Saturday, April 11, 2020

[Secret Jackalope!!] Perils of the Bleak Forest, being a Survivor’s Guide for the Recently Exiled

After the Secret Santicorn, the OSR discord server is doing Secret Jackalope! I requested a random generator of pulpy lost races, and Stefan "The Moth" delivered a set of amazing sci-fi tables. My prompt was from Phlox (author of the blog Whose Measure God Could Not Take), who requested "an in-character description of a monster, from an in-universe monster manual"! This prompt proved to be tricky, because it's more about creative writing than game design... But I did my best, and came up with this Veins in the Earth-like "world building through bestiary", an in-universe survival guide for people who are exiled to a cursed forest covered in volcanic ashes.

Happy Secret Jackalope to everyone!

“Perils of the Bleak Forest, being a Survivor’s Guide for the Recently Exiled”

Grey-barked Crooked Willows
When the thirst becomes unbearable, look for crooked willows with the dark grey bark, for the roots of these abominations reach down into the moist strata of the soil deep under the ashes. Dig deep, and have a vessel ready to capture the drops of life-giving liquid.
Beware, though, that among these trees, some are sentient and thirst not for water, but for the very blood of exiles like you and me. You can tell them apart by the swaying motions of their branches that do not adhere to the blows of the howling winds.
The crooked willow cannot uproot, but the reach of its branches is longer than you expect. They strike with deadly precision, like a whip; then entangle and draw their victim close to their trunk; and then their bark cracks open and the black tendrils desiccate thy body.

As far as I could establish, the lupine howls that we hear during the darkest nights are not anchored to any body or beast; they are but resonances of the air and murderous intent. When you first hear them, there still might be a chance to flee, but choose the direction wisely. The Nighthowls travel in spirals. If you cannot hear them, they cannot hurt you. But even if just the faintest sound gets through, the mind is flooded with nightmarish visions and never recovers.
Some say the Nighthowls’ victim becomes the eye of the sonic storm from then on, but I do not believe this.

Opaque Beast
Twice the size and thrice the strength of a bear, this fearful monstrosity is in fact one of the lesser perils of the land. It never attacks, unless its eggs are threatened. The Beast’s yellow eyes absorb light – that’s why its appearance is foreshadowed by a fog of dusk. Somewhere in the center of this darkness is the nest of the Beast, where it lays eggs. The obsidian shells hide nutritious yolk, enough to feed three men for three days.


  1. This is excellent, especially the Nighthowls, those I would not like to encounter among the dark trees.
    And thanks for the shout-out! Much appreciated :)

    1. So, are Nighthowls and Moon Howlers natural enemies? ;)

      Thanks, and thank you once more for the lost races!

    2. Haha good catch! Well maybe they could be friends under the right circumstances, perhaps if the Moon shines its light directly at the center of the spiral and the howls and howlers become harmonious!

    3. I do not want to be there when that happens :D