Tuesday, March 29, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 30

Lurker Above: This monster, sort of like a manta ray that clings to the roof of a dungeon and drops on the heads of adventurers, first appeared in The Strategic Review #3. Gary must have been very happy with this one, because the only change to it is that it is now better at gaining surprise.

Lycanthropes: Lycanthropes first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2, and were expanded on in Supplement II. Most of that expansion has been discarded in favour of some new guidelines on how lycanthropy is passed on. The disease, previously able to be passed on to any warm-blooded creature, is now restricted to humanoids. There’s no longer a rule about the disease being more potent during the spring. Supplement II had some complex rules to determine when a lycanthrope’s animal persona takes over, but that’s been simplified to a 90% chance during the full moon. The rules for family packs have pretty much disappeared, only being present in the entry for werewolves. Belladonna now has a purpose, as characters can use it to try and cure themselves, with the risk of dying from the poison. Any infected character could previously be cured by a cure disease spell, but now the caster must be 12th level, and instead of having a window of 2-24 days to be cured, you now have a mere 3 days.

Werebear: Werebears have had a drastic drop in their Number Appearing (from 2-20 down to 1-4) and a slight increase in Hit Dice (from 6 to 7+3). They now have a number of new special abilities in addition to their previous bearhug attack. They can summon brown bears, which is actually drawn from the Chainmail rules. They heal three times faster than normal, are immune to disease, and can cure any other creature of disease over the course of 1-4 weeks.

Wereboar: Wereboars have had a similar change in Number Appearing (from 2-20 to 2-8) and a Hit Dice increase (from 4+1 to 5+2). Otherwise, they’re the same as ever.

Wererat: These guys first appeared in Supplement I. Their Number Appearing has been reduced from 8-32 to 4-24. Their Armor Class has changed from 7 to 6, and their Hit Dice from 3 to 3+1. They’ve now lost their bite attack, and rely solely on weapons in combat. In OD&D they had two forms, human and big rat, but now they have three: human, ratman, and giant rat. They gain surprise more easily now. They’re also said to live in tunnels under cities for the first time. Wererats in the sewers is a very common trope for this monster, but this is the first time it's spelled out.  Is it from the Fritz Lieber stories?  I have to get off my arse and read those.

Weretiger: Their Number Appearing has changed from 2-20 to 1-6. Their Hit Dice has increased from 5 to 6+3. Their bite attack is better, now doing 1-12 instead of 1-10. They now have the ability to converse with all types of cats (although they prefer not to mingle with them), and they can rake with their rear claws to get some extra damage. It’s also said that they’re most often female.

Werewolf: Their Number Appearing is almost the same, changing from 2-20 to 3-18. They also gain three extra hit points. They’re the only type of lycanthrope that is said to travel in a pack, and they use rules similar to the family pack rules from OD&D; if the female is attacked, the male gets bonuses to attack, and the female gets bonuses if its young are attacked. They’re not the same rules as before, but the intent is the same.

Giant Lynx: The giant lynx first appeared in the wilderness encounter tables from Supplement III. This is the first time it gets stats. They live in cold regions, are very good at hiding, gain surprise often, and can detect traps. Their most important feature is their intelligence: they are listed as being Very Intelligent, which is better than the average human. This makes them much more interesting than the average animal encounter; certainly there’s nothing about them that’s statistically interesting.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 29

Lizard: There are four types of lizards detailed here: Fire, Giant, Minotaur and Subterranean.

Fire lizards first appeared in Supplement II. Their Armor Class has worsened from 2 to 3, and their Hit Dice has been lowered from 12 to 10. Their breath weapon has now been given a specific range and area of effect, and the damage has changed from 1-10 to 2-12. Somewhat uncharacteristically, Gary seems to have dropped a lot of the detail that this monster previously had, such as lifespan and the length of their periodic hibernations. He’s replaced it with a market value for their eggs, though, which is very characteristic.

