Sunday 31 July 2022

In Memoriam: Nicola Bishop

I’ve put off writing this post, but it has to be done, so here it is.

On 26 July 2022, Nicola Bishop, my ex-wife, passed away due to cancer. We shared my two eldest children, Michael and Blaze. Nick was my ex-wife, so, yes, there was some strife between us, but that is largely confined to a period over a decade and a half ago. She tried hard, and I was probably not always as appreciative of that as a should have been.

She was a good mother. Mike and Blaze didn’t always agree with her, but she made major sacrifices to keep them safe, and to make them as happy as she could.

She was a force of nature. She didn’t often back down in an argument, right or wrong, but she was able to come back later and look at things more calmly if she thought she should. She could fill a room, and take center stage in a way that I never could. She was funny. She was a gifted story-teller. She was possibly the best parallel parker that the universe has ever known. I really thought that she would outlive me. It is hard to imagine the world without her in it.

Even knowing she had cancer, I thought she would beat it.

Nick had a story about when her father died. She had gone to the cemetery and couldn’t find where he was buried. It was distressing. Then a shaft of light broke through the clouds, illuminating his grave, and she felt like he had done that for her.

She told it way better than I do. Like I said, she had a gift for storytelling.

If there is anything beyond this life, I imagine her looking down from above, watching out for her children in the same way she felt her dad watched out for her. And I hope her dad is with her. I hope all the fear, all the social anxiety, all the bluster that got in her way when we were together is gone. She had come a long way towards getting rid of it before death. I hope there is just joy.

Safe travels, Nicola.

Official notice.

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Dragon (Oriental)

This time you are getting six monsters for the price of one, as there are six varieties of Oriental Dragon in the Fiend Folio. These have been rebuilt using the rules for dragons in Dungeon Crawl Classics, while trying to maintain the flavor and the intent of the originals. The Dragon Generator tool at Purple Sorcerer was enormously helpful in this regard.

One thing that I definitely changed was the Yu Lung growing equally into any other variety of Oriental Dragon. For one thing, the Shen Lung was described as the most common type, and surely the celestial T’ien Lung would be the rarest!

Modern cultural sensitivity issues are far more developed than they were in 1981 when the Fiend Folio was published. To a degree, then, these entries are a product of their time. The conversions presented herein are game artifacts only, with no intention of being culturally accurate or demeaning.

Because most Oriental Dragons lack wings, they do not have wing buffet attacks or the Action Dice associated with them. Some Oriental Dragons also have the scaly command and/or water fire abilities, described below.

Scaly Command: No scaled water-dwelling creature (primarily fish and reptiles) will ever willingly attack an Oriental Dragon with this power. Intelligent creatures may do so if they succeed in a Will save (DC 10 + dragon’s HD). Moreover, Oriental Dragons with this power can control scaled water-dwelling creatures in a half-mile radius for 2d6 turns. Creatures whose HD total up to three times the Dragon’s HD can be so controlled, and the control cannot be countered by any mortal means.

Water Fire: Some Oriental Dragons have the power to create this unearthly stuff whenever they are in contact with water. Water fire surrounds the Dragon’s body with flickering burning water, doing 2d6 damage to any creature coming in contact with the Dragon. Water Fire lasts 2d6 turns, but may be dispelled by the Dragon at any time. Contact with real or magical fire also dispels Water Fire, which cannot then be used for 1d3 hours. All Oriental Dragons are immune to water fire.



Li Lung (Earth Dragon)

Li Lung (average-sized lion-like oriental dragon): Init +11; Atk claw +12 melee (1d8) or bite +12 melee (1d12) or wing buffet +12 melee (2d12); AC 21; HD 11d12; MV 50’ or swim 50’ or burrow 50’; Act attacks 4d20; SP see below; SV Fort +11, Ref +11, Will +11; Al N.

Martial Power 1: Burrow. The dragon can “swim” through sand and dirt at its normal speed.

Martial Power 2: Frightful presence. The dragon’s visage and sheer mass are absolutely terrifying. All who look upon it must make a Will save (DC 21) or flee in terror (duration 1d4 turns or until reach a safe distance).

Unique Power 1: Earth to mud (1/hour). The dragon can transform an area of earth into sticky mud. The area transformed can be up to 50’ x 50’ in size. The mud, up to 3’ deep, slows movement to half speed for all within.

Unique Power 2: Cause earthquake (1/day). The dragon can create an earthquake centered on a point within 500’. Earth shakes for several seconds. All nearby creatures take 1d3 buffeting damage. Creatures within 50’ of the epicenter are tossed into the earth for a fall of 1d8 x 10’ (with falling damage of 1d6 per 10’ fallen). Creatures further away must make a Reflex save (DC 21) or also be tossed into the earth. Concentration of enemies is disrupted, waterways may be diverted, buildings are shaken, creatures may fall from ramparts, etc.

The only oriental dragon with wings, these have a lion's body and a dragon's head with human features. They live underground and can swim, though they cannot breathe water. Unusually for dragons, they have no breath weapon.



Lung Wang (Sea Dragon)

Lung Wang (large turtle-like oriental dragon): Init +16; Atk claw +17 melee (1d8) or bite +17 melee (1d12); AC 30; HD 16d12; MV 20’ or swim 60’; Act attacks 3d20; SP see below; SV Fort +16, Ref +16, Will +16; Al N.

