Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Devas - Astral and Psionic Monster Profile

Devas are basically angels: golden-skinned, amber-eyed, with white-but-gold-tinted-wings, tall, slender, and graceful, with a charisma effect of 20. 
According to the ancient concept (which I am duplicating in my AZ Adventures milieu), the Heavens were not on "another plane", they were above us, up in the sky.    That is where the Devas live, up in the sphere of the heavens.   Devas will be encountered on earth either physically or astrally.   
Astral Contact
As Devas can astrally project their spirits quickly through the heavens, astral contact will be more common.
In their astral form, they appear to people mainly in visions, especially in people's dream.  People with psychic sensitivity ("whose awareness extends to the ethereal and astral planes") could also see their astral forms while awake.  
Psychic mediums and shamans can also allow the devas to temporarily possess their bodies to deliver messages or do healings.  
While spirit-projected in the astral state, they can engage only in psionic combat, not physical combat.  In certain cases, their special powers could also be applied, but these could only be things that deal with the spiritual realm, not the physical realm, such as Know Alignment or Remove Fear.   
Physical Contact
On occasion, Devas might also physically journey down from the heavens to accomplish some task on earth, in person.   
As they can become invisible, go ethereal, polymorph self, and teleport at will, even while physically present, it might be hard to tell, as they can "come and go like a ghost". 
Even if their physical form is destroyed (which would be quite the trick, given their speed, etherealness, and teleport-at-will abilities), their astral spirit would return to their celestial home.
HD 9+36
attacks: Mace of Disruption: 2 strikes (4-15 +6 dam.)
INT: genius
Magic resistance: 65%, +1 to hit, immune to level drain, soul imprisonment, or death spells
Psionic Ability: 210
attacks: Psionic Blast, Mind Thrust, Ego Whip, Psychic Crush
defenses: Mind Blank, Thought Shield, Mental Barrier
Special Powers:
at will:
detect evil
detect illusion
detect magic
protection from evil
dispel illusion
dispel invisibility
know alignment
polymorph self
read magic
remove curse
remove fear
7x per day:
cure light wounds
detect traps
3x per day:
cure disease
cure serious wounds
1x per day:
blade barrier

Monday, May 16, 2011

Agathion -- Psionic Monster profile

The Agathion is NOT a classic monster. It is right there opposite the Aboleth at the beginning of the 1e MM2, bit it never made an impression on me, I think probably because it has no illustration.

Reviewing it now with more mature eyes, I see pure role-playing gold. Especially if you are running a psionic campaign, the Agathion is a must-have.

The Agathion has no picture, because it can take any form, even an object. They are basically manifestations of spirit beings who come for the specific purpose of combating some great evil.

I would explain them as stars, who look down upon the earth night after night, observing and seeing, finally putting on an earthly form to take action in some intrigue they have been observing from on high.

The natural form of these living "star creatures" is described as elf-like, with "opalescent, luminous" skin and shining eyes. Your players would only see this form if it was astrally traveling. Otherwise it will appear as follows:

Human form - 60%

Roll randomly to determine appearance.
Clerical spells per day (equal to 7th level cleric with 18 WIS): 1st level - 5, 2nd level - 5, 3th level - 3, 4th level - 2

Creature form - 30%

Attacks and spell powers of the form chosen (such as unicorn, lammasu, shedu, etc.).
Turns undead as 14th level cleric.

Object form - 10%

A ring, talisman, flask, vase, key, etc... Bestows on possessor:
1st level cleric spell ability, detect evil at will, turn undead as 6th level cleric

HD 7+7 (save as 14th level cleric)
attacks: as form, by weapon, or energy touch of 7-14 points
INT: Very to genius (11-18)
Magic resistance: 35% (+1 to hit), immune to level drain, death spells, disintegration, and negative energy attacks

Psionic ability: 177
attacks/defenses: all/all

Psionic powers (14th level):
clairaudience, clairvoyance, object reading, suspend animation, aura alteration, dimension walk, mind bar, telempathic projection

Other powers:

at will:
Astral Travel
detect evil
Telepathy (any language)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Astral Searchers & the perils of astral travel - hidden gem of the Fiend Folio

Astral Searchers are one of the real gems from the much-maligned 1e Fiend Folio. They are really quite terrifying if you think about it: disembodied spirits, roaming around the spirit world, trying to break into the material world, to find a body to possess.

While returning from astral travel, there is a chance that a bus-load of these things (4-24 of them!!!) will latch on to you, following you back into the material world. The FF postulates a 4% chance, but I'd say roll the good ole d20, them appearing on a 20 (a 5% chance).

Successfully following you into the material world, they immediately attack, trying to destroy your soul and take over your body! Yikes....

Clarifying the Origins

The FF speculates that Astral Searchers originate in traumatic events and spell-use in the astral plane. This is only the shadow of the real truth...

