Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 6

Ah, monsters. Everyone loves 'em, and if there's been a better influx of monsters into a game than this supplement, I haven't seen it. But before we get into the new additions, a couple of old monsters get updated and clarified.

VAMPIRES: It's clarified that all Vampires are affected by the cross regardless of their previous religious background. This fits pretty well with my use of the cross as a powerful symbol of Law - the undead are as big an abomination against Law as there is. Just to make things a bit more interesting, though, Vampires don't flee from the cross but are merely held at bay, and might try to gain advantage through clever positioning. The possibility of other symbols is brought up, and Vampires from the Middle East are mentioned - they are invisible, but lack the regular vampire's ability to charm. The mention of the Middle East is yet another link tying Greyhawk to Earth - more on this down the track.

ELEMENTALS: Previously hit by any magic weapon, it now takes +2 weapons to damage Elementals. Creatures with 4 hit dice or more can now wound them with natural attacks, though. It seems that Elementals are learning to attune themselves to the magic of the material plane. Or something like that.

And now, the new stuff.

DRUIDS: The Druid appears in the game first as a monster rather than a class. They are described as Neutral priests, combining the spellcasting abilities of Clerics and Magic-Users, all with pretty high levels as well. In addition they can shape change three times a day, once each into a reptile, bird or animal. Size can range from a raven to a small bear, so while there's a lot of versatility there isn't much scope for great power. They usually have a bunch of barbaric followers, so this religion is a bit more than some random cult. I'll need to come up with an explanation for what brings them out of the wilderness and into the area near Greyhawk city, but the recently resumed delving into Castle Greyhawk is my current go-to excuse.

TRITONS: More powerful mermen who all have spell-casting ability and very high magic resistance. There's not much else to be said about them, really, as details are scanty. They don't even get an explicit alignment. Aside from the cooler name, I'm not sure what they bring to the game that Mermen don't.

BUGBEARS: Yeah! Hairy goblin-giants! Though their gait is shambling, they're sneaky bastards and their chance to surprise is increased. Bugbears are the coolest, and I'm explicitly going to have them as an interbreeding of goblins and ogres. They also fill a niche that was missing, that of the 3 hit dice humanoid.

OGRE MAGI: Stated to be Japanese Ogres, which again links the D&D world to Earth. They get a host of tricksy abilities - invisibility, flying, darkness, regeneration, charm person, sleep, and the ability to appear in human form. Their major attack is a nasty cone of cold, but they only get it once per day. Their general MO is to raid for human slaves, which they also eat on occasion. They make really good mid-level masterminds with their powers, but thematically they don't quite fit Greyhawk, I feel - at least so far as the core continent goes. As a rarity from across the ocean I think they're cool.

STORM GIANTS: The last of the classic giants enters the game, typically found in castles underwater or on clouds. They're smarter, taller, and deal more damage than all the other giants, and they can cause storms in battle when they're pissed off.

SHADOWS: Briefly mentioned in OD&D, Shadows now get a full entry. They're smart, but they don't have solid bodies, and so can only be harmed by magic weapons. They hunger for life energy, and their touch drains 1 point of Strength (don't worry, it wears off eventually). As expected, anyone drained to 0 becomes a Shadow. They're said to be not exactly undead, so they're immune to items that affect undead. Presumably this means turning as well, but it doesn't say. Even so, they have the immunity to sleep and charm that other undead share.

My only real problem with them is that the Strength damage is so minimal. Your average character needs to be struck 10 times before he's drained. Perhaps they would work best in hordes...

TITANS: Like Giants, but more handsome, more intelligent (even moreso than Men) and way more powerful. As well as fighting like Storm Giants, they can cast up to 7th level spells as both Magic-Users and Clerics - ouch. They were also mentioned briefly in OD&D.

WILL O' WISPS: Clever creatures that try to lure their victims into a deathtrap so they can feed on the life force as the victim dies. Usually they're found in deserted places with quicksand and mires for the unwary to be tricked into. Only metal weapons can harm them, though I question the wisdom of sticking a sword into a ball of lightning. Their own attack is a lightning bolt, though much weaker than the spell. They can alter shape and brightness, as well as disappear at will. This indicates to me that they're the classic 'balls of light', but at this stage I'm guessing. Also, if reduced to under 3 hit points they can be persuaded to reveal their treasure - which at Type A is going to be plenty good.

LICHES: Undead magic-users or M-U/Clerics! They're kept alive by magic and will 'because of being in some way disturbed' - in other words, they're all batshit insane. They're at least 12th level, and commonly 18th, so nothing to trifle with here. They're no slouches in melee, either, as their touch causes paralization with no saving throw. And just so they don't have to deal with common rabble, the sight of them sends creatures of under 5th level fleeing in fear. Stronger creatures might flee as well, if they know what's good for them.

