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[Let's Read]AD&D 2e Monstrous Manual [Gi-Z(?)]

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JasonK

Sweet Babboo
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EDIT: This thread is a continuation of Noisms' epic attempt to read/review the entirety of the 2nd Edition Monstrious Manual. Here's the thread where he got started. As you can see, much discussion and many campaign ideas came out of it and all involved had a rockin' good time.

Anyway, I'm not noisms, but I'm continuing this myself 'cause I don't want to leave off discussion of giants just yet. :)

Sleeper said:
Or the highly cinematic running up the giant's club to plunge a sword between its ribs? Or the vicious but eminently practical hamstring it, then slit its throat while it's laying in the dirt? What about the tarrasque? Treants? Krakens? Purple worms? Dragons? I tend to think the cinematic approach is the only one that really works in a world of giants.
I agree in theory, but for some reason my head doesn't want to make it happen in practice. Run up the club? Mmm... no. Doesn't work for me, in a D&D game. Dunno why. The larger, wyrmy monsters (dragons, tarrasques, purple worms) I see heroes ducking past claws to stab at their chests or slashing at the throat/head as the beast comes in for a bite. I don't think of treants as having legs, so a cut to the trunk is fine no matter how big they are... Krakens you never really kill - just do enough damage to their flailing tentacles so that they sink into the depths again.

I'm well aware that this is all a stupid, illogical, nonsense distinction here. It's a dumb perception to hold onto. But I can't seem to let it go. And that bothers me because I actually really like giants. Especially frost giants. It's the love of Norse myth that sits in my heart.

I guess I'll just have to settle, in my head, for giants that are never more than 12 feet tall. :)

~ jason
 
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
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I'm well aware that this is all a stupid, illogical, nonsense distinction here. It's a dumb perception to hold onto. But I can't seem to let it go. And that bothers me because I actually really like giants. Especially frost giants. It's the love of Norse myth that sits in my heart.

I guess I'll just have to settle, in my head, for giants that are never more than 12 feet tall. :)
I almost kind of agree, but dragons are actually much worse. Even assuming giants are disproportionately strong and dragons don't have the edge most animals have over puny humans (compare adult chimpanzee and human lifting strength), the giant faux-lizards still have armor, nasty talons, deadly teeth, and all kinds of other adaptations. Sounds like the big issue is opportunity attacks: The worst a hero'll do against a giant with a 20 ft. club is force him to uproot another tree because the champion broke his old one; while a dragon clawing or biting would get slashed in the forelimbs or face. If that was actually the case however, dragons would have long ago learned to keep their heads high and to use their claws to throw loose boulders at their attackers, instead of risking death. Or just do the drive-by breathing thing.

Combat in D&D is a strange mix of the very abstract and the fairly specific. Hit points are so amorphous it's really hard to pin down exactly what they represent, armor class is a mix of tin plates and dodging, and even the length of a round and the number of attacks have an abstract element. On the other hand, there are rules for death by massive damage (which kind of defeats the purpose of hit points), a detailed subsystem for aerial combat, and a specific note that a thief needs to be able to get near a giant's vitals to backstab. To really do justice to creatures of different sizes would require a massive rewrite of the combat system, incorporating not only reach and hit locations, but the fog of combat, fatigue, morale, and the dynamic ebb and flow of a mass melee. Because a real fight is about a lot of chaotic action and counteraction, and taking advantage of any opportunities. Not just standing in place and swinging once every 60 seconds (miniatures tend to create the impression it's more static that it really should be).

I think in a lot of ways, hit points have to be regarded as a war of attrition. Over time, the dragon strains a muscle from overextending itself, gets a claw severed, gets stabbed in the pink of the belly, and finally begins to stagger from fatigue and lose track of all the darting humans, until one jumps up at the right time and thrusts under a scale and through its heart. It only takes one real hit. The same applies to giants. A melee might involve many nicks and scratches around the shins and knees, maybe a lost toe, a few cuts to the hand, until the titan starts to get confused and tired, swings wildly to smash one of the more obvious nuisances, overextends, trips and falls on one hand, and while his neck is within reach the fighter jumps up and slashes his throat and everybody runs back and waits until he bleeds to death.
 

thekelvingreen

Antagonist
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I'm with you on the lack of giant usage, but for me I think it's more conceptual. As I imagine a character fighting most giants, I can't picture that character reaching more than a leg, and a bunch of characters slashing at a giant's legs to kill it just isn't very appealing to me.

