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

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#1
Hello and welcome to my next Let' Read. We continue with the Monstrous Compendium Annual series and move on to the second volume to see how many undead guardians we get this time around. At first glance, the quality of the book is already going downhill in comparison to the first volume. The monsters do not have a coherent style and do simply use the illustrations from their original sources (I think). But as my grandma used to say, one should only judge a monster books by its monsters. :)



Savant Aboleth



We start with the savant aboleth, an aboleth specialised in spellcasting. This is probably the predecessor of the aboleth slime mage, a monster I stumbled across while checking out the oozemaster class. It is rather strong and has all kinds of special abilities, including a flat 75% chance of detecting intruders. It seems that every monster you would not like to see you for once has that ability.

The savant aboleth has special rules to roll up its ability scores for INT and WIS. That indicates that the savant abolth may actually be a sage - in comparison to the grell philosopher, where "philosopher" meant "shredding your party into pieces faster".

The aboleth has both priest and wizard spells, possibly from "Juiblex the Slime Lord", a god I can't really remember. His Monster Manual picture makes him look like a vomiting molten Christmas tree. But I digress. That is followed by a chart to roll the precise number of priest and wizard spell.

The Intelligence score of a savant aboleth is determined by rolling 1d5+14. The Wisdom score of the creature is determined by rolling ld4+14. To randomly determine the spellcasting power of a savant aboleth, roll ld100 twice and consult the table. However, the lower rating should always be adjusted upwards (if necessary) so that it is no more than three levels lower than the higher rating. For example, if the random rolls create a savant aboleth as a 10th-level priest and 5th-level wizard, increase the wizard rating to 7th level.
And that's why I like 4e stat blocks.

Apart from spellcasting powers, the savant aboleth is not too different from regular aboleth. It is generally stronger and can try to dominate other creatures thrice a day. If brought down to low hit points, the savant aboleth goes into a frenzy. It stops casting spells and hit harder, but less often.

Savant aboleth are "highly arrogant creatures", which is not really surprising, as all aberrations seem to have a superiority complex. They do not carry spell books, as "memorized spells are recalled automatically during periods of rest and sleep". What a shame. I was already seeing a half-dead party kilometres deep into the Underdark with the wizard insisting that they carry the Oozing Book of Slime to the surface so that he can learn aboleth eldritch lore from it.

Additionally, savant aboleth can use a "complex symbolic glyph system". Complicated it is, which is why I will just skip it. Holy cow, don't make using a monster more complex than creating a 3e character! Also, it likes to eat other spellcasters. Do they taste different?

Bottom line: Did all aboleth have those funky sunglasses back in the old days?
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
#2
The aboleth has both priest and wizard spells, possibly from "Juiblex the Slime Lord", a god I can't really remember. His Monster Manual picture makes him look like a vomiting molten Christmas tree.
That makes no sense at all. Aboleth are Lawful Evil to a fault. Jubilex is a demon lord. You know, chaotic evil incarnate. They should have selected a devil prince instead.

Also, it likes to eat other spellcasters. Do they taste different?
Remember that aboleth gain the memories of those they consume.

Bottom line: Did all aboleth have those funky sunglasses back in the old days?
Those are its 3 eyes and the illustration sucks.
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#3
That makes no sense at all. Aboleth are Lawful Evil to a fault. Jubilex is a demon lord. You know, chaotic evil incarnate. They should have selected a devil prince instead.
Like usual, it boilds down to Alignment Doesn't Make Sense.

Remember that aboleth gain the memories of those they consume.
"Wait is he... no, don't cast that spell! I wanted to eat that!"

Those are its 3 eyes and the illustration sucks.
I... see.
 
#4
Leonaru, glad to see you doing another one, I enjoy these threads quite a bit.

As for the Aboleth, it was always a really interesting monster that I never actually used. It might be their mechanical complexity, and it might be the fact that they require a fairly involved setup (just throwing an Aboleth at the party doesn't seem like using it well). I've never seemed to find a good place for one.
 

