Friday, June 17, 2011

Peryton Sighting?

Ruh-Roh, there's been a peryton sighting in Montana. Was this a migratory peryton which got snagged in the wires, or was it a more sinister event, an initial foray to do to Missoula what was done to Rome?

Hopefully, the good people of western Montana have some enchanted weapons on hand...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wuthering Heights RPG?

So, while checking out the Groovy Age of Horror blog (the place to go for all your giallo needs), I saw the link to the Wuthering Heights RPG, adapted from a French original (links are broken). I don't know how to approach the game... is it a parody, or is it workable? I love the "Oldness" characteristic- why wasn't it translated as "Age"? Is "Oldness" a physical characteristic, or a spiritual/psychological one? Could a young character afflicted with a crippling ennui have a high "Oldness" characteristic?

RPG net has a quick review, and The Forge has a more elaborate one.

Maybe it's high time to brew a pot of tea, put out a platter of petits fours, and invite the members of the Ladies' Auxiliary over for an evening of some ferocioius Wuthering Heights roleplay.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Monster Makeover: Repurposing the Norker

Reading Mr. Easterly's post on bland Fiend Folio humanoids reminded me of some work I did "repurposing" uninspiring monsters to give them new potential.

Pity the poor norker, a monster which has a description which differs in many particulars from that of a hobgoblin, followed by the sentence:

In all other respects they are similar to hobgoblins.

It would seem that the norker is a spoof monster, a riff on a Douglas Adams' joke:

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

Yeah, the norker is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a hobgoblin. What can be done to rehabilitate this uninspiring beastie? We have a squat, goblinish goon wielding a blunt weapon, and possessing three-inch canine teeth... wielding a blunt weapon, and possessing three-inch canine teeth... I think we can work with this, and transform the silly norker into the dreaded haemogoblin!!! No need to change the basic characteristics- keep the hit dice, armor class, and attacks, but add a stirge-like blood drain (maybe 1-4 h.p. per round) to a successful bite attack. The fondness for blunt weapons can be explained by a sanguivore's need to conserve the delicious blood in a victim for alimentary purposes. The high armor class is due to a combination of a thick hide (uh, if it doesn't have muscle attachments, it's not an "exoskeleton", just a very thick integument) and the use of armor (typically thick hide... "epidermis all the way down, baby") due to the hazards of a harsh environment which they share with other sanguivorous horrors.

Perhaps the haemogoblins are the victims of a curse, or the recipients of divine favor from a bloodthirsty demon or god. Their leadership structure is similar to that of their hobgoblin relatives, their leaders typically wield more puissant blunt weapons such as maces and flails.

A little flavor text, a simple tweak, and a jokey monster gains some potential as a decent baddie.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Quick Kobold Note

Grrr... sometimes it seems like Blogger has gone all pear-shaped. I unsuccessfully tried numerous times to post a comment on James M.'s piece about kobolds. In the Appendix N listed novel Land of Unreason by DeCamp and Pratt, kobolds figure prominently as antagonists, forging iron swords to be used against the fairies of the Court of Oberon and Titania. The kobolds of German folklore play ambiguous roles, some are house spirits analogous to brownies, some are micheivous denizens of mines. The more "evil" kobold of original D&D may have been inspired by DeCamp and Pratt's subterranean arms dealers.

Personally, I like the little lizardog men of the Monster Manual. Of course, the Monster Manual is a bit of a mess when it comes to the kobold... it clearly states that they lay eggs, but also implies that they are closely related to (presumably viviparous) goblins. I like to see these kobolds as the end result of an alternative path of Synapsid evolution. Rather than continuing on an evolutionary path resulting in mammals, these critters would have kept on laying eggs, while evolving into cunning, bipedal sapients.

Horns, hair, scales, eggs, well-developed external ears... yeah, make my "Sutherland" kobolds the descendents of these guys.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Monster Also-Rans: Exhibit B

I recently re-read Michael Moorcock's second "Corum" trilogy, Moorcock's answer to The Book of Invasions, and sequel to the trippier "Swords Trilogy". The Devil Dogs of the Fiend Folio seem to be an interpretation of the Hounds of Kerenos in the Corum books (the fact that the original write-up mentioned that packs would occasionally be accompanied by zombies seems to corroborate this, with the zombies filling in for the Ghoolegh of the books). The undead Pine Warriors of the books made an appearance in a later issue of White Dwarf.

White Dwarf 21 contains the brief adventure "One Eye Canyon", which features a write up for the "Brothers of the Pine" (I prefer "People of the Pines", being fond, perhaps overfond, of alliteration- plus, "Brothers of the Pine" reminds me of cough drops), the undead minions of the trilogy's villains. The People of the Pines have been exsanguinated, with their blood being replaced by pine sap.

These undead have 3HD, AC 5, and do damage according to weapon type. A typical specimen can cast one first-level druid spell per day (the No. Appearing being 10-200, the potential for a TPK in an encounter with a large group with multiple entangle spells would seem to be great). For every 20 "brothers", a 4HD leader with spell-use as a 4th level druid is encountered, and a group is led by a 6HD "jarl" with the spell-casting ability of a 6th level druid. In the original writeup, they are hit only by magic weapons, are immune to cold, take half damage from lightning, and double damage from fire. Personally, since they are corporeal, I'd allow them to be hit by normal weapons, but take half-damage from piercing and blunt weapons (finally, the guy with the battleax gets some L-U-V). They are turned as shadows, and are affected by spells that affect plants. Finally, they give voice to blood-curdling shrieks which force morale checks on NPCs.

I am digging this variant form of undead. Tired of the usual skeletons, zombies, and ghouls? How about a pine-scented, spell-casting forest fiend? Are the People of the Pines sacrificial victims, their blood drained by an insane druidic heretic who seeks to address the imbalance of power between loggers and trees? Are they cult members who willingly undergo the exsanguination in order to achieve an arboreal apotheosis?

An encounter with the People of the Pines could be played up for maximum creepiness. A party enters the clearing, spying a man on a dolmen- a vampire vine wrapped around his leg, a pipette from a pine tree lancing his arm... if they free him, does he show gratitude for his rescue, or rage at his thwarted transformation? Another possibility... would the ritual work on non-humans? Would it work on a gorilla, producing the dreaded coniferous ape? Uh, sorry...

It's too bad these puppies didn't make it to the Fiend Folio, taking their place among the terrific undead in the book. Yeah, too bad I wasn't exposed to them "back in the day". That being said, I will use this monster in a campaign someday. Sheesh, one could base an entire campaign on this monster.