Showing posts with label 2nd ed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2nd ed. Show all posts

Monday, March 28, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 7

Monstrous Compendium Annual - Volume 1
The Monstrous Compendiums would eventually move over to an annual format of perfect-bound soft-cover books.  These followed on the footsteps of the combined, hardcover Monstrous Manual, which people liked much better.  The idea was to publish a collection of all the published monsters from other products in a Monstrous Compendium style format.  But the days of perforated and loose-leaf pages was over and the Annuals and the other books that followed were all bound collections.

To my knowledge, there were four of these in total.  I never owned the print copies, at this time I was getting married and moving into a new house, though I have been able to get the PDFs from DriveThruRPG.  Curiously, Annual Vol. 2 has not made it to PDF yet.

Monstrous Compendium Annual - Volume 1

PDF 128 pages, Color cover art, color interior art, $9.99.  129 monsters, Aballin to Xaver.

This first book took on the trade-dress and style of the early AD&D 2nd Ed line and was a companion piece to the hardcover Monstrous Manual. 

There are a lot of monsters here I have seen in later editions of the game and some are completely new to me.  There are a surprising amount of dragons for example. There are few I recognize from 1st Ed that I guess had not made it over to 2nd ed yet (Gibbering Mouther as one example). There are a also a few I recognize from Ravenloft, given a more "generic" or general approach.

It is a good collection of monsters, to be honest.  While the page are formatted to fit a book and not really a Monsterous Compendium (the left or right justification of the text on titles) you can still take this PDF and print your own page to fit into your Monstrous Compendiums.  I am going to do this with the dragons for example.

Monstrous Compendium Annual - Volume III
Monstrous Compendium Annual - Volume III

PDF 130 pages, Color cover art, color interior art, $4.95.  131 monsters, Alaghi to Zhentarim Spirit.

This third annual takes on the trade dress of the later printing AD&D 2nd material when the "2nd Edition" subtitle was removed.  The formatting looks transitional. That is I see here the original Monstrous Compendiums eventually morphed into the style I associate with the last years of 2nd ed (and TSR for that matter).

The volume includes a lot of monsters I had seen in various Ravenloft and Forgotten Realms publications at the time and a few that I assume got their origins in the Dark Sun and Planescape product lines.  There are some that also first appeared in the Creature Catalog from Dragon Magazine (Lillend for example).

There are few more dragons here too and, in a surprise, two demons / Tanar'ri.  So something here for everyone.

This book also includes the Ondonti, the Lawful Good Orcs. So don't try to tell me that "Good" orcs are a new thing.

good orcs from 1996


Monstrous Compendium Annual - Volume 4

PDF 98 pages, Color cover art, color interior art, $4.95.  104 monsters,  Ammonite to Zombie, Mud.

This fourth and last Monstrous Compendium Annual was published in 1998 by Wizards of the Coast, though the TSR brand is still on the books.  Additionally, this book also indicated where each monster came from whether Forgotten Realms or the pages of Dragon Magazine. There are some that I think are original to this volume. There is even a monster from Alternity here, which is a big surprise!

I would also like to point out that this is the first of these Annuals that acknowledges that it is based on the original D&D rules created by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

There are quite a few new-to-me monsters here and few I have seen in other places before.  It is nice to get them all into one place.  

These annuals certainly represent the widest variety in monsters I have sen in any of the other compendiums.  If I were to play AD&D 2nd Ed again, I think I would start with these as my sources for new and different sorts of creatures.  I am sure that people that were still playing at this time (I had gone on an AD&D sabbatical from 1996/7 to 2000) might be more familiar with these books and these monsters, but it is a joy to open a book, even one 20-25 years old, and see something new.

I am now at the point if I print these out I am going to need a third 3-Ring binder.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 6

MC7 Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix
Back to the business at hand.  Today will cover the "others" in my Monstrous Compendium collections, but not ones I used regularly.  Again the time these came out money was tight for a college kid needing to buy school supplies, food, and pay rent so choices were made.  Ravenloft won, Dark Sun and Spelljammer lost.  

Thankfully these days I can buy PDFs much cheaper and with little to no concern for storage space.  Plus I have recently begun to explore Spelljammer and I have found it to be rather fun.

For these reviews, I am considering the PDFs only.  I have the published ones, but not all of them, and the one I do have (Spelljammer 1) is incomplete.  No idea why.

MC7 Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix

PDF 64 pages (70 with dividers and covers), Color cover art, black & white interior art, $4.99.  64 monsters.

There was/is something very cool about the Spelljammer monsters.  First, they were not afraid to try something new here.  Which I like. Secondly, there are also some odd-balls here like the Giant Space Hamster.  Oh well, you have to have some fun.  There are some Star Frontiers aliens analogs here, so that made cross-overs a fun idea, but I have no idea if anyone ever did any.

MC9 Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix II

PDF 64 pages (70 with dividers and covers), Color cover art, black & white interior art, $4.99.  61 monsters.

Like the first Spelljamer MC this one gives us some fairly unique and interesting monsters.  The one I recall the best is the Scro or the "Space Orcs."  We also get a trio of celestial dragons which is fun. 

There is also a collection of MC-formated monsters in the Spelljammer: Adventures in Space set.

Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

MC12 Monstrous Compendium Dark Sun Appendix: Terrors of the Desert

PDF 96 pages, Color cover art, black & white interior art, $9.99.  92 monsters.

Moreso than any other campaign world, Dark Sun is the most foreign to me.  I *like* the idea of it. I have even since adopted some of the notions of it into my regular game world.  Plus there is a solid message here; exploit the environment and eventually, you will screw it up for everyone.  But many of the monsters are very new. 

This MC does adopt a different accent color for the pages.  A nice touch that again I would have liked to have seen for all the others.  Pretty much all of these creatures are new for me.  I would like to use them in a desert game, but I think a few might be a bit of work to remove them from their background.

Dark Sun Monstrous Compendium Appendix II: Terrors beyond Tyr

PDF 128 pages, Color cover art, color interior art, $9.99.  105 monsters.

This one was published as a softover volume.  It follows closer to the Dark Sun trade dress as opposed to the Monstrous Compendium one.  This does mean that monster pages are full color. 

Interestingly enough for me, this one has monsters I am more familiar with.  Also, given the nature of the campaign world, many of these creatures can be used as player characters. So details are given for that.

