Wednesday, March 21, 2018

[D&D] [Review] The Red Prophet Rises

I don't really do reviews. Mostly that's because I don't really buy new gaming stuff - both because I already have a lifetime supply, and because most of the new stuff I do run across tends to not be very good (or, more charitably, doesn't line up particularly well with my tastes). Nonetheless, occasionally people will give me stuff for free, and that's what happened here: one of the authors of this module (Malrex) reached out and asked if I'd be willing to read it and share my feedback if he gave me a free copy and I said yes. I gave it a quick skim-read, and found it surprisingly not-bad, and shared my thoughts with the author. And since I've already written them down, I figured I might as well post them here as well, as a review of sorts. The first part is background and summary for the benefit of people who aren't the module's author, followed by my reactions and opinions, pretty much directly copied and pasted from what I already sent to Malrex a few days ago.

The Red Prophet Rises, co-written by Malrex and Prince of Nothing, is a 40-ish page AD&D-ish adventure for characters level 3-5, published by The Merciless Merchants and available for $5 in pdf format (or $10 in print) from Drive-Thru RPG. It's a location-based adventure centering around a canyon occupied by a particularly nasty and brutish gang of cultists and a set of caves beneath their lair, of which they're at least mostly unaware, in which assorted ancient horrors dwell. There's a special horse being held captive that can become the mount of a paladin character, which is a possible hook to draw the players into the adventure; otherwise the DM is left to his or her own devices how to use this adventure (making it truly modular). The cultists in the canyon are bad guys to the core, keeping slaves and making regular bloody sacrifices to their Bull God. This is described in a fair amount of gory detail, but it doesn't go totally over the top. The level of gore is probably about on the level of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventures from the 80s. Which brings up possibly the oddest aspect of this adventure, that it's rather-inexplicably labeled as being for use with the "For Gold & Glory" ruleset which, from what I gather, is an OGL "retro-clone" equivalent to 2nd edition AD&D. This is an odd choice by the authors, because not only did I not notice any particularly 2E-ish elements in the adventure (the NPCs don't have "kits" or "wild magic" or flintlock pistols or any of that stuff, the only specialist wizards are illusionists, etc.) but the tone and style of the adventure is very far from what I think of as "2nd edition AD&D" style: it's dark and bloody, and it's also location-based and open-ended, with minimal backstory and no real "story" except what happens in play. I'm sure the authors had reasons of their own for labeling the book this way, but it seems to me like an odd choice that will probably limit their audience, because people who like the 2E flavor won't like this adventure, and the people who would be more likely to like it probably won't even bother looking at something labeled as crypto-2E. With some very minor changes in the statblocks, this module could just have easily have been released for OSRIC (the 1st edition retro-clone), for which I think it would be a much more natural fit.

And with those preliminaries out of the way, here's what I did (and didn't) like about this adventure based on my skim-reading (I can't claim to have read every word of every encounter, but I feel like I read enough to get a pretty good feel for it):

In general, I like it. I like the set-up with the obvious bad guy cultists on the surface and the more mysterious and weird stuff hidden underneath. That's a pretty standard D&D adventure trope (e.g. Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun) but it's one of my favorites, and the way they've handled it here doesn't just feel like a rehash of earlier work. I like that the villains seems really villainous but without dwelling so much on the gore and cruelty that it feels like they're reveling in or getting off on it. It feels like a situation that could be straight out of a Conan story, which for me is a good thing. I like that the canyon is described in an open-ended manner so there are several different ways the players can approach and deal with it, that there are several flavorful NPCs and potential rival factions, and that there's a suggested timeline of events to make the location seem "alive" (and not just have everybody sitting in their rooms waiting for somebody to come kill them) but that it's not fixed on rails: there are some implicit or potential "scenes" but none of them are fixed or mandatory. I like the way the room descriptions are written and organized, with an introductory paragraph followed by bullet-points enumerating special features and/or possible actions and conditions in a very user-friendly manner that seems like it would work very well at the table - better than when reading. The way the room descriptions include the possibility of different conditions depending on when and how the adventurers encounter them (e.g. that various NPCs and monsters may or may not be present) reminds me a bit of some of my favorite adventures like Dark Tower and Snakepipe Hollow (the latter a RuneQuest adventure).

On the minus side, though, it feels really overwritten to me - like they've taken a situation worth about 20 pages and filled 40 pages with it. The setup feels to me like something that should be a pretty minor adventure - that should fill one or two sessions of play - but the authors have gotten carried away and added too much to it. The adventure details 43 locations, every one of which is described sufficient detail to make it at least potentially a significant and unique encounter. This seems overdone to me: since there are so many rooms and every one of them is something new and different and active there's no real "downtime" - no rising and falling action, but rather it seems like it's "all climax." It feels to me like the authors have crammed too much into the package - that they had so many good ideas and wanted to include all of them - and I think the adventure would've worked just as well (and would probably also be easier to run) if it had about half as many encounters, or at least if there had been more "mundane" stuff mixed in as palate-cleansers to help pace the big moments.

