Author Topic: Monstrous Roleplaying Resources and Lore  (Read 45450 times)


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Re: Monstrous Roleplaying Resources and Lore
« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2019, 08:59:32 PM »
The Dread Revenant

"Lord knows I should be pushing daisies;
I was six feet down, but something raised me up--
Sent back for to lift my curse;
I’m gonna get me a taste of some chaos first.

Untied, gonna get little wild,
Go screaming through the dark like a demon child.
Close your eyes now, the light is fading,
And the noise in the night is gonna get a little louder, baby..."

                                    ~Lord Huron, "The World Ender"

In the Demiplane of Dread, many crimes go unpunished. So prevalent are the evils that dominate the land, so merciless are the rulers of every domain, so uncaring is the world in the face of human desperation and denigration, that the hope of justice for the misdeeds of others is a quaint fantasy better suited to dreams. Yet there are times when a soul is unwilling to accept the injustices perpetrated against them in life, times when anger and rage at justice denied reaches beyond even the thin veil between life and death, and calls a body back to service even though its heart has stopped beating and its blood has long since cooled. It is thus that a Dread Revenant comes into being.

A Dread Revenant is an undead creature governed by a single and overriding instinct: to right a wrong done to them (or against them) in life by bringing the perpetrators to account for what they have done. Although it retains the sentience and abilities it possessed in life, plus the resilience of a creature that no longer fears injury or death, it is single-mindedly focused on this one goal to the exclusion of all else. A Dread Revenant can employ others as agents; it can use manipulation, stealth, and other more careful tactics, but it cannot delay too long in hunting its quarry before it is compelled to proceed. Dread Revenants can be destroyed as can other undead creatures, but so powerful is the spirit that lurks within it that it reforms the next night, ready to continue on its violent course. Only a Dread Revenant's victim may destroy it, as the force of that final injustice forces even a defiant spirit to succumb.

"Revenge is the sweetest morsel to the mouth, that ever was cooked in hell."
                                    ~Walter Scott, The Heart of Midlothian

As many acts of pettiness and cruelty are commonplace in the Demiplane of Dread, it takes an act of betrayal or assassination of truly dramatic scale to create a Dread Revenant. It does, however, not matter if the act was genuinely cruel; it only matters that the spirit perceives it to be, and is gripped or obsessed with this belief at the moment of its death, and that this unholy desire for vengeance animates its corpse after the end of its natural life. The Mists have somehow granted the Revenant its dark wish and set it on a path to seek the justice it believes it was denied.

Dread Revenants usually appear as dried, desiccated corpses, with bright, alert, and angry eyes. While its skin is leathery, its body is taut and powerful, betraying its unnatural strength.

Dread Revenant is a template that can be added to any humanoid, hereafter referred to as the character. The character's type changes to Undead. The Dread Revenant uses all of the base creature's statistics and abilities, except as noted below.

Speed: Same as the base creature.
AC: The character's natural armor increases by +4.
Attacks: 2 Slam Attacks
Damage: 2 1d8 Slam Attacks for Small Characters and 2 1d10 Slam Attacks for Medium Characters.

Special Attacks: A dread revenant retains all the character's special attacks and gains those described below.
Fear Aura (Su): When a dread revenant is enraged, all those opposing it must make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the dread revenant's HD + the dread revenant's Charisma bonus). Those who fail must flee for 1d4+1 rounds.
Paralyzing Gaze (Su): Paralyzed for 1d4+1 minutes; Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the dread revenant's HD + the dread revenant's Charisma bonus) negates. This attack only works upon those whom the dread revenant is wreaking vengeance.

Special Qualities: A dread revenant retains all the character's special qualities and gains those described below.
Resistance (Ex): A dread revenant gains acid, cold, and electricity resistance 20.
Regeneration 5 (Ex): Fire does normal damage to a dread revenant. The creature cannot regrow limbs, but it can reattach a severed member instantly by holding it to the stump.
Turn Immunity (Ex): Dread revenants cannot be turned, rebuked, or commanded by a cleric.
Undead: Immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and disease. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain, or death from massive damage. Immune to effects requiring a Fortitude save, unless such effects target objects.