MC9 Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix II (2e)MC12 Monstrous Compendium Dark Sun Appendix: Terrors of the DesertDark Sun Monstrous Compendium Appendix II: Terrors beyond Tyr (2e)

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Review: HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook (2e)
Again, today is a good day for this one.  I just finished my review of the Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum so I wanted to compare and contrast it to the earlier work on a similar topic, the HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2nd Edition.  I reviewed the HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook a while back and always wanted to get back into the series.  

HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

For this review, I am considering both the PDF and softcover copies.  96 pages with color (well, green) covers and black & white interior art.  There is a color map attached to the original softcover I bought in the early 90s. The PDF has the map appended to the end.  Graeme Davis is the author here. He got his RPG start with Games Workshop.  

Illustrations are by Roger Raup and Cartography by Steve Sullivan.

The publication of this book is contemporaneous with the famous BBC-2 series, The Celts.  The one with all the music from Enya.  They do cover similar ground and if you are interested in using this for any *D&D sort of game I would recommend the series.  Yes, there has been newer scholarship since then. But are you working on a dissertation or a game?  The obvious choice for newer and game-related scholarship is Brian Young's Codex Celtarium for Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord Games. 

Chapter 1: Introduction

This covers the question of "Who Were the Celts?" and what this book is for.  The goal here is an AD&D gamebook, not one on Celtic history.

Chapter 2: A Mini-Course of Celtic History

I discussed updated scholarship above, but for pretty much any game (but especially AD&D) this chapter is a great overview of Celtic real-world history. Covering roughly 1,500 years, 600 BC to 900 AD, and all of Europe a lot does get left out.  But this is enough to get you going to the right place.  Today we have the advantage of the latest scholarship at the click of a mouse, but in 1992 this was what we had. Ok. That is not entirely true. Even in 1992, there was BITNET access for a lot of great articles and Usenet for talking with others.  But that is beyond the scope of this conversation and this book.  For an AD&D game world this will get you going rather nicely.

The timeline graphic is a nice touch.

Chapter 3: Of Characters and Combat

This covers differences from the standard AD&D 2nd Edition character creation.  In particular, you will typically only have humans.  Humans can get a random "gift" and possibly "sidhe" blood, but do not expect to see dwarves, elves, and halflings in great abundance.  

The classes also get a facelift more or less.  Fighters of course are the most important with the druids tied.  Paladins are limited to Christians on the Continent.  Rangers get a bit of an update.  Wizards are to be used sparingly. Clerics are relegated to Christian missionaries (so St. Patrick was a Cleric!).  Bards and Druids get the attention.  A new class under Priests is introduced, the Manteis or Vates is the Celtic Seer.

Names and homelands are discussed along with social class. Various Warrior "feats" are also discussed.  They take proficiency slots but otherwise "feel" like feats in the D&D 3/5 sense.

Chapter 4: Magic

Covers changes to spells and magic items.  Also makes a distinction between "gifted" and "trained" spellcasters.  If this were D&D 3rd Edition then we would call them "Sorcerers" and "Wizards" respectively. 

There are new magic items and magical places characters can find themselves in.  

Chapter 5: Monsters

I do love monsters.  This section covers all sorts.  First, we get a list of monsters that can be used unchanged.  Then a section of "new" monsters, or more to the point Celtic variations on existing monsters from the Monstrous Compendiums. Then we get whole new monsters in Monstrous Compendium formats. Not a lot mind you, but enough to give some flavor.

Chapter 6: Equipment and Treasure

This covers equipment, treasure, gifts, and the barter system used.  Coins are still used (and for ease mentioned in GP amounts). The big issue here is that a lot of older equipment will be Bronze Age and some will be newer Iron Age varieties.  An important notion given that this is not a "Medieval" setting.  

Chapter 7: The Celtic Culture

We get a brief overview of Celtic Culture through the eyes of Conall Mac Eogan.  This 15-year-old is coming of age and we see how the next year of his life touches on aspects of the culture.  Now obviously the events for Conall would be very different if this had been Deirdriu or Eithne we were talking about.  Some discussion is given on the advanced, atypically for the time, role of Celtic women.  

The topics of Fostering and Trade are also mentioned. We also get the wheel of the year (adopted by many modern pagans) and some of the gods with nods to the AD&D 2n Ed Legends & Lore book.

Chapter 8: A Brief Gazetteer

Covers the lands we typically associate with the Celts. Heavy on the British Isles and Ireland. Various "other worlds" like Avalon, Tir Na Og, and Annwvyn are also briefly discussed. 

Appendix 1: Enech

The notion of Celtic honor price is given in AD&D 2nd Edition terms.

Glossary

A brief glossary of terms and names.

The PDF ends with the map and the softcover book has it as a tear-out attachment.

Map of the Celtic world

I did not go into this expecting graduate-level work and that is fine.  It is a great source for playing in a Celtic-themed AD&D 2nd Ed game world.  If the goal had been to provide AD&D 2nd Ed rules for a Celtic world then it would have needed to have been larger, but as it is it met the scope of their requirements.

This book is also 30 years old. It holds rather well really, both physically and in terms of what it needs to do, and can still be adapted to any version of D&D you care to think about.   

All in all I am as happy with it now as I was when I got in 92.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 5

MC14 Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix
Fiends, Fiends, Fiends!

Today I delve into a dark subterranean world filled with long-forgotten creatures that have not seen the light of our sun for ages. Of course, by that, I mean the Usenet, and that age was the early 90s.  

What I think was one of the first big battles of the Edition Wars was the one concerning demons and devils.  Namely, where the hell were they for AD&D 2nd Edition?  They have not appeared in any of the Monstrous Compendiums so far and the official word was they were no longer needed.  Which everyone knew was a smokescreen for TSR caving into concerned, busy-body mothers and the religious right.  The discussions on Usenet had a LOT of opinions on why they were gone and then what to make of them when they finally came back.

Thankfully this did not last and by the start of 1991, we got demons and devils back, albeit in the names Tanar'ri and Baatezu. Ok, the names were changed but they were back.  In truth, I never minded the name change and it opened up the lower planes to have more than one type of demon or fiend. Something we are still benefiting from today.

MC14 Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix

PDF 64 pages (70 with dividers and covers), Color cover art, black & white interior art, $4.99. 

