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RQG Monster Friday, week 28-2019

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Having run a rather long campaign, I thought it might be helpful/fun for new GMs to see some of the collection of "new" monsters my players have encountered over the years.  So as long as people care, I'll try to post one per Friday.  Some might be particularly interesting one-offs in the great tradition of Chaos beasties scuttling, strutting, or slouching across the face of Glorantha.  Others might be whole new species that aren't canon of course, but I find that leaving books and predictability behind is integral to keeping a campaign fresh.

Mana Flies

Luciérnaga GIF - GraveOfTheFireflies Forrest Fireflies GIFs

Known by many varied and colorful regional epithets across Glorantha, these in-a-way-harmless pests can prove devastating to the unprepared.  Mana flies are a pestilential swarming insect that feeds directly on magic.  They are nearly impossible to see until they've fed on mana, at which point they begin to glow faintly like insubstantial fireflies.  Believed to originate on the spirit plane, they have long since found the material plane to be a comfortable (enough) hunting ground.  They are often found near the scenes of past magical disasters, or wherever the barrier between the material and spirit realm is thinner than usual.  They will not come out in direct sunlight and can be (temporarily) driven off with bright enough artificial light.  They are unlikely to be found in populated regions, unless some recent magical event may have pulled some into our plane.  Relatively fragile creatures, they are easily destroyed but in larger swarms it is hard to kill them quickly enough to avoid serious danger.

A typical swarm will be 1d12+6 flies , but they can be attracted great distances by powerful magic like moths to flame.  A large party of heavily-enchanted individuals regularly wielding potent spells could find themselves the subject of a 5d12+30 swarm or more, descending on their quiet campsite in the middle of a dark night.

Once the population of a swarm is determined (and this generally should only vaguely be communicated to players) the swarm divides evenly across every mana-generating source in the group that currently has >0 MP.  This includes beasts, pets, and even POW crystals (but not MP crystals).  (Example: a swarm of 38 Mana Flies attacks a party of 4 characters, 2 pets, a mule, and one of the characters has 2 POW crystals - this would mean the swarm is divided by 9 total targets the first round - 4 to each target, with the extra 2 assigned randomly.)  Each target is attacked each round by 1d6 flies of this cloud  (up to the number attacking, of course) on the first SR and each fly drains 1mp at the end of that round.  This attack cannot be parried or dodged and is unaffected by physical armor, although some magical defenses will stop them (see below).  (Example: if 16 flies attack two characters, each have a 'cloud' of 8 flies attacking them.  Only 1d6 of this cloud actually land on (attack) each character each round.)

Once the round is complete,  the remaining (total) number of mana flies in the swarm is re-divided across potential victims anew.  (Example: using the original swarm of 38 mana flies above, at the end of the first round both POW crystals and one pet have been drained of MP entirely while unfortunately only 6 mana flies have been destroyed.  At the start of round two there are now 32 mana flies divided across 6 targets - now each target has a cloud of at least 5 attacking.)

Fortunately, they are easy to kill - using one hand, a Dex*5 success swats and kills one, a special success kills two, and a crit kills three flies (remember, this is out of the 1d6 actually landing on the character, not the total cloud of flies attacking the character).  A fumbled slap is treated as a non-damage natural attack.  Note that most humanoids can attack with each hand in a round if they do nothing else.  Generally trying to move and swat them is less effective, reducing movement by half and making the attack Dex*4.  Creatures not otherwise equipped with hands/limbs capable of swatting can still make one self-clearing attack each round by biting/scratching, etc.  Note that prone creatures moving would generally be considered to be using their hands to move, and would normally only be allowed the default one swat/round.

Any attack capable of affecting an area is very effective: consider each victim's cloud a single entity with 1hp vs AOE effects.  Of course, the victim likely will also be subject to that attack as well.  (Example: a massive swarm of 75 mana flies has attacked 3 characters.  Each then will have a cloud of 25 flies.  The duck happens to have a molotov handy, and smashes it on the floor.  The GM rules that the pool of flaming liquid will only cover him and one other character.  The 1d6 damage from the pool of flaming liquid affects each of the 2 characters, but is ALSO considered as an AOE effect against each of their 'clouds' of mana flies.  It will do at least one point of damage, so their clouds are completely destroyed that round, before they can drain any MP.  The third (uncovered) character suffers the normal attack from her cloud of 25, and the next round, those 25 remaining flies are divided across the 3 targets.  If the 2 characters remain standing in their flaming pools, their 'clouds' will be again destroyed, leaving the 8-9 on the (still uncovered) third character as the only ones remaining for the following round.)

