Friday, August 21, 2020

The Medusa's Lover

The medusa was born with three names like any other elf, one for each goddess of the trinity, shared evenly between friends, family, and church. As a princess, her full title was Maeryllen Slyfenna Lunesh of the Sunlit Court. The other dungeon factions know her as Lady Marble. Her lover calls her Marianne.

Ramos Hansom has been courting the medusa for three months now. He’s a drifter from a distant land and an excellent liar. His smile is wide and earnest, and his beard is much too grey for his age. He carries a walking stick, a wicker basket, and a small pouch of coins. If you ask him how he lost his eyes, he’ll tell you a different story every time.

No one would notice if he went missing.

You might meet him in town panhandling, or buying cheese and eggs at the farmer’s market. Lady Marble has no difficulty feeding herself in the dungeon, but she craves variety, and Ramos likes feeling useful.

this but backwards
by Levi Hastings

Lady Marble controls the upper levels of the now-defunct elven temple, and demonstrates great disdain for the tunnel-dwellers below. She enjoys easy access to the outside world, including an open-air amphitheater full of petrified elves, still scrambling to escape their seats. When Ramos is out running errands, she can be found lounging in the amphitheater, napping in the sunlight or rearranging her collection, waiting for her lover to return.

Lady Marble hoards her fair share of treasure—mementos from her homeland as well as loot salvaged from previous adventurers—but most adventuring parties will want to seek her out for her blood. There’s a huge petrified wurm a few levels down blocking an entire wing with its girth, and some of Lady Marble’s statues may hold useful information in their petrified brains. Medusa blood only retains its depetrifying properties for a few hours post mortem, so acquiring a vial from Lady Marble herself is highly preferable unless you have time to visit the local alchemist.

[Sidenote: I want to get around to writing about some alternative medusa(e?). Things to consider: a water medusa who turns you into a puddle/ice sculpture; a gold medusa who turns you into cold hard cash; a sound medusa who petrifies you with her voice.]

Lady Marble’s specialty is tattoo magic, a long-held social taboo among the high elves. She can cast spells like any other wizard, but her tattoos allow her to cast as a reaction under certain conditions. Ramos has two spell-tattoos coiled around his arms, which emerge to defend him when he is in danger (stats as twin cobras).

it took a lot of time for the snakes to get used to him, but they're chill now
by Jonah Lobe

Their relationship is toxic to the core.

Ramos is not a fool, but he is forgiving to a fault. He knows Lady Marble has killed before, but he believes she can be changed. Ramos is unaware that Lady Marble can reverse the petrification; she always finds a reason to send him off to market when she needs to feed. If he has suspicions, he does not let it show. He’ll defend her to the death, though he isn’t beyond reason.

Lady Marble loves Ramos, just not enough to change her behavior. Perhaps she could stop killing if she really tried, but her compulsions always get the better of her. She is a collector by nature, with a certain disregard for living things, and she simply cannot resist the prospect of adding a brand new sculpture to her beloved amphitheater.

How to Run Her

Treat Lady Marble as any other medusa. They're the easiest monsters to telegraph early on in a dungeon, and most people know the story of Perseus well enough to figure out a basic strategy before they meet her.

If you want to beef her up, give her more spell tattoos. Charm Person and short range teleportation are ideal. Deafness can really fuck with the PC’s communication if they’re trying to keep their eyes averted, but you need to actually enforce this at the table.

Lady Marble can be a social encounter, a combat encounter, or a mix of the two depending on how the party wants to approach her. Don’t bother treating it like some complex moral dilemma; the inner workings of a toxic relationship are more than confusing enough.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

3 Monster-Factory-Inspired Monsters to Spookify Your Small Town

The Pink Man

When the Pink Man is near, accidents happen. Children go missing, or come home covered in injuries. Cats and dogs wander off unnoticed, never to be seen again. Infants are left swaddled on street corners, crying out to absent-minded mothers. Passerby complain about the bawling, but see no need to pick up the child. Most return to their senses before sundown, when the painted wolves arrive, but by then it may already be too late.

The Pink Man does not hunt; his legs are too short to run and his nails are too round to claw. Besides, the painted wolves bring him all the food he wants. When the pack must travel, they take turns carrying him in their mouths. Otherwise, he remains in the den, clumsily manipulating regurgitated meat into his mouth with a simple wooden bowl. When he is not eating, he cries. It sounds like an old man being strangled. He cannot speak, but he doesn’t need to; the dogs understand him all the same.

If you find him, he will not be alone. The painted wolves will see you first, but they loathe a fair fight. Instead, they’ll quietly move the Pink Man from one den to another. They have learned to imitate his strange half-cries, and will attempt to separate would-be rescuers from one another. Look for the Pink Man’s toys instead; he will come back for it with pack in tow, toddling through the underbrush and sobbing.

