Monday, January 19, 2009

Monster & Treasure Assortment

I've got a digital copy of the old D&D "Monster & Treasure Assortment", and it's a very odd product. On the one hand, I think it's incredibly useful in theory: Hundreds of pre-rolled encounters (100 for each level), pre-generated hit points, and complete stat blocks that you can copy-and-paste directly into an adventure you're writing (in this digital format).

The problem is that this particular version of M&T doesn't match any edition of the D&D rules. There was an earlier edition (1977-78, in three separate booklets), which presumably matched the OD&D rules at that time. But a revised edition was released later (1980, collected in one book), with widespread editorial changes (one might say "mangling") throughout, and that's the version available in PDF form. The Acaeum has a nice page listing all the changes between the editions, compiled by Trent Smith, wherein he asserts the following ( http://www.acaeum.com/library/m&tchanges.html ):
Obviously a lot of these changes, especially at the lower levels, were made to try and match the content and conventions of the Moldvay-edit Basic Set (type-names for snakes, lizards, spiders, etc., class level titles, no paladins, etc.), but it's equally obvious that whoever did the editing/updating had no real idea of what was going to be in the Expert Set.

Here's some of the oddities that Trent doesn't mention. The stat blocks contain hit points, but no Hit Dice. That said, the hit points are calculated assuming 8-sided hit dice (best seen in the Hydra entries), which would distinguish it from Original D&D. However, there are no damage entries, assuming that all base damage is 1d6 (which was changed in OD&D at the same time that HD became d8). And yet, there are things like multiclassed Halfling Hero/ Thieves, which don't exist in the Holmes or Moldvay Basic sets. And finally, there's a statistic called "AL/Attack Level", which was never seen before or since in any D&D product of any sort to my knowledge (not the same thing as an "attack bonus", it starts at 10 and goes down with greater ability: possibly roll d20-AL+AC >= 10 for a hit or something).

In summary: The 1980 M&T Assortment isn't strictly compatible with any published D&D ruleset, ever.

Question for anyone who has the earlier printing (1977-78): Did it originally use d6 Hit Dice? (Most easily checked in the Hydra entries: heads x dice = hp.) Was it at least originally compatible with OD&D?

4 comments:

  1. In summary: The 1980 M&T Assortment isn't strictly compatible with any published D&D ruleset, ever.

    Given that nowadays I make very little effort to cleave unto any particular edition, I don't see much of a problem with that.

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  2. The "attack level" is the roll to hit Armor Class 9.

    The particular mix of data always struck me as odd. I would rather have Hit Dice than pre-rolled Hit Points.

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  3. Hiya, just now noticing a couple-months-old post. The hp values in the 1977-78 M&TA are identical to those in the 1980 version (except where the monster itself is different). Dwayanu is correct that "AL" = the number the monster needs to hit AC 9. For whatever reason, TSR thought that giving this was more useful than giving the monster's hit dice (which is insane, as the hit dice also determine how many XP the monster is worth).

    The 1977-78 M&TA is fully compatible with OD&D of that era, but that's a pretty weird melange: monsters and magic items from the supplements, from the magazines, and even from "The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth" appear without comment or explanation (as well as some monsters -- the giant bugs and animals -- that didn't previously have official OD&D stats, and aren't necessarily compatible with the official stats they later got in the AD&D Monster Manual); alignments use the 5-prong system introduced in "The Strategic Review #6."

    It's not as weird as the 1980 version where you've got ogre magi (supplement I) and Type II demons (supplement III) appearing alongside living crystal statues (Moldvay Basic) and rhagodessae (Cook/Marsh Expert) but it does confirm the fact that until at least 1981 rules consistency just wasn't that big an issue (or even an issue at all) to TSR -- the same philosophy that led them to release the Holmes Basic D&D rulebook in 1977 (and a revised edition in 1978) that isn't actually compatible with either of the two rulesets it's intended as an introduction to (or even with itself -- there are numerous references in the book to spells, monsters, higher level characters, etc. that aren't actually described in the book!).

    (oh, and btw, Trent Smith = me)

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  4. Hey, T, that's enormously helpful, thank you for digging up this post and replying!

    I want to say that I'm very nearly shocked that the HP values were the same between the two ediions. I thought that d8 hit dice were linked to variable damage dice in Greyhawk p. 15, but on closer inspection I can see that it's PC weapon damage linked to monster type damage. So I guess MTA uses one variant (hit dice) without the other (damage) at that point.

    Of course, I knew that AL indicated "THAC9", but the question I was trying to address is how the hell you use that in play. Hence my suggestion was that in practice you could roll d20, subtract AL, add AC, and see if the result is 10 or more (rounded off to one place). There's a bunch of algebraically equivalent permutations, but this felt the most straightforward to me.

    Thanks so much for the hit-point information, and the excellent writeup you've got at the Acaeum. Extremely informative!

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