Thursday, August 22, 2019

Black Pudding

OG Black Pudding
The biggest baddest slime, and one you must kill with fire. Not a big deal if the GM allows for mundane pyrotechnics from torches and burning oil to inflict damage, but without such molotovs, the only hope for many parties would be that 'it avoids fire.' How much fire is not stated, but a feeble line of candles being the only line between the party and death by acid is pretty great, especially if torches and lamp oil will not actually harm the creature, but only ward it off.

A few things of note one might not realize about this iconic slime monster is that, despite the size, it creeps across ceilings and walls as well as floors, making pits only a delaying tactic and it likely just as prone to unusual angles of attack as smaller slimes. They also come in brown, grey, and white variants, which are expanded upon in the MMII, the major differences being
  • Brown Puddings- marsh dwellers, do not eat metal, destroy leather or wood instantly.
  • Dun Puddings- Desert dwellers that are smaller, weaker brown puddings that also eat metal at a reduced rate. Twice as fast as a regular pudding. Can eat silicates.
  • White pudding.-cold-loving, perhaps polar puddings that look like ice and snow and do not affect metals, but hit very hard (7d4) and dissolve animal and vegetable products instantly.
All in all I am not particularly thrilled by these variants. Half the appeal of a black pudding, to me, is the idea of trying to manage a dungeon where you cannot kill it and must instead evade or distract it while continuing exploring. Terrain-appropriate puddings encountered in the wilderness seem a tedious exercise in kiting a (relatively) slow creature around on horseback while the mage flings magical death at it, or for a fighter to get eaten by some 'mud' or 'ice' that they had the gall to investigate while wearing encumbering armor. And once inside a dungeon, some out of place 'mud' or 'ice' might provide a scare a single time, but after that lacks the alien dread that a tide of unstoppable and ravenous black goo has, and instead conveys a sort of palette-swap re-used asset vibe more suited to a RPG videogame than anything.


Sunset Realm Black Pudding
While the realms are full of squirming jelly monsters of boundless variety, a Black Pudding is a form of Darkspawn that arises in the slimy depths of the earth, where it stays, relatively harmless, until it is enraged by light. Like all full on darkspawn, their substance is unknowable and primordial until forced into being something specific by a lightsource that outshines their own darkness. Unfortunately for sunlit beings, this means that upon getting near one, the primordial darkness coalesces into the exact most corrosive acid tailored to destroy whatever it touches. Dark and unknown stone of the underground is unaffected, and when unobserved, a black pudding is not acidic at all, and so their environs are not as melted and scoured clean as one would expect from a proper biological organism. Good for looting subterranean ruins, bad for predicting the appearance of a pudding before it writhes into the torchlight, lapping at your ankles like an orphaned nightmare ocean (miniature midnight-black nightmare oceans are of course, something completely different)

Of course, light is not totally unknown underground, for deep below, Yg-A, the Undersun, churns in his prison of molten rock. Black puddings avoid heat as an instinct to avoid destruction by the 2nd sun, and so unbroken lines of flame can ward them off, though they are simply too great a volume of cold muck to suffer any harm from feeble firebombs or torches, requiring magical conflagrations or actual molten metal to harm them significantly. They will not come within about a hand's span of flame, meaning that they will ooze around held torches to attack shadowy backsides, and lines of candles must have no gaps, lest the slime ooze through.



Friday, August 16, 2019

Beholder

OG Beholder
As a child, I always wondered how the hell any party would ever kill a beholder when you'd be subject to like 1d4 save or pretty much die effects per round. (Child me had relatively little imagination when it came to tactics and strategies). Nowadays I'm actually quite keen on using such a creature as a dragon-alternate. Rather than pinning it down and taking cover as one does with dragons, I imagine fighting a beholder would be like ambushing a tank. You need to make sure the big gun isn't pointed at you, you can't rely on cover more than once on account of disintegration, and you need some manner of dealing with random debuffs. Someone was complaining about all the RNG rolling one has to do in determining what eyeballs are available in what angle of attack round to round but honestly that sounds like half the fun of making this lone 'boss monster' really stand out from other fights.

That said Beholders are popular but I have never used one, so that's all I have to say here.

Sunset Realm Beholder
 I have two takes on the Beholder. The 'default' type is an artificial life form designed by either serpents, or by alves emulating the dread weaponry of the fallen Serpent Empire. Either way, they are grown from the heads of wizards, and as such Beholders tend to resemble huge mutant heads of the source head. Despite the resemblance, however, there are only spell-souls inside the creatures, and they are no different
  1. Serpent Beholder- Scaly and befanged, slit-pupiled and horrid. Able to unhinge the jaw to swallow things whole.
  2. Alf Beholder- Elegantly arched eyestalks, skintones reminiscent of fashionable cosmetics from a thousand years ago, an imperiously sneering nightmare vision of an Alf, beauty and mutation magnified to ten times the size of a regular head.
  3. Ningen Beholder- Massive and piscine, a giant anglerfish with 10 lures and needle teeth, skin black and bioluminescent in spots. These gilled grotesqueries are found in the depths of the sea and are known as 'Eyes of the Deep.'
  4. Great Orb of Eyes- Inspired by the BFRPG's reskinned (and much simplified) version of the beholder, this is just a cluster of huge eyeballs hosting spellwisps, the work of master sorcerers who found the giant head version more disturbing than a bunch of eyeballs.
  5. Moon Eater ( this is the second variety see entry below)


