Tag Archives: Monsters

Black Mold

 We realized quickly enough that something was wrong with the dream house we had just purchased. At first it was just floors that were wet without cause, and we thought there was an insulation problem, or a leaky roof. The mildewy smell that set in after a week didn’t help. We had no clue how terrible the truth was!

One night my wife woke me up with her screams. Seems she had wanted to go to the bathroom, only to step on a thick carpet of black mold. I swear by all that is holy that the mold writhed and shifted in the dim shine of the nightlight. It retreated under the bed, then appeared on the other side. It looked more like a colony of tiny creatures, mobile as an ant colony, but it was a layer of thick, black rot.

We made a run for it, got in the car and drove off to stay at our neighbors. We avoided thee specifics when we called for help the next day. The cleaner found our home empty but with that distinct mildewy smell. He said it might be covered by wallpapers, and that it might be quite a project to check and clean the building. Still scared, we agreed. I think none of us will ever forgeet what happened next. He never had a chance, and my wife and I barely escaped with our lives. The authorities took over, and I saw CDC vans and several men in dark suits at our house. We aren’t allowed back. Nor would we want to. My wife’s developed severe rashes on her feet and I am having a hard time breathing. We should have moved to California, after all.

Black mold infests houses in humid, warmer areas; usually after a flood brought moisture into the house. The mold is of a dark, blue-black color but otherwise looks like regular mold.

Once the infestation begins, it rapidly spreads, hiding behind wall panels and wallpaper, or under the floor. The mold doesn’t require any light, merely some heat, and any human house has plenty of that for the mold. The spread of the mold can be detected by some slight discolorations in places, especially when only a wallpaper covers the mold, but someone who does not know the tell-tale signs will assume it is merely a normal water discoloration.

After some time, however, the black mold will break out in the open; it will eat through the wooden panels of the wall, the floor, and the wallpaper. It can also be exposed by accident, for example when the house owners open up the wall or floor.

The mold has a rudimentary intelligence that grows as the colony increases in size. At first the mold may only be smart enough to avoid growing in places that would make detection obvious; later it may try to actively infect humans, for example by growing in places where it is likely to be exposed to people, or even by trying to over-grow a person in its sleep.

The mold is corrosive and highly poisonous. Touching the mold will lead to rashes. If the mold enters a person’s bloodstream, the person will suffer severe poisoning and will likely die.

Breathing in the mold’s spores is even more dangerous, as the lungs are a warm, wet place of the mold’s liking and it will infest the lungs of a human and grow there. If this happens, the mold will be able to spread all through the host’s body. When it reaches the brain, the host will go insane from intense headaches. Once the mold has thoroughly infested the host’s brain, it will be able to control the mad host on a rudimentary level. The host will not be smarted than the colony of the mold controlling it; but it will attempt to expose nearby humans to the mold culture. It may also attempt to kill those who threaten the mold. Eventually, the host is killed as the black mold slowly eats up its host from the inside.

The mold is resistant against most commonly used fungicides and because of its throughout spread in the smallest corners it is basically impossible to remove it from a house once infected. Burning the house could release spores, which are then carried to neighboring houses. The safest way to get rid of a black mold colony is to tear down the house, making sure the workers wear protective suits, and then burn the parts in sealed high temperature ovens. Black mold will also wither and die if its environment becomes too dry.

Statistics

Strength: N/A
Agility: N/A
Endurance: N/A
Intelligence: Varies (Low – Medium)
Weapons: Poison (death), lesser mind control
Armor: Immune to physical damage; vulnerable to fire

Things that Go Bump in the Night

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallThe Blog Carnival – this month hosted by Of Dice And Dragons – is dealing with Things That Go Bump In The Night – or in other words, the strange horrors and creepy-crawlies that lurk just outside your field of view in the darkness. What I am trying to say is, it’s Halloween time! And, although I got a late start, I am going to try and catch up. I have some notes on strange creatures on file that I will post about in the next ten days.

Meanwhile, here are three suitable articles from my archives:

 Update, Nov 1st: My posts on this subject were:

You can find links to all other posts in the Carnival on Scot’s Wrap-up post.

