Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas, all

This one is for commentor Dwight Divine, who was looking for the Christmas message on the back cover of The Dragon #11.  Here it is!  A hearty 'merry Christmas' from the crew at TSR circa 1978, and a hearty BAH HUMBUG from me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 18

Giants: There are six types of giants detailed in the Monster Manual: Cloud Giants, Fire Giants, Frost Giants, Hill Giants, Stone Giants and Storm Giants. The first five debuted in OD&D, while Storm Giants were first seen in Supplement I.

The first thing that leaps to my attention is that giants are said to have Strength scores ranging from 19 to 25. This is the first time we have seen mention of ability scores greater than 18. I don’t think these scores get detailed until the Player’s Handbook, but they're factored into the giants' stats in a vague sort of fashion.

There’s a method given here for determining the stats of young giants. You simply roll percentile dice, and the percentage rolled is how close to fully grown the giant is. Their hit points and damage are adjusted by the percentage rolled. This seems like a good enough solution to work for just about any monster, and I’m going to use it for monsters where this stuff is not already detailed (i.e. dragons have the whole age category thing going on, so I wouldn’t do it for them).

Giants have gotten poorer on average, it seems. In OD&D, a giant always carried with it a sack containing 1000 to 6000 gold pieces. Now they carry 1000 to 6000 coins, which could be anything from copper to silver to gold to platinum.

Cloud Giant: Cloud Giants are now encountered in smaller groups than they were in OD&D, have a better Armor Class, move faster, and have just a few more hit points on average. In OD&D they were either Neutral or Chaotic, but now they are Neutral with either good or evil tendencies.

Giants were pretty sparsely detailed in OD&D, so we get a lot of new info here. Firstly, we learn that some Cloud Giants actually live on clouds, which cements them as being inspired by Jack and the Beanstalk. In OD&D all giants had a chance to have pets, those being hydras, bears and wolves. These pets have now been individualised for each type of giant, and Cloud Giants get spotted lions. A specific range and damage are provided for the giant’s stone throwing ability, and they can now catch any large stones hurled at them (this applies to all the other giants as well). While previously Cloud Giants had been said to have a keen sense of smell, that has now been translated into a mechanical bonus, as they are very hard to surprise. And logically, given that 10% of Cloud Giants live in the sky, they can now levitate themselves. We also get a physical description for Cloud Giants; they have blue skin and silver hair.

Fire Giant: Fire Giants have a slightly better Armor Class, but are otherwise statistically similar. Neutral or Chaotic in OD&D, they are now Lawful Evil. They are still immune to fire (and this includes red dragon breath, so I’d extend it to pretty much any fire there is). Their pets of choice are hell hounds. They have black skin and red beards.

Frost Giant: Frost Giants have a very small amount of extra hit points, and their alignment has changed from Neutral or Chaotic to Chaotic Evil. They are also a little shorter on average (15’ instead of 18’). They keep winter wolves as pets. They’re immune to all cold attacks, including dragon breath, just like they were in OD&D. They have dead white skin and blue or yellow beards.

Hill Giant: Hill Giants now appear in greater numbers, and get a couple of extra hit points. They’re also a little shorter on average than they were (10½ feet instead of 12). As guards they keep dire wolves, giant lizards, or ogres. These guys are coloured pretty much like humans, and that’s basically what they are – very big dumb humans with clubs.

Stone Giant: Stone Giants have gotten a major boost to Armor Class – from 4 to 0. It looks like the ‘Stone’ part is starting to apply literally. They could be Neutral or Chaotic in OD&D, but now their alignment is listed as Neutral. Like most of the other giants, they’ve shrunk on average, from 15 feet tom 12 feet tall. They keep cave bears as pets. In OD&D Stone Giants used the heavy catapult rules for stone throwing, as opposed to the regular catapult that all the other giants used. Here they’ve retained their rock-throwing proficiency, getting a better range and damage than everyone else. They’re also better at catching rocks than the others as well. And I like how they are described as playful, like they throw rocks at people just for kicks (it reminds me of the Stone Giant scene from The Hobbit, actually). They have gray-brown skin that helps them blend into rocky surroundings, but aren’t given a surprise bonus or anything for it.

Storm Giant: Storm Giants are now encountered in smaller groups, but they have a better Armor Class and a few more hit points. Their alignment has changed from Lawful to Chaotic Good. They’re shorter on average than they were, going from 24 feet to 21 feet. They keep rocs and griffons as pets, and may even use a roc as a mount. Some storm giants live underwater, and they may have sea lions. Surprisingly, storm giants couldn’t cast lightning bolts in OD&D – but here they can summon an 8d6 bolt once per day. They also get some other new abilities: levitate, predict weather, call lightning, control winds and weather summoning (some of these replace the giant’s old Control Weather ability, which I guess is a spell that doesn’t have that name or doesn't exist in AD&D). They’re now immune to electrical attacks. Physically, they have green or purple skin, with green, blue or purple hair.

Monday, December 06, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 17

Giant Gar: Gar were first mentioned in OD&D as companions for Nixies.  And I tell you, the stats here make any encounter with Nixies a darn sight deadlier.  Giant Gars can also swallow opponents whole on an attack roll of 20, with a 5% chance per round that the swallowed character will die.
Gargoyles: Gargoyles first appeared in OD&D.  Statistically, there are a few minor changes, but nothing noteworthy.  They're still super-aggressive, even more so than before - instead of a 75% chance, they now have a 90% chance to attack anything they meet.  And now they like to torture their prey to death, so gargoyles aren't getting any more pleasant as the game progresses.

Kapaocinths get a mention. They were introduced in Supplement II, along with a whole host of other superfluous aquatic variations of already existing monsters.  We learn that they dwell in caves in shallow waters.

Gas Spores: It's another 'gotcha' monster designed by Gary to trick his players.  A gas spore is a mindless floating sphere that resembles a beholder.  If struck, it explodes and deals 6d6 damage to anyone within 20 feet.  That's the part I remember.  What I never knew is that if one touches you, it injects you with tiny 'rhizomes' that grow throughout your body and kill you unless you get a cure disease within 24 hours.  If you die, your body sprouts a lot of baby gas spores.  Awesome - I love monsters that turn the PCs into more monsters.

Gas spores are very cool, but their effectiveness has waned over the years, because every player's first instict upon seeing a beholder now is to think that it's a gas spore.  That's probably their best use now - to lull players into a false sense of security before you unleash the real beholders on them.

Gelatinous Cube: Gelatinous Cubes were first mentioned in OD&D, but they didn't get stats until Supplement I.  They now get a greater chance to surprise opponents, and their 'anesthetizing' power now gets a duration.  Cubes used to be immune to cold, but now if they fail a save vs. a cold attack they take 1d4 damage and are slowed.  They also get explicit immunity to sleep and hold spells now.  Oh, and the aquatic Gelatinous Cubes mentioned in Supplement II are not to be seen here.

Ghast: I'm kind of shocked that Ghasts are making their first appearance here.  A ghast is like a ghoul, but tougher.  It has more hit dice, and the same paralysing touch (that even works on elves).  Their main ability is their stench, which causes anyone who fails a save vs. poison to attack at -2.  They have the standard undead immunities, but cold iron weapons deal double damage to them.  They are also said to be often used as slaves by demons, so I wonder if they have some sort of demonic pedigree.  Demons are the only other monsters I can think of that are affected by cold iron.

Ghost: Ghosts first appeared in The Strategic Review #3.  They are basically the same monster, with a few minor tweaks.  Characters of over 9th level are no longer immune to their aging attack, though those of over 8th get a +2 to their saving throw.  And whereas before 5th level clerics were immune, now it is 6th level clerics.  They can also now be struck by silver weapons when semi-materialised, though they only deal half damage.  And they can only be hit by spells from an ethereal caster.

Ghoul: Ghouls first appeared in OD&D, and they are so rad that all Gary had to change was their bite damage (from 1d4 to 1d6).  The more I read, though, the more I become convinced that ghouls are not 'dead' in the way that other undead are.  They feel more to me like humans warped and twisted by their corpse-feeding tendencies.

Lacedons, the aquatic ghouls mentioned in Supplement II, are also present.

Friday, December 03, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 16

Flightless Bird: Honestly, I’m disappointed. Gary went to the trouble to differentiate Asian and African Elephants, but he’s lumped emus and ostriches together. Anyway, flightless birds first appeared in Supplement III on the wilderness encounter tables, but this is the first time they get stats. Actually, I was wrong about Gary above, because ostriches get 3 hit dice, emus get 2, and rheas get 1. They’re non-aggressive and will run away, but might peck you if cornered.

You know, I’m not so sure about that non-aggressive bit. I’ve been around emus that have become acclimatised to tourists, and they’re pushy bastards. Especially so if you’ve got a handful of chips.

Giant Frog: There are three types of giant frogs detailed here: the regular sort, killer frogs, and poisonous frogs. The regular sort first appeared in Supplement II. Statistically they have changed very little – just their bite damage, which has gone from a flat 1-10 to a different range based on how many hit dice it has. A lot of space is devoted to their average sizes and weights, because they’re used to determine whether the frog can drag its prey with its tongue and swallow it whole. The tongue works much the same as it did in OD&D, drawing its prey in for a bite attack. But now the bite deals maximum damage. And to top it off, they can swallow their prey whole on a roll of 20, and any victim so caught has 3 rounds to get out before dying. Their leap ability has been decreased in distance, but they now get a bonus to surprise. All in all, these guys have gotten a pretty serious upgrade in deadliness.

Killer frogs are smaller, but they have teeth and talons, and love to eat people. And each other apparently, as they’re cannibals. These guys are said to be specially bred mutants, which fits very well with the Temple of the Frog scenario from Supplement II. I guess the killer frogs there flourish even after the temple gets put out of business.

Poisonous frogs are exactly that – smaller frogs that secrete a weak poison from the skin. Not too weak, because the poison is fatal – you just get a bonus to the saving throw.

