Sunday, 18 September 2016




Fat as a distillery pig, lazy as a bear in winter, the morals of a psychotic cat. This is the Tao of panda demon, avatar of slothful malice. It dallies with all manner of other sins, or course - chiefly gluttony, greed and lust - but not too much mind you, it can’t really be bothered. Of all demons, its soul is perhaps the most relateable: It just wants to be comfortable. It just wants people to do things for it, it wants everyone to do everything for it, and it wants to be very comfortable indeed. That's reasonable, right?

Panda demons much prefer the mortal realm to their native sub-world hell, where they feel overworked and oppressed by more vigorous and dedicated demons. The mortal realm has freedom and an abundance of malleable victims. Once here they are happiest eating and drinking and smoking opium in luxury, their every whim catered for by ensorcelled followers. They prefer persuasion and bribery to brute force, and in the face of determined assault will try to cut a deal. Few can resist the lure of easy money through crime, although clever panda demons maintain a modicum of respectability. 

Its typical tactic is to masquerade as some minor divinity or genius loci, exchanging offerings for psychosomatic blessings and snippets of dubious wisdom, carefully administered; they prefer servants to victims and if they work hard at anything (which is really to say work hard at all), it is to build a cult of luxury and hedonism with which to satiate their bon vivant appetites.

The set up typically begins with promises of religious or philosophical enlightenment, but as its desired offerings become more elaborate, it swiftly expands into an aggressive multi-level marketing organisation and pyramid scheme. Its not easy to get to the cult leader once things  are decently underway..

Into the Odd

STR 18 DEX 7 WILL 12; HP 16
DRIVEN TO SEEK LUXURY AND EPICUREAN EXPERIENCES. Its honeyed tones damage the listeners' WILL (D6), its breath brings fatigue (roll STR and DEX tests with disadvantage)
Cult Detachment: 6 HP, various hand weapons (D6)
D4 arcana of expensive appearance
Gourmet Restaurant (D6G Income)
Pyramid Scheme (D8G Income)

Black Hack / General OSR

HD 4, Armour 1 (hide armour), Move slow human, Attacks aura of fatigue (save vs. Paralysation); suggestive voiceMorale 5

And now the full, 5th edition version in all its bloated and unnecessary glory:

5th Edition

Large Fiend (Yao), Neutral Evil 
AC 14 (natural armour), HP 68 (8dl0 + 24)
Speed 20ft., climb 20ft. 
STR 18 (+4) DEX 7 (-2) CON 16 (+3) 
INT 15 (+2) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 20 (+5) 
Saving Throws Wis +4, Con +6 
Skills Perception +4, Deception +8 
Damage Resistances cold, fire, lightning
Damage Immunities poison Condition Immunities poisoned 
Senses Darkvision 120ft., passive Perception 14 
Languages Celestial, Infernal, telepathy 120 ft. 
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP) 
Epicurean Senses: Panda demons have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell or taste.
Aura of Sloth: Anyone within 20ft of the panda demon must succeed at a DC 16 CON save every minute or gain one level of exhaustion,
to a maximum of unconsciousness. They often surround themselves with sleeping innocents.
Too Cute: Anyone who meets the panda demon’s gaze must make a DC 16 Wisdom save or be charmed for one hour.
Silver Tongue: Anyone who hears the panda demon speak must succeed at a DC 16 Wis save or obey any reasonable-sounding suggestion it makes. 
Spirit Craft: A panda demon is equally adept at persuading spirits as it is mortals.
It’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 16).
It can innately cast druidcraft any number of times per day.
Once per week it may summon spirit guardians (the type depends on the genius loci of the place) and commune with nature.
Multiattack: When absolutely necessary, panda demons can attack with two claws and a bite. They loathe this level of exertion. 
Bite: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d4 + 4) piercing damage. 
Claws: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d6+ 4) slashing damage.
Yawn: Sends creatures into a magical slumber. Roll 8d8; the total is how many hit points of creatures this spell can affect, beginning with the lowest HP in range.  

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Fire Koi

Absurd and impossible, the fire koi hunts on land, leaping through the deep mountain snow. Part koi carp and part lungfish, it has thick yellow-red scales, permanently erupting in bursts of flame, usually surrounded by a lake of slush and a cloud of scalding steam. It kills by crashing into its prey, latching on with its jaws and thrashing atop them with its searing scales. In summer months, when they sometimes emerge in snowless lowlands, they dry up springs, stampede yak herds and conflagrate villages. Know them by the scent of saltpetre and ashes on the wind.

