Tuesday, November 30, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 15

Elephants: Elephants first appeared in the wilderness encounter tables in Supplement III. These are the plain old Earth variety, though ever-thorough Gary provides different stats for Asian and African Elephants (which doesn’t amount to more than a hit dice of difference). These guys are brutal death machines, though. I don’t know what a real elephant does in a fight, but I doubt he’s goring people with his tusks, trampling them, and grabbing someone else with his trunk and squeezing them to death. But this is D&D, where every animal must double as a potential monster. And in true Gygaxian fashion (and not without real-world precedent) you can sell their tusks on the market.

Elves: Their Number Appearing stat has decreased, so it looks like the elven population is thinning out, but otherwise their stats are the same. The high-level NPCs that can be encountered with a group of elves have been greatly expanded on. It’s said that they use Giant Eagles as guards for their lairs, which is new. A breakdown of the typical weapons they carry is provided, and it’s mostly swords and bows. Some bands have female fighters mounted on unicorns, which is pretty cool. We also learn that elves live for about a dozen centuries.

Aquatic elves are detailed. They first appeared in Supplement II, and have barely changed at all from there.

Drow Elves. Yes, this is their first appearance. They are presented here as legendary dwellers beneath the earth, with black skin and evil disposition. They’re said to be weak fighters and strong magic-users. So yeah, it’s at about this point that I’ll start to seed clues about the drow in my campaign.

Grey Elves, also known as faerie, live in the meadows and are aloof bastards. And here we get the first ability score bonus in the game, as these guys get a +1 to Intelligence. They ride around on hippogriffs and griffons. Some have silver hair and amber eyes. Others have golden hair and violet eyes, and these are the ones called faeries. They’re just elves but better, basically.

Half-elves are treated in some detail. They can now become multi-classed as fighter/magic-user/clerics, which I don’t think was possible in OD&D, unless I’m misreading the rules. We also learn that they can live for 250 years.

Wood elves are also called sylvan elves. Like Grey Elves they get an ability score bonus – this time it’s a +1 to strength – but they can’t have an Intelligence higher than 17. They pal around with giant owls and lynxes.

Poor old high elves don’t get an entry. But given that they’re the default setting, they’ll be along soon enough in the Player’s Handbook.

Ettins: I’m shocked to find out that Ettins are appearing here for the first time ever. An ettin is a dirty big giant with two heads. That’s their only distinguishing feature, and it makes them hard to surprise, but this is probably more of a role-playing monster than an interesting combat encounter. Anything you can do in a combat with ettins can already be accomplished with ogres or hill giants. The real fun with ettins is in role-playing their multiple heads arguing and such. They are said to be closely related to orcs.

Floating Eye: These guys are much the same as they were in Supplement II – fish that hypnotise large prey, wait for a big fish to eat the helpless prey, then feed off the scraps.  One of the many hazards of underwater exploration, I guess.

Eye of the Deep: Another new monster, the Eye of the Deep is an underwater beholder. It’s power is considerably less, though, as it only has a few effects to cast from its eyes. The central eye emits a dazzling cone, the eyestalks cast hold person and hold monster, and both stalks together can create illusions. They’re just like beholders in temperament, being aggressive and hateful. Like underwater Daleks.

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