Friday, March 20, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 56

TROGLODYTE: Once again I find myself surprised by a monster that is just now making its first appearance in D&D.  Troglodytes are a race of subterranean, reptilian humanoids that are hostile to humans and "aim to slaughter all whom they encounter".  They live in large cavern complexes, and a tribe will be 50/50 split between males and females, the females being about half as strong in battle.

The main weapon of the Troglodyte is its horrid stench, which it secretes when "aroused for battle".  (Gary's words folks, not mine.)  The stench is said to affect humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves and halflings.  Going strictly by the rules that means that half-orcs PCs should be unaffected, but it could simply be that half-orcs haven't been introduced as a PC race yet.  Regardless, any of those races who fails a save vs. poison will lose 1 point of Strength every round for 1-6 rounds (i.e. if you roll a six, you will eventually drop by 6 points).  No word on how it works when faced with multiple troglodytes, but I wouldn't penalise a character beyond the initial loss of Strength.

Beyond that ability, Troglodytes can change their skin colour like chameleons, which grants them a bonus to surprise (though they can't use this ability and their stench at the same time).  They also have infravision, of course.

TROLL: I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that the Troll may very well be the most perfectly-designed monster in D&D history.  It's barely changed here from its first appearance in D&D Vol. 2: Monsters & Treasure.  Their regeneration ability remains mostly the same (3 hit points per round, beginning on the third round after being damaged), with but one change - instead of rising from death at 6 hit points, they rise whole and unharmed after 3-18 rounds, unless burned or immersed in acid.  One new addition is that any severed body parts remain alive, and will continue to attack anything that comes within their reach.  they've also been explicitly given infravision, but then again every monster in OD&D had that, so it's not really an alteration to the Troll so much as it is to all of the monsters who lack it in the Monster Manual.

Stat Changes:
Hit Dice: Old - 6+3, New - 6+6; Damage: Old - Claw 1-4, Bite 1-8; New - Claw 2-5, Bite 2-12

TURTLE: There are two varieties of turtle presented here: Giant Sea Turtle, and Giant Snapping Turtles.  A generic Giant Turtle appeared in the Wilderness Encounter tables of Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, but this is the first time that turtles of any kind get stats in D&D.  The Sea Turtle has more hit points, and can capsize boats and small ships.  The Snapping Turtle deals more damage, and likes to hide at the bottom of lakes and rivers before jumping out to surprise its prey.  Both of them have separate Armour Class totals for their body and head, and can withdraw their heads for protection.  There's not a lot else to say, to be honest.  They're turtles, you know?  They didn't even get their own illustration.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 55

TREANT: Treants first appeared in D&D Vol. 2: Monster & Treasure, originally under the name of "Ents".  They've grown more powerful statistically since then (see below), but otherwise remain much the same, with their main power being the ability to animate normal trees and cause them to attack.  The one major change is that they now have a greater vulnerability to fire.

The opening line of the Treant entry reads "Treants are strangely related to humans and trees, combining features of both species".  I'm not sure how literally I should interpret them being related.  If I wanted to tie it in I could say that the animating power behind each Treant is a human spirit, but I think I prefer to keep them as ancient and mysterious. 

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 2-20, New - 1-20; Armor Class: Old - 2, New - 0; Movement: Old - 6", New - 12"; Hit Dice: Old - 8, New - 7 to 12;

TRITON: Tritons first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk.  They've been severely depowered; in the original version, all Tritons had spellcasting abilities, and they had around double the amount of Hit Points.  They still retain their 90% magic resistance, though, and if enough Tritons are encountered there'll be high-level fighters, clerics and magic-users.  They can even use psionics, as they were able to in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  They still ride sea horses, and have gained hippocampi and sea lions as pets.

Tritons wear armour made of scales that gives them AC 4, and their primary weapons are swords, daggers, spears, tridents and crossbows.  Triton leaders usually have a conch shell that has a number of magical powers.  The shell, when blown, can calm rough waters; summon hippocampi, sea lions or sea horses; and cause marine creatures of animal intelligence to flee.  It's not stated, but I'd rule these shells as being unusable by any but a Triton.