Saves: Same as the character.
Abilities: Increase from the character as follows: Str +6, Int -2, Cha +2.
Skills: Dread revenants receive a +6 racial bonus to Search, Sense Motive, and Spot checks.
Feats: The creature gains Iron Will and Toughness if it did not already possess these feats.
Alignment: Often neutral.

Sources: Van Richten's Guide to the Walking Dead.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2019, 10:16:39 PM by EO »
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Re: Monstrous Roleplaying Resources and Lore
« Reply #26 on: June 17, 2019, 05:09:36 PM »
The Werecrocodile

This powerful, scaly reptile stands upright like a human, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Its flesh is that of a vicious crocodile, complete with a flattened body and tail, short legs, and powerful, toothy jaws. It stands over 7 feet tall.

In their human form, werecrocodiles are tall, thin creatures with sharp features, a long nose and chin, and a thin face with a noticeable overbite. In their crocodile form, they are very long, big, and powerful monsters. Werecrocodiles often work somewhere close to water, and they have unnerving, steady stares. Werecrocodiles are found only in deep waste environments that are pierced by life-giving rivers.

Werecrocodiles can assume hybrid forms as well as animal forms. In combat, werecrocodiles prefer their human form. They try to trick their prey into assuming they are harmless. Werecrocodiles are infamous for playing on people’s sympathy by pretending to be grieving. Once the prey is in close range, they change to crocodile form and attack.

In crocodile form, they rely on stealth to approach potential victims, then lunge forward with a bite attack. They use their tail slaps only when facing multiple opponents. In hybrid form, though, werecrocodiles generally lead with their tails, using their bites only when they wish to grapple.

Natural werecrocodiles live in small family groups. The mother is usually the leader of the family pack. Mating occurs with their own kind, and werecrocodiles are born live from the mother’s womb. The young attain the ability to transform at the onset of puberty.

Werecrocodiles usually live in mud shacks by the edge of rivers or in swamps. They stay away from populated human settlements and do not collect treasure or possessions. They usually assume crocodile form to find prey, then assume human form at night to sleep. They are very territorial and attack any human, demihuman, or humanoid who enters their territory, though they will try to be as subtle as possible before springing their trap.

Werecrocodiles of Toril worship the god Sebek, who created them, and can become clerics or specialty priests of Sebek.

Werecrocodiles are biologically identical to humans, except for their lycanthropy. They prey on both warm-blooded creatures and fish native to the swamps. They eat any wererats native to the swamps. They do not particularly enjoy killing humans, but humans are too tasty to resist. No one preys on werecrocodiles except humans, so werecrocodiles try to have as little conflict with large bands of humans as possible.

Werecrocodiles are the creation of Sebek, a crocodile-headed minor deity in the Mulhorandi pantheon. Very few Sebek-spawn remain in Mulhorand, having been driven off by the servants of the god-kings five centuries ago, but werecrocodiles thrive in Chessenta’s Adderswamp.

In Ravenloft, werecrocodiles are primarily found in the swamps of Souragne, the waters of Saragoss or the Amber Wastes where they worship the god Sobek.

Perhaps because they are relatively primitive creatures, werecrocodiles are vulnerable to primitive weapons. The majority can be struck normally by cutting, piercing, or bludgeoning weapons made of flint. Flint weapons may have wooden or other handles, so long as the actual cutting edge, piercing point, or place of impact is unreinforced flint. Mandrake appears to be the herbal nemesis of most werecrocodiles, though it is uncertain whether any singular part of the plant is responsible.

Sources: Monsters of Faerun, Sandstorm, Monstrous Manual (AD&D), Van Richten's Guide to Werebeasts and Children of the Night: Werebeasts (Sandover).
« Last Edit: July 07, 2019, 10:06:14 PM by EO »


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Re: Monstrous Roleplaying Resources and Lore
« Reply #27 on: June 17, 2019, 05:13:20 PM »
The Red Widow

The red widow, or spider queen, is an evil and deadly shapechanger. Spinning a web of evil to all the lands about its lair, this foul creature derives a vile pleasure in the murder of those lured to it by its many charms and promises of delight. It generally preys upon unsuspecting males, using its seductive humanoid form to lure prey into its clutches.

