View Full Version : "By the Spire! What was that?" - Let's read the PSMC Appendix II

2011-01-06, 07:16 AM
The full title was a little long. A few short explanations first:

The Planescape Monstrous Appendix II. The second edition of the Monster Manual, as it would be called in this edition, for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons setting Planescape, containing wonderfully weird monsters from the outer planes.
Many of these might be familiar to the astute and avid reader of the third edition of the game, as some have been updated, as you will see with the very first monster on the menu.
Since this book is neither new, made for third edition or freely available (in fact, it's pretty rare even on auction site), I will, wherever possible, link to fan conversions, or state sources where one can find a third edition source of the monster.
The disadvantage to this being an AD&D book with wonderful fluff is that it's an AD&D book with rules I'm not very familiar with. In fact, my knowledge of AD&D rules can be summarized by "I played Baldur's Gate once, years ago". So I will mainly discuss the fluff and perhaps look at a few conversions. To make up for it, I will look if I find any of the book's art online, since I love the Artist Tony Di'Terlizzi.

Three factors. First of all, the original inspiration was Rappy's excellent similar threads where she looked at freely available monster books. Second, I just acquired this very book on Ebay for a low cost, and therefore, I'm taking the time to carefully read it again. Third, it's a great setting, and I love it, especially for it's critters.

First, the back of the Book.

Clueless is as good as dead.

Don't matter if you are blood's blood or a leatherhead with a lot to learn - this book's for you. The planes are full of critters that'd just as soon kill a berk as look at him, and plenty more that like to rattle their bone-boxes for nothing more than the sheer pleasure of it. What a cutter needs is a book like this one - something that tells the real dark of what's waiting out there, just on the other side of that portal.

Here, we see demonstrated the book's first problem to the uninitiated: Cant. A partly fictional slang inspired by Cockney rhyming slang and the real-world thieves' cant, it can get a bit... opaque to figure out for the newcomer. I will restrain from using it in my reviews.

Let us then, begin with the first monster, a beloved classic:


As the book helpfully explains, the aasimar is a rare solitary omnivore of high intelligence that is rarely evil, resistant to magic, fire, cold and emotional magic.
With that bit of stat block out of the way, we can get to the fluff. As any reader of the monster manuals of third edition knows, the Aasimar are humans with celestial ancestry. Interestingly, the book here names specifically Guardinals (neutral good outsiders), Eladrins (chaotic good outsiders) and rilmani, who, being true neutral outsiders aren't celestials at all. On the other hand, the lawful good archons or the Aasimon (or angels) for which they are named, aren't mentioned. I will assume this is simply an oversight.
First described is the usual look and behaviour of an Aasimar: they most commonly have beautiful, calm faces, white-golden hair; piercing, bright eyes and, leading to common confusion with half-elves, often slightly pointed ears. It is further mentioned that they tend to be courageous, noble and honest, but that one should not just assume this to be the case, lest the rare criminal aasimar stabs one in the back. In fact, Aasimar blood can be helpful to a criminal: the guards might be much more likely to believe the word of the guy with the angel blood over that of his opponent.
An interesting bit is that their faces are mentioned to "light up like sunlight" when they are excited by some strong emotion, which third edition reflects with their daylight spell-like ability.
On we go to the combat section. As opposed to their third edition counterparts with their bonuses to charisma and wisdom, the Planescape aasimar in fact has a +1 bonus to strength and wisdom, but a whopping -2 to constitution, which is explained as the effects of their mixed blood making them frailer than other races. It further goes on to explain that while there are many aasimar priests, most are fighters who prefer two-handed weapons to use their natural strength.
An aasimar's honesty and ability to fit in makes them naturally beloved on the upper planes, and they are rarely orphans, unlike Tieflings, but on more neutral planes, they are often seen as nosy troublemakers, and on the lower planes might be killed on sight. Not pretty for an adventurer, I'd imagine.

Campaign Uses: Aasimar, as presented, will most likely show up as either player characters or in pretty much any position a human or other base humanoid NPC could show up. They have a certain talent for leadership or, as noted, law-enforcement, so a more chaotic-"neutralish" party could get into conflict with one that way.
All in all, a not too expensive, ECL-wise, but nice way to integrate some planar flavour into a player character.

Where to find them? Right here, in the SRD (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/planetouched.htm), or in the Monster Manual 1.

Art: The best copy of the image google revealed to me was this this (http://farm1.static.flickr.com/252/3263342061_634cf7494d.jpg) smallish scan, which shows a lovely lady with what I assume is the planar equivalent of an eighties haircut, rather impractical leather armour and, indeed, a pretty big sword to make use of that strength bonus.

