Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Master of the Wall

A massive Andross-like polygonal face sticks out of a wall. It looks to be made of the same masonry as the rest of the room. The face is a sentient being known as the Master of the Wall.

Add him to your wandering monster list in your dungeons. If the players find him, he will not be “wandering” in the traditional sense, but instead will occupy the room the players find him in. He will only appear in a single room per floor of the dungeon, likely in an inconvenient position blocking a door or passage.

The first time the players encounter him, he will greet them cordially but insist that they treat him like a lord—bow before him, address him as “master” or “my lord” or whatever. He will make a request of the party every time they encounter him. If the party satisfies the request, he will thank them and melt back into the wall, laughing all the while and revealing whatever it was he was blocking.

Here are the requests listed in the order he will ask them:
  1. “I hunger for meat! Prepare me a feast!” The master of the wall will eat just about anything as long as it is prepared and presented in an extravagant manner. If you want to go off of numbers, he needs 6 HD worth of meaty monsters (skeletons or constructs) to be satisfied. He will let the characters know if they haven’t brought him enough food—”More! More!” He eats by slurping up food with his tongue.
  2. “I yearn for beauty! Show me something as magnificent as me!” This can include holding a mirror up to the Master or sketching his face.
  3. “Dance for me!” This requires nothing of the characters other than their willingness to make a fool of themselves in front of each other and the Master. Some daring DMs would have the players themselves get up and dance, but if that’s not your speed the Master will spend a turn laughing and making increasingly elaborate demands of the characters. Afterward, the characters must spend a turn resting.
  4. “I want a change of scenery! Do something to liven my domain!” Move in some furniture, spread around some treasure, etc. The Master cares more about the presence of new stuff than he does whether or not they fit ambiance. Players can hang drapes from a wall and he’d be happy. He is satisfied once 1000 gp worth of treasure and furniture is moved into the room.
  5. “Offer before me a magical item!” The item must be something that’s not a consumable. The Master will lick it, draining it of it’s magic power.
  6. The final request: The Wall Master will ask the PCs to place their hands upon his face. Whoever decides to do so will feel a disorienting nausea that quickly fades into a hazy feeling not unlike being slightly buzzed. They become a Friend of the Wall.
Once per day, a Friend of the Wall can place their hands on a wall and attempt a Charisma test. On a success, they can move or part up to 10’ of wall. The definition of wall can be pretty loose but anything that would really push it causes the player to suffer a -3 penalty on the Charisma test. 

The Master of the Wall will never be immediately hostile to the characters, but will attack them if provoked or if they initiate combat. 

Master of the Wall 
HD 10 AC none (all attacks directed at it automatically hit) Morale 8. All nonmagical attacks deal only 1 point of damage except from bludgeoning weapons, which only do half damage. Called shots can be attempted against his eyes or mouth, which have an AC equivalent to plate and deal full damage. The Master takes double damage from explosives. 
When the Master of the Wall attacks, roll 1d6 
  1. Nose tentacle. A thin and green tentacle with gross feelers along its underside creeps out of the Master’s nose. Range 60’, 1d4 damage and on a hit the target is grappled and immobilized. Pulling the tentacle out of the nose requires a successful strength test and deals 10 damage to the master. 
  2. Eye laser. A fat red beam shoots out of one of the Master’s eyes. Range 120’ 1d6 damage. The laser can be bounced off of reflective surfaces. 
  3. Stinking breath. The master exhales a billowing cloud of reeking yellowish fog. Everyone in a 20’ radius of it must save vs. poison or drop what they’re holding and spend the next round coughing and wheezing. The fog persists for two rounds, and anyone that starts or ends their turn in it takes 1 point of damage. 
  4. Tongue lash. The master flicks his fleshy, vascular tongue. Range 10’, 1d8 damage. If nothing is in range, he just laughs pompously. 
  5. Exhale. The master blows mightily. Everyone must succeed on a strength test or be blown back 20’ feet. 
  6. Forehead ray. A glowing violet orb forms in front of the master’s forehead. He spends one round charging up, and the next round blasts a ringed beam of angry purple light from the orb. Target saves vs. death ray or disintegrates.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dreams, and d50 Magic Ones

Antonio de Pereda - El sueño del caballero

Dreams are largely absent from D&D despite being such a huge staple of fantasy and speculative fiction

it was inspired by. This is probably for good reason—there’s no real niche they could fill that’s relevant
to the game. But I aim to fix that.

