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Party Up: Friends vs Monsters, and Life

Do you ever feel alone? Do you feel like the world’s too much, and it’s banging on the door, trying to get you? I sometimes feel that way.

When that happens, it’s a struggle to stop my gloom-and-doom thought train and change my perspective. Recently, it was my RPG publisher friends who helped me see things differently. So, I want to talk about those friends and I want to give you a light to hold onto when things get rough.

When the Going Gets Tough, Collaborate

I reached out to a few indie RPG developers and asked if they’d join me on a bundle. The Hidden Indie RPG Treasures Bundle is available on DriveThruRPG, right now, until the end of February. I’m mentioning it now and again at the end of this post only, so the marketing is clear for you to see. Anyway, I had a great response from those friends and we made a neat little collection of indie RPG games.

I’m mentioning the collaboration because it provided a healthy change of perspective.

Toughen Up, RPG Creator

The perspective I’ve had for a long time is a warped idea of what success in the industry means. You can’t get a true sense of where you stand in the industry without friends to help you gauge it.

It’s important to understand the context here. Many of us do what we do with limited resources. We use our free time, our own money, and our sweat equity to make games. We’re passionate about the hobby, and that drives us. But it’s hard competing against bigger companies like Wizards of the Coast for those RPG dollars. If you don’t have a hit RPG title or a large social media presence, then it’s hard to get eyes on your work. Even professional, high-quality work can be ignored. Burnout is a real threat because of that. We work hard but don’t always see recognition for that effort. It can become a depressing, black hole.

Anybody, no matter what they do, might be a step away from that deep, dark abyss. Watch the news, suffer a string of bad luck, get hit with unexpected financial pressure, and the cracks start to show. Part of the issue is a false sense of the truth. Essentially, thinking we’re not good enough is a result of a foggy perception of reality.

Reaching out is incredibly hard for me to do. I’m a busy introvert. I spend a lot of time chatting with friends online, but these interactions are often superficial. The medium is restrictive. Those conversations seldom touch base with reality. That changes when friends are struggling with the same thing, like how to market an indie RPG bundle. Working together, we challenged our perceptions. We could better perceive the truth, but only together.

Perspective

I realized that Rising Phoenix wasn’t as insignificant as I thought we were. We could help guys with a handful of titles because we have a bucket-load of titles. We also saw how each effort brought in a few extra sales. Without data (or friends with experience) it’s hard to anticipate what sort of sales we might get, which leads to frustration if those sales seem lower than we hoped for.

There’s a Biblical aspect to this worth considering. In Galatians 6 verse 2 (that’s in the New International Version for this and the rest), Paul says: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” If you draw this back to Jesus’s words of “love one another” (John 13:34) and then further back to the 10 Commandments’ “Love your neighbour” (Leviticus 19:18) then it’s clear: we should help people.

I have no scientific research confirming what we gain from helping others, but my experience has been that it’s good to step into a leaking boat with someone. Struggling together sharpens a person and helps us see the same problem from different sides.

I’m just a dude trying to make great games and figure out this crazy thing called life, and those are my two cents. I hope it’s a useful idea for you to think about.

The Hidden Indie RPG Treasures Bundle

Now, let’s talk about that bundle one last time. Our goal is to make 50 sales. That boosts overall sales since customers are more likely to buy a best-selling title, and 50 sales gives you a Copper Best-Seller badge. With roughly nine days left, we currently need another 31 sales to hit that goal. Please consider telling a friend about the bundle. Ask them to tell their friends about it too. That’ll help us in the greatest way possible.

Here’s a copy of Road to Rhune, at rogue prices (free), to help you get the bundle even cheaper.

Get the Hidden Indie RPG Treasures Bundle on DriveThruRPG today. Sale ends end of Feb.

Banner: Welcome to the Wasteland! Fallout the Roleplaying Game from Modiphius Entertainment available @ DriveThruRPG.com

Ectoplasmic Elemental: an Avatar of Undeath

Tombstones rip out of the ground, then twist through the air, trailing green flame. Out of the ethereal vortex rises an ectoplasmic elemental that screams through the dislocated skull of a long-dead giant.

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Cleanup on aisle nine! We’re back to ectoplasm again, and there’s a lot of it.

