Sunday, May 17, 2020

d66/d36 Monsters of the Taiga and Tundra.

From the Glowering Mossy Moors, we find ourselves tramping through snowy forests of conifers that run right against the treeless expanse that encircles the mysterious and unexplored Deep Ice. Nights and days can be measured in short hours or long weeks, and boiling water can freeze in an instant when taken from the flame. Summers, while short, are wet and fecund.

 

The Taiga and the Tundra are not unsettled, nor utterly hostile, but this is about the monster part of worldbuilding.

 

As usual, these are system agnostic but D&D adjacent, and the spread of probabilities has not been balanced.

 

d66

Result

1,1

The Mother of All Bears (1).

Bigger than any bear you’ve seen; wears jewellery; prehensile tail; telepathic; spells & magic items. Judge, benefactor and avenging fury of this place.

1,2

Waterwolf (1).

Giant carnivorous otter/seal. Haunts the marshes and rivers, but also at home in the forests and on the deep ice. Feared and venerated.

1,3

Furry Hunters.

Shaggy carnivorous humanoids armed with long-barreled muskets; very protective of their young. Nomadic, follow the migrating herds. Believed to come from the deep ice, where they use kite- and sail-powered sleds.

1,4

Ogres.

Dual-wield cleavers and/or butchering knives; campfire gatecrashers; can be bought off with wine, but will track you down later. Under-dressed for the weather. Surprisingly graceful dancers.

1,5

Goblins.

Blue with cold, long red noses; skirts of hide, fur, skin, decorated with jangling scraps; jagged stone knives & flaming torches that won’t blow out; play a selection of instruments made of bones, toenails, tendons and skin. Complain about the cold but will melt away if they spend too long by the fire.

1,6

Elves.

Naked, so white, with all-black eyes & jagged bright red hands and mouths; you can never see their feet; live in Frost Drake tunnels; raise human children as shaman/sorcerers; vulnerable to iron, but not to holy. Can remain unseen to mere mortals.

2,1

Frost Drake (1).

Multiple pairs of legs, scales, pelican jaw, shaggy mane head to tail tip, alicorn; superheated insides; curious, not-unfriendly, intelligent animal; excavates/melts extensive tunnel lairs.

2,2

Blood Puddings.

Leathery pods containing a meat-like ooze. Use charm to have you keep it close to your body, keep it warm and protect it. Finds it easier to convince you to let it take small amounts of blood, but prefers you to kill so it can feast. Intelligent, but selfish and unimaginative. They are found in groups initially, but one with a host will have it destroy the others.

2,3

Hyperboreans.

Bearded redheads from prehistory (reskinned B/X Elf). Stone Age equipment. Invisible environment-controlled dome cities full of wondrous and mysterious technology, hidden in the ice. Vulnerable to vampirism. Friendly with Hairy Brutes.

2,4

Abandoned Creations.

Odds/evens, they’re frozen solid (but can be revived/thawed); undead, flesh golems, clockwork, living statues etc. How long have they been here? Why are there so many?

2,5

Wind Walkers.

Gruesome aerial ghouls; levitate and then drift/fly on the winds; burrow under the earth/ice/snow during the day, but can go out just fine in a blizzard. You can never see their feet.

2,6

Squid Heads.

Low-rent, off-brand mindflayers; hate Furry Hunters; black-powder spear guns; levitate and fly like Wind Walkers; conquer & move into lairs; hunt Frost Drakes. Skinny, warty and mauve.

3,1

Father of Toads (1).

It’s just a name; giant, shaggy toad; can survive freezing solid; can squash itself down to hide in shallow water/long grass; grows as big as food allows; long drawn out roar from throat generates confusing vibrations; swallows whole; carries its young in its pelt.

3,2

Winter Dryads.

If more than 1, it’s the mustering of a warband. Human civilization might not be their target. Friendly with Hairy Brutes.

3,3

Nomadic Worm (1).

Colossal armoured tank of a thing; two huge feathered mandibles; huge gem-like eye spots all along its body blink with coloured lights; blast furnace gut/jaws; emerge as Ravenous Larvae in the taiga, survivors devour all in its path to the ice to pupate.

3,4

Phoenix Moth (1).

Adult form of the Nomadic Worm; vast, fiery and beautiful; fertilisation by eating the males; females then fly to the taiga to lay eggs, then die; extinguish, discolour and liquefy in a matter of hours; residue is highly prized.

3,5

Ravenous Larvae.

Lucky for you, they’re just as keen on eating each other; unlucky for you, they’re eating everything anyway. As long as they don’t all start coming after you at once, you should be able to get away.

3,6

Dwarves/Trolls.

