Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: OD&D Round-Up

This post details how the campaign looks at the moment, after close scrutiny of the OD&D boxed set and Chainmail. Much of the stuff here is extrapolated from offhand comments in the rules. The only thing that has been completely made up by me is the Adventurers' Guild. If you see something and wonder where I got it from, feel free to ask, because I've got the answers.

Be warned, though - this is a lengthy one.


The rules used will be straight from OD&D, the original three booklet set from 1974, with modifications from Chainmail. There are several things that are open to interpretation in these rules, and they are listed below:

Player characters reroll their hit points at the beginning of every session - some days they feel great, and other days awful.

Elves must pick what class they will play as at the start of every session, and abide by all the rules pertaining to that class. The only exception is that they can wear magic armor and still function as Magic-users.

The 'system shock' roll applies not only to the usual things such as resurrection and polymorph, but also to being paralyzed - there's a chance that such a trauma might stop the heart of weaker characters.

In addition, the following rules will be imported from Chainmail:

Turn Sequence
Movement Rules
Terrain Effects
Fatigue (but only for the first session in the campaign, until the characters become used to adventuring)
Specific Missile Fire rules
Catapults and cannons
Random Weather
First Strike rules for melee
Mounted Combat
Special abilities for Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits and other monsters
Special Abilities for Heroes and Superheroes, and Wizards. Mostly this involves various bonuses to morale.


The World of Greyhawk is currently at a level of society and technology equivalent to the Middle Ages of Earth. It consists mainly of the Great Kingdom. In a bog nearby is the weird enclave of Blackmoor, lying between the Great Kingdom and the fearsome Egg of Coot. The City of Blackmoor is a small village, a one-horse town. The City of Greyhawk is much larger, and detailed further below.

The world is flat, and ships can sail off the edge. The wilderness is generally an unexplored land dotted with cities and castles. These castles may be inhabited by any number of creatures fell or fair, but are most always ruled by some powerful character. Somewhere in the world there is a primordial swamp filled with dinosaurs. Elsewhere there is a mountain range that is home to a number of prehistoric mammals. There is also at least one forest which is home to many magical creatures such as centaurs and unicorns.

There is a common language that is known and spoken by most humans throughout the continent. Every other race that can speak also has its own language, and 20% of them can also speak the common tongue. In addition to this there are alignment tongues, special languages that were passed down to mortals by the primal forces of the universe. A creature aligned with Law that is able to speak will possess inherent knowledge of this language, and the same is true for each of the other alignments. The alignment tongues are now mostly reserved for ritual and prayer, but they are also frequently used by secret cabals and sects, and religious extremists who would never sully their tongues with less divine speech.

An ancient civilization once spanned the continent. They are known to have embalmed their dead, and that is why mummies are so prevalent in dungeons the world over. Their language was once used to categorize monsters in a semi-scientific manner. That language survives in the name of the Red Dragon: Draco Conflagratio, or Draco Horribilis. It may also be the same language that gave us Chimera as a category of monster.

There is a group known as Rangers, descended from an ancient line of kings, who patrol the borders of civilization and protect it from evil monsters.

There are also Witches in the world. If a male character is captured by one, he will either be turned into a pig or kept as her lover, depending upon his Charisma. Some are ugly hags, and others are beautiful.

Somewhere in the world is a society of Amazon warriors whose traditional battle dress is little more than boots and a loincloth.

There is a thriving slave trade, fuelled by Bandits, Pirates, and others of their ilk.

Electrum is a valuable metal, but its exact value depends upon who you are dealing with. Most value it at half the price of gold, but there are others who believe it is sacred, and give the metal double gold's value.


The City of Greyhawk is large, with bazaars, inns, taverns, shops, temples, and a risky Thieves Quarter.

There is an Adventurer's Guild in the city, and this is the only place where the PCs may receive training. There are three sub-guilds that unite to form this organization: the Guild of Fighting-Men, the Guild of Magic-Users, and the Guild of Clerics. The Guild Elders claim that they are incapable of training demi-humans to the same level as humans, but there is a widespread belief that this is just a case of prejudice - the Guild is completely ruled by humans.

The Guild bestows specific titles to those that progress through their class. For example, Fighting-Men begin as Veterans, and when they progress to the next rank they become Swordsmen. Each of the classes has a unique progression of titles.

