The Dark Sun bestiary conversion continues. Currently, I’m working through the MC12: The Dark Sun Monstrous Compendium – Terrors of the Desert. Specifically, I’m dividing the creatures up by the random encounter tables.
First, are the monsters of the verdant belts.
Athas is an arid world, but it is not entirely waterless. In various places, springs and underground streams bubble to the surface, forming small pools around which a verdant belt of vegetation grows. These are the creatures found in those regions.
Through the skies and clouds of Athas slowly fly these deadly giants. Cloud rays can sometimes be seen crossing the evening sky.
Cloud rays have a broad, flattened body and flap their huge pectoral fins to aid their psionic flight powers. They are speckled-brown on top and drab olive and white underneath.
Sets of ridges protect the creatures’ eyes. They have four jet-black eyes, two mounted on each side of the snout and the other two on each side of the cranial bulge. Down the back from the bulge runs a spine that becomes a long, thin, whip-like tail that ends in an appendage known as a zip. The zip is comprised of razor-sharp, barbed ridges that grow at the tip of the spine. The interior mouth or maw (20 + feet across) is lined with row upon row of razor-sharp cartilage ridges.
The zip is also used in a complex signaling system that is only understood by other cloud rays.
Cloud rays wander aimlessly through the Athasian skies always searching for their next meal. On rare occasions, they land on the ground and may be mistaken for an outcropping rock. Those hapless enough to be standing on a ray when it decides to become airborne may become its next meal. A cloud ray’s preferred diet consists of devouring other flying creatures.
They have a special fondness for rocs, pterrax, and flying humanoids. The ray has no true stomach, preferring to swallow prey whole and grind the victim to liquid on its interior jaw ridges to help aid with digestion. After a good meal, cloud rays will sometimes psionically dream travel while their meal digests. Cloud rays have territorial respect for others of their species and, with very few exceptions, do not intrude into another ray’s air space.
They are solitary beings except when they seek a mate. Females have a gestation period which lasts over 3 years. They bear live young while airborne. The male catches and supports the young ray on his back for the first year of its life while the female forages. After the young cloud ray learns to fly and becomes self-sufficient, the three go their separate ways.
Although innately psionic, cloud rays become infuriated when a psionicist contacts them. It drives them into a tremendous rage, and they will do anything they can (except land) to capture and devour the offending psionicist. The Dragon is the only creature in the world that cloud rays truly fear.
A single cloud ray could easily provide an entire settlement with enough meat and raw materials for 2-3 months. The chances of this occurring are slim at best. These creatures are fierce and feared for good reasons. Entire villages have been reported decimated by a single cloud ray on the hunt. The effect of the creature hovering close over buildings and flapping its massive wings has the same effect as the most deadly sandstorm. The zip alone can easily destroy most buildings in a few swipes.
Drakes are gargantuan, reptilian monsters that use Athas as their personal hunting grounds. Drakes comprise a very powerful, nonintelligent group of creatures on Athas. However, they are not stupid. If natural instinct, cunning, and ferocity were measurable, drakes would surpass many other creatures. They are feared for their size, speed, and devastating abilities in combat, the latter due, in great part, to their very powerful psionics.
Many on Athas consider the drakes to be second only to the Dragon in this category. Drakes are not natives of Athas. The first drakes used tremendous psionic powers to travel from their home elemental planes to Athas, where they found a world much to their liking. Many generations of drakes have been born on Athas since that time.
Humans and humanoids comprise the mainstay of their diet. They will eat inix and mekillots when available and erdlu if necessary. Drakes prefer the taste of carnivore flesh over any other type of meat.
Fire drakes are the evilest and malicious of the drakes. They enjoy inflicting pain for the pleasure of watching their victims writhe in agony. A fire drake’s greatest delight comes from torturing a potential meal.
Fire drakes are large, spiny, reptilian creatures with pebblelike skin. Each pebble is actually a scale. They are red-and-black mottled, similar in color to the dying embers of a fire, and their skin is very glossy. Fire drakes have four legs. The front two are smaller with very sharp claws, while the back legs are longer and thicker.
