I like creepy monsters with unsettling concepts or visuals as much as anyone, so I was thrilled when I was asked to stat out and expand upon the Alchemist Testing Apparatus, the Ledgerman, and the Red Leech Tide. These monsters were designed for J.M. Perkins’s Salt in Wounds Setting; click here to learn more and pre-order today. (To be clear, the initial concepts for these creatures aren’t mine.)
Alchemist Testing Apparatus
This small, hand-sized construct is an odd assortment of brass clockwork, bone, and machined sinew. Usually constructed by an alchemist looking to help discover medical data, these devices have six copper legs that end in hooked talons and a mosquito like ‘face’ comprised of a thick syringe. Small clear vials of brightly colored, viscous liquid cover its back.
Small But Vicious Automaton. Powered by an improbable arrangement of tightly-wound springs, alchemical reactions, and more distressing techniques, the apparatus is also a deadly and easily-hidden sentinel for their makers. Since the apparatus is not fully sapient, it sometimes fails to recognize its creator and attacks. Most apparatus owners keep them set to Inactive until moments before releasing them into a contained environment, such as a guard post they don’t plan to enter again. Alchemist Testing Apparatuses can recognize constructs and undead, and do not attempt to “test” them.
Tiny construct, unaligned
Armor Class 13
Hit Points 77 (22d4 + 22)
Speed 25 ft, climb 25 ft
STR 6 (-2) DEX 16 (+3) CON 12 (+1) INT 6 (-2) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 8 (-1)
Damage Immunities poison, psychic
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned
Senses blindsight 30 ft.
Challenge 3 (700 XP)
Control Panel. An alchemist testing apparatus has a control panel hidden on its body. A character can access the control panel while the alchemist testing apparatus is incapacitated without difficulty. While it is grappled or restrained, a character can use an Intelligence (thieves’ tools) ability check as an action to open the panel and change the setting. The DC for this check is the same as the apparatus’s AC. The three settings are Inactive Mode, Experiment Mode, and Defend Mode.
• While in Inactive Mode, the alchemical testing apparatus is incapacitated.
• While in Experiment Mode, it uses its Primary Syringe.
• While in Defend Mode, it uses its Secondary Syringe.
Latch On. While latched on to a creature, the apparatus gains advantage on attack rolls against that creature. When the apparatus suffers damage, the creature it is latched onto suffers half that amount of damage. Detaching an apparatus requires an attempt to escape a grapple against DC 13 if the escaping character wears light or no armor, and DC 18 if they wear medium or heavy armor. The apparatus can end the latch as a free action.
Primary Syringe. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1d4 damage, the apparatus latches on to its target, and use the die result on the table below:
1: The target rolls a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the target suffers 4d8 poison damage and is poisoned until the end of its next turn. On a success, the target suffers half damage and is not poisoned.
2: The target rolls a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the target mutates horrifically, suffering 3d8 necrotic damage and gaining vulnerability to piercing damage for 1 minute. On a success, the target takes half damage, with no further effect.
3: The target rolls a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the target is paralyzed until the end of the apparatus’s next turn.
4: The target’s skin hardens, granting it 15 temporary hit points that last until the end of the apparatus’s next turn. If any temporary hit points remain when this effect expires, the target is petrified for 1 minute. The target can roll a DC 12 Strength saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the petrification on a success.
Secondary Syringe. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1d4 damage, and the target rolls a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the target is charmed. As long as the apparatus remains latched on and the creature remains charmed, the apparatus takes no actions and the target makes its most effective melee weapon attacks against one of the apparatus’s enemies, moving if necessary. The target receives a new saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the charmed condition on a success.
This figure takes the shape of any common sentient race that has a concept of debt. Its form is a translucent dark blue or purple. It appears to be clothed in sober, professional clothes, bearing a ledger-book, an abacus, or anything else that current or previous local cultures used to manage financial matters. Often appearing in groups, ledgermen ruthlessly seek out debtors (real or imagined) and extract wealth from them.
Astral Thought-forms. Though they look ghostly, and indeed are often believed to be undead, ledgermen are instead the reified thought-form of a populace’s fear of unpaid debts. When destroyed, a ledgerman disperses back to the psychic winds of the Astral Plane, but it is never long before a new one takes its place. They are especially likely to manifest when someone dies while desperately in debt.
