Saturday, December 17, 2016

AD&D Player's Handbook part 31: 7th-Level Cleric Spells

There are ten 7th-level cleric spells in AD&D (down from the 11 that were in OD&D).  Nine of those spells were previously in OD&D: Astral Spell, Control Weather, Earthquake, Holy Word, Restoration, Symbol, Wind Walk and Resurrection (previously known as Raise Dead Fully).  Aerial Servant and Part Water were 7th-level spells in OD&D, but in AD&D have both been dropped to level 6.  The sole new spell is Regenerate (which sucks for me, because it's a lot easier to write the entries for new spells than preexisting ones).

Astral Spell: This spell allows the caster and up to five others to enter the Astral Plane, and from there to journey to the first level of any of the Outer Planes.  (It can also be used to explore the material plane.)  An astral character leaves their body behind, and is connected to it by a silver cord; if that silver cord is somehow severed, both astral and physical forms are killed.  The most common occurrence that can sever the cord is the "psychic wind" of the Astral Plane - all of this stuff was previously introduced in the rules for psionics in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, and it's cool to see it carried forward into later editions. 

This spell also plays with ideas that Gary had previously introduced in earlier articles about the Planes.  For example, only certain magic items which have a multi-planar existence can be taken along by an astral character: magic swords in particular were posited by Gary as existing in multiple planes.  The Prime Material Plane is said to contain "the entire universe and all of its parallels".  It's all consistent with the articles from The Dragon, and is expanded later in the appendix.

The major difference between the AD&D and OD&D versions of the spell is that this one actually explains what the hell it does.  In OD&D, the spell was said to "allow the user to send his astral form from his body to other places".  I suppose it was intended at that point to allow exploration without being detected, as no mention of the Planes was made (most probably because the D&D conception of the Planes had yet to be introduced).  Most of the rest of the spell description was devoted to the chance that spells cast while in astral form would fail, and result in the caster being forcibly returned to his physical body, a factor not present in AD&D.

Control Weather: A spell to control the weather, obviously, which sounds powerful on the surface.  I'm not so sure, though; as written, there are three factors that can be altered: cloud cover, temperature and wind.  The caster can change the weather one step away from the prevailing conditions.  So while the spell can't turn a heat wave into a sudden blizzard, it can lower the temperature to warm.  A light wind can be calmed, or turned into a strong wind, and so on.  For a 7th level spell, I'd expect something more dramatic.  The weather effects don't even come into play straight away: the spell takes a turn to cast, then another 1d4 turns to take effect.  That's around half an hour, give or take.  It seems weak, but I feel like I'm missing something having never seen the spell in practice.

(Also, the practical effects of these weather conditions aren't given here, or elsewhere in the PHB.  I'm all for DMs coming up with this stuff on the fly, but there should be some sort of rules framework to go on.  So far, AD&D doesn't provide that.)

The OD&D version of the spell simply gave a list of effects that the spell could achieve, with things such as Rain, Heat Wave and Tornado.  None of these effects were determined by the prevailing weather, they could just seemingly be created as the caster desired.  If anything, this version of the spell seems over-powered, and I wonder if Gary overcompensated in the other direction when updating this for AD&D.

Earthquake: Creates a sudden tremor that affects an area of 5 feet per caster level.  Everything within the area is affected: caves and tunnels collapse, buildings sustain damage, and creatures of less than Large size may be swallowed by cracks in the ground and killed instantly.  This is much more in line with what I'd expect from a spell of this level.  If anything, it's too strong: there's the potential for killing high-level characters with a single die roll that doesn't sit well with me.  Actually, it's not dying to a single die roll that bothers me, it's that the die roll is has nothing to do with the character's capabilities.  I have no problem with save-or-die effects, but that's not what this is.  This is an area effect, and every Medium-sized character in that area has a straight, unmodified 1-in-6 chance of death.  Small characters have a 1-in-4 chance of death.  I feel like any die roll that can kill or injure a character should interact with their stats on some level.

The OD&D version was similar, but didn't factor size in when determining which creatures are killed.  That spell specified creatures and left it at that, which sounds all kinds of over-powered.

Gate: The caster specifies the name of a demon or deity, and said demon or deity will step through a portal to aid the caster.  Well, something will step through: the spell always works, but there's no guarantee that the correct entity will answer the summons.  This is another spell that requires further information, presumably to come in the Dungeon Masters Guide.  (I would think Supplement IV would come in handy here as well.)

The OD&D version was broadly similar, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly how this spell differed, because the percentages of success aren't given in AD&D.  OD&D is much more specific about what kinds of entities can be summoned: it name-checks Odin, Crom, Set, Cthulhu, and the Shining One (which I'm not familiar with, but is apparently from The Moon Pool by A. Merritt).  There's something to be said for the flavour gained from specific examples, but AD&D doesn't wear its influences quite so openly as OD&D did.

Holy Word: This spell is cast by uttering a word of power.  Said word banishes evil otherplanar creatures to their home plane.  The next sentence says that "it further affects other creatures of differing alignment as follows".  I find this unclear: does it mean creatures of differing alignment to the cleric, or differing alignment to the aforementioned evil creatures?  The OD&D version of the spell seems to affect everyone regardless of alignment, so I guess it's the latter.

As for effect, it kills creatures of less than 4 Hit Dice, paralyzes creatures of 4 to 7 HD, stuns those of 8 to 11 HD, and deafens those of over 12 HD.  All this with no saving throw, I might add.  Potent stuff.  It can also be reversed as Unholy Word, which allows it to banish good otherplanar creatures.

Regenerate: This is the only new 7th-level cleric spell in AD&D.  The spell regrows lost body parts such as limbs and organs, and will even regrow heads for creatures that have more than one.  The process goes quicker if the original part is there to be reattached, but it's not a necessity.

The spell can be reversed as Wither, which is one I had forgotten about.  It requires a touch attack, and will cause the touched "member or organ" (Gary's words, not mine) to stop working and shrivel away to dust.  Once again, there's no saving throw: just as in OD&D, this seems to a standard thing for the highest level of cleric spells.

Restoration: Simply put, this is a spell to reverse level drain.  It's not a perfect restoration, as it only raises your XP to the minimum needed for the lost level, but it's better than nothing.  It can be reversed as energy drain, which replicates the level-draining capabilities of a wight.

The OD&D version of the spell was similar, but it didn't mention any rules for restoring lost XP.  It also had a cost in that the caster would be incapacitated for 2-20 days, and it was specifically stated that this made it difficult to find NPC clerics willing to cast it.  (Gary giveth, and Gary taketh also.)  That penalty seems to have been taken out in AD&D, but it's added a restriction not present in OD&D: a requirement that the spell be cast within a certain amount of time to be effective.

Resurrection: This spell was formerly known as Raise Dead Fully, and the new name is a vast improvement.  As before it's a spell to restore the dead to life, but unlike Raise Dead it also restores the target to full hit points.  This spell refers back to Raise Dead for limitations on what types of creatures can be brought back, so it look as though elves are still out of luck.  The caster must have a day of complete rest for every level of the creature resurrected.

The reverse of the spell is Destruction, which requires a touch attack and instantly turns the victim to dust.  No saving throw, again.  High-level clerics are a nightmare.

The OD&D version of the spell functioned much the same way, but no mention was made of the cleric having to rest after, and there was no explicit time limit on who could be raised (AD&D gives a limit of 10 years per caster level, which is plenty generous).

Symbol: The cleric inscribes a symbol in the air or on a surface.  There are three symbols to choose from: hopelessness, which causes enemies to flee or surrender; pain, which penalises attack rolls and Dexterity; and persuasion, which alters the alignment of foes and makes them friendly to the caster.  So far, this is the only 7th-level spell that allows the victim a saving throw.

The OD&D spell was similar, but had double the number of symbols to choose from.  None of these symbols match the ones in AD&D, so the AD&D version is effectively an entirely new spell.

Wind Walk: This spell turns the caster (and others, depending on caster level) into a gaseous cloud that is blown around by a magical wind.  It's good for escaping, scouting, and other stealthy activities, but it does seem a touch under-powered for its level.

The OD&D version was much the same, but the magic wind propelled characters a little more slowly.  It also had a maximum limit of one passenger, whereas in AD&D the caster is able to take more allies at higher levels.

And that's it for cleric spells in AD&D.  There wasn't much in the way of new lore, or tidbits to be picked up on, but what I'm finding with AD&D is that it's less about introducing new elements and more about consolidating what was already out there.  Next up is the druid spell list, which ought to go by a bit more quickly, and then the magic-user spell list, which is going to be a slog.  There's definitely more in the way of interesting bits and bobs to glean, though, so it'll be worth going through.

Monday, November 28, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 30: 6th-Level Cleric Spells

There are ten 6th-level spells in AD&D, up from the six that were in OD&D.  Blade Barrier, Conjure Animals, Find the Path, Speak With Monsters and Word of Recall were all in OD&D as 6th-level spells.  Animate Object was in OD&D as well, but named as Animate ObjectsAerial Servant and Part Water were there as 7th-level spells.  The only brand-new spells here are Heal and Stone Tell.

Aerial Servant: Summons an aerial servant that can be sent to retrieve an object or creature.  This spell description notes that there are consequences for the caster if the aerial servant is prevented from completing its mission; those aren't detailed here, but the creature's description in the Monster Manual says that it goes berserk and returns to kill the caster.  The cleric also requires some sort of magic protective circle to summon an aerial servant in safety, and as I recall these are detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide.  (The cleric's religious symbol is also said to be viable protection, which seems a little too easy for my liking.  How often is a cleric not going to have that on their person?)

