Monday, December 18, 2017

Monster Monday: Aker, Two-Headed Golden Lion

   On bare feet, the thief padded across the cold marble floors of the palace. Bars of moonlight filtered through shuttered windows as he slipped from shadow to shadow, keeping an ear open for guards. He saw them before he heard them - so still were they standing that even bedecked in gleaming mail they made little sound. Two palace guards, fauchards in hand, standing guard over an iron-bound door. This must be the hiding place of the Khwarzid Ruby. 
   The thief produced a small linen-wrapped tube from a pouch at his side. He slunk as close as he dared to the guards, keeping to their periphery where their vision was obscured by their helmets. At last, he took a deep breath, unwrapped the tube, placed it to his lips, and blew. A cone fine powder billowed out like the breath of some foul beast, choking the air around the guards. Purple lotus powder - a paralytic. It had cost the thief dearly, but it would all be worth it if he could get out of this palace with the ruby. 
   Wrapping a fold of his cape over his mouth and nose, he sprang into the poisonous cloud, catching one of the paralyzed guards before he could fall and, with a crash of armor against the stone floor, wake the entire palace. He held the guard up by the throat, but as he moved to catch the other, he was met with a blade. The second guard had not yet succumbed to the poison! He caught the edge of the thin dagger against his leather bracer and, right arm still holding up the first guard, began to grapple with the second guard with his off-hand. The towering brute of a guardsman stabbed at the thief awkwardly, slashing his back thrice with his blade before the purple lotus poison finally took hold. The thief silently lowered the two men, conscious but immobilized, to the floor. 
   The guards, of course, did not carry a key to the door they were guarding, so the thief picked the lock himself. He ignored a false keyhole, uncovered the true lock, bypassed a few trapped tumblers, and finally worked the door open. The room beyond the reinforced door glittered. Torches burned in wall sconces, casting orange light upon piles of gold, silver, and gems, which sparkled enticingly. In the center of the room rose a copper statue of a cobra, an enormous ruby clenched in its fanged jaws. A trap, obviously, but the thief saw no way to retrieve the ruby without triggering it. He knew he could afford to carry little else out of this room except the ruby, lest he be encumbered by it as he escaped. Still, he stuffed a handful of gold into his pouch as he approached the ruby, never taking his eyes off the snake statue for fear of being surprised by some wizardly trick.  
   The hair on the nape of his neck stood on end, his primal senses picking up on some danger his eyes had failed to notice. A low, purring growl began behind him, joined soon by a second. Whirling, he saw padding towards him a twin-headed lioness, fearsome in her power and beauty. Her fur gleamed just as brilliantly as the piles of gold she navigated between, as if the beast were herself wrought from the stuff. The thief froze, calculating his next move as the two-headed creature tensed and readied to pounce. Just as it move to strike, he whirled, snatched the ruby out of the snake's jaws, and ducked. Just as he expected, a spray of poison burst forth from some mechanism hidden in the snake's mouth. He could feel his back blistering where droplets of the poison splattered it. The beast growled and shook its heads, but was otherwise unfazed.  
   Immune to poison? Of course! This was an aker. The thief had heard tales of them in the south. Terrible golden lions with two heads. Legend held that ancient kings once used them to keep the giant snakes of those lands in check, for they were unaffected by the serpents' bites. The thief cursed as he ducked a swipe of the beast's claw. rolled to a pile of ceremonial weapons, and pulled a jeweled scimitar from its gilded sheath. He held it up prophylactically as the creature bit at him. One head caught the blade and bit clean through it. The other sunk its teeth into the thief's shoulder. Hot blood spilled out over the gold-strewn floor as the thief stifled a roar. He brought the shattered blade up and stabbed it deep into one of the beast's necks. It roared like a peal of thunder, surely waking the entire palace. Working quickly, he stabbed its neck over and over again until its eyes faded and closed. The other head snatched his sword-arm in its mouth and bit hard. The thief screamed, wrenching his arm from its mouth. He could not move his fingers, nor feel the pain he knew was there in his arm.  
   He cradled the ruby with his good hand, the other arm hanging dead at his side, and rolled between the legs of the aker. The beast wheeled to pursue, zigzagging awkwardly as its injured head hung limp from its bleeding neck. The thief knocked over a table covered with statuettes, but the aker crashed through it effortlessly. He leapt over a chest of coins and slid across the slick floor out through the open door. Guards were shuffling down the hall from both sides, leveling their polearms at the thief. The wounded aker burst through the door behind him, starling the guards for a moment. Just the moment the thief needed to act. Let them deal with each other, he thought. He sprung through the shuttered window and exploded out into the night air, plummeting toward the palace moat far below.