The treasure in the adventure is the same way: all (or almost all) of the treasure is unique magic items with individual names and paragraph-long descriptions of their various functions, most including both benefits and drawbacks for their users. To me this felt like too much, not necessarily the quantity of items as the number of moving parts per item, especially in combination, and especially if the adventure is played as part of a campaign where the players will keep these items and accumulate more on top of them. I know it's conventional wisdom nowadays that generic and from-the-book magic items - +x weapons, etc. - are boring and should be avoided, but in play these things work, because the players get the benefit of them without having to actively think about them, to remember and track all of the moving pieces. Standard magic items are the background against which the unique and colorful items stand out, but when everything is unique and colorful it becomes a burden and frustration, too much to deal with.

Now I get that the authors are in kind of an odd and difficult spot because this is something that they're asking people to pay money for, so they feel the need to give the audience their money's worth in terms of density of fresh and unique stuff that feels like something most readers couldn't have just come up with on their own, and I accept that that's a legitimate concern and that they've maybe handled it in the way they felt was best (make everything special!), but I don't think that necessarily makes for the best adventure to actually sit down and play at the table with a group of friends. If I were to run this in an actual game (and the fact that I'm even thinking in that way means that they've mostly succeeded) I feel like I'd probably end up cutting about half of it out.

Of course I might use something that I cut out of this somewhere else (it's not that I think the encounters are bad, just that there are too many of them; e.g. there are two full pages devoted to a hidden alchemy lab that feel completely excessive to me in this context, but I could totally see this room being inserted into another dungeon where it would fit just fine), and other DMs who feel the same way as I do might choose to cut other encounters than I would (kind of like how everybody agrees that the Beatles' White Album would've been better as a single album but no two fans will ever agree on exactly which songs should have been included on that hypothetical album). Plus we know  that most people who buy this (or any other module) aren't going to actually run it - they're going to dream about it and hopefully draw some inspiration from it and maybe strip-mine some material out of it. So, in that regard, this grousing should be taken with a grain of salt and the authors probably know what they were doing better than my armchair second-guessing gives them credit for. Being in a position that an adventure has too much interesting stuff that you need to trim some of it out to make it manageable to is certainly preferable to the all-too-common alternative of boring adventures that offer nothing that hasn't already been seen a thousand times before or incomplete adventures that the reader/would-be DM has to effectively co-write to turn into something decent and usable.

Friday, March 2, 2018

[D&D] Focused Energy Activation Techniques

Characters who have received special training may concentrate and focus their personal energy (ki or qi) and then release it in a sudden burst to achieve a superhuman or spell-like effect. Each such activation technique must be learned separately, and a character may only learn as many different techniques as their wisdom score divided by 3 (rounding down).

Activating a minor technique costs one Joss Factor per use. Characters of 5th level or higher may activate moderate techniques at a cost of two JF per use. Major techniques may only be activated by characters of 11th level or higher and cost three JF per use.

In order to activate a technique the character must either give an emphatic shout (kiai or equivalent) simultaneously with performing the action that activates the technique or must concentrate for 1-3 full rounds before performing the action that activates the technique. Most techniques can be activated by either means, though some will obviously require one method or the other.

Generally speaking a technique cannot be activated multiple times in order to stack its effects, but multiple techniques can be in effect at the same time, and those with durations may be re-activated in order to extend the duration (with each activation requiring that additional JF be spent, naturally).

The ease or difficulty with which characters may locate masters capable of training them in the various techniques, how long the training takes to complete, and the payment in goods or services that the masters will demand in exchange for the training, are all entirely at the discretion of the DM according to the feel desired for his or her individual campaign, though it is recommended in any case that only NPCs be capable of providing training in these techniques.

