Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Play report/Late Night Rant of James Raggi's Esoteric Creature Generator

I had a simple goal- roll up 1-20 creatures of increasing baseline HD, stick them in series of blank rooms, and throw the players against them for mostly mindless meatgrind mayhem against weird-ass squoogly beasts.
For the record I think this is pretty terrible thing to do to your monsters and players, and if you wanna read something about dealing with monsters in ways that are actually interesting you should check out

This is like the 60th session of my Sarkomand's Fault BFRPG campaign, and this blog has talked about, like, session 1, so I'm not gonna even try to provide a coherent picture of the who, where, why, when, or what of this.

1- Giant Spiked Aquatic Glowing Eyes Kangaroo 3HD, Ac 12, 2d10 damage
From a central pool, a hairy, bipedal creature with glowing eyes and wicked spikes of coral protruding from beneath its matted fur emerges, dripping wet. Your head reaches its rippling pecs.
Seeks to finish off the wounded.

So this thing was described terrifyingly, then got chopped up pretty quick by the 3 players, who are level 1-6 and bedazzled in loot that level 9's wouldn't sneer at (the game has had high lethality but relatively few TPKs and a boatload of adventure, so there are a lot of secondhand magic items floating around). This could be an interesting enemy for low level parties to figure out how to deal with early on- sort of like Ogres, but leaning more glass cannon than burly brute. 2d10 damage is insane- nobody wants to be hit with that.

2-Reptile 15 AC bite 3hd 1d10 Levitates quickly at 60ft per round. Spits phlegm that functions as Enlarge Person, increasing size by 10% for 1d4+1 turns. Cumulative. Also increases melee damage and carrying capacity. This may burst clothing, armor, etc.
A bright green floating turtle the size of a man regards you evilly. Its snap-jawed head is the only appendage extended from its shell.
Goes for lightly armored foes first, hoping to kill. Then makes new lightly armored foes with spit.

A dumb enemy with a gimmick I hoped to pull off. Spoilers- it just got murdered. Still, I think an enemy that debuffs you by overly buffing you is pretty hilarious. I sure wouldn't make it a levitating turtle, though- maybe a potion ooze that forcefeeds itself to you or something.

3- 13 AC insect 1d8 4hd 30 move
A segmented ladybug the size of an ox with a bloated belly and useless limbs along its side that do not touch the ground as it wriggles around like a snake. It spits tiny versions of itself at you and as they bite and crawl on you, they tell you things that sap your sanity and will to live, intensely personal things. They are easily squashed. Projectile 1d6 damage also INT damage.
Goes after Spellcasters.

It was a good thing I actually had a character who was angsting over some decisions they made that ended up with a castle of a friendly lord getting turned into a dollhouse for a friendly Ifrit, or such a high-concept attack would have been even more subject to the players going 'well that's jarringly weird but not really that cool, i roll to attack'
The esoteric creature generator really likes stat damage, but stat damage is hard to describe thematically sometimes.

4- Five short but burly looking Lizardmen 15 AC, 3HD, 1d6 bite. They have huge, bloated tails, and can extrude a sort of sticky goo from them. They move in a pack and try to use the goo to seperate enemies. each can make 15 square feet of goo per (turn)
Goes after Spellcasters after trying to trap others.

These things were the real baddie encounter. They didn't hit hard but they hit well enough to get past the Fighter's magic armor, and worked together well enough to flank her shield, and they could take a beating. Fortunately, the thief was a snakeperson who could speak to them, or rather, taunt them mercilessly, rightfully identify them as slow, and then convince everyone to try hit and run tactics to soften em up. The lizardmen rolled bad for morale and kept falling for the taunting, got gummed up in their own goo, and generally made fools of themselves after their first attack which almost took out the Noncombatant. The way they gummed up the arena was interesting and honestly I could see using them again... though probably as like, snails or something.

