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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Renata Dramatata, Human Sorceress


The current campaign we're playing is an evil campaign. Though we've played campaigns where some of the players have had evil-aligned characters, the goals were always your fairly usual save the world heroic business. This is the first campaign we've played where we're terrible characters doing terrible thing.

The campaign is that we're initiates into an assassins' guild. It's meant to be a mission-based episodic thing rather than an outright full-blown story (for now? Maybe the DMs have something planned for later). There's definitely some Assassin's Creed and Dishonored vibe to it, especially the latter, since it takes place more in a Renaissance-y setting rather than an outright Medieval one. Our missions are supposed to have an investigative, social and stealthy element to it as we scope out our targets rather than just charging in and killing. Which is fairly unusual for a fairly hack and slashy game.

Needless to say, we goofed up pretty bad on our first mission (we were trying to kill a mob moss). Not enough reconnaissance coupled with bad rolls (several 1s came up when making especially important sneak attacks and subsequent attempts to escape). Let's hope the next one goes better.

Renata is an actress fallen on hard times. Maybe back in the day in some other city she was well-known, but her haughty attitude and desire to live the high life have left her a bit desperate for cash.   Renata is designed to be an infiltrator rather than an outright killer (she's not going to get her hands and clothes bloody, ew), though still with a sociopathic bent. If assassins are going to kill someone, she may as well get in on the action. Sophisticated dinners and fancy clothes aren't just gonna buy themselves.

I also wanted to make a vaguely bardy character without actually making a bard. I wanted to focus on magically influencing others through enchantments and fooling others with illusions. I ended up going for the Rakshasa bloodline for Sorcerer, for bonuses to Bluff and bonus mind-reading.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Shaedling

Shaedlings are to pixies what drow are to elves. When back when those elves who would become drow split away to follow Lolth the Queen of the Demonweb Pits, so did some pixies, and they too got "blessings" for their loyalty. Fey being closer to the primality of nature, Lolth's gifts are closer to her spidery nature.

A shaedling is much larger than a pixie, who never break the three-foot mark, and are almost as tall as humans when standing straight. Their stomachs are grotesquely distended and filled with silk made of shadow-stuff, called shadow gossamer. The gossamer are is drawn and quickly woven into a small object, normally a weapon or armour, which is of extreme lightness and masterful craftwork. These objects are inherently linked to the shaedling, and will dissolve after a few seconds upon being relinquished.

This was interesting to draw, though I found it a bit difficult to pose the shaedling in a way that was dynamic. It still isn't dynamic, but I like it more now than I did when I first started sketching it. I don't much care for drawing wings, despite how many of the things I've done have them (it is a standard fantasy trait). I did enjoy trying to figure out a way to draw the patterns on a dragonfly wing in a way that wouldn't overcomplicate the image.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Leskylor


Leskylor are among the natural fauna of the Blessed Fields of Elysium, making their homes in the caves nestled in wind-shorn peaks. Leskylor are prone to a particular type of mutation, that of multiple heads. Up to three-headed Leskylor have been spotted by dimensional travellers in Elysium. Which of course makes them all the more dangerous, as even a one-headed Leskylor is able to breathe out cones of bitter cold. These blue winged tigers are as independent as their ordinary mortal cousins, but vastly more intelligent and a useful ally against the forces of evil. They have a number of heavenly abilities which let them unearth any hidden evil-doers and move them to (temporary) repentance.

If I'm honest, I just wanted to draw a fat tiger, really.

Also, we've (finally) purchased a copy of the 5th Edition D&D Player's Handbook, and while it's really simplified down, it does still seem appealing to me. Especially the artwork. The art's crazy gorgeous in this book. A big reason why I didn't get into 4e D&D is just the artwork in the Player's Handbook was not really my cup of tea. Maybe it improved in future books, but I wouldn't know. Let me tell you though, if they release the Dark Sun setting for 5e, I will definitely definitely be running some of that.

We play mostly Pathfinder in our group, though I do want to branch out into other systems. We've already experimented with the Savage Worlds' Deadlands: Reloaded setting (mixed results, but I really like the setting), and the next time I get to DM, I'm running a Call of Cthulhu game. Although it just illustrates my luck that I go out an purchase the 6th Edition Call of Cthulhu handbook when 7th Edition is about to come out and is apparently the one that's making the most changes to the actual rules of the game. Have also been eyeing with some interest Legend of the Five Rings, Numenera, The Strange and Nobilis. Must hold off though, as I have limited time to play and also limited shelves to put books on. And pdfs are nowhere as nice as material books.

