Friday, April 3, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Spider, Giant

With this entry, we reach a few milestones! We’re over halfway through the Monsters in OSE (seventy down, sixty-eight more to go)! Also, here we have our first “pun monster.”

Giant Spiders make great dungeons denizens. Their webbing makes for delightful decoration, and they’re a dead-simple way to slightly squick out most people due to their alien nature (too many eyes, too many legs, inscrutable goals, etc).

As I’ve admonished before, should you find yourself playing with someone who is genuinely terrified of them, they can easily be edited out and avoided completely. They’re hardly essential monsters and it really doesn’t serve the spirit of fun to intentionally play upon a Player’s phobias. I know I’d immediately leave any table with a Referee this petty and pointlessly cruel. If a Player looks uncomfortable, it never hurts to stop and ask them if they are okay. You’re game will be better for it.

That being said, I do personally love Spiders. Like Ghouls, they’re excellent “teaching monsters” and Crab Spiders even give your Players a slight boost to their Save versus Poison and potentially a few frantic turns to come up with an antidote. No one wants to be bitten by a Spider, so there’s usually a little caution when encountering them, which is essential to telegraph for this hardier style of play.

I don’t think I’ve ever used a Tarantella, but I love little artifacts like these. Of course, they’re based on the misconception of Tarantism, where it was thought a Wolf Spider’s bite and venom induced manic dancing in the victim. Outbreaks of dancing plagues were surprisingly common it seems, so be sure to add the old St. Vitus Shuffle to your Town Events tables ๐Ÿ˜Š.

Instead of Tarantula, the monster is named after those fast folk dances. I believe this is the first “word play” monster that I’ve made it to so far, and so naturally I couldn’t help but lean a little bit into to the silly with it to celebrate. The contagious effect a single failed Save could have on onlookers are surprisingly terrifying though and could easily take out an entire Adventuring Party. While the dance can last for up to a dozen turns (2 hours), according to the rules the dancers collapse after five. What an ignominious yet humorous way to accidentally arrange a TPK.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Lizard, Giant

Continuing the theme of “Giant” week, here are the Giant Lizards in OSE and B/X (the Rules Cyclopedia contains the same beasts, and only really adds their load and Barding Multiplier). They all make for interesting mounts honestly, imagine Blowgun bearing Hobgoblins astride soaring Dracos, Second-story Gnomes strapped to the backs of their vertical Geckos, an Illusionist and her faithful Horned Chameleon, or a battle hardened War Tuatara with a special spine accommodating saddle.

I’ve run campaigns where Horses didn’t exist, and Giant Lizards were the primary draft animal and transportation, so these stat-blocks saw considerable use. They’re ripe for re-skin as well: who doesn’t want Giant Venomous Gila Monsters strutting about, shell-armored Merfolk mounted on massive Marine Iguana, or Dwarf-trained gold seam-seeking super Skinks?

I was undoubtedly inspired by this iconic David Sutherland illustration from Holmes

Like many, my childhood fascination with Dinosaurs extended to the closest living relative I could clap my eyes on (this was well before the Avian Dinosaur debate was included in the books I read). I fondly recall those big brown lizards with brilliant blue belly stripes that sunned themselves on our fence, doing the occasional push-up. I remember the alarming effect of getting squirted with eye-blood (and being admonished for ruining a brand-new shirt) from picking up a startled Horny Toad. Later, when I’d visit more tropical regions, I’d chase after brilliant chartreuse Anoles with their Fly Agaric-themed dewlaps.

To this day, I still have to strongly resist that ingrained urge of “See Lizard! Grab Lizard!” when I spot one sunning itself on my walks. Lizards are just so lovely.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Leech, Giant

There’s something primal about the generally universal revulsion to Leeches. The facial expressions of most people immediately shift to disgust just thinking about them. I don’t think my Players will ever forgive me for the several sessions they were forced to spend traipsing about Swamps, where these slimy bloodsuckers (both in their Small and Giant forms) made for frequent encounters.

Blood-loss as HP damage is generally an acceptable way to handle it, but I tend to sometimes prefer to have them attack Ability Scores directly (usually Constitution, but Strength could also work if those sneaky Shadows hadn’t already secured that niche). I’ve always been a little less rigid with the “Must Be Killed” before detaching rule and encourage the kind of frantic creativity that comes from disgusted Players. Keep in mind other methods may cause the Leech to vomit up their stomach contents, which could be (should be ๐Ÿ˜Š?) rife with all sorts of prepossessing parasites or delightful diseases.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Squid, Giant

Since OSE seems to be sadly lacking in the Kraken department, I suppose these over-sized cephalopod might serve as substitutes in a pinch.

