Saturday, December 13, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 28

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

LARGE INSECTS OR ANIMALS: This category includes giant ants and prehistoric monsters…Hit Dice should range from 2 to anywhere near 20, let us say, for a Tyrannasaurus Rex. Also included in this group are the optionally usable “Martian” animals such as Apts, Banths, Thoats, etc. If the referee is not personally familiar with the various monsters included in this category the participants of the campaign can be polled to decide all characteristics. Damage caused by hits should range between 2-4 dice.”
A catch-all category for mundane, non-fantastical monsters. One might argue that Apts, Banths and Thoats are not mundane, but I think the gist here is that this category encompasses natural and native animal life forms. Included are of course giant versions of animals and creatures, dinosaurs, and Burroughs’ Martian creatures. I find it interesting that the suggestion is to poll the players/participants in the campaign if the referee is not familiar with the John Carter books. This is likely the only example I can think of that recommends player interaction in regard to game mechanics or details.

OTHER MONSTERS: There is no practical limitation to the variety of monsters possible. In the campaigns associated with the play-testing of these rules there have either appeared or been postulated such creatures as:

Cyclopeses: Super-strength Giants with poor depth perception.

Juggernauts: Huge stone statues on wheels which crush anything in their path. They are motivated by some unearthly force
This entry basically tells the referee that any monster not detailed in the rules can be quite easily dreamt up and fleshed out, and then goes on to detail some possibilities. Cyclopeses are super-strong Giants ‘with poor depth perception’. Presumably they are even larger than Giants, and we get a smattering of Gary’s corny humor. Juggernauts are near and dear to this author, as detailed in an older post. Crush anything indeed.

Living Statues: Various stone and metal monsters which come to life if trespass into a certain area is made. One of these monsters was iron, impervious to all weapons save two special ones he guarded, had a fiery breath, poison sword, and a whip of Cockatrice feathers which turned the thing struck by it to stone.”
Somewhere, in the deep down underneath of my own campaign, there is indeed a fire-breathing Living Statue of Iron wielding a Poison Sword and Cockatrice Feather Whip. Possibly one of the coolest monster descriptions ever.

Geletinous Cubes: Underground creatures of near complete transparency which fit exactly the typical corridor of a dungeon…These monsters would be difficult to harm and have a large number of Hit Dice.”
It didn’t take long for this penultimate member of the Clean-Up Crew to be spelled correctly and published, as it appeared in 1976’s Supplement I, Greyhawk. While this monster became an iconic D&D fixture, it didn’t actually end up with a ‘large number of Hit Dice’, having but 4 HD! If I brew up another Solstice version based on this, it will most certainly have LARGE Hit Dice!

Robots, Golems, Androids: Self-explanatory monsters which are totally subjective as far as characteristics are concerned.”
I can’t help but feel that this was the Arneson influence here. As Gygax ended up taking over creative direction for D&D, there was less and less of this kind of off-the-wall stuff. In fact, many fans of D&D in the years to come, as soon as I myself began playing, felt that rockets, lasers, aliens and flying saucers had no place in D&D. I disagree and enjoy seeing the stuff dreamt up by creative gamers, including things like Robots and Androids.

Next up, I move forward into the Treasure portion of Monsters & Treasure.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Joseph said...

If I'm not mistaken, that living statue with the cocatrice feather whip came from Rob Kuntz's dungeon, and made it into the published "Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure". Sure sounds like the same beastie...

Sham aka Dave said...

Ah, thanks Joe! I've never actually read that module. I'll work up something based on that Vol. 2 blurb for my campaign, but I wouldn't mind seeing the Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure version.

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