Next: the Abrian!

2011-01-06, 07:19 AM
The Planescape Monstrous Appendix II. The second edition of the Monster Manual, as it would be called in this edition, for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons setting Planescape, containing wonderfully weird monsters from the outer planes.
Picture, or you don't have it! :smallbiggrin:

2011-01-06, 08:00 AM
When I get home. :smalltongue:

2011-01-06, 08:02 AM
Win; I'm definitely subscribing! :D

2011-01-07, 06:05 AM
I forgot that, sadly, my home computer fried itself two days ago, so picture uploading has to wait. I'm not dragging my camera and docking station to work with me for this. Instead, let's have a look at the next critter!


After the well-known Aasimar, we go straight down to the lower planes (and Outlands), to meet the relatively unknown, at least to me, Abrian.
What are Abrians? Chaotic evil, intelligent Ostriches.
The Abrian is a seven feet tall, flightless bird with slender, featherless forewings that end in a pair of clawed fingers it can use for, rather clumsily, holding small items. They have red and black feathers, powerful legs they use to kick people, and heads with impressive heads and what looks like, strange enough, to be pointed, almost canine-looking, ears.
While Abrians have an intelligence of 5-7 and are therefore smarter than animals, they are still noted as being rather dumb. Most of the time, they will attack people trying to start a conversation with them, and be too stupid to break off a fight if they are losing. They use their intelligence to hunt, instead, using hit-and-run tactics and pack strategies to bring down prey, surrounding them, luring them into ambushes or just wear them down with endless assaults. In addition, they have a piercing shriek which can deafen their prey for hours, and stun them for a few precious seconds.
On the Planes, Abrians are seen as a pest and a nuisance. Hailing from Carceri or the grey waste, they reproduce rapidly and have recently spread over all the lower planes and the Outlands, and the first few have been spotted on Arcadia.
Abrians form small flocks, based around a communal nest in a thicket or ruin, lead by a stronger and smarter dominant female. They have a division of labour, with hunting parties and nest guardians. It is noted that while the eggs are worthless by themselves, neither very good to eat nor useful for magic, many settlements place a bounty on them. The birds are voracious, and will stay in an area for up to half a year, when their young are grown, and eat everything they can find, laying waste to large areas.

Campaign Uses: Despite being intelligent, as presented, I have problems seeing the Abrians as anything more than random encounters, something the players meet and fight while traveling the outlands, and therefore, they are a bit disappointing. Their low intelligence and chaotic evil alignment, as well as their explicit tendency to attack anything they meet and rarely talk means that there's pretty much no way this can be settled without at least some violence.
Hunting them or their eggs would be a bit problematic, because they are intelligent and killing their chicks would count as, more or less, murdering children. They can be used as a replacement for the classic goblins in the "raiders are attacking us" scenario I'd bet pretty much every group of adventurers has seen once, but that gets old pretty fast as well.
In any case, they'd probably be good fodder for an ecology article, since as presented, they are quite a bit uninteresting.

Where to find them? They are CR 1 magic beasts in the Fiend Folio.

Art: Sadly, it seems that google, at least, is unhelpful here, as the word is just too similar to "Brian" it seems, to deliver any results. Planewalkers doesn't seem to have the pictures as well, and I can't scan it myself. Interestingly, the Fiend Folio Abrian looks even more (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/ff_gallery/50155.jpg) like an ostrich than their Planescape predecessors who seem to lack tails.

2011-01-07, 04:33 PM
This is awesome. I also like how you list where we can find the 3.X versions. This might be a good way to brush up on Planescape. Can't wait for the next update (I'm subscribing now, in fact).

2011-01-10, 05:22 AM
New Week - New Monster!

Arcane (Note: this has been converted to 3.X as the Mercane)

