Thursday, April 23, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 61

 WILL-O-(THE)-WISP: Will-o-the-Wisps first appeared in Supplement 1: Greyhawk.  They appear as glowing balls of light that lead victims to their deaths in order to feed on the life-force as it leaves the victim's body.  They haven't changed much from their first appearance.  Whereas before only one wisp would be encountered, now there's a 10% chance to meet 1-3, usually close to their lair.  As in OD&D they can alter their brightness, even extinguishing it entirely and becoming invisible.  In OD&D this invisibility wasn't given a limit, but here it is restricted to a duration of 2-8 melee rounds, and then only if the wisp doesn't attack.  (I can see why, as strictly by-the-book OD&D wisps could remain invisible at all times and still attack.)

Another thing that has changed is the range of weapons that can harm a wisp.  In OD&D, they could only be hurt by metallic weapons, but here any weapon will hurt them.  They get a hell of a compensation, though: they are now immune to every spell except for protection from evil, magic missile and maze.  As before, a wisp will surrender and reveal its treasure if near death; in OD&D it would do so at 3 hit points or lower, and here it does so at 5 hit points.  I wonder if this means that wisps can speak?  They do have Exceptional Intelligence, but no mention is made of how they communicate.

Oh, and in combat they now glow blue, violet, or pale green.  It's a charming touch.  I would also like to point out that wisps have an Armor Class of -8.  As far as I can tell, that's the best AC in the Monster Manual, equalled only by Demogorgon.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 1, New - 1 or 1-3; Damage: Old - 2-12, New - 2-16

WIND WALKER: Wind Walkers first showed up in The Strategic Review #3.  They remain much the same as before: ethereal wind-based creatures that dwell on high mountains or in deep caverns.  The first new thing we learn about them is that they originate from the Elemental Plane of Air.

Two factors are affected by the number of wind walkers that appear: the distance at which they are detected, and the range at which they can detect thoughts (as they are telepathic). Each wind walker present adds 10' to these ranges.  This works the same in AD&D as it did in OD&D, but it's a bit clearer in the Monster Manual.

The way that wind walkers attack is something I'm not clear on.  It's said that they attack by wind force, causing 3-18 points of damage per turn to every creature within 1" that they hit.  This means that they get an attck against every creature in that range, yes?  But once a turn?  Is that correct, or should I interpret that as once per attack round?  It makes a big difference.  Also, the original entry for wind walker had a note that they deafen victims at 20 feet.  That's not present here at all.

As before, wind walkers ca only be fought by other ethereal creatures (djinn, efreet, invisible stalkers and aerial servants are named specifically), but there are a number of spells which can affect them.  These spells are the same in AD&D as in OD&D: control weather will destroy them on a failed save, slow hits them like a fireball, ice storm drives them away for 1-4 rounds, and haste halves their hit points but doubles their damage output.  They are, as before, affected by magical barriers.  They still pursue foes tenaciously as they did in OD&D, but there they did so for at least 10 turns; here they will chase for only 2-5 rounds.

As in OD&D, they are subject to telepathic attack, and can be controlled by storm giants.

Stat Changes:
Armor Class: Old - 8, New - 7; Hit Dice: Old - 6, New - 6+3

Thursday, April 16, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 60

WHALE: In principle this is the same monster that first appeared in Supplement II: Blackmoor, but its absurdities have been wrangled somewhat.  Just look at the damage listed below: originally a whale fluke could dish out up to 140 points of damage, which is a little extreme.  The AD&D whale is still a powerful beast when riled, but it's been brought back to a level that fits on the mortal plane.

Whales are split into plant-eaters and carnivores, and the carnivores will often attack humans (killer whales will always attack, which doesn't sound at all accurate, but this is D&D).  In addition to the bite and fluke attacks mentioned above, whales near the surface can do a tail smash that deals damage equal to one-half the whale's Hit Dice.  I wonder if this is accurate, or if it was supposed to say hit points.  As it is, the tail smash deals from 6 to 18 damage depending on the whale's size, which seems a little paltry.

Carnivorous whales can swallow their prey whole, and the biggest can swallow a whole longship and crew.  It's said that escape isn't too difficult, but a whale's digestive juices deal 1 point of damage per turn (that's slow), and there's a 50% chance that anyone disgorged will emerge at a great depth underwater.

Never one to shy away from making dead monsters valuable, Gary says that whales often have treasure in their stomachs (this bit was in Supplement II as well).  There's a 1% chance per hit dice that each treasure type will be present.  If a whale is sick it creates ambergris, which can be sold for 1,000 to 20,000 gp, and a whale carcass is worth 100gp per hit die.  Ambergris is most often used in perfumes, and whenever I read about it it reminds me of the following quote from Moby Dick: "Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale!"

