Sunday, November 23, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 13

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

What follows in the SPELLS TABLE is the first list of Magic-User and Cleric spells for D&D. Of note is the fact that Magic-Users have but 18 spells, combined, from which to choose from in the columns for 1st and 2nd level; and Clerics are offered a combined 14 spells in 1st, 2nd and 3rd level. Missing (well, not technically ‘missing’ yet, as this is the original list) is the iconic M-U spell, Magic Missile. As someone who grew up using 1st edition AD&D, this amount seems miniscule. On the other hand, nowhere in this edition does it mention that spell casters begin with a random assortment of spells in their books from which to select and memorize. Apparently this is the list that every spell caster has in his or her initial spell book, and is able to employ while memorizing spells between adventures. The Magic-User list tops off at 6th level, and the Cleric list at 5th level. None of this would have seemed noteworthy in 1974, but to many D&D players, even one such as myself who ‘peaked’ in 1st edition AD&D, the number of spells available seems very limited.

“Clerics versus Undead Monsters:”
Like many of the rules and guides in these volumes, the Clerics versus Undead Monsters table and accompanying text is very vague, open to interpretation by referees. This is one of the peculiarities of the original rules that by now you are either beginning to appreciate, or find troublesome. It harkens back to the blurb in part 2B, which embodies the old school spirit. Here is a list, sorted nicely by Cleric level title, showing what score is required on 2d6 in order for a Cleric to turn away or dissolve Undead Monsters. That’s it for this important feature. No mention of duration, method of ‘turning’, range, or anything specific. The feature presented here is begging for house rules in order to define its implementation. I am one of those players which appreciates the vagaries of original D&D, finding myself intrigued and inspired by the possibilities therein whenever I am able to take the opportunity to disassociate myself further from my AD&D preconceptions.

At the end of this lead in to the actual EXPLANATION OF SPELLS, we find this passage:

“Note that under lined Clerical spells are reversed by evil Clerics. Also, note the Clerics versus Undead Monsters table, indicating the strong effect of the various clerical levels upon the undead; however; evil Clerics do not have this effect, the entire effect being lost.”
More in regard to evil Clerics here. One can assume, since it is not specified otherwise, that any non-evil Cleric (again, we see the conundrum which arises in regard to good/evil versus Law/Chaos) therefore casts the spells as described in the upcoming pages, and has the ability to ‘turn’ Undead Monsters. So, for all intents and purposes, only evil (Chaotic, it is assumed) Anti-Clerics are unique amongst this character class. The fact that evil and good only seem to be attached to the Cleric class, and are used in these particular spots, but not interchangeable, supports my opinion that good is Lawful, evil is Chaotic, but that Lawful does not always mean good, nor does Chaotic always mean evil. One can form verdicts or judgments from this observation, or simply assume that the two are synonymous. The way in which the terms are used helps me formulate this distinction, and also reinforces my theory that good and evil are of greater concern in regard to Clerics (and perhaps mean little or nothing to the rest of the Law-Neutrality-Chaos world).

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Matthew James Stanham said...

Could well be. I wonder if "evil or good" can be read independently of "chaotic or lawful", but I suppose it would make the "chaotic/lawful axis less meaningful. Nonetheless, I think I may be closer to understanding what prompted the ninefold alignment system from your examination.

Sham aka Dave said...

It's as if the notion of good and evil is really only a bother to men of the cloth. And you're right...this almost deliberately 'grey area' of alignments, and the constant sort of backwards tie in with good and evil surely led to the much more complex, and moral/ethics defining alignment system of 1e.

I maintain that if, rather than Law-Chaos, the authors had just gone with Good-Neutral-Evil right from the start, that might have been the end of it all right there. Who knows.