Anyway as I was saying, 5e Dark Sun plz.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Mimic



It takes on whatever shape is most appealing.

The origin of the mimic isn't completely certain, but the most popular theory is that a wizard did it. And with their track record, it's not exactly a slight chance that it could be true. At any rate, mimics currently roam free in the dungeons, tricking adventurers with their appealing shapes.

If the mimic has an original shape, it hasn't been recorded. Perhaps they can only have the shape of a pre-existing thing. The mimic is a shapeshifter specializing in inanimate objects, and best known for looking like especially nice treasure chests that go on to sprout sticky limbs. But a mimic will gladly take on the shape of a larger object such as a door, part of a wall, and so on. Some of these monsters are massive enough to pose as houses. Watch out for huts that smell of saliva, is all I'm saying.

The mimic or treasure-chest monster is pretty iconic across tabletop games and video games. I think the first game I ever encountered this sort of monster in was in Dragon Quest III on my Gameboy Color. It was a fun game.

Hope you peeps are having some nice Winter holidays.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Green Warder


Green Warders are cultivated by the elves of Faerûn to act as guardians of their most sacred places. Despite this, a Warder is still a plant rather than a constuct, since constructs are normally made out of unliving material, while the Warders are still living plants. The Warder is not meant to be a combatant, but a decoy. Their branches and leaves are arranged in such a way so that it looks like an elf from a distance, causing any interlopers to either turn back or follow the fake. In addition to that, the Warder can cast several enchantments to either confuse or put intruders to sleep.

When elves migrate from one area to another, they may leave the Warders behind, which will still carry out its duties. However, without the elves there to trim them regularly, the Warder grows shaggy with overgrown leaves and branches.

I know horns aren't an especially elfy thing. Well, here's what I think about elves. I ain't like 'em. Or I specifically don't like those hippie frou-frou elves that are just so calm and intelligent and beautiful and blehhh. It's kind of why I prefer drow to ordinary elves, because at least drow have an interesting trait in their general awful evilness. In fantasy, I tend to find most elves to be a race of Mary Sues with maybe a little bit of condescension for the other races.

Which means that my favourite forest elves are the Lorwyn elves of Magic: The Gathering. They're a bit closer to Fair Folk, which is how I like my elves: self-obsessed, arrogant, dangerous and in tune with the more deadly aspects of plant-life. They loathe all other non-elf creatures (they call them eyeblights) and seek to enslave others at best or hunt them at worst. Also, they have horns. Which is why I gave the Green Warder horns.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Ravid


The Ravid is one of those jolly extradimensional creatures that are fairly harmless on their own plane but a good deal more chaotic when they cross over into ours. This particular creature comes from the Positive Energy plane, which you think would be good seeing as how positive energy is the kind of healing, undead-slaying magic you generally want on your side. Well too much positive energy is a negative thing it seems. Think of positive energy as air in a balloon; enough of it and you eventually go pop.

But that's not the best weapon in the Ravid's arsenal. The best weapon would be that it can animate objects around it once every few seconds through the sheer force of the positive energy it exudes. The object chosen is completely at random, but it will still mess with your day. The fork is animated. Your sword is animated. Your clothes. The carpet, the table, the house you're in is animated. And all those objects are on the Ravid's side.

This creature was a tricky one to redesign. The whole pale glowing serpent thing was easy to do, but for some goofy reason it's described of having a claw that comes out from near its head. LOOK AT HOW GOOFY IT LOOKS. But while I guess giving it a long flowing tendril hair doodad with a hand-looking thing at the end looks less goofy, in a way it isn't as immediately memorable at the original Ravid's grumpy face and dorky little arm.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Tomb Mote


Necromancers would do well to switch graveyards on a fairly regular basis after their rituals, lest they end up with a minor infestation of Tomb Motes. Necromantic magic generally animates bodies or large body parts, but in the decomposition process a lot of dead matter falls to the side, magically imbued but in too diluted a form to actually do anything. But when enough hair, skin flakes, bone fragments, rot ooze and grave dirt are gathered up together, the combined dark magic is enough for the different parts to fuse into a single vaguely humanoid creature. Essentially, a Tomb Mote is a sentient dust bunny of graveyard detritus.

