Dreadmire is a very dangerous place. The environment makes you tougher — survival of the fittest. Over time, you gain immunities to poisons that would normally kill more civilized beings. Abilities to hide from bigger monsters and dangerous animals are a necessity. You learn to intimidate the tougher creatures and outthink the diabolical ones. You shrug off horrible diseases you survived in adolescence. The broken leg you fixed with a splint never quite healed. The puffy, gouged eye is a yearly reminder of your fight with that big creature. Other scars, bruises, calluses and filthy clothes are testament to a hard life. The tough physical and mental strain needed to maintain a home and gather food is part of your existence. The monsters you fend off are just part of the routine. The weak die, the strong survive to propagate. After several generations, these progeny are a tougher, ill-tempered, voracious breed. Welcome to the Swamp Creature recipe template...
Recipe for a Swamp Creature is a guide to creating a swamp creature out of any corporeal creature (referred to hereafter as the "base creature") that does not already live in such an environment. The creature type normally remains unchanged after the conversion, although an "(aquatic)" parenthetical may be required. A swamp creature retains all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted below.
Speed: Unless inappropriate, add a Swim rate (typically 20 ft.) and reduce land move rate by half of the new Swim rate. If the base creature already has a Swim rate, or has webbed extremities, add +10 ft. to Swim rate. Swamp creatures without a Swim rate often have a Climb or Burrow rate in addition to their normal land rate. All swamp creatures can use the Run action (or their Sprint ability) while swimming. The creature usually gets no movement penalties for moving in marshes, swamps, or across mudflats.
AC: Swamp creatures do not normally wear metal armor, as it rusts and restricts swimming. It may be replaced with hide, bone, chitin or shell.
Attacks: As base creature, but swamp creatures do not commonly use manufactured weapons. Replace any weapons with natural attacks or crude weapons (-1 attack/damage penalty) made from non-ferrous metals, such as weapons made of bronze, bone, silver, stone, iron, wood, flint, or shell. A charge action can be made in water and follows the same rules as a land charge (PHB Charge).
Damage: As base creature or by weapon type. Natural weapons are the norm and often take the form of teeth that bite, claws that rake, horns that gore, quills that stick, fins that slap, tails that slam, or envenomed stingers.
Abilities: Gain +1 to Constitution if 15 or less; -2 to Charisma (but no lower than 1).
Skills: A swamp creature’s skills can be changed to suit its new environment. These typically include Climb, Handle Animal, Heal, Hide, Intimidate, Jump, Listen, Move Silently, Spot, Swim, and Survival. Many creatures receive a +8 racial bonus on Hide checks due to natural camouflage and/or a +8 racial bonus to Spot checks due to their heightened ability to detect camouflaged creatures.
Feats: A swamp creature can replace feats to suit its new environment. Common replacements would include Alertness, Endurance, Great Fortitude, and Toughness. Treasure: Same as the base creature, except replace scrolls with potions. Items and weapons should normally be of an appropriate swamp type, such as the blowstick (new weapon), club, gaff (new weapon), net, sling stick (new weapon), spear, etc. Advancement: Same as the base creature, although advanced creatures are far more likely to appear. You may replace any favored class as follows: cleric with druid; fighter with barbarian or ranger; rogue with bard; and sorcerer with wizard. Language: Intelligent swamp creatures generally speak their own racial language or aquan, and may possess a hunting language based on the natural sounds of wetland animals (buzzes, growls, hisses, chirps, bellows, whistles, hoots, howls, screams, calls, rattles, etc). Refer to the New Monsters chapter for new languages. Saves: Typically, swamp creatures get a +2 Fortitude circumstance bonus on all transmitted diseases (such as yellow fever) common to swamps, and against deadly or paralytic poisons.
Special Attacks: Special attacks may be replaced with others more appropriate to the swamp or wilderness:
• Bioelectric Shock (Ex): Description available at Lightning Bug. A torpedo ray discharges electricity to stun prey, delivering a 2000-watt bolt attack. Bees store up electrical charges too, but only in tiny amounts. They use their negatively charged wings to attract positively charged pollen into their sack.
• Birdcharmer Gaze (Ex): Description available at Sludge Snake.
• Corrosive Blood (Ex): The blood of the creature acts like powerful acid, burning all it touches for 4d4 points of damage. Corrosive blood eats through any substance, except a powerful caustic base. A creature with corrosive blood cannot be harmed by its own fluids. Slashing and piercing weapons that hit such creatures are likely destroyed.
• Disorienting Noise (Ex): Description available at Saltmarsh Mosquito (sonic wings). Some whales use their infrasound to stun fish, creating a blast of sound near 200 decibels (150 is discomforting to humans).
• Drowning Surge (Ex): Description available at Hydro-Aluminum Golem.