Stat Changes:
Armor Class: Old - 5, New - 4; Movement: Old - 18", New - 18" to 24"; Hit Dice: Old - 40, New - 12 to 36; Damage: Old - 1 bite at 10-80 and 1 fluke at 15-150, New - 1 bite ranging from 5-20 to 15-60 and 1 fluke ranging from 1-8 to 5-40

WIGHT: Wights have been around since OD&D, and have changed but little.  The first change I noticed is that they are no longer referred to as "nasty critters", which gives them a bit of added dignity.  We learn that the term wight used to mean "person", but now refers to this undead monster, which dwells in barrow mounds or catacombs, hates all life, and shuns sunlight.  Basically, wights have become an actual concept rather than a collection of stats hoping that you've read Tolkien.

Like a lot of undead in this book, Wights are now said to exist simultaneously in the Prime and Negative Material Planes.  They can only be damaged by silver or magical weapons, which is a slight tweak: in OD&D only magic weapons could damage them, but the silver is new.  They also now get the standard raft of undead immunities, such as sleep, charm, hold and cold-based spells, and a vulnerability to holy water.  A raise dead spell will now destroy a wight outright.

In OD&D, any man-type drained or killed by a wight becomes a wight.  That's clarified here: the newly created wight is at half-strength, and under the control of the one who slew it.

But the best thing about wights, of course, is their level drain ability.  It was there in OD&D, and it's here as well, unchanged in all its glory.  May it live on forever.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 2-24, New - 2-16; Movement: Old - 9", New - 12"; Hit Dice: Old - 3, New - 4+3; Damage: Old - energy drain only, New - 1-4 plus energy drain

Thursday, April 09, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 59

GIANT WASP: Giant wasps first appeared in Supplement II: Blackmoor.  As I've mentioned before, monsters from that supplement were often heavily rewritten by Gary.  Giant wasps have remained the same conceptually (how could they not, they're based on the real-world) but they work very differently terms of the rules.  The biggest change is with their sting attack.  In OD&D most giant wasps could sting only once, and 20% of them could sting twice.  Giant wasps from AD&D can sting as many times as they want.  This has been offset by a drop in the deadliness of the wasps' poison.  In OD&D it would kill the victim after 24 hours, with no saving throw; the only way to cure it was with a neutralize poison spell.  Said victim would be paralyzed within an hour, and any movement other than teleportation would kill him outright.  In AD&D, the victim now gets a saving throw.  If he fails he is paralyzed permanently, with death occurring after 2-5 days (either from the paralysis, or from being eaten by the wasp's larva).  Neutralize poison still works as a cure, as does a nebulously defined "antidote".

A small amount of ecological info is given.  Giant wasps hunt continuously, both for food and for victims to paralyze and feed to their larva.  Some wasps build nests out of mud, and some out of paper.  A paper nest will contain from 21-40 adult wasps within.

The entry ends with the rather charming note that the wings of giant wasps are vulnerable to fire, and will immediately be burned off by a fireball or any other hot flame.  It's a small touch, and the sort of thing I would probably forget during a game, but I like it.

Stat Changes:
Number Appearing: Old - 3-30, New - 1-20; Armor Class: Old - 5, New 4; Movement: Old - 6"/24", New - 6"/21"; Hit Dice: Old - 3, New 4; Damage: Old - 1 sting for 1-8, New - 1 sting for 2-8 and 1 bite for 1-4

WATER WEIRD: Water weirds make their debut here.  They are said to originate from the Elemental Plane of Water, and to feed on the essences of living things.  How they do the feeding is unknown, but they attack by forming into the shape of a watery serpent and lashing out, striking as a 6 Hit Die creature (they only have 3+3 Hit Dice, so this is a decent leap).  Any creature they hit will be dragged underwater unless he makes a save vs. paralyzation.

From what I gather here, water weirds are almost unkillable.  They take full damage from blunt weapons, but only 1 point from any bladed weapon.  If their hit points drop to zero they don't die; instead they are disrupted, and must wait 2 rounds to reform.  They are slowed by cold spells, and take half damage from fire spells (or none on a successful save).  It seems to me that the only method that will work is a purify water spell, and who's going to have one of those memorized?

This creature has another one of those charming little abilities that will rarely come into play, but would be awesome if they ever did: they have a 50% chance to take over and control any water elemental.  It's a bit odd that a creature so much weaker than an elemental can do this, but they are quite a bit more intelligent (a rank of Very, as compared to a rank of Low).

GIANT WEASEL: Giant weasels first appeared in the random encounter tables in OD&D, but this is the first time they get an entry of their very own.  They did get a damage listed for their bite attack in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1-8 plus blood drain), but here that has been amended to 2-12.  The blood drain has been kept: when a giant weasel attacks it doesn't let go.  Instead it holds on, draining blood at a rate that deals 2-12 damage per round to its victim.  Nothing is said about when the weasel lets go, or how to get it off short of killing it.

If they're taken young enough, giant weasels have a 25% chance that they can be trained to guard or hunt.  And ooh, we haven't seen this in a while: Gary has given a monetary value to the body part of another dead monster!  In this case it's the weasel's pelt, which sells for 1,000 to 6,000 gold pieces.  (Really?  That seems super generous.)

