Gimme That Ol’ Time Religion: The Atavist

photograph by Charles Fréger

The idea for this had been kicking around my head for awhile, but the format was inspired by Zedeck Siew’s recent player-character concepts for A Thousand Thousand Islands.

You have made a pact with the elemental forces of the world. Rejecting the trappings of progress and society, you draw strength from primordial sources.

You have hit dice, saving throws, and XP progression as a cleric.

You are a follower of the old ways. +2 to Wisdom.
Choose a source of power. You gain an ability for every taboo you possess.

Beast & Bough – +1 Dexterity
1 – Berserker: You can craft a ritual garment made from the hide (or other parts) of a particular animal. Once per day per taboo possessed, you can take the shape of the animal whose hide the garment is made of. You can remain in this form for a number of hours equal to your character level.
2 – Call of the Wild: You can flawlessly imitate the sounds of any animal.
3 – Cornucopia: Once per day, you can summon enough edible fruits and plants to feed one person per taboo possessed.
4 – Creeping Ivy: Once per day per taboo you possess, you can cause vegetation to animate and immobilize creatures within a 15-foot radius area around you.
5 – Foaming at the Mouth: Once per day per taboo you possess, your bite can instill a ferocious, near-mindless bloodlust in a living creature for one minute.
6 – Leaps and Bounds: Once per day per taboo possessed, you can move at double your normal speed or jump, from a standing start, a distance equal to your normal speed.
7 – Mossy Creche: Once per day, you can dig a shallow pit and consecrate it for 24 hours. A number of creatures equal to the taboos you possess can rest within the pit, healing damage at twice the normal rate.
8 – Spirit of the Beehive: Once per day, you can summon and control a swarm of insects for a number of rounds equal to the taboos you possess.
9 – The Tree Remembers: By touching a tree, you can review events that have taken place underneath its branches.
10 – Tooth and Nail: Your canines sharpen and your nails thicken. Your unarmed attacks deal 1d4+Strength damage. For every taboo gained after your first, the damage increases by one die size (1d4 -> 1d6 -> 1d8, and so on).

Blood & Bone – +1 Strength
1 – Bad Blood: Once per day per taboo, you can weaken a living creature you can see by curdling their blood.
2 – Blood Will Tell: By tasting blood, you know how and when it was spilled.
3 – Pierced Flesh: Your body is covered with apotropaic scars and tattoos. For every taboo you possess, you permanently lose one hit point, but gain a +1 bonus to your Armor Class and rolls to resist magic spells and effects.
4 – Red Right Hand: You gain a bonus to melee attack rolls equal to the number of taboos you possess.
5 – Roll the Bones: You possess a bag of old bone fragments inscribed with weird symbols. Once per day, you can perform an augury with them – roll a d20 a number of times equal to taboos you possess. At any point afterwards, you can substitute one those results for another d20 roll, yours or someone else’s.
6 – Seeing Red: By closing your eyes, you can detect living creatures by visualizing their circulatory systems.
7 – Skeleton Dance: Once per day per taboo, you can make a creature act against its will by moving its bones.
8 – Songs for the Dead: You’ve crafted a flute from a human femur. When you play it, you summon the spirit of someone who has died nearby. They will truthfully answer one question per taboo you possess.
9 – Thicker Than Water: Your touch can staunch bleeding and close wounds. Each day, you can heal 1d6 points of damage per taboo possessed, all at once or divided into increments of 1d6.
10 – Thoughts for Food: By eating a creature’s brain, you can access their memories. If you are looking for a specific memory, you have a 1-in-10 chance per taboo possessed to find it.

Stone & Sky – +1 Constitution
1 – Chip and Shatter: Once per day per taboo you possess, you can destroy a single manufactured object with a successful attack.
2 – Ear to the Ground: You can sense the location of creatures standing on the ground or beneath it out to a range of 30 feet, plus 30 feet per taboo possessed.
3 – Feather on the Wind: You take damage from falling as if the distance fell was 10 feet less, plus 10 feet for every taboo you possess.
4 – Like a Rock: Once per day per taboo possessed, you can harden your flesh as a reaction to being struck by an attack, reducing the damage suffered by an amount equal to your taboos.
5 – Listening Wind: You can ask the wind to carry messages for you to anyone within a range of 1 mile per taboo possessed.
6 – Parched Earth: Once per day, you can evaporate all the moisture from a 15-foot radius area, including from plants and living creatures, centered on you. For every taboo you possess, the radius of the area of effect increases by 15 feet.
7 – Reap the Wind: Once per day per taboo possessed, you can produce a blast of concentrated wind with a range of 60 feet. The gust can attempt to move creatures and objects as if it had Strength modifier equal to your taboos.
8 – Stonefinger: Once per day per taboo possessed, you can cause a 5-foot tall stalagmite to erupt out of the ground.
9 – Thunderstrike: Once per day per taboo you possess, you can generate a burst of sound powerful enough to knock down and deafen every creature in a 15-foot radius.
10 – Waterstrider: Each day, for up to one minute per taboo possessed, you can move across a body of water as if it were solid ground.

