Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: The Strategic Review #3

ARTICLES NOT RELATED TO THIS PROJECT: This issue begins with a nice rant by Gary regarding a negative review of D&D - classic Gygax. There's a news section that assures us Empire of the Petal Throne is nearly done, and also gives the odd bit of news that Gary is full-time with the company. There's a humour article featuring new monsters that are so obviously intended as a joke that I won't be using them. An article on the Battle of the Ebro River, and a song about a unicorn round things out.

And now, a whole lot of monsters!

YETI: These white-furred monsters live in the snow and aren't seen much by men - which is lucky for them, because like most D&D monsters Yetis like to eat people. As expected, they're extra-vulnerable to fire. They're also hard to spot, and if they surprise you there's a chance you might look into the beast's eyes and be paralyzed.
It could be hard to get these monsters into the campaign - there aren't too many snowy environments near Greyhawk. But perhaps when I get the PCs up north to Blackmoor (which I intend to do through the Adventurer's Guild portal) I'll throw some in. They'll certainly be a standby for random encounters in snowy areas.

SHAMBLING MOUND: Or as they are otherwise called, "Shamblers". They are basically a giant heap of intelligent, rotting vegetation. There's a bit of biology, noting that the Shambler's brain is right in the centre of its body. They're also resistant to lots of attacks - fire does nothing, cold is only 50% effective, and lightning actually heals them. Even weapons deal half damage, so it's almost as though the creature has 12 to 18 hit dice instead of 6 to 9. Their deadliest feature, though, is their ability to smother and suffocate any foe they hit twice in one round.
Fitting Shambling Mounds in ought to be no problem - swamp or forest encounters will fit, and even some dungeon locations would work.

LEPRECHAUN: Ah, more irritating fey. And these ones are irritating by design, as they like to steal things and frustrate players with their wide array of magical powers and resistances. The only consolation you might get from these annoyances is in tricking them out of their treasure, but even that is hard. Though they do love wine...
Being so specifically Irish makes them a poor fit for D&D at least as I envision it - but I'll enjoy harassing my players with them, so it's all good.

SHRIEKERS: Great purple mushrooms that shriek loudly when light or movement is nearby - attracting monsters of course! I notice here that they can move around - I never knew that. And they are a prized food of Purple Worms and Shambling Mounds, which gives me a pretty good idea of what might be attracted to their shrieking.

GHOSTS: For some reason they are said not to be true undead - but they are the spirits of totally evil humans, and hate all life. The sight of one can age you ten years, and its touch ages you from 10 to 40! Mostly they try to possess you, though, which seems to me a lesser evil. And being incorporeal, they are absolute bastards to hit.
The comment about not being true undead is curious. I can't think of what separates them from something like a Wraith or a Spectre. Perhaps ghosts never crossed over into the land of the dead, and so can't be considered "un"-dead, having never officially died in spirit. Or something.

NAGA: There are three varieties of Naga, all snake-like in body. The Guardian Naga guards treasure for Lawful beings, and can spit poison in addition to being able to cast Cleric spells. Water Naga (the most common sort) usually live in palaces at the bottom of lakes, and can cast magic-user spells. Spirit Naga are evil, and have human heads as well - and they have a gaze that can charm you permanently! And if that doesn't work they can cast both types of spells, so they're not to be messed with.

WIND WALKER: Telepathic wind monsters that live on high mountains or deep caverns. Only other wind creatures (such as Djinn, Aerial Servants, etc,) can melee them, and there is a very limited range of spells that can affect them (mostly weather-based). Storm Giants often force them into servitude.

PIERCER: Unfairly maligned, I think. They are basically monsters shaped like stalactites that cling to the roof and drop on adventurers, attracted by noise and heat. Sure, they're more of a trap than a monster, but I love them in all their nonsensical glory.

LURKER ABOVE: It's a manta ray with a rocky hide that can cling to ceilings to become undetectable. They attack by dropping on victims and smothering them, which seems a good way to take out a few adventurers at once.

That's the new monsters done, but there are a few other articles of interest to follow.

GALLERY OF GUNFIGHTERS: It's an article about gunfighting in the Old West, which is pretty interesting. But why am I talking about it here, in a D&D campaign? Go take a look at the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide - there's a section in there about converting Boot Hill characters to D&D. Boot Hill was TSR's game about the West - and if Gary is providing a method for using it with D&D, then I'll have to find a way to include it in my mega-sandbox. The Adventurer's Guild portal is the obvious answer - I'll hide a key somewhere in Castle Greyhawk that leads to 1885 in the USA, and watch as my players flip out.

DESERTED CITIES OF MARS: We also have an article about the architecture of the races of Barsoom (which we know as Mars). Some rules for Mars were already included in OD&D, so it's already a destination I have planned for. I'll use this article to help design buildings and such.

MAPPING THE DUNGEONS: This is mostly a round-up of some minor D&D happenings, but one report comes from a certain Dave Arneson, and involves a foray his players made into Nazi Germany! Here's the text:

"We had an interesting game this weekend in preparation for the great SUPER-NAZI confrontation. A band of heroes went through the ol’ teleporter, and after mucking around awhile (robbery, kidnapping, murder, rape, etc.) the locals sent the police and army after them. (The Germans thought it was guerrilla activity.) The army finally found the farm they were using as a camp and moved in to search it. While thus busily employed the heroes returned from a foray and ambushed them. It was The Great Svenny, Marty the Elf, Richard the Hairy, and 5 berserkers against 26 soldiers with 2 cars, 2 trucks, 4 light mg’s, 2 mortars (60 mm), and the usual bevy of small arms. Marty the Elf and 2 berserkers were killed, while the troops lost 7 KIA and 1 wounded before fleeing — good thing too, for shortly thereafter the remainder of the heroes’ force arrived, 3 magical types and another 12 berserkers! The Nazis will certainly be back in strength, and this will result in a big battle . . . "

Not only do we learn the names of 3 prominent adventurers of Blackmoor (The Great Svenny, Marty the Elf (who dies), and Richard the Hairy), we learn that somewhere in Blackmoor is a teleporter that leads to Nazi Germany. And not only that, but Gary follows it up with a story of similar goings on around Greyhawk. There's a lot of dimension-hopping hinted at in the last few entries, that's for sure!

TOMORROW: The Strategic Review #4


  1. My reading of Ghosts not being undead is more or less the opposite: Ghosts number among the truly dead. They aren't re-animated by Chaotic magic, they are an "ordinary" supernatural phenomenon.

  2. Ah. I like your interpretation - it involves a lot less bullshittery than mine.

  3. Anonymous1:40 PM PDT

    Nicely designed page.

    Does anyone know what a Wind Walker looks like? What are the limitations on magical items it can use (e.g. no hands = no sword or wand, etc.)

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