On the Thursday Trick, Monster

A monster trick?

The precedent was set for this from the original little booklets. From the introduction of monsters that can petrify by touch, or within 6", to Jellies, Molds, Slimes and Puddings, trick monsters have been a fundamental part of Dungeons and Dragons. They either create a dungeon hazard or something that adds a dynamic feature to a battlefield. I was in middle school the last time someone left green slime alone instead of trying to collect it to throw or befuddle some monster into walking into it.

Gary doubles down on the idea of the monster trick, in his archetypical trap list at the back of Volume 1, Greyhawk.

A small selection of that list is reproduced here:
Animals which appear to be perfectly harmless but are deadly:
Oxen which are cross-bred with Gorgons. small lizards which are able to breath fire, creatures which grow to huge size if approached too closely, or animals which turn to some horrid monster if touched are typical examples.
A giant with faces or multiple heads which can never be surprised, and with four additional eyes is able to see invisible and hidden objects and co-ordinate no less than two attacks per melee round.
Giants known as "Rock Giants" which so closely resemble stone that they can be detected seldom (1 in 12 is a good percentage).
Fire-resistant mummies. Many players will get used to frying these monsters with oil. but watch the fun when they run into one of these critters!
Skeletons who are able to hurl their finger joints as if they were magic arrows.
Monsters which are in endless supply due to a magical point of origin. "Greyhawk" had a fountain on its second level which issued endless numbers of snakes.
Containers which are filled with a gas or liquid which turns into a monster if the gas or liquid is dispensed.
. . .
Of a similar nature are monsters which appear to be something other than they actually
are such as:
An Ogre Jelly monster which appears to be a mere Ogre, but. . .
A Snake which is actually Grey Oooze.
A Giant Spider-like Black Pudding.
A Symbiotic Dragon which spits Ochre Jelly, Black Pudding, etc.
A seeming Golden Dragon which is actually mobile Yellow mold.
So from the very beginnings of the game, there were monsters which were monsters—you could hit them with swords, or talk with them or bargain with them. And there were monsters that were tricks. Creatures that had a specific vulnerability removed as given above. Mimics, molds, dopplegangers, and more. It didn't just stop at the official materials. Many "unofficial" monsters were designed as trick monsters, such as the slinger. It's not just something you fight, it's a puzzle to solve. Entire rooms or sections of hallway might be devoted to a creature, truly making it a trick encounter. Frequently "Boss" encounters in modern adventure paths often contain similar amounts of creativity: A white dragon in their lair isn't just a straightforward fight.

It seems likely from what we can tell that monsters rolled for encounters were likely monsters of various factions and any standard listed encounter was probably with a trick monster. The spacious nature of the dungeon turning it the game into one long strategic encounter.

That said, here's a broad overview of some of the many types of trick monsters you could have:

  • Weapons don't work. Sometimes it requires magical weapons, but some monsters may be immune to attack completely
  • Spell immunity or affected only by certain specific spells (such as a golem)
  • One type of monster that looks like another (gas spore, the other examples above)
  • A monster with a specific weakness that for some reason doesn't have that weakness (fire-resistant mummies as above, or a half-dragon troll)
  • Monsters which have only a certain critical weak points they can be hit (with varying armor classes).
  • Monsters that are working in tandem and have developed specific tactics by either working with each other or the enviornment
  • Monsters that look like items or other harmless things. (This category is huge: mimics, lurkers, cloakers, etc.)
  • Monsters that don't do damage, but otherwise inhibit or affect the party (e.g. rust monsters, disenchanters, aurumvoraxes that eat gold). These are especially motivating if they take things from the players and flee. This doesn't necessarily have to be about things either. Monster could cause the party to rage or become insane, et. al.
  • Monsters that punish players for engaging in traditional combat (petrification and level drain monsters)
  • Monsters that debilitate players or remove or negate some of their effectiveness when engaged (Anti-magic cone of a beholder, confusion gaze of an umber hulk)
  • Monsters, that by their nature, appear non-monstrous (e.g. items floating in a hallway are actually a gelatinous cube, crawling claws and undead both seem like non-living dead bodies).
  • Monsters that have non-standard abilities: Spellcasting, mutations, breath weapons, etc.
  • Monsters which cannot be killed (more akin to hazards) or stopped (such as generators) or monsters that can only be killed by affecting their environment (a lich's phylactery for example)
  • Unkillable monsters that come back to life once slain, or once killed, metamorphize into a new form
  • "Monsters" that are features or traps that can be killed (disabled), i.e. living wall
  • Monsters that are parasites (rot grubs, assassin flies)
  • Monsters that use magical items or other equipment

