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Monstrous Menagerie

Monstrous Menagerie Presents the Unicorn


Unicorns are one of the most recognizable mythological creatures in a number of cultures and they often appear in the fantasy series that inspired many tabletop roleplaying games. They’re a common sight in heraldry, are used in imagery ranging from medieval manuscripts to tapestries, and horns believed to be those of unicorns were sold throughout the middle ages. Popular culture has embraced the unicorn and made them so popular they’re easy to work into a game, even if it’s only as a minor reference. What you’ll find here is an idea for a unicorn that can be adapted to serve in also any campaign setting.

Unlike wild horses unicorns prefer to dwell deep within forests far from the cities and roads of men. A unicorn herd is made up of fourteen to thirty individuals. The hair of an adult unicorn is snowy white, but until they reach full maturity it remains a dappled shade of grey allowing the adolescents to blend in more easily with their surroundings. Their hooves are cloven and the males have a beard of fine hair similar to that of a common goat. Of course the most recognizable feature of any unicorn is the spiraling horns that grow out of their foreheads, these horns are silver in color and begin to grow after a foal has reached adulthood.

Most predators know to avoid the areas in which a herd of unicorns are grazing and it is rare for any of them to fall prey to the wolves, bears, or other beasts who share their forests with them. Using their horns unicorns will mark trees around a given region, these marks and the scent of the horned herbivores are usually drive any predators away. If anything should grow bold or desperate enough to approach a herd looking for a meal they’ll face horns that can pierce thick armor, and hooves capable of delivering a kick that could split an oak door. While unicorns aren’t territorial, but they will defend their offspring fiercely if they feel they are being defended. In truth the most common threats to a herd are hunters who set out to capture or kill them. The dense woodlands often serve to shield them from sight, or allow them to lose their pursuers in the tangled undergrowth. Adults have been known to allow themselves to be seen in order to draw hunters away from the rest of their herd.

According to legend unicorns can only be captured by unsullied maidens or virgins, and these young women are sometimes used as bait to try to draw one of the creatures out of hiding. In truth unicorns are curious and gentle, when they happen upon a lone traveler in their woods they may investigate. They have even been known to guide travelers out of their woods, and to drive of predators stalking lost children. Trappers, foresters, hunters, woodcutters, and the like have passed these tales from town to town for centuries. To earn the favor of a herd locals will sometimes venture to the edge of the nearest forest and leave bushels of apples for them. On the rare occasion when a unicorn is captured and caged they rarely survive for very long.

Many stories proclaim the purity of the unicorn and warn against harming these gentle creatures. In some of the tales those who injure one of these creatures will suffer under a curse of misfortune that will follow them until the end of their days. Scholars will scoff at these stories and dismiss them as the superstitions ramblings of fools and drunkards, but they still go to great pains to ensure no injury comes to a unicorn in their presence.

The horn of a unicorn is one of the most prized objects known to man, and as such it is also one of the rarest. The magical properties of these horns are reputed to be capable of accomplishing a wide variety of wondrous feats. In some tales they are used to purify befouled waters, and it is also believed that they can be used to detect poisons. A few enchanters have even been known to use unicorn horns when constructing staves or wands to aid them in their magic, the horns are also sometimes ground up into a fine powder to be used as a component in spells and potions.

Perhaps one day you’ll find yourself lost in the woods and catch a glimpse of something white running through the tress. If you follow the trail it leaves you will find yourself guided safely out of the forest. You may never see the horn, or hear the beating of their hooves, but you’ll know you just caught a glimpse of a unicorn.


Monstrous Menagerie Presents the Gargoyle


Gargoyles have been used as monstrous creatures in a number of roleplaying games and it isn’t hard to see why. One merely has to glance up into the fearsome visages carved into the stone grotesques and gargoyles that have decorated rooftops around the world for centuries. These stone creations have served a number of purposes aside from simple decoration for grand structures. They’re used to redirect rainwater, as a representation of evil that can be easily recognized, and to ward off evil spirits. What I present now is a version of gargoyle that could be easily adapted for use in almost any campaign for any roleplaying system.

All modern gargoyles are descended from bipedal reptiles that once laired in scattered caverns. Each cave usually contains a communal nesting group with the number of gargoyles ranging for eight to twenty. Their thick skin has the rough texture of stone, and acts as a natural camouflage allowing them to blend in perfectly with the rock. Each of their limbs ends in a five digit grasping appendage, sharp talons jut from their fingers and act as their primary form of attack. An egg laying species it is the males who build nests out of large stones and sticks, decorating them with whatever shiny objects they can find. Miners have discovered abandoned nests decorated with everything from seashells and bird feathers to stolen tools and uncut gems. Females choose their mates based on the attractiveness of these nests while the males watch in hiding. Gargoyles breed for life and when their mate dies the surviving counterpart will often starve to death.

These simple creatures are often the of victims large predators; humanoids also drive them out of their nesting caverns. However one of the most interesting threats to the gargoyle is the cockatrice. These creatures will often approach the caves where gargoyles dwell, lure the gargoyles away, and then double back to lay their own eggs in the unguarded nests. Taking no notice of the additional eggs the gargoyles continue to guard their nests until they hatch, at which point the immature cockatrice turns its guardians to stone and devours all of the other eggs in the nest. The discovery of stone gargoyles along with their natural camouflage has caused the misconception that they are actually living stone.

The gargoyles would almost certainly have died out were it not for the fact that most of their kind have migrated to ruins, abandoned fortresses, and cities. Ruins left in the wake of wars are ideally suited for gargoyles that nest among the crumbling stones and rotting timber. Many of the predators that threaten them avoid these places, having learned to fear the people that once dwelled within them. The abandoned treasures of a myriad of races now decorate the nests of the gargoyles that thrive where they once dwelled. Their keening wails have driven many passersby to hurry onward spreading stories of haunted ruins throughout the countryside.

Some gargoyles have even begun to nest in populated cities, and amazingly enough they’ve managed to thrive there. Lurking out of sight on rooftops they snatch up dogs, cats, chickens, and other small animals to feed their young. The males, who are larger and slower, will stay behind to guard their nests while the more agile females do most of the actual hunting. Incidents of gargoyles attacking humanoids are uncommon, and rarely result in any fatalities. Gargoyles are highly territorial, those that dwell in cities less so than the ones that live in the wild. These creatures avoid humanoid whenever possible, but there have been incidents of orphaned children being adopted by gargoyles.

Certain enterprising individuals have managed to capture gargoyles, breeding the creatures and selling the resulting offspring as guardians who dwell on the rooftops of manors, citadels, and great fortresses. Bred to be far more vicious than their untamed counterparts the guardgoyles act as savage protectors who show no mercy. Those who purchase these creatures will sometimes find they can no longer safely leave their front door with being set upon by them.

The leathery hides of gargoyles are highly prized, and given how difficult it is to force a gargoyle to part with their skin the cost for their hides is extraordinarily high. However they’re sometimes found in the possession of many of the thieves, spies, and assassins who ply their trade in cities in every corner of the world. The wearer of a cloak of gargoyle skin will be able to blend into stonework to the point of near invisibility, making it an invaluable tool for avoiding detection.

So when next you think you spot some movement on a rooftop overhead, and dismiss it as imagined or merely crumbling stonework, think of the gargoyle.


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