Lurking Shade (and Shadow Animates) – Hunters of Darkness from Across the Planes

Vashta Nerada (PIc: BBC)

“Hey, who turned out the lights?”

Deep within the Plane of Shadows, a sinister creature bred into a race of genuinely horrifying hunters.  They blend in the darkness, awaiting anything foolish enough to step into their lair.  These superior predators fade into the murky and dark depths, ready to jump an unsuspecting victim.  Those who are caught within their trap within moments, sometimes devoured completely.  Others are merely killed for quick sustenance.  However, some are unlucky enough to become puppets for this twisted horror; undead slaves operated by their new shadowy master.  What the Shades themselves look like is largely unknown, as they’re typically merged with shadows.  Perhaps they’re just amorphous shadowy blogs themselves.

While no one is certain what these creatures truly are, there is only one certainty; they are the embodiment of the darkness.  They are the reason many fear The Plane of Shadow itself!  Perhaps they are magics of shadow that became self-aware over time.  Perhaps they’re the demented craft of a mad wizard.  Maybe they’re an apex predator that has gotten so good at concealment they evolved into the shadow itself!  No matter the truth, this wretched beast has proved to be a terror beyond measure.  Usually, they’re contained within numerous spaces, in effort to quarantine them from a universe that can’t fight back.  If enough of these were to escape into another world, it could result in numerous extinction events in no time.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I’ve been quite busy, so this one didn’t get out as soon as I had hoped.  Also, it’s kinda funny timing that this monster was done when fans saw River Song before she goes off to the Library.  (Silence in the Library is what inspired this monster in the first place.)  No matter, here’s my take on the Vashta Nerada.

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I WANT YOU…

…to give me feedback!

And you thought this was a recruitment effort!  Nope.  I’m encouraging my readers to tell me what they think of my creations, constructive criticism encouraged.  Most of my content (as of their post) is in playtest form and not 100% ironed out.  As such, there’s still plenty of bugs I’ll probably miss by myself.  Plus, interaction with the community is one of the things that keeps me going.  Hope to hear from more of you all in the future!

The Ice Cream Bunny – A Surreal Abomination for D&D 5th Edition

“Oh, here comes the Ice Cream Bunny!” – Rifftrax Live, 2015

Hailing from a demiplane known as “Pirate’s Land”, this creature is said to be lost to the ages.  After his comrades fought valiantly against a business-minded mousefolk (whose name cannot be addressed), he and his allies were scattered to the winds and fell to obscurity.  Now his kingdom in Florida is owned by his squeaky nemesis, and he was nowhere to be found…  But tales of his past encounters with St. Nicholas, the Duke of Winter began to surface.  As attention was brought to his past exploits, he began to surface once more as a mere shadow of his former glory.  Without a home and without a purpose, the Ice Cream Bunny wanders to places of joy and renders them mad.  However, this is not intentional, as he just wants to join the happiness.  In the end, he only spreads bedlam and terror wherever he travels.

An encounter with The Ice Cream Bunny is indeed a disturbing one.  Records of his past prove that he was an intimidating, but well intending creature.  Coupling that with his present mania makes him for a chilling foe.  And worst of all, he doesn’t realize he’s causing harm.  It’s hard to describe the Ice Cream Bunny, as many victims go insane upon getting too close to him.  He’s a white colored creature that looks more like a cartoon-like distortion of what someone would assume a rabbit looks like.  It’s questionable if this creature is even related to actual rabbits at all or is some monstrosity that just happens to have some minor resemblance.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I wanted to make an homage to this downright terrifying character from an awful movie.  Now, where did I see this holiday horror?  In both of Rifftrax’s take on Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, of course!  Now, without the riffers doing their thing, the film is almost impossible to sit through.  With that, here’s my take on this long forgotten nightmare from Christmas Past! 

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Bonethief

“They ARE amongst us!”

“When we thought that our very bodies and minds were sanctuary against foul things, there are horrid puppet masters that would seek to dig into our very essence and manipulate us.  These skeletal looking beings always dig at the neck and claw their way into the victim’s spinal column, where they hijack all function.  In no time, the victim is a mere toy of this awful beast.  And worst of all, they’re capable of sampling the old mind’s memories to blend in, as one of us!  They can infiltrate OUR lands without us knowing.  Only when their new skin is damaged or useless, do they shed it like old clothing!  These grotesque nightmares will try to control US ALL!” – Maxwell, an Archivist driven mad by dark revelation.

