Wastrels’re dangerous birdlike creatures that plague the loneliest and most inhospitable reaches of the planes. They’re most often found in desolate woods, dismal swamps, or fetid marshes. Wastrels possess a powerful and deadly ability to slowly drain the life of creatures whose blood they’ve tasted, weakening and finally killing the poor sod through exhaustion, delirium, and thirst.
A wastrel appears innocuous enough at first. It looks like a large raven or crow, but its plumage is unusually shabby and mottled with unhealthy streaks of gray, brown, and black. Its beak and legs are a rusty red, and its eyes are large and sinister. It’s easy to take the wastrel as nothing more than a common bird suffering from some kind of wasting disease. They’re lazy and awkward fliers, and their call is a rough sort of croaking noise. They usually travel in large flocks.
Combat: Wastrels aggressively attack even large parties during their initial encounter with potential prey, swooping in from all sides to dart and peck at their victims. The bird inflicts only 1d3 points of damage with its beak, but it’s not very interested in trying to down its prey at this stage — it merely wants to establish a link between itself and its prey by drawing blood. Once a wastrel’s wounded a victim, it retreats from the fight. Wastrels try to wound as many victims as possible, so a flock’ll divide itself evenly among its potential prey. For example, if 60 wastrels attack a group of 6 PCs and 4 hirelings, each person present is attacked by 6 wastrels. Wastrels’re hardly courageous, and if they don’t score a hit within 1 or 2 rounds they’re likely to fly off, only to return later and try again.
After their initial encounter, wastrels settle down into a pursuit phase. Each bird that wounded a character leeches life energy from its victim, but only if it can remain close — within 100 yards or so. The bird doesn’t have to be exactly within 100 yards for the entire day, but it has to average 100 yards or less from its victim throughout the course of a 24-hour period. The wastrel flock tries to stay within range of its victims, individuals circling or flying ahead in short hops and waiting for the prey to travel past them again. Wastrels’ve got a special sense that unerringly locates their current victim, as long as the basher’s within 1 mile. If he can get farther away from the wastrel, the bird loses him and the link is broken. The wastrel’d have to wound the character again to begin a new bond.
Victims who’re being drained by a wastrel lose 1 point of Constitution each day the pursuit continues, and ½ point from all other ability scores. The victim can attempt a saving throw versus spell to reduce these losses to ½ point of Con and 0 points from other abilities. If any single ability score’s reduced to 2 or less, the character can’t travel without aid any longer. If any ability’s drained to 0 or below, the victim dies. All penalties or restrictions based on ability scores apply, so a priest reduced from a 13 Wisdom to a 12 Wisdom by a wastrel’s draining loses his bonus 1st-level spell and now suffers a 5% chance of spell failure. In addition, victims don’t naturally heal any damage they may’ve suffered from the wastrel.
Wastrels that haven’t established a link may make several mass attacks to wound victims of their own. However, once a wastrel’s established its link, it doesn’t join in any more attacks against its victim. It’s content to glide lazily along, just out of reach. If its prey tries to attack it, the wastrel flies away, returning again as soon as the victims give up and resume their march. Missile attacks can be more effective, but the difficult terrain favored by wastrels often provides a -2 to -4 penalty to attacks made on them through the screening foliage and trees. (In open lands, the wastrels won’t be able to use cover to stay out of the way of arrows or slingstones.)
Victims who’ve been partially drained but then break the link by killing the bird or escaping its range regain their lost ability scores at the rate of 1 point in each ability per day. A heal spell restores all lost points at once. If any ability score was drained to 2 or less, that ability is permanently reduced by 1, and the character’ll never fully recover without the aid of a restoration spell.
Habitat/Society: Wastrel flocks gradually destroy the local flora and fauna of their surroundings by their foul leeching of energy. A stand of trees where a wastrel flock nests’ll be dead and lifeless within a few weeks of the birds’ arrival. Small wildlife rapidly disappears from the region. An exceptionally large flock can slowly kill several square miles of forest. Because of this, wastrel flocks are forced to migrate every 3 to 6 months just to find new food sources.
