Saturday, March 28, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 57

UMBER HULK: Umber Hulks debuted in Supplement I: Greyhawk, and I would like to take this opportunity to curse their very existence.  I've been playing a lot of Rogue on my phone lately, and the bloody Umber Hulks are doing my head in.  Whenever I'm having a good run, and hitting the lower levels with a decent character one of these bastards pops up, confuses me, and bludgeons me to death.  Bloody Umber Hulks.  I hate 'em.


Umber Hulks remain mostly the same as they were in OD&D.  They still have a gaze that causes confusion on a failed saving throw, and they still burrow through stone at a rate of 1" per turn.  Both of these abilities receive minor tweaks in the Monster Manual: the confusion ability is given a duration of 3-12 rounds, and the burrowing is now at 6" per turn in loam.  Probably the biggest change that the Umber Hulk gets here is an alignment switch from Neutral to Chaotic Evil.  It seems to me as though they've been reinterpreted from beasts to intelligent creatures, and the addition of their own language bears this out.

There are some other fun additions.  We already knew that Umber Hulks love human flesh, but here it is said that they prey on anhkheg and young purple worms.  The physical description of the creature is outlined in greater detail, and thankfully it is no longer described as having a head resembling a "bushel basket". 

Stat Changes:
Hit Dice: Old - 8, New - 8+8; Damage: Old - 2 claws 2-12 and bite 2-8, New - 2 claws 3-12 and bite 2-10

UNICORN: Unicorns first appeared in D&D Vol. 2: Monsters & Treasure, and they've been given a lot of extra detail here.  The main details are retained: that they may be approached and tamed by a "pure and noble maiden"; their great magic resistance, as they make saves as an 11th-level magic-user; their ability to sense the approach of all enemies at 24"; and their ability to flee using dimension door, taking their rider with them.  The taming of unicorns by maidens has been clarified: any maiden must be elven or human and good-aligned to tame a unicorn; even then they have but a 25% chance.

A lot of new abilities and immunities have been added.  A charging unicorn now does double damage with its horn.  In OD&D, this was described as "fighting like a lance"; this may very well have been functionally the same ability, but the obfuscatory nature of the OD&D rules makes it ambiguous.  The horn is now considered a magical weapon (for the unicorn, not the PCs), and strikes at +2 to hit. The unicorn is said to be immune to all poisons, and the possession of a unicorn's horn is a "sovereign remedy against all forms of poison, gas included".  They surprise on a roll of 1-5, due to silent movement.  They're also immune to charms, holds and death magic.  All-in-all, it's a bunch of upgrades designed to make them harder to kill or capture.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 1-4, New - 2-5; Hit Dice: Old - 4, New 4+4; Damage: Old - 2 hooves 1-8 and 1 horn 1-16, New - 2 hooves 1-6 and 1 horn 1-12

Friday, March 20, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 56

TROGLODYTE: Once again I find myself surprised by a monster that is just now making its first appearance in D&D.  Troglodytes are a race of subterranean, reptilian humanoids that are hostile to humans and "aim to slaughter all whom they encounter".  They live in large cavern complexes, and a tribe will be 50/50 split between males and females, the females being about half as strong in battle.

The main weapon of the Troglodyte is its horrid stench, which it secretes when "aroused for battle".  (Gary's words folks, not mine.)  The stench is said to affect humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves and halflings.  Going strictly by the rules that means that half-orcs PCs should be unaffected, but it could simply be that half-orcs haven't been introduced as a PC race yet.  Regardless, any of those races who fails a save vs. poison will lose 1 point of Strength every round for 1-6 rounds (i.e. if you roll a six, you will eventually drop by 6 points).  No word on how it works when faced with multiple troglodytes, but I wouldn't penalise a character beyond the initial loss of Strength.

Beyond that ability, Troglodytes can change their skin colour like chameleons, which grants them a bonus to surprise (though they can't use this ability and their stench at the same time).  They also have infravision, of course.

