Odds and Ends

Derek Holland

This is a collection of all the Odds and Ends posts.

Odds and Ends 1
This was to be a post on coral reefs as habitat but it has diverged a bit. From coral I go to trees, the closest thing I can think of to a terrestrial coral (though ant and termite colonies also come to mind). I think trees are woefully underused in fantasy settings, both as critter habitat and general description. From there I go to magical circuits, alchemy, hyperpredation and cobwebs.

A real tree has several habitats for small animals- roots, stems (inside and out), branches, leaves, flowers and fruit. Of course some are more ephemeral than others, but that doesn't mean they aren't used as housing and food. Check Wikipedia's page on leaf miners to see the variety of creatures that live within leaves. Flowers can be food or lures for food (crab spiders that feed on flies and bees are great hunters on flowers).

Now take those 7 catagories of possible habitats on and in tree and multiply it. Why not have a fantastic tree with multiple kinds of roots, stems, wood (or other structural material), branches, leaves, flowers and fruit? Some are innate to the plant and some are induced- magical galls that wizards or monsters cause for supernatural purposes. A hydra tree is one that has several trunks, each with a unique wood, bark and leaf. It is very popular with druids as each trunk and leaf has crafting purposes- dyes, weapons, armor, clothing, medicine, tools (including a cage for giant crickets used to detect intruders to the forest) and even food. Lumpy trees (which are not from Lumpy Space) look more like termite mounds than trees. There are a dozen varieties, each with a slightly different appearance and hosts to a dozen different small monster species (some of which can be helpful to PCs). Each tree has a dozen branches, each which can be launched with great force to skewer a passing creature. If the creature dies, the branch grows into a new lumpy tree. Which branch determines which kind of lumpy tree.

I might use this for a Wasteland Weekly. Any interest

In the 2e illithid book, there was mention of mind flayers using psionic circuits- symbols filled with their psionic slime that acted sort of like a temporary magic (well, psionic) item. I have not seen the idea used since. And I don't remember much since I sold that book more than 5 years ago. But the idea was one of the most facinating in the book and I think it should be used again. Basically, it is a magic or psionic item that requires an outside power source. In 3.X terms, this means a spellcaster spends spell slots (or psis spend power points) and the magic item does its job. It may or may not matter what kind of spell is expended (activating a enchantment item with a necromancy spell seems a bit wierd). And if the idea sticks with circuits (magical sigils?), there might be a steampunk feel to the setting.

A quick idea for alchemy. A divination spell where the caster can ask can an alchemical solution be found to a problem. Some possible questions include- "Is it possible to make organic material electrically conductive?" "Is there a catalyst that can be used to remove city smog?" "Can steel be made to glow after being struck?" "Can soil be turned into water?" If the spell answers yes (i.e. the GM allows it), then the caster can start making alchemy rolls to design and then construct the wanted material.

Something I missed when I wrote diet specialization is that it can function very much like hyperpredation. A predator with a low population that suddenly gains a new food source will expand and apply more pressure on its normal prey as well as its new food supply. Give it a little fantasy twist (one I used in WW #5), and introduce plants that can act as meat. If worgs can eat the leaves of the pig oak by digging them up from under snow (which preserves the leaves), this means they may survive the harsh winters much easier than the human and deer populations. Worse are human flavored weeds- human suddenly becomes the new mouse, grasshopper or chicken (the most desired prey).

Cobwebs. I have read of a few living web critters, but nothing of magical cobwebs, those either produced by magical spiders or so old they are affected by local magical emissions (leaking magic from permanent spells or items). They can be a lethal trap right in front of the characters and even those who survive may not know the source of the attack.

 

Odds and Ends 2
Some ideas that are simply too short to post on their own. Macroelementals, localized extinction events, post apocalyptic deserts, body shaping and carnivorous plants.

I wonder if anyone has ever created a setting where the world is made of 4 macroelementals and many smaller ones. The world itself is an earth elemental with a water and an air elementals sitting on its surface and the sun is a fire elemental. Spells are more about communicating with the elementals and asking them to do something than bending reality to the spellcaster's will.

For Mutant Future, a while ago I came up with the idea of nanite blooms- a localized area that is converted to dust to destroy something within the campaign, be in infrastructure, a landmark or species. Local extinction events are obviously not limited to that, but there is very little else. Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, asteroid strikes and planar rips are the only ones I can think of at the moment. Do you have any suggestions for others?

Many post apocalyptic settings are deserts, a way to represent the death and destruction of a nuclear war (and possibly cheap places to film for movies). But deserts in Gamma World and Mutant Future are not Earth deserts. Roads made of silicon compounds crisscross them, the result of nanites, plants or worms that were engineered to convert sand into something useful. Blooms after rain can include much more than bright wildflowers. Towers of crystals, plastic grasses, crumbling buildings that emerge and then fall apart within days, metal pipes from a subsurface factory the requires water, stone skinned worms and many other things might come up from the sand, gravel or soil. And then there are those species that can't survive in water and have mutations that destroy it or convert it (while others, usually plants, create more).

