Monday, December 28, 2020

Making A Monster: Cave Crawlers

This is somewhat similar to my "scalable statblocks" post, but I wanted to go through my steps on how I create creatures nowadays.

I love monsters, they're among my favorite parts of role playing games. Making a monster, however, has always been a little difficult for me. I know there are no real "rules" to creating creatures in OSR games besides "going with your gut", but I've come up with a rough set of guidelines that I use.

Throughout this guide, I will use the notation "L" to denote the dungeon/adventure level that the monster is appearing on.

Lets say I'm trying to create a pale, crawling humanoid thing that evolved from humans but became monstrous and unintelligent after generations in the underworld, similar to the crawlers from the film "The Descent".

First I need to determine the Hit Dice of the monster, using the following chart. This also determines how many should appear at once.


Hit Dice

# Appearing


L-2 (minimum 1 hit point)


Human Child

L-1 (minimum 1d3 hit points)


Adult Human


















The adventure I'm making is intended for a party of 2nd level characters, and I imagine these creatures are about as tough and as large as adult humans, so I give them 2 hit dice. I give monsters 1 attack for every 2 hit dice they have (rounding up), so the crawlers get 1 attack. 

Next I need to determine their armor class. I decide that as an adaptation to living underground, they will have somewhat tough, leathery skin, so I give them an armor class equivalent to that of leather armor, thus they get an AC of 12.

I next want to determine how much damage they would deal, so I check the following chart.

Damage Equivalent

Points of Damage

Cat scratch




A 1 handed weapon


A 2 handed weapon


Having a log fall on you


Being Poisoned


Dragon’s Breath

D6s equal to the monster’s hit dice value

I decide the crawlers have claws that are about as dangerous as a dagger, so I decide they deal 1d6 damage with their attack.

From here, I need to decide how fast they move. My system only has the movement speeds of "slow", "average", and "fast". I think that having them move quickly like a huntsman spider sounds creepiest, so I give them as "fast" movement speed.

The final step is determining any special abilities or weaknesses. I want them to be able to climb up sheer surfaces with ease, and to be vulnerable to bright lights. I note down that they can climb up walls and on ceilings, and that they take a -1 penalty to hit when exposed to bright light.

So now I've got a basic statblock that looks like this:

Cave Crawler
# Appearing: 2d6
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 12
Attacks: 1 claw (1d6 damage)
Speed: fast
Special: can climb up walls and on ceilings, take a -1 penalty to hit when exposed to bright light.

I hope this has proved interesting to y'all!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Reviewing AD&D's Monsters Part 3

Now we arrive at the part which is gonna be a real pain in the butt; the D section of the Monster Manual. I've decided to split this up into two parts, starting with demons and devils and then doing everything else in another post for the sake of my sanity. But before that, I wanted to plug some people who have been inspired by these posts to make their own reviews!

Both Marsworms of Save Vs. Worm and Phineas of the Cosmic Orrery have started their own reviews of the Fiend Folio, which can be found here and here.

Meanwhile, Locheil of The Nothic's Eye has begun work on reviewing the Planescape Appendix, and his first review can be found here.

But, without further ado, here is my review of all the demons and devils in the 1st edition Monster Manual!

Demogorgon (Prince of Demons)

Demon lords are great, I love demon lords. They function well as unspeakable evils which you can't really slay but can temporarily stop, similar to Cthulhu. My campaigns are always low level, but its easy enough to lower their stats, or to argue that you are facing an "avatar" of the creature. Demogorgon in particular is great, and I've always thought he was cool ever since I got the Monster Manual 2 for 4th edition D&D. He is incredibly powerful, as befits a demon lord, and he gives off a slight air of Lovecraftian horror, which I appreciate. The design of an enormous, tentacled scaly being with a forked tail and two mandrill heads is jut so unique, and he is truly an iconic D&D monster.

Juiblex (The Faceless Lord)

As with Demogorgon, Juiblex is also Lovecraftian to me, though to a much greater extent than Demogorgon. A horrible shapeless blob of green and black filth with bulging red eyes that is shunned by all creatures except slimes is just incredible. I really ought to try to use him in a campaign sometime, and just me thinking that is the hallmark of a good monster.


