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Old Hat Monsters: Mashed

Old Hat Monsters: Mashed

Illustration in Carmilla, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's vampire storyTry to remember for a moment a more innocent time in your life. Back then, the thought of vampires and werewolves lurking in the dark might have sent a chill down your spine. These days, though, when people discuss shows such as The Walking Dead or Being Human, it’s not with the same sense of fear that they once had in the past. The classic horror monsters have become mundane. Zombies, werewolves, ghosts, and vampires lost that mystery of the unknown that made them scary and instead they have become tropes.

It happens at gaming tables, too. Eventually, many gamers are lucky enough to settle in with a long-term gaming group. Many of our favorite roleplaying games are rooted in strategy games, and those playing them begin to form strategic patterns as they play. These patterns often mean that careful planning by the GM is somewhat wasted, because not only do the players see your favorite moves coming, but they know each other as well and have transitioned into being a good team when confronted by the familiar and common threats they’ve faced in the past. This is fun for awhile, but if all they face are familiar threats, then you’re dealing with a form of stagnation that no longer challenges your players to think as much. As a result, your game will either change or everyone will get bored and find other things to do.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The fantasy genre is at its best when you mix familiar with new. We’ve discussed civilizing and mutating our old hat monsters, and today we’re going to reverse the formula to keep your players guessing by adding classic templates to some monsters that might be less familiar.

You can find the templates I’ll be discussing here. Join me after the jump as we discuss making vampires, lycanthropes, and zombies scary again in “Old Hat Monsters: Mashed.”

One of the terrifying elements about vampires was how human they were. The classic Dracula was like a dark mirror of humanity—the horror came from how similar our desires and fears were to those of a bloodthirsty monster. Thanks to familiarity and, to some extent, elements in our current media culture, sending your player characters after a mere vampire no longer works in terms of mystery and horror, so I propose we apply the vampire template to a more subtle monster and combine their strengths into a more horrifying creature.

I’ve been dying to throw a lamia vampire at my player characters for awhile now. Thematically the lamia was the Greek equivalent of the vampire—at least in its predatory habits. When you apply the vampire template to a lamia, you create a horrifying combination for any party. The lamia has a great land-based speed, natural attacks, the ability and intelligence to wield a variety of weapons, and an arsenal of spell-like abilities centered on charm and illusion. On top of that, they are size Large. Adding the statistical advantages, immunities, and additional abilities such as shapeshifting and swarm summoning give you a deadly and difficult-to-corner skirmisher that can separate targets from the party and take down PCs.

And what about those werewolves mentioned above? Well, the classic lycanthrope is a werewolf. In an industrial society, it’s sometimes difficult to understand that there was a time when animals were a very real threat. We’ve tamed and changed our environment to a point were confrontations with other apex predators is, at best, a trivial concern. For our purposes, I’ll work with something other than canines—there are simply already too many canine-themed threats in Pathfinder.

So, where do I intend to look for a variant lycanthrope? One of the most interesting monster write-ups for me was the thawn from Kingmaker #31. He’s in the SRD and can make a decent CR2 ambush-style fight. Making him a werebear thawn is another way to add awesome to a monster that, if given the proper environment, can be a surprising threat. Few expect a giant to lays traps and ambushes, and the sickening effect they have is a great debuffer that would translate to any form the thawn takes.

Now for zombies! There’s a synergy to zombie ants that appeals to me. In a way, the ant swarm is like a zombie herd, consuming without individual thought—a force of nature, in fact. Take something like the lion ant give it the zombie template. For giggles, when the party has brought the lion ant zombie down to 50 percent of its hit points or less, have a pair of ant swarms pour out of its wounds. If this doesn’t add an element of horror and surprise back into your game, I do not know what will.

Here’s where I ask what you all think about a few things. Do you want to see the crunch? For every three comments in the comment section, I’ll stat out one of these for you here in the comment section. Be sure to include what you’d like to see statted out first! Do you have a combination in mind I didn’t mention? Request it, and I’ll either post it here or link you to a page where it’s posted.