Triton society is fleshed out a little bit more than it had been.  They're rumoured to be from the Elemental Plane of Water, sent to the material plane for a purpose unknown to man.  They worship the god Triton, and have fought wars against ixitxachitl, koalinths, lacedons and most frequently the sahuagin.  Surprisingly, they like humans.  It's a rarity in the Monster Manual.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 5-30+, New - 10-60; Armor Class: 6 to 4, New - 5; Hit Dice: Old - 5 to 7, New - 3; Damage: Old - 3-18, New - By weapon type

Saturday, March 07, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 54

TITANOTHERE: Titanotheres first appeared in D&D as a part of the random encounter tables from Vol. 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, and again in the encounter tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  This is the first time they get a proper write-up.  According to Gary, they are huge, fearless plant-eaters that roamed the plains of the Pleistocene era in herds.  The herds will usually be 50% adult and 50% young, and the largest will attack if the herd is threatened.  This attack is a charge that deals double damage ( a hefty 4-32), and will also result in any smaller victim being trampled for 2-12 damage per foot.

Titanotheres, of course, were real, or at least as real as any creatures conjectured by paleontologists.  Gary has most of his details correct, but his placing of them in the Pleistocene era is way off.  Titanotheres died of around 28 million years ago, whereas the Pleistocene era started a mere 1.8 million years ago.  Gary has a habit of just lumping all of the "prehistoric" creatures into the Pleistocene era, and I'm okay with that for gaming purposes.  The only way it will come into play is via time travel (in which case you want as many creatures to menace the party with as possible) or the discovery of a "Lost World" (in which case historical/scientific accuracy is kind of irrelevant).

TOAD, GIANT: Giant Toads first appeared in Supplement II: Blackmoor, but here they've been given a complete overhaul.  Their tongue attack, which could draw victims into the toad's mouth, is gone, as is the protective colouration that provided them with effective invisibility.  The old toads had a poisonous bite as well, but we have a poisonous toad in the Monster Manual, so that hasn't been completely lost.  Their ability to leap has also been seriously neutered.  Whereas before toads could leap 18", they now can make a leap equal to their Movement (which in most cases is 6").  They can make an attack either during or after their leap, so most of the difficulty in facing them in combat will come from their mobility.  I kind of miss the tongue attack, to be honest.  I will probably keep the original version of giant toads around as a species native to the Blackmoor region.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 3-30, New - 1-12; Movement: Old - 1", swim 3", New - 6"; Hit Dice: Old - 1 or 2, New - 2+4; Damage: Old - 1 bite for 1-10, New - 1 bite for 2-8

TOAD, ICE: Ice Toads are appearing here for the first time.  They're native to cold climes, and can be sometimes found underground.  They get the same leaping attack as the regular giant Toad, and in addition to that they can radiate a burst of cold every other round, dealing 3-18 damage to any creature that isn't cold-resistant.  Throw in the fact that they have 5 Hit Dice and they make for formidable opponents, but more interesting than that is that they speak their own language, and have an Average intelligence.  Presumably, with intelligence that rivals that of humans, they have their own society and culture, which had never occurred to me before.  It's something to think on.

TOAD, POISONOUS: Poisonous Toads are pretty much exactly like the Giant Toads mentioned above, but their bite has a save or die poison.  I approve.

TRAPPER: Huh.  I was all set for a hefty entry here, but it turns out that Trappers are making their first appearance in the Monster Manual.  This is another nonsense monster that has seemingly perfectly evolved to destroy dungeon-delving adventurers.  With it's flat, stone-like body, the Trapper masquerades as a floor and waits for its prey to walk over it.  It often creates a "protuberance" that resembles a chest or a box, and when the unsuspecting prey comes near, it wraps around them and smothers them to death.

I'm not entirely certain how a lone adventurer is meant to survive this, aside from the obviosu measure of not walking over the Trapper.  It's 95% undetectable, so the likelihood of a warning from the DM is slim.  It is said to simply "close itself upon the unsuspecting victims", which doesn't spell much out about how it works mechanically.  It sounds automatic to me, though I would be inclined to require a hit roll or a saving throw.  The person trapped inside can't attack, takes damage every round, and dies from smothering in six rounds.  The only way out is for someone else to kill the trapper, or face it with certain death.  (Not as easy as it sounds: Trappers are resistant to both fire and cold).  Again, I see no way for a lone adventurer to escape, but I suppose that dungeon delving on your own is a risky proposition.

I like the way that Trapper damage is determined: it deals 4 damage per round, plus the Armor Class of the victim.  So (disregarding bonuses from Dexterity) it means that the more heavily armored the victim is, the more resistant he is to being crushed.  It's a simple, elegant rule.

