Oakmoss was a coastal fishing village near a small inland lake on the Sword Coast. A stretch of cliffs a short walk from the village were riddled with small, shallow caves. Some believe that the small creatures were summoned from another plane of existence and unleashed upon the people of the village. Others suggest that they were mutated by some kind of alchemical mutagen or arcane potion. Either way, the parasites fell on the village in a swarm from the caves, first drinking the villagers dry of their blood and then taking possession on their lifeless bodies.
The Waterdeep Navy dealt with Oakmoss by burning it to the ground, including every remaining villager. The whole area was left lifeless, with everything of value gone and no one to call it a village anymore. But vermin have a way of surviving, and surivive they did.
Oakmoss Parasites, also called Corpse Fleas, are small flightless insects. As parasites of mammals and birds, they live by consuming the blood of their hosts. Adults are up to about 3 mm long and usually brown. Bodies flattened sideways enable them to move through their host’s fur or feathers; strong claws prevent them from being dislodged. They lack wings, and have mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood and hind legs adapted for jumping. The latter enable them to leap a distance of some 50 times their body length, a feat second only to jumps made by froghoppers. Larvae are worm-like with no limbs; they have chewing mouthparts and feed on organic debris.
However, the Corpse Flea is most feared for its interaction with corpses. It has developed its necromanical desires into a way of life, using corpses to propagate itself. Whereas a fly will merely implant eggs into a corpse and leave, letting its offspring use the corpse as nourishment, this creature instead crawls entirely inside a corpse then uses it to walk it around, spreading small nodules shaped like spikes and akin to seeds as it walks. A clear ichor that serves to accelerate the growth of its nodules accompanies the spikes. This ichor often seeps from the orifices of the host.
When a Corpse Flea traveling inside a host encounters another dead body, it “spits” one of its spikes into the body. The spike injects fluid into the corpse, and the spike itself slowly burrows into the body, toward the heart, then grows. Within two days, a new parasite fills the chest of the corpse, animates the body, and walks around searching for dead bodies on its own.
These creatures do not seek to kill living creatures and try to avoid them. However, they are drawn to blood and, like vultures, seek out living things they sense may die. If attacked, they won’t hesitate to defend themselves, spitting spikes at opponents.
The Oakmoss Parasite can sustain a corpse for up to a month. While its fluid prevents the decay of muscle and connective tissue, the creature must eat. The corpse itself is the most convenient source of food, so it nibbles slowly on the inner flesh. Once the body has ceased to be of use, the parasite crawls out through the most accessible opening and inches away, looking for other bodies. Naturally, the beasts are attracted to battlefields and the enormous pickings to be found there. However, the Corpse Flea is keen to pick bodies that are intact. Any gross openings in the skin will allow too much of its fluid to leak out. Therefore, it is more likely to pick a body that has died from blunt trauma than from, say, being hacked to death. It prefers animals and people that have died from sickness. If it cannot find a corpse, it chooses some place to wait until it smells a corpse. It prefers moist hiding places; ideal locations include coastal caves, since they’re dark and wet, and stagnant lakes. During the night, it may sometimes roam the countryside if it is desperate enough.
Troglodytes are described as being shorter than a human, with spindly but muscular arms and squat legs. It also has some lizardman-like traits with a reptilian head and forearms, a spinal crest, and a long, slender tail. Troglodytes carry a repulsive odor which causes harm to those around them.
Troglodytes primarily worship their patron, a disgusting toad-lizard called Laogzed. Some worship Ogrémoch, prince of evil earth creatures. In ancient times, many worshiped Demogorgon.
The spoken troglodyte language is apparently derived from a simplified version of the lizardfolk tongue, but this is accompanied by a vast, full vocabulary consisting of smells generated by troglodyte scent glands. This olfactory language was apparently their original means of communication, and they adopted words from the lizardfolk dialect of Draconic purely to make themselves comprehensible to outsiders. Their olfactory language takes precedence over all others.
Troglodytes are fairly intelligent. They are not as intelligent as most humans, but their fear towards their deities allows them to be easily fooled. Showing god-like power, saving them from harm, or offering them shiny objects has a chance of taming them. Troglodytes do not enjoy captivity and can generally be influenced to become a companion by releasing them.
Sequestered in high mountains atop tall trees, the aarakocra, sometimes called birdfolk, evoke fear and wonder. Many aarakocra aren’t even native to the Material Plane. They hail from a world beyond—from the boundless vistas of the Elemental Plane of Air. They are immigrants, refugees, scouts, and explorers, their outposts functioning as footholds in a world both strange and alien.
