49. Have you ever walked in on people using encounter powers to fight lizard folk?
50. Have you ever joined in?
When I first chose Labyrinth Lord for my new campaign, I was tempted by the idea of staying true to that rules set and using only material created for it. I would leave all my other books on their shelves and just use the handful I had for Moldvay/Cook and BECMI. When I started getting players who had never played those old rules (and who hadn't even been born yet when they came out), it seemed even more important to try to create as “pure” an old school experience as possible.
Yeah, right, who was I kidding?
The truth is, back in the day, we were pulling ideas from all sorts of crazy places. We all wanted the over-and-under crossbow from “Ladyhawke”, giant jackalope mounts like we saw in the postcards at the tourist shops, and tricked out helicopters modeled on “Airwolf”. In one of my first campaigns, I gave my brother's elf character a magical sword called the Triangle. The name was swiped from the first Ultima game. I had no idea what it did in the computer game, but in our pen-and-paper adventures it shot out forcefield cages and blasting bolts of power and was pretty much the ultimate magical sword in that campaign. I think I stole most of its powers from the “Blackstar” cartoon.
Beyond such wackiness, which old D&D openly invites, the entire range of what is generally accepted as “old school” is pretty compatible. And this last Sunday night, I really pushed that.
The original guardian for the magical laboratories beneath the villa of the Poyma was a single brain collector. Yeah, that's a nasty monster, but I was only giving it 3 hit points per hit die and no spells. So not insurmountable, but if the PCs were victorious, they'd know they'd been in a fight.
But then Dave Arneson passed away, and Oddysey mentioned she had a thing for frogs. So I went back to the monster lists and hunted for an appropriate froggy critter to replace the brain collector with. I really didn't find what I wanted in my usual Moldvay/Cook/BECMI/LL sources. Besides, I knew what I really wanted: slaadi.
I know a lot of folks are not fans of the slaadi. The technicolor frogs don't seem to be the proper poster-children for primordial chaos. Me, I like the whole amphibious thing, and see it as a good metaphor for mutability. Plus there's the life-cycle of frogs, being born as fish and slowly transforming into land-walkers (or, if you prefer the medieval explanation, being born out of mud, the ultimate terrestrial representation for chaos). So I'll take slaadi over constantly morphing shoggoths.
The easy thing to do was to port in a red slaad from the original 1e Fiend Folio. The red slaad was actually a lot more manageable than the brain collector, having an AC of 6 (rather than 2) and 7 hit dice, so I could give it the full 3.5 hit points per die. Mechanically, I didn't need to change a thing.
I still wanted to turn it up to 11, though, so I went even further into the future and took a few pages from 2e. I have a copy of a Planescape appendix for the Monstrous Manual where I think we get the first publication of the bizarre reproductive habits of slaadi. The short version is, red slaadi make blue slaadi by injecting eggs under the skin of sentient victims through their claws. Which is freaky and kinda neat, but since we're talking giant frogs, I thought they needed to do something with their tongues. So instead of injecting the eggs with their claws, in my worlds red slaadi plant them with their tongues, kinda like Samael from the first Hellboy movie. The other thing I took from 2e was turning the red slaadi's power word: stun into a stunning croak. These are mostly just cosmetic issues, but that sort of thing is what makes the game sing.
So in one fell swoop, I took my campaign from “pure” Labyrinth Lord to including material from the first two editions of AD&D. And it's actually worse than that, as I'm also working to convert 3e's yak folk. Why? Because converting stuff from my favorite movies, TV shows, and books is just as much fun now as it was when I was twelve. ;)
Photo credits: Free-er, Vandelizer, and Deadrobot.