A strength of at least 18 is required to resist being carried off by the Aerial Servant.  The percentage chance of resistance is based on percentile Strength, which implies that only Fighters/Paladins/Rangers (and only exceptional ones at that) have a chance of escaping.

Aerial Servants gain a whopping four rounds of surprise against foes who can't see invisibility, and I'm pretty sure that this is the first indication that multiple surprise rounds are possible in AD&D.

Otherwise it's pretty much the same spell as in OD&D, only dropped a level.

Animate Object: Brings inanimate objects within the target area to life, and compels them to attack a target specified by the caster.  The exact spell effect is vague: movement, attacks, damage, weaknesses, etc. are all left to the discretion of the DM, with a few examples given for the sake of comparison.  It seems like a potentially good spell, but the ability to create a lot of relatively weak opponents isn't going to be much help when fighting more powerful monsters.

The spell in OD&D is similarly nebulous.  The only concrete change is the duration (which goes from a flat 6 turns to 1 round/level), range (it's halved from 6" to 3"), and the area of effect.  In OD&D, the spell affects a set number of objects based on their size; in AD&D, it affects an area of 1 cubic foot/level, presumably being able to bring to life any objects within that area.  It's not entirely clear.

Blade Barrier: Sets up a barrier of whirling blades that deal 8d8 damage to any creature that tries to pass through.  The barrier can cover an area as small as 5' square, or as large as 2" square.  (Note the inconsistent use of the measurement symbols here; 5' obviously means five actual feet, whereas 2" is the game notation for 20 feet.  Gary had a knack for making things needlessly confusing.)

To make things even more confusing, the maximum area of effect is said to be 20'x20' when underground, and 60'x60' outdoors.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the conversion of feet into yards when outdoors only apply to range?  I was sure it's not applied to area, but this example seems to indicate that it is.  (I just double-checked it, and I was correct.  It's so important that Gary yells about it in ALL CAPS.  So either this spell is wrong, or a special exception to the rule.)

This spell has some small differences between the AD&D and OD&D versions.  The damage in OD&D is 7d10 rather than 8d8.  The area of effect was up to 3" in diameter (seemingly creating a circular barrier rather than a square one).  The range in OD&D was 6", but in AD&D it's been halved to 3".  The duration was a flat 12 rounds, but in AD&D that's been changed to 3 rounds/level.

Conjure Animals: This spell summons a number of mammals whose Hit Dice add up to the caster's level.  A 12th-level caster, for example, could summon one 12 HD mammal, or two of 6 HD, or any other such combination.  The animals summoned attack the caster's enemies.

The spell is specifically worded to say that it summons mammals.  So insects, lizards, birds, and fish are out.  Technically, this spell should be able to summon humans, and a bunch of other monsters.  What constitutes a mammal can get pretty nebulous once you start delving into the Monster Manual, but I'd limit it to mammals found in the real world.

The OD&D version of the spell allowed the summoning of one large animal (like an elephant), three of medium size (bear-sized), or six small ones (wolf-sized).  The animals obey the cleric, rather than being restricted to attacking.  So while the spell has become more powerful, it's now less flexible.

Find the Path: For the duration of the spell, the cleric will always take the correct path to reach his intended destination.  It works outdoors and underground, and can even free the caster from a maze spell.  The spell can be reversed as lose the path, causing the target (who must be touched) to always take the wrong path (it can be led by others, though).

The main difference between the OD&D and AD&D versions of the spell is the duration.  In OD&D it lasted 6 turns + the caster's level, and would last a full day when outdoors.  AD&D has seriously nerfed that, having a duration of just 1 turn/level.

Heal: Making its debut here is possibly the best healing spell in the entire game.  It restores the target to within 1d4 of their maximum hit points, and completely cures disease, blindness and the feeblemind spell.  That's potent, but perhaps not so potent as harm, the reversed version of the spell, which drains the target and leaves it with 1d4 hit points remaining.  Harm requires a successful touch attack, but there's no saving throw, so it's definitely worth a shot against a tough enemy.  I feel like this spell should have some sort of exotic material component to curtail its use, but there isn't one.  It's a bit overpowered, innit?

Part Water:  Creates a tunnel through a body of water, the size of which depends on the caster's level.  The OD&D version of the spell had a fixed area for most characters, with only clerics of over 17th level being able to part a greater area of water.

Speak With Monsters: Allows the caster to speak with any creature capable of communication within the spell's area.  The OD&D version of the spell had a duration of "3-12 questions", whereas AD&D gives it as 1 round/level, allowing whatever conversation can fit into that time (provided the creatures want to talk).

Stone Tell: This spell is appearing here for the first time.  When cast on an area of stone, that stone will speak to the caster.  The stone can give information about what has touched it, or what is concealed behind it (if anything).  A drop of mercury and a bit of clay are required.  Obviously this one's good for finding secret doors, or tracking.  It has interesting implications regarding the sentience of inanimate objects, as well.  Does everything in the D&D world have some level of awareness, and life?

Word of Recall: Instantly transports the cleric back to a predesignated sanctuary, with no chance of teleport failure.  The higher-level a cleric is, the more stuff they can take with them (including living creatures) Basically, it's a one-way escape route for the cleric, and perhaps some of their friends.  The example given is that a 15th level cleric can take 375 pounds with them, so unless you have a really small party and minimal gear there's no way to save everyone.

The OD&D version of the spell did not allow for other people to be transported (and didn't indicate whether equipment was allowed either, which I imagine led to some heated player/DM arguments.)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The El Raja Key DVD Archive Is Out And I Must Eat My Words

A few weeks ago, I posted about the imminent release of Rob Kuntz's El Raja Key DVD Archive.  It's an exciting product, featuring 1,000+ files full of Rob's maps, notes, and other materials from the games he ran in the 1970s.  I'd intended that post to drum up some support for Rob's work, but in the process I made some unfounded comments about 'Rob's lack of timeliness'.  Those comments, intended in the spirit of good humour though they were, were out of line.  Rob's extensive body of work speaks for itself, and I - who don't know him personally or professionally (and can barely even run a timely blog, let's face it) - have no place taking cracks at the man.  I hope he can accept my apology, and we can move on from this.

In this instance I'm quite happy to admit that I was wrong, because the Archive is out!  Right now!  If you want to check it out, head over to and take a look.  I honestly haven't been this interested in a new RPG-related product in years (perhaps since Castle Zagyg).  I'll admit it, I'm a mark for any material from D&D's earliest days, so I was always on the hook for this one.  I have to admit - and I only have screenshots to go on - it looks even better than I was expecting.  (That's not a slight: my expectations were pretty high at the outset.)  The interface has a cool retro look, and the sample images that can be found on the blog ( look great.  This is what I wanted from Castle Zagyg - the notes and maps as they were, untouched, and apparently with loads of historical commentary.

Unfortunately for me, it's that hellish nightmare time of the year, the time for creeping dread and unknown horrors.  No, not Halloween, I mean Christmas.  As usual money is tight this time of year, so I must endure the agonising wait to order the Archive until January.  I'll most probably do a follow-up post after that, giving my thoughts on the Archive, at least as an overview (something tells me it'll take more than a couple of weeks to really dig in to it).  I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 29: 5th-level Cleric Spells

AD&D provides ten 5th-level spells for clerics, up from the six that were in OD&D.  Carrying over from the previous edition we have commune, dispel evil, insect plague, quest and raise deadCreate food was a 5th-level spell in OD&D, but in AD&D got shifted down to 3rd level.  Atonement, cure critical wounds, flame strike, plane shift and true seeing are all-new.

Atonement: This spell, new in AD&D, grants atonement to any character for deeds done against their will, i.e. when under mind-control or some other outside influence.  It doesn't work on deeds done deliberately, or those that the character has no remorse for.  It also removes the effects of magical alignment change.  It's a niche spell, but very useful when said niche must be filled, especially for paladins and clerics.  (I guess this is confirmation that the gods - or whatever entities or forces govern the universe - recognise the difference between acts done unwillingly, and those done willingly, and that they value repentance.)

Commune: The cleric contacts their deity, or the deity's agents, and can ask a number of "yes or no" questions that are always answered correctly.  The DM is encouraged to put a limit on the amount this spell can be used, as the gods get annoyed with this sort of thing (probably given concrete rules in the Dungeon Masters Guide).

The implication of this spell is that all of the gods are all-knowing; how else would they have the answers to any possible question a cleric might ask?  I'm not a fan of this, as I prefer the gods to be more fallible than that, as they often are in mythological tales.

In OD&D, clerics casting this spell were allowed three questions, but here that number is now one per caster level.  In OD&D, the spell was limited to one use per week, as opposed to AD&D's nebulous guidelines.  It also had a special "one time a year" casting that allowed double the normal number of questions, which has been cut out of the AD&D version completely.

Cure Critical Wounds: The next step up in the healing spell hierarchy, this spell heals 3d8+3 hit points.  It can also be reversed to cause damage.  I'm surprised that this is debuting so late; OD&D was really lacking in high-end healing spells.

Dispel Evil: Causes any evil summoned creature to return to its home plane, or place of origin.  It lasts for 1 round per level, and is delivered with  touch, so I wonder if multiple creatures can be so dispelled?  While it's in effect, evil summoned creatures suffer a -7 penalty to hit the caster.

It also says that it works on "monsters enchanted and caused to perform evil deeds".  Does that mean characters that have been charmed?  I'm not sure how that would work.  I can understand applying the to-hit penalty, but should they be banished to their home plane?  What if they're from the Prime Material?  Would the spell banish a possessing entity, or dispel the charm?  It's all a bit vague.

