L is for Lolth-Touched (It’s Super-Generic)

I really like monster templates. I love taking a creature the players know and putting a twist on it so they understand part of what’s going on but not all of it, like making a regular gorilla into a savage, ice-breathing yeti. Templates also let you pull multiple monsters into the same theme; if you want to fight shadow enemies, you can use the published ones, or you can use the umbral template to make shadow ogres, dogs, slimes, and things like that. I’m a little sad that Pathfinder doesn’t use templates as much as 3E did, though I think my favorite application of them was in 4E, where you could give a monster a template without changing their CR and often without changing much at all, adding flavor while keeping the core creature intact. It’s basically the game helping you reskin a monster into something fun. I wanted to show off one of those templates, but I think the one out of which I’ve gotten the most mileage is from 3E, so it’s the best story.

Lolth-Touched creatures are people and monsters given power by Lolth, goddess of drow and spiders and best friend to every author who couldn’t think of a more interesting villain in Faerûn. Her blessing makes them better in melee (curious for a deity whose favored race hates melee combat, but whatever), gives them a few cute but mostly trivial buffs, and makes them evil. Because it’s a template, there’s not a lot of additional story here. Lolth like thing, thing get stronger.

When I first read the template, my first thought was “this is really useful, but it’s too bad it’s bound to Lolth.” The Monster Manual 4 came out while I was playing World of Warcraft and I’d been looking for a way to make monsters rare or elite*. This seemed to fit the bill, giving monsters more hit points and making them better able to resist ailments and effective save-or-die effects like grappling or fear, but it was tied to a specific god I didn’t much like. But my second thought was “why is this bound to Lolth, again? In fact, why can’t I use it for literally everything?” Take a look at what it does:

  • Only works on living, corporeal creatures. Why, though? Is it because there’s a Constitution bonus? Then just say “Creatures with no Constitution don’t get the Constitution bonus”. It’s not like Lolth has a particular hatred for ghosts or golems. We can safely ignore this.
  • Only works on nongood, nonlawful creatures; makes the creature chaotic evil. This is tied to Lolth, but it’s largely inconsequential. You could just as easily make it a Moradin-touched template and have it only work on nonevil, nonchaotic creatures. And if you use alignment as little as I do, it’s completely irrelevant. We can safely change it or ignore it altogether.
  • +6 Strength. This is the most mechanically impressive part of the template because +3 to attack and +1 to +5 damage is nothing to sneeze at. But it’s not Lolth-specific.
  • +6 Constitution. This is the part I like the most because it makes the monster survive longer and has almost no other effect. But it’s not Lolth-specific.
  • +4 to Hide and Move Silently checks. You could probably make this any two skills, or any one if you’re in a edition that combines Hide and Move Silently into Stealth. No one skill breaks the game, so it depends on what you want the creature to be. We can safely change this.
  • Immune to fear. This has no effect in many parties and little effect in most of the rest. It’s mostly there for flavor. But it’s not Lolth-specific.
  • +1 CR. Yeah, okay, that seems fair.

Nothing about this template is meaningfully, irrevocably proprietary to Lolth. I’ve used it several times for Kord-touched, or dragon-touched, or France-touched creatures before, and it works exactly as well (take a drink). It gives the players pause, challenges them, and makes a monster special regardless of the words you use to describe it. Calling it “Lolth-touched” seems as empty as putting “original character, do not steal” on it and has exactly as much weight.

* — I never found a great published solution for this in 3E, so I’ve settled on “give them maximum hit points and up the CR by one.” 4E had the Elite and Solo mechanics, which did this quickly and cleanly, and I like that. Pathfinder’s solution is “Meh, what does CR even mean, anyway? Just use an overpowered monster, you’ll be fine.” I prefer my own.

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