• Let's Read the 4e Monster Manual/Vault: Ghoul

    Copyright 2008 Wizards of the Coast

    This article is part of a series! Click here to see the other entries.

    Ghouls have been in D&D since the beginning, which makes them an example of two classic D&D practices: arranging monsters in a power ladder, and making every synonym of a word into a different monster.

    They were a step up from zombies in the undead power ladder, and since the word “zombie” in D&D applied to slow shamblers, the faster and more voracious “Romero Zombies” got called Ghouls. Here, they’re present in both books.

    The Lore

    When someone who practices cannibalism dies, they rise as a ghoul. Ghouls can also be created through necromantic rituals, like zombies or skeletons. In previous editions someone killed by a ghoul would also rise as one - while that can certainly still be the case here, it’s not encoded in their combat stat blocks.

    A ghoul doesn’t retain any of the memories or personality it had in life, and is driven by an insatiable hunger for sapient flesh. It’s still sapient itself, and potentially very smart! The ones we get in this entry range from Int 10 to Int 19.

    Many ghouls turn to religion, surprisingly. The patron of ghouls is Dorensain, an exarch of Orcus who has a domain in the Abyss known as the White Kingdom because it’s made entirely of bones. Dorensain’s castle is made out of the hollowed-out, petrified body of a still-living primordial, and from there he grants blessings upon his most favored ghouls. These Abyssal Ghouls make up the bulk of his Court of Teeth, and sometimes go out into the world or the other planes to do his bidding.

    Ghouls are typically Chaotic Evil.

    The Numbers

    “Standard” ghouls are Medium Natural Humanoids with the Undead keyword. Abyssal ghouls are Elemental instead. They all have darkvision, are immune to disease and poison, and have Resist 10 Necrotic. They’re also pretty fast, with a land speed of 8 and a climb speed of 4. Most of them also have some ability to immobilize the people they attack, but that takes a different form for each ghoul.

    And speaking of “different”, the stat blocks are different enough between books that I’m going to deal with them separately.

    Ghoul (MM)

    The classic model is a Level 5 Soldier with 63 HP and all standard ghoul traits plus Vulnerable 5 Radiant. It’s also one of the nastier surprises in the MM, similar to needlefang drake swarms.

    You see, the ghoul’s basic attack is a claw that immobilizes (save ends) on a hit. Its other attack is a bite that can only be used on an immobilized, stunned or unconscious target, does roughly double the damage of a claw, and stuns (save ends).

    Soldiers in the first Monster Manual have an extra +2 to hit when compared to other roles; and while the ghoul’s bite has a slightly lower attack bonus than the claw, that will be frequently offset by combat advantage (either from being stunned/unconscious, or from flanking). So ghouls will hit very often with attacks that carry potentially crippling riders.

    This means that a level 5 party coming up against an equal number of ghouls is in for a genuine Romero Zombie experience as they get swarmed, immobilized by claws, paralyzed by bites, and eaten. Don’t be that party. Don’t get into melee with ghouls.

    Ghoul (MV)

    The MV ghoul is surprisingly similar, remaining a Level 5 Soldier with the same HP and common traits. The radiant vulnerability is replaced by Weakened Paralysis, a trait that allows a creature immobilized or stunned by the ghoul to roll an extra save whenever the monster takes radiant damage.

    The ghoul’s claws lose the extra soldier attack bonus, which was removed by the new math. Both it and the bite had their damage increased, however, and retain their riders.

    The end result is a monster that’s still dangerous in melee, but will hit less often and give any party with a divine character in it a lot more chances to save against its paralytic attacks. Use this one and ignore the MM version.

    Ravenous Ghoul (MV)

    This one is closer to a classic Romero Zombie than to the classic ghoul we saw above. It doesn’t paralyze, it just runs at you and tears you apart.

    The Ravenous Ghoul is a Level 5 Brute with 76 HP and all common ghoul traits, including Vulnerable 5 Radiant. It’s a bit dumber than the classic model, at Int 8.

