Archive for October, 2015

NOTE: The creatures previously featured here are now part of my Pay What You Want DMs Guild product Arachnids, Wraiths, & Zombies.

Halloween season is now in full gear. The costume shops are open, the bags of candy line the store shelves, and the RPG blog community is exploding with great posts about Halloween creepy crawlies and other nasty DM delights. This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is “What Walks Into Town?” from Scot Newbury over at Of Dice and Dragons. Great theme! He hosted the blog last October and inspired me to create a whole month of blog posts’ worth of monsters. Scot does Halloween right.

I’ve been playing fifth edition with my group for a little over a year now and they’re now within the upper level echelons of the game. I find myself flipping through the Monster Manual in search of worthy high level challenges and I often come up short. Yes I could throw 50 orcs simultaneously at my players thanks to bounded accuracy, but that’s fun for my group exactly one time per campaign. After that single time it becomes a tedious, time-sucking grind. I’ve decided this theme will be a good excuse for me to create some higher level horrors to keep my PCs on their toes.

Now what should I create? What higher level monsters do I need? What fits this theme and this holiday? What terrifies me beyond recognition? Giant arachnids.

Yes I’m an arachnophobe. I don’t mind tiny spiders and scorpions so much, but when they get bigger than my ham fists, that’s when I bust out in the cold sweat of terror (and yes I’m aware that the small ones can be more deadly). I have trouble looking at my large spider miniatures without shuddering. That’s why I love to use them in my game. Like a twisted DM version of Batman I paraphrase, it’s time my players shared my fear.

I remember the third edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual had a spider and scorpion for every available creature size. I think fifth edition D&D needs their arachnids to grow beyond size Large and into Huge and, yes, Gargantuan beasts. So what’s walking into town? A big ass spider.

From the apparently movie Big Ass Spider!

Monstrous Vermin

Most seasoned adventurers know there are spiders and scorpions as large as horses, but many would be horrified to learn some grow as large as houses or even as large as the tarrasque itself.

In the underdark, dense forests, and vast deserts of the world, certain breeds of arachnid have be able to grow to enormous proportions. These nocturnal terrors must survive many years in harsh environments to grow so large and those years provide experience and cunning which only make the beasts more dangerous. Their enormity means they pursue much larger prey than normal-sized vermin. Most humanoids are the perfect-sized meal for these creatures. When they are desperate for food, monstrous spiders and scorpions have been known to wander the outskirts of settlements at night to drag off a meal.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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UPDATE: The partial background found in this article is a preview. It is fully available as a Pay What You Want product on the DMs Guild in a pretty PDF with art and 14 other ready to roll backgrounds.

It’s the Halloween season. There’s something about this holiday which delights the imagination of tabletop role players everywhere. It’s probably our active imaginations that make us think about the things that could go bump in the night and terrorize us. This season appeals to me for that reason. Ever since I was a kid I loved reading scary stories, even though they terrified the pants off of me. In honor of the season I’ve decided to write up a blog post about something scary.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers these.

On a related note people really seemed to enjoy the backgrounds I’ve been posting lately. The Parent and Retired Adventurer backgrounds are among some of my most popular posts ever. To that end I wanted to give you something you’d love that went with the frightful holiday season. So I got to thinking and decided I wanted a background for someone who’s lived for years under the direct control of a ghost, fiend, vampire, mind flayer, aboleth, or some other horrific creature. The thrall is now broken, but that PC’s adventuring career is forged by the trials and cruelties suffered as a slave. With that in mind I present to you, the possessed background.

Possessed

You have spent a significant amount of time under the thrall of some malicious entity which controlled your every action. It could be that the mind controlling dominance of an aberration or vampire brought about your slavery or you may have been possessed by some undead spirit or fiend. Under the thrall of this being you might have been forced into heavy labor, gladiatorial combat, or some more unpleasant machinations that were part of the villain’s greater scheme. The being might have been practical and controlled you in a pragmatic way, or it could have been a right villain which delighted in cruelty and made you hurt the people who loved you. It is up to you whether you remember all the details and your actions during the possession or if you only have fragments of memory to piece together.

What was the end result of your possession? Did someone drive the evil presence out of you? Did the being leave of its own accord? Was it destroyed or it did it promise to return to take you again some day? How has the possession left you feeling? Sad and broken? Ready to take on the world again? Terrified it may happen again?

Skills: Deception, Perception

Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisan’s tools, gaming set, or musical instrument which reflects the hobbies and taste of the being who possessed you.

Languages: One of your choice

Equipment: A set of common clothes, a small knife, a wearable trinket like a ring or bracelet given to you by the being who possessed you which cannot be thrown away or destroyed, and belt pouch containing 15 gp

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.


I sit down with Rudy BassoAlex Basso, and Round Table newbie Rich Howard to discuss the Unearthed Arcana variant Ranger and September D&D survey. This podcast was recorded on September 23, 2015.

Please rate and review us on iTunes, it helps a boat load!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcasts, Bonus Action and Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I was on a recent episode of The Tome Show Book Club.

Jeff Greiner, Eric M. Paquette, and I discussed Ed Greenwood‘s latest Forgotten Realms novel, Spellstorm. After that Jeff and Eric interview Greenwood to talk all things EdVerse.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

UPDATE: The partial background found in this article is a preview. It is fully available as a Pay What You Want product on the DMs Guild in a pretty PDF with art and 14 other ready to roll backgrounds.

You have to start over. You’re past your prime. Years of retirement have made you soft.  You’re a has-been. These words sound harsh but they’re the theme of many Hollywood blockbusters. A former badass rediscovers an adventurous trade long-forgotten. The old boxer trains for one last fight against a young buck. The former special ops father suits up to save his kidnapped daughter. Stella gets her groove back. This is a familiar trope and now it’s coming to your D&D game.

I know it might seem strange to play a former adventurer who has come out of retirement, but why not? Yes, this background works for characters starting at levels higher than 1st, but I contend that it works for 1st level characters as well. Age, a cushy lifestyle, an accident, or something supernatural (like the breaking of a pact between warlock and patron) could take many of the skills of a retired adventurer. Something, be it boredom, bankruptcy, revenge, or a noble quest, pushes these adventurers back out the door and on the road.

To that end I’ve created the Retired Adventurer background for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons. Take a look below and let me know what you think in the comments. Scroll down to grab the PDF of this background.

Retired Adventurer

You have lived a life of adventure already and retired to something quieter. You thought you were done and to that end may have given away all your old gear and spent all your treasure. Little did you know something would pull you back into your old career. If you choose this background you have some exciting questions to answer.

Since you had an adventuring career for a significant time, you should determine what that part of your past looked like. What adventures have you already had? How much time did you spend adventuring before retirement? Who was your most-hated enemy? Who did you adventure with? Why did you hang it up?

Something happened that made you lose your edge and finally honed adventuring skills. Has age or luxurious retirement made you soft? Did a physical or magical accident take some abilities from you? Did a supernatural force steal your mojo?

You have decided to walk the road of adventure once again. Why? Was it because you ran out of gold and want to earn some more the only way you know how? Did you become restless in retirement and are now seeking the thrill of battle? Are you out to prove you can still live up to your legend? Are you out for vengeance? A noble quest? To tie up one final lose end you didn’t realize until now was undone? Whatever the reason, you’re back on the road and ready to dive into another dungeon.

Skills: History, Insight

Tool Proficiencies: One type of gaming set

Languages: One of your choice

Equipment: An old map to a secret dungeon you never got around to visiting, a set of common clothes, a set of bone dice or a deck of cards, and a purse containing 25 gp.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!