As fitting for their name, the Arcane are an especially mysterious race of interplanar traders, merchants and travelers.
An arcane is a large, blue-skinned humanoid over twelve feet tall, with an elongated face and long, spidery fingers with a total of four joints. They are noted for preferring the most expensive clothing and jewelry they can come by and never traveling alone, instead forming companies of a handful of Arcane and between four and ten humanoid guards per Arcane. The lawful arcane are highly intelligent and have magical abilities at their disposal, namely dimension door and invisibility, which they mostly use to avoid whatever fight they get into while traveling.
While the Arcane travel to almost all planes while trading, it is said that they avoid Sigil at all cost, fearing it for some reason they refuse to tell anyone. Apart from that, they can be met just about anywhere, mainly trading small amounts of rare objects, especially weapons, being involved in almost every arms deal on the planes. They have no (known) settlements of their own and are instead constantly on the move.
Arcanes prefer to travel light, rarely taking more than three or four chests worth of items with them. Instead, they are famous for arranging deals between traders on different planes. However, they do not set up direct meetings between their providers and customers, instead preferring to take control of the goods in the middle and keeping their contacts secret. Their connections are nothing short of miraculous, and they can procure just about anything, in any amount, on short notice.
With all their secrecy, constant traveling, connectedness and lust for money, it is no surprise that the Arcane have attracted their fair share of rumours, ranging from being under a curse that forces them to constantly acquire money, to needing a rare and expensive spice to live. The Arcane neither confirm nor deny any of these rumours. Some claim that the Arcane have racial telepathy, or that there is in fact only one single company of them, which somehow manages to travel all over the planes, being at different places in the same time, or traveling through different times. Fact is, no one has ever seen two Arcane argue or even contradicting each other by accident.

Campaign uses: Now these are a race that gets the creative juices flowing, aren't they? From taking a fairly minor role as a trader when the PCs need an exotic item in a faraway location, to being a quest-giver hiring them to acquire a particularly exotic item or working as bodyguards, the Arcane have a lot of potential uses. And the host of secrets they trail behind them leave a lot of space for the dungeon master to connect any number of mysterious dealings to them, even as an adventure hook dealing with their origin or their secret goals. Do they have an agenda they are saving all that money they are making for? Is there a secret Arcane headquarter somewhere on the planes? Can they really travel through time? And why, while being the greatest merchant, do they avoid Sigil, the greatest trade and travel hub on the planes? Do they fear the Lady for some reason? Plenty of hooks to be found.

Where to find them now? As level five outsiders, in both the Epic level handbook (for some reason unknown to me) and the Manual of the Planes, renamed in both places to "Mercane". An understandable decision, I think, as they are not really great mages as statted in the book, despite their intelligence and spell-like abilities.

Art: Right here. (http://img193.imageshack.us/img193/6158/arcanep.png) Now, this picture sells the "trader" part to me, through the body language, and the face and hands are just exotic enough to look non-human. However, the clothes, while certainly very... furry, do not say "expensive" for me, and the Arcane certainly shares many Planescape NPC's (or maybe just Tony Di'Terlizzi's) faible for silly, silly hats.

2011-01-10, 06:19 AM
They're in the ELH because they are the group that founded the city Union, where the city guards are epic level fighters :smallconfused:

For some reason, the ELH-Designers didn't want to go with the obvious setting (Sigil), but created a ridiculous city from scratch.

2011-01-10, 06:23 AM
Ah, yes. I think I heard of that one. Not that creating a new city is necessarily bad, mind you, I always like new planar Metropoleis. But why use the Mercane for that? I think they were perfectly fine as a mysterious race and didn't need a city.

2011-01-10, 06:45 AM
I agree that it could have been cool, even with the mercane as the movers and shakers. But the assumption that you can just adjust the numbers and everything else stays the same makes it very hard to work with. I mean... making the regular guard group consist of 3 14th level fighters, with a 21st level fighter as leader is... strange. PCs of this level usually don't deal with mere guard duty. Which sane NPC of that power level would? (Especially for a measly 5gp/level/day...)

If you totally ignore all the crunch that is given for Union, it kind of makes sense that some trading cartel would wish to compete with Sigil and the City of Brass - and setting up your own city to do so might be a prudent way.

But I didn't want to derail the thread. I liked Rappy's reading project, and I like yours even more, because I prefer the setting. Thanks!

2011-01-10, 04:39 PM
Iteresting. I never realized the Mercane were originally called the Arcane. I could see why there would be a large population of Mercane traders in Union (they never go to Sigil after all), but are they really the rulers of the metropolis?

Also, not to derail the thread, but what plane is Union on?

2011-01-10, 04:42 PM
I have no idea, really. As far as I know, it's a new invention of the ELH, and I've never read that book, only seen the material in the SRD.

2011-01-10, 04:43 PM
Iteresting. I never realized the Mercane were originally called the Arcane. I could see why there would be a large population of Mercane traders in Union (they never go to Sigil after all), but are they really the rulers of the metropolis?

Also, not to derail the thread, but what plane is Union on?
Union is a demi-plane of its own.

