Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Random Animal Table - 1E DMG

I recently rediscovered these random tables found in the 1E AD&D DMG on page 138,  presumably by Gygax. They are meant for the Bag of Tricks, so are often overlooked in the magic item section but could be used in any situation calling for a random animal. They are nicely ordered by HD and have the most important stats right there. Most of the animals are found in the Monster Manual, and having stats matching that source, but about a third of them are not, including weasel, skunk, owl, goat, ram, eagle and ostrich (several of these are found in giant form in the MM, but not normal form). For other opponents with 'stealth stats' in the DMG, see this thread on the Knights & Knaves Alehouse.

Here's an earlier version of this table from the Bag of Tricks entry in Greyhawk (1975). These are some of the earliest 'normal animal' stats for specific animals. The stats for the same animals found in both tables are similar, but with many minor changes.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Gen Con IX report by Ian Livingstone

GEN CON IX report by Ian Livingstone (Click on pic for a larger view)

In the summer of 1976, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson of Games Workshop traveled to the US to attend the ninth Gen Con. This was the last year that the event was held it is original location, the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva. Ian Livingstone later wrote about their trip in a con report for Owl & Weasel #18, September 1976, the predecessor of White Dwarf magazine.

The scan quality is not great, since I grabbed this image from an Ebay auction, but it is readable if you click on the picture above.

Some choice quotes:

"The Con kicked off with an auction at 10am with a great pile of games and figures being skillfully sold off by this-is-cheap-at-twice-the-price Tim Kask"

"...naturally Fantasy was featured strongly, with games of D&D, Lankhmar (see review), War of Wizards and Petal Throne being played everywhere"

 "Before lunch, Fritz Leiber gave a seminar on sword and sorcery and also on the development of his game Lankhmar. During the afternoon there were even more games but perhaps the most interesting part was an Empire of the Petal Throne adventure guided by the inventor Professor Barker and made famous by the enormous model of the Jakala Palace he'd built together with his red-shirted entourage"

"The ubiquitous insomniac D&D brigade carried on through the night whilst lesser mortals slept"

"Steve and I spent [Saturday] checking out new games with a view to importing some of them and obviously spent a lot of time with all the members of TSR to whom go our thanks for putting themselves out for use despite the time constraints of the Con. Special thanks go to Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz for the guided tours and introduction to the Next Door Pub!"

Here is a picture of Leiber, Gygax, Barker, Jackson, Livingstone and Kuntz from this con, published in 40 Years of Gen Con by Robin Laws. I grabbed a scan of it from here.

A Rogues Gallery of Game Designers

This relationship bore fruit - Jackson and Livingstone obtained the rights to distribution TSR products in the UK, and by late 1977 Games Workshop was printing UK versions of TSR products, including the Basic Set.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Part 37: "Any Ring Spell Except Wishes"

Part 37 of a comparison of Holmes' manuscript with the published Basic Set rulebook. Turn to pages 36-37 of your 'Blue Book' and follow along... (pages 35-36 for the 1st edition)


Unlike the other magic item lists, this one has an introductory sentence, "Scrolls may contain any of the spells previously described, under Spells or described here as potions, rings, wands, etc". This sentence is included unchanged in the published rulebook. The reference to "any of the spells previously described" seems to indicate the scrolls can contain magic-user or clerical spells. However, in the section describing Scrolls, Holmes further writes, "The spells written on the scrolls can be read only by magic-users, except for the protection spells", which seems to indicate that scrolls with cleric spells are limited to magic-users. For a more detailed look at this, see my earlier post, No Spell Scrolls for Clerics. Gygax didn't see this way, even for Holmes Basic: the clerics in the original B2 module (written for Holmes) have standard clerical spell scrolls.

Holmes follows with a list of ten scrolls, sourced in part from OD&D. The only OD&D Scroll table is found in Vol 2, page 24, and has 9 types of scrolls (unlike the other types of magic items, Greyhawk doesn't include an updated Scroll table). In the manuscript, Holmes uses 7 of the 9 original entries, dropping only the scroll of 7 spells (too powerful for Basic?), and Protection from Elementals, a monster not covered in Basic. To bring the list up to ten entries, like the other tables, he comes up with something interesting: scrolls that duplicate the effects of potion, ring or wand spells. This neat 'Holmesian' twist greatly increases the variety of available scrolls without adding a lot of extra rules or verbage to the rulebook. It also provides the DM for a way to give Basic level characters some one-shot disposable items with powers normally reserved for permanent (such as a Scroll of Animal Control) or multi-charged (such as a Scroll of Cold) items. The published rulebook keeps these non-standard scrolls, only limiting them slightly by further excluding delusion from the potion spells, and regeneration from the wand spells. Unfortunately, this great idea was dropped from B/X, where Moldvay shortens the list to 8 scrolls, cutting Protection from Magic and the Potion/Ring/Wand Spells, and adding Treasure Maps to the list. AD&D also dropped this idea. So it remains a Holmesian feature, perhaps his most significant addition to the range of D&D magic items. 

Dragon #50 contains a module written for Holmes Basic called The Chapel of Silence, by Mollie Plants. It won the Basic Division of a Dragon magazine contest. The module contains a Scroll of Healing, which appears to be a scroll containing a Potion of Healing spell.

Another implication of these scrolls is that effects like Healing and Fire Resistance, which mimic clerical spells, could be researched as magic-user spells.

The section describing Scrolls appears in the manuscript in identical form as published. For this section, Holmes draws on two parts of OD&D Vol 2: the material on Cursed Scrolls at the top of page 25, and the section describing Scrolls on page 32. He reduces the short table of curses to two examples. Holmes omits the info that spells are cast at the 6th level, probably because such levels are not covered in Basic. Holmes also simplifies the Protection Scrolls by giving them all a standard radius and duration.

Continue on to Part 38 (forthcoming)
Or Go Back to Part 36: "They May Dare a Tiny Sip"
Or Go Back to Start: The Holmes Manuscript