Thursday, January 20, 2011

#20: Troglodytes and Other Watery Foes

Monster design in many ways is about making an encounter with a monster special. There isn’t much difference in classic D+D between fighting a gnoll or a bugbear- the bugbear has a few more hit points, hits a little more often, and does a little more damage. That’s it. Mechanically, they are the same thing… I’m really trying to avoid that with Resolute. I want even seemingly ‘mundane’ foes to have something special that makes an encounter with them different… so, today I’m going to try working on troglodytes, and see where that takes me…

Troglodytes are basically water-breathing fighter types. They are tribal. They wield spears. They could throw nets (that’s sort of tribal) that bind opponents; they could attempt to pull opponents underwater and fight them there- that makes sense in terms of their natural abilities, and would make encounters with trogs different than with other foes.

What about this- trogs always seek to attack land-dwelling foes near water. Their lairs are invariably built right at the edge of swamps, bogs, ponds and underwater lakes. Their homes rise up from the surface of the water, but also descend below it. In combat, they attempt to bind targets with nets and then drag them into the water to drown them. They stand watch (with male fighters) above water, but their young live underwater (in fact, it is not until adolescence that trogs develop the ability to breathe outside of water; they have a really long ‘minnow’ stage they go through of about ten years). They actually wait under the surface for the males to drag foes down there, so they can attack in swarms with their razor-sharp teeth! This I like. Female trogs are always shaman types- they are a maternal society, revering the female who holds magical power the males don’t have. One of these magical powers is the ability to infuse a dead troglodyte (often one who falls during battle) with an ancestral spirit that attacks with a vengeance. This matron dwells underwater, surrounded by her young, waiting for them to bring her the best of their catch…

Man, I can’t wait to send my players against a tribe of troglodytes!

Troglodyte Youngling (15 CPs)
Fighting +3; Bite +2; Intuition +1; Stamina +2; Swim +3; Water Breathing
- Troglodyte Younglings appear as vicious, large-toothed minnows. They swarm upon foes with their razor-sharp teeth (attack +3, damage +2) and voracious appetite for the warm blood of mammals. They can attack a medium-sized creature in packs up to 10 younglings at a time, taking one combined attack at +13 (still at +2 damage) per turn.

Troglodyte Skirmisher (30 CPs)
Fighting +5 (Binding Attack); Might +3; Stamina +4; Intuition +2; Swim +3; Water Breathing
- Troglodyte Skirmishes carry war spears; they attack with these spears at +5, dealing +7 damage. They wear reed armor that provides +5 to physical soak rolls.

A group of Troglodyte Skirmishers will attack en masse, coordinating their efforts. They will be able to use a group attack a number of times equal to the total number of trogs present (up to 8 per team). They have to use two turns; in the first action, they roll fighting + the number of trogs working together vs. the target’s might. Targets are bound, taking a penalty to all actions equal to the number of successes the trogs rolls. Once targets are bound, the trogs make a might (+ number of trogs) vs. target’s might roll. Success means that the target has been pulled underwater. Targets underwater in nets continue to take the penalty to action rolls (until they break free of the net, requiring a successful might roll against the original DR), or until they cut through the nets, which are +2 material (DR 9 to cut, soaking 9 wounds from every attack, having 20 wounds before being compromised).

Troglodyte Spirit Matron (70 CPs)
Fighting +2; Stamina +3; Focus +6; Intuition +10 (Hex; Life Tap; Living Conduit; Summon Spirit Warrior); Leadership +6; Water Breathing
- With her life tap (usable once per scene), the Spirit Matron attacks at +6, dealing +20 damage, and recovering wounds equal to the total damage she deals. Her reed armor absorbs +4 physical damage, and her cloak of human hair soaks +7 energy damage. The Troglodyte Spirit Matron is able to use 1 turn to summon a spirit warrior once per scene, re-energizing the dead body of a recently-fallen troglodyte with an ancestral spirit of warfare. This spirit warrior remains for up to 10 rounds. Her leadership allows her troglodyte allies to draw upon a pool of 6 opportunities to take +6 each to one action, resist or result roll.

Troglodyte Spirit Warrior (50 CPs)
Fighting +6 (Bonus Attack); Might +6 (Strike); Stamina +6; Focus +3; Invulnerability; Intuition +3
- The Spirit Warrior attacks with two claws, distributing fighting +7 between them, and dealing +12 damage with each successful strike; the spirit warrior’s natural protection soaks +6 physical damage and +3 energy damage.

Drowning Rules:

Each turn you spend underwater requires you to make a stamina roll. The base DR of this roll is 2 in the first round, increasing +1 each round you spend underwater. You can’t botch this roll, and you can spend resolve to improve it. You must make this roll (as a free action) each round, just before you take your turn. For instance, if you have stamina +3 and you get pulled underwater, you do not have to make a roll at all for 4 rounds (your action is automatically successful at DR 5 or lower). In round 5, the DR is 6 (requiring a roll of 3 or better); in round 6, this goes to DR 7 (requiring a roll of 4); this moves to DR 8 in round 7 (requiring a roll of 5)… you will be able to stay alive if very lucky (mathematically speaking) until round 14, when staying alive goes to DR 15 (requiring a roll of 12). If you fail this roll at any time, you die.

While I’m thinking about watery foes, here as a bonus creature for today (as if you haven’t already had three bonus creatures already)… and a relic to go with him!


Morokoth is a monstrous squid that inhabits the deep. Its fate has been tied to a powerful relic, the Horn of Morokoth. This horn is only usable underwater; it has no power unless completely submerged in a large body of water (at least 30’ deep, at least 100’ wide). It takes 2D rounds for Morokoth to arrive, but upon arrival he wrecks havoc at the commands of whoever summoned him. The caller does not need to maintain possession of the horn; whoever blows it takes the role as Morokoth’s master for that scene. The horn will only work once per scene. At the end of the scene, Morokoth returns to his watery slumber. If reduced to 0 wounds, he automatically flees at full speed into the deep, refusing to give his life for any mortal master.

Morokoth the Maleficent (152 CPs)

Fighting +10 (Bonus Attack x3); Might +10 (Strike); Focus +8; Invulnerability; Swim +8; Resolve +8; Intuition +8; Water Breathing
- Morokoth attacks with four pronged tendrils, distributing fighting +13 between these attacks, dealing +20 with each successful strike. Morokoth uses its resolve to add its intuition to fighting action rolls, leading off combat with a series of exceptionally powerful strikes.


  1. I really like the fact that Morokoth is big bad monster, but his stat block is small and manageable! That is going to be really handy for running your game. =)

  2. I agree. Even 'big bads' fit on an index card. I remember reading a discussion from the designers when moving to D+D 3.5 about scaling back monster stat blocks; they felt (rightly I'd say) that giving a monster more than a half-dozen cool abilities is a waste; you aren't going to get a chance to use all of those abilities in any fight with the monster. You are better off building it around the abilities it needs and the handful of unique things that make an encounter with it special. In Resolute, you only really need 4-5 abilities, and any others you elect to take are specific to the character or creature.