While we have all grown up and have faced many of our fears as youth, that haunting sensation of encountering fear as a child always rings true. That dreadful encounter with the grotesque, the macabre, the evil, the horrifying. Many the psyches of many children, the experience can be outwardly traumatizing. For some, that’s just part of the adventure. Many adventures alone came with twists that surprised and shocked us in ways we would never forget. In creative and interactive mediums, the chance to experience a story first hand allows us to take it further. Tabletop games enable us to experience the truly wretched and twisted; inducing madness, terror or revulsion. One medium grew out of the tabletop hobby, video games.
The world of the video game shows us visuals to help capture the world, allowing us to see a world and interact with it. While more limited than humans, as computers are the game master, they still give us that illusion of freedom. Back to the original idea, they can help to instill horror through a variety of creative visuals and audio. Maybe the intent was to scary us like crazy, perhaps it was something the developers thought they made an amusing gag… and it turned out wrong. (WARNING: TV TROPES LINK) No matter the intention, these interactions stick with us, they fascinate us, they disturb us, they chill us. Something that truly scared us leaves us not only horrified, but in awe. With that, I thought I’d break the usual take on things and revive some classic horrors from the gaming world that stuck with many of us. Or at the least, revive some encounters that stuck with me.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Have a little classic gaming nightmare fuel. I wanted to do a theme like this for a while, so here we go! Also, I’ll put up a disclaimer here. I wanted to get a little more experimental with this, meaning I’ll have to clean up the resulting mess I make. I was more eager to make homages to classic baddies, so this will probably be polished over the next couple of days. Stay tuned!
This creature is a lump of flesh stretched and warped into a grotesque semi-humanoid form. It tries to consume its prey with its unhinging jaws while it conjures clawed arms from the depths to grab its prey. While the creature itself is blind, it can sense prey through arms that have grasped a potential victim.
large undead, chaotic evil
Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 153 (18d10+54)
Speed 25 ft.; burrow 30 ft.
STR 18 (+4), DEX 7 (-2), CON 17 (+3), INT 11 (+0), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 6 (-2)
Skills Intimidation +6, Stealth +6
Damage Immunities. cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities. charmed, exhausted, frightened, poisoned
Senses Blindsight 10 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Common (understands but can’t speak)
Challenge 11 (7,200 XP)
Safe Retreat. The Death’s Hand may retreat as part of its movement without incurring attacks of opportunity.
See Through Hands. The Death’s Hand can always sense where a creature is when it is grabbed by one of its hands.
Sunlight Weakness. The death’s hand has disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when they, the target of their attack, or whatever they are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.
Multiattack. The Death’s Hand makes three bite attacks, given the appropriate conditions.
Crunching Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one grabbed or restrained target. Hit: 15 (2d10+4) piercing damage.
Summon Grasping Hands. The Death’s Hand conjures 1d4+4 sprawling arms from the ground. When a target comes within 10 ft. of the arms, they must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC 16) or become grabbed. Even when freed, the target must make a new saving throw if it ends its movement within an arm’s reach. Each arm has 10 hit points and 8 AC. The Death’s Hand can summon no more than 8 at once. Also, placement tends to be where the Death’s Hand can easily access prey.
Eye Grabbing Cultist (Viktoria)
Deranged followers of a radical cult, these devotees believe the world must discard its eyes to see the truth. In their gospel, one only finds enlightenment when we destroy the “fake world of sight.” Some more deranged members will not only stab the victim in the face, but also collect and preserve eyes on their cloaks. Others are more determined to remove sight from the victim in one way or another.
medium humanoid, neutral evil
Armor Class 14
Hit Points 77 (14d8+14)
Speed 30 ft.
STR 11 (+0), DEX 18 (+4), CON 12 (+1), INT 15 (+2), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 12 (+1)
Skills Deception +4, Religion +5, Stealth +6
Damage Resistances psychic
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, frightened
Senses Blindsight 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Common (understands but can’t speak)
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)
Ambusher. The cultist has advantage on attack rolls against any creature it has surprised.
Magic Resistance. The cultist has advantage on all saving throws against magic.
May We All Go Blind! When a grabbed creature is hit by a gouging attack, it must make a (DC 15) Dexterity saving throw. Failure results in partial blindness and has disadvantage on sight based perception checks as well as attack rolls (as if affected by Sunlight Weakness.) If the target is already suffering this effect and fails again, they instead suffer the effects of Blindness (as detailed in the Player’s Handbook appendix.) Spells such as Greater Restoration, Regeneration and related healing magic can undo this effect.
Multiattack. The Eye Grabbing Cultist may attack twice per round.
Gouge it Out! Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (3d4+4) piercing damage. It may forgo damage to grapple the target instead.
Eyes as Tribute! (Recharge on a 6) When a cultist drops a creature down to 0 hit points from their attack, the cultist may try to steal an eye as a trophy. The target must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 15) or lose that eye and suffer the effects of the “May We All Go Blind” ability. However, only a Regeneration spell or stronger will restore the character to normal.
Mutant Master (The Master)
Mutated Monstrosities have been pouring from a variety of sources; a strange concoction of old world pollution, irradiated wasteland and scientifically forged super-toxins merge together and form a vat so vile that it turns men into monsters and beasts into abominations. One such victim didn’t become a mere creature, but became something much worse. The mutated master merged with technology and consumed other forms and masses, eventually becoming very much a part of the base he was in itself.
huge aberration, lawful evil
Armor Class 16 (psychic shielding)
Hit Points 230 (20d12+100)
Speed 0 ft. (stationary)
STR 14 (+2), DEX 19 (+4), CON 21 (+5), INT 20 (+5), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 19 (+4)
Skills. History +15, Insight +12, Perception +7, Persuasion +9
Damage Resistances. bludgeoning, piercing, slashing; cold, fire
Damage Immunities. necrotic, poison, psychic, radiant
Damage Vulnerabilities. lightning, thunder
Condition Immunities blinded, frightened, poisoned, prone
Senses Blindsight 60 ft.; See Lair Abilities, passive Perception 17
Languages Common, Telepathy 120 ft.
