Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Deodand: a Monster of Vancian Splendor

Of all the influences on my own campaign perhaps no other author has held such a powerful place in my imagination than Jack Vance. Whether it's the fairy-tale medieval picaresque of Lyonesse, the somewhat melancholy pulp fantasy of the Dying Earth, or the vast array of lesser known but equally evocative space opera worlds, I can't read more than a few pages without reaching for my brainstorm notebook to jot down a new idea for an NPC, locale, absurd encounter, or just an elusive weird fantasy tone/theme to weave into a session.

Invariably some of my favorite scenes revolve around witty, deadly exchanges between the protagonist and a harm-intending creature. The crafty deodand is a particular favorite, so I present him as a monster to spring on your unwitting players.

No. Enc.: 1 (1-3)
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
Movement: 90 (30)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 3 (2 claws, 1 bite)
Damage: 1d4, 1d4, 1d8
Save: F4
Morale: 7

Deodands are intelligent, man-eating humanoids rumored to be borne of a sorcerous experiment that combined a human with a wolverine and basilisk. Deodands appear as handsome, muscular men with dull charcoal-black skin, long sharp fangs, and slitted golden or white eyes. The typical deodand prefers to wear a leather harness with bits of velvet or other rich clothes attached. There is a 30% chance that the harness is adorned with ornamental gems worth 100-400 gp.

The solitary deodand prefers to ambush his prey by stealth and will hide in shadows and move silently at a 60% chance. If caught unobserved he will surprise an unwitting party on a 1-4 roll on a d6.
Though vicious and unremitting in his desire to eat other humanoids, the deodand is also particularly interested in maintaining his own skin. If obviously overpowered or reduced to less than 1/3 hit points he will beg and plead for his life, often offering to guide a party. Adventurers should remain vigilant however if they take the creature up on any offer, as the deodand may attempt to subtly lead them into danger.


  1. Interesting. I just finished rereading The Dying Earth and was going to stat up some of the creatures.

    One question, is the wolverine and basilisk from one of the books or your own speculation. I've always imagined them to have a dolphin like skin and was thinking "human and killer whale) to explain the skin and the cannibalism.

    I was also thinking along the lines of your last paragraph that they should have an extra moral check: the first time offensive magic is cast against one, which seems in keeping with the books.

    1. The basilisk wolverine combo comes from Vance.