I'm in the early stages of prepping a new
fantasy campaign. One of the specific design goals is that the campaign
needs to be able to handle a variable group of players. That means, for
the sake of verisimilitude, it's important that -- at the end of any
gaming session -- the PCs are no longer in the dungeon. (In other
words, they need to be in a position where it's easy to explain why --
since player X can't attend the session -- character X isn't part of
the adventure next week.)
Towards that end, I am instituting a simple
rule of table etiquette. There are three ways in which a gaming session
(1) The players can, at any time of their
choosing, make their way out of the dungeon and end the session for the
(2) As the GM I can, at any time of my
choosing, announce that we will stop playing in 1 hour. If, by the end
of the hour, the PCs have made their way out of the dungeon, the
session ends normalyly.
(3) But if they have not made their way out
of the dungeon (for whatever reason), then either (a) everyone in the
session can immediately commit to another session within 7 days; or (b)
the Escaping the
Dungeon! tables will be used to determine their fate.
the Dungeon! tables were designed, with a tip of the hat
Reints for the inspiration, to be used determine the fate of
PCs left in the dungeon at the end of the session. At the GM's
discretion they may also be used for some wilderness situations. (For
most wilderness situations, I anticipate being able to use PBeM to
resolve the journey back to the home base of the PCs.)
know where you are.
where you are.
You have a
clear and unhindered path of escape.
ADJUSTMENT: Adjust the chance of escape by +/- 10%
multipled by the difference between the average CR of the local
opposition and the level of the character. (For example, a 5th-level
character facing CR 7 opponents would suffer a -20% adjustment on their
chance of escape. In a classic dungeon scenario, you can make this
adjustment using the dungeon level -- a 5th-level character on the 3rd
level of the dungeon would enjoy a +20% adjustment on their chance of
escape, for example.)
COMPLEX: If the characters are attempting to escape from a
lair or other small complex, increase the chance of success by 10% to
THE CHECK: An escape check is made for each character
separately. There is always a minimum 1% chance of escape or failure.
On a failed escape check, roll 1d10 on the Failed Escape table
You escape unharmed.
You escape but have been permanently
altered (maimed, permanently polymorphed, replaced with a double, etc.).
You escape but have been injured. You
suffer 1d6 x 1d6 points of damage. (If this kills you, see result #8.)
You have lost 1d6 pieces of
equipment. Determine randomly between slots and bags. If a bag is lost,
all of its contents are lost with it.
You have been captured, petrified, or
otherwise trapped. Roll the escape percentile again to see if your
comrades know where you are. If they do not, roll the escape percentile
again to see if your comrades have a clue of some sort.
You have become lost.
You have been transformed into a
monster (undead, lycanthrope, mind controlled, etc.).
You have died. Roll the escape
percentile again to see if your comrades were able to retrieve your
body. (Instead of retrieving your body, your comrades may choose to
loot it and/or leave it.) If they did not, roll the escape percentile
again to see if your comrades know where your body is. If they do not,
there is a 50% chance that your body has been utterly destroyed.
Opportunity for betrayal. You can
choose to either reroll on this table or betray a comrade who would
otherwise escape. If you choose to betray a comrade roll 1d6 -- on a
roll of 1-4, you escape and they must roll on this table; on a roll of
5-6, both you and your victim suffer the fate they roll.
The primary goal of this little sub-system
is not to punish the players. However, it is designed to provide them
with a meaningful motivation to leave the dungeon in a timely fashion.
Failing that, it is designed to provide interesting consequences that
(frequently) can be followed up on subsequent forays into the dungeon
-- whether that's recovering lost equipment, ransoming a lost comrade,
or the like.
The actual chance of outright dying, you'll
note is quite slim. If the escape check is the standard value of 50%
(and it will usually be higher), then your chance of dying is only
about 10% vs. a 55%
The results of the Failed Escapes
table, it should be noted, are meant to be flexibly interpreted by the
GM given the exigencies of the specific situation in which the PCs find
themselves at the end of the session. The creation of a short fable
explaining the events leading to their escape (or lack thereof) --
perhaps even one garnering them with some bit of lore or insight into
the dungeon complex -- would not be out of place.
