Tag Archives: Gygax

Shark, Three Headed

Shark, 3-Headed, 3-Versions

Inspired by cinema…

Pathfinder Version

Three Headed Shark

The sight of a great white’s fin breaking the water is fearsome enough, but then the creature’s three heads appear briefly above the surface, turning this way and that in ceaseless rage…

Three Headed Shark CR 13
N Huge magical beast (aquatic)
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., keen scent, low-light vision; Perception +14


AC 27, touch 9, flat-footed 26 (+1 Dex, +18 natural, -2 size)
hp 189 (18d10+90)
Fort +17, Ref +12, Will +10
DR 5/magic; Immune fear


Speed 10 ft., swim 40 ft.
Melee 3 bites +25 (1d12+8/19-20/x3)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks rend (2 jaws, 2d8+12)


Str 26, Dex 12, Con 18, Int 2, Wis 14, Cha 10
Base Atk +18; CMB +28; CMD 39 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Bleeding Critical, Combat Reflexes, Critical Focus, Great Fortitude, Improved Critical (bite), Iron Will, Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (bite)
Skills Acrobatics +5 (-3 to jump), Intimidate +6, Perception +14, Swim +21
SQ devouring bite, ferocity, hero points, land survival, leaping bite, regenerate head

Special Abilities

Devouring Bite (Ex) The three-headed shark ignores half the hardness of any material it attempts to bite through. It can easily tear through the wooden hull of a warship, the stone walls of a seaside fortress, or even the iron plates of a gnomish submersible.
Ferocity (Ex) Fights without penalty even while disabled or dying.
Keen Scent (Ex) The creature can notice other creatures by scent in a 180-foot radius underwater and can detect blood in the water at ranges of up to a mile.
Land Survival (Ex) The three-headed shark can survive for up to 10 minutes outside of water before it begins to take damage.
Leaping Bite (Ex) If it starts its turn in the water, the three-headed shark can leap up to 40 feet horizontally and 20 vertically as a full-round action, and can make a single bite attack at the end of the leap.
Regenerate Head (Ex) A sunder attack with a slashing weapon that does damage equal to 1 1/2 times the three-headed shark’s hit dice will remove one of its heads, depriving it of a bite attack… momentarily. In 1d4 rounds, three new, smaller, heads will appear in place of the missing head. These heads have a reach of 5′ and attack as secondary natural weapons (-5 to the normal head attack bonus), doing 1d8+4 damage.


Environment any ocean
Organization solitary or pair
Treasure standard (in stomach)

Three-headed sharks are spawned in regions with large amounts of magical pollution — the bay of a city with a large alchemist’s guild, the site of a sea battle with many spellcasters involved, or near planar rifts. They are vicious creatures which attack without provocation or even hunger… they will tear prey to pieces and then leave the remains behind. A common tactic is to come up beneath a boat and tear the hull to shreds, then feast on the sailors trapped in the rapidly-sinking remains.

Terrifyingly, some sahuagin have found ways to tame and ride these monstrosities. Only their most elite, particularly rangers and druids, can master these nightmare creatures. When seen, it is usually at the forefront of a massive army.

Most three-headed sharks are mutations of great whites, but other species, primarily hammerheads and makos, have been spotted. Rumors of a mythic three-headed shark the size of a megalodon remain, thankfully, only rumors.

Design Notes

Done with the help of Hero Labs, so blame them for math errors. The damage is high for its CR, but it’s supposed to be. As with a lot of mid-level and up creatures in Pathfinder, you run a real risk of the encounter being nerfed by a failed Will save (less risk with Reflex or Fortitude, though it’s always there.) GMs might want to add “+4 vs. mind-affecting effects”. I left that out of the “official” version because my “Gygaxian naturalism” opposed it, but if you use this thing, it’s your campaign, run it your way!

Please note: The bites have a x3 critical multiplier.

Please also note: I created the charcharodoom about 12 years ago, long before this movie, or the prequel (Two Headed Shark Attack, of course!) came out.

