I loved how Pathfinder simplified templates into the “fast template” format at the end of the book; it freed up a lot of space by compacting the more banal ones (celestial, fiendish, advanced, etc.). I loved them even better when Privateer Press was putting them at the end of their Monsternomicon books. Those were technically “Quickplates,” and weren’t condensed to quick and rebuild versions like in the Bestiary, but they were still fantastic ways to make new and unique monsters.
Of course, the big flaw with OGL content was that it often didn’t include monster names; the exceptions are the Advanced Bestiary, Tome of Horrors, and one or two others. Granted, it’s hard to copyright something like “Red Devil,” or a name from real-world history/mythology, but it’s annoying as sin when you have to come up with witty replacement names for Dracodiles and Nerubians. Never mind that most of the monster manuals is verboten.
For the most part, I changed the names to be something different (unless it was banal, like “Tough”), but if they’re notably awkward just make them whatever the heck you want. Besides, it’s not like the players should ever now.
I realize this one is somewhat similar to the Cave Creature template from Advanced Bestiary, but I think they’re two sides to the same process. Cave creature is an inherited template, representing an evolutionary change in a species: its offspring becoming modified to the subterranean environment. Deep-dwelling, by contrast, is more representative of adaptations in an individual creature: it’s been living underground for a while and has honed its senses to survive in a light-less environment, but it hasn’t, for example, evolved past eyesight and replaced it with echolocation (blindsight).
I’m also half tempted to rename the quickplate “subterranean” since that’s both accurate and unrelated to the original, but whatever. If Privateer has a problem with the name, I’ll change it.
Deep-DwellingA deep-dwelling creature is one that’s adapted to subterranean life: its eyes have adapted to near darkness, its senses of smell and hearing have been honed. This is a gradual development, but it can happen to any creature—even groups of creatures—that have either wandered underground or been trapped there. Speed: The creature gains a climb speed equal to half its base speed. Senses: The creature gains darkvision 60 ft., lean, scent. Saves: +1 to Fortitude. Abilities: Add +2 to Constitution and Dexterity. Skills: The creature gains a +4 racial bonus to Perception and Stealth checks. Restrictions: This quickplate is not typically applied to creatures Large size or greater, and it cannot be applied to creatures which are native to subterranean environments. Special Abilities: Lean (Ex): Food and water are harder to come by in a subterranean environment, and the deep-dwelling creature adapts to having less of these. It requires half as much sustenance as its base type. CR: No change, or increase by +1.
Sample creature: Cave dinosaurs came to mind, so I picked a nice big one, Allosaurus from the Bestiary 2. Dinosaurs, like most monsters, are easy as heck to template, since they don’t have a lot of special abilities to repeat, giving them short stat blocks. And besides, it has a nice Hollow Earth/Center of the Earth flavor to it. I could see some dinosaurs getting stuck beneath the earth (or dragged down by some serpentfolk/drow animal wranglers, and ending up loose somehow) and adapting to subterranean life, stomping around and eating whatever it bumps into.
N Huge animal
Init +5; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +28DEFENSE
AC 20, touch 10, flat-footed 18 (+2 Dex, +10 natural, –2 size)
hp 103 (11d8+55)
Fort +14, Ref +9, Will +7OFFENSE
Speed 50 ft., climb 25 ft.
Melee bite +14 (2d6+8/19–20 plus grab), 2 claws (1d8+8)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks pounce, rake (2 talons +14, 1d8+8)STATISTICS
Str 26, Dex 15, Con 21, Int 2, Wis 15, Cha 10
Base Atk +8; CMB +18; CMD 29
Feats Alertness, Improved Critical (bite), Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Nimble Moves, Run
Skills Perception +30, Stealth +10; Racial Modifiers +12 Perception, +4 Stealth SQ lean
I juggled two of its Perception ranks into Stealth since it’s a class skill, giving this big guy a snowball’s chance in hell of sneaking up on something. Other than that, it’s a very minor bump: +11 hp, +3 to Fort, +1 to Ref, +1 to AC and Touch AC, and darkvision. Probably not the best choice in hindsight, since it already had scent. And now it has a climb speed, for no well-defined reason. I’m not sure it’s up to the snuff of a CR8, like the template implies, since the only thing on-par is its health and saves, so I left its CR alone.
I’m used to competent, optimized characters in large groups who would make mincemeat of this thing, so I tend to lowball CRs in general; if your group isn’t optimized, or has few members, bump the CR back up.
So, let’s try another monster, one that doesn’t already have several of the template’s features. How about a lower-level threat? For some reason I was thinking of trogs, except those guys are already subterranean. So what about something bounding across the savannah plain? And no, what came to mind wasn’t a lion, but megafauna in everything but name.
Deep-Dwelling Axe Beak
N Large animal
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +9
AC 15, touch 13, flat-footed 11 (+4 Dex, +2 natural, -1 size)
hp 26 (3d8+12)
Fort +9, Ref +7, Will +1
Speed 50 ft., climb 25 ft.
Melee bite +5 (1d8+6)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks lean, sudden charge
Str 18, Dex 19, Con 18, Int 2, Wis 11, Cha 10
Base Atk +2; CMB +7; CMD 20
Feats Run, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Perception +9; Racial Modifiers +4 Perception, +4 Stealth
Food and water are harder to come by in a subterranean environment, and the deep-dwelling creature adapts to having less of these. It requires half as much sustenance as its base type.
Sudden Charge (Ex)
When making a charge attack, an axe beak makes a single bite attack. If successful, it may also attempt to trip its opponent as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If the attempt fails, the axe beak cannot be tripped in return.
Great, both of my choices have had climb speeds at the awkward 25-foot increment. At any rate, giving a creature +2 Con and +2 Dex is a lot more noticeable at lower levels, though it’s not going to ruin the characters that much more as a CR2 than a CR3. Its damage output and attacks remain unchanged, making it a passable foe, but probably not a major one. Unless it uses its Sudden Charge to stack with its climb speed, which, while hilarious sounding, probably doesn’t work RAW. Up to the GM at that point.
Looking at both of these, I’m going to put the template’s CR modifier at “CR: +0 or +1,” since I’m not sure it does enough to make monsters that much more deadly. It’s kind of like the Celestial/Fiendish templates put on a low-level monster; it just doesn’t feel like it’s advancing things enough to take on four average characters at a level above the creatures’ base stats.
There you have it.