Friday, September 16, 2016

El Raja Key DVD Archive

I'm a frequent lurker around the various old-school D&D blogs, message boards and forums, so I was quite surprised that a project like this slipped past me: Rob Kuntz (you know, the co-DM of Greyhawk through much of the 1970s) is putting out an archival DVD with scans of a whole bunch of his work from the last four decades.  I'm kind of shocked that this isn't generating more excitement.

If I'm reading things correctly, it's going to include the entirety of his El Raja Key dungeons (the ones Gary played through using Mordenkainen), as well as a bunch of Rob's levels that were used as part of Castle Greyhawk.  It looks like they're going to be mostly untouched, as well - this isn't a Castle Zagyg situation, where the material is being extensively reworked for modern consumption.  This is the work, as it was, and as I want to see it.

Honestly, I'm super-stoked about this.  I'm fascinated by the earliest history of the game, and any glimpse at Gary and Rob's work from those days is something I really geek out over.  I'll be all over this when it gets released, despite the hefty price (about a hundred bucks US, but for over 1,000 image files of proper D&D history I'll fork out for it).

The best part is that it's supposed to be out within the next week.  Now, I know, it's Rob Kuntz, and timeliness has never been his strongest of suits.  But to me it appears as though most of the work is done.  If he says a week, surely even he can't mean more than six months, and I can wait that long.

His blog is over here:  Check it out if you have the same interest in D&D history that I do.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook Part 26: 2nd-Level Cleric Spells

AD&D has twelve cleric spells of 2nd level, as opposed to the six that OD&D had.  Five of the OD&D spells are included here, and remain at 2nd level; the sixth (bless) was changed to be 1st level, and was dealt with in the previous post.

There are seven all-new spells: augury, chant, detect charm, know alignment, resist fire, slow poison and spiritual hammer.

Augury: This is a divination spell that reveals whether an action in the near future will be helpful or harmful to the party.  It doesn't always work (the base chance for success is 70%, modified upwards by the caster's level).  This is a really useful spell, but its use is mitigated by some stringent material requirements: "a set of gem-inlaid sticks, dragon bones or similar tokens, or the wet leaves of an infusion, which remain in the container after the infused brew is consumed."  The latter sounds like a cup of tea, which fits the fortune-telling motif, and also seems a lot easier to get hold of than dragon bones or gem-inlaid sticks.  Alas, the tea method also requires a crushed pearl of 100gp value.  So while this is a great spell, it's one to save for special occasions.

Chant: This spell grants the cleric's allies within a 3" radius a +1 to hit, and his enemies a -1 to hit.  Sounds good so far, but the spell takes a full turn to cast, and only continues so long as the caster remains stationary and continues chanting.  To me the bonus doesn't seem strong enough to offset effectively taking a character out of the battle.  It's perhaps a good one for a lower-level cleric accompanying high-level PCs to cast, though I still think the bonuses/penalties are too small.

It's interesting that this is a conjuration/summoning spell.  Does this spell summon a sort of "luck spirit", or some other beneficent entity?

Detect Charm: Detects whether a creature is under the effect of a charm spell, and can be reversed to hide such detection.  I would have thought detect magic would do much the same, but obviously not or this spell would be useless.

Find Traps: Reveals any traps within a 3" radius, just as it did in OD&D.  The duration has been increased from 2 turns to 3 turns, and a stipulation has been added that the caster can only detect spells in the direction he's facing.

Hold Person: This spell was pretty vaguely defined in OD&D, where it was said to be "similar to a charm person but which is of both limited duration and stronger effect".  In AD&D, things are much more concrete: the spell paralyses up to 3 humanoid targets.  Duration is 4 rounds +1 per level (it was "9 turns" in OD&D, although OD&D's wonky use of turns made it unclear just how long that should be).  The range has been shortened from 18" to 6".  One aspect that has been kept is that the more targets you choose, the easier it is for them to make their saving throws.  The material component for this spell is an iron rod.

I would assume that this spell works much as Gary used it in his home campaign, but I wonder how many OD&D games back in the day had it working exactly like charm person?  And how many changed when AD&D came out?  No doubt there were some who stuck to their original interpretation.

Know Alignment: We've had detect evil in the game before, but this is much more effective: it reveals the exact alignment of up to 10 creatures.  I don't really care for this spell, but luckily for me I have players that never think to use it, and for when it's really important to obscure a character's alignment there's always the reverse of the spell.

Resist Fire: I'm surprised that this spell is making its debut here (although I could be wrong, my notes are getting harder and harder to keep straight).  It grants one creature immunity to heat up to boiling temperature  (presumably the boiling temperature of water, though it's not stated).  For hotter fires (magical and natural) they get a +3 bonus to save, and halve all damage.  A drop of mercury is the material component.  It's a staple, and I'm still a bit shocked that it took this long to appear.

Silence, 15' Radius: At first glance this spell appears the same as it was in OD&D, but there are quite a few differences.  In the OD&D version, the cleric could make himself and his party silent, or silence "some object or thing".  In that version, the 15' Radius seems to refer to the range at which the spell can be cast.  In AD&D, the spell is an area effect that silences everything within a 15' radius sphere.  The sphere can be stationary, or cast upon an object that can then be moved.  It can even be cast on a creature (who gets a save if unwilling), which gives the spell an entirely new function: neutralising spellcasters.  It's pretty much a new spell altogether, and I'm not sure which I like more.  The old one is simpler and more direct, but the latter is more versatile.

Slow Poison: OD&D had neutralize poison, but not this weaker version.  Slow poison makes the target resistant to the effects of any poison in its system for the duration of the spell: the target will take 1 point of damage per round, but can't be dropped below zero hit points.  The caster can even bring characters that were seemingly killed by poison back to life, at least until the spell wears off.  Poison is deadly in AD&D, and a lower-level means of blunting that is welcome.

The material component is a bud of garlic, which must be crushed and smeared on the victim's bare feet.  It's the small details that make a spell, sometimes.