Further sources that contain more specific examples include the Tome of Adventure Design and the 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide, both of which contain many examples of ways to modify and use monsters as tricks. A perusal of this list may note that this seems to be an entire category of creatures all to itself, perhaps truly deserving of the name "monster".

Hack & Slash 

On an Evil Night

Croonstreet
What day is it?

Well, most of the time, it doesn't matter, even if you keep a calendar. That makes it very easy to make tonight (or any night soon) an evil night in your game. This is just like adding a holiday or festival except instead of never doing it because it adds work, you can easily do it because it adds adventure.

Every so often, the town knows an evil night occurs. What happens on this evil night?


  1. Every object inside every house animates and seeks to punish or protect those who have cared or abused them. The only place to stay is in a blessed dwelling, that remains uninhabited for the rest of the year.
  2. Ghosts of ancestors return and traverse the streets, wailing the deeds of the living and begging to hold them accountable. They cannot enter houses, unless some enormity large enough has driven them into a frenzy. Many who listen on that night will hear things they wish they could unhear.
  3. Beastboon. Everyone is taken over by their inner animal nature and transform into half-man half-animals. They spend the night fucking, fighting, and feasting. Not all survive.
  4. The goblin council. This night, each goblin becomes 10, each xvart 100, all of the same mind. A peace takes over their minds and they visit human communities united. Hordes and thongs of them. They cannot damage property, but woe unto anyone who discovers that they are outside. For they have little interest in quickly killing their prey
  5. Gates to hell quietly open at night fall and devils party in the street. Braver people leave their homes. Some may survive with their souls intact, though few do.
  6. A fog comes over each person at nightfall as the realm of dream crosses over with reality for but a night. Each person lives their own waking nightmare or fantasy for the night. Few awake the next day unchanged.
  7. Beastrise. Each animal, bird, and reptile in the village grows into a humanoid shape the size of an ogre. Many take what they wish and redress grievances during this time. Others, loyal to kind masters prevent them from any wrongdoing. 
  8. Bells toll at dusk, and everyone splits into two halves, one containing a certain set of skills and the other containing the rest. What happens between people this night is beyond the rule of law.
  9. At night, all the people in the town fall into furious torrid lovemaking until dawn. Few of them desire it (though there are always some that don't mind), but it's forced upon them due to a curse from a nearby wizard in a tower who seeks more female concubines for his harem.
  10. A god descends from heaven. Which one is always unclear. Some may choose to petition her, but the gods are fickle and prone to violence. 


Hack & Slash 

On the Lich Lord: Bentreign The Undying

Lords of undeath, I perused as a child. The adventure was silly, full of railroads, and bizarre siege-level combats.

But the interesting thing to me was the portraits of the five lich lords that ruled the undead island. In that spirit, for immediate use at least in a walk on cameo in your game, I present:

Bentreign the Undying

Notes:
  • He is a male tiefling lich sorcerer
  • Tends to speak in meter or rhyme, unintentionally
  • An avid gambler and game player
  • Prone to fits of rage
  • Fluent in over 10 languages.
  • Loyal and obsessed with respect
  • Sadistic, suspicious, and paranoid
Phylactery: His is a small diamond coin, enameled in gold, and hidden among his hoard. 