 Their eyeballs host spell-wisps of terrible power, and in the absence of their masters, Beholders idly guard ancient ruins and hoard other spellwisps with which to communicate and breed. Fortunately, this merely results in hybrid spellwisps being bred, and at worst infesting a spell-scroll or something, rather than entire new beholders being spawned. They are colonial beings, a collection of spells piloting a meat-vessel that they are bound to until it is slain, at which point the spellwisps go their separate ways. The wisps are likely sick of hundreds of years of servitude, and it is unlikely that a wizard could learn a spell from a dead beholder's component wisps, though an intact eye-stalk might be good for just one more spell.

Beholder Spellwisp-Eyes
  1. Alvish Bewitchment- As Charm Person. Rather than simple light-bending illusion, this spell creates hallucinations within the brain of an individual that allows perception to be utterly controlled. As with all mental effects, the soul itself cannot be controlled, only convinced or coerced, but the perceptions of a living body can be fooled, and the soul with it. The illusions are tailored to things with humanish psychology and are ineffective against beasts, and undead see with their souls rather than their body and are similarly immune.
  2. Alvish Override- As Charm Monster. Many monsters (and people) were artificially created by tinkering with the artificial 3rd Sun, the Alf Star, the Sorcerer's Sun, and have failsafe codes, instincts of obedience wired into their blood. This spellwisp essentially just runs through a list of access codes, attempting to brute force guess the password that will hack the physical wetware of the brain, leaving the soul to curse impotently within a rebellious body. Making one saving throw is no guarantee that a being has no genetic curse-coding lurking within- it merely means the litany of codes did not include the correct code in time before the spellwisp grew tired of guessing.
  3. Sleep-  In the event no subtler control can be gained, mortal brains can oft be disabled and forced into rest mode by even weak spellwisps. Souls of sufficient willpower can rouse their bodies from this false slumber with no effort at all, of course. Elvish beholders utilize Slumber, a variant that has no HD restriction, but is single-target.
  4. Telekinesis, 250 pounds. While heavily armored warriors are too heavy to be moved by the spellwisp that effects this telekinesis, people of slighter build and smaller packs can be moved into peril with no saving throw (though acceleration to high speeds takes a great deal of time). Large rocks may be lifted as deadfalls as well, and the utility of this eye, once used for simple manual labor, should not be understated
  5. Petrification Ray- A short range (7 feet) basilisk soul ray, spellwispified (see basilisks for details there). The limited range is a failsafe to prevent the Beholder from petrifying itself by shooting a mirror.
  6. Disintegrate Ray- perhaps the ultimate weapon of a beholder, this highly destructive beam of negative sunlight, kept barely in check by a specialized spellwisp from the mirror realm, undoes the elemental covenant, blasting matter into shadow and nothingness. It has a range of merely 5 feet, so even a spear is sufficient to stay out of danger.
  7. Fear- A bit of a gimmick, this spellwisp merely tickles the adrenal glands, triggering a fight-or-flight response from most living beings. One might wonder why, when Charm effects are available, such an effect would be included, but the answer is simple. Alves sometimes wished to be free of the presence of people they disliked, but could not kill them without risking a faux pas. Charm effects are useless when attempting to get someone to leave you alone, and so this effect was included in beholders to smooth over social incompatibility.
  8. Slow- As Beholders are not particularly fast, this decently-ranged effect allows them to close to melee range and utilize their more powerful effects, preferably on targets who are already Feared.
  9. Heretic's Lance- As Cause Serious Wounds. this spellwisp is typically a imp or cherub in service to some forgotten and spiteful god (Isfrix the Demon Lord of Hate, probably). With a range of 12 feet, this effect, along with the Death Ray, is used against targets who prove resilient to the Death Ray and refuse to come within range of the other rays.
  10. Death Ray- With a range of 10 feet, the spell wisp used for this effect is classically a rogue psychopomp, empowered to pluck souls from their bodies. The effects are all-or nothing and, against many targets, the Heretic's Lance is actually the more reliable option.
  11. Spellwisp Suppression- as anti-magic cone. While most spellwisps are composed of light or shadow, the central eye of the beholder contains a mote of Darkness. Spellwisps that it regards immediately flee from this realm of existence, fearful  of obliteration, and as such, spells cast in the direction of the eye fail, magic items cease their functioning, and a jolly good defense is had by the beholder. The beholders own wisps are not exempt, and while the central eye is open, the beholder may not fire spell-rays in that direction
There is another creature similar in function, though metaphysically alien.

