DEPARTMENTS

Monday, April 12, 2010

[How Umber is Your Hulk?] - The Umber Hulk

Hello all,

This is the first in a short series of posts on monster variations. Monster variants are a great way to freshen up your campaign and keep your players guessing, but a lot of times monster variants are done in ways that leave them feeling like flat, plug and play monsters. I feel that variants are always best when they have as much theme and character built into them as the original monster. Often these monster variants end up becoming monsters in their own right, taking on roles greater than simply "fire breathing giant toad".

Things I tend to consider when designing variant monsters is origin of the variant. Are they sorcerous hybrids? Regional sub-species? Perhaps they are a more primitive proto-species? If a creature variant has a breath weapon then I feel I should say something about why. D&D 3.5 had a great idea with templates, but far too often these templates were used to create bland, stat-stuffed monstrosities with no greater purpose than that of a secret weapon against players and their characters. What I am proposing is a bit more individual and creative than simple templating.

As my first example, I will offer the umber hulk, stated up here for Labyrinth Lord (because it's not already in there!) and then two variants I have come up for the creature. It should be noted that these variant hulks go back to my D&D 2nd ed and 3.5 days.

Umber Hulk
No. Encountered: 1-4
Alignment: Chaotic
Move: 60' (20'), 10'-60' burrowing
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8+8
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 3-12/3-12/2-10
Save: F8
Morale: 10
Horde Class: V
XP: 1200

Umber hulks are subterranean predators. Their iron-like claws enable them to burrow through solid stone at 1" per turn and through loam at fully 6 times that rate. Their prey includes young purple worms, anhkheg, and similar monsters. However, the favorite prey of umber hulks are humans. They attack with claws and their powerful mandibles. Worse still, any intelligent creature which views the umber hulk's four eyes squarely must save versus magic or be confused for 3-12 melee rounds. These creatures have their own language.

Umber hulks are black, shading to yellowish gray on the front. Their head is gray on top, and the mandibles are ivory colored. Because of their dark color they can easily be mistaken for some humanoid creature at 40' or more distance.

Scarab Hulk
No. Encountered: 1-4
Alignment: Chaotic
Move: 60' (20'), 10'-60' burrowing
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8+8
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 3-12/3-12/2-10
Save: F8
Morale: 10
Horde Class: VI
XP: 1500

Scarab hulks are specially bred umber hulks that are used as guardians of tombs and catacombs. Raised on a diet of corpses and carrion, they become accustomed to death. When still young they are sealed inside tombs where they serve as guardians.

In addition to the normal abilities of regular umber hulks, scarab hulks carry deathly diseases and tomb rot that they pass onto their victims. If wounded by a scarab hulk a victim must save vs poison or contract a deadly rotting disease that inflicts 1d3 hp of damage per day.

Scarab hulks differ in appearance from the common variety in that they are almost completely black in color with irridescent carapaces that reflect light like oil. They are oftenfound with bits and pieces of tomb treasure or even ceremonial wrappings draped about their bodies.

Tremor Hulk
No. Encountered: 1-2
Alignment: Chaotic
Move: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 10
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 3-12/3-12/2-10
Save: F10
Morale: 10
Horde Class: None
XP: 1350

Tremor hulks are a rare, surface-dwelling cousin to the more common umber hulk. Larger in size they possess the ability to pound their massive claws against the ground, creating localized tremors that radiate around them, causing destruction. A tremor hulk can spend an entire round not attacking and instead pound its claws into the ground, creating a quake. Those within 50' of the hulk must save vs. paralysis or be thrown to the ground. The hulk can maintain the quake for up to three rounds. Tremor hulks do not possess the confusing powers of common umber hulks

Tremor Hulks have very subdued coloration, appearing quite stoney and earthen. Colors range from greys to browns with speckling and mottling common along the claws and main body.






8 comments:

  1. This is great! It's like opening up vintage White Dwarfs and seeing cool monsters.

    Keep 'em coming!

    (now I have to write a desert module to use the Scarab Hulk)

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you! had an encounter with one of these and wanted to write it up without describing a giant beetle that makes you confused

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  3. Glad you folks are enjoying this. I hope to post more variant creatures in "How Umber is your Hulk" in the future.

    DG, if you do, let me know please, I'd love to see how it's used.

    Dungeonmum, glad I could help.

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  4. Nice work Eli!
    Looking forward to more.

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  5. My one and only Umber Hulk, is painted black/dark grey and pretends to be a Space Monster for my Flash Gordon collection. See;
    http://dampfpanzerwagon.blogspot.com/2008/06/flash-gordon-space-monster.html

    Tony

    ReplyDelete
  6. Tony,

    That hulk lends itself well to a Flash Gordon monster. The huge head but relatively normal humanoid body fits the part of the sorts of animal men and rubber suit monsters I think of when I think of Flash.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very nice! I really like your variants. If you come up with any more do post!

    ReplyDelete

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