By C. Campbell
Not blurry at full size
Description:
Damakos Bentreign is tall and thin, with a narrow triangular hairless face. He has two long tall thin horns that grow from his head, the left one broken.

He wears fashionable robes, in the modern style, and his hands and arms are so thin, the bone shows through in places. Otherwise, in a dim room, he could pass for a living being.

Domicile:
Damakos Bentreign lives in the last full standing tower in the Fortress of Runes, south of the grey forest, ostensibly named for the color of the dominate fungus in the area.

History:
Damakos Bentreign was cursed from birth.

His father an Incubus, his mother brutally scarred and cast out of his village, he grew up surviving in the wilds and learning what little hedge magic he knew from his mother.

Soon afterward, she was murdered in front of him by a gang of bandits. They took him captive.

He lived with them for years, hating and needing their protection. It was during this time he lost four of the fingers on his left hand, cut off for the pleasure of some minor bandit that Damakos later slew, as punishment for "cheating" during a game. (Cheating in this case meaning, being a better player).

He had little empathy for other people after that childhood.

His demonic heritage gave him surprising power over magical energy, and he spent a time travelling from place to place, seeking out wizards. Sometimes learning from them. More often killing them and stealing their secrets. During this period, he fathered a child with the sorceress Lirill. He does not know the whereabouts of his illegitimate son.

Eventually, realizing that while he lived, what he had could be taken from him, he found and bargained with the ancient Dracolich, Naruzaek for the secret of eternal undeath, in exchange for a future un-named favor. Now immortal, Damakos has had too long to consider the dracoliches power of augury, and spends most of his energy trying to discover what task the old evil will ask of him.

He still speaks to his father on occasion.

Hooks: 
  • Promises great treasure to those who would slay an ancient evil (actually a Dracolich) for him.
  • His illegitimate son or mother is asking for help to seek him out.
  • The grizzled old bandit captain has a final score to settle with him: he wants to finish their last game of backgammon to see who's really better. 
  • His Incubus father has not heard from him, and wants the party to check on him.
  • In addition to the standard, ancient hoard/evil plagues the land, etc.
Some final parting words. I've noticed the tendency myself to try to "save" the good stuff for later, but really, every game should be your most interesting game. It's not like there's a shortage of resources. Use whatever excites you in your game tonight, and it will last longer.

Hack & Slash 

On a 5e Class, Blood Warlock

Otherworldly Patrons

The beings that serve as patrons for warlocks are mighty inhabitants of other planes of existence—not gods, but almost godlike in their power. Various patrons give their warlocks access to different powers and invocations, and expect significant favors in return.
Some patrons collect warlocks, doling out mystic knowledge relatively freely or boasting of their ability to bind mortals to their will. Other patrons bestow their power only grudgingly, and might make a pact with only one warlock. Warlocks who serve the same patron might view each other as allies, siblings, or rivals.

The Blood God
Your patron is a lord of blood and life, a creature of primal power who holds the very secrets to mastery of all living things. Their motivations are powerful, demanding ever more and more blood and power from their warlocks. Beings of this sort include blood gods, gods of fertility and life, ancient stellar creatures of great energy and power, and hellish fiends.

Expanded Spell List
The blood god lets you choose from an expanded list of spells when you learn a warlock spell. The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.
Blood god Expanded Spells
Spell Level Spells

LevelSpells
1stFalse Life, Ray of Sickness
2ndDetect Thoughts, Ray of Enfeeblement
3rdFeign Death, Nondetection
4thLocate Creature, Phantasmal Killer
5thModify Memory, Scrying

Power of the Blood
Starting at 1st level, your patron bestows upon you the ability to empower your eldritch blast. When you cast the eldritch blast cantrip, you may cut yourself causing blood to flow and doing 1d6 points of damage to yourself. However much damage you do to yourself is doubled and added to the damage of each eldritch blast. i.e. a 5th level Warlock cuts themselves for 4 damage and both eldritch blasts they fire do 1d10+8 damage. You take another 1d6 points of damage after the spell is cast as the wound continues to bleed. This does not increase the damage of the cantrip.

