Foulspawn

Written by Andy Raff.

Foulspawn - seer, wretch, berserker, hulk, mangler (L to R)

Deranged humanoids corrupted by contact with the Far Realm (a maddening and distant plane), Foulspawn come in many different shapes and sizes, but they share a universal contempt for living things.

Corrupted, misshapen and unnatural, Foulspawn gather together in twisted families or clans, and engage in the worship of insane gods. They may be the allies or minions of other aberrant horrors, or of dark masters who allow them to indulge their twisted lust for pain and hatred of all that is wholesome and pure.

 


 

Foulspawn Wretch

Protruberant eyes stare glassily from skin marked and whorled with the caress of unnamable energies. Twitching and muttering they advance slowly, farm tools dull and jagged and caked with old blood.

Medium 3rd level Mook [Aberration]

Initiative +6

 
M: Rusty Farming Implement +8 vs. AC - 6 damage
Natural 16+: 10 damage
 
Mob mentality: The Foulspawn Wretch gains a +1 bonus to attack rolls for each other Foulspawn Wretch engaged with the target it is attacking.

 

Nastier Specials

Dying Strike: When a Foulspawn Wretch drops to 0 hp, it can make a final attack as a free action. Since it isn't important which mook dies, feel free to make these extra attacks come from a Wretch engaged with a PC.

Pitchforks and Scythes: Once per battle per two Foulspawn Wretches (round down), a Wretch can make a farming implement attack against a nearby target they are not engaged in.

Overwhelming Attack: When a character is engaged by two or more Foulspawn Wretches, their Rusty Farming Implement attacks gain “Any even hit: target is hampered until they are no longer engaged with any Foulspawn Wretch.

 

AC 18  
PD 12 HP 12 (mook)
MD 16  

Mook: Kill one Foulspawn Wretch for every 12 damage you deal to the mob

 

Notes
FoulspawnWretches are designed to represent the shambling madness-infused horrors reminiscent of crazy hillbillies, Innsmouth residents or a mob of deranged killers. They're a little tougher than the average mook of their level, and hit a little harder, but they're also easier to hit in their turn. They should impede the movement of their opponents by getting in the way with their farming implements, and provide combat advantage to Foulspawn Manglers.

 

 


 

Foulspawn Grue

A small, twisted humanoid with staring yellow lidless eyes, a mouthful of needle-like teeth, and barbed talons. It mutters and twitches constantly, never silent or entirely still, and occasionally tears at it's own flesh with it's sharp claws.

Small 3rd level Spoiler [Aberration]
Initiative +6
 

M: Vile Talons: +7 vs. AC - 8 damage and the target is dazed (save ends). If they are already dazed, they are weakened (save ends)

R: Whispers of Madness: +8 vs MD (1 nearby enemy who can hear the Grue) - 8 psychic damage and the target is dazed (save ends). If they are already dazed they are instead weakened (save ends)
Natural Even or Odd Miss: If the target is dazed or weakened, they take 4 psychic damage
 

Slip Away: As a quick action, once each round, a Foulspawn Grue can pop free from all dazed enemies with which it is engaged.

Folding Space: As a move action, a Foulspawn Grue that is not engaged with any enemies can teleport to a nearby location it can see.

Nastier Specials

Cloak of tranquility: Attacks against Foulspawn Grue by enemies who aren't engaged with them take a -4 penalty. The Foulspawn Grue is easy to forget about, or overlook or ... something. What was I saying?

Spatial Origami: A Foulspawn Grue can use Folding Space while engaged with an enemy, but must succeed at a disengage check or else suffer opportunity attacks.

Delusional Insanity: If the Foulspawn Grue hits with Whispers of Madness on a natural 16+, the target is also confused until the end of the Grue's next turn.

AC 18  
PD 12 HP 45
MD 16  

 

Notes

A grue is a spoiler that stays out of melee combat and uses whispers of madness to harass and weaken enemies. They spread their attack about, rarely targeting the same creature twice in a row, to cause maximum discord.

