On Deconstructing Monsters, plus a handy generator. Or What do I need to know about that moving thing over there?

Update: I reworked this a bit, submitted to the Fight On! Fantasy Table Contest and…

Re-Update: Download MOSTROTRON here.

What stuck me most while reading early supplements, like Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign, is that monsters often got only described with a name, a number and their level.

For example: 20 x Orcs (1HD)

This got me thinking big time, especially taking into account that the 3E monster entries is, at least from a game stats standpoint, the most extensive and complete and hence my favourite in all D&D. Just kidding: it used to be my favourite when I was playing 3E, because of all the problems i perceived with 2E and, since I’d rather not show how mislead I was 12 years ago, I’ll just close the subtopic here.

Anyway, the point here is that the stats must be enough to convey what monsters can do, while avoiding to consume too much space. But a lot of things are assumed, such as orcs being humanoids, wielding weapons and wearing armours, can talk orc and love rape, arson, mutilating prisoners and eating intelligent species, indulging in all four at the same time as often as possible.

So a lot of information is known already, and stuff like THAC0 can be derived from hit dice. What’s missing?

First thing, damage and AC. Weapon damage is either fixed or weapon dependent, and AC depends on what the guys are wearing this morning. It’s interesting to note not only that in B/X armor type dictates maximum speed, but the same correlation is often kept for monsters: if a monster has “a thick hide” it will have leather equivalent AC and a matching speed. Often, but not always.

Then, morale; that is, if you actually use it. Number encountered is provided. Treasure too. What’s left?

Special?

Picture me stroking my awesome beard with a thoughtful expression in my eyes.

Monsters are defined by HD. HD that vary from 1/4 (cats, rats and tree pangolins) to the sky, with variations in AC and movement depending on AC. Some of them pounce and hide, other give you diseases, others can curl up in their mighty armour. Or breathe fire, have no mind so behave straight all the way, can drain levels, can summon daemons, or have mighty jaws and do tons of attacks. Poison. Collective cursing. Dodging blows. Casting spells. 🙂

Do we really need monster manuals? Or we just need to pick hit dice, decide the AC and maybe, maybe, slap on a power or two, then decorate with fluff. For gameplay reasons we might want to have a continuous spread of hit dice to populate our worlds, and for other, better gameplay reasons we might want to subvert the “spread of power” trope.

Here’s my monster generator 🙂

HD: 1d6 + fudge factor (in a dungeon, level – 3). Negative results mean less than 1HD.

AC: 1d8+1

Movement: pick the movement from the encumbrance table according to the AC.

Special: Roll 2d6 – 7 times 1d50 on this table. Effects are taken from S&W Whitebox, covering completely all the monsters in the handbook (except a handful) plus some added. 🙂

  1. shriek (or some other action) kills people (saves neg.)
  2. immune to magic (1d6): 1-2 all magic (1d6*15%); 3-5 all effects of some type; 6 all spells of level 1d6 and lower.
  3. gaze or bite (50% either) petrifies
  4. a random body part sheds light
  5. destroys weapons and armors (rust, acid, vetrifies, chews leucrotta style, etc)
  6. blinks, possibly evading attacks and backstabbing
  7. 50% chances of surprising (ambush expert or camouflage or sudden ghost-like appearance)
  8. (1d6+4)*10% faster! (many legs, wings, magic)
  9. poison! paralysis or death or something else, possibly (1-2 on 1d6) with an 1d1000 rounds onset time.
  10. multiple attacks (1d3): 1-multiple appendices; 2-multiple heads (so possibly multiple spells as well); 3-simply really fast. Possibly (30%) damage can be dealt to the relative appendix to incapacitate it.
  11. flies! burrows! swims! jumps! (1d4)
  12. snatch and pull close (frog sticky tongue or balrog whip or kusari-kama).
  13. hazardous emanation within 3 meters or (10%) 3d100 meters: 1d4: 1 -2 to hit or ST or damage; 2 1d6 damage per round from fire/cold/radiation/depression; 3 energy drain; 4 plants die and animals run away
  14. create stuff! through either resources, crafts or magic
  15. conjure illusions
  16. fulfill other people’s wishes (magically or because of being REALLY good, think djinni or Leonardo da Vinci)
  17. alternate form (1d4): flame, gaseous, horde of tiny animals (roaches, bats, etc), liquid
  18. create whirlwind
  19. shapeshift
  20. breathe fire/cold/acid/poison for 3d6, 10% to inflict instead 1 hp per remaining hp (save halves).
  21. spellcaster of level (1d10): 1: same as HD; 2: half HD; 3: double HD. Wizardly (50%), clerical (40%) or both (10%).
  22. acute observer (dwarven stonetelling or elven secret door detection)
  23. appear really badass. Can scare low level opponents on sight or at will (ST or flee).
  24. set shit on fire
  25. chocking attack (either physically, or by drowning or something else)
  26. resemble an inoffensive location feature (a-la gargoyle or treant)
  27. Double damage! Roll 1 dice more for damage (like giants)
  28. missile attack
  29. immune to non-silver (20%), non-magical (70%) or (10%) metal weapons.
  30. immune to (1d4) piercing/slashing/blunt/magic damage.
  31. matter conversion (grey goo or green slime)
  32. +2 to attack or damage due to fervor (fanatics or berserkers or fanbois)
  33. invisibility
  34. MTD: monstruous transmissible disease like vampirism or theriantropy
  35. double damage when charging
  36. rotting disease
  37. Swallow whole! hitting with a 20.
  38. energy drain
  39. summons allies
  40. awake objects (like a treant animating trees)
  41. regeneration
  42. teleport
  43. ridable!
  44. controls a bunch of minions
  45. hive-mind (no surprise, +1 initiative per member)
  46. Science! (reroll, but using alien technology)
  47. being disgustingly rich
  48. being completely despicable/lovable by every player
  49. tastes really, really, really good
  50. it seems like (reroll), but actually it’s (reroll)
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scourges of fiefdoms, looters of ancient tombs, slayers of dragon and kings, murderers of thousands, executioners of infidels, the most dangerous thing

