Monday, February 21, 2022

Lion, Lizard, Lizard Man, Locathah, Lurker Above

AD&D Lions
While everyone is familiar with cats and claw/claw/bite routines by now, a lesser known feature of lions might be their bonus hind leg rake for an additional two attacks at 1d6+1 which occurs if both main paws hit. Basically, if you don't have good AC, fighting lions in melee will shred you.
Presumably because of their manes, male lions have +1 AC from frontal attacks.

The statblock includes mountain lions and spotted lions, which are smaller cougars and and larger Pleistocene cave lions, respectively.

AD&D Lizards
A bizarre entry far more fantastical than one might assume.

Fire Lizards are also called 'false dragons' and indeed are like a weaker sort of red dragon, with 10HD< AC as plate, a claw claw bite routine of 1d8/1d8/2d8, and an unimpressive small flame puff for 2d6 save for half. They themselves are immune to fire attacks. They sleep for long periods, hunt once a week from their subterranean lairs, and like shiny things.

Though not possessing the great hoard of a dragon, they do have treasure tybe B, Qx10 for many gems, and a 10% chance of having 1d4 eggs worth 5000 gold each. Unlike dragons, they are only animals.

One might assume this is a sort of 'fakeout' monster, where peasants are harassed by a 'dragon' and the party finds these things instead. They have a sort of appeal as alternate guard beast or mount that's dragon-like but not all too troublesome, but I can't imagine they are anyone's favorite monster.

Giant Lizards, ironically, are the smallest lizard in the lizard entry. While 15' long, they only have 3HD and a single 1d8 bite (2d8 on a nat 20 due to getting a good bite in) so they're kinda a 'whatever' monster.

Minotaur lizards are huge 8HD, 40' long beasts that deal massive damage(2d6/2d6/3d6 claw/claw/bite) and, on nat 20s, can hold people in their mouths- not a swallow hole, but a similar sort of auto-grapple. They are slow, but good at ambushing, and are usually found in their lairs with a scattering of loot from their victims. I don't know why they're called Minotaur lizards... maybe because they lurk in a lair as the minotaur did? Later editions give them horns, which makes sense, but no mention of horns is made in the AD&D entry. With numbers appearing of 1d8 they mostly seem like just a big beefy threat for deep dungeons

Subterranean Lizards seem to be some form of giant gecko, as they can run on ceilings and walls. Apart from the double damage nat 20 lizard bite, they aren't very interesting, but at least they could potentially get up to shenanigans in certain dungeon layouts compared to the Giant Lizard.

AD&D Lizard Man
A fairly uninspired entry about 2HD humanoids whose main claim to fame is being slowish on land but fastish in water, and having a claw-claw-bite routine with 1d2 claws. Also having pretty good art.

The entry mostly just goes on and on about how 'primitive' 'crude' 'tribal' etc they are and says some 'evolved' to a 'higher state' of using huts, shields, throwing weapons, and clubs, the better to eat people with. Gygaxian baloney instead of any actual lore, basically.

While I'm sure people have done better with lizard-men since then, the default entry might as well just be giant lizards.

AD&D Locathah
Ah yes, another 'underwater fishperson.' They ride giant eels and are 'nomads' who also live in a castle that has a 50% chance of a portuguese man-o-war trap, and have provisions for leader types who have no difference save for increasing HP.

I had forgotten these creatures existed, compared to Kuo-Toa and Sahuagin, and expect will forget them again soon enough after this post.

AD&D Lurker Above
Now THIS is a monster. "What if the ceiling was actually a giant manta ray monster that fell on you and smothered you to death."
They are very tough and non-intelligent, not even animal intelligence, fighting to the death against whatever they drop down upon. With mediocre AC but a fat 10HD, and a 1d4+1 round time limit before those trapped beneath are 'smothered.' An entire party can probably chop one up in time barring bad luck or all the fighters being trapped beneath with weapons too awkward to shank it with in hand (honestly with the number of such monsters in D&D, there is probably something to be said for walking around with an offhand dagger instead of a shield.)

Some interesting things are the good odds lurkers have fat stacks of gold coins as treasure, perhaps as incidental bait in the rooms they overlook. They also have neutral buoyancy thanks to a produced gas in their bodies, allowing them to fly despite being more like a manta ray than a bird.

