Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day: Giant Toads in the Blue Book

by Dave Trampier, AD&D Players Handbook (1978)

     For Leap Day I'll discuss the Giant Toads in the Holmes Basic Set. "What?", you say, "there aren't any Giant Toads in the Blue Book Monster List!" That's correct, but the original Wandering Monster Table in the 1st print rulebook (1977) did include 1-6 Giant Toads on the 2nd level. This table was revised in the 2nd print (May 1978) to remove monsters not appearing in the Monster List, including the Giant Toad. However, Giant Toads also appeared in the Monster & Treasure Assortment Levels 1-3 that was included in the Basic Set with each of the first three printings of the rulebook (1977, May 1978, Nov 1978).

     Here are the M&TA stats for the Giant Toad, which appear on each level:

     Lvl 1 #5. Giant Toads - (1-2) HP: 12, 8; #AT: 1; AL: 8; AC 7; ST/F 1-3; SA: None.
     Lvl 1 #79. Giant Toads - (1-2) HP: 9, 6; rest of the stats the same
     Lvl 2 #25. Giant Toads - (1-4): HP: 13, 8, 8, 8; rest of the stats the same
     Lvl 3 #8.  Giant Toads - (2-8): HP: 14, 11, 2 x10, 8, 2 x 6, 5; rest of the stats the same
     Lvl 3 #75.  Giant Toads - (2-8): HP: 13, 3 x 11, 10, 2 x 9; of the stats the same

     MT&A uses a weird stat in place of HD: AL, or Attack Level, which is the "level of attack by monster as expressed by the monster's base number to score a hit on an unarmored opponent (armor class)". So it's a "to hit AC 9" or THAC9. By cross-referencing AL 8 with the Monster To-Hit Table, we find Giants Toads to have HD 2-3 (using OD&D or most Holmes printings) or 2+ to 3 (using the very last revision of the Holmes rulebook, which revised this table). The average HP of the 24 toads listed in the M&TA is 9.3, an average between 2 HD and 2+1 HD. We'll put them at 2+1 so they'll have an "AL 8" for all versions of the Blue Book.

Giant Toad by Jim Holloway
     The history of Giant Toads in early D&D is complex, as with many of the "Giant" animals. In the LBBs, we see "Toads" (not listed as "Giant") in the Basic Animal Table in Vol 3. No stats are provided, but they are encompassed by the "Small Animals" (1 HD) or "Large Animals" (2 HD) described in Vol 2. In Greyhawk, "Giant Toad" first appears, both in the variable attack damage table (1 bite, 1-10/bite) and in the 2nd level Wandering Monster table. The GH WM tables appear to have been adapted for the 1st print Blue Book, explaining the reference to Giant Toads. In Blackmoor we finally get full stats for a Giant Toad as well as a lengthy description (for OD&D). Attacks/damage remain the same as in GH, but they are also given a "save vs poison" (not further explained). HD is 1-2, AC is 6, # Appearing is 3-30 and MV is 1/3/18 (apparently walking/swimming/leaping). The description indicates they are harmless unless attacked, found in any terrain, have "protective coloration" which is treated as invisible, can leap over 30' obstructions at 18" per turn and can make tongue attacks up to 15' that will draw opponents in. Giant Frogs are described separately, and are more vicious and dangerous. Next came the M&TA listing, which doesn't quite match Blackmoor (different HD, different AC, no special attacks indicated), so it may have a separate origin. In the Monster Manual, they are HD 2+4, AC 6, damage 2-8, and the tongue attack is dropped. They are also no longer harmless, eating anything rather than just insects. Furthermore, the poison ability is split off to a "Poisonous Toad", indistinguishable from the Giant Toad but slightly weaker (HD 2, AC 7, D 2-5). There's also completely new Ice Toad who have their own "weird language". In B/X, Giant Toads are pushed to the Expert Set, and have HD 2+2, AC 7, D 2-5, a tongue attack and camouflage (surprise on 1-3). Basically we are left with five-six different versions of the Giant Toads (OD&D/GH, BM, M&TA, MM (regular and poisonous) and B/X).

    For a simple Blue Book version, we'll naturally use the M&TA stats, and pull in movement and damage from GH/BM (The M&TA is missing a damage stat, possibly because it was intended be used with static or variable damage; so we'll use the variable damage since Holmes does). There's no special attack or defenses in M&TA, so I've left out the poison, tongue attacks and camouflage (also missing from the Monster Manual version), but any of these could be added.

Giant Toad

Move: 30 feet/turn, 180 feet/turn leaping
Hit Dice: 2 + 1
Armor Class: 7
Treasure Type: nil
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1-10

     Enormous albino amphibians found everywhere underground. They roam in groups of 2-8, hunting for prey primarily by scent due to their poor vision. Giant toads can leap up to 180 feet per turn, and up to 30 feet in the air, and can attack on the same round they leap. They eat practically anything, and will attack any humanoids except troglodytes. They are soothed by the scent of troglodytes, who raise them to use as guards and for hunting. Shriekers will also tolerate Giant Toads.

by David C. Sutherland III, Monster Manual (1977)


  1. ZA: An inspired post for Leap Day. My 'Additions to Holmes' folder keeps expanding, like the vocal sac of a giant toad, thanks to you.

  2. Thanks Theodric. More additions to come!

  3. I just started playing the Temple of Elemental Evil PC game the other night and ran into giant toads outside the moathouse near Hommlet. They make a good low level encounter because they aren't very intelligent, and they should be easy to beat, but there is always the danger that they could swallow you whole!

  4. Yes, they are famous for TPKs. I'm currently playing in a ToEE game, IIRC they swallowed one of our party members but we survived and cut him out.