Friday, April 03, 2015

AD&D Monster Manual part 58


VAMPIRES: Vampires first appeared in OD&D, and most of the changes presented here are clarifications to their already-existing abilities.  There are plenty of those, so strap in, this could take a while.

The first change to be noted is that vampires are now Chaotic Evil.  In OD&D's three-alignment system, they were Chaotic.  In the article that first introduced the expanded nine-point alignment system (from The Strategic Review #6) Vampires were said to epitomise Lawful Evil, but that's not the case in the Monster Manual.

As before, it is said that vampires must rest in a coffin during daylight hours.  This requirement is now lessened for vampires who are far underground, though they still need to rest in a coffin occasionally, as their power is restored only by contact with soil from their own grave.  It's all very Dracula, but I wonder about the specific use of the term "grave".  What if a vampire was never buried?  What soil do they require then?

It's noted that vampires, and all other undead, exist simultaneously in the Material and Negative Plane.  I'm pretty sure that this has been mentioned in the Monster Manual before, but it's been a while since I started this whole thing and I can't remember.

Vampires are now explicitly said to have a Strength score of 18/76, bringing them in line with the uncanny strength they usually have in stories.  The damage done by a vampire's blow has been altered to reflect this.  An 18/76 Strength gives a damage bonus of +4, and a vampire's attack now deals 5-10 damage. or 1d6+4.  It's lovely when D&D makes sense.

As before, a vampire drains two levels from its victim with every hit.  Deal with it.  They are still only hit with magical weapons, and their regeneration ability remains unaltered.  As before, when reduced to 0 hit points a vampire is forced into gaseous form.  This is expanded on here: the vampire must then return to its coffin within 10 turns and regrow its body over the course of 8 hours.

Vampires get a number of new immunities: the standard things that don't work on undead (sleep, charm, hold), poison, and paralysis.  They are also given resistance to spells based on cold or electricity.

Some other abilities that have been barely altered: turning into gaseous form at will, transforming into a large bat, a gaze that can charm a person, and the ability to summon rats, bats or wolves.  The summoning has been clarified.  Bats can only be summoned when underground.  Rats and bats do not attack, but merely confuse and obstruct vision.  Summoned creatures take 2-12 rounds to arrive.

As before, vampires will recoil from garlic, a mirror, or a lawful good holy symbol if any of these is strongly presented.  Again, this is clarified.  These objects can't be used to drive a vampire away.  Garlic only causes them to hesitate for 1-4 rounds.  With the other two, a vampire will try to position itself so that the object isn't between itself and the victim, or it might try to get a minion to deal with the problem.

(Note: the cross is specifically mentioned here as a lawful good holy symbol, further evidence of the Christian roots of the D&D cleric.  I have to decide at some point whether I will have a Christian church in my campaign, or if I'll assign the cross to an existing Greyhawk deity.  Probably the latter.)

The same three methods for killing a vampire in OD&D are given here as well: exposure to direct sunlight, immersion in running water, and a stake through the heart.  Guess what?  There are more clarifications!  Sunlight now takes a full turn to kill a vampire, but that vampire loses all of its powers during that exposure.  Immersion in water drains a third of the vampires hit points every round, thus killing it in three rounds.  A stake through the heart now only keeps a vampire dead for as long as the stake remains lodged in its chest.  To permanently kill a vampire in this way, it must be beheaded, and holy wafers must be stuffed in its mouth.  (So there's another bit of Christian iconography. Whichever Greyhawk church I assign the cross will have to get holy wafers as well, I guess.)

Holy water is now said to deal 2-7 damage on a vampire struck with it.

As in OD&D, any human or humanoid killed by a vampire becomes a vampire under the control of the original (which means demi-human vampires are a thing.  And goblins, and orcs, and maybe even ogres and giants.  Rad!).  Clarifications!!!  The new vampire is said to be "appropriately-strengthed." I suppose that means Hit Dice?  It's specifically said here that vampires can have character classes, and that a vampire cleric will be Chaotic Evil.  No word on what happens to a vampire druid or paladin; I imagine that either would lose their powers.  The transformation into a vampire now takes one day after the creature is buried, but if it isn't buried it does not occur (that answers my grave dirt concerns from earlier).  If the head vampire is killed, all the rest become free-willed.  (This would have made the ending of The Lost Boys a lot messier.)

Finally, we see the introduction of the eastern vampire into D&D.  They are the same as regular vampires, except that they are invisible.  In exchange for this they can't charm with their gaze, and can't assume gaseous form at will (presumably they still do so when reduced to 0 hit points).  I wonder about the invisibility.  The way it's worded makes it seem more like a permanent state than an ability they can use.  I would probably play it as an ability, and treat it like the spell; level-draining monsters that can't ever be seen?  No thank you.

Stat Changes: Number Appearing: Old - 1-6, New - 1-4; Armor Class: Old - 2, New - 1; Hit Dice: Old - 7 to 9, New - 8+3; Damage: Old - 1-10, New - 5-10

Just one monster today, folks.  This one took a while, but it does cover the entirety of the letter V.  Progress!