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.