Wednesday, July 23, 2014
I'd mentioned earlier I sent in two magic items to the "OSR Superstar" contest over at Tenkar's, on a lark. I inexplicably made it to the second round, and due to random work events and my general ineptness, I didn't have a monster to send.
So, punting, I sent what was on my mind, a reskinned stirge. The hook on it is that it's victims can be mistaken for a vampire, which will entertain a lower level party, or, irritate a higher level one. Originally submitted with Swords & Wizardry stats, I've added ACKS stats.
I am, blissfully, out of the running now.
A high window carelessly left open on a warm summer's night; that morning a fair maiden found dead, drained of blood, two puncture wounds in her neck.
A town in panic; accusations fly, suspicions arise.
A stranger burned at the stake; fear appeased, an uneasy calm.
When struck with otherworldly horror, towns on the borderlands may have no sage to investigate, their priest or priestesses but herders of men, not hunters of monsters. Legends fly further than fact, and a murder blamed on occult practice or the cursed dead may not be what it seems.
Enter then, the bludbetl - not quite beetle, not quite bee; not quite anything else; a visitor from an alien star in the baleful sky. The familiar split carapace of the terrestrial beetle, the color of a deep bruise, hide insectile wings, crimson veined. Where one would expect the thorax and head of a more familiar creature, one instead finds a flattened, fleshy worm-like protrusion, in some shade of chestnut.
This 'head' hold the apparatus of the bludbetl; two clusters of blue beads for eyes, randomly numbered and ordered. A small 'nose', much like the end of a funnel, caps the end of this protrusion. On the underside, back from the funnel nose, are a pair of fatty lumps that release sharp fangs with which the bludbetl draws it's sanguine nectar from it's victim. The underside of the bludbetl transitions to a lighter carapace as one looks back towards the abdomen. 8 small legs with 4 joints end in small hands with 4 digits, one opposed to the rest. This thumb has a retractable claw, sharp as a razor, meant for fine work. The creature's 'forearm' is edged with a hard, serrated extrusion, much like a saw.
The creature itself is no longer or wider than a man's face; it is flat, like a tick, and its abdomen bulges as it feeds.
The bee-like nature of the bludbetl comes in its methods of reproduction. There are no queens; any bludbetl may reproduce itself asexually.
A bludbetl will establish a nest in a remote location; they favor abandoned structures and caves, anywhere out of the weather. They will first produce a specialized type of larvae, a bludbetl-sac, which they care for for a time by harvesting and feeding it blood. The bludbetl-sac, when grown, serves as an air bladder and pump for the next stage of the nest. Fully grown they are slightly larger than a man's head; mostly a pale sac attached to what looks like an underdeveloped head of a bludbetl.
This next stage is the establishment of a blood web. A large mammal, like a deer, hibernating bear, or solitary human is drained of blood to the point of unconsciousness. The victim is then vivisected; the heart, lungs, and circulatory system down to just above the capillary level (for example, in humans, to the level of the digital arteries and veins) are painstakingly removed and taken back to the nest. This may take a while if only a single bludbetl is at work; a swarm can harvest a victim in minutes.
The arteries and veins are reconstructed back at the nest in a configuration compatible with the environment. The bludbetl excretes a paste from it's 'nose' to rejoin disparate parts. The bludbetl-sac pumps air into the lungs, and provides the stimulus necessary for the stolen heart to beat.
The bludbetl attaches other larval sacs to this framework, which then hatch into true bludbetls within the season. The newly formed scourge then sets about expanding it's nest, adding more harvested respiratory and circulatory systems as required. The bludbetls crawl along their stolen vessels much like spiders as they care for their larvae.
The sights and sounds of a bludbetl nest are something few men can forget. Bludbetls will viciously defend an established nest, a lone bludbetl will often escape to start elsewhere rather than risk it's life.
The 'blood honey' in the larval sacs, if one can get over their natural revulsion to such an act, are much like the royal honey of giant bees, healing 1d4 points of damage via coating of the user's wounds.
Bludbetls range for tens of miles each day seeking suitable victims; amongst humanity it is usually campers in small numbers, drunkards collapsed in the open, and sometimes, if a window is open, a maiden snug in her bed. Their touch is feather light, and their fangs are not felt. A single bludbetl can hold about a half-gallon, or 2 liters, of blood, enough to cause death for most humans.
If the vivisected remains of a harvested victim are not found, it may be forever a mystery as to the true cause of death of the drained. Many a so-called vampire hunter has been led in circles following rumors and hearsay.
BLUDBETL (Swords & Wizardry)
Hit Dice: 1+1
Armor Class: 7 
Attacks: Claws & Saws (1d6)
Saving Throw: 17
Special: Drain blood 1d6/round
Move: 2/22/12 (22 flying; 12 when flying engorged)
Challenge Level/XP: 1/15
% In Lair: 40%
Wilderness Enc: Scourge (1d6) / Nest (3d10)
Movement: 15' (5')
Fly: 480' (160') / 120' (40') (Engorged)
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 1+1*
Attacks: 1 (Claws & Saws)
Treasure Type: F