I didn’t really care for Monte Cook’s article on the monsters that haven’t yet made it to 4e. While I disagree – strongly – with the false dichotomy of the poll, it got me thinking about the “good old days” and whether or not today’s players are really ready for that level of douchebaggery. My guess is no. Despite that, I thought it might be fun to replicate some monsters from the Fiend Folio in the style of AD&D. I’ve added two new keywords to these monsters:
4thcore – This indicates a monster that should only be used in campaigns that are explicitly hard optimized.
Retro – This indicates a monster from earlier editions of D&D that I don’t believe belongs in 4e.
Thanks go out to my friend Jason for his assistance in designing these monsters.
(Yeah, I know I’ve been a little monster-happy of late. I’ll try to switch it up more in the next few articles.)
I fought adherers once in the old days. It wasn’t that bad because we had a magic-heavy party and we were somewhat over level, but they were still really annoying. The Fiend Folio version of the adherer is bad design because there isn’t anything that the characters can do about the glue during the encounter – boiling water thrown from close range will negate the glue for a round. There also isn’t any justification for “immune to all 1st level Magic-User spells except Magic Missile.”
The more generic issue is that the adherer is a large “screw you” to a sizable group of characters – those that use melee attacks. This is exacerbated in 4e because all of the defenders use melee weapons. I didn’t include the “half damage from weapon attacks” because, at some point, you have to say enough is enough. The adherer isn’t especially lethal, but it is anti-fun. In that sense, the adherer represents one of the primary philosophical changes that came with 4e: the players’ fun is at least, if not more, important than the GM’s.
To my mind, Meenlocks represent the very worst in encounter design. Let’s say that the Meenlocks successfully kidnap a party member. The very best that can happen is that the remaining PCs rescue the character, but in the meantime, that player cannot participate in the adventure. At the other end of the spectrum, the other players might decide to abandon the victim. This means that the character is made into a NPC off screen and cannot be resurrected.
Another aspect of the original Meenlock design that reflects AD&D sensibilities is the number of powers that automatically hit. You would think that the ability represented by Preparing the Recruit would merit at least some discussion about how to counter it or how to figure out what the hell is happening to your character, but no. Similarly, the ability simulated here as Ghastly Visage does not include any sort of mechanic for getting out – see a Meenlock, hit the floor for as many turns as indicated on the dice.
It’s fairly easy to look at the Flumph and laugh – it’s a lawful good, flying man-o-war. It doesn’t get much more ridiculous than that. This creature has been included in Order of the Stick as a joke (it gets killed by things falling on it).
I think that the real lesson of the Flumph is that simulationism can only take you so far. It’s perfectly acceptable for the creature to have skunk-like mechanics. It’s not okay for those mechanics to make the encounter unplayable. “‘For 1-4 hours afterwards, a victim struck by this liquid will be shunned by his companions who will not be able to tolerate his presence within 100’ until the effects wear off” is one of the monster powers that I reference when I’m teaching new GMs about monster design.
I’ll be honest, as I was sitting there trying to get the templating on Noxious Goo to not suck, it occurred to me that I had stopped having fun with this project. It had a couple of nostalgia moments going into the tub in the basement for my old books and flipping through the pages, but I remembered that the reason I play 4e is because I’m on board with its underlying philosophies. The Flumph is an example of how far we’ve come.
I’ve included this and the Dune Stalker, below, because they illustrate the toxicity of “save vs. death.” At least the Eye Killer could only use Eye Beams once per day, even if you could encounter as many as eight of them.
I used “take damage equal to six times your healing surge value” instead of “you’re just dead” because I just can’t bring myself to go backwards. With my method, there’s at least a slim chance that the character will survive. Heck, I would be amused if the armor that grants Resist 2 All was the thing that prevented a character death. “Save vs. death” was never interesting for me because it doesn’t actually create tension. You’re not struggling to find the right power or a creative solution; you’re rolling a d20 and hoping it comes up in your favor.
I was going to offer to make retro versions of OD&D monsters on request, but I think I’m done with this for now. Enjoy.