Violet Fungi: It’s another new monster. They’re purple mushrooms that hide in with shriekers (the mushrooms that make a loud noise when you approach). If you get too close they flail about with tentacles. If these tentacles hit they supposedly rot flesh in a single melee round, but nothing is said about what effect this has. Instant death? Or is it the same as mummy rot? I’d be inclined to support the latter, less deadly version.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of hiding them with shriekers is.  Once players have figured out what shriekers are, they tend to stay away, and if they don't go near the big mushrooms the violet fungi can't do much of anything.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 15

Elephants: Elephants first appeared in the wilderness encounter tables in Supplement III. These are the plain old Earth variety, though ever-thorough Gary provides different stats for Asian and African Elephants (which doesn’t amount to more than a hit dice of difference). These guys are brutal death machines, though. I don’t know what a real elephant does in a fight, but I doubt he’s goring people with his tusks, trampling them, and grabbing someone else with his trunk and squeezing them to death. But this is D&D, where every animal must double as a potential monster. And in true Gygaxian fashion (and not without real-world precedent) you can sell their tusks on the market.

Elves: Their Number Appearing stat has decreased, so it looks like the elven population is thinning out, but otherwise their stats are the same. The high-level NPCs that can be encountered with a group of elves have been greatly expanded on. It’s said that they use Giant Eagles as guards for their lairs, which is new. A breakdown of the typical weapons they carry is provided, and it’s mostly swords and bows. Some bands have female fighters mounted on unicorns, which is pretty cool. We also learn that elves live for about a dozen centuries.

Aquatic elves are detailed. They first appeared in Supplement II, and have barely changed at all from there.

Drow Elves. Yes, this is their first appearance. They are presented here as legendary dwellers beneath the earth, with black skin and evil disposition. They’re said to be weak fighters and strong magic-users. So yeah, it’s at about this point that I’ll start to seed clues about the drow in my campaign.

Grey Elves, also known as faerie, live in the meadows and are aloof bastards. And here we get the first ability score bonus in the game, as these guys get a +1 to Intelligence. They ride around on hippogriffs and griffons. Some have silver hair and amber eyes. Others have golden hair and violet eyes, and these are the ones called faeries. They’re just elves but better, basically.

Half-elves are treated in some detail. They can now become multi-classed as fighter/magic-user/clerics, which I don’t think was possible in OD&D, unless I’m misreading the rules. We also learn that they can live for 250 years.

Wood elves are also called sylvan elves. Like Grey Elves they get an ability score bonus – this time it’s a +1 to strength – but they can’t have an Intelligence higher than 17. They pal around with giant owls and lynxes.

Poor old high elves don’t get an entry. But given that they’re the default setting, they’ll be along soon enough in the Player’s Handbook.

Ettins: I’m shocked to find out that Ettins are appearing here for the first time ever. An ettin is a dirty big giant with two heads. That’s their only distinguishing feature, and it makes them hard to surprise, but this is probably more of a role-playing monster than an interesting combat encounter. Anything you can do in a combat with ettins can already be accomplished with ogres or hill giants. The real fun with ettins is in role-playing their multiple heads arguing and such. They are said to be closely related to orcs.

Floating Eye: These guys are much the same as they were in Supplement II – fish that hypnotise large prey, wait for a big fish to eat the helpless prey, then feed off the scraps.  One of the many hazards of underwater exploration, I guess.

Eye of the Deep: Another new monster, the Eye of the Deep is an underwater beholder. It’s power is considerably less, though, as it only has a few effects to cast from its eyes. The central eye emits a dazzling cone, the eyestalks cast hold person and hold monster, and both stalks together can create illusions. They’re just like beholders in temperament, being aggressive and hateful. Like underwater Daleks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 14

Giant Eagles: As far as I can tell, this is the first appearance of Giant Eagles in D&D. These are big buggers, with a 20’ wingspan. They live in the mountains, and get a whole lot of special abilities. They’re only surprised in their lairs or at night. They can make dive attacks with a bonus to hit and double claw damage. They even have their own language, and can speak telepathically (probably handy when the only thing you have to make sounds with is a beak, though it never seemed to stop my grandpa’s cockatoo). Even though they’re neutral, they tend to ignore good creatures and attack hostile evil creatures, and they get on well with certain elves and dwarves.

Ear Seekers: It’s another new monster, and the latest example of the D&D arms race in action. Quite a few classic D&D monsters were created by Gary to directly counter tactics employed by players in his game, and this is one of them. Ear seekers are small insectoids that live in wood, and they like to lay their eggs in warm places. Like your ear. Of course when the eggs hatch the larvae will eat the surrounding flesh, which kills the host 90% of the time (I’m surprised that survival chance is there, actually). The eggs can be destroyed with a cure disease spell, but there’s nothing to indicate whether a PC will notice the eggs being laid in his ear. I’d be inclined to err on the side of mercy here.

It’s not mentioned in the description here, but the primary purpose for ear seekers was to stop PCs listening at doors all the time. Who wants to press their ear up against a wooden door when there could be an ear seeker just ready to climb on in there?

Eel: There are three varieties of Eel described here: Electric, Giant and Weed. Giant Eels and Weed Eels made their debut in Supplement II. There’s been some obvious retooling here, though, because in Supplement II the Giant Eels had an electric shock attack. Now the Giant Eel doesn’t have that attack, but the Electric Eel does. So in a way all three types have already appeared, at least in spirit.

Electric eels are new as I mentioned above, and their sole interesting feature is their electric attack.

Honestly, the Giant Eel might as well be a totally new monster. It has gone from 1+4 hit dice to 5 hit dice, and none of the other stats match up at all. It’s just a big brute with a bite attack, basically.

Weed Eels are fairly similar to their original appearance. They’re still found in large numbers, living in a network of tunnels. In Supplement II they had an absurd bite that automatically killed the target struck. Gary has fixed that nonsense right up, giving them a poisonous bite, save or die of course. They’re still deadly, but now it’s within the parameters of the game rules.

Efreeti: These fire-based genies first appeared in OD&D, and they haven’t changed a great deal here. Their Armor Class has improved from 3 to 2. In OD&D their alignment tended towards Chaotic, but here they are Neutral, with Lawful Evil tendencies. They now specifically are said to come from the Elemental Plane of Fire, whereas OD&D said they live in the fabled City of Brass. That citadel is now located in the Plane of Fire, said to be ruled by a Sultan served by all sorts of nobles (pashas, deys, amirs, valis, maliks, etc.). I’ll have to look up those titles to get a suitably middle-eastern flavour into my Efreeti. They can also travel the Material, Elemental and Astral Planes, though I question if that means they can go through any of the Elemental Planes without hindrance. Surely the Plane of Water would cause an Efreet some trouble.

An Efreeti can still captured and forced to serve for 1,001 days, but the capturer can trade that in for three wishes instead (of course, the efreeti will try and twist the wish as far as possible). As well as the newfound ability to grant wishes, they now get a number of new spell-like abilities: detect magic, enlarge, polymorph self, produce flame and pyrotechnics. They are also specifically said to be immune to normal fire, and less affected by magical fire. Believe it or not, this wasn’t mentioned as part of their entry in OD&D. They can also communicate with any creature telepathically, which seems to be kind of a given so far for natives of the Planes. Oh, and they can’t carry as much as they could before.

Elemental: Elementals first appeared in OD&D, and the same four types appear here: Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Now that the D&D cosmology has been worked out, they are dutifully located in their respective Elemental Planes. Their description here as ‘strong but relatively stupid’, and the presence of more intelligent elemental type monsters, makes me wonder about the actual nature of the basic elementals. I had always thought of them as the dominant force in their home planes, but perhaps they are more like wild animals or destructive forces, nuisances or slaves for the Djinni and Efreeti.

The first big difference is with the number of elementals someone can summon in a day. In OD&D, only one of each type can be summoned per day; and that’s overall, not per character. If your opponent summons a Fire Elemental, then stiff cheddar, because you won’t be able to do so until the next day. AD&D has made things much more lenient. Each character can summon one elemental of each type per day (regardless of what other characters have done). In addition, there are three different means by which to summon elementals (with a spell, a staff, or another summoning device). You can summon multiples of the same type of elemental, so long as you use different means. So if you’ve got a summon elemental spell, a staff of elemental summoning and a brazier of elemental summoning you can bring in three fire elementals if you want. (To be honest, I preferred the OD&D way. It was less complicated and has a lovely arcane air about it.)

Elementals now don’t attack automatically if their summoner loses concentration; it’s changed to a 75% chance. If the elemental doesn’t attack it just goes back to its home plane. Even if it does, it now only goes on the rampage for 3 turns before taking its bat and going home. There’s one awesome new touch, in that an opposing caster can try and wrest control of an elemental away with a dispel magic spell. It’s very risky, though, because if the attempt fails the elemental gets much stronger, and if it gets out of control it will come right for the guy who cast the dispel magic. Even so, it’s so cool I don’t think I could resist trying it.

Elementals are still only affected by weapons of +2 or greater, as introduced in Supplement I. And like in that Supplement, they can also be hit by creatures of 4 hit dice or more, or those with magical ability. That ‘magical ability’ is clarified here, to include monsters with paralysis, poison, acid, breath weapons, and those who are only hit by magic weapons.

Air Elemental: Their damage range has increased from 2-16 to 2-20. They still get combat bonuses when attacking from the air. In OD&D that bonus was a +1 to damage, but now they get a +1 to attack and a +2 to damage. The effect of their whirlwind attack has been greatly clarified. In OD&D it simply ‘swept away’ creatures of under 2 hit dice, with no explanation of what that meant. Now the ‘swept away’ effect works on creatures of up to 3 hit dice, and kills them outright. It deals damage to all other non-flying creatures, which was also not specified in OD&D. There’s also a new rule about the lessened effectiveness of whirlwinds that aren’t able to achieve their full height.

We also discover that there are more intelligent varieties of air elemental that possess special abilities beyond those given above. It’s possible that this is a reference to djinn, but I doubt it. They are also said to have a queen with great power and magical ability.

Earth Elemental: Earth Elementals are still restricted from passing through water, but at least now it is said that they can tunnel underneath. As before they score less damage to creatures who aren’t on the ground, though the penalty is expressed differently (before the number of dice rolled was cut, now there is a -2 penalty to each roll). Otherwise they’re the same. The only piece of new information is that they supposedly have an enormous ‘boss’ on the Elemental Plane of Earth. Yes, a boss.