And just think what oceans might be when mutants can make their own fertilizer from sunlight and seawater.

A few weeks ago I was reading up on bonsai and other plant shaping techniques. After looking at my notes yesterday, it hit me that somewhere in d20 land, there is a setting that uses something similar for people. Shaping people is much harder and usually has very negative consequences in the real world. Neck rings and lip discs in Africa, foot binding in Asia and skull binding in historical South America are the examples that I know of. In that setting, if I recall correctly, head binding gives a small intelligence bonus but also a penalty of some sort. Eh. In a fantasy setting, there is no reason that binding shouldn't have much more impressive, and possibly painful, effects. And why limit it to children- bones can be broken and healed in shapes that are unnatural. Each binding should provide a feat and and flaw/defect. It gets even more freaky if the creature was a troll or other regenerator that can regrow its head and limbs easily. A troll could rip off one of its arms and turn it into a tail, the beginning of a wing or even a gill if the troll knows alchemy (or its master knows alchemy).

Turns out that more plants are carnivorous, they just use fungal assassins to make the kill for them. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/06/21/plants-use... So what plants might be allies of violet fungi or phycomids? Are myconids and treants secret allies and provide each other meat/sugars? Is that tree in the castle yard trying to eat the royal family?

 

Odds and Ends 3
Today I look at nurse plants, a mutant dragon species and a new d20 game.

Nurse plants are those species that create suitable habitat for seedlings of their own and other plant species. Usually they are desert plants that provide shade (it is amazing how many desert plant seedlings can't survive direct sun) or forest trees that pump nutrients into seedlings via their root/fungi symbionts. And then there are those trees that serve better as nurse logs- as sitting fertilizer and giant water sponge (among other things). Now apply that to a fantasy setting. How many magical herbs require the existence of a mundane tree or shrub? The reason druids can grow it and no one else is because even rangers haven't picked up on the relationship. What plants use other sorts of nurses- like the negative energy given off by undead allow grave mold to grow. Or mountain grasses that exist because of the rocs that nest in the peaks (their guano, shed feathers or something more magical such as mountain spirits). How much desert is created by cutting down "weeds" in hopes that more valuable species will grow in their place?

In a now vanished supplement from Clockwork Golem Workshop on kobolds, the author posed a question- can magical blood mutate a creature? The answer he used was yes and provided mutations and feats to represent the possible changes in kobold physiology. For obvious reasons, I really like the idea and have applied it to a dragon. In this case it is a small group of sibling black dragons that were exposed to alchemical pollution that interacted with their blood while they were in the egg. They have the same general stats except they swim instead of fly, their breath weapon causes permanent disfigurement (which can be just about anything from eyes migrating across the head to hair turned into many small horns, this is heritable and so the survivors' kids will be just as warped) and their blood can be used to recharge rods, staves and wands. In LL, the blood of a dragon would provide d6+2 charges and in d20, it would be 3d10. Anything overcharged goes boom and probably will kill everything nearby (apply all of its effects times the number of charges to a radius equal to the caster level times 5). These dragons wouldn't matter much to the world at large except their home is an estuary and they are salt tolerant. They go out to sea and attack ships to increase their hoards (obviously a richer source than the swamp) and leave many warped survivors.

Recently I discovered a new d20 game, The Radiance RPG, http://radiancerpg.com/ It has a steampunkish/mad scientist vibe that seems to have incorporated some 4e concepts in character design. The player's handbook is a free download so you can check it out yourself. I like the mad doctor (healer and monster maker) class (the medicant) and all the classes and races look easy to tweek- something very important to me.

 

Odds and Ends 4
Today I look at fantasy oceans and oozes for magical biotech.

The Forge, the world of the Oathbound setting, has three oceans. What makes them very different from Earth's oceans is that they are all landbound- there is no connection between them. I have tinkered with OB for years and only recently thought of the possibilities of seperated oceans. Each could have its own chemical and biological make up. Yes, Earth's oceans tend to have their own complement of aquatic species with only rare creatures like the whale shark that travel pretty much everywhere, but they are almost identical in chemistry. In settings where oceans are either not connected or are physically touching but still magically seperated, there is potential for creature design.

On the Forge there is the Northen, Central and Southern Oceans. What I am thinking of now is keeping the Central ocean as is and adding some of the more common species of monsters and races from the other two. The Northern Ocean is replaced with quicksilver. It is completely opaque so there are no plants living in its depths. The animal life is significantly different and the only existing races that can eat the animals and drink the metal are silvers and ferrins. That doesn't stop ologatu from swimming through it (they are immune to poisons and diseases) nor others from sailing on it. I have no idea how much a metal sea would slow ships but I can fake it. Metallic serpents and mineral quasielementals would be the most important ship eaters. The Southern Ocean is organic, a sea of petroleum. It likewise has no plants under its surface and most aquatic creatures are blind. It is flammable and some of it is always burning but there are plants and animals on its surface that snuff out flames on contact and are driven to put out fires ( creations of the lords of Wildwood, Arena and Penance). Massive whales and smaller creatures are hunted for their oil. The danger is that the surface does not allow sailing so only airships can be used. If an engine fails due to weather, combat or bad luck, the crew is dead meat as they will be sucked down into the oil within moments of impact. And then there are the creatures that use fire while hunting. Catch one of those by accident and the whole airship might go up in flames.

