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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rust Monsters and Other Annoying Abilities

I have a follow-up to the post about D&D being always right, but I'm not done working on it yet. It will have to wait a day or two. In the meantime... Someone reminded me of an old Trollsmyth post about rust monsters, which got me thinking about about a tangent: making rust monsters (and other annoying creatures) tricky to identify. GMs should place the party on their toes by including "generic harmless creature" as an entry on the wandering monster list. When it comes up, pick the next species on this "small harmless creature" list, or one like it: rabbit, armadillo, worm, turtle, frog, lizard, starfish, mouse, hen, goose. When you get to the end, loop back around again.

Roll 2d6 to determine the breed (sub-variety) of this particular creature. Read left to right: first die determines if the second is a color variation (1-3) or a feature (4-6), second determines which one, using this table:

  1. blue / whip-like antennae
  2. white / long whiskers
  3. transparent / short tusks
  4. orange / dorsal fins
  5. violet / glowing lumps
  6. silver / bulging skull
If doubles are rolled, read result on this table of annoying abilities. Cross off the first one on the line after assigning it to a given species/breed combo; the next time that number is rolled, assign the next entry and cross it off. Add additional annoying abilities when needed.

  1. bounce / caustic blood / break weapon / curse
  2. dust cloud /deflate / dampen / enlarge
  3. ink spray / jellify / tangle / tickle
  4. foul smell / fatten / oil slick / quicken
  5. vanish / liquefy / lock / locate gold
  6. rust / rot / reverse gravity / reflect damage
Powers are activated when struck and may possibly also be used as an attack. Some may be interpreted as detrimental to the creature itself, others to particular weapons or tools, and others to their attacker. Some might be directed towards something else in the environment. Some may even be beneficial to the party, if they know how to use the creature.

Once a particular species/breed combo is assigned an annoying power (like finned rabbits getting the foul smell ability,) that breed will always have that power when it appears, so keep a breed list.


  1. Neat idea, the only issue I see is rolling the breed and sub-variety and requiring a double there to see if the critter has a special ability.
    You'll only end up with blue, white, transparent, dorsal finned, glowing lumped and bulging skulled creatures with annoying abilities. since 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4,5-5 and 6-6 are the rolls needed to get a critter with an annoying ability.

  2. That's true... but remember, the species is determined independently. Which animal causes your weapon to bounce off its hide and possibly out of your hand -- the blue rabbit, the blue armadillo, or the blue worm? There's only a 1 in 3 chance that the blue rabbit has a power. Do you try your luck? And when the GM tells you "you catch a glimpse of something the color of old ivory scurry around the corner" will you remember that ivory is white?

    If you want more variability, roll 3d6 instead of just two. First two dice are read as above. Creature only has a power if the third die matches the second. Also, consider "retiring" breed features, either if they've been used too much or maybe if the first and third die match on that 3d6 roll. Replace the retired feature with something new and exotic, like "green and yellow stripes" or "prickly fur".