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Midgard Preview: Skincrawler Dragon

Midgard Preview: Skincrawler Dragon

Skincrawler Dragon by Ted ReedArt by Ted Reed

Skincrawler CR 11


XP 12,800
NE Huge dragon
Init +4; Senses darkvision 120 ft., blindsense 60 ft., scent; Perception +14
Aura frightful presence (180 ft., DC 15)
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DEFENSE
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AC 25, touch 8, flat-footed 25 (+0 Dex, +17 natural, -2 size)
hp 175 (13d12+91)
Fort +14, Ref +8, Will +8
DR 5/magic; Immune sleep, paralysis; SR 22
Weaknesses insatiable hunger
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OFFENSE
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Speed 40 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor)
Melee bite +20 melee (2d8+13), 2 claws +20 melee (3d6+9), 2 wings +18 (1d8+4), tail slap +18 (2d8+13)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft. (15 ft. with bite)
Special Attacks breath weapon (50-foot cone, damage special, Fortitude DC 24 negates, usable every 1d4 rounds), crush (2d8+13), slow feed
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STATISTICS
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Str 28, Dex 10, Con 22, Int 7, Wis 12, Cha 9
Base Atk 13; CMB 24; CMD 34
Feats Ability Focus (breath weapon), Critical Focus, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack (claws), Multiattack, SnatchB, Toughness
Skills Fly +5, Heal +7, Intimidate +8, Perception +14, Sense Motive +11, Use Magic Device +8
Languages Draconic
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ECOLOGY
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Environment any
Organization solitary
Treasure double
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SPECIAL ABILITIES
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Breath Weapon (Su) A skincrawler dragon breathes a roiling fog of black motes that burrow into the flesh of any living creature failing a DC 24 Fortitude save. [The save DC is Constitution-based.] Once inside, the motes germinate, grow, and tunnel under the skin. Infested hosts are nauseated; spellcasting or concentrating on spells requires a caster level check; using skills involving patience or concentration requires a DC 20 Will save.
Any magical healing of 8 hp or more destroys the infestation and removes its ill effects.
One round after the initial infestation, the multi-legged motes erupt enmasse through the victim’s pores, dealing 3d6 damage to the victim and forming a (poisonless) spider swarm that scurries back to the dragon.
Once the swarm clambers under the dragon’s scales and disperses (i.e., enters the dragon’s space), the dragon gains temporary hit points equal to the number of hp the victim lost, up to a maximum of the dragon’s normal hp maximum (effectively doubling the creature’s total hp).
Insatiable Hunger (Ex) Each sunrise, the skincrawler dragon suffers 6d6 hp damage from intense starvation. The damage can only be healed through magical healing or the acquisition of temporary hit points.
Slow Feed (Su) A skincrawler dragon can send a controlled number of shadow spiders from under its scales into the mouth of any dying or stable living creature it touches. Any magical healing of 8 hp or more destroys this infestation and removes its ill effects. While infested, a stable victim who regains consciousness is paralyzed (instead of disabled).
The shadow spiders feed for 1 hour per HD of the victim, absorbing 1 hit point an hour; if the spiders can feed for more than 8 hours on a victim (meaning they are feeding on a 9-HD or higher creature), they additionally absorb any hit points the victim would have gained through natural healing from rest. When the spiders absorb more than the victim’s HD in hp, the infestation exits the victim’s mouth, scurries as a (harmless) spider swarm back to the dragon, and delivers the siphoned hp to the dragon as temporary hit points.
If the dragon is not within a 60-ft. range of the exiting spiders by sunrise, the swarm crumbles to dust. The spiders’ death allows the former host a DC 24 Fortitude save to overcome paralysis.

Skincrawler dragons are aggressive reptilian beasts with natures more akin to wyverns than chromatic dragons. Territorial and insatiably hungry, the skincrawler attacks with proven tactics and decisive strikes. For those unfortunate enough to wander into its 200- square-mile hunting grounds, the horror has just begun.