Behold, the Bonethief.  This almost skeletal beast is nothing to make light of.  As it skulks dark corners, waiting for prey, one can hear its demonic cackles.  It strikes by leaping towards the spine of its victim, digging in before taking absolute control.  It even has the unsettling ability to mimic its host in their prior environment.  Thus, many who encounter these atrocities quickly succumb to paranoia.  While not extremely violent, this parasitic race will subdue anyone who intends on thwarting their sick plans by any means necessary.  When not acting like a normal living being, they will hide within corpses and masquerade as a dead body before causing the remains to leap up and attack.  When you discover that at least one is present, you know you will never be safe from them again!

Author’s Note: Before, I did a monster inspired by Eternal Darkness, sampling their take on the vampire a little bit. This time, I wanted to convert one of my favorite creatures from the game, The Bone Thief.  This was one of the most terrifying enemies in the game, if only for the reason that you didn’t know who had this parasitic creature controlling them.

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Psychic Vampire – Psionic Horror for D&D 5th Edition

“The Darkness Comes!”

“Our knowledge of the universe is but an insignificant dot upon the bleak and endless canvas that is true reality.  That said, outside knowledge of realms beyond the veil of knowledge leak into our own mythology.  What we rationalize as ‘vampires’ is rooted in an ancient creature, far more insidious than anything we could ever comprehend.  Entities from beyond the stars that drain their victims into soulless husks have existed for unfathomable aeons before any of us could have existed.  In fact, you’ve all been an excellent audience for them.  They’re all yours, my eldritch friends!” – A Dread Cultist, posing as an Astronomer at a summit.

COSMIC LIFE DRAINING HORRORS

No one for certain knows what psychic vampires truly are.  Many theorize they’re the progenitors of the vampires we have grown accustomed to on the material plane.  Perhaps they’re created from a separate evolution of vampirism, changing drastically as it infects the cosmos beyond.  While these fiends are true undead creatures, their features and means of action are far too alien to relate to anything we know of.  However, their basic needs match much of what we know of the material plane vampire; they are parasitic horrors that leech off our life force to survive.  Whether through using their innate psychic talents to lure creatures into their grasp or using brute force to bend victims to their will, these creatures find ways to restrain a victim before draining them of all of their life.  Sometimes, victims are lucky enough to break free from the creature’s control before they are able to drain their victim to death.  However, these unfortunate souls are so badly scarred by mental trauma, they typically go insane.  Those unlucky enough to be slain by their power return as spawn under their control, exhibiting similar arrays of dark power.

LIFELESS THINGS THAT SHOULD NOT BE

Describing the psychic vampire is not an easy feat, as their shape is only barely humanoid in nature.  Its proportions are as ghastly as they are impossible, adding to the mystery of this strange beast.  However, it seems that a long tongue from its mouth analogue lashes against foes in an effort to hold them in place while their fangs channel draining powers.  Its gangly limbs suggest its capable of brisk sprints in order to track down and catch its foes with minimal effort.  However, several survivor accounts seem to suggest this creature is also highly intelligent, capable of crafting elaborate hunting strategies to weaken and eventually overpower its prey.  Creatures turned into psychic vampires look much like they did in life, save for a more pale and pallid skin tone and the slight crackling of psionic potential throughout their bodies.  In a sense, they look similar to the traditional vampire.

Author’s Note:  Here’s yet another contribution to my planar theme, this one blending lore from Lovecraft’s Star/Fire Vampires, Eternal Darkness Sanity’s Requiem, Doctor Who (Vampires of Venice, Curse of Fenric), Psychic Vampires and a handful of other influences to create a terrifying beasty.  With that, here’s a variant of my Vampyr I made back in October.  Enjoy!

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Gnolls – A Ferocious Race for D&D 5e

A Gnoll Matriarch Defender

For ages, the Gnoll has been viewed as a threat to developing civilization.  Tales of savage beasts with hyena heads mauling travelers and attacking city walls have struck fear into even the most trained of soldiers.  Their origins are equally mysterious, shrouding them in further mystery and fear.  However, as information spreads and reality dispels mythology, many people driven by old ways began to witness that Gnolls aren’t inherently evil.  Despite their bestial appearance and instincts, they’re more than capable of rationality and guidance.