In the WORLD OF GREYHAWK setting, these techniques are generally only known and taught in the areas of and surrounding the Celestial Empire of Suhfang, far to the west of the Flanaess. The techniques are jealously guarded secrets by the sects who have mastered them, and certainly any outlander barbarian (and note that in Suhfang all outlanders are considered to be barbarians) who traveled to those lands would face great difficulty convincing any master or school of his or her worthiness to be taken on as a pupil and initiated into the mysteries of even a minor technique. Within that realm, individuals who show promise are typically inducted into an organized school or sect as children, based on their family’s caste and status. Each such school retains the knowledge of up to three techniques (one each minor, moderate, and major) that are passed on to the pupils as they reach the appropriate stage in their training.  For example, the legendarily secretive assassin’s guild known as the Hidden Army, in addition to training its members in the mundane skills of the assassin and acrobat classes, is rumored to also teach its most promising initiates the secret energy activation techniques of regulated breathing and water walking, and perhaps even to possess knowledge of the ultimate secret technique of phase shifting

Seeking out knowledge of additional, or different, techniques requires either ingratiating into a rival sect by deception or trickery (which, if discovered, causes both grievous loss of honor to the character’s family and likely expulsion from the character’s own sect) or seeking out a hidden or remote individual master. After locating such a master, a formidable quest in itself, the prospective pupil must convince the master of their worthiness to be taken into service. This likely involves fulfilling a series of difficult tasks or quests as dictated by the master. Once the master has agreed to take on a pupil, several game months of time are required for each technique during which the pupil may perform no other activity than exercise, training, and meditation. At the end of each month of training the character has a cumulative 25% chance of mastering the technique, up to a maximum of 90%. Should the character ever roll a 00 on this check then that character will never be able to master this technique from this master. 

Minor Techniques:

  • Blind Fighting: Upon activating this technique, the character suffers no penalties for operating in darkness, or from blindness, for a duration of one turn.
  • Danger Sense: By means of this technique the character’s senses are heightened for one turn, doubling the character’s normal chance of hearing noise and spotting traps, and halving their chance to be surprised.
  • Graceful Step: By means of this technique the character exhibits perfect balance, including the ability to balance on something as narrow as a tightrope or as light as a single tree-branch, and also gains a +25% bonus to move silently checks (or a +1 bonus to achieve surprise, for non-thieves) for a duration of one turn.
  • Hare’s Speed:  Activating this technique doubles the character’s normal movement rate for a duration of one turn.
  • Power Surge: Activation of this technique allows the character to focus a surge of additional energy into a single action, which can take the form of one extra attack, or maximum damage on a single attack, or an increase in the power of a single spell as if it were cast by a character three levels higher than the character.
  • Protective Aura: Activation of this technique raises an invisible aura around the character which grants a +2 bonus to the character’s armor class, +2 bonus to all saving throws, and +20 additional psionic defense points (if relevant) for a duration of one turn.
  • Quick-draw: Activation of this technique gives the character a sudden burst of speed, giving a +3 bonus to initiative for one round. Note that this applies to any action for that round – including, for instance, initiating spell casting - and not just to drawing a weapon.
  • Regulated Breathing: By means of this technique the character is able to regulate their breathing to allow either holding his or her breath entirely for a one turn + one round per level (thus allowing the character to operate underwater or resist the effects of gasses), or to slow down breathing, heart rate, and body temperature so as to feign death (as the monk ability) for a duration of one turn per level of the character.

Moderate Techniques:

  • Boar's Resilience: By means of this activation the character’s will is so strongly focused that he or she will remain conscious and continue fighting or other activity even after being reduced to a negative hit point total of up to the character’s constitution score (i.e. a character with a 14 constitution may remain active with up to -14 hit points) for up to one turn. At the end of that turn, if the character has not been restored to a positive hit point total, or should the total negative hit point total exceed the character’s constitution score, then he or she will fall unconscious and begin bleeding out per the standard procedure (q.v. DMG p. 82) if the negative total is up to -9, or die immediately should the total equal or exceed -10.
  • Fear-inducing Shout: When this technique is activated by means of a mighty shout, all enemies within 30' radius of the shouting character must make a successful saving throw vs. spells or flee for 1-4 rounds as if affected by a fear wand.
  • Mighty Leaping: Activating this technique allows the character to make one leap for every four levels the character has attained of up to 50' each – forward, backward, or vertical. Each leap takes but a single segment to perform, and the character may use this technique to leap into melee, which is treated as a charge attack, or out of melee, in which case the opponent does not get a parting shot (unless he or she is also capable of leaping and chooses to pursue).
  • Missile Deflection: When this technique is activated the character’s reflexes are sharpened to such a degree that he or she is able to dodge or deflect any missile attack upon a successful saving throw vs. petrification, or may attempt to catch missiles, with a chance of success equal to the character’s dexterity score x3 as a percentage (i.e. 45% for a character with a 15 dexterity) for thrown missiles, or the character’s dexterity score as a percentage for missiles launched by device (i.e. bow, crossbow, or sling). The activation persists for one round per level of the character.
  • Pinpoint Strike: By activating this technique, the character may make a single attack with pinpoint accuracy, so as to ignore an opponent’s armor completely or otherwise to target a precise location. By means of this technique, a character could, for example, snatch out an unwary opponent's eyeball.
  • Resist Elements: Activation of this technique allows the character to function as if under the effect of a resist fire and resist cold spell for a duration of one turn per level of the character, and as if under the effect of the endure cold/endure heat spell for a duration of one hour per level.
  • Water Walking: This technique allows the character to walk upon water at his or her full normal movement rate for a duration of one turn + one round per level.
  • Weapon-breaking Strike: By means of this technique, a single successful hit does not inflict any damage on the opponent but instead requires that individual to succeed in a saving throw vs. petrification or his or her weapon breaks and shatters. Magic weapons add their “plus” value to the saving throw and any weapon of +4 or higher is unbreakable except by a weapon of equal or greater power (i.e. a +5 sword can only be broken by another +5 or better weapon).