 

Of course I could use just about any fluid, including superheated plasma (surrounded by basalt), mud, liquid methane, blood, liquid light or even a massive ooze. When designing your own, keep an open mind on the possibilities and what kinds of spells can be used to protect the people living/working on or in the oceans.

 

Speaking of oozes, one idea I have been playing around with for months now is using oozes for vat monster creation. Turning a human into a hellhound or assassin vine takes a lot of juice and humans tend to resist or be in limited quantities. Oozes can be grown easily (just add food), are mindless and provide a lot of bio-matter for conversion. In fact I would allow spells that transmute one creature to another to have an enhanced effect on oozes. Say as one level lower, DC is +8, twice as much mass (or creatures) allowed or takes much faster. Of course there may be side effects, like acidic sweat or no aging, that will have to be dealt with afterwords. For vat monster creation, oozes are an organic matrix just ready for conversion. They can be turned into almost any living thing. Adding limbs, armor, organs, etc. is much easier with oozes than any other creature. And they can be kept alive when partially transformed, thus allowing a wizard to tinker with a creation in ways that no other creature can provide. I would say that it would take twice as long to make a creature from an ooze, but there are no side effects like those from spell creation. They can also be used to make organs, grafts or symbionts to be used in/on other creatures.

 

Odds and Ends 5

 

Today I look at bare stone as habitat, the effects of burrowing monsters on surface communities, alternate seasons, keystone species, hatchery habitats, kobold manufacturing, starfish regeneration and a new use for symbionts.

 

Bare stone shouldn't exist for very long in worlds where magical plants can adapt themselves to hostile conditions. I was contemplating ways of keeping stone from being colonized when it hit me- living stone. This could be elementals that never emerge in humanoid or other form, some kind of aberration (there are some that hide as stone) or even a spirit of the land that wants to be exposed to the elements. Living stone does not have to be completely hostile to life and may allow some pockets of colonization (so you can use photos of solitary trees as inspiration) as well as places that slowly suck the life out of everything.

 

I use to like ankheg, but it has slowly sunk in that they are a plague that can do more harm than the Plague. These massive insectoids burrow in the soil and according to the 1e MM, they actually enrich fields. But their burrows are going to have two long term effects. Since they don't have gills, the beasts have to burrow above the water table. That means their tunnels will drain the soil and the average field will need much more rain if it is going to produce a decent crop. The other problem is the more obvious one- over time the burrows will collapse and deform the landscape. As farmers have no ability to cart in many, many tons of soil to fill in the ditches as they appear, the land as to be terraced or abandoned (at least the terraces wouldn't need additional rain). As the ditches form, rain will cause erosion and expand them, possibly destroying infrastructure in their wake. Move Earth spells would be one of the most popular in lands plagued by ankhegs. And if it isn't available, people will have to learn to live on inclines or move away. In fact, with mining races like kobolds, how do any surface communities survive? Unless they have dogs or pigs that can smell the little guys, humans are out of luck in detecting kobolds digging deep beneath their homes.

 

There are two season cycles on earth- wet/dry and wet/cold (winter), wet/warm (spring), dry/cold (fall) and dry/warm (summer). So moisture and temperature determine the season. In fantasy worlds, you can add more. How about magic itself? Come up with a chart that shows when each school is ascendant, suppressed and acts normal. So there would be at least 8 seasons, more for those who want to have schools that can be ascendant or suppressed at the same time. Chaos, Order, Good and Evil could make good determinates for seasons. Or the four (or five or six) elements.

 

Keystone species are important as their extinction (local or total) means other species fall as well. In fantasy settings, their death might mean major changes to reality. The one I have seen several times before is dragons = magic and the death of all dragonkind means magic fades from the world. Eh. How about giving each dragon species a portfolio like a god and if they are killed off, their portfolio fades from existence? Better, but still seems a bit weak to me. Killing off all gold dragons means gold vanishes from reality? Makes for an interesting twist, but then what about reds (the end of fire would be much worse than the end of a metal that has no intrinsic value to ancient technology), greens (um, the end of forests?), whites (again, the end of cold would be really bad even if you don't think so), etc.

 

Personally I would rather use something other than dragons, or at least new dragon species, and give them smaller and easier reality shifts for extinction (both natural and supernatural). Say crystal dragons that sustain living crystals, the basis of food in some of the underdark. Or giant worms that keep rivers and bays open (natural dredges). Or even humanoids that provide medicines that allow long life in humans and other allies.