Snake Charm: This spell can hypnotise a number of snakes whose total hit points is less than that of the cleric. The duration of the spell depends on the general demeanor of the snakes when the spell is cast: the more agitated they are, the shorter the duration. Note that this spell doesn't allow the caster to command the snakes, it simply causes them to cease all activity except for a swaying motion.

The OD&D version of the spell was different in that the caster could charm one Hit Dice worth of snake per caster level.  (In practice this is the same as the AD&D version, but the wording could be interpreted differently.)  The range in OD&D is double that in AD&D, and there was no change in duration based on the snakes' demeanor.  There was also nothing to say what the spell actually did, so it's not out of line to have this version of the spell work like a regular charm.  A cleric with a horde of poisonous snakes at his command could be a deadly thing.

Speak With Animals: Empowers the caster to speak with one animal, so long as the animal is not mindless (amoebas are ruled out explicitly).  The caster can ask questions, and even ask for favours, but the reaction depends on alignment on the good/evil axis.  If alignments of caster and animal are opposed, the animal and its associates won't attack as long as the spell lasts. If alignments match (or the animal is neutral), there's a chance the animal will perform a task for the caster.  The latter scenario is the most common, because the vast majority of animals in the Monster Manual are Neutral. There's a note at the end end stating outright that this spell only works on normal, non-fantastic creatures. Presumably this interpretation doesn't include humans, but there's always the grey area occupied by dinosaurs.  Are they considered normal, or fantastic?  I favour the latter, though there's really no logical reason they shouldn't be in the animal category.  This also raises the notion that there's a distinct difference between animals and the rest of the Monster Manual.  For whatever reason, "monsters" are different somehow, whether it be through magical creation or extraplanar origin.

As usual, this spell in OD&D has vaguer guidelines.  The general gist of the spell is the same, but everything is described in more general terms.  The major difference is that the duration is a flat 6 turns, rather than 2 rounds per caster level.

Spiritual Hammer: This spell's first appearance.  It creates a hammer made out of force that attacks enemies as long as the caster concentrates on it.  It attacks at the same level as the cleric, and does the same damage as a regular warhammer, so at first blush it seems a bit pointless.  It's main utility is in damaging creatures that can only be hit by magical weapons: for this purpose, the hammer is considered +1 for every three levels of the caster.  I suppose it could be useful for attacking enemies the cleric can't otherwise reach, as well.  It's one of those spells that I always think is really cool and useful, but am always disappointed by in practice.

(The damage here for the warhammer is a bit off - it's said to do 1-6 against man-sized foes, but in the equipment list a hammer does 2-5.  Just another in a long list of AD&D inconsistencies.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 25: 1st Level Cleric Spells

Cleric Spells - 1st level: AD&D clocks in with a dozen 1st-level spells for clerics, which is up from the meagre six that they had in OD&D.  Those six OD&D spells have all made the transition to AD&D: Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Light, Protection From Evil and Purify Food & Drink.  Bless used to be a 2nd-level spell.  Create Water has been dropped from 4th level back to 1st (a pretty hefty drop; I'm pretty sure I mentioned how absurdly high-level this spell was when I covered it the first time).  Command, Remove Fear, Resist Cold and Sanctuary are all new.

Before I begin on the spells themselves, there are a few notes about cleric spells.  It's mentioned that material components are consumed in the casting of the spell, except for religious items such as holy symbols and prayer beads.  The connection between cleric alignment and certain spells is also discussed.  Spells that promote harm (especially those spells that are the reversed versions of "good" spells) should be used with care by good clerics, or they risk alignment change.  The same is true for evil clerics, and spells that promote good.  In regard to reversible spells, the version to be cast must be chosen when the spell is prayed for, and not when the spell is cast.  It's reiterated that a spell won't always be granted by the cleric's deity, and higher-level spells are more likely to be withheld.

The first thing that pops out on glancing at the spell entries is how organised they are.  Everything is codified and standardised, a far cry from the loose, free-wheeling tone of OD&D.  It's a blessing and a curse, although I think AD&D hits a decent middle ground with it.  Every spell has been categorised into a certain type/school, and it's clearly noted which spells are reversible.  Range, duration, area of effect, and whether the spell has a saving throw are clearly marked.  The spell components for each spell are described, as well as whether the spell requires spoken words or hand gestures.  It covers everything, and in many ways this is the most well thought out section of the three core AD&D books.

Bless: Bless has been dropped from 2nd level to 1st.  It's now been categorised as a conjuration/summoning spell.  The duration remains the same, but it's been given a range and an area of effect.  Otherwise it's the same, granting a +1 bonus to morale and attack rolls on friendly creatures who are not in combat.  The reversed version, Curse, inflicts a -1 penalty on morale and attacks.  (Strangely, the OD&D version of Curse inflicted it's targets with Grippe, a disease from Supplement II: Blackmoor which is basically the flu.)  Bless requires holy water to cast, while Curse requires "specially polluted water".

Command: An enchantment spell that allows the caster to issue a one-word command.  Undead are immune to it, and creatures with 13+ Intelligence or 6+ Hit Dice get a saving throw.  I've always been fond of this one; I even had a player throw a tantrum and leave the table when I used it to simulate a Finger of Death on his 2nd-level character (it was all fine, he calmed down when his character woke up a round later).  The command of "suicide" is ruled out, because it's a noun, but then again there is a bit saying that the command must be in a language the target can understand.  Language being what it is, some languages are going to have different words than others, and there's bound to be one in which "suicide" is a verb.

Create Water: Dropped from 4th level to 1st level, as it should be.  The OD&D version created enough water for a dozen men and horses for a day (doubled for every level of the cleric above 8th).  The AD&D version creates four gallons of water per experience level of the caster.  I like the practicality of the former presentation, but it implies a certain spell function that might discourage players from using the spell creatively.  I would have preferred the two approaches side by side, but I suppose an extra bit of math isn't too difficult.  The spell can be reversed as Destroy Water (new to AD&D), which does pretty much what it says.

Cure Light Wounds: Heals 1d8 points of damage to any living creature touched (in OD&D the amount healed was 1d6+1).  New to AD&D is the restriction that it doesn't work on creatures that can only be hit by iron, silver or magical weapons.  The reverse, Cause Light Wounds, does damage rather than healing.  (The OD&D version was another weird case of a spell causing Grippe.  That crazy Dave Arneson!)