Major Techniques:

  • Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique: By means of this technique, the character makes a single open-handed attack with the same effect as the monk’s quivering palm ability.
  • Indomitable Will: When this technique is activated the character’s force of will is strengthened so as to render the character totally immune to all mind-affecting spells and effects, and to all manner of psionic attack, for a duration of one round per level of the character.
  • Levitation: Activation of this technique allows the character to levitate, as per the magic-user spell, simply by willing it so, with a duration of one turn per level of the character. As with all energy activation techniques, this ability is not considered to be magical in nature and is thus not subject to dispel magic, magic resistance, or anti-magic effects.
  • Paralyzing Shout: The force of this great shout causes all enemies within 30' radius of the shouting character to make a saving throw vs. spells or paralyzed and held immobile in place, unable to attack, move, or even speak, for 1-6 rounds.
  • Phase Shift: When this technique is activated, the character becomes ethereal (cf. oil of etherealness) for a duration of one round for every four levels of the character.
  • Whirlwind Attack: When this technique is activated, the character is allowed to make a full round’s worth of melee attacks upon each opponent within a 10' radius of the character.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

[D&D] "Lost" Gygax Monsters (Part 6)

Finishing this series up with a variety of demons. All of them were introduced in Gary's Gord novels - the cataboligne in Saga Of Old City (TSR, 1985) and Necropolis (as "blue demon"), Vuron in Sea of Death, the others in Dance of Demons - and were given AD&D stats by the illustrious GT.

Note that in addition to all of these creatures from Gary's novels, the massive document that GT sent me also included a large number of creatures of his own design, or adapted from other sources, that fill in both even more of AD&D's planar cosmology and also the other continents and realms on the planet of Oerth (Gonduria, Jahind, Suhfang, etc.) that were mentioned but never detailed by Gary. This stuff is also great, and fully captures and conveys the same flavor as Gary's creations (and, given that he did some work with Gary in the post-TSR era, it's likely that Gary would have given at least some of these creations his "official" blessing had he been in position to do so) and is very much worth sharing, but I don't really consider it my place to do so here. Hopefully he will some day see fit to share them more widely himself :)


DEMON

Cataboligne


FREQUENCY: Very rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: -3
MOVE: 9"
HIT DICE: 9
% IN LAIR: 20%
TREASURE TYPE: G
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1 – 6/1 – 6/ 2 - 8
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +3 or better weapon to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 60%
INTELLIGENCE: Very
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (8'+ tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: 150
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: VII/ 2900 + 12/HP

Cataboligne demons are quite nasty, and often summoned to be used as guardians.  They may, at will and once per melee round, use the following abilities: animate dead (as 9th level magic-user), cause fear (as wand), cause paralysis (as wand), change self, darkness (10' radius), detect invisible, dispel magic, levitate (as a 9th level magic-user), magic missile (four missiles), telekinese (4000 g.p.), and teleport (no error).  Catabolignes regenerate as do trolls until they are totally slain. 

This demon has a wrinkled visage with wide, fanged mouth, yellow eyes with horizontally-slitted pupils, and horns.  Its body is gray-blue and covered by plated scales, and twin rows of triangular spines run down its back.  Its hands and feet are wickedly-clawed and its somewhat short tail ends in a spike.

Dusin


FREQUENCY: Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1 - 6
ARMOR CLASS: -2
MOVE: 9"//12"
HIT DICE: 9
% IN LAIR: 10%
TREASURE TYPE: D
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3 or 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-6/1-6/2-12 or by weapon type
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Tail
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 55%
INTELLIGENCE: Average
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: M (7')
PSIONIC ABILITY: 100
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: VII/ 2600 + 12/HP

These demons are servants to Demogorgon (q.v.), and often serve as his personal guards.  They attack with their claws and vicious bite, and may sweep their tail at opponents behind them for 2 – 8 points.  They may, at will and once per melee round, use the following abilities: darkness (10' radius), detect invisible, cause fear (as wand), levitate (as 9th level magic-user), polymorph self, telekinese (4000 g.p.), and teleport (no error).  They have a 30% chance to gate in 1 – 2 more dusins.  Dusins commonly wield +1 iron-bladed halberds.

