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.

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