The damage the grue causes is a little lower than average. This is partly because the penalty to attack rolls that comes with dazed can be very frustrating to players (but go ahead and increase the damage to 10 if you think I'm being too easy on people, and to 5 on a miss against a dazed target). The repeated dazing is also the reason that I think including more than one grue in an encounter should be carefully considered – it can potentially lead to unhappy players. That said, it will allow characters with powers such as Combat Boon to really help their allies, and finally catching up to the capering fool and cutting it in half despite all the penalties can be a satisfying moment.

 

 


 

Foulspawn Mangler

Hunched, twisted, physically warped ... crazed ... This corrupt humanoid wields jagged knives of some unnatural bone in each of the four hands at the end of it's bifurcated arms.

Medium 3rd level Trooper [Aberration]
Initiative +8
 

M: Bone Daggers +8 vs. AC (2 attacks) - 4 damage or 6 damage if the target is engaged with one of the Foulspawn Mangler's allies

R: Thrown Daggers +8 vs. AC (one nearby enemy) - 4 damage
Natural Even Hit or Miss: The foulspawn mangler makes another Thrown Daggers attack as a free action, up to a maximum of four attacks in a single round.
 

Dagger Dance: Once per battle after making a Bone Daggers attack the Foulspawn Mangler can make a second set of Bone Daggers attacks. The creature can move before making the second set of attacks. The Foulspawn Mangler gains another use of Dagger Dance the first time it becomes staggered during a battle.

Crazed Mobility: The Foulspawn mangler has a +5 bonus to disengage checks and ignores the penalty for disengaging from multiple enemies. If an enemy moves to intercept the creature while it is moving, it can make a disengage check as a free action to avoid that enemy, but must stop the first time it fails any of these disengage checks.

Nastier Specials

Warped caper: The foulspawn mangler automatically succeeds on the first disengage check each turn.

Slashing fury: On a miss, the foulspawn mangler inflicts half damage with it's Bone Daggers attacks against an enemy that is engaged with one of it's allies.

Furious Fling: The foulspawn mangler does 6 damage with a thrown daggers attack against an enemy that is engaged with one of it's allies.

Bloodied Dervish: While staggered, the Foulspawn Mangler gains a +2 bonus to Armour Class and Physical Defence.

AC 19  
PD 17 HP 40
MD 13  

 

Notes

Manglers are mobile. In a game like 13th Age which doesn't include quite so much “toy-soldiers on graph paper”, representing their skirmishing nature is a little trickier. The Mangler slips in and out of combat, and it's Corrupt Mobility power allows it to quickly disengage from one opponent and engage another. They should be especially frightening to wizards, sorcerers and other character types who want to stay “at the back” out of danger.

When building the Bone Daggers attack, I assumed that the Mangler would be in a position to attack with combat advantage around 3/4 of the time in a fight. For groups with lots of melee, the combat advantage might put the damage a little high for a 3rd level creature, but I compensated by lowering the hit points slightly.


 

Foulspawn Berserker

A grinning, warped warrior in scraps of rusted armour with unnatural cords of muscle twisting and squirming beneath the surface of it's pale skin. It hefts a massive bone blade in both hands. As it charges into the fray it begins an ulluating cry that seems to burrow inside the heads of sane opponents.

Medium 4th level Trooper [Aberration]
Initiative +7

 

M Bone Greatsword - +9 vs. AC, 14 damage

Berserker Charge: The attack instead deals 21 damage on a hit if the Foulspawn Berserker moves before attacking an enemy it was not engaged with at the start of it's turn.

Berserker Aura: Whenever a creature engaged with the Foulspawn Berserker makes a melee attack it must make an average save (11+) or must choose it's target at random from among all potential targets in range. This is considered a fear effect, and abilities such as Fearless that allow someone to resist or ignore fear can be used to counter it.

Mental Feedback: If a Foulspawn Berserker is chosen as the target of an attack against Mental Defence, the attacker and the berserker both take 4 psychic damage before the attack is rolled. It's inside my head! Aaaaah!

