|Legends of the Devouring|
Legends of the Devouring
The 5th edition Monster Manual says:
In nursery rhymes, oni are fearsome bogeymen that haunt the nightmares of children and adults alike, yet they are very real and always hungry. They find human babies especially delicious. Oni look like demonic ogres with blue or green skin, dark hair, and a pair of short ivory horns protruding from their foreheads. Their eyes are dark with strikingly white pupils, and their teeth and claws are jet black.
People watch too much anime in the Dungeonverse. Yes, "Oni" is shorter than "Ogre Mage", and they opened a sushi bar next to the Yawning Portal, so no worries.
"Ogres-Mages" is a compact but rich extension to the classical Ogre Mage of 5th edition. It was authored by Islayre d'Argolh and illustrated by John Grümph. It is written in French and is short, and, surprisingly, its stat blocks are in English, it seems it's to avoid having to choose between diverging terms among the various 5th edition french translations out there.
The book is subtitled "Legends of the Devouring" and the devouring is one of they keys it builds on, as the Monster Manual states:
[Oni] appearing as humanoids as they pass through towns, pretending to be travellers, woodcutters, or frontier folk. In such a form, an oni takes stock of the selection of humanoids in a settlement and devises ways to abduct and devour some of them.
What happens after years of devouring? It's not only adventurers who level up, ogre-mages do as well. Master d'Argolh explores the three stages of oni development. The first chapter prepares the ground by explaining the vile quality of a villain oni, with a Challenge Rating of 7, it's a wonderful boss for the first tier of play.
Master d'Argolh details a few weaknesses of the base oni profile, they point at what ogre-mages strive to overcome as they evolve. He presents an example of an ogre-mage, Yukora, the "Cinder Apostle", a young female oni, firmly orienting herself for the scaling of the devoration ladder. Among other details, we learn that she currently specializes in infiltrating demonic sects and then cleaning the plate.
If an ogre-mage, in their devouring process, goes beyond quantity and downs and devours prey of quality, they will become a "Noble Oni". A quick adventure prompt here: an ogre-mage hunts a powerful magical creature to devour it and our adventurers are hired as body-guards or simply to prevent the consumption of the quarry.
A noble-oni has a Challenge Rating of 11. The example for it is Suroshian, the thunder-singer, he has since long left the regular plane for the faery plane, he doesn't change form very much these days, he travels in his ogre shape. In matters of devouring, his fancy for Pixie Tartare has earned him quite some enmity.
The next stage is the "God Oni", with a Challenge Rating of 15. It's examplified by Makaria, the "Absent". Having reached the god-oni status, she turned her back on the process of devouring and now devotes her time to collecting precious books... She appears as an elf-woman with long white hair. Her sidekicks are described as well. Quite the adversary.
The fifth chapter is my favourite, it enumerates six ogre-mage descriptions. Among them, the most inspiring is Enedri, an ogre-mage "doing" his time in the Haut-Faucon penitentiary. Suffice to say that this jail has no overpopulation issue. Ogre-mage have sharp claws that they readily use to pick their teeth. Fragments of meat between the teeth is irritating.
This "more oni" chapter is pleasant because it has zero stat blocks, it has zero game accounting. After all, the previous three chapters scaled from ogre-mage to god-oni, with complete stats and careful challenge rating considerations. Master d'Argolh is a dungeon scholar, both sides, play and game, are equally and masterfully served. I prefer the inspirations found in the fifth chapter, but I salute the careful explanations and the sidekick suggestions in the rest of the chapters. Much to learn for me.
Should the stat-blocks and the explanations be too unwieldy, the author has provided three "panoplies" to apply to regular ogre-mage stats to get your upgraded ogre-mage, noble-oni, or god-oni. But he warns that they are underpowered compared to the fully reworked original versions. He proposes to simply print these panoplies and slip the paper at the oni page in the Monster Manual and be on your way. (It's page 239).
As a parting gift, let me reveal to you that the secret to ogre-mage's high armour classes are their tiger-skin pants, lovingly sewn by their moms.