Thursday, December 29, 2022

Product Identity Schmoduct Schmidentity

 My friend and colleague over at Prismatic Wasteland made a post recently all about coming up with non OGL names for those monsters considered Product Identity by Wizards of the Coast and the Open Gaming License. Check out that post over here! But I noticed some... discrepancies, which left me an opportunity for a post in response.

So the whole premise of Mr. Wasteland's post over there is going through the whole list of Product Identity monsters, cataloguing which legally acceptable names have been used by other games over the years, and coming up with the best new name to use. But I noticed two monsters that I thought were listed as Product Identity which weren't included: the Kuo Toa and the Slaad. Now, this is where the discrepancy comes in. Turns out there's some inconsistency in the listings of Product Identity on different versions of the OGL/websites that refer to the OGL. Namely, the OGL document that he referred to did not include the Kuo toa nor the slaad, but I found them on the d20 SRD, and on multiple online references to the OGL... so what is the truth? It would seem that the law says you can use Kuo Toa and Slaad just fine, but the SRD and just about all online mentions of it include those two. What a conundrum!

But really, who cares? I sure don't! What's more interesting than the question of whether WotC considers these two monsters to be Product Identity is just talking about the monsters themselves and coming up with names for them!

Kuo Toa
I already wrote out my thoughts about the Kuo Toa here in an earlier entry in the Goin' Through the Fiend Folio series [which, as an aside, will make a return soon!]. Suffice to say, I think they're my favorite of the many piscine humanoids in AD&D, perhaps tied only with the morkoth.

Dwiz over at A Knight at the Opera has already begun a list of names for Kuo Toa over here in his response to Warren, including the classic Deep Ones from Lovecraft and Darkest Dungeon's Pelagics. Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy also uses the term Deep Ones, although they drop some of the more interesting elements of the Kuo Toa lore from the Fiend Folio, basically just making them underground dwelling fishmen led by cultic clerics. A great archetype nonetheless of course! OSRIC, meanwhile, appears to have made an attempt at dodging the Kuo Toa problem; I can't find them or anything like them in the OSRIC monster listing, despite including both of AD&D's other main fishmen types [Locathah and Sahuagin] as well as a number of other monsters from the Fiend Folio. Same for Labyrinth Lord. What gives?!? The Kuo Toa are much much more interesting fishmen than the alternatives, why are they just avoiding them. Outside the realm of retroclones, Pathfinder has the Skum as their replacement for the underground dwelling fishmen niche that the Kuo Toa hold in D&D.

(As an aside, as I was scrolling through a PDF of Advanced Labyrinth Lord, I noticed that while they avoided including the Kuo Toa at all, they renamed the thoul of all things, instead calling it a "throghrin". That is SUCH a terrible name, literally why would you use that fantasy gibberish vaguely orcish sorta name instead of the weird Thoul... I just really like thouls, so I figured I'd comment on it.)

If I'm being completely honest, while I really like iconic well established names like Deep Ones for the Kuo Toa, I am not inclined to use them personally. I'm honestly just more likely to call them fishmen, or even more likely gillmen. I am a Universal monster movie kid after all! Perhaps another option for the Kuo Toa could be something evoking their dark, cultic, superstitious nature... maybe paranoiacs? Yeah, I think I like that. It makes them feel less like dark masters a la Lovecraft's Deep Ones and more like paranoid cultists. The Kuo Toa aren't really their own masters in the Drow series adventures anyway! Perhaps they could be godmakers (of no relation to the Frank Herbert novel of the same name) due to their psychic ability to create their own gods in physical form.

A green Slaad, despite appearances

Oooooohh the slaad. I will save sharing my more detailed thoughts on these nefarious toadies for the future Fiend Folio review post that will feature them, but suffice to say I quite like them. My first introduction to them was actually in the very first D&D book I ever personally owned, the D&D 4e Monster Manual 2, which uh... was not necessarily the best introduction to the game. Nor was it the best form of the Slaad, but I think the basic idea was impressed on me. They ultimately fit into the honestly unnecessary taxonomic impulse in AD&D, as the chaotic neutral inhabitants of the plane of Limbo, but other than that they are honestly more interesting paranormal inhabitants of the outer realms than most demons and devils! Weird sadistic chaotic frogs, coming in a variety of types, led by [in the Fiend Folio version] a strange skeletal warlord riding on a dragon? Vastly prefer these guys to Asmodeus. 

