Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Morale for Monsters

A loss of “heart” is at least as serious as a defeat in combat, and perhaps more so, for most battles are won without the necessity of decimation of the losing side.

Chainmail (1971)

Morale has long been an important mechanic for historic wargames and as such was incorporated into Chainmail (1971), which featured a couple of different and rather complicated rules for morale checks. Original D&D (1974), though, has only a few stray references to morale and no true rules. Similarly, the Holmes basic set (1977) refers to morale checks but includes no further details.

We did not get a native morale system for D&D until the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979). While many people might remember using morale for PC henchmen, the rather brief rules for monster morale on page 67 appear to have been far less used. In the DMG, “Each monster has a base morale of 50%, +5%/hit die above 1, +1%/hit point above any hit dice.” There are a series of different conditions that call for checks and various modifiers, but the DMG rules are not particularly clear or intuitive. It would have been very helpful, for example, for each entry in the Monster Manual to have included a line for morale.

In contrast, the Moldvay Basic set (1981) provides what are probably the best morale rules in the history of the game: a remarkably clear, concise, and simple system. Under Moldvay, each monster is assigned a morale score from 2 to 12. Creatures with a score of 2 never fight, while creatures with a 12 never flee or surrender. Morale checks are only made at a couple of critical points in combat, and consist of a 2d6 roll. All modifiers are abstract and capped at +2 or -2; most of the complexity is baked into a monster’s set morale score. A result greater than the morale score indicates a failed morale check, which results in flight or surrender. The simplicity of this system made it easy to apply and quick to resolve.

The one knock on the Moldvay system was that it might have been a little too simple. AD&D 2nd edition added a hybrid of 1st edition and Moldvay that relied on a 2d10 roll. Each monster in the Monstrous Compendium (1989) had a line for Morale, which was rated 2 to 20. Unlike Moldvay, there are many different situational modifiers that can be applied. Unfortunately, the added granularity probably added too much complexity, making the system more cumbersome to use.

Another problem with 2nd edition morale? The adventures of this period tended to be more tightly scripted and fleshed out than in earlier editions, where dungeon keys were fairly skeletal. In 2nd edition, encounters usually featured monsters with detailed motivations—and in such cases it was often easier for the DM to just roleplay monster reactions than it was to use a morale mechanic.

Third edition, therefore, did not include a morale system in the core rules. There were elaborate skill systems for social interactions and several different fear conditions, but no actual morale rules.

This absence only became a serious limitation when people started re-exploring sandbox play through wilderness or megadungeon games. In these situations, DMs were often running encounters on the fly, without elaborate backstories or motivations to guide roleplaying reactions. In such situations, a simple morale system becomes very useful to help generate monster reactions.

In creating a morale system for the Great Dungeon, I wanted something open and based on a d20 roll, but which would retain the simplicity of Moldvay. Where I might add complexity, I wanted to bake that into a formula calculated prior to a game session, and not at the table.

The first step was to map a 2d6 mechanic to d20. Here we need to note that while a d20 results are distributed linearly, a 2d6 results are curved, so the map will not be one-to-one. Here are the Moldvay morale scores translated into d20 bonuses, assuming a DC 10 target:

Mapping 2d6 Results to d20
Morale
Score
Probability
of Success
Rounded
to 5%
d20
Modifier
2 2.77% 5% -10
3 8.33% 10% -9
4 16.66% 15% -8
5 27.77% 30% -5
6 41.66% 40% -3
7 58.33% 60% +1
8 72.22% 70% +3
9 83.33% 85% +6
10 91.66% 90% +7
11 97.22% 95% +8
12 100% 100% +9

A Moldvay morale score of 7, for example, has a roughly 60% chance of success, which is equivalent to a +1 bonus to hit DC 10.

In reviewing Moldvay’s various morale scores across the Basic and Expert sets, there is an apparent logic and consistency to the results. Similar types of monsters have similar morale scores. Undead, for example, have higher morale scores than normal animals. Larger creatures tend to have higher morale than smaller creatures. A relatively small group of creatures have morale based on their training or personalities. Noncombatants, domesticated animals, and woodland spirits like dryads or nixies have lower morale scores, while automatons or creatures with immunity to normal weapons, such as gargoyles, have higher morale. All of this is rational enough.

There are only few really notable exceptions, and even these have a pleasing logic. Berserkers, minotaurs and lizard men are the only living, terrestrial creatures in all of B/X with morale scores of 12, meaning they never check morale. All other examples are either unintelligent undead, oozes, or extraplanar monsters like djinn or efreet. Berserkers are obvious, and I can certainly buy minotaurs as blood-thirsty, rage-filled killing machines. Lizard men are a little more surprising, but I really like the idea of them never checking morale. Maybe their primitive reptile brains prevents them from feeling fear? Although this detail wasn’t picked up in subsequent editions, it seems worth retaining.

I tinkered with some different formulas for calculating morale until I got results that roughly calibrated with Moldvay. I added Charisma into the formula because that allows this system to potentially also be used with leaders and their henchmen.

The result, I think, is a fairly decent morale system for use with 3.5e. In a follow up article I will present morale modifiers for most of the monsters in the System Reference Document.

The following text is Open Game Content.

