Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts

Monday, November 25, 2019

Monstrous Monday Review: Monster Manual II

Continuing my review of the monster books of my youth with what can be called the most polished of all the AD&D/D&D monster books, the AD&D Monster Manual II

This was the first book to feature the new "orange spine" and Jeff Easley cover art.   It is also one of the larger AD&D first ed books at 160 pages (save for the massive DMG).  Sometimes I wonder what an old-school cover would have looked like, something drawn by Tramp maybe.  That all aside, the cover of this book is great, but it doesn't quite grab you the same way that the MM1 or the FF did.  But inside is more than makes up for this "perceived" slight.

For this review, I am as usual considering the original hardcover and the newer PDF from DriveThruRPG.  There is no Print on Demand option yet for this title, but as a special feature, I'll also have a look at the miniature book from Twenty First Century Games S.r.i.

The book(s) and the PDF have full-color covers featuring art from Jeff Easley.  Inside is all black and white art from  Jim Holloway, Harry Quinn, Dave Sutherland, and Larry Elmore.  No slight to the previous book's artists, but the style and quality here is more consistent.  Some might see this as an improvement (I do) but others will point to this as a sign of the change from the Golden Age of TSR to the Silver Age.  Of course, it features the byline of Gary Gygax, though we now know that some of them were created by Frank Mentzer and Jeff Grubb.  In some ways, you can see this change in tone and feel that is happening at TSR in this book.

The Monster Manual II was the first hardcover after a year hiatus.  The book is better organized and layout than most of the AD&D hardcover books.  I have to admit I always credited this to TSR finally moving over to computer layout, but I have nothing to support this claim save for how the book looks.

There is a lot to this book too.  OVer 250 monsters there are a ton more demons, devils, and more from the outer planes, like the daemons, demodands, modrons, and even good-aligned creatures like the devas and solars.  We get a few more dragons and some giants.  We get a lot of monsters that feel inspired by the first Monster Manual. There are also many from previous adventure modules.  This book also gave us the Tarrasque, the Catlord, the Swanmay, the Wolfwere. and more.

This book also has nearly 30 pages of encounter tables at the end that covers all three books, very useful to have really and a selling point for the PDF. Get the PDF and print out the tables.

The Monster Manual II is still by all rights a classic.  While I don't get the same thrill from it as I do the Monster Manual or the Fiend Folio, but the monsters individually are great.

It remains to this day a lot of fun and a book I still get great enjoyment from.



The book from Twenty First Century Games S.r.i. is a great little reproduction. I picked this up back when it was new and paid $9.95 for it.  Now it goes for a lot more.  It is great to have but no way I can read it anymore.   The text is way too small.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Piasa Bird for Basic era games

Well.  It is 85 degrees and humid here in Chicago today.  But I don't care. The calendar says October-eve and it's fall.  Time to get to some of my favorite monsters.

Top of that list is Illinois' favorite, The Piasa Bird. My dad introduced this monster to me.


The Piasa Bird
AKA: The Piasa, "The Bird That Devours Men", "The Destroyer"

According to the diary of Louis Joliet, the Piasa Bird "was as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face like a man, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs."

Piasa Birds in the game are larger and resemble a manticore or a dragon.
They do not keep treasure. They are only interested in killing for meat and sport.

Story of the Piasa Bird 
The following story appeared in the Alton Telegraph (1836) by John Russel. It is claimed that this is story told to Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet by the native tribes of the valley.

When Marquette and Joliet came down the Mississippi river in 1673 they encountered a bluff on the east side of the river with the painting of a giant monster. When they asked the natives what this monster was, they retold for them the story that had been handed down to them for generations. Marquette named the monster "Piasa," pronounced Pie-a-saw, which means "the Destroyer."

The Legend of the Piasa bird that was related to Marquette and Joliet went something like this. Many years ago a great bird roamed the land. Every morning the people would wake in fear to the shrill screams of the great Bird. The bird awoke hungry and would carry off dozens of boys and girls to its cave to be eaten. Chief Ouatoga [OO-wa-toe-ga] was getting old. He wanted to destroy this terrible monster before he died. He called his braves to a meeting and told them he was going to ask the Great Spirit what to do.

He went up on the highest bluff. He spoke with the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit told the Chief, "Dip your arrows deep into the poison of a copperhead snake and shoot them into the body of the Bird. It  will cause its death." He returned to the camp and told his people what the Great Spirit had told him. He gathered up a small army of the strongest braves and set out to hunt the Bird. Chief Ouatoga told his braves that the plan was for someone to stand on the cliff to lure the Bird down. When the great monster swoops down they were to shoot it with their poison arrows.

The braves all begged their chief to be the one to sacrifice themselves. But the chief told them no, he would be the one since he was older. While the braves practiced with their bows, Chief Ouatoga spoke with the Great Spirit. "Think not of my life," he said, "but the lives of the children."

The next morning the chief stood tall waiting for the great bird to come. Its screams could be heard as flew down the river looking for victims. The bird saw the old chief and swooped down on him with a terrible scream.

Just as the monster was ready to attack the braves shot their arrows and all 100 met their mark. The monster fell into the Mississippi River and died. The braves carried the broken and bruised body of their chief back to the tribe. The medicine man healed him and he awoke the next day surrounded by his grateful people. In remembrance of the act, the returned to the site and painted a life-size picture of the monster. Every time a member of the tribe went down the river after that, he fired an arrow at the bluff.
In alternate versions of the story, the youngest brave stands on the cliff instead of the Chief. When he is healed the next day he becomes the new Chief.

