Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Core Mechanic: Looking Back: Dragon Halloweens of the Late 70's and 80's

Jonathan at the Core Mechanic just published The Core Mechanic: Looking Back: Dragon Halloweens of the Late 70's and 80's. In it, he says:
I can't help but wonder "How many of these topics have be unknowingly rehashed and recast by the RPG community over the years? In print, online, in blogs, where ever?"
Readers have probably noticed that my posting frequency has fallen off, and I think here Jonathan nails one of the big reasons why. I hate the feeling that I'm creating something that has been created before, but there's so much content out there that it's a monstrous pain to find out whether my clever new post idea has been done.

That's probably also why the only parts of my blog I still feel compelled to write are the campaign log posts and the Weekly What the Heck (shameless plug - go comment on this week's WWTH). I was thinking about blogging tonight about the superhero character idea I had this afternoon, but I'm sure dozens of others have come up with a long-range area-effect flame-throwing hero named Hwacha, and they probably did theirs right after last week's Mythbusters episode instead of waiting a week.

I love Jonathan's idea of a PubRPG, though I don't see how such a thing would actually get created.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why, that's a Cycloptic Elephantaur!

The final comments are in from last week's "Weekly What the Heck". The result is a timid, cat-sized inhabitant of the Nine Hells whose trunk can emit devastating sound waves or a haunting song and whose "mildly inconveniencing stare" reduces its enemies to half their current hp.

I'd like to thank Reverend Mike, wyattsalazar, RPG Ike, Scott and Reverend Mike again (with special thanks to Rev Mike for the name) for their ideas, all of which have been mashed together to create:
Cycloptic Elephantaur
Cycloptic elephantaurs are very rare inhabitants of the Nine Hells that spend their time using their trunks to hunt hellish ants. These creatures are timid upon first being sighted, but once attacked or even touched they fly into a violent rage. They are sometimes hunted by devils, who eat their eyes as a delicacy.

Level 10 Artillery
Cycloptic Elephantaur Gawker
XP 500
Tiny immortal beast
Initiative see reactive initiative Senses Perception +9
HP 84; Bloodied 42
AC 22; Fortitude 23, Reflex 21, Will 23
Speed 6
mGore (standard; at-will)
+17 vs. AC; 1d8 + 5 damage.
MGawking Gore (standard; at-will)
+17 vs. AC; 1d8 + 5 damage, and the cycloptic elephantaur gawker makes a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary Attack: +15 vs. Fortitude; the target is pushed one square and weakened (save ends).
RMildly Inconveniencing Stare (standard; at-will)
Ranged 10; targets a living creature; +15 vs. Fortitude; if the target is dazed and weakened, it is reduced to half its current hit points; if the target is weakened, it is dazed (save ends); otherwise, the target is weakened (save ends).
Reactive Initiative
A cycloptic elephantaur doesn't roll for initiative. Instead, all cycloptic elephantaurs in an encounter take their first action immediately after the first attack that hits, or the first creature that touches, any of them.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Str 20 (+10) Dex 16 (+8) Wis 18 (+9)
Con 18 (+9) Int 2 (+1) Cha 21 (+10)

Cycloptic Elephantaur Gawker Tactics
Cycloptic elephantaur gawkers use gawking gore to keep enemies at a distance so they can use their mildly inconveniencing stare.

Level 12 Controller
Cycloptic Elephantaur Trumpeter
XP 700
Small immortal beast
Initiative see reactive initiative Senses Perception +11
HP 124; Bloodied 62
AC 26; Fortitude 25, Reflex 24, Will 25
Speed 6
mGore (standard; at-will)
+17 vs. AC; 1d8 + 5 damage.
RMildly Inconveniencing Stare (standard; at-will)
Ranged 10; targets a living creature; +16 vs. Fortitude; if the target is dazed and weakened, it is reduced to half its current hit points; if the target is weakened, it is dazed (save ends); otherwise, the target is weakened (save ends).
CSound Burst (standard; recharge 4 5 6) * Thunder
Close blast 5; +15 vs. Fortitude; 3d8 + 6 thunder damage, and the target is pushed 3 squares and dazed (save ends).
CHaunting Song (move; recharge 6)
Close burst 5; all creatures in the burst (including the cycloptic elephantaur trumpeter) make a saving throw and are no longer marked, and the cycloptic elephantaur trumpeter shifts 4 squares.
Reactive Initiative
A cycloptic elephantaur doesn't roll for initiative. Instead, all cycloptic elephantaurs in an encounter take their first action immediately after the first attack that hits, or the first creature that touches, any of them.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Str 20 (+11) Dex 18 (+10) Wis 20 (+11)
Con 20 (+11) Int 2 (+2) Cha 22 (+12)

Cycloptic Elephantaur Trumpeter Tactics
An cycloptic elephantaur trumpeter prefers to use its sound burst as often as possible. If enemies get too close it will use haunting song to move back to a safer distance.

Cycloptic Elephantaur Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana check.
DC 20: Instead of a death gaze, the cycloptic elephantaur has a "mildly inconveniencing stare", which desiccates victims half to death.
DC 25: The trunk of large specimens is capable of expelling a devastating sound wave that can warp metal and pulverize stone.
Heh heh. "Half to death". I kill me.

Weekly What the Heck

Welcome to the third installment of my regular feature here at the Near TPK. With continuing apologies to one of my favorite blogs, the Daily WTF, I present... The Weekly What The Heck.

Each Saturday at 10 AM Central Time I'll post one of Jen's drawings of some kind of whacked-out creature, and ask my readers: "What the heck IS that?"

I hope my readers will approach the challenge in the spirit of "Yes, and ..." - building on previous responses so everyone's ideas can be used in the final writeup. Comments are now closed on last week's entry, and I hope to have the final writeup posted tonight. Comments will be accepted on this week's entry until I post next week's entry.

So... What the heck is that? What should it do? How gross will it feel when the thing touches your character?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Do Not Scare Happy Naked Cleric

In this post I made a note to tell the story of happy naked cleric. I have nothing else to say today, so I'll trot this story out. Maybe a nugget of wisdom will reveal itself. It will also give me a place to mention that this week's Weekly What the Heck ends in 12 hours, so head on over and contribute a quirk to the Cycloptic Elephantaur.

A few years ago, Jen and I decided to run a one-shot mid-level 3e adventure for our gaming group. The group's 3e campaigns to date had all topped out below level 9, so the 9th level characters we handed out were pretty novel at our table. We came up with a dungeon crawl based on the old school module A4 plot - you wake up naked prisoners in a cave and have to get out.