5- First Wish Guardian. Big Shaggy batwolf, all dreadlocked fur and bones. 20 foot wingspan. Ac 16 HD 6 1d8 wing bash.It is hanging on the ceiling, but drops to attack at once. Goes for most remaining HP targets.
After the lizard encounter, this thing was just pathetic. I decided to have it be the relative of some other monsters in the megadungeon and give a sad dying speech. The fighter rolled a 20 and paused mid fight to cut off one of its wings and graft it to herself with the Grafter's Axe, and gave up +2 plate for +0 leather just to use her sweet new 1d8 wingbash instead of said +3 grafters axe. Madness? Turned out the enhanced mobility saved her bacon later on and the wing bash came in handy after all! Players be crazy, but sometimes they're just crazy enough to work

6- Salamander 7HD, 1d10 Bite 13 Ac prehensile tongue, swims. on 20’s or hits by 4 or more it deals an extra 1d8 damage from a second internal jaw. Damage dealt can only be healed by time, divine magic does not work.
Crocodile-sized Salamander resting in a pool. It hisses at you, and you see that within its mouth is a secondary mouth. A strange Glyph is on its forehead.
Very stupid, attacks closest.

Another disappointing encounter- lasted a round and a half. The party basically bumbles along without any healing half the time anyway so while the ability was cool in theory, it needs to be implemented on something beyond a sad sack of HP like this. That's one thing the Esoteric Creature Generator cannot do for you- fine-tune things to your campaign, and assure that the random monster stew you assemble is of any actual quality. Is that really an issue with the ECG? Not really, just an issue with randomly generated content in general.

7- owlman Monk Ac 12 1d8 beak. HD 7 Flies. 4 special. Can drain magic from items for 3d4 turns by hooting- a cone of antimagic. On 20’s or hits by 4+, deals an extra 1d10 damage- a quick neck snap.  +3 to all saves. Emits light from a backlit halo.
Attacks randomly, leaping about.

I knew this thing was gonna be bad news. When the players said "This is too easy..." after the dumb salamander and then kept going, I REALLY knew it was gonna be bad news.
I was right- the heavily wounded noncombatant halfling mutant 8-year old (longstory) tried to grapple it, and it wasted 1 turn throwing him off, then the poor little guy succumbed to the necksnap. This player had a past character die due to a necksnap with some squishy unarmored very-not-a-melee-dude trying to grapple something. It's weird how players seem to gravitate towards the same deaths- another player has gotten ambushed and killed by tigers 2-3 times, and has fought them in more regular scenarios 2-3 more times. Anyway it's late and I'm off topic, but suffice it to say that with slightly different rolls, this owlbastard could have TPK'd the party instead of just the one guy. Yikes. Still, I'm glad they're taking this place more seriously, because the Esoteric Creature Generator generates really ugly things with more base HD to work with.

And it does so in a way I really don't like, I ultimately decided. It's an interesting source of tables and charts, but despite the gamblers allure of the tables, it mostly generates totally pointless HP blobs less interesting than equivalent HD of goblins, or incoherent blobs of abilities upon abilities that have no theme. Which is just the way random creatures go, I guess, but the amount of work I had to put in to make some creatures even remotely coherent is such that I feel like I would have been better off without the generation charts at all- the good ideas like 'leaves a gooey trail' doesn't gain much by having 'bipedal sauroids with ac15' stapled on, and the good ideas get ruined by being stapled to bad ideas more often than not. And while the Esoteric Creature Generator has a lot of entries, I can't say there are a lot of GOOD entries. There's a ton of 1/2 damage from acid or +1 to surprise and similar crap that's just depressing and pointless to roll for. A chart entry that might really get the noggin' joggin' would be like 'Lives in pools of acid' or 'LOVES vinegar' but 1/2 damage from acid?  That's boring in and out of combat, and really doesn't give any springboards for inspiration beyond 'well maybe it can fight an ooze slightly more effectively I guess'

And so I haven't made the full 20 monsters, for 2 reasons, the 2nd reason of which is a spoiler to my players but one I don't mind if they're spoiled on because foisting players into situations where they don't have information to make meaningful choices and then killing them for it is BAD GM
1- I'd rather just use the ideas and do away with the randomness and work on creating a good monster that is interesting, threatening, mysterious, and gameable, and not a 1-off ball of insanity in a basement.
2- In the unlikely event that the players get past monster #9, which is an insane frankenmonster of unrelated abilities about 10 times tougher than monster #8, they are going to quit not just this mini-dungeon sub-area, but the entire campaign upon meeting monster #13. Seriously. The dice conspired to create a being of such ludicrous bullshit overpoweredness that it actually shook me out of my dice-glazed stupor and made me say "ok, these random rolls aren't going to to make for a fun campaign night, they're just killing time, and I should stop and work on real campaign material instead of this RNG nonsense in a game already wracked by RNG nonsense."