The OD&D version of the spell was a higher-level version of dispel magic, that worked on any "evil sending or spell".  In effect, it reads to me like a completely different spell.  Oh yeah, it was originally written as dispell evil, but Gary learned some grammar and spelling between editions.

Flame Strike: A very rare damage-dealing cleric spell makes its debut here.  It creates a column of flame that deals 6d8 damage (save for half).  Doesn't get much more basic than that, does it?

Insect Plague: Creates a swarm of insects that obscures vision and deals 1 point of damage per round to anyone within the area.  It also causes all creatures of less than 5 Hit Dice to check morale or flee, while those of less than 2 Hit Dice flee automatically.  Mostly the spell seems useful for frustrating spellcasters and dispersing low-level opponents.  Smoke will drive insects away, and most area damage spells will temporarily clear a space.

The OD&D version of the spell was very different.  Firstly, the caster could direct the insects, whereas in AD&D the spell is stationary.  The OD&D spell had an area of 36 square inches, while AD&D gives it a 36" diameter.  The spell didn't deal any damage in OD&D, but it automatically routed creatures of 3 Hit Dice (while seemingly having no effect on those higher).  AD&D dropped the range from 48" to 36".  Lastly, in OD&D the spell could only be used above ground, which might be the biggest difference of all.

Plane Shift: This spell can be used to transport the caster and up to seven others (or maybe six, it's not super-clear) to another plane of existence.  The material component is a forked metal rod, with the size and type of metal determining which plane is reached.  (This is another thing I expect to be explained in the DMG.)  It can be used as an offensive spell as well, if you feel like sending your enemies to Hell or something.

Quest: Ah, quest, the favoured tool of tyrannical DMs everywhere.  The victim of this spell is forced to undertake some task for the cleric, and for every day that they avoid the task they suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to all saving throws.  I've never seen this one used by PCs, as in my experience players like to do important tasks themselves.  As alluded to above, I've mostly seen it used by DMs to force players into an adventure.  If you said that the game would be better off without this spell, I wouldn't disagree with you.
  The major difference between this and the OD&D version of the spell is that OD&D clerics could curse those who avoid the quest with pretty much anything they wanted.  Sometimes OD&D went a little too far in leaving things to the DM.

Raise Dead: Can raise the following creatures from the dead: dwarves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings and humans.  Not monsters, not animals, and most notably not elves and half-orcs.  No explanation is given here for why those races can't be raised; I'm pretty sure that later on it's explained that they have no souls, but at this point it's a mystery.
  The spell can also be reversed as slay living.  (I've never considered this before, but elves and half-orcs should be immune to the reversed spell as well.)  Good clerics are warned against indiscriminate use of the spell, generally only being allowed to use it on people they know are super-evil.
  In a neat touch, raise dead can be used on newly created undead (as when used on a regular corpse, it can be dead no longer than 1 day per caster level).  It won't work on skeletons, though, because the spell doesn't restore lost body parts.  (It's not stated, but it probably shouldn't work on any incorporeal undead either.)
  Looking at the OD&D version of the spell, I'm surprised to see that it worked on Men, Elves and Dwarves, and excluded Hobbits.  That's going to be a hard one to reconcile.  Looking back at the post where I first covered this spell (waaaay back in 2009) I took a stab at it thusly: "I'll tie this into the waning of the elven peoples - as they grow weaker in life, so they are drawn ever more strongly to the realm they reside in after death. With Hobbits and other creatures, I'm theorizing that it actually takes contacting the land of the dead to return the departed soul to life - wherever hobbits go when they die hasn't been discovered yet."  That's a decent start, and allows me to explain how this spell will work on other creatures later on as well.  Alternatively, I could tie it in to the 3rd edition idea that dead creatures have to want to come back in order to be raised successfully.  If Hobbits are content in the afterlife, it's very probable that they'll want to stay there unless they are the rare adventurous sort.

True Seeing: This spell allows the caster to see things as they really are.  Not only does it see through illusions, but it reveals invisible, ethereal and astral creatures, as well as secret doors.  It even lets the caster see a creature's "aura", revealing their alignment.  Even polymorphed creatures will be seen in their original form.  The spell can be reversed, and the target will see things as their opposites.
  The material components for this spell ensure that it won't be overused.  It requires an eye ointment made from mushroom powder, saffron and fat that must be aged for 1-6 months.  (The reversed spell instead uses ointment made from oil, poppy dust and pink orchid essence.)  The ingredients have no value listed, but the time needed is the real factor in limiting this spell.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook Part 28: 4th-Level Cleric Spells

Clerics have ten 4th-level spells in AD&D.  Five of those have carried over from OD&D: cure serious wounds, neutralize poison, protection from evil 10' radius, speak with plants and sticks to snakes.  Four are all-new: detect lie, divination, exorcise and tongues.  The last spell - lower water - was in OD&D, but only as a 6th-level magic-user spell.

Cure Serious Wounds: A touch spell that heals 2d8+1 points of damage, which can also be reversed as cause serious wounds.  The OD&D version of the spell is exactly the same, except that it healed 2d6+2 points of damage.  Although the OD&D spell appears to be slightly less powerful, it should be noted that characters in that game had less hit points than those in AD&D.

Like cure light wounds, there are a number of creature types that this spell can't affect.  This includes all creatures that can only be hit by silver, iron or magical weapons.  I wonder what the rationale is here?  From memory, most of the relevant monsters at this point are things like demons, undead, gargoyles, and similarly fantastical beings.  Those kinds of creatures being unaffected by cure spells seems fair enough, but I feel as though there'll be monsters added to the game later that don't quite fit this mold.  I'm tempted to tie this immunity back to Gygax's idea about creatures with immunity to normal weapons existing in multiple planes of reality.  So far, it's the only concrete thing we have to go on regarding the topic, so I'm going to run with it.

Detect Lie: A new spell that allows the caster to tell if the target is telling the truth.  It can be reversed as undetectable lie, which either counters detect lie or makes complete untruths seem reasonable.  Detect lie requires gold dust to cast, while its reverse requires brass dust; in neither case is the value of the required dust indicated.

Divination: This new spell reveals information about an area such as a small forest or a section of a dungeon level: strength of monsters, value of treasure, and the chance that invaders will incur the wrath of a powerful supernatural being.  The chance of obtaining accurate information starts at 60% and climbs by 1% per caster level.
  The spell components required are incense, a holy symbol, and a sacrificial creature.  Perhaps it's my background as a player of BECMI and 2nd edition AD&D, but I'm surprised that's in there.  I wonder how sacrificing animals affects PCs of good alignment?  I'd be inclined to be allow it.  Lawful good clerics aren't forced to be vegans, so I don't see why they can't sacrifice a goat or a sheep or whatever.  No humans allowed, of course.  Hobbits are a toss-up.

Exorcise: Frees a single target from any form of possession by an outside force.  It can also be used on any item that contains a creature's soul, and will force said soul into its nearest material body.
  The spell description is written in the standard over-complicated Gygaxian style, so I'm not entirely sure how it works.  I think the caster rolls d100 to randomly determine the base chance of success.  That base chance is modified up or down by comparing the caster's level to that of the possessing entity or magic.  The caster gets to roll every turn to determine success, and can seemingly keep rolling forever.  To me it looks as though the spell will always work eventually, unless its interrupted for some reason.  The chance of success can also be increased by using a holy relic, but that seems a bit pointless unless you need the spell to succeed really quickly.

Lower Water: What was one a 6th-level spell for magic-users is now available as a 4th-level cleric spell.  It causes water (or "similar fluid", whatever that means) to lower by 5% per caster level.  Area of effect is also increased by caster level, and the spell can be reversed to return liquid to its normal height.  Material component is a pinch of dust.
  The OD&D version of this spell lowered water to a flat 50%, so it's not as effective in that regard.  It's range was 24" though, which is double that of the AD&D version.  The duration was 10 turns, whereas AD&D has a duration of 1 turn per level.  The OD&D spell wasn't reversible.
  (I wonder, would blood be considered a "similar liquid"?  Could you lower the blood inside a creature, perhaps causing it to pass out?  The answer, of course, is "fuck off with that bullshit", but it's something to think about.)

Neutralize Poison: This spell completely removes poison from any creature or object touched.  Not only can this be used to heal a character who has been poisoned, but it can also make a poisonous snake harmless, or remove the venom from a trap or weapon.  Using the spell to remove poison from monsters is a genius move, and one I have never seen or thought of.  I've read this spell description before, but only on a careful reading now am I realising that this can be done, and it's super-cool.
  The spell can also be reversed as poison, which requires a touch attack and will kill the target on a failed save.  Is this the lowest-level save-or-die effect?  I think it might be.
  The OD&D version of this spell was a bit vague.  It was said to counter the harmful effects of poison, but specifically notes that it won't help characters that have been killed by poison.  I guess the same applies to the AD&D spell as well: while it will purge the poison from the body, it won't restore the victim to life.  Makes sense, I guess, but it does limit the spell's usefulness by quite a bit.

Protection From Evil, 10' Radius: Works exactly like protection from evil, except that the area of effect is a 10' radius globe around the caster, and the duration is increased.  This means that it completely hedges out conjured or enchanted creatures (devils, demons, imps, etc.), inflicts a -2 penalty to attack rolls on all evil creatures, and grants allies +2 to saves.  It can, of course, be reversed to affect good creatures.
  The main difference from the OD&D spell is that that version only gave a penalty/bonus of -1/+1.  It also had a flat duration of 12 turns, whereas AD&D gives a duration of 1 turn/level.

