All The World’s Monsters, Volume I
Subsection III, Paragraph VII
Whereas the party of the first part….
Welcome back to another installment of the walkthrough of All The World’s Monsters, Volume I, called by some “The Red Book Of The Land Of Oaks”. OK, no one calls it that. I just made that up. Because it’s red. And published in Oakland.
The backstory of this series can be found here. Let’s just get to the monsters. I’m going to get dragged off to do Family Things later and I want to get as much done in the time I have remaining. (Damn, that makes it sound like I’m dying of some horrible disease instead of going out to see a movie and do some shopping.)
Daughter Of Kali: One of a seemingly infinite number of creatures in 70s era games which existed to seduce men, steal their vital bodily fluids, and then kill or abandon them. Uhm, issues, anyone? Loosely based on Indian mythology, as if the name wasn’t a dead giveaway.
Death Angel: Surprisingly, not yet another heavy metal inspired “winged dude with flaming sword and major ‘tude”, this is a giant electric jellyfish. Because of course it is. Because Old School is totally freakin’ awesome like that. Giant electric jellyfish FTW! Credited to Keith Laumer, who is brilliant, and if you haven’t read his “Retief” series, do so.
Demon, Class I, Ice through Demon, Class III, Ice: An assortment of ice demons of various power levels, neatly categorized, classified, stamped, filed, briefed, debriefed, and numbered. A few people… stupid people… like to whine that this trope, highly prevalent in older games and still around in some today, removes “magic” and “wonder”, making everything systemic and ordered. I think this adds tremendous verisimilitude to games. If people live in a world with demons and dragons and daughters of Kali1, such beings will be sorted, ordered, named, and labeled. That’s what humans (and, I presume, elves and dwarves and halflings and sahuagin) do. Sapient beings create conceptual frameworks and reduce things to labels within those frameworks which can be manipulated mentally. (If you have ever read actual books of medieval demonology, you will find they are, in fact, full of this sort of thing, with everything sorted into orders, bands, hierarchies, choruses, and what-not, with very exact numbers (usually of mystical or philosophical significance) of each.)
Dorohime: A jellyfish with a ring of eyes and squid tentacles which is a “petty” devil (although it’s classed as a demon, go figure), that is sometimes employed as a treasure guard by assorted abyssal creatures. When killed, it explodes in a fireball. Things that explode when killed were pretty common.
Dragon, Chrome: Well, of course there have to be new dragons! For every adjective, there must be a dragon! That is the law. This one… well, read it.
I am particularly enamored of the references to high level spells that are not otherwise listed, defined, or explained. (And to keep beating the deceased equine, let us note no mechanics are provided for the “irritation” or “sleepiness” caused by the breath weapon.)
Earth Mole: A “minor sort of earth demon”, filed under “E” for “Earth” instead of “D” for “Demon”, it is an albino mole with pincers and a paralysis gaze.
Ebon Doom: A “demon of the outer darkness”, also filed under “E” for “Ebon” instead of “D” for “Demon, Outer Darkness, Doom, Ebon” the way it should be. (This is what happens when a game predicated on whimsy and wonder is played primarily by the kind of people who, in 1979, were programming computers to store their monsters. People like me, in other words.) Where was I? Oh yes. The Doom, Eb… I mean, Ebon Doom, looks like a “mindless energy field”. As opposed to looking like an intelligent energy field? Huh?
DM: You see a flat black energy field.
Player: Does it look mindless?
DM: It… it’s an energy field. It looks… energy fieldish.
Player: But does it look mindless?
DM: It looks like you’ve spent so much time staring at it trying to figure out if it looks mindless that it attacks with surprise.
Evil Shark: Not “Shark, Evil”? Son, I am disappoint. The ghost of a low level evil cleric, it is found at depths of 80 feet, in thin seaweed. Not at 75 feet in thick seaweed! That is the domain of the Evil Crab (aka Crab, Evil, and no, I’m probably not going to stop beating this joke until it too dies and becomes some form of undead sealife), the ghost of a mid level druid! We won’t even discuss what you might find at 90 feet in no seaweed! Your mortal minds cannot grasp the horror!
Ezwal: 2000 lb furry blue carnivores, with six legs. Hates machines, likes other ezwal. Based on a story by A. E. Van Vogt. Has “frost giant strength”. Should have been filed under “Ezwal, Blue”.
Falcon, Fire: See! Someone got it right! It’s a falcon. On fire. Only called out as notable because it fits what’s evolved into a running gag for this installment. Remember my motto: “Mrlizard.com: Free and worth it!”
Fiink: An intelligent.. quoppina? What the smeg is a quoppina? (Back from google.) Ah, it’s a kind of bug things from one of the Retief books. I should have remembered that. However, as a description in a general monster book intended for a wide audience, it’s a bit… lacking. Imagine if a monster was described as “a giant green Puppeteer” and readers didn’t know anything about Niven’s Known Space books. The default mental image would be… interesting.
Flapfrog: This is a giant (“elephant sized”) frog with wings that allow it to glide, but not actually fly. So, wait… if it glides on them, it doesn’t flap them, does it? You don’t flap to glide. This is clearly a glidefrog, and should be under “G”. Or perhaps under “Frog, giant, gliding”. Either works.
Flat: A chameleon-like blanket on the ground, which will disguise itself as whatever it’s lying on and then smother anyone who walks over it. Old School, where everything tried to kill you. Based on a story by Manly Wade Wellman.
Comic from badgods.com by the excellent Lore Sjoberg. Go read more.
Gargoyle, Stone: Erm… as opposed to all those gargoyles made of vanilla pudding?
Gelatinous Blue Horror: When a gelatinous cube and a blue pool horror love… er… hate each other very much and try to eat each other, you get this: A blue gelatinous cube. Should be “Gelatinous Horror, Blue”.(Oh, a Blue Pool Horror is a “genetic experiment gone wrong” that looks like… a blue pool of water. )
Geteit Chemosit: Gesundheit! This is an eight foot tall black automaton with three yellow eyes, wielding a “force axe”. If it kills you, it will remove and destroy your brain, “making resurrection impossible”, never mind that an intact brain was not required for such spells. The original raise dead (white box) and raise dead fully (Greyhawk) only discuss time limits, not corpse quality. Later editions added various other limits, but never specifically an intact brain, to my recollection (and I’m feeling too lazy to go haul out my AD&D 1e, 2e, 3e, etc. books to research this for the sake of the 3 or 4 people who might be reading). Also based on an SF story, this is from “Pastel City” (otherwise known as “Virconium”) by M. John Harrison. Unlike most of the various “based on” monsters so far, this is both a story and an author with which I am wholly unfamiliar, but apparently he’s quite well established.
Goblin, Glass: A silicon goblin… siloblin? Something. Anyway, a surprising amount of space is dedicated to its reproductive rituals:
Golem (Diamond, Dust, Glass, Gold, Green Slime, Ice, Quicksilver, Radium(!), Tar, Wood): Yeah. Lots-o-golems. Some were referenced or described in the Arduin books; some weren’t. I will pick only one as a sample…
As it turns out, radium doesn’t have a critical mass, but I think any GM worth his salt would severely punish a magic user who piled up 600 lbs of radium and didn’t think about proper containment… oh, and seriously punish a magic user who did take such precautions, on the grounds it was the use of out-of-character knowledge. That’s how we kicked it, old school! (The player might, in turn, argue that a “Manual of Radium Golem Creation” will include all the necessary safety measures. That argument’s strength is in direct proportion to the quality and quantity of General Tso’s Chicken provided to the GM.)
Gondor: Has no king. Needs no king. Easy walking distance from Mordor, despite the travel advisories. Also, a gondor is “a winged man with thievish capabilities”, which has telepathy that only works on fighters, giving it an AC of 2 when fighting them, but 9 otherwise. How this works when dealing with multi-class or dual-class is not specified, of course. (I’m trying to back-parse the name; if we figure ‘condor’ was part of it, it sort of makes sense, except I can’t link ‘thief with suspiciously specific psychic powers’ to any word starting with ‘g’.)
Gremlin, Gnarled: What has three arms, four legs, cannot see (but has sonar), and attacks elder gods and demons? Uhm, if you have to be told it’s a “gremlin, gnarled”, when it’s kind of there in bold face text, maybe RPGs aren’t the hobby for you. I hear collecting barbed wire is coming back as the next hipster craze. Try that. Oh, it has a pearl which, if placed into a staff, creates a staff of wizardry with 50 charges. (Y’know, a barbed wire golem is a pretty nifty idea, especially if you’re doing a modern era or “Weird West” type game… )
That brings us to the end of the “G”s. Tune in next time, where we will start off with the hairy howler. (If you know what I mean, and I think you do… wink wink, nudge nudge… you know, the nine foot man/baboon crossbreed from “Hiero’s Journey” by Sterling Lanier. Why? What were you thinking of?)
As always, if you like this site, please share it/link to it in appropriate places.
1There is also a “Daughter Of Kali, Elder”. Case closed.
All The World’s Monsters, Volume I
Edition 2, Printing 3, Act I, Scene 5
Interior, Pit Of Vile Doom. Enter, Two Kobolds
Well, that got off track quickly.
ATWM (pronounced “At-whem”, which by no small coincidence is also the name of the Dread Underservant of the Elder Lords of Far Gallarik, Realm Of Dreams Twisted And Hopes Devoured) is a collection of monsters originally published in 1979 by Chaosium, based primarily on user submissions and “for use in fantasy role playing campaigns”, as long as they rhymed with “bludgeons and flagons”. I am writing this walkthrough based on the third printing, which is also of the second edition. (I believe it’s the third printing of the book in total, not the third printing of the second edition. Normally, this would be irrelevant fluff, or, in other words, exactly what this website is known for, but when discussing the earliest generations of supplements, things tended to change between printings — see the art changes in Arduin, for example.) I could buy a PDF scan of the original edition on Chaosium’s site and then compare it, but that would involve both money and effort, two things I am loathe to expend under any circumstance.
