Excerpt from “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” the Indigo Notebook, by Ben-Derek Hayes (Ages 14-17)
Excerpts from another of the “Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes” by Ben-Derek Hayes. This one is exclusively “Worstiary” entries (“Like a Bestiary, but the monsters are even worse!”), and indeed is exclusively creatures created through “Menagermancy,” which appears to be a lost school of magic practiced by the Nightfall Empires and People From Before the First Dawn. Also unlike the majority of the Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes, there is a range of ages listed on this one. Many entries have a cruder drawing that seems to be their original illustration, and then more photo-mash-up looking examples pasted in later “for art reference” when the “publishers come knocking.”
So, adapting the original sketches and later art-references of the hybrid creatures found in the Commonlands* calls for a different art style than previously used. For this task, the art of Marinavorona has been used in this article. While there are dozens of hybrid creatures in the Indigo Book, I have selected three that I particularly enjoy for this excerpt.
*Apparently, according to a note I found with the Arktos entry, the Commonlands are “Those lands held “in common” by the original city-states of the Dwarven, Elven, Human Alliance [“Dehallia”]. While those City-states have mostly expanded into kingdoms [or collapsed], the Commonlands are not allowed to have any government bigger than a single city and what can be hit by a bowshot from its walls. This is supposed to ensure freedom of people in the Commonlands from invasion or conquest by foreign cultures, but in practice actually means the various Dehallia kingdoms are constantly fighting and maneuvering and scheming to gain more control over the various smaller governments, and their alliances and factions which try to bypass the government-size restrictions. This vicious and constant backbiting, ignoring of other more serious threats, and constant digging into older layers and accidentally unleashing things is why the vocation of “Adventurer” is considered normal within the Commonlands, despite being almost unknown elsewhere.”
The Arktos is the Beast of the North, also known as the Ursapard, Winter Warden and King of the Midnight Sun. An Arktos has the head and antlers of a caribou, body of a polar bear, and tail of a snow leopard. They are extremely intelligent, but have utterly un-humanoid interests and concerns. They can live for centuries, some learn druidic magic, and they are extremely territorial.
An Arktos thinks nothing of eating other thinking creatures, and is not offended when other creatures try to eat it. What they do mind is anything that makes major changes to what they consider their territory. However, packs of Arktos sometimes prowl over a circuit that takes 10-20 years to complete. When Commonlands settlements expand hunting, logging, or even building further north, sometimes they discover years after doing so the area is considered claimed by an Arktos pack, which is merciless in driving out what it sees as “invaders.”
Some older Arktos grow black lichen on their horns. They are shunned by others of their kind, sometimes practice necromancy, and usually end up going on killing sprees southward until put down.
The Klaken has the forebody of a lobster, but a series of tentacles instead of a tail. The Klaken prefer to eat seafood that comes from a hard shell, for unknown reasons, causing them to attack other shellfish, the armored WhaleGods… and ships. A Klaken can eat x5 its body weight in a day, but can also go for years in a form of torpor when food is more scarce, waking during storms to see what has been churned up by the thunder and rough seas.
Unlike most creatures that top out at Apocalypse -tier, the Klaken can grow to Kaiju and even Daikaiju tiers. Indeed, Klaken continue to grow in both size and intelligence as they age, with many Dusk Kingdoms have rules about how big a Klaken you can eat (though the Dehallia have no such restrictions), with a length of 118-157 inches being typical cutoff points.
The species commonly known as Magnifcats are technically “peafelines,” brightly-colored felines with the wings, talons, and tail plumage of peafowls. Magnificats come in a range of colors, and unlike peafowls feather patterns can be bland or bold regardless of gender. White, cream, and calico Magnificats are most often female, and males are much more likely to be almost exclusively red, orange, gold, black, or azure in color, with multicolor male cats rarer.
The talons of the Magnificat are deceptively long and dangerous. When “retracted” the tips remain visible (though canted upwards, allowing the peafeline to softly push with its paws without causing injury. However, the claws can still “extend” from that position, making them x3 to x4 larger than those of a typical cat of the same size. They are also of much stronger material than most animals, and Magnificats do claw damage as if they were two size categories larger than their true size.
Magnficats are on the same intelligence and power scale as pseudodragons, imps, and quasits. rather than the powers of those creatures, Magnificats can use their tail-display to dazzle, confuse, stagger, or even blind and stun. They make amazing familiar, but rather than being selected by a spellcaster, a Magnificat forges a familiar bond with whoever it wants to, weather mage or not, and with no warning. Some families host colonies of Magnificats at their homes or lands in the hopes their children will be so familiarized. When asked why they bother, most Magnificats just claim they like having someone nearby who has thumbs.
Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes Index
As I translate and post more excerpts from these amazing analects of creativity, I’ll post the links to the end of the first Horrors & Heroes post, so serve as an Index for all the Horrors & Heroes content.
Excerpt from “The Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes,” the Brown Notebook, by Ben-Derek Hayes (Age 12)
From time to time there come into my possession works by gamers who, for whatever reason, have not previously received the level of exposure and appreciation they deserve. Such is the case in the “Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes” by Ben-Derek Hays. These notebooks were sent to me mysteriously and anonymously, with no known provenance, but clear instructions for me to make what I could of them and legal papers freeing me from my normal concern for looking at unsolicited submissions. All effort to find the original author have, as thus, failed.
Somewhat chaotic as a first draft, these notebooks of varying size and composition range over a number of years and are color-coded in a system I have yet to fully grasp. But there is no doubt that mixed in with the raw exuberance and untested systems, there are sparks of true genius in these books. As they sit in my care now I shall, as editor and chronicler tasked with compiling these disparate nuggets of raw creativity into some cogent, playable form, from time to time offer excerpts of partially-developed material taken from one or more of the notebooks. A each is color coded and marked with the age of the author (though it is unclear if this is the age when a notebook is begun, or when it is finished, or some other relevant date), I’ll include such information in these entries when I can.
