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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.