Monday, October 29, 2018

Halloween Monsters! Part 15

Another day of weird monsters by Nicholas Cloister!  Believe it or not, this freaky slug/lamprey/naked mole rat, the Bhorda,  is a gigantic, monstrous seal. It’s inner, circular mouth can extend out like the proboscis of a priapulid (or a certain infamous biomechanical extraterrestrial), an ability that it uses to snatch prey from icebergs- and the occasional ship.

This monstrous pinniped also boasts another power that’s particularly creepy. According to the RPG creatures blog: “In areas where the ice is too thick for the Bhorda to penetrate, the creature can apply a deep and extended bellowing roar to create cracks in the ice and break it open. The vibrations of this sound are powerful but must work on the ice for some time before it comes apart. Surface instability can be felt from above, and a deep eerie song is audible even through thick layers of ice.”  

I’ve always found polar environments particularly haunting. The cold and quiet. The sense of isolation. The strange, beautiful shapes of icebergs. The endless white plain of the Antarctic interior. The Bhorda's low, rumbling call- perhaps detectable only as a faint rumbling deep in one's bones-  adds the perfect eerie element to a story set on the ice. 

I doubt it was intentional on Cloister’s part, but the Bhorda reminds me a little of the giant stop-motion walrus created by Ray Harryhausen’ for the 1977 movie “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” 

I couldn't find a video of the walrus scene on Youtube, so this picture of it will have to suffice.

You can read the Bhorda’s full description at the RPG Creatures blog

Friday, October 26, 2018

Halloween Monsters! Part 14

Another creature from Nicholas Cloister. This one's a particularly creepy and tragic monster. The Enjirach were a race of feathered reptiles (so, dinosaur people?) that were hunted to extinction by humans who coveted their beautiful plumage. However, these feathers had the ability to restore life, so Enjirach corpses that were not completely plucked bare rose from the dead and continue to wander the world, kept in a perpetual undying limbo. To quote Nicholas blog:

"The remaining Enjirachs cannot naturally die. What few feathers they retain keep them alive, but are not enough to restore them to a life of breathing. A long time ago their flesh fled their bones, and cold blood dripped out of dissolving veins. Flies and worms took care of the sinews and left-overs while their hardy skeletons stayed erect and mobile, enforced and animated by the magical power of the feathers." 

This actually sounds like the plot to a gothic novel. I could totally see the Enjirach fitting in perfectly with the old D&D Ravenloft setting. Or even the 90s World of Darkness series.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Halloween Monsters! Part 13

Finally back with a new creature artist. Nicholas Cloister is a Swedish artist who does a lot of fantasy- and especially RPG-related- art. A few years ago he created a series of "system neutral" monsters that could be fitted into any role-playing game. The creatures each had detailed, unusual histories and habits and were very much unlike most other typical RPG monsters.

Nicholas posted his monsters on a blog and eventually combined them into a book that you can get at RPGNow. I'd highly recommend the book even if you don't actively play RPGs. It's great for casual perusing.

Marine Biology is one of my favorite subjects, so naturally, I chose one of his aquatic monsters for my first post.

Ghords are giant mollusks that filter-feed using six huge siphons. They can also use these intakes to defend themselves by biting, making ghords a sort of marine invertebrate hydra. Like hermit crabs, these huge invertebrates seek out the shells of other mollusks- in this case, giant clams- to serve as protective housing for their soft, vulnerable bodies. You can read the Ghord's full description here.

From an RPG standpoint, I really like the fact that ghords are not automatically a threat. In many roleplaying games, creatures often seem to exist only to immediately attack the party. Just a collection of stats and special abilities. But I've always tried to give my own gaming worlds a full ecosystem of fantastic creatures that have their own behaviors and biology unrelated to how they interact with an adventuring party.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Halloween Monsters! Part 12

Two more monsters from Arlin Ortiz, You can find all of Arlin's Monsters on his Tumblr.

I love slimey things in all their myriad forms. Cellular and acellular slime molds (which are very different organims). Placozoa. OphrydiumNostoc. I could go on. So what could be better than slime people? I want to play one!

I also love creatures made from inanimate objects, like Japanese karakasa obake and other tsukumogami. Worms made entirely out of magical ink are exactly my kind of critter.

That's it for Arlin Ortiz' monsters. Next time I'll be featuring some particularly unusual beasts from another one of my favorite creature creators.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Halloween Monsters! Part 11

Another critter from Arlin Ortiz!

As you may have noticed, I'm fond of small, fairly innocuous monsters in my RPGs. I particularly love the idea here that a couple of wizards just made a simple little animated thing out of sticks on a bet. These are almost as great as those living dust bunnies from 2nd edition D&D.  I want a whole army of little walking stick men and crawling inch-worm dust bunnies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Halloween Monsters! Part 10

Here's another monster from Arlin Ortiz

As stylized as the artwork is (those heads remind me of the Draags from the 1973 French animated film Fantastic Planet), I find the whole idea behind the Vigil pretty creepy. Just the thought of wandering into the woods and being stalked by gigantic hands popping out of the ground seemingly at random, trying to grab you and drag you towards a larger, more dangerous foe. Seems awfully familiar...

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Halloween Monsters! Part 9

Here's another monster from Arlin Ortiz! Because who doesn't love a good octopus-bird?

All of Ortiz' Monsters are compiled on his Tumblr page here.

I love the idea of a small, common animal with a nightmarish twist. Finches and sparrows are such common, even boring birds. You see hundreds of them every day and probably barely even notice. Imagine walking past one of these ubiquitous flocks of nondescript LBBs (Little Brown Birds- the proper birdwatcher nomenclature) and suddenly feeling a strange sense of dread and fear.  You have no idea where it's coming from and keep walking until you finally chance to notice that one of the birds has small, twitching tentacles tucked up under its beak.

Another creature in a similar vein is the skiurid of D&D 3rd edition. It's a black squirrel that creates an aura of cold darkness and can actually drain a small amount of energy from a person and condense it into an acorn that it collects for the winter. Skiurids are one of those things that regularly got put onto "stupidest D&D monster" lists back when that was a big trend (I alternately hate and love those things. Hate because I think the authors are boring, unoriginal RPG munchkins who only like big, terrifying monsters that can rip you to pieces. Love because I've found some of my favorite D&D monsters through those lists), but I love 'em.