Papa Brebner used to collect the odd Dungeon and Polyhedron magazine when I was learning D&D and I absolutely loved going through them, reading all the scenarios those professional tale-spinners wove. I have a feeling that the insight they provided in how to lay out a narrative experience inspired me to try DMing as young as I did. Nine-year-old Scott figured if they could do it, so could I (except where their stories involved depth, nuance, twists and drama, mine involved slamming a Bionicle on the table with inflated stats and screaming "BOSS FIGHT!"). One of my favourite things was the Critical Threat section which would be a spotlight article about a cool monster, hero or villain one of the authors had thought up out of the context of a larger story.
Apart from the cool pictures that always came with this section, I was enthralled by the very concept of creature creation. I spent hours (weeks) making my own Monster Manuals. It was the perfect outlet for sporadic bursts of creative energy. Because everything and everyone in fantasy has silly names, I'd start at 'A' and work my way through the alphabet and my 1B5s, drawing whatever came to mind and giving it statistics to make them "playable."
The purpose of this miniseries is twofold. It's an homage to the old role-playing magazines and Monster Manuals I spent so many hours lost in; to the dragons and knights, the vampires and werewolves, the orcs and elves, the goblins and Bowies, the grimlocks and lockjaws, the slaads and salads, the flails, the snails and everything in between. Also, it's a quick out when it's been two weeks since your last post and you haven't had two consecutive days without something on...
Today's NPC won the people's choice award for a podcast that doesn't exist despite my cousin wanting one for my campaign SWSTS (pronounced "Swisstiss" by the party). Introducing:
Hektar of Ulwitch
"Mmmmmmmustn't catch the sicknessssss. The sick dieeeeee, only to get sicker stillllllll."
(Small Humanoid - Gnome)
Hit Points: 25 (5d6+5)
Armour Class: 13 (+2 Dex, +1 leather)
Abilities: Strength 8, Dexterity, 14, Constitution 13, Intelligence 14, Wisdom 16, Charisma 10
Saves: Intelligence +6, Wisdom +5
Skills: History +5, Insight +6, Nature +5, Medicine +6, Perception +6, Stealth +5
Senses: Darkvision 120ft., passive perception 16
Languages: Human, Gnome, Undercommon
Gnome cunning: Has advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma saving throws against magic.
Healer: When using a healer's kit to stabilise an ally, that creature gains 1 hit point. As an action, can use a charge from a healer's kit to restore 1d6+4 hit points to a creature plus and additional point for each of the target creature's hit dice. The creature cannot gain more hit points from this feat until they finish a short or long rest.
Plague doctor: Can use a charge from a healer's kit to gain advantage on Medicine checks that involve the treatment of diseases and poisons.
Stone camouflage: Has advantage on Stealth checks made against stony surfaces.
Sunlight sensitivity: Has disadvantage on attack rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks made against targets in direct sunlight.
The curious Svirfneblin who introduces himself simply as "Hektar of Ulwitch" is an oddity even among his own people. It is rare for the Deep Gnomes to be seen on the surface, most of which are exiles or fugitives, but Hektar came here willingly even with the land being ravaged by the Plague of the Dead. In fact, it is the Plague that brought him here in the first place. Eccentric, inquisitive and wielding an Undercommon accent thick enough to deal bludgeoning damage, this little Plague doctor is on a mission of discovery and daring that no person with positive Intelligence modifier should ever be caught doing.
Hektar brings with him the dire news that the Plague has reached the upper townships in the Underdark. He is a scholar of medicine, with an estimated 200 years of experience behind him, and the extraordinary nature of the Plague left him utterly befuddled. Here is a disease that behaves in all the ways he's seen before, yet follows none of the rules when it comes to treatment.
As his fellow citizens began to succumb to the Plague's brutal and relentless symptoms, he desperately tried every remedy he knew. When every one he used failed, it became a matter of treating only the symptoms and simply hoping that as the disease took it's toll, it would not take the victim's life with it. Despite his best efforts, Hektar eventually caught the Plague himself. What could have instigated hopelessness instead triggered a special kind of desperation that comes only to the truly inspired or mad. Hektar began to experiment freely, using himself as the subject. After several nights of poisoning himself, he finally found a mix of ingredients that yielded a faint resistance to the Plague. It was by no means an elixir to cure the disease, far from it, but it was enough to save his life and dozens of others in Ulwitch.
With a renewed sense of value for his own life and the lives of others, Hektar travelled to neighbouring towns to discuss his "solution" with elders, arcanists, apothecaries and clinicians. From his interviews he uncovered something both fascinating and unnerving about the Plague. The core components of the solution are used in counter-magics; "spelljammers" as some of his colleagues called them. From this a number of hypotheses formulated in his head and he decided he would investigate further.
