Thursday, July 15, 2010

OD&D as a Game of Player Skill not Character rolls

In the The Best of the Dragon #1, James Ward writes a very interesting article about being a successful D&D player.  He says in his first paragraph:
I have been traveling around dungeons for a considerable period of time now, and in that time I have thought up and copied many little tricks that have gotten me out of some tight spots. 1 am setting them down in the hope that some will profit by them. It also wouldn't hurt if others sent their little tricks in, remembering that sometimes we need all the help we can get.
He refers to his experience in the first person.  These tips got "him" out of some tight spots.  Not his character.  He goes on:
The first is the creation of a continual light wand. This small baton will give a heatless light in a 24 foot area. It is much better than a torch because you can throw them in an unknown room and they don't go out. It is only a second level spell so it is easy to make. The baton can be kept in a leather holding pouch if darkness is desired. To carry the concept one step further, you coutd put the spell on arrows and when they hit those monsters used to the darkness the effect would be near blindness.
I always liked these "Continual Light" tips.  I think they harken back to an earlier time when you actually cared if you could see in the dungeon because "Light" wasn't a "class feature" of being a wizard.  Oh, and now you can buy an "Everburning Torch" or "Sunrods" down at the local mercantile.   Here's more:
Everyone knows of the usefulness of the ten foot pole in many tight places. The use of a five foot steel rod is even more useful in those light places. You can hang from it and it will not break like the wooden version. It is great for the stopping of those sliding walls. Last, but certainly not least, is its use as a lever of great power.
Nowadays, I can't even find a reference to poles of any length, unless they are polearms.  Why would you need any kind of pole?  Just make the appropriate check.
While we are on the subject of steel, the use of steel potion bottles almost completely ends the chance of breaking them when you fall into a pit or get hit. 1 say steel, because if you make them out of iron, you could get poisoned. They might be expensive to make but so is your potion.
Mr. Ward then goes on to discuss the merits of using "garlic oil" against vampires rather than the garlic itself.  Where's the rule for that?  Further, he talks about using "polymorph" as a two-way attack spell,  In his example he polymorphs a cockatrice into a snail.  Then he captures the snail.  Later, he throws the snail at his opponents -- followed by dispel magic.  Instant cockatrice.  Clever.  Not sure what that does to "Encounter Level" statistics and balance.  :)  He goes on at some length about magic users:
Then there is the poison on the dagger trick, which every judge is always trying to stop. I have been told that poisons evaporate, poisons exposed to the air lose their effectiveness, or the most used of all, in your area there is no poison strong enough to kill the things you want. I suggest to all you players and especially the magic users that can use only daggers, that any amount of money and effort spent in the procuring of a really effective poison is worth it. I spent over 90,000 gold and haven't regretted a copper piece of it.
All you magic users out there should devote some time and effort to the creation of new spells. It requires money and time, but when you have succeeded you have a sellable item, in the form of a spell only you have. I made a fourth level cold ray that really works great against all creatures and especially those fire types. 1 particularly like what it does to red dragons. The list of possible spells to be made is endless, with the only limitation being your imagination.
Poisons are a completely different beast these days.  Can't find a "save or die" poison at all.  Spell research is likewise absent, but I can find the word 'research' in the rituals section.  Seems like descriptive dressing rather than actual character action to me though.

All in all, the advice that Mr. Ward offers sounds like the advice a person would give "to get the job done."  Practical advice that normal, albeit heroic rather than superheroic, individuals might use to succeed in a difficult, dark place that is inimical to their survival.

So, am I bashing the latest flavor of D&D?  Nope.  Just acknowledging that it is a significantly different game.  The character sheet reigns supreme now.

In OD&D, it was the stuff between the players' and DM's ears.

1 comment:

Jayson said...

One of the nice thing about introducing the game to relative neophytes is they aren't steeped in the preconceptions of long-timers.

In fact, having accidentally polymorphed a frost salamander into a cat, my players kept the cat (not an easy task, since it still thought it was a frost salamander) to keep as a contingency in case the polymorph wore off somehow.