Over in a 5E Facebook group, a fellow named Danny Krowman asked about what sort of item could be unknowingly handed to noble that would result in that noble’s death. My suggestion was an animated object. Here’s a fuller version of my suggestion.

Tiny construct, unaligned

Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 21 (6d4+6)
Speed 0 ft., fly 60 ft. (hover)
Ability Scores STR 14 (+2), DEX 17 (+3), CON 13 (+1), INT 3 (-4), WIS 7 (-2), CHA 3 (-4)

Saving Throws Dex +5, Con +3
Damage Immunities poison, psychic
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses blindsight 90 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 8
Challenge 2 (450 XP)

Antimagic Susceptibility. The kongemorder is incapacitated while in the area of an antimagic field. If targeted by dispel magic, the sword must succeed on a Constitution saving throw against the caster’s spell save DC or fall unconscious for 1 minute.

False Appearance. While the kongemorder remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from a normal sword.

Flyby. The kongemorder doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks when it flies out of an enemy’s reach.

Magic Resistance. The kongemorder has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Sense Nobility. The kongemorder automatically detects all creatures of noble birth within 90 feet. This sense is blocked by 3 feet of wood, 1 foot of earth or stone, an inch of metal, or a thin sheet of lead.

Trap Nobility. Any creature of noble birth reduced to 0 hit points by the kongemorder does not die. Instead, the creature, along with anything it is wearing or carrying, become trapped in one of the kongemorder’s twelve extradimensional cells. An extradimensional cell is an infinite expanse filled with thick fog that reduces visibility to 10 feet. Creatures trapped in the kongemorder’s cells don’t age, and they don’t need to eat, drink, or sleep. A creature trapped within a cell can escape using magic that permits planar travel. Otherwise, the creature is confined to the cell until freed.


Multiattack. The kongemorder makes two attacks.

Dagger. Melee Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) psychic damage against a creature of noble birth.

January 17th, 2018  in RPG No Comments »

Lair of the Zorboes

Did you know that Matt Jackson is creating Old School maps that you too can support and own and cherish via Patreon? Well, he is, and you can. The map to to the right is a sample of Matt’s work. If you click the map, it embiggens. If you click this link right here, you can download a short 5E adventure using the map. It is written for 3-5 characters with an average level of three. The adventure features an oldie-but-goodie from 1983’s Monster Manual II, which I’ve posted below after some self-serving promotional stuff.

Did you know that I’ve released two new for-sale PDFs so far this year? Amazing, huh? If only I could be this productive every month.

Chance Encounters II expands your campaign using the fifth edition of the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game. Revel at College of Cheer and Good Tidings. Gain a blessing from mulled wine. Be more alert in the glow of a guiding light. Fight side-by-side with a champion toy against an abominable snowman in cursed Arktinis. With five new character options, two new spells, seven new monsters, three new magic items, two new places, and an essay about cinnamon, Chance Encounters II offers something for almost everyone.

The war against the Axis Powers just got weird. World War Weird Classes presents 10 character classes from Demi-God to Gremlin to Zombie. Augment a team of commandos with something supernatural, or put together a Nazi-fighting monster squad. A huge thanks to Pete Spahn not only for WWII: Operation WhiteBox but also for being a class act and offering me numerous suggestions and corrections.

And now for that new monster!

“This carnivorous beast likes human and demihuman flesh. A zorbo has poor armor class and attack damage when first encountered, but it can absorb the natural armor class of its surroundings….” (Monster Manual II, p. 131)

Small monstrosity, unaligned

Armor Class 10
Hit Points 22 (4d6+8)
Speed 40 ft., climb 30 ft.
Ability Scores STR 13 (+1), DEX 10 (+0), CON 15 (+2), INT 3 (-4), WIS 13 (+1), CHA 8 (-1)

Skills Athletics +3
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Item Absorption. When the zorbo hits a creature with its claws, the zorbo absorbs the Armor Class (including magical bonus) or magical quality of a random protective item worn or carried by the creature hit, even if the net result reduces the zorbo’s Armor Class. The creature can resist this effect with a Wisdom save against DC 13. If the protective item is magical, it loses its magical functions for 1 minute. The zorbo acquires an Armor Class equal to what it would have if it were using the protective item.

Magic Resistance. The zorbo has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.


Claws. Melee Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d4+1) slashing damage.

Nature Absorption (Recharge 6). The zorbo can absorb the natural armor class of whatever natural material it touches. This grants the zorbo an improved Armor Class, depending on the material: Armor Class 20 for stone, Armor Class 17 for metal, Armor Class 15 for wood, or Armor Class 13 for earth. The zorbo also gains a bonus on melee attack damage rolls: +5 damage for stone, +3 damage for metal, +2 damage for wood, or +1 damage for earth. The new Armor Class and damage bonus lasts for 1 minute.