This is very much a work-in-progress, as development is going to be a lengthy process undertaken in stages. For example, for the moment I am correcting spelling and doing my best to ensure sentences are complete and can be parsed, but am otherwise not altering the content of the entries I am previewing here. Similarly, Ben-Derek Hayes (Age 12) provided many illustrations in the Brown Notebook, which are clearly intended as just sketch stages (with notes such as “draw better,” “Pay real artist to make this ozsome,” and “get gud” scrawled next to many), but at the same time I feel the general style used for each picture carries important content and tone. While the illustrations in this article are all by Zdenek Sasek, I have endeavored to ensure they capture the spirit of the original sketches as closely as possible
The material presented today is not only all from The Brown Notebook (Age 12), the selected entries are all marked as being from a theoretical “Worstiary” (which, it is noted in a few entries, is “Like a Bestiary, but the things in it are Worse”). I’m not yet sure if the Worstiary is a separate notebook, from which some data was copied, or if the intent was to someday compile the monsters from the Brown Notebook into a formal Horrors & Heroes Worstiary. Indeed, it’s not clear to me if Horrors & Heroes was intended as a stand-alone game system, a supplement for some specific game (or chimera of multiple similar game systems), or a truly audacious attempt to create a supplement that works with any ttRPG.
But those organizational concerns are by burden to bear. You may simply sit back, and bask in the unfettered imagination of Ben-Derek Hayes (Age 12).
Your humble editor and appointed Horrors & Heroes developer, Owen K.C. Stephens
Man of Arms
A Man of Arms is a zombie thing made of nothing but people arms stitched together. It has no head, but it’s body, legs, and arms are made of lots of different arms. It can move as fast when prone as when standing by doing that creepy stop-motion-skittering thing from cable horror movies.
Other than being undead, a man of arms is just 1d4+1 humanoid monsters that only move once a round, but get to make attacks and do other things as often as that many people would. So a Man of Arms made of 3 people moves once, but has initiative and actions for 3 people. All damage goes to the people making it up one at a time, and when you kill one, you’ve hacked off that many arms (so it attacks less and stuff). With no heads they can’t hear or see things and are immune to gazes and songs, but still fight good (but maybe not any ranged attacks since that would be dumb).
Any treasure a Man of Arms has should be a cool weapon some Hero can use.
A scare bear is like a normal bear (or a Dire, Fel, or Apocalypse Bear for higher-level fights), but it has the Direful Howl. Whenever the scare bear sees things but doesn’t attack for a round, or anytime it takes damage or fails a save against an effect, it howls (not an action, just happens). All creatures within 6561.68 feet must save against fear or be more frightened than they were before. You can only be less frightened by running away from the scare bear for a round, killing it, or successfully saying something witty about fear or bears (must roll as high as the scare bear’s Direful Howl save). Which means Scare Bears can understand any language, I guess, so they’re magic too.
Scare bears are big and shaggy, and their eyes glow scary colors, which means even if they use Stealth you know there’s something with glowing eyes in their space.
Scare bears were created through Menagermancy by Udek-Kai the Unliked. One of the People From Before the First Dawn, Udek-Kai grew the Gardens of All Feeling, and made Scare Bears to scare off thieves and kids and crows and stuff. The Gardens of All Feeling also were home to the Fel Scorpionbees, who are immune to fear and make the Eternal Honey, so Scare Bears never got hungry or aged. When the Gardens were burned in the First Day War, the scare bears scattered and changed. They are still drawn to the few remaining Feeling Plants, especially Orchids of Sadness, Roses of Love, and the tiny, delicate Clover of Wondering if Someone Likes You.
Literally ideas written in the margins of the notebook. Some of these may have longer writeups or sketches in later notebooks, which would supersede these short descriptions.
Eye Bug: An eye bug is a big round beetle that crawls into your face when you are sleeping, and eats one of your eyes without you feeling it. To make sure you don’t dig it out, it looks cool and gives you better vision so you can see ghosts and invisible hobbits and traps and stuff. When you cry, microscopic eye bug eggs flow away in your tears and grow up to eat other people’s eyes.
Hangman’s Kite: Sometimes when a kite gets stuck in a hangman’s tree and abandoned, it absorbs the mean from the dead people in the tree. It turns its string into a hangman’s noose, and goes flying looking for people to choke and pull up into the sky by their neck.
Web Kittens: The size of kittens, but with two tails and six spider legs (ending in kitten-paws) rather than normal kitten legs. Can make webs, but normally only do so to form their own balls to play with. Venomous, but their venom makes you love them and want to take care of them. Popular as pets, but illegal in many fortresses and valleys.
Chromatic Books of Horrors & Heroes Index
As I translate and post more excerpts from these amazing analects of creativity, I’ll post the links to future articles here, so serve as repository for all the Horrors & Heroes content.
The Caput Mortuum Notebook (Age 16) – Wardgates, explanation of the Seven Typically Trapped Things, notes on the Gaub-Algen Empire (“goblins”), the Dwarf/Elf/Human Alliance (or Dehallia), Dawn, Noon, Dusk, and Nightfall Empires, Giganarchy, the “Far West” of Muthuul-Danleiband, and the Commonlands. Namedrops beetlephant and pyrosaurus rex.
The Brown Notebook (Age 12) – This page! Monsters from the Worstiary.
The Indigo Notebook (Ages 14-17) – More Worstiary entries (Arktos, the Klaken, Magnificat), and some notes on the Commonlands.