Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Monsters & Treasure Part 1

Volume II of OD&D (Monsters and Treasure) is the equivalent of the Monster Manual, combined with the Magic Item chapter from the Dungeon Masters Guide. As you would expect, it details all the monsters in the game, as well as the treasure and magic items. In other words - all of the good stuff.

It doesn't mess about, jumping straight into a great big table that shows the stats of all the monsters in the book. There's not much you need to know about an OD&D monster - how many of them show up, how hard they are to hit, how far they can move, how many hit dice they have, whether they are in their lair, and what treasure they carry. A one line stat block is a thing of beauty.

There's not much else to say on the table just now, except that the Number Appearing can be absurdly high. 30-300 Goblins? There's a note that these numbers are used primarily for outdoor encounters, and a cryptic instruction to increase or decrease according to the party concerned, but those are still some high numbers. I'll have to wing it for dungeon encounters, I think.

There's a bit about Special Abilities after that that says some monsters will have the abilities listed in Chainmail, unless that's contradicted by D&D - I'll be noting those additions as we go through. It also includes this exceedingly gamist rule: any man or monster can see in total darkness in the dungeons, except for player characters. It's a lovely way to hose your players, but it doesn't make a lot of logical sense. Luckily OD&D has a ready made place for things that make no logical sense - the Underworld. So I'll be using this rule for megadungeons like Castle Greyhawk and Blackmoor, but in regular dungeons of normal size only those monsters specifically noted as able to see in the dark will be able to.

This is followed by a note on Attack/Defense, which states that a monster fighting normal men gets one attack for each of its hit dice. Fair enough, but now we need to define what counts as a normal man. Is it just those monsters specifically mentioned as being equal to normal men, or is it any humanoid of 1 hit die or less? I'm leaning to the latter, even though that seems to include 1st level Clerics and Magic-Users. Better make sure you have a Fighting-Man handy - that extra +1 hit point can be a life-saver!

And now the monsters, beginning with a somewhat bloated entry for different varieties of men. I'm a big believer in having ready made stats for different types of humans - 3e fumbled the ball majorly on this score. OD&D has the majority of types needed, though.

BANDITS: Though it doesn't say so, these are your bog-standard robber types. They fight as normal men, but often have high-level leaders - a fight with bandits could end up including an 11th level M-U... The rest of the entry goes on to detail weapons and armor used. Not much fluff here, except to note that the wilderness surrounding the City of Greyhawk must be pretty lawless.

BERSERKERS: Warriors mad with battle-lust who never check morale and get +2 to hit. There's no indication whether they are a culture-specific thing or not, so I figure there are berserkers pretty much everywhere.

BRIGANDS: Chaotic Bandits with higher morale. And a cooler name.

DERVISHES: These guys are interesting - berserk nomadic religious fanatics! Always led by a Cleric, and always Lawful. These are my new favorite humans, even despite the alignment.

NOMADS: Your regular desert raiders. They're much like Bandits, but with a lot more mounted troops.

BUCCANEERS: Bandits on the water. There sure are a lot of Bandit variants... I guess the ocean is lawless as well.

PIRATES: Chaotic Buccaneers. Slightly redundant, but when they take up a single line in the book I can't begrudge their piratey ways.

CAVEMEN: Cavemen! Awesome - I can never get enough primordial human throwbacks in my D&D. These guys are tougher than other men, but also a bit cowardly. Does this mean that Greyhawk followed similar evolutionary lines to Earth? Possibly, though there are a ton of other possible explanations for these guys.

MERMEN: Similar to Berserkers, strangely enough... I generally think of Mermen as peaceful types, but these are bloodthirsty warriors, apparently, which is far superior. They're weaker on land thah they are in the sea, though.

And now it's humanoid time! The monsters in the book are handily arranged into sub-categories of sorts, which helps me break them down for daily posting. They even start near the bottom and go up in power (aside from a little Goblin/Kobold mix-up).

There's a good level of redundance in the D&D humanoids, but I don't care, because each one of these critters is near and dear to my own heart. Besides, this is in the days before monsters got class levels and all that business. You start fighting Goblins and Kobolds, then you move up to Orcs and Hobgoblins, then to Gnolls, then to Ogres, then to Giants. It's a natural progression of slaughter!