 

Estuaries are places where freshwater meets salt. Because of the difficulty in surviving such a place, they tend to have fewer predators (or at least use to). Many aquatic species use them as places where their young can survive before heading up river or (much more likely) out to sea. Here are some more fantastic locations that could be used for baby monsters to survive in:

 

Permanent rivers of lava can be a place where creatures of fire and earth can send their spawn to grow. It can also be home to larval creatures that otherwise aren't thought of as having heat immunity- gricks, hydras (even cryo-), phase spiders, cloakers, mimics and rust monsters. The number one danger to monsters, adventurerers, are all but helpless in lava- if the heat doesn't get them, their inability to see through liquid rock will make hunting impossible without assistance.

 

Massive fog banks seem minor compared with lava, but that means the young don't have to make significant changes in form to survive and yet still gain the advantages of the banks.

 

Fields, hedges or forests of carnivorous or otherwise hazardous plants are sort of like ant nests. There are many species of insects and other invertebrates that live in the nests by fooling their hosts/prey. As long as the young monsters aren't sensed as food by the plants, they gain powerful protection.

 

Metal/crystal forests are places where the very ground is dangerous. Flying young would do better here than those that creep, slither or sprint.

 

Caves filled with noxious gas are a connection between surface air and toxic caves below. This is the closest I can think of to a real estuary. Young and larvae of many creatures on land and underground could find these caves a relatively safe home- their major predators being each other.

 

Valleys so high they suffer oxygen deprivation act as a place where young creatures from the sky and the lowlands can find refuge from their parents' predators.

 

And magical monster corpses. As their bodies decay in weird ways, these habitats are home and food to a variety of monster young.

 

I was watching a documentary recently, Someplace with a Mountain, a depressing and heartening look at a people in Polynesia that are about to lose their islands to sea level rise. One thing that struck me is these people try to live life as they have for thousands of years and one man even stated that it is ironic that they, one of the few people on Earth not to use fossil fuels, are the most vulnerable to climate change and yet they do have some property that is based on oil. Some wear tee-shirts and pants (and not woven from palm leaves) and a few divers had rubber face masks. They may not use nearby as much as well do, yet they are tied to the use of oil. And that brings me to kobolds and goblins. They wear clothing and armor, use a wide array of weapons and tools and yet they have no textile factories, can mine but have poor, if any, smelters and blacksmiths. So where do they get all this nifty stuff that is their size? Halflings would be exterminated if they were forced to provide all the good for the huge kobold and goblin populations. Kobold spellcasters might use Fabricate, but that seems more of a trap building spell for them. So where do they get their clothes, especially those who live deep underground for their entire lives?

 

Starfish and all the other echinoderms are freaky animals because they have no brains and yet have fairly complex behaviors. Starfish are well known for the fact that they can be cut in half and both sides will regenerate into an entire animal. There is even a genus that can regenerate whole animals from parts of their arms. Why isn't there any monsters that can do that? Trolls can't- their largest part lives and regenerates while the rest dies. There is a templates in the Book of Templates 3.5, but that is a crazy piece of work (and the author admits it in a side bar) as it allows almost instantaneous splitting into identical creatures. A good rule for this is having a creature survive until negative total hit points are reached (so an regenerating ogre with 35 hp dies at -35). With anything above that, consider the damage and how the body might be broken up (say d4+1 pieces or damage taken divided by 3 or 5) to find how many hit points each part still has. Then apply regeneration as normal to see when the daughter creatures can regain the ability to move, act and when they are completely healed.

 

A sort of follow up to the monster witches I posted a few weeks ago. For those of you who don't want a world filled with spirits and yet want something like shamans, how about long lived symbionts? They could talk to their hosts and nearby people with telepathy, provide some magical abilities, and provide all kinds of adventuring hooks with their long memories and intersymbiont conflicts.

 

Odds and Ends 6

 

Today I look at some solutions to stone burrowers, cyrosuspension for critters, a free mutation book, a free creature book filled with weird monsters, alternate food sources for the underdark and one specific underdark habitat.

 

Delvers, purple worms, umber hulks and other burrowers through soild stone seem to have the ability to make rock vanish. With all that material disintegrating all the time and over thousands or millions of years, how the heck does the surface of the planet remain stable. I know that unless the monster populations are very high, that their feeding is a drop in the bucket of all the many trillions of tons of stone (or more) that makes up the crust of a planet. Still, if they concentrate in areas of food, they should have some impact on the aboveground world (i.e. earthquakes and very deep sinkholes). Here are some suggestions on what might be happening to stop that.

 

Wall of Stone sounds good, but it can be dispelled in older editions. Creatures that make Walls of Stone would be setting up a major disaster if the PCs or others use Dispel Magic and cause huge masses of rock to vanish.