Paying attention once more to the intelligence rating of the monster, I see that Trappers are rated as High.  I would have thought of them as nearly mindless.  There are probably quite a lot of monsters that I need to rethink along these lines.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 53

GIANT TICK: Giant ticks first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk.  They've changed very little, with just a few minor stat changes and clarifications to their abilities.  Their major attack is to attach to their victims and drain their blood.  Originally the tick drained 4 hit points per round, but now it will drain from 1-6, and become sated when the amount drained equals its total hit points; in the earlier version the tick would simply drain blood until the victim was dead.  Ticks can still be removed by killing or burning them, but a new method has been added here: immersing them in water.  Giant ticks still pass on a fatal disease to anyone whose blood they drink, but whereas before the disease was automatically passed on, now there is only a 50% chance.  Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry established that the disease ticks pass on is called spotted fever, and gave some extra rules regarding it.  None of these additions appear here in the Monster Manual.

Stat Changes:
Armor Class: Old - 4, New - 3; Hit Dice: Old - 3, New - 2 to 4

TIGER: This is the first proper stat-block for tigers, as they've only appeared so far in the wilderness encounter tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  They're surprisingly strong, with 5 Hit Dice and three attacks per round.  In addition they're really hard to surprise, and if both of their claws hit in a single round they get two more attacks with their rear claws.

SABRE-TOOTH TIGER: Sabre-tooth tigers were first shown in the random encounter tables in the OD&D boxed set, and they also got attack and damage scores in Supplement I: Greyhawk, despite never having been properly outlined.  They pretty much function as a stronger version of the tiger, having the same abilities with more hit points, and an attack bonus due to their over-sized teeth.

Stat Changes:
Damage: Old - claws 1-4 and bite 1-12, New - claws 2-5 and bite 1-12 

TITAN:  The existence of titans was rumoured in the OD&D boxed set, and they got their first stats in Supplement I: Greyhawk.  They were powered up in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, gaining psionic powers, magic resistance and a tendency to pal around with storm giants.  They retain all of their considerable abilities here, including psionics, magic resistance, and the ability to cast cleric and magic-user spells of up to 7th level.  In addition, they gain the following abilities: invisibility, levitation and etherealness, all at will.

Originally, titans were able to cast protection from magic at double strength.  Except for one problem: there is no such spell.  That's been amended here to protection from evil, and it's only double strength against Lawful Evil creatures.

I'm somewhat disappointed to note that the bit about there only being ten titans in total has not made it into the Monster Manual. We;re also back to referencing real-world places, with the garb of titans being described as "Grecian".

Stat Changes:
This  one is a little difficult to figure out, because of the way titans are set up.  Originally they had an Armor Class ranging from 2 to -3, hit points ranging from 75 to 100, and a Movement that was usually 15", except for a 10% minority that moved at 21".  It's been codified a lot better in the Monster Manual, with a roll of 1d6 determining the AC and HD of the Titan.  AC still has the same range, but now Titans have between 17 and 22 Hit Dice.  Those with smaller Hit Dice have the higher speed, and the stronger ones have a higher damage range.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 52

SU-MONSTER: These creepy psychic monkeys first appeared in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  They've changed little, even using much of the same wording from the original entry.  As before they have a latent psychic ability, and can lash out with a randomly determined psychic attack is psionics are used within a certain range of them (psychic crush, psionic blast or mind thrust).  They also retain the same likelihood to appear as a family unit, with a father, mother and children.  If the children are attacked the mother fights at double value, and if the mother is attacked the father does the same.

Su-monsters were originally described as being "highly evil", but here their alignment is given simply as Chaotic.  This is odd for the Monster Manual, as most of the alignments do have the good-evil axis specified.  I think I'll fudge this one, and continue to read them as Chaotic Evil.  The only other change is that they're bit tougher, with an extra Hit Die and higher damage on their attacks.  Allow me to continue using the same explanation I've been leaning on too much lately: "these are the full-grown adults, and the older ones were not quite fully mature".

Stat Changes:
Hit Dice: Old - 4+2, New - 5+5; Damage: Old: 1-3 per claw & 1-8 per bite, New - 1-4 per claw & 2-8 per bite

SYLPH: Sylphs, appearing here for the first time in D&D, are a sort of aerial nymph.  They can cast spells as though they are 7th-level, although it's not specified whether they cast as clerics or magic-users.  Cleric spells seem to me to be more fitting.  They can also turn invisible at will, and conjure an air elemental once per week.  The one bit of personality they are given is that they have a 20% chance to befriend a good-aligned character and help them out in some way.