2011-01-11, 05:09 AM
Astral Dreadnought

By far the strongest creature so far, "where the Astral Dreadnought goes, even the most powerful fiends know fear". It is a monstrosity, the size of a storm giant, with a serpentine lower body that stretches out into a thin thread that stretches to infinity, like a silver cord. It's upper half is protected by a red carapace and has two strong arms ending in pincers that can easily rip the limbs from even an armoured body or, and this makes it most terrifying, cut a silver cord, a feat otherwise only the Githyanki knights' silver swords can accomplish.
The Dreadnought is noted to be almost invulnerable, save for two spots: it's eye, which projects an antimagical cone (which reminds me of a beholder, though the two creatures don't seem to be related otherwise), and it's own astral cord.
The dreadnought has one purpose, and one purpose only: devouring the bodies of astral projections. It totally ignores travelers who are physically present on the astral plane, but flies into a senseless rage when encountering projections, which seem to form it's entire diet. Interestingly, it has a very high intelligence of 15-16, which seems at odds with it's bestial nature, and unreasoning rage.
Theories about the origin and nature of the dreadnought abound. Some assume there is only ever one of the monster, though this is just a theory. It seems the beast itself is astrally projecting from somewhere, as evidenced by it's tail tapering off to infinity like a silver cord, though no one has ever found out from where. On the other hand, it seems to be intrinsically linked to the astral, effortlessly withstanding or even ignoring it's dangerous natural phenomena, such as cyclones or conduits.

Campaign uses: The obvious use, of course, is setting one of these beasts against a PC who gets overly abusive with the Astral Projection spell, using it as a savegame function before every difficult encounter, or just wholly turtling up in a safe place somewhere and adventuring via projection only.
However, I don't see this as it's entire use. The dreadnought can almost be used as a kind of natural hazard: while people on the internet (if video game reviews are any indication) seem to hate escort mission, getting a clueless prime who's projecting himself to protect himself from danger away from a dreadnought is a possible hook.
Then there is the entire question of the creature's origin and purpose. Is it a true inhabitant of the astral? The book on the astral plane mentions that the Astral is The Space Between, sort of the backstage of the multiverse, where many important processes happen, but which was never really meant to be reached by travelers. Is the Dreadnought perhaps meant to be protecting the plane from meddling? Or is it really projecting from elsewhere, and why? All questions that can lead to an interesting start for a longer campaign.

Where to find them now? The Dreadnought is a Gargantuan outsider of CR 17 in the manual of the planes.

Art: here (http://img513.imageshack.us/i/dreadnought.png/) is half of the picture which, unfortunately, took up two pages. Generally, the dreadnought did not change appearance much between editions, the way some other monsters did. The only thing I can think of is that it's warty, hairy skin does not make me think "carapace".

2011-01-12, 06:41 AM

This creature (not to be confused with the real-world Bowhead Whale), as it's name suggests, is an intelligent, whale-like creature found in the waters of the Upper Planes, especially the River Oceanus, the waterway connecting all the Upper Planes from Arcadia to Ysgard.
The Balaena is of humanlike intelligence and remarkably friendly and curious, and, like the Maraenoloth of the River Styx, it is known to ferry people along the river (unlike the Loth, it does not demand horrible, horrible payment). The creature is strong enough to carry a dozen medium sized creatures and still go at a speed of a hundred miles per day, making them invaluable for interplanar transportation. As payment, it expects conversation, especially interesting rumours and exciting stories from the other planes the water-bound creature can not visit itself. While it can not speak normally, the Balaena has telepathy and it's ability to know the alignment of anyone it means helps it screen for evil creatures intent on abusing it's trust or hurting it.
Apart from ramming and a Tail slap, the Balaena's primary mode of defence is it's whalesong, which has several magical properties, among them summoning and befriending other aquatic creatures, casting hypnotism and suggestion on creatures emerged in water and calling others of it's kind for help.
While primarily encountered on the upper planes, the Balaena can venture into the Astral Plane and, from there, eventually into prime material oceans, so it is one of those few planar creatures adventurers can encounter on the prime.

Campaign uses: Honestly? I don't see them used for much beyond glorified shuttle service. They can be summoned, so that might help, but they are basically telepathic ferries. Nice for a roleplay interlude and to flesh out travel a little and make it seem exotic, but unlikely to provide campaign hooks.

Art: I haven't found it online anywhere, but the Balaena is pretty much what you'd expect: a big whale. Type Balaena into google, the whales you'll see are pretty much identical.

Where to find: The Enworld creature catalogue (http://creaturecatalog.enworld.org/cc/converted/view_c.php?CreatureID=858) (generally a great source) has converted the Balaena as a CR7 outsider. As far as I'm aware, there is no official conversion (though there are two outsider whales in the various books, the Elsewhale and the Starwhale who may serve a similar purpose). The Enworld version gained various new spell-like abilities in the conversion process, among them, interestingly, Astral Projection.