Random Encounter: Darkmantles

Hello everyone, I am bringing back a segment that hasn’t been done for a while, the Random Encounter! This time I will discuss one of my favorite monsters to use the Darkmantle.

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Darkmantles are a weird cavern dwelling animal, essentially a cave squid. They lurk on the ceilings of caves, blending in with the stalactites, until unsuspecting prey passes by. Then they create a Darkness Aura, while using their Echolocation  to pounce on their prey. Once latched on they squeeze and constrict until their victim is slain. They are well adapted to their subterranean dwellings, able to glide slowing in the air (somehow).

Darkmantles are one of my favorite monsters for a few reasons.

First, they are a low level creature that gives a very different set of tactical challenges from common low level creatures PCs face. As an animal, Druids and Rangers can attempt to communicate with them to peacefully pass by. Their unique combination of Darkness Aura and Ecolocation puts the players in a new situation, where they can’t see their enemy, but it can see them. They also add some much needed variety into early game play.

Second, they can easily fit into most campaigns. According to the 5th edition Monster Manual, “Thriving in that dark realm (the Underdark or other caves), they fill an ecological niche similar to bats on the Material Plane.” Basically, they live in in caves, which are scattered throughout D&D.

Third, they are animals, and so they can easily show elements of ecology in your dungeons, making the areas more life-like. Perhaps the party fights a few Darkmantles, at the entrance to a cavern. Deeper in the cave, the Goblins are found feasting on one of the creatures. Suddenly you have created clear connections and logic to the various encounters in your dungeon, making exploring it a much more rewarding experience. (Dungeon ecology is one of my favorite things to think about in my own games)

Finally, they are creepy cave squids, that isolate and freak out a party, without posing too much of a threat to anything but a 1st level character. I love singling out a character, describing to the whole party that they have plunged into darkness. I will then write the targeted player a note explaining that something has latched onto their head, and slimy tentacles are writhing around their neck, attempting to squeeze the life out of them, and that they cannot communicate with the party. Usually said player will curse or stomp, or do some other thing that gets the rest of the party worried, their silence will worry the party even more. This element of the unknown creates a loss of control, creating some great drama, until A) the grappled player escapes or B) the Darkmantle is inevitably slain or flees, but until then it’s great fun!

Do any of you have great Darkmantle stories? Have you used them before in your game? Did you even know this monster existed? (I find they are often overlooked)

Well I hope you enjoyed hearing about one of my favorite monsters, the Darkmantle, perhaps I even gave some DMs a few ideas :).

 

Random Encounters: Owlbear

Hey everyone! Today I write about the noble and majestic… um Owlbear… ok not really either of those things they are actually awkward monsters 😀 !

Shout out to Logan for the request of this topic. When asked why Owlbears, he replied, “They are the closest thing I have seen to Man-Bear-Pig.” HA!

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The above image is the one I am most familiar with of the Owlbear. It is from the 3.5 Monster Manual, and sort of highlights a lot of my thoughts on Owlbears. They are weird bizarre monsters. I mean an owl and a bear? In the past Owlbears were largely unthinking, blood thirsty beasts. Thought to originally be the creation of some sort of magical experiment, they normally roamed solo, attacking and hunting where ever they went. Normally found in forests of some sort, I always felt Owlbears felt shoe-horned into the game as a potential go to Random Monster.

This often led me to rarely if ever use them, I just could not picture a place for them in my games. However; I doubt Logan wanted to just hear me write off this creature :).

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One potential use for an Owlbear would be to use in corrupted and mutated forests, then they would fit right in. Owlbears could also be used in a demented Wizard’s lair, as his pet creation, sort of like a Flesh Construct. Perhaps even more spooky would be a Druid, obsessed with tinkering with creation and the food chain. The Druid has magically bred several Owlbears, which serve as his minions. In either of these instances the Owlbear should be described as moving awkwardly and unnaturally, seeming to be uncomfortable or in pain, really play up the aspect that these things should not be!

