Sunday, December 31, 2006

Umberhulk Bounty up to 125 Gold Pieces!

When WOTC took over TSR, they ended the long relationship TSR had with Ral Partha to produce official lines of miniatures for monsters and personalities. I've got an enormous amount of them, and because they are all based directly on the official TSR artwork from 2nd Edition, those are the minis I prefer to use. This guy is what I immediately recognize as an Umber Hulk. Wizards was going to be doing their own line of miniatures, and what I heard from an employee at Ral Partha at the time (who sounded really surprised, shocked, and distraught) was that not only had WOTC told Ral Partha to stop production of any D&D related miniatures to which WOTC now held the copyright, they were to stop selling any of the existing stock, destroy that stock, and destroy the molds.

Given that, the Official AD&D Umber Hulk from Ral Partha ought to be highly collectible and pretty valuable. Not so. The evil plan worked, and 3E gamers wouldn't be caught dead with an unofficial umberhulk, so nobody but old cranks like me ever buy them. When we do, we end up getting them for pennies over shipping cost, and so few people bother to sell them. Very frustrating.

The Miniature above is painted according to the description in the Monstrous Compendium. Now, as I've said before, if a miniature exists, and I own it, then I have to find a use for it. In the Monstrous Compendium under Umber Hulk it also discusses an aquatic version of the beast, called a Vodyanoi.

That is what I'm going to use my WOTC Umber Hulk for. It looks that different from the old 2E version. The old hulk's confusion power came from the fact that it had "four round eyes, spaced evenly across each umber hulk's forehead." It also said that the eyes were "mere blackened dots, each the size of a small coin." Nowhere did it say that these things were insectoid with two sets of eyes being giant compound eyes and the other two eyes being nearly unnoticeable green dots on its forhead. The only thing confusing about WOTC's umber hulk is why they didn't bother to read the monster description. But I digress.

Because the WOTC umber hulk looks like nothing if not Popeye the Sailor partially polymorphed into a crab, it really works pretty well as a Vodyanoi. I will just ignore the nearly invisible two green dots on its forehead and change the description in the Monstrous Manual I'm writing by inserting "compound" into the sentence that reads "have only two eyes and therefore lack the ability to confuse opponents." I'll also change the slimy green to slimy red to match the figure.

Good thing the Number Appearing for Vodyanoi is 1-3 and I already have this Harbinger mini and another WOTC Chainmail one, because when I checked eBay this morning the highest asking price for a Harbinger Umber Hulk was $124.95.

I think that is just a tad outrageous for a bit of molded plastic made in China for total cost per figure of less than a penny. I know the product is called Collectible Gaming Miniature, but don't you wish the emphasis were on gaming instead of collecting?

I like the idea that I've got something on my shelf that "supposedly" will continue to increase in value, but in my heart of hearts I know it would cause a drastic alignment shift if I ever took advantage of a gamer by charging that much money for a game piece when the game was invented for the purpose of having fun.

I remember when I worked in a comic book store in Chicago while everyone thought investing in comic books was a smart idea. My boss and us employees would laugh and laugh about the stock brokers rushing in at lunch time to buy collectible figures, trading card games, and back issues because we knew that all that crap only has value as long as people believe it does, and they'd stop believing as soon as they saw how much of the crap we had in the basement, but we only brought out a few items at at time to keep up the illuision.

I just can't get my head around $124.95 for a single Umber Hulk! And it is Out of Wrapper!

In what world does that make any sense?

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Tavern Maker, a wonderful DM utility program

I don't know about you, but for me, one of the most frustrating things that can happen in a gaming session is the players suddenly deciding their characters are hungry and tired and in need of a little social interaction--so they say, "I inquire as to the nearest inn or tavern."

Having had no idea when they might get tired or hungry, you invent a tavern location on the fly. Why is it that PCs only want to investigate the things you have not planned for them to investigate? Is it that players can smell fear in a DM?

Sure enough, as soon as they walk inside the "I Just Made It Up" inn, they want to know who is sitting at every table, what they are all talking about, who looks like the best target for pick pocketing, where every door leads, what the locals know about the price of tea in Calimshan, how hot the fire is...etc.

They also want every inn they visit to have unique menu items and my players will actually go to the trouble of COMPARISON SHOPPING from inn to inn in order to get the best deal on a bed and a meal. They want to know what the locally brewed beer tastes like and where the wines are imported from....I can only testify that the role playing habits of 30 and 40 year olds are much different from those of 13 and 20 year olds.

My players...gotta love them...because without them, I'm just an old guy sitting in the basement with a very expensive toy collection.

Well, friends and fellow Dungeon Masters, if you have these troubles, as I have had these troubles, fear not! Your troubles are over!

Yesterday, while I was scrying with my Orb of Omniscience (aka "Google Ball"), I discovered discovered through a link on D&D Adventures: Dungeon Master Resources one of the most useful utility programs I've ever encountered: Project Tavern Maker v5.0. (By the way, the rotating d20 is by the same person who created Project Tavern Maker, Bernhard Schaffer.)

How Tavern Maker v5.0 Works

This is a Team Ware utility (mixture of Freeware and ShareWare) which, when downloaded and installed, allows you to pop in some parameters (normal clientel, size of tavern, etc.) and then with a click of a button it gives you a map, player descriptions of all the patrons and DM information such as what is in their pockets and what they might be up to in this establishment.