Piasa Bird
(Labyrinth Lord, Pumpkin Spice Editon)
No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Movement: 90’ (30’)
    Fly:  240' (80')
Armor Class: -2 (scales and hide)
Hit Dice: 11d8+6 (55 hp)
Attacks: 4 (claw/claw/bite/tail swipe) + fear
Damage: 1d6+2/1d6+2/2d8/1d6
Save: F11
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: None (The Piasa eats all meat and discards everything else.)
XP: 2,800

The Piasa can cause fear as per the spell once per day.

Piasa Bird
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: -2
HD: 11d8
Move: 90
   Fly: 240
Attacks: 4 (claw/claw/bite/tail swipe) + fear  (1d6+2 x2 2d6+2/1d6)
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
XP: 2,214

Piasa Bird
(Old-School Essentials)
A large creature with the body of a fish, the wings and claws of a dragon, the antlers of a stag and the face of an evil man.
AC -2 [22], HD 11* (55hp), Att 4 claw  (1d6+2) /claw  (1d6+2) /bite (2d8) /tail swipe (1d6), THAC0 10 [+10], MV 90’ (30’) flying 240' (90'), D6 W7 P8 B8 S10 (11), ML 9, AL Chaotic Evil, XP 2,214, NA 1 (1), TT None
 Attacks with claws, bite and tail sipe
 The Piasa can cause fear as per the spell once per day.

STR: 22 INT: 8 WIS: 8 DEX: 14 CON: 15  CHA: 4

Monday, July 8, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Calibans

Sorry for falling off the face of the web last week!  Took a little break from everything and it was nice.  But it's Monday and that means back to work and back to Monstrous Mondays!

Today I have a little beastie that has been in the back of my head ever since I reread The Tempest a few years back.  I am doing this one for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules since allows any monster species to also be played as a character species choice.

CALIBAN
AC: 7
HD: 2d8
Move: 30
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d4 (claw) x2/ 1d6 (bite) or 1d6 (weapon)
XP: 25
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
Abilities: +1 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
Climb Surfaces +5%, Hear Noise +10%, Hide in Shadows +10%, Move Silently +5%, Read Languages -10%, Read Scrolls -15%, Use Wand -10%

Calibans are creatures twisted by dark witchcraft.  No two calibans appear the same, though a full 20% can pass as an ugly human or orc.  They are humanoid, indeed many are born to human mothers or were human before their curse. They are usually covered in dark hair, scales or something that makes them monstrous. They have a resistance to magic, gaining a +1 on all saves vs any type of magical effect (spells, wands, staves) but they themselves have difficulty with magic.
A caliban share much in common with the Cambion, a creature that is the offspring of a human female and a demon. The caliban, while often demonic looking, is not the offspring of demons, but the victims/result of dark magic.
A caliban can take any class, but suffer a -5% XP penalty if they choose to be a witch and a -10% if they choose to become a magic-user/wizard.  Calibans can become clerics with no penalty since they tend to be devout servants of the gods.  Because of their low aptitude for magic wizards have taken to hiring on a caliban as cheap labor. They get a loyal (through fear) servant and one not likely to steal magic from them.

Behind the Monster
Calibans are obviously taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest.  Caliban is the monstrous son of the witch Sycorax. He is various described, but almost always as being half-human, half-monster.

An additional source for Calibans is the movie Clash of the Titans which features the character of Calibos.  He was a human that was cursed to be a monster.  Interesting to me is that his mother, Thetis, was played by Dame Maggie Smith (one of my all-time favorite actresses) who also played the most badass witch Minerva McGonagall. 

The 3rd Edition of Ravenloft from Sword and Sorcery Studios/Arthaus, now Onyx Path, featured a race called Calibans.  These calibans were no more than reskinned Half-Orcs in truth. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 3 Hecate

Hecate is getting her own post.

There is no way I am going to say everything about this Goddess; either for D&D or in general.  So keeping that in mind, let's go.

Hecate, or sometimes, Hekate, is the Goddess of Witches, Ghosts and the Crossroads OR she is a Titan. OR she is something different. 

Like some of the Olympian Gods, she is of the third or fourth generation.  Her Great grandparents are namely Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky), same as Zeus' own grandparents.  Their offspring was Crius, whom the D&DG gives as the Greater Titan of Gravity.  Gaia (Earth) and Pontos (Sea) gave birth to Eurybia (Winds and Constellations; things that seemingly comes from the sea). Crius and Eurybia give birth to Perses (Titan of Destruction). He joins with the Titaness Asteria the Titan of stars and nighttime oracles.  She herself was the daughter of Phoebe and Coeus, making her a half-sister to Leto the mother of Apollo and Artemis.   Though there are other claims to her parentage.  Some also claim she the daughter of Leto, which would make her Apollo and Artemis' half-sister.

Hecate then is the daughter of Peres and Asteria and of the same generation of Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Dionysus.  While she is their generation she is often considered to be a Titan.

Like many of the Greek and later Roman Gods, Hecate has more than one, in what D&D came to call Portfolio.  She is the Goddess of Nighttime as opposed to Nox the Personification of Night. She is the Goddess of Oracular power based on stars (as opposed to her semi-cousin Apollo who is the God of Oracles), one of the Goddess of the Moon.  Her torches light the night.  She is the goddess of the Crossroads. With her three faces, she can see the past, present, and future.  And most notably, she is the Goddess of Witchcraft, Creatures of the Night and Ghosts.
Due to her rather complicated lineage, she also has dominion over Earth, Sky, and Sea.

She has been associated with the Goddess Demeter having been mentioned int he Homeric Hymns to Demeter.  She is believed to have lit the way to Hades for Demeter to find Persephone. While Persephone is in the underworld she and Hecate are companions.  She helps Persephone on her trip to and from the underworld.  This gives us one of our first triple-goddesses, with Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate as the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

As a Goddess, she is often seen in the company of large dogs from the Underworld, the Hellhounds and common house cats.

