In the Dungeon World section on monsters and with the spirit of making the fantastic world fantastic, it is alluded to that some monsters would be considered just too powerful for things like hit points and armor. Being a die hard D&D Dungeon Master and intrigued with Dungeon World, this perplexed me until last night.
In addition to reading about Dungeon World, I had picked up from a thrift store The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories and the second short story in here called The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth by Lord Dunsany. The section in question is on the Dragon-crocodile Tharagavverug:
And the magician of Allathurion answered: “He is the dragon-crocodile who haunts the Northern marshes and ravages the homesteads by their marge. And the hide of his back is of steel, and his under parts are of iron; but along the midst of his back, over his spine, there lies a narrow strip of unearthly steel. This strip of steel is Sacnoth, and it may be neither cleft nor molten, and there is nothing in the world that may avail to break it, nor even leave a scratch upon its surface. It is of the length of a good sword, and of the breadth thereof. Shouldst thou prevail against Tharagavverug, his hide may be melted away from Sacnoth in a furnace; but there is only one thing that may sharpen Sacnoth’s edge, and this is one of Tharagavverug’s own steel eyes; and the other eye thou must fasten to Sacnoth’s hilt, and it will watch for thee. But it is a hard task to vanquish Tharagavverug, for no sword can pierce his hide; his back cannot be broken, and he can neither burn nor drown. In one way only can Tharagavverug die, and that is by starving.”
Then sorrow fell upon Leothric, but the magician spoke on:
“If a man drive Tharagavverug away from his food with a stick for three days, he will starve on the third day at sunset. And though he is not vulnerable, yet in one spot he may take hurt, for his nose is only of lead. A sword would merely lay bare the uncleavable bronze beneath, but if his nose be smitten constantly with a stick he will always recoil from the pain, and thus may Tharagavverug, to left and right, be driven away from his food.”
Then Leothric said: “What is Tharagavverug’s food?”
And the magician of Allathurion said: “His food is men.”
Then it hit me that this is what DW is talking about. That there are monsters that can be defeated or conquered but not by sword but by wits and conquered isn’t necessarily the death of the creature. These monsters are part hazard and part puzzle.
In a Reddit discussion on this, one of the participants drew up a very nice DW definition of Sacnoth for our use if such an adventure calls for it:
Sacnoth Close, Unbreakable, 1 Piercing, Forceful, +1 Damage, 1 weight
A blade of unearthly steel. The eye of Tharagavverug, fastened to its hilt, glows with a pale blue light.
- When you undertake a perilous journey in the lands Tharagavverug is familiar with and take the trailblazer job you succeed as if you rolled a 10+.
- You can breach any door, including magical steel doors that are invincible to other attacks.
- You can easily and silently cut through rope, including magical silk that is unbreakable by other means.
- Demons and dragons know of Sacnoth and fear it. Almost all flee once they recognize the sword.
- The eye of Tharagavverug watches your blind spots and alerts you to any danger. It can see as well by night as by day.
- +1 to defy danger against dangers which rely on subtlety or stealth.
- Sacnoth can counter music based magic, such as the Bard’s Arcane Art.
The whole story is available here for your reading/listening pleasure.