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
NO. APPEARING: 1 
ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: 14" 
HIT DICE: 160 hit points
% IN LAIR: 10%
TREASURE TYPE:  See below
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-12 claws, 2-12 horns, 6-36 bite
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Blinding
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Nil
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard
INTELLIGENCE: Very
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Evil
SIZE: L (150' long) 
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil 
      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:

BLOOD BEAST


FREQUENCY: Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1 
ARMOR CLASS: 4 
MOVE: 8" 
HIT DICE: 4 
% IN LAIR: 20%
TREASURE TYPE:  None 
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-12 claws,1-8 bite
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Charm
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Nil
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 25%
INTELLIGENCE: High 
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Evil
SIZE: L (8') 
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil 
      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.


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas critters!

During 2014 I've managed to make a semi-sporadic series of updates to this blog that have shown various creature designs. At the same time, I've been tinkering with other ideas and sketches as they've popped into my head or have been part of on-line threads for various RPGs. I've also been messing around with new techniques, or dusting off some old ones.

The first and most recent piece of artwork is this Mindflayer:

 

This started off as a pencil drawing, then became a line drawing which was subsequently scanned and mixed with digital colours. I've not done this sort of thing for quite a while, although I used to create artwork in a broadly similar way when I was a concept artist. It's good to have a try at this again, although I am quite rusty and need more time to get more polished. Still, I think the Mindflayer is a good illustration as to how lurid D&D monsters are, based on the description given in the 1E Monster Manual. If I get the chance I'd like to create some more D&D themed artwork. Earlier in the year I created this image of a troll:

  

This came out fairly well, although there seems to always be a fine line where a troll either looks scary or is just some weird version of Marge Simpson. I'll let you be the judge of which side of that line the above image lies. Another basic sketch shows a group of adventurers battling with orcs:


And finally, here's a more developed drawing of a goblin-like chieftan:


This came out quite well, although I think various details about the helmet decorations need reworking.

Getting back to the subject of digitally-coloured drawings, before I started on the Mindflayer I had a practice run with a creature I designed many years ago for a Star Frontiers adventure I'd created:

This is an example of the penguin-sized creatures that were living on a remote planet just outside the Frontier. This seemed to be the source of odd energy readings that could not have been created by their Stone Age culture. And speaking of Star Frontiers (incidentally, one of my favourite RPGs), here are some more sketches of aliens:


The above shows some conceptual sketches of a race called the Jakar, the best description of which would be tall bipedal bovine or bull-like creatures.



These sketches depict the Thyrann - pretty much upright lizards/komodo dragons. Both the Jakar and the Thyran were developed during discussions over at the Starfrontiers.us site. Back in January I was doodling various images of Sathar (the main baddies of Star Frontiers), which is always fun:

I've also been working on machines as well as creatures. There's this design for a prison ship for Star Frontiers:

 
And, last but not least, a pencil and 3D sketch of a light attack tilt-prop for the 2300AD RPG:


I'll hopefully add more details about this last design to my blog in 2015!



Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Life-cycle of the Gelatinous Cube... Part 4

I've previously described the way in which Gelatinous Cubes are created, but that details the manner in which they reproduce whilst wandering dungeons and other underground places. What follows is a description of the creature from which these cubic seeds are originally sown.

 
MOTHER OF ALL CUBES

FREQUENCY: Very Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: none
HIT DICE: 450 hit points
% IN LAIR: 100%
TREASURE TYPE:  See below
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 4-40
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Paralyzation
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: See below
INTELLIGENCE: Semi-
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
SIZE: L (120' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
       Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Somewhere deep in the earth and at the middle of a vast cavern lies an ancient creature known as the Mother Of All Cubes. Although only one such monster is thought to exist, dwarf and gnomish folklore hints at there being more. It is rumoured that Cubes and other gelatinous forms occasionally return to the Mother in order to have their treasure absorbed by it, creating a vast horde at its centre.

The Mother will always be surrounded by at least 100 Cubes, which will protect it from any attacks, and it can also calve 4-40 new Cubes per melee round should the need arise. The creature can be hit by all forms of weapons, and attacks by fire have normal effects. It is unaffected by cold unless it fails its saving throw. Electricity, fear, holds, paralyzation, polymorph and sleep-based attacks have no effect upon it. Any creatures that can get close enough to come into contact with the Mother will receive 4-40 points of damage and require a saving throw versus paralyzation, or will be anaethetized for 1-10 months (during which time they will be at the mercy of its cubic offspring).

Description: this creature resembles a huge, polychromic gelatinous sphere that radiates a slight greenish glow. Although semi-transparent, there is a dark mass at its centre, and light is reflected and refracted though the creature in a very odd manner. Outwardly spherical in shape, it's surface is made up of a multitude of facets.The main part of its body rests on an amorphous mass from which Cubes sprout or are absorbed.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Life-cycle of the Gelatinous Cube... Part 3

So, after some time away from my blog, here's another gelatinous monster. This one is somewhat odd, insomuch that it has power over the Gelatinous Cube and the various other types I've described previously. It's also accompanied by a somewhat scrappy colour scribble, which will hopefully give some idea of its appearance.