Moon Eaters
These tentacled creatures that inspired the creation of Beholders are among the boldest of darkspawn known, for they nibble on the eldritch moons that bedevil the moonlands, and carry around chunks of moon-stuff that still glow with the effects of the light of the moon, feeding upon the stolen light. Once equipped to their satisfaction with moon-stuff, they may descend from the high places of howling darkness between the stars to try their luck at stealing sunlight. Not from the sun itself, of course, oh no, they would not dare... but the sunspawned mortal races and their magical baubles are irresistable to Moon Eaters.

A Moon Eater is a squiggly spheroid mass of midnight black, ontologically vague tentacles that clutch glowing moon-fragments and other baubles. They are devoid of set features, possessing an amorphous form, and do not have a predictable set of effects, as they simply brandish moonstones, stolen fairies, spell-wisps half-trapped in magical scrolls or items and pressed into servitude, haunted skulls, etc etc... an example mirroring Beholders is shown below, but there are endless possibilities of spell and moon combos.
  1. Nightmare Anchor- A tormented human soul trapped in a nightmare of its own making, calling out for assistance, and trapping those who heed its call. Those drawn into the nightmare leave their bodies uninhabited and watched over only by the shadow, which is naturally more inclined to listen to the Moon Eater's Darkspawn will than the light-souled human friends of the absent soul. unless they can save the trapped soul and return.
  2. Animal Dream- An idyllic dream-afterlife of prey animals, channeled through the skull of a longdead animal. Other prey animals may be tempted to enter the paradise, and predators too, though for different reasons. As with the Nightmare Anchor, once the body is vacated in favor of another realm, it is ruled by the shadow and prone to allying with Darkspawn immediately.
  3. Captured Slumbermaid- A fairified spellwisp of a sleep spell, pinned inside a dark tube-tentacle and squeezed to encourage cooperation with the Moon Eater's wishes. The fairy would rebel even under pain of death if an Alf was being threatened, but so long as the Moon Eater preys on humans, the relationship is more symbiotic than you might initially assume.
  4. Gravity Elemental- A form of earth elemental found at the very edge of the deep darkness of the earth, now corrupted to serve the Moon Eater instead of the laws of the world. As it is a very small elemental, it may only change the subjective gravity of objects of up to a large man's weight.
  5. Winter Moon Chunk- Those exposed to the narrow beam of light freeze solid (save to dodge). Nearly any amount of liquid can be frozen. Thawing out frozen people is dangerous unless a warm bath of holy sun-warmed water is used.
  6. Slurping Tentacle- as the Moon Eater is a darkspawn, anything it devours (and it can devour anything) will have the light and law leeched from it until nothing but inchoate matter (and presumably a wailing spirit) remains.
  7. Fear- Honestly, the writhing of a darkspawn is naturally fearsome to any sunlit mortal beings, and a tentacle that lunges at peoples faces, unfolds like a tooth-filled umbrella, and screeches like a dying trumpet is enough to spook most things away.
  8. Air Rebellion- One tentacle whispers like a mouth rather than clinging to a chunk of magic rock. The air listens and becomes like cold gelatin, slowing movement around an unfortunate being. Air, Earth, and Water- all are more similar than you might think when nostalgic for their primordial form of undifferentiated dark matter.
  9. Dark Jab- As Cause Serious Wounds. It looks like a simple jab of black tentacle impaling the target, but darkspawn have no set composition. It can harm anything, because the tentacle is potentially everything harmful all at once.
  10. Soul Yank- While the Dark Jab affects the material, a Darkspawn is not exactly a physical being, and can drag a soul from a body with no more fuss than you might pull someone out of a sweater.
  11. Eclipsing Regard- identical to the dark-spellwisp beholders have, smaller beings of light cannot stand before a being of such deep shadow, and the eyeless 'gaze' eclipses the small sunlit laws spellwisps bring with them in favor of the quiet stillness of the dark. Stronger lights like souls and moons and suns cannot be eclipsed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Beetles of Unusual Size

OG Giant Beetles
 I haven't heard much about the use of giant beetles. Of course there is the beloved fire beetle, that bioluminescent torch substitute found in many a low-level dungeon. I'm sure other people have used giant rhinocerous beetles as substitute mounts as well.

