Monday, December 11, 2017

Monster Monday: Carnotaurus, the Horned Predator

Today's Monster Monday is carnotaurus, a horn-headed giant predatory dinosaur. Carnotaurs was an abelisaurid - a group of bipedal predators from the Late Cretaceous southern hemisphere who had comically small arms - smaller even than a tyrannosaurus rex. I mean, their wimpy little baby arms aren't their defining characteristic, but they are pretty noticeable.

carnotaurus reconstruction by DiBgd, altered by Steveoc 86, via Wikimedia
Little arms aside, carnotaurus was a legitimately terrifying predator. It was one of the fastest of the large theropods, capable of running up to 30 mph. It could also work its toothy mouth very quickly, delivering slashing bites to its prey. There are two main theories about how it hunted - one points to its speed and its almost snake-like jaw to suggest that the carnotaurus chased down and swallowed whole smaller prey. Another theory suggests it would dart into herds of titanosaurs and deliver dozens of quick slashing bites to the giant creature's flanks, letting them bleed out so it could feast on them later. I say: why not both?

Carnotaurus illustration by Lida Xing and Yi Liu, from this article on how carnotaurus was so fast, via Wikimedia
So what about those horns? Most theropods don't have horns like that. In fact, carnotaurus is the only one. They might have used them to ram other carnotauruses in mating displays, like rams do. They might have used them for self-defense against other predators. They might - and this is my favorite theory - have used them to clear a space around a carcass so they could feast, spiking others who tried to horn in on their spot.

In any case, the creature presented below has both bite and gore attacks, it can swallow creatures whole with its bite attack, and deliver a free bull rush attempt with its gore attack. It also has a move speed of 50 ft., the same as a horse, letting easily catch up to a group of adventurers and commence with the biting.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monster Monday: Loligonian, a Mysterious Race of Squid-Folk

Today's Monster Monday is the loligonian, a race of strange, intelligent squid. In the depths of the ocean, they put their otherworldly intellect toward mastering alien magic and crafting objects of rare beauty from the sea's natural bounty. While underwater, they remain in a shape quite like a large squid, but when they move onto land they compress their bodies into a shape more fit for terrestrial locomotion - walking on six arms and rearing up into a centaur-like posture.

Loligonian language involves displays of color changing skin and intricate motions of their small feeding arms, making their speech and their spellcasting nigh-inscrutable to surface-dwellers. However, despite their mysterious character and alien mindset, these curious creatures sometimes make contact with the surface world, often to trade for resources not found in their watery territories. Surface races can gain much from dealing with these magical, deep-sea craftsmen, though it is difficult and sometimes dangerous to do so. Loligonians can be skittish, and they are well aware of their relative vulnerability on land, so inadvertently offending one can have deadly consequences.

The stat block presented below is for a generic loligonian, but they are intended to be an NPC race, with individuals leveling up in different classes (mostly wizard, fighter, cleric, and druid). A probable future post will feature loligonian-specific spells, feats, and magic items to help flesh out the loligonian race and its gameplay possibilities.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monster Monday: Sword Golem, a Thousand Angry Blades

Today's Monster Monday is the sword golem, a magically animated guardian that is forged, Iron Throne-style, out of thousands of swords. This noisy construct can slice and dice its way through any obstacle, launch individual swords at distant targets, blast groups of enemies with an explosion of blades, and even discorporate and transform its body into a wall of spinning swords. In short, this is a versatile monster that can provide a challenge to seasoned adventuring parties, and which fits in well in nearly any dungeon.

The origins of this monster lie in my childhood. I distinctly recall walking through the neighborhood at night and hearing loud scraping and clanking sounds coming from the neighbor's garage, like someone was shaking a sack full of scissors. Obviously, it was just the neighbor digging through his toolbox or something, but because it was dark out (I lived in a wooded area with no streetlights) and because I was young and easily spooked, I imagined a terrible monster whose body was made out of hundreds of swords and blades, all of them scraping rustily together as it moved. The image stuck with me somehow through the succeeding decades, eventually manifesting itself in this monster.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monster Monday: Dire Eagle, The Largest Bird of Prey

Today's Monster Monday is the dire eagle, or harpagornis. While it is nowhere near as large as the giant eagles of Tolkien's Middle Earth, the harpagornis has the benefit of having actually existed. Not only did it exist, but it lived recently enough to kill and eat humans.

illustration by John Megahan in this article, via Wikimedia
When the Maori arrived in New Zealand in the 13th century, they found a mountainous, forested land full of giant flightless birds - moa - that were really easy to hunt. Then they discovered what ate those birds. It was a huge eagle with a nine foot wingspan. It dropped from the sky with the force of a falling rock, striking its prey with talons spread wider than a man's hand. If that didn't kill the moa, it could slash its neck with a quick nip from its sharp beak. If it took down a young moa, it might even be able to fly off with it.

The Maori soon hunted the moa to extinction, and without their favorite prey the giant eagle went extinct soon after. But the eagles and humans coexisted for over a century, during which time the eagles probably got a chance to try out some new bipedal prey. Maori legends tell of a giant man-eating bird called a pouakai that was large enough to carry a man off in its talons. In one tale, the hero Hau-o-Tawera bested the bird by making a large strong net and having some villagers walk around under it looking tasty. When the pouakai dropped out of the sky on them, it was trapped in the net and they stabbed it with spears.

Today, the giant eagle of New Zealand is called the Haast's Eagle, and its scientific name is Harpagornis, meaning 'grappling hook bird' because of its massive talons.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monster Monday: Seafoam Slime, the Coastal Creeper

Today's Monster Monday is seafoam slime, an aquatic ooze that lurks in the shallows waiting to rush out like a rogue wave and tackle its prey, pinning them and filling their lungs with foamy water so that it can drag them back into the surf to feed.

