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    Canonfire :: View topic - Morkoths: Fishing for ideas.
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    Morkoths: Fishing for ideas.
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    GreySage

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
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    Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:48 pm  
    Morkoths: Fishing for ideas.

    I've been interested in using the morkoth as a BBEG for a long time, but have had trouble getting around this particular problem:

    A typical party that is high enough level to have access to the magic necessary to adventure within a morkoth's totally submerged lair is also much too powerful to consider the morkoth a challenge.

    Now, I am using Edition 3.5 specifically, but all incarnations of the morkoth from other editions are of similar power. Being only a 7 HD creature with nothing really going for it in combat but an average damage bite, means that it can't stand against a party of 8th - 10th level adventurers even if all but one or two have succumbed to its hypnosis.

    The problem with that is that hypnotizing most of the party makes the battle no fun for the majority of the players. In addition, the morkoth is described as being a loner, not coexisting with other creatures or even keeping bodyguards, etc.

    I've come up with some ideas, but want to run them past this community of Greyhawk gurus and see if you can offer some improvements to them. (Note that if I use any ideas you offer herein, it will only be in an adventure I am submitting to the Oerth Journal; not for monetary gain.)

    First, the adventure will likely split the party up so that only a small number of characters actually confront the morkoth. The other party members will be engaged in combat with other denizens of the deep at the same time, so no one will be left out of the action.

    Second, I justify the existance of parasitic creatures within the morkoth's lair (e.g. sea hag, kelpie, strangleweed, haunt, sea urchins, chaos beast, angler kelp, octopus tree, allip). The morkoth tolerates their existance within his tunnels because it is new to the area and afraid of being attacked, again.

    Third, for the same reason, the morkoth has refrained from eating a few victims to save as charmed guards (a scrag and a vampiric ixitxachitl that the morkoth is afraid to eat). To that end, I am thinking of giving the morkoth some levels in Sorceror with some enchantment spells useful for charming potential guards or meals if the hypnosis effect fails.

    I'd really like to avoid simply advancing its Hit Dice. That seems cheap and would mess up the story as this morkoth is supposed to be relatively young.

    Please offer any criticism you can think of that applies to the above ideas and let me know how you think I can improve upon them or replace them with other possible solutions to the original problem: developing a morkoth powerful enough to challenge 8th - 10th level characters.

    Thanks!

    SirXaris
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    Thu Sep 29, 2011 6:35 pm  

    Odd... nothing in Fiendish Codex I, Nothing in Lords of Madness, nothing in Defenders of the Faith, and nothing in Stormwrack regarding the morkoth?

    Granted, that gives one open license to do with them as you wish. They are part fish, part squid, and part crab... perhaps a morkoth fleshwarper might be a suitable fit. I could find no mention of a morkoth god, so perhaps a morkoth ur-priest would serve to terrorize PCs.

    “Occasionally, a morkoth has a squidlike beak instead of a mouth...” Perhaps those with beaks are different than the others, like a vampiric ixitxachitl. Perhaps the beaked morkoth have poison spines like a lionfish, ink clouds like a squid, and a sonic attack like a mantis shrimp.

    Morkoth are solitary creatures. Perhaps they are parthenogenetic; not requiring a mate to reproduce. Perhaps in the center of this morkoth lair is a solitary egg case.

    Or perhaps they do not reproduce at all. Perhaps they are an extremely rare aberration formed from their environment. Envision a battle of behemoths; the kraken, a magical beast, versus the leviathan (MM2), also a magical beast. In the manner of whales and squid, the leviathan may emerge the victor and consume his prey.

    Occasionally, the beak of a squid will become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract of the whale. A substance called ambergris is formed around the obstruction, to facilitate its removal when the whale vomits. So, now we have a kraken’s beak surrounded by the leviathan’s ambergris.



    Ambergris typically floats. However, suppose it sank to the sea floor and attracted the attention of scavengers; giant isopods, rattail fish, and more. Suppose the magical goo was viscous and entrapped whatever touched it. Suppose it absorbed these creatures and transformed into an amalgam - the morkoth.

    Video - Deep Sea Feast

    And thus we return to the morkoth’s lair; “...tunnels, all spiraling outward, crisscrossing and interconnecting with one another...”. The morkoth has subconsciously reconstructed the gastrointestinal tract of the leviathan as its lair.

