Wednesday, November 25, 2020

OD&D Notes, Supplement 1: Greyhawk

Or, half-jokingly, "where everything went wrong".
Initially I expected to make this post part of the series on reading OD&D, but after reading Greyhawk, I think there's a clear line between it and the LBBs, tonally.  I think this is also where I would draw the line between OD&D and AD&D.


Paladins added as a subclass available to lawful fighters.

Thieves added.  They must be Neutral or Chaotic, and Lawful characters can't hire them on a permanent basis.
Greyhawk seems to care a lot about alignment.  I get the feeling that somebody had had too many rat bastard players and was trying to get them to behave.
Open Locks works on magical closures.
Remove Traps is explicitly "small trap devices (such as poisoned needles)"

Demihumans can be thieves, and have no level limits in Thief.

"Thieves of the 3rd level and above are able to read most (80%) languages, so
treasure maps can be read and understood by them without recourse to a spell."
Notably, this doesn't say "thieves have an 80% chance of reading treasure maps" - it says that they can read 80% of languages, and can read treasure maps without casting a spell.

Backstab scales up with level, to x3 at 5th, x4 at 9th, and so forth.  I think this is Right And Proper and I'm extra confused why Basic (as represented by OSE) got rid of this.

Ugh percentile skills.

Demihuman level limits are increased for demihumans with 17-18 in the class' prime req.

Dwarves and elves have definitively acquired infravision.

Oh boy racial bonuses to thief skills.

Half-elves have arrived.  They're a lot like elves but without infravision, higher fighter level limit, lower MU level limit.  Who asked for this?
"There are no half-elf clerics, for in this regard their human side prevails.  However, half-elves with a basic wisdom score of 13 or more may also become clerics."
No half-elf clerics, or only half-elf clerics with high Wis?  Why choose when you can say both?

Updated monsters-by-alignment table for new creatures added.  I'm surprised lizardmen and beholders are exclusively Neutral.

Here's more harping on Chaotic players.  "While there is no rule to apply to groups of chaotic players operating in concert, referees are urged to formulate some rules against continuing cooperation as fits their particular situation, but consideration for concerted actions against chaotic players by lawful ones should be given."

Fighters get to add Str to attack and damage, and low Str penalizes everyone melee to-hit and damage.  18/%% strength has arrived.  Str now modifies encumbrance.  A character with 3 Str only loses 100 coins of carrying capacity (they can still carry 650 at full speed).

Int now modifies maximum spell level, number of spells known, probability of knowing a given spell.  11 Int is still good enough to learn and cast 6th level spells though (versus, say, 3e, where you'd need 16 Int for that).

Fighters with 15+ Dex can basically add Dex-14 to their AC.  Only fighters though, not anybody else (even thieves).

"Charisma scores of 17 or greater by fighters indicate the possibility of paladin
status IF THEY ARE LAWFUL from the commencement of play for that character."
Lay on Hands can also cure disease, which is neat.
Paladins are immune to disease, but not to fear.  They get +10% on saving throws, can detect evil to 6" / 60', and if 8th level or higher can "dispel evil (spells, undead, evil enchanted monsters, and the like) simply by ordering it hence".
They can summon a warhorse but it can't be replaced for 10 years.
They have to give away treasure and magic items, except for their personal armor, shield, up to four weapons, a stronghold of up to 200kgp in value, and up to 200 retainers, which is not much of a vow of poverty.

"Gifts must be to the poor or to charitable or religious institutions, i.e. not to some other character played in the game."
lol.  But also this kind of lawyery is a big part of what makes it feel like AD&D instead of the LBBs or Basic.

High Con scores now get more HP per HD (it capped out at +1 per die in Book 1, up to +3 at 18 here).
Con is now a hard cap on number of resurrections, I guess the percent probability of surviving resurrection wasn't doing its job hard enough: "your constitution score is also the number of times you may be resurrected; this, of course, excludes wishing and other means to revitalize your body without recourse to a resurrection spell"
Chaotic retainers, and retainers serving chaotic characters, take loyalty penalties.

Thief XP table.

Different HD sizes by class.
Wow thieves are squishier in the limit than MUs.  Thieves cap out at 10d4 and gain +1/2 HP per level thereafter, while MUs cap out at 11d4 and gain +1 HP per level thereafter.

