Tuesday, February 25, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Dragon Turtle/Shell Crawl

I’m temporarily skipping over the regular Dragons for now. Their role as titular Monsters means I need to do them proper justice, and I’m still deciding if I want to do an “All Dragons + Dragon Color” combo-tables or attempt to give each Color its own table. If you have a preference, let me know in the Comments!

In the interim, I’ve decided to tackle the chelonian challenge that is the Dragon Turtle. These are arguably the most powerful Monster in B/X or OSE, with incredibly high Hit Dice and a nearly unique arduous Armor Class to overcome. Since their Breath Weapon hinges on Hit Points, it can easily be one of the most damaging adversaries in the game. In fact, glancing at my trusty Rules Cyclopedia to compare for potential power creep, I spied the following note:

Note: Dragon turtles are extremely powerful creatures that should not be used unless the player characters are of very high level.

Could this be the very first interstitial admonishment for Encounter Balance? Are Dragon Turtles at least a little bit responsible for later developments like Challenge Rating? I found it interesting 😊.

I was a little torn (or perhaps I took the advice above subconsciously to heart): I don’t typically use these as antagonists for combat, but instead my mind is consistently drawn to the wonder-invoking illustration for the Zaratan in the 2nd AD&D Edition Monster Manual. Something this massive can serve as a better set piece to explore or clamber over…a bit like the Colossi in Shadow Of The Colossus. Perhaps they conceal their commensurately formidable treasures in caches and crevasses throughout their backs (defended by dermal plate denizens, of course).

So I decided a compromise was in order, I’m still providing a d30 for Encounter Activities, but also a bonus “Shell Crawl” Table after realizing that the scutes on a Turtle’s carapace are surprisingly hexagonal. You can populate the various plates on-the-fly or in advance, and feel free to scale the area up or down to your liking. I think I prefer to take the ⯈ Mistaken for island bullet in OSE to heart by making them positively massive.

If you need more ideas/inspiration for the Shell Crawl “Hexes” some of my Wilderness Hexes might fit in with a little filing. There's a score of Sea-based ones as well if you are planning a more maritime jaunt!


  1. Shell-crawl is such a cool idea!

  2. I'm making a nautical campaign right now and had an idea like this but no clue on how to execute it. Thank you for sharing this! It's awesome!

    1. Some of my "Ocean Hexes" here can give you a jump start on some interesting situations to sprinkle throughout the seas. Wave Crawls can be super fun, but in order to prevent sailing from getting rather boring, I like to make sure to have some things like this handy!



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