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.

Friday, May 16, 2014

AD&D Monster Manual Part 46


Shedu first appeared in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (though technically speaking they first appeared as part of Assyrian mythology, so far as we know).  They've changed little in concept since then, being described as powerful beings that help the cause of lawful good, often found on the Astral and Ethereal Planes.  The main change to Shedu comes with the change in the psionic system.  Shedu rely heavily on psionics, but the system described in the Monster Manual doesn't really match up with the one in Eldritch Wizardry.  It's not going to come until the Player's Handbook is released, so it's hard to gauge at this point how different the Shedu functions in practice.

Stat Changes:
Hit Dice: Old - 9+2; New - 9+9


Shriekers first appeared in The Strategic Review #3.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again now: Gary just didn't make alterations to the monsters that he created for The Strategic Review.  Shriekers are presented here almost word-for-word as they were there.  It's likely that no-one reading this needs a reminder, but just in case: shriekers are mushrooms that live underground, and if you get too close to them they emit a piercing shriek that can attract monsters.  Purple worms and shambling mounds like to eat them.  The only changes Gary made were a minor clarification to the duration of their shriek, and a slight increase in number appearing.

Stat Changes:
No. Appearing: Old - 2-5; New - 2-8


This staple of fantasy gaming first appeared, of course, in D&D Vol. 2: Monsters & Treasure.  They've received something of a power boost, which I will easily explained away as an advance in the dark magic used to animate them.  In addition to a doubling of their speed and hit points, skeletons have also received an resistance to sharp/edged weapons, now taking only half-damage from them.  They are specifically said to be immune to sleep, hold, charm and cold-based spells (though most of these were implied in the rules before, just not in the skeleton entry itself).  They're also now vulnerable to holy water, which deals 2-8 points of damage to them (pretty much like all the undead in the Monster Manual).

It's also outright stated that, although skeletons use weapons, they always deal 1-6 points of damage, regardless of the weapon wielded.  I chalk this up to their animated nature, and the fact that they have no real muscles.  It doesn't make complete sense, but it's good enough for D&D logic.

Stat Changes:
Movement: Old - 6; New - 12
Hit Dice: Old - 1/2; New - 1

Friday, April 18, 2014

AD&D Monster Manual Part 45

This hiatus has lasted long enough.  Let's do this!


Shambling Mounds first appeared way back in The Strategic Review #3, and have otherwise only been mentioned in the absurdly comprehensive Wandering Monster tables for Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  As with most of the creatures created by Gary for The Strategic Review, Shambling Mounds have been changed very little (even down to the exact wording of certain sentences).  What we have is a living mass of vegetation that has a whole load of resistances and the ability to suffocate any character that it hits twice in any melee round.  The deadliness of the suffocation ability has been softened somewhat; instead of a character dying in 2-5 rounds, it now takes 2-8.  Balancing that out is a serious omission.  In OD&D, the Shambling Mound could not attack while it was suffocating someone.  In AD&D, that restriction isn't mentioned, so while characters might take longer to suffocate, Shambling Mounds have probably become deadlier on the whole.

Shamblers' immunity to fire, resistance to cold, and growth when struck by lightning remain unchanged, and they still take half-damage from all weapons.  The only difference made is that their vulnerability to the spells plant control and charm plant has now been broadened to encompass other spells that affect plants.

Shambling Mounds' hit point determination has also been standardised.  In OD&D they used d10s, but here they use d8s like every other monster.  It evens out pretty well, because the number of Hit Dice has been upped.  The strongest variety of Shambling Mound used to have from 9-90 hit points.  Now it has from 11-88, a negligible difference.  I'm sure the average totals are different, but no so much as to drastically change the monster's power level.

Stat Changes:
Hit Dice: Old - 6-9 (using d10s); New - 8-11 (using d8s)


Sharks were previously covered in Supplement II: Blackmoor, where they were described as Giant Sharks.  In the Monster Manual we're given stats for regular Sharks and Giant Sharks, but the stats given in Supplement II more closely resemble those for the regular variety.  I suppose that what was considered giant back then has been superseded with the discovery of Sharks of still greater size...