Morale Check

A morale check represents a creature’s willingness to continue to fight. The GM makes morale checks for NPCs and monsters. Morale checks can be made at any pivotal moment in combat, but usually occur when first blood is drawn and again when half a monster’s hit points or allies have been incapacitated.

The GM may make a morale check for an entire side in a battle, or only for individuals. A morale check is made at the beginning of a creature’s turn, before any other action is taken. The morale check DC is based on the situation (see below).

Morale Check DCs
SituationMorale Check DC
Normal10
1/4 of allies incapacitated or killed (or a single creature has lost ¼ of its hit points)11
Leader incapacitated12
1/2 of allies incapacitated or killed (or a single creature has lost half of its hit points)13
Leader killed or flees16

When making a morale check, the GM rolls a d20 and adds the creature’s morale check bonus. (Other modifiers may also apply to this roll.) If the result equals or beats the appropriate morale check DC, the creature fights on. If the result is lower, the creature seeks to remove itself from combat.

A natural 1 (the d20 comes up 1) on a morale check is always a failure. A natural 20 (the d20 comes up 20) is always a success.

Morale Check Bonus

A creature’s morale check bonus is:

    Creature type bonus + special size modifier + Charisma modifier + racial modifier

Nonintelligent constructs, oozes, plants, and undead have no morale bonuses and never need to make morale checks.

Morale Bonuses by Creature Type
Creature TypeMorale Bonus
Fey+0
Plant+1
Aberration+2
Humanoid, Magical Beast+3
Animal, Giant, Monstrous Humanoid+4
Dragon, Outsider, Vermin+5
Construct, Elemental, Ooze, Undead+6

Size Modifiers to Morale
SizeSize Modifier
Tiny or Smaller-3
Small-2
Medium0
Large+2
Huge or Larger+3

Racial Modifiers to Morale
DescriptionExample CreatureRacial
Modifier
CowardlyHarpy, unicorn-6
TimidDryad, kobold-4
WaryMedusa, monstrous centipede-2
BoldGiant crocodile, ogre, troll+2
TenaciousDire rat, lizardfolk, minotaur+4
FanaticalGargoyle, monstrous scorpion, stirge+6

Noncombatant monsters, NPCs with levels in Commoner or Expert classes, or domestic animals have a -4 modifier to morale check bonuses.

Other Modifiers to Morale Checks

The GM should apply to the morale check any morale bonus or penalty that affects Will saves or saves against fear effects, such as barbarian rage, a bard’s inspire courage or inspire heroism abilities, or certain spell effects. (Note that morale modifiers overlap, and do not stack.)

Monsters with leader types present may use the leader’s Charisma modifier if higher than their own Charisma modifier.

Leaders with the Leadership feat also provide a +2 competence bonus on morale checks.

OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc (“Wizards”). All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Behold! A Beholder

Greg Bell, Greyhawk supplement cover (1975).

I recently painted up a nifty WizKids beholder miniature from the Nolzur’s Marvelous Unpainted Miniatures line. In preparation I turned to my trusty 1e Monster Manual for painting guidance, as it usually provides very specific coloring details—a legacy of the wargaming heritage, I suppose. But surprisingly, the MM doesn't actually have any painting notes for the beholder.

So then I began to wonder: what was the first-ever official color illustration of a beholder? Despite being an iconic D&D monster—a black and white drawing of one is on the cover of the Greyhawk supplement (1975)—the earliest color picture I could find was from the cover of the Grenadier "Dwellers Below" figure set (1980), part of their licensed AD&D line.

Ray Rubin, cover of “Dwellers Below” boxed set (1980).

This set contained, I believe, the very first “official” beholder miniature, sculpted by Andrew Chernak. Later editions of D&D have certainly used pinkish or purplish color schemes for their beholders, as seen on the cover of the 2nd edition Monstrous Compendium (1989). As further support of this color scheme, over on a Dragonsfoot thread the esteemed D&D scholar Zenopus noted that the Polly-S line of official AD&D miniature paints from 1979 or 1980 had some beholder-themed colors, which included “450 Beholder Body Fuchsia” and “454 Beholder Eyestalk Violet.”

I don't believe there was a beholder on a Dragon or module cover until the Waterdeep and the North supplement (1987), which depicts the infamous crime lord Xanathar as bluish-purple with yellow highlights.

The only other 1e-era notes I could find were in the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album (1979), a somewhat odd third-party product but with Gary Gygax listed as the author. The Coloring Album notes:

An olive-green sphere, this eye-tyrant is covered in enormously tough chitinous plates. Between these plates, cracks flush purplish-green, while highlighted areas glow yellow-green. The small eyestalks are a lighter olive, with disgusting pink sockets from which green and orange ringed eyes stare fixedly. A huge central eye stares balefully forth. Yellow-orange jagged teeth jut out from the pinkish mouth, ready to rend and engulf prey.

Zenopus also provided a picture of the “Official AD&D Rub-Down Picture Transfers,” which has a decidedly olive colored beholder consistent with these notes.

So it quickly became clear in researching color schemes there have been many different looks for beholders over the years. 5e really embraced this diversity, noting in the new Monster Manual (2014) that

The disdain a beholder has for other creatures extends to other beholders. Each beholder believes its form to be an ideal, and that any deviation from that form is a flaw in the racial purity of its kind. Beholders vary greatly in their physical forms, making conflict between them inevitable. Some beholders are protected by overlapping chitinous plates. Some have smooth hides. Some have eyestalks that writhe like tentacles, while others’ stalks bear crustacean-like joints. Even slight differences of coloration in hide can turn two beholders into lifelong enemies.