While not full of fiend per se, the Fiend Folio has always had a place in the games of many 1st Ed AD&D players.  It was the second "Monster Manual" and it collected a number of creatures from various modules and the White Dwarf Fiend Factor column.  It was also either really loved or really hated, depending on who you asked.  Maybe that is the reason it did not get published until much later (1992) and was the 14th MC to be published.

This MC contains 65 monsters, Aballin to Zygraat, and is a fairly good representation of the monsters listed in the original Fiend Folio.  Some new (the aforementioned Aballin) but a few notable ones had appeared in other volumes already.  Drow appeared in the main Monstrous Compendium. Death Knights were moved to Dragonlance (a loosing their demonic heritage in the process) and Styx Devils had been published in the MC8 (see below).  The "oriental" Dragons are not here, but Gem Dragons are. There is no flumph here though. We don't see those again until Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two. 

Also there are no explanatory notes here that many of the others also had.  I guess at this point you are expected to know how to read the stat blocks. Not a complaint at all, merely an observation.

It is a mostly generic compilation of monsters and I mean that is a positive way.  These monsters can be used anywhere.  For example, I pulled out the Penanggalan and put it in my Ravenloft collection.

MC14 Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix

MC8 Outer Planes Compendium
MC8 Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix

PDF 96 pages (102 with dividers and covers), Color cover art, black & white interior art, $4.99.  

This collection has 90+ monsters (Aasimon to Zoveri) from the various outer planes.  There are good and evil ones here so plenty for DMs taking the characters out of the dungeon and into new worlds.  There are a lot of old familiar faces and some new ones.  The "named" Demon Princes or Dukes of Hell are not here. Many, like Orcus, will never even get AD&D 2nd Ed stats. Most of the 1st Ed converts feel buffed up in stats. Even the succubus, a demon with little desire for combat, feels tougher with all her powers defined.

Demons and creatures from the Outer Planes in general really feel like they benefit from these expanded monster entries. While the Planescape Setting is still a bit away, we get tidbits of information about the Blood War and more.  Reminding us that when it comes to settings, 2nd Ed really was quite superior. 

MC8 Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix

Monstrous Compendium Planescape Appendix III

Monstrous Compendium Planescape Appendix III

PDF, 128 pages. Color art. $9.99

This book was one of the bound softcover Monstrous Compendium Appendices and it took on the trad dress and style of the Planescape line rather than the Monstrous Compendium line. The monsters inside conformed to the standard of the Monstrous Compendium stat blocks, but there was no doubt what line this belonged to.

This volume has 128 pages and 71 monsters from Animental to Xill.  Many of these monsters appear on both sides of the page, usually due to the larger art elements, and expanded details including a bit of fluff for each one.  This makes this book actually better for use in the three-ring binders.  Even though this one was never designed to be added!  Again another point for the PDFs.  That is if you don't mind printing out all the full-color pages this one has.

Interestingly enough the Xill appears here and the Fiend Folio MC 14.  In fact, many monsters from the AD&D 1st Fiend Folio also make it here. Cases in point the Quasi-elementals, the khargra (with much improved art), thoqqua, and trilloch.  The Khargra and the Xill appear in all three (1st ed and both 2nd Ed books).

Xill

This one does have explanatory notes and it also covers the ecology of the outer planes.  By this time the Planescape setting had been in pretty wide use so the "Planescape" view of the Outer Planes has superseded, for good or ill, the AD&D 1st Edition Manual of the Planes version.

AD&D 2nd Ed may not have started out with fiends (of any sort) but they ended with not just a few, but a whole new outlook on them that changed how D&D would use them for the next 30 years.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 4

Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix
Back at it today with more monsters from AD&D 2nd Edition.  I have to say that going through all of these has put me in the mood for an AD&D 2e game at some point. 

I have mentioned this many times before but for me AD&D 2nd Ed was synonymous with Ravenloft for me. For most of AD&D's heydays, I was at university, either as an undergrad, in grad school, or working on my first Ph.D. So both money and free reading times were limited. I focused my efforts on the campaign world that I enjoyed the most, though I did dabble a bit into Planescape.

While I bought the Monstrous Compendiums as I could, I made an effort to get the Ravenloft ones. 

MC10 Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix

PDF 64 pages, Color cover art, black & white interior art, $4.99

I don't remember when exactly I bought this product the first time, but I do remember I was living in my first apartment after the dorms.  I thought it was amazing and I could not wait to use some of these monsters.   This product also expands on many of the monsters that had been briefly mentioned in other products, namely the Ravenloft boxed set and some early adventures.

This compendium appendix covers 55 monsters "Bastellus" to "Zombie Lord" and includes the "demi-human" vampires.  Up to this point, I had argued that only humans could become vampires, but I guess the Demiplane of Dread is such that any race can become a vampire. 

vampires of all sorts

In addition to all the monsters, this book includes an "Encounters in Ravenloft" that is helpful for the different rules that monsters can follow here. 

MC15 Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix II: Children of the Night (2e)

PDF 64 pages, Color cover art, black & white interior art, $4.99. Covers just 20 monsters from "Brain, Living" to "Vampyre."

This second compendium draws from many of the adventures and books published for Ravenloft at this point.  It has similar monster types to the first one, but all of these monsters are unique NPCs. For example, the MC10 had the Ermordenung creature, this one has the specific entry for Nostalla Romaine. Some, like Desmond LaRouche, the Half-golem and Jacquelline Montarri, even get 4 pages of treatment each.  This is part and parcel of the nature of monsters in Ravenloft, each and everyone has the potential to become a unique encounter and a specifically planned one.  This is one of the reasons I really don't do "random monsters" anymore.  In Ravenloft, there never should be a random encounter.  Even "non-Ravenloft" creatures get a unique Ravenloft treatment like Althea (medusa) and Salizarr (a meazel).  

This might make the utility of this book a little less than the others, it is a book of NPCs really, not just monsters.  The advantages though are a way to show how nearly any monster can get the "Ravenlot" treatment and expand to something more than a collection of HP to be traded for XP.

Monstrous Compendium - Ravenloft Appendix III (2e)

PDF 128 pages, Color cover art, black & white interior art, $9.99

This is one of the first "bound" Monstrous Compendiums I ever bought.  By this time TSR had learned that the three-ring binder experiment was over.  So no attempt here is mad to keep up that pretense. 

This book is larger, 128 pages, and takes on the trade dress of later (middle era) Ravenloft products.  This one does feature a guide of what monsters from other Monstrous Compendiums are suitable for Ravenloft.  Additionally, the "Climate/Terrain" section lists which Domain they are found in or even when they are found on other worlds.

