Thursday, May 14, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual: The Final Part

WOLF: There are four types of wolves presented here in the Monster Manual: regular wolves, dire wolves, worgs and winter wolves.  Regular wolves and dire wolves have been mentioned throughout the earlier D&D books, but this is the first time they get full stats.  Worgs (totally not taken from Tolkien, there's a whole different vowel) and Winter Wolves are appearing here for the first time.

Regular wolves conform to their behaviour in the real world (or at least the popular perception of that behaviour).  They live in forests, hunt in packs, and will attack if hungry. Their howling can spook herbivores (such as horses, whose meat they are said to love).  Their cubs can also be taken and trained as war dogs or hunting beasts. It's basic stuff, but no D&D game would be complete without them.  Wolves had previously (in Supplement I: Greyhawk) been given a bite attack that did 1-6 damage; it now does 2-5.

Dire Wolves are a larger relative of the wolf that lived in the Pleistocene Epoch. (This is a thing that gets lost in later iterations of D&D, when there are "dire" animals all over the place. They're not prehistoric, they're just bigger, meaner and more monstrous.)  Otherwise they act like regular wolves, they just have more hit points.  The only stat they had been given previously (again, in Supplement I) was a bite attack that dealt 1-8 damage; it now does 2-8.

Worgs are an evil, intelligent variety of dire wolf. The book describes them as "neo-dire wolves", so the relation is explicit. How they came to be so much more advanced is a mystery, though I suspect magic to be involved (isn't it always?).  They like to pal around with goblins, and as they are the size of ponies they can be ridden.

Winter Wolves live only in cold regions, and they get all the abilities you would expect from that: a freezing breath weapon, and a weakness against fire-based attacks. They're even smarter than worgs, though still evil. Their silvery-white pelts are worth 5,000gp.

WOLVERINE: Wolverines have made a single appearance in D&D thus far: the ubiquitous wilderness encounter tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  A regular variety and a giant version appear here, but they are basically the same creature. Gary betrays a real bias against them: not only does he describe them as vicious, hateful and destructive, but they have an alignment of "neutral (evil)". In AD&D, wolverines are not just regular animals, they are actually quantifiably evil. They're fast and tough, they get a +4 to all attacks, and they have a musk attack that works like a skunk's. To refresh, the musk can blind its victims, make them lose half of their Strength and Dexterity, and rot all cloth , including any magical cloth that fails a save. That is nasty, and there's a hilarious note that wolverines will purposely spray any human food or items that they find unattended. Add in the statement that they have exceptional intelligence when it comes to hunting and combat, and what you have is a license for the DM to run them like a total bastard. Just one of these critters could eviscerate a low-level party.

WRAITH: Wraiths first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2. There they are described simply as "high-class Wights", but here they get some more detail. They are still said to be similar to wights, but they exist more strongly on the Negative Material Plane. They have no powers in sunlight (which is a new addition) so they only dwell in dark, gloomy places. As before they are immune to normal weapons, and take full damage from magical ones. In OD&D, their relation to silver weapons was a strange one: they were said to take half damage from silver arrows, with no mention made of any other silver weapons. Here that is changed, and it is simply silver weapons that deal half damage.  They've also gained the usual raft of undead immunities. Allow me to list them for the penultimate time: immunity to sleep, hold, cold and charm spells; 2-8 damage from holy water.  A raise dead spell will destroy a wraith outright. Their level drain still works in the same fashion as before, but it's clarified that anyone they completely level drain becomes a wraith at half-strength, and is under the wraith's command.

I do wonder about the link that's been drawn between wraiths and wights.  It's probable that there isn't a specific one, but it's intriguing to think that a wight who drains enough levels will eventually grow a stronger connection to the Negative Plane, and become and immaterial wraith.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 2-16, New - 2-12; Armor Class: Old - 3, New - 4; Hit Dice: Old - 4, New 5+3

WYVERN: Wyverns first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2. Wyverns are stupid, aggressive, related to dragons, and they have a sting that is lethal on a failed save.  This is pretty much exactly what they were in OD&D, and the changes here are very minor. The biggest addition here is probably the note that they are brown to gray, and have red or orange eyes.

Stat Changes:
Movement: Old - 9/24, New - 6/24; Hit Dice: Old - 7, New - 7+7;

XORN: The xorn is making its first appearance here, and it's a weird monster. They live on the Elemental Plane of Earth, and occasionally come to the material plane, where they feed on "certain rare minerals".  These minerals, of course, are the very same ones that PCs most often quest for: copper, silver, gold, electrum and platinum.  Only copper and silver are specifically named, but there is an "etc." included, which I take to mean that the other coin types are included in their diet. No mention is made of xorn eating gems. Xorn can smell such metals at 20 feet, and will likely demand that any coins carried by the PCs are handed over.

