killa bees

NerdNYC is hosting its semi-annual mini-con, Recess, this coming weekend.  If you’re in the area, you should attend.  I say this because it’s reliably a good time, not just because I’ll be running a B/X adventure, Kill Bargle!, on Sunday night.  Because some players might be young people, or people who only know 4e or whatever, I plan to give my standard introduction to the Old Ways:

This is a game about adventure.  Most of the adventures are going to happen in dungeons, and most of the time you’re hoping to find treasure.  There are monsters in this game too.  Let me tell you about one of them, because it says something important.  Let me tell you about the Killer Bee.

You’re like, “Pfff, the Killer Bee?  That’s not a monster.  Get out of here with your Killer Bee.”  But no, seriously: Killer Bees are the worst monster in the game.  Because they are a sign that God hates you.  Check this out (pull out Moldvay, turn to a well-worn page B37):

You wanna hang out peacefully near the Killer Bee?  Sure thing, stupid–the Killer Bee attacks on sight.  If the Killer Bee hits you, it will kill yousixty percent of the time.  Oh, are you really powerful and high level?  Fine: Killer Bee only kills you thirty percent of the time.  And if you survive, their stinger keeps killing you making it impossible to cast spells.  And they travel in swarms of up to 30.

Want to run away from the Killer Bee?  Yeah right, the Killer Bee flies faster than you can run.  If they exist anywhere near you, just hand in your character sheet.

A formidable opponent!  So what do you get for facing a swarm of Killer Bees and surviving?  Nothing.  You get a potion of healing, but don’t get too excited now: it’s half-strength.

Keep in mind: the Killer Bee is a 1 hit-dice monster.  That means they are among the weakest monsters you will ever fight, and they’ll be just wandering around chillin’ in the safest part of the dungeon.

What does the existence of the Killer Bee tell us about how to play Dungeons & Dragons?

Well, first of all, whoever came up with this stuff was a psychopath.  Life is unfair, and so is this game.  Sadly.

And also, sometimes it is best to just stay the hell away.  Since you can’t run from these guys, try to listen for them.  Watch out for clues.  Live in terror.

But most importantly: this isn’t a fantasy novel where the hero rises from obscurity and goes onto some epic destiny.  It’s a game, where some poor unlucky slob gets stung to death by giant bees and dies horribly as his companions flee in terror.  There will be moments of triumph, but there’s also going to be moments when everything’s gone wrong, and there’s nothing to be done except roll with the punches.  When your character dies, the best response is to sigh deeply, and reach for the dice to start over.

There’s always something to be learned.  And today’s lesson is: watch out for Bees.

much respect to the Honey Badger

I couldn’t find any Wu-Tang clips for Killa Bees that I liked, but writing this reminded me of the Honey Badger video.  So!

Armor Class 4 (half-damage from piercing)
Hit Dice 3
Move 120 (40) (can tunnel at 10′ per turn)
Attacks 3 (at Thac0 18)
Damage 1d4, 1d4, 1d8
No. Appear 1d4 (1-2)

Save As Dw3 (honey badger is surprisingly tough)
Morale 12 (honey badger don’t give a shit)
Treasure Nil
Alignment Neutral
Experience 50

The Giant Honey Badger is an omnivore, about 6 feet long and weighing about 140 pounds.  It is immune to poison, and only takes half-damage from piercing weapons, like arrows, daggers, spears, and short-swords.  Adept at running backwards, it can execute a full retreat without provoking attacks of opportunity or the like.  It can climb with 90% reliability, and can burrow through hard-packed earth (but not stone) at 10′ per turn.


13 Responses to “killa bees”

  1. 1 Lord Bodacious
    January 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I would play as a Honey Badger in a heartbeat. Yeah, so you can’t use cool swords or zippy spells – immunity to poison is like the best ability in basic.

  2. January 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    What a fantastic post, especially your ending paragraph. You can always have the cleric pray for Robber Flies to show up!

  3. 3 Scott LeMien
    January 12, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I’m going to kill my medusa and make a honey badger PC for the whitebox game.