Breath Weapon: Type (Steam); Save (Fort 26 for half); Damage (current hit points); Shape (Cone, 100’ long with 50’ base)

Martial Power 1: Hypnotic stare. The dragon can hypnotize targets with its gaze. The dragon can gaze into the eyes of one target per round by using one Action Die. A creature that meets the dragon’s gaze must make a Will save (DC 26) or stand stupefied as long as the dragon holds its gaze.

Martial Power 2: Capsize. The dragon can lift any ship it comes under or ram as the largest warship. Smaller ships sink instantly, whereas the largest ships can take hours to finally disappear fully beneath the waves.

Unique Power 1: Scaly command.

Unique Power 2: Amphibious.

These solitary brutes have a turtle's body, crested neck, and head like a shen lung (see below). They rule large bodies of water and can breathe either water or air.

As rulers of the seas, lung wang demand tribute from every passing ship. Regular travelers may work out an arrangement – for example, so much treasure dumped overboard at a given spot – and such arrangements will be well known to sailors in an area this creature inhabits.



Pan Lung (Coiled Dragon)

Pan Lung (small salamander-like oriental dragon): Init +5; Atk claw +6 melee (1d8) or bite +6 melee (1d12 plus grasp) or tail slap +6 melee (1d20); AC 15; HD 5d12; MV 40’ or fly 40’ or swim 40’; Act attacks 4d20, spells 1d20; SP see below; SV Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +5; Al C.

Spells (as wizard, +5 bonus to spell check): Charm person.

Martial Power 1: Hypnotic stare. The dragon can hypnotize targets with its gaze. The dragon can gaze into the eyes of one target per round by using one action die. A creature that meets the dragon’s gaze must make a Will save (DC 15) or stand stupefied as long as the dragon holds its gaze.

Martial Power 2: Grasp. When the dragon successfully bites a target, it holds on, doing an automatic 1d10 damage each round unless the target succeeds in a Reflex save (DC 15). The grasp can be broken by a successful Mighty Deed or an opposed Strength check vs. +5.

Unique Power 1: Amphibious.

Unique Power 2: Scaly command.

Unique Power 3: Water fire.

A smaller, thinner and longer variety of the shen lung (see below), but without their larger relative’s tail spike, pan lung live in marshes and swamps. They can breathe air or water at will, and have an inextractable magical organ in their brains which gives them the power of flight.



Shen Lung (Spirit Dragon)

Shen Lung (large salamander-like oriental dragon): Init +15; Atk claw +16 melee (1d8) or bite +16 melee (1d12) or spiked tail +16 melee (1d20 + impale); AC 25; HD 15d12; MV 60’ or fly 60’ or swim 60’; Act attacks 4d20, 1d16 spells ; SP see below; SV Fort +15, Ref +15, Will +15; Al C.

Spells (as cleric, +8 spell check bonus): Blessing, curse, weather control.

Martial Power 1: Impale. A target hit by the dragon’s spiked tail must succeed on a DC 20 Reflex save or be impaled for an additional 1d8 damage.

Martial Power 2: Immunities. The dragon is immune to poison and electrical attacks.

Martial Power 1: Ice storm (3/day). 60’ cone with 30’ base, 6d6 (Fort DC 20 for half).

Martial Power 4: Fire vulnerability. The dragon takes twice normal damage from magical or mundane fire-based attacks.

Unique Power 1:  Amphibious.

Unique Power 2: Change shape (1/day). The dragon can transform into a human form (equal chances man or woman), assuming all physical traits of that creature.

Unique Power 3: Neutralize poison (1/day). The dragon can cancel the effects of any one poison by touching the affected creature.

Unique Power 4: Scaly command.

Unique Power 5: Water fire.

Unique Power 6: Vermin ward. No insect, arachnid or arthropod can approach within 60’ of the dragon.

The most common oriental dragon, shen lung are wingless, long and four-footed, with a spiked back and tail, whiskers and two horns on the head. Inside the brain is an inextractable magical organ which gives shen lung the ability to fly.  These oriental dragons live in rivers and lakes and can breathe air and water.





T’ien Lung (Celestial Dragon)

T’ien Lung (godlike salamander-like oriental dragon): Init +21; Atk claw +22 melee (1d8) or bite +22 melee (1d12) or tail slap +22 melee (1d20); AC 31; HD 21d12; MV 80’ or fly 160’; Act attacks 5d20, spells 1d30; SP see below; SV Fort +21, Ref +21, Will +21; Al L.

Breath Weapon: Type (fire); Save (Reflex 31); Damage (Current hit points, half with save); Shape (Cone, 90’ long with a 30’ base)

Spells (as cleric, +12 bonus to spell check): Blessing, food of the gods, holy sanctuary, word of command, restore vitality, remove curse, weather control, invisible companion.

Martial Power 1: Magic resistance. All spells cast against dragon subject to 50% chance of failure before saves are rolled.

Martial Power 2: Hypnotic stare. The dragon can hypnotize targets with its gaze. The dragon can gaze into the eyes of one target per round by using one action die. A creature that meets the dragon’s gaze must make a Will save (DC 31) or stand stupefied as long as the dragon holds its gaze.

Unique Power 1: Luck giver (1/day). The dragon can grant a permanent bonus of +1 Luck to one creature every 24 hours. The same creature cannot receive this bonus more than once per month.