It also became clear in my research that many of these looks are awfully bad. The beholder might be relatively easy to describe as a concept—in fact, a floating sphere with an enormous mouth and many eyes sounds pretty metal—but it is actually rather difficult to depict visually, in part because the thing is so darned alien. It’s all-too-easy to end up with something completely risible or just too weird. And the beholder should look, if anything, terrifying.

And as hard as it might be to draw or paint a good beholder, it’s got to be even harder to sculpt one. You might get a perspective that looks great on paper but falls apart in three dimensions. But that hasn’t stopped lots of folks from trying: oodles of beholder miniatures have been produced over the years. And here a trio of reference sites—DnDLead.com, Minibase, and the Lost Minis Wiki—were invaluable.

As far as I can tell, the very first beholder miniature was an unofficial one made for Archive in 1976 or 1977, the “Eleven Eyed Floater” in Dungeon Nasties II. And as the beholder was pretty firmly the intellectual property of TSR and now Wizards of the Coast, we have a hoary tradition of alternate names for third party versions. One of the next unofficial miniatures was probably the “Beholding Sphere” sculpted by Max Carr for the Heritage Dungeon Dwellers, dating maybe to 1980 or 1981. (Heritage USA Dungeon Dwellers is a fantastic reference site for this line.)

Searcher of Souls, John Dennett (1984).

Many, many unofficial beholders would follow, including the Grenadier “Searcher of Souls” from 1984, sculpted by John Dennett. This was sold in a blister with a “Writhing Crusher” as part of the Fantasy Lords first series. This was one of the first miniatures I ever painted, many ages ago, and clearly I was using the Coloring Album guidelines as one can see the purple chinks between the olive plates. It was small even for 25mm scale and would be just a tiny thing placed beside 28mm figures.

Grenadier produced the Searcher of Souls after it lost the coveted D&D license around 1982, as TSR tried its hand at its own in-house line of miniatures. The results were short-lived and I do not believe a TSR beholder was ever released. The license was then issued to Citadel in 1985, which produced a pretty respectable line of miniatures in just 18 months, including a beholder sculpted by Nick Bibby. This model was notable for having a clear plastic “flying base.”

After Citadel the license went to Ral Partha in 1987, which released another Beholder in 1988, sculpted by Dennis Mize. (A big thanks to Richard Scott over at the Facebook Old School Miniatures group for this last bit of info.) After Wizards of the Coast acquired TSR in 1997, they let the Ral Partha license lapse and began releasing their own metal miniatures, including a really nice beholder (2000) sculpted by Kim Graham and Will Hannah as part of the 3.5 line.

Beholder, Deathknell (2005).

On a parallel path Wizards developed the Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures Game, which premiered in 2003 with large expansion sets of pre-painted plastic miniatures. There was an extremely nice prepainted beholder in the Deathknell set (2005), which I was lucky enough to pull from a booster. A few other prepainted miniatures have been released over the last ten years, though none are probably as nice as the Deathknell model. These include the “Beholder Eye Tyrant” in Monster Manual: Dangerous Delves (2009), the “Beholder Ultimate Tyrant” in Legendary Evils (2009), and most recently the “Beholder” from D&D Icons of the Realms: Monster Menagerie II (2017).

Beholder, Nolzur’s Marvelous Unpainted Miniatures (2017).

Which brings us back to the WizKids unpainted miniature, which I believe represents the first official, unpainted plastic beholder ever. This is a great model with lots of detail—it very closely emulates the beholder on the cover of the 5e Monster Manual. The model is rather customizable, as you can swap in different eye stalks, some showing spell effects zapping out at unseen targets. A notable feature is the central eye has a plastic “contact lens” you can add to create a glassy eyeball effect.

I watched a few different tutorials in anticipation of tackling this model, and it was well worth the time. I discovered some good techniques for painting eyes and picked up some new ideas for approaching highlights. For my beholder, I decided to go with a classic purple palette, with an undercoat of dark blue and highlights of red and light purple. I had a couple of false starts and it was on my table for a long time but overall I was pretty happy with the final results.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Demonic Patrons

David C. Sutherland illustration from Eldritch Wizardry

Demon lords and princes have been important to D&D ever since the Eldritch Wizardry supplement (1976), which explains that there “are several Princes, but only two of the greatest of these exceptional demon lords are described here.” Those two, of course, are Orcus and Demogorgon, though the Demon Prince Nql is mentioned in the description of The Codex of the Infinite Planes. Their ranks were expanded in the AD&D Monster Manual (1977), which added Juiblex and Yeenoghu. This still wasn’t enough, as products such as Vault of the Drow (1978), The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (1982), Monster Manual II (1983), and Temple of Elemental Evil (1985) added even more demon lords and princes to the game.

Clearly both Gygax and his Greyhawk co-DM Rob Kuntz were enamored by these super demons, as imprisoned lords and princes reportedly played an important part in early versions of Greyhawk Dungeon. The Caverns of Tsojcanth had circulated as a tournament module as early as 1976. The recently published Art and Arcana book contains Gygax’s detailed art direction to Dave Sutherland for Eldritch Wizardry, demonstrating that he had established the idiosyncratic look and feel of D&D demons very early on.

