Saturday, October 19, 2019

Another holiday treat

In the same spirit as my last post, here's another preview of content that will eventually appear in The Heroic Legendarium that seems to capture that creepy Halloween-season vibe. This was originally drafted as an encounter area in a dungeon,  but in Gygaxy fashion I realized I could generalize it into a class of monster. There's some conceptual weirdness here that all makes sense in my mind, but I might not have explained clearly. Comments letting me know if you are or aren't able to follow the description here are welcome.

MIRROR-FIEND

FREQUENCY: Very rare
NO. APPEARING: 1-3
ARMOR CLASS: 4
MOVE: 12
HIT DICE: 4+3
% IN LAIR: 100%
TREASURE TYPE: D
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1 – 4/1 –4/1-10
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Silver or magic weapons to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard
INTELLIGENCE: Very
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: M
PSYCHIC ABILITY: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil/nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: V/ 320 + 5/hp

These nightmarish creatures dwell in non-dimensional space and are only able to access the Prime Material Plane when two mirrors are set up in direct opposition to as to create an endless series of reflections. When such a conjunction is created there is a 5% chance per turn that a group of mirror-fiends will be drawn to it. If so, they will initially appear in the 12th reflection deep (which is typically the very limit of where any detail can be made out by an individual standing before the mirrors) of one mirror or the other, though if more than one mirror-fiend is encountered some may appear in each mirror. When they first appear, someone looking into the mirror only has a 5% chance to notice their presence, but each round they will move 1-3 panes closer, and with each pane the chance of noticing them increases by 10% (so they will always be noticed in the first or second reflection). Moving, covering, or breaking either mirror (or plunging the area into total darkness) will prevent the fiend from approaching, but if the mirrors are again aligned within one hour the fiends will still be there, in the pane they had last reached. Otherwise, they will wander off and a new check will be made to see if a different fiend appears when and if the mirrors are realigned.

While within the reflections, mirror-fiends cannot interact with the reflections of the characters and cannot be affected by individuals in the Prime Material Plane unless they are able to reach into either the Ethereal Plane or non-dimensional space. If the fiends reach the first reflection, they can climb through the mirror into the Prime Material Plane, where they can both attack and be attacked. They will typically attempt to grapple opponents - if both claws hit the victim suffers no damage but is held fast and can only escape by means of a successful bend bars check, or a successful counter-grapple or attack (both made at -2 “to hit” and, in the latter case, limited to a knife, dagger, or similarly small weapon as the character’s arms are held). The next round following a successful grappling attempt, the mirror-fiend will lift its victim and climb back into the mirror. The fiends will usually carry victims back to them lair in the 13th reflection - passing through 1-3 reflections per round - and will then devour them with their oversized and razor-sharp teeth.

Each reflection-space looks identical to the Prime Material Plane space being reflected except that (1) any reflected beings are only silent images that cannot be interacted with, and (2) the space only exists in the area that is included in the reflection plus a few feet beyond in each direction, beyond which is pure black non-dimensional space. Beings within the reflection only appear in the reflection in which they are located, not any of the others and can only be communicated with via telepathy or similar means. If the mirrors are taken out of alignment, covered, broken, or plunged into  while a character is within the reflection then that character is trapped in non-dimensional space unless he or she has some means of traveling across planes. If the character does not move and the reflection-pattern is recreated exactly then he or she will still be present in the reflection when it reappears. Otherwise, the character will be forever lost in non-dimensional space (with perhaps a miniscule random chance of wandering into another reflection-pattern, or perhaps into the back end of a portable hole).

Even if a character who has been dragged into the mirror manages to slay the mirror-fiend, they will still face a considerable challenge returning to the Prime Material Plane, for they cannot cross through mirrors (nor can they break or move them in the reflection-space). Unless the character has some means of traveling across planes, the only ways to get back to the Prime Material Plane are (1) to force or convince a mirror-fiend to carry them, or (2) to cover him or herself with the blood of a freshly slain mirror-fiend. Each mirror-fiend has sufficient blood (a nasty-smelling, sticky black ichor) to cover up to three human-sized individuals and their possessions, but the blood only retains its potency for three turns after the mirror-fiend is slain. A blood-coated individual can pass through one reflection-level per round. If the character wasn’t keeping count it may be a matter of trial and error how many reflection-levels they must pass through to reach the Prime Material Plane, and if there are no companions there to serve as an anchor, it may not be immediately obvious which layer is actually the correct one until they try to move beyond the reflection-area.

Mirror-fiends’ treasure is always stored in their lair on the 13th reflection-level. While this lair can be reached by following the reflections in both directions from the Prime Material Plane, there is only one lair, not two. If two or more characters have entered their lair from opposite directions at the same time they will end up in the same place and temporarily can return to the Prime Material Plane in either direction, unless all of them leave in the same direction.

Mirror-fiends communicate with each other telepathically and do not speak or make any noise.

Description: These creatures generally appear as a distorted, horrible version of the individual(s) looking into the mirrors in which they dwell - their flesh is pallid, their teeth and fingernails sharp, and their eyes featureless and black. Their true, natural form is as thin and gray-skinned humanoids with sharp talons, oversized jaws and pointed teeth, and stringy white hair, but this form is only likely to ever be visible to an individual with true seeing or similar ability.

3 comments:

  1. This is really fun and captures well a horror that I've always experienced in viewing those feverishly nested reflections. I think you explained mechanics well. I love it.

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  2. This is wonderful...and so fundamentally basic it should have been in the 1e Monster Manual.

    I also love that this would be a natural superstition/reality for those humans living in a magical world. Children would be warned at a young age never to leave mirrors facing each other.

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  3. I know this sounds weird but did you get the idea from experience? Something like that happened when I was a kid just like that, but it must be a brain processing thing, where it seems someone was momentarily in one far back reflection next to my own. It was in a Chinese restaurant with a full wall next to a coat room off a waiting room. So plenty of time for kids to invoke the unknown. Specifically, I saw someone in a coat go by in only one reflection that either was not there or walked slow then very fast around a corner. Afterwards, I kind of avoided it.

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