#RPG – A Month of Monsters – The Samudree-Naga

44323414_10216592300338069_6994907381784117248_nYou can buy this piece of stock art, for as little as $1 this month as part of a promotion. We have a promotion running all month, 31 pieces of monstrous stock art, one a day until all are at on sale culminating on the 31st for Halloween.

This piece depicts an aquatic naga.

The samudree-naga are the guardians of the seas, their ruins and their stocks of ancient magical items and lore. Where other naga guard tombs, temples and treasure-stores in the jungles, the samudree-naga lurk in the tropical seas, the depths of the swamps and the flooded, lower levels of the water temples. More spiritual and contemplative than many other naga, they also retain more of a ‘humanoid’ appearance – as regards their face.

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#RPG – A Month of Monsters – William Thomas the Nosferatu Tailor

43314835_10216512779750104_8116620490082091008_nYou can buy this piece of stock art, for as little as $1 this month as part of a promotion. We have a promotion running all month, 31 pieces of monstrous stock art, one a day until all are at on sale culminating on the 31st for Halloween.

This piece depicts a well-dressed, but hideous vampire.

William Thomas was born in the winter of 1897, his mother a seamstress, his father a tailor. A prideful boy with his parent’s artistic flair he often had to prove himself in rough and tumble with the other local boys. In 1914, barely more than a boy, and still feeling the sting of childhood taunts he went to war in the trenches of WWI to serve his country and prove his manhood.

William (never Bill) seemed to lead a charmed life, unscathed while so many people died around him. He brightened up the trenches with paintings and drawings, and darned socks and fixed uniforms for his fellow soldiers, making him much loved (if often made fun of) That luck finally came to an end at Ypres in 1917 when he has engulfed almost directly in concentrated mustard gas.

William’s blisters covered most of his body and became horribly infected. He was bed-bound for years but never lost his upbeat attitude or appreciation of beauty, painstakingly painting and sewing over months with trembling, blistered, raw fingers.

After years of this, he was tracked down by an officer, Captain Jonathan Carstairs, he had served with, now a vampire, seeking to retain his links with his humanity. Finding William in such a state he took pity on him, reasoning that – already disfigured and yet well-adjusted – he would adapt well to his transformation. Carstairs was not wrong.

Even disfigured, William was – now fit – able to return to his family, using the half-truth of his flayed skin as an excuse to live a nocturnal life, out of the sun. He inherited his father’s tailor’s shop and employed his brother (and later his nephew and grand-nephew) to run the store by day, while he ran his own unique service by night.

William has mastered his art in the intervening years and his family are in on his secret. He holds himself apart from the politics of other vampires and the Thomas Tailor store is granted a unique status as neutral ground and a permanent elysium, a safe place for vampires – of any sect – to engage William’s skills, in exchange for blood.

William has innovated with threads and coating that resist blood, that resist bullets (while retaining a fashionable and tailored line) and he has even begun to experiment with more supernatural materials, worthy of his skill.

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#RPG – A Month of Monsters – The Fleshy Mass

25401You can buy this piece of stock art, for as little as $1 this month as part of a promotion. We have a promotion running all month, 31 pieces of monstrous stock art, one a day until all are at on sale culminating on the 31st for Halloween.

This piece depicts a fleshy mass, a creature made up of the pieces of flesh that it has absorbed from other living things.

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#RPG – A Month of Monsters – The Bestial Vampire

bestialvampireYou can buy this piece of stock art, for as little as $1 this month as part of a promotion. We have a promotion running all month, 31 pieces of monstrous stock art, one a day until all are at on sale culminating on the 31st for Halloween.

This piece depicts a bestial vampire.

These creatures are poor wretches, given the gift of blood too late to be fully brought back to life or left to starve until their wits have left them. They are now little more than animals, driven only by a thirst for blood, a hunger for flesh and an instinctual hatred for the sunlight, fire, holy places and running water – though their bestial nature makes them immune to some of the more traditional banes of vampires. Elder vampires and necromantic experimenters sometimes use them as guard dogs, their keen senses and animalistic instincts making them excellent guards and a violent deterrent to tomb robbers.

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Grimdark: The Missing Material

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Due to a busted laptop I wasn’t able to finish D&D Month last month, the theme of which was ‘Grimdark’. To make up for that I present the missing material to all and sundry, free of the Patreon ‘paywall’ I had put up. These entries are not adjusted for the proposed ‘Grimdark’ rules, so that they’re more immediately usable to people who play 5e D&D.

Rat_SwarmCarrion-Fat Rat Swarm

A squeaking, hissing tide of rats grown sleek and huge and fat on the flesh of the dead. They have a taste for it now, and scramble over each other in their eagerness to feast – on you.

