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[Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:42 pm
by Blacky the Blackball
I'm starting the final chapter of Lightmaster now, which is the chapter with all the monster and NPC statistics. This is probably the chapter where it diverges the most from Blood, Guts & Glory, since the list of monsters is rather different.

I've barely started it so far, but a couple of questions have already sprung to mind:

1) What should I do for humans? Obviously a recurring character NPC will probably be created by the GM with a full character write-up, but they won't want to do that for every Tom, Dick, and Harriet that the party meet.

The way I see it, I've basically got two options here. The first is to go through each of the classes and provide a simple set of statistics for a member of that class at a variety of levels. For example I could have simplified stats for an "average" Warlock of 1st, 3rd, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 30th, and 50th level; and then the same for Bounty Hunters and the same for Priests and so forth. That's the more comprehensive way of doing things, but it doesn't give much guidance for the GM. They'll have a list of around 175ish stat block but no real idea of which one to use in a given situation. It's great for "I need stats for a 20th level Necromancer" but terrible for "I need stats for a typical guard captain".

The second way is to go through a bunch of in-setting archetypes - "Village Witch", "City Guard", "Magic Student", "Bodyguard", "High Priest", "Traveling Healer", "Bandit Leader", and so forth. This is a much better resource for GMs who need a quick NPC stat block because the party have just met someone, and also helps to solidify the setting in that it gives an idea of how powerful things like bandits and guards are likely to be. However, if the GM specifically wants to make a 20th level Necromancer as a villain then they are going to have to do more work themselves rather than just reading their stats from a table.

Which do you think you'd find more useful?

2) I need to decide what "monsters" to put in the setting. The setting has what I think is a rather distinct feel to it at the moment, in that it avoids Tolkienian tropes in favour of more pulp-ish ones. So you don't have elves and dwarves and orcs and the like - and instead you have insectoids that live on the moon and lizard-folk that live in the jungles of Venus. I've made a deliberate decision that other than humans the only sapient inhabitants of the campaign world are goblins. So no ogres or giants or fey folk. Undead are fine, though. They count as "human" as far as I'm concerned.

I do want there to be monsters though - but only non-sapient ones. So we can still have things like chimeras or manticores or the like, providing they're bestial. (Dragons are an exception, since they're technically aliens in the setting - they nest in the asteroid belt, and only rarely visit the setting's "Earth".)

So given that setting (and I realise I've not done it justice in that couple of short paragraphs), what monsters from mythology/legend would fit it?

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 2:51 am
by Tim Baker
The second option for NPCs sounds more helpful for my typical needs.

Undead are great – the more, the better, I say. Perhaps monsters based on simians would fit. Snake folk? Lycanthropes?

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 9:09 am
by Blacky the Blackball
I think I agree about using the second option for NPCs.

So far, I've done:
  • 42 types of wild animal
  • 13 types of elemental; 7 types of golem; 3 types of clockwork automaton; and a homonculous (all of which there are spells in the game to create)
  • 3 types of "true" dragon in each of 3 age categories
  • a Wyrm (a "lesser" dragon that can't fly and isn't intelligent)
  • 4 types of "created" undead (Skeletons, Shades, Liches and Husks - all of which there are spells in the game to create)
  • 10 types of "natural" undead (3 types of ghost, 2 types of mummy, spectral hounds, 3 types of vampire, and zombies)
I still need to put in a variety of demons. I haven't decided what form these will take yet - I have some based on the traditional seven vices (pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed) although I'm not sure how well they fit into the setting. I might put them in as one category of demon and then have a second category that's based on something other than vice - possibly demons of chaos that are a bit more Lovecraftian in feel. Demons are a bit of a strange thing in the setting, because there's no mention anywhere in the setting or rules of other planes; so there's no "Hell" for them to come from. Are they actually summoned from elsewhere, or are they created by the caster at the time of "summoning"? I want that to be an in-setting unknown.

