From George RR Martin To Arduin (Or Vice-Versa) To You
Now In Two More Exciting Flavors
By Which I Mean, Rules Systems
Just Want To Be Clear On That
So, back in 2008, when this blog was on Joomla, and I was programming in Java, I decided to blend old and new by adapting the “Kill Kittens” from Arduin into the then-current D&D rules. I also mention them here, and here. And since I’m momentarily starved for ideas, I’ve decided to adapt them back to AD&D 1e, and forward to Pathfinder 2e, that latter being somewhat tentative as the full monster rules aren’t out yet and I may be off a few points in stats.
A Brief Digression Into Game Design Trends
One of the problems with the trend in new rules towards more rigorous and well-defined systems is that things are either balanced or they aren’t; the systems are less “swingy”, characters and NPCs don’t have one save at -3 and another at +20, etc. On the one hand, this improves gameplay in that there’s less chance of an unexpected TPK or, worse, an unexpectedly easy battle, and a GM has less need to consider if a given party composition lacks the key abilities need to interact with a given encounter (or has abilities the encounter can’t counter, and I sense a Gilbert and Sullivan song coming on…). On the other hand, it inevitably leads to a certain sameness; everything you meet has a +X to hit in melee, perhaps ranging from X-1 to X+1, everyone’s AC is likewise within 1 or 2 points of X, etc. As a consequence, you can turn any monster into any other monster of the same level without adjusting their stats except for a point or two, and this results in players using identical tactics regardless of the encounter, as you can be sure there won’t be too many situations where the creature is effectively melee-proof but easily taken down by spells, or impossible to harm with energy attacks but easily mind-controlled. I blame much of this on “organized play”, where adventures have to be designed without the GM having knowledge of the party composition, and which must be equally approachable by any group of characters built according to the rules. King Canute I am not; I shall not endeavor to order back the tide, but do my best to design my creatures in accordance with the current standards. (As someone who has done freelance work for a variety of systems of varying complexity, crunchiness, and playstyle goals, I think it is vital to be able to adapt to the sandbox you’re being paid to play in, and to honor the spirit and intent of what you’ve been asked to produce.)
Anyway, Kill Kittens
As noted in the articles linked to above, George RR Martin featured “hellkittens” in his short story “The Plague Star”, published well after “Welcome To Skull Tower”, but the first “Haviland Tuf” story was published in the mid-1970s, and GRRM was an active part of the same West Coast gaming circle as many of the figures associated with Arduin. So whether this is a case of spontaneous creation, forgotten inspiration (I often have “original” ideas I later discover were in something I’d read 10-20 years prior and forgot about), or deliberate homage (there’s a ton of comic book and gaming references in GRRMs work, such as “the Clarmontine wind-rider, or ororo”, mentioned in one of the Tuf stories), we may never know, as I doubt Mr. Martin is going to read this painfully obscure blog and clarify the matter, nor would anyone fortunate enough to interview him waste time asking about the relationship between one of his earlier short stories and an obscure third-party 1970s D&D supplement. I’m only going into it because when I’m adapting someone else’s creative work, especially without their direct consent, I feel it’s important to fully acknowledge and honor the sources, and if the chain of inspiration is not so much “chain” as “Gordian knot”, I try to pass out credit to whomever may be due it.
NO. APPEARING: 5-20
ARMOR CLASS: 5
HIT DICE: 1/2
% IN LAIR: 20%
TREASURE TYPE: C
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-3 + poison
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Poison, armor penetration
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil
PSlONlC ABILITY: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: None
Kill kittens appear as harmless, pitiable things. One will show themselves as an injured creature, mewing pitifully, lost and alone in the terrible dungeon/fearful wilderness. Upon luring their target to attempt to pick them up or aid them (they are so effective, anyone who tries to resist will need to save vs. spell or succumb), they will immediately attack, and in so doing, call the rest of the pack to join them. The creatures hide so well that they will be spotted lurking in the darkness only on a 1 in 10, and then only if someone is actively searching for hazards. (Druids and rangers may spot them on a 1 in 8 chance, after the first “scout” kitten has appeared.)
Unless spotted, kill kittens automatically have 1-4 segments of surprise after the initial attack. This is usually more than enough for the pack to reach and assault the designated target.
They will focus on one victim at a time. Thus, their preferred tactic is to ambush solitary adventurers – someone scouting ahead or standing watch while the others sleep. However, once a victim has succumbed to their paralytic poison, they will move on to another active threat, usually the nearest. If no such other threat is present, the pack will simply feast on their helpless prey.
Their teeth and claws are razor sharp and supernaturally strong. They easily tear through armor. Anyone wearing non-magical armor is treated as if their AC was 2 lower, but this cannot reduce AC below the natural unarmored state, nor does it negate any bonus from Dexterity, Bracers of Armor, or that granted by a shield.