Monster Stock Art Project on Kickstarter.com

Some months ago I discovered a cool website: Kickstarter. It’s a website that helps creative projects find backers for financing. Projects there range from video games to music, and from sock puppets to bionic eyes. Of course, not all of the projects receive enough financial backing – in which case pledges aren’t charged. While some project do not look like they’re well thought out, most seem fairly solid, and there’s a lot of cool stuff there.

I now found a project that I like, and that I actually pledged money to: The Monster Stock Art & Minis project.

Monster Stock Art Project Logo, used with permission
Monster Stock Art Project Logo, used with permission

The project is organized by Joe Wetzel, of Hexographer / Dungenographer fame. Its aim is to create at least 100 “stock monsters” as high quality graphics. More, if the project ends up over its funding goal.

The monsters will be drawn by a group of professional artists, including people like Jeff Ward and Keith Curtis. The monsters on the project’s logo image (Above) are sample monsters that have already been created; the project’s page has some additional samples.

As with all Kickstarter projects, backers of the project receive boons based on the amount they contribute. The low end and medium pledges are perfect for a GM who needs a bunch of monsters to spice up his games. On the high end, backers are granted the right to commercially use the images. Yes, these rights are not exclusive, but it’s probably the most inexpensive source of professional monster art you’ll find in a long time.

As I write this, the project needs less than US$400 to reach its funding goal – with 35 days left. If the project receives more funding, it will commission more monsters, and everybody who participates benefits.

So check out this project, participate, and don’t forget the other cool projects Kickstart offers.

The Creatures of Arnâron – Part 2

It takes the bus about 30 minutes to get me from my apartment to work. I usually take the bus in the morning and then the subway in the evening. The bus is quite shaky, and it’s hard to write, but I do not have to change. With the subway, I usually can’t find a seat, plus I have to change twice and that makes writing, well, pretty much impossible.

This morning I used part of my half-hour to write down notes on a few additional creatures. As in the previous post, names are temporary.

The Dragonfly is a large predatory insect – in effect it rules the skies of Arnâron. They can grow up to two meters in length, with a wingspan of over two meters as well. They have strong, spike-studded legs with which they will attack and hold their prey; powerful mouths and sharp stingers. The males are blue and gray, the females yellow and brown in color. The insect is an ambush predator; it will attack its prey in a burst of speed and then use its legs to hold the animal while it delivers deadly blows with its stinger. They feed on smaller animals of all types, but will also attack larger species if desperate for food. Folk tales tell of unfortunate people being carried off by the Dragonflies – but these stories are (probably) just tall folk tales.

Locusts are a great danger for the local vegetation – including crops. The small (up to 5cm) insects will travel great distances and descend upon fertile land in a great, thick swarm, literally eating every last bit of plant they can. Luckily for the people of Arnâron, they are quite rare in the harsh climate, but they have not died out yet.

The natural enemy of the locust is nicknamed Farmer’s Friend (and yes I realize it’s a silly name). It eats other small insects, such as locusts. They will also attack roaches and other creatures. It attacks by spitting out a sticky goo. This goo will stick to the creature, inhibiting movement and rendering flight impossible. There is also a mild toxin in it which will paralyze the prey. The animal will then eat the paralyzed victim alive. The Farmer’s Friend does not attack humans.

Treelurkers are a form of mollusk, an evolved squid, that survived the changes on Arnâron by adapting to life on land. It uses its tentacles to climb on trees, where it will wait for unsuspecting prey. It will then drop onto those animals, use the tentacles to hold on to it, and use its beak to bite chunks of flesh out of the other animal. They only live in the few areas where vegetation and water are still commonplace, as they do like to return to the water regularly.

Here’s the updated tree of life:

Tree of Life

The Creatures of Arnâron – Part 1

While Arnâron is slowly dying, it is by no means a dead world – not just yet, anyway. Today I worked on some creatures on the bus; again I don’t have names for many of them, but that will come with time. The creature in this posting are all fairly basic; I never had a great talent for coming up with “monsters” (to use the D&D term) but that just means I’ll have to devote more time and energy to working this part out. Consider this the “first draft of the first part”!

Naturally, the dominant species of Arnâron is humankind. Humans have adapted to the harsh climate, and used their intelligence and endurance to change the world as much as they can to fit themselves – they have built cities designed to shield them from the heat, and canals to irrigate their fields.

