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Wastespawn — Oilslick

That is not dead which can eternal lie…

Like I keep saying, Earth Delta is not dead, just pining for the fjords… the fjords filled with deadly killer mutant pine trees that fire explosive laser pinecones!!!! Hmmm… explosive pinecones… I like that… anyway, here’s the first Level 16 monster for Earth Delta, the Oilslick Wastespawn!

(In case anyone’s wondering, and I know you’re not, one of the distractions I’ve been dealing with has been my oft-mentioned but rarely-detailed Stellar Warriors. I should post about that…)



The wretched ruins of the Ancestor’s excess have left behind vast regions tainted with terrible toxins, not to mention awful alliteration. Various systems, including nanobots and genetically engineered bacteria, were usually dispatched to clean up and process such areas, but, during the time leading up to the Cataclysm, wars were fought by sabotaging and reprogramming such things, trying to turn the cleaners into killers. The mix of confused programming and reprogramming, and the passage of time, caused the ecosystems of cleaning bots, waste-eating bacteria, and offensive counter-programs to use the raw material of the wastes to form ever more complex beings, fast-forward evolution using the tools at hand. These creatures are now called wastespawn, and they live wherever the Ancestor’s offal is densely concentrated. They generally possess only fragments of intelligence, pseudo-minds composed of badly mangled bits of semi-aware code, but they are motivated by a strong hatred of an unknown enemy, which they assume to be any creature which enters their realm.

Some groups, especially rubblers and ratmen, have found ways to tame or herd wastespawn. The Annihiliation Army is known to sometimes capture them, contain them, and unleash them on strongholds as terror weapons ahead of their own invasions.

Wastespawn, Oilslick

Wastespawn, Oilslick

Level 16 Lurker

Medium elemental animate (ooze)

XP 1,400

HP 105; Bloodied 53AC 30; Fortitude 28; Reflex 29; Will 27Speed 5

Immune poison, disease; Resist 10 acid

Initiative +20

Perception +15

All-Around Vision, Tremorsense 50

If the Oilslick takes more than 10 points of fire damage in a single attack, it ignites, gaining the “Burning” condition (save ends). This causes its slam attack to do an additional 1d10 fire damage, and gives it an Aura 2 that has “Any creature starting its turn in this aura takes 2d6+5 fire damage”. The Oilslick takes 2d6+5 fire damage on the start of its turn, as well.
The oilslick takes full damage from fire and cold attacks.
Standard Actions
m Slam • At-Will
Attack: +21 vs. AC
Hit: 3d8 + 11 damage, and the target is covered with oil (save ends). Oil covered targets gain a +2 to all defenses against being grabbed, but all forced movement effects against them increase by 1 square, and all terrain is difficult terrain for them (as they tend to slip and slide a lot). Flying creatures are grounded. If the oilslick is burning, the target also has ongoing 5 fire damage (the same save ends this condition as well).
Slick Slam • At-Will
Requirements: Must be in Flowing Slick form.
Effect: The oilslick makes two slam attacks. These can target any creature adjacent to it, or standing on its body. It can attack the same creature twice, or two separate creatures.
Move Actions
Flowing Slick • Encounter
Effect: The oilslick spreads out to become a thin carpet of oil, 5 squares on a side. In this form, it ignores difficult terrain, and it can squeeze through any space of up to 1 square wide. Enemies can move through its spaces, though it can make a slam attack as an opportunity action against any creature who moves more than one square through its body. It costs 3 squares of movement to cross each square (flying creatures may move normally). It can return to normal form as a minor action. When it changes to this form, it can pass under any enemies occupying the spaces it will now occupy, and performs a slam attack against each enemy so engulfed, at a +2 bonus. Its AC and Reflex defenses are reduced by 2 when it is in this form.
Return To The Pool • Recharge 5 6
Effect: The oilslick flows into the pool of industrial waste which spawned it. In this form, it is considered to be hidden, gains resist 10 (all but fire), and regenerates 10 points/turn. It can end this state as a minor action. It can move at full speed while hidden in this way. It can take no actions except to move or return to its normal state.
Skills Stealth +21
Str 21 (+13) Dex 27 (+16) Wis 15 (+10)
Con 21 (+13) Int 3 (+4) Cha 15 (+10)
Alignment evil     Languages

