Wednesday, July 2, 2014

[Midweek Mash-Up] Apes, Belkers, Carbuncles, and Dragonnels, Oh My!

It’s been a couple of busy days, so this is a bit of a delayed article. Fortunately, it has a bit of everything… monsters and magic from around the Olden Land… it even has a few small charts. So here are the ABC and D’s of a few monsters of the Olden Lands.

The Olden Lands Map Pack includes a complete listing of major (and many minor) monsters encounter in the Olden Lands and where they are generally located, so you can find out more about the monsters of the Olden Lands in that PDF.

First up, we have the Great Apes found in the Olden Land – the Chimpanzees and Gorillas; their close relatives the Man-Eating Apes, the Dakon, and the Giant Apes; and Albino Apes and White Apes. Orangutans are not found in the Olden Lands; they are native to the islands of the Far West, beyond the Purple Plains and Deshret, and are only rarely encountered in the Olden Lands, usually in menageries or in service to a Western sorcerer. Also, Albino Apes and White Apes will be dealt with another time, as they have little in common with the other Ape groups. And of course, Humans and the Demihuman and Humanoid races all, according to various sages and sorcerers, are distant relatives of these creatures, as the common theory is that the Elder Titans adopted the more successful and widespread proto-Human Ape-like ancestors of these races as their servants.

Most Great Apes are found exclusively in the South; Chimpanzees and Gorillas are native to the Isle of Apes and Mandayan, though a few are found on the various other islands of the Sea of Steam. Once their range was far greater, into Eosha, Kryx, and even Deshret, but in the last few ages these populations were crowded out and exterminated by encroaching Human and Humanoid groups. Chimpanzees and Gorillas of the Olden Lands are more intelligent than their real-world counterparts (Intelligence 8), likely due to evolutionary stress and the direct intervention of deific powers. The Isle of Apes, quite naturally, is their remaining heartland; here it is said that they are protected by their very own deity, the Ape God, though no living man has ever claimed to have seen him with his own eyes. It is on this island that the Dakon, an intelligent race of Apes, can be found, serving the Ape God as acolytes.

Man-Eating Apes, distant cousins of the Chimpanzees, are aberrations of evolution or magic, though not Chaos-magic, as such. Their great size and ferocity is often due to long generations of isolation and inbreeding, combined with being hunted or abused by nearby Human or Humanoid groups. As the common Chimpanzees are more intelligent than real-world counterparts, so the Man-Eating Apes are usually (though not always) also more intelligent, up to and including Human levels of intelligence, including the ability to speak or at least sign. Some of the more isolated groups have developed a full culture, complete with tools, weapons, armor, and architecture, or borrowed such from the nearby Human and Humanoid peoples. Those found in the Yasdunn Jungles of Eosha have been known to fall under the influence of the White Apes of that land.

Giant Apes are rarest of all. These distant cousins of the gorillas, like the Man-Eating Apes, are aberrations, descended from isolated groups of Gorillas cast ashore on distant islands or trapped in rugged interior jungles. Towering creatures capable of fighting giants hand-to-hand, these beasts are, like their Gorilla cousins, usually peaceful, though quick to rage when they are troubled. They are often the objects of veneration and worship by the primitive tribes of Humans and Humanoids that live on their island homes.

These strange beasts are not native to the Olden Lands; they are not, in fact, native to this world at all. They fall under the wide and far-reaching rubric of “Cosmic” entities, being not of this world or the elemental fundamentals of this world, nor even of Chaos, but of something else entirely. Sages believe these creatures, made of pure ash and willpower, originate in the great clouds of depleted Stardust that surround the Stars Above. They are created by the passing thoughts of an Elder Titan or similar creature, which gives life and animation to the depleted Stardust.

These creatures must exist in great numbers in the Void Between the Stars, as there have been numerous reports of their falling from the Skies Above down to the World. There they are usually captured and grossly abused by wizards and sorcerers, or flee to some hidden place, where they live out their immortal lives in a pitiable fashion, alone and never able to return to their starry abode in the Void Above. Thus, though not of Chaos, they are hateful of all living things of this World, and though by preference would flee any encounter, of necessity often attack interlopers, seeking a surcease to their bebotherment.

