Monday, August 27, 2018

Monster Monday - Tome of Horrors 5E - Quickie

From Tome of Horrors 5E, by Frog God Games
New bulettes showed up in the Tome of Horrors 5E. I'm excited about this for obvious reasons. Here's a screenshot from the book. The colors within are black, blue, gold, green and red.

I haven't run any of the new bulettes yet, but they are really cool. I'm surprised this hadn't been done before. I think we will see a rash of "colored" monsters after this.

I don't want to give away too much from this new product, but as you can see, they infused a classic monster with some very cool ideas. The devil tied inside the bulette is an awesome take, and the others all have something similar.

Overall, there are 325 monsters in this book, statted to 5th Edition. I'm not sure how many are new, but there are the 5 bulettes, Silver Bulette did 4 more (Fungus Man Alchemist, Hsagrath, Lost Limb, and Tainted Servant of Tsathogga.) If you're a DM for 5E this is a must get book. For me, it ranks higher than the Monster Manual. Tome of Horrors and Tome of Beasts, from Kobold Press are my top 2 5E books for monsters. I even recommend this book to older version players. There is some great art, and FGG knocked the production out of the park!

Print books for this aren't out yet, but be watching in your FLGS and on the website linked above. I'm sorry if today sounds a bit like an advertisement. I'm very excited for this book. It's my first "official" writer's credits.

Monster Monday will be disappearing. With the return of school days, my FLGS game has switched to Mondays. I intend to replace it with a grab bag on Wednesdays moving forward. Expect that next week.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Deciphering Alignment - Part 1

Yesterday I posted a fairly lengthy list of alignment appearing in D&D over the years. Today, I am going to break it down. I may jump around a bit, as this will be a stream-of-consciousness blog.

Starting at the beginning, OD&D had very little in exposition of alignment. In Men & Magic, the book almost literally states "pick an alignment." Now, elves and dwarves could only be Lawful or Neutral. Halflings could only be Lawful. Humans were open to all three alignments. It's interesting to me that Gary Gygax doesn't expound on the way that alignments behave.
He somewhat rectifies this in Greyhawk (Supplement I.) Specifically, he outlines how to adjudicate chaotic characters. They are likely to stab friends in the back for something they want. Gary suggests that lawful characters should move against chaotic characters as needed. This is also the first instance of a required specific alignment (paladins and thieves.)

Holmes and Gygax introduced the 9-point alignment in 1978. This is the first alignment system that looks like the modern system. Let's take a look at the similarities and differences between the two.
First, Holmes mentions that thieves are neutral. Meanwhile Gygax states a "thief can be neutral or evil." Even early on, we see divisions on how the alignments to be adjudicated.
In the AD&D PHB Gygax suggests that the DM keep an alignment chart for PCs. This is an interesting idea for me. What would this chart look like? The chart to the right seems like a good start. How would you keep track? Choose a color for each character? Would the player get a say or be able to explain thoughts?
Did anyone actually do this? How did it work?
Gygax makes a two paragraph statement on changing alignments. He talks of requiring quests and sacrifices to change alignments voluntarily. Meanwhile, Holmes says the DM can decide that a player is not using an alignment properly and force a change (possibly with a penalty.)

Moldvay/Cook and Mentzer move Basic D&D back to the three-point alignment. I'm sure this is as much to differentiate the Basic and Advanced lines as it is to keep it "basic." As they were effectively the same product*, there are few differences. Both compare the Lawful alignment to "good," and Chaos to "evil."
I feel that this is where one of the greatest misconstructions of the alignment system comes from. While in AD&D at this time we have LE and CG, these alignments are pointed at (indirectly) as impossible from a sister product. This has skewed the alignment system moving forward (and probably directly gave rise to the 4E aberrant alignment system.)

2E is where the alignment system gained the most understanding, because an entire chapter was devoted to it. David "Zeb" Cook (the same one who wrote the Expert set of the Moldvay/Cook era) treated alignment to a necessary exploration. He looks carefully at the alignments individually (Law, Chaos, Good, Evil, and Neutrality) and completely (LG, LN, LE, NG, N, NE, CG, CN, CE.) If someone is struggling to understand the alignment system in the context of role-playing games, this is where I point them (start on pg 46 of the 2E PHB.) Zeb gives us so much information, it could be a blog to itself (and is a chapter for the only time in the history of D&D.)

