Saturday, September 8, 2018

Fiend Wake Fiction - Lauding a Hero

A canopy of entrails dangled from bare branches over a dark, stinking bog. A chorous of flies buzzed anxiously with the steady beat of long poles plunging into the muck to press a fleet of rafts forward.

An army as disheveled as the rafts that bore them drifted over the gray muck. Rifles in hand, they crouched – scanning the misty horizon for threats. Their uniforms were a ragged assortment of double-breasted grays, browns with brass fittings in the colars, and faded reds with tattered sashes at the waist – hardly uniform at all. Each variation in dress and insignia hinted at the many Houses that these soldiers once served. Not all these Houses survived today.

At the peak of their echelon formation stood the Chieftain. He towered above all others at five feet and three inches and was almost as broad as he was tall. The braided locks of his beard reached nearly to his knees – the hilt of his saber protruding from the unkept hairs. His meaty hand rested on the butt of his pistol which hung in a holster from his chapped leather belt. Thick lines traced thick cheekbones under weary eyes and around his broad nose. Traces of gray peppered his bushy moustache and sideburns. He would soon see the tenth anniversary of this damned war and its wear showed on his visage.

In the eerie silence, the Chieftain found his mind wandering yet again to the memory of the dead. His cousin was among the first and most shocking casualties for himself and all his people. Until that point, they’d believed that the Enemy could be reasoned with. His sister in law was publicly tortured to death soon thereafter. Nobody realized at the time that it probably wasn’t so much a political statement as raw sadism that motivated the Enemy. That was the death that convinced the clan of the necessity of war. By the time his two sons fell, the Chieftain had already grown accustomed to death and his sorrow festered more inwardly.

A similar toll weighed on his nation and every man who now stood in his company. Reflecting upon those bloody days brought a nervous twitch to his bushy eyebrows and he took care to breathe more steadily. A chaiftain can’t afford to let defeat creep into his heart. The Clan had already seen far too much of it.

The enemy was close. Even through the scent of the bog, he could smell them.

The Chieftain pressed his palm into the hammer of his rifle as he raised the butt to his shoulder. A soft “click” informed him that the flint was ready to fly. He spread powder into the weapon’s pan then nodded at the Colonel beside him.

The Colonel raised a hand – a gesture that brought all poles quietly to the rafts and ushered in a chorous of cocking hammers through the symphony of flies. Long moments passed and nary a soul dared breathe. The humid air devoured all attention and its fog shrouded their rapt gaze.

At last, a silent arrow punctured the mist and sunk viceously into the the Chieftain’s neck. His vision flooded white and sudden pain knocked him backward onto the raft. The impact jarred the missile in his neck and ripped it free, spurting red from the tear.


Before the Colonel could finish shouting his order, the thundrous report of compliance drowned him out. Volleys roared, sundered branches and several heavy splashes echoed through the gray vail. The troops scrambled to pry planks off their rafts and form barricades before more arrows burst silently from the haze.

Laying on his back, the Chieftain drew his pistol and fired in the direction of his enemy. He then pressed the weapon’s hot barrel to his neck to cauterize his new wound. Arrows clunked into rafts for several moments before rifles roared once again and then the swamp fell silent.

“Where’s their taskmaster?” The Chieftain whispered to no one in particular. “They would have fled after the first volley without one.”

The colonel beside him silently nodded as they both scanned ahead in utter futility. The hissing of ramrods echoed in the swamp as the army pressed powder, wadding, and ball down their barrels.

With a nod from the Chieftain, the Colonel hissed and gestured for a fireteam to scout ahead. They sloughed off most of their gear and rolled off the rafts to wade quietly toward the enemy’s last known position – rifles held above their heads to keep their shots from soaking and their barrels from rusting.

Before the scouts were fully concealed by the fog, a thick streak of green light burst through the air and landed with a deafening explosion on the center-most raft in the fleet. Its riders flew with their gear and shrapnel in all directions, landing chaotically on those surrounding them.

More soldiers rolled off their rafts to take cover beneath or behind them as another ray of green seered through the air and concussed upon another vessel.

Splashing thundrously through the swamp, enormous footfalls forewarned of the enemy’s “taskmaster.” Its silhouette stood twelve feet tall, goat-like legs and hooves bearing the hulking mass of a muscular, humanoid form. Crowning its head were a pair of curled horns, pointed forward as if made for goring more than bludgeoning. Long stirated arms ended in balled fists clutching a sword in one hand and the limp corpse of a scout in the other. It hurled the body at a raft, knocking a soldier into the muck.

As soon as the figure’s position and profile was known, the army wasted no time. They fanned out to surround the fiend and laid down careful volleys of suppressive fire, while others moved into stronger positions. As they did, swarms of diminutive, red-skinned fiends dropped from the trees to gnaw at necks and claw at faces. The slightest resistance by bayonet, hatchet and saber sent these cowardly ambushers scampering away but it was still enough to disrupt the army’s tempo and rupture a few arteries.

The aerobic task of pressing through muck hastened the loss of blood through the tiny lacerations inflicted by harrying imps in the gut-laden trees. Soldiers slumped helplessly into the bog as their strength drizzled from those wounds.

The Colonel slammed a magazine into a crank-fire gatling, then slapped the back of the man at the trigger. With a turn of the lever, the gun hammered steadily through the air, bidding the trees to crack and tumble and the imps within them to shower onto the swamp below.

An angry roar shook the naked branches of trees and sent the last of the imps scurrying away. Its shockwave blasted fog from the air and drew all eyes to the taskmaster who’d belched it. The Chieftain smiled beneath his frazzled, blood-caked beard.

“I’ve got you now, you old bastard,” the Chieftain rasped through his wounded neck.

The roaring demon flexed every muscle on its red body, brandished the black sword in its hand, then locked eyes with the Chieftain who sneered defiantly.

“Foolish mortal!” The beast shouted. “Thy struggle only feeds my lust for—” but the blast of harpoon guns drowned out the end of the sentence and the teathered spears they launched lanced through the fiend’s throat.

Gushing black ichor, the monster wildly flung green rays from its hands, detonating randomly and harmlessly in the sky. It thrashed and flailed as the army pulled on harpoons stuck in its neck, collectively dragging its mass down into the muck. After several long moments of splashing and gurgling, the heaping mass of red flesh fell still.

The Chieftain waded out to the taskmaster and climbed upon the beast, standing on its chest, and looking down at it helpless but still conscious. Its breath was audible through the holes torn by the harpoons yet it somehow managed to focus enough air to speak.

“Dost thou suppose thyself the victor, mortal?” It hissed.

Striding casually up the red, hulking torso, the Chieftain began to communicate in the only the Enemy understood: Patronizing and gloating.

“I imagine you’re very old – ancient, even! You’ve probably enslaved civilizations for longer than mine’s existed,” he began pacing across broad pectorals and raised his voice to involve his men in the rhetoric, “but today is different. Your intimidation, your murders could not win you the day! For today you fought no ordinary mortals! We are Dwarves of the Earthhewn Clan!”

The army cheered and began chanting the Chieftain’s name: “Lockjaw! Lockjaw! Lockjaw!”

Lockjaw of House Gorgenbrew, Chieftain of the Earthhewn Clan knelt down to whisper to his fallen enemy: “It's true.  We may never be victorious.  But we can never be defeated.”

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fiend Wake Fiction - The Humbled Fiend

The Humbled Fiend

The last known, living demon sat demure and silent in its web of chains. Though sexless, this fiend took on a female humanoid shape eons ago and was now incapable of any other form. Its long, gaunt face was unsettling; with black, bug-like eyes unnaturally large and protruding aggressively from their sockets, its mouth lined with fangs and so wide that it could be said to have no cheeks. Protruding from its crown were thick knobby horns so subtle that they could be covered with the matted, black locks that grew sparsely atop its red scalp. Up and down the evil creature’s gangly arms and wings, there clasped manacles that kept its extremities fixed firmly to the stone floor so standing was impossible. As it should be.

The creature’s true name was unpronounceable by mortal tongue and likely to induce madness if known. It made sure to inform its master of this truth whereupon he named it “Adelphus.” It grew to like the name. A humble name. Fitting for its new life.

The plodding of leather boots echoed in the chamber and light began to trickle in from the hall beyond. As the door creaked open, the soft glow burst into the room and Adelphus could see its master. It decided to try something new and greet the master with a warm smile.

The grizzled, middle-aged dwarf set his candle down on the table and picked up a quill. He jotted some notes and spoke without pulling his eyes away from his writing: “Should we have company, Adelphus, it would be courteous if you didn’t grimace like that.”

