Monday, August 25, 2014

5E Monster Conversion: Thork

I’m a big fan of obscure monsters since they keep the players guessing and surprised. I decided to update the much maligned Thork from the AD&D Fiend Folio for 5E. This is a monster that inevitably has been passed over by DM and player alike for decades. It also has made several lists as one of the worst monsters every created and yet I think it has a certain charm. Resurrection challenge accepted!

In trying to create a good background for the Thork I kept thinking about the 6th labor of Hercules. The task was to drive away a flock of man eating birds which gathered at the lake town of Stymphalos.

These fly against those who come to hunt them, wounding and killing them with their beaks. All armor of bronze or iron that men wear is pierced by the birds; but if they weave a garment of thick cork, the beaks of the Stymphalian birds are caught in the cork garment... These birds are of the size of a crane, and are like the ibis, but their beaks are more powerful, and not crooked like that of the ibis.

Pausanias, Description of Greece

So now we have a great foundation for the thork. The Stymphalian bird was carnivorous with a metal beak, feathers and poisonous dung. Legend holds that the birds belonged to Ares, the Greek god of War. For our conversion I decided to combine some elements of the Stymphalian bird with the Thork.

Hercules and the Stymphalian birds 560-530 B.C.
Photograph courtesy of the British Museum, London
Large beast, neutral evil

Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 28 (3d10 + 6)
Speed 10 ft., fly 60 ft.

STR  16 (+3)
DEX 10 (+0)
CON 15 (+2)
INT   15 (+2)
WIS  12 (+1)
CHR 07 (-2)

Damage Immunities poison
Damage Resistances fire, bludgeoning, piercing, slashing
Damage Vulnerabilities cold

Skills Perception +3
Senses Passive Perception 13
Languages nil
Challenge 3 (700 XP) 


Keen Sight. The thork has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

Flock Tactics. The thork has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the thork’s allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated. 

Toxic Waste. Anyone within 30’ of a thork dung pile must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, taking 7 (2d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. If the poison damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target is stable but poisoned for 1 hour, even after regaining hit points, and is paralyzed while poisoned in this way.


Beak. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage.

Boiling Jet (Recharge 5–6). The thork exhales boiling water in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.


These stork like birds live exclusively in or near water. Although they are similar to the stork in appearance and shape, closer inspection will reveal they appear metallic with a coppery sheen. An observer will also notice that wisps of steam  rise from the bird's beak, though no discernible heat is radiated by the body.

The thork are renowned for being extremely vicious and unpleasant in temperament. Worse yet the bird is an insatiable carnivore which enjoys the flavor of human flesh. If it has not fed recently it will attack a human on sight if not terribly outnumbered.

Thork flocks are a plague to most human settlements and they prey on smaller villages on the edge of civilization. Their greenish dung is highly toxic and has been known to ruin very valuable water supplies. The odor of the dung has a unique albeit revolting acidity that most rangers will recognize immediately.    

To attack, the thork squirts a jet of boiling water at its opponent. The bird is capable of sucking in the necessary quantity of water and heating it very quickly. If it cannot heat water it will defend itself by striking with its beak and attempt to draw opponents near its toxic excrement.

When a thork dies its corpse quickly becomes a dried out husk of high quality copper. These have been known to command prices as high as 200gp on the open market. Additionally they are very fond of platinum coins  or other small objects made of that metal; it normally conceals them under a boulder or under a rock face near the water's edge.


Conversion tools:

Creative DM Imagination

Stan Shinn’s 1E to 5E converter

Stymphalian bird history

Original AD&D Thork from Fiend Folio

Monday, August 18, 2014

5E Monster Conversion: Adherer

I decided to crack open my AD&D Fiend Folio and give Stan Shinn’s 1e to 5e converter a whirl. I went to the first monster I saw which was the Adherer and started to update it. This is one of those underrated and very old school monsters that is just plain fun. Imagine a white skinned humanoid in funeral wrappings which secretes a thick resin akin to glue. This beastie will make for a memorable encounter if not a sticky situation for your players.