So far, we see the alignment systems building on each other (mostly.) Next blog I will take a look at 3-5E.

*Mentzer revised the Moldvay/Cook rules and edited it into the Red Box. He didn't really change the rules, just presentation.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Alignment Through the Ages

I am a member of several D&D groups on Facebook and G+ (imagine that!) Lately on the 5E groups, in particular, debate has raged on about alignment and its usefulness. Today, I present the basics for alignments in different editions of D&D. Soon I will create a follow-up post explaining the changes and how I interpret them.
The OD&D alignment basics is in the image to the right.
Men and Magic, Pg 9

In Supplement I: Greyhawk, a small revision was made: "Chaotic Alignment by a player generally betokens chaotic action on the player’s part without any rule to stress this aspect, i.e. a chaotic player is usually more prone to stab even his lawless buddy in the back for some desired gain. However, chaos is just that — chaotic. Evil monsters are as likely to turn on their supposed confederates in order to have all the loot as they are to attack a lawful party in the first place.
While there is no rule to apply to groups of chaotic players operating in concert, referees are urged to formulate some rules against continuing cooperation as fits their particular situation, but consideration for concerted actions against chaotic players by lawful ones should be given." (Greyhawk pp 6,7)
Even after this revision, alignment is still a murky idea.

Moving on to Holmes, we find this in his Basic book: "Characters may be lawful (good or evil), neutral or chaotic (good or evil). Lawful characters always act according to a highly regulated code of behavior, whether for good or evil. Chaotic characters are quite unpredictable and can not be depended upon to do anything except the unexpected -- they are often, but not always, evil. Neutral characters, such as all thieves, are motivated by self interest and may steal from their companions or betray them if it is in their own best interest. Players may choose any alignment they want and need not reveal it to others. Note that the code of lawful good characters insures that they would tell everyone that they are lawful. There are some magical items that can be used only by one alignment of characters. If the Dungeon Master feels that a character has begun to behave in a manner inconsistent with his declared alignment he may rule that he or she has changed alignment and penalize the character with a loss of experience points. An example of such behavior would be a "good" character who kills or tortures a prisoner." (Dungeons & Dragons [1978], Holmes, pp 8)

Moving forward, we hit AD&D 1E.
After generating the abilities of your character, selecting his or her race, and deciding upon a class, it is necessary to determine the alignment of the character. It is possible that the selection of the class your character will profess has predetermined alignment: a druid is neutral, a paladin is lawful good, a thief can be neutral or evil, an assassin is always evil. Yet, except for druids and paladins, such restrictions still leave latitude — the thief can be lawful neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, chaotic evil, chaotic neutral, neutral, or even neutral good; and the assassin has nearly as many choices. The alignments possible for characters are described below.
Chaotic Evil: The major precepts of this alignment are freedom, randomness, and woe. Laws and order, kindness, and good deeds are disdained. Life has no value. By promoting chaos and evil, those of this alignment hope to bring themselves to positions of power, glory, and prestige in a system ruled by individual caprice and their own whims.
Chaotic Good: While creatures of this alignment view freedom and the randomness of action as ultimate truths, they likewise place value on life and the welfare of each individual. Respect for individualism is also great. By promoting the gods of chaotic good, characters of this alignment seek to spread their values throughout the world.
Chaotic Neutral: Above respect for life and good, or disregard for life and promotion of evil, the chaotic neutral places randomness and disorder. Good and evil are complementary balance arms. Neither are preferred, nor must either prevail, for ultimate chaos would then suffer.
Lawful Evil: Creatures of this alignment are great respecters of laws and strict order, but life, beauty, truth, freedom and the like are held as valueless, or at least scorned. By adhering to stringent discipline, those of lawful evil alignment hope to impose their yoke upon the world.
Lawful Good: While as strict in their prosecution of law and order, characters of lawful good alignment follow these precepts to improve the common weal. Certain freedoms must, of course, be sacrificed in order to bring order; but truth is of highest value, and life and beauty of great importance. The benefits of this society are to be brought to all.
Lawful Neutral: Those of this alignment view regulation as all-important, taking a middle road betwixt evil and good. This is because the ultimate harmony of the world — and the whole of the universe — is considered by lawful neutral creatures to have its sole hope rest upon law and order. Evil or good are immaterial beside the determined purpose of bringing all to predictability and regulation.
Neutral Evil: The neutral evil creature views law and chaos as unnecessary considerations, for pure evil is all-in-all. Either might be used, but both are disdained as foolish clutter useless in eventually bringing maximum evilness to the world.
Neutral Good: Unlike those directly opposite them (neutral evil) in alignment, creatures of neutral good believe that there must be some regulation in combination with freedoms if the best is to be brought to the world — the most beneficial conditions for living things in general and intelligent creatures in particular.
True Neutral: The “true” neutral looks upon all other alignments as facets of the system of things. Thus, each aspect — evil and good, chaos and law — of things must be retained in balance to maintain the status quo; for things as they are cannot be improved upon except temporarily, and even then but superficially. Nature will prevail and keep things as they were meant to be, provided the “wheel” surrounding the hub of nature does not become unbalanced due to the work of unnatural forces — such as human and other intelligent creatures interfering with what is meant to be.
Naturally, there are all variations and shades of tendencies within each alignment.The descriptions are generalizations only. A character can be basically good in its “true” neutrality, or tend towards evil. It is probable that your campaign referee will keep a graph of the drift of your character on the alignment chart. This is affected by the actions (and desires) of your character during the course of each adventure, and will be reflected on the graph. You may find that these actions are such as to
cause the declared alignment to be shifted towards, or actually to, some other.
Changing Alignment
While involuntary change of alignment is quite possible, it is very difficult for a character to voluntarily switch from one to another, except within limited areas. Evil alignment can be varied along the like axis. The neutral character can opt for some more specific alignment. Your referee will probably require certain stringent sacrifices and appropriate acts — possibly a quest, as well — for any other voluntary alignment change. In fact, even axial change within evil or good, or
radial movement from neutrality may require strong proofs of various sorts. Further voluntary change will be even more difficult. Changing back to a forsaken alignment is next to impossible on a voluntary basis. Even involuntary drift will bring the necessity of great penance. (Player's Handbook, Gygax, 1978, pp 33-34)

