Thursday, April 1, 2021

Social Media Spells for Arcane Influencers

Hello loyal readers (and disloyal readers too, I suppose). Despite the fact that I haven't kept this site updated for years, I am here again to celebrate its anniversary. d20 Despot is 8 years old! And as always, it's time for an April Fool's post (check out past April Fools here). Just like last year, I'm not pulling the wool over anyone's eyes, as there is far too much disinformation out there as it is. Instead, I've statted up some aggressively stupid spells that act like the fantasy version of social media apps. 

Spells like these have long been a running joke at my table, usually instigated by Kat (the bard in my Graverobbers campaign, played by Jane Kelly) and growing as she and my wife Olivia riffed on the idea. Olivia's character in my Big Sleep campaign (the next big adventure which I wrote for Petersen Games) is a College of Glamour bard who is basically an influencer, always trying to leverage her clout on Instagrimoire. 

(Hey, speaking of social media, you can follow ME on Instagrimoire at, where I mostly post pictures of my cat and of Warhammer models that I'm painting.)

These spells are probably grossly unbalanced, and are intended to be fun and tongue-in-cheek. These spells should never be construed to grant in-game benefits. The following items are available as Open Game Content under the 5th Edition OGL. Open Game Content is ©2020 Jonah Bomgaars. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Cursed Items for April Fooling Your PCs

Hi all! Today is the 7th anniversary of d20 Despot's founding! And while I've been on hiatus for the last few years (because I still haven't gotten used to working from home), I will not let this anniversary go unmarked!

Traditionally we've done hilarious April Fools goofs on this most foolish of days, but the world isn't doing great right now and I don't feel like deceiving you even for a good good gag. But that doesn't mean you can't deceive your players! With that in mind, I've crafted a selection of cursed items for all you devious GMs who love pranking your players. If you're running a remote, social distancing game tonight, try slipping your party fighter a potion of hill giant intelligence!

Before I get to the goods, a little update: back in 2018 I was hired as a freelancer by Petersen Games to work on some 5th edition Cthulhu Mythos adventures. These adventures run from 1st to 15th level and are split across 4 books. The first of these Cthulhu Sagas, Ghoul Island, is available now (book 1 is for sale, books 2-4 are up for preorder). I was a junior developer on that one. I was made lead developer on the next adventure, Yig Snake Granddaddy, the first book of which will be released in May! I wrote the whole dang thing and I'm really proud of it. It's got dinosaurs and eldritch abominations and mummified cats!

Ok, on to the good stuff. The following items are available as Open Game Content under the 5th Edition OGL. Open Game Content is ©2020 Jonah Bomgaars. Yeah that's right, I switched to 5th Edition. Get used to it, because it's way, way easier to work with as a developer than Pathfinder (I haven't tried out Pathfinder 2 yet, so don't rule that out).

Bag of Scolding
Wondrous item, rare
This otherwise normal and functional bag of holding is cursed so that whenever you open it to store or retrieve an item, a stern voice from within the bag loudly berates you for your every perceived slight and mistake in a voice that is clearly audible for a 100 foot radius. Casting remove curse on the bag before opening it silences the voice for 1 minute.

Boots of Slipping
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)
These fine boots appear to all inspection to be boots of speed, and function as such the first time you use them after attuning to them.
   Curse. These boots are cursed, a fact that is revealed only when an identify spell is cast on them. Attuning to the boots curses you until you are targeted by the remove curse spell or similar magic. The boots cannot be removed by any means until the curse is lifted. Each time you activate the boots of slipping (after the first time), the boots duplicate the effects of a grease spell on the ground centered on yourself, with a spell save DC of 13. They do not increase your walking speed. Each time you take the Dash or Disengage action, there is a 50% chance that the boots activate by themselves.