    Perhaps the bane of the morkoth rests with the leviathan. A single weapon, a harpoon fashioned of leviathan bone and etched with scrimshaw, could serve as the morkoth’s undoing.
    GreySage

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    Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:34 pm  

    Aeolius, wow! Shocked

    That is some awesome hypothesizing there. I believe I can do quite a bit with that. Cool

    If you would like to write that up as an article, or include it in Rasgon's Monsters of Oerth thread, I'll use it as you present it. If you don't want to, I'll see what I can do and send it to you for your editing advice before submitting it.

    Anyone else wanting to add suggestions, please feel free to do so.

    ... Ooh! I'm excited now. That was more than I was even hoping for. Hee, hee... Laughing

    SirXaris

    Edit: By the way, the 3.5e version of the morkoth is found in the Monster Manual II. That's the one I'm using as a basis, though I looked up the 1st and 2nd edition versions as well and the morkoth has basically remained unchanged since its initial introduction in the original AD&D Monster Manual. SX
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    Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:29 pm  

    If you want some ideas on morkoths, there's an exceptionally good module for AD&D2E called Sea of Fallen Stars (and a related Adventure - Wyrmskull Throne) for FR.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:30 am  

    SirXaris wrote:
    By the way, the 3.5e version of the morkoth is found in the Monster Manual II.


    That's why I chose the leviathan, as it's in the same book. :) The kopru are also a beastie I could see in the company of a morkoth.

    As for the lair:

    As it turns out, trying to find a diagram of the internal organs of a whale is not as easy as it sounds. I do not recommend it, as you will see a boatload of pictures of whale guts.

    Though, if you like that sort of thing: Exploding Whale
    GreySage

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    Fri Sep 30, 2011 8:07 am  

    At the dawn of the Age of Giants, a race of sleek-furred mammals lived on the ocean shores, revering the ancient gods of the sea. As the years passed their connection to the waters grew, and the siren call of the deep stirred their souls, echoing in their bones. They even mated with fey creatures who visited the land, temporarily taking the form of the shore-dwellers to seduce and abandon them, and their connection to the water grew deeper. The mammals began to pine for the music they heard from beneath the waves. They shunned the other races of the land, praying to their gods for the chance to leave the land forever and join their fey kin in the sea. The call echoed stronger in their souls as the generations passed and more and more fey blood was added to their own, until one day the elders saw their children cast themselves from the sea cliffs, falling into the froth and foam, emerging changed, their fur shed, their limbs replaced with flippers and flukes. The first cetaceans were born. The elders shed tears of joy as they sacrificed themselves to their oceanic gods, thanking them for the gift they had given their children by gifting the gods with their own lives. The race that had pined for the sea died out completely, and only the cetaceans were left.

    In the ocean, the cetaceans answered the calls of many different gods and quickly divided into disparate tribes: the dolphins, the orcas, the narwhals, and the whales. But the most alien of all were those who swam deeper and deeper still until they came to a place that was older than water. This tribe answered the call of the powers who had drifted through primordial chaos before the world was made, their bones and bodies swelling until they became the leviathans, the greatest of whales. The song of the leviathans filled the oceans, endless and strange, and for a time the leviathans were content. The lesser cetaceans sang of them in hushed tones, revering them as the bravest and vastest of their kind.

    Ages passed, the time recorded in songs only the cetaceans knew. Then: terrible dissonance. The forbidden science of the elder elves created a cataclysm; an island in the Bay of Gates sank beneath the sea, killing millions, and the nearby empire of the anguiilians crumbled into savagery. A new song emerged from the deepest oceanic abyss, a song of hunger and blood. A new god arrived, attracted by the smell of death: Sekolah, the shark-god. From the abyss, lost descendants of the anguiilian empire emerged as the first sahuagins, poised to bring all of the children of the ocean under their diabolic grip. The sea elves, born of the elder elves' experiments, entered the water at this time, chasing their enemies the kuo-toas into the deep. And the koalinths entered the water, the last creations of the kuo-toas and quaggoths, to enact vengeance against the sea elves.