There are times in my life where I get all enthusiastic about something, start work on it like mad, achieve constant flux and manage to implement my big-design-upfront into something I’m quite proud of. Shame this kind of mad effort is ultimately wasted as the object of my awesomely obsessive geeking out is sexy just for me.

Oh well. Such is life.

Then when I have real needs driven by real people, such as my players having a single source with all our house rules, and to complement them with the Italian translation of an old school game so that they have rules they can understand (there are no copies of Italian BECMI in my group, and some of them seriously struggle with English) I really can’t be bothered to put any effort in it. Well, to be honest I do write the house rules in our mailing list before treating them like guinea pigs. And then I put them in a google docs document, which gets first printed, then brought to the table. And revised. Revised a bit more…
A bit more…
And a bit more…
Then it got a name.

First, jokingly, “Book of Badass”. Then “SWOZT&M: Book of Badass”.

SWOZT&M as “Slayers, Wizards, Outlaws, Treasures and Monsters”, obviously. It’s also quite pronounceable.

Then a while later browsing the Fight On! Page on Lulu I think first of the little bundle of love I wrote and then of the dreadful thought of doom:
“Oh well I just need to reach 32 pages… and I‘m more or less at 10, plus a few things I wrote on the blog which are not compiled yet, maybe 15 in total. Plus two for the covers I need just 20 more pages, roughly 10000 words. Maybe 7000 because of the tables. And we have already spells to put in. That’s not much.”

Oh boy.

But at least I have a nice name; no, not SWOZT&M.

Adventurers: Armed & Dangerous

Because the the scourge of fiefdoms, the looters of ancient tombs, slayers of dragon and kings, murderers of thousands, executioners of infidels, the most dangerous thing you’ll be able to find in fantasy role playing games ever are Adventurers: armed & dangerous.

It’s an humanocentric game (despite supporting the usual other BX races) because humans are greedy, treacherous and hateful enough to make all traditional “evil races of darkness” useless. Yes, my game is a fucking political statement.

And A:A&D sounds awfully like AD&D. But it’s not an AD&D retroclone, an AD&D remake or a retroclone. It bears some resemblance to B/X-BEC because it’s what we started with, but the only reason BEC handbooks are cracked open nowadays is to look up spells, monsters and treasures. And we’re phasing out BEC spells, my monsters are rarely more than “Name-HD-AAC-Special” and the treasures, well, I don’t know for sure yet, but I really like the way Labyrinth Lord handles it.

A:A&D has no planned release date. I have files around, but I can’t find myself working on publishing them before they’re used with at least another group of players.

Toying with Zak’s Tables

Zak recently put up a table to generate adventures, sorta. As I haven’t done anything RPG related since early september and I have to run a Yule D&D Game (as most of us at the table are atheists), I have no clue what is going to happen and how I’m going to handle my sandbox using our homebrew.