AC 20
 
PD 17 HP 54
MD 13  

 

Notes

A Foulspawn Berserker makes it dangerous for enemies to “gang up” on it, encouraging them to fight it one-on-one. I made the berserker aura a Fear effect specifically to give a little extra cool to Paladins fighting them – but you could drop that easily enough.


 

Foulspawn Hulk

Perhaps in another life this blasphemous abomination was an ogre or a minotaur. Now it is a mountainous mass of muscle and fat, with crimson skin and glowing yellow eyes.

Large 4th level Blocker [Aberration]
Initiative +6
 
M: Sweeping Fists +9 vs. AC (2 attacks) - 15 damage.
Natural hit 16+: One of the Foulspawn Hulk's allies can pop free of the target as a free action.
 

Threatening: A target engaged with the foulspawn hulk suffers a -4 penalty to disengage checks. This penalty doesn't apply if the hulk is grabbed, stunned or otherwise incapable of making an opportunity attack.

Nastier Specials

Fear: While engaged with the Foulspawn Hulk, enemies that have 18 hit points or fewer are dazed (-4 to attack) and do not add the escalation dice to their attacks.

Mental Feedback: If a Foulspawn Hulk is chosen as the target of an attack against Mental Defence, the attacker and the berserker both take 4 psychic damage before the attack is rolled. Whose thoughts are these? Aaaaah!

AC 17  
PD 15 HP 151
MD 11  

 

Notes

This brutish creature is a plodding threat and a big lunk; I'd probably not use more than one in an encounter. It whales on people with it's massive fists, and they find it difficult to get away from it … that's about it.

 


 

Foulspawn Seer

The twisted flesh of this wretched aberration is as nothing to the blasphemous madness that lurks behind it's blank-eyed gaze. Space itself seems to twist and moan in pain as the thing moves, and occasionally it stutters from place-to-place as if it were not physically crossing the intervening distance.

Medium 5th level Caster [Aberration]

Initiative +8

M: Staff +10 vs. AC - 10 damage and target pops free of the Foulspawn Seer

R: Warp Orb +10 vs MD (one nearby or far away target) - 15 psychic damage and if the target is staggered after the damage is applied it becomes dazed (save ends)

Natural odd hit or miss: The Foulspawn Seer makes a Swirling Warp Orb attack against a different target as a free action

[Special Trigger] Swirling Warp Orb +10 vs MD (one nearby or far away target) – 6 psychic damage and if the target is staggered after the damage is applied it becomes dazed (save ends)

 

C: Distortion Blast +10 vs PD (1d3 nearby targets in a group) - 7 damage and the target is stuck (save ends)
 
Natural even hit: While the target is stuck it is also weakened
 
Miss: One allied creature of the Foulspawn Seer's choice in the group takes 7 damage and the foulspawn seer can teleport it to any nearby location it can see as a free action
 
Limited Use: Only when escalation die is even and the Foulspawn Seer did not use distortion blast last round

 

Non-euclidean step: As a move action the Foulspawn Seer can teleport to any nearby location it can see. If it is engaged with enemies when it uses this ability it must succeed at a disengage check or the teleport fails.

Nastier Specials

Distortion Field: The Foulspawn Seer can use non-euclidean step freely even when engaged by enemies.

Psychic Howl: When any nearby foulspawn ally is the target of an attack against Mental Defence, the attacker takes psychic damage equal to the target's level before the attack is rolled. Doesn't stack with any Mental Feedback powers.

 

AC 21  
PD 15 HP 72
MD 19  

 

Notes

A Seer is probably a mastermind or at least a dangerous supporter to a group of Berserkers and Hulks. It warps space and peoples' minds with equal facility, but needs to stay out of melee combat as much as possible.

I toyed with the idea of giving it an automatic escape teleport, but my instincts were to leave that power off as it could be quite frustrating – instead the seer can use Twisted Staff to try and get free of opponents before it uses Non-euclidean step.