Manes are the souls of the dead who get sent to the abyss, transformed into "sub-demons". They're unintelligent monstrous humanoids and are apparently sometimes turned into shadows or ghasts (which I thought must have been a typo for ghosts with the reprint monster manual, but after checking the original it is completely accurate). Their illustration is alright, and I find it neat that they turn into vapor and reform if "killed", but other than that they're just sort of average, so I'm gonna give them 4 out of 5 stars, mainly because I would probably use these in a dungeon.

Orcus (Prince of the Undead)

Gonna be honest here and say Orcus isn't one of my favorite of the demon lords, since he's honestly not that distinctive, just being an obese satyr-like creature with a venomous tail and wings, but he is among the most useful of the demon lords. The undead are a common enemy from the very beginning of most D&D games, so having a creature centered around them with god-like power is interesting. I also like that he is apparently the nemesis of Demogorgon, which could lead to interesting infighting between their cults.


I don't honestly think I'd ever have any use for these creatures in my campaigns, as I run very very non-horny games. They're also to blame for the whole trope of "sexy demon ladies" in RPG related media, which depending on who you ask is a good or a bad thing. Still, they're solid enough monsters, so I'll give them a 3 out of 5.

Type I Demon (Vrock)

These demons are functional enough, and I like that they're birdlike, it calls to mind the works of Hieronymous Bosch. I find it odd that their description says they like precious metals and stones and then also immediately states that they aren't likely to accept bribes because they're too stupid.

Type II Demon (Hezrou)

Frog monsters are good and this is a demonic frog monster. I also really like that they apparently will take any excuse to beat the shit out of Vrocks. Also their illustration kind of looks like a bad old daikaiju suit, which I really like.

Type III Demon (Glabrezu)

Legitimately my favorite of the lesser demons for their design alone. A dog faced humanoid with 4 arms, 2 of which end in crab claws? These guys rule.

Type IV Demon (Nalfleshnee, etc.)

I can't help but like these guys' design, I mean they're corpulent ape-boars with tiny wings! I do like the information about how you can bargain with them if you know their name, that's just so interesting to me. 

Type V Demon (Marilith, etc.)

I appreciate that these demons incorporate the design of a naked woman without being overtly sexualized, instead basically being described as capable warriors. The detail about them desiring the sacrifice of great warriors is neat to me, and the 6 limbs reminds me of the scene in the Golden Voyage of Sinbad where Koura animates a statue of Kali to fight against Sinbad (Admittedly the film is Quite Racist, especially with all of the whitewashing and the treatment of Hinduism as some sort of bizarre demon cult, but it does have some nice visuals at times).

"In the trees... The demon! Its coming! Aaauughhh!"

Type VI Demon (Balor, etc.)

This is obviously meant to be the balrog of Middle Earth, and I find it neat that Balor is specified as being the name of a specific Type VI Demon, which implies that Nalfleshnee and Marilith are also specific names. I quite like that only 6 are known to exist. The illustration reminds me of the film Night of the Demon, which I watch every Halloween, further cementing my appreciation for them. 

Yeenoghu (Demon Lord of Gnolls)

Yeenoghu is my least favorite of the Monster Manual demon lords, primarily just because he isn't that interesting. He is a big, emaciated gnoll that can summon gnolls and ghouls, and he wields a big flail. The most interesting thing about him to me is that he receives homage from the "King of Ghouls" who I personally would love to hear more about. Is this possibly a reference to Richard Upton Pickman, who if I recall correctly was described as the King of Ghouls in an edition of Dragon magazine?

Asmodeus (Arch-devil)

I'm gonna be honest, I don't like devils in D&D, they seem superfluous when you also have demons. Asmodeus himself is also quite dull, being just a very tall fellow with a goatee and horns, the archetypical Satan. I give him a 2/5 because I know that some folks will want there to be a handsome Satan person in their games, so it makes sense for him to exist.

Baalzebul (Arch-devil)

I do like the illustration, and that is all that saves this poor bastard from getting 1/5 stars. He receives so little information in his description and just seems dull and boring.

Barbed Devil (Lesser devil)

Like a lot of the devils, they're not bad per se, just quite boring. The illustration is decent but they don't have much personality to me.