The demon’s heart sank with this failure and it quickly replaced the attempted smile with the customary sinister glower.

The master stood for a moment, stroking his beard thoughtfully. His wide nostrils flared a few times before he snapped his notebook shut and turned to the demon, stating: “We should unshackle your left arm, Adelphus.”

The fiend shook its head and protested ardently: “Master, thou knowest well that my freedom is thy peril.”

“We have to see how your injury is healing,” he admonished.

“Perhaps,” Adelphus persisted, “t'would be better if I healed not at all.”

“Are you still feigning guilt for your last outburst?”

“Nay, master. Not guilt but prudence compels my tongue. I can no more promise thy safety than I can feel guilt.”

“Do you believe that you don’t have a choice in the matter?” the master probed rhetorically.

“I have a ‘choice’ in a great many things, master,” Adelphus delivered the word “choice” almost sarcastically, “but I still have needs.”

A pregnant pause saturated the dim light of the room. Only the distant dripping of water cut the silence. After an eternal moment, the dwarf clomped his thick, leather boots across the room and delivered a swift backhand to Adelphus' face.

“You will cooperate, demon!”

Immediately, Adelphus began to whimper “Yes, master! Of course!”

Another blow to the back of its head and the master yelled again “And you will behave!”

The demon’s eyes were fixed on the floor as it pulled its left arm. The attached chains rattled until falling away from the lock that bound them to the floor.

The master pulled a key ring from his pocket and sorted through its attachments with a series of clinks before taking one and snapping the lock free, pulling it with a metallic screech from the tightly wound chains. Then, standing a safe distance off, he took the demon’s fully-extended hand, placed a monocle over his right eye, and began to unwrap a series of sticky bandages.

Adelphus watched the master’s hands gingerly unravel the black gauze that was white only days ago. It was curious that this mortal took such care for the arm that lashed out at him and tried to tear out his jugular. He couldn’t have forgotten but his behavior suggested he might have. Either he’d forgotten or he was simply stupid because he tempted fate just as before. Yet Adelphus couldn’t muster the will to betray his trust. Not yet.

“It’s been weeks now,” the master murmured as he held the candle up to the puss-coated arm. “You normally heal much faster than this.”

“Does it matter, master?”

The dwarf blinked and looked Adelphus in the eye, unable to understand what game it was playing with that question.

“Don’t I deserve suffering for what I did to thee?”

The master scoffed. “I survived the Fiend War, Adelphus. I fought demons far more powerful than you. It’ll take more than a succubus' temper tantrum to do me in.”

Although it was proven that Adelphus could not give a warm smile, it had millennia of practice at the sinister grin. Such a grin radiated from the fiend as it reflected on the many stronger demons it had slain in its time – not by strength but by conniving.

The master’s next question shocked the grin right off of Adelphus' face: “Would it help you heal faster if I let you hunt?”

The raging elation within never made it out with the dissonant plea: “Oh, no, master! This is a woeful idea.”

The master raised his voice again “You did not answer the question!”

Adelphus shook its head. “Can my indulgence hasten my health? I think not.”

The master scrutinized Adelphus' face for a moment before turning back to its arm. As he looked, he gasped and the monocle popped from his eye. Shock quickly turned to anger and he immediately scowled at Adelphus who was grinning sardonically. He glanced back down at the arm which was now fully healed and showed none of the signs of infection it had just moments ago.

For this deception, Adelphus would once again be punished but it was entirely worth it to see the astonishment on his face.

The Cult

For seventy years, the world had universally agreed on only one thing: that demons were not to be dealt with. Very few remained after the Fiend War but every time one was encountered, any attempt at diplomacy was frustrated by the creature’s very nature: truces always betrayed, vulnerabilities always exploited, lives always lost. The most progressive and compassionate souls of the world were either tortured to death or forced to admit that bigotry against devils was the only sensible choice.

But to Kate, the reason nobody was able to get along with fiends was because they were unwilling to commit fully to speaking their language. She was quite certain that if given a chance, she could make peace with a being that had never known peace. She only had to extend the olive branch and prove her commitment to the cause.

As far as she was concerned, the world couldn’t afford to go on like this; having to hunt down and destroy demons — possibly forever — was costing too much time, money, and far too many lives. Each one growing more and more expensive. Every time they killed a demon, its successor would be all the more desperate, ruthless and deceitful and would inflict more damage than the last. At this rate, the next fiend the world discovered may destroy an entire city – maybe more. Something had to be done and Kate was just the person to do it.

She checked the mirror one last time. The porcelain mask on her face had an inhuman visage painted on it with ghastly wide eyes and a gaping mouth that conveyed something like horror. The black collar of the dress reached to her ears to emphasize this unsettling “face.” The front of the dress sat narrowly open, revealing a v-shaped strip of skin from her neck to navel which was mirrored again in a long slit down the front of the skirt.

Satisfied with what she saw, Kate left the bed chamber and entered the hall where her acolytes were busily chanting. The volume had grown in the past few hours so the clack of her stiletto heels could not be heard as she walked to the altar at the far end of the ritual room where she knelt and began to sway with the rhythmic chanting.

Before long, she produced a dagger and proceeded to run its tip down the length of her wrists, letting red droplets spill on the onyx surface of the altar. The swaying never ceased as she began chanting her descant against the hum of the acolytes.

Standing in the rafters above them, there lurked an unseen creature with black eyes glistening in the torch light, clinging to the beams with all limbs – including a tattered set of wings. When the noise had reached what sounded like a climax, this monster hurled an egg shell at the altar and the chemicals placed within that shell did their work; bursting into a pillar of smoke. The fiend leaped from the ceiling onto the stone surface and when the smoke cleared, the cult members saw someone – or something – standing before them.

To some, there appeared the hulking frame of an adolescent devil – the kind most fought during the Fiend War. To most of the men as well as to Kate, the demon’s aura had taken hold of their minds and they beheld a voluptuous woman in whatever provocative attire they could ask of an underworld temptress.

At the sight of this newcomer, many of the acolytes fell, shrieking to the stone floor — some frothing at the mouth and convulsing as their eyes rolled around in all directions. Some soiled themselves and others couldn’t help but hide or leap with elation.

Kate stepped forward and asked “Who are you?”

The “woman” warned: “Thy mind would crumble under the weight of my name,” before informing: “Mortals call me ‘Adelphus.’”

“Adelphus.” Kate smiled invisibly under her mask. “Nice dress.”

At first, the demon was confused until it realized that this mortal had probably imagined Adelphus as wearing her same outfit. Indeed, Kate saw before her a woman who looked very much like herself, adorned in the same dress but this one a glistening white to contrast her own black attire.

“Why hast thou summoned me, mortal?”

“I wish to be friends.”

To all eyes in the room, whatever form of Adelphus they saw, the demon had a puzzled look on its face.

“I want to live in a world where demons and mortals don’t have to fight. People cling to old ways as if the Fiend War had never ended. I would like to work with you to change peoples' minds. To help them advance into a better future.”

“Why believest thou that I could live in this, thy ‘better future?’”

“I believe that everyone can.”

Adelphus stepped down from the pedestal and glowered. Kate stood stiffly and struggled to keep her composure as this very attractive woman drew in almost as if to kiss her mask, and probed along her neck and shoulders with face and hands but never quite touching her skin.

“And why thinkest thou that I want this future?”

Kate shivered for a moment but forced herself still. She couldn’t afford to offend the demon. She would let it do whatever it wanted to prove that she had no prejudice against anybody. “I–” she gulped, “I think that you can be convinced that equality is better for everyone.”

“Equality,” Adelphus began then paused to brush “her” tongue under the porcelain mask, narrowly missing the woman’s chin – “is a figment of mortal imagination.”

“I d–” still unsettled by the demon’s actions, she had to force the word: “disagree.”

“What would I have to gain from ‘equality,’ mortal?”

“A society that’s better for everyone.”

“I don’t want it better for thee.”


Kate’s protest was cut off by Adelphus' sultry whispering “I am a being of hate, mortal. I would rather harm myself to agonize thee than gain anything at all by thy benefit.”

“You don’t have to think that way.” Kate’s stammering was suddenly replaced with a helpless swoon. Somehow, she began to tingle anxiously, awaiting the demon’s touch.

Adelphus traced its claw down Kate’s chin, down her neck, and stopped at her sternum before saying “But I do think this way.”

Then without warning, rammed that claw into the Priestess’s chest and used it to swing her overhead and smash her skull like a hammer into the altar; sending liquids and viscera splattering in all directions.