Fire Elemental: These guys haven’t changed a bit. Apparently, their leader on the Elemental Plane of Fire is known as the Tyrant.

Water Elemental: First up, let it be known that you can now summon a Water Elemental from a barrel of ale. Little else has changed, and their leader is supposedly a god-like king.  But man, Ale Elementals.  I've found my favourite obscure bit of rules trivia for AD&D.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 13

Dragonne: Hey, a new monster! These guys are a cross between a brass dragon and a lion. Their origins aren’t explained here, but I suppose a wizard did it. It’s a shame the dragon involved here isn’t the Bronze variety, because we’ve already established that they transform into other animals for a lark. Perhaps brass dragons do the same sometimes, and mate with lions while doing so? It’s noted that Dragonnes can speak the languages of Brass Dragons and Sphinxes, so perhaps the crossbreed is with those two species, and not lions after all? I think that’s a much more interesting possibility

These guys are pretty tough critters (9 hit dice) and their major attack is a roar which can weaken or deafen itheir prey. They have an Armor Class listed as 6/2, which goes unexplained in the text. Perhaps they have an AC of 6 for their lion parts, and 2 for their dragon parts?

Finally, I find the pronunciation for these guys problematic at the table. I’ve always said it like Dragon, with a greater emphasis on the second syllable. Dra-GON instead of DRA-gon. It sounds a little silly to be honest, and could cause confusion at the table. But I've never actually used one, so it hasn't come up.

Dragon Turtle: Yay! I love Dragon Turtles. They first appeared in OD&D Vol. 3, in the section for underwater encounters. I don’t think they’ve appeared since then, but I could be wrong. Their Armor Class has now improved from 2 to 0. Their Hit Dice range has increased from 11-13 to 12-14. They still have the same cloud of steam breath weapon, but now it’s dimension are more like a cloud than the red dragon’s cone. Previously they could always capsize ships, but now they have a percentile chance based on the ship’s size. Other than that they are the same, and we also get some info on their colouration and learn that they have their own language.

Dryad: Dryads first appeared in OD&D, as beautiful tree sprites with a penchant for enchanting charismatic men. A few significant things have changed about them, beginning with a drop in their Armor Class from 5 to 9, which is very steep. They are still confined to the area around their specific tree, but that area has increased from 24” to 36” (remember that the “ symbol in D&D does not refer to inches, but tens of feet). They now get the ability to use dimension door to return to their tree, which they didn’t have before. Their 50% magic resistance is also new. They still have the same charm ability, but now will generally only use it on men with a high Charisma (16+), and there’s a chance that said victim could return after 1-4 years instead of being gone forever.

Perhaps the older Dryads were a different variety, with a more bark-like appearance to account for their higher AC? The new variety aren’t yet so attuned to their trees, and so they can move farther away and use other trees to travel.

Dwarf: Dwarves first appeared in OD&D, both as a monster and player character race. They haven’t changed much at all here. It’s interesting to note that they can become psionic – that was not possible under the psionics rules in Supplement III. They get a greater range of high level characters when encountered in large numbers, and their choice of weapons and armour is described in greater detail (it’s mostly axes and hammers, but there’s a surprisingly large percentage that wield swords). They now get a +1 to attacks against goblins, orcs and hobgoblins, which I believe is new. They still get a defensive bonus against Giants and Ogres and the like, but whereas before it was expressed as them taking half damage from blows, now their attackers suffer a -4 penalty to hit. Otherwise, things are much the same as they were in OD&D. (Note, though, that a lot of things have changed from the article on Dwarves in The Dragon #3. I had explained that with the discovery of a ritual by which the dwarves strengthened their ties to their ancient bloodlines, but I guess that either the ritual only affected a limited number of dwarves, or it wore off eventually.)

There is also some extra detail on Mountain Dwarves (with Hill Dwarves being the default type). Generally they are bigger, get an extra hit point, and use fewer crossbows and more spears.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 12

Bronze Dragon: Also known as Draco Gerus Bronzo. We know from their first appearance in Supplement I that they live near the sea and can polymorph into animals. This book adds that they are beneficent, and take animal form to observe humans. They still get the same breath weapons: a lightning bolt and a cloud of repulsion gas that forces the targets away from the dragon. Their alignment could previously be Lawful or Neutral (with a greater likelihood of the former) but now they are Lawful Good. Their damage has been tweaked from 1-4/1-4/3-24 to 1-6/1-6/4-24. There’s less chance you’ll find one in its lair than before, but they now have more treasure. It’s slightly more likely that they are able to talk, less chance you’ll find one sleeping, and more likely that they can cast spells.

Chromatic Dragon: Or Tiamat, for those of you more familiar with the D&D cartoon. The queen of dragons is a gigantic creature with five heads, one for each colour of evil dragon. She first appeared in Supplement I. She still has 16 hit dice, but also a fixed total of 128 hit points. She’s almost always in her lair, and she gets four different treasure types all at 100% of the possible totals – that is a hell of a lot of treasure. She gets five bite attacks, each one doing the damage listed under the appropriate dragon type. Disappointingly though, she can now be encountered while asleep, whereas before she never slept at all. In Supplement I her lair was said to be a stupendous cavern beneath the earth, but here she rules the first plane of the Nine Hells. She is also said to spawn all of evil dragonkind, which is an origin I’ve never seen before. I like it, though – it makes Tiamat that much more important. She can also now travel Astrally or Ethereally, which I suppose is necessary for her occasional forays into the Prime Material Plane. The rules for her breath weapons are clarified – she doesn’t do damage based on her own hit points, but on the maximum total for a huge ancient dragon of the appropriate type. She can also only use each breath weapon once per day. I understand not wanting to make Tiamat too powerful, but the monster lover in me sighs with disapproval. It’s frickin’ Tiamat, you know? That’s not the monster to be pulling your punches on. There are also now rules for disabling each head, with a mere 16 hit points required to put each one out of commission.

Copper Dragon (Draco Comes Stabuli): These guys first appeared in Supplement I. Their stats haven’t really changed, except that they now have a smaller chance of being able to speak, a greater chance of being able to cast spells, and a smaller chance to be found asleep. In OD&D they could be Lawful or Neutral, but now they are Chaotic Good. Their breath weapons remain unchanged: they can breathe a line of acid or a cloud of gas that slows the targets. In OD&D we learned that Copper Dragons live in arid rocky places, and that is still true. We now learn that they are rather selfish, and tend towards neutrality where personal gain is concerned.

Gold Dragon (Draco Orientalus Sino Dux): Gold Dragons first appeared in OD&D. Their damagr ange has increased, with claws going from 1-4 to 1-8, and bite going from 3-36 to 6-36. They have less chance of being able to speak, but their chances of spellcasting and being found asleep have not changed. They were Lawful in OD&D, and now they are Lawful Good. They still have breath weapons of fire and chlorine gas, and they can still polymorph themselves. The only other thing we learn about them is that they use jewels and pearls as nourishment. So they eat gems? That’s cool.

Green Dragon (Draco Chlorinus Nauseous Respiratorus): These Latin names are starting to get ridiculous. I’m imagining them as something that might pop up under the dragon when the action pauses, as in the Road Runner cartoons.

Their stats have changed very little. Their claw damage has gone up from 1-4 to 1-6. They were previously Neutral of Chaotic, but now they are Lawful Evil. They have less chance of being able to speak, and a greater chance to be able to cast spells. Otherwise they’ve changed very little, and still employ a breath weapon of chlorine gas. The note that they are evil and nasty tempered is all we learn about them.

Platinum Dragon: The Platinum Dragon is named as Bahamut for the first time. He now has a fixed hit point total of 168. He gets some stats that were not provided in Supplement I, such as his damage range. There’s a small chance now that you can find him asleep, whereas before the likelihood was 0%. He is still said to dwell in a palace behind the east wind, but now there is some speculation that this could be in the Elemental Plane of Air, or in another plane between it and the Seven Heavens or the Twin Paradises. He can now travel astrally or ethereally. His breath weapons (one that causes gaseous form and another that disintegrates) are now better clarified, and impose a penalty to the target’s saving throw. His spellcasting is slightly less powerful, as he is now limited to 7th level spells when before he could cast up to 8th. Although I just noticed that he can cast cleric and magic-user spells, which evens things out a bit. The entry finishes with an amusing story about Bahamut’s seven gold dragon advisors, and how he once disguised them as canaries while posing himself as an old man. Now there’s an encounter to spring on your players…

Red Dragon (Draco Conflagratio Horriblis): This dragon’s Armor Class has improved from 2 to -1. It’s claw damage has increased from 1-4 to 1-8. It was previously Chaotic, but is now Chaotic Evil. It has less chance of being able to talk, and a much greater chance of being able to cast spells. They can now cast up to 4th level spells, when before they were restricted to 3rd. Otherwise they haven’t been changed. No sense messing with the classics, is there?

Silver Dragon (Draco Nobilis Argentum): Their damage range has increased from 1-4/1-4/3-30 to 1-6/1-6/5-30. They could previously be Lawful or Neutral, bit now they are Lawful Good. They have slightly less chance to be able to speak. They are otherwise unchanged, except for the one thing no other dragon has: there’s a chance that they may have a spell book, which will grant them a greater range of spells to use.

White Dragon (Draco Rigidus Frigidus): Their Armor Class has worsened from 2 to 3. They were previously Neutral or Chaotic, but are now Chaotic Evil. Their chances of speaking are less, and they now have a slight chance to be able to cast spells (in OD&D, they had no spellcasting abilities). There are no other changes from OD&D.

Yeah, I got lazy with this near the end. I’m kind of sick of dragons at this point, you know?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 11

Dragons: I have to be honest here: I’ve been dreading this entry. It’s big. Part of what makes writing this blog so easy is that I can tackle it in fairly manageable chunks, but this entry is a daunting sucker. I’m going to try and get it out of the way in one go, but don’t be surprised if I bomb out halfway through.

There are still ten varieties of dragon: White, Black, Blue, Green, Red, Gold (all of which debuted in OD&D), Bronze, Brass, Copper and Silver (which first appeared in Supplement I). Tiamat and Bahamut are included as well.