    Its basic attack is a claw that does level-appropriate Brute damage, and it also has a Ravenous Bite on Recharge 5-6 that’s a bit stronger and does ongoing damage (save ends).

    Horde Ghoul (MM)

    This Level 13 Minion Brute represents a classic ghoul when met by more powerful adventurers. It shares all common ghoul traits except for the radiant vulnerability, which doesn’t make sense in a minion. Its single attack is a claw that does a bit of damage and immobilizes (save ends).

    As the name implies, they should come in hordes!

    Abyssal Ghoul (MM)

    The favored servants of Dorensain, and likely equivalent to ghasts in previous editions. They’re Level 16 Skirmishers with 156 HP and all common ghoul traits, including the radiant vulnerability.

    Abyssal ghouls are surrounded by a Sepuchral Stench (Aura 3), which inflicts a -2 penalty to the defenses of anyone caught in its area. They attack with a bite that damages and immobilizes on a hit (save ends), and deals extra damage to targets who are already immobilized/stunned/unconscious.

    When killed, the abyssal ghoul explodes in a cloud of Dead Blood, dealing an automatic 10 necrotic damage to every enemy in a Close Burst 1.

    Unlike classical ghouls, they lack the ability to stun their victims, and so are actually a bit less dangerous after accounting for the level difference. Immobilized victims can fight back just fine, they just can’t move to another square.

    Abyssal Ghoul (MV)

    The MV version of the Abyssal Ghoul is a bit stronger and skirmisher-er. It trades the radiant vulnerability for a trait called Hindering Light, which prevents it from shifting for a turn when it takes radiant damage.

    Its bite damage was fixed while keeping the immobilization rider, and it now allows the ghoul to shift 3 squares as an effect, which accounts for the “skirmisher-er” part.

    Abyssal Ghoul Devourer (MV)

    This Level 16 Lurker has 118 HP and all common ghoul traits. It’s Vulnerable 5 to Radiant damage and projects the same stench as the standard abyssal ghoul.

    Its basic attack is a Grasping Claw, which on a hit does a little damage and grabs the target (escape DC 22). The ghoul can grab up to two victims that way, and while it’s grabbing somebody it will only take half damage from any attack, redirecting the other half to the victim. What should you do when it has two victims? I’m leaning towards chosing one at random to take half the damage.

    The claw’s weak damage is more than made up by Devour, an attack the ghoul can use on one of its grabbed victims. A hit does a chunk of immediate damage plus ongoing damage (save ends). A miss does half damage and half the ongoing damage of a hit. In either case the ghoul releases the victim.

    To top it off, the ghoul can pull its grabbed victims along with it when it moves, without provoking opportunity attacks from the victims. So it’s going to carry the unfortunates off to a more protected spot before it uses Devour on them.

    Abyssal Ghoul Hungerer (Both)

    A Level 18 Minion Soldier, and basically a stronger version of the Horde Ghoul. It lacks the stench aura but keeps Dead Blood, which does a bit more damage on the MV version than in the MM one. Pop them from a distance.

    There’s also an Abyssal Ghoul Myrmidon in the MM which is just a Level 23 version of the hungerer, and as such I’m not giving it its own header.

    Sample Encounters

    We get four, spanning the entire level range.

    • Level 5: 2 ghouls, 2 boneshard skeletons, 1 wraith. Oh joy!

    • Level 14: 5 horde ghouls, 3 stirge swarms, 1 lich. Mastermind and pets, basically.

    • Level 16: 3 abyssal ghouls and 1 human death knight. Perhaps the ghouls were its squires in life.

    • Level 21: 5 abyssal ghoul myrmidons, 1 larva mage, 1 death giant. That Kyuss guy sure gets around.

    Final Impressions

    If you’re playing D&D, you gotta have ghouls. The MV assortment is the superior one, so use that if possible.