In my mind dreams shouldn’t be interactive. Players already have enough stuff to do when their characters
are awake, and for the most part don’t want to break from that and do something completely different when
they are resting. 

Appearing in a heady dreamworld dungeon might be cool, but in most cases that would
ruin the flow of the game—characters go to sleep to recover hp and stave off fatigue penalties. Players
just want to move on to the next day of adventuring. So with that in mind, here’s how magic fantasy dreams
ought to be implemented in your game: treat them as treasure. 

Yoshitaka Amano

First things first: what is a dream? Scholars will tell you that when we sleep our spirits are freed from the

boundaries of consciousness and travel to the nebulous mercurial dreamworld which is theorized to be where
they originated. This is only partially correct.

In reality, there’s no singular “dreamworld.” When we sleep, our subconscious minds spread out over the
Planes of Thought like water poured on a pane of glass. Our subconscious runs up against the limits of these
planes and mixes with the residue of whatever lies beyond. These fringes are monitored by entities known
as Oneirions, who see it as their duty to keep spirits of dreamers insulated from the mind-breaking terrors
that reside beyond the Planes of Thought. They do this by guiding our subconsciouses through numberless
channels that skirt the edges of planes like grooves on a vinyl record, safely avoiding the horror from outside.
These channels are what we perceive as dreams. 

The multitudinous edges of Planes of Thought are where great powers collide and intersect—there’s a lot
more going on there than just dreaming. This means that some channels run through these meeting points
or extend far into unknown territories in order to get around them. Occasionally, certain esoteric entities or
events can grant a mortal’s subconscious access to these higher channels of power. When this happens,
the Oneirians will guide them to such a channel instead of a mundane one. What results from traveling down
these unique channels can manifest in countless different ways, but they all collectively fall under the
loose umbrella term of “Magic Dream.”
Steve Ditko had the right idea

A PC saves a group of nymphs from an angry water weird? They might have a Magic Dream that night.
The party helps a mysterious old lady find her missing comb? Well she doesn’t have the money to pay you
back but she’ll put in a good word or two the Oneirion she’s buddies with. The Magic-User gazes into the
smoke-filled crystal ball and witnesses the wonders within? Well as long as they pass their saving throw
they might find something special waiting for them after they knock out for the night. 

Here are the basics of Magic Dreams: if a character does something that merits a Magic Dream, there is
a 1-in-3 chance every time they sleep that they will experience the Magic Dream. They dream as normal
until that happens. 

If the whole party does something that merits a dream, each one has a 1-in-3 chance of receiving the same
dream on each of the following nights. As soon as at least one character gets the dream, the dream has
been granted and there will no longer be a roll every night to see who gets in. 

