Monday, July 8, 2019

An Indepth Commentary On The Monster Manual II & the Plane Facts

"An alphabetical listing of monsters found in ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS adventures, including attacks, damage, special abilities, descriptions, and random encounter tables. A must for the serious AD&D game player. This manual contains all the new members, from Abishai to Zygom, including new creatures like the Deadly Pudding, Devas, and Valley Elves. And you'll also have the advantage of the expanded lists of lycanthropes, giants, and other beasts."

A couple of blog entries back I did a bit of checking into one of my favorite Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books the Manual of the Planes by Jeff Grub. But when it comes to designing high level dungeons & adventures there's one book that I continually reach for & that's 'The Monster Manual II' By Gary Gygax. The Monster Manual II expanded the range of Outer planar monsters & for that matter the information on the Outer  planes through those monsters. The Celestials of the  Monster Manual II were an excellent counter point for the demons & devils of that book. Hell got a lot more dangerous with the advent of Devils who had previously appeared in the pages of Dragon magazine.

As I found out over the weekend that this is by design & the Monster Manual II fills in as yet another bridge gap book between first edition & second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.According to the Monster Manual II Drivethrurpg blurb;
 "Expanding the Outer Planes. Monster Manual II is generally full of pretty high-level monsters. Many of them come from the Inner or Outer Planes, offering up one of the largest expansions of the Great Wheel ever. This included tons of new devils and demons, fleshing out Hell and the Abyss - though one demon, the Goristro, went missing and would be published instead in Dragon #91 (November 1984). Daemons were also introduced as a coherent group, after some scattered mentions in the Fiend Folio.

The least successful new outer race was probably the demodands of Tarterus. They were derived from the deodands of Jack Vance's Dying Earth. Despite not being particularly popular, they've since appeared in the Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix (1991) and the 3e Fiend Folio (2003).
On the other hand, the most successful outer races of the new book were likely the celestials and the modrons. The celestials are very scattered in Monster Manual II and definitely aren't called angels. They appear under separate entries for devas, planetars, and solars. In later editions they'd be grouped as aasimon or as celestials. The modrons appear in much the same form that they'd be seen throughout Planescape and other D&D books.
The Inner Planes also got a little attention with a set of para-elementals (ice, smoke, magma, and ooze) and one quasi-elemental (lightning). The para-elemental planes were of course where two elemental planes overlapped, as had been introduced in Deities & Demigods (1980). The quasi-elemental planes were a newer concept, marking the overlapping of an elemental plane with either the positive or negative material plane. Gygax had explained this very recently in Dragon #73 (May 1983)."

Now at first this doesn't seem like its all that important piece of information but the Monster Manual II affected things across the board when it came to classic campaign settings such as Greyhawk & much later on Mystara. Everyone seems to forget that one of the classic components of a memorable adventure is how your PC died. ERm I mean having meaningful encounters with monsters both violent & benign. Seriously what the Monster Manual II did was to expand & codify many of Gary Gygax's creations from both his home game campaign & the pages of Dragon magazine. The modrons also appeared in the Monster Manual II & they really haven't changed or been radically altered but remain gamer favorites.

In Dragon #73 (May 1983) Mr. Gygax had introduced the para elemental planes & in the Monster Manual II  their incredibly dangerous  para-elementals (ice, smoke, magma, and ooze) along with  one quasi-elemental (lightning). All of these are perfectly suited to use with the Fiend Folio's Evil Elemental Princes as followers. 'The evil archomentals are collectively known as the Princes of Elemental Evil. The five most famous include:

'Cryonax: Prince of Evil Cold Creatures
Imix: Prince of Evil Fire Creatures
Ogrémoch: Prince of Evil Earth Creatures
Olhydra: Princess of Evil Water Creatures
Yan-C-Bin: Prince of Evil Air Creatures'

The nice part about this is that none of this is tied down particularly to the 'Planescape' setting giving the DM the latitude to create their own take on these powerful planar entities. BTW you can thank Jeff Grub for the creation of the archomentals background.

Using the Monster Manual II for the OSR isn't all that tricky at all.  I've used the Fiend Folio's Evil Elemental Princes & the Monster Manual II para elementals in a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics as spiritual patrons for a elemental focused black  wizard NPC villain. Any of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons OSR style focused retroclone can use many of the creatures & monsters from the MMII with out any issue. 

Many of the Sword & Sorcery retroclones such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea have a great excuse to include many of the planar monsters from the Monster Manual II. Some dark wizard summons some horror from another plane & the countryside becomes the target for all kinds of problems. A more recent and better excuse is that a Hyperborean mechanism from before the Green Death  activates & summons some horror from the MMII & its up to the party to send it to the great beyond once again. The Monster Manual II & AS&SH go together like Peanut butter & jelly.
But what about using the Monster Manual II with other OSR systems? Well here's ten reasons to grab this book & dust it off: 
  1. Many fifth edition gamers who are delving into the OSR for the first time are not even aware of this book's existence giving you the DM free reign to add in all kinds of mayhem & monsters to your adventures. 
  2. Demons & Devil NPC's are the perfect agents to cause the players all kinds of adventure & campaign horror. 
  3. Many of the monsters from the MMII can be ported over to Mutant Future or your favorite post apocalyptic setting. 
  4. Memorable monsters make memorial campaigns & the MMII has them in spades 
  5. The encounter tables can be used in almost any campaign setting. 
  6. Many of the MMII monsters can be used for planar encounters & this is one of the book's hidden strengths. 
  7. The shadow dragon is one of the monster underrated planar villains of all times but use it wisely. 
  8. Behirs are not to be underestimated but can be used as an adventure unto themselves. 
  9. Modron can pop up just about anywhere & sew all kinds of confusion for adventurers. 
  10. Monster Manual II encounters should be switched out frequently to sew the seeds of doubt & fear in players. 

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