Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thouls! ... Owlbears!



Thouls and Owlbears oh my!
Inspired by Hereticwerk’s 6 Tigers and 6 Lions of Wyrmspittle here’s 10  Owlbears and 10  Thouls.  Owlbears and Thouls have a special place in mid -80’s D&D, showing up in a large number of the B-series modules that I have been reviewing.  I like both these monsters, they are D&D originals, the owlbear (like the bullette and rust monster) is one of those early D&D beasts based on a set of plastic ‘dinosaur’ toys, and the thoul is an absurd horror seemingly designed as a mechanically infuriating trick monster with several special abilities and very poor justification of them.  Owlbears are the embodiment of bestial fury for low level adventuring parties, a dumb brute capable of tearing apart anyone foolish enough to stand against it in melee combat.  The Thoul is more mysterious, some kind of goblin undead super-soldier or strange hybrid goblinoid. I think Thouls exist primarily as a means to trick parties who gleefully set about massacring humanoids, but there's a place for them as some kind of altered goblinoid: undead, enchanted, possessed, mechanically augmented - whatever goblins are into in a setting culminates in a Thoul.  Below are the stat blocks for both creatures along with the descriptions taken from the Moldvay Basic Rules. 

Thoul
Owl Bear
No. Appearing: 1-6(1-10)
Save As: Fighter: 3
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: Chaotic
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 3**
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 claws
or 1 weapon
Damage: 1-3/1-3
or weapon
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-4)
Save As: Fighter: 3
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: Neutral
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 5
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 claws/
1 bite
Damage: 1-8 each
A thoul is a magical combination of a ghoul, a hobgoblin, and a troll (see D&D EXPERT rules). Except when very close, thouls look exactly like hobgoblins, and they are sometimes found as part of the bodyguard of a hobgoblin king. The touch of a thoul will paralyze (in the same way as that of a ghoul). If it is damaged, a thoul will regenerate 1 hit point per round as long as it is alive. (After a thoul is hit, the DM should add 1 hit point to its total at the beginning of each round of combat.)
An owl bear is a huge bear-like creature with the head of a giant owl. An owl bear stands 8' tall and weighs 1500 pounds (15,000 coins). Owl bears have nasty tempers and are usually hungry, preferring meat. If both paws of an owl bear hit the same opponent in one round, the owl bear will "hug" for an additional 2d8 points of damage. They are commonly found underground and in dense forests.




Owlbear Classic by Demos-Remos
 The above stat blocks don’t tell the reader much about the glory of the Owlbear or the Thoul and as creatures without a mythical basis, there’s really nothing else to go on.  One of the saddest things in a tabletop game is when monsters lose their terror and mystery and become simply stat block.  This is a problem with the late period TSR modules, and one that I personally find make me want to stop playing a game.  A monster should have a description and evoke wonder rather then simply be a set of mechanical challenges.  Below are ten new descriptions of Thouls and ten descriptions for Owlbears that don’t qualify as reskinning but are hopefully more flavorful then the ones above and allow the monsters to be use in a variety of settings.


 


10 Owlbears
1
A screaming cry announces the presence of this magically created horror.  The body is that of a large black bear, with thick and lustrous fur, but the head and forelimbs are those of a giant peacock.  Jewel toned feathers erupt in patches along the creature's furred back and it bobs its head twitching and staring with beady eyes.
2
This is the product of low vivamancy, its pelt a badly sutured mass of bear skin and owl feathers, covered in sores and jutting metal prods.  The creature growls with the pain of its existence, and blinks a cluster of pus filled eyes above the beak of a great kraken in a face seemingly assembled from the heads of a dozen large owls.  The beak caws intermittently, and what sounded like the cry of an animal reveals itself to be the croaking voice of a thirsty man through repetition.  It calls for death, again and again, but whose death is unclear.
3
The earth here is rich, covered in lush moss, and walking calmly over it is a great beast, a spirit of the wild.  The creature is huge and solid, the furred body of a bear, marked with whorls of feathers like magic sigils that flows gracefully into the enlarged head of a horned owl.  There is intelligence in the thing’s green saucer eyes, but one antithetical to humanity and its works.   
4
Peacefully regarding you with giant purple eyes, a creature with the body of a giant bear cub sits, stubby legs spread comically.  It sniffs with its small, feathered owl head, twitching a large yellow beak before moving slowly onto its four heavy limbs, each tipped with golden claws.  The beast suddenly cries, sensing the magic about you and charges, tiny featherless wings flapping furiously on its back as it rushes forward to devour any magical item, spellbook or practitioner it can draw into its crushing hug.
5
A riot of limbs comes through the forest, thrashing amongst the trees and crying from a chipped black beak set amidst a mass of brown feathers and coarse fur. A single yellow eye stares unblinking and evil above the beak, surrounded by flailing limbs. The beast’s limbs are a tangle, jutting in every direction from a central mass.  Some have the claws of the bear, while others are the huge taloned claws of an outsized bird of prey.
6
Birthed in the war rookeries beneath the glass citadel, the beast, a magical hybrid of bear and owl, should not be here, it was made to break siege lines and hunt cavalry patrols at the behest of its masters.  The crystal and ceramic control rod, grafted into its brain is shattered and old however, broken, unlike the sorcerous batteries and alchemical pumps jutting from its shoulders, which are now winding up for combat as the creature’s augmented senses have detected intruders to its territory.  
7
The stuffed body of a bear, moving jerkily with a lingering formaldehyde stink, this taxidermy monster’s head  has been replaced with a brass and steel clockwork shaped like an owl skull.  Its crystal lensed eyes swivel in search of prey and it’s cruel steel beak slashes in anticipation.
8
Clearly summoned from beyond terrestrial space, this horror walks on thin black scaly legs ending in talons, its huge eyes are smoking pits that focus on any movement with unreasoning hatred.  The beast’s body is a mass of shaggy red, stinking hair pocked with hundreds of tiny black and red beaks that jut in every direction.  The beaks call for blood in ten thousand languages.
9
Settling on its long, wing -like arms this bulky creature resembles a plucked owl, with wrinkled skin and huge milk white eyes.  Its red beak and a glowing red tendril drooping from the center of its flat owlish face are the only spots of color among an expanse of maggot white flesh.  The deep hunting beast reaches out with it’s long arms, each tipped with several razor sharp bone spines, and its beak opens in a silent scream.
10
A confused look on its ancient features, this abomination is the fallen god beast of a lost tribe.  Once wreathed in jewels and paraded on a sandalwood platform from village to village, its people are gone, but it endures.  Sitting hopelessly in the crumbled ruins of its temple, a half avain/half ursine form, the exact portions of the two beast constantly shifting and at war in its still body.  The holy beast’s great plumes are faded and dust covered now, and if it could once speak wisdom and prophecy it can now only howl and caw, but it still remembers that the blood of man is its fitting sacrifice, and it has been long since any have appeased it.

