Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures Part 3

LAND COMBAT: There's a brief section on combat, but the only new information that it has to impart is that when using the Chainmail combat system for D&D, a drive back or kill is only equal to a regular hit.

AERIAL COMBAT: Following that there's a much more detailed system for conducting fights in the air, which is entitled Battle in the Skies. Different creatures are more maneuverable - the more maneuverable it is the more turns it can make a round, and the less spaces it has to move between those turns. There are rules for diving and climbing, and again the more maneuverable creatures are better at both.

Missile fire is interesting, in that it includes a rudimentary critical hit system. There's a chart to determine where the flying creature is hit, and another chart to determine the effect of the attack. The creature might have its speed reduced, be forced to land or withdraw, or crash and fall to the ground.

There are also rules for bombing, where a hit is scored by rolling 7 on 2d6 - the further away from 7 you are, the further away from the target your bomb landed.
All told it's a nice set of basic rules for air combat, and a surprising inclusion in such a small set of rules. But flying is something that D&D sees a lot of, so it's certainly welcome. And it makes sense that the rules are different from regular attacks - when you're dropping boulders on a guy from 100 feet up, it doesn't matter if he's in robes or plate mail.

NAVAL COMBAT: This begins with a list of the various ship types, along with their speed when rowing and when sailing. Rowing incurs fatigue, so it can only be kept up for so long. There is a mention of Vikings here, which I take to mean Viking-equivalent sailors. While I doubt that there are genuine Vikings in the World of Greyhawk, I'd bet my house there are some Viking analogues in there somewhere. A quick check of the map shows Frost and Ice Barbarians in the far north, so it's probably them. Changing speed is also difficult when rowing, and it can only be done in increments (with a chart, naturally!).

The rules for sailing are next, and they even include random determination of wind direction.

I think my favourite section of these rules, though is ramming - I can't wait to have pirates ram a ship that the PCs are on. Shearing oars off is similarly cool - a ship passes alongside another and breaks all of its oars, killing a whole bunch of the rowers at the same time.

There are rules for grappling and boarding, and some combat notes as well. It's mostly as normal, but leaders have something called Command Control, which is the range at which they can issue orders to their troops.

And now we come to a genuinely important rule - swimming! This is something applicable to regular adventuring as well as naval combat. There's a lovely chart for determining the chance for an armored PC to drown - Plate Armor is 100%, which is a bit of a wakeup call to the tank who refuses to take it off. And just as an example of how arbitrary OD&D can be - there's no list of two-handed weapons, but there is a list of bouyant ones. We finish up with a list of typical crew numbers for each type of ship, and that's covered fighting over land, sea and air in just a couple of pages.

UNDERWATER MONSTERS: The naval section concludes with some suggestions for monsters - many of them not listed in Vol. II, which I find a bit odd.

Mermen are given the power to grapple ships better than anyone else.

Nixies are clarified as only operating in fresh water, and a lot of them are required to grapple a ship.

Dragon Turtles! This is a strong underwater monster that can swim under ships and lift them on its back, as well as breathing a cloud of steam with damage as a dragon. They're otherwise like Dragons, but can't fly. This is a distinctly D&D monster, and I remember that for some reason my friends and I went through a phase of thinking these things were the coolest monster ever.

Giant Leeches live in swamps and drain blood when they hit - mechanically it works like level drain, so look out for them.

Crocodiles and Giant Crocodiles live in swamps and warm rivers, do lots of damage with a bite, and can overturn small boats. Best of all, they can be rammed by ships!

Giant Snakes: Just when you think a fantasy staple hasn't made it in, it'll be found lurking in some obscure part of the rules. They attack as Purple Worms (!) and can wrap themselves around ships, which is cool.

Giant Octopi and Squids: Tentacles and squirting oil, you know the drill. Each arm gets an attack, too, so these things are deadly.

Giant Crabs: They can't swim, so they are usually only met on beaches. Pincers give them two attacks a round.

Giant Fish: Fast and seemingly hostile, as they attack swimmers, small craft, or other monsters. Some are big enough to ram ships.

There's a note that ships might sail off the edge of the world, so until further notice my World of Greyhawk is flat.

HEALING: Boy, they left this one late! It's noted that levels drained by undead can't be healed, and the levels regained only through earning more XP - harsh, but it makes undead more fearsome. The regular healing rules are probably familiar - you regain no hit points on the first day of rest, and 1 per day thereafter. That feels reasonable to me, and most characters will have the benefit of a Cleric or magic item anyhow.

TIME: The importance of keeping time is stressed, especially for DMs running multiple groups in the same area. A dungeon expedition takes 1 week (I suppose when all the planning goes into effect), wilderness adventures at a rate of 1 move per day, and when players are not adventuring (say, between game sessions) time passes for them at the same rate as for us.

And that's that, besides an afterword and a poorly disguised tracing of Nick Fury. I'm through the original D&D boxed set. All that remains is to go through some of the illustrations to see what can be gleaned from them.

I have noted that there are Witches in the World of Greyhawk. Though some are the stereotypical old hags, there are also beautiful witches as well, as shown in the picture in Vol. 1. Where they stand on the alignment scale is as yet indetermined.

As also shown on the same page, there must also be an Amazonian race or group, with a traditional dress that includes nothing but boots and a loincolth of some kind. God bless the 70s.

Elves in this time have beards! This is obviously not true in later editions, so I need to come up with an explanation here. I'm toying with the idea of Elves as a race on the wane - they're significantly less powerful than they once were. Part of that waning is that they can now grow facial hair - an innate loss of elfiness! In later editions they get a bit more powerful again, and will lose their ability to grow beards.

The Gnoll illustration shows a basic goblinoid figure, rather than the hyena-man we are used to. The face is kind of obscured by shadow, though... Close enough says I.

There's a shadowy winged picture that looks like a gargoyle, but there's already a Gargoyle illustration elsewhere. This must be a Balrog, which means that there's no wing debate so far as D&D Balrogs go.

Ooh, a spooky, hairy face! This is a mystery of some kind, but I'll probably attach it to something in Castle Greyhawk. I'm sure there'll be something in there with a demonic face attached.

The Basilisk only has four legs, as opposed to the six of later D&D. But such variation in Chaotic creatures shouldn't be uncommon.

There's a picture of a Nazgul with an awesome Musketeer hat riding a horse. I've already associated this with Spectres, so I guess some versions of that monster ride a horse when above-ground. Indeed, Wraiths in Chainmail are noted on the Reference Table as being mounted.

Other than those the illustrations match my expectations, as drummed into me by later versions of the game. Tomorrow will be an extra-long round-up, showing the state of the campaign to this point.

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