Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Part 35


If I have not yet mentioned how much I love this section of the DMG, let me do so now.  I know I've made comments about how much of the advice herein seems very common sense in scope, it's still so incredibly awesome to go back and see how, at the root of rpgs, a Dungeon Master's guide was actually about the art of Dungeon Mastering. What I mean is, in later editions--even as early as second edition--the DMG (or GMG, in other games) tended to be about interpretations of rules, inclusion of additional rules, subsystems, optional rules, rules, rules, and more rules.  While this DMG certainly contains the bulk of the game rules, which were of no concern to players, it also contains real advice on being a DM: advice on how to build, maintain, track, and run your own milieu, or fantasy world.

This is  not just a book of hard rules and subsystems, or a book full of paragraph upon paragraph, page upon page, expounding on Rule Zero and all of its many and varied implications and interpretations.  No, this book actually focuses on what's important: the DM is the final arbiter of the rules, and is the one who must create, run, and control an entire imaginary world. And there are sections and chapters and tables and longwinded essays full of advice on just how to do so.  This is the art of running a game that has, in many cases, been lost in modern iterations of the game, and is a core reason why I decided, in this series, to begin with the DMG rather than the PHG.  It is also the reason why I feel that every game master, no matter what game or genre he or she runs, should feel obligated and required to read through this volume.  Even experienced DMs can find a great deal of value here.  There are things in this work that are so obvious, yet which I have not thought about in years.  I think even after all this time I will be a better DM for having re-read this book.

Say what you will about their probable motive for re-releasing the first ed. core books--WotC is doing the gaming world a great service by putting the first edition DMG back on the market--regardless of their motives for doing so.

So, now, on to the section at hand.

This section, fairly short in scope, discusses what could be considered (and indeed, has been called) the "end game" of AD&D: the establishment of a territory by player characters, meaning the construction of a stronghold (the actual mechanics of which are actually discussed elsewhere) and the clearing and general management of the surrounding territory to make it safe for goodly folk everywhere.  Okay, that's a bit melodramatic, but the section discusses what is necessary to clear an area when a PC decides to move in and permanently set up shop.  I find this interesting because I have often heard complaints that AD&D is flawed in its lack of included domain management rules.  This is rather perplexing, because they're quite present and, to my mind, well done.  Perhaps people have overlooked, or simply forgotten, that they exist here?

In any case, this section scratches the surface of the overall domain management rules, which are also given more detail later on (that old "disorganized" or "stream of consciousness" serpent rears its head again).

It mentions the various different scales of hex in AD&D--something that heretofore was not really made as explicit as it perhaps should've been.  To whit: there are three scales of hex that must be considered: 200-yard hexes, 1-mile hexes, and 30 mile hexes.  Why Gygax chose these specific measurements (200 yards instead of 100, 30 miles instead of 50 miles, or the like) is really unclear to me.  Perhaps one of you, dear readers, has some inside knowledge to clarify this mystery.

Regardless, it's important to remember that scale is exceptionally important to an AD&D campaign milieu.  Remember the variance in scale for dungeon (10 feet per inch) vs. outdoors (10 yards per inch).  I'm not looking, by the by, to re-hash the old argument whether miniatures were assumed in AD&D: they weren't, period, and you can go back to some of my earlier posts to read more about that, or just remember the words of the great Mike Mornard over on RPGNet: "I'm going to say this just once: GARY. NEVER. USED. MINIATURES!" As to why the books reference inches and other wargame terminology, I covered that elsewhere.  The short version is, Gary was using terminology he knew to be familiar to the tabletop gaming audience at the time.

The point here is that there are different scales at work depending on how closely you want to examine the campaign area--think of it a bit like Google Maps.  You start with a very wide and high shot of an area with a "You Are Here" dot.  You can then zoom in to see more streets, more detail.  That's what kind of scale we're talking about here.

The reminder of scale serves to illustrate the difficulty of clearing a realm for the player characters to set up shop.  Each hex must be thoroughly searched and cleared of hostiles--and as Gygax points out, "there are MANY one mile hexes ina  30 mile across campaign hex, so conduct movement and random monster checks as is normal for outdoor adventuring."  We spoke earlier about Gygax's assertion that tracking time in game is essential--it ties in here, because establishing a territory for PCs is not a quick or easy task.  It could, indeed, comprise months of not only game time, but play time. Thereafter, arrangements must be made to regularly patrol the area (especially the borders) to ensure that monsters don't move back in.  Even at this early level, domain management by PCs is not an easy task.

One of the more interesting parts of this section is really a small mention: "...when the player elects to build, he or she must be required to furnish you with a duplicate set of plans of the castle grounds, its dungeons and interiors as well." (94)  This is interesting because here we have the players being permitted--nay, even required--to put their stamp upon the DM's sandbox.  This area, once developed, becomes their domain, and their designs are those that will be erected.  Of course, the DM will have some say and collaboration as to what is possible and/or appropriate for the world based on the surroundings, geography, tech level, etc., but still, never let anyone say that the players can't ever have a hand in developing a game world in AD&D played by the book.

All in all, this is a great section, and reading it got me excited about being a DM all over again.  Some day I may give my own campaign setting another crack, if I can get out from under all the other games my groups are demanding I run!

That's all for now.  Next up: PEASANTS, SERFS, AND SLAVES...and A SAMPLE DUNGEON.

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