Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dreamlands Pathfinder Bestiary: Urhag

The following creature has been converted to Pathfinder from The Complete Dreamlands (Fourth Edition, Expanded & Revised), a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG.

The urhag nightspawn is a new variant, created using the eldritch template from the Advanced Bestiary (Pathfinder RPG Edition), by Green Ronin Publishing.

Urhag

This hideous monster's torso is vaguely humanoid, but with bat-like wings instead of arms, and below the waist it has a mass of writhing tentacles instead of legs. Its mouth is located on top of its head, splitting it from side to side. Two independently moving eyes are located just below the corners of the mouth. Its oily skin is black over its entire body.

URHAG (CR 2)
XP 600
N Medium aberration
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +12
Defense
AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +2 natural)
hp 19 (3d8+6)
Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +4
Defensive Abilities all-around vision; Resist cold 10
Offense
Speed 15 ft., fly 50 ft. (poor)
Melee tentacles +3 (1d4+1 plus grab), bite +3 (1d6+1)
Statistics
Str 12, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 4, Wis 12, Cha 7
Base Atk +2; CMB +3 (+7 grab); CMD 14
Feats Blind-Fight, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Fly +2, Perception +12, Stealth +6; Racial Modifiers +4 Perception
Ecology
Environment cold mountains (Leng and the Cold Waste)
Organization solitary or gang (2-4)
Treasure none

Urhags inhabit the far northern reaches of the world, where they live in dark fissures and caves in the mountains north of Inquanok. The texture of their skin leads some to believe they are related to nightgaunts (Bestiary 4 203), but shantaks (Bestiary 2 244) do not fear urhags in the same way.

In combat, an urhag attempts to grab prey in its tentacles, then bite the held victim.

URHAG NIGHTSPAWN (CR 3)
XP 800
Eldritch urhag (Advanced Bestiary 133)
N Medium aberration
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +12
Defense
AC 17, touch 12, flat-footed 15 (+2 Dex, +5 natural)
hp 19 (3d8+6)
Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +4
Defensive Abilities all-around vision; Resist cold 10
Weaknesses light blindness, vulnerable to sunlight
Offense
Speed 15 ft., fly 50 ft. (average)
Melee tentacles +3 (1d4+1 plus grab), bite +3 (1d6+1)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with tentacles)
Special Attacks constrict (1d4+1)
Statistics
Str 12, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 4, Wis 12, Cha 7
Base Atk +2; CMB +3 (+7 grab); CMD 14
Feats Blind-Fight, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Fly +6, Perception +12, Stealth +6; Racial Modifiers +4 Perception
Ecology
Environment cold mountains and underground (Leng and the Cold Waste)
Organization solitary or gang (2-4)
Treasure none
Special Abilities
Vulnerable to Sunlight (Ex) An urhag nightspawn takes 1 point of Con damage each round it is exposed to sunlight.

An urhag nightspawn is a stronger flyer and fighter than others of its kind, but bright light is anathema to it, forcing it to hunt only at night. This subspecies has adapted well to life in the eternal night of the underground caverns that riddle the roots of the northern mountains.

A nightspawn has the following abilities purchased with Eldritch Points (EP): abnormal reach (-1 EP), armor class (natural) (-1 EP), constrict (-1 EP). light blindness (+1 EP), maneuverability adjustment (-1 EP), vulnerable to sunlight (+2 EP), for a net 1 EP.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

LEGO Minifigures Series 14: Monsters!

The new Monsters set of collectible Minifigures (Series 14) is on sale now, and it provides a lovely selection of new creatures to help diversify any GM's collection. The sixteen characters are imminently suitable for RPG miniatures as is, but they also provide useful pieces for creating new models. Some of course, are more interesting--and original--than others.

Werewolf: At first glance, this werewolf is very similar to previously produced wolfmen, but this one has a new touch: a bushy tail that attaches between the torso and legs. For GMs of D&D and Pathfinder games, werewolves (along with Wolf Tribe characters from the Legends of Chima theme) also make excellent gnolls.

Zombie Pirate: It's easy enough to make a zombie pirate out of other minifigures, and the old Pirates of the Caribbean sets included a number of undead sailors. But this one is an excellent blend of the more cartoony aesthetics of the Pirates and Monster Hunters lines. It's one of my personal must-haves in this series, because I run a campaign set in Freeport: The City of Adventure, which has plenty of ghost ships.

Crazy Scientist: One of the previous Minifigures series included a mad scientist, but this one has obviously been experimenting upon himself: his cranium has expanded to fit his enlarged brain. This makes him excellent for use as a comic-book mutant supervillian. Unlike older beaker props, his is the first with opaque contents, and has a fly printed on the side--he's clearly the creator of the Fly Monster, below.