She is depicted in the D&DG as being Lawful Evil.  I am not buying it.  Lawful I can live with, but so much of what she does is both good and evil that Lawful Neutral is the much better choice.

Hecate is one of the few gods that retains her name in both the Greek and Roman versions.  Though there is the Roman Goddess Trivia that also takes on some of what makes Hecate.

Goddess of Witchcraft
We know that many tablets and surviving scrolls have her mentioned in many curses and spells of protection against creatures of the night.  According to Hesiod, "Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods."

Interestingly enough her domain over witchcraft relates to her being worshipped by Circe and Medea. Medea, in fact, is called a Priestess of Hecate. Medea is almost always described as a witch.

Hecate also appears in Shakespeare's Macbeth and mentioned in Hamlet. Each time due to her association with witches.

Lampad the Nymphae Avernales
The lampads are described as Underworld Nymphs.  They were the constant companions to Hecate as a reward for Hecate taking part in the war against the Titans.  Sometimes described as the Daughters of Nyx or of Daimones, they share a similar relationship to Hecate as the forest nymphs do with Artemis.

Lampads appear in the Pathfinder game, in Bestiary 4.  Here is my interpretation.

Lampad (Nymph)
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d8 +16 (30)
Attacks: 0 (see below)
Damage: None
Special Attacks & Defenses: Cause feeblemindedness, malaise and death
Movement: 120’ (40’)
No. Appearing: 0 (1d4)
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: IX, XI x 10
Alignment: Neutral (Chaotic)
XP: 100
Nymphs are stunningly beautiful female fey creatures that closely resemble elven women. The lampad are nymphs of the underworld and desolate places.  They appear similar to drow (dark elves), with grey ashen skin and long white hair.  Anyone that sees a lampad must make a save vs. spells or become feebleminded as per the spell.  If more than one lampad is present the victim is instantly killed on a failed save.
Lampads have the spell-casting abilities of a 6th level witch. They have their own language and speak common and the languages of the infernal realms.

Tears of the Lampad:  These tears are extremely magical if a tear touches a mortal (not an elf though) they must make a save vs. poison at -4 or enter into a depression so deep they are unwilling to move or do anything.  A victim will starve to death before they will attempt to bring themselves out of this malaise. Only a remove curse spell will allow them to return to their normal life.

The Empusa
I have used the Empusa many times in a lot of games.  I have often categorized them as Lilim, or the Daughters of Lilith (who also shares a lot with Hecate) but in ancient myth they are the daughters, or at least the offspring, of Hecate.

Empusa (Lilim)
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 8d8+4** (40 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 claws and 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6 / 1d6 / 1d6 or 1d10
Special Attacks & Defenses:  Magic resistance (25%), Lilim abilities, magical abilities, +1 magic weapons to hit, Intelligence drain
Movement: 120' (40')
   Flying: 240’ (80’)
No. Appearing: 1d4
Save As: Witch 9
Morale: 8
Horde Class: X, XI
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
XP:  2,380
These are believed to be the daughters of Lilith or Hecate and the various proto-demons. They are the most “demonic” of all of the Lilim. The Empusae (or “forcers-in”), like all Lilim, can appear as a stunningly beautiful woman or as a demon. The demonic form of the Empusa is one of the most hideous of all of the Lilim. The body remains mostly humanoid and female but covered in fine scales. Its legs become like those of a horse or ass and end in hooves that are made of brass or bronze. Its back supports a set of large leathery bat-like wings, similar to that of a succubus. It is its head that features its most horrible transformation. The creature’s long flowing tresses are replaced with a mass of snakes similar to that of a medusa. Its facial features are blocked by an area of complete darkness, only it’s glowing eyes are visible. It is said among sages that face of the Empusa is not shrouded in darkness, but it is so horrible that our minds block the vision from us. It is also said that other demons can actually see the Empusa’s face and run in fear from it. Its former delicate hands now end in razor-tipped claws. A long reptilian tail completes the picture.
An Empusa can appear as human, or it can also shapeshift into a large dire wolf (statistics as per Dire Wolf).
Unlike the combat avoidant Succubus, Empusae live for battle. They can either use their natural claw/claw/bite routine or use a flaming sword that strikes for 2d6 points of damage plus 1d6 of flame damage. Empusa gain to hit and damage bonuses due to their high strength as well.
The touch of an Empusa drains the Intelligence of the victim at 1 point per barehanded, not weaponed, attack.



Hecate / Heka Connections
The Greeks and the Egyptians had a long and complicated relationship.  Greeks scholars used to say that everything they know came from the Egyptians.  Back when I was doing the research for OMG: Egyptian Mythos I came across this saying all the time.  This lead me to the Egyptian God of magic Heka.  Like many before I noticed some similarities with Hecate and Heka.  Both are their respective gods of magic. Both are heralded as "gifts" to the human race by their respective heads of their pantheon.  Despite the similar portfolios and similarity in names there is no linguistic connection between the two.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Avenging Angels, The Dirae for Basic-era Games

A little thing I have been working on.  More of this later.  Greek and Roman mythology purists, I take a lot of liberties with the myths.  A lot.
--
Avenging Angels, The Dirae

"Every angel is terrifying." 
- Rainer Maria Rilke

“They say that by the time you hear their war screams you are already dead.” 
- Brix, Imp assigned to Malbolge


When the Erinyes abandoned their duties and sided with the Devils in the War at the Gates of Dawn they left a vacuum of power that the gods, in their weakened state could not fill.