ATWM (Praise At-whem! Hail At-whem!) is laid out rather oddly. (Granted, it was unusual for gamers at the time to be laid out at all, if you get my drift.) Published in 8 1/2 x 11 format, it’s intended to be read sideways, presumably to accommodate the fact the book was basically printed out on a computer, and, at the time, printers didn’t do “portrait” mode.
Computer? Yes, children. They had computers, and printers, in 1979. They were, admittedly, in the form of giant mechanical monstrosities that filled multiple floors in large, secure, buildings, no more than one to a city, where they were tended to by the Priests Of Babbage, children taken from their parents and raised from birth to feed punch cards to the giant metallic Baals and then read the sacred offerings that spewed forth in cryptic code from1… oh, OK, not that bad. But close. The books represent one of the earliest applications of computers to gaming in the sense of using them as tools to manage and manipulate game information.
You may notice a familiar name among the credits. Many of Dave’s contributions here are not found in the Arduin volumes, making this a defacto supplement for Arduin. By the way, you have to love the sparseness of Old School text. A few stats and the barest hint of description. “The third eye is hypnotic”. Which means… what? Acts as a charm person? A suggestion? Simply makes the victim stand in place, fascinated, until… they’re damaged? They save? Is there a range? How many people can it affect? But, hey, the lack of any mechanics isn’t a problem, I am told, because “reasonable people” can “just agree” on what it means! Yeah, “reasonable people” always “just agree” on what things mean. It’s clear that the professional diplomats and negotiators who tussle over issues around the world don’t have the social skills, rationality, and willingness to make fair compromises that socially maladjusted 14 year olds do. But I digress. Anyway, three-eyed hypnotic apes are totally awesome.
(Another quick note: The giant ant’s AC is 3 + 1/3rd its hit dice, and “+” means “-“, as you well know. Believe it or not, the shift from descending to ascending AC in D&D 3.0 actually got a lot of people upset.)
Aaaannd another note: A lot of the critters here have a hit die range, making them effective threats at many levels. Oddly, this wasn’t widely adapted by “real” D&D until, yes, third edition. (“D&D 3e — We Finally Notice What’s Been Happening In Game Design Over The Past Twenty Years”).
The editors/archivists are Steve Perrin, a man well known to gamers and still quite active today, and Jeff Pimper, who… isn’t. At least, I don’t know who he is, and, like most people, I believe anything I don’t know can’t possibly be important. Perhaps in some distant future time we’ll have a Star Trek like computer system where I can just enter someone’s name and find out things about them, but that’s not going to happen soon.
For no good reason, here’s the back cover:
So, my plan here is not to do the kind of insane, line-by-line, “close reading” I did of Arduin, because, well, there’s only one Arduin. I’m going to do what I did w/Booty And The Beasts and Necromican… kind of skim it and highlight a few favorite bits. That might take several articles, or not; it depends on how much strikes me as worth noting, depending on my mood at the exact moment I hit a given page. Mrlizard.com: Where you pay nothing and get your money’s worth!
(If I ever get off my lazy ass and set up a Patreon, I’ll need to change my slogan.)
Ant Man: An unexpected commercial and artistic success that blended humor with “heist movie” tropes, this… no, wait. This is an 8 foot tall, four armed (two have stingers, two have hands) insectoid which is immune to mental spells and “is the dominant life form on it’s (sic) home planet”.
Ape Snake: Sadly, this is not an ape-lamia or the like; it’s an ape with octopus tentacles, included in Arduin as an octorilla. I find the use of “Ape Snake” to be false advertising. I am going to stat out a proper ape snake, just see if I don’t! Harrumph!
Bagda And Fallowman: While this sounds like a one-season detective show on USA Network, what it actually is are two “Einheriar of the Herlathing”, whose fathers are Toll and Melimbor, respectively. I like knowing who people’s fathers are, don’t you? They seem to be drawn from this book… a lot of things in ATWM (and in early gaming in general) were lifted directly and without acknowledgment from all kind and manner of pulp, books, movies, and comics. We’ll be seeing a lot of that in this article.
Basic: Dragon-like aliens found with mutated humanoid guards. Arch-enemies of the Structured Programming Empire and its fearsome Pass-kaal and Ceeplusplus legions.
Behinder: It sneaks up behind you and… no, not that, you pervert! It paralyzes you and drags you off. It always target the “last in line” by using the mental command “fall behind”.
Bloodbouncer: A combination of stirge, tribble, and superball. Seriously. That’s what it says. When was the last time you encountered a stirge, anyway? They used to be really commonplace, but no one uses them anymore. Go figure.
Carniverous (sic) Typo: Damn, I hope the spelling of the name is intentional. That would be meta.
I have to hope the formula for spell failure is, itself, a typo. As written, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but change it to “*” instead of “/” and it does.
Cloud, Silver: A weird mix of power levels in one creature. It has 6 HD but attacks as a 30th level Lord (fighter). It does 1d4 attacks for 2d8+6 each, and when it’s defeated, it simply goes away and leaves behind 1d4 ounces of Dust Of Disappearance.
Corrabus: What has the head of a cobra, the body of a horse, the lower legs of an eagle, and the wings of a dragon? I don’t know, but it’s attacking. Roll for initiative. It can also mate with humans to produce were-corrabi.
Culverin: An animated stovepipe. It spits rocks at you. There is a 25% chance the rock will hit your head and knock you unconscious. No, you don’t get a saving throw. No, it doesn’t matter how many hit points you have. Dude, trust me… if you’re in the kind of game where you are going to be attacked by an animated stovepipe, you are so much better off being unconscious it’s not funny. I had assumed this was something from actual folklore, because no gamer ever came up with anything as weird as the stuff you find in genuine folk tales and legends, but if it is, google is failing to find anything close to it. (Edit: Maybe it’s something from the Silver John stories? Damn, those are awesome. It bugs me because it seems oddly familiar. Of course, that might be because I’ve had this book since 1984 or so, and I might have forgotten I read about it here originally.)
Well, that gets us through “C”. I will either continue this, or take a break and look at “Starchildren”, the game of alien rock stars in the dystopian future of 2073. No, I’m not “making it up”! I have a copy that I probably bought close to when it first came out, around 2002 or so.
Road Rebels Part II
Revenge Of The Moltov(sic) Cocktail
Well, here we are again. For Part I of this, please look here. I am not responsible for any loss of sanity that may result. Just remember this: You only have to read what I wrote, and only once. I had to read much more of it, many times over.
I need to name my character, I suppose. With a total lack of originality, I’m going with Angry Al.
So when last we left Angry Al, he (or me) was trying to figure out how to buy skills. After a lot of time pondering the rules… I still don’t know, 100%. I even gently removed the taped-in errata, surveys, and notes from the inside back cover in the hopes it would be there. Nope. (In the survey, though, the author asks “How do you think [Road Rebels] should be improved (Besides art, correct grammar, riffles (sic), and correct tab settings)?” There’s a level of self awareness there, at least.
I think you primarily get your starting skills via spending generation points (of which I have but 50) on “acquired knowledge”, each of which is… uhm… well, they’re kind of different. Some are cheap and simply grant a generically described ability, such as Street Wise (sic), which provides “good knowledge of gangs, people, where they live, where people go”, etc., for 2 points. On the other hand, there’s “Hand Weapons”, which gives +75 to four hand weapon classes, as well as +75 to all three (left, right and two-handed) parry skills, for 50 points.
The skill system is d100 based, so a +75 is pretty damn impressive, though I haven’t studied combat yet. There may be an “opposed roll” mechanic there, as the “parry” skill implies.
With only 50 generation points to my name, there’s not a lot of options. The best choice, for my character concept, is “Hand Combat”, which costs 42 points and provides +50 to Street Fighting, +75 to punching (R/L), +75 to kicking (R/L), +75 dodge, +50 to Jump, and +50 to catch (R and 2H… not sure what you need to improve left-handed catching.)
That leaves me 8 points. Two go to Street Wise.
I’m kind of tempted to put 3 into Musical Instrument, which will make me, and I quote, “totally awesome at an instrument of the character’s choice”. Sure, why not? Instrument of choice has to be electric guitar, never mind the general lack of outlets.
So, 3 left. Well, might as well go for Hot Wiring, which lets me steal a car in 2d10 rounds, unless it has an alarm. In which case, evidently, I just can’t even try. It strikes me as odd, given the detail of many other areas, that Hot Wiring is simply a “spend the time and you’re done” skill; you’d expect a lot of modifiers for kind of car, quality of tools, and so forth.
But that’s my 50!
As near as I can tell, that’s it for the attributes/skills portion of chargen. Now I guess I buy equipment? There’s no real “step by step guide”. Anyway, I have 1d10 dollars.
I roll a D10: 1.
The only thing I can buy is a candle. A can of beer is 2 dollars. A cigarette lighter, 5. I’m going to hold on to my money. I mean, not really sure what I could do with a candle.
You may remember I was curious about Condition Levels 4 and 5. They do exist; there’s a notation in one of the paragraphs that, as I speculated, they go into effect as a result of multiple concurrent factors, such as being both heavily encumbered (CL 3) and badly wounded. A perfectly reasonable system. High crunch, but I don’t mind that, and the target audience for the game is self-evidently people who like crunch. The character sheet only shows the modifiers for 1-3, which isn’t too bad, because you can do very little at 4 and nothing at 5 but look around (use perceptive skills).
The Road Goes Ever On…
That’s pretty much it for character generation. If I wanted to fill out the full sheet and plug in all the numbers, I could, but we’re past most of the interesting bits. Someone with a higher social status than I rolled would have a lot more Generation Points to play with, and more money to spend.
