Just say the word to PCs and they fidget slightly.
We immediately conjure up images of cypress-choked, sphagnum-ridden and decomposing lands, bubbling, oozing, and teeming with intrigue. Swarms of venomous insects, slithering serpents, husks of dead and dying trees, brackish black water rippling with mystery, fetid fogs and mists, which sit astride the forlorn terrain, further adding to the overall sense of despair and…death.
After all, a Swamp is a dying land, and yet a vibrant one, in its own special sinister way. Tell me, who doesn’t love a good swamp in a fantasy game?
Countless beasts and critters of the swamps, bogs, and fens have graced the pages of RPG products over the years. We need our very own collection here in the Citadel! Creatures of the seeping, sordid wetlands are plentiful. They tend to exhibit qualities unlike lifeforms of any other terrain. Swamp critters tend to leave a certain irrevocable taste of loathing and repugnance on the palate. We love to hate them!
The swamp creatures survive here on the fringes of civilization, forgotten, unloved, and most of all unrepentant, creeping, crawling, flying over-head, and swimming the abyssal, foul waterways.
Entire campaigns can be staged in swamps. And denizens populate these swamps, denizens that can pose mundane hazards or chthonic perils, and everything in between.
So lets get going. Add your favorite swamp critter or three!
The emphasis, as always, is on short, sweet, flavorful, and loathsome. No linked EPICS!! (please)
Creepers, Slitherers, and Crawlers…Arise!
- Mordent Rat - the Wanderer
- Pacranite Leech - the Wanderer
- Stenchtear Butterfly - Murometz
- Sabre Crab - valadaar
- Bmokkar - Captain Penguin
- Marsh Panther - Wanderer
- The Hounds - manfred
- the Feyenthrall - Ghost.In.The.Machine
- Hyrizian Toads - Pariah
- Witch Worm - the Wanderer
- The Swamp Children-valadaar
- Swamp Rays-Cheka Man
- Bog Serpents-Scrasamax
- River Drake-tinypoisonousfish
Additional Ideas (15)
This rodent looks like a common swamp rat. Brown fur is common, although black or grey are also known to exist.
The Mordent is primarily nocturnal, feeding mostly on carrion left behind from more accomplished predators. Even though this is common fare, living creatures are preferred.
These rodents are unique in the fact that their bit does not cause pain; they have a natural anesthetic in their saliva. Being small beasts they cause little physical harm.
The bite from one of them is, however, quite dangerous. Along with a potent anesthetic is a disease natural to these beasts.
Once bitten, one will begin suffer the effects of rigor mortis. It quickly moves through the body, taking hold of large areas at a time. Upon complete infection the body will be rigid and appear freshly dead, even breathing is slowed to an almost unnoticed level.
When this happens the rodents leisurely begin feeding on the living meal.
Although fairly rare these creatures are still the bane of many hunters and travelers of the watery paths through and near many marshlands.
This particular denizen of swamps and bayous is a very discreet and lethal parasite. They attach themselves in the usual way to the unwary and unknowing. More often than not they will choose to feed in an unnoticed place on the body such as under the arms, the back of the thigh or between the toes.
They appear to be nothing more that a small scab from a minor cut (and feel like it when touched). They are quite easily (but painfully) removed with a simple tug. But this is not the worst of its qualities.
Rather than feed on blood they feed on endorphins. This leech secretes simple venom into the bloodstream causing the heart to race and mild paranoia-like effects. Once set in, the host does the rest. Falling to paranoia and high levels of adrenalin, endorphins soon move through the body feeding the leech. As the leech eats, it metabolizes the endorphins and secretes more of the paranoia-inducing venom into the host, continuing the cycle.
This process is known to drive the host insane over a period of several days to a few weeks. The only way to avoid the long term effect of insanity is to remove the leech and let the venom run its course, usually three to five days. The wound left behind is slow to heal and infection is a common occurrence.
This peculiar creature is named not for tears of sorrow, but the tears welling up in people's eyes from the sulfurous stench. Whenever traversing swampland, one will often come upon pockets of escaping gas, rife with decay from the anaerobic digestion and fermentation of organic matter including manure, sewage sludge, and of course, rotting vegetation. These foul gasses will often cause tickles in the nose and throat, as well as burning and stinging in the eyes of passers by, bringing tears unbidden.