Speak With Plants: The caster of the spell can converse with plant life within a 6" circle.  The spell is a little contradictory.  It says that the caster can command thickets to part to enable easy passage, or make vines entangle pursuers.  Then it says that the spell can't animate non-ambulatory vegetation.  Which is it?  I would rule that small movements like those mentioned above are possible, but that plants can't move from where they are rooted, or be commanded to make attacks with branches, or really do anything beyond make nuisances of themselves.
  The OD&D spell is much the same as this version.  The only significant difference is that the duration was a flat 6 turns, while AD&D has a duration of 1 round/level.  (This could either be about the same or a significant drop, depending on how you interpret the use of turns in OD&D.)

Sticks to Snakes: Transforms one stick per caster level into a snake that can be commanded to attack.  Each snake has a 5% chance per caster level of being venomous (though no indication of the strength of the venom is given).  The spell can work on objects like spears and torches, but won't affect magic items.  The spell can be reversed as snakes to sticks, either to temporarily transform regular snakes into harmless sticks, or to counter the regular version of this spell.
  In OD&D the caster created 2-16 snakes, with a flat 50% that they were poisonous.  The duration was 6 turns (as opposed to 2 rounds/level) and the range was 12" (which is now radically shortened to 3").  Overall, I'd say the AD&D spell is on average deadlier; as I read the OD&D version you roll once to determine if all your snakes are poisonous, whereas in AD&D you roll individually.  Individual rolls mean that you're bound to get some poisonous snakes, and the chance goes up as you gain levels.

Tongues: A new spell that allows the caster to speak the language of any creatures with 6".  It even works on alignment languages, which is slightly surprising.  The reversed form of the spell makes verbal communication within the area of effect impossible.  I can see players attempting to use this version of the spell to disrupt spellcasting, but I would absolutely not allow that.  Spells are a means of manipulating reality, and not a form of communication.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 27: 3rd-Level Cleric Spells

There are twelve third-level spells for clerics in the Player's Handbook.  Six of those were introduced in OD&D: continual light, cure disease, locate object, prayer, remove curse and speak with deadAnimate dead was in OD&D, but there it was a 5th-level magic-user spell, and not available to clerics at all.  Create food & water seems to be a combination of two OD&D spells: create water (which was 4th level) and create food (which was 5th level).  Cure blindness had been previously introduced as part of the Healer class in The Dragon #3.  Finally, there are two spells that are all-new in AD&D: feign death and glyph of warding.

Animate Dead: This spell allows the caster to animate the bodies or bones of humans as skeletons or zombies (one per caster level).  The spell does specify humans, not humanoids; by-the-book, you can't use this spell to create dwarf skeletons or orc zombies or whatever.  The undead created obey the caster's commands, and last until they're either destroyed or dispelled.  This raises the obvious question: can any skeletons or zombies be dispelled using dispel magic?  Are all skeletons and zombies the result of an animate dead spell, or are there some that originate in different ways?  The Monster Manual says that they're both magically animated corpses under the command of the one who animated them, so it looks as though animate dead is the canonical explanation for all of them.  Given that it's not mentioned as a specific weakness in the Monster Manual, I'd rule against destroying them with dispel magic.

The main difference between this spell and the OD&D version is the number of undead created.  Clerics in AD&D create one undead per caster level, whereas OD&D magic-users (that class being the only one with the spell available to them) could create 1d6 undead for every level over 8th.  So while AD&D casters do better in the short term, OD&D casters break even around 11th level and surge ahead from there.

Continual Light: Creates a light that lasts forever (or until dispelled).  It can be cast in the air, attached to an object, or cast at a creature, and in the latter case it will blind the target on a failed save.  It can be reversed to cause "complete absence of light".

The main difference between this version of the spell and the one in OD&D is the area of effect: OD&D had a diameter of 24", while AD&D has a diameter of 12".  (In my initial reading of the AD&D spell, I had thought that the spell created a globe of light 6 inches in radius, but obviously it's supposed to be game inches representing tens-of-feet: that's how far the light extends rather than the size of the globe itself.)

The blinding effect is a useful one, especially given the spell's permanent duration.  It's about on par with the 2nd-level Illusionist spell blindness, which is fine.  What's not fine is that it far outstrips the reverse of cure blindness (cause blindness, which I'll detail below).

Create Food & Water: This spell creates "one cubic foot" of food and/or water per caster level.  It's odd that the spell is measured in cubic feet (I'm picturing a perfectly square block of ham), but it's done as a way to split between the creation of food and water.  A second level caster, for example, could create two cubic feet of food, two of water, or one of each.  Each cubic foot provides enough to nourish three people, or one horse.  It seems overly complicated, but I can just about do it in my head.

What's not specified is the type of food that appears, so I'd rule that the caster can create whatever the hell he wants.

This spell is a combination of the OD&D spells create water (4th level) and create food (5th level).  Both of those spells created enough to sustain a dozen men for a day, and doubled for every level the Cleric attained over 8th.  Obviously the AD&D version is more versatile, but it doesn't scale up as ridiculously as the two OD&D spells did.

The 1st-level AD&D spell create water should also be noted.  That spell makes 4 gallons of water per caster level, which to my eye seems more than create food & water (4 gallons would be more than enough for three people for a day).  That's as it should be - specialised spells should be more effective than versatile ones.

Cure Blindness: Permanently cures "most forms" of blindness. (Nice and vague there.)  The spell can be reversed as cause blindness, but that spell has some problems.  Notably, it's not as good as using continual light for the same effect, because continual light works at range while cause blindness is a touch spell.  Otherwise they're identical, but being able to blind someone from 120 feet away is a lot more useful.

The original version of this spell was introduced with the Healer class in The Dragon #7. That version was able to cure blindness of any sort, but wasn't reversible.

Cure Disease: This spell will cure most diseases with a touch.  I'm surprised to note that the cure doesn't take effect immediately; it can take anywhere from 1 turn to 1 week to heal the target, depending on the severity and advancement of the disease.  I've always played it as instantaneous.

The spell can be reversed as cause disease, which causes the target to lose 1 hp per turn and 1 point of Strength per hour, until both are at 10%.

The OD&D version of the spell cured "any form of disease", and that was pretty much the entirety of the spell description.  It was reversible, but the effect of that wasn't given (though one could use the disease rules from Supplement II).

Dispel Magic: Negates various magical effects within a 3" cube.  It will destroy potions, remove spells cast on creatures or items, and counter any spell-casting done within the area of effect.  It has no effect on any magic items other than potions.  The spell starts with a base 50% chance of success, with the chance going up if the magic to be dispelled is lower level than the caster, and going down if it is higher.  It's said to be very effective against charmed creatures (though nothing mechanical is given), and it will automatically dispel the caster's own spells.

The OD&D version of the spell was for magic-users only, and was written as dispell magic.  It had a range of 24", as opposed to 6" in AD&D.  It also had a duration of 1 turn, whereas in AD&D the duration is "permanent".  That "permanent" duration is curious.  No doubt it refers to the magic being dispelled permanently, but it makes me wonder how long that 3" cube stays in effect?  I'd rule it as an instantaneous flash that dispels the magic within it, then disappears.

The other big difference between the OD&D and AD&D versions of the spell is the formula used to determine the spell's success.  AD&D starts at 50%, modified up or down based on the strength of the magic to be dispelled.  OD&D uses a ratio of the dispeller over the original spell.  If I'm doing the math correctly, it seems that lower-level casters have a better chance to dispel high-level magic in AD&D; magic of equal level will be dispelled 50% of the time in AD&D, and 100% of the time in OD&D; obviously, higher-level casters automatically succeed in OD&D, while it's a more gradual scale in AD&D.  The spell was a lot more effective in OD&D.

Feign Death: This spell, making its first appearance here, puts the target into a "cataleptic state" that makes him appear to be dead.  The target is fully aware, and can still smell and hear, but he can't see or feel anything.  Any damage inflicted on the body is halved (which makes me wonder just how much hit point damage is based on pain), and the target is immune to paralysis and level drain (I guess he's protected by the spell's necromantic energy?).  Poison will take effect once the spell wears off.

The spell can be ended by the caster at any time, but otherwise lasts for 1 turn + 1 round/level.  I wonder, can the target get up at any point, or is he immobile until the spell ends?  I was starting to think that this could be a very potent offensive spell, as it grants no saving throw, but then I noticed that it only works on willing recipients.

The material component is a pinch of graveyard dust.

Glyph of Warding: Another new spell.  This one is used to protect an area from trespassers.  The cleric inscribes a glyph that wards an area of 25 square feet per level.  The glyph takes effect when touched or crossed, unless the name of the glyph is spoken first.  A few sample glyphs are suggested: one that deals 2 points of electrical damage per caster level (seems a bit weak), another that deals fire damage, and ones that cause paralysis, blindness or energy drain.  The last one is said to be available only to high-level clerics, but there's no concrete number given.  (I expect this spell will be greatly expanded on in the Dungeon Master's Guide.)

If the warded area is over 50 square feet, the caster will need 2,000gp worth of powdered diamond.  Otherwise all you need is a bit of incense.

Locate Object: Lets the caster know if the desired object is present, as long as he's facing it and it's within range.  The object must be "known or familiar", which is a pretty vague restriction, and it also can't be a living creature.

The reverse of the spell, obscure object, protects an item from location by any spell.

Oddly, this spell was better explained in OD&D, where it says that specific items to be located (such as magic items) require knowledge of exact details such as colour and shape, while more general items like stairs can be located without such knowledge.  The cleric version of the spell had a range of 9" + 1"/level in OD&D, but in AD&D it's been brought back in line with the magic-user version, and has a duration of 6" +1"/level.