There are six varieties in the monster manual, and two more in the MMII
  • Bombadier Beetle-a 2hd menace with a dangerous cloud of stunning and deafening acid and respectable numbers appearing. They would certainly make short work of any party that clustered tightly together.
  • Boring Beetle- They are notable for actually having treasure, cultivating mold and fungi, and rumored to have a communal hive mind intelligence on par with a human brain.
  • Fire Beetle- They have glowing glands behind the eyes and on the butt, they're basically armored orcs threat wise, they may be the first monster encountered for low level parties that signifies hey monster parts might be handy.
  • Rhinocerous Beetle- Boasting 12hd and 2 attacks of 3d6 and 2d8, these giant beetles are straightforward jungle monsters.
  • Stag Beetle-  At a mere 7hd, packs of these creatures are pretty similar statwise to harder-hitting, more sociable tigers.
  • Water Beetle- hitting for 3d6, these 4hd critters serve all your needs, if your needs are 'I desperately want the players to fight a giant water beetle'
  • Death Watch Beetle-Basically just a banshee scream stapled onto a not-very-dangerous (for 9hd, that is) beetle that does the death ticking from stealth. This smacks of the sort of save-or-die stuff that gives save-or-die such a bad rep, honestly. I'd like it more if it had something mythic going on, like 'these beetles are the hounds of Time that sally forth to count down the hours, and to fall on Time's sword at the end of the day, returning the hours of the day to their source and their master' Lord Dunsany style
  • Slicer Beetle- Not as ridiculously tough and hard hitting as some of the other beetles, it nevertheless can chop off limbs on a 19-20. I like maiming over killing, and they come with a bonus mini-table on what wearing only one Boot of Levitation or one Gauntlet of Ogre Power will do, as their lair is decently likely to have magic gloves and boots bitten off and carried away by the beetle.
Beetles in general have several other features I find interesting- first off, while they are 'basically unintelligent and always hungry' they also taste things with their antennae of feeler before attacking things, on account of having poor vision and hearing, so despite being very dangerous, they're also pretty easy to just throw food at and leave, and won't be attacking people in surprise rounds, but rather will likely 'taste' them first to ascertain if you are edible. Hiding in a stone sarcophagus or whatever is probably enough to make beetles leave you alone. Heck, being clad in full plate might render you unpalatable if you don't aggravate the beetle.

What's really interesting is that, even for the lowly fire beetle, 'nothing actually eaten by giant beetles can be revived in any manner short of a wish.' To be fair, the real reason nobody got revived after they were eaten by fire beetles is because they were level one nobodies, but normally 'can only be revived by a wish' is reserved for stuff like soul destroying undead and so on. It is utterly hilarious to me to imagine some advertisement for a high temple filled with mighty priests who can turn back death itself!*
*Does not apply if you were eaten by beetles
Or for some undying monster to be all 'aww hell naw is that a beetle, nope, I'm out'

Anyway...

Sunset Realm Beetles
Yuba worships/fears the Beetle's Moon, which is a moon too lazy to fly that is instead rolled around by Great Scvabhat, a scarab the size of  a mountain that is revered as a goddess. Several historic cities have been crushed by the Beetle's Moon, but the moon has not been seen since the age of the 4th sun Riikhus. However, the 5th sun is not as bright, and Yuba is now back in the moonlands, and Great Scvabhat is prophesied to return someday and do battle with the Jackal God.

Giant beetles (usually of the smaller varieties) are popular in the Beast Islands as trainable beasts. They are strong, single-minded, and a good middle ground when it comes to being both intimidating and aesthetically pleasing, familiar to most but strange enough that it's easy to stay a little detached if they perish in battle.

Most giant beetles of the Daylands are of the Fire Beetle variety, and the dwarf-tunnels of the Mountains of Mercia are positively infested with the things, and are more popular than dogs as pets in the deep fortresses.

The exotically cosmopolitan city state of Oroboro boasts a great many exotic beetles due to its proximity to the Isle of Ebeth, and actually has the greatest academy for insect studies in the world. Their local subspecies of firebeetle can glow with the white light of their own souls, or hide in their own shadows as emitted darkness, are very popular both in the arena and as exports to the Beast Islands. Subspecies that eat wood and cultivate mold, and swimmers can be found beyond the Royal Gate of Oroboro, but adventurers who delve deep beyond the demon-infested gate typically are on specific missions from the Iron and Jewel-Crowned king rather than animal trapping missions.  A little north, the Insect Tribes ride huge rhinoceros beetles that occasionally serve as war beasts when tensions between them and Oroboro rise too high, and smaller beetles act as war dogs.


As for the Isle of Ebeth itself, the beetles there have grown more bipedal and intelligent due to feasting on the flesh of the self-sacrificing dragon god Ebetheron, whose bones are the island. Though the cult of Ebeth among humans is one of charity and giving, the insect cult views the gift of Ebetheron's corpse as one that was meant only for those who need it for sustenance, meaning that the humans who view dragon-god bones as a commodity rather than a food source are nothing but greedy thieves. To humans, the beetlefolk seem a united and jealously possessive force on the island, but this is incorrect. Beetles  are not eusocial insects like ants, and each decides their own rules to follow. Some attract smaller beetles as disciples, others walk their chosen paths alone. There are other insect-people on Ebeth (a hive of hyperintelligent brainwasp sorceresses are the chief foes of the beetlefolk) but the beetlefolk stand out to humans due to their adoption of blades, at first scavenged from adventurers, later forged by the beetles themselves to support various styles of 4-armed combat.