A red Slaad

Now, the Slaad seem to not be featured in the bestiaries of Advanced Labyrinth Lord or Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy. They also aren't featured in OSRIC, but strangely enough there is a type of devil called "Scaly Devil" that has almost the same colored subtypes as the Slaad; otherwise they don't have anything in common with the Slaad so I'm honestly just confused. They also don't appear in Pathfinder, where instead the inhabitants of Limbo are the serpentine Proteans. A crying shame that it seems most games aren't interested in including these kooky guys!

On to the new names: maybe something emphasizing their amphibian nature... battletoads, perhaps?

Or well, maybe chaos frogs is more honest than a reference to the classic 1991 beat 'em up. To me that evokes the chaos dwarfs from Warhammer Fantasy, a personal favorite of their lesser appreciated armies. If one wants a name in keeping with the sinister otherworldly vibes of the name Slaad, maybe one part or the other of the line from Aristophanes' The Frogs: Brekekekex koax koax. More than a bit unwieldy, but maybe that's the point. I could see Brekekekex koax koax as the proper name for these off brand Slaad, while mortals, fearful of their sadistic mischief, call them some more mundane like chaos toads or something more direct like The Terrors. Otherworldly entities like these are a fantastic opportunity for having a more esoteric name only used by wizards and other spirits and a name used in more normal conversation.

As an aside, isn't it interesting how overrepresented the Fiend Folio is among the product identity monsters? Four on the list are FF originals: Kuo Toa, Slaad, Githyanki, and Githzerai. And only one of those was created by Gary! I find it kinda interesting how, in the case of the slaad and gith, the creations of British fans ended up treated as important copyright by a company that at the time didn't even exist.

Coming Up Next
I'm not quite done with Mr. Warren Wasteland's Product Identity post just yet. Coming up next is going to be a new original monster, an alternate take on his alternate name for a beholder, panoptikhan. Along with that, on an unrelated note, will be the return of the Goin' Through the Fiend Folio series, picking back up with the Penanggalan!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Taste Testers (A Monster for Gamma World)

Oozing along the crumbled alleyways of Gamma Ohio are the pitiful taste testers, half mobile and half intelligent, vaguely humanoid forms made from spewing vomit. They grasp at the air with the silhouettes of hands, dripping with sick, bubbling coughs that occasionally reach their permeable surfaces. They tend to congregate in small pitiful packs, huddling together in sewers and ruins, scraping every surface for food to sate their search for deliciousness that they can rarely find. They reach for interlopers' faces with their stinking puke paws, both to get an idea of what they look like since the taste testers lack eyes and to slurp up any dead skin cells or oils accumulated on a traveller's face. Unfortunately for the taste testers, however, most don't take kindly to having their faces fondled by living vomit.

Taste testers are unfortunately maligned and disgusting creatures born into the worst of circumstances. At their core they are ambulatory living entrails, a simple mouth, esophagus, stomach, and set of intestines to be exact, all perfectly human in genetics. Lacking a brain, the taste tester is instead animated by a neural net that it is able to extrude through its mouth in order to puppet objects, most often its own vomit. These accursed things were made this way by a long forgotten candy and chicken byproduct meal company, in house, in an effort to replace human taste testers for their product. Originally centered on the first production center in what was once Cincinnati, they later expanded in their use, including to companies bought up by the taste testers' parent firm. Thus, they were made as a genetically modified human clone, a hominid worm made up of the human digestive system and with the bare minimum of the rest of human anatomy, with the express intention of mass testing product for human consumption with simple binary outputs of acceptable or unacceptable, communicated through the only method left available: vomiting.

That was all before armageddon, of course. With the supply chains drying up and the factories collapsing in on themselves, the vermiform taste testers found themselves surprisingly resilient, fleeing into the sewers to proliferate. The unfortunate thing is, however, that what might be available to eat in sewers or post apocalyptic ruins is nothing compared to the mind numbingly delicious treats they were genetically engineered to taste test, leaving them constantly vomiting up whatever filth they ate. In time, however, the smarter of the taste testers figured out how to extrude their neural net to puppet around their puke, allowing them to venture further afield and be more discerning with what they put in their mouths. They do still have to eat awful things in order to produce the vomit that makes up their very own bodies, however; it is an awful cycle indeed.

Thus the taste tester of today is born: a squirming worm of guts controlling a puppet of puke vaguely shaped into a humanoid form by faint recollections of what their ancestors were and who they were around in the ancient factories. The product of the profit hungry hubris of ancient humanity clinging to existence as a blind pitiful gourmand of discerning taste and hazy memories.