The closest living relative of humans is the White Ape, a large mammal once at home in the tropical highlands. As the forests receded, the apes went with them, surviving due to their incredible raw strength. The White Ape is two to two and a half meters tall, and very muscular for a planet with such low gravity. They are covered in gray-white fur and have very humanlike eyes. They feed on fruit and leaves, but they will also take advantage of any opportunity to supplement their diet with meat – the harsh environment has changed the habits of these former vegetarians. The White Ape is considered to be an extremely dangerous “monster”, a reputation partially earned: An enraged White Ape bull is a dangerous beast indeed, but in general the small groups of White Apes are easy to avoid, and avoid confrontations, especially with humans.

Another large surviving mammal is the Cattle Animal. It served mankind as a meat animal and a beast of burden since the earliest days of civilization. As such, humans protected their cattle where they could, and these animals survive along the canals and in other regions inhabited by people. These animals are squat, heavy, and meaty; four stout legs hold it upright, but the legs are to the sides, like a crocodile’s legs, rather than the straight legs of a cow. its skin is vaguely striped in light and dark earthen colors and hairy. It is often used in armor, footwear and other clothes.

The main riding animal, Arnâron’s equivalent of the horse, isn’t a mammal, it’s a large four-legged reptile. It is remotely dinosaur-like: Its two forelegs are shorter than the two powerful hind legs. It has a tail which it uses to keep balance, especially when cantering or galloping, when the animal lifts it’s forelegs off the ground and only uses its hind legs. It also has a somewhat long neck. The skin of the animal consists of orange smooth scales. Most are of a light orange color, but specimen with a deep orange or even reddish hue are known; these are very valuable. The belly’s color is always darker; a rusty red. The reptile’s top speed is about 50 km/hour, but it can only maintain this for short periods of time. It can move at a fast “jogging” speed of about 20 km/h, and can maintain this pace for many hours before requiring rest. The animal is vegetarian.

Roaches are Arnâron’s rats. These insects can grow to 10-20cm in size, and have shiny black chitin carapaces. They make “chirping” sounds. These animals will eat pretty much everything that isn’t actively resisting – a common “horror tale” is that they will gnaw off the feet of a sleeping person, but this has no basis in fact. Most cities actively exterminate these beasts on sight, however, as they can spell easy doom: They reproduce quickly if food is available, and they lay their eggs wherever they can. If they manage to slip into a granary, they can consume a lot of food very rapidly, and spoil the rest with excrements and larvae.

The Kawar (“w” as the “v” in “vest” – /kawaR/ in X-Sampa) is another large, surviving mammal, and may in fact be the largest mammal to survive in the wild. It is thin, almost gaunt, and covered in shaggy fur. It has large, pointy ears, large eyes, and a flat snout and a large mouth with powerful jaws and sharp teeth. Its fangs are very pronounced – a little like those of a sabretooth, but not as extreme. The animal grows to about 1-1.5 meters in length. The Arnâron Dog is a predator and hunts in packs, but it is just as happy eating carrion. Domesticated dogs eat whatever their human masters spare them, usually left-over meat but also some types of vegetable food – the constant drought has forced all species on Arnâron to be less picky about their diet.

Aquatic animals were decimated when the planet dried out. A variety of fish survives in the small remaining seas and the canals, and some amphibians hold out in the surviving marshland, mostly close to the poles, and along the few rivers. The largest predator that can be found in the seas and waterways is the River Dragon, a two to three meters long reptile. Its wide mouth sports rows of razor-sharp teeth. The River Dragon’s scaly skin is a greenish black and its eyes are emerald green with an evil glint to it. The River Dragon preys on fish, but won’t stop from attacking human swimmers. It is the fear of the sailors of the canal barges. Luckily, it is relatively rare.

The Nûk (no good English equivalent, /nyk/ in X-Sampa) is small, furry, cuddly, soft, and cute. Its fur can have all types of colors and patterns. This tiny descendant of monkeys is very agile, but it usually prefers to lounge around and sleep. It is an adept climber, due to its origin in the jungles. The animal was domesticated as a pet, and is valued and loved by the people of Arnâron. Wild specimen have adapted to the climate, and survive near all sources of water on the planet.