We also set up the whole thing to be played for some laughs. It included a tour group of drow being led through the caverns by a bored tour guide (inspired by a recent trip to Meramac Caverns) and a gray dwarf princess surrounded by eager suitors carrying potions of love and potions of enlarge. Our pregen characters included a halfling ranger specialized in daggers.

Since the PCs were starting off with no equipment and barely a way out of their cages, I made sure the first encounter was easy: some gray dwarf fighters ranging in level from 2 to the mighty 4 (see 9th level characters, above). I also was nice enough to have one of them carry a number of throwing daggers so the halfling could become useful quickly.

Except that, upon entering the cavern and seeing a half dozen armed duergar heading toward him, the cleric won initiative and opened with his highest-level spell, flame strike. All the 2nd-4th level dwarves failed their saves. More important, almost every piece of their equipment failed its save.

I stood, stunned, thinking about the next few encounters with unintelligent monsters with no treasure/gear. The halfling's player shrieked something about the loss of the gear. The cleric's player looked over the results of his handiwork, shrugged, and uttered the evening's most memorable line. "Hey, do not scare happy naked cleric."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Field Notes of V - The Urns

I will start with the old woman, because she is where this started. She hired our motley crew to enter an underground reliquary and remove the dangerous vermin therein. She claimed that she required this service so that her team of experts could then remove several fragile urns from the premises.

She described some strange things, including a crystal on an altar deep in the dungeon. She also alleged that contact with the gemstone would result in the summoning of an angry archangel. I am uncertain as to the veracity of this claim, but am interested to see this crystal for myself. Perhaps I can convince Hobb to touch it. While I am at a safe distance, of course.

The dank excavation into which she directed us has so far been singularly unpleasant. It is infested with oversized arthropods and other distasteful vermin. Few of them are fit even for grinding into reagents or other experimentation. My sole encouraging find was two glowing glands from a fire breathing beetle, which I crafted into torches.

We have also encountered some members of one of the baser humanoid races here, which leads me to suspect the possibility of affairs more sinister than the old woman's simple vermin infestation. One of them shattered one of the old woman's urns, and we found another urn already shattered. Apparently the lowly creatures have no regard for the
antiquities they are dwelling among. So why are they here? Could it have something to do with the crystal?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Battle Journal of Kain Gaa'zaith - Kobolds

Campaign Day 1 continued

The final door from the trash-filled room opened into one end of a long, narrow hallway. Spaced at regular intervals along it were large urns, presumably some of the very relics we were hired to find. Some of the cadre became quite excited at the sight of them.

We were quite surprised when a reptilian humanoid peeked out at us from behind one of the most distant urns. He appeared to be preparing to hurl some sort of projectile at us. Calibraxis, yelling something about "filthy kobolds", tried to charge down the hallway toward it, but was stopped short by another humanoid and two large scorpions jumping out from behind the nearest urns. The scorpions quickly had the cleric down on the ground.

A shouted command from me and a distracting attack from Marun got Calibraxis up and clear. Then I hurled him over the fray so he could pin down the far kobold that kept lobbing pots of glue at us. As the cadre advanced down the hallway over the broken bodies of the scorpions, another humanoid near the far one destroyed one of the urns and tried to flee. Calibraxis and Hobb, who seem overly concerned with saving these urns, ferociously attacked the two remaining kobolds and destroyed them.

Worried that the sound of the breaking urn would alert those nearby, we moved quickly to the door at the far end of the hall. It opened to reveal a large room full of the reptilian humanoids, with two more of the scorpions and four more urns. By this point we were well practiced at destroying the scorpions, and the dragonborn and elf slew many kobolds with fire and thunder. When there were only two left, one of them shouted at the other, and each tried to destroy an urn. We stopped them before either succeeded.

Now we have stopped to rest. Most of the cadre is in the large room, the elf and the drow staying awake in shifts. Hobb and I are in the urn-filled hallway, guarding them against any intruders. Calibraxis informed me that the shouting kobold told his comrade to "sound the alarm" before they tried to destroy the urns. We must be vigilant against whoever they were trying to summon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Battle Journal of Kain Gaa'zaith - Trial by Fire

Campaign Day 1 continued

There were doors in the center of each wall of the trash-filled room. Listening at each in turn, we heard nothing. With one way apparently the same as another, we proceeded to the left.

Behind the door to our left was a long room with a strange glow coming from the far corner. The nearer part of the room was rife with huge scorpions, which rushed forward to attack. One grabbed Calibraxis, but Hobb distracted it with a deft attack and broke the grapple. Then we discovered that the glow from the corner was some sort of fiery beetle, which ran toward us and breathed a gout of fire over half the scorpions and most of the cadre. The rest of the battle was a blur of flying bug parts, from which we emerged victorious.

Finding no other exit from this place, we then proceeded to the door in the right wall of the trash-filled room. Behind this were yet more vermin - a number of huge beetles, more scorpions, and another batlike thing. I'm not sure what possessed the wizard at this point, but he raced to the front line and tried to destroy all the creatures by himself. He loosed two deafening blasts into the mass of beasts, but barely scratched any of them. Before we could react, the monsters closed in all around him. I thought he was surely doomed, but he dodged their attacks long enough for Marun to charge into the fray and cover his escape.

Marun and Calibraxis again held the front line solidly with melee support from Hobb and myself and ranged support from the magic-users. The cadre was functioning moderately competently by this point, except for the wizard's stunt, which may require a reprimand. I suppose punishment cannot include removal of any primary body parts, as that might hinder spellcasting. Appropriate enforcement of discipline among these non-gith will require some deliberation.

Once the motley assortment of brutish creatures was defeated, and this room also determined to have no other exit, we turned our attention to the third portal from the trash-filled room. Considering our task was to remove mindless vermin from this stinking cellar, what we found behind the third door came as something of a surprise.

to be continued...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Battle Journal of Kain Gaa'zaith - Initiation

Campaign Day 1

Today life began again. My new cadre has tasted battle for the first time, and they have acquitted themselves adequately.

Our mission is a sweep and clear of some remote old dungeon full of relics. Hobb got us the job from some old woman. The details are unimportant to me. All that matters is that this old hole is full of creatures against which my cadre can test its mettle.