But where did Gygax’s vision for D&D demon princes come from? Devils, which did not debut until the AD&D Monster Manual, are clearly derived from a Judeo-Christian tradition. But D&D demons are different. While Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead has loose roots in Roman myth, there is no similar analog for Demogorgon. The name is of uncertain provenance and remained obscure until John Milton’s Paradise Lost. And Demogorgon’s appearance, a bizarre two-headed chimera of octopus, dinosaur, and ape, resembles nothing in folklore or mythology.

Elric summons Arioch, from The Ruby Throne

Twentieth century fantasy fiction seems to be a more direct source for the D&D demon princes than traditional mythology or literature. And here we can start with Michael Moorcock, whose writings were hugely important to D&D. Moorcock created the Chaos Lords, evil entities with power comparable to deities, rulers in their own extra-planar realms. (Sound familiar?) The chief patron of Melniboné, for example, is the cruel Arioch, who inspired the infamous cry “Blood and Souls for My Lord Arioch!”

Another source for D&D demon lords is Fred Saberhagen’s Empire of the East series, the last volume of which is name-checked in Appendix N. These books were directly influential on D&D, featuring elemental summoning (and the old distance distortion spell), djinn, and . . . demon princes. In particular, demon princes in Saberhagen hide their souls in objects similar in nature to the demon amulets described in Eldritch Wizardry and the Monster Manual.

Demon Princes in the Great Dungeon

The Distant West is the ultimate source of most lore associated with demons and their various lords and princes. In the West mighty conjurers have mastered the dark art of commanding and binding demons. There cults to Demogorgon, Orcus, and other princes flourish within the decadent human cities. There large tribes of rapacious gnolls haunt the arid plains, seeking slaves and sacrifices for their patron Yughooragh. The Great Dungeon of the North calls out to the followers of demon princes, offering lost treasures, magic, and dark secrets. Within the Dungeon rival cults battle with each other, united only by their shared hatred of the tieflings and the cult of Asmodeus.

Several areas within the Great Dungeon are infected with a slowly-spreading demonic taint that steadily warps the affected areas with evil and chaos. In these infected sites gates to the Abyss spontaneously open and close, allowing demons to enter the Dungeon—and occasionally drawing the unwary into the Abyss that awaits beyond.

Several soul objects attached to powerful demons have been recovered from the Dungeon and it is rumored that at least two demon lords are trapped somewhere in the lower levels. This rumor is afforded some credibility given the number of greater demons that have been encountered scouring the deepest parts of the Great Dungeon.

Demonic Patrons

Because the D&D demon princes are pretty clearly the original creation of Gygax and his collaborators, their physical appearances, backstories, and names are usually closed content. Names derived from myth or literature, like Demogorgon, are public domain—but his specific physical form as depicted in the Monster Manual is protected intellectual property.

This became a problem for Gygax after he left TSR in the mid eighties. He was allowed to retain limited rights to a few of his intellectual creations; if a proper name was used in one of his first two Gord the Rogue novels, he was able to use that name in future works. This allowed New Infinities to publish new Gord novels set in an alternate World of Greyhawk. But since Gygax wanted to use some unavailable demon princes, he had to invent new names for these familiar characters. These are usually easy to suss out: Arachne is Lolth, Var-Az-Hloo is Fraz-Urb’luu, Szhublox is Juiblex, and so on.

Erik Mona employed similar means when he detailed demon lords for Green Ronin’s excellent Armies of the Abyss supplement. Mona went back to traditional myth to create open content versions of many demon lords, and he provided substitutes for those demon princes that were wholly original to D&D.

In addition, Clark Peterson was granted the ability to publish open game content versions of Baphomet, Fraz-Urb’luu, Kostchtchie, Orcus, Pazuzu, and “Jubilex” in his landmark Tome of Horrors.

Between these two sources we have lots of 3.5e material on demon princes and lords. The following text is Open Game Content:

Abraxas

The Supreme Unknown

Layer Pleroma

Areas of Concern Magic, occult lore, dangerous secrets

Domains Chaos, Evil, Knowledge, Magic, Protection

Favored Weapon Whip

Abraxas appears as crowned man with the head of a rooster and two serpents instead of legs. He is one of the more powerful and subtle of the demon princes, with many mortals drawn to his influence in search of magical protection or arcane knowledge. Despite his monstrous appearance, his cult operates openly in many larger cities.

Anarazel

Guardian of a Thousand Terrors

Layer The Caves of Chaos

Areas of Concern Fear, bravery, material wealth, adventurers

Domains Chaos, Earth, Evil, Fear

Favored Weapon Short sword

Anarazel is the mysterious keeper of treasures and secrets hidden in the darkest depths of the earth. His favor is sought by miners as well as adventurers intent on exploring the deepest dungeons and caverns of the world. He appears as a winged and horned figure, his face hidden by a veil.

Arachnadia

The Spider Queen

Layer The Darkling Court

Areas of Concern Poison, dark elves

Domains Chaos, Destruction, Evil, Trickery

Favored Weapon Dagger

Arachnadia is one of the most powerful demons in the Abyss, with a great following among the dark elves and poisoners. Driders and evil spiders of all sorts are her servants. Arachnadia holds that she has actually transcended her demonhood and become a true deity, though this claim is not universally recognized.