Detect Evil: A divination spell that detect "emanations of evil" from any creature or object (it can be reversed to detect good as well).  It specifically notes that "evil alignment" is something picked up.  In OD&D there was some wiggle room, as it said that the spell detected "evil thought or intent".  In AD&D, if you're alignment is evil, you'll be pointed out by a detect evil spell.  Deal with it.  The range of this spell is the same as it was in OD&D, but the duration has been altered.  It starts lower, but increases with caster level, so eventually it will last longer than the OD&D version.  The cleric has to hold his holy symbol out to cast the spell, so doing it on the sly isn't really an option.

Detect Magic: Divination magic that detects magical radiations.  The range and duration of this spell have been halved.  Otherwise it works as in OD&D, with the added clarification that it can be blocked by a foot of stone, 3 feet of wood and about an inch of metal.

Light: Alteration magic that creates a light equal to torchlight by "exciting molecules".  The diameter is a little larger than it was on OD&D, but the duration is halved.  The major difference is that it can be used as an attack spell, effectively blinding the target.  It's not made clear if the spell can be made mobile - can the light be made to follow you, or can it be cast on an object and then carried like a torch?  I've always played it that way, but it says nothing here on the matter.  As in OD&D, the spell can be reversed as Darkness (albeit with a duration half as long)

Protection From Evil: An abjuration spell that creates a field of protection around the caster.  It prevents bodily contact from enchanted or conjured creatures, and this is clarified with a specific list: aerial servants, demons, devils, djinn, efreet, elementals, imps, invisible stalkers, night hags, quasits, salamanders, water weirds, wind walkers and xorn.  It also works this way on summoned animals and monsters.  (Though I wonder, it does specify "bodily contact" - could they still hit you with a weapon?)  In addition, the person protected has a +2 bonus to saving throws against attacks from evil creatures, and evil attackers suffer a -2 to hit.  (In OD&D, they were +1 and -1 respectively.)  The duration of the spell has been changed from 12 rounds to 3 per caster level: it starts lower, but won't stay that way for long.  As in OD&D, it can be reversed as Protection from Good.  For Protection from Evil, the caster to sprinkle a ring of holy water on the ground, or burning incense in the air.  Protection from Good requires blood, or (my favourite) smoldering dung.

Purify Food & Drink: An alteration spell that makes a cubic foot of food and water safe for consumption.  At higher levels it affects a greater amount of food.  It will also ruin unholy water.  The reverse spoils food and holy water.  (In OD&D the spell affected enough food to serve a dozen people, so at least at low levels it's been weakened.)

Remove Fear: A new spell that grants a bonus to saving throws against magical fear.  Surprisingly, there's no mention made here of how it affects morale (probably not at all).  It can be reversed as Cause Fear, which causes the target to run at top speed away from the caster.  The duration of this 1 round per caster level, which makes me want to try it out with a high-level NPC - the idea of one of my players running like hell for 10 rounds or more is amusing to me.

Resist Cold: A new spell that totally protects the target from natural cold - even in the nude.  (Thanks for the clarification, Gary.)  Against magical attacks and breath weapons, it grants a save bonus and drops the damage sustained by half.  It's a damn good spell mitigated only by the rarity of monsters that use cold-based attacks.

Sanctuary: Another new one.  As I understand it, it makes it so that a single creature ignores the caster totally.  The spell is broken if the cleric takes any offensive action, but otherwise he is completely protected from attack from that one creature.  I'm not sure how useful this is, as most combats involve multiple foes, but I suppose in a fight with one powerful foe it could keep the cleric alive to provide support.

Friday, June 03, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 24: Time, Distance and Spells

Time: This is just a quick paragraph that notes the importance of keeping track of time in the campaign.  Like a lot of things in the PHB, it brings up the general concept then passes all responsibility for the specifics on to the Dungeon Master.  I assume that there'll be more concrete rules in the DM's Guide.

The most important thing here is the codification of turns, rounds and segments, used to track time during dungeon exploration.  A turn is 10 minutes, a melee round is 1 minute, and a segment is 6 seconds.  Again this isn't explained further here, but I wanted to bring it up because the terminology was pretty loose in OD&D: turns and rounds were tossed out interchangeably.  From this point on, the game tightens up on this kind of thing.

Distance: The main thrust of this section is the rule that ranges for missiles and spells are effectively tripled when aboveground.  Every ranged attack in the game has a value denoted with the " symbol - when underground it represents 10 feet, and when aboveground it represents 10 yards.  The rule is intended to simulate the idea that you can fire arrows and such further without the impediment of a roof, and the darkness of the dungeon.. Works for me.

It's important to note that this conversion is only done for range, and not for area of effect.  It's so important that Gary writes a whole sentence in ALL CAPS.  Basically, a fireball shouldn't triple in size just because you're outside.

Monster, The Term: Possibly the most pointless section of the book, in which Gary notes that the term monster is used to describe pretty much any creature you can encounter.  I guess some people need to be told that not all monsters are evil?  Ah well, it's not like it takes up much space.

Character Spells: And now we reach the section I've been dreading the most: the spell list.  I'm not going to start on that today, but I'll do the preliminary stuff.

The most interesting tidbit here comes in the description of how cleric spells function.  Clerics have to pray for their spells (in advance, of course).  Spells of 1st through 4th level are granted to the cleric by lesser servant of the cleric's deity, and it seems like there's not much limit on those.  Higher level spells, however, can only be granted by the deity directly, and this is subject to all sorts of factors.  The door is opened here for the DM to require that a cleric makes sacrifices and atonements for high level spells, which could get really annoying.  I'd be inclined to ignore this except in extreme circumstances, such as a severe alignment deviation.

There's not much that's new in the section on magic-users.  It's the same standard, Vancian system from OD&D, which is fine by me.  D&D just ain't D&D without it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 23: Armour, Weapons, Hirelings and Henchmen

Armour: This is a short section that explains how Armour Class works.  There's not much to it, although it does have the table that shows the AC values for each armour type.  (The table is needlessly muddied by the inclusion of shields, in a bit of typically Gygaxian over-complication.)

