This creature entry for The Grand Original Map Contest at Tenkar’s Tavern belongs to the Dwarven Fortress map and is designed for the Dungeon Crawl Classics game. Dave Przybyla wrote the text and Brian Dunn provided the illustration. One possible encounter with the bone blade is described in the short narrative below.
We slogged into the ruins of Koussane at dusk, bone tired. We pitched our tent in the corner of two broken walls. It was a quiet night, almost too quiet, but who knew what to expect? It was our first day out.
Toumakis woke us on his watch. He’d heard some noises out past a collapsed house. Didn’t take long before the rest of us heard them, too. Weird high-pitched voices that made my hair stand on end. I felt like someone had put a blade in my ear and was jabbing the back of my eyeballs.
We fanned out along the wall, knowing we’d see them if they came at us. The moon was pretty bright. But the voices never got any closer, so we stayed put instead of stumbling around in the dark. After a while the voices were gone.
The next morning we headed toward the dwarven fortress at the center of the city. As far as we knew, no one had ever explored much of the place, and we were expecting to leave with our packs full of gold and gems, or at least a good dwarven axe or warhammer.
We closed in on the gatehouse. Toumakis had point. There was a lot of rubble, so he took his time. Then we heard those voices again, coming from the back of the gatehouse. We all froze.
One of them came bobbing out from behind a wall, I swear to you, like a freaking potato on stilts. Four legs and four arms. It was so ridiculous I almost laughed. The creature was talking to another one further back, bouncing up and down, waving those arms all over the place. Well, by now you’d better believe we all had our weapons ready.
It said, “Ooo, explorers. We explore too. We not hurt you. We want to talk. Watch for pit. You stay at our camp? We share food.”
A second one walked up. It was holding a dwarven axe with some gems embedded in the handle near the blade. “I found axe!” it said, bouncing up and down like it was excited. Then it saw Toumakis. “Ooo, a dwarf! Very tasty!”
That didn’t sit too well with Toumakis. Well, things went downhill from there.
—Story told by the fighter Sinclair Thorne at the Timid Captain Tavern.
Bone blade: Init +4; Atk arm +4 melee (1d6+1); AC 18; HD 4d8+4; MV 40’; Act 4d20; SV Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +4; AL C.
Bone blades are odd creatures about the height of a man. Four bone legs support a bulbous brown torso about three feet in diameter. Four bone arms extend from the torso; two of the arms end in pincers, two end in sword-like blades. Four eyes are spaced around the torso, and atop the torso is a large, tooth-filled maw. The torso bobs as the bone blade walks, the eyes constantly blink, and the arms fold and unfold. Bone blades speak in a grating, high pitched voice that can set a listener’s hair on end.
Due to the extreme flexibility of its many jointed limbs, the bone blade can attack an opponent with all four arms each round. The sword arms slice the bone blade’s prey into bits and the pincer arms lift the flesh to the mouth. Bone blades prefer humanoid meat, and consider dwarf a delicacy.
Bone blades inhabit the broken lands once ruled by fallen empires, lost races, and supernatural beings. They are curious creatures that love to explore ruins in an insatiable search for knowledge. Bone blades typically travel in groups of four to eight that live in a ruin while performing a methodical investigation. Obsessively careful and meticulous, bone blades will spends months searching every nook and cranny.
Most bone blades know the Common tongue, as well as a few additional languages that aid in their searches. Many bone blades are the equivalent of sages in such subjects as history, geography, archaeology, logic, and architecture.
Bone blades eagerly approach adventurers, hoping to trade information about what they have seen and done. They will talk endlessly, debating point after point. Interspersed with serious discussions of ruins will be passing comments about appetizing adventurers, especially dwarves. Yet, despite all the talk, bone blades seldom attack unless strongly provoked. They will often plead for their lives if assaulted by strong foes.
The same qualities that make bone blades good explorers are valued by some supernatural beings. Bone blades are not very brave, and are easily coerced into the service of a powerful master.
The bladed arms of the bone blade can be fashioned into short swords. Because the blades were once part of a sapient creature, they may produce unpredictable effects if used as the basis for a magical weapons.