The colouration of a xorn helps it blend in with rock, and it can actually pass through said rock with no penalty to its movement rate, as though phasing. It takes a round for a xorn to go from fully material to being able to phase through rock, during which time it is said to be "adjusting its molecular structure". Because of these abilities, a xorn has a 5-in-6 chance of gaining surprise.

They are immune to fire and cold spells, and take half-damage from lightning (or no damage on a successful save).  The following spells affect them: Move Earth flings them back, Stone to Flesh and Rock to Mud reduce their AC to 8 for 1 round, and render the xorn unable to attack during that time, and Passwall delivers 11-20 damage. A Phase Door spell cast while the xorn is phasing will kill it outright.

I've never encountered or used a xorn in D&D, and I think I know why. They're specifically designed for the kind of dungeon-exploring, treasure-hoarding sandbox campaign that Gary was running in the mid-70s, as a nuisance monster that can eat the PCs' treasure.  They don't make a lot of sense outside of that context. 

YETI: Yetis first appeared in The Strategic Review #3 and haven't changed a great deal. They still have the same bearhug attack, except that now they hug on a roll of 20 instead of 18 or better. They have also kept the same gaze ability, where anyone surprised by the yeti must make a save vs paralysation, or become rigid with fright, allowing the yeti two free claws and a hug (this ability has been greatly clarified here).  Their camouflage in snowy regions remains unchanged, as does their susceptibility to fire. It's a basic monster, but a good one, and Gary has only done bit of tidying up.

Stat Changes:
Movement: Old - 12", New - 15"; Hit Dice: Old - 4, New - 4+4

ZOMBIE: Zombies first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2. They haven't changed in concept, being animated corpses that follow simple instructions from their masters (clarified to be a dozen words or so). A new addition here is that zombies always strike last in combat. As before they fight until destroyed, but no specific mention is made here of morale checks, as there was in OD&D. Like all undead in the MM, they are now immune to sleep, charm, cold and hold spells, and are damaged by holy water.  The biggest change really comes with their Hit Dice, as the jump from 1 to 2 is a significant one.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 3-30, New - 3-24; Hit Dice: Old - 1, New - 2;

Before I put the Monster Manual to bed, I have a quick word on the updated Treasure Table.  The original Treasure Table from OD&D had treasure categories from A to I.  The new version has those same categories, and although the numbers are often different, the categories follow much the same principles. For example, Treasure Type I, in the original version, has no coins but a good chance for gems, jewelry and magic. In the Monster Manual it is the same, with a small chance for platinum pieces.  Mostly, the categories correspond quite well, and have just been altered to accommodate electrum and platinum pieces, and to split gems and jewelry.

The Monster Manual has added Treasure Types H through Z, which are more specialised. Some are designed for monsters with very little treasure, some to exclude everything but magic, but on the whole they serve a much more specific purpose than those in OD&D.

I'd just like to give a quick word of thanks to everyone who has stuck with this blog.  It's been a long time since I started blogging through the Monster Manual, and a lot has changed in my life since then.  I've taken some long hiatuses, and been fairly erratic, but through all of that there are folks who've been reading and commenting regardless of my unreliability.  Thanks guys!

Next week I'll probably do a quick round-up of the Monster Manual, just to refresh myself on the major additions it made to D&D, and what it's added to my theoretical "Ultimate Sandbox".  Beyond that, I'll just be ploughing ahead much as I did in earlier years.  I think that the next book I'm tackling as an issue of The Dragon, and I'm looking forward to it.  At the very least, it's not going to take me five years.


Jonothan said...

I wonder why Gary disliked wolverines so. Was he a comic reader who hated the X-Men member? Did he run afoul of an actual wolverine on a camping trip? Was it a high school/college sports rivalry?

Anonymous said...

Thank you to you, and congratulations on (almost) the MM.

Yeah, the wolverine thing is funny.

KenHR said...

DUDE! Congrats on sticking with this series 'til the end. I've found almost every entry to be entertaining and interesting. You've unearthed a lot of little tidbits that I'd glossed over the years.

Anonymous said...

Wolverines are Michigan, badgers are Wisconsin. It goes beyond the universities, or at least beyond what people from the coasts would think of as a university rivalry.

I am a bit surprised there's no cracks on goofy gophers, but I guess he was still friendly with Dave Arneson at this point?