All in all, a classic 'check the roof' monster of the upper levels, once the players have grown weary of green slime and piercers.

Sunset Realm Lions

Sunset Realm Lizards

So in the age of the 2nd sun, Yg-A, the world was very hot, the ice of the moonlands being driven far back by fiery dragons. It was a good time to be a reptile.

However, Yg, the cast-off skin of Yg-A the dragon sun, had other ideas beyond sitting in the sun and licking your eyeballs. Those reptiles who traded their legs to the snake-goddess Yg were granted wisdom in return, and so arose the Serpent Empire. The Reptile Kings, Frogs, Eels, etc all resisted, but were eventually subjugated by the big brained schemes of the serpents, adopting serpent tech but always being one step behind.. Lizardfolk were, according to ancient murals, equally comfortable on all fours or bipedal, with different tail positions for balance, and favored strength and rigidity, as a conscious opposition to the subtlety and flexibility of the snakes. Though the Serpents conquered them for the sin of 'keeping their legs' the reptiles were not wiped out by the serpents, but by the intersolar period after Yg-A became trapped in the earth. Free of the Serpent Empire the Reptile Rebellion's splinter-kingdom of fire and magma kept the ice and darkness at bay for a while. But by the time the Elves, Ningen, and Svart created the 3rd sun, it was too late for the lizard-folk. If, by chance, their fires continue to burn to keep the lizards warm anywhere, it is in the Beyond, a thawed circle of waning fire in a lightless expanse of gnashing glaciers beyond the reach of the daylit world. Even their ruins are rare to find in the current solar eras- there is one on the Fault, from which a resurrected mummified Reptile King failed to reach the Orb before Townlocke did, but most have been swallowed by the dark of the moonlands. Sometimes one might find 'lizard people' but they are the product of mad alchemy or divine miracles, not descendants of the forgotten rebels of ages past.

Locathah- Nah

now get outta my encounter tables you black-lagoon lookin discount sahuagin

Lurker Above- Simply, these are a type of giant wilderness killer mimic adapted more to caves, gobbling sabre-toothed tigers, hibernating cave bears and so on. Trappers, the floor version, are not a different species, but simply lying on the floor, perhaps after dropping from the ceiling to eat something earlier. Choice of ceiling or floor may be these creature's gender expression, and it is theorized that a Lurker and a Trapper will mate with each other when attempting to eat the same adventurer, who will presumably be smothered by the undulating Trapper/Lurker sandwich and used to feed offspring afterwards.

As mimics, they can change their texture and patterning to match ceilings or floors, but are more specialized than smaller mimics and become less and less convincing as the terrain becomes more advanced than a cavern. As such, while they could potentially infest a stone castle, certainly mines and dungeons, perhaps even external cobbled/brick roads, wooden domiciles are typically safe from Lurker/Trappers.

Unlike mimics, Lurker/Trappers are not intelligent enough to train, but they can be lured to key locations and kept there with a high rate of success if fed consistently and so used as guardians. They may wander in order to seek mates, however, so this tactic is used only by mad dungeon wizards rather than respectable members of society.

Friday, February 18, 2022


 AD&D Lich

The Lich is one of the quintessential Big Bads of fantasy literature and ttrpgs alike. Fictionally, they tend to appear more as 'immortal wizard' than 'immortal skeleton wizard' but whatever, Voldemort is basically a lich, Koschei is basically a lich. Official D&D has more liches than you can shake a stick at.

Liches have AC as plate +3, and a oddly worded immunity to mundane attacks from beings of under 6HD, though this is fairly pointless as creatures of 5HD or under flee in fear with no save anyway. They may touch enemies for 1d10 cold damage+ a save or paralysis effect. Their laundry list of undead immunities is somewhat expanded- Charm, Sleep, enfeeblement, polymorph, cold, electricity, insanity, and death spells/symbols.

Apart from some text describing that they are indeed converted magic-users, no provision for their spell lists is given. Using the spell lists for monster abilities largely misses the point of a monster manual in my mind, for a monster that says "oh just have a bunch of rarely seen high level spells memorized, thoughtfully put together, and used to terrible optimization" doesn't help me much.