All of this takes us up to about page 27 or so. (I say “about” because the chargen rules and other rules are kind of muddled together.) The book is nearly 200 pages long. So what’s in the rest of it?
Combat, mostly. And vehicles. And combat with, on, around, and under vehicles.
Rules for “Maltov Cocktails”, of course. Not to mention kerosine (sic) and diesil(sic) fuels. Four different kinds of paint gun ammo (paint, smoke, explosive, stink). Two different super soaker guns (with acid available for ammo, natch).
And vehicles. Hoo, boy. The author freely admits the vehicle sheets are complicated, because he “can’t design a simple game”. I feel your pain there, buddy. But “complicated” is less of an issue than “cluttered”. These sheets need a lot more space — probably spreading the same data over 2 or 3 pages would be better. The use of proportional fonts means a lot of the tables don’t line up very clearly. Well, see for yourself…
Want more? Armored turrets, oil slicks, smoke screens, nitros (sic) systems, “shitty paint job” (100 dollars), “awesome paint job” (500 dollars), and way, way, more. Rules detail ten levels of road quality and the various factors that allow you to determine them. There are rules for how much damage a vehicle takes when jumping (hitting a bump or ramp, flying through the air, then landing), with the ability to design a vehicle specifically to absorb some of the damage (i.e., a stunt car), and charts that consider both the height of the jump and the type of road surface you land on. There are rules here for all sorts of things I never considered, most of which interact with the design and modification systems. (That’s a compliment, by the way.)
Within the scope of the design space, Road Rebels really tries to include damn near everything. How well do the systems work in play? I have no idea, and no time to start learning them all well enough to test even a basic combat, but there’s little doubt that Mr. Gordon was passionate about his interests and was determined to cover as many setting-appropriate situations as possible.
And all of it is buried under so many basic structural errors that it’s virtually impossible to drag the game framework out of the mire, clean it off, and make it run.
So I’m looking at the creatures section and I notice that the hit location charts include “Four Legged Creatures with 2 heads”. This table is used only for “Zargonites”, which is “a wolf like creature except it has two heads and is much larger”.
Also included is the Kriton, which are large humans with upward pointing noses, and are “hired assassin’s bounty hunters or businessmen”(sic). It seems to me that a hired assassin employing a bounty hunter is taking outsourcing too far. I mean, if I hire an assassin, I expect them to do their own hunting, not get a kriton to do it! Sheesh.
Then there’s the Labotimizers (sic) who kidnap people, pour acid in their ears to destroy their brains, then send them out to repeat the process.
End Of The Road
That about sums it up. Overall, I’d say Road Rebels is a perfect example of a creator’s reach exceeding their grasp. Given a decent editor and a decent (for the era) desktop publishing/layout program, it might have found some niche success. As is, it vanished without nary a trace… at least, I can find few, if any, references to it. When I google “Road Rebels RPG”, the first part of this article is the third hit, and the second… something I wrote back in 2002(!) on RPG,net. And I even used the same line: “Well, uhm, no one can deny that this game has ‘personality’.” Wow. I totally forgot I wrote that… it was 14 years ago… but given identical inputs (the text of the game) I seem to produce nearly identical outputs. Go figure. Perhaps I have failed the Turing Test.
Next time… who knows? Maybe I’ll go to my pile of weird-ass “indie” games and see what strikes my fancy… (Yeah, I keep threatening). Or I might do “All The World’s Monsters” or this game I’ve got around here somewhere about luchadors.
Things The Marines Teach You: Courage, Duty, Honor, Service, Loyalty, And, I Presume, How To Kill A Man 26 Different Ways Using Only A Paperclip
Things The Marines Do Not Teach You: How To Spell “Rifle”
Let me begin with a digression. Wait, is that possible? Can you digress from a path not yet traveled? Am I digressing from the digression I wanted to begin with? Anyway, in the early 1990s, I lived in North Carolina, which had a Hungate’s Hobbies. This was primarily a crafting type hobby store, but unlike most such, it also had a fairly vibrant RPG section. And in that RPG section there was a bargain bin. And in that bargain bin, there were treasures. Such treasures! One of them was Machineguns and Magic, already covered here. (Good lord? 2008? I’ve been writing these unread articles for over eight years? Well, they say that true art is not done for an audience, but for oneself. If so, I am the truest artist of all time!)
Another was Road Rebels.
And so if our digression actually leads directly to our topic, is it a digression?
(Mrlizard.com! Where else can you get feeble attempts at humor mixed with pointless jabs at philosophy? “Oh, 99% of the Internet!” “Shut up! It was a rhetorical question!”)
So. Road Rebels.
The introduction, with its oddly centered text, almost seems like heavy metal lyrics. Hell, the entire game tries to evoke that kind of hard-driving, hard-rocking, attitude. The overlap between metal music and culture, and 70s/80s RPGs, deserves study by someone far more competent than myself. Road Rebels isn’t Metallica; it’s more “garage band that’s totally going to get some gigs once we get a drummer who won’t always flake on us, Karl, and when Joey, he’s our bassist, gets back from military school”. At this stage of my read-through (remember, these are mostly extemporaneous, written as I turn the pages, though this little bit you’re reading now was written on my “editing” pass just before I posted this first bit), I can say there’s some interesting mechanical aspects — high crunch, but I don’t mind that — that hint at possibilities, but these glimmerings are buried under some of the worst grammar, spelling, punctuation, and organization I’ve seen in a published game product. (There’s another one, a very minor league supers game called… uh… I’ll have to find it… I thought it was “Guardians”, but the cover image is wrong (and not the new, “old-school” game by that name released circa 2015,this was from the mid-80s or so)..,. that might give it a run for its money. But I digress.)
My ability to forgive grammatical mistakes in older RPG systems is a function of “How old is it?” and “Are the ideas expressed so awesome they transcend crudeness of form?”
By 1989, a certain level of professionalism was expected. The book itself is not something run off on someone’s home mimeograph machine. It is well bound. It is professionally typeset. Anyone who had the budget to produce a book at this level in the late 80s could have afforded an editor, or at least asked a more-literate friend to look at it.
The ideas within… well, let’s just move on, shall we?
In Which I Wear Out My “(Sic)”
I have to include a few samples of the introductory text. Transcribing this is like copying passages from the Necronomicon, only without the hope that perhaps an Elder God will be summoned and devour me, to end my torment.
“It was the year 2010 when the fires stopped burning. They ceased to burn only when there was nothing left to burn. Nothing but a shattered rain forest and an expanding city.”
“All of The (sic) fuel resources in the gulf had been used up. When their (sic. Also, huh?) fuel ran out so did the worlds (sic) supply lines.”
“All power plants stopped, fuel stations ran out (sic) fuel, and factories were shut down.”
“No country could defend their self.” (sic)
Three hundred years later, “Of the few factories still existing there are only a few people in control of them. Unemployment has reached an all time high.”
This I have learned: Post-apocalyptic wastelands where day-to-day life is a struggle to extract the most meager resources needed for basic survival have unemployment rates.
“With no country and no home, there is only the road.”
Because 300 years after ecological disaster and social collapse, someone is still paving the god damn roads, right?
“After all the toxic waist (sic) dumping, oil tanker spills such as the Exzon (sic) Raldez (sic), and the depleted uranium many of the Earth’s animals have mutated. “
“Many of these creatures consider human’s (sic) inferior. This is possibly due to our white skin where their skin is green or some other color, or that they are just smarter.”
And remember, these are a few sample sentences from a full page of text. You owe me, non-existent audience. You owe me.
My assumption that the author was a high school kid with rich parents who indulged him was undermined on the next pages, where he notes he was a Marine and worked over five years on this.
Look, let me be serious for a moment. I respect anyone who is willing to go out and get shot at so I can continue to sit on my fat Big Mac stuffed ass and write snarky comments about other people’s work. I am, without sarcasm or cynicism, genuinely grateful to all of those “rough men (and women) who stand ready to do violence on [my] behalf”, as Orwell is wrongly credited with saying.
But, you know… you don’t get to be a Marine by people giving you a pass on your actual performance because you tried really hard. So I’ve got to follow the same principle. You get judged on what you do.
“Many roll(sic) playing games are created by a bunch of dead head geeks who care more about making money than a decent game. They have about as much personality as a dried up horse turd. In this game you’ll find a lot of personality. It may be crude or strange but it’s better than dried up horse turds.”
No argument there. This game has personality.
Under some GM advice, he notes “If a person like is allowed to run ramped (sic), it takes much fun out of the game for the other players and they can lose interest in your game an (sic) alarming rate.”
“Fruitcakes Stay Away” reads another header.
“If you’re a weird one and think you might take Road Rebels to the streets please buy (sic) all means don’t play this game.”
Perhaps the weird ones need COMPETENT PSYCHIATRIC HELP.
Trying to actually move on without quoting every other sentence, but I keep getting sidetracked. For instance, low technology towns are described as “… generally ancient ruins that are still inhabited. They are usually dangerous since most of the people are sparsely populated.”
Forcing myself to keep going through all the, uh, personality…
The Roads Must Roll… Up Characters
Seven characteristics, roll 4d6 and keep the three highest. Put them where you like. To the author’s credit, the rest of the mechanics are not a generic D&D clone. And I’m not going to ding someone for going with a system and value range that works instead of being different solely to be different. Too much of that coming down the pike a few years after this was published.
The seven characteristics are Happy, Sleepy, Snee… no, sorry. But, damn, wouldn’t that be an interesting idea for… something. Some wacko indie system where your personality or abilities or something are defined by your ranking of the Seven Dwarfs. Healing? Roll your Doc. Resist mind control? Roll Grumpy. Social interaction? Roll over your Bashful. Seriously, there’s something here. And I’m getting distracted again.
Strength, Dexterity, Looks, Constitution, Size, Charisma, Speed.
And it’s rolling time!
Every year, at GenCon, I get a scoop-o-dice at Chessex. Let’s see how they roll….
