Creative Pursuits D&D

RPG Characters Don’t Need Long Backstories

Let how you got to second level be your “backstory”. This game is about telling a story of what happened at the table, not what happened in the novel you’ll never finish.

Creative Pursuits D&D

Make Unique Monsters Your Players Will Never Forget

A tip for game masters: change the appearance or behavior of a standard monster to make the experience more dramatic for your players. The echoes of the encounter will reverberate long after the session is over.

D&D Games

Why Your RPG Doesn’t Have Beholders

More fearsome than floating eyeballs that short disintegration rays are the wizards who claim to own them… and their attorneys.

I offer this cartoon under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Pursuits D&D

The Loadstar: a Spiky Monster That Will Weigh You Down

We first heard the scraping of cold iron against granite from somewhere in the darkness beyond our lantern glow. From the shadows emerged three orbs seemingly made of innumerable nails pointing in every direction. They floated over the cavern floor, slowly approaching us. The dwarf charged, his mouth watering at the prospect of battle, and his axe cut between the spikes to crack in inner globe. As the creature shuddered, the other two spun around to his flanks, then dove in. Long spikes glanced off his gleaming plate armor, but one or two found their way between the gaps. He howled in pain and retreated. We were ten paces closer to the exit and ahead of him and reached sunlight first.

When the dwarf emerged, both arms were stretched out stiffly. He begged for relief. Where the spikes broke skin were irregular cysts topped by an oozing wound. Nearly ten pounds of flesh had grown where he was injured, pushing painfully against the constricting armor until we’d cut it away.

This was our first encounter with the notorious loadstar. It’s vital statistics are as follows.

  • Armor Class: 17
  • Hit Dice: 2
  • Number of Attacks: once per round, it attempts to drive a spike that does 1d6 points of damage plus creates a heavy larval sac
  • Movement: 20′ every 10 seconds, floating
  • Resists magic as 2nd level fighter
  • Fanatical attitude, never losing morale

The loadstar appears as a ball of thin, iron spikes floating in mid-air. Immature subjects may be as small as a fist, but those most often encountered are between two and three feet in diameter. Their shape suggests a sea urchin, though they are always found underground. Beneath a hard outer shell of iron lies the bright orange goo that serves as the loadstar’s guts.

When the loadstar strikes, its spikes dig into living flesh and deliver a fast-growing embryo. In one round, the wound site expands to form a blob under the skin weighing 10lbs and containing about 1 gallon of an orange liquid summoned from an extra-dimensional space. In the center floats the larva of the loadstar. If the site is lanced (doing another 1d4 points of damage) and squeezed immediately, the liquid may be flushed, killing the larva. Otherwise, the orange ichor converts to pure adipose tissue 10 minutes after injury. From that moment on, the fat must be lost in an ordinary way, typically through depriving oneself of food. 30 days after initial injury, a small loadstar emerges from the skin and floats away to find darkness.

The immediate consequence of a loadstar sting is the burden of ten extra pounds carried. This extra encumbrance can be debilitating to smaller adventurers or those struct multiple times. Adventures may need to drop all of their belongings in order to escape.

The curing of the disease, typically done by magic, kills the incubating larva but does not remove the excess fat. Clerics are known to return the body to its previous state with a restoration spell. Otherwise, the fat may be slowly lost at a rate of one pound per week by cutting the amount of food eaten. Intensive fasting can increase this rate to five pounds per week, but the subject must save versus death or else fail to complete the fast, making no progress for the week.

Loadstars are mindless but will instinctively moderate their attacks, typically avoiding attacking a victim after it already carries one or more larvea.

I offer this monster description under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Pursuits D&D News

Terror in Tosasth

Like the mummified corpse of a king long forgotten, lying dreamless in a tomb hidden by innumerable layers of sand, mysterious treasures lure the imagination of true adventurers. Men have not long settled here on the edge of wilderness, and few are those who recall the tales of their grandmothers. Yet, the other folk remember a time when elves and dwarves built kingdoms that rose up, clashed and tumbled down again. Offer a dwarf a mug of ale or flatter an elf and you may coax a tale of Tosasth (TOH-sosth).

Despite the benefit of longer lives, only vague details may be conjured from elven memory about the once-great city that now is little more than a graveyard teeming with the undead. “Stay away from that cursed valley,” they will advise. Perhaps the stories told by their fathers were parables only, myths meant to illustrate the folly of hubris, for among the various horrors professed to dwell in Tosasth, a curious mind will discover a singular theme. Long ago, elves and dwarves who grew from parallel limbs of the tree of life, made war that ended in terrible catastrophe.

The series of adventures in this tome offer thrilling danger, spectacular loot and the answer to the mystery of Tosasth.

Terror in Tosasth is a collection of adventures I wrote for my ongoing Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game campaign. I took my notes from the campaign and put them into the style used by the BFRPG community. There are 18 different adventures and procedures for running a city filled with undead.

Aside from all the writing, I felt the need to draw many images to fill in gaps in the pages. I thought I’d get away with recycling image from all the session reports. Nope. I had to draw at least 20 more images.

This material is all free under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. (Updated January 24, 2023)

Links above to releases update as I make them.