Friday 17 March 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #76: Stalking Leucrotta

 One hex southeast and four south of Alakran.


On Earth, a variety of legends circulated from antiquity about a weird canine-feline predator, variously called the crocotta or leucrocotta. It was said to be born of a dog and a wolf, or a lion and hyena. It was often described as being able to imitate the human voice for nefarious ends. The theme was memorably elaborated upon in Gene Wolfe's New Sun series, through a beast -- the alzabo -- that gains the voices and memories of humans it devours, and uses them as bait for further prey.

There's nothing so creepy or existential about the D&D "leucrotta," which is taken from the description in Pliny's Natural History of the leucrocotta (honestly, very similar to his crocotta). In my experience they tend to be overlooked in adventure design, though as usual the Forgotten Realms setting developed them to an exquisite pitch of detail. Blogger Keith Ammann explains why, perhaps, the leucrotta is slept on: its main gimmick doesn't work. In 5e dark-seeing races are common as PCs, but even in earlier editions it is hard for the leucrotta to gain ambush against a cordon of magical light sources and infravision. What's more, in a world where anything can be a mimic, parties will be naturally wary of the sympathy trap of a lone human voice crying out in the night.

Keith's suggestion of hiding in fog won't work in this environment, of course, but here are four approaches to the mated pair of leucrotta who operate as a wandering monster from this hex:

1. In the salts.  If approaching from the north, give the 'crotta a little ventriloquism, so the cry appears to be coming from a vaguely statue-like borax pillar in the tincal.

2. In the sand. The leucrotta hide in the sand, breathing through straws. Maybe one of them has a mummified human arm they can wave about like someone drowning in ... quicksand? Whatever, some people will fall for it.

3. In the storm. If a sandstorm (see hex #53) appears in this hex or one adjacent, the leucrotta will find you within it, calling out, concealed by the flying dust until it is too late.

4. Somebody else's problem. The leucrotta doesn't menace the party ... but you can see a solitary woman in the distance, holding her branch of juniper, heading toward a dune from which a baby's cry issues from a throat decidedly not a baby's...

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