Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Werk: Acephali, Almas

Sorry I didn't post this earlier.  I didn't post it because I thought I already did.

Whoopsy daisy!

Anyway, in this week's Wednesday Werk, we'll look at the Acephali and the Almas, both monsters from real-world human mythology.

Then again, this is appropriate; most D&D monsters have some basis in mythology.  At least the ones that weren't based on half-melted miniatures, anyway.

Also known as blemmyes (and theorized by archaic cultures to be what inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere resembled), the Acephali are a tribal race of humanoids living in the savage, jungle coast of Liboor.  Though they can see from the faces in their chest, these faces may be concealed behind a skin flap or even with animal hides.  Evidently, the acephali have acute senses and can still accurately perceive their surroundings even when blinded.

The following specimen represents a typical hunter, stalking game during the day. He is more or less outfitted as a ranger.

There are rumors of a strange sect of acephali oracles in the jungle, but these rumors have never been confirmed.

The Almas (a Mongolian variant of the Sasquatch or Yeti) is an intelligent variant of yeti (the yeti, as introduced in 4e's Monster Manual 3, are depicted as somewhat intelligent animals).  They are not terribly advanced, but they quietly watch man and will attempt to emulate his workings, fashioning simple tools and even armor — almas make a sort of felt out of their fur which is equivalent to leather armor.

Of course, despite their lack of technological advancement, almas have a sophisticated culture all their own.  The almas are known spellcasters with facility in manipulating arcane and primal energies.  The creature depicted here is an almas frostcaller, a weather mage found in the high, cold mountains.  Enterprising DMs may make variants of this creature by adapting wizard and druid powers, and by adding points of Intelligence to the existing Yeti creatures (the frostcaller is actually an adaptation of the Yeti Howler, for example).

The almas are also known to interbreed with nearby species, providing weird mutant crossbreedings of various races.  The above creature (or the other yetis, for that matter) can easily be altered to a mutant form by adding or subtracting powers.  For the true gonzo experience, DMs with access to the recent Gamma World adaptation can swap the encounter powers for Alpha Mutations.  If a DM does not have access to Gamma World, s/he can easily adapt the above creature to be an Almas Mutant with the following steps:

1) Remove the creature's encounter powers.

2) Open

3) Set the random number generator from 1 to 7 and click "Generate."  (Alternately, just skip the whole "" step and roll a d8, rerolling an "8" if you roll one.)

4) If you generate a 1 or 2, go to this forum post and generate a number from 1 to 40 to get a random Alpha Mutation (a d4 and a d10 work if you don't want to deal with  If you generate a 3 through 7, go to this forum post and generate a number from 1 to 100 to get a random Alpha Mutation (a d100 is the classic choice, of course).

5) Repeat this process.  You should have two Alpha Mutations.  This creature can use both as encounter powers.

I used this method to make the following Almas Mutant:

Given the general complexity of 4e, this probably isn't something one would want to do on the fly, but using this method with enough preparation time, a DM could make a huge variety of mutant almas breeds.

For that matter, you could swap out encounter powers for any monster and replace them with Alpha Mutations.  If you were so inclined.


  1. Nice--the Acephali have a few other variant, including the Blemyes that are in the queue. You might get a kick out of the Headless Ones (Oracles).
    The Almas are fun, Bujilli (from Bujilli's Sojourn)is a half-almas. We have that in the queue as well, though we might move it up to Thursday as that seems appropriate.

    Your solution to the mutation situation is inspired. We've been building some tables to handle it, but your solution is quite elegant and effective. Very cool stuff!

  2. I just like that animated gif of Takanohana as an Acephalus.

    I've also got them by their Chinese name, Xing Tian, in my upcoming Flying Swordsmen game.

    1. I was originally looking for one of the Blemyes woodcuts, but when I saw that, how could I not use it?

  3. Cool! Somebody else is using the Xing Tian! We definitely need to check that out.

  4. Two of my favourites, and I like the mutation approach too. It's inspiring seeing how you draw out the details.


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