Giant lizards were first mentioned in the wilderness encounter tables from Supplement III. There was also an entry for plain old lizards in OD&D Vol. 3, which I assume to be the same monster (if not, that's one hell of an uneventful random encounter). This is the first time they get stats. I assumed they’d just be a generic low-level monster, and they are for the most part, but they do have the specific ability to do double damage when they roll a natural 20 to attack. It’s a pretty common house rule to apply this to everybody, but if you do that it deprives this monster of its only special ability. Unless you let them do triple or even quadruple damage, which could get a touch absurd.

Minotaur lizards first appeared in Supplement II. Their Armor Class has worsened from 3 to 5, their movement has slowed from 9” to 6”, and their damage ranges have been seriously nerfed. Whereas before they had a claw/claw/bite routine dealing a whopping 2-20/2-20/4-32, they now do a much more reasonable 2-12/2-12/3-18. In exchange for their weakened stats, they’ve gotten better at gaining surprise, and on an attack roll of natural 20 they can pick up their opponent and automatically bite again on the next round.

Subterranean lizards make their first appearance here. Like giant lizards they get the double damage on a natural 20, and they can run along walls and ceilings with ease.  They're also a fair bit tougher than regular giant lizards, but they sort of have to be to survive underground in a D&D world.

Lizard Man: These guys first appeared in Supplement I. Their stats remain mostly the same, with only their claw damage reducing from 1-3 to 1-2. Even their description has barely changed. The only thing that is new is that a distinction has been made between primitive lizard men (those that use their natural weapons) and advanced ones (those that use weapons like darts, javelins and clubs).

Locathah: Locathah are a race of nomadic fish men that first appeared in Supplement II. Pretty much all of their stats have changed: Armor Class from 7 to 6; Movement Rate from 24 to 12; Hit Dice from 2+1 to 2; and Number Appearing from 30-300 to 20-200. The latter suggests that some sort of disaster has decimated the locathah population, which I might work in somewhere. There are numerous additions in their description as well. They’re still nomads that ride eels, which I think is rad. Their numbers have now also been bolstered with the possibility of some mid-level fighters. Their favoured weapons are now revealed as lances, tridents, crossbows and nets. Despite being nomadic, they are said to live in huge rocks that have been hollowed out with rooms and passages.

I was going to try and finish the letter L today, but I didn’t count on Lycanthropes and Lizards with their multiple entries. Next time!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 28

Leopard: Leopards first appeared in the wilderness encounter tables in Supplement III, and they’re getting stats here for the first time. Their only remarkable feature is that they are more likely to gain surprise than other monsters, and they in turn are less likely to be surprised themselves.

Leprechaun: These figures of Irish folklore and breakfast cereal mascots were first introduced in The Strategic Review #3, but this is their first entry in an official rule book. They’ve changed surprisingly little since then, gaining a measly few extra hit points and an immunity to surprise due to their sharp hearing. They still have the same special abilities (invisibility, polymorphing non-living objects, creating illusions and ventriloquism), the same 80% magic resistance, and the same penchant for fucking with the PCs. One new tidbit is thrown out, that being the possibility that leprechauns are a mix of halflings and pixies. I can live with that explanation, provided nothing better comes along.

Leucrotta: This new monster is sort of a stag with the head of a badger, said to be so ugly that most creatures can’t bear to look at it. It has a rear attack that it can use when retreating, but of greater note is its ability to imitate human voices. Leucrottas are smart, chaotic evil, and they can speak the Common tongue, so this is an ability that can be used to its most damaging effect. Nothing is said about them being able to mimic specific voices, though; I would rule that out in most cases. There’s certainly the possibility that a leucrotta could learn to do so, but I wouldn’t use it as a standard feature.