Bone Devil (Lesser devil)

I like these guy actually, they're nasty torture skeletons and their illustration is just gleefully evil. If they just had a little bit more description and interesting quirks I'd give them 5/5 stars.

Dispater (Arch-devil)

I was initially going to give this guy 1 star because he seems to just be a smaller, weaker Asmodeus, but reading his description and finding out he lives in a city full of zombies and that only his left foot is cloven saved him from that. He also looks a little bit like the Roger Delgado Master from Doctor Who.

Her face here kind of looks like a Speed Racer screenshot

Erinyes (Lesser devil)

These are interesting enough, being winged devil women sent to collect more souls for Hell and to tempt the innocent into sin. They also aren't nearly as horny seeming as succubi, which is nice. I also just like the concept of devils pursuing specific targets. 

Geryon (Arch-devil)

Like so many arch-evils, he is just (pardon the pun) damn boring. At least he looks like something interesting instead of just a dude with horns.

Horned Devil (Malebranche, Greater devil)

I'm a sucker for these guys because they're just so enthusiastically classic in their design and attitude. They fear and hate more powerful devils but obey them, they have bat wings and 2 tined forks or whips, and they can have names like "Dogretch" or "Bent Wing". They're a little generic but they're still just great. 

Ice Devil (Greater devil)

These guys are weird. I can appreciate humanoid insect monsters, and even monsters based around ice and snow, but combining those two and making them a devil makes my brain feel odd? Still, they have a fairly unique design if nothing else 


These are unironically my favorite kind of devil. Blobby masses of flesh that were once the souls of the damned? Hell yeah! That is just awesome, and its cool that they're used to create wraiths and spectres. Honestly I don't have much more to say about these guys, they're just wonderful.

Pit Fiends

Very boring description, I would have given them a 2 out of 5 if not for how much they look like Chernobog from Fantasia.

Next up: Dragons!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Reviewing AD&D's Monsters Part 2

 Continuing on from my previous Monster Manual post, here are my reviews of the monsters starting with the letter C!

Wild Camel
We all know my opinion of mundane animals by now.

This guy rules and you can't tell me otherwise

Carrion Crawler
I love carrion crawlers, I always have, ever since I first saw them in the monster section of Moldvay basic. They make sense in the context of a dungeon ecology, they look cool (who doesn't love a giant caterpillar with octopus tentacles?) and they are scary to low level adventurers. They're incredibly good and I especially love the older illustrations of them.

These creatures are interesting, but I'm unlikely to use them. Instant death abilities are always a bit iffy to me, though petrifaction bothers me less. However, the sheer foulness and feeling of mythological significance makes these interesting to me. They genuinely seem like a creature that the local townsfolk live in fear of and have told stories about for generations.

Wild Cattle
I don't need stats for cows Gary.

I think centaurs are interesting, but the fact that they are listed as chaotic good throws me off. I've always seen centaurs (other than Chiron) as chaotic neutral at best, but more likely to be chaotic evil as described in greek mythology. These noble horse people don't seem as interesting to me as the animalistic barbarians of mythology.

Giant Centipede
Centipedes are cool, that's literally all I have to say about these guys.

Cerebral Parasite
I hate these folks because, once again, it is a monster based around the godawful psionic mechanics of AD&D, and it doesn't even have any physical appearance. Its almost completely useless.

Another mythological beastie, I find chimeras really interesting from an aesthetic standpoint, and multi-headed monsters are always fun to me. Like most mythological monsters, I feel like it would work best as a lone creature in a small wilderness lair.

Quite frankly I love this illustration

Basically another kind of basilisk, and in fact in the real world the two terms are sometimes interchangeable. However, I feel that having the basilisk divided into two creatures, separated by the two most common depictions of it (as a serpentine rooster or a multilegged lizard), is a good move. Personally I would have had them be the same species but different sexes, but I still think they're cool.

These guys are honestly sort of disappointing to me. They're basically just derivative of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl turned into a weird "exotic" monster. Their name is just straight up the Aztec word for serpent, and they don't really have a clear role in the game. If they were better developed and maybe not such a blatant bastardization of a much more interesting being I think I'd like them more. As it is, I don't hate them but they're not that interesting.