Here is a d50 list of dreams.
Salvador Dali - Ship with Butterfly Sails

  1. Abyss dream. A lurking sense of danger within your subconscious makes itself known to you. The DM will warn you next time you are entering a situation where there is a clear imminent threat to your life that you otherwise would not have been aware of.
  2. Acorn dream. You see yourself planting a large, wondrous acorn. Gain an additional 10% xp until the next time you level up.
  3. Acrobat dream. You feel yourself tumbling through the sky, walking a long tightrope, and leaping agilely over great distances. You wake up more grounded and with an enhanced kinesthetic sense, gain +1 Dexterity.
  4. Acting dream. You find yourself portraying one of your party members on a great stage in front of a massive audience, laughing and cheering. You have developed a deeper understanding of that PC, and now whenever you are together you get +2 to saves against mind-altering effects.
  5. Aid dream. You assist a celestial thought-entity in finding an emotion they had lost. It turns out they were feeling it the entire time! The next time you would be killed, circumstances change such that you miraculously survive with 1 hp.
  6. Aging dream. You dream of yourself in an entirely different lifetime in an entirely foreign land. At the end of your life, just as you’re about to die surrounded by your loved ones, you wake up. Most of your memories disappear, but the compounded experiences of a lifetime grant you +1 Wisdom.
  7. Balance dream. You see different versions of yourself balanced on massive golden scales. Regardless of your encumbrance level, you move as though you are unencumbered the next day.
  8. Birth dream. Your dream takes you back to where it all began, before you set out on your course through life. The moment you die, you will be reincarnated somewhere else in the world identical to your previous self, but with no memory of your past life. There is no mechanical benefit to this.
  9. Boat dream. You are sailing on a beautiful ship pointed toward the golden horizon. The next time you transition from dungeon to wilderness or wilderness to dungeon, gain 300 xp.
  10. Bottle dream. You are holding a large transparent vessel overflowing with fire and light. The next time you are in dire circumstances, you can tap into an inner reserve of power to perform a deed of mighty athleticism—leap a great distance, sprint extraordinarily rapidly, attack twice in quick succession, or the like.
  11. Cabbage dream. You are in a field of colossal cabbages. You are climbing through the leaves of one such cabbage plant, making your way to the center. You’re holding a cabbage in your hands, eating it like an apple. It is delicious. You are sustained and do not need rations for the next 1d4 days.
  12. Candle dream. In a dark room, in a dark castle, you are staring transfixed into a candle's burning flame. Gain +1 to saves vs. spells and wands.
  13. Clairvoyance dream. You dream of some future event with perfect clarity. You are allowed one free “retcon” of up to 1 minute, which you can declare after the events of the retconned period occur. For instance, a PC pulls a lever that leads to a trap being sprung. The player declares that they will retcon that action, undoing up to the point where the PC approaches the lever. The PC has foreseen the consequences of such an action in their dream.
  14. Climbing dream. You are scaling a tall white tower. Each handhold you find brings you a deeper sense of fulfillment and purpose. You wake up with an awareness of every notable feature within a day’s travel on foot, or by whatever other means of travel you have easiest access to.
  15. Conversation dream. You hear countless different voices speaking in countless varieties of incoherent gibberish. When you wake up, you find that you have learned a new random language.
  16. Crown dream. You are taking part in an elaborate ceremony that culminates in your close friends and allies placing a beautiful crown atop your head. Your retainers and hirelings’ morale rolls get a +1 bonus.
  17. Darkness dream. You are traveling in utter darkness, guided by a single light far in the distance. Any time you and your party get lost in the wilderness, you are allowed an extra roll to see if you find your way.
  18. Death dream. Slowly but surely, you feel yourself die. When you awaken, you get a number of one-time uses of Speak with Dead equal to your level.
  19. Dog dream. A mysterious canine companion guides you through a wondrous dreamscape. When you wake up, you notice the dog is waiting patiently beside you. You have a new companion! The dog is statted as a mundane dog with above-average intelligence and 12 morale, and will obey simple commands you make to the best of its ability. The dog does not need to sleep and can keep watch during the night.
  20. Door dream. You pass through a series of huge doors, each more elaborate than the last. Passing through the last one leads right into you waking up. For the next day, all locks will fall open at your touch and stuck doors will open without a sound.
  21. Dragon dream. You are courageously fighting against a monstrous dragon. When you slay it, you feel you have overcome a negative aspect of yourself. Reroll your lowest attribute using 4d6, dropping the lowest dice.
  22. Exile dream. You are surrounded by people, but they rapidly disappear until you are alone in a vast desert. The next time you are acting on your own away from the rest of the party, you receive a +4 bonus to ability tests, attack roles, and saving throws until you regroup or the day ends.
  23. Egg dream. You witness a large golden egg crack open and release a flock of soaring white birds. New ability has formed within you, and you get a +1 bonus when doing a skill-based activity of your choosing that requires a 1d6 role (listening at doors, searching a 10x10 area, etc.).
  24. Eyes dream. You look up at a night sky filled with luminous nebulae and swirling galaxies and see great cosmic eyes unfold out of the stars and stare right back down at you. Within them, you witness a fraction of the unspeakable truths of the universe. You forget most of what you saw when you wake up, but enough of it is echoing around your skull to give you +1 Intelligence.
  25. Faces dream. You are surrounded by a sea of smiling faces, all of them laughing and cheering in good humor. For the next 1d6 days, you are aware of the result of all reaction roles made by the NPCs and creatures you encounter.
  26. Feast dream. You are either tiny or in the house of a giant, but either way you find yourself on a massive table with plates piled high with food. You eat your fill and more. Wake up with +1 Constitution.
  27. Gambling dream. You have been invited to a great mystical gambling hall hidden somewhere between the Planes of Thought. You can wager anything, in just about any game of chance you can think of.
  28. Ghost dream. The ghost of someone important to you visits you in your sleep. It has certain esoteric knowledge from beyond the veil, and wants to converse with you. They will tell you anything they wished they would have said before they died and will answer some questions about the afterlife. There’s a 50% chance that the spirit has some unfinished business that it would like you to take care of.
  29. Hunting dream. You are a hunter in a primordial jungle. You track your prey until you find it resting in a clearing. Your quarry is a random creature that has at least 5 HD more than you. Unfortunately, you wake up before you have a chance to throw your spear. If you manage to track down that creature and kill it, the amount of xp you get from defeating it is multiplied by 10.
  30. Idol dream. You appear in the dream of a plucky young adventurer. You appear to them as a paragon to aspire to. After 1d20 months they will seek you out in-person and pledge their allegiance to you. They become an NPC retainer with a random class and 2 fewer levels than you.
  31. Incantation dream. Alien priests in hooded robes stand around you in a circle chanting a strange incantation. One of them taps you on the forehead and says in a language that you don’t understand that you are their chosen one. You wake up with +1 in every saving throw.
  32. Jester dream. You are a magnificent harlequin, the center of attention wherever you go. All your social inhibitions melt away and people love you for it. You wake up with a sense of longing for something you can’t quite remember, but otherwise pretty good. Gain +1 Charisma.
  33. Lightning dream. In the midst of a terrible storm, a lightning bolt hits you right between your eyes and transfers its energy into your mind. You get 1d4 lightning bolts contained in your brain that you can shoot out of your forehead at a range of 120’. They deal 4d6 damage to anything in their path, save vs. breath weapon for half.
  34. Machinery dream. You are embedded in a strange, complex machine. The DM will answer one yes-or-no question about a dungeon-specific challenge, trap, or puzzle you encounter in future.
  35. Mandala dream. You perceive your location on the web of fate. Every saving throw gets a one-time +2 bonus.
  36. Meadow dream. You bask in a tranquil Edenic clearing. Wake up with 1d4 additional hp on top of what was healed during the rest. Any non-magical affliction or ailment is cured.
  37. Monster dream. You feel yourself slowly turn into a grotesque monstrosity. You wake up, covered in sweat, with your heart racing. Something about your body feels strange, but not in an entirely bad way. Gain +1 Strength.
  38. Moon dream. You find yourself bouncing around on the pristine crystalline surface of the moon, with a beautiful view of the world. You can forego sleep for the next 1d6 nights.
  39. Needle dream. You are mending one of your old frayed garments with a gleaming golden needle. A relevant NPC from your past will appear at some time in the future to aid you.
  40. Offering dream. You are atop a large ziggurat in a barren alien landscape. A strange priest hands you a black knife and gestures toward a some sort of animal bound to a stone altar. If you sacrifice the creature, you get +1 to all ability scores when you wake up, and powerful demon takes an interest in you.
  41. Sanctuary dream. You dream you are in a secluded temple, safe and isolated from the unknown turmoil outside. For the next day, random encounters are half as likely to occur (i.e. if random encounter chance is 1-in-6 it becomes 1-in-12).
  42. Searching dream. You are looking desperately for something, first in a vast desert, then in an old cluttered castle, and finally in your childhood home. As soon as you feel you find it, you wake up. In your hand is a valuable item or gemstone worth 1d10x100 gp. There is a 1-in-6 chance the item is a random magic item, and a 2-in-6 chance that it belongs to someone important nearby.
  43. Sentient weapon dream. You dream not as yourself but as a sentient magic weapon, trapped somewhere in a perilous, far off location. You become inextricably linked to this weapon and feel powerfully drawn to it.
  44. Stranger dream. Next reaction roll you make for a non-hostile npc gets a +3 bonus. You feel like you’ve met them before.
  45. Tree dream. Your legs are roots that reach far into the earth. Your arms are branches that spread high and wide. Every part of you feels vivid and alive. You wake up and notice your scars have mostly faded, any lost limbs are recovered, and you gain one HD of hit points.
  46. Wizard dream. A wizard pops into your dreams and looks around confusedly. He meant to appear in someone else’s dream and apologizes for interrupting your sleep. He mutters something about about a gift to make up for the trouble then draws a glowing circle in the air and disappears. You learn a random 1st level Magic User spell. If you are not a Magic User you can cast it once as though you are a 1st level MU, otherwise you can add it to your spell book.
  47. Zoo dream. You find yourself in a wondrous, fantastical menagerie. You get 3 points to distribute as you see fit between your ability scores and saving throws. You can distribute no more than one point to each score.
  48. Astral traveler. You’re not dreaming, you’re astral projecting. Works the same way as the spell.
  49. Cry for help. Somebody important is imprisoned in a dungeon or similarly precarious environment and has called out to you to aid them. You gain a rough understanding of who they are, where they are located, and how to get there.
  50. Bureaucratic error. You find yourself in the cluttered office of a busy Oneirion overwhelmed with work. It looks like no one got around to assigning you a proper channel, so the Oneirion gifts you a novelty dream token and apologizes for the error. The token is good for 3 free Magic Dreams—just put it under your pillow when you go to sleep.