I also need to put in the alien races. So far, canonical to the setting, we have: bulbous vegetable Mercurians; Reptilians that live in the jungles of Venus; Delicate and graceful insectoid Selenites who live on the moon; Martians who are technically 'extinct' but live on as undead; Insectoid philosophers who live on Io, one of Jupiter's moons; Giant sandworms that live on Titan, one of Saturn's moons; and nihilistic crustations that live on Pluto. Other than the sandworms (which are just beasts), the rest of these are all sapient and have occasional contact with humanity. (They're also all from literary/film sources.)

And finally, there should be some miscellaneous mythological creatures on Earth - although again I want to lean more towards pulp sources than classical myth, so more slimes and cryptids and less pegasi and unicorns; and nothing sapient.

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:31 pm
by Blacky the Blackball
I've not been able to devote much attention to this over the last couple of weeks for health and family reasons. I've got a bit further, though.

I've started on Demons.

Demons are a bit of a conundrum for the system and setting, in that there are spells to summon them (including some Priest spells of all things) but unlike - say - D&D, there isn't any kind of multiverse and there aren't any ways to visit other dimensions or other planes. So fitting demons into the setting gets a bit weird. Are they actually from some kind of hell? If so, is it just another dimension or is it actually the afterlife? If not, where do they come from when summoned? Are they actually brought into existence by the "summoning" spell rather than coming from elsewhere?

In the end, I decided to leave the ambiguity in as an in-setting ambiguity, saying that by default people in the setting don't really know where demons come from and when questioned about it (even under truth spells or mind probing spells) demons give contradictory answers supporting all of the theories and others.

With demonic origins aside, I've basically split them into three groups.

Firstly you have Chaos Demons, which are themed around physical corruption. These are the most "monstrous" demons. I've not statted any of these up yet, but I'm intending that they be the sort of thing that Conan might fight or that you might find in a Lovecraft story. Their general motivations should be weird and inscrutable too.

Secondly, you have Daemons, or demons of vice. These are much more human-like in appearance and mannerisms, and their motivations are recognisably human in that there are seven of them and they embody the seven vices (lust, gluttony, avarice, envy, pride, sloth, wrath). I've already got these written up.

Thirdly, you have Hellions. These are lesser demons that are animalistic in nature, things like hell hounds and nightmares and the like. They behave much like the animals they resemble, except a bit more cunning and a lot more malicious. I've written up some of these, but I might add more.

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2019 7:39 am
by Tim Baker
I can get behind this. Sounds like it would be familiar enough without being the same grouping of fiends that many of us have seen for years in D&D.

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Thu May 09, 2019 1:01 pm
by Blacky the Blackball
Hey - I'm not dead!

There's been a bit of a hiatus because of health and work issues, but I'm (slowly) progressing with the "Extras" chapter that contains stats for NPCs and monsters.

The latest thing I've done is to write up the various alien races that populate the solar system. Because people can use Lightmaster Sails to travel around the solar system and beyond (loosely based on Spelljammer, of course) the other planets and the races that live on them are mentioned repeatedly in the text. I don't give a full ecology for each planet, but the planets with sapient alien species get a brief description and the alien races get a write-up here.

In keeping with the "pulp" feel of the game, each of these alien races has been inspired by a literary source. I'm curious how many people will recognise.

Jovian: Jovians are an insectoid race that live in the forests of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. Physically, they resemble ladybird beetles the size of wolves, whose antennae are unusually long and prehensile, able to manipulate objects with great dexterity. Jovians are friendly and social race who are peaceful unless heavily provoked. They are masters of psychic magic of all types and every jovian is a spell caster from that sphere, being taught magic from an early age. It was Jovians who first introduced humans to psychic magic, teaching the techniques to human visitors to their world.

