Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 23

I said Wednesday, okay, I just didn't say which Wednesday.

Hippopotamus: The only previous mention of Hippos in D&D was in the Conjure Animals spell. With 8 Hit Dice and a damage range of 3-18, they’re a pretty tough monster, and they are said to be aggressive despite being herbivores. And in real life, they are responsible for a lot of human deaths. Any animal that can tear a low-level party to shreds like this one can isn't to be sneezed at.

Hobgoblin: Hobgoblins, which first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2, have not changed at all statistically. But they have been greatly expanded on, because the only description that OD&D gave for them was that they were bigger goblins with a bonus to morale. The Monster Manual gives them a tribal lifestyle (with such names as Leg Breakers, Marrow Suckers and Slow Killers), stats for leaders and chieftains, details of their lairs (including the use of carnivorous apes), what weapons they use, their physical description, and a hatred of elves. The militaristic bent that they will have in later editions isn’t really evident here, although they are illustrated in their traditional samurai-helmet look. They are said to always keep their weapons polished, which I guess is more military discipline than most humanoids show. But like most of the humanoid monsters (kobolds, goblins, orcs), at this point they’re basically the same monster with a different amount of Hit Dice.

Homonculous: This monster first appeared in Supplement I. Statistically there is a major change, as its Hit Dice drop from 6 to 2. That’s a big shift, but it makes sense to me given how small these guys are. Their Armor Class has imprived from 7 to 6, but that’s hardly enough to offset the hit point drop. Their bite attack now has a duration for the sleep that it causes. They now use the same saving throw values as their master ( and given what happens to the magic-user when their homonculous dies, a lot of PCs will be breathing a sigh if relief). They can also be controlled at a greater range than before – 48” as opposed to 36”. The process of creating a Homonculous hasn’t changed much. It still requires an alchemist, who needs 1-4 weeks and a pint of the magic-user’s blood. But the cost is now variable, so it could be more or less than the 1,000 gp it required before. And the M-U must now cast mending, mirror image and wizard eye, whereas before he didn’t need to cast any spells.

Horse: Horses first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2, and they’re a pretty important part of the game. The types detailed here are Draft, Heavy, Light, Medium, Pony, and Wild. The first four of those were in OD&D. Ponies have only been briefly mentioned in Swords & Spells, of all places. Wild Horses were in the wilderness encounter tables in Supplement III. Draft Horses gain an extra hit dice, and a damage range (which they didn’t have before). Heavy Horses have gotten slightly faster and gained a few hit points. Light Horses are unchanged, and Mediums have gained a solitary extra hit point. Ponies and Wild Horses get stats for the first time. It is mentioned that ponies can be trained for war, so 3rd Edition's war ponies do have some precedent. Figures are given for how much horses can carry, with one figure showing how much they can carry before being encumbered, and another being their maximum load. The first figure given matches closely to the maximum load figures for horses in OD&D, which means that a horse can now carry almost double what it was able to before.

Hydra: Hydras were one of the toughest monsters that first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2. The only statistical change they have here is that they are slightly slower. They are much the same as before, with the notable difference that each of their heads now has 8 hit points instead of 6 (an effect of using 1d8 for monster hit dice now). Otherwise it’s much the same.

The Lernaean Hydra appears for the first time. This is the version from the story of Hercules, the one that grows two heads every time you cut one off.

Pyrohydras also make their debut, being hydras with a fiery breath weapon.

Hyena: Hyenas first appeared in the wilderness encounter tables from Supplement III. They have more Hit Dice than I was expecting, but are unremarkable otherwise, having no special abilities to mark them out. Hyaenodons make their D&D debut here, but they are just extra big hyenas.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

If you'll indulge me for a short while, I'd like to do a spot of self-promotion.  In addition to my love of D&D, I have an even deeper and more abiding love of super-hero comics.  What that means is that while I have one D&D-related blog, I have two comics-related blogs.

The first is here at http://marvelindexes.blogspot.com/.  This is my Marvel Comics site, in which I do detailed issue descriptions and chronologies and other incredibly nerdy stuff.  At the moment I'm running through the Ant-Man issues of Tales to Astonish, which shows you how obscure I'm willing to go with this.

The other is at http://comicsodyssey.blogspot.com/.  This one os much more general, and sort of similar to what I'm doing here at Save or Die, actually.  I've started with the beginnings of DC Comics in 1935, and I'm reading everything I can get my hands on from that point forward, encompassing DC, Marvel and everything else that I find of interest.  I've just started on the year 1938, and am closing in one the first appearance of Superman.

So that's it, shameless plug over.  I'll be back on Wednesday with my next installment from the Monster Manual.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 22

Halfling: Yes, I think at this point we can safely declare the use of the term ‘hobbit’ in D&D to be dead and buried. Halflings first appeared in OD&D Vol. 1, but they did not appear in Vol. 2, making this the first time that they get their own monster entry (they didn’t even get one in the Holmes Basic Set). They get the usual treatment for humanoids, with descriptions of their arms and armour, as well as the capabilities of their leaders. Their special abilities remain much the same, although their accuracy with slings now also applies to bows as well.

