Monday, November 16, 2020

OD&D Notes, Book 2: Monsters and Treasure

Part 3 of a series on reading OD&D (parts 1 and 2).
Wow Book 2 opens with a big table of stats for all the creatures, and then has individual descriptions after.

1d4 dragons per encounter

This table is ordered very strangely; it's not alphabetical, it's not by alignment, it seems to be by creature type (humanoids, then undead, then fantastical beasts, then extraplanar / elementals, then oozes, then pack animals and mounts).

The "5% chance per level" on bandit magic items is more explicit about what types of magic items count as usable by which classes - notably fighters only get rolls for sword, shield, and armor, not misc. magic items (which makes sense, since most misc magic items here are only usable by MUs, but there are some misc magic items that are usable by anyone, and apparently bandit fighters can't have them).  Rather different from the ambiguity about it in OSE and ACKS and my hypothesis that killing bandit leaders is the best way to get misc magic.

Berserkers are neutral and as with Bless, "+2 to their dice score when rolling" might refer to Chainmail dice rather than d20s.  In which case they're much scarier.

Brigands are chaotic bandits with +1 morale.

Nomad lairs get an additional 20-40 medium foot with composite bows.

Buccaneers / pirates seem to suck less than in Basic.

Mermen only take -1 to fighting on land (but again, Chainmail or d20?), and they fight as Berserkers.

Kobolds and goblins have separated.

Whoa orc villages get catapults!  And they can have a dragon, 7th-9th level fighter, or 11th-level MU (in addition to the typical chance for ogres and trolls).  When encountered in the wilderness, sometimes they're moving wagons full of treasure, and these wilderness encounters can also have high-level NPCs.  I wish more humanoid monster entries had siege weapons.

Aha, trolls have begun to regenerate.  But it's 3HP per turn, not per round?

Giants have differentiated into the usual hill, stone, frost, fire, and cloud types, and do 2d6 to 3d6 damage per hit.  Cloud giants have a keen sense of smell, in a nod to Jack and the Beanstalk, presumably.

Zombies have lost paralysis and act only under the instructions of an MU or evil cleric.  I guess evil clerics don't have to roll to control them, since there's no turning-equivalent; maybe it's just automatic.

Ghouls have assumed their typical form; don't paralyze elves, subject to attacks by normal weapons and missiles, and men killed by them rise as ghouls.

Likewise wights have energy drain.  I wish I understood the intent of energy drain better; how it came about and how players were meant to respond to it.  Just be really cautious around undead?  I was hoping it would be in some sort of transitional form here that would give some insight but nope, it's fully-formed already.
Wraiths are noted as being "high-class" wights.  Fancy.
How I imagine OD&D wraiths

Mummy rot doesn't totally prevent healing, just makes it take 10x as long.  Cure Disease doesn't remove it, just reduces to 2x as long and has to be administered within an hour (of being hit, presumably?).

Spectres, distinct from wraiths, are incorporeal.

Vampires are called out as undead rather than lycanthropes (vampires and werewolves were often sort of the same thing in Eastern European mythology, iirc, so this is understandable).

Gaze attacks can absolutely be reflected.

Effects of wyvern poison not stated in monster entry.

Dragon breath weapon is now 3x/day.  All the chromatic dragons are present, plus golden dragons with more HD than red dragons.  They are already lawful.  Age category determines HP per HD; so all red dragons are 9-11 HD, but a very young red dragon might have 10 HP while a very old one might have 60 HP.  Breath weapon damage works the same way; it's fixed by age rather than being rolled, I think.  There are only six age categories which is nice and simple.

Gargoyles are hostile even to other chaotic creatures (implication - most chaotic creatures aren't hostile to other chaotic creatures?) and already immune to nonmagic weapons (underlined in the text).

Wereboar and weretiger have been added to lycanthropes; they're both neutral to chaotic.  Catching lycanthropy requires being "seriously wounded... (assume about 50% of total possible damage)".  No save (but Cure Disease).
Purple worms never check morale and their swallow whole talks about attacks as if they were on a d%?  Again, no mention of the particular effects of their poison.

Huh, Nixie charm takes you out of the game for a year, after which you are freed.  So there's a good use for the inheritance rule.

Pixie invisibility - "certain monsters such as Dragons and high-level fighters will be aware of their presence."  Giving high-level fighters superior senses is actually a pretty great idea.

Dryad charm does not expire in a year ("Anyone charmed by a Dryad will never return from the forest.").  RIP.

Gnomes and dwarves have split.  The main difference is that gnomes have longer beards (not even joking).  Dwarves take half damage from the attacks of giants, ogres, etc, which is rad.  Leveled dwarf fighters in lairs have a 10% chance per level for magic items instead of 5% - I like that, they hoard and make stuff (but it might also be 10% chance for a single item drawn from one of those three categories, in which case they would actually have fewer magic items than bandits in expectation).  They also domesticate bears and wolves to defend their strongholds, which I like.

