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.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Goin' Through the Fiend Folio Part 11 (Lamia Noble to Mite)

 Hey! It's been a bit since the last time I did one of these. But I am deadset on finishing the Fiend Folio review series by the end of the summer. I think I can do it!!! And with this post, we're roughly halfway done with the monsters too! So let's just get into it!

Lamia Noble
Dang, off to a not so good start. I really don't like the tendency to have monsters that are just another, already established monster but more powerful; not a fan of the Neo Otyugh, not a fan of the Margoyle though at one time I kinda was, etc. It feels a bit different when it's well executed, but here it just is not. The lamia noble is a leader type for lamias, which were originally in the Monster Manual as monsters with the torsos of human women and the lower bodies of big cats. Here, however, lamia nobles have the lower bodies of snakes (which is cool), but they can be either male or female, and their abilities vary by sex with males being fighters and females being magic users. That's really cringe. Also, lamia nobles can disguise themselves as humans, but it says that "intelligent humanoids will always be able to penetrate the disguise", and then in the next paragraph it says that humans and demihumans of high enough level have a chance to identify them, all of which is just incredibly clumsy and annoying. They can also take away points of wisdom, and if the character goes below 3 wisdom then they are under the lamia noble's thrall... that's just a very underpowered charm ability. Why not just have it be a saving throw? So stupid. I like evil snake women, I don't like evil snake women or men with vaguely defined disguise powers and really weak charm abilities that have no real distinct identity. The note that they "are given to outbursts of senseless violence" is fun though.

Lava Children
OKAY HEAR ME OUT. I know that these are one of the Fiend Folio monsters very commonly made fun of and mocked, but I honestly think that they are really surreally fascinating. The offspring of earth spirits and fire spirits, lava children are like elemental mutant mules with an uncanny appearance and unnatural powers. They have a broad shouldered body with pale skin, but their hands have fingers tipped with long sharp claws and their faces look like constantly smiling children. I especially love the illustration that goes across the bottom of the page, where its shown that not only do the lava children have childlike appearances they are all exactly identical. These things are so creepy!!! And it seems that the folks over at Paizo felt somewhat similarly, when they included the lava children in their book of often maligned old school monsters, Misfit Monsters Redeemed. I honestly don't think they need "redeeming" though; they're already really cool! In terms of powers, they fight with their claws and bite, which is wonderfully animalistic for something so human looking, and it is explicitly stated that metal doesn't exist for them. Not that they are just immune to metal weapons, no, metal phases through them as if it doesn't exist, as if the lava children exist on a parallel plane only vaguely intersecting with the prime material. That is just so cool!!! It also means that their attacks ignore metal armor, which is cool. Most of the rest of their description is pretty much what one expects for an AD&D humanoid race, describing the types of leaders that they have (which, for the record, are mostly fighters but large enough groups also include magic users and clerics, with a note about rumors that their leaders are triple classed fighters/magic users/clerics), which I can really take or leave, it doesn't do anything for me here, feels very generic. The implication of a society that can support trained warriors, wizards, and priests is kinda weird to me, I don't know if it jives with how I read these creatures. One last note: their language is described as "sibilant", which is such a cool and delightful additional detail.

Lizard King
A lot of what I said about the lamia noble applies here. I'm not a fan of monsters that are just another monster but more powerful, the infatuation with cataloging humanoid leader types in AD&D most of the time doesn't do much for me especially if it's way too detailed, etc etc. The lizard king is alright though, for what it is. It's just a more powerful, more intelligent, and "more human" (that's what the description says) lizard man that rules over other lizard men. It gets an extra star over the lamia noble though because, for one, it is way simpler and more evocative than the lamia noble is, the lamia noble sacrifices anything interesting for overthought mechanics and generic vibes. Of note, the lizard king demands HUMAN SACRIFICES from the lizard men it governs, and if they don't provide human sacrifices then he will start taking his own followers as sacrifices. That's fun! They also wield a trident, which is a cool iconic weapon that deals extra damage on certain circumstances, though its bullshit that the extra damage and special abilities only count for when a lizard king wields them; the players should be able to get them too! Also the art just looks really cool, I love the tongue sticking out.