Lich: These undead wizards first appeared in Supplement I. Their Armor Class has improved since then, from 3 to 0. There’s a slight trade-off, though, as their paralysing touch can now be avoided with a saving throw. In OD&D, the lowest level that a lich could be was 12th, but in AD&D that has been revised significantly upwards to 18th. They also specifically get the usual raft of undead immunities to things like sleep, charm, cold, electricity, etc., whereas before this was not stated outright.

In OD&D Supplement III liches were given psionic powers.  Here there's a note saying 'see below' in regards to their psionics, but nothing is detailed in their description.  I'm inclined to just treat them like regular magic-users in this regard.

Perhaps the most significant inclusion here is the first mention of a lich’s phylactery, a piece of jewellery that houses its soul. It is only mentioned very briefly here as one of the necessities for becoming a lich, but no detail is given on what it is or what it does. But in the future it becomes one of the core features of this monster.

Lion: Lions first appeared in the wilderness encounter tables in OD&D Vol. 2, with Mountain Lions and Spotted Lions appearing for the first time in Supplement III. All three get stats here for the first time, and there are no surprises to be had. It’s the usual great cat treatment – hard to surprise, can rake with back claws, etc. Mountain lions are smaller and weaker than regular lions, and spotted lions are the larger prehistoric variety.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 27

Lamia: This is a new monster, a desert-dweller that has the torso of a woman and the lower body of some sort of beast. The illustration depicts the lower body as that of a lion, but it’s not specifically said in the text, so it could really be any animal. As is the way of things in D&D, the illustration shown here becomes the default depiction for the monster in the future.

Although they have quite a lot of Hit Dice, they seem to rely more on guile and trickery than brute force. They can cast charm person, mirror image, suggestion and create illusions, all spells that lend themselves to hoodwinking the PCs. They also have a touch that permanently drains wisdom, and that’s major in a game where ability score increases are hard to come by. If your wisdom is drained below 3, you become the lamia’s willing slave. Which is bad, because they like to drink the blood of their victims and then eat them.

Introducing lamias to the campaign shouldn’t be difficult, as their preferred desert climate is a fairly remote one.

Lammasu: These sphinx-like creatures first appeared in Supplement I. Their Hit Dice has increased from 6+2 to 7+7. Their alignment was Lawful, and is now Lawful Good, and they are still very helpful to characters that share their alignment. They also get a 30% magic resistance that they did not have before. They can still become invisible and cast dimension door. Their aura of protection from evil is now twice as potent as it was before. They also still cast spells as a 6th level cleric, and it’s spelled out here exactly how many spells they get a day; they now get 2 extra spells of first level, and 1 extra second and third level spell. Any cure wounds spell they cast is now twice as effective as before. There’s also now a 10% chance that any lammasu can cast holy word. In OD&D they were said to be able to speak any Lawful or Neutral tongue. Now they just get their native language and their alignment language, as well as some limited telepathy.

Lamprey: Lampreys first appeared in Supplement II, and they get a fairly extensive rewrite. The original lamprey was a 3 Hit Dice creature whose blood drain ability was poorly worded; they drained “one level per hit point” which could be interpreted in all sorts of absurd ways.

In AD&D, there are normal lampreys and giant lampreys. Both are much the same, only the giant variety has more hit points. Their blood drain is much more reasonable, being 2 hit points per round for each of its Hit Dice (meaning a normal lamprey drains 2 hit points a round, and the giant kind drains 10 per round). Simple, and no way to interpret it as level drain. Everyone’s happy, except for super-sadistic DMs.

Larva: Larva are a new monster. They are the souls of the most selfish and evil beings, that dwell in Hades in the form of human-headed worms. Night hags use them to bargain with demons and devils, as they are useful in creating imps and quasits. They’re also used by liches to maintain their undead status.

For outer planar creatures, these are surprisingly weak. They would make a decent encounter for low-level PCs, but it’s extremely unlikely you’d ever find one outside of the planes. They seem to be included more for flavour than anything, although any creature used for bargaining can be quite easily turned into a plot hook. Imagine the PCs in a race against some demons to find a “great treasure”, only to find at the end a big pit full of these things. I don’t see them as a monster you could use very often, though.