The red widow has two physical forms. The first, and that in which it is most commonly encountered, is a human one. In humanoid form, a red widow appears as a female humanoid (usually human). Regardless of her apparent race, a red widow is always fair to look upon and has bright red hair. A red widow's lifespan barely stretches across three decades, but its humanoid form always appears to be at the prime of life. In its true form, which it will adopt only when it is about to make a kill, a red widow resembles a massive black widow spider with reversed colors. Its bulbous body is a bright, shiny red, bearing a black hourglass upon its back.

Red widows speak the domain languages of their homeland.

Although they are dangerous opponents, red widows prefer to avoid combat. They use their beauty and whatever seductive methods seem appropriate to draw their prey into a place of their choosing, often a web-choked urban lair cluttered with the husks of prior lovers. A red widow is a cautious being, and will patiently conceal its true nature until the last possible moment. A widow's goal is to lure its prey into a lover's embrace. Then, while he is most vulnerable, it reverts to its natural form and strikes. Those who witness this change (usually only the doomed victim) must make an immediate horror check.

The red widow is capable of releasing a jet of webbing when in its spider form. This is handled just as if the creature were casting a web spell.

The red widow is usually solitary but occasionally will work in pairs. It often makes its home in the cities and towns of men. Here, it moves about in its human guise and seduces its victims under cover of darkness. It is not uncommon for a red widow to love and then destroy a new victim every week.

Red widows live by draining the blood and other bodily fluids from those they kill. A slain lover is hidden away somewhere in the creature’s lair and can supply the widow with nourishment for up to a week. When the monster finishes with a corpse, it discards the partially decomposed and dehydrated body far from its lair. In this way, it hopes that its home will escape detection.

Red widows are instinctually compelled to breed about once a year. After seeking out a charismatic male, it paralyzes its mate with its venom, but does not drain his blood. Instead, it implants 2d4 eggs in his abdomen and cocoons him in a web in its lair. Unless removed, the eggs hatch in 1d6 days. The newborn red widows feed on their father, with each spider inflicting 1 point of damage each day. Red widows reach maturity (and gain the ability to assume humanoid form) after one year; treat immature red widows as monstrous spiders. Red widow young are always red widows, but their apparent race in humanoid form is inherited from their father.

Their lives are usually consumed by their biological drive to feed and breed, but on rare occasion, red widows have been known to rise above their instincts, becoming truly ambitious predators who sought to better their social standing or extend their lifespan. These rare "ambitious" red widows can gain class levels, with rogue as their favored class.

Assuming they do not die through violence or accident, the average red widow lives to be 20 to 30 years old.

Sources: Denizens of Darkness (statistics), Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium I & II, Tales of Ravenloft (The Vanished Ones), Heroes of Light.


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Re: Monstrous Roleplaying Resources and Lore
« Reply #28 on: June 20, 2019, 10:31:13 PM »
The Death Knight

“From the dark into the light,
From the small unto the great,
From the valleys dark I ride
O’er the hills to conquer fate!”

— “Horseman Springing,” Lilla Cabot Perry

None can win the war with death, but losing the war does not mean the combatants have seen their last battle. Warriors who wish to fight beyond the limitations of flesh and blood can seek a forbidden way to steal their souls from fate. The cost of this immortality is death, but the fearless few who pay this price become death’s allies. Indeed, death bestows power upon them. Their fleshless bones clad in skins of armor, their brittle fingers clasping weapons with a grip of iron, these knights of death take command of their souls and their destinies. When they charge from the shadowy afterlife into the lands of the living, death knights ride to wage war upon life itself.

Death knights speak the languages they knew in life.