In terms of history the adherer first appeared as the gluey in White Dwarf #7 (June/July 1978). Subsequently it appeared in the AD&D Fiend Folio (1979) and then the second edition Fiend Folio Monstrous Compendium supplement (1992).

Below I have converted the adherer for 5E Dungeons & Dragons:

Medium humanoid, lawful evil


Armor Class 15
Hit Points 58 (4d8 +26)
Speed 30

STR  18 (+4)
DEX 14 (+2)
CON 15 (+2)
INT   14 (+2)
WIS  10 (+0)
CHR 10 (+0)

Saving Throws Str +2
Damage Resistances acid, bludgeoning and slashing
Damage Vulnerabilities fire and magic missile
Damage Immunities Non fire cantrips and 1st level spells (except magic missile)
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, intoxicated, prone
Skills Perception +4, Stealth +4
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages nil
Challenge 3 (700 XP)


Dungeon Camouflage. The adherer has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made while underground.

Effect on objects: Any non stone object striking the adherer automatically sticks to it. As an action a character may attempt to remove a stuck object (Athletics DC 22).


Multiattack. The adherer makes two fist attacks.

Adhesion Fist. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d3+ 5) bludgeoning damage plus the target is grappled (escape DC 14). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained, takes 7 (2d6) acid damage per round and the adherer cannot use that fist on another target. That being said, the adherer can now use the target as an involuntary shield. This provides half cover (+2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws) using small to medium targets and three-quarters cover (+5 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws) using large targets.



This curious creature bears a close resemblance to a mummy – man sized and with loose folds of dirty white skin which appear on first sight to be a mummy's bandages. Coincidentally, the creature is just as vulnerable to fire as is a mummy do to a resinous solvent in its body fluids.

It is immune to damage from all first level spells (accept magic missile – see above). The creature's skin constantly exudes a sour-smelling glue-like substance with very powerful adhesive properties; any material except stone will adhere to it. Only fire, boiling water, mighty strength or the creature's own voluntary secretions will break the adhesion. Thus any weapon which hits the creature will adhere to it as well. The adhesive properties of the secretion wear off in 10 rounds after the adherer is killed.

Usually the adherer will catch its prey by waiting in ambush, camouflaging itself by rolling in dirt, sticks, and leaves and then artfully arranging larger pieces of debris to conceal its form. Any prey (regardless of size) passing near its 'hideout' will trigger its attack response and the adherer will pounce on the closest target, attempting to hit and to cling with bulldog-like tenacity until the prey expires. However, if it is spotted and attacked before any potential prey has come into pouncing range (with missile fire or sometimes even loud noises); it will become confused and make a hasty retreat.

Boiling water (or boiling liquid of other types) will cause the adherer 1-3 hit points of damage if a sizeable quantity is thrown over the creature and inhibit its adhesive properties for the subsequent melee round. The adherer’s taste for prey is wide-ranging and it will usually attack, given a suitable opportunity. The only exception to this is the spider - the adherer will never attack a spider of whatever variety and sometimes it has been known to co-operate with them in trapping prey.

Despite its appearance, the adherer is not an undead creature.

Fiend Folio 1979
White Dwarf #7 1978

Fiend Folio Monstrous Compendium 1992

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

5E: The circle is now complete

At Ultracon this summer we used a mixture of the 5E Playtest and Basic rules since we did not have the Player’s Handbook yet. The main event was played over the weekend and involved a custom mega dungeon which the characters had to navigate through. For background they were all prisoners in a monastery dungeon awaiting trial for their individual crimes. Unbeknownst to them below the monastery was an ancient ziggurat which was being excavated by the evil bishop and his zombie workforce.

At the beginning of the weekend an earthquake sent all fifteen players down into the belly of this ancient ruin. With nothing but soiled rags to wear they had to collect makeshift equipment and try to escape. In terms of stress testing 5E the story turned out to be a great way to do so. Old school practices such as being innovative and thinking outside the box occurred time and time again. Even the most stalwart war gamers in our circle enjoyed a mix of theater of the mind and dice rolling.