Aarakocra are about 5 feet tall and have a wing span of 20 feet. About halfway along the edge of each wing is a hand with three human-sized fingers and an opposable thumb. An elongated fourth finger extends the length of the wing and locks in place for flying. Though the wing-hands cannot grasp during flight, they are nearly as useful as human hands when an aarakocra is on the ground and its wings are folded back. The wing muscles anchor in a bony chest plate that provides the aarakocra with extra protection. The powerful legs end in four sharp talons that can unlock and fold back to reveal another pair of functional hands, also with three human-sized fingers and an opposable thumb. The hand bones, like the rest of an aarakocra’s skeleton, are hollow and fragile.
Aarakocra faces resemble crosses between parrots and eagles. They have gray-black beaks, and black eyes set frontally in their heads that provide keen binocular vision. Plumage color varies from tribe to tribe, but generally males are red, orange, and yellow while females are brown and gray.
Aarakocra speak their own language, the language of giant eagles, and, on occasion, the Common tongue.
In aerial combat, an aarakocra fights with either talons or the heavy fletched javelins that he clutches in his lower hands. An aarakocra typically carries a half dozen javelins strapped to his chest in individual sheaths.
Aarakocra live in small tribes. Each tribe has a hunting territory of about 10,000 square miles with colorful banners and pennants marking the boundaries.Each tribe lives in a communal nest made of woven vines with a soft lining of dried grass. The eldest male serves as the tribe’s leader. In tribes of more than twnety members, the second oldest male serves as the shaman, leading simple religious ceremonies involving the whistling of melodic hymns at sunset on the first day of a new month. Males spend most of their waking hours hunting for food and occasionally for treasure, such as gems and other shiny objects. Females spend eight months of the year incubating their eggs, passing the time by fabricating javelins and other tools from wood and stone. While resting on their backs, aarakocrafemales can use all four hands at the same time to weave boundary pennants, javelins sheaths, and other useful objects from vines and feathers.
Five aarakocra, including a shaman, can summon an air elemental by chanting and performing an intricate aerial dance. The summoned air elemental will comply with the aarakocras’ request for a favor, though it will not endanger its life on their behalf.
Aarakocra have little to do with other species, including neighboring aarakocra tribes, and leave their home territory only in extreme circumstances. They rarely encounter humans except for an occasional foray into a rural community to snatch a stray farm animal; this is not an intentionally malicious act, as aarakocra are unable to distinguish between domestic and wild animals. A human venturing into aarakocra territory may be able to convince one to serve as a guide or a scout in exchange for a shiny jewel or coin.
A bunker is a defensive military fortification designed to protect people or valued materials from falling bombs or other attacks. Bunkers are mostly underground, compared to blockhouses which are mostly above ground. They were used extensively in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War for weapons facilities, command and control centers, and storage facilities (for example, in the event of nuclear war). Bunkers can also be used as protection from tornadoes.
Trench bunkers are small concrete structures, partly dug into the ground. Many artillery installations, especially for coastal artillery, have historically been protected by extensive bunker systems. Typical industrial bunkers include mining sites, food storage areas, dumps for materials, data storage, and sometimes living quarters. When a house is purpose-built with a bunker, the normal location is a reinforced below-ground bathroom with fibre-reinforced plastic shells. Bunkers deflect the blast wave from nearby explosions to prevent ear and internal injuries to people sheltering in the bunker. Nuclear bunkers must also cope with the underpressure that lasts for several seconds after the shock wave passes, and block radiation.
A bunker’s door must be at least as strong as the walls. In bunkers inhabited for prolonged periods, large amounts of ventilation or air conditioning must be provided. Bunkers can be destroyed with powerful explosives and bunker-busting warheads.
A Roper resembles a rocky outcropping. The monsters’s hide is yellowish gray and rough, and its body very malleable. They are usually pillar-like in shape, 9 feet tall, about 3 feet in diameter at the base, and about 1 foot in diameter at the top. The roper has a single yellow eye, and a maw ringed with sharp teeth. Halfway up its body are small bumps which are the sources of the strands it fires at opponents. Ropers have the same body temperature as their surroundings.
Ropers are not social and rarely cooperate with one another, though a group of them may be found in a good hunting spot. A group of ropers has been named a “cluster” by scholars with nothing better to do. They reproduce asexually by shedding some of their material in the form of a seed. Drawing nutrients from the cavern floor (and perhaps siphoning magical energies from deep within the earth), the infant roper grows to maturity in 2d4 weeks. Until that time has passed, the roper is indistinguishable from a boulder.