The Tomb Mote is small --about the size of a cat-- and weak. But they still possess enough intelligence to know swarming tactics, and are quick enough to strike many times in a short period (gaming translation: they get an extra standard action). Wash any wounds received from this creature immediately or risk sepsis. Soap is a handy adventuring tool.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Werecrocodile

I know when I first saw the Werecrocodile in all its goofy glory in the pages of Sandstorm I was all pshaw running out of ideas are we Wizards and here I was thinking Weretigers were dumb. But after some research it came to my knowledge that Werecrocodiles are a legit thing (along with Weretigers and other Were-big cats), though not in the sense that were used to here in the modern West.

We've done the Werewolf before, arguably the poster boy for all werebeasts. It's a man who under the light of the full moon becomes a wolf hybrid type thing. The moon rule is followed with all the lycanthropes (an erroneous term, since the term lycanthope can only be linguistically tied to the werewolf), regardless of whatever creature you turn into. But the moon thing is a relatively new invention. Though some werewolf legends talk about transformations under certain stages of the moon, werewolves were more often described as willingly transforming through magic, usually by wearing a pelt, part of a pelt, reciting a spell or applying a potion.

So it is with Werecrocodiles. The folkloric key to becoming a werecrocodile is usually either an incantation or the wearing of a fetish.  Finding specific stories and legends is a bit tricky. I've found a lot of sites claiming that they appear in legends of Indonesia, Thailand, Zambia, Egypt and the Bakongo people. Basically anywhere where the crocodile is an apex predator. The person would transform into a crocodile and then lurk in rivers to eat people who wronged them / sexy bathers. Cannibalism is a recurring theme across the world when it comes to werebeasts.

 There's the Thai legend of Krai Thong and Chalawan (which is also a Thai film), but I'm unclean whether Chalawan is a giant/demon who can turn into a crocodile or a demon crocodile that can take on humanoid form. In Indonesia, the magical incantation/formula to take on human form is said to be tiang maleh rupa, and those who use the spell are known by the same name. In the 88th chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, there's a spell invoking Osiris to give you the form of a crocodile, though the spells of the Book of the Dead are meant to aid the dead in the trials they face in the afterlife rather than affect still corporeal mortals.

Speaking of Egyptian mythology and Osiris and turning into crocodiles, you should totally buy Pantheon by Hamish Steele. It's a comic telling the creation myth according to the Ancient Egyptians. And boy I tell you I learned something from the book. Mostly that the Greek gods aren't the only ones with weird drama.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Nightmare


The Nightmare is literally a horse from hell. But if you want to be more specific, it comes from the Gray Wastes of Hades, the battleground dimension between Hell and the Abyss. These solitary smokey horses hide among the stunted black trees, waiting put to work (willingly or unwillingly) into the evil armies. But they are still difficult to catch. Nightmares breathe blinding smoke and are able to transform their bodies into ethereal substance that travels between dimensions. Their flinty hooves give out sparks when they strike the ground, setting anything flammable alight. Most coveted are the Cauchemars, massive Nightmares fit for giants to ride upon.

Went for a more smoke-based nightmare rather than the traditional flaming mane one. Found when reading the description that there were no allusions to flame except for some around the hooves, eyes and nostrils. And they don't deal fire damage, though yes their hooves can set things on fire. Don't ride a Nightmare on wooden floors, kids.

Some interesting history behind the concept of the Nightmare. The original Nightmare (the mare of German folklore) was a goblin that sat on the chests of sleepers, paralyzing them and causing bad dreams. The modern scientific explanation for things along these lines are sleep paralysis. Your body becomes paralyzed during sleep, to prevent you from moving around to much as you dream. But sometimes you wake up in a half-asleep state and can't move. And in this half-asleep state you might still be dreaming, and imagine something sitting on your chest. Lots of countries have their own versions of monsters that cause sleep paralysis. I had a similar experience, only in this case my monster was a walrus holding a small shelf asking me to give back the books I borrowed. Dreams, man.

The whole horse thing came about as a pun. You know, mare = female horse, nightmares = bad dream, Nightmare = evil horse. Though the first time you can see this pun is in Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare. But similar horses again appear in mythology and folklore. The ones most similar to the D&D Nightmare are prominent in Russian folklore (and probably surrounding countries), where a character (good or evil) rides on a giant ferocious steed with sparking hooves and smoke-filled breath.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Tsochar

The Tsochar is a colonial organism. The tangled-looking body is actually formed of several "strands", each possessing its own functional respitatory, digestive and nervous system. When fused, the creature behaves as a single individual, but strands can be surgically and continue living without the rest, albeit in a weak, animalistic state. An ordinary Tsochar will contain about a dozen strands, while elders are made up of hundreds.