Unique Power 2: Change shape (1/day). The dragon can transform into a human form (equal chances man or woman), assuming all physical traits of that creature.

Unique Power 3: Gust of wind (1/day). The dragon can generate powerful hurricane-strength wind, blowing in a single direction originating from the dragon in cone shape up to 100’ wide at termination. Creatures must make Strength check (DC 31) or be blown backward 210’, taking 21d4 damage.

The yellow-hued t'ien lung live on high mountain peaks and in cloud castles; they are rulers of the air. Though wingless, they fly by using the same organ in the brain as  possessed by pan lung and shen lung. T'ien lung are very fond of eating opals and pearls and look favorably on any mortal giving them such delicacies.




Yu Lung (Carp Dragon)

Yu Lung (small fish-like oriental dragon): Init +5; Atk claw +6 melee (1d8) or bite +6 melee (1d12); AC 15; HD 5d12; MV 10’ or swim 40’; Act attacks 3d20; SP see below; SV Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +5; Al N.

Yu lung are shy creatures living in fresh water. They have a dragon's head and fore-claws, and the body and tail of a giant carp. Although they breathe only water, they can emerge awkwardly onto land for up to one hour. When a yu lung reaches 101 years of age, they are metamorphosed into another kind of oriental dragon. To determine type, roll 1d16: (1-3) li lung, (4-6) lung wang, (7-9) pan lung, (10-15) shen lung, or (16) t’ien lung.

Saturday 30 July 2022

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Disenchanter and Doombat

In Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, magic items were pretty common. That trend has not abated with Wizards of the Coast acquiring the brand. The Disenchanter was a direct response to this – it could remove some of those magic items from a group that lit up like a Christmas tree whenever detect magic was cast.

It was also, let’s face it, the ultimate “Fuck You” monster that Dungeon Masters could throw at their players. All that stuff you amassed over the last several months or years of game play? Now it’s gone. Using this monster could get you lynched. Most Dungeon Crawl Classics characters have fewer magic bits and pieces as a general rule, and are even less likely to be enamored of a judge using this creature. On the other hand, “easy come, easy go” is a real thing in DCC, and DCC is not balanced (usually) on the basis of equipment. Monsters break the rules, and perhaps a Disenchanter is what your adventure needs! Also, my first published adventure for this game included a monster that could pull out your skeleton, leaving you alive but boneless. Compared to losing a scroll, potion, or sword, the Disenchanter seems tame.

So, those are the pros and cons of using the Disenchanter. I’ve tried to make a conversion that works with DCC.

The Doombat should be quite a bit easier to slot into an adventure. On the other hand, it may offer your players significantly less shock and dismay.




Disenchanter: Init +4; Atk Snout (special); AC 15; HD 5d8+5; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP Disenchant, detect magic, magic immunity, immortality; SV Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +5; AL N.

The disenchanter – and some sages speculate there is only one such creature in existence, despite claims by some to have encountered two at the same time – appears like a pale, slightly translucent dromedary, spindly in build and electric blue in hue, with a long, flexible snout. It can extend this muscular protuberance as far as 5 feet, seeking to bring it into contact with magic items of all types. Any magic item the snout touches instantly and permanently loses its magical dweomers – this is how the creature feeds.

The disenchanter can sense a confluence of magic from a great distance; the limits of this ability have never been tested. It can consume ongoing spell effects as well as magic held by items, requiring no attack roll for large and immobile effects. Otherwise, the potential victim is allowed a Reflex save to avoid the snout. The DC depends upon the object being sought by the disenchanter – a potion in a belt pouch requires only a DC 2 save, a ring DC 3, a medallion or sheathed weapon DC 5, a weapon in hand DC 10, a suit of armor or shield DC 20. The judge must extrapolate other DCs from these examples. Likewise, the disenchanter is immune to all spells and other magics; a magic weapon striking a disenchanter is treated as though it were ordinary in all respects. If the disenchanter is reduced to 0 hp, it merely fades away, to reappear in some other part of the multiverse. The creature is thus effectively immortal.

It must be noted that magic weapons or items which strike a disenchanter do not lose their magical powers; only the snout has this ability. Damage to the snout could conceivably drive the creature away, but if a Mighty Deed targeting the snout succeeds with a magic weapon, the wielder must succeed in a Luck check or the weapon is disenchanted.



Doombat: Init +4; Atk tail +6 melee (1d4) or claw +4 melee (1d4 plus grasp) or bite +2 melee (1d6) or shriek; AC 16; HD 6d8+6; MV 20’ or fly 50’; Act 1d20; SP Echolocation 200’, tail reach, grasp, shriek, light vulnerability; SV Fort +2, Ref +7, Will +0; AL C.

Doombats have a 25-foot wingspan, and are able to carry objects or creatures weighing as much as 300 lbs – either as riders or as prey. They live in dismal underground caverns, flying at night to the outer world to hunt. They have the ability to echolocate, giving them near-perfect understanding of their surroundings to a 200 foot range.

Doombat tails are lined with cruel barbs, and can stretch to strike targets as far as 12 feet away. Their claw attack grasps an opponent who fails a DC 10 Reflex save. A grasped opponent can be carried aloft, there to be taken back to the doombats’ lair…or dropped from a great height should it prove quarrelsome. A grasped opponent may free themselves with an opposed Strength check vs. +2, but once the victim leaves the ground this may be as deadly as remaining grasped.