Wacky Witch: The Minifigures line has offered a witch before, too, but this one is goofier looking, with a ragged, bright purple dress and striped stockings. I vastly prefer the earlier, scarier hag (which was modeled after the Wicked Witch of the West). The pouty-looking black cat is the best part of the new one.

Plant Monster: The plant monster is still consuming its last victim, whose frightened face peeks out of its mouth. If you want to make it a little less silly-looking, replace the minifigure head with one of a solid color--preferably black or red--or with a 1x1 cylinder brick. This makes the mouth look more maw-like. (The mostly-teeth head from an Atlantis Hammerhead minifigure works even better.)

Fly Monster: This character is easily the most freakish member of Series 14: a winged humanoid with a large insect's head, and one hand mutated into a pincer-like claw. It also has a very different look from previous bug-like LEGO minifigures such as the aliens from Galaxy Squad and the scorpion and spider tribes from Legends of Chima. It's perfect for the retro B-movie horror look of this series.

Specter: This character and the Banshee, below, use the same ectoplasmic lower-body piece that was first used for some of the ghostly villains in the latest Ninjago storyline, but in new colors. The Specter is a lovely ghost figure, except that his derpy face doesn't inspire much fear. That can easily be fixed by replacing the head with a different face, such a skeleton's, or a blank black head for a hollow look. (Even turning the white head around to the blank side would make him more menacing.)

Zombie Cheerleader: This character is cute, and delightfully cheerful for a rotting corpse. Apart from the head, though, she isn't much use as a RPG miniature except for modern-day games,

Tiger Woman: This figure has tiger stripes painted on her legs, arms, front, and back, as well as on the hard-rubber tail that attaches at the waist. She's perfect for a weretiger, rakasta, or catfolk, or an anime catgirl. The smirk and the whip give her a ton of attitude, too.

Gargoyle: This gargoyle has the classic horns, fangs, and bat-wings associated with his type, allowing him to be used as a D&D-style gargoyle, imp, or other devil. Substitute normal-sized gray legs to give him a more imposing stature, or remove the wings and headpiece to make an animated stone statue or golem. The wings are perfect for a tiefling or succubus, or can be used to turn a Lizard Guy, Ninjago serpent, or Chima Crocodile Tribe character into a man-sized winged dragon. These many alternate uses for his elements make the gargoyle the most versatile entry in this series.

Skeleton Guy: It seems to be a tradition that every Minifigure series includes one character in a Halloween costume, and this set is no exception: this is a normal guy wearing a skeleton costume. The paint job faithfully copies a LEGO skeleton over all four sides of the body, This figure could be repurposed as a skeletal ghost, or a body that hasn't completed lost all of its flesh. However, it would probably serve best for a cultist of a death god, who is trying to look more like one of the undead he reveres.

Monster Rocker: This figure is my least favorite in the series. He's simply a Frankenstein's monster--the third or fourth version of such that LEGO has produced--with a guitar and a lot of denim.

Zombie Businessman: Like the cheerleader, this character is of limited use as a miniature outside of modern-day games. (He'll probably end up haunting my cube at work instead.) His mussed hair is the easiest element to reuse.

Banshee: This character was easily the one that I (and my two children) wanted most, The Banshee is a beautiful ghost figure, with a translucent hair piece (a first!) that complements her transparent lower body quite nicely.

Square Foot: This version of Bigfoot is identical to the earlier Yeti minifigure, but with a new color scheme and a change of props. He would serve well as a sasquatch, ape, or bugbear.

Spider Lady: This woman is clearly a vampire, but with a spider fetish instead of the classical bat theme. She comes with a clear plastic, two-piece cape and a beehive hairdo, giving her an Elvira: Mistress of the Dark vibe. Her outfit, with its web patterns and spiders, just begs to be used as the base of a drow noble or priestess character.

Overall, Series 14 is extremely satisfying. Every series will have a few characters I don't care for, but this set has very few (two or three at most) that I'm indifferent to. My personal favorites are the Plant Monster, Tiger Woman, Gargoyle, Banshee, and Spider Lady.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Finding Female Minifigures

One of my biggest challenges in using LEGO minifigures for RPG miniatures is the shortage of female figures compared to males. Almost every game I run (or play in) includes multiple women players. They rarely cross-play, but I occasionally do, and I prefer a good gender mix among my NPCs, so I'm constantly on the search for new parts to diversify my collection of female minifigures.