...But I kept Monster#13 in the game anyway. Because mine are the players who blew up an Ancient Black Dragon with Invisible Servant, Heat Metal, and can-do attitude. You just never know.

The players met it in a sort of bonus session running 1-shot disposable characters so I figured I'd post the full thing for laughs.
I have no idea where this is from but it is amazingly on-point

13- Great Atua, Vampire Tyrannosaur, Can fly, showers boiling volcano blood everywhere. Huge, 18 AC 1d12 bite 15 HD move 40 Flies
1/2 from crushing- too big 2 crush, also vampire
1/2 damage from physical- Vampire, yo
Only hit by +3 or greater Weapons
Muddling Gaze- Those meeting Great Atua’s gaze must save vs spell or -2 AC, -2 to hit and save for rest of battle due to their lizard brain rebelling. Averting gaze only affects your defense not your offense, as you can stare at the legs.
Blood Ignition- 15d6 to everyone in room save for half, 3 times per day.
Blind Spot- Can create ’20’ spheres of darkness. It can see through them just fine.

Kiss of The Vampire- those bitten must Save vs spells or be Charmed, letting themselves be chewed on.
Atua can choose to continue to chew on targets, dealing 1d12 automatically each round.
Goes after random targets until it can chew.

So yeah.

UPDATE- The players got through monster #10 and requested the beans be spilt on their defeated foes. They lucked out and got a surprise round against Monster #9and won, but it was dicey, to say the least.

8- Tall Eagle-Winged woman. Has a feathery but strong tail. 1d8 Kung Fu, 1d6 tail. 9HD, AC 11. Tail oozes liquid, enough to douse fires, showers herself constantly. Regenerates 2HP per round.

Alternates between armored and unarmored foes.

The low AC made this monster not a huge issue- it doesn't regenerate fast enough to get around being hammered by everyone in the party, every round. I didn't quite do its attack preferences right, but whatever. It stomped an attack dog.

9- Stellar Rabbit. Dragon-sized, with the nasty hands and long fingernails of an old man. Covered in astral slime that looks like space. 11 Hd. Ac 12. Move 40. 1d10+1 damage.
Great hits rend for +1d6+3d8 damage as the rabbit grabs and tears limbs off before throwing you down and other non-survivable grapples from something that big with thumbs. Good hearing, rarely surprised (But not rarely enough, turns out). 1/2 damage from piercing attacks or no damage on save- ‘slime’ distorts light and its like stabbing a fish in water.
Teleports 1-15 behind enemies before attack, 14-19 flanking, 20 out of range. Immune to entangling plants and plant-based attacks
Can drain INT 2 points in a 60ft circle. Tries this early on hoping to befuddle stupids, but once hit goest to ‘teleports behind you’. Uses if it teleports out of range.
Dark Vision. Inflicts Blindness on attacks for 3d4 turns as the characters are slimed and unable to see anything but space. Slime is ethereal and can't be washed off.
If slain, the stars in the slime reveal themselves to be coins and gems.

Goes for foes with most HP remaining.

Players lucked out with the surprise round, otherwise they probably wouldn't quite have had the damage output to put it down before it tore them all to bits. At least the dragon-size telegraphs its huge damage. One player thought this was going to be the clockwork doll Kind-As-Night, once met in a dream, but nay- this was, once upon a time, one of her victims.

10- 2nd wish guardian
peacock Serpent- lined with feathers and ‘Eyes.’  Big fangs. 1d8 Ac 14. 10HD. ’20’ move.
Attacks randomly. What a chump. 

Died in the surprise round from invisible backstab and just regular charging. As 3 of 5 characters are supposed to be snake worshippers, killing the snake caused a schism among the hirelings, which then caused one player to try to kill the hirelings out of greed, which then naturally caused the other players to take offense at wanton murder and beat the offending player into another personality(long story), and Yg, mother of Serpents hasn't even gotten around to the real cursing of her snake-people for the heinous crime of snake-slaying! Not bad for a monster that, in combat, did less than the average goblin encounter- at least 2d4 goblins makes the wizard blow a sleep spell.

was totally lame compared to monster #9 because the esoteric creature generator is random as hell, but that's fine- the Rabbit of Lumar was plenty enough trouble.

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