Monday, June 26, 2017

Monster Monday: Pit Mimic, The Living Hole

Today's Monster Monday is the pit mimic, an insidious trickster that disguises itself as the floor, only to open up and reveal a pit. It is a living pit trap, capable of moving itself under its prey so that they fall in, or grabbing people with its tentacles and dropping them into its extradimensional maw. Its gullet appears to be an ordinary pit, but any who fall in will find it bristling with pummeling pseudopods. Of course I've included variant pit mimics that are deeper, or filled with acid, or filled with spikes.

pit trap photo by Georg Waßmuth, via Wikimedia
There is a similar monster in Pathfinder Bestiary 6 called the slithering pit. As I was reading through the new Bestiary for an upcoming review, I remembered my pit mimic and went searching for it. As it turns out, although I statted it up in January of 2016, I neglected to post it either here or to my patreon. Well it's here now, and if I do say so myself (I do), it turned out better than the official slithering pit from the Bestiary. But be warned: this is a huge stat block. Creating this creature was a challenge because it breaks a lot of the base assumptions for a monster of this size and power. As such, it needed a lot of special rules to make sure that the monster functions intuitively within a rule system that was not built with it in mind.  Check it out below! I hope to see many adventurers in the future falling prey to these living, moving pits.

The following text in gold is available, along with any accompanying tables, as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2017 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monster Monday: Colossal Octopus, Tentacle of the Deep

Today's Monster Monday (apologies for missing last week's post) is the colossal octopus, a tremendous being from the inky black depths of the sea, larger even than the legendary kraken. This being is a force of nature; a terror to shipping and to coastal communities.

Drawing by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, via Wikimedia
The kraken is a threat thanks not only to its immense size but also to its cunning (Int 21, Wis 20) and its innate magic. The colossal octopus, on the other hand, is a wholly non-magical animal, but nonetheless a true monster of the seas. With eight tentacle attacks and a powerful bite, this beast is built to take on a whole ship full of adventurers. It clocks in at Challenge Rating 13, which means it is an accessible opponent for more adventuring parties than the CR 18 kraken. The description also includes rules for hacking off its tentacles individually, because how could there not be? I'm actually kind of baffled by how the tentacle chopping that was a part of the kraken's stat block in D&D 3.5 disappeared in the Pathfinder version.

Back in the days of the Enlightenment, as humankind's approach to studying the natural world transitioned from the natural philosophy of earlier times to the more rigorous scientific method, both the kraken and the gigantic octopus were occasionally considered to be real creatures. Carl Linnaeus, the father of the modern taxonomy himself, included the kraken (under the scientific name Microcosmus marinus) in the first edition of Systema Naturae, published in 1735. The French naturalist Pierre Dénys de Montfort included both the kraken and what he described as the larger "poulpe colossal" (colossal octopus) in his 1802 work, Histoire Naturelle Générale et Particulière des Mollusques.

Drawing by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, via Wikimedia
These vestiges of myth and legend were soon scrubbed from scientific literature due to a lack of evidence, but it is worth noting why they ever made it to those pages in the first place. While we may take for granted that creatures like the colossal octopus are pure myth, early naturalists did not have the luxury of such certainty, especially when it came to the mysterious ocean depths. Naturalists used not only their own observations in their descriptions of the natural world, but also reports from others, studiously collecting and analyzing eyewitness accounts, local legends, and the writings of their ancient and medieval fore-bearers. The kraken and colossal octopus were represented in those sources just as the real monsters of the deep were; the fact that the immense carcasses of the otherwise unbelievable giant squid and blue whale occasionally washed ashore only served to lend credence to the idea that these other abyssal titans might exist somewhere out there in the unplumbed depths of the boundless ocean.

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monster Monday: Knocker, Leprechaun of the Mines

   "Don't be too hasty to finish that there pasty," Jago's wrinkled grey face twisted into a smirk. The old-timer leaned in toward where Cadwur was eating his lunch by the light of his candle-helmet. "You'll want to save a morsel for the knockers.  Like this." He took one last bite of his own pasty and tossed the remaining corner out beyond the candlelight.
   Cadwur's stomach rumbled. He was new to mine labor, and his lunch had not filled him as it should. He eyed the last bite of his pasty eagerly. 
   "Save a morsel for the rats, more like!" Massen butted in. "You'll go hungry if you listen to this old fool's tall tales, Fresh-Face." He popped half a sweet roll in his mouth and chewed loudly. 
   "And if you showed some respect to the fey, maybe your tools would stop disappearing." Jago turned back to Cadwur. "Go on, make your offering. Unless you want to take your chances like Missing Massen over here." 
   Reluctantly, Cadwur tossed his crust out beyond the circle of light. Over the now-familiar scrabbling of rats, he thought he heard the soft slapping of tiny bare feet. But then they all heard the screaming.  
   It came from further down the mine, from the main shaft where the men of the deep shift were working.  The screaming grew more violent as more voices joined in, and it meshed with the clash of iron and rock and the distorted echoes of a deep, unearthly growl. Then came the knocking. Loud, rhythmic, insistent, coming right from the entrance to the side shaft Cadwur and his whole crew were sitting in. Everyone instinctively recoiled.  Everyone but Massen, who leapt for the entrance, yelling, "Cave in! Everyone out!" Just as he reached the entrance, a support beam cracked and struck him on the head. He collapsed like a sack of potatoes and lay there for a split second, more serene than anyone had ever seen him, before the whole ceiling fell on him. They all watched in silence until his boots stopped twitching and the dust settled.  
   The screaming had stopped, but the noise had not. Something large and clumsy, roaring like a blast furnace and stinking like a charnel house, was scraping its way up through the mine. Candles extinguished, picks and shovels clenched in white-knuckle fists, every miner behind the cave-in listened with bated breath as the beast sniffed and clawed at the pile of rubble that had sealed them in. They stayed like that for what seemed like an hour after the monster gave up and moved on, then they breathed out a collective sigh of relief.  
   Cadwur pulled his flint and steel out of a satchel on his belt and lit the candle stub on the front of his helmet. A tiny man with a long, ratty beard and a protruding nose was resting against the shaft wall, right on the edge of his candlelight, hefting an oversized hammer in one hand. He winked at Cadwur, popped a crust of pasty in his mouth, and fell backwards through the solid stone. 
   Trapped by the cave-in, they were the only miners to survive the monster's attack. They lived in the dark for four days awaiting rescue, licking moisture from the walls and eating raw rats. And every man of them left out a scrap of rat for the knocker who had saved their lives.  
Today's Monster Monday is the knocker, an impish prankster from Welsh and Cornish mythology who lives deep in the mines and makes loud noises to warn of (or cause) cave-ins.

Knockers are responsible for odd sounds and mysterious disappearances that plague deep caverns and drive miners mad. They delight in causing mischief, from extinguishing lights and stealing tools to luring lone subterranean explorers to their dooms or trapping dozens of miners with strategically placed cave-ins. Most miners and subterranean races maintain that knockers can be appeased with offerings of food and drink, and some even claim that those whom the knockers favor are blessed with enduring luck underground.

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