There's a note here that monster AC values don't necessarily correspond with actual armour types.  Most monsters have various factors (size, hide, agility, multi-planar existence, etc.) that influence their AC.  In short, non-human monsters won't be carrying shields or wearing armour.

It's also noted that shields can only be used against attacks from the front.  Later it's said that attacks from behind and from the right flank can ignore shields.  This leaves out attacks from the left flank, but I'd be inclined to allow shields against those.  I'd also be inclined to allow switching these directions around for left-handed characters.

We learn here that small shields can only defend against one attack per round, a normal shield can defend against two attacks, and a large shield can defend against three.  This is something I've never bothered keeping track of, and to be honest it doesn't quite feel realistic.  The protective value of shields is massively undervalued in D&D.  (I'm willing to be proven wrong here, if any SCA-type folks want to school me on the usefulness of shields.)

Weapon Proficiency: What, you thought you could use every weapon on your class list?  Well, not any more, because weapon proficiencies are introduced here for the first time.  Basically, every class begins the game being proficient in a number of weapons.  There's no bonus for using a weapon you're proficient in, but there is a penalty for using a weapon you're not proficient with.  More weapons can be added as you gain levels.

I'm generally in favour of weapon proficiencies, though not always with the way the system is implemented.  It's pretty simple in AD&D, and it favours fighters heavily.  It's also another way you can customise your character.  It works pretty well here.

Weapon Tables: Following the section on proficiencies is a table that shows the damage ranges for each weapon.  For the weapons that appeared in OD&D, the damage ranges are much the same.  A number of other weapons are introduced here, but rather than getting their own entries they are likened to weapons that already exist on the equipment list.  I won't list them all here, because there are quite a lot, and I honestly couldn't tell you what most of them are.  I don't even want to Google the Bohemian Earspoon, because I just know that the reality will never live up to the name.

Things get  little more complex on the next table, which includes the following information: weapon lengths, space required to wield, speed factor and AC adjustment.  None of these are explained yet; I'll deal with them as they come up.  Certain weapons are noted here as being capable of dismounting a rider, and others as capable of disarming opponents.  Again, there's little detail on how theses are accomplished here.  There's a similar table following for missile weapons, with categories for rate of fire, range, and AC adjustment.

Hirelings: This is a short bit about hirelings, as distinct from henchmen.  There's not much to write about here, as the section pretty much just says that you can hire people to do stuff.  There are some example hirelings given, such as alchemists, armorers, engineers, etc.  The only one I've never heard of before is a "linkboy", which sounds dirty, but is actually just another name for a torch-bearer.  Actually pretty handy, I don't know why Gary would obfuscate this by using such an archaic term.  A character is not limited by Charisma in the number of hirelings he can take on.

Henchmen: Henchmen are a character's devoted followers, and these are most definitely limited by a character's Charisma.  Indeed, this is probably the most important thing that Charisma is used for in the rules.

The process of finding a henchman is detailed, with the character having to spend money on visiting inns, posting notices, hiring criers, etc.  Non-human characters are generally harder to locate then humans and "semi-humans" (I assume this refers to half-elves and half-orcs).

The PC must pay wages to their henchmen, as well as equip them and provide room and board.  They also get a share of treasure, and a share of XP (albeit a smaller one than a PC would gain).  I suppose that acting under someone else's instruction lessens the learning experience?  Something like that.

The loyalty of henchmen depends on a lot of factors, such as the PC's Charisma, generosity, and how they treat their henchmen in general.  As is becoming more and more apparent with the PHB, this is an overview, and the actual numbers are elsewhere )most probably the Dungeon Masters Guide).

(It's a little disappointing that this section doesn't deal at all with pets.  There's a bunch of animals ready for purchase on the equipment list, and some guidelines on how to run them would not go astray.  There's always some joker who wants to bring his guard dogs into the dungeon.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 22: Coins and Equipment

Starting Money: PCs are said to be exceptional in regards to starting funds.  The main four classes are listed here, with fighters being the wealthiest (50-200 gold pieces), clerics second (30-180gp), thieves third (20-120gp) and magic-users last (20-80gp).  Monks are also listed separately (as they aren't a sub-class), and they are the poorest of all (5-20gp).  This is a departure from OD&D, where all characters started with a range of 30-180gp.

I'm not sure what the following sentence means: "To determine the number of gold pieces your character has at the start, simply roll the appropriate dice and total the sum (adding a decimal place if necessary)."  What decimal place would that be?  I can't see where it would be needed, and it's bugging me.  What was Gary getting at here?

The Monetary System: Gold pieces are the basic currency, and there are also copper pieces, silver pieces, electrum pieces and platinum pieces.  Their values are as follows:

200 copper = 1 gold
20 silver = 1 gold
2 electrum = 1 gold
1 platinum = 5 gold

In OD&D it was only 50cp to 1gp, and 10sp to 1gp.  It looks as though copper and silver have both been devalued since then.  (The exchange rates in early D&D always baffle me, because I'm much more familiar with later editions where it was 100cp to 1gp, and 10sp to 1gp.  It doesn't hurt that the math for that is a little easier to do quickly in my head.)

Gary ends this section with an interesting bit about prices being higher in adventuring areas due to supply and demand: coin is plentiful in comparison to other places, and adventuring gear is in short supply.  The implication here is that gear would be cheaper in areas that don't have many adventurers, though it's not spelled out.  I'm not sure that this makes sense, but little about the D&D economy does.

Money Changing, Banks, Loans & Jewellers: Gary gives some quick but practical advice on financial establishments.  
  • Coins can be exchanged at a money lender's for a 3% fee.
  • Money can be stored with a money lender, but they don't give interest.  (I'm wondering what's in it for them? Perhaps that 3% fee applies here as well?)
  • Characters can get loans, with varying amounts and interest depending on their status and reliability.  The more famous the character is, and the more assets he or she has, the better the deal will be.
  • Jewellers and merchants buy gems and jewellery at 80% of the actual value.
 There's not a lot of depth here, but sometimes quick guidelines are more useful at the table.

