Friday, July 23, 2010

Magic Swords in OD&D

I'm still considering the magic items in Vol 2, and once more the topic is Magic Swords.

If you aren't familiar with Magic Swords in OD&D neither this post nor the previous one concerning them will make a whole lot of sense, so maybe an overview is in order.

Magic Swords range from +1 to +3. This is a “to-hit” bonus only unless otherwise specified. Three-quarters of all of these enchanted blades are +1 to-hit, a little over half of which confer either increased to-hit and damage bonuses versus specific monsters, object location, or wishes. A Sword +2 is listed in two varieties, one with and one without a Charm Person ability. Lastly there is a standard Sword +3, a Sword -2 Cursed, and the 1 in 100 +0 Life Drainer. All of these types are randomly determined with a d00 roll on the Swords table.

It does not end there, however. There are nearly four pages of rules for determining the other features of a Magic Sword.

All Magic Swords possess an alignment, determined by a d00 roll, and a level of intelligence from 1-12. Alignment determines who can safely pick up a Magic Sword as they will cause damage to beings of different alignment who do so. Furthermore, alignment will help the referee when making decisions concerning these items in the continuing campaign.

Intelligence will determine the additional powers and communicative abilities of the sword, if any exist. These additional “Mental Powers” include the knowledge of Languages, Read Magic, Primary Powers and Extraordinary Abilities. Communicative abilities are: None, Empathy, Speech or Telepathy. The number of languages known is determined randomly and ranges from one to ten.

The Primary Powers are diced from a table of nine fairly generic dungeon-crawling detection and location powers. Included is the infamous “Detect Meal & What Kind” entry, a sure-fire, giggle-inducing tidbit from the olden days of nerdvana.

The Extraordinary Ability Table contains a dozen spell-like powers ranging from useful abilities like Clairaudience to Telekinesis, Teleport and Fly.

All Magic Swords with Intelligence of 7 or greater will also possess an Egoism score. Ranging from 1-12, Egoism is added to Intelligence during certain situations to see if the sword “takes over” the wielder.

Lastly, there is a 1 in 10 chance that a Magic Sword will possess a special Origin/Purpose. If so, based upon its alignment, the sword will grant yet another power. Swords aligned with Law will paralyze the targets they were fabricated to defeat while swords aligned with Chaos will disintegrate their targets. Neutral swords confer a +1 to all saves power when facing their specific foes. The referee chooses what the special purpose or specific targets of the sword is, for example a sword might be designed to defeat all (Chaotic) Fighting-Men.

Philotomy says it best so you could also benefit from his wisdom.

Anyway, on with the rambling.

Using this somewhat initially cumbersome method for Magic Swords will create plenty of variety. Even the most statistically common result, a Sword +1 aligned with Law and having an Intelligence 6 or below (indicating no special powers at all) only accounts for 11.38% of all random results. Beyond that, if using the Origin/Purpose rule as written, 10% of the swords will have a special purpose which automatically grants the blade a special power. That means the most statistically common result, essentially a run of the mill Sword +1, accounts for a mere 10.24% of all Magic Swords.

Admittedly one can achieve some fairly wacky results using the system in Vol 2 for rolling up Magic Swords. That in itself is part of the charm of OD&D's clunky method.

If you have Vol 2 and wish to not deviate from the original, here are the steps you follow:

OD&D Magic Sword Determination

1. 1d00 Swords Table
2. 1d00 Alignment*
3. 1d12 Intelligence: If result is 6 or less move to Step 8.
4. 1d00 Primary Powers: As determined by Intelligence.
5. 1d00 Languages Spoken: Skip this step if Intelligence is 9 or less.
6. 1d00 Extraordinary Abilities: As determined by Intelligence or Primary Powers.
7. 1d12 Egoism
8. 1d00 Origin/Purpose**: 91-00 indicates a special purpose.

* - Percentages are reversed for sword type 83 from Step 1 (drain life ability).
** - Listed last in my opinion because at this step no powers are subsequently added on as a result of moving Intelligence and Egoism to their maximum.

Granted, if you do not have access to Vol 2 these steps mean nothing to you.

Those wishing to get the same results with an alternate feel of clunk can try the revised version I've created which perfectly replicates the original statistically without duplicating the actual content of Vol 2.

Here's a scan.

I've made a PDF over there to the right in Sham's OD&D Stuff titled Revised Magic Sword Determination. Which reminds me, I have to finish moving all of my old Orbitfiles docs over to Mediafire one of these years.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee