[Let's Read] AC9: Creature Catalogue (and DMR2)

Talisman

The Man of Talis
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Welcome folks to another Let's Read. This time we are tackling AC9: Creature Catalogue, published in 1986 for the then-current BECMI version of D&D. The Creature Catalogue is a big ol' monster book, with critters from published modules as well as totally new ones. We've got some real-world and mythological beasties, as well as completely unique ones invented for the game.

I love this book. I'm a monster junkie and the Creature Catalogue has a ton of creative new monsters. These aren't just your classic griffins and minotaurs, or variant forms of hobgoblin; these are unique and creative things, like the desert ghost, fungoid, and white-fang. The descriptions are of necessity pretty brief, but there's an enormous amount of potential here.

Without further ado . . .

Let's Read AC9: Creature Catalogue

The Creature Catalogue is divided into seven sections, excluding the indices. There are three such indices: creatures by name, creatures by type, and creatures by habitat.

Introduction explains the layout of the monster statblocks. This is information you presumably already have if you've been playing BECMI: AC, hit dice, move, attacks, etc, plus a glossary of special attacks.

Of interest are a couple of ways to modify your monsters. First, while all monsters have an Intelligence score, that's assumed to be the average for their species; you can roll some dice to determine whether this particular monster is a genius or a dullard. Interestingly enough, monsters of roughly human brainpower (Intelligence 9-15) have the largest possible range, and can be up to 4 points smarter or dumber. At both higher and lower average scores, the variance decreases: a near-mindless monster with an Int of 0-1 and a super-genius with an Int of 20+, both have a maximum variance of +/-1.

You can also make your monsters larger or smaller, by applying a modifier of -3 to +3 to their hp per HD, attacks, damage, saves and AC. This, naturally, affects the amount of XP you earn for defeating the monster.

There's also a chart allowing you to compare the total HD of monsters in a given encounter with the Total Party Level (TPL) of your heroes, in a sort of forerunner to 3e's EL system. For instance, if you have three 7th-level characters, you have a TPL of 21, and you know that an encounter with eight Greater Piranha Birds (HD 2 each, total HD 16) is considered a Major encounter: "This type of encounter is usually used as the main fight or climax of an adventure. If an adventure has little fighting, you may want to include one or two of these encounters."

After that we move on to the meat of the book: the monsters! This is divided into six sections:

  • Animals: This includes giant animals, extinct animals and all sorts of non-fantastical creatures.
  • Conjurations: Magically-created monsters such as golems, as well as what later editions would call outsiders, elementals, and anything extraplanar.
  • Humanoids: Any human-shaped, semi-natural creatures. Basically, fantasy people.
  • Lowlife: Bugs, oozes, plants, and other mindless or near-mindless creatures.
  • Monsters: This is basically anything that doesn't fit in the other categories. Monsters aren't based on real creatures, don't come from other planes, aren't people, and usually have magical powers.
  • Undead: Self-explanatory, though some surprises lurk therein.
Note: For those unfamiliar with BECMI, monster stats are a lot simpler than they would one day become. In particular, AC goes down instead of up (AC 9 is an unarmored human; AC 3 is a human in plate mail), and HD often come with asterisks to represent magical powers. A creature with 5 HD, fire breath, and immunity to nonmagical weapons would have HD of 5**. These affect the creature's XP value, and are a sort of shorthand to show the GM how powerful/complicated a monster is likely to be. Monsters also sometimes get bonus hit points expressed as +(number): a monster with 4+1 HD would roll 4d8 for hp and then add 1. Yes, monsters were a lot more fragile compared to 3e and onward, but so were PCs.

I'm sure some of the BECMI experts will chime in as needed, since I do not claim to be such. I'm just a guy who loves monsters.

Next time: We walk with the Animals.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
... and HD often come with asterisks to represent magical powers.
They don't have to be magical. Poison qualifies. And the asterisks are given out sparingly -- the vampire, probably the monster with the most special abilities in Basic or Expert, only gets 2 (7-9** HD) .

And the asterisks next to HD are easy to confuse with the asterisk next to the monster's name, which is completely different -- it means special weapons of some kind are needed to hit (that can mean magic weapons, but also includes other types, like the strange immunities of oozes and swarms).
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Looking at the cover, I guess the gnome doesn't want to add his skull to the decorations. And that pile of empty containers- to reduce encumbrance by those going in or trash of the things that live within?

Wait, were gnomes in this version of the game?
 

Talisman

The Man of Talis
RPGnet Member
Validated User
They don't have to be magical. Poison qualifies. And the asterisks are given out sparingly -- the vampire, probably the monster with the most special abilities in Basic or Expert, only gets 2 (7-9** HD) .