Equipment - Armour: In OD&D there were but three types of armour: leather, chain and plate.  I was always pretty happy with this.  It gives you a light, medium and heavy option; what else do you want?  AD&D sees the introduction of an armour for every Armour Class; in addition to the three mentioned above we now have padded, studded, ring, scale, banded, and splint.  Variety is fine, and I guess there's always that weirdo who really wants to wear splint mail, but I don't think they add much to the game besides thoroughness.  Leather armour is cheaper than it was in OD&D, but chain and plate have skyrocketed.  Gary wasn't kidding about supply and demand.

Helmets have now been split into small and great varieties (with the small variety costing the same as an OD&D helmet)  There are also three types of shields: large, small, and small wooden (with the small shield costing the same as an OD&D shield).

Equipment - Arms: Again, this list is much larger than its OD&D equivalent.  That list had 22 items (including ammunition).  The AD&D list has 52.  The following weapons are making their debuts in AD&D proper: bardiche, bec de corbin, bill-guisarme, dart, fauchard, fauchard-fork, military fork, glaive, glaive-guisarme, guisarme, guisarme-voulge, lucern hammer, hammer (surprisingly), javelin, partisan, footman's pick, horseman's pick, ranseur, scimitar, slings and sling bullets, spetum, bastard sword, broad sword, short sword (really?!?), trident and voulge.  In addition, composite bows are now split into long and short varieties, and flails and maces are now split into footman's and horseman's varieties.

(While all of the above-listed weapons are making their debut on the equipment list, some have appeared in the table of damage by weapon type: military picks, slings, and tridents.  I wouldn't be surprised if some more have shown up in other places, particularly in Chainmail.)

Most weapons have different prices in OD&D and AD&D.  I feel like in general weapons are cheaper in AD&D, particularly the more common varieties.  The notable exceptions are composite bows and two-handed sword, which have gone up by quiet a bit.

Equipment - Clothing: Clothing wasn't listed in OD&D, but now you can buy items for your outfit separately.  I would tend to allows characters to start with clothes without paying for them.

Equipment - Herbs: You can buy belladonna, garlic and wolvesbane, which were all available in OD&D.  The prices here have dropped precipitously - we're talking a garlic bud dropping from 5gp to 5cp.  Something bizarre happened in the herb market between editions.

Equipment - Livestock: Where you can buy chickens, dogs, cows, birds, pigs and loads of different types of horses.  Generally this section is the bane of the DM's existence.  I hate players who insist on buying animals at 1st level.  In OD&D you only had mules and three diffierent types of horse, and that's the way I liked it.  Horse prices have gone up a lot since OD&D.

Equipment - Miscellaneous: A section for general adventuring gear such as ropes and sacks and lanterns.  Most of this stuff was in OD&D, but the prices were higher there because OD&D only listed prices in gold pieces.  Now that things ae listed in cp and sp, the prices have come down a lot.

Equipment - Provisions: In OD&D, you could buy wine and rations.  That's good enough for most adventurers, but now the aspiring gourmand can buy beer, ale and mead.  There are also prices listed for a rich meal and a merchant's meal, though not a poor meal which I find odd.  Horsefood is also listed, which was a big oversight in OD&D. 

Equipment - Religious Items: The main difference here from OD&D is that the cleric's symbol is listed as a holy symbol rather than a cross.  You can also buy prayer beads and incense, though I'm not sure what practical purpose they serve.

Equipment - Tack and Harness: Saddles and horse armour and the like.  Barding now comes in leather, chain and plate, and they cost a lot more than they did in OD&D.

Equipment - Transport: Surprisingly, the cost of boats has come down.  You can now also buy a warship, which sounds pretty awesome.

Monday, May 09, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 21: Hit Points and Character Languages

Character Hit Points: This is a pretty basic coverage of what hit points are and how they work, but there are two points of interest here that I'm not sure have been covered earlier.

The first is that monks and rangers have two hit dice at 1st level.  I've never actually considered this, but for the purposes of spells and other magical effects they should count as 2HD creatures.  I've always treated characters according to their level, but in doing that I've probably been short-changing monks and rangers.

The second is that Gary tackles the most common complaint about the hit point system head-on.  Invariably when discussing D&D and RPGs in general, there's always some ning-nong who talks about how ridiculous it is that high-level fighters can survive a hundred sword wounds.  Well, Gary agrees with you, and that's not how hit points work.  His description of how they do work is as follows: "the majority of hit points are symbolic of combat skill, luck (bestowed by supernatural powers), and magical forces."  The explicit mention of supernatural powers influencing hit points says a lot about default AD&D, and could perhaps tie in with the alignment stuff I was talking about in my last post.

It's mentioned that rest restores hit points, but no figures are given.  The idea of keeping a character's exact hit points a secret is also brought up, and I'd like to recommend that DMs try it at least once.  Players can get extremely cautious when they don't have the exact numbers in front of them, and it adds a lot of tension to the game.

Establishing the Character: At this point Gary recommends naming your character and creating a family background.  (Which is odd, because I'm sure I've read somewhere that a lot of characters in his campaign weren't even named until they reached 3rd level.)  He also mentions the idea of naming a next of kin that can inherit your character's possessions in case of an untimely death, which is a rule from OD&D that I feel gets little play in later editions.

What's of most interest here is that we get a glimpse into what I assume is what Gary sees as the quintessential campaign opening scenario.  He described the characters approaching the main setting (probably a village, town or city), getting through the main gate, finding a place to sleep, and learning the lay of the land.  Again, it doesn't feel quite right given what I've read of Gary's DMing style; I would expect him to get to the adventure a bit more quickly.  Still, it jibes well with two of his introductory modules, Keep on the Borderlands and Village of Hommlet, and it could be a difference between starting an adventure and starting a campaign.