Maybe if giants were only 10 or 12 feet tall, max, I wouldn't have this problem? Or if I played through/saw a few battles with giants involving highly uneven ground? Where, say, characters had to climb up on boulders/ledges/whatever to effectively hit the giants? I dunno.
Shadow of the Colossus. 'Nuff said. ;)

A melee might involve many nicks and scratches around the shins and knees, maybe a lost toe, a few cuts to the hand, until the titan starts to get confused and tired, swings wildly to smash one of the more obvious nuisances, overextends, trips and falls on one hand, and while his neck is within reach the fighter jumps up and slashes his throat and everybody runs back and waits until he bleeds to death.
Although it was smaller than most D&D giants, the fight with the Moria troll in the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring was a good example of this kind of approach.
 

JasonK

Sweet Babboo
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Both of your comments, kelvin, touch on my own response when I read Sleeper's own comments, above:

I like what Sleeper's suggesting and, yes, Giants work for me like that. I can mentally handle a party of adventurers versus a giant or two in that "war of attrition, wear them away" sense (and I have); it's once you put seven of them "on the board" (so to speak) that my mind starts to find the 20 - 30 foot tall versions ridiculous.

I'm thinking increasingly in 4E frames these days, and so I'd say that giants work for me as Elites or Solo monsters, not as much else. But that, of course, is just me. I don't assume it should or has to work that way for anyone else.

~ jason
 

Setebos

Retired User
Combat in D&D is a strange mix of the very abstract and the fairly specific. Hit points are so amorphous it's really hard to pin down exactly what they represent, armor class is a mix of tin plates and dodging, and even the length of a round and the number of attacks have an abstract element. On the other hand, there are rules for death by massive damage (which kind of defeats the purpose of hit points), a detailed subsystem for aerial combat, and a specific note that a thief needs to be able to get near a giant's vitals to backstab.
How appropriate; I just now came across an example of schizophrenic abstraction vs. specificity so hilarious that I feel compelled to share it:

From an epic spell that sends its victims into orbit:

Depending on the world where Nailed to the Sky is cast, conditions so far from its surface may be deadly. Deleterious effects include scorching heat, cold, and vacuum. Targets subject to these conditions take 2d6 points of damage each from heat or cold and 1d4 points of damage from the vacuum each round. The target immediately begins to suffocate.
Is it only me? Fritz the naked 20th-level Fighter gets sent into orbit and, provided he has a breathing effect (for purposes of illustration), survives in space for roughly two minutes.
Worse, based on conventional explanations of hit points, 90% of that is not his flesh boiling and freezing simultaneously; he's just becoming increasingly fatigued and demoralized.
 

JasonK

Sweet Babboo
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Worse, based on conventional explanations of hit points, 90% of that is not his flesh boiling and freezing simultaneously; he's just becoming increasingly fatigued and demoralized.
To be fair, I'd be pretty demoralized and tired if I were rocketed into space and couldn't breathe... :)

~ jason
 

David J Prokopetz

Social Justice Henchman
RPGnet Member
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Is it only me? Fritz the naked 20th-level Fighter gets sent into orbit and, provided he has a breathing effect (for purposes of illustration), survives in space for roughly two minutes.
Worse, based on conventional explanations of hit points, 90% of that is not his flesh boiling and freezing simultaneously; he's just becoming increasingly fatigued and demoralized.
Amusingly, this subject comes up a lot in the context of sci-fi games; according to studies by NASA and the US Air Force, it turns out that humans really can survive a couple of minutes in hard vacuum, though you probably have - at most - ten to twelve seconds before you lose consciousness.

(This is more an example of Hollywood logic, tho'; in the movies, people are unreasonably resistant to blunt trauma, but incredibly fragile when faced with just about everything else. Humans generally aren't as squishy as you'd think.)
 
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Setebos

Retired User
...according to studies by NASA and the US Air Force, it turns out that humans really can survive a couple of minutes in hard vacuum, though you probably have - at most - ten to twelve seconds before you lose consciousness.
Was that a room-temperature vacuum, or pushed-out-of-the-space-station vaccum?
I'm not challenging your science or anything; I really am curious.
 

David J Prokopetz

Social Justice Henchman
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Was that a room-temperature vacuum, or pushed-out-of-the-space-station vaccum?
I'm not challenging your science or anything; I really am curious.
Hard vacuum doesn't have temperature. Direct sunlight is probably going to broil you alive in short order, of course, but barring that the thermal effects would be quite minimal. In a vacuum, there's simply nothing there to conduct your body heat away from you, so heat loss via radiant energy is all you have to worry about - and the human body doesn't radiate all that much.
 
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