Monday, December 23, 2019

Secret Santicorn 2019: Skyscraper Mimics (and other Structural Horrors)

Lexi over at A Blasted, Cratered Land has requested the following prompt for her secret-santicorn:

"Skyscraper Mimics (and other Structural Horrors)"

A Rampaging Structure

Mimics are pretty much just traps-as-monster. They most iconically take the shape of treasure chests and subsist on a diet of greedy adventurers. They can be dealt with through caution, thorough checking with a long pole, or through tell-tale signs and prior experience.

So if you just took that concept and made a classic mimic HUGE- say, skyscraper-sized - and gave it the form of a tower or other vertical building, it might just eat anything greedy enough to go inside.

There are two paths here I could think of. Either a long drawn out existential horror version of a sphere of annihilation at the end of a hallway with no save and just eventual death that will definitely make players hate you~

OR you can make it a challenge, which strikes me as the sort of gameable that would let me keep my group.

They can take a variety of forms, from 

How to Kill a Building

Not with a sword, at least traditionally. 

Maybe the characters are aware that a structure is living, maybe they aren't. 

But you don't kill a skyscraper mimic (or a Monster House/Living Dungeon) in normal combat. 

Imagine each room is a part of the body, and the adventurers are a virus or other hostile foreign body. The body dispatches defensive mechanisms to eat and dispatch the foreign matter - perhaps white-blood-oozes, or baby mimics, or symbiotic parasites. The foreign element is either dispatched and removed, or it overcomes the bodies defenses, eventually killing it.

That's pretty much how most dungeons work already, right?

Death by Attrition

By far the more popular choice, this method involves clearing (destroying) a certain number of rooms in the structural monster. Kill and remove all the living defenses and traps, remove the valuables (down to the brass door knobs), and deface and graffiti anything left.

The graffiti part is important, for reasons that vary dependent on the structure. Perhaps it further removes the hold of the resident ghostly apparition, perhaps it further irritates the giant mimic, or perhaps it confuses the nanobots.

Do this for a majority of the rooms (70-80% to be safe) and the structure horror will die. Unfortunately this will also kill any remaining treasure-bugs or potentially valuable artifacts, as they decompose and evaporate.

Shot through the heart

The other known method to kill a structural horror is to "slay" or grievously injure the "heart" or "brain" or equivalent vital structures.

Such structures are invariably well hidden and guarded, so even finding the secret doors that lead to a vital structure is a legendary task. Should you find the right room though, you can potentially strike down the structure in one blow.

Some of the more popular vital structures are listed below.

HD: 9
AC: As Chain
Attacks: Electrical feedback and neuron tendrils strike out at foes nearby. Save vs Dragon Breath each round and when damage is dealt to brain. Take damage as Lightning Bolt on failure.

Stats: As Immobile Dragon
Attacks: At the top of each round, the heart convulses, expanding 15 feet around it as it beats. It deals severe bludgeoning damage in this radius. 

The remains of these vital structures are exceedingly valuable alchemical components, and their death will also remove the living defenses but will leave the treasure and valuables left in the structure unharmed.

Secret Doors in Structural Horrors take on many strange forms


Structural Horror Super-TypeOuter DefensesReason You Need to Kill It
1Mimic (hermit crab)
Automatic ballista

The locals are afraid it could go berserk
Mimic (glue-flesh)

False Entrances

The Lord wants to use it as a summer/winter home
Lich Phylactery

Gargoyle Creatures

It's hideous and doesn't match the local aesthetic preferences, the housing market could crash any day now!
Gothic Ghost

Animate Caryatid GolemsEveryone's Really Tired of the minor earthquakes
Demonic Influence

Mesmerizing Stained Glass Patterns

It's housed right over a diamond mine or other valuable resource
Dead (Minor) Deity

A Powerful Riddling-DoorChildren keep going missing, locals blame the structural horror (70% chance they're right)
Enslaved Para-Elemental


I'd plug donjon as the layout generator of choice depending on your system.

Quest Hooks

  • A "Wizard's Tower Epidemic" has struck the country-side. Imposing brick-towers now litter the rolling hills and farmlands, and someone should probably investigate them. In truth, it is a migratory swarm of tower-mimics, and while they may not pose much of a threat to veteran adventurers initially, the alpha-tower has yet to arrive.
  • In the nearby bayou lays a legendary haunted house. Locals know to avoid it and caution others to do the same, but a rag-tag group of well equipped mercenaries has recently arrived. They claim that the house is instead a rare and powerful elemental bound to a specific spot, and they are looking to hire brave souls to help them take it on. They promise good daily rates and a fair split of any treasure finds, but the perceptive and careful may notice that many of their claims don't entirely add up...
  • The state religion holds a hideous secret- their Grand Cathedral is built into the corpse of a dead god. A normal daily rite has gone awry, and the Archpope and other residents of the Cathedral has disappeared. Minor earthquakes and other strange happenings are occurring around the site, and it's layout seems to change on it's own. The Crown wants someone to take care of this, rescue the clergy, and dispatch the dead deity once and for all. You also need to do it quietly, at risk of a public uproar and revolution.

A Structure-Horror Ready to Hatch

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