Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Dragon #8 part 1

After last issue's dearth of usable articles, it's back to business as usual. The Dragon #8 has a bunch of useful ones, including one on the Outer Planes that introduces a lot of D&D lore. But first, the articles that I'm not using.

The Dragon Rumbles editorial talks about how pleased Tim Kask is to have a story by Harry Fischer in the magazine. He also mentions that The Gnome Cache will be back next issue, but he's lying. The Finzer Family is the aforementioned story, and blimey it's long – so long that the final part is in the next issue. And So, You Want Realism in D&D is a satirical means of determining what your stats would be in real life. Using this method, my stats are very, very bad.

Planes, The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D: This article basically sets forth what will become the Great Wheel cosmology – the classic planar set-up for D&D. This will probably be the only article I tackle today, because it's a doozy.

The first thing that the article posits is that there are an infinite number of co-existing planes. While this could refer to the Inner Planes, the Outer Planes, and the many sub- and demi-planes sandwiched between them, I prefer to think that it refers to alternate realities - each alternate reality being either a published campaign setting or someone's home campaign.

The regular plane for human life is clarified as The Prime Material Plane, which includes the planet Earth (or Oerth, if you will), as well as the entire physical universe. Touching this plane are the Positive and Negative Material Planes, as well as the four elemental planes (Air, Earth, Fire and Water). The Ethereal Plane exists in the same space as the material, and can be used to travel to any of the Inner Planes (i.e. the ones that touch the material). The Astral Plane allows travel to the outer planes. It's also said to 'warp the dimension we know as length' which I don't really get. But as a mere mortal, I shouldn't understand the nature of the planes, should I?

There are sixteen Outer Planes, which are "a collection of the religious and/or philosophical goals (or anti-goals) of mankind and the other intellectual species". Classic Gygax. The Outer Planes are: The Seven Heavens, The Happy Hunting Grounds, The Twin Paradises, Olympus, Elysium, Gladsheim, Limbo, Pandemonium, The 666 Layers of the Abyss, Tarterus, Hades, Gehenna, The Nina Hells, Acheron, Nirvana, and Arcadia. This matches up perfectly with Gygax's earlier article on alignment, which has me doing the happy dance. It also gives us a bit more information, such as how many levels some of these planes have. In addition we learn that travel from the Astral Plane always places the traveller on the first level of the Plane. Also, you can apparently walk from one Plane to those adjacent to it, which I find awesome for some reason. There's not a lot of info given on the planes apart from their names, but given that most of them were drawn from mythology, it wouldn't have been too hard to flesh them out.

Where this article gets really intriguing is when it starts talking about magic weapons. Monsters that can only be harmed by a special material, like silver or cold iron, are said to exist partially in either the Positive or Negative Material Plane. Creatures that can only be hit by +1 weapons are said to exist completely in two planes at once. Those needing a +2 weapon to hit exist in three planes at once, and so on. The conclusion that is drawn from this is that magical weapons also extend into multiple planes.

The exact nature of this is explored in some pretty murky text that I'm going to try and decipher. A +1 weapon extends into planes once removed from the Prime material, a +2 weapon in those twice removed, and so on. Those with special bonuses against a certain type of creature have a more intense nature in the plane that creature has its extra existence. The article then posits the idea that every type of creature has its own sub-plane on which it has its personal existence – this is in order to explain weapons that deal extra damage to creatures that can still be hit by normal weapons. This system also allows creatures operating in the Astral or Ethereal Planes to be struck by magic weapons.

The idea is also given that magic weapons can only operate within a certain proximity to the Prime Material Plane. So a +1 weapon is only effective while you are at most one plane away from the Prime Material. Go further than that (say, into the Outer Planes) and your weapon is no longer magical. The sword of sharpness and the vorpal blade are said to have special treatment, though its not clarified what this might be – perhaps they always function regardless of what plane they're on? I'm still a bit unclear on exactly how this all works, but the beauty of it is that it doesn't really affect anything mechanically - it's just a way to explain how it all works given the existing set-up of the planes.

The article ends when Gygax drops the bombshell that this system will require him to revise the whole of D&D. It's a pretty atrange place to announce what will become AD&D, that's for sure.

As for introducing it to my campaign, I'm thinking of just dropping in a tome that has the article in it almost word for word. I'd like to see what my players will make of it all!

Next: The Dragon #8 part 2

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