There is no money required to download the Tavern Maker, you only have to register to use it. Registration requires that you submit 5 seperate patron descriptions and DM information sets which will then be reviewed and integrated into the program. Thus, all the content in the program is user generated!

I downloaded it last night and have been playing around with it a little. Most of the descriptions are pretty short and bare bones...I think because, like me, most people aren't prepared to come up with 5 sets of detailed descriptions when they register and are downloading this thing precisely because they are frustrated by having to come up with detailed tavern descriptions on the fly. But, if you decide to take your time, or if you come up with your five descriptions before you register, you should avoid any real frustration. As they say on their site repeatedly, the more detailed and interesting the user entries, the more detailed and interesting the program becomes.

I'm going to put a few screenshots here, to give you an idea of what the program looks like and can do, as well as give you some examples of what the descriptions might look like so that you can come up with something to top them. You may also notice that in addition to taverns, the Tavern Maker tool can create forests and villages on the fly with the same magical ease!

I want to thank the makers of this program, all the users who have helped make it such a great tool and also you, if you decide to add to the content.

The folks at Tavern Maker have a few interesting hooks to increase user activity, like they don't let you have a user avatar in the chat forum unless you are a regular poster or have contributed significantly to the content of the program. Hats off to them!

As a disclaimer, and because this is an executable program you have to download and install, I do have to say that I am a new user of Tavern Maker and can not guarantee that it contains no malicious badware or that your registration information won't be abused. But I can tell you that I am a registered user, have so far suffered no ill effects, ran a full system scan with Norton after downloading and found no threats, and my impression from reading the website is that they are good natured folks who honestly want to contribute something positive to the global gaming community.

From what I have seen so far...they have. Of course, let me know if Shandar has made a mistake or if you have any troubles with the program. Post them in the comments section and people can read your review before they decide to download it themselves. Also, you should go to the Tavern Maker website and read it all thoroughly before making your own decisions, at your own risk.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

I've Updated Blogger/Google, and I'm a convert!

But that doesn't mean I'm converting to 3.5E!

I admit, I had deep reservations about Google eating Blogger, but now that I've been working with it for a while, it really is a lot easier, faster, and more fun.

The photo tool is a lot easier than before, and I finally realized why I'd never gotten the photo tool to work before...I had pop up blocker on. Duh!

Anyway, I've gone back through all the old posts from the last year (hard to believe that I started this D&D blog only a year ago, while freezing my tootsies in Minot, North Dakota!) and took out the off-site links to images I was hosting on my own server and uploaded them to the old blog posts. They are much nicer to look at and navigate now.

I also inserted labels to help with searching for posts about things you might like to read, and then inserted the labels as auto links on the sidebar. The labels are an excellent new feature of the new blogspot. I don't know why they don't have a label list in the sidebar automatically, but it wasn't hard to insert it into the template myself.

Probably in the new blogspot templates they do have it, but I'm slow to accept any change at all, so I doubt I'll be using the new templates any time soon.

Any way, what do the labels do? Well, suppose you want to find every post I ever made about sculpting. Just click on the lable tag. Boom, there they all are. No need to keyword search.

Want to see every post about new monsters I've created for my campaign? Click the lable tag.

You get the idea. Very cool new feature. The editing menu is also much nicer, and the option to view the blog before publishing exactly as it looks when published instead of that "preview" screen you used to have. The preview was pretty much worthless if you wanted to see formatting. It is also faster by far.

Well, happy happy new year. I do kind of wish I'd gone with my wife to Minot, but I've gotten an awful lot done the past two weeks I'd never have had a chance to otherwise. Last year my New Year's resolution was to learn to sculpt. I think I've made a really good start. Click on Sculpting to mark the progress. I really need to get a camera to take pics of the aboleth, it isn't perfect, but it is a huge step forward in a sculptor's evolution.

This year? I think I'm going to resolve to spend a little less time in the basement.

New Monster: Nightling

CLIMATE/TERRAIN: Lower Planes, Plane of Shadow
FREQUENCY: Very rare
ORGANIZATION: Solitary or small group
DIET: Special
INTELLIGENCE: Genius (18-19)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
NO. APPEARING: 1-3 (3)
ARMOR CLASS: 9, 5, or 1
MOVEMENT: 12, Fl 30 (B)
HIT DICE: 7 +3 (base)
THAC0: 13
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d4/ 1d4 / 1d6
SIZE: M (6’ tall)
MORALE: Champion (15-16)
XP VALUE: 5,000 (+1,000 per additional HD over 7)

Nightlings are a something like cross between a shadow fiend and a succubus, and for all that can be proven, that is what they actually are. Though very beautiful, they are a dark and dangerous creature from the most dreaded of the lower planes. Lurking in regions of darkness, they attack not only to satisfy a desire to do evil, but also to gain power by siphoning off the life energy of its victims.

The nightling looks like a tall, slender humanoid female with large bat-like wings. These creatures have nasty claws on both their hands and feet, which are always exposed as the nightling clothes itself in nothing but darkness.

Nightlings speak Common and the language of fiends of the lower planes.

Combat: The primary interest of nightlings is in the stealing of life force from their victims, and therefore they will attempt whenever possible to approach when their prey is deep in slumber. Like shadows, these horrors are 90% undetectable when they move through dimly lit or shadowy conditions.