And the asterisks next to HD are easy to confuse with the asterisk next to the monster's name, which is completely different -- it means special weapons of some kind are needed to hit (that can mean magic weapons, but also includes other types, like the strange immunities of oozes and swarms).
My bad, and thanks for explaining. Yeah, I should have said special abilities, not magical abilities.

Looking at the cover, I guess the gnome doesn't want to add his skull to the decorations. And that pile of empty containers- to reduce encumbrance by those going in or trash of the things that live within?

Wait, were gnomes in this version of the game?
They were . . . as monsters. There were optional rules for PC gnomes, and skygnomes appeared in PC2: Top Ballista, but they were not a core race.
 

Talisman

The Man of Talis
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I forgot to mention, this book has some pretty good art.
Spoiler: Show




I like how this image shows something from every category (except I don't see a Conjuration). The ghoul looks very unhappy about our sword-wielding friend, but he appears to have other concerns, and that housecat in the foreground looks very serious.

Anyway, onward to Animals

Spoiler: Show




Again, great art. You've got a sinister-looking bear, a (vampire?) bat hurtling straight at the viewer, and a Large Foreground Rodent. I like the detail, the curly tree roots, and the almost-invisible hedgehog lurking by the fallen sword. It's nice to see just mundane animals, rather that slavering hell-beasts intent on murdering all.

Our first monster is the Cat, Great.



We get one image (of what looks like some sort of sabertoothed lynx), but six statblocks.

The Bekkah, our only totally original Great Cat, is also the toughest: with 12* HD, AC 4, and 1-10 claw damage, it's far and away nastier than any of the others. Bekkahs are unusually large black panthers, and they have a magical roar: anyone who hears their roar must save vs spells or "stand rooted to the spot" for 2d4 rounds. Sort of like 4e's "immobilized" condition, affected creatures can't move but can still fight back, albeit at -2 to hit and damage. Bekkahs are sometimes revered as gods by the locals.

The Cheetah is next, with 3* HD, AC 5, and some rather wimpy attacks (claws 1-2, bite 1-6). It has a Move of 180' (60'), on the fast side, and once per hour it can sprint at 300' (100') for six rounds. After sprinting a cheetah's Move drops to 120' (40'), the same as an unarmored human. It's noted that sometimes humanoids such as "primitive humans" and rakasta train cheetahs.

The Jaguar is next, with 4+2 HD and AC 6. It claws and bites for 1-3/1-3/1-8, and if both claws hit it attacks with its hind claws as well (+2 to hit, 2-5 damage), in what will eventually be standardized as a rake attack. "They are particularly aggressive," good climbers, and can jump out of the trees to eat your face (+1 to hit, surprise on 1-3 on 1d6).

The Lynx "can leap, climb and swim well," and surprises on a 1-4 on 1d6. They have 2+2 HD and AC 5, and their claws do the same 1-2 damage as a cheetah's. They go after small game unless threatened.

The Spotted Lion is clearly inspired by one of the several extinct species of cave lion. They are about 30% bigger than normal lions, and are found in "lost world" areas. They have 6+3 HD, the toughest of any of these cats except the bekkah, and AC 6; their claws do 1-4 and their bite 1-10. Notably, they can be found in groups of up to 10.

Finally, the Wildcat is the mascot of the University of Kentucky basically a dog-sized, feral version of the housecat. Only 1 HD and AC 5, they still get three attacks although their claws do only 1 point of damage. Still enough to maul a Normal Man to death, or even a low-level Magic-User or Thief.

Next time: Dinosaurs! :love:
 

Crinos

Next to me you're all number two!
Validated User
I'm pretty sure there is like a small pool of animals and creatures that can be used for mascots.

My Hometown mascot were the Yellowjackets.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Again, great art. You've got a sinister-looking bear, a (vampire?) bat hurtling straight at the viewer, and a Large Foreground Rodent. I like the detail, the curly tree roots, and the almost-invisible hedgehog lurking by the fallen sword. It's nice to see just mundane animals, rather that slavering hell-beasts intent on murdering all.
From upper left, that's the oops I just barely caught myself from falling squirrel, the bear who needs a tophat to go with that stern glare, the wailing screaming flying right at you hey-it-might-be-a-vampire bat, the blackest of black gibbons (who loves gothic poetry but is secretly very nice), the floral-headed tree salamander just about to bloom, the prancing stoat in its signature butt-up pose (known in the industry as the ermine chrome look), the hedgehodge-a-cheep taking a break from its lifelong preoccupation with swordplay, and the crouching old lady who looks like a rodent but might be a witch because everything I think looks like something else is probably a witch.
 
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