Use of d8 HD for monsters recommended, but then provides kobolds as an example with 1d4.  Perplexing.

Tables for spells known and per day for wizards up to 22nd level and clerics up to 20th.  7th-9th level arcane spells and 6th-7th level divine spells added.

Thief skills table.  They don't actually get finding traps.  I say again: thieves don't get anything for finding traps, only removing them.

XP rewards from defeating monsters revised - looks much lower for weak monsters and similar for strong monsters.  Eg, per Book 1 killing an orc would be worth 100 XP.  Here (and hereafter, in OSE and ACKS) an orc is only worth 10 XP.

Henchmen now earn half XP.  "It is absolutely mandatory that experience for non-player characters be computed, bonuses added, and then the whole reduced by 50%"


Weapon vs armor to-hit table adapted from Chainmail.

Arquebus is on the table, curiously enough, as is "horse bow" (in addition to short, long, and composite bows).

Weapon damage now varies by weapon and by size of the target (man-sized vs larger than man-sized).

Polearms are noted as "not usable in dungeons as a general rule"
2H swords kick ass, 1d10 points against men and 3d6 against big creatures.
Longswords aren't shabby either, with 1d8 vs men and 1d12 against big creatures.
I really don't understand the logic (gameplay reason) behind making damage different against big creatures.  Were people only using light weapons?

Oh man this table for weird stackings of magic armor and magic shields up to +5.

This rule about when magic shields apply looks an awful lot like facing.

Monsters now also deal different amounts of damage and have different numbers of attacks each.

Spell lists much expanded - Magic Missile, Shield, Web, Strength, Darkness, Explosive Runes, Summon Monster, Suggestion, Ice Storm, Fear, Legend Lore, Snake Charm, Silence 15' Radius, Prayer, Speak with Dead, plus all the high-level spells.
Extension is a new one to me - extend the duration of a lower-level spell.  First stab at metamagic.

Charm Person duration nerfed.
Sleep clarified to offer no saving throw and not affect undead.
Magic Missile doesn't actually say it automatically hits.
Web has a range of 30' and a duration of 8 hours.  Stronk.
High-level MUs can attempt to detect and remove Explosive Runes.
Summon Monster basically suggests rolling on the random encounter table for a particular dungeon level.
Charm Monster duration nerfed.
Ugh they're specifying between "turns" and "melee turns" in these durations.  Super error-prone.
Limited Wish cannot create treasure.
Spells Simulacrum and Clone are both present, basically just weird limited resurrections.
The Power Words have arrived.
Time Stop stops time in an area, except for the caster - creatures from outside the area can still enter it, but will be frozen.  Also the duration is random and rolled secretly by the DM.
Gate lets you summon "an ultra-powerful being (such as Odin, Crom, Set, Cthulhu, the Shining One, a demi-god, or whatever)".
Summon Monster 7 can summon a lich, who is a 20th level MU, which means he could cast Summon Monster 7, and summon another lich, who casts Summon Monster 7, ...

It seems like the original intent of Silence wasn't to use on enemy casters - "This spell allows the user to either cast Silence upon himself and his party so as to move with no sound or to cast the spell upon some object or thing to silence it. Duration: 12 turns. Range: 18”"
Prayer is weird, it just inflicts a saving throw penalty to targets in the area.  At least the penalty scales up (very slowly) with caster level.
Speak With Dead - answers are recommended to be riddles.
Animate Objects, Blade Barrier, Word of Recall, Speak With Monsters, Conjure Animals.
Aerial Servant is new to me, send a double-strength flying invisible stalker to abduct someone.  Very "jerk-ass DM abducted my PC to put a geas on him".
Holy Word's effects aren't alignment-specific, they only care about the HD of the targets.
Restoration, recover a level drained by undead, is a 7th level cleric spell, up there with True Resurrection, and incapacitates the caster for 2d10 days.


Vampires "from the Middle East" are invisible but can't charm.  OK then.

Elementals are now immune to +1 weapons and attacks from monsters of less than 4HD (unless those creatures have magical abilities).

Druids appear as a monster but not a class.  They are combination MU/clerics.

