hobbits’? And I’d call them hobbits too! The hobbits are small humanoids, maybe a bit harrier than the humans and neanderthals, who dwell in thick woodlands in burrows. You can use the traditional halfling racial abilities for the the hobbits. They stood about 3 to 4 feet tall and used stone tools – probably on par with the humans.

The hobbits (well, as near as they can figure – remember, they might not really be a separate species) lived on an island with giant rats, Komodo dragons, elephants (stegodons) and giant lizards – they’re totally D&D, and must have been pretty slick little operators to survive. You might want to change their favored class, if you use such things, to ranger.

Meganthropus

Indonesia produces all the best hominid fossils! Meganthropus is the opposite of the hobbits – giant humanoids who were probably also related to homo erectus. Since we don’t have elves in this setting (unless we do – see below), they might make a good additional race. Meganthropus stood about 8 feet tall and is probably best represented with the half-ogre race (whichever version you prefer). They would be about as advanced as homo erectus and the hobbits, and probably rely on their great strength more than tools. If you use favored classes in your game, fighter or barbarian probably works for meganthropus.

Other Notions

If you really need to have “elves” in your game, I’d suggest replacing them with ophidians, or even just using them as-is – beautiful fey creatures who are shepherding the humanoids on their way to civilization.

Weapons do a bit less damage in this campaign, but there is less Armor to go around, so things should probably even out in that regard. To keep fighters and clerics (and paladins and whatever else you use) the “most armored” classes in the game, maybe restrict the other classes that can use armor to nothing more than furs (AC +1), no shields.

Spellbooks might not make sense, though scrolls consisting of stone tablets or animal hides are fine. In place of spellbooks, you could equip the magic-users with the aforementioned animal hides (one hide per spell, regardless of the spell’s level) or they could carve runes into staves and use them for memorization. Really, as long as the possibility of magic-users being without one’s source of spells is still present, you’re probably okay.

If you’re feeling gonzo, insert dinosaurs along with the prehistoric mammals, and of course use all of them as mounts.

Now – evil humanoids. They’re still there, of course. Gnolls and their hyaenodons, kobolds worming their way through the earth, goblins hiding in the woods, orcs and hobgoblins giving the early humans a run for their money. Do I even need to mention the lizard men and troglodytes? (And yeah, if your lizard men don’t look a lot like Sleestaks, you’re just not getting the point!) Heck, maybe you could re-cast all of the “evil humanoids” as having dinosaur features – T-Rex hobgoblins, triceratops orcs, ‘raptor goblins, etc.

Most of the mythological creatures are appropriate – after all, many were born from the blood of the “mother of monsters”. Dragons are great, bulettes and ankhegs are perfect, and a setting like this just begs for packs of blink dogs and worgs. A few metal-based monsters – rust monsters, iron golems, giant robots – should be avoided unless they are remnants of the ancient ophidians found in the mega-dungeons they have left behind.

Oh, and also this …

So, find your inner Frazetta and get primitive!

Deviant Friday – Nephyla Edition

Nephyla’s style reminds me of European, especially French, comic book art – creative, whimsical, great lines, great details. It’s still a dream of mine to produce successive editions of a good rules lite retro-clone – say Swords & Wizardry for example – illustrated entirely by different artists. Nephyla would definitely be an artist I’d love to see give her take on old school fantasy gaming. If you like the work, make sure you visit the artist at DeviantArt.

+PORTRAIT+ Saskia by *Nephyla on deviantART

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+PORTRAIT+ Kohaku by *Nephyla on deviantART

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The Ved’ma by *Nephyla on deviantART

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+PORTRAIT+ Melisende by *Nephyla on deviantART

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+PORTRAIT+ Evelyne de Breuil by *Nephyla on deviantART

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+PORTRAIT+ Selene by *Nephyla on deviantART

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+PORTRAIT+ Clea by *Nephyla on deviantART

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+COMMISSION+Tragedy by *Nephyla on deviantART

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+PORTRAIT+ Elis by *Nephyla on deviantART

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+PORTRAIT+Leith by *Nephyla on deviantART

Here Comes the Bogeyman – Part 4 – Killing Rituals

The point of a bogeyman is to create a campaign (or mini campaign or side trek) around figuring out how to kill the damned thing. That means researching the killing ritual. Here, horror movies aren’t quite as helpful as they’ve been before, because most horror movies that involve a bogeyman become series that NEVER FREAKING END. The only killing ritual that can put Jason, Michael Myers or Freddie down permanently is low ticket sales … and even then only until Hollywood thinks it can pull off a “re-boot”. For our purposes, though, we need to have an end to these campaigns of terror.

