Category Archives: Monsters

Yes, I Backed Another Kickstarter

I recently wrote that I wouldn’t be backing any other Kickstarters until all the outstanding ones delivered.

That was before I knew that +Peter Regan, of Oubliette Magazine and Square Hex would be offering his latest Kickstarter, the B/X Monster Reference Index.

It is a spiral bound reference with over 500 B/X monsters in a one line format for each. It will come in at 24 pages. For about $6.00 you get one, and less than $5.00 shipping from the UK.

I went in for the pledge level that gets me two of them, with shipping, only about $17.00.

Why two of them? Because I can! Who doesn’t need a backup of one of these?

This is Peter’s 14th Kickstarter! All of them have Funded and been delivered in a timely manner. He obviously has done the work in advance, and is just using Kickstarter to fund. He has a short time frame to get it out the door. He knows his market base and seems to have a laser-like focus to accomplish these projects.

The project already funded today. He keeps any stretch goals within reason, and does good work. This one has a two week time frame to ensure it is delivered before Christmas.

Reading the comments, backers get the PDF and a Spreadsheet, plus the cover will be laminated. Other stretch goals may be a possibility.

 

Monster Manual PDF Updated

I just got the email that the Monster Manual PDF was updated. Based on last week’s email about the Player’s Handbook, I assume that means that the Monster Manual PDF with the Gygax Memorial cover will be available for sale tomorrow. It is not currently available for sale at the moment, just like last week.

So my guess is that next week will be the DMG.

I read a post last week on OSR Today thatsuggested WOTC might release one PDF to market each week in the build up to GenCon. I’m hoping this is a sign that is right.

Can the PDF’s for OD&D and Chainmail be far behind?  I would also like other manuals that I have a hard copy, but not a PDF, like Unearthed Arcana. I like some of the spells and weapons.

Well, my download finished, and just like the Player’s Handbook last week, it is the one with the Gygax Memorial cover. The artwork and text is crisp. The multi-creature stat blocks copy and stay in columns, for example, Beetles. There is only a single space between each column, but this is good. The table of contents and index do not have clickable links, but it is searchable. A welcome textual replacement at about 1/3 the size of the original Monster Manual PDF,

Here are what should be the valid [affiliate] links when they release the PDF for sale.

RPGNow

DriveThruRPG

DNDClassics

[UPDATE: Collected Errata for all AD&D 1st Edition Re-Prints at Dragonsfoot.}

Adventure Idea/Locale – Isle of Wights

The way my mind works, I see or read something and it triggers an idea.

A year or two ago, I came up with an idea for an adventure setting/locale/module, The Isle of Wights. Quite obviously appropriated from the Isle of Wight. I haven’t done more than think about this, but it’s on my list of future projects.  If you think about it, use the name of any monster and pair it with Isle, Tower, Pit, or other noun and you have a module name.

Plenty of barrows, tombs, and catacombs would be needed, and shipwreck survivors, or the unwitting making landfall for provisions, would add to the supply of wights.

In addition, who says that the only undead on the island are wights? All many of undead and creeping and slimy things that are at home in a tomb or cemetery would be found there.

As per the AD&D Monster Manual, liches look like wights or mummies, and wraiths resemble wights.

Any adventurers who end up on this island without silver or magic weapons, holy water, and at least one cleric (of sufficiently high level), would not last long. Of course a few powerful wizards would come in handy.

New Monster – Felt Golem

I was trying to come up with an idea for a new monster. I looked next to where the dogs sleep, and saw how much they shed. I made a comment that there was enough hair to knit a couple of new dogs and cats. One dog is “mine” – actually my youngest son’s. The other dog and the cats belong to my oldest son and his girlfriend.

Instead of knitting, I thought of making felt and then filling a felt body with loose hair.

I know that the Mongolian nomads make felt from horse hair for their tents and clothes. Felt can be made of any kind of hair.