14 thoughts on “Old Hat Monsters: Mashed”

  1. Stat yonder Werebear first. As for interesting uses of those three templates, there are vampiric succubi, gnomish wereravens, and plague zombie unicorns.

  2. What about an adventure of a fantasy enhance version of the gaming table? I’ve been thinking to run an adventure where the players play as themselves, but with attributes and abilities full of fantasy but related with what they do today. Almost like taking the opening of Michael Moorcock’s Erokosë, they start the adventure hearing the calling from another time, or perhaps another universe. And they’ll have to fight guess who, their DM. What more familiar and terrifying that an evil and powerful version of their friend!!!

  3. Charles Carrier

    So very many monsters have been created for D&D/PF over the last 30+ years… With such a plethora to choose from, I never really gave much thought to templates before.

    I now see it is time for me to reconsider that stance. Out of the ones you suggested, the lamia vampire is my favorite.

  4. I’ve gotta say I’d like to see the Lycanthrope. Always a big fan of the sudden giant furball of doom.

  5. Here’s the 1st one Werebear Thawn one more vote between Lamia Vamp and Zombie ant breaks the Tie!

    Thawn, Werebear (Hybrid Form) CR 3

    XP 800
    CE Large shapechanger (giant, werebear)
    Init –1; Senses low-light vision, scent ; Perception +2

    AC 16, touch 8, flat-footed 14 (–1 Dex, +8 natural, –1 size)
    hp 23 (3d8+9)
    Fort +7, Ref +0, Will +3

    DR 5/silver

    Weaknesses repulsive


    Speed 30 ft.
    Melee 2 claws +5 (1d6+4/19–20 + grab), Bite
    Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.

    Str 19, Dex 8, Con 16, Int 7, Wis 12, Cha 6
    Base Atk +2; CMB +6; CMD 15
    Feats: Great Fortitude, Throw Anything
    Skills Craft (traps) +4, Stealth –2 (+2 amid mud or rocks); Racial Modifiers +6 Craft (traps), +4 Stealth amid mud or rocks
    Languages Giant
    Repulsive (Ex)

    Werebear Thawns find the appearance of themselves and others of their kind revolting no matter what form they take. As such, most wear heavy cloaks or otherwise obscure their countenances. All thawns within 30 feet of an uncloaked thawn must make a DC 15 Will save or be sickened for 1 round. This repulsion is all the more severe when a thawn sees its own reflection. Should a thawn be confronted with its own reflection (such as being presented with a mirror) it must make a DC 15 Will save or be sickened for 1d4+1 rounds, if it is in hybrid form or bear form it is merely 1 round and the DC is lowered to 12.


    Werebear thawns like to use their throw anything feat on the other side of a crudely covered pit, or from a high ground position. When they are closed on they will typically take hybrid form and try bull rush attempts (which they gain a +4 on against smaller creatures) to throw enemies into the pit.

  6. Ant Lion Zombie CR 8
    XP 3,600
    NE Large Undead Vermin
    Init +0 Senses Darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 60 ft.; Perception +0
    AC: 22 touch 9, flat-footed 22 (+13 natural, -1 size_
    Hp 61 (11d8+11)
    Fort +9 Ref +3 Will +7
    Immune mind-affecting effects, all undead immunities, vermin traits
    Speed: 40 ft, burrow 20 ft.
    Melee 2 bites +11 (2d8+9 plus grab)
    Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
    Feats: Tough
    Special attacks:
    Quick strikes (can bite twice), Swarming wounds (if at 30 or less HPs 1 pilot ant swarm gets released, if reduced to 0 a second pilot ant swarm releases)
    Str 22, Dex 11, Con -, Int -, Wis 11, Cha 11
    Base Atk +6; CMB +13 (+17 grapple); CMD 23 (31 vs. trip)
    Use these http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/vermin/ant/army-ant-swarm stats with the following changes, it has no consume attack and instead gains a one use control attack. Fort save DC 11 + 1 for every 10% of a characters total HP lost ants basically pour into every orifice and wound trying to take control of nervous system it either succeeds of they die. If they do succeed the character targeted dies, 1 swarm per medium creature 2 for large.

