Monstrous Dramaturgy: Kostroma

I may need to revise the idea of waiting to playtest ideas before I put them up here. It’s a good idea, but not when it means I’ve got notebooks and Scrivener files full of unposted ideas. Since today is International Pelgrane Day, I think I should pull one of these untested 13th Age ideas out for a post.

Some of the things I’ve been writing up are Bestiary-style entries for cyclopes, teratorns (giant birds), insect swarms, and scarecrows. Halloween is little more than a week away, so that last group would be perfect to pluck a work-in-progress from. The stat blocks I have range from the mook-ish (straw-stuffed upper body on a stick) to the large (a wicker giant who looks to trap you within it’s burning frame). But it also gave me a chance to bring in something from Slavic folklore: Kostroma.


The short version is this: Kostroma is a ritual/deity celebrating fertility whose effigy is burned as part of midsummer festivities occurring between Kupala Night (Noc Kupały, a.k.a. St. John’s Eve) and St. Peter’s Day. The other scarecrow enemies I designed had the concepts of fear and mutual self-destruction, and I wanted to add the sacrificial aspect of Kostroma to this enemy.

(As a side note, this entry draws from the same folklore as Night on Bald Mountain, the Mussorgsky composition many of us enjoyed in Fantasia. It also provides a rich vein to tap for any folklore-based Night’s Black Agents conspiracy. Which may or may not be a big hint to any of my regular NBA players…)

Likeness of Forms

The kostroma’s two attacks reflect its nature as an effigy. When it attacks, it rolls a d20 for each point of relationship the target has with a single icon. From a narrative and mechanical sense, it is drawn to the players who have strong icon relationships. It seeks to corrupt this relationship through confusion and complications.

The confusion specifically comes in its take likeness attack, which uses a player’s backgrounds against them — the more points in the background, the harder the attack vs. MD. But this attack also presents a narrative option. If the kostroma uses your ‘disgraced Axis gladiator +5’ background against you, what shape does it take? Whose form can the effigy take that’s strong enough to confuse your sense of enemy and ally?

Building Battles

The kostroma is a construct that can be used by anyone that’s antagonistic to your players’ icons. For a group of devotees to the High Druid, an enemy kostroma might be a wicker-and-oil construct made by a Saruman-like antagonist who wants to replace the natural with the artificial. Or it might be an effigy made to look like a devoted Priestess follower that the Diabolist has imbued with a demonic force.

A kostroma is usually accompanied by a force of regular mooks and/or troops and a group leader. Whether you call them cultists, The Devoted, or Concerned Citizens Against the Crusader (CCAC), the group that brings along a kostroma is there to change the players’ minds. Or at least sow as much discord as possible amongst non-believers and their icons’ enemies.


A familiar face walks up to you, straw poking out of their clothing. They smile warmly as flames consume you both.

Double-strength 7th level spoiler [CONSTRUCT]
Initiative +8
Vulnerability: fire

Burning hands +13 vs. PD—42 fire damage

Natural odd roll: 14 ongoing fire damage. If the attack misses, the kostroma also takes the ongoing damage.

C: Take likeness +7* vs. MD—The target is confused (save ends); if the kostroma is staggered when a target fails their save against this effect, the target takes 28 psychic damage

Critical hit: The confusion effect now requires a hard save (16+) to end.
Limited use: This attack cannot be used while any enemy is making saves against its confusion effect.

Familiar forms: When the kostroma makes a take likeness attack, choose one of the target’s backgrounds; the attack roll gains a bonus equal that background’s value.

Iconic effigy: Whenever the kostroma attacks, choose one of the target’s icon relationships. The kostroma rolls a d20 for each relationship point the target has with that icon, and chooses the result to use. If the attack is a critical hit, the target gains a benefit with that icon as if they’d rolled a 5 on a relationship die.

Fear: While engaged with this creature, enemies with 36 hp or fewer are dazed (–4 attack) and do not add the escalation die to their attacks.

AC 24 | PD 16 | MD 21
HP 194

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