Finally, doombats can set up a terrifyingly loud shriek, lasting 1d4+1 rounds. Any creature which can hear this within 100’ is disoriented, unable to make spell checks, and fights with a -1d penalty on the dice chain to both attack rolls and damage. The effect of several doombats shrieking at the same time is not cumulative, but they can co-ordinate these effects so that when one shriek ends another begins. There is no save against this effect.

Doombats fear, and will flee from, bright lights, but they are undeterred by torch- or lantern-light.

Friday 29 July 2022

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Devil Dog and Dire Corby

Imagine that you are living in a time before Making Monsters Mysterious was a thing. When you wanted to emulate something you had read, or seen, about (say) wolves, but you had to create a whole new monster to do it. I am guessing that this is the origin of the Devil Dog.

Dungeons & Dragons has always had more than its fair share of humanoids, but some of the ones in the Fiend Folio are near and dear to my heart. I once created an adventure (for the old Golden City Comics crew using 3rd Edition rules) utilizing Dire Corbies. The group encounters a subterranean lake with nebulous bridges crossing it, made of petrified vines. The lake, of course, contains some giant fish, and the nexuses where the vines meet are small islands where Dire Corbies nest. Crossing the lake required tactics and planning, as the PCs could only go single-file, and their opponents met them head on. Needless to say, the PCs slaughtered the Dire Corbies, and went so far as to smash their eggs.

On the far side of the lake, they discovered cyclopean ruins, fought some floating brain creatures with tentacles and octopus-like beaks (which we shall be converting later), and at last encountered the civilized Dire Corby monks. These creatures guarded and maintained the hidden prison of the captured Chaos godling, Baloraz. They replenished their ranks from the eggs of their wild brethren. Which…Oops.

Just a matter of time before Baloraz gets free now. And the PCs were given a chance to feel the power of an imprisoned and nearly paralyzed Baloraz in his tesseract prison. Good times!



Devil Dog

Devil Dog: Init +5; Atk bite +6 melee (1d6+2 plus tear throat); AC 14; HD 4d6; MV 40’; Act 1d20; SP Tear throat (Ref DC 10 or 1d6 damage), burst of speed, half damage from cold; camouflage +6; SV Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; AL C.

Stark-white hounds with blue eyes, devil dogs live in cold regions, where they gain a bonus to hiding against the snow and frost. They always jump for the throat, and on a successful hit do an additional 1d6 damage unless the target succeeds in a DC 10 Reflex save. A victim who fails this save cannot speak for the next 1d3 rounds.

Devil dogs can double their movement rate for up to three rounds, but each round they do so decreases their attack bonus by 1 until three rounds has passed, and they cannot achieve another burst of speed for a full turn.

Although Chaotic, devil dogs are intelligent, and hunt in loose packs of 4d6 individuals.

Dire Corby

Dire Corby: Init +0; Atk claw +0 melee (1d4); AC 14; HD 2d6; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP Infravision 60’, immune to fear and morale checks; SV Fort +2, Ref +3, Will -2; AL C.

These cavern-dwelling bipedal birds are distantly related to the crows and ravens of the surface world. Their wings have lost the power of flight, becoming arms ending in clawed hands. Dire corbies always attack, crying “Doom! Doom!” in their own language, and fight to the death.

Thursday 28 July 2022

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Denzelian and Devil (Styx)

It is a fact that fandoms overlap. It was always just a matter of time before references to Star Trek appeared in Dungeons & Dragons. The Denzelian appearing in the Fiend Folio is a little less obvious than when it appeared (under a different name) in the Fiend Factory, and a very different take on the same theme appears in In the Wake of the Zorkul.

In this blog post we pair one Devil in the Dark with a devil from the River Styx. Dungeon Crawl Classics recognizes both demons and devils in its critical hit tables, but there is no mention of the alignment divide between demons and devils. In The 13th Skull, Joseph Goodman has a devil appear which is of Chaotic alignment, and, if anyone should be an authority on the subject of this game, it is him. The Styx Devil herein therefore is Chaotic, and is built in part using the rules for demons.

Frankly, the Styx devil never did anything for me in my AD&D days. If you have a near-TPK, though, this version will offer you the means to reunite the party so that they can traverse Hell together. And, who knows? If the gods smile and the dice are kind, the dead might return to the land of the living once more…?





Denzelian: Init +0; Atk Super-heated touch +3 melee (1d8); AC 20; HD 6d8; MV 5’ or burrow 1’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +8; Ref -4; Will +0; AL N.

Denzelian, Large: Init -2; Atk Super-heated touch +5 melee (2d8); AC 22; HD 16d8; MV 5’ or burrow 1’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +12; Ref -6; Will -2; AL N.

This small creature is peaceful and silicon-based, getting all of its dietary need met by consuming minerals while tunneling through solid rock. They do not consume metals, and detour around even small deposits, creating meandering passages that are nonetheless invaluable to miners. Being silicon-based, they are rarely bothered by other creatures. They can, however, defend themselves.

Denzelians live for around 1,000 years. During their long lives, it is uncommon for a female to encounter a make more than once, so that they typically lay no more than a single clutch of eggs. These eggs look like smooth stone nodules, laid in 2d10 clusters of 1d6+2 eggs each hidden throughout their territory.

