Monday, August 29, 2022

Pygmy Giants

Drawn by yours truly

Pygmy Giant
Number Encountered: 1d8 (5d8)
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 1 weapon
Armor: as leather
Morale: 8
Bullied Followers: Pygmy giants are often bullied or otherwise forced into submission by other giants and sometimes the few humans who come by their islands, and will often be found in the service of giants and sometimes in the crews of sailors and pirates.
Herding and Fishing: Pygmy giants are avid herdsmen and fishermen; they will react violently if their herds or nets are disturbed.
Weapons: Wield clubs, stones, and spears.

Pygmy giants are children of 'Ajuj and Majuj, the monstrous pair of the far north, the twin fathers of monsters, beasts, and giants... but unlike 'Ajuj and Majuj's other children, they are much, much smaller. Having been confined to isolated islands in the Sea of Giants, or distant frigid crags on the always frozen sea far to the north, they have undergone insular dwarfism, shrinking down to just under the average size of a human. They are just as muscular and dense as true giants, however, packing a lot of punch in a rather small package. Their heavily plodding feet leave deep furrows and prints in the wet sand of their salty islands, as they herd beasts of burden and fish from the depths. However, sometimes pygmy giants are pressed into service for their larger brothers and sisters, sometimes especially callous giants depopulating whole islands of their pygmy giant inhabitants for some raiding campaign thousands of miles away. The pygmy giants are xenophobic and wary of outsiders, and resentful of their elder brothers and sisters, but size and might makes right in the terrible family of 'Ajuj and Majuj.

Pygmy giants in the northern reaches of the Land of Darkness tend to be furrier and woolier than their more southerly cousins, but there isn't a hard divide of pygmy giants into two groups, and they can be just as visually diverse as other giants.

I just really love including real world biological concepts in my games and in my settings, and insular dwarfism is such a fun phenomenon! I also just love the image of little squat giants fending off adventurers trying to land on their island, or using these little guys as go to humanoid opponents in scenarios involving giants. Thinking up adventure locations using them as we speak!

1d12 Herds of the Pygmy Giants
1. Sheep
2. Walruses
3. Land octopuses
4. Cows
5. Coconut crabs
6. Giant (or normal sized) snails
7. Goats
8. Sturgeon (herded in water for their caviar)
9. Dogs
10. Pygmy wooly mammoths
11. Pygmy wooly rhinoceroses
12. Ostriches

1d12 Pygmy Giant encounter activities (home islands)
1. Spearfishing in the craggy shoals, the salty waves licking at their ankles.
2. Roasting a herd animal whole over a fire, filling the air with jokes and booming laughter.
3. Cooking one of those comically large cauldrons, or possibly a clay vessel, full of boiling broth over a fire.
4. Reciting poetry to one another in their gravelly deep voices.
5. Goading on a pair of crabs to fight each other.
6. Crushing seashells between two stones to create pigment.
7. Absentmindedly staring out over their herd, leaning on a club or crook.
8. Squeezing a very stressed looking sturgeon to push out its caviar directly into their mouths.
9. Painting an elaborate scene of dolphins and flying fish on a cliff face.
10. Curing beast skin into leather on a rack of driftwood.
11. Wrestling each other in a dusty circle on the ground.
12. Butchering a herd animal into pieces, and attempting to glean prophecies from its guts.

1d12 Pygmy Giant encounter activities (elsewhere)
1. Being beaten with a whip by a giant general.
2. Getting in a fistfight with one another, with brass knuckles made from seashells.
3. Getting their teeth pulled out.
4. Riding on wooly rhinos, two or three pygmy giants to a beast.
5. Practicing combat maneuvers in a field.
6. Roving the countryside harvesting branches to make wicker shields and arrows.
7. Rolling a boulder through the valley to bring to their giant master.
8. Hunting birds with spears and slings.
9. Groaning in pain, recovering from injuries.
10. Carrying armfuls of eggs in a panic, chased by angry chickens and/or peasants.
11. Sharpening their tusks to razor sharp points.
12. Playing games of dice carved from sheep bones, betting on meager pieces of fish and mutton.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Inhabitants of the World (Peoples of King of Kings)

I puzzled over what to title this post for a good while, mostly because I don't want to use the clumsy language of "races" that D&D stuff has been stuck with for a while, but inversely trying to puzzle out what the name for a broad group of people groups was really difficult and I didn't really want to use super scientific terms like "species", "genus", or "family". I think the incredibly vague and unhelpful word "inhabitants" does the closest thing to justice to the topic of this post, so it's what I went with.

So yeah, this is a setting post for King of Kings about the intelligent inhabitants of the world! It is more of a semi "world bible" of sorts, rather than an in universe statement of lore; the creatures and characters described in this post, and the categories into which they are placed in, are more for my benefit to define what sorts of creatures I use in the world rather than pure world building. I'm personally not a huge fan of the intense taxonomical drive that is present in a lot of D&D stuff, which you can read a very interesting and good post about here, from the wonderful Zedeck Siew. Obviously I am still putting things into categories in this post, but I'm aiming for relatively vague and general categories defined more by connections to fictional cosmology and myth than by how D&D races work, taking cues more from groups of spirits and creatures from real world myth and folklore. So there is still a taxonomic impulse, guilty as charged in that regard, but for King of Kings I want to keep taxonomy as light as possible, and instead emphasize geographic location, familial ties, or political/religious allegiance. If I ever make a KoK book in the future, I'd lean more in that direction for that more "official" presentation, but this post isn't the final official presentation, its basically just a collection of notes put together here for my sake and for anyone who wants to read about my setting.

Maybe that rant was unwarranted, I don't know, I just think about this stuff a lot!

Without further ado!

A person, on a rug

I think I would hope that everyone reading this post knows what these are. While King of Kings takes its cues from the world of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, fundamentally people back then were still just people! Humans are the main inhabitant of the world, living just about everywhere, forming tribes and nations and polities together, etc. etc. Not all humans are visually identical, however, and this is where KoK leans into ancient and medieval conceptions. People groups that would appear at first to be very different from humanity, such as dog headed men, amazons, men of the deluge, and the mouthless astomi, are all still human no matter their, from the perspective of people in the Enlightened Empire, strange customs and appearances. Here I'm trying to lean into ideas of the "monstrous races" from Ancient Greek natural histories and travelogues from Greece, Rome, and the Christian and Muslim Middle Ages. There's a really good book that I'd recommend about this topic that provides a detailed listing of such peoples from ancient and medieval sources, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought. I find this topic super interesting, honestly kind of deserving of its own post, obviously of even more than a post because its a historical topic that has garnered plenty of attention in like, book length works and such. These ancient and medieval conceptions of people from faraway lands being monstrous are something to be careful about though because they're, yknow, tangential to and prefacing racism that developed in the modern period & etc. I find them to be a very fascinating and fantastical element of how real premodern people perceived their world, and I like using them as inspiration for KoK, as a basis to then provide some real depth and complexity onto, but just as with anything else really it's good to try and be mindful and whatnot.

