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Tag Archives: Monsters

A Book of Creatures

I’m on a roll this week. First a new podcast, now a new blog to follow!

A Book of Creatures updates three times a week, each post providing you with a new creature taken from mythology. The entries include an illustration and size reference, a map showing where the creature comes from, a write-up, and references.

It reminds me a lot of the old Sandy Petersen’s Field Guide to Cthulhu Monsters and Creatures of the Dreamlands for Call of Cthulhu, and that’s good company to be in.

Do yourself a favor and add this one to your blog roll. I’m sure you’ll find something new to spring on your players. In fact, if I may make a suggestion.*

 

*Not a suggestion for you, Matt.

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Cool Stuff

 

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It’s Good to be Petty

My hardbound copy of Petty Gods has arrived!

And it is glorious.

Petty Gods is a collection of deities who are not your A-list beings. These aren’t your gods of Death or the Sun, instead you’ll find Glorfall the God of Academic Arguments, or Manguaca the Goddess of Alcoholic Stupor. But don’t discount these beings, because you never know when the blessings from such a deity will come in handy. I love this concept and it has a long tradition in history. Many societies are filled with minor divinities whose blessings are invoked to help in day-to-day life, and not just among polytheistic religions. I was raised as a Catholic and the church has a patron saint for just about everything.

This book is one of the real triumphs of the OSR movement. The idea began with James Maliszewski over on Grognardia and was later picked up and run with by Greg of Gorgonmilk fame. The concept was a professional quality sourcebook with content crowd-sourced by the OSR community and provided “at cost” to gamers. Every entry, every piece of artwork, donated by OSR fans and put together by Greg into a fantastic product as a way to give back to gaming.

The very concept is wonderful. The execution has been spectacular. The final product clocks in at 378 pages and is filled with high quality artwork, tons of deities, servitors, spells, and cults, and it’s all contained in a book worthy of sitting on the shelf next to anything put out by a major game company.

All done for the love of the game.

I’ve had a .pdf copy of the first, shorter release of Petty Gods for quite some time and it’s seen use at my table. These minor deities are just the thing to add flavor to your game, be it through shrines or when someone needs a colorful epitaph to shout. When I was looking for a deity for my cleric I reached for Petty Gods and found Rosartia, Goddess of Things Long Forgotten, whose cult tracks down magic items of great power and hides them until they are needed. She was the perfect choice for an adventuring cleric and has become a regular religion in my game world, even making the jump to becoming a secret society in my Stars Without Number game.

Petty Gods is a product that every gamer should get their hands on; it’s fun, it’s useful, it’s high quality, and it’s free or at cost. You can find it in several forms:

The original Petty Gods booklet is a free .pdf and its compact form is nice even if you also get the expanded version. You can download it here.

The Revised and Expanded .pdf can be downloaded from RPG Now. This is the full product with all the entries and artwork for free.

Lulu.com has the softcover and hardcover print copies, offered at cost. I own the hardcover version and you will not find a better deal.

And to Greg from Gorgonmilk and everyone who contributed and helped give this product to the community, thank you.

PettyGodsCover

 

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Books and Comics, Fantasy, Gaming

 

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More Naturalist Nightmares

Our local NPR station has a fun feature called “The 90 Second Naturalist“.

This is a short done by Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens and each day he shares some fascinating info about the natural world. It’s a ritual in our family to listen to it right before the kids go to bed. Two recent episodes set my gamer’s brain to twitching.

The first was about cone snails, two species of which, “have turned insulin into an underwater weapon.” Cone snails are predators who hunt fish for prey. These snails release a cloud of “weaponized” insulin which the fish suck up through their gills causing their energy to plummet and effectively paralyzing them. Unable to swim away they become an easy meal for the slow moving killers.

Let’s think about that a little more deeply; These species have turned a chemical we all need to survive into a weapon. It doesn’t knock the victim out, it doesn’t render them senseless, and it doesn’t dull their nerves. It saps the energy out of them so they can’t flee from the killer they can see moving inexorably closer to them. Slowly. To devour them. At a snail’s pace.