Moldvay/Cook steps back to the three-point alignment system, separating Basic from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Three basic ways of life guide the acts of both player characters and monsters. Each way of life is called an alignment. The three alignments are named Law, Chaos, and Neutrality. Each alignment has a language that includes hand signals and other body motions. Player characters always know how to speak their alignment language in addition to any others they may know. If a monster is able to speak, it will also be able to use its alignment language.
Players may choose the alignments they feel will best fit their characters. A player does not have to tell other players what alignment he or she has picked, but must tell the DM. Most Lawful characters
will reveal their alignment if asked. When picking alignments, the characters should know that Chaotics cannot be trusted, even by other Chaotics. A Chaotic character does not work well with
other player characters.
The alignments give guidelines for characters to live by. The characters will try to follow these guidelines, but may not always be successful. If a DM feels that a player is not keeping to a character's chosen alignment, the DM may suggest a change of alignment or give the character a punishment or penalty. 
Law (or Lawful) is the belief that everything should follow an order, and that obeying rules is the natural way of life. Lawful creatures will try to tell the truth, obey laws, and care about all living
things. Lawful characters always try to keep their promises. They will try to obey laws as long as such laws are fair and just. If a choice must be made between the benefit of a group or an individual,
a Lawful character will usually choose the group. Sometimes individual freedoms must be given up for the good of the group. Lawful characters and monsters often act in predictable
ways. Lawful behavior is usually the same as behavior that could be called "good".
Chaos (or Chaotic) is the opposite of Law. It is the belief that life is random, and that chance and luck rule the world. Everything happens by accident, and nothing can be predicted. Laws are
made to be broken, as long as a person can get away with it. It is not important to keep promises, and lying and telling the truth are both useful. To a Chaotic creature, the individual is the most important of all things. Selfishness is the normal way of life, and the group is not
important. Chaotics often act on sudden desires and whims. They cannot be trusted, and their behavior is hard to predict. They have a strong belief in the power of luck. Chaotic behavior is usually the same as behavior that could be called "evil".
Neutrality (or Neutral) is the belief that the world is a balance between Law and Chaos. It is important that neither side get too much power and upset this balance. The individual is important,
but so is the group; the two sides must work together. A Neutral character is most interested in personal survival. Such characters believe in their own wits and abilities rather than luck.
They tend to return the treatment they receive from others. Neutral characters will join a party if they think it is in their own best interest, but will not be overly helpful unless there is some sort
of profit in it. Neutral behavior may be considered "good" or "evil" (or neither!), depending on the situation. (Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Game Basic Rulebook, Holmes, 1981, pp B11)

