Sunday, May 31, 2015

Omens and Lake Drakes


When you roll a 1 on a wandering monster roll (d6), you encounter the monster itself.  If you instead roll a 2, you encounter that monster's omen--foreshadowing of something yet to come.

For mundane monsters, this is usually a mundane experience.  You might catch a glimpse of it flying near the horizon, come across half-eaten prey, hear its roar, or smell its spoor.

For more mythical monsters, omens can be just about anything.  Just like true foreshadowing.

There are three ways to experience a mythical monster's omen.
  1. Rolling a 2 on a wandering monster roll.  (Already mentioned.)
  2. Approaching the monster within it's lair.  By the time you reach the monster itself, most/all of the listed omens should have occurred.
  3. If a mythical monster is discussed or investigated, there is a 1-in-6 chance of an omen (if appropriate). Examples:
    1. While reading a book about the Lord of the Flies, a researcher is suddenly set upon by a swarm of stinging gnats.
    2. A group of villagers is telling the PCs about the red dragon that burned down their village.  After the discussion, one of the villagers is suddenly struck by a powerful feeling of greed.  He robs his companions, and flees.
Omens never repeat themselves.  They are ripples in the cosmic fabric, not intentional powers of the monster.

art by DevBurmak
Lake Drake

Drakes hate being called lesser dragons.  They are about the size of a horse, and lack a breath attack.  They are as intelligent as humans, but have no way of communicating despite a basic understanding of Common.  They are known for their speed, and many of them are much faster and more maneuverable than dragons.  They are considered untamable, being both proud and vicious.

In my mind, drakes are a good lower boundary for monsters that can by considered "mythical".  They also have mild omens--ones that are more atmosphere, less mechanical effects.

Lake Drake Omens
  1. Terrified fish plow through the water, jumping as if to escape something.  A number of the fish land in the boat / on land.
  2. The wind stops.  The surface of the water is dazzling.  A hireling momentarily zones out and falls in.
  3. Far away, a silvery shape leaps from the water.  It flies a short distance, droplets spraying from its wings, before diving back in.
Lake Drake
HD 8  Defense chain Attacks 1d6/1d6/1d8
Move 12 Fly 24 Swim 12  Int 9  Morale 8
* If a lake drake hits an opponent with at least two attacks, the drake may grab or tackle them.  A successful Str check  (at a -4 penalty) avoids this.

Lake drakes are a good example of monsters that don't need a lot of weird mechanics to be interesting.  They have so many cool tactics that a lot of the excitement in an encounter can (and should) come from the "mundane" things that drake does.  Examples:
  • Ambushing by leaping from the water and then immediately taking flight.
  • Escaping by diving into the water from the air, then swimming away.
  • Fly-by attacks / Swim-by attacks.
  • Attacking the boat and/or knocking people into the water (with its tackle).
  • Grabbing people and flying away with them.  Possibly dropping them.
  • Grabbing people and diving underwater.  Possibly drowning them.
If you want to give lake drakes a mechanical ability because you feel itchy when a monster doesn't have a unique mechanical differentiation, just say that it gets +2 AC and attack whenever it bursts out of the water splashing sunshine and droplets everywhere.

And unlike, say, a golem, people already have a good grasp on the ecology (and motivations) of lake drakes.  They eat fish.  They're jealous of dragons.  Just those two facts allow people to manipulate the behavior (and therefor engineer the combat).  They might be distracted by fish, or accept them as a bargaining chip.  They might get angry if you tell them how inferior they are to true dragons.

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