Although these eggs are valuable to certain wealthy mine-owners, the adult denzelians will protect them with their lives. These creatures are intelligent, and can use their super-heated underparts to carve messages onto stone surfaces. Establishing communication may well result in mutual benefit to all parties, although denzelians need little from carbon-based lifeforms but to be left alone.

A larger version of this creature exists, being about 10' across and more aggressive in defending its territory and eggs. The larger denzelians are not as intelligent as their smaller cousins, and far less common. Some seemingly nonsensical dungeon paths may have been reworked from the tunnels these larger creatures left behind.


Devil (Styx)

Styx Devil: Init +5; Atk touch +7 melee (2d4 plus transport); AC 21; HD 4d8+4; MV 20’ or fly 40’; Act 2d20; SP Infravision 60’, only harmed by silver or magic weapons, half damage (fire, acid, cold, electricity, and gas), transport (Will DC 17 negates), return to home plane at will (unless bound), crit range 19-20; SV Fort +6; Ref +8; Will +3; AL C.

Styx devils come from the Fifth Circle of Hell, and their main task is to bring souls to the infernal Duke to whom they are bound. They appear humanoid, but their hideously ugly heads are disproportionately large. Their wings are black trimmed with silver.

Their main attack is a mere touch, but, in addition to taking damage, those affected must succeed in a DC 17 Will save or be immediately transported to the Fifth Circle of Hell. Crack open your copy of Dante’s Inferno. It is going to be quite a journey back to the Lands We Know.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Demon (Lolth)

The letter “D” is a particularly tough one to convert in the Fiend Folio because Lolth, like the Elemental Princes of Evil, really deserves a full patron write-up. I am only doing the invoke patron results here. Call me lazy, but a good full write-up of Lolth would require conversions of material from The Vault of the Drow and Queen of the Demonweb Pits at a bare minimum. Assault of the Aerie of the Slave Lords and the entry for Lolth in Deities & Demigods would also seem applicable. Maybe one day. But not today.

If you want a more robust spider elf lady, I strongly recommend you look at Lumgolit in Angels, Daemons & Beings Between Volume 2: Elfland Edition. The Spider Goddess in Hubris is another good resource.

If you are looking for giant arachnids to go along with Lolth, the DCC Annual Volume 1 has a lot of useful statistics, including a chart for personalizing your giant spiders, etc. You can find statistics for giant rhadogessa in this post.

Demon (Lolth)

Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders (Type VII Demon): Init +14; Atk Sting +21 melee (2d8 plus poison) or by weapon +21 melee (by weapon +4) or webs or spellcasting; AC 27; HD 17d12 (111hp); MV 40' or climb 40’; Act 4d20; SP Infravision 60’, demon traits, poison (Fort DC 24 or die), webs (as spider web spell, +16 to spell check, natural “1” means failure only), speech, telepathy, spellcasting; possession +21, holy water vulnerability (2d8 damage); SV Fort +12, Ref +16, Will +13, AL C.

            Spells (+22 to spell check): Banish, charm person, darkness, demon summoning, detect invisible, detect magic, dispel magic, lotus stare, magic shield, monster summoning, paralysis, and phantasm.

            Demon traits: Telepathy, immunities (weapons of less than +5 enchantment or natural attacks from creatures of 12 HD or less, fire, cold, electricity, gas, acid), projection (teleport at will to any location, as long as not bound or otherwise summoned; can project astrally and ethereally), crit range 15-20.

Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders, is a lesser goddess worshipped by the subterranean drow elves. She can also act as a patron to elves, wizards, and others who fall within her clutches. If encountered in person, she is a hideous, bloated spider with the face of a beautiful woman. Alternatively, she can appear as an exquisitely beautiful drow elf. She sometimes uses this latter form to take lovers, whom she consumes after mating with. Although vulnerable to holy water (taking 2d8 damage per vial), she is vulnerable to little else. None but the bravest or most foolhardy descend to her demonweb in the Abyss; fewer return, and none unscathed. Lolth is able to converse with all kinds of spiders and other arachnids, and they obey her unquestioningly.

Both wizards and elves can bond to Lolth, although non-drow elves who do so are outcasts from Elfland for all time. The ceremony to bond with Lolth must be underground, and it must be in some area where spiders are common. When casting patron bond, casters gain a +1d shift on the dice chain if this area includes giant arachnids of a monstrous nature. Such creatures are not a danger to the caster unless the patron bond fails and Lolth rejects the caster. In this case, the caster becomes just another free meal gifted to them by their demonic goddess.

The drow elves are female-dominated, and males have very little cultural worth. If the caster or subject of a patron bond to Lolth is male, there is a -1d shift on the die chain to the spell check. If a male caster attempts to bond a male target, the penalty is -2d on the dice chain.


Invoke Patron check results:



The Demon Queen of Spiders is barely interested. A spider (or similar creature) bites or stings a target chosen by the caster. This causes the target to forego their next action, but has no other effect.


The caster’s bite becomes venomous for 1d6 + CL rounds. A caster without a bite attack only does 1 point of damage, but the target must succeed in a DC 15 Fort save or take an additional 1d6 + CL damage. The caster can also spit this venom to a 10’ range, which does no bite damage and reduces the Fort save DC to 12.