Giant Crab
Giant crabs are objectively cool. I watched the Ray Harryhausen version of Mysterious Island when I was a kid and the scene where they fought the giant crab has stuck with me, plus I unironically like the Roger Corman film "Attack of the Crab Monsters".

Giant Crayfish
I had a pet crayfish when I was a kid, plus crayfish are such an interesting choice to have as a giant monster. They're also just plain cool in real life. 

These are just real animals, but crocodiles get a pass because they're actually interesting and have a decent precedent as dangerous beasts in swords and sorcery and weird fiction. If I can see Conan the barbarian wrestling one then they're probably alright.

Next time, I'll be reviewing the monsters starting with D, which should be an incredible task, seeing as that includes all the dragons, demons, devils, and dinosaurs.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Scalable Monster Statblocks For OSR Games

I've been thinking while working my way through the AD&D monster manual about how many monsters I would use if only they were lower in power. Obviously one can easily scale the monster down to a more reasonable level, but I wondered what a scalable statblock would look like.

Armor class could remain fairly constant, if you are assuming a low level system/setting, with a bounded armor class, so that wouldn't need to scale. The main things that would need to scale would be hit dice and attacks/damage, which you could decide to link together.

For scaling hit dice, I will use the notation "L" to represent the dungeon level. So a monster's hit dice could be written as L+1, indicating that their hit dice are equal to the dungeon level plus 1. Thus, a monster of that type encountered on the 3rd dungeon level would have 4 hit dice. This can also work in reverse, with a monster have L-2 hit dice. A monster whose hit dice would be considered 0 actually has 1/2 of a hit die, and a monster with hit dice in the negatives is treated as having a single hit point.

As a general rule when designing monsters, I give them 1 attack for ever 2 hit dice they have, rounding up. So a monster with 3 hit dice would get 2 attacks, and a 5 hit dice monster would get 3 attacks. If using this system, one could simply write down how much damage a monster does, and have attacks be dependent on hit dice.

Special attacks are more difficult, but you could use the simple route of dragon breath's damage, having special attacks deal damage equal to the monster's current hit points.

So, as an example, here is a scalable statblock for a giant black widow spider

Credit to DeanSpencerArt on deviantart

Giant Black Widow
# Appearing: 1
Hit Dice: L+2
Armor Class: 14 (medium)
Damage: 1d6
Movement: Average
Special Attack: The Giant Black Widow can choose to bite as one of its attacks, requiring the target to make a CON challenge roll or take damage equal to the Black Widow's current hit points. A successful roll halves the damage taken.

Sorry for the kind of rambling post, I just got off work and HAD to write this down.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Reviewing AD&D's Monsters Part 1

I actually own two Monster Manuals, one is a reprint and the other I got at a used book store.

I love the main 3 monster manuals for AD&D (the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II), they're aesthetically pleasing and to me have always set the standard for role playing game bestiaries.

I figured I'd read through them and review the monsters therein. I don't know how long I'll be doing this, but maybe this could become a daily post thing for a while. 

I'll be starting out with the original Monster Manual, starting from the letter A. Each monster will get a rating out of 5 stars as well as a short explanation of why.

Aerial Servant
Not off to a great start, the aerial servant always seemed kind of bland to me. That is to be expected, seeing as its one purpose is to be summoned as a servant by a cleric, but the fact that its an invisible air elemental which is routinely compared to the invisible stalker just makes it stink. It gets 2 stars instead of 1 star however, because I do think having clerics summon invisible elementals to carry their stuff is cool.

Anhkhegs are cool as hell, being basically giant weird centipede mantis critters which spit acid, and that is just plain awesome. They make great wilderness encounters, and it would be really easy to have a small little adventure where a farmer is terrorized by a group of these creatures. 

Giant Ants
When I was a kid one of my favorite movies was Them!, which dealt with giant ants (though of a slightly larger size than the ones detailed here). Ever since then I've had a soft spot for these guys. However, at the end of the day they're just bigger versions of a real animal, so I can't give them a 5/5 stars.

Ape (Gorilla)
Literally just a real animal, useful but not what I come a monster manual for.

Carnivorous Apes
Why do Carnivorous Apes get 3/5 stars when gorillas get only 1? Because intelligent/semi-intelligent flesh eating apes are a cool swords and sorcery trope, and I really dig having them around. However, they're not quite as flavorful as, say, Moldvay Basic's White Apes.