The next release was Menzter's Red Box Basic. He keeps the three-point alignment system.
Three basic ways of life guide the acts of both player characters and monsters. Each way of life is called an alignment. The three alignments are named Law, Chaos, and Neutrality. Each alignment
has a language that includes hand signals and other body motions. Player characters always know how to speak their alignment language in addition to any others they may know. If a monster is able to speak, it will also be able to use its alignment language.
Players may choose the alignments they feel will best fit their characters. A player does not have to tell other players what alignment he or she has picked, but must tell the DM. Most Lawful characters will reveal their alignment if asked. When picking alignments, the characters should know that Chaotics cannot be trusted, even by other Chaotics. A Chaotic character does not work well with other player characters.
The alignments give guidelines for characters to live by. The characters will try to follow these guidelines, but may not always be successful. If a DM feels that a player is not keeping to a character's chosen alignment, the DM may suggest a change of alignment or give
the character a punishment or penalty.
Law (or Lawful) is the belief that everything should follow an order, and that obeying rules is the natural way of life. Lawful creatures will try to tell the truth, obey laws, and care about all living
things. Lawful characters always try to keep their promises. They will try to obey laws as long as such laws are fair and just.
If a choice must be made between the benefit of a group or an individual, a Lawful character will usually choose the group. Sometimes individual freedoms must be given up for the good of the group. Lawful characters and monsters often act in predictable ways. Lawful behavior is usually the same as behavior that could be called "good."
Chaos (or Chaotic) is the opposite of Law. It is the belief that life is random, and that chance and luck rule the world. Everything happens by accident and nothing can be predicted. Laws are
made to be broken, as long as a person can get away with it. It is not important to keep promises, and lying and telling the truth are both useful.
To a Chaotic creature, the individual is the most important of all things. Selfishness is the normal way of life, and the group is not important. Chaotics often act on sudden desires and whims. They
cannot be trusted, their behavior is hard to predict. They have strong belief in the power of luck. Chaotic behavior is usu- ally the same as behavior that could be called "evil."
Neutrality (or Neutral) is the belief that the world is a balance between Law and Chaos. It is important that neither side get too much power and upset this balance. The individual is important, but so is the group; the two sides must work together.
A Neutral character is most interested in personal survival. Such characters believe in their own wits and abilities rather than luck. They tend to return the treatment they receive from others. Neutral
characters will join a party if they think it is in their own best interest, but will not
be overly helpful unless there is some sort of profit in it. Neutral behavior may be considered "good" or "evil" (or neither), depending on the situation.
THE SITUATION: A group of player characters is attacked by a large number of monsters. Escape is not possible unless the monsters are slowed down.
A Lawful character will fight to protect the group, whatever the danger. The character will not run away unless the whole group does.
A Neutral character will fight to protect the group as long as it is reasonably safe to do
so. If the danger gets too great, the character will try to save himself (or herself), even
at the expense of the party.
A Chaotic character might fight the monsters or might run away. The character will not care what happens to the rest of the party. (Dungeons & Dragons Player's Manual, Frank Mentzer, 1983)

Moving into AD&D 2E, we find the alignment system receives an entire chapter! I'm not going to quote the whole thing. Instead I will only present the bare essentials.
The character's alignment is a guide to his basic moral and ethical attitudes toward others, society, good, evil and the forces of the universe in general. Use the chosen alignment as a guide to provide a clearer idea of how the character will handle moral dilemmas. Always consider alignment as a tool, not a straitjacket that restricts the character. Although alignment defines general attitudes, it certainly doesn't prevent the character from changing his beliefs, acting irrationally, or behaving out of character.

D&D 3E
A character’s or creature’s general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good, lawful neutral, neutral, chaotic neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, and chaotic evil. (See Table 6–1: Creature, Race, and Class Alignments to see which creatures, races, and classes favor which alignments.)
Choose an alignment for your character, using the character’s race and class as a guide. Standard characters are good or neutral but not evil. Evil alignments are for villains and monsters.
Alignment is a tool for developing your character’s identity. It is not a straitjacket for restricting your character. Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two lawful good characters can be quite different from each other. In addition, few people are
completely consistent. A lawful good character may have a greedy streak, occasionally tempting him to take something or hoard something he has even if that’s not the lawful or good thing to do. People are also not consistent from day to day. Good characters can lose their tempers, neutral characters can be inspired to perform noble acts, and so on.
Choosing an alignment for your character means stating your intent to play that character a certain way. If your character acts in a way more appropriate to another alignment, the DM may decide that your character’s alignment has changed to match her actions. 