Baphomet

Lord of Minotaurs, Lord of Labyrinths and Beasts

Layer Ivory Labyrinth

Areas of Concern Guardians, minotaurs

Domains Chaos, Evil, Strength, Protection

Favored Weapon Halberd

Baphomet is revered by minotaurs as their lord and deity, and he appears as a towering minotaur wielding a great halberd. His iron keep is located within a large stone cavern on a desolate plane of the Abyss. It is said his castle is a maze of twisting rooms and corridors, with his personal throne room located at the heart of his maze keep. Baphomet is a fierce rival of Yughooragh, the demonic patron of gnolls.

Behemoth

The Great Beast

Layer Duidan

Areas of Concern Gluttony, despair, bestial instincts

Domains Animal, Chaos, Evil, Strength

Favored Weapon Longspear

Behemoth is the titanic demon lord of gluttony and sloth. He appears as a grossly obese human with the head of a four-tusked elephant; his form rises far above even the highest towers. Behemoth spends most of his time either sleeping or feasting to excess.

Dagon

The Shadow in the Sea, Lord of the Sea and Sea Monsters

Layer Ishiar

Areas of Concern Deformity, sea monsters, the Sea

Domains Chaos, Destruction, Evil, Water

Favored Weapon Trident

Dagon is a monstrous demon prince of titanic size, who dwells in a sunken city beneath an Abyssal sea. His foul form is said to mix the worst parts of fish, eel, and octopus. Dagon is said to have originated as a qlippoth, making him even older than the immortal demons. Despite his utterly alien appearance, he is said to command a thriving cult of strange, degenerate humans living in isolated villages.

Demogorgon

The Prince of Demonium

Layer The Mouths of Madness

Areas of Concern Despotism

Domains Chaos, Evil, Fear, Pain

Favored Weapon Whip

The cruel Demogorgon is, if not the supreme demon prince in the Abyss, certainly one of the most powerful. The merciless and power-mad Demogorgon commands multitudes of followers and the enmity of his many rivals. He rules over many of the foul creatures that creep, slither, and swim. His physical form is said to be far too horrific for mortals to describe in words or depict in art.

Flauros

The Burning Maw

Layer The Bloodpyre Fields

Areas of Concern fire, volcanoes

Domains Chaos, Evil, Fire, War

Favored Weapon Spear

The fiery Flauros, patron of arsonists, appears as a gigantic snakelike creature whose form shimmers with immense heat. He has two arms and bears a black spear.

Fraz-Urb’luu

The Prince of Deceit, Zhar’Ub-Luur

Layer The False Kingdom

Areas of Concern Lies

Domains Chaos, Eloquence, Evil, Trickery

Favored Weapon Quarterstaff

Fraz-Urb’luu is one of the most physically powerful demon princes as well as one of the most cunning. His deceptions range far and wide, affecting and influencing not only those on the Material Plane but also other demon princes and demon lords. His malevolent nature lends itself well to his trickery and deception, and he bends others to do his will. Fraz-Urb’luu appears as a massive hulking ape-like humanoid standing nearly three times as tall as a normal human. His head sports large, upright, pointed ears and a large round mouth lined with sharpened teeth. His body is gray and covered with fine, thin blue hair. He has a long, serpentine tail and two large bat-like wings.

Haagenti

The Ultimate Alchemist

Layer Cerebulim—The Hermetic Horizon

Areas of Concern Alchemy, wealth, transmogrification, experimentation, progress, creation of artificial life

Domains Change, Chaos, Earth, Evil

Favored Weapon Dagger

The clever and sadistic Haagenti is renowned for his mastery of alchemy and transmutation magic. As such, his favor is often sought by the greedy and foolish. He is said to be able to assume any form he desires.

Jubilex

Lord of Many Forms, The Faceless Lord

Layer Undersump

Areas of Concern Oozes, slimes

Domains Change, Chaos, Evil, Pain, Water

Favored Weapon heavy mace

Jubilex is the ruler over all slimes, oozes, jellies, and other disgusting and foul ooze-like creatures. His Abyssal home is a steaming, bubbling lair of putrid ooze and slime pits that are constantly shifting and changing at his whim. Even the other demonic rulers loathe to journey here. Jubilex is constantly attended by and surrounded with all sorts of slimes and oozes. Jubliex’s form is a large bubbling mass of greenish black and foul-smelling liquid. Ooze, slime, and pus constantly squirt and seep from its form, which is dotted with several large red eyes.

Kostchtchie

The Deathless Frost, Lord of Giants and Cold

Layer Jhuvumirak

Areas of Concern Cold, brutality

Domains Chaos, Crippling, Evil, Strength

Favored Weapon Warhammer

Kostchtchie is the demon lord of cold and is the epitome of hatred and evil. Ruthless and malevolent, Kostchtchie is hated by all—including other demon lords and princes. He appears as a massive, deformed frost giant. Kostchtchie moves across his Abyssal landscape with a shuffling gait, and is rarely, if ever, encountered alone.

