Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hordes & Hoards: The Dagonites

Its been years since I've actively tried to write a "module", and even longer still since I've tried to write a series of encounters that you might either call "adventures" or "modules". Its been so long since I've played, the old noodle is rusty. :P

Thankfully, I am keeping part of the creative process from going completely dull by working on LBB & H&H. Occasionally, a flash of genius lights up my brain-pan, and I get an idea for a really cool encounter, or even a series of encounters. The trick is to write it down before I forget it all.

That happened to me again last night. My problem probably lays in where to start. There are over a million good ideas rattling around in here, and I mostly write in story-teller mode, so its very difficult for me to set up an encounter for a 'module. 

Editing the monsters for Hordes & Hoards might help me curb my desire to overwrite everything, and simply put in relevant details without boring the reader. (Yes, I have a tendency to bore myself when I overwrite, in fact, I'm sure I'm doing it now...) (yawn)

The trick to good dungeon/encounter design is to pick a monster (or treasure, or trap, or any combo) that will be interesting, challenging, and playable for the referee. Nevermind if the players think, or don't think these things for the moment; its the ref's job to MAKE the encounter these things. If you can sell the encounter to the referee, you got a game!

To accommodate the referee in this task, the ref needs tools, and not just any ol' tool, although the simplest tools are often the best for creating stuff from near-scratch. (What I'd call "scratch" is a copy of Holmes Basic, dice, pencil & a couple sheets of blank paper; "near-scratch" is adding a copy of the MTA, DMG, MM, B2, graph paper, & a protractor!)

LBB & H&H are supposed to be the tools for my game, so I am taking a lot of time & TLC to make sure that I front-load it with everything I can possibly think of, to a reasonable degree. For H&H I could just as easily use the Monster Manual, as it has nearly all the monsters from 0e, GH, BM, EW, HB and a plethora of monsters from the Strategic Review & The Dragon that many players never saw if their ref didn't a copy of SR or TD. 

I am also convinced that I am not breaking any new ground here that others haven't already thought of as far as cataloguing monsters in a format most usable to the ref on the fly; Al Krombach's "Monsterless Manual" comes to mind first, as does Zenopus' series of one-page reference sheets, and other worthies in this area. 

So, I know I'm not doing anything new, as most of us are gamers first, designers second (or last, in my case), and I know I am definitely standing on the shoulders of some other giant. 

But occasionally, even this old dog can come up with something new, if heavily inspired by one of the First Giants in the genre. Zenopus has already admitted that his "Ancient Builder" monster is an analogue of the Old Ones, and suggests that the Dagonites in Holmes' "Maze of Peril" is an analogue of The Deep Ones. 

Since I've never had the chance to read Maze of Peril, I had to guess at a lot of details when I decided to this evil race of deep subterranean frog-men, and I had no idea that "Dagonite" was possibly used as an alternate name for the Deep Ones. I guessed at a lot of it, and after comparing my version of the Dagonites with the (TD#12) Old Ones, I'm glad I did make those guesses!

DAGONITE (Lovecraftian Frogmen)
Number Appearing:
2-5/10-100
Armor Class:
Variable, 7 to 3
Move in Feet:
60/180 swimming
Hit Dice:
2-5
Dexterity:
10-14
Alignment:
Chaos
Number of Attacks:
2 claws/1 bite/1 tongue
Damage per Attack:
1-4/claw, 1-6/bite,
grapple/tongue
% in Lair:
50%
Treasure Type:
D
Source: MP, HH

     Dagonites are commonly mistaken for Deep Ones out of ignorance; but let it not be said that it is unfortunate, for actively searching out any knowledge of the Old Ones eventually leads to madness and everlasting death.

     Dagonites are bipedal humanoids that stand 3 to 6 feet tall with most of the amphibian features of frogs. Their coloring varies from mottled brown, rust, red, gray, blue and green. They hunt in packs of 2-5, but their lair will have 10-100 members.

     Their lairs are 'cities' built in large natural caverns, or a large constructed chamber, with a running water source, and an area for many still, stagnate ponds to lay eggs in and provide a suitable environment for their growing young. The structures of their buildings are mud-daubed and hut-like, but on a large scale, if the cavern or chamber size will accommodate them.

      Their round or oblong huts and buildings are rarely spaced apart -- built close together with common walls, ceilings, floors join at the oddest angles to create many nooks & crannies, and support for a neighboring structure. Huts and other structures are built on others, forming a lump-shaped hive of sorts. When interior walls, floors or ceilings collapse due to stress, the area is cleared out, and the new, larger interior is used instead.

     Dagonites are intelligent and have a language of their own, consisting of croaks and groans typical of frogs, but rarely attempt to communication with other races, let alone any who trespass in their territory. However, there is a 10% chance per hit die of any dagonite to understand the common tongue and half that percentage to actually be able to speak it, with modified croaks and groans.

     Dagonites will attempt to capture intruders and hold them in cells to await their fate: either sacrificed to their evil tentacled gods or to be thrown into one of the shallow, stagnant ponds and eaten, raw and alive in a mass feeding frenzy of just hatched, young Dagonites.

     Their clawed and webbed hands and feet are capable of wielding weapons as true hands, but they prefer to make attacks by leaping up to 20 feet onto an opponent and striking with both claws and bite. They can strike with their tongue in melee, as it is coated with a natural, sticky substance and has an innate strength rating of 12-15, capable of disarming armed opponents or grappling an opponent's limb or appendage up to 10 feet away to prevent escape. The tongue, however, when exposed can only take 2-5 hits, separate from the total Hit Dice of the creature.

     The leader of a city will have 8 Hit Dice and the ability to spit acid up to 20 feet 3 times per day. The acid does 1-6 hits per round unless scraped off, taking one round and taking 1-3 hits. This acid is water resistant and takes twice as long to wash off.

     One of the ponds in the city will have a structure built near it, with one end opening up and covering one corner of the pond, like an indoor/outdoor swimming pool. The pond will always be jet black and opaque. This is a temple to the Dagonites' foul, dark god, C'thulhu. Such temples are safe for the Dagonites to come in and perform rites and rituals, but intruders will always attract the attention of the temple guardians: 4-7 Cthulhic Elementals.