The Necrophidius is a near-perfect monster for a funnel. It is likely to surprise, and uses the surprise round to hypnotize part of a mob with its dance of death. It has a high AC, but relatively low hit points, so that the still-mobile Zeroes have a chance of avoiding a TPK, but also know how close to a TPK they came. Poetry in motion. And the judge can include a tome of instructions to tempt the PCs into Questing For a giant snake’s bones, a murder’s head, and enough gold to pay for the thing!
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As always, if you use any of these creatures, I would love to hear about it. If you want to use them in a published product, let me know, because some of the text is reworked from the Fiend Folio, and you will need to know what to rework. A lot of Fiend Folio monsters are usable due to the 3e Tome of Horrors, but a few will need the serial numbers filed off before than can be used commercially.
Necrophidius: Init +6; Atk Bite +2 melee (1d8 plus paralysis) or dance of death; AC 18; HD 2d12; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP Construct, paralysis, dance of death, silence, magic vulnerability; SV Fort +5, Ref +7, Will +0; AL N.
Sometimes known as a death worm, the necrophidius appears to be the skeleton of a giant snake with a fanged human skull for its head. These are not un-dead, but rather constructed monsters, similar in some ways to golems. As constructs, they are immune to sleep, mind-affecting magic or effects, and substances that affect metabolic processes (such as poison).
The bite of a necrophidius carries a magical paralysis that lasts 1d4 turns (Will DC 16 negates). It is also able to perform the dance of death – a hypnotic, semi-magical swaying which rivets the attention of any victim who sees it and fails DC 13 Will save. This allows the necrophidius to advance and attack without opposition, for the creature only uses an Action Die to begin the dance of death, and can maintain it for free. Once potential victims save, they do not need to save again unless the necrophidius uses another Action Die to start a new dance of death, and it must stop the previous one for 1d3 rounds in order to do so.
These monsters can move with complete silence, and are often able to achieve surprise by approaching inattentive victims from behind. However, the processes used in their creation leave necrophidiae strangely vulnerable to magic. Any magic that is capable of harming the constructs causes three times the normal effect. Magic that does not harm them, but is able to affect them, also has three times the normal effect (as interpreted by the judge).
A necrophidius is created for one specific purpose and is therefore generally met in the role of assassin or guard. There are at least three ways known to create a necrophidius. The first is by means of a magical tome of instructions, which removes the need for spellcasting, but not the associated costs. The second method is for a wizard to cast breathe life, paralysis, and charm person with a minimum spell check of 18 to each spell, and a minimum of 3 points of spellburn in addition to any used to cast the spells. The final method is for a cleric to cast paralysis, curse, word of command, and snake charm, with a minimum spell check of 16 to each spell. For both the wizardly and clerical methods, the spells have no other effect than to imbue the necrophidius with a semblance of life, and establish its master’s control over it.
All of three methods require the complete articulated skeleton of a giant serpent and the skull of a cold-blooded murderer killed within the previous 24 hours (at the time construction begins). Construction costs 50 gp per hit point of the creature (between 100 and 1,200 gp) and 3d6 days of work.
Needleman: Init +0; Atk Needles +2 ranged (2d6, 20’ range); AC 14; HD 3d6+3; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP Plant, camouflage +10; SV Fort +6, Ref +0, Will +2; AL N.
In some cases, travelers will claim to have caught half-seen glimpses of green faces when travelling in pine woods, thinking them fey when in fact they were needlemen. Beyond their normal haunts, the camouflage bonus of needlemen is limited, or eliminated altogether (as determined by the judge). They appear to hate elves, and attack them on sight, but as they have neither language nor an animal-like nervous system, the true cause of their behavior is merely conjecture. Some speculate that the needlemen originated in Elfland, but were banished to the Lands We Know so long ago that only the trees – and the needlemen – remember.