Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Monsters - Shrieker to Zombie

After a short delay for real world stuff, here are the final three pages worth of monsters in the Red Box, with commentary.

Shrieker: Similar to many of the slime group, these guys have very slow movement, 9' (3'). It's so slow that I rarely even bother to move them around when encountered, but it could be fun to describe to a group how, as they desperately pound and slice away at the shriekers to shut them up before wandering monsters show up, how they're slowly and pitifully shuffling away.

One interesting note: the text says "Shriekers look like giant mushrooms" (p. 37). Look like? Are they not actually mushrooms? If not, what are they really? Interesting possibilities there.

One thing I often forget with shriekers is that each only shrieks for 1-3 rounds, then stops. There's a 50% chance (4-6 on d6) chance each round of a wandering monster hearing it, and investigating within 2d6 rounds. This means that if, as a player, you do run into shriekers and don't have (or want to waste) a silence 15' radius spell, you could play the odds and just let them shriek, and hope that either they don't shriek for long (but with up to 8 in one encounter, there's a good chance at least one will shriek for 3 rounds), and/or that if they do shriek no monsters hear it, and/or if they do hear it, it the party will have enough time to get through the area and get away or hide before the monsters show up, and/or that the wandering monsters aren't very tough. That's a lot of good risk/reward management decision making right there.

Skeleton: The text says that skeletons are usually found as guards set by a high level MU or Cleric that animated them, which suggests that unlike other types of undead (besides zombies), this is the only way they are encountered, but in practice that's rarely the case. Unlike AD&D, skeletons in Basic have no special resistance to bladed weapons, but they are tenacious, with a Morale of 12, so once a battle starts, they never stop until destroyed. Also, the minimum number appearing (indoors or out) is 3, so while they can be turned fairly easily, in numbers they can still pose a threat if the Cleric can't turn them all in one round.

Snake: The text tells us that, like many other normal animals, "snakes do not usually attack unless surprised or threatened" (p. 37). However, in practice I tend to use snakes like most other monsters, with them in a hostile mood unless I remember to roll reaction dice and see what that tells me. Players, also, tend to encounter snakes and instantly go into attack mode.
Spitting Cobra: These guys have a poisonous bite, and of course the ability to spit poison in your eyes and blind you, and the text says they prefer to spit. A parenthetical note in the text tells us that there's a cure blindness spell in the Expert Set, but the DM may allow other methods to cure the blindness. I think early on, I let players douse their eyes with a waterskin worth of water to wash away the poison when we were young, but once we got the Expert Set, and had Clerics able to cast the spell, we just did that. I may still allow the eye flushing method in the future, if it happens really soon after the attack. Like, 1d4 rounds later, the damage is permanent unless cured by magic. Oh, also the poison in its bite takes 1d10 Turns before it affects (kills) the victim.
Giant Racer: This "giant" snake is only 4' long. That's not actually giant, real racers tend to be anywhere from 2' to 5' long. Still, it's got a 1d6 damage bite, which can be dangerous at low levels. Plus, Frank tells us to sometimes put in larger ones, 2' long per HD, and increase the bite damage accordingly. This is the second instance of "monster scaling" in the Basic Set, the first being dragons. And now I want to use some 10 HD, 20' long racers with 1d12 damage bites in an encounter.
Pit Viper: As I mentioned several posts back about infravision in general, pit vipers have it (60' range). They also have poison, and because they are fast, they always win initiative. There's no time limit given for the effects of their poison, so I can only assume it's instant death if you fail.
Sea Snake: Like giant racers, sea snakes are listed as explicitly scale-able (which in this case makes sense since more nautical adventures are likely to happen once you get the Expert Set). They have an unusual rule, which is that their bites go unnoticed 50% of the time. If the DM rolls in secret, this is easy to hide, but could feel like a "gotcha" to the players when later they need to save vs poison or die. If you roll in the open, though, it requires a trust in the players that they will not metagame knowing they've been bitten if the PC fails to notice the bite. Their poison description is a bit inconsistent, saying that it is "slow-acting; its full effects take 3-6 turns to be felt if the Saving Throw is failed" (p. 37). It doesn't explicitly state what the full or partial effects of the poison are, however. Like most poisons, we can assume it means death, but it suggests there may be other effects. Oh, and it says that unlike the others, sea snakes think humans are tasty and will be more aggressive.
Giant Rattlesnake: These guys are 10' long, so I think that for sure counts as "giant" (compared to the giant racer). Of course, they've got the patented tail rattle to scare off potential threats. Their poison takes 1d6 turns for its effects to be felt, when you die. So it's potentially faster acting than the "slow acting" sea snake poison, potentially taking the same time (and the spitting cobra above's poison may be faster or slower than the sea snake's...sea snake poison must be slow acting simply due to the fact that it will always give you more than one turn to deal with). Giant rattlesnakes are fast, and always get to attack twice in a round. The book says to always roll the second attack at the end of the round, but I find it simpler to keep track of if I just have it bite twice on its turn.
Rock Python: These snakes are 20' long (so about normal python size, and they're not listed as 'giant'), and have only 5 HD, which goes against the 2' long per HD basis most of the other snakes abide by (giant rattlers get a bonus 2', being 4 HD and 10' long). Pythons are 4' long per HD. The big danger of these guys, of course, is that after their bite hits, they wrap around the target for automatic squeeze damage each round. It doesn't mention how hard it is to escape the coils, so I assume you're meant to be trapped until dead or the snake is killed, but I'd likely allow a check of some sort to escape. It doesn't say the victim is helpless, so I'd let the victim attack or try to escape or maybe even cast a spell while tangled up.

Spider, Giant: An interesting general note about spiders, "they are rarely intelligent, and will often flee from fire" (p. 38). I've never used a 'rare intelligent spider' (not counting aranea or other spider-monsters), but it's an interesting idea, I guess riffing off of Shelob in LotR. I also should remember to have spiders (and other normal animal types, really) flee from fire more often.
Crab Spider: These guys have a chameleon power, so often surprise (1-4 on d6), when they jump on their prey to attack. They don't have webs. They have a weak poison, so the victim gets a +2 on the saving throw, but it's fast acting, killing you in 1d4 turns if you fail the save.
Black Widow Spider: Black widows have webs (actually the only one of the three that does!), and the text says, "The webs should be treated as the magic-user's Web spell for the chances of breaking free, once entrapped. The webs may also be burned away" (p. 38). This then implies that the webs can be burned to damage anything in the webs (including the spiders, of course), but real spider webs don't go up in a conflagration that way, so I'd be more tempted to say the webs burn away realistically. PCs can clear a space with a torch around themselves in one round, but the whole web doesn't go up in flames. Anything trapped in a section of webbing would be burned, though.
Tarantella: This is a magical spider, as per the text, which looks like a tarantella. Again, maybe I'm being pedantic, but saying it "looks like a 7' long tarantella" (p. 38) makes me question it. Maybe it's just worded that way to say that this is different from a giant natural tarantella? Anyway, this is a fun monster, because its magical nature makes it interesting. When it bites, its poison doesn't kill the victim, it makes them spasm rapidly, as if dancing. And the magical effect is that anyone watching it must save vs magic or also spasm in the same way. Victims aren't helpless, but they do get -4 to hit, and opponents get +4 to hit them while they dance. Interestingly, the spasms last for 2d6 Turns, but if it goes on for 5 Turns, the dancers drop from exhaustion and are now helpless.

