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.

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