Elves are no longer magically invisible - they "have the ability of moving silently and are nearly invisible in their gray-green cloaks."  Elves get magic weapon bonus to damage but it's a much smaller bonus than extra attack dice against orcs and goblins in Chainmail I think.

Pegasi, hippogrifs, and rocs have been split.  Hippogrifs and pegasi don't get along.  There's a note about mythological rocs that prey on elephants and a clarification that these ones are smaller.  Griffons are fond of horse-flesh and can't be brought near horses or will attack them.  As with knights charging uncontrollably and orcs fighting each other, that's a very Chainmail rule.

Invisible stalkers have pocket dimensions and can put you in suspended animation if you ask them to keep you safe.

The 8/12/16 HD split among elementals originates here, with the means of their summoning - staves summon 8HD, "devices" (like the brazier of fire elemental summoning I guess) summon 12HD, and Conjure Elemental summons 16HD.  The rule about only one elemental of each type being summonable each day, including by your opponents, is bizarre - is that at world-scale?  If you want to summon an elemental do you have to wake up at 4AM to make sure some other wizard across the continent hasn't beaten you to it?  The good news I guess is that it opens up the possibility of "only prepare one copy of a given spell per day" again, since the elemental limit which spoke against it might be intended for both devices and opponents rather than for preparing Conjure Elemental multiple times.

"The clean-up crew includes Ochre Jelly and similar weird monsters".  Black pudding is a "nuisance monster".  Yellow mold spores are save-or-die.

"Only mules are agile enough to be taken in dungeons."  I thought it was temperament, rather than agility.

Large insects and animals - "If the referee is not personally familiar with the various monsters included in this category, the participants of the campaign can be polled to decide all characteristics."  Notably not just the people participating in a particular adventure - this is the full 20 to 50 players in your pool that you're talking about polling.

A number of classic monsters like gelatinous cubes, golems, and cyclops are "postulated" but not given stats.
I didn't see anything in here with an XP value per creature.  The example of XP in book 1 had 700 XP for defeating a troll, on the basis that it was a 7th-level monster.

Type A treasure is divided into subcategories based on terrain!?  Which is really standing in for bandits vs pirates vs nomads.  So treasure types at this point are basically specific to individual monster types.
No electrum or platinum pieces yet.
Max gem and jewelry value is only 100gp?
Maps aren't part of scrolls, they're their own thing.  Some maps are magic though?  Oh they point to magic items.

A full 25% of magic item rolls are treasure maps, right off the top.  That's... a lot.

"Sword +1, +3 vs. Trolls (Clerics)" what.
Wow wishblade is 2d4 wishes.
Cursed scrolls apply the effect in a 3" radius, and may include "transportation to another planet".  I'm curious how identification is intended to be handled.
Potions of Dragon Control control a particular type of dragon (eg, Red Dragon Control).
Most misc. magic items are usable by any class, but brooms of flying, crystal balls, the elemental-summoning items, and the mirror of life-trapping are MU-only.
All magic swords have an alignment?  Half don't have the ability to communicate or have special powers but they can still zap you if you pick them up and you're the wrong alignment.  That's kinda neat.  The damage though...  2d6 will in expectation kill a 2nd-level fighter, since all HD are 1d6.  So picking up magic swords is really risky if you're low-level!  Magic items are Not To Be Trifled With.  I could kind of get behind that, provided that the expectation is established beforehand.  It helps justify cursed items too, though I think having swords burn people of the wrong alignment is better than that - a cursed item exists pretty much purely to screw you over, while a sword is still useful to somebody; there's a good reason in the world for someone to have made it.
Bonus: "If a non-player character is directed to take up a sword the damage will be only one-half that stated above, for the party is not acting as a free agent."
The other half of swords are intelligent with communication and special powers (and an alignment and will still zap you if you pick them up).
Again for emphasis: half of magic swords are sentient enough to communicate empathically.  Slightly more than half, actually.  A full sixth can speak or communicate telepathically.  So this is like, an order of magnitude more than in ACKS, and 1.5x as often as in OSE.

Sentient swords do help solve the item-identification problem; they tell you about their powers.

I think "Detect Meal" is a typo of "Detect Metal" but it's such a perfect typo - sounds like a splendid sword for a halfling.  Or an orc, for that matter.

Chaotic swords with purpose can disintegrate lawful targets of that purpose instead of just draining levels like they do in OSE and ACKS.  No saving throw mentioned.  Lawful swords of purpose paralyze; neutral swords of purpose still just give +1 to saves.

"The swords all receive bonuses as far as the probability of hitting an opponent is concerned, but some also gain a damage bonus when they do hit. These swords are those with a +2 or +3 against specific creatures, but not those with a general bonus of +2 or +3."  So a sword +3 doesn't add to damage, only to-hit?  Huh.