Sprite: There's yet another formatting error in the Sprite entry. The opposite of the Rat entry, here everything is bumped up one line, so that the AC line has hit dice, HD has move, etc. This means that for years, until I got the Rules Cyclopedia, I had to just make up my own best guess as to what the Sprite's AC should be. Yes, I guess I could have checked with a friend who had the AD&D books, but I never did. Since I'm going off of my pdf copy to write this entry, not my old hard copy, I don't remember exactly what I penciled in for the AC. Pixies are AC 3, so maybe I went with that.

Sprites don't have a damaging attack, but they can, in groups, cast a curse spell. The curse is something relatively harmless but funny, which makes these monsters the sort players will either love or hate. I'm of the opinion that making the party magic-user fart audibly and stinkily every time they cast a spell to be funny. Your mileage may vary. Anyway, if you get cursed, you need to wait until the Expert Set to get a remove curse spell.

Stirge: This is another one of those "wouldn't be D&D without it" monsters, at least for me. It's described as "a bird-like creature with a long nose" which has always colored my image of the creature. While it attacks like a mosquito (and I remember hearing someone somewhere on the internet expound authoritatively about how Gygax based it on Wisconsin mosquitoes...take that for what it's worth, i.e. not much), the "bird-like" portion has always colored my image of these guys. In my head, they're feathered, two-legged monsters, not like the insectile things from 3E.

One thing I usually forget when running the game is that they get a +2 bonus to hit on the first attack by diving at the target.

Thoul: One of the creatures unique to Classic D&D (well, maybe it's been ported into more recent editions, I'm not sure), a thoul, you'll remember is a cross between a ghoul, hobgoblin and troll. How does that work exactly? Ghouls are undead, but can they serve as an incubator for a baby thoul? How do the hobgoblin and troll impregnate the ghoul without getting paralyzed and eaten? I guess some crazy wizard did it, right?

Thouls are meant to be a gotcha monster, since they look exactly like hobgoblins, but have a paralyzing claw attack of a ghoul and the regeneration of a troll. I don't know if I've ever successfully fooled a group with thouls mixed in among hobgoblins, which seems to be their purpose. Maybe my players are just able to metagame, since if the "hobgoblin" tries to claw them, they realize it must be a thoul. I'll have to try to work some into an adventure I run for some newbies some day and see how they react.

Troglodyte: I remember when I was a kid and found out the word "troglodyte" was an actual word, and not just made up to name this monster. I thought that was so cool. And since I've always been partial to reptiles, I love to use these guys. They can change colors like a chameleon (surprise 1-4 on d6), and if you're in melee with them they can nauseate you with their stench (-2 to hit if you save vs poison). The stench only affects those in melee, and doesn't ruin their chances of surprise, so it must be only a close range effect, or controlled by the troglodyte (although the text doesn't say that). These guys are given a "hate everything, usually attack" motivation, which helps foster the idea that monster encounter=combat encounter that D&D is prone to, but they're still pretty fun to use because of their two special abilities.

Undead: This is a reference listing for the four types of undead in the Basic Set. It mentions that all undead are created by "dark magic" (p. 38), but there's no mention in the ghoul or wight write-ups of that. It reminds us that undead are immune to sleep and charm spells (since hold is in the Expert Set, it's not mentioned here). Finally, it tells us that undead "make no noise" (p. 38). While this is intended to mean that listening through doors or down passages won't warn you that there are undead, I misinterpreted it as a kid to mean that undead were always silent, and that even intelligent undead like mummies, spectres and vampires couldn't talk! I always thought it was strange, but figured that was just a unique D&D aspect. Of course, I was never shy about breaking the "rule" for vampires, because of course Count Dracula can talk...

Were-creature: Another reference listing, which lists all of the were-creatures, and says to see Lycanthrope (where they all are anyway). Why this is here, I don't know. Maybe some people were confused, looking for werewolves and not finding them?

Wight: The third undead creature in the set is the first and only level draining creature in the Basic rules. Energy drain is of course greatly feared. All those months and years of hard earned experience points getting sucked away in an instant really sucks, and the higher level you are, the worse it gets, thanks to the quadratic increasing of the XP needed at each level up to Name Level.

Wights are described as evil spirits animating dead bodies, so they're presumably intelligent, or at least semi-intelligent. Silver or magical weapons are needed to damage them. And if they kill you, your body also gets animated by an evil spirit 1d4 days later, under the slayer's control. I really need to build and adventure around a "pyramid scheme" wight leader some day. The alpha wight has X wight minions, and each minion has Y wight minions of its own, who each have Z wight minions of their own...

Yellow Mold: The final member of the icky, oozy, group of monsters (sort of), yellow mold is just a fungus that covers areas of the dungeon, so it's immobile, and can always be hit, but it can only be damaged by fire. The description says "It can eat through wood and leather but cannot harm metal or stone" (p. 39), but since it is immobile, and attacks through releasing spores in response to being attacked, that sentence seems out of place. I assume this is either a mistake, or it means that in the places where it grows, only metal or stone objects will be left after it's cleared out.

Wolf: There's no general text for the wolf, just specific descriptions for the two types:
Wolves: What's interesting about wolves is that it's explicitly stated that cubs can be captured and trained (low level quest objective!) and that since they are pack animals, if there are 3 or fewer, or the pack is reduced to 1/2 their number, their morale drops from an 8 to a 6. They aren't the super aggressive, vicious beasts they're portrayed to be in the media.
Dire Wolves: Bigger and semi-intelligent (based on Tolkien's wargs, with no mention of prehistoric dire wolves), these guys get used by goblins as mounts. Like normal wolves, though, they are neutral, and cubs can also be trained (low to mid-level quest objective!).
With only four illustrations of monsters in this section, why were wolves one of the choices? Granted, this is kind of a cool picture, but an illustration of an actual monster might have been a better choice.

Zombie: The final monster! Zombies are listed as having a claw attack or a weapon attack, but since the claw does 1d8, I rarely have them use weapons, most of which are 1d6. The text tells us they are mindless, and, like skeletons, animated and used as guards by NPC magic-users and clerics. They don't have any weapon resistances like in other editions, and since they are apparently Romero zombies, they always go last in combat.

Alright, that's all for the monsters. Next post in the series starts my examination of the treasure section.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Monster List - Medusa to Shrew

Time for some more Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover! More monsters! With plenty of time before Halloween!