TROLL: I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that the Troll may very well be the most perfectly-designed monster in D&D history.  It's barely changed here from its first appearance in D&D Vol. 2: Monsters & Treasure.  Their regeneration ability remains mostly the same (3 hit points per round, beginning on the third round after being damaged), with but one change - instead of rising from death at 6 hit points, they rise whole and unharmed after 3-18 rounds, unless burned or immersed in acid.  One new addition is that any severed body parts remain alive, and will continue to attack anything that comes within their reach.  they've also been explicitly given infravision, but then again every monster in OD&D had that, so it's not really an alteration to the Troll so much as it is to all of the monsters who lack it in the Monster Manual.

Stat Changes:
Hit Dice: Old - 6+3, New - 6+6; Damage: Old - Claw 1-4, Bite 1-8; New - Claw 2-5, Bite 2-12

TURTLE: There are two varieties of turtle presented here: Giant Sea Turtle, and Giant Snapping Turtles.  A generic Giant Turtle appeared in the Wilderness Encounter tables of Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, but this is the first time that turtles of any kind get stats in D&D.  The Sea Turtle has more hit points, and can capsize boats and small ships.  The Snapping Turtle deals more damage, and likes to hide at the bottom of lakes and rivers before jumping out to surprise its prey.  Both of them have separate Armour Class totals for their body and head, and can withdraw their heads for protection.  There's not a lot else to say, to be honest.  They're turtles, you know?  They didn't even get their own illustration.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 55

TREANT: Treants first appeared in D&D Vol. 2: Monster & Treasure, originally under the name of "Ents".  They've grown more powerful statistically since then (see below), but otherwise remain much the same, with their main power being the ability to animate normal trees and cause them to attack.  The one major change is that they now have a greater vulnerability to fire.

The opening line of the Treant entry reads "Treants are strangely related to humans and trees, combining features of both species".  I'm not sure how literally I should interpret them being related.  If I wanted to tie it in I could say that the animating power behind each Treant is a human spirit, but I think I prefer to keep them as ancient and mysterious. 

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 2-20, New - 1-20; Armor Class: Old - 2, New - 0; Movement: Old - 6", New - 12"; Hit Dice: Old - 8, New - 7 to 12;

TRITON: Tritons first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk.  They've been severely depowered; in the original version, all Tritons had spellcasting abilities, and they had around double the amount of Hit Points.  They still retain their 90% magic resistance, though, and if enough Tritons are encountered there'll be high-level fighters, clerics and magic-users.  They can even use psionics, as they were able to in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  They still ride sea horses, and have gained hippocampi and sea lions as pets.

Tritons wear armour made of scales that gives them AC 4, and their primary weapons are swords, daggers, spears, tridents and crossbows.  Triton leaders usually have a conch shell that has a number of magical powers.  The shell, when blown, can calm rough waters; summon hippocampi, sea lions or sea horses; and cause marine creatures of animal intelligence to flee.  It's not stated, but I'd rule these shells as being unusable by any but a Triton.

Triton society is fleshed out a little bit more than it had been.  They're rumoured to be from the Elemental Plane of Water, sent to the material plane for a purpose unknown to man.  They worship the god Triton, and have fought wars against ixitxachitl, koalinths, lacedons and most frequently the sahuagin.  Surprisingly, they like humans.  It's a rarity in the Monster Manual.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 5-30+, New - 10-60; Armor Class: 6 to 4, New - 5; Hit Dice: Old - 5 to 7, New - 3; Damage: Old - 3-18, New - By weapon type

Saturday, March 07, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 54

TITANOTHERE: Titanotheres first appeared in D&D as a part of the random encounter tables from Vol. 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, and again in the encounter tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  This is the first time they get a proper write-up.  According to Gary, they are huge, fearless plant-eaters that roamed the plains of the Pleistocene era in herds.  The herds will usually be 50% adult and 50% young, and the largest will attack if the herd is threatened.  This attack is a charge that deals double damage ( a hefty 4-32), and will also result in any smaller victim being trampled for 2-12 damage per foot.

