Friday, December 12, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 27

Being a series of articles in which the author reads the indelible words of Gygax and Arneson as presented the Original Collector's Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, published by Tactical Studies Rules. Beginning with Men & Magic, and concluding with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, the author will consider those earliest passages, adding elucidations and interpretations along the way for your consideration.

Monsters & Treasure

OCHRE JELLY: The clean-up crew includes Ochre Jelly and similar weird monsters…hits by weaponry or lightening bolts will merely make them into several smaller Ochre Jellies…causes one die of damage per turn it is in contact with exposed flesh.”
The name Clean-Up Crew gives us an idea about the Icky-Stuff category of which Ochre Jelly is the first entry. An Ochre Jelly’s move is but 3”, and presumably it roams dungeon halls and corridors devouring flesh and bone along the way. It also destroys wood, so there might be tell-tale signs of their presence on dungeon levels. Weapons and lightning ‘make them into several smaller’ ones. Ochre Jellies have 5 Hit Dice, so I’d rule that each weapon or lightning attack causes 1 HD of the larger monster to split off. Thus after four such hits on the original monster, the Jelly would consist of five 1 HD monsters, each with 5 HD Fighting Capability, its own attack each round, and 1d6 worth of HP. Whether the small 1 HD versions can be further segmented is up to the referee…perhaps there is no real limit to the number of single HD Jellies! A referee could also simply divide by two the Jelly’s HP, and continue dividing the individual ‘segments’ as they are so struck. Perhaps the baby amoebas that survive such encounters will grow into adult 5 HD versions with time, or perhaps through osmosis the segments all join again to reform the single Jelly. Of particular note with these Clean-Up Crew monsters is the way in which its damage is described. Ochre Jelly causes one die of damage per turn to exposed flesh. This method of detailing damage leads me to believe that the Clean-Up Crew does not simply ‘attack’ characters as do other monsters.

BLACK (or GRAY) PUDDING: Another member of the clean-up crew and nuisance monster…It is spread into smaller ones by chops or lightening bolts…cause three dice of damage to exposed flesh.”
A 10 Hit Dice ‘nuisance’ monster? Also segments into smaller versions when hit by attacks to which it is immune. Causes a whopping three dice damage to exposed flesh. Black Pudding moves at 6”.

GREEN SLIME: A non-mobile hazard…Green Slime sticks to flesh and penetrates it in one turn, thereafter turning the flesh into Green Slime.”
Green Slime has always been one of those somewhat difficult to adjudicate encounters for me. The fact that it is non-mobile means characters must slip or fall into the stuff, or run afoul of some devious trap designed to sling, fling, drip or dump the gooey stuff in a deadly manner. Once it has contacted flesh, the victim has a single turn (round) to receive a Cure Disease spell, or he will be turned into Green Slime himself. Nasty stuff indeed! The rate at which the victim turns into slime is open to interpretation; it could be in one turn, or at a rate per round determined by the referee based on the type of exposure the victim is subjected to. Cure Disease will kill the Green Slime even after it has started devouring its host, but it does not say that it restores lost Hit Points or body parts. Also, Green Slime destroys wood and metal items which it comes into contact with. Falling into a pool of this menacing muck is any delver’s nightmare.

GRAY OOZE: A seeping horror which closely resembles wet stone…It does two dice of damage to exposed flesh for every turn it is in contact with it.”
The slowest (1” move) and smallest (3 HD) member of the Clean-Up Crew. While it is susceptible to weaponry, based on my interpretation of the Black Pudding it corrodes metal in such a way that it will cause weapons that strike it to be destroyed the following round. This monster is difficult to detect, and could easily be walked into or over, destroying foot and leg armor, then doing two dice of damage.

YELLOW MOLD: It attacks wood and flesh - doing one die of damage if it contacts exposed skin - but does no harm to metal or stone…its worst threat is its spores…send forth clouds of asphyxiating spores in a 1” x 1” cloud…Any creature within the spore cloud must make a saving throw as if they had been exposed to poison, and failure to make saving throws results in death for the parties concerned.”
Another non-mobile threat, the Yellow Mold is more or less a hazard and not truly a monster as it has no listed statistics whatsoever. Passing, crossing or getting through this hazard can be interesting, and it could be caked over treasure or hiding a secret door in the dungeon. The spores it releases are not actually poison, but rather a cloud of microscopic spores which have a chance to choke those exposed to death. At first I thought I had found an actual example of a monster with save or die poison, but it clearly states that the saving throw is rolled ‘as if they had been exposed to poison’, in other words, the saving throw is made using the Poison column.

In regard to the method in which damage is described for most of the Clean-Up Crew entries, I feel that these monsters do not create a pseudo-pod or actually reach out with a melee attack (Ochre Jelly perhaps being the exception). Rather, these slimes, molds, jellies and oozes deal damage when in contact with flesh. Exactly how this transpires is determined by the referee. Those mobile threats might be able to corner and envelop a target, but for the most part I think they have to be fallen into or walked over. The fact that Black Pudding is described as a nuisance monster, even though it has 10 HD, leads me to think that these monsters are unique in the way they actually deal their damage. It’s as though the Clean-Up Crew is more a less a collection of living traps roaming about the dungeon, devouring corpses and presenting obstacles that crop up from time to time to confound and waylay adventurers.

All of the above are new, unique creations not based on myth or literature, at least not that I am personally aware of. The slimes of D&D, like the later Beholders, Mind Flayers and Umber Hulks, are products of the imagination. There was certainly much, much more of this inventive material down the road from TSR, but the Clean-Up Crew was the first such example.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Geoffrey said...

I love these "clean-up crew" monsters! All five of them (along with purple worms) are the only monsters from M&T that I retained for my CARCOSA book.

It just isn't D&D without all those icky slimes oozing about!

Amityville Mike said...

All of the above are new, unique creations not based on myth or literature, at least not that I am personally aware of.

While I doubt that it could be proved one way or the other, I have my suspicions that some of the oozes might be inspired from Lovecraft's shoggoths, Clark Ashton Smith's Formless Spawn of Tsathoggua, and of course "The Blob". There's no direct correlation and the idea of freaky slimy stuff that eats away flesh might be a subconscious human fear, but I wouldn't be surprised if the germ of their origin was from the pulps and the B-movie.

John Stephens said...

I recall reading that the Ochre Jelly was derived from a microscope picture of an Amoeba. The slide was stained orange for visibility, hence 'ochre'.

Sham aka Dave said...

Geoffrey: Very true, and I failed to mention that it wasn't until I read OD&D that I knew these slimes were categorized as members of a clean-up crew.

Mike: That makes sense, but unlike other derived entries, the clean-up crew didn't borrow directly from the pulps. I had forgotten about The Blob, but that's clearly an inspiration for this category.

John: Yeah, I think it might have easily described as a Giant Amoeba, that's why I mention that perhaps the Ochre Jelly is the only one that reaches out with a melee attack, but then it sets the tone with the whole deals damage per turn it is in contact with exposed flesh.

Mr Baron said...

The clean crew is the best. My son and his friend were the victims of the G-cube a week or so back. These ooze monstrosities are still one of my favorites. Today he was introduced to the dreaded green slime. To put it bluntly, he was slimed! :)

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