Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Because No One Demanded It: Tirapheg Week!

Ah, the original Fiend Folio. Many gamers dislike the book, and apparently it was so poorly received that after two separate negative reviews in Dragon Magazine* the Folio's editor Don Turnbull was allowed a rebuttal in a later issue. The book sold reasonably well but was allowed to go out of print after only two years. Reportedly Gary Gygax himself thought poorly of the book.

None of which lessens my love for it one iota. In fact the often reviled Tome of Creatures Malevolent & Benign gave this blog its name, and inspired several of my earliest posts here! It has its share of goofy monsters, like nearly all monster books do. OK, perhaps more than its share. But I love the Folio's homebrew roots, its sense of humor, the fantastic art by Russ -- as distinctive a stylist as Erol Otus in my book. And in fairness it contains many of the game's more memorable foes as well: the gith and the slaadi, the drow and svirfneblin, the revenant and the death knight.

Of course it also has the spectacularly inexplicable flumph, which has earned a sort of mascot status among gamers of a certain stripe, and was notably featured in a running gag in the D&D webcomic Order of the Stick. Even more bizarre though, is the tirapheg, a spike-armed, stump-legged manikin man with a mouth in its belly and a craving for carrion. I suppose it's a pretty silly monster, yeah, but it has always fascinated me. There is something eerie about its blank faces and staring eyes, its tentacle-whiskered mouth and grasping claw. It teeters on a line between the absurd and the horrific.

Enough apologetics. All of this is mere prelude. From now till Friday it's Tirapheg Week here in my corner of the web, a new variation each day. Making the Best of My Very Worst Ideas. That's the Malevolent & Benign Promise.

If you're still with me, take a jump into the Mutant Future just after the cut.

* Ed Greenwood complained that the "Flat taste didn't go away" and the other review related the "Observations of a semi-satisfied customer." Ouch!

Not too long ago Edsan of Clanless/Mutants posted a great write up of the flumph for Mutant Future, so I thought I'd kick things off likewise.

Broken Men

No. Enc: 1-4 (3-12)
Alignment: Neutral
Move: 90' (30') but see below
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: varies, see below
Damage: 1-4 per attack
Save: L7
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: VIII (gizmos) or IX (drugs, chemicals or medical devices)

When gene sequencing programs go haywire or nanoviruses infect the spawning vats, clone manufactories sometimes produce the strange mutants called Broken Men. They vary wildly in form, their blandly human appearance twisted by misshapen limbs and multiple legs, arms and heads. Arms grow into spikes, claws or whips. They hop, limp and crawl on backwards feet or serpentine legs. Some have two or three heads and some have no heads at all, eyes and mouths gaping from their chests or elsewhere. The tables below can be used to determine the forms of individuals or groups encountered.

Broken men are semi-intelligent at best. They mumble and titter amongst themselves but have no semblance of language or culture. They are motivated chiefly by hunger for decaying flesh, and have no compunction about devouring their own dead. Some venture from the clone factories to rob graves and even to hunt live prey, travelling only at night since 90% suffer from the albinism mutation. A broken man attacks with whatever natural weapons it possesses, up to 6 attacks per round based on its number of functional arms. It may also attack with its mental mutations.

Mutations: albinism, bizarre appearance. Each broken man has one mental mutation, plus one per head.

Heads: Roll d4-1 for quantity

1-3. Normal
4. Echolocation
5. Thermal Vision
6. Ultraviolet Vision
7. Unusual Senses (e.g. 360 vision, motion sensitivity, heightened scent)
8. Unusual Sense (precognitive sight: +1 to hit and saving throws, never surprised)

Arms: Roll d6 for quantity and d8 for type (once per individual or once per arm)
1-3. Normal
4. Claw
5. Spike or blade
6. Stump (arm useless for attacking)
7. Telescoping (up to 10' reach)
8. Whip

Legs: Roll d4 for quantity and d8 for type (once per individual or once per leg)
1-3. Normal
4. Backwards
5. Serpentine or tentacled
6. Springing (leaps of up to 20' once per round)
7. Stilt-like (Movement 120' [90'])
8. Stump (GM's decision whether this limb affects movement)


noisms said...

Love it. I can see I'm going to have to download this Mutant Future thing you kids are always talking about.

Jeff Rients said...

Sweet! Your post-apoc version is even cooler than the original!

Sham aka Dave said...

Great stuff! Broken Men would be great in a D&D game, not just a post-apoc RP system. Looking forward to seeing more during Tirapheg Week.

Scott said...

I *love* the Tirapheg. In one of my versions of B1 In Search of the Unknown, there was a Tirapheg that stumped around and feasted on any corpses the PCs left behind (which weren't many, as they usually dragged them outside to the increasingly fat and demanding Vulchlings that lived outside).

Anyway, it elicited the proper combination of "eww" and "lol wut" ...

Scott said...

Oh, and of course one of Greenwood's chief complaints about the Folio was that the authors didn't bloviate for 5 pages about the ecology and sociology of every entry. Because the Norker demands context. Goon. :(

Max said...

Noisms: MF is the MF bomb, you dig? It's a tricked out Road Warrior speedster built on Labyrinth Lord's B/X hot rod kit.

Sham, Jeff: Thanks dudes. Hopefully you'll enjoy versions for Mazes & Minotaurs, Labyrinth Lord and Encounter Critical as well!

99th (or Scott, is it?) Awesome use of the tirapheg for shock and aww grody effect! Much more colorful than the standard g. cube dungeon cleaner.

re Greenwood: Ironically enough "a flat taste" describes my own feelings about the Forgotten Realms.

Edsan said...

Damn, this critter is awesome! I have to unleash a bunch of these onto my players.

Ron said...

Excellent post! I kinda like the ol' Fiend Folio, and I always loved this monster in particular (even though in the old days we never seemed to use him). He's going in the EC campaign RIGHT NOW...thanks for reminding me!!!


Anonymous said...

I'm stealing these as soon as I have a chance for my Mutant Future games.