BEETLEFOLK RACE/CLASS
Saves, xp required, etc As fighter assuming the techniques are used, otherwise as whatever class they are. They make for better thieves than you might expect given their bulk on account of them being able to pose as barrels in low-light scenarios.
  • May not wear armor besides shields, but they get +1 AC per level as they molt into thicker and harder shells.
  • Four arms that have limited mobility and grasping finesse compared to a human. Each additional arm used on a separate weapon or shield incurs a -1 penalty to hit on all attacks, in addition to usual dual-wielding penalties.
  • May fly short distances (10 ft per level), though this is quite noisy and tiring- each flight costs 1hp and alerts nearby beings/incurs a wandering monster check.
  • Equally fast scuttling on all fours as they are on two legs, but are too heavy to climb walls or ropes (unless a thief) and commonly carry modular pole ladders in rough terrain. They are very inflexible and large and must take an entire round of nothing else to pass through a human sized door.
  • Poor sight and hearing make them 3-in-6 likely to be surprised, and they cannot effectively use any form of ranged combat.
  • Beetlefolk start with a simple code like 'I Feed the Hungry' or 'Duel Erry Day' that they follow, and can revise a code every even level, and must add a new code every odd level. These codes do not have moral reasoning or even emotion behind them, at least initially, and a session where the beetlefolk can both follow their code and engage in a discussion about their code and actions should give a small experience boost- like 100xp, or a 10% bonus, both to themselves and all who discussed it with them. Choosing not to follow a code results in no xp for the session. These codes are necessary to keep their divinely granted intellect- without this self-imposed mental discipline and self reflection, arbitrary as they seem, they revert to beasts that care only for food, and molt into an entirely beetle like form and become an NPC if their code is irrelevant and/or ignored for too long.

Beetlefolk codes apply only to their own conduct, not as prescriptive dictums addressed to 'society.' Their codes should always be framed as 'I Feed The Hungry,' not 'The hungry should be fed.' The codes are not an attempt to create behavioral standards for a greater good, or even necessarily a reflection of the beetles outlook on life. This can be very strange for humans, but perhaps enlightening for those who take the time to engage with the topic when, as a random example, a beetle decides to feed a hungry monster before slaying it. Was that act pointless? Kindness? Betrayal? What does your answer reveal about yourself?
Beetle Style Secret Techniques
Gained on even levels, either moving down from Four Sword or up from Zero Sword. Typical Secret Fighter Techniques can be learned as well, though in that case, whoever teaches them the technique will pick their next Code. Beetle techniques are not particularly subtle or complex and have more to do with physiology than training.

Stance of Four Swords- Equip four short, straight, slashing swords or daggers, used mainly for backhanded slashes and parrying. Though less flexible than modern human swordplay, the simple minded assault and multiple parries make it an effective style against soft targets, provided the beetle can wait for their foes to come to them (this stance is a stationary one). When using 4 sword style, 4 attacks, using an unmodified d20 roll and dealing an unmodified d6 damage on hit, can be made against frontal targets.

Pincer Two Swords- Wield two greatswords, ideally sharpened on an interior curve, used either in 'horn' style, with each pair of arms on each side gripping the sword to attack and defend each flank in a stationary stance, preventing flanking and allowing 2 attacks per round without dual-wielding or arm penalties (assuming the beetle has an enemy at each flank anyway), or hold the swords crossed and frontal in 'pincer' style, with them held crossways to assault someone in front of the beetle with a nigh-unblockable simultaneous assault high and low, left and right. Shields and similar parry attempts are useless in defending against Pincer Sword.

Lone Sword- A long, straight sword with a single cutting edge, the size of a pike. Only a four armed and large being such as a beetlefolk could wield such a weapon. The Lone Sword deals d20 damage, but takes an entire round to hoist back into attack position after each ponderous swing. Alternately, it may attack for d12 and not require a recovery round.

Half Shell- Shields provide no penalty to attack, and can defend the beetlefolk from the flanks as well as the front.

Zero Sword- Beetlefolk techniques may be made unarmed, each claw serving either as a shield or a d6 weapon, the beetle's wing-casings being used for d10 Pincer Swords, and their horn being used in brief fly-and-dive attacks for One Horn.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Bears and Beavers

OG BEARS
Bears are notable due to their additional 'hug' attack if one of their two paws scores a hit with an 18 or better (unmodified I assume) they hug for additional damage, and the larger varieties of brown and cave bears fight for 1d4 melee rounds after reaching 0hp, but die instantly if reduced to -9hp or lower. Polar bears, introduced in the MMII, fight on for 1d4+1 rounds and die instantly only at -12hp, but are otherwise unremarkable in simply being bigger and hard hitting.