If they are able to approach their victim undetected while he sleeps (95% chance in darkness, 45% in dim light, 20% in bright light), the nightling positions its mouth about an inch from the sleeper’s own mouth and nose. For 1d3 rounds it silently breathes in the breath of its victim, and its victim breathes in the exhalations of the nightling. At the end of this process the victim is paralyzed for 1d4 hours, unless a save is made vs. breath weapon, in which case the paralysis effect is negated. The nightling then embraces the victim, which instantly awakens him. If paralyzed, he can neither resist nor call out for help--and is completely aware of what is happening. The embrace of a nightling will energy drain their victim, causing him to lose one life level per round for 1d4 rounds. Each life level drained from the victim adds a Hit Die to the nightling who has drained him.

The nightlings are also adept at physical combat, though they shun it. When they attack those who have not spotted them, they always attain surprise. Each round the monster is able to strike with two of its wicked claws (inflicting 1d4 points of damage each) and its horrible bite (inflicting 1d6 points or damage.)

Once engaged in combat, the power of the creature depends upon the lighting in the area of battle. In brightly lit areas (open sunlight, a continual light spell, and such), the nightling is greatly weakened. Here, its Armor Class is 9 and all attacks that strike it do double damage. Because of this, nightlings will normally flee from opponents in bright light.

In dimmer lighting, that created by a torch, lantern, or light spell, the nightling is somewhat better off. Here, it has an armor class of 5, though it still suffers normal damage from attacks. When it strikes in these conditions, however, it gains a +1 on its attack rolls.

In darkness, anything up to candle or moonlight, the creature is at its deadliest. Here, it gains a +2 on all attack rolls and is Armor Class 1. Further, all damage done to the creature is halved.

Regardless of the lighting around it, the nightling is immune to all damage from fire, cold, and electricity (whether magical or mundane in nature.) A light spell cast directly at the creature inflicts 1d6 points per level of the caster, although this damage may be reduced (or enhanced) by the lighting in the area.

Whenever the nightling gains surprise, it will spring onto its victim. Because of the small wings on its back, it can leap up to 30 feet and strike with four claws (each doing 1d4 points of damage.) When it leaps, it cannot employ its bite attack.

Once per day, the nightling may cast a darkness, 15' radius spell or subject all persons within a 30 foot area to a fear spell. Once per week, it can cast a magic jar spell at a single target (provided that it has a suitable receptacle for the victim at hand.) If the victim of the magic jar attack makes his saving throw, however, the nightling is stunned for 1d3 rounds during which time it cannot act.

Nightlings can be turned by clerics as if they were "special" creatures on the undead turning chart.

Habitat/Society: The nightling is called into the Prime Material Plane by the use of magical gate spells and similar incantations.

Ecology: The nightling has no role in the ecology of the Prime Material Plane.

NOTE: I thought these DC Heroclix figures for Fury would make an interesting D&D monster. The above description is what I came up with, drawing on the descriptions for both the Shadowfiend (Ravenloft Compendium) and the Succubus (MC8). No copyright or trademark infringement intended.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Monsters I wish they made, so I could by them.

Well, I've worked my through the Monstrous Manual compilation I've been working on from Zombie Wolf to Aaracokra. It has taken nearly a year with simultaneous miniature inventory.

It is not complete, by any stretch. I've got a huge pile of unopened miniatures from my friend at Reaper, and another shelf full of miniatures yet to be identified or invented and then create their sheets before placing them on the shelves with the rest of the collection.

As I do, I'll list monsters here that I wish someone made miniatures of, and will try to include references for those of you out there who are sculptors and might like to make an unofficial one for me out of green stuff. I'll be trying my own hand at some of them, but I'm not the sculptor I wish I were.

I'll update this entry from time to time, instead of putting new posts repeating the same information. So if this interests you, please bookmark the post and check back from time to time. Also, please put your suggestions in the comments box--or better yet, if you know someone who does make a mini of this monster, post that info! They don't have to be things that are marketed as these creatures, just miniatures which are sculpted very closely to the artwork for these creatures.

All designations for artwork are 2E materials unless otherwise indicated.