This book covers 120 monsters from "Akikage" to "Zombie, Wolf." Some are repeats, but all are updated. We get newer versions of Flesh Golems and Strahd Zombies, and yet another version of the Baobhan Sith.  Some more vampires (Drow and Drider) and a bunch of Liches.

Monstrous Compendium - Ravenloft Appendices I & II (2e)

PDF 128 pages, Color cover art, black & white interior art, $9.99

This product features the final Ravenloft trade dress and is one of the last Ravenloft products to be wholly TSR and not TST/Wizard of the Coast.  Again, like the Ravenloft Appendix III, this is a 128 page book that first appeared as a softcover.  The monsters are the same as Appendices I & II; even dividing them up into two sections of Part I Creatures of Dread and Part II: Children of the Night.

If your goal is to print out pages for your own Monstrous Compendiums, then the original MC10 and MC15 might be the better choice.  If you are collecting the PDFs to have all the monsters then this product is the better bet. 

I am a Ravenloft fan. So I have all four.


Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium IIRavenloft Monstrous Compendium IIIRavenloft Monstrous Compendium I & II


I also find quite a lot in these I can still use in my 5e games and in my OSR/Old-School games.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 3

MC 11 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms II
I am continuing my dive into the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Manuals and today I am reviewing three that are nominally under the Forgotten Realms umbrella.  

There is no doubt that the biggest game world for AD&D 2nd Edition was the Forgotten Realms.  I was fairly anti-Realms back then.  I felt it was a cheap imitation of Greyhawk and I was a little irritated that Greyhawk got pushed to the side.   The 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms setting book did a lot to change that for me and now, especially with my investigations around my This Old Dragon posts, I have come to better appreciate the Realms for what they really are, not for what I thought they were.

That all being said I still bought Realms-related products like these because, well, I love monsters.

MC11 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix II (1991)

My series This Old Dragon has served me well for this one since many of the creatures here have appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine, most authored or edited by Ed Greenwood himself.

This PDF is listed at 64 pages + the dividers. The interior art is all black & white with blue accents. The list price is $4.99. There are a total of 76 monsters (with sub-types) here Alaghi to Tren (a troglodyte/lizard man crossbreed).  The Peryton, one of my favorites from the original Monster Manual finally makes its 2nd Ed debut here. Likely due to the "Ecology of" article. I went back to look over some old favorites, namely the Saurial.  I always kind of liked the Saurial since there had been some articles in pop-science magazines about what would a humanoid race evolved from dinosaurs look like.  I was a big fan of the Silurians and Sea Devils from Doctor Who and this was the "Paranoid 90s" when X-Files was about to reign.  So reptiloids, dinosauroids, and more were on my mind.  The entry here says that "Saurials are not native to the Realms, but originate from an alternate Prime Material Plane."  This reminds me of what authors would later do with the Dragonborn in the Realms; have them come from Toril's twin planet of Abeir.  I see in more recent Realms lore they are still from an unknown realm but I like this idea. 

While these monsters are "generic" enough to be used anywhere, most (like the Saurials above) are tied a little more to the lore of the Realms, so extracting them can be done, but they will need some edits.

MC13 Monstrous Compendium Al-Qadim
MC13 Monstrous Compendium Al-Qadim Appendix (1992)

The Al-Qadim Monstrous Compendium had been the only product I ever purchased for the Al-Qadim setting back when it was new.  Again the reasoning was I loved monsters. But while reading it over I discovered there was a very interesting setting here.  

Like the Kara-Tur setting, Al-Qadim was pulled into the Realms. It was added to the Realms quickly after its release but the campaign setting box was designed a bit more for a general placement anywhere.

This PDF is listed at 74 pages and has a $4.95 price tag.  The art is typical for the time color covers and color dividers with black & white pages. Interestingly the accent color here is gold and not blue.  Ravenloft used red so I wonder how it would have been if all the settings had a different accent color to help separate them.  A dark-gray for Greyhawk, burnt orange for Dark Sun, and so on. 

There are 58 monsters from Ammut to Zin. This includes a large number of various Genie/Gin types. 

Divorced from their setting the monsters certainly lose some of their best flavor, but I do plan on using these in a desert-based campaign I have coming up and I think they will work fine.

MC6 Monstrous Compendium, Kara-Tur
MC6 Monstrous Compendium, Kara-Tur Appendix

Kara-Tur did not begin as a Forgotten Realms land. Quite the contrary it was designed to be used as part of Oerth in the 1st Edition Oriental Adventures.  This Monstrous Compendium brings the creatures listed in the 1st ed book, and more, into the 2nd Edition game. 

This PDF is listed at 64 pages (more with binder dividers) and a price tag of $4.99.  The cover and dividers are full color (including Easley's Oriental Adventure cover) and the interior art is Black & White. There are 76 monsters from Bajang to the Yuki-on-na.

Interestingly enough the Eastern Dragons from the Original Fiend Folio are not here.  They appeared in the MC3 Forgotten Realms one, but I thought they should appear here instead.  Likely to solidify the claim of Kara-Tur in the Forgotten Realms or maybe to give the 3rd MC some popular dragons.

There are some very unique monsters here. This is one of the few that I keep separate and do not integrate into my larger monster sets.

We are at a point with the Monstrous Compendiums where we get a bit of overlap.  For example, the Ashira (MC13) has a lot in common with the Hamadryad (MC11).  And the Black Cloud of Vengeance (MC13) is very much a larger, more evil version of the Tempest (MC11).  


Which is which? You tell me.

This is not a surprise, there are over 2100 monsters created for AD&D 2nd Edition, there are bound to be places where they overlap.

The scans for all are pretty crisp and clear. I certainly can see printed out a couple of pages and using them in a smaller binder for a specific AD&D 2nd Ed campaign.  Like I have said before, these PDF are fulfilling the promises made by the Monstrous Compendiums in the 1990s.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Mail Call: Chris Perkins' "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition"

Been a busy time at work, so just a fast one today.

Some time ago I grabbed something called "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition" from the web.  It has been sitting in my "to be sorted" folder for ages.  I was in the process of digging up some other material for a project when I happened upon them.   The layout was nice and clean and the covers were nearly print-ready.  So I spent some time a few nights ago tweaking it and slapped the whole thing on Lulu.

Here is what I got.