There's two kinds of people who see things like this in their heads: Game designers and serial killers. I'm the kind that pays less. Hint: It's the first one.

There’s two kinds of people who see things like this in their heads: Game designers and serial killers. I’m the kind that pays less. Hint: It’s the first one.

Arduinish Version

SHARK, THREE-HEADED This thing makes Jaws look like a goldfish! HD 10+2 to 15+2, AC 2+2 to 2+4. Number 1-3. Speed 18 water, 2 ground. %liar too stupid to. ATTACKS 3 bites 3d8+8 each, teeth act like sword of sharpness. Looks: 30′ long great White Shark with three heads! Sense of smell can detect any living thing in 184 feet or twice that if bleeding, doesn’t need light to attack. If a head is cut off, three smaller heads appear in 1d4 rounds, each attacks as if 4 HD less and does 1/2 damage. Can leap out of water for up to 40 feet (20 feet up) and then bite. Survives out of water for up to 10 mins. before starting to “drown”. 100% immune to fear, charm, etc., they live only to EAT and EAT and EAT. Sometimes tamed by EVIL mermen as riding beasts. Oh, and they have the “steel bite” that chews through anything less hard than adamantine (up to 6″ thick per round).

(Does anyone know enough CSS to tell me how to tighten the space for the monospaced font?)

Design Notes

Design? Please, this is old school! Even the stat block format changed from monster to monster.. the order, format, and inclusion of any attribute was random. So I just went with what felt right. I tried to make sure I got all the most important things: AC, hit dice, and damage/attack.

AD&D Version

MOVE: 2″//24″
HIT DICE: 14-16
% IN LAIR: 25%
TREASURE TYPE: Q (in stomach)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Rending and see below
Attack/Defense Modes: nil

Three-headed sharks are thankfully rare mutations that sometimes appear in areas with magical pollution, such as runoff from an alchemist’s lab. They can attack up to three targets per round, but if they hit one target with two or more bites, they will rend it (like an ape) for an additional 2-16 points of damage.

If they are in water, they can leap out of it up to 4″ and make a single bite attack when they land. They can survive up to 10 minutes in air before suffering any ill effects, are immune to fear, and can chew through non-magical material at 1″/round.

If a “20” is rolled when attacking with a two-handed bladed weapon, a head will be severed. In 1d4 rounds, three tiny heads will regenerate. Each attacks as a creature with 4 fewer hit dice and does 1d6 points of damage. These heads do not regenerate.

They normally look like great white sharks of the largest size, with three heads. Representatives of other species, such as makos or hammerheads, have been reported. Fearful sailors have claimed that in the deepest ocean, a three-headed megalodon exists, but this is surely nonsense.

Design Notes

AD&D hints at a strict formality of design, with a clean and consistent layout… but it’s mostly an illusion. Hit dice, damage, special abilities, etc., were all assigned in a “whatever seems to work” fashion, and many creatures had “one off” mechanics… only apes have the “rending” power, for instance. I used sharks and bulettes as my main guideposts for setting the numbers, but I mostly just winged it.

Nature Abhors A Vacuum

Nature, Like A Cat, Abhors A Vacuum

Which Kind Of Sucks (Pun Intended) Given What I’ve Just Realized

So, I’m in the library, doing some light reading of the 1E Manual Of The Planes, when a thought occurs to me.

All of the elemental planes are composed almost entirely of a single element, spotted, here and there, with islands of other elements, so that there are motes of Earth and Air in the infinite ocean of the Plane of Water, and so on.

While these motes may seem large, locally, they are nothing compared to the infinity of ‘pure’ substance that fills the plane. After all, as Douglas Adams noted, anything over infinity is so close to zero as makes no odds, which is why there is no intelligent life in the universe.

Now, all along, we’ve been told, from our earliest days, that we live in the Prime Material Plane, the very center of the multiverse, the heart of reality. This lie — and it is a lie! — has been part of every system of religion and philosophy ever recorded, except perhaps in obscure third party sourcebooks. But even a moment’s thought — once one is freed from the shackles of propaganda and conditioning — reveals the truth. What is the dominant substance in our universe?