Originally known as the Eumenides, or the Kindly Ones, their divine task was to rightfully punish wrongdoers and the breakers of oaths.  They pursued this task with a fervor that only divine justice can inspire.  It was this devotion that made them an easy target for Asmodeus’ designs.

They fell, along with other angels and servitors of good, until they landed in Hell.  Here they took on new forms and became the Erinyes or the Furious Ones.

Their power, their divine cause, and their roles were left untouched for time untold.

Until one night.

A small coven of proto-Druidic nature worshipers danced around a full moon.  The parishioners, all women from the local village, danced and lept with pure joy. Unknown to them a group of raiders from a few villages over had heard of the moonlight dance and figured the women would be easy targets. They were. They were defenseless and without weapons or armor.  These raiders believed they had stockpiles of gold and silver, but nothing like that existed.  In outrage, the raiders slaughtered them all.

The murders caught the attention of the coven’s Goddess, Rhamnusia. Aggrieved and enraged she appealed to the other gods. “Please!” she cried out, “please let them know the vengeance they deserve.”   But this was the time after the War at the Gates of Dawn and the gods were weak and weary. Not only did they fear to give up any remaining power they had, but secretly they could not do so; such was their weakened state.  Only the God that had prompted the raiders on did not fear.

Rhamnusia screamed in rage. Cursing the impotent Gods She flew off till she found Death.

Death granted Her the power She asked for, but at a cost.  No more of Her followers would ever be able to come back from the Realms of Death as part of a cycle of Life-Death-and-Rebirth.  The Goddess Rhamnusia, hearing only the souls of her followers crying for vengeance, agreed.

With this power, She raised her followers. She equipped them with arms and armor and sent them on a mission of vengeance. Their forms were same; the Goddess wanted to these raiders to know that it was the once peaceful coven now come for their deaths.  With sword and wing; armor and scream, the new angels flew to their targets.  Like the Eumenides of old, their unerring flight sought out the guilty and they destroyed them.

They then continued to attack and destroy anyone that had harmed another innocent. Saving their greatest fury for those that killed women or children.

Enraged at loss of so many of His followers the God of the raiders demanded justice of His own.  No sooner than He had uttered the words than the screams of the Angels were heard.  They attacked this God, the forced Him back to his own plane and here they slaughtered Him.

More than that, they Unmade Him.

He would never come back, no matter the form, no matter what other gods or His worshipers did.

The Angels had tapped into the righteous fury left behind by the Erinyes. The power that was of thousands of Angels of Vengeance and Retribution now flowed through the bodies of less than a score beings. Gone was the peaceful coven. In their place stood the avatars of Vengeance and Death, and even the gods themselves were not immune from their justice.

Their Goddess too was changed. Rhamnusia took on an aspect similar to Her angels.
Gone were the accouterments of a pastoral Goddess.  Sheaves of grain were replaced by a scourge. The sickle of the harvest became a sword of silver fire. Her rustic tunic became armor of the same silver.  Rhammusia was gone.

In Her place stood Invidia, the Goddess of Vengeance. Her brothers were Fear and Terror and mortalkind called her Nemesis, "She whom none can escape."

Her Angles became known as the Dirae, the “Terrible Ones” or the “Vengengful Ones.

Dirae (Angel)
No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d8)
Alignment: Lawful (Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral)
Movement: 60’ (20’)
   Fly: 240’ (80’)
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8d8 + 16 (52 hp)
Attacks: 2 or 1 or special
Damage: 1d8 / 1d8 (sword) or 1d10 (scourge, see below) or scream (see below).
Save: Fighter 8
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: Nil
XP:  3,840
The dirae appear as angels with dark wings touched with silver.  They are often armed and armored. All dirae are female, but it can often be difficult to tell when their helms are donned. They do appear attractive, but there is a quality of sadness, anger or purpose about their appearance that makes most mortals uncomfortable.  The guilty fear them and the devoted see them as manifestations of justice.

The dirae are tasked with punishing the guilty. Petty crimes are beneath their attention as mortal laws are designed to deal with those.  The dirae focus their vengeance on the worst crimes committed; those against the innocent.  Not all crimes can be punished by the dirae; there are too few of them, but when they set out to punish a mortal nothing can stop them.

Dirae attack with a sword two times per round or a scourge.  The scourge does damage and acts as a Rope of Entanglement.  Both weapons are considered magical and holy when dealing with other creatures.  They slay evil creatures without hesitation or remorse.  If they are sent to slay a human then they will do so as quickly as possible. If someone is in their way or prevents them from their task they will slay that creature as well.   Three times per day the dirae can Scream.  This attack causes fear (as per the spell). Creatures 5 HD and lower are affected with no save.  Creatures 6 HD and higher are allowed a save vs. spells. Affected creatures cannot attack.

Dirae have the following spell-like abilities, usable at will: detect invisibility, fear (was the wand of fear), invisibility, know alignment, locate object, polymorph self, produce flame, holy word, and gate (50% probability of success) a dirae or (75% probability of success) another angel of a lesser sort.

A group of dirae is known as a “flight”.

Dirae and Erinyes
As agents of good and evil respectively, the Dirae and Erinyes often are at cross purposes, but in their roles of vengeance, they will sometimes see their purposes aligned.  Due to ancient pacts that go beyond gods and devils the Dirae and the Erinyes are forbidden to act against each other directly.  They can’t harm or interfere with each others’ hunts.
If a mortal is claimed by both groups, then by the same ancient pacts they are given over to the Erinyes, the Dirae cannot interfere.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Monster Book Round Up, 1st Ed style

You can never have too many monster books in my mind.  Even I use one or two per book and my players are surprised or go "what in the hell is that!?" then it is money well spent.   Monsters have taught me so much over the years.  Monsters lead me to Greek Mythology. Monsters helped me learn how to write code to create databases and then later helped land a DBA job while I was still in school.   One day I'll update my old Access95 Monster Database, but that will have to be later.