Ghostbusters News on Twitter: "Alright, who stained the ...
(Image source)

Eeek, an Ectoplasm Elemental!

Tombstones rip out of the ground, then twist through the air, trailing green flame. Out of the ethereal vortex rises an ectoplasmic hulk that screams through the dislocated skull of a long dead giant.

Ectoplasmic elementals are the focus of powerful necromantic energies that draw in souls, creating a towering avatar of soul-matter, or ectoplasm. Such a creature is the essence of unlife, raw necrotic energy so powerful that it leeches the souls of the living nearby.

Battlefields and mass graves might provide the raw material for an ectoplasmic elemental to materialize, but it requires a dark ritual or grim series of events to initiate the process. This event cuts off the souls’ path to the afterlife, locking the souls on the Material Plane. Forced to manifest in some form, these souls might take on any of a myriad of ghostly forms. However, if the concentration of ectoplasm is strong enough, then an ectoplasmic elemental is likely to form.

Ectoplasmic Elemental stat block

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Ectoplasmic elementals are brutes, built for close combat. If you’re looking for something to support them, look for good ranged options, or keep the ranged characters in the party busy with some ectoplasmic swarms. Tight dungeons can also cut down on line of sight, and let your avatar of undeath deal with a few characters at a time.

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Festrog — A CR 4 Undead for D&D 5e

Bounding on long, scabrous gray limbs, this creature looks like a twisted, reanimated corpse with glowing white eyes. The festrog is a CR 4 Undead that hunts in packs and loves to terrorize its prey.

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The Undersea Sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5e is a collection of player and GM options for running ocean-themed adventures. Subscribe for free weekly sea monsters and monthly encounters.

Over these three weeks, we’ve got three undead creatures, two of which are themed around ectoplasm. The festrog, though, is type of ghoul, making it a perfect addition to encounters with ghasts, ghouls, or other festrogs.

Festrogs: Fast, Festering Hunters

Hundreds of tiny green flames surge forward, each clawing the air with flickering fingers.

Bounding on long, scabrous gray limbs, this creature looks like a twisted, reanimated corpse with glowing white eyes.

Festrogs are bestial ghouls, created when a corpse is desecrated or embued with terrifying amounts of negative energy. Although their basic anatomy is humanoid, festrogs run on all fours, using their elongated limbs to make loping strides. Festrogs are also known as rotdogs and zombie dogs, though they aren’t zombies at all.

Terrible circumstances spawn every festrog, and the hurt and horror that birthed them fuels their unlife. This is best seen in how Festrogs, which are skilled pack hunters, toy with their prey. Often they will separate one creature from its group, injure it, then harry it for days until it finally dies of exhaustion. The pack then mutilates the corpse too, a torment that is often enough to raise the unfortunate creature as a festrog itself.

Festrogs are not natural swimmers, but their doggedness means they’ll pursue prey even through the darkest depths. Sometimes merfolk corpses become festrogs, and these are powerful swimmers with tails lines with protruding bone.

 

Festrog a CR 4 Undead for D&D 5e

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Festrogs are all about mobility and speed. Think undead velociraptors.

If you enjoyed this monster, consider buying one of our bestselling books. We appreciate the support!


Flaming Ectoplasmic Swarm for D&D 5e

Hundreds of tiny green flames surge forward, each clawing the air with flickering fingers. Add this CR 3 undead incorporeal ectoplasmic swarm to your next adventure to challenge your players.

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The Undersea Sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5e is a collection of player and GM options for running ocean-themed adventures. Subscribe for free weekly sea monsters and monthly encounters.

Over the next three weeks, we’ve got three undead creatures, two of which are themed around ectoplasm. Ectoplasm might be described as life-essence, a residue left by creatures that have crossed between the Mortal Realm and the Realm of Death. Slimer from Ghostbusters is the best example of an ectoplasmic creature from popular culture. That slime is pure ectoplasm.

Eery Ectoplasmic Swarm Fiends

Hundreds of tiny green flames surge forward, each clawing the air with flickering fingers.

Ectoplasmic swarms appear as green flames, with darker flames within that seem to function as eyes and mouths. Their shape is roughly humanoid, with legs and arms ending in flickering claws. Besides these features, they are otherwise featureless and transparent.