So, about typical for me. Sheesh.
A six and a seven? Seriously? On best 3 out of 4d6?
(In the Pathfinder game I run, a player rolled two crits on their iterative attack, dealing 112 points of damage to a 105 hit point boss monster. Later, in another encounter, when I was attacking with a powerful 2d6+10 trample, I rolled a ‘2’ for the damage. Twice. Dice hate me.)
Anyway, I need to roll for social class. The rules note that a given RM (Road Master, of course!) may have differing social classes in their game, and that social class can change over time.
21. Peasant. (Other options were Thief, Townsman, Barbarian, Assassin, Road Rebel, Choice, and Choose Two. I’m not sure what that last one means. Do you add together the benefits and penalties for two classes? Pick the best features of each? I don’t see an explanation in the general vicinity of the chart, but there might be one later.
As a Peasant, I have a +10 to picking pockets, despite the text noting that “Peasants are generally not good thieves since they appear very ragged.” I have a +3 to my Constitution, and gear such as inexpensive, ill-fitting clothes and a shopping cart. My weapons may include a mop handle or a screwdriver. My wealth is 1d10 dollars, and I have 50 “generation points”.
Now we get a lot of detail about certain physical skills and how they’re affected by your “condition level”, which is a blend of fatigue and encumbrance… the more tired or burdened you are, the worse your skills are going to be. Nothing wrong with that.
It’s looking like I’ll need to assign my crappy rolls before going much further. Hm.
Basically, a brawler with nothing else going for him. Probably badly scarred from all of his fights.
But back to condition level. “To determine a character’s mass per condition level he must first determine his mass. He will then go to the chart on page 25 to determine his mass.” Yeah, I’ll let that sink in for a bit. Then, it will sink in, for a bit, while I let it.
Size 11 means my mass is 75. With a Strength of 15 and a Con of 15, I can carry 2/3rds of my mass at Condition Level 2. (Condition Level 1 is fixed at <10kg.) 2/3rds of 75 is 50.
(The necessary charts and tables are on page 25, while the explanation I’m trying to follow is on page 13.)
Also, the text says there are five condition levels, but then only talks about 1, 2, and 3. There may be more rules for 4 and 5 later on, maybe wounded or something? We’ll see. The three-tier system seems reasonable… CL 1 is “Effectively unencumbered”, carrying <10kg. CL 2 is the assumed norm, carrying more than 10 KG and less than the calculated value, and CL 3 is carrying more than your allowed capacity. What I haven’t found, yet, is how to calculate some of those base numbers… such as “Rounds at Maximum”.
I’ll skip the optional pain factors. This is taking too long as it is.
The weapons sheet is also presented here. It’s pretty darn complex. This doesn’t bug me, per se, if the rules are generally well explained. I know all the cool kids like everything to fit onto a fortune cookie, but I like systems where there’s a lot of differentiation between weapons and other gear, especially if they feed into systems that make it make sense to pick specific weapons for specific tasks. (GURPS rules for reach and space, for example, give an advantage to a guy with a short weapon when he’s “all up in your grill” — it’s hard to get a 6′ sword to swing properly against a target who is in direct physical contact with you. At the same time, trying to close with the guy who has a 6′ sword (and the skill to use it) when all you’ve got is a dagger… well, I digress.) Point is, I’m not going to dis the game a priori for a weapons sheet that’s more detailed than many games’ entire character sheet. We’ll see how it’s actually used, first.
Skills: Recognizing The Unhidden
Skills are grouped into classes; some have different scores for Left, Right, or Two Handed use. Some are impacted by condition level. The rules talk about rolling to increase skills, a mechanic familiar to players of Chaosium’s systems, among others.
Then there’s the skill descriptions. Most are pretty bog-standard so far. And it may be the fact I’m writing this late in day when I’m tired (usually, I set aside time on weekends for this blog, but today, some whim struck me to work on it now), but I’m starting to find the author’s personal style to be almost charming. I mean, I praised Hargrave for it, and the Princeton folks, so why not? (Well, for one, 1989 is not 1977 and standards change.)
For example, under Climb, Mr. Gordon writes “This system will be improved as I learn more about climbing. Please excuse my lack of knowledge.” And, earlier in the paragraph, “Forget those cheesy climbing spikes in other games.” Consider them forgotten.
BTW, the use of “riffle” for “rifle” is endemic; it can’t be blamed on a typo. If there was one word (well, one word not included in Carlin’s famous monologue) I’d expect a Marine to be able to spell, it would be “rifle”. Sigh.
Following a longstanding RPG tradition of “highly variable detail”, while many of the skills include detailed rules and modifiers, “Pick Pockets” is almost mechanics-free, noting only that “This skill should not be blown out of proportion”, and that other skills, such as Hide in Cover or Move Silently may have to be used “in conjunction”. The skills, overall, have the mix of ultra-detailed mechanics and generic “just be reasonable” advice that pretty much defined early gaming.
(Speaking of detail… “Sound Detection” is distinct from “Sound Recognition”, and “Recognize Hidden Object” is distinct from “Recognize Camouflage(sic) Object” and “Recognize Unhidden Object”. Yes, that’s a skill. It’s used to recognize something someone tried, but failed, to hide. Yeah. I had the same reaction. Moving on.
Oh, hey, I opened the book to start working on this again, and found the “rounds at maximum” chart… with my Strength and Con I can go 18 rounds at “maximum effort”, if you know what I mean, and I think you do, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more. If I rest for 12 rounds, I will regain my full “Max Rounds”, but if I rest for 2 rounds, I can regain 3 rounds. The mechanical concept here is actually pretty interesting. It lets you take a brief rest in combat (including, per a note, fighting defensively) to regain 3 rounds of maximum effort, which presents a useful tactical option and a way to model someone who, in the course of an ongoing fight, chooses to take a little time to recover, pulling back for a few rounds before resuming the full-on battle. Most games, in my experience, have either no fatigue/exhaustion type systems, or have a pool which can only be refreshed outside of combat.
Well, I was going to try to figure out my skills, but the exact rules for assigning a starting character’s skills are not clear. I think I’ve found all the relevant bits and bobs, but I’m not sure how to put them together in the right order just yet, so, this article just became a two parter.
Boy, did they choose the wrong profession! Where did people get the idea RPGs are a great way to earn a living? RPG writers are paid less per word than pulp writers of the 1930s… unadjusted for inflation. Let that sink in.
And Maybe Highwaymen, If I Get To Them
Actually, Everything. I Get To Everything. It’s Over. This Is The End… Frak. How Did That Happen?
I Mean, I Don’t Finish Things. I Don’t. That’s Like, My Thing. Not Finishing.
A few days ago, I finished scanning “The Runes Of Doom”. (The smart thing would have been to scan the entire book at once, but scanning is boring, so I do a handful of pages at a go, enough for the next article or two, then procrastinate doing the rest, which is why articles are often late.) So it’s sort of an end of an era, or the beginning of the end of an era, or the beginning of the end of the first era if I move on to either other Arduin books or some of the rest of my immense pile of 70s-era gaming supplements. But it’s something, dammit!
When I wrote the above, I didn’t expect this article to close out the series, or at least the original trilogy. But it does. Whoa. I’m going to pondering this for a while. INTPs don’t normally complete things unless there’s a boss and a deadline and a paycheck involved.
The Last Of The Demons Of The “Arduin Cycle”
Sl’yth: The “living manifestation of Evil and and nightmare”, Sl’yth is so foul and vile to look upon that all under tenth level (or eighth level for clerics) run in terror merely upon seeing it… if they save (written as “if save is hit”, which is perfectly understandable in context, but it’s an odd construction, nonetheless). If they don’t save, they just die of fright. In case it wasn’t clear, Dave goes on to write “Totally indescribably ugly. UGH!”. Sigh. Lookism was so prevalent back then, in those unenlightened times. It attacks with either beams or bursts of sound, and all 8th level and below “(even Clerics)” who smell it must save vs. poison or take damage and flee in sick panic, which is nasty. (I mean, nauseated and panicked? Wow.) It can extend a… my copy of the book is actually missing a letter here, it looks like “palp”… to attack. Ah, smeg it, this needs to be seen in full…
Tel-Kroath: A 13′ tall, eyeless/wingless glass giant. It’s pointed out that it’s wingless, because the default assumption is, naturally, that 13′ tall giants do have wings. I presume it has a scorpion tail, though, because it does not say it is tailless. And horns, because it does not say it is hornless. And tusks, because…. OK, that horse is dead enough. Ah, but when he flies, fans of radiant light spread out from his body, like, erm, wings. His touch turns people to glass (as per petrification, but this is vitrification), and every three turns he can shoot an eyebeam to do the same thing.
Thangumokk: An eyeless, winged (ah-hah!), scaled, tailed, copper-colored 12′ tall humanoid. When angered, his color becomes “molten”. He spits acid, breathes poison gas, and carries around “green slime grenades”. His touch paralyzes “hobbits, kobbits, kobolds, and goblins”, which implies that it somehow interacts with the gene for “shortness”. In what may be my favorite bit of characterization of demons, he enjoys appearing as a mangy dog or scruffy stray alley cat, presumably to lure in prey. His favorite food is “hobbit, etc.”, which sounds like a 90s mall store. (“Muffy and Mitzie and me are going to go down to Hobbit, Etc., ’cause there’s a cute guy working in the stockroom!”) He is the “Patron Demon of all Goblin kind”.
Thymorg: “Looks: Purple, leathery, lumpy, warty skin, stooped, 9 1/2′ tall,3-eyed (yellow) that cause confusion to anyone gazing into them within 10′ of him.” You wanna know what else causes confusion? That sentence! Well, it’s not a sentence, really, it’s more a string of words. His main attack is turning into a gaseous cloud that eats life levels. He wears the “Eye of Agamat” (cough, cough) which allows him to gaze anywhere in whichever universe he’s in. And, because we haven’t had one of these in a while, he’s the arch-enemy of BRYGHAUL.
