Saturday, October 31, 2015

D&D 5e: Bone Swarm Skeleton

Source: yunuskocatepe at Deviant Art
Looking for more Halloween monster treats? Here is the Bone Swarm Skeleton.

The Bone Swarm Skeleton is a hulking skeletal beast that is made up from multiple skeletons, both humanoid and animal. While it is still a medium size creature, it is larger than a typical humanoid and may stand upright or skitter around on multiple legs. When destroyed, its bits and pieces reform into small animated undead swarms that continue to fight like a skeletal version of the Terminator.

Bone Swarm Skeleton
Medium Undead, neutral evil
Armor Class 14 (bony carapace)
Hit Points  26 (4d8+8)
Speed 30 ft
Damage Vulnerabilities Bludgeoning
Immunities Poison, Exhaustion
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 9
Languages  understands the languages it knew in life but can’t speak
Challenge 1/2
14 (+2)14 (+2)15 (+2)6 (-2)8 (-1)5 (-3)

Bone Swarm. When damage reduces the skeleton to 0 hit points, it falls to the ground in a pile of bones. On the round following its demise, the skeletal piles form into 4 small animated bone swarms (see stats below) in any spaces where the skeleton died.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8+2) slashing damage 

Swarm of Bones
Small Swarm of Tiny Undead, neutral evil
Armor Class 12 (bony carapace)
Hit Points 14 (4d6)
Speed 20 ft
Damage Resistances Piercing, Slashing
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, stunned
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 8
Challenge 1/4
10 (+0)14 (+2)10 (+0)3 (-4)6 (-2)5 (-3)

Swarm. The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, and the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a small creature. The swarm can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points. 

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (2d4) slashing damage or 3 (1d4)
slashing damage if the swarm has half of its hit points or fewer.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

D&D 5e: Horde Zombie variant

Zombies! (...and just barely in time for Halloween).

Even as far back as AD&D, zombies have been a somewhat easy source of XP for low level parties... But even with large numbers of zombies, they've never really been frightening in the "horror" sense of the word. Even in the mists of Ravenloft, zombies left something to be desired.

Yet, in classic horror films and especially the modern day Walking Dead, zombies are a force to be reckoned. To the protagonists, they are the incarnation of fear, and they are deadly in numbers. To be pulled down into frenzied feeding of a horde is one's worst nightmare.

This Zombie variant is intended to add a little more "Aaah!" into an encounter with a shamble of zombies. They're still not excessively hard for a low level group, but the Advantage and extra damage they get when attacking en masses might give your players a case of the willies next time they run across a large group.

If you have more ideas on making zombies a bit scarier, add to the comments!

Horde Zombie
Medium Undead, neutral evil
Armor Class 8
Hit Points 22 (3d8+9)
Speed 20 ft
Saving Throw Wis +0
Immunities Poison
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 10
Languages  understands the languages it knew in life but can’t speak
Challenge 1/2
14 (+2)6 (-2)16 (+3)3 (-4)6 (-2)6 (-3)

Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the zombie to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the zombie drops to 1 hit point instead.

Keen Sense. Horde Zombies have heightened sense of smell and hearing that add +2 to their perception and passive perception.

Horde Feed. For each Horde Zombie that has grappled a single opponent, the escape DC for the group grapple is increased by +2 (DC 14 for 2 zombies, DC 16 for 3 zombies, etc). However, a single successful escape action by the PC will break all Horde Zombie grapples on the grappled PC. Grappled creatures grant Advantage to the Horde Zombie's Bite attack.

Grab. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) bludgeon damage and target is grappled (escape DC 12, see Horde Feed). 

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage.  A Horde Zombie has Advantage on its Bite attack against a grappled opponent. May infect PC with Zombie Plague Rot Disease (optional - see below).

A Horde Zombie's entire existential goal is to feed upon the living. As such, a Horde Zombie will attempt to first grab an opponent with its claw attack and feed upon the grappled opponent with its bite attack in subsequent rounds. A Horde Zombie may bite a target grappled by another zombie (or other creature) without first attempting the grap.

Zombie Plague Rot Disease (optional - updated 12/11)

When a player is infected by plague zombie rot, they must make a CON saving throw 8 hours after the initial infection and each day thereafter. On a failure, the PC takes a permanent 1d6 CON damage (with HP maximum permanently lowered accordingly) and 2 levels of exhaustion. (The new save is made using the adjusted CON score). Due to the nature of the disease, exhaustion may not be recovered while the PC is infected (except magically). After 3 failed saves, the PC dies and will rise as a Plague Zombie in 1d12 hours.

