Sunday, March 29, 2009

two neat bits from Supplement I

Yesterday I was flipping through my dilapidated copy of Supplement I: Greyhawk, musing on the concept of an intentional cargo cult campaign (Holmes Basic plus one or two OD&D supplements or maybe Chainmail, the Monster Manual, and a couple picks of from the first 20 issues of Dragon. Something like that.) As I often do when I flip through the badly-organized but idea-rich rulebooks of old, I stumbled across a couple of items that I either missed on previous reads or completely forgot about.

The first cool discovery was the OD&D version of the beholder. The eye tyrant is one of the truly iconic monsters of the game, like the rust monster and the bulette it's part of the new mythology only possible in D&D. But I never used beholders much because of the complicated facing rules suggested by the Monster Manual entry. The Supplement I version just says "From 1-4 of the small eyes are able to function at one time." With the beholder facing rules in AD&D I ended up worrying about which eye faced in what direction. That turned me off.

But rolling d4 and then throwing that many d10's on the beholder eyestalk chart is exactly the sort of thing that I would love to inflict on a party. The PCs get the advantage of maybe avoiding the disintegration and death rays eyes and I get to roll more dice. Without reading the Greyhawk version of the beholder I would never have thought about it that way.

The other cool part about the OD&D beholder? They are neutral with chaotic tendencies, not the uber-agressive lords of evil from later editions. You might be able to team up with one to pillage other beasties in the dungeon!

The otherfun discovery was the spell Monster Summoning VII. Nowadays it's just one link on the great chain of Monster Summoning spells. But when Greyhawk came out the monster charts only had six levels. MS VII buried the needle on the system and referees were supposed to come up with their own list of beloved and wicked monsters that this mighty ninth level magic summoned. I love that. Here's an off-the-cuff draft of my own version:

1. 2d6 Cave Bears
2. 2d6 Trolls
3. d6 Balrogs
4. 2d6 Skorpadillos
5. d6 Nilbogs riding Rust Monsters
6. one each of demon type I to VI
7. 2d6 Blackmoorian robots
8. Purple Dragon
9. Spawn of Shub-Niggurath
10. d6 Grisly Spheres
11. the Mad Unicorn
12. George

So here's my challenge to all you refs out there: share either in the comments here or on your own blog a custom Ultimate Monster Summoning chart for your campaign. Note that all monsters don't have to be uber-lethal. Packs of Hell Hounds and Displacer Beasts are listed as examples, seemingly just because the authors dig those critters.


  1. Never had the problem you describe with the Beholder because I either never noticed or never paid attention to the 'facing rules'. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I'm hearing about them!

    In my D&D games a Beholder can fire any or all of its eyebeams in any or all directions at once except for directly below its body. I mean come on, its got ping-pong balls on the ends of living pipe cleaners! I always assumed it had control over its own senses so it could look left with its main eye, right with two others and behind it with the rest, gaining sensory information form all the areas covered. Why can't it shoot that way too?

    Beholders were among my most deadly beasties back in the day.

    BTW, is the Beholder on the cover of the supplement a female? Just looks that way to me.

    Barking Alien

  2. Anonymous3:28 PM

    I also had never even registered that Beholders had 'facing rules' until reading this post. Totally missed the boat on that one.

  3. When you said "intentional cargo cult" campaign I at first had the idea that it would be a game where, for any given situation, you'd randomize the rules between different rule sets.

    So, like, you're falling into a pit of spikes--do you use the falling-onto-spikes rules from Moldvay or AD&D or 3.5 or an old issue of White Dwarf or what? Roll d20...

    Could be a fun convention gimmick for a very well-prepared DM.

  4. Here's my list. It also has 12 entries because, somehow, while I was working on it, the Twelve Days of Christmas got stuck in my head. Gah! :-)

    12. Hoop-snakes rolling
    11. Oni hacking
    10. Vroats a-leaping (Arduin)
    9. Ankhegs spitting
    8. Buzzing Mi-go (Lovecraft)
    7. Fen in walkers (Brin's uplift)
    6. Banshees wailing
    5. Golden Golems
    4. Slashing Ssu (EPT)
    3. Umber Hulks
    2. Vulture Lions (Moorcock)
    1. Nidhöggr in the World Ash Tree

  5. Anonymous9:24 PM

    You know, I'm not really sure that I've ever actually used a beholder in a game.

    My players are going to wish that I hadn't just realized that...