Several cultists ran screaming while others stood still, gazing in horror at what they’d seen. The thing that amused Adelphus was that if these people had any clue how to summon a demon and if they’d actually succeeded in summoning any other demon, the final result would not have been any different.

Adelphus took its free hand and rammed it into Kate’s chest then used its foot to oppose the pulling of both hands. They tore free from the woman’s body with a jagged rib held in each one, sending Kate’s organs gushing onto the altar.

Many more cultists fled in terror. Per instructions, Adelphus let them escape to tell the story of the terrible fate that befalls people who, in their hubris, think they can seduce a demon to do good.

Those susceptible to the succubus' allure remained transfixed on the horrific sight before them; disgusted at themselves for feeling aroused in this grizzly situation. They patiently waited while Adelphus approached and stabbed them one by one. Each felt a bit of relief when their turn came to be impaled with Kate’s disembodied bone so their nightmarish enticement could fade with their lives.

It was a pity to kill them so quickly but there wasn’t enough time to savor their suffering. The authorities were sure to arrive soon so Adelphus had to survive on mere shock and horror for now.

One man remained and he stood still and silent in the pool of carnage. He locked eyes with Adelphus. At first, he seemed thoroughly seduced by the fiend’s aura and ready to couple right there in the sloshing guts on the floor. After a moment’s reflection, Adelphus realized that the aura had ceased many seconds ago. His expression was not lustful but more curious. This mortal could see Adelphus' true form.

He spoke with confidence and even tranquility: “Now that you’ve proven your point, would you like to hear what we have to say?”

This confused Adelphus. Mortals don’t normally respond to this much violence with anything but disgust and awe. The man was obviously committed to his cause and that commanded a modicum of respect.

While Adelphus contemplated the next move, the doors to the chamber burst open and a lone dwarf stormed in. Hoping it wouldn’t look rehearsed, Adelphus feigned surprise as the master snapped chains around its neck and jerked its head to the floor. He pressed a boot into the demon’s throat and hissed “Stay where you are, vile one.”

Soon after him, there rushed a pair of humans clad in the livery of the Ironlight Martial Society. As instructed, Adelphus again employed the special skill of a succubus and the entering militia men saw the dwarf standing with his foot on the throat of a beautiful woman. The ruse was difficult for a demon as starved as Adelphus but appeared sufficient enough to make them gawk.

The master called out as he ground his boot heel into Adelphus' neck: “Don’t mind the succubus, boys. If you give it a chance, it will tear your guts out and wear your entrails as jewelry.”

Adelphus smiled at the master’s ability to deceive without ever lying.

Inwardly annoyed that they hadn’t left, the Master added: “The Sultanate should be coming soon. They ought to help immolate this fiend.” Then, wryly, he said “Unless you’d like to help dispose of it.”

The militia men didn’t want to face the wrath of a living demon and were confident the dwarf had everything under control. They arrested the cultist whose scrutinizing gaze was still fixed on Adelphus. No doubt he wondered how a creature as powerful as Adelphus could be subdued by this solitary dwarf. Realization was ablaze in his eyes as he now began to suspect the truth. Adelphus smiled as it occurred to him that nobody would believe him if he said that the dwarf and the succubus were working together.

He hadn’t the wherewithall to do more than stare as the militia men explained the charge of “Infernal Behavior,” bound his hands, and escorted him out of the building.

“Master,” Adelphus choked under his boot, “won’t the militia try to confirm my death?”

“Probably,” he mused as he lifted his foot off of the fiend’s throat, “I think I can convince them you’re dead.”

“Very cunning, master. Thou art not so different from myself.”

The master snorted. “Maybe. After all, I managed to tempt you into doing something good.”

“Indeed,” Adelphus grinned again in the only way it knew how, “just as I have tempted thee into letting me live.”

Monday, April 30, 2018

Moon's Grave Design Diary

For months after putting Fiend Wake up for sale on DriveThruRPG, I found myself wanting to start working on another edition of the exact same game.  It was the first game I'd worked on without somebody smarter holding my hand the whole time so it was bound to have imperfections.  Haunted by perfectly typical "first-timer" mistakes, I saw myself at risk of becoming like many other designers I knew -- folks who (proudly, for some reason) tell you that they've "been working on a game for twenty years" or more.

To save myself from this fate, I unearthed an old joke document I had in my "game ideas" folder and forced myself to focus on making this idea concrete.  To ratify this resolve, I set the goal of having copies of a working game printed so I could it to the Salt Lake Gaming Con this July.  We'll see if I can pull it off.

This game began fifteen years ago as something satirizing the trope of the chain mail bikini but (more importantly) it also accidentally stumbled upon a game mechanic that I think is worthy of experimentation.  The working title was "Buxom Babe Battallion" because I had an embarrassing tendency to alliterate in those days.

A friend of mine once pointed to an illustration in one of her rule books.  It was some busty she-elf with cleavage spilling out while casting a spell.  She said "that's a cute outfit" and proceeded to lament the fact that the rule book never seemed to describe actual gear that matched such attire.  She jokingly declared this a horrible case of narrative/mechanical dissonance and called for game designers to fix it!  We all had a laugh and then, to cement the joke, I drafted a game in her honor.

Today, I call the project "Moon's Grave." 

Core Mechanics

The game involved rolling as many dice (in the original draft, it was D20's) as whatever talent stat you were using and comparing them to a difficulty number.  Each die that met or exceeded that number "scored" and you wanted as many scoring dice as possible.  The twist was in the "random perks."

Your character started with a certain set of special abilities.  They lived in numbered "slots" and those abilities would activate every time you rolled a die that matched that perk's slot number.  Starting characters would have a few perks but would obtain more as they gained experience.  The creative strain of coming up with twenty possible perks forced us to rework the system using twelve-sided dice and since then, the core essentials of the game have been shockingly unchanged.  It just works.

The perks mechanic was always also "reciprocating" -- meaning that we believed that you should be able to activate perks when you roll dice but also when an enemy rolls dice "against you."  This resulted in fights where players were interested even when it wasn't their turns and it also meant that having an enemy that rolled crap-loads of dice wasn't going to be a wholly depressing affair because although more dice were at risk of hurting you, they also could trigger perks.  This actually makes players feel special and powerful even when they're clearly out-classed by the enemy.  They feel like they're really confronting foes that may even out-class them.

All characters also have an entourage following them around in the form of "followers."  Originally inspired by Alternity's "last resorts," these limited resources allowed players to benefit from adoring fans who would sacrifice themselves for their convenience.  Narrating the deaths of followers as they leaped in the way of enemy attacks turned out to be a gold mine for comical role-play opportunities and it helped smooth over the rough edges that came with the dice mechanic.

Core Stat Allocation

Star Thugs and Fiend Wake are polar opposites in terms of the complexity/richness of the character creation process.  Experience has shown that the greater richness of Star Thugs has remained more compelling to us in the long run so we knew that Moon's Grave would need something richer than a series of "pick one of three" prompts.

Point-buy systems became popular in the 90's for a reason; they allow you to make stat values a result of strategic choices which can engage the player more in the character building process.  To help prevent insane min-maxing, they often made the costs of raising stats some triangular number that ensures diminishing returns.  But for Moon's Grave, the level of arithmetic involved with point-buy concepts just felt wrong.  We wanted character creation to be crunchy without making it calculations heavy.

We settled on having five core stats: Awareness, Cunning, Endurance, Grace, and Power.  These stats would start at a minimum value and you could freely allocate points to raise them (one point allocated is always a bare +1 to the stat's value).

We then added ten "talents:" Dodge, Durability, Initiative, Maneuver, Parry, Precision, Strike, Subterfuge, Tactics, and Willpower.  Each talent is derived from a unique pair of core stats, deriving its value from the lower of the two core stat values composing it.  The talents are what's used during actual dice rolls. 

This has two consequences:  First, core stat allocation can be very simple without worrying that players will boost a single stat way out of whack.  If you did max-out a single core stat, the result would be minimum possible values on all your talents.

Second, min-maxers will notice that the overlap in stat uses means that you could make fun, thematic trade-offs when deciding which other core stats you increase. e.g.: you may choose to emphasize Dodge (made of Awareness and Cunning) to make it hard to hit you with ranged attacks.  Doing so may then tempt you to raise Precision (made of Awareness and Power) or Tactics (made of Cunning and Endurance) because both have a stat that overlaps with Dodge's constituents.

Classes and Perks

When you choose a character class, it gives you a menu of perks.  Different perks will have different synergies with other perks.  In addition to your class perks, there are universal perks that everyone gets.  Finding combinations of perks and planning how/when you take each perk is a fun strategic process.

