It's been a little while, as I was finishing a draft for a new Mutant Future module. I am back now with a new Random Monster Assessment: the cockatrice.
I've written previously about the cockatrice (in passing), but have not done an entry on it in particular. Maybe others have seen it in play more than me, but I can only think of one time I ran an adventure with one, and the PCs never ended up exploring the area near its lair.
The cockatrice is sort of the "101" for petrifying monsters. It's small, not too hard to kill, and the nastiness that is flesh to stone only happens A) after a successful hit, and B) a failed saving throw. Unlike gaze or gas attacks (Medusa and Gorgon).
The beauty of the cockatrice is that the petrification thing makes it utterly terrifying to most players even though it's sort of wimpy.
Let's have the stats, shall we?
Cockatrice (from Cook):
Move: 90' (30')
Fly: 180' (60')
Attacks: 1 (beak + special)
Damage: 1d6 + petrify
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d8)
First off, it's "chicken" (get it??). A morale of seven means it will turn a tail feather pretty easily. Secondly, its AC is no great shakes. On the other hand, five hit dice is pretty sturdy for a scaly cockerel, so it will probably take more than one hit to drop, not to mention immunity to the ever-popular fight-ending Sleep spell.
The thing about the cockatrice is that the odds are it WILL get a melee attack in at some point. Even 1-2 pecks will give the PCs sweats. And if, by chance, it does manage to petrify a character, then the whole adventure can become a much more complicated situation. Unless you've got an 11th level MU in the party who has the appropriate spell, it will take some work to get your companion unstuck.
Since it only has a melee attack, peppering it with arrows is a good way to get it to flee. Just do not pursue it into cramped quarters, where it will get to close with you if cornered.
As an aside, the mythology of the creature can make for fun background fluff. The stories go that a cockatrice is hatched from a chicken egg incubated by a toad or snake. Definitely a bit of imagination fodder there. What if there was a nest of them in some poor farmer's henhouse? 1d8 in lair... (evil grin).