ORANGE OCTAHEDRON

FREQUENCY: Very Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: 16"
HIT DICE: 12
% IN LAIR: Nil
TREASURE TYPE:  T (75%), Z (75%)
NO. OF ATTACKS: 4
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 3-18
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Paralysation
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: See below
INTELLIGENCE: Exceptional
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Evil
SIZE: L (10' octahedron)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
          Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

The Orange Octahedron is the stuff of legend. It is not known whether there is more than one of these dreadful creatures and it may be some unknown form of demon or the result of some dark, ancient magic. In the folklore of gnomes and dwarves, the Octahedron is the evil sibling of the fabled 'Mother of All Cubes'. It travels throughout the various Material planes, searching for its preferred treasure.

It has power over cubes and their other gelatinous incarnations, and can summon 1-6 (of any form) at will. It exudes Fear in a 5" radius (saving throw vs. wand applies) and can strike out with up to four 20-foot long pseudopods, each causing 3-18 points of damage. Any creatures touched by these requires a saving throw versus paralyzation or will be anaethetized for 5-50 melee rounds.

It usually floats several feet above any surface, although is capable of flying at greater heights. The Octahedron can be hit by all forms of weapons, and attacks by fire have normal effects. It is unaffected by cold unless it fails its saving throw, in which case their movement rate is halved. Electricity, fear, holds, paralyzation, polymorph and sleep-based attacks have no effect upon it.

Description: this creature resembles a large floating octahedron that radiates a slight orange glow. It is gelatinous, semi-transparent and covered by numerous scratches, gouges and pock marks. There is a dark mass at its centre which is made up of the magical books and scrolls it has collected over many years. It can speak the language of any intelligent creatures and will use trickery if it thinks that it may be able to add more treasure to its collection - although it is also very willing to take such items by force.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Life-cycle of the Gelatinous Cube... Part 2

Carrying on from my initial post about the cube, here are a few later stages in its life-cycle: the gelatinous dodecahedron and icosahedron...


GELATINOUS DODECAHEDRON

FREQUENCY: Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 6
MOVE: 6" (9" if rolling)
HIT DICE: 5
% IN LAIR: Nil
TREASURE TYPE:  See below
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-10, 1-3 (see below)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Paralysation, crushing, surprise on 1-3
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: See below
INTELLIGENCE: Semi-
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
SIZE: L (10' dodecahedron)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
     Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Should a gelatinous cube survive into its thirtieth year, it will seek some dark and remote place in order to tranform into a 12-sided dodecahedron. As part of this transformation it will gain some form of very basic sentience, which in turn will make it into a somewhat active hunter. Although it usually moves from place to place on one of it's twelve flat faces, if the circumstances allow (i.e. if it is at the top of a slope or flight of stairs) it can roll and gain some speed when making an attack. The dodecahedron can inflict 1-3 points of crushing damage for every 5 hit points it possesses when attacking in this way. Normal or rolling attacks will also require a saving throw versus paralyzation or the creature touched is anaethetized for 3-30 melee rounds. It will also inflict 1-10 points of damage per melee round when surrounding and digesting its victim.

As is the case with their cubic incarnation, dodecahdrons sweep up metallic and other items as they move around and so can contain treasure types J, K, L, M, Q, as well as potions, daggers and similar items.

Dodecahedrons can be hit by all forms of weapons, and attacks by fire have normal effects. They are unaffected by cold unless they fail their saving throw, in which case their movement rate is halved. Electricity, fear, holds, paralyzation, polymorph and sleep-based attacks have no effect upon them.

Description: these creatures are large 12-sided masses with somewhat rounded edges. Although usually hard to see, their movement may be discerned when the creature is rolling as light is reflected by one or more faces.

GELATINOUS ICOSAHEDRON

FREQUENCY: Very Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 4
MOVE: 8" (12" if rolling)
HIT DICE: 7
% IN LAIR: Nil
TREASURE TYPE:  See below
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-12, 1-6 (see below)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Paralysation, crushing, surprise on 1-2
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: See below
INTELLIGENCE: Low
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
SIZE: L (12' icosahedron)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil
 
Once the gelatinous dodecahedron survives into its tenth year, its shape will transform into an 20-sided icosahedron. This process will also bestow some modicum of intelligence upon the creature, and it will now actively seek out victims - particularly if they posesses treasure. Although it usually moves from place to place on one of its score of flat faces, it can chose to roll when making attacks or other movements and does not require a slope, etc for such purposes. The icosahedron can inflict 1-6 points of crushing damage for every 8 hit points it possesses when attacking in this way. Normal or rolling attacks will also require a saving throw versus paralyzation or the creature touched is anaethetized for 4-40 melee rounds. It will also inflict 2-12 points of damage per melee round when surrounding and digesting its victim.