I do not share such thoughts with my children before bedtime.

The second story that caught my attention was about black widow spiders. It turns out that the black widow’s venom has evolved rapidly and is much stronger than necessary for eating insects. The black widow is capable of killing larger prey, such as small mammals and reptiles. Scientists think that this powerful venom is natures way of expanding the spiders’ menu.

If this news isn’t unsettling enough the episode goes on to say, “scientists have discovered that the spiders are even crafting stronger webs to handle ever-bigger prey.”

We have this image of Mother Nature as some kind, benevolent caretaker of the Earth when in reality she’s a cackling mad scientist, constantly developing new horrors to unleash into the world.

The 90 Second Naturalist airs every weekday on WVXU/WMUB and can be heard on the web at this link.

 

 

 

 
 

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Lovecraft Was Right!

I knew that ancient cephalopods were much larger than their modern decedents, but I had no idea they were this much larger!

Ia! Ia! Indeed!

I wonder if H.P. knew about these monsters? He was certainly well read enough for it to be possible.

ancient_cephalopodsSmall

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Cool Stuff, History

 

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Gaming Fodder From Snopes

I’ve been a fan of Snopes.com, the Urban Legends Reference Page, since they started in 1995. Thanks to them I’ve been able to allay many fears and rumors rolling around the internet. Occasionally I’ve been surprised to find out one of the stories cluttering my inbox happens to be true.

The last few days have turned up a couple new urban legends that caught the attention of my game master’s brain.

The first is something that reads like a player’s handout for Call of Cthulhu.

A team of archaeologists working for the Australian National University, who were proceeding to an excavation near the sandstone rock formation of Uluru, has unearthed the ruins of a large precolonial city dating back to more than 1500 years ago. The important number of tombs and artifacts already discovered on the site suggests that it could have been the capital of an ancient empire, completely unknown to historians until now.

Professor Walter Reese, in charge of the site, claims that the extent of the site and the superposition of various layers of constructions, suggests that it was occupied for 400 to 500 years, from approximately 470-80 AD, up until the 9th Century. He believes that the city could have held between 20000 and 30000 inhabitants, making it the most important center of civilization in the Southern Pacific at the time.

-Text from urban legend Ruin Nation

It turns out that this story comes from World News Daily Report, one in a long line of fake news sites trying to imitate The Onion. However any Lovecraft fan worth their salt recognizes this as a clue to the location of the lost library of the Great Race of Yith, as described in The Shadow out of Time. Sounds like it’s time to send in a Delta Green task force to deal with those pesky archaeologists before they release something truly unfortunate. Hopefully all the scientists are what they appear and that none of them are possessed by the Great Race, otherwise it could get complicated.

The second is related to my recent post on post-apocalyptic gaming. The urban legend claims:

SPIDERS HAVE BEEN RELEASED FROM A DNA LABORATORY LOCATED NEAR THE WOLF SANCTUARY ON ANTIRE RD !

Government testing on DNA has produced these spiders in a Laboratory in Missouri. Unfortunately they have been located off Lewis Rd just west of laboratory and seem to be breading in the wild much faster than when captive.

Government officials are doing all they can to try to eliminate these spiders but can offer no guarantees. They could be popping up in surrounding neighborhoods west of the siting (Eureka, Pacific, Union, and St. Clair) within weeks.

What we have in our favor is that winter is approaching and hope to slow down the migration no further than St. Clair before the cold hits.

If you see these stay indoors and call the local police. They have been informed on procedures of capture and contact of the local governing agency.

-Example text from urban legend Mutant Spiders in Missouri.

The story, with all it’s potential for adding to a Mutant Futures bestiary, is false. However the surprising thing is that the accompanying pictures are real.

We’re going to need a bigger shoe!

