Monday, February 27, 2012

AD&D Monster Manual Part 39

Quasit: Quasits make their first appearance here. Quasits are small demons that are often used as familiars by chaotic evil magic-users or clerics. In addition to their magic resistance they get a whole raft of special abilities: a claw attack that can drain Dexterity, detect good and magic, regeneration, invisibility, a fear blast, immunity to fire, cold and lightning, and they can only be hit by magical or cold iron weapons.

As formidable as they are, as familiars they are even better. When the quasit is nearby, it’s masters gets the quasit’s magic resistance and regeneration, and is also considered as one level higher. It's pretty amazing stuff. It’s balanced out by being one level lower when the quasit is away, and by the loss of four levels if it is ever killed, but to me it seems like a fair trade.

The quasit can also contact the lower planes once per week to help its master, getting the answers to six questions. I remember that in OD&D this was a very useful ability, but also a very dangerous one. Having a flunky around to do it for you is pretty handy.

The main aim of a quasit is to enable its master to spread evil, in the hope that when it returns to the Abyss it will be transformed into a Type I or II demon. This is the first reference I’ve ever seen to some sort of advancement system for demons. I like it; it gives an incentive for all those souls that demons like to collect. There’s also a reference to quasits liking to destroy Lawful Evil humans to steal their souls. Could this be an early hint towards the Devil/Demon animosity?

Rakshasa: Rakshasas first appeared in The Strategic Review #5. Statistically they have changed very little; their Movement Rate has increased from 12 to 15. Their alignment has changed from Chaotic to Lawful Evil, yet more proof that Chaotic in OD&D is equivalent to evil in AD&D. Otherwise the entry is almost word for word the same as it was before, with no significant changes or additions. Except for the rad smoking jacket.

That pesky reference to India is still present. So do they hail from India in the real world, or Oerth’s India-equivalent? As before, I lean towards the latter.

Giant Ram: Giant rams first appeared in the Wilderness Encounter Tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry. They get stats here for the first time. As expected, a sheep taller than a man is well hard, with lots of hit points and some hefty damage potential. Especially the males, who can charge for double damage. They only attack when threatened. I wonder what possesses Gary sometimes. Giant sheep? I suppose giants have to eat something.

Giant Rat: I don’t know whether to believe my notes, because it’s difficult to fathom that giant rats were not detailed in OD&D. They’re mentioned a bit. There’s an illustration of one in Supplement I: Greyhawk, and their bite damage is listed in the same book. One is mentioned in a combat example in the first D&D Basic Set. But this is, unbelievably, the first time that giant rats are fully detailed in D&D. They conform to the scant details already revealed, and are otherwise monsters with low hit points and a bite that can pass on disease. Most interestingly, they have an alignment tendency towards evil

Giant rats are described here (and in the illustration from Supplement I) as "Sumatran".  As with Rakshasas above, I take this to mean the area of Greyhawk that corresponds with real-world Sumatra (aka Indonesia).

Monday, February 13, 2012

AD&D Monster Manual Part 38

Giant Porcupine: Giant porcupines made their first appearance in the Wilderness Encounter Tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry. This is the first time they get stats.  They’re quite tough, having 6 Hit Dice, and despite being described as non-aggressive unless threatened they consider any approach within 30 feet to be a threat.  Which makes the likelihood of a battle pretty high for all but the most cautious of PCs.  Their main attack form is to shoot quills from their tail, which does seem over and above the usual qualities of a porcupine.  They also have defensive quills, and any attacker within a certain range will have to deal with being impaled.  None of this is particularly interesting, but I think there would be a certain shame in having a character killed by a giant porcupine, and a certain pride in being the DM to inflict such a fate.

Portuguese Man-O-War: The Portuguese man-o-war (a type of jellyfish) first appeared in Supplement II: Blackmoor, but it has been given a total overhaul here.  Number Appearing has changed from 2-12 to 1-10; Armor Class has worsened from 8 to 9; and Hit Dice was 2, but now ranges from 1-4.  Originally, the creature was said to have 1-100 attacks a round, each with a paralysation effect, which is plainly unworkable.  Here their number of tentacles depends upon size, and ranges from 10 to 40.  Now they only get one attack a round, still with paralysation.  As in the earlier version, their tentacles can be severed with a single point of damage, and they can only be killed by damage to their central body.  Their transparency has also been given a concrete game effect, making them 90% undetectable.  So the principle behind the monster is the same as before, it has just been greatly clarified to become something that can actually work in the game.

