D&D 5E [Let's Read] The Star-Shaman's Song of Planegea: Dungeons & Dragons, Prehistoric Style

The Factions and Threats section of this book is utterly great, and anyone writing a setting book (including WotC, who did something very similar in Eberron and promptly forgot about it) could be well advised to read and learn from.

Normally when i read a setting book that I like, I'm immediately overwhelmed with ideas about the sort of PC I'd play in that setting. This book had me thinking about the sort of campaign I'd run in the setting, and that's largely due to how excellent this chapter was. There was some weaker organisations, sure (Kraia's Children, for instance, and the Scavenger's Vow), but damn - the Earth Empire, the Gift of Thirst, the Craven, the Crawling Awful - there's SO MUCH great stuff here.
 

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Libertad

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Chapter 12: Treasures

Besides Dungeons, Dragons, and leveling up, treasure is the other nigh-universal constant of DnD settings. A rather short chapter, most of it is detailed by new and converted magic items but starts out by talking about the other kinds of loot. First off, the lack of coins and fiat currency means that such treasure more often takes the form of high-quality goods and harvested materials. Names and scars are two new treasure types, which basically serve as kinds of “permanent wealth” where a particular name or scar earned during an adventure has an approximate value. A PC doesn’t have to barter for items below the combined value of their names and scars. Names, however, are limited in that word can carry only so far, and PCs are less likely to be known the farther away they are from where they earned a name. This is reflected in the rules by provoking History checks from NPCs to see if they heard of the characters. The book also encourages DMs to be a bit metagamey in communicating the value of a name or scar: much like how in a typical setting a quest-giver may say “I can pay you 500 gold for dealing with this troll,” so too should a Planegean DM tell players stuff like “should you attain the title of Hydra’s Bane in the Slumbering Forest, you will not have to barter for anything less than 250 salt portions and its History DC is 16.”

As for scars, they are more universally recognized than names, which can make them more valuable. The DM is encouraged to talk with players ahead of time, as permanent alteration of a PC’s body/appearance may not be what one gamer has in mind for their character. And it also brings up the inevitable question of a PC beginning play with scars having “extra starting wealth.” It does not for balance reasons.

As for harvested parts, the book suggests against assigning universal prices to particular creature parts, as PCs may try to exploit the economy this way. To better guard against this, the book’s best suggestion is that traders can only buy so much of a given item or only want and can carry so much. Otherwise we get brief descriptions of such materials and their common uses.

As for magical items, the line between what is magic and mundane is a lot blurrier in Planegea to the point that most people presume that everything has at least a little bit of magic. For example, weather and fire are considered magical in the same way a Gust of Wind or Fireball spell would be, and as mentioned a while ago names are believed to have magical properties. This is more of a subjective perception in-universe vs an objective rules change, as spells such as Dispel Magic work the same. But even in such cases, magical items with obvious features and powers still evoke the same fears and desires from people as they do in other settings.

In Planegea, magical items can come from a variety of sources: among the PC races, shamans, spellskins, and gnomes are the most common sources of make magic items. Gods are also a common sources, with hallows serving more or less as “magic item shops” where people bearing gifts and providing services to the gods are given such treasures in return. The Giant Empires’ items tend to be oversized with advanced geometric designs, items taken from aberrant vaults are weird bio-organic materials, and genie-crafted items have artistic features that are downright impossible. Some magic items aren’t even artificially created, but can spring up out of the natural world. Such items might be dreamt up in Nod, formed from the elements such as lightning strikes and winds, or musical light contained in a more solid form from the Sea of Stars. Magic items reliant upon the written word are reflavored, such as books becoming chants recited by the “writer” countless times to solidify them in a user’s mind, and spell scrolls become talismans unraveled to cast a spell as they disintegrate into dust. Noncasters must make a DC 10 Intelligence check in order to use a talisman’s magic when unraveled, or else it’s wasted, and a natural 1 causes the spell to target the non-caster. Which funnily enough can be a good thing if the talisman had a beneficial spell such as Cure Wounds.

Magic Masks provides us a new magic item type, of 18 such masks ranging from Uncommon to Legendary rarity. Masks are imbued with the powers of their creature’s likenesses and must be worn in order to use their powers. Like staffs they have a limited number of charges, 5 being the universal number, and regain expended charges every dawn and risk losing their powers forever if the last charge is expended.

Quite a number of masks have the likenesses of mundane creatures, being the Uncommon and some Rare ones, such as Mask of the Eagle spending a charge to gain a fly speed for one turn or Mask of the Ape letting the wearer create and throw boulders that have the same properties as a Giant Ape’s Rock weapon. The Rare and higher ones correspond to particular monsters, such as Mask of the Duergar that enlarges the wearer for 1 minute like that creature’s trait, Mask of the Wraith which expends a charge to become incorporeal for one turn, or Mask of the Mimic that lets one take on the form of an ordinary object while remaining still. There’s a sidebar at the end talking about creating new magic masks, with some guidelines for balance purposes: creatures with per-day uses of an ability cost a charge that typically lasts until the start of the mask-wearer’s next turn, while for damaging effects their average damage per round determines its rarity.

Magic Item Descriptions gives us 68 new magic items of all kinds and rarities. Obviously I am not going to cover each of them, but there’s quite a number of neat ones here.

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Apparatus of the Hawk is a legendary vehicle that takes the form of a cylinder when inactive, but if someone finds a hidden catch and panel to enter, they will find 10 levels which if used allows the cylinder to take the form of a giant mechanical hawk. Each of the ten levels can be used to operate the apparatus, from opening and closing the pilot window to flying and turning in midair to making attacks with wings and talons. Apparatus of the Mammoth is a similar legendary vehicle with 10 levers allowing for a variety of actions and attacks, but is cobbled out of various objects, bones, stones, and other things to resemble a mammoth even when inactive. The Mammoth is a lot sturdier with a nigh-untouchable 30 AC and 400 hit points, but unlike the Hawk (20 AC, 200 hit points, 60 foot fly speed) it can only move an average 30 feet or 10 foot swim speed.

Asp of Perfection is a legendary armlet once worn by the Air Empress who was obsessed with proving to others that she’s a perfect being without flaws. A character who is attuned to the Asp treats any attack, save, or ability check besides a natural 1 as a natural 20. But should the wearer roll a natural 1, they drop to 0 hit points, automatically fail 2 death saving throws, and have disadvantage on their next death save which the Asp’s properties will not convert into a natural 20. In spite of this Achilles Heel, this is the most overpowered item in this book, and cannot see any sane DM allowing it to fall into the PCs’ hands.

Blood Siphon is a magic item that comes in a pair of small ruby discs which both require attunement, one bearing the image of a leech and the other bearing the image of a flower. Both can be attached to the skin of humanoid creatures, and the person bearing the flower disc can choose one of six ability scores to gain advantage on attacks, saves, and ability checks with, and the leech-bearer suffers disadvantage regarding that same score. Every 24 hours the leech-bearer must have a Constitution save or suffer one level of exhaustion, and the leech disc is a cursed item that if the wearer fails a separate Constitution save cannot be removed save by Remove Curse and similar magic. The ability scores cannot be changed unless both discs are unattached and reattached.

Blinding Weapon is a rare weapon property that requires attunement. Any creature hit with this weapon must make a DC 13 Constitution save or be blinded until the end of that creature’s turn. The text states that this only triggers “the first time you hit a creature with this weapon,” which is rather vague. To me it sounds like a literal first time, meaning that once struck the creature is forever immune from being affected in such a way again. But I can also see another person reading “first time” as for their turn, meaning it can trigger multiple times but never more than once per round.

Deepstone is a legendary item that was* one of the most valuable creations of the Stone Empire. Those who attune to and touch it can cast a variety of earth-themed spells at will with a range of 1 mile, ranging from Mold Earth, Transmute Rock, and even the mighty Earthquake. The attuned also can cast Clairvoyance once per day up to 1 mile out, and gain the constant benefit of the Investiture of Stone spell. While Legendary is the highest rarity an item can have, based on sheer power it feels more appropriate as an artifact. Then again, as the giants aren’t exactly gods in the traditional D&D sense, legendary may be more in line with being “lore-accurate.”

*The past tense implies that they lost it.

Direstaff is the most famous magic item type of the people of the Dire Grazelands. It’s a common quarterstaff that can double in length as a bonus action, gaining the Reach property and can be shrunk the same way. Attacks made with it have disadvantage when so extended, limiting its usefulness in comparison to traditional polearms.