A death knight's physical form is that of its decayed body. The face is a blackened skull covered with patches of rotting flesh, with two pinpoints of orange light in the eye sockets. The voice of a death knight is chilling, seeming to echo from deep within. Death knights were powerful people in life, and so they often wear expensive or magic clothing and armor. They are quite fond of wearing flowing capes to mark them as figures of importance.

The origin of the death knight lies in a period so ancient that only legends can speak of it with authority. Each race has its own version of the story.

For elves, the first death knight was a tragic figure who was tricked into becoming a death knight in order to win his love from the clutches of a rapacious rival. In this version, lies lead the story’s hero to death. His rival is not a villain. His lady doesn’t truly love him. The wicked fey creature who offers the  hero a path to power leads him instead to damnation. After killing his apparent foe and learning the truth of his supposed love, the death knight embraces the flame of darkness in his heart by slaying the lady and turning his grief and rage upon the rest of the world.

To dwarves, the first death knight was a greedy king who could not release his grip on the throne. The king sullied his clan, his kingdom, and the many honored dead who passed on before him by seeking unnatural means of extending his life. Seeing foes and rivals everywhere, he arranged for his children, his relatives, and those who refused his commands to die in battle or exile. With no heirs and no kin, he claimed his throne for eternity by becoming a death knight and transforming his loyal retainers into undead servitors. Dwarven legend says the death knight still sits on his throne and rules over a kingdom of undead, entombed behind miles of rock by those few dwarves who escaped his reign alive.

Humans relate several competing legends of the first death knight, but all bear a common theme: A man or woman wanted power and received it, and with that dark power, the newly made death knight accomplished its goals. The death knight might have been tricked or cursed, but in these tales the means are unimportant when compared to the ends. Sometimes tragic, sometimes triumphant, these stories teach that great power allows the wielder to achieve great things, even if the price is cursed immortality.

Halfling legend tells what might be the oldest story of the first death knight, and the story is so simple it might be closest to the truth. They say the first death knight arose in service to Orcus, Demon Prince of Undead. The tale’s protagonist, a human warrior of considerable skill and renown, was plagued with an unquenchable thirst for vengeance. When denied a position of power he felt was his right, he sought revenge but was denied satisfaction. Bloodied and disgraced, he fled to fell lands inhabited by demons. There he proved his worth to Orcus first by defeating the Demon Prince’s minions and then by killing Orcus’s enemies. When cultists of Orcus offered the man the power to avenge the slights against him, he readily accepted and became the first death knight.

Becoming a Death Knight
Gods of death create death knights. They are martial champions of evil. These horrible undead are most commonly raised from the ranks of blackguards, fighters, rangers, and barbarians; but a paladin who falls from grace near the moment of death may also become a death knight. Paladins who become death knights are subject to the same modifications as are presented for the blackguard.

There are also those who seek the dark powers of a death knight in death on their own. To do so they must first perform the proper ritual. Discovering the right ritual to become a death knight can be extraordinarily hazardous. Good-intentioned individuals often destroy copies when they find them, and the most fanatical will kill those who seek its secrets rather than allow knowledge of the ritual to spread. False rituals abound—traps laid for the unwise and unwary by those who seek souls for other dark purposes.

Despite this, working versions of the ritual exist, each with its own peculiar requirements. One ritual might simply demand that the performer sacrifice a loved one, while another might stipulate that the caster must die in battle at the hands of a foe while in a graveyard or tomb. Frequently, the supplicant must have spilled the blood of innocents with the weapon that will become the soul weapon.

The rarity of the true ritual drives many to seek it from a surer source, such as the cultists of Orcus. These vile madmen despise the gods and bow only to Orcus, who they believe will one day make eternal undead of them all. As worshipers of destruction, demons, and undeath, cultists of Orcus can never be trusted . . . but they enjoy seeing destructive undead unleashed upon the world, and few undead can be as dangerous as a death knight. The demands made of supplicants are a mystery, but the rites are terrible enough that even most Orcus cultists avoid this particular fate. Perhaps they do not feel worthy, or maybe, like many, they simply fear death.