A dragon’s Hit Dice is still linked to its size, which is determined randomly. In OD&D a dragon had a 20% chance of being small, and the same chance to be large. In AD&D the chance is 2-in-8 to be small, and 1-in-8 to be large.

Two new age categories have been introduced as a matter of necessity. In OD&D, the number of hit points a dragon had per hit dice was determined by its age category. Since OD&D used six-sided dice for hit points, there were six categories. Now that the default dice for hit points is eight-sided (and has been since Supplement I), there needs to be eight categories. They are: Very Young, Young, Sub-Adult, Young Adult, Adult, Old, Very Old, and Ancient. Young Adult and Ancient are the two new categories. Note that dragons also have longer life spans now, with the categories from Adult onwards each spanning a greater number of years than they did before.

Dragons have now been explicitly given the ability to detect hidden and invisible creatures due to their keen senses. This was an ability they had from Chainmail that was not mentioned in the D&D rules.

Likewise, the dragon’s fear aura described here is something they had in Chainmail. Any dragon of Adult age or older will cause weaker creatures to flee or be otherwise shaken, with saving throws granted to those of 1 hit dice or above. Creatures over 6 hit dice are immune.

Sleeping dragons are briefly described. They’re always in their lair, will awaken if attacked or if there is a loud noise, and have a 1-in-6 chance to wake up besides that. It seems to me like a party has one round to get their licks in before the dragon wakes up and retaliates, so they’d better make it count.

The chart that lists the resistances of various dragons to certain attack methods is still present, and mostly unchanged. The only difference is that earth-based attacks now get a +1 bonus against Red Dragons instead of a -1 penalty. It’s possible the original was a typo, I guess (or a bad scan on my PDF). Air attacks have been expanded to include attacks from Aerial Servants and Invisible Stalker. Earth now includes Xorn and Umber Hulks. Fire now includes Salamanders. And Water now includes Tritons and Water Elementals.

Dragons still can only use their breath weapon three times a day, but the random chance they will do so has slightly decreased. In OD&D dragons breathed on a roll of 7 or better on 2d6, but now it’s flat 50/50 chance.

Subduing dragons is still a viable tactic. Gary gets on my wrong side almost instantly, though, by saying that silver and gold dragons can’t be subdued. Curse your bias towards good! You also can’t subdue if your intelligence is less than average. I wonder if this applies to PCs as well? I guess it’s rare that a party will be made up completely of characters of Int 8 or less, but you never know.

In OD&D, not more than eight people could attack a dragon at any time, but now that number is based on the dragon’s size, so it could be less or (more probably) greater.  It looks as though the average value of a subdued dragon has gone down. In OD&D they were fetching from 500 to 1,000 gold pieces per hit point, but now they go for 100 to 800 per hit point.

Dragons encountered in multiples are now handled differently based on whether they’re in their lair or not. The make-up is still usually a mated pair of Adults with some Very Young dragons, or eggs if in the lair. The biggest change here is that dragons get a ferocity bonus to hit and damage if defending their mate. In OD&D, they attacked at double value. If the Aerial Servant entry I talked about earlier is anything to go by, this meant that they fought with double hit dice and damage, which is just nasty. The new rule is much more lenient for those fighting multiple dragons, for sure.

In OD&D, there were some vague guidelines about altering the amount of treasure a dragon has based on its age (with younger dragons having less and older ones having more). Those guidelines have now been given concrete values.

There’s a brief bit about dragon weaknesses. They’re generally cowardly (as shown by the subdual rules), egotistical, and greedy. Except for 40% of silver dragons and 80% of gold, who aren’t at all greedy despite the shit-tons of treasure they’re likely to be sleeping on.

Dragon saving throws are weird. Or more accurately, Gary’s wording is a little hard to decipher. If I’m interpreting this correctly, Adult dragons and older (those with 5 or more hit points per hit die) have better than usual saving throws. They divide their total hit points by 4, and that gives the level they save at. So an Adult Black Dragon with 8 hit dice, and thus 40 hit points, would save as if he had 10 hit dice. Sounds reasonable. An Ancient Red Dragon with 11 hit dice, and thus 88 hit points, would save as if he had 22 hit dice. That’s powerful, but not inappropriate for something of that level. Good rule, Gary!

Black Dragon: They’re still swamp-dwellers with an acidic breath weapon. Their Armour Class has lessened from 2 to 3, but their movement rate on land has increased from 9 to 12. There’s only half the chance now that you’ll find one in its lair. Their alignment has changed from Chaotic to Chaotic Evil, but there’s an intriguing note that says they tend towards the mid-point between Chaos and Law – an early indication of the Neutral Evil alignment that will appear when Gary creates the nine-point alignment system. They now have a slightly smaller chance to be able to speak, but a slightly higher chance of being able to cast spells. Spell casting for dragons is clarified, in that it is said to only require the spoken components. Black Dragons can still only cast first level spells, but they now get one for each stage of maturity, rolled randomly, and they can only cast a given spell once per day.

The only other bit of info we get about them is the name Draco Causticus Sputem. The Red Dragon was the only one who got a latin-style name in OD&D, but now all the dragon types get one.

Blue Dragon: They still live in deserts and breathe lightning, and are now identified as Draco Electricus. They’re slightly less likely to be caught in their lair, but they now get more treasure. Their melee damage output has slightly increased, from 1-4/1-4/2-24 to 1-6/1-6/3-24. Neutral or Chaotic in OD&D, they are now Lawful Evil. They have a slightly smaller chance to be able to speak, but a greater chance to be able to cast spells. Previously limited to 1st or 2nd level spells, they can now cast 3rd level spells at the highest age categories.

Brass Dragon: All we know about Brass Dragons from OD&D is that they live in the desert. Here they are described as being quite forward and officious, with a love of conversation. They are selfish, though, which explains their alignment a little bit. Their land speed has increased from 9 to 12. In OD&D they were either Lawful or Neutral, but now they are Chaotic Good with Neutral tendencies. There’s less chance you’re going to find one asleep. Their chances of being able to speak have slightly decreased, but they have more chance to be able to cast spells. They still have two breath weapons: a cone of sleep gas and a cloud of fear gas. It’s now easier to save against the breath weapons of small brass dragons, and harder against the large kinds.

Aaaaand I’m out. I should be able to tackle the rest in my next post, then it’s one more and I’m done with the letter D. It’s all smooth sailing from there!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 10

Displacer Beast: Displacer Beasts (which first appeared in Supplement I) look like pumas with dirty big spiked tentacles on their shoulders, and they also appear 3 feet away from their actual locations due to their ‘molecular vibrations’. They haven’t changed at all from Supplement I, although the description no longer notes that they have six legs (though the illustrations shows them this way). It’s interesting that a pack is always made up of adults. Do they not breed naturally? And they’re also noted as hating all life, which is an odd outlook for a Neutral creature.  But I guess hating ALL life regardless of its alignment could be considered Neutral.  Ah, alignment.  It's a thorny topic for sure.

Djinni: Djinn appeared first in OD&D. They are your classic mythological genie, although the regular types can't grant wishes. Their Armor Class has changed from 5 to 4, and their Hit Dice has had a minor correction from 8+1 to 8+3. They also get an alignment now, of Chaotic Good. Their powers remain basically the same, except that now they are more rigidly defined in terms of duration and effect. Noble Djinn are introduced for the first time. There is a 1% chance that any djinn will be a noble, and these are the guys that can grant you three wishes. We also learn that Djinn come from the Plane of Air, and that their social structure is based on rule by a Caliph, with various noble types like viziers, beys, emirs, sheiks, sherrifs and maliks.

Dog: Wild Dogs were included in the revised Wilderness Encounter Tables from Supplement III. Gary shows some rare restraint with this entry, providing stats for just War Dogs and Wild Dogs. I was kind of expecting a breakdown on about thirty different breeds, but I guess the man does know when to delve and when to gloss.  War Dogs are large dogs trained in combat. Wild Dogs roam the wilderness, and generally won’t attack anyone if they’re well fed. They can be tamed if you get one away from its pack.

War dogs are a fairly regular purchase for low-level PCs trying to get some extra combat power, I’ve found. My take on the whole thing is that these dogs are trained for warfare, not for dungeon exploration. They don’t know how to be sneaky, and they don’t deal well with supernatural phenomena, particularly the undead.  There's nothing like a pack of ghouls to send your dogs into a frenzy.

Dolphin: Dolphins first appeared in Supplement II, but a lot of tweaks have been made to them since then. Their Armor Class has changed from 6 to 5, and they move faster. They now pal around with swordfish and narwhales, and Gary has been kind enough to reel off some quick stats for them. They still hate sharks, and will help humans. But they no longer get telepathy with other dolphins, nor can they detect magic within 50 miles. And alas, there is no longer any mention of fitting dolphins with a war harness. It’s a sad loss to the game, and a rare case of Gary making something less cool.

Doppleganger: First introduced in Supplement I, dopplegangers are shape-changers that often impersonate humanoid creatures. They have changed very little from their original appearance. They do gain the ability of ESP, which is a great aid in their impersonations, I’m sure. And they get a better chance to gain surprise.

If I ever do the classic Doppleganger ambush where it's taken the form of a PC, I'll run it as follows.  Firstly, the PC so impersonated must write his actions for the round on a sheet of paper and hand them to me.  I describe what his character is doing as described in the note, and I do the same for the doppleganger, and that way the other players should have a harder time figuring out which is which.  The player will roll all the dice for himself and for the doppleganger, because I like to keep a player's fate in his own hands so far as the dice go.

I’m going to cut things short here, because the next entry is Dragon. And that one is going to take some doing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 9

Dinosaurs: This is probably not unusual in these parts, but as a kid I was obsessed with dinosaurs. Funnily enough that obsession was superseded by super-hero comics and D&D, but it was there. And for me, dinosaurs are an integral part of any D&D monster collection. Lost worlds filled with prehistoric creatures are a staple of the pulps that the game was founded on, and the game feels incomplete without them.

