5e Monsters for Iron Gods: Sabosan and Gearghost

Monsters of Numeria!

Badmudderfugger and Solomani are doing such a great job with the creatures of Iron Gods, over on DungeonMusings and Lazy Dungeon Master that there isn’t often much for me to do. They’re both pretty far ahead of me, and I know that I just use theirs without much alteration, although when I do rebuild I’m considering posting it, here, for a different perspective. Would that be useful, for anyone?

The one place I can fill in, though, is the random encounter table, and I don’t have to worry about duplicating their work, because they’re well past these bits.

In that spirit, two creatures that you might not ever see, but should be a lot of fun if you do. Who knows, they might be useful for your 5e games even if you’re not playing Iron Gods. After all, who doesn’t want to throw a giant bat-creature or a ghost made from the restless soul of an adventurer killed by a trap? (And what could be more D&D than being hunted by spirits of failed adventurers past? A truly vicious GM could literally haunt a party with their own failures…)

Continue reading


Foes of Iron: The Junk Golem & The Lunerma

Two more Iron Gods creatures. One from the adventure, and one from the random encounter chart:

Paladin_BotJunk Golem

Junk Golem

Medium construct, neutral
Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 68 (8d8 + 32)
Speed 30 feet
STR 18 (+4) DEX 9 (-1) CON 18 (+4) INT 3 (-4) WIS 11 (0) CHA 1 (-5)
Damage Immunities: poison, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons that aren’t adamantine
Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses darkvision 60ft, passive Perception 10
Languages: understands the languages of its creator but can’t speak
Challenge 4 (1,100 xp)

Composite Body. If the grease spell is cast on the golem, it is treated as the haste If the arcane lock spell is cast on the golem, it is treated as the slow spell. If the shatter spell is cast on the golem, it uses its discorporate ability. If the wood shape or rusting grasp spell is cast on the golem, the spell deals 2d6 points of damage to the golem, instead of its usual effect.

Magic Resistance. The golem has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons. The golem’s weapon attacks are magical.


Multiattack. The junk golem makes two slam attacks.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 day. The poisoned target can not speak or cast spells until after it takes a long rest or receives healing magic.

Discorporate. The golem breaks apart, becoming a swarm. It gains the following attributes:
Large: The golem’s size becomes large.
Swarm. A swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, and the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a Tiny golem. The swarm can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points.

While the golem is a swarm, it can take the following actions.

Tiny cuts. Melee Weapon Attack. +6 to hit, reach 0 ft., all creatures in the swarm’s space. Hit: Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) slashing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 day. The poisoned target can not speak or cast spells until after it takes a long rest or receives healing magic.

Reassemble. The golem reverts back to its normal form. It may not move, this turn.



Medium aberration, neutral
Armor Class 15
Hit Points 108 (14d8 + 56)
Speed fly 60 ft.
STR 16 (+3) DEX 12 (+1) CON 19 (+4) INT 5 (-3) WIS 12 (+2) CHA 10 (+0)
Damage Resistances: electricity, fire
Damage Immunities: cold, poison
Condition Immunities: poisoned
Skills Perception +5, Stealth +4
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive perception +15
Languages telepathy 120 ft. (other lunarma only)
Challenge 6 (2,300 xp)

No Breath. The lunarma does no need to breathe.

Barbed Carapace. Any creature that grapples a lunarma or hits it with unarmed strikes or natural weapon attacks takes 7 (2d6) points of damage from the barbs on its hide.


Multiattack. The lunarma can attack three times with its claws and once with its bite.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d8 + 3) piercing damage, and the target must succeed at a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 9 (2d8) acid damage.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d8 + 3) slashing damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained, the lunarma can automatically hit the target with its claw attack, and the number of claw attacks it can make is reduced by one.

Acid Breath. The lunarma spews caustic acid in a 30-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Each creature in the line must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 36 (8d8) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. For the next two rounds, each creature damaged by the lunarma’s acid breath takes 9 (2d8) acid damage. A creature can negate this damage to itself or another creature by spending an action to use water or another liquid to wash the acid off.

Implant Eggs. A lunarma can implant 7 (2d6) eggs in a restrained creature. The eggs hatch after one day and feed on the implanted creature for the next two days, reducing its hit point maximum by 5 per egg per day. After which the larvae leave the carcass behind to seek out a safe place to form a cocoon and mature into adults. A lesser restoration removes all eggs or larvae, or they can be removed individually with a Wisdom (Heal) ability check. A creature’s hit point maximum can only be restored by a restoration spell.