A wave of fear precedes this nightmare beast when it wings down from twilight skies. Its gossamer wings stretch, and the ground shakes with the impact of its landing. From afar, its skin appears to shift in shadowy darkness across its flanks. A closer look reveals the writhing motion of a million spiders cavorting under its scales. More spiders crawl over its eyes and pile in its mouth as it unleashes a roar that unhinges its jaw.

The skincrawler’s strategy is simple: employ its vampiric breath weapon and fight until it can fly away with at least one dying victim. If the battle goes poorly, the skincrawler retreats, returning to the scene later with a burning vengeance and the maximum complement of temporary hit points. More often, the skincrawler takes its prey with ease. Peasants and heroes have watched helplessly as the skincrawler takes to the skies with a family member or comrade in its spider-swarm maw.
Skincrawlers lair in remote, difficult-to-reach locations, such as mountaintop caves. Instead of hoarding treasure, skincrawlers stockpile bodies. People, horses, harpies, and hags all lie together in a mangled mass of limbs and wide-eyed faces. Most are conscious but paralyzed by the dragon’s slow feed ability. Some have been here for months. Each horror-stricken face breathes with the slow asthmatic gasp of a moray eel, sucking air past spiders crawling from its throat. This pile, the skincrawler’s larder, is the horrific fate of every dying creature it secures to its lair.

When a crippled or detained skincrawler does not return to its lair on schedule, its hoarded victims sometimes overcome their paralysis, finding themselves lying helpless in a heaped menagerie of other victims. Climbing out of the pile, they learn hundreds of miles of wilderness surround their cave entrance. For those still sane, a perilous descent and uncertain journey awaits. For the insane, only maddened laughter ever escapes the lair of the skincrawler.

To prevent its hoard from escaping or throwing themselves to their own death, some skincrawlers employ “tenders” to keep the dragon’s victims bound or unconscious until the dragon returns. The tender also waters the victims daily and force-feeds them a slurry of regurgitated horseflesh and dragon bile. Weak-minded, sentient creatures make the best tenders.

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8 thoughts on “Midgard Preview: Skincrawler Dragon”

  1. Ho-ly crap. That is the creepiest thing I have ever seen for an RPG, and I have gone on metaphorical journeys for creepy stuff to use in my games.

    This is so perfectly mortifying. I wish it had been in the Bestiary. Is there a Midgard Bestiary II in the works?

  2. I agree with Foghammer. This is the creepiest monster I’ve ever seen in any context. I can’t use it in any adventures with my wife or she’ll run away screaming.

    Maybe a mini-book filled with creepy beasties like this would go over well.

  3. Nice one, Tim!

    The breath weapon is my favorite part, especially how it scurries back to the dragon. Totally using this in my next game.

    Creepy!

    -Brian

  4. Nice dragon pic Ted! And a very flavorful dragon, Tim with imaginative mechanics to boot. I love the hit point reducing Insatiable Hunger.
    The asthmatic breathing of tended victims in the corpse pile isn’t creepy, it’s inspired! ;p

  5. Thanks all! Glad you liked this!

    They say to “write what you like to read”, and since it’s story that thrills me about creatures, I tried my best to create a dragon with a story to share. In this case, a horror story. One to be inflicted on an unsuspecting PC, and not merely told to a DM in a stats backdrop.

    I really hope one of you guys will share your PC’s experience with this nightmare beast. I can’t wait to hear it. The black mote breath weapon…the erupting infestation…the black out…the paralyzed waking upon the body hoard…the current tender, his help, and his fate…the PC-become-tender…the resourceful escape…or the ultimate failure.

    This summer I might even start a new campaign with the PCs meeting atop the body pile. Hmmm…the skincrawler might also be good device to recover from a TPK. When things start to look bad for the party in some unrelated fight, they might notice the dragon’s black form in the distance. Last vision before the PCs’ lights go out:the skincrawler swooping down like a hawk, claws outstretched to snatch them up.

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