Tritons are upgraded mermen.

Bugbears appear!  They are "of the "giant class", being great hairy goblin-giants."  They get +1 to surprise.

Ogre Magi "are properly Japanese Ogres" and regenerate 1HP per melee round, plus a bunch of spell-like abilities.

Storm giants can cause storms.

Liches are typically 18th level MUs.

Harpies can charm with a touch.

The rest of the metallic dragons are added.
The "Platinum King of Lawful (and Neutral) Dragons" has 21 HD, AC -3, and a disintegrating breath weapon, while the "Chromatic Queen of the Chaotic Dragons" only has 16 HD and AC 0 (but the action economy of five heads and the tail of a wyvern).

Lizardmen are fond of human flesh.  But again, they're neutral.  I guess bears and lions are neutral too.

Doppelgangers don't have Spell Resistance (it hasn't been invented yet), they just save against spells as 10th level fighters.

Beholders' main body is AC0, the eye-stalks AC2, and the eyes themselves AC7.  So for once it's actually easier to hit the sub-parts.
Beholders are also avaricious.

Displacer beasts save as a man wearing a displacer cloak, which is pretty funny.  Or a 12th-level fighter, against spells.

Rust monsters aren't immune to nonmagical wooden weapons here like they are in OSE.  Another perplexing design decision for Basic.

Giant ticks will pursue and drop on their prey.

Owlbears (pardon me, "Owl bears") are almost entirely bears, with the heads of owls.

"CARRION CRAWLERS: These scavengers will usually attack in order to insure
that there will continue to be a supply of corpses to scavenge".  What.  No.  That's called predation.  Stop.
Nothing about laying eggs in the things they paralyze, so I guess they really don't kill you, you're just stuck until something else makes you a corpse.  That's so dumb.

Gelatinous Cuuuube.  Doesn't actually paralyze you, just anesthetizes flesh that comes into contact with it unless you save vs paralysis.  Nothing about them being perfectly translucent or otherwise unusually sneaky yet.

Giant slugs have super weird mechanics for shooting acid at people, where they just have a % hit chance that I guess is independent of AC?

As golems get heavier (flesh < clay < iron), they also get slower.  Interesting.

Magic items:

Magic swords up to +5 (only Holy Swords are +5 though).  Vorpal, Dancing, and Sharpness appear.

Only fighters can use potions of fire resistance.

Multiple cursed items in pretty much every category.

Rods have arrived, and they're like wands and staves except they have a lot fewer charges.  It's almost like 100-200 was too many?

The Nine Lives Draining sword implementation is actually kind of neat, where it ramps up but then runs out of charges.

Holy Swords make paladins immune to magic, in addition to being +5.

Dragon Slaying Sword +2 does 4d10 bonus damage against dragons of the correct color.  That's actually a pretty OK implementation of "of slaying".

Dancing sword will only start dancing after you've been using it to fight for three rounds, then dances for three rounds, then needs another three rounds in your hands.  It's a partner dance, apparently.

Sword of Sharpness only works for paladins and also provides anti-magic.

Vorpal sword only works for lawful fighters, and also does anti-magic for paladins.  ok_hand.jpg
Armor +4 is made of mithral; armor +5 is made of adamantium.
Shield of missile attraction only kicks in when "missiles from true enemies are shot at its user in anger."
Why do you hate your players?  What did they ever do to you?

Arrows of slaying, on the other hand, don't do bonus damage or give a save or anything.

Crossbow of Speed lets you shoot in the surprise round, and then +3 init after that.  ...  but isn't initiative still by-side?  How does that work?
Wait but the section on ability scores said "Dexterity affects both the ability of characters to act/react and fire missiles".  That sounds like an initiative bonus!  But there was no table or clarification on it?

Potions of Extra-Healing first appear, healing 3d6.

Oil of Slipperiness is for moving through webs and strands, escaping knots and hugs (owlbear hugs?).  It can be removed by pouring wine on yourself, lol.

Ring of Shooting Stars only works at night under open sky.

Ring of Contrariness makes the user "act in the opposite fashion of normal/requested."  So a typical day with player characters, cats, or small children.

Staves of Striking no longer use charges when striking (nor do staves of power or wizardry).

