Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 57: Monster & Treasure Assortment - Set One: Levels One-Three

Released somewhere around the mid-point of 1977, TSR's Monster & Treasure Assortment - Set One: Levels One-Three presents a series of lists that the DM can use to create adventures on the fly, or to aid them in dungeon preparation. The bulk of the work for this product seems to have been done by Gary Gygax's then teenage son Ernie, as he related on Facebook:

"I worked on the creation alone. Sitting after school at my Dad's desk at 723 Williams St, with percentile dice, paper and pencil. I was to roll up randomly everything (using the original boxed set) and change it as I saw fit to make it fun. Dad was of the belief that the customer seemed to not be like us so much in that they really loved pre-made materials. I also had to create at least one new monster in one case the Water Weird."

The product begins by explaining its purpose, with the author suggesting that dungeon levels should first be populated with several special monsters, while the other areas of that level can then be filled with selections from the lists that follow.  On average, the author states that 20% of dungeon rooms should have monsters, and that 20% of those monsters should have no treasure, so that players won't always know whether there is loot to be found.

For each pf dungeon levels 1 to 3 there is a list of sample encounters numbered from 1 to 100.  It's all pretty standard low-level D&D fare, although I'll get into some more detail below as to which monsters are new here, or getting stats for the first time.  It's interesting to note that while the monsters' hit points are listed, their Hit Dice aren't; it's a pretty glaring omission, I feel.  There's also an entry for Attack Level, which shows what the creature needs to roll to hit Armor Class 9.  It's something of a precursor to THAC0, the "To Hit Armor Class 0" short-hand that was used a little bit in AD&D 1st edition and became a core rule in 2nd edition.

The treasures also have a 100-entry list for each dungeon level. These are a lot more bare bones than the monster lists, mostly being either an amount of coins, some gems and jewelry, or a magic item. None of these is new or particularly inspired, but could be useful for determining the rough level of treasures that the Gygaxes were using in their dungeons.  Also, you know this is still definitely based on original D&D, because there's a potion of diminuation there, rather than AD&D's potion of diminution.

To supplement the trasure lists there are some random tables that show how they are stored and protected: one table for containers, one for traps, and to show how the treasure is hidden.  The idea that most treasures will be hidden hasn't really come up yet that I can recall, so this could be the first time it's being brought forth as a core part of dungeon design.

The following are the monsters that I believe are getting stats here for the first time.  I could be incorrect about some of these.

  • Centipedes: These were mentioned in D&D Vol 2: Monsters & Treasure but didn't get stats there.
  • Giant Rats: As unlikely as it seems, I'm pretty giant rats get some official stats here for the first time. Like a lot of giant animals, they were mentioned in the original D&D boxed set.
  • Giant Weasels: Like others, they were mentioned in original D&D and get their first stats here.
  • Large, Giant and Huge Spiders: They were mentioned in original D&D, and Phase Spiders were in Supplement I: Greyhawk, but regular old giant spiders get stats here for the first time.
  • Giant Lizards: Two varieties of giant lizard were introduced in Supplement II: Blackmoor (Fire Lizards and Minotaur Lizards) but neither matches the giant lizard as presented here. The Giant Lizard here has a bite attack that deals double damage on a natural 20, and matches exactly with the Giant Lizard as presented in the upcoming Monster Manual.
  • Giant Poisonous Snakes: I'm really unsure about this one. An aquatic variety of snake got stats in the original D&D boxed set, but I can't find any other snake stats on my notes. So I'm tentatively adding this one to my list.

That's it, I think. It's also probable that a bunch of the monsters, those that first appeared in Supplement II: Blackmoor, may have stats that match up closer to the Monster Manual than their original versions. As I recall on my first pass through, those were the ones that Gygax revised the most, and all evidence points to him working on the Monster Manual at around this time.

It's also interesting to note that paladins appear on these lists using the level titles for fighters, e.g. Paladin Swordsman, Warrior Paladin, etc.  They were still very much at this point being treated as a subset of the fighter, much more so than they were in AD&D.

To round things off, there's an example monster/treasure matrix provided for the first level of a dungeon that I may use as part of the Ultimate Sandbox:

First Dungeon Level
  1. (Description of a specially designed monster and treasure which the DM has placed in a special area - such as a barracks, armory, great hall, temple, etc.)
  2. (ditto.)
  3. (ditto.)
  4. (ditto.)
  5. Monster #37 (footpads): Treasure - #3 as shown (1000 copper pieces), contained in #4 (chests, 6 total), with guard devices #3 (poisoned needles in lock), #5 (spring darts firing from front of container), and #7 (spring darts firing up from inside bottom of container) in chests 2, 4 and 6; #15 (a piece of jewelry worth 700 gold pieces) is hidden in one of a set of leather arm guards casually thrown on a pile of old and worn clothing and armor. See 7 below.
  6. Monster #72 (giant rats): No treasure.
  7. Monster #9 (bandits): Treasure - #28 (300 silver pieces), contained in a chest guarded by poisoned needles in handles. Note: these men serve 5. above, and if they hear any commotion they will come to the aid of their masters, and the reverse is true.
Overall, I do kind of question the usefulness of this product, as it doesn't seem all that better than the kind of thing a competent DM could come up with on the fly on their own.  It's perhaps more useful for novice DMs, as a way for them to get a feel for the type and number of monsters that should appear on certain dungeon levels, as well as how much treasure they should have.  If I do end up using this, it will probably be in conjunction with the geomorphs to make a dungeon that contains the sample encounters from those.

No comments:

Post a Comment