Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Skairosian Bestiary Revisited: the Glance Hound

To me, the Glance Hound is the Skairosian Monster.  It's inspired by the original "Devil of Perspehone," and is probably closest to my first idea of what was in the labyrinth. Thus, it had to stay.

I've not really buffed the lethality much.  All I've really done is play-up their multi-dimensional nature as justification for increasing their armor divisor to 10.  This means that they still deal an average of 10 damage, but they can punch through up to ~100 DR, making them a potential threat (en masse) against a space knight, and I've kept the "bite-and-twist" concept to allow them to inflict an even more terrifying 17 cutting damage on limbs they've bitten, but I've expanded the idea of Extra Attacks more broadly, so they can also make several attacks with their claws.

I've pulled back from the idea of the Glance Hounds-as-dogs.  My original conception had them vanishing into shadows and clinging to walls, but this made them too much like Aliens and thus too much like the Insectoid, which I also wanted to include.  Well, on reflection, as nice as the Insectoid is, I think the engineers of Jotan would have created something more lethal to the Scourge than to humans, and thus needs a complete rethink.  In a lot of ways, this has allowed the Glance Hound to return to form, making it a stealthy, agile hunter par-excellence

The original reason I didn't give them the ITDR of the Faceless Kine or the Shadow Serpent was that if they ground things around them, they shouldn't be partially unreal themselves.  Well, why not make it switchable? They can "ground" shades, but this "grounds" themselves.  This creates an interesting tactical choice: they will always ground themselves around a shade, thus if you can bring them into a fight with shades, they can deal with the shade (and help you deal with it) and also make them easier to deal with.  I'm not sure how interesting it makes them, but it at least justifies both their use as an "anti-shade gargoyle/guard dog" and their ability to cut through armor like butter.

The net result is a creature that doesn't deal much more damage than before, but gets through armor a lot better, is much faster, much harder to spot and more aggressive.  Between its superior active defense and improved accuracy plus some tips on getting around defenses, they'll land more hits than, say, the Faceless Kine.

I think Commandos will find this critter a nightmare to deal with.  Between their stealth and speed, they'll often manage to sneak up on unprepared commandos and thus bypass a lot of their fortifications and defensive positions.  While a single shot from a heavier rifle will be enough to take out a glance-hound-as-henchmen (you need to do ~30 damage), you won't notice them until they're on top of you, and even if you do, they move so fast they'll cover all the ground necessary to get to you in a couple of seconds, and they hunt in packs. So you'll need to take out 4-7 in the time it takes for them to cover ground, and if you don't, your DR 80 or 100 is not enough to keep your limbs from being crippled (they'll deal an average of 17 damage, 7 to 9 of which will go through your DR, and will increase due to cutting to 10-13, which is enough to cripple, or even sever a limb through armor), at which point you're in a heap of trouble.

Gunslingers will fare better.  They can rapidly respond to the sudden appearance of a Glance Hound threat with a quick draw, and their weaponry and their skill with it is good enough to bypass their defenses and they can deal enough damage to hurt a glance hound (a 4d pistol will deal an average of 14 damage, 10 of which will get through their armor, which gets reduced to 5 by their IT:DR; 3 shots is enough to take down a glance hound henchmen, which is pretty easy for a gunslinger to do, provided the Glance Hound doesn't dodge).  The Glance Hound is pretty lethal to the gunslinger, but not much more so than a Commando, and the superior active defense of the Gunslinger might make a big difference unless the Glance Hound can get the drop on them, and "spotting ambushes" is what gunslingers do. If the Glance Hound gets a hit, they only average 10 damage, which is bad, but no worse than being hit by a pistol, unless the Glance Hound bites a limb.

Space Knights will tend to do well against them as well. Their psychic senses will surely warn them of the impending attack, giving them time to prepare, and their force sword is within spitting distance of defeating a Glance Hound in a single stroke.  Most Space Knights are totally capable of handling with the deceptive attacks of the Glance Hounds, and finding a way past the Glance Hounds great defense.  The melee-focus of the Space Knight means that the Glance Hound's speed or tendency to ambush is less of a problem.  In practice, I expect space knights to mow through a pack of Glance Hounds, but they'll be more careful of this version than they were of the last one.