Even before entering, we were beset by flying, batlike creatures that were hiding in some rubble near the entrance. The cadre responded to the threat with sufficient coordination for their first engagement. Marun held the front line ably, even when one of the creatures attached itself to her and tried to suck her blood. Calibraxis destroyed a number of foes with his fire breath, Hobb performed competently when I flung him into the fray, and the magic-users carried out their task of fire support to my satisfaction.

Finally entering the dungeon itself, we opened the front door and saw a large square room, its floor covered in trash that moved slightly. Marun charged into the center of the room and found it to be teeming with rats of all sizes.

The swarm of rats nearly overwhelmed the minotaur, but Calibraxis' healing kept her on her feet. The elf attempted to remove the rats from Marun with repeated eruptions of thunderous force that smashed them into the walls. After all the blasting we felt certain that the element of surprise was lost, and we were right.

to be continued...

Cast of Characters, Kain's Cadre

Kain Gaa'zaith, githyanki warlord

Revis Marun, minotaur fighter

Calibraxis, dragonborn cleric

Adincari Qiliir, drow warlock

Hobb Knobbytoes, halfling rogue

V, elf wizard

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Into the Demonweb Forest, Part 3

After defeating the pack of deathjump spiders, the girls headed deeper into the forest, always heading for the tallest tree, which they had seen jutting up out of the old growth before they entered, even though it was miles away. I flipped the battle mat over to the other side, with a slightly different layout of path through difficult undergrowth, and placed a pencil across the path in front of the party to represent a large web. The ranger spotted two giant spiders sitting in the web.

The wizard immediately ran to the front of the party and blasted both spiders and the web with burning hands. Again, all the spiders in the area started moving toward the group and we rolled initiative.

This encounter was the first to use some of my homebrew spiders from a couple weeks back:
2 giant webby spiders (level 5 controller, 400 xp)
1 deathjump spider (level 4 skirmisher, 175 xp)
3 crab spiders (level 4 minion, 130 xp)

The girls have gotten to the point where they can smell minion monsters a mile away, and they made short work of the crab spiders. The giant webby spiders sprayed webs all over the place, but once the minions were destroyed the webs didn't pose much danger by themselves. The warlord and the paladin ganged up on the deathjump spider while the ranger and wizard went hunting the webby spiders.

Analysis:
The giant webby spiders might require some work, or I might need to try them again with more allies. I think this fight would have been a lot more interesting if I had replaced one webby spider with two more deathjump spiders and another crab spider, which would have been about the same xp value. Heck, they're still slogging through the spider-filled forest, maybe I can throw that variant in and see what happens...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why, that's an Eye Mite!

The final comments are in from last week's "Weekly What the Heck". The result is a bestial size-changing liver-eating war beast created by beholders to battle mind flayers and their psicow servants. It grows from the size of your finger to large size when hit with psychic powers, and uses its elastic tongue to grapple opponents.

I'd like to thank Doctor Checkmate, Gomez, Reverend Mike, RPG Ike and Wyatt for their ideas, all of which have been mashed together to create:
Eye Mite
Eye mites are strange beasts created by the beholders to destroy their psionics-using enemies. Normally about the size of a human fingertip, eye mites grow to large size and become enraged whenever they are in the area of effect of psychic powers. In their tiny forms, eye mites live symbiotically on beholders, cleaning them and feeding on their dead skin and parasites.

Level 1 Minion
Eye Mite Midge
XP 25
Tiny aberrant beast
Initiative +2 Senses Perception +3
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion.
AC 15; Fortitude 13, Reflex 13, Will 15
Immune Psychic
Speed 6, climb 6 (spider climb)
mBite (standard; at-will)
+3 vs. AC; 4 damage.
Psychic Growth
An eye mite midge that is in a square targeted by any attack with the psychic descriptor grows instantly into an eye mite berserker or eye mite mindraper.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Stealth +7
Str 8 (-1) Dex 14 (+2) Wis 17 (+3)
Con 14 (+2) Int 2 (-4) Cha 16 (+3)

Eye Mite Midge Tactics
Eye mite midges rarely engage in combat at all unless their psychic growth is triggered by the use of a psychic power on their beholder host.

Level 16 Brute
Eye Mite Berserker
XP 1,400
Large aberrant beast
Initiative +13 Senses Perception +14
HP 192; Bloodied 96
AC 28; Fortitude 30, Reflex 28, Will 29
Immune Psychic
Speed 8, climb 8 (spider climb)
mBite (standard; at-will)
+19 vs. AC; 3d8 + 7 damage.
MTongue Lash (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +19 vs. AC; 2d8 + 7 damage, and the target is pulled 2 squares and grabbed (until escape). The eye mite berserker cannot use its bite attack while holding a target grabbed by its tongue.
MGnaw (standard; at-will)
Grabbed target only; +19 vs. Fortitude; 3d8 + 7 damage.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Intimidate +17
Str 24 (+15) Dex 20 (+13) Wis 22 (+14)
Con 22 (+14) Int 2 (+4) Cha 18 (+12)

Eye Mite Berserker Tactics
An eye mite berserker charges into combat with wild abandon, trying to reach whatever creature triggered its growth, if possible. If its beholder host triggered the growth with a fear ray, the eye mite berserker mindlessly attacks the nearest non-beholder target. If there are no enemies adjacent to it at the start of its turn, it uses tongue lash to try to grab one to gnaw on.

Level 18 Controller
Eye Mite Mindraper
XP 2,000
Large aberrant beast
Initiative +14 Senses Perception +17
Psychic Headache aura 5; enemies that start their turns in the aura take a –1 penalty to attack rolls and Will defense.
HP 174; Bloodied 87
AC 32; Fortitude 30, Reflex 30, Will 32
Immune Psychic
Speed 8, climb 8 (spider climb)
mBite (standard; at-will)
+23 vs. AC; 2d8 + 6 damage.
MTongue Lash (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +23 vs. AC; 1d8 + 6 damage, and the target is pulled 2 squares and grabbed (until escape). The eye mite mindraper cannot use its bite attack while holding a target grabbed by its tongue.
MGnaw (standard; at-will)
Grabbed target only; +23 vs. Fortitude; 2d8 + 6 damage.
REnslave (standard; recharge 5 6)
Ranged 10; +22 vs. Will; the target is dominated (save ends).
CPsychic Scream (standard; recharges when first bloodied) * Psychic
Close blast 5; +20 vs. Will; 1d10 + 7 psychic damage, and the target is dazed (save ends).
APsychic Burst (standard; recharge 5 6) * Psychic
Area burst 1 within 10; +20 vs. Will; 2d6 + 7 psychic damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 psychic damage and is weakened (save ends both).
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Insight +22, Intimidate +21
Str 22 (+15) Dex 20 (+14) Wis 26 (+17)
Con 22 (+15) Int 22 (+15) Cha 24 (+16)

Eye Mite Mindraper Tactics
Eye mite mindrapers prefer to stay out of melee, using psychic burst as long as targets are far away, and psychic scream if they get too close. If pressed into melee, the mindraper tries to shift back and enslave its attacker, only resorting to its bite or tongue lash if it cannot get away or its enslave power has not recharged.