Today's Monster Monday is the aker, a two-headed lion often used as a guardian beast by the wealthy  and the power-hungry. With golden fur and dual slavering maws, these creatures certainly make a statement when lounging at the foot of a petty warlord's throne or chained in the gardens of an extravagant maharaja.

The inspiration for this monster came from a picture in the 2nd edition AD&D al-Qadim supplement showing a rogue sneaking into the gold-strewn chamber of a sleeping giant and confronted by a roaring two-headed lion (page 45 for those of you following along at home). As I began to stat the creature up, I realized I needed a name for it, so I searched for a mythological precedent for a two-headed lion. What I found was Aker, an Ancient Egyptian deity often depicted as two lions or a two-headed lion who protects the pharaoh from poisonous snakes. This lent some additional character to my monster, and its protective nature fit in well with the picture of it as a treasure guardian.

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

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 

Seven Spooky Skeletons - The Hanged Archer

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

Tonight's Spooky Skeleton is the Hanged Archer, a blind skeleton with a noose around its neck and a sack over its head who is a supernaturally excellent marksman. Once a poacher of the king's game, now he poaches man.

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

This skeleton wears an old noose around its bony neck and a sack of burlap over its head. Despite its obscured vision, it bears a longbow, to which it nocks an arrow with practiced ease.
The Hanged Archer      CR 5
XP 1,600
Human skeletal champion ranger 7
CE Medium undead
Init +9; Senses blindsight 500 ft.; Perception +4
AC 18, touch 16, flat-footed 12 (+5 Dex, +1 dodge, +2 natural)
hp 72 (2d8+7d10+25)
Fort +8, Ref +11, Will +7; +4 channel resistance
DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits
Defensive Abilities vulnerability
Speed 30 ft.
Melee mwk morningstar +12/+7 (1d8+3)
Ranged +1 composite longbow +15/+10 (1d8+4/x3) 100ft.
Special Attacks favored enemy (humans +4, animals +2)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 9th)
   1/day – quickened true strike
Spells Prepared (CL 4th)
1   2ndacute senses
2   1stgravity bow, jump
Str 16, Dex 20, Con --, Int 10, Wis 15, Cha 14
Base Atk +8; CMB +11; CMD 26
Feats Deadly Aim, Dodge, Far Shot, Improved InitiativeB, Point-Blank ShotB, Precise Shot, Rapid ShotB, Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (longbow)
Skills Climb +11, Craft (traps) +10, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (nature) +12, Perception +14, Sense Motive +11, Stealth +17, Survival +14
Languages Common
SQ favored terrain (forest +2), hunters bond (companions), track (+3 to follow tracks), wild empathy, woodland stride
Blind Archer (Su)
The Hanged Archer is blind, but has access to supernatural senses that give him perfect blindsense out to 500 feet. From 500 to 1000 feet, his blindsense grows hazy (targets gain 20% concealment), and beyond 1000 feet he can see nothing. His supernatural senses also give him quickened true strike as a spell-like ability once per day.
Blinding Critical (Ex)
Whenever the Hanged Archer scores a critical hit against a favored enemy, in addition to the damage dealt by the crit, the target permanently blinded in one eye.
Treasure NPC gear (mwk morningstar, +1 composite longbow (+3 Str), 18 arrows, 2x +1 dwarf bane arrows, 2x +1 elf bane arrows, 2x +1 gnome bane arrows, 2x +1 halfling bane arrows, 2x +1 human bane arrows, 2x +1 orc bane arrows, masterwork quiver, other treasure)

The Hanged Archer bears the noose that he was hanged with around his neck, and the burlap sack from the hanging still covers his head. His bones are yellowed with age and smudged with dirt. In life, he was a poacher and an expert marksman. He delighted in demonstrating his prowess with the bow at every opportunity, and often embarrassed the king’s gamekeepers who pursued him. When he was finally captured, his eyes were gouged out before he was publicly hanged. In undeath, he has begun hunting man, and he has found that he is even better at it than he ever was at poaching deer.


-your sixth spooky d20 despot 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Seven Spooky Skeletons - Jack of Flame

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

Tonight's Spooky Skeleton is Jack of Flame, a skeletal sorcerer of fire who can teleport by throwing his explosive jack-o-lantern head.