Mastery of the Blood
Starting at 6th level, you can use your blood to empower your spells. Each time you cast a spell, instead of it being cast at your level, you have the option to cut yourself, causing blood to flow and doing 1d6 points of damage to yourself. However much damage you do to yourself increases the spells effective caster level by this amount. i.e. a 6th level Warlock casting Vampiric Touch normally casts it as a 6th level spell, doing 6d6 necrotic damage. The Warlock cuts themselves for 3 damage and instead casts the spell as a 9th level caster, doing 9d6 damage. You take another 2d6 points of damage after the spell is cast as the wound continues to bleed. This does not increase the damage of the spell.

Pact of flesh
Beginning at 10th level, your patron teaches you how to use your own blood and skin in order to master arcane power. You can engage in ritual scarification of no less than 60% of your body. Doing so, grants you an additional spell slot. The scarification is permanent.

Pact of Sacrifice
Starting at 14th level, you can now use the blood of other creatures in order to power your spells. You must have access to a helpless or willing creature. This only affects living creatures with blood. You attack them with a sacrificial knife, scoring an automatic critical. In addition, using their blood to power the spell does an additional 3d6 damage to them, on top of the critical damage. For animals and other non-humanoid, non-sentient creatures, Power of the blood increases the damage by 1d4 doubled per bolt, and mastery of the blood increases the spell level by 1d4. For humanoids and other sentient creatures, power of the blood increases the damage by 1d6 doubled per bolt, and mastery of the blood increases the spell level by 1d6. For innocents or creatures of particularly powerful energy or blood (virgins, unicorns, children) power of the blood increases the damage by 1d10 doubled per bolt, and mastery of the blood increases the spell level by 1d10. A creature cannot provide a bonus higher than its hit point total.

Hack & Slash 

On Early Tropes, Charm Person

Charm person isn't what it used to be.

In the earliest games, charm person gave the magic user a slave. Fighters, ogres and mages were charmed and sent forward into traps and dangerous situations.

From the Original Dungeons & Dragons text:
Charm Person: This spell applies to all two-legged, generally mammalian figures near to or less than man-size, excluding all monsters in the "Undead" class but including Sprites, Pixies, Nixies, Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins and Gnolls. If the spell is successful it will cause the charmed entity to come completely under the influence of the Magic-User until such time as the "charm" is dispelled (Dispell Magic). Range: 12".- [Vol-1, p. 23]
"Completely under the influence of the magic user" with no hit die limit.  Quite powerful indeed. But is this how the spell was used?

"Mordenkainen was my first magic-user PC, as a matter of fact. In a fairly early stage of his adventuring career, Mordenkainen encountered a NPC in a dungeon, used Charm Person, and thus gained an apprentice. Bigby was then only 3rd level. After having him as a flunky for a fair number of adventures, I started playing Bigby as my PC." -Gary Gygax
From Gary's Recollections on ENworld:

Incidentally, I remember reading somewhere that the lone surviving PC from a party was captured by the kobolds(I think) and asked to be taken to the leader. The PC was a mage and had one spell left which happened to be charm person. Upon meeting the leader, he cast the spell, and the kobold leader failed his save miserably. It sounded like the PC befriended the head kobold and started calling the shots after that. What's the current status of that situation?
-Jamie
That is essentially correct. A female magic-user made common cause with the goblin chief after successfully charming him, assisted in arming and equipping the goblin forces, but when more PC parties began to riad the place I determined that she took what was available and beat it. No sense in risking one's life on behalf of goblins for no more than a heap of silver.-Gary Gygax
More from Power Score on Castle Greyhawk:
Charming NPCs in the dungeon to use as henchmen seems to be a pretty common tactic in the dungeon. The heroes were attacked by three fighters in plate mail. They charmed one and were quite pleased to learn he was 5th level, possibly higher level than the PCs themselves. Remember some evil wizards may try to do the same to the heroes. -Power Score
Over at Blog of Holding, Paul talks about Charm Person in a game with Mike Monard.

