Monday, October 10, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 35

Naga, Guardian: The guardian naga (and the other two types detailed below) debuted in The Strategic Review #3.  It’s a human-headed snake generally used to guard the treasures of lawful good types.  Their Armor Class has improved from 5 to 3, and their bite attack damage has improved from 1-3 to 1-6.  In OD&D they only had one attack per round, but now they can both bite and constrict.  They still have a lethal poisoned bite, as well as a spit attack, and they can cast spells as a 6th level cleric (all as before).  The only new thing we learn is that they have green-gold scales, silver triangles on their backs, and golden eyes.

Naga, Spirit: Spirit naga are the obligatory evil variety.  Their Armor Class has improved from 5 to 4 since their debut, but their Movement Rate has lessened from 15 to 12.  Their abilities from OD&D are mostly unchanged: they still have a gaze that can permanently charm their victims, and they can still cast spells.  Their spellcasting has been majorly nerfed, though: before they cast as 7th-level magic-users and 6th-level clerics; now they cast as 5th-level magic-users and 4th-level clerics.  We learn for the first time that they like to live in ruins and dungeons, and their scales are black and crimson (duh, they’re evil).

Naga, Water: Water naga are neutral, and usually don’t attack unless provoked.  Their Movement Rate, previously listed as 15, is now 9 on land and 18 in the water.  They still have a poisonous bite as before, and their magic-user spellcasting remains at 5th level.  But in OD&D, they were forbidden from using fire and lightning spells. Now the restriction is only to fire spells, so look out for those underwater lightning bolts.

The only new thing we learn is that they have emerald scales (with a whole bunch of other colours) and green or amber eyes.

There’s one big difference from their original presentation that makes them much less interesting: in OD&D they were said to live in palaces beneath the water.  Now they are said to live in places.  The former was much more magical and fun, but somewhat impractical.  And was probably a typo.

One thing that I never noticed about the naga is that only spirit naga have human heads.  The other two types just look like snakes.  I did not know that!

Neo-Otyugh: The neo-otyugh are appearing here for the first time.  The entry here references the otyugh, as these guys are a bigger and tougher version of that monster.  From what I can see here, they’re solitary and physically very powerful, with high hit points, low Armor Class, and the ability to do a lot of damage.  They’re also telepathic, which probably accounts for their ability to never be surprised.  They also carry diseases, which is not surprising from a monster that looks like a trash heap with tentacles and a mouth.  More on them when I get to the actual otyugh entry.

Night Hag: Night hags also make their first appearance here.  They rule the plane of Hades, and only ever appear on the Prime Material on solo missions to harvest the souls of very evil people.  Their primary method of capturing such a soul is to cast a powerful sleep spell (one that can affect up to 12 Hit Dice creatures) and then strangle the victim.  If that doesn’t work, the hag visits the victim in an ethereal state, invades his dreams, and then – ahem – “rides the victim until dawn”.  Each such ride drains the victim’s constitution, until he is eventually dead.

Night Hags get a whole bunch of other good abilities.  They can cast a powerful magic missile, as well as ray of enfeeblement.  They can become ethereal at will, know alignment, polymorph, and gate in other demons or devils. They’re immune to sleep, charm, fear, fire, cold, and any weapons other than silver, iron, or magic weapons of +3 or better.  There’s a nice bit with the gate ability, in that any demon or devil summoned will demand a larval soul from the hag.  I’m picturing these Night Hags as running a sort of trading post between Hell and the Abyss, with souls as the product on offer.

Every Night Hag forges their own periapt in Hades, which they can use for astral projection.  Anyone who steals one of these will be immune to disease and get a bonus to all saving throws, but it will decay in the hands of a good character.  A hag whose periapt is stolen can “leave the plane she is in at the time of the loss”.  I’m not sure what this means.  Is it just a way of ensuring that she isn’t trapped in the Astral Plane at the time of theft, or does it mean she can leave Hades for the Prime Material to hunt for the thief?

Nightmare: Nightmares make their first appearance here, and it’s surprising to me that Gary resisted the pun for this long.  Also known as Hell Horses and Demon Horses, they are black with flaming hooves and nostrils, and glowing red eyes.  They come from the lower planes, and are often used as steeds by demons, devils, night hags, and less commonly by undead such as spectres, vampires and liches.

They’re a decent mid-level opponent, having 6+6 Hit Dice, but what strikes me is their Armor Class of -4.  It’s better than all the dragons, and just about all the demons and devils.  Add the blinding smoke that comes from their mouths during combat, giving all opponents -2 to hit, and you have a monster that is terribly difficult to damage in melee.  It's Armor Class is effectively -6, and from what I can see only the Demon Princes and Arch-Devils have better defenses.

Nightmares can also fly, become ethereal, and roam the Astral Plane.  And they attack all material life, which is what I want from a D&D monster.