Fear of death is a luxury those seeking undead knighthood cannot afford. Instead, they must seek death out. They must hunger for it. They must embrace death to gain its power. Through death, they become death.

Soul Weapons
The ritual to become a death knight tears the ritual caster’s soul from his body and binds it to the weapon used in the ritual. The ritual caster dies as the living parts of the body are consumed in unholy green fire. From that conflagration rise the soulless bones of the living person, guided by an evil intelligence that no longer needs a brain for its vile thoughts and an endless hatred that no longer requires a heart to drive its dark passion.

A soul weapon is similar to a lich’s phylactery in that the death knight’s soul resides there instead of in its body. But in most other ways, the soul weapon is the opposite of a phylactery. For a lich its phylactery is a weakness that allows its permanent destruction, but the soul weapon is the death knight’s greatest strength. A death knight literally wields its soul as a weapon. The soul weapon’s strikes burn with death, and at the death knight’s command it can become immaterial, passing through armor and shields to strike at its foes’ unprotected flesh.

A death knight need never fear its soul weapon’s destruction, for with a thought the knight can restore the weapon to wholeness and unwholesome power. If the weapon is taken, a death knight becomes weakened and distracted, distraught by the loss of its soul and consumed by the need to recover it. However, no other creature can wield a death knight’s soul weapon without feeling despair, so few can withhold a soul weapon from a death knight indefinitely.

Death knights have no flesh and blood and thus lack the needs of a living body. They are tireless warriors who only desire vengeance, conquest, and other bloody evils. Despite lacking muscle and heart, death knights maintain the strength and vigor they had in life.

Like many of the living dead, death knights can be destroyed by damaging their bodies. Although they feel little pain, enough punishment can break their bones. Unlike a lich, a death knight cannot take refuge in a phylactery, and it does not reform from its soul weapon. When its earthly body is destroyed, a death knight’s soul leaves its weapon and travels to whatever dire fate awaits it in the afterlife. None can say with assurance what happens to the souls of death knights. Some death knights might believe they know the fate of their souls, and that knowledge spurs them to maintain their undead existence by any means. For the rest, the afterlife is an intangible and terrifying unknown. If no devil or vile deity seizes a death knight’s soul, the knight can expect no quarter when its soul is weighed by the gods.

Psychology and Society
Those who seek knighthood in death tend to be courageous and ambitious individuals. Either loners or leaders in life, in death they become both, leading lesser undead but isolated from mortal society. A group of death knights might form a cadre of dark riders, but even among such a collusion of evil, one death knight typically assumes leadership over the rest. The most ancient among them might even have been the one to corrupt the rest, creating a society of undeath.

Although on rare occasions a person has been transformed into a death knight through accident, deception, or outside force, most death knights hunted for their undead fate. They might have been motivated by fear of the afterlife, but those who seek to deny gods or devils their souls cannot be considered cowards. Rather, the desire for knighthood in death stems largely from a desire for power. Those who become death knights are often already powerful warriors, so the temptation of undeath must offer them something mortality cannot: power unmitigated by age.

Most who turn to death as a means of power are frustrated in life, thwarted in their efforts to achieve their ambitions. Defeat is less tolerable than death, and they are willing to trade flesh and life for the power to avenge themselves or to accomplish a goal. Upon achieving unholy knighthood, such individuals relentlessly pursue the cause of their rage. Continued failure results in greater frustration and anger and drives the death knight to marshal superior forces. Since time has little meaning to a death knight, it might return for revenge generations after those who wronged it are buried and gone. Success provides a death knight only fleeting happiness, for after achieving its goal, a death knight can only look forward to a cold eternity of endless struggle.

Whatever their personalities in life, death knights become brooding and wrathful in death. They carry their souls in their bony hands, a constant reminder of a bargain that cannot be undone. For power to accomplish a single goal, death knights forego all other joys. That choice weighs upon its every immortal moment.

Newly made death knights and those who regret their decision usually act alone, but with time most death knights accept their status among the undead and use it as a tool for power. Death knights can command lesser undead, and though they will work with dim-witted creatures such as zombies, most prefer minions that can accept and act upon complex commands. In particular, death knights prefer the services of undead that behave like warriors. Humanoid skeletons, battle wights, and sword wraiths serve them well as foot soldiers, captains, and bodyguards.