The seafoam slime has Improved Bull Rush, Trip, and Drag, allowing it to unleash a barrage of combat maneuvers designed to disrupt a small part of adventurers in a way that feels very natural for what basically amounts to a living wave. It may be a CR 4 monster, but its Drown ability means it can easily incapacitate an unwary adventurer if it gets the drop on them.

photo by Brocken Inaglory, via Wikimedia
Sea foam at Ocean Beach, San Francisco
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Monster Monday: Amphicyon, Prehistoric Bear-Dog

Today's Monster Monday is amphicyon, also known as the bear-dog, a prehistoric predator related to both bears and dogs, which had features of each. The largest bear dog species had the size and power of grizzly bears, while smaller bear-dogs acted more like wolves. The bear dog statted up below is somewhere in between - a predator with the bulk and strength of a black bear, but a more wolf-like head and tail.

Reconstruction of the amphicyonid Ysengrinia
from an article by Borja Figueirido, Juan A. Pérez-Claros, Robert M. Hunt, Jr., and Paul Palmqvist, drawing by Óscar San−Isidro, via Wikimedia
Amphicyonids in all their myriad forms roamed across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa from 46 to 1.8 million years ago. The larger, more bear-like species were probably omnivorous, but ate more meat than modern brown and black bears. The smaller amphicyonid species could be represented by the stat blocks for wolf, dog, or dire racoon, or by applying the young simple template to the stat block below. Giant amphicyonids like amphicyon ingens can be made by applying the giant simple template.

Also, I bet their cub-puppies were adorable.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Seven Spooky Skeletons - Ubbe the Spooky

Seven Spooky Skeletons is a short series running until Halloween, showcasing a different unique skeletal villain each night.

Tonight's Spooky Skeleton is Ubbe the Spooky, a cavorting skeleton bard who plays his own ribcage as a xylophone. Ubbe is named after legendary animator and Mickey Mouse co-creator Ubbe 'Ub' Iwerks, who animated the classic Silly Symphony, "The Skeleton Dance," which is mandatory Halloween viewing.

Happy Halloween!

The following text is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

This bare skeleton dances rhythmically as it plays out a chilling xylophone solo on its own ribcage
Ubbe the Spooky           CR 6
XP 2,400
Human skeletal champion bard 8
NE Medium undead
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +14
AC 19, touch 17, flat-footed 12 (+4 Dex, +2 natural, +3 dodge)
hp 95 (10d8+50)
Fort +14, Ref +10, Will +10; +4 channel resistance, +4 vs bardic performance, language dependent, sonic
DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits
Speed 35 ft.
Melee percussive bone club +6/+6/+1/+1 (1d6+1 plus 1d4 sonic)
Ranged returning percussive bone club +11 (1d6+1 plus 1d4 sonic) 10ft.
Special Attacks bardic performance 29 rounds/day (countersong, dirge of doom, distraction, fascinate, inspire competence +3, inspire courage +2, suggestion, unhallow)
Spells Known (CL 8th)
3   3rd (3/day; DC 18) – blink, fear, thundering drums
4   2nd (5/day; DC 17) – allegro, distressing tone, haunting mists, mad hallucination
5   1st (6/day; DC 16) – cause fear, ear-piercing scream, expeditious retreat, hideous laughter, vanish
6   cantrips (at will; DC 15) – daze, ghost sound, mage hand, open-close, prestidigitation, summon instrument
Str 12, Dex 18, Con --, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 20
Base Atk +7; CMB +8; CMD 22
Feats Dodge, Double Slice, Extra Performance, Fleet, Improved InitiativeB, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Two-Weapon Fighting
Skills Acrobatics +17, Bluff +18, Diplomacy +13, Escape Artist +9, Intimidate +18, Knowledge (local) +9, Knowledge (religion) +9, Perception +14, Perform (dance) +18, Perform (percussion) +18, Sense Motive +9, Spellcraft +5, Stealth +12, Use Magic Device +9
Languages Common, Necril
SQ bardic knowledge +4, lore master, versatile performance (dance, percussion)
Loose Joints (Ex)
Ubbe the Spooky can separate the joints of his bones at will and come back together a moment later, allowing him to, for example, dodge a sword blow to the neck by throwing his skull up into the air. This grants Ubbe a +2 dodge bonus to his AC.
Play Dead (Ex)
Ubbe the Spooky can collapse into a pile of disconnected bones as an immediate action, granting him a +10 bonus to his Bluff check to pretend to be destroyed. This bonus applies only for the first time he uses it against any given observer. Ubbe can reassemble himself as a move action that provokes attacks of opportunity.
Percussive Bones (Su)
Ubbe can use his own bones and the bones of other skeletons as percussion instruments. Any bone he wields as a weapon counts as a club and deals an additional 1d4 points of sonic damage. Any bones he throws as a weapon gain the returning weapon quality.
Unhallow (Su)
Ubbe the Spooky has access to a special bardic performance called unhallow. While ubbe makes an unhallow performance, all undead creatures within 50 feet gain 5 bonus hit points and channel resistance +2. This channel resistance stacks with any existing channel resistance.
Treasure none

Ubbe the Spooky is a cavorting skeleton bard. In life, he was a morose and ill-tempered performer who, while talented and beloved by his fans, despised himself and his work. It is said that, while in one of his fits of depression, he heard a joke that caused him to break out into such raucous laughter that he died instantly. In death, he found new purpose in his performances which had eluded him in life. He has devoted his unlife both to poking fun at death and to reminding mortals of their inevitable demise through song and dance. He takes special delight in scaring people to death. He sees life as an elaborate practical joke to which death is the punchline.


-your seventh spooky d20 despot