Sunday, February 23, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Cave Locust (d100)

Circling back to plug one a few holes that have cropped up in the list: Here’s a d100 Encounter Activity table for a frequent-flier dungeon pest of mine: The lowly and skittish Cave Locust. Startling many a party with a sudden clumsy leap from concealment, I always envision them as somewhat resembling the creepy little Mole Crickets I would occasionally see as a child.

If you need some assistance describing the smell their stinking spittle: I have a table for that 😊. Some of the “Ugly” smells from my Three Hundred Smells & Scents might manage to wrinkle a few noses.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Dervish (d100)

Here’s a Monster entry that hasn’t aged too well. It really shines a steady light on the whole “armchair history buff” roots of the hobby. Dervishes are quite obviously based on an over-simplification/misunderstanding of real-world counterparts, and when these kinds of clumsy stand-ins are used in this way, the reductive treatment has a high likelihood of only ending up troubling and insensitive. This is a true shame, because Lawful opponents can be a refreshing change of pace over more monolithic “Evil” and the pervasiveness of Chaotic foes.

I suppose if you need zealous Holy Warriors, then this entry can fit the bill. Curiously, you could simply substitute the more occidentally-inclined appellation “Crusader” here should your setting need something similar and run them without any modification. Stereotypes and tropes, sides of the same XP coin and all that.

The primary situation that encounters with Dervishes seem designed to scrutinize is the implication is that not all Lawful alignments are the same. World-building-wise the undertone is that there are factions/cultures that exist in the world that may have a different interpretation of Lawful behavior from the characters.

A run-in with Dervishes as written tries to facilitate exploring these differences through exaggeration and over-simplification. This is something the Good/Evil axis in later games seeks to unscramble but usually ends up muddling by only creating even more boilerplate behaviors. I do find it curious that the intended interaction seems to only really be possible thanks to the much-maligned Alignment Languages (I absolutely adore them…anything that puts words in the mouths of Monsters is awesome in my book, but that’s really something better saved for a future post).

Moral quandaries can be fun to pose to some players at some tables, but I don’t think they are as satisfying when they end up being as one-dimensional as these. But my goal remains to do a table for each Monster entry, distasteful warts and all:

Friday, February 21, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Cyclops (d100)

Poor Polyphemus! I always felt a little bad for that blinded bloke. It does seem that most Monster Manual entries for the Cyclops can trace its origins to this mythological counterpart. For this table I’ve included entries that highlight the viniculture and sheep-herding tidbits in the description.

Statistics-wise they seem to make for fairly challenging foes, but the Slow-witted caveat seems ripe for exploitation by players, and with all that Treasure sitting around, they seem like a pretty solid way for clever players to swindle some not inconsiderable XP. I’d just be more than a little concerned about those 5% that can Curse.

As with the Caecillia, I’ve nested another little treat in this table: The first twenty, italicized entries can also serve as a handy-dandy-bespoke-curse generator if you find the standard penalties/effects a little lacking or less flavorful. Just as with Potions and Magic Swords, a simple bonus or minus is seldom as satisfying for me. A table with one-hundred custom-tailored Curses is definitely something to put on the pile for later 😊.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Pudding, Oooze, Slime, Jelly, Mould (5d20)

Puddings, Oozes, and Slimes, oh my!

I had a ton of fun helping Alex with creating some tables for his excellent Hex Describe for procedurally generating these types of critters. Here’s some sample output of what the random generator comes up with:

To try it yourself, click here or go to the Hex Describe (no map), place [slimes] as many times as you’d like in the top box on separate lines and hit Submit. To demonstrate just how amazing this tool is, I heartily recommend checking out what it is capable of producing on-the-fly for random dungeons. I look forward to adding more content to this tool again soon, and some of it might even come from these tables (the Hex Describe syntax can easily exponentially expand one of my standard d100 tables by randomizing within the random results)!

But back to our blobs… While Black Puddings and Ochre Jellies could be considered combat-leaning encounters, I generally see the others as more akin to Traps or Hazards. Maybe it’s their slow movements/near sessility, their concealed natures/deceptive appearances, or the need for the right “tool” to overcome any resistances. I think the key to creating an at least semi-rewarding encounter with these is being generous with clues to their presence. Often the absence of other monsters in an area is a pretty good give-away: the local dungeon denizens, save maybe some Undead, will often give them a pretty wide berth. A dungeon colonized by these gooey boarders is bound to be a lot more clean and barren (the corrosion of wood, cloth, and/or metal…not to mention the side-effect “sweeping motion” of ravenous and indiscriminate amorphous glops sliding about in search of prey), with few intact furnishings and doors depending on how long they’ve been about. Over centuries, a sufficiently fed ooze could polish and shine the flagstones of a dungeon to a shimmering sparkle.

