Friday, October 17, 2014

4 XP Monsters

Trying to think of monsters that treat xp as an attack vector for players.  Wights are the traditional monster for this but I was interested in giving players a warning-- like losing small bits of xp over time to freak them out, rather than screwing them over quickly to just make them afraid of wights in future encounters.

Wight Flies - Tiny, moisture seeking-- they suck away memories as they drink from eyes, wounds, or open mouths (1xp per round per fly, DM's prerogative on how many hundreds appear at any location).  They leave fragile, ivory-like structures in corpses.  If eaten, these will grant the memories of past victims (100 xp per handful).

Grey Mold - Fine, sickly grey, it can grow anywhere-- on men, dragons, liches-- and is difficult to get rid of.  Anything in its presence is filled with a hollow sense of despair (lose 10xp per round x your level).  If you are hit by something infected by it you will likely be infected too (make a save).

Pot Boy - A thin, sickly looking boy clutching a small crockery.  The pot is covered in a filthy bit of rag.  If you see it (fail a save) you will no longer gain experience until something is done.  Telling someone about it will spread the problem to them (if they make a save they don't see it).  Legend tells of whole cities in the dull thrall of a single pot boy-- learning nothing, forgetting, merely existing.

The Gentle Double - A doppelganger that asks permission.  If you say yes and allow it to take your form, you receive a portion of the memories and experiences of it's current form (500xp x your level).  It then precedes you in cities and rural areas spreading good will and promises of aid.  Also called a Vard√łger.  Scholars are divided on whether it is a truly good creature-- pressuring you to do good with its promises, or a chaotic one-- making promises that it never expects to be kept.


The last is not attacking xp, but using it as a reward to give players an interesting choice.


  1. Good job. Thin woman, now the pot boy. Simple but very evocative.

  2. I like the mold, although I think that you should have to burn it off... players like to burn things, and why not give them a reason to burn all grey objects? ;)

  3. This is so excellent. I really like your oblique way of approaching things.

  4. Thanks so much to all of you.

    @Darnizhaan: I forgot about the thin woman. That's right, similar mechanic. My buddy suggested I make the Pot boy's effect be caused by a strange smell to be different-- something horrid is in that pot.

    @Lasgunpacker: Sure, why not. Though I kind of like the idea of having to wash away the grey mood with alcohol :)

  5. I hate the "x your level" mechanic. It's just not how D&D works.* Scaling to level is a new school mistake and old school should strive to be as "level blind" as possible.

    *Like, over level 9-ish XP hits a flat rate so the Gentile Double thing is going to be worth more and more relatively the higher level you are. And a quirk of the XP chart: it takes the same amount of xp to go for level 1 to 2 as it does to go form 2 to the Double gives you 25% of what you need at level 1 and 50% at level two... it's just quirky. Flat rate is better, that how the charts were designed. There's no point in leveling if everything scales!

  6. In a way, yeah, it's me trying to route around levels. I want to have things that exist in my fantasy world that are feared by all.

    I wouldn't want all my monsters or effects to scale, I actually hate that in video games and I know players should feel more powerful as they climb in level. But I think scaling threats is a problem in video games because video games are fairly simplistic and only about combat. In a D&D game players at high levels should have magic items and spells and potions and such that give them lots of possible choices even if they encounter a leveled threat like wight flies.

    "the Gentile Double thing is going to be worth more and more relatively the higher level you are."

    One thing to keep in mind is that these events are not going to happen any time close to each other in play-- a player going from 1st to 9th is going to take years of play. So, it seems pretty unlikely that two players are going to have different level encounters with a Gentle Double and one will feel cheated.

    That worry feels more like treating D&D as an abstracted system that is equally fair for different characters, which actually feels much more new school to me than trying to scare high and low level characters with the same monster.

  7. Thanks, that means a lot. I'm jealous of your banshee revision.