The entry begins with some information that applies to all the dinosaurs herein. It explains that because the D&D world is magical, all sorts of creatures that never existed together historically can do so here, on a strange plane, alternate world, or lost continent. All dinosaurs are stupid, motivated mostly by hunger. The carnivorous types will attack aggressively, while most herbivores ignore things they can’t eat unless threatened.

Dinosaurs first appeared in the wilderness encounter charts in OD&D. There are a lot covered here statistically, but not much space is given to describing them. With that in mind, I’m only doing a brief run-down myself. Keep in mind that they’re all really tough, with loads of hit dice, and that’s about all you need to know about their stats.

Anatosaurus: Duck-billed plant-eaters that run from attack.

Ankylosaurus: These are the rad dinosaurs with the spiked shell and heavy clubbed tail. They’re aggressive if threatened.

Antrodemus (Allosaurus): Apparently they’re fast, but no other physical description is forthcoming.

Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus): Big dinosaur, long neck, has to live in water to support its weight. Frequently eaten by Fred Flintstone.

Archelon Ischyras: Big marine turtles.

Brachiosaurus: A bigger brontosaurus.

Camarasaurus: A smaller brontosaurus.

Ceratosaurus: A bipedal carnivore with a horn on its nose.

Cetiosaurus: Another type of brontosaurus, with a slightly bigger head. Now I love dinos, but Gary’s getting a little redundant here.

Dinichtys: A very big fish that can swallow a man whole with a natural 20.

Diplodocus: A semi-aquatic type sort of similar to brontosaurus, and at least I remember this guy. They can submerge to a depth of 30 feet.

Elasmosaurus: Long-necked fish-like reptiles. They are carnivorous and aggressive.

Gorgosaurus: A sort of smaller T-Rex.

Iguanadon: A bipedal herbivore with incongruous thumb spikes. If memory serves, I don’t think dinosaur experts give this guy thumb spikes any more. But D&D is firmly rooted in the scientific theories of the 1970s, so science be damned! My Iguanadons have awesome thumb spikes with which they can jank other dinosaurs in the neck.

EDIT: Nope, I had it backwards.  Scientists used to place the spikes on its head, until they figured out they were thumb spikes.

Lambeosaurus: A crested herbivore with very sharp senses.

Megalosaurus: Can walk on all fours or bipedally, and have very large jaws.

Monoclonius: Like a reptilian rhinoceros, with a shield of bone that covers their head and neck. They’ll trample smaller creature that irritate them.

Mosasaurus: Marine dinosaurs that can move very slowly on land with their flippers.

Paleoscincus: This guy is covered in armor plate and spines, with a spiked tail. Any predator that tries to eat one will take damage itself.

Pentaceratops: An aggressive plant-eater with a shield covering its head like the triceratops.

Plateosaurus: Another plant eater. They can walk on two legs to watch for predators, or run quickly on all fours.

Plesiosaurus: Aggressive marine dinosaur with a really long neck.

Pteranodon: The classic aerial dinosaur. They’ll swoop and try to carry prey away in their beaks, or just spear them. And don’t forget Marvel villain Sauron, who was transformed after being bitten by a pterodactyl. It would be pretty awesome to inflict one of my PCs with dinosaur lycanthropy. (Needless to say, that’s not mentioned in the book here.)

Stegosaurus: Ah, now we’re into the classics. An aggressive herbivore with plates along its back and a spiked tail.

Styracosaurus: Another aggressive herbivore with a plate protecting its head. Apparently this one has sharp frills that can cut anyone trying to bite it from behind.

Teratosaurus: A carnivore that runs really fast after anything that looks edible.

Triceratops: The classic shield-covering-the-head guy, with three spikes sticking out the front. They’re super aggressive, and likely to trample smaller creatures.

Tyrannosaurus Rex: Ah, classic. It even has an illustration depicting T-Rex standing completely upright, which is pretty old-school in dinosaur theories. Mostly these days they’re depicted with their heads lower to the ground. And I love the anecdote that these guys are so fierce, they’re likely to swallow the head of a triceratops and then slowly die as the horns pierce its stomach. They can swallow men on a roll of 18 or better.

The only popularly known dinosaur that's missing from here is the velociraptor.  But you know, I don't remember seeing anything about those until the mid-90s and Jurassic Park.  And the raptors in that movie were much larger than the historical version. I guess they just didn't have an impact on popular culture by the 1970s.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 8

Devils: With Demons out of the way, we go straight into their Lawful Evil counterparts, the Devils. Surprisingly, this is the first time that any devils have gotten stats. They’ve been mentioned in a couple of articles as inhabitants of Hell, but that’s it.

The main difference between demons and devils is that devils adhere to a strict hierarchy that they don’t want to break in case they piss off an Archfiend. There’s a lot of rivalry and in-fighting that goes on, but it’s probably more political than what goes on in the Abyss.

Devils can roam Hell, Gehenna, Hades and Acheron at will (though somewhat amusingly, it is said that they dare not do so with out the proper permission). They can also enter the Astral Plane.

As with demons, the most powerful sorts can only be killed in their home plane. They can never be subdued, but can be commanded if the proper precautions are taken (magic circles, contracts, that sort of thing). There’s a very nice bit that says that any greater devil that has its material form destroyed becomes a lemure and is tormented for 90 years before resuming its former station. (More on lemures below.) An Arch-Devil so destroyed is bound to its home plane for 10 years.

Devils have talismans that function similarly to the Demons’ amulets, allowing the bearer to demand service from an Arch-Devil. An evil character using one must make human sacrifices, and even looking at one without the proper protection could summon the devil it is attuned to.

Of all the devils, only Erinyes, Barbed Devils and Bone Devils can be hit by normal weapons. The rest need a silver or magical weapon to be damaged.

All devils have the following spell-like abilities: charm person, suggestion, illusion, infravision, teleport without error, know alignment, cause fear, and animate dead. The inclusion of the charm and suggestion abilities are good flavour for the classic devilish tempters, and the rest are suitable as well. They can also gate in their buddies and speak telepathically, just like demons.

Devils get a number of immunities: half damage from cold and poison gas, and immunity to fire. Unlike demons, iron weapons have no special effect on them (but silver weapons can hit them, as noted above).

Asmodeus: The archetypal ‘handsome devil’, Asmodeus is the absolute ruler of Hell. He lives in a palace at the floor of the lowest rift in Hell’s ninth plane, served by pit-fiends. Apparently he can command all of the arch-devils to come and pay homage to him once per year, which could make for a very tough high level adventure – infiltrate the palace of Asmodeus while all the arch-devils are in attendance!

Asmodeus has a shit-ton of special abilities: pyrotechnics, produce flame, wall of fire, ice storm, wall of ice, continual light, read languages, read magic, detect invisible, locate object, invisibility, dispel magic, hold person, hold monster, mass charm, geas, restoration, raise dead fully (note the OD&D terminology) and shape change. He also has the following abilities derived from magic items: beguile and rulership, and he can fulfil the wish of another being. Presumably he can’t do so for another devil, or the guy would be in charge of every damn thing in the universe already. On top of all that he can use a bunch of symbols and unholy word once a day, and he can summon 2 lesser or one greater devils. His gaze causes fear and weakness, slows you by half and imposes a -5 penalty to all dice rolls. In other words, you’re in trouble.

Not only that, but they guy has a ruby rod that acts as a rod of absorption (lets him absorb and redirect spells), causes serious wounds, and can shoot cold, acid or lightning that acts like a dragon’s breath. And just so you know, the guy has 199 hit points, so good luck surviving that even if you make your saving throw. This thing is worth 1,000,000 gold pieces just based on the gems alone, so god knows what it would be worth if you factor its magic powers in.

Baalzebul (Lord of the Flies): This guy, with his awesome fly-eyes, is the ruler of the sixth and seventh planes of Hell (called Malbolge and Maladomini respectively). Malbolge is said to be ‘a black stone plane, filled with stinking vapors, smokes, fire pits, and huge caves and caverns’. Maladomini is pretty much the same, but it also has moated castles that are home to the Malebranche Devils, and Baalzebul’s own fortress. It’s nice to be getting some details on Hell.

Baalzebul gets basically the same set of special abilities that Asmodeus has, and he can summon 1-4 horned devils. His glance causes fear and weakness, but it doesn’t sock you with that -5 penalty that Asmodeus does.

Barbed Devils: These guys are covered in barbs and spikes, as their name implies. They live in the third and fourth planes of Hell, and are excellent guards due to their inability to be surprised. (The only detail we get about these planes is that there are apparently many cells there.) They cause fear with a blow, and can cast the following spells: pyrotechnics, produce flame and hold person. They can also gate in another barbed devil.

Bone Devil: These skeletal devils live mostly on the fifth plane of Hell (which is presumably icy given the preferences noted in the description below). Their defining trait seems to be cruelty, as they enjoy the suffering of less powerful creatures. In battle they pin opponents with a gigantic hook then sting them with their tail, which drains 1-4 Strength points. We also get the first mention of ultravision, which means they see light in the ultraviolet spectrum. Is this like the Predator? I’m not exactly certain. They can generate fear, create illusion, fly, turn invisible, detect invisible, summon another bone devil, and create a wall of ice.

Dispater: Another Archdevil, Dispater rules the second level of Hell. The level is named Dis, as is the iron city that he rules from. His palace is described as ‘infernally grand’, which is pretty cool. The city of Dis is mostly filled with zombies, erinyes, barbed devils and malebranche. His powers are much like those of Asmodeus above. His rod is much weaker than Asmodeus’, though – it works like a rod of rulership, as well as a staff of striking that deals 4-24 damage.

Erinyes: These female demons are mostly found in Dis, though they are commonly sent forth to gather souls. In combat they use poisoned daggers, and each of them carries a rope of entanglement to capture their prey. They’re very strong and have a number of spell-like abilities – cause fear, detect invisible, locate object, invisibility, polymorph self, produce flame – and they can summon another of their kind.

Geryon: This is yet another Archdevil, who has a humanoid torso on a snake’s body, and he is also called the Wild Beast. He rules the fifth plane of Hell from a huge castle that he rarely ventures out of. He’s very strong, and also has a poisonous tail. He also has a ton of spell-like abilities, most of them the same as Asmodeus. He also has a horn with which he can summon minotaurs. That’s an odd one, but it does make me reconsider just where minotaurs came from.

