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?