A note on ability score improvements: if you run the sort of game where ability scores are mostly fixed and unchanging then feel free to rule that the dreams that influence ability scores (or saves, etc.) only last for a week. Otherwise, the dream effects are permanent unless otherwise specified.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Make Your Taverns Better

The most popular tavern in Eagle's Reach is a wide, squat building with a domed roof. It's name is the Jolly Bottle, but everyone calls it the Tortoise on account of its shape. Inside, you'll find long communal tables spanning most of the floor, a bar off to the side with great barrels of the local ale stacked behind it, and curtained off booths along the walls of the establishment. 

On the far end of the main room is an opening to the sizable back room, which has a stage big enough for a musician or small band to play and space left open for dancing and merrymaking. The walls and ceiling rafters are decorated with local artifacts: old tools and weapons, engravings, wood carvings, hunting trophies, and various curios that have accumulated through the years. 

There's a staircase in a corner of the main room that descends down into the lower floors of the tavern, which are small labyrinths of corridors and private rooms that are easy to get lost in if you don't know where you're going.

People can be found at the Tortoise at all hours of the day swapping gossip, telling stories, and enjoying the good drink. In the evenings it fills with people carousing, gambling, dancing, and doing all that classic tavern stuff. Shady dealings are also rather commonplace, though frowned upon by the proprietors.

From the players' (and characters') perspective, the Tortoise is the spiritual center of Eagle’s Reach. It is a place to meet NPCs, acquire rumors, and lay out plans, and discuss their next course of action. As they continue adventuring and making names for themselves, people will recognize them, the trophies they acquire on their journeys will decorate the walls, and they will share stories of their exploits. They will make the tavern their own.

I am a big fan of taverns. If the whole of D&D can be boiled down to the Dungeon, the Wilderness, and the Town, then the Town in turn could be boiled down to the Tavern. Now some might say that the most significant aspect of the town is the shop, as it (or its equivalent) is where PCs buy equipment and sell treasure, but I see that as merely an aspect of the game primarily used to justify the game-y cycle of transmuting treasure into goods in order to extract more treasure. A vital component to be sure, but if the whole "town" part of your game is for the most part just providing players with a narrative justification for transacting then you're doing your game a disservice.

And what disservice would this be, exactly? I think it’s fair to say that most of the game takes place in the dungeons—the mythic underworld that is the site of great adventure. Dungeons are easy to latch onto as a tangible place, an elsewhere that is still a somewhere, a vivid and dynamic location. But when players leave the mythic underworld and return to society, there needs to be an adequate contrast. 

