Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Sneak Peek

Something I'm working on at the moment that I figured I'd share with my fellow gaming fans follows. I'm finally fleshing out the 'pumpkin-headed' jack o' lantern Bugbears, inspired by the illustration in Supplement I, Greyhawk. Why am I sharing this? I'm currrently working on another level for the Fight On! megadungeon project, The Darkness Beneath. Bugbears will be one of the featured monsters within Level 5, The Lower Caves that has received a whack from Sham's home-brew stick.

I was hoping it might be completed, submitted, edited and included in an issue of Fight On! that might see print in time for Halloween, but I doubt that's a possibility. Not to say that the adventure will have a Halloween theme, just that the creatures below would certainly be relevant to such a time of year.

Bugbears: AC 5, Move 9, HD 3+1. Bugbears are giant versions of Goblins with large round pumpkin or jack-o-lantern heads which emit a faint fiery glow from their eye, nose and mouth openings when provoked or enraged. These massive, monstrous creatures range from eight to nine feet in height, and are covered in thick, shaggy grey-brown fur. Bugbears are deceptively nimble, and possess a strong awareness of their surroundings. As such not only are they able to surprise foes half of the time (3in6), they themselves are surprised half as often as normal monsters (1in6). Bugbears are crafty but not particularly bright, possessing a low intelligence. These fearsome monsters are immune to Charm, Hold and Sleep. They have been known to use both armor and weapon, but often hunt prey without such encumbrances in order to maintain their stealthy nature. The rake of a Bugbear’s sharply clawed hand is often as effective as any weapon it might otherwise use. Bugbears excel at instilling fear and legends of their horrific appearance are often told to children in order to keep them away from places not meant for them to wander into; a ‘bogeyman’ of sorts. While engaged in melee, the target of the Bugbear’s attacks must Save vs. Paralyze at the beginning of each round or become Frozen with Fear and unable to move or act in any way during that round. Bugbears receive a bonus of +2 To Hit against foes who are Frozen with Fear. Bugbears delight in torturing their victims before boiling them alive in iron cauldrons or slowly roasting them over a hot fire. Due to their lack of teeth, Bugbears have learned more than a few gruesome recipes that produce nightmarish stews, soups and puddings. The speech of a Bugbear is like the whispering of a chill breeze, and their howls are like the thundering clouds. Bugbears despise the light of day, and will never be found outdoors while the sun is shining. Particularly bright light will cause Bugbears to lose 1 round of action until they adjust to it, and they have been known to target light bearers first when facing surface dwellers. Like their standard sized relatives, Bugbears are created from the very essence of chaos within the underworld. While there are a variety of methods in which Goblins are spawned, Bugbears require specific rituals, crafting, and, most importantly, seeds from the pumpkin head of a Bugbear. These Bugbear seeds are highly prized by evil spell casters, but lose their potency within a half dozen days. From 5-8 such seeds can be harvested from a split open pumpkin head and if planted in a large vessel containing the properly enchanted soil, then watered with the blood from a slain man, there is a 2in6 chance that a vine will successfully grow forth in 7-10 (1d4+6) days. This vine, if left undisturbed, will yield a single pumpkin which will grow to a ripe stage in another 7-10 days. At this point, the vine withers away and dies, and the pumpkin containing the Bugbear essence will await the crafting process that can release its chaotic energy. Bugbear Pumpkins will ‘live’ dormant in this state for decades before losing the essence within. Such a pumpkin can be smashed open to harvest the 5-8 magical seeds within, or it can be used to create a Bugbear. If the Bugbear Pumpkin is carved with two eyes, a nose and a mouth while the proper incantations are invoked, the essence within will be released and the rest of the monster will grow forth from the underside of the pumpkin in a matter of minutes! Bugbears do not age, and are spawned thusly in full ‘maturity’. Only chaotic Magic-Users of level 8 or higher and certain powerful evil beings can learn the involved process required to create these Bugbears.