 

Massive trees with roots that not only reach the mantle or core, but their roots also petrify over time. This would mean that there are a lot of vertical stone surfaces that miners would encounter. One possible bonus is the fossilized roots may contain rare or magical minerals or metals. The same could be applied to fungus that grows in the underdark. As the fungal mats turn to stone, along with the mushrooms, they slowly close tunnels off and shrink chambers.

 

Planar gates to Earth work well. They act as stone "volcanos", constantly spitting out new material that either fuses or hardens into rock soon after expulsion or is mud and will become mudstone over time (there is a lot of mudstone on Earth, so it is really a viable option).

 

Volcanic tunnels with magma that fills in tunnels and chambers. It is localized (hopefully) and communities down there either are earth elementals or use Walls of Force to survive.

 

Some real world animals, such as nematode worms*, can survive being frozen for long periods. Applying this to monsters allows for extinct species to reappear, friendly yeti to chase frightened cave men and aliens too stupid to land in the tropics to escape suffocation. The rules for this are easy- creatures that can survive freezing that take cold damage to 0 or -10 hit points are frozen and will revive after temperatures increase above freezing. They will have a number of hit points equal to their hit dice or constitution and will regain the rest at an increased healing rate- per hour rather than per day.

 

The Metamorphica is a free file on Lulu that has 1000 mutations drawn from a variety of sources (all listed at the end), suggestions on how to use the mutations for characters and creatures in several genres. It is systemless and meant to allow the reader to adapt the ideas to his or her own settings and campaigns. What I like most about it isn't the example mutations but rather the catagories they are placed in. There are six- Body: Form, Body: Function, Mind: Behaviours, Mind: Cognition, Psychic Powers and Supernatural Attributes. I never thought of breaking up physical and mental mutations into subcatagories but it does help when designing new mutations. Find it here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/johnstone-metzger/the-metamorphica/ebook/produc... You can also get it in print for its printing cost (4 bucks and change).

 

I was asked "where are the weird monsters?" Well, here is one source: http://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=FE&fileid=145&wa... I am not terribly impressed with the monster descriptions but the artwork more than makes up for it.

 

Plants and fungi are usually the base of the food chain in the underdark (plants that use either ambient light or magical radiation) but that is easy to change if you want something different for your setting. In this case I am thinking of mobile creatures. Crawlers that drop edible limbs or bulbs, birds that drop edible feathers or many eggs, wisps that leave edible slime trails where they touch the ground and edible flying crystals that shatter when attacked. For the crystals leave some parts and they regenerate into whole creatures. In all cases, they rely on magical radiation or heat as their energy source. If they use heat, that means life will cluster around volcanos and magma pockets. Fire giants would have to kill heat eaters by the hundreds, otherwise their magma lakes deep in the underdark will cool and solidify.

 

Underdark seas have been around since at least the 1e Dungeon Survival Guide and not much has been described about them. Swamps seem a bit odd to have a mile underground, but they are possible. Swamps can be explained by mushroom forests that can survive flooding. Considering there are fungal species on the bottom of Earth's oceans- if they can take all that water, they can take a few feet. With the constant growth of fungal tissue fed by material washing down into the sea or washed up from the depths, the swamps change in topography from shallows to land to shallows (erosion). An offshoot of the sea elves or an aquatic drow could live with or hunt kuo-toa and other fish people in these swamps. Throw in some deep adapted black dragons and other swamp critters and you have a familiar, yet alien place to explore.

 

*Yes, nematodes are worms, not wierd insectoids things on Mars. Stupid movie and stupid scriptwriters.

 

Odds and Ends 7

 

More on regionality, complexes, sapience in Mutant Future and creatures that can transform into oozes. 10 new creatures are included.

 

Regionality should be created by the Mutant Lord making charts. Lists of the creature types (riding, food, hunting, etc.) as one axis and the other being the communities and regions. With a quick glance, the ML can quickly tell the players what their characters are seeing (or being attacked by) when they enter such places.

 

To quickly create a lot of monsters, for any use, the ML can use reskinning (a term I am not thrilled with but it is popular at the moment). Just come up with a single stat block and then describe as many creatures from it as you want. In MF I also add additional mutations to the descriptions as needed. Here is an example:

 

Hunting Beasts

No. Enc. d8 (3d6)

Alignment Neutral

Movement 210' (70')

AC 5

HD 6

Attacks 2 (claws)

Damage d6/d6

Save L3

Morale 10

Hoard Class none

 

Mutations: aberrant form (natural weapon, xenomorphism), natural armor, quickness (plus whatever is mentioned below)

 

Hunting beasts are common in the wastes. They allow their masters to use the beasts' hightened senses, speed and natural weapons to bring down a variety of prey and pests (i.e. useless monsters that are dangerous). Each of the following is used in a single village and the surrounding land.

 

Brown crawlers are massive crayfish that a village near a river use to hunt things in the water, on land and in the trees. They have increased balance (giving it a climb movement rate of 120' [40']), increased smell (allowing it to track by scent), gigantism and a swim movement rate of 90' (30').

