Thursday, November 20, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 10B

Being a series of articles in which the author reads the indelible words of Gygax and Arneson as presented the Original Collector's Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, published by Tactical Studies Rules. Beginning with Men & Magic, and concluding with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, the author will consider those earliest passages, adding elucidations and interpretations along the way for your consideration.

This post is being added in hindsight after I had already moved forward in my reading. I suspect I might add a few more like this as I have been scheduling some of these in groups of posts. I’d like to thank Jonathan at The Core Mechanic for his excellent The New Cleric is the Old Cleric series which prompted me to realize I had glossed over something I felt was noteworthy.

Men & Magic
BASIC EQUIPMENT AND COSTS

“Item: Wooden Cross, Cost: 2
Item: Silver Cross, Cost: 25”
The two items above are the only ‘holy symbols’ in original D&D. Certainly we know that the equipment list is no more than a guide for referees, and far from complete.

“Other items cost may be calculated by comparing to similar items listed above.”
By now the reader is gaining an understanding that there is potentially more to the world, to the campaign, and that covering all possibilities is implausible. The fact that ‘Cross’ is used, rather than ‘Symbol‘, is noteworthy. I realize that my AD&D mind is taking hold here, as I know what’s in store for the Cleric in the near future. The Cleric, more so than any other class in D&D, is rooted in our world, the real world. One might argue that Fighting-Men are as well, and that Magic-Users are the only true fantasy archetype of the Three-Pronged-Crown of D&D classes. I would contend that Fighting-Men are generic by design, and meant to encompass not only historical Medieval warriors, but also pulp fiction and high fantasy heroes of bravery and daring. Clerics, as originally designed, were inspired by a vampire-hunting, Van Helsing-type character (Sir Fang) from Arneson’s Blackmoor, an archetype to which Gygax added some Medieval and historical trappings; namely Christianity. From there the idea blossomed and became one of the three D&D archetypes.

While there is no mention of God, or Christians, or of whom Clerics or Anti-Clerics worship, this is the only reference point we have to work with. One can make assumptions based on this, but I think even 34 years ago TSR realized that a potentially volatile situation could develop if the ramifications of this were spelled out. On the other hand, I truly get the feeling from reading these volumes that there was no intent to enforce real world religion into the rules of the fantastic worlds which were growing around them. In the end I am left to surmise that the Cross was specifically the literal translation of the Van Helsing tool used on the Clerics versus Undead Monsters table detailed in the pages to come, and nothing more.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

8 comments:

Amityville Mike said...

A copy of Dave Arneson's "The First Fantasy Campaign" has recently fallen into my hands. It's interesting to note that there is a distinct possibility of the adventurers running into Sir Fang and his ogre and dwarven henchmen on the 1st level of the dungeon under Blackmoor, according to the convention version of the dungeon presented within those pages.

I think this reinforces the idea of the cleric as a Van Helsing character type, and the reason that the cross was included on the equipment list from day one. A beginning party is going to be in for some serious hurt unless they have a cleric equiped with a cross to repel that fiend. Not a holy symbol or the power to turn undead, but an old-fashioned "make the vampire hiss and recoil" cross.

Sham aka Dave said...

First of all: getting FFC? That's awesome! I am green with envy. And yeah, I think my assumption here is correct, that the Cross is an anti-undead tool more so than a religious symbol. Clearly it's 'both', but game-wise it is a tool.

Chgowiz said...

Here's a good question for you (and yes, post necromancy - thank Google for this...)

In Basic Equipment Costs, pg 14:
Iron Rations (for dungeon expeditions) 1 person/1 week

vs.

Standard Rations for 1 person/1 week.

Why?

I can't find anything useful for that distinction later on. I can only assume that perhaps regular food was somehow affected by the dungeon air/environment? It's a curious thing. Funny thing is, I can't find anything on ODD boards about it. I'm about to ask the question.

(Heh, word verify is "barlovin")

Sham aka Dave said...

I'm not sure there's anything specific in the OD&D books on the difference. I was always (and I say this realizing that I'm probably using AD&D knowledge here) under the impression that Iron Rations are more or less "military" field style foods, whereas standard rations are just regular packed up food. I would assume then that iron rations last much, much longer in the field. Encumbrance-wise, if rations were tracked as a part of that, would be more compact. They taste like they sound, but on unexpectedly long dungeon delves, Iron Rations are a must.

Chgowiz said...

We're having a good discussion on the ODD board about this, and I found an old thread on K&K. It seems that the bottom line is that there are differences, in both editions and type:

OD&D is vague, so the tendency is to make standard rations "spoil" in a dungeon environment. Encumbrance isn't really an issue.

AD&D is a bit more specific, but mainly in encumbrance - there's no real explanation of what to use when.

Fun stuff and weird! I love finding things like this in OD&D - and the only reason I gave it any thought was because I was working on the Ultima item list.

Sham aka Dave said...

I wouldn't normally make standard rations spoil faster than 1 week's time, and iron rations would have a very long shelf life (think hard cheese, beef jerky, salted meats, nuts, dried fruit, hard tack). Interesting stuff. I suppose I had this mental image of what each was and have been ruling things the same way for so long I didn't put much thought into it.

I do like the idea of standard rations spoiling overnight in a dungeon, though!

Chgowiz said...

It's interesting how little bits like that make you go "hmm." I really enjoyed your dive through the books. I find, as I'm going back through the LBBs/SW-Wb that I'm going back through your posts with a different eye now.

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks, Chgowiz. I hope to be able to finish the series in the near future. As you can see it lost some steam but I won't be satisfied until I finish Vol III and add closing observations.