Eye Mite Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Dungeoneering check.
DC 15: Eye mites are tiny bugs that live on beholders. They can instantly grow to the size of a horse and attack the beholder's enemies.
DC 20: Eye mite growth is triggered by the use of psychic powers on them or their host. Once enlarged, they are fierce fighters that grab enemies with their long tongues.
DC 25: Some eye mites grow into highly intelligent forms with their own psychic powers. Beholders have been known to kill and eat these intelligent specimens after a battle ends, perhaps out of fear that they will rebel or pose some other threat.
I think this might be my favorite monster so far. At the very least it's up there with the pyrosphynx, the narleth conversion, and the psicow.

Weekly What the Heck

Welcome to the second installment of my regular feature here at the Near TPK. With apologies to one of my favorite blogs, the Daily WTF, I present... The Weekly What The Heck.

Each Saturday at 10 AM Central Time I'll post one of Jen's drawings of some kind of whacked-out creature, and ask my readers: "What the heck IS that?"

I hope my readers will approach the challenge in the spirit of "Yes, and ..." - building on previous responses so everyone's ideas can be used in the final writeup. Comments are now closed on last week's entry, and I hope to have the final writeup posted tonight. Comments will be accepted on this week's entry until I post next week's entry.

So without further ado... What the heck is that? What should it do? Does the dead, glassy look in its eye have anything to do with anything?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gaming Systems

Shamus Young asked some questions a couple days ago that I just saw. I'm going to answer them in the interest of
1) Letting my readers know what my gaming background/experience is
2) Having something to blog about tonight since I still haven't received/written any more character stories for the new campaign
3) Thus having an opportunity to point out that less than 14 hours remain to give me your input on the current Weekly What the Heck

Anyway, Shamus asks:
  1. What gaming system did you start with when you were learning the game?
  2. What’s your preferred gaming system when you’re running a game?
  3. What system do you prefer as a player? (For some people this is different from #2.)
  4. And because we live in an imperfect world: What system do you actually end up using?
I answer:
1) My very first exposure to RPGs was the Moldvay Basic Set, followed quickly by AD&D 1st edition. Throughout my high school career I heard rumors of other game systems, but didn't really believe them.
2) I love the ease of building and running encounters in D&D 4e. I have never been a heavy immersion gamer, and never been in heavy immersion groups, so I'm fine with "pushing my piece around and selecting my attack options" as Jeff Rients puts it. 4e is what I've always wanted D&D to be - wargaming where at least one side in the war is a crack team of uber badasses instead of a mob of shlubs.
3) I hope I love 4e from the other side of the screen, but as I mentioned yesterday I won't find out for a couple of days. I actually have a soft spot in my heart for GURPS, our system of choice when I was in college. The actual playing was cumbersome, but the character building... oh, the character building! I have reams of GURPS Supers characters who will never be played, but that's OK - just creating them was more fun than playing them would be anyway. I can think of at least one GURPS Supers character who was spoiled for me after I actually played him.
4) Maybe my world is more perfect than most - my group has followed me to 4e and shows no sign of stopping.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oh, To Be Just a Player

Hmm, in a post I made a month ago, I said I'd be playing 4e instead of DMing in... two weeks. Thanks to a solid month of real life chaos, that didn't happen, but it looks like it might really happen this weekend! Finally!

Writing back stories and fleshing out the character relationships hasn't really continued after the first few, either. Today I gave some thought to why Kain would want the other PCs in his cadre. I managed to satisfy myself with reasons for most of them:
Dragonborn cleric - someone honorable and trustworthy, a good candidate for a lieutenant position
Halfling rogue - a face, someone to do the wheeling, dealing, and any spying
Elf wizard - the adviser, someone who just knows a lot of things

That leaves the drow warlock. As a combatant, he seems to sit squarely between the areas already claimed by the fighter and the rogue. Socially, he's hampered by race much like Kain and Marun are (I already picture the "normal" half of the group being sent into villages for supplies while the monstrous members hide in the woods). What role does this warlock fill in the cadre? Assassin? The one willing to kill whoever Kain says needs killing, no questions asked? Marun would probably do that for Kain, but the drow could probably be a lot more subtle about it. Maybe that will work.

I picture Kain sitting on a hill, Marun practicing weapon katas behind him. He furrows his brow, thinking about the characteristics of the creatures he wants to add to his fledgling cadre. He wonders how he will find them all...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dangerous Cats and Wounded Artists

Posts this week might be kind of thin. Partly I'm ending each work day not even wanting to look at a computer. Mostly I don't have any new illustrations because Jen's drawing hand is out of commission. I'm starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel of random sketches she drew for me a month or so ago.

A bit of advice to any cat owners among the readership: If you are awakened at 3AM by the sound of your cat having a hissing match with a neighborhood stray through the screen in the front window, do not attempt to remove the cat from the window sill. In the dark. While he's still in full-on kill mode.

You might end up with your right arm out of commission due to a deep infected cat bite on the forearm and some claw gashes across the hand. Then you won't be able to draw the sketches your husband's blog relies on to retain readers, since they're probably the only reason most of the readership comes by.

Or something like that. Anyway, if anyone would like to wish Jen a speedy recovery here or at her blog, I'm sure she'll appreciate it. If you simply must have some RPG content, might I suggest reading and posting a comment to this week's Weekly What the Heck. This week's monster is shaping up to be doozy, but more input can only make it even wilder.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Compilation Mania

Yesterday I started getting emails from the RPG Bloggers Google group about an idea for a blog anthology from Jonathan over at the Core Mechanic. I thought it was an interesting idea and gave a little thought to what I might submit.

Then this morning I came across the idea for a community monster manual over at Encounter-a-Day. Since I've been on a monster-creating kick lately, I thought I might be able to submit to that, though what they're talking about over there is way more structured than the random monsters based on illustrations that I've been doing (though mine are automatically pre-illustrated - neener neener :) )

In addition to that, Jen and I have already discussed doing our own compilation of all the results of the Weekly What the Heck if it goes on long enough and results in interesting enough monsters.

