Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Chainmail Part 3

This will be the last day so far as Chainmail is concerned - and with that out of the way I can get into D&D proper.

Magic Weapons: Chainmail deals only with enchanted arrows and swords. Magic Arrows aren't particularly interesting, simply giving the standard ability to kill things better. Magical Swords are much the same, except for one line - "these weapons are almost entities in themselves." This is expanded in OD&D, in which every single magic sword is intelligent. I have some ideas for that, but I'll save them for when I'm covering D&D later.

The next few sections I will gloss over - air movement, catapults vs. fantastic figures, and combination figures (those combining wizard abilities with Hero abilities, the example given being Elric of Melnibone - I have an audacious plan for getting him into the campaign to be explained later!). There are more rules for Sieges, in which we learn that Dwarves dig fast (no surprise) and so do Orcs (ok, didn't see that one coming).

Alignment: Chainmail uses the threefold alignment system of Law, Neutrality, and Chaos, but it's just a general guide to figure out what side most creature types will fight on, not a guide to their morals and behavior. There are no surprises here, with all of the creatures lining up where D&D fans would expect them to. The major point of interest is that Magic Weapons are listed under Law only. It seems especially odd given that they were just discussing Elric a paragraph earlier, who wields what is probably the most iconic Chaotic sword of all! I'm taking this as a general rule that only the forces of Law have reliable means of arming their warriors with magical arms on a large scale - probably via the Elves.

Spells: Finally, I need to check back in on the spells for the Wizard. The first edition of Chainmail features the following: Darkness (complexity 1), Wizard Light (1), Detection (2), Phantasmal Forces (2), Concealment (3), and Conjuration of an Elemental (5). In D&D terms, these map to the following: Wizard Light = Light, Darkness = the reverse of Light, Detection seems to be a combination of Detect Invisible and Detect Magic, Phantasmal Forces is the same as in D&D, Concealment = Invisibility 10' Radius, and Conjuration of an Elemental becomes the much snappier Conjure Elemental. Their levels in D&D correspond exactly to the complexity levels in Chainmail, which is awesome.

In terms of effect, Darkness covers a far greater area, and as mentioned above Detection combines two D&D spells into one. Once again, it's those ever-handy Battle Mages and their special training to my rescue.

The second edition of Chainmail adds the following spells: Protection from Evil (3) and Moving Terrain (6). D&D has the first as Protection From Evil 10' Radius, and Moving Terrain as Move Earth, both at the same spell level and comparable effect.

That takes us up to the point before D&D was released. The third edition of Chainmail wasn't out until after D&D, and so the following spells won't be available in mass combat right at the beginning.

The third edition of Chainmail adds the following spells: Levitate (2), Haste (3), Slowness (3), Confusion (4), Hallucinatory Terrain (4), Polymorph (4), Cloudkill (5) and Anti-Magic Shell (6). All are in D&D at the same spell level and with the same name, with the exception of Polymorph which becomes Polymorph Self. Again there a few instances where the Chainmail spell is more powerful than its D&D counterpart, but those Battle Mages sure do know what they're doing.

That's it for Chainmail. In an effort to actually get my players involved in a few games of it, I plan for some nations to start advertising for mercenaries once the PCs hit 4th level or so (i.e. the Fighting Men become Heroes). If they take the bait, they get to play through a Chainmail scenario with their PCs as special characters, probably in some battle against the forces of Iuz.

Tomorrow, we begin with actual Dungeons & Dragons content. The original D&D boxed set gets the treatment, starting with Book 1: Men and Magic.

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