Deadlands: Anastasis & Wormwood
Mr Guest's Guide to Challenging Legendary Encounters
The following guide offers support for storytellers who are wondering what kind of challenges to present legendary posses. The guide is divided into four levels, fitting the various kinds of challenge levels that storytellers may want to use. Each level has several examples to provide storytellers with an idea of different kinds of encounters and antagonists for each challenging difficulty. This is so that storytellers don’t get the mistaken idea that certain supernatural gimmicks are the key to a challenging encounter for legendary posses or that only seasoned spellcasters can offer a challenge or some kind of convoluted trap must be used. Sometimes any or all of these might be true. But these kinds of challenges should be interesting, intentional choices, and not seen as requirements for challenging a legendary group.
Everyday Dangers: Level 1
These are encounters that present little danger to the legendary posse, but provide a good diversion. Creative storytellers will use these encounters for other purposes. Suggestions below.
Encounter 1.1: The Great Bayou Croc
General Note: Ahh, the mythical bayou croc. So many stories have been told of this creature. Measuring 30’ in length, it can crush water craft into matchsticks. They bring death to the unwary. But, really, for a legendary group, one feels inclined to feel sorry for this wondrous creature, not the other way around.
Large Bayou Croc
Agility – 6 Smarts – 4 (A) Spirit – 6 Strength – 12+6 Vigor- 12
Fighting – D8, Notice – D8, Stealth – D10, Swimming D8
Bite: Str. +10
Death Roll – if a croc hits with a raise on a bite attack, it does an extra 2D8 damage (instead of the usual D6)
Large – attacks against the giant crocodile gain a +2 modifier
Semi-aquatic – Pace 4
Pace – 6
Parry – 6
Toughness – 15 (including armor 3)
On first glance this creature looks more like an Encounter Level 2. If it hits with a death roll, say straight out of the water on an unsuspecting cowpoke leaning off the side of the boat, it’ll do 1D12 + 1D10 + 2D8 + 6 + a very likely 4 damage from getting the drop. That’s enough to kill anything. It’s also an awesome sight to behold, believe you me. But look at it this way. What legendary posse worth its salt isn’t going to see a 30’ crocodile swimming toward it? And if they spot it? Well then the poor crocodile is going to have to belly up to the boat or shimmy out of the water and run straight at the group which is likely going to mow it down like a good ole fashioned rodeo. Poor croc.
Now let’s say this posse is oblivious. Or good and drunk. Well then one of them is going to be rolling some serious injuries and avoiding death. This is true. But in an age of weird science, that may just mean the individual is going to need a steam device implant. As for the crocodile. It may have gotten its meal, but you better believe that the rest of the posse is going to hit its target number of 4 with a +2 to hit and probably going to get at least 1 raise on its damage rolls, if not half a dozen or even a dozen. With that many hits, this scholar believes that the rest of the posse can take revenge on the croc with two hits dealing 15 damage or more and then dive in after their wounded friend before he drowns and really dies.
Brutal? Yes. Dangerous. Only if the party has no bennies. Certainly, if the party is down to its last bennies, then you may want to consider this a Level 3 or even Level 4 encounter.
Encounter 1.2: Spider Babies must be fed
General Note: Spider Babies are best introduced as the posse investigates an abandoned house, a mine, or some other place recently come into disuse. Terrantulas, the official term for these creatures, make their nests near trap-door covered holes near trails, roads, or paths and they need enough food to feed their countless babies. This makes a wonderful introduction to a story: not too dangerous, creepy, and a fairly fast encounter, all the while making sure characters don’t feel too comfortable.
Large Terrantula (1)
Agility – 8 Smarts – 4 Spirit – 6 Strength – 8 Vigor- 6
Fighting – D8, Notice – D8, Stealth – D12
Ambush – trap-door-covered holes near trails. Notice -4 to spot.