  • Let's Read the 4e Monster Manual/Vault: Ghost

    Copyright 2008 Wizards of the Coast

    This article is part of a series! Click here to see the other entries.

    D&D is famous for making every synonym of a word into an entirely separate monster, and nowhere is this more obvious than with incorporeal undead. Previous editions had wraiths, specters, phantoms, haunts and ghosts be entirely different monsters, and getting them mixed up was likely the cause of death for quite a few PCs.

    The decision to allow multiple stat blocks in the same monster entry has consolidated things a bit, but not entirely (wraiths and specters are still their own thing, for example). Ghosts appear only in the Monster Manual.

    The Lore

    As you would expect, ghosts are the spirits of sapient creatures that died with unfinished business that caused them to linger in the world. They look like, well, ghostly versions of their appearance in life, and if their deaths were violent they might still bear the wounds that killed them. That’s not always true, though: some ghosts look angelic or horrific regardless of their causes of death, and some can change appearance to suit their current mood.

    Ghosts are almost always near where they died. They usually keep most of their memories and personalities, but the trauma of death or the long years of haunting might change them.

    Getting rid of a ghost might be as simple as defeating it in combat, but some of them are so bound to the world that they reform after a day or so. In these cases, the only way to make the ghost go away is to finish whatever business is keeping it chained to the mortal plane. Fortunately, these are usually the ghosts most willing to talk things out, asking the PCs for help with their affairs or at least providing some hints of how to solve them during their mad ramblings.

    The Numbers

    The signature traits of ghosts are obvious: they’re immune to disease and poison, insubstantial, have phasing, and fly with hover capability. All ghosts statted up here have Speed 6, but if you’re turning a faster creature into a ghost I’d let it keep the higher value.

    “Insubstantial” has a very specific meaning in the 4e ruleset: insubstantial creatures take half damage from all sources. This damage is halved after all other modifiers are applied, including any resistances and vulnerabilities. While this means everyone can do some damage to an insubstantial creature, it also means that no damage type is inherently more effective against it either! Individual might still have additional traits that make certain damage types ignore their insubstantiality or turn them temporarily substantial.

    “Phasing” means the creature ignores difficult terrain and can move through solid surfaces, though it must always end its movement in an unoccupied space. It’s separate from insubstantiality because a monster can have one but not the other.

    Ghosts have both, and together with the flight speed this means they have full 3D movement and can come at you from any direction at all. Their attacks also never target AC, to represent the fact that they phase through armor.

    Phantom Warrior

    Soldiers who died in battle, still fighting their wars or performing their patrols. They’re Level 4 Soldiers with 40 HP and all common ghost traits. They attack with a Phantom Sword (Melee 1 vs. Reflex) that does necrotic damage and marks for a turn. Their military training manifests as the Phantom Tactics ability, giving them combat advantage against target that has another phantom warrior adjacent to it.

    A simple and workable soldier monster. All it needs is a damage fix for its sword, which does roughly half the damage it should do due to that “naturalistic design” thing.

    Trap Haunt

    The ghost of someone killed by a trap, who believes feeding others to the trap is the only way for it to move on. This Level 8 Lurker has 52 HP and all common ghost traits. It’s bound to the trap that killed it, and is always found close to it.

    The haunt’s Grave Touch (Melee 1 vs. Fortitude) does a pitiful 2d6 necrotic damage and should probably be fixed. The real danger here is its Ghostly Possession (Melee 1 vs. Will), though. A hit dominates the target (save ends) and removes the haunt from the map while this effect lasts. The haunt will use this to walk the possessed target into the trap that killed it.

    The Trap Haunt can’t voluntarily move more than 20 squares away from said trap. If pushed beyond this range, it becomes weakened until it goes back.

    Wailing Ghost (Banshee)

    This one used to be a separate monster, and specifically the ghost of an elf. It’s now under the Ghost entry, and can be of any species. Traditionally, banshees appear to people who are about to die, which in D&D means they’ll be looking to murder a specific party member. It’s a level 12 controller with 91 HP and all common ghost traits.

