Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Part 17

This section has no introductory text; it just jumps right in. As a general comment, I've got to say, I miss infravision. Low light vision, while probably more realistic, just somehow doesn't have the flavor that infravision does.

Infravision: Mostly a reiteration of what the PHB says, Infravision is the ability to see heat patterns. Most of us who grew up in the 80's would come to call it "Predator vision" as, well, let's be honest, that's what it looks like. This section deals with all the things that spoil infravision, such as cold-blooded animals deep in a cave (their bodies are close to the same temperature as the rocks around them), fire, any light that gives off heat. It also allows for tracking of creatures by residual heat patterns, as in footprints, so long as they have passed less than two rounds (minutes) earlier.

One of the neatest tidbits is that critters with "unusual" infravision, ie. they see farther than the normal 60' range, actually see by emitting radiation from their eyes in a sort of "infrared radar", causing bright pinpoint red glows when viewed by other creatures with normal infravision. Just one of those fun, quirky flavor bits that has been lost in later editions because someone on the design team thought it was dumb or "not realistic" enough.

Ultravision: Few creatures in AD&D actually had Ultravision, but everyone in third ed does. It's your basic low light vision, using ambient ultraviolet radiation to see. I always pictured it in shades of green like nightvision goggles, though that's not explicit in the rules. It works the same as low light vision, too, allowing sight in darkness as normal vision in twilight. However, going deep underground foils ultravision because of the lack of ultraviolet radiation available by which to see.

I'm going to half-go back on what I said earlier, here. As much as I dig infravision, I always thought that subterranean creatures, such as dwarves, drow, half-orcs, kobolds, orcs, goblins, and perhaps even gnomes should have infravision, while surface elves, who live under the twilight sky, should have ultravision. But that's just a nitpick.

This section deals with invisibility from the DM's standpoint--that is, how to foil it if and when players begin to abuse the ability. Invisibility is not an unbeatable superpower, as the book reminds us. There are many weaknesses inherent in it. For example, it doesn't dampen sound, so invisible characters without the ability to move silently will still make noise. Also, it doesn't dampen smell, so a dire wolf, for example, may still be able to pinpoint the location of an invisible character; however, I'll deal with that example (animals) in a moment. Dust or powder on the floor will betray the character through footprints, and any sort of particulate thrown in the air will coat the character, spoiling the effect.

Invisibility is proof against stupid animals; while they may be able to smell the character, not being able to see the target will generally just confound them, much as a lingering smell of human might alert a deer in the forest that there may be danger nearby, but if it can't see the human, all it can do is avoid the area altogether.

Finally, a very interesting addition: Detection of Invisibility based on experience level/hit dice. This represents characters knowing what to look for on a battlefield, be it from training or simply well-honed instincts, to detect immanent danger. Basically, a character throws percentile dice against a table that cross-references their intelligence score (interesting; I'd have gone with Wisdom, myself) against their level or hit dice to determine successfully detecting an invisible enemy. A 15th+ level character with an Int of 17+ detects invisibility 95% of the time, while a 15th level character with a 3 Int has a 20% chance to detect. On the other end of the spectrum, a 7th-level character with 17+ Int detects 5% of the time, while one with a lower Int than 17 has no chance to detect at all. No character below 7th level can detect invisibility in this manner.

An odd reminder that for a mirror to be reflective it needs a light source. This is strange, as if a character can see, there's a light source, even if said light is only ultraviolet or infrared radiation. Am I missing something?

This is the section that deals with the difference between Know Alignment and Detect Evil. A paladin's Detect Evil ability, for example, will absolutely not tell him that the NE shopkeeper on the corner is evil. The spell or ability to Detect Evil detects only powerful, supernatural evil. Creatures inherently connected to evil, such as demons, devils, aligned undead, evil gods and their servitors, etc, will detect. Anti-Paladins will detect. Your run-of-the-mill 5th level CE fighter will not. Paladins detect as good. Ki-rin detect as good. Angels and good gods detect as good. You get the idea.

The text is clear that player characters only begin gaining such a powerful attachment to their alignment at higher levels (minimum 8th level, and then only if they are intent upon immediate appropriate actions). Powerful magic items that have an alignment-based purpose (artifacts, intelligent weapons, Holy Avengers, etc.) will radiate good or evil. More mundane magic items won't. There's room for DM interpretation here. For example, does a +1 long sword/+2 vs. demons radiate good? Probably not, but the text isn't specific. Holy and Unholy water radiate alignment.

Listening at Doors
Here we differentiate something that got lost in translation: the difference between the thief ability to Hear Noise, and the act of actually attempting to listen at a door. Any character can attempt to do so, but Mr. Gygax gets a bit crotchety here (did his players abuse the act of listening, I have to wonder), reminding DMs that a player has to remove all headgear to listen, leaving their head vulnerable to attack from the other side of the door or by ear seekers (wow, that's harsh), that everyone else has to be absolutely silent, and it takes a full round/minute to listen.

After this bit of caution, we get a base percentage chance (and its equivalent d20 requisite) to hear noise by race, followed by a note that "keen-eared" individuals gain a bonus, to be determined by an extra roll the first time the character listens (the chance to be keen-eared is the same as the chance to hear a noise--fairly elegant, actually).

The text then goes on to admonish the DM to take care not to give too much away. For example, don't say, "You hear ogres." Say, "You hear heavy footsteps clumping around, and deep, rumbling voices, though the words are difficult to make out." Good, practical advice that a lot of DMs don't follow. Let's face it, we all fall prey to laziness at some point or another, but the flavor does tend to fly out of the game when you say, "You hear four ogres," or "You find what looks like a +1 sword. Don't bother to roll; it's a +1 sword." Those are extreme examples, but you get the point.

Finally, we are told that a maximum of three characters can listen at a door, and a maximum of three tries can be made before "the strain becomes too great," which I interpret as losing focus and the rest of the party getting too fidgety to remain absolutely silent.

All-in-all, more good stuff, a few really neat gems hidden amongst a lot of stuff that we as modern DMs take for granted, but which a burgeoning DM in 1979 would've really appreciated.

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