After 3 successful saves, the PC is healed of the disease, but still suffers the effects of the CON and HP loss. A Lesser Restoration spell will not automatically cure the disease, but may be used to grant the PC one automatic save toward recovery and heal 1 level of exhaustion. Three castings of the Lesser Restoration spell may be used to cure the disease, but does not restore lost CON or HP maximum. A Greater Restoration spell will cure the disease completely and restore the permanently lost CON and HP maximum.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Off Topic: Star Wars Hype

So normally I only talk about RPGs, but since there is a major cross-over audience with the wider geekdom, I needed to just get something off my chest.

I was trying desperately not to get caught up in all the Star Wars hype. I mean, while I didn't hate the prequels as much as some, the first episode was "Meh" overall (and sometimes just stupid). While I liked many parts of Episode II and III, I had very little affection for any of the characters. So overall they were just OK. Not hated, but not loved either... which for me was a major disappointment because the 7-year-old me from 1977 really wanted to love Star Wars again.

And then the new trailers started trickling out. But I was circumspect. I like Abrams, but the first Star Trek reboot wasn't really all that. Into Darkness was better and a fun film overall, but still doesn't top the original Wrath of Khan from which it borrowed heavily.

But then I saw the so called Star Wars "super cut" trailer that is making the social media rounds.

Ok, so I didn't literally pee myself... but that 7-year-old inner me suddenly sat up again.

Am I too old to love again?

Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Think of Tom Wham and Jim Ward today!

Update 10/14/15: Jim Ward has had some more complications and is back in the hospital. His social media posts have been amazingly upbeat, but he is having some serious medical issues, so please keep Jim in your thoughts and prayers. Tom Wham is doing better and, according to some Facebook posts, is back home recovering.

Tom Wham
source: Bruce Heard's blog
Just a quick post to note that both Jim Ward and Tom Wham are recovering from their respective medical issues, so please keep them in your thoughts (and prayers if your philosophies are non-secular). For those who may not recognize the names, Jim and Tom were both well known game designers during the early TSR years.

Tom Wham was a game designer and artist at TSR during the AD&D years, but you probably know him from many of the small games he published as part of the Dragon Magazine "centerfold". He is responsible for Snit's Revenge, The Search for the Emperor's Treasure, and most famously The Awful Green Things From Outer Space. He also did a fair amount of the comic art work in the AD&D Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide.

If you want to support Tom, you can still buy Awful Green Things from Steve Jackson or some of his independently printed games directly from him (since he's been in the hospital recently, he may not be able to fulfill your order right away).

Tom Wham games were very much a part of my formative gaming years. Search for the Emperor's Treasure was one of the first "bonus" games I received as part of my Dragon Magazine subscription (issue #51) and I still have most, if not all, of the hand cut card stock paper chits (as well as the reprint contained within the "Best of the Dragon Games" box.

Tom, if you read this, thank you for those... especially Awful Green Things, which I played the s#!t out of (and which I also still have in the original TSR box)! When my kids are old enough, I can't wait to introduce them to all of the "Best of Dragon" games of yours I've collected through the years.

Jim Ward
source: Go Fund Me page
Jim Ward was a major part of the development of AD&D (Deities and Demigods, Greyhawk Adventures, etc) as well as writing Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World and a number of other TSR titles. He was Drawmij the wizard in Gary Gygax's original D&D games.

Jim also recently encountered some medical problems and his friends have set up a Go Fund Me page to help with his medical bills. You can also support him by purchasing some of his games. A revised edition of Metamorphosis Alpha is back in print at Goodman Games.

On a personal note, Jim also had major influence on me. Gamma World was one of my group's go-to games after D&D when were were wee lads. I think we may have played it almost as often. My copy of Deities and Demigods (with Melnibonean and Cthulhu myths) also still resides in a place of honor on my game shelf.

I recently came across a kind of Gamma World "fan fiction" (before that was a thing) that I wrote in 6th grade (circa 1982, I think) that was so amazingly hilarious (unintentionally, it was supposed to be a "serious" short story for my English class) that I will need to re-type it and email to Jim someday soon. I have no doubt it will provide a guffaw.

So thank you both, Tom and Jim, for giving me so many amazing gaming gifts over the years... and a speedy recovery to you both so I can thank you in person at a con someday soon.

Tom Wham's Mind Flayer

Other Owlbear musings