It makes sense that today’s monster is one of those I wrote about this week. It’s between the shambling mound and the harpy, but I went with the one I used most often of the two.
I’ve used harpies in my three most recent campaigns, and they’re already inhabiting at least one dungeon I haven’t run yet. In the BECMI campaign I ran a couple of years ago, two harpies were nesting in a dungeon. The magic-user managed to put one to sleep, but one of the monsters was enough to kill the thief and severely wound the others in the party. In a short-lived 4E campaign, the party’s flying ship was attacked by harpies. There’s also a pair of harpies in Three Sad Wizards, and there’s a harpy nest in Castle Verge.
Like I said last Friday, my love for the harpy comes from exposure to the monster at an early age. Astrid Lindgren’s Ronja Rövardotter, and it’s atmospheric illustrations by Ilon Wikland, had a big impact on me, and they still are the foundation of what I like in fantasy.
The bird-witches from the book always tried to claw out the eyes of their victims. Harpies in the D&D game could use a good Claw Out Their Eyes rule. Maybe something like this:
Claw Out Their Eyes: When the harpy’s attack roll is a natural 20 and she rolls maximum damage (4, in RC), she claws out one of the target’s eyes. For the remainder of the fight, the target suffers penalties as if he was blind (in RC, -4 to saves, -6 attack, +4 to AC). After healing or first aid is applied, these penalties are reduced by 3 (so in RC, -1 to saves, -2 to attacks, and +1 to AC remains). The eye can be restored with any form of regeneration, but not by cure blindless.
In addition to the harpies in Ronja, these were very influential . Lindgren may have put bird-witches in my imagination, Carl Barks made sure they stayed there.