Friday, August 21, 2009

My Plate Over-Floweth

Well, folks, another bloody week gone by and yet more time lost surfing the void. Didn’t get all the posts I wanted this week and probably won’t today as I have to:

a) Get some real life work done (ugh)
b) Get ready for tomorrow’s B/X Skype game (way behind)
c) Hopefully coordinate some behind-the-scenes-between-adventure activity with the “B/X boys” (Meepo’s back in town)
d) Really want to knock out a couple/ten pages on the monster section for my B/X Companion.

The last is something I was working on yesterday (when I wasn’t attending work tele-conferences or screaming myself hoarse ate the Sounders game…). Monster crafting I find to be A LOT tougher than writing up spells (done) or magic items (done). It’s an area where my perfectionist tendencies really start to bog me down.

Thing is, I’m striving for consistency, right? Consistency between my own monsters, consistency between other B/X monsters, consistency with other D&D monsters (several are being taken from AD&D 1st edition, and at least one from 2nd edition).

Putting together the list itself has been no picnic, as I strive to gather a selection that is both worthy of high level B/X play and (again) consistent with prior lists in the Moldvay and Cook/Marsh rules. Right now the list is up to 76 individual entries, comparable to both the Basic and Expert sets, and some of those will be (hopefully) combined under one heading. But the list is constantly changing as I try to represent many different things.

This morning for instance, I’ve all but decided to exclude the skeletal warrior from my list…and he’s been on there since the beginning. I’m not ashamed to admit that many of the monsters added are personal favorites from other editions; however, they all have to have some justification for being present (i.e. they should be useful or appropriate to a high level campaign). Since transforming oneself into an undead, like a lich or greater mummy, could be a valid (if not particularly worthy) goal of play…old characters looking for a little immortality…I figured the skeletal warrior would be a way to “throw a bone” to fighters.

Except that I really have no way to do it. Fighters don’t pursue magical research and while I could have created a magic item that changed ‘em into “skeletal warriors” it simply felt too contrived. The original Fiend Folio entry states that they were given their form by an evil demigod…and if such is the case, I prefer to leave it in the hands of individual DMs whether or not their demigods take such an active hand in cursing folks (plus, aren’t these type of curses pretty individual? And yet, there’s a whole troop o these guys?).

No, they seem more the type of “unique” encounter for a one-off adventure module (oh, you find this golden circletoh, there’s this lich-looking dude with a big sword chasing you). You catch my drift, I’m sure.

So, much as I totally dig on the skeletal warrior, he’s getting the axe today (hmm, excuse me, I had him listed as a “skeletal lord” not warrior…same thing, though). There…down to 75 names on the list!

[and it’s not like the skeletal warrior/lord is difficult to write up anyway…he’s got the same stats as a fighter of level 10th-15th but he’s undead. Big whoop.]

Some of the monsters on the list seem strange inclusions. For example, I’ve got both the Asag (the Sumerian name for the demon that the xorn appears to be based on) and the Underminer (an umberhulk, though I am still toying with calling it a CHUD) on the list, both pretty close to their AD&D stats. Neither would seem to be a particularly challenging monster for characters over level 20 (both have less than 9 hit dice) and neither is one of my personal favorites.

However, one has to think of what they represent…and the context in which they are used. By the time PCs reach the companion levels, many will be settling down into strongholds…and strongholds needs SCOURGES to challenge and test dominion rulers. These underground monstrosities are fantastic and relatively “realistic” scourges that could be encountered by dwarves in their mountain strongholds (moreso than a balrog anyway), and might even be potential invaders of a thief’s sewer-located hideout. AND if a war breaks out between the Dokkalfar and the surface world, you can bet your sweet ass there’ll be at least a couple units of umberhulks…er, “underminers” in the dark elf army. That’s just D&D!

Yes, there are some “big bads” on the list including a number of extra-dimensional “demon” types (I’m not building any kind of Outer Plane cosmology into the Companion…that’s for individual DMs to put together themselves…so there’s no Devils, Demons, Daemons, Slaadi, etc.), there are quite a few smaller creatures as well. While some, like the Jubjub Bird or Luck Eater have special powers that make them interesting challenges for higher level characters, most of these “weenie” monsters are representatives of tribes or societies that could come into conflict with PCs and their dominions…or represent huge cities of foes that need to be explored…or are units that would be vicious additions to an army (like Black Orcs, for example).

Anyway, it’s tricky…right now the ever-changing list seems fairly set, and I’ve got near completed stats for two-thirds of the creatures on the list. But other than the four monsters I’ve posted to this blog, I’ve got no blurbs written up for my critters, simply names and stats on an Excel spread sheet.

Fortunately, writing blurbs comes pretty fast/easy for me. It’s just those damn stat blocks and my endless tweaking! Ugh!

All right, as I said, I have other things to do. I’ll give y’all more progress reports as things come together. Monday will be my first day off, all-to-myself, in three+ weeks and I am really looking forward to getting a ton of writing down. Things are going so well so far! I just need more f’ing free time!

Hasta tarde…

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