Such a golem would be susceptible to fire, but would otherwise have the characteristics of the animal from which it is made. If made from the hair of multiple animals/sources, it would have multiple characteristics.

For example, plant fiber fabric, such as cotton, or linen, also can be felted. Bits of fabric separate when washing. How about a dryer lint golem? It would be made of cotton, and artificial fibers.

If the hair of a dog, a felt golem of larger than normal size could be constructed. Add hit dice and damage capabilities based on your rule set of choice.

Gather the hides from slain animals with fur to make any manner of felt golem.

They would move silently, being made of a soft fabric.

If combined with amber for the eyes, they could have an additional attack similar to shocking grasp, say once per turn.

Can you imagine a woolly mammoth golem with a trampling and goring attack, plus a shock attack?

If attacked with electrical attacks, it would allow them to be re-charged and make an extra shock attack.

That cute life size grizzly teddy bear will rip your arms off!

How about a room full of the things?

Lions, tigers, and bears! Oh yeah!!

How about a hell hound felt golem! The possibilities are endless!

AD&D – Appendix D – Random Generation of Creatures from the Lower Planes

Pages 194 and 195 of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide present a few tables for generating random creatures from the lower planes, i.e. demons & devils.

There is a grouping of 21 tables for the appearance of such creatures that define the appearance of the head, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, overall visage, head adornment, body attributes, skin, color, and more.

Head adornment includes such things as antlers and crests. The head has options of bat-like, snake-like, etc. Ears can be dog-like. Eyes deal with color, and size/type of eyes and their number. Various similar suggestions are given for the nose and mouth tables.

The body attributes determines the type of torso, either bipedal, or quadrupedal/other.

The type of tail, if any, such as prehensile, and various body odors, such as blood, mold, vomit, etc.

One table for the texture of the skin and another for the predominant color of the skin/fur/whatever.

Is the back normal, hunched, spiked, etc. Are there wings?

How many arms/tentacles and what kind, and what are the hands like? Similarly, the treatment of legs and feet.

After all these tables define the appearance, then any attacks, and defenses, including special one and and spell-like abilities and immunities.

All these things give lots of ideas for mixing things up. These tables need not be limited to fantasy creatures, but can be used for any genre of creature, including horror and science fiction.

Reading the last page with 5 tables on Random Humanoid Species Appearance Charts in the Outer Space Raiders, Vol. I reminded me of Appendix D as a supplement for White Star. One can easily make collections of nouns for various aspects of body types and associated body parts to come up with unique creatures. Take the stats from goblins or other well-known creatures to “re-skin” them for an appropriate challenge, as others have indicated they do so that players don’t know what every creature is or does by memorizing their descriptions.

I am not finding via a quick Google search the OSR blog(s) that discussed this a few years ago. I keep coming up with links about re-skinning creatures in MMO’s, or locating or painting miniatures.

In the case of White Star, one can have all intelligent aliens be humanoid, if you want to follow the tropes of most illustrations, TV shows and movies. Or you can mix it up, and have something that deviates from bilateral symmetry, and have something besides carbon and silicon based life. The movie Evolution has an interesting take on silicon based life.

Does the life form have DNA, or something that serves the function of DNA? If they have DNA, is it composed of a right or left turning structure. This is something I recall from a book I read in the 80’s, The Right Hand of Dextra, with a cool cover illustration.  The idea is the DNA on Earth has a left spiral and the planet in the book, the DNA has a right spiral, so the wild animals native to the planet leave humans alone, since they can’t eat them.

One thing left out of Appendix D and from Outer Space Raiders, is communication method.

Communication Method – d10

  1. Vocalizations
  2. Pheromones
  3. Scents/Odors
  4. Color Changes (Chameleon feature, color and or pattern changes to the “face” or other body part.)
  5. Volume (Ability to expand like a puffer fish, but controls and varies the size in pattern or rhythm.)
  6. Empathy
  7. Telepathy
  8. Temperature
  9. Motion
  10. Combination

NOTE: Sound can be above or below the range of human hearing, and color changes can be above or below the range of human sight, etc.

