Monday, June 14, 2010

Steve's Monster Manual 3 Designs: Yeti

In a 3e game in 2004, the PCs were passing through a land occupied by their enemies, and after hounding them relentlessly I wanted to introduce them to an enemy lord who could be a potential ally. His fief lay on a trade road beneath the mountains, and I baited the PCs that way. Of course they looked for alternatives.

I told them they could take the high road through the mountains if they wanted, but that old road had not been used for years, since the mines had dried up. They (justifiably) decided that was a much better idea than walking through enemy territory near the main roads. 

This presented the problem of the PCs circumnavigating all of my carefully laid plans and a good deal of the adventures I had prepared. That's nothing new, but it was little like the Fellowship skipping Rohan entirely and going straight on to Minas Tirith--you're skipping a good portion of the journey's flavor.

As the party headed up into the mountains I knew I needed to slow them down a bit and give myself time to think. One of the PCs wanted to know what kinds of threats lay up in the mountain peaks, and while I was making up all kinds of stuff, I went rifling through my books for yeti... only, to my disappointment, there were no yeti to be found in 3e (well, not in any of the monster books anyway).

The PCs reached the abandoned mining town and took shelter from the gusting snow in a broken down two story inn. The posted a watch, went to bed. But in the middle of the night, they began to hear a faint howling on the wind.

The howling came closer and closer, and from all directions, and from the holes in the walls they could see a dozen lumbering snow beasts trudging toward the inn.

What followed was the coolest, most intense, and memorable game of that campaign. The beasts came on and on and the PCs retreated farther back into the inn, using the creatures' corpses to block the stairs--not that these things were easy to take down. I'd simply taken stats for a minotaur, given it DR and a heightened sense of smell and then reskinned it. I won't go in to all the details of the fight, but the objective was not for the PCs to kill everything, but for them to survive five rounds of complete onslaught. The players were freaked out. They used all their resources and healing, and were essentially throwing rocks at the things by the time the cavalry came. They succeeded in surviving five rounds, and then soldiers of the enemy of the lord I'd intended for them to meet fished the PCs out of the mess by wielding rotten meat on pikes, which warded the things away temporarily. In the end, the PCs ended up working for the other lord (I only had a few notes about) against the guy I'd planned for them to ally with. Definitely the height of the campaign, and I love it when unexpected stuff like that happens--keeps the game fresh for me.

At any rate, these creatures became a staple of our world and a natural part of the ecosystem of the frosty climes. We've all talked about them for years, recounting that amazing battle. When it came time for me to submit my two "choice" monsters for Monster Manual 3, I adapted two creatures from our homebrew world, changing them somewhat to fit D&D and keep my own creatures specific to our setting. Those creatures became the banderhobb and what I was at the time calling the "mountain howler."

So it was a huge, and very welcome, surprise when I opened up Monster Manual 3 in my local game store to see the Yeti entry.

In 2004, I needed a D&D yeti and didn't have one. Subbed something else in, reskinned it, made my own monster. Six years later, through a series of strange coincidences, that monster is now the yeti--thus indirectly solving my D&D yeti problem in the most satisfying way imaginable.


Fabian said...

Oriental Adventures had the Yeti, but no OGC in that book :(

Steve said...

Ha! I'm sure I never thought to search for it there.