Urandos: “Generally man-shaped”, except for the giant bat wings, three eyes, and “crinkly tin-foil” skin. He’s got an “ice” theme going. Accompanied by ice demons, appears as a polar bear or “a warrior maiden with silver hair and eyes”, and so on. He is the arch-enemy of AMON-RA. He creates ice javelins that he can throw “very accurately”, which means he gets a bonus of… erm.. I mean, it allows him to ignore… uh… no, wait, he can attack even targets that are… uh… look, he’s very accurate, OK?
Consider: As the “god of all Trolls”, he will appear 90% of the time if asked. Ninety percent??? Do trolls know this? If so, I would never, ever, ever, take on a troll in Arduin! You’d have a ninety percent chance of ending up facing a friggin’ 16 HD demon!
I’m also going to repeat my boilerplate rant about how so many creatures in early D&D and related had different AC for different body parts but no hit location rules.
Vorcas: Like “orcas”, but with a “v”. It has eight taloned (that’s eight of them, each with talons) “feet/clawed hands” and three shark-like fins running down its back, culminating in a sting ray tail with a red stinger. Topping this off, literally, is a shark-like head with emerald teeth, which can bite for 5-50 points of damage. Favorite food: Sea elf. He is constantly at war with NAGANDAS but a mysterious and unnamed “friend” keeps intervening to prevent Nagandas from winning.
That’s the end of the demons… so here’s a black scorpion.
And The Rest
The remainder of the book, from page 78 to page 94, consists of lists: Noble Familys (sic) of Arduin, Most Wanted Highwaymen of Arduin, Denizens Of The “Under Cities” Of Arduin, etc. This leads to an interesting conundrum. There’s really not too much to comment on or call out; there’s a ton of interesting little snippets here, but it’s pure background detail.
The most important thing I can say about it is, like the lists of coins and precious stones back in Welcome To Skull Tower, it served to greatly inspire me, as a teen, in terms of worldbuilding and thinking beyond the dungeon. Reading these lists, you get a great sense of how much there could be to create in a world, how many aspects of it there were to consider. Simply seeing the possibilities was enough to get me thinking about what I may have missed or what I could fill in.
So I’m going to show a few samples, to convey the feeling, tone, and style, and hope they’re as inspirational to others as they were to me, way back when. (Of course, it’s a very different world… books detailing every minor noble house of Westeros or the backstory of each and every creature seen in the Mos Eisley Cantina are best sellers now. It’s taken for granted that media set in fantastic worlds will show only a fraction of what’s been created as backdrop for those worlds. This was not the case in the 1970s. Tolkien’s worldbuilding was considered a unique exception, and was used as a justification for “serious” people to study and comment on the Lord Of The Rings novels, when they would otherwise dismiss anything not involving depressed middle-aged rich people bemoaning the fact they were depressed, middle-aged, and rich as “not really literature”.)
Nobles Of Arduin
This is the sort of thing I loved playing with… I created (in notebooks, and in early databases on PCs, that I wrote myself in BASIC or Pascal, without realizing I was, in fact, creating a database… go figure!) templates of a similar nature, where I could fill out things like “House Colors” and “Sigils” (because I could spell), without going into more detail. I figured I could always go back and flesh it out later. I still do that. It helps create the illusion of a wider world; no one need to know how much of it has been really thought out and how much is just a cool-sounding name that you came up with. (Does anyone really believe that, in 1976, when George Lucas wrote the screenplay for Star Wars, that he knew, at the moment he had Leia say, “Years ago, you served my father in the Clone Wars”, that he had any idea it was going to involve long-necked aliens and Boba Fett’s dad? Especially since Boba Fett didn’t originate until well after Star Wars was out in theaters?)
Highwaymen Of Arduin
Well, Highwaypersons, Actually.
It’s unfortunate that even by Arduin standards, this list is marred by spelling and other issues… “Gruesam”? “Cannible”?… because this is a truly remarkable collection of highly distinct characters, albeit compressed into virtually statless form. I mean, at best, it mentions “magik” weapons or armor, no specifics as to bonuses or other enchantment.
And when it comes to inspiration, things like this taught me to think about NPCs in terms beyond “fourth level fighting-man”, but to give them visual distinctiveness and defining personality traits and quirks. And that, in turn, feeds into my love of the kinds of systems I prefer — high detail, high-crunch, systems such as GURPS, Hero, or Pathfinder. Why? Because I want the mechanics of a character to be as rich and deep as the description. I want to make characters who live up to their imagery in play, who aren’t just some fluff text laid on the generic statistics of a “fourth level fighting-man”.
Denizens Of The Undercities
Most of my comments on the highwaypersons apply here; a brief sample to show you what they were like:
At the time, I thought “undercities” was a term for “dungeons”, but later I started wondering if it meant, more literally, underground portions of the city… something between a dungeon adventure and a city adventure, a region sort-of citylike but more lawless and wild, hidden away beneath the more “civilized” realm above, yet still more orderly than the truly unexplored dungeons below.
And here’s some haggorym. Haggorym are, if I recall correctly, caveman-hobgoblin crossbreeds. Try not to think about it too much. We won’t even discuss kobbitts.
Notable Characters Of The Arduinian Cycle
Seriously? “Cycle” Again? Did Hargrave Take Some Kind Of Course In Mythology About The Time This Was Written, Or What? Sheesh.
Man, assuming these are actual PCs… oh wow… just reading the names makes you wonder what kind of astounding wonderment went on at Dave’s table, in between the ten thousand ways you could die before you even finished rolling your stats. (Oh, wait… that was Traveller.)
And speaking of fun ways to die… my favorite Arduin beastie of all time. This either inspired GRRM to create something very similar in “Tuf Voyaging”, or, it was inspired by them… the overlap in timelines is complicated, and GRRM was an RPGer who moved in the same circles Dave Hargrave did, so, who knows?
The Tribes Of Arduin
Huh. I totally forgot this was in here. This was something I never really imitated, I guess. Most of my games were/are set in highly “civilized” (ideally, decadent) regions, because I have a thing for cities, ruins, etc.
Recorded Areas Of Treasure And Death Within The Arduinian Borders
(Remember, Arduin Is Only About 200 Miles Or So Across…)
(You Can’t Kick A Rock Without Revealing A Dungeon Entrance)
OK, time for some serious nerdsquee here. I mean, c’mon, look at this stuff! “An entrance to the Great Worm Road”. You cannot read that and not want to know more about the “Great Worm Road”, not if you have any soul at all. A city literally eaten by the hordes of Hell??? The last known citadel of the Kthoi? The Cavern Of The Time Lords, sealed by the Rune Weavers “with spell and fear”? Holy frak, these are awesome. What was TSR offering at the time? “Hey, uh, want to go kill some, uh, hill giants or something? They’re, uh, big. Biggish. Hill giants. Yeah. Go get ’em.” (Took a while before they got to cool stuff like “Queen Of The Demonweb Pits”.)
The very last page is a random encounter chart. Sort of. It determines type of encounter (patrol, normal animal, monster) and “reaction” (A flat D12 roll, ranging from “flee in terror” to “ambush”, which can lead to some oddities based on what the encounter actually is… “Hmm, you encounter ‘Local Populace’… let’s see, I’ll roll over here on this chart not actually included in the books, and I get ‘Peaceful Pottery Merchants’ and the reaction roll is ‘Advance aggressively to fight, no chance of running’. Hmm. So how much damage does a hurled vase do, anyway?”
So, that’s the end of the trilogy. I’m probably going to switch gears for a little bit… this is the longest, most regular, thing I’ve done on this blog. I also need to get back to some fiction writing. (Got a sequel to write.) I’ve got a partially done walkthrough of an obscure 90s game, “Of Gods And Men”, that’s been languishing in the “Drafts” folder for over two years now, too. Might get that done. Who knows? As usual, I’ve got a dozen or more projects waiting for some vague attempt at focus and completion. We’ll see what happens. Always in motion, the future is.
Trying to come up with something uplifting, meaningful, and pompous here, probably involving roads, or maybe some twaddle about how the spark of inspiration finds fertile kindling in the drought-stricken undergrowth of the parched brain, but nothing’s coming. Whatever. I hope people enjoyed this expedition through the tangled jungles of nostalgia.
Demons & Demons
& More Demons
How People Ever Got The Idea Roleplaying Was Satanic, I Dunno
Of course, the only people who could believe RPGs were full of authentic demonology (which is kind of like “working homeopathy”) are people who knew absolutely nothing about either RPGs or demonology, and, yup, those are the kind of people who did. The fact is, no medieval Catholic monk, no matter how crazed they might have been after several decades of being monastic, could have, or did, come up with anything as awesome as Dave Hargrave’s creations.
I mean, there’s…
Dagonus: Three-headed (each head has three eyes) dragon with scales of silver and gold, ninety foot wingspan. (Yeah, fit that on your battlemat…) Takes half damage from stoning, which means, uhm, I dunno. Turned half to stone? “Death” magic just rebounds on the caster. Breathes fire or lightning as frequently as every other melee round, three times a day for fire, four for lightning. And he likes to get free-kay with Tiamat… or “the queen of evil dragons”, because no demon is scarier than TSR’s lawyers. (There’s a reason people used to joke TSR stood for “They Sue Regularly”. They did not, however, try to trademark “Nazi”. That one’s an urban legend.)
Gorok: A cross between a lobster and tyrannosaurus. With nine eyes. And it has extra mouths in its pincers so that when you’re grabbed, you’re also eaten. Holy fracking hell. I thought some of the things that crawl out of my imagination and into Excel sheets to be statted out were weird, but I don’t even come close to Dave Hargrave. He is the Amber of high gonzo; everything else is just a distorted shadow.