Lolth grants the caster the ability to move on sheer surfaces and webs as though they were a spider. In addition, all arachnids encountered are friendly to the caster, and will take reasonable orders – including allowing the caster’s friends to pass, or attacking the caster’s enemies. This lasts for CL turns.


The caster’s abdomen swells, producing six additional legs, and turning the caster into a drider-like creature. The caster retains their own upper torso, head, and arms. While in drider form, the caster can move at 40’, and has a 40’ climb speed. The caster can use an Action Die to cast a web from their spinnerets, effectively casting spider web with 1d16, but with no penalty on a failure (even a natural “1”) as this is a biological process. The transformation lasts for 1d3 + CL turns.


As 20-23, above, except that any weapon used by the caster also drips poison for the duration, causing an additional 2d6 damage (Fort DC 15 for half).


1d5 + CL targets, chosen by the caster, are bitten by virulently venomous spiders, causing them to suffer 3d6 damage each. Affected targets must also succeed on a DC 20 Fort save or die.


1d4 + CL spider swarms (as insect swarm, core rulebook p. 419, except with MV 20’) appear within 500’ of the caster, at points specified by the caster. They remain for 2d8 + CL rounds, attacking only targets which are not friendly to the caster. At the end of this duration, they converge on the caster, rapidly covering them, and then disperse. The caster is instantaneously transported to any location known to the caster, where another swarm appears and disgorges the caster before scattering.


Lolth chooses the caster as a paramour. For a year and a day, the caster gains a bonus equal to CL on all attack rolls and saving throws, and is immune to poisons and venoms of all types. At the end of this period, the caster is summoned to the demonweb for a brief period of passionate consummation before being consumed. Lolth does not discriminate based on species or gender. If the caster has a willing replacement, who considers the caster a friend, the caster may attempt a Luck check to make a last-minute substitution!

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Death Dog and Death Knight

Is it possible to look at the Death Dog and not think of Dioskilos, the two-headed wolf in the original version of Clash of the Titans? Both movie and book came out in 1981, although I am not certain whether or not the Death Dog appeared in the Fiend Factory earlier than this. In the movie, Dioskilos was the guardian of Medusa's abode on the Isle of the Dead, which would seem to tie into the name. If anyone out there has a better collection of White Dwarf issues than I do, and knows the answer, I would love to hear from you!

In any event, the Death Dog was iconic because of Ray Harryhausen's work on that movie. I had certainly seen Clash of the Titans, and it informed my use of the creature. Nowadays, the image that comes to mind are the long tunnels beneath the Sea of Dust on the World of Greyhawk.

The Death Knight has been so linked to DragonLance's Lord Soth (later a resident of Ravenloft) that some may not be aware that it was originally from the Fiend Folio. Nonetheless, it is. Interestingly, the original text says that Death Knights wear light armor (while still having a great Armor Class), but you would be hard pressed to find an illustration of a Death Knight that doesn't suggest they are eternally encased in full plate. I decided to simply accept that they wore full plate and move on.

Death Dog

Death Dog: Init +5; Atk Bite +6 melee (1d6+3); AC 15; HD 3d6; MV 40’; Act 2d20; SP Disease, knock prone; SV Fort +5; Ref +4; Will +4; AL C.

These large black hounds have two heads, and are perhaps descended from Cerberus, the three-headed mastiff which guards the passage into Hell. They usually live in dry places, such as scrublands and deserts, but can also be found underground (perhaps reflecting their antecedent’s subterranean habitation). They typically hunt in packs of 3d6 individuals. Their double barking sound is eerie, but has no special effect other than potentially spooking horses and pack animals.

Death dogs carry disease. Anyone bit by one must succeed in a DC 10 Fort save or suffer from a debilitating weakness causing 1d3 Stamina damage each day until cured or the victim reaches 0 Stamina and dies. This Stamina damage heals normally. The judge may choose to substitute another disease. The core rulebook lists several options under the listing for bats (see page 397). In addition, if both bite attacks hit a single opponent, they must succeed in a DC 15 Reflex save or be knocked prone.






Death Knight

Death Knight: Init +6; Atk Longsword +1d8+3 melee (1d8+1d8+3); AC 18; HD 6d12+12; MV 20’; Act 1d20 + 1d16; SP Un-dead, d8 Deed Die, cannot be turned or banished. +8 bonus to saves vs. spells, fear aura, spellcasting; SV Fort +7; Ref +5; Will +5; AL C.

Spells (+6 bonus to spell check): Chill touchcontrol icedemon summoningdetect invisibledetect magic, and fireball.

There are only twelve death knights known to exist, the un-dead forms of virtuous human knights which have fallen from grace and into the patronage of a demon prince. They are a form of warrior-lich, immune to being turned or banished by clerics, and with great resistance to magic spells. They maintain the ability to perform Mighty Deeds of Arms which they had in life, making them formidable indeed upon the battlefield.

Death knights have a +3 bonus to Strength checks. If the judge so desires, their swords may be magical – in fact, facing a death knight may be the ultimate challenge in obtaining a legendary weapon, should that being wield it. A death knight continuously projects an aura of fear, so that creatures within melee range of the un-dead warrior must succeed in a DC 15 Will save or take a -1d penalty on the dice chain to all attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and spell checks so long as they remain within 5’ of the death knight, and for 1d8 rounds thereafter.

