Monday, December 8, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 26

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

INVISIBLE STALKERS: Invisible Stalkers resent missions which entail long periods of continuing service such as guarding a Magic-User for a month, a year, etc. They will then seek to fulfill the letter of their duties by perverting the spirit.”
And thus was begun a theme which is pervasive in D&D. Great power is accessible, but when dealing with otherworldly powers one must exercise respect and wariness. I believe that much of this is owed to combating ‘power gaming’ methods employed by early wargamers in the formative days of the hobby. It has influences rooted in mythology, particularly 1,001 Arabian Nights, but is also a most handy way of keeping Wishes and summoned Monsters from unbalancing the campaign. I’ve always appreciated the aspect in D&D that great power demands great caution.

ELEMENTALS: …Device* Elementals…*Those from medallions, stones, gems or bracelets.”
If we skip ahead to the Treasure section, we see that only the stone is actually described as a magic item for controlling an Elemental. Clearly the device used to summon and control an Elemental is not limited to those described here, and could be virtually any item of value, including medallions, gems and bracelets, as mentioned.

Air Elementals: They can turn into a whirlwind which will sweep all creatures under two hit dice away…”
Sweep away. So what does that entail? Incapacitate? Remove from the encounter? Sweep away to another plane? I like the notion of sweeping away such victims to say the Plane of Wind, but I’d assume it simply means that those under two HD are unable to get close enough to attack a whirlwinding Air Elemental; those that do engage it would be slung around and thrown away, taking 1d6 damage.

Earth Elementals:…when they hit they score damage with three dice (3-18 points) against any opponent which rests upon the earth.”
That’s a boatload of damage. 3d6 being rarely matched in Monsters & Treasure. The short list of other Monsters with 3d6 damage is: Sea Monsters, Cloud Giants, Hydras and Chimeras (due to multiple attacks), and possibly Purple Worms and Rocs (as determined by the referee). I’d assume ‘rests upon the earth’ means stands on or is in contact with the ground, or the stone beneath the ground.

Fire Elementals:…They score two dice of damage against all non-fire using opponents, and one die -1 (2-7 hit points of damage) against fire-using opponents.”
This typo means either 1d6-1 or 1d6+1 against fire-using opponents. I’d assume the former, with Fire Elementals dealing 0-5 damage against fellow fire-using targets.

All elementals must be controlled at all times by the persons who have called them forth. Failure to control any elemental will result in its turning upon the one who called it up and attacking…Control consists merely of the summoner maintaining undivided attention upon the Elemental: and being attacked, moving or any other action will tend to break this concentration.”
Another example of great power demanding great caution. Yes, Elementals are powerful allies, but are truly a double-edged sword for those Magic-Users brave or fool-hardy enough to summon them. If the Magic-User is attacked, moves or takes any other action, the Elemental will turn and immediately move to slay their former master. Fun stuff, indeed.

DJINN: All Djinn are aerial creatures and have not the powers typically credited to them in fairy tales.”
I suppose this means that Djinn are not all-powerful, nigh god-like beings as sometimes portrayed in myth and legend. They do not grant Wishes, per se, but can perform tasks based on the capabilities written in their description. Nevertheless, a powerful servant that will likewise often fulfill the letter of their duties while perverting the spirit.

EFREET: …they tend to be Chaotic. Their fabled home is the City of Brass. They will serve for 1001 days.”
Slightly more powerful, Chaotic fire-based versions of Djinn. Efreet hail from the City of Brass. This is the only description that actually details a specific origin for the monster. Apparently unlike Djinn, who perhaps have an unlimited duration of service, Efreet will only obey a master for 1,001 days.

This post encompasses those monsters I have loosely defined as The Otherworldly. Eventually, this classification would be expanded upon to include such extra-dimensional monsters as Demons and Devils, but in Volume 2 we have just these four: Invisible Stalkers, Elementals, Djinn and Efreet. The Otherworldly are unique in that they are summoned from lands beyond by spell or magical item, and aside from the Djinn, service is limited and dangerous. Skeletons and Zombies are somewhat similar, being animated via spell, but those undead are not summoned from another plane of existence. While it is possible that any of these could be included in a D&D adventure, independent of a Magic-User or controlling magic item, I prefer to think of them as infrequent visitors to this world.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Anonymous said...

"they tend to be Chaotic."

An interesting point, as Elementals, Invisible stalkers (who are non-dimension dwellers, but don't seems to be linked to air element yet) and Djinns are not even listed in the alignment list - as if they were non-aligned. The idea of elemental planes being neutral is an ad&d'ism

It also seem there's a contradiction about the number of elements, as the dragons resistances to element suggest they could be somewhat linked to elements and lightning is in the list.

For the french clone, I considered lightning to be the fifth element - it open a wide place for its use in sci-fi sword& sorcery mix.

taichara said...

I love seeing that even in OD&D the efreet already have their connection to the City of Brass. That's awesome.

The need for iron will and control over summoned elementals is a two-edged sword, in my opinion. It's a great thing for keeping the power of PC-controlled elementals in line; but on the other hand, it makes it stupidly easy for the party to turn an elemental against an NPC magic-user. This requires more mulling over on my part, I think.

“Air Elementals: They can turn into a whirlwind which will sweep all creatures under two hit dice away…”

Horribly irreverent I know, but as soon as I read this I couldn't help but picture a broom (of solid air?) extending from the whirlwind to sweep critters and characters away ...

I should inflict that on players some time. It should confuse the life from them *grins*

taichara said...

Also, congrats on being chosen for a Super Scribbler Award :D

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks! Regular posting should resume shortly.

hcg said...

wow great i have read many articles about this topic and everytime i learn something new i dont think it will ever stop always new info , Thanks for all of your hard work!