That’s not a photoshop job, it’s not a model, it’s not even forced perspective. Thankfully it’s also not an arachnid. These rather hefty bits of nightmare fuel are Coconut Crabs, the largest species of land-based arthropods in the world. They’re not aggressive, eat mostly fruits and nuts, and are closer relatives to the Horseshoe Crab than anything found in Tolkien’s Mirkwood Forest. Still, that shouldn’t hold you back from using this as a hook for your next Gamma World game.

It is comforting to know that these huge crabs aren’t really giant spiders. However they do remind me of something else, something not quite as non-threatening…

garthim

Garthim!

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Weirdness

 

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Baby Bestiary

The Infinite Machine Tumblr is one of my favorites for fantasy and science fiction artwork and one of the latest posts clued me in to a fun Kickstarter.

Andreas Walters is running the campaign to create The Baby Bestiary, a collection of artwork depicting various iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters in their infancy.

“Every beast has an infancy stage, why not add some kittens, cubs and hatchlings to your game with these adorable monsters.”

-The Baby Bestiary Kickstarter

Items available include the book, post cards, calendars, and .PDFs. Less than two days remain for the campaign but they’ve already hit almost three times their goal. Good for them. It looks like a fun project.

My personal favorite is the baby Gelatinous Cube.

They grow up so fast!

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Fantasy

 

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Flying Spiders

Say hello to my little friend:

This is of course a hoax that turned up courtesy of the ever wonderful Snopes, but don’t let that stop you from adding this little bit of nightmare fuel to your next campaign. Especially if you have an arachnophobe among your players.

Flying Spiders and Snow Snakes only scratch the surface of the game ideas you can find at Snopes.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Fantasy, Gaming, Horror

 

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Urban Legend or Monster Manual

I’ve been a fan of Snopes.com since the 90’s.

Run by Barbara and David Mikkelson, Snopes has been a bulwark of reason against the flood of urban legends that clog our in-boxes (and now Facebook walls). Snopes earned my eternal love back when I was an Email administrator, helping me debunk countless hoaxes, and I still refer to them regularly.

Recently a post came over their RSS feed that makes me wonder if a gamer decided to have some fun, because a viper whose bite will freeze your blood definitely needs to be in the Monster Manual.

“This is the deadly snow snake. It has bitten 3 people in the state of Ohio and one in Pennsylvania. It’s been spotted in other states. It comes out in the cold weather and at this time there is no cure for it’s bite. One bite and your blood starts to freeze. Scientist are trying to find a cure. Your body temperature start to fall once bitten. Please stay clear if you have see it. Please forward this and try to save as many people as we can from this deadly snow snake.”

You can read the entire entry here.

If you are running a conspiracy game you should definitely check out Snopes. They have collected a hoard of crazy ideas that would be right at home in a role playing game of high weirdness.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Monster Musings, Weirdness

 

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Dwarves of the Purple Wurm

The dwarf kingdoms are renown for their mastery of mining and delving into the deepest roots of the mountains.  So too are their warriors famous for their strength and audacity.  Perhaps none are more legendary for their fearlessness than the Knights of the Wurm.

Purple worms are among the most feared denizens of the underworld realms.  Adult specimens grow to frightening size, 50′ in length with maws large enough to swallow an armored knight whole.  These monsters burrow through the ground with frightening speed allowing for swift and terrifying attacks.  Their jaws are so strong that they gnaw through the hardest bedrock.  The beasts are further armed with a sharp stinger filled with a deadly venom, a weapon they can use on creatures who come at them from behind in their dark tunnels.  The rare cases of such monsters reaching the surface are the stuff of legends and adventurers who have survived such encounters have rightly earned their place in story and song.

Challenging a purple worm on the surface is foolhardy but seeking the worm out in its lair is suicidal.  Yet that is exactly what an order of dwarven knights do.  These warriors track the leviathans to their nests and, if they find young worms within, slay the adults.  Any dwarves who survive then capture the juvenile worms and take them back to the citadel of the order where the worms will be matched to a knight who will raise and train it.  The process takes close to a century, but dwarves are a patient, determined, and a long lived species.  The final result is a knight’s steed of horrifying power.