The death knight also gains the ability to cast wizard spells from its demonic patron. Although these spells are arcane in nature, the death knight casts them as a cleric, gaining an increased disapproval range (and ultimately demonic disapproval) from failure.

When mounted, death knights ride demonic warhorses with flaming eyes, hooves, and mouths. These use the following statistics:

Death Knight Steed: Init +4; Atk hoof +7 melee (1d6+3 plus fire); AC 17; HD 6d8; MV 60’ or fly 60’; Act 1d20; SP Fire (1d6 damage, Reflex DC 15 for half, plus Reflex DC 10 or catch fire); SV Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +6; AL C.

Monday 25 July 2022

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Dakon, Dark Creeper, and Dark Stalker

I think that I have mentioned before that not every monster in the Fiend Folio is a gem. In this case, to keep the Dark Creeper and Dark Stalker together, I am doing three monsters, and the first is definitely rather blasé. I have tried to include some ideas for making the Dakon more interesting in actual play. Ultimately, using less inspiring monsters well might be the hallmark of a great judge, but there are limits.

Actually, going over the old Fiend Factory column from White Dwarf, it is unclear to me why some monsters got picked while others did not. I might do a series of posts converting some of the better (IMHO) Fiend Factory monsters that didn’t make it into the Fiend Folio. If this is something that would be interesting or useful to you, let me know!

Dark Creepers and Dark Stalkers are a great, flavorful monster that will leave your players wondering just what they look like under those robes. It is questionable whether even a charm person spell would make them strip, until you get to higher spell check results, but your players may well burn resources to satisfy their curiosity. Feel free to be as Lovecraftian as you like if that occurs!




Dakon: Init +2; Atk Slam +4 melee (1d6+3) or bite +2 melee (1d3+3); AC 15; HD 1d8+1; MV 40’ or climb 30’; Act 2d20; SP Stealth +10 in jungle terrain; SV Fort +5; Ref +2; Will +4; AL L.

A shabby, intelligent ape with a reasonable grasp of the common tongue, dakon are not as powerful as the average jungle ape-man (see the core rulebook, p. ), but are far better organized. They often have alliances and goodwill with human or near-human neighbors, so long as they are not hostile. Dakon cannot swim, and avoid large expanses of water as a result.

Dakon will not usually attack unless attacked, and may be a safe haven for PCs in the tropics. In a way, this is a nice contrast to the pulp era trope of the dangerous and violent apes. However, as written, these creatures are a little boring, so let’s roll 1d10 to see how this dakon village is different: (1) The creatures have aggressive displays despite being peaceful, (2) These dakon vent their pent-up violent emotions by having periodic times when nothing is considered a violation of the law, and all acts are forgiven, (3) These dakon are the custodians of an ancient (or alien) computer system with a Patron AI, (4) A powerful creature watches over the village and protects against violent acts, (5) The village has given itself over to the worship of a Chaos god, and is no longer peaceful, (6) Although personally non-violent, the dakon have surrounded their village with deadly traps, (7) There is an aberrant murderer in their midst, and strangers are set up to take the fall, (8) They are desperate for help against aggressive neighbors, (9) They have mastered some craft (for example, making ropes which are stronger and lighter than standard) which puts their work in high demand, or (10) Their pacifistic asceticism has led them to immortality, so that none dies save by violence or accident, and none of them ages or grows ill.




Dark Creeper

Dark Creeper: Init +0; Atk Dagger +1 melee (1d4); AC 20 (or 12); HD 1d8+1; MV 25’; Act 1d20; SP Infravision 120’, thief skills, cast darkness 3/day (+6 bonus to spell check and extinguishes non-magical flames), detect magic 15’, spontaneous combustion; SV Fort +3; Ref +2; Will +1; AL C.

            Thief Abilities: Backstab +5, Sneak Silently +5, Hide In Shadows +3, Pick Pocket +1, Climb Sheer Surfaces +3, Pick Lock +3, Find Trap +3, Disable Trap +1, Forge Document +0, Disguise Self +4, Read Languages +0, Handle Poison +5, Cast Spell From Scroll d10.

Dark creepers are halfling-sized humanoids which dwell deep underground. They are pale skinned, where their eyes peep out of their coverings, but they swaddle themselves in layer after layer of dark clothing, so that few have ever seen them. They hate light, seeking to extinguish light sources wherever they can, and are attracted to small magical items such as rings and magic daggers — the judge may devise items of this type which are being carried by a group of dark creepers, or held in common by one of their villages. If a dark creeper is ever encountered without its coverings, its AC is 12.

Dark creepers have thief abilities as outlined above. They do not gain a Luck Die. Dark creepers sense magic items within 15’ without having to specifically concentrate. They are able to cast darkness three times each day, with a +6 bonus to the spell check, and with no penalty for failure (except the use of one of their attempts). In addition, when this power is used, all torches, lanterns and other non-magical sources of illumination within 50' are extinguished and cannot be re-ignited during the next hour if the spell check is even minimally successful.

A dark creeper reduced to 0 hp spontaneously combusts, causing 1d6 damage to all within 10’ for a full 1d6 turns (Reflex DC 12 for half). Metal items survive 80% of the time, but otherwise all traces of the creeper are destroyed.

Dark creepers seem to have two main objectives. First they seek the destruction of lanterns, tinderboxes, flasks of oil, and other objects used to create illumination. Secondly, they are driven to steal any small magical items detected. Self-preservation ranks marginally above such objectives.




