Sunday, 19 April 2015

'Hic sunt dracones'...

The gist of my approach to dragons is to try and design new versions that are perhaps not your usual dragon fare (i.e. flying reptiles). Partly because it's always good to try and catch your D&D players out and mess with their presumptions, and mostly because I think it's interesting to go that extra mile with monsters just to add some colour and variety to your world. And, at the end of the day, just because something is a dragon that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to follow the default setting (i.e. flying reptiles).

Having previously delved into the world of dragons with my series on chitinous varieties, I thought I'd now have a try at designing a few that reside in the depths of the oceans. This is mostly inspired by the sorts of creatures one can see on reproductions of various old maps, following on from a prevous blog post of mine a few years ago. So, here's the first in a short series on such beasties for 1E D&D which, as usual, is accompanied by a sketch to give you an idea of what it looks like:

'SHIP EATER' (Greater Sea Dragon)

FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 14" 
HIT DICE: 160 hit points
% IN LAIR: 10%
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-12 claws, 2-12 horns, 6-36 bite
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Evil
SIZE: L (150' long) 
      Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

This dragon haunts the darkest depths of the ocean and only rises close to the surface at the approach of twilight. The name 'Ship Eater' is a loose translation of a title given to it by sea elves and is noted with fear in several age-old stories and legends. The creature's lair is rumoured to be a cave somewhere on the ocean floor containing the vast treasure it has hoarded from dragging many ships to their doom. It is also said that the lair is guarded by numourous evil sea-dwelling creatures who worship the dragon as god. It is not known if there is more than one of these creatures in existence.

The dragon will usually appear to sea-farers in a variety of ways. It will sometimes raise it's huge spiny back back from the sea and remain stationary in this guise, having all the appearance of a small rocky island. It will also use a spell equivalent to a 10th level Hallucinatory Terrain in order to complete this illusion, which will also effect anyone looking into the water around this 'island'. Should any ship or boat moor there for a time, the dragon will rise up and attempt to devour any crew who may have attempted to explore it. The dragon will sometimes capture one or more vessels in this way and attempt to lure more by using them as bait. 

If the dragon suspects that a vessel carries gold and other precious items, it may attack it using its huge bite and gulp down anything that falls into its maw. It will regurgitate all of this treasure upon returning to its lair. Otherwise it may lure the crew of the treasure ship in the manner described above, and then later drag this ship beneath the waves and back to its lair.

During storms, fogs and other similarly dangerous weather the dragon will raise its head above the water if it senses the approach of any ship. Ordinarily, it's eyes are flat, dark and dead like those of  shark but if it so chooses it can cause one of them to glow, appearing at a distance to be a shore-based light. If a ship is lured towards it in such a way, it will then attack. 

At night it can use both eyes cause a blinding light during its attack, if it so wishes. Anyone within 50' of this light must save (as against wands) or be blinded for 6-36 turns. Anyone with infravision within this range must save at -3.

Description: the spine and upper back of the dragon's body appears to be rock-like ridge that may offer some shelter. The rest of its body in covered in numerous streaks and patches of various blue-black hues.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Blood Beast...

So, after a bit of a break, I'm back. This time around it's with an idea for a 1E D&D monster inspired by a not very good movie. That movie is Night of the Blood Beast, which is only particularly watchable via Mystery Science Theater 3000 and you can see it here. Or you can see the un-riffed version here.

Actually, I say that it's not a very good movie but that sells it short a bit. The overall premise is quite well done and there is a suggestion of an atmosphere to the scene it sets, but it's all just handled a bit poorly. As it's a film produced by Roger Corman, this is not really surprising but probably not entirely his fault.

I've watched it a fair few times in it's MST3K incarnation, and I've found myself liking the Blood Beast as a creature. It's not too different from creatures in later movies, such as the xenomorph from the various Alien films. And, at the end of the day, all are just blokes in suits waving their claws around but Corman and co. just had a lot less money. The way the creature goes about its nefarious purpose in Night of the Blood Beast has a bit more of an interesting angle, and I thought it might translate well to being a 1E D&D monster. I've also run up a quick drawing to go with the description:


MOVE: 8" 
% IN LAIR: 20%
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-12 claws,1-8 bite
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Evil
SIZE: L (8') 
      Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

The Blood Beast inhabits dark caves and similar underground places, and is particularly attracted to the presence of sentient beings. If it detects a party of adventurers, it will attempt to follow them and can Hide In Shadows and Move Silently as a fourth level thief. It will then carefully chose a time to make an attack on a single victim and attempt to drag them back to its lair.

In melee combat, the Blood Beast will attack with large claws and a bite. In order for its kind to propagate, it must use its bite to infect its victim with parasitic young. Anyone infected in this way will become host to 2-8 amorphous, amoeba-like creatures which will gestate for 2-12 days before eating their way out of their victim. This 'birth' will cause 1-8 damage per creature, and any that escape will grow into a fully formed Blood Beast in 2-8 days. Until that time, the infected person will seem normal and healthy.

The Blood Beast will also try to sow dischord and confusion amongst a party by the use of a powerful Charm spell, hoping to lure more victims. If a player has been dragged away and killed by the Blood Beast, it will use that player's voice as a Charm in order to call to his or her compatriots and so place them in a situation in which it can make another attack. Alternatively, it will use Charm on a victim it has bitten and release them back to their party. That player will then try to convince their compatriots that the Blood Beast is only acting in self-defence etc, and try to place them in a situation in which the monster can make another attack. In both cases, victims must save versus magic at -2.

Description: the Blood Beast is a large humanoid with a prominent eyes, a large beak-like mouth and long claws. It is covered with many folds of rough abrasive skin, some of which hangs from its body in ragged tatters. This skin is made up of many dark hues that allows it to blend well with its envionment. Its eyes are a deep blackish red.