The true origins of Astral Searchers are the people who had their SILVER CORDS SEVERED while astrally projecting. Their spirits are then lost in the astral mists, and stuck there, unable to return to their true bodies. They will desperately latch onto anyone they can find, hoping to catch a ride back to the material world to reattain a physical form.

Clarifying the Mechanics

Essentially, what happens is, the Astral Searcher grabs onto the victim's body while it is on the astral plane, and "rides along" as it shifts into the material plane.

What they are talking about here is the Ethereal-to-Material transition. This transition happens when a physical body shifts phases from an astral state to a material state.

Purely "spirit-only" travel, projecting your astral body but not your physical body, would not involve any danger from these things, since, in that case, there is no astral-to-material transition.

Clarifying the Combat Mechanics

I must admit, I am a bit unsatisfied with the description of the combat mechanics. The problem is, they way they describe it, there is really no parallel for this anywhere else in the D&D rulebook.

Where exactly is the rule for "fighting an attempted spirit possession"??? According to the FF, here is how it works:

Your spirit has AC 5, but the same amount of hit points as your physical body. If it knocks you down to zero hit points, your spirit is considered crushed, destroyed forever, and it takes over your body....

For one, spirit possession does NOT involve the annihilation of the host soul. The invader "over-shadows" the host spirit, but if the invading spirit is exorcised, the host soul reasserts itself.

For two, isn't there some better mechanic for fighting spirit possession???

Spirit Possession mechanic of the Magic Jar

We already have a really good mechanic given in the 5th level magic user spell Magic Jar. This is precisely a spirit-invasion, hostile-take-over attempt of some else's body by an invading spirit.

In this spell, resistance to take-over is based on a savings throw, which is modified by comparing the INT+WIS scores of the two combatants.

The time of possession is also limited based on the relative INT+WIS scores. The victim gets a save every round, turn, day, or week depending on the comparable scores.

Also, the magician spell Mind Blank protects you from possession or soul trapping... Presumably the psionic defense of the same name would provide that protection, too...

This Magic Jar mechanic makes a lot more sense than the one described in the FF, so that is what I would follow.

The Astral Searcher could still attack physically with its 2hd form and 1-6 damage strike, but if it is going to attempt a spirit takeover, let's be consistent, shall we?

INT+WIS modifier for Savings Throw versus spirit possession:
Victim at +9 or more --> +4 on save, save each round
victim at +6, +7, +8 --> +3 on save, save each round
victim at +3, +4, +5) --> +2 on save, save each round
victim at even, +1, +2 --> + 1 on save, save each round
attacker at +1,2,3,or 4 --> no adjustment on save, save each round
attacker at +5,6,7,8 --> -1 on save, save each turn
attacker at +9, 10,11,12 --> -2 on save, save each day
attacker at +13 or more --> -3 on save, save each week

Grey Ooze, Yellow Mold, Algoid - Psionic plant life

The concept of psi-powered plant life is interesting. The basic idea in all of these cases is that a colony of microscopic plant life has attained some sort of rudimentary sentience.

Following this build-up of mental power, they can unleash a psionic attack. But because of their basic mindlessness, they remain immune to psionic counter-attacks.

Gray Ooze

Semi-sentient subterranean slime.... Can ooze around and lash out like a snake for physical damage. Will react to any use of psionic powers nearby (6" range) with a psionic attack of its own.

Psionic ability: 21-121
attack: Psychic Crush
defenses: immune to psionic attack

Yellow Mold

Semi-sentient mold colonies will attack physically by spore clouds, or psionically if psionic powers are used nearby (2"-12" range).

Psionic ability: 10-100
attack: Id Insinuation
defenses: immune to psionic attack


The algoid is, at base, a psionic colony of algae. It represents a slight advance on previous psionic-slime types because it can also rise up in a humanoid shape to perform physical attacks as well control other plants around them.

Psionic ability: 101-120
attack: Psionic Blast
defenses: immune to psionic attack
special powers: control over nearby trees

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dreaming Gods - license for creative DM'ing

[I was inspired by Quibish's concept of Dreaming Gods, over at his blog http://quibish.blogspot.com/2011/04/dreaming-gods.html. Check it out! Here is my take:]

The Dreaming Gods are not physical, manifesting in-your-face gods like the 1e Deities and Demigods (as far as I am concerned we can dispense with them).

The Dreaming Gods are known for their effects: zones of non-reality, as if gods are dreaming, called DreamLand. And you get sucked up into their dream.

--Their dream may be some sort of circus-funhouse-of-death megadungeon... [Rules of physics? What rules of physics?]

--Or maybe when you step into their dream, your characters are suddenly drawn into a game of Monopoly, or a game of Clue!

--Perhaps DreamLand is defined by a movie, or a book!

Be creative, this could get very fun.