Glance Hound

The most immediately recognizable of the Skairosian clade, the glance hound (also called a “Devil or Persephone,” or a “Devil Hound”) is immortalized in the stone gargoyles and grotesques that guard Akashic Temples. They were among the monstrous creatures that terrorized the original colonists of Persephone, but they also represent a powerful force of protection against the noxious influence of time shades.

A glance hound resembles a great dog or wild cat with a bony face-plate in place of eyes and a great maw lined with rows of terrible teeth. It has a long, serpentine tail, black, leathery flesh, and wide shoulders and paws that allow it to climb with great facility, or even cling to walls. They tend to hunt the tunnels of the labyrinth in pairs or small packs of between 4 and 7 individuals. They are carnivores, and seem to relish eating the flesh of humans. They can stalk and hunt humans through miles of labyrinth undetected, and then ambush their prey, either pouncing from above, or racing in to rip through a target’s leg and leave them dismembered.

The most fascinating aspect of the glance hound is its relationship with time shades. Like all members of the Skairosian clade, it “sees” not with eyes, but with psychic vision. It seems uniquely capable of seeing into multiple timelines at once, allowing it to see unmanifested time shades. It has the ability to “ground” time shades, forcing them to become substantial, but in so doing, it loses some of its own multi-dimensional abilities. Any time shade within 4 yards of a grounded Glance Hound becomes substantial, and any beings with benefits (such as Injury Tolerance) stemming from its ability to phase through multiple timelines, loses that ability. Time shades seem to intuitively sense this, as the very sight of a glance hound, even just a sculpted depiction of one, is enough to force a time shade to flee in terror. Wherever the Glance Hounds roam in great number, time shades are certain to be absent.

Glance Hounds also make excellent trackers, but they track with a psychic sense, detecting previous uses of psychic ability and using those traces to track a target.

Like the Faceless Kine, Glance Hounds are often tamed or domesticated by the Skairos. The example below is a wild glance hound. Domesticated examples replace Bloodlust (9) with Bloodlust (15) and swap Domestic Animal for Wild Animal.

ST: 15/25

HP: 15

Speed: 7.0

DX: 15

Will: 10

Move: 8 (16)

IQ: 5

Per: 15

HT: 13

FP: 13

SM: +0

Dodge: 11 (13)

Parry: NA

DR: 20

Fright Check: +0 (or +1 intimidation; typically from their howling cries); Time Shades always make a Fright Check upon seeing a Glance Hound, and the Glance Hound has +4 to intimidate them.

Bite-and-Twist (13): 3d (10*) cut, Reach C; if the attack is to a limb or the neck, immediately follow up with a second attack that automatically hits for 5d+1 (10*) cut; this can be part of a Move and Attack at no penalty, and inflicts +1 damage to the initial bite. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-1 to defend)

Claws x2 (13): 3d (10*) cut, Reach C; Made as a Deceptive Attack and treat it as a Dual Weapon Attack (-2 to Defend)

Pounce (15): 3d-2 cr if moved 1-2 yards; 3d+1 cr if moved 3-4 yards; 3d+4 cr if moved 5-6 yards; 4d+4 cr if they moved 7-9 yards; 5d+4 cr yards if they moved 10-14 yards, or 7d+1 cr if moved 15-16 yards; Made as a Deceptive Attack (-2 to defend); they always land on their feet.

*Reduce to 3 if in a “Grounded” state.

Traits: 360° Vision; Bloodlust (9); Blindness (Mitigator, Psi); Born Biter 1; Combat Sense 2; Catfall; Chameleon 2 (only in dark places); Clinging; Dark Vision; Dread (Planetary Surfaces); Extra Attack 1; Enhanced Move (Ground); Extra Legs (arms can double as legs); Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 2 (Temporal; not if “Grounded”), No Eyes); Intolerance (Time Shades); Penetrating Voice; Perfect Balance; Psychic Beacon 4; Run and Hit (DF: Power-Ups, p12); See Invisible; Signature Sniffer 3; Silence 2; Static (Temporal Insubstantiability; 4 yard radius; Switchable); Super Jump 1; Terror (Time Shades only); Wild Animal.

