Monday, February 20, 2012

The Way Back Machine - Greyhawk (Supplement I) - Part 2

This is the second installment of a series (The Way Back Machine) to discuss the four OD&D supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and Gods, Demigods & Heroes).  I started by discussing the Greyhawk supplement but left off after the section on Men & Magic.  Today I continue the discussion of Greyhawk.

After "Men & Magic," Greyhawk next covers "Monsters & Treasure" and then has a short section on "The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures."  The M&T section has an extensive collection of approximately 40 new monsters and untold numbers of treasures, along with a number of clarifications on the existing monsters.  Between the Monsters and Treasure book and the Greyhawk supplement, there are now over 100 monsters for DM's to choose from!

Monsters & Treasure

Summary Table: The M&T section of Greyhawk starts off with a handy-dandy table entitled "Monster Reference Table, Hostile & Benign Creatures."  It contains key stats for all the various monsters, including AC, Move, Number Appearing, Hit Dice, % In Lair, and Treasure Type.  You'll notice that the Monster Manual has many of the same entries.  Of course, the table's not in alphabetical order!  :)

It's very odd that there is a separate table earlier in Greyhawk that lists Number of Attacks and Damage per Attack.  Couldn't these two tables have been combined somehow?  Then again, critiquing the organizational layout of OD&D is a fool's errand.

Monster Descriptions: Next up is a paragraph or two describing each type of monster.  And folks - these are fun to read.  Since the tables already contain all the statistical data, these descriptions are pure fluff, ecology and other notes.  It's in Greyhawk that we get our first description of some truly iconic D&D monsters, such as:
  • Beholders
  • Umber Hulks
  • Displacer Beasts
  • Blink Dogs
  • Hell Hounds
  • Rust Monsters
  • Stirges
  • Owl Bears
  • Carrion Crawlers
  • Gelatinous Cubes
Some of the monster descriptions are quite interesting.  I'll share a few of my favorites:

Dragons:  There is the following snippet, which sounds very 1976: "There is only one King of Lawful Dragons, just as there is only one Queen of Chaotic Dragons (Women's Lib may make whatever they wish of the foregoing."  :)

Hell Hounds: "The damage caused by their fiery breath corresponds to the number of hit dice they have; hit dice range from a low of 3 to a high of 7."  This is WAY tougher than the lame, gimped out Monster Manual  Hell Hounds which do 1 POINT of damage per hit die of the Hound.

Stirges: "Long, bird-like monsters with long dangling proboscuses, the Stirges might call to mind evil-looking feathered ant-eaters."  WTF!

Carrion Crawlers: "The Carrion Crawler is able to climb/move along walls or ceilings as readily as floors, thus allowing it to compete with Ochre Jellies, Black (or Gray) Puddings, and the like."  Aha - our first glimpse at dungeon ecology!

Magic Items: The next part of Greyhawk's M&T section is the tables for magic items.  This expands greatly upon the tables in the original Monsters & Treasure.

Swords: Swords are now powered up beyond the +3 limit in the original books, going all the way to +5.  We're first introduced to the +5 Holy Sword and *drumroll* the Vorpal Blade!

Magic Weapons & Armor: Again, these are basically powered-up options from the original list.  Instead of being capped at Armor +2 and Shield +3, you can now award your greedy PCs with +5 Armor & Shield, or even Armor of Etherealness.  The Mace of Disruption has been added.  Arrows & Axes used to only be +1, but can now go up to +3 - including the Arrow of Slaying.  And Magic Crossbows have been added, including the deadly Crossbow of Accuracy and Crossbow of Speed.

Potions: Potions didn't change much, but a couple of original potions were powered up.  The Potion of Super Heroism has eclipsed its weaker cousin "The Potion of Heroism."  And a Potion of Extra-Healing has been added.  Oil of Etherealness has been added to the stable.

Rings: Not a lot of new rings, mostly just a couple of powered up choices.  Chief among these is the Ring of Protection, which now goes all the way up to +3 instead of just +1. 

Scrolls: This seemed to be a weird omission from Greyhawk.  It's the only class of magic item which wasn't discussed.  So it would seem the original (fairly sparse) choices from the Boxed Set went unchanged.