Also people

But yeah uh, other than humans like the dog headed men and amazons, there are also humans that are closer to real world ancient human cultures. City dwelling Shahanistanis, rural farmers, nomadic pastoralists or raiding warriors, etc. etc. I'm going to make more posts in the future with more character backgrounds and stuff about different polities in different parts of the world, so there's plenty more to say. But yknow, its just humans.

from the Kitab al-Bulhan

Spirits, including Jinn
Possibly the broadest group mentioned here, spirits encompasses all manner of immaterial and supernatural entities that dwell all across the world of King of Kings. Mischievous kalikantzaroi, morning star worshiping liliths, burgeoning bakhtaks, all manner of ghosts and lingering auras, localized nature gods, and jinn of all sorts, including afarit like Fire Eater, ghuls, marids like the headless bull thing, and the half jinni half human nasnas. Spirits can be basically anything, which is kind of on purpose so that I can encompass all sorts of supernal immaterial entities and atmospheres in here. Jinn are to the world of spirits as humans are to the material world, and so jinn come in just as much staggering variety if not more than people do. They share in all being made from smokeless fire, and have a parallel and often very different society to that of humanity, but are otherwise incredibly diverse. I would never want to try to make any attempt at like, summarizing all spirits or all jinn in a single paragraph, let alone a whole post or book, though I do want to start writing up more spirits for King of Kings for the blog.

For resources that I've taken inspiration from for spirits and jinn in KoK, check out Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar by Robert Lebling, Islam, Arabs, and the Intelligent World of the Jinn by Amira el‐Zein, relevant entries in the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Encyclopaedia Iranica, and of course The Thousand and One Nights. Also I'd be lying if I didn't sometimes just take info from Wikipedia for folkloric creatures, or at least as a starting point. Who doesn't use Wikipedia as a resource these days? It's generally pretty good.

Sea Tyrants, including Amphibians
I've made a post about these before, although I'll definitely return to the topic in the future. The sea tyrants are the primordial once rulers of the world, the ancient despots from when the world was wet and the world was young. They flooded the world in an effort to take control of it in its entirety, but were rebuffed when some among them acted as a sorcerous Prometheus and stole star magic to give to mortals. Ever since then, they have dwelled deep at the bottom of the sea and deep in the depths of the earth, while humanity and the traitors to the sea tyrants thrive on the surface. The sea tyrants who betrayed their brethren and stole magic to give to humanity were the amphibians, namely the froglings, salamen, and elder olms. The froglings live among humans, in their cities and towns, and continue to practice magic and  serve as sailors and merchants, while salamen tend to live out on their own in isolated wilderness and swamp communities, and elder olms serve as a potential friendly faction in delves underground. I have so many ideas for sea tyrant related stuff, so keep an eye out for that in the future.

If you couldn't tell, the main point of reference for these guys is almost entirely Lovecraft stuff, yknow Deep Ones and Cthulhu and the subterranean city of K'nyan from The Mound and all that. Add in aboleths and mind flayers from D&D and other underdark goodies and you've got it. And with regards to the froglings, I can't help but bring up my love for Frog from Chrono Trigger, even if my frog people here don't have That much to do with him. Sure these are some of my most overtly pop culture inspiration creatures but who cares its my setting.

Moses tells the giant Cuj ibn Canaq how to curb an appetite

Giants, or the Children of 'Ajuj and Majuj
Far to the north, in the snowy Land of Darkness, dwell the ancient 'Ajuj and Majuj, twin fathers of monsters. Their offspring form monstrous man-eating lineages that roam the wintry vastnesses, attack human settlements of northern nomads, and on occasion raid down south. The Conquering King, when he took hold of all the world, built a great metal and stone wall with a great looming gate in the mountains on the southern edge of the Land of Darkness, to keep the Children of 'Ajuj and Majuj out. Also, I have an idea for a horizontal megadungeon of sorts which would be the slowly rotting body of a giant that you could dungeon crawl in, I think it'd be super fun and cool.

Like I keep on saying, keep an eye out for more posts about giants, especially since I haven't posted really anything about them so far. With regards to references, check out the Penguin book Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North and certain versions of The Romance of Alexander. King of Kings's giants are another example of taking cues and inspiration from how premodern people perceived people from other parts of the world, similarly to the dog headed men et al. I discussed in the section about people above.

Don't know the source of this one unfortunately

Daevas, or Divs/Dews
Dwelling on the upside down underside of the world, daevas are embodiments of all forms of evil and untruth. They are more than simple unclean spirits, they are the living forms of deceit and lies, and live completely alien and surreal lives on the flat plane of the underside. Some divs are collaborating with the sea tyrants in their efforts to slowly seize the surface world, but most divs are lonesome creatures serving only deceit. Like I keep saying, keep an eye out for more posts about these guys.

Here, the main point of reference is to daevas from Zoroastrianism and, later, the Islamic Persianate div; while the names are super similar, it's an important distinction to make, I think, between these religious/historic references and devas in Hinduism, especially since Zoroastrian daevas are comparable to demons. Just sorta making a note of that. For stuff I've taken inspiration from, the Shahnameh by Ferdowsi which I need to read more of, I haven't actually finished it and Manifestation of Evil in Persian Mythology from the Perspective of Zoroastrian Religion by Elnaz Bakhshayeh and Reza Ebrahimil. Also the Encyclopedia Iranica and Wikipedia again. I wanna do more reading to find good inspiration for these entities.

Skeleboy with some carvings made by the ancient Dinosaur Kings

A bit of an outlier for this post, because the dinosaurs are more or less all dead. Once the rulers of the eastern satrapies and other lands before the time of the Conquering King, many of them were killed or forced into hiding once they were defeated by his armies, either by his very soldiers or by their human subjects' retribution. Today, they are little more than carvings on walls and rumors of ancient tombs.

Beasts and Birds
Yknow, animals. I wasn't going to include them in this post because I feel like it's kinda self explanatory that animals exist in the setting, but I figured hey why not I can still say some stuff about some weirdos. Obviously, most beasts and birds are just normal animals, but King of Kings has some unusual creatures, whether they are fictional animals that are still more or less comparable to real world things like the lizardmen herded and bred by the Dinosaur Kings, or intelligent beasts like manticores or pigmen, or birds so beautiful that their plumage inspires awe like the huma, or monotremes like gryphons, owlbears, or the swamp dwelling platypus. Just figured I'd note them.