(Also, I just got repeatedly annihilated by Liches in Might and Magic VI, so I hate the bastards at the moment.)

HARPIES: A creature of classical myth that I'm dead surprised didn't make it into OD&D - they covered just about all the other major ones. Anyway, as in myth they have the lower bodies and wings of eagles, and the upper bodies of women. They're opposed to mankind, and will always try to kill them, which saves a few rolls on the Reaction Tables I guess. They do this by luring them with enchanting song, before killing and eating them. For some bizarre reason they Charm their victims with a touch before killing them - perhaps it makes them taste better? Or maybe they just don't like their food to struggle.

DRAGONS: We've already been introduced to the five chromatic dragons, as well as the Gold Dragon - now we get four more good dragons, as well as the King of Lawful Dragons and the Queen of Chaotic Dragons. (Gary even has a snide comment aimed at Women's Lib types who might object to the Queen being evil. Gawd bless 'im.)

Brass Dragons have a breath weapon that puts the targets to sleep and another that induces fear. They are found mainly in sandy deserts.

Copper Dragons have an acidic breath weapon, as well as one that slows opponents. They live in arid, rocky climes.

Bronze Dragons breathe a bolt of lightning or a repulsion effect. They live near the coast, and the ones able to talk and cast spells can appear as animals.

Silver Dragons breathe a cone of cold or gas, and live in the sky - on mountain peaks or clouds, or even behind winds (neat trick). Those capable of magic have a habit of taking human guise, often as an old man or fair damsel. Dragonlance readers will be familiar with the latter tropes, I'm sure.

The Dragon King, also known as the Platinum Dragon, lives in a palace behind the east wind. He can shape change at will (which sounds pretty damn handy) and is served by a host of 7 Gold Dragons. His main goal is to oppose the Dragon Queen and her host. He can breathe a cone of cold, a cloud of gaseous form (not quite sure what this one actually does), or one that disintegrates. He's another vital bit of D&D lore - although his name has yet to be revealed.

The Dragon Queen, also known as the Chromatic Dragon is a being who struck terror into the hearts of all Saturday morning cartoon watchers. She's a huge dragon with five heads, one for each of the Chaotic dragons, and she's also got a Wyvern's tail. I never knew that, but the poison sting is yet another powerful attack she's got. She can employ all her heads at once either to breathe or cast spells - unfortunately the spell levels only go to 5th, so none of the really nasty stuff. Five breath weapons at once ought to do in just about any party, though. She lives in a stupendous cavern far beneath the earth. A prison, I wonder? She's accompanied by one of each type of Chaotic dragon, just in case the Queen herself isn't enough of a challenge for you. And in case you missed it, her main aim is to spread evil.

Man, everyone loves Tiamat (though she's not named as such yet). She's an iconic D&D monster, and yet has inexplicably never appeared in a core Monster Manual after 1st Edition. Unbelievable, really.

LIZARD MEN: Another monster I thought would have been a dead cert for the original box. They're aquatic, with a 'rude intelligence' (which doesn't mean what you think it means). It means they're slightly primitive, and use weapons like spears or clubs. Despite being Neutral, they love to eat humans, and will capture as many as possible for tribal feasts. Their general use in D&D lore has been as the humanoid race you might possibly be able to work with if they don't eat you first. They're a staple archetype of sword & sorcery, and thus an essential D&D monster.

DOPPLEGANGERS: Mutable creatures that can shape themselves to look like anyone. In this form they'll try to attack or infiltrate the party - it seems the more far-reaching uses of this power are as yet beyond their thinking. They're immune to sleep or charm, which to me seems like a good way to test for them, and they're also highly magic resistant. You're probably sick of me saying how much I love everything, but that's how I feel about Dopplegangers as well - they're the perfect monster to bamboozle parties with, so long as you don't overuse them.

WERERATS: The last of the classic lycanthropes is upon us. Extremely intelligent, and they have a habit of taking prisoners to hold for ransom. Although they can assume human form, most prefer their rat-man persona, which is not usually how I've seen were-types portrayed. Just to make them even sneakier, they can move silently like a 7th level Thief. And they can command rats as well, so they're overall the most versatile of the lycanthropes. And no D&D campaign is complete without Wererats in the sewers!

LAMMASU: It's hard to use these monsters when players assume guttural Japanese accents and shout "LAME ASSU!" But that aside, these monsters are winged lions with human heads. Sounds like a sphinx to me, but anyway. They like to aid and protect Lawful characters with their host of magical abilities - invisibility, dimension door, protection from evil 10' radius, and the ability to cast spells as a 6th level Cleric. They can also speak any human language of Lawful or Neutral nature - and if even languages having alignment doesn't paint Greyhawk as morally black-and-white I don't know what does.

