Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Part 37

Before I dive into this section, I'd just like to mention that I'm now using my fancy new Premium Reprint version of the DMG, and I'd still encourage any old school fans out there to support this effort. Unlike the 3.5 reprints, these are pretty reasonably priced and quite frankly, they're really nice quality. Even if you've already got the books, I'd still recommend these, just for the overall quality and to support the effort of WotC re-releasing the best versions of the game from days gone by.

Personae of Non-Player Characters
This has always been one of my favorite parts of the DMG, and is also the cause of one of my favorite "disconnects."

The section in question consists of a set of tables designed to help the DM create NPCs on the fly. The tables cover everything from alignment to personality. Even sanity and interests and collections are covered.  The tables in question are (entries in parentheses indicate sub-tables):

Facts Tables
Alignment, Appearance (Age/General), and Sanity

Traits Tables
General Tendencies, Personality (Average, Extrovert, Introvert), Disposition, Intellect, Nature, Materialism, Honesty, Bravery, Energy, Thrift, Morals, Piety, Interests, and Collections.

Following the tables themselves are brief descriptions of what each category of table entails and how it fits into the overall NPC personality.

Following these initial tables are a set of tables that further expand on the NPC:

Non-Player Character Encounter/Offer Reaction Adjustments
These are based on Sanity, Disposition, Nature, General Tendencies, Bravery, Personality, and Materialism, and added together give a modifier to the % reaction of any given NPC.

Height and Weight
This is divided by gender and race.

Language Determination
This is a list of all the default languages spread amongst a d% table.

It's possible with the use of these tables to very quickly develop quite a colorful character--and that's where the disconnect comes in.  There's long been a conventional wisdom in old-school D&D that while stuff like this is okay for NPCs, player characters should develop themselves, that tables such as these are unsuitable for creating a PC.

I disagree, and I think it's a strong disconnect that PCs are randomly created by the roll of 3d6 (or 4d6 keep 3, or what-have-you random process), hit points are random, even Secondary Skills (if used) are random, but that the use of random tables to create personality, appearance, etc., is somehow verboten.

Personally, I think it'd be a really interesting thought experiment to try making a PC based on these tables.Why is it okay for some elements of character generation to be random, and others not? It could be a lot of fun to go random from start to finish and see what you end up with.

This section is full of general advice on how to run NPCs with whom the PCs interact regularly: hirelings, henchmen, monsters, and other NPCs. While much of the information here may seem somewhat "common sense" based to veteran DMs, it is as with many other sections here, a great reminder/refresher that really gets you thinking about the fact that Hirelings and Henchmen (and monsters) are more than just stats on a page--they're characters, just as much as your PCs are, and they have personalities, goals and drives of their own. Mistreat them and they'll leave or turn on you. There's a brief section on the difficulty of portraying monsters (who have an alien mindset from us) accurately and effectively, which is a nice issue to address, but a bit more advice than "Such creatures might well be beyond the realm of experience of the referee, and understandably so. Nonetheless, such monsters must be carefully played by the DM.  Each and every monster must be played as closely to its stated characteristics as possible." (DMG p. 103) This is a reminder, not advice on how to pull it off. So that's a bit disappointing.

This section discusses the all-important issue of how to deal with such circumstances as hiring a cleric to cast Resurrection when your buddy gets killed and your cleric isn't high enough level to do it.  There's a nice list of cleric spells and their general cost to cast, should you seek such a service. Also included is advice on adjusting prices for faithful, non-faithful, and lower level characters, as well as some tips on offering services rendered in exchange for a spell. Also addressed is the idea that NPC spellcasters tend to get irritated if parties of adventurers are constantly interrupting their rituals or experiements by pounding at their gate demanding services, and how such things may be handled (generally by wildly escalating prices, but this depends on the alignment and ethos of the spellcaster--the PCs could, feasibly, find themselves Geased or turned into toads.)

One of my favorite bits in this part is what happens when you decide to charm a spellcaster into helping you out: the use of the Charm spell causes their mind to become befuddled and confused, and there's a base 25% chance that their spell will actually reverse itself. Oops!

So, that's all for this installment.  Next up: MONSTERS AND ORGANIZATION, and USE OF NONHUMAN TROOPS.

 Go to Part 36

Go to Part 36.1 (Comparison of first and third edition)

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