September 28, 2016

The Tsochar - My Favorite Monster

With my favorite month, October, coming up, I've been thinking a lot about villains, monsters, and Big Bad Evil guys. Admittedly, that's partially because I've been writing evil villains for the Evil Archetypes book (releases on Patreon Saturday!) But, in a broader sense, monsters are always on my mind; they're the DM's most often used resource, and one of the biggest ways that you can interact with your players. It always pays to have a monster in mind when you start the adventure.

My all-time favorite monster incorporates a little bit of Lovecraft with a lot of roleplay and body horror. I've covered them before, and graced them with a 5e monster stat block. Allow me to introduce the Tsochar, or plural, the Tsochari:

The Tsochari

Slimy bundles of tendrils and nerves, you wouldn't expect the tsochari to be a dangerous race. In truth, by looking at one, you probably couldn't tell how it even moves about or how it might defend itself. It has a central bundle of muscular strands, but nothing that resembles limbs, a torso, or a face. Of course, you probably won't be coming across a tsochar 'naked' as such very often -- the tsochari live inside other creatures.

The tsochari are parasites which wear their hosts like meat suits. After crawling inside their host's body, they anchor themselves to the skeleton and nervous system, disappearing completely between the body's cavities. Then they choose to inhabit or replace the host. Because the host can resist tsochar influence, the invader normally seeks to subjugate the host, telepathically issuing commands that the host must follow, and wracking it with pain if it disobeys. The tsochar drains the host of all vitality, and without curative magic, the host normally dies within a few weeks. Even with curative magic, it's rare for a tsochar to remain for longer than a year or two, lest it be detected, so the host's days are clearly numbered.

Failing this, the parasite can simply kill the host and replace its nervous system, essentially piloting its lifeless body like a puppet. The body remains alive, and the tsochar begins to devour it from the inside out. No curative magic can sustain a body in this way, so the body is normally hollowed out within a few months, forcing the parasite to move on.

Alien Invaders

The tsochar come from a cold, dying world, far out among the stars. There, the sun is little more than another bright star in the endless night. The reason, and indeed the means, by which they come to our world is mysterious. The tsochar represent a threat of invasion and assassination, not of outright colonization and genocide.

When you use them in your campaign, they make the perfect recurring badguys. They're excellent masterminds, and can be literally anywhere or anyone. They prefer authority figures, people with power that they can use against the player characters. If discovered, a tsochar can escape and quickly replace a new host, disappearing into a crowd, and jumping three more times before day's end, completely vanishing from the party.

When you encounter a tsochar, it's always initially a roleplay encounter, not a combat one. The party needs to deduce that the individual they're talking to is acting strangely. If the party is familiar with the individual, and he or she has been replaced by a tsochar, it will have no memory of meeting them, and will be very avoidant of questions or investigation. If the individual is being inhabited, it might seem sickly, afraid, and present a variety of nervous ticks.

If the party does realize a tsochar is present, there might be a hostage situation at play, if the tsochar is inhabiting someone alive. They're presented with the unique challenges of extracting the parasite, and somehow finding a way to trap it once it's loose.

For Evil DMs

My all-time favorite trick with the tsochari is to secretly implant one inside a player. If the parasite is loose, and the party splits up to find it, I'll simply have it ambush one party member in secret, inhabiting it for the rest of the session. When the party at last feels safe, the tsochar forces the party member to start strangling his friends, or hacking them up with swords. Real confusion, every time. Priceless D&D, right there.

September 26, 2016

Night Mask Deathbringer

Roguish Archetype
Comments from the Thumb: Ever wanted to sort-of-but-not-really be a vampire? Really? Then have I got the archetype for you! This is, for the most part, based on the 3.5 PrC, the Night Mask Deathbringer.

Night Mask Deathbringer

You have undergone a dark ritual to gain some of the powers of a vampire while remaining alive and mortal. You are not truly undead, so you do not share their weakness to sunlight and divine magic, but neither are you fully alive. Your newfound powers are simply new tools to use in your deadly craft.

September 23, 2016

Oath of the Chalice

Sacred Oath
Comments from the Finger: Woo! Kane0 brings us another one! 

Oath of the Chalice

The Oath of the Chalice is a blood oath sworn on a gate to our world from the farthest of planes. These paladins recognize the threat posed by the Lower Planes, and see the monstrous designs other outsiders have on our world. Their intentions are simple: defend the world at all costs, destroy any planar gate that is opened, and eviscerate any fiend foolish enough to come through.

September 21, 2016

The Miracles of Multiclassing

This fantastic article was contributed by Derek Nekritz, a friend of the site, and a splinter in the Finger of Vecna.

Multiclassing in 3.5 edition was a dangerous, but powerful, tool. Too many loop holes, and too much trouble. In 5th edition, the value of multiclassing has radically changed. Archetypes have filled the gap that prestige classes and conventional multiclassing left behind. They add changes of flavor to each character we build leaving less need for multiclassing. Instead, multiclassing has become an optional rule along with feats. Let's talk about how we can use multiclassing in the current edition as a launching point for building new, interesting homebrew.

Multiclassing for Fun and Profit

In the rules for multiclassing, we are given requirements for each class. Each class comes with archetypes. Blending these classes and archetypes gives us a powerful tool, but a much less dangerous one.  The power of multiclassing does exactly what prestige classes used to do in 3.5, they create a unified character concept. Now you may be thinking, “But Derek, how does multiclassing unify a concept?” Classes in 5e have thinner walls between them. This is thanks to the archetype mechanic. Before, a rogue and fighter felt like just that. If you went into the Duelist prestige class, the abilities of both became unified in a new class. Now that archetypes change the flavor of a class thanks to each archetype, other classes can lean towards others. For instance, my favorite archetype for Rogues is the Swashbuckler from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s guide. My favorite from Fighter is Battle Master. They have a certain interaction with one another that may go something like:

September 19, 2016

The Spellweaver

Otherworldly Patron
Comments from the Finger: This warlock makes use of one of the best forgotten monsters from D&D past. Special thanks to Jaridase Zasmyocl for making this one happen!

The Spellweaver

Your patron is a spellweaver, one of a race of powerful creatures from an alternate Material Plane. Only vaguely humanoid in appearance, spellweavers have a combination of mammalian, reptilian, and insectoid features, and three pairs of arms. As strange as your patron's appearance is, his motivations are twice as mysterious. Spellweavers only reveal themselves in area of great magical activity, but can weave powerful, exotic spells using their six arms. If your patron offers you directive, it is a subtle voice in your mind, and it often commands you to acquire powerful magic items and long lost spells.

September 17, 2016

Coming Soon to Patreon: Evil Archetypes

I've been working my butt off to bring you a doozy this month on Patreon:

Evil Archetypes

An archetype, and a villain for each class -- twelve evil archetypes to vex your Dungeon Master, and twelve Big Bad Evil Guys to terrorize your campaign. The nefarious villains come complete with backstories, and an NPC statblock, so that you can drop them directly into the fray when your players least expect it.

Take a peek on the Patreon to see some of the art the amazing Martin Kirby has done for this one!

September 16, 2016

Elemental Adept

Arcane Tradition
Comments from the Finger: This is another wonderful prestige resurrected from 3.5 with the help of Cesrawr!

School of Elementalism

Wizards who subscribe to the School of Elementalism, sometimes called Elemental Adepts, study the basic building blocks of existence and learn to harness their powers. Each elemental adept becomes expert in the use of a single, chosen element, and with mastery becomes known as an aeromancer, cryomancer, geomancer, or pyromancer. At the peak of their ability, these wizards are known to become like elementals themselves and wield them with ease.