Gloves of Sticky Fingers
Wondrous item, uncommon
These gloves are invisible when worn. While wearing them, you gain a +5 bonus to Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) checks and Dexterity checks made to pick locks. They appear to be gloves of thievery and an identify spell reveals them to be such.
   Curse. These gloves are cursed, a fact that is revealed only after attuning to them. Wearing the gloves curses you until you are targeted by the remove curse spell or similar magic. The boots cannot be removed by any means until the curse is lifted. Whenever you touch a creature that is not you or an object that does not belong to you, alchemical pads in the gloves release a small dose of quick-drying sovereign glue that takes only 6 seconds to set. Dispelling the curse does not break the bond of the glue.

Hat of Conspicuous Disguise
Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement)
While wearing this hat, you can use an action to cast the disguise self spell from it at will. The spell ends if the hat is removed. The hat always takes a form that would be completely inappropriate for the disguise, such as a floppy purple jester's cap, a neon yellow sombrero, or a bird's nest complete with chirping, illusory birds.

Manual of Medical Misinformation
Wondrous item, very rare
This book contains health and diet tips, and its words are charged with magic. It appears to all inspection to be a manual of bodily health, and an identify spell reveals it to be such. But the book is actually full of harmful misinformation: recipes for detoxifying weight-loss tea enemas, diagrams of jade yoni egg rituals, and conspiracy theories about how healing potions cause autism. If you spend 48 hours over a period of 6 days or fewer studying the book's contents and practicing its guidelines, your Constitution score decreases by 2. This decrease can be removed with a remove curse spell or similar magic. This insidious book never loses its magic.

Necklace of Prayer Bees
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement by a cleric, druid, or paladin)
This necklace has 1d4 + 2 magic beads made from black pearl and yellow topaz. It appears to all non-magical inspection to be a necklace of prayer beads.
   Curse. This necklace is cursed, a fact that is revealed only when an identify spell is cast on it. Attuning to the necklace curses you until you are targeted by the remove curse spell or similar magic. While cursed, you cannot remove the necklace by any means. Each bead on the necklace seems to contain a beneficial spell that you can cast as a bonus action, like those on a necklace of prayer beads, but activating a bead only summons a swarm of wasps which attacks you relentlessly until it is destroyed. Once a magic bead is activated, that bead can't be used again until the next dawn. If all the beads are activated before the next dawn, the necklace crumbles into a pile of desiccated bee exoskeletons and the curse is broken.

Potion of Hill Giant Intelligence
Potion, uncommon
This concoction looks, smells, and tastes like a potion of hill giant strength. However, it is actually a cursed potion masked by illusion magic. An identify spell reveals its true nature.
   If you drink it, your Intelligence score changes to 5. At the end of 1 hour, you must succeed on a DC 10 Intelligence saving throw or the effect becomes permanent. A remove curse spell or similar magic ends this effect and restores your Intelligence score to normal. This potion only affects humanoids and giants.

Happy April Fools Day!
Stay safe and healthy out there - you are all my favorite people.

-your social distancing d20 despot

Monday, April 1, 2019

Which Would You Rather Fight?

Today's Monster Monday tackles that age-old question that has plagued mankind for eons - which would you rather fight: a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? You can finally answer this question in your game thanks to these two brand new monsters: the horse-sized duck and the swarm of 100 duck-sized horses! And feel free to spread the joy with a new spell (for bards, druids, rangers, and shamans) that lets you put the question to a friend or foe and then watch as they face the consequences of their decision.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2019 Jonah Bomgaars.

This massive duck stands on webbed feet the size of platters, preening its glistening wing feathers with its mighty beak. It could reasonably be described as horse-sized.
Duck, Horse-Sized             CR 2
XP 600
N Large animal
Init +6; Senses low-light vision; Perception +9
AC 13, touch 11, flat-footed 11 (+2 Dex, +2 natural, -1 size)
hp 22 (3d8+9)
Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +3
Speed 20 ft., fly 40 ft. (average), swim 40 ft.
Melee bite +5 (1d8+6)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks Mighty Quack (DC 14)
Str 18, Dex 15, Con 17, Int 2, Wis 14, Cha 6
Base Atk +2; CMB +7; CMD 19
Feats Improved Initiative, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Fly +4, Perception +9, Swim +16
SQ hold breath
Mighty Quack (Ex)
As a free action, the horse-sized duck lets out a booming quack. All creatures within 30 feet who can hear must succeed on a DC 14 Fortitude save or be shaken for 1 round. Once a creature successfully saves against this ability, it cannot be affected by the same horse-sized duck’s mighty quack for 24 hours.
Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, flock (3-12)
Treasure none