Fire drakes prefer to live near natural volcanic action or in areas where they can bask all day in the hot Athasian sun. At night, they retreat to an area of safety or bury themselves under the hot sand. They do this to insulate themselves from the cool evening air. Fire drakes seem equally at home in the moist heat of the Hinterlands and the dry desert wastes.
The flakes of hide are valuable spell components for fire-based magic. The unusual pebble hide of the fire drake is shed once every three years or after being damaged, and new scales begin to grow underneath.
Fire drakes are carnivores, feeding mostly on humanoids, kanks, and other animals. They will eat erdlu only after the creature has been burnt. The hide of the fire drake is the most highly prized of all the drakes as it tends to make the wearer immune to some of the sun’s devastating effects.
Fire Drake Armor
Armor (scale mail), uncommon
While nonmagical, fire drake armor provides the wearer resistance to fire damage. In addition, anyone protected by a fire drake hide (either wearing it or riding in a vehicle covered by it) needs only half the amount of water a day, depending on their activity.
Insect Swarms, Athasian
The insects of Athas are of a hearty breed, and insect swarms are among the most deadly plagues that this world has ever been subject to. There are two insect breeds which form swarms in the deserts of Athas. The first type is a variant of the common locust, while
the other is a smaller version of the kank.
The locusts of Athas are approximately 8 inches in length and look very much like large, brown grasshoppers. They have five-inch-long wings which grant them extremely fast flight speeds and excellent maneuverability.
Swarms gather together very rarely, usually only one time every three or four years. Those most affected by these swarms are the nomadic herdsmen, who often lose entire
herds of kank or erdlus to these terrible insects.
From afar, a locust swarm appears as a small dark cloud which moves quickly across the desert. The swarm usually covers an area of approximately 100 square yards.
Aside from the danger that these swarms present to the population, Athasian insect swarms also devastate miles and miles of vegetation and plant life.
Despite their devastation, the insect swarms do produce one useful side effect they kill large numbers of the rodents and small mammals breeding on the Athasian deserts. The other type of swarming insect is a small species of the kank. This small cousin of the kank is about five inches in length and sports three-inch-long wings on its back.
Swarms of mini-kanks are slightly smaller (75 square yards) than swarms of locusts but move more quickly across the desert.
The t’chowb is a particularly deadly little creature that delights in draining intelligence from those smarter than itself.
A t’chowb is a tiny, humanoid creature with a leathery, gray skin. It has beady, red eyes and a purple ridge along the skull. It is hairless, and its head looks entirely too large for its small body.
A t’chowb ordinarily does not speak any language, but it does gain the ability to speak one of the languages known by its victims.
A t’chowb is a solitary creature because it doesn’t like anyone or anything except the feeling of power it gets from becoming smarter. A sated t’chowb is a genius and uses its newfound intelligence in whatever manner best suits it.
The t’chowb can be found in cities or on the trail or almost anywhere else that intelligent beings gather.
This harmless looking, black scarab beetle psionically lives off the pain and agony of its victims, hence its name. The agony beetle has a hard, black-veined, chitinous shell that is marked by dark, transverse lines. The shell protects a pair of wings. Six hooked legs are used by the beetle to attach itself to the skin of humanoid or beast. An elongated snout contains a retractable tendril. The agony beetle uses a pair of stubby antennae to sense vibrations as it does not have eyes.
Agony beetles tend to live near water sources where they hope to encounter prey. A pain-devouring creature, the agony beetle never ingests solid food for sustenance, only an
occasional sip of water. They will not hesitate to attack members of their own species but are often no match for other insects more evolved for combat.
Old stories claim that agony beetles originally escaped from a sorcerer-king’s torture chamber. It is more likely that they were (and are) drawn there for obvious reasons. They are not edible and serve only the darkest needs. Halflings sometimes use the beetles in slings and throw them into trespassers’ clothing; it shortens the hunt without harming the meal.
Next: Bog Waders, Erdlands, B’rohgs, Id Fiends, Earth Drakes, and Water Drakes
Art credited individually.