Character Languages: The first thing established here is that all humans, semi-humans, and non-humans in regular contact with people speak the "common tongue".  The use of parentheses here indicates that "common" is not a language per se, but just a placeholder for whatever language would be appropriate in your campaign.  Gary then says that common is spoken by all states in the central campaign area, which I will assume applies to Greyhawk.

Alignment languages are then discussed a little further.  They can be spoken by all creatures able to converse in speech, which is an important qualifier.  It rules out True Neutral characters having conversations with horses and oozes, for one thing.  Importantly, it's noted that in most campaigns open alignment speech is a serious breach of social etiquette.

The process of learning additional languages is brought up.  It requires the character being in close proximity to a tutor for a period of 12 months, modified downwards by high Intelligence.  I'll assume that the character will still be able to adventure during this time, it's just that he or she can't go on any long trips, and has to spend a lot of downtime doing the learning.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 20: Alignment

With this chapter we see the introduction to D&D of the nine-point alignment system.  In OD&D, there were simply three alignment: Law, Neutrality, and Chaos.  Gary altered this in The Strategic Review #6, adding Good and Evil to the mix to give five possible alignments: Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, Neutral, Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil.  This system was carried into the first D&D Basic Set.

In AD&D there are nine alignments, with the addition of Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral and Chaotic Neutral.  It's not made clear what purpose alignment serves in the game, but the nine alignments are each given a brief description.  This is more than can be said of previous editions, where the space given to each alignment was perfunctory at best.

Let's take a look at each alignment in turn:

Chaotic Evil: Values freedom, randomness and woe.  (Really?  Who values woe?) Disdains law, order, kindness, and places no value on life.  Seeks power in a system ruled by caprice and their own whims.

Chaotic Good: Values freedom, the welfare of others, and individuality.  Specific mention is made here of characters "promoting the gods of chaotic good", as though that's what they're expected to do.  Later on Gary states that the descriptions are generalisations, and this is one that I'm glad to lump in that category.

Chaotic Neutral: Places randomness and disorder above good and evil.  Again, the way this is described make the character sound like a crusader for a cause.

Lawful Evil: Respects law and order, but place little value on life, beauty, truth, and freedom.  Seeks to use discipline to impose their yoke on the world.

Lawful Good: Strictly upholds law and order for the common good.  Believes that certain freedoms must be sacrificed to bring order.  Values truth the most, and also life and beauty.

Lawful Neutral: Views regulation as all-important.  Believes universal harmony depends on law and order.

Neutral Evil: Dedicated to - and I quote - "maximum evilness".

Neutral Good: Believes in a balance between regulation and freedom to bring about beneficial conditions for all.  Curiously, it's said that they value intelligent creatures more than unintelligent ones.

True Neutral: Views all alignments as part of a natural system, and believes that this balance should not be upset by unnatural forces, including the interference of intelligent creatures.

So, looking at the above, just what is alignment?  Simply going by the name, it should be the side you are aligned with.  This implies that Good, Evil, Law and Chaos are fundamental forces of the universe, and at war with each other.  This is backed up by the descriptions, as several of them describe characters advancing the agenda of their particular alignment.

It's also clear, however, that alignment describes a character's morality, ethics and general behaviour.  Lawful good characters act a certain way, chaotic goods act in a different way, and chaotic evils act even more differently still.  The behaviours given here are said to be generalisations, and yet those generalisations must come from somewhere.  For the most part NPCs will behave much as their alignment dictates, as described here in the PHB.  There will be outliers, and PCs are likely to be among them, but they are just that: outliers.

So alignment in AD&D is both your behaviour, and the side of the cosmic conflict you fall on.  This raises a question, though: does behaviour dictate alignment, or is it the other way around?  I would be inclined to go with the former.  No creature (except for certain magical types, like demons and such) is born evil, good, chaotic or lawful.  (I would say that any infant is by this logic neutral, which cuts the whole "paladins killing orc babies" dilemma off at the knees right there.)  They will, however, be greatly influenced by their cultural upbringing (and genetics as well, I suppose), and if you're a baby orc surrounded by chaotic evil relatives, it's a good chance you'll grow up to be chaotic evil as well.  The chance for good is there, of course, but it's a slim one.

So the way a character behaves and thinks determines the side of the conflict they're on, and this may have a more profound effect on their inner selves than you would think.  After all, there are magical effects that work based on the target's alignment.  It's a palpable thing that can be detected.  There are even languages intrinsic to each alignment, and the inability to speak languages of differing alignments.  Whatever your alignment is, it connects you to something greater than yourself.  I wonder if this could perhaps be tied to the article Gary wrote in The Dragon #8, where he posits the idea that certain creatures are connected to the Outer Planes, and that each creature type has its own sub-plane.  Mostly this idea was put forth as a way of explaining the immunities of various creatures, but it could work to explain alignment as well.  It seems probable to me that every being has an intrinsic connection the the plane most connected with their alignment as well, forged in the developmental stages of their upbringing.

The question must also be asked: are all characters crusaders for their particular alignment?  Of course the answer is no.  Most characters will serve their cause unknowingly, furthering it through their own actions and goals in spite of their ignorance.  Paladins and clerics are different, as are druids, and there will certainly be others who serve their cause knowingly.  But I feel like most people in the standard D&D world go about their business with little thought for Good, Evil, Law and Chaos.

Changing Alignment: It's said that involuntary change is possible, but voluntary change is very difficult.  If the ideas I've brought up above are at all true, this makes perfect sense.  I seems as though True Neutral characters have an easier time of changing alignment than anyone else, and this also makes sense: by their nature, they would have no connection to any of the Outer Planes.

Gary says that "evil alignment can be varied along the like axis", and I'm not entirely sure what this means.  Later on "axial change within evil or good" is implied to be easier than other kinds of change, and I wonder about this.  Does this mean that it's easier to alter alignment between good and evil?  Or easier to change between law and chaos?  Am I stupid, or is this poorly worded?  (A glance at the DMG tells me that this will all be cleared up in time, though perhaps said clearing up has little to do with the way things are worded here.)

Regardless, voluntarily changing alignment requires sacrifices, appropriate acts, and possibly a quest.  It's also next-to-impossible to change back to an alignment you have already forsaken (presumably said forces will be reluctant to take the character back into their good graces).