Sure, as a DM one can just say allow for towns to be the nebulous third space that is not dungeon or wilderness, but for games that try to cultivate the “mythic” atmosphere of the mythic underworld, there needs to be a strong contrast—a list of names and locations in town is not going to cut it. DMs need to put in the work to make society seem “real” to contrast the dungeon’s “surreal.” A “normal” to the “paranormal.” Et cetera. 

Night out with the fellas
At its platonic ideal, a tavern is the place players can feel at home. It is the aspect of the game world that is not trying to kill them, but is still engaging enough to still feel like it is worthwhile to spend time there. It is a place that would leave a conspicuous hole in your campaign if it were to be absent.

So how do you go about doing this? Let me posit a two-facet method (it's like two steps but it's only one step but the step has two parts): make your tavern interactive and dynamic

The upshot is: interactivity invites players to participate in the game, and dynamism is what allows for the setups and payoffs that make the game fun and satisfying. 

Interactivity is, obviously, the way to make players engage with stuff in the game world. Since this is a roleplaying game and virtually everything is capable of being interacted with, the real trick is making the interaction meaningful. A tavern is just window dressing if the players can't do anything with it. So the solution is to give players stuff to do. 

I'm a big fan of letting players get additional XP when they choose to spend their money carousing instead of on useful things. Additionally, letting PCs perform or tell stories in exchange for rumors or funds ("free lodging for anyone who can keep the crowd pleased all night!") is another good option. The barkeep might want some new decor and is willing to give a hefty sum to anyone who can give them a peryton head to mount on the wall or an owlbear corpse for a new carpet. 

Dynamism, which goes hand in hand with interactivity, is the lasting effect the players have on the tavern. 
This is the map on the great that the adventures continually add to as they explore the region. This is the discount the party gets after they unearthed the Holy Grail from the old well. 

I want to specify that I mean players and not PCs, because it’s likely players will go through a handful before seeing any substantive change. But once a group accomplishes something cool, it won’t matter who specifically did it. Regardless of who they’re playing, the players will hear you describe the dragon skull mounted above the bar and think “we put that there.”

This can be extended as far as you’re willing to take it. Perhaps the party makes a contact who tells them how to get into the secret back room of the tavern to consult with the flaming deity trapped in a brazier that resides there. Perhaps the party stumbles upon a cellar that leads right into the city’s chthonic sewer system. 

Really, any texture you can add to the tavern to make it more than a name and a spot on the map is better than nothing. But think about what will make players care, and think about how you can squeeze that to get as much juice as possible.

(and of course, it doesn’t have to be a tavern)

Friday, May 1, 2020


Long-dead, technologically advanced ancient civilizations are a staple in great settings. Not only do they
make for ripe gameplay and easy justification for why there are so many ruins and magic junk everywhere,
they also give players a sense that the world is much bigger and older than it might seem at first—it adds
that crucial dimension of deep time to the otherwise mundane fantasy world.

Many of the giants of Appendix N make use of antiquities, though mostly to reflect on anxieties of
degeneracy and decadence and how they could lead to the figurative and literal degradation of the
civilization’s people. These make for, if nothing else, great antagonists for the likes of Conan to
sink swords into.

What ever happened to Hyperborea anyway?

I am intrigued by the idea that the great ancient race persists long after their world was destroyed, now
merely remnants of a lost time, figments of history that have somehow persisted for longer than their own
good. It gives fantasy Rome or fantasy Tenochtitlan or fantasy(?) Atlantis more color.

These eternal remnants are incapable of integrating into modern society for one reason or another, or else
they would have assimilated and become something else. So the remnants of the lost civilization are by
necessity something Other, something maddened by the passing of the eons, always searching for what
was lost but never able to find it. 

The Eternals look like muscular humans with angelic wings, slate skin, and large sculpted heads. They
stand tall and puff their chest out, and they fly with outstretched arms and wings spread wide. 

While they lack a few dozen too many eyes to be mistaken for angels, they still seem beautiful at first
glance. A moment’s further examination reveals their subtle grotesquery. 