The Wish List:
Aboleth MM2 (1E)
Alguduir (FR MC)
Al~mi'raj MC14
Assassin Bug (1E)
Baatezu, Lord: Bel Book of Vile Darkness
Baatezu, Lord: The Hag Countess Book of Vile Darkness
Baatezu, Duke: Amon MM2 (1E)
Baatezu, Greater: Amnizu (Styx Devil) MC8
Baatezu, Greater: Malebranche (Horned Devil) MC8
Baatezu, Lesser: Abishai (all types) MM2 (1E)
Baatezu, Lesser: Hamatula (Barbed Devil) MC8
Baatezu, Lesser: Harvester Devil Fiendish Codex 2
Baatezu, Lesser: Nupperibo Fiendish Codex 2
Baatezu, Lesser: Orthon Fiendish Codex 2
Baatezu, Lesser: Paeliryon Fiendish Codex 2
Baatezu, Lesser: Pain Devil Fiendish Codex 2
Baatezu, Lesser: Pleasure Devil Fiendish Codex 2
Baatezu, Lesser: Xerfilstyx Fiendish Codex 2
Baatezu, Least: Spinagon (Spined Devil) MC8
Banderlog MM2 (1E)
Basidirond MM2 (1E)
Bebilith MC8
Berbalang (FR MC)
Bussengeist (Ghostly Cassandra) Another in the clear plastic series
Cildabrin (FR MC)
Cloaker MM (3E) (I would continue using my Reaper cloakers but use the WOTC cloaker as a Cloaker Lord)
Crabman Fiend Folio (1E)
Deathdog Fiend Folio (1E)
Deathdrinker MM4 (3E)
Demonodadd: Farastu Demonodand MM2 (1E)
Demonodadd: Kelubar Demonodand MM2 (1E)
Demonodadd: Shator Demonodand MM2 (1E)
Dimensional Warper (FR MC)
Disenchnater FF (3E)
Doomsphere (Ghost Beholder) This would be a clear plastic beholder, easy as pie to make and no paint involved!
Equiceph (Non-Skeletal) Mini Handbook
Fachan (FRMC)
Feyr (FRMC)
Flawder (MC14)
Fungus, Violet (please make this a common mini!)
Fungus, Shrieker (please use 1E art and please make this a common mini!)
Gambado MC14
Garbug MC14
Gas Spore MM 1E
Gaund (FRMC)
Gelatinous Cube If having something suspended in the cube is the only thing holding up production on this monster, then don't put anything inside it! That just makes the cube hungrier and unlike the Ochre Jelly, we don't have to have three or four Cubes forever eating the same exact thing as they move down the hallway. This is a game of imaginagtion, people! If we have an empty cube how hard is it for the DM to say, "There is a half digested bugbear corpse suspended in the cube."? Note: Thanks to Curious George, I was reminded that Sean K. Reynolds has been working on casting a Gelatinous Cube.
Gibberling Fiend Folio (1E)
Gorbel MC14
Grue: Charggin MM2 (1E)
Harrier FRMC
Haundar FRMC
Hybsil MM2 (1E)
Kampfult MM2 (1E)
Kelpie MC
Korpu MM2 (3E)
Lotcathah MM (3E)
Loxo MM2 (3E) I don't want to have to rely on the Dreamblade thing
Mage Bane (3E)
Manni (FRMC)
Mantrap MM2 (1E)
Morin FRMC
Morkoth MM2 (3E)
Needlefolk MM2 (3E)
Nycadaemon Fiend Folio (1E)
Opinicus MM2 (1E)
Ormyrr MM2 (3E)
Osquip Fiend Folio (1E)
Phaerimm FR13
Pedipalp MM2 (1E) (please make this a common mini!)
Phase Spider (3E)
Protean Scourge MM3 (3E)
Retriever MM (3E)
Roethe Fiend Folio (1E) (please make this a common mini!)
Rust Monster (3E)
Saurials (all types)
Scrag MM2 (1E)
Sea Lion (3E)
Shadow Mastiff (3E and please don't mkae it a rare)
Shadow Spider MM2 (3E)
Sharn FRMC
Skum FR campaign setting 2E
Slithermorph FRMC
Snyad Fiend Folio (1E)
Solifugid MM2 (1E) (please make this a common mini!)
Spellgaunt MM2 (3E)
Squealer MM2 (1E)
Ssemda, Slaad Lord Fiend Folio (1E)
Svirfneblin Fiend Folio (1E)
Swanmay MM2 (1E)
Tanar'ri, Lord: Baphomet Fiendish Codex 1
Tanar'ri, Lord: Fraz-Urb'lau Fiendish Codex 1
Tanar'ri, Lord: Graz'zt Fiendish Codex 1
Tanar'ri, Lord: Jubilex Fiendish Codex 1
Tanar'ri, Lord: Malchanthet Fiendish Codex 1
Tanar'ri, Lord: Zuggtmoy Fiendish Codex 1
Tanar'ri, Guardian: Molydeus MC8
Tanar'ri, Babau MM2
Tanar'ri: Bulezau Fiendish Codex 1
Tanar'ri: Lilitu Fiendish Codex 1
Tanar'ri: Mane MC8
Tanar'ri: Molydeus MC8
Tanar'ri: Nabassu MC8
Tanar'ri: Rutterkin MC8
Tanar'ri: Yochlol MM2 (1E)
Tasloi MC
Tentamort Fiend Folio (1E)
Terithran Fiend Folio (1E)
Thessalmonster FRMC
Thunderbeast MM2 (1E)
Tiger Fly Fiend Folio (1E)
Triton (3E)
Troll: Giant Two-Headed Fiend Folio (1E)
Vaporighu MC8
Varrangoin FF (3E)
Vilstrak MM2 (1E)
Volt Fiend Folio (1E) (please don't make this a rare!)
Yak Folk MM2 (3E)
Yugoloth, Greater: Arcanaloth MC8
Yugoloth, Greater: Nycaloth MC8
Yugoloth, Greater: Ultroloth MC8
Yugoloth, Lesser: Derholoth MC8
Yugoloth, Lesser: Piscoloth MC8
Yugoloth, Lesser: Yagnoloth MC8
Zoveri MC8

And of course, one avatar for each of the gods in each pantheon from Faiths and Avatars, Powers and Pantheons, Demi-Human Deities and Monster Mythology and at least one priest in the vestments of each of the mythoi.

That should keep the sets coming for a few years!