Friday, April 22, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 19: Multi-Classing and Dual-Classing

The Multi-Classed Character: Oddly, this section doesn't provide any rules for how multi-classing at all.  Instead it runs down all of the possible multi-class combinations (including the races that can access them), and gives a brief outline of each combo's strengths and weaknesses.

As established before, multi-class clerics can use edged weapons, and multi-class magic-users can cast spells in armour.  Thieves are the only class that gets shafted by multi-classing, as their abilities can;t be used while wearing armour heavier than leather.  This is all stuff that's been detailed earlier in the book, but it's nice to have it all in one place.

In OD&D, the only allowable multi-class combinations were fighter/thief, fighter/magic-user, fighter/magic-user/thief, and fighter/magic-user/cleric.  All of these are available AD&D, and quite a few more exotic combinations are also included.  Cleric/rangers sound cool.  Half-orcs can opt to be cleric/thieves or cleric/assassins, which must say something about their religious beliefs.  Gnomes can be fighter/illusionists or illusionist/thieves.  I like the flexibility of multi-classing in 3rd edition, but there's a lot to be said for the distinctive flavour that comes with restricting multi-class combos by race.

The Character With Two Classes: Or dual-classing, as I know it, although that term isn't used here.  Human characters whose stats are high enough can switch from one class to another, starting back at 1st level in the new class.  They retain the hit points of the previous class, but none of the other abilities and powers.  Those powers are still there, and they can be used, but if they are then the player in question gains no XP for that adventure.  Only when the level of the new class exceeds that of the old can the character use the capabilities of his first class.

It's interesting to note that fighter/mages created using dual-classing aren't allowed to cast spells in armour.  It seems that ability is restricted to multi-classed elves and half-elves, and that it's an ability restricted to them alone.  Normally I'd scoff at any rule that makes elves more powerful, but I like this one.  It's a good thematic fit.

Dual-classing was present in OD&D, but only in the vaguest sense.  It's mentioned that characters with a high enough prime requisite for the new class may switch, but there are no hard rules given.

Monday, April 18, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 18: Monks

Monks: This one might take a while, folks, as there's a lot to discuss.  Monk's get a lot of abilities, y'all.

Gary begins the entry by stating that the class is the hardest to qualify for, and possibly the deadliest.  I'm not sure that either is the case, although I've honestly never seen a high-level monk in action.  I doubt one would be a match for a high-level magic-user, though.  A Strength of 15, Wisdom of 15, Dexterity of 15 and Constitution of 11 are required to qualify for the class.  (In OD&D, monks needed Wisdom 15, Strength 12 and Dexterity 15, so it's harder to qualify for now.)

Here's a nugget that I forgot about: monks don't get an AC bonus from having a high dexterity, and they're not allowed to wear armour either.  In combination with their meagre 1d4 Hit Dice, that makes them super-weak at low levels.  It's no wonder I've never seen a high-level monk, really.  I don't believe that OD&D monks had a restriction on the AC bonus for Dexterity, but I'm also pretty sure that said bonus didn't exist in OD&D, aside from one article in The Dragon.

Alignment-wise, Monks must be lawful, as their various skills require discipline.  The general spread of monk alignment is said to be 50% lawful good, 35% neutral good, and 15% lawful evil.  OD&D monks could be lawful, neutral or chaotic, but as I've discussed before that system represents an entirely different thing than that in AD&D.  AD&D alignment is less about which side of the cosmic struggle you're aligned with, and more about your internal make-up.

As mentioned before, monks can't wear armour.  In terms of weapons they are restricted to the following: bo sticks, clubs, crossbows, daggers, hand axes, javelins, jo sticks, pole arms, spears and staves.  (In OD&D monks could use every weapon on the list, so this is a serious downgrade, albeit a thematically sound one.)  When using any weapon, monks gains a damage bonus equal to half their level (ranging from a +1 bonus at 2nd level to a maximum of +8).  This ability is unchanged from OD&D.

After a certain point, though, monks are more effective when fighting bare-handed.  They begin with 1 attack per round, doing 1d3 damage, but this gradually increases as they advance.  By 9th level they have 2 attacks per round, dealing 3-12 damage.  At their maximum 17th level, a monk gets a whopping 4 attacks per round with each one dealing 8-32 damage.  So yes, while monks start weak as piss, I must acknowledge that they are super-badass at the top level.  (OD&D monks were similar in this regard, albeit a little bit stronger.)

High damage and a lot of attacks is all well and good, but monks get even more on top of that.  Each bare-handed attack they make has a chance to stun their opponent for 1-6 rounds.  If the monk's attack roll exceeds the number required to hit by 5 or more (unmodified by Strength), their target will be stunned.  It gets even better, though, because every stun by a monk also has a chance for an instant kill!  This is based on the target's AC: you begin with the AC number as a base, and modify it upwards for every level the monk has attained beyond 7th.  So if the target has AC -1, and the monk is 12th level, there's a 4% chance for an instant kill.  The chances are low, as they should be, but with the sheer number of attacks per round a monk gets it's a great ability.  (This ability has been seriously nerfed from OD&D, as well: their stun used to last for 3-12 turns, and they got a flat 25% chance for an instant kill!)

Monks use the same saving throw table as Thieves, with a few extra bonuses.  In regards to magical attacks where the target can save to take half-damage, a Monk can save to take no damage at all.  At 9th level, the Monk automatically takes half-damage on a failed save, and no damage on a successful one.  They can also deflect non-magical missiles with save vs. petrification. (In OD&D, Monks used the Cleric saving throw table.  It also seems to me that as worded the rules state that Monks could dodge any type of magical missile, including a magic missile.  Note that magic missile was not an auto-hit spell in OD&D, so it's a fair ruling.  Their ability to take half-damage on a failed save kicked in a level earlier.)