Wands, Staffs & Rods: The key word here is "Rods," which are introduced in Greyhawk as a new type of magic item.  The original list of 12 Wands and 7 Staffs remains exactly the same, but 6 Rods have been introduced.  Chief amongst these is the Rod of Lordly Might (go, Fighting Men!) and the Rod of Resurrection.

Miscellaneous Magic: This section underwent a mind-blowing expansion - growing from 29 Miscellaneous Magic items in the Boxed Set to 130 such items in Greyhawk.  For those familiar with the Dungeon Master's Guide (a couple of you guys, at least), the Greyhawk tables look quite similar.  Too many inconic D&D magic items were added to list even a portion of them, but a couple of classics are the Deck of Many Things, the Bag of Tricks, Boots of Dancing, Cloak of Protection, Bracers of Defense, Figurines of Wondrous Power, and many, many more. 

The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures

This section is quiet inconsequential in Greyhawk.  It's only five pages in length and basically has two features.  The first, and far more fun, section is on Tricks, Traps and Monstrous Combinations.  The second section is just a new Random Encounter Chart to include the new monsters.  I'll just talk about the firs one.

Tricks, Traps & Monstrous Combinations: This little jewel is actually a lot of fun to read.  It gives early Dungeon Masters some insight into how GEG envisioned tricks, traps and wild monster combinations.  It's basically a 3-page list of random ideas.  But there are some true classics here:
  • Fire Resistant Mummies: "Many players will get used to frying these monster with oil, but watch the fun when they run into one of these critters!"
  • Skeletons who are able to hurl their finger joints as if they were magic arrows (Note: I used this two months ago in a game I ran; once the skeleton was defeated, the players were able to "harvest" any remaining finger joints - which I treated as +1 Darts.)
  • A Troll with a Magic Spear riding a Purple Worm.  :)
  • A Cloud Giant riding a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
And many of the iconic "tricks" are also captured - such as Wishing Wells, secret compartments in treasure chests, statues with missing pieces that will grant something special if the missing piece is put together, etc.

Well - that concludes Greyhawk.  Next up is Blackmoor.


  1. Number of attacks and damage per attack come from this supplement, so they were separated (I think) due to their optional nature.

    I think that one could read the Hell Hound description as meaning the same thing as the Monster Manual version. Damage = number of Hit Dice. Yay! More D&D ambiguity! (Seriously. I like the ambiguous wording, as it allows interpretation and encourages divergent games.)

  2. Gotta love the ambiguity! In B/X, it's crystal clear that their breath does 1d6 damage per hit die of the hound. In re-reading the Greyhawk entry, you're right - it's unclear. Sheesh. :)

    1. I don't have B/X, but looking at the Rules Cyclopedia confirms that. However! It is also in Holmes that way: "Large reddish-brown hounds who can breathe fire, causing 3-7 6-sided dice of damage (equal in number to the hounds' hit dice)." I'd say that Holmes seems to be the origin of that interpretation, and it got carried through each of the subsequent D&D editions. Meanwhile, Gary clarified his original intent in the Monster Manual, bringing the smaller amount into AD&D.

      In the 2E Monstrous Compendium, I see that they do 1 point per hit die. They attack once with the breath prior to closing, then get an additional breath attack in addition to their bite attack if they roll a 20 to hit.

      Looking it up in the D20 SRD, I see that it is not the one point per hit die version, but neither is it the d6/HD interpretation: it is changed to a straight 2d6 damage (and reduces its breath weapon from 1E's once every three rounds on average to once every 2d4 rounds). This is also how Pathfinder handles it.

      I have no idea nor care what it is in 4E, so I leave that as an exercise for the audience.

    2. faoladh - now I know where to turn to for my arcane research! Thanks. :)

    3. Ha! I'm still a complete tyro in the Ways of the Editions. The guys to talk to for these things are still James Maliszewski or (even more so) Delta (check out his "Through the Ages" series of posts). I am a pygmy standing on their giant shoulders.

    4. Yup, those guys are sharp! I'll check out that series of posts you recommend.

  3. Thanks, both for following my blog and for giving me the opportunity to discover yours. The musings of OSR enthusiasts never fail to amaze me; I find myself with another blog I must devour. Thanks for the great resource.

    1. No problem Jefu! Good luck with your blog. It's off to a nice start.

  4. I have no idea nor care what it is in 4E, so I leave that as an exercise for the audience.

    Genting Crown