Vacuum is overwhelmingly more common than anything else, even hydrogen.

As we all know, the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Vacuum lies where the Plane Of Air intersects the Negative Material Plane…. very far from the “center of the multiverse”. It is universally derided as one of the most boring and useless of all planes, whose inhabitants have barely been cataloged, as they rarely interact with anything interesting.

That’s us. That’s where we live — pathetic organic motes clinging to the tiny blobs of not-vacuum that are effectively non-existent when ratioed against the infinite nothingness that truly comprises our plane.

I have completed the great work Galileo began. First, Earth was not the center of the universe; then, we learned our star was one of billions in our galaxy; then, we learned our galaxy was one of trillions in the universe; and now, I have revealed our ‘universe’ is merely extraplanar pollution in the purity of the Quasi Elemental Plane Of Vacuum! The deception that we lived in the Prime Material has been revealed, the curtain has been pulled back, and behind it is… nothing. Infinite nothing! Our home, the plane of emptiness, the final borderland beyond which lies only anti-life itself, the Negative Material!

Cyborg Commando 2.0 MOAR CAPS


The Epic Saga Continues


Welcome back! I know, even for me, this was a long time between updates, but I’ve been:

Roll Activity
01-30 Ranting on the D&D Next boards
31-80 Ranting on the SWTOR boards
81-85 Actually playing SWTOR
86-90 Working on fiction for my writer’s club
91 Working on Stellar Warriors
92-95 Being distracted by funny cats on the Internet
96-00 Looking at porn Studying new coding techniques.

So, now that that’s been established… back to creating a CYBORG COMMANDO!

When we last left our intrepid CYBORG COMMANDO, he, or possibly she, was void and formless. I hoped to find some inspiration in the book for a character idea, but what I found was inspiration as to how not to write a core rulebook. The book is filled with endless details on how the cyborgs work, down to things like the precise angle of rotation of the neck and the alloy composition of various body parts and the fact your head is actually almost completely hollow and..

Oh, yeah. Your brain is in your chest. Your head… well…


You could smuggle drugs in there. Seriously.

Yeah. It’s kind of interesting that one of the leading forms of real-world nanotech now is “lab on a chip” technology, which puts all sorts of chemical analysis functionality onto a microchip, leading towards real-life tricorders. Back in the 1980s, of course, we thought you’d need to hollow out your head to do this sort of thing.

There’s a lot of really weird details in the rules, and it takes up a lot of the rules, except, it’s not really “rules”, is it? Most of this would be called “fluff”, and fluff can be good, but it’s not fluff that inspires you or gives you an idea what the world is like, it’s fluff that shows the writer probably got a degree in mechanical engineering and this is his first chance to use it. For example, we learn the Yield Strength of the frame of a CYBORG COMMANDO is 8,047 T/m2. I have no idea what that means. Is it useful in-game, in any way? No, because there’s no rules anywhere that turn “Yield Strength” into some kind of mechanic you can use to decide if your CYBORG COMMANDO is crushed by a truck or whatever. “Ten times stronger than steel!”, if technically imprecise, provides a reader with an idea, a mental image, a conception, of how tough a CYBORG COMMANDO is. “Yield strength”, for the bulk of readers, who presumably don’t know the “yield strength” of common items you find in your home and office, tells you nothing. Even in a freeform, GM-decides, make-shit-up kind of rules system (which CYBORG COMMANDO is and isn’t, and in all the worst ways), it’s a useless piece of information, because it doesn’t give the GM any assistance in making a ruling. The book is filled with stuff like this, page on page on page, and there aren’t many pages in total.

Sure, background is great, and having a little fluff to help define and ground the technology of the game is very useful — but you could cut the amount of text dedicated to this by, literally, 90%, and convey just as much useful, setting-defining, information. (Then there’s things that provide information not even used in the setting, like a page of math, detailed formulas, for hyperspace travel times, when there’s no space travel in the game. If there was a plan for future expansion with rules for space travel,  that’s where this should have gone.)

