2016-10-09 Basilisk

Basilisk.

First attempt at a basilisk. Anybody meeting its gaze must die. The air it breathes is poisonous. Save or die! I wonder: too much red? Definitely too many lines. I would like some more whitespace! But how? Perhaps I will try a big cobra like snake, too.

I made a second with a cobra-like basilisk but wasn’t happy with it, so my monster manual entry for the basilisk will now use the above.

Basilisks seem to be super-poisonous. There’s nothing in the bestiary about petrification!

Yeah, I started checking a medieval bestiary. This is essential reading when working on a monster manual. So, a cockatrice is the same as a basilisk and it is the king of serpents, only a few inches long, can be killed by a weasel only, etc. Hm...

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B is for Basilisk.

– Ian Borchardt 2016-10-10


I’m surprised you also went with the small size. It seems so non-heroic. If I went that route, the basilisk turns out to be more of a trap than a monster to fight. You could stomp it with an orc boot, if you survived the poison... Also, you say “The merest touch of the basilisk will kill you stone dead, a fact which petrifies most onlookers in horror” – so you use petrification due to fear. I don’t know. That seems so weird. Save vs. paralysis or your fear turns you to stone. What if the player then says, “how can my character be afraid since they don’t know anything about basilisks?” Suddenly it’s dangerous to know things about the campaign world. Actually, now that I think about it, I like the idea. Hahaha.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-10


Actually that was supposed to be a pun rather than an actual game effect. =9)

Actually I really did overestimate the size of the basilisk in that article - in my min’d eye it only just reaches a foot in length. The imagery is of these mighty monsters hurriedly fleeing this small orange lizard. [Partly inspired by tales of the black mamba which is unafraid to travel down the centre of a trail because nobody wants to dispute it’s right to use of the trail with it.]

The entire existence of the basilisk can be summed up by the word “poisonous.”

It’s less of a trap but more of an obstacle or problem to be solved. How do you deal with something so noxious that even wounding it is likely to cause the poison to travel up the weapon and kill the user.

The easiest way is probably do what everything else does - move. It is supposed to be a very difficult foe to defeat - often requiring lateral thinking if one intrudes on your domain. And even if it is dealt with (without blighting the region where it is killed), the village probably still needs to be moved just because the thing poisoned the land on which it trod.

Fortunately because of their nature they are very very rare. Move of an event than an encounter. [And most adventurers can easily move out of the way, so it is not a problem at all for landless adventurers – not even a trap.]

There is also a certain opportunity cost involved. One of the assassin’s holy grails is to find a way to use the toxicity of a basilisk, which could likely kill anything (including a god or something that is already dead or cursed with immortality [ala The Lure of the Basilisk by Lawrence Watt-Evans]). As a result there is an impressive death list of alchemist/assassins who have tried and failed to capture the essence of the basilisk. Although one player seems to have succeeded in at least the first stage. The problem they faced was how to actually poison something with it, without dying in the process - sadly we will never know as the basilisk is so toxic it managed to kill the player before he could use it.

[Allow me my morbid humour, too many players in that old campaign are dead now. =8( ]

– Ian Borchardt 2016-10-10


The players are dead? Ouch.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-10


One of the reasons I’m working on new campaigns. The old ones are too ghost-ridden. <sigh>

– Ian Borchardt 2016-10-10


No weakness against weasels? Because that’s in Plinius, and I liked that quite a bit. _

– Christian Sturke 2016-10-10


I wondered about that! But if you look at the bestiary, the weasel is dirty and it’s stench is said to kill the basilisk – and at the same time it is not immune against the basilisk’s poison. They both die.

If I want giant weasels to be mounts, the stench will have to go. Would you then say that weasels are immune to poison? Maybe an interesting detail...

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-11


Also remember that the basilisk in it’s historical role is the King of Serpents.

Given the heavy Middle Eastern origins of the story there is a strong tendency that the original observations by Pliny et al [?] actually had their source from the Indian subcontinent and combat between the mongoose and king cobra.

One interesting approach (especially if you want giant weasel mounts) would be to make the weasel immune to charm (or in this case fear). Whilst other creatures would be afraid to approach the King of Snakes the weasel knows no fear and will attack even if it means it’s death.

This may have corollary applications. For example the giant weasel mount would be immune to dragon fear and fear of death as well. And would not hesitate to attack a well-formed formation of infantry with spears/pikes, or creatures many times its size - something most mounts would look askance at their rider if they tried to do this.

And the weasel riders would be those who know no fear. Today is a good day to die!

– Ian Borchardt 2016-10-11


Excellent idea.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-11


Huh, I thought it was immune. Anyway, just remembered, I did a Pathfinder version a few years back (in German).

– Christian Sturke 2016-10-11


It says in the weasel entry: “Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 33): A weasel’s hole can be easily found because of the foulness of the ground around it. If a basilisk is thrown into a weasel’s hole, the stench of the weasel will kill the basilisk, though the weasel will also die.”

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-11


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