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Wild Hunters, Clever Survivalists

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Despite many misconceptions and stereotypes, tales of gnolls being able to take down incredible prey as well as stories of them enduring brutal deserts and unforgiving wastelands contain more than enough proof.  For this reason, more accepting lands view the gnoll as a testament to the tenacity of the wild.  Within their own lands, Gnolls forge resourceful societies capable of repurposing much of what they come across, due to harsh lessons learned in barren wastes.  Also, many Gnollish culture have gained infamy for creating little of their own; relying on the ideas and supplies of others.  This has also lead to the troubling assumption that gnollish travelers are actually raiders looking to jump the unlucky wandering that crosses their path.  Being both scavengers and hunters, they’re able to adapt to any land ripe with hunting game or the barest of dead lands.  Such experiences have hardened them as both nomads and settlers.  Besides their impressive endurance, they’re viewed as incredible hunters more than able to thwart the mightiest of beasts.  While this leads to misconceptions of them being savage brutes who care for little more than brutality and bloodshed, they often save “The Hunt” for when they’re certain they’ll need the resources.  While they find little wrong with hunting other humanoids, this is often for the sake of meals rather than pure sport.  However, some populations have made a sport of hunting anyone who comes too close to secretive grounds.  Granted, they usually post significant warnings first.

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Strangers in a Strange Land

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No one is sure of where Gnolls came from, and to be honest, neither do the Gnolls!  Some have rumors that they’re the creations of mad cultists and druids, crossbreeding hyenas and humanoids.  Some suggest they’re the spawns of demonic plane-jumping conquerors, set out to hunt all in the name of Yeenoghu.  Maybe they are the result of a mad Bouda Witch corrupting the nearby lands.  Perhaps they’re just beings exposed to the arcane forces of the Plane of the Wyld, forcefully morphed into bipedal hyena creatures.  No matter the truth, Gnolls take pride in what they are and will defend their existence till the end.  Outside of their own tribes and settlements, they are the epitome of outsider though.  While many beastly folk are infamous for coming across as uncivilized and feral, gnolls face this situation far more often.  Their tendency to feast upon carrion, as well as their bone chilling cackle sound is off putting to those outside of their circles.  Their animalistic instincts have also had tendencies to kick in at bad moments.  While many traditions and actions are socially acceptable at home, they are likely taboo elsewhere.  Horror tales of a gnoll making its way into a funerary service, only to feast upon the corpse have become drunken racist jokes at bars.  Other rumors of gnolls mating or hunting in open streets have only further hindered their social status.  One famous tale that circulates through Gnoll-kind involves a wandering starved outcast gorging himself on the foods of a bazaar, before guards arrived and slew him with extreme prejudice.  This story is often toted as propaganda by those who seek to enforce xenophobia within Gnollish society.

But, this doesn’t mean that gnolls are savages without culture or morality.  Gnoll society is typically matriarchal in nature, with a high queen who proves herself through rigorous challenges.  To the outside eye, most gnolls look the same due to lack of dimorphism of their hyena ancestors.  Despite a matriarchal society, male gnolls do not suffer from discrimination like with the Drow.  However, important choices tend to be favored by females of each clan.  Many societies not dictated or ruled by sex/gender tend to view gnolls as a curiosity or are outright hostile towards their approach for many a reason.  Some view them as inherently sexist or biased in nature, whether or not these claims are actually true.  However, many gnolls from other material planes tote a much darker side.  Names such as Lamashtu and Yeenoghu imply an abyssal origin for countless legions.  These gnolls are creatures of chaos and evil, derived from both hyena and demonic bloodlines.  Their values lie within savagery, butchery and dark tributes to their demonic masters.  While it is uncommon for gnolls to become adventurers, it is even rarer for demonic gnolls to explore with creatures outside of their kind.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Gnolls!  I figure I’d give them some vanilla fluff to make them feel a little closer to actual hyenas rather than stick to the generic D&D lore.  Of course, they wouldn’t be gnolls unless I threw a bone here or there (haha.)  With that, enjoy my take on the race (including an inside joke toward the bottom.)  No matter, here’s another entry in support of the RPG Blog Carnival, particular the Homebrew Holiday Gifts theme for the month of December!

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