This tremendous duck is easily the size of a horse. With a bill the size of a tower shield and webbed feet the size of a smaller size of shield, this freakish waterfowl somehow lends itself easily to size comparisons. While it certainly seems to be the size of a horse, its mass is no doubt less, for horses have trouble floating and rarely fly unaided, while this mighty duck can easily do both.

Galloping forward on tiny hooves, these miniscule equines are all roughly duck-sized, though together they probably have the mass of one normal-sized horse.
100 Duck-Sized Horses               CR 2
XP 600
N Tiny animal (swarm)
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Perception +7
AC 14, touch 14, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +2 size)
hp 17 (2d8+8)
Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +2
Defensive Abilities swarm traits
Speed 50 ft.
Melee swarm (1d6)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 0 ft.
Special Attacks distraction (DC 15)
Str 10, Dex 15, Con 18, Int 2, Wis 14, Cha 11
Base Atk +1; CMB --; CMD --
Feats Endurance, RunB
Skills Perception +7
Environment any land
Organization solitary, herd (2-5 swarms), infestation (6-12 swarms)
Treasure none

What at first appears to be a distant stampede of horses is actually a very close stampede of very small horses, each one approximately 1/100th the size of a regular horse (in layman’s terms: roughly duck-sized). Still, they gallop with frightening speed for such tiny creatures on such tiny hooves. While clearly duck-sized, each individual horse is much more powerful than a single duck. It would take a duck of roughly horse-size to take them all on in a fair fight.

Horse-Duck Dilemma

School conjuration (summoning); Level bard 2, druid 2, ranger 2, shaman 2
Casting Time 1 round
Components V, S
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target one humanoid creature
Duration 1 minute/level
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no
When you cast this spell, the target is telepathically asked a single question: “Which would you rather fight – a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” The target is compelled to answer immediately (no save), though their answer need not be truthful. Once the choice is made, the monster in question (either a horse-sized duck or a swarm of 100 duck-sized horses) appears at a random point within 30 feet of the target. It acts immediately, on your turn, though you have no control over it. The summoned creature is hostile to the target and attacks it relentlessly, though it will defend itself against other creatures who attack it as well. The summoned duck or horses remain for the spell’s duration, or until either they or the target are slain.


d20 Despot began 6 years ago today, and by the gods I will not let that anniversary go un-marked.

-your equine/anatidine d20 despot

Monday, November 12, 2018

HIATUS - Secret Project

Dear readers,

I thrilled to announce that have been hired as a freelancer on a secret RPG project! For legal reasons, I cannot tell you the name of the company or the nature of the project, but I think it is something you all would like. This is a very exciting time for me, as you might imagine.

However, for the duration of the secret project, I will not be able to keep this site updated with all its Monster Mondays and whatnot - both for contractual and for workflow reasons. With that, I am afraid I will have to put d20 Despot on hiatus until the project is complete. My patrons on Patreon will not be charged for the months that I am away, nor will I be able to supply them with advance PDFs of upcoming monsters and other content as I usually do.

Rest assured, however, that I will return in the new year, brimming with creative energy and ready to serve up tons of new Pathfinder and 5E material along with more GMing and worldbuilding advice.

