Slaying Dolls

Slaying Dolls

Die Gartenlaube (1874)Your breath catches as they emerge from the shadows, each a gore-splattered marionette with black hollows where their eyes should be. Only the jagged, sharpened teeth protruding from their cold porcelain smiles mar their faces. They move like nightmares, limbs held falsely and jerking from motion to motion. Tiny fingers end in wicked steel blades, still dripping from their latest victim. You turn to run knowing you are far, far too late.

Unnaturally strong and quick, slaying dolls are hive-minded constructs built to kill and bring materials back to their nest so that more dolls can be constructed. Only with fresh corpses and stolen magic items can they continue their bloody existence…

Slaying Doll (CR 1/2)

XP 200
N Small construct
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +2

AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +3 natural, +1 size)
hp 5 (1d10)
Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +1

Speed 40 ft.
Melee finger blades +7 (1d2+5)

Str 20, Dex 15, Con —, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk +2; CMB −2; CMD −2
Feats Improved Initiative
Skills Perception +2, Stealth +8
SQ hive mind, detect magic, swarm

Environment any (usually urban)
Organization squad (5–10) or gaggle (10–50)
Treasure varies (see below)

Detect Magic (Su) Slaying dolls detect magic at will, as detect magic. This allows them to retrieve magic items to be brought back to the nest.

Hive Mind (Su) Slaying dolls are in effect one creature, joined by a hive mind. What one knows, they all know.

Swarm (Ex) When 10 or more dolls are in close proximity, they can leap upon one foe as a standard action as if they were a swarm. Apply the swarm subtype to the stats above. For the purposes of combat, treat a swarm of slaying dolls as a 6 HD swarm (60 hp, speed 40 ft., 14 AC, 2d6 damage).

Because they are lightweight, a swarm of dolls can be dispersed by high winds (such as from a gust of wind spell). When this happens, the swarm falls apart into individual dolls. Divide any damage incurred by the swarm among the surviving dolls (minimum 1 hp).

Ecology and Lore

Created as a weapon in some long forgotten conflict, each doll stands at 1–2 ft. tall and resembles a horrific puppet with razor sharp blades for fingers. They have no ecology to speak of, existing only to kill and create more dolls in an unceasing cycle of death and construction.

If ever a nest is destroyed, all dolls created by that nest die except for one. That lone survivor immediately flees to begin construction of a new nest.

The Nest

The nest is a living machine capable of turning corpses and magic items into new dolls. Each nest is different, but a typical nest is about the size of a large chest. Most are disguised as common items.

When corpses are brought nearby, they are absorbed by the nest and turned into dolls. Different sized humanoids provide raw material at different rates: Small = 5 dolls, Medium = 15 dolls, Large = 25 dolls.

Magic items are particularly useful for a nest as they increase the production of dolls. For each 1,000 gp worth of magic items, doll production increases by a factor of two.

A typical nest has a hardness of 10, 50 hp, and a break DC of 30.


While the dolls have no treasure to speak of, the area around a nest is usually littered with the items of its victims. As a general rule, GMs should award a treasure equal to a CR of the party’s level for destroying a nest.


Though an individual doll is not intelligent, the hive mind has a dim intellect. The dolls tend to rush the nearest humanoid, slashing with their finger blades until their foe is dead. If enough dolls are nearby, they form a swarm. Then, while one doll drags the body back to the nest and another collects magic items, the rest look for another victim. However, if 20 dolls are slain by any one group of foes, the hive mind converges all nearby dolls on the aggressors. If the nest is in danger, all dolls return to defend it.

(This post is Product Identity.)

9 thoughts on “Slaying Dolls”

  1. Creepy dolls are such a generous vein of inspiration! Back in the 2e days, a Puppet Master marathon inspired me to write some of my first original monsters.

    One thing that might increase the creep factor of the dolls (and that I’m suggesting based on a faction in the online miniatures game Pox Nora) would be to have slightly larger dolls that operate as mobile Nests. They wouldn’t necessarily be capable of harvesting actual corpses on the field; I like that the dolls present an implied threat to a PC’s chance of resurrection, but think players should have a chance to get the corpse of a comrade back before it’s fed into the nest.

    However, a larger doll–perhaps one that appears like an actual child, in blood-spattered dress?–could possess an ability to re-animate doll corpses into either more dolls or an additional, tertiary creature which requires several slain dolls to create.

    The main reason I’d see that as appealing is that it helps emphasize the already creepy nature of the dolls by making them not just overwhelming but implacable, forcing players to try and break free of the clinging carpet of figures to take out the stronger ones.

  2. Well, this is creepy! Which makes it perfect for my Pathfinder game!

    One question though, what’s the construction method for making the initial dolls?

  3. When I saw the Twitter link I thought it might refer to something else but these dolls are just the right kind ick to be used in a future game.

  4. I like the creepy doll. I like it a lot. The ecology of the critter is unique and quite frankly: disturbing. But I see some rules problems.

    AC is listed at 14/12/12 but it has +2 Dex, +3 natural, +1 size. Your AC numbers should be 16/13/14.

    It’s listed as 1 HD monster but has BAB of +2. Constructs have a BAB equal to their HD.

    Constructs don’t have good saves. A 1 HD construct is +0/+0/+0 which gives the creepy little doll a +0/+2/+0 save.

    Holy crap a CR 1/2 critter that does either 6 or 7 points on a successful hit! Just a couple of these would put a party of 4 level 1 players in serious jeopardy of being completely slain. The average lvl 1 spellcaster is guaranteed to be knocked out by a single hit, and with a +6 attack bonus the doll is likely to hit.

    The 6 HD swarm does 2d6 points of damage, which is only 0.5 points of damage more on average than a single doll. Which is correct for a swarm per the bestiary rules. Though by the same rules a small creature isn’t supposed to form swarms. Either way, the damage seems disproportionate.

  5. You know, I really like this. Kudos on a cool monster! I especially like the hive factor, how this turns them from aimless creepy dolls just lurking in kid’s rooms to a functional swarm that has goals and a basic ecology. Their bringing back magic items to enhance their production also strikes me as novel and logical.

    However, a question: when they bring back magical items, they increase the production rate by a factor of two for every 1,000 gp. So say they bring back a 16,000 gold piece item, and the medium sized corpse that bore it. Does that mean that they’re able to generate 15 x 32 dolls from it? 480 dolls right there? Seems a little much, no?

    This reminds me of my old friends, the Carrionettes from Ravenloft. Ah, the fun that they and Maligno engendered! Good times, good times.

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