From Time Masters (1982)

Their eyes are eerie black, with luminescent red dots for pupils. Their musculature doesn’t quite match
up with ours—their arms have too many sections, their chests striate in weird wavy patterns, their quads
push out of their legs in weird places. 

Their movements shift rapidly from jerky and awkward to fast and reckless, as though they can’t wrap their
heads around the whole “having a body” thing. Their faces are rough and uneven like they were carved
from clay by a sculptor not accustomed to the medium. 

They do a lot of this sort of thing

They cannot communicate in any language we recognize, but those with the right sensitivity recognize
that they carry a powerful psychic haze—the eons of generational madness have compounded in their
minds to form a choking cloud of psionic energy. This inscrutable aura, combined by the Eternal’s sheer
physical majesty, makes anyone seeing them subconsciously resist doing them harm.

AC as light armor, HD 3, Slam 1d6, Movement 40’ / 60’ flying, saves as 5th level Cleric
Morale 8, Number Appearing 1d8 (3d6 in lair) Treasure mote of light (see below)

Dispassion - The first time a PC attempts to attack an Eternal, they must save vs. paralysis or
automatically miss. Once a PC has succeeded on their save and successfully dealt damage to an
Eternal every PC and retainer is immune to this ability for the duration of the encounter. 

When an Eternal is reduced to 0 hp their body disappears in a flash leaving behind only a small mote of
light that gently floats up to the sky, disappearing after two rounds. Perhaps it would be an apt time to
make an Akira reference, if your players are into that sort of thing. 

If the mote of light is captured in, say, a bottle or other vessel, it persists indefinitely. A purveyor of curios
would be willing to buy it for around 100 gold, but a wizard or occultist would likely offer more
(say, 2d100+300 gp).

Icarus might be too on-the-nose, but I like the painting

If the mote of light is swallowed, the imbiber gains a one-time use of a random first level spell
(decided at the time of ingesting—the player should know what spell they can cast before they cast it).
Because the spell is coming from ancient, alien memories, it cannot be transcribed into a spellbook. 

If someone swallows more than one mote within a 24-hour period, the imbiber must save vs. magic with a
cumulative -2 penalty for each additional mote. If they succeed they get the spell no problem.
If they fail they still get the spell, but permanently lose 1d4 points of Wisdom.

Groups of 6 or more Eternals are often led by a 5 HD Eternal Mystic with more advanced psychic powers.
They can shoot beams of psychic energy from their fingertips or eyes that deal 1d6 damage against sentient
creatures up to 60’ away, but due to the focus this requires they can’t move or fly during the round. 

They can also spend a round gazing at a sentient creature, which must save vs. magic or drop
their weapons and lie prostrate before the Eternal Mystic. No Eternal will harm someone who is
lying prostrate.

Eternal Mystics are generally taller but more wiry than their standard counterparts. They are identifiable by
their darker skin and the esoteric runes carved on their chest and around the top of their head like a halo.

What are these Eternals doing?
Building a strange contraption out of seemingly idiosyncratic parts. If the party chooses to hide and
see what they’re doing then after a while the Eternals will seem to get rapidly distressed
and angrily tear the whole thing down and break it apart. Then they will start again on a completely
new project with the same parts, as if nothing has happened. 
Digging a huge, crop-circle like symbol into the ground.
Standing perfectly still atop tree branches or rocky outcroppings
Clutching their heads and rolling around in anguish
Flying in lazy synchronization, tracing strange patterns in the air
Flying back to their lair carrying what look like large chunks of ancient statues

≤ 2
Will attack immediately and focus fire on a spellcasting PC; once they have made a kill they
will attempt to flee with the body back to their lair and devour the corpse
Will attack immediately and attempt to subdue the PCs in order to take them back to their lair,
chain them to black stone thrones, and worship them like effigies
Will fight if provoked, but otherwise will attempt to flee or drive the PCs from the area 
Totally indifferent, will give no indication they are aware of the PCs. Will flee if attacked
≥ 12
Will awkwardly bow and dance around the PCs. If the PCs join in on their dance, the Eternals
will soar into the air and trail the PCs for the rest of the day or until they engage in combat,
where the Eternals will do their best to defend the PCs.