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[Let's Read] Oriental Adventures (1e)

MacBalance

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Sorry for the lack of updates. On vacation last week, then trouble getting caught up with wor.

Today let's look at the Hai Nu which is a sort of local equivilent of a mermaid, perhaps a bit more practical than the stereotypical clamshell-bikini variant. As described, it's more 'part otter' than 'part fish' with webbed extremities and a fur coat that shimmers in many colors. The description suggests they're humanoid (so no fish tail) but no details on what the head looks like. They're a "natural race" in the D&D sense that they do seem to fit into the natural world with normal-ish biological needs, reproductive methods, and similar. (As opposed to a created entity or the spirits, who have very specific and unnatural needs and drives.)

The live in matriarchal (another tie to mermaid lore of a sort) communites and are about 75% female. They have 1-4 HD, but the leader Matron gets 6. They're weapon users, with most wielding a Trident and speargun. The latter is a bit distressing: I assume a simple system using tension to launch the projectile is within the setting's tech limits, but as it's treated as a Spear anyway, no real details. There's no need to treat it as a spear, especially in a book that has so many new weapons of dubious utility.

They also get pets. Your Hai nu group has 2d6 sharks at home, and a group may have an undifferentiated group of 3d4 "sharks, porpoises, and whales" accompanying it.

One major difference from the expected mermaid archetype is the lack of any 'siren' abilities to seduce or mislead. They do get a harsh penalty if removed from the water, taking 1 HP of damage each round and take extra damage from both fire and cold.

Wikipedia's article on mermaids has a China section that describes some creatures with similar references: Dying out of water, the coating of shimmering fur. There's also a Japanese mermaid that is a bit less human in the traditional stories. I wonder if we'll see that later.

They seem to favor being recluses, and take small subtle actions to discourage those who might encroach on their territory. They do have a contact in the form of the Lord of the Sea who they can talk to and petition for aid.

For use in D&D this isn't a terrible monster, but I feel it might take a little to encourage the PCs to interact with them in a meaningful way.

The next monster is the Hsing-Sing, a sort of ape-man that perhaps is meant to be a usable version of a yeti or similar. However, they live in sub-tropical forests and have a very specific 'war season' int heir description that makes me assume they're meant to represent a creature from a specific story. Again, I'd consider this a 'natural race' as it has a place in the natural world. They live in families and trade exotic birds, woods, fruits, and other findings of their woodland homes for manufactured goods and booze.

The 'war season' occurs annually and is a time when the normally peaceful hsing-sing become vicious raiders using a range of weapons including spears and blowguns. They often use poisons with their blowguns, and two poisons are stated out. One causes death, the other paralysis.

I'm a bit conflicted about these monsters. They're boring neutral traders much of the time, but become sneaky orcs during war-season.

Last for today is the Hu Hsien which is a lesser spirit and essentially the hengeyokai fox as a spirit. They're shapeshifters with a fox form (that can explicitly walk on hind legs and manipulate objects with its forepaws) and an attractive maiden form (18 Charisma, 25 Comeliness, causing fascination) but always has a tail which can give it away.

It gets a range of spell powers, primarily to aid it in deceiving or evading, but it can also use reward and ancient curse. It requires +3 weapons and regenerates. It is immune to fire and halves cold damage. it's vulnerability is to electrical attacks, and apparently this causes them to fear thunderstorms as the Thunder God likes to zap them.

They're spirits that drain the living to sustain themselves. If they charm victim and get them back to their desk they drain a level a day.

They're Chaotic Evil, but they are explicitly capable of showing kindness. They can be generous to those who are nice to them, often rewarding it with success at exams or a rescue from great danger. They're tricksters, though, and lvoe playing tricks on people. They also like to drink, and revert to their true form once they get drunk (presumably the fox form).

This is a pretty iconic monster from Asian lore: I feel like they fill a roll similar to the fey in many stories, although it's not a perfect match. Mortals deal with the Hu Hsien at their own risk: Those that are clever, quick-thinking, and polite may earn a favor, while the greedy and stupid will find themselves the butt of the fox woman's jokes. So, a morality play monster, but very iconic to the setting.
 

MacBalance

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The Ikiryo is another Lesser Spirit that is essentially an immaterial presence formed by great hate. It gets a ton of special rules and is effectively more of an "environmental hazard" than a monster. No AC, hit dice, movement, or normal attacks. You can't even detect it as it's invisible in way that makes it immune to detect invisible and isn't alive, so no detect life. You can find it via detect evil or true sight.

Essentially, this uses a totally custom list of responses to various detection spells and other 'spirit' spells.

Basically, once created (by deep hatred, but unknowingly) it seeks it's target and drains them of ability points at the state of 1 point from each every 24 hours. Points can't be recovered until the Ikiryo is destroyed, but recover at the same rate they were lost.

The DM is suggested to have an encounter with the Ikiryo being either targeting the PCs or generated by one of the PCs. There's no random roll suggested, but instead the DM should consider fi there's anyone nursing a record-setting grudge against the PCs that can be the focus for this.

Still, it's basically, "LOL, you got an angry spirit you can't see draining you and you have to guess the right spells to drive it off or maybe pay for an expensive exorcism" which sounds less than fun. I'm sure there's a way to make this interesting and a fun encounter, but it takes some work. This probably shouldn't be on a random encounter table.

Next is the Jishin Mushi or Earthquake Beetle, which I consider a 'natural' monster, in that it's basically a huge (8'-10') beetle that eats meat, with a preference for oxen from farmer's fields. They can use mandibles to try and drag victims away, but we're told that it's easy to slip away from this grasp. More interesting, is a tremor effect they can create. This is a special that grows over rounds. At first it's a save vs. breath weapon for those within 5 feet or be knocked down, but expands over subsequent rounds to 30 feet and does damage (1d6 and no attacks) within 20 feet. The beetle can fly, and apparently will fly off after the attack reaches it's climax to observe the damage from he air.

We get a common D&D trope here in that the ichor of a Jishin Mushi is prized by incense makers, so when you kill the 8' beetles stealing oxen, don't forget to bottle the fluids for later resale.

It's a nice mid-level monster, I think. It's a fantastic monster, but fits within the natural world, albeit an amazing version of the world.
 

UrbanXXLegend

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Is there any way to interact with the Ikiryo? At least with standard ghosts, the DM is free to give them a personality and purpose for haunting an area, and even make it a non-combat or quest giving kind of encounter. This is pretty much just the same as a curse or disease to be cured.
 

Sleeper

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AD&D 1e struggled a lot, when it came to depicting ghosts. Are they completely immune to physical attacks, or can they be hurt with magical weapons? Are they formed of ethereal substance, or are they completely intangible? Every writeup had its own ideas about how it should work, and were often very specific when it came to specifying how the monster (if it even could be considered a real monster) interacted with a long and fairly arbitrary list of spells. The ikiryo is just another special case solution, like the ghost, the haunt, the poltergeist, or the phantom.
 
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Gemini476

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The Ikiryo is an interesting beasty.

So, to whit:
  • Detect evil (Shukenja 1, Wu Jen 2) reveals an aura of evil surrounding the victim.
  • Detect harmony (Shukenja 1) reveals that something about the victim and his surroundings is out of balance.
  • True sight (Shukenja/Sohei 5, Wu Jen 6) reveals the Ikiryo, making it appear to the caster in the form of the person who created it.
  • Protection from spirits (Shukenja 2)or protection from evil 10' radius (Shukenja 4) hedge out the Ikiryo. (Durations: 3rds/level, 1 turn/level)
  • Invisibility to spirits (Shukenja 3) makes it impossible for the Ikiryo to find its victim. (Duration: 1 turn/level)
  • Dispel evil (Shukenja/Sohei 5) drives it away for 24 hours.
  • Summon spirit (Wu Jen 9)causes it to take the form of the person who created it.
  • Exorcism (Shukenja 4), if successful, banishes it forever.
  • If the person who created it is confronted with the existence of the Ikiryo, the Ikiryo vanishes forever.

So, basically:
A low-level Shukenja (level 1) or Wu Jen (level 3, 4k XP) can figure out that there's something magical going on with you. A low-level Shukenja (level 4, 5.5k XP) can also hide you from it temporarily, but not for long. A high-level Shukenja can exorcise the spirit (level 8, 90k XP), figure out who created it and stop it that way, or keep it off you for a day (both at level 10, 300k XP). A really high-level Wu Jen (level 11, 600k XP) can figure out who made it.

If you figure out what the deal is with the affliction and figure out who hates you the most, you can also just hedge your bets on confronting the dude and seeing what happens. You might have time to do so - you're on a timer, with the time being a number of days equal to your lowest ability score. So, since this is 1E, probably at least a week? Also, it's really obvious that something's up - "the victim feels disturbed and restless; the air is oppressive and stagnant."

It's noted that PCs can unconsciously create an Ikiryo that harasses an NPC they have a grudge against, in which case the Ikiryo is discovered and traced back to the player with all the complications related to that. There's also the obligatory disclaimer that you can't consciously summon up one, and that its actions are never good for you. Because otherwise this monster would be a godsend to powergamers.


There's also one more method you can use to defeat the Ikiryo, but it's a weird one: you see, the Ikiryo is one of the few Psionic monsters in the book. (Probably because it's described as "a presence of psychic energy".) It even has enough Psionic Ability to harm nonpsionics, at 200-260, although it doesn't seem the type to do so. (Does that mean 200-260 total psionic strength, or 200-260 psionic attack strength as with the MM monsters? Who knows!)
Spoiler: Show
If you want to brave this thing in psionic combat (and you might be able to sense it psionically, I suppose), know this: it has all the non-AoE attack/defense modes. This includes Psychic Crush, but means that it's a bit of a glass cannon.

So: when attacking it, it will defend either with Mind Blank, Thought Shield, or Mental Barrier.
Against Mind Blank, use either Mind Thrust (if at lower than 76 psionic strength) or Ego Whip. Psionic Blast is a decent backup but consistently worse, and Id Insinuation is awful. Psychic Crush if you feel lucky.
Against Thought Shield, use Psionic Blast. Id Insinuation does -1 damage, but costs you half as many points. Mind Thrust is consistently another -2 points under Id, but costs 4 rather than 10 points - Ego Whip is always the worst.
Against Mental Barrier, do not under any circumstances Ego Whip. Id Insinuation is super effective, Psionic Blast comes second, and Mind Thrust is a distant third.

For a consistent offensive strategy, use you basically just need to worry about it using Mental Barrier against Ego Whip and Mind Blank against Id Insinuation. You can mostly swap between those two, I think.

Offensively, it is going to wreck you. Id Insinuation is consistently strong against all defense modes except Mind Blank, and Ego Whip tears that to shreds. It's also got more than enough strength to have a 27% chance per turn to Psychic Crush if you try your luck at Mind Blank, so never ever swap to Mind Blank. Your best bet will be to put up a Thought Shield and never let it go down.

The best method to beat it, though, is through having multiple psionic characters - then you can have an Intellect Fortress or Tower of Iron Will covering the group, perhaps stacked over an individual Mind Blank to maximize the chances. You'll also be quickly wearing down its power points, so this is really the best bet if you've got the chance.

You can also try to outrange it with Id Insinuation to try to force it to use certain attacks, I guess?

I dunno, like many things with AD&D psionics it's all just overcomplicated and confusing.
 

MacBalance

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I totally skipped the psionics for the Ikiryo. They're one of two with psionics, right?

They're really as much a "trap" or "curse" as they are a monster. This is a great example of something that could have been used in (say) a Ravenloft domain as a great horror adventure plot, perhaps with some added complications that the PCs must bring the Angry Guy to the Afflicted Guy and (almost literally) clear the air to prevent the Domain getting worse than normal (this being Ravenloft).

Note that the Ikiryo is on the random encounter charts (City/Town and Rural) so it'll randomly pop up over time.

It's an interesting spirit, but I feel like the "language" of D&D didn't have space in this era for the more nuanced circumstances it works best in.

One more for tonight, the Kala is a cold-dwelling "primitive spirit race" which has a pointed head and large feet (the latter for moving through snow). They wear only loincloths and are ferocious cannibals as well as expert trackers.

They come in two varieties, the Cave and Earth Kala. The Cave variant is a bit tougher and hits harder, and has a "pain" special instead of the "disease" spread by the Earth Kala. The "pain" attack is a bite that causes victims that fail a save vs. poison to get steadily worse over five rounds until they are unable to act for the 1-3 turns the effect persists. Note that the bite doesn't have a lot of rules for how do they do it? so I'm assuming it's a "special" attack instead of the normal 1-8/1-8 and the bite itself causes no damage, only the special effects.

The Earth Kala gets a diseased breath in a smallish 5 foot by 2 foot area. This is a nasty disease, causing 1d6 HP of damage a day and preventing healing. Again, I'd assume this is in lieu of the normal attack routine (1-6,1-6) and can conceivably hit multiple characters if they're bunched up.

