Thursday, 13 August 2015

Monsters from Central Asian Mythology 3: The Brass-Snouts

The Buryat version of the Epic of King Gesar is pretty much their answer to the Monster Manual. In it, King Gesar has to defeat all kinds of monsters which are born from the body of the dead god, Atai Ulaan. The evil spirits which arise from the god's corpse are a pretty creepy bunch:

      The evil beings that developed from the body of Atai Ulaan
      Spreading death and suffering upon the earth,      
      With noses as big as stove pipes,
      Two lines of snot running from their nostrils,
      With black kettles full of tarry food,
      Eating disgusting black food,
      Having soleless boots,
      Topless hats,
      Tailless horses,
      Bodies that cast no shadow,
      Nine hundred evil spirits,
      Ninety black demons

They'd do for an unnerving encounter out on the steppes: a run-in with a bunch of very peculiar travellers, with huge noses, tailless horses, and no shadows, trying to convince the PCs to eat from their kettles of horrible demon-food. (I imagine them as behaving rather like the goblins from Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market.) But the real gold is in the various horrible beasties that they send out into the world. Here are the very first ones that Gesar has to deal with:

      Nine hundred evil spirits,
      Ninety black demons,
      Hearing the noise of the child’s cries, said
      “Where is the child with fire in its eyes
      That is screaming and yelling so?
      Perhaps it has a chest full of blood
      For us to drink!”
      Two rats the size of three year old steers,
      With muzzles made of brass
      Were sent to find the baby.
      Two rats the size of three year old steers,
      With muzzles made of brass
      Rushed to the infant’s cradle.

Gesar beats them, of course, turning them into a mass of regular black rodents instead. But let's apply D&D logic: what if some of them are still out there, somewhere? Rats the size of big cows, with teeth and jaws made of brass: the creations of evil spirits, or deranged magicians, who now roam the world looking for blood to drink. Presumably the metal mouths help with the blood-drinking: they clamp down on their victims like spring-loaded traps, allowing the hollow brass teeth to penetrate the flesh and start sucking in blood as though they were a row of giant syringes. Someone out there has probably domesticated the damn things. You really don't want to be on the receiving end of a charge by a regiment of brass-snout cavalry. 

Like this, but with metal jaws.

Brass-Snout Rat: AC 14, 4 HD, +4 to hit, bite (1d8 damage plus blood drain), FORT 10, REF 11, WILL 12, morale 6.

When a brass-snout rat hits a target in melee, its jaws lock on and its teeth start draining out all their blood. Every round that it remains attached, the victim loses an additional 1d8 HP from worrying and blood loss; they also suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to their Strength for each round of blood drain that they suffer. If they survive, they will regain this lost Strength at a rate of one point per day. The brass-snout will not be able to attack anyone else while it is draining a victim, and will not willingly release them until they are dead.

If a brass-snout is killed, its spring-loaded jaws can be cut off and used as a trap, or even mounted on a stick and used as a rather clumsy weapon. The encampments of brass-snout riders are usually surrounded by hundreds of the damn things, stretched out on the ground like bear traps, making them extremely perilous to approach in a hurry or in the dark. 

Image by Tayo.

It should come as no surprise to anyone to learn that brass-snouts infest the tunnels beneath the Wicked City.

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