    The leviathans stirred. The song of the oceans had been disrupted, filling with dark and unwholesome notes. The leviathan high priests investigated the abyss, seeking out the source of the discord. Whispers filled their vast cetacean minds, evoking sonar images of an infinite tentacled loop, writhing in fury, its beginning its end, its end its beginning. A fragment, perhaps, of the elder god Panzuriel left behind on the mortal plane after its banishment by its rebellious child Procan; or perhaps it was the proto-demon Dagon, seeding hatred for a world he never wanted to see created; or perhaps it was Sekolah, still singing poisonous notes from beyond the world. Or all of these, and more: tainted by the disaster, the mid-oceanic abyss had become a wound in the world, and all bad things welled out of it. The whispers told the leviathan priests the only cure for the dissonance: to feed, endlessly feed, to fill themselves with all the children of the ocean until everything within the waters were contained within them. Only when everything was within them would they again know peace.

    The maddened leviathans gorged themselves, swallowing squids, octopi, krakens, fish, crabs, sahuagins, aguiilians, sea elves, koprus, koalinths, aboleths, fey, kelp, coral, elementals, whales, dolphins, other leviathans... there was nothing in the oceans safe from their bottomless gluttony. They ate and ate, until it seemed like the oceans would be emptied.

    And then they choked.

    For the victims of the mad leviathans did not die. but fed on one another. Caught in the same madness as those who had devoured them, they sought to fill the same hunger the leviathans felt, building strange, claustrophobic societies within the labyrinthine cetacean guts based on a single principle: eat, or be eaten. They reshaped the coiling intestines which were their home as traps, learning arts of deception and enchantment to trick their rivals. Compressed beyond all reasoning, they began stealing the attributes of their opponents, merging together. Mustering the last fading arts of flesh-shaping from the elder elves, the kuo-toas, and the anguiilians, they reshaped themselves, becoming both more or less than they had been in a never-ending quest to adapt, survive, and feed. Somehow, the survivors began to thrive, breeding more of their kind in their winding prisons of flesh until their kind was reproducing faster than the leviathans could eat, until everything the leviathans ate became nothing but raw resources for the strange civilization within them, and even that was not enough. And the leviathans choked.

    The mad cetaceans died, then, bursting as the ever-hungry, chimerical descendants of their victims outgrew their race's womb. Their bones sank to the bottom of the ocean, becoming the first settlements of a new race, the morkoths. From the corpses of the leviathans that had been the birthplace of their race, the morkoths spread across the oceans, still specializing in the arts of deception and hypnosis to lure prey into their ravenous maws. The ruined cities of the anguiilians and the new settlements of the aquatic elves, koalinths, and sahuagins became labyrinths from which the sorcerous morkoths exacted tribute from other races. For a time, the morkoth empire became the dominant force in the deep.

    It is said the power of the morkoth empire was finally broken by another race of builders: the tritons, who left their homeland in the Elemental Plane of Water to lead a crusade against the morkoth tyranny. The labyrinth-cities of the morkoths, dark and meandering like the intestines from which their race was birthed, were torn down and replaced with shining cities of coral. The tritons became the great civilizing force in an undersea world of cruelty and barbarism, their settlements shining beacons in the deep. Around them, other races who had been desperate fugitives were able to form communities of their own: aquatic elves, merfolk, nixies, selkies, others. Darker races, too, were able to emerge from the morkoths' shadow and become powerful forces in their own right: the koalinths, sahuagins, koprus, and more.

    It was the morkoths' turn to become fugitives and barbarians, never again able to muster the vast, all-devouring empire that they had once claimed. And yet throughout the oceans, in the shadows, morkoths continued to build their mazes in imitation of the vast metropolises their ancestors had once constructed.

    Advancing morkoths
    As Aeolius suggested, the best way to make morkoths more of a threat is probably to give them class levels: enchanters, ur-priests (from the Book of Vile Darkness), fleshwarpers (from Lords of Madness). Their mazes can themselves serve as spellbooks, sigils and arcane scripts worked into the walls of their mazes so that they can memorize their spells as they swim bonelessly through their lairs. A morkoth who enhances its innate magical abilities with more advanced charms could command minions (including less powerful members of their own race) to help protect it from intruders who might resist the mesmerizing effect of its maze, and of course class levels bring more hit dice as well.
    GreySage

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    Fri Sep 30, 2011 8:32 am  

    MToscan wrote:
    If you want some ideas on morkoths, there's an exceptionally good module for AD&D2E called Sea of Fallen Stars (and a related Adventure - Wyrmskull Throne) for FR.


    Thanks, MToscan. I'll see if I can acquire a copy of those to peruse.

