Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Resuming Vadhyislavia; or, I Like Options

Last night I began working on a rough sandbox map for the Once-Green and Pleasant Land, and found myself getting frustrated with it; in part, because hex-maps are a strange and alien thing to me, and I'm not real comfortable or sure of how to make them work for me, and in part just realizing the small scale of the region I'm focusing on; I almost want to make the map with one-mile hexes just so I've got space to write and plunk down dungeons.  But since letting myself get frustrated is no good, I decided I'd be better served by taking a step back from post-apocalyptic 17th Century England and work on something else for a little while and let my brain refresh itself.  Vadhyislavia is a setting I began work on a month or two ago for 5th Edition D&D, largely as a rebuilt-from-the-ground-up version of Karameikos to suit my own tastes and sensibilities while retaining an element of "this is a really great place to start a D&D game."

What's Vadhyislavia like?

Karoly Telepy, Romantic Landscape, 1900

Precis: A newly-independent frontier kingdom dealing with internal conflict between colonists and native populations, all with a dark, quasi-Eastern European fairy tale vibe to it.

Conspectus: Holy Roman Empire-ish colonists learning to get along with their new, Slavic-ish neighbors; werewolf-haunted forests; lots of witches, both "good" and bad; goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, trolls and hill giants, but no orcs; stuffy, patriarchal monotheism vs. relaxed, celebratory polytheism with a strong matriarchal bent; Fey Courts; Venus Figures; lucky charms and local superstitions; Dire Animals; Wood Elves that wouldn't look out of place in Princess Mononoke; a history of the region traceable through its dungeon-crawls; scheming noblemen; masked secret societies; Treant sages; culture "wars" waged over differing choices in alcoholic beverages

Tastes like, Sounds like, Looks like: Shepherd's Pie consumed on a cold day, washed down with a stout lager; Hungarian folk music; HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS crossed with the landscape paintings of Karoly Telepy.

I'm actually starting to look into trying to build a new face-to-face group; the guys I've been playing with since college have been getting harder and harder to assemble, and the group has been shrinking steadily.  I ran Call of Cthulhu this past weekend for a coworker and her boyfriend and had a blast doing so for them; it was such a refreshing change of pace from what I've come to expect as a DM, and I want more of that.  I want players who show up on time, prepared, and ready to play, don't just show up to break what I've worked on and are appreciative of the work I put in as DM, and I don't feel like I'm getting that with my current group.

Also, I want a pony, as long as I'm wishing.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Factions in the Once-Green and Pleasant Land

As much as there are monsters, and pretty horrible ones at that, running around the Once-Green and Pleasant Land, I'm not anticipating demon-hunting and monster-slaying to be a huge part of the games I run in this setting.  Coming from a GMing background containing far more Call of Cthulhu then D&D (of any edition), to my sensibilities monsters (i.e., anything significantly bigger and badder then an orc or a zombie) are Big Bads; Having something like a manticore or "Red Dragon, Young Adult" on a wandering monster chart is anathema to how I run games.  I'd rather make finding and fighting (or fleeing from) a manticore the capstone of an adventure, and have the PCs face encounters with various minions, slaves or hired mercenaries in the monster's employ on the road leading to that capstone.

I'm blessed in using the 17th Century as my baseline setting because there are so many different options for factions and groups that have reason to hate each other and pick fights with each other.  As such, I think the PCs I run through the Once-Green and Pleasant Land are going to spend far more time fighting their fellow men then they will fighting demons...which is probably exactly what the demons want.

even the dogs have taken sides.

Ethic Divisions:

Cornishmen are the native inhabitants of Cornwall, descended from the Britonic people who dwelled there before the Roman Conquest.  They maintain their own language (Cornish) and national identity; during the first half of the 17th century, efforts had been made to anglicize the Cornish, but these efforts have fallen apart in the wake of the Cataclysm and the Cornish have reasserted their unique identity.

Englishmen are the people of the remainder of England; descended from Normans, Anglo-Saxons and Romans, they're the dominant ethnic group in the British Isles and until the Cataclysm were making great headway in conquering and assimilating the other peoples of the Isles.

The Irish, native to Ireland, an island north of England, have been fighting a losing war for their national identity with the English; once great travelers and traders, the Irish saw the dawn of the 17th century with an invasion from England, and a second wave of reconquest in the 1640s under Oliver Cromwell.  It is rumored that the atrocities committed by Cromwell on Irish soil are what caused the Cataclysm, and while the Irish have largely reasserted their sovereignty in its wake, their hatred of the English continues to burn.