I was able to fit five on a single page (this might change once I wrangle the document into spreads), and I’ve given each a score of activities to consider below:

I couldn't quite squeeze the Gelatinous Cube in here, but I think I’d like to dedicate a larger table to them anyway. I believe that this puts us at thirty completed tables!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Crocodiles (3d30)

When I’m populating Random Encounter Tables for Swamps, Bayous and Marshes, Alligators and Crocodiles definitely receive pride of place on the lists. Both as moody set-dressing and for their satisfyingly sudden, snapping strikes.

There’s just something about their eerie, antediluvian gaze staring with slitted pupils among the vibrant green duckweed or fragrant lotus blossoms, barely above the waterline. As apex ambush predators and consummate survivors, an unprepared Adventuring Party wading through their world has the odds stacked against them.

I almost inextricably associate them with Swamps, but of course they could show up in Savannas, at Sea, or even basking on Desert Deltas (this might require a little jury-rigging of the tables below, Swamps are only second to Forests in my favored terrains). While I was studying the stats, I rediscovered just how terrifyingly formidable Giant Crocodiles are! They give even the game's namesake (Dragons) a run for their money HD-wise, and all for a Treasure Type of “None” to boot!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Cockatrice (d100)

Another flying foe, Cockatrices overlap a bit with the baleful Basilisk, but are a little less fearsome. Fortunately for clever Players, it takes physical contact (not just a glance or gout of foul miasmic breath) for their petrification power to trigger a saving throw. The OSE illustration is absolutely marvelous for this Monster.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of dealing with Roosters, you might have an idea at just how territorial and cantankerous they can be. Their dinosaur ancestry is terribly apparent and if you were to amplify that with some serious threat-eliminating power like petrification, I imagine you would get a pretty cocky critter.

I’m partial to a “slowly turning to stone” type of petrification for Cockatrices. I relish the idea of spidery calcification radiating slowly from the point of injury in crumbling, chalky seams. Gradually stiffening cemented joints, and eventually belaboring breathing by encasing the lungs. Timers really ratchet up tension.

Perhaps the poor pecked PC has a number of rounds of leaden action equal to the margin at which they missed their throw, or maybe even equal to an Ability Score (you could use Strength or Constitution for this, but I prefer to use Charisma for this as an ersatz “force of personality in the face of reality” as a high score here is often under-rewarded).

This slight delay might give them a little more time to come up with a cure, help slay the beast, or at least strike a suitably heroic (or more easily portaged) pose. I’d be happy to watch them waste additional resources to slow or stave it off further (maybe a Cleric’s Cure spell can grant 1d6+1 additional rounds).

Another option I quite like is adapted from Emmy Allen’s utterly superb product The Gardens of Ynn (reviewed here). From the entry for her take on the Basilisk: On each failed save, the Character loses 1d12 points of Dexterity. This loss represents petrification; the more lost, the more of the victim’s body is turned to stone, until they become a statue at 0 DEX. This has the added feature of modelling the sluggishness by making them easier to hit as they shed any AC bonuses and gradually gain maluses.

You could make any loss above 0 temporary, perhaps crumbling off like dusty, dried mud over a weeks’ time. Or the DEX loss could be stone-cold permanent, giving veteran Cockatrice hunters tell-tale limps and stiffened gaits. It all depends on your table and tastes. I do enjoy the notion that eating the gizzard of a Cockatrice might restore some of the Dexterity lost in this way by a random amount.

Monday, February 17, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Chimera (d100)

Those horrid Chimeras! I always must fight the urge to pronounce them is “Chim-uh-ra” instead of the correct “Ky-mer-a.” There ought to be a word for words you only learned from reading in books and persistently mispronounce. Bonus points if it’s misleadingly spelled.

Give a little thought to how these merged monstrosities came about. Are they Magical Experiments gone wrong but breeding true? Is their genesis simply a curse laid on mankind by the Gods? Perhaps they are heraldry inadvertently animated by magic? Or maybe they’re the product of Titans attempting to build the perfect animal: one with the Perseverance of the Goat, the Majesty of the Lion and the Cunning of the Dragon, but instead they got Stubbornness, Ferocity, and Miserliness for their trouble? Are the real origins of these dreadful beasts something else entirely?

Also, I like to mix them up a bit: replacing the Goat with a Ram or Oryx, tinkering with a Tiger or substituting a Smilodon head instead, and I have been known to dabble with Dragons of different colors (and breath weapons) occasionally. The “center” head is usually the one in charge and reflects the primary personality, and if it just so happens to be the Dragon one, I give them a chance for speech and spells (foes with the gift of gab are always more fun for me). Never shy away from surprising Veteran players with remixes of your own devising.

Here are a hundred dastardly doings for these foul amalgamations:

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