Yknow, for someone who got into the tabletop roleplaying hobby primarily through monster books, it is really a surprise to me that I haven't posted a monster to this blog yet! So hey, here is the first in what will most likely be a long line of posts writing up interesting monsters for King of Kings and other old school games.
The Huma Bird
Now the Humay stood before the assembly, the Giver of Shade, whose shadow bestows pomp on kings. For this he has received the name of 'Humayun', the fortunate, since of all creatures he has the most ambition. He said: 'Birds of land and sea, I am not a bird as you are. A high ambition moves me and to satisfy it I am separated from other creatures. I have subdued the dog of desire, therefore are Feridun and Jamshid dignified. Kings are lifted up by the influence of my shadow, but beggarly-natured men do not please me. I give a bone to my dog of desire and put my spirit in surety against it. How can men turn their head away from him whose shadow creates kings? Beneath my wings everyone seeks shelter. Do I need the friendship of the lordly Simurgh when I have royalty at my disposition?'
- Attar of Nishapur, The Conference of the Birds
The huma is a great bird of the air, which is immediately known by its two heads and beautifully many hued plumage. It has four legs and two wings, but it never once touches the earth beneath it, instead preferring to stay high in the clouds on the wing. If the huma is ever forced to touch the ground, it will screech so loudly in disgust and discomfort that all around recoil in pain. The huma is both male and female, each head having one respective aspect.
The shadow of the huma bird bestows kingship and a bountiful future on all those who pass beneath its shadow. A farmer who has the huma's shadow cast upon him will have a great harvest and may well become the headman of his community, or perhaps even something greater. A herdswoman who steps into the shadow of the huma will come to have too many sheep in her hands than she can handle, and will earn the respect of all those around her. In the ancient capital city of the Enlightened Empire, there is a captured huma bird in a great big cage who casts its shadow on the chosen heir in a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance prior to their being crowned. Although rather fleeting, the shadow of the bird or even a simple glance at it are incredibly valuable.
The huma is the most mighty and auspicious of birds. It is not a sight to be ignored. The corpse of a huma bird is a horrible sight, the death of a huma something that brings with it funeral processions and teary-eyed cries of desperation. Even those who kill the bird feel a great weight of guilt on their shoulders from that day on. The scholars and magi believe there to be only a certain number of huma birds, for there have never been seen any eggs or hatchlings.
Armor Class: 15
Hit Dice: 9+1 (42 HP)
Attacks: 2 x claw (1d6), 2 x bite (2d8)
Movement: 120' (40') / 360' (120') flying
Saving Throws: D8/W9/P10/B10/S12
Number Appearing: 1-4 (1d4)
Huma birds will not normally attack unless provoked (or on a result of 2 on the reaction roll). When a huma bird is killed, all those who can see it must make a save vs. spells or begin to cry. A character's reputation will be greatly marred by killing the bird, and any who know of the act will shun them.
Those who are able to pluck a feather off of the huma bird will be able to sell it for 200 gold per feather to the right buyer. Feathers can also be affixed to any items of clothing (most commonly headwear such as helmets or crowns), and all persons who see them with the feathers on them will treat them with respect.
Characters may attempt to capture the huma bird using a lasso, rope, etc. In so doing, they will only get XP from the captured bird upon bringing it to a town. Rich notables and paupers alike will pay handsomely to step into the bird's shadow (handsomely being, of course, relative to the level of wealth they have access to). If, while being captured, the huma is dragged to the ground, it will screech so loud that all who are within earshot and can hear must make a save vs paralysis or drop their ropes and tools.
Also hey how about some nice simple lassoing rules to help with catching one of these beautiful beasts
A character with a lasso (or similar item) may attempt to wrangle a beast within a distance equal to the lasso's length (they typically range from 50 feet to 100 feet in length). The initial throw of the lasso functions as a simple d20 roll under DEX score (as an aside, if a character has experience with lassoing beasts for whatever reason, I would either give them a flat improvement to the check or let them roll twice and take the better result, really depends). If this DEX roll succeeds, then the lasso is around the creature's neck, and a struggle begins. Each subsequent round, the player holding the lasso and the referee each roll a d20; if the creature being lassoed rolls higher, it pulls away and escapes, if the player rolls higher the creature remains in the lasso. The player holding the lasso adds their STR modifier (the melee modifier) to the roll, and any other characters helping them hold the lasso do as well (a minimum of 0; negative modifiers don't affect it, don't worry). The creature being lassoed adds its hit dice number (including any bonus) to its roll, with the bonus going down by 1 for every 8 hit points it loses.
(Okay maybe it isn't as simple as I thought it was in my head but its not that hard! I like the monster's bonus slowly lowering as it takes damage; incentivizes the players to try to balance beating them up and holding them down)
So, to use the huma bird as an example. If the players try to lasso a huma bird, the bird would have +10 to the opposed d20 roll, while the players could potentially stack multiple people holding the rope. If there are more than one huma bird, the other birds will likely be trying to break the rope to free their sister-brother, and perhaps some fighter-type characters would be trying to beat up the one in the lasso while also trying to fend off other birds. A very hectic scene indeed!