The story behind this is an old joke made in our AD&D gaming group back around 1990. The joke is about how players tend to lazily accept descriptions from the DM on face value without asking for additional information. So, in the joke, the DM says the PCs meet a harmless old man. The PCs don’t care until the harmless old man kills them all. It turns out, “harmless old man” is actually the name for an enormously deadly monster. Not long after making the joke, I wrote up a harmless old man, and the joke has been a running gag in our group ever since. I have recently edited the stats I wrote in 1990, but kept them specific to AD&D (as opposed to later editions of the game).
HARMLESS OLD MAN
Frequency: Very rare
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: -8
Hit Dice: 19+37
% in Lair: 40%
Treasure Type: H (x2)
No. of Attacks: 1 claw/1 claw/1 claw/1 claw/1 bite/1 horn/1 horn/1 tail
Special Attacks: Death gaze, breath weapon, energy drain, stench, poison, spells, vorpal and wounding bite, sharpness and wounding claws, and see below
Special Defenses: +4 or better weapon to hit, regenerate 5 hp/round, immune to cold, lightning, fire, poison, gas, energy draining, ½ or no damage from acid (always allowed a save)
Magic Resistance: 95%
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: L (15’ tall, 30’ wingspan)
Psionic Ability: 540
Attack/Defense Modes: All/All
Level/X.P. Value: XII (out of X)/a lot
The harmless old men of the lower planes are feared by all save the gods and swear no allegiance to demon, devil, or daemon. Their gaze is as deadly as a bodak (MMII). Anyone coming within 40’ of them must save vs. paralyzation at -2 or be stunned by the stench for 3-12 rounds. They radiate an aura of energy draining that drains 1 level per round from anyone within a 5’ radius of them. So, just meeting harmless old men is deadly before combat is even joined.
In combat, the harmless old man will try to lift shorter opponents so it can bite with both heads (the smaller, telescoping head in its stomach can attack any opponent), as its main head is too tall for biting man-sized opponents on the ground. If it cannot reach to gore with its horns, it can use spikes on its knees to the same effect (but does not use both). Its upper head can spew an unlimited quantity of breath weapons per day in a cone 12” long and 1” wide, of either cold, lightning, fire, or chlorine gas, doing damage equal to the harmless old man’s current hp (like a dragon). Its claw attacks and the bite from its stomach-head necessitate a save vs. poison, success means 25 points of damage and failure means death in 1 segment. The stomach-head can spit this poison up to 3” once per round. The stomach-head will also hold fast after biting and drain blood at the rate of 1-8 hp per round. The bite of the main head has the cumulative properties of a vorpal sword and a sword or wounding. All four claw attacks have the cumulative properties of a sword of sharpness and a sword of wounding. The harmless old man can continue fighting even if both heads are severed.
A harmless old man has the following spell-like powers, usable at the 20th level of ability: animate dead, burning hands, cause fear (gaze at will), charm person, comprehend languages, cone of cold, darkness (30’ radius), detect invisible, fireball, gate (15% of 1 harmless old man), ice storm, invisibility, know alignment, lightning bolt, magic missile, permanent illusion, read magic, shocking grasp, suggestion, teleport (no error), and word of recall. They have continuous telepathy, infra-vision, and ultra-vision within a 24” radius.
A harmless old man has 20 psionic devotions and 10 psionic sciences.
Weapons +2 or less have a 1 in 10 chance of breaking when striking a harmless old man.