January 16th, 2018  in Spes Magna News No Comments »

More Beary-ations (on a Theme)

I used to have several issues of Dungeon from the late 80s to early 90s. I don’t have all of them now, but I do still have the issue the cover of which you see to the right. In it, one finds a fun little adventure by Jon Bailey titled “The Moor-Tombs Map”. It’s written for AD&D, specifically for 4-6 characters of 2nd to 4th level. Let’s take the middle road through those two ranges and assume 5 characters, all of which are 3rd level.

Now let’s shift gears as I think out loud (so to speak). In 5E D&D, the DM creates a combat encounter by first determining the adventuring party’s “XP Threshold” (DMG 82). Our party of five 3rd-level characters would look like this:

Easy 375 XP, Medium 750 XP, Hard 1,125 XP, Deadly 2,000 XP

Back to “The Moor-Tombs Map”. Not to give too much about it away, but the first combat encounter encountered on the road away from Moorwall is with a wolfwere and six wolves. A quick-and-dirty estimate of the wolfwere’s CR in 5E? It’s AC 3 (or 17 in 5E), has 5 Hit Dice, can attack twice per round for 2-12 plus weapon, has a magical song that causes slow, cannot be harmed by weapons unless they are magic or cold iron, and has magic resistance. A 5-HD monster had a THAC0 of 15, which is roughly equivalent to a +5 attack bonus.

For 5E, that’s a great AC, but pretty low hit points. It’s got good damage, however. Assume a d8 for weapon damage, and that’s 7 plus 4, or 11 on average. AD&D didn’t have save DCs, so fixing the save DC for its slow is a matter of taste. As an estimate, if I were building a 5E wolfwere using these stats, I’d aim for CR 3 (700 XP). Six wolves come in at 300 XP total. An encounter with seven monsters has an encounter multiplier of 2.5. The XP threshold total for the wolfwere and its wolves comes in at 2,500 XP. That’s a potentially deadly encounter for our adventurers.

Later on, the adventurers encounter 10 giant vultures (threshold 4,500 XP), 6 lizard men (threshold 1,200 XP), as well as a few other encounters, and this is all before reaching the actual moor-tomb.

Obviously, the differences between AD&D and 5E D&D make running an AD&D adventure as-is tricky. It’d be a real bummer if less than half way to the actual adventure one or more of the adventurers died in combat against what is pretty much a random encounter. 1E and 5E are not the same game. They have different assumptions, different maths, et cetera.

Let’s consider in more detail those half-dozen lizard men. As DM, I don’t really want to subject my players’ characters to a hard encounter that is at best tangetial to the main story. I could just remove the encounter, but that takes away from some of the “local color” of the adventure. The players could evade the lizard men or convince them to not attack, but if things go sideways the resulting fight could go badly for the adventurers. I could reduce the number of lizard men, of course. Halving the number drops the threshold XP to 600, making it a much more manageable threat, but I also like fights that involve larger numbers of enemies. That was a feature of AD&D that I miss.

What to do?

Well, instead of using bears (see previous post), I could use kobolds. I take the standard kobold, change its size to Medium, its Hit Points to 7 (2d8-2), and add a swim speed as per lizardfolk. Voila! My newer, weaker lizard men are now a threshold 300 XP encounter. That ought to be a cake walk for the adventurers. It also establishes in my game world that there are levels of lizard men. Sure, today you bumped into a group of lowly hunter-gatherers, but tomorrow you might run afoul of young warriors (goblins as lizard men) supervised by a more experienced fighter (a standard lizardfolk).

Just using bears is an idea with wide-ranging utility that can help a DM come up with new monsters or variations of old monsters almost on-the-fly.

“Inhabiting out of the way places, the hated and feared wolfwere is the bane of humans and demihumans alike, for it is able to take the form of a human male or female of considerable charisma. In either its true shape or that of a man, the wolfwere slyly hunts, slays, and devours its favored prey — men, halflings, elves, etc. … It must be noted that a great enmity exists between wolfwere and werewolves.” (Monster Manual II, p. 127)

Medium fey (shapechanger), chaotic evil

Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 27 (5d8+5)
Speed 40 ft.
Ability Scores STR 16 (+3), DEX 18 (+4), CON 13 (+1), INT 14 (+2), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 17 (+3)

Skills Deception +5, Perception +4
Tools musical instrument
Damage Immunities bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks not made with iron weapons
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages Common,Sylvan, Worg
Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Keen Hearing and Smell. The wolfwere has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

Magic Resistance. The wolfwere has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Shapechanger. The wolfwere can use its action to polymorph into a human or back into its true form of a human-wolf hybrid. Its statistics are the same for either form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.

Wolvesbane Sensitivity. If the wolfwere starts its turn within 15 feet of wolvesbane, it is poisoned and thus has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.


Multiattack. The wolfwere makes two attacks in its hybrid form: one with its bite, the other with a weapon. In human form, the wolfwere makes one attack with its weapon.

Bite. Melee Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) piercing damage.

Sword. Melee Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) piercing damage.

Call of the Wild (1/Day). When outdoors, the wolfwere magically calls 2d6 wolves or 1d6 worgs. The called creatures arrive in 1d4 rounds, acting as allies of the wolfwere and obeying its spoken commands. The beasts remain for 1 hour, until the wolfwere dies, or until the wolfwere dismisses them as a bonus action.

Lullaby (1/Day). The wolfwere has a magical song that causes listeners to fall into slumber. A total of 22 (5d8) hit points of humanoid creatures within 90 feet of the wolfwere are affected. Creatures are affected in ascending order of their current hit points (ignoring unconscious creatures), and a Wisdom saving throw against DC 13 negates this power’s effect. Starting with the creature that has the lowest current hit points, each creature affected by this power falls unconscious for 1d4+4 minutes. A sleeping creature remains unconscious until the sleeper takes damage, or until someone uses an action to shake or slap the sleeper awake. Subtract each creature’s hit points from the total before moving on to the creature with the next lowest hit points. A creature’s hit points must be equal to or less than the remaining total for that creature to be affected. Undead and creatures immune to being charmed aren’t affected by this power.

January 14th, 2018  in RPG No Comments »


GMs love new monsters. Gaming blogger-folk love posting new monsters, writing about monsters, et cetera. I’ve posted quite a few new monsters over the years.

But there’s a secret about monsters, namely that I really don’t need very many new ones. Other people have already worked out the stats for all of the monsters I could ever need, and many of the new ones are really just variations on old ones, reskinned with new descriptive bits. In truth, when I think I need a new monster, I could just use bears.

Consider the 5E D&D brown bear:

Now let’s just use bears three different ways. In each case, I made minor tweaks to the brown bear’s stats.

The enormous humanoid shuffles into view. Twisted knots of fibrous tissue cover its muscular body. Its gait rolls, totters, due to legs of unequal length. Its powerful arms end in four-fingered hands that almost reach the ground. One meaty fist clutches the end of a greatclub. Its block-like head juts forward atop a thick neck. Ridges of bone grow from its brow.

Large giant, chaotic evil

Armor Class 11 (natural armor)
Hit Points 34 (4d10+12)
Speed 40 ft., climb 30 ft.
Ability Scores STR 19 (+4), DEX 10 (+0), CON 16 (+3), INT 4 (-3), WIS 13 (+1), CHA 7 (-2)

Skills Perception +3
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages Giant
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Keen Smell. The arth has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.


Multiattack. The arth makes two attacks: one with its headbutt and one with its greatclub.

Headbutt. Melee: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+4) bludgeoning damage.

Greatclub. Melee: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) bludgeoning damage.

The crack of a twig was the only warning of the monster’s sudden attack. Roughly humanoid, seemingly comprised of intertwined branches and vines, the monster rushes forward, flailing with a thorn-covered vine and a heavy branch.

Large plant, unaligned

Armor Class 11
Hit Points 34 (4d10+12)
Speed 40 ft., climb 30 ft.
Ability Scores STR 19 (+4), DEX 12 (+1), CON 16 (+3), INT 2 (-4), WIS 10 (+0), CHA 7 (-2)

Skills Stealth +3
Senses passive Perception 10
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Woody Stealth. The baavgai has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks in forests.


Multiattack. The baavgai makes two attacks: one with its thorn-covered tendril and one its club-like limb.

Tendril. Melee: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+4) slashing damage.

Club. Melee: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) bludgeoning damage.

Like a creature born from a nightmare, part monitor lizard, part mountain lion, its single green eye flashing in the torchlight, the monstrosity drops from the treetop. It lashes out with its serpentine tail that ends with a spiky knob of bone.

Large monstrosity, unaligned

Armor Class 11 (natural armor)
Hit Points 34 (4d10+12)
Speed 40 ft., climb 30 ft.
Ability Scores STR 19 (+4), DEX 10 (+0), CON 16 (+3), INT 2 (-4), WIS 13 (+1), CHA 7 (-2)

Skills Perception +3
Senses passive Perception 13
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Keen Smell. The iomair has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.


Multiattack. The iomair makes two attacks with its tail.

Tail. Melee: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) bludgeoning damage plus 2 (1d4) slashing damage.

January 13th, 2018  in RPG No Comments »

The Calefactive Cavern of Colossal Crystals

Accessible perhaps only through a high-altitude cavern in a region of feared geological instability, the Calefactive Cavern of Colossal Crystals provides shelter to no living creature for long. Not only is the cavern dangerously hot, not only is its atmosphere tainted with unwholesome fumes, but also the enormous, fast-growing crystalline structures in the cave emanate psychoactive radiation that may cause bizarre changes in living creatures too long exposed to these ineffable energies.

