Saturday, March 24, 2018

All Wet Designer's Notes

At long last, I got published. I have about a half-dozen articles sitting in Steven Marsh’s piles, mostly the Dungeon Fantasy one, and have the basics of three more monster articles in Microsoft Word format.

And now, some notes, as well as tying them to my latest obsession, Dungeon Fantasy Naturalism. Which mostly works when you’re not in a dungeon, but, since I run a hex crawl, that’s some of the point of my articles.

Deep One: As b-dog noted on the Forum, these are straight out of Lovecraft. Their physical stats are slightly higher than my first pass (which really was straight out of Shadow over Innsmouth, and I made sure to have my copy nearby at this point) to make them a good fight for 250-point characters, which is an important design consideration.

As for their naturalism stats, my formulas say they should come in groups of 1d-1, an in-lair roll of 1d-4, and have $4d×1,000 loot and 1d-1 magic items. I think this is an excellent place to give the finger to the formulas, as they’re somewhere between Elder Thing and Mundane. They live in a pineapple city under the sea; that’s not 1d-1. I’ll treat them as magical humanoids for some purposes, which means they come in groups of 5d+1 instead. I’ll leave their in-lair roll at 1d-4 since they spend much of their time in the water, and leave their treasure at $4d×1,000 loot and 1d-1 magic items; the loot would be the same anyways.

Unlike most Elder Things, they will have some leader types. To wing sergeants, give those +1 to all stats and +2 to all skills (which factors in the stat boost); to wing chiefs, they have +2 to all stats and +4 to all skills. Deep one clerics will be normal deep ones with IQ 12, Power Investiture 2 (Elder), and some spells; I’d add Minor Healing to their lists at PI 2 since they have a society and their clerics might come with raiding parties. It makes the raiding parties tougher.

Dire Kraken: “Dire” was added in the editing process to distinguish them from the kraken in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 5: Allies. This is the kraken out of Norse tales. Steven Marsh told me to add the bite attack which makes sense since it needs to eat, but the survivors in the tales don’t get near enough to the kraken to get a look at its mouth. The whirlpool is something of a kluge, as making a big whirlpool is tricky in GURPS. Don’t follow it too slavishly, allow Shiphandling rolls for anyone whose boat is on the outskirts, but it’s goal is to mess up anything getting near the kraken.

Keep in mind that this is the kraken. There can be only one. I’d have it normally near its lair, so an in-lair roll of 1d-4; I use “lair” loosely here to mean, “Wherever the wrecks of old ships with treasure are.” This is big enough and tough enough that it demands having treasure; I’ll take the guidelines for underwater Animals to give $6d×1,000 in loot and 1d-5 magic items.

Giant Piranha: There isn’t too much to say about these guys, as they’re self-explanatory. My earliest draft had swarms of normal piranhas as well, but since there’s a listing for them in the Swarm entry in the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, I took them out. Adjusting for their weight and saying that a standard 7.7 lb. piranha comes in an average school of 1,000, these guys come in schools of 7d. This is twice as many as normal animals under SM 0, which seems fair for a school of big fish. They don’t have lairs so they’ll always be together, though I’d give them the standard in-lair roll of 1d-3 to be near some treasure, which I’ll leave at the standard $(2d-4)×1,000 in loot and 1d-4 magic items. If the in-lair roll doesn’t come up negative, there’s no treasure.

Lernaean Hydra: Like the kraken, this is the hydra of Greek myth. It’s adapted slightly to be a more underwater monster (a classical hydra’s Doesn’t Breathe would have the limitation of Oxygen Storage, ×100, and it would not have Enhanced Move 1 (Water)), which differentiates it from the hydra of +Peter V. Dell'Orto in Pyramid #3/108: Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game III. I stuck to the original hydra being Vermiform, not Quadruped.

Incidentally, the hydra helped inspire this article as much as any monster and the thought that if I wanted to get published in Pyramid, monsters would be a better topic than diseases (which I still expect to see, as it’s one of my favorite articles that I’ve written). My players ran into a hydra, for which I used the stats in GURPS Banestorm. While they didn’t take it out, they did much better than I would have thought, which didn’t bode well for the Yrthian hydra in a Dungeon Fantasy setting. So, I looked up Greek legends online and went off those, keeping in mind the power level of 250-point Dungeon Fantasy delvers.

