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[Let's Read] AD&D 2e Monstrous Compendium Annual Vol. I

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#1
Welcome to my next Let's Read. This time, we will take a closer look at the Monstrous Compendium Annuals, starting with the first volume. In case you are not familiar with the annual: The annuals collect the monster from Dragon from a certain time and put them all into one book for easy accessibility. Apart from that, they have the usual 2e monster entry style and are a colourful mixture of all kinds of monsters. So, let's start right away. Comments, critique and stories about your experience with these monsters are welcome, as always. :)



Aballin



What looks like a blue alien tree with swivelling hips is actually a creature made of water, also called "living water". Though looking like a water elemental, the aballin does not speak Water (in fact, it does not speak at all) and seems to have developed independently from the elemental plane of water. The aballin is acidic and any creature lured into one is trapped and digested over the course of some weeks, so the ability of breathing under water does not help here. But it probably leads to you being digested after having not drowned, hehe.

The aballin lives where water is available (it's invisible in water) and is an important part of the ecosystem, as it keeps the number of larger predators low. If moving over land or swallowing a victim, the aballin "alters its molecular structure in to a gelatinous pseudopod". Its molecular structure? How does that work? Does it turn into polywater?

Anyway, aballins can be encountered alone or in families. A water family, how cute! If just a couple, the aballins may even fuse into one creature. Water-modifying spells like transmute water or lower water worj on them, but for some reason, the aballins is immune to a number of elements, even cold and electricity. Why that?

Bottom line: I like this monster. You can have a ton of fun by unleashing one (or several) on your players, and they can have a ton of fun fighting it. Or form an alliance with it. Catching it in a jar. Putting some in the cistern of the Bad Guy Castle. Casting spells with funny effects on it. It's like the water elemental, but much more interesting.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
#2
I don't get why they are affected by water spells or their immunity to cold either. Electricity can be chalked up to their ability to conduct it through their body. Does it list anything other than flesh that is affected by their acid? If they could dissolve stone (slowly), aballins could reshape dungeons and redirect water ways to flood their hunting grounds (above or below ground).

I think it is meant to be a less lethal version of the water weird.
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#3
Does it list anything other than flesh that is affected by their acid?
Only organic material seems to be affected. In other words: Gold, jewels and other loot will still be there.

I think it is meant to be a less lethal version of the water weird.
We will get to the weird elementals eventually.
 

CaliberX

Registered User
Validated User
#4
I recall a low level FR module that features one of these, of course camouflaged as regular water in a fountain. The name escapes me, but I remember it being super deadly (it was a rather low level module!)

But yeah, seems like a water elemental that isn't. Kinda like a really runny ooze.
 

Collective_Restraint

Registered User
Validated User
#5
I recall a low level FR module that features one of these, of course camouflaged as regular water in a fountain. The name escapes me, but I remember it being super deadly (it was a rather low level module!)
Yes ! It's part of the module included with the 2E Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting boxed set called Beneath the Twisted Tower. They suggest to run it for a 1st-3rd level group of PCs and seriously, even for 3rd level PCs that quest is incredibly deadly ! What's funny is that my group is currently running that module and we are at 3rd level (although we only have 4 PCs, that might be why it's very hard).

The "Living Water" in that module is actually camouflaging as a puddle of water in front of an underground pool of water that is supposed to hide a secret underwater passage. Our fight against it was very funny. Our group consists of a human Wild Mage, human Ranger, human Cleric of Selune and half-orc Fighter-Thief. The Aballin waited for us to check the pool of water and attacked from behind the Wild Mage which is our lantern bearer. She ended up engulfed and our lantern snuffed out ! Panic ensues but both the half-orc and Cleric of Selune have infravision. The Ranger tries to light up a torch in a panic, the half-orc hits the Aballin with his magic sword (without hitting the mage) and is disapointed to see the sword not doing any damage (immunity to cutting weapons). The cleric, convinced that the critter was immune to normal weapons, start casting a Magical Stone spell while grabbing up pebbles on the cavern floor. The mage remembers that she had a potion of water breathing on her and tries to drink it up without swallowing some of the Aballin :) . The half-orc seeing his cutting weapon didn't seem to work, tried to hit it with the flat of the blade. Thinking it was a cool idea, I ruled that it was able to damage it. The ranger tried to hit the Aballin by throwing a rock from the floor but critically misses, ends up hitting the half-orc with maximum damage by accident. The cleric was able to finish it up with the Magical Stones. It was an entertaining fight. Still, I can't picture how well it would have run with 1st level PCs with no access to magic weapons...
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#6
Abyss Ant



Next is the ant... from hell! Well, no really. Quite the opposite, in fact. Contrary to what you might think, the abyss ant actually is from the Abyss. It is similar to the regular giant ant, but also pink, intelligent and Neutral Evil. It's not all that strong, but fearless and appears in huge numbers. Also, it has telepathy, alerting the whole colony once a single ant is attacked.

