back to school
An illustrated compendium of monsters from Acolytes to Owlcoholics
by Aidan Morgan, Greg Beatty, James Brotheridge, John Cameron, Lisa Johnson and Paul Dechene / Illustrations by Myron Campbell
The various creature descriptions contained in this feature are intended as a guide for student adventurers as they explore the dungeons, caves and various magical realms of the Post-Secondary World. The term “creature” can refer to any being that adventurers may encounter, and includes humanoids, animals, dragons, demons, extra-dimensional beings, deans, registrars, teacher assistants, department secretaries, lab techs, and maintenance and support staff. Due to the scope of this project, many notable creatures were omitted: it is our intention to publish future supplements describing such notable entities as Pit Gamers, LARP Elves, Henderson Djinns, Loan Devils, Residence Nudists, Public Restroom Masturbators and Parking Ticket Trolls.
Special thanks to the team at prairie dog for their assistance in writing, illustration, design and general administration, as well as sales and marketing. Everyone’s efforts are appreciated. Additional thanks go to D. Tillusz, whose borrowed and never-returned reference materials made this project possible.
For further information on creature statistics, combat and saving throw tables and other such important shit, consult the soon-to-be-published College Masters Guide.
FREQUENCY: Depressingly Common. NO. APPEARING: 6 per coffee shop % IN LAIR: SPECIAL ATTACKS: Barista Cal. SPECIAL DEFENCES: Red Bull INTELLIGENCE: Would be Very High, but the constant fragmenting of attention reduces it 1-6 levels. ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Panic.
Frantic, wrung-out, hands trembling from excessive latte production, the Multi-Tasker has 87 heads and a job to go with each. This creature was once a normal mortal entering university. Seeking to avoid student loan debt, she entered into a pact with a minor demon that transformed her into a multi-dimensional being capable of occupying several places at once. Now she is a monster of quantum uncertainty and offensive productivity.
The 87-Headed Multi-Tasker can be found behind the counter at Starbucks, Atlantis, Tim Hortons, Earls, O’Hanlon’s, The Free House and right behind you at your morning Business 100 class. She can usually be identified by the blurry aura that surrounds her body and by her extra hands. While not a proper Magic-User, the Multi-Tasker can call upon her power once per day to gain +3 Dexterity, which comes in handy when she’s working as a legal assistant and playing a basketball game at the same time. The Multi-Tasker can also get five Arts Education degrees at once, which, big deal. /Aidan Morgan
ACOLYTE POLITICIAN DRUID
FREQUENCY: Uncommon NO. APPEARING: 2 – 16 % IN LAIR: 85%
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Call for Quorum SPECIAL DEFENCES: Colour-Coordinated Shirts During Elections INTELLIGENCE: Average ALIGNMENT: Variable (60% Chaotic Neutral)
They commune with the ideologies of the day, weaving themselves into the fabric of a campus even as a majority of the students are oblivious to their ceremonies. To advance, often one Student Politician Druid must defeat another. Again, most students don’t care. “Lawful Neutral” Acolytes are the most powerful and can cast Robert’s Rules of Order with the same effectiveness.
Half- Orc Engineers are enemies of all Acolyte Politician Druids, seeking to abolish the whole order. Druids receive a +10 to hit all Orcs due to Desperation and Hatred effects.
Acolyte Politician Druids also throw concerts for everyone –– this year, it’s Arkells. And they run the bar. /James Brotheridge
FREQUENCY: Rare — at most you will encounter one of these every three semesters. NO. APPEARING: 1. % IN LAIR: 80% office; 15% campus bar; 5% magically whenever you need him or her most. SPECIAL ATTACKS: 20th-Level Charm will instill unwarranted confidence in your abilities. SPECIAL DEFENCES: Immune to Despair-based attacks INTELLIGENCE: Godlike but they don’t like to show off. ALIG NMENT: Neutral Good.
Awesome Profs are one of the rarest creatures to be found on the university campus. Generally reclusive but charismatic, they are thought to be a kind of homely, sweater-wearing angel sent by the Powers That Be to set students on their correct course. They favour gathering places where strong ale and grad students can be found. Their chief weakness stems from their strange obsessions with model trains or that one time they met Eudora Welty. Students who introduce strategically directed comments on these topics can derail entire classes.
The Awesome Prof’s most common phrases include “That was extremely insightful!” and “Now you’re getting it!” A successful course-long encounter with an Awesome Prof will give students +2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom and +1 Charisma.