Just this week, I saw a post on the Mary Sue that pointed out that in the new Scooby Doo LEGO theme, Velma and Daphne are only available in the most expensive sets. This reminded me of my own disappointment when the first Marvel Avengers sets were released: Black Widow only appeared in the largest one (the Quinjet). Among LEGO's licensed themes, female characters have always been in short supply. In some cases, such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the property itself has a shortage of interesting women characters. In other themes, such as the DC and Marvel Superheroes lines, the LEGO Group's focus has historically been on male heroes or mostly male hero teams: Wonder Woman first appeared as an extra in a Superman set, while Storm and Black Widow only appeared in large sets that included several other team members.

In contrast, Harry Potter and Star Wars each had one major female character (Hermione and Leia) who was usually available in a set of middling size. The longevity of the Star Wars theme (the first movie property that the LEGO Group ever licensed) has made it a good source of female minifigures, though most are still limited to larger sets. One advantage of this line's popularity is the large number of characters that have been made available as key chains over the years.

LEGO key chains are a great way to acquire characters that are normally only available in expensive sets. They only cost $4.99 each, and can sometimes be found on sale for much less when a store wants to clear out older inventory. The chain can easily be removed with pliers, leaving only a tiny loop showing at the end of the screw imbedded into the figure. On the other hand, that screw means that you won't be able to disassemble the minifigure, and keychain characters never come with any handheld accessories. (I may post later about my method for removing the top of the screw, which allows the head to be removed, but renders the toy unsafe for children.)

I should briefly mention the Friends theme, which I've already blogged about recently. While almost all the characters are girls, the minidolls aren't fully compatible with standard minifigures, making it difficult to integrate the two--especially if your game isn't a modern teen drama. The new LEGO Elves theme does provide some fantasy-oriented minidolls and creatures, but the selection is still very limited.

If you have a LEGO Store in your area, then the Build-A-Mini kiosk is a useful option for acquiring female pieces. For $9.99, you can build three minifigures, with accessories, out of bins of loose parts. The selection of parts changes over time, so it pays to check the kiosk periodically for new arrivals--and in my experience, the more unusual the part, the faster it sells out, especially if female.

However, the best source that I've found for female pieces is the collectible Minifigures line. This theme debuted in 2010, and Series 14 was just released this month. (I'll be posting a review of that just as soon as I can finish collecting the last few I still lack!) There have also been a series for The LEGO Movie and two for The Simpsons, which are not counted in that number. Each of these series includes 16 different characters found in no other sets. The earliest series only included 2 or 3 women minifigures each, but that soon increased so that now most sets have 5 or 6 female characters out of the 16. Some of these women are female versions of earlier characters (such as the cave girl and Viking, and the bizarre lady robot and lady cyclops) while others are entirely original (the bee and unicorn costumes, and the fortune teller). Series 10 offered two of my all-time favorite female characters: Medusa and the warrior woman (a fierce Amazon with spear and shield). In fact, the latter impressed me so much that I immediately bought more copies of her than I have of any other collectible Minifigure to date.

(Thanks to Donald Eric Kesler of the LEGO Dungeons & Dragons Facebook group for the Mary Sue link.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dreamlands Pathfinder Bestiary: Hyperborean

One recurring theme in Cthulhu Mythos stories is the existence of numerous lost civilizations, many of them pre-human. One of the first true human civilizations, Hyperborea, accomplished great feats of engineering and magic, but only fragments of their knowledge survive today, preserved in esoteric scrolls.

The following statistics are converted from Ye Booke of Monstres, a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Additional information was taken from The Keeper's Compendium.

Hyperborean

This person looks like a slender human, barely five feet tall. He has very pale skin, light blond hair, gray eyes, a long straight nose, and unusually long earlobes.

HYPERBOREAN (CR 1/2)
XP 200
Hyperborean conjurer 1
Usually N Medium humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +1
Defense
AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14 (+2 Dex, +4 mage armor)
hp 7 (1d6+1)
Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +5
Offense
Speed 30 ft.
Melee dagger -1 (1d4-1/19-20)
Ranged dagger +2 (1d4-1/19-20)
Conjurer Spell-Like Abilities (CL 1st; concentration +5 [+9 casting defensively])
7/day--acid dart (ranged touch +2, range 30 ft., 1d6 acid)
Wizard Spells Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +5 [+9 casting defensively])
1st--mage armor (already cast), sleep (DC 15), summon monster I
0--detect magic, prestidigitation, ray of frost (ranged touch +2)
Prohibited illusion, necromancy
Statistics
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 19, Wis 12, Cha 6
Base Atk +0; CMB -1CMD 11
Feats Combat Casting, Iron Will, Scribe Scroll
Skills Appraise +8, Craft (any one) +8, Knowledge (arcana, any two others) +8, Linguistics +8, Spellcraft +8
Languages Abyssal, Aklo, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Hyperborean, Ignan
SQ arcane bond (ring), summoner's charm
Gear dagger, masterwork ring (bonded object)
Ecology
Environment any cold land (Hyperborea and Dreamlands)
Organization solitary, cabal (2-7 plus 3rd-level wizard), or school (12-20 plus three 3rd-level wizards and one 5th-8th wizard)
Treasure NPC gear (dagger, other treasure)

Hyperboreans prefer to avoid combat, relying on their spells to hunt foes. This human subrace's superior intelligence makes them excellent wizards, and most adventurers belong to that class.