Being good or evil can be a conscious choice, as with the paladin who attempts to live up to her ideals or the evil cleric who causes pain and terror to emulate his god. For most people, though, being
good or evil is an attitude that one recognizes but does not choose.
Being neutral between good and evil usually represents a lack of commitment one way or the other, but for some it represents a positive commitment to a balanced view. While acknowledging that good and evil are objective states, not just opinions, these folk maintain that a balance between the two is the proper place for people, or at least for them.
Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral
rather than good or evil. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat
people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or

wrong behavior. (Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook, WotC, 2000, pp 87-88)

Dungeons and Dragons 4E takes a stern departure. It devotes about a page and a half to the subject, but here's the quick rundown:
ALIGNMENT A character’s alignment (or lack thereof) describes his or her moral stance: ✦ Good: Freedom and kindness. ✦ Lawful Good: Civilization and order. ✦ Evil: Tyranny and hatred. ✦ Chaotic Evil: Entropy and destruction. ✦ Unaligned: Having no alignment; not taking a stand. For the purpose of determining whether an effect functions on a character, someone of lawful good alignment is considered good and someone of chaotic evil alignment is considered evil. For instance, a lawful good character can use a magic item that is usable only by good-aligned characters.  (Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook Arcane, Divine and Martial Heroes, 2008)
It is a different system. Lawful Good, Good, Evil, Chaotic Evil and Unaligned seems a distilled version of the nine-point system.

D&D 5E takes a bare bones approach:
A typical creature in the game world has an alignment, which broadly describes its moral and personal attitudes. Alignment is a combination of two factors: one identifies morality (good, evil, or neutral), and the other describes attitudes toward society and order (lawful, chaotic, or neutral). Thus, nine distinct alignments define the possible combinations.

These brief summaries of the nine alignments describe the typical behavior of a creature with that alignment. Individuals might vary significantly from that typical behavior, and few people are perfectly and consistently faithful to the precepts of their alignment.

Lawful good (LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society. Gold dragons, paladins, and most dwarves are lawful good.

Neutral good (NG) folk do the best they can to help others according to their needs. Many celestials, some cloud giants, and most gnomes are neutral good.

Chaotic good (CG) creatures act as their conscience directs, with little regard for what others expect. Copper dragons, many elves, and unicorns are chaotic good.

Lawful neutral (LN) individuals act in accordance with law, tradition, or personal codes. Many monks and some wizards are lawful neutral.

Neutral (N) is the alignment of those who prefer to steer clear of moral questions and don’t take sides, doing what seems best at the time. Lizardfolk, most druids, and many humans are neutral.

Chaotic neutral (CN) creatures follow their whims, holding their personal freedom above all else. Many barbarians and rogues, and some bards, are chaotic neutral.

Lawful evil (LE) creatures methodically take what they want, within the limits of a code of tradition, loyalty, or order. Devils, blue dragons, and hobgoblins are lawful evil.

Neutral evil (NE) is the alignment of those who do whatever they can get away with, without compassion or qualms. Many drow, some cloud giants, and goblins are neutral evil.

Chaotic evil (CE) creatures act with arbitrary violence, spurred by their greed, hatred, or bloodlust. Demons, red dragons, and orcs are chaotic evil.

Alignment in the Multiverse
For many thinking creatures, alignment is a moral choice. Humans, dwarves, elves, and other humanoid races can choose whether to follow the paths of good or evil, law or chaos. According to myth, the good-aligned gods who created these races gave them free will to choose their moral paths, knowing that good without free will is slavery.

The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc gods, and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god’s influence.)

Alignment is an essential part of the nature of celestials and fiends. A devil does not choose to be lawful evil, and it doesn’t tend toward lawful evil, but rather it is lawful evil in its essence. If it somehow ceased to be lawful evil, it would cease to be a devil.

Most creatures that lack the capacity for rational thought do not have alignments—they are unaligned. Such a creature is incapable of making a moral or ethical choice and acts according to its bestial nature. Sharks are savage predators, for example, but they are not evil; they have no alignment. (D&D Beyond, WotC)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Monster Monday - Orcs

Today I want to delve deep into orcs. They are a creature that has changed greatly over time, and I want to explore 1974-2018. (Art to the right used under license from Fat Goblin Games.)