Jovians get on well with other species, and a number of them have travelled to Earth, preferring to live in cities where they can meet a wide variety of people and make a living using psychic magic. Jovians visiting or living on Earth do not join the Psychic’s Guild since as they are all capable of psychic magic there is no need to specially identify spell casters; however, they are on good terms with the Guild.

Martian: Technically, Martians are extinct and have been for thousands of years since their once-fertile planet underwent a cataclysm of some kind which they attribute to a war amongst their gods that was won by their gods of death and necromancy. However, many thousands of undead Martians still “live” in underground cities away from the blasted surface. Mars is a harsh place, a strict theocracy ruled by necromancers able to control their subjects directly, although many Martians flee the cities and live in hidden necromancer-free communities. Although all the Martians are currently skeletal, from their art and descriptions it is clear that they once looked like horse or deer headed humanoids with hooves on their feet but fingers on their hands.

Martians tend to be somewhat paranoid and suspicious of outsiders, a natural mindset given their susceptibility to magical control. With the spread of the Martian religion to Earth, many Martians have moved there, where they have prominent positions in the School of Necromancy, which is something that is of great concern to those Martians who have travelled to Earth to flee their theocratic society.

Mercurian: The deserts of Mercury have no native animal life, although some of the plant life there is mobile and takes up the ecological niches that on other worlds are taken up by animals. Chief amongst the mobile plants of Mercury are a race of sapient plants resembling bulbous cacti. Consequently, most Mercurians find animal life alien and repellent and are hostile to visitors to their planet; although a few of the more open-minded individuals are willing to engage in trade or even travel to other planets to explore the plant life that exists on them.

In general, Mercurians are fiercely individual with little to no social organisation or governance. Because of the lack of social structures to minimise conflict and force co-operation, Mercurians rely on their personal reputation as a reassurance to those who they deal with and put a great deal of stock in honour and honesty.

Plutonian: The crustaceans who live on Pluto are somewhat reminiscant of Earth’s lobsters, although they are winged with an upright posture, and they have articulated hands rather than claws on their front legs. Plutonians are a civilised race, living in great cities, and are keen explorers of space; forever looking for new knowledge.

Although skilled in both arcane and psychic magic, Plutonians have little respect for religion. Their guiding philosophy, named Annihilism by humans, is that everyone is a slave to fate and that nothing anyone does matters. While this does mean that cruelty, violence, and depravity are rife in their society, the freedom that their philosophy also allows them to co-operate and be altruistic without hidden motive. Being nice to others because it makes you feel good or because it will encourage them to be nice in reciprocation is just as valid as exploiting others for your own advantage.

Possibly because of their philosophy, Plutonians get on reasonably well with other species, being tolerant of alien morals and behaviour; and with the possible exception of humans they are the most widely traveled species; having colonies and outposts on other planets and in other star systems. There are more Plutonians living on Earth than there are any other alien species.

Sandworm of Saturn: Although Saturn itself has no major life, being a gaseous body, the deserts of its moon Titan are home to giant sandworms. These huge beasts prove a danger to anyone trying to mine the moon for its abundent mineral wealth.

Selenite: Selenites, the inhabitants of the moon, are slender and graceful humanoid insects. They mostly live under the moon’s surface in caves where they grow the giant fungi that provides them with food.

Selenites are usually a peaceful people, and the majority of them follow a religion akin to Earth’s “Old Faith”; venerating nature and living in harmony with the lunar plants and animals. They rarely resort to violence, generally preferring diplomatic solutions to problems. This makes them somewhat suscpicious of any visitors from other more warlike peoples, but they will display guarded hospitality towards others. A notable exception to this is that they have an inordinate hatred of dragons and will immediately take up arms against any dragon that visits the moon.

Perhaps because of this hatred, Selenites were the first race in the Solar System to discover how to make Lightmaster Sails from the wings of dragons, and the first to start exploring the other planets. Humanity was the first species they encountered, and humans quickly learned the secrets of space travel from them.

