Monday, June 11, 2018

AD&D Players Handbook part 59: Appendix IV - The Known Planes of Existence & Appendix V - Suggested Agreements for Division of Treasure


The final stretch of the Players Handbook brings me to the penultimate Appendix, which gives the most detailed description of the D&D cosmology yet seen.  The various planes are separated into the Inner and Outer Planes, as I'll get into.

Inner Planes
This basically covers the Prime Material Plane, as well as the other planes that directly connect to it: the Positive and Negative Material Planes; the Elemental Planes of Air, Earth, Fire and Water; and the Ethereal Plane.  Of particular note is the repeated mention of "parallel" universes, all contained within the Prime Material Plane: it's a fairly clever way of including the multitude of home campaigns in existence and tying them into the cosmology as a whole.
  The Positive Plane is described as being a place of energy and light, the "source of much that is vital and active", and the "power supply for good".  The Negative Plane, conversely, is home to anti-matter, and powers the undead and evil energies.  It's all fairly abstract stuff, and neither of these planes seems like a place you can visit and adventure within.
  The Elemental Planes aren't described in any depth beyond their names, which is a bit odd.  Perhaps Gary thinks they're self-explanatory, but a little more detail wouldn't go astray.
  The Ethereal Plane surrounds and touches all of the Inner Planes, and any creature that can become ethereal can use this plane to quickly travel between these planes quickly.

Outer Planes
The Outer Planes are described as the homes of powerful beings and deities, and the source of the alignments.  The Astral Plane is described as a "non-space where endless vortices spiral to the parallel Prime Material Planes and to the Outer Planes as well", and can be used to travel from the Prime to the Outer Planes.  It's noted that, where a particular Outer Plane has multiple levels, the Astral Plane only connects to the topmost layer.
  Rather than keeping it simple and having a Plane for each of the alignments, Gary complicates things by including the intermediary steps as well.  So not only is there a plane for Chaotic Good and a plane for Chaotic Neutral, but there's one in between for "Chaotic Good Neutrals".  Notes that there's no plane for true Neutral.  This gives 16 Planes in all, with very little in the way of description:

  • The Seven Heavens (LG)
  • The Twin Paradises (NLG)
  • Elysium (NG)
  • The Happy Hunting Grounds (CNG)
  • Olympus (CG)
  • Gladsheim, which apparently includes Asgard, Valhalla and Vanaheim (NCG)
  • Limbo (CN, where Chaos is defined as entropy)
  • Pandemonium (NCE)
  • The 666 Layers of the Abyss (CE)
  • Tarterus (NCE)
  • The "Three Glooms" of Hades (NE)
  • The furnaces of Gehenna (NLE)
  • The Nine Hells (LE)
  • The nether planes of Acheron (NLE)
  • Nirvana (LN)
  • Arcadia (NLG)

It's an eclectic mix, with bits pulled from Christian, Greek, Roman, Norse, and Buddhist religions and mythologies, as well as bits of Milton and Dante.  I'm probably missing some of the other influences.  There's a diagram that shows how all of it ties together (and also seems to show how many levels each of the Outer Planes has):

In its basic outline, this stuff is broadly similar to how Gary outlined it in its early stages in The Dragon #8.  This is the diagram provide with that article:

I'd originally thought that these were identical, but further exploration shows that the arrangement of the Outer Planes has been a little but shuffled around.  More specifically, Planes 11 to 14 in The Dragon went in this order: Happy Hunting Grounds, Twin Paradises, Olympus, Elysium.  In AD&D, that's been changed to the following: Twin Paradises, Elysium, Happy Hunting Grounds, Olympus.  The rest are the same, but even something as small as four planes being shuffled around is a pretty major difference when it comes to the primary make-up of reality.  The only reason I can think of that doesn't involve major reality alteration is simply that the research of scholars in the OD&D era was faulty.  They believed it was one way, but later on found out the truth.  I just hope that it remains consistent going forward from here.

Ethereal Travel
This section briefly describes where you can go to via the Ethereal Plane, and some of the dangers that might be encountered therein.  There are monsters (and we already know that most of those with petrification abilities exist partially within the Ethereal) and also the Ether Cyclone, which can blow a creature into another plane, or cause them to become lost for many days.  Ethereal creatures travel fast, and require no food, drink or rest.  The specifics are left for the Dungeon Masters Guide.