Most scholars believe that Hyperboreans are an extinct civilization, but a few tiny groups survive in cold, glacial areas in the far north of the Dreamlands. Many have degenerated into primitive tribes, reduced to stone weapons and tools, but some still seek to preserve the decadent arts and magic of their glory days. This race is largely responsible for the near-extinction of the voormis (ancestors of the sasquatch race), through expansion into their territory and their callous hunting of the savages for sport.

This race originally worshiped a pantheon of gods (including Youndeh, the reindeer god) who are now all but forgotten. Hyperborean culture was heavily influenced (and some say, eroded) by the rise of cults worshiping the Great Old Ones, such as Tsathoggua (god of the voormis) and Cthulhu.

Hyperborean (Race Builder)

Type 
Humanoid (human): 0 RP
Size
Medium: 0 RP
Base Speed
Normal: 0 RP
Ability Score Modifiers
Greater Paragon (+4 Int, -2 Str, -2 Cha): 2 RP
Languages
Standard: 0 RP
Racial Traits
Feat and Skill Racial Traits
Flexible Bonus Feat: 4 RP
Skilled: 4 RP
Total: 10 RP

Languages: Hyperboreans begin play speaking Common and Hyperborean. Hyperboreans with high Intelligence can choose from the following: Abyssal, Aklo, Celestial, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, and Sasquatch.

Degenerate Hyperboreans: Hyperboreans who have regressed to a primitive state replace the greater paragon racial trait with standard human ability score modifiers.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dreamlands Pathfinder Bestiary: Witch Tree

When I ran my first-ever D&D Third Edition campaign, I used H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands as the setting for the world outside Freeport. Like the City of Adventure, the Dreamlands combines "sword & sorcery" heroism with elements of eldritch horror. I had previously used the setting in a GURPS campaign whose protagonists traveled between it and the modern-day "waking world," but found balancing events in the two dimensions to be a challenge. This time, I just used the highly magical dream realm by itself, as the Prime Material.

My primary reference for the setting was The Complete Dreamlands (Fourth Edition, Expanded & Revised), a supplement for Call of Cthulhu. During the course of running that Freeport campaign--and its sequel--I converted a number of monsters from that book (and other CoC sources) to d20. My campaign ultimately focused far more on Freeport than on the Dreamlands, so very few of those conversions ever saw play.

Now that my gaming group is playing Pathfinder, I've been pleased to note that a large selection of Cthulhu Mythos creatures have appeared in that game's sourcebooks. Bestiary 4 was particularly rich in Mythos fare, and has inspired me to revisit those old Dreamlands notes in order to convert some of these more obscure creatures to a new system.

Witch Tree

This crooked, spindly tree's branches sway slowly, despite the lack of wind.

WITCH TREE (CR 2)
XP 600
N Large plant
Init -2; Senses low-light vision; Perception -2
Defense
AC 15, touch 7, flat-footed 13 (-2 Dex, +8 natural, -1 size)
hp 37 (5d8+15)
Fort +7, Ref -1, Will -1
Immune plant traits
Offense
Speed 0 ft.
Melee slam +7 (1d6+7)
Ranged thrown rock +0 (1d4+5)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Statistics
Str 21, Dex 7, Con 17, Int --, Wis 7, Cha 7
Base Atk +3; CMB +9; CMD 17 (can't be tripped)
Ecology
Environment any forest or jungle
Organization solitary
Treasure none

This stat block represents any of a variety of unintelligent but animate trees found in the Dreamlands. All have mobile boughs and branches. Nearly all are firmly fixed in the ground, but approximately 5% can uproot themselves and move about slowly (speed 10 ft., cannot run or charge).

Druids sometimes cast awaken on witch trees to complete their abortive ascent to sentience. All such trees gain a move speed if they did not have one before.

Like mundane trees, witch trees need only light, water, air, and soil to survive. They use their animate branches to scare off predators and defend themselves if attacked. If a threat is detected beyond the tree's reach, it may hurl small objects such as sticks or stones. If a nuisance is small enough (size Small at most), the tree may simply try to pick it up and throw it away.

Source
Converted from The Complete Dreamlands (Fourth Edition, Expanded & Revised), by Chris Williams, Sandy Petersen, et al., for Call of Cthulhu.