Monday, December 22, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 30

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


51-60: 1 Curse*
* The referee must take extreme care in handling all Scrolls with an eye towards duping the players when a Curse Scroll is found…having non-Curse Scrolls disappear on occasion if not identified will help to force the reading of Curse Scrolls
I like the footnote for Curse Scrolls. It does give one the feeling that referees were charged with presenting thoughtful challenges and ways to outsmart the players in an attempt to always keep them on their toes. There is no suggestion for unfair play, but I think at the time of this writing, that the authors had witnessed the gamesmanship of their players, and were always cooking up ways to throw a curve ball at them in order to keep things interesting.

What follows is a table which details the effects of reading such scrolls by rolling 1d8, and having the curse effect all in a 3” diameter.

1 or 2: Any monster of the referee’s choice
3 or 4: Disease, fatal in 3 turns unless healed
5 or 6: Polymorph to insect of referee’s choice
7: Transportation 1,000 miles, random direction
8: Transportation to another planet
The effect of being duped by a Curse Scroll can be downright nasty.

Three tables follow detailing the types of maps which might be found in a treasure hoard. Maps constitute 25% of all randomized items from the ’any’ category. We already know that maps such as these are worthless without a Magic User capable of casting a Read Languages spell. In the past, in my older campaigns, I never used maps in this manner. Maps were always hand-drawn handouts for the players, detailing actual features within the game world. These D&D maps seem to be encoded, encrypted or magically enciphered, so there is nothing to hand-out until a Read Languages spell has cracked the riddle of the map. At this point a hand-drawn handout could be employed, a simple list of directions could be given, or the referee might allow the characters to ask “North, South, East or West?” at each intersection until they locate the treasure. On the other hand, the maps might give directions that send the characters out of their current locale altogether, or so far deep into the underworld that the map is currently of no use. The rules aren’t very specific, but I come away from the whole system feeling as though it is to be handled with no handouts at all. Maps seem to be a simple system of rolling the dice and allowing the group to find some invisible or secret location, guarded by something appropriate, often just hand-drawn onto the game or dungeon map after a treasure map has been used properly. It’s as if the deciphering of a treasure map generates the treasure listed, along with its guardian.

Up next on Tuesday: SWORDS, which deserves one large article.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

PS: Added a link to an example of a well-played Curse Scroll for your reading pleasure.


taichara said...

I like that interpretation of how to handle treasure maps; it's damned interesting, and makes the things more than worthy of being placed under "magical treasure".

On the other hand I didn't at all like this passage from the text:

having non-Curse Scrolls disappear on occasion if not identified will help to force the reading of Curse Scrolls.

I don't much favour the punishing of PCs and their players by arbitrarily yanking things away from them, and this is one of the most arbitrary examples I've seen in some time.

There are better ways of luring in the reading of cursed scrolls, such as burying the curse in a relatively harmless-looking text.

Sham aka Dave said...

I've had to completely reconsider treasure/magic maps for my games now. I'm of the opinion that maps can actually redefine the dungeon once deciphered, and I like this facet of D&D.

Also, I had to think long and hard about that passage on Curse(d) Scrolls. While I enjoy the spirit of the passage, and find it interesting to comment on and include in this reading, I agree with you that it feels as though the authors are advocating outwitting the players above and beyond what might be encompassed by fair play.

Regardless of your take on this particular tidbit, I do find it very noteworthy. As you commented, this is one of the most arbitratry examples of punishing the players I've seen in D&D anywhere. That is primarily why I commented on it.

This short segment in my cover to cover series has been very thought provoking from my side of the fence!

Sham aka Dave said...

PS: Added a link which gives an example of a well played Curse Scroll.

Skydyr said...

I am also kind of baffled by the suggestion to remove scrolls. Are they supposed to just disappear? Because that hardly seems fair. I also don't really understand how they could game the scroll by not reading it. If they don't read a scroll, they don't know what's on it, so they can't use it. But if they do, the curse comes into effect.

It may be suggesting that if something happens, like a character getting immersed or burnt, a given scroll could be destroyed; however, this requires quite a leap from the text itself.

Also, that link no longer works.

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