Perks were also designed to help further skew a player's tendencies in the stat allocation process.  The Assassin character class has a perk that allows temporarily substituting the Dodge talent in for the Parry talent -- making it easier to avoid attacks with a single talent.   Though very handy, it's not a perfect obviation of Parry (the melee defense talent) because it is still contingent on rolling a die at the perk's triggering value.

In this way, we believe that we've avoided the usual pitfall in point-buy systems; that different characters tend to devolve into the same generic mush.  Even if certain perks prove to be ubiquitous, how they will interact with the other perks in the line-up means that the game-play experience of the players will vary.

Earlier drafts of perks were bloaty affairs that sometimes came with their own unique mechanics.  As the game progressed, we distilled more of the perk functionality down to essential components and were able to put the pressure on emergent dynamics more than explicit, flavorful but time-consuming procedures. 


We started with eight character classes, pruned it down to five, and now, in the interest of shortening the play-testing cycle, reduced it again to three character classes.  Even with just three classes, the perk variations within each class leave us with plenty of room for variety in character builds.

At this point, it feels like there's very little left to remove in the domain of character creation.  We're going to miss the nifty features of the deprecated classes (Huntress and Priestess) but maybe we can reintroduce them in an expansion.

We had a wider variety of weapons and magical items as well.  Just like Fiend Wake, we tried to emphasize sideways game effects over raw numerical bonuses.  This helps gear feel like more than just a subset of your final numbers and allows us to express more of the game-world's personality with pure mechanics.  Though a couple of artifacts may creep back into the final draft, we are currently happy with the sparse nature of the equipment section of character creation.


In general, this is shaping up to be far more entertaining than I'd expected.  It's so much fun that I've almost forgotten all my gripes with Fiend Wake.  The core mechanics are sound and the character building process seems engaging.  

Next entry will be an overview of how combat plays out in this game.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Concerning Chain Mail Bikinis

When we were working on Fiend Wake 0th edition, it never felt right to have busty she-elves in leafy loin cloths.  It seemed to clash with the inspirational roots of the game which were the lamentations of people who saw Victorian Era civics and propriety fall by the wayside as the world transitioned into the 20th century.  Even though we may have gotten away with it in that "National Geographic" sense, the culture of the Greenwalkers didn't showcase topless aboriginals precisely because the whole world was supposed to mourn the loss of bygone mores.

Something you'll notice as you peruse the social media side of RPG culture: some illustrators get ridicule for having chain mail bikinis in their pictures.  

Resenting feminine bodies is not new to fantasy media.  Reviewers for various gaming magazines had unfavorable things to say about the cover of the D&D "I9" adventure module, Day of Al'Akbar.  Concerned parents, religious leaders, and others have always done their part to deride art with the faintest scent of sexuality — proclaiming that such pictures are the gateway to prostitution, AIDS, domestic abuse and the destruction of decency, virtue, democracy, pie, high school diplomas, etc..

There's always at least one pedant who recoils at the sight of tactical lingerie, eager to proclaim its inferiority as battle gear.  I can't help but pity the realism police who look at a picture of a sword-swinging babe facing off with a dragon and say that her outfit is the unrealistic part.

Domenico Neziti's 2006
illustration "Dragon Huntress"
Used with permission.
Having fervently resisted the inclusion of skimpy outfits in a game's illustrations for artistic reasons, I feel a saddened when people resist the same for non-artistic reasons. Watching artists live-stream their painting process and getting crap for cleavage as "completely inappropriate battle attire" makes me sympathize with those who say games aren't art.  It certainly seems to be the case that some gamers don't understand art.

That Michelangelo's David has a disproportionately large head and hands does nothing to invalidate the significance of that piece.  The fact that his nudity makes him totally ill-equipped for battle did nothing to discourage the Florentine people from using him as a defiant warning against Rome and political threats.  David is a malformed, under-dressed symbol of independence and defiance and we love him for it!  No realism necessary.  (He was also an inspiration for another of the central tenets of Fiend Wake:  That of autonomy struggling to survive against an inexorable hegemony.)

When an upstanding citizen like Domenico Neziti gets accused of every terrible thing under the sun for his Dragon Huntress piece, it seems almost like gamer culture is trying to sabotage its credibility as an artistic community.  He rightly questions why Conan doesn't get the same criticism.  I can't help but wonder why we need to define characters by what they wear rather than the things they do and the courage they display doing them.  (Fun aside: In Howard's original Conan novels, the titular character didn't really wear his signature loin cloth except in certain, fan-service moments like when he's crucified then escapes like a badass.)

Perhaps we do this because gamer culture is a microcosm of civilization itself and we're going through our weird puritanical phase.  Trying to push chain mail bikinis out of the scene is our equivalent of being the Vatican museum curators who hacked the penises off of statues.

Now and again, you'll encounter sensible souls like John Wick who get it and do what's right for the artistry of the game and somehow manage to elude the tirade of whiners.  Yet another reason why Wick is magic, I guess.

A decade ago, Slate ran an article about the former US president George W. Bush who had a painting of a fellow riding a horse over a hill.  The president interpreted the scene as an intrepid and stalwart soul helping tame the American west or something noble like that.  The painter who made the piece tells a different story.  He says that the central figure is a horse thief escaping justice.  Bush's political detractors loved the irony that a man, whom they believed criminal but who believed himself a hero, would believe this painting's criminal to be an inspirational hero.

Surely, we are free to interpret art in whatever way we wish but sometimes, our misinterpretations of art can be more a reflection of ourselves.  Sometimes we stand to benefit from stepping back and extending some courtesy to artists – and to ourselves – by considering what we see differently.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

D&D Redeemed

This is a strange sight to see on the desk of of a man
who has spent decades deriding D&D.
The 90's was a great time to be somebody who hated Dungeons and Dragons.  West End Games made the best Star Wars RPG.  Mage: The Ascension showed us how magic could be fun. Legend of the Five Rings was one of the most beautiful RPG's ever made -- to all who disagree, I offer a "gift" after the tradition of the Kakita.

Then the dark ages happened.  In the early turn of the 21st century, Wizards of the Coast would unleash the behemoth that was the D20 system and the OGL.  It was like a tarrasque that would roam the gamerscape, devouring all other games, and pooping out the same, soulless rules-set that would clash with the most fundamental charm of D&D.

Most RPG's advertise themselves as being one of two things:

  • General-purpose rules that can be used for any RPG (which is always a lie)
  • Rules tailored for a single game-world
But D&D was always cool because it was neither.  The rules were wholly inseparable from the narrative of D&D and were pretty much useless outside of the context of D&D.   But D&D is not a single setting in the same way Shadowrun is.  It's not even a single collection of settings (though TSR tried their darndest to make it so).  The whole D&D "multiverse" is a set of rules and a set of universes all bound together by the common thread of dungeon crawling.  Where other games built a setting and tried to build dice mechanics that were suitable to that, D&D built a gaming culture and built all its settings around that culture.

People complained that AD&D2e was an incoherent mess of arbitrary rules.  This was true.  It's because TSR just canonized the accumulated rulings and folklore built up in the culture.  Something so unplanned is sure to be disjointed and have a high learning curve for newcomers.  But for all its faults, that common law patchwork of made-up stuff was ours.

The central theory to D&D3e was simple:  Roll a twenty-sided die, add any relevant bonuses, compare the sum to some target value (called either DC or AC, depending on context).  That was a far cry more convenient than the multitude of arbitrary rolls with arbitrary dice we'd had in days past.  It was as if gamers were trapped in Plato's Kyklos; felt the pains of their anarchy, and were begging for the order of a dictator.  This central theory, however, came at a cost.

Mechanical Cost

The fundamental flaw with the D20 mechanic is that it operates in guarantees.  By flatly adding numbers to die rolls, you ensure that somebody with an attack bonus of +4 is basically never going to hit an AC of 30 (that 5% chance to roll a natural 20 is mostly irrelevant) and that somebody with a +10 attack bonus is never going to miss an AC of 11 (that 5% chance to roll a natural 1 is also irrelevant).  Because of this bonus, you create a narrow window of AC's that are even worth rolling against.  As your character advances smaller AC's fall out of that window and larger AC's enter.

Player motivations are impacted by these guarantees.  They adopt the infamous "murder hobo" behavior simply because they know their AC's are beyond a monster's reach or because the monster's AC is beneath their notice.  This puts pressure on the GM to fill the world with whatever monsters fit into that narrow window of potentially suspenseful fights which trains players to rush into fights so they can get XP and hopefully push that window higher.