    2 more comments and I’ll post my Lamia Vampire then for every 2 after that I’ll take a suggestion based on m favorites, presently that’s the plague zombie unicorn

  7. Got enough comments for the Lamia Vampire. I’d say this might go up to CR 9 though by the rules of the creatures and templates its a CR 8. For additional challenge with it’s high reflex save a ring of evasion would improve already impressive defenses and a simple addition of a +2 mighty bow calibrated to its strength would make this an absolute beast!

    XP 4,800
    CE Large monstrous undead humanoid
    Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +24
    AC 28, touch 16, flat-footed 22 (+5 Dex, +1 dodge, +13 natural, –1 size)
    hp 77 (9d8+36)
    Fort +7, Ref +13, Will +13
    Defensive Abilities: A vampire gains channel resistance +4, DR 10/magic and silver, and resistance to cold 10 and electricity 10, in addition to all of the defensive abilities granted by the undead type. A vampire also gains fast healing 5. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, a vampire assumes gaseous form (see below) and attempts to escape. It must reach its coffin home within 2 hours or be utterly destroyed. (It can normally travel up to 9 miles in 2 hours.) Additional damage dealt to a vampire forced into gaseous form has no effect. Once at rest, the vampire is helpless. It regains 1 hit point after 1 hour, then is no longer helpless and resumes healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round.
    Weaknesses: Vampires cannot tolerate the strong odor of garlic and will not enter an area laced with it. Similarly, they recoil from mirrors or strongly presented holy symbols. These things don’t harm the vampire—they merely keep it at bay. A recoiling vampire must stay at least 5 feet away from the mirror or holy symbol and cannot touch or make melee attacks against that creature. Holding a vampire at bay takes a standard action. After 1 round, a vampire can overcome its revulsion of the object and function normally each round it makes a DC 25 Will save.
    Vampires cannot enter a private home or dwelling unless invited in by someone with the authority to do so.
    Reducing a vampire’s hit points to 0 or lower incapacitates it but doesn’t always destroy it (see fast healing). However, certain attacks can slay vampires. Exposing any vampire to direct sunlight staggers it on the first round of exposure and destroys it utterly on the second consecutive round of exposure if it does not escape. Each round of immersion in running water inflicts damage on a vampire equal to one-third of its maximum hit points—a vampire reduced to 0 hit points in this manner is destroyed. Driving a wooden stake through a helpless vampire’s heart instantly slays it (this is a full-round action). However, it returns to life if the stake is removed, unless the head is also severed and anointed with holy water.