Groak: Not to be confused with Gorak, above. Groak is a giant frog with a head like a sea anemone. He is the “Lord of Swamps”. His mere touch causes all those below 5HD to go insane with pain, and also goes 6-36 acid damage, which mean the insanity doesn’t last long, as how many people level 4 and below can survive 6d6 damage?
Karong: Winning the award for “demon whose name most resembles a Don Martin sound effect”, he has three eyes, each of which does something different. The red eye burns you, the yellow eye “rots” you, and the green eye turns you into green slime. He is the “Lord of Slimes”, and also of traffic lights. (I may have made that part up…) He can telekinetically “throw” one of his “pets” (any of a number of slimes) up to 60′. Oh, and lastly, he has a “vampire like” charm, so perhaps he’ll be the love interest in a YA novel soon.
Kavring: Speaking of “vampire like charm”, this 10′ tall winged humanoid made of solid ruby also has it. Fitting the “ruby” theme, he has a plethora of fire powers, including a burning aura, flames shooting from his fingertips, polymorphing into a pheonix, etc. His favorite food is hobbit meat, and have I mentioned that I love these odd little asides? I want to know what his favorite classical composer is, too, and if he was a polearm, what kind of polearm would he be? (Myself? Glaive-guisarme, of course. What other possibility is there?)
Moloch: An actual demon, more or less. (I’m aware many of the others have names drawn from mythology; I’m too damn lazy to bother looking up which ones, precisely, and how much they differ from their source media.) He is a fire demon “13 1/2 feet tall”. Exactly 13 feet, 6 inches? Or is he really only 13 feet, 5 3/4 inches? These things matter! Continuing the theme of demonic rivalry (which is only sensible, really), he is the arch enemy of ABADDON. (Hey, it’s ALL CAPS in the text, who am I to argue?) His favorite foods? Roast unicorn and virgin elf maiden. (No one in fantasy worlds ever seems to want virgin men, for some reason. (Well, in the real world, too. Has any woman ever said “You know what really turns me on? Guys who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing in the sack.”?)) He can also burn/melt a path through solid rock at 5’/minute, so, if you’re dumb enough to summon him, do it on the lowest floor of your wizard’s tower, not the top, or you’ll have a big hole going all the way to the basement in short order.
Nagandas: Winner of the “Demon whose name sounds the most like a slang term for testicles”, as in, “Damn, that soccer ball hit me right in the nagandas!”. Also, something really wonky happens with the layout here:
I cannot tell if the idea of a demon sticking its tail in its mouth and whirling into a hell spiral is awesome or ridiculous.
Nanta: Voted most like to
be confused with a fruit drink completely and totally massacre you. I normally try to avoid just posting big block scans, esp. one after the other, but there’s no way to just summarize this bastard.
Let’s just look at some of the highlights, here… and I don’t mean the kind with Goofus and Gallant.
- He is only hit on “double zero”. So to attack him, you just roll percentile dice? With no modifiers? A peasant and a 50th level Paladin both have the same odds? Not sure.
- Most forms of damage actually heal him.
- Magik (sic) weapons do double damage, which is great, but they lose one “plus” per round and then disintegrate.
- But to get close enough to hit him with a magic weapon, you will “fade out”. There’s no save or HD limit; you just vanish unless “rescued”, and then you’re undead. It seems to me this is exploitable if you want to become a spectre.
- Attack Value:”???”. Really? “???”? Two decades before Everquest and three decades before WoW, Dave Hargrave pioneered the “this creature is so far out of your league you can’t even measure how far out of your league it is” metric.
- No mention of specific casting ability, but I guess that’s covered by “???”.
- Nothing about his favorite food or his “pets” or what he claims to be “lord of”. I guess he’s just too awesome to have such petty concerns.
Phroalgoea: A much more normal creature, just a 10′ tall silver-scaled winged humanoid, who can shoot deadly spines which are covered with a poison that turns orcs and elves to silver. Because, poisons turning you to silver are totally a thing. He is the lord of golems, which isn’t a typical thing for a demon to be lord of, what with the whole “golems are mindless servitors who don’t really worship anything or make bargains”, but, you know, why the frak not? Maybe he taught mankind the art of golem-making for his own purposes. He enjoys dwarf or gnome meat, animates statues, and controls non magical weapons “if allowed to concentrate”. Good luck arguing with the DM over precisely what “distracts” a demon.
Ralkul: Pals around with 6-48 mummies, 40% of which will be fireproof… sorry, all you people who learned fire kills mummies. (This was very typical of the time… monster has weakness X. Players learn it. DM introduces some version of the monster lacking this weakness. It’s kind of like how antibiotic-resistant bacteria evolve.) Anyway, Ralkul is warped and knobby old dude with one eye, elephant ears, and four arms. (He can also appear as a woman, a skeleton, or as a giant flaming skull with wings.) He is the demon king of age and corruption, and his odor is so vile that creatures of 1+1 Hit Dice (and if you think that’s “2 hit dice”, boy, have you not been paying attention…) die instantly, while others suffer various ill effects depending on their general level. He loves “rotted and putrid meat”, but isn’t picky about what species it was from.
Shabbaleth: We have a “dragon” theme going here. Also an “elf” theme. And a “gold” theme. Putting that all together, you have a giant golden “being” with a dragon’s head, four purple eyes, wings, and a tail, who sometimes appears as an elf in golden armor. He is the lord of “reptiles” but not wyverns, dragons, etc., never mind the fact he can breathe dragon fire ten times a day. In fact, he is the enemy of all dragons. He also has the by-now-expected “vampire-like charm”. He and URANDOS (to be covered in the next article) are pals, which is a nice change to the boilerplate “and his arch-foe is THISGUY” in many of the others.
(Don’t Settle For Imitations!)
Also: New Demons
Both Lesser And “Greater”, Or “Name”, Demons
With Some Pretentiousness
(I Wasted A Bunch Of Time Experimenting With Something Different From the “Descending Asides In Shrinking Headers” Thing, But None Of It Seemed Right. So Here We Go Again.)
We’re pretty much most of the way through the Trilogy now… in the final half of the final book. Yeah, there’s six more Arduin books, and I have a ton of stuff from Dragon Tree Press and similar I can cover, but there’s something unique and special about the original trilogy. The other books and associated products came a few years later, and the RPG world changed very rapidly after the 70s, particularly after AD&D First Edition was completed. But that’s in the future. Well, it’s in the past, but it’s in the future of the past we’re focusing on now. Got it?
Not Sure If They’re Before Or After Lord Elementals
Wait, That’s Rolemaster
The “True” elementals are, well, elementals… the four classics, plus wood, fog, and storm. The first four are pretty standard. It’s likely that Dave Hargrave was mildly dissatisfied with the D&D incarnations, and made some modifications to bring them in line with his own way of doing things. There are some notes: Fire elementals can form themselves into walls and cylinders, water elementals can flow into any shape or hold still so they appear as a stone wall, and so on. They’re present in a horizontal table format instead of the normal monster format for no readily apparent reason. Based on the construction of the rest of the Trilogy, my guess is that Dave originally wrote them up that way and didn’t feel like retyping them in a new format.
Highlight of the new ones:
- Wood elementals are basically ents.. humanoid trees.. and take double damage from magical fire over 10HD in intensity. That’s an interesting mechanic you don’t see often, even in modern games. A creature either takes extra damage from fire, or it doesn’t. “Takes extra damage only if the source is particularly powerful” is a nice way of modeling the idea of a creature whose nature should make it vulnerable to some substances or energy, but which still transcends the abilities of mere mortals (i.e., low level NPCs) to harm it.
- Fog/Mist (they’re one kind) elementals can surround and suffocate you, and can resist being blown away by winds “up to half its HD”. (You may recall that fogs and mists, in general, play a big role in Arduin, and so, spells to deal with them also exist.)
- Storm elementals can attack with lightning, wind, or “impact”, regenerate from electrical damage, and can lead the X-Men when Professor X is out of town.
- Both Fog/Mist and Storm elementals have a “*” by them, which doesn’t refer to anything I can see on the page. Old School, people!
There’s also a set of rules which apply to all elementals, but which focus mostly on conjuration, which is interesting. Evidently, summoning elementals was a big deal in Dave’s games… well, given how powerful they were (10 sided dice for hit points? And always maxed?), the relative power of an elemental summoning spell would be much higher than that of other spells of the same level.
Clearly A Microaggression. Demon Equality Now!
It’s not entirely obvious why these aren’t just “monsters”… that is, included in the monster listings. There isn’t an evident (to me) thematic link or shared set of abilities, and this was well before “monster types” like Outsider or Aberration became mechanically important. I also can’t find a section that spells out specific powers or traits applicable to “all demons”, which would make grouping them more reasonable. Mine is not to reason why, mine is but to document the madness with awe and respect.
Acid Fiends: Also known as “Acid Demons”, these are giant acid amoebas that dissolve your weapons, ooze under doors, regenerate when disintegrated, and “stoning adds hit dice (size) to it on a 1 dice per 1 level of caster ratio!”. I’ll note a lot of Arduin monsters had some form of “damaging attack doesn’t damage, but aids” features, often very random. “Player skill” in Ye Olde Dayse mostly consisted of memorizing all of these things; DMs, in turn, kept coming up with variants.
Creeping Doom: “Looks: A pulsing crawling carpet of living purple splotched green ooze”. Yeah, we had carpets like that in my house, too. It was the 70s. We didn’t know any better.
Lightning “Elementals” (Black): Well, we’ve had True Elementals, so naturally, here’s a not-true elemental. They “blast” two life levels (but only one if you save… lucky you…). They can also “sight in” and hit for “only” 4-48 “but they reach ‘into’ the target and hit the heart or brain”… which does, erm, I’m not sure exactly. A lot of early D&D-esque stuff made use of hit locations without actually providing solid rules for what they meant. Oh, and if you’re killed by one, you “crumble to dust immediately” and a “raise dead fully” must be cast within five minutes or your soul is gone forever.