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Zombie Wolves

In 2E world, the MC entry for Zombie Wolf is in the Ravenloft Campaign Setting. I import a lot of material from Ravenloft into my own Realms campaing, but I adjust and make it relevant. The Zombie Wolf is a good example.

In my world Zombie Wolves are always connected to vampire activity.

Occasionally and ancient vampire master will retire into a state of deep torpor in order to rest. At this time he will enter a crypt and while sleeping his negative energy will summon any wolf within several miles (the distance depending upon his level). These wolves will remain, guarding the tomb, to the exclusion of any other impulse. They will not leave the area for any reason. Wolves in the thrall of the vampire's energy will eat only if prey comes within the area, and they sleep fitfully if at all. It usually does not take long before the wolves are driven mad by hunger and sleep deprivation, soon dying of starvation. These poor creatures get no rest, however, even in death, as they rise from the dead as zombies unless the corpse is decapitated immediately after it has died.

If this gruesome task is not carried out, the corpse of the wolf rises as a zombie wolf 1d4 days after its death.

New wolves entering the area will undergo the same transformation, thus it is possible to have a large number of zombie wolves in various stages of life and undeath. The larger the number of skeletal wolves, however, indicates a greater length of time that the vampire Master has been in torpor...and the sooner he is likely to reawaken.

Otherwise, it is the same as the entry for the Ravenloft Zombie Wolf.

I use three different miniatures for my Zombie Wolf, because it eventually becomes a skeletal wolf. The starting mini is the WOTC "Gravehound" because it looks most like a wolf but with bits of skeleton and entrails showing through.

Then a set of zombie wolves by, I think, Grenadier.

Last stage of the zombie wolf is a wolf skeleton, which is far more powerful than a simple animated corpse, retaining all the traits it had as a zombie, though now even harder to hit due to its skeletal form and its advantages against edged weapons and missiles.


Dire Creatures

In the WOTC books there are these "Dire Creatures" which are bigger and meaner versions of their normal counterparts. They have bony protrusions and have a "feral, prehistoric" look.

Again, you don't need much more than that if all you're doing is a quick table top battle game, so WOTC doesn't give it to you. At least not in the Miniatures Handbook. But, in a 2E campaign, you need to have an intelligent reason for why stuff is and does what it does. Because players will try to figure it out.

Here, in the spirit of Christmas, is my 2E justification and explanation for Dire Creatures in my world. I made a template for it and plunk it into any Monstrous Compendium sheet I make for a dire animal, filling in any animal specific information as needed. Use it if you wish, but give old Shandar some credit. And yes, I know that it is different from 3E information. Duh. That's the whole point of this blog.

Description: The dire version of this animal is identical to the normal animal, save for its enormous size and the presence of jagged bony protrusions extending up and out of its flesh. Dire animals, due to their infusion with tremendous evil energies, are universally Chaotic Evil in alignment and ferociously bad tempered. When encountered, an attack is almost always unavoidable.

Habitat/Society: Dire ____________s, like most dire creatures, tend to be solitary due to the fact that they have often destroyed any others of their kind in the process of becoming what they are. Only in areas where the evil is very great will you find more than one dire creature of any particular species.

Ecology: While no one is certain how dire creatures come to be, whether they emerge from some extra-planer existence, are created by some kind of conjuration or alteration magic, the prevailing theory is that they were once, in fact, normal creatures of their kind but were unusually susceptible to the emanations of evil. This theory has weight given that these types of creatures are almost always encountered in areas where evil rites and magic has been practiced for many years, although it is possible that these creatures are simply drawn to such evil and not created by it. If the theory is true, it is suspected that their solitary nature is a result of having driven off or eaten the other creatures of its kind as the changes were taking place.

Regardless of how these creatures come to be, they are always a sign that not only is there evil in the area in which they are encountered, but that evil is deeply rooted and long-standing, of at least 5 years duration. The greater the number and variety of creatures in an area, correspondingly, the greater the power and scope of the evil.


New Monster: The Catile

I'm never going to post stat sheets for existing monsters, but I thought it might be fun to share some of the original monsters I've created for my 2E game from figures that didn't have corresponding TSR or WOTC references. This miniature is stamped Ral Partha 1983.

Jungles, tropical forests, swamps
DIET: Carnivore
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil
NO. APPEARING: 1-4 (1)
THAC0: 9
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d4/1d4/1d6
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Chameleon ability
MORALE: Steady (12)
XP VALUE: 3,000

The catile is a horrific combination of snake-like reptile and great cat. The feline portions of the beast are covered in a strange blue-green fur while the reptilian portion of its body possesses the ability to take on the coloration of the flora in which it hides, similar to a chameleon. This renders the creature effectively invisible when hiding. When so concealed, the creature surprises victims automatically, adding + 3 to its attack roll for the initial surprise attack.

I never got much more detailed than that back in the 80's. If I end up running this monster in my new campaign I might flesh it out a bit more and do a detailed MC page for it. If anyone out there would like to come up with the Monstrous Compendium page info for me, just post it in the comments and if I like it, I'll use it.

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Weeping over loss of my camera...well the camera I was borrowing...

I'm having caniptions because I don't have a camera that can take good closeup pictures of miniatures anymore. I have tons of minis, not just the Blood War ones, that need photographing and really miss having that camera. I went shopping today with a miniature trying out digital cameras all over the place, but none under the price of $500 or so had the ability to focus on anything as small as a kobold without it being all grainy from the digital zoom. I'm going to have to try to get my old employer to sell me the camera I borrowed when I worked there. I can offer up to $300 and the promise that they can borrow it back from me whenever they need it. Sounds fair to me...hope they see it that way.