Mandarins and other potentates prize the fire koi as the ultimate status symbol among fighting fish - massive and dangerous and difficult to keep, captured by desperate adventurers cajoled into service as hunters using nets of woven steel. 

The body has many uses for the brave and fire-retardant alchemist: Its meat remains warm for days after its butchered. Its ground scales make serviceable gunpowder. Its blood is prized as a potent unguent to heal frostbite and ward off biting cold. 

Black Hack /OSR 

HD 2, Armour chain (1), Move human, Attacks Bite D6, then Thrash 2d6, Morale 8. 

Into the Odd 

DRIVEN TO LEAP UPON PREY AND LOCK ITS JAWS ON THEM. Attacks with its latching bite, then thrashing and flames. Big enough to damage regiments.

D&D 5e

Large elemental, unaligned
AC 14 (natural armour) Hit Points 114 (12d10 + 36), Swim 40ft.
STR 17 (+3)   DEX 14 (+2)  CON 16 (+3)
INT 2 (- 4)     WIS 11 (+0)  CHA 5 (- 3)
Skills passive Perception 14
Challenge 5 (1, 800 XP)
Beacon: The fire koi’s flames shed bright light in a 30-foot radius
Steams in Snow: The Fire Koi’s flames turn snow and ice to mush and a cloud of blinding steam. Creatures within 10ft. of the fire koi.
Flameheart: The fire koi burns hotter when it’s exposed to water, eventually turning itself to ash rather than be doused. If submerged for a full round, it takes 1D10 damage.  
Bite: Melee Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) fire damage
Thrash: The fire koi jumps up to 40 feet as its movement, landing on one or more other creatures. Each creature must succeed on a DC 16 Strength or Dexterity saving throw (target's choice) or be knocked prone and take 14 (2d6 +3) bludgeoning damage plus 10 (2d6 + 3) fire damage. On a successful save, the creature takes only half the damage, isn't knocked prone, and is pushed 5 feet out of the koi’s space into an unoccupied space of the creature's choice. If no unoccupied space is within range, the creature instead falls prone instead.

Saturday, 3 September 2016


I have marvelled at antediluvian things.

I have flown through the nasal passages of a hammerhead shark and coveted amethysts stained with blood and dishonour; a jar full of dead monkeys, an owl with a pencil in its ear, and the oldest dust in the known universe. Yes, I have spent three days in that cathedral of science, the veritable Vatican of evolution and platonic ideal of curatorship that is London’s Natural History Museum. 

Stop reading and go there now. Seriously. 

I've also been to the Victoria and Albert museum, which bills itself as the world’s leading museum of art and design but actually feels far more viscerally like a temple to Beautiful Things Britannia’s Glorious Empire Plundered, back when it ruled the earth. This gives me uneasy feelings of guilt, swiftly drowned by a kind of secular numinous awe. There’s no finer way to understand at a glance why empires work. But I digress.

There are many gameable things there, so the national history museum is now a dungeon:

The Reptile Lichdoms

The Reptile Lichdoms are a subworld crushed beneath the infinitesimally slow, unending pressure of sedimentary layers. Their ancient civilisation is a world of pillars and Atlas-like upheaving, an exercise in defiance of crushing stone. They are patient and careful and never far from crushing obliteration or permineralization. Their gods are the Stone and the Black: It’s unclear whether these are philosophical metaphors or genuine divinities. Perhaps both. Stone represents death, timelessness, the order of things. The Black is darkness, the unknown and potential, transformation and memory; a liquid deity, a hive mind of psychic petroleum. Balancing these forces, and the analysis of choice and consequence, is the basis of their society. They debate and weigh decisions in a way that even ents would find longwinded and overcautious. They are waiting for the death and weathering of the world, when there is no more sky to press upon them.

The halls are labyrinthine cathedrals of interlocked dry bones - HR Geiger in mottled yellow-grey and white. Everything is ab-dead, fleshless but animate, although many skeletons sleep, lost in reverie and dreams encoded into their bones. The reptile dead measure slumber in geological time, and so ever practical, many have been repurposed into the lichdoms’ architecture. They can be slowly woken by sufficient damage or spells like speak with dead, but since their packed hordes hold the ceiling up, disturbing them is not a good idea. 

