I’ve been writing quite a bit on my One Page-Dungeon contest entry, and I thought I’d share one of the monsters before I get back to layout and scribing. This is a near-final draft: I’ll go back and edit the post if something significant changes.
A Gaunt Thing is a spirit of Starvation and Want. When encountered, one will prowl at night around the edges of any campsite within 5 miles of its lair, pleading for a morsel or warmth. It will remain beyond the reach of the party’s torch or firelight unless invited in, and disappear at dawn… but reappear the next night, always stalking fire and feed. If the party lets it in, it will seem affable, but hungry – inexorably devouring all offered food until none is left. It will then seize unoffered food, and finally seek to rend and eat the party themselves. It will devour the heat of a fire (dimming its light as well) after the manner of a Brown Mold, and it is healed by flames. They grow swifter and tougher as they feed.
Allowing one into the firelight or slaying it will summon 1d6 more. They will begin arriving during the following hour, but they too must be invited in to actually enter the firelight. A Gaunt One left too long at the edge of the firelight will alternately wheedle, curse, cajole, and threaten their targets constantly and loudly. When besieged by the Gaunt Ones, characters must save vs. Spells each night for each and every Gaunt One plaguing them, or have no restful sleep that night. Many monsters will be driven off in fear or devoured if they approach the Gaunt; if the Gaunt flee during the night, the party would do well to follow their example! The definition of an “Invitation” can be startlingly broad, as the party my find to their chagrin, and once you have their attentions traveling without a flame is most ill-advised. They are vulnerable to whit-thorn, the juices of waybroad*, and to iron.
*Waybroad is an old Saxon name: the plant is alleged to have many mystic properties, and was one of the Nine Great Herbs sacred to Odin. It is associated with travel and roads. Whit-thorn is of course a common wood for making clubs, not to mention a fairly powerful magic ingredient.
They were inspired partially by this (Warning: NSFL, although technically SFW), which I saw on the /x/. If you could penetrate their Glamers in some way, this is what you’d see…