Monday, September 13, 2010

Old monsters in Dungeon adventures to get stat updates

UPDATE: Added upgraded monsters from The Wayward Wyrmling and The Ghost Tower

Out of Dungeon and Dragon magazines, I'm definitely a Dragon guy. It's not that Dungeon articles are lacking in quality, but there's only so much adventure material my group can consume - and, since we are currently fighting our way through Pyramid of Shadows and intend to continue that adventure series all the way to Orcus, it will be a LONG time before we ever have a chance of trying out a Dungeon module.

So I tend to ignore everything that comes with Dungeon except for one thing: the monsters. Unlike in previous editions, I find 4E monster stat blocks quite enjoyable to read, and I find that monster design has only improved since the first Monster Manual. Moreover, I really like the changes brought by MM3, and I have a project to update many older monsters to the new stats, so I find it useful to check out on any new monster that comes out, as reference. This is how I found, while browsing through Vanguard Tower (the latest Dungeon adventure), that the game developers had a similar idea: they are applying errata (of the stealthy variety) through their adventure modules.

Vanguard Tower is a 4th level, delve style (i.e. 3 encounters long) featuring a couple of new monsters, and several older ones from the first two monster manuals. I haven't really read it in detail, so I can't say much about it, other than that its maps seem to be easy to reproduce with Dungeon Tiles (something I often miss in many official adventures), and that the old monsters have brand new stat blocks. To my knowledge, this last point was unheard of - up until now, the official stance on 'updating' old creatures to modern standards was to print cloned versions with slighly different names and more appropriate stats. This is a different approach, and probably a signal of a change in policy.

Overall, I have to say I approve the idea - switching to MM3-type stats makes the monsters more enjoyable to me, and I was willing to implement these changes by hand, anyway. I am curious as to how the intend to implement it, though. Will they just drop the new monster versions on the Compendium and Monster Builder, and overwrite the originals without telling anyone? Or will there be some kind of 'Monster Update' section on the periodic rules updates. I think this really needs to be properly communicated to players and DMs, which isn't currently the case - I happened to randomly stumble on it.

Anyway, in case you are interested, here's the list of changes brought by the adventure. It's mildly spoilery as it reveals most of the monsters in there, so you should skip it if you intend to play it anytime soon. As you can see, most monsters gain a few points of extra damage in their attacks, and soldiers and brutes have their hit rates adjusted. The most interesting update is that of the lurker Duergar Scout, which has it invisibility changed to a standard action (so it will usually attack every other turn) and its Sneak Attack damage increased to impressive levels, to make up for it.

Monsters updated in Vanguard Tower (9/7/10)

Duergar Guard (Level 4 Soldier)
- Warhammer: -2 to hit, +3 damage
- Infernal Quills: -2 to hit, +3 to ongoing damage

Duergar Miner (Level 5 Minion Brute)
- Warhammer: +2 to hit

Duergar Scout (Level 4 Lurker)
- Shadow Attack: Upgraded to 4d6 extra damage (up from 2d6!)
- Warhammer: +1 to hit, +2 to damage
- Crossbow: +1 damage
- Underdark Sneak: Changed from minor to Standard, no longer requires darkness.
- Infernal Quills: +1 damage, +3 ongoing damage

Deathpledged Gnoll (Level 5 Brute)
- Bone Claws: Renamed to Longspear (but with unmodified reach), +2 to hit

Gnoll Huntmaster (Level 5 Artillery)
- Handaxe: +1 to hit, +1d6 damage
- Longbow: +2 to hit, +4 damage

Rust Monster (Level 6 Skirmisher)
- Bite: Damage increased from 1d10+5 to 2d8+5

Monsters updated in The Wayward Wyrmling(9/14/10)

Kobold Dragonshield (Level 2 Soldier)
- Traits: No longer has Mob Attack or Trap Sense
- Short Sword: +3 damage, marks as an Effect
- Dirty Tricks (new attack): High damage and immobilization, slow on a miss.

Kobold Slinger (Level 1 Artillery)
- Traits: No longer has Trap Sense
- Dagger: +3 hit, damage changed from 1d4+3 to 1d6+3
- Sling: +2 hit, +2 damage
- Special Shot: +2 hit, +2 damage, now uses random ammunition.

Also, Kobold Minion and Kobold Skirmisher receive no update, but now have very interesting replacements in Kobold Tunneler (a minion that can escape bursts) and Kobold Quickblade (a skirmisher that boosts damage by shifting).

Monsters updated in The Ghost Tower(9/21/10)

Level 1

Decrepit Skeleton - Level 1 Minion Skirmisher
- Longsword: Add 'Effect: shift 1 square before the attack'
- Shortbow: Add 'Effect: shift 1 square before the attck'; +1 damage.

Scurrying Rat Swarm - Level 1 Skirmisher
- Swarm of Teeth: +1 to hit, change conditional damage to 1d10+8 (was 2d6+3)

Dire Rat - Level 1 Brute
- Stats: -2 AC, -2 Fortitude
- Slam: +2 to hit, damage changed to 1d10+5 (was 1d6+2)

Level 3

Ochre Jelly - Level 3 Elite Brute
- Stats: -3 AC
- Tremorsense: removed
- Traits: Added 'Ooze: While squeezing, the ooze moves at full speed rather than half speed, it doesn't take the -5 penalty to attack rolls, and it doesn't grant combat advantage for squeezing'.

Skeleton - Level 3 Soldier

- Stats: +1 AC, +1 Speed
- Longsword: -2 hit, +3 damage.

Level 4

Deathjump Spider - Level 4 Skirmisher
- Stats: -3 AC, -2 Ref, -1 Wil, -3 Init, -2 Perception; +5 Resist poison
- Traits: Added 'Web Walk: Teh spider ignores difficult terrain composed of webs'
- Bite: Damage changed to 1d6+3 (was 2d6+3)
- Death from Above: Changed from at-will to Recharge 4. Added 'this movement does not provoke opportunity attacks'.

Level 5

Wraith - Level 5 Lurker
- Stats: +16 HP, +3 AC, +4 For, +2 Ref, +1 Wil
- Insubstantial: No longer works against force attacks, added 'whenever the wraith takes radiant damage, it loses this trait until the start of its next turn'.
- Spawn Wraith: Added 'and it rolls a new initiative check. The new wraith acts under the DM's control'.
- Shadow Touch: No longer weakens, damage changed to 2d6+6 (was 1d6+4) necrotic damage, or 4d6+14 if the wraith is invisible to the target.
- Shadow Glide: Changed to Triggered Free Action (At-Will) from Move Action (Encounter). Trigger: An attack that does not deal force or radiant damage hits the wraith. Effect: The Wraith becomes invisible until it hits or misses with an attack or until the end of the encounter. The wraith teleports up to 6 squares and cannot attack until the end of its next turn.

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