Sometimes, taste testers are kept as an unusual pet by certain distasteful types, or they are taken in by the more well meaning cults and secret societies. They are unlikely to seriously hurt anyone individually, but some warlords and crime lords keep taste testers as torture devices, putting people in a room with an especially stinky vomitoid or keeping a well fed one as a mockery to prisoners they keep starving.

Taste Tester
Number Encountered: 2d6
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1 vomit swipe (1d6)
Armor: none
Morale: 4
Reticent: Taste testers will never initiate combat, although they may approach the players and even touch them without realizing any problems with that.
Stench: Taste testers smell so bad. Those with sensitive senses of smell must save or puke themselves when close to them.
Oozing Body: Attacks to the main body of a taste tester deal no damage; all you're attacking is congealed vomit! To damage it, the worm like digestive system "true body" must be targeted, giving disadvantage to most attacks. When submerged in water or blasted with water, the vomit body dissipates.
Vomit Swipe: Taste testers can attack with a swipe of a pukey tentacle dripping with stomach acid. This weakens armor; for every 2 hits, -1 AC.

Taste Tester for GW 1e
No. Appearing: 2d6
Armor Class: 10
Movement: 5
Hit Dice: 2
These slimy humanoids are the half sapient pitiful result of corporate genetic engineering, now abandoned. They have worm like "true" body made of a stomach and intestines, and a false body made of vomit. They are constantly in search of good tasting food, and rarely find it. They are timid creatures and will never initiate combat. Their vomit bodies take no damage, but dissipate in water; their "true" body is hard to hit due to its relatively smaller size, giving you disadvantage on attempts to hit it. Their acidic swipe gives -1 to AC for every 2 hits.

Taste Tester for GW 2e
Number: 2d6
Morale: 3
Hit Dice: 2d6
Armor: 10
Speed: 5/300/2
MS: 1d6            IN: 1d4
DX: 1d6            CH: 1d4
CN: 1d10+8      PS: 1d6
Attacks: Vomit swipe
Mutations: N/A
Description: see description above

I also do realize that the above drawing takes a lot of cues from Sickly Stomach from Awful Hospital but I'm pretty sure I drew my original doodle of these guys before AH even started, I've had Gamma World vomit oozes kicking around in my head for a while

Monday, December 19, 2022

Isle of the Cyclopean Monolith (A Ten Room Dungeon for King of Kings)

So I've been wanting to post more adventure locations for a while, and a format that I think is great is Tristyn's Ten Room Dungeon. She made a bunch of them earlier in her blog's existence, but recently made that post I just linked to with a general overview of the format. So here I've made a ten room dungeon for King of Kings, Tristyn style! The rooms don't really stick completely to the guidelines in the post, but yknow its close enough. I'll start posting more of these, its a really fun way to make a nice lil adventure location!

Your ship rocking in the rough waves of the Sea of Giants, you spot a little black crag poking out of the seafoam... "Land ho!" you cry, turning toward what you hope is a respite from the storms and the schools of raucous dolphins, but instead you find...


You're gonna take this sketchy almost purely relational dungeon map and you're gonna LIKE IT

Wandering Monsters
Roll 1d6
1-2: Pygmy Giants [Total number: 16]
3-5: Pariah Dogs [Total number: 23]
6: The Piscine Apparition [Total number: 1]

Piscine Apparition % in Lair: 50% 
Pygmy Giant % in Lair: 80% 
[I include % in Lair here to account for reaching the lair/house of the respective creature while they may not be there.] 

Platform 1: A platform made of lashed together driftwood. The smell of briny sea air, the bitter feeling of salt on your face, the sound of yipping dogs. Small wood and rope pens hold a total of 21 fat pariah dogs. Connected to the pier by a wooden walkway, and to platform 2 by a rickety wooden staircase.

Platform 2: A platform made of lashed together driftwood. Frigid wind rushing through your hair, the floor shifting beneath your feet. Five small tents serve as houses for 10 pygmy giants, as well as 2 pariah dogs that sleep up here. Not all of the pygmy giants will be here all at once. Connected to platform 1 by a rickety wooden staircase, and to platform 4 by a wooden rope bridge. Beneath the platform lives a degenerate octopus that has grown fat and lazy on the waste and effluvia of dogs and does not take kindly to being bothered. It roosts on a large clam that holds a pearl worth 325 drachmae.

The octopus
A pygmy giant

Platform 3: A platform made of lashed together driftwood. The smell of briny sea air, the bitter feeling of salt on your face, the feeling that something you wouldn’t want to see has happened here regularly. Most of the platform is taken up by a pen used for breeding dogs. Beneath the platform is the little moray eel style lair of the piscine apparition.

