I find that it’s easy to overlook the lower end of the monster power curve. I completely understand why: you want your monsters to be memorable and cool and dangerous, so anything that gets its own blog post feels like it needs to be at least 4HD or above, have a load of weird powers, and be really hard to kill. However, most encounters aren’t going to be boss fights. Vaarn needs some weaker creatures running around as well; in fact it arguably needs a deeper bench of weak creatures to make the stronger ones feel special.
With this in mind, today I’m going to invent a few creatures for the low end of the power scale, to bulk out encounter tables for starter PCs. The rules are simple: all these monsters must have 1HD, an Armour Defence of 12, and deal d6 damage. Everything else is up for grabs, so let’s see what we can come up with!
Nerve Crawler (Synthetic)
HD 1, Armour 12, Morale 10, Appearing d8
Attack: Nerve-lash (d6)
Victims of an insidious nanotech infestation, Nerve Crawlers are decaying human corpses whose neural pathways have been supplanted by a virulent nexus of silvery nano-nerves. These revenants crawl on their hands and knees, stiffly and slowly, seeking new hosts for the infection. When in range of prey, whips of silver nano-nerve burst from their spinal cord, lacerating anything in reach.
Eyeless Dog (Biological)
HD 1, Armour 12, Morale 3, Appearing 2d6
Attack: Bite (d6)
Cacogenic hounds, typically dark-coated, with lighter hairless flesh where their ancestor’s eyes once resided. They lost their bond with humanity along with their eyes and use their acute hearing and sense of smell to hunt the unwary on moonless nights.
Pack Attack: Eyeless Dogs gain +1 to hit and +1 damage for every other Eyeless Dog that targets their opponent this round.
HD 1, Armour 12, Morale Always Flees, Appearing 1
Attack: Siphon (d6)
Dwarf vampire elephants. It is unclear if these pests were gene-sculpted for a purpose or simply as a jest, but they escaped into the wild and have become a viable Vaarnish species. Roughly the size of a goat, they feed on blood which their razor-tipped trunks drain from sleeping animals and the folk of Vaarn alike. Daggertrunks are highly intelligent, surprisingly stealthy, and very cowardly. They will approach sleeping PCs at night and attempt to siphon blood from their ankles or necks.
HD 1, Armour 12, Morale 2, Appearing d6
Attack: Bite (d6) / Despair Gas (Special)
Carnivorous frogs, with a bizarre method of overpowering prey. The frogs belch out a gas which induces a fast-acting, catatonic depression. The sadness induced by this toxin is so overwhelming that animals often let the frogs eat them.
Despair Gas: Affected biological creatures must EGO save; failure obliges them to lie on the ground and weep, missing their next action.
Gene Thief (Biological)
HD 1, Armour 12, Morale 3, Appearing d8
Attack: Copy-Claws (d6)
Skulking shunned descendants of the Autarch’s feared ‘Face Dancer’ spies. Gene Thieves are paranoid, destructive cacogen, whose malleable faces take on the aspect of those they wound. They are only semi-intelligent and are no longer capable of convincingly impersonating those they mimic.
Copy-Claws: A Gene Thief can take on the facial appearance of any biological creature it wounds with its claws. Their bodies remain scrawny, pink, and hunched.
Cliff Ghul (Biological)
HD 1, Armour 12, Morale 1, Appearing d8
Attack: Festering Bite (d6 + d6 TOX)
Hideous hybrids of human, bat, and jackal, these winged carrion-eaters are known for the guttural ugliness of their cries, the gusto with which they will devour anything, alive or dead, and the rancid foulness of their stink. Their needle-thin teeth are so riddled with blight that Cliff Ghuls are known to bite their prey just once and withdraw into the sky, waiting for the unfortunate victim to succumb to the infection. Travellers in Vaarn’s badlands make careful note of the crags and bluffs where these creatures roost and stay as far from them as possible.
There we have it! Six new 1HD creatures, ready to be added to your encounter table. These creatures vary in behaviour and appearance, but all are threatening for low-level PCs while remaining manageable. I’d imagine the Mournfrogs and Cliff Ghuls to be the more difficult encounters for Level 1 PCs due to their toxins, although Eyeless Dogs might prove highly dangerous as well thanks to their bonus when ganging up on a target.