They have 'excellent hearing and smell, but rather poor eyesight' which encourages ranged attacking (though to be fair, anything without a ranged attack encourages ranged attacking) and are otherwise pretty much just your classic animal statline- lots of HP but not much AC, and enough damage to make 'surround and stab furiously' a plan that will probably make at least one person die. They also travel in packs of 1d6, which means a bear encounter could potentially offer maulings for the whole party.

OG GIANT BEAVERS

 Dealing 4d4 damage, with 4hd, numbers of 10-40, and the amphibious terrain advantages from dwelling in the middle of an artificial lake, frontal assaults against beaver dams are unlikely to go well, and their sodden lodges make fire unlikely to be effective. Interestingly, they are intelligent creatures, rather than 'just' animals. They prize birch, aspen, and willow bark as well as coins and other valuables, and can be hired to create dams in watery areas. While their treasure type is unreliable, their hides are worth 500 to 2000 gold pieces each, and their young can be sold on the market for an average 1000gp each each meaning an average beaver lodge is worth 40,000gp if your party has no qualms about slaughtering 'intelligent and docile' creatures and selling their children as... pets? Slaves? Why is there an assumed market for giant beaver children, of all things?

That said, a lodge of them could be interesting to place in a wilderness region the players are attempting to build a castle in. The beavers could be a handy ally, allowing the players to shape the region by diverting rivers, flooding valleys, and similar landscaping endeavours, either by perhaps hunting the beavers predators as a favor or simply paying them as contractors. Or, I suppose evil groups could kill them all for money, set a wicked bunch of amphibious demi-humans to use the lodge as a castle, etc etc.
A Yuban sloth bear, a grizzly of more temperate regions, and probably suspicious dealings between a Mercian wizard and a giant beaver





SUNSET REALM BEARS
The Noonlands are too hot for bears, but they are common enough elsewhere, be it the jungles of Yuba and the Beast Islands, the more temperate Mercia and Prince's Spit, and the Moonlands in general, even the deep moonlands that are permanently cold (though white 'polar bears' are found only in the Wrecker's Coast and the Auroral Reaches- Moon Bears, using the Cave Bear statistics, are grey to blend in with whatever moonlight is currently shining). Bears have some of the most powerful souls of all animals, clinging to life even as the body is broken, and so necromancers who value strength and power over obedience may seek out bear-infested wildernesses to harvest minions. The spirits of mother bears taken from their cubs are easy to manipulate via simulating their cubs being in danger, be that via actually dangling the cubs in a cage, illusions of such, or the bodies of the undead cubs being controlled by more easily directed souls.

SUNSET REALM GIANT BEAVERS
With the  gross overabundance of strange furry monsters that roam the realms, beaver pelts are not as treasured as they were in real life, and mostly live lives unmolested by humans save for the occasional mountain trappers who truly appreciate water-resistant furs. As animals are all sort-of as smart as people just with different priorities, the intelligence of giant beavers is not usually remarkable, but their ability to do mega-projects with water has led to some interaction with humans on more than a interpersonal scale. The mountains separating King's Point from Queen's Coast are home to some lodges of giant beavers, as are the Mountains of Mercia. In the former case, the beavers are often hired to divert rivers to spite the opposing side and occasionally VIPs seek refuge among beaver lodges instead of mountain monasteries. In the mercian case, humans have hired the beavers to create scenic lake castles (the castle being constructed in a dry but otherwise unhospitable valley beforehand), and dwarves have commissioned reservoirs high in the mountains in the event subterranean water supplies become unsafe for whatever reason. Most notably, the fortress  Stonefast Two had an entire mountains worth of snowmelt diverted to drown (or at least, contain) whatever darkspawned horrors had risen from the depths, and the giant beavers have been under the personal protection of the Underlords ever since and hunting them or interfering with them is forbidden by dwarvish law, though Mercian rebel warlords have risked dwarvish retaliation to destroy mountain dams and unleash water on the unsuspecting lowlands more than once.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Basilisk

OG BASILISK
Basilisks  have a few interesting things in AD&D beyond the obvious.
First off, while the gaze attack of a medusa explicitly allows a saving throw vs petrification, the basilisk has no mention of any saving throw given. However, according to the blog B/X Blackrazor there is a mention of magic users and super-heroes being given chances to save against basilisks so I assume a saving throw representing averting one's gaze is probably meant to happen.

Another interesting thing about the gaze attack is that it extends into the ethereal and astral planes, turning ethereal victims to ethereal stone, and turning astral victims into corpses. Useful guardians against overconfident wizards and certain undead and monsters who seek access to an area via extradimensional means.

They can be petrified with their own gaze reflected back at them, though this requires good lighting, carefully aligned mirrors, and a quality mirror, which makes them something of a puzzle encounter if approached in that way. They come in numbers of 1d4, and given that they can petrify themselves and each other, they are probably very careful to never face each other, meaning a basilisk lair will have the litholizards spread out, watching different exits, and lurking on the other side of statues and so on, which can create great complications if the players thought there was only one.