Abyss ants sometimes appear outside the Abyss if either an evil summoner summons them or if a colony annoys the demons and they simply gate it into another plane. That is a good hook for an adventure: The PCs come to a large city where citizens have started to disappear. The trails lead the party to the sewers and a nest of abyss ants in it. That includes a currently closed gate to the Abyss. Hey, you can throw in all kinds of stuff here, like the ant queen having her throne room in the dungeons of the city hall!

Why are the abyss ants actually evil, you ask? They keep other large life forms (cattle, humanoids etc.) to eat them later. "Eating" here means dissolving the victim and distributing it to the ant colony. That is so final that it's not even possible to resurrect someone with resurrect after that. Isn't that against the rules? Or maybe it is the ants' acid, which is so strong that is is used as a primary ingredient for the alkahest. I didn't even know that existed in the D&D universe.

The abyss ants are a good choice if you need a darker, more sinister variant of mass insects. Their connection to the Abyss can be included in all kinds of ways. I can even imagine using them as an alternative to a zombie apocalypse.
 

ru

temporary avatar
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#7
Are they demonic ants, or are they normal biological (giant, intelligent) ants that just happen to live there? The latter opens up all sorts of questions - how did they get there, and why? how did they survive? how much other non-demonic ecology does the Abyss support?
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#8
@Collective_Restraint: Nice story. :)


Are they demonic ants, or are they normal biological (giant, intelligent) ants that just happen to live there? The latter opens up all sorts of questions - how did they get there, and why? how did they survive? how much other non-demonic ecology does the Abyss support?
They just seems to be Neutral Evil smart ants, not relatives of real demons. They survive by building their own ecosystem with cattle and enslaved sentient beings, which is what makes them evil. But to be honest, I'm not sure how the Abyss even looks like. My group never travelled there and I don't think I read that many source books on it.
 

CaliberX

Registered User
Validated User
#9
Yes ! It's part of the module included with the 2E Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting boxed set called Beneath the Twisted Tower. They suggest to run it for a 1st-3rd level group of PCs and seriously, even for 3rd level PCs that quest is incredibly deadly ! What's funny is that my group is currently running that module and we are at 3rd level (although we only have 4 PCs, that might be why it's very hard).

The "Living Water" in that module is actually camouflaging as a puddle of water in front of an underground pool of water that is supposed to hide a secret underwater passage. Our fight against it was very funny. Our group consists of a human Wild Mage, human Ranger, human Cleric of Selune and half-orc Fighter-Thief. The Aballin waited for us to check the pool of water and attacked from behind the Wild Mage which is our lantern bearer. She ended up engulfed and our lantern snuffed out ! Panic ensues but both the half-orc and Cleric of Selune have infravision. The Ranger tries to light up a torch in a panic, the half-orc hits the Aballin with his magic sword (without hitting the mage) and is disapointed to see the sword not doing any damage (immunity to cutting weapons). The cleric, convinced that the critter was immune to normal weapons, start casting a Magical Stone spell while grabbing up pebbles on the cavern floor. The mage remembers that she had a potion of water breathing on her and tries to drink it up without swallowing some of the Aballin :) . The half-orc seeing his cutting weapon didn't seem to work, tried to hit it with the flat of the blade. Thinking it was a cool idea, I ruled that it was able to damage it. The ranger tried to hit the Aballin by throwing a rock from the floor but critically misses, ends up hitting the half-orc with maximum damage by accident. The cleric was able to finish it up with the Magical Stones. It was an entertaining fight. Still, I can't picture how well it would have run with 1st level PCs with no access to magic weapons...
Yes! That's the one! I've run it probably a dozen times, with a TPK each time. There's a set of traps by a 100' climb that only one party has ever made it past, and they died shortly after that. No idea where those traps are in relation to the aballin though; been a long time since I looked at that thing. :)
 

Collective_Restraint

Registered User
Validated User
#10
Forgot to add, there was even Monstrous Compendium binder pages part of that 2E FR Campaign Setting boxed set. I think that the image of the Aballin is a lot cooler than the one they put in the Annual version (even though it's only black and white) :
 
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