Tuesday, March 12, 2013

RPG: Who's Laughing Now?

Yet another example of why Paizo publishing is the best in the business is a fun little campaign book called Misfit Monsters Redeemed. At least, I thought it was a fun little book.

The aptly named flail snail.
It's as threatening as it sounds.
Misfit Monsters is a re-imagining of some of the weirdest, most inane critters from decades of Dungeons & Dragons. Ten classic creatures were pulled from the Fiend Folio, Monster Manual II, Monster Manual v3.0 and the fan-favorite module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. They were then handed to Paizo writers with the challenge of making them awesome. I picked up MMR when I was converting Expedition to the Pathfinder d20 system and had been hoping for a stat update or a few interesting ideas to keep my old-school friends off-balance. Instead this "fun little book" wrote a chill down my spine.

Expedition featured a host of wacky creatures that crashed into the Barrier Peaks mountain range on a spaceship, including veggepygmies, the froghemoth, and the brain-with-legs intellect devourer. But by far the most bizarre (and mocked) creature in the Expedition monster gallery was the Wolf-in-Sheep's-Clothing. The W-I-S-C has been featured on lists like "Celebrating 30 Years of Stupid Monsters", "Lamest Monsters in D&D" and a thread on Rich Burlew's Order of the Stick that includes this priceless quote: "What sort of self-respecting Stupid Monsters article doesn't include the Bunny-Stump-creature?"
Yes, that's a bunny-shaped fatty growth
sitting on an alien tree-stump.

This alien beast, inexplicably camouflaged as an Earth-like tree trunk with a rabbit-shaped fatty growth on its head, spawned more questions than terrors. Trees and rabbits from this alien world look exactly the same as in Greyhawk? Okay, so the rabbitoids (as the module calls them) had little horns on their head. I guess that makes them alien. 

The original description of the W-I-S-C is only a paragraph long, making it a one-shot beastie at best. Imagine my shock when I read this introductory short for its MMR entry:

"We were three days in, hot on the trail of the Sczarni that done taken Abe Jelsin's horses and young Ernestine's honor. When the path finally opened onto a clearing, it was trampled and bloody, and my first thought was that they'd fought amongst themselves. Then I saw their little camp dog in the center, sitting quiet on an old stump. Loukin moved toward it.
"'Careful, Lou,' I called"
"'Aw, Bil, it's just a little--'
"Then the roots sprang up around him in a whirlwind, snapping his legs like twigs. In that stump, a mouth opened up. There was a scream, and then blood--blood like a cyclone.
"I ran, aye--it ain't whether a man runs, but rather if he comes back. And when I returned, it wasn't the little dog sitting on that stump no more, but Lou himself..."

Colin McComb is my hero.

Colin has written for dozens of TSR and Paizo products, as well as worked on the legendary Planescape: Torment (PC Gamer magazine's 19th greatest PC game of all time). Torment is one of the best games I've ever played, so I should have known that the creepy short wouldn't be the end of it. The five, idea-packed pages that followed did little to settle my case of the wiggins. This thing went from a silly, bunny-fat waggler to a horror that grows vines into the dead body of its chosen lure, manipulating it like a puppet to temp larger prey in for the kill. It reproduces by tempting a passerby with a tasty, berry-like seed. Or by implanting it into the lure for an unsuspecting predator. Or, when desperate, by shoving it down a victim's throat then letting it go free. The unsuspecting living incubator carries the seed away from the parent to populate new and exciting territory. Weeks later, the young parasite will snake tendrils throughout the host's body, taking control of its nervous system and even replacing the host's eyes with its own. The host is forced into the wilderness to clear an area for the young W-I-S-C to live in then, finally, serves as the creatures first meal.

Transforming such silliness as the flumph, the flail snail and lava children into useful and fascinating beasts takes serious chops--both of the writing and the gaming varieties--chops that Colin, James Sutter, Rob McCreary, Crystal Frasier and the rest of the team have. All of the new critters were given entries in the Pathfinder Bestiary 3, but the write-ups have been edited down to a single page, so I highly recommend picking up the MMR. The campaign roles, ecology and background info will inspire you and I guarantee they will blow your players' minds.

Or at least make them stop laughing.


You can find more from Colin McComb at www.colinmccomb.com
And, as always, pop over to www.paizo.com for the best in RPG awesomeness.

Ladies and Gentlemen...the flumph.


  1. The rabbit was a fatty growth? I thought it was a fungus.

    And you are running Expedition to the Barrier Peaks using Pathfinder? Awesome!

    1. Nope, fatty growth.

      I want to run Expedition, but finding myself short on time. I may run it for the batch of new gamers I'm cultivating who've never experienced the wonder that is gravity-elevators.