Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grognard's Grimoire: Eldritch Bones

One bit of Gygaxian wisdom I've taken to heart when creating Dwimmermount is to include at least one new monster, magic item, spell, or other feature on each level of the dungeon. These new features help keep the game fresh for players, particularly those who've been playing the game for decades and already know the basic repertoire of OD&D and its supplements.

As with most other aspects of megadungeon design, it's a never-ending process. Dwimmermount is constantly changing, as I restock and alter it in response to player actions. In running my play by post version, I've added a few new wrinkles as well, the first that the players have so far encountered being the monsters known as eldritch bones.

Eldritch bones are the reanimated skeletons of slain soldiers. Unlike most other types of skeletons, eldritch bones are not undead. Rather, they are magical constructs brought back to a semblance of life through the use of minute quantities of azoth, which not only gives them the ability to move and attack but also strengthens their bones. Consequently, eldritch bones have a metallic appearance, thanks to the silvery-black azoth that suffuses them.

The process of creating them was originally an invention of the Eld, but was perfected by the Thulians during their late, Termaxian phase. Like truly undead skeletons, eldritch bones suffer only one-half damage from sharp/edged weapons, while blunt weapons do full damage. They are immune sleep, charm, and hold spells and are unaffected by holy water.

The material in the quote box below is hereby designated Open Game Content via the Open Game License.

Eldritch Bones
Number Appearing: 3d6
% in Lair: Nil
Alignment: Neutral
Armor Class: 5
Move: 12
Hit Dice: 1+1
Attacks: 1 weapon (1d6+1)
Save: F1
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: Nil
XP: 20

Create Eldritch Bones
Magic-User, 6th Level
Range: 10 feet
Duration: Permanent

Provided the caster possesses an ampule of undiluted azoth, this spell enables the creation of eldritch bones from the complete skeletons of humanoid beings. 1d6 eldritch bones are created per level of the caster above 11th. The eldritch bones remain animated until destroyed.


  1. I like these:)

    It would be interesting to give construct-knowledgeable magic-users a chance to turn these.

  2. Oh nooooo,
    we are still fighting these things and you gave away the game...
    Azoth is an archaic alchemical name of the element Nitrogen, in Latin approx. means "devoid of life"

  3. While I am usually fairly succesful in seperating what I know from what my character knows, and while there is little in game advantage to be gained from this information, perhaps you could use some sort of disclaimer at the beginning of posts like this one so that any players in your play by post game could avoid reading further if they did not want to ruin their immersion.

    No harm no foul in my book though.

  4. Brooze--Azoth as a word has a very interesting history. You're right, that in some languages, it means Nitrogen, but this is a rather recent development. It's usually thought that Paracelsus took the term "azoth" for his universal elixir-type substance from the Arabic word for mercury. This makes a certain amount of sense since mercury was so important to alchemy, while Nitrogen was not (it was only "officially" described in the 18th century). The way I first became aware of the term was from the famous painting of Paracelsus holding a sword with "Azoth" inscribed on the pommel (one example: ) Something tells me James is only too well aware of the etymology for his magical substance.

    In his next campaign, I hope he incorporates flubber. Have a good one!

  5. Considering what azoth looks like and does in the Dwimmermount campaign, it's abundantly clear that James knows all about the history of the word.

  6. Carl,

    That's a fine suggestion and I'll probably adopt it in future posts related to Dwimmermount "spoilers."

  7. Re: Azoth

    As I understand it, some European languages use "azoth" to mean nitrogen but it's an etymologically different azoth than the alchemical azoth, which is derived from the Arabic word for "mercury" or "quicksilver." Thus, there are two words, both pertaining to chemistry but with different origins.

  8. complete skeleton a Cthulhuvian setting, e.g. Nephilim, I would use this to mess with my MU players. Do goblins have hammers, anvils and stirrups? Are you sure they're there? What about those selkie bones you collected from the moon pool?