Nixie: Nixies first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2.  Their Number Appearing has been reduced from 10-100 to 20-80.  In OD&D they only had a Movement Rate of 12", but now they move at 6” on land and 12” when swimming.  They previously had 1 Hit Dice, but now they only roll a 1d4 for hit points.  In essence they are the same monster, being water sprites that like to charm humans to serve them for a year, but they’ve had a number of changes and additions.  The biggest is probably their ability to cast water breathing once per day, which nicely clarifies whether their charm victims survive underwater or not.  Their charm is also a little bit more powerful, with its target suffering a -2 penalty to the saving throw.  To balance that, a dispel magic now has a chance to work after the victim has gone underwater, which it didn’t before.

Nixies still have fish servants such as pike and gar, but the absurd number given in OD&D (10-100) is used for their ability to summon small non-combatant fish.  The larger types that will fight people are limited to just a few. 

Nixies have gained a Magic Resistance of 25%.  But they’ve also picked up an aversion to fire and light, which seems to be a garbled reading of the rule from OD&D.  In the old rules a flaming sword could be used to keep their fish at bay, but now it can be used that way on the Nixies themselves.  A light spell affects them the same way, but they can summon fish to block it (a lovely touch).

Other than that, we get a physical description and learn that they inhabit lakes and live in houses made of seaweed.

Nymph: Nymphs were first mentioned in Supplement II: Blackmoor, but only as a type of underwater dryad.  Here, they really are a completely new creature.  They appear as beautiful young women, and are found only in the loveliest wilderness areas.  They don’t like intruders, though.  They can dimension door once a day to escape, but they may not need to.  Not only can they cast druid spells as a 7th level caster, just looking at one may make you blind.  And that’s if the nymph has its clothes on; if it’s naked there’s a chance you’ll die instantly.  The nymph is only favourable towards good-aligned human males of 18 Charisma, and very occasionally to other good-aligned creatures.  Needless to say, nymphs were the subject of several ill-advised D&D adventures when I was a teenager.

As a final note, I would just like to call foul on Gary and TSR for not providing a picture of the Nymph.  For shame.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

AD&D Monster Manual part 34

Minotaur: Minotaurs, the bull-headed men of classical mythology, debuted in OD&D Vol. 2.  Their Hit Dice has been raised slightly, from 6 to 6+3.  It seems as though they get fewer attacks than they did before.  In Supplement I: Greyhawk, it looked to me as though they could attack with a headbutt, a bite, and a weapon, all in the same round.  In the Monster Manual they get two attacks, once with a weapon and once with either the headbutt or the bite, depending on how big the target is.  They usually use a huge axe or a flail, and get a damage bonus due to strength that they didn’t get before.

Minotaurs are now harder to surprise than they were before.  They’ve also gained the ability to track by scent, which should prove a great aid in their tendency to pursue prey.  I figure that these abilities are linked; the scent not only allows the tracking ability but alerts them to attackers as well.

Minotaurs are now Chaotic Evil (formerly they were either Neutral or Chaotic).  They have their own language as well, and it is said for the first time that they live in labyrinthine places.  These can be underground or in the wilderness, and I kind of like the idea of a maze-like forest of shifting trees that is crawling with minotaurs.

The only real change to incorporate here is the scent ability of the minotaur, and I’m chalking that up to their growing familiarity with adventurers.  They’ve always had the ability, but now they’re better at figuring out what adventurers smell like.

Mold, Brown: As far as I can tell, the brown mold is making its first appearance here.  Brown mold grows underground, and feeds on heat energy.  Any creature that gets too close will suffer 1-8 points of damage for every 10 degrees of body heat over 55 degrees that the creature has.  This is a rule I’ve never spotted before, and I’m really not sure how to adjudicate it.  A human has a core body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, so if I’m reading this correctly, brown mold deals 4d8 points of damage.  And that’s just to a person, it’s going to be more for red dragons and fire elementals and the like.

The mold grows if open flame is brought near it, so it’s not unlikely that a small patch could expand if a torch-wielding party stumbles by, or happens to cast a fireball near it.  Pretty much the only thing that can kill it is magical cold, specifically a cold wand or white dragon breath.  Ice storms and walls of ice only cause it to go dormant.  So there is literally one by-the-book option available to a party if they want to destroy this stuff.  Harsh.

Any creature that uses cold as an attack (specifically called out here are white dragons, ice toads and winter wolves) is immune to brown mold.  I’m instantly picturing a white dragon lair covered in the stuff.

Mold, Yellow: Yellow mold first appeared in OD&D Vol. 2.  The changes here are negligible.  It still causes damage to flesh on contact (which has been raised from 1-6 to 1-8) and releases lethal spores if broken.  In OD&D, if a character failed the save he was dead.  In AD&D, a character killed by yellow mold spores can be saved within 24 hours with a cure disease and a resurrection spell.  Why this is different from just using resurrection to return them to life, I have no idea.  Unless the cure disease is necessary to remove the spores from the lungs before the character can be revived?  Maybe the spores can’t be killed that way after 24 hours, and your character will just die again instantly if he is raised.  Something to think on.

