Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Part 4

DEATH
A brief section addressing the various means of death characters can face and meet in AD&D. It provides a table that the DM can use to determine each character's maximum age, at which point the character will die of old age (and cannot be resurrected, though it doesn't address reincarnation). Interesting addition, but I have to wonder how many campaigns actually made it far enough that a character died of old age? On the other hand, I suppose it could be useful when dealing with things like haste spells, curses, etc.

Next we see a discussion of death from disease or infestation, basically saying that death doesn't make the infestation go away, and any characters resurrected still suffer from the lingering effects. In other words, if you die from syphilis, you'd best have a cleric on hand to immediately cast Remove Disease or you're going to rather quickly die from syphilis again.

Not so sure about that bit, given that diseases and parasites generally can't continue to survive long inside a dead host. But it does add a nasty surprise for those DMs who like to spring such on their players.

CHARACTER ABILITIES
This section is just your basic breakdown of the six abilities, one paragraph for each. I'm not positive this bit needs to be here, as it doesn't really tell you anything you didn't get in the PHB.

CHARACTER RACES
This section gives general racial characteristics, as far as persona goes, but advises DMs not to interfere with players creating their own personality for player characters. The standard advice about PC's not being typical members of their race. It points DMs to the NPC development tables for determining PC height and weight.

CHARACTER CLASSES
Followers for Upper Level PC's: this section provides a ton of tables to supplement the guidelines for higher level PCs gaining followers at upper levels. Tables exist for each character class to determine race, class, and level of followers, plus any equipment the followers come with. This even covers animal followers for Rangers. Great stuff; excellent quick generation tables. I can see how these would be very useful for a DM who runs PCs with followers.

Following the tables is a section on the Paladin's warhorse. Those who came into D&D with third edition will find this utterly alien; the Paladin's warhorse in AD&D is most certainly not a magical extraplanar creature that appears in physical form when the Paladin calls it. Rather, the obtaining of a warhorse for a Paladin represents an important quest the character must undertake. "Calling" the horse merely shows the Paladin where his mount is; the appearance is metaphysical, such as it is. From there he must journey to the place and somehow acquire the mount, often by capturing and taming it, or freeing it from a guardian slightly more powerful than the paladin. Once the mount is captured, rescued, and/or tamed, it will faithfully serve the paladin for ten years, even till death. However, while the creature is exceptional, with extraordinary intelligence and hit points for its species, it is still a standard animal, not a magical construct or extraplanar replica.

This is another trope that I miss. Rather than just another kewl power, the warhorse represents an important part of what a paladin is; he must prove himself worthy. Personally (and in my opinion only) paladins in fourth ed are just too easy. They exist only to be horribly irritating to a party; a superpowered fighter who is too much of a good-two-shoes to allow a party to get on with their business. In earlier editions, Paladins were just as much goody-two-shoe, but they felt like they had more substance to them. They had to work for their paladinhood, continuously. I'm sure there's going to be a slew of people who will post saying that it's the same in 4e, and that's fine. It's just my opinion...yet another example of why D&D no longer (to me) feels like D&D.

3 comments:

  1. So here is the question. What is here that should have been in the PHB?

    One of the big "design moves" of 2nd Ed was to put all the "player" info in PHB and just have the DMG about running the game. I always felt that was a good idea, but one that was poorly executed.

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  2. Honestly, given the philosophy of first edition AD&D, I don't think there's much here that should've been in the PHB. The idea back then was that the players only need the barest basic understanding of the rules, and that's what the PHB gives. The rest is the purview of the DM--there's a lesson to be learned, here. This philosophy leads to greater and deeper mystery and wonder in a game, than does the modern style of play, where the players can actually argue system with the DM.

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  3. Hear, hear! (to Jason's comment)

    In a time where players have cheat books for video games and systems designed for the PLAYERS to have more of the pie than in the past, it is refreshing to look again at the design of AD&D where less (knowledge) is more. It makes one realize just how well-designed a game it is.

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