Monday, March 30, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Scorpion, Giant

I have a fondness for Scorpions of all sizes. Apocryphally, when I was only a year or so old, our home was invaded by these arachnids one sweltering summer. The intruders likely belonged to the Striped Bark species, which is common around those parts. I was crawling about the boringly beige shag carpet mostly naked due to the heat, when I apparently found a few new friends and started playing with the Scorpions like toys. Dangling them by their tails and swinging them around giggling according to witnesses. Following family lore, this continued until my father came in from working outside and smashed them with a shoe, with much sobbing, wailing, and weeping on my part. I was somehow un-stung, but absolutely heartbroken that my toys had been so unceremoniously squished.

Nowadays, I’m not certain I’d be so inclined to treat them so casually, but I haven’t come across one in ages outside of pet-store cages. I do recall desperately wanting one of those beautiful ebony Emperor Scorpions that seemed to be pretty popular as pets during the eighties, but the mere thought of having one in the house was anathema to my mother, who was not a fan of creepy-crawlies.

In D&D terms, they’re much more interesting to me than Giant Spiders (it’s the deadly sting and menacing claws that make for such memorable mรชlรฉes), and I enjoy the bonus they engender to their sting on a successful Claw attack in OSE. Their deadly venom is definitely another tick mark in favor of an eventual d100 Unusual Venoms/Horrible Fates More Interesting than Death table.

I find it interesting that instead of being Neutral like most Vermin/Animals, they’re listed as Chaotic (perhaps some bias from the writers has crept in here), though I must admit they seem perfectly at home prowling around abandoned Temples and Evil Shrines. Since their real-world counterparts are on every continent save Antarctica, I see no trouble with slotting them into just about any terrain, although I have a certain fondness for placing them in Deserts, and there’s a one that plays a key role in my Desert Hexes. I find it hard to control myself sometimes and restrict them just to Giant-size (the bigger the better, and I often fondly recall a dreaded Arduin titanic Scorpion that levels towns).

Sunday, March 29, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Giant

Giants make for fearsome foes and even more useful allies if canny Players can find a way to into their good graces.

This is the first of the entries to necessitate a full spread (instead of just a single sheet), because there are half-a-dozen Giant types, and seeing as how they all differ somewhat, I decided to treat them all to a separate d30 table.

There’s always a bit of a “scale” problem when it comes to fisticuffs with these massive Monsters. I have a hard time believing a Human-sized dagger would do more harm than a hatpin in some situations, so another option is to borrow from video games like “Shadow of the Colossus” for truly tremendous Giants, and treat them more like an “Adventure Location” with “Puzzles to defeat.” Flashing “weak points” are optional of course, but there is something deliciously tense about clinging to/climbing on them as enormous obstacles.

All of my favorite folklore stories about Giants always seem to revolve around them being bilked or bamboozled by the Heroes in some way (like bleeding themselves out into a crevasse that connects to the sea, or being “Fin McCool fooled” in a pram), so I like to encourage creative problem solving outside of combat for these encounters. Same could be said for Cyclopes, honestly. Not to mention the utility some Giants might have for Human-sized hands: Their massive fortresses likely have a dire need for Giant Rat pest-control, and who better to squeeze into those massive mouse-holes than the Adventurers (an excellent opportunity to explore scale with some Lilliputian or “The Borrowers” type adventures)? It also must be awfully tricky to count their hoard of coins when they’re the size of the tiny paper circles left over from a hole-punch. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Friday, March 27, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Robber Fly

Robber Flies! I recycle and re-skin this stat block for all manner of big flying bugs, from massive moths to daunting dragonflies. It’s a pretty useful “all purpose” large vermin Monster.

Once more, these are “Surprisers,” so it may be seldom that a party has the opportunity to witness what they’re doing (this is a very common theme in Dungeons, and really captures an adversarial Mythic Underworld that’s out to get any interlopers), but Giant Spiders/Toads have to have something to eat!

I sometimes see their smaller counterparts perched around looking for prey on my walks, and it’s important to remember that not all of them are “Killer Bee” mimics. That “trick” really only works once on Players, and is of questionable utility for the table: Killer Bees kill when they sting, whereas Robber Flies just have more HP. I suppose if the Party is trying to track down some of that lovely Healing Honey, then maybe you could fool them once, but I’m just as likely to describe them as enormous Horse Flies, Mosquitos, or some other insect.


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