Since I’m feeling quite rusty I’ll set up a major plot to happen in the background: obviously players will be able to thwart it in any reasonable way, but the NPCs behind it will of course change their plan in response to PCs’ attempts. Zak comes to rescue.

Let’s roll all the results, then look them up: 16,74,36,93,3,91,2,54

  • Where’s the basic plot of this thing coming from?

16 The Triumph of Death painting by Breghel

Uh, it’s actually Bruegel, love his art to bits. Zak suggests to run the thing as a guerrilla scenario. The painting also somehow reminds me of a certain LotFP adventure which fits perfectly with the location. Yay for tie ins. At this point there are six different factions capable of mustering armies big enough to invade the Free League. Plus, of course, there is the option to spin this around into an allegorical army, but a real one will do for now.

  • With a side of what?

74 Such logic as reigns in the Realm of Beelzebub (mm1 v 1).

I don’t own the book and my campaign is disgustingly mundane, as in “all the evil is caused by humans being human”. Extraplanar stuff and weird logic annoys me. I hate what i’m about to do, but a reroll is in order. I hope the OSR Police is not reading. 😉

56 Motorhead

Ok, I’ll add the missing hëavÿ metäl umlaüts. I know f*ckall of Motörhead, so i grabbed the lyrics for first song I found on google (Iron Fist): it mentions a dark moonless night, flying hooves, dark beasts of Satan and a healthy dose of Doom & Gloom. Metal propah. Two of the above factions qualify, so it could be an occasion to narrow it down or to add an ally or an enemy to the invaders… interesting. I can see some nice dynamics as PCs try to influence factions.

  • Where am I going to get an idea for the big, crazy fight?

36 That Jack Vance story with the eyeball-collecting monster.

FUUUUU-

Erm. I gave a glance at the list a while ago and, while reading this, I though I’d never be able to fit this in in any way. First, I’ve never read Vance. Second, a search did not return much. Third, eyeball collection? FTW?

Maybe a spell requires a huge numbers of eyeball, a Carcosa-style summon for example. Or the monster is a human obsessed with making people half blind: maybe he’s the warlord of the invaders, and all his army is half blind. Or maybe the eyes stolen are “eyes of the mind”. I’ll probably go for the first.

  • And the totally incongruous element?

93 Roll a random monster. Build the most stereotypical situation you can around this monster. Investigate all possible naturalistic inconsistencies in said situation.

Ah, incongruous elements as random aspects for the evolutionary refinement of a campaign. I love the stuff: that’s what I love in sandboxes.

Well, ok, the homebrew doesn’t have a random monster table, and neither does the League. Google returns this.

My mouth is still slightly ajar.

I guess I’ll cope.

I can picture the thing as a huge behemot 200 feet tall. I have no idea how it’s gonna interact with the other factions, but the ecology is easy.

  • The multivalent trick the PCs can fuck with and turn against the adventure?

3 Frank Miller Daredevil (Run 2–you wake up to find your greatest enemy is slowly destroying your life for fun using his/her political influence.)

Urm. PCs have no greatest enemy. Oh, wait, I forgot about greed. No, not PCs’ greed. Now they have an enemy. Oh, I forgot about someone is holding a massive grudge, someone with scarce political power but with a big smile and an even bigger stick. The big stick can provide great leverage, and she’s quite nasty. Also players have no idea that she is a she.

  • And the new monster?

91 The people who were supposed to be doing this would have no problem with it, but we’re stuck with the PCs.

Ooook. This is hard.

It might be PCs becoming vampires/werebeasts.

It might be PCs creating monsters. As in golems and stuff.

It might be PCs “creating monsters”. And it happened thrice already. Nommy option, I’ll keep this, and possibly one of the above

  • Dumb prop/DM gimmick?

2 Frank Miller Daredevil (Run 1–fall in love with someone who wants to kill you.)

Easy-peasy.

  • Nondeath situation-altering punishment a PC might face?

54 The Younger Edda.

Ugh. The first part of the younger edda is some sort of epic. As result of the invasion the regime change might strip them of their chartered group status and crenelation benefits: in fact, changing their group of recognized adventurers to a group of adventurers armed and dangerous.

Overall comment: it’s a useful tool. Feels like divinating with a postmodern tarot deck, a welcome addition to my toolbox, where I also briefly discussed usage of an actual decks. I’m really satisfied with the table even if some of the entries are a bit extraneous to me (like those regarding american comics), but nothing forbids from swapping entries with more congenial stuff.