• Infectious Bite (Ex): Description available at Sawswiper Turtle. In the real world, kimodo dragon saliva contains at least 50 infectious microbes that cause septicemia and death to its prey within 24 hours. The prey is then tracked and eaten.
• Squirt (Ex): Description available at Hippogoose (hippogosling).
• Steam Burst (Ex): Description available at Quag Creature.
• Topiary Gaze (Su): Description available at Bog Dog.
• Water Jet (Ex): Description available at Hydro-Aluminum Golem.
• Water Slap (Ex): Description available at Monstrous Catfish (tail slap).
Special Qualities: Special Qualities may be replaced with others more appropriate to the swamp or wilderness. Hereafter is assembled a collection of real and semi-real animal abilities. These special qualities can be modified using the idea seeds presented below, allowing you to create similar abilities or feats for monsters and animals in your campaign. You will note that not all of these new abilities are swamp-specific, but are still applicable to wilderness settings:
• Adhesive Climb (Ex): Description available at Anthroach and Arachane.
• Aerialsense (Ex): Description available at Creeplow and Fritillary.
• Ancestral Knowledge (Ex): Description available at Girthworm. Sometimes called “genetic memory” when memories are incorporated into the creature’s DNA. In a fantasy world, such contrivances as DNA are not necessary, and so the transfer could be psychic or spiritual in nature.
• Aquasense (Ex): Description available at Chaos Beetle, Flybiter Fish Swarm, and Reed Faerie. Fish have nerve endings in a series of mucous-filled canals called a "lateral line system". It provides information to the fish about movements of nearby organisms, very-low-frequency sound, differential current velocity, and back pressure built up as the fish approaches an obstacle. This sense is sufficiently directional to enable blinded fish to find and capture prey.
• Bee Vision (Ex): Description available at Darkworker (new class). Bees can see into the ultraviolet spectrum. Flowers glow bright under ultraviolet radiation, attracting bees to their pollen. Birds use bee vision to see the patterns of ultraviolet polarization that radiate from the sun. Acting like a map in the sky, birds use the sun’s position as a signpost against the visible gridlines. Predatory birds use bee vision to see the liquid waste of small mammals. As waste absorbs ultraviolet light, the stains become highly visible. Parrots have brightly colored plumage that under ultraviolet light glows brightly. This effect is used to confuse predatory birds that use ultraviolet light to hunt them. Fruit has a waxy coating that reflects ultraviolet light, acting like a neon sign shining out to birds in the wild.
• Bioluminescence (Ex): Description available at Abysmal Ooze, Living Building, Mantis Shrimp, Mushroom Folk, and monstrous fungi. Fireflies are familiar light-emitting creatures, using this ability to signal each other for mating. The gulper fish has a long snakelike tail ending in reddish light. Flashlight fish possess a pouch beneath each eye that houses bioluminescent bacteria - they can dim or turn of the lights by drawing a fold of skin across the entrance to the pouch. The vampire squid, comb jellyfish, and black dragonfish have an array of light-emitting organs as well.
• Biomimetic Exvisibility (Ex): Description available at Derangers (faction). In the real world, moths have hexagonal wing scales that swallow up light so their wings appear black at night.
• Biomimetic Invisibility (Ex): Description available at Fritillary. Some cuttlefish and butterflies are known to grow light-refracting scales.
• Brachiate (Ex): Description available at Caterpygmy.
• Breath Tracking (Ex): Description available at Sludge Snake.
• Chemical Language (Ex): Description available at Hortus. Cotton plants that are being eaten by caterpillars send chemical signals into the air which wasps can detect. Wasps smell this chemical carried on the wind and come to eat the caterpillars. When being eaten by a grazing giraffe, acacia trees release a gas that conveys a danger message to other nearby acacia trees. A tree receiving the signal soon laces its leaves with poison that can kill the giraffe. As a result, giraffes only graze on the trees for short periods and move on, thereby allowing both species to survive. Bees use a chemical identity pass enabling the “guard bees” to determine if the bee is a colony member or not. Provoked bees release a chemical that causes the guard bees to investigate. If the danger is perceived to be real, the guard bees send the colony a chemical signal to attack (perfumes or other intense smells can cause this sense to accidentally become active). When a bee stings, its removed stinger releases a pheromone into the air that causes bees to enter a stinging attack frenzy.
• Crypsis (Ex): Description available at Mire Giant. Cuttlefish in nature.
• Dung Beetle Vision (Ex): Description available at Darkhopper.
• Eidetic Memory (Ex): Also called “photographic memory,” a creature with this ability possesses an extraordinarily accurate and vivid recall of past experiences. There is very little a creature with this ability cannot recall, so no Int checks are required to remember information. This ability does not affect memorized spells. Spell magic leaves the mind of its own accord.