Liches are fine villains. I seem to recall reading that while the dragon is the active tyrant of greed, the despot king, the earth-ravaging billionaire, the lich is the soul-crushing villainy of a hidebound and restrictive society. It has a head start in terms of power, influence, and knowledge, so it's nearly impossible to catch up. It turns people who would be your allies into your enemies via the power of necromancy or enchantment (a metaphor for cultural hegemony). It can kill you, but you can't really kill it, it just comes back if it loses a fight, just as killing a single leader doesn't end a country. The quest to find and destroy the phylactery is symbolic of the work required to break a system. You can sorta reason with a Lich, but ultimately it's just the preserved bad takes of some dead guy so you know it's always going to cycle back to the same old awfulness, sooner or later. And it is usually a guy, isn't it? Go figure.

They might also be symbolic of the inability to accept death turned ruinous and destructive, but I digress. While fine as a crafted villain, as far as an entry in a monster manual goes they just kinda suck because you can't actually open up the monster manual and use one, you gotta create a huge spell list, think of strategies to use it, maybe some magic items, probably spend the monetary parts of the treasure on a base or mercenaries or something, or it'll fall flat and just be a spooky skeleton.

Sunset Realm Lich

An old photobash of the Green Necromancer
The defining characteristic of a lich is that their soul is anchored to an item that regenerates a body for them to inhabit, one way or another. But... It's not even that hard to come back from the dead in this setting, so Liches are not necessarily all that impressive, honestly. They're more just... disturbing. They had such conviction in an idea that they bound themselves to the world in a way that they'd come back no matter what, heedless of how everything they knew would crumble away in time, all to pursue something. This conviction is usually deeply uncompelling to people 50 years, a hundred years, a thousand years later, and so liches end up doing their mad schemes in forgotten ruins alone or with hanger-ons at best. Sensible people who come back as undead join the city council as Necropolis Representative, or become a child of M'shesh to return as undead in exchange for pacifism and cult membership, or sign up for the Skeleton War. But not liches, oh no. They have to come back on their own terms, their own power, independent of anything else. It's a form of vanity, in a way.

The most notable Lich in the sunset realms is Magister Verdurus, aka the Green Necromancer. Born in the City of Bells to a noble family, he travelled the world learning magic as his hobby until his money dried up, came home to find out that elvish politicking had usurped his family's claim. He threw a fit and tried to kill everyone involved with dread sorcery, was defeated after leaving a combination grey-goo/zombie plague biohazard known as the Blight, tried to ruin another country to gain political power to come back for round 2, and ended up going mad with forbidden knowledge and seeking 'true' immortality via memorability, perhaps as a cope for his original desired noble position no longer existing. His apprentices, having learned enough for their own goals and recognizing megalomania when they saw it, abandoned him, leaving only his omnicidal cult, which was eventually defeated. He would return several more times, ironically becoming less of a threat each time as the world moved on without him and he lost the thread of how things worked. Being a manifestation of a player setting suggestion, he was always doomed to descend down this road of evil and madness to suit that player's whims, so one can't be too hard on him. He is a plague on the city of Oroboro that resurrects every so often as cackling villain, and believes himself to be the one who will end the last sun and bring about the Age of the Dead, where no life exists and even the planet itself is considered dead, and his death cult thinks this is the age where they can finally live as glorious undead kings of the world. One can sort of see what that world looks like in the M'shesh controlled Fault (5th age onwards) and no one is all too impressed, and so most everyone wishes he'd just try to do something with his unlife over there instead of trying to ruin everything for everyone over here in Oroboro for the 15th time.

The contents of the Green Necromancer's Spellbook in the reign of Samuel Goffnagoff were as follows

1-Floating Disc, Shield, Read Languages
For saving Telekinesis slot, general defense, and general info-gathering

 2-Levitate, Web, Locate Object
For saving your flight slot, capturing people nonlethally, and finding macguffins

3- Flight, Darkvision, Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Blight Curse (A useless spell with the blight contained, otherwise basically infecting someone with a zombie plague)
While 'fly high and rain damage from above' isn't rocket science, it is pretty effective.

4-Ice Storm, Massmorph- Elemental AoE coverage, and a good 'ambush someone with camouflaged undead' spell.

5-Animate Dead, Cloudkill, Telekinesis. Telekinesis to do heavy lifting if the minions were gone or for air transport, animate dead because no lich without it can be respected, and cloudkill to get intact corpses for animate dead.

6-Death Of 100 Pits- Reverses gravity off and off in 10' cube forever. 1d6 fall damage each round. Hard to escape without assistance.This was the signature spell, powerful in its own way, needlessly cruel, leaves a lasting impression as the corpse bounces forever, able to create dungeon power sources.