Icons

The Archmage keeps an eye out for Foulspawn, especially in areas where his wards have detected Hungry Stars. Depending on your interpretation of the Archmage, he might want to wipe them out or study them. The Priestess is likely to want to either “cure” them of their tainted madness or give them the peace of death. The Crusader and the Diabolist might be prepared to use them as allies, but such an association is likely to be short-lived and fraught with betrayal. The High Druid destroys them on sight, along with all their friends, and probably arranges a flash flood to clear their taint out of an area entirely just to be on the safe side.

 


 

Foulspawn in play

When you use Foulspawn it's an opportunity to play with themes of physical and mental corruption as well as with themes of cosmic horror or alien strangeness. There's an excellent article on using Foulspawn (and aberrations in general) here.

When I use Foulspawn, I never pass up an opportunity to play up their unnatural nature. Sometimes I do this with descriptions. A foulspawn mangler might have an incongruous tattoo on it's forearm, warped out of shape by the way it's forearm has split; a grue might sing snippets of nursery rhymes to itself, and clutch a headless child's doll hinting at a terrible secret origin.

While foulspawn can speak any human tongue (and all sorts of weird inhuman tongues as well), they can also communicate mentally without speech. This makes it easy for them to co-ordinate their tactics, but it can also make for an eerie moment when a voice suddenly speaks inside the head of a character who thinks they are alone.

When talking about the creatures or the environment, I often use the familiar over-the-top language of the Cthulhu Mythis – things are blasphmous, gibbous, abominable, twisted, insane, crazed and so on. Don't overdo it though, or it can come across as a bad Lovecraft parody (unless that's what you're going for).

I also like to take a bit of extra time to describe their powers as being especially weird. When a Foulspawn teleports, it might be as if they tear a hole in the world and force their way through the fabric of reality to another location, or it might be that the viewers' recent memories have turned out to be incorrect and they have always been over there rather than where you thought they were. Natural laws taken for granted can become vicious and unrealiable in the presence of Foulspawn. Describe a Mangler running along a wall at right-angles when it uses Dagger Dance, or the way gravity seems to twist in on itself when a Seer uses Distortion Blast.

Twisted Scenery

Foulspawn are also a great excuse to use weird environmental effects. You might run an encounter in a twisted temple where the angles are all out of whack and whenever a character fumbles an attack they take a small amount of psychic damage from insane glimpses across time.

Alternatively, there might be an obvious feature that can be destroyed or neutralised but which gives the Foulspawn an advantage until it is dealt with – a crazy sculpture of bone and glass that means whenever a character misses with an attack against Mental Defence they see through tie and take psychic damage equal to the escalation dice. On occasion I like to blur the line between “scenery” and “monster” and create something like a Foulspawn Monolith – an immobile creature with powers appropriate to a Leader that works just like any other monsters - although most likely using the Lunk modifiers from page 253 (-3 to all defences, +40% hit points).

Odd environmental features could also be used to explain why certain monsters in an encounter are using Nastier Specials than they were the party met them in an earlier encounter – in this area, the whispering mouths mean that the Grue can cause insanity rather than just distract people. In this area the crystal spine growing from the floor makes the Hulk especially terrifying until it is destroyed.

Sometimes these features could be used to the players' advantage – a place where time and space have warped so thin that when the escalation dice is even anyone can pop free of an enemy as a move action (or a quick action) at the cost of a small amount of damage – although this might make a Foulspawn Hulk slightly less effective it gives the players intriguing new options if they are prepared to pay the price.

You can adopt this same weird aesthetic to treasure as well - I've given out such things as perfectly spherical crystals shot through with unknown elements; coins from alternate histories; horrible artwork that makes people uneasy when they look at it; weirdly pulsing cysts or "fruit" that serve as potions or oils; and even the occasional living glyph that looks like a tattoo until it is activated, when it infuses weapon or armour with the power of a rune.

Adapting Foulspawn

Personally, I'm a sucker for the Far Plane (or Khyber, or Xoriat as the case may be), but it doesn't fit every campaign. If need be, it can be left unnamed as the same “dimension where space obeys different geometry” that is mentioned in the description of the Hungry Star (13th Age, page 235). The Foulspawn might also be creatures exposed to the “something that drives (derro) insane, rumoured to abide at the center of the underworld” from the Derro flavour text (13th Age, page 216). In both cases, I can imagine “normal” people warped into a mockery of natural life by powerful aberrant forces.