Large Beast, Unaligned
Armour Class 12
Hit Points 63 (14d8)
Speed 40 ftStr 14 (+2), Dex 15 (+2), Con 11 (+0), Int 2 (-4), Wis 10 (+0), Cha 3 (-4)Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 10
Challenge 1/2 (100 xp)
Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, piercing, slashingCondition Immunities: Charmed, frightened, paralysed, petrified, prone, restrained, stunned
Keen Smell: The Rat Swarm has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Swarm: The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a Small creature. The swarm can’t regain hit-points or gain temporary hit points.
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 0 ft, targets in the swarm’s space take one attack each, Hit: 15 (2d8+6 piercing damage), or 11 (1d8+6) if at half hit-points or lower.

markus-neidel-rattenkonigRat King

A twisted little knot of seven rats, bound together by their knotted tail, a fierce and defiant intelligence radiating from their beady red eyes.

Small Beast, Unaligned
Armour Class 14
Hit Points 32 (7d6+7) When reduced to half their starting hit points, the Rat King dissolves and is replaced with three ordinary rats.Speed 20 ft
Str 5 (-3) Dex 14 (+2) Con 12 (+1) Int 5 (-3) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 7 (-2)
Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 11
Challenge 1 (200 xp)
Keen Smell: The Rat Swarm has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Telepathy: Rat Kings can communicate telepathically to any intelligent being within their line of sight without the need to share language. They can communicate with and observe other rats telepathically within a mile radius.
Intelligence: Rat Kings are about as intelligent as the moderately retarded. They have an IQ of 40-50, can understand language and perform tool-using and work tasks but struggle with more abstract or detailed thought.
Rat Control: The Rat King provides advantage to any and all rats within its line of sight during combat, including swarms. Rats and rat swarms are capable of (low level) human-intelligence actions and tool use when directed by the Rat King.
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft, Hit: 2 (1d6-3 piercing damage).
Psychic Attack: +3 1d10+1 damage, Wisdom Save vs DC 13 or stunned for one round. The Rat King can make one physical and one psychic attack each turn.

guillem-iborra-bosc3

Hunter’s Mimic

Your arrow sings through the air and flies true. The elk lows, arrow crimson with blood, jutting from its neck. It topples and you approach, knife in hand to cut the arrow free. Then it erupts, a mass of tentacles, teeth, hooks and guts. A gibbering horror of gnashing ribs and palpitating organs, lashing itself to you and pulling you into its jaws.

Medium Monstrosity (shapechanger), neutral
Armour Class 10
Hit Points: 58 (9d8+18)
Speed: 40 ft in disguise, 0 ft when ’emerged’.
Str 17 (+3), Dex 12 (+1), Con 15 (+2), Int 5 (-3), Wis 13 (+1), Cha 8 (-1)
Skills: Stealth +5
Damage Immunities: Piercing
Condition Immunities: Prone
Senses: Blindsense 60 ft, Passive Perception 11
Challenge 2 (450 xp)
Shapechanger: The Hunter’s Mimic can use its action to transform its appearance into that of a deer or similar prey animal, or can freely assume its monstrous form without using an action. It reverts to its monstrous form if it dies.
Clutching: The Hunter’s Mimic clings on to anything that touches it with myriad tendrils and rasping teeth. A Huge or smaller creature clutched by the Hunter’s Mimic is also grappled by it (escape DC 13). Ability checks to escape this grapple have disadvantage.
False Appearance: While Hunter’s Mimic retains its animal form it is indistinguishable from that animal.
Grappler: The Hunter’s Mimic has advantage on attack rolls against any creature it has grappled.
So Many Teeth: Melee weapon attack, +5 to hit, reach 10 ft, one target, Hit: 8 (1d10+3 piercing damage, plus 4 (1d8) slashing damage.

min-nguen-min-castle

Baseline Zombie

A shambling creature, raised by an unnatural plague to seek the flesh of the living.

Medium Undead, neutral
Armour Class 8
Hit Points 22 (3d8+9)
Speed 20 ft
Str 13 (+1), Dex 6 (-2), Con 16 (+3), Int 3 (-4), Wis 6 (-2), Cha 5 (-3)
Saving Throws: Wis +0
Damage Resistances: All damage types save those that specifically target undead.
Damage Immunities: Poison
Condition Immunities: Poisoned
Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 8
Languages: –
Challenge ¼ (50 xp)
Headshot: A player can aim for the head, incurring a -5 penalty to their attack roll, but the damage is not reduced by the zombie’s damage resistance.
Grab: Melee Weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target, hit 1 bludgeoning damage and grappled (escape DC 14).
Bite: Melee weapon attack on grappled target with advanntage, +3 to hit, reach – grappled target, hit 2d6+1 slashing damage and a chance of infection, Constitution save DC 13.