You can’t really tell the difference between them; friendly, welcoming, generous through the long night; at daybreak, they’ve taken down their tents, put out their fires and left you asleep in a snowdrift. Outdoors, under the moon, they become flesh-eating killers. Can see Elves and smell Goblins.

4,1

Hairy Brutes.

Don’t speak your language; they’re definitely subhuman cannibals that need to be wiped out.

A sophisticated, highly cultured society that hasn’t been given a decent break since your kind started competing for space on the savannah.

The Mother of All Bears loves them like her own cubs.

4,2

Mounted Wights.

(d6) Palanquin carried by Winter Woses; Sleigh pulled by Skeletal Giant Elk(s); Howdah on a Skeletal Mammoth; Saddled on a Skeletal Sabre-tooth; Cage carried by a Skeletal Giant Bird; Warband on Ghoul Horses.

4,3

Vampires.

There’s tension between the locals and the tourists. Tourists have cordial relationships with Squid Heads and share their lairs. Locals don’t like sharing the endless night, nor the disruption to infiltrated prey communities.

4,4

I-nomes.

Brutal elementals; hairless naked Dwarves of solid ice; strong as giants; vulnerable to fire, but extinguish it; they can just about tolerate Vampires and Winter Dryads, but all other things must bow and perish before the snow. Have never bested the Mother of All Bears.

4,5

Boreal Bugbears.

Much shaggier than their subterrene kin; grey to white fur; know where Black Ichor bubbles to the surface and where lie the old Hyperborean temples to Tsathogghua.

4,6

Mi Go.

Mining rare elements either from the earth, or the ice itself; searching for something buried in the ice from ancient days, so know where lots of other things are; disguised as Furry Hunters, Hairy Brutes or Boreal Bugbears, they are almost convincing. Uneasy truce with Hyperboreans.

5,1

Shaggy Beast (1).

A hill of a thing; a baggy, boneless mound of elephant hide on stumpy legs that come and go. Draped in writhing hair, with an unanchored mouth flap that can extend and twist into a trunk. People say it’s a rogue bear or possibly an extant mastodon, but they’ve never seen it. Horribly strong, barely sentient.

5,2

Flickering Eidolon (1).

Reskinned Boggart (1e AD&D MM2). Believed to be spirits of the dead, but who can say if it’s true.

5,3

Children of the Pines.

Sap-infused undead children riding white-and-red Elf Hounds (Elves transformed with a special bridle); reskinned B/X halflings that get AC bonus vs. human-sized. They want to drive adults off, rather than kill them – but will: the taiga is their Neverland.

5,4

Lonely Shoggoths.

Vaguely humanoid lumps of leathery flesh. Split-off from their main mass, they want to be reunited; miserable in a way individual intelligences can’t understand; enjoy poetry and music; sometimes tag along with Goblins.

5,5

Winter Woses.

Much like Wood Woses, but look more like Hairy Brutes. Hate Vampires, especially tourists.

5,6

Land Kraken (1).

A dynamic colony of lichens and fungi with inchoate sentience and dim awareness of the universe; animals that eat it regularly may become intelligent, capable of speech, loyal to the colony; intelligent beings can commune with the universe using colony as a conduit; the colony does rather like to be nourished with blood from time to time; can extrude puffy tentacles if needed. Are there several or does one cover thousands of square miles?

6,1

Tusked Moles.

Nocturnal/subterranean burrowing mammals; undermine and eat what falls in; killed instantly by sunlight or enough water; not very bright; enjoy moonbathing; at home in earth or deep snow; horrible screeching.

6,2

Psychic Eels.

Hefty freshwater eels; good eating; zap you with random psionic abilities as a defence (or enfeeble, paralyse, charm if you’re not using psionics); unintelligent. Squid Heads can’t use their powers while in or against those in eel waters.

6,3

Fire Cats.

Roam the taiga, gather at volcanic springs and lightning strikes; alarming blue faces and orange-tipped pale fur; can cough up a sputtering fireball. Actually a species of ape, but felidiform.

6,4

Greater Wood Troll (1).

Becoming more like a vast and ancient tree as it survives the centuries. Rarely talks anymore, because it’s so sad. Can pass without trace, despite its size and spread. It is an old friend of the lightning and the wind, and can call on them for aid.

6,5

Liver Eaters.

Stride with great padding footsteps, muffled by the carpet of needles or the snow. Sometimes towering, other times small enough to hide in your backpack. Bright-eyed, waxy-skinned, skeletal. Just want to eat the little bit of your liver that means you’ll waste away and die.

6,6

G-nomes.

Brutal elementals; naked, hairless Dwarves of tree trunk and creeper; strong as giants; despise all non-plant life. Plant trees to extend the forests, watered with blood and fed with crushed bone.

 

As well as the Moors, one can find their way back to the Great Grim Gloomy Forest which interfaces with the Taiga at various points.