Hacking the Junk Golem & Lunarma

(A bit late, down here, due to some computer problems.) The problem with golems is that they’re all high level. Why shouldn’t low-level characters have the opportunity to fight a lair-guardian that shrugs off their attacks? For me, the most interesting aspect of the junk golem was trying to capture the “discorporate” ability. The “swarm” type in 5e is loosely defined, and there’s no way for a swarm to use the same attacks as the creature that it originated from. Making the swarm-form, essentially, a new creature that could come and go with a reaction or an action was the best way I could think of to make that work, and it should freak the players out, because nothing else in 5e does this. It may have too many hit points, though. I’ll see how that works. It’s less of a big deal, in the Iron Gods encounter, because I don’t plan for that encounter to last long. After two rounds, the combat will be called off – just long enough for things to get interesting, but not long enough for them to get deadly.

The lunarma, I’m sorry to say, didn’t have any pictures that I could find on-line, and I’m trying really hard not to do copyright infringement, if I can help it. Will my players fight one? No idea, but they’re super-creepy and I wanted to work out the “iplant egg” ability. Creatures that implants eggs in humans are, I think, the creepiest creatures. This one is especially gross, because it floats along, seemingly harmlessly, silently hunting its prey. The egg implantation is another example of 5e’s missing ability damage rules. I understand why they’re absent: they make the game significantly more complicated, but making ability scores off-limits for damage removes a huge set of tools from the GM’s toolbox: poisons, diseases, drain attacks, and egg implantation can’t work in the same way. Sometimes exhaustion is a good substitute, but not always.

I’ve been toying with a subsystem, but the fact is that anything that approximated ability damage would feel clunky and tacked-on. For now, I think the best approach is to take it on a case-by-case basis. In this case, the reduction in hit point maximum mirrors some poisons, and should represent the degree to which the eggs mess with a character’s system. The initial implantation isn’t likely to kill higher-level characters, but will be deadly for low-level parties and villager-NPCs.

Next time: Computer problems will force me to take a break on Monday, but I’ll be back Wednesday with the Darfellan!

5e Monsters for Iron Gods: Choker & Rhu-chalik/ Void Wanderer

These two creatures are coming up shortly in my group’s Iron Gods campaign…


Creatures out of nightmares, chokers hunt quietly in the darkness, preferring to bring down individual prey when possible. They are small, no larger than a halfling, but their arms, legs, and fingers are disproportionately long and often twitch so quickly that they seem blurry.

Dwellers in Darkness. Little more intelligent than animals, chokers are often confused and fascinated by the habits and customs of civilized creatures, and will lurk for days in dark places, watching humans and other settled races go about their daily lives. When alone in a house, chokers try to touch everything in sight, moving objects around or secreting away small items that seem important. A choker can hide in an attic or an eve for days, sewing fear and mistrust within a house until they choose to stop playing and devour their prey. They subsist solely on the flesh and blood of living creatures, and prefer those with some measure of intelligence.

Bringers of Silence. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of fighting with a choker, however, is their ability to steal a creature’s voice with a touch. As they rarely speak, themselves, they little understand why voices are do important, but they know well enough that losing one is terrifying, particularly for magic-users.

Cowardly Hunters. While chokers can hunt prey of any size, they prefer to pull small or smaller creatures into the darkness and feed on them. As such, they enjoy hunting halflings, gnomes, and children from larger races. They will rarely attack someone holding a weapon, preferring to watch and wait for an opportunity to strike when the target is sleeping or unawares. If truly roused to anger, a choker will leave an armed target alone and hunt its family, instead.


Small aberration, chaotic evil
Armor Class 13
Hit Points 31 (7d6 + 7)
Speed 20 ft., climb 10 ft.
STR 16 (+3) DEX 14 (+2) CON 13 (+1) INT 4 (-3) WIS 13 (+1) CHA 7 (-2)
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception +13
Languages: Undercommon, Aklo
Challenge 2 (450 xp)

Cunning Action. On each of its turns, the choker can use a bonus action to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.