Magnesium Spirit
I'm gonna be honest, this is the first time I've read this monster's description. I think I just skipped over it a lot since it doesn't have an illustration! The magnesium spirit is actually a super interesting monster, one that I think I could see myself building a whole scenario around. The description mentions that there are only three or four of these things, summoned to the prime material plane ages ago by a powerful sorcerer, and they are constantly in search of humans to possess in order to perform the ritual to send them back to their plane of origin. That is really cool and evocative! Visuals wise, they're also pretty cool, a column of pale flame with a wispy tale, and it mentions how they move faster than even characters that have had the haste spell cast on them and that they can do a flash of blinding light. Love that stuff, super cool. What is not so cool is the extremely detailed stuff all about the magnesium spirit's powers, the detailed process of them merging with a human host to perform the ritual, how many levels a host has to have for the ritual to go forward, etc etc. It suffers so much from the kind of rules bloat that plagues a lot of AD&D monsters. I'm really not gonna get into how complex the whole thing is; suffice to say that there are so many hurdles the magnesium spirit has to go through that it is really a miracle if it is even at all able to do the one goal it has. I think I would love to use the magnesium spirit in a game, but what I would use would be a much simpler version; rather than tying so many things to player level, perhaps I would specify that they seek to take over a magic user to perform the ritual. I would give this monster four or perhaps even five stars if the description weren't so overwrought.

Lookit their sad little face!

The mantari is basically just a big airborne stingray. Not much more than that, and honestly that's alright! It attacks with its tail, which is described as "not poisonous" but instead acting on the victim's nervous system which uh... that means it is venomous, actually, it just has a neurotoxin instead of a haemotoxin, but yknow that's beside the point. Unlike the real world stingray's more defensive bestinged tail, the mantari uses its tail like a spear, pointing it at a victim and diving at them from the air. Also if you get hit twice by the mantari's tail it deals four times the damage. Jeeze!! That's a bit overkill honestly. I love the note that they usually prey on giant rats, it's such a lovely little piece of dungeon ecology, which is doubly asserted by the mention that their "preferred haunts are dirty dungeon chambers where its prey abounds". I love that! I think I'll definitely use the mantari in a certain dungeon I'm working on that will hopefully get some use. One thing I really don't like though is that they are 85% aggressive toward other creatures and humans. I just like the nice 2d6 reaction roll! Anyway, these things just seem like animals, albeit ambush predators; I don't think they should be so aggressive.

The meazel isn't anything really all that special, but what it is its pretty good at! These little shits are yet another kind of awful small humanoid who will do awful things to you underground, but they're at least a bit more fun and, more importantly, waaaaay simpler than the godawful jermlaine that didn't need to have such a long description. These guys are little thieves, with the same abilities as a level 4 thief, and often they fight with garrotes which is pretty cool, though the first illustration depicts one holding a sword. I really love the note that they are the enemies of orcs and kobolds, and that "most creatures of the underworld will attack meazels, for they have a nasty reputation even among dungeon denizens". Everyone HATES them. That's just so fun! I would love to have them as a faction in a dungeon. I similarly love that they don't recognize the value of gems, instead dumping any gemstones they get from the people they capture and eat along with the bones in big bags outside their lairs. That's so evocative and fun, and it provides a cool opportunity for players to acquire treasure without combat. Also they apparently almost all have a noncontagious skin disease that makes them look leprous. They are just so nasty!

I'm kinda breaking my own rule here, because I really how long and overly detailed in terms of specific creature behaviors the meenlock description is, but I honestly think that the monster's vibe and atmosphere still shine through to the point that I'm willing to give them a five out of five despite the overwrought description. Basically, meenlocks are awful little humanoids that dwell in mysterious deep shafts in the ground that are so dark and twist around in strange directions that you can't see the bottom, completely lined with moss so movements are silent in them. They have psychic abilities that allow them to create false smells, which they use to defend their tunnels by making it smell like there are rotting corpses at the bottom, and they can communicate telepathically. If the players open up one of their shafts and go down in, they will find the nest lair of the meenlocks at the bottom, in a little cave; the meenlocks will fight to defend their lair using their claws that have paralytic venom, but they are scared by light so their first priority is putting any lights the party has out. If the players open up one of their shafts and then leave without going down in, then the meenlocks will crawl out of the shaft and follow the party, sneaking so as to not be found, and they will select one member of the party to basically psychically harass into being stressed and paranoid, and then when the party goes to rest the meenlocks will come by and KIDNAP THEM, taking them back to the mossy shaft where they are TRANSFORMED INTO A MEENLOCK. It is so pulpy and fun! They seem a lot like awful little humanoids like Shaver's deros, or like children's bogeymen. My only problem is how overwrought their description is. In fact, this is one monster where I think I'd like to see my good friend the Cosmic Orrery make a FKR version! The vibes are all there, just gotta be certain about the execution.