 

 

Friday, May 15, 2020

d66/d36 Monsters of the Glowering Mossy Moors.

I put up a poll on Twitter to see where to go next from the Great Grim Gloomy Forest, looking for d66 random monsters.

 

From the Forest, you can see the Taiga and Tundra, Remote & Lonely Mountains, and the Glowering Mossy Moors, and it was the Moors that pipped it.

 

The moors are a disorienting, hallucinatory place. A vast expanse of wind-swept tussock and bog, plunging valleys and weathered crags, covered by tough grasses, trailing thorns and twisted spinneys. Here and there, tumbledown cottages peer vacantly through the persistent drizzle, then suddenly lit by a clear and open sky, before the very clouds themselves roll across and cling to the landscape. Trails trod for generations weave around the peat diggings, shelters for herders and stretches of dark, reedy water.

 

System agnostic, but with an older edition D&D bias. Parenthetical numbers indicate unique or solitary monsters (usually significantly more powerful).

 

Unbalanced probablities; the table was not designed, it’s numbers next to a list.

 

These are the Pennines of my youth and my imagination, coloured/muddied by handfuls of mushrooms.

 

d66

Result

1,1

Thorny Muggers.

The bushes around this bare patch of earth (scattered with bones and old equipment) unroll their brambles to catch, coil and serrate; can extend predatory, reproductive and sensory runners to considerable distance. No one’s sure if they’re intelligent or not.

1,2

Green Knights.

B/X Troglodytes reskinned as hairy, weed-draped elemental/faerie knights; sometimes mounted on Bog Horses; regenerate from death/injury when in bog water. Vulnerable to iron, but not holy.

1,3

Hill Giants.

The name given to the tall, sinewy Ogres of this place; not as big as you’re expecting, but not as stupid as you’ve been assured. Make ground-bone bread and blood-and-guts sausage. The Green Hags treat them like unloved but useful sons.

1,4

Wolf Elves.

Look like surly peasants/herders until you realise they’re not; stoic, taciturn. Don’t steal their boots without making sure they’re dead.

1,5

Birds of Prey.

Charismatic aerial fauna big enough to carry off a child; prefer to drive others away than make own kills; single out the weak.

1,6

Harpy Gulls.

Noisy and noisome; vomit and shit on everything; worryingly intelligent, can understand human speech and plans; vomit is caustic, breaks down organic material. Smaller than Birds of Prey but flock in greater numbers.

2,1

Smoke Drake (1).

A bit like a Gorgon crossed with a Catoblepas; deadly smoke constantly drifts from its mouth, blighting the land; prefers to find/conquer a nice lair, but can dig one out with its massive head. People believe it gathers a treasure hoard, but maybe they’re mistaking it for a dragon.

2,2

Bog Wyrm (1).

Terrifying amphibious toothless giant eel; sheathed in fire-resistant jelly; envelops human-sized targets in its gelatinous spit; can produce a vibration that calms mammals and makes them docile; loves milk above all other foodstuff. Popularly believed to be a cursed maiden/ child of evil, and able to regenerate any wound. Surprisingly stealthy.

2,3

Herbalists.

Secretive foragers; odds/evens, they’re actually Magic Users. Some are kindly healers, others taciturn cunning folk, still others Assassin’s Guild poisoners.

2,4

Herd of Goats & Goatherd(s).

1 on d6, the leader type is a Seductive Satanic Goat (the Goatherd may or may not know about this).

2,5

Flock of Sheep & Shepherd(s).

1 on d6, the leader type is a Wolf, Wolf Elf or Werewolf in disguise (it might be the Shepherd).

2,6

Pixies/Sprites.

Odds/evens for either/or; 1-2 on d6 it’s a double-sized mixed group in pitched battle.

3,1

Mi-Go.

There’s a lot here that they’re interested in; might be disguised as Giant Bees, Herbalists, Treasure Hunters or Scienticians; not very convincing, but don’t respect your intelligence.

3,2

Fossergrim (1).

Muscular waterfall goblin; wear its silver mail and become a new Fossergrim; waterfall is an extra-dimensional elemental space, connected to all others.

3,3

Psychic Moss.

Hypnotic, hallucinogenic colony growth; d6: 1 drain INT and memory, 2 drain CON/Vitality (to death), 3 both, 4-6 not hungry at the moment, but will still have an incidental effect on you. Has been known to colonise living beings and to reanimate corpses.

3,4

Gloomy Mushrooms.

Miserable circle of animate, dimly intelligent, vaguely humanoid fungi; only sad things make them laugh and will trade information for this; psychoactive spores cause thundering gloom in mortals. Prefer blood as fertiliser. Haunting, surprisingly pleasant singing voices (which also alleviate thundering gloom). Always know where Psychic Moss and Thorny Muggers are. Vast and resilient mycelium.