The more I think about it, the more I feel pulled in too many directions. Submit articles to the anthology? Do I have any worth submitting? Submit monsters to the Community MM? See if Jen could be talked into doing illustrations for it? Hold off and package up all my monsters in my own compilation later? Do some or all of the above? Do none because I really should be focusing on my day job instead?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Into the Demonweb Forest, Part 2

Having defeated the goblins that tried to take the shards from them, the girls rested overnight and then entered the Demonweb Forest itself. I created a custom battle map on 1" grid easel paper of a simple animal path snaking through the woods. Only the path was NOT difficult terrain, and some squares were marked as having large tree trunks in them.

I kicked things off with a simple Wolf Pack (DMG pg. 59) encounter of four skirmishers:
4 deathjump spiders (level 4 skirmisher, 700 xp)

The ranger spotted one spider, and she and the wizard fired at it. The we rolled initiative and all the spiders came charging out of the trees, two in front and two behind the party. Poor Laurel's characters took the brunt of the assault, with the ranger in front and the warlord bringing up the rear. The first death from above attack did a bunch of damage to the warlord and knocked her prone. The wizard cut loose with fire shroud and set three spiders on fire, but in the second round both spiders on the ranger hit and did massive damage.

It looked grim for a moment, but the paladin and warlord brought all their healing powers to bear and managed to keep everyone on their feet. The paladin marked one of the spiders on the warlord, taking some pressure off her. The first time a spider missed the ranger, she used unbalancing parry to move it front of the wizard, who barbecued it with burning hands.

Analysis:
At our table, and I suspect many others, the raw power brought to bear by the characters seems to be directly proportional to the amount of panic felt by the players (note to self: tell the story some day of the unfortunate duergar who attacked happy naked cleric in our 3e game). After the first couple of rounds, I thought the group was in trouble, and I think they were thinking the same thing. Then the encounter powers got trotted out and the girls quickly got things under control.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Monster stats updated

I just used the 4e Monster Math Cruncher at Asmor.com to check over all the monsters I've created over the past couple of weeks and corrected a few misses - mostly forgetting to add in the initiative bonus for skirmishers, soldiers and lurkers, but also a couple of attack bonuses that were out of whack. So I guess if you've grabbed any of my monsters for use in your game, you might want to grab them again in their new closer-to-by-the-book form.

Weekly What the Heck

Welcome to my first regular feature here at the Near TPK. With apologies to one of my favorite blogs, the Daily WTF, I present... The Weekly What The Heck.

Each Saturday at 10 AM Central Time I'll post one of Jen's drawings of some kind of whacked-out creature, and ask my readers: "What the heck IS that?"

I hope my readers will approach the challenge in the spirit of "yes, and" - building on previous responses so everyone's ideas can be used in the final writeup. Comments will be accepted until I post next week's entry, then the writeup of this week's monster will be posted later that day (if all goes according to plan).

So let's start with the thing to the right. What the heck is that? What should it do? Does it kill you with its pointy feet, pointy spikes, pointy teeth, or fearsome tongue?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tracking Ongoing Effects on the Cheap

I was going to do a post about this a while back but didn't get to it. Then recently Yax at dungeonmastering.com posted about the magnetic disc things from Alea Tools and I thought this would be a good time to suggest an alternate solution for the dirt poor gamers out there.

I've mentioned that my group has started using pipe cleaners to track ongoing effects. Well, OK, I started using them, and everyone looked at me funny, but they had to admit it works pretty well.

I picked up a single package of multi-colored pipe cleaners at the fabric store for a dollar. That's it, one dollar. For one dollar I got 20 pipe cleaners, two of each color, and each one makes four rings, so that's 80 markers in ten colors for a buck vs. Alea Tools' ten markers for 7 bucks or 24 for $15. Ouch.

I daresay the pipe cleaners do the job of marking just as well, especially with the wide variety of colors I got - red for bloodied, orange for on fire, forest green for ranger's quarry, sickly green for ongoing poison, white for divine challenge, pink for... well, no one seems to want to use the pink much.

I'll grant you that the magnetic markers look better, but do they look the twenty or thirty bucks better that you would need to even get close to the quantity and variety I picked up for a dollar? Nothing against the Alea guys, but I'll take the difference and go place another order at Miniature Market.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why, that's a Chanavan Serpent!

The second "What the heck is that?" brainstorm has come to a close. The result is an intelligent aquatic serpent that lives in rivers. It flares its neck frills and puts you in a hypnotized state. While you're under its influence an illusory version of it appears to you and asks you riddles. Failure to answer drives you more deeply under its influence.

I think the hardest part of this one was coming up with a name. As I started typing up powers I just called it "serpent", but it needed more than that. Google for "river serpent" turned up this page that mentions both a serpent god named Avanyu and a Chinese creature named Chan.

I'd like to thank Scott, Gomez, Gomez, ChaoticBlackSheep and Gomez (Gomez is a big fan of the WWTH) for their ideas, all of which have been mashed together to create:
Chanavan Serpent
Chanavan serpents are strange, intelligent beasts that delight in toying with weaker creatures. They lurk in rivers, ready to burst out and beguile travelers with their riddles and hypnotic neck frills.

