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.


  1. Late chiming in here, but I always loved that bugbear picture, too.

    Going strong; keep it up!

  2. My guess would be that the comment about black puddings being groups of single cells was in response to some players thinking that all "blob monster" should be played as if gigantic single-cell amoebaes, which is apparently not meant to be the case (except for the giant amoeba, which first appeared in module X2!).

    Maybe the wild boars were rooting for tubers and got lost in the dungeon? They could also be brought to the dungeon by wereboars (I believe the original Castle Greyhawk had wereboars in it).

  3. I do like the simplicity of the tuber explanation... Dungeon tubers! The wereboars seem a more likely culprit though.