Poisonous Bite – Str. + 2D6
Spring – can spring up to 3", gaining +2 bonus to their first fighting roll
Pace – 10
Parry – 6
Toughness – 5
Terrantulas will wait patiently and quietly in unseen recesses. They understand enough to know that they can’t rush straight ahead on an entire posse, but one unfortunate who falls through the trap door would make a juicy morsel. Trap doors in cluttered or dark spaces will receive an additional -2 to spot, making it a total of -6. If someone does spot the trap door, the spider will stalk the group from behind and try to kill any stragglers, or better yet, knock a character into the trap door. Once the character falls through, he or she will take 2D6 falling damage and then be subject to vicious spring attack from the terrantulas momma at +6 for the drop and its spring, and +4 damage for the drop. Very likely that will result in a total damage of Str. + 2D6 + 4 + 1D6. If the storyteller wants to turn this into a Level 2 encounter, he or she can add a small terrantula swarm – the unfed babies. They will be startled into attacking. Alternately, the momma spider could already be dead from the last unfortunate who feel into the trap, but the babies have recently hatched!
Small Terrantula Swarm (1)
Agility – 10 Smarts – 4 Spirit – 12 Strength – 8 Vigor- 10
Notice – D6
Bite – hundreds of bite each round, hitting automatically & causing 2D4 to everyone in a medium burst template
Poison – anybody wounded by a swarm must roll Vigor. Success indicates the victim shakes off the effects; failure means he’s paralyzed for 1D6 hours.
Split – swarms are clever enough to split into two smaller swarms – small burst templates. The toughness of these smaller swarms is lowered to 5.
Swarm – Parry +2, cutting & piercing weapons deal no damage. Area effect weapons work normally, and stomping inflicts strength each round. May evade swarms by jumping into water.
Pace – 10
Parry – 6 (+2 for swarm included)
Toughness – 7
Swarms will either attack wounded characters who fell into the trap door, or they will crawl out of the trap door, antagonized, and viciously attack the rest of the posse. Storytellers should be aware that posses with very few bennies may very well get unlucky. If they lose initiative and all suffer wounds, if they fail their Vigor rolls and have no bennies, no one will be left alive to save the group! Similarly, if one or two characters fall to the momma spider, that may leave precious few to fend off the swarm. The posse may find itself in a dire situation in no time. Life in the Old West can turn from Level 1 to Level 4 in no time fast. If characters all have 1-2 bennies each, the storyteller can feel fairly safe. Certainly, the warm and its mother together are a Level 2 encounter, though.
Encounter 1.3: Tomb Guardians
A Cut Above the Rest: Level 2
These are encounters that present a healthy challenge for the legendary posse, and are generally unusual encounters for the average posse. As such, they should be presented as notable events in and of themselves, but in the end, they present little real danger to the legendary posse. They will, however, significantly drain resources. Two to three of these encounters, back to back, present a Level 3 challenge.
Encounter 2.1: A Trio of Horned Serpents
General Note: A trio of horned serpents can make for a flavorful early encounter in a session which will also weaken the party for a Level 3 encounter later in the session or make the posse worried about any later encounters it has, or even just complicate important roleplaying encounters later in the session with an residual poison. While rarely deadly for a legendary posse, they will present a challenge, especially to non-melee focused posses because of the tendency of the horned serpent to engage people in close combat grappling and constriction. Party members wishing to help their mates may find themselves in danger of hurting their friends on misses (not just 1’s!).
Agility – 8 Smarts – 4 Spirit – 8 Strength – 10 Vigor- 8
Fighting – D8, Guts – D4, Notice – D8, Stealth – D10
Aquatic – Pace 6
Bite – Str. +D4
Constrict – raise on bite = grapple, each round thereafter causing Str. + D8 auto
Horns – Str. + D6
Poison – wounded? Roll Vigor -2. Succeed? -1 Fatigue. Fail? Unconscious for D4 hours.
Shape Change – activated through Spirit. Anything that was prey. No PP.
Pace – 6
Parry – 6
Toughness – 6
The key to playing up this encounter is giving the horned serpent its due. They should slide into ambush when the party looks most vulnerable. They have rudimentary intelligence. Use it. Wait until they split up or leave one guard awake. Then they use stealth to sneak. -3 darkness, -2 staying close to camouflaged ground cover, D10 Stealth should give any sentry quite the hard time. Then the three serpents “get the drop” on their three victims. That’s a +4 to attack and +4 to damage hombres. Spend a benny if things don’t go your way. They’re in for a rude awakening…literally. Don’t be shy about it. If just one member of the group is strong enough to break the grapple or lucky enough not to be chosen, these non-wild cards will go down fast. And plenty of legendary posses have decent fighters with a dagger and bennies to spend to escape. Again, if only one escapes, the posse is likely doing fine. And if there are more than three posse members? Well then that’s all safety isn’t it. Sure, the posse will be extremely weary that evening, and drunk on poison, but they’ll live. They can quit their whining. One final note: firing or hitting the horned serpent as it is entangling and grappling an opponent should require a called shot of a -2 AND an additional -1 since it’s entangling an ally, AND it should follow the innocent bystander rules – that is, a roll of 1 or 2 means that it hits the ally. Ouch. Aim carefully hombres.