Medusa: Now, anyone who's read some Greek mythology will know a medusa will turn you to stone if you look at her. The medusa in D&D is pretty nasty in that regard, but that's not all. Even if you shield your eyes, giving you a penalty to hit and the medusa a bonus to hit, her attack is with the snakes that make up her hair, so there's poison damage to consider. If you don't get turned to stone, you're likely to get poisoned instead. Also, medusae get a bonus to saving throws against spells (but not other attack types) due to their magical nature.

One thing I think is interesting is that they can also use weapons (and we all remember the great Harryhausen medusa from Clash of the Titans with her bow, don't we?). Of course, unlike in Clash or the Castlevania games, a medusa is fully humanoid, rather than having a snake-like lower body. There really should be a "greater medusa" that fits that mold, along with the standard humanoid one.

Minotaur: This may seem incredibly irrelevant, but as a kid (and still today), the fact that the minotaur is AC 6 and has 6 HD was so easy to remember made it the only monster in the book for which I could remember its AC exactly every time. Hit dice were usually easy enough for me to remember, but not AC, except for these guys. The minotaur is another nice example in which it's given some motive - they like the taste of human flesh, and pursue relentlessly as long as they can see you (they aren't that smart). Of course, they live in mazes and twisty caverns, so it might not be that hard to get out of their sight...
We have to get all the way to Minotaur to get a second picture in the monster section. Illustrating monsters was definitely not a priority for the Classic D&D line, like it was for AD&D.

Mule: If you see a mule in a dungeon, there's likely an NPC party nearby. Rob from or kill the mule at your own risk! 

Neanderthal (Caveman): These guys are fun and interesting monsters. Not only because they're a "lost world" staple like the cave bear and sabertooth tiger, but because of their leaders and reactions to other humanoids. The neanderthal is listed as squat and muscular, but the leaders of a group (one male, one female), usually encountered in the lair, are 10' tall! And they have 6HD compared to the 2HD of the normal neanderthal.

Frank tells us that they often keep white apes as pets, and hunt cave bears (no mention of mastodons, they're in the Expert Set, or the other Pleistocene creatures in The Isle of Dread). So there are two related monsters. Also, they are shy around humans but get along well with dwarves and gnomes. Similar to the dwarves and gnomes, they hate goblins and kobolds. Are dwarves and gnomes descended from the (squat, powerful) neanderthal, while elves and humans are descended from the (not listed) cro-magnon? Food for thought. But there's more. Not only do they hate goblins and kobolds, but they always attack ogres on sight! Maybe ogres are descended from those 10' tall neanderthal leader types?  Or the other way around?

Normal Human: In the previous post in this series, I covered the "human" listing, which was both a reference list for all "human" monsters, and notes on how to add a small number of (classed, leveled) NPC humans to dungeons. Normal humans here now, are what AD&D calls 0-level humans. These are your typical townsfolk, serfs and slaves, nobles and merchants, etc. What's interesting is that while they are 1HD creatures (not 1/2), the DM is advised to select how many hit points they have depending on their profession. So a blacksmith or soldier would have 6 or more, a child, beggar, or scholar might only have 1 or 2. The other interesting note is that as soon as a Normal Human gains any XP, they must then select a class (becoming a Human in game terms). It doesn't say if they get the class abilities instantly, though. It's basically the DCC "funnel" concept, done 30 years ago.

NPC Party: The third (and final) listing for encountering humans in dungeons, although I guess technically this one also can include demi-humans mixed with the humans (or maybe even all demi-humans). An NPC party could be keyed into an encounter (I did that a few times when I was younger), but I tend to prefer to put them on Wandering Monster lists, as like the PCs they are probably moving around the dungeon a lot compared to many of the monsters.

Normal player character creation rules should be used to create the NPCs (a good reason to have a few parties pregenerated if, like me, you like to use them as wandering monsters). Frank suggests that the party should be similar in number and class selection to the PCs' party, PLUS 1d4 Fighters to discourage combat (which, he notes, could be deadly and complicated). Instead, Frank gives us a specialized and simplified reaction roll table (still on a 2d6) for determining if the NPC party gets pissed off and leaves, negotiates, or makes an offer to buy/sell information. I like the fact that Frank gives a price range of 10-500gp as the amount offered to buy information from the party, or to sell their own information. It's a good range to use for buying information in town, as well.

While the text doesn't mention this, if you place an NPC party in a dungeon, you might want to consider placing some mules in a nearby room.

Ochre Jelly: Another slime-group monster, and this one can only be damaged by fire or cold (the most common set of weaknesses among these types, it seems). Unlike the gray ooze or green slime, these guys can destroy wood or leather in 1 round, but can't dissolve metal or stone. The cool thing about them is that if you use the wrong attack type (weapons or lightning), it splits them into several smaller jellies, each with 2HD and doing half damage. Ochre jelly apparently doesn't stick when it hits, which may be the reason why I often forget to have gray oozes stick to their targets.

Ogre: There's not so much to say about ogres. They're fun monsters (I think Disney's Gummi Bears cartoon made me partial to them), and lucrative, too. Any wandering group of ogres "will be carrying 100-600 gp in large sacks" (p. 35). Better than you'll get with most wandering monsters, although ogres aren't pushovers for parties level 1 to 3. Of course, it's mentioned here that the hate is mutual, they attack neanderthals on sight.

Orc: Orcs get a lot more information written up about them than the other humanoid types. It's about double that of goblins, and triple that of hobgoblins, kobolds or lizard men. While it doesn't specify pig-faced features, it does say they have a combination of animal and man. They've got a daylight penalty like goblins, which again I often forget about. Any group encountered (the minimum number appearing is 2) will have a leader with maximum hit points and a +1 damage bonus. Kill the leader, and morale drops.

They're often used as soldiers by "Chaotic leaders (both humans and monsters)" (p. 35). Like Professor Tolkien's orcs. But, we've got a note that orcs (unlike gnomes) hate machines and only the leaders mentioned above know how to operate them. So not so useful in a siege, unlike Professor Tolkien's orcs.

Finally, we get some information that's absent from all the other humanoids. There are many different tribes of orcs, and each tribe's lair has an equal number of male and female adults, and a number of children equal to the number of adults. No other humanoid types have family listed. Finally, the tribal chieftain is a standard humanoid leader type, with 15 hit points, who fights as a 4HD creature with a +2 bonus to damage (but no bodyguard). Also, there's a 1 in 6 chance of an ogre in the lair, and if you have the Expert Set a 1 in 10 chance for a troll to be there, too. I don't know about you, but in my campaigns the chance is a lot higher. If I'm making an orc lair, there's likely going to be one or the other, if not both an ogre and a troll!

Owl bear: I've preserved the name as it appears in the text. Should it be two words, Owl Bear? Should it be one word, Owlbear? Later editions go with the latter, so I usually do, too, but you could make a case that they just forgot to capitalize the B and it should be two words. Like bears, they can stand upright to attack (8' tall), and can hug if both paws hit for an extra 2d8 damage (remember, that's 4d8 total, plus possibly another 1d8 if the bite hits!). They're listed as aggressive, hungry, and preferring to eat meat, so a fun (and dangerous) monster for low level PCs to face.

