• The window for editing your posts has been extended from 48 hours to about two weeks or so. Please report any problems with this in Trouble Tickets.

[Let's Read] D&D 3.0 Monster Manual II

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
*nods*
And I'm trying to think of a monster that can only be used as an anthropophagic cult monster.
My first thought would be 5e gnolls. As distinct from the variable takes on gnolls from other editions/settings, of course. It's not true of all gaming groups, but I can't say our table would be super-fascinated by Chaotic Evil Only Man-Eaters as a recurring threat.
 

Bira

Member
Validated User
D&D is both hugely popular and has this thing about trying to be all things for all people. So you get a lot of variation between tables. Not all games are going to feature all monsters, and if you have a group that plays a lot there might come a point where the "classic" bestiary begins to feel stale, or where your players have already memorized the stats and weaknesses of every monster. So from that perspective, having a lot of monsters to choose from is good. It keeps things fresh and potentially allows you to come up with very different worlds from the standard.

Of course, a lot of that is also a bit of legacy design from the days when D&D leaned very heavily on what we today call "palette swap monsters". Back in OD&D and BECMI there was no such thing as monster advancement. So you had a succession of increasingly strong monsters filling the same role. You could do a whole campaign against forces of monstrous humanoids that fight with weapons, starting with kobolds and moving on to goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, gnolls, bugbears, ogres and giants in roughly that order. These days it could be kobolds all the way, so there's technically no need for all the different humanoids. On the other hand they've now become traditional, so grognards are gonna grognard if you officially remove all of them from the game. Which results in authors working hard to come up with distinct niches for each of them.
 

thirdkingdom

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
D&D is both hugely popular and has this thing about trying to be all things for all people. So you get a lot of variation between tables. Not all games are going to feature all monsters, and if you have a group that plays a lot there might come a point where the "classic" bestiary begins to feel stale, or where your players have already memorized the stats and weaknesses of every monster. So from that perspective, having a lot of monsters to choose from is good. It keeps things fresh and potentially allows you to come up with very different worlds from the standard.

Of course, a lot of that is also a bit of legacy design from the days when D&D leaned very heavily on what we today call "palette swap monsters". Back in OD&D and BECMI there was no such thing as monster advancement. So you had a succession of increasingly strong monsters filling the same role. You could do a whole campaign against forces of monstrous humanoids that fight with weapons, starting with kobolds and moving on to goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, gnolls, bugbears, ogres and giants in roughly that order. These days it could be kobolds all the way, so there's technically no need for all the different humanoids. On the other hand they've now become traditional, so grognards are gonna grognard if you officially remove all of them from the game. Which results in authors working hard to come up with distinct niches for each of them.
Dammit! This is the second time today I wishes I could find that thread where OG talked about undead advancing!
 

Bira

Member
Validated User
I'm most definitely not speaking authoritatively about this :).

I get most of this stuff from osmosis by reading blog posts about old-school D&D, and they tend to treat published text as gospel, so they're mostly about using stronger monsters instead of advancing existing ones: "you want 2HD humanoids, you use gnolls; don't call them orcs". I even remember a post that explained why "1+1 HD" on a monster is a bigger deal than it looks, and framed the whole thing in terms of "graduating from orcs to hobgoblins".

I can certainly believe that what actually went on in the original groups was markedly different from what got published.
 

Talisman

The Man of Talis
RPGnet Member
Validated User
As far back as Moldvay basic, kobolds (1/2 HD) had a 2 HD chieftain, and orcs (1 HD) had a 4 HD leader. Goblins (1-1 HD) had a 3 HD chief and 2 HD bodyguards.

I'm sure lots of GMs just tacked on a few extra HD and +1 or +2 to hit and damage to make "elite orc badasses" or whatever, but the general assumption was that kobolds were weak little vermin, orcs were only dangerous in hordes, etc. Mid-level adventurers didn't fight goblins, the fought ogres. And so on.

I think 3e was the first edition to explicitly call out advancing monsters as something you could, nay, should do.
 

thirdkingdom

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
As far back as Moldvay basic, kobolds (1/2 HD) had a 2 HD chieftain, and orcs (1 HD) had a 4 HD leader. Goblins (1-1 HD) had a 3 HD chief and 2 HD bodyguards.

I'm sure lots of GMs just tacked on a few extra HD and +1 or +2 to hit and damage to make "elite orc badasses" or whatever, but the general assumption was that kobolds were weak little vermin, orcs were only dangerous in hordes, etc. Mid-level adventurers didn't fight goblins, the fought ogres. And so on.

I think 3e was the first edition to explicitly call out advancing monsters as something you could, nay, should do.
I found it!

UP IN THE AIR, JUNIOR BIRDMEN!

In Volume 1 of Original D&D, Gary wrote that “There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top.” I’ve noted that I played several Balrogs, and way back in the Introduction, I told the story of Sir Fang, the first Vampire player character.

Note, however, that Sir Fang was not the LAST Vampire player character.

One of the gang at the U of Minnesota wanted to play a vampire. This was LONG before vampires were sparkly, and, for that matter, long before they were Brad Pitt. A vampire was Christopher Lee or Bela Lugosi in tuxedo and opera cape, period.

In D&D, if you wanted to play anything, you ALWAYS started low level and worked your way up. D&D undead had a correlation between type and hit dice; a Skeleton was 1 HD, a Zombie 2, etc, up through Ghoul, Wight, Wraith, Mummy, Spectre, Vampire… so our would-be vampire started, of course, as a Skeleton. But at long last he became a vampire, and then, per the rules, proceeded to make a bunch of slaves by “putting the fangs to them.” Of course, those killed would rise with 1 HD also… as a Skeleton.