Monks are difficult to surprise.  Their chance to be surprised begins at 33-1/3% (or 2-in-6, like everyone else), drops to 32% at 2nd level, then drops by 2% for every level gained thereafter.  I can't say I like this much, as I'm not a fan of the Monk operating on a different surprise system than everyone else.  Most characters roll a d6, or maybe a d8, but the Monk doesn't match that.  Maybe it works at the table, I wouldn't know, but it seems needlessly fiddly to me.  In OD&D the rule has a similar intent, but the chance starts at 2-in-6, drops to 1-in-6 at 3rd, then 1-in-8 at 5th, and 1-in-10 at 7th.  It's still not ideal, with multiple die types required, but it meshes better with the base surprise rules.

Monks operate exactly as Thieves in the following abilities: open locks, find/remove traps, move silently, hide in shadows, hear noise and climb walls.  So they can practically fulfill all of the thief's basic functions,  and are better in combat.  I suppose the difficulty of qualifying for the class would offset that, but I'm still not a big fan of sub-classes trumping the base class in everything.  (Not that Monks are a sub-class at all, but the point stands.  In OD&D monks operated as halflings or dwarves in the most favourable abilities, so it was even worse there.)

Monks can fall great distances with no damage, so long as they are within some distance of a wall.  The distance able to be fallen safely increases as they gain levels, as does the distance they can be from said wall; by 13th level, they can fall any distance at all with no damage.   (In general, OD&D monks start this ability later, but advance in it quicker.)

It doesn't even end here!  They get more abilities!  It just keeps going and going.

Starting at 3rd level they can speak with animals.  (This was a 4th level ability in OD&D.)

At 4th level they gain a resistance to ESP that increases as they advance.  (This ability started at 6th level in OD&D, and was much more effective.)

At 5th level monks become immune to disease, and can't be affected by haste or slow spells.  (This ability seems to be new to AD&D, and I guess it's a thematic fit with the monk's total body control and discipline.  The immunity to haste could definitely be seen as a drawback rather than a benefit.)

At 6th level they can perfectly simulate death, and can maintain this state for longer periods as they advance.  (This was a 5th level ability in OD&D, and it did not improve with advancement.)

Monks can self-heal once per day starting at 7th level.  This healing begins at 1d4+1, with a further +1 added for every level gained beyond 7th.  (The base die for this in OD&D was 1d6, but otherwise it was the same.)

They can speak with plants starting at 8th level.  (This ability is unchanged from OD&D.)

Beginning at 9th level, monks are 50% resistant to beguiling, charm, hypnosis and suggestion spells.  This resistance increases as the monk advances.  (In OD&D this ability kicked in at 8th level, and was a complete immunity rather than a resistance.)

At 10th level monks function with an Intelligence of 18 in regards to telepathy and mind blast attacks, such as those from a mind flayer.  (This ability was similar in OD&D, but it also granted them an immunity to the quest and geas spells, which it does not do in AD&D.)

Monks gain immunity to all poison at 11th level.  (This ability doesn't exist in OD&D.)

At 12th level they gain immunity to quest and geas spells.  (Okay, I jumped the gun there.  Is there anything these bastards aren't immune to?)

Finally (finally!) there is the Quivering Palm, gained at 13th level.  This ability allows the monk to set up deadly vibrations in the target simply by touching them.  At any point the monk can cause the vibrations to stop, which will kill the victim.  It sounds cool, but the target's HD can't be higher than the monk's, and it can't have more than 200 hit points in any event.  It also doesn't work on undead or creatures only hit by magical weapons.  To be honest, it seems less effective in combat than their stun/auto-kill attack.  It actually sounds like a more effective assassination tool than anything, probably even more effective than a high-level assassin.  It doesn't seem to offer a saving throw, either.  (This is basically the same ability as in OD&D, it's just been clarified here.)

While monks have a raft of special abilities, they also have restriction that hamper their effectiveness, as follows.

Monks can't wear armour, and gain no benefit to AC from a high Dexterity.  What they do get is an AC that improves as they advance in level.  It starts at AC 10, and by level 17 has improved to AC -3, which is not bad but would probably not be a match for other characters of a similar level.

Monks have to give away their treasure to religious institutions, much like paladins.  They can also only possess 2 magic weapons, and 3 magic items of other types.  (I can't find any mention of this restriction in OD&D.)

Monks are able to use any magic weapon on their class list, rings, and miscellaneous items usable by thieves.  They can't use any other items at all, and that includes potions.  (This is exactly as in OD&D.)

Monks don't get any bonuses to hit or damage from a high Strength.  It's all in the technique, I suppose.  (This restriction didn't apply in OD&D either.)

Monks can't have hirelings or henchmen until they reach 6th level.  At 6th they can take on hirelings for a single day, and up to two henchmen (fighters, assassins and thieves only).  They can take on more henchmen as they advance.  (This is pretty much as in OD&D, but there henchmen were restricted to fighters and monks of their own order.)

There is only a limited number of monks in the world above level 7: three level-8 monks, and only one of each level thereafter.  Any monk PC wishing to advance beyond 7th is going to have to find and defeat the relevant monk in single unarmed combat.  Monks will immediately know where to find the one they need to battle, and if they don't go and do so straight away they drop in XP to their previous level.  (This was the same in OD&D, but it started one level earlier, and magic was allowed in the duels.)

Upon winning the duel to become 8th level, a monk gains a number of 1st-level monks as followers.  He can also take the monastery of the monk he defeated as his own, or spend up to 250,000gp to build a new one. (No mention was made of this in OD&D.)

The level titles for monks haven't changed a lot.  The title of Brother is wedged in at 3rd level, which bumps all of the others up by one.  Grand Master is changed to Superior Master, and the word "Grand" is stripped from every title except the very last (Grand Master of Flowers).  AD&D monks advance faster the those in OD&D at lower levels, and more slowly at higher levels.

Well, that's the monk class, and if writing this up has done anything it's given me the urge to play an AD&D monk to high level.  Despite the drawbacks, and the weakness at low levels, they sound super-badass.  It seems they've been de-powered a little from OD&D, which is a good thing.  I doubt I'll ever get to play one, but one of the bonuses of being a DM is that I can just throw one in as an NPC and experience the fun of using those abilities without having to work for it.

NEXT: Multi-Class and Dual-Class