Having AC's reach into the stratosphere has the secondary consequence of hyper-inflating hit points on all the monsters.  If you guarantee that players won't even hit a monster until they reach a certain level, you similarly guarantee that once they can hit that monster, they're going to be dealing out a ton of damage.

In order to properly reward players for their commitment to the game, a GM naturally wants players to feel more awesome, to deal more damage, to score more hits, and experience more overall effect.  So this eternal arms race ensues as the players chase down more and more flat roll bonuses and the GM's scour deeper and deeper for more dangerous monsters to keep the rolls interesting.

At some point, you're going to find play-groups painting themselves into a corner where the GM is arbitrarily giving random street thugs AC's of 30+, or the game leaves the entire mortal world behind as power levels hyper-inflate into higher and higher guaranteed roll minimums -- which puts a creative strain on the entire process that simply doesn't need to be there.

As is inevitably the case when people find themselves in an arms race, designers tried to find sideways answers to the ever-inflating damage and AC values.  They came up with monsters that would damage ability scores to try to make players afraid of getting hit again.

Those who know the way Fiend Wake's handicaps work might be tempted to call me a hypocrite for criticizing this but hear me out.  The problem was not that there was ability damage.  The problem was that the game was not already designed assuming ability damage was going to happen.  At no point could a player's character build optimize against it.  It was just a "gotcha" that forced players to study the monster manual so they could avoid those crazy fights by the power of the meta-game.

Cultural Costs

Because D&D had spent nearly three decades brow-beating us with bad mechanics and because gamers are creative, problem-solving people, we'd grown accustomed to having a good time and playing good games in spite of our mechanics.  We looked at the mess that was D&D and the fun we had in spite of it and began to believe (fallaciously) that "system doesn't matter."

When D&D3e came out, with this misconception firmly in our minds, we took its generally more sane and adaptable mechanics and started applying it to every last damned setting we could imagine.  They even sullied Legend of the Five Rings with the "Oriental Adventures!" 

Game publishers became intimidated by the idea of using a system that players didn't already know -- and there's only one system you can guarantee that players already know.  Players started thinking that it was possible to have one true system for everything.  Because of the OGL, Wizards actively encouraged people to duct tape any random setting to this mechanic.

Looking back at TSR's hilarious mismanagement of their brand, WotC decided that they shouldn't actively compete with themselves by printing a jillion different game-worlds.  So instead they decide to only print one.  The most boring and banal of them all: Forgotten Realms.  Maybe a few token supplements but nothing to really advance the unique and compelling side of D&D's culture.

The consequence of all this was that every other game was becoming D&D mechanically and D&D was becoming more like every other game thematically.  It was no longer a culture of gamers unified on their love for dungeon crawling and creatively solving game-play problems, it became a bunch of different universes that had nothing to do with the dungeon crawling culture that chose to express itself in a mechanical system of guaranteed hyper-inflation of numbers.

So players started demanding familiar systems rather than thematically appropriate ones or they started bellowing that system was arbitrary and accepted some remarkably bad systems because "it all depends on the game master."  This harmed our culture in a very real way and we might still be reeling from the effects of that damage.

Fourth Edition came along and solved none of these problems.  They decided that everything should be more annotatively unified mechanically and narratively.  They assumed that the "D&D Multiverse" was supposed to be a narratively-acknowledge collection of settings that connect somehow.  They went so far as shoe-horning Dark Sun into the official cosmology.  Also, the very notion of an "official cosmology" is repugnant to my sense of the D&D multiverse.

It's not clear to me whether this is a fortunate turn of events but D&D4e was also the point where the sins of the past came back to haunt Wizards of the Coast.  Their shenanigans with the OGL and subsuming the rest of the RPG landscape into one rules theory had gotten people so addicted to familiarity that whatever improvements may have lurked in Fourth Edition were rejected with a discontented hiss and a snarl.  The D&D landscape could no longer handle novelty.  The wild success of D20 had guaranteed that.


One of the first things the D&D5e design team did was to "listen to the fans."  This precept can backfire but surprisingly didn't.  Even though people may have wanted it for bad reasons, "bounded accuracy" ended the arms race of AC/HP hyper-inflation.

By containing the entire game in a sensible range of target numbers, players could suddenly start making judgment calls based on probabilities rather than simply memorizing the monster manual.  Game Masters could start asking which monsters are appropriate to the situation in narrative terms without worrying if those monsters are too mighty or too puny for the party.

The rules in this current edition of D&D have eschewed the meticulous and rigid approach that Third and Fourth editions had spiraled into.  Loosening the grip on the rules brings us back to the old days when the GM had tools to entertain rather than obstacles to navigate.  That means anybody who wants a game made out of obstacles has to go play Shadowrun and D&D can resume its status as a cultural phenomenon and not a bucket of rules.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Goodbye,, hello En Route.

We've had a right-thorough good time using to upload our videos.  The UI was clean, the admins weren't jerks.  It's a real pity that there wasn't any money in it for them, because they were the best video site we'd ever worked with.

Anybody know of a good alternative out there?

If you're looking for a good board game, check this one out:

It's pretty elegant and straight-forward.  Plenty of room for good strategizing.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Alphabetical D&D 5th Edition Monsters from 6 WotC Source Books

Here is a list of all the monsters I know about from the six source books that I have.  Source books not present are: HotDQ, RoT, SKT, and ToA.

  • CoS = Curse of Strahd
  • HotDQ = Hoard of the Dragon Queen
  • MM = Monster Manual
  • OotA = Out of the Abyss
  • PotA = Princes of the Apocalypse
  • RoT = Rise of Tiamat
  • SKT = Storm King's Thunder
  • TftYP = Tales from the Yawning Portal
  • ToA = Tomb of Annihilation
  • VG = Volo's Guide to Monsters