The main reason I'm weeping about the camera is that last night I got a wild hair and pulled out a bunch of green and brown stuff and sculpted a pretty kick butt Aboleth. That's a monster I've always wanted a miniature of and seriously doubt anyone will make it. It is still in the "amorphous blob category" of creature, so it is a good step up from my last sculpt, the Horgar. As soon as I have a camera, I'll post images.

I'd wanted to do images of the whole process, because it was an interesting cobbling of bits for the framework, and because taking picutres would have been a good way to force me to slow down my sculpting process. I haven't quite gotten the hang of doing sculpts in stages...I want to rush through and be finished, which means I'm always squishing down details of parts of the sculpt that haven't hardented yet.

This time I really really tried (not entirely successfully) but the results were good enough that I'm going to be more likely to sloooowwww down in future sculpts, because the only parts of the sculpt I don't like were the result of hurrying the process.

What was it Franklin said? "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools can learn in no other."

Guess my alma mater.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Dark Creeper and Dark Stalker

Reaper Miniatures does a great job of putting out miniatures that are very similar to the artwork from the 1E TSR monster references that WOTC either won't put out because they don't support the monster in the 3E line or have changed significantly in their new reference materials.

A good example is the Dark Creeper. The image on the left is from the 1E Fiend Folio, which you can download in PDF form from

I was really thrilled last year to discover that Reaper was making a miniature that looked almost exactly like the artwork from the old sourcebook and was actually calling it a "Dark Creeper" in their catalogue. The figure from Reaper is on the right.

I have seen this very mini with its product name advertised on the Paizo website, so WOTC must be aware of it and don't consider it infringement because their 3E version of the Dark Creeper is so different. See for yourself:

To me, the sculpt that WOTC is now using for this creature is really unsuitable. It has the legs of a faun! How can something be a "creeping" anything if it has hooves that clack around in the dark on the subterranean stone? I don't know what they are thinking over there, sometimes.

Dark Creepers live in villages of around 25-80, with one leader. The leader is known as a Dark Stalker. Dark Stalkers are taller and meaner versions of the creepers, so I'm assuming that if WOTC ever does a stalker mini, it will also have hooves. Reaper has done, again, an excellent job of getting a miniature that evokes the full flavor of the original artwork without copying it exactly.

I can't wait to get these painted and run an encounter...I've literally waited years. I only have to buy 79 more Dark Creepers and I'll be all set.

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Deepspawn are a particularly disgusting creature native to the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. As I understand it, Deepspawn are essentially an easy way to keep your dungeon stocked with monsters without regard to the impact on local ecology or continuity of story.

The deepspawn is a giant mess of a monster that could be mistaken for a gibbering mouther. In fact, I used this figure for a gibbering mouther up until WOTC released the gibbering mouther mini and I needed to find another use for what I'd been using. Deepspawn seemed like an ideal solution.

This monster, whose sheet is be found in the 2E Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, can "spawn" fully formed any creature it has ever eaten, so long as has enough meat, vegetable matter, and water or blood to fuel the birthing.

It is a pretty disgusting living verison of the Thingmaker by Mattel, replicating monsters as needed by the DM.

I know that my miniature isn't exactly like the description in the MC, which calls for a spere with siz limbs--three of which are tentacle arms and three are jaw arms. In my world it is more of a blob which can extend tentacles as needed. I use the miniature from RAFM called "Shoggoth, Protoplasmic Horror", and I think it works just fine. If you click on the link you can buy one direct from the manufacturer.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Myrkul's Denizens...hangin' out in Hades

You don't run into Denizens much, unless you are using the module series dealing with the Time of Troubles. They are usually hanging out exclusively in Hades taking care of their master, Myrkul. They were priests of Myrkul in life, but in death are "rewarded" with nasty looking forms and the job of tormenting the dead. There are many different kinds of denizens, but I liked how these seemed to work for "knights" which are described as having "grotesque, casklike bodies with gangly, mis-shapen arms that drag along the ground. Their short legs bely their speed and grace. Knights have humanlike heads and features except for the bilious fangs and glowing red eyes."

The minis in question are actually Ghasts produced by RAFM for their Call of Cthulhu line. If you click on the link you can buy some if you like.

I'm thinking of introducing a chronomancy artifact into my campaign at some point, so that in a manner similar to how characters pop into and out of Ravenloft, my characters might pop around in time so that I can utilize some of my date specific modules which fall much earlier than the current date of 1368. I'd be interested in having my characters suddenly appearing in the Time of Troubles or helping in Curse of the Azure Bonds.

Other than that, I am not sure how my players would ever come into contact with Denizens, since a trip to Hades isn't in their near future. Also, I'm not sure what use Kelemvor would have for the Denizens, so maybe they work for Cyric. I've got a lot of "history" to catch up on once I've finished my comprehensive study of monstrology.

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Destrachan, Large Abberration, but what does it eat?

Well, here I sit alone in my house, except for the dog at my feet. I just ate microwaved Thanksgiving leftovers and I'm working on Dungeons & Dragons stuff while watching Biblical Disasters on the History Channel. It's not as pathetic as it sounds, really. No, really. I think that's Lorne Greene narrating. How come no body fights over the better Commander Adama?