The Awesome Prof may also be extremely sexually attractive, despite those clothes and that body. Sleazy Profs often wear the skins of Awesome Profs in order to lure wayward students into a sexual liaison, which is sometimes the only means of detecting their true identity. If you find yourself having sex with a Sleazy Prof, you will suffer a semester-long Intelligence penalty of two points. Also, your roommate will automatically roll +5 to smack you and tell you to shut up. /Aidan Morgan
FREQUENCY: Common NO. APPEARING: 1 % IN LAIR: 65% chance they are in still bed. SPECIAL ATTACKS: Polymorphous appearances. SPECIAL DEFENCES: Spell-casting, potentially deadly eye rays. INTELLIGENCE: Impossible to measure, grade, or calculate. ALIGNMENT: 75% Neutral, 25% Neutral Evil.
This magical changeling can go from friendly to wicked in the time it takes for normal people to prepare for a mid-term. Normally appearing as a cloaked humanoid, this apparently harmless creature might even befriend you in a first-year class. It slithers. Soon, it will be sending out mass emails asking for someone (anyone) else’s notes. It usually can be distinguished by its unique, pungent scent.
Slackers often guard portals (doors and entrances) ensnaring unwary classmates and compelling them into doing them “one small favour.” They have a countenance so terrifying that they can stop other creatures in their tracks with just one helpless glare. Even though they might appear friendly and laid-back, they are nimble and treacherous, with keen senses.
Bloodsucking Slackers have been known to morph into huge, armoured snake-like beasts with hairy appendages — borrowing pens, small change, and bumming cigarettes. They have a distinct lack of normal human ambition or a desire for genuine achievement.
If you can manage to locate their lair, you’ll find a veritable treasure of illicit drugs, bongs, and smoking accessories worthy of Cheech and Chong worth 2D20 gold.
Only a Wish or Resurrection spell can bring these creatures back from the brink of academic failure. /Lisa Johnson
FREQUENCY: Very rare. NO. APPEARING: 1-8 (see description). % IN LAIR: Unknown. SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below SPECIAL DEFENCES: In Camera – The BOG Hydra retreats into its lair and becomes impervious to attack INTELLIGENCE: Very high. ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil
Fearsome and rarely glimpsed, the BOG Hydra wields a stunning amount of power from its architecturally brutalist cavern. Hexes prevent those invited into the cavern from saying anything specific about the goings-on in the Hydra’s labyrinthian lair, while the creature’s dark power emanates outward and influences those under the Great Dragon Timmons’ rule. From professors to lowly IT (Incantation Technology) staff, nearly everyone is subject to the BOG Hydra’s machinations.
The hydra’s interlocking heads can slither off of its body, Shapeshifting into human form and living in human communities. Its heads masquerade as successful businesspeople and learned citizens, using the residual power of its combined form to deflect suspicion that they may be more than mere humans.
When the heads are united, the hexes that keep the hydra’s machinations obscured from mortal knowledge also keeps the hydra invulnerable. Grim spirits keep the cavern under guard and magical force fields prevent adventurers from penetrating the Hydra’s inner sanctum. It is not known what treasures the Hydra hides, but it is widely surmised that it guards largely forbidden knowledge – hidden and arcane lore of the operations of the bog in which the hydra lives, the history of the hydra itself, and the rationale behind its secret workings.
For now, only the Great Dragon Timmons and her most trusted advisors — as well as the leader of the Student Politicians — are allowed in the Hydra’s lair. If there, they are enveloped by the same protective magic that affects the Hydra itself.
Adventurers will likely not encounter the BOG Hydra itself; however, be advised that many things — including parking, tuition fees, and faculty structures— are controlled by the Hydra, and thus many adventures have the Hydra at their source. /John Cameron
FREQUENCY: Common NO. APPEARING: 3-1 % IN LAIR: 75% SPECIAL ATTACKS: Lou Dobbs talking pointsSPECIAL DEFENCES: hardcover copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (unread) INTELLIGENCE: Semi-/Above average ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Indifferent
While they are known to dress in semi-formal attire on occasion and pass for civilized humanoids, there is always something vaguely hyena-like in a Commerce Gnoll’s comportment that gives away its barbarous and mercenary nature. Scholars note the Commerce Gnoll’s annoying tendency to howl their dedication to a fiercely individualistic credo where “might makes right” and “only the fittest should survive.” This happens especially when Commerce Gnolls are besotted by alcohol. Which happens often. Yet despite these declarations, Commerce Gnolls are at heart pack animals that prefer to overcome obstacles through “group work” and “networking.” This means that when they are found in the wild you will usually see one particularly bright individual struggling to solve a problem and surrounding it there’s a sniggering gaggle of hangers-on that are occupied by “prettying up reports,” “making diagrams” and “operating the hole-punch.”