Giant Leech: These things first appeared in OD&D Vol. 3, and were expanded on in Supplement II. They’ve changed a lot. Number Appearing has increased from 2-12 to 4-16. Armor Class has worsened from 8 to 9. They’re slower, their speed having dropped from 6” to 3”. They used to have 2 Hit Dice, but now they range from 1 to 4. Their bite damage has been majorly nerfed from 2-12 to 1-4. The only other major change is with their blood drain ability. In OD&D they drained levels at the rate of one per turn. Now they drain hit points at the rate of 1 per round for each of the leech’s Hit Dice. It doesn’t sound much, but while the victim is still in water it’s very unlikely they’ll notice until half of their hit points are gone. They still cause disease, but they aren’t quite as deadly. In OD&D, the disease was automatic, and killed you in a month. Now there’s a 50/50 chance that the leech is diseased, and it is fatal after 2-5 weeks.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 26

God bless the letter K, and the paltry number of monsters whose name begins with that letter.  It's a short entry!

Ki-Rin: The ki-rin, a horse-like aerial spirit with vast magical powers, first appeared in Supplement III. Statistically the only major change to them is the addition of an extra attack per round, a horn that deals 3-18 damage as a +3 weapon.

In OD&D they were said to be able to cast spells as an 18th level magic-user. That’s still the case in AD&D, but the number of low level spells they can cast in a day has been greatly increased. They still have psionic powers, and average more psionic points than before. It’s hard to tell whether they’re more or less powerful than before, though; in OD&D they could use every psychic power available to magic-users, and in AD&D they get 4 major and 6 minor abilities. AD&D’s psionic system is very different than that found in OD&D, so I can’t really gauge this until I get to the Player’s Handbook.

In OD&D they were said to have the powers of a djinni at double strength, and that’s still true, as is their ability to cast all air-based spells at double strength. One area in which they’ve been powered down is their Magic Resistance. It’s still sitting at a healthy 90%, but in OD&D they were completely immune to spells cast below 12th level, and that’s no longer the case. But with an MR that high, it will probably not make a great difference.

We also get confirmation that the ki-rin’s ability to converse with anyone is telepathic. And their skin is worth 25,000 gp, which is just a great way to try and lure your PCs into skinning a majorly powerful being of Lawful Good alignment.

Kobolds: Kobolds first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2, and their stats haven’t changed here. What has changed is the amount of detail given to them. Their society is described as tribal, like most of the D&D humanoids, and they have the usual selection of leaders and bodyguards. They are also said to keep wild boars and giant weasels in their lairs. Most kobolds use short swords, axes and clubs, with javelins and spears as missile weapons. They hate gnomes and other woodland fey like brownies and sprites. Nothing is mentioned about them being expert trap-makers, a thing that becomes standard later on. Nor are they described as dog-like or scaly in the text, although the illustration does depict them in that way.  It's not the first time they've been drawn in that manner, though; I distinctly remember some dog-men kobolds in Swords & Spells.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 25

Jackal: Jackals had first appeared in Supplement I, as one of the animals that can be summoned using a bag of tricks. Of the few stats that had been previously established, only Armor Class is changed (from 8 to 7). They’re quite weak, and said to be cowardly and not particularly fierce. The text outright states that they’re only here because of the bag of tricks. Gary actually sounds a little bit apologetic.

Jackalwere: This is a new monster. The jackalwere is a sort of reverse lycanthrope – rather than being a man that can take the shape of a jackal, it is a jackal that can take the shape of a man. Their main attack is a gaze that causes sleep, and they can only be struck by iron or magical weapons. Described as malign foes of humankind, they pretty much exist to kill people, eat them, and steal their treasure (not unlike most adventurers).