Multiattack. The choker can make two tentacle attacks, unless it is currently restraining a target.
Tentacle. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, 10 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). Until this grapple ends, the creature is restrained and can neither speak nor cast spells. The choker can restrain no more than two creatures in this way.

http://scpaps.deviantart.com/art/One-Eyed-Tentacle-Beast-Fin-23710899Void Wanderer (Rhu-chalik)

Called the rhu-chalik among its own people, the void wanderer travels the cosmos as advance scouts for dark masters that live in the spaces between the stars. Millions of these diminutive tentacled aberrations are birthed every hour and flung into the universe to seek out planets that are ripe for colonization. They can move through the void of space, whose airless cold is harmless to them, but often prefer to find interstellar ships and feed on the crew as it ship ferries its deadly, hidden cargo.

Silent Stalkers. Living invisibly among a population for decades, void wanderers wait for a society to cover a plant and advance technologically until they are almost space-faring before the summon their masters’ fleets. During this time, they prey on individuals of every species and every kind of creature, wearing them down until they enter a fitful sleep, at which time the void wanderer duplicates their consciousness and transmits it across the depths of space for some unknown purpose. The leaders and the lowly alike are copied in this way.

Immortal Hunters. As long as its eye remains intact in its gel-like casing, the void wanderer can never be truly killed. It will always regenerate. Because the void wanderer’s body and eye are so flexible, a creature must choose to attack the eye, specifically, to do damage to it. Any attack or effect that blinds the void wanderer will prevent its regeneration, as well. Void wanderers prefer to avoid direct combat, however, choosing instead to attack creatures while they sleep, inflicting increasing degrees of exhaustion until a creature is unable to fight back.

Connoisseurs of Pain. The void wanderer’s pain touch can deliver various kinds of pain, from the feeling of freezing to the feeling of being stabbed, and void wanderers often administer multiple types of pain to the same creature, to see how it will react. When they have the opportunity to share memories with a creature, they often choose an emotionally painful one, to administer yet another variety of agony.

Void Wanderer

Small aberration, chaotic evil
Armor Class  15
Hit Points 75 (10d6 + 40)
Speed 5 ft., fly 60 ft.
STR 12 (+0) DEX 16 (+3) CON 19 (+4) INT 13 (+1) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 16 (+3)
Damage Immunities cold
Condition Immunities poisoned
Skills Intimidate +6, Perception +5, Stealth +6
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages telepathy 100 ft.
Challenge 6 (2,300 xp)

Compression. The void wanderer can enter any space larger than its eye.

No Breath. The void wanderer does not need to breathe.

Void Transmission. When a creature falls unconscious while it suffers from any level of exhaustion as result of the void wanderer’s project terror ability, the void wanderer can spend 10 minutes in direct contact with the creature copying and absorbing the creature’s consciousness. If the creature is awoken before the process is completed, the void transmission fails, and the void wanderer must start again. If the process is completed successfully, the void wanderer transmits that conscious to any location of its choosing in the universe. The location must have the capacity to receive and story these transmissions. If a creature’s consciousness is successfully transmitted, it suffers from one additional level of exhaustion for the next 24 hours. This level of exhaustion cannot be cured by any means until the end of this time.

Regeneration. The void wanderer regains 5 hit points at the start of its turn. When it uses this ability, its eye glows slightly. The void wanderer dies only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and the single grey eye in the center of its body has been shattered. If the void wanderer is blinded by an attack or spell effect, it does not regenerate until the blindness is cured.

Innate Spellcasting. The void wanderer’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The void wanderer can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:
At will—detect thoughts, invisibility, mage armor, share memory
     1/day—modify memory, sleep

Multiattack. The void wanderer makes four attacks with its tentacles.

Tentacle. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage, and the void wanderer can choose one of the following effects:
     Pain Touch: The target must succeed at a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or gain disadvantage on all attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws for 2 rounds. Additional pain touches increase the duration by 2 additional rounds.
     Spell Strike. The void wanderer affects the target with any spell that it knows, regardless of the range of the spell, as though that spell has a range of touch.

Project Terror. Ranged Attack: +6 to hit, range 60 ft., one target on whom the void wanderer has used detect thoughts within the last minute. Hit: the target gains one level of exhaustion as its mind is overwhelmed by waking nightmares.


Share Memory
2nd level divination
(spell lists: Bard, Warlock, Sorcerer, Wizard)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

Unless the target succeeds at a Wisdom saving throw, you momentarily link your mind with the target’s and share a single memory of no longer than 1 minute. You can show the target one of your memories, show the target one of its own memories (even if that memory has been buried or suppressed by magical or other means), or view one of the target’s memories.

