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An index of posts describing the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, an adventure for Holmes Basic characters levels 2-4.                    ...

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Leap Day: Giant Zenopus (New Monster)


Xenopus laevis from Amphibia and Reptiles by Hans Gadow (1901).
Source: Wikimedia Commons 

Giant Zenopus

Move: 30 feet/turn land; 180 feet/turn swimming
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 5
Treasure Type: incidental
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1 rake with hindclaws
Damage: 2d4

The giant zenopus, an entirely aquatic frog, can grow to enormous proportions given a sufficiently nutritious diet, with specimens up to ten feet long having been reported. A ravenous scavenger, it will eat anything, locating and shoveling food into its tongueless mouth with strangely sensitive and prehensile hands. A strong swimmer, the zenopus is known to float motionless with its unblinking eyes just above the water, waiting for the opportunity to leap and grab its prey, raking with the large claws on its hindfeet as it pulls them under.

For defense, the skin of the zenopus exudes a slime that makes them extremely slippery (AC 5). Even worse, the slime of 1 in 10 frogs carries a parasitic aquatic chytrid fungus, and anyone scratched by the claws of such a frog must Save vs Poison or have their skin become infected. After 1 week, infection will cause loss of 1d4 hp per day due to the sloughing of skin, unless a Cure Disease or an anti-fungal poultice (consult a herbalist) is administered.

The eggs of the giant zenopus are prized by wizards for use in magical research due to their size (6" diameter), fetching 1,000 GP in larger cities. The eggs must be kept wet at all times or will perish. There are rumors that there are secret alchemical methods of cloning the eggs, and even darker tales speak of ways of transforming the egg into a frog that walks upright like a man.

The only other treasure that might be found is incidental to their behavior; i.e., that which was possessed by their prey.

---Based on the real world Xenopus, a frog long used in biological research, and which was presumably J. Eric Holmes' inspiration for the name of Zenopus. The name "Xenopus" means "strange foot" in Greek. The 94th anniversary of Holmes' birth was just a few weeks ago, on February 16th (Holmes Day).

---The concept of breeding frogmen from giant frogs goes back to Dave Arneson's Temple of the Frog adventure found in the Blackmoor OD&D supplement

"He has genetically modified the killer frogs to begin breeding frogmen..." --- the Temple of the Frog by Dave Arneson

And of course frogmen tie-in nicely to Holmes' Dagonites, who as described are more froggy than than fishy. 

"...surely your recent encounter with the frog-man should have convinced you of the reality of the Dagonites"  --- Murray the Mage, The Maze of Peril

---I originally drafted this in 2019 in comments to a post made to the late lamented Holmes Basic G+ group, just before G+ was shut down. While I transferred most of the posts from that group to an archive blog, this one didn't make it for unknown reasons. But I found it in an XML file I had downloaded and recovered the comments and revised them into this post.

Happy Leap Day!

See also:


  1. Interesting idea for a wizard to breed and raise giant "attack frogs" for use in defending their turf.
    ; )

    1. Thanks. The general idea goes back to Arneson's Temple of the Frog adventure, where the baddies are breeding frogs and frogmen. I added a note about that.