Sunday, November 30, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 20

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.

Men & Magic
IN CONCLUSION (continued)

After stating that this Conclusion wasn’t going to philosophize, it did that very thing in the previous post. But now that the table is set, I am prepared to roll up my sleeves and go back through those posts in order to extract what I feel are notable observations.

Here are some, not all, of the reader comments I wish to quote here. I value all of your comments, so don‘t worry if I didn‘t quote you below. These just happen to be the comments I found to be of particular interest to me:

On the Dwarf:

From John Stephens: How about letting them spot traps the way Elves spot secret doors? 1-4 if they're actively searching, 1-2 even if they're not (Vol.3, p.9).
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On the Elf:

From The Myth: It seems clear that, while an Elf must choose a class to advance in between adventures [and will thus start as either Fighting-Man *or* Magic-User], the Elf will *always* retain all benefits of each class level achieved, including the ability to cast spells in armor and use all weapons. So, while this does imply that an Elf is not a gestalt combo-class of fighter/magic-user [as in Mentzer or AD&D], forcing the Elf's player to keep re-rolling hit points and using different saving throws seems to contradict the statement that they "gain the benefits of both classes."

In essence, the Elf is able to change classes without the necessary 15 in the prime requisite needed for Humans. The big question for me thus becomes whether an Elf starting as a Magic-User has full weapon and [magic] armor use. [I think not...at least not until the "next adventure" when the Elf can switch classes and gain some XP as a Fighting-Man.]
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On Alignment:

From Ian: What I mean by this is that the natural tendency of the original D&D player (especially from a wargaming background, and most of us were at the time), was to carve out a domain in the wilderness (or neutralize a dungeon which is much the same thing), essentially bringing Order/Law to the Wilderness/Chaos. Civilization was generally something that was off-screen in most of the games we played at the time (although it did exist as a source of supplies and workers).

Thus Chaos was the enemy - the forces that resisted building your stronghold, carving out your domain, and taming the wilderness. Neutral characters and creatures weren't particularly antagonistic, but neither were they likely to be very helpful. Lawful characters and creatures would tend to assist this process.

The cleric, as a servant of the church (it being strongly implied in OD&D that the clerics belonged to a monotheistic [or at least unified] religion), was thus an agent for spreading religion, society, and civilization, and thus a servant of order. The Anti-Clerics were opposed to "the church" and thus were servants of Chaos.
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On Constitution:

From Wayne Rossi: the "withstand adversity" roll does not necessarily need to be limited to the later interpretations of "system shock." It strikes me as an unnecessary AD&D-ism to import the limited system shock to Constitution, and allow "withstand adversity" to act as a mechanic whenever it is necessary (for instance, summiting a mountain or surviving exposure).
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On divisional (alignment) tongues:

From David (Sir Larkins): I guess one possible interpretation of alignment tongues is that they're the languages of Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic nations; Common remains as either a pidgin or a lingua franca like Latin. Thus, taking the world of Conan as our example, if you grew up in, say, Cimmeria, you speak Chaotic. If you're from Aquilonia, you speak Lawful. Shem? You speak Neutral. Doesn't matter what your actual alignment is that way, and nicely avoids the alignment shift conundrum.
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On hits (aka damage): "Whether sustaining accumulative hits will otherwise affect a character is left to the discretion of the referee.”

From Geoffrey McKinney: I understand that to mean stuff like having a broken arm (thus making to hit rolls at a penalty), having a broken leg (unable to walk), getting knocked unconscious, or whatever.

From Victor Raymond: Missed that one first time around - I know many a game that assumed PCs fought at full strength until hitting zero HP. Hmmm! Thank you!
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On Spells:

From Belst8: I understand the natural impulse to proliferate spells and to fine tune and specialize them. But unless it's done with care, I think the result will be to make magic mechanical rather than the strange and wonderful, or even disturbing, thing that it could be. And what a loss that is.

From Wayne Rossi: I interpret the saving throw column for "Staves & Spells" to apply to every spell unless it is covered by a different column. I think the "only allows a saving throw if explicitly defined" attitude you've taken is a pretty radical one considering the economy of description of spells.
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On Charm Person:

From John: I treat Charm Person as if the victim rolled a 12 on the Reaction Table, and then an 18 for morale. You now have the person on your side; it's up to you to keep him there.
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On Spell Durations and Turns:

From Will Douglas: I think for spell duration you can ask yourself one simple question: Is this a spell to be used in combat, or not? Yes means "turns" are what we think of as rounds. No means regular 10-minute turns.
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On Counter-Spells:

From Snorri: (paraphrased) I wonder whether rules for Wizards from Chainmail apply? It is a good basis for OD&D, and I use it for my French version.

From Tussock: Countering is detailed in Chainmail, 7+ on 2d6 for a stronger wizard, 8+, 9+, 10+, or 11+ if lower level (for the five "levels" of Chainmail Wizards, at 2, 6, 8, 9, and 11th level D&D equivalents by name). It uses the whole turn for the countering wizard.
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On Polymorph Self:

From Taichara: Though what entertainment could be gotten from actually allowing 'anything'! I'm imagining the pretending-that-you're-furniture ambush gambit at the moment. Heh.
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Keep those comments coming. All of you are adding insight and opinions which make this undertaking a pleasure.



~Sham, Quixotic Referee

4 comments:

The_Myth said...

It seems clear that, while an Elf must choose a class to advance in between adventures [and will thus start as either Fighting-Man *or* Magic-User], the Elf will *always* retain all benefits of each class level achieved, including the ability to cast spells in armor and use all weapons. So, while this does imply that an Elf is not a gestalt combo-class of fighter/magic-user [as in Mentzer or AD&D], forcing the Elf's player to keep re-rolling hit points and using different saving throws seems to contradict the statement that they "gain the benefits of both classes."

In essence, the Elf is able to change classes without the necessary 15 in the prime requisite needed for Humans. The big question for me thus becomes whether an Elf starting as a Magic-User has full weapon and [magic] armor use. [I think not...at least not until the "next adventure" when the Elf can switch classes and gain some XP as a Fighting-Man.]


I said this, and I am not Matt Finch.

http://shamsgrog.blogspot.com/2008/11/d-cover-to-cover-part-7.html

Sham aka Dave said...

Ooops, sorry The_Myth, I will fix this right away! My mistake, and thank you for pointing this out. I also responded based on this assumption to your previous post.

Again, my humblest apologies.

Chgowiz said...

I wanted to add a "thank you" to your review of OD&D. I've picked up my Holmes book and a copy of microlite74 and have been having a blast creating some new killing grounds. Reading your review helps me to interpret what I see in my source materials and houseruling in a way that I think is consistent with the philosophy of OD&D.

Hopefully I'll find that PDF in my virtual stocking this christmas. :)

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks, Chgowiz. I hope you get your PDFs as well. It's fun to deconstruct and rebuild the rules, especially when you start with the variables of OD&D.

I put a handful of out of print stuff on my Wish List, but unfortunately I already know some of what's going to wrapped up under the tree. My Wife's been using my eBay account and Pay Pal account to make my Wish List come true! I'll have to feign surprise.