Weird Western Monsters – Part 1 (Spellslingers and Specters)

Spellslinger Poker

“The vast frontier.  It’s a place of wonders, of possibility, of a quick and easy death!  Don’t let the charms of a free and open land fool you, traveler.  It’s a killer place out there.  But, the market’s wide open for the taking if you know where to look.  There’s a lot of devils in mortal skin looking to sell you a miracle tonic or a little company.  If you’re smart, you’ll keep your wallet hidden and find a way to pull a fast one of your own.  Or if you’re stuck in the wastes beyond town?  Best pack well and ready more than one gun.  You don’t know if it’s a pair of fangs or a bandit’s gun that will do you in out there.  Of course, you can always drink and gamble your troubles away with us, stranger!  We don’t cause much harm, mostly to ourselves…   The ladies of the tavern are good at taking care of ya though.  Or if you prefer, there’s a handful of men who are good companions too.  I’m not just saying that as a recurring patron, either…”
-Rowan T. Jammerson, Human Maverick Rogue, drunken troublemaker, despised wandering womanizer, bastard son of Ex-Mayor Jammer J. Spellman, denizen of the town of Cactus Sting.

Whether in the “civilized” frontier or the badlands beyond, tons of terrors walk the weird western soil.  From bandits beyond the grave to massive parasites that love the smell of gold, settlers and pioneers have more than their fair work cut out for them.  Even the native locals are wise to keep away from many dangerous lands.  And for a good trade, they might even be willing to disclose such information.

Author’s Note:  Most of this comes from a mostly forgotten mini d20 setting that is chock full of cool inspiration!  Spellslinger was part of the Horizon line by Fantasy Flight Games, who are mostly known for board games.  Horizon was a series of D20 books that twisted the system into various new forms, continued through Legends and Lairs.  These books allowed for play in steampunk, mecha, horror, weird western and other genres and were all around a good find!  Sadly, they’re a bit rare.  However, one need not obtain the books to enjoy these monsters.  Also, I twisted around some of the magical “brands” into NPC monsters of their own… twisted versions of the old player options, if you will.  Look out for a handful of other references too!

You can also find a variety of NPCs at your disposal over on this page.

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Legion of Entropic Gloom – A Dastardly Undead Cult

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“You’re just in time for our weekly Necronomicon Study! Sit down, have a glass of kool-aid.”

The concept of death inspires some of the oldest fears known to civilization. The end of life, the end of all we have worked for. The finality to our existence. While many fear death, the idea of undeath proves to be far more horrifying to many. The idea of losing ones self, the very essence, coming a shriveled shell that exists as a mockery of its former self. These are the fears of the undead. For that reason and more, they are a menace to civilization on the average.

Why are the undead are considered a menace to the living? For a variety of reasons, of course. Many of these reasons derive from ethics over necromancy, while others are because of their often destructive ways. None embody the latter more than a secretive cabal known simply as “the entropic gloom”. This quasi-religious order is dedicated to eradication of the living, assimilating them into the ranks of the dead. The reasons for this? Cloaked in shadow, much like themselves. It could be out of contempt for the living, some utopian ideal of unity or perhaps even a penchant for heinous acts of violence. While much of the ranks of this cult are typical undead, some have been transformed into truly incredible servants of dread forces.

Author’s Note: I loving making undead nasty nasties! This is no surprise, for those who know me well enough… So with that, here’s an assortment of living dead monsters to torture your players with. After reading up on monstrous synergy via Tome of Foes, I’ve plucked a few ideas to boot! Also, priest characters, you’re gonna have a bad day.

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Horrors of Khorvaire and Beyond – Dal’Quor

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“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Beyond the realm of Khorvaire lies many horrible things. Some exist upon the Prime Material Plane, while others are haunted remnants of old conflict. The wasteland of Cyre lures curious onlookers hoping to know more of the Last War. An empire of the undead waits patiently while assembling its forces. A deadly draconic power below prepares for an onslaught like none have seen. However, these threats and more are far more terrestrial. Within the realms of a sleeping mind lies a gateway into a dark unknown. It is here that the Mi-Go flutter, elementals of dream gather and the Quori plan their dreadful deeds.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I love Eberron… a lot! Now, I wasn’t the first to convert some monsters over to 5E and I won’t be the last! Given my posts about dream-related content, it’s likely Dal’Quor content will show up in something else if Eberron isn’t unleashed to the public any time soon. So as always, continue to divine in the realm of dream and you too might learn a thing or two. For more dream wandering content, check out The Dreamlands tag.