Level 14 Solo Brute
Chanavan Serpent
XP 5,000
Huge fey magical beast (reptile)
Initiative +11 Senses Perception +12
Aura of Confusion aura 2; enemies (including flying ones) treat the area within the aura as difficult terrain.
HP 700; Bloodied 350
AC 28; Fortitude 29, Reflex 28, Will 26
Saving Throws +5
Speed 6, swim 8
Action Points 2
mBite (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +17 vs. AC; 3d6 + 6 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). The chanavan serpent cannot grab another target with this attack while holding one grabbed by its bite.
MTail Lash (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +17 vs. AC; 3d8 + 6 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). The chanavan serpent cannot use its tail lash attack while holding a target grabbed by its tail.
MSerpentine Fury (standard; at-will)
The chanavan serpent makes a bite and a tail lash attack.
MConstrict (minor; at-will)
Affects any targets the chanavan serpent has grabbed; +16 vs. Fortitude; 2d6 + 6 damage, and the target is dazed (save ends).
MTail Strike (immediate reaction, when an enemy moves to a position where it flanks the chanavan serpent; at-will)
Make a tail lash attack against that enemy.
CHypnotic Flare (standard; recharge 5 6) * Charm
Close blast 5; +13 vs. Will; the target is dazed (save ends). First Failed Save: The target is stunned (save ends). Second Failed Save: The target falls unconscious (no save).
CBloodied Flare (free, when first bloodied; encounter) * Charm
The serpent’s hypnotic flare recharges, and the serpent uses it immediately.
ARiddle Me This (minor; at-will) * Illusion
One creature in close burst 5; affects a dazed or stunned target only; the target must win an opposed Arcana skill check against the serpent or automatically fail its next saving throw. Alternately, the DM can replace the opposed check with a riddle for the player to solve.
Slippery (immediate interrupt, when immobilized, restrained or slowed; at-will)
The serpent ends any of the above conditions and may shift 2 squares.
Threatening Reach
The chanavan serpent can make opportunity attacks against all enemies within its reach (3 squares).
Alignment Unaligned Languages Common, telepathy 5
Skills Arcana +17, Bluff +17, Insight +17
Str 23 (+13) Dex 18 (+11) Wis 20 (+12)
Con 20 (+12) Int 20 (+12) Cha 20 (+12)

Chanavan serpent Tactics
Chanavan serpents prefer to stay out of melee for a few rounds, if possible, toying with their prey using hypnotic flare. They use their aura of confusion and threatening reach to make it difficult for enemies to approach. Once engaged they fight fiercely using serpentine fury. They use riddle me this every round possible to try to force failed saves on enemies overcome by hypnotic flare.

Chanavan serpent Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana check.
DC 20: Chanavan serpents are intelligent river-dwelling snakes that befuddle travelers with illusions and riddles before grabbing them and crushing them.
DC 25: The chanavan serpent fights by striking with its bite and tail. The tail is used to defend against anyone trying to surround it.
Whew. I think from now on the "what the heck" monster will be appearing the evening of the Saturday after the original post. I really shouldn't have killed such a large chunk of a Thursday working on this thing...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Monster Week at the Near TPK - the Earth Wolf

I started Monster Week with six drawings - not quite a week. Fortunately, Jen came through for me with one more. She also drew four really wacky ones, so I have fodder for a month's worth of weekly "what the heck" posts. Brainstormers, set your reminders for 10 AM Central Time (4PM GMT, I think) Saturdays to come by and answer "what the heck is that?"

There are already lots of wolf/hound variants in the Monster Manual, but this stocky guy looks like he could fill an empty niche: pack hunter of elemental earth. The shock wave power copied from the galeb duhr synergizes nicely with the standard wolf's love for enemies that have fallen down and can't get up...
Earth Wolf
Earth wolves are elemental pack hunters that manipulate the terrain to hinder their prey.

Level 7 Skirmisher
Earth Wolf
XP 300
Medium elemental beast
Initiative +8 Senses Perception +6; tremorsense 10
HP 83; Bloodied 41
AC 21; Fortitude 21, Reflex 19, Will 19
Immune petrification
Speed 6 (earth walk), burrow 3
mBite (standard; at-will)
+12 vs. AC; 2d6 + 5 damage, or 3d6 + 5 damage against a prone target.
CShock Wave (standard; recharge 6)
Close blast 3; +8 vs. Fortitude; 1d8 + 5 damage, and the target is knocked prone.
Combat Advantage
If the earth wolf has combat advantage against the target, the target is also knocked prone on a hit.
Pack Attack
The earth wolf deals an extra 5 damage on melee attacks against an enemy that has two or more of the wolf’s allies adjacent to it.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Stealth +11
Str 21 (+8) Dex 16 (+6) Wis 16 (+6)
Con 19 (+7) Int 4 (+0) Cha 10 (+3)

Earth Wolf Tactics
Earth wolves work together to take down an enemy, usually focusing on the weakest in a group. They flank prey or use shock wave so that victims are knocked prone, allowing other wolves to deal greater damage.
Level 19 Soldier
Dire Earth Wolf
XP 2,400
Large elemental beast
Initiative +17 Senses Perception +15; tremorsense 10
Rough Ground (Earth) aura 1; enemies treat the area within the aura as difficult terrain.
HP 185; Bloodied 92
AC 35; Fortitude 33, Reflex 31, Will 31
Immune petrification
Speed 6 (earth walk), burrow 3
mBite (standard; at-will)
+26 vs. AC; 3d6 + 8 damage, or 5d6 + 8 damage against a prone target.
CShock Wave (standard; recharge 6)
Close blast 3; +22 vs. Fortitude; 2d6 + 8 damage, and the target is pushed 1 square and knocked prone.
RRocky Terrain (minor; at-will)
Ranged 10; up to 4 squares within range become difficult terrain. The squares need not be contiguous, but the affected terrain must consist of earth or stone.
Combat Advantage
If the dire earth wolf has combat advantage against the target, the target is also knocked prone on a hit.
Pack Attack
The dire earth wolf deals an extra 10 damage on melee attacks against an enemy that has two or more of the wolf’s allies adjacent to it.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Stealth +20
Str 27 (+17) Dex 22 (+15) Wis 22 (+15)
Con 25 (+16) Int 5 (+6) Cha 10 (+9)

Dire Earth Wolf Tactics
Dire earth wolves use tactics similar to earth wolves, though they also use rocky terrain and their rough ground aura to hinder their enemies' ability to shift or move effectively.

Earth Wolf Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana check.
DC 15: Earth wolves hunt in packs like normal wolves, but even the smaller specimens are stronger and tougher than dire wolves.
DC 20: Larger earth wolf specimens cause the ground to crack and split around them, making the terrain treacherous. As creatures of earth, they still move normally.

Encounter Groups
Earth wolves are often found in the service of intelligent beings of elemental earth.
Level 8 Encounter (XP 1,850)
* 3 earth wolves (level 7 skirmisher)
* 1 galeb duhr rockcaller (level 11 controller)
* 1 galeb duhr earthbreaker (level 8 artillery)
Level 18 Encounter (XP 10,400)
* 2 dire earth wolves (level 19 soldier)
* 1 earth titan (level 16 elite brute)
* 8 ogre bludgeoneers (level 16 minion)
A monster writeup a day for a week was a more ambitious project than I gave it credit for at the beginning, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. Tomorrow, the grand finale: find out what the heck was that?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Monster Week at the Near TPK - the Bandersnatch

I don't know why I think this creature leaped out of a Lewis Carroll poem. I just do.