The Kala receive almost no background. They live in the cold wastes and eat other sentients. The Cava kala lair in forest caves, while the Earth kala are nomads. They do get the language of the Northern Tribes, which ties in with a vague hint I found online of 'kala' being used for a spirit by northern tribal cultures.

If not for the special attacks, these would be relatively strong monsters (8 or 6 HD!) but otherwise unremarkable. The lack of any real background makes them likely to be used as dumb muscle, I feel.
 

Gemini476

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I'm note entirely sure, but I think Kala might be based on a Hindu demon/diety/various other things?

I totally skipped the psionics for the Ikiryo. They're one of two with psionics, right?
I don't remember if the other one was a proper Psionic monster or just the pirates using the standard human NPC rules, but that sounds about right.

Note that the Ikiryo is on the random encounter charts (City/Town and Rural) so it'll randomly pop up over time.
You get one City/Town event a day, with a 3% chance of a monster. Ikiryo are on a natural 20, so less common than the Cat Lord but on the same level as an urban Ogre Magi, with a 1.04% chance of appearing, or 0,0312%/day. (312PPM, to use more appropriate units.)
You get two Rural events a day, with a 10% chance of a monster. They appear on a 19, so as common as a random humanoid gargantua rampaging through the countryside. 2.08% chance of appearing, or... roughly 0,4% chance per day?

Fairly rare events to say the least, and not necessarily something you'll ever end up rolling (much like the first-level elven MU who found a random Staff of Wizardry, or the one guy who got a Vorpal Sword in Gygax' campaigns (he found two, and dual-wielded them)).

Still, chalk it down at yet another example of how the D&D wilderness is terrifying.

If you're curious, that ends up being 10.5% chance of an urban Ikiryo per 356-day year, and a more likely 77.3% chance of a rural one. Yet more reasons for urbanization. Also, expect at least one countryside Kaiju attack per year, because AD&D encounter tables are as deadly as ever.

Although do note that chances are that a lot of those random Ikiryo encounters are just going to be ordinary NPC encounters, with the catch being that you unwittingly cursed that dude you dislike.

Also, I'm not entirely sure but I suspect that you're still less likely to die from random grudge ghosts than from the DMG's disease table, so that's a thing.

If you really want to be safe from monsters, you'll need to go into the Court - there's just a 1% chance of monsters there. On the other hand, political scheming is as dangerous as ever and the Illness random event is probably more likely to kill you than an Ikiryo.
 

MacBalance

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Interesting analysis, Gemini476. So they're not common, but certainly common enough in my mind if they're on a random table.

Next up is the Kappa which has a full and thorough wikipedia entry. The folklorish version is a bit variable as things go: Differing appearances and abilities, but commonly a greater that lives in or near bodies of water, specifically inland ones. It's also a relatively approachable creature: They aren't antagonistic without reason, have several weaknesses that can be exploited, and are very complex in a way that feels very appropriate.

Here's a more modern interpretation used as a recent world cup mascot:



The Oriental Adventures version is something like a turtle standing upright. a key feature, as shown in the mascot above, is a bow-like head that contains water the kappa is loathe to spill as it is the source of their powers. If this water is removed, the kappa loses many of it's abilities, which include strength and regeneration as well as causing damage over time. The strength is 18/00 and they get martial arts maneuvers (mastery of one style, so hopefully you have some styles ready...) although their normal attacks are a 5-10/5-10 clawed hand slash combo.

They're capable of being tricked: The wikipedia summary mentions that they can be tricked into spilling their water by taking advantage of their inclination towards politeness. The OA writeup suggests most avoid this, perhaps so players can't use knowledge of folklore to make a Kappa encounter trivial.

The Kappa has two stat columns. The regular is a threat, but not a huge one. However, there's a Vampiric version which adds bite that drains strength. As if the bite's strength drain wasn't bad, there's also a 50% chance of a disease on bite. The vampiric kappa isn't really detailed, unfortunately.

The Kuei is another lesser spirit and is a "demon-ghost" that resembles a more classical ghost in D&D lore: A spirit of someone who needs to finish something unfinished in life. They're a bit more complex than a normal monster as they come in 3 HD to 6 HD and get more powerful based on the HD. Higher HD, more pluses required to hit and more damage done.