For fear of bringing the Plague with him to the deeper, more populated cities, Hektar instead travelled upwards to the surface in search for the Plague's ground zero. To protect himself from the bright and baleful weather on the surface he donned an outfit inspired by the subsurface quillvarks and set off. It did not take long to hear of the Plague City of Kaladoss; the supposed origin of the Plague and subject of a city-wide quarantine. Upon arriving at the quarantine's perimeter he was granted entry to the city by the Queen's soldiers with a curt farewell.
"If you go in there, you're as good as dead."
To which he replied, "indeeeeeed. But if IIIIII do not, weeeee may all beeeeeee."
Scalpel. +5 melee (1/P)
Svirfneblin Spellcasting. Can cast nondetection on self at will. Once per long rest can cast either blindness/deafness, blur or disguise self. All spells are cast without material components and use Intelligence as their spellcasting ability.
Adrenaline* (2), Akoma's kiss* (1), alchemist's tools, alcohol* (pure, 6), antiseptic ointment* (2), antitoxin (3), backpack, belt pouch, blanket, candles (4), dreamdrops* (4), healer's kit (10), herbalism kit, hourglass, ink pen, ink vial, kingsblood* (2), limproot* (2), magnifying glass, moonlily pulp* (3), parchment (6), plague mask*, potion of healing, rations (4), scalpel, small steel mirror, smelling salts, tinderbox, vermicide* (3), waterskin.
*New items specific to SWSTS
Adrenaline: Delivered via injection, a shot of adrenaline grants the receiver advantage on Strength and Dexterity saves and related checks for 2d6 rounds. It will also wake an unconscious creature. If the creature is on 0 hit points after the 2d6 rounds are over, they fall into a stable state of unconsciousness. DC 16 to synthesize.
Akoma's kiss: A strange putty that surrounds a tiny crystal canister holding a chemical solution. When the solution mixes with the putty after crushing the crystal, the putty warms to a comfortable 34°C for an hour. Once it cools you can boil the putty to retain its heat for 30 minutes, or it can be buried and will biodegrade over time. DC 10 to synthesize.
Alcohol, pure: Used as a disinfectant and a base for some concoctions. Applying a dose to an open wound allows an injured person to recover hit points during a short or long rest. Also highly flammable. Can be distilled from spirits (e.g. whisky) using alchemist’s tools and an Intelligence check (DC 8).
Antiseptic ointment: Used for cleaning wounds, removing chance of infection and accelerating healing processes. Applying a dose allows an injured person to recover hit points during a short or long rest. DC 10 to synthesize.
Dreamdrops: A clear solution that smells of lavender. Ingesting a dose of dreamdrops induces a deep, resting slumber. The subject falls asleep or into a trance within 1 hour of ingestion and remains in that state for 10 hours (6 for trances). While asleep, nothing short of inflicting 2 hit points of damage to the target will wake it. Completing a rest on dreamdrops allows the sleeper to automatically recover 1 level of exhaustion (if the subject were to gain a level from other means, simply ignore the first level gained). DC 15 to synthesize. Dreamdrops can be weaponized into a grenade-like canister. Upon detonation, creatures within a 5ft. radius must succeed a Constitution save (DC 14) or become fatigued (can only move at half speed and has disadvantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws and attack rolls.) until they complete a short rest. Weaponizing dreamdrops increases the synthesis DC by 3.
Kingsblood: Natural blood thickener. Helps blood clot for recovery from cuts, scrapes and punctures. Consuming a dose allows an injured person to recover hit points during a short or long rest.
Limproot: Natural painkiller. Chewing the root released chemicals that numb pain from physical injuries and excites natural healing processed. Consuming a dose allows an injured person to recover hit points during a short or long rest.
Moonlily pulp: Natural painkiller. Applying the pulp directly to an injury numbs the nerves surrounding it, easing pain. Applying a dose allows an injured person to recover hit points during a short or long rest.
Plague mask: Grants advantage on saves against inhaled poisons and diseases. The tinted lenses counter sunlight sensitivity.
Vermicide: This foul-smelling liquid is highly poisonous to tiny creatures. Vermicide is stored in special canisters that have a pressurised nozzle on the top that distributes the liquid as a fine mist. This mist can be used as a weapon against swarms composing of Tiny or smaller creatures, dealing 2d10 poison damage, Constitution save (DC 14) for half damage. If applied to a larger creature, Tiny or smaller creatures’ attacks have disadvantage against the target for the next hour. DC 14 to synthesize.
Note: Unless otherwise specified, all grenade-like weapons described here have an effective range of 20/40.