Encounter 2.2: Attack of the Carcajou
General Note: These deadly hunters stalk the wilderness as lone hunters. This means, that as deadly as they are for inexperienced groups or pairs of travelers, a legendary posse will make short work of this poor creature. But that doesn’t mean it won’t get its licks in if you play your cards right storytellers. This is good for a 15 minute combat. Add 15 minutes total to the before and the after moments. PCs will want to whistle in the wind, peacefully before hand, chatting, and debate what body parts to cut up afterward. Cut it off after a few minutes. This is also ideal for when things are getting a little slow but you don’t want to derail the evening with a whole side story. So why is this level 2? Well, you’ll see that one unfortunate character will really be given quite the time of their life this evening. The others will need to act fast to help their mate, and a second or even a third posse member may very well get seriously injured in the process. This little beast is hangry!
Agility – 10 Smarts – 4 Spirit – 12 Strength – 10 Vigor- 12
Climbing – D10, Fighting – D12 +2, Intimidation – D10, Notice – D8, Stealth – D12, Tracking – D8
Armor +1 – thick fur
Bite – Str. + D8
Claws – Str. + D6
Dense Body – Toughness +2
Daunting – free intimidate check per rnd. check intimidate skill for rules.
Fearless – immune to fear and intimate
Hardy – when shaken a second time, they do not suffer a wound.
Improved frenzy – make two attacks per turn with no penalty
Quick – discard action cards lower than 6
Pace – 10
Parry – 9
Toughness – 10 (Armor +1)
First of all, keep in mind that it’s -1 to hit this deadly critter because it’s not all that big. It’ll stalk its prey all evening, giving the posse a decent chance to spot it, except the darkness will give -3 and it uses distance and cover for an additional -1, on top of its Stealth D12. If it has its way, it’ll try to take the unfortunate individual that has to go get the water at the river or goes to relieve him or herself. It’ll try to get the drop on the prey (+4 to hit, +4 damage). That’s a total of D12 +6 to hit with two attacks Str. + D6 + 4 with a very likely D6 on top on each attack. This poor sod is going down unless he or she is very lucky. Now, when the posse hears this, they’ll be up within a round and the carcajou will stand ready to defend its find (hold an action to attack the first ally). And it’s not backing down without a fight. Don’t forget to impose a -4 to shooting attacks (-3 darkness, -1 size modifier). Finally, don’t forget about the two levels of shaken this creature gets.
Encounter 2.3: Black Powder Smugglers
General Notes: Sometimes things don’t need to be particularly dangerous to still be incredibly challenging and fun. This encounter takes relatively mundane and easy antagonists (human beings) and adds a couple of complications to create a situation in which the characters with special edges can really shine, and the characters that have invested in very narrow and simple edges, albeit deadly edges, suddenly find themselves less-than-optimal. This encounter may result in hilarious upheavals or it may result in what feels like a Level 3 encounter because the challenge of success is that high, but characters are never in any real danger. Storytellers are encouraged to add additional complications to such an encounter for even more hijinks that get so rarely used. These are list in options here for convenience.
Ostensibly this encounter is written for a black powder smuggling vessel that is docked at port. Storytellers who wish to use something like this but don’t have anything like a port or a boat available for such an encounter may do a number of things to duplicate the complications. The characters may need to sneak aboard a river boat (quite common on the Mississippi or the Colorado rivers, as well as other rivers). Or the smuggling operation may be an opium den in a cliffside hideout connected by precarious rope bridges. This could turn into a Level 3 encounter if characters risk falling (4D6 damage suggested for 4 story falls into rocky waters below). Alternately, the smuggling operation could be on slanted and rickety rooftop dens with shingles that tear away or shift under foot.
