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Monster Theme: Bloodtainted

I have recently started delving into creating a short Underdark adventure series for one of my D&D 4E campaigns.  Utilizing both the new Underdark 4E book, as well as the old 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms’ Underdark Sourcebook, I’ve been trying to draw parallels between the ideas presented in them, particularly in consideration of the new geography in the post-Spellplague Forgotten Realms setting.underdark fear

Obviously, the newer 4E Underdark was fairly campaign non-specific, so some of what has appeared in that sourcebook has changed drastically from the FR: Underdark book.  However, I was fascinated by the origin story of the Underdark, specifically about the maimed god Torog, and can readily see how such an ancient entity could exist, unbeknownst to many, beneath the lands of Toril.

I was really intrigued by the idea that Torog left behind his blood and pain as physical manifestations and psychic residue throughout the Underdark.  The 4E Underdark source book refers to several forms of the god’s tortured manifestation, from Godsblood in the Feydark, to Godsdream in the Shallows, and Godsrage in the Deeps.  Most entities would want to avoid such areas, as these places Torog touched are essentially accursed, and afflict fairly nasty effects.

But what if some creatures of the Underdark found a way to harness the power of Torog’s anguish for their own uses?

Bloodtainted (A Monster Theme)

Torog’s passage through the earth left behind the Underdark, and the pain, rage, and blood of this maimed ancient god still seethes within the dark subterranean realm.  Where the power of the tortured god’s influence is the strongest, wise creatures flee these caverns.  Yet some denizens in the deep places are drawn to Torog’s madness and rage as moths to a flame.
tribe of torog
The Tribes of Torog are usually humanoids, and consist of motley collections of creatures from several races, all united in their insane devotion to the King That Crawls.  Duergar and gnomes, quaggoth and troglodytes, and even humans and drow might all band together, sharing in a communal madness for which they were shunned by their own races.  Called the “bloodtainted” by others, it is believed that the blood of Torog has somehow infected them with His divine rage and madness.

The Tribes of Torog or the bloodtainted can be recognized by their savage natures, their insane cunning, and the marks they bear on their skin, fur, or scales.  The various tribal marks are ritualistically stained onto their flesh (or fur, or scales, etc.), and are purported to be made from mineral muds, fungal dyes, and other substances taken from caverns and tunnels where the taint of the King That Crawls is the strongest.  But rather than acting as a curse to the bloodtainted, these marks give them strange powers, most often manifested when they become severely wounded (bloodied).

Attack Powers
Vilemark

The wounded creature shrieks and its eyes glaze as it coughs blood and bile from it mouth.

This power would be appropriate for controllers and brutes, as a last ditch attack as it is being taken down.

Immediate Reaction when bloodied; encounter; Close Blast 2; Level +3 vs. Reflex; Target takes 2 + half the creature’s level poison damage, and is blinded (save ends).

Painmark

Although battered and staggering, the creature becomes all the more savage, leaving dire wounds on its foes.

This attack is most likely used with lurkers, skirmishers, and artillery, with their attacks while bloodied gaining intense accuracy to strike their enemies where it will cause hemorrhaging and shock.

Free Action (while bloodied) (recharge 4 5 6).  If the creature makes a successful hit with any attack, the target takes ongoing 5 damage (save ends).

Furymark

The creature lashes out in a frenzy of pain with every attack that strikes it.

Use this power with brutes and soldier to make them very dangerous opponents once they have been severely hurt.

Immediate Reaction (while bloodied).  Trigger: Creature is hit with an attack that causes damage.  The creature may make a basic melee attack as a free action against a foe of its choice.

Utility Powers
Quickmark

This power is useful for skirmishers, controllers, and artillery in order to shift away from dangerous foes and continue the fight.  Certain cunning soldiers might also have this power.

Skill Modifier: The creature gains a +2 power bonus to Acrobatics skill
Effect: The creature may shift 1 square as a minor action while bloodied.

Shadowmark

This power is effective for lurkers and artillery, as well as controllers with stealth, in order to maximize their damaging potential from hiding.

Skill Modifier: The creature gains +2 power bonus to Stealth Skill
Effect: If the creature misses with a melee or ranged attack from hiding, it remains hidden.

Scuttlemark

This power can apply to any role, but is very effective on skirmishers, lurkers, and brutes who can close the distance to their foes and make a dire attack.

Skill Modifier: The creature gains a +2 power bonus to Athletics Skill
Effect: The creature can treat 1 square of difficult terrain as normal terrain during its move action.

I could imagine creating a surprising encounter with a group of heroes being ambushed by a bizarre hunting party, consisting of drow, humans, deep gnomes, and perhaps a quaggoth or troglodyte, and they would all be bearing strange, luminescent tribal markings on their bodies, and exhibiting both cunning and savagery.  And assuming they dispatch this one band of the local Tribe of Torog, the adventurers would then find themselves having to race through cavern after cavern, pursued by avenging war-parties and dodging deadly traps, until they are out of the bloodtainteds’ territory, and into what they hope to be a less savage realm of the Underdark.

Have you work to create your own Monster Themes?  Or have you created adventures in the Underdark?  Your feedback is most welcome, and I’d enjoy hearing your ideas for other powers that might fit this theme.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Artwork courtesy of Underdark Sourcebook by Wizards of the Coast


About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

Comments

2 Responses to “Monster Theme: Bloodtainted”

  1. Jason C Rowland says:

    Good job! I use the Monster Builder for every encounter I create for my group and often tweak powers or change monsters entirely to suit my design needs. 4E is truly the DMs friend in this regard. I ‘ll give you feedback in the style of Sergio Leone:

    1) The Good: I like how you thought about which roles suit which powers. That is an excellent touch.

    2) The Bad: You’re missing something. I’ve done similar things, for instance my group is facing 4 tribes of shamanistic orcs and each and every orc has an ability that reflects the totem spirit of each tribe, like a minor action to push 1 a marked creature for the “Wind” tribe. The Tribes of Torog screams for such an iconic ability. See it in action and the players all know these are creatures bloodtainted by torog, regardless of the individual abilities you have above. eg: Cry of the Tortured (psychic, fear). Minor, at-will, usable when bloodied. Close burst 2. Level +2 vs will. hit: the target takes a -2 penalty to saving throws.

    3) The Ugly: The name of them all is XXXXmark, which in 4e parlance conjures up marking. I would change the names. For the DM it doesn’t really matter, but I always tell my players the names of the powers that are affecting them, else why give them names at all? And to a player who is not privvy to the mechanics of the power, the name mayt conjure up that they are indeed, marked.

  2. Thanks for your suggestions and feedback, Jason. I found in playtesting that simply describing the markings painted on the creatures was enough for them to be identified as being members of the Tribe of Torog. Although I like your idea of an “iconic” power, there are plenty of other themes from “official” sources that don’t have that. As to the names, I guess if that is your DMing style, announcing the power name like that, then yes, it would be quite confusing. I figure DMs can always change the names of my theme’s powers to suit their own style tho – I offer my theme free to use or abuse as any DM would see fit!

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