All Monsters Alphabetically

  • Aarakocra (MM 12)
  • Abjurer (VG 209)
  • Aboleth (MM 13)
  • Abominable Yeti (MM 306)
  • Acolyte (MM 342)
  • Adult Black Dragon (MM 88)
  • Adult Blue Dracolich (MM 84)
  • Adult Blue Dragon (MM 91)
  • Adult Brass Dragon (MM 105)
  • Adult Bronze Dragon (MM 108)
  • Adult Gold Dragon (MM 114)
  • Adult Green Dragon (MM 94)
  • Adult Red Dragon (MM 98)
  • Adult Silver Dragon (MM 117)
  • Adult White Dragon (MM 101)
  • Aerisi Kalinoth [in lair] (PotA 193)
  • Aerisi Kalinoth [not in lair] (PotA 193)
  • Air Elemental (MM 124)
  • Air Elemental Myrmidon (PotA 212)
  • Alhoon (VG 172)
  • Allosaurus (MM 79)
  • Ancient Black Dragon (MM 87)
  • Ancient Blue Dragon (MM 90)
  • Ancient Brass Dragon (MM 104)
  • Ancient Bronze Dragon (MM 107)
  • Ancient Copper Dragon (MM 110)
  • Ancient Gold Dragon (MM 113)
  • Ancient Green Dragon (MM 93)
  • Ancient Red Dragon (MM 97)
  • Ancient Silver Dragon (MM 116)
  • Ancient White Dragon (MM 100)
  • Androsphinx (MM 281)
  • Animated Armor (MM 19)
  • Animated Table (TftYP 230)
  • Ankheg (MM 21)
  • Ankylosaurus (MM 79)
  • Annis Hag (VG 159)
  • Ape (MM 317)
  • Apprentice Wizard (VG 209)
  • Arcanaloth (MM 313)
  • Archdruid (VG 210)
  • Archer (VG 210)
  • Archmage (MM 342)
  • Assassin (MM 343)
  • Aurochs (VG 207)
  • Awakened Shrub (MM 317)
  • Awakened Tree (MM 317)
  • Awakened Zurkhwood (OotA 230)
  • Axe Beak (MM 317)
  • Azer (MM 22)
  • Baba Lysaga (CoS 228)
  • Baba Lysaga's Creeping Hut (CoS 226)
  • Babau (VG 136)
  • Baboon (MM 318)
  • Badger (MM 318)
  • Balor (MM 55)
  • Banderhobb (VG 122)
  • Bandit (MM 343)
  • Bandit Captain (MM 344)
  • Banshee (MM 23)
  • Baphomet (OotA 235)
  • Barbed Devil (MM 70)
  • Bard (VG 211)
  • Barghest (VG 123)
  • Barghest (TftYP 230)
  • Barlgura (MM 56)
  • Barovian Witch (CoS 229)
  • Basilisk (MM 24)
  • Bastian Thermandar (PotA 201)
  • Bat (MM 318)
  • Bearded Devil (MM 70)
  • Behir (MM 25)
  • Beholder Zombie (MM 316)
  • Beholder [not in lair] (MM 28)
  • Berserker (MM 344)
  • Bheur Hag (VG 160)
  • Black Bear (MM 318)
  • Black Dragon Wyrmling (MM 88)
  • Black Earth Guard (PotA 195)
  • Black Earth Priest (PotA 195)
  • Black Pudding (MM 241)
  • Blackguard (VG 211)
  • Blink Dog (MM 318)
  • Blood Hawk (MM 319)
  • Blue Dragon Wyrmling (MM 91)
  • Blue Slaad (MM 276)
  • Boar (MM 319)
  • Bodak (VG 127)
  • Boggle (VG 128)
  • Bone Devil (MM 71)
  • Bone Naga (MM 233)
  • Brass Dragon Wyrmling (MM 106)
  • Bridesmaid of Zuggtmoy (OotA 230)
  • Brontosaurus (VG 139)
  • Bronze Dragon Wyrmling (MM 109)
  • Broom of Animated Attack (CoS 226)
  • Brown Bear (MM 319)
  • Bugbear (MM 33)
  • Bugbear Chief (MM 33)
  • Bulette (MM 34)
  • Bullywug (MM 35)
  • Burrowshark (PotA 196)
  • Cambion (MM 36)
  • Camel (MM 320)
  • Carrion Crawler (MM 37)
  • Cat (MM 320)
  • Catoblepas (VG 129)
  • Cave Fisher (VG 130)
  • Centaur (MM 38)
  • Centaur Mummy (TftYP 231)
  • Chain Devil (MM 72)
  • Chamberlain of Zuggtmoy (OotA 230)
  • Champion (VG 212)
  • Champion (TftYP 231)
  • Chasme (MM 57)
  • Chimera (MM 39)
  • Chitine (VG 131)
  • Choker (TftYP 232)
  • Choldrith (VG 132)
  • Chuul (MM 40)
  • Chuul Spore Servant (OotA 228)
  • Clay Golem (MM 168)
  • Cloaker (MM 41)
  • Cloud Giant (MM 154)
  • Cloud Giant Smiling Oen (VG 146)
  • Cockatrice (MM 42)
  • Commoner (MM 345)
  • Conjurer (VG 212)
  • Conjurer (TftYP 232)
  • Constrictor Snake (MM 320)
  • Copper Dragon Wyrmling (MM 112)
  • Couatl (MM 43)
  • Cow (VG 207)
  • Crab (MM 320)
  • Cranium Rat (VG 133)
  • Crawling claw (MM 44)
  • Crocodile (MM 320)
  • Crushing Wave Priest (PotA 205)
  • Crushing Wave Reaver (PotA 205)
  • Cult Fanatic (MM 345)
  • Cultist (MM 345)
  • Cyclops (MM 45)
  • Dao (MM 143)
  • Dark Tide Knight (PotA 205)
  • Darkling (VG 134)
  • Darkling Elder (VG 134)
  • Darkmantle (MM 46)
  • Dead Warrior (TftYP 233)
  • Death Dog (MM 321)
  • Death Kiss (VG 124)
  • Death Knight (MM 47)
  • Death Slaad (MM 278)
  • Death Tyrant [in lair] (MM 29)
  • Deathlock Wight (TftYP 233)
  • Deep Gnome (MM 164)
  • Deep Scion (VG 135)
  • Deer (MM 321)
  • Deinonychus (VG 139)
  • Demilich [in lair] (MM 48)
  • Demilich [not in lair] (MM 48)
  • Demogorgon (OotA 236)
  • Derro (OotA 244)
  • Deva (MM 16)
  • Devourer (VG 138)
  • Dimetrodon (VG 139)
  • Dire Wolf (MM 321)
  • Displacer Beast (MM 81)
  • Diviner (VG 213)
  • Djinni (MM 144)
  • Dolphin (VG 208)
  • Doppleganger (MM 82)
  • Draegloth (VG 141)
  • Draft Horse (MM 321)
  • Dragon Turtle (MM 119)
  • Drannin Splithelm (PotA 209)
  • Dretch (MM 57)
  • Drider (MM 120)
  • Droki (OotA 231)
  • Drow (MM 128)
  • Drow Elite Warrior (MM 128)
  • Drow Mage (MM 129)
  • Drow Priestess Of Lolth (MM 129)
  • Drow Spore Servant (OotA 229)
  • Druid (MM 346)
  • Dryad (MM 121)
  • Duergar (MM 122)
  • Duergar Darkhaft (OotA 226)
  • Duergar Kavalrachni (OotA 226)
  • Duergar Keeper of the Flame (OotA 226)
  • Duergar Soulblade (OotA 227)
  • Duergar Spore Servant (OotA 229)
  • Duergar Spy (TftYP 234)
  • Duergar Stone Guard (OotA 227)
  • Duergar Xarron (OotA 228)
  • Duodrone (MM 225)
  • Dust Mephit (MM 215)
  • Eagle (MM 322)
  • Earth Elemental (MM 124)
  • Earth Elemental Myrmidon (PotA 212)
  • Efreeti (MM 145)
  • Elder Brain (VG 174)
  • Elephant (MM 322)
  • Elizar Dryflagon (PotA 202)
  • Elk (MM 322)
  • Empryean (MM 130)
  • Enchanter (VG 213)
  • Enchanter (TftYP 234)
  • Erinyes (MM 73)
  • Eternal Flame Guardian (PotA 200)
  • Eternal Flame Priest (PotA 200)
  • Ettercap (MM 131)
  • Ettin (MM 132)
  • Evoker (VG 214)
  • Evoker (TftYP 235)
  • Ezmerelda D'Avenir (CoS 231)
  • Faerie Dragon [old] (MM 133)
  • Faerie Dragon [young] (MM 133)
  • Fathomer (PotA 207)
  • Feather Gale Knight (PotA 189)
  • Female Steeder (OotA 231)
  • Fire Elemental (MM 125)
  • Fire Elemental Myrmidon (PotA 213)
  • Fire Giant (MM 154)
  • Fire Giant Dreadnought (VG 147)
  • Fire Snake (MM 265)
  • Firenewt (VG 142)
  • Firenewt Warlock of Imix (VG 143)
  • Flail Snail (VG 144)
  • Flameskull (MM 134)
  • Flamewrath (PotA 201)
  • Flesh Golem (MM 169)
  • Flind (VG 153)
  • Flumph (MM 135)
  • Flying Snake (MM 322)
  • Flying Sword (MM 20)