Of course, death knights are rarely welcome among the living, and as they gather forces about themselves, they must stay on the move or find refuge lest an army be brought to bear upon them before they are ready for battle. A death knight might take command of a ruined castle, or it might raid and claim a fortress from its inhabitants. If the death knight thirsts for conquest, such conquered territory might become the heart of a dark empire. If the death knight is still marshalling forces or nursing anger about a past defeat, the fortress might remain a haunted ruin, a source of dark rumors and whispered tales.

Although the majority of death knights work alone or as leaders, some become followers to greater forces. Death knights who became undead unwillingly or at the behest of others attach themselves to a superior who shows great purpose and initiative. Sometimes this is another death knight, but it might be a powerful undead such as a lich or vampire, or even a mortal who holds influence over the undead. Death knights might serve another for years or even centuries, but most eventually turn against their erstwhile masters, waiting until they are weak due to some loss. A death knight’s loyalty and sense of honor can last far longer than any living person’s, but with its soul in hand as eternity stretches out before it, a death knight finds few promises worth keeping and morality a farce.

If a death knight makes any long-term connection with a creature, it is most likely to be with a favored mount. Few horses can stand to carry such a horror, but evil beasts such as nightmares and undead mounts willingly carry a death knight into battle. The teamwork necessary for rider and mount to act as one is often a death knight’s only source of lasting pleasure.

Famous Death Knights
The first named death knight was Saint Kargoth, introduced in a 1983 Dragon article, but the most famous by far is Lord Soth of the Dragonlance campaign setting. Here’s a primer on some of the death knights D&D has named over the years.

Saint Kargoth: First introduced in Dragon and then adopted by the Greyhawk campaign setting, Saint Kargoth was a noble human knight who, along with thirteen fellow knights, became a death knight after being corrupted by Demogorgon. Kargoth was jealous that another knight was chosen to lead the Great Kingdom’s knight protectors, and his fury and envy lead him to seek the power of undeath to pursue his revenge. He became a hero to the worshipers of Hextor, hence his appellation as a saint.

Lord Soth: Like Kargoth, Lord Soth was also a great knight, but Soth’s transformation into a death knight is a far more twisted tale. Soth’s wife gave birth to a monster that was a representation of Lord Soth’s soul. Thinking his wife had been unfaithful, Lord Soth murdered her and his child, even though Lord Soth was himself unfaithful to his wife. When his crime was discovered, Lord Soth was spirited away from his execution by knights loyal to him. While besieged with his knights, Lord Soth was informed that he could save the world from a great cataclysm. He left to pursue the quest that would save the world, but he turned back when told lies about his new wife’s fidelity. Soth confronted his new wife and their child while the cataclysm occurred, refusing to save them from a fiery death. The fire that killed them engulfed the whole keep, killing Lord Soth and his allies, but the cursed Lord Soth arose as a death knight and his followers joined him in undeath.

Miltiades: Although not specifically referred to as a death knight, a skeletal undead paladin named Miltiades appears in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Cursed by Tyr, god of justice, after dishonorably slaying a foe, Miltiades sought to do good even after death. Tyr restored Miltiades to life after suitable heroics.

Vanthus Vanderboren: Vanthus featured as a villain in Dungeon magazine’s “Savage Tide” adventure path. Appearing as a human foe throughout the first two adventures, he returns as a half-fiend after visiting the Abyss and being transformed by the Flesh Forge. Following his death at the hands of the PCs, Demogorgon turns him into a death knight, and he bedevils the PCs again only to meet a second death. Upon this second failure, he is transformed into a larva, and the PCs meet him in this lowly form during the last adventure.

Sources: Dragon Magazine #290, 291 and 360, Living Greyhawk Journal 6 and Living Greyhawk Journal 7, Dragonlance Campaign Setting, Monster Manual II.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2019, 02:06:32 PM by EO »