Star Demons: First, I love the name. Don’t ask me why. It seems so simple, a generic “adjective+demon” combo, but something about it is evocative to me. Second…
Here’s a Ghost Crab. They were discussed in The Arduin Grimoire, so naturally, they’re illustrated here. They’re a kind of undead. You know, there are very few undead that don’t strongly resemble the being they were when alive, at least in vague outline. The idea that you die and, somehow, come back as a giant undead crab is outre and yet as logical as coming back as an undead anything. Making a mental note to write up more “polymorphed undead”.
Greater (Name) Demons Of The Arduinian Cycle
Arduinin Cycle? Seriously? I Mean, Pretentious Much?
We learn, in the introduction, that greater demons possess near-infinite power on their own planes, and the stats presented on the following pages represent their weakened, conjured, forms… and that’s enough, trust me. Hargrave warns, though, that simply massacring characters foolish enough to summon a greater demon takes all the fun out of it.
So, how to handle these? Each demon is a large, dense paragraph. Every sentence is something memorable. Here, look at the first one:
I love that his locust has a name. And that buried in this wall-o-text is the handy notation that demons don’t give a rat’s patootie about mana points. That’s… really, really, unbalancing, even by Arduin standards, and Arduin is about as well balanced as my checkbook. Most of the spells can be pumped indefinitely with mana. I’d houserule that demons cast all spells at the minimum level — no “additional” mana to boost duration, range, damage, etc.
They’re all like that. Most are even better. This whole section is an absolute and perfect distillation of gonzo greatness, awesome madness purified and condensed into paragraph form. Concentrated, highly-refined, old-school. I’m going to try to limit myself here. Be aware that for every snippet I comment on, there’s probably ten more just as cool.
Amon-Ra: The “god” (quotes in original) of wargs and wolves. “A neutral demon.” (Uhm… ) Hates rocs and elves. He can appear as a wolf or a snake, because, why not? And he breathes poison gas.
Apharoe: I just noticed… all of the demons have Dexterity scores that look like this: “Dext 18, spells. 18, body.” I’m guessing this is relative to initiative, depending on if they plan to make a magical or physical attack in a given round? Anyway, Apharoe is another “neutral” demon, and she is 7′ tall and so beautiful that “all men” (quotes in original, not sure why…) have a 50% chance of falling in love with her, while women have a 50% chance of being jealous. Arduin was clearly in a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” phase. Once a century, she goes out into the world to seduce someone and produce a half-demon baby.
Arioch: Black-furred (“like an otter”) humanoid with a giant ruby eye. Arch-enemy of “NODENS” and messenger of “SHUG-MIGGURATH”. (No, not “Shub-Niggurath”.)
Boak: “Not a real greater demon but listed here because it is always with one.” A 10HD demon horse who breathes poison gas. He likes black dragons, but hate griffons and people who play emotional games. As a particularly nifty trick, he will reflect back any polymorph spell cast upon a him. I’ll bet that led to some fun times…
Boreas: 18′ tall, made of ice, can summon the “north wind” which is “like a Djinn wind and an ice storm combined”, and claims to be Lord Of The Ice Demons. Claims to be, you ask?
I love these tiny snippets of backstory. From such small seeds do mighty epics grow.
Hides inside a sapphire?
Calyandagg: Giant furry spider that attacks clerics on sight. (“He hates ’em!”) He has the usual assortment of deadly attacks and personal immunities and allied folk, but also… his fur can break off if it hits bare skin, work its way inside the victim, then transform into a giant maggot that eats its host from the inside out.
Cimmeries: Rider of Boak. “grossly male and very nude”. (As opposed to “slightly nude”? What?) He has a whip of balrog leather, which is pretty darn awesome, though I wonder what the balrogs think about it? Fully half the total text is taken up describing his sword, because, like most old school characters, his gear has more backstory and personality than he does.
Well, that’s about enough for now… we’re
a bit a week late, but this is also longer than average. We’re done with the “C’s”. There’s seven more pages of wonderment to go in this section alone! Damn, but Hargrave was not kidding about the density of information in this “final” Arduin volume!
Here! Are! Your! Dragons!
Also: Got 99 Problems And a Drich Is 98 Of Them
As always, if you enjoy this series, please share links on appropriate forums and social media. Thanks.
Dragons, Assorted Varieties
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any monster category distinguished by adjectives is in want of more adjectives, out to the limits of sanity and beyond. So it most surely is with dragons. Even though there were ten types by the time of Greyhawk (and two singular entities), that in no way slowed the progression. Some sought to find implied niches (I love the psionic, neutral, gem dragons a lot), while others just grabbed a Sherwin-Williams catalog and stuck the word “dragon” after every entry.
The Arduin dragons follow the latter strategy. Dave Hargrave’s imagination was far too chaotic, broad, and ever-churning to be constrained by structural frameworks. We have no fewer than seven new dragons in The Runes Of Doom:
- Dragon, Black And White (Striped): Not to confused with Dragon, Black And White (Spotted), of course. It has purple, pupil-less, eyes, and the tail splits “halfway down”. It can “breath”(sic) two cold blasts and two acid sprays per day, is 75% cold/acid proof and 50% fire proof, but takes +20% damage from thunderbolts. It enjoys eating hobbits, walks on the beach, and romantic dinners (if hobbits are on the menu).
- Dragon, Ice: “Wait,” you cry. “We already have cold-themed dragons! They’re called white dragons!” Ah, but these are ice dragons, which are “translucent blue-white (like ice)” in hue, with eyes “like deepest space”. They breathe liquid oxygen, causing you to “freeze solid” or take damage based on the dragon’s size. (I’m guessing this means “You freeze solid on a failed save and take damage otherwise.”)
- Dragon, Rainbow: Sadly, not also known as the Castro Street Dragon. indeed, it’s not really much of a rainbow, being only a rather mundane red dragon with white stripes and three blue heads. (Thus, it is also known — seriously, this time — as the Blue Headed Dragon.) Each head can shoot one bolt of fire, cold, or electricity per day (one of each type, per head, or nine breath attacks, total). Also, one spell per head every five minutes, which is problematic when Arduin uses 6 second rounds… let’s face it, for all practical porpoises, and impractical dolphins, it’s going to get one spell/head in a typical combat. They like elves. No word on how they feel about pina coladas or taking walks in the rain.
- Dragon, Shadow:
A dragon-shaped mass of shifting shadows with madness-inducing prismatic eyes, which breathes black, roiling, fog, killing all the low-HD types and blasting 13 life life levels out of the rest? Whose claws cause your flesh to rot off until you die, barring clerical healing? Plus the ability to cast up to eighth level spells, and the only thing that stops it regenerating is technological damage? Daaaaayummmm. This deserves to be written up for a more modern system. (One note: Many creatures in Arduin have some form of “Can cast Y spells of up to X level per day”… which is fine… but hard to integrate with Arduin’s mana point system, which is key to the effects of many spells, in that they have ranges, targets, or duration based on how much mana is put into it. I’ll go reread the mana rules. Maybe this is addressed.)
- Sun Dragon: Two words: Napalm Breath.
- Violet Dragon: This is one of my favorites, for the visuals, if nothing else… lightning crackles along its spine, and it breathes ionized, electrically charged gas. And speaking of writing things up in modern systems… probably ought to update this to PF, too.
- Yellow Dragon: An “Eastern Dragon” (not an “Easter Dragon”, though I admit the concept has possibilities…), which is (surprise) bright yellow. Its breath weapon is a cloud of gas causing blindness, nausea, vertigo, and muscle spasms (fatal if save is failed; 3-18 damage if it is made). Furthermore, it creates a magnetic field around itself that can deflect all iron and steel weapons. Because, why wouldn’t an Asian-themed yellow dragon that breathes toxic gas have magnetic powers?
Things That Are Not Dragons
Driches: Druid (Or “anti-cleric”… that’s what we used to call evil clerics, back in the day…) liches. A very interesting concept given barely a sentence or two of description. You could do a hell of a lot with a druid-lich as the lord of a dark and twisted forest, full of undead treants and the like.
Fool’s Bane: Continuing the very important D&D tradition of “things that look like other things”.
This is why true old-school players tend to be hyper-paranoid. You young punk kids today, you mostly just meet mimics that look like chests. If you ever meet a doppelganger, it’s part of some big complex plot with “role playing” and “diplomacy”. (Hint: It’s the vizier. It’s always the vizier.) Back in my day, the entire dungeon wanted to kill you. The floor? Trapper. The ceiling? Lurker above, coated with piercers. The walls? Stunjelly. The curtains? Sheet phantoms. The old sack in the corner? Bag of devouring.
Great White Owl:“Looks: giant white owl.” It it “quite intelligent” and enjoys eating kobolds and goblins, but sometimes eats hobbits “by mistake”. Yeah. And I’m supposed to be on a diet, but I sometimes get General Tso’s Chicken instead of steamed tofu “by mistake”.
Hyclops: They’ve got a wolf head, three legs, four arms, and are immune to psychic powers. They get 1-6 (roll each round) attacks per turn. Either this is something from some obscure real-world myth (the most insane monsters often are), or Dave was experimenting with random design tables.
Hydra, Black and Red and Hydra, Black and White:
Seems to me there’s at least as much room for additional hydras as there is for dragons. See also Shydra, below. Then run. Damn, that thing’s nasty!
Khorb: Headless giant with an eye ray that causes confusion. Wait, how does it have an eye ray if it’s headless? I think the eye is in the center of its chest, though this isn’t actually stated. Oh, and it eats you with the mouth on top of its torso. It hates orcs. Orcs aren’t too fond of it, either.
