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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

When We Become the Monsters...

Being a pawnbroker in my day-to-day life gives me a unique perspective when it comes to gaming.  I wasn't always a member of this old and not-so-honored profession, but even in my early days of gaming I was fascinated with operating a castle, hiring henchmen, and buying and selling in my game worlds as both a player and DM.  Hell, there were some campaigns that eventually centered around my character's professional life, like that alchemist I played who set up a Ford-like factory assembly line for potions and items that sky-rocketed him to a position of financial dominance...and also made him the target of many a greedy thief and contracted assassin.

It struck me today, what seems like an innocuous Wednesday in the pawnshop, about the ebb and flow of money and goods among the population that I primarily serve.  This shop exists, as many do, in a low income/no income environment.  My customers need money, often for basic necessities like food, gas bill, cigarettes (trust me when I say that this is a necessity in this community) and all manner of things a person needs to manage life from day-to-day.  As long as they have tangible collateral (most commonly in the form of gold jewelry), they can secure a small loan to get them through until some money finds it's way back into their pockets.

Wait...but if they are poor (low/no income) then how do they get money?  Good question.  It's simple, actually.  On or about the 1st day of each month they receive some sort of a payment from the government or from a pension (more usually the former, but sometimes the latter) in the form of SSI, Unemployment, Welfare, Disability...and this month they get a big payout in the form of their IRS tax returns, what we refer to around here as 'Second Christmas'.  On the last week of each month, they look and act like zombies, waiting for this payment to show up, and they will do almost anything to survive until it arrives.  Hmmm...sounds like a D&D monster to me.

 I'm interested in the Urban Poor, the lost and dispossessed folks who dwell in the cracks and the crevices of the large towns and cities that dot our campaign maps. Who are they, how did they get there, and most importantly how do they survive?  Beggars? Perhaps.  Charity from the Clerical establishment?  Maybe.  Most likely they live short and miserable lives as they spiral downward deeper into poverty and despair.  This, in my mind, makes them dangerous.  Are they people, or have they become creatures, feral extensions and expressions of the city in which they dwell that has changed them, altered them within a womb of pain, hunger, hate, and apathy.  What if, in that city wherein strange sorcery and wicked wizards ply their deviant magical trade, some bits and pieces of mystical energy are set loose and finds itself in the company of such a person, an emotionally wounded and susceptible vessel?

The Derelictus

Frequency: rare
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 6
Move: 9" (20')
Hit Dice: 4
% in Lair: 60%
Number of Attacks: 2 or special (grab)
Damage/Attack: 1d4/1d4
Special Attacks: Energy Drain
Special Defenses: +1 or Better Weapon to hit
Magic Resistance: 30%
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral
Size: M
Psionic Ability: nil

The Derelictus is a host vessel, a man, woman, or child infected by a living magic and existing in a symbiotic relationship with the force that inhabits its body and mind.  Once on deaths door, the host vessel is given new life in order to keep the magic secreted inside of it alive.  Vampiric in it's nature, but not undead, this creature haunts the alleys and sewers of the city in which it dwells.  It will approach its intended victim, palm out as if it is simply a beggar looking for a handout.  The creature may make a noise, a low grumbling, or a whine, and if it is strong enough may even utter a phrase such as 'help please' or 'alms kind sirs'.  If some sort of donation or offering is made (of any kind) then the creature will simply return to its hidey-hole, sated on the magic of kindness.

If, however, the creature is shunned it will be moved to action.  Unable to find respite in kindness, it will take the energy it requires to continue living on.  The creature will attempt to grab its victim with both hands, one hand on either side of the face.  If this grab attack is successful, it will latch on and begin to drain HP at the rate of 2/round until it has drained the victim to 0 HP.  If so drained the victim will fall unconscious and lose 1 CON point permanently.  Once attached the creature can only be removed if killed. If sated, it will flee and seek refuge in it's chosen domain.

The Derelictus has no particular 'look', as it looks vary in that any host may be acceptable.  The one thing they all have in common is that they will hide their eyes.  The eyes of the Derelictus glow red, blue, or green depending on the nature of the magic energy that has chosen the host.  It can see into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum, requiring little or no light to 'see' its victim or surroundings.  Hiding its eyes allows the Derelictus to move more freely about its chosen domain, as well as protecting the creature from daylight or bright light sources, which it will shun.  A Derelictus caught in bright light will have a -4 to all attacks and will attempt to flee to a darker area.

The magic within the Derelictus provides it with some general Magical Resistance, as well as 100% immunity to sleep or charm spells.  It can likewise only be damaged by magical weapons.  The creature is only as smart as the host creature, so this may vary but is generally average.

A Derelictus may have access to magical trinkets that it has taken from victims.  Those that fall to the grasp of the creature are robbed of all items and coinage once drained and unconscious, an instinct of the host.  The host must eat and drink in order to keep itself alive, and will always pay for food from vendors.  While they will not interact socially, they do blend in normally among the other poor or undesirable riff-raff of the city in which they dwell.  If encountered in their 'lair', there will always be treasure.  It is not unusual for a Derelictus to be wearing a ring of protection or a similar item, as they can sense when items they steal have magical potency and offer protection, even if the host has no previous knowledge


  1. Man, this strikes home. I grew up like that, except in a rundown trailer in the middle of the woods.

    In urban adventures, I have always been a fan of the lower sections of megacities, like Eberron, and the possibilities are much greater for Storytellers. The characters are more relatable, can either love or hate them but still understand them, and they're just trying to survive.

    They're more likely to do terrible or morally questionable things out of a need to survive or protect/provide for loved ones, than for optional power and petty revenge that likely drives the privileged.

    This monster is perfect. It is a manifestation of the environment that also feeds on the strife and struggle within it.

    I'm probably going to use this.