I still haven’t gone on to developing my character, have I? The above rant is a partial excuse for why it took so long to get to this point… trying to find something to hook into. Even games I’ve been unimpressed with, or which were mechanically very simple, gave me more ideas for “what kind of character can you be” than CYBORG COMMANDO does. I will be first in line to laugh at White Wolf’s purple prose, shallowly stereotyped splats, and labored emo first person narratives with light-gray text on slightly-less-light-gray backgrounds and moire pattern watermarks, but there’s no way that, by the time you’re ready to fill in the dots on your character sheet in a White Wolf game, you don’t have a lot of ideas for what kind of people exist in the game world, what you can be, what kind of k3wl p0w3rz… I mean, angst-filled personal dramas… you get based on what you pick, etc.  CYBORG COMMANDO gives you about as much inspiration as picking “Player A” or “Player B” in an 8-bit arcade game.

Even the skill list isn’t much of a help, as it’s written like a college course catalog… without any course descriptions.


The CYBORG COMMANDO skills list

"I'm going to major in Medieval English, and then join OWS."

However, this isn’t the worst thing. There are two worst things. Yes, two. Each is more worst than the other. That’s more worst than you’ll find at Octoberfest in Chicago. The two worst things about the skills are: First Worst, almost none of them are described. No, not even a single line of description — the rules helpfully explain there wasn’t room for such useless trivia as “What do the skills do”, we had to have space for the populations of dozens of cities (because it’s important to know that Caernarfon has 12,280 people, and that Cullera has 12,335), hyperspace travel formulas, and to tell you that the Xenoborgs lost 14 colonels in their invasion. You know, I gave Star Rovers a lot of good-natured ribbing over the fact there were no space travel rules, but even if I felt the rules they included instead were of secondary importance, they were at least rules. You could use them in a game. Should asteroid mining have been booted to make room for space travel? Sure, probably, but you wouldn’t stare at the asteroid mining rules in stark incomprehension and ask “Why is this even here at all? What purpose does it serve?” The other first-worst thing is that the skills are often referred to by number. How much information is gained by writing “attempts a skill check in the area of Physical Sciences (56o)”? The “560” doesn’t help you quickly find the non-existent skill description… it just wastes space.

(A few skills are described, mostly the “Psychogenic” and combat-related ones.)

Anyway, to acquire skills, I spend SP to purchase Fields, which are skills ending in multiples of 10, not Areas (which end in single digits) or Categories (ending in 00). This is the Basic game; you get more flexibility in the Advanced game, but I’m not going there unless someone pays me.

So, I have 30 Skill Points. That’s… uhm… not a lot. I mean, a whole lot of not a lot. How about 10 in 220, “Unarmed Combat”, which gives me 10 in “Occidental Combat” and “Oriental Combat”, the two Areas that are in that Field. (Somewhere, Steve Long is weeping.) That leaves me 20.

Well, 10 more in Personal Weapons. That makes me equally skilled with everything from 231 Ancient Bladed Melee Weapons (including agricultural tools) to 237 Artillery. (“Can you handle a howitzer?” “Why, sure, I used to cut down wheat with a sickle on my farm back home!”) (I should cut CYBORG COMMANDO some kind of break here, since this is “basic” character generation and many games have nothing but a “combat” stat, especially games of this era. But I’m just not in a forgiving mood right now.)

I’ll put 5 in Personal Arts 410, since that gives me access to 411 Error Avoidance, which covers “Karma & Fate” and “Serendipity”. And the last 5, I dump into 630 Criminal Activity, since almost everything under it seems vaguely useful… though with only 5 points, I’ll probably suck at it. Due to the lack of skill descriptions, it’s unclear if 634 Sex Related Crime covers “running a prostitution ring” or “committing sexual assault and getting away with it”. I guess that’s the sort of thing you need to argue with your GM about. OTOH, there’s no indication that CYBORG COMMANDOs are, ahem, “fully functional”, so it may be moot. A pity. Given the style of the the rest of the book, one might expect something like “The synthesteel duraplas pseudopenis of the CC unit is 19.8 cm in length and is covered with TextuWeave Quasiskin that transmits simulated neural responses at a rate of 10.94 megagigs per kilounit. It can be set to vibrate at 500 RPM.”

