Monday, October 10, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 35

Naga, Guardian: The guardian naga (and the other two types detailed below) debuted in The Strategic Review #3.  It’s a human-headed snake generally used to guard the treasures of lawful good types.  Their Armor Class has improved from 5 to 3, and their bite attack damage has improved from 1-3 to 1-6.  In OD&D they only had one attack per round, but now they can both bite and constrict.  They still have a lethal poisoned bite, as well as a spit attack, and they can cast spells as a 6th level cleric (all as before).  The only new thing we learn is that they have green-gold scales, silver triangles on their backs, and golden eyes.

Naga, Spirit: Spirit naga are the obligatory evil variety.  Their Armor Class has improved from 5 to 4 since their debut, but their Movement Rate has lessened from 15 to 12.  Their abilities from OD&D are mostly unchanged: they still have a gaze that can permanently charm their victims, and they can still cast spells.  Their spellcasting has been majorly nerfed, though: before they cast as 7th-level magic-users and 6th-level clerics; now they cast as 5th-level magic-users and 4th-level clerics.  We learn for the first time that they like to live in ruins and dungeons, and their scales are black and crimson (duh, they’re evil).

Naga, Water: Water naga are neutral, and usually don’t attack unless provoked.  Their Movement Rate, previously listed as 15, is now 9 on land and 18 in the water.  They still have a poisonous bite as before, and their magic-user spellcasting remains at 5th level.  But in OD&D, they were forbidden from using fire and lightning spells. Now the restriction is only to fire spells, so look out for those underwater lightning bolts.

The only new thing we learn is that they have emerald scales (with a whole bunch of other colours) and green or amber eyes.

There’s one big difference from their original presentation that makes them much less interesting: in OD&D they were said to live in palaces beneath the water.  Now they are said to live in places.  The former was much more magical and fun, but somewhat impractical.  And was probably a typo.

One thing that I never noticed about the naga is that only spirit naga have human heads.  The other two types just look like snakes.  I did not know that!

Neo-Otyugh: The neo-otyugh are appearing here for the first time.  The entry here references the otyugh, as these guys are a bigger and tougher version of that monster.  From what I can see here, they’re solitary and physically very powerful, with high hit points, low Armor Class, and the ability to do a lot of damage.  They’re also telepathic, which probably accounts for their ability to never be surprised.  They also carry diseases, which is not surprising from a monster that looks like a trash heap with tentacles and a mouth.  More on them when I get to the actual otyugh entry.

Night Hag: Night hags also make their first appearance here.  They rule the plane of Hades, and only ever appear on the Prime Material on solo missions to harvest the souls of very evil people.  Their primary method of capturing such a soul is to cast a powerful sleep spell (one that can affect up to 12 Hit Dice creatures) and then strangle the victim.  If that doesn’t work, the hag visits the victim in an ethereal state, invades his dreams, and then – ahem – “rides the victim until dawn”.  Each such ride drains the victim’s constitution, until he is eventually dead.

Night Hags get a whole bunch of other good abilities.  They can cast a powerful magic missile, as well as ray of enfeeblement.  They can become ethereal at will, know alignment, polymorph, and gate in other demons or devils. They’re immune to sleep, charm, fear, fire, cold, and any weapons other than silver, iron, or magic weapons of +3 or better.  There’s a nice bit with the gate ability, in that any demon or devil summoned will demand a larval soul from the hag.  I’m picturing these Night Hags as running a sort of trading post between Hell and the Abyss, with souls as the product on offer.

Every Night Hag forges their own periapt in Hades, which they can use for astral projection.  Anyone who steals one of these will be immune to disease and get a bonus to all saving throws, but it will decay in the hands of a good character.  A hag whose periapt is stolen can “leave the plane she is in at the time of the loss”.  I’m not sure what this means.  Is it just a way of ensuring that she isn’t trapped in the Astral Plane at the time of theft, or does it mean she can leave Hades for the Prime Material to hunt for the thief?

Nightmare: Nightmares make their first appearance here, and it’s surprising to me that Gary resisted the pun for this long.  Also known as Hell Horses and Demon Horses, they are black with flaming hooves and nostrils, and glowing red eyes.  They come from the lower planes, and are often used as steeds by demons, devils, night hags, and less commonly by undead such as spectres, vampires and liches.

They’re a decent mid-level opponent, having 6+6 Hit Dice, but what strikes me is their Armor Class of -4.  It’s better than all the dragons, and just about all the demons and devils.  Add the blinding smoke that comes from their mouths during combat, giving all opponents -2 to hit, and you have a monster that is terribly difficult to damage in melee.  It's Armor Class is effectively -6, and from what I can see only the Demon Princes and Arch-Devils have better defenses.

Nightmares can also fly, become ethereal, and roam the Astral Plane.  And they attack all material life, which is what I want from a D&D monster.

Nixie: Nixies first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2.  Their Number Appearing has been reduced from 10-100 to 20-80.  In OD&D they only had a Movement Rate of 12", but now they move at 6” on land and 12” when swimming.  They previously had 1 Hit Dice, but now they only roll a 1d4 for hit points.  In essence they are the same monster, being water sprites that like to charm humans to serve them for a year, but they’ve had a number of changes and additions.  The biggest is probably their ability to cast water breathing once per day, which nicely clarifies whether their charm victims survive underwater or not.  Their charm is also a little bit more powerful, with its target suffering a -2 penalty to the saving throw.  To balance that, a dispel magic now has a chance to work after the victim has gone underwater, which it didn’t before.

Nixies still have fish servants such as pike and gar, but the absurd number given in OD&D (10-100) is used for their ability to summon small non-combatant fish.  The larger types that will fight people are limited to just a few. 

Nixies have gained a Magic Resistance of 25%.  But they’ve also picked up an aversion to fire and light, which seems to be a garbled reading of the rule from OD&D.  In the old rules a flaming sword could be used to keep their fish at bay, but now it can be used that way on the Nixies themselves.  A light spell affects them the same way, but they can summon fish to block it (a lovely touch).

Other than that, we get a physical description and learn that they inhabit lakes and live in houses made of seaweed.

Nymph: Nymphs were first mentioned in Supplement II: Blackmoor, but only as a type of underwater dryad.  Here, they really are a completely new creature.  They appear as beautiful young women, and are found only in the loveliest wilderness areas.  They don’t like intruders, though.  They can dimension door once a day to escape, but they may not need to.  Not only can they cast druid spells as a 7th level caster, just looking at one may make you blind.  And that’s if the nymph has its clothes on; if it’s naked there’s a chance you’ll die instantly.  The nymph is only favourable towards good-aligned human males of 18 Charisma, and very occasionally to other good-aligned creatures.  Needless to say, nymphs were the subject of several ill-advised D&D adventures when I was a teenager.

As a final note, I would just like to call foul on Gary and TSR for not providing a picture of the Nymph.  For shame.


martinho said...

Good news, "places" should definitely be the misprint. I've recently read a comic about (and looked it up again on reading your post) how the Mahabharata hero Arjuna met the beautiful Naga princess Uloopi in a palace at the bottom of Ganges.

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