1) innocent bystanders: a dozen innocent people, such as wealthy, influential patrons are secretly enjoying a gambling den in the belly of the vessel. Or maybe there were prisoners locked up. The characters attacking provides the perfect opportunity for them to break out, and one of them has slipped his bonds. A ranged weapons attack that rolls a 1 or 2 (including spellcasting) will automatically hit a bystander. Roll damage as normal. Characters can take an additional -2 to attacks to try to avoid bystanders but it is impossible to remove the threat entirely; it will reduce changes to hit bystanders to a natural 1.
2) a timed encounter: maybe the guard is on its way. Maybe reinforcements are coming in off the mainland. Maybe an even more dangerous antagonist is on his or her way back to the smuggling vessel. The characters better move fast – and this will be particularly difficult given the numbers and the conditions.
3) black powder is explosive: Yup, it’s true. Any attack of a natural 1 will result in the attacker accidentally hitting a barrel of black powder or knocking over a water barrel that just so happens to hit two other crates which fall onto the black powder. That means friendly attacks or foe, which means that characters will really want to take out opponents quickly. They may even take inconvenient risks to get to as many smugglers as possible as quickly as possible. Hitting black powder will result in a medium blast template dealing 4d6 damage to anyone caught within it. This particular options, because of this damage potential, raises the encounter to a Level 3. Boom!
4) search and find: characters need to find a particular document or a grab a barrel of gun powder or steal a chest of a noble’s stolen one-of-a-kind clothing. Whatever it is, the characters have to both find and then collect this bounty. If they take too long, one of the smugglers may throw it overboard if it wouldn’t ruin the find. Or a smuggler may figure out the reason for the attack and hold the find ransom, threatening to throw it over board. Be sure to have the smuggler be smart. We’ve all seen the movies in which the good guys have the jeuvos to shoot the smuggler between the eyes before he or she can do anything. Instead, the smuggler will have the chest teetering on the boat’s railing. One slip and it goes overboard…
Black Powder Smugglers (15)
Agility – 8 Smarts – 6 Spirit – 6 Strength – 6 Vigor- 6
Climbing – D4, Fighting – D8, Guts – D4, Intimidation – D6, Knowledge(Seafaring) – D4, Notice – D6, Repair – D4, Shooting – D8, Stealth – D6, Streetwise – D4, Swimming – D4, Throwing D4
Combat Reflexes (+2 to roll to unshake)
Parry – (cutlass) 6
Toughness – 5
Grit – 1
Duster (armor 1), quick draw holster, $20-50, one random personal treasure: a small turquoise gem the color of his love’s eyes, the gold teeth of his bastard uncle after he knocked them out himself, love poems he’s writing for his wife at another port, an ivory pipe he personally carved, a potion of Owl’s Eye
Smugglers will come at the group 2-3 at a time, using the gang-up bonus. Each additional opponent provides a +1 to fighting roll, regardless of whether one attacked yet or not. In addition, the boat rolls gently under the feet, imposing a -1 penalty on all shooting and throwing attacks – but the smugglers ignore this. Finally, don’t forget darkness modifiers if the attack occurs at night. They will use terrain to their advantage, pressing casters and gunmen into corners, requiring them to bypass the smuggler’s parry as well deal with an unsteady platform Large melee warriors will find themselves surrounded by 4 men. One or two smugglers will take position in the crows nest, climbing up quickly or cutting a rope attached to a lever and flying quickly up. Against difficult opponents they may try to have two of them aggressively attack while their partner defensively attacks.
Encounter 2.4: The Puritan Wisp
General Notes: Sometimes encounters don’t need numbers (as in the Black Powder Smugglers) or difficult situations with complex variables (as in the Black Powder Smugglers or the terrentula spiders) or sneaky ambush tactics (as in the carcajou or the horned serpent). Sometimes, to make encounters challenging and interesting, make the antagonist hard to hit and decently hard to wound, and then just play up the atmosphere. It’s the oldest, simplest, and safest way to have a decently challenging encounter – and when it’s not overused, it provides a unique diversion that rewards crafty players or players who’ve pushed their skills to the limits.
The puritan wisp is an ancient wisp that has survived for almost two hundred years leading hapless wanderers astray. They only attack at night, and they are much more difficult to dispose of than the common will o’wisp. They form from restless spirits of elder shaman or powerful priests, only now their faith has been distorted and they seek to lead people …to the bottom of a deep pit or spent and alone in a swamp.