GOBLINS: These guys are described here as "small monsters", so once again we're left to our own devices or an assumed knowledge of Tolkien. They can see in the dark, but take a penalty to attack and morale in daylight. Their hatred for dwarves is established, as they'll attack them on sight.

There's also a note that goblins found in their lair will be led by a Goblin King. I think it's great that every single goblin tribe, regardless of size or importance, has a leader that thinks he's king. Do they believe they are king of the entire race? It's certainly more fun that way.

There are no changes from Chainmail for these guys, which is great for me.

KOBOLDS: Treated as Goblins, but with less hit points. So they aren't little dog men yet. There's no mention of Kobolds hating Gnomes, though, as there was in Chainmail, but I'll be keeping that around as a way to make them a little different. Possibly it's that there are no Gnome PCs, so it wouldn't ever come up in play.

ORCS: The defining feature of Orcs (and one I've never seen used in-game) is that they each belong to a tribe, and the different tribes generally hate each other. They are most often found in caves, but occasionally they'll be found in villages with palisades and catapults and a central tower - so they're civilized enough to understand military fortifications, at least.

Their potential leaders are also very strong - 9th level Fighters? 11th level M-Us? Ogres and Trolls? A Dragon?!? And that's random, folks. Attack an orc lair at your peril.

There's also a good chance wandering orcs will be escorting a wagon train full of gold, which makes them very worthwhile to beat up on. Where does all this gold come from, I wonder? They must be pretty successful as raiders.

It's noted that they have penalties in sunlight like a Goblin. From Chainmail they get the ability to see in the dark.

HOBGOBLINS: Bigger Goblins, basically. They're fearless as well, which I like - it fits with the militarized vibe they get later. Hobgoblin tribes also have a king, just like their smaller cousins.

GNOLLS: A cross between Gnomes and Trolls! This doesn't fit at all with the hyena-men they would later be portrayed as. But you know what? I'm going to roll with it - it's too bizarre to attribute even to D&D sages. Campaign Fact: Gnome + Troll = Hyena-Man. They also get a bonus to morale, which I'm going to say is battle lust, because the only thing cooler than a Hyena-Man is a Berserker Hyena-Man.

OGRES: Large and fearsome men ranging from 7 to 10 feet tall. They do a massive +2 to damage! Sarcasm aside, that's a big bonus in OD&D, considering that PCs don't get any damage bonuses from Strength. They always carry 100 to 600 gp when wandering, so it's always worthwhile to kill these guys. But much like the Orcs, I wonder where it all comes from.

From Chainmail they can see in the dark.

TROLLS: Thin, rubbery, and able to regenerate - oh how I love them. I can't wait for my son to grow old enough to play - I'm carefully concealing the information that Trolls can only be killed by fire and acid. Finding that bit of info out during play is a quintessential part of the D&D experience.

They're also as strong as an Ogre, but they fight with talons and fangs, so they don't get a bonus to damage. Bah.

From Chainmail they can see in the dark. There's stuff about them being killed in combat only by Heroes, Giants, Dragons and Elementals, but that's short-hand for the fire-and-acid thing I say (or possibly they are the guys who can damage a troll enough that it won't get up again before the fight is over). They always fight alone, but that's no fun for D&D, so in the campaign that's just a battlefield thing - possibly commanders don't like having masses of loathsome trolls in their employ. They never check morale - and that is fun for D&D so I keep it!

GIANTS: As in Chainmail giants can throw rocks like a catapult. They also deal 2d6 damage, which in OD&D is massive. Wandering Giants carry 1,000 to 6,000 gp in sacks, which again is a lot of money - does this mean that every single giant on the face of the planet owns that much? It's something to ponder.

There are the five classic varieties, from weakest to strongest: Hill Giants, Stone (who can throw rocks further), Frost (immune to cold), Fire (immune to fire), and Cloud (keen sense of smell, for extra Jack-and-the-Beanstalk action). Hill and Stone Giants live in caves, while the rest live in castles.

Hill Giants are the most common, which is lucky for everyone else, really. Giants often keep pets, with wolves, bears, and hydras (!) the most common. I have to remember that - I've used Giants frequently, but I always forget to give them a menagerie, and a Fire Giant with a few pet hydras is too awesome to ignore.

Again, Chainmail gives them the ability to see in the dark.

Tomorrow I'll be tackling the Undead, monsters that turn you to stone, and various other mythological beasties.

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