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

This skeleton, bearing a scythe, has a devilishly carved jack-o-lantern in place of a skull. Tongues of fire trail from the mouth and eye-holes as he moves forward to attack.
Jack of Flame       CR 6
XP 2,400
Human skeletal champion sorcerer 9
NE Size undead (fire)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +11
Special special
AC 20, touch 14, flat-footed 16 (+3 Dex, +2 natural, +1 dodge, +4 mage armor)
hp 95 (9d6+2d8+55)
Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +11; +4 channel resistance
DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, fire, undead traits
Vulnerability vulnerability
Speed 30 ft.
Melee +1 scythe +7/+2 (2d4+1 plus 1d6 fire/x4)
Ranged mwk dart +10/+5 (1d4 plus 1d6 fire) 20ft.
Special Attacks elemental blast (1/day, 9d6 fire, 20 ft. radius, DC 19 Reflex halves), elemental ray (8/day, 1d6+4 fire, 30 ft. ray), fiery teleportation (1/hour, 5d6 fire; see text)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 11th)
   1/day – vomit centipede swarm
Spells Prepared (CL 9th)
2   4th (5/day; DC 19) – bestow curse, dragon’s breath, elemental body IB,
3   3rd (7/day; DC 18) – fireball, flame arrow, fly, protection from energyB,
4   2nd (7/day; DC 17) – burning gaze, fire breath, flaming sphere, pyrotechnics, scorching rayB,
5   1st (8/day; DC 16) – burning disarm, burning handsB, cause fear, enlarge person, grease, mage armor
8   cantrips (at will; DC 15) – acid splash, bleed, dancing lights, daze, ghost sound, mage hand, mending, spark
Bloodline elemental (fire)
Without mage armor, Jack of Flame’s armor class is: AC 16, flat-footed 12
Str 11, Dex 16, Con --, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 20
Base Atk +6; CMB +6; CMD 19
Feats Arcane Strike, Combat Casting, Dodge, Empower Spell, Eschew MaterialsB, Improved InitiativeB, Lightning ReflexesB, Martial Weapon Proficiency (scythe), Quick Draw, Weapon Focus (ray)
Skills Bluff +13, Fly +8, Intimidate +19, Knowledge (arcane) +7, Knowledge (nature) +4, Perception +11, Profession (farmer) +16, Sense Motive +11, Spellcraft +10, Stealth +10, Use Magic Device +10
Languages Common, Ignan
SQ bloodline arcana (spontaneously change spell’s energy damage type to fire), soul of fire
Soul of Fire (Su)
Jack of Flame is immune to fire, and all weapons wielded by him deal an additional 1d6 points of fire damage.
Fiery Teleportation (Su)
Once per hour, as a standard action, Jack of Flame can teleport by throwing his jack-o-lantern head. He makes a ranged touch attack against a square of his choosing with a range increment of 20 feet. If the attack fails, the jack-o-lantern lands in a different square 5 ft./range increment away (roll 1d8 to determine the direction). Upon landing, the jack-o-lantern explodes in a blast of fire, dealing 5d6 points of fire damage to all creatures in the target square and in each adjacent square. Creatures succeeding on a DC 20 Reflex save take only half damage.
   Jack of Flame then appears in the target square, his jack-o-lantern head restored to his rejuvenated skeletal body. His old headless body crumples to dust. Teleporting in this way ends any ongoing effects affecting Jack of Flame (except those caused by spells that Jack of Flame cast) and restores any ability score damage or lost limbs, though his HP remains the same. The save DC for this effect is Charisma-based.
Vomit Centipede Swarm (Sp)
Jack of Flame can vomit a swarm of centipedes from his jack-o-lantern mouth as a standard action once per day. This spell functions as the spell vomit swarm, but it produces a centipede swarm instead of a spider swarm, and the centipede swarm is immune to fire.
Treasure NPC gear (+1 scythe, 6x mwk darts, 4x flasks of alchemist’s fire, potion of inflict moderate wounds (CL 5th), wand of entangle (CL 3rd; 22 uses remaining), other treasure)

This otherwise unassuming skeleton is missing its skull. In its place is a jack-o-lantern carved with a wicked grin and full of unending fire. In life, this man was a lonely farmer, shunned as a firebug and arsonist by his community. He never learned how to control his sorcerous powers, but he was encouraged by mischievous fire spirits. Some stories say his fires saved his village during a particularly harsh winter, but they went back to shunning him as soon as Spring came. Other stories tell of a lost love and a hunger for vengeance. Whatever the case, all agree that Jack’s rampage began at his village’s harvest festival. His flames engulfed the entire town, burning all within. One brave farmer, his name lost to the ages, used his dying strength to behead Jack with a scythe – the very scythe which Jack now carries, permanently marked by the nick left by Jack’s neck bones. From the ashes of that deadly fire rose Jack of Flame, the pumpkin-headed firebrand, a spirit of vengeance and cruelty. He knows little of subtlety – what a little fire won’t solve, a lot of fire just might. 