Orcs are some of the oldest monsters in D&D. In Monsters & Treasure, only men and goblins (and kobolds, using the stats of goblins) are listed before orcs. Orcs have a negative to hit in sunlight, as goblins. Some people speculate that orcs are a goblinoid race because of this. Note: orcs and goblins both appear on the "giant" tables in M&M. They lair in villages and caves, create defenses and use catapults. They also, apparently, transport large amounts of gold frequently. These caravans are led by Fighting Men and Magic-Users. From playing in Castle Greyhawk (run by Paul Stromburg from Gary's notes,) I know that Gary often used orcs as rank-and-file in the early level of dungeons.
Rob Kuntz was known to use forces of orcs under the control of Robilar. Notably, he killed a whole tribe while working his way through the Tomb of Horrors.

In 1E orcs get a bit more descriptive. Paraphrasing the Monster Manual, orcs are fiercely competitive, bullies, cruel and hateful. They harbor a deep hatred for elves in particular, slaying them when others would be taken as slaves or food. In 1E, they speak several languages (orc, goblin, hobgoblin and ogre.)

In 2E, orcs get a publicist, apparently. Their description changes from the total evil of 1e to (again, paraphrasing):
aggressive mammalian carnivores that hunt and raid to survive. They need to expand territory to survive and constantly war with PC races. Orc language now becomes defined (using archaic human words) and only some orcs speak other languages (notably common, goblin, hobgoblin and ogre.)
Orcs are aggressive in 2E, often breaking alliances. They still take slaves in 2E and believe that bullying is the right of the strong.

In 3.5 we see the first alignment shift. The MM entry states "often chaotic evil." Dwarves are now mentioned as racial enemies, alongside elves. They still take slaves and war continuously. Otherwise, little changes between 2 and 3.X.

4E has little other than mechanics in the MM. "Orcs worship gruumsh, the one-eyed god of slaughter and are savage, bloodthirsty marauders. They plague the civilized races of the world and also fight among themselves for scraps of food and treasure." Orcs have lost the negative to hit in sunlight in 4E.

5E orcs have a much better background write-up than in 4E. A full page of text is dedicated to how orcs behave. Again, they have racial hatred of elves (but not dwarves.) They are given some much better motivation. In 5E orcs respect power, especially physical power. They allow any creature of strength to join their tribes and often work for evil giants.

Over time, orcs have changed in public perception as well. Two examples that move the scales from orcs being an embodiment of chaos are the Elder Scrolls series and the Warcraft series. In these video games, orcs are often portrayed as victims of attacks on their homes and not the attackers. This can be used to create unexpected encounters with a staple baddy.

Amalgamating the knowledge from above, I want to build an orc stronghold, like I did with the troglodyte last week.

First, let's build the encounter list. Orcs (duh), ogres (because of common language,) and we'll have them led by a hill giant as a nod to 5E. Because I use S&W (a 0E clone) I will make their home a series of caves. They also need slaves and non-combatants to lend verisimilitude.

Encounter #1: The orcs have set up a ballista and palisade around the entrance to their lair. 6 orcs typically guard the entrance. However, they are lazy and will not take the duties seriously. The PCs can sneak by or eliminate these creatures if they are stealthy.

Encounter #2: The training room usually holds 4-6 orcs and an ogre. They are alert and ready to fight, but sounds of battle from this chamber are common, so no reinforcements from other areas will be immediate.

Encounter #3: The cooking area houses mostly non-combatant females and young. For added spice, you can add a young ogre who fights like an orc. Reinforcements will show up if combat happens here.

Encounter #4: Slave quarters has a few badly injured/beaten/malnourished humans or halflings. Two to four orcs guard them. Reinforcements do not come for combat in this area.

Encounter #5: The remaining ogres quarter here. Two ogres and four orcs are playing a variant of dominoes when the PCs enter the cave. These creatures are the ones first to reinforce any combats.

Encounter #6: This area is the orcs sleeping and privacy area. Several males and non-combatant females will be here, albeit not ready to fight. The males will reinforce other areas several rounds later.