7-Reaper's Haste- Take one action whenever an enemy takes an action. Age 1 year each time. Drawback less penalizing for the immortal. A general 'action economy compensator' spell.

8-Mind Blank-Gotta have this as a defensive option I guess

 9-Forbidden Moon Gate- Opens a gate and draws forth a Moon, bringing the chaos of the Moonlands to the Daylands. A broad spectrum doomsday threat spell. Was ripped out and cast as a scroll so is mostly lost to time.

So the Green Necromancer was basically air support for undead ground troops.

The two apprentices mentioned were Felgraft, who focused on the 'evocation blasty casty' side of Verdurus spellbook and disappeared into the Bowels of the Earth in search of treasure, leaving only Felgraft's Flames as his legacy, a green fireball that comes from the ground up and only burns the living. His spell list was Sleep, Fly, Felgrafts Flames, Dimension Door, and the players rescued him from being walled up in a dungeon sauna once. He had a bodyguard, Loran, hired for purely mercenary goals.

The other was Veiled Kirasu, a very short woman who had a tower in a lake that sought to drill deep into the earth as well but was abandoned due to darkspawn monsters coming up the mineshaft. Her legacy was longer lived, as she continued magical research after parting ways from Verdurus and was the elder student- Spell list was
1- Floating Disc, Shield, Read Langages
2- Levitate, Web, Locate Object
3-Flight, Protection From Normal Missiles
4- Ice Storm, Massmorph
5- Animate Dead, Cloudkill
And she waged a brief war against the hill giants of what is now Fort Fortenfort, before returning to her true goal of defeating the dragon of Mantlehearth that killed her family. She became Necroqueen of Mantlehearth and ruled the island for a time, though necromancy gone wrong led to her losing her necromantic minions to undead whale siren song.

His soul anchor is a black sword, granted to him by a being from Beyond to lead him down the role prescribed by player-suggested campaign suggestion. Like most such things, it can be destroyed only in one way- by the flame of the 7th sun (son?) though it will destroy that in turn, at least according to prophecy. For the most part tho, the black sword is just a +1 longsword that deals its damage as level drain and raises undead from those it kills, eventually resurrecting the Necromancer with enough life force drained. He does not particularly hide the sword, instead letting whatever adventurer find it continue to use it and letting it fall where it may.

His cult uses simple tactics- find a ghul, let it make more ghuls, focus fire unparalyzed targets with Magic Missiles taught to all the novice necromancers. The Blight can be used to infect populations or corrupt wilderness in a scorched earth zombie apocalypse way, and though it answers only to Verdurus, there is also the Red Queen, an extra-invincible stone golem which can grow a body for every soul exposed to its gas, constantly regenerate and mutate those bodies with gas to adapt to what killed them (the life it gives is oft considered a fate worse than death mind you), and control those bodies if need be. He has a few wicked Ifrit that would like to see humanity exterminated as well, bound in Fassulia and forgotten, but sometimes unearthed to seek to further his goals.
His efforts, and that of his cult, are a large part of why Oroboro and Fassulia feud, as Fassulia, ravaged by his efforts, sees him as an Oroboron problem, while Oroboro sees it as a collective calamity they are not responsible for. Politics!

Here's a Lungfungus Dungeon I reskinned into an old lair of the Green Necromancer, an ancient ifrit-operated ghoul-plague missile silo that was never fired, and over the years has been invaded by plant creatures, sickle-clawed giant lizards, bandits, and at some point, a dragon-cult of Arrkohn (another player suggestion)

You gotta click on 'open in a new window' to get a readable version I am sure.

 But all this took a long time to come up with- the Green Necromancer was created to fit the setting suggestion of the Blight and Blight Necromancers a  player called Shin came up with back when Oroboro was created from player suggestions. But Verdurus had three campaigns total to make appearances in, have dungeons created to serve as his old hideouts, have connections drawn between factions, develop counter-measures against threats he faced. Three campaigns is a lot to ask to grant a lich narrative weight, and that's why casually introduced liches are a bit rough to run on the fly-without time to develop their presence, they're just a skeleton with hastily rolled up spells the GM doesn't have time to consider the long-term implications of.

Liches are good- just not as a monster manual entry.