Pixie: Similar to the way that gnomes are related to dwarves, pixies are stated to be related to elves. These guys are fun, because they have the ability to become invisible and stay that way while attacking, making them dangerous opponents even though only 1HD and with an attack that only does 1d4 damage. Oh, and they fly, too. They always get surprise if invisible, and depending on how you interpret the passage "They may not be attacked in the first round of combat, but after that their attackers will see shadows and movement in the air" (p. 35), they could get two rounds of free attacks. I've never run it that way, but it's a valid interpretation of the wording, I think.

There's a note that pixies can only fly for 3 Turns before needing to rest 1 turn. I think if it weren't for the invisibility, they'd make an interesting PC option (and with invisibility, they're an interesting cohort option). They'd be severely limited in weapons, armor and carrying capacity, but could make up for it with mobility, but at the risk of attracting more wandering monster rolls due to more frequent resting... Maybe even with the invisibility they'd make decent demi-human PC class. I should check what the Creature Crucible series did with them (I never had those books, and while I now have them on PDF I've never looked at them).

Rat: There's an editing error with the rats, which lists their stats one line lower than it should be (AC is blank, the AC number is listed on the HD line, etc.), so you'll need to calculate XP for them yourself.

Now there are normal rats (6" to 2' long!) and giant rats (3' long or more! R.O.U.S.s for sure!), and other than the fact that normal rats attack in packs (or swarms in modern edition parlance), they pretty much follow the same rules. The general description says THEY WILL NOT ATTACK unless summoned (by wererats or other creatures), but they swim well and may attack creatures in the water. So those rooms with a few rats and 2000 cp are probably the easiest 2000 cp you're gonna get, unless the room is filled with water or has a wererat in it as well!

Rats have a disease, and it's rather fiddly in how it works. Any time a rat hits, you need to roll a 1d20. On a 1, the target is infected, and must make a save vs. poison or be diseased. If diseased, you have a 1 in 4 chance to die in 1d6 days, otherwise you're bedridden for 1 month. Not the smoothest mechanics there.

Oh, one more thing - normal rat packs are noted as being able to knock victims down, but there aren't any rules given for how. Is it a special attack? Do victims need to make a saving throw? I guess it's up to each DM. I usually forget about that, since I rarely have normal rats attacking players.

Robber Fly: It's only within recent years that I realized these are giant versions of a real insect. I thought they were just made up for the game. They're listed as being black and yellow striped, and easy to mistake for "killer bees" (the name from Moldvay, they're Bees, Giant in this set), but often attack bees as prey. These guys are stealthy, surprising on 1-4 on d6, and can make a 30' jump and attack.
The third picture! It's a robber fly!

Rust Monster: Another classic, iconic monster of the game (like the carrion crawler and gelatinous cube). It wouldn't be D&D without rust monsters. Now, we all know these guys attack your weapons and armor, and I've seen players afraid to attack them because they think their weapon will rust on contact, but the text is explicit that normal weapons damage them and do not rust, only the rust monster's attack does this.

Now, the Basic set doesn't give any listing of preference or order of items destroyed (does AD&D? I think so) so it's up to the DM to decide if shields, weapons or armor are affected by any hit. Magic items get a 10% chance to resist the attack per "plus" which isn't much but is something at least. Still, it's a bit of a death spiral, because each hit will reduce a plus if it doesn't resist. And even in the Masters Set, the best enchanted weapons and armor are +5, so you've got a 50% chance to resist being drained to +4 on the first hit. If you fail that first roll, you've got a 'death spiral' of getting your gear ruined -- although if you've got +5 gear you probably have a friend with spells that can take out the rust monsters without risking your kit.

Shadow: Shadows are the first (and only, IIRC) monster in any of the BECM box sets (I won't include the Immortals Set, as I'm less familiar with it and its selection of monsters) that drains an ability score. Of course, these days, thanks to the d20 system, players are mostly familiar with ability score drain/damage, but it's a unique attack in Classic. And of course, if you get drained to 0 you become a shadow yourself...

Shadows are NOT undead in this set, it's explicit, which marks a point of departure with AD&D. They are only harmed by magical weapons, though, and another editorial mistake - there's no asterisk after the name. I penciled it in in my book years ago. While shadows are not undead, similar to them they are immune to sleep and charm (but hold might work on them?).

Shrew, Giant: I should use these guys more often. They burrow underground, "see" by echo location within 60', and get 2 attacks per round. Because of their speed, they always get initiative in the first round, and have a +1 bonus on subsequent rounds. They go for the eyes, Boo! Any target of 3rd level (3HD) or less has to save vs. death ray when attacked or run away in fear! (It doesn't say for how long.)

The fear thing is actually easy to forget, at least for me. Not that I use giant shrews often. I should though! They'd be great trained attack beasts for any humanoid types (or if players can capture some and hire an animal trainer from the Expert Set...).

Alright, that's all for this installment. One more to go for monsters, then it's on to treasure!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Monster List - Dwarf to Lycanthrope

I just checked, and I started this series back in November of 2013. I had planned to cover both books during that year, and move on to the Expert Set the year after (I also had thought I'd have Chanbara finished around mid-2014 as well). Three years later, I'm finally closing in on the end of the Basic Set. Well, better late than never, I guess!

Here we go with thoughts and observations on some more monsters from this set.

Dwarf: The dwarf is the first version of a PC playable character type listed as an NPC (unless you count bandits, which are listed as NPC thieves but don't explicitly have any signature thief abilities other than the Thief saving throw). NPC dwarves often have a leader (one for every twenty dwarves, and the maximum listed number appearing for the wilderness or a lair is 40, so possibly two) with higher class level (3 to 8). One thing I like, and I think is easy and useful is the system used to determine if they have any magic items (Elves also get this): take their hit dice x5. That's the percent chance they have a random item from lists of items they can use. Simple, easy to use, and much better than 3E, where it was a nightmare having to look at the "expected wealth per level" tables, the sample NPC blocks in the DMG, the magic item lists (and prices), and maybe the CharOp boards to see what are the best things for that NPC race/class to have - and considering which you want your PCs to get a hold of. What a nightmare that was! With this, you figure out a percentage, and check each magic item subtype table to see if there is an item, and then determine it randomly.

Dwarves get to roll on all the tables except Scrolls and Wand/Staff/Rod. The second makes sense, but considering that "Scrolls" contain treasure maps and protection scrolls that any (literate) character can use, I don't know if disallowing that is so great. Yeah, it might be strange if the dwarf leader has a clerical scroll of bless, but it might also be strange if he's got a pole arm +1 which he also can't use.