Another day or so remains to throw out some thoughts on the current "what the heck is that?" monster. I plan to post a fully statted version Thursday. I hope "What the heck is that?" gets enough response to be worth making it a weekly feature around here, so if you like it, go comment on it.
Bandersnatch
Bandersnatches are fearsome beasts shunned by beamish boys. They lurk in dark forests, ready to snatch and eat bankers and other travelers.

Level 2 Soldier
Fuming Bandersnatch
XP 125
Medium natural beast (reptile)
Initiative +5 Senses Perception +7
HP 40; Bloodied 20
AC 18; Fortitude 16, Reflex 14, Will 13
Speed 8 (10 while charging)
mBite (standard; at-will)
+9 vs. AC; 1d8 + 4 damage, and the target is marked until the end of the fuming bandersnatch’s next turn.
MTail Sting (standard; at-will)
+9 vs. AC; 1d6 + 4 damage, and the fuming bandersnatch makes a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary Attack: +7 vs. Fortitude; the target takes ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends).
MExtended Bite (standard; recharge 6)
Reach 2; +9 vs. AC; 2d8 + 4 damage, and the target is marked until the end of the fuming bandersnatch’s next turn.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Perception +7
Str 18 (+5) Dex 15 (+3) Wis 12 (+2)
Con 16 (+4) Int 3 (-3) Cha 12 (+2)

Fuming Bandersnatch Tactics
Fuming bandersnatches charge fearlessly into combat, trying to reach and bite their weakest enemies with extended bite as often as possible.

Level 8 Skirmisher
Furious Bandersnatch
XP 350
Large natural beast (reptile)
Initiative +11 Senses Perception +11
HP 90; Bloodied 45
AC 23; Fortitude 21, Reflex 22, Will 19
Speed 8 (10 while charging)
mBite (standard; at-will)
+13 vs. AC; 2d8 + 4 damage.
MTail Sting (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +13 vs. AC; 1d8 + 4 damage, and the furious bandersnatch makes a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary Attack: +11 vs. Fortitude; the target takes ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends).
MExtended Bite (standard; recharge 5 6)
Reach 3; +13 vs. AC; 3d8 + 4 damage.
CFurious Bite (free, when first bloodied; encounter)
Close burst 2; targets enemies; +11 vs. AC; 2d8 + 4 damage.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Perception +11
Str 18 (+8) Dex 20 (+9) Wis 15 (+6)
Con 18 (+8) Int 3 (+0) Cha 12 (+5)

Furious Bandersnatch Tactics
Furious bandersnatches charge fearlessly into combat, trying to reach and bite their weakest enemies with extended bite as often as possible.

Level 12 Elite Skirmisher
Frumious Bandersnatch
XP 1,400
Huge natural beast (reptile)
Initiative +14 Senses Perception +11
HP 248; Bloodied 124
AC 29; Fortitude 25, Reflex 28, Will 21
Saving Throws +2
Speed 8 (10 while charging)
Action Points 1
mBite (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +17 vs. AC; 3d6 + 4 damage.
MTail Sting (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +17 vs. AC; 1d8 + 4 damage, and the frumious bandersnatch makes a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary Attack: +15 vs. Fortitude; the target takes ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends).
MFrenzy (standard; at-will)
The frumious bandersnatch makes a bite and tail sting attack.
MExtended Bite (standard; recharge 5 6)
Reach 4; +17 vs. AC; 4d6 + 4 damage.
CFrumious Bite (free, when first bloodied; encounter)
Close burst 3; targets enemies; +15 vs. AC; 3d6 + 4 damage.
MTail Strike (immediate reaction, when an enemy moves to a position where it flanks the frumious bandersnatch; at-will)
Make a tail sting attack against that enemy.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Perception +14
Str 18 (+10) Dex 22 (+12) Wis 16 (+9)
Con 20 (+11) Int 3 (+2) Cha 12 (+7)

Frumious Bandersnatch Tactics
Frumious bandersnatches charge fearlessly into combat, trying to reach and bite their weakest enemies with extended bite as often as possible, and using frenzy until it recharges.

Bandersnatch Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Nature check.
DC 15: Bandersnatches are fast-moving predators with snapping jaws and necks that can extend to help them grab prey.
DC 20: The frumious bandersnatch fights by thrashing wildly with its bite and poisonous stinger. The stinger is used to defend against anyone trying to surround it.

Encounter Groups
An indiscriminate predator, a frumious bandersnatch hunts alone or with another of its kind. No creature is safe in a bandersnatch’s hunting grounds.
Some powerful evil humanoid races capture and train bandersnatches, though the creatures must be raised from birth to accept a master.
Level 10 Encounter (XP 2,600)
* 1 furious bandersnatch (level 8 skirmisher)
* 1 ogre warhulk (level 11 elite brute)
* 3 ogre savages (level 8 brute)
Level 12 Encounter (XP 3,500)
* 2 frumious bandersnatches (level 12 elite skirmisher)
* 1 feygrove choker (level 12 lurker)
Whew. Three variants. 'Twas brillig.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monster Week at the Near TPK - the Cave Angler

Today's monster looks like something you could actually find in the depths of the ocean, but adventurers don't spend a lot of time in the depths of the ocean. Fortunately, in D&D, it's not hard to picture this thing floating around beholder-style...

Another couple days remain to throw out some thoughts on the current "what the heck is that?" monster. I plan to post a fully statted version Thursday. I hope "What the heck is that?" gets enough response to be worth making it a weekly feature around here, so if you like it, go comment on it.
Cave Angler
Cave anglers are voracious flying predators that use a lure to trick prey into easy bite range.