  • Fomorian (MM 136)
  • Fraz-Urb'luu (OotA 238)
  • Frog (MM 322)
  • Froghemoth (VG 145)
  • Frost Giant (MM 154)
  • Frost Giant Everlasting One (VG 148)
  • Galeb Duhr (MM 139)
  • Gar Shatterkeel [in lair] (PotA 208)
  • Gar Shatterkeel [not in lair] (PotA 208)
  • Gargoyle (MM 140)
  • Gas Spore (MM 138)
  • Gauth (VG 125)
  • Gazer (VG 126)
  • Gelatinous Cube (MM 242)
  • Ghald (PotA 209)
  • Ghast (MM 148)
  • Ghost (MM 147)
  • Ghoul (MM 148)
  • Giant Ape (MM 323)
  • Giant Badger (MM 323)
  • Giant Bat (MM 323)
  • Giant Boar (MM 323)
  • Giant Centipede (MM 323)
  • Giant Constrictor Snake (MM 324)
  • Giant Crab (MM 324)
  • Giant Crayfish (TftYP 235)
  • Giant Crocodile (MM 324)
  • Giant Eagle (MM 324)
  • Giant Elk (MM 325)
  • Giant Fire Beetle (MM 325)
  • Giant Frog (MM 325)
  • Giant Goat (MM 326)
  • Giant Hyena (MM 326)
  • Giant Ice Toad (TftYP 235)
  • Giant Lightning Eel (TftYP 236)
  • Giant Lizard (MM 326)
  • Giant Octopus (MM 326)
  • Giant Owl (MM 327)
  • Giant Poisonous Snake (MM 327)
  • Giant Rat (MM 327)
  • Giant Scorpion (MM 327)
  • Giant Sea Horse (MM 328)
  • Giant Shark (MM 328)
  • Giant Skeleton (TftYP 236)
  • Giant Spider (MM 328)
  • Giant Strider (VG 143)
  • Giant Subterranean Lizard (TftYP 236)
  • Giant Toad (MM 329)
  • Giant Vulture (MM 329)
  • Giant Wasp (MM 329)
  • Giant Wolf Spider (MM 330)
  • Giant weasel (MM 329)
  • Gibbering Mouther (MM 157)
  • Girallon (VG 152)
  • Githyanki Knight (MM 160)
  • Githyanki Warrior (MM 160)
  • Githzerai Monk (MM 161)
  • Githzerai Zerth (MM 161)
  • Glabrezu (MM 58)
  • Gladiator (MM 346)
  • Gnol Witherling (VG 156)
  • Gnoll (MM 163)
  • Gnoll Fang Of Yeenoghu (MM 163)
  • Gnoll Flesh Gnawer (VG 154)
  • Gnoll Hunter (VG 154)
  • Gnoll Pack Lord (MM 163)
  • Goat (MM 330)
  • Goblin (MM 166)
  • Goblin Boss (MM 166)
  • Gold Dragon Wyrmling (MM 115)
  • Gorgon (MM 171)
  • Goristro (MM 59)
  • Gray Ooze (MM 243)
  • Gray Slaad (MM 277)
  • Graz'zt (OotA 241)
  • Greater Zombie (TftYP 237)
  • Green Dragon Wyrmling (MM 95)
  • Green Hag (MM 177)
  • Green Hag [in coven] (MM 177)
  • Green Slaad (MM 277)
  • Grell (MM 172)
  • Grick (MM 173)
  • Grick Alpha (MM 173)
  • Griffon (MM 174)
  • Grimlock (MM 175)
  • Grisha (OotA 232)
  • Grumink the Renegade (PotA 210)
  • Grung (VG 156)
  • Grung Wildling (VG 157)
  • Guard (MM 347)
  • Guard Drake (VG 158)
  • Guardian Naga (MM 234)
  • Guardian Portrait (CoS 227)
  • Gynosphinx (MM 282)
  • Hadrosaurus (VG 140)
  • Half-Ogre (MM 238)
  • Half-Red Dragon Veteran (MM 180)
  • Harpy (MM 181)
  • Hawk (MM 330)
  • Hell Hound (MM 182)
  • Hellenrae (PotA 198)
  • Helmed Horror (MM 183)
  • Hezrou (MM 60)
  • Hill Giant (MM 155)
  • Hipogriff (MM 184)
  • Hobgoblin (MM 186)
  • Hobgoblin Captain (MM 186)
  • Hobgoblin Devastator (VG 161)
  • Hobgoblin Iron Shadow (VG 162)
  • Hobgoblin Warlord (MM 187)
  • Homonculus (MM 188)
  • Hook Horror (MM 189)
  • Hook Horror Spore Servant (OotA 229)
  • Horned Devil (MM 74)
  • Howling Hatred Initiate (PotA 190)
  • Howling Hatred Priest (PotA 190)
  • Hunter Shark (MM 330)
  • Hurricane (PotA 191)
  • Hydra (MM 190)
  • Hyena (MM 331)
  • Ice Devil (MM 75)
  • Ice Mephit (MM 215)
  • Illithid [Mind Flayer] (MM 222)
  • Illusionist (VG 214)
  • Illusionist (TftYP 237)
  • Imix (PotA 214)
  • Imp (MM 76)
  • Incubus (MM 284)
  • Intellect Devourer (MM 191)
  • Invisible Stalker (MM 192)
  • Iron Golem (MM 170)
  • Ixitxachitl (OotA 225)
  • Izek Strazni (CoS 232)
  • Jackal (MM 331)
  • Jackalwere (MM 193)
  • Jubilex (OotA 243)
  • Kalka-Kylla (TftYP 238)
  • Kelpie (TftYP 238)
  • Kenku (MM 194)
  • Ki-Rin (VG 163)
  • Killer Whale (MM 331)
  • Knight (MM 347)
  • Koa-Toa Whip (MM 200)
  • Kobold (MM 195)
  • Kobold Dragonshield (VG 165)
  • Kobold Inventor (VG 166)
  • Kobold SCale Sorcerer (VG 167)
  • Korred (VG 168)
  • Kraken (MM 197)
  • Kraken Priest (VG 215)
  • Kuo-Toa (MM 199)
  • Kuo-Toa Archpriest (MM 200)
  • Kuo-Toa Monitor (MM 198)
  • Lamia (MM 201)
  • Lemure (MM 76)
  • Leucrotta (VG 169)
  • Leucrotta (TftYP 239)
  • Lich [in lair] (MM 202)
  • Lich [not in lair] (MM 202)
  • Lion (MM 331)
  • Lizard (MM 332)
  • Lizard King (MM 205)
  • Lizard Queen (MM 205)
  • Lizardfolk (MM 204)
  • Lizardfolk Shaman (MM 205)
  • Madam Eva (CoS 233)
  • Mage (MM 347)
  • Magma Mephit (MM 216)
  • Magmin (MM 212)
  • Male Steeder (OotA 231)
  • Malformed Kraken (TftYP 239)
  • Mammoth (MM 332)
  • Manes (MM 60)
  • Manticore (MM 213)
  • Marid (MM 146)
  • Marilith (MM 61)
  • Markoth (VG 178)
  • Marlos Urnrayle [in lair] (PotA 199)
  • Marlos Urnrayle [not in lair] (PotA 199)
  • Martial Arts Adept (VG 216)
  • Martial Arts Adept (TftYP 240)
  • Master Thief (VG 216)
  • Mastiff (MM 332)
  • Maw Demon (VG 137)
  • Medusa (MM 214)
  • Meenlock (VG 170)
  • Merfolk (MM 218)
  • Merrow (MM 219)
  • Mezzoloth (MM 313)
  • Mimic (MM 220)
  • Mind Flayer (MM 222)
  • Mind Flayer Arcanist (MM 222)
  • Mind Flayer Lich (VG 172)
  • Mindwitness (VG 176)
  • Minotaur (MM 223)
  • Minotaur Skeleton (MM 273)
  • Miraj Vizann (PotA 198)
  • Mongrelfolk (CoS 234)
  • Monodrone (MM 224)
  • Morkoth [in lair] (VG 178)
  • Mouth of Grolantor (VG 149)
  • Mud Mephit (MM 216)
  • Mule (MM 333)
  • Mummy (MM 228)
  • Mummy Lord [in lair] (MM 228)
  • Mummy Lord [not in lair] (MM 228)
  • Myconid Adult (MM 232)
  • Myconid Sovereign (MM 232)
  • Myconid Sprout (MM 230)
  • Nalfeshnee (MM 62)
  • Narrak (OotA 232)
  • Necromancer (VG 217)
  • Necromancer (TftYP 241)
  • Needle Blight (MM 32)
  • Neogi (VG 180)
  • Neogi Hatchling (VG 179)
  • Neogi Master (VG 180)
  • Neothelid (VG 181)
  • Nereid (TftYP 240)
  • Night Hag (MM 178)
  • Night Hag [in coven] (MM 178)
  • Nightmare (MM 235)
  • Nilbog (VG 182)
  • Noble (MM 348)
  • Nothic (MM 236)
  • Nycaloth (MM 314)
  • Ochre Jelly (MM 243)
  • Octopus (MM 333)
  • Ogre (MM 237)
  • Ogre Zombie (MM 316)
  • Ogremoch (PotA 216)
  • Olhydra (PotA 218)
  • One-Eyed Shiver (PotA 207)
  • Oni (MM 239)
  • Ooze Master (TftYP 241)
  • Orc (MM 246)
  • Orc Blade of Ilneval (VG 183)
  • Orc CLaw of Luthic (VG 183)
  • Orc Eye Of Gruumsh (MM 247)
  • Orc Hand of Yurtrus (VG 184)