Diet

  1. Herbivore
  2. Carnivore
  3. Omnivore

Carnivores and Omnivores could include cannibals that eat their own species, or scavengers that eat dead things they find.

Young d10

  1. Eggs – left to fend for themselves/guarded/warmed and nurtured by parent(s)
  2. Marsupials – Eggs/pouches
  3. Born – rapid walking/locomotion or months/years to moving on their own
  4. Sprouted from spores
  5. Budding from body
  6. Division – like a cell
  7. Regeneration – like a starfish
  8. Clones grown in a vat
  9. Robots/Machines that are built and programmed.
  10. Hybrid of the above.

Type d3

  1. Plant Based
  2. Animal Based
  3. Mineral Based

Temperature

  • Cold Blooded
  • Warm Blooded

 

Review – Outer Space Raiders Volume I

+Chuck Thorin of Magic Pig Media has produced Outer Space Raiders, Vol. 1, an interesting set of 6 new classes compatible with White Star. At $1.49 it is very affordable.

In 20 pages are packed 16 pages of information. Unlike many small PDF’s, this one includes clickable links in the table of contents. While not necessarily needed in so few pages, it is much appreciated!

The classes presented are alien, astromancer, engineer, lost worlder, scoundrel, and warp ninja.

Aliens are a generic class to cover any kind of alien you can imaging. 8 abilities are suggested, from which the player picks one. There is also an option to convince the GM to let you make up an ability. These would also make good generic NPC aliens.

Astromancers remind me a bit of illusionists, but have some very interesting “Quantum Formulae” that they can use. Many of the names of these re-worked spells give a science fiction flair to otherwise standard and well known spells. There are a few new “spells” here, along with some interesting abilities.

Engineers read like a cross between MacGiver and Mr. Scott. With abilities that allow them to do various kinds of “save the day” things. I really love the techno-babble chart for generating random terms, such as “quantum radiation capacitor”.

The lost worlder is a “barbarian in spaaaace!” The don’t use high tech gear, but have a chance to randomly push buttons to make something work, with an equal chance of catastrophic failure. One of the abilities is extra resistance to disease and poison, with a bonus on such saving throws. I am reminded of Leela from Dr. Who, and similar such characters.

Scoundrels are an obvious homage to Han Solo, and other stereotypical characters in all manner of fiction. One of their skills is “know a guy”, giving them a chance to know someone, not necessarily friendly. This single page sums up what most of us envisage a scoundrel to be.

Warp Ninjas are an interesting idea. It takes ninjas and crosses them with a dash of science fiction, and uses a black hole to power their abilities. Two of their abilities are dangerous and actually cause damage if used. They are powerful, but a bad roll could mean it’s time to roll up a new character.

Finally, the last page of game material is a set of charts for Random Humanoid Species Appearance Charts, for skin color, hair, ears, eyes, and miscellaneous features. These charts use a d6, three of them use a d8, and a d20, so 5 dice, if the d8’s are specified, can roll a random creature quickly.

The simplicity of each class fits right in with the overall theme of White Star.

If you want more classes, or ideas for modding or making your own classes for White Star, or Swords & Wizardry White Box, this is a good start!

FMAD Humanoid Age Table

Last year I was reading the entry in the Monster Manual on ogres and saw what it said about their age. I realized that I had not seen a table on the ages of the various humanoids like for the player character races, so I built my own chart in June, 2014 about the same time I made my name generator. You can get my humanoid age chart here.

Some of these creatures are quite long-lived, so it is reasonable for some of them to know quite a lot about regions they have lived for a few generations. How long has that ogre been under the bridge, etc.

This is not a table to roll on, but a chart showing the age breakdown based on how ages for the player character races ages are broken down in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. It has the ages for young adults on up and a basic age spread for each category. There may be other creatures that I missed that have ages listed, they can easily be added.

Zombie Plague – Innnn Spaaaace!