This is what came up when I googled "byzantine elf". Source

Elves, namely the Gnostic Elves
A last but not least, the newcomers on the scene, the Gnostic Elves. The Gnostic Elves rule an empire directly to the west of the Enlightened Empire, the two neighbors being in a constant slow and grinding war that has been going on for generations. They took over the western archipelago and their portions of the mainland a few centuries ago, having come in from across the sea on pale white boats. They wrap themselves up in full body coverings and often wear masks, and believe that the flesh is sinful and must be destroyed, and that through ascertaining hidden knowledge the material world can be transcended. There are, however, heretic sects of elves who reject that gnosis, most notably the Hedonist Elves who dwell underground in isolated colonies.

I know I sound like a broken record but yeah keep an eye out for more posts about the gnostic elves and about the never-ending war between the gnostic elves and the enlightened empire. The Gnostic Elves have taken a lot of inspiration from a variety of sources: obviously their religion is derived from ancient Gnosticism, while visually and with regards to their role in the fictional world they take cues from the Eastern Roman Empire (for which I really like to refer to The World of Late Antiquity by Peter Brown and the History and Secret History of Prokopios), and their history of having come here from across the ocean to conquer takes inspiration from the Tarascans/Purépecha of Mexico who have a similar story of coming from across the Pacific, and the Seljuqs who conquered Anatolia from Central Asia.

And that's it! Those eight inhabitants of the world are going to serve more or less as a guide for my world building and adventure location making, and a bit of a taste of some posts to come as I elaborate on some more of these in more detail! Hope you have a lovely day!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

King of Kings Session 14 After Action Report

A bit of a shorter one! Not as much happened this session, so it mostly ended up as a sort of information gathering session. Also, this sesh happened like half a month ago, July 17th; I kept on putting off writing the post. My bad!

Dramatis Personae
Ishthyromeda the Small, level one Amazon
Manchugo Coldeswain, level one cleric dedicated to Damir, foreign god of the trade routes
She-That-Is-Harrowed-By-Our-Lord-In-The-Stars-Is-Blessed-With-Prophecy, level one scholar
also Parsani, scrawny son of a rural matriarch

(Note: She-That-Is-Harrowed-By-Our-Lord-In-The-Stars-Is-Blessed-With-Prophecy will be referred to as "Harrowed" for the remainder of this report and also probably for all future session reports)

The day previous, the group used a charm spell to get information out of the nasnas in the basement and to let them know that they wouldn't harm them. After making camp, they rested there in the walled farming compound. In the morning, the group realizes that they have been robbed! Manchugo having lost some rope and Ish having lost some food. After breakfast, Rohm'Daan had to depart for religious obligations back in Tabur (i.e. his player couldn't make it), and while the day's plans were being discussed Coro the Esoterian, tired and old, agreed to watch the group's supplies above ground while the rest of them ventured down below (i.e. his player also couldn't make it). Passing Rohm'Daan on the road back to Tabur, however, was a foreigner who had recently made contact with Farzaneh Taburi, and who had heard talk of the group's expedition. This was Harrowed, a scholar from a far off land with an affinity for insects, who joined the group for the day's venture back into the abandoned basement.

(Note: I had the players choose what got stolen in the night, and since Rohm'Daan and Coro's players weren't present for the session they didn't get to pick. I'll just bring it up next time they join.)

Western Caspian Turtle (Mauremys caspica)

After introductions were exchanged between Harrowed, Ish, Manchugo, and Parsani, the four set about finishing up where they left off the day previous. First, they went back to the outhouse where they heard a mysterious hissing yesterday, and opened the door to find... a very large turtle, its legs splayed out on the outhouse seat, hissing at the interlopers! They pick the turt up and gently place them down in the overgrown vegetable garden, although they agreed to pick him back up before they left to go back to Tabur.

After the small encounter with the outhouse turtle, the small group of adventurers went back down into the basement to enlarge the ant hole that they went through previously, so it would work better as a potential escape route or for repeated visits. Using some rusted shovels found leaning on the wall of the house outside, they set to work and make it large enough for someone to walk through, rather than having to crawl on hands and feet like before. They notice, as they work, that there are no sounds of the nasnases in the other room, and when they check the room before venturing further they notice that the creatures are gone!

Their work attracts a large group of the giant ants who live in a network of tunnels connected to the basement. Ish is cautious around the ants, and while she wants to explore the ants' tunnels she doesn't wish to anger them. Harrowed, after the digging at the hole is done, goes to the giant ants that have crowded around them and attempts to speak with them. Harrowed's monastic sect has a careful and considered relationship with insects, and so by relying on bodily communication a very simple sort of back and forth can be established, although it takes time. (Note: I just ruled that this bug communication works the same as a normal scholar class specialization, which you can see described here. It took basically an hour for Harrowed and the ant to have what would between two humans be only a few short sentences exchanged back and forth). 

While Harrowed attempts to make contact with the ants, the others take a break to eat some of their rations, and then one turn later they hear some snuffling sounds from the sloping passageway into the basement they entered through. Slowly moving back to check on it, Manchugo sees a pair of oversized weasels, which the group decide not to engage with.

After Harrowed's hour of focus, they report that the giant ants will allow the group to go straight through their tunnels and to a carved out passageway on the other end of their nest, a passageway that they dread, but that they are not allowed to enter any other chambers of the ant nest. The group agrees, and gently crawls into the giant ant's nest, as guests passing through. They crawl through one empty chamber dug out of the earth, then through a second round chamber that has on its southern edge a sloping tunnel carved out of the earth by tools not by ant mandibles, immediately apparent that something else dug it out, not the ants. In that chamber, they also find, hidden under a small pile of loose dirt, ten drachmae and a crystal syringe full of a strange green liquid. After pocketing the coins and the syringe, they venture into the dark dug out passageway that the ants dread.

After a lengthy march down the sloping passage, the four of them end up in a strange immense structure that none of them recognize. It is a massive open space, completely dark except for the minuscule spheres of light from their lamps, with a walkway that curves past them and out of view. This walkway seems to spiral around the edge of an immense cylinder, so large that they can't even clearly see the other side from where they stand, and they can only just make out the vaunted, curved ceiling high above them when they lift their lanterns up high. Above them is a stony dome shimmering with slime and dripping water, the walls similarly covered with green algae and slowly dripping slime. In this ancient structure, these adventurers are deeper in the earth than they have ever been before.

They realize that this place is likely That Which Yawns Deep which they heard in prophecy, and agree not to spend too long down here with such a small group. They plan to scout a little and then return to Tabur, to come back with a larger group. With that plan in mind, they send Parsani back to the surface; they don't want to have to tell his mother that he died in this dark and dingy place. They begin to crawl down the slowly sloping spiraling walkway, careful with their footing so as to not fall into the unknown depths below.
A giant slug by Tony DiTerlizzi!