Titanotheres, of course, were real, or at least as real as any creatures conjectured by paleontologists.  Gary has most of his details correct, but his placing of them in the Pleistocene era is way off.  Titanotheres died of around 28 million years ago, whereas the Pleistocene era started a mere 1.8 million years ago.  Gary has a habit of just lumping all of the "prehistoric" creatures into the Pleistocene era, and I'm okay with that for gaming purposes.  The only way it will come into play is via time travel (in which case you want as many creatures to menace the party with as possible) or the discovery of a "Lost World" (in which case historical/scientific accuracy is kind of irrelevant).

TOAD, GIANT: Giant Toads first appeared in Supplement II: Blackmoor, but here they've been given a complete overhaul.  Their tongue attack, which could draw victims into the toad's mouth, is gone, as is the protective colouration that provided them with effective invisibility.  The old toads had a poisonous bite as well, but we have a poisonous toad in the Monster Manual, so that hasn't been completely lost.  Their ability to leap has also been seriously neutered.  Whereas before toads could leap 18", they now can make a leap equal to their Movement (which in most cases is 6").  They can make an attack either during or after their leap, so most of the difficulty in facing them in combat will come from their mobility.  I kind of miss the tongue attack, to be honest.  I will probably keep the original version of giant toads around as a species native to the Blackmoor region.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 3-30, New - 1-12; Movement: Old - 1", swim 3", New - 6"; Hit Dice: Old - 1 or 2, New - 2+4; Damage: Old - 1 bite for 1-10, New - 1 bite for 2-8

TOAD, ICE: Ice Toads are appearing here for the first time.  They're native to cold climes, and can be sometimes found underground.  They get the same leaping attack as the regular giant Toad, and in addition to that they can radiate a burst of cold every other round, dealing 3-18 damage to any creature that isn't cold-resistant.  Throw in the fact that they have 5 Hit Dice and they make for formidable opponents, but more interesting than that is that they speak their own language, and have an Average intelligence.  Presumably, with intelligence that rivals that of humans, they have their own society and culture, which had never occurred to me before.  It's something to think on.

TOAD, POISONOUS: Poisonous Toads are pretty much exactly like the Giant Toads mentioned above, but their bite has a save or die poison.  I approve.

TRAPPER: Huh.  I was all set for a hefty entry here, but it turns out that Trappers are making their first appearance in the Monster Manual.  This is another nonsense monster that has seemingly perfectly evolved to destroy dungeon-delving adventurers.  With it's flat, stone-like body, the Trapper masquerades as a floor and waits for its prey to walk over it.  It often creates a "protuberance" that resembles a chest or a box, and when the unsuspecting prey comes near, it wraps around them and smothers them to death.

I'm not entirely certain how a lone adventurer is meant to survive this, aside from the obviosu measure of not walking over the Trapper.  It's 95% undetectable, so the likelihood of a warning from the DM is slim.  It is said to simply "close itself upon the unsuspecting victims", which doesn't spell much out about how it works mechanically.  It sounds automatic to me, though I would be inclined to require a hit roll or a saving throw.  The person trapped inside can't attack, takes damage every round, and dies from smothering in six rounds.  The only way out is for someone else to kill the trapper, or face it with certain death.  (Not as easy as it sounds: Trappers are resistant to both fire and cold).  Again, I see no way for a lone adventurer to escape, but I suppose that dungeon delving on your own is a risky proposition.

I like the way that Trapper damage is determined: it deals 4 damage per round, plus the Armor Class of the victim.  So (disregarding bonuses from Dexterity) it means that the more heavily armored the victim is, the more resistant he is to being crushed.  It's a simple, elegant rule.

Paying attention once more to the intelligence rating of the monster, I see that Trappers are rated as High.  I would have thought of them as nearly mindless.  There are probably quite a lot of monsters that I need to rethink along these lines.