I’m sure that I’m not the first one to suggest zombies in a science fiction, post apocalypse, or Metamorphosis Alpha (MA) setting.

In my recent MA kick, I had an idea for one level to have some sort of zombie plague, whether by disease, radiation, or the effects of some plant or animal poison. Would it only affect humans, or mutated humans, or any animal forms. What about intelligent plants?

I don’t have any specific game mechanics in mind, but there are certain questions to be resolved.

    • What are the zombies after?
      • Do they want brains, entrails, or just to kill the living?
      • Are the zombies mindless killing machines, or do they have some level of intelligence.
    • Is this form of zombieism contagious? Does being killed by a zombie make you a zombie?
      • If it is caused by radiation, does any dead body left near the radiation become a zombie, or only those killed by the radiation?
      • If caused by a plant or animal poison, what are the limitations and possible antidotes to that poison?
      • If caused by a virus or microbe, is there a cure or inoculation?
    • Do you have to destroy the brain to kill them, or just do enough damage?
      • If the brain, then does it require a called shot, or some special mechanic?
        • I vote for just enough damage to keep combat moving.
    • Will their be warning signs on doors?
      • If so, will the characters be able to read or understand them?
      • What happens when the doors are opened?
        • Are their hoards of zombies on the other side, or a single one to give the players a chance.
          • I smell a random table!
    • How long will the zombies last?
      • If you have an ongoing campaign, will the zombies reach a point where they cease to be and there are no more new ones?
        • Who am I kidding? These suckers are going to happen whenever the players stumble upon them!
    • If the zombie’s quarantine/containment is breached, how far will it spread beyond the containment point?
      • Is the nature of the substance that makes a zombie able to spread throughout the ship?
    • Fast zombies or slow zombies?
      • I think let them move at 75% or so of their living speed, unless they are fresh.
        • Fresh zombies do surprise and initiative standard. (Can you tell I play AD&D?)
        • Really old zombies that are becoming skeletal would be the slow kind.
          • They could have tatters of colonists’ clothing, or crew uniforms.
            • Have a valued arm band on one of them in the midst of the swarm
            • Perhaps one of the captain’s rings could be here. (How bad do you want that ring, and will the player’s even know it is there?)
        • Not so fresh zombies only get initiative on an exceptional roll, and surprise is by chance when players stumble on one and are surprised.
          • Keep this mechanic simple and consistent.
    • Can the computer or medibots be of any use?
      • If the computer is cut off from this area of the ship, it may not be able to update the programs of the medibots.
      • There could be one or two medibots with helpful answers, including inoculations, or some sort of spray or foam that stops the zombies.
        • It depends on how detailed you want to be, and if you want to be this “nice” to the players.
    • If the players let it loose on the whole ship, are you ok with the rest of your campaign being about pockets of survivors who have zones where the zombies can’t or don’t enter?
      • If you are the referee, then you can control this however you like, just think it through to the logical conclusion. If you want a game like this, then you are OK with it being like that. If this is too much change to your vision for the campaign, you can make it work however you want; it is your campaign.

Metamorphosis Alpha – Random Plants & Animals

I posted a few days ago about my itch to dig into Metamorphosis Alpha. While starting to write this post, I realized that the Starship Warden is a megadungeon Innnn Spaaaaace. 17 levels plus the mid levels. Except like one may normally think of a dungeon, it does not have a clear 1st level equals easier. Particular locations double as both traversing the wilderness and dungeoneering. The inhabitants see themselves as travelling in wilderness, and the inter and intra level tunnels and so forth and the buildings on the habitation levels are the dungeons.

After getting that realization out of the way, on to random plants and animals.

On page 19 there is a procedure for Creating Non-Player Creature Mutations. This table focuses on animals, but is easily modified to substitute the plant mutations on page 16.

Begin by choosing the plant or animal type, then determining the number of generations for which a new mutation might be introduced. The rules say 1 – 10 generations, so a d10 easily handles that.