 

Shell crushers are huge ducks with claws and are named for their ability to smash clam and snail shells (as well as armored legs). They are used in the water and in the air. The birds have a fly movement rate of 360' (120'), increased sight, the ability to stay under water for 10 minutes, gigantism and if they hit with both claws with 18+, they inflict an additional 3d6 points of damage.

 

Pit rats are actually moles used to make traps. They have a burrow movement rate of 60' (20'), increased smell, vision impairment and gigantism. A single one can dig a 6' deep, 3' long by 3' wide pit in 3 rounds and 10' deep, 5' long by 5' wide in one turn.

 

Bunny apes are non-sapient humans with long claws and ears. They are used to hunt on the ground and run down prey over long distances. They have increased sight and hearing and don't tire as quickly as pure humans (they can run for d6+36 turns before needing to stop and rest for an hour).

 

Complexes, an idea that I posted a couple years ago in the old forum, are similar in that they use one stat block. The difference is a complex is based on the idea that one species gaining the same mutations at different times can result in different daughter species. Such as

 

Giant Rat Complex

No. Enc. d8 (3d8)

Alignment Neutral

Movement 180' (60')

AC 6

HD 4

Attacks 1 (bite)

Damage d8

Save L2

Morale 4

Hoard Class XII

 

Mutations: fecund, gigantism, increased hearing, increased smell

 

The giant black rat is one of the most common urban pests on one continent because it can simply outbreed its predators, competitors and even some diseases. It can smell and hear almost any creature and will take a few hours to dig out something that they think might taste good. Though they are fairly cowardly and a few gunshots is enough to drive off most giant black rats. They are suprisingly clean and spread few diseases.

 

The giant grey rat is exclusively urban and may only be found in one or a few nearby cities. They are tough, annoying creatures much more fearless than their kin (morale 9) that will try to ambush and rip apart anything smaller than a horse.

 

The giant green rat is found in semi-tropical lands and has algae growing in its otherwise tan fur. These rats are dangerous because of the disease they spread- the algae gets into a victim's bloodstream and then chemically reacts with plasma, turning it into jelly (it causes DEX and CON damage). Those who die from the disease stiffen permanently.

 

The giant needle rat is found in coniferous forests and its hair looks like pine or spruce needles (bizarre appearance). It is a highly destructive herbivore because it consumes mostly seeds. Only those plants that actively protect their offspring (or have deadly seeds) can survive this onslaught. In fact, people hate them as the rats have destroyed entire populations of seed trees (i.e. those grown for edible seeds). They are the locusts of the far north.

 

 

All creatures and machines have the capacity to have human level intelligence in Mutant Future. Heck, there was even a couple sapient diseases in Gamma World (not to mention rocks). The questions the ML has to ask him or her self when designing a setting are "how much intelligence is out there?", "what can a sapient creature without hands or speech do?", "can telepaths sense intelligence in creatures without a standard language?", "can individual organs, mutations and symbionts be intelligent? And if so, how do they interact with their brain/host?" and "how do intelligent creatures interact?". The last one may seem a bit odd, but colonies of people made of many species that can not speak could easily exist. They may be mute, but they can still learn to communicate and work towards survival and some form of future that humans may or may not understand.

 

Urban locations are filled with many hidey holes that most other habitats do not- hollow walls and ceilings, pipes, conduits and such. The problem for creatures is that those places are very small. So the ML is restricted to using small creatures (possibly in swarms) or using mutants with the metamorph mutation that allows them to transform into an ooze. Here is an example that I posted to the old forum (though meant to be used in the wilds):

 

Name Badlands Wolf

No. Enc. 3d6 (special)

Alignment Neutral

Movement 180' (60')

AC -3

HD 6

Attacks 1 (bite)

Damage d8

Save L5

Morale 11

Hoard Class none

 

Badlands wolves are found exclusively in regions with bare rock. During the night they look and act like large wolves, preying on large herbivores in their territory. Come dawn, the pack turns into oozes, merge into one mass and then sinks into the nearest stone that can hold them, filling in the micro cracks found in most stone. In wolf form they retain some their their ooze like nature and hurting them with physical weapons is very difficult (thus the low AC). They do not reproduce as wolves, but rather as oozes and a new pack appears as soon as the old one divides like an bacterium.

 

Mutations: metamorph

 

And here are some new examples:

 

Tusker Squirrel

No. Enc. 1 (d6)

Alignment Chaotic

Movement 150' (50') ooze 90' (30')

AC 5

HD 15

Attacks 2 (bite and tail)

Damage 3d8/4d4+8

Save L8

Morale 10

Hoard Class XX

 

Tusker squirrels are urban monsters the size of large elephants and have 15' long razor sharp tails. The typical squirrel lair is underground- large sewer pipes, basements, subway stations and the like. The rodents get to and from their nests by transforming into black puddings. As they are attracted to shiny objects, the squirrels collect quite a hoard over their decade long lifespan. Much of it is pieces of armor and machines- stuff they broke with their tails. As the squirrels are almost fearless and erratic in their behavior, the best solution when encountering one is to run or fly away.