THOUGHT-EATER:  Brrrrr.  Thought-eaters give me the willies.  They appear here for the first time.  Thought-eaters dwell in the Ethereal Plane, but they're able to sense any psionic energy used nearby.  Once a thought-eater is close it will consume any spell or psionic ability that its victim uses; it will be sated once it has eaten from 101-200 points.  If the thought-eater gets even closer it can begin feeding on the victim's Intelligence score, resulting in permanent stat loss.  The rate of such feeding isn't specified, but I'd be inclined to make it 1 point per round, or perhaps an even slower rate.  They can only be killed by other ethereal characters, but spells such as mind blank and other defenses against psionics will be effective at keeping them away.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 51

STAG and GIANT STAG:  Stags have only appeared previously in the Wilderness Encounter tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, and giant stags have not appeared at all.  There's honestly not a lot to say about either of them.  Regular stags wander around in herds which they protect aggressively.  Giant stags do the same thing, only giant-er.  I'm all in favour of having regular animals in the Monster Manual, but they don't always make for the most compelling entries.

STIRGE: Stirges first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk.  These weird bird-mosquito hybrids have long been the scourge of low-level adventurers everywhere: a 1 hit-die monster that hits like it has 4 hit dice, and attaches to its victims to suck their blood.  They appear in large numbers as well, just to add to their deadliness.

In general they're another case of Gary being pretty happy with his previous work, but there are a few minor statistical changes as noted below.  The most significant of these is the addition of a speed for when they are grounded, and also a limit to how much blood they can drink.  Previously a stirge would keep drinking until its prey was a bloodless corpse; now it will drink until it has drained 12 hit points, before flying away to digest.  The only notable omission is a method for detaching a stirge from its victim while it is drinking their blood.

There isn't too much for me to explain away here.  The new stirges are slightly bigger (thus explaining both the extra hit point and the slightly worse Armor Class), but they don't drink quite as ravenously.  Again, I will go back to my old stand-by excuse: the previous version of the stirge was not quite fully grown, and still in need of lots of blood in order to fully mature.  The Monster Manual version is fully mature, and doesn't require quite the same amount of sustenance.

Stat Changes:
Armor Class: Old - 7, New - 8; Movement: Old - 18", New - 3"/18"; Hit Dice: Old - 1, New - 1+1

Brother, you been STIRGED.

STRANGLE WEED: Strangle weed was first detailed in Supplement II: Blackmoor, but here it gets a complete overhaul.  Conceptually it hasn't change a bit; it's still seaweed that grabs and constricts anything that gets too near.  However, the Supplement II version of strangle weed had a method of resolving that constriction that didn't take the victim's Strength into account at all.  In the Monster Manual it's been changed completely.  Each frond of the weed gets its own Strength score; if the victim's Strength is higher he gets a chance to escape, and if it is lower he takes crushing damage.  He can still try to hack his way to freedom, but with a -2 penalty to attack.  Multiple fronds can grasp a character, and their Strength scores are added together.

The original strangle weed had an Armor Class of 1 and 12 Hit Dice, which is actually pretty tough.  The new version has Armor Class 6 and 2 to 4 Hit Dice (presumably for each frond).  It's a major difference in power, and I'm willing to chalk these up as two different yet similar species.  The original version is obviously made of much sterner stuff, and possibly injects its victims with a poison that negates their strength.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 50

SPHINX: As far as I can tell, this is the first mention of sphinxes in D&D, aside from the Egyptian Mythos in Supplement IV: Gods, Demigods & Heroes.  That version is super-duper-powerful, on a scale far above those presented in the Monster Manual, so I'm going to chalk that one up as a sphinx demi-god, and treat these ones as brand new monsters.

ANDROSPHINX: These are the standard male versions of the sphinx, and probably the most powerful of the four varieties, both because of their stats and because they can cast spells as 6th-level clerics. In addition they have a magical roar that they can use three times a day. Each of these roars is increasingly powerful: the first causes fear, the second causes paralysis and deafness, and the third causes temporary strength-loss and can also knock creatures down and stun them.  Larger creatures tend to be resistant, and of course there are saving throws. Regardless, the androsphinx has to be progressively angrier to use each one.