Astral Travel
Likewise,  Astral travel to the Outer Planes is given a brief overview.  The Astral equivalent of the Ether Cyclone is the Psychic Wind, which can similarly buffet travellers about or kill them by snapping their "silver cord" (the connection to their physical forms).  Astral travellers also require no food, drink or rest.

Ethereal and Astral Combat
It's mentioned that, when Astral or Ethereal, it is generally only possible to attack and cast spells on creatures who are also within the same plane.  Some spells can be cast from the Ethereal to the Prime, but not from the Astral to the Prime.
  The concept of magic weapons not functioning on certain planes is brought up (it was detailed more specifically in The Dragon #8, and will presumably be explored even further in the DMG).
  Astral forms can be destroyed by most creatures, causing the consciousness to return to the physical body via the silver cord.  Only very powerful creatures can snap the silver cord and kill the traveller outright: demon princes, arch-devils, gods, godlings, etc.).  Ethereal damage is said to be real damage, so presumably a character killed there is actually dead.


Here Gary gives some ideas for how to fairly split treasure among the party.  There are three basic methods that he gives.  The first is to split the treasure equally, which is pretty obvious and workable.
  The second is to split it based on character level, with the more powerful characters getting more.  Again, this is pretty easy to work out, but I'm not sure about how fair it is.  It's fine assuming that the higher-level characters do the lion's share of the work, but that's not always the case.  It also creates something of an imbalance, where the stronger characters get more treasure and thus advance faster.  In practice it's probably fine, because of the large amounts of XP required to advance at high level, but it could lead to situations where lower-level characters are  perpetually outpaced.
  The third method uses equal shares, with bonuses for leadership and outstanding play.  This is the one with real potential for trouble, I feel, unless you have very easy-going players.   The decision as to who gets the extra shares could be a heated one, and objectively speaking it can often be the same players who are giving the most outstanding performances.
  Some modifiers are given, whereby NPC henchmen only get half shares, and dead characters only get treasure from before they were killed.  It's suggested that PCs whose actions are detrimental to the party (such as leading to a character death, or outright attacking one of the party) be stripped of shares.  Again, it's a recipe for dissension, although you're better off not playing with those kinds of people anyway I guess.
  Magic items are addressed, with the suggested methods boiling down to the players rolling dice and the highest getting first pick.  The suggestion that higher-level characters get to roll more dice and pick the highest is again one I'm not super-keen on.
  The thing to remember here, I feel, is that these are suggestions.  The most important thing is not the exact method chosen, but that the method is agreed upon and followed by all players.

And that, aside from some of the charts being grouped together, is the end of the Players Handbook.  I started going through it back in September 2015, and it's a relief to be done with it.  Now that I've finished, the main thing that strikes me about the PHB is what's not in it: the combat rules, most prominently.  I'm more accustomed to 2nd edition and beyond, where the PHB is the place you go to for the core rules of the game, so for me the 1e version feels a little bit lightweight.  I can understand Gary's idea that the game should be kept somewhat mysterious for the players, but personally I feel like everyone should know how the core rules work.  In real life I know roughly how likely I am to be able to accomplish a physical task, and D&D characters should be the same.  Anyway, I'm perhaps being a bit harsh.  Like the Monster Manual before it, this is an indispensable collation of the scattered bits of OD&D that came before, and I can't imagine how wonderful it must have been at the time to have all of this stuff in one great-looking hardcover.
  So what next?  The ostensible task of this blog is to go through every D&D product and stitch the lot together into one huge sandbox campaign.  With that in mind, my next stop ought to be The Dragon #15.  First, though, this feels like a good time to go back over everything and consolidate my work.  I was going to wait until I had the framework given by the introduction of Greyhawk as a setting, but that's a long way off.  The Players Handbook is as good a milestone as any.
  After that, I keep asking myself whether I should go forward, or move backward.  I keep wishing that I had used the blog as a sort of product-by-product history of the game, including the many semi-official non-TSR product lines.  So I might double back and look into some products like the Wee Warriors modules, Judges Guild, the early issues of White Dwarf, etc.  As usual, it's me making more work for myself when I really don't have the time.  This one's still up in the air.

1 comment:

  1. We actually used to play that only the PHB was allowed to be on the table at the time. The DM kept all the rest of the books to himself, unless a player needed to look up one of their carried and known magic items. I didn’t have that requirement when I became a DM.