Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Dying Earth Monsters Part I - Chun The Unavoidable

     Those of us who have played D&D owe a huge, incalculable debt to Jack Vance. Not only did he give us the magic system which underpins the majority of spell systems which exist within various editions, derivatives and versions of the game, he helped calcify the image of the typical adventurer in the form of Cugel the Clever and Liane the Wayfarer: Shiftless, mercenary and more than willing to rob their erstwhile employers if they failed to pay up.

     I'll get to the foes which vexed Cugel in a future post in this series, but today I wanted to go over my absolute favorite antagonist featured in the series and murderer of Liane, Chun the Unavoidable. Chun is simply put, creepy as all get out. Just look at this quote:

“The old man stood by another corpse with eye-sockets bereft and bloody. "This one came four days ago, and he met Chun the Unavoidable . . . And over there behind the arch is still, a great warrior in cloison armor. And there—and there—" he pointed, pointed. "And there—and there—like crushed flies."”

     He's one of the few creatures upon the Dying Earth that seems to give Wizards (the usual antagonists for the setting) pause, to the point that an assembled group of them make themselves scarce as soon as he is brought up. Chun lives among the rubble of the Place of Whispers, in the Old Town north of the city of Kaiin. There is a paucity of description or backstory on Chun (part of his appeal) and so I will simply post the full extent of what is given of him in the narrative:

“Over his shiny black back he wore a robe of eyeballs threaded on silk.” 

"And behind came Chun, running like a dog." 

     That's all we get. What is given a little more detail are his abilities, which imbue him with the ability not only to pursue any like Liane who dare to steal from him, but to follow them directly into extra-dimensional spaces crafted by magic:

"He (Liane) turned into an archway, pulled his bronze ring over his head, down to his feet. He stepped through, brought the ring up inside the darkness. Sanctuary. He was alone in a dark magic space, vanished from earthly gaze and knowledge. Brooding silence, dead space ...

He felt a stir behind him, a breath of air. At his elbow a voice said, "I am Chun the Unavoidable.""

     So Liane gets his eyes torn out and Chun adds them to his cloak and Lith gets a few more threads for her tapestry. Let's make him so that he can try to tear your PC's eyes out!

B/X Stats

HD: 17 (HP 102)
Armor: as Plate
Move: 30'; if pursuing see Special
Attacks: 2 Claws, 1d8+6
Special: Chun is resistant to all forms of magic and possesses True Sight. Instead of moving, Chun is able to move at the same speed of an unfriendly creature near to him, plus an additional 5'. Chun is always aware of the location of his quarry, even across differing dimensions, further, Chun may enter the Ethereal or Astral as long as he is in pursuit of a target, and may also enter spaces such as Tiny Huts, Portable Holes, Rope Tricks or similar effects.

5th Edition Stats

Medium Monstrosity, Chaotic Evil

Armor Class: 20 (natural armor)

Hit Points: 198 (18d8+54)

Speed: 30ft* (see The Unavoidable)

Abilities: Str: 20 (+5), Dex: 18 (+4), Con: 16 (+3), Int: 13 (+1), Wis: 18 (+4) Cha: 5 (-3)

Saving Throws: Str + 9, Wis +8
Skills: Athletics +10, Perception +9, Stealth +9
Damage Resistances: bludgeoning, piercing and slashing from nonmagical attacks.
Condition Immunities: Exhausted, Fatigued, Paralyzed, Stunned.
Senses: Truesight 60ft, Passive Perception 19
Languages: Common
Challenge: 14 (11,500 XP) 

Magic Resistance. Chun has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

The Unavoidable. Chun always knows the direction and distance to any quarry he may target, regardless of which planes they are on. While in pursuit of his quarry Chun's speed is always the same as his target's +5'. If his quarry moves in a fashion which he is not able to match (such as teleporting or flying) Chun will simply move tirelessly towards them at a Dash until he catches up. Chun may enter spaces such as Tiny Huts or the extradimensional spaces made by Rope Trick and other similar spells or effects.

Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If Chun fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.

Innate Spellcasting. Chun's spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 12). Chun can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:

At will: Blink
3/day: Plane Shift (self only)


Multiattack. Chun can either make two Unavoidable Strikes or one Unavoidable Strike and one Eye Pluck.

Unavoidable Strike. Melee Weapon Attack: automatic hit, reach 5ft., Hit: 16 slashing damage.