Yes, with my wife out of state visiting her parents, I'm having a geek Christmas.

What's on my mind? The diet of the Destrachan, that's what.

One of the frustrating things about the 3E materials is that it is geared heavily toward tabletop miniature battles and not to role playing at all. Who cares about habitats or diets if all you're going to do is make a warband and slug it out for an hour or two?

You 3E apologists can tell me I'm full of it on that score all you want, but the 3E MM says "No living thing would ever willingly ally itself with this monster, although sometimes undead or evil outsiders accompany a destrachan as it attacks and slays other creatures" but the Aberrations preview article that featured this mini says "Unlike a lot of other large dungeon denizens, the Destrachan is smart enough to cooperate fully with its allies. No trace of a Difficult ability or other mental drawback here."

Right....I know, the miniatures game is different from 3E. I just don't see where that is a defense for such huge gaps in source material description or inconsistency between the two games. I'll stick with 2E, thank you. At least they were very serious about consistent monster ecologies back then. But, enough of that soapbox. I'll never play 3E and I'll never convince these new fangled kids to play 2E. Back to the critter at hand.

The destrachan is listed as an aberration (from the Aberrations series of miniatures) and not an outsider, so it isn't a planar being. That means it has to actually eat something. The 3E MM (page 47) says that Destrachans "feed on death and misery." It also says that it has no teeth in its maw. Pretty hard for a predator to get fat on death and misery, especially with no freakin' teeth.

But, that's it. That's all you get. It has claws and it is described as being a crafty hunter and haunting inhabited underground complexes "spreading woe for evil's sake."

What the heck does that mean? It doesn't have any psionic abilities, so it doesn't make sense that it derives actual physical sustainance from misery or pain, and it doesn't seem to feed on souls, which is the only thing I can imagine "feeding on death" means. The description does say straight out that it is a sadist, so it has to get some benefit out of causing pain.

From a role playing standpoint this creature's description leaves a lot to be desired, but then from a D&D Minitaures Game standpoint, role playing isn't really desired, so why should I be surprised?

Surprised or not, I have to figure out some way to make this creature make some kind of sense.

What I've decided is that it finds screaming, wailing, and cries of misery by its victims to be soothing, in the way that someone might enjoy jazz music, so it seeks opportunities to generate those sounds and to prolong those sounds as long as possible. There, covered the sadism and the misery mongering.

Now, the feeding without teeth.

I'm going to say that it uses its flesh disrupting harmonic attack to reduece flesh and bone to a bubbling viscous jelly, which it then slurps up using its toothless maw like a straw. It will use this attack only after it has caused the victim to pass out from the pain caused by its subdual harmonic attack which targets the nerves. This subdual attack, we'll say, is just about as painful as if you were suffering the torments of the Abyss or Nine Hells.

OK. That makes the creature a little more interesting and plausible to me. Can anyone tell me if this is what the creature designers intended but just didn't write into the description?



I was having a little trouble finding Direguard info. The Monster Index showed it was in the Lost Empires of Faerûn book (so many books!). Luckily in my googling, I found a web listing that reminded me that direguards were mentioned in the 2E Forgotten Realms box set. I was confused for a bit, but in reading the MC page for Baneguard I remembered that Direguards are a 7th level priest spell created undead.

I scanned the baneguard info and made the changes called for in the create direguard description, but added a few minor improvements of my own. In my world, direguards have an innate chill touch ability in addition to magic missile. I also gave them an innate aura of fear for a five foot radius, which continues as an effect even after the creature is destroyed.

I suppose this would mean that each bone of a direguard has a 5 foot fear radius, so you could use these bones to create an ersatz wall of fear around a perimeter of a camp by sticking the bones into the ground at 5 foot intervals. Carrying them around would require some sort of protection from fear, though.

Does tossing items with area effects into a bag of holding protect people from the effect while the item is in the bag? I suppose it would. Since it is not a magical effect, but inherent in the creature due to its evil taint, I don't think putting it in a lead box would negate the effect while the box is closed.

Hmmmm. Playing D&D gives one a real respect for God's intelligent designing. I wonder who his beta testers were. I guess the angels. That's why he created us in his second edition.


Displacer This, Displacer That

The original 1st Edition Displacer Beast was a six-legged puma with shredding tentacles, but in 2nd Edition it lost its middle two legs. Third Edition brought the legs back again. Ral Partha's license for the official TSR AD&D line covered the Monstrous Compendium period, and so their figure has but four legs.

As I've told you, if I don't have the mini, I don't run the monster. If I have the mini but the creature doesn't exist in TSR/WOTC materials, I have to create the entry. This on again, off again leg issue has created some special problems. Here is my solution.

I also can't find the image I took of my mini, so I'm using this one from Dark Sword Miniatures. I really love this sculpt, and it makes me sad to know that Dennis Mize, the sculptor, passed away last March.

The four-legged, beefier Displacer Beast, as sculpted by Dennis, will be known as a Displacer Cat in my world and will be exclusively a surface dwelling creature, residing in mountain caves. The 2E MC sheet doesn't mention any underground activity, so I can use the sheet almost as is to create the specialized "Displacer Cat" unique to my campaign world.