Beneath the Guild is a strange circular portal, surrounded by hundreds of empty slots. Each slot corresponds to a certain key, and when each is activated the portal has a different destination. Some of these destinations include Mars and Blackmoor, but the keys are all lost besides one or two.

The guild also runs a service whereby adventurers can name a beneficiary of their wealth and items, often a relative. The guild charges a fee of 10% of the goods transferred.

The following Guilds and occupations also operate in the city: Alchemists, Blacksmiths (including Armorers), Assassins, Animal Trainers, Engineers, Sages, Seamen (including Ship Captains), Spies and Men-at-Arms.

There is plenty of untamed wilderness near the city, and a large portion of it resembles the board from Outdoor Survival. This wilderness is ripe for conquest by the PCs, who may use it to build their own castles, but many areas have already been claimed by NPCs with castles of their own.

The lands around are lawless, and so the various humanoid types, especially Orcs, Ogres and Giants, are especially effective when they launch raids, possessing great hoards of treasure.


Castle Greyhawk is a huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by a mad wizard who is also an insane genius.

The dungeon beneath has over a dozen levels in succession downwards, with more than that branching off at various points. At least two levels are under construction at any time. Included within the dungeons are a museum from another age, an underground lake, a series of caverns filled with giant fungi, a bowling alley for 20' tall giants, an arena of evil and some crypts. In addition the tunnels often change their configuration from one visit to the next, and there are various teleporters and strange corridors that make mapping the place very difficult.

The castle and dungeon itself seems to hinder the PCs; monsters inside can always see in the dark, but the PCs and their allies cannot. In addition, doors that are always stuck for PCs, and always swing closed on them, open easily for monsters.

There's something down in the dungeons with a demonic bearded face on it.


Somewhere in a dungeon near Greyhawk there is a special iron golem that can only be killed by the very weapons that it guards. It has a fiery breath, a poison sword, and a whip of cockatrice feathers that can turn its victims to stone. Though many tales about it have been told, its location is unknown to most.

There is another dungeon near the City of Greyhawk. It has ten levels, and is six levels deep (as can be seen in the cross-section in D&D Vol. 3). The bottom level is dominated by a huge cavern. One of the 5th levels will include the sample dungeon level from Vol. 3. Level 1 will feature details from the sample of play in Vol. 3, notably a room with 6 gnolls guarding thousands of coins and a pair of Elven Boots.


The most common civilised races are Men, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits.

Dwarves and Gnomes share a great affinity, and may be different strains of the same species. Dwarves have a history of constant war with Goblins, and the same applies between Gnomes and Kobolds.

There are two general types of Elves that live in the world - wood elves and meadow elves. Though most Elves live on the same plane as the other races, many have retreated from the world to live in the Faerie Realm, and are known as Fairies. Elves share many of the same habitats as Orcs, Hobgoblins and Gnolls, and battle frequently with all of them. Elven warriors that remain in their homelands are all outfitted with Elven Cloaks and Boots. Those who leave to pursue a life of adventure are not openly shunned, but these traditional garments are denied them.

Elves are a race whose power is on the wane - they are a shadow of their former selves. Part of this waning means that they are now able to grow beards.

Dwarves and Elves each have their own homelands. Among humans they are referred to as "Dwarf-land" and "Elf-land".


Common Dungeon Monsters: As shown in the Monster Level Tables in Vol. 3.

Other Dungeon Monsters: These monsters are occasionally encountered in dungeons, though not very often. They are: Titans, Cyclopses, Juggernauts, Living Statues, Salamanders, Gelatinous Cubes, Golems, Giant Crabs, Giant Leeches, Giant Octopi, Crocodiles, Giant Squids, Pterodactyls, Cyborgs, Robots, Androids, Shadows and Dopplegangers. It is not known from where the Cyborgs, Robots and Androids come from.

Common Underwater Monsters: Mermen, Nixies, Dragon Turtles, Giant Leeches, Crocodiles, Giant Crocodiles, Giant Snakes, Giant Octopi, Giant Squids, Giant Crabs, Giant Fish

The following notes show how some monsters differ to what is in the rules:

Wraiths grow weaker when they venture forth from the dark demesnes; their level draining touch is reduced to that of paralysis, and this is how they act when fought in mass combat. Wights react in a similar fashion.

Zombies, regardless of whether they are encountered on the battlefield or in a dungeon, are immune to missile fire and can paralyze their opponents with a touch as cold as the grave.