Until then here are some of the monster books I am enjoying a lot right now.

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters
For the Blood & Treasure 2nd edition game, but can be used with any Old-school game.  The system is a mix of Swords & Wizardry and AD&D 1st Ed/OSRIC so reading the stats is really easy.
215 pages, over 600 monsters.  Color cover, black & white interiors.
This one has all the usual suspects from the various SRDs and that is fine for me really.  There are some new descriptions and there are new monsters.
There are things in this book that make it more worthwhile than just monster stat blocks.  There are a number of conditions and definitions ported over from 3.x OGC that are very welcome additions to the "OSR Ruleset".  There are guidelines for Monsters as a Character Race which are quite nice.
Another import from 3.x are Monster Templates.  Now you can a Celestial Gnome or a Draconic Goblin among other things.  Really expands your creature database.
There are even four mini-adventures included.
Not at all bad for just under $10.  Highly recommend!

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters II
The second book for the Blood & Treasure 2nd edition game.  This one has 197 pages, over 500 monsters. Color cover with black & white art.  No this is what we buy monster books for! New Monsters!  At 500 some odd monsters there are some here that can be recognized from the records of myth and fairy tales, (lots and lots of dragons!) but there a plenty of more that are completely new to me to edge it out over Monsters I.  There is similar material from the Monsters I book; conditions, attack descriptions and the like.  But the bulk is dedicated to new creatures for your game. This book also has a Chimerical Monster table for making your own chimeras. Tables on mutant dinosaurs and vermin.  Also a combined monster listing of both books.

If you have Blood & Treasure Monsters then you will want this one.  If you just like new monsters then get this one too.

Malevolent and Benign
Malevolent and Benign has long been a staple on my game table.   128 pages with 150 monsters, all in OSRIC format.   The monsters are all new (to me), with some converted from other OGC sources.  The art is quite good and the feel of the book is something like a Monster Manual 3 or a Fiend Folio 2 really. It sits on my shelf right next to my monsters books, or in theory, it does. It is actually out on my game table more often than not. The softcover is very nice to have and the PDF is fully bookmarked.
The book also has a small section on new magic items associated with these monsters.
For $10 it is a good deal.

Malevolent & Benign II
In many ways I actually like M&B2 more than M&B1.  This book is 110 pages with 150+ monsters.  Again we have a color cover (which is fantastic by the way) and black & white interior.  In fact all the art is a step up.
If M&B 1 was akin to a MM3 or FF2 then this one is the next in line, but with no loss of quality. The monsters are new and quite deadly or at least the ones that are not deadly are interesting.
I have not picked up the softcover yet, but the PDF is fantastic.
10 bucks for the pdf or 20 for the pdf + softcover book is a pretty good deal.  Especially for a bunch of new monsters.



Found Folio Volume One
A collection of creatures from various 3.x sources converted back over to "Advanced era" stats. What it lacks in art it makes up for in the number of monsters (typically two per page). Lots of 3.x faves here, ready for your OSR games!
130 monsters in 70 or so pages.



Honorable Mentions. Almost AD&D1 stats.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.
Let be honest up front. We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before. Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.
And none of that matters. This is still a great book. At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in. So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book begins with two monster spellcasters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor. Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day. Heck, I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself. Maybe I'll see if I can do that here. The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.
The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions. Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not a score but an adjustment. Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules. Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt. Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text. Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful Kickstarter for this (more on that later). The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.
All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.
Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries. Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines. This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages. I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900. Anyway, it's a lot. I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough, they were. Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those. There are some alternates and stand-ins if you really, really need them though.
The book sections are: Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books. Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals. Extra-Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.
Appendix A details creating your own monsters. Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes. Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes. This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book. Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago. Appendix D is the magic resistance table and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.
All of this in a PDF for just under $15.
I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well, this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark. Joe ended his Kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early. Let that sink in for a moment. In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months or longer, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early. You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.
So should you get this book?
If you like monsters then yes. If you need monsters for your old-school game then yes. If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.
Lots of good reasons to get in my book. It is also the best book in his line.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities
The first of two HUGE monster books for the Swords & Wizardry game.  This one is also my favorite of the two by just a tiny bit.
This has mostly new monsters but some of the monsters we have seen before either in the SRD or other books. That though does not detract from its value as this is a 560+ page book since in addition to that there are some new monsters. The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre 1980) covers. I love this cover. There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, description and a plot hook. While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art. Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new. Actually, the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art. Honestly, there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top-notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have. I am even going as far as to say it is a must have for any serious S&W GM.



Tome of Horrors Complete - Swords and Wizardry Edition
What can be said about this product? The original Tomes of Horrors were all great products that featured a number of "old school" monsters from previous editions of the game all under the OGL. It even had a brief "tutorial" on how to add these beasties to your own products. Now those very same monsters are back in one huge book "updated" to Swords & Wizardry stats. Nearly 700 monsters, all ready for your game. In addition to art and stat blocks for every monster there is also an adventure hook for each one. The monsters have been "scaled down" to fit the S&W rules better.
Color covers, black & white interior art.  688 pages (that's right!)

Converting these to AD&D1/OSRIC/Advanced Labyrinth Lord should not be an issue.

Eight monster books and somewhere over 3,300 monsters (lots of duplicates sure, but all unique presentations).

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Fiend Folio POD

More Old-School mail call from the weekend.  Two boxes from different printers for some Old School joy.


