Sunday, January 29, 2017

From the Reliquary: 1st Edition AD&D Re-Discoveries and How I Never Played by the Book

Greetings Maze Dwellers. It has been truly long since I have entered the chamber of blogging. But a recent period of cold sickness has laid me low and since I've had some down time, what did I choose to read for entertainment?

None other than the first edition original three hardcovers of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game, Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual. 

I have read them nearly cover to cover this past week and several items jumped out at me that made me realize I had never really played the game as written.

I have already commenced games to rectify that!

If you played 1st Ed. AD&D, did you follow the DMG closely and apply it to your early campaigns? Unless you were reading carefully, here are a few things you may have either missed or maybe you chose not to use these guidelines for reasons of flavor or expediency.

I have reconsidered them and plan to include them to add some depth and flavor to my next AD&D games.

(DMG, Page 86)

Playing the game as youngsters, we either missed this or decided it was a pain, but when a character gains sufficient experience points to attain a new level of experience, this progression is not automatic. Game time must be taken on the calendar to receive training from a qualified teacher for the new level and there is also a cost in gold--your current level multiplied by 1,500 gold! 

When you are name level (9th or higher and you get a fancy title), self study and training are normative for you but there is still substantial cost. 

I can see why people would skip this-personally I always assumed the experience you gained adventuring was why you leveled up but it makes sense that you would need instruction. 

Why would one include this guideline instead of simply adding up XP and updating the character? It adds some depth and flavor with NPC characters and organization, for one thing--it seems of interest and roleplaying fun to watch the players develop professional and mentor relationships that could be an ongoing element of the game. It also adds some new dimension with the calendar--the passage of months and years chronologically noted always give the game a more realistic feel. And, since AD&D has that weird surplus of gold, it is a means of maintaining balance in the coin-purse.

(DMG Page 38-40)

  I think we cheated ourselves by not using the acquisition of magic spells guidelines in the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Player's Handbook. Usually it was a matter of, "You leveled up, you get to pick new spells, here is your list to pick from."

That this was incorrect is probably a no brainer to a lot of old school AD&D players, but we just didn't bother with the recommended method, which is that new magic user and illusionist spells must be found in magic books and scrolls and the like or else taught from willing teachers. Spells can also be researched and created by the player character, as well.

Clerics and druids are another matter, of course. Clerics gain 1st level spells through rituals and disciplines learned as acolytes, second level through continued prayer and spiritual service, 3rd-5th through bestowal by spiritual intermediaries of the cleric's deity, and spells beyond 5th are from the direct channel of the deity itself. Druids apparently gain them in similar fashion but the spells come from spirits of Nature and Nature itself.

In point of fact, my position after reading the books all over again is that I don't even want my players running spell casters to even know the spell lists, beyond acquired spells. Granted, most will because of past playing experience, but any neophytes I get at table again will not if I have anything to say about it. 
This way, my game will not make magic mundane, i.e., a list in a rule-book. Hearing rumors of new spell powers or conceptualizing them on one's own would provide a great impetus for quests, (to say nothing of gathering material components for spells known) and add depth to the experience of being a magic user or illusionist character. Instead of always tagging along simply to provide magic to a party and gathering gold, hoping for the odd scroll, the magic user may him or herself organize the next expedition to pursue rumors and legends of places or beings who may provide new magical knowledge or to acquire material components in dangerous locales or from mythical monsters.
It might even involve the magic user hiring their own party members to go along!

Clerics and druid characters need not know all of their spell lists, either. Certainly there would be mysteries of what powers may be unlocked at upper levels. Religious texts studied in temples and shrines may provide knowledge of spells that could be gained through proper service and prayer, druids might glimpse these possibilities in moments of intuition. They could also be revealed by spirits or religious teachers. Again, alot more roleplaying and campaign potential then simply handing the player a book and saying "Pick your spells."

Imagine a druid learning about the existence of a Stoneshape spell from a spirit in a giant stone sitting by a magic pool instead of just flipping through the PHB. It would take a little imagination to make all spells known that are available, but one could reveal two or three spells from the same source as well.

The Players Handbook states that the cleric prays for his or her spell, but that the DM, who plays the higher power, can ignore the request altogether or else substitute another spell (PHB, page 40)--there is no reason a completely new spell could not be revealed to the cleric at this time. 

Also, in the class description of the cleric on page 20 of the PHB, it states that a cleric is not necessarily the devotee of single deity but possibly to more than one ("The cleric is dedicated to a deity [or deities]...")...imagine a cleric learning new spells by spiritual exercises in a shrine, temple or other holy place of the deity whose sphere of domain the spell comes from...lots of adventuring material!


This was an area I did not use as written in the Players Handbook(Appendix IV), probably because at 13 I had difficulty conceptualizing the planes. To be sure, we had adventures in planes beyond the Prime Material, but it was largely improvised and not based on the structure provided, which in fact is tied into alignment.

In fact, after carefully considering how Gary ordered the Multiverse in the PHB (and Dieties and Demigods) I have come to believe that the alignment system (and even the oft ridiculed alignment language rule) is actually far more orderly and tied into the fabric of the AD&D universe than I first understood.

The absolute balance of alignments, as emanating from their original outer planar sources (deities, demigods and other powerful beings)is the physics of the Multiverse. The reason alignment is rigid and organized into absolutes that admittedly seem quite strange at first glance (Chaotic Neutral, for example)is that this order is, for lack of a better word, divinely ordained and maintained. Character, NPC and monster alignments reflect the arrangement of the outer planes where all exists in a semblance or harmony and stability. If alignments were seen as the color spectrum and complimentary/contrasting color wheel, all makes sense. Nirvana and Limbo stand as opposite neutrals and buffer the gradients of alignments which could not exist side by side.

This is why in the fabric of the AD&D Multiverse, where player focus is upon the Prime Material Plane where Greyhawk and other milieus exists, alignment and the adherence to alignment is more than just an arbitrary game is tied up to the phsyics and material nature of the visible and known world. 

When you don't behave according to alignment, you fool with the very balance of the universe. When you change alignment, you actively go against it. This is why penalties occur for a cleric who changes gods or alignment, and why a thrice changed cleric is instantly killed by the forces of the Planes. (DMG, page 39). It is why a Paladin who violates law is penalized, even if acting on behalf of what he believes is for true good. And this is why even those who involuntarily violate or change alignment (such as by means of magic devices like a helm of alignment changing) require things like atonement spell to set things right.

It helps to picture the Prime Material Plane as a place where lines of alignment intersect, and this intersection results in warfare, philosophical conflict, and ideological debate. If each line of alignment is followed out of the nexus to it's spiritual place of origin, there is to be found no opposing alignment, excepting those of astral travelers upon the plane, which pose little threat to the plane's order.

Spells of Astral Travel (cleric and magic user) are not simply a ticket anywhere one wants to go--actual PC knowledge must be gained from some source, a manual, teacher, or deity. In the spell description for Astral Spell it plainly states that where a cleric can go is dependent on his or her conceptualization of the Outer Planes.

Certain magic items and spells can put you out there on the Astral Plane and the Outer Planes, but then one is like a sailor on a ship that is lost at sea. The acquisition of planar knowledge thus becomes an integral part of the campaign once such lore is known to exist and can provide endless adventures!

An entire campaign could, in fact, be cobbled together from the exploration and mapping of the planes.

In any event, these are a few of the thoughts I have had since revisiting the 1st Ed. AD&D books. I may share more, and welcome others to expand on these topics.