Up ahead, they make out a scraping noise that catches their attention. Weapons at the ready and slowly inching forward, a vague lumpy shape takes form on the edge of their lantern light, slowly coming into focus as they get closer and see... a giant slug! It is larger than any of the adventurers, and is adhered to the wall and walkway at a right angle, scraping algae off the wall with its rough radula. After some discussion, they decide to just not mess with it and to not bother trying to climb over it, and so turn around and go back up to the surface.

The classic giant slug from the AD&D Monster Manual!

Grouping back up with Coro and Parsani on the surface, they set out for Tabur. Just outside Tabur, they run into a group of noblemen and their hangers on who are playing a game of polo out in the rolling hills of the valley. Manchugo strikes up a small conversation with one of them, who takes kindly to his polo advice and throws him a golden denar as a gift. Passing through the northern gate into the Tigerskin District, they get by with only an inspection of their goods. When they report to Farzaneh, she is very glad to hear the news of Parsani's family switching allegiances to her noble house, and is interested in the alien cylinder buried deep within the earth that the group discovered. And with that, the session drew to a close!

Treasure Acquired
10 drachmae
1 denar (worth 100 drachmae)
A crystal syringe filled with a strange green liquid

Non Treasure XP Acquired
50 each for discovering That Which Yawns Deep
10 for Harrowed for successfully making contact with ants

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Goin' Through the Fiend Folio Part 12 (Necrophidius to Osquip)

Meant to get back to the Fiend Folio review posts a bit sooner than this, but that's how the cookie crumbles. Picking up where we left off, starting with the monsters of the letter N!

Wiggly boy!!

Necrophidius (Death Worm)
A very iconic monster, very usable, but nothing super special. The necrophidius is a skeletal serpent with a human skull that has a paralytic bite, increased chance to surprise, and a hypnotic dance. Love the hypnotic dance, that is such a good evocative power, reminiscent of snake charming and such; I also just think that hypnosis powers are cool! Unfortunately, however, the specific details kind of make it a bit dull. That it doesn't check morale yet also cannot be turned by clerics is something that I don't like. I'm just partial to morale rules! Also, the litany of rituals that can be used to create it is unnecessary in my opinion. I like the specific aspect of the materials needed for the third ritual, namely that it needs the skull of a cold blooded murderer who was killed within the previous 24 hours, that's great that's fun. What I don't love is saying which specific spells from the cleric spell list need to be cast, or being able to pick and choose from a list of three different rituals, etc etc. I just would prefer more evocative stuff. A human headed skeleton snake is a great image though, and its got hypnosis powers, of course I'd use that.

The necrophidius originally appeared in the Fiend Factory column in White Dwarf, giving us another great opportunity to see the earlier version of a Folio monster! First, the illustration, which is so much more characterful and interesting than the Folio version. No offense to the original illustrator Alan Hunter, but I just have so much more fun with the scraggly lumpy smiling skull snake depicted here. Also, the Factory necrophidius actually was an undead monster rather than a construct, meaning that it can be turned by clerics (as a wight, according to the description), which resolves one of my major gripes with the Folio version. Its powers are exactly the same, but rather than being tied to three different possible rituals it specifies the one that involves the skeleton of a giant snake and a human skull, although with no mention of the murderer thing which is unfortunate; on top of this it names a specific sorcerer as the creator which I really love: "Karalkan (who was later to 'see the dark' and build the temple of the archdemon Kong)". See, that makes it so much more evocative, so much more interesting than a checklist of three mostly flavorless rituals to make it setting neutral. Don Turnbull comments that the hypnotic dance is a better way to make undead dangerous than level draining, and I completely agree! He also expounds on how he would run the power, with a saving throw to resist and if you fail the saving throw you're only in thrall until the necrophidius is distracted; I like that being presented as just his interpretation, rather than a set mechanic. The Fiend Factory necrophidius is a five out of five monster in my opinion! It sucks how much personality and flavor it lost in the transition to the Folio.

A super fun monster, and one that to me feels iconic to the Fiend Folio! A humanoid plant creature that at first appears to be a zombie, with needles embedded across its body that it can fire at will 1d6 at a time. I love the image of a shambling silhouette coming out from between trees in the fog, before spiny needles fly out at you. Personally, I wouldn't lean into the visual similarity with a zombie; it isn't really compelling enough to be a good trick, in my opinion. I think it would be more effective to make it seem like a person at first; fog or other visual impairments would help in that regard. The massively increased surprise chance in places with thick conifers or heavy undergrowth fits in that regard too! It is super vulnerable to magic, which is an alright weakness, although I don't really understand why. The charm plants spell is triple effective against it for some reason. Also, evidently they hate elves and attack them on sight? I mean, who doesn't.

The needleman also first appears in the Fiend Factory and OH MY GOD THAT ILLUSTRATION. Just on the illustration alone this is instantly a five out of five monster. Its empty staring eye sockets, the stance that it has which makes it seem so plodding and looming, maybe its taller than a person, a Boris Karloff esque marching figure, and the needles are so much more prominent, you couldn't possibly miss them. I feel bad saying this about the Folio illustration because it's by Russ Nicholson, a personal favorite of mine, but this original art is just so much better. Rather than being a plant that for no discernible reason looks like a zombie, the Factory needleman is a corpse that had Raise Dead imperfectly cast on it while it lay in a shallow grave lined with pine needles; such a specific backstory, it almost feels like a folk tale, like there would only really be One needleman. I think I like both versions equally, a mysteriously humanoid plant thing is super fun but a weird grave wanderer with pine needles embedded like pins in a pin cushion is super fun too. Maybe you could find the failed necromancer who bungled the spell? The version here, mechanics wise, is simpler and more effective, things that take a whole paragraph in AD&D are half a sentence here. Also, Turnbull ends his commentary by saying "Should it really be called the Aspirin? It is, after all, a pine killer..."

An all time great trick monster, well deserved infamy. Though, Mr. Roger Musson wasn't the only one to discover how good the word "goblin" sounds when you flip it around; the folks over at Troll 2 named it a whole street! At its core, the nilbog is a five out of five monster, a weird little goblin that works inverted because of weird space time shenanigans, healing when hit and being harmed by healing potions. This effect even extends to the players, who feel intense urges to do the opposites of what they would normally do, i.e. they would load up treasure into a chest and leave empty handed if they attempt to loot a treasure chest, etc. I'm a tad torn on that aspect, mostly because I feel like there has to have been some shitty referee to forced their players to do something with no recourse to the contrary; I figure the intention is that the players should make the concerted effort to do the opposite of what they really want to do, but once that reverse psychology puzzle is figured out it kind of loses a bit of oomph. I also just don't like how this is specific to goblins, I think nilbogism should be something that can be present in many species. On top of that, were I to use nilbogized creatures, I'd love to give them interesting visual cues like weird sped back movements like they were being rewound on a VHS tape, or making them look like a photo with an inverted color palette. That perhaps ruins the trick part, but I personally would vastly prefer something that has a consistent problem the players have to work around to a trick that only really hits once.