I will admit it, it's not a popular opinion, but I love the Fiend Folio.  I goes back to the time when I was just getting into AD&D and I equated everything British/English as being better than American. (In many ways I still think that!)

So imagine my delight when I saw that the Fiend Folio on DriveThruRPG was now offering a Print on Demand option.  So, of course, I had to get it.  It was soft cover only, but I thought it would work nicely next to my Games Workshop printing softcover Monster Manual.
I was not wrong.



Other than one is a hardcover and the other is a softcover it is very difficult to tell them apart.


Even the interiors compare well.



Compares well to the mini version out a few years back (I guess a "few" now means 20).

Around the same time I ordered this I found a mock-up of an "orange spine" version of the Fiend Folio made by R Nelson Bailey.

A little bit of Lulu legerdemain and I now have something from a parallel universe.


I didn't get the cover perfect, but that is fine really.




The interior of this one looks pretty good too.

My next project needs to be a Fiend Folio II.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday: The Shattered Knights

I got a 3D printer for Christmas, but there is something seriously wrong with it.  I have not figured it out yet and might be calling their customer support today.  But until then here are some of the test paladins I have printed and what I am planning to do with them.


The Shattered Knights*

Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 9**
Move: 120' (40')
   Phasing: 240' (80')
Attacks: 2 weapon or special
Damage: 1d10 / 1d10  or Wisdom Drain

No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Save As: Fighter 9
Morale: 11 (12)
Treasure Type: None
Alignment: Chaotic

The Shattered Knights are fearsome undead of unknown origin.  Legends say that they had been a group of virtuous knights who had been sent to apprehend an evil wizard.  But, as legend tells it, the wizard's lair was a trap and the king who sent them knew they would die.  The wizard's tower was destroyed in a huge magical explosion just as the knights learned of their betrayal.
Now they are undead creatures caught between life and death forever.

They are semi-intangible and can only be hit by magic weapons.  Like all undead, the knights are immune to sleep, charm, and hold spells.  They can attack with the weapons they had in life and also a powerful touch attack that drains 1 point of Wisdom per touch (no save).  This must be done with their hand, not a weapon and it is the only attack they can make that round.

The knights are never fully in or out of normal reality so they may opt to make a phase movement instead of an attack.  They move at twice their normal speed and can move through solid objects. When in phase they cannot attack or be attacked by physical means.

The Knights are Turned by Cleric as if they were Spectres.  The knights are always accompanied by 1d4 wights.

If four or more knights are encountered then one will be the Knight Commander.



Knight Commander*

Armor Class: 1
Hit Dice: 10**
Move: 120' (40')
   Phasing: 240' (80')
Attacks: 2 weapon or special
Damage: 1d10+1 / 1d10+!  or Wisdom Drain

No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: Fighter 10
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: None
Alignment: Chaotic

The Knight Commander is the leader of the Shattered Knights.  He has all the same attacks and powers as his knights.  When he is present with a group of knights their Moral increases to 12.

The Knight Commander is Turned by Cleric as if he were a Vampire.

Characters slain by a Shattered Knight or the Knight Commander will become wights under their command.


Sadly I fear more shattered knights may join their ranks before I figure this out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Plays Well With Others: DP&D Cryptid Manual

There is just over a week to go for the Dark Places & Demogorgons Cryptid Manual and I have been enjoying the hell out of my preview copy.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s I devoured books about cryptids, monsters, and UFOs.  Honestly, when I wasn't reading books about the occult or witches, I was reading this stuff.
I guess that is one of the reasons why this book (and this game) hit such a nerve with me.

Plus I love monster books. Always have.

So naturally, I want to use this book everywhere I can.


First and foremost, the Cryptid Manual is 90% compatible with Swords & Wizardry White Box. There is not a lot of overlap in monsters, so this makes the CM a perfect monster book for S&WWB players.  Also, there are a lot of "new" monsters in S&W for the DP&D player/GM.  Who's to say that an alien life form could resemble an orc or a wyvern.

In fact, this is true for nearly every clone. The clone game provides monsters for DP&P and the Cryptid Manual provides new monsters for your clone of choice.  You just need to justify why they are there.


The tone of The Hero's Journey is different than the other Clones, but with a tiny bit of tinkering the adventure-centric tone of THJ can work with the dark conspiracy tone of DP&D.  I mean really, isn't a Bigfoot just another kind of forest spirit?  I bit like a wilder, but less evil, ogre or troll.



B/X Essentials is an interesting game and one I will delve into more on future posts.  There is essentially a B/X Essentials Monster Manual.  Either or both can be used with both or either game and all fit well.  I think the only overlapping monster is the Medusa, and they are close enough to each other as to be the same creature with local variations.
Both games have a monster Morale score.  I have not done the math to see if these morale scores are 100% compatible, but they feel that way and are based on the same Basic mechanic.
If you like either game then consider picking up the other monster book for even more monsters.




I think the claim that the Cryptid Manual is a good book for any OSR game is a solid one.
I have been wanting to add a Hodag to my games for YEARS.

Now adding this book to an OSR/Clone book is easy. The hard part is figuring out why or how Chupacabras are out running around with the likes of elves and dragons.

Something that might help is looking at other games that cover many of the same creatures and ideas.


Dark Places & Demogorgons holds the same place that is/was occupied by Chill.  I can pretty much take any Chill adventure I developed and re-run under DP&D.  The Chill Monsters book covers a lot of the same ground as the Cryptid Manual.  The advantage of picking up the Monsters book has more information on each creature and a few new ones.  The Cryptid Manual also has a few new creatures for Chill players as well.  For conversions, I would find similar creatures in the books and use that as a template.