These Lawful-type monsters don't often see a lot of use in the game, but that could change in a megadungeon with a lot of random encounters. When you're trapped in the 10th level of the dungeon with 1 hit point, a rusty dagger and a guttering torch, rolling a lammasu on the random chart would be such an awesome moment. You know, assuming that you are Lawful.

SALAMANDER: Yet another monster that got a brief write-up in OD&D, as a type of free-willed reptilian fire elemental. That's how they're described here as well, with some additions. They're highly intelligent, Chaotic, and they like to live in temperatures above 300 degrees (Fahrenheit or Celsius?). They normally use weapons, but their touch causes fire damage, and their snake-like tail can constrict. They're another weird creature with two Armor Classes - 5 for their humanoid torso, and 3 for their snake-like tail. I rule that players who make called shots get the appropriate AC, and otherwise I decide which it is based on the player's positioning.

BEHOLDERS: Ah, here we go - one of the absolute icons of the game. There's no monster that screams D&D quite like this one.

They're also called the Sphere of Many Eyes or Eye Tyrant. Their body is a globe about 3 feet across, with a large central eye on the body and ten eyestalks on top. They can levitate themselves and float around, so they aren't immobile and they don't roll. Rather than having rolled hit points like other monsters, Beholder hp are set - 40 for the body, 10 for each eyestalk, and 20 for the central eye. AC is different for each body part as well, and subject to the same system I describe under Salamanders. Funnily enough the eyes are the easiest part to hit, so the body and eyestalks must have some serious armour plating. Each eye has a special power, with 1-4 of the eyestalks being usable per round. They are: 1 - Charm Person; 2 - Charm Monster; 3 - Sleep; 4 - Telekenesis; 5 - Flesh to Stone; 6 - Disintegrate; 7 - Fear; 8 - Slow; 9 - Serious Wounds; 10 - Death Ray; and the central eye is an anti-magic ray.

In terms of behaviour, Beholders are avaricious. Somewhat uncharacteristically, they're listed as Neutral in alignment, with tendencies towards being Chaotic. I would have placed them as heavily Chaotic myself, but I guess there's something to be said for an alien mindset that doesn't give two figs about the fundamental forces of the universe.

UMBER HULKS: And here's yet another icon. About 8' tall and 5' wide, they have heads that resembles bushel baskets (whatever that means), and gaping maws with a pair of sharp mandibles. Even so, they are said to be of shape somewhat similar to humans, and in the dark can be mistaken for something far less deadly. They have claws harder than iron that can burrow through stone, but their deadliest weapon is their four eyes, which cause confusion. They like to eat human flesh, but who in the D&D world doesn't, I ask you?

DISPLACER BEASTS: They just keep coming, don't they? There was a Displacer Cloak in OD&D, and now we have the Beast, a black puma with six legs, tentacles on its shoulders and hellish green eyes. They always appear 3 feet away from their actual position, which is what makes them a bastard to fight, and just so they don't get killed by area effects their saving throws are also high. The tentacles are their main form of attack, as they have thorny edges. They hate Blink Dogs, but I've never found out why. They do have similar powers, though, and that could have something to do with it.

BLINK DOGS: They resemble African wild dogs, but are really smart and can teleport. They travel in packs, and when fighting they teleport around at random based on die rolls - could be a pain to fight as well as a pain to run. They're Lawful, and hate Displacer Beasts - see above.

HELL HOUNDS: Red-brown evil dogs that can breathe fire - and if you don't think fire-breathing dogs are the business then you are dead to me. Their hit dice and breath damage range from 3 to 7 dice, so there's a good scope for using this monster at a range of levels. They're stealthy, and can also sense invisible creatures with a 75% chance - good sense of smell, I guess. To go with the element motif, they're often found as pets for Fire Giants. They're also fairly intelligent.

PHASE SPIDERS: Among the most annoying monsters in the old Gold Box PC games. They appear to be regular giant spiders, but can shift out of phase and become immune to nearly all forms of attack. It shifts back in only to use its poisonous bite. So what we have is a monster that's almost impossible to hit, that can kill you with a single attack. Your best bet is a Phase Door spell, which will put it in phase for 7 rounds. Oil and Armor of Etherealness send the player into the same phase as the spider, so they're handy as well. But a few of these could do for just about any unprepared party.

RUST MONSTERS: Icon. A seemingly inoffensive creature that turns ferrous metal into rust with a touch. Their attacks cause armor and weapons to rust, and attacks that hit them do the same - not even magical items are immune. They do this because they eat rust, and they are all around just an awesome monster. Perhaps not so effective anymore as a single encounter, but drop a couple into a room with some club-wielding ogres and you've got a challenge. And for any player that complains about losing their stuff? The armadillo thing ate it, now harden up.