I’m pleased to see that large colonies of yellow mold retain the chance to be psionic, and can attack with a powerful id insinuation.  The wording here is exactly the same as it was in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.

Morkoth: Morkoths made their debut in Supplement II: Blackmoor.  They probably need a bit of explanation, because I’ve never quite sorted them out in my head.  They’re shadowy monsters that live at the bottom of the ocean in a series of spiralling tunnels.  The tunnels have a hypnotic pattern, and anyone passing over an entrance to one will be drawn inside, where the morkoth uses its powers to control its mind and eat it.  Got that?  Because I think that’s the first time that I have.

Morkoths didn’t have a movement rate in OD&D, but now they get a quite fast swim speed of 18.  Their Hit Dice has dropped from 8 to 7.  Their only attack in OD&D was listed as “Special”, but now they get a bite attack that does 1-10 points of damage. Basically, they were useless unless their charm power worked, and Gary has fixed them.

The creature gets a vague physical description for the first time, as “possibly humanoid”.  It’s nice and mysterious.  The only other additions and changes are a lot of things that clarify exactly how their abilities work.  The only thing that has been really messed with is their ability to reflect spells back at the caster.  It’s still there, but a might negate it if cast at the exact same time as another spell.  Also, a reflected spell only affects the caster, unless it has an area of effect.  In OD&D, the caster and everyone within 10 feet were affected, regardless of whether the spell had an area effect or not.  (I’m wondering if anyone has ever used this rule to their advantage?  I’m picturing a cure light wounds being cast at a Morkoth, then reflected back to the caster and the rest of the party.  It’s a loophole that’s now been closed off, anyway.)

Mule: Mules were briefly touched on in the Horse entry in OD&D Vol. 2, but this is the first time they get an entry of their own.  The first thing that leaps out at me is that their Hit Dice has increased from 2+1 to 3.  The old value was nothing to scoff at, but now the average mule could conceivably do in a small party of novice adventurers.  They also get damage ranges for their attacks for the first time ever.  They’re still agile enough to be taken into dungeons, and strange smells can still spook them.  But in direct contradiction to OD&D, they are now not panicked by fire.  The maximum amount of weight they can carry has also increased from 3500 coins to 6000 coins.  It looks like average mules are now being bred much stronger and more well-trained than before.

Mummy: Mummies appeared for the first time in OD&D Vol. 2.  Their range for Number Appearing has decreased, from 1-12 to 2-8.  Their Hit Dice has increased from 5+1 to 6+3.  I usually don’t note down any changes to the % in Lair chance, because almost every monster has a small variation between OD&D and AD&D, but mummies had a whopping increase, from 30% to 80%.  This means that any encounter with mummies is much more likely to yield some treasure.

I’m interested to see that mummies are said to exist in both the Prime Material Plane and the Positive Material Plane.  Pretty much all of the other undead creatures are connected to the Negative Material Plane.  This may very well be a typo, but I think these sorts of anomalies are more interesting than any uniformity.  I’ll need to return to this once I have a better idea of what the Positive and Negative Planes actually are.

The mummy’s rotting touch is nowhere near as crippling as it was in OD&D.  It still causes you to heal at a rate ten times slower than normal, but now it can be cured completely with a cure disease spell; before, that spell stopped you from dying, but still left you with a rate of healing twice as slow as normal.  In OD&D, there was a very slim chance you might recover without magic, but here you will die in 1-6 months, and you now lose 2 Charisma points a month on top of that.  Oh, and the rotting also now negates all cure wounds spells completely.  If someone is killed by a mummy, you will now need to cast a cure disease spell in addition to a raise dead to bring them back, and it has to be done within 6 turns.  I’m guessing here that the mummy rot destroys dead tissue pretty quickly, and past a certain point there’s nothing to bring back to life.

Mummies have gained a new ability, an aura of fear that can paralyse people if they fail a saving throw.  If you’re in a larger party you get a saving throw bonus, and for some reason humans are more resistant to this fear than other races.  Mummies are specifically said to be undead humans, so there’s probably something in that.

Mummies are still hit only by magical weapons, and even those deal half damage (rounded down!).  And they’re still vulnerable to fire.  Some specific attacks, such as torches and flaming oil, are given damage ranges, and magical fire now deals an extra point of damage per die.  On top of that they gain a whole load of immunities that they didn’t specifically have before: sleep, charm, hold person, cold, poison and paralysis.

There’s a nice touch, in that a raise dead spell can be used to bring a mummy back to life.  I don’t recall that being something that can be done to any other undead. It has to tie into the Positive Material Plane thing somehow.