Monday, September 17, 2018

Monster Monday - Guest Post - Su-monster

Hey everybody! Skeeter Green from SGP Productions here to once again fill the giant space-bunny slippers of Jayson Gardner this week for Monster Monday! They didn’t get sick of me as I took you all to the gutters (literally), so this week I’m going to get weird and mental, so without further preamble, I bring you the su-monster!!!

The su-monster made its first appearance in original D&D, in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume. Additional Special Thanks are given to perennial personal heroes of mine Steve Marsh, Dr. Dennis Sustare, Jim Ward, and my Icon, Tim Kask. Eldritch Wizardry is probably my fondest memory of the original books, not just for the nude on the cover (about as tame as you can get, too), but mostly because I have always been a sucker for “new magic” books and weird stuff. And this book is full of new rules, new magic, and new monsters that eventually would become pillars of more modern systems. Demons? Mind flayers (not trying to step on IP here, please don’t come for me Mr. Hasbro lawyer)? DEMOGORGON? Craziness! Plus, our friend, and reason fo this article, the su-monster.

Initially, the su-monster was described as a wasp-waisted, great chested hound. Their heads appear much like gorillas'. All four feet are prehensile and armed with long and extremely sharp nails as well.” (Gygax & Blume) It gives alittle more information about familial makeup, and then gets into “Su-monsters have a latent psionic ability which enables them to deliver some form of psionic attack once (per day) if psionic activity is being used near (within 12" of them) … Psionic defense is not necessary as the Su-monster is not itself subject to psionic attack.” Now I have always liked psionics, but this is a little overpowering for my taste. Somebody can hit me with some cool new power, but I can’t use it back? WTF? Anyway, the su-monster got a bit of a makeover in 1E.

In the Monster Manual (Gygax) The su makes another appearance (as it will throughout several more iterations of the game) but has changed its look dramatically (probably for copyright reasons; pesky lawyers!) Now, they have lost their wasp-dog look, and seem like regular monkeys. They kept their powerful mental powers, but psionics was a little better defined in 1E (depending on who you ask), and as one of the few psionicly endowed creatures, they were in many campaigns that allowed supplemental psionic rules (along with mind flayers, intellect devourers, and titans. A real mix.)

Psionics themselves eventually dropped out of favor, first only appearing in 2nd edition in the Complete Psionics Handbook, missing 3.X almost completely, makes a brief emergence in 4th edition (I bet no one knows that), and then came back with a vengeance in 5E in the Tomb of Annihilation, deep in the jungles of Chult. In 5E, the creature’s psionic power is relegated to a single attack but can injure and/or stun its target. Not bad for a 40+ year old monster!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’m sure Jayson really wants his blog back!!! Come by and visit me on Twitter @SkeeterMFGreen, and the Goddammit, Zach! Youtube series, courtesy of Uncle Matt’s RPG Studio See ya in the dungeons!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monster Monday - Guest Post - Otyugh
Hey everybody! Skeeter Green from SGP Productions here to fill the giant space-bunny slippers of Jayson Gardner this week for Monster Monday! In keeping with my normal level of class and social standing, I’m going to go deep (heh,heh) and hit the sewers for one of my favorite dungeon denizens of all time… the Otyugh!

This little (FALSE! Otyughs are approx. 8 ft in diameter on average) garbage critter has been around since the 1E Monster Manual. Its original description says something along the lines of a weird “omnivorous scavenger… diet of dung, offal, and carrion... hate bright light… found underground.” (Gygax) Now, these are pretty generic descriptors, giving GMs plenty of room for interpretation. And use. And misuse! Starting with the name. How exactly does one pronounce otyugh?


Who cares? A classic piece of the old-school puzzle is that very similar monsters can have wildly different powers and abilities. Maybe all those pronunciations are valid, and the monsters themselves are merely local variants?

In any case, a “standard” otyugh in 1E had a few specific attacks and abilities. Low AC (AC3), 6-8 HD, 3 attacks (not detailed – assumed to be a tentacle/tentacle/bite series), typically carried a disease of some flavor (they get around) and are never surprised. They are described as having a “sensory organ stalk” and 2 tentacles sprouting from the main body, which also houses the grotesque mouth.

Jacob Blackmon, used under license from
Rogue Genius Games
That leaves a lot to the imagination. Right off, I’m thinking “If it lives in garbage, eats dung and other refuse, what does it leave behind?” Probably nothing good. I’m thinking its inner body is so acidic, whatever it eats essentially disappears. Very efficient, reduce/recycle mindset!

The bigger problem, literally, is the neo-otyugh. These are bigger, smarter, tougher and more damaging versions of their smaller kin. Still 3 attacks, but almost double the HD, and could be up to “very intelligent”. Scary. Essentially, its your home garbage disposal getting pissed and coming after you with tentacles and a weird eye-stalk tentacle. The stuff of nightmares!

Anyway, the otyugh has gone through several artistic transformations in the 40-ish years its been part of the game, but most of the time it is still very recognizable. Three tentacles atop a spherical body, a big mouth full of sharp teeth in the center, 2-4 stumpy legs to carry it around. Or, does it have legs? Couldn’t it just as easily swim through garbage, like in a famous movie about wars out in the stars, where the heroes are trapped after sliding down a garbage chute during a rescue? Certainly, that could be an otyugh, and good for it to be getting high-profile work!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’m sure Jayson wants his blog back!!! Come by and visit me on Twitter @SkeeterMFGreen, and the Goddammit, Zach! Youtube series, courtesy of Uncle Matt’s RPG Studio. See ya in the dungeons!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Monster Monday: Hydras

Monica C. Webster
"Hercules and the Hydra"
Last week, in my Mord Mar FLGS game, the party decided to take on a hydra. This led me to seriously look at them in the past week. There are so many hydra, it made the session a guessing game.

Everybody knows of the Lernaean hydra. There are 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 headed hydras. There are pyrohydras and cryohydras. And they can have any number of heads above. All of this led the players to speculate about what type of hydra would be hiding in the Forge District. It turned out to be a pyro-hydra, and slightly different from the AD&D version. Namely, each head could breathe fire 1/day for 5d6 damage.

This just further illustrates my point. Hydra are hard to quantify in a PCs mind. They can be a hundred different mutations "by the book." And even more when you let your mind wander.
Moreover, the hydra is a fairly rare creature in modules. According to Adventure Lookup they have appeared in 34 adventures. TSR had 14 modules, WotC has 4. They are severely underused.

How best to use a hydra, though?

In the Palneal Swamp, it is reputed that a 5-headed hydra hunts the southern edge. Local fisherman have been seeing it closer and closer to the river. The fishermen are panicked and refuse to get near that stretch of river. The local lord asks heroes to deal with the imminent set.

Deep on the trade route between Redstone and Chattin a hydra has buried itself within the sands. It only attacks with its heads, and keeps its body below ground (giving it boosted AC.)

A sect of kobolds within Mord Mar worships a hydra near an underground lake. They often lure adventurers near its lair, and let it feast.