As is the case with their other gelatinous forms, icosahedrons sweep up metallic and other items as they move around and so can contain treasure types J, K, L, M, Q, as well as potions, daggers and similar items. As they are wont to retain certain forms of treasure, there is a 40% chance that an individual will contain types R and U. This makes them somewhat more visible, although the treasure tends to pool towards the lower half of their bodies.

Icosahedrons can be hit by all forms of weapons, and attacks by fire have normal effects. They are unaffected by cold unless they fail their saving throw, in which case their movement rate is halved. Electricity, fear, holds, paralyzation, polymorph and sleep-based attacks have no effect upon them.

Description: these creatures are large 20-sided masses with rounded edges. Although somewhat hard to see, their movement may be discerned when the creature is rolling as light is reflected by one or more faces. Icosahedrons are attracted to gold, jewels and other precious items and will seek to attack any creatures which possess them.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Life-cycle of the Gelatinous Cube

Some creatures from the Monster Manual interest me more than others, and sometimes it's fun to wonder if they have some other form either earlier or later in their life-cycle. This got me thinking about whether this gelatinous monster only has a cube form for part of its life and, if so, would it perhaps have other shapes at some other points in time. As the cube is the same shape as a d6, I thought it'd be interesting to add other dice shapes to the mix and use them as the basis for these other forms.

This life-cycle is divided up into distinct phases: hatchling, cube, dodecahedron and icosahedron. Cubes are the most common type found in dungeons and other underground places and the creature spends most of its life in that form (I won't, of course, provide a description and stats for the cube). I'll also add in two extra creatures related to these gelatinous forms, perhaps to add a little more colour: a mysterious and very rare 'Orange Octahedron', and massive creatures called 'The Mother of All Cubes' - although they may be the stuff of legend...

The cube gains more sides as it goes through its life, and of some stages last longer than others. So:

- if a cube survives 30 years, it becomes a 12-sided dodecahedron. 

- if it subsequently survives 10 years in dodecahedron form, it transforms into a 20-sided icosahedron. 

As it gets older, the life-cycles get shorter – the trade-off being that it also gets more intelligent and becomes a more active predator. Stats and descriptions for the 12- and 20-sided versions will feature in an upcoming post.*

What I've written below could be seen as slightly tongue-in-cheek, or could be played completely straight. Either way, hopefully it might give your players something to figure out and/or fight against. As with my other creature designs, the stats and descriptions are written up in 1E AD&D format, but should be easy to convert to your preferred system. I'll add to this series in further blog posts.

GELATINOUS HATCHLING

  
FREQUENCY: Uncommon
NO. APPEARING: 3-18
ARMOR CLASS: 6
MOVE: 8"
HIT DICE: 2 hit points
% IN LAIR: Nil
TREASURE TYPE:  See below
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-3
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Paralysation, surprise on 1-2 (if encountered outside of hatchling cocoon)
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: See below
INTELLIGENCE: Non-
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
SIZE: S (1-2' tetrahedron)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
         Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Once every other year, a gelatinous cube will produce young in the form of hatchlings. A small blister will appear on the exterior of the cube and this will become detached as the creature moves from place to place. The resulting coccon will appear to be a large semi-transparent mass attached to a wall or other surface by various stringy tendrils. Closer study of this mass will show the hatchlings moving around inside, and anyone striking or puncturing its somewhat fragile shell will suffer 1-3 points of damage as it bursts and showers them with the liquid it contains. If undisturbed, the blister will rupture naturally after 3 days, and 3-18 fully-fledged hatchlings will break out and begin scouring for food. They remain in this form for 3 months, after which they hide in some dark, out of the way place and transform into their larger cubic form.

Hatchlings are only particularly dangerous if encountered in large groups, or if a number of them encounter sleeping adventurers. Coming into contact with a hatchling will require a saving throw versus paralyzation or the creature touched is anaethetized for 1-8 melee rounds. The hatchling will then attempt to digest some part of their victim, inflicting damage as it does so. Their bodies are not particularly adept at picking up solid objects, so their treasure will usually consist of nothing heavier than a few copper pieces.

Hatchlings can be hit by all forms of weapons, and attacks by fire have normal effects. They are unaffected by cold unless they fail their saving throw, in which case their movement rate is halved. Electricity, fear, holds, paralyzation, polymorph and sleep-based attacks have no effect upon them.

Description: hatchlings resemble transparent tetrahedrons, altough with somewhat rounded edges. After leaving the cocoon they are semi-transparent for several hours, and after that time their apparent opacity is patchy and noticable in certain lighting conditions.

* - updated for clarity on 6th October 2014.