The only tidbit about them outside of combat that we get is that they resent female sphinxes for being so damned smart and neutral, and they tend to avoid them. I kind of hate these guys already.

CRIOSPHINX: No, not an ice sphinx despite the name, these guys are neutral with ram-heads. They have no special powers, but they do seem like a seedy lot, extorting travellers out of treasure and lusting after female sphinxes. They may not have much going on mechanically, but just those two traits give them a little something to hang an identity on.

GYNOSPHINX: These are the females, and the smartest of the bunch. Though they have a lot of knowledge, they also prize wealth, and only help people who pay them. This is a decent enough adventure hook to be going on with, but in a lovely touch it's also said that they will accept payment in the form of poetry, prose, knowledge, or "the location of an androsphinx".  Hooks galore!  Even better, if payment isn't made the gynosphinx will just eat the offender.

In addition to some pretty good stats (it's an 8 Hit Die monster), gynosphinxes can cast the following spells once per day: detect magic, read magic, read languages, detect invisible, locate object, dispel magic, clairaudience, clairvoyance, remove curse, legend lore, and any of the symbol spells.

HIERACOSPHINX: Evil, hawk-headed sphinxes that live in hilly regions. They love treasure, and eating warm-blooded creatures, particularly humans. There's not a lot to distinguish these guys from a whole bunch of other monsters in the Monster Manual, to be honest.


Spiders, giant or otherwise, have a spotty history thus far in D&D.  They're mentioned as possibilities in the catch-all Animal categories in D&D Vol. 2.  Phase Spiders have appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk, and Water Spiders in Supplement II: Blackmoor.  And of course they showed up in the ubiquitous Wilderness Encounter Tables from Supplement III: ELdritch Wizardry.  But regular spiders, and generic giant spiders have not had a proper stat block thus far in D&D.

Apparently spiders are found everywhere except in the ice, but charmingly there are legends of giant, white fur-clad spiders from the polar climes. I'm creeped out already.

GIANT SPIDER: Giant spiders lurk in webs, laying in wait to ambush creatures with their lethal poisonous bites. Their webs are tough to break out of (1 round for Strength 18, 2 rounds for Str 17, and so on), and they can't be burned away.  These spiders will flee from superior foes, and I'm struck by their Chaotic Evil alignment and Low intelligence. If anything, they seem like an attempt to model the spiders from The Hobbit, who were intelligent and quite nasty.  At Size L, though, I think these guys are a lot bigger.  I seem to remember the spiders from The Hobbit being around man-size, but I could be wrong.

HUGE SPIDER: Huge spiders don't build webs, instead hunting prey down and leaping on them (or perhaps hiding themselves like trap-door spiders). They are very good at gaining surprise, and they also have poisonous bites (albeit the victim gets a +1 on their save). They're about man-size, but only as smart as your average animal.

LARGE SPIDER: These spiders are about as large as a halfling, with no special abilities beyond wall-crawling and a weaker poisonous bite (the victim gets a +2). I wouldn't want to meet one, but most seasoned adventurers should be able to handle them without any trouble.  (Hang on, though, the Number Appearing is 2-20. That could get ugly.)

PHASE SPIDER: As mentioned before, these awful bastards first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk.  Unfortunately they have not changed here at all; in fact, with stronger poison and the addition of webs they're even more dangerous.  As before, their primary ability is to shift out of phase with their surroundings when "attacking or being attacked", which makes them basically unhittable. I guess they can be attacked when not phased, but when would that be?  If they can phase when being attacked, it's a moot point. There are ways to target them (the phase door spell, oil and armor of etherealness), but they're not all that easy to come by. To top it off, victims of their poisonous bite suffer a -2 penalty on their save, and they have webs like a giant spider.  These guys are deadly.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 1-6, New - 1-4; Armor Class: Old - 6, New 7; Hit Dice: Old - 5, New - 5+5

WATER SPIDER: Water spiders were in Supplement II: Blackmoor, but those were sea spiders, and these are specifically said to live in fresh water. Otherwise they're the same, living in underwater air pockets built amidst vegetation, snatching passing prey and killing it with poison. The only addition is that they are often on friendly terms with nixies, as these spiders are somewhat intelligent.

