These guys…man, these guys. These things.
Okay, so we’ve had sadists on these pages before—I compared interlocutor kytons to Count Rugen and Adelei Niska. But ropers are something else entirely. (Turn the previous two up to 11 and add plenty of Hannibal Lecter.) Kytons are interested in their twisted brand of improvement—the pain they cause serves either themselves or their victims. Whereas for ropers, pain…and amputation, being devoured bit by bit, the knowledge of one’s body becoming food and the loss of self/humanity that implies, death, etc.…are philosophical, psychological, artistic and even psychedelic explorations. Most of all, they want to talk about all of the above—to hold a colloquy with their fellows and receive contributions (in words and flesh) from their victims. In other words, they want to ruminate over their meals…in more ways than one.
(With the Paizo version of roper being so dark, is it any wonder Nicolas Logue was tapped to write the Dungeon Denizens Revisited write-up?)
Now, none of this will be immediately apparent to your players. To your players, ropers are the scary-ass CR 12 stalagmite monsters that come alive and sap strength—some of the nastiest non-mind-zapping or spell-slinging monsters in the Darklands/Underdark this side of purple worms. (And they’re spell-resistant to boot.) If all goes well and the party is observant and sticks together, they’ll never know how twisted the ropers’ worldview is.
But if the party gets separated… If there’s an almost total TPK… If they have to do a rescue mission… If the party sneaks up on a cluster of ropers but only observe… This is when you get to have the ropers talk. And that’s when things really get weird. Combine every book of theory or philosophy you kept from college…every artistic serial killer’s love note to the cops…every time you saw two professors argue…add a dash of Julia Child…and blurble like you’re a hungry Ayn Rand-reading stalagmite while your PCs desperately try to make saves and plan escape routes. (Even as your roper begins to chew…)
No one flees the Pallid City headed upwards. The ghouls are too practiced at betrayal and mass too ravenously for this to happen, and most merchant caravans that brave the deeps are slaughtered mere minutes after Ghoul King revokes his protection. But some upworlders do manage to escape downwards, through the winding streets and into the sandy tunnels that line the Silent Sea. Their first glimpse of freedom is the landmark known as the Waiting Henge—a cavern that opens to a beach with standing stones and a ship moored just offshore. It is also their last: The stones of the Henge are ropers who easily snatch the panicked runners.
A philosophical division has broken out among a cluster of ropers, and the aberrations are too egotistical to simply separate. If they capture one person alone, they may ask him to judge which side is right. If they capture two or more at once, they make their victims debate, nibbling off limbs to add some exigence to the whole affair. (The subject matter, by the way, is almost impenetrable to non-aberrant brains—a comparison of the void of space verses the blackness of Subterrania, comparisons of the Entities and Old Gods that live in each, what level of power defines godhood, and whether ropers themselves become divine in relation to their food weakening.)
The drow family Malebrigar is trapped in its own manor. Ropers surrounded their isolated home in the dark, bearing with them a magical globe that blocks teleportation and extradimensional escape. Now the Malebrigar family, servants, and slaves wait to be starved out and devoured one by one. They need a rescue…but drow are notoriously bad at repaying debts with anything but poison or summoned demons. That said, the Malebrigar also have a phenomenal library and an azata chained in their basement.
— Dungeon Denizens Revisited 46–51 & Pathfinder Bestiary 237
I notice DDR’s ropers have a higher SR than the Bestiary’s.
“The Ecology of the Roper,” from Dragon 232, was a (creepy) harbinger of Johnathan M. Richards’s dominance of the form throughout the rest of the 200s.
Speaking of which, does anyone have thoughts on the Dave Gross years of Dragon. I’d be interested to hear them! (Even though I’m (still!) hella behind acknowledging a lot of your comments lately…)