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Gloomy and Gothic Story Hooks

Endless tomes tell tales of brooding beings locked in wretched crypts, of things we are not meant to know dwelling beyond the skies, of shocking creatures that terrify as they stun, of punishment for grievous sin and decedent folly.  These stories of old have fueled events to come for generations.  History has a habit of repeating, especially the negative…

Author’s Note: What?  Something non-crunch related???  That hasn’t happened in a long time, I know.  I prefer the mechanical bits, myself.  That said, I wanted to do something a little different.  I’ve made backgrounds, NPCs, monsters, class options, a race and then some with a gothic theme… why not stuff on the campaign itself?  Plus, this example is literally about literature.  So, here are some hooks inspired by various stories.  I’ll post something else later in the week, I promise.

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Therianthropes! – A Collection of Werebeasts for D&D 5th Edition

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Hey, ghosts and ghoulies!  Doc is back at it again!  This time around, I have an assortment of werebeasts at your disposal.  The document includes new content including: a werebeast never posted on the blog, new NPCs inspired by each animal stock, cleaned up versions of two previously existing sub-classes and more!

You may find the document HERE!

Spawn of Death – Creatures born and reborn from the dead

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You are a creature created from the impossible, either unnatural life given back to a body or from a birth most foul.  In either case, the death infused are considered abominations by many.  In some cases, they were created from revival rituals and necromatic magic gone awry.  In other cases, merely the results of trying to achieve immortality… with horrific results.  Arcane experiments in general are the source of the half-undead, either to crossbreed horrors or to create a new form of unlife entirely.

While the Death-Spawn are tainted by different forms of negative energies and dark power, they tend to share similar aspects in traits.  They convey a sense of lifelessness or at least an uncanny sense of life.  They typically lack the warmth of a living body, feeling clammy and/or cold to the touch.  Some are lucky enough to have bodies perfectly intact, looking indistinguishable from other average humanoids.  The unlucky look akin to shambling corpses and disheveled zombies.

Author’s Note: I wanted to take a crack at races again.  So, here’s a new race of undead-touched creatures inspired by a handful of resources: The Raven Queen, The Crow, Pathfinder’s Dhampir, the Half-Undead from Dragon Magazine and so on and so forth.  Just a heads up, this is a rough draft and none of these have been tested yet.  I am likely to revisit this at a later time though.

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Darker Oaths – Paladins for Grimmer Games

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While not fallen knights, these are holy warriors who have fallen on hard times none the less.  Certain orders of the paladin are not seen as the high and mighty crusaders of justice and good, but a necessity for dealing with evil… while preventing troubles members from falling themselves.  Many of the more righteous minded are uncomfortable around such types, as they tend to be far more dour, jaded and even looking they have the life taken out of them.

For many their path is seen as one of ultimate damnation, getting too close to that which they fight… or at the very least, losing sight of what’s worth fighting for.  Among their darker orders, they are the realists, the last line of defense, those who know too much about their enemy and the like.  Only a fool would turn down the aid of a dark oath member.  These crusaders are typically infiltrators, veterans, lore keepers and specialists against specific threats.  This of course assumes that suspicion doesn’t lead to their banning or worse.

Author’s Note: While these sub-classes are meant to be neutral/anti-heroes, they could be twisted into alternative options for Fallen/Oath Breaker Paladins.  All in all, I wanted these sub-classes to convey an almost gothic theme, alongside other inspirations.  Furthermore, I really wanted to experiment with these sub-classes, totally overhauling my original ideas for the “Oath of Blasphemy” and the “Oath of the Cynic”.  However, these sub-classes could easily fit vibes like Mythos Cultists, Instruments of Chaos and Trickery (i.e. Loki, Tzeentch, Cyric), Corrupt Clergymen, Fanatical Crusaders, agents of the Shadowfell or even servants of a less malicious God of Death (i.e. Wee Jas, The Raven Queen, Kelemvor, Anubis, etc).

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