Prayer: This is like the 2nd-level chant spell, in that it grants allies +1 to attacks and saving throws, while making enemies suffer -1 penalties.  The difference is that it takes much less time to cast, and the cleric can take other actions while the spell is in effect.  It's a far, far superior spell and makes chant almost completely worthless.

The OD&D version of prayer was a completely different spell: it lowered enemy saving throws by 1 point for every ten levels of the caster.  The AD&D version seems much more useful.

Remove Curse: Removes any curse from a person, place or object.  It doesn't destroy cursed weapons or armour, although it does allow a character affected by such an item to rid himself of it.

The reverse is bestow curse, which lasts for 1 turn/level, and will have one of the following effects: reduce an ability score to 3; afflict a -4 penalty to attack rolls and saving throws; or make the victim 50% likely to drop whatever he's holding (presumably this happens throughout the duration rather than just once, otherwise it's a super-weak curse).  There's leeway given for clerics to devise their own curses as well, so long as they're of similar power.

The OD&D version of the spell was similar, but it was able to turn cursed weapons and armour back to normal.  It also wasn't reversible.

Speak With the Dead: Allows the caster to ask questions of any dead creature, and receive answers according to that dead creature's knowledge.  Higher level casters can ask more questions, and are able to successfully cast the spell on creatures that have been dead for longer.  Clerics of level 21+ can question creatures that have been dead for 1,000 years, which sounds good, but could run into some language difficulties given that caster and target must be able to speak the same tongue.

The OD&D version of the spell was, as is usual, quite a bit simpler.  The caster was able to ask three questions, regardless of caster level.  Level was a factor in speaking with creatures dead for longer periods of time, though: clerics up to 7th level could talk to those dead for 1-4 days, those up to 14th level could speak to those dead for 1-4 months, and clerics over 20th level had no limit at all.  AD&D uses a table to break these into smaller categories, and also limits it to 1,000 years maximum.  The OD&D spell ends by suggesting that the dead creature answer in the form of a riddle, which AD&D dispenses with.

Friday, September 16, 2016

El Raja Key DVD Archive

I'm a frequent lurker around the various old-school D&D blogs, message boards and forums, so I was quite surprised that a project like this slipped past me: Rob Kuntz (you know, the co-DM of Greyhawk through much of the 1970s) is putting out an archival DVD with scans of a whole bunch of his work from the last four decades.  I'm kind of shocked that this isn't generating more excitement.

If I'm reading things correctly, it's going to include the entirety of his El Raja Key dungeons (the ones Gary played through using Mordenkainen), as well as a bunch of Rob's levels that were used as part of Castle Greyhawk.  It looks like they're going to be mostly untouched, as well - this isn't a Castle Zagyg situation, where the material is being extensively reworked for modern consumption.  This is the work, as it was, and as I want to see it.

Honestly, I'm super-stoked about this.  I'm fascinated by the earliest history of the game, and any glimpse at Gary and Rob's work from those days is something I really geek out over.  I'll be all over this when it gets released, despite the hefty price (about a hundred bucks US, but for over 1,000 image files of proper D&D history I'll fork out for it).

The best part is that it's supposed to be out within the next week.  Now, I know, it's Rob Kuntz, and timeliness has never been his strongest of suits.  But to me it appears as though most of the work is done.  If he says a week, surely even he can't mean more than six months, and I can wait that long.  (EDIT: I was being a jerk here.  If you're reading this post, ignore what I said and head over to (, because the Archive has been released.)

His blog is over here:  Check it out if you have the same interest in D&D history that I do.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook Part 26: 2nd-Level Cleric Spells

AD&D has twelve cleric spells of 2nd level, as opposed to the six that OD&D had.  Five of the OD&D spells are included here, and remain at 2nd level; the sixth (bless) was changed to be 1st level, and was dealt with in the previous post.

There are seven all-new spells: augury, chant, detect charm, know alignment, resist fire, slow poison and spiritual hammer.

Augury: This is a divination spell that reveals whether an action in the near future will be helpful or harmful to the party.  It doesn't always work (the base chance for success is 70%, modified upwards by the caster's level).  This is a really useful spell, but its use is mitigated by some stringent material requirements: "a set of gem-inlaid sticks, dragon bones or similar tokens, or the wet leaves of an infusion, which remain in the container after the infused brew is consumed."  The latter sounds like a cup of tea, which fits the fortune-telling motif, and also seems a lot easier to get hold of than dragon bones or gem-inlaid sticks.  Alas, the tea method also requires a crushed pearl of 100gp value.  So while this is a great spell, it's one to save for special occasions.

Chant: This spell grants the cleric's allies within a 3" radius a +1 to hit, and his enemies a -1 to hit.  Sounds good so far, but the spell takes a full turn to cast, and only continues so long as the caster remains stationary and continues chanting.  To me the bonus doesn't seem strong enough to offset effectively taking a character out of the battle.  It's perhaps a good one for a lower-level cleric accompanying high-level PCs to cast, though I still think the bonuses/penalties are too small.

It's interesting that this is a conjuration/summoning spell.  Does this spell summon a sort of "luck spirit", or some other beneficent entity?

Detect Charm: Detects whether a creature is under the effect of a charm spell, and can be reversed to hide such detection.  I would have thought detect magic would do much the same, but obviously not or this spell would be useless.

Find Traps: Reveals any traps within a 3" radius, just as it did in OD&D.  The duration has been increased from 2 turns to 3 turns, and a stipulation has been added that the caster can only detect spells in the direction he's facing.

Hold Person: This spell was pretty vaguely defined in OD&D, where it was said to be "similar to a charm person but which is of both limited duration and stronger effect".  In AD&D, things are much more concrete: the spell paralyses up to 3 humanoid targets.  Duration is 4 rounds +1 per level (it was "9 turns" in OD&D, although OD&D's wonky use of turns made it unclear just how long that should be).  The range has been shortened from 18" to 6".  One aspect that has been kept is that the more targets you choose, the easier it is for them to make their saving throws.  The material component for this spell is an iron rod.

I would assume that this spell works much as Gary used it in his home campaign, but I wonder how many OD&D games back in the day had it working exactly like charm person?  And how many changed when AD&D came out?  No doubt there were some who stuck to their original interpretation.

Know Alignment: We've had detect evil in the game before, but this is much more effective: it reveals the exact alignment of up to 10 creatures.  I don't really care for this spell, but luckily for me I have players that never think to use it, and for when it's really important to obscure a character's alignment there's always the reverse of the spell.

Resist Fire: I'm surprised that this spell is making its debut here (although I could be wrong, my notes are getting harder and harder to keep straight).  It grants one creature immunity to heat up to boiling temperature  (presumably the boiling temperature of water, though it's not stated).  For hotter fires (magical and natural) they get a +3 bonus to save, and halve all damage.  A drop of mercury is the material component.  It's a staple, and I'm still a bit shocked that it took this long to appear.

Silence, 15' Radius: At first glance this spell appears the same as it was in OD&D, but there are quite a few differences.  In the OD&D version, the cleric could make himself and his party silent, or silence "some object or thing".  In that version, the 15' Radius seems to refer to the range at which the spell can be cast.  In AD&D, the spell is an area effect that silences everything within a 15' radius sphere.  The sphere can be stationary, or cast upon an object that can then be moved.  It can even be cast on a creature (who gets a save if unwilling), which gives the spell an entirely new function: neutralising spellcasters.  It's pretty much a new spell altogether, and I'm not sure which I like more.  The old one is simpler and more direct, but the latter is more versatile.

Slow Poison: OD&D had neutralize poison, but not this weaker version.  Slow poison makes the target resistant to the effects of any poison in its system for the duration of the spell: the target will take 1 point of damage per round, but can't be dropped below zero hit points.  The caster can even bring characters that were seemingly killed by poison back to life, at least until the spell wears off.  Poison is deadly in AD&D, and a lower-level means of blunting that is welcome.

The material component is a bud of garlic, which must be crushed and smeared on the victim's bare feet.  It's the small details that make a spell, sometimes.

Snake Charm: This spell can hypnotise a number of snakes whose total hit points is less than that of the cleric. The duration of the spell depends on the general demeanor of the snakes when the spell is cast: the more agitated they are, the shorter the duration. Note that this spell doesn't allow the caster to command the snakes, it simply causes them to cease all activity except for a swaying motion.

The OD&D version of the spell was different in that the caster could charm one Hit Dice worth of snake per caster level.  (In practice this is the same as the AD&D version, but the wording could be interpreted differently.)  The range in OD&D is double that in AD&D, and there was no change in duration based on the snakes' demeanor.  There was also nothing to say what the spell actually did, so it's not out of line to have this version of the spell work like a regular charm.  A cleric with a horde of poisonous snakes at his command could be a deadly thing.

Speak With Animals: Empowers the caster to speak with one animal, so long as the animal is not mindless (amoebas are ruled out explicitly).  The caster can ask questions, and even ask for favours, but the reaction depends on alignment on the good/evil axis.  If alignments of caster and animal are opposed, the animal and its associates won't attack as long as the spell lasts. If alignments match (or the animal is neutral), there's a chance the animal will perform a task for the caster.  The latter scenario is the most common, because the vast majority of animals in the Monster Manual are Neutral. There's a note at the end end stating outright that this spell only works on normal, non-fantastic creatures. Presumably this interpretation doesn't include humans, but there's always the grey area occupied by dinosaurs.  Are they considered normal, or fantastic?  I favour the latter, though there's really no logical reason they shouldn't be in the animal category.  This also raises the notion that there's a distinct difference between animals and the rest of the Monster Manual.  For whatever reason, "monsters" are different somehow, whether it be through magical creation or extraplanar origin.

