Monday, March 27, 2017

Monster Monday: Quicksilver Ooze, the Fastest Slime in the Dungeon

Today's Monster Monday is the quicksilver ooze, a fast-moving slime that eats treasure and poisons your blood.

Most oozes move so slowly that a canny adventurer can avoid combat with them entirely by simply walking away.  Good encounter design, or at least the element of surprise, is required to make many oozes a viable threat to a party.  The famous gelatinous cube, for example, is best employed as a surprise (its natural transparency and tendency to conform to the dimensions of a typical dungeon corridor means some adventurers literally walk right into it) or in conjunction with traps (personally, I'm a fan of the ol' gelatinous-cube-at-the-bottom-of-a-pit-trap goof).  Oozes are slow bags of acidic hit points - it's a niche they fill well.  But sometimes you want to use an ooze outside of their niche.  That was the idea behind the bombardier ooze, which can engage adventurers at range by shooting out gobs of acid.  The idea for the quicksilver ooze came from a similar place: what if there was an ooze that you couldn't outrun?

photo by bionerd, via Wikimedia
I called it the quicksilver ooze because mercury (aka quicksilver) is runny and already looks like some kind of sentient alien slime.  To make the monster more than just a fast ooze, I did some research (i.e. read the wikipedia article) on mercury and gave the quicksilver ooze some of the attributes of the element.  The ooze is temperature sensitive - slowed by cold damage and hastened by fire damage - because one of mercury's most famous attributes is its sensitivity to temperature (hence its use in thermometers).  Its slam attack, of course, gives its victims heavy metal poisoning.  And because mercury dissolves and amalgamates many other metals, including gold and silver, I decided this should be one of those mean monsters that eats your treasure.

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monster Monday: Green Man, Guardian of Wood and Field

Today's Monster Monday is the green man, a powerful plant spirit from European folk mythology.  The green man acts as a guardian of nature and a protector of communities that show proper respect to the wilds, but also as an avenger against those who despoil the wilderness and threaten his sacred groves.

via Wikimedia
Unlike most other nature spirits - such as dryads and nymphs - a green man does not avoid human settlements, and in fact it is not uncommon to see a green man visiting a rural planting festival to bless the year's crops.  But for all his tolerance of humanity, a green man's wrath is to be feared like none other.  He commands a withering array of plant magics capable of turning the whole forest against any who cross him.

via Wikimedia
The green man is a common decorative motif, especially in the British Isles.  Its origins remain uncertain, but many have attempted to connect it back to pre-Christian beliefs and nature deities like Pan and Silvanus.  Others have seen connections to the tale of Gawain and the Green Knight, wherein King Arthur's nephew does battle with a jolly green giant.  The green man is also connected to the Jack-in-Green, a leafy figure that appears in some rural English folk festivals.  Is the green man an echo of Europe's pagan past, preserved through time by folk memory and sculptural motifs?  Or did sculptors just like carving leafy faces?  This may remain an unsolved mystery, like the question of why there are so many medieval illustrations of knights fighting snails.

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

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Power of Water: 5 New Water-Themed Spells

When it comes to elemental magic, fire has it easy.  Fire burns.  It's direct and easy to understand.  Utilizing the other classical elements in magic - water, air, and earth - requires more outside the box thinking.  Oftentimes cold, electricity, and acid fill in for water, air, and earth, allowing spellcasters to deal direct damage with something other than fire.  From a game design perspective, cold, electricity, acid, and fire are just different flavors of the same thing; switching the type of damage that an elemental spell does rarely has an in-game effect.  But if you are trying to play as a spellcasting character who specializes in water spells, you might find it jarring that the only way you can do damage is with ice.  Water is one of the most powerful forces on earth.  Don't spellcasters deserve more water-themed spells?

Photo by Malene Thyssen, via Wikimedia
The following five spells are designed to showcase the power of water: aquatic sheath allows swimming creatures to move and fight on land; evaporate dries up liquid, destroying potions and damaging water elementals; splash puts out fires and damages fire elementals; water jet blasts enemies with a concentrated burst of water; water shield protects an area from fire spells.