Necromancy is usually at the root of an ectoplasmic swarm’s appearance, though they can form wherever a large concentration of departed souls is present. Although tiny, swarms of these flamelike creatures can quickly suck the life out of the living.

Animated ectoplasm seeks to devour souls, which sustain it and gives it a collective memory drawn from all the lives it has consumed. Drawing information out of the ectoplasm, usually through a seance, is difficult because of the mob of souls present. However, if the paranormalist can bring order to the discord, the souls can provide many insights from their collective memory.

 

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Ectoplasmic swarms are tough to kill because they’re incorporeal and have the normal resistances of a swarm. Give your players access to holy water and a chance to figure out the swarm’s weakness, otherwise this could be a tough slog.

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That Obelisk Just Moved! — D&D Monster

The immense stone obelisk begins to shake, rising up out of the ground on four large tentacles. Eyes blink into existence along the stone’s pitted surface, then focus with a gaze full of rage and arcane power.

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The Undersea Sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5e is a collection of player and GM options for running ocean-themed adventures. Subscribe for free weekly sea monsters and monthly encounters.

Recently, our subscribers got a look at an altered Atlantean who was siphoning power from an arcane obelisk. In an earlier adventure, the party discovered another monument that bore signs of experimentation. These stone monoliths could be… “important”.

Magic, Unleashed

The immense stone obelisk begins to shake, rising up out of the ground on four large tentacles. Eyes blink into existence along the stone’s pitted surface, then focus with a gaze full of rage and arcane power.

Arcane obelisks are potent magical nodes that anchor and channel arcane energy. Sometimes, the arcane bindings focused within the obelisk unravel, and the obelisk is transformed. An awakened obelisk is such a creature, unleashed magical energy rippling along a massive chunk of carved stone.

Destroying the manifestation of unleashed magic is difficult, since every broken chunk still possesses a fraction of untethered magical essence. These smaller chunks are often less powerful but mutable, spawning a myriad of new forms. Representative of these forms are the large scorpiolisk and smaller, humanoid arkanshard. It’s possible that recombining these smaller subforms could rebuild the obelisk, but only an intricate ritual can rebind the magical threads to restore the obelisk to its original form.

Awakened Obelisk — Dungeons & Dragons Monster

 

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The awakened obelisk is part of a set, so using him with the upcoming scorpiolisk and arkanshard is a good idea. You could also change the lore and have an evil mage going around town, turning monuments into monsters.

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Mad Goblin Gasers Join Your D&D Game

Goblins love mayhem. Add chemicals and things get even crazier, as these little misfits unlock the power of deadly gases. Dungeons & Dragons meets unhinged chemists riding bubble blimps with the latest addition to the Undersea Sourcebook. Bring on the goblin gaser!

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The Undersea Sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5e is a collection of player and GM options for running ocean-themed adventures. Subscribe for free weekly sea monsters and monthly encounters.

Two weeks ago we looked at the PIP, a friendly automaton powered by the arcane. Then we looked at the altered Atlanteans who built them. Next week, these guys and our gaser goblins feature in their own adventure, so be sure to subscribe and not miss out!

Gas, Gas, Gas!

Small metal canisters clatter to the floor around you, billowing green gas. Through the smoke a large bubble floats into view, a goblin grinning at you from within.

Goblin can be oddly resourceful, especially when causing mayhem. The first goblin gaser’s probably acquired a stock of alchemical reagents, and, in true goblin fashion, accidentally produced powerful mutagens. These mutagens gave the goblins an above-average intelligence (for goblins), which catapulted them down a path of further alchemical study.

What is now the Gassy Guts tribe were always known for their luck, a strange curse that made them a bane of the coastal towns within their territory. A stray arrow shot by a Gaser might ricochet off a shield to find its target, a trap’s mechanism might inadvertently throw a gaser out of the way of a falling blade, or a botched lockpicking attempt might detach the entire lock from the door. That’s everyday life for Gasers.

The increased intellect of the goblin gasers hasn’t increased their caution. Instead, they’re more likely to try bolder, deadlier schemes than their relatives. Other goblins might have shunned them if this was not the case, but instead they look up to the Gasers in awe. Who else could come up with such cunning plans?

