Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Monsters & Treasure Part 4

I'm dealing with a whole bunch of stuff today, from gargoyles to dwarves to griffons.

GARGOYLES: These are the classic monsters that look like statues of winged demons. I love 'em, but you can only have a statue jump out and shout "Bleagh, I kill you!" once, and then it will never work again. The thing that makes Gargoyles cool is that they're so hostile that they ignore the standard reaction chart, and attack 75% of the time without provocation. They don't care much for alignment either, killing Chaotics with equal abandon. They're semi-intelligent, which is kind of a back-handed compliment, but it means that they'll use at least a bit of planning. And they're only hit by magical weapons, which makes them out of the reach of low-level parties. Sure, they're a one-trick monster that most parties will see coming a mile away, but their innate hostility to everything makes them a bit more interesting.

LYCANTHROPES: There are four kinds included - werewolves (natch), werebears (for the Beorn fans out there), weretigers and wereboars. Now the first two are fantasy staples, but where did the others come from? I suspect from some mythology I'm not overly familiar with, but it would be good to know.

Anyway, as you'd expect they're only hit by silver and magical weapons. They form packs of 2-4 or family packs of 5-8. The family packs are two adults and a whole lot of children, and what that implies is that lycanthropes are a race in themselves, rather than a curse passed on to humans. Thankfully they can still pass it on if they hit a character for 50% of his total hit points - you can't beat the classics after all. But that means there are natural lycanthropes and ones who have contracted it - how would they relate to each other, I wonder?

Back to the family packs, if you attack the kids the mother goes berserk, and if you attack the mother the father goes berserk. Nice to see where a man's true priorities lie!

Werewolves and werebears are in Chainmail. The only extra ability they get from there is that they are always accompanied by regular animals of their own kind. It doesn't say how many, though, so I'll wing it somehow, probably using the Number Appearing from this book. I guess those lycanthropes in the dungeon don't have these animals, and those found above-ground do - there aren't many bears roaming about in the Underworld, after all.

NIXIES: And now we arrive at the section for irritating fey creatures that DMs don't use much. I'm going to change that for sure! Nixies are neutral water sprites that seek to lure humans underwater to enslave them for a year. To this end they can cast a Charm Person spell. Now apparently any charmed character goes underwater and serves for a year - but it doesn't say whether they can breathe there or not! The implication is yes, but there's room for DMs to kill the PCs here. Then again, enslavement for a year will probably piss them off more than death, so I'll go with that.

Nixies don't fight that well, but they're usually guarded by a whole mess of fish like pike, muskie and gar. I don't know fish besides what gets put on my plate, but I assume these are vicious buggers to avoid.

PIXIES: There's a whole alphabet of possible -ixie creatures waiting to be discovered, but mercifully Gary stops at two. Pixies are air sprites that can become invisible at will and stay that way in combat, so you can imagine how much fun they'd be to fight. Only magic can reveal them, but they can also be seen by Dragons, and apparently high-level fighters as well (Chainmail implies that this is an ability of Super-Heroes, so I'll go with that).

From Chainmail we learn that the annoying little beggars can only fly for three rounds in a row before landing. There's a bit about their invisibility being useless after the first combat round as opponents will note shadows and air distortion, but I attribute that to the high numbers involved in mass battles - a smaller group of Pixies can remain invisible in combat. And looking at the charts up the back of Chainmail, I see that Wraiths, Rocs, Dragons and Superheroes can detect invisible enemies. Sorted.

DRYADS: Ah, the topic of many a misspent D&D session I assure you. Anyway, they're beautiful tree sprites that have to stay near to their own tree. They are said to be shy and non-violent (so what are they doing here in D&D then?) but they've got a powerful Charm they'll throw at anyone following them, and anyone affected never returns from the forest (ah, that's what they're doing here). They are said to have exact knowledge of the woods around them, but considering they can't go further than 240 yards away from their tree, that doesn't mean a lot.

GNOMES: Smaller dwarves, longer beards. Live in hills and burrows, more reclusive than dwarves. Dwarf-lite. Chainmail tells us they hate kobolds. Nothing new here.

DWARVES: It's time for the PC races to get their entries (two of them anyway - where are Hobbits?). First up we get an answer to one dilemma - how to convert the dwarven defensive bonus against Giants from Chainmail? They take only half damage from those monsters, that's how. The rest of the entry involves how many high level fighters will accompany a dwarven posse, and also what animal guards they use - bears, wolves, etc. It's weird to picture D&D dwarves with pet wolves, but it's cool in its way, making them feel a bit more mythically Norse.

ELVES: We find out that Elves are of two types - those that live in woodlands and those that live in meadows. This, I assume, is in addition to the Fairy Elves from Chainmail. They can move silently, and again we get the bit about them being nearly invisible. It's attributed to their cloaks, and it makes me wonder - are Elven Cloaks and Boots so common? Should Elf PCs begin the game with them? I'm thinking they're powerful enough already, but it seems like all Elven NPCs get them. Maybe they are only for those Elves who remain in their homelands. And as if they aren't uber enough, they get an extra +1 to damage with magic swords, presumably because they are mostly elven-made - or perhaps the original magic blades were Elven, and all others work from the same principles and techniques?

ENTS: The tree guys from Tolkien, basically, found only in the forests. They can command trees to fight for them, up to two each, so a few Ents can quickly multiply into a small army. They're Lawful, but they don't like to get involved. Which makes them a bit difficult to work into a campaign, but that's ok - viva le difference and all that. It's good to have a variety of monsters that serve different roles - they can't all be sword fodder.

PEGASI: Winged horses! An icon of metal. They are wild, shy, difficult to capture, and will serve only Lawful creatures. And that's all we get. Quite uninspiring, really. But they still make for awesome album covers.

HIPPOGRIFFS: The name supposedly indicates a cross between a horse and a griffon, but Gary helpfully notes that it is "another kind of beast entirely" before proceeding to not tell us what that is. They do have hooves and sharp beaks, though - and they won't herd with Pegasi, instead fighting them! I guess this could make for some fun if two PCs have one each as mounts.

ROCS: The D&D equivalent of the eagles from Tolkien. The stats here are said to be for the smallest variety, and they've got 6 hit dice - there are larger varieties with double or triple that. They live on inaccessible mountains, where their nests might contain young. These might be tamed as awesome steeds, but Rocs are always hostile when their babies are around. Otherwise they only attack Chaotic and Neutral characters, which is mighty nice of them.

GRIFFONS: Swift, loyal, and fierce. Apparently they are the most valued of steeds, despite the fact that they will eat horses. If you ever wondered what purpose the hippogriff served, it's so that players can have griffon mounts that don't chow on other people's horses. In their wild state Griffons are nasty belligerent bastards. I wouldn't ride one, that's for sure.

Tomorrow, I finish up the monster section with extra-planar monsters, oozes, and animals.

1 comment:

jamused said...

I'd say the problem with Gargoyles being one-use stems from GMs who don't bother to put statuary anywhere it's not significant. If you take care to make every cathedral and castle dripping with the things (which as far as I can tell was true) you can get a lot more use out of them. Actually, if you make it so that they can restrain their wild urge to attack, you can get even more use out of them as lurkers and spies...