The following text is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.  This content is designed for the pfrpg.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monster Monday: Basan, the Japanese Death Chicken

Today's Monster Monday is the basan, an obscure Japanese giant chicken monster with death-breath.  The creature bears a passing similarity to the cockatrice, although instead of turning its victims to stone, the basan breathes out plumes of cold ghost-fire.

Basan illustration for Ehon Hyaku Monogatari by Takehara Shunsen (1841), via Wikimedia
The basan comes to us via Ehon Hyaku Monogatari (Picture Book of 100 Stories) published in 1841, and Gazu Hyakki Yagyō (The Illustrated Night Parade of a Hundred Demons) published in 1776.  Both were Japanese bestiaries compiling folklore and ghost stories that greatly influenced the Japanese yōkai tradition.  The basan itself was said to live in the mountains of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands.

When converting this beast into a monster stat block, I briefly considered making it some sort of undead cockatrice because the descriptions of its unburning ghost-fire made me think of negative energy attacks.  In the end, I kept the negative energy angle and made the basan a living creature that was affected by negative energy in the same way that the undead are.  Despite its outwardly comical appearance (giant chickens are almost never unfunny), the basan needs to be an eerie monster, hence its connection to the plane of negative energy and its association with undeath.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monster Monday: Planticore, a Leafy Beast

The goat was a problem, so he let it go.  It must have sensed its fate.  Broussilos would just have to hope that the wine would be enough of an offering.  He adjusted the thick straps that held the amphora on his back and continued his arduous trek up the mountain.  The Spring of Laersippos was hidden near the peak, guarded by a fierce manticore.  Local legend said the beast could be placated with the right gift, but no one was quite sure what that gift was.  A short bronze blade beat against Broussilos' thigh with every step: purely a measure of last resort.  The wine sloshed rhythmically in its container, like waves against the side of a ship at anchor.  If it wouldn't buy him passage to the spring, it might at least be enough to buy his safe retreat from the mountain.  

The brush grew thicker, wild vines choking out all else.  They pulled at his sandals, slashed at his linen greaves, and even caught on the amphora as if they, too, thirsted for wine.  Broussilos pushed through a plait of hanging tree branches and came face to face with the manticore.  It was upside-down, its huge man-like face purple and bloated, spiky beard matted with week-old blood.  Its wings were splayed out on the ground, pinned in place with serrated thorns as long as a man's arm.  Probing creepers grew into every nook and gash in its hide, twining about its bare ribs, hungry for decaying flesh.  

All in all, it was a very dead manticore.  

Broussilos could hear the burbling of the spring muffled by a mat of dense vegetation.  He took two steps toward it.  A great rustling of leaves marked the emergence of another great beast.  It was a cruel mockery of a manticore, its face all of knotted wood, its wings of veiny leaves.  Its leonine torso was woven of twisting brambles, and its swishing tail bristled with javelin-like thorns very much resembling those which peppered the corpse of the real manticore.  It growled, its voice like a thick cedar straining against a gale, and its amber eyes fixed on the intruder.

"I don't suppose you'll be wanting this wine," Broussilos began, unslinging the heavy amphora.  The beast's reply was an angry rattle of branches.  Then the vines all around snaked toward him, rearing up to grab at his limbs.  Bursts of nettles spattered his skin with burning poison.  "Very well then."  Broussilos cracked open the amphora's beeswax seal with the pommel of his sword and dumped the wine into his face, swallowing as much as possible and letting the rest spill over his body.  He tossed the half-empty container to the side, gripped his sword, thews tensing, and threw himself at the leafy monster.


Today's Monster Monday is the planticore, which - as you might imagine - is a manticore made out of plants.  My wife threw the name out as a joke, and I took it and ran with it.  Planticores bristle with thorns, and they can even swallow people whole and crush them in the wicker cage of brambles that is their belly.  They can bend nearby plants to their will, unleashing plant-based magic against their foes while hovering safely above the action, bombarding the area with a barrage of thorns.

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