Venusian: The jungles of Venus are reknowned for the many magical plants that can be found there, and they are also home to the Venusian people. Venusians are mostly reptilian in nature, although they stand upright and have arms that resemble the tentacles of a squid.
Venusians live in a hunter-gatherer manner, and have never been observed using any technology or tools - although in interactions with human visitors they clearly understand the concepts. They are, however, masters of arcane and psychic magic; with most having the abilities of a conjurer.

Venusians are severely isolationist, and regard any alien visiting their planet as an invader to be repelled or killed. They are generally not interested in conversation, and from what little success people have had communicating with them it appears that their aversions to both tool use and dealing with outsiders are religious in nature, although the full nature of their religion is as yet unrevealed to outsiders.

Can anyone recognise the source for each of these?

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Thu May 09, 2019 5:05 pm
by Tim Baker
I only recognize the Dune reference to sandworms. I'm not very well read in Appendix N.

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Thu May 09, 2019 9:22 pm
by Princess Strega
Sounds incredibly awesome, looking forward to Lightmaster becoming available in print.

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Thu May 09, 2019 11:07 pm
by Blacky the Blackball
Tim Baker wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 5:05 pm
I only recognize the Dune reference to sandworms. I'm not very well read in Appendix N.
Actually, the sandworms of Saturn are a Beetlejuice reference rather than a Dune one - but then I guess that Beetlejuice was probably referencing Dune anyway.

Most of the others are from Lovecraft. The Plutonians are probably the most famous, being inspired by the Mi-Go (which appear in most Lovecraftian media) from his The Whisperer in Darkness story. The others are from less famous creations of his - bulbous vegetable Mercurians are mentioned in The Shadow out of Time; Insectoid philosophers in Jupiter are mentioned in Beyond the Wall of Sleep; and tentacled reptilian Venusians who are primitive yet religious, can create force constructs, and hate outsiders, have a prominent role in In The Walls of Eryx.

The other two non-Lovecraftian races are the Selenites, which are from H. G. Wells' The First Men In The Moon; and the Martians.

The idea of an extinct Martian race was originally inspired by Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (although the Martians there are only mostly extinct - it turns out there are a few survivors) although having a civilisation where everyone is undead and necromancers are in control has a secondary inspiration in Clark Ashton Smith's The Empire of the Necromancers.

I don't explicitly reference any of those works, and I never refer to the Plutonians as Mi-Go (or refer to Pluto as "Yuggoth" - Lovecraft's name for it) because the game isn't explicitly a "Lovecraftian" or "Mythos" game. The inspirations for the various races are there for those who notice them, though.

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Sun May 26, 2019 5:12 pm
by Blacky the Blackball
I've got stat blocks now for all the alien races, so the only categories of "monsters" I have left to do are People and Miscellaneous Monsters.

The "People" category is for quick stats for people like town guards or bandits or the like, and "Miscellaneous Monsters" is for things that don't fit into other categories.

The categories I have so far are:
  • Animals
  • Artificial Life
  • Beings from Other Worlds
  • Demons
  • Dragons
  • Miscellaneous Monsters
  • People
  • Undead
So "Miscellaneous Monsters" is for things like slimes, chimeras, basilisks, werewolves - you know, the other monsters that you might meet.

The way I've done the default setting for the game, there shouldn't be other sapient races out there, so giants and trolls and minotaurs and things are out - but so are non-humanoid sapient races like centaurs and harpies. I'll make an exception for werewolves because they're basically human. I'm thinking that any monsters I put in should have a slight lean towards pulp/horror. They should be the sort of monsters that you'd expect Conan to fight.

Any suggestions of monsters that would be a good fit?

Re: [Lightmaster] Monsters

Posted: Sun May 26, 2019 5:30 pm
by shesheyan
- Giant tunneling / aquatic worms
- What about super-sapient apes? Kindgom of the apes pulp
- Dinosaures are super pulp.
- Werebats could be a thing too.