Their eyes glow, meaning that they do not loom suddenly from the darkness- you can see their green glowing eyes from afar (though extended contemplation or missile weapon aiming at those eyes is a serious risk- no range limit is given.)

Finally, each one is a slow, dangerous sack of HP that, once you figure in penalties for fighting blind, mean that it's far better to run than try fighting one or more, lest you end up being simply chomped to death.

All in all, they sound like excellent guard beasts for the paranoid and megalomaniacal (ie, most dungeon builders)- incredibly dangerous to the unwary, but not at all unmanageable for the prepared.

Sunset Realm Basilisk
 Basilisks, as opposed to Medusae, do not petrify via a visage that transmits divine  knowledge of Yg so forbidden that mortal forms cannot withstand it. Rather, they petrify via the transmission of pure infohazard, memetic weaponry, junk data that forces the brain to attempt to comprehend and be caught in a liminal state, petrifying the body and expelling the soul. They are not sacred to Yg, being bioengineered by the Serpent Empire back in the age of the 2nd sun.They were war-beasts, and guardians of secret vaults, and the pets and bodyguards of VIPs, kept invisible in the latter case until they were unleashed. Poorer VIPers of the Serpent Empire would generally just turn regular sacred snakes invisible and then strongly imply that it was a basilisk, and so feet were added to the previously serpentine basilisks so that the distinctive footfalls of a basilisk could separate the real basilisk holders from the posers, and then extra legs were added so that less-rich VIPs could pretend to have multiple basilisks for the price of one, and then thankfully the empire collapsed before things could get even sillier. Most basilisks have 6 legs, but any number (even zero) is possible.


Basilisks eat petrified victims, but not natural stone, and their powerful grinding jaws frequently shed teeth as they wear out. The items a victim wears are not petrified, and are frequently ruined by gnawing basilisks, but enough usually remain to make established basilisk lairs worth looting. Most basilisks subside on a steady diet of petrified night insects drawn to their glowing eye-lights and unwary wildlife, and while territorial and aggressive, they are more akin to scavengers who accidentally hunt via petrification. Basilisk saliva undoes petrification, allowing them to hoard food, but an entire days worth of drool is required to unpetrify a complete human.

Their dread gaze extends into the Mirror Realm, the infohazards of their glowing eyes carefully crafted to function both forwards and reversed. Mirror-Reversal of the gaze prevents medusa gazes from petrifying, but basilisks can inadvertently petrify themselves and their mirror-selves if confronted with clear images of the eye, and so are picky drinkers, only drinking from water that runs and splashes and holds no reflection or licking dew from cave moss and similar. Some basilisks were even placed within the mirror realm itself, where they have prospered well enough in that dark realm, their eyes acting much like the lures of abyssal angler fish to the light-starved mirror-monsters, and it is said that those who blaspheme against Lumar may find an abyssal-born basilisk gazing back at them through a mirror, sooner or later.

Their gaze is the light of their engineered souls and therefore also extends to the Dream Realm, another coterminous but unbound plane of existence composed of the light of all souls, where the majority of spirits reside (Also known as the spirit realm). Though what is dead will not die, basilisks trap those who meet their gaze in the dream realm in abstract nightmare realms based on logic-loops rather than personal trauma, apparently turning them to stone in the dream until such point as they are rescued or find their own escape. This can spell death for those who are simply dreaming as the spirit cannot return to the body in time, but for the dreaming dead, the experience is more akin to forcible deportation to a (albeit shallow) depth of nightmare. In any case, basilisks are effective against undead (though not skull-moon undead, as Moons are far too alien for anything psychological to work on them) of both corporeal and incorporeal nature, and so the practice of warding tombs with basilisks to keep the living out and the dead in is a venerable practice in all lands the Serpents once ruled... though perhaps the overuse of this practice in ages past by the caliphs of old could explain Saresare's vulnerability to nightmare realm breaches, if the fabric of the dream is strained by basilisk-trapped souls.

I think I'm in the minority in having petrification only affect flesh and not equipment

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Badger, Baluchitherium, Barracuda

BADGER
Probably only included for the sake of having stats for things that pop out of a bag of tricks and familiars. One could probably beat a wizard with no spells due to an inordinately dangerous claw-claw bite routine. but apart from that it is just a badger. Maybe there were fey creatures that had badger pets too, like brownies? That sounds about right. Frankly I'm not convinced a badger should have the offensive capabilities of 3 peasants.
Oh, their pelts are also worth 10-30gp, and there's a giant variety with 3hd.

BALUCHITHERIUM
I bet there a not a single person on the planet who thinks this is better than a rhino or elephant in terms of D&D
Another inexplicable prehistoric animal. Basically a dire giant rhino but instead of the immediate 'oh shit' factor of a giant enraged rhino it's just... well just look at it. It's like the depressive, psoriatic lovechild of Eeyore and an tapir.