And, of course, the table is specifically
designed to be used in a very specific type of old school inspired
campaigning. In most of my campaigns I have no problem hanging out the
reliable "To Be Continued" placard.
On Wednesday I'm going to be running a
one-shot adventure using the original 1974 rules for Dungeons & Dragons.
These rules are also referred to as OD&D (Original Dungeons
& Dragons) or the "White Box".
the "White Box"? Because the rules were originally sold in a
wood-grained box with white labels and, later, in an all-white box. The
box contained three booklets: "Men & Magic", "Monsters
Treasure", and "The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures".
quick background info on this: I have never run or played in an
OD&D campaign. The earliest version of the rules I have ever
is the 1981 Basic
by Tom Moldvay,
and that only briefly. I originally came to D&D by way of the
BECMI rules designed by Frank Mentzer before moving onto a weird hybrid
of 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D.
(BECMI stands for Basic,
Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortal -- the names of the five boxed
sets comprising the rule system. This edition of D&D was
identical to the Rules Cyclopedia
published in 1991.)
I do not, unfortunately, own an original
copy of the OD&D set. But I do own the
PDFs available through RPGNow,
which replicate the 6th printing of the rules. (Earlier versions of
these rules cannot be reproduced legally because the Tolkien Estate
successfully sued TSR for using hobbits and ents in the rulebooks.) So
a couple weeks ago I printed them out and started reading.
course, even though I've never played OD&D, I've learned quite
bit of it here and there over the course of my two decades in the
hobby. So it's not like I was coming to it with completely fresh eyes.
this was, in fact, the first time I've actually read these rules
cover-to-cover. (Actually, I've read them several times now.) And I've
found the process thought-provoking in many ways. So I've decided to
start a new series of essays, of which this is the first: Reactions to OD&D.
not entirely sure where these essays will take me. I have a few notes
laid out, so I know that some of them will deal with history; and some
of them will deal with game design; and some of them will deal with
tradition. Some of it will be merely reflective and some of it will be
But I will utter a word of caution before I
begin: One thing these essays will not
be is a pleasant romp down a nostalgia-filled lane. The OD&D
are, in many ways, remarkable and fascinating historical documents. But
-- while I am looking forward to my one-shot as an entertaining and
quirky evening of throwback fun -- there's no way that I would spend
any notable length of time playing this game.
So if you're grognard, I warn you to beware:
I am going to be critical of OD&D's flaws... of which there are
(For those who are curious: I'll be using The Caverns of Thracia,
one of the
classic adventures from the Judges Guild, for the one-shot.)
One of the emergent properties of the
Internet that I'm truly enjoying here in the 21st century is the
continual discovery of little artistic sub-cultures that (a) I was
previously unaware of and (b) would probably never have come to exist
without the Internet to propagate them.
In that spirit, allow me to share with you
the journey I have taken over the past half hour. It began with this:
Which amused me a great deal, largely because of
ingenuity it shows on the part of Nintendo's game designers.
It has been revealed to me that the tubes of the interweb have lied to
me. This level was, itself, a hack. I'm still fairly confident that
it's the video that started the autoplay meme, but the truth -- if it
even exists -- is to be found on Japanese websites that I can't read.)
That video, in turn, led me to this one:
Which was interesting to me largely because
it demonstrated that the original autoplay level had inspired a
community of independent modders to duplicate the (non-)gameplay
The video also demonstrated, through it's
own workman-like quality, just how clever
the original Nintendo
level designers had been: They had not only
designed a level that could be completed both traditionally and
through autoplay, but their autoplay had actually been quite intricate
and complicated in the techniques it employed.
But then I found this video:
And that, frankly, is transcendant.
The initial genesis of the idea seems basic
enough: "Hey, this autoplay Mario stuff would make for a pretty nifty
What's remarkable is the amount of time it
would take to perfect the skills necessary to play that instrument
well. And then, furthermore, to develop that skill to the degree
to orchestrate the instrument into a complex musical
I mean, sure, on one level it's perfectly
But on another level it gives me some sense
of what it must have been like in Ancient Greece when somebody said,
"These choral-told stories are pretty interesting. But you
know what might be interesting? If one of us stepped out of the chorus
and pretended to be one
of the characters."
