Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Phantom Stalker, Spectral Hound and Twinling

Phantom Stalker from the original AD&D Fiend Folio

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen Supplement 1: Book of Spells includes three spells that annoyingly refer to Supplement 2: Book of Fiends. I say "annoyingly" because Book of Fiends has not yet been published (It's written, but this time I'm pursuing a different option for the art):
Phantom Stalker: This spell summons a Phantom Stalker. See Supplement 2: Book of Fiends for characteristics and effects. Magic-Users. Level: 5.
Spectral Hound: This spell summons a Spectral Hound to track opponents. See Supplement 2: Book of Fiends. Magic-Users. Level: 4.
Twinling: See Supplement 2: Book of Fiends. Magic-Users. Level: 6.
Not a lot to go on there, obviously. So here are those creatures (two days ago I also added them as an addendum to the Electronic Edition PDF):
PHANTOM STALKERS: Hit Dice: 6. Attacks: 2-12. Armor Class: 3. Move: 12/24. Alignment: Neutrality. Languages: Type J plus Simple Common. Number Appearing: 1. Description: These are invoked in a manner similar to Invisible Stalkers but their purpose is to guard and avenge. Only one may be created at one time, and they will never leave the initial area—castle, tower, underground lair—they were initially called to, unless it is to avenge the death of their master. If their master is killed, the Stalker will be implacable in tracking his killer, wishing to fulfill the terms of the summoning and return to its abode as quickly as possible. It may Polymorph Self and Fly but will usually appear as an 8’ tall, reddish humanoid with fiery eyes. A Phantom Stalker is immune to fire-based attacks but saves against cold attacks at a -2 penalty and takes an extra hit of damage per die. If slain, the creature will explode in a six-die Fire Ball. Of course, since the Stalker values its own life as much as any creature, he will attempt to make use of this as a threat, revealing it to his attackers if cornered.
SPECTRAL HOUNDS: Hit Dice: 5. Attacks: 2-12 plus possible extra-powerful bite. Armor Class: 7. Move: 24. Number Appearing: 1. Description: Via a powerful spell, a supernatural canine is created that will inexorably track and close in on its target, as long as something with the victim’s scent is initially presented. The creature will take 3-18 days to reach its victim, and on the final 3-6 days the victim will hear a howling coming progressively nearer. If possible, the Hound will attack while the victim is alone, and it will usually surprise on a 1-4. If, during melee, the “to hit” roll succeeds by +4 or more, double damage will be inflicted due to the Hound sinking its teeth into the throat. In addition, after such a bite the victim will go comatose for 2-8 turns and then die at the end of that period unless surgery, a Cure Light Wounds spell or similar or more powerful magic is administered in the interim.
TWINLINGS: Description: A Twinling is created by the horrible spell of the same name, and thus the victim is allowed a saving throw to immediately dispel it. If this is failed, then a perfect double of the victim—with the same current hit points, spells, magic items, and so on—instantly attacks, though it will be invisible as well as invulnerable to all others, and it will look as if the victim is batting the air. The monster will continue to attack until either it or its victim is dead.
These three monster descriptions actually give a bit if insight into the methodology behind the forthcoming Book of Fiends. The idea was to track and reimagine (not duplicate!) the original Fiend Folio. Essentially that meant four things.
  1. Any monsters not in the SRD (the Fiend Folio has many of those) or that weren't to some extent legally "freed" by Necromancer Games' 2011 Tome of Horrors would have to be reworked and renamed, at the least. In many cases this meant keeping some of the stats but inserting the creature into a different ontological space, so to speak. So for example, many planar or just plain bizarro creatures (the Fiend Folio had many) often became extraterrestrials from, say, one of Pluto's moons, or evil faerie creatures. I actually think this worked out perfectly for the Zylarthen/OD&D vibe I wanted to preserve, but I'm sure that a few Fiend Folio fans will miss some of their favorites.
  2. Silly (in my opinion), broken or superfluous monsters would be reimagined. Now don't misunderstand. I love the Fiend Folio, and that includes loving some Fiend Folio monsters that most people seem to hate. (I also dislike a few that many people seem to love.) But there were a number, many of them also SRD or present in Tome, that I felt just didn't work, or at least wouldn't work for Zylarthen. One example is the Adherer. There's nothing inherently wrong (and a lot inherently right) about a monster that is, well, sticky. But the way it was initially presented in the Fiend Folio, including that (in my opinion) unfortunate illustration, as a sort of DM "gotcha" monster - you think it's a standard mummy, but think again! - was just (again, in my subjective opinion) annoying. So I reworked them as amphibians.
  3. All monster descriptions would be reduced to stripped-down OD&D/Zylarthen style. One of the things I didn't like about the Folio (and to some extent the original AD&D Monster Manual) was how long some of the descriptions were. I always felt I had to reread them five times just to make sure I didn't miss some little extra spell or odd ability. In many cases, this meant replacing a page or half-page length description with a short paragraph. I like that sort of presentation much better. But, again, opinions obviously differ on this. The two conceptions are just different. One is OD&D, and one is AD&D, if you will.
  4. But all Fiend Folio monsters would be represented, at least in some form. In many cases this "representation" is extremely tangential. CIFAL's became Wasp Zombies (actual zombies with venomous wasps crawling out of orifices in their bodies), Flinds (relatives of Gnolls) became non-described Gibbelins (relatives of Dunsany's non-described Gnoles), The Hound of Ill Omen became Prophecy Worms, Snyads became Termite Men, Mites became Water Gnomes, Norkers became Aquatic Hobgoblins and the Nonafel (Cat O'Nine Tails) became just a standard panther. And so on. Sorry Nonafels.
So, the Phantom Stalkers is quite similar to its originals, or, rather, to the OGL version presented in Tome of Horrors. But the description is stripped down, and the possible planar origins of the creature are left unmentioned.

The Spectral Hound was originally a Devil Dog. Not much similarity there except for the dog and the throat biting thing, I suppose. But I felt there were too many standard canine variations in Folio (and there already were Hell Hounds and Blink Dogs, etc. in OD&D and AD&D). So I thought a sort of less powerful version of the Invisible Stalker spell would be fun.

I had actually forgotten that the Twinling was a reworking of the Aleax. I kept the evil twin idea (which was a damn good one) but made it into an evil spell, as opposed to a sending of the gods, or whatever it was in Folio. And I thought all the extra detail about regeneration and so on was superfluous. It's bad enough to find yourself up against your evil twin in a duel to the death where no one else can help you!

By the way, just so no one misunderstands. I don't think Zylarthen's Book of Fiends is better than its semi-parent (such a thought would be insane). Rather, it's simply my imperfect effort to re-imagine it (or re-imagine some of it) in a legally viable and (hopefully) fun way for the Zylarthen/OD&D universe.

Good hunting and happy casting!

Phantom Stalker from Necromancer Games' Tome of Horrors


  1. The few "jerk store" monsters that work do so because they are famous or obvious. In other words, they are no longer sold at the jerk store.

    1. I don't want to diss the excellent Tome of Horrors or whoever the artist was, but that picture is pretty bad. He doesn't look like a phantom or a stalker.