Matt Sheridan

Minus 10 horse points.
Validated User
#6
Aw, I love the weird horizontal band eyes. It's just such an utterly alien feature! It says to me "This thing could have evolved naturally, but not around here. Also, it sees the world completely differently from you."
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#7
Leonaru, glad to see you doing another one, I enjoy these threads quite a bit.
You're welcome, fellow rodent. ;)

It is based on the 1e MM II illustration, which isn't that great either. The Monstrous Manual, Lords of Madness and 3e Monster Manual illustrations are much better.
Aw, I love the weird horizontal band eyes. It's just such an utterly alien feature! It says to me "This thing could have evolved naturally, but not around here. Also, it sees the world completely differently from you."
I'm pretty sure this is based on the Cthulhu mythos (aboleth even have the skum, a deep one equivalent), but I always saw the aboleth as a messed-up whale that hates you.
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#8
Addazahr



Next is the addazahr, a bloodsucking insect from Al-Qadim. The thing looks really nasty; like a flying spider. They suck only one hit point, but may transmit a weakening disease while doing so.

The whole text suggests to use the addazhar to slow down caravans or annoy the PCs a bit. While they have only one hit point themselves, meaning that pretty much everything one-hit kills them, one hit point is quite a lot fr a commoner or smaller animals. So watch your native guide.

That's pretty much it. The rest of the entry has nothing really interesting (they live up to one year, eggs can be harvested...).

Bottom line: Not bad per see, but boring and more a monster like an OD&D hazard ooze.
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#9
Amiq Rasol



Here's another Al-Qadim monster: The amiq rasol. It is an undead pirate that got lost at sea, was murdered or died another kin dof unpleasant death. In addition, the amiq rasol has to turn aways from the gods. I'm not really sure about the Al-Qadim pantheon, but turning away from gods seems really extreme to me considering not matter what kind of a douchebag you are, there is a god who's entire point is to be just as douchy as you are. At least in Forgotten Realms.

For an undead, the amiq rasol looks pretty normal, but that's just an illusion. Its true form is a rotting corpse. It attacks by biting, clawing and level draining. Urgh. I've always hated level drain. I hate it as a player, as a DM and as a fan of Baldur's Gate. It's frustrating busywork and and mess up prepared encounters a lot. Level drain always seemed like a leftover from older D&D editions, were every monster stronger than an orc barely did more damage, but enjoy a palette of passive-aggressive skills instead.

Interestingly enough, some amiq rasol are not Neutral Evil, but True Neutral instead and sue their inherited charm ability to convince people to bury them properly. Considering a 9th-level priest in needed for that and you may have to travel to the bottom of the ocean, that's easier said than done. Also, I thought the amiq rasol turned away from the gods?

Amiq rasol have to feed on life energy or will turn into wraith. Someone drained to death by one becomes and amiq rasol himself.

Bottom line: An undead that's NOT made for guarding stuff? I'm totally in.
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#10
Arch-Shadow



And here is next undead, the arch-shadow. The arch-shadow is what you get if a priest of wizard fails to transform into a lich and did not die. Unless one explodes in the phlogiston, obviously. Regarding the illustration (which I like): I takes about one third of the page and makes a arch-shadow looks like an undead giant, especially in comparison to the amiq rasol.

As a result, arch-shadows are frustrated and wander the earth trying to "to attain a secure existence". While being an arch-shadow is quite a demotion, it's not a dead end for your undead career. By absorbing enough energy, one can become a demi-shade. Arch-shadows use all the spells they had in life, energy drain and have the usual assortment of immunities. Like a lich, the arch-shadow has an object where he stores his very substance.

The demi-shade is pretty much the arch-shadow with better stats and grand plans. To be honest, being an arch-shadow doesn't seem that bad to me. Hell, the regular lich has worse stats than the demi-shadow! It is indicated that the arch-shadow suffers pain, but we don't even know if that's true.

Bottom line: The text suggests that an arch-shadow may even ally with the party to gain demi-shadow status. I can see a number of good uses for this one, but I wish it would be more different from the lich. Also, once more and undead that's not a guardian!
 
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