What a slimy little bastard man

So many of these N monsters thankfully appear in the Fiend Factory! The nilbog is a fascinating example of a Factory creature, because, very unusually, Don Turnbull's commentary is considerably longer than the actual monster description. The original nilbog's description just describes that they look like goblins and their HP works backwards. None of the rest of the nilbog's powers are there at all. Turnbull does a good bit of extrapolation, comparison to other trick encounters, even suggests the deviously horrible idea of a troll beset with nilbogism which would be absolutely terrible. He also provides a snippet of additional information provided by the original creator of the nilbog, including a description of a nilbog encounter which I may as well share in its entirety.

I... don't think I would run such an encounter in such detail, but oh my gosh that is just insane. I definitely agree with Turnbull that "for sheer creativity, the Nilbog will take some beating." While I still feel pretty strongly that the four star rating is correct, it truly deserves its place as an iconic AD&D trick monster.

Nonafel (Cat O' Nine Tails)
A large black panther with a long tail, which it can attack with despite no stinger or thorny end being mentioned or depicted in the illustration so I guess it is just the tail whipping at the players, which has the ability to split itself into nine different identical big cats. I think that the description spends far too long to describe the mechanics of this Naruto esque ability, how hit dice are distributed, etc. On top of that, a black big cat with a whiplike attack and strange spatial abilities... hasn't that already been done before? Unlike the kamadan which has even less in common with the good ol' displacer beast, the nonafel's description makes no attempted connection. I think the splitting into multiple identical copies is a nice enough ability, but there's not enough else here to really make it worth it I don't think.

I had to share both the illustrations!

NORKERS!!! Maybe I'm the only person who actually feels this way about these guys, but I love norkers! I love their name, I love their weird slouched illustrations, I love the weird surreal idea of a like, cro magnon man equivalent for a nonhuman humanoid species of monster, it's just such a fun and simple humanoid! It sucks that they're basically never really utilized after the Folio, at least as far as I'm aware. I am much more open to these "missing link" hobgoblinoids than I am to other members in the AD&D expanded humanoid hierarchy, they feel more distinctive and unique, a lot more personality than just "goblin but stronger". The tusks do a lot! More things need tusks. I wonder why other goblinoids lost their tusks? Does the presence of tusks on these close (hob)goblin relatives imply that they have like, male combat hierarchies for mating? Are they for digging through dirt? I would love to puzzle out what their society might be like.

The nycadaemon is almost identical to the mezzodaemon, so just check out my review for that inhabitant of Tarterus. Most of my complaints then hold true here: the nycadaemon is more or less just a bundle of expected demonic powers and weaknesses, including having a secret true name, magic resistance, immunity to non magical weapons and even magic weapons of +1, having a bunch of spells, etc. They don't even have the distinctive insectile appearance of the mezzodaemon, instead being more thorny reptilian with bat like wings, a more generic devil like appearance. The only real distinction from the mezzodaemon is that they are stronger, with physical strength comparable to a stone giant and stronger resistances. Not a fan.

Not a big fan of the ever expanding roster of more or less identical humanoids in AD&D, and not a fan of generic hybrids of humanoid types where every possible combination has to be filled in. The ogrillon is a crossbreed between an orc and an ogre, and the rest of it basically flows out from what you probably assumed from that description. They look like orcs, they speak ogreish, even though both orcs and ogres use weapons they don't for some reason instead fighting with their "horny fists" (a bit of unusual word choice there). I'm kinda fascinated by the illustrations of them making them look all lumpy all over, but it's not that interesting of a visual just kinda quirky. The bottom illustration shows a lumpy man identical to the main ogrillon illustration, a humanoid with pointy ears and a single horn on the top of their head, and a boar headed man fighting a human fighter; are these all ogrillons? I'm down for that kind of visual diversity in a humanoid type, I just don't know if that was the intention here.

Not gonna lie, there's actually not a whole lot here. They're basically just messed up rats, they live in tunnel systems underground and do things that you would expect tunnel dwelling beasts to do, and are invariably hostile. If I'm being completely honest, I would probably just use rats or some other real life digging creature, like naked mole rats perhaps. I love naked mole rats. Full of personality. The osquip gets three stars, however, for its own personality. While the description is super basic and spends way too many words to just say "these things live in tunnels underground and are ravenous predators", the illustrations show a horrible skuzzy little thing, completely hairless, with a toothless maw of forward pointing teeth almost forming an enamel beak. I love how awful they look!! I think I would totally use something that looks like the osquip, but just say that it's mutated rats or squirrels or something. Or just use really big naked mole rats. While I love the visuals, the mostly boring baggage of the rest of it doesn't really make me want to use it over a real world animal or a mutated version thereof. ALSO they oughta have a weird gross tail, it feels like they're missing out in the tail department.

That's all for now! We are a bit over halfway done with the Fiend Folio now. My goal is to finish this series of reviews before the end of the year; I really should have already finished it by now, but long gaps between posting will do that to the most well laid plans. See you next time when I review monsters that begin with P and Q!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Prehistoric War!!!

 Something that's been in the back of my mind for the past couple of days is making a combat system for a paleolithic/neolithic type game based on combat in the good ol' TSR war-game Chainmail. This has nothing to do with anything really, and in fact I have a bunch of other things I probably ought to be working on, but yknow this was on my mind so I had to bring it into the world. Maybe I could do some kind of Stone Age game at some point? Wouldn't wanna step on Pariah's toes too much!

So, the basics: the core of this is based on the Chainmail man to man table, but it also includes missile attacks and attacks and defenses from animals since I figure those would likely also be prominent in a Stone Age type game. Its a weapon vs. armor table, where the target number determined by the combination of the attacker's weapon and defender's armor is to be rolled equal to or over on 2d6. Could use it basically as a replacement for the d20 roll in the "Alternate Combat System", or using it straightforwardly with the Chainmail man to man system, do whatever really.

Chainmail also has a separate combat system for fantasy combats between fantastical/magical opponents, which I could totally see as an alternative to the modified man to man table I wrote up below. I prefer the idea of the modified man to man table though, because in the kind of culture that would exist in a late paleolithic/early neolithic environment things like weaponry would take more precedence than training or any kind of superhuman ability; no heroes or superheroes in the Stone Age! Perhaps some things could give a bonus, like having taken part in an empowering collective ritual? I don't know.

