Monday, 14 March 2011

Re=imagination: The Piercer

James M. of Grognardia has invited us this weekend to share our reimagining of a classic D&D monster.

I sat there stumped all weekend on how to contribute. I mean, the campaign I run doesn't really reimagine whole races. It's intentionally a classic, old school, Modern Medieval Fantasy, tribute to a homage to a blast from the past.

Now, individual members of those races, or oddball cultures, I love to get creative with. It's the method for making humanoids interesting that I put forth on the last pages of Varlets & Vermin.  It's what had me populate my players' current dungeon level with one tribe of kobolds more organized than the norm ... and one tribe of kobolds more aggressive than the norm ... among other even more intriguing differences.

Then I thought - why does it have to be an intelligent monster? Why not dig up an idea that I had around the time I was posting about rehabilitating the tirapheg?

And so, my shot at remaking one of the more unimpressive monsters of the Monster Manual.


The tome known as the Monster Manual comes from a time of little dungeoneering and spotty scholarship in the land of Mittellus. From its description, the piercer must have struck the first readers as slightly ludicrous. A monster that hides on the ceiling, which any explorer knows to inspect carefully? And after it drops, what does it do? Does it even have a mouth? Readers might be forgiven for thinking the piercer a tall tale, inspired perhaps by the well-known goblin death trap: a stalactite sawed almost all the way through and connected to a tripwire.

The truth about the piercer - Ferrivorus Pilitesta  - is much worse than that. This tenacious beast of the underworld is a relative of the rust monster and bulette. It indeed has a mouth, just under its pointed snout and tiny eyes. The mouth eats iron and stone, strengthening the carapace. The iron content in mammalian blood is particularly delicious to the piercer.

The piercer's vital statistics are those found in the Monster Manual, with a few significant exceptions. What the Manual left out is that the beast has two powerful legs and a pair of vestigial gripping arms, often missed because they can be tucked close to its conical, pointed-headed torso. Its feet can ascend and hang from sheer surfaces by a combination of suction and adhesion. In particular, its legs, though slow (30' move), can make a powerful leap, once per second, 20' each time. This allows it to jump horizontally and cause damage even after having dropped, if it even sees the need to drop at all.  In other words, a piercer is just as likely to masquerade as a stalagmite.

The weakness of the piercer is its propensity to become stuck in a victim. If a piercer strikes and does damage greater than half the victim's current hit points, it becomes embedded in the victim and takes a full combat round to free itself. Blows aimed at the embedded piercer, however, have a 25% chance to hit the victim if they miss.


  1. Very nice. Glad to see the piercer get some love. I'm working on a cavern right now and I'm going to add a couple of piercers in it.

  2. it's up,
    it's down,
    it's up,
    it's coming this way . . .
    oh crap !