Hunger for Wealth. The ledgerman’s nature drives it to destroy physical wealth, in the form of coins, gemstones, precious metals (though not ore still in a vein), art objects, or magic items. When given wealth in any of these forms, it takes time to note the payment in its ledgers, leaving it distracted and vulnerable. If left in the presence of unattended wealth and not threatened with violence, it disintegrates large quantities of treasure at a time. The ledgerman has no special capacity to locate vaults or counting-houses, but if it found one by chance, it could wipe out vast fortunes in minutes.
Small or Medium construct, lawful evil
Armor Class 11
Hit Points 176 (32d8 + 32)
Speed 30 ft., fly 30 ft.
STR 10 (+0) DEX 12 (+1) CON 13 (+1) INT 16 (+3) WIS 12 (+1) CHA (+1)
Skills Insight +4, Intimidation +4
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons that aren’t silvered
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, restrained
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)
Debts to Pay. When a willing creature gives a ledgerman coins, precious metals, gemstones, art objects, or magic items worth at least 50 gold pieces, the ledgerman takes no actions and becomes vulnerable to all damage types except poison until the end of that creature’s next turn.
Incorporeal Movement. The ledgerman can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.
Multiattack. The ledgerman uses Tarnishing Touch twice.
Tarnishing Touch. The ledgerman chooses one creature it can see within 5 feet. That creature rolls a Charisma saving throw, suffering 3d10 acid damage on a failed save, or half damage on a success, as the ledgerman’s touch corrodes everything of value. It can also target unattended inanimate objects; one Tarnishing Touch destroys up to 300 gp in value.
Balance the Scales. When a creature within 10 feet deals damage to it, the ledgerman can use its reaction to deal 10 (3d6) psychic damage to that creature.
Red Leech Tide
Even the leeches of Salt-in-Wounds are changed by the city’s effluvium. Red leech tides are swarms of red leeches, connected by a hivemind that grants them lethal cunning when in large groups. As predators, they engage in ambush tactics against far greater prey than common leeches.
Predator and Parasite. Red leech tides sometimes gain strange powers when they drink the blood of sorcerers or monsters. Particularly when their intellect is enhanced with proximity to additional red leech tide swarms, they favor targets that show signs of innate power that the red leech tides can absorb.
Medium swarm of tiny beasts, unaligned
Armor Class 12
Hit Points 77 (14d8 + 14)
Speed 20 ft., swim 30 ft.
STR 10 (+0) DEX 14 (+2) CON 12 (+1) INT 6 (-2) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 3 (-4)
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, slashing
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, prone, restrained, stunned
Senses blindsight 10 ft., passive Perception
Challenge 2 (450 XP)
Swarm. The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, and the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a Tiny red leech. The swarm can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points.
Blood Drain. A creature that starts its turn grappled by a red leech tide suffers 10 (3d6) necrotic damage from blood drain.
Hivemind. If one other Medium red leech tide is within 60 feet, both have Int 8 (-1) and Cha 5 (-3). If two other Medium red leech tides are within 60 feet, all three have Int 10 (+0) and Cha 7 (-2) and proficiency in Intelligence saves (total modifier +2). If three or more other Medium red leech tides are within 60 feet, all four have Int 12 (+1) and Cha 9 (-1), and they gain telepathy with a 60-ft range and resistance to psychic damage.
Bites. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 0 ft., one creature in the swarm’s space. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) piercing damage, or 5 (1d6 + 2) if the red leech tide has half its hit points or fewer. The target is grappled (escape DC 10).
Sidebar: Blood is Power
Red leech tides often retain a fraction of the power of previous victims. Increase a red leech tide to CR 3 by adding any of the following features.
1: The red leech tide fed off of something poisonous. A creature that starts its turn within 5 feet of the red leech tide rolls a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is poisoned until the beginning of its next turn.
2: The red leech tide fed off an aquatic aberration. A creature that suffers damage from the red leech tide’s Blood Drain feature must roll a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, tentacles grow from the wound, writhing and hampering coordinated movement. The creature suffers disadvantage on all attacks and ability checks using Strength or Dexterity until the tentacles are removed. Removing the tentacles requires an action that inflicts 1d10 slashing damage on the target, or half that if the creature removing them rolls a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) check.
3: The red leech tide fed off a humanoid with a magically-potent bloodline. The red leech tide and all creatures of its choice within 10 feet gain advantage on saving throws against spells. When a creature casts a spell within 10 feet of the red leech tide, the red leech tide can spend its reaction to deal its Blood Drain damage to that creature.
4: The red leech tide fed off of a fiend. When a creature starts its turn within 10 feet of the red leech tide, the creature must roll a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw, becoming frightened until the beginning of its next turn on a failure.