    The banshee’s basic attack is a Spirit Touch (Melee 1 vs. Reflex) that does necrotic damage, like most other ghosts. The real standout here is the Terrifying Shriek (Close Burst 5 vs. Will; Recharge 5-6) which does psychic damage, pushes the targets 3 squares, and immobilizes them (save ends).

    They can also display Death’s Visage to one unlucky soul (usually the one they’re trying to kill). This is a Ranged 5 attack vs. Will, which does psychic damage and inflicts a -2 penalty to all the target’s defenses (save ends).

    Being a controller means the banshee can hold its own in melee combat, but it’s rarely going to bother. It will phase through walls and floors to keep away from the party, returning to shriek at them when the power recharges and to attack its chosen target with Death’s Visage once it’s immobile.

    As a level 12 monster, the banshee is severely hampered by the twin flaws of the damage bug and naturalistic design. All of its attacks do pathetic damage, which should be fixed ASAP if you plan to use one in your game.

    Tormenting Ghost

    This is probably the monster most in line with the classic Ghost from previous editions, which was among the most terrifying undead. It’s a Level 21 Controller with 152 HP, and the only ghost with an actively Evil alignment (even the banshee is Unaligned). It also has all common ghost traits.

    Its basic attack is a Spirit Touch (Melee 1 vs. Reflex) that really needs its damage fixed. It can use the same Ghostly Possession as the Trap Haunt, and release a Burst of Terror that’s pretty much an up-gunned version of the banshee’s wail: Close Burst 5 vs Will, targets take necrotic damage, are pushed 5 squares, dazed and immobilized (save ends both).

    It can also create a zone of Ghostly Terrain by filling it up with spectral wisps and creepy whispers (Area Burst 1 within 10). Targets caught inside the zone are immobilized (save ends). Each zone lasts until the end of the encounter and the ghost can create them at will!

    Finally, it can shift 3 squares as a reaction to being missed with a melee attack, which makes it hard to pin down.

    If you fix the damage of its attacks, the Tormenting Ghost becomes a pretty good epic-level enemy. Having more than one of them ensures the entire combat area will be ghostly terrain before long, allowing the ghosts and their artillery buddies to shoot the immobilized PCs at their leisure. These are epic level PCs and you shouldn’t go easy on them!

    Sample Encounters

    We get three encounters here:

    • Level 4: 4 phantom warriors and a specter. And here was thinking the wraith was the only synonym monster that kept its entry.

    • Level 8: 2 trap haunts, 2 flameskulls, and a flame jet trap. I guess these flameskulls aren’t the friendly type.

    • Level 22: 2 tormenting ghosts, 1 larva mage, and 3 rot harbingers. “Larva Mage” is the generic name for the Spawn of Kyuss, which means this group is serious bad news.

    Final Impressions

    I like ghosts conceptually - they’re classics for a reason. Mechanically, though, these stat blocks leave a lot to be desired, as they seem to do much less damage than could be explained even by the standard damage bug.

    Maybe it has something to do with them being insubstantial? After all, this makes them last twice as long in a fight as their HP would indicate. None of them have any additional traits that make them especially vulnerable to a specific type of damage, so their insubstantiality applies to everything. By the time the Monster Vault had been published, insubstantial monsters took full damage from force attacks, so you could say this applies to the MM ghosts as well.

  • Let's Read the 4e Monster Manual/Vault: Gargoyle

    Copyright 2008 Wizards of the Coast

    This article is part of a series! Click here to see the other entries.

    Gargoyles are based on sculptures found in many medieval buildings (particularly churches). If I recall correctly, these statues depict horrible beasts and are said to act as a sort of spiritual scarecrow, frightening demons away. They’re usually known as grotesques, with gargoyle being a specific type of grotesque that has a waterspout running through it to channel rainwater. It’s “gargling”, you see.