Tsochar are also parasitic organisms, preferring to prey on intelligent beings. The Tsochar works it way inside the body of its host (preferably through a wound) and wedges itself in the spaces between the internal organs. The Tsochar can choose to simply inhabit the body --telepathically coercing the host with threats of pain if necessary-- or completely take over the host's nervous system, killing the mind while keeping the body alive. Obviously, the second option is used most, as few are willing to host a creature that (regardless of alligiance) will eat them from the inside out.

The Tsochar is similar to the Morgh, another wormy creature that is able to puppet bodies. However the Morgh is an undead creature controlling its own withered corpse, while the Tsochar is completely a parasite, highly intelligent, and relies on its host to be living.

I really like parasite monsters, regardless of game or media. Not sure how to explain that particular fancy, but it's always something I've found interesting. There's just something kinda cool / horrifying about another organism invading your body for its own survival.

Next time lets try an image that doesn't have blue and pink in it.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Nereid


Nereids are sea nymphs, the ocean being their usual habitat when they're not in the Elemental Plane of Water, their true home. Much like Dryads, the tree nymphs, are bound to their tree to survive, the Nereid's life is bound to their shawl, a floating material made of surf. Being separated from their shawls for too long results in the death of the Nereid, so stealing one is a certain (if cruel) way to temporarily gain their allegiance.

But the Nereid is a shy creature with a host of defensive abilities. As water faeries from an Elemental Plane, their bodies seem to be made out of shimmering water, making them incredibly difficult to see when submerged. They can also control the water surrounding them, alter currents and summon Water Elementals to protect them. Her final defense is an especially nasty and last resort one. The Nereid can kill with a kiss, filling the lungs of the victim with water so that they drown. You shouldn't have tried to take her shawl.

Actually a creature from Greek myth, as many nymphy creatures tend to be. While the word dryad refers to how they are bound to oak trees (drys), their name actually means that they are daughters of Nereus (50 in total, plus the son Nerites), an ancient sea god. There's some confusion between them and the Oceanids, daughters of Oceanus who are also sea nymphs (3000 in total, along with 3000 brothers --Potamoi-- river spirits). Calypso, of The Odyssey fame, is a Nereid or an Oceanid  depending on the source. Regardless of parentage, sea nymphs tended to be minor protective spirits to fishermen, sailors and the like.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

EPIC MONTH: Shen Lung



The Shen Lung is one of many different dragons of the Lung type. Ordinary dragons are highly magical creatures, but in the end they are merely intelligent, large and potent beasts. The Lungs are inherently mystical beings allied to the elements who cross the boundary between the Spirit World and the Material Plane at will. Their powers come from a mystic pearl embedded in their heads (or brains), which allow them to fly without wings, riding the currents of air.

The Shen Lung (the Spirit Dragon) is among the lungs that mortals are most likely to meet, where all others prefer to remain hidden away in their celestial palaces or in the Spirit World. An aura of divine purity exudes from this dragon, repelling all verminous beasts that would dare approach it. It has special power over water and is often found near rivers inhabited by Chiang Lungs, whom they are bodyguards to. Pleasing a Shen Lung results in good harvests, while insulting one can lead to floods and blights, as it has control over the weather.

I like the traditional D&D dragons (blue and black are my favourites), but I have a soft spot in my heart for the lung type dragons. I think it's mostly the way they don't have wings but can still fly. There's just something quite cool about that. And the whole mystic pearl thing. Some Chinese (and I'm assuming other Oriental tales) feature the dragon's pearl being found by a human and then it bringing them good luck.

Some of you may recognize the name Shen Lung from the Dragon Ball series, where the 7 dragon balls (mystic pearls?) were gathered together to summon Shenron (or Eternal Dragon, or Shenlong) to grant the gatherer a wish.

The final image of Epic Month, which also consisted of the Phoenix, Phane and White Slaad. Using a dragon feels a bit like cheating, since dragons have more than one challenge rating depending on their age. But from 800 years onwards a Shen Lung is over CR 20 so that means it becomes an epic level creature so yeah.