3,5

Raiders/Rangers.

Odds/evens for either/or; 1-2 on d6 it’s a double-sized mixed group in pitched battle.

3,6

Goblins.

Red-capped, with bones in their beards; use tactile telekinesis to hurl boulders, but otherwise beat you with pikestaffs, cut you with cleavers and knives; eat flesh, hoard treasure, vulnerable to iron and holy, selectively invisible to unlevelled characters; terrified, fawning servants and frequent meals of the Green Hags.

4,1

Bog Horses.

Borderline animal/elemental/faerie; compact, shaggy green horse/pony that can hide in any watery body; can get a taste for blood. Can be tamed, but not for long.

4,2

Tannic Ghouls.

Look like bog bodies; can eventually swallow you whole, like an acidic leather sack; use wee strangling nooses and stone axes, too. Nocturnal. Too wet to set on fire. Distinctive smell.

4,3

Wights.

Lying under the water, waiting for The Call; glow and croon at night/when heavily overcast; sometimes tell secrets, sometimes pull you under. Blasted by sunlight if they leave the water.

4,4

Jewelspiders.

Brilliant carpet of venomous arachnids; could sit comfortably in palm of your hand; build webby tunnels in sprawling mazes of gorse and other thorny growth; sometimes bask on Psychic Moss for double trouble.

4,5

Shaggy Toads.

Spit a stream of dark, acidic water to stun/blind; could swallow a small child; beautiful coppery eyes. Will tend to fight you one-at-a-time, and too stupid to flee.

4,6

Mosquito Bats.

Winged amphibians with sharp hollow beaks; reskinned Stirges; principal prey of Shaggy Toads. Their fresh, frothing spawn is a delicacy to lizardfolk, and is believed to have rejuvenating properties for mammals.

5,1

Moss Giants.

Massive humanoids, overgrown with a strain of Psychic Moss; unknown if they start out this big or if the infestation causes it; telepathic amongst themselves; guard the hidden secrets of the moor. Some can be recognised for who or what they once were.

5,2

Green Hags (1-3).

Fem.-presenting carnivorous paramortals; will teach fem.-presenting characters for blood and ill deeds; will mix foul brews and do dire deeds for all with similar payment. Share iron teeth, iron spiked boot and iron ladle/barbed meat hook between them. Vulnerable to holy. Do not recognise human territorial claims or other rights, but do respect a well-made bargain.

5,3

Wading Birds.

Big and strong enough to flip over Giant Crabs; immune to Jewelspider venom. Hate Hill Giants and Harpy Gulls.

5,4

Giant Crabs.

Look like stepping stones/slabs of rock; sluggish; aggressive; vulnerable if flipped over. Can survive out of water for several weeks; attracted to the scent of Night Trolls.

5,5

Night Trolls.

They’re lumps of stone by day, often appearing to be a handy windbreak or impromptu stone circle; child- to giant-sized; reluctantly beholden to Green Hags.

5,6

Spirit of the Lonely Moor (1).

Appears to be a lost little girl; leads you into trackless, bottomless bogs; spreads disease; you can hear her weeping in the darkness; makes you think you’ve found shelter while you’re dying of exposure. Well known to people, but something about her diminishes your good sense.

6,1

Bloody Bugbears.

Flayed Bugbears; so dripping with blood you can’t see they’ve been defanged and declawed. Inarticulately beg for death, but in a way that is absolutely terrifying and threatening.

6,2

Empty Skins.

By coincidence, these are hairy and more than human-sized, with sharp triangular teeth; flap across the moors at dusk. You don’t wear them, they wear you.

6,3

Croglin Vampires.

If there’s more than 1, then there’s an abandoned cottage or tomb nearby; otherwise, a slimy burrow with a small treasure hoard. Cross B/X Giant Shrew with Thoul for stats and abilities.

6,4

Treasure Hunters.

Band of ne'er-do-wells like in A Field in England; at least one spell-caster, at least one supernatural minion; their leader expects you to aid and obey; firearms and little conscience.

6,5

Eccentric Scientician.

Sails very close to the 4th wall; well-equipped, supplied and guarded; gathering data and samples, taking measurements and readings, ruthlessly carrying out perilous experiments. Has the mathematical measure of you and your actions.

6,6

Glistening Coppersails.

Beautiful giant butterflies; can scent blood on the wind from miles away; unroll their hollow tongues to suck out the cranial fluids of the dying; utterly unafraid of anything in their pursuit of this, but vulnerable to fire (will still attempt to crawl up you with wings burnt off).

 

As well as the Forest, from the Moors can be seen Remote & Lonely Mountains, the Taiga & Tundra (and beyond to the Deep Ice), and the Misty River Plain.