Dowsing Rod is a common item that is used to detect sources of drinkable water, where the wielder is aware if they’re moving closer or further from such a source while traveling.

Gnomeknack Crossbow is an uncommon weapon which when activated via command word as a bonus action can take the form of any of the three crossbow types.

Horn of the Herd-Lord is a very rare item requiring attunement. When blown, it can expend anywhere from 4 to all of its 7 charges to cast Dominate Beast, whose spell level is determined by the number of charges expended.

Lance of the Lodge is a legendary weapon offered as a prize to Venomguard’s newest leaders after their annual contests. It is a lance with 10 charges that can be used to cast Find Steed (automatically wearing bone armor granting it +1 AC) or Conjure Animals (can only be cast again once all the summoned animals die or disappear), and can cast Find Familiar with no charges but only summons creatures with a fly speed and the telepathy range is 500 feet.

Midnight Star is a legendary +3 morningstar that deals 2d8 bonus thunder damage. It requires attunement and was once wielded by the Sea Emperor. The attuned wielder and up to 6 creatures they choose within line of sight gain truesight up to 60 feet, and the wielder can cast Foresight as an action once every 24 hours.

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Monstertooth Clubs are uncommon clubs bearing the teeth of particular monsters. It deals 1d4 bonus damage whose type is dependent on the nature of the original tooth-bearers. We have a d8 table of sample types and corresponding monsters: for example, aberration and fey teeth might deal psychic damage, dragon and fiend teeth may deal fire damage, and beast and plant teeth might deal poison damage.

Obsidian Armor is a broad type that can apply to any armor. It grants +1 AC on top of the base armor’s value as well as resistance to fire damage.

Pipe of Smoke-Summoning is a rare item that can cast Conjure Minor Elementals as an action once per day, and can be cast at higher levels when smoked with rare ingredients whose salt portion value determines the spell slot.

Rumbleglow Paint is a common magic item taking the form of a clay pot full of paint. Once dried out on a surface (the pot has a total of 1,000 square feet worth), it glows in intensity and with various colors in response to different types of vibrations. A good means of detecting tremors and burrowing monsters.

Scouting Hoops are common magical hoops that act like binoculars, as anything viewed through it is magnified to twice the normal size. Nightwatch versions are uncommon items that grant the viewer darkvision when looking through the hoop.

Sickle of Sacrifice is a very rare weapon made by spellskins of evil disposition. If it deals a critical hit against a humanoid with at least one hand, that hand is severed and reanimates as a Crawling Claw loyal to the caster. Rings and other attuned magic items worn on that hand have their attunement end.

Stonearrow is a rare ammunition type fashioned by the Stone Empire, that of an arrow that transforms into a boulder mid-flight. It thus deals 4d10 bludgeoning damage to the struck target and knocks them prone, and affects targets within 10 feet in the same manner but who instead must make a Strength saving throw.

Sunglobes are uncommon magic items that cast the Daylight spell for 1 hour via command word. The light is considered actual sunlight unlike the spell, and is commonly used by dreas as a food source when they’re exploring dungeons or underground areas for prolonged periods. The book does mention that they can be used against vampires and other sunlight-weak beings, which is their other common use.

Victory’s Cost is a legendary item requiring attunement. The attuned is considered proficient, and takes the form of a regular crown made of bones and fangs that via command word cause a +3 longsword made of fire to appear in the wilder’s hands. The sword automatically ignites struck creatures and flammable objects, and radiates a constant AoE aura around the wielder dealing fire damage. The magic item is also cursed, where the wielder will not voluntarily part with it and the flaming sword cannot be dismissed until knocking out or killing a creature due to its bloodlust.

Whispershell is a common seashell once inhabited by an aquatic fey creature. It can magically record up to one minute’s worth of conversation if a creature speaks into it, and other people can hear this message by holding it up to their ear.

Writhing Flail is a very rare weapon made of barbed tendrils originally discovered in an aberrant vault. The wielder can choose to perform a free grapple attempt with the weapon against a target it strikes, and upon doing so a grappled creature is blinded and cannot breathe. The flail, should it maintain the grapple at the start of the wielder’s next turn, can attempt to extract a target’s brain, dealing 2d10 piercing damage (no action required) if the target fails a Constitution saving throw.

Thoughts So Far: Magic items are one of my favorite additions in new sourcebooks, and there’s quite a lot of nifty thematic treasures to be found here. The concept for names and scars is cool, albeit I feel that the section for harvesting plant and animal parts could’ve used more detail. As it stands, it’s very much DM Fiat. I cannot recall where I read it so I could be mistaken, but I do recall the author mentioning that other sourcebooks have already done this so he didn’t want to retread familiar ground.

As for the magic items themselves, the Masks are pretty cool, albeit some even of the same rarity type feel more useful than others. The Duergar mask and Wraith mask are both rare, but incorporeal movement is more broadly useful to various character concepts whereas Enlarge is more narrowly focused. While most weren’t particularly egregious, I did note that a few magic items had some wonky balance, like the Apparatus of the Mammoth’s extreme 30 AC or the Asp of Perfection triggering the best results possible 95% of the time. But those examples tended to be the highest rarity and for things like the Deepstone, which are heavily-implied plot devices. What I did like was how a lot of the more common rarities often reflected magical tools not just of use for combat or adventuring, but regular life or specialized tasks like the Rumbleglow Paint.

Join us next time as we take a first look at some prehistoric wildlife in Chapter 13: Gods & Monsters!
 

Libertad

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Chapter 13: Gods & Monsters, Part 1

The final chapter of the book is also the longest, making us so close yet so far away from the finish line. Before we dive into all the new creatures in the setting, we start out with some general advice in preserving the awe and wonder of a new world that remains unknown to much of the PCs. The DM is encouraged to avoid using proper names for creatures, instead focusing on other discerning factors of their appearance and behavior, readily reskinning stat blocks, and making use of the 19 new monster templates which serve as quick and easy alterations. For example, the Armored template gives a creature a thicker natural defense, granting +2 to AC but disadvantage on Dexterity checks, while Elemental grants resistance to an associated damage type corresponding to that element and can emit a damaging elemental burst as a rechargeable AoE. The templates in particular are short and their new abilities are simple enough in terms of tactics to add to most monsters without complicating things too much. The book does note that some templates may alter a monster’s effectiveness beyond what the initial numbers may demonstrate, so it’s still something which must be judged on a case by case basis.

Unlike many other settings, Gods not only walk the land, they are tangible creatures which mortals can find and interact with and are bound to their local hallows. Basically all magic flows from the Worldheart Dragon, where arcane magic is when it rises into the heavens and interacts with celestial bodies and dreams, while divine magic flows into the land. When enough divine magic pools in an area, this accumulated power takes the form of a god. Beyond that, the specific processes that create a god are unknown, but the universal nature of magic means that they can appear anywhere and take the form of just about anything…albeit no god has yet manifested as a primarily humanoid being, with most of them taking the forms of animals, plants, places, and natural processes.

We get some advice on creating gods along with general expectations based on the setting. Gods at this point in time are separated enough to the point that no real pantheons yet exist; some deities such as the idols of the Cult Riverlands may have common traits or overlapping spheres of influence, but none of them have yet to coalesce into a unified political bloc or family. Additionally, a god’s alignment determines its creature type, with good-aligned ones being celestials, evil ones fiends, and neutral ones (which are the most common moral alignment among gods) can have a wider variety of types ranging from beast to undead. Gods do not need to subsist on normal food, although they can still partake in such activities, instead feeding off of something known as glory. Glory represents a wide range of actions undertaken that help a god’s public image persist in the minds of mortals. This can take a wide variety of forms, from building shrines to the god, ceremonies and rituals honoring them, sacrifices and offerings, and consuming the divine ivory of a slain god. This last action is considered taboo by most gods, and learning of a cannibal god is a good way to get otherwise warring deities to put aside their differences to punish their wayward kin.

There’s a subsystem for tracking lost and gained glory points, which can also increase or decrease their strata level. However, this system isn’t very involved and even then it suggests making use of DM Fiat rather than bean-counting every little act like a game of Sid Meier’s Civilization. Which makes me wonder why include it at all?