Level 2 Lurker
Cave Angler
XP 125
Large aberrant beast (blind)
Initiative +7Senses Perception +2; blindsight 10
HP 32; Bloodied 16
AC 16; Fortitude 15, Reflex 14, Will 13
Speed fly 4 (hover)
mBite (standard; at-will)
+6 vs. AC; 1d10 + 3 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). The cave angler cannot make bite attacks while grabbing a creature, but it can use gnashing teeth.
MGnashing Teeth (standard; at-will)
If a cave angler begins its turn with a grabbed target, it makes an attack against the grabbed creature: +6 vs. AC; 2d10 + 3 damage. Miss: Half damage.
CDistracting Lure (minor; at-will)
Close blast 3; blind creatures are immune; +2 vs. Will; the target slides 2 squares.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Stealth +8
Str 17 (+4) Dex 14 (+3) Wis 12 (+2)
Con 14 (+3) Int 2 (-3) Cha 8 (+0)

Cave Angler Tactics
Cave anglers use distracting lure every round to move a chosen target close and keep its allies away.
Level 10 Controller
Dire Cave Angler
XP 500
Huge aberrant beast
Initiative +8Senses Perception +2; blindsight 10
HP 106; Bloodied 53
AC 24; Fortitude 23, Reflex 22, Will 21
Speed fly 4 (hover)
mBite (standard; at-will)
+15 vs. AC; 2d6 + 5 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). The dire cave angler cannot make bite attacks while grabbing a creature, but it can use gnashing teeth.
MGnashing Teeth (standard; at-will)
If a dire cave angler begins its turn with a grabbed target, it makes an attack against the grabbed creature: +15 vs. AC; 3d6 + 5 damage. Miss: Half damage.
CDistracting Lure (minor; at-will)
Close blast 5; blind creatures are immune; +11 vs. Will; the target slides 3 squares.
MSwallow (standard; at-will)
The dire cave angler attempts to swallow a bloodied Medium or smaller creature it is grabbing; +14 vs. Fortitude; on a hit, the target is swallowed and restrained (no save) and takes 10 damage on subsequent rounds at the start of the cave angler’s turn. The swallowed creature can make melee basic attacks only, and only with one-handed or natural weapons. If the dire cave angler dies, any creature trapped in the gullet can escape as a move action, ending that action in a square formerly occupied by the cave angler.
CBlinding Flash (when first bloodied and again when the dire cave angler is reduced to 0 hit points)
Close burst 3; +11 vs. Fortitude; the target is blinded (save ends).
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Stealth +13
Str 21 (+10) Dex 17 (+8) Wis 15 (+7)
Con 18 (+9) Int 2 (+1) Cha 12 (+6)

Dire Cave Angler Tactics
A dire cave angler uses the same tactics as the cave angler with one exception: It attempts to swallow a foe at the first opportunity.

Cave Angler Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Dungeoneering check.
DC 15: Cave anglers are strange underground predators that entice travelers to approach with illuminated lures.
DC 20: Larger specimens emit blinding flashes from their lures when hurt or killed.

Encounter Groups
Cave anglers often lurk near other underdark hunters, seeking to draw single targets away during the confusion of combat.
Level 2 Encounter (XP 625)
* 1 cave angler (level 2 lurker)
* 2 kruthik young (level 2 brute)
* 8 kruthik hatchlings (level 2 minion)
Level 10 Encounter (XP 2,500)
* 1 dire cave angler (level 10 controller)
* 2 chuul (level 10 soldier)
* 2 venom-eye basilisks (level 10 artillery)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Monster Week at the Near TPK - the Bloodvine

There just aren't enough plants in the 4e Monster Manual, so here's one to chill your PCs' blood... the bloodvine.

Also, there's still time to brainstorm on this week's "what the heck is that?" monster.
Bloodvine
Bloodvines are carnivorous plants that feed on the blood of their victims, storing it in their thick red leaves.

Level 2 Brute
Bloodvine Thrasher
XP 125
Medium natural animate (plant)
Initiative +3 Senses Perception +2; tremorsense 5
HP 47; Bloodied 23
AC 14; Fortitude 15, Reflex 14, Will 13
Speed 2
mThrash (standard; at-will)
+5 vs. AC; 1d10 + 3 damage.
MBloodsucking Grab (standard; at-will) * Healing
Requires combat advantage; +5 vs. AC; the target is grabbed and takes ongoing 5 damage (until escape). Also, the bloodvine thrasher regains 5 hit points.
Bloodlust
The bloodvine thrasher gains a +1 bonus to attack rolls and a +1 bonus to damage rolls against bloodied enemies.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Stealth +8
Str 17 (+4) Dex 14 (+3) Wis 12 (+2)
Con 17 (+4) Int 3 (-3) Cha 10 (+1)

Bloodvine Tactics
Bloodvine thrashers lash out mindlessly, striking at random targets unless they have combat advantage, in which case they use bloodsucking grab.
Level 7 Lurker
Bloodvine Hunter
XP 300
Large natural animate (plant)
Initiative +10 Senses Perception +5; tremorsense 5
HP 67; Bloodied 33
AC 21; Fortitude 20, Reflex 19, Will 18
Speed 2
mThrash (standard; at-will)
+12 vs. AC; 2d6 + 5 damage.
MBloodsucking Grab (standard; at-will) * Healing
Requires combat advantage; +12 vs. AC; the target is grabbed and takes ongoing 5 damage (until escape). Also, the bloodvine hunter regains 5 hit points.
Reactive Stealth
If a bloodvine hunter has cover or concealment when it makes an initiative check at the start of an encounter, it can make a Stealth check to escape notice.
Blend With Foliage
When a bloodvine hunter makes a melee attack from hiding and misses, it is still considered to be hiding.
Bloodlust
The bloodvine hunter gains a +1 bonus to attack rolls and a +2 bonus to damage rolls against bloodied enemies.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Stealth +11
Str 18 (+7) Dex 16 (+6) Wis 14 (+5)
Con 19 (+7) Int 5 (+0) Cha 10 (+3)
Bloodvine Hunter Tactics
A bloodvine hunter tries to stay concealed with blend with foliage for as long as possible or until its bloodsucking grab succeeds.

Bloodvine Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Nature check.
DC 15: Bloodvines are nearly mindless bloodsucking plants.
DC 20: Large specimens are smarter than the smaller ones, often lying in wait until just the right moment to attack.

Encounter Groups
Bloodvines are often planted in groves near the lairs of evil humanoids, who feed them enough to keep them alive but hungry, so they become living traps. They have also been known to share the same hunting grounds as shambling mounds and vine horrors.
Level 2 Encounter (XP 600)
* 2 bloodvine thrashers (level 2 brute)
* 1 kobold wyrmpriest (level 3 artillery)
* 1 kobold dragonshield (level 2 soldier)
* 1 kobold slinger (level 1 artillery)
Level 7 Encounter (XP 1,600)
* 1 bloodvine hunter (level 7 lurker)
* 1 vine horror (level 5 controller)
* 1 vine horror spellfiend (level 7 artillery)
* 2 shambling mounds (level 9 brute)
That's a high end 7th level encounter full of plants that grab PCs and eat them, so be careful with that one. I suspect you could turn a near TPK into the real deal with it.