Oddly, those most capable Commerce Gnolls almost never become the group leaders. Instead, it is the loudest creatures that rise to the position of chief and earns tribal accolades.
Commerce Gnolls worship a pantheon of rapacious and pitiless gods that are said to gibber ceaselessly into the void, eat their own young and excrete tomes on subjects such as objectivism and management theory. /Paul Dechene
DAY JOB NIXIE
FREQUENCY: Rare NO. APPEARING: 1-6 % IN LAIR: N/A SPECIAL ATTACKS: Work that Generally Puts Full-Time Students to Shame SPECIAL DEFENCES: A Full-Time Job INTELLIGENCE: Average ALIGNMENT: Lawful Neutral
Strictly nocturnal, as they exist off-campus when most students are around. They are forced to take whatever class related to their program is offered at night, no matter how unbearable the professor or uninteresting the subject. They endure this because they are already adults and in the end, university is one of several pursuits for them. Go to any class that starts at 7 p.m. to find them. They are able to conjure work far better than full-time students who might spend most of their days playing Flash games in the library. They also have real lives; these classes are the cherry on top. It is unknown when they find time to read or sleep or if they have some kind of time-bending abilities.
GREAT DRAGON TIMMONS
FREQUENCY: Uncommon NO. APPEARING: 1 (Unique) % IN LAIR: 50%. SPECIAL ATTACKS: Powerful charm spells can disarm or confound attackers. SPECIAL DEFENCES: Various skill buffs due to enchanted award-filled treasure pile. INTELLIGENCE: Very high. ALIGNMENT: True Neutral.
The Great Dragon Timmons arrived in the West after the banishment of the evil wizard Hossqns. Seeking the wizard’s titles and lands, the dragon sought an audience with the Bog Hydra and used strong charms and her own natural power to impress the Hydra. The Hydra enchanted the dragon’s scales with a powerful red magic that gave the dragon a very high Magic Resistance while conferring some of the Hydra’s own secrecy magic on her, a symbol of their trust and partnership.
Though a dragon, Timmons is widely seen as benevolent; in reality, however, Timmons is studiously neutral, preferring to let her Council deal with the public on all but feast days and choosing not to interfere with the machinations of the Bog Hydra.
To get to the dragon’s treasure, adventurers must penetrate the castle’s defenses, press past the Council, evade the castle guards, and reach the dragon directly in her lair. Making it more difficult, Timmons also prefers to handle the kingdom’s diplomacy itself, and thus, while it can only be found in its lair at the top of the castle, it also frequently leaves its lair for far-flung and unreachable locales. /John Cameron
FREQUENCY: Common NO. APPEARING: Always in groups of two or three. % IN LAIR: 10% (They are sociable wandering monsters).SPECIAL ATTACKS: Spell-like charming abilities if they want something from you (i.e. an extension on a paper). SPECIAL DEFENCES: Genuine obliviousness. INTELLIGENCE: Low Average. ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil masked with sweet gentleness.
You can spot this marriage-minded Gnome by their consistently over-tanned skin tone and an unfathomably large bleached blonde beehive (or bump-it) hairdo that defies both gravity and sense. You will never see them wear the same pair of shoes twice, and you can be alerted to their presence with the jangle of bangles, necklaces, rings, and hoop earrings. Their mission, of course, is not necessarily to obtain a worthwhile degree, so you can count on them to show up late for class with giant double-doubles. They chat obnoxiously amongst themselves, and hiss and clack at their cellphones so loudly that they drown out the professor. Because they have a general immunity to shame and even the 10th-Level “Shhh” spells, they are a difficult foe to subdue. It’s best to choose a seating arrangement that avoids their Distraction Aura (15’ radius).If you do not, you must make a saving throw verses Exasperation or you will find yourself getting educated about how intoxicated said Gnomes became on the weekend.
If you inadvertently hit on their mouth-breathing male love interest, expect a vicious battle: Manhunter Gnomes are ruthless warriors in a bar brawl, clawing (with rapier-like fake nails), biting, and pulling hair. /Lisa Johnson
FREQUENCY: Uncommon. NO. APPEARING: 1-5. % IN LAIR: 60%. SPECIAL ATTACKS: None SPECIAL DEFENCES: Drinking Problem — The goblins’ substance abuse issues leave them habitually emotionally unavailable and cynical. Consequently, they have naturally low charisma but higher perception. INTELLIGENCE: Average, surprisingly. ALIGNMENT: Chaotic good with sleep-deprived tendencies
Students of the journalistic arts, the University’s muck goblins wallow in filth — the school’s filth, the city’s filth, the province’s filth, their own filth. Mostly their own filth.