-your fifth spooky d20 despot

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Seven Spooky Skeletons - Our Lady Deathless

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

Tonight's Spooky Skeleton is Our Lady Deathless, a winged skeleton covered in gleaming gold. She is false angel who leads the living to their deaths.

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

This skeleton’s bones are etched and plated with shining gold, and a serene golden mask covers her face. She floats above the ground, her gleaming skeletal wings outstretched behind her.
Our Lady Deathless      CR 7
XP 3,200
Aasimar skeletal champion antipaladin 4/cleric 5 (charm, death)
CE Medium undead
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13
Aura aura of cowardice (10 ft.), aura of evil
AC 21, touch 14, flat-footed 17 (+5 armor, +3 Dex, +2 natural, +1 dodge)
hp 113 (7d8+4d10+60)
Fort +14, Ref +8, Will +16; +4 channel resistance
DR 5/bludgeoning; SR 15
Defensive Abilities gilded glory, unholy resilience
Immune cold, undead traits; Resistances acid 5, electricity 5
Speed 30 ft.
Melee +2 unholy spear +13/+8 (1d8+4/x3)
Ranged mwk unholy javelins +13/+8 (1d6+2) 30ft.
Special Attacks bleeding touch (6/day, 1d6 bleed for 2 rounds), channel negative energy (8/day, 3d6, 30 ft., DC 17), dazing touch (6/day), smite good (2/day, +5 attack, +4 damage, +5 AC), touch of corruption (7/day, 2d6 negative energy plus DC 17 Fort save or shaken for 4 rounds)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 9th)
   at will – detect good, quickened levitate
   1/day – daylight
Antipaladin Spells Prepared (CL 4th)
   1st (DC 16) – command, murderous command
Cleric Spells Prepared (CL 5th)
   3rd (DC 16) – bestow curse, dispel magic, suggestionD
   2nd (DC 15) – death knellD, dread bolt, hold person, spiritual weapon
   1st (DC 14) – bane, burning disarm, cause fear, charm personD, protection from good
   orisons (DC 13) – bleed, guidance, light, mending
Str 14, Dex 16, Con --, Int 13, Wis 16, Cha 20
Base Atk +9; CMB +11; CMD 24
Feats Channel Smite, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Improved InitiativeB, Mobility, Spring Attack, Whirlwind Attack
Skills Bluff +19, Diplomacy +13, Heal +7, Intimidate +11, Knowledge (religion) +8, Perception +13, Sense Motive +9, Spellcraft +6; Racial Modifiers +2 Diplomacy, +2 Perception
Languages Common, Celestial
SQ aura of evil, spontaneous casting, unholy weapons
False Angel Form (Su)
Our Lady Deathless can assume the form of a glowing golden angel. The angel’s face is covered by Our Lady Deathless’ serene golden mask. While in false angel form, Our Lady Deathless’ aura becomes a strong aura of good.
   While Our Lady Deathless is in false angel form, creatures damaged by her negative energy attacks - such as channel energy, touch of corruption, or an inflict spell - must make a DC 20 Will save. Failure means that they believe that they have been healed for the same amount of damage. This damage only becomes apparent with a DC 20 Heal check or once Our Lady Deathless exits false angel form. This is a mind-affecting effect and the save DC is Charisma-based.
   Our Lady Deathless can remain in false angel form for up to 5 hours per day. This time is spent in 10 minute increments – if she exits false angel form before 10 minutes have passed, a 10 minute increment is still expended. Entering false angel form is a standard action, and leaving it is a free action.
Gilded Glory (Su)
Our Lady Deathless is covered with ornate gold ornamentation worked into her bones, granting her a +5 armor bonus and spell resistance 15.
Unholy Weapons (Su)
Any weapons wielded by Our Lady Deathless gain the unholy special ability as long as they are in her possession and for one round thereafter.
Treasure double (+2 spear, 4x mwk javelins, 2,500gp worth of gilding, other treasure)

Our Lady Deathless is a winged aasimar skeleton who has plated her bones with fifty pounds of gold. She wears a golden mask depicting a serene female face. No one knows her past or her true name. In undeath, she is known as Our Lady Deathless, and she is a cunning and evil scourge of all that is good. She delights in taking on her false angel form to mislead lost adventurers to their dooms, revealing her true self only at the very end. Her favorite targets are paladins and good-aligned clerics, often tricking them into attacking innocents or otherwise violating the precepts of their faith. 


