Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Species & GLOG Class: The Trilobite-Knight (Veins of the Earth)

I am not a fan of Lamentations of the Flame Princess or any of its supplements that I know of, with the exception of Veins of the Earth by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess.

For those unfamiliar with it, Veins is basically a toolbox and implied setting for spelunking deep beneath the earth. It's far grittier and more claustrophobic than your average Underdark campaign, with a lot of attention paid to starvation, hypothermia, lack of light, mental stress, and the challenges of navigating a world that actively rejects surface-dwellers like you. The denizens of the veins are also stranger than most; the creatures are outlandish without being tentacular Lovecraft fodder, and many of the more humanoid cultures down there have deeply alien senses and mindsets which reflect the fact that it is a very different world you're setting foot in.

The disjointed, evocative nature of its writing combines with the sketchy, chaotic artwork of the book to create a reading experience that actually feels to me like the act of traveling through its tunnels: vague suggestions of shape and scope beyond the fitful reach of your lantern, occasionally broken up by spectacular, oftentimes terrible glimpses of what's really there, rearing up in full color, front-and-center. But even those moments of revelation are small and separate parts of a much greater whole, flashing without context before vanishing back into the dark just as suddenly.

I think it's neat stuff, and that's coming from someone who hates horror on multiple levels. It reminds me that for all of the hole-dwelling I do, I am as much a creature of the surface world as you humans. My domain of topsoil and sedimentary rock is a far cry from the world of deep darkness and deeper time beneath our feet. We are both blessed and ignorant not to know it.

Veins is also more subdued than a lot of other LotFP material. There's dark content like insanity, enslavement, and children being harmed a few different ways (I hate the trogloraptor so gods-damned much), but none of it is lurid or perverse in its attentions like certain other publications are.

This post isn't for me to wax poetic about darknesses, though. This is about trilobites!

Trilobite-knights are my favorite part of the book by far. They, alongside the tiny, philosophical presentist Gnonmen, are like unexpected pinpoints of light amid all the drear and fear.

Trilobite-knights are 5 foot-tall humanoid arthropods covered in clattering plate armor of their body's own making, equipped with dazzling compound eyes and a code of ethics weirdly similar to chivalry, hence the appellation "knight". They don't call themselves that, though. They don't even seem to have names, and they rarely speak. But their sign language is eloquent and beautiful to watch.

They are leftovers from an era hundreds of millions of years ago when an ill-defined but malevolent extinction event wiped out 94% of all life on the planet. They seem to remember those days, and are traumatized by the evil they survived. But they bide their time, knowing that it will be back, and that life will need them again. Until then, they wander like knights errant through the darkness, finding worthy opponents to challenge to contests, defending the weak, and generally being cool little buggos.

The knights remind me so much of the characters from Hollow Knight. Which is funny, because the original blog post for Trilobite-knights over on False Machine was published in January of 2013. That was a good seven months before the 27th Ludum Dare game jam that produced Hungry Knight, the precursor to Hollow Knight.

Sketches of different trilobites appear throughout the book, often accompanying the quotes that mark the beginning of each chapter. They're like the reader's guides through the veins, helping to keep you oriented. You tend to learn your way around after 250 million years.

The book mostly limits trilobite-knights to a few lonesome, random encounters while adventuring in the deep, but as the title you clicked on suggests, I want to do more with them than that. So here's another trifecta of GLOG/Troika!/D&D material.

Scrap Princess, again

Trilobite (GLOG)

Reroll: CON
Bonus: +2 Defense. Can eat detritus as Rations.
Weakness: Can't wear armor or clothing (except cloaks). Must Save when knocked down or lay uselessly on your back like a turtle for 1 round.
Silent, chivalrous survivors of the day that almost killed the world.

Trilobite-Knight Class

Starting Equipment: chitin repair kit, personal heraldic crest.
Starting Skills: Climbing and Chivalry. Also, roll on the adjacent table.

A: Protaspis
B: Meraspis
C: Holaspis
D: Paladin mucronatus

You gain +1 Defense for each Trilobite-Knight template you possess.

A: Protaspis
You are barely more than an upright larva, but you already grasp the fundamentals of survival in the veins of the earth. You decorate your carapace with trophies and mementos of things that didn't kill you- reminders of life's endurance in the face of adversity. Each time you survive damage from something (arrows, a fall, etc.) a total of 10 times, you become more familiar with and resistant to that danger. Once per day per danger, you can reduce incoming damage by 1d12 points.

