Theragraphica for Atlantis: The Second Age by Khepera Publishing, 2014; 131 pages of monsters.
Atlantis is a relatively simple system, compared to D&D and d20 games, so the stat block for each creature is quite short. They have 14 stats plus two lines for damage and armor, and a short list of any special abilities and weaknesses. As a rules-medium game, the explanations for all special abilities are explained once in the back of the book and not elaborated on in each individual creature entry. Which at first was a bit confusing, because the creature descriptions often don’t really say what these abilities do either. But in truth, this works all really well and effectively. Aura of Fear always works the same for all creatures (with the specific strength depending on attribute scores) and is really pretty self-explanatory. The creature is scary. Those who see it close up get scared. Poison also always works the same way and a creature that attacks with its teeth obviously has poisonous bite, and one that attacks with a stinger obviously with a poisonous sting. This is information that does not need to be spelled out again every time and every GM can figure out how to describe it with a little bit of imagination. Because of that, the descriptions for each creature are really very short. Often just three or four sentences. But the free space that is left on each page is used well with a big picture of the creature, which are mostly very well done. All this combined, I feel like I am getting a lot more flavor from these monsters than from most other monsters books. My descriptions of each creature I’ll present will most likely be longer than the actual descriptions that are in the book, putting into words and talking about all the thoughts that come to my mind from these very dense entries.
I actually have not read the entire thing myself yet, but just having read a quarter of it in detail and seeing all the pictures has gotten my really exited about this. So, here we go:
Chapter 1: Alba and Iber
The islands of Alba and Iber are inspired by the British Islands, with a clear gaelic influence.
Let’s start with the Caorthannach, a really quite weird looking beast. Their bodies resemble large and heavily muscled dogs with black skin and big claws. But their face looks like… I really haven’t the slightest clue. The closest words I can find is a combination of a human skull and a lobsters head, with big evil glowing eyes. Not something you want to encounter in the dark. Does this get another mark on our demonic wolf counter? I think not, but let’s get to the description of it. It really only tells us that they burn down villages and cause mayhem wherever they show up. Heroes often go hunting for them, but a lot of them end up dead themselves. No matter how many are killed, they always come back in large numbers, but nobody knows from where. So far, this really doesn’t sound very interesting. Like just another demonic wolf with a weird face. But wait! Did it say they burn down villages? How would an evil dog do that? So let’s look at the stats. Intelligence of -2 isn’t very bright, just above the smarter kinds of ordinary animals. But holy shit! Strength of +8? That it quite a lot. Actually, flipping ahead through the book, there are not a lot of creatures that even get close to that. This is the range of trolls and hydras. A Constitution of +5 isn’t anything to laugh at either. Their Threat Level is 3, which I think in a d20 game is comparable to a Challenge Rating of about 12. And looking at it’s abilities, this thing gets even scarier. It has a poisonous bite, can spit venom, and is really fast on the ground. And it also has a breath of fire. That’s how they burn down villages. If you want to upgrade them, the book suggest to give them Armored Hide, which has a certain chance to shatter weapons that hit it; Sunder, which makes every successful bite not only injure the target but also damage its armor; and Regeneration. Did I say the first impression is a big evil wolf with an ugly face? This thing is just a total nightmare! As I said, the description text is minimal, but you really have to look at every entry in the stat block to see what they are really about. And these go around destroying villages? They are just terrifying!
Next comes the Carraig Fuileachdach, which is a bit of a shame because we just started and I think it’s the greatest monster in the whole book and perhaps the best creature I’ve ever seen. People have explained to me that gaelic spelling is not nonsensical at all and that there aren’t any pointless letters in Irish words, like the ones that English is so very fond of. But seriously, if you don’t know how gaelic spelling works, these names are just completely unpronounceable. But that really isn’t a big problem here, since our Craig here is a very rare creature found in only a few places in the world and there are probably few people who know that there are more than just one. The appearance of this creature is very unusual. It really is just a big slab of stone. It may have been cut into a specific shape and may have images or runes carved into it, but it really is just a big slab of stone. On which humans have been sacrificed. For thousands of years and countless generations. And which each sacrifice, a little bit of the essence that was send to the gods got absorbed by the stone on which they were killed. Over time this adds up, until the stone becomes infused with power and gains a sentience of its own. And what do they want? More blood! Being simply a big slab of stone, the creature can not move in any way. But it’s Perception and Will are pretty high and their Intelligence, Charisma, and Constitution are each a staggering +10. Armor and Hit Points obviously enormous. They also have a number of special abilities, like an Aura of Fear, a Damaging Aura (in form of a cloud of sharp stones that whirls around it), can Drain Life-Force and Speak Like A Man. How does it talk with no mouth? It does not say, but obviously it would be either a disembodied voice in the wind or from below the ground, or perhaps telepathy. It’s up to the GM. But looking at the description of Drain Life-Force, the creature has to touch the target to drink it’s blood or something similar, whatever is appropriate? So does it have a special power to cause a huge geyser of blood shot from a nearby creature like in the Legacy of Kain