As usual, this spell in OD&D has vaguer guidelines.  The general gist of the spell is the same, but everything is described in more general terms.  The major difference is that the duration is a flat 6 turns, rather than 2 rounds per caster level.

Spiritual Hammer: This spell's first appearance.  It creates a hammer made out of force that attacks enemies as long as the caster concentrates on it.  It attacks at the same level as the cleric, and does the same damage as a regular warhammer, so at first blush it seems a bit pointless.  It's main utility is in damaging creatures that can only be hit by magical weapons: for this purpose, the hammer is considered +1 for every three levels of the caster.  I suppose it could be useful for attacking enemies the cleric can't otherwise reach, as well.  It's one of those spells that I always think is really cool and useful, but am always disappointed by in practice.

(The damage here for the warhammer is a bit off - it's said to do 1-6 against man-sized foes, but in the equipment list a hammer does 2-5.  Just another in a long list of AD&D inconsistencies.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 25: 1st Level Cleric Spells

Cleric Spells - 1st level: AD&D clocks in with a dozen 1st-level spells for clerics, which is up from the meagre six that they had in OD&D.  Those six OD&D spells have all made the transition to AD&D: Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Light, Protection From Evil and Purify Food & Drink.  Bless used to be a 2nd-level spell.  Create Water has been dropped from 4th level back to 1st (a pretty hefty drop; I'm pretty sure I mentioned how absurdly high-level this spell was when I covered it the first time).  Command, Remove Fear, Resist Cold and Sanctuary are all new.

Before I begin on the spells themselves, there are a few notes about cleric spells.  It's mentioned that material components are consumed in the casting of the spell, except for religious items such as holy symbols and prayer beads.  The connection between cleric alignment and certain spells is also discussed.  Spells that promote harm (especially those spells that are the reversed versions of "good" spells) should be used with care by good clerics, or they risk alignment change.  The same is true for evil clerics, and spells that promote good.  In regard to reversible spells, the version to be cast must be chosen when the spell is prayed for, and not when the spell is cast.  It's reiterated that a spell won't always be granted by the cleric's deity, and higher-level spells are more likely to be withheld.

The first thing that pops out on glancing at the spell entries is how organised they are.  Everything is codified and standardised, a far cry from the loose, free-wheeling tone of OD&D.  It's a blessing and a curse, although I think AD&D hits a decent middle ground with it.  Every spell has been categorised into a certain type/school, and it's clearly noted which spells are reversible.  Range, duration, area of effect, and whether the spell has a saving throw are clearly marked.  The spell components for each spell are described, as well as whether the spell requires spoken words or hand gestures.  It covers everything, and in many ways this is the most well thought out section of the three core AD&D books.

Bless: Bless has been dropped from 2nd level to 1st.  It's now been categorised as a conjuration/summoning spell.  The duration remains the same, but it's been given a range and an area of effect.  Otherwise it's the same, granting a +1 bonus to morale and attack rolls on friendly creatures who are not in combat.  The reversed version, Curse, inflicts a -1 penalty on morale and attacks.  (Strangely, the OD&D version of Curse inflicted it's targets with Grippe, a disease from Supplement II: Blackmoor which is basically the flu.)  Bless requires holy water to cast, while Curse requires "specially polluted water".

Command: An enchantment spell that allows the caster to issue a one-word command.  Undead are immune to it, and creatures with 13+ Intelligence or 6+ Hit Dice get a saving throw.  I've always been fond of this one; I even had a player throw a tantrum and leave the table when I used it to simulate a Finger of Death on his 2nd-level character (it was all fine, he calmed down when his character woke up a round later).  The command of "suicide" is ruled out, because it's a noun, but then again there is a bit saying that the command must be in a language the target can understand.  Language being what it is, some languages are going to have different words than others, and there's bound to be one in which "suicide" is a verb.

Create Water: Dropped from 4th level to 1st level, as it should be.  The OD&D version created enough water for a dozen men and horses for a day (doubled for every level of the cleric above 8th).  The AD&D version creates four gallons of water per experience level of the caster.  I like the practicality of the former presentation, but it implies a certain spell function that might discourage players from using the spell creatively.  I would have preferred the two approaches side by side, but I suppose an extra bit of math isn't too difficult.  The spell can be reversed as Destroy Water (new to AD&D), which does pretty much what it says.

Cure Light Wounds: Heals 1d8 points of damage to any living creature touched (in OD&D the amount healed was 1d6+1).  New to AD&D is the restriction that it doesn't work on creatures that can only be hit by iron, silver or magical weapons.  The reverse, Cause Light Wounds, does damage rather than healing.  (The OD&D version was another weird case of a spell causing Grippe.  That crazy Dave Arneson!)

Detect Evil: A divination spell that detect "emanations of evil" from any creature or object (it can be reversed to detect good as well).  It specifically notes that "evil alignment" is something picked up.  In OD&D there was some wiggle room, as it said that the spell detected "evil thought or intent".  In AD&D, if you're alignment is evil, you'll be pointed out by a detect evil spell.  Deal with it.  The range of this spell is the same as it was in OD&D, but the duration has been altered.  It starts lower, but increases with caster level, so eventually it will last longer than the OD&D version.  The cleric has to hold his holy symbol out to cast the spell, so doing it on the sly isn't really an option.

Detect Magic: Divination magic that detects magical radiations.  The range and duration of this spell have been halved.  Otherwise it works as in OD&D, with the added clarification that it can be blocked by a foot of stone, 3 feet of wood and about an inch of metal.

Light: Alteration magic that creates a light equal to torchlight by "exciting molecules".  The diameter is a little larger than it was on OD&D, but the duration is halved.  The major difference is that it can be used as an attack spell, effectively blinding the target.  It's not made clear if the spell can be made mobile - can the light be made to follow you, or can it be cast on an object and then carried like a torch?  I've always played it that way, but it says nothing here on the matter.  As in OD&D, the spell can be reversed as Darkness (albeit with a duration half as long)

Protection From Evil: An abjuration spell that creates a field of protection around the caster.  It prevents bodily contact from enchanted or conjured creatures, and this is clarified with a specific list: aerial servants, demons, devils, djinn, efreet, elementals, imps, invisible stalkers, night hags, quasits, salamanders, water weirds, wind walkers and xorn.  It also works this way on summoned animals and monsters.  (Though I wonder, it does specify "bodily contact" - could they still hit you with a weapon?)  In addition, the person protected has a +2 bonus to saving throws against attacks from evil creatures, and evil attackers suffer a -2 to hit.  (In OD&D, they were +1 and -1 respectively.)  The duration of the spell has been changed from 12 rounds to 3 per caster level: it starts lower, but won't stay that way for long.  As in OD&D, it can be reversed as Protection from Good.  For Protection from Evil, the caster to sprinkle a ring of holy water on the ground, or burning incense in the air.  Protection from Good requires blood, or (my favourite) smoldering dung.

Purify Food & Drink: An alteration spell that makes a cubic foot of food and water safe for consumption.  At higher levels it affects a greater amount of food.  It will also ruin unholy water.  The reverse spoils food and holy water.  (In OD&D the spell affected enough food to serve a dozen people, so at least at low levels it's been weakened.)

Remove Fear: A new spell that grants a bonus to saving throws against magical fear.  Surprisingly, there's no mention made here of how it affects morale (probably not at all).  It can be reversed as Cause Fear, which causes the target to run at top speed away from the caster.  The duration of this 1 round per caster level, which makes me want to try it out with a high-level NPC - the idea of one of my players running like hell for 10 rounds or more is amusing to me.

Resist Cold: A new spell that totally protects the target from natural cold - even in the nude.  (Thanks for the clarification, Gary.)  Against magical attacks and breath weapons, it grants a save bonus and drops the damage sustained by half.  It's a damn good spell mitigated only by the rarity of monsters that use cold-based attacks.

Sanctuary: Another new one.  As I understand it, it makes it so that a single creature ignores the caster totally.  The spell is broken if the cleric takes any offensive action, but otherwise he is completely protected from attack from that one creature.  I'm not sure how useful this is, as most combats involve multiple foes, but I suppose in a fight with one powerful foe it could keep the cleric alive to provide support.

Friday, June 03, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 24: Time, Distance and Spells

Time: This is just a quick paragraph that notes the importance of keeping track of time in the campaign.  Like a lot of things in the PHB, it brings up the general concept then passes all responsibility for the specifics on to the Dungeon Master.  I assume that there'll be more concrete rules in the DM's Guide.

The most important thing here is the codification of turns, rounds and segments, used to track time during dungeon exploration.  A turn is 10 minutes, a melee round is 1 minute, and a segment is 6 seconds.  Again this isn't explained further here, but I wanted to bring it up because the terminology was pretty loose in OD&D: turns and rounds were tossed out interchangeably.  From this point on, the game tightens up on this kind of thing.

Distance: The main thrust of this section is the rule that ranges for missiles and spells are effectively tripled when aboveground.  Every ranged attack in the game has a value denoted with the " symbol - when underground it represents 10 feet, and when aboveground it represents 10 yards.  The rule is intended to simulate the idea that you can fire arrows and such further without the impediment of a roof, and the darkness of the dungeon.. Works for me.

It's important to note that this conversion is only done for range, and not for area of effect.  It's so important that Gary writes a whole sentence in ALL CAPS.  Basically, a fireball shouldn't triple in size just because you're outside.