The dwarf also has our first instance of a racial/species animosity, stating that groups of dwarves "hate goblins, and will usually attack them on sight" (p. 29). I love notes like this, because they allow the players, once they figure it out, to more easily negotiate with monsters they find in the dungeon, but can also provide problems. Ally with the dwarves, and your chances of keeping your truce with the goblins, which you made so you could focus on the orcs, goes WAY down!

Elf: And we get the second demihuman class as monster right away. It suggests choosing the spells elves get (each gets a single 1st level spell) randomly, and I think that's a good idea. Monsters/NPCs don't need to be optimized the way PCs should be. Recruiting elf allies because you expect them to all have memorized sleep is not a good plan. Elf leaders who appear if there are 15 or more elves, may be from level 2 to 7, and check for magic items the same as dwarves, but get to roll on all tables.

In OD&D, Holmes and Moldvay (and into AD&D), I'm pretty sure elves as a monster type have damage 1d10 listed, to simulate them having access to magical swords. Here, the attack is "1 weapon" and the damage is "by weapon" so they're slightly powered down from previous editions. This may be the only time in D&D history where Elves were made LESS powerful than before! (Or at least the first.)

Ferret, Giant: A giant animal that can be tamed and trained, but are unpredictable. I never had any players try to capture and train them, although to be honest I don't use them in dungeons very often. I am sort of partial to them, and always connect them with Elves in my mind, partly because their stat blocks are right next to each other, but also partially because of the Endless Quest book Return to Brookmere, where you play an Elf and one of the paths you meet with a giant ferret that was trained by the elves and helps you.

Gargoyle: This is the first monster presented that can only be damaged by magical weapons, and they're also immune to sleep and charm. That, combined with four attacks per round make them pretty dangerous, even though the claws each do 1d3, the tail 1d4, and the bite 1d6. Oh, and they can fly, and are often mistaken for statues (although the book doesn't give them a bonus to surprise). On top of all that, they also "attack nearly anything that approaches them" (p. 30).

The text is explicit that they are magical creatures, but doesn't say whether or not they are magical creations/constructs. It says they are at least semi-intelligent, and back in the general rules section, they are listed as having their own language. Having a language implies having a culture, which argues against them being constructs (as in later editions). I've always imagined them as relatively humanoid, sort of like demons. But thinking of actual architectural gargoyles, to which they are compared, they should really be more draconic. Maybe in some campaign in the future, I'll have two races of gargoyles who hate each other...

Gelatinous Cube: One of the iconic D&D monsters. When I ran a 3E OA game years ago, I threw one in, and one player's post game comment was, "It wouldn't be D&D without The Cube." But you know what's interesting? This: "This monster is made of clear jelly, usually in the form of a 10' x 10' x 10' cube (though other shapes are possible)" (p. 30, emphasis added). How often have you encountered a gelatinous trapezoidal prism? Or a gelatinous box? Probably not very often. Of course, this raises a question: can a gelatinous cube change its shape? Can it squeeze through small spaces, or is it doomed to perpetually patrol the 10' x 10' corridors of standard dungeons forever?

I like how whatever incidental treasure they might have is actually inside it. PCs need to dig through the gloppy remains after it's dead.

One other question comes up, since this is the first of the slime/ooze/jelly category of monster (or the "dungeon cleanup crew"). Weapons and fire harm a gelatinous cube, but not cold or lightning. Other slime/ooze monsters have different immunities. Why was it decided that each type should be vulnerable to some attacks but not others? Yes, it makes them all different, and keeps players on their toes, so there is some added challenge with this class of monster. I'm just curious about the design decision early on to add this feature to all of the slime group monsters.

Ghoul: The first undead creature in the book (there are a lot of firsts I'm mentioning, and that's a good thing, it shows what variety there are among the monsters in this set) is a pretty nasty opponent for low level PCs. Like all undead, they're immune to sleep and charm (and later hold when we get to the Expert Set), but vulnerable to turning. Of course, a 1st or 2nd level Cleric doesn't have great chances to turn these guys. They also have 3 attacks per round. While each does low damage (1d3), they each force a save vs paralysis unless you're an Elf. And the text states that they don't stop to feast, but instead once you're paralyzed they'll attack other mobile targets until the threat is gone. Like the carrion crawler mentioned previously, this makes them a nasty opponent for even mid-level adventurers.

Gnoll: The name seems inspired from the story by Margaret St. Claire, writing as Idris Seabright, The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles. The description seems to be taken from Egyptian mythology: hyena-headed humanoids. The rumor of their creation (hybrids of gnome and troll) seems to be based on nothing more than the spelling chosen for the monster (although St. Claire's 'gnoles' are fairly gnome-like). So really, gnolls are a strange creature. They also are the first instance of a humanoid getting a leader type with just a set number of greater hit dice or hit points. Bandits, dwarves and elves all get classed/leveled leaders using PC rules. Gnoll leaders, one in every 20, simply get maximum hit points and attack as a creature one hit die higher (or +1 to hit). Of course, because gnoll number appearing is 1-6 in dungeons and 3-18 outdoors, gnoll leaders are rarely going to be encountered outside of a wilderness lair (by the book, anyway).

Gnome: Gnomes are described as "a human-like race related to (but smaller than) dwarves, with long noses and full beards" (p. 30). In temperament, they are listed as excellent metalsmiths & miners, greedy and reckless when it comes to gathering treasure, and fond of machinery, favoring the war hammer and crossbow as weapons. So yes, the "tinker gnome" cliche predates Dragonlance, although the setting did run with the idea to comedic excess. Gnomes also are listed with a racial predisposition to dwarves, but hatred of goblins and kobolds, the latter are usually attacked on sight.

Gnomes get a 2HD leader type (11 hit points) for every twenty encountered, so in a maximum wilderness encounter (5-40) there could be two. In their lair, there are a tougher chieftain and bodyguards (another first, this appears later). The chieftain has 18 hit points, counts as a 4HD creature, and gets +1 to damage. Bodyguards have 10-13 hit points (1d4+9) and count as 3HD creatures. I often like including these leaders/elite type humanoids in my dungeons, but it's something I rarely see in other published adventures.

Goblin: No one seems to be able to agree as to what color goblins should be, but here they're described as having earth-tone skin, from tan to gray. They've got a king and bodyguard similar to gnomes (I assume these were inspired by the Great Goblin in The Hobbit, but I may be wrong). There are two things that I often forget when using goblins in my games. The first is important - in sunlight they get a -1 penalty to hit. I've had plenty of times when goblins were attacking the town, or encountered during the day in the wilderness, but almost always forget about the -1 penalty. The second is that when encountered out of doors, 25% of the group should be mounted on dire wolves. I really should use more wolf-riders in my games.

Gray Ooze: I've often thought this to be the "safe" introductory member of the slime family of monsters. It's only 3HD, and is harmed by weapons and lightning (but not cold or fire). But this is because I usually forget something mentioned in the description: once it hits a target, it sticks to it, doing automatic 2d8 damage each round and automatically destroying armor. That can take down even a mid-level fighter fairly quickly. No way is mentioned to stop the autodamage, other than I assume killing the ooze. At least it's incredibly slow. Its move is 10' (3'). You can always run away (unlike the faster gelatinous cube, at 60' (20') which can catch your armored up characters).