Dusins appear as large, scaled humanoids with crocodile heads and scaly tails.  Their arms are somewhat stubby and end in clawed hands.  Their normal habitat is within the swamps of Demogorgon’s realm.  Demogorgon can field nearly 50,000 of these demons if needed.*

*See “Dance of Demons”, page 85, by Gary Gygax.


Nergel (Lord of Unlife)

FREQUENCY: Unique
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: -5
MOVE: 12"
HIT DICE: 96 hp
% IN LAIR: 50%
TREASURE TYPE: H, V
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-7/2-7
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +1 or better weapon to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 65%
INTELLIGENCE: Supra-genius (19)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (7' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: 230
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: X/ 43,680*

Nergel is a dark and dour demon lord having dominion over the unliving.  He has the fealty of legions of shadows (q.v.) and shadow demons (q.v.) in the Abyss, and occasionally is known to be at odds with Graz’zt.

Nergel appears as a hunch-backed man with misshapen shoulders and an uneven gait.  He has slab-like cheeks around a fanged mouth; dark eyes that flash orange when he is angry, and a wattled neck.  He wears black robes and carries an ebon staff.  This staff is +3 to hit and possesses two major powers: first, its touch will slay any creature not of like or higher status to Nergel if they fail a save versus Death magic (d6+3 damage if save is made), and secondly it can instantly summon seven babau demons (once per day).  If he opts not to use his staff to attack, he may make two attacks with his clawed hands.  Nergel may also use any of the following powers at will, once per melee round: animate dead, cause fear (as wand), charm monster, charm person, clairvoy, clairaudience, continual darkness, create illusion (as wand), detect invisible, detect magic, dispel magic, ESP, polymorph self, read languages, read magic, suggest, telekinese (9,000gp), and teleport (no error).  Once each day he may summon either 3 – 18 shadows or 2 – 8 shadow demons within one round.

His realm is called Meslamtaius (level 353), and is a benighted realm with dust-covered plains and deep caverns.  It is largely inhabited by Type I demons, shadow demons, shadows, manes, skeletons, and zombies.  He is consort to Ereshkigal (q.v.).

Ojukalazogadit


FREQUENCY: Unique
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 8 overall, but variable to -4
MOVE: Special
HIT DICE: Infinite
% IN LAIR: 100%
TREASURE TYPE: Nil
NO. OF ATTACKS: See below
DAMAGE/ATTACK: See below
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Nil
INTELLIGENCE: Low
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (a plane of the Abyss)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: N/A

Ojukalazogadit is a sexless, sprawling, imbecilic mass of chaotic matter that covers an entire layer (the 366th) of the Abyss under a featureless orange sky.  Its surface is mostly a disgusting dun color, resembling ulcerous, infected flesh.  It constantly seethes, pulses, exudes vile fluids, and extrudes extremities or forms gaping maws; and the entirety reeks of decay.  Its consistency ranges from sinking morass to steel-hard chitin.  Shrieks, moans, gurgling, rending sounds, and other disturbing noises are constantly emitted by the being in a maddening cacophony.

Because of its very nature, its attacks are entirely variable—it is fully capable of attacking and devouring anything from insect size up to a behemoth.  Methods of attack range from mandibles, claws, tentacles, pseudopods, fanged mouths, adhesive mucus, acidic or alkaline secretions, poisonous vapors, and any number of other forms; all made from its mass and then reabsorbed!  Damage is, of course, variable depending on the attack.

Only the entital force of a Greater God can possibly have any lasting effect upon Ojukalazogadit, due to its sheer size and power.

Palvlag (Demon Lord of Flame)


FREQUENCY: Unique
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: -5
MOVE: 9"/18"
HIT DICE: 144 hp
% IN LAIR: 50%
TREASURE TYPE: S, T, U, V, W, X, Z
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2 – 8 (x2) or by weapon +8
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +2 or better weapon to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 75%
INTELLIGENCE: Supra-genius (19)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (12' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: 244
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: X /52,050*

Palvlag, like Pazuzu and Shabriri, is a surviving proto-demon.  He appears as a type VI demon with four eyes of flaming orange.  His very blood is molten phlogiston.  There is a marked resemblance between Palvlag and Marduk, Lord of the Type VI demons, and they may be related.