Then roll percentile dice for each generation to determine if a physical, mental, physical and mental, or no mutation for that generation.

Then roll 1-50, d100/2 and look at the physical and mental mutation charts, and if the roll is off the chart, there is a sub-chart for physical mutations, and for mental it always means higher intelligence.

It is simple to do the same procedure and substitute the plant mutations for the physical mutations..

Finally, there is a note that if there are two or three early generations with a defect mutation, that that organism was not viable and start over.

One need not limit themselves to the mutations available in the rules. Make up your own, or borrow from other games. There are enough options here that one need not expand unless a busy campaign with lots of players digs into a lot of options.

I rolled up one animal and one plant using this method.

Chipmunks are small and cute, so why not randomly mutate one and see what happens?

I rolled a 5 on my d10, for 5 generations. So next I rolled percentile dice for each generation to determine what kind of mutation. I came up with physical, physical, no mutation, mental, and physical. Next I rolled d50 (d100/2) for each mutation. In the first generation, I rolled a defect of skin structure change. Then I rolled heightened strength, heightened intelligence,and ended with a defect of anti-reflection, which means that a mental attack or defense has a 25% chance to backfire.

My interpretation of all this is that these are normal looking, if slightly larger chipmunks, that are physically strong, but can’t take a hit. They are smart so they know to avoid a physical fight. They have a crude mental attack ability that sometimes backfires, so they need a few more generations for this power to strengthen and for the defect to fade. These small creatures can get into nooks and crannies and might have arm bands and other useful, but small devices; and know how to use them. They don’t have the power of speech or telepathy, so communication will be crude unless a member of the party speaks chipmunk, or has telepathy.

For a plant, I did not initially specify a plant, but let’s say it’s a dandelion. I rolled 9 on a d10 for nine generations of mutations. I rolled five generations of physical mutations, one generation of mental mutations, and ended with three generations of physical mutations.

The physical mutations are: electrical or heat generation, symbiotic attachment for both the second and third generations, contact poison sap, a defect of an attractive odor, poison thorns, manipulative vines, and texture changes. The mental mutation is telekinetic arm. Since there is no heightened intelligence, there is no communicating with this plant. It merely seeks to eat to survive and reproduce.

It can generate an electric shock to stun or perhaps kill small prey. It has two methods of symbiotic attachment that allow it to control another creature. It’s manipulative vines are a refinement of it’s ability to make symbiotic attachments. It has a contact poison sap, like poison ivy, yet it has an attractive odor that puts it at risk of being uprooted before it bears seeds. It also has poison thorns that keep away unarmored creatures. I interpret this defect to be attractive to some creature or other plant that is immune to its poisons, thus making it vulnerable to specific animals. It must be armored to resist the symbiotic attachment, and have some way to minimize the effects of the telekinetic arm. This means that another creature needs to be generated to fill this niche. Perhaps the skin of this creature will allow the party to pass through an area of these plants with minimal difficulty. Or it could get all the plants in the area to gang up on the party….

The manipulative vines and telekinetic arm server to draw in nutrition from the surrounding area, whether plant or animal. Its poison sap is a weak digestive enzyme that with prolonged contact helps speed the breakdown of plant and animal matter into the soil. It has a structure change to its leaves that are rougher in texture to normal dandelions, but its characteristic bright yellow flower and white seeds remain. One thing it will do with its symbiotic attachments is control a creature to blow its seeds to reproduce. Like dandelions, unless the root is sufficiently uprooted, it can come back. Like regular dandelions, I can see there being a thick patch of these that are slowly growing and spreading throughout their area. Their symbiotic/manipulative vines have a length of 1d3 feet. Perhaps in a few generations the manipulative vines will enable these plants to move towards food, rather than merely draw it in. They could become mindless predators only seeking food when their current soil becomes used up.

It is easy to create new creatures and plants for a variety of purposes, both helpful, neutral, and dangerous. Some dangerous things could be harnessed to be of use, like poison glands, or explosive fruit.

