Stirge and Remorhaz Hordes, Minotaur Maze-Domains

My last venture into publishing was with Behemoth3. We put out two monster books - A Swarm of Stirges and Maze of the Minotaur - and have another one-and-a-half unpublished, Rage of the Remorhaz and a book on bulettes.
These were for 3.5, in which monster and NPC design was complicated. The thing that made them valuable for a player of that edition was that we did this monster design for you in a way that anticipated the 4E approach where you can build a challenging complex encounter using just a single type of monster - you have a goblin cutter for melee, a goblin hexer for range, etc.
Nat, who understandably enough would like his remorhaz book to see the light of day, mentioned to me the idea of republishing these as ACKS support material. I understandably enough think it’d be awesome to have some ACKS books for which the writing, art, and layout is mostly already done! The sticking point for me has been what would make this uniquely useful for ACKS, given that the 3.5-era monster design complexity is less valuable here.
Sean’s post about hordes and nomads makes me think that the thing that can be complicated in ACKS, such that having the designers crunch the numbers answers the question “why have us do any more of your imagining for you”, is working out the details of a domain.
Seen in that light, each of these monster books is not simply details of the sub-ecology of the base creature (e.g. the fey that ride stirges, the worm-like creatures that stirges mature into, the husklike undead that form when humanoids are drained by a stirge), but a presentation of the unique kind of domain play that this ecology creates:

  • Stirges are a blight: a Chaotic outbreak of carnivorous nuisances under intelligent-but-insane leadership that acts like a horde but ravages the areas it moves through. The 3.5 original had some ideas about scenarios in which the PCs try to control this outbreak by interacting with its ecology (draining swamps, diverting swarms with cattle herds, etc); these ideas weren’t well supported, but in ACKS it could be really compelling to calculate how many families in your domain had been lost to a stirge outbreak, direct the building of new settlements further away from the marsh, etc. And other aspects of the original - offering bounties for each stirge killed, starting businesses around harvesting stirge gallbladder as a delicacy - are likewise even better suited to ACKS.
  • Minotaurs construct an underground kingdom; one of the sub-creatures here, the tauron, is more bull than man and bred as a kind of living bulldozer. I am powerfully drawn to the idea of layers of realms - domains of flyers ruled by cloud-castles above, and subterranean cities and fortresses below - and the minotaur book would make a great glimpse into the mechanics of one kind of subterranean builder (whose tunnels might often be taken over by others, and whose war with the dwarves might provide more information about domains below).
  • Remorhazes are herded by frost giant tribes; this would be another look at horde domains, but ones that are sustainably managed rather than plague-of-locusts like. The implied ecology of each book - swamp (and perhaps a fey realm), underground, and glacial wilderness for the remorhaz - means that it’d be possible to use the books to develop a campaign realm not much explored, or stick this new region just off the edge of an existing map. There’s also an adventure seed in the remorhaz MS in which a glacier full of remorhaz drifts into civilized territory; this also could provide some exciting action at the domain level.
    Are folks interested in this kind of thing?

Sounds like fun to me. Anything that adds complexity (the fun, playable kind) to both domain and dungeon seems like a good thing.
Realm layers is an interesting reflection of the tiers of play.

Tavis - reading through this stuff, two ideas jump to mind - one, monster-domain focused, and the other just monster-focused.
Monster Domains
The old Mystara campaign for BECMI/Cyclopedia was gonzo with race-class monsters between Gazetteers like the Orcs of Thar, and the various Creature Crucibles - you could play race-class Bugbears, Mermen, Wererats, Centaurs, Pixies… and there were Gazetteers for the underwater kingdoms, the aerial gnome city, the werewolf domains in Glantri.
So yes - if ACKS is supporting Chaotic domains, it could be extrapolated to include unusual non-human domains. I even see there’s been some discussion about a certain Drow city here. Tackling an aerial domain, subterranean domains, underwater domains, and alternate economic assumptions would make for a good supplement.
Here’s the caveat: if the domain supplement is DM-only, a lot of DMs might just wing it or not care whether the underlying numbers make sense; calculating numbers for monstrous domains makes more sense if it’s player-facing, meaning a Chaotic character could end up leading one of these domains or play a gonzo race-class.
Monster Ecologies
The ecology of the stirge goes in a different direction - a campaign sourcebook that provides alternative uses for monsters - part ecology, part economics and campaign roles. Reminds me a bit of ‘classic monsters revisited’ from the Paizo lines with a focus on campaign roles in the ACKS context.
A survey of the standard monster canon and how they affect domains and economics would provide a ton of plots and story ideas for the DM.

One thing that I like about ACKS is its ability to switch between aggregate and detail views according to the goals of play in an adventure (or campaign). For example, I like both having thief retainers I can play as characters when we want to do that, and also having hijinks rules when I want to play at a different level of resolution.
So one approach to the stirge stuff is as resolution-switching: Your domain may be having a bad year for crops, because of a plague/horde. You can roll that up as decreased yields and go on being kingly, or you can make that situation the adventure, break out the conquerors, and learn how a plague of stirges works. This also gives a backstory to boons and obligations, if you want it (“We recognize your service with this tract of land, Stirgebane!”).
A monstrous domains supplement could branch into both rules for managing a monstrous domain (+1 to beedo) and rules that detailed monstrous events for normal domains (a plague of stirges! a thawing of remorhazes!) if a game wanted to play out a king-level event as a conqueror- or adventurer-level adventure.
The difficulty regarding not-imagining-it-for-us is in producing a framework rather than a sourcebook. Can you look at the material that way?

I think Beedo and Charlatan are on to something here…Great ideas guys!

I’m very fond of the monstrous domains idea, and I also like the Chaotic alignment as insane gods, monstrous vices, and the destruction of civil society. The elaborate hierarchical structures and connected economics that the rules spell out seem antithetical to a Chaotic domain; it seems like a very different set of rules would be called for. I wonder if the “stirge blight” model might apply, with Chaotic realms being more like epidemics or natural disasters.

it sounds interesting :slight_smile: