Somehow It All Comes Back to the Giants

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As a DM, I loved to provide players the opportunity to play just about anything. In many ways, I think like the gentleman behind this post about his 52 core races.

Because of that, I didn't have many humanoids as monsters. Whenever the random encounter tables would give me something like Bandits, I'd substitute orcs, gnolls, kobolds or ogres, depending on the level of party. Outside of that, I'd have to defer to the world's most interesting DM:

I don't often use humanoids as mosnters, but when I do, I use giants.

When I say use giants, I mean all of them ranging from the Hill Giants to Titans and a few extra ones in-between. To create a surprise for one of my groups, I developed a Swamp Giant. (It was the only place I could think of that didn't have one in the Monster books until the Fog Giant and Mountain Giant appeared in our Fiend Folio.)

Once we got the MMII with the fomorian, firbolg and verbeeg, I realized that I didn't need to define them by their climate. After that, giants with various names appeared in my adventures that were more like the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk than anything else. Nothing I enjoyed more than having the big bad turn out to be an evil, intelligent giant.

Anything bigger than a Hill Giant couldn't be softened up much by a dozen henchmen. Anything smarter than an ogre presented an actual challenge: the giant would send ogres with an ogre mage to soften the party up. More powerful ones would send Hill Giants. I even had a magic-slinging Fire Giant use a Storm Giant he had blackmailed as a body guard.

What do you mean the Storm Giant wasn't the one terrorizing the area and threatening the local baron?

So, for your viewing pleasure, I present the original Swamp Giant and his sidekick, a giant nutria and muskrat. The Giant Bain Red Racoon was on the back, but the stats are not complete.

swampgiant

Call Them What You Will They Are Not Elementals

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Sometime ago, I wrote a series of articles about creatures meant to replace elementals. I have nothing against elementals, it was just a thought experiment more than anything. Unaware of the Forgotten Realms for 4e, I called them primordials. Not wishing to interfere with Mr. Greenwood, et al, I'll thought I'd call them astrals for right now. That, of course, creates issues with Wartune.

Right.

Externals? No. Cruxals? No. Outsiders? Six categories of no. Planars? Maybe.

For now, we'll call them Samatalans.

The first one I wrote about were reskinned elementals with details added to explain how they could survive on our world. From there, they became more abstract. Here's a handy list of the traditional elements:

Here's a list of the non-traditional elements:

I didn't include the ice cream elemental, nor the creatures from the plane of letters, but you get the idea.

My favorite from the first list, is the Fire Samatalans. I always like Fire Elementals and would enjoy using these sugar-fearing creatures in any future campaign.

My favorites from the second list of non-traditional elementals, are either to Men of Iron and Stone or the Manus and Pria.

The Men of Iron and Stone, or Menois, are fun visually. They have these floating plates of metal that they can control to their advantage. These plates float on their bodies as if they lay on a sea of stone that appears to be solid and liquid at the same time.

The Manus and Pria are like a Cleric Elemental or something. Creatures make their own children using alchemy in the name of their god. The alchemical creation is not an aberration, but an aim at perfection. The children do not curse their creators, nor do they worship them. I guess they present existential ideas more than anything else.

Hopefully, I'm back on the bandwagon. See you tomorrow.

Here Is a Cave

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It looks natural enough...

Honestly, my favorite dungeon type is any, but caverns have a certain element of fun I enjoy as a DM.

For mid to higher level dungeons, I would have a xorn or xarn as a wandering monster. Since the caverns aren't stone walls, these two creatures could pass through the walls like air. It is like fighting a ghost.

It demanded our magical weapons and then just started walking straight at us. After hurling arrows and magic, it still just slowly walked straight at us. We retreated down the corridor taking various twists and turns in an attempt to hide from it. But it just walked straight toward us, even passing through corridor walls to do so.

For some of the same reasons, but also to provide a rival for the party, I wasn't afraid to place a dao in the local vicinity. Since the party and the dao were both after gems, it kept everyone, including me, in check. Once, they even teamed up to deal with a common threat. If I ever put a dao in a cavern again, I'll be certain to also include an older dragon as well. I say that because it will be an option for a teamup to split the mother lode of gems or a fight on two fronts.

Sure I could do this in a typical stone walled dungeon, but it just doesn't feel right to me.

The source of this comes from my inability for many years to figure out how or why a metric ton of 13th century underground labyrinths were constructed. It didn't make sense to me, so I put everything in a cave. Caves are formed by nature, so I could imagine them everywhere. In fact, for a recent dungeon I created, I had an alchemist with a lab in a cave complex that already existed in the side of a steep cliff face. I couldn't see him generating a dungeon, somehow, to house his experiments. I also couldn't see local officials allowing him to keep a lab (and various creatures) inside the city walls.

Now, thanks in large part to ACKS, there is a good reason for traditional dungeons to exist. It's something a mage can make to house his or her experiments, easily. There seems to be a magnet for wandering monsters to seek out such places to live.

Seems legit.

Still, I like the texture of a cave and its natural beauty. It doesn't neatly fit squares on graph paper, if you know what I mean.

Still feeling sick, so that's it for tonight. I may give favorite trap/puzzle a pass as I stink at designing them. I mean, if it comes down to it, levitate the target 200 feet into the air and have the spell stop. The target plunges to their death.