The hallows of gods are also demiplanes,* meaning someone with spells such as Plane Shift can teleport directly into a hallow. Hallows are also affected by a permanent hallow spell whose particular effects are either randomly rolled or chosen by the DM. A god can create beings known as visitants by expending a fraction of their personal power and can take whatever form or stat block makes sense. The only real limit is that the maximum Challenge Rating of a visitant is determined by a god’s Strata, or general level of power, ranging from 1st to 4th.

*Yet still physically connected to the rest of Planegea given that mortals can visit it just by traveling there.

Strata is something equivalent to the Divine Ranks of 3rd Edition DnD when deities were given stat blocks. Beyond visitant CR, the other 3 factors it determines are its Range (determining how far a god can extend its senses and the range of its spells)* the maximum level spells they can cast, and the rarity value of magic items it can craft. The higher the strata, the rarer the god: the gods of the three Brother Clans, Mala Long-Song of the Whale Clan, and the Winter God Twr are the only known 3rd Strata gods at the moment. There is no known 4th Strata being, and only Mala Long-Song can conceivably approach such a level of power at this point in time.

*The book isn’t clear whether or not this supersedes or replaces the range of the base spell. Can a 1st Strata God with Sight Range cast a Magic Missile on a target visible across the horizon?

For building one’s own gods, it’s a bit more complicated than the aforementioned Templates. As such beings are akin to prehistoric kings and queens, the chapter first asks the DM what place they have in the world, their divine domains and areas of influence, and how they use their powers to influence the surrounding region. The DM chooses a pre-existing stat block of a creature that makes sense for the god’s nature, with its CR based on the Strata. Even a 1st Strata god is a power to be reckoned with, ranging from 10 to 15, and each Strata above that adds +5 to the range. This means that even 2nd Strata deities can be a match for Epic tier parties at 16 to 20, where felling them is the stuff of legends or the climax of a campaign.

Beyond the base stat block, gods alter their creature type based on alignment, and since they often project power and might their size (and thus Hit Dice) may be larger than a typical creature of its stat block. Furthermore, gods gain a variety of features reflective of their divine nature, such as telepathy, a minimum Charisma score based on Strata if their stat block has a lower value, a variety of innate spells whose level and number depend upon Strata, Legendary Resistance, Lair Actions, a rechargeable ability to “reset” the per-day limit on cast spells by drawing on raw magic from the world, and a second Spiritual Form which is basically a more powerful Stage 2 Boss.

Following this we have detailed outlines of the five most notable gods of Planegea, including their hallow, general personality traits, stat blocks for their regular and spiritual forms, lair actions, and their regional effects.

Glelh the Unblinking is the deity of the Lion Clan, whose hallow is a hill decorated with artwork and encircled by stones. His eyes are the feature most people first witness, for they are seemingly all-seeing and can dig deep into one’s soul. He spends most of his days using his powers to look upon the world, and shares a glimpse of his cosmic insights with those who earn his favor. In spite of being Neutral Good, he has zero tolerance for weakness and believes that suffering is a necessary process to gain worthiness. The book explains that his rites “can be truly cruel as they weed the weak from the stoic,” which doesn’t sound very good-aligned to me! As a monster he is a CR 23 creature, and his abilities are themed around being a mighty lion-like being along with his insightful nature. His primary physical attacks are a flurry of claws and bites, and his Unblinking Gaze can impose a variety of magical conditions and damage types to those he can see. His innate spells are geared towards typical holy stuff such as healing, fire and radiant damage, and light-based effects. Besides the 1st level Detect spells he doesn’t have a lot of divination magic, surprisingly enough. His Spiritual Form looks like a silhouette of blinding light, and he replaces his physical attacks with hot touches and his gaze with AoE roars.

Mala Long-Song is the most powerful deity of Planegea, the goddess of the Whale Clan and whose form is appropriately magnificent as a whale the size of an island. She holds influence over the islands of Scattersea and the surrounding oceans, meaning she is worshiped not just by land-dwellers but also the merfolk beneath the waves. She is Neutral Good and thus patient and kind, encouraging her followers to learn as much as they can about a situation before rashly acting. Her followers see her once per year on the Day of Breath, where she parts the ocean’s surface while singing and then blesses all attending. As a monster she is CR 30 and the strongest being in this book, whose physical prowess is actually the least powerful of her attacks. Much of her abilities are more “pure mage” in style, ranging from skin that can reflect ranged spells, a damaging and stunning gaze attack that can also cast the Maze spell on those with pre-existing conditions, three different Songs that can deal fire damage, restrain, or Plane Shift affected targets in an AoE, and a variety of multitarget and AoE spells. Mala’s spiritual form transports creatures into an ethereal place in her hallow, where all creatures are always within range of her attacks and effects. She trades in her physical attacks and spells for Touches of Life/Death dealing either radiant or necrotic damage, the ability to extinguish a soul and prevent them from coming back to life, and cosmic-style rechargeable attacks such as creating a blinding Baleful Star dealing radiant damage or a multi-target magical dispelling attack.

Kho Many-Arms is a god of contrasts, generous and fun-loving when dreaming but possessed of an uncontrollable rage when awake…and he Chaotic Good in both states! The desire to sleep the days away in his massive tree hollow is in fact his greatest goal, and the Ape Clan is more than happy to keep him that way for as long as possible. In fact, a common means of capital punishment in the clan is when people leave for Wintersouth. The worst criminal is left behind to play the last drum, doing so as long as possible until they can do so no longer and Kho awakens to punish them.

As a monster Kho is CR 25 and befitting his many arms is a speedy “death by a thousand cuts” type of fighter. In addition to being able to multiattack with a mixture of fists and manifested force-damage missiles, Kho can also get 4 reactions per round to make attacks of opportunity or do a Spirit Guard to add +7 to one attack that he can see (base AC is 20). His spells hew towards a mixture of ones that can aid in movement and debuff effects. In his spiritual form he becomes a living personification of dreams, being naturally invisible but appears as an ape made of stardust if he can be seen. His main attack in this state is a dreamtouch dealing psychic damage and imposes disadvantage on Wisdom ability checks and saves. He also has a variety of dream-based attacks that can make targets fall unconscious, granting them deadly dreams that cause damage and conditions in line with the dream at hand.

Twr the Tyrant is the most powerful of the Winter Gods, presiding over the Ox River of the Wintersouth and appearing like a titanic shadowy humanoid bull wreathed in flame and shadow. She does not fear the other Winter Gods or the gods of the Brother Clans, and knows very well that the northern mortals in the Great Valley require hospitality in her lands to survive the cold months. She has no qualms against consuming the divine ivory of gods and has tasked her strongest servants in defeating other Winter Gods. The more divine ivory Twr consumes the more humanoid she becomes. Like the demons such gods will eventually be named, she is predictably Chaotic Evil.

As a monster Twr is CR 25, her primary attacks being a melee longsword and whip that deal bonus lightning and fire damage respectively, can hurl bolts of flames or teleport to take care of far-away targets, and has a variety of AoE effects such as summoning spouts of boiling water or cracking her whip as a damaging stun-based attack. Her innate spells hew towards the directly offensive, with the higher end ones being manifestations of hostile weather such as Earthquake, Firestone, and Meteor Swarm. Her spiritual form is a mass of surging water, whose attacks are more tightly themed around powerful currents of boiling water.

Unkillable Urhosh is our final deity detailed, the Lawful Good god of the Bear Clan. He has survived countless foes and thus has come to know no fear, confident that he will live to see the next day. He is a straightforward god, whose power and courage earned him the respect of mortals, and in turn he taught mortal worshipers how to be more like him.

As a monster Urhosh is CR 24, and his physical attacks can be a mixture of natural claw and bite along with conjured weapons dealing radiant damage. His rechargeable abilities include a swipe that can knock a foe up to 60 feet back, a frightening roar, and an enchanting remark that charms the target. He regenerates 30 hit points each round unless he took 30 or more points of necrotic damage, and his innate spells are typical cleric stuff. While he can cast Create Food and Water, he cannot cast Heroes’ Feast, which is a bit of a surprise to me given his portfolio. His spiritual form causes an explosive growth of grasping plant life in his hallow, along with summoning a swarm of bees dealing AoE radiant damage in an aura effect. Urhosh still has his physical and conjured weapon attacks, but trades in his rechargeable abilities with life-themed attacks such as absorbing the life force of others as necrotic damage.

