Sunday, June 1, 2014

Green Martians for OSR

Art by the incomparable Michael Whelan 
Since the Sword & Planet genre is near and dear to my muscular circulatory fluid pump, I've decided to try my hand at adapting the denizens of Barsoom to Basic D&D and related retro-clones. As always, scathing criticism of my hair-brained ideas is always welcome.

Let's start with the fearsome Green Martians:

Requirements: CON 9
Prime Requisite: STR and CON
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 12
Five or six had already hatched and the grotesque caricatures which sat blinking in the sunlight were enough to cause me to doubt my sanity. They seemed mostly head, with little scrawny bodies, long necks and six legs, or, as I afterward learned, two legs and two arms, with an intermediary pair of limbs which could be used at will either as arms or legs. Their eyes were set at the extreme sides of their heads a trifle above the center and protruded in such a manner that they could be directed either forward or back and also independently of each other, thus permitting this queer animal to look in any direction, or in two directions at once, without the necessity of turning the head
The ears, which were slightly above the eyes and closer together, were small, cup-shaped antennae, protruding not more than an inch on these young specimens. Their noses were but longitudinal slits in the center of their faces, midway between their mouths and ears. 
There was no hair on their bodies, which were of a very light yellowish-green color. In the adults, as I was to learn quite soon, this color deepens to an olive green and is darker in the male than in the female. Further, the heads of the adults are not so out of proportion to their bodies as in the case of the young. 
The iris of the eyes is blood red, as in Albinos, while the pupil is dark. The eyeball itself is very white, as are the teeth. These latter add a most ferocious appearance to an otherwise fearsome and terrible countenance, as the lower tusks curve upward to sharp points which end about where the eyes of earthly human beings are located. The whiteness of the teeth is not that of ivory, but of the snowiest and most gleaming of china. Against the dark background of their olive skins their tusks stand out in a most striking manner, making these weapons present a singularly formidable appearance. ... 
But how puny and harmless they now looked beside this huge and terrific incarnation of hate, of vengeance and of death. The man himself, for such I may call him, was fully fifteen feet in height and, on Earth, would have weighed some four hundred pounds. 
--Edgar Rice Borroughs
A Princess Of Mars 
Barbaric even by Barsoom's brutal standards, the Green Martian hordes are feared by the all the civilized peoples of Mars. With few exceptions, Green Martians revel in violence and cruelty, killing to advance their status in their horde, or just for the pleasure of seeing their victim suffer.Like most lifeforms on water-starved Barsoon, Green Martians hatch from eggs and are raised collectively by the females on a horde. Love and familial bonds are not a factor in the vast majority of Green Martian lives (although there are few exceptions); however, the few exceptions to the rule can be intensely loyal to those who can prove their strength and cunning.

Green Martians can use all four of their limbs in combat, bearing any combination of 1-or-2-handed weapons as they have hands available. (e.g. 4 one -handed weapons, 2 two-handed weapons, 2 one handed weapons and 1 two-handed weapon, etc.) They can spread these attacks between 1 and 4 eligible opponents.

Because of their great height, Green Martians have difficulty moving in confined spaces. Unless they are in an area with at least a 15' ceiling, their movement is reduced by half and they suffer a -2 penalty to their attacks and +2 penalty to their AC (or -2 defense penalty if using Ascending AC). They also suffer a -2 penalty to all dexterity or movement-based saving throws.

Upon Reaching 9th Level: When a Green Martian reaches level 9, it has the option of becoming a Jeddak of a horde of its own. A Green Martian Jeddak will attract Green Warriors who roam the dead sea bottoms from ruined city to ruined city. They have no use for retainers or specialists.

Green Martian Level Progression
Hit Dice (1d6)
+3 hp only*
+6 hp only*
+9 hp only*
*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored.

Saving Throws: As Dwarf/Halfling

Swords & Wizardry: Green Martians can only be Fighters.


  1. Is this for OD&D or a later edition? If the latter, I would recommend at least d8 or d10 hit dice.

  2. My justification for the d6 HD is two-fold:

    1) The number of attacks make them pretty powerful. Something needed to be done to help leaven them a bit.

    2) I don't see anything in the text (at least nothing that I can recall) that indicates that the Green Martians were marginally stronger than their Red/White/Black/Yellow neighbors, just much taller. From the text:

    While the Martians are immense, their bones are very large and they are muscled only in proportion to the gravitation which they must overcome. The result is that they are infinitely less agile and less powerful, in proportion to their weight, than an Earth man, and I doubt that were one of them suddenly to be transported to Earth he could lift his own weight from the ground; in fact, I am convinced that he could not do so.

    Of course, I can be wrong and I'm always open to correction.

  3. Oh, they are "mostly" for B/X and later editions along with affiliated retro-clones.

  4. I can't agree with the low hit die, especially when you see one standing next to a human. What about lowering the amount of attacks to one or two and raising the HD to 8 or 10 respectively. The non-attacking arms could then be considered as always defending which would be reflected in the HD increase.

  5. If your Red Martian warriors have d6 hit dice, then it makes sense to me. But if they have d8 hit dice like Fighters in Basic/Expert D&D, then I think the Green Martians should also have d8 hit dice, because they are only weak compared to Earthmen. (Personally, I would assume they are stronger than Red Martians if only for their increased mass.)

    I think there was something in one of the novels that mentioned that Green Martians didn't usually use all four arms to attack, that one or more arms carried a shield, but I might be misremembering or thinking of illustrations I saw. In any event, I don't think their number of attacks necessarily requires anything to balance them mechanically. It's the advantage of being a Green Martian. The disadvantage of being a Green Martian is giant size and being feared or distrusted by all civilized Martians.

  6. I'll fool around with the design for a bit and see what develops. Any revisions will be added into the original post.

  7. Have you considered limiting the Green Martians to only attacking 1 or two opponents until gaining a few levels, adding another additional opponent every four levels, perhaps? That gives you another way for them to ramp-up into awesome fighting machines without adjusting their HD.

    Another way around the HD situation is to give them an innate bonus to the CON score, so they get the bonus hit points more often than not...of course that works best for PC/NPC versions with stats. For monsters/encounters you could specify that they have maximum hit points and that would probably be fine. They don't need a lot of dice if they get all, or most of the points.

    Another consideration is to give them 2 DEX scores, one for the secondary attacks/blocking/etc. One would apply to the defense bonus, missile weapons, etc., The other would be for their movement and melee attacks.

    Their innate climbing ability is pretty good, and they have been shown using the middle limbs to walk with on occasion, so that might help them with getting through rough terrain.