The Welsh, native to Wales, are closely related to the Cornish, and speak their own, related language predating the Saxons and Norman invaders of the Dark and Middle Ages.  They're more closely tied politically to the English then the Cornish are, but in the wake of the Cataclysm a shift away from England is still being observed.

The Scottish, from Scotland in the north of England, were initially supporters of the Royalists during the War, for both religious and political reasons, and were also involved in an internal civil war between their own Royalist and Parliamentarian (called Covenanter) factions.  When the alliance between Coventers and English Parliamentarians broke down, Cromwell led an invading army into Scotland to settle their shit.  In the wake of the Cataclysm, various warbands of Scottish Reivers roam the Once-Green and Pleasant Land as mercenaries and brigands.

Invaders: Free companies of enterprising Swedish and Dutch adventurers probably occasionally make landfall in the Once-Green and Pleasant Land looking for plunder, as would German Landsknechts left without gainful employment following the Thirty Years War.  France, weakened by the revolution of the Fronde and the Franco-Spanish War, probably aren't too terribly interested in England though French pirates operating out of Brittany would likely be harrying ports in Cornwall for tin and ceramics.

Political Divisions:

Royalists, or Cavaliers, are those who support the monarchy of Charles I (until his January 1649 execution), then Charles II (reign: February 1649 to April 1651 AD/April 2 AP).  Now most Cavaliers support one of any number of claimants to the vacant throne of England, most of them claiming some blood relation to the Stuart or even the Tudor dynasty, or otherwise claiming especial favor of one of the deceased kings.  They tend to dress in high leather boots and ostentatious hats, and have taken well to the new "traditional" means of warfare engendered by the scarcity of gunpowder in the Once-Green and Pleasant Land.

Parliamentarians, or Roundheads, are those who pushed for a constitutional monarchy in England as opposed to the absolutist monarchy of Charles I, or even complete parliamentary control of executive government.  In the wake of the Cataclysm, many Roundheads (so named for their close-cropped hair, as opposed to the courtly style of long ringlets favored by the Cavaliers) have taken to organizing themselves into semi-egalitarian warbands that harass and terrorize any groups of Cavaliers they can find, regardless of which "king" they support.

I think I kinda wanna make random charts for players to roll on to determine ethnic group and political affiliation at character creation.  I think it would make for an interesting dynamic to have, say, a Cornish Royalist Fighter, a Scottish Parliamentarian Cleric, a Welsh Specialist of no particular political affiliation and an English Royalist Magic-User in the same party.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"A Righteous Judgment of God" -- Religion in the Once-Green and Pleasant Land

This is a righteous judgement of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbrued their hands in so much innocent blood. -- Oliver Cromwell in regards the massacre at Drogheda, 1649

Religion after the Cataclysm has been a tricky business; as in 1348, the vast scale on which death took place in the Once-Green and Pleasant Land has caused a widespread loss of faith.  In the face of what could credibly be seen as the end of the world, with monsters and foul horrors battering at the shutters and Christ nowhere to be found, it's no surprise that many have turned their backs on God and the Church, seeking no more than bare survival on a day to day basis.

And no bells tolled, and nobody wept no matter what his loss because almost everyone expected death... And people said and believed, 'This is the end of the world.' -- "A chronicler of Siena," quoted in A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman

But not everyone turned their backs on faith; others embraced it as never before, finding meaning for themselves in absolute devotion; both Catholicism and Anglicanism, though weakened, still have their strongholds throughout the Isles, and many believers of "The Old Faiths" show their devotion through flagellation and elaborate acts of penitence in hopes of pleasing God and finding salvation for themselves.

Satan really likes a properly-anointed
In some isolated villages and secluded manors throughout the land, demonic cults have arisen; monstrous entities from the Endless Dark, creatures of malicious intellect and cruel intent, having set themselves up as localized gods.  Often, these malignant entities are summoned to the Once-Green and Pleasant Land by cabals of sorcerers seeking to enhance their own power, only to find themselves the slaves (if not hors d'oeuvres) of a power too great for them to command.