This does bring up one of the few true cuts: its lair, a la the tale of Heracles. I’ll just copy and paste the graf from my original submission:
A hydra’s lair will be full of poisonous gas, which will do 1 point of toxic damage each second to anyone breathing it. Sometimes there are giant crabs (Pyramid #3/98: Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy, p. 21) that live near the hydra. The hydra will not harm these, and the crabs are immune to the poison gas of the hydra’s lair (though not the poison of the hydra, lest a crab get any ideas).
Again, there will be only one. I’d have 2d-4 giant crabs there too, whose game purpose in a combat is to draw some attacks away from the hydra to keep delvers from ganging up on it right away. They’ll have standard in-lair and treasure rolls for dire animals: 1d-3 in-lair, $(2d-4)×1,000 in loot, and 1d-4 magic items.

Merfolk: My one playable race. My goal for any of my monster articles is to make at least one playable race or ally in each one. Like giant piranhas, merfolk are self-explanatory. They’re standard humanoids, so there will be 4d×10 of them in a lair, an in-lair roll of 1d-3, $8d×1,000 in loot, and 1d-4 magic items.

Much like deep ones, they will have leader types. Aside from any clerics being standard clerics, they'll be akin to the leader types for deep ones.

Nāga: Here’s a linguistic note: that line over the “A” is a macron, which means to make sure it’s a long vowel: NAH-ga. The plural is NAH-gah—both long. I generally like ethnic plurals to make things interesting, though sometimes it gets in the way too much (like “kobolde” instead of “kobolds,” which is the genitive singular).

Anyways, the nāga sets up a possible non-standard encounter, which is to go to it to seek a boon. I’d allow any request that’s more-or-less in line of might with a Neutralize Poison spell. Otherwise, they’re punishers of nature. They're highly variable and fickle in Indian tales. I originally had them as Demons until I realized this would make them subject to Banish, so they became Faerie.

Nāgā are standard Faerie: they come in groups of 1d, have an in-lair roll of 1d-3, keep treasure of $4d×1,000 loot and 1d-3 magic items.

Nix: When thinking I would write a Designer’s Note to let me tie in with the Dungeon Fantasy Naturalism blog post I had been writing, I realized that the Germanic nixen would have almost the same stats as the as the Slavic vodyanoi. They’re going to be Ugly and male, but it’s pretty much the same thing: they represent the advice of a mother of “Don’t go near the water!"

Like nāgā, the naturalism stats are mostly standard Faerie: they come in groups of 1d, and keep treasure of $4d×1,000 loot and 1d-3 magic items. I’d have their in-lair roll be 1d-5, however, and if they’re outside their lair, they’re in the shape of a person and will try to bring wayfarers to their lair to drown.

Octopus-Folk: I got these from looking at Cardboard Heroes, thinking, “If Evil Stevie gets the idea to print Cardboard Heroes in a box, what would make a good Dungeon Fantasy monster?” Like merfolk, they’re mostly self-explanatory, but I bumped up their ST in the editing process to make sure they could easily wield two broadswords and be a threat.

Octopus-folk will fall into the category of magical humanoids and have stats accordingly: live in lairs of 2d, have an in-lair roll of 1d-2, and have $(2d-1)×1,000 in loot and 1d-5 magic items. I could see bumping up the in-lair roll to 1d-3, as they’re not big so don’t need a big range.

Sea Hag: Americans and Canadians over 30 might get a little joke in the Notes about sea hags. For those who need a hint, think of raw spinach in a can. Their Terror is selective, as is her Evil Eye. (Yes, that’s a Mötley Crüe reference—I may be a progger, but I am a Gen Xer who grew up in the decade of hair metal.) Those with Magery will cast spells that can lure prey, like illusions or big explosions. Sea hags can be in a dungeon with little work, though they’re going to be near a big pond.

For the naturalism stats, they’re standard Faerie: covens of 1d, an in-lair roll of 1d-3, treasure of $4d×1,000 loot and 1d-3 magic items.

Water Beetle: These guys aren’t too interesting, but there’s always need of masses of dumb monsters. I had originally written up monstrous beetles, but since they showed up in Pyramid #3/108, I tweaked them to keep my work and make them a little more interesting by moving them to the water monsters article. They come in gangs of 3d+1, and won’t have treasure. You stumble on their nest on an in-lair roll of 1d-2; if it isn’t negative, they haven’t lain any eggs.

1 comment:

  1. First, thanx for writing this article, especially because currently most of my campaign's sessions involve a swamp.

    Second, can you post your original stats for Deep Ones? I run a 150-point campaign so I don't need them to be beefed up, and anyway I would rather use more accurate stats for things than alter them to create a more challenging fight.