The Pink Man’s presence dulls empathy, particularly the natural instinct to care for children. The party must save vs. charm or disregard the wellbeing of their teammates. If enough characters fail, an NPC or even a PC may be dragged away by the painted wolves. If a PC would disappear this way, save the reveal for the most dramatic moment: “Pass me the bear trap… wait, where’s our Cleric?”

Stats as a human toddler, which is to say no stats. The party must save vs. charm or shun the Pink Man; their eyes skip right over him, and they ignore his cries. If you use a system for Trauma/Insanity, this is probably a good place to use it.


Everyone knows about the creature living in the church basement, although she asks them not to speak her name in the open air. Expectant hunters with bloody baskets enter through the back door, looking to do business with Snakel. The line moves slowly; Snakel loves small talk, and she has all the time in the world to complete her work.

Snakel claims to be an angel of economic fortune and heroic blessings. She also claims that her god (Which god? She can’t say.) sent her to the mortal plane to instruct humans in proper etiquette. Snakel claims a lot of things. The truth is that she does very little instructing and a lot of eating.

Snakel prefers to appear as a swarm of golden butterflies. Her voice sounds like a wind chime and her laughter is a gentle breeze. She can create gold from thin air, which she claims to withdraw from an Interplanar Vault, and exchanges this for goose necks — “abominable worms,” she calls them. She eats them when you aren’t looking.

A fair number of eccentrics flock to Snakel to learn from her. She regales her followers with tales of the Celestial plane, the Oozing City and Brightspire. She also teaches them rituals for communing with her god (again, classified information), which she encourages one conduct every night before bed for maximum holy energy. Keep in mind that Bleeding Tooth Fungus is a suitable replacement for human blood, even for an “angel”’s ritual. Practicing the ritual leads to good fortune (reroll any one die that day) with a substantial chunk of fine print.

Stats as three eagles taped together. She’s a shapeshifter, but she won’t let on unless she is threatened. Her true form (as seen through wizard vision and some scrying spells) is much smaller, faster, and toothier. If you upset her, she’ll turn all the gold she gave you into sand, wherever it is. She can cast invisibility, feather, and heat metal. If you’ve been feeding her or performing her ritual, she can also cast summon minor infernal.


The morning after the general store fire, all hell breaks loose. All throughout town, rats, cats, dogs, and oxen are walking on their hind legs. Beasts of burden accost passerby with frantic braying, forcing their natural vocalizations into a perversion of Common. The mayor’s dog, a pampered old hound long past his hunting days, opens the latch on the barn door before hopping the fence. In his strangely disjointed paw, he holds a brilliant burning torch.

Faxin are less like traditional beast-men and more like normal animals contorted into human shapes. They range in size and species from parrots (stats as really smart goblins) to elephants (stats as really smart ogres) and speak accented Common via a combination of growls and guttural moans. Most have opposable thumbs. Only some are clothed, but all express shame towards their unsightly bodies.

Faxin travel in mixed-species groups (2d4, typically from the same pack/village/forest) led by the most intelligent. They adore fire; you’ll see their campsite from a mile away at night. They’re here for a reason, and won’t leave until all the domesticated animals in the area have been “liberated”. They may be willing to trade (most of their supplies are stolen or salvaged), but keep in mind that your horse should be blindfolded before you approach, lest it be exposed to Igniscience.


Igniscience is a memetic virus, an idea weaponized into a plague. The dwarves call it Fire-Eyes. The naga call it Human Disease.

All Faxin carry Igniscience in their minds, bearing the flames of forbidden knowledge on their torches. Those afflicted with Igniscience are compelled to light fires. These are unlike any natural flame, flickering hypnotically with cyan streaks that messages cryptic patterns on the insides of your eyelids. Any animal that witnesses a flame of Igniscience risks contracting the curse.

For as long as the flame’s image persists in an animal’s memory, their mind will gradually transform to accommodate it. The better the animal’s memory, the more likely the curse is to progress to its later stages. Mammals and birds are most at risk for this reason, and dogs are particularly vulnerable. Humans and other “intelligent” races are immune to Igniscience, which has sparked many theories among arcanophilosophers.

The process begins in the mind, not the brain. The animal soul must be reshaped entirely, unlearning and suppressing its basest instincts. In its place, a seed is planted: a fascination with the flame of Igniscience, and an irresistible drive to recreate it. The brain then iterates on this new drive, wrinkling and reorganizing its neurons just so, quickly approaching human cognition. Eventually the body adapts to accommodate its new intelligence, creating a Faxin.

The Feast of Saint John by Jules Breton