Magic armor and magic shields stack weirdly: "If the shield’s bonus is greater than that of the armor there is a one-third chance that the blow will be caught by the shield, thus giving the additional subtraction [from the attacker's roll to hit]."  So that's one way to keep magic shields in check...

Misc magic weapons do give their bonus to damage.  Well, some of them.

Growth potion makes you grow to 30 feet tall.
Speed potion just boosts movement.
Dragon control lets you control 1d3 dragons, which sort of makes up for being color-specific.  That's still not a full encounter of 1d4 dragons, in expectation.
Multiple potions of invulnerability per week are bad for you.

Protection scrolls affect a certain number of HD of the specified type rather than being an impenetrable barrier.  Mostly.
Protection from Magic moves with the user.

Ring of Weakness reduces "attack and defense capabilities" by 50% but is rather vague along what axis.  As a character of half your level?  Half your strength?  Half your Chainmail dice?
Ring of Wishes - Guidelines are already out to mess with players.  "Wishes that unfortunate adventures had never happened should be granted."  Oh man, I do not relish the prospect of retconning via wish.
Ring of Regeneration is 1 point per turn, like troll regeneration.
Ring of Spell Turning reflects a fraction of each effect back at the caster, except for Finger of Death which just punches through.  But it doesn't run out like later versionf of Spell Turning.

Wands have 100 charges and staves have 200.  Some wands are infinite use (Secret Doors and Trap Detection).
Wand of Negation works weirdly - only nullifies effects of other staves and wands.

Using a crystal ball more than three times per day drives you mad.
Medallions of ESP are unreliable.
Bag of Holding holds 10k coins "as if they were 300".  So that's still a fair bit of encumbrance.  I rather like that, bags of holding that are always heavy enough to slow you down but let you make it possible to move things that would otherwise be too much to move at all.
Huh, I guess the Displacer Cloak came before the Displacer Beast.  Mystery solved.
Boots of Speed require a rest day after use.
Broom of Flying can be summoned via command-word!
Magic helmets can be broken if the wearer is hit in combat.  Wizardy helmets like Helm of Teleportation or Helm of Comprehending and Reading Languages, anyway.
Mirror of Life Trapping can be used on undead, and MUs can converse with creatures trapped within it.  And it's the size of a buckler, so you could carry it around with you; I tend to think of magic mirrors as full-length.

Only some magic items get saving throws against destruction if their user is killed by a lightning bolt or fireball.

Suggested artifacts include "Teleportation Machine; Fighter’s Crown, Orb and Scepter; Magic-User’s Crown, Orb and Scepter; Cleric’s Crown, Orb and Scepter; Stone Crystallization Projector, etc".  Having a three-part artifact set for each class actually sounds rad, but maybe I've been playing too much Grim Dawn lately.

Oh here's electrum and platinum!  1sp = 5cp.

Wait there's another table here with gem values up to 1000gp.  What was the entry on the treasure table supposed to mean?  100 gems?  The "Roll a six-sided die for every gem (or every 5 or 10 gems where large numbers are involved)" makes me think that maybe it is number of gems.
I also do not understand the "higher category" gems list.

Fireball damages jewelry but not gems; lightning bolt damages jewelry and destroys gems.  Both melt coins into solid lumps.


  1. So, a couple of quick comments:

    Identification worked by messing around with things to see if you could figure out their properties. Yes, that was dangerous, that was part of the fun. "I climb up on this table and jump off... can I fly?"

    Magic Swords also had Egos and could wrestle the wielder for control. Fun times.

    I think it's worth noting that in OD&D with the doubling-XP every level (until you were way up there), you could be drained back to level 1 and *still* probably catch back up to the average level of your party before they leveled again. So, yes, caution vs. the undead, but also you weren't permanently limping along with a nerfed character.

    Chainmail bonuses vs. d20 bonuses: yes, it's ambiguous and yes it makes a big difference. Accounts from people who played with Gary and some things he wrote later on seem to agree that despite what it explicitly says in the rules, Gary never actually used Chainmail-style combat when playing D&D, it was always d20.

    1. The doubling bit is true for most TSR/OSR D&Ds (up to 10th level or so when it switches to linear; you'll catch back up to 9th, but then be behind forever), but I still find it hard to justify.

      That's interesting / funny that he never ran it with Chainmail-style combat.

  2. IRT mules vs horses. Ike, in "At Ease: Stories I tell to Friends" recounted the horse he trained in Panama to walk DOWN stairs. Apparently, horses have trouble with that.

    1. Huh! I suppose it does explain why mules are used in eg Grand Canyon tours.

  3. Turns are combat turns (as per Chainmail: 1 minute per turn). In later editions turns are distinct from rounds. In OD&D we just have different types of "turn" - combat vs. exploration, for example.

    You appear to be reading a later printing of Book 2...missing the balrog stuff (which is pretty good).

    1. I suppose it would be odd to call it a round if initiative were by side rather than individual.

      And huh! I have whatever drivethru sold me ( ) - it doesn't specify a version.