Hopkinism is a new faith that has sprung up in the wake of the Cataclysm, if indeed "faith" it is.  The Hopkinites are an order of witch-hunting fanatics and their support network of followers, henchmen and men-at-arms.  Their primary tenet is "suffer not a witch to live," and their holy book is as likely to be the Malleus Maleficarum as it is to be Cromwell's Soldiers' Pocket Bible.  Following in the teachings of St. Anthony, the Hopkinites fast before going into spiritual battle against demons, and augment their armor and weapons with frequent prayer and unshakable faith.  Following in the teachings of St. Hopkins, the Hopkinites torture suspected witches and warlocks to achieve confession, subject them to trial by ordeal (including burning them with hot irons and dunking them in rivers) and leave the bodies of convicted witches swaying in the breeze under the nearest convenient tree.

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a
Hopkinite torture session and I really good S&M

Interestingly, spell-casting Clerics are far more likely to appear from among the ranks of the Hopkinites; some Catholics and Anglicans manifest Clerical powers, but not with the frequency of the Hopkinites.  Demonic cultists do not manifest Clerical abilities, but are sometimes granted Arcane casting ability.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Monstrous Humanoids in the Once-Green and Pleasant Land

I had originally intended for every monster encountered in the Once-Green and Pleasant Land to be unique, and randomly generated; a serpentine goat with a dozen eyes and steam rising off its skin here, a rippling manta-ray shaped mass of scales and fangs there.  But that makes a sandbox exhausting to stock, I'm finding, and as such, I began to reconsider "breeds" of monsters.  And you know what? I found I kind of liked the idea of bringing things like orcs, goblins and trolls back into the setting.  By presenting a baseline of monstrosity, I think it will make the strange, one-off horrors that much more alien and monstrous.

But I don't want these to just be alternate species of hominid that are maybe just a little greener in complexion.  Oh no.  I wanna horror them up a bit.  Jack, over at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque, did something similar a couple years back with a series on Demi-Humans in the World Between, and I'm trying hard not to simply ape him with these.

In the Once-Green and Pleasant Land, sometimes men do not stay men.  Sometimes, they are corrupted by the negative energies permeating the Once-Green and Pleasant Land, emanating from the vast sinkholes that erupted during the Cataclysm.  Sometimes, they are corrupted by their own inner foulness.  Either way, they cease to be men and become something far worse.

Orcs have relieved themselves of the pain of being men by making beasts of themselves.  Having renounced faith and given in to blaming God for the Cataclysm, they've given into cruelty, to hate, to rage, and have made violence their only credo; all vestiges of human civilization have been shed.  Their bodies reflect this beastly nature; some have goat horns, others boar tusks, still others paws like a bear's.  Sometimes entire bandit camps undergo metamorphosis simultaneously, becoming a gang of orcs overnight.  Many brigand groups includes orcs among their number, simply accepting that their former human comrades are now red-eyed howling savages.

An Ogre
Men who, in the face of the severe food shortages following the Cataclysm, succumb to hunger and commit cannibalism become Ogres.  Their bodies become stretched, drawn and emaciated, while their heads swell and their mouths become huge, insatiable maws.  While particularly drawn to the taste of human flesh, Ogres will eat anything from rotting garbage to swamp moss, and often will continue to eat until they're physically sick, vomiting to make room for more food.

Trolls, with their enormous, grasping hands and tenacious grip on life itself, were once men whose avarice knew no bounds; greedy barons who feasted while their subjects starved, priests who demanded greater tithes then their parishes could support - anyone who hurt or killed others in the pursuit of possession for possession's sake.

Goblins were once men who cringed and bent the knee to Chaos out of fear, rather than devotion.  For their cowardly toadying, these men are reshaped into skulking, moon-eyed sycophants, easily-cowed creatures whose nature demands they serve the strongest presence available.  As such, goblins are almost always found accompanying an orcish leader, an Ogre, Troll, or some form of demon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Bullet for Cromwell, Part 2; or, Just Where Are We, Anyways?

My grandmother passed away today, so I don't know whether this is going to be horribly disjointed or not.  It's not that I don't mourn her, or am so callous as to write about silly elf games at such a time, but given her steady mental deterioration over the last decade, and that she'd lost all ability to remember family, carry on conversations, or play the piano (and she was without a doubt a world class pianist in her day), I see her passing more as a release then as a thing of sorrow.

To business, then.