Adding to the difficulty is the efforts by rival miniature manufacturers to create miniatures which are close enough to the monsters used in the D&D game to be needed by players, but different enough to avoid trademark and copyright infringement. Hence, you end up with a lot of "evolutionary" variations. Reaper Miniatures has a version of the Displacer Beast that they call the "Phase Cat" which is very similar to the above Mize sculpt but with four tentacles instead of two. In my world, this is the female version of the Displacer Cat.

The WOTC miniature is the traditional...or neo-traditional...six-legged version. In my world, I will be adapting the 2E MC sheet to incorporate the information from the 3E MM specifically for this variety. The descriptions from that book are pretty thin, though, so I may add a little more of my own invention. I remember from Exile, by R.A. Salvatore, Drizz't fighting a displacer beast and it was described as having 6 legs. I'm going to rely on that to make the WOTC version of this monster exclusively a creature of the Underdark.

It is a pity that the Displacer Beast Pack Lord is a more common mini than the original Displacer Beast...too many pack lords and not enough beasts is a common saying in my basement, thanks to the user friendly folks at WOTC who make the decisions about rarity designations in these collectible figure lines. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they made rare creatures rare and common creatures common as a rule?

Seriously. A look on eBay today showed that a Harbinger Displacer Beast is running at nearly $50 for Buy It Now, without shipping. Displacer Beast Pack Lords are selling for a penny plus shipping. I can tell you for a fact, the Pack Lord I have has a pretty small pack, and it is likely to stay that way for a loooooong time.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

WOTC Monster Index

Well, googling around for Dolgrim, I discovered this very useful resource: WOTC Monster Index. This is a great listing of every monster and where it can be found in the 3E published materials. This is a really valuable resource for me, because with the D&D Miniatures releases, I'm constantly (as with the Dolgrim) wondering what the heck is this thing and where am I supposed to find the 3E entry to convert to 2E? Now, all I have to do is click on the link here (I've added it to the blog) and then enter the creature in the search box. One more click and I know which incredibly expensive WOTC book I'm supposed to go out and buy in order to satisfy my obsessive compulsive urge to convert the stats in my ever expanding compendium.

Of course, I try to only buy them off of eBay or used bookstores in order to both save money and protest in my humble way the change from 2E to 3E and 3.5E and whatever comes next.

Harumph. By the way, Dolgrim...Eberron. Not a campaign world I'm even remotely interested in--other than that my friend Lee Moyer has done a lot of art work for that campaign world.

Dire Corbys and Darkenbeasts, Oh My!

I finally have a little free time again to devote to monstrology. I'm still fighting my way through the D section of my massive compendium project, but I have decided to put Deities in a seperate volume. That's saved a little room. Finally finishing the dragons today, I am moving onto some of the more interesting and rare creatures which fall earlier in the alphabet.

One of my favorite creatures is the Dire Corby. I've got one, lonely figure that I'm certain was intended to be that monster, made by Ral Partha. I can't make out the date stamp on the bottom, but I think it is 1978. That would make sense, as it is one of the figures I've had since my earliest days of the hobby. I also have no idea what Ral Partha called this creature. Perhaps "bird woman" since it has mammilian breasts. The original monster appears on page 26 of the TSR Fiend Folio.

I would love to get several more of these, since they are described and hunting in flocks. Ideally, I'd be interested in picking up another 11 or so of them. If anyone out there has some, please let me know. I've tried looking through Stuff of Legends to identify the exact name and model number of the miniauture, but haven't had any luck yet. If you can identify the mini by model number and product name, please post that in the comments so that I will have an easier time searching auctions and websites for it.

Another interesting old mini I have in the D section is what I'm using for a Darkenbeast. The Darkenbeast appears in the Forgotten Realms compendium, and this figure is a very good match for it. I don't think it is in the early TSR books, but I could be wrong. You can see an image at the WOTC website. The miniature I'm using is also Ral Partha and the unpainted one I recently picked up on eBay is clearly dated 1978 on the bottom. It came in two pieces, you glue the body to the two legs.

Given that the miniatures are of similar style I suspect that they are by the same sculptor. Any information on these old figures would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, and by the way, I have a complete blood war set now...or I will as soon as the Firegiant Forgepriest arrives in the mail.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Blood War Recruiting Levels

The case came in, I'm closer.


10 Solar 105 LG 12 R
19 Lillend 44 CG 7 R
31 Fire Giant Forgepriest 84 LE 10 R
33 Hellcat 43 LE 8 R
39 Lord of Blades 77 LE 10 R
51 Githyanki Dragon Knight 98 CE 13 R
59 Succubus 40 CE 6 R




01 Battle Plate Marshal 43 LG 12 (bought on eBay, let's hope it arrives this time)

14 Archmage 98 CG




36 Lord Soth LE 98 R
44 Drider Sorcerer CE 30 R

5 Large Silver Dragon LG 122 R
28 Aspect of Bane LE 106 R
34 Gauth LE 39 R
46 Aspect of Lolth CE 75 R
58 Vrock CE 79 R



I still don't know if it would be cheaper to lay down the cash for a complete Archfiends set (they sometimes come up on eBay and are under $700), an unopened case (also on eBay for about the same as a full set)or to try to get the ones I need individually. If I got the case or the full set I could probably cut the cost substantially by reselling...but this is not logic the wife really sees wisdom in. Well, even less wisdom than buying all these little lumps of plastic in the first place.

At any rate, progress is being made.