The Stenchtear butterfly is a bizarre, harmless little insect which always seems to appear when tears are flowing. This has led to them developing wild reputations. Many tales and rumours regarding their natures are spun by evening campfires, among the travellers of the muck and mire. Butterflies of Woe, Eaters of the Burning Tears and Harbingers of Sorrow, are just three of the fanciful names ascribed these innocent insects. In truth, the butterflies are often seen fluttering and hovering near or above the expelling gas-sinks, due to their strange ecology. These particular butterflies, which look like any other of the species, except for their prevalent gold, mauve and drab-green coloring, are attracted to these areas because of the nourishing effect the sulfurous fumes have on their anatomies.
When laced with rising wisps of noxious gas, these insects do not die, but sway in the breezes, as if intoxicated or drunk. No one could yet tell what bizarre relationship these butterflies have with the normally poisonous fumes.
Adventurers often speak of these "harmless" bugs with quiet reverence. It is the indelible and disconcerting image of a flock of butterflies circling one's head, while one cries from stench and fumes, like a swarm of gently mocking ill-wishers, which has earned to the Stenchtear Butterfly, its nefarious and undeserved reputation.
Likewise, those who live near or around swamps, share a certain, logical wisdom, when it comes to these critters. The swamp's inhabitants know that seeing a small school of tittering butterflies amid the quagmires, means that there is a good chance there is a pocket of escaped gas in the vicinity, and thus, they tend to avoid the insects altogether.
-Muro(timed out when I hit "send")
The sabre crab is a huge relative of the hermit crab. It has a massively modified claw (2'- 3' in length) with a saw-toothed, razor sharp edge it uses to kill its prey. The other claw is also large, but is made for gripping prey. The crab lays in wait under murky waters with its eye stalks barely breaking surface. It has a very thick shell and is easily a match for the crocodiles which share it's swamp home.
The crab is not very intelligent and highly aggressive, typically attacking anything that they notice, including other Sabre Crabs. The sole exception to this is mating season, when massive groups of these critters will form in a frenzy of courtship, dominance battles and mating. The noise created by these encounters has more then once been mistaken for a small war.
Certain tribal groups which either inhabit the swamps or live adjacent to them find the Sabre Crabs's fighting claw very useful in making weapons.
The bmokkar, also called the "water-worm", is a very large swamp or marsh-dwelling predator, which dwells in large, deep wetlands in hot climes. A formidable creature, the bmokkar is a mostly-aquatic creature, and is rarely seen except by the most deep-roving of swamp-dwelling clans and tribes; it is a ferocious enigma that an overburdened clan-ma or fed-up father of a marsh-tribe will use as a bogeyman, scaring young clan-kids out of the dark reaches of the untamed fens.
Though it is common for bestiaries to refer to the bmokkar as a "worm", a more accurate analogy would be to call it a great water-bound centipede. The creature is usually 7 to 10 feet long, but can be as short as 5 and as long as 20 feet, depending on the expanse and depth of its swamp habitat. The body is wide and semi-flattened in shape (similar to a squashed cylinder); it is segmented, and each segment has a set of four legs (one pair on each side of the body). The body ends in a "tail" segment with a wide, flat fin like that of a dolphin. The whole body resembles that of a great insect or centipede, and it's segments are composed of hard plates like those of a bug. However, rather than chitin, the bmokkar's hide is composed of an incredibly thick, tough flesh, leathery and rubbery to the touch, and as hard as the shiny armor of its landborne cousins.
The fearsome aspect of the bmokkar, however, lies in its terrifying mouthparts. The creature's eyeless head possesses most notably a huge set of razored scimitar-like outer mandibles, easily large enough to cut a man in half. Within these great blades, there are four sets of dual fangs, ringing a circular gullet; this gullet is filled with grinding plates of rough chitin and shifting shard-teeth of hard plate. If that were not enough, beyond this smashing terror, the throat is lined with cruel hard thorns. Surrounding this entire mouth, there is a great mass of hairlike tentacles. These tentacles are coated in a paralytic agent which numbs on contact- the bmokkar uses these tentacles to render its prey or target motionless and then drag the helpless meat into the slicing, mashing, grinding horror of its maw.