   At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the length of the memory increases by one minute for each slot level above 2nd.

Hacking the Choker and the Void Wanderer

The choker strikes me as a creature from a horror movie, its motions jerky, its head perpetually cocked to the side as though it almost understands your pleas for mercy. It attacks from above, hiding in darkness. In the medieval fantasy setting, it’s important to remember how rare light is. Just because our clerics and wizards can cast it all day long doesn’t mean that the darkness isn’t out there, and isn’t terrifying for most people. Candles do little to fight it off. There is always the chance that something is lurking outside our vision, waiting for the feeble candle-light to die out.

The choker was a relatively easy conversion: it had to be fast (thus the rogue’s cunning action) and it had to shut down an opponent’s ability to speak. They don’t have a lot of hit points, but they’ll make your wizard think twice about relying solely on her spells…

While an individual choker might be a great threat for a low-level party, a pack of chokers could still threaten a higher level group, particularly because multiple chokers could take all of a party’s magic-users out of a fight for a few rounds while still attacking other characters.

The name rhu-chalik is catchy, but I couldn’t imagine a medieval people calling something that. They’d call them “space demons,” if they even understood the concept of “space.” I wanted to tie the regeneration ability to the eye, because that makes it a little more scary, and forces a party to think hard about disposing of the creature. Making the eye glow was important, because the characters need a hint about why the thing keeps getting back up.

I also wanted the void wanderer to have some more complex abilities. Most monsters in 5e, it seems to me, do one thing or another thing, and maybe there is a rider (grappling, poison, etc.). I haven’t seen any that could attack and then choose what happens next. Since the void wanderer has four attacks, it was important that they not do much damage, individually, but that each could have different effects: pain touch to impose disadvantage, then share memory, for example. The spell strike ability only works for the CR if the void wanderer doesn’t have any damaging spells, though. It uses those spells to get to know its opponents, or even make them seem to disappear, to frighten their allies, then it flees and uses its knowledge to attack later, invisibly.

A void wanderer with damaging spells would be a lot of fun, and would be an easy way to raise the CR.

Nanite Sorcerer Bloodline for 5th Edition D&D

More Machine than Man

The Nanite Bloodline, from Paizo’s People of the River, might be a little too specific for most games, but it’s perfect for Iron Gods, where players can play android sorcerers. The bloodline synchronizes with the android race nicely, in my game the bloodline is android only (and the only sorcerer bloodline androids can take). I like the idea that an android’s “sorcery” comes less from a draconic ancestor or a wild font of magic, and more from its programming. That says a lot, to me, about the people who programmed it, and the ways in which magic and technology were merged in their society. If a society has technology advanced enough to create nearly-human constructs, and imbue those constructs with souls, that’s the realm of hard science fiction. If that society also chooses to give those androids access to magical power, that’s something else altogether, something I haven’t seen tackled in fiction, much.

In that vein, this bloodline is less for people who want to play out characters and archetypes from fiction than people who want to create a blend of genres that is hard to find on bookstore shelves. I’m not against borrowing (I wrote the Mentalist to emulate pulp action heroes, after all), but sometimes creating a new path, with little basis in the literature, is fun, too.

That said, I can see an argument for keeping the nanite bloodline and the android race disconnected, beyond that being a design philosophy of 5th Edition, since wild magic can pop up anywhere, and nanites can infect non-androids. In my games, though, I’d rather keep them linked for story reasons.

Continue reading

Ranger Archetype: The Robot Hunter

Magnus: Robot Fighter

Magnus, Robot Fighter by Barry Windsor-Smith

You are humanity’s first line of defense against the robot menace, and you use both your ability to control machines and your ability to destroy them to protect the natural world. That means smashing robots and other mechanical creatures better than anyone else, but it also means being able to get inside them and learn how they work. You have learned specialized techniques for dealing with these threats.

In order to take the following features, you must have selected constructs (which includes robots and clockworks) as your favored enemy. These features are gained in addition to the choices from your Hunter archetype. You may only use one feature from each level at one time. When you finish a short or long rest, choose which feature you plan to use. Once you have made a choice, you may not change it until you finish a short or long rest.

