Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Giant & Mammoth Fleas

I won't lie: I never expected that I’d be writing adventure seeds about giant fleas or their mammoth flea cousins. 

That said…I don't hate the idea.  In fact…I like these vermin!  There are certainly plenty of monsters in the Bestiaries (or the Monster Manuals, for my 3.5 readers) big enough to sustain these oversized pests.  Their ability to go for months without feeding means you can put them in more remote or unlikely settings where other vermin would perish.  And in terms of game mechanics and table play, how can you not like a creature that has Acrobatics +20(!) when jumping, and the ability to jump 120 feet in a single Uncanny Leap (Ex)?  Normally I can go either way on playing with minis—they’re nice for tactical combat, but certainly not necessary—but the image of a GM moving a flea mini 24 squares in a single leaping charge (not to mention the players’ reactions to said attack) is positively delightful. 

Does a giant flea sound silly?  Sure, but that only serves to trick your players into letting their guards down.  And then you pounce…or leap, as the case may be.

Orcs of the Bloodring tribe have an unusual rite of manhood.  Their young men must go into the forest and return bearing a ring-shaped scar proclaiming they have suffered the bite of a mammoth flea and lived.  Many young males do not return from the rite, but the tradition has served the tribe well.  Those that do return tend to pass on their hale and hearty genes to the next generation.  Moreover, they become inoculated to several of the diseases endemic to their forests.  In fact, Bloodring orcs take pleasure on preying on weak and diseased humanoids.

Prospero’s Amazing Flea Circus is a mechanical wonder driven by pedals, pulleys, gears, and belts.  It also serves to keep gawkers distracted while Prospero’s pickpockets ply their trade.  Prospero himself is no master thief; if anything he would like to settle down and work on his pet project, a damaged clockwork servant.  The real brains behind the operation is Prospero’s “assistant” Ismina, a witch whose giant flea familiar is the only real flea in the entire outfit.

In the Great Vastness, the best defense against the region’s many miles-long behemoths is to simply live atop them.  Hamlets and towns are sprinkled on the backs of the great ridgebeasts like so many mountain villages.  Journeying between these towns is sometimes risky, as travelers face unique challenges.  Not only are the usual bandits and bugbears a problem, but clusters of mammoth fleas find travelers to be fair easier meals than burrowing beneath the ridgebeasts’ rocky plates.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 99

Apparently Tome of Horrors Complete (which I own but have never really had the time to dive into) has a phase flea.  So…I guess there’s that.

On the subject of people riding/living on animals, I still love the gnolls who ride the 100-foot-tall kadtanach from Michael Kortes’s “Beast of Burden” in Dungeon #100. Not to mention the “planets” that were actually giant animals in one of the crystal spheres from the Spelljammer novels.

You seem to have a thing for scorpions in conjunction with mandalas, if the Giant Emperor and Ghost Scorpion entries are anything to go by. I suppose a meditative nature makes for a good ambush predator.

As part of his meditations, a lama spends part of every day constructing a mandala out of colored sand.  Seeking to have him killed, his political rivals send a shipment of large clay vessels filled with the expensive sand as a gift.  When the jars are unsealed during the day, all is well, but that night nocturnal ghost scorpions erupt out of the sand to hunt.  Fortunately, they strike while the lama is holding a clandestine meeting with a group of adventurers.

Holy crap.  I just (kinda) plagiarized myself!  Good catch, Anon. 

I do like mandalas.  I was introduced to the notion in the excellent Hollow World module Nightstorm by Allen Varney, and I’ve since gotten to see some actual mandalas at various exhibits, including a basilica in San Francisco.  (Apparently one was also created at my high school last year, courtesy of some Tibetan Buddhist monks.)

Maybe I should have gone with my first impulse, which was that malicious air elementals resent the intrusion of flesh creatures into their canyon and use their power over winds to buffet passersby into the clutches of a giant emperor scorpion.

…Nah, those seeds are different enough I don’t feel guilty.  I stand by both, mandalas and all.

While I’m at it, I’m also pretty amazed at what lifespans the Gallowdead and Gashadokuro entries have had. Thanks for all the comments and reblogs!

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