Ropers move using large, cilia-like appendages on their undersides, which also allow them to cling to walls and ceilings. They seldom leave the caverns, but may migrate to a new feeding ground when prey population drops too low in its current home. Migration usually occurs through underground tunnels, but when this is not possible, ropers travel late at night, sometimes giving rise to stories of walking stones.
Despite their monstrous hunger and evil natures, ropers are intelligent and insightful creatures. In the time between feedings, they learn about their surrounding underworld and contemplate philosophy. Religious pilgrims sometimes brave the lair of a roper for a chance to learn the creature’s insight.
An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices and worship are made for religious purposes. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship.
Here are some suggestions for adding a little flair to an altar based on the type of deity worshipped.
- God of Time /Age: Clockwork Device or Sundial
- God of Fire: A large fire pit or smithy anvil
- God of Air: A large open rooftop marked with runes
- God of Water: A deep well filled with murky liquid
- God of Earth: A huge cave filled with heaping mounds of soil
- God of Fortune/Fate: A gambling den where the occupants are the sacrifice
- God of Death/Undead: The polished skull of a huge monster carved with runes
- God of Night/Heavens: A large telescope made of solid bronze
- God of Justice: A long thick length of chain wrapped around a cinder block
- God of Travel/Food/Drink: A table made of solid silver marked with tiny engraved runes
- God of Love/Sex: A huge plush bed
- God of Madness: A mirror that has been broken
- God of Pain: A huge torture wrack smeared with dried blood
- God of Protection: A fist-sized pendant featuring a pentangle
- God of Hunting: A pile of animal skulls
- God of Vice/Pleasure: The naked body of a man or woman loyal to the god
- God of War: A heap of corpses freshly taken from a battlefield
- God of Thieves: The withered hand of a deceased master thief
- God of Wisdom: A huge book that must be held by another priest
- God of Seas/Fish: A large ruined boat or ship covered with seaweed
The scarecrow. A man made of hay that is used to scare off the crows from the fields, inevitably protecting the crops. Why is the scarecrow such a widely seen and used part of Halloween symbolism? Scarecrows represent the harvest, and Halloween was originally a harvest festival in ancient times so it only seems appropriate that the scarecrow be a part of Halloween symbolism.
The origins of the scarecrow vary. Most people believe that the scarecrow was invented to keep crows away from the fields’ crops; however, there are some scholars that believe that the scarecrow idea originated in ancient times when a man was sacrificed to appease the gods and to insure a healthy harvest. That man was believed to have been sacrificed and then hung up over the fields.
Hungry birds have always been a problem for farmers. Sometimes the birds ate so much corn or wheat that a farmer and his family would not have enough food to last through the winter. So, for many years, farmers have been making scarecrows.
The first scarecrows in recorded history were made along the Nile River to protect wheat fields from flocks of quail. Egyptian farmers put wooden frames in their fields and covered them with nets. The farmers hid in the fields and scared the quail into the nets. Then they took them home and ate them for dinner.
Greek farmers carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the son of the god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite. Priapus lived with some vineyard keepers and it is said that he was very ugly. The vineyard keepers noticed that when Priapus played in the vineyards the birds stayed away from the grapes and the harvest was the best ever. Other farmers decided to make statues that looked like Priapus to use in their vineyards. They painted the figures purple and put a club in one hand to make the statue look more dangerous and a sickle in the other for a good harvest.
The Romans copied the Greek custom and made carved scarecrows too. When Roman armies went to places like France, Germany, and England they introduced the people who lived there to Priapus scarecrows.
Japanese farmers also began making scarecrows to protect their rice fields about the same time the Greeks and Romans made their wooden statues. At first the Japanese farmers hung old rags, meat, or fish bones from bamboo poles in their fields. Then they set the sticks on fire and the smell was so bad that birds and other animals stayed away from the rice. The Japanese farmers called their scarecrows kakashis which means something that smells badly. Soon Japanese farmers also made scarecrows that looked like people. They were dressed in a raincoat made of reeds and a round straw hat that rose to a peak in the middle. Bows and arrows were often added to make them look more threatening. .
During the Middle Ages in Europe, farmers made scarecrows which they believed had special powers. In Italy skulls of animals were placed on the tops of tall poles in the fields. Farmers believed the skulls would scare away birds and protect crops from diseases. In Germany farmers made wooden witches and put them in their fields at the end of winter. They believed that witches would draw the evil spirit of winter into their bodies so spring could come.