I've been going back and forth with a gentleman on Google+ in the Worldbuilding community as I develop this setting, and I've just been consistently blown away by the information he's been coming up with and the way he's been spinning and building off my ideas and encouraging me to build off of his in turn.  He was kind enough to do some research into gunpowder manufacture during the early modern period and came up with some interesting stuff:

Pew pew pew.  
I've dated the Cataclysm to late 1649 (and I have specific reasons for doing so; I don't know that I'll spell them out here right away because I don't want anyone going into the game knowing why Hell is spilling over into the British Isles.  I want that to be a mystery for them), and around this time there were maybe 8-10 powder mills in Britain, most of them newly sprung up to try and meet the demands of the English Civil War; 15-20 years earlier, there was one powder mill.  None of these were in Ireland or Scotland; instead, they were in Coventry, Leicester, Stafford, Northampton, Oxford, Bristol, Chester, Shrewsbury, and Worcester.

To determine if any of these are particularly close to the starting point of my campaign sandbox, I need to figure out where exactly in England my little fictional village of Wyrhill is located.  I was actually considering this on my lunch break at work today, and decided I like the idea of putting Wyrhill in Cornwall.

You've got copper and tin mines, as well as clay/ceramic production.  So there's local industry that can likely survive the collapse of central national authority and maintain some degree of trade.

You've got religious tension -- Cornwall was strongly Catholic and put up a great deal of resistance to English Protestantism, the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the institution of the English Book of Common Prayer.  Remembering back to the class I took on Early Modern England in college supplemented by a refresher course of Wikipedia, I would think, even a century after the Prayer Book Rebellion, that with the collapse of central authority it wouldn't take long for a degree of back-sliding into Catholicism to take place.
You've got political tension -- Cornwall was staunchly Royalist during the English Civil War and remained a bastion of Royalist sentiment pretty much right up to the end of the war -- or, in this reality, the Cataclysm.  While some might think the incursion of monsters and demons into the English Civil War might make people put aside their political and religious differences and band together against the orcs/zombies/demon hordes, I've internalized far too many of George A. Romero's films to accept that.  If anything, I think the sudden arrival of orcs/zombies/demons would exacerbate the divisions in this society; while in actual play it would be presented in a more nuanced fashion, at the very least high-ranking Roundheads would be blaming the Cavaliers for the presence of orcs, while top-tier Cavaliers would say the same of the Roundheads.  I see it as inflaming religious tensions between Catholicism and Protestantism/Anglicanism as well.

It's waterfront property -- a lot of the monsters I've been generating using the Random Esoteric Creature
Generator have been at least semi-aquatic.  This also opens the opportunity for adventures involving smugglers running goods from mainland Europe into England using Penzance as a port (and oh, how I love Gilbert and Sullivan...) from which to operate a black market.

Also, Cornwall figures prominently into Arthurian legend - and if there's ever a time for Arthur to return and save England, now's it.

So Cornwall looks like a really promising place to locate my sandbox; lots of natural resources, lots of political/religious/ethnic tensions I can draw on to generate adventures and use as (additional) reasons for conflict between the various bandit kings and petty warlords of the region, and a pre-existing mythology I can work into the rumors PCs will hear as they wander around being murderhoboes.

So how close is that to any of the powder mills existing in England during this time? Not terribly.  It looks like Bristol is probably the closest, and that's still a considerable hike.  Google Maps says the distance from Truro (the only city in Cornwall) to Bristol is 155 miles on foot.  My 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons DMG gives an unencumbered man the ability to average 30 miles of walking a day; it'll take that guy five days and some change to cover that distance.  That's a lot of time in which wandering monsters, brigands, etc. might show up to terrorize a party of travelers.

So I'm thinking most adventurers out of Wyrhill won't have really ready access to gunpowder on a regular basis.  What stores of gunpowder there are in Wyrhill are probably pretty tightly regulated by the local petty tyrant, doled out to his personal favorites and those taking up missions explicitly on his behalf.  And certainly the sort of missions that would be on his behalf would include making the trip to Bristol to collect more when his supply runs low.

For those not being gifted full powderhorns by Lord Giles, ranged combat will be fought largely with good ol' English longbows.  Anachronistic? Not really.  Per Wikipedia:

Longbows remained in use until around the 16th century, when advances in firearms made gunpowder weapons a significant factor in warfare and such units as arquebusiers and grenadiers began appearing. Before the English Civil War, a pamphlet by William Neade entitled The Double-Armed Man advocated that soldiers be trained in both the longbow and pike; this advice was followed only by a few town militias. The last recorded use of bows in an English battle seems to have been a skirmish at Bridgnorth, in October 1642, during the Civil War, when an impromptu town militia proved effective against un-armoured musketeers.[45] Longbowmen remained a feature of the Royalist Army, but were not used by the Roundheads.