Our three game tables were an even blend of veteran players, returning players and new players. Perhaps the most important observation over the weekend was the ease at which 5E played. This is a game that really pays attention to its heritage more than any other edition. One of our DM’s had not sat behind the screen in over 20 years. He was able to comfortably game master rules almost unseen and had a blast doing it. Sure there were hand waves here and there but that is supposed to happen!

Throughout the weekend I did not hear one iota of rules criticism from even the oldest grogs who attended. Instead all I heard was people having fun with an old friend they thought they lost called Dungeons & Dragons. The simplicity of the game and the modularity are very appealing to me. If Wizards keeps its promise of avoiding endless class expansions riddled with power creep 5E will have major roots in the RPG community. As a big fan of the OSR and I’m already digging the O5R acronym and think it’s really appropriate.

5E may turn out to be my favorite variation of D&D to date. It’s tough to make a comeback but I think they did it this time. I have not seen this level of excitement produced by D&D since the golden era of TSR in the early 80s. Full circle indeed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dredgehammer Dark Ruby Mild Ale

Some if you may be wondering why my blog went dark (pun intended) for the last few weeks? Between family vacation and convention preparation I was extremely busy. For some background since 2012 I have been organizing a private game weekend called Ultracon for family and friends. Life has a funny way of distracting us from our hobbies and the relationships we have forged over the years. Add in social media and we all feel connected but are we really? Nothing beats sitting around playing games and having a good time.

Ultracon has been a fantastic success and this past weekend I think has built the foundation for many more to come. Every year we always try to find some cool swag for the attendees. This year the goodies included vintage d20s (0-9x2), custom Ultracon D6s, a rechargeable +1 bonus chip and some gracious additions from Goodman Games.

Coolest of all however are the items crafted by the players themselves. This included beautiful hand embroidered dice bags, metal engraved dice boxes and two cases of home brewed beer with a keepsake bottle. For today’s post I plan to focus on the beer as it has a game element you may want to add to your own campaign world.

Ultanya is a realm I have been creating for thirty years and during that time I have added many wines and spirits. One of the players in our circle is quite the beer aficionado and had the idea to bring some custom brew to Ultracon. As a fellow imbiber and indulger of liquid bread I was instantly on-board with this idea! I was invited to help during brew day which was a very educational experience since my knowledge did not go beyond the label of most bottles.

The recipe chosen was an English Dark Mild which is well known for low alcohol content and a very mild finish. Since our attendees all had eclectic tastes this would prove to be a good choice as everyone enjoyed it. The pilot brew actually won 2nd place in a local home brew competition and was praised by several brew masters.

I was so impressed with the effort being put forward with this project I just knew it needed a permanent place in my realm. I went to work on some back story and created a fun label. So without further ado let me introduce you to Dredgehammer Dark Ruby Mild Ale!

The Dredgehammers are known for their talents with barley and hops. Realizing that traditional deep ales were too strong for the non dwarven palate the Dredgehammers decided to make something unique for export to the surface world. The result is their immensely popular Dark Ruby Mild Ale. 

The brewery was founded in 2125 by Lien Dredgehammer deep in the halls of Arbangaz. Originally self-distributed, Lien and his family bottled and delivered all of the beer to the dwarven market for the first forty years. By 2165, the Dredgehammers were shipping more than 500 barrels annually to surface kingdoms.

For the next several hundred years the Dark Ruby Mild Ale was perfected and continually exported.  In 3002, the Dredgehammer’s opened a new production brewery on the surface world. This facility has seen dozens of major additions since then on a 16-acre site. Beers and ale are now brewed on a 50-barrel system with a total annual export capacity of more than 10,000 barrels.

Dark Ruby Mild is still their best seller and frequently found in taverns of mid to high quality. The alcohol content is very low (by dwarven standards) which is appealing to both the imbiber and of course the seller’s coin purse. Grainy to toasty caramel malts, low carbonation and a nearly still, bubbly head are defining characteristics of the brew. Colors can range from brown to dark red.

Game Information:
Consumption of a pint of Dark Ruby Mild Ale will grant the drinker +1 to Wisdom Saves for 30 minutes, but at the end of that time the effect is reversed for the following 30 minutes.

Market Price: