Monday, June 13, 2011

Post-Basic Monsters

Some might wonder why I restricted yesterday's Top Ten List to monsters from the Basic set. I mean, sure, I was writing about Basic set monsters that seem anything but "low level" in nature, but this IS a semi-B/X-themed blog, after all...where's the EXpert love?

Well, actually I have been kicking around ideas for a Top Ten B/X Monster list for awhile now...probably for more than a year. The problem is there are just too many monsters for me to combine them into one a lot of them seem redundant (I mean I really like the specter and the vampire, but superficially there's not much difference between the two) least with my Basic list I can make a theme (i.e. over-powered). I can't say there's too much of that (i.e. overwhelming-power) in an Expert-level campaign...unless you're designing wilderness adventures where PCs encounter multiple (D4) purple worms.

Plus, I have a hard time distinguishing "favorite" from "effective" and in my semi-professional opinion I feel these two should be a little closer together. Is the cyclops the most badass monster in the Expert book? Is it even one of the "top ten?" Probably not...but it is one of my personal favorites (and I have used the cyclops to literally crush Expert-level PCs in the past) and would probably rate high on any top ten list I put together. Same would hold true for the mummy.

Anyway, I may do a Top Ten for X one of these days, but it's not a huge priority. When I was a kid I spent much less time with the Expert set monster list was shortly after getting my Cook/Marsh boxed set that one of my player gifted me with my first hardcover Monster Manual. And I mean, very shortly...I may have received both for my birthday, but with a few days between receipt of each. And the MM quickly became THE "go to" book of monsters for our B/X games (we didn't understand at the time what "AD&D" was, of course).

Not that there's a cyclops in the Monster Manual...which is probably why I know that particular entry so well.

If you had asked me at age 14 (the height of my AD&D "career") what my favorite D&D tome was, I would have probably named my Efreet-covered DMG. After all, I did love being associated with the trappings of "DM" and I did put a lot of miles on that particular book (even using most of those minutia rules that other AD&D players gloss over). However, I don't think ANY of my AD&D books got nearly as much use as the Monster Manual...a thin, hard-bound, illustrated treatise on monsters and just about the most perfect reference for a DM who'd already memorized the rule system and only needed to crack a book when checking a chart for the "chance to hit" or effect of a psionic attack.

The AD&D Monster Manual really is just about perfect...when I'd hand over the reins of DMing to other newbies (like my younger brother) this was always the FIRST book they reached for. Anyone can draw a map on graph paper, right? Anyone can jot down poison arrow and pit traps (no list needed for that). But the MM was the Bible of adversaries, each one succinctly described in a short stat block (eminently more readable than the D20 and 4th edition versions of the MM), with a small paragraph denoting just enough info to get you going.

I kind of want a B/X Monster Manual.

Ugh. I hate to type those words as I'm sure someone will take the idea and run with it (even if they're not already doing so), and I just know I will be displeased with the result. Personally, I want to re-vamp (no pun!) many of the monsters in B/X, not just type 'em up again (and certainly not just convert AD&D monsters to B/X), give 'em a makeover, organize 'em in a way that is both practical and easily usable. A slim tome with a couple-three hundred entries or so, some old school illustrations and a treasure table in the back (maybe a re-worked series of wandering monster charts a la the Fiend Folio)...definitely NOT a hulking, slickly produced 400-page volume like Pathfinder.

Anyway, THAT kind of project is a looooong way off (I don't even know if it could be done in the scale I want...certainly I would give it a different title). Let's see if we can just get the current two-three projects published first.
: )


  1. There was some loose talk of an OSR monster manual a while ago; I think it was going to be called Thing Tome, but I'm not sure what happened to it.

  2. @ Kelvin: Now THAT is a TERRIBLE name!