Palvlag will usually attack with his claws rather than a weapon, but at times he will wield a gigantic two-handed +3 flaming sword (2 – 12 +3, +8 for STR).  He may immolate at will to inflict 6 – 24 points of damage on any creature not immune to fire attacks within a 10' radius.  He also has the following abilities, usable at will once per melee round: astral travel, darkness (50' radius), detect invisible, detect magic, flesh to stone, know alignment, pyrotechnics, shape change, tongues, teleport (no error), wall of fire, and unholy word.  Palvlag may also use wish once per day and symbol (1 each of pain, hopelessness and death).  His gaze causes insanity to anyone he wills (save vs. Spell), and thrice each day he may breathe fire from his mouth (as a red dragon) doing 66 points of damage.  He may gate in 6 Type VI demons (75% chance).  He has double normal range infravision and ultravision, and he regenerates 1 hit point every round.

Palvlag lacks the odd sense of humor common to Pazuzu and Shabriri, and he is a serious opponent in combat.


Shabriri (Demon Lord of Water & Blindness)

FREQUENCY: Unique
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: -8
MOVE: 12"//20"
HIT DICE: 155 hp
% IN LAIR: 20%
TREASURE TYPE: S, T, U, V, W, X, Z
NO. OF ATTACKS: 5
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2 – 8 (x4)/2 – 12
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +2 or better weapon to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 80%
INTELLIGENCE: Supra-genius (19)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (10' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: 255
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: X/ 56,700*

Shabriri has the form of a hulking demon with horn-plated flesh and four arms ending in clawed hands.  His head has four red-glowing eyes and a fang-filled maw.  Like Pazuzu, Shabriri is a proto-demon of ancient origin and is on fairly decent terms with some daemon lords.  Also like Pazuzu, he possesses an odd sense of humor and enjoys toying with victims and following odd whims.  He may actually prolong combat with foes if he finds it amusing!

He prefers to attack and rend with his four clawed hands and bite, but this demon lord also has the following abilities, usable at will once per melee round: astral travel, cause blindness, create water, darkness (50' radius), detect invisible, detect magic, flesh to stone, know alignment, raise/lower water, shape change, tongues, teleport (no error), unholy word, and wall of fog.  In addition, Shabriri may use wish once per day and symbol (1 each of pain, hopelessness and death).  His gaze causes insanity to anyone he wills (save vs. Spell), and thrice each day he may expel a gout of negative energy stuff from his mouth that does 66 points of damage to one victim up to 1" range (save vs. Spell for ½ damage).  He may gate in 6 Type IV demons (75% chance) if pressed.  He has double normal range infravision and ultravision, and he regenerates 1 hit point every round.

 

Skurda


FREQUENCY: Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1 – 4
ARMOR CLASS: -3
MOVE: 15"
HIT DICE: 10
% IN LAIR: 15%
TREASURE TYPE: B
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-10/1-10/1-6
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Poison sting
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 50%
INTELLIGENCE: Low
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: L (10' long)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: VII/ 4050 + 15/HP

Skurda are fearsome demons that are used as guards by several Abyssal rulers, notably Graz'zt and Lolth.  Skurda have the appearance of hulking, scorpion-bodied demons with a human-like torso and arms, both covered in armoring chitin.  Their heads have compound eyes, and mandibles around their mouth.  Their arms end in fearsome pincers.

Skurda attack with their mighty pincers (Strength = 18) and tail sting.  In addition to wounding, the stinger is poison and requires a saving throw at -1, failure of which indicates death!  They may use the following powers, at will, once per melee round: Darkness (15' radius), detect invisible, telekinese (3000 g.p.), and teleport (no error).  They may also gate in another skurda (30% chance).


Verin (Vuron) (Demon Lord)

FREQUENCY: Unique
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 0 (-4)
MOVE: 12"
HIT DICE: 96 hp
% IN LAIR: 20%
TREASURE TYPE: U, Z
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: See below
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +1 or better weapon to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 70%
INTELLIGENCE: Godlike (22)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil (neutral)
SIZE: L (8' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: 230
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: X/ 45,023*

Verin appears as a tall, thin, sexless albino humanoid with reddish-pink eyes.  His face is handsome, though stamped with evil, and his voice is bell-like.  He is lord general and viceroy to Graz’zt, and is utterly loyal to that demon prince.  While Graz’zt was imprisoned by Iggwilv, Verin continued to administer his realm until the demon prince returned.  Although he certainly has the demonic capacity for rage and cruelty, Verin tends to be more measured and thoughtful in his actions than most of his ilk.  He is well-versed in arcane knowledge and in battle strategy.

He wields a +4 lance in battle that is composed of milky crystal, with which he strikes twice in a round.  Any creature struck by it must save vs. death at -4 or die.  Even such as a demon lord or daemon ruler must save (but without penalty) or perish!  Those who save will still take 5 – 50 points of damage from the fell energies contained within this weapon.  He will wear armor of silvery metal into battle that gives him an AC of -4.