Nocticula

Princess of Moonlight

Layer Ablinikarn, the Evershifting Vale

Areas of Concern Assassins, darkness, lust

Domains Chaos, Charm, Darkness, Evil

Favored Weapon Sickle

Nocticula is said to have been the first succubus, and though she is readily able to take on any shape as desired, her natural form is said to resemble one of these demons. Nocticula rules in the shadows and commands bats and shadow demons. Her ability to deceive and seduce is legendary, and even other demon princes are said to have succumbed to her wiles.

Orcus

The Lord of the Undead

Layer Uligor

Areas of Concern Undeath

Domains Chaos, Death, Evil, Magic

Favored Weapon Heavy mace

Orcus, master of undead, is one of the strongest and most powerful of all demon lords. He fights a never-ending war against rival demon princes that spans several Abyssal layers. Orcus spends most of his days in his great bone palace, rarely leaving its confines unless he decides to command his troops as they wage war across the smoldering and stinking planes of the Abyss. He appears as a squat and bloated humanoid, standing nearly three times as tall as a normal human. His goat-like head sports large, spiraling ram-like horns. His legs are covered in thick brown fur and end in hooves. Two large, black, bat-like wings protrude from his back and a long, snake-like tail, tipped with a sharpened barb, trails behind him.

Pazuzu

King of Wind Demons, Demon Lord of Winged Creatures and the Sky

Layer High M'Vania

Areas of Concern Predators, winged creatures

Domains Air, Animal, Chaos, Evil

Favored Weapon Longsword

Pazuzu is the demon prince of aerial creatures, and is revered as such on both the Abyssal plane and the Material Plane. Unlike other demon princes, his lair is not confined to a single plane or multiple adjoining planes; Pazuzu rules the sky realms above all layers of the Abyss. No demon prince has contested his rulership of the skies thus far. Pazuzu appears as a powerfully-built humanoid with the head of a hawk and four great feathery wings spanning his shoulders. His feathers are red and gold, fading to black at the tip. His eyes are red and his hands and feet end in hawk-like talons.

Shax

The Great Crippling Gaze

Layer Charnelhome

Areas of Concern Mutilation, lies, murder, audacity

Domains Chaos, Crippling, Evil, Subterfuge

Favored Weapon Dagger

Shax is the patron of bloody, wanton violence and cruelty and is venerated by murderers and torturers. He appears as a man with a dove‘s head and birdlike legs, wielding sharp knives.

Tsathogga

The Frog Demon, the Gaping Maw

Layer The Slough of Despond

Areas of Concern amphibians, corruption, darkness, swamps

Domains Chaos, Destruction, Evil, Water

Favored Weapon Dagger

This foul frog-demon cares less about the machinations of men and power than he does about obliterating light and life with the slow oozing sickness and decay that he represents. He is the viscous dark evil bubbling up from beneath the surface, the foul corruption at the heart of the earth. His lair is a vast swamp of filth. Tsathogga’s main form is of a colossally-bloated humanoid frog with spindly, elongated limbs and fingers. His corpulent body exudes all manner of foul oils and fluids, which leak into the vile swamp in which he lies.

Vaz’zht

The Ebony Lord

Layer The Dolorous Halls

Areas of Concern Nobility, espionage, hedonism

Domains Chaos, Eloquence, Evil, Subterfuge

Favored Weapon Bastard sword

Vaz’zht is one of the more powerful demon lords, a rival to both Orcus and Demogorgon. He is distinguished among his kind by his subtlety and patience: rarely does the Ebony Lord approach anything directly. He delights in using coercion and treachery rather than brute force to achieve his ends. He is served by lamias and half-fiend creatures. Vaz’zht appears as a tall, dark man wielding a wave-bladed sword.

Yughooragh

The Father of Gnolls

Layer The Wasteland

Areas of Concern Scavengers, gnolls

Domains Animal, Chaos, Death, Evil

Favored Weapon Flail

The Prince of Gnolls is greatly feared for his bestial savagery as well as his implacable hungers, which run to living creatures as well as carrion. In addition to gnolls, he also commands the service of hyenas, ghouls, ghasts, and trolls. He is a bitter rival to Baphomet, the Prince of Minotaurs. Yughooragh appears as a towering, emaciated gnoll with mangy fur. His presence is accompanied by a foul, charnel stench.

New Domains

Change Domain

Demon Princes Haagenti, Jubilex

Granted Power Your studies of the nature of chaos have given you limited control over probability. You are immune to confusion or similar effects. Further, if you successfully save against baleful polymorph cast upon you, you may take control of the spell as if it were polymorph. (Treat it as polymorph to determine duration, possible forms, and so on.) This is an extraordinary ability.

Domain Spells 1st—enlarge person, 2nd—gaseous form, 3rd—stone shape, 4th—reincarnate, 5th—baleful polymorph, 6th—transmute rock to mud, 7th—transmute metal to wood, 8th—fleshy blight*, 9th—shapechange

Crippling Domain

Demon Prince Kostchtchie, Shax

Granted Power Once per day you can perform a strike intended to cripple an opponent. Add an enhancement bonus equal to your cleric level to a damage roll from a melee or ranged attack. In addition, the damaged opponent must make a successful Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 your cleric level + your Constitution modifier) or become dazed for 1 round. You must declare the use of this ability before making the attack roll. This is a supernatural ability.

