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Deadly Denizens of the Dry Steppes
Posted on Sun, January 25, 2009 by LordCeb
cwslyclgh writes "The World of Greyhawk is a place where fearsome beasts abound, a place where a spot on the map marked "Here be Monsters" is apt to be more accurate then even the most seasoned adventurer would like.  strange and deadly creatures lurk in the out of the way places, and the Dry Steppes are no exception, below are four monsters that are most commonly found in the Dry Steppes area (although that is by no means the only place that they can be found).

Deadly Denizens of the Dry Steppes

 

By C. Wesley Clough

 

 

Empty, Desolate, Barren, these words and many others like them have been used to describe the Dry Steppes that stretch out to the south east of Ull.  While these descriptions may appear accurate upon the surface, in reality the Dry Steppes are a vibrant living place, full of life.  Trees and other large forms of ground cover may be few and far between but grasses of all sorts, along with many types of shrubs and flowers flourish in the Dry Steppes, in fact in the baklunish lands the Dry Steppes are referred to as the Zir’al-Wiss, or “Sea of Grass”.  With the grasses come the creatures that feed on them, wild horses, cattle, goats, and an astonishing variety of antelopes are all common sights to the traveler crossing the Steppes.  Wolves, hyenas, and lions all prey upon this bounty, but they are not the only creatures to do so. 

 

Many types of fearsome beast not found elsewhere in the flanaess can be encountered in the Dry Steppes, some are natural and some can trace their origins back to the Invoked Devastation which turned the a once vibrant and forested land into a great flat plain.  Detailed below are some of the more dangerous creatures to call this vast expanse of arid plains home.

 

Erblin

 

Medium Monstrous Humanoid

Hit Dice:

5d8+5 (27 hp)

Initiative:

+3

Speed:

30ft.

Armor Class:

19 (+3 Dex, + 6 natural) Touch 13 Flatfooted 16

Base Attack/Grapple:

+5/+7

Attack:

Claw +7 melee (1d4+2)

Full Attack:

2 claws +7 melee (1d4+2) and Bite +5 melee (1d4+1) and Tail rake +5 melee (2d4+1 plus poison)

Space/Reach:

5ft./5ft.

Special Attacks:

Improved grab, body spines, poison

Special Qualities:

Immune to poison, scent

Saves:

Fort +2, Ref +7, Will +5

Abilities:

Str 15, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 9

Skills:

Hide +9, Listen +5, Move Silently +9, Spot +5

Feats:

Multi-Attack, Stealthy

Environment:

Warm grasslands

Organization:

Solitary, pair, or pride (3-12)

Challenge Rating:

3

Treasure:

Standard

Alignment:

Always Lawful Evil

Advancement:

By Character class

Level Adjustment:

+4

 

Moving about in highly organized, tightly knit bands, striking by night, leaving no survivors, the Erblin are the stuff that the nightmares of many nomad children are made of.  Dervish legends state that the Erblin were once a tribe of devil worshiping men that were turned into their current form by their dark masters in an attempt to help them better survive the Invoked Devistation.  Whether there is any truth to this rumor is debatable, however the Erblin do resemble devils in both their outward appearance and disposition, and it is known that they do worship the Lords of the Nine.

 

Standing six and a half feet tall an Erblin has a humanoid form with a long supple tail.  The creature’s entire body is covered with exoskeletal plates from which sprout spines and bony spurs of varying sizes, and the tail is tipped with a cluster of spines that include a poisonous stinger.  Several long tendrils sprout from the back of the surprisingly human-like head, resembling wriggling green hair.  An Erblin’s color is predominantly grayish green, with the myriad of spines and spurs being a deep black color.  Their eyes are yellow and glow dimly in the dark.

 

COMBAT

 

A pride of Erblin always fights in a cold and efficient manner; all members of the pride know their place, with complicated tactics and battle plans that have been worked out well in advance.  Erblin rarely use weapons in combat, preferring to rely upon their formidable natural weaponry.  Erblin strongly prefer melee combat, and most refuse to use ranged weapons as a point of honor.

 

Improved Grab (ex):  to use this ability the Erblin must hit a single opponent with both claw attacks, if it does it can attempt to start a grapple as a free action with out provoking an attack of opportunity.


Body Spines (Ex):  Due to the jagged, bony spines and spurs that cover it, an Erblin inflicts 2d6 points of damage with a successful grapple check in addition to any other affects the grapple might have (such as getting or maintaining a hold).

 

Poison (Ex):  injury, Fort Save (DC 13) Initial and secondary damage 1d6 temporary strength.  The Saving throw is constitution based.

 

ERBLIN CHARACTERS

 

Many Erblin take levels in the fighter class, and the leader of a Erblin pride will almost always have levels of fighter.  Most prides also number a cleric among their members.  Erblin clerics worship Devils and have access to two of the following domains: Evil, Law, and War.  Sages speculate that the lords of hell worked out some deal with the evil god Hextor where in he would grant spells to their Erblin followers in return for some unknown service.