games? If so, what range would that have? And how would it make an attack roll against what defense? Well, my own view is that this is an ancient altar on which human blood has been spilled, so for this ability to work, a target has to be on the altar in some way. How does the target get there? Has the stone cultists who would bring it sacrifices? Well, there is one last small entry in the special abilities that changes all. “Spell Ability (Dark Arts)”. What does that mean in Atlantis? It means the monster is a sorcerer with access to eight forms of magic with the exception of Influence. (Which is interesting, as that means no mind control of other creatures. All who serve and worship it are doing so willingly.) Atlantis is a rules-medium game, so it doesn’t have specific skill ranks for each skill but just an average Ability Level that applies to all skills. And in the case of Craig here, the level is +31. Which is just plain out terrifying. Only the great dragons can beat that. When a mortal sorcerer increases any of his eight magic skills above 15, he gains one horrible mutation for every point, so when you want to get into really powerful magic you quickly turn into a Spwan of Yog-Sothoth and it’s only downhill from there. To get the amount of power that this guy has, you’d need to take 120 mutations, that just for reference. It also can cast 32 spells in a row without suffering penalties for getting tired and even then it’s massive Ability Level means that it can keep on casting for quite some time without a noticeable dent in spell strength or chance of success. Magic in Atlantis is pretty freeform and there are no predefined spells. Except for mind control, this thing can do pretty much anything that magic might possibly do. Which includes picking you up in the air and crushing your skull to goo on its surface. Or shot fireballs, lightning from the sky, the ground opening beneath you, summon hordes of demons, turn you into any imaginable shape. This is just one big old slab of stone? Yes, but a big old slab of stone of DOOM! I love super-powerful AIs in sci-fi games, and this thing is basically that. Except that it can not be shut down or is limited by the machines it controls in any way. This thing wants it, and it happens. If you have played The Witcher 2, do you remember the start of Chapter 2? This is what I think a Carraig Fuileachdach is like. Only much, much worse. It says they are often worshiped as gods. As far as I can tell, they pretty much are gods. Angry gods, that thirst for blood.
A Fearbeag is a tall, seemingly humanoid creature wearing a dark and dirty robe with a deep hood which hides it’s true form. Below this disguise, the creatures true from is a swarm of little, 15 cm tall men, and it’s voice sounds like dozens of children talking at the same time. This is a pretty classic ghost on the road story monster, as the creature merely wants some company, but will try to kill and eat any who reject it. They are not particularly strong creatures with no outstanding abilities, so they don’t seem to be intended as combat encounters. If Heroes react friendly towards them, the Faerbeags may share their extensive knowledge of hiffen paths and secret places in the wilderness, which might be quite useful. Giving the players a hint where they might find a guide to a lost ruin or hidden lair, but not telling them it’s a Faerbeag might lead to some quite interesting encounters. Especially, since the creature can fully regenerate as long as at least one of the tiny men survives. In case of a fight, it’s quite likely the Heroes might leave a very angry enemy behind, that could lead other villains to them out of spite.
Chapter 2: Anostos
The lands of Anostos are located on ancient and mythic Greenland and are the homeland of the evil Formorian giants.
The Blydwueld is a strange plant creature consisting of a large central bulb covered in long spines with several 10 meter long vines growing from it. It’s not a particularly powerful creature, but preys on humanoid people in a rather gruesome and horrifying manner. The blydwueld attacks with its vines, which do not cause any damage themselves, and then use them to impale its victim on its spines to kill him. Once the victim is dead, the creature ripps of its head and sticks it on one of the spines on its top. As the brain rotts, the remains drip on the main body of the blydwueld, which allows it to absorb some of its knowledge and memories. Killing the blydwueld and eating it is said to provide a person with lost and secret knowledge. I see how this could make for interesting adventures. The Heroes are chasing an enemy with vital information to Anostos but only find his mutilated body impaled on a blydwueld. Who is the lucky person who would try to kill the plant and eat it? No telling what weird things you might learn from it.
The Brass Horror seems to be a creature closely tied to a specific place in the setting, which I don’t really know much about as I only have the rulebook and the monster book for Atlanis. So I don’t really know what is going on here, but it’s still an interesting creature with enough flavor to build your own story around it for your own setting. A brass horror is a roughly human shaped creature that appears to be made entirely out of molten brass. These creatures regularly emerge from a strange lake and wander the nearby area, attacking anything they encounter on sight until they are destroyed. Which might take a while, as they have the Regeneration ability and are pretty tough and strong to begin with. What intrigues me about them is the one little detail that when slain, the liquid brass hardens, and could probably be salvaged. However breaking open the dead creature causes a demon to come out and attack. But sometimes not, and instead you get a perfectly grown and healthy human child instead. This is one very weird creature. I am sure there is more about them in the setting book, but I am intrigued. There is another type of creature that lives in the same land called the Uln, which is a strange hybrid of Jinn, Naga, Lemurian, and Atlantean (the four ancient races that preceded humans). The Uln hunt and destroy the brass horrors, claiming they are traitors to their lord, Ba’al, one of the two great gods of Evil. What is going on? I wouldn’t put it past the game to just not give an answer and simply keep it a mystery. That’s oldschool, after all.