A steam mephit

I'm going to be reviewing the mephits as one creature even though there's four subtypes, mostly because in general there is a lot in common between them. I did it before with some of the other monsters that had a bunch of subtypes, it's alright. Mephits aren't really my favorite personally, but I can see why they exist in the game. They are the, to use the description's wording, "evil messengers and errand runners of the powerful creatures of the Lower Planes", which is definitely a sort of conceptual niche that is needed in fantasy games like D&D. Personally I think I'd be more inclined to use things with more literary vibes than the elemental themed mephits; like, I dunno, maybe basing things on Lovecraft's servitors of the outer gods or Poe's imps of the perverse. In fact, why not just use imps, which were literally in the Monster Manual? Okay okay, there is one thing that I really love about how the mephits are described, which honestly let me just quote it in its entirety:
"Mephits are connoisseurs of the vulgar and tasteless; they share an extraordinarily twisted sense of humor (to a mephitic, the sight of a creature writhing in agony is excruciatingly funny). They delight particularly in tormenting the helpless. If they can obtain them (and it is usual that they do) they will wear clothes of the most garish design and color possible. They are often seen puffing upon smoking rolls of exceedingly foul smelling dried vegetation. They adopt a strutting gait and have shrill voices."
They are evil assholes with a mean sense of humor and they're described as stoners who dress in gaudy outfits. I bet they listen to breakcore or 100 Gecs or something (I really like 100 Gecs actually so that's a good thing lol). Now, for the sake of brevity, let me just summarize my thoughts on the four subtypes of mephits. In general, I really don't think there needs to be so many subtypes, and since the publication of the Folio there have been many, many more. It is typical of the kind of overly taxonomic gygaxian impulse to just constantly add new variations on monsters as canon "subtypes", "breeds", etc., and I am decidedly not a fan. However, here's how I feel about the four types of mephits described here:
Fire Mephit: Pretty basic, they're always on fire so touching them deals damage, they have a breath weapon of fire that they can change the shape of between either a jet of flame or a blanket of flame, I guess that changes how many targets it can hit? Also they can do heat metal and magic missile. Pretty generic.
Lava Mephit: These guys are delightfully gloopy, their illustration has such a shitty expression on its face, even its nose is drooping with dripping lava. They're not actually made of lava either; lava mephits instead sweat lava, it's described as oozing from their skin. I really like that, it's so messed up. The lava sweat obviously produces a lot of heat, so they can be detected from a good distance away, touching them deals damage, etc. They can also spit lava and their touch dissolves/melts stuff and they can shape change into a pool of lava. A bit too many powers in my opinion, but pretty alright!
Smoke Mephit: Honestly these guys are just a reskinned fire mephit. The description even directly compares them. Rather than spitting fire, their breath weapon is a "sooty ball of smoke" that can also blind you in addition to dealing damage, and they can turn invisible and use the spell dancing lights. Also when they die they "cough up" 1 point of fire damage to everyone nearby, which is kinda fun.
Steam Mephit: Like the lava mephit, these guys aren't actually made out of steam but instead sweat boiling steamy water, which I really quite like. Their breath weapon is a jet of scalding water; more importantly though, they can also summon a magical rainstorm of boiling rain, that is treated as an ice storm but just with the temperature reversed to really hot. That's an amazingly messed up power. I think I might steal that for a different monster sometime.

I kinda hate that I felt the need to write so much about the mephits. My favorite ones are the lava and steam mephits.

Mephits are also our first monster in this post to have originally been featured in the Fiend Factory column in White Dwarf! Notably, however, you will not find them if you go looking for the name "mephit"... That's because they're actually new types of IMPS. I WAS RIGHT. I SAID THEY SHOULD JUST BE IMPS AND THEY ORIGINALLY WERE!!! I have no idea why they were changed from just being new subtypes of imp to being a completely separate type of monster in the transition from Factory to Folio, but that's just what happened. The four types are all here, but lava mephits are instead called molten imps. In terms of powers and abilities, they are roughly the same, though the powers are stated in much simpler language in the Factory versions, which is very welcome. The smoke imp/mephit is described as oozing smoke in a similar fashion to how the steam and lava/molten mephits/imps ooze their respective material, so that's super cool. Also Don Turnbull remarks that cautious DMs may want to avoid having certain types of imps in the same encounter together, saying that the steam imp's rain of boiling water and the molten imp's lava would interact in really bad ways. I say screw that, the awful clouds of steam and the sudden reaction of the water with lava would be great for an encounter! I will say, also, that the Fiend Folio version has a lot more personality, with the mentions of their gaudy clothing and awful senses of humor. Normally I find the Folio versions to be relatively worse than the originals, but here there is much more personality in the Folio version.

Mezzodaemons are Okay. I really love the illustration, like I really really love it, its such a good creature, but basically everything else is generic as hell. It feels almost like they were just created to fill in a gap in the AD&D cosmology so that there would be monsters for the planes between the nine hells and the abyss.  They really have no distinctive or unique powers, abilities, or flavor; they just have great strength, fight with their "horny hands and talons" (a bit of unfortunate word choice there) or sometimes with magical weapons, they can use basically any magical item and can cast a handful of specific spells, they're immune to nonmagical weapons and take half damage from acid and cold and fire, they have magic resistance, they can see infrared and ultraviolet, and they have unique names that if someone else knows then they can control them. All of that is basically the same stuff that every other fiendish creature in AD&D has. The name thing, the magic resistance, the immunities, the spells, it's pretty much the same as a given demon or devil, and pretty much all the time the demon or devil will be more interesting or iconic. Really sucks though, the illustration is great.

Yet another awful little humanoid that will do awful things to the player characters in the dungeon? These guys are getting a bit repetitive at this point. These ones are actually specified as being related to the jermlaine and the snyad, which we will get to in a future post; yet another instance of annoying gygaxian naturalism, feeling the need to establish these unnecessary genetic relationships between monsters. I personally don't really benefit from having a taxonomy of very similar awful little humanoids that live in dungeons, at least not the way its done here. Mites capture adventurers with traps, tripwires, etc., beat them half unconscious and rob them, strip them of their armor, tie them up, and then drag them to a main corridor of the dungeon to be killed by a wandering monster. I guess the mites are on better terms with the other dungeon inhabitants than the meazels are. I really like the detail that adventurers can sometimes hear them scurrying around in their little tunnels that wrap around the larger dungeon corridors, that's cool. Other than that, though, I honestly think that the meazel is a much more interesting alternative. This one has a great illustration by Russ Nicholson, though.

The humble mite is also our only other Fiend Factory original for today. And, other than the uh, very lackluster illustration, the Factory version is much better. All the basic beats are there; mites live in small tunnels all around dungeon corridors, adventurers can sometimes hear them scurry around in there, they use traps and tripwires to capture adventurers and beat them up and steal all their stuff before leaving them back in the dungeon to be killed by wandering monsters. However, and this is an important thing, there's no mention of the stupid forced genetic relationship with the jermlaine and snyads. I know that the jermlaine were Gygax's creation, so of course he would force other people's monsters to have explicit "canonical" relationships with his. Typical Gary move. Also, there is one thing in the Fiend Factory version's description that is so good I simply can't believe it was left out from the Folio version. Since the tunnels are so small that most human sized creatures can't effectively fight in them, the most effective way to combat mites is to fill their tunnels with smoke. I love that!!! It's such a cool, creative weakness that really feels like something adventurers could feasibly figure out, AND it's evocative of bees. You just have to find all the openings to their tunnels, cover up all but one of them, fill the tunnel with smoke, and then bada bing bada boom you can fight them as they come out. Really fun! If that had been included in the Folio version, I honestly probably would have given them three stars.

Hey so I'm really sorry about the length of this one! I just really didn't want to break up the letter M and it turned out that I apparently had a lot to say about some monsters that I felt mostly mixed on. Well I hope you are having a lovely day and stay tuned for the next entry in the Fiend Folio review series, where we will do the letters N and O!