Challenge 16 (15,000 XP)
Incredible Weapons. The Mutant Master’s attacks count as magical.
Magic Resistance. The Master has advantage on all saving throws against magic and related effects.
Stationary. While the Mutant Master is tethered to its station, it cannot be moved by force or knocked prone.
Multiattack. The Mutant Master may attack with its laser turrets up to three times per round.
Laser Turrets. Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 60 ft./120 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (2d12+4) piercing damage.
Psychic Assault. Ranged Spell Attack: +10 to hit, range 100 ft., one target. Hit: 43 (7d10+5) psychic damage.
Self-Destruct. When the Mutant Master is killed or wants to die, he will use a reaction to activate self-destruct. Any area he’s connected to will explode for 155 (10d10+100) force damage and reaches for upwards to 60 ft. from the body’s range. Usually, the time before explosion is anywhere between 1 minute and 5 minutes. However, if characters are able to maneuver the Mutant Master’s lair with ease, this shouldn’t be a major issue.
The Mutant Master’s Lair.
The domain of this abomination is a run down compound, likely used for creating secret weapons and a variety of experiments. The Mutant Master is able to spread its horrid form throughout the facility, thus able to use some of its abilities while a target is in its domain. While it lacks much of its weaponry, its sharp wit and psychic powers make it a terrifying foe. While in his lair, the Mutant Master is considered Challenge 18 (20,000 XP) instead.
Regional Effects. The nearby area surrounding this compound suffers from a variety of effects.
- All sorts of horrible mutants dwell in the nearby reaches; some sickly versions of their original forms, others are incomprehensible freaks beyond reason or sanity. Weather looks consistently gloomy and unnatural, while the nearby non-mutant wildlife and even structures look uncanny and off putting; likely as perceptions are warped from psychic feedback.
- Much of the area is irradiated in some capacity or cloaked in dangerous psychic power. Characters will constantly face all sorts of surreal and absurd illusions, likely hallucinations from psychic exposure. Once per minute while in the lair, the Mutant Master can force creatures to make a Charisma saving throw or take 11 (2d10) psychic damage as long as it’s in the lair. In addition, the Mutant Master may attempt to communicate with creatures in its layer.
- Pulsing flesh mixed with machinery is intertwined throughout the layer. It does not feel pain or cause the Mutant Master damage if attacked. However, destroying part of it will lessen the psychic feedback on that area. The Mutant Master is capable of using its Blindsight in any part of the lair that it is attached to. This extends to the Mutant Master being able to contact other mutants if it is in need of help.
- The Mutant Master feels more healthy and capable. He can regenerate 20 hit points per round.
Demonic Piano (Haunted Piano)
For lack of better reason, abyssal influences seek to make their own versions of musical instruments. Each of them has some macabre element or disturbing bit of surreal humor to it. While designed to play music, they’re also programmed to kill. One such example is a creature that looks like an ordinary piano, until you get close…
large construct (fiendish), chaotic evil
Armor Class 20 (natural armor)
Hit Points 52 (8d10+8)
Speed 20 ft.
STR 17 (+3), DEX 13 (+1), CON 14 (+1), INT 7 (-2), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 6 (-2)
Skills Deception +2, Stealth +3
Damage Immunities. poison
Condition Immunities blinded, deafened, poisoned
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)
Musical Munching. While grabbed, the target takes an additional 5 (2d4) piercing damage at the start of their turn.
It’s just a piano! When idle, the demonic instrument perfectly resembles a piano. It’s indistinguishable from any other like it.
Multiattack. The Demonic Piano may attack twice per round.
Key Crunch Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (2d4+3) piercing damage. It may forgo damage to grab the target instead.
Zombie, Shrieker (ReDead)
Reborn from desecrated soil, these zombie-like puppets are used to guard truly wicked places. Each of the corpses has a particular death mass forcefully branded to their faces, likely the source of the dark curse that holds sway over them. Unlike other zombies, their minds are somewhat intact and they desire to choke the living by crushing them. Worse yet is their uncanny ability to freeze an opponent through their shrill screams.
medium undead, neutral evil
Armor Class 8
Hit Points 75 (10d8 + 30)
Speed 20 ft.
STR 14 (+2), DEX 6 (-2), CON 16 (+3), INT 8 (-1), WIS 8 (- 1), CHA 5 (- 3)
Saving Throws Wis +1
Skills. Intimidate +1
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Damage Vulnerabilities radiant, fire
Condition Immunities poisoned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 8
Languages understands the languages it knew in life but can’t speak
Challenge 2 (450 XP)
Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the zombie to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 +the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the zombie drops to 1 hit point in stead.
Creepy Moan. Shriekers always make a low moaning sound, which can be heard from a distance and are easy to detect.
Sunlight Paralysis. When exposed to sunlight, the shrieker becomes paralyzed.
Multiattack. The Shrieker may attack twice per turn.
Choking Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) bludgeoning damage. The Shrieker may forgo damage to grab the target instead.
Undead Scream (Recharges on a 5 or 6). All creatures within 60 ft. of the Shrieker Zombie must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 13). Upon failure, they are paralyzed for 1d4 rounds. The target may make a new saving throw at the end of their turn.
Image Credit: Dead Hand by johnnycago