Hunter’s Prey
At 3rd level, you gain the following feature.
Reprogram or Recycle: You gain proficiency with Engineer’s Tools, which you can use to shift the attitude of constructs (including robots and clockworks), provided you are not in combat with them, as though making a Charisma (Diplomacy) check. In addition, your attacks do an additional 1d4 points of damage to construct creature (including robots and clockworks).

Defensive Tactics
At 7th level,  you gain the following feature.
Predictable Machines: When constructs (including robots and clockworks) with multiattack use their action to attack you, they have disadvantage on all attacks after the first.

At 11th level, you gain the following feature.
Terminator: When you take the Attack action on your turn, you may make one additional attack for each enemy construct (including robots and clockworks) adjacent to you.  These attacks can be made against the same target, or divided among multiple targets. In addition, your attacks against constructs (including robots and clockworks) are considered critical hits when you roll a 19 or a 20.

Superior Hunter’s Defense
At 15th level, you gain the following feature.
Baffle: You can make a Dexterity (Stealth) check to hide from constructs (including robots and clockworks), even during combat, while they are observing you. If your check succeeds, those creatures can not detect your presence until you make noise or attack. Other creatures can perceive you as normal, regardless of the result of your check.

Hacking the Ranger

The 5th Edition ranger is a strange class. Messages boards are full of posts with titles like “Ranger: The Most Disappointing Class” and “Beastmaster Ranger: Useless or Hilariously Useless,” and I’ve heard more than one reviewer go after it for being much weaker than the other classes. I’ve also seen it argued that the ranger is on par with other classes, when played carefully. It’s a finesse class. Just today, the blog Tribality posted a decent revised Beastmaster (thought I’d make a couple of tweaks).

In previous editions, the ranger was all about the favored enemy and the fighting style. In 5th Edition, other classes get a fighting style, and the favored enemy is less impressive. The ranger now sacrifices damage output for versatility, and it has somewhat less versatility than it once did.

The thing is, it’s still a class with a deep bench: favored enemy and terrain, spells like hunter’s mark, cordon of arrows, and conjure barrage (which, used in the right situation, can do hundreds of points of damage in a round) give it a lot of choices, and the Hunter ranger has a lot going for it, particularly in terms of the options.

In adapting the saboteur ranger archetype to 5th Edition, I considered the versatility of the Hunter ranger, and the fact that the favored enemy class feature no longer has any mechanical effect in combat (until 20th level, that is). If the ranger can choose which Hunter feature to have access to, they can either focus their efforts on their favored enemy or use their abilities more broadly. This represents, I think, the value of preparation. If Magnus, here, knows that he’ll be fighting robots, then he can focus his energies in that way, but his focus makes it harder to call on the precision of the “colossus slayer” feature.

This tweak can be easily adapted to other favored enemies, to make the ranger a little more flavorful, and a little more powerful, in the right circumstances. While the fighter can consistently charge in and do the same damage, the ranger ought to benefit from preparation and scouting.

Next time: More Smashing: The Robot Smasher barbarian archetype!

Icy-hot Cat People from Space – The Toru Race for 5E

The Triaxians Toru

The Toru come from Fritz Leiber’s The Wanderer, which is not a great book. Their society is completely un-known, and while the primary example is a cat-person, there are apparently other anthropomorphic races who live on their world, as well. While the name has been changed, the specifics of Paizo’s world remain the same for these Toru: their planet has an elongated orbit that causes winter and summer to last for generations, and fall and winter to last for a single generation. They are, culturally, dragon-riders, though this isn’t necessarily reflected in their stats. In fact, stat-wise, they’re slightly cat-like humans, a great race choice for something that’s almost human, but different enough to feel like something else.

Continue reading

Telepathic Jungle People – The Aratomin Race for 5E

The most complicated race conversion (and also the most fun): the Lashunta Cupian Aratomin!

Lashunta - Scott Murphy murphyillustration.comAratomin are always at war: with one another, with the elves that dominate their homeworld of Lasang, or with the many deadly creatures that populate that planet’s trackless forests. Those wars are not always physical, however. Just as often, an Aratomini war will last for generations without blood being shed, as diplomatic moves are made that bring one tribe success and another ruin. Typically, aratomin who are beaten harbor no resentment, instead appreciating the superior military or diplomatic acumen of the victor, and finding a way to be absorbed into the winning tribe or culture.

Continue reading