In exchange for your gifts, the powers of the earth demand certain sacrifices from the atavist. At first level, third level, and then every three levels thereafter (6th, 9th, 12th, and so on), you gain a taboo – a sacred prohibition – as proof of their devotion.

Should an atavist break any of their taboos, they lose their class-related abilities and cannot advance any further as an atavist until they atone for their transgression.

1 – Must refrain from using metal armor, weapons, and tools. You don’t incur any penalties for using improvised tools and weapons and your non-metallic tools and weapons will never break.
2 – Must refrain from sleeping indoors. While sleeping, you remain fully aware of your surroundings. You don’t incur any penalties for sleeping rough.
3 – Must refrain from eating cooked food. You gain a bonus equal to the number of taboos you possess to rolls to resist poisons and diseases.
4 – Must refrain from using money in exchange for goods and services. You gain a bonus equal to the number of taboos you possess to all crafting rolls.
5 – Must refrain from wearing any kind of footwear. You gain a bonus equal to the number of taboos you possess to rolls to resist forced movement.
6 – Must refrain from wearing clothing made of woven fabrics. You gain a bonus equal to the number of taboos you possess to rolls to resist the effects of extreme temperatures and weather.
7 – Must refrain from owning animals. You understand the languages of animals and they understand you. You gain a bonus equal to the number of taboos you possess to rolls to ask them for favors.
8 – Must refrain from sexual activity. You gain a bonus equal to the number of taboos you possess to rolls to resist mind-affecting spells and effects.
9 – Must refrain from reading or writing. You gain a bonus equal to the number of taboos you possess to rolls to detect lies and deception.
10 – Must refrain from cutting or shaving any hair. You gain a bonus equal to the number of taboos you possess to melee damage rolls.

Tiger Lung, by Simon Roy

SOUND AND FURY (New Monsters)

A lanky, simian creature tufted with long quills. Troops of mocking beasts are typically found in grasslands and prairies, where their spiky coats helped them hide among the stalks of tall grass.

No. Appearing: 4d4
Hit Dice: 4d6
Movement: Equivalent to a normal human. Mocking beasts are unhindered by difficult terrain caused by tall grasses and brush.
Armor Class: Low (Matted hair + average Dexterity)
Attack: Raking claws (1d6 damage)
Morale: Average

  • Mimicry: Mocking beasts get their name from their uncanny ability to replicate sounds they hear, including speech.
  • Quills: A mocking beast can use their action to pluck out and hurl one of their long spine-like hairs. This attack has a range of 30 feet and deals 1d8 damage on a hit. Until it is removed, a creature struck with a quill cannot move at more than half its normal speed or it suffers another 1d8 damage as the spine digs in deeper.

Wulkurë are gaunt, avian creatures that haunt graveyards and battlefields, anywhere there is large number of the dead and dying. Folklore holds that just seeing a wulkurë is an ill omen.

No. Appearing: 1d6+2; there’s a 1-in-6 chance of 1d4 zombies accompanying them
Hit Dice: 7d6
Movement: Normal human speed. Wulkurë can also fly at twice normal human speed.
Armor Class: Medium (Tattered rags + very high Dexterity)
Attack: Slashing talons (1d4) or by weapon.
Morale: High

  • Chooser of the Slain: Whenever a creature under the effect of a wulkurë’s dreadful screech curse dies, the wulkurë can use its reaction to raise the creature as a zombie under its control.
  • Dreadful Screech: As its action, a wulkurë can unleash a horrifying shriek. Living creatures in a 30 foot radius must make Constitution and Wisdom saving throws. A creature that fails the Constitution save is incapacitated with pain for 1d10 rounds and deafened for 1d10 minutes. A creature that fails the Wisdom saving throw is cursed – they become unable to heal by any means until the wulkurë that cursed them dies or remove curse is cast upon them. 

NEW SPELL: Ephemeral Arrow

Warlock/Wizard/Sorcerer (Illusion)

The caster draws back the string of bow and an arrow fades into existence in their hand, nocked and ready to fire. 

An ephemeral arrow seems to unfailingly hit its target, ignoring armor and shields. The target of the missile must make a Wisdom saving throw; if they fail, they believe they have been struck by an arrow and take damage equivalent to the type of bow used to fire the arrow.

With a single casting, a magic-user can fire a number of ephemeral arrows equal to their caster level. If the caster drops the bow, the spell immediately ends and no more arrows can be fired.