The Foulspawn might also work as the inhabitants of a particularly unsettling Living Dungeon – either “natural” inhabitants of the place, or hapless citizens warped into this unnatural state by exposure to some element of the dungeon – perhaps it's twisting non-Euclidean heart. I mentioned Eberron's Khyber above, and it's concept of a twisted underworld full of aberrant horrors an strange entities could fit reasonably easily into almost any setting as a source for Foulspawn.

With a little reskinning the Foulspawn could also be used without any reference to the Far Plane. Make them Undead rather than Aberration, and they might make interesting agents for the Lich King. The Grue, hunched and cowled in a tattered black robe, sends out moaning wisps of spirit-stuff or tormented ghostly apparitions to bedevil and confuse the living; the Mangler and Berserker become rampaging skeletal assassins and crazed flesh-hungry knights, while the Hulk is the reanimated remains of a tormented ogre or minotaur. The Seer could be a necromancer, or the possessed corpse of a dead priest or wizard, or even a minor lich of some sort. In all cases, give them vulnerability to holy attacks, and possibly switch their pyschic attacks to negative energy attacks, and the job is done.

Alternatively, with the addition of some horns and cloven hooves, they might work as demons in the thrall of the Diabolist, or by keeping the Aberration type they might become people who have been exposed to the energies of the Abyss rather than more “typical” Cosmic Horror radiation. By downplaying the physical mutations, the Grue, Mangler, Berserker and Seer could even serve as a dark “cult” of some sort, easily associated with the Diabolist or even the Crusader – and with a little work the Berserker becomes a corrupt ogre or minotaur.

Finally, these creatures could easily become the twisted entourage of a Drider (13th Age, page 223), labouring under a similar curse imposed by the same loathsome dark elf goddess. This would take a little extra work, but the various psychic effects could be re-imagined as a combination of darkness (negative energy) and poison effects, or as terrifying hallucinations. You might want to give some of them an ability similar to the Cruel racial power of the dark elves (13th Age, page 66), but as the book itself points out there's no requirement to do that.

 


 

Adventure ideas

A pack of hungry stars are acting strange (even for malevolent octopus-like flying aberrations); they're capturing villagers and carrying them away to some secluded space for who knows what purposes. On investigation, it becomes clear that they are warping the minds and bodies of the hapless men, women, children and halflings into twisted abominations.

A sinister cult dedicated to a dark and alien god has been bedevilling a small town. After extensive investigations our heroes uncover the cult's activities and interrupt one of their twisted ceremonies – but the unleashed energies of their rite transform the cultists into Foulspawn at an inopportune moment.

A nest of Derro have dragged up some unnamable artefact from the deep earth into a cavern near the Undermarch. It's whisering emanations are causing innocent travellers and even a few dwarvern guardians to transform into Foulspawn. Sometimes they are killed in time, at other times they vanish. Can our heroes defeat the derro and their growing army of foulspawn? And how will they deal with the unnamable artefact – an artefact that may in fact be some sort of nascent horror ready to hatch in all its tentacular glory at the worst possible moment.

During an earlier age, a temple disappeared one night in a terrible arcane storm, along with all the people taking shelter inside. Recently, travellers have started disappearing in the vicinity of the place it used to stand. The temple has returned from whatever crazy place it disappeared into - and the people (or their descendants) are twisted Foulspawn engaged in kidnapping people who will be carried back to a their dimension of Pure Evil when the stars come right and it disappears again.


 

Acknowlegements: Along with the Dragon article I mentioned above, I'm also indebted to this article by ASH LAW with regards to his excellent advice on statting monsters. The picture at the top is by Dave Allsop - and nicked from the 4th edition Monster Manual. If you're looking for some visual inspiration for Foulspawn, a lot of this artist's work is especially mint.

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