Malebranche (Horned Devil): These guys kind of look like gargoyles. They live in Hell’s sixth and seventh plane, and seem to occupy an unenviable position – too powerful to escape notice, but not powerful enough to match the stronger devils. They have sort of derogatory names like “Dogretch”, though I doubt these are their true names.

In combat they used pitchforks and whips, which is very classic devil imagery. Their spell-like abilities are pyrotechnics, produce flame, ESP, detect magic, illusion, wall of fire, and they can summon another of their kind.

Ice Devil: These insectoid devils live on the frigid eighth plane of Hell. They get the following spell-like abilities: fly, wall of ice, detect magic, detect invisible, polymorph self, and they can gate in ice devils or bone devils. I’m kind of struggling to see where these guys fit, actually. Given that devil society is supposed to be very structured, I was expecting a bit more detail on how the various types relate to each other. Most of the others are pretty well defined, but Ice Devils are sort of nebulous at the moment.

Lemure: These vaguely humanoid blobs are actually the spirits of the dead who inhabit Hell. They generally exist just to be tortured by the other devils, and they can only be killed permanently by blessed or holy weapons. Some of them get turned into wraiths or spectres after a long time in Hell, which doesn’t sound like a great improvement. It’s not a position with a lot of upward mobility, I’m afraid.

Pit Fiend: Aside from the Archdevils, these guys are the most powerful of the devils. They live in the lowest plane, and are the personal servants of Asmodeus. In combat they wield spiked clubs and ‘an ancus-like weapon’. This is an ancus.

They also have a tail that can constrict, and their strength is equivalent to an ogre.

Spell-like abilities are: pyrotechnics, produce flame, wall of fire, detect magic, detect invisible, polymorph self, hold person, symbol of pain, and they can gate in barbed devils or another pit fiend.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 7

Demons: We kick off the letter D with a bang, rolling right into the section on Demons. I’ve always been a big fan of these guys, much more so than the Devils. I can’t exactly say why, because Devils are pretty awesome in their own right. But come on, Orcus and Demogorgon? Those guys are the best. Demons first appeared in Supplement III. All the ones that appeared there are here as well, with the addition of two Demon Lords, and the lowly Manes.

The section kicks off with some general information that is common to all demons. Much of it is reproduced from Supplement III. The first new bit of information we get is how far they can travel from their home plane of the Abyss. They can freely travel into Tarterus, Hades or Pandemonium, and they can also roam the Astral Plane. They can’t get into the Prime Material Plane without some sort of magical aid.

There’s a line stating that demons can never be subdued, which raises the question of what exactly can be. The rules for subdual are only ever used in reference to dragons, so it wouldn’t be out of line to limit it to them. But if demons are specifically called out as not being subduable, then I suppose the rule does apply to everyone not explicitly excluded.

Also, it is said that demons are able to divide their attacks amongst two or even three opponents at a time. This is how I’ve always played monsters with multiple attacks. Should I be making them use all their attacks on a single target? I’ll need to look out for this once I reach the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Controlling demons is still a difficult affair, but we now get the information that a thaumaturgic circle will keep the lesser demons at bay, while a special pentacle is required for the more powerful types. Nothing further is described, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this shows up in the DMG.

Demon amulets are the same as they were in Supplement III, granting anyone who gets hold of one temporary power over one particular demon. The only addition is that the amulets now allow the demon use of the magic jar ability.

Demons here are given the ability to converse telepathically with any type of creature. I’m pretty sure that is new.

There’s also a list of attack types, and how much effect they have on demons. Cold, lightning, fire, and poison gas all do half damage to demons. Iron weapons are also listed as doing full damage, which I assume means they can affect those demons only hit by magical weapons.  Again, I think that all of this is new.

Demogorgon: Demogorgon is a demon prince, with tentacles for arms and two baboon heads on long necks. He mostly has the same stats he did in Supplement III, but a few tweaks have been made. For starters, Demogorgon used to have 12 hit dice. Now he just gets a flat total of 200 hit points, which is much more impressive. However, despite retaining an impressive suite of spell-like abilities, he can no longer use time stop or shape change, which lowers his power significantly.

Juiblex (The Faceless Lord): Juiblex, described as a festering mass of slime and ooze, is brand spanking new. As a Demon Lord he’s very powerful, but just a step below Demogorgon and Orcus. Juiblex surrounds himself with all kinds of monstrous oozes, and many of his abilities relate to disease and decay. One of his major attacks is to spew forth a slime that combines the effects of ochre jelly and green slime, both of which can be fairly deadly to unprepared characters. He has a gate ability like all other demons, and I like that he uses it to summon the frog-like Type II demons – it seems thematically appropriate. Poor old Juiblex is shunned by other demons, though, being too disgusting even for them.

Manes: Manes are also new to the Monster Manual. They are the spirits of those dead who go to the Abyss. It is said that the most evil are confined in Gehenna, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me based on what we’ve learned already in previous products. Gehenna is much closer to Hell than it is to the Abyss, and it’s not listed above in the planes that demons can roam freely. I’m not sure what to make of it.

Manes are fairly weak, actually, with just 1 hit dice and low damage. Demon Lords and Princes can feed on them, turn them into shadows or ghasts, or send them forth to exist on the material plane for a day. I suppose they’re a handy monster to have if you want to send low level PCs up against demon worshippers.

Orcus: Much like Demogorgon, Orcus now has a flat total of 120 hit points instead of 12 hit dice. A bunch of Orcus’s physical attacks are given damage ranges now, whereas before he was expected to use a weapon. And even with a weapon he now deals more damage. Funnily enough, while Demogorgon lost the abilities of time stop and shape change, Orcus has kept both. But his ability to summon the undead has been spectacularly nerfed – whereas before he was summoning wights, wraiths, spectres and vampires, now it’s weaksauce like skeletons, zombies, and shadows (but he gets to keep vampires). Otherwise, he hasn’t changed from Supplement III.

Succubus: These female demons have only changed in one aspect from Supplement III – their Armor Class has improved from AC 9 to AC 0. AC 9 was a ridiculous number for a monster of their level, and perhaps AC 0 is an overcompensation, but I like it much better.

Type I: These vulture-like demons haven’t changed at all from Supplement III, but they do get named as Vrocks for the first time.

Type II: These frog-demons are named as Hezrou for the first time, and it is said that they will fight with Type I demons for absolutely any reason at all.

Type III: There are just a few minor statistical tweaks to these monsters: their movement has improved from 6” to 9”, and they can no longer gate in demons of Type IV. They are also named as Glabrezu for the first time.

Type IV: The AC of these demons has improved from 4 to -1. They can no longer gate in demons of Types V or VI. The name they are given is shown as (Nalfeshnee, etc.), which implies more than one name. In fact, there is a new bit about using the demon’s name to get it to perform a service. I wonder if Nalfeshnee is intended as the name for this type of demon, or if it is an example of the true name of a specific Type IV demon. I suspect the latter, but I believe it becomes the former once we get into AD&D 2e.

Type V: Obviously the AC numbers were screwed up in Supplement III (or my PDF was screwed up), because Type V demons in that book had an AC of 7. Here they are listed as -7/-5. Which of those applies to the human torso and which applies to the snake tail is anyone’s guess. Otherwise they are statistically the same as they were in Supplement III. They are given the name of Marilith for the first time, but as above it’s got an etc. after it, so it may just be an example name for a specific demon). We also learn that other lesser demons fear Type V demons for their cruelty, and that they desire the sacrifice of strong warriors.

Type VI: Their AC improves from 2 to -2. Otherwise there’s no statistical change. We do learn that there are only six of these guys known to exist, and that one of them is called Balor. We also learn that they’re more organised than the other types of demons, which makes them unpopular with the Demon Lords and Princes.

Yeenoghu: The Demon Lord of Gnolls! I love this guy. He’s the major reason that I play gnolls as bloodthirsty demon cultists. He’s usually surrounded by gnolls, and if not he can summon them anyway. He’s also worshipped by the King of Ghouls, and there’s an evocative image that’s slipped past me until this point. There’s a King of Ghouls? I’ve generally played ghouls like the ‘fast zombies’ of modern film, but if they have a king I need to rethink them completely. And now I wonder if they have a connection to gnolls, or if their mutual worship of Yeenoghu is a coincidence.

Yeenoghu has a ‘dreaded flail’, with three balls, each of which has a different power (damage, paralysation, or confusion). Among his many spell-like abilities is the magic missile spell, noted as being +2 to hit – it looks like magic missiles still need to roll to hit at this point.

Monday, October 18, 2010

15 Games in 15 Minutes

I'm a sucker for a good meme.  I picked this one up from Sickly Purple Death Ray, which is rad not least because of the Russ Nicholson banner.  So here, in no particular order, are fifteen games that influenced the hell out of me.

Dungeons & Dragons (pretty much every version, but mostly AD&D 2e)
Marvel Super-Heroes (the TSR game)
Bard's Tale (all three games)
Ultima IV (I could put in the rest of the series up to number 6 as well)
Ultima Underworld (both games)
Fighting Fantasy gamebooks
Lone Wolf gamebooks
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (and Ocarina of Time to a lesser extent)
Pool of Radiance (the old SSI game.  The rest of the Gold Box games also qualify)
Heroquest (the board game)
The Last Ninja
War of the Lance

Sunday, October 17, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 6

Chimera: The Chimera, which first appeared in OD&D, is still of the standard mythological variety – hind legs of a goat, forelegs of a lion, bat wings, goat’s head, lion’s head, and dragon’s head. It’s such a cool visual, though I imagine the poor old goat suffering from adequacy issues in this combination. I’m not sure what’s going on with the Chimera’s Armor Class here. Whereas before it had an AC of 4, now it is listed as 6/5/2. There’s no explanation in the text of what this means, but I suppose that each AC value corresponds to a certain head. I would give the goat head AC 6, the lion head AC 5, and the dragon head AC 2. The creature’s movement rate on land has also been reduced, from 12” to 9”. And there’s also the ubiquitous reduction to the % in Lair chance. The Chimera still does three dice of damage with its breath weapon, but now it is 3d8 instead of 3d6. In OD&D Chimeras could be Neutral or Chaotic, but now they are Chaotic Evil. Some other small details revealed include the creature’s colouration, and that they speak a limited form of red dragon language.