Magical defenses are quite good against mana flies.  Spirit/Divine spells behave slightly differently than sorcerous protection:

  • Protection/Countermagic/Spirit Screen & comparable effects: total the number of mana flies landing on that target; if they exceed the defensive spell value, the defensive spell is completely dispelled.  In any case, the attacking mana flies are destroyed and do not drain mana points at all.  (Think: bug zapper.)*
  • Sorcerous wardings (vs damage, magic, or spirits) are reduced directly 1:1 for each mana fly attacking, which is in turn destroyed.  Wardings reduced to 0 are dispelled.  Any excess mana flies still attacking after the warding is reduced attack the victim and drain MP normally.*

 *complicated bit: POW crystals on a victim's person are attacked as a distinct entity as described above, but benefit from the defenses of the person carrying them.  (Example: a character carrying 2 POW crystals is attacked, she and the two crystals each by 1d6 mana flies.  She has Protection 1 when attacked.   As she and the POW crystals are all attacked simultaneously at the start of the round, the Protection 1 is considered a bubble around all three.  The 3d6 mana flies 'land on the bubble' of the Prot 1, annihilating the Prot 1 but also all being destroyed in turn without draining anything.  If she had instead a sorcerous warding of 10 points, the 3d6 mana flies would all attack THAT warding and if more than 10 flies land, the warding would be dispelled, with the remaining flies attacking normally, distributed evenly across the 3 targets - any remainder mana flies can be allocated according the the character's choice.)

The swarms are only semi-physical, and are not affected by wind.  The swarm has a flying move of 12, so some particularly fast-moving creatures might be able to outdistance them.

Any victim brought to 0MP by mana flies immediately falls unconscious.  If the swarm isn't dispelled, they'll simply hover on the target, eating any generated MP (before the character gets it, sadly) over time until either daylight drives them away or the target dies from all the sorts of things that will ultimately kill a person permanently sleeping on the ground.  So mana flies can never actually directly kill anyone.

Note that mana flies are considered delicious by a number of spirit plane life forms, and spirits (actual freely-moving spirits, not for example allied spirits in a beast or weapon) deployed to this effect can be quite effective to combat them.   Any spirit commanded to attack a swam will destroy 1d6 flies on the first SR of each round automatically (gaining that many MP simultaneously as well) and will drive away another 1d6 (which are not actually destroyed, but will not re-concentrate anytime soon).  The specific destroyed/driven-off flies may be selected by the character controlling the spirit, but must eliminate one victim's 'cloud' before moving to another (ie a spirit can't "shave" one fly off of multiple victim's clouds, for example).  Of course, a spirit deployed like this is a POW-generating entity, and will also be targeted as such by the swarm as any other entity and my be brought to 0MP likewise, which will permanently dispel it.  A fetch (uniquely) CAN be deployed in this role, but likewise then becomes vulnerable to the mana flies in turn, for the round in which it acts in that capacity.

The presence of a hellion is terrifying to mana flies and will immediately disperse an entire swarm, regardless of size.  They will not return while the hellion remains present.

Note to GMs: this is a lot simpler to run than it seems.  Generate the swarm, at the start of each round divide across targets.  Destroy any clouds subject to existing AOE damage.  From those clouds remaining on each target, 1d6 actually land.  Victim defenses activate/are reduced.  Victims each get to (hopefully) destroy some.  Anything left sucks some MP.  Next round, take what's left of the swarm, re-divide it across everything with MP left and repeat. 

Mana flies by themselves are generally just annoying considering at WORST they're only draining an average of 3.5 MP/round, with ample ways to reduce this.  Even if a party is overwhelmed, assuming they don't get eaten/robbed/captured while sleeping, sunrise will drive the flies away, and the first regen'd MP will awaken the characters.  The flies' nastiness is in their ability to burn defenses and chew down mana *particularly* if they are attacking during other combat.  Note however that they don't take sides - two groups fighting when attacked by mana flies would be swarmed evenly by all the flies.

Some rumors suggest that there may be magics that can summon or otherwise control them, but nobody is sure if that's true or terrifying/wishful thinking.

Watching The Fireflies GIF - Miyazaki Fireflies Anime GIFs

Yeah, those two kids are ... screwed.


Let me know if you have any questions.

Edited by styopa
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I absolutely love this. And I may inflict this upon some poor PCs in the very near future. If you were interested in creating a circumstance in which the PCs get captured or completely robbed (or everything except for their loincloths), but without using a combat-style encounter, just use a bunch of mana flies.  The adventurers get knocked out, only to come to once everything's been stolen or they're disarmed and in the middle of being tied up. Wacky hijinx ensue....

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