Green Slime: In more recent editions, this monster has been reclassified as an environmental hazard, but here, it's obviously got some level of awareness, as it has a move speed of 3' (1') [yes, even slower than gray ooze] and a Morale of 7. The fact that it can always be hit may be more due to its alien mindset not caring about taking damage rather than an indication that it's just a puddle of dangerous goo. Green slime can dissolve cloth or leather instantly, and wood and metal in six rounds.

Green slime is nasty because instead of doing hit point damage, it just sticks to you and very quickly turns the victim into slime. Because it can only be damaged by fire or cold, once it gets on you you have a limited number of rounds to burn (or freeze) it off. We get a very detailed description of the procedure for treating green slime (burning does 1/2 damage to the slime, 1/2 to the victim). So if you have hit points equal to or lower than the slime's, you're just dead. And not just dead, you become a new green slime!

There is a bit unclear about this. The entry says that it dissolves cloth and leather instantly but takes 6 rounds to eat through metal or wood, right? Later, when discussing the 'burn it off' procedure, it mentions that it turns a victim into a new green slime in 1d4 rounds "after the first 6-round (one minute) period" (p. 31). Is that assuming it's taking 6 rounds to eat through plate or chain armor? Does a Magic-User or Thief only get 1d4 rounds to burn it off? Or does everyone get 6+1d4 rounds? If so, and you're wearing metal (or wood) armor, then you've got 12+1d4 rounds to burn it off. I think in the past I went with the latter, but going forward I'll go with the former.

Halfling: Like the other two demi-human classes as monster, halfling groups can be encountered, but their leader (level 2 to 7) and village guard (5 to 20 members, 2HD) are only encountered in the village (population 30 to 300). Unlike the other two demi-humans, there is no mention of randomly determining magic items for the leader. Is this an oversight, or do halflings dislike magic? You make the call.

Harpy: This is the only creature in the Basic Set with an innate ability to charm victims. Spell-casters like NPC humans, elves and dragons may have the ability or not. Only the harpy can be guaranteed to try and charm the party. And as the sample dungeon earlier in the book warns the novice DM, this can make them very challenging creatures. One interesting thing to note in their stat block is that their attacks are listed as 2 claws/1 weapon +special, and damage is listed as 1-4/1-4/1-6 rather than 1-4/1-4/by weapon. I'd guess this is another editorial oversight due to making "optional weapon damage" the default assumption.

Hobgoblin: Not much to say about the hobgoblin, actually. They've got no penalty in sunlight, and their king has 22 hit points, fights as a 5HD creature with +2 to damage, his bodyguard count as 4HD creatures with 3d6 hit points each (figure that one out).

Human: This is a long (stat block-less) entry that both serves as a reference listing (like "Animal, Normal and Giant") but also gives advice about how to stick human NPCs into a dungeon. There will normally be 1-3 of them, according to Frank, and they can be used to add role playing opportunities and "create a more realistic mood for the adventure...provide goals for player characters, and lead to entire adventures" (p. 31). Then we get some advice on just this - how a human encounter may cause you to adjust nearby monsters or treasures based on the explanation/reason for appearing, and a warning that making a human encounter may take more work than other monsters, but can be very entertaining. Also, a suggestion that demi-humans might use the same system presented here to give them some variety.

Next, we get some random tables to determine the type of humans encountered. Find number appearing (1-3 apparently), roll (or select) each human's class (3 in 6 chance they are a fighter, 1 in 6 any other class), alignment (3 in 6 Lawful, 2 in 6 Neutral, 1 in 6 Chaotic), select or roll for the reason they are there (another table below), select their equipment and possible magic items (but make sure they use them and be prepared for the PCs to acquire them), and any other details you need (AC, HP, spells, etc.).

The one thing it doesn't tell you is what to roll to determine their level, since these are all classed NPCs (for "0-level" NPCs see Normal Man in the next post).

The next table, as mentioned, has 8 possible reasons they might be in the dungeon:
1. Alone (and scared)
2. Bait
3. Escaping
4. Looking for a friend
5. Looking for an item
6. Not what they seem
7. Running away
8. Sole Survivors

This is not a bad selection of motives for NPCs in a dungeon, but they do have consequences. #2 and #6 will only work so many times, then the players will become suspicious that any humans encountered may be trying to trap/trick them. #4 and #5 give some motive to the players - either to cooperate to find the missing friend/item, or as competition to find them first! #1, #3, #7 and #8 are nice in that it gives the DM a way to warn the party of extraordinarily tough monsters or traps in the area. Of course, it's possible to make up all kinds of other motivations in addition to these eight.

I really should use more encounters like this. Too often, I just have monster lairs be full of monsters, and any humans encountered are prisoners/slaves (current, not escaped), or a full NPC party (described next post).

Insect: Another reference listing, covering Bee, Beetle, Centipede, Locust and Robber Fly, and explains why insects aren't on the "Animals, Normal and Giant" listing. It still doesn't explain why the giant lizards and snakes aren't counted as "animals" in the game.

Kobold: Let the great debate begin! Kobolds are described as "small, evil dog-like men...They have scaly rust-brown skin and no hair" (p. 32). So are they little dog men, or little lizard men? Their skin is scaly, but not explicitly reptilian by this description. I always assumed (even as a kid) that 'scaly' in this case meant diseased, like shingles. And the "dog-like" bit is there, too. I used to think of kobolds-gnolls as similar in a way to goblins-hobgoblins-bugbears because of the dog/hyena similarity.

Frank tells us they "prefer to attack by ambush" (p. 32), which has come to mean, thanks to Mr. Tucker, they set lots of traps everywhere. Their chieftain has a whopping 9 hit points, and fights as a 2HD monster, while the bodyguard have 6 hit points and fight as 1+1HD monsters (or functionally the same as the chieftain).

Living Statue: I love living statues. Not sure why, they're just fun. Maybe it's because statuary should be common in dungeons, and there are so many fun things you can do with these guys. I'm always wondering why other editions don't include them (probably someone says "But we already have golems in AD&D/3E/[current edition]! Why do we need these guys?" completely oblivious to the functional similarity of the multitude of humanoid opponents in any edition invalidating this argument.

Living statues are explicitly mentioned as animated creatures created by wizards (Constructs in later editions), unlike gargoyles. They are all immune to sleep, but not immune to charm or hold! Three types are given, and it's suggested the DM should create more.
Crystal Statue: No special powers, just a living rock guy. It says they're often human but could be anything. I usually make them human-shaped. Probably I should add more variety.
Iron: These guys are fun, because metal weapons may stick to the body, making them tactically challenging foes to defeat.
Rock: These guys shoot liquid hot magma from their hands (or whatever other appendages if they aren't human-shaped). Very cool. I love these guys!

