Monday, 18 July 2022

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Carbuncle and Caryatid Column

I cannot tell you how sad I was when I checked the Fiend Folio and discovered that there are eight monsters whose names begin with “C”. I really wanted to talk about converting the seven “C”s, but the Clubnek got in the way. I am going to say that it was the Clubnek because, really, it’s just a variation of the Axebeak from the Monster Manual that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. On the other hand, we don’t have an Axebeak in Dungeon Crawl Classics, and a creature very much like it does appear in at least one Robert E. Howard story, The Gods of Bal-Sagoth, so I’ll be glad to convert it when the time comes.

As a side note, unrelated to the Fiend Folio, many thanks to those who came to the Sword & Board for DCC Day and many thanks to the Sword & Board for hosting!  We had nine people participate in Dissolution in the Cradle of Nightmares, the first playtest of a tournament funnel I am writing. Following that we had something like a dozen folks for Chanters in the Dark. The store ran out of materials, and, sadly, they only got in the single instance of the Blue Dice.

Anyway, on to the monsters!




Carbuncle: Init +1; Atk none; AC 18; HD 1d3; MV 15’; Act 1d20; SP: Empathy, telepathy, prophecy, stealth +10; SV Fort +4; Ref +1; Will +5; AL N.

The carbuncle is a small creature, similar to an armadillo, with a large ruby set in its head. This jewel is part of the animal, and shatters into worthless dust should the carbuncle die. However, it is possible to coax the creature into giving up its gem, which is worth 3d50 x 10 gp if obtained in this way. A carbuncle which voluntarily releases its ruby regrows a new one at a rate of 1d3 gp per day, to its maximum value, starting 1d7 weeks after the previous gem is released.

Charming the creature might get it to release its jewel, but the more common method of enticing a carbuncle to enrich a would-be ruby owner is through camaraderie. Every day spent in a carbuncle’s company grants a cumulative percentage chance (equal to 5 + Personality modifier) that the creature will surrender its gem. No matter how large the group, this chance is only given to one individual, and it comes with its own perils.

Carbuncles have empathic abilities, can communicate telepathically, and have minor powers of prophesy over immediate future events. Although carbuncles have limited sentience, their empathic powers give them a fair understanding of individual character. They often seek to accompany adventuring parties, and will communicate this telepathically. Whether due to a morbid interest in death (as some sages suppose) or because they feed in some manner on nearby deaths (although they typically subsist on leaves and insects), carbuncles also use their telepathic abilities to cause disruption within a group, using selective prophecies, true and false, to breed hostility, suspicion and even fighting between party members. Carbuncles may even communicate secretly with nearby monsters, goading them into attacking the party.

Having achieved its objective, a carbuncle watches the events in morbid fascination and then, choosing an opportune moment, it quietly slips away.





Caryatid Column

Caryatid Column: Init +0; Atk Longsword +5 melee (1d8); AC 15; HD 3d12; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP Construct, break weapons; SV Fort +12; Ref +2; Will +8; AL N.

Similar to stone golems or living statues, caryatid columns are constructed beings that follow specific commands – guard a treasure chest, prevent intrusion into a particular area, and so on. It becomes animate as soon as its programming is triggered. If its creator is nearby when it animates, a caryatid column can be controlled by simple verbal commands. Occasionally, a caryatid column may be linked to an object (such as a bracelet), allowing the wearer to avoid triggering it, or even to command it if it becomes animate in the wearer’s presence. Caryatid columns are almost always placed as guardians, performing some defensive function.

When a mundane weapon strikes a caryatid column, the bearer must succeed in a Luck check, or the weapon is destroyed. Magical weapons are immune to this ability. Particularly large, power, and/or solid non-magical weapons may also be immune, at the judge’s discretion.

For another interpretation of the caryatid column, see here.

Caryatid Columns in the Real World

It is well known that caryatid columns were crafted by the ancient Greeks, where they were especially employed as defenders of the temple of Artemis Karyatis. There are also male versions, known as atlases or telamons. Later sculptures were made in imitation of these early caryatids, but the later ones were not generally imbued with the psuché which differentiates an ornamental sculpture from a deadly magical guardian.

The triggering conditions for many of these ancient guardians has never been met, and they remain in place even now, awaiting a call to animation that may never come. When a caryatid completes her task, she returns to her place, so that some of the ancient caryatids may have succeeded in whatever protection they are charged with, and again await the call to action. Missing caryatids were presumably destroyed in the attempt.

Although their magic may have long ago faded – no one alive now is an expert on their creation, or how long the psuché which empowers them may last – archaeologists have wisely removed the arms from most of the remaining ancient caryatids, thus reducing their effectiveness should they awaken. At least two caryatids were instructed to defend against this very precaution, and were destroyed with no small difficulties by agents of the British Museum, shortly before the outbreak of World War II.

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