Of most significance is the introduction of the Halfling sub-races, Hairfoots, Tallfellows and Stouts.  Hairfoots are the standard variety of halfling.  Tallfellows, as their names would suggest, are taller and slimmer than regular hobbits, and sometimes pal around with elves. If they are strong enough, they can attain 5th or 6th level as Fighters (remembering that regular Halflings can only reach 4th). Stouts are the opposite, being smaller and friendlier with dwarves. A Stout with 18 Strength can reach 5th level as a fighter, and they all get infravision.

Harpies: Harpies first appeared in Supplement I. Whereas before they were said to have the lower bodies of eagles, now they have the lower bodies of vultures (which I guess is more evil-sounding). Their special abilities are the same, being a song that draws in any victim that fails a save, and a touch that charms them. They torture and eat their charmed victims, but get this: ‘What they do not want, they foul with excrement’. That is hardcore Chaotic Evil behaviour.

Hell Hound: Hell Hounds are fire-breathing dogs that first appeared in Supplement I. They have a couple of statistical changes. Their Hit Dice used to range from 3 to 7, but now it is 4 to 7. Their damage range has also been increased, from 1-6 to 1-10. We learn that they are not native to the Prime Material Plane, though it’s not specified where they do come from. (I think Hell is a pretty safe bet.) Their breath weapon now gets a range of 1”, but it still does a measly 1 point of damage per Hit Dice. But now that I think of it, they have no limit to how often they can use it, and it seems to me that they can do so even in the same round they use their bite attack, so that is actually pretty good. Their stealth and heightened senses are also better defined now, with actual numbers to back them up.

Herd Animal: Herd Animals first showed up as a result on the Wilderness Encounter Tables in Supplement III. It’s a wide-ranging category that includes such things as reindeer, oxen, giraffes, and antelopes. They’re not usually aggressive, but if they stampede your character you will be killed instantly, so don’t go pissing them off. Still it’s hard to take that picture of the dudes fleeing a lone rampaging giraffe at all seriously.

Hippocampus: It’s a new monster, but don’t get too excited, because this is pretty much just a bigger, smarter seahorse. Tritons ride them, and that’s about the only thing here of interest.

Hippogriff: Hippogriffs (just like griffons, but with horse parts instead of lion parts) first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2. They have a very minor statistical change, with their Hit Dice increasing from 3+1 to 3+3. They also can have treasure in a lair, which they didn’t have before. They don’t get much more detail than they already had, except for the ubiquitous open market prices for their eggs.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 21

Gorgons: Gorgons, which first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2, are still metal-skinned bulls with a petrifying breath weapon, and that makes them among my all-time favourite monsters. They haven’t changed at all statistically, although their breath weapon now has a more well-defined area of effect, and a limit on the number of times it can be used in a day. The entry here is actually quite sparse, as though Gary realised that a metal-skinned bull was already rad enough. We don’t need any ecology nonsense detracting from it’s majestic awesomeness.

Gray Ooze: Gray Ooze also made its first appearance in OD&D Vol. 2. They now have a value for Number Appearing, whereas before this was blank. Thier Hit Dice has increased slightly from 3 to 3+3. Their immunities haven’t changed much, except that they are now specifically immune to all spells except those that use lightning. They are still subject to damage from normal weapons, but those weapons are now said to possibly corrode or break. They are also said to strike like snakes when attacking, which was not detailed before. I’m also really happy to see that they’ve retained their latent psychic abilities from Supplement III, and can hit anyone who uses psionics near them with a psychic crush. There’s something about psionically-powered slimes that really resonates with me.

Green Slime: There are no changes to the basics of green slime, although their relative deadliness to OD&D can depend on your interpretation of the rules. In AD&D, it takes a slime 1-4 melee rounds to turn any creature it contacts into green slime (no resurrection possible!). In OD&D, it took one turn, but the use of word turn was ambiguous in those rules. It could mean ten combat rounds, or it could mean a single round, and there’s a world of difference between the two.  As usual, I will probably interpret the rules to be the most fair to the players, but it's a moot point once we get to AD&D anyway.  Oh, and green slimes are specifically said to be able to sense vibrations and drop on people passing underneath, so thay are at least a little more of a threat now.

Griffon: The only change to griffons is that their Number Appearing has decreased from 2-16 to 2-12. There are also some extra details about whether their young will be present in a nest, because Gary has thrown in the option of taking them and selling them for thousands of gold pieces.

