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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Oozy Goodness Part V: Ochre Jelly

Rounding out the BX slimes is our final entry, the Ochre Jelly. This is probably the least used one in my games. Not that I dislike it as a monster, but there's only so many instances where an ooze is needed, so something has to give. OJ seems to be in many ways a "lesser" black pudding. It's worth noting that the pudding is the only one in the Expert set, probably due to its high HD. The jelly has half the HD and lower damage, but behaves similarly. Before we dive in the ochre jelly (ew!) let's have the stats:

Ochre Jelly (from Moldvay)

AC: 8
HD: 5*
Move: 30 (10')
Att: 1
Damage: 2d6
No. App: 1 (0)
Save: F3
Morale: 12
Treasure: Nil

The OJ shares the usual ooze/slime traits: unintelligent, relentless morale, slow movement, etc. Like other gooeys, it isn't harmed by all types of damage. In the OJ's case, only fire & cold affect it. Otherwise it splits up like the pudding up to five of them). The 2HD baby jellys do half (1d6) damage. The jelly looks like an amoeba more than just a pile of goo, so it has a bit more form than most slimes.

Its corrosive effect doesn't harm metal or stone. That doesn't make a platemail-wearing fighter immune though. It can still seep through cracks and seams. It can demolish wood, leather or cloth in one round (!) so that spear shaft or bow might be toast. I would also think things like magic cloaks, etc. might need to make some saving throws pretty quick.

Overall the ol' YellowJelly would be a respectable threat to low levels PCs and, like a rust monster, make almost anyone fear for their gear. It's susceptibility to fire give the party an easy way to cope IF they know about its specific weaknesses. In classic D&D, smart players are weighing the risks, though. Unless there is something beyond the jelly that is (potentially) worthwhile, it has no treasure of its own as a rule, and even with a special ability bump to XP, no one is leveling just for taking one out. As a DM, I would want to use the jelly in surprise situations or as an impediment to overcome for a larger goal. Perhaps a mad alchemist figured out how to bottle one up and chucks the jar at the PCs like a grenade?

Those ain't apricot!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Oozy Goodness Part IV: Green Slime

Green slime is almost more of a trap than a monster per se.  It's gross and dangerous and PCs hate encountering it, but is it a "monster"? It's hard to say, I suppose. Anyway, let's get on with it, shall we?

Green Slime (from Moldvay)

AC: Can always be hit
HD: 2*
Move: 3 (1')
Att: 1
Damage: special
No. App: 1 (0)
Save: F1
Treasure: Nil

What jumps out from the stat block is its lack of AC. You literally can't miss this thing. The trick is most attacks don't harm it. Only fire or cold can affect it. It is barely  mobile, so outrunning it isn't the problem. The problem is the slime's nasty tendency to drip onto people and turn them into slime themselves.

Green slime turns flesh into slime. It can completely "melt" a PC in as little as 7 rounds. There is no save vs. the slime. If it hits, it starts dissolving you. The really annoying part of the process is that there are only three ways to get the slime off the victim: Cold, Fire, or a Cure Disease spell. If you aren't lucky enough to have a cleric on hand with the appropriate spell prepared, then you're left with either trying to freeze or burn the slime off. By the book, the only cold attacks in BX are things like white dragons or frost salamanders, or a Wand of Cold, so the most likely scenario is to use good old reliable fire!

Now hold still!

The catch, of course, is that burning off slime also burns the victim. (1/2 the damage each). 

All this adds up to two things:
  1. I tend to think of green slime as a hazard, not a creature.
  2. I need to use it in dungeons WAY more often! (evil laugh)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Oozy Goodness Part III: Gray Ooze

I confess, the gray ooze is probably my favorite of the oozles, though I'm not 100% sure why. I think it's because it such a great "Gotcha!" monster. To be clear, I try not to overuse gotcha tactics as a DM, but sometimes it's hard to resist. Gray ooze is hard to spot in a dungeon environment and once it hits, things can turn ugly fast.

Gray Ooze (from Moldvay)

AC: 8
HD: 3*
Move: 10' (3')
Att: 1
Damage: 2d8
No. App: 1 (1)
Save: F2
Morale: 12
Treasure: Nil

Unlike the black pudding, this blob is somewhat fragile in the hit points area. It's also super-slow, which is why its camouflage is so important. It does decent damage, but the key takeaway from the gray ooze is its effect on gear.

Like the rust monster, the ooze's touch can demolish things like armor. Normal armor is instantly destroyed! Even magic armor is dissolved in one turn. Granted, most combats don't last a full turn, but imagine the fighter being dropped down a chute into a pit with one of these things. By the time  the party pries open hatches and lowers a rope, he and his +1 chainmail might be a puddle of goo. The ooze sticks to the skin after hitting and deals damage automatically every round, so you need to kill it to get it off.

To keep things interesting, the ooze's immunities are different than the cube's or the puddings. You hurt Blacky and Blocky with fire, but you need to zap the G.O. with lightning. It's always nice to keep the party guessing. Of course just smacking it works too.

I like using Gray Oozes in deliberately damp locations; water caves and the like are especially good. Wet stone that's slippery to walk on distracts the players from the possibility of that one slick patch might be something else entirely.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Oozy Goodness Part II: Gelatinous Cube

Ah the gelatinous cube. A slime-based entity that apparently evolved to accommodate graph paper. It's probably fair to say that the cube is an iconic D&D monster. Even if a player hasn't had to deal with one himself, chances are he knows the basic idea of the thing: It slides along corridors slurping up organic debris. They are quiet, hard to see, and dissolve people.

Gelatinous Cube (from Moldvay)

AC: 8
HD: 4*
Move: 60' (20')
Att: 1
Damage: 2d4 + special
No. App: 1 (0)
Save: F2
Morale: 12
Treasure: V

As we can see, old blocky here shares certain traits with other slimers: It's none to fast, it's got a high morale (mindless), and isn't too hard to hit. Their strength as a foe comes largely from the fact that the are "nearly transparent" and surprise quite often (1-4).

The other big deal about the GC is of course its paralyzing attack. Similar to a Ghoul's, the effect only lasts 2d4 turns and can be removed with Cure Light Wounds. Of course, if a character fails their save and is paralyzed while the cube is busily trying to devour him, a few turns is plenty of time to finish off a victim.

Gelatinous cubes aren't horrifically tough, mind you. As long as a party member or two stays clear, they can likely finish one off in a few rounds. Interestingly, the cube is immune to electrical and cold attacks, but fire does the trick nicely. Lobbing flask of burning oil from a distance is a favorite tactic of many adventurers.

A cube has no lair, and its meager treasure type (V) reflects this somewhat. There's always a chance of some coins or gems stuck undissolved in the goo, but probably not much. Far more interesting is for a DM to deliberately place something the PCs want or need within the cube to make dealing with the creature more necessary.

DMs should play up how hard it is to spot a cube in a dark dungeon corridor as well as its chance at surprise. Once the PCs know its there, chances are the bulk of the danger is gone. Conversely, players should rely on ranged attacks (often after some poor soul has gotten paralyzed to reveal the threat) as well as flaming oil or similar.

Cubes can also be incorporated into traps and ambushes. If there is some evil lich or some such "Dungeon Boss" that has stocked his lair with creatures to keep out interlopers, cubes can be used to up the ante. Spiked pit? Yawn. Pit with a cube in the bottom? Now yer talkin'! Or perhaps the cube does the falling. Trap the PCs in a 10 x 10' stretch of hallway with portcullis traps and have the cube fall out of a ceiling panel onto them.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Oozy Goodness Part I: Black Pudding

I'm sure someone somewhere has written or reported upon exactly why Gygax & co. were so keen on including so many different amorphous blob-like monsters in D&D. Don't get me wrong; oozes and their ilk are fun encounters. Heck, I wrote a whole module full of them! But one does have to wonder sometimes if we needed quite so many options in this category. Nevertheless, over the next several posts I'll be taking a look at those escapees from the petri dish  which can be found among the pages of Moldvay and Cook starting alphabetically with the Black Pudding.

Black Pudding (from Cook) 

AC: 6
HD: 10*
Move: 60' (20')
Att: 1
Damage: 3d8
No. App: 1 (0)
Save: F5
Morale: 12
Treasure: Nil

So the immediate takeaway from these stats is that this thing can take more than it can dish out. It's HD is very respectable, but it has relatively weak saves and moves quite slowly.The high morale fits its mindless nature. Black puddings are particularly dangerous for two main reasons: They can seep into almost any location within the dungeon, and just smacking them makes a bunch of lil' puddins. but since fire circumvents that, it's not hard for a knowledgeable party to switch to flame-based tactics (torches, oil, fireballs, etc.).

Regarding its ability to split up into 2HD mini-puddings, no upper limit is listed but logically it seems that 5 x 2HD would follow from its 10HD total. A nasty feature of the pudding is the fact it can corrode metal. This means that most loot (coin, weapons, etc.) will be worthless in one turn. Though I would argue magic items might get a saving throw. 

Because the pudding has no treasure of its own, and has a tendency to corrode what it touches, it's not a great monster for the party to seek out as a way to get lots of gold or XP. Admittedly, 1600xp for killing it is nice, but that's not that much for a party that's high enough level to deal with it once it's split 4-6 ways.

Despite being slow, the pudding can dissolve wood, which means it can get through most doors eventually. Plus it can climb walls, cling to ceilings, and squeeze through cracks. I imagine this blob as a menace from the shadows (they're black, after all), relentlessly stalking its prey. It is easily outrun, but continues to seep along behind. 3d8 damage and a THACO of 11 means that unarmored magic-user that's keeping to the back of the party could be the target of a melt-ambush.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Curious Objects: Potion of Heroism

I have placed this item in treasure hoards or offered for sale from an alchemist once in a blue moon, but I don't think I've ever seen it used in a game. That's a shame, because it's a fun potion. 

Potions of Heroism temporarily give the imbiber extra levels in their class, but it only affect fighters, dwarfs, and halflings. This is a strange quirk for a potion. Sure, there are wands or other items that have class restrictions. But that can be rationalized by the idea that your PC doesn't know how to use them. Potions you just gulp down. Still, it's nice to give the meatshields something for themselves. 

Another interesting tidbit IMO is how the potion's boost diminishes for higher level characters. Regular 0-level shmoes get 4 levels of fighter (quite a bump!), whereas an 11th level fighter gets nothing. 

Like most potions, this one lasts at best a couple of hours. More than enough time to get through a combat, or even (maybe) a level of a dungeon (if the crawl don't sprawl too badly). I can imagine a some village keeping a vial of this somewhere safe, along with a coat of mail, a sword, and a shield. If there is an attack, some "designated defender" (or whomever has that shift) suits up, swigs it down, and charges out to fight off the baddie(s). One 4th level Hero* can probably do more against the foes than a handful of peasants.

*Is that where the potion gets its name I wonder?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

RMA: Wild Boar

Sus scrofa, or Wild Boar, is a perfectly normal critter. It's not giant or magic or dire. Unlike it's more fantastical "cousins", the wereboar and devil swine, it lacks special or supernatural abilities. So why bother listing it in the monsters section at all?

Well, first off, boars were all over the place in medieval Europe and Asia, so a fantasy world based on that sort of period would likely have them as well. They appear in the grassland, woods, river, inhabited, and jungle encounter tables.

Let's have the stats, shall we?

Boar (from Moldvay)

AC: 7
HD: 3
Move: 150' (50')
Att: 1 tusk
Damage: 2d4
No. App: 1d6 (1d6)
Save: F2
Morale: 9
Treasure: Nil

As a straight-up fight, boar are low on the risk-to-reward scale for PC types. They are fast enough and just tough enough charge in and to bang up the party without giving them much in return. No treasure and only 35 xp each. Their morale isn't awesome, but they'd probably stick about for a round or two at least.

There are a few scenarios where I could see featuring these animals in adventures or even just an encounter. 
  1. Remember that wereboars can summon these things to fight with them. 
  2. Low level PCs might ingratiate themselves to a landowner by dealing with some pesky boars ruining the crops.
  3. They might the only food source around for starving PCs lost in the wilds.
  4. Body disposal

Pigs are omnivorous and are not shy about carrion. Popular fiction has periodically used this fact to add a sinister aspect to their feeding habits.

Scary man!

Imagine a crime boss who keeps a boar pit outside of town for such a purpose. Or what if someone was killed in the woods and a sounder of boars found the body? Maybe something important or valuable was on the corpse when they started to feed?