Time Machine: The Fiend Factory

Michael O. Varhola

Following are the first two entries from "The Fiend Factory" feature in the February/March 1980 issue of White Dwarf magazine. "Again, I am devoting the pages of this feature to 'near misses' — creatures which almost made the Fiend Folio but which, for a variety of reasons, were excluded in the final sifting," writes editor Don Turnbull. There were, in fact, two main reasons: the monsters in question either blatantly ripped off licensed intellectual property owned by someone else or they were simply pointless (like much of what did make it into the Fiend Folio, the AD&D tome of monsters from the United Kingdom). The two items that appear here were, in fact, so derivative that I am somewhat surprised they decided to run them even in the magazine, coy references to "you-know-who," et al, notwithstanding — although they did include the names of the shameless hacks who stat'ed them!

 

NIGHT RIDER, by Chris Morris

No. Appearing: 1-9 (roll 1d10 and ignore a 0 result)

Armour Class: 3

Movement: 12"

Hit Dice: 4d8

Treasure: Nil

Attack: By weapon type

Alignment: Lawful evil

Intelligence: Very

Monstermark: 54 (level IV in 12 levels)

 

Black-cloaked and black-hooded, these grey-skinned humanoids are often accompanied in their quests for dominance by orcs, trolls, or men who fear the night riders more than they fear death itself. Night riders have sensitive eyes which automatically close in bright sunlight or its equivalent, though they are able to track by smell. They fear fire and will usually (80% chance) retreat before it.

The night riders dwell in lairs deep in thick forests and will tether their steeds (normally horses) some distance away. They have been observed underground in tunnel complexes but only very rarely and it seems that they prefer to travel on foot when adventuring underground. When encountered above ground, however, they will always have horses with them or close at hand.

In melee their usual weapon is a mace (with which they obtain a +1 bonus on hit probability and damage, though the weapons are not magical), but 20% of those encountered will also have +1 magic daggers (round fractions down). These daggers are unusually small and needle-sharp — if a hit is scored with such a dagger (+1 on hit probability only), one hit point of damage is scored, the dagger breaks off in the wound and embeds beneath the skin. Unless remove curse or neutralise poison is administered within a day, the victim will become lawful evil and aligned with the night riders — he will immediately set out to track down the night riders and join them after the 24-hour period has past.

The night riders continually emanate a fear spell of 20' radius — resolve as the 4th level magic user spell.

If the night riders are in bright sunlight or its equivalent, they will try to avoid melee and will prefer to track a party by smell to an area where the lighting is more subdued. They have infravision to a range of 90'. If they are drawn into melee in bright light, they will attack at -2 probability (-1 if torchlight within 10').

Comments: An obvious derivation from you-know-who, and this was the only reason for their exclusion from the Folio. The effects of a dagger hit are intriguing — I can't really see how a hit from a weapon could alter a victim's alignment; it would have been more reasonable to state that the daggers are tipped with some form of hallucinogen which (presumably temporarily, and in this case permitting a saving throw) changed the victim's attitude and caused his unnatural loyalty.

 

SAND WORM, by Dave Tant

No. Appearing: 1

Armour Class: 3/7

Movement: 24" in sand

Hit Dice: 5d8+10

Treasure: See below

Attack: Swallow

Alignment: Neutral

Intelligence: Animal

Monstermark: 85 (level V in 12 levels)

 

These are young worms with a diameter of 4' (all mouth at one end) and about 25' long. Fully-grown spice worms can reach 200 yards in length (add 1 hit die for every 5' over 25'): They only inhabit dry sandy areas, with a depth of sand just sufficient for them to submerge, and are repelled by water — emptying a water-skin onto the sand will hold them off in a sandy corridor, but in a larger area they will seek a way round.

            Spice worms are attracted by the vibrations of movement through the sand and will seek to swallow who/whatever is moving. Standing still is only a defence so long as the worm is more than 10' away; within that distance it can detect the heartbeats of its potential victim.

            Any hit means that the worm has swallowed its victim whole. After two melee rounds the victim will suffocate, but until then he can attack the soft interior which is AC 7. After two turns, decomposition sets in and the victim cannot be revived. There may be items of value in the belly, if swallowed recently (armour will be unusable after two hours but gems will retain their value for a  day, halving in value each hour thereafter).

            The worm's real treasure lies in four small sacs near the tail. One sac will have been destroyed by each attack near the worm's tail on which a 20 was rolled, by a fireball or other powerful hit in that area. Regardless of the size of the worm, each sac contains one draught of a Potion on Inescapable Location, enabling the imbiber to proceed unerringly to any location or to any object or person the location of which may be unknown (duration 2 hours). However drinking a second potion on the same day, a third in the same week, or a fourth ever renders the victim blind, though with the permanent gift of clairvoyance.

            Comments: Again, those who read fantasy literature will have no difficulty in recognising this creature, even without the obvious hint in the name (though who inspired the original worm??). Those who, on the other hand, are experienced in Dave's dungeon avoid narrow sandy corridors like the plague. Once I witnessed the attempt of a dwarf in full plate mail to 'chimney' up the walls to escape a Spice Worm — ah, a truly horrible end.

 

Four more monsters are stat'ed in this article, the Heat Skeleton, Green Worm, Goom, and Bodach; the first three are simply variants on existing creatures and barely warrant inclusion in a magazine, much less a sourcebook, but the Bodach is somewhat interesting (and might have ultimately been published elsewhere in some form).