Thoughts: I like how Planegea acknowledges that stat blocks are going to be necessary for gods, even if the majority are going to be out of the leagues of most PCs. The tools and advice for creating gods are very welcome, and the use of Strata, Visitants, and innate spells are good guidelines for how to make them more memorable encounters than saying something like “just use balor stats.”

As for the 5 pre-existing gods, I am glad that they’re included but just looking at them I know they’re going to be very complicated to run in combat. Not only does the DM have a regular and Spirit form stat block to deal with, they’ll also need to cross-reference any spells they’re likely to use during battle. Add onto that Lair Actions, the fact that they’re almost never alone in their Hallows, and that they’ll only be realistically fought in high level play, it can be a lot for the DM to keep track of.

I also feel a bit weird regarding their assigned alignments. Mala and Twr’s make sense, but it’s rather odd for all three gods of the Brother Clans to be Good. I don’t think that they should be evil, but Glelh’s Social Darwinism and Kho’s unstoppable rages feel like odd choices. There’s also the fact that in games where DMs play up the “desire each other’s destruction” hostile relations between the Brother Clans, it feels a tad strange for their leaders to be good-aligned but are basically desiring what can only be described as genocide.

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Bestiary

Now that we’re done with the Gods, we cover the rest of the monsters and NPCs of Planegea in more or less alphabetical order. Many of the monsters that are real-world animals have alternative names rather than using the oft-Latinized examples. For example, an ankylosaurus is called a Bouldertail.

We have 64 individual monsters and 6 NPCs, totalling 70 new stat blocks. Or 80 if we include the gods we already covered. As you can imagine, the most common creature type is Beast at 39 entries, followed up by Monstrosity at 14, Celestial at 8, and Humanoid at 7. We have 2 undead types and 1 each of Aberration, Fey, and Ooze, so overall Planegea’s bestiary skews heavily towards a few types rather than being broad. But this isn’t a weakness in my opinion, as the monster types line up very well with Prehistoric Fantasy.

When it comes to the diversity of Challenge Ratings, I ended up making a numbered list to see how friendly this chapter is towards certain tiers of play:

0: 3

⅛: 2

¼: 5

½: 6

1: 8

2: 12

3: 5

4: 6

5: 7

6: 4

7: 3

8: 3

9: 5

12: 2

13: 2

23: 2 (Glelh the Unblinking)

24: 2 (Unkillable Urhosh)

25: 4 (Kho Many-Arms, Twr the Tyrant)

26: 1

30: 2 (Mala Long-Song)

In the case of parenthetical entries, they are individual gods whose normal and spirit forms are 2 stat blocks each.

Planegea’s Bestiary is very friendly to the 1st Tier of play, with 47 entries of CR 0 to 4. Tier 2 is less but a still respectable number of 22 monsters. It’s at Tier 3 and higher do entries peter out, and while Tier 4 may look to have quite a bit, all but one of them are gods, with the Deathwalker (Giganotosaurus) being the CR 26 example. While there aren't a lot of opponents for higher-level play, this more or less tracks with said Tiers not being played by that many people so most groups won’t notice this.

While I went over it earlier in this Let’s Read, two new creature tags relevant to this chapter are “God” and “Defiant.” The God tag is self-explanatory and only applies to the 5 beings covered earlier. As for the Defiant Tag, it covers 5 Beasts in this chapter, all of which are various kinds of dinosaurs. Most are on the high end of Tier 2, albeit only one breaks the 20+ barrier, that one being the CR 26 Giganotosaurus.

Arctusks look like slender elephants who topple trees to feed off its leaves and other plants growing on it. As their tusks regrow relatively quickly, many clans are known to scavenge their shed and broken ivory, particularly when the animals fight each other. Some clans even domesticated them, but such animals are temporarily turned loose during mating season when they become uncontrollable. They are CR 4 beasts who specialize in charge attacks and melee combat, not much to say.

Batface is a monster appearing like a bipedal mouse. They are evil-aligned creatures whose bite has a toxin that can charm people, causing the victims to view the batface as a friend. Batfaces are similar to standard fantasy goblins and kobolds by living in trap-filled caves of squalor. They are ¼ monstrosities (not humanoids, strangely) who have a bite attack that can impose the charmed condition and cause a character to fall unconscious if they are less than half their hit point maximum. Batfaces are incredibly slow and fragile for their CR, at 4 hit points, AC 13, and with a 20 foot speed. This makes them weaker and slower than goblins and kobolds who at least can keep pace with a human.

Dinosaurs & Leatherbeasts is a broad category for a variety of reptilian creatures encountered in Planegea. Leatherbeasts refers to reptiles in general, which can include dinosaurs, and most originate from the Venom Abyss but can be found in surrounding lands from being swept upstream by the Unfalls. Quite a few dinosaurs who have stats in the official sourcebooks can be found here, but they tend to be beefed-up higher CR versions and some even have magical abilities. We also get a brief sidebar listing dinosaurs detailed in official sourcebooks and what names they are known by in Planegea, such as Dimetrodons being called Sailcrawlers or Triceratops being known as Hornbeasts.

To start off, Bouldertails are extremely strong dinosaurs that many human-led clans attempt to domesticate, as they make for natural deterrents against the lands’ many dangers. They are CR 6 beasts whose body slam and tail attacks come with additional imposed conditions such as bonus damage against a prone target or pushing foes away.

Chattercrests are small winged dinosaurs that can mimic complex sounds and speech up to 1 minute in length, making them valuable as messenger animals. Edgegather has people specializing in their domestication.

The legendary Deathwalker is thankfully only found in the Venom Abyss and which all other predators there fear. It is a CR 26 boss monster specializing in physical attacks and has a full page stat block of various abilities, ranging from an AoE fear-based roar, the supernatural ability to “sense Strength” of physically powerful creatures within 5 miles, can throw a grappled creature up to 60 feet away if they fail a Strength save, and an assortment of Legendary Actions. Of course, like most dinosaurs and the Tarrasque it lacks any long-range attacks, and needless to say it is the first non-God monster with the Defiant tag.

Continuing on, the Doomclaw is a fearsome pack animal in the Venom Abyss whose species actually created a simple language among themselves, making them smarter than the average dinosaur. They are CR 5 hit and run ambush predators with features such as blightsight of 30 feet, a multiattack bite and claw, can Pounce like a lion, and have advantage on attack rolls against creatures it surprises.

The Farloper are dinosaurs commonly domesticated by people living on the plains, for their fast speed and ability to carry up to two to three riders makes them valuable for travel. They are CR 1 creatures with a powerful kick attack, Pack Tactics (great when someone’s mounting them) and can Dash as a bonus action.

The Flintback is famous for its ridges which can glow with magical light, and many clans regard their presence as a good omen. They are big bulky CR 8 creatures whose scales aren’t just for show, for they can create AoE cubes that can magically charm and incapacitate onlookers as they stare entranced. Their multiattack tail attack can hit two targets with each attack roll, meaning they are good at spreading the damage around while unlucky allies may be stymied by their scales.

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The Frilled Spitter is clearly inspired by Jurassic Park, being a seemingly harmless and playful creature who’s actually a deadly CR ½ monsters. It can perform a Startling Display with their brightly-colored frill as a bonus action to avoid opportunity attacks, and in addition to a bite has a rechargeable acid spit attack.

The Great-Hook is a physically imposing dinosaur whose otherwise silly appearance betrays a fierce demeanor. They are one of the only dinosaurs known to fight tyrantmaws (T-Rexes) and live, and while attempts have been made to domesticate them for their claws which are good crafting tools, they seem to not really register the presence of humanoids and are prone to wandering off. They are CR 7 and there’s not much to say about them in terms of interesting abilities, sadly.

Greatwings are widely-feared flying creatures who travel in groups, and seeing them in the sky is enough to send entire clans running for the hills. They have an immense hatred for dragons, to the point that they will do anything to injure or kill them even when obviously outmatched. They are monsters who specialize in flying attacks, such as a Prone-causing swooping strike, a beak that can grapple instead of dealing damage, and kicking up dirt as a reaction to an attack to impose a d6 penalty on an attack roll.

Littlesnaps are nearly harmless as individual creatures, but as they are encountered in swarms that can strip prey to the bone in a short amount of time. Littlesnap swarms are monsters who have advantage on melee attacks against creatures that aren’t at their maximum hit points.