B: Meraspis
Your first molt has come, and after much fitful squirming you have risen stronger and more confident for it. You gain +2 to Save vs Fear, and can reroll Save vs Fear once per day as you seize on the inspiring feats of past trilobite-knights. You can also use your chitinous body as a Light weapon.

C: Holaspis
Another molt, and you have come into your own, replete with clattering plates and bristling spines. Successful melee attackers must Save vs Dex or be disarmed as they lodge their weapon between your plates. You can also curl up into a ball and roll at 2x Movement for 1 minute per hour. You can roll up to escape being stuck on your back without making a Save.

D: Paladin mucronatus
Your terminal molt. It is a slow (or sudden) decline from here. You fully internalize the code of the trilobite-knight. Your reputation precedes you through the long, winding dark. You gain +2 to Reaction Rolls against the weak, the righteous, and those who have surrendered. You may Challenge enemies, as the Knight template.


Trilobite-Knight Skills


You hail from the shores of the subterranean Nightmare Sea. It is a far cry from the warm oceans that were stolen from you, but it still left you wistful. Start with the “Swimming” skill and a whalebone trinket.


You met a dying Olm who instructed you in the finer points of their people’s customs for the dead. Gain 3 rations.


You had a grizzled mentor, once. They gave you much, and then the dark took them. Start with the “Wilderness” skill and their old spine-pennant.


You arrived too late to save a village from raiders. Start with 1 Camp Follower (Orphan) and a vendetta.


You were tapped on the shoulder by a blackfoot gigaferret, once. Once. Start with the “Light Sleeper” skill and a scrap of fur worth 5sp.


You once befriended an honorable surface dweller- a rare thing. Rarer still, now that they have fallen in battle. You speak 1 extra language, and carry scraps of their armor to return home.

Trilobite-Knight (Troika!)

  • Chitinous Exoskeleton (Heavily Armoured).
  • Salt-Encrusted Weapon of your choice.
  • A Tattered Old Bug-Banner.
Advanced Skills
3 Etiquette
3 Fighting in your Salt-Encrusted Weapon
2 Climbing
1 Awareness
1 Strength

You may curl up into a tight ball of armored plates and spines and roll out of (or into) danger at twice your normal speed. You can't do anything else while rolling.

Trilobite-Knight (5E)

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Strength score increases by 1.

Age. Trilobite-Knights go through life stages marked by molting. They are considered adult once they grow their last body segments, after which they molt progressively slower and slower. Since the trilobites tend to live deep below ground with minimal contact and nothing like a solar calendar, no one knows how quickly they mature, or if they even die of old age. The eldest ones seem quite old, however.

Alignment. Trilobite-Knights seem to follow a code remarkably similar to the human myth of chivalry, without all the sexist or hierarchical bits that make no sense to a bunch of primordial invertebrates. Some will deviate from this code, whether out of necessity or disillusionment. Most are lawful good.

Size. Trilobite-Knights stand about 5 feet tall and weigh over 200 pounds from the weight of their chitinous shells. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.

Superior Darkvision. Epochs spent in the bowels of the earth has not dulled the strength of your people's calcite-hive eyes, but they have lent them a strange luster. Your darkvision has a range of 120 feet.

Clatter & Clamber. Your kind forsook the boiling seas in desperation and shame long ago, but the gentle undulation of your many little legs lends itself almost as well to crawling and climbing as they did swimming. You gain proficiency in the Athletics skill.

Natural Armor. Your exoskeleton is covered in articulated plates of armor and protruding spines of chitin, giving you a measure of protection from a world that has forgotten you. You have a base AC of 17 (your Dexterity modifier doesn't affect this number). You gain no benefit from wearing armor, but if you are using a shield, you can apply the shield's bonus as normal.

Roll Out. You can curl up into a tight ball so that your chitinous plates protect you on all sides. Until you unroll, you gain a +2 bonus to AC, and you have advantage on Constitution saving throws. While rolled up, your speed is 50, you can't take reactions, and the only action you can take is a free action to unroll.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common, and communicate in the silent speech of the trilobites.


  1. Good post, and a very good review of Veins. You're right, it's horrific without being lascivious.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad I was somewhere on the mark with that reading. I was worried after publishing that it was an unfair comparison since I didn't know EVERY other book to compare it to.