Xcrawl Classics Designer Diary: Monsters

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XCC Designer Diary: Monsters of Xworld

by Brendan LaSalle

Hey all! Brendan here with a peek behind the curtain at one of my absolute favorite subjects: the monsters of Xworld!

Infinite variety, infinite horror: that’s what I want from a world full of creepy creatures.

Most of the monsters that wind up in Xcrawl come from the Zura’ah’zurah, the twisted labyrinth of winding caverns and underground cities deep beneath the lands where humans and their ilk dwell. Hunters capture creatures to sell to local brokers, who sell to the Dungeon Judges so that they can show up, terrorize Xcrawl squads, and make audiences scream.

Many monsters are created specifically for Xcrawl. There is an entire multi-million gold piece industry dedicated to providing constructed creatures, un-dead, and even specially-bred organic horrors for the arena. Xworld has an endless appetite for deadly beasts, and the smart and reckless can make their fortune breeding, designing, and raising new monsters from the dead.

DJs compete for the gnarliest, most dangerous, most unique creatures for their menageries. The best monsters get you the best ratings, so there is a constant arms race to secure the biggest, baddest, and rarest creatures.

Since I began to design Xcrawl encounters for the DCC rules set, I’ve used unique monsters in every release. I can’t get enough of creating monsters, and very often the first thing I do when designing a dungeon is start imagining horrors. I want to design monsters that throw people off their guard – including myself. I want my creatures to be strange poetry that I share with my players, weird, sick things that give a glimpse into my bizarre inner world.

Huge thanks to Michael Curtis who taught me how to world build with monsters. Xworld is a more wonderful and horrific place thanks to his tutelage.

Here is a sample monster for you, a specially bred baddie designed for maximum arena mayhem: the Aangervark!

Aangervark

Aangervark: Init +2; Atk bite +4 melee (1d8+1) or kick +3 melee (1d4+1); Crit 1d8/ M; AC 12; HD 3d8; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP prone fighting, play dead, leap, imperfect life form; SV Fort +3, Ref +2, Will+0; AL N.

Aangervarks are the first viable creation of Janxalot Ranch, which has been working on an arcane breeding program for new monsters since 1996. Their first successful rollout was the aangervark, a composite creature magically bred for one purpose—to give Xcrawlers a really bad time. While they are nothing at all like aardvarks, the “aangervark” name was specially chosen to make them the first name you came to in a directory of monsters, which has made them extremely popular as last-minute replacements in Xcrawl.

Aangervarks are six feet tall, with the look of a strange two-legged human-sized frog. They are armless, with ostrich-like legs with three-toed feet, a hideous maw of terrifyingly sharp teeth, and two wide eyes on the corners of their blunt heads. Their legs are powerful and muscular. They have a distinctive frill-like ridge atop their heads, which makes them appear even taller.

Aangervarks are magically bred and cannot reproduce in the wild—they are asexual and sterile eating machines, with a predator’s instinct and an evil disposition. Fearless pack hunters who enjoy running down prey and eating creatures alive, these bizarre composite creatures come complete with a sustaining fury that makes them diehard opponents—in battle they fight to the finish every time, although they may play dead in order to take opponents unaware. They have two forms of communication: an evil hiss or a strange seal-like bark, but no real language. A qualified trainer using simple punishment and reward motivation can teach them to respond to up to three commands—typically “attack, “guard” and “stay.”

Aangervarks have an atypical attack mechanism—they play possum during a fight to draw foes into a vulnerable position. An aangervark can fall over and play dead so effectively that it takes a trained medical professional to examine one to make sure it is faking. Aangervarks have a tremendous instinct for how to use this ability effectively—they “die” after taking damage, only to attack from behind or from a prone position. They also instinctively do not overuse this bit—generally they only try this once or perhaps twice in the same encounter.

Aangervarks are masters of fighting while prone, taking no penalty to attack by kicking or to their armor class when fighting lying down. They are also astounding leapers, able to leap a 20’ chasm or jump up 15’ straight in the air without any kind of running start.

Aangervarks are asexual and sterile, unable to breed without magical assistance. Their immune system is abysmal, and they are prone to chronic illness (-2d on all saves versus disease and disease effects). Their typical lifespan is six years. They eat even when they aren’t hungry, and left unsupervised will gorge themselves until they make themselves sick.

Author: admin

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