N is for Nosferatu, and assorted monster "nonsense."
One nice thing about GAZ1 is that it contains a list of the various "monstrous, magical, and unusual creatures" that inhabit Karameikos, as drawn from the first four BECMI rule sets (Basic, Expert, Companion, and Master books). While the lack of some monsters (and the presence of others) can prompt some WTF moments, it's a pretty standard assortment, and appropriate considering the "flavor" of the Grand Duchy...very streamlined compared to a standard "kitchen sink" campaign setting.
[of course, folks who prefer something more gonzo for their game setting can...and will need to...do with Karameikos as they will. It's not really Operation Unfathomable material as written]
GAZ1 also includes two new monsters: nosferatu and chevalls. I'll deal with the chevall first, because (I think) what I have to say will be shorter.
The chevall is a beefy (7HD) magic creature that can "change at will" between two forms: that of a horse and that of a centaur. My initial thoughts on the creature are not complementary. It originated with B10: Night's Dark Terror, a module I own but have never run/played. It cannot be harmed except by silver and magic weapons, it communicates freely with horses (regardless of form), and it exists to "strive for the good of all horses"...checking up on domesticated equine to make sure humans (and demihumans) aren't abusing them. Oh, and it can summon war horses that magically arrive in 1d4 rounds, once per day. GAZ1 updates this description only slightly: it doubles the number of war horses that can be summoned (from d3 to d6) and states that chevalls were "created by the Immortal Zirchev to be the protector of Horses in Traladara lands."
My opinion: this monster is dumb and completely unnecessary. Yeah, yeah, I suck. Listen up: I am fine with some kind of magical "protector of horses" if you want a more fairy tale-esque type of Karameikos. But then simply make it a centaur...heck, re-skin all centaurs with this type of background if you don't want it to be a handful of concerned eco-guerrilla types. OR (if you prefer your centaurs to be of the Grecian "wine up and rape" variety) simply make the "chevall" a magical faerie horse, something like the Celtic pooka. Mixing your already-weird animal hybrid with a magical animal shapeshifter is just adding syrup on sweet, you know? Yuck.
And anyway, the original creature (from B10) seems to have been yet another moralistic bludgeon to force players to act heroically: "Oh be good or the seven hit dice, un-hitable centaur will sneak up on you (disguised as a horse) and free all your livestock." Hey, DM: F that noise. Seriously. This is just plain stupid.
OKAY...now that's out of the way, I can move onto the "main event."
|Another good role for|
The creature resembles a vampire in most aspects, including powers and "most weaknesses" (one assumes clerical turning, too, though this is not explicit). However, unlike other B/X undead the nosferatu retains the class abilities it had in life (including spell use, etc.); they can be of any alignment (lawful cleric nosferatu? Interesting), and very old Nosferatu are unaffected by the light of the sun. Fortunately, a stake through the heart of a B/X vampire finishes the creature (without the need for decapitation and holy wafers), otherwise destroying an aged nosferatu would be tremendously difficult.
The other difference (most would probably say the main difference) is that nosferatu do not drain energy levels for sustenance; instead, they drink blood. They have a bite attack that does 1d4 damage, but will otherwise use standard weapons/spells in combat...they don't even gain the 1d10 melee attack from their "powerful blows" that has been present since Supplement I (Greyhawk).
|Gosh Bradstreet had|
great art in VtM.
Only one question remains that continues to irritate me: why retain the normal vampire as well as the nosferatu? Why have both a Lord Zemiros Sulescu (nosferatu) AND a Baron Koriszegy (vampire)? Why retain both monsters in the same culture?
Eh. It's late and I'm nit-picking. It's a very easy thing to pick one form of immortal bloodsucker over another. Just as the creators of the Chevall should have chosen one form of magical horse protector.