They're a bit more 'classic' spirit, using possession to take control of a human victim. They might just want to complete a task, and this isn't necessarily a violent task (although, with PCs involved...) so it could be an interesting non-combat encounter. Tasks could take a long time, with one listed example being a kuei possessing a sister to fulfill a vow of marriage. The suggestion is PCs may need to take each spirit as it comes and decide if it is better to help it fulfill its task or drive it off.
 

MacBalance

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Next up is Men which should probably be considered an addition to the standard Monster Manual "Men" entry. Note that the Men entry in the original Monster Manual covered four pages, and includes several sub-types that would work well in an Oriental Adventures game with minor resigning if any. Mainly just swapping weapons and substituting appropriate treasures.

The only new entry is the Wako, or Sea Pirate. This does overlap with the Buccaneer a bit, but it could be argued that they're different enough. Wako get a blanket +2 to-hit and +1 to damage, which is impressive. Every 30 gets a 5th level Bushi and every 60 a 7th level Barbarian. The leader is a 10th level Samurai who get this own lieutenants consisting of another Barbarian (8th level) and 1-3 6th level Bushi. The group also has a 5% chance for every 30 members of a 6-9 level Wu-Jen to add some magical support.

I'm not sure I like the mix. The idea of systems to generate teams is an AD&D paradigm and an interesting idea, but in this case it's the inclusion of Barbarians that sticks out. I feel like they're a rare martial class that has the "baggage" almost akin to a Cleric. There Barbarian picks a region specialty, and is definitely tied to that region in many ways. I assume the idea is the stereotype of a pirate group recruiting one or more unusual outlanders... But I'm not sure the Barbarian is the best fit.

The Wako also have a percentage system for arms and equipment. Half will use Hara-ate-gawa & sword, with various others adding in other weapons, bows, spears, etc. Leaders get o-yoroi armor. (Hara-Ate-Gawa is essentially a leather armor chest plate, effectively a single AC point adjustment.)

Wake get a 'lair' in the form of a walled settlement. One thing that sets them apart from the western pirate stereotypes is they're noted as likely working for a powerful lord, so more privateers than pirates in this case. They're described as a bit more vicious than Western counterparts.

Another Lesser Spirit is the Nat which gets three variants: Einsaung, Hkum Yang, and Lu. It looks like they have a historical presence in buddhist lore and Burmese spirit worship.

Here they're given the home turf of tropical jungles. They're humanoid, but with brightly colored skin and a wild demonic look. They resemble AD&D Fiends int hat they get a laundry list of generic abilities (common to all Nat) for the DM to forget:

All types of nats have the following abilities which they can do at will:
become invisible, levitate, ESP, comprehend languages, deflection, dream vision, possess animal, detect shapechanger, quickgrowth, passwall, and dancing blade. They are immune to poisons and diseases. They suffer half damage from electrical and fire-based attacks (no damage if the sav- ing throw is made). All nats speak the language of their own kind and the language of the wu jen common to their area.
The Einsaung Nat resembles a beneficial fey from he Western tradition. They can be convinced to move into a house and provide useful services, primarily protection, information and good fortune. They are shy, but enjoy playing with children. They Bless the house they inhabit.

The Hkum yeng nat is a village's protector, and is a bit less friendly if that's possible. It's noted that they'll reside in a suitable central point, such as "the head stakes of a headhunting tribe or the main building of a warrior tribe" where it is given gifts to appease it. It's true lair is in the ethereal plane, where it takes offerings. It has a second laundry list of at-will powers it can use in it's protective role including a fear power if it becomes visible.

Finally the Lu nat is the evil variant of the three. It's got several spells as attack powers, but the scary part is an invisible cloud of disease that causes 1d10 points of damage per turn for anyone who fails the per-round save. Going into melee with a Lu nat is pretty risky.

Finally for today we have Nature Spirits that come in Lesser and Greater flavors. The Hit Dice vary from 2-7 (for lesser) and 8-15 (greater) with many stats based off this, so expect some work to make this entry useful.

Essentially, this is a spirit of any element of the natural world. They have a good and evil aspect (75% chance of encountering the good side) and any natural object (a plant, a rock, a terrain feature) could be the focus of a spirit. Hurting this focus hurts the spirit. They're withdrawn but may appear to test people of renown.

Overall, nice idea but the entry is very vague in both mechanics and background. One thing this book could have used is a more comprehensive "sprit" system, but that's a point I've made before.
 
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