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed.

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. MM

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. MM

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. DMG

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. DMG

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. Covers

Frankly, I am pretty happy with it. 

I went a re-looked up what this game was/is and it turns out it was done by Chris Perkins.  The game is a very nice blend of AD&D 1st and 2nd Editions with mechanics from D&D 3rd Edition and inspiration from Castles & Crusades.  The overall effect is not unlike D&D 5th Edition, but more of a 1st Edition feel.

The art is all copied from published classic D&D sources, so there is no way this thing is legal to sell. I am sure if cleaned up it could be released under the OGL, but it is so close to Castles & Crusades and D&D 5th edition there is no need to do so save as an entertaining experiment.

Perkins used to have a website for it, http://www.adnd3egame.com/cnc.htm but it is long since gone. There are details about it at RPG Geek and Boardgame GeekI have no idea where it is hosted anymore.  I found a new site for it here: https://scruffygrognard.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/add-3rd-edition/Note: Perkins is now working on a BX3e.

It is a completely playable game and has a lot of nice features.  It reads like a D&D "Greatest hits" album.  It is just missing some "kits" or "subclasses" to make it more like 5e.  

The question of course is why play this when I have all the other versions of *D&D?  Well, the simple answer is that it looks like fun.  IT might be neat to play this "what if" version.  It is also interesting to see which design choices Perkins went with. Like why 20th century D&D style saving throws and not say 3rd/4th Edition ones or 5th Edition/Castles & Crusades ones?  How does the skill system work (feels like a mix of AD&D 1st ed and D&D 3rd ed)?  There are Bard and Monk classes, how do they compare to their 1st and 3rd ed counterparts?  Plus there is a section on Psionics. So there is a lot to explore here.

Besides the books are damn attractive.  The layout like I said is clean and simple, but it appeals to me.

Now that I found his site again I am curious to see if there will be more updates on it. His BX3e project also looks very interesting.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Demon Prince Orcus fo AD&D 2nd Edition

Going back a bit to do some more level setting and based on a conversation I had last week with a friend.  He was looking for some stats for Orcus for 2nd Edition AD&D.  I have stats for all versions of AD&D/D&D for him, but none for 2nd Ed.  I had always felt that Orcus was dead throughout all of 2nd Edition (thanks to The Throne of Bloodstone) but the events of Dead Gods brought him back. 

I did have some older AD&D 2nd Ed stats I had created in something I call the "Red Book."  The notes are largely cribbed from 1st Edition sources. 

To rebuild this I am going to also look to other sources like Swords & Wizardry and Pathfinder.  

Orcus for AD&D 2nd Ed

Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead

Climate/Terrain:  The Abyss
Frequency:  Unique
Organization:  Solitary
Activity Cycle:  Any
Diet:  Carnivore
Intelligence:  Supra-genius (20)
Treasure:  P, S, T, U
Alignment:  Chaotic evil
No. Appearing:  1 (Unique)
Armor Class:  -6
Movement:  18, Fl 36 (B)
Hit Dice:  25 (130 hp)
THAC0:  7
No. of Attacks:  3 (see below)
Damage/Attack:  1d10+3/1d10+3/2d4 + special
Special Attacks:  Fear, spell-like powers, summon and command undead, Wand of Orcus
Special Defenses:  +3 or better weapons to hit
Magic Resistance:  85%
Size:  L (15' tall)
Morale:  Fearless (19-20)
XP Value:  36,000

Orcus is the Prince of the Undead, and it said that he alone created the first undead that walked the worlds.

Orcus is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) and most powerful of all demon lords. He fights a never-ending war against rival demon princes that spans several Abyssal layers. From his great bone palace he commands his troops as they wage war across the smoldering and stinking planes of the Abyss. Orcus spends most of his days in his palace, rarely leaving its confines unless he decides to leads his troops into battle (which has happened on more than one occasion). Most of the time though, he is content to let his generals and commanders lead the battles.

Appearance:  Orcus is a grossly fat demon lord, some 15 feet tall.  His huge grey body is covered with coarse goatish hair.  His head is goat-like, although his horns are similar to those of a ram.  His great legs are also goat-like but his arms are humanoid.  Vast bat wings sprout from his back, but these are usually tucked out of sight when he is not in flight.   His long, snaky tail is tipped his a poisonous head.

Combat: It is probable that this creature is one of the most powerful and strongest of all demons. If he so much as slaps with his open hand the blow causes 1-4 hit points of damage. His terrible fists can deliver blows of 3-13 hit points. If he uses a weapon he strikes with a bonus of +6 to hit and +8 on damage. Additionally, his tail has a virulent poison sting (-4 on all saving throws against its poison), and his tail strikes with a 15 dexterity which does 2-8 hit points each time it hits.

Orcus prefers to fight using his wand. (see below)

Orcus radiates a 60-foot-radius aura of fear (as the spell). A creature in the area must succeed on a saving throw vs. Spell or be affected as though by a fear spell (caster level 30th). A creature that successfully saves cannot be affected again by Orcus’s fear aura for one day. 

Orcus can, at will, use any one of the following powers: 

Orcus can command or banish undead as a 15th-level cleric, controlling up to 150 HD worth of undead at one time. He casts spells as a 15th level cleric and 12th level magic-user, and can use the following magical abilities at will: animate dead, charm monster, darkness, dispel magic, ESP, fear, feeblemind (1/day), lightning bolt (12 die), speak with dead (as 20th level cleric), symbol (any) and wall of fire.

Additionally, he has an 80% chance of gating in any demon of type I-V (but only a 50% chance of gating a type VI or VI and will never call upon another prince). 

Orcus furthermore is able to summon the undead, for he is their prince. If random calling is desired by the referee the following is suggested:

  • 4-48 Skeletons
  • 4-32 Zombies
  • 4-24 Shadows
  • 2-8 Vampires

Habitat/Society: When not warring against rival demon princes, Orcus likes to travel the planes, particularly the Material Plane. Should a foolish spellcaster open a gate and speak his name, he is more than likely going to hear the call and step through to the Material Plane. What happens to the spellcaster that called him usually depends on the reason for the summons and the power of the spellcaster. Extremely powerful spellcasters are usually slain after a while and turned into undead soldiers or generals in his armies.

He has a following of human worshippers as well; warlocks, death masters, necromancers, and evil priests.