D&D 5th edition has fleshed out the Owlbear to make them mesh better with a more “natural” landscape. They continue to be fierce, aggressive, and predators; however, they have been given more intelligence, and can even be trained by resourceful  creatures. Apparently this revised version of the Owlbear is even often encouraged to create dens at the foot of Elven tree villages, the Owlbears then serve as additional protection for the elves, cool!

This revised image comes with a much more natural looking image as well:

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The origins of this creature remain a mystery with rumors of a wizard being the first creator, though some creatures, such as Fey disagree stating Owlbears have always been a thing. This is great because it still leaves plenty of variety of ways the mighty Owlbear can be used.

Have you ever faced or used an Owlbear? What are your thoughts on this bizarre creature?

As always, I would love to hear from any readers, and am more then happy to take requests for future monsters or topics!

Random Encounter: Twig Blights

This will be the first installment of a regular feature on The Room Fills with Water, the Random Encounter. This will be a chance for me to focus on a specific monster, discuss my thoughts on it, share some stories, and suggest some interesting ways it can be used (or fought against).

A shout out to the player of FizzyWinks for this first monster request!

Twig Blights originally appeared in the 3rd edition adventure The Sunless Citadel.

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While the specifics of the adventure are unimportant for this discussion, Twig Blights serve as a new henchmen of the big baddie at the end of the adventure.

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Standing about 3 and 1/2 feet tall, Twig Blights are a series of leafless branches, which interlock to create a diminutive humanoid shape. These strange creatures draw their origins from the Gulthias Tree, a tree grown from a stake used to slay a powerful vampire. The Gulthias Tree possessed innate, but evil, power. Twice a year fruit springs from the tree, the seeds of which create Twig Blights.

Most likely due to their dark origins Twig Blights crave the taste of blood, often attacking living creatures, and then drawing sustenance from their bodies. Their alignment is Chaotic Evil.

Twig Blights can root themselves into the ground and reproduce through their root system, allowing them to multiply even if the tree of their origins is slain.

twig_blightTwig Blights offer a really interesting opportunity, low levels are often a ton of fun, and the most frequently played; however, several creatures are often used as the main monsters; Goblins, Orcs, Kobolds, ect. Twig Blights are very level appropriate for a starting group AND avoid the repetition of yet another Goblin lair.

They are also quite creepy, and so can add an element of horror to early levels. Perhaps villagers have been complaining of animals disappearing when grazing near the forest, often at night. All that the farmer hears over the bleating of the animal is an unsettling rustling and clattering, like dozens of claws rusting in the wind. By the time they make it to the pasture all that remains is a trail of blood leading into the woods.Maybe a young child, as often happens in horror movies, can mention the funny wood men that skirt through the homestead late at night. The options are really endless.

Finally, they are a really neat opportunity to explore a Evil Druid or Ranger villain, that perhaps utilizes Twig Blights and other Evil forest creatures to harass civilization. Maybe the villain is using their minions to sustain and nurture a new Gulthias tree! To extend their use, or variety, maybe your Twig Blights grow bigger with age, increasing hit points and damage, of course only after having fed regularly :).

I haven’t used them extensively in my own games, and so no interesting stories come to mind, but keep an eye on this blog, as they are sure to appear in future adventures of mine :).

A few things to be careful of, do not over use Twig Blights, keep the mystery surrounding them as long as possible. Their effect will be lessened if seeming endless numbers of them appear at regular intervals. Instead use them sparingly. If possible have them drag their dead away. There is a fear and excitement in the unknown. A few Twig Blights utilized well as in a early adventure is far more likely to be remembered then yet another Kobold or Goblin cave. You can supplement Twig Blights by also using Vine and Needles Blights, allowing some nice variety for an early adventure.

Well that is all I have to say about Twig Blights. Have you used Twig Blights in your own games, or faced them before? What are your thoughts on them?

If there is a monster you would like me to focus on for the next Random Encounter segment, please put the suggestion in the comments :).