Cockatrice: It’s a chicken. Its beak can turn you to stone. There is no radder monster than that. It first appeared in OD&D, and has had some minor tweaks to the stats since then. The cockatrice now only deals 1-3 damage instead of 1-6. Their Number Appearing range has been reduced from 1-8 to 1-6, which I’m sure is an effort on Gary’s part to stop these buggers doing TPKs every time they come up as a random encounter. They are also slower, with their land speed going from 9” to 6”. Their physical description also gets a little fleshing out.

Couatl: This monster, based on the feathered serpent of Aztec mythology, first appeared in Supplement III. Their alignment was previously Lawful with Neutral tendencies, but now they are Lawful Good. Their psionic abilities have been tweaked to match up with Gary’s upcoming plans for the Player’s Handbook, leaving behind the power determination based on class. Otherwise, this monster is just as it was presented before (another case of Gary not really tweaking the monster’s created later in OD&D’s history).

Giant Crab: The giant crab first appeared with the aquatic monsters in OD&D. There are a load of minor tweaks here. Their Armor Class has worsened from 2 to 3. Movement rate has dropped from 9” to 6”. Their damage, previously 2-12 per pincer, is now at 2-8. I would say they’ve been nerfed, but they do get a better chance to gain surprise than they had before. A lot of the info presented in Supplement II, mostly dealing with how mermen relate to them, and how they lay their eggs, has also been omitted.

Giant Crayfish: Because no RPG is complete without a few superfluous crustaceans. I’m pretty sure they first appeared in the updated wilderness encounter tables from Supplement III, but they get stats here for the first time. They’re a little tougher than the Giant Crab; more hit dice, higher damage, although with a slightly worse AC and a not-quite-as-good surprise chance.

Crocodile: Crocodiles, and their giant brethren, first appeared in OD&D section on aquatic monsters. Their stats were fleshed out in Supplement II, but like a lot of monsters from that booklet they have been heavily modified here. Pretty much all of the stats have changed, the most significant being that Giant Crocodiles no longer appear in ginormous packs of 12-60 (and thank Christ for that, because I really don’t know how to randomly generate that range). They are also now slower in cold weather, and get a better chance at gaining surprise. Alas, rules for ships ramming Giant Crocodiles aren’t included here.

And with my next post, I begin with the letter D.  Dragons.  Devils.  Demons.  Dinosaurs.  Yeah, I'm going to be stuck on that letter for a good long while.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 5

Wild Camel: Like a lot of the normal animals featured in the Monster Manual, wild camels were first seen in the updated Wilderness Encounter Tables from Supplement III. Gary being Gary, he makes sure to distinguish between bactrians and dromedaries, with a special focus on how much treasure you can load them up with. My favourite bit is their spitting attack, that can blind the target. There are no rules provided for knocking one out like Arnold, though.

Carrion Crawler: This monster, one of my absolute favourites, first appeared in Supplement I. As before, it’s a giant centipede with paralysing tentacles in its mouth. Statistically it is unchanged, except for the now-familiar lowering of the % in Lair chance. (I’m noticing that this has been done with a lot of monsters, presumably to lower the chances of the PCs getting their greasy mitts on the monster’s treasure.) Some small bits of info revealed: carrion crawlers are green, and they lay eggs in corpses. There’s also an important detail in this excerpt: “each 2’ long tentacle exudes a gummy secretion which when fresh, will paralyze opponents”. “When fresh” is the important bit, as it specifies that this stuff isn’t something the PCs can bottle and use on their enemies.

Catoblepas: This total bastard monster first appeared in Strategic Review #7. Honestly, this guy. Basically it’s a long-necked buffalo that lives in the swamp and can kill you with its gaze. And just to top that off, the gaze has no saving throw. The only thing that will save your character is that the neck of the catoblepas is so weak that it can only raise its head about a quarter of the time. Statistically they haven’t changed since their first appearance, except that there’s now a chance they can have treasure, which there wasn’t before. And too right, because nobody wants to encounter one of these things with no chance for a reward.

Wild Cattle: It’s another wondrous inclusion from the Supplement III encounter tables. This is a catch-all category for the various types of cattle, obviously. They’re not usually hostile, but they might trample your character if you get too close.

Centaur: Centaurs first appeared in OD&D. You know the drill, half-man half-horse. In OD&D they could be Neutral or Lawful, but here they can be Neutral or Chaotic Good. Their Number Appearing range has slightly increased. They are now provided with leaders, and the stats of their women and young are a bit more detailed. It’s also noted that they dislike humans and dwarves, tolerate gnomes and halflings, and like elves, especially wood elves.  And for the record, there's nothing about them being tree-huggers here, so I feel free to play them as wine-guzzling, over-amorous marauders.

Giant Centipede: Centipedes were mentioned as possible monsters in OD&D, and they also showed up in the Wandering Monster tables. But this is where they get stats for the first time. Now I’m creeped out by centipedes at the best of times, but when they’re over a foot long? Forget it. They actually aren’t that tough, but they do have a poisonous bite. I love how their ‘weak’ venom is still fatal if you fail your save. Sure, you get a +4 bonus to the roll, but it’s still a save or die effect on a monster of less than 1 hit dice. Which I’m fine with, by the way.  The game is always better when the players aren't complacent.

Cerebral Parasite: These guys haven’t changed a bit since they debuted in Supplement III. Basically, they’re invisible to the eye, about the size of a flea, and they infect psionic characters and drain their psionic points every time they use a power. Not only that, but they multiply pretty rapidly. At first they seem like a bit of a nuisance monster, but I can imagine how much trouble you’d be in if you got caught in psychic battle with such a drain on your resources.

Monday, October 04, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 4

Beholder: Now we’re getting into some classics. The Beholder first appeared in Supplement I. It’s still the same ill-tempered beastie here, a floating orb with ten eyestalks and one central eye, each with a special power. There are a few minor tweaks in the stats, with Treasure Type changed from I and F to I, S and T. % in Lair is also lessened from 90% to 80%, and their bite’s damage has been raised from 2-5 to 2-8. The major change for this monster comes with its hit points. In OD&D, a beholder’s hit points were fixed, bit here they can range from 45 to 75. The hit point range is not expressed in terms of Hit Dice, and this poses a problem – at what level does the beholder make attacks? How good are its saving throws?

The other changes are minor. Some ranges for the eye rays are included, and it’s clarified just how many eyestalks the creature can fire in a given round depending on the position of its enemies. The method by which PCs can disable the central eye or the eyestalks is also detailed much more comprehensively. The eyestalks can grow back in a week now, though, so don’t expect to whittle one down over time.

Beholders were Neutral with Chaotic tendencies in OD&D, but here they are Lawful Evil. There’s that major paradigm shift in what alignment represents yet again.

Black Pudding: Statistically this monster is exactly the same as it was in OD&D, but some small bits of info are still revealed. Apparently a black pudding is composed of groups of single cells, which means nothing to me, but perhaps the more scientifically-minded out there could enlighten me. The exact rate at which they can dissolve wood and metal is clarified, and their size is now determined based on how many hit points they have. And while OD&D had included the suggestion of a Gray Pudding, in AD&D there is also the possibility of a White Pudding or a Brown Pudding.

Blink Dog: This monster has only the most minor changes from OD&D. Its % in Lair is slightly lower, and the random determination of their blinking ability is explained better. The only addition is that you can now sell their pups at market for a grand or two. Sweet, innocent Lawful Good puppies, might I add…

Boar: There are three varieties of boar here – Wild Boar, Giant Boar, and the dreaded Warthog. Giant Hogs were present in the original OD&D Wandering Monster tables, and believe me, I’m quite mystified as to what they’re doing roaming around on level 3 of the average dungeon. This is the first time the game gives stats to any kind of hostile pig, though. Wild Boars are reasonably tough, with a few hit dice, good damage, and the ability to keep fighting with less than zero hit points. Giant Boars are the prehistoric version, basically the same monster with all of its stats amped up. The Warthog is very similar to the Wild Boar, albeit slightly weaker, but it does get two attacks instead of one. Otherwise its only distinguishing characteristic is that it lives in tropical climes.

Brain Mole: Yay, it’s our first psionic monster. The Brain Mole is brand new for the Monster Manual. And yes, it’s a tiny psychic mole. The creature’s M.O. is to detect the use of psionic powers, then psionically burrow into the user’s mind with a Mind Thrust attack. This can leave the victim insane. Non-psionics who are just using a spell or an item to duplicate psychic ability can just stop using the power to escape, but an actual psionic will either need to run like hell or find the Brain Mole and kill it. Which would be easy, because they have a single hit point, except that they’re probably really hard to find due to their small size.

Brownie: It’s another new monster, this time an addition to the list of fairy-like creatures. I’m not really sure what niche these guys fill that wasn’t already covered, but perhaps it will be clearer to me as I continue. Brownies are said to be a cross between Halflings and Pixies. They’re friendly to humans and demi-humans, and will sometimes help lawful good characters with their magical abilities – protection from evil, ventriloquism, mirror image, that sort of thing. They are also fast, dextrous, they can hide well and they can’t be surprised. It’s all standard fairy stuff. Sorry Brownies, I’m not really feeling it. (I’m not really a fey monster guy, if you haven’t noticed yet.)

Buffalo: Buffalo had previously appeared in the revised Wilderness Encounter Tables from Supplement III, but they get stats here for the first time. And they are surprisingly tough, with 5 hit dice, the ability to deal large damage, and the potential to show up in large numbers. Sure, you most probably aren’t going to provoke a herd of them, but look out if you get too close…

Bugbear: This is my favourite illustration in the book, you guys – the one with the hapless adventurer getting clubbed by a bugbear on the noggin. These monsters haven’t changed statistically, but a lot of details are added nonetheless. They get a detailed physical description with skin and eye colour, and no mention of pumpkin heads as they had been depicted in illustration in Supplement I. They get leaders and chiefs with better stats now, just like the other humanoid races, and the weapons they like to use are listed.  But you know, it’s really all about clubbing guys on the skull.