The how of killing might have something to do with the bogeyman’s origin, and then again, it might not. It could also just be some weird ritual that must be taught by the reclusive monks in those far-away mountains you’d like to introduce to your players.

The killing ritual should involve one or more element or step. The more experienced the players (not the characters), the more elements you can get away with, but more than three is probably going to get tedious. There might be a teacher or dusty old tome that can reveal the entire killing ritual, or perhaps the adventurers must track down each element separately. In such a case, it might be a good idea to weave the killing ritual in with the monster’s history (an example to follow), so that as players learn about the bogeyman’s history, they gain clues on how to destroy him.

Some elements you might consider for your killing ritual:

Hit Location – much like a vampire needing a stake to the heart to keep it down, Achilles’ infamous heel or Smaug’s missing scale, the monster can only be killed if struck at a certain point on its body. Unless the monster is stunned/paralyzed/subdued/etc., this brings a combat element into the game and might please the more combat-oriented players who otherwise couldn’t give a copper for solving the monster’s riddle.

Substance – the idea of needing special substances to kill monsters is not new to D&D – silver for lycanthropes, cold iron for some fey, wooden stakes for vampires, magic weapons to harm demons, etc. For a bogeyman, think outside these narrow bounds – Loki using mistletoe to kill Baldr comes to mind, or how about a silver spearhead anointed with a virgin’s tears? It might also be a particular weapon – the sword of Sir Magnus the Moldy, for example – that necessitates a brief quest to find the weapon (a quest which, incidentally, might help to keep the dungeon crawlers in the party happy).

Actor – the monster might require a specific kind of actor to kill it. This can get a bit dicey, as it might take the adventurers of the game just a little bit. Sure, they have to work hard to find the seventh son of a seventh son and convince him to accompany them to kill some monster he’s never heard of, but then the final stroke of the campaign comes from an NPC and that might lessen the satisfaction of the victory for the players. An “actor” requirement could also be something like, “a person who has kissed the Blarney Stone” or “a person who has lost a loved one to the monster” – something that can qualify one or more characters. Even using a PC as the final actor can create trouble – what if the killing blow falls on the shoulders of the halfling thief and two or three other PC’s buy the farm while that player suffers through some lousy hit rolls? An actor is definitely an appropriate element to the killing ritual, but just use it with your eyes wide open to the potential problems it can create.

Time – The time element involves something like: Can only be killed under a new/full/crescent moon; can only be killed at sunrise; can only be killed on a holy day; etc.. The value of a time element is to create a sense of urgency. Whatever the time element, it should be soon, so the adventurers must race to meet the deadline or suffer through another day or week of attacks that might claim new victims. You probably want to keep the interval between potential killings short, else the bogeyman side trek might outstay its welcome at the game table.

Place – A special place to kill a bogeyman might be fun as well, as it means the players have to figure out a way to lure the bogeyman to its undoing. Now, obviously, an intelligent bogeyman should not willingly let itself be lured to the one place it can be destroyed, so try to remember you’re working with an archetypal story here – just roll with it. It doesn’t have to be easy to lure the monster, but don’t make it ridiculously difficult. Good places might be the site of the bogeyman’s creation, an abandoned temple in a lonely wilderness, a holy site, the crater left over from a meteor impact, an active (or soon to be active) volcano, etc.

Here’s an example of a killing ritual tied to a particular bogeyman …

A maiden desperately in love with a wicked man was lured by promises of marriage into a lonely wood, where she was murdered. Now, on nights when the moon is new, a bogeyman composed of the psychic residue of the unfortunate woman (i.e. she isn’t undead) might appear to travelers (the locals know better than to travel during a new moon, but they don’t know why – just an old superstition) as a beautiful maiden with red-rimmed eyes who is accompanied by an audible heart beat – it throbs in people’s ears and causes fear (especially in henchmen and animals).