Besides alchemy, Gasers have a special affinity for obscure clockwork devices, and this has motivated them to plunder old Atlantean depths in search of greater inventions to repurpose for their own maniacal needs.

Gasser Goblin Dive Bubble

 

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Gaser goblin dive bubbles are all about limiting the party’s ability to do damage. If they can fly above the party, out of reach, then they’re absolutely lethal.  So, consider how your players are equipped and give them interesting options to deal with the dive bubbles, like lightning arrows. A hit-and-run style encounter could be a good way to introduce the gasers and prepare the party for a full encounter. Have fun!

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This D&D Monster Rebuilt Its Own Brain!

Frankenstein’s monster got his from someone else, but the reconstituted Atlantean took out its own brain to become smarter. This Dungeons & Dragons monster is a psychic powerhouse that you can drop into your own D&D campaign.

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The Undersea Sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5e is a collection of player and GM options for running ocean-themed adventures. Subscribe for free weekly sea monsters and monthly encounters, right in your inbox.

Last week we looked at the PIP, a friendly automaton powered by the arcane. But who built it?  The answer is ominous.

Remade By My Own Hand

Alien and predatory, this lanky creature towers above you on slimy green tendrils. A single large eye scrutinizes the world about, while its feathery green feelers radiate psychic energy.

Reconstituted Atlantean
A sinewy creature appears out of the dark, towering above you on slimy tendrils.

When old Atlantis dropped into the sea, some Atlanteans fled, many died, but a lucky few survived. Their salvation proved to be their great inventions, complex machines powered by arcane energy. Some, however, turned instead to forbidden knowledge rather than artifacts. These insane few modified their bodies, recreating themselves in order to survive the cold ocean depths. They are the reconstituted Atlanteans, creatures with superpowered intellects bent on manipulating their flesh for constant improvement.

Reconstituted Atlanteans believe that they are the epitome of Atlantean society, the pinnacle of Atlantean potential that emerged from the disaster that destroyed Atlantis. There are far fewer of them than unmodified Atlanteans, though, and often they are driven out of Atlantean society by the saner majority. Some, however, have created great empires of Atlantean worshipers, or subdued other sea-nations and bent them to their will.

Reconstituted Atlanteans unlocked their latent psychic powers during their obscene experiments. Their psychic abilities generally lack finesse as of yet, though that makes them no less dangerous and their grasp of their power is likely to increase greatly. The Reconstitutes are, after all, stubborn and willing to go to great lengths for power. Anyone who doubts their resolve should remember that they once removed their own brains to unlock their fullest mental capabilities.

Reconstituted Atlantean D&D Monster

 

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Okay, so, if the Retconned Atlanteans made, or at least used the PIPs, I think we have some idea where the next free adventure might take us. I’m imagining the PCs arrive at a sunken lab, deep within a sunken city. There they meet a PIP that leads them to its master, who’s looking for more brains to pick.

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PIP, PIP, Hooray! A D&D Automaton

Meet the PIP, or Perambulatory Incantation Peon, a magical automaton for your Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Beep bop boop!

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The Undersea Sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5e is a collection of player and GM options for running ocean-themed adventures. Subscribe for free weekly sea monsters and monthly encounters, right in your inbox.

Last month we looked at mincies, sharken pirates, and the rainbow hags’ hair anemone. This week we thought your players might need a friend.

Beep, Beep, Boop!

The Perambulatory Incantation Peon, or PIP, looks like an iron spider. It has four tracked legs and a wand protruding like a nose from a socket below its bulbous glass eyes. It has a large metal tank for an abdomen that contains most of its working parts and its complex machine brain.

PIP Dungeons & Dragons Monster

The first PIPs were built as helpful automatons by Atlantean mages, who later gave them arcane-fueled sentience. Since then, PIPs have been able to build more of their kind, even improving on their initial design. PIPs remain useful and friendly, and often seem childlike in their innocence. This illusion is only broken when the PIPs’ iron loyalty is tested, as they are fearsome defenders of their friends and masters.

Each PIP draws power from a wand that it carries in a specially designed socket. While PIPs are usually careful to never expend their wands, sometimes dire circumstances mean that they must. A PIP without a charged wand powers down until its wand regains charges again.