    @ Rasgon

    That was excellent! Thanks! Happy

    SirXaris
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    Fri Sep 30, 2011 12:38 pm  

    excellent read, there, Rasgon! It almost makes me want to run an undersea game....ummm... nm ;)
    GreySage

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    Sat Oct 01, 2011 2:43 am  

    Another option: rather than or in addition to making the morkoth tougher, make its environment safer for PCs.

    Imagine this: a morkoth fingerling is brought to Greyhawk City to be some wizard's experiment. Something goes wrong and the little morkoth ends up in the sewers, where it survives for years on rats and crocodiles and such. As it grows in power, it charms the sewerworker's guild, convincing them to help it remake a section of Greyhawk's sewers as a morkoth maze. The PCs end up iin the sewer pursuing an enemy and end up confronting it in a human-created urban environment in which the water is deep enough for a morkoth to swim in but also with plenty of air.
    GreySage

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    Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:46 am  

    Now that's an awesome idea, Rip Cool

    This would work well for lower level PCs too.

    Well done! Happy
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    GreySage

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    Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:37 pm  

    Yes, that really is an awesome idea Rasgon. It isn't an idea that will work for my current endeavor, though, so I'll leave it to another to develop further. Smile

    I may be able to use some of that thinking, however, to ameliorate some of the difficulties the party may normally encounter. For example, I am planning to locate the morkoth's lair near the edge of the continental shelf so that it will not be so far down that the party will take damage from the pressure.

    SirXaris
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    Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:52 pm  

    Why not a psychic Morkoth?

    It has a hypnotism ability which you prefer not to use. So instead give him some kinetic abilities like animate object it can use stone statues and animate them to defend its lair. He could even animate remains or creatures it has eaten or partially eaten to defend itself. Chameleon itself with metabolic powers augment its physical abilities with metabolic powers and heal itself as well.

    Kinetic abilities can even give it control of the water it resides in making the party believe it is fighting off more then one creature. Grant him a cannibalize ability to drain intelligence, wisdom or constitution from the party to boost his own pool of psychic resources while weakening his opponents.

    I hope this helps.

    Later

    Argon
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    Sun Oct 02, 2011 5:40 am  

    While we're adding abilities, imagine what a nice Stone to Flesh spell would do to tunnels shaped like intestines ;)
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    Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:34 am  
    Morkoth and undersea stuff.

    Hmmm ... imagine that: Aeolius was the first responder on a thread about an undersea monster? Who'd have thunk it? Laughing

    At any rate ... another thought of making the combat more possible for PCs: along the same lines of changing the environment. As I understand it, there's a problem with water-breathing, presumably? Why not add a mechanic that allows them to breathe underwater and/or swim well enough, but isn't just a magical DM fiat. Rather than putting the morkoth in a lair that has air in it that would sort of put the morkoth out of place, perhaps you could add something that would give the PCs an opportunity, but still make the encounter more challenging.

    I'm thinking of essentially something that would reduce their effectiveness in battle. Like for example, if there's something else that the PCs have to do every other round or three. Like if they had to pull a plant pod from a nearby kelp variety that happens to have an air pocket inside it's "fruit". Or, if they were using an air-bladder brought with them down from the surface. Perhaps, along the vein the Aeolius was on: maybe they have water-breathing, but, there's something different about the environment the morkoth is in, making the water not as viable tot he PCs. There's a "gas" in the water, or another psuedo-natural fluid, that makes them less able to act physically. It could be whatever "fluff" you decide.

    It could be something that requires a move-action every round. Or another simple way to handle the mechanic is to say they suffer identical effects to a slow spell or something. That way they can't move fully, and can't catch up to the morkoth to really damage him. Another option is to add a terrain option like a dangerous current that can move the PCs against their will, or surging water like heavy surf around a coral reef. (both hazards found in Stormwrack)Then you have added the option that players have to spend extra movment (from difficult terrain: surf and/or current), and the possibility that the environment may damage them by slamming them into coral walls, or some such.

    Add Spring Attack in for the morkoth, and suddenly, the whole encounter just changed. Essentially, it would mean both that the combatants couldn't be dealing damage every round, and movement is more difficult, without the morkoth being affected. ... suddenly the morkoth becomes much more able to handle the party, and comparably speaking, a greater threat.