Ecology: Orcus controls several levels of the Abyss he claims as his own including the 113th and 333rd layers.  When not at war with the forces of good and life he wars with all the other demon princes for control of all the Abyss.  Orcus' goal is to see all life extinguished and death reigns supreme. 

Wand of Orcus

Wand of Orcus: Mighty Orcus wields a huge black skull-tipped rod that functions as a +3 heavy mace. It slays any living creature it touches if the target fails a saving throw. Orcus can shut this ability off so as to allow his wand to pass into the Material Plane, usually into the hands of one of his servants. Further, the Wand has the following magical powers: 3/day—animate dead, darkness and fear; 2/day—unholy word.

--

Might need to tweak it some for my own uses, but this looks like it works well enough.  These stats are not perfect by any stretch, but they feel pretty close. 

I reject the fan theory that so many have adopted that Orcus was once human.  Though this does fit in with the Mystara/BECMI Immortals Set version of Orcus. Though THAT Orcus also has 39 HD and 620 HP.  

I prefer my own where he is a remnant of a former god. He has memories of God-like power, but nothing else.  After all according to Milton Orcus was in Hell when the Devils first arrived.

In any case, I do see that Orcus became more powerful after the events of Dead Gods. Maybe also explaining why he went from being "immensely fat and covered in grey hair" to the red demon of 21st century D&D. 

Links

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Review: HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

HR1 Vikings
With the end of One Man's God on my mind, I wanted to make this week a little more special.  To that end I wanted to spend some more time with Norse Myths and Vikings.  So with on thing ending (almost) I have mental energy (or "Spell slots" as the kids say today) to do something a little newer.

I have long been a fan of the AD&D 2nd Ed. Historical References books.  I have used the Celts one over and over again with many different versions of D&D and I have been pleased with it.  The scholarship on these is a bit better than the Deities & Demigods, but I attribute this to a better budget and more space to explain what they were doing. 

Also, the focus was a little different.  The D&DG took myths and tried to fit them into the AD&D framework.  The Historical References took the myths and described how to play an AD&D game in that world.

It's Norse Week so let's start at the beginning with HR1 the Vikings Campaign Sourcebook.

HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

For today's review, I am only going to consider the PDF version of this book from DriveThruRPG. I lost or sold back my original in one of my moves or collection downsize.  I will mention details from the physical book as I remember it, but my focus is on the PDF for the details.  In most cases the material is 100% the same, the difference coming from the fold-out map, which is separate pages in the pdf.

HR1: Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (1992), by David "Zeb" Cook.  Illustrations by Ned Dameron and cartography by David C. Sutherland III.  96 pages, black & white with full-color maps.

The first book of the Historical Reference series covers the Viking raiders of Scandinavia. It is not a separate game world per se, since it deals with Pagan Europe after the fall of Rome, but it is a fantastical Europe where dragons fill the seas, troll-blooded humans walk among us, and somewhere out there in the wilderness, a one-eyed man wanders the land.

Chapter 1: Introduction

This chapter covers the very basics, starting off with what people usually get wrong about the Vikings.  These guys are not Hägar the Horrible or even the interpretations of Wagner.  They do point out that "Vikings" are also not really a people, but a lifestyle that some people engaged in. 

This section also covers how to use this book, specifically how to use this book about Vikings and the history of their raids with the AD&D 2nd Rules.  We get into more specific details in the next chapters.

Chapter 2: A Mini-Course of Viking History

Starting with the raid at Lindisfarne in 793 CE the book covers a very basic history of the Northmen's lands, the lands they raided, and their culture and history.  The focus here though is through the lens of an AD&D game, not a historical introduction.  The book is clear on this. 

Details are given, with maybe extra focus on England and France (though they are not called that yet) but that is fine.  There is a very nice timeline running across the top of the pages of this chapter that is rather handy. The time period, roughly 800 to 1100 CE agrees with most of the scholarship on "Viking History" so that works fine for here as well. 

There is a nice list of settlements and cities the Vikings targeted. Not a full list, but it gives you an idea of how much of Europe, Northern Africa, and even parts of Asia the Vikings would roam.  

There is a page or so of suggested readings. Likely the best at the time.  The chapter does set you nicely to explore these ideas further.

Chapter 3: Of Characters and Combat

Here we get into game writing proper.  We start with what races you will find in a Viking-themed campaign.  Obviously, we are talking mostly humans here. Humans can gain a "Gift" something that makes them special such as "Rune Lore" or "Bad Luck" or even a Seer.  There is a new "race" the Troll-born. These are stronger than average humans due to troll-blood in their veins. They get a +1 to Strength, Constitution and Intelligence but a -1 to Wisdom and a -2 to Charisma. They have Infravision and are limited to 15th level in their classes. They are not born with Gifts.

Next, we cover the changes to the Character Classes from the PHB. Fighters on the whole tend to be unchanged as are Rangers and Thieves.  Classes not allowed are Clerics, Paladins, Druids, and Wizards, though specialty mages are allowed if they are Conjurers, Diviners, Enchanters, Illusionists, Necromancers.  While this could be a negative for some I like the idea of limiting classes for specific campaigns.  Two new sub-classes of the Warrior are added, the Berserker and the Runecaster.  Both do pretty much what you might suspect they do.  The berserker is actually rather cool and while the obvious roots here are the barbarian and berserker monster from AD&D 1, there is enough here to make it work and be interesting too. Runecasters know runes as detailed in the next chapter.

The "forbidden" classes can be played, if they are outsiders. 

Lip service is given to the detail that the Vikings were predominantly men.  Though new archaeological finds are casting some doubt that they were exclusively so.  This book does give some examples of how warrior women were known.  They emphasize that player characters are always exceptional. 

There is a section on names (including a list of names), homelands, and social class.

In the purist AD&D 2nd ed section, we get some new Proficiencies.

runes
Chapter 4: Rune Magic

This covers Rune Magic. An important feature of Viking Lore. What the runes are and how to use them in AD&D 2nd Ed terms are given.  A lot of these are minor magics, say of the 0-level or 1st-level spell use.  I personally don't recall them being over abused in games, but they are a really nice feature to be honest.

Chapter 5: ...And Monsters

Monsters are discussed here, starting with which existing monsters can be used from the AD&D 2nd Monstrous Compendium.   Following this some altered monsters are given.   For example, there is the Gengånger which is a zombie with some more details.  

Dwarves and Elves are given special consideration, as are trolls and giants. 