Skills: Brawling-15; Combat Sense-15; Camouflage-13; Climbing-20; Jumping-15; Navigation (Underground)-13; Running-15; Signature Sniffer-15; Tracking-15; Survival (Underground)-13. Stealth-15.

Notes: Truly Alien; Too dumb to negotiate or use normal Telepathy on (use Animal Telepathy or appropriate Telepathic techniques instead). Stealth skill does not include the benefits of Chameleon or Silence (thus they gain +8 Stealth while still, and +4 while moving) or Psychic Beacon (-4 to Stealth against psychic senses).

Glance Hounds hunt in packs. While in the shadows and still, they have an effective Stealth of 23. They will watch for their prey, using either their psychic senses (Signature Sniffer) to find and track interesting pray, or they will wait until prey comes across them, often clinging to walls or ceilings to drop in ambush. Once they have detected a target for their hunt (and they will hunt when not hungry, for the pleasure of the kill!) they will give chase or drop in ambush. While giving a chase, their stealth drops to 17, and if it matters for Chase rolls, they roll 20 or less (Running 15 +5 from their speed). Once they have found their prey, they usually give a cry (“an inhuman scream”) that typically triggers a Fright Check in anyone not expecting, or unused to, Glance Hounds, and always triggering a Fright Check from Time Shades, who will also flee at the sight of them.

Glance Hound packs usually attempt to encircle their target. They often drop from above; roll a quick contest of the target’s vision or other senses vs the Glance Hound’s mobile stealth of 17; if the Glance Hound wins, the target generally gets no defense (unless they have Weapon Master, Danger Sense or Trained by a Master, in which case they defend at -2); if they succeed, the target may defend at -2. The Glance Hound makes his normal attack while dropping: they’re built to hunt this way, and will generally make a Pounce above, but will not drop more than 5 yards onto a target (3d+4 cr). They also charge into combat from a distance while chasing. Treat this as a Pounce or a Move and Attack (they may ignore the -4 for Move and Attack, as well as the Wild Swing penalty) with their Bite-and-Twist attack.

Once in combat, they will generally attack either their double-claw attack or their Bite-and-Twist at target’s limbs, especially the legs, to cripple their targets first. If a target goes down, they’ll go for a Bite-and-Twist of the neck or rip into them with their claws. They have Combat Sense as a psionic ability; assume all rolls with it succeed, granting them a Dodge of 13, unless something interferes with their psychic abilities.

Glance Hounds are only partially present in the timeline. This provides them with ITDR against all attacks, halving all damage they take (unless the attack could affect insubstantial beings). Their claws and fangs also benefit from this partially real nature, “phasing” through armor, which provides them with an armor divisor of 10. These are both psionic effects and can be prevented from working with anti-psi abilities.

Glance Hounds hate Time Shades. They can see them directly, and when they do, they will immediately attack. Part of the attack is to create a psychic “grounding field” around themselves. This forces the Time Shade to become visible and substantial, allowing anyone to attack it, including the Glance Hound. However, while grounded, the Glance Hound loses its increased armor divisor (they drop to armor divisor 3) and their ITDR.

Singular Glance Hounds should be treated as Henchmen. A pack of Glance Hounds can be treated as mooks, with a singular “alpha” Henchman.

Rituals of the Glance Hounds

  • Glance Hounds often pace when they have nothing to do, and they pace curved, circular geometric pattern, similar to those created by a “nothing grinder.” These are random patterns, visible in any dust left on the ground, and looking at them can provide an Oracle a +1 to notice omens.

  • Sometimes, Glance Hounds don’t attack living targets, especially if the targets are encamped or otherwise in a non-threatening posture and have an Esper in their midst. Instead, the pack will approach and step into the light, usually just with their forequarters and head. They will begin to pant rythmically or howl in low, quiet tones. The Colonists of Peresephone referred to this as a “Devil’s Choir,” and some Akashics suspect that this is an attempt to communicate (though telepaths have had mixed results in these cases). After they have finished their “performance,” they will leave. The “performance” can sometimes trigger visions from an Esper.

  • Glance Hounds do have “hands,” after a fashion. Once they have killed prey, they tend to devour the flesh and strip it down to bone. Then they might arrange the bones into particular patterns. The purpose of this ritual is unknown, but it resonates with occult significance and Oracles who witness them can glean meaning from the omens within.

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