Sunday, April 10, 2011

Three Companions - Monsters

Ah yes, monsters.... the guys that your players attack with D20's and then they drop loot and stuff for your players to collect! Nothing more to say on this one.

This topic is going to be hard for me to cover in only one post, but I really want to complete this series covering the Three Companions that I started in ~January. I have a fruitful past in this blog of starting things and then dropping them quickly. If you don't believe me click the tabs at the bottom of this post that read Pub Crawl (discontinued in the middle), Streets of Madness (also discontinued in the middle), Forgotten Realms (dropped quickly and replaced by my most recent obsession of "The Known World"). I have a limited amount of time to spend on "this blogging thing" and sometimes I like to bite off more than I can chew. The monsters section of the three companions that I am reviewing is such an elephant. There are way too many things to talk about if I wanted to cover them and compare them completely. It would probably take 2-3 massive posts, but I am really serious about slamming this out today and having some fun with it.... so I think what I might do is give a 1000 foot overview of these sections for each book and then perhaps pick out 1 or maybe 2 monsters from each book that I find the most appealing to me.

Almost every morning this week when I'm sitting at my computer before the sun comes up sipping coffee like a zombie, just waiting for the coffee to give me enough energy to shave, or shower, or iron some clothes.... I've been reading about monsters. Ah the life of a gamer with a job. I think I've come up with some conclusions about the different companion books and how I will use them in my campaigns.

So lets start out with our wide angle lens and try focusing on the Barrataria Companion Expansion. The monsters here do not cater to the 14th level and beyond adventurer. Instead we have a suite of monsters that remind me of the AD&D game rulebooks along with a few original ones. I find this monster section the weakest of the three books I'm reviewing since I already have prior versions of almost all the creatures. However, the companion expansion book has a different purpose relative to what I was looking for in a "Companion Book". It reminds me more of the LL AEC which intends to add more layers of complexity to the B/X style game. This is actually opposite in the direction that I wanted to go with my B/X games. I find that the simplicity of the B/X system is one of the glorious things that makes it work so well.

Probably my favorite monster from this book was the Wax Golem. It was a cool, low powered golem that I could see using to create a very creepy House of Wax Golems horror inspired adventure. It got me thinking down really cool threads of how I could mutate these guys and make a bunch of adventures from this one monster. These guys got me excited to play some D&D which is a really good thing.

Next in line is the B/X companion, by JB of B/X Black Razor. I love the monsters section of his book. I think it is probably my favorite of the three books. First off, there are many creatures of what I would call the "near-original" creations. They are monsters that are familiar tropes of fantasy but statted up for B/X style play. JB also give all the creatures his own twist which I really like. I seem to be babbling here at the mouth so let me give you a couple of examples: The Goblin Lord is a handsome, tall, magic using goblin that can boss around hordes of regular goblins and is a throwback to the days when goblins and elves sprang from the same common ancestor. I can see many really cool applications for this guy.

JB also added Maenads and Frog People, and greater mummies. Who can go wrong with adding Greater Mummies? Another good example is the Death Lord - this guy is very similar in nature to Lord Soth of the dragon lance series, but the death lord also reminds me of the Spawn comic book. Again, JB adds his own twist to these guys and gives them some really neat powers that make them a good choice for the villian of a high level adventure series.

And then we end with Mentzer's D&D Companion set books. It starts with the Beholder statted up for B/X style play - heck yeah, the Beholder :) We then have rules for making super powered dragons capable of withstanding high level adventurers. High level ghosts, gargantuan creatures with 24-51 hit dice, and other unique creatures such as the Drolem. This is a really cool creature with a horribly unfortunate name. It is a mechanical dragon golem construct - how cool is that, right? It has 20HD, has massive damage output, is immune to all sorts of magical attacks, and has the name Drolem. Well, I guess this harkens back to the early fun days of the game when a certain amount of humor was regularly injected and we all didn't take this game so seriously. Dragon, golem, dragon-golem, and finally Drolem, I totally see how you get from A to B. I almost want to make my PC's fight one of these guys controlled of course by an evil wizard who will yell out," You will all die at the hands of my DROLEM!!! (insert nefarious cackle)".

Overall, I really like Franks monster section, and he also had a lot of elemental plane creatures for PC's to interact with, some of which are really neat and creative. I especially liked the Horde creatures from the earth plane with their "hive mind" and strange alien purposes.

Anyway, these three books give me a lot of ammunition for the DM cannon. I think I will start covering the magical items and treasure sections of all three books next. Until then young DM's, go forth and scour rulebooks for new monsters, if you don't like the monsters you find there, then tweak them. Send out your civilization ending beasties statted up on the back of spiral bound notebooks, find inspiration on saturday morning cartoons, read through mythology, there is a wealth of monsters in our history that are just waiting get some D&D stats. You can figure out if they have type Q or T treasure tables or whether they play chess later. However young DM's, just remember to give them a better name than "Drolem" or....

this guy will come and wreck havoc on your city!

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