If a belker is slain, its ashes can be used in scribing arcane spells in spell books and on scrolls, being used to create the ink. Every hit point worth of ash of a belker counts as 50 gp in value toward the cost of the scribing of a spell in a spell book or scroll.

The origins of these strange creatures are lost in the mists of time; sages speculate they may be descended from some sort of pet kept by the Titans in the Dawn Ages, while the clergy of the Gregorian Church believe them to be heralds of Chaos. Carbuncles are found on the islands of the Serene Sea and the Sunrise Isles; they can also be found from time to time along the shores of the Sunrise Sea, as they enjoy sneaking on ships to go exploring in the wider world.

Carbuncles of the Olden Lands can range from Small to Large size, with the rarer larger breeds having commensurately larger and more valuable gems; some are even magical in nature, though the creature has no ability to command the magic. Their gems are also variable in color and form; most are like rubies, but some are like sapphires, or emeralds, or opals, or other, rarer sorts. The carbuncle’s rugose skin is colored similarly, with gray or brown stripes, fading to grayish-white shades on the belly.

Though they are not innately Chaotic in nature, their one joy is causing chaos and confusion, sowing distrust and discord, and causing horrible tragic bloody battles and feuds. Though there is no evidence to suggest such, the superstitious believe that their gemstones are as dangerous as the creatures themselves, and bring with them a curse of chaos and discord. Thus the saying among common folk along the Serene Sea, that a person or thing “isn’t worth a carbuncle.” Superstitious peasants avoid those who openly possess or especially wear a gemstone known to be taken from a carbuncle.

* The gem, when soaked in a glass of wine for a day and a night, transforms the wine into a random potion. The potion is determined once when first acquired.
** D8: 1-3 Wizard, 4-5 Illusionist, 6-7 Clerical, 8 Druidic. Divide the carbuncle’s HD by the spell level and round up to determine how many times per day the spell can be used.

Dragonnels are found in great numbers on the Dragon Isles, and in lesser numbers in the Starcrag Peaks, the Dragon Hills in Aurlandia, and the Drachenfels in Gyrax. Dragonnels of the Olden Lands are little different in appearance than their more potent great dragon relations, save that they are smaller in general, more gracile of form, with smaller heads and longer snouts in proportion, and longer legs with smaller claws (note that dragons in the Olden Lands have four legs and two wings). Unlike true dragons, which favor a build more like that of the lizard crossed with the feline or canine, the build of the dragonnel is more along the lines of the lizard crossed with the horse; they stand tall rather than crouch near the ground. They are compared favorably in form as draconic pegasi, though there is no relation between the two creatures.

One in 36 are of superior sort, and possess a fiery breath attack, like but lesser than that of Draco Conflagratio Horriblis (the red dragon). Most are of animal intellect, though some of the greater sort can approach a human level of cunning. None has ever mastered spell-casting, though most have a dim intelligence and can understand complex commands, moreso than a horse, and the more intelligent can actually understand various languages and pantomime conversation. Unlike their chromatic dragon cousins, these creatures are not by nature of Chaotic sort, though most of the wild variety are inimical to Humans and Demihumans, having in the past been trained by or allied with various Humanoid races; plus, most humans cannot tell the difference between a dragon and a dragonnel, and thus they are more often hunted than sought as steeds.

Dragonnels come in a variety of chromatic colors, including not only the usual red, blue, green, black, and white, but also purple, yellow, orange, gray, and brown. Dragonnels born from a single clutch are all of the same color, or a mix of brown, gray, and one other color. There is also a breed, derived from the orange, which has a golden sheen; these were bred by the knights of Aurlandia for use as steeds by the Knights of the Golden Dragon; all such possess fiery breath. The gold dragon allies of the knights are not friendly with these, considering them to be little more than brutish beasts.

Dragonnel eggs can be sold at the appropriate markets for anywhere between 800 and 3,200 gp; hatchlings can be sold for twice as much. Most civilized lands and even many semi-barbarous ones severely restrict the sale and possession of live dragonnels; attempting to sell eggs or hatchlings on the open market can easily earn the wrath of the local authorities.


  1. Hmmm, I think you need more apes!

  2. Wait'll I write-up the Apes of the Midzee Lands of the Realms of Murikah! Got all SORTS of apes running around there...

    Maybe even almost enough to satiate your need for apes... :P