Great Bugbears: AC 4, Move 6, HD 5+1. Certain rare Bugbear Pumpkin seeds are known to spawn Great Bugbears. Ranging from ten to twelve feet in height, Great Bugbears are twice the mass of their standard kin, with huge leathery pumpkin heads. These Bugbear leaders are of higher intellect than their smaller relatives, and it is believed that some Great Bugbears have actually been able to master the spawning method used to grow Bugbear Pumpkins. The lair of a Great Bugbear is always enveloped in an Eerie Presence which extends out to a radius of 90-180 feet or more, determined by the age of the Great Bugbear and the depth of its lair within the underworld. Surface dwellers and mortals who enter the Eerie Presence detect its tell-tale signs immediately, and the intensity of the magical aura increases as its center is approached. The area within the presence is downright spooky; cold drafts, constant whisperings of dark omen, shadows moving at the edge of vision, and a certain ominous feeling of dread. The Eerie Presence creates an otherworldly unease, which causes all characters to suffer a penalty of 1 on both Rolls To Hit and Saving Throws. Great Bugbears are only hit by silver or magic weapons, and share the same immunities to Charm, Hold and Sleep that Bugbears possess. Attacks from these fearsome magical creatures cause 1d6+2 damage. In addition to the Bugbear Frozen with Fear power, the mere sight of a Great Bugbear will Cause Panic. Anyone seeing the huge shambling monstrosity will have an overwhelming sense of self-preservation, normally expressed by dropping everything, screaming, and running away as fast as possible. Saving Throws, against Paralyze, are rolled as follows: 1 HD or lower: No Save, flee in panic; 2-4 HD: Save or flee in panic; 5-7 HD: Save at +2 or flee in panic; 8+ HD: Immune. If the Saving Throw is successfully made, that character is immune to Cause Panic for the rest of that encounter. Those fleeing in panic will run nonstop at full speed for 5-10 rounds, normally in the direction from which they came. Great Bugbears are formidable opponents; ferocious, tenacious, bloodthirsty, cunning and diabolical, they are evil incarnate. Woe to the unprepared Magic-User who spawns one of these twisted forces of chaos.

More updates on The Lower Caves to follow in the near future. Once I've sorted out more details I will share my map design with you as well.


~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Scott said...

The Bugbears-from-pumpkin-seeds thing is awesome ... an idea I really wish I'd had myself. :)

Max said...

Hey, here's a thought Sham -- if Calithena is interested maybe we should have a Pumpkin Head Bugbear article for the Fall issue of FO! I was planning to include my own Bug Burr with post-apoc critters I'm working on, and it would be fun to see other people's take on Pumpkin Heads too...

Anonymous said...

Sham, these articles are really wonderful to read - thank you. Looking forward to the level and I hope you'll have time to look over my level 2 when I can send it.

This issue (#3) is the functional "Halloween" issue and if we wanted to include pumpkin-head bugbears as a special writeup, I'll put 'em in. Send them along!

Sham, I vaguely remember some other thing you were submitting to #2, is that right or is my brain addled?

- Calithena

Sham aka Dave said...


I had mentioned somewhere another article that I was putting some thought into, the Episodic Fantasy Campaign, but it has gone down an entirely divergent path and become something other than what I had planned originally for Fight On!

That said, it's a project which I think has merit and might be of interest to D&D fans, but it will require a lot of work to reach a presentable format.

I'm looking forward to your emails, and the the planning for Lower Caves is pretty much complete. I'll be getting into the nuts and bolts of the adventure soon! It has changed a bit since these few articles, and the background is not as world, campaign or mythology defining as it had been.

Sorry for the lack of posts these past weeks, it's been a hectic July and August at home and work.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the old D&D illustrations that have Bugbears as pumpkin head creatures.

Also, there's a Runequest creature called a Jackobear that looks like this. Please be cautious in publication that no lawsuit is triggered!

Sham aka Dave said...

I ended up renaming them Bogbears since they have nothing to do with either D&D Bugbears nor RQ Jackobears. Thanks for the comment!