Groaning Spirit: The only mention of a Groaning Spirit in previous D&D books was in Supplement III, under the description for the Iron Flask of Tuerny the Merciless. But that reference to a demon or devil of small power has no connection to this new monster, more commonly known as the Banshee. As far as undead go they have an unusually specific origin, being the spirits of evil female elves, something we’re assured is very rare.  (Although, come to think of it, that describes pretty much the entirety of dark elf civilisation.  Does every female drow become a banshee after death?)  They have the usual raft of undead immunities, and can’t be harmed by non-magical weapons. Their main attack is a wail that kills everything within 30 feet that doesn’t make its saving throw. An exorcise spell will kill one outright, but just for fun I’m going to check the range on that – and as I suspected, it is 10 feet, so your cleric will have to get well within that banshee’s wail to get this spell off.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual Part 20

Golem: There are four types of golems detailed here: flesh, stone, iron and clay. The first three were introduced in Supplement I, and the clay golem was first seen in The Strategic Review #4. Golems are still immune to non-magical weapons, but now any magical creature with hit dice equal to or greater than the golem can successfully attack it.

Clay Golem: Clay Golems begin with a significant change, as their AC worsens from 2 to 7. This makes perfect sense to me, because clay isn’t exactly renowned for its protective properties, and they really shouldn't have an AC equivalent to the Iron Golem. Their damage range has changed slightly; it was 4-32, and now it is 3-30. A 17th level lawful good cleric is now required to create one, whereas before the level was 15th and the alignment was lawful. Even so, now it is stated that a lower-level cleric can do so with the right magical item. More spells are needed for the process as well; before it was raise dead, animate object and commune, and now it is resurrection, animate objects, commune, prayer and bless. To me the lower level spells that have been added feel a bit redundant, because any cleric that is casting resurrection will have no trouble with the weaker spells. The ritual now requires a massive outlay of at least 50,000 gp, whereas before you could get away with under 20,000 gp if you were lucky (part of the costs were randomly determined).

There’s still a chance for the clay golem to be “imbued with a chaotic evil spirit” – a much more evocative description than the event had before – but instead of a flat 1% each round, it is now a cumulative chance. So your clay golem is absolutely guaranteed to go berserk eventually.

And now we come to the most controversial sentence in the entry: “Damage inflicted upon living matter by a clay golem is only repairable by means of a healing spell from a cleric of 17th or greater level.” Yes, that means what it says. If you get damaged by a clay golem, that damage is permanent until you can find a 17th level cleric to heal it. It seems incredibly unfair, and I know of a lot of people who insist that the rule must be some kind of mistake. To them I say shenanigans. Suck up that hit point damage or find a high-level cleric, because some monsters are just plain dangerous.

The golem now attacks with 11 hit dice instead of 12, but it can still cast haste upon itself (and will now automatically do so if it goes berserk). They are still immune to all weapons except those that are blunt and magical. A move earth spell will still drive them back, and now it also deals a load of damage. Whereas before a disintegrate spell just paralysed them for a round, now it slows their movement by 50% and deals damage also. In addition, the earthquake spell now affects them, paralysing them and dealing massive damage.

I think most of the changes to the Clay Golem’s stats can be attributed to someone trying to strengthen the creature’s connection to that chaotic evil spirit. They were trying to create a more powerful creature, and they did so, but the cost is a greater chance for it to be possessed. Them’s the breaks!

Flesh Golem: Flesh Golems haven’t changed at all statistically. They are given a lot more detail, though, most notably that the means of creating one is described for the first time (it’s the first time that Iron and Stone Golems get this description as well). It requires a 14th level magic-user to cast wish, polymorph any object, geas, protection from normal missiles and strength, as well as the expenditure of 40,000 gp and one month of game time. They also now have the same chance as a clay golem to go berserk, which was not present before. At least with Flesh Golems there’s a decent chance that the creator can regain control of it, which cannot be done with a Clay Golem. Otherwise they have the same immunity to normal weapons, are still slowed by fire and cold, and are healed by lightning.

Iron Golem: Iron Golems’ AC has worsened from 2 to 3, but on the plus side they are slightly faster than before, and their damage range has increased from 4-32 to 4-40. Their creation requirements are detailed, needing an 18th level magic-user to cast wish, polymorph any object, geas and cloud kill, and to spend 80,000 gp and 3 months game time. And these guys are a good investment, because they won’t go nuts like the previous two types. They are still immune to weapons of less than +3 enchantment, are slowed by lightning and healed by fire. The only change is that it is explicitly stated that they are affected by rust monsters, although there's no indication of exactly how long it takes a rust monster to destroy one.

Stone Golem: Stone Golems haven’t changed a bit statistically. To create one you need a 16th level magic-user to cast wish, polymorph any object, geas and slow, and to spend 60,000 gp and 2 months of game time. The golem can still cast a slow spell on an opponent, but only every second round instead of every round. You’ll still need a +2 weapon or better to hurt one. They are no longer slowed by fire spells, but a rock to mud spell now has the same effect. Mud to rock still heals all damage the golem has taken. More interestingly, stone to flesh makes it temporarily vulnerable to normal attacks.

And, I’m done for today. You might have noticed a lack of updates lately. That’s been partly due to the holidays, but mostly due to a general lack of interest in D&D. Without actually being able to play the game (and I haven’t for a couple of years now) it’s hard to maintain my enthusiasm. The good news is that I’m in the initial stages of getting my regular game going again, so hopefully there’s some game-play in my future.