 

Mutations: aberrant form (natural weapon), gigantism, increased hearing, metamorph

 

Goo Bat

No. Enc. swarm

Alignment Neutral

Movement fly 180' (60')

AC 7

HD 12

Attacks contact

Damage 3d6

Save L2

Morale 5

Hoard Class none

 

Goo bats are carnivores that use their alternate form, that of a grey ooze, to kill and reproduce. Though each is tiny, it has a 8" wingspan, the bats flock in the hundreds or thousands. Their skin is constantly changing back and forth and those caught in the flock take acid damage every round. If suffering a serious loss (3/4th their swarm hit points), the bats revert to their ooze form completely as it is immune to physical attacks. The ooze hunts for a few weeks, regaining mass, and then takes to the sky once again. In urban landscapes, the bats use the highest buildings to roost and burn their way through windows or walls to find somewhere dark to sleep.

 

Mutations: metamorph, special

 

Odds and Ends 8

 

Today summoning mishaps in fantasy and Mutant Future settings and a couple alternate methods of designing the outer planes. Also want to note that I added a comment in the rot grubs post on an alternate use for their stats.

 

In my list of best Dragon Magazine articles, I mentioned Oops, Sorry! from 163. It discusses the potential ways that spells can go wrong if the caster is disturbed while casting. It does mention all the 1e schools of magic and my favorite is conjuration/summoning. What kinds of freaky things might pop through a summoning portal if the spell goes wrong? It specifically mentions plants as well as animals and animal like critters. This is one place where Mutant Future can shine in many different systems. Both in creating variants of existing creatures via the mutation system, but also making new ones whole cloth. In any case, a GM who wants to use this idea should have at least 2 alternate summoning lists (or four if you use the 3e version where the creatures summoned are based on the four alignments). With a quick die roll, the GM can announce what horror appears after the fighter bumps into the wizard while the latter was summoning some demonic sharks. Of course if the new creature isn't aquatic, then it probably drown before it has a chance to eat the party. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The author mentions how mistakes in summoning and conjuration can be used to introduce all kinds of things- technology and creatures are just the start. And if the item or creature is too powerful, then it vanished when the spell ends (when should be unknown to the players). Something else is new magic. It could be a being willing to teach a new spell or a new kind of spellcasting (path magic from Dragon 216, psionics, incarnum, Ars Magica conversion, magical alchemy, skill based spellcasting, etc.). Something I have been playing around with for years are hitchhikers- creatures that come through a Gate or summoning along with the desired creature. It could be parasites, seeds, spores or even the target creature's predator to make the battle the PCs are involved in so much more interesting.

 

And most of this can also be applied to Mutant Future. In Wisdom from the Wastelands 7, I created a few creatures, new energies and a lot of mutations that relate to the Plane Shift mutation. An extensive review can be found here: http://afieldguidetodoomsday.blogspot.com/2012/05/radioactive-review-wis... But I never mentioned the idea of the mutant being disturbed or harmed and the portal leading to some other universe than the mutant was targeting. The GM could have a lot of fun with all kinds of new goodies, from tech to new races, that could pop out of the portal or a weird new world if the PCs are using the portal to escape a military robot or rabbit kaiju wanting to munch the plant PCs. Of course this isn't a spell and anything that comes through will not vanish because of a magical time limit. But does that really matter? With all the dangers of the MF setting, tech can explode if the power system is incorrectely recharged, be devoured by a lizard that finds the plastic parts tasty or even merge with its user when the portal closes and the laws of physics revert to those of the MF universe. It can get more interesting (or confusing) if there are creatures on the other side who have either the same mutation or technology that would allow them to invade the Mutant Future setting.

 

Something I would change for the Plane Shift mutation is the amount it can be used. One minute per week is a bit short considering how many uses it has. Say a turn to one hour per day or 24 hours per week, but it has to be used all at once. This allows tech raiders a chance to get far from the portal and a chance to get back before it closes. The shorter, daily version allows people to still use the other side and not have to worry about being caught in an alien universe for a week if the portal does close.

 

Another thing I was not able to put in the WW issue is how Plane Shift can be used by drawing upon books, film and other media. You want to add Martians from War of the Worlds and those from Santa Claus versus the Martians and have them duke it out over the fate of Earth, this is the mutation to start the conflict. Or Sith versus the Justice League, the Borg (who I actually feel sorry for) versus rust monsters and the indiginous life forms or hivers from Traveller invading and finding the chaos to be very unsettling (though they might be able to carve out an empire on an island like Greenland). Or forget the people, have the PCs find of box of those sniper rifles from Deep Space Nine, the ones that transport the bullets through solid objects. Or Little Diablos (the activation signal is made by a mutant plant soon after the toys are discovered). The sky is not the limit- you imagination and book and DVD shelves are.