Chill's focus is more international and more adult.  BUT a great idea I had was to play a Chill game with some investigators and do a "flashback" adventure of when they were kids using DP&D.  Players of both games should check out the other books for lots of ideas.



The same is true of Eden's Conspiracy X 2.0.

The focus is even more X-Files than Chill is.  There is also a greater focus on Extraterrestrials than in Chill.  Like Chill, there is a feeling that Con X might be the "sequel" of the DP&P game.  Again a fun idea would be to run a Con X game, but pull out DP&D for a "flashback" adventure to when the characters were all children. 

Think about it in terms of the X-Files.  You are playing Fox Mulder as an FBI Agent working on the X-Files (Con X), but the GM wants to go back and try playing Fox as a kid when his sister gets taken by Aliens (DP&D).  It could be a flashback, an alien device that makes him relive it or he is in therapy and his doctor tries memory regression.  There is a ton of different things you can do. 

The systems are not compatible, but I am pretty fluent in both systems and did some of the work already for my Sunny Valley, OH Buffy game.

So, yes the Cryptid Manual is a remarkablly useful and flexible book that I can already use for a dozen or so games, and I plan on doing so.  Hodags! Hodags in every game!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: Dark Places & Demogorgons Cryptid Manual

If I have said it once I have said it a hundred times. I LOVE Monster books.  Any and all monster books. I even grab monster books for games I don't play.  So when Eric Bloat they head monster hunter at Bloat Games asked if I would be interested in looking over his new monster book (Kickstarting today) for his FANTASTIC Dark Places & Demogorgons I screamed HELL YES at my computer.

Now I promise to be fair here but a couple of words of full disclaimer.  First I was sent this book as part of an agreement for a review.  That is no big, I get a lot of books this way and I always try to be fair.   Secondly. Well, look above. I am predisposed to like Monster books and I already love DP&P and cryptids are a TON of fun.  So please keep all this in mind.

Dark Places & Demogorgons: Cryptid Manual is a digest-sized book weighing in at 90 or so pages.  Some bits look like redacted Governmental documents and blood splattered hunter's notebooks.  It's actually pretty cool looking if not 100% original (see Chill, Supernatural and Conspiracy X).  That being said though it is also 100% EXPECTED.  That's HOW I want my 80s monster hunting guide to look like.

The interior and the cover features two-color art (blacks and reds) on glossy pages. Now the gloss might just be my pre-copy version, or not. In any case the color, the art, and the layout are all a leap ahead in terms of style and look than all the previous DP&D books.  If this is the future of their books then the future looks good.

A little over 50 monsters fill this book.  They use the same stat block as DP&D so that also means they are roughly compatible with Swords & Wizardry (I'd say about 99%) and most other OSR-flavored games.  Given the size of the book it fits in nicely with my Swords & Wizardry Whitebox games, so I have another monster book now for that! Each monster gets a page. Some exceptions occur with the Bigfoots and the E.T.s, but still, it's a good bit for each one. 

There are also templates in the back of the book that work like the monster templates from 3.x.  So you can apply the Vampire, Werewolf or my favorite Radioactive, template (among others) to any monster.  Radioactive Bigfoots?  Hell yes!  There is also a table of enhancements and how they change your monster. So now it's Agile Radioactive Bigfoots!
There are some conditions ported over from 3.x (more or less) but very, very useful and I am happy to see them here.

Ok what are some of my favorites?  There is the Almasti, which I also used in Ghosts of Albion. They have a special place in my heart.  I'll likely include Almasti Shamen in my DP&D games like I did with Ghosts.   Old faves like the Bunyip and Chupacabra.  Holy crap there is a Crocoduck!


I have to admit I nearly shot coffee out of my nose when I first saw that.  Worth the price of the book alone in my mind.  Flatwoods Monster, all the various extraterrestrials (Nordics, Reptilians, LGMs, Greys), Hellhounds, the Hodag! (love those things!), Jersey Devils, Skin Walkers, and the Wendigo.  So plenty really and many more.  The monsters mostly come from modern cyptids, but there some classics from myths and local monsters.

This book is great really. While I may have been pre-disposed to like it, it really delivered and then some with me.  The art is great and fun. The layout top notch and the monsters are just too much fun. 

While reading it I could not help but think how well this would also work with White Star or other White Box derived game.   So even if you don't play DP&D (and you should really, it's just too much fun) you can still get a lot of enjoyment out of this book.

This book is currently in Kickstarter and you can get in for as little as 10 bucks.  Not too shabby of a deal really.


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/dark-places-and-demogorgons-the-cryptid-manual-tab

There is a lot more information on the KS page, but trust me. You want this.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Melonheads for Dark Places & Demogorgons

One of my favorite games of 2018 is turning into one of my favorite games of 2019.

I have been given the pleasure of an advance copy of the newest book in the Dark Places & Demogorgons catalog, the Cryptid Manual.

It is not out yet, the Kickstarter begins on January 16, but it might be the best looking DP&D ever.

The book is digest sized, 90 pages and full of great illustrations.  The crew at Bloat Games really outdid themselves with this one.  The book reminds of a Chill or Conspiracy X monster book and that is a really good thing.

Expect a full review from me later this week. In fact expect a lot more DP&D goodness this week as I spend some more time with it and my Sunny Valley, OH setting.

Since today is Monster Monday. Let's find a Cryptid worthy of this book and something my Sunny Valley cast could encounter.

One of the features of the original series was the Monster of the Week episode.  This notion came from spirtual ancestor of both the show and this game, the X-Files. So going back to Mulder and Scully is never a bad plan.  For this episode, though I wanted something new, something we have not seen a lot of in the past AND something from Ohio.