Though disgusting, uncoordinated quadrupeds that are uncomfortable to be around, muck goblins are generally considered harmless, and are tolerated residents of most human areas (and welcomed patrons of most human taverns).
Focused on their job to the expense of many other facets of their lives, the muck goblins have keen perception and intuition, though their judgement is often poor. Their approach to the arcane rules of journalistic arts varies from goblin to goblin, often seeming arbitrary but typically getting results. Nearly goblins organize into hierarchies, swearing fealty to a Goblin Editor; however, some goblins are independent.
Crossing them — or being crossed by them — can often turn ugly and confusing, frequently resulting in drawn-out battles in which the goblins will employ all means at their disposal to win.
When goblins combine their skills and resources, they can prove to be a formidable and seemingly omnipresent threat. However, the goblins have been divided by a long schism — those who attend formal schooling and training under goblin journalist shamans, and a smaller group of goblins who operate their own press independently from the shamans’ school. Some teamwork, however, does happen, and if the goblins were to reunite and cooperate, even the BOG Hydra and the Great Dragon may be threatened.
GOBLIN EDITORS: These creatures are very rare, hate sunlight, and are drawn to alcohol. They’re often loud and abrasive, inspiring fear in some goblins and disdain or loathing in others. Perhaps because they have such little control over their own personal lives, the Goblin Editors harbour a near-total distrust of all authority figures. They have a 20% chance of being out of cigarettes during an encounter; offering cigarettes has a 50% chance of soothing the creature’s persistent drunken rage. /John Cameron
FREQUENCY: Uncommon NO. APPEARING: 2-12 % IN LAIR: 80% SPECIAL ATTACKS: Too-Great Knowledge of Campus History from the Past Decade SPECIAL DEFENCES: Waiting You Out INTELLIGENCE: Average ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Good
Longevity and being able to name the last five presidents of the students’ union are this creature’s greatest powers, even though those are essentially useless skills in this environment. There is no spin that will take the eight years they’re taking to complete a four-year degree and make it a positive attribute. They might be around because of a campus institution or activist issues and can quite often be found in offices for either instead of in the library, actually finishing their degree. Despite taking two-to-three classes a semester, Concentrated Class Work and Attendance are not attacks this creature possesses.
FREQUENCY: Not uncommon NO. APPEARING: Varies depending on occasion % IN LAIR: On a good week, maybe 30 — no, 40% SPECIAL ATTACKS: Can cause Confusion (Save VS. Inebriation) giving them +2 Surprise Attack SPECIAL DEFENCES: Numb (+5 to Armour Class) INTELLIGENCE: Variable ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Good/Evil
Insanely high tuition and the immense pressure to acquire training and skills to compete in a tight global job market have made Owlcoholics rarer in recent times. Outside their lair, they exude a Glamour that lets them blend in with the rest of the student population. Bloodshot eyes, a generally disheveled appearance and rushing to class while mumbling incoherently about a reading not done or a paper not completed can indicate a creature is actually an Owlcoholic. /Gregory Beatty
FREQUENCY: Uncommon NO. APPEARING: 1-4 % IN LAIR: 65% SPECIAL ATTACKS: Can trap victims in a 12th-level time vortex (Save vs. Lunch Break) SPECIAL DEFENCES: Slimy Mucus Wake: treat any seat, desk, or workspace in their library lairs as potentially poisonous terrain. INTELLIGENCE: Above Average. ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil.
Shadow lurkers, these anatomically joined lovebirds might be mistaken for two separate entities, but they are in fact one terrifying fiend. Its respective faces are always sucking, canoodling, whispering, giggling and exchanging bodily fluids with each other in order to supercharge their powers and make everyone else feel awkward. The library is their natural liar — the first private place they’ve ever had in which they can escape adult supervision — so they possess intimate knowledge of all of the semi-private nooks and crannies. They believe they are shielded by an invisibility sphere — a delusion you may be able to manipulate for your advantage. They are, however, omnivorous and have been known to petrify their victims: if you are caught in their gaze, you will turn to stone permanently (30’ range). Your best defense against them is to flee, since they are not inclined to pursue unless their lair is threatened. Their powers diminish significantly away from their lair. /Lisa Johnson