Sunday, February 19, 2012

I always wanted to ride a griffin. Or a gryphon.

Let's continue DMG-crawling.

P. 49 -- The rules for aerial combat take 3 pages, including a creature-by-creature breakdown of how different monsters fight when airborne. You can see D&D's wargame roots showing. It might be fun to combine these with my old copy of Dawn Patrol.

P. 55 -- I appreciate the attention that underwater adventures get here. Back in the day, I was designing an all-underwater 3e game, and this material would have been handy. It doesn't grapple with the problems of fire or metalwork, but there probably weren't many AD&D characters trying to build strongholds at the bottom of the ocean. On page 56 there's a reference to "the great air-filled domes of Atlantis." I'd love to know if that ever got written up.

P. 59 -- Probably my favorite illustration in the book. Nice work, Darlene.

It's a Viking ship, but he's no Bergman character.

P. 61 -- Now we're talking combat. This, as Tolkien said, needs a week's answer or none.

It's clear that the sense of time was very different in the early days of RPGs. Each combat round here lasts for 1 minute, instead of the standard 5-6 seconds in most of the games I know. When we combine this with the rules and rationale for hit points at higher character levels, it means that a brutal throwdown could take hours in the game world. That's an interesting stylistic choice, and one with some precedent in literature; I think of some of the minor Arthurian knights, like Bors and Ban, who were always bumping into each other and then battling for days at a time without landing any grievous blows. Still, I like fast combat rounds, since that's how most fights seem to go in real life. And also on Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior.

Also, we don't have the Weapon Speed table here (I've never owned a pre-2e PHB). I've seen it, and I think David Morgan-Mar captured it correctly here:

If you want weapon size to affect initiative in your roll-a-d6 system, why not just say that a hand-and-a-half weapon, or a weapon-and-heavy-shield combo, gives your character a -1 penalty while a two-handed weapon is a -2? Much cleaner.

P. 63 -- "It is common for player characters to attack first, parley afterwards. It is recommended that you devise encounters which penalize such action so as to encourage parleying attempts -- which will usually be fruitless, of course!" Aha ha ha! Excuse me as I wipe away a tear of helpless laughter. Or wait, are you serious here? Neither answer is encouraging.

P. 71 -- We have an extended example of melee combat here. It's middlin' as examples go, but it does contain a couple of the best character names in sword-n-sorcery history: Gutboy Barrelhouse and Aggro The Axe. Those names tell you everything you need to know about the characters attached.

P. 72 -- Pummeling and grappling have apparently been a bane to the hobby since the early days. Some things don't need to be realistically modeled.

Some good stuff, some bad stuff, some weird stuff. About par for the course so far -- and about par for the course in any RPG book. Coming soon -- psionics.


  1. Oh wow. Flashback city. I'd totally forgotten about that first illustration. I produced a copy of it for my high school art class "painted canvas" final project. Good times. And thanks for reminding me about Irregular Webcomic! I used to quite enjoy reading it in Pyramid.

    Really enjoying the series--keep it up!

  2. Thanks! I kinda gave up on Irregular Webcomic a while ago, but that panel sticks with me.

    Glad you like the series. I'm trying to not turn psionics into a long discursion on How Matt Thinks Magic Should Work; the next installment won't come out until that beast is tamed.