Or that afternoon during Christmas Break in
Dave Arneson said, "Instead of playing Napoleonics today,
let's try this interesting variant of Chainmail I
dreamed up. You're going to be heading down into the dungeons beneath
I even began to read the OD&D rulebooks, I made a resolution:
this one-shot I was going to use the rules from the original 1974 Dungeons & Dragons
game and nothing else.
I referred to it as "White Box Only".
conceit I was working from was this: What would I do if it was 1974 and
all I had in front of me were these three books? What game would I make
To a very real and large degree, of course,
impossible. I have 20 years of experience and professional expertise in
playing and creating roleplaying games.
But one of the
interesting things about the OD&D rules is that they are,
basically, a set of typeset house rules. There are notable passages
which are literally nothing more than a description of how you can
kit-bash your copy of TSR's Chainmail
and Avalon Hill's Outdoor
Survival into a semi-cohesive system.
is there any way to actually play OD&D "by the book". Not only
multiple options frequently given for accomplishing the same thing, but
sometimes the rulebooks just flat out contradict themselves. In
addition, while Dave Arneson is widely recognized as the original
innovator of D&D-style gaming, it's fairly clear to me that
Gygax was in large part responsible for the writing of these
rulebooks. And while I will praise Gygax for many things, the
was never skilled at writing or organizing rules -- which means that
even when there is only one rule for a given situation it will often be
written so vaguely as to leave itself open to a myriad of equally valid
The result is something like a palimpsest.
OD&D rules are the ur-document of all roleplaying games, but
game itself has no true identity: There is nothing you can point to and
say, "That is OD&D." It is like the many-faced Vishnu: All
at once. A form in formlessness.
As the years passed, the
many-formed aspects of OD&D were slowly refined in a particular
direction until it became the game that I started playing in 1989 and
have (more or less) been playing ever since. But what's fascinating to
me is that there was no particular reason why it was that particular mix
of playing styles that were formalized. It could have just as easily
To take a simple example, OD&D
presents two options for resolving combat: One is to simply use the Chainmail miniature
rules. The other is the Alternative Combat System presented on pg. 19
of "Men & Magic".
Now, I don't "have" the Chainmail
miniature rules. (I do, actually, but, again, I'm playing "White Box
Only".) So that leaves me
with the Alternative Combat System. Here's the entirety of that system:
system is based upon the defensive and offensive capabilities of the
combatants; such things as speed, ferocity, and weaponry of the monster
attacking are subsumed in the matrixes. There are two charts, one for men versus men or
monsters and one for monsters
(including kobolds, goblins, orcs, etc.) versus men.
All attacks which score hits do 1-6 points damage unless otherwise
base scores to hit will be modified by magic armor and weaponry.
Missile hits will be scored by using the above tables at long range and
decreasing Armor Class by 1 at medium and 2 at short range.
three paragraphs are accompanied by the two attack matrices mentioned
in the text. These matrices function by looking up the Armor Class of
the target and cross-referencing it with your level (as a man) or your
HD (as a monster). The result is the "Die Score to Hit".
constitutes "medium" and "short" ranges, by the way, are never
specified. Nor is it clear which matrix NPC humans should use --
they're men, but there is at least one passage elsewhere in the books
which suggests, without outright stating it, that NPC humans in
dungeons are considered to be monsters.)
first impression upon reading these combat mechanics is one of
simultaneous declaration and resolution. There's really nothing that
says that, but there's also no initiative system. And no mention of
combatants alternating their actions. So that's the way I'll be running
And D&D could have gone that way.
But instead it went the other direction: Chainmail
had a simple initiative system (with each side rolling 1d6 and the
higher result electing to go first or second) that would eventually be
refined, expanded, and revised into the 1d20 + initiative modifiers
system that we have today.
That's just one example, but the game is
filled with this kind of stuff.
the interests of full disclosure, I'd also like to point out that this
is a slightly simplified take on the matter. There actually are other
combat rules in the game: The "Underworld & Wilderness
booklet contains more complicated systems for Aerial Combat and Naval
Combat, and some of the rules from these systems could logically be
extrapolated out and applied to the Alternative Combat System,
rules, or both.
