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Ankhegs and Kenkus and Golems, Oh My!
Steal This Hook
by Robert Wiese

The wilderness is a place of danger. The islands of civilization provide a rest from the constant dangers of the world (sometimes), but heroes are needed in this world. And heroes need monsters to destroy. This month, Monster Manual 2 hits the shelves with a slew of new and old monsters for your campaigns. This month's hooks give you some launching points for using monsters from the book, including an old favorite thrown in for fun (because I like them, and because I almost lost a character to one in a Legacy of the Green Regent RPGA game).

These hooks are not world-specific because they feature monsters that could be found anywhere, and you are probably the best one to decide where these new monsters would be.


Chained Up

The bar is pretty lively for this time of day. That could be because of the caravan that just got into town. It looks like the workers all left the wagons to be unloaded later and headed for the closest tavern: this one. You can hear the buzz of conversation and make out that the caravan had an easy passage along the main road, even though there have been no patrols in months. The monsters just don't come close to the road anymore. Then you hear a creaking and see one of the wagons outside shifting. Some people must be unloading it from the back, since all you can see is the front. Then you hear the scream and see a chain launching itself across the road to wrap itself around a person walking outside.

Story Elements

Select or generate story elements from this table.

1. A chain golem in one of the wagons was sent from one wizard to a fellow wizard here in town. Somehow it was activated or received some instruction, and now it is going berserk over by the caravan wagons. If not stopped, it kills everyone it can reach and then goes in search of more victims.

2. Someone stole the chain golem from its creator, who is a wizard living in a wilderness tower. The golem was deactivated and put in the caravan wagon while the caravan stopped one night. It was not intended to be in the wagons at all.

3. The wizard from whom it was stolen wants it back. Or, the designs for making the creature were stolen with the creature, and the wizard wants the designs back. He was trying to create a unique golem guard for his tower. It's unique only if you have the only set of plans.

4. The chain golem is an advance force for a barbarian who is mounting an attack on this town. The barbarian bought the golem from a wizard. While the golem, who is acting on programmed instructions, attacks here, the barbarian and his army is attacking the town from the other side.

5. The wizard's soul (or the soul of the wizard's rival) was trapped in the golem during the creation process, something that the wizard did not expect. It is having trouble adjusting to its new reality. However, this means that the golem cannot be destroyed in the usual way. It reforms over the next few days. Eventually the PCs can figure out it has a trapped soul and do something to help free it.

6. Behind the chain golem, chain devils and other chain golems are climbing out of wagons and attacking. Devils brought this about to create a stronghold in the area. From this stronghold, they plan to conquer more land and send the souls of the defenders to Hell. Perhaps the PCs are overcome by the devils and golems, and have to flee. They then become underground fighters trying to free the town from a diabolic grasp.

The Raven People

The PCs have an opportunity to escort a young woman home one evening.

The night is long, and after escorting that woman home from the tavern, you turn your steps toward your own bed. As you pass an alley, you hear a muffled cry and see three humanoid shapes in the moonlight. One is clearly the victim of the other two.

If the PCs move forward to help, the real danger springs from the sewers. The two muggers happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they would have been the victims of the sewer creature attack had the PCs not come along.

As you move toward them, you hear a scraping sound from behind you. The sewer grate slowly slides to the side, and a skeleton begins climbing out. More skeletons follow it, and behind them moves at least one dark creature that resembles a bird.

Story Elements

Select or generate story elements from this table.

1. Deep below the city, a large population of kenkus lives in the sewer tunnels. They prey upon the townsfolk to survive. They have been there a long time, and so the city is full of stories of giant two-legged ravens attacking loners at night. No one stays out alone past a certain late hour.

2. The kenkus have a lich leading them. Their leader, a powerful cleric of their god, refused to accept death and relinquish his rule over the kenkus. Now he rules them forever, and they fear him greatly.

3. The leader (whether a lich or not) knows a secret ritual for transforming willing participants into direguard creatures: skeletal undead that use force weapons. The direguard vaguely resemble kenkus and are sent to attack the city at night so that live kenkus are not risked.

4. Instead of kenkus, the Undercity is infested with wererats. (I know, they don't come from Monster Manual 2, but, really, would weretigers infest a sewer?) Or maybe the wererats are working with the kenkus. Either way, the wererats make attacks on the surface, too, and have for a long time. People accept them as normal, and at least they have recognized what they are.

5. Perhaps gibbering mothers, chaos beasts, or oozes are in the sewers as well. Figuring out whether they are working together, for the kenkus, or on their own, could cause a lot of confusion.

6. The kenkus (or whatever mastermind you choose) have stepped up attacks lately, since they plan to take over the surface and are acquiring equipment and softening up the surface dwellers.

Ankhegs Galore

"Guards Wanted for Caravan. Dangerous work but good pay if you live." That is what the sign posted outside the tavern said. It also had a drawing of a caravan and a small, crudely drawn map showing the proposed route. The route took it through a lot of wilderness. "Inquire at Bedavan's" it also said. As you look, you overhear someone behind you say, "That's ankheg territory. Count me out." It seems that most everyone behind you feels the same way as they all disperse.

If this does not draw in the PCs, you can always have them run across the caravan in the wilderness at a night stopover point, and have the caravan master approach them because the next miles are filled with dangerous ankhegs.

Story Elements

Select or generate story elements from this table.

1. This caravan is trying a new, faster route to a large town. If the route proves successful, the caravan master will be rich. But the route goes through countryside that is inhabited by scores (or maybe hundreds) of ankhegs. Ankhegs are dangerous ambush predators that either live underground or dig tunnels and holes to attack victims on the surface.

2. The ankhegs are dangerous, but normally they do not attack something as large as a caravan. This is especially true if the caravan has guards. But these ankhegs sometimes come under the control of a wizard or cleric who lives in the region. This person dominates the monsters and uses them to keep other people away so that no one discovers what this person is doing.

3. A lot of ankhegs are in the region, but giant ants and other monsters also live here. You can go with the ant theme, since ankhegs resemble ants vaguely, or you can branch out and add other wilderness monsters that couldn't eat all the ankhegs.

4. The whole ankheg population is the breeding project of an evil person. The creatures are effectively enthralled permanently by their creator, and they do his or her bidding at all times. In that way, they act like wolves serving a vampire. How about a vampire with ankheg beasts?

5. One person in this region braves the ankhegs every day: A ranger lives among the creatures (in a manner of speaking -- she watches them from afar). She has valuable information for bypassing the ankhegs and for fighting them.

6. The ankhegs are living and acting like monsters do. However, someone else in the region has studied their behavior and is using them for his or her own purposes. The creatures are not controlled; someone is using their actions as a distraction. So, if a group of ankhegs attacks a caravan in one place, this person takes some action in another place where the creatures are not. This person is just as dangerous as the ankhegs, but in his or her own way.


About the Author

Robert Wiese has been playing D&D since 1978 after he watched a game played in the car on the way home from a Boy Scouts meeting. He was fascinated, and delved into this strange world of dragons and magic and sourcebooks. Years later, he was hired to edit tournaments for the RPGA Network, and from there progressed to running the network after his boss was assassinated in the great Christmas purge of 1996. Times were tough, but he persevered and brought the RPGA into a shining new era. Eventually he met a girl who liked to play D&D too, and he left Renton for the warmth and casinos of Reno, Nevada. Now, he works in the Pharmacology department of UNR studying mouse foot muscles and the effects of RF emissions on same. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Rhonda, son Owen, and newborn daughter Rebecca.