Dark Stalker

Dark Stalker: Init +2; Atk Short sword +3 melee (1d6); AC 20 (or 12); HD 2d8+4; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP Infravision 120’, thief skills, cast darkness 3/day (+8 bonus to spell check), detect magic 15’, spontaneous combustion; SV Fort +4; Ref +4; Will +6; AL C.

Thief Skills: Backstab +8, Sneak Silently +8, Hide In Shadows +7, Pick Pocket +3, Climb Sheer Surfaces +7, Pick Lock +7, Find Trap +7, Disable Trap +3, Forge Document +2, Disguise Self +7, Read Languages +2, Handle Poison +8, Cast Spell From Scroll d12.

Dark stalkers are the rarely-seen leaders of the dark creepers. They are nearly a race apart, for they breed almost exclusively amongst themselves. They are instantly noticeable amongst a group of dark creepers as they are man-sized and stand head and shoulders above their underlings. Each dark creeper village has a dark stalker leader. There may be more than one dark stalker present, but this usually occurs only when they are mating.

Dark stalkers have the same abilities as dark creepers, excepting that their bonuses for thief skills and casting darkness are higher. In addition, when a dark stalker spontaneously combusts, it creates a fireball doing 3d6 damage to all within 30’ (Reflex DC 15 for half) and is instantly consumed. Metal items still have an 80% chance of surviving.

Neither dark creepers nor dark stalkers are immune to fire damage. The combustion of one – especially a dark stalker – can set off a chain reaction, causing additional dark creepers to spontaneously combust. This may also ignite broken flasks of oil, causing further havoc.

Sunday 24 July 2022

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Crabman and Crypt Thing

There is not a lot of reason to love Crabmen. They are a good all-around monster, and useful in almost any setting (save one which is completely arid). Yet these were one of the monsters that struck my fancy early on when I encountered the Fiend Folio, and I have made good use of them with every subsequent version of Dungeons & Dragons that I ran. It has taken me a while to get around to converting them, but now they are ready to give me the same joy in Dungeon Crawl Classics. There is just something wonderful about adding humanoids that are not just goblins; I also have an inordinate fondness for Dire Corbies.

The Crypt Thing is also clearly useful. In the Fiend Folio, they make a point of having un-dead looking monsters that are not un-dead. I think this was probably intended to limit reliance on turning the un-dead, and to create a shocking moment for a party which expected to use encounter-ending powers of that nature. In Dungeon Crawl Classics, the point is moot – you turn the unholy, which may or may not include the un-dead. The Crypt Thing is also the “Split the Party” monster. If you aren’t ready for that to happen, don’t use it!

Next post we start the “D”s. Buckle up.





Crabman: Init +0; Atk Claw +3 melee (1d4); AC 16; HD 3d6; MV 20’ or swim 30’; Act 2d20; SP: Infravision 60’, amphibious; SV Fort +5; Ref +2; Will +2; AL N.

These amphibious humanoids have a hard, reddish-brown exoskeleton and two crab-like pincers instead of hands. They are usually found in sea-shore caves, in groups of 2d6 members. On rare occasions, they mount savage inland raids of 1d10+30 individuals. Although they are mostly pacifistic if not molested (apart from their periodic raids), crabmen greatly value silver and will go to any lengths to obtain it. Exactly what influence silver exerts on them, or what they do with it once obtained, is a matter of speculation.



Crypt Thing

Crypt Thing: Init +6; Atk claw +4 melee (1d4); AC 17; HD 6d8+6; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP Teleportation, immune to non-magical weapons; SV Fort +9; Ref +4; Will +12; AL N.

These pale skeletal beings are always found alone. They wear dark hooded robes (black, brown, or midnight blue). Although not un-dead, despite their appearance, they lair in crypts or similar places, where they sit quietly, contemplating the multiverse and drawing sustenance from the confluence of the planes of existence.

A crypt thing is harmless if left undisturbed, but once engaged, it can very quickly teleport annoyances away from it once per turn. Those who fail a DC 15 Will save are teleported to a random location (1d10): (1-2) 1d10x100’ north, (3-4) 1d10x100’ south, (5-6) 1d10x100' east, (7-8) 1d10x100’ west, (9) one dungeon level up, or (10) one dungeon level down. Distance and direction are determined individually for each victim teleported. Victims never arrive in solid material and will arrive in the closest open space to the target spot, although victims need not arrive at floor level.

Those who make their saving rolls may attack the crypt thing, but it can only be hit by magical weapons. The crypt thing will attack in return, using a two-handed clawing movement which Inflicts 1—8 hit points of damage.

Crypt things serve the powers of Neutrality, and only speak the Neutral tongue, maintaining to those who understand them that those who were teleported were instead disintegrated. There are rumored to be aberrant crypt things which, instead of teleporting victims, paralyze them and simultaneously turn them invisible for 2d6 turns. Neither type feeds on mortal flesh, so that their victims are in no danger from the crypt things themselves. Although they do seem to obtain pleasure by creating confusion and dissent, these creatures wish nothing more than to be left alone to their contemplation of reality.

It is, in fact, believed by some scholars that crypt things are the still-living remains of powerful wizards who serve the Neutral powers, and who have been granted this strange existence as a result of their studies.