First of all, Charm Person is a pretty cool spell, as it unlocks a new sort of pokémon-collecting henchmen acquisition system at level 1. You might not get a castle and followers until level 10 or so, but you can, like Mike's level 1 magic-user Lessnard in Gygax's game, pick up a fifth-level fighting man as a bodyguard if he happens to fail his saving throw. In OD&D, Charm Person can be long-lasting or permanent, but Mike emphasized that it didn't do more than the name implied: it made someone your buddy, not your slave. If you didn't treat your new friend fairly, they might not be your willing ally forever.
I mention this because, when we encountered four bandits who tried to shake us down for 100 GP each, our wizard cast Charm Person on their lieutenant. Suddenly the lieutenant was all affability: he consulted with his men and they agreed to take us to "meet the boss." "But aren't we supposed to lead them into an ambush?" asked the dumbest of the bandits.
- Blog of Holding
And of course, endless arguments about what charm person should really be capable of have raged across magazine forums and the internet since the spells inceptions. But it seems pretty clear from the origins of use, that it turns an enemy into a party member. See some erudite discussion here at Knights and Knaves, or over here at Delta's D&D blog.


Hack & Slash 

On Towns, Sowton Port

Sowton port is a village of 216 people far past its prime. Once a larger port city, changing conditions and political pressures have relegated it to a small secondary port. It is known for it's many fountains, now fallen into disrepair, and brickwork that is tinted and stained yellow due to sulfuic impurities in the clay. There is a consistent odor of rotten eggs that hangs over the city, but after a few hours in town, you quickly become accustomed to it. 

Sowton Port

Description

A sleepy Chaotic Neutral port village, filled with decayed fountains and broken yellow brick.

"Ex Aqua Veritas" - In water, truth

Demographics


Government: The government is effectively a Syndicracy, run by a guild of smugglers. There is little menace in their rule, they have as much interest in keeping the peace as anyone would. No exorbitant fees are charged standard merchants and the docks are safe. However, shipments of illegal goods and highly dubious practices are performed without concern for the law.

Population: The population is primarily human, mostly single men between 20-40. There is a substantial (~20%) proportion of non-humans, primarly elves, half-elves, and lizard men.

Languages Spoken: Human regional dialect, Ophidian, Elven, Common

Local Religions: Enoasor is venerated. He is portrayed as a short elderly man who is a patron of music. His outfit often encompases musical note designs. He is also known to steal and exact vengeance secretly. His worshipers often shave the sides and back of their heads

Noteable NPC's: Ichabob Barney is the town leader. He holds no office, but is recognized as the person to get things done. He is missing an eye, and his voice often goes out. He views himself as very honorable.
Jon Rundig runs the local record house, which acts as the official leadership for the town. His hair is styled into a pompadour and he has a large beard. He is one of the few married people in town, his husband Lake is the owner of the hook and pole, a local general store.

Districts.


Shops: The Hook and Pole, a general goods store run by Lake Rundig.
Swamp Leathers, a clothing store specializing in leather goods, run by Aelfar, a half-elf with a goatee who is crisp and taciturn.

Inns: The Bailiff's Arms, Usually has good pork and ale available. Owned by a lizard-man named Lithid, but run by a bald skinny human named Ralpon Wund. It offers to "common rooms" upstairs at the price of 4 copper, to sleep among however many people stay.

Features:There are over 40 fountains in town, in various state of disrepair, including a half-dozen that extend out over the water. They are made from granite and marble and most are coated in heavy algae.
Constricted Pillars are 4 15-18 foot pillars that stand near the center of town. They are frequently used to post messages, as well as dares among any youth to climb. The view of the top grants vision out to a distance of 6 miles.
There is a belltower (Green Belltower) that has a quite spacious ground floor that is used for meetings and other official functions.