A Mythsiger is a very large insect that can wrap itself in its wings, which are covered in strange (and I guess supernatural) patterns, which allow the creature to appear like a cloaked human to people until they get very close. When prey comes near, they discard their Edgar costume and attack with their four mantis-like arms. I guess it’s a neat surprise the first time players encounter one, but this entry doesn’t really give much indication what the creature would do beside this one trick.
Chapter 3: Atlantis
The Apata Ori appear like the heads of giant stone statues but are in fact some kind of spirits. Usually they slumber in places near natural concentrations of magical energy but awaken when someone disturbes these magical fields. Then they fly into the air with the glow of lava coming from their angry eyes and screaming mouths. They shout in voices that sound like grating stones, but their speech is usually intelligible to almost anyone. When an Apata Ori attacks, it surrounds itself with a spinning cloud of sharp shards of bronze, which it can throw at targets up to 50 meters away and shred anything that gets too close to it. They also cast spells like a sorcerer.
A Diomekses is an atlantean horse of the finest breeding and stature, but has been corrupted by the evil god Ba’al. It often stands near roads for wanderers to come by and approach to capture it. Then ir reveals it’s maw full of sharp teeth and attempts to swallow the person in one pice. Which is obviously way too big for an ordinary horse to swallow so there has some massive jaw stretching to go on that defies ordinary physics.
The Loving Dead is one of the weirdest ideas for an undead I’ve come across. And not necessarily in a good way. It’s the corpse of a dead person that rises from its grave to seek company among the living. When it finds a target it hypnotizes it with its gaze, takes the person back to its resting place, and then suffocates it with its embrace over several hours.
The Ubuze is a tiny insect that is believed to feed on magic minerals used by the Atlanteans in their magic creations. They produce a soft blue light similar to fireflies and also small amounts of heat. Ubuze are attracked to shiny surfaces like polished metal or gems and have some means to attract more of their kind when they find any such object. Sometimes miners breed swarms of these tiny animals and release them in the night to be lead to any valuable metal deposites in the area. In the wilderness, a swarm of ubuze can be seen from miles away and is usually the sign of some valuables being exposed to the air, which of course does attract a lot of attentions from other people in the area. A swarm of ubuze might get quite annoying when adventurers try to secretly carry treasures through the wilds and make the job a lot more difficult. There once was a sorcerer who created a magc crystal that could attract any ubuze within a vast area. The swarm it attracted was so massive that their combined heat burned down an entire city before the gem got stolen and safely stored away.
Chapter 4: Elysium
The region of Elysium coveres the Pacific Ocean and its numerous islands.
The Ngurai is an undead shapechanger. At night it comes from its grave and turns into a huge, rotting rat to kill crops, destroy boats, and spread disease. They come for people who have offended the laws of the gods first, but will eventually kill everyone on the island if they are not destroyed first. Sometimes they will even try to reach other islands to continue their foul hauntings.
A Uhinipili is a creature that is half man, half hammerhead shark that feeds on carrion and will dig up corpses to eat. It looks really cool, but unfortunately the description doesn’t really give any hint why they would be any more of a nuisance. Someone vandalizing graveyards isn’t exactly heroic by itself.
Chapter 5: Eria
Eria covers the lands of North America.
The Manidoon is a single unique undead creature that haunts the lands of Eria. It’s a huge collection of corpses that have fused together into a single massive worm three meters wide and fifty meters long. Though the hundreds of mouths all over its body are shouting curses all over each other, there appears to be a single face at the front of the creature. Among all the rotting corpses is the single body of a living and sleeping human child. The strength of this creature is as massive as its size and it’s hit points are almost off the charts. However, if somewhere where to kill the child, it would destroy the entire creature. It looks really cool and sounds very fun for a first encounter, but as presented here it’s perhaps a bit too enigmatic. What does it do?
Wihmbahgs are undead created by the evil god Ba’al. They are dried and mummified corpses of people and animals, but are in fact completely hollow and filled with stinking fumes and swarms of buzzing insects. They are most interesting when they are upgraded, which makes them surrounded by a cloud of toxic gas and drain the life force of living creatures, presumedly through the insects draining their blood.
Worm Wood is presumed to be an elder god, who manifests in Eria in the form of numrous white and bloated worms. The worms burrow inside living animals or trees and then eat them up from the inside. Then they replace the muscles and organs with a wave of fibrous strands, which they use to control the rotting and hollow shell of a body. If a body is destroyed but the worm allowed to live, it will seek out a new body to take over. Potentially the same person who just destroyed the previous body and assumed it to be a simple zombie. Worm Wood himself always uses a perfectly preserved humanoid body of seemingly excelent health and shape as his own avatar.
Theragraphica Cliche Creature Counter:
- Evil Apes: 3
- Variant Ghouls: 6
- Demon Dogs: 1
- Skeletons with Robes: 1