Saturday, July 3, 2010

Medieval Bestiary - Part Two

European folklore holds a candle to none in the breadth and depth of its imagination. Europeans populated not only their own countries with all manner of strange beasts and monsters, but extended their imaginations over the entire globe. While a good many of these creatures have been given game statistics, several have not. Some of these creatures are, to be sure, simple variations on existing monsters – ogres, giants, fairies, spirits, etc. Others are just not threatening or interesting enough to demand statistics. Those monsters of the folklore of France, Germany and the Low Countries, and those of medieval bestiaries and heraldry, that I thought both unique and challenging are presented below.

Part One

This post is declared Open Game Content.

A creature from the folklore of the Swiss, the barbegazi resembles a dwarf covered in white fur and sporting a long beard and two enormous feet. They dwell in large, extended families in the highest mountains, traveling through the snow cover using their feet as skis or snowshoes. In the summer months, they doze away in caves and tunnels, not awakening until the first snowfall. The barbegazi are generally kind, warning people of impending avalanches and helping shepherds find lost sheep. They are usually encountered in bands of 6 to 10 individuals traveling from one community to another. These parties are armed with clubs and darts made of ice. They are not slowed by the snow, and can reach high speeds when skiing down hill.

Barbegazi: HD 1; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d4+1); Move 9; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Immune to cold, weapons cause +1 point of cold damage.

Several strange species of birds are described in medieval bestiaries. Most of them are not fit for a combat encounter, but they make for interesting non-combat encounters, or the goal of quests for magical ingredients.

The avalerion was a bird without a beak and with stumpy, feathered legs. After two avalerion mate and lay a pair of eggs, they drown themselves.

The barnacle goose is another interesting creature of European folklore. It was a small marsh goose that was believed to be born from a piece of driftwood, in much the same way that it was believed that flies were born out of rotting flesh and mice out of grain.

The hercinia was a bird of the Hercynian Forest. Its feathers glowed brightly, illuminating the forest at night.

Bishop Fish
The bishop fish, or sea bishop, is a bipedal fish with a human face and a pointed head that resembles a bishop’s mitre. A couple specimens were said to have been captured in the 16th century. One, while being studied by a group of bishops, plead to be released through gesturing. When the bishops acquiesced, the bishop fish made the sign of the cross before disappearing into the waves.

In game terms, the bishop fish can be treated as a more lawful version of the locathah. Bishop fish communities are led by low- to mid-level clerics of lawful deities. The bishop of a community is served by a bodyguard of 3 to 6 monk-fish. Monk-fish have maximum hit points for a bishop fish and can cast spells as 2nd level clerics. Bishop fish cannot speak out of water, but are capable of making themselves understood to humanoids with hand gestures.

Blemmye (Acephali)
Blemmyes are a race of headless men and women who have their faces in their chests. Pliny the Elder, the champion monster creator of his day, placed them as inhabitants of Nubia, Kush or Ethiopia. Others placed them in India. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote about a tribe of the creatures living in the Caribbean.

The blemmyes are humanoids without heads. They have eyes, mouths and noses in their chests, but are without ears and thus deaf. They live in small bands of 20 to 40 individuals, living by hunting and gathering. They are known to eat sentient humanoids, so one must take care when interacting with them.

Blemmye: HD 1+1; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6) or 1 bite (1d4); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Surprised on 1-2 on 1d6, immune to affects that work through sound.

Bonnacon (Bonasus)
The bonnacon was believed to be a species of bison native to the steppes of Asia. The bonnacon had curled horns and a most unpleasant form of self-defense. When attacked, the creature flees and sprays behind it a cone of acidic dung. Pliny describes the creature as a bull with the mane of a horse and horns curled back in such a manner as to be useless for fighting. The bonnacon’s “cone of dung” is 120 feet long and 50 feet wide at the base. Creatures caught in the shower suffer 1d6 points of damage (or half with a successful saving throw). Creatures hit by the dung suffer an additional point of damage each round thereafter, as it adheres to the skin and can only be removed completely by washing with some form of liquid.

Bonnacon: HD 3; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 bite (1d3) or 1 kick (1d4); Move 15; Save 14; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Cone of dung.

Bugul Noz
The Bugul Noz, or “Night Shepherd”, is a fairy of Brittany. The last of its kind, it lives a solitary life due to its incredible hideousness. Any creature that views the face of Bugul Noz must pass a saving throw or be affected by its frightening visage. Creatures who fail their saving throw by 10 or more are killed on the spot. Those who fail the saving throw by at least 5 points faint dead away, and remain unconscious for at least an hour. Upon waking, they will discover that their hair has turned snowy white and that their sanity has been ever so shaken. Those who fail the saving throw by less than 5 are merely panicked and flee at top speed in a random direction until they collapse from exhaustion. Should one manage to control themselves, they will discover that the Bugul Noz is a kind and generous creature, and very knowledgeable about its home forest. Attacking so pitiable a creature may draw the ire of the seelie (i.e. holy) fairy court.

Caladrius (Dhalion)
The caladrius was represented in medieval bestiaries as a white bird that would take sickness upon itself, thus curing the sick. The bird would then fly away, dispersing the sickness to others. In game terms, the caladrius seeks out strong individuals and attempts to divest it of whatever disease it is carrying by pecking at them, in the hopes that they are strong enough to withstand the disease that a weaker person could not. The bird will appear in the sky, dive at the humanoid with the highest constitution, and attack until making a hit. At that point, the victim must make a saving throw against the effects of a cause disease spell (the reverse of cure disease). Whether the victim saves or not, the caladrius will flee, looking for another victim. The caladrius’s high Armor Class is due to its speed and savvy.

Caladrius: HD 1d4; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 beak (1 + disease); Move 9 (Fly 24); Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: Cause disease.


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