Through secret means the dwarves restrict the growth of the worms, holding them to roughly half the size of a normal full sized adult.  Worms that grow larger become uncontrollable, their skin too thick for the prods used to control and guide them and their appetite too voracious for the dwarves to assuage.

Finding a dwarf capable of being a worm rider is as rare as finding the worms themselves.  Such a candidate must possess a sense of direction and depth far beyond that of their kin in order to guide their mount through the ground. A Wurm Knight must be ever mindful that even a worm they’ve raised and ridden for decades has not been tamed, it has been subdued and can never be trusted.  Knights who forget this will meet a quick and gruesome end.

The Knights of the Wurm wear special armor, with a curved carapace-like shield rising up from their back and over their helmet.  This allows the dwarf to cling to the side of the worm as it burrows, sliding through the shattered stone cascading around them.  When dismounted this shield is ungainly and blocks the warrior’s peripheral vision, so they have fashioned a quick release to allow its speedy removal.

By necessity the Wurm Knights eschew the use of shields or two handed weapons.  Instead they use single-handed weapons that clamp onto their breastplates so that they will not be ripped away while riding the worms.  Many Wurm Knights fight with two weapons and train with throwing axes.

Wurm Knights generally ride alone, but when going to war they will be accompanied by as many as a dozen fellow riders.  These will be composed of two types of warriors.  Sergeants are warriors of the order trained to care for and ride with the worms, but who lack the sense of direction necessary to guide them.  Squires are candidates who have passed the tests of the Order and are training to become knights.

When a Knight of the Wurm becomes involved in the affairs of the surface dwellers they can change the course of wars.  A single Knight and his or her mount can undermine the walls of a city or kill the roots of an elven forest.  Even dragons have been put to route by a sudden assault from beneath the ground.

The Knights of the Wurm represent the mastery of the dwarf people over their underworld realms.  Dwarven adventures may spend much of their careers seeking to earn enough renown to be considered for their ranks.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Fantasy, Gaming, World Design

 

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Monster Musings – Whales, Gas Spores, and Beholders

Recently iO9.com posted a short story and video about an exploding whale.

No, not the famous Oregon exploding whale.

No, not the exploding whale of Taiwan.

This was a whale in the Faroe Islands that exploded due to a build up of gasses within its corpse, with the resulting explosion caught on film.  While not as dramatic as the Oregon whale, who was blown up with a ton of high explosives, the Faroe Island footage is much more goopey.  Warning, the link leads to a sceen that would make David Cronenberg proud.

Click Here For Whale Guts

Believe it or not, this got me to thinking about gaming.  Specifically, the creature known as the gas spore.

The gas spore first appeared in the Monster Manual for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition.  The creature is a fungus that looks just like a beholder.  The idea is that an unwary party encountering what appears to be a powerful monster will launch into a surprise attack, hoping to kill the beholder before it can destroy them.  But upon striking the gas spore, it explodes and covers the party with a choking cloud of fungus that will infect the characters and kill them within 24 hours, unless they can cure the infection.  New gas spores grow within the victims’ corpses and drift off into the dungeon, waiting for more hapless adventurers.

In other words, the gas spore is one of those creatures that lives in a Gygaxian world for the sole purpose of letting a DM screw with the players.  This is something I’m okay with.  Fantasy worlds and faerie tales are filled with creatures whose existence makes no logical sense.  I don’t understand why some gamers have a problem accepting the gas spore but have no problems with the beholder.  Still, humans are pattern-seeking primates and I am no exception, so I came up with a new relationship between these two creatures.

Beholders are powerful beings, but not immortal.  When a beholder dies due to age or sickness, its corpse undergoes a transformation.  It continues to float mindlessly through the dark underground places, rotting inside and building up pressure until it is ready to burst.  When an adventurer or monster strikes the corpse, it explodes and infects the attacker.

The mature gas spore is a beholder’s corpse.  The new gas spores born from the bodies of fallen adventurers are the larval forms of new beholders.  This forms a grotesque circle of life and death where dying characters become the birth place for all new horrors.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Monster Musings, World Design

 

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