Monday, July 16, 2018

Monster Monday: Poludnitsa - Lady Midday

Today's Monster Monday is the polunitsa, or Lady Midday. She is a malicious fey from Slavic mythology who appears in the heat of midday to deliver heatstroke and madness to those laboring in the fields. She tends to appear as a woman dressed in white peasant clothes and bearing a scythe, and she is usually either young and eerily beautiful or old and wizened.

Faucheuse ('Girl with a Scythe') by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1872), via Wikimedia
There is more I could say, but I am afraid Lady Midday has struck me with heat exhaustion and left me unable to think clearly. Instead, please enjoy this sassy-looking poludnitsa:

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

Monster Monday: Drop Bear - Australian Tall Tale

Today's Monster Monday is the drop bear, a big mean koala that plummets out of the trees onto its hapless prey. Unlike regular koalas, these drop bears are carnivorous predators with a taste for human flesh. It's still pretty cute, though.

modified (by me) from a photo by JJ Harrison on Wikimedia
Drop bears were a joke that Australians played on outsiders, building off the fact that Australian fauna is terrifying and deadly. It is unclear whether this is an original Australian settler tall tale, or if it originated from a joke Australian aborigines played on the invading whites, or even if it might come from some Australian aboriginal myth. We know from the yara-ma-ya-who that the Australian aborigines were no stranger to reddish mythical creatures that come down from trees to mess people up.

In combat, this monster has a pretty solid opening move - it drops from above onto its presumably flat-footed prey, and if it hits with any of its three attacks it takes no falling damage and inflicts half of the falling damage it would have taken to its target. If hunting a lone target, this gives the drop bear a solid chance of knocking it out so that it can drag it up the tree to feed at its leisure. If fighting a group of targets (say, an adventuring party), the drop bear might be able to knock out the most dangerous looking one, giving it a chance to drive off the others with its clumsier, less gravity-aided attacks.

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

Monster Monday: Armored Grave - This Armor Shall Serve as My Epitaph

Today's Monster Monday is the armored grave, a knight buried in his armor, its once-gleaming plates now bursting at the seams with hard-packed grave dirt and the putrescence of decay. These are the tanks of the low-level undead world.

Buried in their armor, these ritually-prepared undead take on a new body of hard-packed grave dirt, granting them an additional layer of protection. Compared to ordinary skeletons and zombies, armored graves are invulnerable, unstoppable death machines.

Just to kick things up a notch, an armored epitaph is a slightly stronger armored grave which has Intelligence and feats and which isn't staggered.

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monster Monday: Zahhak - Snake-Filled Three-Headed Dragon

"When the Hero burst into the throne room, the wicked King Dahag was feeding the snakes sprouting from his shoulders - the snakes it was forbidden on pain of death to speak of or even look at. Dahag's guards rushed forward, shamshirs flashing silver, four-mirrored armor blazing with reflected flames. The Hero kicked over a brazier, scattering hot coals toward the guards, then leapt over the fire and met them blade-to-blade. His sword crackled with magic as he swept it through the servants of the divs, parting mail rings and biting into cursed flesh. 
   "Sword dripping with black blood, the Hero advanced on the throne, there to smite the wicked king. As he raised his gleaming sword, the king exploded. In his place towered a massive black serpent, bloated and venomous, with three swaying dragon heads. The creature that was the king struck. The Hero dodged the first head and parried the second, but the third struck true. Long fangs bit through his armor and acrid poison spread through his body. He rolled forward to avoid the next attack and slashed at the underbelly of the monster, opening up a huge gash in the creature's flesh. Instead of hot blood, dozens of venomous snakes poured out of the wound, swarming around the Hero. 
   "This fight would not be easy. But this was the Hero's last chance to slay the wicked king and forestall a thousand years of unholy terror."
Today's Monster Monday is the zahhak, a three-headed dragon from ancient Persian mythology whose body is filled with venomous snakes. Not only does this beast bleed snakes (metal af), but it can shapeshift into a humanoid form, the better to further its plans of conquest and domination.