Eye Pluck. Melee Weapon Attack +9, reach 5ft., Hit: 1d6+5. Chun attempts to claw out one of his opponent's eyes to add to his cloak. This attack may only be used on prone creatures. A creature hit must make a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw or lose an eye.

Legendary Actions

Chun can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. Chun regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.

Pursue. Chun takes the Dash action.

Stalk (2 actions). Chun uses the Hide action.

Overpower (2 actions). Chun makes an Unavoidable Strike, the target must make a DC 16 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Art by: Chun the Unavoidable by Nulsh, Chun the Unavoidable by M.Rasheed

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Hey, what's with this weird book?

          Ancient tomes, codices, scrolls & tablets filled with lore ranging from the mundane to the obscure, seemingly as likely to elucidate as they are to blast one's mind into tatters. They lay in forgotten sepulchers, scrawled upon the walls of oubliettes, crammed into the shelves of mad wizards or held within the holds of temples by wary folk dedicated to safeguarding them. They are coveted by seekers of arcane knowledge, those who wish to protect the world from THAT WHICH IT WAS NOT MEANT TO KNOW, and fools who seek to unleash what lies within for their own ends. People will kill to defend or to steal them with equal ferocity, sometimes without even truly understanding what they're struggling so mightily to possess.

          These books can range hugely in how important they are to a campaign, from being something that the players must be forced to find and then consult to defeat an enemy, to be safeguarded or destroyed to keep it from rivals, pay back a debt, or to simply steal to plunder for arcane knowledge or to make a ridiculous sum of money. It is important to recall how rare books before the modern era were, with a single volume being the result of years of effort on the part of the author who penned it, or the scribe who would later have to re-copy it.

          To use this table, roll 5d8 and then resolve any relevant 1d4 rolls may be attached to that result

Who Authored it?
Precursors or the inhabitants of a previous reality.
The work of a deity, saint or otherwise somehow divine in origin.
A powerful mage or other form of spell caster.
An aberration such as a(n)...1: Illithid, 2: Aboleth, 3: Neogi, 4: Beholder.
An outsider such as a(n)...1: Celestial, 2: Fiend, 3: Elemental/Genie, 4: Fae, or someone possessed by one.
The culmination of the efforts of generations of scholars.
Author was taken by a eerie mood and wrote the work in a fortnight.
It merely appeared one day, fully formed.

What Form Does it Take?
Tablets made of...1: Stone/Clay, 2: Metal, 3: Wax, 4: Wood.
Tome bound in...1: Leather, 2: Metal, 3: Ivory, 4: Loose Sheaves.
Scroll crafted of...1: Paper, 2: Hides, 3: Leaves, 4: Cloth.
Graffiti, Scrawling or Runes etched onto a...1: Structure, 2: Natural Feature, 3: Path or Road, 4: Cave.
Tangles of intricate ropes and beads in a language that may not still be known. May be read in the dark.
A puzzle box or similar device. The secrets within are whispered into the mind of those who solve it.
Scrimshawed upon the bones of a(n)...1: Humanoid, 2: Outsider, 3: Aberration, 4: Monster. May be read in the dark.
Woven into the fabric of a(n)...1: Article of clothing, 2: Tapestry, 3: Blanket/Quilt, 4: Tent/Yurt

What Kind of Lore is Inside?
The true names of...1: Celestials, 2: Fiends, 3: Genies, 4: Fae.
Exhaustively indexed knowledge on an extremely niche topic such as Elven Architecture or Goblin Poetry. Worth a small amount to most, but a huge sum to the right collector.
A creeping form of madness which provides insight into the world. In exchange for losing one's mind permanently, the bearer of the work may ask it questions and gain answers 1d6 times per day as if they were using the spells Find the Path, Augury, Identify or Clairaudience.
A compendium covering the habits and weaknesses of...1: Outsiders, 2: Aberrations, 3: Magical Creatures, 4: Undead.
The true and secret history of a...1: Major empire, 2: Noble family, 3: Trade league, 4: Faith/Cult.
Prophecies relating to the...1: End of the world, 2: Death of a deity, 3: Fall or destruction of a major empire, 4: Death of a famous figure, such as a warlord or archmage.
Insight into a complicated and fraught magical process such as...1: Summoning outsiders, 2: Alchemy, 3: Reviving the dead, 4: Creating constructs such as golems.
Detailed accounting ledgers of a...1: Trade league, 2: Noble family, 3: Guild, 4: Town/City Council.