The Madcrash is so named for its seeming lack of self-preservation, clumsily slamming into all kinds of creatures to try and attack them even when outmatched, and their sole real tactic as low-threat monsters is to charge and attack with their beaks and can take a bonus action to Disengage if they hit with said attack.

The Sailstalker lives in swamps, adroit at hiding in spite of its great size, and the ones that live in Ghostmire have been infected by the surrounding undeath where spirits of their kills can be seen and heard on their frills. They are another monster with the Defiant tag, which if I had to guess is due to its Drown based bonus action where it can cause a grappled creature to start drowning unless they spend an action each round to cough up water. They are powerful physical attackers with features helping it as an ambush predator, like pseudo-sneak attack dealing 4d6 bonus damage to surprised creatures they hit.

Seatooth is our next Defiant dinosaur, a horrific monster that attacks boats in the ocean and are even willing to hunt and eat each other. They are rather simplistic in having a grappling bite and swallow attack as their main feature, but their echolocation gives them 60 foot blindsight and they have a very high Passive Perception at 19 to go with that.

Skullsmashers are a commonly domesticated dinosaur, being similar to dogs in showing their owners lots of affection and loyalty. They are commonly used to headbutt trees in order to dislodge fruit, and that ability can also be used to great effect for self-defense. They aren’t the most resilient of creatures (22 hit points, AC 11) but their headbutt attack can do up to 4d4+3 damage if they get at least a 20 foot head start (2d4+3 normally), which makes them a pretty good wild shape form for a CR ½ creature.

Snakenecks are serpentine water-dwelling creatures who hunt by causing underwater cyclones via quick bursts of speed, and their presence is considered a bad omen by fishers and halflings. They’re similar to the Spinosaurus in being a Defiant ambush predator that is also good at Stealth, albeit they are entirely water-dwelling and can spend all of their regular movement in a round to create an AoE vortex that can draw in creatures who fail a Strength save.

Swiftclaws are large feathered dinosaurs that hunt in packs with warbles that sound like cruel laughter, and their presence is often forewarned by the scent of blood coating their feathers. They too are ambush predators, with a great Stealth bonus (+9) and have advantage on such checks made to hide. Their claws can latch onto creatures, reducing their speed to 0, and with Pack Tactics they can easily overwhelm and immobilize foes.

Tentwings are one of the most recognizable leatherbeasts in Planegea, for they are frequently seen soaring across the sky at all times of day, and some clans and giants have been known to domesticate them. They are more defensive than offensive in their fighting style, their primary attack being a beak, can also avoid opportunity attacks when flying out of an enemy’s reach, and can spend a bonus action to fly half their fly speed. Which at its base is 50 feet and already quite good. They’re also Medium size with a decent 13 Strength, so it’s not inconceivable that a Small sized character to use a pterodactyl as an aerial mount.

Thunderfeet are massive dinosaurs that are likened to living mountains for their slow yet unstoppable trodding through forests, even when said forests are on fire. They are highly secretive in regards to where they reproduce or die, and herds are known to travel great distances beyond the reach of mortals into secret locations when a child’s about to be born or an old or sick member of their species is nearing death. They are Defiant creatures, whose very movement can cause nearby beings to end up prone, and in addition to a mighty stomp attack their tails can knock enemies prone as well as dealing thunder damage.

Trumpetcrests live in wetlands and are known for their ability to let out incredibly loud sounds. They are considered beautiful by many Planegeans and people avoid hunting them for this reason. The other reason is that a loud warning call can scatter wildlife across great distances, up to half a day’s travel. There’s not much to say about them besides their rechargeable Trumpet Call that can summon other members of its herd in a matter of rounds.

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Mammothmaw is one of the only dinosaur entries without a parenthetical real-world name, making me believe that it’s an entirely fictional being. It is an alligator-like animal with a mouth disproportionately sized to the rest of its body, and often waits concealed in the wilds with their mouths open for passing prey, at which point they charge and attack. The dinosaur is a CR 12 monster that gets a massive +11 Stealth modifier when remaining motionless for an hour as they blend in with the land, and their primary means of attack is an acidic tongue, rechargeable Wild Thrashing that crushes adjacent creatures, and once per day can make a Massive Bite attack that can only be dodged via a Dexterity save, can hit multiple targets, and those trapped within are basically swallowed. It is unable to open its own mouth until its next short or long rest, but others can via a DC 25 Strength check or by dealing enough damage to make a hole in its body.

Spider Raptor is our other non-Latinized species, being raptors with elongated limbs that are capable of climbing around like spiders. The Venomguard has no shortage of work in keeping them from coming up out of the Venom Abyss. They are pack-based hunters with highly mobile features such as a high standing leap, Pounce attack, Spider Climb, and Pack Tactics.

Thoughts So Far: Barring the Batface, all of the monsters I covered here are various kinds of prehistoric beasts. I do like how the book made them more than just random monsters to fight and hunt, like saying which ones are commonly domesticated and for what purpose and why some may be regarded as good or bad omens. In comparing them to existing monsters of the same CR, I have noticed a variation in values at times. For instance, the Littlesnap Swarm is pretty equivalent to a Swarm of Poisonous Snakes, both being CR 2. The Snakes can do more possible damage with their poison but that requires a failed save, while the Littlesnaps have more consistent damage and situational advantage vs a common trigger which in theory should even out. But when comparing the Sailstalker against a Cloud Giant, both CR 9, the Cloud Giant has much more hit points, a reliable long-ranged attack, and a few spells up its sleeve. The Sailstalker can deal more damage on average and is deadlier when it manages to succeed in evading the party’s passive Perception or is fighting in water, but otherwise the Cloud Giant has a broader variety of potential tactics. The Doomclaw is CR 5 but is very fragile for that CR range at 52 hit points. Although it strongly points to being used as a glass cannon that is best deployed at the beginning of combat or during surprise with its buddies. That being said, I haven’t spotted any wildly out there values so far, so at an initial glance quite a bit can be decent Wild Shape/Polymorph options.

Join us next time as we finish this review by covering the rest of the Bestiary!
 

Libertad

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Chapter 13: Gods & Monsters, Part 2

The rest of the monsters in the bestiary are mostly individual entries, with only a few grouped together by theme like we saw with the gods and dinosaurs. A recurring element I’ve noticed and criticism I have among the real-world animals are misspellings in the scientific names. For example, the Knucklecrown has “Uintotherium” in parentheses, when the proper spelling has no “o” but an “a.” Or in the prior post, the Littlesnap in the sourcebook has the parenthetical name “Euparkaria,” when in fact the second to last “a” is supposed to be an e: “euparkeria.” It’s not constant, but happens enough that it does throw me off when I look up the actual name and accompanying Wikipedia article to link.

Dire Sloths are inhabitants of Planegea’s many grasslands, being basically bigger versions of the non-dire animal. Some clans have used their size as lookout points, as they don’t react negatively to humanoids who approach them cautiously and non-aggressively. Pixies often live on them in a symbiotic relationship, sheltering among its thick fur while using their magical powers to alert the sloth to danger. It is a CR 5 monster that can attack with claws and has excellent 120 foot darkvision. Its climbing and walking speeds are a pitiful 15 feet each, but can double them for an hour in exchange for taking 3 levels of Exhaustion at the end of that hour.

Ghost Monkeys are malevolent spirits of primates in the Venom Abyss that look like transparent howler monkeys. They are the accidental result of when such animals come too close to portals to the Nightmare World, where rituals of the dread elves turn them into undead as a byproduct of their dark magic. The monster is an incorporeal flying undead that can see into the Ethereal Plane, and has a large variety of resistances and immunities to various damage types and conditions. Its primary means of attack are throwing phantasmal objects or using its natural attacks, all of which deal necrotic damage, or a rechargeable howl that has the effects of an AoE Confusion spell in a 60 foot radius. This can make them pretty deadly opponents in confined quarters, as they can effortlessly swoop in, howl, then use incorporeal movement to retreat while PCs deal with the effects of their confused party members.

The Giant Armadillo may be a prey animal, but its sheer size, strength, and sturdy shell mean that most predators don’t attack it in favor of easier prey. Many hunters prize their shell for its various uses from armor to shelter as hard tents, and it’s a bit of a status symbol for those who manage to claim it. The armadillos also have a hatred of tents and other signs of mortal civilization, and will often barrel into villages and wreck everything in sight. As a monster, they are an elephant-sized (Huge) CR 8 beast with a variety of natural weapons which can deal more damage when charging, but due to its clumsy nature it is also restrained if it ever has the prone condition.