Monster, The Term: Possibly the most pointless section of the book, in which Gary notes that the term monster is used to describe pretty much any creature you can encounter.  I guess some people need to be told that not all monsters are evil?  Ah well, it's not like it takes up much space.

Character Spells: And now we reach the section I've been dreading the most: the spell list.  I'm not going to start on that today, but I'll do the preliminary stuff.

The most interesting tidbit here comes in the description of how cleric spells function.  Clerics have to pray for their spells (in advance, of course).  Spells of 1st through 4th level are granted to the cleric by lesser servant of the cleric's deity, and it seems like there's not much limit on those.  Higher level spells, however, can only be granted by the deity directly, and this is subject to all sorts of factors.  The door is opened here for the DM to require that a cleric makes sacrifices and atonements for high level spells, which could get really annoying.  I'd be inclined to ignore this except in extreme circumstances, such as a severe alignment deviation.

There's not much that's new in the section on magic-users.  It's the same standard, Vancian system from OD&D, which is fine by me.  D&D just ain't D&D without it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 23: Armour, Weapons, Hirelings and Henchmen

Armour: This is a short section that explains how Armour Class works.  There's not much to it, although it does have the table that shows the AC values for each armour type.  (The table is needlessly muddied by the inclusion of shields, in a bit of typically Gygaxian over-complication.)

There's a note here that monster AC values don't necessarily correspond with actual armour types.  Most monsters have various factors (size, hide, agility, multi-planar existence, etc.) that influence their AC.  In short, non-human monsters won't be carrying shields or wearing armour.

It's also noted that shields can only be used against attacks from the front.  Later it's said that attacks from behind and from the right flank can ignore shields.  This leaves out attacks from the left flank, but I'd be inclined to allow shields against those.  I'd also be inclined to allow switching these directions around for left-handed characters.

We learn here that small shields can only defend against one attack per round, a normal shield can defend against two attacks, and a large shield can defend against three.  This is something I've never bothered keeping track of, and to be honest it doesn't quite feel realistic.  The protective value of shields is massively undervalued in D&D.  (I'm willing to be proven wrong here, if any SCA-type folks want to school me on the usefulness of shields.)

Weapon Proficiency: What, you thought you could use every weapon on your class list?  Well, not any more, because weapon proficiencies are introduced here for the first time.  Basically, every class begins the game being proficient in a number of weapons.  There's no bonus for using a weapon you're proficient in, but there is a penalty for using a weapon you're not proficient with.  More weapons can be added as you gain levels.

I'm generally in favour of weapon proficiencies, though not always with the way the system is implemented.  It's pretty simple in AD&D, and it favours fighters heavily.  It's also another way you can customise your character.  It works pretty well here.

Weapon Tables: Following the section on proficiencies is a table that shows the damage ranges for each weapon.  For the weapons that appeared in OD&D, the damage ranges are much the same.  A number of other weapons are introduced here, but rather than getting their own entries they are likened to weapons that already exist on the equipment list.  I won't list them all here, because there are quite a lot, and I honestly couldn't tell you what most of them are.  I don't even want to Google the Bohemian Earspoon, because I just know that the reality will never live up to the name.

Things get  little more complex on the next table, which includes the following information: weapon lengths, space required to wield, speed factor and AC adjustment.  None of these are explained yet; I'll deal with them as they come up.  Certain weapons are noted here as being capable of dismounting a rider, and others as capable of disarming opponents.  Again, there's little detail on how theses are accomplished here.  There's a similar table following for missile weapons, with categories for rate of fire, range, and AC adjustment.

Hirelings: This is a short bit about hirelings, as distinct from henchmen.  There's not much to write about here, as the section pretty much just says that you can hire people to do stuff.  There are some example hirelings given, such as alchemists, armorers, engineers, etc.  The only one I've never heard of before is a "linkboy", which sounds dirty, but is actually just another name for a torch-bearer.  Actually pretty handy, I don't know why Gary would obfuscate this by using such an archaic term.  A character is not limited by Charisma in the number of hirelings he can take on.

Henchmen: Henchmen are a character's devoted followers, and these are most definitely limited by a character's Charisma.  Indeed, this is probably the most important thing that Charisma is used for in the rules.

The process of finding a henchman is detailed, with the character having to spend money on visiting inns, posting notices, hiring criers, etc.  Non-human characters are generally harder to locate then humans and "semi-humans" (I assume this refers to half-elves and half-orcs).

The PC must pay wages to their henchmen, as well as equip them and provide room and board.  They also get a share of treasure, and a share of XP (albeit a smaller one than a PC would gain).  I suppose that acting under someone else's instruction lessens the learning experience?  Something like that.

The loyalty of henchmen depends on a lot of factors, such as the PC's Charisma, generosity, and how they treat their henchmen in general.  As is becoming more and more apparent with the PHB, this is an overview, and the actual numbers are elsewhere )most probably the Dungeon Masters Guide).

(It's a little disappointing that this section doesn't deal at all with pets.  There's a bunch of animals ready for purchase on the equipment list, and some guidelines on how to run them would not go astray.  There's always some joker who wants to bring his guard dogs into the dungeon.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 22: Coins and Equipment

Starting Money: PCs are said to be exceptional in regards to starting funds.  The main four classes are listed here, with fighters being the wealthiest (50-200 gold pieces), clerics second (30-180gp), thieves third (20-120gp) and magic-users last (20-80gp).  Monks are also listed separately (as they aren't a sub-class), and they are the poorest of all (5-20gp).  This is a departure from OD&D, where all characters started with a range of 30-180gp.

I'm not sure what the following sentence means: "To determine the number of gold pieces your character has at the start, simply roll the appropriate dice and total the sum (adding a decimal place if necessary)."  What decimal place would that be?  I can't see where it would be needed, and it's bugging me.  What was Gary getting at here?

The Monetary System: Gold pieces are the basic currency, and there are also copper pieces, silver pieces, electrum pieces and platinum pieces.  Their values are as follows:

200 copper = 1 gold
20 silver = 1 gold
2 electrum = 1 gold
1 platinum = 5 gold

In OD&D it was only 50cp to 1gp, and 10sp to 1gp.  It looks as though copper and silver have both been devalued since then.  (The exchange rates in early D&D always baffle me, because I'm much more familiar with later editions where it was 100cp to 1gp, and 10sp to 1gp.  It doesn't hurt that the math for that is a little easier to do quickly in my head.)

Gary ends this section with an interesting bit about prices being higher in adventuring areas due to supply and demand: coin is plentiful in comparison to other places, and adventuring gear is in short supply.  The implication here is that gear would be cheaper in areas that don't have many adventurers, though it's not spelled out.  I'm not sure that this makes sense, but little about the D&D economy does.

Money Changing, Banks, Loans & Jewellers: Gary gives some quick but practical advice on financial establishments.  
  • Coins can be exchanged at a money lender's for a 3% fee.
  • Money can be stored with a money lender, but they don't give interest.  (I'm wondering what's in it for them? Perhaps that 3% fee applies here as well?)
  • Characters can get loans, with varying amounts and interest depending on their status and reliability.  The more famous the character is, and the more assets he or she has, the better the deal will be.
  • Jewellers and merchants buy gems and jewellery at 80% of the actual value.
 There's not a lot of depth here, but sometimes quick guidelines are more useful at the table.

Equipment - Armour: In OD&D there were but three types of armour: leather, chain and plate.  I was always pretty happy with this.  It gives you a light, medium and heavy option; what else do you want?  AD&D sees the introduction of an armour for every Armour Class; in addition to the three mentioned above we now have padded, studded, ring, scale, banded, and splint.  Variety is fine, and I guess there's always that weirdo who really wants to wear splint mail, but I don't think they add much to the game besides thoroughness.  Leather armour is cheaper than it was in OD&D, but chain and plate have skyrocketed.  Gary wasn't kidding about supply and demand.

Helmets have now been split into small and great varieties (with the small variety costing the same as an OD&D helmet)  There are also three types of shields: large, small, and small wooden (with the small shield costing the same as an OD&D shield).

Equipment - Arms: Again, this list is much larger than its OD&D equivalent.  That list had 22 items (including ammunition).  The AD&D list has 52.  The following weapons are making their debuts in AD&D proper: bardiche, bec de corbin, bill-guisarme, dart, fauchard, fauchard-fork, military fork, glaive, glaive-guisarme, guisarme, guisarme-voulge, lucern hammer, hammer (surprisingly), javelin, partisan, footman's pick, horseman's pick, ranseur, scimitar, slings and sling bullets, spetum, bastard sword, broad sword, short sword (really?!?), trident and voulge.  In addition, composite bows are now split into long and short varieties, and flails and maces are now split into footman's and horseman's varieties.

(While all of the above-listed weapons are making their debut on the equipment list, some have appeared in the table of damage by weapon type: military picks, slings, and tridents.  I wouldn't be surprised if some more have shown up in other places, particularly in Chainmail.)

Most weapons have different prices in OD&D and AD&D.  I feel like in general weapons are cheaper in AD&D, particularly the more common varieties.  The notable exceptions are composite bows and two-handed sword, which have gone up by quiet a bit.

Equipment - Clothing: Clothing wasn't listed in OD&D, but now you can buy items for your outfit separately.  I would tend to allows characters to start with clothes without paying for them.

Equipment - Herbs: You can buy belladonna, garlic and wolvesbane, which were all available in OD&D.  The prices here have dropped precipitously - we're talking a garlic bud dropping from 5gp to 5cp.  Something bizarre happened in the herb market between editions.