Anyone bitten by a kill kitten must save vs. poison, with a failure indicating paralysis for 1d6 days.
Optional: Those who prefer the “hellkittens” of GRRM should remove the poison, and instead allow them to spit acid instead of making a melee attack. Targets within 15′ must make a save vs. breath weapon or take 1d4 acid damage and an additional 1d2 for 1d4 turns unless it’s wiped off or neutralized.
Pathfinder 2e Version
Small, cute, utterly adorable, and murderous in the extreme, packs of kill kittens roam ruins, bleak forests, forlorn dungeons, and the narrow mazes of urban slums, seeking prey. Barring close inspection of their teeth and inner jaw (which they are unlikely to permit if alive and mobile), they appear as normal kittens until they attack, mostly in shades of black and grey.
They are rarely encountered in packs of less than 4, and are exceptionally cunning hunters, observing potential prey before striking. Their standard tactic is to hide (see Stealth Ambush) and then send out a scout, who will limp as if wounded and mew pathetically. When some victim has momentarily let down their guard to tend to the poor little thing, it will bite, and this signals the rest to use their Pack Charge reaction. While their individual damage is fairly low, it is easy for them to hit targets due to their kitten swarm ability, and even failed attacks will often leave a small scratch.
Survivors of a kill kitten attack sometimes become unduly paranoid about small, cuddly, creatures, leading them to take actions which are socially unacceptable at best and alignment-threatening at worst. Nothing ruins a paladin’s reputation faster than being known as “Sir Val The Kitten-Crusher”.
KILL KITTEN CREATURE 1
UNCOMMON | NE | TINY
Perception +7, darkvision
Skills Athletics +2, Acrobatics +8, Deception +5, Stealth +8
Str -1, Dex +3, Con +1, Int -2, Wis +3, Cha +2
Insanely Cute (Aura, Emotion) 30′. Will DC 17. Any enemy in the area failing the saving throw will be unwilling to attack the kill kitten and will drop all defenses to pick it up, cuddle it, and try to help it. Note this may involve sheathing weapons, stowing spell components, etc. As soon as any kill kitten attacks any creature, this aura is negated for all of them. Even when the effect is negated, those who failed their save are flat footed against the kill kittens until the start of their next round. (Those who succeed at the save should act like they normally would upon seeing an injured, helpless, creature.) Special: Anyone not affected by this power may, on their turn, make a Recall Knowledge check using an appropriate skill (usually Nature, though many Lore skills might also apply) and then take a Point Out action to alert allies.
Stealthy Ambush:[3 actions]The kill kitten hides, imposing a -2 circumstance penalty to Perception checks to notice it until it acts.
AC 16; Fort +4, Reflex +8, Will +6
Kitten Swarm: If three or more kill kittens are adjacent to a creature, that creature is flat-footed to all of them.
Pack Charge: Trigger: A kill kitten makes an attack action against any creature before any other kill kitten has done so in this encounter. Effect: All other kill kittens within 25′ may stride and then make a melee strike at the triggering target. The kill kitten who attacks will usually pick someone subject to their Insanely Cute aura, so the target will be flat-footed to the entire pack.
Pounce: [reaction] (move) Trigger: A creature the kill kitten attacked this turn ends a move more than 5′ but less than 15′ away. Effect: The kill kitten Leaps up to 15′ to land in a square (which must be either empty or contain only 3 or fewer kill kittens) adjacent to the triggering creature and makes a claw attack at it. The target is flat-footed against this attack. The kill kitten can freely pass through (technically, over — it’s a pretty impressive jump) occupied squares without triggering reactions, however, its initial leap does trigger as normal. It must pounce in a straight line. Note: If several kill kittens attacked the target, this reaction can be used by all of them, if there’s room to land — and since you can fit four kill kittens per 5′ square, there often is. Someone who flees after being subject to Pack Charge is going to have a nasty surprise if they don’t more more than 15′ back….
Melee [one-action] Claw +9 (agile, finesse, armor piercing), Damage 1d6-1 piercing
Melee [one-action] Bite+9 (agile), Damage 1d4-1 piercing + kill kitten venom
Armor-Piercing: The kill kittens claw and bite attacks gain: Miss: If the attack missed by 5 or less, do 1 point of damage.
Kill Kitten Venom (poison); Saving Throw Fortitude DC 16; Maximum Duration 10 rounds; Stage 1 slowed 1 (1 round); Stage 2 clumsy 1 and slowed 2 (1 round); Stage 3 paralyzed (1 round).
Optional: For those who prefer the “hellkittens” of GRRM, remove the poison, and instead add:
Acid Spit[one-action] Frequency: 1/round. The kill kitten spits acid at one creature within 15′. The target must make a basic DC 16 Reflex save or take 1d8 acid damage and 1d4 persistent acid damage. A creature that critically fails its save is blinded for 1d6 rounds in addition to the damage done.