Wednesday, December 3, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 23

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

SKELETONS/ZOMBIES: act only under the instructions of their motivator, be it a Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos).”
The absence of these Monsters on the Alignment chart, Volume 1, page 9, and the description here lead me to believe that these Monsters are purely a creation of Man. They have no Alignment, as they are no more than undead servants of their ‘motivator’. Also of note here is the fact that the above quoted sentence supports my theory that evil and Chaos are more of a concern for Clerics than the other character classes. It seems ANY Magic-User (Sorcerer or higher) may create undead via the Animate Dead spell, with no concerns of Alignment or evil.

GHOULS: paralize any normal figure they touch…and are subject to missile fire.”
Ghouls were second level terrors from the earliest days, back when they were synonymous with Wights in CHAINMAIL, due to their ‘paralizing’ touch. No duration is given, but based on the Saving Throw Matrix, Volume 1, page 20, we can assume a saving throw avoids the effect. Unique to this edition of D&D is the fact that missile fire is treated differently than melee attacks for certain Undead (Ghouls, Wights and Wraiths). I like this treatment of damage, as it makes sense that missiles (specifically arrows) will not do as much harm to targets that do not require operating organs to survive.

WIGHTS: are nasty critters
I wish this description of Wights had followed them throughout subsequent versions of the game. Nasty critters just has such a nice ring to it.

VAMPIRES: are properly of the “Undead” class rather than Lycanthropes…(regenerate) at the rate of three hit points per turn…cannot abide the smell of garlic, the face of a mirror, or the sight of cross. They will fall back from these if strongly presented.”
A fairly well-fleshed out description when compared to others here. I assume the authors felt the need to specify that Vampires are not Lycanthropes due to certain magic items, but it seems like a no-brainer to me. Perhaps an example of a rules clarification to derail proto-rules lawyers in the early days. The ‘per turn’ regeneration of Vampires is another example of the term Turn actually referring to the ‘ten rounds of combat per turn’ (Volume 3, page 8); in other words ‘per round’. This logic is applied to Trolls as well, and harkens back to the usage of Turn in the Spell Descriptions; that Turns are differentiated as Move/Turns out of combat (10 minutes) and Melee Turns (or rounds) during combat (1 minute).

The last sentence quoted suggests that any character may turn away, or keep at bay, a Vampire by using garlic, a mirror, or a cross if strongly presented (and not just in a backpack). This sentence disrupts all of the assumptions I had made in Men & Magic in regard to Clerics using a cross to turn, dispell or dissolve Undead. In fact, the inclusion of the crosses on the Basic Equipment list had also led me to some assumptions regarding religion and the Cleric class, when it seems they are simply present there for Vampire hunting; especially given that the cross is listed with a grouping of anti-Vampire and anti-Lycanthrope items. The inclusion of such items on that list is an interesting topic for another day, given the somewhat generic quality of the rest of the table.

As presented, Vampires are one of the deadliest foes available in Volume 2, and with their power to turn slain Men into Vampire minions, these atrocities could easily be the central antagonists in many a campaign.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Will Douglas said...

In fact, the inclusion of the crosses on the Basic Equipment list had also led me to some assumptions regarding religion and the Cleric class, when it seems they are simply present there for Vampire hunting;

You know, that never occurred to me.

I mean, I've seen "mere mortals" (i.e.; non-clerics) use the cross to fend off a vampire in movies and such, but it never dawned one me that it would also work for non-clerics in D&D.

Part of that might come from the fact that, in later editions, the cross is replaced with a 'holy symbol', but is left in about the same place on the equipment list.

Which once again proves what a valuable service you're providing here. Keep up the good work?

Michael Curtis said...

Looking over ghouls in my copy, I see that this is where the "elves are immune to a ghoul's touch" first started. I always wondered about the rational behind that. Might there be a literary origin for that immunity? Is it tied into their resistance to sleep spells? And if so, why was it later dropped in AD&D?

Not expecting an answer, just wool-gathering...

Sham aka Dave said...

Will: Yeah, it seems Sir Fang left quite the lasting impact on OD&D. The Vampire comes with plenty of play testing.

Mike: Yeah, it makes one wonder about the changes. I think the Ghoul Paralysis immunity is a nice power. Ghouls are nasty critters. And no, I don't have the answers either.

Anonymous said...

No answer to, but it started sooner even, in Chainmail: a paralysed unit can be freed if touched by a friendly elf or hero unit.

In the french version, I stated elves are immune to undead aparalysis and at 4th (hero) level, can also free their friends by touch.

As there is no duration for paralysis, this is nice...

Sham aka Dave said...

In the french version, I stated elves are immune to undead aparalysis and at 4th (hero) level, can also free their friends by touch.

This is nice, Snorri! Elves potentially defuse deadly Ghoul encounters, I enjoy this sort of thing. This will make it into my new version of house rules, for sure.

Skydyr said...

I have to respectfully disagree on the rounds == turns comment. I see the 10 combat rounds per turn as being analogous to 2 moves per turn. The LBBs clearly differentiate between combat rounds and turns in some places, so it would seem odd for them to fail to distinguish in other cases.

As regards the monsters with regeneration specifically, I think it makes sense for them to regenerate at the per 10 minute turn rate. This allows characters to defeat them temporarily and then run for some time before they have healed if they are not capable of fully killing the creature. It also makes it a little more subtle, as they could think they have defeated a group of trolls and continue exploring, only to have to run back or decide to return to the surface and be ambushed by the 'defeated' monsters.

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