Wednesday, January 14, 2009

D&D Cover to Cover, part 34

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.

Monsters & Treasure
EXPLANATIONS OF MAGIC ITEMS (continued)

MISCELLANEOUS MAGIC

Medallions of ESP
:…malfunctions on a roll of 6, so whenever in use roll a six-sided die to check it.”
Quite a nice item. As was observed in part 15, ESP was more or less used as a scanning ability to avoid surprise which could see real use as a dungeon early warning system. A character with a permanent magical ability such as this might prove tiresome, so the medallion does “backfire” 17% of the time.

Amulet vs. Crystal Balls and ESP: This device presents the location, sight, or thought waves pick-up by Crystal Ball or ESP.

Scarab of Protection from Evil High Priests: The small scarab acts as a charm which absorbs the “Finger of Death” from Evil High Priests…”
The word “presents” is of course a typo and was meant to be “prevents”. As with Death-Rays and Aging (Withering), I get the feeling that Crystal Balls and ESP were seeing a great amount of use in the campaigns being run by the authors at the time of this writing. I make this assumption based on the existence of counter-measure devices of seemingly limited scope which were nevertheless included in this first edition of D&D. I often get the feeling that if there was not outright player vs. player activity, there was at the very least a sense of competition amongst the many groups of characters living in Blackmoor and Greyhawk. Next up, here’s the Death-Ray again, being counter-measured by what was probably deemed a very useful item in those campaigns. Not necessarily due to player conflict, but probably just as likely as protection from the threat of Evil High Priest antagonists in the games. Interestingly, this scarab would not protect against a Finger of Death cast by a Cleric, only those cast by Anti-Clerics. Otherwise why not just name the item Scarab of Protection from Finger of Death?

Elven Cloak and Boots: Wearing the Cloak makes a person next to invisible, while the Boots allow for totally silent movement.”
This item(s) has been alluded to in earlier comments regarding how some referees explain some certain Elf racial abilities. Specifically, the entry on p.16 of this same volume, stating that Elves can move silently and are near invisible. It’s been suggested that this could refer to the fact that all Elves are already wearing the above item(s), and are therefore gaining this benefit. I don’t care for this interpretation at all. See part 25 explaining how I handle these Elf abilities. Now, the Elven Cloak and Boots are actually superior due to the fact that no effort is required on behalf of the user to move silently, and to be nearly invisible. This is an item which is named for it’s magical power of replicating the natural sneakiness of an Elf, not for the fact that Elves wear these when they go adventuring, hunting or to war. Furthermore, a referee might judge that the items are a singular pair, and that they lose their power if separated or worn by two different people at the same time.

Helm of Reading Magic and Languages: …It does not protect in the same way as Magic Armor, so if it is worn in combat any hit upon its wearer should be given a 10% of striking the helm and smashing it.”
Of note is this rare reference to hit allocation during melee. The justification for this item having a 10% chance of being destroyed after being hit in melee is rather troublesome, though. The reason given is that this helm does not protect as Magic Armor does. Using this logic we can see then that all non-magic helms (or even armor) have a 10% (or more) chance of being destroyed after a hit in melee. This is of course not the case, and the reasoning behind the “smashing” of this item in melee should have been something which referred to the fragility or decorative nature of the helm; that it in fact is not a real helm (magic or otherwise) at all.

Helm of Telepathy: …If his Intelligence rating is higher than that of human or humanoid creatures within the range of the helm the wearer may attempt to control their mind with suggestions implanted telepathically. Such suggestions will have a +2 effect in their likelihood of being carried out (see Vol. III for random actions of monsters)…Treat as non-protective helm if worn into melee.”
The Helm of Telepathy is ridiculously powerful if a referee doesn’t carefully read the table referred to, and consider the modifiers hinted at there (bribes, fear, alignment). The last bit, that the helm is non-protective brings up some concerns. Perhaps they mean read the entry above this one, which details what happens if this item is worn in combat. That’s how I read it, and it reflects a better choice of words. There is no mention of Magic Armor. But, it leads to further possible questions. What are the ramifications of wearing a non-protective helm in melee? Further house ruling and gnashing of teeth for all involved. As with most anything else in this classic version of D&D, take it in a case by case manner.

Helm of Teleportation: …The Magic-User can Teleport himself endlessly about the universe…”
Um. Wow? Perhaps the Magic User can indeed do so, but keep in mind the dangers of teleporting blindly. The device is of course limited in that it may only be used by a Magic User who has the spell Teleport memorized and not spent; thus by a Magic User of no less than 9th level. A very powerful item with limited usage depending upon how many Sorcerers you have running around in your campaign.

Gauntlets of Ogre Power: These gauntlets give the wearer the ability to strike as an Ogre and generally give his hands and arms the strength of an ogre. They do not necessarily increase hit probability however.”
I enjoy this original version of these little beauties so much more than I did the Advanced D&D one. First of all, they may be used by any character, regardless of class. Secondly, the wearer attacks as if he were an Ogre, which is to say at HD 4+1. HD 4+1 equals a Fighting-Man of level 7-9. In other words, the wearer of these gauntlets needs a roll of 12 to hit AC 2 in melee, unless, as is stated in the description, this would be higher than the character would normally need (“they do not necessarily increase hit probability”, as opposed to “they do not increase hit probability”). Well, that’s my interpretation and I’m sticking to it. Furthermore, attacks made by the wearers of these gauntlets deal 1d6+2 with weapon, and 1d6 without (see Ogre and Troll entries).

Girdle of Giant Strength: Wearing this device bestows the strength and hit probability (if greater that the wearer’s own) of Hill Giant.”
This item supports my interpretation of the Gauntlets of Ogre Power, confirming that both strength and hit probability are increased (assuming we allow ourselves to accept the two items as being of like nature). We must almost combine the two descriptions to arrive at our final interpretation, though. I’d also remind readers of the Potion of Giant Strength from part 33. The wording in many of the entries I am attempting to combine here is different. For example, one is led to believe in the Monster Descriptions that increased damage is attributed to mass, and not necessarily strength. In the potion example, prowess is used to describe gaining extra damage. In the gauntlets example, strike is used, along with logical interpretation to assume that they also cause increased damage. In this example, strength is increased. I interpret this entry to mean that the item gives both increased damage and hit probability. Therefore, this nigh awesome item, usable by all classes, allows the wearer to attack using the HD 8 table, and to deal two dice of damage in melee. The HD 8 column refelcts a skill level slightly superior to that of a 9th level Fighting-Man, but just under the ability of a 10th level Fighting-Man. A very desirable item from the old rules.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

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