The bmokkar typically spends most of its time in the muddy, lightless depths, capturing other strange marsh beasts as they come to the edges of deep swamp pools to drink, or as they wade through the edges between shallows and deeper lakes. Occasionally, a water-worm will be seen to cruise along or just-below the surface like a crocodile or shark; even more rarely the creatures may sometimes be seen shooting and leaping for hard-to-catch prey, breaching the surface like insane insectile dragons from hell and then flopping awkwardly back into the murky currents.
Bmokkar are not intelligent; in fact, they are nearly mindless. They seek to consume nearly anything that will fall into their jaws, and never congregate in social groups except during the breeding season, when the surfaces of some of the darker lakes and pools in the marshes can be seen thrashing with a strange and gelatinous mass of orgying water-worms.
It is still disputed by sages whether or not the bmokkar is related to the very similar armored monster of the oceans known as the dhenrabi, which is also a blind, armored, centipedal creature with great jaws.
The bmokkar is never found outside of the hotter climes of the world, and only rarely do they stray beyond murky marsh waters. Water-worms found to have become lost and slipped into streams or clear rivers are invariably wounded or confused individuals which soon die.
These animals are anything but what one would expect.
These lean and powerful cats thrive in the harshest of environments. They stand just over three foot at the shoulder and nearly nine foot from muzzle to tail. Females are slightly shorter in height but are equal in length.
Their fur is a two-toned tawny color, having darker “spots” starting midway along the back all the way to the tip of the tail. This camouflage makes them very hard to spot in the bayous and swamps they call home.
They are equipped with overly large paws with retractable claws and can open their jaws considerably wider than most cats. This is strictly to help them hunt their preferred prey, large game.
They are solitary hunters, preferring both dusk and dawn for the effect it has on the vision of their prey. Living on a primary diet of deer, alligators and large water snakes they have been known to hunt smaller game such as rabbits, opossums, raccoons, rats and even crabs. But, when a human enters its territory all other food is forgotten and a new hunt begins. The common Marsh Panther will band together with others to track down and kill a man, using pack tactics and ambushes if needed. They have no fear of man, seeing him only as a large and elusive meal.
15th. We have come upon some wolves... or dogs... well, you can't be sure with all the dirt and weeds mingled with their fur. The creatures are canines for sure, but have been lost in these filthy swamps for too long. They can swim pretty well, and look nasty enough, but luckily they are cowards. A few thrown stones and a shout has sent them running.
16th. Our friends are still with us, following quietly. Our guide, who has an eye on such things, said there are five to eight of them, but we should not worry, they have no chance on us.
17th. They approached us a few times to steal rations, and had to be scared away. As they were getting bolder, Petrufus, the guide, suggested that we kill one next time, which should be enough to make the pack leave.
18th. It's annoying. They were around all night, making their stupid sounds, with their eyes glowing. No doubt are they the source of all stories of the swamps, where terrible creatures live. Still they won't come near to get what's theirs. We have shot a few arrows on them in the morning. There was a yelp or two, the only dog-like sound we heard of them, and they quickly withdrew. This should be the last time we have seen the scum.
19th. They are back, circling us while staying in the water. They have attacked a horse, and wounded his leg, but a few blows sent them into a good distance again. The men are really annoyed now. But we are just a few days away from a good road. Damn this bog!
20th. The horse got bad, we have ended its life so it does not suffer. With a carcass on our hands, Petrufus suggested to use the bait and finish them off! We all agreed, hungry for a confrontation, to show who is the real master in this cat and mouse play!
Later: We had a good start. The dumb creatures did not even suspect us coming back to the carcass. Oh, we send them little bastards flying. I heard the bones of one cracking under my sword, but they still limped into their slimy home. Moments later, Petrufus spotted one close, and followed him into the water. In that instance, several jumped on him, and have drawn him below the surface. We have done what we could, but it was too deep where they went, and we didn't want to follow them inside. We have done our prayers, and moved on in silence.
21st. Afternoon, they caught up on us, and followed ever since. During one of their attacks, my servant has nearly cut one in half! It just withdrew into the bog again. It followed first slowly, then faster, and in less than one hour it was back in prime shape, joining the other seven. What are these creatures? What evil force, curse or magic has made them undying? They are bound to the swamp, so much is sure. We hope to leave them behind us.
