Monday, February 27, 2012

AD&D Monster Manual Part 39

Quasit: Quasits make their first appearance here. Quasits are small demons that are often used as familiars by chaotic evil magic-users or clerics. In addition to their magic resistance they get a whole raft of special abilities: a claw attack that can drain Dexterity, detect good and magic, regeneration, invisibility, a fear blast, immunity to fire, cold and lightning, and they can only be hit by magical or cold iron weapons.

As formidable as they are, as familiars they are even better. When the quasit is nearby, it’s masters gets the quasit’s magic resistance and regeneration, and is also considered as one level higher. It's pretty amazing stuff. It’s balanced out by being one level lower when the quasit is away, and by the loss of four levels if it is ever killed, but to me it seems like a fair trade.

The quasit can also contact the lower planes once per week to help its master, getting the answers to six questions. I remember that in OD&D this was a very useful ability, but also a very dangerous one. Having a flunky around to do it for you is pretty handy.

The main aim of a quasit is to enable its master to spread evil, in the hope that when it returns to the Abyss it will be transformed into a Type I or II demon. This is the first reference I’ve ever seen to some sort of advancement system for demons. I like it; it gives an incentive for all those souls that demons like to collect. There’s also a reference to quasits liking to destroy Lawful Evil humans to steal their souls. Could this be an early hint towards the Devil/Demon animosity?

Rakshasa: Rakshasas first appeared in The Strategic Review #5. Statistically they have changed very little; their Movement Rate has increased from 12 to 15. Their alignment has changed from Chaotic to Lawful Evil, yet more proof that Chaotic in OD&D is equivalent to evil in AD&D. Otherwise the entry is almost word for word the same as it was before, with no significant changes or additions. Except for the rad smoking jacket.

That pesky reference to India is still present. So do they hail from India in the real world, or Oerth’s India-equivalent? As before, I lean towards the latter.

Giant Ram: Giant rams first appeared in the Wilderness Encounter Tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry. They get stats here for the first time. As expected, a sheep taller than a man is well hard, with lots of hit points and some hefty damage potential. Especially the males, who can charge for double damage. They only attack when threatened. I wonder what possesses Gary sometimes. Giant sheep? I suppose giants have to eat something.

Giant Rat: I don’t know whether to believe my notes, because it’s difficult to fathom that giant rats were not detailed in OD&D. They’re mentioned a bit. There’s an illustration of one in Supplement I: Greyhawk, and their bite damage is listed in the same book. One is mentioned in a combat example in the first D&D Basic Set. But this is, unbelievably, the first time that giant rats are fully detailed in D&D. They conform to the scant details already revealed, and are otherwise monsters with low hit points and a bite that can pass on disease. Most interestingly, they have an alignment tendency towards evil

Giant rats are described here (and in the illustration from Supplement I) as "Sumatran".  As with Rakshasas above, I take this to mean the area of Greyhawk that corresponds with real-world Sumatra (aka Indonesia).


  1. Anonymous7:41 PM PST

    So, despite what a lot of people suggest ("greyhawk is the default setting of AD&D") I just don't think it is true. The rakshasa and the "sumatran" rat being proof.

  2. Stats for G. Rats appeared in the Monster & Treasure Assortment #1, possibly published as early as Feb 1977, and definitely included in the Holmes Basic Set. They are also in the Holmes Sample Dungeon with some stats. The Holmes entry was added to the 2nd edition after the Monster Manual. But as you note, it's hard to believe they are not fully described in M&T or Greyhawk.

  3. pseckler13, I would say that Greyhawk was the default setting for AD&D; there's just too much of it baked into the core books. Even with the Sumatra/India thing (not to mention the Portuguese Man-o-War), there are a number of sources that indicate that Oerth/Greyhawk is an alternate Earth.

    I don't believe it's the default setting for 0D&D, though.

  4. I just found this blog while making my way through Jeff's blogroll. Your campaigns (both the one you are/were running and the ultimate sandbox) were fun to keep up with.

    I especially liked your take on how to incorporate new characters into existing games, as that's something I have been pondering, myself. I plan to follow up my own post on it, incorporating your ideas. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Any chance of you continuing to post? Your blog really is enjoyable.

  5. Anonymous10:24 PM PST

    Giant rats are 'Sumatran' because of Sherlock Holmes. The reference comes from a line Holmes delivers in The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire. The rats don't actually appear in that tale.

    -Ewan Cummins