Glunch (both singular and plural) are reptilian humanoids who live in the Ghostmire and mastered the ability to speak the languages of all manner of bugs. They also know of various ways to ward off hostile spirits in the area, where they imbue magic into everyday objects that can be used to guard against and even capture ghosts and similar undead. Their main fear are fungi of all kinds, for to hear it from their ancestral ghosts they once had something to do with the Temple of the Mushroom Lord, during which time there people were psionically enthralled to fungal beings.

Glunch have two stat blocks. The regular kind is a CR ½ creature who can fight with poisonous spines in addition to manufactured weapons, can communicate with all manner of bugs and bug-like creatures, have advantage on ability checks and saves when interacting with undead, and can hide as a bonus action and get bonuses on Stealth checks when hiding in swampy terrain. A Glunch Manylegs Rider is a stronger version of the base creature, where in addition to higher general stats also has a lance weapon and a blowgun with paralytic toxins. The Multiattack entry mentions it has a shortsword attack, but such a weapon isn’t included among its attacks.

The Glunch sound cool enough to be a PC race, as in their description they don’t seem to be wicked or hostile like the giants, being described more as guarded and slow to interact with outsiders rather than violently xenophobic. Their stats list them as evil-aligned, which feels odd as unlike the other evil monsters in this chapter there’s nothing about their flavor text that indicates this.

Horse-Apes are a common sight in druid groves and the dwellings of treants, the latter of whom actually gifted them with intelligence to make use of their physical abilities. They have a language they can speak among themselves and graze on fruit and grass of the forests. Horse-Apes were bred to develop an instinctual fear of fire, and even the slightest hint of it is enough to send them into a violent frenzy.

As a monster Horse-Apes are monstrosities and not beasts, are CR 2, and like apes can fight with either their fists or a ranged thrown rock. When they sense fire or smoke within 60 feet, they go into a Barbarian-like rage that makes them better in melee but suffers disadvantage on mental saving throws.

Iramuk spend almost all their lives by themselves, traveling across the breadth of Planegea to graze upon enough food to sustain their great sizes. They tend to travel the same seasonal migrations and are non-aggressive, and it’s common for people to paint and dye them as a sort of mobile canvas. A few spellskins have have developed the tradition of painting spells on the animal’s sides as a means of spreading magical knowledge. The fact that they often flatten the paths they travel along gives rise to a sort of prehistoric network of “roads,” where clans use their traveled paths as a means of speedy and safe travel routes with minimal chances of getting lost.

As a monster the Iramuk is pretty simple. A big, Gargantuan CR 7 beast who fights with a neck and stomp multiattack, the former of which can knock a target prone, and they ignore movement penalties from difficult terrain. When moving through certain types of such terrain, they make it simple due to crushing/moving aside snow, debris, overgrowth, and the like.

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Kelodhrosians are shapechangers native to the Venom Abyss. They have only existed for several generations, making them newcomers to the world of Planegea, and in their basic unevolved state they look like pale hairless humanoids with near-featureless faces and shiny blue eyes. We have general descriptions for the six major castes of Keoldhrosian society along with nine stat blocks ranging from CR ⅛ to 12. The Unembraced are the weakest, being little more than Medium-sized kobolds in terms of stats and emphasis on tactics that inconvenience enemies such as poison darts and nets. Aspecters are the next caste up, when a Kelodhrosian has Embraced one or two victims and have a few alterations to their bodies: Aspector Warriors are stronger versions of Unembraced with an unconventional movement speed and one or more natural weapon types, including a claw attack that can cause bleeding or an acid spit ranged attack. An Aspecter Mystic, meanwhile, has minor sorcerer spellcasting capabilities along with one of three general magical attack types.

Kelodhrosian Priests come in two varieties: hybrid priests borrow aspects from many different kinds of victims, while monoform priests prefer Embracing a single or narrow type of creature so as to better become a flawless version of that being. Monoform priests aren’t a specific stat block so much as a template that can be applied to just about any creature type, turning it into a Monstrosity, making its eyes blue, and can speak Kelodhrosian. Hybrid priests come in warrior and mystic varieties like Aspecters, basically being stronger versions of those stat blocks but with some newer, more powerful abilities like +1d8 damage with weapon attacks for a warrior or the mystic being able to “multiattack” with magical damaging effects. Archpriests are the rulers of Kelodhrosian society, having taken on so many forms that almost nothing remains of their original shapes. Once again they’re “improved stat blocks” of the lower castes, but for truly new things the warriors get partial magic resistance where they have a 50% to succeed on a failed save vs a spell effect, while mystics have a paralyzing gaze attack.

The last two Kelodhrosian stat blocks represent individuals who have unconventional roles to fulfill in their society. Lost Souls are those who attempted and failed to Embrace a creature whose power is beyond them, and thus can take many forms but the base stat block is a hulking Huge CR 12 creature specializing in various melee attacks with different debuffs such as armor-rending claws or movement-reducing tendrils, and being within 30 feet of it forces a Wisdom save or a target becomes temporarily mad as they’re afflicted with a Confusion-like effect. The Infiltrator is a priest who only Embraces humanoids so as to better walk among and infiltrate other cultures. Infiltrators are the most common type encountered outside the Venom Abyss, and can be summed up as CR 2 doppelgangers who can’t read minds and deal less damage. Strangely, they have the Aberration type, unlike the rest of their kin which have Monstrosity. I’m not sure why they’re the odd Kelodhrosian out; it would make more sense IMO for the Lost Soul to be an Aberration IMO.

The hippo-like Knucklecrown is known for being one of the dumbest beings on Planegea. So dumb in fact you can feel the author’s contempt for the creature seeping in through the descriptive text. Here’s just a few samples:

There isn’t a beast in all of Planegea with a greater reputation for sheer stupidity than the lumbering knucklecrown. These heavyset, four-legged beasts are commonly domesticated by clans—an easy task given that even a young child can out-think a full-grown bull.

In form, knucklecrowns look very much like their cousin, the hippopotamus, but with a concave skull with between four and twelve knobby protrusions bulging from forehead to snout. Males have large fangs descending below their bottom lip, but these are mostly used to attract a mate, as the knucklecrown is far too moronic to hunt anything that moves.

Still, knucklecrowns tend only to prosper in out-of-the-way areas without much other
wildlife to compete with, as the blundering things always fall behind even the most meager challenge.

Man, what did knucklecrowns ever do to you?!

The sole real skill that Knucklecrowns have is their ability to stumble upon portals to Nod. The many defensive illusions and concealments don’t work on their simple minds, so they can be trained to sniff for plants that grow only in the fey realms as a means to find them. Statwise knucklecrowns are CR 2 animals that have your typical charge-based prone-inducing melee attacks. They also have advantage on saves vs being frightened, albeit their 9 Wisdom means there’s still a fair chance for them to be so affected.

A Lapiscat is a big feline that prowls the areas between the World of Dreams and the rest of Planegea. They are our only fey creature in this bestiary, and as they can cast the Dream spell twice per day they are favored messengers by fey. Their presence in the area usually means that a portal to Nod is nearby, and since like elves they don’t have to sleep they also make for potent sentries. They’re very much fragile ambush predators, being CR ½ and aren’t the sturdiest in a stand-up fight, but their various special abilities encourage them to make use of stealth and mobility. For example, they have a pounce attack that grants them a bonus bite attack when they knock a foe prone, deal 1d6 bonus psychic damage to creatures they used their Dream spell on, and their silent movement makes them overcome any Perception checks reliant upon sound.

The Laughing Boar is a creature of random destruction, capable of running at great speeds for long periods. Their predatory instinct triggers whenever something runs away, and they will run and continue to run even as their muscles rip and bones break. They are willing to eat anything and everything, from animals, plants, and even soil and rocks, and their maws look like wicked smiles and they make sounds halfway between a squealing pig and laughing hyena. The Winter Gods and their minions are fond of the animals for their violently chaotic ways, often letting loose into the world after they’re given a taste of whatever beings the demons want to make life miserable for.

Laughing boars are CR 4 monsters who are highly mobility-based: opportunity attacks suffer disadvantage against them, they deal additional damage and impose forced movement and the prone condition when attacking during a charge, and they automatically pursue any creature that moves at least 20 feet away from them (multiple qualifying creatures have them go after the closest). This last part is subconscious on the boar’s part and can be used to lure them into traps and other areas.