22nd. It is almost over. We only need to cross one deeper spot, to get out of this accursed place, we are prepared. I have decided to camp, as the men are exhausted from the chase. Once there is solid ground under our legs, we can get on the road fast. I miss my wife, and have quite a story for my children, when they get older. We have lost only two horses, but I feel pity for the guide, such an unnecessary death. I have to warn others of this danger, this beasts are not strong, but as a pack they are still a risk.
This diary, and the body of the merchant have been delivered by his faithful servants to the grieving family. The Shiriff has issued a warning about a new threat in The Swamps. A few adventurous types have gone missing since then, after trying to hunt down the beasts. Only one such pack is thought to live. It's origin is unknown.
An empire faded, forgotten and devoured by the earth itself. Memories lost, yet they linger, as if begging to be rediscovered.
The swamp can be such a hard and unforgiving place, and the tired and exhausted adventurers paddle their canoes under the many hanging branches of the swamp willow, the sweet smell mixing with the stale swamp air. Strange sounds startle and surprise them: A child is laughing, her innocent voice much like the trickle of a mountain stream or the chiming of some delightful bell. Small feet are running, and the cluttering of horses’ hooves follow. A mother is crying fearfully for her to stop; then she utters a long, desperate wail. Silence. Then a small voice tells mommy it is alright. She is a big girl now. She knows that she must stay out of the way of the couriers of the king.
Yet as the adventurers look around, there is no one but them to be seen under the canopy. No horseman. No child. No worried mother. There are only bugs, dark swamp water and the branches of the swamp willows, heavy with leaves, a cacophony of dark, lush verdancy.
Then later, as they ready their camp, struggling to ignite the moist wood they have gathered for the fireplace. New sounds: A council of kings, their voices dark, their mood somber. War has come; an ancient enemy amasses at the borders of their empire. The Emperor asks his kings to marshal their armies. To prepare for war.
And as the adventurers listen, seeing none but hearing these voices of ages bygone, they know that there is a traitor among the gathered kings. One of the kings will betray the alliance of old, and the empire will fall. Without understanding how or why, they know that deep in the swamp lays the skeleton of the Emperor, his armor pierced by a dozen blades.
Then: Ripples in the water followed by a distant song, eerie and weird – a slow falsetto.
Fireflies gather and the wind starts to blow, weak gusts of swamp air batters the frail flames of the campfire.
Then the Feyenthrall materialize: Hazy outlines of faintly glowing mist. At random ancient scenes will be seen in the mist, as if the adventurers were looking into a crystal orb or other scrying device.
The Feyenthrall are enigmatic creatures of lore. They feed on emotions and, as they drift through the swamp, they absorb the dreams of the dead and living alike. So it is that the adventurers might see the mating of a swamp lizard for one second, then, after several minutes or even hours of no visions, they might gaze upon the visage of the Emperor of old. The Feyenthrall are obsessed with him, the raw emotion surrounding his fall so vast as to keep them sated for decades, nay centuries!
These Tribals and their stories, just today I heard one about a toad big enough to eat your leg. Preposterous I said, but they held that the story was the utmost truth.
-Journal Entry of Gima (Explorer and Naturalist)
These beasts look very much like your common garden toad, minus one very important fact, they're roughly the size of a large dog. Living in the bogs of the Hyrizi Jungle, they prey on anything that is both small enough to fit into their large mouths and stupid enough to come near them.
They're not fast creatures by any definition of the word and rely entirely upon their camouflage to get the jump on potential food. One part of this camouflage is their burrows, not much more than a hole in the ground that they can fit the entirety of their body in, which they wait in until something comes within striking range. They then bound out, using their powerful hind legs to propel themselves toward their food.
Now, while the meat of the toads and tadpoles is grisly and nearly tasteless, their eggs are viewed as a delicacy in many parts of the world. It is said that those eggs taste of heaven and will keep one going even to the gates of the Abyss. Of course, finding the fist-sized eggs isn't that easy, the toads will often hide them in thick rushes on the edge of fetid pools, but the reward is worth it, and the local villages will often fight over the most fetid and vile pools, for the chance to get as many of the eggs as possible
This vile and disgusting parasite is horrid enough to turn even the strongest stomach.