 

Horn Wing

 

Medium Animal

Hit Dice:

3d8+3 (16 hp)

Initiative:

+2

Speed:

40ft.

Armor Class:

13 (+2 dex, +1 Natural) Touch 12 Flatfooted 11

Base Attack/Grapple:

+2/+3

Attack:

Bite +4 melee (1d8+1)

Full Attack:

Bite +4 melee (1d8+1) and 2 claws +2 melee (1d4)

Space/Reach:

5ft./5ft.

Special Attacks:

Rend 2d4

Special Qualities:

Lowlight-vision, scent, sprint

Saves:

Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +1

Abilities:

Str 12, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 2, Wis 11, Cha 4

Skills:

Listen +4, Jump +4, Spot +4

Feats:

Alertness (b), Multiattack, Weapon Finesse

Environment:

Warm to temperate grasslands

Organization:

Solitary, pair, or flock (3-8)

Challenge Rating:

2

Treasure:

none

Alignment:

Always Neutral

Advancement:

4-6 HD (Medium) 7-9 HD (Large)

Level Adjustment:

--

 

The horn wing is a man sized flightless bird that has an outward appearance similar to an ostrich with a shorter thicker neck and a much larger head.  Another telling difference are the wings from which these birds derive their name, these wings are longer then the wings of most other flightless birds, and shaped more like feathered arms, each one ending in a single long talon-like claw.  Their hooked, eagle-like beaks and talon-like wing claws are a whitish brown color, while their overall plumage tends toward gray and black. 

 

Horn wings have always lived in the area that is now the dry steppes, being one of the few creatures that made it through the Invoked Devastation with relatively little change. They quickly adapted to the new, more arid environment by growing larger then they had previously been, but other then that the creature is essential the same as it was before the twin cataclysms.   The dervishes of the central Steppes often send young warriors out to bring back a horn wing plume as a sign of man-hood. 

 

COMBAT

 

Horn Wings are some of the fastest creatures of the dry steppes, able to use a short burst of speed to run down nearly any other creature that inhabits the sea of grass.  They are surprisingly social for birds; often hunt in small flocks and working together to ensure that all of them get enough to eat.  They attack by biting with their large, hooked, razor sharp beak and slashing with their wing claws.

 

Rend (Ex): If a horn wing hits with both claw attacks, it latches onto the opponent’s body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an additional 2d4 points of damage.

 

Sprint (Ex): Once per hour, a horn wing can move ten times its normal speed (400 feet) when it makes a charge.

 

Mhor’Keth

 

Large Magical Beast

Hit Dice:

6d10+18 (51 hp)

Initiative:

+1

Speed:

40ft.

Armor Class:

15 (-1 size, +1 Dex, + 5 Natural) Touch 10 Flatfooted 14

Base Attack/Grapple:

+6/+14

Attack:

Claw +9 melee (1d6+4)

Full Attack:

2 claws + 9 melee (1d6+4) and bite +4 melee (1d8+2)

Space/Reach:

10ft./10ft.

Special Attacks:

Laugh, Pounce, Rend 2d6+6

Special Qualities:

Darkvision 30ft., lowlight vision, Scent

Saves:

Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +2

Abilities:

Str 19, Dex 13, Con 17, Int 4, Wis 10, Cha 12

Skills:

Listen +5, Hide +1

Feats:

Ability Focus (laugh), Lightning Reflexes, Power Attack

Environment:

Temperate to warm hills and grasslands

Organization:

Solitary, pair, or Pack (3-8)

Challenge Rating:

5

Treasure:

None

Alignment:

Usually Neutral

Advancement:

7-12 HD (large)

Level Adjustment:

--

 

The dreaded Mhor’Keth (sometimes known as the Death Giggler) is a dangerous carnivore that hunts open hills and grasslands.  Although they can be found everywhere west of the Crystalmist and Yatil mountain ranges, they are especially common in the Dry Steppes.  The Mhor’Keth looks much like an ogre sized cross between a hyena and baboon in form, with a tawny hide and black irregular spots or stripes.  Most consider Mhor’Keths little more then animals, although they do show the aptitude to use tools, such as pounding bones with stones to get at the marrow, and using digging sticks to get into animal burrows.  Mhor’Keth are thought to communicate with one another through the use of the peculiar laughing sound that they almost constantly make, although a rare few also learn to speak giant or common.

 

COMBAT

Mhor’Keths live and hunt in loose packs, generally trying to get close to prey and then confuse it with their laugh to make it easier to take down.  They prefer to prey on medium sized herd animals of various sorts (antelope, wild goats or sheep, etc.) but will attack anything that they perceive as edible if hungry enough.  Although generally much feared by people who live near them, in truth Mhor’Keth’s rarely attack humanoids unless driven by great hunger or disease (Mhor’Keths are very susceptible to distemper, rabies and other such diseases).