There is not however any "new" monsters in the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendium format. We will get those in the Celts book, but that is next time.

The section is split with a "centerfold" map of Europe.

Vikings map of Europe

Chapter 6: Equipment and Treasure

Vikings were Vikings because of the treasure they sought.  They also had the best ships in Europe at this time. So let's spend some time with these.  

We start with a section on money. For the game's simplicity, these are reduced to a couple of systems.  Coins are usually categorized by make-up and weight.  There is some good material here really and something that most games should look into. 

Treasure covers the typical treasures found.  Also, treasure was a central piece of Viking lore; it was how chieftains paid their men, it was what they stole from others, and it was also how they were paid off NOT to steal.   Some space is given to Magic Items as well. This is an AD&D game after all.  Some "typical" magical treasure is discussed and some that are not found at all.  A few new items are also detailed. 

Chapter 7: The Viking Culture

This chapter gives us are biggest differences from a typical AD&D game.  For illustrative purposes, we follow a young Viking, Ivar Olafsson, in a year of his life.  Now I rather liked this because it gave me a character situated in his life and culture.   While it is not the most "gamble" material it is good background material. 

There is a section on Social Ranking and a little more on the role of Viking women.  I think after 6 seasons of watching Katheryn Winnick kick-ass as Lagertha in Vikings, this section will be read and cheerfully ignored. That is great, but this bit does talk about, and support, the image that Viking women had it better than their counterparts in the rest of Europe.

We also get into the sundries, quite literally; Food, drink, homes, farms, and trade. There is a section on religion with lots of nods towards the AD&D 2nd Ed Legends and Lore. 

Chapter 8: A Brief Gazetteer

AD&D 2nd Ed is celebrated not really for its advances in game design or rules, but rather the campaign worlds.  This book, and this section, in particular, is a thumbnail of why these celebrations are merited.  Or, as I call it, just give me a map! This section is more than a map and maybe not as much as the famed Mystara Gazetteers, but the relationship is not difficult to pick out.

This covers, rather briefly (as it says in the title), the lands the Vikings would roam to. And there are a lot of those! In addition to the lands of Europe, Africa, Asia, and yes even North America, we get the fantastic worlds of the Vikings.  If I had done this book this would have been Chapter 2 or 3 at the very least.  This chapter is all too brief in my mind. 

We get a longship design at the end and in the PDF what was the fold-out map.

--

So in truth a really fun resource.  The AD&D game material is there, but this book could be used with pretty much any version of D&D or even many other games.  3rd Edition/Pathfinder players might lament the lack of Prestige Classes, but the Rune MAgic section can be easily converted to a Feat system.  5th Edition Players would need to work the Berserkers into a Barbarian sub-class/sub-type, but that would be easy enough. 

It is not a perfect resource, but it is really close. I am really regretting selling off my physical copy now.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 3 Horrors and Monsters

Ravenloft Spirit Board
This is Part 3 of my coverage of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft.  For this, I am going to cover Chapters 4 and 5.
You can also read Part 1, Part 1b, and Part 2.

Chapter 4: Horror Adventures

This chapter covers how to do horror in Ravenloft.  No to be sure this is "how to do horror in the situated rules of D&D and Fantasy Heroics."  It is not, nor should it be "how to do Horror for every other RPG out there."  The advice is good, but only when used in the proper situations and circumstances.  The advice given here is good advice, and it is not dissimilar to any number of horror games I have played in the past. 

For reference, I compared this chapter to some other horror games and books I have here.  In particular, I used: 

These are the ones I use the most, though I could grab examples from another couple dozen or so games.

VRGtR covers Preparing for Horror and this covers not just what sort of horror game everyone wants to play it also covers things like consent. Yes. Consent. No this is not a political stance, it is what I like to call "not being a fucking dick about it."   Section 7.3 of Nightmares of Mine states that 

"Even if the player has originally given his consent, he should be able to veto further exploration of a theme that causes real discomfort, insult, or distraction. Many people don't know exactly where their discomfort zones begin until it is too late."

- Nightmares of Mine, p. 119

And that was written over 20 years ago.  If you are complaining about consent being part of a horror game you lost that battle a long time ago.

Horror Guides

Ravenloft's Session 0 (p. 186) almost matches perfectly to Spooky's "Pre Game Checklist" (p.34) in terms of what sort of horror game is this? Who are the characters? What purpose does the story serve?  Spooky asks "What is the Monster?" Ravenloft asks "Who is the Darklord?"

VRGtR also covers the physical environment to running a horror game. This includes advice, while not exactly cribbed from 2nd Ed Ravenloft, certainly inspired by it.  This includes dimming the lights, props, music, and so on.  Chill also addresses this throughout their game. No shock, Chill 2nd Ed and Ravenloft both came out of the same section of the upper midwest at pretty much the same time.

There is also a section on using the Tarokka Deck (there are many available) and the spirit board that is replicated on the last page of the book. I am hoping that one becomes commercially available. 

Pause for a second here and consider this.  D&D along with Ouija Boards were a favorite target of busy moms and the Christian far-right during the Satanic Panic.  Now consider this. Ravenloft is back, full of all sorts of horror themes AND there is their own version of a spirit board included.  And yeah it is still getting attacked.  I guess some things never change.

There is a fun Horror Toolkit that includes some great Curses to lay down on people, places or whatever needs it.  Similar to what we saw in the AD&D Forbidden Lore set. There is a Fear and Stress mechanic.  Madness is gone. Good ridance.  Here is something I wrote about Madness in my own Sanity in Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death. 1997

I have always had a problem with the way that the various Ravenloft rulebooks have handled fear, horror and madness checks, but madness in particular. In real life and in most Gothic literature, madness is a gradual thing, usually built up over long periods of time; think of the madness as described in Poe or even Lovecraft. The Madness checks from Ravenloft and later Masque of the Red Death were an all or nothing affair, one failed roll could turn anyone into a raving lunatic. Plus the rules in The Realms of Terror and the Masque of the Red Death books mostly dealt with madness as an after effect of psionic interference. Of course millions of people suffer from mental illness without the “benefit” of being psionic.

Sanity in Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death. 1997

I wrote that because as someone with multiple degrees in psychology and a former Qualified Mental Health Professional I have NEVER been happy with how any RPG's system for "Madness" or "Sanity" worked.  Call of Cthulhu was an exception because what it did was so closely tied to the stories it emulated.  I attempted to do the same. 