    D&D gargoyles are a classic monster, part of the game since its beginnings. So classic, in fact, that the real surprise here is when the demonic-looking statues aren’t gargoyles in disguise. They appear in both books.

    The Lore

    Despite appearances, gargoyles aren’t animated statues, but living semi-organic creatures who originated in the Elemental Chaos and spread to the world long ago. As you’d expect, they’re ambush predators, and they’re also both sapient and inclined to cruelty and sadism. They’re fond of “playing” with their prey before eating it and don’t care if it’s sapient itself.

    Nevertheless, they can form cooperative relationships with other earth creatures, and are sometimes employed by evil summoners or demon cultitsts who bind them with magic. Gargoyles aren’t demons, but they look demonic enough and are easier to bind!

    The Monster Vault makes an interesting inversion by saying that in the world of D&D, the gargoyle’s reputation for cruelty has turned its image into a sign of warning to intruders. This means that people in the setting have a reason to sculpt gargoyles into their buildings! Ironically, the monsters end up gravitating to these places since they provide such convenient camouflage.

    The Numbers

    As creatures of earth, gargoyles have Tremorsense 10 and an immunity to petrification. They’re not immune to poison because they’re still semi-organic. Gargoyles move pretty fast, with a ground speed of 6 and a flight speed of 8. No hover capability, but they also can attack from the air with no penalties. Gargoyles also have darkvision.

    They’re all Medium Elemental Humanoids (Earth).

    Gargoyle (Both)

    The classic model is a Level 9 Lurker with 77 HP. It attacks with a claw that suffers from the damage bug, and can use it as part of a Flyby Attack that allows it to fly its speed without drawing opportunity attacks and make a claw attack at any point in the movement. A hit here also knocks the target prone.

    As expected the gargoyle can also assume a Stone Form, which gives it Resist 25 to all damage and Regeneration 3. In this form, it can only perceive its surroundings via tremorsense, and can take no other actions other than to revert to normal. Reverting is a minor action, meaning it can attack on the same turn it does so.

    The creature doesn’t do any additional damage from attacking from hiding, meaning it’s another one of those MM lurkers who should have been a skirmisher.

    The MV version is a proper lurker: though its basic attack does the same damage, it now has a +20 bonus on its next damage roll after leaving Stone Form. It also only has Tremorsense while in Stone Form, and its Flyby Attack ability (renamed to Swoop Attack) only allows an attack at the end of the movement.

    Instead of regenerating, the MV gargoyle gains 5 temporary HP at the start of its turn. I don’t think this stacks, so it will never get rid of all its damage during the fight. This is in line with late 4e’s policy of never giving its monsters much in the way of healing abilities.

    Gargoyle Rake (MV)

    This is a Level 5 Lurker with 52 HP that is essentially identical to its level 9 cousin, above. Its level-based stats are smaller, of course. Also, damage resistance while in stone form is only 20, and the damage bonus is +15.

    Gargoyle Rock Hurler (MV)

    This one throws rocks! It’s Level 11 Artillery with 87 HP. The basic claw attack is okay, and it can hurl rocks either one at a time (Ranged 20 vs. AC) or in a volley (Area Bust 1 Within 10 vs. AC; half damage on a miss).

    The rock hurler can’t create its own ammunition, but it’s likely to be found in a place with plenty of loose stone lying around anyway.

    It can’t turn into a statue completely, but its stony hide gives it Resist 10 to damage from ranged attacks originating from more than 5 squares away.

    Nabassu Gargoyle (Both)

    While still not classed as a demon, this Level 18 Lurker is a lot closer to being one than its weaker cousins. It has 131 HP and all standard gargoyle traits.

    Its abilities are a basic claw, a non-basic bite that does a bit more damage, and a stronger version of Stone Form. Instead of getting a bonus to its next damage roll when leaving Stone Form, the nabassu gargoyle automatically does a chunk of fire and necrotic damage to every enemy within 3 squares of it.