Found hiding beneath rocks and in carrion below the brackish waters of the swamp, this albino is a rightly elusive beast. It secretes a slick greenish fluid from its skin and smells of week old meat and molded sugar cane.
Nearly half a foot overall, its mouth takes up nearly one third of the length. Several rows of small sharp teeth line the oval orifice. Darting in and out between the yellow-green teeth is three long thin appendages, similar to tongues. At the end of the body is a long jagged stinger, near four fingers long.
This evolutionary enigma serves no purpose to the educated and God fearing whatsoever. The locals believe it to be a boon, but they are heathens after all…
~From the journal of Father Marcus LeMonde, naturalist of the Jesuit order
The Witch Worm is anything other than what it appears.
Although loathsome to view, this subspecies of Gnatbobdellida is a true leech. It does however seem to have evolved in a strange way. Its unique physiology is actually most beneficial to man. While feeding, this beast injects the hollow stinger on its tail into the body to expel waste.
The waste in this case is purified blood mixed with other chemical and mineral elements found within the beast’s stomach. This mixture works very similarly to antibiotics, attacking and killing most foreign bacteria in the host…which the leech then filters from the blood for food. A Witch Worm will feed off of a single host for two to three days before dislodging and attempting to return to the dark waters of the swamp or bayou it calls home.
Practitioners on Voodoo and those of the primitive healing arts know the benefits of this creature and exploit it whenever the opportunity arises.
The people of the Great Forests often gather around campfires and tell tall tales of half-beast, half-man creatures that wander the Deep Quagmire. A variety of stories abound: some say they are the spawn of demons, the result of unholy unions between succubus and man; other that they are nomads, descendents of those who were banished from the tribes centuries ago, now made to scour the lonely swamps for food and lost family. Most adventurers scoff and dismiss the tales as legend and myth, hiding their true fears behind a screen of temerity. Just the name of these creatures is enough to frighten children and send a chill up rangers' spines: the Kuodokaki.
The reality of these creatures are somewhere between myth and skepticism. Kuodokaki do indeed inhabit the Deep Quagmire, as well as other swamps. Their appearance is disturbing as well: humanoid in form, wizened and hunched but with thick sinewy muscles. Their faces are muscular and neanderthal, with a heavy brow, thick cheeks, and narrow, hanging jaw. Their hands and feet feature only four digits, longer and thicker than human fingers and toes. Their skin seems to hang like torn cloth off their strong bodies, its tone as dark and green-black as the waters of the swamp. They often walk with a slow, deliberate lumber, almost moping, watching the waters and brush carefully. When needed, they move with surprising speed. If their appearance brings great fear, their tale evokes equal sorrow.
Millenia ago, the Kuodokaki's ancestors lived in the Great Forests and beyond, a great if simple civilization. They knew no war and lived in simple huts among the trees. Only occasionally did they trade, well known in the ancient kingdoms and empires for their elaborate wooden carvings. Their language, guttural yet flowing, seemed impossible to translate even by the greatest linguists. To the ancient rangers they were legendary, finding wounded hunters and adventurers before they even sought help and curing the gravest of wounds. Some said that their magic, seemingly innate among their people, was some of the greatest ever known. Most peoples left them in peace, few posessing the sheer rancor to make war on such an innocent and benelovent race. As happens, though, such malice is always found among men.
As the warrior empire of Thonderhaas conquered nation after nation, they began to cast their eye on the resource-filled Great Forests. The woods held many potential mines and lumber yards, and across their expanse lay greater kingdoms and new seas to conquer. Although even most citizens of the warlike Thonderhaas lacked the stomach to sack a defenseless people, the Great Emperor Mardeshan would hear no such talk. The Emperor held an unspeakable contempt for these ancestral Kuodokaki, refusing to even keep them as a subject people. Gathering only a small portion of his vast army, Mardeshan ordered his troops to march on the Great Forests and forcibly remove its denizens. With many soldiers shedding tears, a great slaughter commenced and the Kuodokaki peoples were destroyed. The few that survived were forced in the marshlands of the Deep Quagmire, their sorrow driving many mad. All these years later, by the nature of the swamps and the deep magics these people posessed, the Kuodokaki gradually changed into the beast-like hominids found in the swamps today.
