Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Abominable Dr. Phibes. A Cult Classic Fiend for Classic and OSR Games

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a cult classic Vincent Price film released in 1971. It is a weird little gem of a movie. Part horror, part black comedy, part period piece set in 1925, it is the story of a master organist and mechanical genius seeking revenge on the doctors and nurses who were unable to save his wife, Victoria, on the operating table. Phibes was disfigured in a fiery car crash while racing to be at her side and presumed dead. Assisted by his mute companion Vulnavia he emerges from the shadows four years later and begins a series of bizarre murders on those he blames for Victoria's death.  The movie is beautifully filmed and holds your attention throughout. Vincent Price is magnetic as the fiend Phibes. A sequel,  Dr. Phibes Rises Again!, was released the following year and while it does not quite have the smoothness of the first it is still a fun romp of snazzy murder and mayhem.

Phibes is an excellent film villain and would be fun to encounter in RPG's. The film is set in 1925 but he nad his creations can be used with little trouble in Victorian, modern, fantasy, etc.

Phibes lends himself well for a good murder mystery with elaborate and stylish deathtraps to confound and intrigue the players.

Dr. Anton Phibes
"Nine killed you. Nine shall die. Nine times, nine! Nine killed you! Nine shall die! Nine eternities in DOOM!"
HD: 5
HP: 23
AC: 10/9
Hit: +3/ as Cleric
Save: 11/ as Cleric

Horrific Appearance
Phibes is horribly scarred from the fire that killed his wife. He can only speak when a phonographic speaker is plugged into this port on the left side o his neck and wheeled around with him. He can only eat and drink through a port in the back right side of his neck. 

Without his makeup and prosthesis he is a leathery skull-faced horror. Those that see his true for the first time must make a Saving Throw (Paralysis) or be stunned and unable to act for one round, 

Mad Strength
Phibes is unhinged and is immensely strong when his wrath is focused. If Phibes hits with and unarmed attack and exceeds the target AC by five or more points he automatically begins strangling his victim for an automatic 1d6 damage that round and each subsequent round until the victim makes a Strength check with a -4 penalty to break free. While he is strangling a foe he is vulnerable to attacks from others; they gain a +2 on attacks to hit him.

Phibes is a master organist and an  expert of Music, Mythology, and Theology. He is also a genius with machinery, building clockwork traps and his famous clockwork band. Phibes also has some medical training as he was able to drain Dr. Longstreet's blood and implant a key in  Lem Vesalius' chest. He has also mastered a scientific method of draining his blood and replacing it with  special embalming fluid which places him in suspended animation. The process is automatic and he can stay in hibernation for years until the machine replaces his blood, awakening him from his deathless sleep at a preordained time.

Phibes' entire existence is devoted to restoring his dead wife to life and gaining revenge on those whom actually have or whom  he believes have wronged him. Phibes seeks any knowledge to aide in this quest, be that knowledge scientific or of the occult. He is fiendishly clever and will set deadly traps to kill his foes. He only relies on brute force if trapped or cornered. Phibes is a man of refined taste and feels vulgar displays of violence are beneath him yet useful at times. He revels in the planning and execution of his devious devices. He is an eccentric madman. 

Dr. Phibes is fond of bizarre traps to do in his enemies. This is a great opportunity for the DM to teach his players the value of caution in the games and it is a fun exercise of cat and mouse between Phibe's and the PC's. If there is a chance to notice the trap allow the PC's and NPC's to detect the traps as per normal rules. Even if they do detect the trap they may not recognize it or what it is given Dr. Phibes proclivity for eccentric designs and symbolism.

The following is a sampling of Phibe traps.

Bees, locusts, scorpions, bats, rats, and other vermin.
Phibes will set his victim up to be attacked and killed by hordes of vermin. He often catches the victmi asleep or drugs them and then releases his vermin to pick and claw then to death. At other times he has lured them into restraints with Vulnavia's charms and then unleashes his creeping death,

Crushing Mask
The elaborate mask has a mechanism at the base of the neck which locks the mask and begins to slowly crush the skull of the wearer. It does 1d4 damage automatically per round. It can be removed with a Pick Locks check or the mechanism can be broken by prying damage. It has 5 hp.

Unicorn catapult
A unique death worth mentioning. It was not a trap but a long range murder. Catapulting a bronze unicorn head across the street to kill Dr. Whitcombe at a gentleman's club.

Ice Blower and Sand Blaster
Damage is identical or both: 1d6 per round, Saving Throw (Breath Weapon) for half damage. The victim of each was trapped in their vehicles and quickly done in. The ice blower was placed in the vehicle by Phibe's personally and the sand blaster was installed to surprise the driver by spraying from the dashboard. 

HD: 3
HP: 13
AC: 12/7
Hit: +3/ as Fighter
Save: 13/ as Thief

Move Silently,  Hide in Shadows, Pick Locks, Backstab 
As thief of third level.

Of apparent Romanian origin Vulnavia is a young woman who serves as Phibes assistant, companion, driver, and accomplice in his schemes and revenge. She is a capable combatant and has picked up a number of larcenous skills to aid her master. 

The Clockwork Wizards 

HD:  1+1
HP:  5
AC:  11
Hit: + 1
Save:  17
Move: 9

The Clockwork Wizards are simple machines and are unaffected by disease, poison, and level drain. They do not eat, drink, sleep, or breathe. They are fairly fragile and can be damaged normally by weapons, heat, cold etc. Their unarmed attack does the same damage as a normal human (1d2.) They are most effective when given weapons.

The Clockwork Wizards must  be wound up once per day to function, 

The Clockwork Wizards are mechanical musicians created by Phibes. They are simple robots, far ahead of their time,  able to carry out a simple commands such as guarding a location or attacking a victim. They are clumsy and a bit slow but they do hit hard and are dangerous in numbers. 

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