Original D&D Vagaries; Advanced D&D Statistics; Proposal for Simplified Spellcasting
In the prior post I was looking at the 5th-level D&D wizard spell, animal growth, throughout various editions of the game. One problem I pointed out is that the earliest editions commonly didn't give explicit stats for normal or giant animals (as required by different versions of the spell). For example, while the OD&D spell says that animals can "grow to giant-size with proportionate attack capabilities", the following is all you get in OD&D on the subject (from Vol-2, Monsters & Treasure):
That's from the table on p. 4. The first value is for Number Appearing (more for smaller types); the rest, including Armor Class, Move in Inches, Hit Dice, % in Lair, and Treasure Type, are all simply "Variable".
The text paragraphs are from p. 20. For large insects or animals ("giant" types), AC can be 2-8 (i.e., practically the entire range of AC's allowed in the game at this point), hit dice can be 2-20 (at the top end, significantly exceeding any other monster in the list), and damage can be from 2-4 dice (d6, of course; and again actually exceeding any other damage listing in the text of this book). So that more or less boils down to "anything you want, and feel free to surpass any of the other monsters we presented". Which to me seems like a big problem when numerous giant animals are included on the core wandering monster lists, quite heavily so at the starting levels (see Vol-3, p. 10). And an open-ended argument when a player casts animal growth in the game. (Also, you'll notice that reference to John Carter-type Martian beasts is included, and those types likewise show up in the desert wilderness random encounters on p. 18.)
Now, in the Monster Manual (the first of the AD&D line, and almost entirely consistent with OD&D rules) we do get lots of explicit entries for giant animals. This solves the wandering-table issue, and would almost solve the animal growth spell issue (except that the spell is changed to double the normal animal's hit dice and now that's the thing you're generally lacking). But what are the general parameters for those animals (e.g., if we wish to use them as products of the OD&D spell)? Consider the table below which compiles all the AD&D Monster Manual giant animal types (ordered by increasing hit dice; optionally refer to PDF or spreadsheet ODS).
What do we see here? For starters, the hit dice range of 3-to-5 encompasses almost two-thirds of the giant animals (27/43 = 63%), with a fairly small number of monsters above that and below. In those few cases where hit dice for the "normal" animal type are given (see last column), the giant animal is never exactly double hit dice; some are close while others are much higher or lower. I'll also point out that there are some notable outliers to the high side, in the range of 7-15 hit dice, and they are almost entirely aquatic-type monsters (noted in bold at the bottom of the table -- perhaps emblematic of the rather terrifying "sea monsters" suggested in OD&D Vol-2, p. 15; in fact, the top-level hit dice match up quite nicely). Therefore, I've excluded those unusually huge aquatic monsters, and computed "Trimmed Average" statistics for all the other types, in the last row. Of course, since the majority of giant animals are in the 3-to-5 hit dice range, the average is 4 HD, etc.
So here's an idea: If we're playing under classic-type rules, and almost all of the land-based "giant animals" in the game are close to 4 HD anyway, why not just set that average as a standard profile in the description of the animal growth spell and run with that? That would mean: (1) We don't have to catalog, look up, or debate a list of either normal or giant animals when using the spell (as in any published edition of D&D). (2) We don't need to do a series of math calculations at the table when the spell gets used (most egregiously in 3E). (3) We can rein in the magic to some known parameters, and not run into trouble with some totally open-ended potential from the spell (like, say, casting it on a group of smilodons, killer whales, or triceratops; see also the polymorph problem -- link). Even using that simplifying assumption, we'd be within 1 HD of almost all the giant animals in the AD&D Monster Manual anyway, and with enormously less work.
So here's a proposal for a revised and simplified animal growth spell:
Animal Growth: (Range: 12 inches, Duration: 6 turns) Up to 6 normal animals in range grow to giant size. In most cases this provides: AC 6, MV 15, HD 4, Atk 1, Dam 2d6 (some creatures will exchange one die of damage for poison, paralysis, or blood-drain). Optionally, use specific statistics from any monster book in use. This spell gives the character no special means of command or influence over the enlarged animals.
What do you think of that?