Pseudo-Dragon: This is the first appearance of pseudo-dragons.  A pseudo-dragon is a small telepathic dragon-like creature with a chameleon-like power, and a poisonous stinger.  The poison makes its victim appear dead for a few days.  1-in-4 victims actually die, but I can imagine that a lot of survivors are still consigned to an awful fate by their fellow PCs.  They also have a decent magic resistance, and this is their most interesting feature, because they can confer it upon any creature they are touching.  It is mentioned that they may become the companion of a humanoid, and I expect that this is covered further in the Players Handbook or the Dungeon Masters Guide.  It would certainly be a most sought-after power for any PC.

Purple Worm: Purple Worms first showed up in D&D Vol. 2.  They’re a little faster than they were before, with a Movement increase from 6 to 9.  The damage from their stinger has changed slightly from 1-8 to 2-8.  Otherwise it is the same, with a poisonous stinger and the ability to swallow opponents whole.  What has been added is mostly clarifications, such as a note that the worm only uses its stinger in rear defense, or against large opponents in a spacious area. Rules are given for how large a creature it can swallow, and also for characters who want to cut their way out of the worm’s stomach. There are even stats for hatchlings.  And apparently purple worms expel such indigestible waste as “metal and mineral crystals”.  Gary doesn’t come out and say it, but that sounds like gold and jewels to me.  Even the aquatic mottled worm from Supplement II gets a mention.

Monday, February 06, 2012

AD&D Monster Manual Part 37

Pegasus: The pegasus first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2.  Its Number Appearing range has decreased from 1-12 to 1-10.  Its Hit Dice has increased from 2+2 to 4.  In addition to the two hoof attacks that it previously had, it now gets a bite attack as well (seems a little undignified for such a noble beast).  Their alignment has made the shift from Lawful to Chaotic Good.  There’s little information that is new, but Gary doesn’t disappoint me: he has once again provided the monetary value for their young and eggs.  And yes, I am very weirded out by the knowledge that pegasi lay eggs.  Owlbears sort of made sense, being half bird, but I don’t know where this is coming from for the pegasus. 

Peryton: This is the first appearance of perytons in the game, a personal favourite of mine.  They look like a giant bird with a stag’s head, and don’t really have any special abilities to speak of.  They get a +2 to hit on every attack, which I suppose is a way to make them deadlier without increasing their hit points.  And they can only be hit by magical weapons.  But most of all they just look awesome, and that’s a major factor in the popularity of D&D monsters.  They also have some of the best fluff.  They’re said to probably be the result of the same experimentation that created the owlbear, but that’s not the best part.  They tear out the hearts of their victims, and somehow use them to reproduce, but even that’s not the best part.  The best part is that their shadows look inexplicably like a human’s shadow.  I was surprised to see that this isn’t in the description.  It’s just there in the illustration, and now I’m wondering if it was even intentional.  The shadow sort of matches the peryton in the picture, and it also happens to look like a dude.  I think I prefer the idea that it was a happy accident that later designers incorporated to make the peryton more intriguing.

Piercer: Piercers first appeared in The Strategic Review #3.  They have changed very little from the monster as presented there, with the only statistical difference being an increase in Number Appearing from 2-12 to 3-18.  They also now have a 95% chance to gain surprise, whereas before it was left up to the DM.  Call me old-fashioned, but I love piercers.  They’re the sort of thing that could only have originated from D&D.

Giant Pike: As far as I can tell, the only mention of pike is in the entry for nixies in D&D Vol. 2.  (Yes, pikes are mentioned a shitload in Chainmail, but those are polearms.  Not fish.)  And sure enough, they’re presented here as a crazy big fish often tamed by nixies.  There’s not a lot else to say here, except that they gain surprise quite easily.  That seems to be a common ability applied AD&D monsters.  I'm not really sure how that affects them in play, because I have never used the AD&D surprise rules.

Pixie: Pixies first appeared in D&D Vol. 2.  Their Number Appearing has greatly reduced, from 10-100 to 5-20.  Armor Class has been improved from 6 to 5.  They’re now slower, with a Movement reduced from 9/18 to 6/12.  Their Hit Dice have also reduced, from 1 to ½.  Not only have they received a hefty statistical overhaul, but they’ve gained a lot of special abilities as well.  Their bows can now put the target to sleep, or cause memory loss that can only be restored with an exorcism spell.  They can also polymorph, create illusions, know alignment, dispel magic, cast dancing lights, use ESP, and cause permanent confusion with a touch.  1-in-10 of them can also cast Otto’s irresistible dance.  It’s a big step up for a monster whose sole previous ability was permanent invisibility.  (Don’t worry, they still get that as well.)  The OD&D pixies were probably youngsters, more physically potent but less capable magically.