Domain Spells 1st—doom, 2nd—hold person, 3rd—blindness/deafness, 4th—enervation, 5th—feeblemind, 6th—harm, 7th—femurburst*, 8th—power word, blind, 9th—implosion

Eloquence Domain

Demon Prince Fraz-Urb’luu, Vaz’zht

Granted Power Once per day, you can force an opponent to reroll a saving throw made against a mind-affecting Enchantment spell cast by you. The opponent must take the result of the second roll, even if it is better than the original roll. This is an extraordinary ability.

Domain Spells 1st—charm person, 2nd—enthrall, 3rd—charm monster, 4th—good hope, 5th—modify memory, 6th—geas/quest, 7th—symbol of persuasion, 8th—mass charm monster, 9th—power word, kill

Fear Domain

Demon Prince Anarazel, Demogorgon

Granted Power You are immune to fear (magical or otherwise). This is an extraordinary ability.

Domain Spells 1st—cause fear, 2nd—scare, 3rd—crushing despair, 4th—fear, 5th—phantasmal killer, 6th—eyebite (panicked only), 7th—symbol of fear, 8th—weird, 9th—wail of the banshee

Pain Domain

Demon Prince Demogorgon, Jubilex

Granted Power Your intimate knowledge of weaponry grants you the extraordinary ability to land especially painful blows on your enemies. You gain a reservoir of extra damage equal to your levels in cleric. You may distribute these points as you wish, but only applicable to your melee or ranged attacks. You must declare the use of this ability and the amount of extra damage desired before making the attack roll. You receive a new allotment of extra damage each time you replenish your spells.

Domain Spells 1st—chill touch, 2nd—inflict moderate wounds, 3rd—vampiric touch, 4th—poison, 5th—slay living, 6th—harm, 7th—destruction, 8th—symbol of pain, 9th—horrid wilting

Subterfuge Domain

Demon Princes Shax, Vaz’zht

Granted Power You gain the spell-like ability to disguise self once per day as a caster of your character level.

Domain Spells 1st—disguise self, 2nd—alter self, 3rd—displacement, 4th—greater invisibility, 5th—false vision, 6th—mislead, 7th—mass invisibility, 8th—sequester, 9th—mind blank

New Spells

Femurburst

Transmutation [Evil]

Level Crippling 7, Sor/Wiz 8

Components V, S

Casting Time 1 standard action

Range Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Target One living creature

Duration Instantaneous

Saving Throw Fortitude negates

Spell Resistance Yes

The subject’s leg bones explode, dealing 1d6 points of damage per caster level (maximum 25d6). The subject’s land movement decreases by 20 feet, to a minimum of 0 feet. This decrease counts as an enhancement penalty, and it affects the creature’s jumping distance as normal for reduced speed. The creature can only repair this damage through a heightened heal (7th level) or regenerate spell.

Fleshy Blight

Transmutation [Chaotic, Evil]

Level Change 8, Sor/Wiz 8

Components V, S, M

Casting Time 1 standard action

Range Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Target One living creature

Duration Instantaneous

Saving Throw Fortitude negates

Spell Resistance Yes

The subject’s body undergoes a profound physical change, whereby its form melts, warps, bubbles, and changes at random. The affected creature is unable to hold or use any item. The subject’s land movement decreases by 10 feet, to a minimum of 0 feet. This decrease counts as an enhancement penalty, and it affects the creature’s jumping distance as normal for reduced speed. While in this state, the subject becomes embroiled in a chaos of pain from stretching bones and warping flesh, unable to take actions of any kind. Each round in this state, the subject takes 1d4 points of Wisdom damage and 1d4 points of Charisma damage.

The subject can fall back upon its sense of identity and attempt to regain its normal form, as a full round action that provokes an attack of opportunity and by succeeding a Charisma check against the spell’s DC, allowing the victim to reestablish its normal form for 1 minute.

The effects of fleshy blight can be cured only by a greater restoration, heal, or restoration spell (a separate restoration spell is needed to restore any lost Wisdom).

Material Components A slice of hide from a chaos beast.

OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc (“Wizards”). All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

5e Orcus Cult Vampire

The nice thing about adopting the Orcus Cult Vampire to Fifth Edition is that we just need to do a little reskinning. The following text is Open Game Content:

Orcus Cult Vampire

The gaunt figure has soulless eyes that are black as pitch, and large pointed ears. Its mouth curls into a snarl revealing long, jagged yellow teeth.

Sworn to a Demon Prince. The cultists of Orcus venerate vampires as the most unholy expressions of their master’s power. Within the cult even the lowliest vampire holds higher status than the most powerful living cultist, and the living toil to procure victims and otherwise serve at the pleasure of their blood-drinking superiors.

A Dark Transformation. Many cultists aspire to eventually be transformed into vampires via a foul ritual dedicated to the demon prince of undeath. The Orcus cult vampires so created differ from common vampires in both abilities and weaknesses.

Centuries of Unceasing Night. Granted immortal life but not immortal youth, these cult vampires burn with hatred as their bodies are steadily consumed by the slow passage of years. Although these vampires are unable to create spawn they nevertheless hunger for the blood of the living.