• Frog Eyelid (Ex): Many species of land animals have a Frog Eyelid, also called a nictitating membrane, which horizontally moves across the eyeball to give additional protection in particular circumstances (+2 AC to eyes). In beavers and manatees, a translucent Frog Eyelid moves across the eye to protect it while under water; in sea lions an opaque Frog Eyelid is activated on land to remove sand and other debris. In birds of prey, Frog Eyelids serve to protect the parents’ eyes from their chicks while they are feeding them. In polar bears, the membranes protect their eyes from snow blindness. Frog Eyelids are also found in crocodiles, lizards, and even rabbits.
• Glide (Ex): Description available at Quixote.
• Gravity Sense (Ex): Example available at Oyster Clamper.
• Hummingbird Metabolism (Ex): Description available at Speed Demon, Wikiwiki Gnome.
• Infrahearing (Ex): Description available at Mushroom Folk. Elephants can rumble messages up to 6 miles away, and stomp to send seismic tremors as signals up to 30 miles away. Hippopotamus grunts and calls are known to travel up to 20 miles underwater and 4 miles through the air. Sound through water travels 5 times faster than sound through air, thus hippos can determine distance from other hippos by instinctively calculating the time lag. Rhinos use low frequency sounds to warn offspring of danger. Whales have been known to communicate with their infrasound bellows up to an amazing 3,000 miles away. Creatures without infrahearing cannot hear infrasound, but all creatures that can emit infrasounds have infrahearing.
• Keen Hearing (Ex): Description available at Creeplow. Owls use this heightened hearing ability to find mice, voles and other tiny creatures that hide in the thick weeds of fields and forests. The distinctive shape of an owl’s head acts as a parabolic reflector, and the ears are often asymmetrical to emphasize the stereo effect, thus optimizing the ability.
• Keen Sight (Ex): Description available at Creeplow and Mantis Shrimp.
• Mucus Excretion (Ex): Description available at Girthworm and Quag Creature. The mucus of fish and the discharge of glands on dolphins reduces their drag in the water, and worms use mucus to ease passage through dirt.
• Mud Healing (Ex): Description available at Mire Giant.
• Pelican Vision (Ex): Description available at Goliath Pelican and Hippogoose. Brown pelicans have magnetite in their eyes that allows them to see a colored spot that is the position of the magnetic north pole. This allows navigation of uncharted waters by providing a constant compass bearing. Hammerhead sharks are so magnetically perceptive that they can detect local variations of magnetism in underlying rock. They follow hidden roadways marked by abrupt changes in magnetic intensity; their bizarre head shape enhances sensitivity to these fields. Hammerheads also can detect the tiny magnetic fields of their prey. The aurora borealis, intense storms and St. Elmo’s fire can disorient migratory birds by confusing their Pelican Vision.
• Retch Spray (Ex): Description available at Arachane. Skunks are the most famous animals with this ability.
• Season Sense (Ex): Description available at Hippogoose. This ability allows determination of the current season based on a multitude of complex air pressure patterns, ultraviolet light polarization and planetary magnetic waves. It can also be used to forecast the severity of the coming winter, whether harsh or light. The orange ladybug has this sense, determining its overwinter site based on this information.
• Shark Sense (Ex): Description available at Mantis Shrimp. In sharks, this ability is so sensitive that it can detect a charge as small as 5 billionth of a volt. Manta rays may rest invisibly on the bottom of the ocean, but rays can see their friends and family by sensing their signature electrical auras, determining who is who by their distinctive aura patterns. A duckbill platypus can locate its prey underwater by sensing its electrical field. Some ants are attracted to electrical fields, and plants grow better around electrical fields.
• Snake Vision (Ex): Description available at Sludge Snake.
• Torpor (Ex): Description available at Dragonhunter, Silver Swarm and the torpor spell (new). The bear is best known for its torpor ability, which enters hibernation each winter. Some desert animals aestivate through the summer, entering torpor until the extreme heat subsides. Roaches can become dormant for many years until they receive an outside stimulation. Some fish can torpor through a dry season and awake during rain.
• Ultrahearing (Ex): Description available at Quixote. Canines possess ultrahearing. Dolphins communicate with ultrasound. They emit squeaks of such high and focused intensity that these sounds penetrate the bodies of creatures they encounter (like an x-ray), an ability called “biosonar.”
• Underwater Scent (Ex): Description available at Weregator and Lethocerus Dinosaur.
• Water Current (Ex): Description available at Mire Giant.
• Waterbug Eyes (Ex): Description available at Chaos Beetle. Whirligig beetles (waterbugs) possess peculiar divided eyes. They have divided compound eyes enabling vision simultaneously above and below water.
• Waterbug Walking (Ex): Description available at Chaos Beetle.