The ghouls in dungeons occur naturally, though sages are as yet unsure how. Those found on the battlefield are created and strengthened with dark magic, and are immune to missile fire.

Spectres are also occasionally referred to as 'Nazgul', though the origin of this term is shrouded in mystery.

Trolls and Ogres are believed by sages to be a related species, though there is little evidence to support this supposition.

The dragons that venture forth to fight in mass combat are generally more vital than their dungeon dwelling brethren, who spend most of their days sleeping on piles of treasure. As such, they have no limit upon the number of times they can use their breath weapon. The current wave of dragons being encountered are the youngest generations, which age more quickly than did their ancestors, and are much less potent. Rumours persist that the ancient dragons yet live, slumbering in the bowels of the earth, and that they will awaken one day soon.

The Purple Worm is often called the Purple or Mottled Dragon. It is believed to be the result of a dragon that has no treasure hoard to sleep upon. They lurk everywhere, just below the surface of the earth.

Each type of Elemental can only be summoned once per day. This is a magical precaution against incursions from the elemental planes; the elemental summoning spell seals the plane behind the summoned elemental, and such is the strength of that seal that it cannot be opened again until the next day. Magic-Users are working to weaken it, but with little success so far.

The word Chimera was once used as a group name for strange monsters made up from parts of others - Manticores, Wyverns, etc. Eventually the creatures were given individual names, but the name Chimera stuck with the beast with three heads (lion, goat and dragon).

Every Goblin tribe has a King, who claims to be the one true king of the goblin race.

As strange as it may seem, the sorcerous interbreeding of Gnomes and Trolls resulted in the hyena-headed race known as Gnolls. Sages are still baffled.

Though Lycanthropy is a curse that can be passed to many humanoids, the various types of were-creatures are each a race unto themselves. How they feel about their cursed brethren is as yet undetermined.

Efreet reside in the fabled City of Brass.

Orcs are so common that they are freely available to hire as foot soldiers in large numbers.

Different kinds of Men can be found in any habitat. The same goes for all of the evil humanoids, including Trolls and Giants, as well as Demi-Humans and Ents.

Most cities in Greyhawk are built on the foundations of ancient ruins and graveyards, and as such encounters with undead may happen in certain city areas.

The presence of Cavemen suggests that the Men of Greyhawk evolved along similar lines to those of Earth.


The Adventurers Guild supplies all of its students with spellbooks. They receive one per spell level, and each book contains all of the spells commonly in use. Magic-Users receive books full of magic spells, and Clerics receive Prayer Books with the sacred forms and rituals required to contact the forces of Law and Chaos. The only spells commonly available are those listed in Vol. 1 of the OD&D boxed set.

The only Magic Items that have so far been regularly discovered are those listed in Vol. 2 of the OD&D boxed set.

All Magic Swords possess some form of intelligence. In ancient times they were bound with the spirits of the living, and to this day they retain some sort of sentience. Some of these swords have minds that are slowly dying, while others are as vital as ever.

The following Artifacts are known to be somewhere in the vicinity of the City of Greyhawk: a Teleportation Machine (the portal beneath the Adventurers Guild); a Crown, Orb and Sceptre for each of the three classes (Fighting-Man, Magic-User and Cleric); and the Stone Crystalization Projector. The Crowns, Orbs and Sceptres were once held by the most powerful guild members of each class, but the Guild has dwindled of late, and these items were stolen by a thief and lost within the depths of Castle Greyhawk. The Stone Crystalization Projector fires a ray that will turn anyone it hits to stone (with no saving throw), but its whereabouts are unknown.


Xylarthen would have been better suited as a Cleric, but became a Magic-User instead. He is a member of the Guild, and may be available for the PCs to adventure with.

His statistics are: Strength 6, Intelligence 11, Wisdom 13, Constitution 12, Dexterity 9, Charisma 8. He has 70 gold pieces and 0 experience points.


Law and Chaos are the fundamental forces of reality, and most creatures are aligned with one or the other. Some are neutral, not caring which side wins the cosmic struggle.

Clerics do not serve specific deities, but devote themselves to either Law or Chaos. The cross is a potent symbol of Law used by its devotees.