STIRGES: The stirge is a sort of bird-like monster with a large proboscis that drinks the blood of the living. When they hit, they attach themselves and start drinking, not leaving until the victim is a 'bloodless corpse'. And although they only have 1 hit die, they attack as 4th level Fighters - a flock of these things can wreak havoc on a party. Nothing is mentioned about how to remove them, but presumably the method below for Giant Ticks is valid.

For some reason Stirges always seem to appear in my games whenever PCs wander off from the party. It's a weird coincidence.

GIANT TICKS: Another blood-drinker, this time a giant insect. To detach one it needs to be killed or burned with fire. Even after that the victim needs a Cure Disease, or he'll contract a disease that will kill him in 2-8 days. Giant Ticks are way cool, but this is the first monster in a while that isn't a bona fide classic D&D monster.

OWL BEARS: Well, the classics didn't stay away for long. This is simply a bear with an owl's head - though they are only described as 'creatures of horrid visage and disposition'. That bit about disposition is no lie, as they attack everything they see and fight to the death. They have furry bodies, feathered heads, thick skin, weigh about 1,500 pounds and stand 8 feet tall. The reference to 2" claws presumably means actual inches, not game inches that really measure 20 feet. Their great weapon is their hug, which happens if it hits with both claws and deals a pretty decent amount of damage. Still, I question the wisdom of taking a bear and grafting the head of a less deadly creature onto it. It's not exactly how you make the ultimate fighting beast, is it? Certainly they must have been magically created somewhere along the line - the alternative just doesn't bear thinking about.

CARRION CRAWLERS: 9' long multi-legged worms that have 8 paralyzing tentacles. They're scavengers, and generally they attack to make more corpses they can scavenge. They can also move on walls and ceiling, which would aid in surprise attempts - and surprise from one of these nasties can wipe an entire party out in no time. Just ask anyone who's played the sample dungeon from the Mentzer Basic Set...

GELATINOUS CUBES: Any monster that's evolved to fit the exact shape of a dungeon corridor is ok by me. They're big cubes of jelly that move through the corridors and eat up all the stuff on the walls. They're clear, and difficult to spot, so PCs might walk right through one. This isn't fun, as their touch dissolves flesh - but it also anesthetizes, so you won't instantly recoil when burned. They're immune to cold, lightning, paralization, fear, and polymorph. They also often have treasure inside, since they can't dissolve metal - it's a good incentive to get PCs to blunder into one.

Much to my horror, I have never seen a Gelatinous Cube in a game of D&D. I've just never really found an appropriate place to use one - that will change, I assure you.

GIANT SLUGS: The greatest omission from the 3e monster books. Their rubbery hide makes them immune to blunt weapons. They're strong enough to bust doors down easily, but they don't need to since they can eat wood and burrow through hard earth, as well as squeeze through narrow openings. They have a bite, but it's pretty wimpy compared to their acid spit - which has a 50/50 chance to hit at 6", and a higher chance at closer range - it totally ignores Armor Class! Luckily it always misses the first attack. But you know what? I can't find the damage for the acid spit. I just remember from Curse of the Azure Bonds that it was pretty high. I'm sure AD&D will come to my rescue, but hopefully there's an errata somewhere down the road. Anyway, this thing is so big it can't turn around in corridors - so if adventurers sneak up behind it it's easy pickings.

FLESH GOLEM: No general description, but it's strong enough to bust doors and wooden structures down, and deal considerable damage. It also only hit by +1 weapons, and it's immune to all spells except fire and cold, which slow its movements by half. Hits by Lightning restore hit points, which serves to play up the links to Frankenstein's Monster.

No hit points or movement are listed - yeah, we really need some errata here folks.

STONE GOLEM: Twice as strong as Flesh Golems, and they can cast a Slow spell on one opponent per turn. Only +2 weapons affect them, and spells are limited to those that affect rock, and fire spells which slow it down. A Rock to Mud spell will inexplicably repair it - I would have thought Mud to Rock would be more appropriate..

IRON GOLEM: Three times as strong as a Flesh Golem, and they can breath a cloud of poison gas (which I don't remember from any computer games with them in). Only hit by +3 weapons, and immune to all spells except that they are slowed by lightning. Fire heals them - I've always wanted to run a combination Red Dragon/Iron Golems fight, ever since I read the idea in Dragon.

So that's monsters, and to my mind there was very little introduced after this point that you need for a game of D&D. Tomorrow I start on magic items, which might take me a couple of days to get through - there are a lot!

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