Whatever the case is, the normal rules don't apply. Even the standard rolling procedures may need to be modified. [As you draw your +5 Vorpal Avenger, suddenly you are holding a bouquet of yellow roses, a small bee gently buzzing in its petals...]

It is part of the fun and challenge of the game play that your players have to figure out the rules on the fly, while being confronted with the challenges of the game.

The "dream" could even change if the players visited the same location later, or disappear for a time. The wise men say, "The Dreamer has awoken, he is not dreaming now..."

--Perhaps pilgrims wait in that spot, hoping to get caught up in the dream again...

--Perhaps some have emerged battered and insane from the DreamLand...

--Perhaps some disappear while in DreamLand, never to be seen on earth again...

The idea has certain things in common with traditional D&D elements. The classic modules EX1-2, Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, come to mind, as the PCs are transported into Alice's Wonderland.

It also reminds me of sci-fi author Robert Heinlein's book The Number of the Beast, wherein the characters discover that "fictional universes" are actually real.

Guardian Monsters - Listed and Considered

There are a great number of guardian monsters to help spice up the role playing. Guardian-type monsters are a regular feature in dramatic fantasy fiction, so even new players will relate to plot hooks predicated on guardian monster intervention.

Lord of the Rings, for example, is essentially a guardian-monster-initiated adventure (Gandolf being the guardian monster). The Gandolf example is apt, as many guardian monsters do have polymorph powers, so could assume the likeness of mankind.

Guardian Animals

For low-level campaigns, dealing with the local dangers of the heath and forest, some of the best guardian monsters you can use are Grims and Moondogs. The great thing about the Grims and Moondogs is that they are elusive and mysterious, so the players would probably think they were part of the evil at first.

Grims take the form of black dogs, black cats, or black owls. The Harry Potter series used the "Grim plot hook" to great effect in book 3, when Harry kept seeing a large black canine stalking him in the shadows (which ended up being his guardian Sirius Black, of course).

Guardians of Specific Places

Some guardians are encamped in a specific locale, working to disrupt and contain some evil from breaking out.

Naga (guardian-types) would be well-used here. From their description it seems clear they would not be likely to be "roaming" guardians. I could see them patrolling a Yuan-Ti infested jungle, or the area around an evil temple...

Foo-Dogs and Foo-Lions are also described as guardians with powerful anti-evil powers. They are described as chaotic, so would not make good long-term disciplined guardians, but they could be brought in as excellent shock troops in the battle against evil.

Opinicus also appear to be well-suited to a role as guardians of some specific location. They are especially equipped to deal with undead and demons, so they would be prone to be found guarding the approaches to dangerous areas full of such creatures, such as the forest around a vampire's castle or the mountains around lich's lair, for example.

Wandering Guardian Monsters

The Agathion, Baku, Ki-rin, Lammasu, Hollyphant, and Shedu are the classic wandering guardian monsters. They are all described as "roaming" guardians, seeking out and containing evil wherever they can find it.

Most of them can polymorph into human form. I imagine they would maintain some kind of contact with locals on the ground, gathering their information. Naturally, such contact would tend to be with influential druids, clerics, magic users, or psionic warriors.

Dragon Guardians and Dragon Wars

Another creative idea would be to use a dragon, or even Bahamut the Platinum Dragon, as a guardian. His description clearly describes his regular wandering. No doubt he is gathering intelligence and keeping tabs on rising evil, ready to intervene if necessary. I would imagine he would be especially vigilant against dragon problems, particularly related to his evil arch-nemesis Tiamat.

I can imagine lots of plot hooks involving a "War Among the Dragons". Imagine the poor people caught in the middle of those battles. Of course, the good dragons would seek out the help of powerful humans of good alignment to assist in their battle. The evil dragons would perhaps have some evil humans on their side, and let us not forget the Githyanki-Red Dragon alliance...

You gotta admit, campaigning a Dragon War would be pretty freakin epic.

Good old-fashioned Guardian Angels

The ultimate guardian monsters are probably the "guardian angels" statted out in the 1e MM2 as Devas, Planetars, and Solars. If you are doing a "human-centric" campaign, these would be perfect. Perhaps especially if you are doing a "war of good vs evil, angels vs devils" type scenario. Solars are so ridiculously over-powered, they would have to be used against Demon Lords and such.

Guardian Monster Random Table

Or maybe you just need a guardian animal to bail your players out of a tight spot or severe challenge. Here you go, in random tabular form:

01-20 Grim
21-30 Moondog
31-38 Naga, guardian
39-46 Foo-creature (75% dog, 25% lion)
47-53 Opinicus
54-60 Hollyphant
61-67 Agathion
68-74 Baku
75-81 Ki-rin
82-88 Lammasu (25% Greater Lammasu)
89-95 Shedu (25% Greater Shedu)
96-97 Dragon (10% Bahamut)
98-99 Deva
00 Planetar (25% Solar)