A rare salt water species is mentioned at the end of the entry, supposedly twice the size of the fresh-water variety; that fits the details of the version from Supplement II, which gives me a lovely warm glow inside.  I like it when things match up like that.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 1-12, New - 1-10; Movement: Old - 6", New - 15"; Hit Dice: Old - 4 to 6, New - 3+3

SPRITES: Sprites are a difficult monster to pin down in OD&D. They were present in Chainmail, named as sprites; the original D&D boxed set states that these sprites were actually pixies, a form of air sprite.  It also adds in nixies (water sprites) and dryads (tree sprites), so it seemed there that sprites were more of a category than a creature in their own right.  Dryads, nixies and pixies all appear in the Monster Manual, as does the sprite itself. 

To be honest, sprites aren't spectacularly different from pixies, being perhaps somewhat less magically endowed and somewhat stronger physically.  This works well for me, as it matches up well with them being treated as interchangeable entities in Chainmail. They have bows that can cause sleep for 1-6 hours, can become invisible at will, detect evil, and move silently.  Here's the interesting part: they are said to "hate evil and ugliness of all sorts".  Evil I can understand, it's an actual for real thing in D&D, but ugliness?  Sprites are a shallow bunch.  They aren't shy about hating evil, either: while they move any good character they out to sleep into a safe place, they will straight-up murder any evil ones.  The fate of ugly victims is not specified.

GIANT SQUID: Giant squid were mentioned in passing in D&D Vol. 3, and further detailed in Supplement II: Blackmoor. The version here is about twice as strong as that in Supplement II, so it's basically an entirely new monster (although a larger variety that can constrict like a snake is mentioned in the original entry). It keeps a few of the same traits, such as the armoured body and the softer tentacles and head, and the ability to squirt ink. What it's gained is the ability to constrict with its tentacles, an attack that can only be ended by severing a tentacle or killing the squid. It takes 10 points of damage to sever a tentacle, and these hit points don't count towards the squid's regular hit point total.

There are a lot of changes here, but they're easy to reconcile: the stats from Supplement II are for the younger squid, and these stats are for the full-grown variety.  Easy-peasy.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 2-12, New - 1; Movement: Old - 3"/12", New - 3"/18"; Hit Dice: Old - 6, New 12; Number of Attacks: 6 tentacles and 1 beak, New - 9 tentacles and 1 beak; Damage: Old - 1-8 per tentacle, 1-10 beak; New - 1-6 per tentacle, 5-20 beak

Thursday, November 13, 2014

AD&D Monster Manual part 49

SPECTRE: Spectres debuted all the way back in D&D Vol. 2: Monsters & Treasure, as part of the original crop of undead.  The original entry was pretty sparse, though, and we get a lot of good fluffy detail here.  It's first said here that spectres are undead humans that exist primarily on the Negative Material Plane.  They also hate sunlight, as "daylight makes them powerless".  This powerlessness isn't specified, but I would rule them incapable of attack in any form.
  They get the standard raft of undead immunities: sleep, charm, hold, cold, poison and paralysis.  To balance that they're now vulnerable to holy water, and a raise dead spell can destroy them if they fail a save vs. spells.
  In original D&D, it was said that "Men-types" killed by a spectre return as a spectre.  Here it is specified that only humans are affected in this way, and they now return as only half-strength spectres.  It's not exactly a contradiction, but I do wonder at Gary's rationale here.  Why can't dwarves, elves and halflings be undead?
  And yes, finally, Spectres still drain two experience levels with every successful hit in combat.  Yes, it's a bastard, but I've made my stance on level-drain perfectly clear before.  In a plot-based game the depends on progression of the characters, it's a nuisance that holds up the game.  In a sandbox game where exploration is the main focus, it's one more obstacle to overcome.  Suck it up and get on with the adventuring.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 1-8, New - 1-6; Hit Dice: Old - 6, New - 7+3

Thursday, October 23, 2014

AD&D Monster Manual part 48

GIANT SNAKE: Unless I'm missing something, this might be the first proper appearance for giant snakes.  They're mentioned here and there, and a sea-dwelling variety is introduced in Supplement II: Blackmoor.  They do show up in the ubiquitous Wandering Monster tables of Supplement III.  But this is, so far as I can tell, the first entry for your average, land-dwelling Snake of Unusual Size.  Huh.