Eventually the vampire got a cohort of slave vampires and spectres following him. Hooray.

Well, one dark moonlit night our PC and his henchpires were out travelling somewhere and had a random encounter… another band of vampires. PC decides he’s going to eliminate the lead vampire of the other gang and take them all over; the NPC vampire had much the same idea. And the fight was on.

Vampire attacks Spectre. Vampire hits; Spectre is drained 2 levels; Spectre becomes a Wraith.

Wraith attacks a different enemy, a Spectre, because it’s easier to hit, and hits. But wraiths drain one level, not two, so the enemy Spectre is drained one level… and turns into a mummy.

Oh, by the way… both vampire gangs had been flying, and were fighting at an approximate altitude of 1000 feet above the ground. And mummies are notable for their aerodynamics – “notable” in the sense of, “They fly about as well as a dessicated human corpse that’s had its internal organs pulled out and then been wrapped in bandages.”

And the hapless mummy plummets earthward, flapping its arms madly.

I’m sure you can see where this is heading. The aerial duel continued in something rather like “Night of the Living Dead” meets “Blue Max,” and as the combatants were drained levels, they would eventually hit a non-flying form… zombie, ghoul, wight, or mummy… and go hurtling towards the ground in the grip of that puissant incantation, “9.8 meters per second squared”.

I picture the peasants below, huddling in their wretched huts and praying as hard as they can as various half-decomposed bodies fall out of the sky to land with meaty thumps. On the other hand, all that organic material would be great fertilizer.

I’ve never needed rules for “comic relief” in D&D. Wait patiently and the players will provide it in abundance.
 

Capellan

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I think 3e was the first edition to explicitly call out advancing monsters as something you could, nay, should do.
It was the first to give an actual set of rules for doing it, but at least as far back as 1e there have been official adventures with advanced versions of Orcs and other humanoids. I mean, it was easy as writing something like:

Orc Bodyguards (6); AC 5 (chainmail); HP 40, 35, 34, 33, 30, 28; Saves F4; Atk F4; Dmg 1-10+2 (halberds)

Bingo, Orcs that fight and make saving throws as 4th level fighters and have more HP than their brethren.
 

Bira

Member
Validated User
I remember seeing those in AD&D sometimes, which is why I specified OD&D and BECMI. AD&D started including that sort of stat block and kinda had this tension between keeping monster stats sparse and detailing them like characters that eventually got resolved in favor of fully detailed monsters in 3e.
 

rakehell

Registered User
Validated User
I'm sure lots of GMs just tacked on a few extra HD and +1 or +2 to hit and damage to make "elite orc badasses" or whatever, but the general assumption was that kobolds were weak little vermin, orcs were only dangerous in hordes, etc. Mid-level adventurers didn't fight goblins, the fought ogres. And so on.

I think 3e was the first edition to explicitly call out advancing monsters as something you could, nay, should do.
I can tell you for a fact that some 1e-2e DMs would just sort of stack fighter levels on monsters in an ad-hoc fashion, based on occasional notes in modules that said things like "the orc chieftain fights as an 8th level fighter". I mean, it's not like we paid strict attention to "demi-human" level limits either. Many, many groups were effectively playing Basic with extra bells and whistles drawn from the AD&D PHB.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
In addition to the examples in B/X, the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual also specifies leaders-types for nearly all the humanoids. For instance orcs have leaders and assistants (max hp), subchiefs and guards (better AC, 11 hp, fight as 2 HD monsters, different damage), and chief and bodyguards (better AC, 12+1d4 hp, 3 HD, extra damage).

Also, both BECMI and AD&D1e have rules for tribal spellcasters. AD&D has shamans and witch doctors (clerics and cleric/magic-users respectively), while BECMI has shamans and wicca (clerics and magic-users, plus some shamans can cast druid spells).

The idea that orcs were always 1 HD is completely false, and was never true in either practice or the official rules.

What is true is advanced humanoids in old school D&D are rare, and generally low level. According to the MM, you need to have a least 150 orcs before you'll find a subchief and 3d6 guards (i.e. 2 HD orcs). And generally the chief is proportional to the base monster -- a chief goblin has 2 HD (compared to 1-1), an orc chief has 3 HD (vs. 1), a gnoll chief has 4 HD (vs. 2), and an ogre chief has 7 HD (vs. 4). And notice it's always couched in HD, not levels -- it's easier to shift a few columns over on the monster to hit table than to flip back to the fighter to hit table. The only exception to the left thing is the spellcasters, but they're not treated as full spellcasters anyway. They have a limited spell list, a few extra hit points (instead of rolling for class hp), and are generally limited to 2nd to 7th level (depending on spellcasting class and race; BECMI is more generous and has a few 10th level humanoid casters). So while you might find a band of 2 HD orcs, you'll never find a group of 6th level orcs. And you might find an odd spellcaster or two, but you won't find a goblin archmage, or even a goblin who is a regular 1st level magic-user, unless the DM is creating a unique NPC.

This did eventually loosen up a bit, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any exceptions in 1st edition (maybe in the H-series modules?). Even Basic, which introduced high-level War Machine units, then humanoid classes, and eventually a bunch of humanoid NPCs with (racial) levels in their 20s (GAZ10), tended to have relatively few high level humanoids, and humanoid spellcasters were particularly uncommon and tended to be significantly lower level.
 
Top Bottom