Yes, I went there. What, you expected class, decorum, or good taste? Did you read my Alma Mater review?

And so…. I’m done. My nameless CYBORG COMMANDO is ready to go kick some ass. Or get his ass kicked, since from what I can tell, I have a ten percent chance of hitting someone. No, wait…. after several minutes of studying the mind-numbingly confusing graphs, it seems I have a 27% chance of rolling 10 or less using the d10x system. Wow, that’s intuitive. (Also, raising my skill from 10 to 11 is meaningless, because you can’t roll an 11 on d10x. You have to raise it to 12 to see any gain.)

And in conclusion…  I’ve got to find something better for my next article. I have nearly 3000 game books in my collection. This can’t be hard. Synnibarr. Synnibarr should be fun. Unless someone wants to send me a copy of that game where you play flower penis vampires. That could also be fun.

Cyborg Commando



(Not Gary Gygax’s Finest Hour… Or  Week… Or Year…)

So, what happens to an iconic creator when, for various reasons, he can no longer work on the products that made him so iconic? Well, he can start a failed computer company, or a failed comic book company, or produce a failed roleplaying game. Given the nature of this site, I hope you don’t have to guess too hard what I’m about to cover. (Hint: Read the title. It’s in ALL CAPS!)

CYBORG COMMANDO (this is how it’s written throughout the rules, and that’s how I’m going to write it here) is about COMMANDOS that are CYBORGS. What does it profit a man to gain built in missile launchers if he loses his soul? How much of your humanity will you sacrifice, to save humanity? At what point are you more metal than man? Is humanity a thing of the flesh, or of the soul? Are you more inhuman than the monsters you were created to fight? These, and other questions, are totally not even remotely asked in this game. CYBORG COMMANDO is about kicking alien ass with your built in cyber powers, and there is nothing wrong with that premise… but, according to many reviews and writeups, there’s a hell of a lot wrong with the game as a game. Or… is there? (Probably.) I’m going to find out, and you’re going to join me for the trip. (Or you’ve already dismissed this page and are eagerly looking to see if there’s any updates on goatswithboats.com.)

Let’s move on…

Continue reading


The tagline of this site is “Old School Attitude, Modern Rules”. (Not, as some would have it, “Updates on a roll of 18+ on 2D10”) A big part of the feel of “Old School” is “Anything that’s cool is included”, and “cool” usually meant whatever was in the movies or at the top of the nerd reading list for that week. Dungeons & Dragons campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s were full of wookies and kzinti, phasers and lightsabers, aliens and predators, ninjas and more ninjas. A lot of that great and glorious wahooness has been lost in recent decades, or is brought back only so that it can be snickered at with a superior attitude and/or played purely for laughs (see the execrable “Castle Greyhawk” module published by TSR for AD&D 2e, as repugnant an attempt to piss on Gary’s legacy as I can imagine).

Me, I prefer unironic, unexamined, embrasure of the 14 year old within. Since Doctor Who hadn’t made it across the pond in most of the early era of D&D, or was sneered at by the kind of Very Serious Fans who might have heard of it (if they watched anything British, it would be Blake’s Seven), there was very little inclusion of Dr. Who material in things like Arduin or All The World’s Monsters. So, we set the gaming TARDIS to take the “That which is cool, rules” attitude of the 1970s and merge it, via a chronal transpacial rift in idea space, with the mechanics of the 2010s, and I present the first of several Daleks, statted for 4e. (There will be at least one solo “Dalek Commander”, and probably a non-elite, maybe two, but I wanted to get one mid-range “model” out first.)