Morqs: Started off really funny, then executive meddling sent it into a death spiral of serious fail in the second season. Also, they attack like ogres, regenerate like trolls, and fight until dead like zombies. And they have no eyes and track targets by sound. And they’re androids.
Oront: “Tri-horned form of minotaur?” Question mark is in original. I like that. It’s almost as if Dave is observing the world of Arduin and making notes on what he sees. Hell, it’s how I do a lot of my creating… I let my mind drift until I see an interesting scene, then describe it.
Rippler: An “ameboid looking beast” that slithers along the ceiling, dropping down to smother its prey in “3-5 melees”. It has no other attacks. Please note this is different from how the Blue Gunky smothers you. Ah, Old School. Not only did everything have its own mechanic, you often had multiple mechanics for the same general effect or action.
Shydra: Just read it. Wow. Sometimes I am in awe of the things that crawled out of Dave’s imagination.
And remember, five heads is the minimum for hydra-types. Unless Agent Coulson is around.
Sky Scorpion: It’s a giant golden scorpion. That flies. And has two stingers. And regenerates when hit by lightning. And has “spaced armor”. And when it poisons you, you lose immunity to your own internal chemistry, so your stomach acids dissolve you. Just another day in Arduin.
Snow Golem: “Looks: obvious”.
Star Spyder:“%liar: unknown”. See my comment on the Oront.
I mean… hell… this thing is… with the radiation mouth… and the teleporting… and the “psychic charm”… when you consider the relatively low power of Arduin PCs… wow. So, people survived Dave’s games?
Ta’Vreen: Aliens from another dimension. They, like the Argalanthi, hate Thaelestra.
Thaelastra: Hated by Ta’Vreen and Argalanthi… with good reason.
Thralls: The “gladiators” of the Thaelastra, who wear golden “collars of obedience” that will strange the wearer on command. They “can be anyone”.
Thrukk: “Attacks: Immune to this dimension’s magic!” Not sure how you attack someone with “I’m immune to your magic”, but, OK. (Ah, they also have technological weapons.) They look like “bears with hands”. Support your right to arm bears! Formerly slaves of the Ta’Vreen, “they HATE them!”. It’s worth noting these tiny drabbles of flavor text I’m providing with various monster listing are virtually all there is… no 64 page “Player’s Guide To Thrukk” out there. Back in the day, we took it and ran with it. Just the tiniest hints of backstory or relationship could spawn a dozen great ideas.
That’s mostly it for this week. To be honest, this section was so full of goodies it was hard to force myself to pick only the best… almost all of them had some interesting or unique aspect worth commenting on.
Next time: Elementals! Lesser Demons! Greater Demons! Pages and pages and pages of Greater Demons!
We Can Worship Like The Druids
Running Naked Through The Wuids
Drinking Strange Fermented Fluids
And Also Cover Hell Spirals And Technos And Whatever Else I Get To
(Which Turns Out To Be New Monsters)
Hey, I actually got comments on my two prior articles, and not of the “I am most expectorantly fumigated with clarity over your postblogs, with much reciprocity will I obviate the contrafibularities” variety. So I look forward to stunned silence in the future, because I can’t have nice things. Anyway, druids.
Druids entered D&D early. They began life as just a “monster” type in Greyhawk (the supplement, not the gazeteer):
BTW, I have both cats helping me write this. Wait, now they’re fighting over the faint traces of chicken grease left from breakfast. And Rocket, despite his negative size modifier to CMD vs. Toaster, emerges victorious. See, reading these articles is just like watching me on Twitch. A constant stream of useless extemporanea that fluffs my word count so that I… wait, I don’t get paid by the word for these… I don’t get paid at all! Back to druids.
By the time of Eldritch Wizardry, druids became a core PC class, whose power levels have fluctuated wildly over the years. Druids were the first official class to be strongly tied to a cultural archetype1. This intrigues me. They weren’t really a part of the common cultural gestalt (I love using fancy academic words I don’t really understand) of the game’s formative era. Could The Wicker Man have been an influence? Or maybe they were a part of the cultural morass surrounding the origin of D&D, just not a part that reached me, a young teen in the rural wastes of New Jersey. (And by “rural wastes”, I mean “densely populated middle class suburbs”.)
The actual Arduin incarnation of the druid was discussed earlier. Despite Dave’s proclamations to the contrary, the earliest Arduin books were clearly intended as supplements to
Duother roleplaying games ons, and so, druid spells were included from the start… and to the finish, at least of the original trilogy, which brings us to…
This is a good example of something I’ve discussed at tedious length before, and will now discuss again: Ability delivery mechanisms. What we’ve got here, boils and ghouls, is something that isn’t actually a spell… but there was no other mechanic to use to give this ability to some druids, but not all. There weren’t feats, skills, ‘talent picks’, or any other such things, so, spells would have to do.
Milnahr’s Minor Ritual For Detecting All That Which Lives: Outlines all living things with pale green “St. Elmo’s Fire”. (I am not sure if this includes invisible creatures; if so, it’s a cheap and effective way to nullify that ability.) If used on a single, targeted, creature, the druid rolls percentage dice to find out how “aware” they are of it (“what it eats, etc.”). The problems of figuring out what being 38% “aware” of a creature vs. 61% “aware” are left as an exercise for the reader.
Yalnwyn’s Spell Of The Mystik Moons (Lesser): Awesome name, right? What the spell does is summon three spheres (red, white, and blue, for some reason) which bump, trip, and otherwise “harass” the target. So..
Player: “I cast Yalnwyn’s Spell Of The Mystik Moons (Lesser) at the orc!”
DM: “OK. Your balls begin banging against the orc’s face. He tries to bite your balls.”
DM: “He swats them away, but they keep coming back. The orc just can’t escape your balls.”
Player: “Shut up!”
DM: “One of the other orcs tries to help, but can’t keep a good grip on your balls.”
Player: “This is because I didn’t help pay for the Chinese food last week, isn’t it?”
The spell description actually says “balls”, not “orbs”, “spheres”, or “immature and painfully obvious double entendre”. There’s no actual mechanics, the target is just “harassed”, leading to many discussions on exactly what are the combat effects of being harassed by a druid’s balls?
I’ll stop now.
Larissa’s Singing Sands Of Time Spell: Summons a whirling dust devil that makes a melodious whistling sounds, and ages the target 10 years (5 if they save). Sucks if you’re a human, but virtually all other races (per The Arduin Grimoire) have ridiculously long lifespans, and no, that’s not a euphemism.
Druach’s Spell Of The Infinite Insect: Causes the nearest insects (1, +1 for every three levels over that required for use) to grow in size to match the caster’s own hit dice. The newly enlarged (but not actually infinite) insect will fight for, carry, etc., the caster, except 5% of the time, when it is “wild” and will, I presume, attack instead. Probably worth the risks. Since both the number of giant insects and the hit dice of each scale with level, this is a damn useful spell, especially since the mana cost does not go up.
Ovore’s Spell Of The Mystik Moons (Greater): “Same as lesser but balls have the density of stone.” G’night everybody!
Never Bring A Wand To A Laser Fight
With spells done, we go on to “techno magik”. No actual rules, per se, just a half-page essay about why technology is totally cool in a fantasy universe… the ignorant peasants will consider a laser pistol to be a wand of fire, and blueprints to be mystic runes. There was, even in those early days, a constant culture clash over genre bounds and what was and wasn’t “realistic” or “believable”, and, just as it is now, and just as it shall ever be, everyone had a completely subjective, personal, and emotional opinion which they were convinced was objectively correct and the only one which any decent human being would espouse. If your female dwarves don’t have beards, you’re not playing D&D!
Here’s a techno fighting a valpyr.
Roger Zelazny Isn’t As Litigious As Tolkien, Right?
The higher level you are, the better the odds of you completing the spiral, albeit with a greater risk of encountering “a denizen of limbo or other such nasty thingy”. Failure may kill you, dump you in a random hell, or cause you to go insane. Being awarded a “You Tried Your Best!” ribbon is not an option. Sorry, millennials.
Blue Gunkies And Crunch Beetles, Part Of This Delicious Breakfast
(Not The Delicious Part)
Without further ado… monsters.
Argalanthi: 12 to 18 foot long armored bug people from outer space. Not to be confused with phraints, whom they admire, nor with thaelestra, whom they detest. They use flamethrowers, which they hold in the tentacles that surround their jaws.
Black Lion: “Looks: like a giant black lion.” OK, then.
Blue Wind: A “living fog of shadows” that kills you by smothering (1 round per point of Con to do it). It also does 4-24 points of cold damage while you’re inside it (with the new hit point rules, discussed earlier, this will surely kill you long before it it smothers you), and “10 turns after contact all victims become its host”. Even if you’re not dead yet, are feeling much better, and want to go for a walk? And what does “become its host” mean?
Immune to “venom, fear, confusion, stoning, etc.” Et cetera? Uhm… there’s about a gazillion different types of damage in the D&D-esque games, “Et cetera” doesn’t cut it! Level “1 per 50 points”. So a 200 point gunky is considered a fourth level monster… that takes 200 points of damage to kill, attacks twice per turn for 18 points per attack (in addition to draining 12 hit points/round) and drains attributes. Oh, and it gets stronger as it kills you. I suspect Dave brought this out when a player seriously annoyed him.
Boomers: Giant mottled red and black acid-spitting frogs that explode in a fireball that does twice their hit dice in damage when you kill them. “Things that explode when you kill them” are a major part of the ecology of any good D&D world.
Choke Weed: A plant that produces clouds of choking pollen that is particularly nasty for hobbitts (sic), but doesn’t bother orcs. Burning it “doubles its effectiveness”, leading me to think that orcs should grow fields of this around their strongholds, then ignite it when the nassssty hobbitsesss attack them.
I enjoy the weird specificity of the “20% chance T-bolts will richochet off its chiten”.
And that’s enough for this week, folks. Next time… more monsters, including seven types of dragons!