  • Orc Nutured One of Yutrus (VG 184)
  • Orc Red Fang of SHargaas (VG 185)
  • Orc War Chief (MM 246)
  • Orcus (OotA 244)
  • Oreioth (PotA 211)
  • Orog (MM 247)
  • Otyugh (MM 248)
  • Owl (MM 333)
  • Owlbear (MM 249)
  • Ox (VG 207)
  • Panther (MM 333)
  • Pegasus (MM 250)
  • Pentadrone (MM 226)
  • Peryton (MM 251)
  • Phantom Warrior (CoS 235)
  • Phase Spider (MM 334)
  • Pidlwick II (CoS 236)
  • Piercer (MM 252)
  • Pit Fiend (MM 77)
  • Pixie (MM 253)
  • Planetar (MM 17)
  • Plesiosaurus (MM 80)
  • Poisonous Snake (MM 334)
  • Polar Bear (MM 334)
  • Poltergeist [specter] (MM 279)
  • Pony (MM 335)
  • Priest (MM 348)
  • Pseudodragon (MM 254)
  • Pteranodon (MM 80)
  • Pudding King (OotA 233)
  • Purple Worm (MM 255)
  • Quadrone (MM 226)
  • Quaggoth (MM 256)
  • Quaggoth Spore Servant (MM 230)
  • Quaggoth Thonot (MM 256)
  • Quasit (MM 63)
  • Quetzalcoatlus (VG 140)
  • Quickling (VG 187)
  • Quipper (MM 335)
  • Rahadin (CoS 237)
  • Rakshasa (MM 257)
  • Rat (MM 335)
  • Raven (MM 335)
  • Razerblast (PotA 201)
  • Red Dragon Wyrmling (MM 98)
  • Red Slaad (MM 276)
  • Redcap (VG 188)
  • Reef Shark (MM 336)
  • Remorhaz (MM 258)
  • Revenant (MM 259)
  • Rhinoceros (MM 336)
  • Rictavio (CoS 238)
  • Riding Horse (MM 336)
  • Roc (MM 260)
  • Roper (MM 261)
  • Rothe (VG 207)
  • Rug Of Smothering (MM 20)
  • Rust Monster (MM 262)
  • Saber-Toothed Tiger (MM 336)
  • Sacred Stone Monk (PotA 196)
  • Sahuagin (MM 263)
  • Sahuagin Baron (MM 264)
  • Sahuagin Priestess (MM 264)
  • Salamander (MM 266)
  • Satyr (MM 267)
  • Scarecrow (MM 268)
  • Scorpion (MM 337)
  • Scout (MM 349)
  • Sea Hag (MM 179)
  • Sea Hag [in coven] (MM 179)
  • Sea Horse (MM 337)
  • Sea Lion (TftYP 242)
  • Sea Spawn (VG 189)
  • Shadow (MM 269)
  • Shadow Demon (MM 64)
  • Shadow Mastiff (VG 190)
  • Shambling Mound (MM 270)
  • Sharwyn Hucrele (TftYP 242)
  • Shield Guardian (MM 271)
  • Shoalar Quenderil (PotA 208)
  • Shoosuva (VG 137)
  • Shrieker (MM 138)
  • Silver Dragon Wyrmling (MM 118)
  • Sir Bradford (TftYP 243)
  • Siren (TftYP 243)
  • Skeleton (MM 272)
  • Skyweaver (PotA 191)
  • Slaad Tadpole (MM 276)
  • Slithering Tracker (VG 191)
  • Smoke Mephit (MM 217)
  • Solar (MM 18)
  • Spawn of Kyuss (VG 192)
  • Spectator (MM 30)
  • Specter (MM 279)
  • Spider (MM 337)
  • Spined Devil (MM 78)
  • Spirit Naga (MM 234)
  • Sprite (MM 283)
  • Spy (MM 349)
  • Steam Mephit (MM 217)
  • Stegosaurus (VG 140)
  • Stench Kow (VG 207)
  • Stirge (MM 284)
  • Stone Giant (MM 156)
  • Stone Giant Dreamwalker (VG 150)
  • Stone Golem (MM 170)
  • Stonemelder (PotA 197)
  • Storm Giant (MM 156)
  • Storm Giant Quintessent (VG 151)
  • Strahd Zombie (CoS 241)
  • Strahd von Zarovich (CoS 240)
  • Strahd's Animated Armor (CoS 227)
  • Succubus (MM 285)
  • Svirfneblin (MM 164)
  • Swarm Of Bats (MM 337)
  • Swarm Of Insects (MM 338)
  • Swarm Of Poisonous Snakes (MM 338)
  • Swarm Of Quippers (MM 338)
  • Swarm Of Rats (MM 339)
  • Swarm Of Ravens (MM 339)
  • Swarm of Cranium Rats (VG 133)
  • Swarm of Rot Grubs (VG 208)
  • Swashbuckler (VG 217)
  • THorny (VG 197)
  • Tanarukk (VG 186)
  • Tarrasque (MM 286)
  • Tarul Var (TftYP 244)
  • Tecuziztecatl (TftYP 245)
  • Thayan Apprentice (TftYP 245)
  • Thayan Warrior (TftYP 246)
  • Thorn Slinger (TftYP 246)
  • Thri-Kreen (MM 288)
  • Thug (MM 350)
  • Thurl Merosska (PotA 192)
  • Tiger (MM 339)
  • Tlincalli (VG 193)
  • Transmuter (VG 218)
  • Transmuter (TftYP 247)
  • Trapper (VG 194)
  • Treant (MM 289)
  • Tree Blight (CoS 230)
  • Tribal Warrior (MM 350)
  • Triceratops (MM 80)
  • Tridrone (MM 225)
  • Troglodyte (MM 290)
  • Troglodyte Champion of Laogzed (OotA 229)
  • Troll (MM 291)
  • Twig Blight (MM 32)
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex (MM 80)
  • Ulitharid (VG 175)
  • Ultroloth (MM 314)
  • Umber Hulk (MM 292)
  • Unicorn (MM 294)
  • Vampire (MM 297)
  • Vampire Spawn (MM 298)
  • Vampire [spellcaster] (MM 298)
  • Vampire [warrior] (MM 298)
  • Vampiric Ixitxachitl (OotA 226)
  • Vampiric Mist (TftYP 247)
  • Vanifer [in lair] (PotA 203)
  • Vanifer [not in lair] (PotA 203)
  • Vargouille (VG 195)
  • Vegepygmy (VG 196)
  • Vegepygmy Chied (VG 197)
  • Velociraptor (VG 140)
  • Veteran (MM 350)
  • Vine Blight (MM 32)
  • Violet Fungus (MM 138)
  • Vrock (MM 64)
  • Vulture (MM 339)
  • War Priest (VG 218)
  • Warhorse (MM 340)
  • Warhorse Skeleton (MM 273)
  • Warlock of the Archfey (VG 219)
  • Warlock of the Fiend (VG 219)
  • Warlock of the Great Old One (VG 220)
  • Water Elemental (MM 125)
  • Water Elemental Myrmidon (PotA 213)
  • Water Wierd (MM 299)
  • Weasel (MM 340)
  • Wereboar (MM 209)
  • Wereboar (MM 209)
  • Wererat (MM 209)
  • Wereraven (CoS 242)
  • Weretiger (MM 211)
  • Werewolf (MM 211)
  • White Dragon Wyrmling (MM 102)
  • White Maw (TftYP 248)
  • Wiggan Nettlebee (PotA 211)
  • Wight (MM 300)
  • Will-O'-Wisp (MM 310)
  • Winged Kobold (MM 195)
  • Winter Wolf (MM 340)
  • Wolf (MM 341)
  • Wood Woad (VG 198)
  • Worg (MM 341)
  • Wraith (MM 302)
  • Wyvern (MM 303)
  • Xorn (MM 304)
  • Xvart (VG 200)
  • Xvart Warlock of Raxivort (VG 200)
  • Yan-C-Bin (PotA 220)
  • Yeenoghu (OotA 247)
  • Yestabrod (OotA 233)
  • Yeth Hound (VG 201)
  • Yeti (MM 305)
  • Yochlol (MM 65)
  • Young Black Dragon (MM 88)
  • Young Blue Dragon (MM 91)
  • Young Brass Dragon (MM 105)
  • Young Bronze Dragon (MM 108)
  • Young Copper Dragon (MM 111)
  • Young Gold Dragon (MM 115)
  • Young Green Dragon (MM 94)
  • Young Red Dragon (MM 98)
  • Young Red Shadow Dragon (MM 85)
  • Young Remorhaz (MM 258)
  • Young Silver Dragon (MM 118)
  • Young White Dragon (MM 101)
  • Yuan-Ti Abomination (MM 308)
  • Yuan-Ti Malison (MM 309)
  • Yuan-Ti Pureblood (MM 310)
  • Yuan-ti Anathema (VG 262)
  • Yuan-ti Broodguard (VG 203)
  • Yuan-ti Mind Whisperer (VG 204)
  • Yuan-ti Nightmare SPeaker (VG 205)
  • Yuan-ti Pit Master (VG 206)
  • Yusdrayl (TftYP 248)
  • Zombie (MM 316)
  • Zuggtmoy (OotA 249)

Fiend Wake Fiction - Lauding a Hero

A canopy of entrails dangled from bare branches over a dark, stinking bog. A chorous of flies buzzed anxiously with the steady beat of long ...