PIP D&D Monster

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PIPs are versatile NPCs that you can use to help your party or the big bad guy. Because of their modes, they’re useful in many situations, but can easily be taken out of combat with a successful Dexterity check to yank their wand away. Put some thought into how you’ll use them and they’ll be a lot of fun.


Rainbow Hag’s Hair — Undersea Monster

Meet the rainbow hag’s hair anemone. This psychedelic hippie of the sea is a man-eating anemone with a tentacle attack and a toothy mouth, ready to swallow heroes in one gulp. Let’s check out this new Dungeons & Dragons 5e monster.

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The Undersea Sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5e is a collection of player and GM options for running ocean-themed adventures. Subscribe for free weekly sea monsters and monthly encounters, right in your inbox.

Last week we looked at the mincy, and this week we’ve got a giant sea anemone with rainbow-colored tentacles. It’s a tentacular spectacular!

Giant Anemone

Hag’s hair anemones are a giant sub-species of sea anemones known for their long, tangling tentacles that resemble the hair of a hag. These creatures inhabit anywhere from shallow tidal pools to the depths of the ocean and are dangerous predators capable of taking large prey.

Hag’s hair anemones are hardy. They can be found at all depths, in all conditions, including drying tidal pools or the deepest, dark trenches of the ocean’s hadalpelagic zone. Here the intense water pressure would crush most unadapted creatures, but the hag hair thrives still. Although they prefer large prey, they can survive well enough on a diet of small creatures, making them patient predators too.

Rainbow Hag’s Hair

This giant anemone’s tentacles pulse hypnotically with psychedelic colors, enticing you closer. 

Rainbow hag’s hair is a giant sea anemone that, unlike its smaller relatives, travels frequently. It rides currents, attaches itself to ships or large creatures, and bobs along on storm-tossed waves to find new hunting grounds. Rare, and widely dispersed, they are often a tantalizing find for the few who will ever discover one. The rainbow hag’s hair uses this and its color-changing tentacles to lure in a meal.

Although showy in full display, the rainbow hag’s hair is adept at camouflaging itself in any terrain. Its habit is to wait for a single creature to pass nearby, then reveal itself and entice the meal closer. Then it attacks, consuming the prey whole and leaving no trace before it moves on again.

Rainbow Hag's Hair Monster for Dungeons & Dragons

There are other forms of giant anemones in the perilous depths. What other kinds of giant anemones can you imagine? Let us know in the comments.


The Mincy — Undersea Sourcebook Monster

All mouth and stomach, the mincy masher is a tiny aberration that’s terrorizing the ocean’s currents. Let’s take a look at this bite-sized D&D monster.

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The Undersea Sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons 5e is a collection of player and GM options for running ocean-themed adventures. Subscribe for free weekly sea monsters and monthly encounters, right in your inbox.

Last week subscribers visited the Crystal Caves for adventure #1. Now that we’re in February, we have three new monsters (including the mincies) and adventure #2 in the works. Don’t miss out, subscribe.

Mincy

This tiny disk-shaped creature is nothing but a ring of sharp teeth spinning around a miniature black hole. With an insatiable appetite and the ability to consume anything, mincies are a minute menace that plague the deeps.

Mincy mashers, or mincies, have a rudimentary physiology adapted to consuming anything that fits within their small mouths. Sharp teeth, a hard shell, and a sensory organ that allows it to see rotate around a miniature black hole — the mincy’s digestive system. Scholars have proposed that anything that enters a mincy must end up somewhere, but the total oblivion of the matter is more likely. How this sustains the mincy is unknown, though it has been recorded that the black hole winks out of existence when a mincy dies.

Mincies are usually solitary hunters, but can gather in great numbers when food is plentiful in an area. They often congregate in powerful currents, where they pull water and anything else through themselves to remain stationary. They care little about anything other than eating, and even reproduce by consuming each other.

Most intelligent undersea creatures hate mincy mashers, which they refer to as floating stomachs, and will drive them off or kill them if they can. Sahuagin play a cruel game with mincies, in which players attach these creatures to their skin in turns, to see who can withstand the pain the longest.

Mincy — Undersea Monster 4

 

Are you interested in knowing what inspired the mincy? This photo of an arctic lamprey and talking about portable holes and bags of holding.