Aži Dahāka, also known as Dahāg, appears in the ancient Zoroastrian text Avesta as a three-headed beast who rules the land for one thousand years until the hero Fereydun defeated him and, finding that his wounds unleashed poisonous creatures into the world, bound him within a mountain instead of killing him outright. Aži Dahāka's name, or some variation of it, became the word for dragon in many Persian-influenced Middle Eastern languages.

In the Shahnameh, the thousand-year-old Islamic Persian epic poem, the figure appears as Zahhāk, an evil king cursed with two serpents emerging from his shoulders. The epic tells how Zahhāk overthrew and sawed in half the hero-king Jamshid, took his beautiful daughters captive, and ruled for centuries until he was overthrown by the hero Fereydun.

Zahhak enthroned with the daughters of Jamshid, from a 1615 copy of the Shahnameh
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2018 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monster Monday: Giant Ground Bat - Nocturnal Predator

Today's Monster Monday is the giant ground bat, a wolf-sized nocturnal predator that hunts by echolocation. This is a perfect low-level monster for a campaign with a Gothic horror atmosphere. I mean, a giant vampire bat that runs like a wolf? That is 100% something you would run into after your mysterious coachman lets you off at the foot of a twisting road up a darkly forested mountain, saying "That's as far as I can take you, but I'd suggest you get back in the coach and return to town with me. No good can come from going up to that castle. It's cursed, I tell you! Cursed!"

I would have made an illustration for this creature, but nothing I could have drawn or digitally painted would be as cool or terror-inducing as this mounted vampire bat skeleton:

Photo and mounted skeleton by Mokele, via Wikimedia
The direct inspiration for this monster came from an article I was reading about a new species of fossil bat discovered in New Zealand. Check out that rad ground bat illustration in the article. Yeah, apparently ground bats are a thing. They do actually have wings though, they just also spend a lot of time on the ground. Combine that with the future predators from Primeval and maybe a dash of the Varghulf from Warhammer Fantasy and you've got yourself a giant ground bat.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Monster Monday: Xiphactinus, Prehistoric Monster Fish

Today's Monster Monday is xiphactinus, a giant prehistoric monster fish known for swallowing other large fish whole. These ugly fish reached lengths of 15 to 20 feet and swam the seas of the Late Cretaceous, when Tyrannosaurus was roaming the land.

Xiphactinus audax life restoration by ДиБгд, via Wikimedia
It's no secret that I am a fan of prehistoric sea life. Xiphactinus may not be as well-known as, say, ichthyosaurus, but its fossils certainly leave an impression. Not only are they big and mean looking, with those upturned, toothy maws, but they often show another pretty big fish trapped within the fossil ribs of the xiphactinus. Of course it can swallow an adventurer whole. And we know they didn't just settle for prey "small" enough to swallow - a 20 ft. xiphactinus fossil found in Canada in 2010 had the flipper of a mosasaur in its jaws.

photo by Spacini, via Wikimedia
Xiphactinus audax with a delicious Gillicus arcuatus in its stomach.
Fossils on display at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas
This also marks d20 Despot's first monster that starts with an 'X'. My patrons on Patreon know that it won't be the last: coming up fairly soon, we have another 'X' monster, this one from Aztec mythology.

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

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monster Monday: Whip Scorpion & Pseudoscorpion

Today's Monster Monday is all about things that are called scorpions but which aren't actually scorpions. Whip scorpions are arachnids that spray acid from their butts, and pseudoscorpions have poisonous claws but no tails. They are both really small, but because this is a fantasy RPG I made them big and threatening.

This post contains pictures of arachnids. I know most arachnophobic people are okay with seeing scorpions but not okay with seeing spiders, but these guys fall somewhere in between on the spectrum. Personally, I cannot look at pictures of spiders, but for some reason I can see pictures of spider-like arachnids like harvestmen and solifugids with little discomfort. But still, these non-scorpions might be a little too spidery for some people. For the benefit of people scrolling through the main site, I will be putting the page break here instead of right before the stat blocks as I usually do. Click through for more information on these two rarely-discussed types of arachnids and to see pictures of them.