    While in stone form it also emits a Bloodfire curse (aura 3) that deals 10 fire and necrotic damage to any enemy that ends its turn in range. When this happens, the monster gains 10 temporary HP.

    A useful note: “10 fire and necrotic damage” means 10 damage of the “fire and necrotic” type, not “10 fire and 10 necrotic”. This means you resist it with the lower of your fire and necrotic resistance - if you have Resist 15 to fire but 0 to necrotic, you take the full 10 damage.

    The Monster Manual version is a bit clunkier. Its Stone Form functions exactly like that of the MM classic model, and its bite heals it for half its rolled damage on a hit. Bloodfire is an Aura 2 that does 5 damage and weakens enemies who already are taking ongoing damage, and only works out of Stone Form.

    Just use the MV version, it’s better.

    Sample Encounter and Final Impressions

    The sample encounter from the MM is level 9: 3 gargoyles, 2 galeb duhr earthbreakers, and 1 gibbering mouther. It’s essentially another version of the similar galeb duhr/gargoyle/bullete encounter we already saw, with a different interloper.

    The Monster Vault gargoyles are generally superior to the MM ones when it comes to mechanics, and you lose nothing by ignoring the Monster Manual on this one. Lore-wise, I feel gargoyles are one of those monsters so classic that you almost have to feature them in your campaign at some point. The big subversion here would be a campaign where every statue was exactly what it seemed.

  • Let's Read the 4e Monster Manual/Vault: Galeb Duhr

    Copyright 2008 Wizards of the Coast

    This article is part of a series! Click here to see the other entries.

    The Galeb Duhr apears in the AD&D 2nd Edition monster manual, and I believe in supplements for earlier editions, as this boulder-shaped creature that mostly just likes to hang out in rocky places. In Fourth Edition they get a slightly more humanoid appearance and some additional backstory. They appear only on the Monster Manual.

    The Lore

    Like the Azers, Galeb Duhrs were originally dwarves who failed to escape the yoke of the giants, and who were mutated through the ensuing eons of servitude. Unlike the Azers, they’re aspected to Earth, and so look like people made out of rock.

    Today, many Galeb Duhrs are free and live in the world, where I suspect they’d behave much like the ones from AD&D. Still, many of them are still subservient to the earth giants both in the world and back in the Elemental Chaos, which makes them potential opponents to PCs. Even free galeb duhrs might end up fighting you if you anger them, of course, and as beings of earth they’re very hard to calm down once angry.

    The Numbers

    Galeb Duhrs have a few signature traits, starting with Tremorsense 10. As creatures of earth, they’re immune to petrification and poison. Their ponderous steps carry them at speed 4, but they can burrow at speed 6. They’re Medium Elemental Humanoids with the Earth keyword.

    Power-wise, galeb duhrs are pretty much earthbenders. Earlier editions gave them all sorts of earth-based spells, and these ones have powers that manipulate soil and rocks in ways that fit their roles.

    Galeb Duhr Earthbreaker

    The earthbreaker is Level 8 Artillery with 73 HP. Its basic attack is a slam, but it will mostly Hurl Stones (Area Burst 1 Within 10 vs. AC), which deals a bit of physical damage and makes the affected area difficult terrain. There’s an explicit note in the power saying that the creature can create its own ammunition if none happens to be available in the surrounding area.

    If someone gets too close, the earthbreaker can cause a Shock Wave (Close Burst 2 vs. Fortitude; Recharge 5-6) that does a bit of damage, pushes 1 square, and knocks prone.

    Damage from Hurl Stones is actually about right for a level 8 area attack; the others need to be increased a bit.

    Galeb Duhr Rockcaller

    This Level 11 Controller has 118 HP. Its slam is a little beefier, and it can also use a Rolling Attack which works as a charge that targets Fortitude, pushing the target 1 square and knocking them prone in addition to doing slam damage.