Puritan Will O’Wisp
Agility – 12 Smarts – 8 Spirit – 10 Strength – 4 Vigor- 8
Fighting – D8, Notice – D10, Stealth – D8, Taunt – D8, Tracking – D6
Ethereal – will o’wisps are immaterial and so no additional damage from called shots
Immune to Disease/Poison
Flaming Jack – may possess the body of a victim slain by its spiritual exhaustion
Flight – Pace 8, may not run
Focus – tied to a specific object. If that object is immersed in water, 2d6 damage/rnd. If that object is immersed in holy water, the will o’wisp is killed instantly.
Invulnerability – immune to all nonmagical attacks, although suffer 1D6 damage when doused with 1 gallon of water
Fleeting – Improved Deflection continuously cast. This also provides 4 pts. of Armor vs. area effects.
Size -1 (2’ -3’ in diameter)
Spiritual Exhaustion – supernatural heat only he/she can feel. Opposed Spirit roll. If victim loses, suffers 1 fatigue level. On a loss with a raise, victim loses 2 fatigue levels.
Low level vision
Weakness – Holy water deals 2D10 damage. Requires throwing skill. Occult roll -2 to know water deals extra damage, but “rumor has it that” one must grapple and drown the will o’wisp. This last part is untrue, but comes from tales of will o’wisps submerged in water to death. A raise provides full information on its weakness. A failure
Pace – 8, may not run
Parry – 6 (11 with Deflection & size) (13 in dim light) (11 to ranged attacks in dim light)
Toughness – 6
The will o’wisp doesn’t really have treasure to speak of, since it has no appendages to collect or use this treasure. But it is usually tied to a specific object which may lie buried in the swamp with the will o’wisp’s original corpse or an object left in the ashes of pyre in which an elder shaman was burned to death. This item may have deep significance to local tribes (provides a reputation +1 to those who bring it back safely and purified). Or it may be valuable as a historical piece of art (an expensive gold and ruby locket the priest wore in life). Or it may be a powerful magical item the wearer used in life.
Will O’Wisps will generally not attack a full posse by themselves. Instead they may lead the posse into a bog where their mobility is hampered, or to a precarious ledge which might force characters to make agility checks or fall to their death (2D6 or even 3D6), or crumbling and rocky land which would act as unsteady ground for any attacks, providing a -2.
Because Will O’Wisps only lead travelers astray after dark, they will be hard to hit (imposing -2 darkness penalties under their ghostly light). Their slippery flitting movements mimic a continuous improved deflection, making it hard for anyone to hit and their invulnerability makes them impossible to wound with mundane weapons. At legendary rank, their invulnerability won’t save them, though. Luckily for the will o’wisp they’re so hard to hit, and combined with the darkness penalties, even legendary sharpshooters with magical bullets or the ability to cast Bolt or other damage-dealing spells will have a decently challenging time hit the wisp without a stroke of luck. Other casters may try area effects on the wisp, but wisps use their deflection as armor against these spells or projectiles.
Finally, in direct melee combat will o’wisps are most dangerous and most difficult to kill. Their supernatural exhaustion only works on one adjacent victim per round, but at 4 fatigue a character will die and it renders magical and mundane armors, deflection, and many other protections useless – even the victim’s no-doubt formidable parry skill.
Now That’s a Drink With Some Bite: Level 3
These are encounters that constitute a real challenge for the legendary posse. Storytellers may choose to include these encounters at the end of a story, as a nail-biting challenge, or midway through a particularly challenging story to remind the posse that not all dangers come with big red Stop signs. A whimsical storyteller could even start the story off with quite a bang using one of these encounters, but generally those kinds of early-story combats are more suitable for Level 1 or Level 2, in part, because Level 3 encounters warrant a certain level of build-up in both narrative as well as information. …One should not “accidentally” walk into a massive orc cave without realizing that the orc boss makes his resident there. The encounters may lead to permanent injury, or 1-2 posse dropping unconscious if the posse isn’t sharp or the dice are unkind, but storytellers can be fairly sure that the party won’t die. Just in case, storytellers should consider the possibility of truly unusual, unfavorable dice rolls.