    Speed 60 ft.
    Melee +1 dagger +17/+12 (1d4+7/19–20), touch +9 (1d4 Wisdom drain), 2 claws +14 (1d4+7), slam +16/+11 (2d6 + Energy drain see below)
    Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
    Special Attacks Wisdom drain
    Spells Known (CL 9th)
    At will—disguise self, ventriloquism
    3/day—charm monster (DC 15), major image (DC 14), mirror image, suggestion (DC 14)
    1/day—deep slumber (DC 14)
    Str 24, Dex 20, Con -, Int 15, Wis 19, Cha 17
    Base Atk +9; CMB +14; CMD 28 (32 vs. trip)
    Feats Dodge, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Mobility, Spring Attack, Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, and Toughness
    Skills Bluff +17, Diplomacy +4, Disguise +6, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (religion) +4, Perception +24, Sense Motive +11 Stealth +23, Survival +12; Racial Modifiers +12 Bluff, +12 Stealth, +8 Perception, +8 Sense Motive
    Languages Abyssal, Common
    SQ undersized weapons
    Special Attacks: A vampire gains several special attacks. Save DCs are equal to 10 + 1/2 vampire’s HD + vampire’s Cha modifier unless otherwise noted. (In this case the save DCs are 18)
    Blood Drain (Su)
    A vampire can suck blood from a grappled opponent; if the vampire establishes or maintains a pin, it drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution damage. The vampire heals 5 hit points or gains 5 temporary hit points for 1 hour (up to a maximum number of temporary hit points equal to its full normal hit points) each round it drains blood.
    Children of the Night (Su)
    Once per day, a vampire can call forth 1d6+1 rat swarms, 1d4+1 bat swarms, or 2d6 wolves as a standard action. (If the base creature is not terrestrial, this power might summon other creatures of similar power.) These creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve the vampire for up to 1 hour.
    Create Spawn (Su)
    A vampire can create spawn out of those it slays with blood drain or energy drain, provided that the slain creature is of the same creature type as the vampire’s base creature type. The victim rises from death as a vampire spawn in 1d4 days. This vampire is under the command of the vampire that created it, and remains enslaved until its master’s destruction. A vampire may have enslaved spawn totaling no more than twice its own Hit Dice; any spawn it creates that would exceed this limit become free-willed undead. A vampire may free an enslaved spawn in order to enslave a new spawn, but once freed, a vampire or vampire spawn cannot be enslaved again.
    Dominate (Su)
    A vampire can crush a humanoid opponent’s will as a standard action. Anyone the vampire targets must succeed on a Will save or fall instantly under the vampire’s influence, as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th). The ability has a range of 30 feet. At the GM’s discretion, some vampires might be able to affect different creature types with this power.
    Energy Drain (Su)
    A creature hit by a vampire’s slam (or other natural weapon) gains two negative levels. This ability only triggers once per round, regardless of the number of attacks a vampire makes.
    Wisdom Drain (Su)
    A lamia drains 1d4 points of Wisdom each time it hits with its melee touch attack. (Unlike with other kinds of ability drain attacks, a lamia does not heal any damage when it uses its Wisdom drain.) Lamias try to use this power early in an encounter to make foes more susceptible to charm monster and suggestion.

    Special Qualities: A vampire gains the following:
    Change Shape (Su)
    A vampire can use change shape to assume the form of a dire bat or wolf, as beast shape II.
    Gaseous Form (Su)
    As a standard action, a vampire can assume gaseous form at will (caster level 5th), but it can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.
    Shadowless (Ex)
    A vampire casts no shadows and shows no reflection in a mirror.
    Spider Climb (Ex)
    A vampire can climb sheer surfaces as though under the effects of a spider climb spell.
    Undersized Weapons (Ex)
    Although a lamia is Large, its upper torso is the same size as that of a Medium humanoid. As a result, lamias wield weapons as if they were one size category smaller than their actual size (Medium for most lamias).

  8. All I need say is I am impressed, Lamia Vamp was an inspired idea, and is a fine challenge even for experienced players, look forward to more monster lore from you Frank.

  9. I was thinking of something very similar: i want the main contact that hires the adventurers to be a vampire that feeds off wealthy nobles and merchants, but uses the restoration spell and memory manipulation to send them back home good as new so they do not suspect anything (this vampire offer services to these people that they pay for, which pays for the spells as well as gets them in the same room). I was going to make this NPC a Lamia, but then read they tent to just eat humanoids not drink their blood. But lamia vampire is something I Was wondering about, have you tried it since this was published?

    Also I was considering using this NPC to fight either aberrations or an Undead Uprising type campaign (players are in module 2 so plenty of time to change it up). And a humanoid with both zombie and worm that walks, or swarm with zombie traits, are things I’m trying to figure out how to do. I’ve finally got my burrowing skeletons figured out. :)

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