 

A while ago I was working on replacing the D&D standard planes with something very different. It was based on the Wheel, but instead of alignments, it used Intellect versus Emotion and Matter versus Energy as its two axises (is that a word?). The Energy/Emotion plane was chaos, Energy/Intellect was the place where fringe ideas came from, Matter/Emotion was the place where the inner beast was tamed and Matter/Intellect was where the mainstream originated. Sadly I never got much beyond that as I had trouble invisioning the natives. They were to be things that had nothing in common with humanoids (a way to weed out demons, devils, etc. because I was and am not very enthusiastic about human looking outsiders). That is one thing that really annoyed me about Planescape- the lack of material that went beyond the Wheel and Inner Planes.

 

Another idea for replacing the Outer Planes is to use emotions or personality traits as the Astral Plane and Outer Planes are built around the idea of the sapient mind (Astral being the plane drawn on by psionics and alignment being the core of personalities). Both would look very different from the Wheel and would change the nature of gods, demons, angels, etc. They could still be used as is (or mostly so) but their underlying reality would be much different.

 

Odds and Ends 9

 

Another idea on how to use defects/drawbacks, plant stuff for Mutant Future and fouling organisms in Spelljammer.

 

Adamant released a short pdf on an alternate benefit for taking defects, flaws, drawbacks or whatever you want to call them. In this case, in place of the feat, it was four skill points. I like that idea but I would look at the flaws and see if I could come up with different amounts of skill points for different power levels. I would also allow players to tinker with the power level and personally come up with the number of skill points the flaws are worth. But that is just the beginning.

 

Skill points are great, feats are handy but what else is there in the game that can be taken in exchange for defects, such as those in The Jester Dragon's Guide to Defects? Ability score increases would require hefty flaws, the kind that cripple a character in certain circumstances. Wealth or a wealth bonus (ie when a level is gained, the character gets X amount of cash) seems odd but there should be some way to include it. Supernatural powers actually work well for those flaws that are an innate part of the character- a disruption of the body due to the overwhelming power flowing through it. At best this would be a first or second level spell unless the flaw is extremely powerful. And then there is experience points. There are a couple ways to go about this. A small bonus in the old school manner of high ability scores, say +5% for every flaw taken. I have no idea how to justify that. I do for the other- using encounters that use the flaw. The character has to fight through the penalty and if they succeed, then victory is all the sweeter. In this case, I would add to the EL, but only for those characters with the flaw.

 

As Chris and Greg work on the Physical Mutations book (with a little help from me), I am looking forward to the one on Plant Mutations. I have already come up with 90 new mutation ideas, those on top of the existing more than 200 examples in the current files. And I have found some odd things about plants while doing this. Though they are assumed to have human level senses and the ability to walk, there is nothing about them having hands. Even the art on page 13 gives the example plant PC tiny tentacles far too short to lift most gear. So that was the basis of one of the mutations- Hands. You can guess the write up, but this is actually far reaching for more than PCs and intelligent NPC plants. Monstrous plants with the Hands mutation can manipulate objects. Opening doors and randomly firing rifles are just the tip of the iceberg. The technology level of monkeys (rock smash nut) is accessible for many plant monsters. Those that are more clever may even have spears, other melee weapons, pits (dug with hands on roots) and other traps for defense or prey capture.

 

I also was thinking about plant communication. Light, pollen, seeds (which may or may not have to be eaten), symbiont fungal spores and chemicals (pheromones and keromones) are all ways that plants can talk to each other. Some of them, like pollen, can have huge ranges and the conversations may not be as private as the plant hopes it would be. This could also drive cultural changes in intelligent plants. They learn new ways of doing and making from pollen blown in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. AM radio way back in the day more than email and Facebook.

 

If everything works out, we may also have new ways of plant combat. Ways that should scare the crap out of the players and their characters.

 

A sort of follow up to my last post, on animal transport, is fouling organisms in Spelljammer. Yes, there is the jammer leech and the mortiss, but Spelljammer does not have the abundance of life in Wildspace that is found in the oceans. And I can't see why. Life in space is not only possible in SJ, it is abundant. Asteroids that are distant from each other and planets should be covered in critters, acting as reefs and islands. Ships should have metal plating to keep mortiss from devouring them (like shipworms, a specialized form of clam) and other creatures from attaching to them. Even in the Flow there is life, though it is usually very different from that of Wildspace. So different it acts as the central ocean basins of Earth and kills much of the fouling creatures attached to spelljammers. Still, constant contact between spheres is going to transmit creatures, for some weal but mostly woe. Most ports should have spellcasters on hand to search incoming ships and kill the critters before they spread. Those that don't will have to deal with an increase in pests, disease and hazards big and small. Something else to keep in mind is fouling creatures can slow ship speed. Barnacles can halve that of ships on Earth and I would think the same applies to Spelljammer.