10 Thouls
1
A lone goblin stands above the rest, limbs long and hard, and body showing none of its kin’s hunched furtiveness.  It is a soldier amongst slaves, bred and molded through generations of selective breeding by the goblin kings to fight longer, better and faster than any human warrior.  Its eyes hold only contempt, as it’s long black tongue licks its weapons coating them in poison spittle.
2
The bundle of rags and bones studded in rusting putrid iron is taller than a man - some kind of rude goblinoid idol, suddenly lurching to unnatural life.  The echo of ancient chanting and foul goblin incense pour from its carved mouth, filled with old nails.  The living fetish moves to stop any desecration, its painted eyes sparkling with the trapped spirit of a long dead goblin hero.
3
A lone goblin, more pitiful then most, it’s skinny body starved to the point of emancipation whimpers just beyond the light.  Suddenly the lantern's beam catches the wretch’s face, and it’s ugly features reveal the mark of the ghoul.  Black rot surrounds the poor creature’s mouth and has reduced the long fingers it raises against the light to bone talons.  Like all ghouls it moves with unnatural speed and ferocity, but somehow the uncanny goblin constitution has kept the poor brute at least partially alive despite its affliction.
4
Wrapped in dusty rags and stinking slightly of pitch the long dead corpse of a goblinoid hero twitches to life, its stick limbs and withered flesh are covered in hexed ropes, charms and gris-gris that constantly regenerate its flesh and ensure that it’s touch spreads paralyzing terror.
5
The goblin shaman floats inches above the ground, eyes rolled back into its head, daubed with hexes and wreathed in chattering spirits.  In this trance the creature moves with supernatural speed, and its accompanying spirits plunge into any wounds, healing the shaman from within.  It is impossible to meet the puissant goblin’s lolling eyes as they seem to suck strength and hold the viewer trapped in their thrall.
6
The goblins head rotates like a gear, its shattered vertebrae clicking as the body turns in a circle to follow its gaze.  A haze of black sweat drips from the creature, clearly the host for something far more evil and powerful than a mere goblin shaman.  Goblins are silly creatures, and many the goblin shaman, driven by lust for power will make pacts with the forces of damnation, never appreciating the consequences.
7
A goblin warrior, in ancient black plates, an artifact of its tribe, forged from raw iron ingots pulled protesting from the deep places of the earth.  The armor is engraved with fel symbols and disreputable prayers, both of which glow with black light.  Laughing the goblin warrior moves with confidence, sure that the magical venom coating its gauntleted hands and the armor’s unnatural powers of regeneration will bring it victory as they have many times before.
8
A goblin, its skin blotched with symbiotic fungus, and evil red mushroom caps covering its back stands separate from the rest of the clan.  This infected creature is stronger and more resilient than its fellows and the parasitic fungus’ spores that coat its hands will paralyze any it grapples with.
9
A clockwork goblin, more scaffolding then statute, steam sputtering from its every joint is serviced by a crew of small goblin midges ready to hammer out dents and reconnect severed hoses.  The thing's bladed hands squirt caustic oils into the wounds of those it claws, causing excruciating, paralyzing pain.
10
The works of goblin sawbones are rarely pretty, but this horror, besides being clearly the result of reanimating magic and galvanic tinkering, appears to have been stitched together from more than one donor goblin and several other humanoid creatures.  Clotted black blood coats it’s claws, and the entire thing reeks of death.

1 comment:

  1. These are cool. Especially the Peacockbear. I've never used Thouls in a game before, might have to consider it now.

    ReplyDelete