Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 1

And so we come to the first D&D supplement: Greyhawk. In many ways, this is where D&D becomes recognisably D&D. It sees the introduction of a lot of fiddly rules that would be carried forth into AD&D, as well as a whole host of new spells, new magic items, and new monsters, many of which were completely made up for Gary's home campaign. Whereas the OD&D boxed set was drawing on pulp fantasy literature and mythology for inspiration, this is where D&D begins drawing upon itself - the fruit of many hours of playing the game. It's one of the most historically significant additions, but it must be said that D&D before this supplement is a very different thing than it was after.

The cover, still in adorable beige, shows a warrior facing off against a somewhat stoned Beholder. Nevertheless, it's the innards of the book that are of more interest.

After a foreword by Gary explaining that you'll need the D&D boxed set to use this product, we delve right in with some additions to the existing classes, as well as a couple of new classes.

It's briefly noted that the Fighting Man now gets some melee bonuses from having high ability scores, and that certain Lawful fighters can become Paladins; but more on those later.

The Thief is introduced! The four iconic D&D classes are now here. I've always been a big fan of the thief, even though it's by far weaker than the other classes, with its class abilities always outstripped by magic. Doesn't matter, I love the archetype and find it the most fun class to play.

The first thing we discover is that Thieves can't be Lawful - and in such a profession this restriction is fair enough. Lawful characters can hire them, but only for one-off missions with a Lawful purpose.

In terms of abilities, Thieves can use magic daggers and swords, but no other weapons. They can only wear leather armor, and no shields are allowed. They can't cast spells like a Magic-User, but at 10th level they can cast those Magic-User spells found on scrolls. Spells of 7th level or above have a 10% chance of being reversed, and with spells that powerful some very nasty effects are bound to occur.

The thief abilities listed are a bit more specific than they would later become: open locks by picking or foiling magical enclosures, remove small trap devices, listen for noise behind closed doors, move with great stealth, filch items and pick pockets, hide in shadows, strike silently from behind, and climb nearly sheer surfaces. In addition, after 3rd level they can puzzle out written languages 80% of the time. I like the way these abilities are worded here - they give a better picture of what exactly was the intent of each ability, what they can be used for as well as what they cannot.

The backstab ability grants a thief +4 to hit and double damage when striking from behind. He gets an extra multiple for every 4 levels gained after the 1st - so at 5th level he's doing triple damage.

Climbing Walls has a percent chance to fail - 13% at 1st level, and 1% lower per level gained. Which makes this a genuinely useful ability with only a small chance of failure from the beginning. It's pretty much the same ability as it is in AD&D, but it's expressed in reverse - here you get the chance for failure, and there you get the chance for success.

The other abilities all have percentage chances to succeed that increase with levels gained, but the tables aren't shown until later. Many people think that these abilities preclude the other classes from performing these tasks, but that's not the case. Just because the Thief can Hide in Shadows doesn't mean that the Fighter can't try to hide as well - it just means that the Thief needs nothing more than a dark shadow to hide in, something beyond the Fighter's capabilities. It's best to think of these abilities as extra things the Thief can do, rather than abilities the other classes can't do.

Oh, and all the races can become thieves and advance without limit. I guess even Gary recognised how weak the class was, and figured this rule wouldn't unbalance the game. It also means that the Thieves' Guild in my campaign isn't so prejudiced against non-humans as the other guilds, which makes sense for such unscrupulous folk - they'll use whoever has the talent.

As for how i will introduce the class, after a few sessions I plan to drop some hints about the existence of a Thieves' Guild, and maybe have a few members start prying into the affairs of the PCs. The thieves will have heard that there's treasure to be had in Castle Greyhawk again, and eventually they will petition for membership in the Adventurer's Guild, possibly with some opposition from the Clerics of Law. Perhaps the Thieves will have to find the Crown, Orb or Sceptre of the Clerics to gain admittance? The PCs could come in here, but whether they accept the quest or not it will be fulfilled by somebody, as I really want Thieves in the game.

DWARVES: Gary must have realised that he never described the races in the original books, so now we get the physical details given to us - Dwarves are four feet tall, stocky with broad shoulders, they weigh about 150 pounds, and their skin is either tan, brown or grey. (Grey? That's a new one on me.) There are three types of Dwarves - Hill, Mountain, and Burrowers (which are actually Gnomes, which canonizes these as the same species).

Dwarves with a high Strength (17 or 18) can now progress to 7th or 8th level as Fighting-Men. I guess pressure from within the Adventurer's Guild is causing them to lessen some of the restrictions.

There are now Dwarven Clerics, though never as players. They can advance to 7th level, and heal and resurrect other Dwarves. They are also Fighters, which means the Dwarves have their very own religion based on kicking ass. I like to play Dwarven homelands as highly reclusive, so their Clerics not venturing out to foreign lands fits this nicely.

Dwarves can multiclass as Fighters and Thieves, splitting their XP between the two. It's stated that 'no bonuses for abilities above the normal are then given' - I take this to mean that they don't get the XP bonuses for having high stats. Otherwise the only restriction is that they have to wear leather armour when using their Thief abilities. This is a completely different system to that used by Elves in OD&D - at this point I will probably have Elves switch over to this new system.

Although Chainmail had given them the ability, Dwarves in D&D are now explicitly stated to be able to see in the dark with Infravision, being able to spot monsters up to 60 feet away. I'm still not going to let it work in Castle Greyhawk, though.

ELVES: Elves are at least 5 feet tall, and slim - they weigh about 120 pounds. Their skin is fair, and there are three types: wood, high, and meadow, with fairies being noted after - I believe this implies that Meadow Elves are the Fairies we have seen earlier. This synchs up pretty well with what's already been established, though I think that this is the first mention of High Elves - they'll start visiting the City of Greyhawk regularly at about this time.

Like Dwarves, Elves with high Strength can stretch the level limits by one or two as Fighters, and the same goes for high Intelligence and Magic-Users. There's pressure on those racists in the Adventurers Guild all round.

Elves also have their own Clerics, who can get to 6th level but only interact with their own kind (snobs). They're all Fighter/Cleric/Magic-Users, but are limited to 6th as M-Us. Still pretty nasty, though.

Elven Thieves can either be a single class Thief, or act as Fighter/Magic-User/Thieves. XP is split evenly, much like the Dwarven Fighter/Thief. Presumably the bonus XP from having high stats isn't gained, though it's not stated. They're also limited to leather armour when using Thief abilities.

Elves also have Infravision, and can see monsters in the dark up to 60 feet away.

HOBBITS: Not much to be said for good old Hobbits, I'm afraid - simply that they can be multi-class Fighter/Thieves.

HALF-ELVES: Half-elven and half-human, as the name suggests. They can act as Fighter/Magic-Users, limited to 6th level in each, though they are able to stretch the boundaries with high stats as noted above. Like elves they get a bonus to spot secret doors, but they don't get the elven combat bonuses against Orcs and the like. They speak the same languages as Elves. Half-Elves don't have their own group of Clerics, which is fair enough - they aren't really a numerous race unto themselves. However, if a Half-Elf has a Wisdom of 13 or higher he can add Cleric to his bag of tricks (limited to 4th level, with no going higher), getting the advantages of being a Fighter/Magic-User/Cleric.

Half-Elves can't be Chaotic, and they can't even associate with Chaotic creatures. Must be a boring old life, but it matches up with the alignment restrictions for Elves.

Tomorrow we take another quick look at alignment, see what fiddly bits get added to ability scores, and witness the introduction of the Paladin.

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