Laugh (Su):  Mhor’Keths constantly make a noise that sounds like a child’s laughing or giggling.  While this can be unnerving under normal circumstances it can be much more dangerous if the Mhor’Keth so chooses.  As a standard action the Mhor’Keth can change to tempo of its laugh, causing all non Mhor’Keths with in 30 feet to make a will save (DC 16) or be confused (as if by a confusion spell) for 1d4 rounds.  This is a sonic, mind-affecting effect.  The save DC is charisma based and includes a +2 bonus for the ability focus feat.

 

Pounce (Ex): If a Mhor’Keth charges a foe it can make a full attack.

 

Rend (Ex): If a Mhor’Keth hits with both claw attacks, it latches onto the opponent’s body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an additional 2d6+6 points of damage.

 

Steppe Hunter

 

Large Magical Beast

Hit Dice:

6d10+30 (63 hp)

Initiative:

+0

Speed:

20ft.

Armor Class:

21 (-1 Size, +12 natural) Touch 9 Flatfooted 21

Base Attack/Grapple:

+6/+14

Attack:

Bite +9 melee (1d8+4 plus poison)

Full Attack:

Bite +9 melee (1d8+4 plus poison) and 2 claws +7 melee   (1d6+2)

Space/Reach:

10ft./5ft.

Special Attacks:

Poison, breath weapon

Special Qualities:

Reflective carapace

Saves:

Fort +10, Reflex +5, Will +2

Abilities:

Str 18, Dex 11, Con 20, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 8

Skills:

Hide +0*, Listen +5, Spot +4

Feats:

Ability Focus (breath weapon), Alertness, Multiattack

Environment:

Temperate to warm grasslands

Organization:

Solitary or pair

Challenge Rating:

6

Treasure:

None

Alignment:

Usually Neutral

Advancement:

7-12 HD (large), 13-18 HD (huge)

Level Adjustment:

--

 

The dervishes of the Dry Steppes tell their children to behave or the Hunters will get them.  Many dervish children grow up never realizing that the tales are based upon truth.  Steppe Hunters are monsters that dwell in the more barren fringes of the steppes, hiding amidst the rocky grass, waiting for prey.

 

A Steppe Hunter looks something like a cross between a serpent and an armadillo.  They have a banded shell of gray and green, which matches closely the coloration of the grass-covered boulders that they often hide among.  A long scaly neck, rimmed with green hair ends in a snake like head.  The Steppe Hunter also has four scaly, greenish-gray furred legs that end in large, sharp claws.  Steppe Hunters typically understand the languages of whatever creatures dwell near them, although they cannot themselves speak.

 

COMBAT

 

Steppe Hunters are lazy by nature, and often simply find a convenient spot along a well-traveled trail to wait for prey to come to them.  A Steppe Hunter couldn’t care less whether that prey was an antelope or a nomad; to a Steppe Hunter prey is simply prey.  They avoid other big predators such as bulettes, but other wise consider all other creatures in their environment potential prey.

 

Breath Weapon (Su)If hard pressed the Steppe Hunter can expel all of the poison in its venom glands as a cloud of poisonous mist.  The Hunter will only do this if in dire straits however, as it depletes the hunters store of venom for 1 hour.  A hunter that uses its breath weapon cannot use it again for at least one hour, and during that time its bite cannot deliver its poison.  The breath weapon forms a ten-foot cube directly in front of the Steppe Hunter, any creature caught in the area is subject to a much more concentrated dose of the hunters poison then is delivered via the bite.  Fortitude save (DC 20) initial damage 2d6 temporary Dexterity, secondary damage 1d6 temporary dexterity.  The save DC is constitution based, and includes a +2 for the Steppe Hunters ability focus feat.

 

Poison (Ex)Injury, Fortitude save (DC 18); initial and secondary damage 1d6 temporary Dexterity.  The save DC is constitution based.

 

Reflective Carapace (Su): A Steppe Hunter’s armor like carapace is exceptionally tough and reflective, deflecting all rays, lines and even magic missile spells.  There is a 20% chance of reflecting any such attack back at the caster, other wise it is merely negated.

 

Skills: Steppe Hunters get a +4 racial bonus to hide checks in areas with a combination of stones and grass.  (not taken into account above).


 Other Monsters of the Steppes

 

The monsters presented in this article are by no means the only ones to roam the Dry Steppes, and the following monsters from the Monster Manual can also be encountered there:  Ankheg, Athatch, Baboon, Basilisk, Bat, Behir, Blink Dog, Bulette, Cat, Centuar, Cheetah, Chimera, Cockatrice, Dire Lion, Dire Weasel, Displacer Beast, Dragonne, Eagle (normal and giant), Giant Ant, Giant Bee, Giant Fire Beetle, Gnoll, Goblin, Gorgon, Griffon, Hawk, Hippogriff, Hobgoblin, Horse (wild light), Hyena, Lamia, Lammasu, Lion, Monstrous Scorpion, Naga (dark and guardian), Rat, Snake, Sphinx (all types), Weasel, Wolf, and Wyvern

 

Note: For more information on the Hornwing, see the article “The Hornwing of the Dry Steppes” by C. Wesley Clough, here on Canonfire!

"
 
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