Welcome to my second series of Monster-themed deep dives. In these posts, my son Xander (7) and I will dig down into the what’s good and great in the Fantasy AGE Bestiary. Each week you’ll see some original art from Xan alongside observations, plot hooks, and other miscellany about each creature.
The boy is starting to get into the remote schooling routine. That’s a load off my mind. The district that we’re in really worked their butts off to make this a quality experience for the kids.
Still, we’re in a part of California with a ton of wildfire smoke, so that made for an odd holiday weekend. We visited a friend who’s in our bubble, did a lot of story-telling games, and watched a few episodes of Eco-Challenge. All in all, it could have been worse.
Let’s Talk Monsters…
While I’ve never heard of it before, the Enchinemon has a whiff of the medieval bestiary about it. And with just a little digging my suspicions have been confirmed!
The creature this listing is based on, the Ichneumon, “enemy of dragons,” is a sly hunter. It buries itself in the mud, cleverly covering its nostrils with a well-positioned tail, so as to spring out and catch its prey unawares. It is also associated with the mongoose, another excellent ambush predator.
Since “Ichneumon” means tracker in Greek, I wonder if the current Perception of 1 for the Enchinemon is a typo. Surely a legendary stalking beast should have a Perception of 4 at least. If you want to catch the flavor of the material in the write-up, I’d definitely give the Enchinemon an upgrade.
I’m on a Boat!
The Duke’s pleasure barge is the stuff of legend—or infamy, depending on who you ask. Running water, heated grottos, taps that deliver liqueurs to lounging guests, and a handsome and “solicitous” crew make it the most desirable getaway in all the nine realms. Thanks to a propitious marriage with the daughter of the Merchants Guild, the Duke’s coffers rival, or exceed?, those of the Crown. And he’s spared no expense in the creation of his plaything. It’s widely rumored that even the washroom taps are made of platinum.
Of less renown, but no less expense, are the roaming pack of miniature Enchinemon that relentlessly hunt the rats below decks. As the Duke is fond of boasting, “there’s no cleaner ship in all world!”
But as with any expensive system… sometimes, things go wrong.
In an act of sabotage, someone has found a way to make these little Enchinemon bigger, and now they’re hungry, very hungry. It wouldn’t be such a problem, except the rampaging rat-catchers have chewed through the lines to the ship’s special boilers. Now she’s adrift, and getting up on deck to raise the backup sails hasn’t worked out so well…
Perhaps our heroes are on board for some R&R, expecting a little romance or political intrigue on the side. Maybe they were hired on as the personal guard for an increasingly panicked Duke. Or maybe they were already hot on the trail of the culprit, and now find themselves just a few steps behind. Whatever their involvement, the fate of the passengers and crew are now in their hands!
Whew, hats off (no pun intended) to the Green Ronin Gang for these. They are so creepy. I’m always amazed that Xander doesn’t get nightmares after seeing stuff like this. Little man has always had a taste for weird/grotesque imagery I never had at his age. (You can believe I’m careful about what I show him!) Anyway, these filled him with squirmy delight.
The Game of Crowns
After centuries of peaceful co-existence, two kingdoms have suffered through a decade of constant war. And what’s worse, no one can figure out why. The PCs are brought in by a desperate faction, or a minor noble, that suspects foul sorcery is at work. After some digging they discover that the monarchs on both sides of this bitter feud have been taken over by a pair of Eldritch Crowns. What’s worse, the crowns hate each other and are using the humans under their sway to fight a proxy war. And, worse still, they’ve probably done this before. The history of the region is littered with strange little feuds that have popped up out of nowhere, and laid low mighty houses.
How do the PCs investigate such highly-placed conspirators in secret? Will they be accused of sedition if they try to convince the generals involved that their leaders have been compromised? Can they get to (and convince!) the “better halves” of these monarchs that something is terribly wrong? Or will they risk a bold confrontation at court?
…And I’m All out of Bubblegum
The PCs have been trying for weeks to sell a trove of fancy goggles that they found in a dungeon delve. Problem is… they have no idea what they do. The most charismatic member of the party is pitching them “as the next big thing” at court. When she puts on the goggles to show what a lovely fashion statement they are, she’s startled to see half a dozen of the courtiers have hideous eldritch crowns embedded in their skulls. She quickly gets her friends out of there, but now they know the truth.
What do our heroes do?
Do they just run… and take their valuable Eldritch Crown detectors to another kingdom? Or is it already too late for that? Does it play out as a race against time… with the PCs trying to convince local allies of what’s going on, while well-paid assassins stalk them? Do the PCs try to get directly to the King and Queen to warn them of the conspiracy, or is one of them affected already? Or do the PCs become the hunters (à la The Boys) and start knocking off the crown-corrupted nobles one by one?
Xander’s drawing this week, I think!, is of a family of Earth elementals, happily at home in their dormant volcano. I think the dark-on-dark color scheme looks great. All in all I can see the techniques in his craft projects getting a lot more sophisticated as time goes by.
Anyway, here’s one more adventure hook to close us out…
The capital stinks.
Foul odors seep up from every drain and culvert… even the privies in the royal palace reek. The King has had enough, and has ordered the mayor to solve the problem (at least in his castle) under pain of death. The mayor quickly discovers that somehow there simply isn’t a department of sewers, that everything usually just works itself out down there.
Without city sanitation workers, the mayor turns to the next best thing: dungeon delvers! The PCs are offered a handsome reward and a week’s stay in the royal spa to clean up this mess of all messes. If they dig into the city records, they discover that a hundred years ago an enterprising mage made a deal with water elementals to pool the city’s waste deep underground, and fire elementals to burn it into a (non-smelly) ash that just floats away on the current.
Now the contract is up.
The elementals are on strike, and what can the poor PCs offer them that will get them working again? (The situation is explosive, literally, thanks to all the gases building up under the streets.) Can our heroes somehow bind them back to their work, or must they negotiate in good faith? What do they want that the King isn’t likely to give them? And how long can the citizenry stand the stench before they simply abandon home and hearth?
Things are looking up around here at the end of the holiday weekend… the largest fires in Northern California are mostly contained. Not hiking has been a bummer. That’s been a big outlet for us in COVID times, and we’re looking forward to getting back out there once the air clears…