    The rockcaller can also use Earthen Grasp against a target who is touching the ground (Ranged 10 vs. Fortitude). This does no damage but restrains (save ends) on a hit. Only one creature can be so restrained at a time.

    As an at-will minor action, the Rockcaller can also turn 4 earth or stone squares inside a Close Burst 10 into difficult terrain. These don’t need to be contiguous! Unless you’re fighting over a frozen lake or atop a solid cloud, the whole battlefield will become difficult terrain given enough time.

    Sample Encounter and Final Impressions

    The sample encounter is level 11: 1 rockcaller, 4 gargoyles, and 1 bulette. The bulette is surely there as a surprise interloper who will go for the combatants most obviously made of meat: the PCs.

    You are also likely to find galeb duhr in earth giant strongholds, as slaves and guards. Like the azer, they’d be the first line of defense against invaders, covering those entry points too small to fit a giant. Also like azer, you might be able to persuade them to rebel.

    I like galeb duhrs, and their shared origin with the azers and dwarves. It’s still perfectly possible to have interactions with them that resemble the ones you’d have with their 2e counterparts, but the added backstory gives you more hooks from which to hang your plots. Their culture is less complex and craft-based than that of the azers, but then again so is that of their giant masters.

  • Let's Read the 4e Monster Manual/Vault: Foulspawn

    Copyright 2008 Wizards of the Coast

    This article is part of a series! Click here to see the other entries.

    I haven’t seen Foulspawn before 4e, though I suppose they could be a very late 3.x creation. Here, they’re present only on the Monster Manual.

    The Lore

    Foulspawn are humanoids corrupted by contact with the lovecraftian Far Realm or its energies. This warps them both physically and mentally, turning them into knife-toothed monstrosities with a hatred for the natural world and its inhabitants, and a compulsion to serve powerful aberrant creatures like aboleths, beholders, or mind-flayers.

    That’s all the lore we get in the MM, though it does make room for some speculation. Deranged cultists are a traditional trope in adventures where the Big Bad is a cthulhoid monster, and foulspawn seem to be basically the end state for those cultists once they get deep enough into their trade. So their insane mindset might very well be something they already had with them when they underwent the physical transformation into foulspawn.

    Does this mean you could find a foulspawn who was involuntarily transformed and still holds something of its memories to become an ally of the party? That’s interesting, so I’m saying yes.

    They’d also be the terrible fate hangs over star pact warlocks who can’t cut it, mirroring the “eternal damnation” and “get turned into a mushroom” threats that hang over the other pacts.

    The Numbers

    Foulspawn are Aberrant Humanoids of varying size. They have low-light vision, and little else in the way of universal traits. Their magic, when they have it, tends towards psychic powers or stuff that bends time and space in that classic “non-Euclidean nightmare” style. Their typical alignment is Chaotic Evil.

    Some foulspawn, but not all, also gain miscellaneous bonuses when they’re bloodied.

    All of the foulspawn in this entry suffer very heavily from the damage bug, as their designer took a mistaken “naturalistic” approach when writing them up. This would probably be fine in 5e or 3.x, but here monster damage has to be purely a function of level. Making a monster’s basic attack deal 1d4+3 damage because it holds a dagger and has STR 16 makes it too weak even at level 1.

    Foulspawn Grue

    The one that eats you if you linger in the dark for too long. These Small Level 8 Controllers have 87 HP, and are fairly slow with Speed 4. They also have a teleport speed of 4, allowing them to come at you from unexpected angles.

    They suffer quite a bit from the damage bug, as their basic claw attack is on the weak side. Its riders are pretty good, though - slow (save ends), or daze (save ends) if the target is already slowed.

    Once per encounter they can infect someone with a Mind Worm (Ranged 10 vs. Will), which does no damage but inflicts a -2 penalty to Will and slows (save ends both). They can also utter Whispers of Madness (Recharge 5-6, Ranged 5 vs Will), which do a nice bit of psychic damage and have the same riders as the claw attack. Deafened targets are immune to the whispers, which might prompt some PCs to plug their ears (and become more vulnerable to the grue’s lurker buddies).

