Thursday, January 15, 2009

D&D Cover to Cover, part 35

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

MAGICAL ITEMS’ SAVING THROWS: Magical items will, during the course of play, be struck by various forms of weapons. For the sake of simplicity it is generally easier to assume they survive unharmed if their wearer/user is not killed (exception, Helms). If the wearer is killed, or the items are alone, throw for them on the following table if struck by Fire (Dragon or Ball) or Lightning (Dragon or Bolt). Those items not listed should be assumed automatically destroyed.”
I recall reading this passage with great interest the first time around, and now I am reminded of how important and often overlooked this section of the rules is in the scope of the continuing campaign. Back in the headier days with my numerous game sessions and long campaigns, the characters managed to amass quite a collection of magic items. Many, many characters perished, but they were of course always looted before being laid to rest if at all possible. Thus, magic items were handed down through the gaming generations. The end result of years and years of weekly play was character sheets filled with magic items of all types. It was in those higher level Monty Haul games that I eventually created various hazards and threats to thin out this glut of magic. Such tactics didn’t always sit right with the players, but they knew that survival meant newer more powerful items, so they got used to my campaigns of holy fire, burning many older items to ash in the process.

If only I had bothered to keep in mind the fact that many untimely ends which the characters meet might have taken care of this anti-glut process for me. The above is a fine example of how magic items can become less than permanent. The table included on p. 38 below this passage details exactly which magic items might be recovered from a character slain by either Fire or Lightning. I would include other threats as well, including Acid and Crushing damage. The list of items which are entitled to a saving throw are: Staff of Power, Staff of Wizardry, Fire Ball Wand, Lightning Bolt Wand, Fire Resistance Ring, Ring of Protection, and Magic Armor and Weapons. That’s it. EVERYTHING else is automatically destroyed if the character is slain by Fire or Lightning.

ARTIFACTS: Although not otherwise mentioned, there can be included various powerful items of Law and Chaos termed Artifacts. These items are super-powerful in comparison to listed magic and must be handled by the referee…If such items are included very harmful effects should be incurred by any Neutral or Oppositely aligned character who touches one. For Example:

Instant Death
Paralysis (until freed by designated means)
Immediate Loss of Six Energy Levels
Immediate Loss of Four Energy Levels
Insanity for 1 Month
Take 10 Hit Dice of Damage

If saving throws are allowed they should be very limited and require a very high score
Dreaming up Artifacts was a pastime for me in the old days. I love the concept of unique, ultra-powerful items which come with often fatal side-effects. No examples of such side-effects are given here, but touching one of these beauties could prove to be fatal indeed. Unlike Magic Swords, which could potentially be wielded by someone of a differing alignment, Artifacts offer no such possibility. Therefore in many campaigns, Chaotic antagonists with powerful Artifacts might prove to be more trouble than they are worth. I can hear the groans of my players now after they risk life and limb and possibly suffer a few casualties to defeat some foul deep down anti-hero in order to claim his mighty Blazing Sword of Eldritch Awesomeness, only to lose another character to 10 Hit Dice of Damage and be left with a useless item which they might feel compelled to destroy somehow. Harsh stuff.


Metal is melted to solid lumps by fire or lightning. Fire will not destroy Gems (optionally 10% chance of destruction) but lightning will. Both will devalue Jewelry by 25%
Continuing with the theme of item loss via character death from Fire or Lightning, we are reminded that even the monetary treasure on a character so slain is not safe from the sweeping broom of anti-glut.

This ends my re-read of Volume II, Monsters & Treasure. In an upcoming post I will formulate some closing thoughts before moving on to Volume III, The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Will Douglas said...

Good stuff, as usual. Can't wait for V. III!

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks, Will. Some bits of Vol. II opened up topics which caused me to progress much slower than I had with Vol. I. I'm already concerned about certain sections of Vol. III, so I hope I can do them justice.