Oilslick wastespawn are barely more than animals, possessing only rudimentary self-awareness. They dwell deep in pools and seas of industrial wastes, primarily, of course, oil, which still had many uses in manufacturing and industry, even though, by the time of the Ancestors, it had lost much of its utility as a primary power source. (There were also many stockpiles of it, sometimes locked away for centuries, against some future shortage.) Oilslick wastespawn are basically symbiotic colonies that combine thick, contaminated, oil and highly-mutated oil-eating bacteria, which now function to convert other substances into oil. The oilslick will arise from the pool as a vaguely tentacle-shaped wave or whip of oil, and moves on its own by flowing forward and then drawing itself up. If it senses that its enemies are using any kind of fire or heat weapons, including lasers, a primitive and malicious instinct will cause it to not use its flowing slick power until it is ablaze, and then it will engulf its foes in its burning mass.

 Design Notes

As with most great things, this started with something I saw in a Jack Kirby comic,

What I Stole This From Was Inspired By

but by the time it hit the page, it had very little to do with the inspiration beyond the idea of “oil slick as monster”. Because I’m a lazy-ass bastard, and I’d rather beat one semi-original idea to death than actually come up with more than one idea at a time, I realized that while an oil slick monster was cool, coming up with a whole bunch of monsters based on “animated waste and junk” was even cooler, and by “even cooler”, I mean, “would require very little mental effort to find viable concepts to fill a variety of roles”. So there will probably be more wastespawn in the future.

This one has lower hit points than average, because it’s such a bitch to hurt, and, if you attack it in its native environment, it has a very powerful “retreat and rest” mechanic. Lurkers are supposed to be frustrating as hell and require some thinking to beat. Setting it on fire is a wonderfully double edged laser sword, because while it takes some damage, it also becomes much deadlier, especially if it’s saved up its encounter power for just such a contingency. The ongoing damage from the flames is low because of the other effects the basic slam attack already imposes; without them, the ongoing damage would be 10. The increased forced movement effect isn’t especially useful to the oilslick itself, since it has no powers that do that, but pair it with a controller or a brute/soldier type that relies on push effects, and you’ve got a good game of PC pinball going. I like that it’s an interesting synergy mechanic and a logical effect of what the creature is and what it does. Likewise, the notations on how its powers affect flying creatures are there because I dislike that 4e either encourages you to ignore all logic and apply the rules as written, or makes the assumption the DM will issue rules calls as needed. I’d rather empower the DM by telling him up-front what the game-effect power is modeling (an oil slick) and give him some advice on the most common type of conflict or question which will arise, namely, “Why can’t I fly over it?” The answers, as you see, are “If you’re flying and covered with oil, it goops you up and you fall, but, if you’re flying over an oil slick on the ground, no, it’s not difficult terrain for you.” (Difficult Terrain is a perfect example of “90% is not enough” when it comes to rules. By this I mean, it’s obvious that the 4e designers looked at 3.5s myriad of terrain types and conditions and said, “Look. 90% of the time, all we want is ‘This terrain slows you down’, and it doesn’t matter if it’s slick ice or brambles or deep sand or a high wind.” The problem is that for all of those, there’s different possible countermeasures — can a fire spell melt the ice, or a fire elemental ignore it? A nimble elf can shift on brambles, but what could does being nimble do against a powerful headwind or heavy gravity or a ‘zone of slowness’? The DM is constantly forced to either apply the rules as written, even if they make no sense, or get into pointless arguments over whether or not the rules apply, because the effects-based design of 4e offers little guidance when it comes to interpreting the source of the effect, and this, in turn, causes loss of immersion. This, in turn, is also why I pointed out some of the uses of sand or other “gritty” material, because it’s the sort of thing clever players will want to try, and should be able to, without the DM having to be forced to choose between something like “Uhm, OK, the handful of sand completely blots up the man-sized living oil slick” or “No, there’s no effect, why should sand hurt it?” With the provided guidelines, the DM ought to be able to cover most common variations and have an expected “baseline effectiveness” to work from.