Mutant Future Version:

The atmosphere in the cavern is toxic. Anyone who breathes it for too long may be suffer. For every hour exposed to the toxins, there is a 25% cumulative chance of harm that requires a saving throw against Class 6 Poison (6d6 points of damage, or half that with a successful saving throw). Every hour spent away from the cave and/or spent breathing healthy air reduces the chance of suffering harm for that creature by 25%. The heat in the cave is also problematic. Temperatures in the cave reach 58 °C (136 °F) with very high humidity. A creature must succeed at a saving throw versus Energy Attacks once every 10 minutes or take 1d4 points of damage. Characters wearing heavy clothing or armor take a –4 penalty on their saves.

A living creature that survives in the cave for 24 hours must make a saving throw versus Radiation. If the creature fails, it develops a random mental mutation, and the creature also loses 1d4 points from Dexterity and Charisma. Additional saving throws against Radiation occur at an accelerated pace for time spent in the cavern past 24 hours, specifically at 36 hours, 42 hours, and 45 hours. After this time, new saving throws are required hourly. If a creature’s Dexterity drops to less than 3, the creature becomes paralyzed. If its Charisma drops to less than 3, the creature becomes dangerously insane.

Time spent away from the cavern gradually reverses mutagenic effects. Acquired mental mutations vanish at a rate of 0-3 (d4-1) mutations per 24 hours spent away from the cave. Lost points of Dexterity and Charisma return slowly, at a rate of 0-2 (d3-1) points per 24 hours spent away from the cavern.

D&D Version:

Movement in the cavern, to include climbing and flying, encounters difficult terrain. In the case of climbing, the giant crystals offer few handholds and are quite hot to the touch. For flying, the interlocked giant crystals present few straight paths even for flying creatures size Small or larger. The hostile environment of the cave poses several dangers:

* The severe heat forces a Constitution save once every 10 minutes versus DC 10, increased by +1 for each additional 10 minutes spent in the cave. Failure causes 3 (1d6) points of fire damage and increases exhaustion by one level. Characters wearing heavy clothing or armor have disadvantage on these saving throws.

* The bad air forces a Constitution save once every hour versus DC 10, increased by +1 for each additional hour spent in the cave. Failure causes 7 (2d6) points of poison damage and imposes the poisoned condition.

* Every so often, major eruptions of steam occur in the cavern. These eruptions cause between 14 (4d6) and 52 (15d6) fire damage. A Dexterity save (DC 8 + one-half the number of damage dice) reduces this damage by half. The radius of the steam eruption is 5 feet per damage die.

* Pockets of flammable gas also accumulate in the cavern. If exposes to open flame, these pockets explode in a 20-foot radius, causing 14 (4d6) fire damage. With a Wisdom (Perception) check made against DC 15, a creature may notice the tell-tale odor of a gas pocket in time to prevent an accidental explosion.

Any living creature that survives in the cavern for 24 hours must make a Wisdom save against DC 15. Failure means the creature develops an innate psionic power that can be used at will. The creature uses its Intelligence as its spellcasting ability. The creature also loses 1d6 points from both Dexterity and Charisma. If Dexterity drops to 0, the creature dies. If Wisdom drops to 0, the creature becomes afflicted with indefinite madness. The saving throw must be repeated every 1d6 hours after the first 24 hours.

Psionic powers are gained in the following order: detect magic, detect thoughts, clairvoyance, and arcane eye.

Psionic powers fade after 24 hours spent outside the cavern. Lost points of Dexterity and Charisma return at a rate of 1d4 points each per long rest. A creature suffering paralysis due to lost Dexterity loses the paralyzed condition when Dexterity recovers 1 point, but indefinite madness does not go away on its own.

Over at the DMs Guild site, sales/downloads of The Dwarf are going fairly well. I’ve not received any feedback yet, but I’m still pleased with the initial response. For those who’ve not heard, The Dwarf brings you an old class made new. Back in the Golden Age of the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game, dwarf was not just a race, but it was also a character class. Now you can relive the days of race-as-class. The Dwarf includes the complete dwarf character class, new dwarf subraces, new dwarf subclasses, and new dwarf backgrounds.

I’ve also made grand progress on Chance Encounters I. This supplement presents new options for characters, including a new bard college, a couple of new spells, a half dozen new monsters, and a few other goodies for use in 5E D&D games. I’m thinking the supplement will be completed, edited, et cetera, and available for purchase before the end of January. At the moment, I am uncertain whether Chance Encounters I will be available through the DMs Guild. I’m leaning toward releasing it through DriveThruRPG.