Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oh, the Agony! (Dark Sun Style)

I’m stung by the swirling sands of Dark Sun once more. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Athas has been my favorite stomping ground for D&D since I first started rolling die. Now as WotC gears up for the big 4e version of Dark Sun, I hear the siren’s call once more beckoning me back to the rugged world . . . or perhaps it is just a belgoi tinkling its damn bell . . .

Regardless, inspired by this thread, I’ve served up some quick Dark Sun ideas.

First is the Agony Beetle. This from the thread and paraphrased from the 2e AD&D Dark Sun Monstrous Compendium “Terrors of the Desert.” –

{A tiny black 1" beetle that psionically lives off the pain of its victims. It latches on the victim, then waits till they're asleep, held, casting spells, or doing anything else involving concentration, when it activates its Spinal Tap ability. The Spinal Tap ability inserts a tendril into the victim's spine (without them feeling anything due to its anesthetics). The victim is overcome by pain and unable to resist as the beetle drain their Constitution into PSPs for itself. This is guaranteed to kill a victim who is alone.

The beetles live near water sources, where they latch on to prey. They need only plain for sustenance. They're also commonly found in torture chambers. Some rumors say the beetles originally escaped from a Sorcerer-King's torture chamber, but the entry states it's more likely they were drawn there. Dark Sun's cannibalistic Halflings use them in slings or through them onto someone's clothing. Agony Beetles make for bad eating}

Now statting up a single beetle isn’t likely right for 4e design – best left in the capable hands of a DM (though I can think of lots of devious ways a single beetle may be used). However, a swarm of them . . . now that’s more like it.

Does a few things it should: 1) Kills you if you are alone. 2) Feeds off pain. 3) Can make you feel pain (aura + Wave of Pain).

May tweak it in the future, and, as always, if you want the XML let me know. Though it should not be hard to simply copy this or make it in your own DDI Adventure Tools thingamajig.

But we are not done yet - What about some more agonizing stuff . . . like terrain?


A few agony beetles scuttle here and there about the earth.

Effect: The squares occupied by these dastardly black-shelled bugs echo suffering and pain at those who stand within. Creatures occupying this terrain suffer an additional 2 points of damage per tier whenever they take damage. Bloodied creatures double this penalty. As a standard action, a creature may stomp out the pests scuttling about their feet thus ending the effect.
Usage: Thematically works great with cannibal halflings (see below) and agony beetle swarms. However, agony beetles are a common, if deadly, pest throughout Athas. In encounters, this terrain effect maximizes artillery units as they can stand back, gaining the bonus of the effect, and none of the risk.

Encounter Idea:

Cannot take credit for this idea (check the thread linked above).

Halflings of Athas have long made use of the animals around them. They harvest poison and food, use the bones of great beasts as weapons and their hides as armor. They’ve found a use for the agony beetle as well -- ammunition. Halflings use these beetles as sling bullets. While the beetles cannot latch on to targets at such velocity, every two successfully fired into a square creates the above terrain feature.

This is a great way to spice up an encounter, giving it both a dynamic evolution and a bit of Athasian spice!

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