Encounter 3.1: Black River Mercenaries
General Notes: These mean dudes are too smart to be caught with their pants down. They should have simple traps placed around their campfire, hidden men pretending to be locals at the bar, watchmen stationed with Owl’s Eye if there’s reason to suspect ambush. And if our legendary posse didn’t think about traps as they were sneaking up on the Black River Mercenaries? Well then they may very well find themselves in a snare trap, upside down, as the mercenaries arm themselves. Better untangle that leg and get yourself right -side up on your feet in double time! They do their homework, ask around quietly, pay heavy bribes to ensure anonymity. They’re a well-paid posse with elite status amongst the Black River agents. They should act like it.
Black River Mercenary Captain (Legendary Wild Card)
Agility – 10 Smarts – 8 Spirit – 8 Strength – 6 Vigor- 10
Fighting – D10, Guts – D8, Intimidation – D6, Knowledge(Occult) – D4, Notice – D6, Persuasion – D4, Riding – D6, Shooting – D12, Stealth – D4, Streetwise – D4, Survival – D4, Knowledge (you pick) – D6
Combat Reflexes (+2 to roll to unshake)
Command, +1 to troops Shaken rolls
Hold the Line , +1 to troops’ Toughness
Danger Sense, -2 Notice roll to avoid ambush or danger
Dodge, +1 Dodge to ranged attacks
Hip Shooting, -2 to fanning the hammer
Improved Hip Shooting, no minus when fanning the hammer for 6 shots!
Level-Headed, act on the best of two cards in combat
Nerves of Steel, may ignore -1 wound penalty
Quick Draw, may draw a weapon as free action
Tough as Nails, +1 Toughness
Parry – (sabre) 7 (5 for ranged)
Toughness – 8 (Armor 2 – S&R Bullet-proof vest)
Grit – 5
Habit – Obsessively picks his nails, oils his mustache
Vow – in life debt to Black River agents
Bulletproof vest (Armor 2), well-made, magnum treated, & accurate gun (+1 shooting), magnum rounds (D8), quick draw holster
Danger Sense for ambushes. Quick Draw & First Strike. Fan the Hammer w/D12+1 to hit (6 shots & D8 damage). Take cover immediately afterward. OR the captain may alternately aim to cripple the most dangerous looking opponent’s shooting hand, taking the -2 (-1 total) and spending bennies to ensure success. Don’t forget Level-Headed & Nerves of Steel next rnd. as well as Combat Reflexes. Cover should generally be -3.
Black River Veteran Mercenary (6)
Agility – 8 Smarts – 4 Spirit – 8 Strength – 6 Vigor- 8
Fighting – D8, Guts – D6, Intimidation – D4, Notice – D4, Riding – D6, Shooting – D8, Stealth – D4, Streetwise – D4, Survival – D4, Taunt – D4, Knowledge (you pick) – D4
Notes: Similar, even stronger, statistics will be found on Rangers & Agents
Combat Reflexes (+2 rolls to unshake)
Hip Shooting (-2 to fanning the hammer)
Nerves of Steel (may ignore -1 wound penalty)
Speed Loading (ignore -2 penalty to shoot)
Parry – 6
Toughness – 7 (including +1 from Captain)
Grit – 1
Habit – chews tobacco, mean to animals, superstitious, or create your own
Vengeful or greedy
Quick draw holster, well-made & accurate gun (+1 to shooting)
Fan the Hammer w/D8-1 to hit (6 shots & D6 damage) OR draw machete and approach gunmen to make them have to beat a Parry of 6 or disengage. Take cover immediately after shooting. Don’t forget Nerves of Steel next rnd. as well as combat reflexes. Cover should generally be -3.
Encounter 3.2: The Desert Thing
General Notes: The desert thing may very well be the swamp thing or the octopus thing in the deep. It is a horror that lurks in relatively untraveled places, moving slowly beneath dunes or ponds, near abandoned settlers’ houses or watering holes in the desert. They may nest on the outskirts of a village as the unspeakable nightmare the villagers pray to. Wherever it lives, however it chooses its meals, it should be a terrifying encounter that even legendary posses are rarely prepared for. While there may be signs of its existence (skeletons, rumors), actually meeting this thing from another dimension, should at least startle even legendary posses.
Agility – 8 Smarts – 4 (A) Spirit – 4 Strength – 12+2 Vigor- 12
Fighting – D8, Guts – D12, Notice – D6, Stealth – D12 +2
Armor – +2 for the body submerged in the sand/bog, +7 on the creature’s tentacles
Bite – Str. + 10, AP 3
Drag – on a successful opposed strength check the desert thing drags its prey 1" closer to its maw. Each raise on the roll increases 1". If the victim beats the desert thing with a raise he manages to break free from the tentacle.