In Medieval Britain scarecrows were live boys who were 9 years old or older. Known as bird scarers or bird shooers, they patrolled wheat fields carrying bags of stones. If crows or starlings landed in the fields they would chase them off by waving their arms and throwing the stones.
The Great Plague killed almost half the people in Britain in 1348, so landowners couldn’t find enough bird scarers to protect their crops. They stuffed sacks with straw, carved faces in turnips or gourds, and made scarecrows that stood against poles.
The boys and sometimes girls who survived the plague and still worked as bird scarers had to patrol 2 or 3 acres by themselves. So, instead of bags of stone, the children carried clappers made of 2 or 3 pieces of wood joined together at one end. The noise made by the clappers scared off whole flocks of birds. Bird scarers continued to patrol British fields until the early 1800s when new factories and mines opened up and offered children better paying jobs.
To protect their corn crops Native American tribes throughout North America used scarecrows or bird scarers. Most Indian bird scarers were adult men. Some, in what is now Virginia and North Carolina, sat on raised wooden platforms and howled and shouted if crows or woodchucks came near the corn. In Georgia, Creek Indian families moved into huts in their corn fields during the growing season to protect the crop from birds and other animals. Seneca Indians, in what is now New York, soaked corn seeds in a poisonous herb mixture that would make the crows fly crazily around the fields and scare away the other birds.
In the American Southwest, Zuni children in the late 1800s had contests to see who could make the most unusual scarecrow. The Zunis also used yucca lines to protect their corn fields from pests. They placed cedar poles about 6 to 9 feet apart all over the cornfield. Cords made from the fiber of the yucca plants were strung from pole to pole like clotheslines. Rags, pieces of dog and coyote skins, and the shoulder blades of animals were hung from the lines. The waving rags and clacking blades kept most birds away. The Navajos also made scarecrows and used bird scarers. One Navajo scarecrow in the 1930s was reported to be a teddy bear fastened to the top of a pole and was said to work very well.
When Europeans began to settle in North America, they stood guard in their fields to protect the crops they needed for survival. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, all members of Pilgrim families all took turns being bird scarers. They not only had to scare away crows but wolves as well. The wolves were always trying to dig up the fish the Pilgrims buried with their corn seeds to help the seeds grow.
By the 1700s, the growing American colonies needed more and more grain and farmers decided that neither farmers nor bird scarers were protecting the crops well enough. So towns all along the Atlantic coast offered bounties for dead crows. So many crows were killed that in the 1800s a new problem arose. Corn borers and other worms and insects which were once eaten by the crows were now destroying more corn and wheat than the crows had. Towns stopped offering bounties and farmers went back to making scarecrows.
Immigrants who moved to the United States during the 1800s brought with them a variety of ideas for making scarecrows. In Pennsylvania, German farmers built human looking scarecrows called a bootzamon or bogeyman. His body was a wooden cross and his head was a broom or mop top or a cloth bundle stuffed with straw. The bootzamon wore old overalls, a long-sleeved shirt or coat, a worn woolen or straw hat, and a large red hankerchief around his neck. Sometimes a second scarecrow was built to keep the bootzamon company. A bootzafrau or bogeywife, dressed in a long dress or coat and wearing a sunbonnet on her head, was placed on the opposite end of the field. The bootzamon and bootzafrau guarded cornfields, strawberry patches, and cherry orchards.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s scarecrows became very popular and could be found all across America. Then after World War II farming became a big business and farmers decided scarecrows didn’t work. So they started spraying or dusting their crops with poisonous chemicals like DDT until in the 1960s scientists discovered that these chemicals might hurt people who ate the sprayed crops.
Then some farmers built contraptions like whirligigs that spun in the air like windmills to scare away the birds. A British company invented an automatic crop protector which was a metal box with 3 arms that was placed on top of a pole. The box contained caps that exploded every 45 minutes and made the 3 metal arms flap up and down. Unfortunately, the noise and clashing metal arms scared away the neighbors as well as the birds!
Farmers still use scarecrows all over the world. In countries like India and some Arab nations, old men sit in chairs and throw stones at the birds who try to eat their crops just like the bird scarers of long ago. During the growing season scarecrows still stand in fields around the world and each fall many communities have scarecrow contests like the Zuni children did.
So stock your dungeon with the Scarecrow, and have a little fun this Halloween.