Number Encountered: 1 
Hit Dice: 3 
Attacks: 1 kick (1d6) 
Armor: none 
Morale: 8 
Aquatic Curse: The piscine apparition can cast a curse of water breathing. Pointing with its big toe, which puts it off balance, the target must make a save vs. spells or have their respiration transformed to water breathing. 
Mischievous: The piscine apparition is a silly little thing that delights in causing problems.  
Spirit Being: The piscine apparition is a spirit of the Sea of Giants. It is immune to damage from mundane weaponry, fire, acid, electricity, etc. The only things that can harm it are immaterial weapons, spirit wards, and magic.  

A gawping fish thing sat upon two chubby humanoid legs. It wishes to get to the antediluvian monolith but cannot pierce the wards placed around it by the pygmy giants. 

The Piscine Apparition

Platform 4: A platform made of lashed together driftwood. Frigid wind rushing through your hair, the floor shifting beneath your feet. Three small tents serve as houses for 6 pygmy giants, with a fourth serving as a smokehouse for dog flesh. Not all of the pygmy giants will be here all at once. Connected to platform 2 by a wooden rope bridge, and to platform 3 by a wooden staircase.

Cave Room 5: Smoked dog meat and dog cheese storage facility used by the pygmy giants. Connects to room 8 and cave room 6. The passage to room 8 is marked by multicolored ragged flags and occult wards.

Cave Room 6: A chamber of things gleaned from the sea. A hostage sailor is tied up against the slick cave wall. He is desperate to be freed, but is liable to steal from the party if he has the chance. There is also a box of gold teeth, small pearls, sea glass, and scrimshaw collectively worth 450 drachmae. Connects to cave room 5 and cave room 7.

Cave Room 7: Soggy cave smell and the sound of dripping water. Empty except for a cave painting of octopuses, dolphins, and the outlines of squat hands. Connects to room 8, cave room 6, and cave room 9. The passage to room 8 is marked by multicolored ragged flags and occult wards.

Room 8, the Open Air Clearing: Wide open under the cloudy sky, ringed by the cracked craggy rocks at the peak of the island, sits the ancient, antediluvian monolith carved in days long forgotten. It exudes a terrible aura that causes intense nausea and confusion the closer you get to it, the cnidarian tentacles stabbed into its surface seeming to squirm in the corner of your vision. It is covered with a thin layer of green and black slime, algal and fungal, which prickles the skin to the touch. The pygmy giants hate to approach it.

Save vs. poison or be unable to approach the antediluvian monolith without collapsing and/or vomiting. If touched with bare skin, it deals 2 points of damage per turn to all touching it. The monolith is worth immense amounts to the right buyer, upwards of 2,500 drachmae if you can find someone who can stomach its unwholesome vibrations. If yanked out of the ground, beneath the monolith are the mummified remains of an anomalocaris. Connects to cave room 5 and cave room 7.

The cyclopean monolith

Cave Room 9: An eroded cavern dripping with caustic green slime. On the ground, amidst the half melted remnants of a human corpse, is a lapis lazuli statuette of a goat shaped goddess, worth 400 drachmae. Connects to cave room 7 and cave room 10.

Cave Room 10: A small cave marked only by a single cave painting of an eye in a star. Connected to platform 3 by a rock cliff that can be navigated with rope.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

A Terrible Weight Pins you Down (A Monster for King of Kings)

On occasion one may wake up in the middle of the night, pinned down by a terrible weight, barely able to move. Sleep paralysis and terror in the night, shadowy forms crawling about you, your breath forced out from your lungs and your ribs pressed in to not let you take in air to replace it. Eyes staring out at you from the dark, hungry and avaricious.

This is the terrible bakhtak!

By Norma Tattoo, for the album Bakhtak by Hassan K., which you can listen to here. It's pretty good!

Number Encountered: 1
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 2 claws (1d6+1)
Armor: as chain
Morale: 8
Nightmare: The bakhtak can induce sleep and a sudden night terror in a target by simply pointing and giving them the evil eye. Save vs. paralysis or fall asleep and thrash about in an intense nightmare, with the chance of dealing damage to yourself if holding a weapon. The bakhtak's nightmare ability is stopped if its eyes are covered.
Nocturnal: A bakhtak is only ever encountered at night.
Nose for Treasure: A bakhtak can smell gold, silver, and jewels. If its nose is held, it will point you in the direction of nearby treasure.
Sleep Paralysis: The bakhtak sits on the chest of a slumberer, pinning them down. Determine who the bakhtak sits upon randomly, or if there is a particular member of the party which attracts the attentions of unclean spirits. They who the bakhtak sits upon, once they have woken up, must make a save vs. paralysis with disadvantage to be able to move at all, repeating every other round. The one sat upon by the bakhtak loses one point of CON and one point of WIS.
Unclean Spirit: Bakhtaks are unclean spirits and as such are able to be turned by those with the proper capability. They are immune to damage from mundane weaponry, and are immune to fire, acid, electricity, and large blunt force attacks like boulders. The only thing that can harm a bakhtak are immaterial weapons  and items specifically aimed at warding off unclean spirits.