I like how simple this was, and in a few minutes I had two new creatures. The GM can determine how long a generation is and how many generations for negative mutations to fade and something new result. Exposure to additional radiation and other environmental toxins might speed up the possibility of new mutations.

Since some levels are sealed off from others, one could easily generate different plants and animals using the same type as a starting point. One chipmunk on one level has descendants who are intelligent creatures, another remains mostly unchanged, while another might be a deadly and vicious predator.

Of course, as with any RPG, the GM is free to ignore or tweak any random roll, or just make up a creature to suit their tastes or needs.

2015 A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – Cities/Cities As Ruins/Cities As Megadungeons

Initially, I was struggling with the idea of a theme for this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge. Last year I just picked a topic that fit the letter for that day and went with it. Then I remembered my half started project to help me deal with cities, ruined cities, and my thoughts that a large city was in many ways equivalent to a megadungeon. Indeed, a ruined city is but the surface level of a megadungeon.

I will be fleshing out general ideas and ideas for tables, and on-the-fly information for navigating a large city or ruin without advance preparation, or with a set base of preparation, like a map and a general idea of where the different quarters are, etc. Planning a ruined city relies on planning one that is inhabited, the only difference is that a ruined city needs a reason for why it is now in ruins.

This project is as much a tool to help me as it is to share my insights with others.

I will reference past articles on some of these topics. Some information I may have previously only collected information and not yet made an article. I wrote at least a rough outline of each article and have them scheduled to post. I have been going back to each one and adding, revising, cross linking, and otherwise trying to improve them. So far, I don’t have as many tables as I initially envisioned, but I do have many lists I will work to develop tables or clean up for a list of ideas on various topics. Since this topic is so much on my mind of late, I am linking to posts that have come up and continue to be published by others. One relatively new blog, Lost Kingdom, has coincidentally, published articles that tie very well into mine, and I link to their articles for more details. Trying to find the time to read all of their past articles is a challenge, but well worth the effort.

Building a city for an RPG, whether a living city, or a fallen, ancient one, requires thinking it through and populating it in a pattern that fits. Not everyone needs this level of detail to guide them in creating their cities. I often just determine that there are so many of this or that business and don’t worry about a map. This project is for improving the level of preparation by creating a sort of checklist to touch on, to help DM’s that aren’t so good at spur of the moment to have some ideas to help with improvising their cities.

I look forward to feedback and ideas to fill in gaps.

There will be new tables for some things, and my detailed slant on how to build cities/ruined cities. Of course, in the A to Z Challenge format, it won’t be a complete system, but will contain points and questions to ponder for anyone developing a city. Some of these ideas will translate into building cities for any genre of RPG.

I will quote myself from my Post-Con Write Up of Marmalade Dog 20 and a relevant conversation I had with Adam Muszkiewicz:

When Adam and I were talking the topic of random tables and drop tables and all the dice tables came up. I mentioned that I am slowly crafting an all the dice type table to help me generate area of an ancient “abandoned” city for houses, building, and other features. Adam pointed me to a display at Roy’s booth for Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, Winter 2014, Issue #1. Pages 10 and 11 have a neighborhood generator, and pages 12 and 13 have a gang generator. The neighborhood generator has a lot of ideas that I am looking for so I bought it.

I am going to enjoy this!

All my posts on megadungeons, and cities.

I also have a list of those RPG bloggers that used the (GA) tag on the A to Z Sign Up Page. I didn’t have time to look for those that didn’t use a tag, so if you want to be on my list, just let me know your number on the sign up list. My list, 2015 A TO Z CHALLENGE – RPG BLOGGERS, is on the right side of my blog under the A To Z Challenge logo.

[UPDATE] I went to each of the RPG blogs signed up for this year’s challenge, and only a couple of them appear to be participating in the theme reveal, so I wait, as do all of us until perhaps later today, or April 1st, when the posts begin.

[UPDATE 2] Here is a link to the List of Those Signed up for the April, 2014 A to Z blogging challenge.