BARRACUDA
I'm sure these mainly exist because the players were like, on a jungle river, maybe X1 Isle of Dread, and the GM was like 'If you fall off the boat you will be eaten by piranha" but then the players sailed out to the ocean and someone fell off and was like 'if those were freshwater pirahna there shouldn't be any in the sea' and the peeved GM was all like 'you are eaten by 2d6 barracuda instead' but then rolled low on the numbers and further improvised with '...and each barracuda has 1d3 HD because I hate you, dave'  which is clearly bullshit because the biggest barracuda ever caught weighed as much as like a teenager which sounds to me like 1-1HD, not 3HD.

SUNSET REALM VERSIONS
Badgers and Barracuda exist, but neither are seriously dangerous to humans. Maybe badgers are hunted like boars or domesticated like dogs by the small folk of certain Beast Islands.
Baluchitheriums are dumb and I hate them and they never existed, nor will they ever


Monday, August 5, 2019

Baboon

OG BABOON

Baboons are basically just another flavor of 1HD-ish humanoid, with low damage but high mobility. They appear in numbers of 10d4, with half being noncombatant young, and have no treasure, meaning their inclusion seems to be more for inclusive ecological verisimilitude rather than any directed gameplay goals. As such, they're missing something. At best they could be 'nuisance encounters' for low level parties, stealing ropes and treasure, but unless the party includes Jane Goodall to speak out against the poaching of endangered ape species, a few arrows and/or a sleep spell is likely to be the end of most monkey business.

SUNSET REALM BABOON

All baboons are actually mandrills because mandrills are more colorful and therefore instantly superior to regular potato colored baboons.
i suppose some baboons like hamadryas can show up too, but look at that mandrill, it's so cool
Compared to other monkeys/apes (i know there's a difference IRL but they're all just hairy people and the distinction is pointless in the context of D&D campaigns), baboons stand out due to their jealous natures. They were jealous of the sunset, and the First Baboon stole some colors from it to wear on their faces. They are jealous of the self-proclaimed 'Gods' that rose up to favor humanity in the war to overthrow the Alf oppressors, and so frequently establish cults to worship various lesser-known entities (usually the First Baboon, but various local spirits such as 100 year old dryads, ancient dragons, and so on get a lot of mileage out of baboon cults) instead. They are jealous of the might and respect gorillas get, and so establish various sham martial arts schools in Yuba and the Black Desert and purport to have mystic techniques that they will share to gullible students in exchange for servitude and treasure. These 'Monkey Styles' are derided as a joke amongst those who are actual masters of combat, but there are just enough ignorant peasants, delusional nobles, and actual monkey martial arts masters to keep these sham schools going.

Baboons in the Beast Islands have a similar fascination with combat, and the prestige that may be gained from it. Beast battlers favoring them as gladiatorial partners who are intelligent enough to be conversed with, but also free of human concerns about mutation, spirit-pacts, and other sketchy means of enhancing battle efficiency. They also work as pirates occasionally, either as agile ancillary crew for human ships, small mercenary troops that work for bananas and corpses, or as entirely baboon-run ships typically stolen from humans. These ships are the terrors of the sea, not because baboons are particularly skilled sailors, but for the matter of fact way that they occasionally eat people. Hey, protein is protein on the high seas. It's not the baboon's fault that humans are susceptible to ghul spirits and so have cultural taboos on cannibalism. In fact baboons would totally become ghuls if they could, like, why wouldn't you want paralysis spit and disease immunity?

In Saresare and Yuba, baboons(and many other animals) live amongst humans in the shadows, serving as the 'thieves guild' leader for smaller monkeys, and occasionally working as servants for bored nobility. Baboon servants are simultaneously more and less trustworthy than other humans- they are 'too dumb to fool' in some aspects (like good luck explaining blackmail over embezzlement to a baboon), but also more motivated by instinct than ideology and will choose self-preservation over such nonsense like honor almost every time.

Due to their twisted jealousy and ambition rivaling that of humans, the occasional baboon magic-user or evil high priest (a Monkey Mystic) arises, dominates their peers, and goes mad with power. This is no different from human wizards, but these baboon sorcerers operate on baboon morality rather than human morality, and see no particular problem with, say, eating puppies alive if they fancy a quick snack. Humans tend to get fed up with this sort of thing pretty quick, and so mandrill wizards tend to reside either in the vast moonlands or on forgotten beast islands as the baboons reclaim ancient Gorilla temples and convert them into wicked temples of doom or arcane laboratories (The equivalent human behavior is some human cultist/sorcerer reclaiming elvish ruins and declaring themselves Dark Lord of So-and-so). Occasionally one gets warped enough by wicked old magics that they attempt to turn a human town into baboons or something, but the same can be said of human wizards so peasants are usually equally suspicious of powerful wizards regardless of how hairy they are.

So what's the point of all this? Basically, baboons are a goblin/bandit replacement for varieties sake, different tactical or diplomatic considerations, or just avoiding complicated baggage that alf-related goblins or civilization contextualized humans bring.
everything is better with monkeys