Please allow me to introduce you to the Melonheads.
These creatures have been terrorizing people (reportedly) in Ohio, Michigan, and Connecticut since at least the 1960s.  Really they are kind of perfect for this.

Found in the woods in and around Ohio these creatures appear as small emaciated children with giant bulbous heads.

One legend has it that a deranged doctor (Dr. Crowe) and his wife near Kirtland, OH took in some hydrocephalic children to care for. In truth, they did strange experiments on them.  Eventually, the children fought back killing the doctor and his wife and burning down the home.  They escaped into the woods where they still live to this day, terrorizing anyone that comes into their territory.

Melonheads
Armor Class: 10
Hit Dice: 2
Move: 12
Actions: 1
Morale: 4/8
Terror: 13
HDE: 2

Attack Damage: Claw (d4)
Special: Dark Vision, Hunt in Packs
Bonuses: +5 to Spot, +5 to Stealth, +2 to Listen

Pack Tactics: Melonheads are rarely encountered alone. When they are their Morale is 4. In a pack of 6 or more their moral jumps to 8.  They will attack en masse with three being able to attack a single victim at once.  Their attacks are not very effective, but with multiple creatures, they are sure to land a few.

Melonheads are not particularly strong or very bright.  They attack anything and everything that enters their territory.   Melonheads are only active at night.

Using typical 80s monster logic they mostly attack teenagers making out in the woods.

Sunny Valley, OH Episode: It's a Shame About Ray
(*Someone will appreciate that title)

The episode begins with a missing teenager, Ray. He had been out in the woods walking with his girlfriend Shanon last night. Before they got out of the woods though he was attacked by a group of Melonheads.  His girlfriend describes "creepy, dirty children with giant heads".  It is now up to our cast to find them.

The only way to stop them is to close up the mine they have been using as a home and hiding place.

Read more about these weirdos here:

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monstrous Mondays: Undead Frost Giant

Just a few short days till the Winter Witch is out.  Here is another frozen fiend to throw at your players!  Again, the inspiration for this one should be obvious.
This is me, saving the best for last!

Giant, Frost, Undead
Hit Dice: 12
Armor Class: 2 [18]
Attack: 2 fist (2d8), weapon (3d8), frost breath (4d6),  Constitution Drain
Saving Throw: 3
Special: Undead; Energy Drain, Frost breath, Immune to cold
Movement: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 1d3
Challenge Level/XP: 14/2,600
The horrible undead frost giant appears much as a giant wight or draugr. Indeed they are the wights among the Frost Giants. Horrible as they are powerful, these giant creatures appear as frozen skeletons with bits of armor still frozen to their frames.
In their frozen existence they forget much about what they were so they tend to attack with fists or by whatever weapons they had when they died.  They do have two special attacks they can use. First is a breath weapon of cold air that can do 4d6 points of damage. That is the only attack they can perform that round and they can only do it every other round.  They also have a level draining attack that drains 1 level Constitution per a successful fist attack.  These creatures do not hurl rocks like their living counterparts.
These giants are usually found in great wastes and usually on the spot where they died. They typically do not have treasure save what they may have been carrying at the time of their death.
Undead Frost Giants are turned as Vampires (12 HD).
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Monday, December 10, 2018

Monstrous Monday: Frost Maiden

Woke up to freezing fog this morning.  That sounds totally made-up, but there is a thin sheet of ice everywhere.  Remind me again WHY I live in Chicago?

Today's little beastie is another one from the upcoming Winter Witch book.  It should feel familiar to any old-school gamer.

Frost Maiden
Hit Dice: 10
Armor Class: 3 [17]
Attack: Spell abilities or two fists (2d8x2) (giant size)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: Spell-like abilities, growth, immune to all cold.
Movement: 18 (can run without impediment over snow and ice)
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 1
Challenge Level/XP: 12/2,000
Frost Maidens are related to both Frost Giants and Snow Elves.  It is believed that the first Frost Maiden was the offspring of a snow elf princess who was abducted by a Frost Giant Jarl.  The Princess was a powerful winter witch and she cursed her abductor and his family.  Now once every 100 or so births among frost giants will result in a frost maiden.  Due to the curse, the frost giants cannot abandon their frost maiden daughters and they usually rise to levels of importance and power.
These creatures stand some 5’ tall under normal conditions. Her skin is an unhealthy white or pale blue with white or platinum blonde hair. Their eyes are a piercing ice blue. They appear as a snow elf, but something is different about them.  They are unearthly beautiful with melodious voices and a coquettish smile. The often will appear wearing only the barest minimum to support modesty, but little else.  They are often barefoot.
Frost Maiden are all irredeemably evil. Their favorite game is to tease human males to point they are maddened with lust then they lead them to their deaths.  Usually in a blind canyon where they will bury them in an avalanche or trap them in a deep bit of ice.  They are also not above leading them into ambushes of winter wolves, worgs, or their frost giant brothers.   Some males they trick into acts of passion.  The resulting children are the same race as the father. Children of these unions have an additional +1 to saves against cold-based attacks.
The frost maiden can cast spells as a 7th level winter witch and can also once per day grow to three times her size (15’) to the size of a frost giant once per day.  She will revert to her normal size at sunrise.
Some sages say that the “snow elf princess” was actually the Snow Queen, the Faerie Lady of Ice and Snow and the “frost giant jarl” was no less a personage than Thrym, lord of the Frost Giants.  This is unconfirmed and both the Snow Queen and Thrym are loathe to discuss it. But it is known that many frost maidens serve the Snow Queen in her court.



I used this monster as a "side quest" after running G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.  The ice maiden in question was the daughter of the Jarl.  My players were quite surprised when the "snow elf" they were chasing starting using spells and became a 15' frost giant.
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