Lizard, Giant: Not animals, apparently. We get four varieties, the gecko, draco, horned chameleon, and tuatara. While I like lizards, so use giant lizards often in my games, they aren't really that interesting. They can climb walls, draco lizards can glide down to attack, horned chameleons surprise on 1-5 on d6 (!) and can shoot their tongue to grab opponents, and tuatara (as mentioned several posts back) get 90' infravision. Oh, and horned chameleons get a tail knockdown attack listed in their description but not in their stat-block, making it easy to forget.

Lizard Man: Did I mention that I like lizards? I love lizard men as humanoid opponents. And here, we get some motivation for them that many other monsters don't get -- they like to capture humans and demi-humans to take back to their tribes and feast on them. If you see them, they're probably going to be hunting you. And if they capture some of your party (or some friendly NPCs), you've got an adventure hook right there. Go rescue them before they become dinner! Oh, and lizard men are 2+1HD, and get +1 damage to their weapon attacks, making them kinda tough among the Basic Set humanoids.

Locust, Giant: Of the giant insects in the Basic Set, giant locusts are probably the most tactically interesting, but because of that, kind of a challenge to use well. They pretty much always flee combat (Morale 5, plus the description also says the usually just flee instead of fighting), yet they aren't very smart and have a random chance to flee toward the threat, getting a hit roll against a random member of the party for a bump attack. If they actually fight, they have a bite (only 1d2 damage) and a spit attack (and we get an early version of 3E's "Touch AC" in that the spit only has to hit AC9, regardless of the target's actual AC) which can debilitate the target with its stench if the target, and anyone within 5', fails a save vs poison. Oh, and they make a shrieking noise, which likely draws wandering monsters to investigate the noise.

So that's a lot of stuff for the DM to keep track of, and a treasureless pest monster for the PCs...but wait, there's more! They eat fungus and mold, and are immune to yellow mold. I've never thought to try it, and never had players try it either, but if you could capture or corral some of these guys, they could totally be exploited to remove yellow mold or shriekers or some other fungal/mold monsters in another part of the dungeon.

Lycanthrope: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the group name should be "therianthrope" but hey, lycanthrope sounds a lot cooler, right? The general description before each of the five types are described lets us know that they are people (rats) who change into beasts (humans), so they don't wear armor. They can summon 1 or 2 normal animals of their type, which arrive in 1d4 rounds -- something I often forget to have them do, since I often have old Universal Wolfman movies in mind when I use werecreatures. Wolvesbane, of course, is their weakness, forcing them to save vs poison or flee. I often have my PCs buy wolvesbane, but when the lycanthropes are encountered, the party is usually packing enough magical weaponry that it doesn't get used (or it's just been on the equipment list unused for so long I've forgotten about it).

Next, we get some tips about animal form, in which only silver or magical weapons harm them and they can't speak normally but can communicate with their animal type, and human form in which they tend to have some physical features that resemble their animal form (hint hint, your buddy suddenly looks more wolfish than he did before...better watch out next full moon!) but can be harmed by normal weapons.

Lycanthropy as a disease only affects humans. Demi-humans die instead. If a were creature takes away more than half of your hit points, you become one in 2d12 days (and yes, it says the victim begins showing signs in half that body changes in human form, and I would assume taking on some animal-like behavior traits under stress?). High level clerics, of course, can cure the disease, otherwise your PC becomes an NPC controlled by the DM.

There's no mention of the moon anywhere in the description, actually, so the change is apparently voluntary on the part of the lycanthrope. 

Wererats: I've always wondered, since they are rats who can change into humans (inspired by Lankhmar stories), do humans contract lycanthropy from them? If so, aren't they then humans who turn into rats? Does it matter?
Werewolves: Something I often forget but think is cool is that werewolves in the game are said to hunt in packs together with normal wolves, and they have a leader (30 hit points, 5HD creature, +2 damage). Again, old werewolf movies and TV shows make me think they are normally solitary creatures, when they should be dangerous pack predators!
Wereboars: These guys count as berserkers in human form, which may make them a bit less of a normal threat, unless they can stop berserking long enough to change into boars if they get hurt. Otherwise, they may fight to the death in their weaker, more vulnerable state. They are Neutral, so it's possible they can be bargained with or even become allies.
Weretigers: Due to stealth, they can surprise on a 1-4 on d6, but like actual big cats are curious and not always hostile. Again, Neutral alignment allows them to be potential allies.
Werebear: These guys are obviously taken from Beorn in The Hobbit, and the text says they retain their full intelligence in animal form (only wererats also retain full intelligence) and may be friendly at times. Like all bears, they get a bear hug in bear form, so if you get in a fight, they are very tough opponents!

Alright, that was a long one. Two more monster posts to come, then we'll move on to treasure.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chanbara Play Test Art!

Last night was another (in my opinion, at least) successful Chanbara play test session. The big bad boss fight at the end went MUCH faster than I thought it would, and more decisively in the players' favor, but they did do a few things "right" and had a few tactics that I didn't anticipate that went well for them (which is not a complaint at all, I'm not in love with my NPCS, and I'm happy to see the players defeat them when they can).

Anyway, just before the session, Jeff submitted this graphic novel-ish recap of the previous session a couple weeks ago, and I thought I'd share them (with his permission).

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thank You, Alexis!

Most readers of this blog are probably also familiar with Alexis Smolensk, and his blog The Tao of D&D.

Hopefully you're all readers of his blog. How you feel about him personally, well, that's up to you. And honestly, years ago when I first started reading his blog, I didn't like him. He had a brusque, authoritative, pompous attitude -- or at least that's how many of his posts read to me. But one day, a few years back, he posted a video of just himself talking about whatever. And I began to see him as a person, rather than as an internet persona. I haven't always agreed with him, but I do appreciate what he's done on his blog over the years, and how it's helped me to improve my game. And now that I better understand him, and his mission with his blog to encourage gamers to be better, I have nothing but respect for him. I want to take back all the disparaging things I've said about him over the years (and I said more than a few back in the early days of the blog). Alexis, I just didn't get you back then. I think I do now. Sorry.

Since August, I've been reading a series of posts (he seems to have wrapped them up now) about applying Games Theory to look at D&D and RPGs in general. I think it started with this critique of the Quick Primer for Old School Games, although maybe it started before that. I was (and still am) busy in August writing up my dissertation.

Alexis also suggested a book on Games Theory by Matsumoto and Szidarovsky in this post, but I don't really have time to dig into a serious academic work on the subject right now. Maybe next year, if my defense goes well and I don't need to rebuild my dissertation from the ground up...

However, I did find a lighter book on game design, written primarily for video/computer games, but so far much of what it has to say has been applicable to RPGs. Game Design: Theory and Practice (Second Edition), by Richard Rouse III (2005, Wordware Publishing). It's leagues beyond any "made for RPGs" theory like the GNS Forge stuff.