One Line Wonders

As a challenge to myself, I tried to come up with one sentence descriptions of extraordinary items. I tried to be as system neutral as possible, but a lot of them assume your basic six stat, d20 based game.

1 – Aetheric Arquebus: Spontaneously generates crystalline ammunition that can harm intangible foes but dematerializes on a misfire.
2 – Amok Mitts: Heavy leather gauntlets double the number of attacks made per round, but the wearer must succeed a Wisdom saving throw to disengage from combat.
3 – Blue Pepper Powder: When snorted, allows user to see magical auras for one hour, but must succeed a Constitution check every minute to avoid sneezing fit.
4 – Bone of Detention: When snapped in half, it will summon a cage of bones around wherever the broken ends fall.
5 – Celestial Visa: Golden plaque engraved in Enochian permits the bearer entry into the afterlife.
6 – Coat of Arms: Stylish embroidered smoking jacket that can conceal up to four weapons, one up each sleeve and one in each inner breast pocket.
7 – Dire Cleaver: Massive two-handed sword deals double damage but drains one hit die worth of life from the wielder with each attack, hit or miss.
8 – Drakeplate Collar: Brass gorget allows wearer to safely imbibe a flask of oil, then expel a 15-foot gout of flame.
9 – Embargo Charm: Whoever wears this pendant cannot say the words inscribed on its back.
10 – Embercaster: Any non-magical bolt loaded into this crossbow lights on fire when shot.
11 – Eudaimonic Drinking Horn: This container removes any poison or contamination from a liquid poured into it.
12 – Eye of Avarice: Green-tinted jeweler’s loupe identifies the approximate monetary value of whatever object it is used to examine.
13 – Fiendtallow Candle: Sinister green flame absorbs light and can only be extinguished with holy water.
14 – Gravespike: A long iron nail that prevents whatever corpse it’s piercing from being reanimated or resurrected. 
15 – Harlequin Robe: Patchwork dressing gown that can transform into any other garment or outfit the wearer can describe. 
16 – Heavyweight Belt: Increases the wearer’s weight tenfold without affecting their mass.
17 – Keratinous Cuirass: Medium armor symbiotically bonds with wearer, reducing maximum life by 10% but heals 1d4 points of damage every round.
18 – Lunaberry Jam: Eating a spoonful grants the power of levitation, but overcomsumption makes a person’s skin glow in the dark.
19 – Meta-gnosis Cap: Allows a non-magic-user to cast spells by burning points of Charisma, Intelligence, or Wisdom.
20 – Mossback Mantle: Cloak of living plants makes the wearer almost invisible when hiding in vegetation.
21 – Poor Yorick: Floating skull dispenses dubious advice, sarcastic quips, and the occasional bite.
22 – Prismatic Rapier: A wielder with above-average Dexterity can parry and deflect ranged energy attacks.
23 – Sanguine Shroud: The wearer can transform into a cloud of crimson mist for up to one minute before requiring a Wisdom saving throw every consecutive round afterwards to avoid permanent dissolution.
24 – Scatterstar: Five-pointed throwing iron that splits into five independently aimed darts.
25 – Scholar’s Little Helper: Injectable serum that increases Intelligence by 50% for 8 hours, after which it is reduced to 50% of normal and slowly returns over the next 24 hours.
26 – Spatial Clamp: When activated, prohibits teleportation and dimension-warping effects in a 60-foot radius sphere for 1d4 minutes.
27 – Supernumeratrix: Clockwork pixie that can perform astoundingly complex calculations.
28 – Telluric Ring: While standing on earth, soil, or stone, the wearer gains Advantage on all Strength-based skill and ability checks.
29 – Terminal Rebuke: Upon the death of the wearer, this amulet explodes, dealing damage equal to the wearer’s hit dice.
30 – Torchblade: Longsword forged from an exotic alloy that emits heatless light as bright as a torch when unsheathed.


Magic-users who don’t know, or more likely don’t care, about properly disposing the by-products of their experiments run the risk of spawning gristle-bairns. They arise out of a morass of arcane effluvia and mundane refuse – lumpen, ill-formed miscreants about the size of a human toddler.

No. Appearing: 3d4+1
Armor Class: Light (small size + irregular hide); non-magical physical attacks deal 1 less damage
Hit Points: 2d3; a targeted dispel magic spell will instantly kill a gristle-bairn
Movement: Half normal human speed
Morale: Average
Attack: Ragged teeth and filthy nails +1 (1d4 damage and target must succeed a Constitution saving throw or contract a random disease)
Graceless: Gristle-bairns are particularly uncouth and disorganized creatures. They have disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws, but gain advantage on any saving throw to resist mind- or attitude-affecting spells or abilities.


A primal path for barbarians.