So there's definitely a precedent for longbows to remain in use, even without an orc/zombie/demon horde making it that much harder to get to whatever quantity of gunpowder is still being made.

In fact, I think with limited access to gunpowder the Once-Green and Pleasant Land might see a return to more medieval forms of combat; with the likelihood of a peasant pulling a trigger and punching a hole in it with a lead sphere greatly reduced, heavy metal armor might start to come back into vogue, and the armored knight might see a renaissance.

I can picture it now; some ten-foot tall slobbering horror is helping itself to a pen's worth of pigs when an adventuring party rides up, appraising the scene.  Fighters and Thieves raise Arquebuses to their shoulders; the mages draw pistols from under their robes.  The beast is peppered with lead shot, gore streaming from a dozen minor wounds.  As it drops the half-gnawed sow it had been crouching over and lurches around to address this threat, with the clatter of hooves an armored knight bears down upon it, spearing the beast through the belly on his lance before laying in with a spiked flail.

There's more I want to say about the intersection between gunpowder and monsters in a Weird Fantasy world, but this post is already overlong and probably underfocused, and I need to get up early for work in the morning, so I'll save it for Part 3.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Once-Green And Pleasant Land: A Bullet for Cromwell

The question was recently posed to me on G+ about gunpowder in my post-apocalyptic 17th Century game, specifically in regards to the village of Wyrhill - do they make their own gunpowder? Is there a gunsmith in town?

The answer is a resounding "sort of, but not really."  Let me explain in my usual roundabout way.

This setting's one-sentence elevator pitch is "Imagine the movie The Road Warrior, with flintlocks and horses instead of shotguns and V-8 Interceptors."  If I get to expand to two sentences, I add on, "The Lord Humungus is eight feet tall, purple, and smells like brimstone," but really the first sentence is the relevant one here.

still dressed the same, though.

Think back to the last time you watched The Road Warrior.  How many people do you remember getting shot with guns in it?

Not many.  In fact, among the rampaging neo-barbarians of the Lord Humungus' army, he's the only one with a gun at all, and he's only got five bullets to his name.

How's that work?

In the universe of The Road Warrior, World War III occurred and was fought as a purely conventional war, without recourse to nuclear weapons -- and it was an extremely drawn-out, protracted conflict that exhausted the resources of everyone involved and lead to the slow, creeping decline of civilization we see in The Road Warrior's predecessor, Mad Max.

Without an overwhelming catastrophe like a nuclear exchange, the products of civilization continue to exist even though civilization itself has fallen apart, and are there to be scavenged and repurposed.  That's why everyone in The Road Warrior is wearing piecemeal armor made out of leather jackets, football pads, scrap metal, i.e., whatever they could scrounge up and put together.  In fact, watching the film, apart from the centrality of vehicular combat, most of the fight scenes have a decidedly medieval vibe to them, as people fight with crossbows and melee weapons.  Guns are now luxury weapons, highly-sought-after for their lethality but no longer really in production; after all, any post-apocalyptic average joe can hammer nails into a club, but producing gunpowder requires specialized knowledge, tools and materials.

this asshole notwithstanding.  

So while in the Once-Green and Pleasant Land, there are still all sorts of muskets and pistols floating around from before the Cataclysm, and people who either still remember how to make them or can figure out how to reverse engineer a flintlock mechanism, the number of people producing gunpowder has become very small, and is probably shrinking every year.  A sealed cask of black powder, then, would be a treasure to fight and die over, as valuable, if not more so, then a +1 sword.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Once-Green and Pleasant Land: A Home of Our Own

I've been compiling a list of things I want to have ready to go for when I run the "Once Green and Pleasant Land" sandbox game.  Chris Kutalik's Hill Cantons is going to be a major inspiration for the actual mechanics of running the campaign; I've been reading through his older posts during my lunch breaks at work, and I really like the way he handled the early days of the Cantons; with a central town forming a base of operations for adventurers and assorted smallish dungeons within easy travel distance - and with story emerging from play, built collaboratively by the DM and players together.

So while there's a laundry list of things I want to do with the setting - I want to at least have seeds for dungeons, I want to have a year's worth of weather, astronomical and cultural events generated and laid out on a calendar, etc. - but first and foremost I think I should have a town to form a base of operations for adventurers.