More philosophically-minded reptilian monsters sometimes venture down to join them in undeath. So on occasion a dying dragon or other potentate of scales will bind human adventurers to transport its corpse below. Human and human-like life is otherwise treated as a minor, brief irritation. The main hostility comes from the habit of necromancers and subworld creatures sneaking in to get high on bone dust or the titanic skeletons slowly accreted oil of liquid time. These substances provide users with visions of antediluvian ages or a skewing of their temporal senses.


  1. Suspended dragon bones give off a slow, musical drip of elemental oil into glass vases. The bones are explosively flammable, like osseous dynamite.
  2. Defrosting kraken. Its stench is awful beyond description and powerful enough to permeate through six whole dungeon levels. Its flesh tastes of ammonia. Desiccated scavenger corpses surround it. Awaiting the taxidermy lich from room 
  3. Huge sarcophagi of titanic beasts, faint skittering sound of flesh-eating beetles within. The swarm’s race memory knows every creature they have devoured for a million years, but can only describe things based on taste, scent and relative chewiness. 
  4. Area previously wrecked by earthquake. Now perilously tottering. A skull here wants the rest of its plundered bones back.
  5. A great chalice of yellow marble, its rim carved with unfamiliar serpents. Their fangs drip with the oil of coagulated time, a drop perhaps every 1D100 years. A taste allows you to experience your whole life this far with perfect clarity. Your mind is not designed for that.
  6. A glass dome housing a delicate petrified tree full of tiny mummified archaeopteryxes, which animate and fly upon command. Dust billows up when they take flight, enough to blind and choke those nearby.
  7. Skeletal giant sloth dealing with infestation of bioluminescent scorpions that fire streams of acid from their tails. Could use a hand.
  8. A vein of copper interrupts the endless bone architecture. Desiccated trees were placed here aeons ago, and mineral seepage has turned them to solid copper. Someone has mounted fruits and leaves carved from precious metals upon them.
  9. Albino vampire bats, gorged on the blood of extinct species, they waddle like fattened penguins and explode in gore if wounded. They crave the sanguine fluids of creatures long dead. 
  10. Gnarled fish of living stone, normally able to pass through minerals, they are trapped in a room knee deep in living insects. Hard and black as cannonballs, their beautiful geode stomachs contain gemstones. 
  11. Dinosaur skeletons loom sinisterly, in midst of brief century or so pause. Diplodocus is in endless debate with tyrannosaurus on the dichotomy of predator and prey.
  12. Library of deeply carven tombstones-like tactile mnemonic devices (lukasa). They recount the history and philosophy of a sightless subterranean culture - caress them long enough and their ancient cultural traits begin to overwrite your own. 
  13. Rebellious triceratops grafting undead flesh to its bones. It’s just a going through a phase. 
  14. Skeletal tortoise oracle, its shell is engraved with a map of the complex. Hates intruders, but slow and non-violent. Will seek to impede them cleverly within those limits.
  15. Arch of ichthyosaurs guards long dry underground sea. The ghosts of deep sea fish swim silently through the air. Angler fish dangle eerie witch-light lures that attract undead. On the ocean floor far below, a psychic giant brain coral considers submarine philosophy and psionically co-opts any other mental organs it encounters for additional processing power.
  16. Iron monkeys guard taxidermy-obsessed lich, busy stuffing a two-horned narwhal amidst her many delicate creations. Wants more specimens. You’ll do in a pinch. 
  17. Bottled collection of rare species, preserved in highly flammable dragon bone oil. The mindflayer brain and tentacles keeps instinctively escaping its jar in search of prey.
  18. Hall of untethered memories drift invisible to the naked eye. They latch onto passing minds, leaving them a confused patchwork of alien recollections.
  19. Overproud, honour-obsessed mummified naturalists demand matched pair of narwhal horns as duelling weapons to continue their fight. Mind your manners.
  20. Oily sea of yellow-black oil, perpetually quobbing and quivering amid tidal swells and undulations. Viscous, protean heads half form if intruders bring an offering. It contains the liquid souls of millions of creatures and greatly desires to consume all organic matter in creation. Extremely flammable, but far too large to kill.