Friday, June 19, 2020

Childhood Nightmares: The Grinning Spook

My four-year-old son is blessed with both incredible creativity and my love of monsters. Almost every day he is telling me about some kind of new monster, killer robot, or mysterious flower he has discovered in his imaginary voyages. Some are so wonderful and strange that I have to adapt them for D&D.

The "grinning spook" is a wierd terror that occupied our conversations for over a week as he told me stories of their increasingly varied and improbable powers. Eventuslly I pointed put that these creatures would probably destroy the world in any story they were in. He thought about this and did an amazing thing: he revised them to be something frightening but reasonable to use as bad guys in a story.

This is a snapshot of my son's favourite creation when it was its most interesting and fun, statted out for use with OSR games. If you are looking for a monster that is bizarre, Burtonesque, and challenging, it might be just the thing.

Grinning Spook - OSR Version

JuvenileAdultGrinning Terror
Armour Class:7 (13)5 (15)3 (17)
Hit Dice:2** (S)5**9** (L)
Move150' (50')
Or burrow 30' (10')
120' (40')
Or burrow 30' (10')
120' (40')
Attack1 claw or 1 tongue1 claw and 1 tongue, or 
1 claw and 1 weapon
1 claw, 1 weapon, 
and 1 tongue
Damage1d4-11d6 or by weapon1d12 or by weapon
No. Appearing:2-81-31
Save As:T1T5T9
Treasure Type:NilNilNil
XP Value:304252,300

Monster Type: Monster, Enchanted (Rare)

Grinning Spook by Brian Rideout
Formed where the psychic impressions of children's nightmares mix with ambient magic, grinning spooks are creatures formed of dread, menace, and anxiety, and savour the traces of those feelings in the flesh they eat.

Although they range from rat-sized at first formation to a towering 20' as they grow and feed, they share the same physical configuration: a hunched hare-like shape with matching ears, covered in shaggy black fur Rather than forelegs they bear both a massive set of upper arms shaped like a lobster's and a second set of human-like arms protruding from it's chest. It's broad, flat head sports four eyes and an impossibly wide mouth full of jagged teeth, both of which glow with pale blue radiation.

The grinning spook lives to harrow and taunt its prey until the creature, be it mouse or man is terrified. They are masters of stealth and may use Move Silently and Hide in Shadows skills as a thief of a level equal to their hit dice. Juveniles find areas with many tight crawlspaces, spyholes, and ambush points, such as sewers, catacombs, and mines near towns. 

The by the time they grow to man-sized adults, they usually find it useful to move away from human cities, and seek out ruins, caves, remote outposts, etc., and survive on animals and the occasional less advanced humanoid creatures like goblins and brownies. They are aware thst preying on humans in towns or trap-laden kobold dens would be suicidal, but are happy to take an opportunity to torment and devour hunters woodsmen and adventurers far away from civilization, where they can just disappear.

Grinning spooks feel an eventual compulsion to flee the material plane altogether: a byproduct of their magical nature. Freed from the constraints of the physical size, the grinning terror stalks otherworldly forests where they ambush planar travellers and unwary planar beings.

Grinning spooks have whip-like tongues that they lash out at targets to a range of 20',, wrapping it around throats or limbs. Their tongues do no damage, but a target cannot move away from the spook. On its next turn, the spook can reel in a target its size or smaller and deliver a powerful bite. The target must make a Save vs. Wands or take 2d6 damage from a juvenile, 4d6 from an adult, and 8d6 from a terror.

The outer eyes of a grinning spook grant it  a limited X-ray vision that lets them see through vegetation up 15' stone up to 5', metal up to 1', but their vision is blocked by lead. This allows them to stalk prey even through stone, smoke, or perfect darkness.

Terrain: Forests, Ruins, the Plane of Shadow, the Fey Kingdoms.

The Cutting Room Floor

As is only proper, my son feels that "more is always better" when it comes to monsters and robots. In various discussions of the grinning spook, he listed a range of abilities for the spook that I told him would make them no fun in a game. Here are some of the items he eventually agreed would be too much:

  • Needing to be hit 100 times to die.
  • Always possessing a magic sword.
  • A shout that can smash stone, bend metal, and blow out eardrums.
  • A kid - and a kaiju- sized variant.
  • Being immune to magic.
  • Only being hurt by a magic sword that has lost its magic.
  • Laser eye rays.
  • Running faster than a car.
If you want to try any of those, of course, feel free. I accept no responsibility for dwad PCs or flipped tables. 

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. By Brian C. Rideout and Owen Rideout. And is done under the Open Game License 1.0a.  

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