Many Magic-Users believe that there are no great forces of Law or Chaos, and that Clerics have merely found some other method of tapping into the same arcane energies that they themselves use. Clerics grow heated at this suggestion, and as such there is a great rivalry between the Clerics' Guild and the Magic-Users' Guild, to the point where someone of one class will not be permitted to switch to the other.

On a similar note, the Guild of Sages is highly protective of the niche occupied by its members, and resents that Clerics and Magic-Users often encroach on that territory - especially as their divinations are usually more reliable. As such its members do not hire out to these classes.


There is a spell that Magic-Users can cast to obtain knowledge from beings on "higher planes". There are 8 planes so far accessible through this spell, numbered 3 to 10 (the first plane being the material, and the second the Astral). These planes are levels of Hell, and it is demons who answer the questions - the higher the plane contacted the more likely the answer will be correct, but the higher the chance that the caster will be driven insane by contact with things man was never meant to know.

Clerics can similarly contact "powers above" for answers - these are the Gods, Demi-gods, Demons and Devils, powerful forces of Law and Chaos.

There are realms of the dead, but very few have been delved with magic - only those of Men, Dwarves and Elves are so accessible, and thus only these races can be brought back via the Raise Dead spell. The Hobbit realm of the dead is as yet unknown.

There is an extraplanar "non-dimension" which is where Invisible Stalkers are summoned from.

Travel to Mars has been documented, though the means to do so is as yet unknown. It is believed that the portal beneath the Adventurers' Guild in Greyhawk may provide such a journey if the correct key is found. The following monsters are said to reside there: Apts, Banths, Thoats, Red Martians, Tharks, Black Martians, Yellow Martians, White Martians, Calots, White Apes, Orluks, Sith, and Darseen.


Once the player characters reach 4th level they will start to get offers to hire themselves out as mercenaries. Should they accept such an offer, the game session for that night will be a Chainmail scenario with their own characters as special troops.

Common Battlefield Monsters: Sprites and Pixies, Dwarves and Gnomes, Goblins and Kobolds, Hobgoblins, Elves (also include Fairies), Orcs, Heroes, Anti-Heroes, Rangers, Super-Heroes, Wizards, Wraiths, Werebears, Werewolves, Trolls, Ogres, Giants (probably Hill Giants), Ents, Red Dragons, Rocs, Wyverns, Griffons, Elemental (Water, Air, Earth and Fire), Djinn, Efreet, Basilisk, Cockatrice, Chimera, Giant Insects, Giant Spiders, Giant Wolves, Dire Wolves, Wights and Ghouls, Zombies, Balrogs

The following monsters are found on battlefields, but only very occasionally: Blue Dragons, White Dragons, Green Dragons, Black Dragons, Purple Worms, Hobbits

The Wizards found on battlefields are usually specialised Battle Mages. They can wield swords, and their magic is often more potent, though it takes longer to cast and cannot be used in regular adventuring situations. They are also able to attempt magic more powerful than their level would allow, though at some risk.

The following battlefield spells are available at the beginning of the campaign: Phantasmal Forces, Darkness, Wizard Light, Detection, Concealment, Conjuration of an Elemental. The second time the PCs get involved in mass combat, Moving Terrain and Protection From Evil will become available. The third time they become involved, the following spells will be there: Levitate, Slowness, Haste, Polymorph, Confusion, Hallucinatory Terrain, Cloudkill, and Anti-Magic Shell.

The armies of Law are often armed with Magic Swords crafted by the Elves. The armies of Chaos have no such means to produce these weapons on a large scale.

The Arquebus and the Horsebow are weapons that are generally only available in armies and mass copmbat situations. The scarcity of gunpowder guarantees that Arquebus's are difficult to obtain, and Horsebows are mostly used by Horse Nomads and so aren't in circulation in the City of Greyhawk and the surrounding lands.

* * *

And that's that. There's a wealth of detail there, and I'm sure much of what I have extrapolated will be contradicted later on - but it's a pretty solid foundation for a campaign, I feel. Tomorrow I'll be dealing with the first issue of The Strategic Review.


  1. Wow. You can have all kinds of fun with that lot - there's a lot of stuff to run into, equipment to play around with and there's enough setting specific stuff to tweak.

    And I never knew about trolls and gnomes making gnolls! Still it's not a pretty picture any way you cut it.

  2. Yeah, I'm constantly surprised by just how much foundational stuff was in the original game.

  3. Adventurer's guild - makes me think of the Bards Tale ;-)