The murdered maiden will be drawn to killing any men in the party, and will also begin attacking descendants of her murderer, who still live in the nearby village. Assume the murder happened 50 years ago, so there probably are a few elders who remember what happened and can clue people in to the event. The murderer was probably a high placed person in the village, or perhaps was a cat’s paw for somebody else. Maybe the maiden’s stepmother wanted her out of the way?

In this case, the killing ritual involves plunging a gold ring (it was promised to her, and she might howl about it while attacking) into the bogeyman’s (bogeywoman’s?) heart. The most likely way is to slip the ring onto a blade or arrow. This must be done during the night of a full moon. Her destroyer must also deliver a heartfelt apology or must shed a tear while delivering the killing blow or the bogeyman will only disappear for a year and then will return to plague the adventurers.

Here Comes the Bogeyman – Part 3

Last time, I talked about what a bogeyman might look like. Today, I promised to talk about the bogeyman’s powers, but first I need to touch on motivation.

Why has the bogeyman shown up to harry the adventurers? I mean, other than because it makes for an interesting sub-campaign. Here are a few ideas – and they might be important, because the way to defeat a bogeyman might involve delving into its history.

– The bogeyman is killing to survive, i.e. a hunter

– The bogeyman likes to kill, i.e. a murderer

– The bogeyman must kill the adventurers to save itself or its future

– The bogeyman wants something the adventurers have or something they have taken (“I Want My 2 Dollars!”)

– The bogeyman was sent (or conjured) by an enemy

– The bogeyman wants revenge – maybe on the adventurers in particular, or on society in general

What powers does the bogeyman bring to the table? Here’s where it gets tricky.

The bogeyman is going to fight the PCs, so he needs to have combat stats. However – the bogeyman cannot be defeated in normal combat – it has a specific vulnerability that must be discovered and exploited to destroy it. Think of it as a killing ritual that must be performed (we’ll talk about the killing ritual tomorrow).

The bogeyman’s stats should be commensurate to the power of the adventurers it is challenging. If the PCs are all 8th level, then the bogeyman needs enough Hit Dice, a high enough Armor Class and the ability to deal enough damage to challenge the 8th level party. If underpowered, the bogeyman becomes a strange annoyance, not a terrible menace. If too powerful, the bogeyman will wipe out the adventurers before they can embark on the quest to figure out what/who it is, what it wants and how to destroy it.

In general, I’d give it two more Hit Dice than the party average – thus 10 HD for an 8th level party. Give it an Armor Class about four points higher (or lower depending on the system) than the party’s second best fighter can hit regularly. I know this is vague – so in Blood & Treasure terms, if you’re second best fighter has an attack bonus of +4, has a strength bonus of +1 and is wielding a +1 sword, then she has a total attack bonus of +6. On an average d20 roll, she’ll hit an AC of 16 about 50% of the time. So, maybe give the bogeyman an AC of 18 – hard enough to hit to give him some staying power against the adventurers, but not so impossible to hit that he cannot be defeated – remember, he must be defeated in that first combat to launch the quest to figure him out.

The bogeyman can have whatever powers make sense for its form, but keep in mind that the bogeyman should have some sort of fear effect – an aura, a gaze, etc. A bogeyman is almost made of fear, so a fear power just makes sense.

Now – how about those immunities?

There are two tacks you can use here – we’ll call them the Jason Concept and the Doomsday Concept.

In the Jason Concept, you have a bogeyman that can apparently be killed … but which always returns to fight again. A bogeyman like this shouldn’t have any obvious immunities (or at least not many) – it takes damage and falls, and then comes back again and again and again. There is no rule for this – no need to specify a regeneration ability. This is campaign stuff, not monster stuff. You might want to vary the bogeyman’s return time – i.e.

D6 / Return Time
1. Returns in 1d6+4 minutes, half healed
2-3. Returns in 1d6 turns, fully healed
4-5. Returns in 1d6 hours, fully healed
6. Returns in 1d6 days, fully healed

The Jason Concept works on the attrition model – he’s slowly wearing down the adventurers, depleting their resources and making them more and more vulnerable until he starts eliminating them one by one.