I feel like I should be able to make something of the reverse-lycanthropic nature of these creatures. Certainly they must tie to the other lycanthropes somehow. I’m leaning towards jackalweres being the more ancient of the two – it just feels right. I’d like to connect them to the origins of lycanthropy, if at all possible, but that’s some thinking I’ll leave to a later date.

Jaguar: Jaguars first appeared on the wilderness encounter tables in Supplement III, but they get stats here for the first time. They’re hard to surprise, and if both of their claw attacks hit, they can make extra attacks with their rear claws. Any monster with five attacks a round isn’t to be trifled with. I’m a little dubious about their ability to leap 30 feet into combat, but admittedly I know very little about these animals, and I gather that Gary used to enjoy watching wildlife documentaries. So I guess he knows what he’s on about.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 24

Imp: Imps are a new monster, a type of minor devil that often serves as the familiar to a lawful evil wizard or cleric. And as far as familiars go, these guys are just about the best. Their own abilities are formidable, including a poisonous tail, regeneration, invisibility and suggestion. They’re immune to normal weapons, can’t be harmed by fire, cold or electricity, and have a pretty high magic resistance in general. They can also polymorph into the form of a spider, raven, giant rat or a goat.

The real benefit of having one as a familiar comes from the powers they bestow on their master. If the imp is close enough, it confers its own regeneration and magic resistance. The master also operates at one experience level higher. Admittedly, if it’s out of range he’s one level lower, and if the imp gets killed he loses four levels, so there’s always an element of risk. The imp can also contact the lower planes like a Commune spell, and presumably has no chance of going insane from the experience.  That really is a great familiar, so long as you take good care of it.

Intellect Devourer: Intellect Devourers first showed up in Supplement III. They have been altered only very little (the only change being a shift to 6+6 Hit Dice instead of 6), which probably has to do with how late into the game's development they were created.  I would think that Gary had a really firm grip on how to create a good monster by 1976.  See here for my original write-up.

Invisible Stalker: Invisible Stalkers debuted in OD&D Vol. I and II, as creatures summoned by the Invisible Stalker spell. They haven’t changed in concept here, and their stats are the same. We learn that they are from the Elemental Plane of Air (which I believe had been implied before, but never explicitly stated) and that they roam the Astral and Ethereal Planes (as had already been established). Nothing before was said about their invisibility making them harder to hit, but now anyone attacking one suffers a -2 penalty. Likewise, they now gain surprise on a 1d6 roll of 1-5, which was never stated before. They also get a 30% magic resistance they didn’t have previously. Invisible Stalkers still resent long, ongoing tasks, and now their tendency to pervert their master’s wishes has been given some game mechanics to go with it (a 1% cumulative chance of turning on their master per day of service).

Irish Deer: Irish Deer are the prehistoric variety, very large and with fierce antlers. They’re only aggressive during ‘rutting season’. The only problem I see with this creature is the name, there being no Ireland in the official World of Greyhawk. As is usual in such cases, given that the World of Greyhawk is explicitly an alternate Earth, I will say that these creatures originated from the area of the world that is in roughly the same place as Ireland.

Ixitxachitl: These monsters first appeared in Supplement II, and like most monsters from that book they’ve received an extensive overhaul. Their Armor Class has changed from 6 to 5, movement from 9 to 12, and Hit Dice from 2-1 to 1+1. Their single attack once did 3-18 damage, but has been reduced to 3-12. Conceptually they remain the same, being intelligent manta rays with a whole lot of cleric leaders, but their nature as philosophers has been lost (much to my disappointment). There are still vampiric ixitxachitl, but they are only encountered half as often, and they are no longer turned by holy symbols. Their claim to vampirism is that they can regenerate, and their touch drains levels (neither of which the monster could do before).  So they just got a very big boost, because looking back at the vampiric ixitxachitl in Supplement III, all the vampirism did was allow it to be turned.  It was more of a weakness than a strength.