Equipment - Livestock: Where you can buy chickens, dogs, cows, birds, pigs and loads of different types of horses.  Generally this section is the bane of the DM's existence.  I hate players who insist on buying animals at 1st level.  In OD&D you only had mules and three diffierent types of horse, and that's the way I liked it.  Horse prices have gone up a lot since OD&D.

Equipment - Miscellaneous: A section for general adventuring gear such as ropes and sacks and lanterns.  Most of this stuff was in OD&D, but the prices were higher there because OD&D only listed prices in gold pieces.  Now that things ae listed in cp and sp, the prices have come down a lot.

Equipment - Provisions: In OD&D, you could buy wine and rations.  That's good enough for most adventurers, but now the aspiring gourmand can buy beer, ale and mead.  There are also prices listed for a rich meal and a merchant's meal, though not a poor meal which I find odd.  Horsefood is also listed, which was a big oversight in OD&D. 

Equipment - Religious Items: The main difference here from OD&D is that the cleric's symbol is listed as a holy symbol rather than a cross.  You can also buy prayer beads and incense, though I'm not sure what practical purpose they serve.

Equipment - Tack and Harness: Saddles and horse armour and the like.  Barding now comes in leather, chain and plate, and they cost a lot more than they did in OD&D.

Equipment - Transport: Surprisingly, the cost of boats has come down.  You can now also buy a warship, which sounds pretty awesome.

Monday, May 09, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 21: Hit Points and Character Languages

Character Hit Points: This is a pretty basic coverage of what hit points are and how they work, but there are two points of interest here that I'm not sure have been covered earlier.

The first is that monks and rangers have two hit dice at 1st level.  I've never actually considered this, but for the purposes of spells and other magical effects they should count as 2HD creatures.  I've always treated characters according to their level, but in doing that I've probably been short-changing monks and rangers.

The second is that Gary tackles the most common complaint about the hit point system head-on.  Invariably when discussing D&D and RPGs in general, there's always some ning-nong who talks about how ridiculous it is that high-level fighters can survive a hundred sword wounds.  Well, Gary agrees with you, and that's not how hit points work.  His description of how they do work is as follows: "the majority of hit points are symbolic of combat skill, luck (bestowed by supernatural powers), and magical forces."  The explicit mention of supernatural powers influencing hit points says a lot about default AD&D, and could perhaps tie in with the alignment stuff I was talking about in my last post.

It's mentioned that rest restores hit points, but no figures are given.  The idea of keeping a character's exact hit points a secret is also brought up, and I'd like to recommend that DMs try it at least once.  Players can get extremely cautious when they don't have the exact numbers in front of them, and it adds a lot of tension to the game.

Establishing the Character: At this point Gary recommends naming your character and creating a family background.  (Which is odd, because I'm sure I've read somewhere that a lot of characters in his campaign weren't even named until they reached 3rd level.)  He also mentions the idea of naming a next of kin that can inherit your character's possessions in case of an untimely death, which is a rule from OD&D that I feel gets little play in later editions.

What's of most interest here is that we get a glimpse into what I assume is what Gary sees as the quintessential campaign opening scenario.  He described the characters approaching the main setting (probably a village, town or city), getting through the main gate, finding a place to sleep, and learning the lay of the land.  Again, it doesn't feel quite right given what I've read of Gary's DMing style; I would expect him to get to the adventure a bit more quickly.  Still, it jibes well with two of his introductory modules, Keep on the Borderlands and Village of Hommlet, and it could be a difference between starting an adventure and starting a campaign.

Character Languages: The first thing established here is that all humans, semi-humans, and non-humans in regular contact with people speak the "common tongue".  The use of parentheses here indicates that "common" is not a language per se, but just a placeholder for whatever language would be appropriate in your campaign.  Gary then says that common is spoken by all states in the central campaign area, which I will assume applies to Greyhawk.

Alignment languages are then discussed a little further.  They can be spoken by all creatures able to converse in speech, which is an important qualifier.  It rules out True Neutral characters having conversations with horses and oozes, for one thing.  Importantly, it's noted that in most campaigns open alignment speech is a serious breach of social etiquette.

The process of learning additional languages is brought up.  It requires the character being in close proximity to a tutor for a period of 12 months, modified downwards by high Intelligence.  I'll assume that the character will still be able to adventure during this time, it's just that he or she can't go on any long trips, and has to spend a lot of downtime doing the learning.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 20: Alignment

With this chapter we see the introduction to D&D of the nine-point alignment system.  In OD&D, there were simply three alignment: Law, Neutrality, and Chaos.  Gary altered this in The Strategic Review #6, adding Good and Evil to the mix to give five possible alignments: Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, Neutral, Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil.  This system was carried into the first D&D Basic Set.

In AD&D there are nine alignments, with the addition of Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral and Chaotic Neutral.  It's not made clear what purpose alignment serves in the game, but the nine alignments are each given a brief description.  This is more than can be said of previous editions, where the space given to each alignment was perfunctory at best.

Let's take a look at each alignment in turn:

Chaotic Evil: Values freedom, randomness and woe.  (Really?  Who values woe?) Disdains law, order, kindness, and places no value on life.  Seeks power in a system ruled by caprice and their own whims.

Chaotic Good: Values freedom, the welfare of others, and individuality.  Specific mention is made here of characters "promoting the gods of chaotic good", as though that's what they're expected to do.  Later on Gary states that the descriptions are generalisations, and this is one that I'm glad to lump in that category.

Chaotic Neutral: Places randomness and disorder above good and evil.  Again, the way this is described make the character sound like a crusader for a cause.

Lawful Evil: Respects law and order, but place little value on life, beauty, truth, and freedom.  Seeks to use discipline to impose their yoke on the world.

Lawful Good: Strictly upholds law and order for the common good.  Believes that certain freedoms must be sacrificed to bring order.  Values truth the most, and also life and beauty.

Lawful Neutral: Views regulation as all-important.  Believes universal harmony depends on law and order.

Neutral Evil: Dedicated to - and I quote - "maximum evilness".

Neutral Good: Believes in a balance between regulation and freedom to bring about beneficial conditions for all.  Curiously, it's said that they value intelligent creatures more than unintelligent ones.

True Neutral: Views all alignments as part of a natural system, and believes that this balance should not be upset by unnatural forces, including the interference of intelligent creatures.

So, looking at the above, just what is alignment?  Simply going by the name, it should be the side you are aligned with.  This implies that Good, Evil, Law and Chaos are fundamental forces of the universe, and at war with each other.  This is backed up by the descriptions, as several of them describe characters advancing the agenda of their particular alignment.

It's also clear, however, that alignment describes a character's morality, ethics and general behaviour.  Lawful good characters act a certain way, chaotic goods act in a different way, and chaotic evils act even more differently still.  The behaviours given here are said to be generalisations, and yet those generalisations must come from somewhere.  For the most part NPCs will behave much as their alignment dictates, as described here in the PHB.  There will be outliers, and PCs are likely to be among them, but they are just that: outliers.

So alignment in AD&D is both your behaviour, and the side of the cosmic conflict you fall on.  This raises a question, though: does behaviour dictate alignment, or is it the other way around?  I would be inclined to go with the former.  No creature (except for certain magical types, like demons and such) is born evil, good, chaotic or lawful.  (I would say that any infant is by this logic neutral, which cuts the whole "paladins killing orc babies" dilemma off at the knees right there.)  They will, however, be greatly influenced by their cultural upbringing (and genetics as well, I suppose), and if you're a baby orc surrounded by chaotic evil relatives, it's a good chance you'll grow up to be chaotic evil as well.  The chance for good is there, of course, but it's a slim one.

So the way a character behaves and thinks determines the side of the conflict they're on, and this may have a more profound effect on their inner selves than you would think.  After all, there are magical effects that work based on the target's alignment.  It's a palpable thing that can be detected.  There are even languages intrinsic to each alignment, and the inability to speak languages of differing alignments.  Whatever your alignment is, it connects you to something greater than yourself.  I wonder if this could perhaps be tied to the article Gary wrote in The Dragon #8, where he posits the idea that certain creatures are connected to the Outer Planes, and that each creature type has its own sub-plane.  Mostly this idea was put forth as a way of explaining the immunities of various creatures, but it could work to explain alignment as well.  It seems probable to me that every being has an intrinsic connection the the plane most connected with their alignment as well, forged in the developmental stages of their upbringing.

The question must also be asked: are all characters crusaders for their particular alignment?  Of course the answer is no.  Most characters will serve their cause unknowingly, furthering it through their own actions and goals in spite of their ignorance.  Paladins and clerics are different, as are druids, and there will certainly be others who serve their cause knowingly.  But I feel like most people in the standard D&D world go about their business with little thought for Good, Evil, Law and Chaos.

Changing Alignment: It's said that involuntary change is possible, but voluntary change is very difficult.  If the ideas I've brought up above are at all true, this makes perfect sense.  I seems as though True Neutral characters have an easier time of changing alignment than anyone else, and this also makes sense: by their nature, they would have no connection to any of the Outer Planes.

Gary says that "evil alignment can be varied along the like axis", and I'm not entirely sure what this means.  Later on "axial change within evil or good" is implied to be easier than other kinds of change, and I wonder about this.  Does this mean that it's easier to alter alignment between good and evil?  Or easier to change between law and chaos?  Am I stupid, or is this poorly worded?  (A glance at the DMG tells me that this will all be cleared up in time, though perhaps said clearing up has little to do with the way things are worded here.)

Regardless, voluntarily changing alignment requires sacrifices, appropriate acts, and possibly a quest.  It's also next-to-impossible to change back to an alignment you have already forsaken (presumably said forces will be reluctant to take the character back into their good graces).