Wastrels aren’t truly intelligent, but they are unusually cunning and seem to have an aptitude for wreaking harm. They’re hateful, malicious creatures that delight in killing, often leaving their mundane victims uneaten. Flocks are noisy and quarrelsome, but wastrels don’t actually break out into open fighting with each other.
Ecology: Wastrels aren’t usually a problem if a cutter’s not planning a prolonged overland expedition, or doesn’t care if he stays somewhere a long time. On the other hand, they can be a mortal threat to a basher with a lot of miles to cover in wilderness areas, or a sod as happens to live where the flock‘s decided to settle. Wastrels recognize that they won’t often finish a meal if they set upon the victim too near civilization, so they prefer to haunt the more desolate regions of the planes.
Wastrels almost certainly originated somewhere in the Gray Waste, where life and hope are drained by the very land itself. Some bloods say that one of the grim powers inhabiting the Gray Waste created the wastrels for its own dire purposes. Whatever the truth of that, wastrels’re common in the upper layers of that plane, and they’re becoming more of a problem elsewhere on the planes.
No one’s ever managed to explain how the wastrel draws energy from its victims, why it needs to wound the sod first, or why its range is so limited. Wastrels consume small insects and rodents to supplement their unusual diet.
Tiny Magical Beast (Extraplanar)
Hit Dice: 1d10 (5 hp)
Speed: 10 ft. (2 squares), fly 40 ft. (average)
Armor Class: 14 (+2 size, +2 Dex), touch 14, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/–12
Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d3–5)
Full Attack: Bite +5 melee (1d3–5)
Space/Reach: 2-1/2 ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: Life leeching
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, spell resistance 12
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +2
Abilities: Str 1, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 3, Wis 14, Cha 12
Skills: Spot +12
Feats: Dodge, Flyby Attack (B), Mobility (B), Weapon Finesse (B)
Environment: Gray Wastes of Hades
Organization: Solitary or flock (10-100)
Challenge Rating: 1
Alignment: Always neutral evil
Level Adjustment: +2 (cohort)
This creature resembles a large raven, but its plumage is unusually shabby and mottled with unhealthy streaks of gray, brown, and black. Its beak and legs are a rusty red, and its eyes are large and sinister.
A wastrel appears innocuous enough at first. It’s easy to take the wastrel as nothing more than a common bird suffering from some kind of wasting disease. They’re lazy and awkward fliers, and their call is a rough sort of croaking noise.
Wastrels are about 2 feet long and have wingspans of about 3 feet.
Wastrels speak Abyssal.
A wastrel can be acquired as a familiar by a 6th-level arcane spellcaster of neutral evil alignment with the Improved Familiar feat. A wastrel familiar can speak one additional language of its master's choice as a supernatural ability.
Wastrels attack with their beaks until they wound an opponent, then retreat and use their life leeching power to wear their victim down. A group of wastrels divides its numbers to try to wound as many opponents as possible. Wastrels will retreat after a few rounds of combat if they are unable to draw blood, but often return to attack later, especially if their prey appears to be at a disadvantage.
Life Leeching (Su): Wastrels have the uncanny ability to slowly drain the life-force from a creature they have wounded. To use life leeching, a wastrel must first establish a "blood-link" with the victim. It does this by hitting an opponent with its bite attack and drawing blood. A wastrel can only maintain one blood-link at a time, and can unerringly sense the direction and distance of the creature it has a blood-link with. A blood-link is broken if the wastrel and its victim are even more than a mile apart, the wastrel can also cancel a blood-link as a free action. The blood-link can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt is enough to break the link. A magic circle against evil or similar spell will break a blood-link.
Once it establishes a blood-link, the wastrel can leech its victim's life force. After every 24 hours of life leeching the victim takes 1 point of Constitution damage. Life leeching has a 300 foot range, but the bird doesn't have to stay within 100 yards the entire day provided it can average 300 feet or less from its victim throughout the course of a 24-hour period. Life leeching does not require line of sight or line of effect, but any barrier that breaks the blood-link will also stop the Con damage. A protection from evil spell prevents the Con damage but does not break the blood-link.
If more than one wastrels life leeches the same victim, the rate of the leeching is multiplied by the number of birds, i.e. 4 wastrels life leeching a single creature would leech 1 point of Constitution every 6 hours.
Skills: A wastrel has a +6 racial bonus on Spot checks.