Enter the Village of Wyrhill.

Population 470, mostly human, some members of the demihuman races.  The village is surrounded by a
crumbling stone wall, 12 feet tall at its highest points, and has only a single gatehouse, to the east, that still sees semi-regular repair.  There's enough arable, cultivated farmland surrounding Wyrhill to support the populace, albeit not particularly comfortably; even with the addition of hunting in the forest to the north and fishing in the nearby River Wyrd, few people go to bed feeling particularly full.  Some limited trade with the nearby villages of Dunwich-on-the-Wold and Stannthorp brings in additional food in exchange for flint drawn from the Wyrhill quarries.

While ostensibly ruled by Lord Giles the Fair, the local despot, in practice Wyrhill is controlled by Lord Giles' appointed representative, bailiff Jeremy Wicker.  A tall, pot-bellied man with a bad combover and a hang-dog face, Wicker tries to be "tough but fair," and spends much of his private time moping about how little respect he receives for his efforts.  He believes wholeheartedly in the value of laws and regulations, even in such lawless times as he lives in.  Among his less-beloved efforts at maintaining a civil society in Wyrhill is a massive price-fixing initiative, preventing merchants from raising the price of goods above a certain point to ensure availability - particularly of grains - for all.

There are two taverns in Wyrhill, "The One-Eyed Fool" and "The Archer's Flagon."  "The Archer's Flagon" is slightly more upscale (in that they strain the pigeon shit from their ale before serving it) and tends to be the haunt of off-duty guardsmen and mercenaries, but "The One-Eyed Fool" hosts the most destructive barroom brawls, courtesy of local bravo Big Joe.

The spiritual well-being of the Wyrhillians is seen to by Ogilvy, the Witchfinder Pursuivant and leader of a band of Hopkinites based out of a former church in the heart of town.  While not formally consecrated to St. Hopkins the Witch-Slayer, it is from this pulpit that Ogilvy preaches against the sins of sorcery, heresy and apostasy.  While Ogilvy's theological knowledge is sometimes vague, and his answer to questions regarding the afterlife are invariably to the tune of "How the hell should I know? I'm not dead, am I?" the passion of his convictions and his implacability at rooting out witches have most of the townsfolk convinced of his sincerity.

A few hours' walk north of Wyrhill stands the Abbey of the Bloody Savior, a fortified nunnery predating the Cataclysm in which a small group of female adherents maintain and abide by a version of the Old Faith; in keeping with the "suffering of Our Lord," they starve and whip themselves to bring themselves closer to God.

Just outside of Wyrhill stands Giles' Freehold; once a much larger and magnificent castle, most of the structure stands abandoned and decaying, the walls having been cannibalized of many of their stones to shore up the defensive wall around Wyrhill or the homes of its inhabitants.  Now reduced to a single fortified tower, the Freehold is the home of Lord Giles the Fair.  It is here that he holds court when he deigns to interact with the people he rules over.  The tower is guarded by the mercenary company known as the Sanguinary Swordsmen, and rumor suggests that the Freehold stands over a network of caves and tunnels.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Post-Apocalyptic English Bestiary: The Great Sea-Stag

So I've been spending a lot of time lately with James Raggi's Random Esoteric Creature Generator, rolling up monsters for the Once-Green and Pleasant Land setting as I get closer to being ready to start running adventures in it.  Here's one that I don't see myself using any time soon so it's worth using as a teaser:

The Great Sea-Stag
 # Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 14
Hit Dice: 11
Movement: 130 (Swimming)
Size: Huge
Attacks: 1 (Gore With Antlers)
 Damage: 1d12
Special Ability: Spell Use - Wizard Spells
XP: 1750
Conflict Motivation: Hunger
Combat Strategy: Random

The Great Sea-Stag patrols up and down the Dover coast of England, an enormous and savagely hungry beast, the size of an elephant, with a long neck and four paddle-like flippers - resembling the Plesiosaurus of Earth's prehistoric past.  It's short-snouted, bulging-eyed head is flanked by large, flapping gills and topped by a pair of 8-point antlers of twisted, gnarled bone.

More disconcertingly, the Great Sea-Stag can cast a small number of arcane spells to aid it in collecting human prey.  It has been observed casting Charm Person, Sleep, and Web.  It may know other spells besides.