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Friday, January 26, 2018

RMA: Efreeti (Lesser)

A little while back, I talked about djinn. Specifically summoning them with a magic ring. Today I want to talk about their fiery counterparts, the Efreet.

Right off the bat, I should mention a small thing that I can't help but speculate over: both the djinn and efreet listed in the BX monsters are labeled as "Lesser" varieties of their respective types. Were Greater versions ever presented in classic D&D? Perhaps in a module? If anyone knows, I'd love to hear! I assume, since they are both elemental types, this is a callback to the differences between "staff" and "conjured" fire/air/earth/water/elementals. Perhaps a topic for another day?

Moving on, specifically about our smoldering subject, let's look at the stats.

Efreet (Lesser) from Cook:

AC: 3
HD: 10
Move: 90' (30')
Fly: 240' (80')
Att: 1
Dmg: 2d8 (+1d8 fire)
No. App: 1 (1)
Save: F15
Morale: 12
Treasure: nil

We can see that efreeti are a bit more powerful than their airy nemeses. Better AC & HD. Better saves and damage, too. In addition to their basic stats, they have an assortment of powers.

"Efreet can create objects, create illusions, and turn invisible
like djinn. They are also able to create a wall of fire up to 3 times
per day. An efreeti may transform its body into a pillar of flame that
will set fire to all flammable items within 5 feet. They can retain the
flame shape for 3 rounds maximum. The fire will also do an additional
1-8 points of damage to all creatures struck by the efreet.
They may fly and carry up to 10,000 en weight while flying."

So a bigger, scarier version of a djinn, right? The wall of fire and the pillar of flame thing are impressive in a fight, but not that much more dangerous, To me, the key part of this creature lies in its description's final paragraph:

"Efreet can be summoned by high level magic-users who 
have researched the special spells required. Once summoned, 
Efreet can be forced to serve for 101 days. They are reluctant and difficult 
servants and will obey their instructions exactly, attempting to distort the 
meaning of whatever they have been told to do in order to cause trouble for 
their masters. Efreet hate Djinn and will attack them on sight."
(emphases mine)

Firstly, I really like spell research call-out. It expressly says "Sure this is possible, but it's not your run of the mill magic item or spell slot." Next, the built-in animosity of an efreet servant reminds me of spells like Contact other Plane or Spiritwrack and dealing with "allies" that are not squarely on your side. Following instructions exactly is reminiscent of wishes, too (X59).

What's interesting is that the description says that efreeti "hate" djinn and will attack on sight, but there is no mention in the djinnis' description of how they feel about efreeti. It's worth noting the alignment. Efreet are chaotic, whereas djinn are neutral. One can imagine a great deal of fodder for world-building in that. Perhaps there is some ancient hatred stemming from an interplanar war? Maybe a trip to the City of Brass would yield some answers?

Friday, January 19, 2018

RMA: Giant Beetles

Giant? Well, they were bigger than Jesus.

Giant beetles. I won't say they're unheard of in BX games I've played and run, but what I find amusing is that, even within the compactness of the Basic rules alone, we're given three varieties of them.

Beetles, Giant (from Moldvay)

Fire Oil Tiger
Armor Class: 4 4 3
Hit Dice: 1 + 2 2' 3+1
Move: 120' (40') 120' (40') 150' (50')
Attacks: 1 bite 1 bite + special 1 bite
Damage: 2-8 1-6 + special 2-12
No. Appearing: 1-8 (2-12) 1-8 (2-12) 1-6 (2-8)
Save As: Fighter: 1 Fighter: 1 Fighter: 1
Morale: 7 8 9
Treasure Type: Nil Nil U
Alignment: Neutral Neutral Neutral

So right off the bat, we can see that they are basically a Small/Medium/Large progression. Fire beetles start off at about 2' long, finishing up with the Tigers at 4'. We also seen incremental increases in toughness and lethality. Also, they each appear in similar progression on the Basic (Levels 1-3) dungeon wandering monster tables. 

The two "lesser" beetles are interesting because of their namesakes. Fire beetles -despite the scariness of the title- do not emit flames. Rather, each has three "glowing glands" that continue to emit light for up to six days after dying. It seems this critter solely exists to give low level PCs a brisk encounter and a free light source for the dungeon. Granted, 2d4 damage from its bite is a bad time for a 1st level PC, but that's what crossbows are for. Plus their morale is low.

Oil beetles spit a caustic fluid that penalizes the victim with painful blisters. It's interesting that a Cure Light Wounds spell will heal the blisters or the damage, not both.

Tiger Beetles are big, carnivorous, and dangerous. They are faster, tougher, and deal more damage (2d6!). It's also interesting that they have treasure. Type U doesn't yield much, but there's a chance of magic items!

The other tidbit about tiger beetles is that it mentions they usually eat Robber Flies. Which, as we've discussed previously, usually feed on Giant Killer Bees. One can imagine an interesting little food chain-based encounter sprouting up around this dynamic.

Friday, January 12, 2018

RMA: White Ape

No, not the Barsoomian kind:

This kind:

We touched on these simians before when discussing Neanderthals, but we didn't really get into the creatures themselves.

White Ape (from Moldvay):
AC: 6
HD: 4
Move: 120' (40')
Att: 2 claws
Damage: 1d4 each
No. App: 1d6 (2d4)
Save: F2
Morale: 7
Treasure: nil

I won't say these creatures are unheard of in games I've played or run, but they aren't run of the mill either. Because of their previously mentioned connection to cave men, I would also lump them in under "Lost World" creatures. They can be found in dungeons and in the wild as wandering monsters (though oddly not on the Lost World encounter table). They also seem to serve as the model for any large primate encounters (gorillas, etc.) as there are no other creatures of this type listed in the BX rulebooks.

As opponents, the apes are a bad time for starting or low level PCs, but not overwhelming. Their rock-throwing (1d6) and 2 claw attacks are dangerous, and 4 HD means you aren't putting one down in a single hit. On the other hand, their AC is pretty tame and they lack any really unusual abilities.

No, the thing I like most about these creatures (apart from the inestimable Mr. Otus' illustration) is that they are a great example of a relatively "normal" animal written up right. Low morale, keeping no treasure, and described as nocturnal vegetarian gatherers who will threaten before attacking. The idea that they have lost their coloration due to subterranean life is an interesting side note, but they are otherwise, well, just apes.

Not every creature has to be utterly mundane or completely fantastic (in the original sense of the word). The white ape is a nice balance between something normal and something just a little exotic.

And I like that.