Bulette: This monster originally appeared in The Dragon #1. It’s pretty much exactly the same as it was there, which is probably due to it being designed later than a lot of the other monsters in the game. You gotta love this line: “It was the result of a mad wizard’s experimental cross breeding of a snapping turtle and armadillo with infusions of demons’ ichor.” Ye gods man, what were you thinking?

Bull: A bull was one of the options that could be pulled forth from a magical bag of tricks, so it dutifully gets some stats here that match up closely to those listed under that magic item. They’re aggressive, with a decent amount of hit points, but nothing remarkable. What did you expect, it’s just a bull. Their intelligence is listed as Semi, though, which means that there is the occasional very rare PC that could be dumber than a bull.

This also gets me thinking about the spell Animal Friendship. There’s a school of thought out there that says it applies to all creatures of Animal intelligence and Neutral alignment. But a lot of real-world animals are listed here with an intelligence of Semi, and some, such as Apes, even trend up to Low. I was leaning towards this interpretation for the spell, but this puts a major dent in it. I like the idea of having a concrete way to adjudicate it, but I think I’ll probably just go with my gut whenever this spell gets trotted out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 3

Baboons: Believe it or not, baboons originally showed up in the updated Wilderness Encounter tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry. Their stats are given here for the first time, but they are more likely to flee than fight.

Despite a general lack of use in most games, I am completely in favour of regular animals getting stats in the Monster Manual. Fantastic monsters are all well and good, but real world animals give us something to compare them to, and also provide a baseline of normalcy for the campaign world that I think is really important. If everything is fantastic and extraordinary, then nothing is fantastic and extraordinary. Not to mention that the pulp fantasy and mythology that D&D draws on is full of instances of heroes battling regular animals. Hercules wrestled a lion. Conan bit off a vulture’s head. The game needs this stuff, and I was massively disappointed that it was taken out in 3e. Luckily for me there’s a ton of it in the AD&D Monster Manual. Much of it, like the baboon, won’t come up in play very often. But it’s important nonetheless.

Badgers: Speaking of which, badgers are actually pretty hard, with a low AC and multiple attacks. You do not want to engage one with a 1st level PC. I’m not sure if they have appeared in a previous OD&D book, but it doesn’t look like it. There’s also a giant variety that has 3 hit dice and deals more damage. A D&D staple rears its head, as you can sell their pelts for 10-30 gp.

Baluchitherium: It’s another new monster drawn from prehistory. These guys are prehistoric rhinos, with a tendency to trample anything nearby. They also have a metric shit-ton of hit points and deal a lot of damage. And they carry no treasure, so I’d advise just getting out of their way.

The name presents a problem, in that it really doesn’t ring true for the flavour of D&D. A lot of the Latin-based names just don’t sound right. In previous posts I have posited the existence of an ancient language in my campaign world that was used to classify various types of monsters – it’s where the term Draco Conflagratio for the red dragon comes from. So I guess they did the same for the dinosaurs and prehistoric beasts that still exist in various remote pockets. The Latin is not their literal tongue, but simply a representation of it. Even with this explanation, I feel like I should come up with a more authentic-sounding name for these guys. Nothing springs to mind just now, though.

Barracuda: Wow, I never realised how much of this book is real-world animals. This looks like another new monster to me. They’re aggressive saltwater fish that attack the injured, the helpless, and the very small (i.e. hobbits). And look out, because that bite is as effective as a longsword.

Basilisk: This monster, which first appeared in OD&D, is basically the same: a lizard with a gaze that turns its victim to stone. A lot of cosmetic details are filled out here – it has eight legs, moves slowly due to a slow metabolism, have dull brown skin with yellowish underbellies, and glowing green eyes. There is one major change, in that it no longer turns people to stone with its touch. But it does still have the awesome ability to see into the astral and ethereal planes, and turn people in the latter plane into ethereal stone. So rad. Oh, and the number encountered has dropped from 1-6 to 1-4.

Bear: Cave bears first appeared in the OD&D Wilderness Encounter tables, and regular bears were in the updated charts from Supplement II. There are three types of bears given stats here: black, brown and cave bears. Black bears are non-aggressive herbivores, while the other two types are highly aggressive. All three types can hug for extra damage if their attack roll is high enough. Brown and cave bears keep fighting for a few rounds even after their hit points go below 0.

Beaver, Giant: This monster comes to you courtesy of Supplement II. The Preface has already stated that Gary edited the hell out of the monsters from that book, so I’m interested to see how different this one is. To start with, their AC has worsened from 5 to 6. A swimming speed of 12” has been added. % in Lair has dropped from 85% to 80%. Treasure Type has changed from D to C. They now attack with 1 bite, instead of 2 claws and 1 bite. That bite damage has lessened from 4-24 to 4-16.

The intelligence of the giant beaver is listed as Low to Average, which makes them about as smart as a person. This jibes well with their previously established tendency to build dams in exchange for gold and exotic bark.

We’d been told previously that beaver fur was valuable, and that their young could be sold at market. Ever the entrepreneur, Gary provides price ranges.

Beetle, Giant: Six varieties are detailed here: bombardier, boring, fire, rhinoceros, stag, and water. The first five had been detailed in Supplement II, while the Water Beetle seems to be new. The Number Appearing for the Boring Beetle has changed from 2-12 to 3-18. The Fire Beetle now moves at 12” instead of 9”. The Bombardier Beetle has 2+2 hit dice instead of 1. The Fire Beetle has 1+2 hit dice instead of 1-1. The Stag Beetle has 7 hit dice instead of 6. The Boring Beetle now has a % in Lair of 40% instead of 50%, and its Treasure Type has changed from A to C, R, S, and T. All of the beetles have had their damage range tweaked slightly. The only major change comes from the Fire Beetle, who has dropped from a massive 3-24 down to a reasonable 2-8.

Bombardier Beetles now have a concrete range and area of effect for their vapour cloud. It causes damage now, which it didn’t before, and it has a better chance to stun opponents, but it can’t be used as often as it could previously.

Boring Beetles still cultivate molds, slimes and fungi as food, but it seems now that these are just the regular varieties. In Supplement II they were specifically said to do so with things like Yellow Mold and the various monstrous slimes and jellies. It made for a more interesting monster in my opinion, and it’s not exactly ruled out here. So I’m going to leave it in, because it’s cool.

It is now specifically stated that the glowing spots on Fire Beetles can be cut out, and will continue to glow for 1-6 days with a 10’ radius. Previously there had been no mention of this, and presumably adventurers were expected to herd these things like mobile light sources. That seemed like more trouble than it’s worth, so I approve of this clarification.

Water beetles are voracious, and attack just about anything nearby. There’s not much else to them, besides the aquatic aspect.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

AD&D Monster Manual part 2

Aerial Servant: This monster first appeared as part of the Aerial Servant cleric spell in Supplement I: Greyhawk. This is simply a restatement of the stats given in that spell as a monster entry – it’s an invisible monster that can carry a lot, has a grip that’s very hard to break, has a surprise bonus, and that will go bonkers and attack the cleric that summoned it if it can’t complete its mission. The only mechanical change is with its speed. Before it travelled at twice the speed of an air elemental, but now it does so at twice the speed of an invisible stalker – a drop from 72” to 24”!

We learn that Aerial Servants are actually semi-intelligent air elementals that roam the astral and ethereal planes. Could this be the result of air elementals being trapped in those planes, away from their native habitat? Maybe this can happen to any air elemental summoned to the prime material plane? It would certainly explain their tendency to flip out on their summoner.

There’s a little rules nugget tucked away in this entry that explains something I had wondered about in OD&D. Often in OD&D it would be noted that a monster fights at double, triple, or even quadruple strength under certain conditions.  The Aerial Servant is said to fight as a double-strength Invisible Stalker. Comparing the two entries, I find that the Aerial Servant has 16 hit dice to the Invisible Stalker’s 8, and that it also delivers twice as much damage on a successful hit. It’s how I suspected the rule worked, but it’s nice to see some hard confirmation.

Anhkheg: The Anhkheg remains mostly the same here as it was in The Dragon #5, with some cosmetic changes. Originally its % in Lair was 25%, but now it is 15%. Its Treasure Type was first listed as B2, which made no sense, so that has been changed to C. Its bonus acid damage on a bite attack has been significantly lowered, from 1-10 down to 1-4. That’s fair enough, as that bite already does 3-18 to start with. It’s plenty deadly without an extra 1-10 on top. Finally, its acid squirt now has a damage rating listed, which it did not before. It’s a nice revision that slightly lessens the Anhkheg's deadliness and brings some weird rules bits into line.

Ant, Giant: Giant ants were listed in the OD&D wilderness encounter tables, and also given as an example under the entry for Large Insects. Here they get stats for the first time. The worker ants are pretty standard low-level monsters, while the warriors have a poison sting that deals extra damage. The queen has a ton of hit points, but can’t move or attack. Quite remarkably for AD&D, their eggs have no market value. Usually Gygax can’t wait to tell you how you’ll earn for selling that sort of stuff, but I guess there’s not much call for giant ants as pets or delicacies, is there?

Oh, and as the rad illustration of them swarming a hapless paladin shows, they’re only about 2 feet long. I have a habit of envisioning them as larger than man-sized, so I’ll have to try hard to remember that they are smaller. Still large enough to be scary in large numbers, but not towering over the PCs.

Ape, Gorilla: Again, Apes appeared in the OD&D wilderness encounter tables. This is the first time they are given stats. They’re pretty tough, with 4 hit dice and multiple attacks, and extra rending damage if both of their punch attacks land. They’d wreck the average 1st-level party, I think.

Ape, Carnivorous: These guys first appeared in the Supplement I revision to the Wandering Monster tables, replacing OD&D’s White Apes. They’re pretty much the same as gorillas but a little bit tougher and smarter, with a better chance to avoid being surprised due to keen senses

Axe Beak: This seems to be a new monster, stemming from Gary’s seeming fascination for prehistoric animals. It’s just an ostrich with a big beak and claws, and I’d be very surprised if anyone pipes up in the comments to say they’ve used one in a game.