Manylegs is a catchall term for bugs. Such animals have negative connotations in most cultures of Planegea, including even the giants, due to their love of filthy environments, spreading of disease, infesting living spaces with their itchy bites, and unlike mammals are seemingly emotionless and mindless. Giant manylegs are considered especially loathsome and dangerous, and while some can be domesticated people who do so are often viewed as strange and of possible ill intent. That being said, these animals are valued for their poisons and tough chitinous armor, so they do serve a needed societal need of sorts.

Planegea provides us with 10 new beasts of buggy inclinations: to start things off, the Blind Death is a CR 6 giant worm that camouflages itself as a rotting log to ambush prey, and like giant anacondas have a grappling bite and constrict attack.

Clawed Greatspiders are web-spinning creatures who live in coastal areas, feeding on fish and humanoids alike. They are CR 8 beings that are like giant spiders but with better stats and a Huge size.

Dire Locusts once numbered in swarms great enough to cover the whole of Planegea, but for unknown reasons disappeared. Albeit some rumors claim they sleep in the dark reaches of the earth, waiting to awaken and consume the world. They are CR 3 creatures who have grappling mandibles and leg spikes, but can also create an AoE drone as a bonsu action that imposes disadvantage on Perception checks and risk falling prone whenever they’re hit by an attack.

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Faku-Baz are a variety of manylegs that are intelligent and capable of speech, appearing like giant praying mantises with forelimbs possessing opposable thumbs. But their motives are inscrutable, they are Unaligned despite being sapient, and have no desire to make peace or interact with mortals. They are CR 6 monstrosities (not beasts) who have a language of their own as well as telepathy, minor spellcasting capabilities, some natural weapons (one of which can grapple and restrain), and like trolls regenerate hit points unless they take fire or acid damage.

The Giant Millipede is an overall non-aggressive animal whose first instinct is to curl up in a defensive ball and spew out a cone of acidic bile, which can dissolve attackers which the millipede then feeds on. It’s a CR 2 enemy with an acidic bite, can assume a defensive curl reducing its movement and increasing its Armor Class, and has an AoE acidic spray attack.

Ku-Zug are giant crabs and thus the most “agreeable” sort for mortals to domesticate. Many clans living near large bodies of water make use of them as mounts, and they are CR 2 creatures that can attack with grappling pincers and have antenna granting them blindsight which can be damaged and thus blinded if individually targeted.

Longwings are giant flying insects who are harmless to adults but can lift children off the ground to eat later. In spite of their reputation as child-snatchers, many consider their appearance to be a good omen, “as long as there are no young ones in sight.” They are the weakest of the manyleg entries, being CR ¼ creatures who attack with claws and can grapple and fly away with Small and Tiny creatures and objects weighing less than 20 pounds.

Salt spiders live camouflaged among salt deposits, waiting to ambush and attack such prey feeding upon these minerals. They are CR 1 and aren’t of the web-spinning variety, attack with a poison bite, barbed legs that can grapple, have advantage on Stealth to hide among salt deposits, and possess Pack Tactics.

The Sea Scorpion is an aggressive predator, Large in size and is unafraid to fight merfolk and humanoids over caught prey. They are pretty sturdy CR 5 creatures with blindsight who can move as well on land as in water at 30 feet, and in addition to a grappling bite they have a poisonous sting that can paralyze a target who fails a Constitution save for up to 1 minute (new save can be made each round).

The Squidshrimp is our final manylegs, attacking prey by latching onto it and clawing at it until it dies. They are simplistic in combat, being CR 2 and have grappling mandibles but can only breathe and move about underwater.

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Simbakubwa is a larger cousin of the lion, and their appetites are so voracious that they unbalance the ecosystem of wherever they live. Simbakubwa are carrion eaters, and will often kill prey and leave it to rot for weeks before coming back to consume it. They are one of the few creatures that can unite warring clans, as starvation is a threat to all. Simbakubwa do enter a hibernation-like period during the night after eating their fill, where they retreat to caves where if they’re lucky enough to have a mate, have them watch over them while asleep.

As a monster the Simbakubwa is CR 5 and yet another natural weapons beast with a charge/pounce attack that can knock a target prone.*

Its major weakness is that when it’s full it has disadvantage on attacks and ability checks and moves at half speed, and this condition can only be erased when it takes a long rest. The book notes that unmated beasts are considered so vulnerable that some hunters consider it dishonorable to kill them. I mean, you can be all high and mighty, but when they’re considered an existential threat due to inevitable starvation I can’t see many people in Planegea adhering to such principles. It would be like people in a fantasy setting choosing not to kill plague rats with cats, mousetraps, or other efficient means and instead advocate killing them with hand-to-hand weapons.

*Kind of getting repetitive now.

The Stickymouth is a parasitic ooze that attaches itself to herbivores, where over time it gradually engulfs the animal and takes on its outer color and shape, not unlike a sheen of form-fitting plastic wrap. The poor herbivore’s internal body temperature is raised and its stomach is converted into a nutrient pouch for the ooze. The host then acts in a confused and delirious manner, and woe be to the hunter or predator who mistakes the animal for an easy kill! For the stickymouth is waiting for such beings to approach, only to attack them by surprise! This type of ooze’s existence is common knowledge in the Great Valley, so most people who see animals acting sick or erratic attack them at long range.

It is theoretically possible for a stickymouth to infect a humanoid, and there are some rumors that a few clans engage in a sort of primitive biological warfare by infecting herd animals with the oozes and sending them into the lands of the Giant Empires. The outbreaks of plagues and insanity in some giant cities has given credence to such ponderings.

In terms of stats the stickymouth is a CR 4 ooze who by itself is your typical slow-moving, low AC, dumb slime monster who attacks with poisonous pseudopods and a grappling “maw.” But its strength is when it infects a host creature, sharing its space, moving with it, gaining its senses, can transfer half the damage it takes to the host creature, and for onlookers they need to make an Insight and/or Medicine check to detect its presence.

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Swordquills are giant horse-sized hedgehog-like animals who are a commonly domesticated species in the Great Valley. Their primary use by clans is as pest control, for they are willing to eat all manner of bugs, including the giant monstrous kinds that give experience points upon defeat. Their many varieties of quill colors are used in art and crafting, and can even be trained as an attack animal for hunting and warfare.

A swordquill is a CR 1 animal who attacks with claws and spines, and any creature who touches or hits it in melee can take piercing damage if the swordquill desires this. This is a free action, not a reaction, so there’s no limit to how many creatures it can affect this way in a round. They also have a burrow speed, and their 13 AC decreases to 9 while prone.

Terror Birds are vicious, flightless birds noted for their size, violent dispositions, and natural magical resistance. The animals are prone to attacking spellcasters first and foremost, as though they’re animated by something more than instinct. Orcs admire them for this and their otherwise fearless ways, interpreting this as a kind of instinctive anti-theism.* While they cannot be domesticated, terror birds are a favored target of orcish hunters who use their body parts as status symbols and for brewing magic-repelling potions.

*Their ire isn’t just limited to divine spellcasters, so this is more the orcs imposing humanoid values on the animals.

We have stat blocks for three different kinds of terror birds. Each of them have two unique abilities: Hatred of Magic grants them advantage for 1 round on attack rolls and +1d8 bonus damage against creatures it sees cast a spell within 100 feet, and whenever it fails a saving throw it has a 50% chance to succeed on the save instead. The andalgalornis is the smallest, standing a bit above an average adult human. It attacks with a stabbing beak and is a CR ¼ pack animal with Pack Tactics. The brontornis is even bigger, using sheer size and strength to smash prey as a CR 3 animal whose beak and claws can knock prone and restrain targets respectively. The kelenken is the biggest of all the terror birds, and its powerful legs can help it climb sheer surfaces and leap great distances (up to 30 feet long and 20 feet high) even from standing positions. They’re also CR 3, where their attacks don’t impose debuffs and their overall stat block is instead more mobility-focused.