Zombie Plague

When someone is bitten by an infectious zombie they must make a DC 13 Constitution save or contract the disease. The DC increases by +1 for each individual bite they take during an encounter – so keep track. Each hour the infected individual must make a DC 13 Constitution save (unmodified) or suffer a level of Exhaustion, starting from level 1 as the disease takes hold. Each failure advances the Exhaustion level by 1, each success reduces it by one. If it is reduced to zero then the disease is shaken off. If it gets to 6 then the infected person dies, and rises in 2d12 turns as a new zombie. If a character severs their bitten limb, the DC is reduced to 10.

The following are templates you can add to the zombies in order to customise them. Each one applied raises the Challenge level one level (¼ becomes ½, ½ becomes 1, 1 becomes 2 and so on). Every two increases, raise the zombies hit dice by 1.

Fast Zombie

Move +10 ft
AC +1

Attacks +1 to hit

Rotten Zombie

The zombie gains the following effect:
Squishy Guts: Each time the zombie is struck, anyone within 5 ft of it must make a Dexterity Save against a DC of 13 or suffer 1d4 acid damage and a chance of infection equal to a bite.

Dry Zombie

Increase the Zombie’s hit dice by one and its AC by 2.

Fungal Zombie

The zombie is symbiotically intermingled with a fungus or mould, its fruiting bodies erupting from the rotting flesh. Choose a fungus and give the zombie one of its special effects (EG Shriek, from Shrieker fungus).

If you cannot choose a generically mouldy corpse gains 1 hit dice and a secondary poison attack from its bites and grapples. DC 13 from a bite, 10 from a grapple, or suffer the poisoned condition – though this will pass with an hour or so’s rest.

Skeletal Zombie

+5 ft Move
+2 AC
+1 Attack

Fat Zombie

+1 Hit Dice and +4 HP per Hit Die (instead of +3).

Reduce all incoming damage by 1, after applying damage resistance.

Intelligent Zombie

Increase the Zombies Intelligence by +1. It can now use simple weapons in a haphazard fashion, instead of grappling – if it so chooses. Also increase the Zombie’s perception rolls by +1 – including Passive Perception.

Virulent Zombie

Increase the DC of the Zombie’s plague by +4

Grimdark – Magic Items & Treasure

magdalena-radziej-waz2

In a low magic setting, actual magic items should be exceedingly rare and relatively powerful. Scrolls are going to be essentially non-existent. Potions are going to be rare and of very limited effect – almost as likely to be poison as they are to be anything else. When it comes to weapons and armour, about the best you can probably hope for is that you have something that has been blessed. There may, also, be dark gifts from the demonic realms – black iron daggers, talismans and so forth, but all fairly low key in effect. There may also be leftover pagan artefacts, such as the great Celtic legendary items (Spear of the Sun, Sword of the Moon, Cauldron of Plenty, Stone of the Earth) or things like elf-shot or swords like Excalibur. There may also be a very rare handful of genuine saintly artefacts, even a splinter from the ‘true cross’ which might have genuine supernatural power.

For the most part though, the majority of supposedly magical artefacts are going to turn out to be nonsense, their legends brought about by charlatans and exploited as a means to part pilgrims from their money or to encourage them to visit a particular Church or Cathedral…

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Grimdark – Personality & Backgrounds

tobias-rhein-pickpocket-by-tobias-rhein

A very welcome addition to D&D has been the inclusion of more rules that encourage roleplay and thought about where your character came from and why they do what they do. These are chiefly served by very loosely defined ideals, bonds and flaws. Mechanically you get awarded inspiration for playing to your character traits – even when it inconveniences you. Some bristle at these newfangled story mechanics, but for players who have a hard time putting themselves into another, fictional, person’s shoes the encouragement is helpful. The chits system for playing up your flaws is a big part of what made Deadlands work so well, and took a lot of the weight of book-keeping away from the Games Master.

Backgrounds are a bit more mechanically involved in 5th Edition D&D, with features, suggested characteristics, random tables (if you choose to use them) for personalities, ideals, bonds and flaws as well as skill proficiencies, languages and gear to go with your class choices.

This is all great stuff and easily customisable, you can add plenty to it and in many ways it can act as a sub-class or specialisation.

Nothing really needs to change there for a Grimdark setting, just added to, barbers, vivisectionists, gong-carriers, chapbook publishers, heretics and other backgrounds might need to be added, but by and large it’s all good. The background I envision for the setting I would use Grimdark rules though, there’s another aspect to your character’s background – their crimes…

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