Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bestiarum vocabulum - The Others

I recently finished Thuvia, Maid of Mars and while Burroughs keeps getting better and better I admit that the book is poor on new critters (and I’m still not mad enough to try to adapt the Lotharians to Pathfinder). Meanwhile, despite the negative criticism (“The plot isn’t moving! Boo!”) I’m found A Dance With Dragons a marvelous reading and wonderful world-building work. It’s past time to dig something out of Westeros.

Bestiarum vocabulum – The Others

“The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.

-         A Game of Thrones


The Other                                                CR 8 (4800 XP)
Large medium monstrous humanoid (cold)
Init +11; Senses darkvision 60ft., low-light vision, snowsight; Perception +13 (+21 in snow)

AC 26, touch 17, flat-footed 18 (+5 armor, +4 natural, +7 Dex, +1 Dodge, –1 size)
HD 68 (8d10+24)
Fort +7, Ref +13, Will +10
DR 10/obsidian; Immune cold, confusion, fatigue, mind-effects; SR 19
Weakness: vulnerability to fire, staggered by sunlight

Spd 40 ft.
Melee +17/+11 ice blade (1d10 +7 +1d6 cold +1d3 Dex +1 Con)
Space 10-ft.; Reach 10-ft.
Spell-like Abilities* (CL 8th)
3/day — fog cloud, invisibility, sleet storm, ice storm
1/day — control weather
*all the Other’s spell-like abilities only work in winter or in cold/arctic terrains

Str 21, Dex 25, Con 16, Int 13, Wis 19, Cha 14
Base Atk +8; CMB +14; CMD 21
Feats Improved Initiative, Dodge, Greater Fortitude, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +10, Climb +10, Knowledge (arcana) +4, Knowledge (geography) +8, Knowledge (nature) +5, Intimidate +9, Perception +13, Stealth +7
Racial modifiers +4 racial bonus on Stealth, +8 bonus Physical-based skills and Perception in snow
Languages Silvan
Special Qualities Crystalcraft, icewalking, Other’s curse, silent speech, snowsight, fire foe, weather-bond, winterspawn

Environment cold forests and arctic wastes
Organization 1-6 (cold forests), 3-18 (arctic wastes)
Treasure half standard

Crystalcraft (Su) The Others’ arms and armors are made of supernaturally molded ice. Others use always slashing weapons; mechanically treat these as +2 cold keen blades that ignore any mundane armor and can benefit from the Weapon Finesse feat. They also deal 1d3 points of Dexterity damage and 1 point Constitution damage. Creatures immune to cold damage ignore the ability damage.
Their armor is slender and seems fragile, perfectly fitting their inhuman gaunt frames. These ice armors grant a +5 armor bonus, without any penalty or spell failure. If taken from the Other, the item can’t be handled by most creatures, they’re always suffer a non-proficient penalty (usually –4) and cause 1d3 of Constitution damage per round due to the supernatural cold. If their Other owner is killed, the weapons instantly melt.
Fire foe (Ex) Besides their vulnerability to fire, the Others are vulnerable to the sun. An overcast day won’t be enough, only direct sunlight. When hit by direct sunlight the Others are staggered and lose their SR.
Hide in Plain Sight (Ex) The Others can make Hide checks without the need of cover if in snowy terrain (or during blizzards).
Icewalking (Ex) The Others ignore terrain penalties derived from snow and ice when moving.
Other’s Curse (Su) Any animal, dragon, humanoid, magical beast and monstrous humanoid without the Fire subtype that is killed by the Others return 1d3 days later as a wight.
Silent Speech (Su) The Others are completely soundless. However, by some strange propriety they can communicate with each other and with those who can understand Silvan. This silent speech usually sounds as strange natural sounds, comprehensible only to those that speak Silvan.
Snowsight (Ex) The Others can see normally in cold weather, even when snowing or during a strong blizzard.
Weather-Bound (Ex) The Others live only in cold and arctic lands. While during winter they can range farther, they must retreat with the coming of spring. A world where seasons lost longer would surely suffer at the hands of the Others. If an Other is somehow in another type of weather or terrain (as if teleported) he suffer 1d4 Con damage per minute.
Wintespawn (Ex) The Others are treated as monstrous humanoids and as fey creatures for game effects. They don’t require food, water or sleep.


These gaunt and silent creatures of the farthest and most inhospitable cold wastes are reputedly the scions of old winter deities. Very few know who the Others really are and most information is easily contradicted.

The first myths surrounding the Others link them to a unknown god of night and winter and claims that they’re undead raised from warriors that die in the frozen north. Many legends came later – that the Others are the spawn of a chthonic god or spirit known as Ithaqua; that they’re a yet unknown breed of elf (the reason why many northern barbarians run or kill elves on sight); that the Others are the personification of Winter itself and act as guardians of the “season’s heart” (whatever that means); that they come from another world forever covered in snows; or that they’re just mindless constructs created by an elder and fallen civilization.

Until recently it was believed that the Others weren’t even intelligent. Some druids now claim that not only they can speak, but that a truce can be struck with Them (this type of information is usually followed by dark rumors of monthly sacrifices dedicated to the Others and of young children left outsider isolated villages in winter as offerings).

Some sages believe that the Others seek to establish the Eternal Winter, covering the entire world in a permanent mantle of cold. However, to achieve this goal, the mysterious creatures require help, as their movement is limited to the frozen wastes. Whispers in the North talk of an old dweomer or artifact, secluded somewhere beyond the Other’s grasp, capable of slowing the seasons and thus creating years-long winters.

Commentaries: I feel that the Others have definitely a “fey look” to them, but the Fey type is a complete disappointment if you want a front-battle monster. In fact, at times like this I find the various creature types irksome and I believe that, in this point, D&D 4th got it right – creatures should not be divided in pseudo-ontological or cosmological lines. That may work and even be pretty in games like Magic the Gathering, but in a “catch-all mash-up” fantasy RPG (like D&D and Pathfinder) it doesn’t really help. First because many Gamemasters have different cosmological views in regard to certain creatures (depending on your sources, a given mythological monster can be a fey, an undead or maybe both). Second, because creatures should be mechanically distinguished not by their origins (undead, god, dragon etc) but by their role in an encounter.