The attack of Thonderhaas still seems to haunt these sad folk. They avoid any settlements and give any travellers a wide berth. Their dark skin, a natural camouflage, makes them difficult to spot. They do occasionally follow visitors to their swamps with great curiosity, always moving silently and just out of sword's reach. A skilled tracker might be lucky enough to see the glint of their eyes on a bright night, reflecting moonlight like the eyes of a cat. Encamped travellers will sometimes hear haunting sounds of groans and gargling; what sounds so vicious and ghastly is, in fact, the language of the Kuodokaki. Adventurers who are severely wounded in the swamps will sometimes awake to find a dark and harsh face hovering over them. What may seem like a carrion eater waiting for a meal is actually a Kuodokaki healing the injured with their natural magic abilities.
Long separated, the Kuodokaki live ferally and distant from each other, meeting only to mate. A mother will raise a child alone, then abandon it at adolescence in order that the young will learn to survive. They live off the swamp's bounty, eating raw fish, snakes, and vegetation. Their once-famous craft abilities have long since dwindled and Kuodokaki now survive without tools or weapons of any kind. They live in the safety of the trees, being naturally strong climbers. A few have returned from the Deep Quagmire with stories of finding sleeping Kuodokaki in lower limbs. Sadly, travellers often fall for the vicious myths of these people and kill them on the spot when confronted with one. Their unique composition of their bodies causes them to decompose very rapidly, and poachers are denied any prize in hunting them.
Legends tell of the mysterious Swamp Children - quiet spritely beings who help lost souls but none of these beliefs survive actually encountering one.
The Swamp Children are small, emaciated humanoids with exaggerated potbellies and long, wolflike muzzles. Their skin is covered in a foul, yellowish mucous which protects them against the cold as well as the vermin of the swamp. No insect will willingly come close to a Swamp Child - those that do get stuck in the viscous coating and subsequently eaten. They are well adapted to their swamp home, being fully amphibious and able to hold their breath for many minutes. They are small - generally less then 3' tall and about 40 lbs weight, but they are extremely strong. The Swamp Children normally feed on the natural flora and fauna of their swamp home, but they will gleefully feast on anything that they can overpower, and are not above cannibalism.
When hunting, groups of the Children will lurk under the surface in ambush while others will either lead or drive victims into the ambush point. Grappling and dog-piling their foes, they will attempt to force them under the fetid waters of the swamp to drown.
The Children are capable of speech and have their own langauge. Since they have no interest in other beings except as food, they do not learn other languages.
There are legends of spellcasting Swamp Children, and these are true - there are shamans within their ranks that worship demonic powers.
Deep in the shallow swampy pools hidden by the silt are the Swamp Rays. Because of the murk of their habitat they are rarely seen clearly alive, but they appear like a huge flatfish several feet long with four spiney tentacles on their back. Thest tentacles have long claws of horn on them, with tips as sharp at a well cared for sword, and the muscles in the tentacles can drive the claws through chainmail armour, although after a few thrusts they tire quickly.
In the swamps however a well aimed thrust is all that is needed. The poison causes numbness rapidly to spread through the body causing the victim in most cases to fall into the swamp and drown, to be food for the Swamp Ray, which has large jaws. It only lasts a few minites, but a second toxin, should the victim somehow escape drowning, eats away at the internal organs and causes severe sickness, and unless cured, the victim will die within between a few hours and a week depending on how strong they are.
The Rays are covered in brown scales to match the colour of the swamp water. Apart from males and females in the mating season they are territorial but rarely if ever kill each other, instead wrestling with their tentacles. The loser of the bout swims away to find somewhere else to live. Many swamp travelers have reported seeing the tentacles twisted together, the sharp claws being held up straight to keep them out of the way.
Tentacle twisting also plays some part in mating, with the females prefering strong males that can pull their tentacles below the surface of the swamp. The Swamp Rays give birth to batches of twenty at a time but only one in ten will survive the perils of the swamp long enough to grow into adulthood.