  4. 4 Charlatan
    January 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    @barrataria: I love the implication that Robber Flies are to Killer Bees what Blink Dogs are to Displacer Beasts. The countryside must reverberate with the thrum of the killing fields in the Giant Fly-Bee wars.

  5. 5 James Nostack
    January 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    And then the Tiger Beetles eat the Robber Flies. Don’t forget about the Cave Locusts which feed on Shriekers. It is a noisy time in that dungeon.

    And yeah, it seems like half the monsters in the game have some kind of save-or-die effect, usually poison. Somebody, maybe Delta, did a whole big thing analyzing this and figured that maybe poison killed you after the end of a turn, rather than the end of a single round. Which at least gives you a fighting chance to do something useful before you croak… I think about Martin and weep.

  6. January 12, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I’ve read some interesting threads about adjusting poison. You’ve got a whole lot of variables to play with:

    * Saving throw modifiers
    * Slower effects: even on a failed save, poisons might take minutes, hours or days to kill you; this permits actual mechanics for trying to suck the poison out, etc.
    * Non-lethal poisons: these can deal damage, inflict dice roll penalties, cause paralysis or unconsciousness, etc

    And because this is handwavey old-school stuff, there need not be any core mechanic for this. Maybe giant bee stings kill you instantly, while giant hornet stings deal 1-6 damage per turn for 3 turns, and giant wasp stings paralyze you for 1-6 hours. Who knows?

  7. 8 James Nostack
    January 12, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Yeah, the whole save-or-die thing, which the OSR initially trumpeted as a feature and not a bug, still looks like a bug to me. (In part because many save-or-die’s are caused by Giant Bugs.)

    A very small part of that reaction is that instantly lethal poison isn’t very realistic. But even if you fix poison, there’s still nasty stuff like turning to stone, disintegration traps, green slime, and so on.

    These are time-honored ways to lose 10th level characters who have been built up over hundreds if not thousands of hours of game-play, but “time-honored” doesn’t always translate to “fun.” This is obviated a little bit by raise dead but that’s out of reach a lot of the time. (Trying to scrape 5,000 gold together is likely to get somebody else killed anyway.)

    I think part of the problem is that D&D doesn’t have clear mechanisms for increasing players’ anguish other than death or GM fiat…..

  8. 9 maldoor
    January 13, 2012 at 1:05 am

    In early parts of my dungeon I have replaced many save-or-die poisons with poorly disguised prompts to make characters carouse. Hands will go numb and useless for the remainder of the session (unless characters happen to have a poultice of the correct herbs with them). Or might make you lose a point of STR a day until you get fixed. Etc. Players will be able to find or research antidotes or cures, which I see as another way to make the world a bit richer. Some save-or-die stuff is appropriate to keep people on thier toes, but especially at low levels I think traps are better used to make the game richer and atmospheric, not arbitrarily deadly…

  9. January 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    “this isn’t a fantasy novel where the hero rises from obscurity and goes onto some epic destiny. It’s a game, where some poor unlucky slob gets stung to death by giant bees and dies horribly as his companions flee in terror.”

    I’m so tempted to put this on the home page of Red Box Vancouver…

  10. 11 James Nostack
    January 14, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Cr0m, have you guys encountered Killer Bees? For all that I talk them up, I don’t think we’ve ever run into them. Because they are yellow & black screwjobs with wings and nobody’s that mean. But still: just once, it would be nice to get screwed by something that only exists to screw you…

  11. 12 maldoor
    January 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    One of the few characters who have perished in the Ran Litby game died of a giant bee sting. He had a plan to rile up the bees to attack an enemy that was chasing him, but the angry bees ended up attacking everyone and he perished.

    Perhaps there is room for a cleric chatacter who worships Bzzzzat, a bee-goddess of uncaring, random death – worshippers are characterized by faith-based bee tricks like grabbing honey from a next without getting stung, or carrying around a hive (of normal bees) to throw at enemies.

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