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Tricerataurs are descendants of an ancient civilization of humanoids who worshiped an evil triceratops-like god. Their ancestors lived in much of the Great Valley from a time before the rise of the Brother Clans, and over time they grew to resent their god’s cruel treatment. Their greatest shamans and warriors slew the god, feeding among his flesh to take the power for themselves. Sadly their liberation would not have a happy ending, for they became more like their god in body and disposition, becoming the tricerataurs of today. Now they occupy a position similar to drow in other settings: evil-aligned underground people who hate the sun, traffic in dark magic, and are as prone to fighting each other as they are outsiders. Tricerataurs are known for creating powerful magic weapons which invariably bear some kind of curse, usually driving its wearers to kill innocents in exchange for supposedly unlocking ever-greater powers.

The tricerataur stat block is a CR 5 monstrosity, being closer to a minotaur in that they attack with mauls and a gore which deals extra damage on a charge. They have a Reckless ability much like the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack, and any weapon they wield is considered Cursed, meaning that struck targets can’t regain hit points until the start of the tricerataur’s next turn. They also have decent Stealth and Perception scores of +5 each, indicating that tricerataurs are eager to use subterfuge and ambush rather than just blindly charging into combat.

Visitants are basically celestials, fiends, and other extraplanar beings reflavored to fit Planegea’s cosmology. But that doesn’t prevent the book from adding several new ones of its own. All of the new monsters here are Celestials and thus good-aligned, and the chapter goes into some detail of common traits among good-aligned visitants. They instinctively desire to live for and encourage positive behavior, albeit even among themselves celestials have different interpretations of how to best make the world a better place. There is a hierarchy of sorts among celestials, albeit the more powerful ones see themselves as caretakers and role models for their less powerful subordinates, and have no qualms against endangering their own lives to save their “lessers” from danger.

We have seven celestial visitants:

Glimmers are the smallest and weakest, appearing like sparks of light, being CR 0 creatures who are harmless flying beings who can heal 1 hit point of a target at which point they die.

Notars are small winged beings who typically serve as messengers by embodying a single thought or feeling of their creator deity, and are incorporeal flying CR ¼ creatures who have a limited amount of minor spells, a twice per day song of healing, and only ever have one emotional state that cannot be altered.

Choristers are a more powerful version of notars, having more nuanced and complex expressions of their single thoughts and feelings, and have the base abilities of a notar but with better stats, a wider variety of magic, and can fight back with ranged light-based attacks.

Refractors are warriors made to use violence in carrying out the will of their creators, and as CR 1 beings have a variety of minor martial attacks such as the ability to materialize weapons which can deal more damage by exploding them in a Sundering Strike, or as a bonus action can turn their backs to a target and become invisible until they attack, cast a spell, or move.

Emissaries can take on humanoid disguises and are thus entrusted with more subtle tasks requiring them to move among mortals. They are CR 2 beings with minor shapechanging features, can become ethereal at will, have a variety of defensive and beneficial spells, can heal by touch, and each has a unique message to deliver to a specific person. This message can be up to 1 minute in length, and they can then cast a spell of up to 9th level which their creator deity casts by using them as a conduit.

Envoys are akin to elite Refractors, mighty warriors sent out when violence is inevitable, appearing not unlike towering angels.* Their stat block is heavily combat-based, such as a selective healing aura that heals creatures 1d8 hit points up to 20 feet away each round, can attack with a staff or ranged bolt both dealing radiant damage, can cause an AoE frighten effect as a “presence pulse,” a rechargeable single-target blinding light attack, and a few light and combat-focused spells such as Beacon of Hope, Dispel Magic, and Banishment.

*But are still Medium size.

Image Bearers are fashioned in the likeness of their creator god made to act as divine representatives, and are CR 6 creatures who have some offensive abilities but whose greatest features are less offensive, such as treating the area within 30 of them as a constant Hallow spell effect, or being able to cast Teleport once per day but can only take up to 5 willing creatures.

Woolly Unicorns are not natural animal, but celestials who task themselves with acting as guardians over particular areas of Planegea, most of which are cold and lonely stretches of land like mountain peaks and tundras. It is said that the first of their kind was a god who voluntarily surrendered their divinity to better travel the world to fight evil. The woolly unicorn’s horn is the source of its powers, and spellskins and hunters with few scruples have been known to seek them out to kill them and harvest the horns for their magic. However, such an act is viewed with disdain by many, for woolly unicorns are vigilant defenders against fiends and other evils, and their spirits can haunt their killers long after their deaths in their nightmares.

In terms of stats a Woolly Unicorn is a CR 13 creature who can attack with hooves and a horn, both of which are considered magical, and like a regular unicorn it has a healing touch and limited teleportation. They have a few innate spells such as Blinding Smite, Detect Evil and Good, and Heroism, and their legendary actions allow them to attack, heal themselves, or create an AoE blinding burst of radiant damage. Their lairs are often caverns beneath tundras and frozen lakes, in mountains, and in some cases repurposed lairs of evil creatures they slain. Woolly unicorns don’t have Lair Actions, but their lairs do have regional effects beneficial to good-aligned beings. Such as mists that can help them hide, being able to safely rest despite the surrounding weather, and having advantage on checks when using divination magic to locate evil creatures.

NPCs is our final part of the chapter and is quite short, containing a half-dozen stat blocks for general Prehistoric archetypes. They’re all low-powered, ranging from CR ¼ to 4, and are more meant to be common types of people PCs may encounter when traveling to various settlements as opposed to significant figures in the adventure.

Ancestors are friendly undead spirits who persist in a clan after death to serve as instructors to their descendents, and are basically weak incorporeal undead whose major feature is to give a single-use Guidance like effect on a willing creature, provided the Ancestor first succeeds on an Intelligence or Wisdom check to impart such knowledge.

Hunters and Lead Hunters are CR ¼ and CR 2 warrior type NPCs who fight with spears or longbows. The Lead Hunter has two special Reactions where they can let allies they can see take the Hide action by spending their own Reactions, or a Hunting Shout that can grant +1d4 to an ally’s attack roll.

Shamans and High Shamans are people tasked with attending to a clan’s spiritual needs, and high shamans are often favored agents by their god. Both of them have cleric spellcasting and a variety of stereotypical Cleric spells, and both have a Smite like ability where they can spend spell slots to deal bonus radiant damage on a weapon attack.

The Sorcerer represents arcane spellcasters of that persuasion in clans who often use them as general “magic handymen” when a more specialized chanter or spellskin may not be around. They are CR 3 characters who can cast up to 3rd level spells and tend to have an emphasis on combat abilities such as Shield, Scorching Way, and Hold Person. Once per long rest they can use the Twinned Spell metamagic ability.

Thoughts So Far: Like the first part of the bestiary, a good portion of the monsters here are animal-intellect beings, usually predators of some variety. While there is a bit of sameness in combat roles and abilities (so many charge and grapple attacks!), there are some clever individuals here and there like the parasitic Stickymouth ooze, the magic-hating Terror Birds, or the “all too easy to aggro” Laughing Boar.

As for the more intelligent variety of monsters, they often have strong themes that also come with neat background details. Glunch are a clear means of adding a more “human” and tactical element to the Manylegs and other buglike monsters in giving them trainers and handlers, and their anti-undead crafting capabilities give PCs a good reason to seek them out in case they need to deal with a haunted dungeon or the like. The Tricerataur are rather simplistic in how they function in combat, but they make for a good means of adding cursed treasure and similar “evil” magical items in a campaign. The Kelodhrosians have a small smattering of alterable features to make them feel fresh even when using the otherwise same stat blocks, and the broad Monoform template can make just about any other monster or NPC archetype be a Kelodhrosian in disguise. Another good aspect of game design is the weaving of creature abilities into wider applications in the world beyond adventuring, such as the Lapiscat’s Dream spells making them used as long-distance messengers or the Iramuk’s slow yet unstoppable trodding along being used as primitive “roads” by clans. I have to give major props for this.

Final Thoughts: It goes without saying that I love Planegea. Not only does it cover a concept that hasn’t really been done before among DnD publishers, the world it creates is chock full of interesting content suitable for a variety of campaign styles and adventures. It has a little bit of something for both players and DMs alike, and its ability to make a Prehistoric Fantasy setting feel not only plausible, but varied and in-depth, is a major accomplishment on the part of its creators. I thus highly recommend Planegea to anyone interested in seeing one of the most novel campaign settings to come about in recent years.
 

This was an awesome “let’s read.” I need to get this, as I love the influences and theme. Is there a hardcover? I’d look at DTRPG, but I try to avoid them unless I have what I am getting for my in mind, because I hate the new layout there.
 






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