Putting the table in as an image because I don't think it would display right if I tried to squeeze it in the post as text

Since this is assuming the context of the Stone Age, specifically the late Paleolithic into the early neolithic (think the time around the building of Göbekli Tepe in what is now Turkey; I was actually writing this with early neolithic Anatolia in mind, or a more fantastical version at the very least), don't have to worry about horses, don't have to worry about metal armors, I also don't think have to consider shields much? I'm not aware of shields in the neolithic or paleolithic, if there are shields maybe they give a small bonus or something, like idk minus 1 to attacker roll or somesuch.

Instead, most armors are animal skins of different types, with the only entirely human made armors being textile and lamellar made from bone and wood. The different animal skins/hides/leathers on the table do double duty for both those actual animals in combat and humans wearing the skins of said animals. I just thought that that would be an interesting way to include animals and people in the same combat system while also communicating a type of shamanic or animistic element to the worldview of the people in the game. I was thinking of the practice of the berserkers in old Norse Scandinavia and of figurines like the Lowenmensch that combine human and animal features and the general preponderance of animals at places like Gobekli Tepe and Catalhoyuk. Maybe that could be expanded for specific types of animals, like wearing a lion skin gives you traits of a lion in combat, or it could be a bear, or a crocodile, or an ostrich, whatever.

Bird Skin: Primarily intended for flightless birds like ostriches and terror birds. Obviously none of those live around ancient Anatolia, but yknow I can include whatever prehistoric animals I want to include.

Some real fish leather armor, from Taiwan

Fish Leather: I think I'd use this for any aquatic creatures and for the skins thereof. Fish leather is a real thing you know! I don't think it would be very effective at stopping most things, but who knows. 

Thin Beast Hide: Originally I called this tier "Herbivore Hide", with the idea that herbivores are meeker, etc. Functionally, however, I think differentiating between thin vs thick is probably a better idea. Thin beast hides would be deer, antelopes, probably rabbit skins I bet, but also most carnivores such as lions.

Textile Armor: I feel like a lot of the time textile armor gets ignored! Textiles, quilted armor, and padded armor were much more common historically than leather armor was. I have no clue if textile armor was really used much in the neolithic, but I figure since people were able to make textiles by this point it isn't exactly impossible.

From the Cederberg Mountains, South Africa

Thick Beast Hide: Refer to thin beast hide, above. Elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, oxen, I have no idea how thick their hide actually is compared to those but I feel like I'd put bears here too; they're pretty hardy animals!

Reptile Hide: Self explanatory. Again, no real prehistoric basis for this, but I do have a historic basis, in that reptile leather was used at times in certain ancient and medieval societies, like the ceremonial crocodile leather armor from Roman Egypt above. Also reptiles are a staple of prehistoric stuff.

A bone lamellar chest piece from prehistoric Russia, near Omsk

Bone/Wood Lamellar: Again, no real prehistoric basis, but all of the technology to make lamellar with materials like bone and wood were around so I just sorta assume that they had it. Lamellar, if you're not aware, is small plates of material, in this case bone or wood, together forming armor by being connected to one another.

Turtle Shell: Self explanatory.

Also I think the attacker weapons are mostly self explanatory. I included animal natural weaponry because I wanted to integrate animals and humans into the same combat system like I mention. I realized after writing the table that I didn't include anything for unnaturally large arthropods, which was an unfortunate omission! Big bugs are a staple of all tabletop roleplaying games, especially ones that I run; I think I would have them range from thick beast hide to turtle shell depending on the species, with either beak or crocodile bite for their attack again depending on species. What are mandibles if not a beak but sideways?

With carnivores and herbivores no longer divided, I was thinking that carnivores should get some sort of bonus. Perhaps extra attacks, or a penalty to the attacker's roll? I think that could work. This was partially suggested by a certain Gus L. Carnivores, no matter what type of hide they have, put a penalty of 1 or 2, depending on their size, to their opponent's roll. Terror birds get that minus 1, wolves get that minus 1, bears and lions get that minus 2, a crocodile would probably be minus 2 also which would make someone fighting a croc with fists impossible to succeed but yknow that's okay, who do you know that won in a fist fight with a crocodile?

Other ideas for this that are unrelated to the modified Chainmail man to man combat: EXP from wasting food? No currency in this world, trade done through ritualized barter between communities but inside communities stuff is just shared communally, etc. Things are given calorie values, and you have to eat a certain amount of game calories when you get exhausted, but to gain EXP you have to waste calories in the form of a ritual sacrifice or an ostentatious feast or by giving it to other people. No combat EXP; you can get the EXP from killing a deer or a shark or whatever by bringing the quarry back with you to your encampment or your local ritual site. Perhaps the best way to earn EXP would be sacrificing food in a ritual; go to a stone temple complex a la Göbekli Tepe and give up your quarry. I think I'd likely supplement that with EXP for exploration, like finding new locations and stuff. I've actually had EXP for food in some stuff before, but I like the idea of this one the most of the different ways I've implemented it. No clue what EXP or leveling would even really do for you though, when you can't really improve to hit chances or whatever since its a weapon based system. Maybe ability scores matter a lot and advancing in level improves ability scores? IDK!!

Other stuff for me to consider I guess: possible inclusion of ritual cannibalism? rules for taking prisoners? Maybe the ones that are already in Chainmail are good enough. It seems that massacres were rather common in the occasional circumstances of prehistoric warfare, so maybe that should be the assumed result of any kind of combat between human foes. If I wanted to include the extremely fantastical, like maybe super science stuff or shamanic magic or whatever, like if this were a sword and sorcery, erm, spear and sorcery type setting perhaps, how would that integrate into all this? 

Honestly, I don't really know what I'll do with this, if anything. It's not nearly as interesting an approach to prehistoric roleplaying as Pariah; really, go check out the link at the top! And check out their amazing blog too while you're at it.

Monday, May 23, 2022

King of Kings Session 13 After Action Report

 It's been a good while since the last time a session report was posted here, and even longer still since I posted a session report that I actually wrote! You see, that's because unfortunately King of Kings has been on hiatus ever since October of last year, but yesterday the campaign made its valiant return, and this time I'm deadset on avoiding such long gaps between sessions. So without further ado, here's a report on what my players got up to in the world of the eastern satrapies of the Enlightened Empire!