Axe Beak
Basically just a gastornis. Not that interesting, but I do like the name and think they could be useful for a lost world setting, so they get 2/5 stars.

Another normal animal. 


Another normal animal but it gets a slight pass because its a prehistoric rhinoceros.

Not only is this fishy bastard a normal animal, its also an aquatic creature, meaning I will never get any use out of it.

A good classic creature from mythology. I really really like the illustration for this guy, as well as the information on how it moves. I wish more information on its habitat and behavior was in its description though.

Now you might be asking, "Tristan why are you giving bears 3 stars, they're just animals?!" and while I agree that it is a little annoying to see another mundane critter in what is supposed to be a manual of monsters, I find that 1) bears are terrifying, and 2) their stats are useful as a benchmark for nasty predatory creatures.

Giant Beaver
Fuck you Gygax

Giant Beetle
Giant beetles are good, old fashioned, useful critters. It makes sense why they're in the dungeon, there are multiple varieties of them, and fire beetles give some useful loot for beginning adventurers! They're not the most interesting critters, but they are cool.

Hell yeah!!! Beholders are great! Evil floating orbs with tons of eyes and magical abilities?? Sign me up! They're a little complicated mechanically but conceptually they are golden, and I love that. First 5/5 monster in the book.

Black Pudding
Shoggoths are cool and black puddings are basically off-brand shoggoths, which I can appreciate. Ooze monsters in general are just so iconic to D&D and so interesting to deal with, and black puddings are no exception. 

Blink Dog
They're not bad per se but I just don't really know what to do with them? Also its weird that they're listed as intelligent but there is a suggestion of how much trained blink dog puppies would cost if sold.

Another mundane animal I actually kind of like, boars are scary as hell and also the prehistoric ones are listed here as a subtype, which is always a plus. This entry reminds me of the Wicked Tinkers song "The Hog".

Brain Mole
I will never use this monster in all likelihood, since it uses psionic mechanics and those suck, but the illustration is so endearing and silly that I can't give it 1/5 stars.

Another monster I don't really know what to do with, and also their illustration is just... incredibly bad. Also I have no idea why their armor class is equivalent to plate mail.


Bugbears rule, I love the concept of these huge, tough goblins who are super sneaky and quiet. Its scary and makes them unique in a way that a lot of other humanoid type monsters just aren't. Also I love bogeymen archetypes. 

Bulettes get 5 stars, which is a little weird considering how I've rarely even given them thought until now, but they deserve it. Their appearance is based off of a plastic dinosaur toy, their description says they are a hybrid of armadillos and snapping turtles with demonic blood, and they are the natural predators of halflings. They're so unique and interesting, I love them.

I swear to god can we just have like, a generic table of mundane animal stats? Its a little ridiculous how many normal animals are in the first monster manual.

Well that's all for this post, tomorrow I'll be going over some more. Hopefully I can keep up enough steam to review every monster from the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

I Made A Free Kriegspiel Revolution Ruleset

If you're curious as to what the Free Kriegspiel Revolution is, give this post a read here.

I've been constantly thinking about new settings recently, with the three below being the chief among my considerations:
  • O.C.D (Occult Containment Department): A top secret international organization which hunts down and contains (or destroys) supernatural objects and beings, inspired by the SCP foundation, the X-Files, and bad reddit creepypastas.
  • Starship 2000: A retro-futuristic science fiction setting where Mars and Venus are inhabited planets and the Interplanetary Coalition explores the stars in search of new worlds to discover, inspired by Star Trek, old 1950s B-Movies, and old "space men" toys.
  • Contact Lost: Semi-hard science fiction setting focusing on space marines investigating extraterrestrial colonies, space stations, and research bases that have lost contact with Earth, inspired by Aliens, DOOM, and Event Horizon.
Initially I sought to design variations of my ADHD game system for each of these settings, complete with new classes and rules to suit the genres. However, I kept finding that a dungeon crawling chassis didn't seem to work very well, and many of these games would require either extreme simplification of rules or greater complexity. I chose to go with the former option, and came up with what I now call SUDS: Simple Universal D6 System.