Improved Sweep – the desert thing may attack up to 8 opponents with a Reach of 5" at no penalty. Each tentacle has a Toughness of 9, and is severed if “wounded.”
Earth Sense – sense prey 25"
Parry – 2
Toughness – 9 for tentacles including armor 7. Severed if “wounded.” 15 for submerged body including armor 2.
Whatever riches the thing swallowed. Perhaps it’s swallowed a whole legendary posse’s valuables… Perhaps it has swallowed a sought after artifact. Perhaps it swallowed your mistress’s ring.
The desert thing (or swamp thing, or thing from the deep) will sense approaching prey up to 50 yards away through the sound of their feet or the hooves vibrating in the earth. If victims are trying to be stealthy, the storyteller may wish to provide a notice roll vs. an opposed stealth roll unaffected by light. Once it senses prey the creature will slide through the dunes or the bog. It can flatten itself and find deep indents in the earth to submerge its body. Even so, its best defense is not its ability to keep itself undetected. Its large body will generally alert careful posses to its presence – but if the thing has its way, it will be too late when that happens.
Once characters are 10 yards away or less (preferably 4 yards away), it will attack. And its first attack may put most of the posse in trouble. It may roll its Stealth D12+2 vs. opposed Notice rolls -3 (dim light and camouflage) or -5 (darkness and camouflage).
- success for victim: he/she notices the desert thing at 6" away.
- success w/ a raise means: victim notices desert thing 10" away.
- neither succeeds: victim(s) notices the creature at 5" away.
- desert thing succeeds: characters only 4" away.
- desert thing succeeds w/ a raise: gets drop on characters 3" away.
But what if the beast grabs them all?!
If it somehow succeeded in completely getting the drop on an entire foolhardy group, give the creature a +4 to hit and free 1" move of the character it successfully attacks. Often, someone in the posse will see the creature just in time to shout a warning and take a move in the shifting sands or unstable bog. Other characters will not be able to move until their next turn and they will have take a few deadly steps closer to the thing. Characters moving quickly must make an Agility roll or stop movement for that turn and fall prone. Very likely, even in groups without posse members with Alertness or Owl’s Eye, one or two posse members will spot the creature just in time to be outside of its trap or just at the edges. Another one or two will fall in the muck or the sand or fail to escape its clutches entirely, and one or two will be in danger of its massive bite – a toothy maw that does a terrifying D12 + 2 + D10 + any bonuses for hits with a raise from the opposed strength check. This may endanger even the hardiest of adventurers.
Luckily, at least one or two posse members will be free enough to attack the tentacles. Attacks by grappled characters are -3 for being dragged, but tentacles are only Toughness 9, so easy enough to destroy. The size modifier only applies to the body itself, but tentacles are +1 because of their size. If the posse looks after each other, even an unlucky ambush should result in everyone getting uncomfortably close to the maw, but only one or two people getting a good bite on them. If all 8 tentacles are destroyed, the desert thing will still pose a danger with its gaping maw, but only to characters enough to step into it. Without its 8 main appendages, the creature must wait for its other tentacles to grow long enough to be of service.
If the creature succeeds in beating one character in initiative, but not getting the drop on anyone, it will strike all available targets with its Fighting D8. Keep in mind that unarmed characters (characters who haven’t acted most likely) do not get to use their parry skill. Also keep in mind its Pace of 2. It is not entirely stationary. Finally, when characters see the monstrosity they should each roll Guts
4 ( the local Guts modifier) because seeing such a creature of nightmare would unhinge even the most valorous.
Encounter 3.3: Security Detail – Hellstromme Automatons
The Pale Rider Comes: Level 4
These are encounters that could result in what is otherwise known as a TPK. Storytellers should take great care in using these and provide every bit of information to players that characters would have. This is not to say these encounters shouldn’t ever be used, but Mr. Guest uses them exceedingly rarely – once or twice a campaign year, and only by providing the posse with plenty of opportunity to stack the deck in their favor or, conversely, if the posse is really asking for it. Use with caution.
Encounter 4.1: Running With the Bulls – Los Diablos