Rod of Cancellation lets you cancel any one magic item if you can hit it with it.  This kinda feels like a "I'm sick of that player with the +5 armor, I'mma send drow with Rods of Cancellation" Bad DM item.

The first reference to the glaive-guisarme!  In the Rod of Lordly Might description.  It doesn't appear on the weapons tables, there it's still just "polearm".

Rod of Rulership lets you command 1d4+1  x 100 hit dice of humanoids for 10 rounds.  But only in a radius of 10 feet.  That can't be right.  It's a pity it doesn't last for longer, that would be a neat way to acquire an army.

So so so many cursed miscellaneous items.

Luckstone affects rolls for generating treasure.  That's amazing.  How would you even run that with a big campaign of 20 players?  Do you have to roll two treasures when you're prepping, one in case the guy with the luckstone comes to tonight's session and one for if he doesn't?  Was treasure usually rolled at runtime?

Horn of Bubbles is funny at least, rather than "lol the cursed magic carpet wraps you up and smothers you, you die unless you have like a 10th level cleric with Animate Object outside the carpet ready to save you".
Talisman of Lawfulness is the first appearance of the effect that became Imprisonment, and does a bunch of damage to people other than lawful clerics who touch it.
Saw of Mighty Cutting: A magical saw which will cut through a normal-sized tree in but 6 turns. Consider a normal tree to be approximately eighteen inches in diameter.
Mattock of the Titans: A great mallet which drives great piles into the ground with but a single blow. It will sunder a standard portal (8’ high, 4’ wide, 2” thick) with one swing. It is too massive to be used in combat by any except Giants, Titans, and the like.
Spade of Colossal Excavation: This shovel will excavate a hole one cubic yard in size in but one turn.
I like these, especially the Mattock.  That's a great example of an item that interacts with exploration gameplay.  I wish we had more like that.

The manuals of skill at arms and gainful exercise and all that arrive.  If you read the wrong class' book, you lose XP and may take damage.  You may even take damage from handling the book.  If you read the wrong alignment's book as a cleric you lose two levels.  
Their covers are blank and impenetrable by either Commune or Contact Higher Plane spells, although a wish will reveal its general contents, and a second Wish would reveal its exact nature. After being read by one individual the work vanishes completely, unless the reader gained no benefit from the contents. In the latter case he cannot rid himself of the item and must hide it away and guard it against use by someone who could gain from it.
And this is a good example of the other thing that makes it feel like AD&D - the "being out to fuck over your players and prevent them from using reasonable tools within the game-world," like Commune.  Advanced Dungeons and Dragons?  More like Adversarial Dungeons and Dragons.

The Deck of Many Things appears!  Interesting that you don't have to take all of your draws at once - the deck only disappears once you've taken a total of four, or you have stated intention to never draw from the deck again.

Underworld and Wilderness:

Some of these dungeon tricks are super-dumb.

They do make the good point that checking the guts of monsters for treasure should take time.

The monster combination suggestions are pretty alright.  "A Cloud Giant riding a Tyrannosaurus Rex."  Yeah sign me up, I want that in my campaign.

The rust monster appears on the 4th, 5th, and 6th level dungeon monster tables.  I do believe it is the only creature with that distinction.

Boy I really didn't enjoy this one.  Maybe I'll read Blackmoor but after that I think I'm done with '70s era OD&D/AD&D books.


  1. In 1982 I met Gary Gygax at the WorldCon in Chicago and asked him certain weapons do more damage versus large opponents and others do less. He explained that thrusting/piercing weapons do more and bludgeoning ones do less. This is why the longsword does 1-8/1-12 but the broadsword does 2-8/2-7.

    1. Sure, that makes a lot of sense in-universe, but I think the intent of my question was more aimed at the gameplay reason. If thrusting vs bludgeoning were the terms that he thought about it in, maybe it ties into fighter vs cleric melee?

  2. Nah, the point where everything went wrong was in adopting the “alternative combat system” of Men and Magic instead of the Chainmail Man-to-Man rules.

    (I’m that guy who’s like, “Nah it wasn’t the Industrial Revolution that kicked off climate change, it was the invention of agriculture”.)

    1. Those are also defensible positions! Things can go wrong many times.