Encounter #7: The hill giant, Grakan, resides over this small outpost from here. He has a throne and several elite orcs as guards.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monster Monday - Troglodyte

Troglodytes show up in some of the most iconic modules. First up: S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. 18 of the buggers hang out in the Greater Caverns. They use great tactics (with a leader that creates an illusionary army. The troglodytes are instrumental in the module to give the Caverns a "living dungeon" feel.
B9: Castle Caldwell and Beyond has 4 of them hanging out near the gardens. I've never played the module, so I don't know the chances of running into them.
X1: Isle of Dread has a lair of 17 troglodytes. However, they are stuffed into a corner of the island, with instructions to use a generic map. They don't even appear on the random encounter table!
N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God: In this module, the troglodytes drive the story. A few of the locations in town have cult members working with troglodytes. The author uses their scent as a plot device (a way to track them.) The troglodytes are active in the cult, and show up as wandering monsters. This is probably the best module featuring troglodytes.
In all, troglodytes have shown up in 29 different adventures.

Troglodytes fill the same roll as a lot of more common monsters. Orcs, hobgoblins, zombies, and gnolls are used similarly. Trogs have a wonderful flavor if you're looking for something same-but-different.

Today, I'm going to try something new. I want to thematically build an adventure starting with the troglodyte. So, according to Monstrosities, they are "subterranean reptile-people. In battle they emit a horrible smell..." From the MM we add "They loathe humans." This gives us a start of what might hang out with them.
My first thought is what loves smelly things? Otyugh. They love trash, offal and carrion. Sounds like they can hang out stinky troglodytes. And, I am often a fan of using them as a trash removal service.
Next, let's find a reptilian connection. The naga is an obvious choice, but that was the Cult of the Reptile God's boss. So, something different. Hydra are underused, imho, so that's what they worship and feed.
I feel that trogs probably live in a swampy area, so we can add giant leeches, and snakes (constrictor and viper.)

So, the adventure looks like this:
Hook: bad things happening in the swamp. (The DM can even use "lizardman" to keep the PCs in the dark about what's up.)
Travel to the lair: use giant leeches and snakes to wear down party.
The lair is probably branching paths, with several trogs in different areas. Add females/children as appropriate. The otyugh probably hangs out fairly deep. Maybe a branching side-path that doesn't directly connect to the main quest.
Eventually, the PCs find their way to the hydra's lair, but the troglodyte witch-doctor has set up a puzzle-lock to make sure his dumb flock doesn't accidentally get eaten by the hydra. Maybe a pentagram or another puzzle involving the number 5 (to give a final hint of what's behind.)
Then they come to the hydra, down in a pit. It can maneuver around to avoid arrows, possibly making a game of cat-and-mouse within a labyrinth below. Depending on levels and abilities 1-4 trogs could be present.

The image above was by Christopher Burdett. It is owned by WotC and used in the Dungeons of Dread.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Monster Monday - Flail Snail

Let's talk about a weird one today. Flail snail first appeared in the Fiend Folio in 1981. They didn't see any use in the 1e system after that, at least not in official modules. In fact, it only shows up in 12 total adventures from TSR. Two of them were in Dungeon Magazine.
The flail snail has always been one of my "guilty pleasure" monsters. Let's go through the checklist:
Easily recognizable - yes
Unique abilities - yes
Multiple attacks - yes
Dungeon dweller - yes
Messes with magic - yup

They are in the "sweet spot" for adventuring too. 4-6 HD is perfect for the E/X (levels 3-9) play. And they circumvent standard party tactics. Immune to fire and poison, it also can rebound spells. Fighting types don't want to get close because they have a high number of attacks. AND . . . When they die, they wail for 1-3 turns, adding a 50% penalty to wandering monster checks.
That's a pretty fun package, when all rolled together. But, they are WEIRD. How do you use such a creature?

Egg, the great wizard of Mord Mar loved having flail snails in and around his tower. Their scintillating shells and relative obscurity thwarted several theft attempts in his tower.

The hobgoblin, Mucksnort, recently led an expedition to capture a flail snail. Much to his delight, they captured two, and a clutch of eggs. Now he leads his hobgoblin military from the back of his new mount, and his lieutenant keeps the female with her eggs at their swamp abode.

The great zoo in Redstone recently got in two specimens of flail snail. However, the staff had no idea how to contain or control them, and now they are leaving slime trails throughout the city. They batter down walls at dawn, so they are easy to track down, but they need to be reclaimed alive.