Today I kick off a series of monsters and maps that I am incredibly excited to share with you folks running 5e games in Wildspace and beyond. I want to help you with simple things you can do to your Spelljammer or space-setting games that make players feel that they aren't in Kansas anymore. So worry not, for I have a bounty of simple changes you can make to your games.
The great thing about space settings like Spelljammer is that as a GM, one isn't limited to simple monster manual creatures to populate outposts and planets. When the sky, or space as it were, is the limit, there is enormous flexibility to insert beasts that you won't find in the realms. I would argue it's critical to the feel of the setting to avoid using standard monster races and explore the possibilities of an endless multiverse for a real alien and out-of-this-world feeling.
This week we start with a creature commonly utilized by the more criminal underground elements for protection or more above-the-board tavern owners who want to make sure no shenanigans take place in their place of business.
I introduce to you the Bovine Bouncer. A creature from the Traktor Bizduna wildspace system featuring a primarily agrarian culture. When Traktor-folk ventures out of their home system, mobsters and honest tavern owners flock to hire them for their muscular builds and abilities to control crowds.
I wanted a hard-hitting big goon of a creature Player Characters could encounter that wasn't the standard Orc or Ogre. They are in space, after all, a place wide open where even the most backwater outposts feature creatures from all over. One of the first things that came to mind was Yaks or Water Buffalo, and I started with that.
I figured they would carry a big old beat-down stick and be able to eject folks from establishments if things got out of hand, so I gave them a reaction to use "Vortex Warp" at will once a day. I like to make combat exciting and challenging, so be warned, these creatures can hit HARD.
Intended for the upper levels of Tier 1 play, these are fantastic creatures to feature as bouncers, crowd controllers if a street fight breaks out, guards for warehouses, or straight-up hired hands for nefarious types.
In my Ghosts of Spelljammer game, I featured a version of this creature when my players explored the Red Bull tavern, a front for the Red Mask thieves guild working to take over more territory on the Rock of Bral. After the game, the players loved the challenge and commented about how cool it was to encounter a genuinely alien-type creature.
I am including a map of how I envision a traditional crummy tavern serving as a front for a more nefarious guild or a faction with an entrance in what should be a kitchen. You might consider using this as a template of your adventure or place this in the Rock of Bral as the Red Bull Tavern and Red Masks guild house.
The setup is best if the players are trying to track down someone, either an enemy who got away or is working for a patron who wants this person found. Another great idea is featuring a baddie on a wanted poster in town, and rumor has it they frequent the featured tavern. The players hit a seemingly dead end in the pub, but some charisma checks or investigation of the premises results in a hatch to a cellar where two of these bouncers guard double doors. It isn't likely players can talk these folks out of protecting the doors, and a fight will break out if they push in the least bit.
Next week I will feature a new creature and continue talking about ways you can use the shady tavern and guild hideout as a series of encounters for your players. You can find a video version of the map or download a static image from this blog.
However you choose to introduce this creature, have fun with it and again, these things hit like a truck, so watch out! Let me know how your encounter goes, and make sure you subscribe to the newsletter; exclusive monsters drop biweekly that will not appear on the blog!