Verin has the following powers usable at will, once per melee round: charm person, clairaudience, clairvoyance, darkness (15' radius), detect good, detect invisible, detect magic, ESP, etherealness (self), fear (as wand), heal (3/day), suggestion, , telekinese (9,000 gp), and teleport (no error).  Once per day, he has an 85% chance of gating in 1 – 2 Type VI demons (90%) or Graz’zt himself (10%).

Saturday, February 24, 2018

[D&D] "Lost" Gygax Monsters (Part 5)

Continuing with a selection of creatures native to the Outer Planes, all originally described by Gary Gygax in his novels Come Endless Darkness and Dance of Demons (both New Infinities, 1988) and again statted out for AD&D by GT, who has kindly given me permission to share his efforts here:


CACODEMON

FREQUENCY: Uncommon
NO. APPEARING: 1 – 3 or 4 - 16
ARMOR CLASS: 0
MOVE: 9"
HIT DICE: 8 - 10
% IN LAIR: 10%
TREASURE TYPE: D
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1 – 4/1 – 4/2 - 12
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 65%
INTELLIGENCE: Very
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil (neutral)
SIZE: L (6' - 8' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: VII/ 2375 + 13/HP

Cacodemons are hideous monstrosities, having the worst of demonic features, which appear to have melted in places.  Their flesh seems to writhe and their eyes (of which they have 1 – 6) are lambent.  They roam the howling, distorted landscapes of Pandemonium, where they are the most common denizens.  They attack with their clawed hands and a bite from their wide mouth.  They regenerate three hit points per round starting the round after they are first damaged, reattaching any severed parts and re-growing eyes and other organs.  Only fire-based attacks do permanent damage.

Cacodemons have the following innate abilities, usable at will, one per melee round: cause fear (as wand), detect invisible, detect magic, infravision, polymorph self (3/day), teleport (no error).  Once each turn, they may give vent to a howl which combines the effects of fear and confusion.  They take half damage from acid, cold, gas, and wind attacks; and are immune to attacks of silver or any weapon of under +1 magic bonus.  If a spell directed at them does not overcome the creature’s magic resistance, there is a 50% chance that it will rebound upon the one casting it rather than merely failing to activate.

These creatures will only have treasure in their lairs.

DREGGAL

FREQUENCY: Common
NO. APPEARING: 3 - 30
ARMOR CLASS: 1
MOVE: 12"
HIT DICE: 5
% IN LAIR: 20%
TREASURE TYPE: L (x10), M, O, Q
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-6/1-6 or by weapon
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 30%
INTELLIGENCE: Average
ALIGNMENT: Neutral evil (lawful)
SIZE: M (5½' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: V/ 285 + 5/HP

These beings inhabit the fuming and heat-glowing tiers of Gehenna and are considered by most other netherbeings to be amongst the “dregs” of such creatures, and hence the common appellation¹.  As they are looked down upon by most other creatures, they have a hatred of all those who are more powerful than they are (especially barghests and devils), and are bullies to those (few) that are weaker.

These creatures have the following abilities, usable once per round at will: affect normal fires, burning hands (5 pts. damage), change self, detect good, detect magic, fear (by touch), pyrotechnics, and teleport (no error).  They may be struck by non-magical weapons, but are immune to fire and poison damage.  Cold attacks do double damage to them.

Dreggals appear as rather short humanoids with spidery limbs and hoofed feet.  Their dark skin is pocked and covered with wart-like bumps, their faces are bat-like and their craniums are covered with spikes.  Their voice has a metallic quality to it.  They are sly and prying by nature, and thus very unpopular with other netherbeings.
¹As per Gary Gygax

DUMALDUN

FREQUENCY: Uncommon
NO. APPEARING: 3 - 12
ARMOR CLASS: 0
MOVE: 15"
HIT DICE: 8 (monkey, gibbon, STR: 18/76), 9 (chimp, mandrill, STR: 18/00), 10 (orangutan, gorilla, STR: 19)
% IN LAIR: Nil
TREASURE TYPE: Nil
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2 – 8/2 – 8/3 - 12
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 5%/HD
INTELLIGENCE: Low to average
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil (neutral)
SIZE: L (7' - 9' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: VIII/ 3000 + 14/HP

The dumalduns roam in packs the chill acid swamp regions of the basalt plains of Tarterus; usually avoiding the tar pits, bubbling slime and quicksand that are the territories of the demodands.  Demodands will sometimes use them as shock troops, but they are too savagely unpredictable to serve in most other capacities.