-your fourth spooky d20 despot

Friday, October 27, 2017

Seven Spooky Skeletons: The Screamer

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

Tonight's Spooky Skeleton is the Screamer, a raging ogre barbarian haunted by the ghosts of his dead tribe, who carries the screaming skulls of his enemies in his ribcage.

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

This stout ogre skeleton leaps into the fray, swinging two spiked chains bound to its wrists. Its rib cage is packed with human skulls that scream unnervingly as he charges.
The Screamer      CR 7
XP 3,200
Ogre skeletal champion barbarian 6
CE Large undead
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +12
Aura screaming rage (50 ft., DC 18)
AC 10, touch 8, flat-footed 9 (+1 Dex, -1 size, +2 natural, -2 rage)
hp 132 (6d8+6d12+42)
Fort +11, Ref +5, Will +10; +4 channel resistance
DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits
Defensive Abilities improved uncanny dodge, trap sense (+2)
Speed 50 ft.
Melee 2 mwk spiked chains +16/+16/+11 (2d4+8 plus disarm or trip) and spirit totem +13 (1d4+4 negative energy) or 2 claws +17 (1d6+8) and spirit totem +13 (1d4+4 negative energy)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Ranged screaming skull +10 (3d6 negative energy plus paralysis) 20ft.
Special Attacks screaming rage (22 rounds/day), rage powers (no escape, smasher, lesser spirit totem)
When not raging his stats are:
AC 12, touch 10, flat-footed 11
hp 108; Fort +9, Will +8
Melee 2 mwk spiked chains +14/+14/+9 (2d4+6 plus disarm or trip) or 2 claws +15 (1d6+6)
Str 23, Cha 14; CMB +17; CMD 29; Climb +11
Str 27, Dex 13, Con --, Int 7, Wis 13, Cha 18
Base Atk +10; CMB +19; CMD 31
Feats Double Slice, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (spiked chain), Extra Rage, Improved InitiativeB, Toughness, Two-Weapon Fighting
Skills Climb +13, Intimidate +8, Perception +12, Sense Motive +7, Survival +7
Languages Giant
SQ fast movement
Death Throes (Su)
When the Screamer is destroyed, all living creatures within 30 feet take 5d6 points of negative energy damage and are confused for 1d4-1 rounds. A DC 18 Will save negates the confusion but not the negative energy damage. This is a mind-affecting fear effect, and the save DC is Charisma-based.
Screaming Skull (Su)
The Screamer can reach into its rib cage and pull out one of its screaming skulls (a move action to grab), throwing it as a ranged attack. Targets struck by the skull take 3d6 negative energy damage and must make a DC 18 Will save or be paralyzed for 1d6 rounds. Success negates the paralysis but not the negative energy damage. This is a mind-affecting fear effect, and the save DC is Charisma-based.
Screaming Rage (Ex)
For up to 22 rounds per day, the Screamer can enter into a terrible rage, during which the skulls trapped in its ribcage begin to scream and their eyes glow blue. This ability is identical to the barbarian’s rage ability except as noted below. Instead of boosting the Screamer’s Constitution score, screaming rage grants a +4 morale bonus to the Screamer’s Charisma score. Since undead cannot be fatigued, the Screamer suffers no ill effects upon ending his rage (although if the loss of the temporary hit points brings him to 0 hp or below, he is still destroyed).
   Additionally, each round that the screamer maintains his rage, all creatures within 50 ft. must make a DC 18 Will save or become shaken for that round. This is a mind-affecting fear effect, and the save DC is Charisma-based.
Treasure NPC gear (2 mwk spiked chains, other treasure)

The Screamer is an ogre skeleton with two spiked chains bolted to its wrists. Its rib cage is stuffed with dozens of human skulls – their eyes glow blue and they scream incessantly when the Screamer goes into a rage. In life, the screamer was the last of a tribe of ogres who were slaughtered by humans. He was raised in chains, first as a slave, then as a freak show attraction with a travelling carnival. When he broke free of his chains, he slew everyone at the carnival and kept their heads as trophies, towing them behind him in a carnival wagon. A group of adventurers ambushed and slew him, tossing his corpse and his wagon of heads over a cliff. Animated by his lonely anger and protected by the spirits of his dead tribe, he once again roams the world, seeking death and destruction.