As Gary has seen fit to provide us with a good variety of snakes, I'm going to treat them as I would a new monster, and outline each one below.
  Amphisbaena: This thing is just delightfully weird: a snake with a head at each end that moves around by forming a circle and rolling around like a hoop.  This is the sort of thing that's just too wacky to spring from Gary's mind, and sure enough I see that it's a genuine mythological creature.  The D&D version is a deadly customer: it has 6 hit dice, two attacks a round, and poison that can kill instantly on a failed save.  There's nothing sad here about the amphisbaena's origin, but I'm willing to work with the version from Greek mythology, which states that they were born from the blood that dripped from Medusa's head as Perseus flew with it over the desert.  That's pretty rad.
  Constrictor: As you might have guessed, this variety of snake likes to drop down on its prey and squeeze them to death.  There are guidelines given for characters who want to pry the snake from its victim (you'll need four humans each with a Strength of 16+), but nothing said about what the victim can do to escape if he's alone.  Get hopelessly crushed to death seems to be the answer, though I would err on the side of giving them a chance to escape (with a dagger, perhaps).
  Poisonous: The standard variety venomous snake.  It's not clear that said venom is lethal on a failed save, but I would assume so.  There are some varieties that even inflict 3-18 damage on a successful save, and in AD&D that can be a hefty sum, even to a high-level PC.
  Sea Snake: The Sea Snake is the closest to that which had stats in Supplement II, so let's do a comparison: AC has improved from 6 to 5; Movement was 20", but has slowed to 12"; Hit Dice was 6, but is now 8-10; bite damage remain at 1-6, constriction damage goes from 2-8 to 3-18.  The snakes from Supplement II had the ability to swallow people whole, like a Purple Worm, but that's not present in the Monster Manual. They still like to coil around small ships and crush them, however.  And now, to justify these changes!  I figure that this is a larger variety of sea snake we're seeing now, which makes it slower, but with thicker scales.  As for the loss of the swallow attack, well...  I'm stumped.  Perhaps they're just that little bit slower, and can't strike fast enough to surprise someone and swallow them.  That'll do.
  Spitting: Spitting snakes are exactly like the poisonous variety above, only they can spit their poison up to 3".  Nasty.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

AD&D Monster Manual part 47

GIANT SKUNK: Unsurprisingly, giant skunks have appeared in just one place in D&D's history to this point: the wilderness encounter tables in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  Those tables are the source for all manner of seemingly harmless non-monsters that have inexplicably ended up in the Monster Manual.  You have to admire Gary's dedication in including everything.

Giant skunks are quite tough, and as expected their musk spray is their most potent weapon.  Seriously, you don't want to be hit by it.  It doesn't just smell bad, it does all kinds of nasty things to your character.  If you fail a save vs. poison you'll be blinded for 1-8 hours, and suffer a 50% drop in Strength and Dexterity for 2-8 turns.  That's not the worst of it: any cloth material hit by the musk rots, and that includes magic items that fail a save.  Players are not known for respecting the combat capabilities of real-world animals, but once a skunk disintegrates their cloak of displacement that's bound to change.  (I'm wondering if a bag of holding counts as cloth.  It would be pretty funny for a spatial disruption to destroy the entire party just because a skunk sprayed them.)

SLITHERING TRACKER: Slithering trackers debuted in The Strategic Review #5.  Their entry here is near-identical to the original.  Slithering trackers are transparent blobs that tend to follow their victims, wait for them to sleep, then suck out their "plasma".  They're very difficult to spot, and they secrete a substance that can paralyse their victim; not something a solo adventurer wants to tangle with.  The only change made to this monster is with how difficult it is to hit; originally it was treated as Armor Class 1 unless the attacker could detect invisible objects.  (I can only assume that, in my theoretical campaign, the Adventurer's Guild eventually teaches people how to spot them better.)


Slugs of the giant variety first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk, and just as with slithering trackers above, Gary has left them mostly as is.  They're incredibly tough, having 12 Hit Dice, and are completely immune to blunt weapons.  Their most potent attack is an acid spit that defies both the regular attack roll/Armor Class system, and saving throws.  Instead it has a base 50% chance of hitting, increased or decreased based on range.  (They're always inaccurate on the first spit, though, with a 10% chance to hit; no word on whether that one gets modified by range.)  Unfortunately, a big omission has been ported over from the original entry: the acid spit has no damage listed!  It's a pretty big oversight.  My instinct is for it to work like dragon breath, with damage equaling the slug's hit point total, and a save for half damage.