Friday, December 5, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 25

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

PURPLE WORMS: These huge and hungry monsters lurk nearly everywhere just beneath the surface of the land…There is a poisonous sting at its tail, but its mouth is the more fearsome weapon…Any hit which scores over 20% of the minimum total required to hit, or 100% in any case, indicates the Purple Worm has swallowed its victim. In six turns the swallowed creature will be dead. In twelve turns it will be totally digested and irrevocable.”
Purple Worms “lurk everywhere just beneath the surface”. That’s a scary notion. As mentioned earlier, I house rule that the Purple Worm’s sting delivers a 15d6, save for one-half damage poison (others might assume it is instead equal to the Monster’s hits in damage). It could just as easily be judged to be of the save or die variety, even though there is no precedence for such poison in these volumes. Based on sheer mass, one might also rule that the Purple Worm’s bite does more than 1d6 damage; perhaps in the 3d6 range. The whole 20% or 100% over business translates to 4 over or double the number required on a d20 roll to hit. Lastly, the referee will have to determine if the digestion times, given in turns, refer to move/turns or melee turns (rounds). I’d assume melee turns, but again, that’s a judgment call.

CENTAURS: In Melee the Centaur will attack twice, once as a man and once as a medium horse.”
So, Hydras, Chimera and Centaurs are examples of Monsters which attack more than once per round then. Unless the above is simply assumed to be for rolling dice under the CHAINMAIL rules, but at different values. As I use the Alternative Combat System, I’ll let Centaurs attack twice; once with a weapon, and once with its hooves.

DRYADS: Anyone charmed by a Dryad will never return from the forest.”
Never. Potentially worse than a save or die scenario. I’d probably rule that there is a small window of opportunity for a Dispell Magic to prevent the effects if utilized quickly enough by allies of the bewitched character. Future adventures might be undertaken to find and rescue such victims, if the referee allowed it.

DWARVES: …clumsy monsters like Ogres, Giants and the like will have a difficult time hitting Dwarves, so only score one-half the usual hit points when a hit is scored.”
This is an important tidbit for Dwarf characters, but could also be reserved for NPC Dwarves. Personally I have ruled that this applies to all Dwarves. How to determine which Monsters are ‘clumsy’? The examples given are Ogres and Giants. Any Monster akin to one of those two examples might be considered ‘clumsy’, or slow moving. Trolls? I’m not so sure, even though they are virtually synonymous with Ogres in CHAINMAIL, they are ‘thin and rubbery’ in this very volume. Purely a judgment call, but I’d also consider including Trolls and Minotaurs.

ELVES: Elves have the ability of moving silently and are nearly invisible in their gray-green cloaks. Elves armed with magical weapons will add one pip to dice rolled to determine damage…Elves on foot may split-move and fire.”
The first two abilities for the Elf might at first blush seem too potent to be applicable to player characters. If you break down the abilities, I think they are valid character features. Elves ‘have the ability of’ might mean ‘have the ability to’ move silently. But, don’t all characters possess the latter? Thus I assume that Elves are lighter of foot than most. My judgment is that Elves can move silently when they put forth the effort; perhaps moving at one quarter normal speed, or even slower, or perhaps only when unarmored and moving very slowly. The next, ‘nearly invisible’ does not mean totally invisible. First of all, we know the limitations of total invisibility already, and it does not equate to imperceptibility. I’d judge that Elves are very good at hiding, particularly outdoors. All Elves deal +1 damage when wielding a magical weapon; fair enough. Lastly, split-move and fire is more or less a tactical, CHAINMAIL type concern. How it translates to a game in which the Alternative Combat System is used is up to the referee. The abstract nature of the Alternative Combat System does not really take into account the nature of such abilities. Perhaps it means that Elves can always create enough room during a melee turn to effectively fire a missile weapon, rather than being forced to change to a melee weapon. Given the fact that missile weapons fire at +2 to hit at short range, I’d say this is potentially a powerful ability.

ROCS: …the data given for Rocs is understood to be that for the small variety, and that for the largest Rocs should be doubled or even trebled…Young Rocs can be tamed and taught to serve as steeds.”
Aside from the ‘more for show’ Sea Monsters (which can range from 15 to 45 HD), Rocs are the largest Monsters in Monsters & Treasure, ranging from 6 to 18 HD. Although they can be taught to serve as steeds, if captured as young fledglings, Rocs require a substantial amount of food and care. The prospect of such a mount might certainly encourage characters to seek out Roc nests ‘high in the most inaccessible mountains’.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Frank said...

My interpretation of "ny hit which scores over 20% of the minimum total required to hit, or 100% in any case" is that a 20 would always cause a swallow. How would you decide when 4 over was required vs. double? Interestingly, this suggests that the "alternate" combat system isn't so alternate since 20% over is not so easy to determine for the 2d6 rolls of Chainmail.

As to elves and their abilities. It is common to interpret that those abilities are superseded by the elven cloak and boots magic items. Of course AD&D did give elves an ability to move silently so either interpretation seems reasonable.


Sham aka Dave said...

Frank, you are correct. I misunderstood the 100% thing. 100% would mean a natural 20. Also, I think there are other examples embedded in the rules that show a preference to the 'Alternative Combat System'. In retrospect, I wonder if it became 'alternative' when TSR realized that they should/could have D&D backwards support Chainmail.

I'm familiar witht the Elf extrapolation in regard to cloak and boots. I never liked the idea of every Elf wearing such magic items. I prefer to think of the Elven Cloak and Boots as magic items fabricated to mimic the abilities of Elves.

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