-your third spooky d20 despot

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Seven Spooky Skeletons: Woodbones

Seven Spooky Skeletons is a short series running every night until Halloween, because I love Halloween, alliteration, and the word 'spooky'. Each night, d20 despot will be showcasing a different unique skeletal villain.

Tonight's spooky skeleton is Woodbones, an undead, bark-encrusted druid who summons skeletal animals and rides a bony bear infused with the spirit of an evil tree.

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

This halfling skeleton is partially fused with plates of ragged bark. It sits astride a skeletal bear bristling with woody vines.
Woodbones          CR 6
XP 2,400
Halfling skeletal champion druid 8
NE Small undead
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft., greensight; Perception +13
AC 20, touch 15, flat-footed 16 (+1 size, +3 Dex, +5 natural, +1 dodge)
hp 73 (10d8+28)
Fort +9, Ref +7, Will +14; +4 channel resistance, +4 vs. effects from fey and effects using plants
DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits
Defensive Abilities resist nature’s lure
Speed 20 ft.
Melee +1 quarterstaff +8/+8/+3 (1d4+2) or 2 claws +9 (1d3+1)
Ranged +1 sling +11 (1d3+2) 50ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th; concentration +12)
   constant – greensight
   1/day – tree shape
Spells Prepared (CL 0th)
4thbloody claws, inflict serious wounds (DC 18), thorn body
3rdcall lightning (DC 17), fungal infestation (DC 17), greater magic fang, inflict moderate wounds (DC 17)
2ndbarkskin, fog cloud, frigid touch, wood shape
1stbristle, decompose corpse, liberating command, magic stone, shillelagh
orisons – create water, detect magic, light, resistance
Str 12, Dex 16, Con --, Int 11, Wis 18, Cha 15
Base Atk +7; CMB +7; CMD 20
Feats Dodge, Improved InitiativeB, Mounted Combat, Natural Spell, Two-Weapon Fighting
Skills Acrobatics +5, Climb +3, Intimidate +7, Handle Animal +9, Heal +8, Knowledge (nature) +10, Perception +13, Ride +16, Stealth +16, Survival +11; Racial Modifiers +2 Acrobatics, +2 Climb, +2 Perception
Languages Common, Halfling, Druidic
SQ nature bond (skeletal animal companion), nature sense, skeletal wild shape, spontaneous casting, trackless step, undead wild empathy, woodland stride
Bark Armor (Ex)
Woodbones’ bones are fused with the bark of the Tree of Death, granting him a +4 natural armor bonus on top of the existing natural armor bonus granted by the skeleton template.
Blessing of the Tree of Death (Ex)
The Tree of Death gave Woodbones many gifts. Woodbones gains greensight as a constant spell-like ability and tree shape as a spell-like ability useable once per day. It also adds any inflict wounds spells to its druid spell list.
Skeletal Animal Companion (Ex)
Woodbones’ animal companion gains the skeletal champion template. The companion retains all special qualities granted to an animal companion. In addition, planted within the heart of the skeletal animal is a sapling descended from the Tree of Death. This grants the skeletal animal companion a +4 bonus to grapple checks, a +4 bonus to Charisma, and the ability to cast entangle as a spell-like ability once per day with a caster level equal to Woodbones’.
Root, The Skeletal Bear
Bear skeleton animal companion
N Medium undead
Init +6; Senses low-light vision, darkvision 60 ft., scent; Perception +0
AC 20, touch 12, flat-footed 18 (+8 natural, +2 Dex)
hp 58 (9d8+18)
Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +5; +4 channel resistance, +4 vs enchantments
DR 0/-; Immune immunity, undead traits
Defensive Abilities devotion, evasion
Speed 40 ft.
Melee bite +11 (1d6+5), 2 claws +11 (1d4+5)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th)
   1/day – entangle
Str 21, Dex 15, Con --, Int --, Wis 10, Cha 14
Base Atk +6; CMB +11; CMD 23
Feats Improved InitiativeB
SQ link, share spells
Skeletal Wild Shape (Su)
Woodbones can assume the form of any skeletal animal of Tiny, Small, Medium, or Large size. This ability functions like the spell undead anatomy II except as noted here. The effect lasts for eight hours or until it changes back. Changing form is a standard action and doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity. Woodbones’ skeletal animal forms retain its bark armor and +4 natural armor bonus. Woodbones can use this ability three times to day.
Skeletal Summons (Su)
Any creatures summoned when Woodbones casts summon nature’s ally or similar summoning spells are summoned with the skeleton or exoskeleton template, as appropriate. Summoned elementals are not affected by this change.
Undead Wild Empathy (Ex)
Woodbones can improve the attitude of an undead animal just as a living druid can with a living animal. Woodbones can use this ability to influence an undead magical beast with an Intelligence score or 2 or lower.
Treasure NPC gear (+1 quarterstaff, +1 sling, 40 bullets, potion of inflict serious wounds (CL 5th), other treasure)