Dramatis Personae
Coro the Esoterian, level one magic user
Ishthyromeda the Small, level one amazon
Manchugo Coldeswain, level one cleric dedicated to Damir, foreign god of the trade routes
Rohm'Daan, level one cleric dedicated to Anzhalar, a local chthonic god of subterranean flame
also Parsani, scrawny son of a rural matriarch

The session began in Tabur, with the group awakening to the terrible news that Zana the Charlatan, their fellow adventurer and client of Farzaneh Taburi, was arrested by the city guard and jailed in the Iron Pit in connection to an accusation of arson by his rival Jamshid the Merchant! A few sessions before, when the group was traveling to Temple Town for the festival of Saint Jumhura, Kusa had set fire to Jamshid's cart, and when Zana left the group to go back to Tabur while the rest went on to explore the valley, Jamshid pinned the blame on him. Much of the beginning of the session was taken by discussing what to do, with the group ultimately just deciding to pick up on exploring the abandoned farmsteads in the valley, since there was one more abandoned peasant commune to check out. Also they geared up, namely buying a large number of iron spikes to use against any possible jinn they may encounter.

As an aside, a note on Zana's situation. Long term imprisonment isn't really a practice in the Enlightened Empire, at least for anyone who isn't an antimartyr heretic; rather, Zana is in jail pending the trial, which is to happen one in game week from the day of the previous session. Jamshid is also in jail pending the trial. At the trial, testimony of witnesses and associates of the accused and accuser will be brought forth to testify, and if there is any inconsistency in testimony then Zana can possibly be tried by fire, to suss out the truth. If Zana is found guilty, then he will be publicly lashed, branded as an arsonist, and fined. If Zana is found not guilty, then Jamshid will be publicly lashed and fined. If the truth comes out that Kusa is the one who actually set the fire, then Kusa will be publicly lashed, branded as an arsonist, and fined. That's just how it be!

Once the group decided what to do, they set off for the road, in the process meeting Coro the Esoterian, a new player's character who brought along with them a ragged old camel. They followed the road north, the one that leads ultimately to Humakuyun on the sea, first stopping by the little compound of Parsani's farming family to let them know about the kallikantzaroi and headless bull thing that they encountered at the abandoned farmstead they went to previously. After this quick stop, they went on, passing by a fork in the road, one path leading north to Humakuyun and the other leading east to the ragged village of Broken Huts, which I totally didn't steal from Gus L.'s Prison of the Hated Pretender. Sticking to the northern path, they eventually came upon the only remaining farmstead to investigate: a small walled compound surrounded by fields, a waist high mud brick wall encircling it. On the way there I didn't roll a single random wilderness encounter so they just got a nice wilderness stroll it seems.

The compound is a small oval shaped thing, with a little goat pen off to one side, a small copse of trees, a well in the middle, an outhouse, and a main hut where the family presumably lived. The group first set about corralling the goats into the pen and closing it back up, because a number of them had escaped and were running amok in the compound. Manchugo and Rohm'Daan went to investigate the trees, because they were swaying in the wind in such a way that caught their attention, but other than finding a little bright green caterpillar on a branch they didn't find anything. Though once Manchugo turned away from the copse of trees, a strange sound like a high pitched laugh filled the air, which caught their attention but they didn't really do anything about.

Manchugo next went over to the outhouse, but knocking on the door just prompted a loud hissing that they chose not to investigate further. They assumed it to be a snake that was using the outhouse, and didn't want to intrude on their privacy. At the same time, Rohm'Daan poured a bit of goat's milk that Coro harvested from the goats into the well, which did nothing.

This is just what came up when I googled "skinless people sitting"

With the area outside seemingly fully explored, the group next decided to go into the main house building. The first thing they saw upon entering was the large wooden table off to the side, with a family of four arrayed around it, all completely missing their skin. At this point, I did a bit of a small infodump about the nasnas, who it seemed were the most likely culprit for removing the family's skin. The group did a quick look around the rest of the room, seeing the large rug on the floor, the two beds, the hearth with four chairs arrayed around it, the faint hint of a footprints on the floor, and the opening to a sloping passageway seemingly leading to the basement. Before going any further, they took the skinless family and buried them outside the compound with a respectful little ceremony, similarly to how they treated the other dead peasants they found at the last abandoned farm.

Returning to the building, they decided to go down into the basement. After crawling down the low ceiling sloping passageway to the basement, they discovered that it was a storage place for cured meats, including a number of slaughtered and cured goats or cuts of goat hanging from the ceiling. There was a little pile of dirt on the wall opposite the doorway leading back up, and a locked door off to the side. Ishthyromeda poked at the dirt with one of her weapons, dislodging the pile and revealing an opening behind it. At the same time, Rohm'Daan and Manchugo investigated one of the hanging goats because it made a strange clinking sound on the inside when poked. They ended up cutting open the goat, causing ten drachmae to clatter to the dirt floor below! At the same time, a group of four giant ants crawled out of the tunnel, although they did not seem hostile. Coro and Rohm'Daan set about feeding them some of the goat milk and meat, to calm them down and keep them there.

It wasn't nearly as bad as this

Ishthyromeda decided to crawl through the tunnel the ants came out of, ending up in another square room where a good half of the walls had been dug out with both ant mandibles and shovels, with a doorway on one side that had a broken down door and four ant tunnels forking out of the chamber in different directions. As she approached the broken down door, with a candle in hand for light, Manchugo decided to knock on the locked door, hearing the scrambling of human feet on the other side. When Ishthyromeda heard the knocking through the broken down doorway, she went back to the tunnel she crawled through to notify the group that it was the same room connected by both doors. The group then concocted a plan: Ish, Rohm'Daan, and Parsani would approach from the room connected by the broken down door, while Coro would guard the sloping passageway back up, and Manchugo would continue knocking to distract the inhabitants of the room.

What Rohm'Daan and Ish saw when they entered the room, however, was not a hostile group of creatures, but three nasnas cowering in the corner from the sound of the knocking. Rohm'Daan went over to unlock the door, letting Coro and Manchugo in once they realized that the nasnas weren't going to fight them. They then attempted to let the nasnas know that they weren't going to hurt them, offering them food and attempting to speak to them and communicate with them by writing, but the creatures' fear stopped them from eating in the adventurers' presence, and their half formed voice boxes stopped them from verbally communicating. It took Coro casting a charm person spell on one of them, which the creature failed the saving throw for, for them to respond with simple nods for yes and shaking of the head for no. But at this point, it was getting late in the day, so they left the terrified creatures in the basement and set up camp outside, in the low lying mud brick walls of the compound.

