Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dungeons & Dinosaurs

Dungeons & Dinosaurs

A new chapter in the journal of the stalwart Green Knight Jack Summerisle, and companions various and sundry, as they emerge into the hollow world of Pellucidar

After climbing downward for many hours, our group encountered an oddity: a zone where we went from climbing down to suddenly climbing up! Without changing our heading, we began to ascend from the pit, which eventually opened up enough that those not riding climbing mounts (Flagan the Halfling Pugilist, Jade the Half-Elf Ranger, Yuv the Dragonborn Cleric of Radiance, and Thia the Elf Tempest Cleric) were able to walk, as if on a mountainside. Rhea the Witch remained on her enlarged spider-bat familiar, and I of course rode Cassius, my giant cave weta companion.

It was at that moment that stone-skinned snakes attacked our party. At first we believed them to be magical creations of stone, but our weapons bit through their calcified hides, and lo, they bled. Only one of the serpents, captured by Rhea in her bag of holding and then let loose, escaped our blades.

We emerged onto a plain or prairie with many strange creatures grazing hither and yon. Some were large mammals with downward pointing tusks and trunks like elephants, only covered in fur. Some were great reptilian beasts with triple-horned frills upon their heads. Flying creatures flitted overhead, but did not seem exactly to be birds. We set out for a high prominence not far away, in order to survey the lands. From the heights, we could see a forest and later mountains to the 'north,' an ocean to the 'west,' a great river flowing through a canyon before another stretch of mountains to the 'east,' and a rough and broken desert also leading to mountains to the 'south.' Divination magic hinted that our quest, to find the means to awaken the mountain so that it could rid itself of the infection that is the Ghoul Kingdom, lay in a ruined city in the mountains...and likely to the northeast. We set out north, towards the forests.

While we traveled, a great thunderstorm passed over, and the lightning started a fire in the prairie. Finding a massive herd of the local animals headed our way, we used a magical drill device to carve out a trench for us to take shelter and avoid being trampled, while our spell-casters burned away an area of grasses so that the conflagration would pass us by. We weathered the stampede of three-horns and furred elephants, and waited until the fire burned itself out.

Resuming our travels, we noticed sometime later a pair of giant lizards headed our way. At first I took them to be dragons, because of the sail-like fins on their backs, but they were not dragons, but some sort of primitive reptiles, like the three-horns, but aggressive and hungry. They attacked.

During the battle, my companions focused on one of the beasts, while Cassius and I focused on the other, which was partially distracted by one of Rhea's illusion spells. Despite the distraction, it destroyed my mount and even took me into its great jaws, crushing and biting at me as I relentlessly brought my battle axe down around its head and neck. Without healing magic from Yuv, I would have been joining my companion Cassius in the Feywild, or some other, farther Realm. With great effort, we brought down both beasts.

We stopped to recover from this ferocious confrontation, and I used a spell to recall Cassius, but this time in a form suitable to the strange land of Pellucidar - a form Cassius tells me is called an Andrewsarchus. Rather than a gigantic insect, Cassius is now a beast that looks like a cross between a wolf and a hyena, and the size of a destrier.

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!