Monday, August 23, 2010

Hit Dice Inflation

Did you know that, in the switch from OD&D to AD&D, all undead were given a 1-hit-die addition (excepting ghouls)?

Most other monsters were, no surprise, simply copy-and-pasted into the Monster Manual -- sometimes with minor hit-point adjustments. Other monsters that got a hit-die boost were the Draft Horse (from 2 to 3), the Ochre Jelly (5 to 6), and the Medusa (4 to 6). Rocs went from 6 to 18, but even in OD&D the 6HD figure was noted as being for a "small variety", and subject to being "doubled or even trebled". The Pegasus went from 2 to 4HD, thereby flip-flopping the old Pegasus-Hippogriff rivalry (the latter keeping its 3HD in both editions).

Oddly, the Balrog (i.e., Type VI Demon) managed to go down in Hit Dice, from 10 to 8, and here's why: Earliest printings of OD&D included the Balrog at 10 Hit Dice (exceeded only by the biggest giants, dragons, and hydras/worms in the game), later redacted for intellectual-property issues. They later re-appeared as the Type VI Demon in Sup-III Eldritch Wizardry -- here with the novel listing of 8 hit dice footnoted as being 10-sided, i.e., the same basic expectation for hit points as the earlier 10d8 (as of Sup-II). Then in the switch from OD&D to AD&D, this footnote was stripped out, leaving them with the fairly meager 8 Hit Dice that you see in the Monster Manual.

(Personally, I have to condemn this kind of overly-clever fiddliness in Sup-III as being a totally unnecessary complication, poorly thought out in its implications such as for saves and to-hit scores, a symmetry-breaking anomaly in the core mechanics of the game, and precisely the kind of weak link that causes glitches in the AD&D version of the Balrog-based demon that we see here.)

Obviously, every edition has various inflations built into different parts of the product: for an analysis of changes from AD&D to 3E D&D, see here.


  1. Skeletons still have 1 HD :)
    By the way, talking about balors, my players complain about it being underpowered in OD&D. This puzzles me because not only they've never met one, but the same players routinely die against way smaller monsters.

    Ah, players... :)

  2. I just noticed the "10 sided dice" of balrogs in Supplement III a couple months back (when I got a copy of it). I agree with your analysis ("over-fiddly and problematic").

  3. "Skeletons still have 1 HD :)"

    But they were only 1/2 in OD&D.

  4. I think the Type VI's 8+8 HD (8-sided) in the MM gives the same average hit point total as 8 HD (10-sided) in EW, and doesn't require use of a different die type.

  5. I've always thought it weird that the mimic has 7-10 HD.

  6. @Scott: "I think the Type VI's 8+8 HD (8-sided) in the MM gives the same average hit point total as 8 HD (10-sided) in EW, and doesn't require use of a different die type."

    I'm sure that was the intent, but it overlooks (a) that it causes a reduction in to-hit and save scores, and (b) that it's still a relative loss in the face of lots of AD&D monsters that got an added hit-point bonus gratis (e.g., gargoyles, giants, gray ooze -- just to speak of G's).