This halfling skeleton’s bones are partially fused to tough sheets of thick bark, forming a crude sort of armor. Some of its bones are missing, replaced with perfectly crafted wooden doubles. In life, this creature was a halfling druid. It died at the foot of the legendary Tree of Death, the bark of which grew over its corpse, decomposed it, and infused it with dark powers. All other aspects of its past identity have been stripped away by the ages, leaving only the husk known as Woodbones, Servant of the Tree of Death. It rides a skeletal bear named Root, which bears the thrashing, evil sapling of the Tree of Death in its rib-cage. Together, they seek to bring a twisted balance to nature by hastening the death and decay of all living things.


-your second spooky d20 despot 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Seven Spooky Skeletons: The Marquis

Happy Halloween, and welcome to Seven Spooky Skeletons! This is the first entry in an ongoing series running until Halloween. Each day, d20 Despot will feature a stat block for a villainous skeletal NPC. Each skeleton will have some sort of unique ability or characteristic that makes them more than just a collection of stats.

The first of the Seven Spooky Skeletons is the Marquis, a cold-blooded but dashing rogue whose empty eye sockets and lipless grin are hidden behind a crimson carnival mask.

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

This skeleton, wearing a red and gold carnival mask, a broad-brimmed feathered hat, and a dashing half-cape, flourishes his gleaming rapier
The Marquis            CR 5
XP 1,600
human skeletal champion rogue 7
CE Medium undead
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +11
AC 18, touch 16, flat-footed 14 (+2 natural, +4 Dex, +2 deflection)
hp 76 (9d8+36)
Fort +7, Ref +10, Will +4; channel resistance +4
DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits
Speed 30 ft.
Melee +1 keen rapier +12/+7 (1d6+2/15-20) or 2 claws +10/+5 (1d4+1)
Ranged mwk dagger +11/+6 (1d4+1) 10ft.
Special Attacks Sneak Attack +4d6 plus 4 bleed
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 7th)
   2/day – alter self (human only), charm person (DC 15)
Str 13, Dex 18, Con --, Int 13, Wis 8, Cha 18
Base Atk +6/+1; CMB +7; CMD 21
Feats Combat Expertise, Dazzling Display, Improved FeintB, Improved InitiativeB, Quick Draw, Step Up, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (rapier)B
Skills Acrobatics +16, Appraise +5, Bluff +16, Climb +6, Diplomacy +16, Disable Device +8, Disguise +16, Escape Artist +8, Intimidate +14, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +5, Knowledge (local) +5, Knowledge (nobility) +4, Perception +11, Sense Motive +7, Sleight of Hand +8, Stealth +12
Languages Common, Elvish
SQ convincing, rogue talents (bleeding attack, combat trick, weapon training)
Convincing (Ex)
The Marquis is preternaturally charming, even in the heat of battle. When he uses his charm person ability, the target does not gain the +5 bonus to their saves they would normally be entitled to even if the Marquis or his allies are threatening or attacking the target. In addition, when the Marquis attempts a Diplomacy skill check, the targets regard him as one step closer to friendly for the purposes of setting the DC of the check.
Treasure NPC gear (+1 keen rapier, 3x mwk daggers, ring of protection +2, potion of invisibility (CL 5th), potion of inflict moderate wounds (CL 5th), masterwork thieves’ tools, other treasure)

This skeleton covers his bony face with an ornate, long-nosed carnival mask – crimson, filigreed with gold. Over his left shoulder hangs a jaunty half-cape of fine workmanship, and upon his head sits a broad-brimmed bravo’s hat with a long white ostrich feather in the brim. In life, the Marquis was an inveterate playboy, dashing swordsman, and cunning serial killer. He casually slew hundreds of victims, often in the middle of their conversation, and all while maintaining a winning smile. His vast wealth, political power, and natural charm allowed him to get away with much, but it was ironically his dueling prowess that lead to his death. A gang of aspiring swashbucklers, tired of seeing the Marquis win every duel he fought and never grant mercy to the beaten party, set upon him in a back alley one night, stabbing him over forty times and leaving him to bleed out in the gutter. In death, he acts much the same as he did in life: charming, arrogant, and consumed with a need to kill.