Dumalduns have the appearance of large, dingy-furred, simian-featured monsters; their faces resembling gibbons, gorillas, mandrills, orangutans, and such.  They have vicious claws and terrible fanged and tusked maws.  Their claws are endowed with venom derived of negative planar material, and any hits scored thus require a save versus poison at –2 or death results.  As they attack they gibber and howl, causing fear (as a wand).  They have infravision and ultravision to 12".  On their native plane they are known to fashion spears from frozen acid and utilize these as weapons (1 – 8 + 2d4 acid damage).

These beasts are immune to acid and poison attacks, and take but half damage from cold attacks.  A +1 or better weapon is required to harm them.

HIPPOKERES

FREQUENCY: Very rare
NO. APPEARING: 2 - 12
ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: 12" (24" charge)
HIT DICE: 8
% IN LAIR: Nil
TREASURE TYPE: Nil
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 3 - 12
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Charge, trample
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard
INTELLIGENCE: Low
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic neutral
SIZE: L (14'+ long)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: VI/ 725 + 10/HP

Hippokeres appear as huge (7' at the shoulder) creatures with a rhino-like body and legs (of which it has six) and a horse-like head with a long horn set over its nose.  Its skin is extraordinarily tough and damage resistant, and its mouth is filled with sharp and extremely hard teeth.  They are notably ill tempered, even among other demon beasts, and only the most powerful of Lords and Princes can successfully harness them.  They are seldom found above the 400th level of the Abyss. If they hit an opponent while charging, damage from their horn is doubled, and a trample does 3 – 24 points of damage to any creature of eight-foot height or less.  This attack form requires at least a 2" running start.  Hippokeres take but half damage from cold, fire and poisonous gas attacks.

MAELVI

FREQUENCY: Common
NO. APPEARING: 2 – 8 or 20 -100
ARMOR CLASS: 1 [-1]
MOVE: 15"
HIT DICE: 6+6 [8]
% IN LAIR: 15%
TREASURE TYPE: C
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-5/2-5 or by weapon (+4) x2
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 40%
INTELLIGENCE: Low to average [High]
ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil (neutral)
SIZE: M (7' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: VII/ 1000 + 10/HP

The maelvis make up the largest contingent of those creatures native to the charnel and reeking planes of Acheron, whereon their mighty armies clash.  These beings usually travel about in small groups, but occasionally they will gather into great, regimented hordes under the direction of various leaders [stats are in brackets], who in turn answer to Netherlords.  These hordes meet to do battle with one another.

Maelvis possess the following abilities usable once per melee round: animate dead, cause fear (as wand), detect good, detect magic, stinking cloud.  They may be harmed by non-magical weapons, but are unharmed by acid, alkaline or poison.  They take but half damage from cold or fire attacks.

They are tall and skeletal in appearance, with rather large heads.  They are agile and their tough skin is covered in bony ridges, and they possess sharp-taloned hands, making them dangerous foes.  They generally utilize katana-like swords with saw-edged backs (Dam = d12, 2d4+1 on a backstroke) or pole arms, generally of the glaive or guisarme sort. Leaders will have weapons of +1 or +2 magical bonus.

NETHERLORD

FREQUENCY: Very rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: -1 or better
MOVE: 15"
HIT DICE: 11 - 15
% IN LAIR: 20%
TREASURE TYPE: A, S
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: By weapon
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 55% - 75% (5%/HD)
INTELLIGENCE: Supra-genius
ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil
SIZE: M
PSIONIC ABILITY: Possible
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: X/variable (13,000 max.)*

The Netherlords are the powerful rulers of Acheron, commanding hordes of maelvis, as well as the zombies and skeletons they have animated.  The most powerful of them is Hafdoligor Kaathbaen (120 hp; AC:  -4), Lord of the Undead, who controls large groups of skeletons, zombies, wights, and wraiths.  It is unknown whether Netherlords are native to Acheron or were powerful necromancers who migrated there from the Prime Material.

All Netherlords appear as tall (6' - 7'), gaunt humans with red-glowing eyes and wearing black armor and helm.  The armor type is variable, but always magical and always at least equal to AC -1.  They will generally wield a mace or staff of great power (such as a +2 staff of withering or +3 mace of life-stealing [as the sword]…) and their 18(00) Strength gives them a +6 bonus to damage.  They are often astride an armored nightmare of maximum hit points (AC:  -5, hit points: 54) when encountered during battle.  They are immune to energy-draining attacks and take half damage from cold attacks.

They wield the following necromantic type spells once/round at will as a 15th level spellcaster: animate dead, cause serious wounds,  energy drain (as m-u spell, 3/day), slay living (3/day), and speak with dead.  They otherwise cast clerical spells at a level equal to their hit dice.  A Netherlord may also summon 2 – 8 mire wraiths, once each day, and will always have one maelvi leader and at least 2 – 8 regular maelvi nearby.  A few Netherlords are known as “The Lords of Evil” and are allied with the god Hextor.