I'll probably be posting some excerpts or thoughts related to what's in the book, and applying the ideas presented to Chanbara as I get it ready for publication.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Descent Most Perilous

A Descent Most Perilous

Being a continuation of the journal of the renowned Green Knight Jack Summerisle, and companions various and sundry, in the cavernous deeps beneath the world of Eberron. 

Having found at long last Connor, the half-elven father of our companion Jade the Ranger (also half-elven), we set about freeing as many of the slaves of the ghouls as we were able. Luckily, no alarums were sounded, due to the battle still raging between the horrid ghouls and our coalition of the many underground tribes. Connor was anxious to return to the surface, as were most of the former slaves, but one of the Dragonmarked we had rescued, an orc shaman, told us of the spirit of the mountain.

It seems that once upon a time, the mountain was alive and awake. While it still lives, it slumbers and the kingdom of the ghouls give it nightmares, or so the shaman told us. Connor asked that we continue to search for the Crown of Air and Darkness, and the shaman asked that we find a way to wake the mountain's spirit. Both had clues leading even deeper into the Kyber, to a subterranean realm known as Pellucidar. The entrance to this realm, a pit going deeper into the heart of the world, was on the far side of the necropolis.

Morax, the half-orc bounty hunter (also among the Dragonmarked) agreed to accompany us on our quest. Jade the Ranger, Rhea the Witch, Yuv the Dragonborn Cleric of Radiance, Thia the Elven Tempest Cleric, and myself made up the party.

We navigated through the necropolis without incident, but a ghoul warrior with a mutant hairless cat-rat beast was guarding the path to the Pit. It attacked Thia, who was scouting ahead, but she managed to resist the paralyzing touch of the undead guardian. Rhea hurled fireballs, Yuv used sacred flame magic, Jade and Morax fired their bows, and I charged it with my axe. The cat beast attempted to hinder Cassius, my giant cave weta mount, but I successfully chased it away, then set on the guard. While he was a tough opponent, we managed to defeat him and his cat-rat.

At the pit, we spied a strange creature. It was a giant, floating undead head with three eyes. While we took cover, not knowing what it would do, Rhea cast a spell to summon a demon from hell. The demon managed to defeat the giant floating ghoul head, and then as it charged at us, we destroyed the weakened fiend. Now, we were at the Pit, which looked to go down without end.

We rested for the night to set out fresh on this next stage of our quest. The pit had a narrow, winding stone stair set in it, which Jade and Yuv negotiated, tied together with a rope. Thia and I rode on Cassius, who had no trouble negotiating the climb, and likewise Rhea enlarged her spider-bat familiar into a mount also capable of climbing and flying. We had one scare, when Yuv and Jade slipped and fell, but with quick action by all of the party, we managed to catch them before they fell far.

Finally, we came to the end of the stairs, but not the end of the Pit. This was a quandary. How could we proceed? We considered all of the magic at our disposal, but none seemed adequate. I sent Cassius to scout if the stairs resumed lower down, but my trusty steed got to the end of our telepathic bond without any good news to report. Finally, Jade experimented with a pair of bladed gauntlets which the ghoul guardian had been wearing, and they allowed him to climb by piercing the walls. Yuv was tied to a rope suspended between Cassius and Rhea's spider-bat. While it was a long descent, we eventually reached the bottom.

And now here we stand, on the threshold of Pellucidar, a strange new underground world to explore!

Play report of Dean Flemming's 5E Eberron game from last night. It was a blast, and that Pit was a real old school challenge that we had a great time solving!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Monsters in Dragonlance

I was searching online for a list of all the monsters that appear in the various Dragonlance modules (or at least the original DL series). I couldn't find one. So I made my own. Below are all the monsters that appear in DL 1 through DL 12, at least according to the "Combined Monster Statistics" pages of the compilation versions of the modules (four per compilation, I forget off hand what their coding was, I think DLC1-3 for Dragonlance Classics?).

Monsters in bold are ones that are in 5E, or could very easily be used just by renaming a creature in 5E, as far as I've checked. There are some of those weird late 1E/early 2E era monsters (or maybe they originated here in DL? My first encounter with many like the Crimson Death, Margoyle and Wemic was the 2E MM, but some must have been from the Fiend Folio or modules before 2E came out) that I'd need to double check before deciding what 5E monster stat block could easily stand in for it.

Axe Beak
Badger, Giant
Baricuda, Giant
Bat, Normal, Giant
Bear (Cave, Ice, Polar)
Bee, Giant (worker, soldier, queen)
Beetle, Boring
Boar (Giant, Wild)
Carrion Crawler
Caryatid Column
Cave Cricket
Centipede, Giant
Choke Creeper
Coffer Corpse
Crayfish, Giant
Crocodile, Giant
Crypt Thing
Crystal Ooze
Death Knight
Death Statue
Death, Crimson
Displacer Beast
Dog, (War, Wild)
Draconian (Baaz, Bozak, Kapak, Sivak, Aurak)
Dragon, (any chromatic or metalic)
Dragon Brood
Dragon Turtle
Dragon, Amphi
Dragon, Faerie
Dragon, Sea
Dragon, Shadow
Dragon, Skeleton
Dwarf (various)
Eagle, Giant
Eel, Giant
Elemental (air, earth, fire, water)
Elf (various)
Elf, Sea
Fawn, White
Forestmaster Unicorn
Frog, Giant
Fungi, Violet
Galeb Duhr
Gas Spore
Gelatinous Cube
Giant, Hill
Golem (Clay, Iron, Stone)
Green Slime [Is this a "hazard" in the DMG like it was in 3E?]
Grim (cat, dog, owl)
Groaning Spirit
Hag, Sea
Hell Hound
Ice Folk
Invisible Stalker
Kender (various)
King of the Deep
Lamia Noble
Leech, Giant
Lion, (Mountain, Spotted)
Lizard, Suberranean
Lurker Above
Mastiff, Shadow
Mastodon, Skeleton
Men (various)
Mimic, Killer
Mold (brown, yellow)
Moon Dog
Naga, Spirit
Ochre Jelly
Para-Elemental (smoke)
Pedipalp, Huge
Porcupine, Giant
Pudding, Deadly (dun)
Quasi-Elemental (light)
Ram, Giant
Rat (Normal, Giant)
Ray, Manta
Salmon School
Sea Serpent, Giant
Shadowpeople Warriors
Skeleton Warrior
Slug, Giant
Snake (Constrictor, Poisonous)
Snow Leopard
Spectral Minion (Berserker, Guardian, Reveler, Philosopher, Searcher, Warrior)
Spider, (Huge, Giant, Whisper)
Stag (Giant, Normal, White)
Stone Guardian
Taer, (normal, Forest)
Takhisis (Dream)
Umber Hulk
Undead Beast
Vulture (Giant, Ordinary)
Water Weird
Willow, Black
Wolf (normal, Dire, Winter)
Wolverine, Giant
Wooly Rhinocerous
Yellow Musk Creeper