-your freelance d20 despot

EDIT: They have announced it, so I can confirm that I will be working as a freelance junior developer on 5E Cthulhu Mythos adventures for Petersen Games. I am 100% on-board for anything that involves Lovecraftian monsters resurrecting dinosaurs.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monster Monday: Crystal Unicorn - The Prancing Prism

Today's Monster Monday is the crystal unicorn, a dazzlingly brilliant construct hewn from solid rock crystal into the shape of nature's most beautiful creation - the unicorn. This creature filters light into a dazzling array of magically enhanced colors, and its flawless facets are able to reflect spells back on their casters. The crystal unicorn is at once a deadly foe and a wealthy wizard's prized decoration. And don't be to hasty in celebrating your victory over this overgrown knick-knack - when defeated, these unicorns explode in a shower of crystal shards.

© Jennifer Petrie, Creative Commons Licence, via geograph
Like the arachnocalliope, I originally created this monster for my current campaign. The party was fighting their way through the lair of an old witch who, aside from having a lot of stereotypical old lady habits, was also a bloodthirsty murderer who built the bones of her victims into necromantically animated puppets. In one of her rooms, the adventurers had to fight off her private puppet circus which included a wind-up ballerina with a wicked kick, a mechanical magician marionette, and a crystal unicorn.

The best part about the crystal unicorn is, if you grew up in the household of a fantasy enthusiast during the 1980s, you probably already have a suitable miniature. All that's left now is to stat up little pewter wizards and ceramic dragons.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2018 Jonah Bomgaars.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Monster Monday: Calaca, the Lively Dead

Today's Monster Monday is the calaca - or calavera - a skeletal undead creature that eschews the traditional shambling and menacing of its undead brethren in favor of just, like, living its unlife. A calaca retains most of the personality it had in life and - unlike other undead - doesn't turn evil!

Calacas come from cultures that have a more positive outlook on death, where death is just an excuse to celebrate a life well-lived. These unique undead creatures reside most of the year in the Boneyard - the purgatorial realm of the psychopomps who usher dead souls to their eternal rests. Calacas are sustained by the memories of their living friends and relatives, and as time goes on they become more exaggerated representations of their living selves, sometimes verging on parody. Calacas can be summoned to the material plane at places to which they had strong attachments in life, or by remembrance rituals performed by the living.

© Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Calacas/calaveras are strongly associated with the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos in Mexico, Día de los Muertos in the US), a holiday which blends Catholicism with native Mexican traditions regarding the dead. They have deep roots going back to the gods and ceremonies of pre-conquest Mesoamerica, but the modern calavera can be traced back to José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican engraver whose satirical pictures of skeletons acting like the living poked fun at contemporary Mexican society and politics. His most famous calavera - La Calavera Catrina - was a laughing skeleton dressed in the finery of an upper class Mexican woman, a caricature that Posada used to criticize Mexican women who rejected their indigenous roots by adopting European fashions and whitening their skin. Through subsequent decades of folk art, Catrina evolved and became closely associated with Día de Muertos, but always remained at her core a way for the dead to poke fun at the living.

Calavera de la Catrina - José Guadalupe Posada (c. 1910), via Wikimedia
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2018 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monster Monday: Skeleton Troop - Bones and Bows

Today's Monster Monday is the skeleton troop, a battalion of fleshless undead fighters armed with bows and bones. Now it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of skeletons. When I put those plot hook and encounter ideas down below each Monster Monday, once of them by default should be "The party encounters a skeletal version of this monster".

Scene from Jason and the Argonauts (1963) Colombia Pictures via Gamers and Grognards
The lowly skeleton archer has been the bane of many a beginning adventurer. It can shoot at you, but your retaliatory arrows are just going to pass through its ribs. Skeleton archers have been an enduring menace through every edition of D&D and similar games, but at high levels it can be hard to threaten the party with them. You either need a lot of them, or you need to stat up some skeletal champions that specialize in ranged combat. But, as we saw last week with the zombie horde, the 'troop' subtype is our friend. Now you can bring a whole bunch of skeletal archers to the table, but they all act as one monster, thus simplifying your job as GM without sacrificing the dangerous combat for your players.
The stat block for the skeleton troop below can fire mass volleys of arrows that deal automatic damage to anyone in their path, and with their troop attack they rip at any enemy that comes within melee range with their bony claws.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2018 Jonah Bomgaars.