Starting at 3rd level, whenever you make a melee attack that drops a creature to 0 HP, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier; while you are raging, the temporary hit points you gain are equal to your Constitution modifier plus your rage damage bonus.

If you have any temporary hit points at the start of your turn, you can expend them to gain a bonus to the damage roll of your next melee attack.

At 6th level, whenever you make an attack roll with Advantage and both results would hit, the target of the attack must succeed a Strength saving throw (DC = 8+the damage roll) or be knocked prone or moved 5 feet in the direction of your choice.

At 10th level, when you roll damage for a critical hit on a melee attack, add another die of damage for every die that rolls a maximum result.

When you reach 14th level, you can use your reaction to re-roll a failed saving throw with bonus equal to your Proficiency bonus. After using this ability, you must complete a short or long rest before you can use it again.

NEW SPELL: Abominate

image by Asher 阿舍阿舍

Warlock/Witch/Wizard (Transmutation)

Possibly created by traumaturges, abominate twists a creature into a hideous parody of its normal form.

The spellcaster can target an amount of hit dice worth of living creatures equal to their caster level that the caster can see. Unwilling targets can resist the spell with a successful Wisdom saving throw.

On a failed save, a target’s body contorts and mutates, dropping any items they are carrying. While in this form they have an effective Strength score of 18, but their Charisma score drops to 3 and their Intelligence and Wisdom scores are halved. As long as the spell persists, a target takes -2 penalty to their Armor Class and can only make unarmed attacks, but they inflict 1d8 damage per hit.

At the start of their turn, a target must succeed a Wisdom saving throw to retain control of their actions. On a failed save, they attack the nearest creature; if none are in reach, they move as far as possible in a random direction. While affected by the spell, a target is unable to cast spells or use special abilities.

Abominate lasts for a number of minutes equal to the caster’s level. This spell can be made permanent.

Internet Detritus Monstrous Compendium Supplement 4: POISON GIANT

Huge giant
AC: 15
HP: 90 + 10d10; saves as a 10th level fighter
Movement: As a normal, unencumbered human.
Attack: Punch, kick, or stomp +10 melee (10 foot reach, 1d10 damage and target must make Strength saving throw or be thrown 5 feet per point of damage rolled and knocked prone).
* Miasma: The very presence of a poison giant befouls the air, land, and water around it. Food and drink within 60 feet of the creature spoils.
* Noxious Grasp: The poison giant can flood a living creature it touches with its toxic essence. The target must succeed a Constitution saving throw or become poisoned, suffering 1d12 damage and Disadvantage on all attack and skill rolls. At the start of each round, the target can attempt another Constitution saving throw.
* Pest Lance: There’s a 1-in-10 chance a poison giant carries a gnarled staff of greasy, green-black wood. A poison giant can use the pest lance to cast any of one of the following spells as a 10th-level magic-user: acid arrow, cloudkill, envenom, neutralize poison, or stinking cloud

Poison giants are malevolent entities that revel in spreading corruption and suffering across the land.


A supple leather jacket festooned with spikes. The havoc jack provides physical protection equivalent to medium armor, but counts as light armor for the purposes of encumberance. The wearer also gains a melee attack dealing 1d4 damage.

Once per day, the wearer can enter a state of violent fury (as a barbarian (or similar class) rage). If the wearer already has a rage-type ability, the duration of their ability is doubled.

The wearer has Advantage on Charisma checks to intimidate, but Disadvantage of Charisma checks involving tact or subtlety.

NEW MONSTER: Scrapeworm

No. Appearing: 1d4
Armor Class: Light (slimy hide + low Dexterity); scrapeworms take half damage from bludgeoning weapons.
Hit Dice: 12d12 (78 hp), saves as a fighter
Movement: Half as fast as a normal human; scrapeworms can burrow through earth at their normal speed.
Morale: High
Attack: Lumpen fist +6 (1d6 damage) or Tentacle +6 (1d4 damage+grab attempt, 10 feet reach)
Discorporation: A scrapeworm can separate its body into a swarm of wriggling filaments, one for each hit point it currently has. In this state, a scrapeworm can squirm through any sized opening and burrow through dirt, mud, and soft earth at double its normal speed. It takes one action to discorporate but a full round to reform.
Engulf: Scrapeworms feed by partially discorporating and enveloping the intended prey. The target of this attack must succeed a Dexterity saving throw or be immobilized inside the scrapeworm. Every subsequent round, the target takes 1d10 damage as the scrapeworm begins digesting them.
Not of this World: When a scrapeworm is reduced to 0 hit points, it rapidly decomposes into corrosive slime and noxious vapors filling a 10-foot cube. Creatures within the area of effect at the start of their turn must succeed a Constitution saving throw or suffer 1d10 damage and Disadvantage on rolls. The poison will dissipate naturally after one minute; a strong breeze will instantly disperse the fumes.