Magnus took a step forward and heard a telltale click beneath his foot. He winced, waiting to be struck by whatever he had triggered. Instead, the sound of turning cranks and clinking chains filled the corridor from somewhere behind the walls, and a loud crash of metal on stone sounded somewhere around the corner. "Oh, wonderful." said Ien, who stood several feet behind Magnus.
Ambling around the corner about 40 feet ahead came a large beast bristling with long, menacing quills. The thing reared its head from beneath its quills and let out a loud snarl, staring down the group of them.
"What is that thing?" Magnus asked, not really expecting an answer.
"I dunno," Nesker replied, "but it doesn't look happy."
Lia nocked an arrow and knelt, trying to get a bead on the creature between the hulking forms of Magnus and Nesker. Ien began backing away slightly, magic crackling between his fingers. Magnus turned his head to say something to Lia, but instead she heard a sickening thok thok sound. Magnus grunted and dropped to one knee, impaled through the shoulder and twice in the right thigh by three of the creature's long quills.
Ien looked up to see the creature still standing a good 40 feet away at the corner of the corridor. It snarled and reared again, as though it was readying another volley. . . .
At first glance, a quillflinger may be mistaken for a common, if enormous, porcupine. Most quillflingers can grow to be over 6 feet across from quill-tip to quill-tip and the tip of its tallest quill can reach heights of up to 5 1/2 feet.
A quillflinger's quills range in length from 11 inches to 3 feet, depending on their location on the quillflinger's body (and the size of the quillflinger). Because of the sheer density of the quills, many blows never actually hit the quillflinger's body, instead getting caught up in the quills, and ranged attacks tend to miss the actual body of the quillflinger entirely.
There have been reports in the past of quillflingers in the deep forest reaching over 8 feet tall, with quills measuring well over 4 feet in length. Reports of this sort are hardly ever confirmed, however, because rarely does one see a quillflinger of that size and return to tell the tale.
A quillflinger's legs are rather short and close to its body, making it a fairly slow (but surprisingly nimble) animal. Their feet are tipped with small, sharp claws, which function well for climbing but are ineffective in combat due to the length of their legs. They tend to shuffle along, and they rarely run as fast as most other animals. Its quills make it a formidable enemy, however, even to much faster and larger creatures. As such, the quillflinger has very few natural predators.
The face of a quillflinger resembles that of a flat-faced wild dog, but its ears are set close in on the sides of its head, beneath its front row of quills. They possess a row of sharp canine teeth and jaws that are strong enough to rend the flesh of most animals. Their favorite prey is small deer and elk, wild dogs, and wild reptiles.
Quillflingers generally reside in temperate evergreen forests, staking out territory and hunting for food. They are solitary creatures (with the exception of those that have mates), frequently fighting each other for a piece of forest they've staked out. Quillflingers mate for life, so they are sometimes seen in pairs with their mate, hunting their native forests or roaming the hillsides where they live.
Quillflingers hunt by lying close to the ground and camouflaging themselves in the surrounding undergrowth or in tall grass. When prey comes within range, they fling their quills with deadly accuracy up to 120 feet away, then drag any resulting carcasses close to the center of their marked territory to feast.
It is extremely rare to find a quillflinger outside its natural habitat, and it's even rarer to find one in captivity. Many who try to actively hunt or capture one do not live through the encounter, and even those who succeed are usually scarred for the effort. Occasionally, some use quillflingers as guard animals for dungeons or vaults, but only the most unhinged person would take the risk of attempting to capture one to use as a guard dog.
Quillflingers rely on their quills in combat. They rarely move except to back away from their opponents, and they spend most of their time firing their quills from a safe distance. Most quillflingers attack only if provoked or cornered. However, they are fiercely territorial, and they viciously defend their own territory. A quillflinger rarely uses its bite attack, and it usually does so only if its opponent gets too close, is somehow immune to its quills, or is at least 1 size category smaller than the quillflinger itself.
A quillflinger can fire all of its quills at an opponent. A quillflinger can also fire quills in any direction (including straight up) regardless of the direction it's facing. When in its natural habitat in the forest, a quillflinger sometimes climbs the trunk of a large tree and fires its quills from a safe distance above its attackers.
Quills (Ex): Melee combat with a quillflinger is dangerous. Unless opponents are using weapons with at least 10-foot reach, the quillflinger strikes each melee opponent with 1d4 quills. If the opponent succeeds at a Reflex save (DC 16), the quills that strike do not break off in his or her flesh. A quill that lodges in the skin imposes a -1 circumstance penalty to attacks, saves, and checks. Removing a quill inflicts 1d6 points of additional damage to the victim.
Fling Quills (Ex): A quillflinger can send forth a volley of 3 quills as a standard action. This attack has a range of 120 feet with no range increment. These quills are treated as thrown weapons. Sometimes a quillflinger uses this attack while hunkered down (see below). In such cases, the quillflinger makes a Listen check (opposed by the foe's Move Silently check) to garner a general bearing on where its opponent stands, and thus does not gain its Dexterity bonus to the ranged attack. If the quillflinger cannot hear an opponent, it does not fire any quills.
Quill Flurry (Ex): If a quillflinger becomes cornered or severely outnumbered, it turns its back on its opponent(s) and fire a hail of quills, which fills a cone directly behind the quillflinger. Anyone caught in the flurry is immediately struck by 2d4 quills, dealing 1d6 damage each. A successful Reflex save (DC 13) halves the damage. The quillflinger can use this attack only once per day, as it takes time for the quills to grow back.
Hunker Down (Ex): If the quillflinger is threatened in melee, and if it cannot retreat to a safe distance from its opponent(s), it curls its head and legs under its torso while on the ground and flares its quills in all directions. In this defensive position, the Reflex save DC required for melee attacks against it increases to 17.
Low-Light Vision: A quillflinger can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar low-light conditions.
Scent (Ex): A quillflinger can detect approaching enemies, sniff out hidden foes, and track by sense of smell (30-foot range in normal conditions).
Skills: *Quillflingers get a +8 racial bonus to Hide checks when hiding in forest undergrowth or the tall grass common to their natural habitat. The coloring and arrangement of their quills tends to make them look like a shrub or plant to the average observer.
About the Author
Luke Matthews works in Wizards of the Coast's R&D department, and he runs their Game and Reference Library. He has been gaming since he was 10, and (luckily) he has turned his wife, Christina, into a gamer, which has made it much easier to convince her that all of the money goes to a worthy cause. Luke spent two and a half years in Wizards of the Coast's Customer Service department, and he would be happy never to answer a phone again.
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