This new system works better for the Fantasy Horror of Ravenloft. For me, the guy who used to be in charge of the night shift at a mental facility for schizophrenics, this system is better.  Yeah, people are going to say "but madness is part of horror!" No. It is part of Gothic Horror and to a degree Cosmic Horror, but there is nothing in Fantasy Horror that needs Madness. Yes, you can use it. No, you don't NEED to use it.  AD&D 2nd Ed used it, I used my own mechanics. I am happy to drop both today.

Though, there is no corruption mechanic here or a fall to Dark Powers.  The underlying assumption is that the PCs are heroes in the pure and true sense.  That is great, but D&D 5 players are no different than AD&D 1st ed players.  Dangle power in front of them and they will grab it with both hands and ask for more.  I get that, I really do and it works for this game. I am going to have to see how it works for me as I play Ravenloft 5e. On one of the few times I was a Ravenloft player and not a DM I had a character, a cavalier-sort, who was sucked in to the Mists and went blind.  He gained the ability to "see" while fighting but no other time (think Daredevil) it was a struggle to keep him from reaching out for more. He did move from Lawful Good to Lawful Neutral, but that was as far as his slide went.

Moving on to a GREAT piece are Survivors.  Survivors are a little bit more than normal humans, and a little bit less than a 1st level character.  These would be the people/characters in Ravenloft that would have souls. There are four basic types and they map on perfectly to the four class archetypes.

  • Apprentices have a minor talent for magic (Wizards, Magic-Users)
  • Disciples adhere to the tenets of the faith (Priests, Clerics)
  • Sneaks survive by their wits and are petty thieves. (Rogue, Theif)
  • Squires have some martial prowess or training. (Warrior, Fighter)

There are stat blocks for these four on the following page. They get a minor talent (like a feat, but not as strong).  Basically, they are Basic D&D 1st level characters.  If I was going to start a Ravenloft game, I would figure out what everyone wanted to play and then give them these level 0.5 characters that match their archetype.  Playing a Warlock? You start out as an Apprentice. And so on.  

House of Lament
The House of Lament

The included adventure deals with the House of Lament.  To new players it is a creepy ass haunted house that holds the spirits of Mara Silvra and Dalk Dranzorg (which are totally names you would find in Glantri, just saying). To older fans, the House of Lament was just as evil.  Now Mara goes from helpless victim to warrior now complicit in her own damnation in Ravenloft.  In both cases, her body is entombed in the house and her spirit haunts it.   The House of Lament was introduced in one of the first accessories for Ravenloft, RR1 Darklords which was released in 1991.  This new house has all the chills of the first.

There are rules for séances and the replies from the various spectral inhabitants.  There is even a handy adventure flowchart.  You don't have to follow it, but it does help.  The new house pretty much looks like the one in Darklords.  The maps are not 100% the same, but close enough that is obvious there are supposed to be the same place. Or at least built by the same hand. BTW the maps of the House of Lament are by none other than Dyson Logos

The change is interesting and hits on things we all talked about online back in the 90s.  So in the original House, Mara was an innocent victim, yet her soul was stuck in this house with the other spirits.  We always wondered why the Mists would trap an innocent soul.   We came up with a lot of reasons, but the current authors bypass the issue altogether and make Mara more active in her placement here.

Still, tt is a great introductory adventure.

Chapter 5: Monsters of Ravenloft

The very last part is a collection of new (well...new to some) monsters found in the Mists and Domains of Ravenloft.

First, we get a bit about how to use monsters in a horror game.  It is good but I do feel it could have been longer. Then we get into the monsters themselves.  First off. I LOVE the Bagman!  Why I never came up with it myself I will never forgive myself for. We get the expected cast.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers Pods, Brain in a Jar, Boneless, evil dolls, headless horsemen, ghosts, Star Spawn of Cthulhu Emissary, slashers, couple of different Vampires, zombies. The expected cast.  Given Ravenloft's history, there are tons more that could be added.  Well, it will keep the folks on DMsGuild busy for a long time!

Ok. So. Let's address it. The monsters do not have alignments listed.  "Oh no" the cries come from the Internet, "nothing is evil anymore! D&D is DOOOOMED!" Oh, grow the fuck up.

Monsters. They are still evil.

I have lost track of how many times over the last 40 years someone has brought up "hey maybe we should get rid of alignments in D&D."  Also aside from Ravenloft how many Horror RPGs have alignments?  Right. None.  Well...maybe Beyond the Supernatural. Just checked, yeah it does, but none of the other non-D&D-derived Horror games have it. One thing is made abundantly clear, monsters are there to be fought and fought against.  There is no "Subjective morality" here the monsters are described in terms of their "Wrongness" (p. 224) or their nightmarish qualities (p. 225). To be clear here every monster listed either wants your soul, your body, your blood, your life, or some combination of all the above.  In truth, there should never be anything at all like a random monster. Everything should be in place to maximize the effect the DM is wanting.  At no point should a random goblin show up in the middle of investigating an undead killer moving through the streets. Every monster should thought out, planned and figured out where they exist in the ecology of fear the DM is creating.  If that means a Boneless is a horrible creature trying to attack OR is it a helpless victim that needs the PCs, then alignments printed on the page would not matter. 

My only complaint about this chapter is there needs to be more. But I do love my monsters.

We end with an art page of the spirit board.

Edited to Add: Wizards of the Coast has a free PDF where you can print out the Ravenloft Spirit board. Print it out and glue it to some wood or cardboard.

All in all this is my favorite D&D 5 book.  I can see myself reviving (reanimating?) my old Ravenloft game with these new rules.  My original players are all over the world now, but I have new ones.  OR what I am more likely to do is add elements of Ravenloft into my current games.  The Second Campaign is headed to a large desert.  You know that Ankhtepot is going to be there.

There has been much ado about the changes to the Vistani. They are less of a cultural stereotype now so that is good. They can be good, or evil, as individuals choose, so that is also good.  Generally improved all the way around.  I have to be honest, I never used them very much save in Barovia, but that was it.

D&D 5 Books

With all the other D&D books out now you can build quite a collection of resources for Ravenloft.  The Candlekeep mysteries adventure, Book of the Raven, was our D&D 5 introduction to the Vistani and some Ravenloft concepts. 

More D&D 5 Books

The new various "Guides" have plenty of monsters and other ideas to flesh out your Ravenloft for 5e.