Nay lad, stop picking up your feet looking for the bog serpent. Don't mind the little ones there, only a harm to toads and wee fish. The Bog Serpent hisself is as big 'round as a mangrove tree and as long as the Knight's list. And you'll not see him until he decides to be seen.
The Bog Serpent is a massive serpent that seems more like an ancestor of the dragons than an overly large snake. As the Swamp Guind mentioned, the average Bog Serpent is roughly 50 to 80 feet in length and five to six feet in diameter. The serpent's scales are large and mottled brown and gray, each the size of a knight's shield. Furthermore, the scales are irregular in shape, and many flare out to give the body of the serpent a rough appearance, much like waterlogged and rotten wood rife with mold and fungus. This sometimes works against the serpent as many older serpents tand to be badly infested with skin parasites and fungal infections.
The teeth of the serpent are as long and sharp as spear heads. It uses these teeth to hunt it's prey. The venom it has is rather weak, but the deep gashed from the fangs are often enough to bleed prey to death before the serpent swallows them whole. When PCs are encountered, the serpent is likely to attack their animal mounts first, swallowing them and their packs in quick gulps before escaping back into the swamp.
While in it's element, the serpent is a stealthy predator that prefers to attack from ambushes. If it can be drawn out of the watery marshes, it's own weight quickly hampers it, and it becomes a nearly helpless beast (IE a beached whale) rather than a lightning fast swamp stalker.
“A fortnight ago, I rode across Kitemoor via the verdant dam above the village of Etua, like so many springs before - each time not knowing what it was I truly tread upon. On my return I was stunned, for where the dam once stood was now but a murky channel, and of the quaint town, only shattered walls remained amongst a flooded stinking field of flotsam. As I stared in disbelief, my horse cantered nervously, and I turned to face what had erased the humble town – the jagged, spine-crowned head of a sinuous beast arising from the channel. Its coils glittered like emeralds and chalcedony, the belly an unwholesome yellow lined with thick, barbed scales. As the copious thing slid forward, burning sallow orbs in a spear-shaped head fixed me in a grip of terror. It opened its noxious steaming maw and struck at me, and if not for my bolting mount, surely I would have perished.”
Ysal of Lhyllifel, herald
River drakes dwell within reedy marshes and estuaries, although larger ocean specimens have been confirmed, these often called sea serpents by sailors and fishermen. River drakes have spear shaped heads like an adder, crowned by a crest of dark green spines. They have piercing yellow eyes and serpentine bodies with green scales that glitter like gems when wet, their toothsome maws often reeking of caustic venom and past victims. They are excellent swimmers, aided by planes of hard barbed belly scales to turn and dart with lighting speed. These barbed scale ridges afford river drakes great climbing skill, used to hook into wood or stone to ascend cliffs, tall trees and ships like a snake, albeit with far more speed and tenacity.
River drakes have keen senses and show an amazing and cruel cunning, lashing out to constrict prey and drown them in water or laying snares of coils under similar cover until prey present an opening for them to strike. They purposefully spook animals, trip and disarm foes, use (or even build) deadfalls and terrain to their advantage, and they may hide or cast away dropped weapons. If a river drake faces particularly dangerous foes, it will breathe a cone of corrosive steam which burns flesh and pits metal and wood.
River drakes dwell in coves, mangroves and caves along reedy coasts, often the top predator in their territory. Beside the occasional unlucky fisherman or missing livestock, adult river drakes are not often witnessed by humans unless such persons stray into their territory. However, in the rainy spring months they birth live young approximating 4-7’ in length, which immediately strike out on their own. The strength and aggression of these young drakes is alarming, and they often infest common fishing waters, irrigation canals, rice farms, wells and boats in search of food and shelter. These young have no breath weapon but can bite and strangle with deadly efficiency. Old river drakes tend to hibernate by covering overhangs and watery clefts with mud, rocks, and branches. In time, an overgrown hillock forms and blends into the landscape, where the beasts can slumber for decades or more. When they awaken they are sluggish and mottled, but soon shed and become ravenous, devastating an area before moving to new territory.
Undir tales speak of evil River Drakes who gather treasure in watery caves and cast spells or consort with witches, hags and other malicious beings, spreading great havoc while acting as hidden masters. Their teeth and shed skin can be fashioned into enchanted items.