The bakhtak appears as a dark, shaggy, shadowy thing, its long awful hairs swimming about in the air as if it were submerged. Above its moustache as dark as night sits a pale nose, and above that are two pinprick eyes which stare out like baleful stars. Its hands are like those of a woman more than a century old, knobby, lanky, and bent, but its legs are bestial and on thick haunches. It is these creatures which cause sleep paralysis, solely out of malice, taking delight in the discomfort and pain they cause when they suck all the air out of a sleeper's lungs in the night.

At the very least, however, the bakhtak does not wish violence on anyone. While they will use their crone claws to their defense in the rare circumstance that one has an ectoplasmic sword or painful warding rune of some sort, they will never kill anyone, only bring them near to death. After all, if they killed someone that is one less person to torment in their sleep. On top of this, if the sleeper or a friend of theirs is at least able to feebly reach up and grasp the nightmare's moon pale nose, the bakhtak will panic and point them toward the nearest cache of treasure. Normally, the bakhtak uses their awareness of nearby gold to mock the poor sleeper, tantalizingly bringing bounty to their attention in their fitful sleep only for it to be forgotten the next morning, but if one is able to grasp the thing's nose it can be very fruitful indeed. There are tales of great thief kings making their start extorting a sleep paralysis demon for its buried treasure.

But such successes are few and far between. Much more likely than grasping the bakhtak by the nose and forcing it to guide you to gold is that you stay pinned under its weight, for they are far heavier than their small hirsute appearance would suggest, barely able to breathe as you slide in and out of consciousness, the only thing remaining in your mind the vision of terrible hateful stars, a pair of them, staring at you from the night sky above, as shadowy hands surround you.


The bakhtak has been on my encounter tables for KoK for a while but I hadn't really written it up yet. It's not intended to be a fully fledged combat encounter, more a stressful weird set piece encounter, but I suppose you could fight it with the intention of grabbing its nose and pointing you toward treasure! RIP to whoever it is that got sat on though, unfortunate for them really.

Also, here's three drawings of nightmares/night hags by the great German expressionist Fritz Schwimbeck that don't really have much to do with the Iranian bakhtak but which I just think are cool:

It has been too long

 Had yet another hiatus of posting, my bad! I was so very busy this semester with two research projects at the same time taking a large chunk of my time, but now one of them is completely done with and the other just has to be edited over the course of the next several months. So I'm going to get back to posting on this here blog!

King of Kings has been on a hiatus just as long as the blog, so no new session reports unfortunately. I also made the stupid mistake of not packing my physical notes and maps and such when I left for winter break from university, leaving me unable to run the game. Whoops! KoK will get back on track in January, when I have access to my notes again.

Other plans:
  • FINISHING THE FIEND FOLIO REVIEWS. I meant to finish it by the end of this year, but as is probably painfully obvious that is not going to be the case. I'll get back to reviewing Folio fiends this month, aiming to finish up the series ASAP. I low-key can't believe how long I've been doing that one review series, but its just taken so long because of long gaps in posting, so.
  • More monsters!!! King of Kings, Gamma World, horror games, etc. Always got more ideas for creatures for games.
  • Continue making worldbuilding posts for King of Kings. The next one I intend on making is about religion in the Enlightened Empire, building on some of the mentions of gods and cults from some of the other posts. I have also been thinking a lot about expanding out to make worldbuilding posts about other parts of the King of Kings world, including posting a world map.
  • ADVENTURES!!! I have a zine esque adventure set in the world of King of Kings that I have been working on off and on since last August, which I intend on finishing at some point in the not too distant future. I also just want to post more adventure locations, because ultimately its adventure locations that are the backbone of this kind of adventure fantasy that I'm a big fan of, not classes or worldbuilding nor even really monsters.
  • Putting together the notes for my previously mentioned Underneath minicampaign and publishing it on here. I've had the ability to do that all this time I just keep putting it off so I'll do that soon.
  • Unrelated to the blog but I really want to get back to working on my neocities site.
Keep an eye out for more posts forthcoming!! Love you all, happy holidays, and hope you're having a good one!