Is it Trapped or have Guardians?
Animates a mouth upon its surface and bites those who try to read it without the proper password. 1d6+3 Bludgeoning damage. Bites again every 2d10 rounds.
Lets out a blood-curdling scream and flies away at 60' turn if read anywhere except...1: Under the stars, 2: Within a chamber with no natural light, 3: Upon unworked earth, 4: A place of spiritual significance.
Locked. If an attempt is made to force it open it begins to weep gallons upon gallons of...1: Blood, 2: Ink, 3: Water, 4: Ichor.
The work is a keystone or plug of sorts, if removed or reproduced then...1: The area containing the work shakes itself to bits in 1d6 minutes, 2: Undead begin to appear around where the work is held, 3: Animals of all stripes become hostile to whomever bears it, 4: Bad luck follows the bearer, the referee may impose disadvantage on 1d2 rolls per day at their discretion.
A cult or religious order is dedicated to safeguarding the work in some way. If it is stolen of copied without consent then they will surely seek to rectify the situation.
Magically bound to defend the work in some way until their destruction, the guardian takes the form of a(n)...1: Powerful undead creature, 2: Outsider, 3: Monster, 4: Construct.
Only certain type of folk are able to read the work, it is gibberish to everyone but...1: Non-spellcasters, 2: Followers of an obscure faith, 3: The mad, 4: Someone who has never taken a life.
The work itself is famous. While there is no one specifically looking for it, the very news of it changing hands may attract unwanted attention to those who now have it.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Magical Dog Breeds

          Our oldest companion, the Dog. In our reality we have a dizzying amount of land races which have been developed over the millennium to keep us company and aid us in the world. Why would a fantasy or sci-fi setting be any different? This table contains 20 breeds of various strange and magical canine companions for use in D&D/OSR. The region names are derived from my home brew setting.