    There's two copper-coloured seashells for ya'. :D
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    Last edited by Icarus on Sun Oct 02, 2011 7:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

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    Sun Oct 02, 2011 7:18 am  

    Argon wrote:
    Why not a psychic Morkoth?


    Because it is my opinion that psionics belong in a futuristic rpg, not a fantasy rpg. But, that's for another thread. Wink

    However, I may be able to incorporate some of those suggestions as magical abilities... Smile

    Quote:
    It has a hypnotism ability which you prefer not to use.


    I think you misunderstand. I am planning to keep the morkoth's hypnotic ability. It's just that it is an all or nothing type of ability, which most 8th - 10th level characters will be able to ignore (DC 14 vs. +5 to +10 to Will saves for characters of that level). If more than a single 8th - 10th level PC resists the hypnotic effect of the morkoth's tunnels long enough to reach it, the morkoth (as statted in the MM II) is dead.

    @ Icarus and Aeolius

    Thank you for some more very interesting ideas. I'll see how they fit into my project. Smile

    SirXaris
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    Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:27 am  

    I dont have a MM handy but as I recall didn't they live in a cavernous maze? Seems the tunnels that spiraled to their lair could be narrowed to allow passage only single file ( its a solitary creature, so not like it needs a large hallway) it could have traps or means to "constrict" the passages and allow dealing with the party members one at a time. Didnt they also employ Krakens from time to time? may be a Kraken or two to "soften up" the party before they enter the tunnels?
    Just thoughts and wispers hehehe
    GreySage

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    Mon Oct 03, 2011 2:42 pm  

    Dark_Lord_Galen wrote:
    I dont have a MM handy but as I recall didn't they live in a cavernous maze? Seems the tunnels that spiraled to their lair could be narrowed to allow passage only single file ( its a solitary creature, so not like it needs a large hallway) it could have traps or means to "constrict" the passages and allow dealing with the party members one at a time. Didnt they also employ Krakens from time to time? may be a Kraken or two to "soften up" the party before they enter the tunnels?
    Just thoughts and wispers hehehe


    Good ideas, DLG! I've already addressed the first by making the morkoth's tunnels 5 foot diameter. This not only requires PCs to travel/fight in single file, but I have ruled that it automatically makes creatures of size Large and larger immune to the morkoth's hypnotizing ability (they won't fit into the tunnels, so the magic doesn't affect them).

    I'll have to think on the idea of traps, however. I hadn't considered that the morkoth might employ them as it probably doesn't want to inhibit hypnotized prey from making their way to his inner sanctum. As a spellcaster of some sort, however, it may be able to employ traps without ensnaring already hypnotized prey. Hmm... Idea

    However, in 3.5e (and every other edition I'm familiar with), krakens are ~20 HD and highly magical. Such a creature would be far too powerful for an 8th to 10th level party and would certainly not be in service to a morkoth as a bodyguard.

    SirXaris
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    Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:42 am  
    Other Thoughts if you havent run with your game yet

    Kapoacinth in the Flanaess

    As I was prusing in the web of the thread, I ran across this and it lead me to another as well. Might work as opertunists at the mouth of the lair.

    The first (kapoacinth) Credit goes to Aeolius
    & Rasgon for this snipit listed in Rasgon's Thread Monsters of Oerth

    Aquatic cousins of gargoyles, the kapoacinth that dwell within the oceans of Oerth appear similar to their land-dwelling kin. Yet a select few have learned to hone their ability to freeze, to hold still as a statue, to greater purpose. These kapoacinth often gather in circles of a dozen or more, to freeze for days, weeks, or months at a time.

    In essence beings of living rock, the Still Ones, as the have come to be called, are often encrusted with coralline algae, sea sponges, and soft corals. Small animals such as fish, crabs, and snails will make their home upon the Still Ones, who over time take on a more neutral, nature-oriented alignment. The older kapoacinth are after encrusted with stony corals and barnacles, denoting their devotion to the freeze. When a Still One dies, their body crumbles to rubble, revealing within a shimmering pearl of iridescent hue. If twelve such pearls are gathered together, their possessor gains the ability to freeze as the Still Ones do. During these periods of immobility, the possessor of the pearl may often hear a distant voice singing.
    The latter, is in MMII, a Kopru, might serve as a wandering/ random encounter that could lead to a sub plot.
    Both seem more in line with your character levels.
    Hope it helps.
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