Sunday 29 January 2023

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Yellow Musk Creeper and Yellow Musk Zombie

The last two entries in the Fiend Folio are the Yellow Musk Creeper and the Yellow Musk Zombie, which means that we are ending these conversions on a high note. These creatures were used to great effect in Dwellers of the Forbidden City, also published in 1981, and credited with first introducing these monsters. Dwellers is a superlative adventure, and it introduced several other creatures which were later included in the Monster Manual II, including the Aboleth. The city map almost demands expansion, and while later lore gave it a name and some lore, the original was wide-open for the aspiring Game Master to shape to their own ends. I really don’t know why I haven’t converted these monsters to Dungeon Crawl Classics before now. In fact, the entire module is worthy of conversion.

Now, I could be completely wrong, but I think that these entries are a combination between Clark Ashton’s Smith’s The Seed from the Sepulchre and The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis. I have paid homage to the first story twice: Once in May Flowers, and once in Dread Orchid (in the expanded DCC conversion of Jungle Tomb of the Mummy Bride).

I am not 100% sure that the Yellow Musk Creeper didn’t deserve a full monster write-up, but if I was including it in an adventure, I would be more likely to choose the hazard route that I do here. These plants are not ambulatory, and they are not really making attack rolls. I tend to think we should minimize tediousness in our designs, and having to chop down an orchid with your sword seems rather tedious to me. Better by far to describe the hazards associated with the thing, and the time it takes to uproot and kill it while facing those hazards.

The Yellow Musk Zombie, on the other hand, is going to engage in combat. The trick here is that the Yellow Musk Zombie you are facing may well be your friend, and you might prefer saving them to slaying them. Yellow Musk Zombies are very much like “templates” in 3rd Edition, in that they modify an existing creature rather than being new creatures themselves. For that reason, I have included both generic Yellow Musk Zombie stats and a method of quickly transforming a PC into one.

I started this project on Saturday, 9 July 2022. Here we are 76 conversion posts, 176 entries, 203 statblocks, 9 entries without statblocks, and 3 invoke patron write-ups later. And this is it. The Fiend Folio is fully converted for your gaming pleasure. To those of you who have joined me along the way, thank you. To those of you who have commented, on the blog or elsewhere, an even bigger THANK YOU. It helps to know that I am not just chucking this stuff into the Void!

I hope you get a chance to use some of these creatures in your own games, and I hope that they can stand as examples for how to do conversion work (at least from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons). Maybe at some point I will tackle some of the unconverted creatures from the Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, and Deities & Demigods, but not immediately!

If there is something that you would like to see converted, please let me know. If you feel like tipping, here is a way to do so.


Yellow Musk Creeper

The yellow musk creeper is a large light green climbing plant with round leaves like ivy, dark green buds, and flowers like those of a bright yellow orchid with splashes of purple. Typically, the plant is found in deep tropical forests or richly soiled areas on the liminal edge of underground areas. The plant grows in areas of up to 20 square feet, and can climb up trees and rock faces with equal facility. It is sometimes planted deliberately in locations where it will guard against intruders.

When a creature approaches the plant within 20 feet, it puffs musky pollen into the victim’s face (Reflex DC 15 avoids). The victim must then succeed in a DC 20 Will save or be entranced and walk into immobile the mass of the plant. Such a victim violently resists any attempt at restraint.

Once an unresisting creature enters the main mass of the plant, aerial roots attach to its skull and begin devouring the victim’s brain. The victim takes 1d4 Intelligence damage each round, and there are too many aerial rootlets involved to prevent this Intelligence damage without also killing the plant. If the victim’s Intelligence is reduced to 0, it becomes a yellow musk zombie (see below). Otherwise, this Intelligence damage heals normally.

A growth of yellow musk creeper has a bulbous root, buried 1d3 feet below the earth. It requires 1 round per foot to reach it with proper tools (shovel, pick, etc.), but 1d3 rounds per foot with makeshift or less suitable tools. Once it is exposed, stabbing the root destroys the plant in 1d5 rounds. Of course, anyone digging up the root is subject to the hazards of the yellow musk creeper each round. This includes dealing with any yellow musk zombies that may be protecting the plant.

Certain herbalists, apothecaries, and other unsavory sorts make a powerful narcotic from the flowers and buds of the yellow musk creeper. Harvesting these is considerably dangerous while the plant is alive – only one bud or flower can be harvested each round, and the harvester must make a successful Handle Poison check (with a -4 penalty when collecting flowers) or they automatically have pollen blown into their face. A yellow musk creeper typically has 2d6 flowers and 1d4 buds. Once its flowers are gone, a creeper cannot blow pollen until it has grown new ones.

Depending upon varying quality, herbalists will pay 1d30 gp per flower and 1d20 gp per bud. Rumors persist of certain cultists, devotees of the King in Yellow, who will pay even greater fees. In addition, various personal belongings of previous victims may be found in or near a yellow musk creeper outgrowth. The creeper sometimes has yellow musk zombies move or bury these items, however.



Yellow Musk Zombie

Yellow Musk Zombie: Init -2; Atk By weapon -2 melee (by weapon); AC 8; HD 2d4; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP Immune to mind-affecting; SV Fort +4, Ref -2, Will +0; AL N.

Yellow musk zombies are creatures that have been reduced to 0 Intelligence by a yellow musk creeper. Yellow musk zombies defend their controlling plant, seek (or create) carrion to fertilize the plant, and occasionally remove and/or bury items to conceal the nature of the yellow musk creeper’s threat. The example yellow musk zombie is from a normal human, but other creatures can be affected, and they do not need to be humanoid.

Yellow musk zombies serve their parent plant for 1d4 months before wandering off to drop lifeless in some quiet corner, unless they are killed beforehand. In either case, implanted seedling sprouts from the decaying corpse, growing quickly into a new yellow musk creeper. Although it only takes 1d4+2 turns for the new growth to become obvious, it takes a matter of 3d7 days before it grows flowers. If the parent plant is killed while a yellow musk zombie is serving it, the zombie becomes inert, taking no actions and dying in 2d6 hours unless cured first.

Yellow musk zombies are not un-dead, and until they finish serving their parent plant (or are killed while doing so) there is some slight chance that a yellow musk zombie can be cured of its affliction. First, its master plant must be destroyed. Second, either a neutralize poison or disease spell or a successful laying on of hands to neutralize poison must be administered to the creature. Finally, the creature must receive a clerical laying on hands with a spell check of 20+. Even then, although the victim will thus be restored to their former self in time, they will need to recover their lost Intelligence, regaining 1 point for each full day of bed rest. A creature can choose to forgo complete recovery by bed rest, but if they do so any unrestored points of Intelligence are permanently lost.

Transformation to a Yellow Musk Zombie

If you wish to transform a PC or another living creature into a yellow musk zombie, employ the following steps:

  • The creature takes a -2 penalty to Initiative, attack rolls, Armor Class, and Reflex saves.
  • The creature takes a -10’ penalty to its move speed (this may render some yellow musk zombies immobile).
  • The creature gains +1 Hit Die.
  • The creature becomes immune to all mind-affecting spells and effects, and gains a +5 bonus to Fortitude saves.
  • The creature is no longer intelligent enough to use spells or special abilities requiring thought.
  • The creature’s alignment becomes Neutral.

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