Volmusian Ember Hair
A breed derived from fire elemental stock, bred by druids as attack animals. Fiery red hair, maned, with a sturdy frame and short snout. 1d3 Fire damage/round if within 5ft and the dog dislikes you.
Mutt of Tindalos
Possessed of the blood of creatures which exist outside of space-time; this canine does not move, it simply stutters & teleports up to 40ft in a round instead. They are off-putting creatures, emaciated and long-limbed with greenish-grey fur.
Descended from the hounds owned by vampires. Sable-furred, with crimson eyes and bodies built for pursuit. Hemohounds feed on blood, and biting living creatures heals them. Each successful bite restores 1 HP to the dog.
Smuggled out from Hades itself, these stocky, well-muscled and snub nosed dogs have multiple heads for observing the comings and goings of the dead. Advantage on anything to do with multi-tasking or perception. Roll 1d6 - 1-3: 2 heads, 4-6: 3 heads.
Dorician Pale Dog
Developed by fakirs for the purposes of curing diseases, these wane and mangy beasts are capable of taking diseases into themselves by licking the afflicted and transferring them to another through the means of coughing or sneezing fits.
Dolchean Mole-hound
A strange breed of canine developed by dwarves to help them guard their subterranean farms. Mole-hounds have short white fur, huge reflective eyes, and massive paws. These dogs can burrow and dig at half the speed at which they can run.
Sivardian Chaser
These huge, grey-furred, and wolf like dogs were bred by Hobgoblins to keep pace with and flush out their traditional Centaur rivals. Chasers move 20ft faster a round than a typical canine.
Phantom Cur
Cultivated from canines repeatedly revived through necromantic means, these eerie hounds outwardly seem like normal members of their species, but they often go minutes without breathing or days without blinking. Their own proximity to death allows them to sense and affect incorporeal beings.
Spell Terrier
Developed by generations of spell-casters to be the ideal Familiar, spell terriers are small enough to be carried on one's person and are possessed of luxurious hair suitable for petting. Spell Terriers can identify and retrieve spell components and magical items.
Witcher Spaniel
A dog bred by mage-hunters to help them identify their targets. These spaniels are tall and long-bodied, with short dark coats and pointed features. Witchers can sense the presence of magic, and will growl when a spell is used in their presence.
Ceirwannian Hunting Hound
Graceful and sleek of profile, these shaggy-haired hunting dogs are a traditional companion of elvish rangers, and are used to help their owners harry prey. Ceirwannians gain advantage on all rolls relating to stealth or ambush.
Splay-toed Goblin Dog
Long of limb and short-furred with large digit pads, these dogs are used by Goblins as both draft and riding animals. Their feet allow them to easily bound and scurry up the broken terrain and caves in which their masters make their homes. Splay-toes ignore the effects of difficult terrain and climb half as their movement speed.
Chardonian Water Spaniel
Savior of pirates and sailors the world over, Chardonian are mid-sized short-haired dogs which come in a variety of blues. Fiercely loyal, these dogs are trained to retrieve folk thrown overboard during sea voyages. Chardonian have been interbred with water elementals, and they may breathe underwater and swim as quickly as they run.
Drowish Oozehound
Bizarre and terrifying creatures designed by the dark elves as guardians for their slave pens. These beasts tend towards bright and playful personalities, their fur replaced by semi-translucent globules of tar like ichor. A bite (or nuzzle) from an Oozehound necessitates a strength check to escape.
Saoghal Cultivated Dog
A servant dog bred by the nobility to be a gentleman's best friend, these beautiful beasts move with the poise and elegance of an aristocrat. Their long fur is kinked into tight spools which must be brushed daily to keep from knotting. Saoghals are incredibly intelligent, watching those that treat with their owners carefully, barking or growling when they suspect that lies are being told.
Originally the product of a now obscure and likely mad arch-mage, this breed of dog is now chiefly treasured by cheap side shows and thieves. Doppeldachshund are able to briefly alter their form into that of other animals of their own approximate size. They can maintain an alternate form for only ten minutes before shifting back.
Corantinian War Dog
Chosen from the fiercest and largest stock by generations of crusaders to foster a gargantuan canine which rivals a small pony in size. Corantinians have thick coats of white fur which braid themselves into thick protective cords as the dog matures. Corantinians have an extra Hit Die than a typical canine.
Troll-blooded Laika
This particular land race was developed by goblinoid tribes to aid them in their hunts and raids. Interbred with regenerating creatures, these dogs are utterly fearless and unflinchingly loyal. They are a mid-sized breed and of average build, but they are terribly ugly, covered in patches of uneven and wart-ridden fur. Troll-blooded Laika regenerate 1/HP a turn. Laika eat double the amount of a typical dog.
Poison Dart Dog
Inspired by the similarly named amphibian, a group of shaman deep within the jungles of Auyyuah have bred a line of canines capable of producing and expelling poisons. These dogs can at will exude a class 'M' poison. They are hairless and sleek creatures, with slick patches where the poison naturally pools.
Platinum Retreiver
An offshoot of common hunting dogs, these somewhat dopey and friendly beasts can detect the presence of precious metals up to 60' away.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Myconids of the Mushroom Forest

Area: Amanitan Tunnels
Unsafe, Blighted, Possession (Bright White Circle) Monsters (Amanitan Myconids),

The first sign that one has entered the Amanitan Tunnels is the smell. They reek horribly of decay and fried radishes. As one advances the air becomes dense with a white, soot-like mold which coats everything, causing visitors to cough and hack, their mucous membranes going into high panic as their bodies try in vain to keep the toxic spores out of their lungs. Travel further and the place grows thick with ankle to knee-high mushrooms, snowy white in coloration, which send out clouds of the mold if kicked or jostled. That's where the Amanitans live, little squat things on small and ungainly legs. They have distant and placid looking expressions, their faces shadowed by their broad caps which send off little puffs of white whenever they move too quickly. There are corpses everywhere, from wild animals to intelligent beings like Rathbuni & Svirfneblin, all with masses of mushrooms bursting from their fallen bodies. The putrefying fluids make the ground into a slick mess of rot and bare rock. As myconids go the Amanitans are quite friendly, in spite of the abattoir-like appearance of their home. They are unable to individually communicate, given that they lack mouths, but the spores they give off eventually begin to penetrate the mind of the afflicted, and the voices of the members of the Bright White Circle can be heard if guests stay long enough. Amanitan's high and piping voices come in the form of intrusive thoughts. The mushrooms are chatty little conversationalists, always curious about the various goings on of the world surrounding their tunnels, surrounding outsiders to pepper them with questions. They grill their visitors for as long as they can, trying to keep them in the white clouds, keeping them breathing deeply until their liver and kidneys begin to fail, followed quickly by the rest of their organs. They'll apologize extensively for the jaundice that their guests are experiencing, even as they glom themselves upon them, dragging them down to the ground once they inevitably try to escape. The myconids of the Bright White Circle are always interested in expanding the size of their colony and they need a constant stream of corpses to continue those plans. They are terrible fighters, but there are thousands of them and if roused they pour forth in a seemingly endless stream to pummel with tiny fists, trusting in the efficacy of their spores to take their opponents down. They fight without regards to their own safety, dog-piling upon and rubbing themselves against opponents even as they are slashed and hacked to bits. Once they've killed their foes, they drag the dead back to their abode and expand it just a little bit further. The Amanitan Tunnels are a few days east of Stilty Town in Ingram's Tangle, and only a day and a half underground.