Vampire Initiate Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

CE Medium undead

Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; passive Perception 13

Languages Abyssal, Common

Defense

Armor Class 15 (natural armor)

Hit Points 82 (11d8 + 33)

Saving Throws Dex +6, Wis +3

Damage Resistances necrotic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks

Offense

Speed 30 ft.

Multiattack. The vampire makes two attacks, only one of which can be a bite attack.

Claws. +6 melee, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 8 (2d4 + 3) slashing damage. Instead of dealing damage, the vampire can grapple the target (escape DC 13).

Bite. +6 melee, reach 5 ft., one willing creature, or a creature that is grappled by the vampire, incapacitated, or restrained. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) necrotic damage. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken, and the vampire regains hit points equal to that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.

Statistics

Str 16 (+3), Dex 16 (+3), Con 16 (+3), Int 11 (+0), Wis 10 (+0), Cha 12 (+1)

Skills Perception +3, Stealth +6

Traits

Regeneration. The vampire regains 10 hit points at the start of its turn if it has at least 1 hit point and isn’t in sunlight or running water. If the vampire takes radiant damage or damage from holy water, this trait doesn’t function at the start of the vampire’s next turn.

Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, the vampire can take the Hide action as a bonus action.

Vampire Weaknesses. The vampire has the following flaws:

Forbiddance. The vampire can’t enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants.

Harmed by Running Water. The vampire takes 20 acid damage when it ends its turn in running water.

Stake to the Heart. The vampire is destroyed if a piercing weapon made of wood is driven into its heart while it is incapacitated in its resting place.

Sunlight Hypersensitivity. The vampire takes 20 radiant damage when it starts its turn in sunlight. While in sunlight, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.

Orcus Cult Vampire Challenge 13 (10,000 XP)

CE Medium undead

Init +4; Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 17

Languages Abyssal, Common

Defense

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)

Hit Points 144 (17d8 + 68)

Saving Throws Dex +9, Wis +7, Cha +9

Damage Resistances necrotic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks

Offense

Speed 30 ft.

Multiattack. The vampire makes two attacks, only one of which can be a bite attack.

Unarmed Strike. +9 melee, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage. Instead of dealing damage, the vampire can grapple the target (escape DC 18).

Bite. +9 melee, reach 5 ft., one willing creature, or a creature that is grappled by the vampire, incapacitated, or restrained. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) necrotic damage. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken, and the vampire regains hit points equal to that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.

Charm. The vampire targets one humanoid it can see within 30 feet of it. If the target can see the vampire, the target must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw against this magic or be charmed by the vampire. The charmed target regards the vampire as a trusted friend to be heeded and protected. Although the target isn’t under the vampire’s control, it takes the vampire’s requests or actions in the most favorable way it can, and it is a willing target for the vampire’s bite attack. Each time the vampire or the vampire’s companions do anything harmful to the target, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success. Otherwise, the effect lasts 24 hours or until the vampire is destroyed, is on a different plane of existence than the target, or takes a bonus action to end the effect.

Summon Shadows (1/Day). The vampire magically calls 1d4 shadows which arrive in 1d4 rounds, acting as allies of the vampire and obeying its spoken commands. The shadows remain for 1 hour, until the vampire dies, or until the vampire dismisses them as a bonus action.

Legendary Actions. The vampire 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. The vampire regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Move. The vampire moves up to its speed without provoking opportunity attacks.

Unarmed Strike. The vampire makes one unarmed strike.

Bite (Costs 2 Actions). The vampire makes one bite attack.

Statistics

Str 18 (+4), Dex 18 (+4), Con 18 (+4), Int 17 (+3), Wis 15 (+2), Cha 18 (+4)

Skills Perception +7, Stealth +9

Traits

Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If the vampire fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.

Regeneration. The vampire regains 20 hit points at the start of its turn if it has at least 1 hit point and isn’t in sunlight or running water. If the vampire takes radiant damage or damage from holy water, this trait doesn’t function at the start of the vampire’s next turn.

Shadow Escape. When it drops to 0 hit points outside its resting place, the vampire dissipates into shadow instead of falling unconscious, provided that it isn’t in sunlight or running water. If it can’t dissipate, it is destroyed. The vampire reappears 1 round later in its resting place, where it reverts to its vampire form. It is then paralyzed until it regains at least 1 hit point. After spending 1 hour in its resting place with 0 hit points, it regains 1 hit point.

Shadow Form. If the vampire isn’t in sunlight or running water, it can use its action to polymorph into a shadow, or back into its true form. While in shadow form, the vampire can’t take any actions, speak, or manipulate objects, its walking speed is 40 feet. The vampire can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing. Anything it is wearing transforms with it, but nothing it is carrying does. It reverts to its true form if it dies. It has advantage on Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution saving throws, and it is immune to all nonmagical damage, except the damage it takes from sunlight.

Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, the vampire can take the Hide action as a bonus action.

Vampire Weaknesses. The vampire has the following flaws:

Forbiddance. The vampire can’t enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants.

Harmed by Running Water. The vampire takes 20 acid damage when it ends its turn in running water.

Stake to the Heart. The vampire is destroyed if a piercing weapon made of wood is driven into its heart while it is incapacitated in its resting place.

Sunlight Hypersensitivity. The vampire takes 20 radiant damage when it starts its turn in sunlight. While in sunlight, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.

OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc (“Wizards”). All Rights Reserved.