Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mightiest Monsters: Moldvay Basic

Here are the biggest critters (by hit dice) in the D&D rulebook with which I started my roleplaying hobby.

Dragons (6-11 HD)
Great Cats (3+2 to 8 HD)
Bears (4-7 HD)
Minotaur (6 HD)
Lycanthropes (3-6 HD)
Giant Lizards (3-6 HD)
Ochre Jelly (5 HD)
Owlbear (5 HD)
Rust Monster (5 HD)
Living Statues (3-5 HD)
Snakes (1-5 HD)

I don't remember Sabre Tooth Tigers being so bad ass, but at 8HD they were mightier than some dragons! Imagine how freaked out the PCs would be if they stumbled upon one of these big cats chewing on a freshly killed dragon! Cave bears and Polar Bears are also high up on the food chain, which I think is totally awesome. I think the record will show that I am firmly pro-bearmauling in my games.

If you compare this list to its predecessor, you'll note that the HD trend lower with the exception of dragons. The Moldvay edition may be the secret origin of the "OMG! Dragonz R teh best!" design trend over the last several editions. If the people who built the stats for the 2nd and 3rd edition dragons started playing with Moldvay Basic, of course they would assume that dragons are supposed to be the toughest monsters in the world. That runs counters to the assumption that because dragons are in the name of the game, they should be ubiquitous as well. Thus you end up with the situation in 3e where dragons range from tiny lizard babies at CR -2 to Godzilla level CR 57,000 threats. Personally, I'm not of the opinion that dragons have to be supergiganto to work in D&D. They should be too tough for low level adventurers to handle, but high level people should be able to subdue them and ride them around like firebreathing skyponies. That's one of the advantages of being high level!

The other thing I notice about this chart is that, aside from dragons, there is no overlap with the Holmes list or the OD&D list. Adventurers coming up in the implied setting of Moldvay's version had a very different world than the earlier incarnations of D&D. Perhaps Moldvay's vision of the D&D world was more inspired by lost civilizations struggling to survive the extinction of the ice age? That would go far to explain all the giant bears and sabre tooths and bigass snakes.