Men for Hire:Shalin Dade, a half-elf who has his sights set on greater riches. He's quite agile (rogue 1) and fancies being an acrobat. He has poor mastery of the bow.
Philum Wendt is a dirty man, with dirty pockets (Normal Human), he carries a knife, a jewel worth 30 gp, and has two very obedient pet ferrets.
Oriana Yun is a half-elf huntress. She dislikes people, being taciturn in her manner, but mildly autistic in her relations with people. She is very attractive (Cha 17) but is usually covered in mud and dirt and doesn't like to smile.
Saul, A rogue with a wide grin.
Aol, an old blind man who's looking for somewhere more pleasant to die.

Resources: Animals (Leather bearing) Coastland, Fishing, Medicinal plants

Diversions


Obstacles: Smugglers, Thieves.

Adventure Seeds and Local News: Recently, the local lord has sent troops into town to arrest Bili Rogvald, under suspicion of illegal activity. Various factions would like to make sure he doesn't talk, free him from prison, or find out what he was arrested for.
The party hears a rumor that swamp leathers have been selling human skin. Is it true?
Ichabob has heard about the adventures of the party and invites them to a dinner party at the Green Belltower. He wants to offer them a job. Is it a setup, or is the job legitimate?

Names: Naiara, Ion, Jaabir, Kanika, Samihah, Ballentun

Hack & Slash 

On a Useful Review of Wonder and Wickedness

Wonder and Wickedness 
A review:


  • Look at that cover! It's sweet!
  • Holy crap! Is there new art by Russ Nicholson in here!?
  • Like the whole thing is illustrated by him. 
  • What is this? Spells? Levelless spells?
  • Demons crawling out of eggs?
  • No, wait. 56 Leveless spells. 
  • Six schools: 
    • Diabolism
    • Elementalism
    • Necromancy
    • Psychomancy
    • Spiritualism
    • Translocation
    • Vivamancy
  • Yep, leveless spells. All spells are appropriate for beginning casters and scale in power with caster level. From the introduction "The most common method of presenting spells within a fantasy RPG is a ranking by level. . . However, this is not the only reasonable approach, and the notion of no hierarchy of spells is the foundation of this supplement."
  • Is this sweet? Yes, this is sweet, because holy moly do the spells feel magical!
  • Here's an example, Chariot of Air
    • A tumult of air elementals, prismatic and cacophonous, bears the sorcerer aloft and in any direction desired. Buffeted this way and that, no subtle action may be taken or communication attempted over the roar and incoherent babbling of the winds. Despite the many voices they have stolen, these creatures communicate by caresses and only madly wail in confusion if not in contact with the sorcerer.
  • I hear a cacophony of people complaining about balance. Pshaw. This is clearly a Original Dungeons and Dragons or Basic/Expert style wizard, where they remain useful after their powers are expended because your sole utility isn't tied into your class abilities. That said, playing one of these wizards seems really cool! You can turn your spell into maleficence in order to do damage, or cast it. You can only prepare 1 spell per caster level. 
  • Take Necromancy for example. There's the standard Death Ray and Lich-Craft (raise undead), but there's also Occult Consultation, where the sorcerer digs a square pit, fills it with wine, herbs, and a sacrifice to summon a throng of ghosts that you can question. You can summon a specific ghost with a true name or treasured possession, and if you wish, when the spell ends, you can follow the ghosts into the land of the dead, with no guarantee of return!
  • The back half of the book is dedicated to the terrible things that can go wrong. When do they go wrong? When sorcerers try to reach too far. Are you a non-sorcerer casting one of these spells? Are you out of spells and trying to cast another one? Are you dead? 84 catastrophes are there to add an interesting twist when something goes wrong. 
  • There's also a unique selection of 50 magic items. Like the orc mace, that turns people into orcs, or the shadow loom which weaves sorcerous garments. 
I have mine in print, because I like to use it as a version of hermetic magic in games I run. These are the types of spells on scrolls and the ones rogues can cast. It's 84 pages of creativity, art, and magical magic. I love mine. This is that level of Do It Yourself awesomeness that all too often gets overlooked in the shuffle. 



Hack & Slash 



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