Sharks were described in very rudimentary terms in Supplement II, so what we get here is an expansion of their behaviours and abilities.  They're given the ability to detect noise underwater up to a mile, and can scent blood from a similar distance.  They're said to be particularly vulnerable to ramming attacks, though there is nothing mechanical to back this up.  My personal favourite bit?  Any Shark that is motionless will die in 2-5 melee rounds.  It's not entirely scientifically accurate, but it does make fighting Sharks a bit different from other combats.

The damage ranges given for regular Sharks are a little ambiguous.  Three separate ranges are given, but there's no indication of which to use.  Presumably it's linked to Hit Dice, and there are conveniently six possible Hit Dice totals.  It probably breaks down like this: sharks with 3-4 Hit Dice do the lowest damage, 5-6 use the middle range, and 7-8 use the highest range.

Giant Sharks come in two varieties: Giant White Sharks, and prehistoric Megalodons.   They're functionally identical.  Where they differ from regular Sharks (besides having a lot more hit points) is their ability to swallow creatures whole.  If that happens, you've got six rounds to bring the Shark to 0 hit points, or that swallowed character will be digested.  Attacks from within a Shark's stomach begin with a -1 penalty to damage, and that penalty gets bigger every round.

Stat Changes (comparison between Giant Sharks from Supplement II and regular Sharks):
Number Appearing: Old - 2-12; New - 3-12
Armor Class: Old - 5; New - 6
Hit Dice: Old - 4 to 9; New - 3 to 8

Friday, March 28, 2014

Comeback Attempt #4 (aka I Really Mean It This Time!)

So.  Here I am again, with another attempt to kickstart this blog back to life.

It's not the first time that I've tried to come back.  The blog has been more or less inactive since early 2012, and 2011 wasn't my most productive year either.  I made a brief stab at turning this into a Fighting Fantasy blog last year, but that fell by the wayside.  It seems that I'm just unable to muster any enthusiasm for it.

I don't really know why that is.  D&D had been one of my regular obsessions since the late 1980s, something I loved deeply and was always ready to play or discuss.  Then, somewhere after the announcement of 5th edition, it lost its hold on me.  I still love fantasy, and to be honest I still love D&D.  But it doesn't dominate my thoughts in the way that it used to, and as a result the blog fell into disuse.

Even so, it nags at the back of my mind.  I want to post.  One of the reasons that I started this project was that I wanted to read every D&D product ever (or at least those made by TSR).  The Ultimate Sandbox was a way for me to do that, and also have some fun with it along the way.  I enjoyed piecing together the early years of the game's history, and drawing connections between disparate bits of lore and arcane rules.

I think perhaps it fell apart when I hit the AD&D Monster Manual.  It's a book I love to read, but blogging about it grew difficult.  It's mostly a compilation of monsters that had already appeared in earlier products, and in a lot of cases there weren't many changes to highlight or things to discuss.  It's also long; I was much more engaged with this project when I was plowing through the shorter supplements and issues of Dragon.

The thing is, I'm close to the end.  My last post (Part 44!) covered Sea Hags, Sea Horses, Sea Lions and Shadows; by my count that leaves me with 48 monsters to go.  I'd previously covered about 175 monsters, some I'm more than three-quarters done.

I hate leaving things unfinished, so here is what I plan to do.  Forget the Fighting Fantasy stuff; I've kicked that over to another blog.  At the very least, I'm going to slog my way through the Monster Manual.  Once that's done, I'll assess whether I want to continue.  The answer will probably be yes, because I really want to read all of this stuff.  And if I'm reading it, I might as well be posting about it.

I expect that I'll make my next update within the next week or so, and I plan to post at least once a week from there on.  It won't be the most frequent schedule, but I figure that even slow progress is some progress. See you in several days time for AD&D Monster Manual: Part 45.  (I hope.)