In between the Gamma World updates, I thought it would be fun to start a mini-series where I ramble on about some of my favourite RPG creatures, and why I like them so much. But you won’t find the stereotypical orcs and dragons here, oh no. I’m delving the dark depths of Monster Manuals and splatbooks to find some unappreciated gems.
The fun thing about obscure creatures is that because they get used so infrequently and players are so unfamiliar with them, there’s always a nice sense of unease when the group encounters them. I mean, when they throw down with some goblins, or giant rats, or fire elementals, they know what to expect. But a toqqua? Or an athach? Or a gang of rasts? Or, my favourite, the zeikune, aka the evil Starmie. Obviously, it seems that having an unpronounceable name is a prerequisite for being an awesome obscure creature.
So, our first offering in the world of obscure RPG creatures is the Yrthak.
Look at this guy! It’s like the horrific result of nasty pterodactyl/unicorn lovemaking.
So, what do yrthaks do, according to the Monster Manual? Well, they’re totally blind and have to rely on their keen hearing, sense of smell, and weird sonar-tongue to be able to sense their surroundings and hunt their prey, though their heightened sense of hearing means that they’re vulnerable to loud noises and sonic attacks. They also have the power to shoot blasts of sonic energy out of the horns on their head, but don’t question why a creature vulnerable to sonic attacks uses this type of attack itself.
Also, they have a wingspan 20 feet long (so they’re pretty frigging huge) and they look kinda creepy, which is why I like them. They remind me of the mass-produced Evas from End of Evangelion, or the Legion of Everblight warbeasts from Hordes.
So how could this beast be used in games? Well, there’s the standard (boring) way of having the yrthak be an ambush predator. Party is travelling, they hear a loud noise and suddenly a blast of sonic energy explodes the road they’re following. Bam, yrthak fight. Dull, boring, throwaway random encounter. Yawn.
There are some monsters whose appearance screams “wizard’s experiment”, and the yrthak is one of those monsters. Maybe have a mad wizard or another important villain who has made/summoned/tamed the yrthak, which serves as his signature steed and pet monster. Technically yrthaks are meant to be neutral, but look at the thing! You’re not going to see a goody two-shoes paladin riding a yrthak.
You could also port the yrthak over to the Warhammer 40,000 RPGs as a dangerous xenos predator or a summoned warp creature, but whatever your game, wherever there’s a need for a big scary flying monster, consider the poor, neglected yrthak.