Gameworld wise, I like the idea of a “wolfpack” of these things arising out of a small “sea” of oil at the bottom of a ruined factory, or of a Stronghold using one or two as “moat monsters”. The “overuse” of “quotes” in my “writing” can be strongly attributed to the aforementioned Mr. Kirby.

What Inspires My Games

Source Of Inspiration

This article is written for the June RPG Bloggers carnival; to see other people’s replies, you can go here.

The question is “What non-game media have most inspired your games and how?”.

I’ve got a couple of cheesy answers, like “Serious drugs, dude!”, or “What doesn’t?”, but the first is a lie, as I am, sadly, a lifelong tetotaler, and the second is just lame and pointless, and what would the Internet be if it consisted mostly of lame and pointless content?

So I’m going to attempt a serious answer. I hope both my readers forgive me.

Star Wars

Star Wars came out in 1977; I discovered D&D in 1978. Someone once said “The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 13.” Well, I was 12 in May of 1977, and 14 in December of 1978, so two of biggest influences of my life hit me right square in the formative years. There’s a lot of things about Star Wars that makes it an obvious inspiration, but there’s one thing, one line, in particular which I can point to, time and again, as one of the most important lines spoken in a movie, at least in terms of how it has shaped and influenced me.

“You fought in the Clone Wars?”

Why does that simple line have so much resonance, so much meaning, to me? Especially since didn’t learn what the “Clone Wars” were until decades later, until I’d turned into the cantankerous, fossilized lump of grumpiness you all know and love so well?

Because we didn’t learn what the Clone Wars were!

Because Obi-Wan didn’t turn to Luke and says, “Yes, we fought in the Clone Wars, when Palaptine created armies of clones to fight against the Secessionist forces, though we didn’t know at the time he was manipulating both sides. Those clones became the Empire’s Stormtroopers, you know.”

Because with that simple line, and the equally important refusal to explain what it meant, the movie exploded outside the boundaries of the screen. This wasn’t simply a story; this was a peek into a world, the movie screen being simply a window through which we looked onto one part of that vast infinity which lay beyond. There were other stories there — a past, a thousand worlds, a tale that began before the opening credits and would continue afterwards.

I knew I needed to do that. I knew I needed to make worlds, worlds in which stories could happen, but the world was the important thing. A world would create stories to fill it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the tools I needed.

Then D&D came along. I was drawing my first dungeon within two days of learning to play. Never mind that I didn’t have any version of the rules, I drew the map on graph paper and drew little pictures for monsters — skeletons, blobs, dragons — and wrote down their hit points, making up numbers which “seemed right”. (And I hit the hit points for a large, adult, red dragon right on the button — 88 !) Dungeons quickly gave way to cities and continents and multiverses, and I could never keep a campaign running for more than a few weeks before I decided I had a better idea for a cooler world. I’ve lost only a little of that creative ADD since then, become slightly more focused, but I still have more ideas than I will ever be able to detail — or even sketch out — in a lifetime.

Jack Kirby

It took me a while to realize that while I thought I could say a major influence was “comic books”, the truth is that Jack Kirby is at the heart of those comics which have influenced and shaped me the most. He loved teams of iconic, clearly-defined and visually distinctive heroes battling equally iconic enemies. He built worlds by the dozens, too, but fortunately for him and his readers, he lacked some of my obsessions with crop yields and how many peasants could actually fit into a city of size “X”. He painted in broad strokes, with bright colors, and didn’t shy away from “cheesy” names like “Darkseid” or “Bernadeth“. If you’ve read Earth Delta, with its thermites (heat-generating termites) and squirkills (they’re squirrels.. that kill you!), you’ll see Jack’s influence at work. Even more than names, though, was the sense of style, pacing, and most importantly, wonder. Jack loved Big Dumb Objects. Jack loved world-shattering explosions. Jack loved massive armies of exotic warriors with ludicrously shaped swords fighting in glorious battle, surrounded by “Kirby Crackle”. He stole shamelessly and lovingly from mythology, folklore, religion, and himself. He didn’t care if he was telling the same story over and over in different costuming, as long as the costumes were really cool looking — and they were!

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