    Foulspawn Mangler

    This four-armed Medium terror is a Level 8 Skirmisher with 86 HP. It gains +2 to AC, Reflex and Speed when bloodied, taking its native speed of 7 up to 9.

    Though the mangler is armed with four daggers its basic attack consists of a single, ridiculously weak stab (1d4+3 for a level 8 monster!). There’s a Dagger Dance ability that allows it to stab four times and shift 1 square between each attack, but that’s only usable twice per encounter.

    The mangler can also throw 2 of those daggers at-will (Ranged 5/10 vs. AC), which doesn’t quite leave it weaponless because it has four backup weapons. It also deals +2d6 sneak attack damage and gains a +5 to AC against opportunity attacks from movement.

    One way to bring the mangler’s damage up to speed is to simply make Dagger Dance an at-will action. Making its dagger damage something like 4d4+3 or 2d6+5 is probably still the better option though.

    Foulspawn Berserker

    This Medium Level 9 Soldier has 102 HP. Its projects a Berserker Aura (Aura 1); anyone within who makes a melee attack targets a random creature in their reach! You’ll want to keep your allies well away from the party’s fighter when fighting this monster. The berserker gains +2 to Fortitude and damage rolls when bloodied, is immune to fear, and runs at speed 7.

    It fights with a greatsword, which once again suffers from a case of ill-thought-out naturalistic design. The berserker also deals 5 extra damage on a charge, and causes Mental Feedback on anyone who hits with a charm effect. This does 10 damage to the attacker and to the berserker, which means charm effects are actually a good choice for a PC who doesn’t mind getting a little hurt in the process.

    Foulspawn Seer

    This spellcaster is Level 11 Artillery with 86 HP and the Leader keyword. It projects an aura of Foul Insight out to 10 squares, giving any ally in range who can hear the seer a +2 to one roll (attack, ability, skill, or save) on their turn. It moves at Speed 6 and also has a teleport speed of 3.

    Its attack powers are similarly all about warping space: the Warp Orb (Ranged 10 vs. Reflex) deals physical damage and dazes (save ends). The Distortion Blast (Daily; Close Blast 5 vs. Fortitude) does the same but is a little stronger and only does half damage to aberrant creatures. It can also teleport 3 squares as an interrupt when an attack would hit it, a defense which recharges on a 5-6.

    Finally, it has a basic melee attack with its staff, which does physical damage and pushes the target 1 square on a hit.

    This looks like a solid enough controller if you fix its overall low damage, as it suffers from the same “naturalistic” design flaw.

    Foulspawn Hulk

    This Large-sized foulspawn is a Level 12 Brute with 150 HP and absolutely nothing in the way of special attacks.

    Its sole attack is a basic slam which does about half the damage it should. It becomes about 50% stronger when the hulk is bloodied, a state which also grants it +2 Fortitude.

    You might as well rewrite the hulk’s stat block from the ground up - a level 12 monster who just stands there making basic attacks for the whole fight is a failure of design.

    Sample Encounter and Final Impressions

    The sample encounter is level 11: 1 seer, two berserkers, three grues, and a grell. That’s a lot of dazing and stunning attacks that are going to be thrown the party’s way. If the party is level 11 it’s likely not a lot of them will hit, but if this is being used as a boss fight for level 8 PCs they’re going to have a bad time.

    I’m somewhat disappointed in these foulspawn. I kinda like them conceptually as the end-state for aberrant cultists. All their dreams of power and mad devotion has led them to this, and the fact that foulspawn are not all that weird or powerful leads a certain pathos to the whole thing.

    Mechanically, though, they’re pretty bad for all the reasons we’ve already discussed. The Foulspawn Hulk is particularly galling for being so uninteresting.

subscribe via RSS