Friday, November 2, 2018

Fun on the Velvet Horizon: ANEMONE MEN

Buy it you animals

I bought this book RIGHT when it came out.

Since then I have put it on the shelf, taken it down and read it, and set it on my bedside table for months at a time. I cleaned my room and put it back on the shelf, then took it back down, put it on the bedside table to flip through, back up on the shelf, back and forth again and again. I'm sure I have read it through a half dozen times, but I still open it up and see things that I swear are brand new to me.

I have few complaints about this book: sometimes the text gets too close to the spine and I have to crack it open really hard to see a few words, and I don't want to wreck this thing because it's so nice. Many of the monsters are huge fucking bummers: their stories are tragic or they are just miserable assholes. I think many of these monsters will remain obscure to the players: I can't think of how I would communicate the bizarre histories these monsters have in their interactions with the PCs. Maybe I gotta work on my acting??

Instead of spending much time on a "review" about a book everyone knows is great, I thought in the best traditions of this and this, I'd go through and blurb about the monsters that interest me. I am not planning on being comprehensive with this or updating the series regularly. I'll focus on writing about monsters once I have used them in my own game. Maybe someone else can benefit from my experiences.


These guys are one of my favourites in the book, and I think they are damned near perfect just the way they are. They can live anywhere underground, so they already have a reason to be in the dungeon. I really like the "dangerous but non-aggressive" monster concept. It makes me feel a bit better to know not everything in the game world is a massive dick, and I can throw in something that isn't just there to pimp the PCs over but is still dangerous if they don't handle it properly.

I am using them as a living trap/barrier: something the players want is on the other side of these guys. 
Imagine trying to have a fight while both you and the enemy are endeavouring to be as quiet as possible, so as not to wake the anemone men like this:


"Damn it, shut up you stupid orc..." 


[Roll a Will save to avoid crying out when you get hurt. Penalty equal to HP damage dealt. How badly you fail equals how loud your scream is when the orc chops you in the guts with his rusty cleaver.]

When I used them in the game just recently, the strange dreamy questioning and squeaky voices definitely unnerved my players. They were asleep guarding a doorway and the PCs wanted to see what was on the other side. I would have mourned their deaths if they had been poisoned, but I gave them ample warning in the form of dead bodies nearby.

What made the setup cool is the PCs didn't fight them all. They passed the Anemone Men by distraction, but then they had to get back *out* of the dungeon with treasure on their backs. All those gold coins sloshing around in the chest provoked some nerve-racking stealth rolls! In the end, the players chopped up a Neanderthal's corpse and threw chunks of it to the sleepers who began chowing down, occupying their dangerous tendrils long enough for the adventurers to slip past.


Just like a normal reaction roll (table taken from my Labyrinth Lord book - I use these rolls even in Pathfinder), but modified by how quiet you've been. At the basic level, use your DEX in place of CHA. The result of this table will modify your players' stealth checks. Each result is twofold: how sleepy is the anemone man, and how will it feel if it wakes? Roll once and read across, or if you want more variety you could roll twice.

ROLL     Result
2              Like a baby. Very hard to wake [+2 stealth] / Disoriented, hungry and slow. 
3-5           Mmmm, food! Satisfied in the dream [+1 stealth] / Ready to catch & eat anything!
6-8           Dreams of distant lands and alien skies. / Confused, not sure which world is real.
9-11         Dreaming of the room it's in [-1 stealth] / Instantly notices anything amiss.
12            NIGHTMARES! Jumpy [-2 stealth] / Poisons the nearest stranger!


Next time a PC is poisoned to death in your game, play this:

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