Sunday, September 26, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 2

Aerial Servant: This monster first appeared as part of the Aerial Servant cleric spell in Supplement I: Greyhawk. This is simply a restatement of the stats given in that spell as a monster entry – it’s an invisible monster that can carry a lot, has a grip that’s very hard to break, has a surprise bonus, and that will go bonkers and attack the cleric that summoned it if it can’t complete its mission. The only mechanical change is with its speed. Before it travelled at twice the speed of an air elemental, but now it does so at twice the speed of an invisible stalker – a drop from 72” to 24”!

We learn that Aerial Servants are actually semi-intelligent air elementals that roam the astral and ethereal planes. Could this be the result of air elementals being trapped in those planes, away from their native habitat? Maybe this can happen to any air elemental summoned to the prime material plane? It would certainly explain their tendency to flip out on their summoner.

There’s a little rules nugget tucked away in this entry that explains something I had wondered about in OD&D. Often in OD&D it would be noted that a monster fights at double, triple, or even quadruple strength under certain conditions.  The Aerial Servant is said to fight as a double-strength Invisible Stalker. Comparing the two entries, I find that the Aerial Servant has 16 hit dice to the Invisible Stalker’s 8, and that it also delivers twice as much damage on a successful hit. It’s how I suspected the rule worked, but it’s nice to see some hard confirmation.

Anhkheg: The Anhkheg remains mostly the same here as it was in The Dragon #5, with some cosmetic changes. Originally its % in Lair was 25%, but now it is 15%. Its Treasure Type was first listed as B2, which made no sense, so that has been changed to C. Its bonus acid damage on a bite attack has been significantly lowered, from 1-10 down to 1-4. That’s fair enough, as that bite already does 3-18 to start with. It’s plenty deadly without an extra 1-10 on top. Finally, its acid squirt now has a damage rating listed, which it did not before. It’s a nice revision that slightly lessens the Anhkheg's deadliness and brings some weird rules bits into line.

Ant, Giant: Giant ants were listed in the OD&D wilderness encounter tables, and also given as an example under the entry for Large Insects. Here they get stats for the first time. The worker ants are pretty standard low-level monsters, while the warriors have a poison sting that deals extra damage. The queen has a ton of hit points, but can’t move or attack. Quite remarkably for AD&D, their eggs have no market value. Usually Gygax can’t wait to tell you how you’ll earn for selling that sort of stuff, but I guess there’s not much call for giant ants as pets or delicacies, is there?

Oh, and as the rad illustration of them swarming a hapless paladin shows, they’re only about 2 feet long. I have a habit of envisioning them as larger than man-sized, so I’ll have to try hard to remember that they are smaller. Still large enough to be scary in large numbers, but not towering over the PCs.

Ape, Gorilla: Again, Apes appeared in the OD&D wilderness encounter tables. This is the first time they are given stats. They’re pretty tough, with 4 hit dice and multiple attacks, and extra rending damage if both of their punch attacks land. They’d wreck the average 1st-level party, I think.

Ape, Carnivorous: These guys first appeared in the Supplement I revision to the Wandering Monster tables, replacing OD&D’s White Apes. They’re pretty much the same as gorillas but a little bit tougher and smarter, with a better chance to avoid being surprised due to keen senses

Axe Beak: This seems to be a new monster, stemming from Gary’s seeming fascination for prehistoric animals. It’s just an ostrich with a big beak and claws, and I’d be very surprised if anyone pipes up in the comments to say they’ve used one in a game.


Scott said...

It’s just an ostrich with a big beak and claws, and I’d be very surprised if anyone pipes up in the comments to say they’ve used one in a game.

Ask and ye shall receive. :)

(This campaign started off as OD&D and gradually moved to Tunnels & Trolls, but I've used these guys on several occasions before that.)

Nathan P. Mahney said...

Nice. Any interesting happenings with those terror birds?

Scott said...

Never got to use them with Thool. In past campaigns, I've used Axe Beaks as wilderness boogers along the lines of wolves, around the "uncommon" or "rare" edges of the plains encounter table curve.

Big gnarly flightless birds give a setting a bit of "lost world" flavor. That same setting had Moas as cavalry and food animals.

In real life, apparently a Cassowary will completely kick your ass.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

You can add emus to the list of giant birds not to fuck with as well.

Anonymous said...

A bit late to the party, but I use axe beaks as well. In a part of my world, ruled by an immortal creature that was reborn into the body of a 4-armed carnivorous ape due to an odd arcane accident, axe beaks draw chariots for the immortal wizard and his elite shock troops. They cause a bit of terror, thus living up to their name, when they are released and hungry. Check out the Skullcracker Bird here: and tell me that wouldn't freak you out if it was hunting you.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

You, sir, have won the Axe Beak contest. Your no-prize is in the mail.