  • In practical terms the spores of the Amanitan Tunnels necessitate a save against Poison or Constitution for every half-hour of exposure. Failure deals 1d4-1 Constitution damage, which does not recover until the victim is exposed to healing magic or away from the spores for at least 24 hours.
  • The Amanitans generally stay out of politics and trade. They want for little beyond more fodder for their mushrooms. They are unconcerned with the Chorus, their vacuous minds give them resistance against all psychic powers.
  • While fatal in large doses, Amanitan fungus can also be used as a means to create a drug which confers resistance to psychic attacks and induces a feeling of mild euphoria.

Area: Cortinarian Reaches
Unsafe, Possession (Red Heap Circle), Monsters (Myconids),

The abode of the other major Myrconid settlement of the Mushroom Forest, the Cortinarian Reaches are significantly less hazardous and inimical to life as those of their Amanitan cousins. Cortinarian Myconids of the Red Heap Circle are nearly as powerful psychically as the Chittering Chorus, but unlike the cranium rats their powers are only functional near large growths of those of their kind currently in the non-motile stage of their life cycle. While this limitation forces them into a defensive posture, the caves which make up their homes are essentially impregnable unless their adversaries manage to destroy large sections of fungus all while being unceasingly attacked by the Red Heap myconids. The myconids are made up of thick, crimson tubules bound together in tangled jumbles which extend in long and unbroken growths throughout the cave system. The caves are eerily silent, offering little more than the sound of trickling water and the occasional moan of a dying victim or the echoing foot steps from a myconid patrol. Proximity to the tunnels by most beings causes headaches, nosebleeds and blurred vision. Venturing deeper results in a sensation of being constantly under observation, eventually climaxing in the ability to hear the collective mind of the Circle. The myconids themselves could easily be mistaken for outgrowths of the tubules that they nest in, generally preferring not to move until they're forced to defend them homes. They stand nearly waist-high, but they often crouch or sag, which makes them seem smaller. They are fairly quick however, able to scamper along the ground with their many tubes acting as a mass of legs or to even wield simple equipment such as spears or picks. The mind of the Red Heap is of course focused on propagating itself further, but beyond that it's something of a plotter. Information, rumors, gossip, anything that it can use to try and swing the balance of power towards itself is interest. Places outside of its home are only notable insomuch as the effect they have upon it, otherwise they are seen as mere trivia. If invaders have enough information that interests it then they're allowed to leave. If they don't, they're simply commanded to stay, a command backed up by the mystical might of their collective mind. Affected individuals simply sit down and wait until thirst or starvation takes them. Those who repeatedly come to the Red Heap with useful knowledge are rewarded lavishly. Envoys and diplomats come back and forth from the Cortinarian Reaches in a steady drip, coming to treat with the circle or leaving on errands from the collective mind to the rest of the region. In both personal and political dealings the Red Heap Circle is conservative, risk-averse and unwilling to commit to conflict unless victory is nearly assured. The Red Heap and the Cortinarian Reaches are located a day and a half under the eastern bank of the Golden Road River, a day's west of Clotaire's Tomb. 

  • The collective has no use for riches, but they have piles of coin, gems and more from lifetimes of capturing outsiders. The hoard is equivalent to thousands of GP, but unfortunately for any would-be plunderers it is kept in a cavern situated deep within Red Heap Circle's territory.
  • Large climate events such as major cave-ins, Purple Worm attacks and volcanic eruptions preoccupy the Circle's collective mind. They are always trying to start new colonies, but are hampered by the fact that they inevitably began to separate from the collective consciousness.
  • While the Amanitans have little to nothing to fear from the Cortinarians, the Red Heaps have done their absolute best to keep the Bright Whites from settling near them, wisely concluding that they could do little to stop them.