Monday, December 19, 2016

Monster Monday: Living Grimoire, the Animated Spellbook

"That's no librarian," Jhonto whispered, gesturing with the point of his blade at the brown-robed figure slouched over the writing desk, steadily scribbling away at a tremendous manuscript.  "No one's set foot in this library for a century."

"I didn't mean... it could be a, like, librarian golem.  Or undead.  Or just a really old wizard.  I'm just saying, it couldn't hurt to ask."

"It can always hurt to ask," Jhonto muttered.  But looking around, it was clear that the party had already decided.  As the party's face, it was his responsibility.  He took a tentative step toward the desk and cleared his throat.

"Shhhhhh!"  The librarian didn't even look up from its book.

He tried again, taking two more confident steps forward.  "Excuse me, I was wonderi-"

"SHHHHHH!"  The librarian looked up, one skeletal finger pressed against its lipless mouth, glowing yellow lights burning in its cracked eyesockets.  In a rush of air, the skeletal monk and his desk and the bookshelves and Jhonto's companions all disappeared.  Jhonto clasped his head and stifled the urge to vomit - that queasy feeling he got every time he teleported.  The only light now came from his glowing sword, its pale blue nimbus flickering across the spines of hundreds of dusty tomes and scroll cases.  So he was still somewhere in the library.

"Guys?" he gave an exploratory shout.  Then louder: "GUYS?"  No response.  "All right, I guess I'm on my own then.  Just you and me, Nightcleaver."  He flicked his sword lightly through the air as if it were responding to him.  A glimmer of reflected light caught his eye.  One of the books was bound in silver with inset gems.  "Is this...  Did that crusty old librarian send me to the right place after all?"  He reached out for the book, but just as his finger brushed the spine, it shot off the shelf, its ornate cover flapping like the most awkward pair of wings.  Reams of yellowing paper - seemingly more than the book contained - flew out of the book and swirled about it in a whirlwind, expanding to engulf Jhonto.  The paper edges cut at his face and hands like knives.  The book was glowing from within now, brighter than Nightcleaver.  Abruptly, it turned to face Jhonto and opened to a specific page.  Swirling orange runes lifted off the page and hovered in the air before exploding in a blast of force that knocked Jhonto back against a stack, sending lesser scrolls showering off the top shelf.

"Oh, your gonna get it now, book!"  Staggering to his feet, he clasped his amulet and thrust it forward.  Seven glowing pink missiles shot out, arcing toward the hovering book, but seven floating sheets of paper moved automatically to block them.  "What the... Oh come on!"  He squared himself, took Nightcleaver in both hands, and charged the book.  It blasted him with a spray of clashing magical colors, but he ploughed through, bursting into the storm of swirling pages and cleaving into the offending tome.

When the rest of the party found him, he was fire-scorched and bleeding from a hundred shallow cuts, hunched in the middle of a mess of old papers, his sword thrust clean through a bejeweled grimoire.  The ruined shelves around him, blasted apart with countless spells, spoke of a long and furious battle, but all he said when they appeared was, "Couldn't hurt to ask, huh?"

Today's Monster Monday is the living grimoire, an animated spellbook that flies in a swirling cloud of paper and unleashes the spells inscribed on its pages.  Included below is an example Caster Level 1 living grimoire, along with rules for creating any living grimoire from Caster Level 1 to 20.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2016 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monster Monday: Asag, the Rock Demon

Today's Monster Monday is the asag, a rock demon of Sumerian mythology that could wake the very stones of the earth and add them to his army.

The Asag (á-sàg, meaning 'disorder'), appears as an antagonist in the ancient Sumerian story lugal-e, also known as Ninurta's Exploits.  Asag is a hideous creature of rock chosen as the champion to lead the Mountains in revolt against the Plains.  He has sex with the mountains to produce an army of rocks, which he uses to destroy the cities and creatures of the plains.  When the gods receive word of Asag's campaign of destruction, they select Ninurta - god of thunderstorms, floods, and war - to defeat him.  Ninurta sends his magic talking and flying mace, Sharur (the earliest legendary weapon preserved in myth) to scout out the situation, and Sharur reports back that Asag is a foe beyond even the might of Ninurta.  Not to be discouraged, Ninurta goes to face Asag anyways.  Asag pelts him with stones, delivers mighty blows that cut deep furrows into the earth, uproots forests, and assails Ninurta with landslides, forcing the storm god to retreat.

With their mightiest champion defeated, the gods despair.  The cities of the plains lie open to assault by the hideous Asag, whose very presence causes fish to boil alive in their ponds, and his army of unstoppable stone progeny.  Sharur flies off for one last desperate consultation with Ninurta's father, the god Enlil.  Enlil suggests that Ninurta soften Asag up with a divine rainstorm.  Ninurta turns the full power of his storm on Asag and just barely manages to hold him off while the hard rains do their work.  Finally, Asag's body is softened enough that Ninurta can drive his spear into it.  He strikes Asag right in the family jewels, delivering a mortal wound and taking away the demon's ability to produce more rocky offspring.

With the revolt of the mountains finally crushed, Ninurta orders the stones of the earth, punishing the rocks that were most loyal to Ninurta (like basalt, which is sentenced to become molds for goldsmiths, and limestone, which must be used as foundations for buildings on muddy ground), and rewarding those rocks which remained neutral (like lapis lazuli, which would be valued and used in art and dyes, or diorite, which would be turned into statues of kings and gods).  Finally, he tames the wild streams of the mountains and causes them to flow down into the lowlands and irrigate the fields, filling canals made with the rocks that were Asag's children.

The asag I have statted up below might not pose a challenge for the mighty Ninurta, but it should definitely make for an interesting battle for a group of seasoned adventurers.  With spell-like abilities like wall of stone, expeditious excavation, transmute rock to mud, and spike stones, the asag can define the area of battle and shape it to the adventurers' disadvantage.  And because it can awaken nearby rocks as earth elementals at will, it will always have an army of rocks to do its bidding and run interference for it while it softens up the adventurers from behind with thrown rocks and stone call.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2016 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monster Monday: Trecouche, A Crabomination

Today's Monster Monday is the trecouche, a crab-like river beast that walks on dozens of pincers and drags its unsuspecting victims down into the muddy depths.  The trecouche (or traîcousse) is a creature of obscure Franco-Belgian folklore, used to frighten children from straying too near dangerous bodies of water.

I discovered the traîcousse through the excellent blog, A Book of Creatures, a site that collects and illustrates the cool, obscure, and downright weird creatures that populate human myth and folklore.  Not only that, but they provide sources and references, and occasionally do book reviews, which gets me all excited.  It updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so there are always new critters to learn about.  It's not strictly fantasy RPG related, but I think if you like my Monster Mondays and my digressions into the histories and origins of mythical beasts, then you'll really enjoy A Book of Creatures as well.

Anyways, as soon as I saw the trecouche, I knew I had to stat it up.  A creepy crab-like creature that has a toothy lamprey mouth and has a mess of pincers instead of legs?  Count me in!  You can bet your last copper piece that I will be statting up other monsters from A Book of Creatures as well.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2016 Jonah Bomgaars.