-your first spooky d20 despot

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monster Monday: Goo Bat Swarm

Today's Monster Monday is the goo bat, a blood-sucking ball of ooze with bat wings. Goo bats swarm their prey, glomming on to them to slow them down with a thick layer of slime which begins to siphon the blood from their body. They leave behind jellified corpses that burst open into new swarms of goo bats.

Whoa, is that an original illustration? Well, it sure as heck ain't a professional illustration. I got a tablet, so I'm going to start drawing some of the monsters I stat up. The goal is that eventually every Monster Monday will have its own original illustration (and I'll gradually get better at drawing them).

Hey, Halloween is coming up! Starting this Wednesday, I will be posting a new skeleton stat block every day until Halloween. It's an event I'm calling: d20 Despot's Seven Spooky Skeletons.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monster Monday: Titanosaur, the Biggest Dinosaur Ever

Today's Monster Monday is the titanosaur, a mindbogglingly tremendous sauropod dinosaur. The titanosaurs were actually a group of many sauropod species, the largest of which were also the largest dinosaurs ever and the longest and heaviest land animals ever to walk the earth.

by ДиБгд, via Wikimedia
A life-restoration of the titanosaur ampelosaurus atacis, shown with spiky osteoderms along its spine
One of the cool things that makes titanosaurs stand out from your more well-known sauropods like brachiosaurus, diplodocus, or apatosaurus is that many titanosaurs had osteoderms - large bony plates embedded in their skin. These plates may have acted as additional armor for these already formidable beasts, and some (such as ampelosaurus, above) even had spikes. The ampelosaurus above shows a conservative distribution of osteoderms, but the diamentinasaurus illustrated below is depicted as rather more well-armored.

by T. Tischler, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History, via Wikimedia
Life-restoration of diamentinasaurus matildae, showing one possible level of titanosaurid osteoderm distribution
What's in a name? Translating a real-world monster, whether mythological or real, into a fantasy world can be difficult, especially when they are saddled with a name that instantly ties them to our world. With many classic dinosaurs, this isn't so much of a problem. Household names like tyrannosaurus and velociraptor, while clearly grounded in our world's scientific Greco-Latin naming conventions, seem to fit in relatively easily to a fantasy world alongside dragons, chimerae, and basilisks. Equally interesting but more newly discovered animals often have names that stand out like a sore thumb, either because they are overly long and complicated or because they specifically reference a real-world name or place. Titanosaur names like argentinosaurus, aegyptosaurus, or isisaurus (named after the Indian Statistical Institute) do not lend themselves to a fantasy world's immersion.

The monster statted up below is an argentinosaurus, by many estimates the largest of the titanosaurs. I chose to call it, simply, titanosaur, a rather generic name which can cover many species (including the horse-sized magyarosaurus). Identifying this monster by its scientific clade is akin to naming the stat block for tyrannosaurus 'coelurosaur'. Still, I thought it was better than identifying it with the real-world nation of Argentina, or calling it 'titanosaurus', which, despite lending its name to the titanosaurids, is a much smaller titanosaur than argentinosaurus (13 tons compared to argentinosaurus' 70-100 tons) and is now usually considered to be a nomen dubium - a name or classification unsupported by current science.

Also, it is important to remember that paleoart is often minimalist, omitting many potential features of a dinosaur that are not preserved in the fossil record. More adventurous paleoartists like to go out on a limb with their reconstructions, giving them interesting features that, while not necessarily supported by the fossil record, are also not disproven by the fossil record and thus may rest within the realm of possibility (I call this the Air Bud approach to paleoart, i.e. "There's no rule saying dogs can't play basketball"). This type of paleoart emphasizes naturalism, showing prehistoric animals in all the variety of coloration, integument, and behavior as other animals we are more familiar with. This often breathes new life into depictions of prehistoric animals, and generates renewed public interest in paleoart. With that in mind, here is another titanosaur illustration that would certainly make an impression in a fantasy world.

by Danny Cicchetti, via Wikimedia
A be-striped, be-quilled, and be-dewlapped life-restoration of the titanosaur overosaurus paradasorum
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.