Monday, 3 March 2014

Two-dollar monster challenge: Intro

In the early days of RPGs -- indeed, even before there were RPGs per se -- fantasy gamers struggled to find miniatures they could use in their games. There weren't really fantasy figure manufacturers like there are today. We knew that early fantasy wargames were set in Conan-type worlds that were full of human nations modelled on historical societies, the better to use collections of Greeks and Vikings and so on.

When it came to monsters, however, things got complicated. Gary Gygax described using Airfix Romans as orcs and making dragons out of plastic dinosaur toys. And once D&D was a going concern, coming up with new monsters meant getting very creative. Check out this excellent post on the origins of the bulette, the rust monster and the owlbear, which were made from dime-store "prehistoric animal" toys. 

Nowadays, of course, you can get bulettes, rust monsters and owlbears in a hundred places, where official D&D miniatures, loving old-school homages or very similar knockoffs. And that's great. Nothing wrong with having options. If the wargamers of that 60s-70s generation could see the variety available now, they'd go green with envy. And it isn't just miniatures -- even if you don't use a lot of figures in your games, chances are you've cussed out a rust monster at least once. 

And yet ... and yet ... 

There is a difference between making monsters from cheap toys you found at the drugstore and celebrating the monsters that other people made from cheap drugstore toys. Making stuff from junk is a grand tradition in the wargaming world, and ought to be encouraged everywhere. Therefore, I am holding a contest! With fabulous prizes to be won, although I haven't actually decided what they are yet. I will begin with an example, though. 

This crazy-ass-looking ape thing, seen here next to GHG mascot Torchy the Torchbearer, was found at Poundland and cost, well, a pound. I think we can all agree that it is amazing. If I put this on the table, my players would crap themselves. But what is it? Here's my example, roughly statted out for d20, which is what I use in my Wednesday night game.

Bonegarden Infestation

Developed by Imperial court wizards working hand-in-hand with the Night-black Cenacle, the Bonegarden infestation is an advanced form of the combat zoanthropy surgeries already used on many Imperial soldiers. It was intended to create a method of inducing rapid-onset mutation without the need for lengthy individual procedures. Unfortunately, an attempted raid by Immortal Buffalo Legion troops on the base where the Bonegarden organism was being developed led to its escape into the wild. Naturally, each general blames the other for the resulting problem.

When the Bonegarden infestation enters a living host, it carries out a series of more-or-less standard metamorphoses, promoting sudden growth of bone spikes or weapons and altering the host's brain to produce increased aggression and decreased sensitivity to pain. The infestation process takes 2d6 days + the victim's Con modifier. Adequate medical care or disease-affecting spells can stop the infestation, although the victim will take d8 damage, +1 per day the infestation has been developing.

Bonegarden Infestation is a template that can be added to any creature. It has the following effects:

  • Change the creature's type to Outsider. 
  • +2 AC as the infestation produces thick deposits of bone and scar tissue. 
  • +10 HP 
  • If the host did not already have natural weapons, it gains claws which do d6 damage. If it does have natural weapons, they do an additional +2 damage. 
  • The host organism gains the ability to Rage as a barbarian. 
  • On a successful grapple, the host may make a bite attack with its chest maw at +2. If it hits, the attack does d4 damage (plus appropriate modifiers) and the victim must make a Fortitude save, DC 18, or become the host for a Bonegarden infestation. 
  • Bonegarden-infested creatures gain Regeneration 3.
  • Creatures suffering a Bonegarden infestation become irritable and aggressive but peculiarly biddable. They suffer a -4 penalty on all Will saves as well as a -8 penalty on all skill checks related to social interaction and a -4 penalty on all Intelligence-based skills. 
  • Bonegarden infestation is invariably fatal after d10+2 months. 

Bonegarden-infested Dire Ape

Bonegarden infestation is particularly common among the dire apes of the Blue Isle where the Cenacle's research centre was based. However, because the infestation is so deadly, these creatures may soon be extinct.

Size/Type: Large Outsider
Hit Dice: 5d8+23 (45 HP)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 30, climb 15
AC: 17/11/15
Base Attack: +3, Grapple +13
Attack: Claw +8, d6+8
Full: 2 x claw +8,. d6+8, bite +3, d8+3 OR maw +5. d4+6 and special as above
Space/Reach: 10/10
Special: Rend 2d6+9
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, scent, Regeneration 3, others as above
Saves: Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +3
Feats: Alertness, Toughness
Organization: Solitary

OK, that's my example. Tomorrow, we ask for yours!


  1. I'll hit the town centre tomorrow and see what I can find!

    Instead of just statting up creatures ourselves, you COULD come up with a simple common rules set that assigns stats based on the appearance/obvious attributes of the creatures... though that might be taking it a bit far. How about several categories? Biggest, creepiest, best hair/horns...

    1. A universal system sounds like a task for a much less lazy man than I am. As for categories, that's a good idea! I will consult with the celebrity judges just as soon as I find some. (There will be judges. But not celebrities.)