In the Doomsday Concept, you have a bogeyman that simply cannot be hurt – except by its killing ritual. This concept is more dangerous, because it means you’re going to lose party members until they realize they have to run. You might want to limit the damage output of a Doomsday or make sure it is slow moving enough that it can, at least initially, be escaped. With a Doomsday, it needs to have a high magic resistance, immunity or resistance to most energies, only hit by magic weapons, etc. It should probably also have a regeneration ability – either like a trolls (so it’s always regenerating), or one that kicks in when it seems to have been killed. The idea here isn’t to fight a war of attrition with this thing, but rather to have to retreat, regroup and come up with a new plan.

Whichever concept you’re using, you’re skating on thin ice with a group of players who really hate character death.  If you’re playing a system where it is assumed that any obstacle/challenge can be overcome, you run the risk of players who are going to feel cheated. If you have players like this, you’ll probably want to use the Jason Concept – a foe they can defeat, but who keeps coming back.

Tomorrow – Killing Rituals and how to discover them.

Here Comes the Bogeyman – Part 2

So you’ve decided to freak your players out and really test their mettle (and I mean their mettle, not their characters’ imaginary mettle). You need to know what your bogeyman looks like – here are some ideas.

Body-wise, you have three categories you might work in:

HUMANOID: This is probably the bogeyman most often used in horror movies, be it Jason, Freddie, etc. The humanoid bogeyman can look like virtually anything, and be as drab and mundane or hellish and frightening as you like. Bogeymen without faces (again, Jason comes to mind). The bogeyman can be completely silent (often unnerving) or can bark out a few words and taunts.

A humanoid bogeyman can be particularly effective because the form gives the players a shot of false confidence right from the get-go – it looks human, so we should be able to chop it (or fireball it) like a human.

A few ideas for medieval fantasy bogeymen:

A traditional black knight sort, maybe with a horse, maybe without

The less traditional “white knight” – perhaps in the tattered garb of a crusader

The little girl – throw in a red riding hood or even a twin to set people on edge

A peasant who’s face is hidden in shadows beneath a wide-brimmed hat or a hooded cloak

A man or woman shrouded in the tattered robes of a leper

A man or woman who looks like somebody the players have encountered before

MONSTROUS: A monstrous bogeyman probably looks challenging (or even unbeatable) as soon as it is encountered. It is usually big – the size difference between it and its victims being a key aspect in the fear is causes them – and might be scaled, hairy, etc. It’s natural weapons are probably impressive, or perhaps it holds a large sword or axe. The monstrous bogeyman might look like an undead, but it should not technically be “undead” – you don’t want a cleric spoiling the encounter with a lucky turn undead roll. Maybe the monstrous bogeyman looks like it belongs to the wilderness in which it is encountered, something akin to Swamp Thing or Man-Thing or the Heap. To be most effective, the monstrous bogeyman should probably attack without warning – the adventurers are walking through the woods and BOOM, it’s there and charging. The humanoid bogeyman might be more effective if first seen from far away, as though waiting for the adventurers to approach. The monstrous bogeyman, on the other hand, should be about the noise and confusion – Jaws might be the best way to describe it.

FORMLESS: When I think about the “formless” bogeyman, my mind first goes to the cloud monster in “Obsession”, a second season episode of Star Trek. The formless bogeyman lack of form presents a particular challenge to adventurers, as it renders physical weapons obviously ineffective – it is also harder to wrap one’s head around – no face to read (well, that applies to many humanoid bogeymen as well) – nothing physical to get a grip on. Formless bogeymen can also be shimmering curtains of energy or invisible psychic vampires – perhaps only a sound or smell announces their presence.

Whatever the form the bogeyman takes, its motives should, at first, be inscrutable. Like the trucker in Duel, it simply appears and presents itself as implacably hostile to the adventurers. It is an obstacle they cannot avoid and must deal with, and to deal with it, they’re going to have to be creative.

Next, I’ll get into the specifics of the bogeyman’s powers and vulnerabilities.