Pictures that are alive and possibly dangerous have been a theme in fantastic media for as long as I can remember. It seems like every scary movie I saw as a kid featured a painting whose malevolent glare clearly followed the heroes around. The quirky living paintings from Harry Potter are another excellent example of this type of creature—heck, even Ghostbusters 2 had Vigo the Carpathian. I like the idea of these kind of creepy living pictures, so when I was working on a haunted house adventure, I felt the need to have some paintings come to life and attack the PCs. Initially I thought of making the encounter some kind of weird haunt, but in the end found that the encounter just worked better as a more traditional combat. Thus the idea for this new template was born. The depiction is the perfect thing to represent the idea of these odd living images.
Depictions are creatures of magic, monsters whose images have been captured as artwork, usually a painting. A depiction is given some semblance of life either through direct application of the artist’s own magical energies or through the interference of one or more malign entities. Most of the time, depictions are bound to the artwork they appear in, but each can become manifest when certain conditions are met.
Most depictions are created by accident when the artist’s creative energies take on a magical potency. Others occur when malevolent energies infuse paintings or other images with the purposes of causing harm and destruction. Whatever the case, depictions tend to cherish what life they have and will both staunchly defend it and thoroughly embrace every opportunity to feel alive. Over time, most depictions are driven mad by their imprisonment, and when this madness is coupled with a deep envy for those who are free to move about the world, many depictions become malicious and murderous, seeking to take out their frustrations on others.
Creating a Depiction
“Depiction” is an inherited template that can be added to any type of creature.
CR: Same as the base creature -1.
Type: Same as the base creature; however, all depictions are corporeal and thus lose the incorporeal subtype.
Size: A depiction is either life-sized (the same size as the base creature) or sized to scale (the same size as it appears in the artwork, typically Small size). None of the base creature’s ability scores are adjusted as a result of any change in size. The depiction’s size is determined at creation and cannot later be changed. Changing the creature’s size has no effect on the depiction’s final CR.
Armor Class: Same as the base creature. If the base creature was formerly incorporeal, it retains any deflection bonus to its AC granted from being incorporeal, even though it loses the incorporeal subtype.
Speed: Same as the base creature.
Defensive Abilities: The depiction retains all the defensive abilities of the base creature and gains the regeneration ability.
Regeneration (Su): A depiction is very difficult to destroy; most forms of attack cannot deal permanent damage to the depiction so long as the work of art which normally holds it remains intact. A depiction gains regeneration 5. This regeneration can be overcome by anything that would destroy the work of art it is held within (usually fire or acid).
Weaknesses: The depiction gains the portrait-bound weakness.
Portrait-Bound (Su): A depiction is confined to a single piece of art which depicts it; this is usually a painting, but in rare cases depictions can be found in sculptures or woven tapestries. Normally a depiction is trapped within the confines of this piece of art, although it is able to move about within the scene of the artwork, as well as being able to sense the outside world and speak; however, it is not able to leave the artwork of its own volition in order to affect the outside world. While certain conditions can allow the depiction to manifest (see below), the depiction always remains connected to the piece of art which contains it. If the artwork is ever destroyed, the depiction begins to deteriorate and fades into nothingness over the course of 1d4 rounds, regardless of whether the depiction is currently within it or not. Even while manifested, a depiction can never travel more than 500 feet from the piece of art that it is bound to. The artwork the depiction is tied to is far more resilient than other comparable pieces of art, gaining hardness equal to the hardness of the medium + 1/2 the depiction’s CR, and has hit points equal to twice the base creature’s Hit Dice.
Special Attacks: A depiction retains all the special attacks of the base creature and gains the manifestation special attack.
Manifestation (Su): While normally confined to a piece of art, a depiction is capable of manifesting physically, becoming a corporeal being. While manifested, a depiction can affect the world in all the same ways as the base creature. The conditions which must be met for the depiction to manifest are unique to each individual depiction; the conditions are set at the time of the depiction's creation and cannot be later changed. Common manifestation conditions are touching the artwork containing the depiction, speaking a certain word, or some other obvious physical condition which can be observed by the depiction. A depiction can remain manifested for up to 1 hour once triggered before returning to the artwork it is bound to.
Ability Scores: Str -2, Dex +2, Con +2, Int -4, Wis -2, Cha -2.