Treasure Acquired
10 drachmae

Non Treasure XP Acquired
20 XP each for burying the skinless family, since I gave XP for burying dead peasants last time.
15 XP each for coordinating the approach of the nasnas room, just because it illustrated good group coordination
10 XP for Coro for charming the nasnas
Total: 35 XP/45 for Coro

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Six Horror Monsters for Underneath

 I love horror, as a genre with its own tropes and aesthetics and as a general vibe or atmosphere. While most of the stuff on this blog has been primarily "fantasy", I think it is probably apparent that my love of horror and spooky stuff generally suffuses my creative work. I actually honestly think that the stark genre divisions between fantasy, horror, science fiction, etc. that exist today are both unrepresentative of the realities of fantastical fiction and honestly bad to the kind of cross pollination and creative admixture that makes really interesting fiction, but that's beside the point. The point is, I finally got around to making and running a primarily horror tabletop game last year, and this post is gonna be all about one part of it.

I wrote the scenario for and ran the game with the ruleset Underneath, created by Martin O. over at the Goodberry Monthly blog. It's a fantastic, effective, and simple ruleset that really grabbed me the first time I read it at the suggestion of a friend of mine, and I knew right away that it was what I wanted to use as the foundation for my game scenario. Below are six monsters that I wrote for the scenario, which as an aside I've been calling More Than Regulation in my notes, all statted up + described using the format described in the original Underneath rules post. For a basic explanation, monsters in Underneath are primarily defined by their Hit Dice, which are both the number of successful hits from the players it takes to subdue them and also the number of d6s that the monster gets to roll to injure the players. Each die has a 3 in 6 chance of success, so the referee rolls all the d6s, counts how many successes the monster rolled, and then goes from there. Monsters also have an "Insight Threshold", which is the mechanic that really made me fall in love with the game. Rather than having a sanity counter that slowly spirals down and down a la Call of Cthulhu (which, as an aside, I really want to run sometime soon), Underneath has Insight, which steadily climbs higher and higher, revealing new realities when it hits certain thresholds. The insight threshold on a monster is the level of insight that the character has to have to see the uh... well, it might not be the "true" appearance, if you catch my drift. Etc, etc. I really love that mechanic, it's super cool, reminds me a lot of the similarly named insight mechanic from Bloodborne.

So anyway! More Than Regulation is a horror scenario set in the present day in the fictional town of Bone Lick, Wisconsin, situated between Milwaukee and the southern border of the state, on the other side of a foggy marshy wetland that definitely doesn't actually exist in that part of Wisconsin but yknow that's whatever. The town's biggest employer, the main factory of a certain Sweetie Jay's Peanut Butter Company, has recently been temporarily closed pending an investigation by health inspectors from Milwaukee after a few employees have come up dead under very mysterious circumstances. The health inspectors are gonna take a few days to get there, but everyone in town knows that nothing is really gonna come of it; the cops haven't said anything about the situation and have even left the spouses of the deceased in the dark, and the Sweetie Jay's company has its fingers in a lot of pots in the area. The goal of the scenario is for the players to find out as much as they can about what's going on before making their way into the Sweetie Jay's factory to take things into their own hands before the health inspectors get there and cover everything up.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to finish the scenario, though that may change at some point, some of my players expressed an interest in finishing the game over discord. I wanted it to just be a one shot but it ended up being like three or four sessions before scheduling problems caused it to stop continuing.

I described my inspirations for the scenario as being Karl Marx, Franz Kafka, David Lynch, and Junji Ito. I really want to release it sometime, though I should probably polish it up before then. Anyway, here's six monsters from the scenario! These aren't all of the monsters I wrote up for it, I just wanted to do six of them as a bit of a sample I guess.

All art in this post is by me

Hit Dice: 1
Insight Threshold:
Low Insight Appearance: A very large cockroach. Sometimes encountered rolling around a mostly empty jar of peanut butter. 
Description: A shivering mass of chitinous limbs seemingly stuffed haphazardly into a congealed blob of wet peanut butter. Leaves a trail as it crawls on the ground. Smells much too clean for how it appears. 
(1 Hit): Scratch: The thing’s wretched claws dig into your flesh. -1 Body. 

Hit Dice:
Insight Threshold:
Low-Insight Appearance: A very large slug of a sickeningly orange hue. The smell of msg and steamy water. A mane of thick noodles. 
Description: Desperation against the teeth. A thick goop of powder and water combined into a clawing hand slinking along the ground. It doesn’t want to be eaten. 
(1 Hit): The Flavor: It fills your nose. -1 Instinct. 

Hit Dice:
Insight Threshold:
Low-Insight Appearance: A tendril of rope or vine, caked completely in an oozing algal skin, moving about in the water with unusual purpose, but you can easily explain that away with the currents of the marsh. 
Description: A clump of something gooey and wet, presumably some other color before its time rotting in the swamp. It is a sickeningly slick blackness which cloys to any surface it touches, the void broken only by the myriad simple insectile limbs which claw at the air and water and the single plastic baby doll face peeking out from the sludge. 
(1 Hit): Half-Remembered Depths of Childhood: The sludge seeping into your pores draws forth the hazy recollections of childhood trauma. -1 Empathy. 

Hit Dice:
Insight Threshold:
Low-Insight Appearance: A woman or a man, tears streaming down their face, their clothes tattered and their hair disheveled. They hold a knife in their hands. 
Description: A vague and shadowy thing looms over them. The memory of what they’ve lost, the hopeful memories of what could have been. All of it was stolen so that the woman in the factory could get some cash. The shadowy thing digs its claws into their shoulders. It could happen to you too. It could happen to anyone. 
(1 Hit): Nothing to Lose Anymore: While sobbing uncontrollably, the poor spouse lunges for you, trying to dig their blade into your flesh, your flesh that reminds them too much of the one that they love. -1 EMPATHY. 

Hit Dice:
Insight Threshold:
Low-Insight Appearance: A very fat rat with a long worm-like tail. 
Description: A messy knot of long slimy hairs, slick with water, or is it spit? Small flecks of nail clippings poke out from between the nasty strands, as the thing bares its still all too rodent-like teeth, a full set of rat teeth in this alien environment. Its tail is a raw electrical wire, spitting sparks like mad. 
(1 Hit): Slimy Shock: The thing clambers onto you, its live wiring making contact with your skin, the disgusting spittle of its hair conducting the current into your flesh. -1 RESOLVE. 

Hit Dice:
Insight Threshold:
Low-Insight Appearance: A very large cricket, with a much too loud chirp. 
Description: Two gargantuan cricket legs that tower over the average person when outstretched whilst jumping. A pair of crazed and fearful eyes floating above, the iris drawn in leaving only the depths of the pupil void within. 
(1 Hit): The Deep Dark Depths: The thing stares into your eyes, ensnaring you for just a moment. As it hops around, you can do nothing but follow the blackness within its pupils. -1 INSTINCT. 

I just realized that all of these are 1 HD monsters, I swear I wrote up monsters with more than 1 it just so happened that the ones I wanted to share only have 1.