The "Underworld & Wilderness
Adventures" booklet also contains this passage on pg. 25:
basic system is that from CHAINMAIL, with one figure representing one
man or creature. Melee can be conducted with the combat table given in
Volume I or by the CHAINMAIL system, with scores equalling a drive back
or kill equal only to a hit. Battles involving large numbers of figures
can be fought at a 20:1 ratio, with single fantastic types fighting
separately at 1:1 or otherwise against but a single 20:1 figure.
This passage has been interpreted by some
(but not all) to mean that you one must
use the Chainmail rules
and that the Alternate Combat System from "Men & Magic" is only
meant to be an alternative set of combat matrices for use with the Chainmail rules.
really fun part? That section on "Land Combat" comes immediately after
a multi-section breakdown on player-run Baronies. Because of the
of the books there have been some who have concluded that this "Land
Combat" section is properly understood to be used only when commanding
troops on a battlefield.
Others would point to its position
immediately preceding the "Aerial Combat" and "Naval Combat" sections
and say, "Malarkey." But that's my point: OD&D doesn't really
exist. It's a mirage.
as if someone took the rules for a dozen different variants of Chess,
tossed them in a blender, and published the result. People would take
this mish-mash and, through one means or another, assemble a playable
game out of them. All of them would be recognizable as "Chess", but the
identity of the game we would refer to as "Chess" wouldn't properly
belong to any one of them.
Or perhaps it's more like being
chained in Plato's Cave. The platonic ideal of "the original Dungeons
& Dragons" is dancing in front of a fire behind us, but each of
sees our own pattern of light and shadow cast upon the wall.
there certainly is something exciting about digging my way through
these rulebooks. It's almost like being on an archaeological dig and
trying to reconstruct broken shards of pottery. I can understand the
thrill some people feel in doing this and I can understand why it
When there is no objective rulebook -- when the rulebook
through its own inadequacythat
you revise it and refine it before you can ever use it -- then there
are really no limits with what you can do to it. I mean, the first
thing I want to do when reading through these booklets is to start
trying to revise everything, organize it, and make it fit together in a
logical, coherent, and usable fashion.
But, of course, that would defeat the entire
point of the exercise.
I wasn't actually planning to write up a detailed
account of my one-shot session as part of my Reactions
to OD&D essays, but somebody requested it and I'm
vain enough to oblige.
I had a group of five players: Like me, two
of them had first played with the BECMI rules from the '80s. Two of
them had started playing D&D with 3rd Edition. And the fifth
had never played any tabletop roleplaying games (but he had played NetHack, so he
easily grasped the lingo).
We spent the first forty-five minutes
walking through character creation, deciphering the rules, and
generally getting ready to go.
There was some significant sticker shock
when it came to the "roll 3d6 in order" method for generating
attributes. A fighter named Veera was "blessed" with 9 Strength, 9
Intelligence, 7 Wisdom, 9 Dexterity, 11 Constitution, and 8 Charisma.
And there was only one ability score higher than 14 at the table
(Warrain the Wizard had a 16 Dexterity). One of the players said that
they felt practically "coddled" in 3rd Edition's system of 4d6, drop
lowest, and arrange how you like.
We had an interesting discussion regarding
the rules for Prime Requisite scores. Prime requisites are a topic I'll
be discussing at greater length in a separate essay, but this
particular discussion revolved around how to interpret these particular
passages ("Men & Magic", pg. 10):
is the prime requisite for fighters. Clerics can use strength on a 3
for 1 basis in their prime requisite area (wisdom), for purposes of
gaining experience only. [...]
is the prime requisite for magical types. Both fighters and clerics can
use it in their prime requisite areas (strength and wisdom
reflectively) on a 2 for 1 basis. [...]
is the prime requisite for Clerics. It may be used on a 3 for 1 basis
by fighters, and on a 2 for 1 basis by Magic-Users, in their respective
prime requisite areas..
Before we get into the meat of the
discussion, I'll note that I chose to interpret this passage to mean
that the phrase "for purposes of gaining experience only" applied to
all of this ability swapping. (If you choose to not draw that
conclusion, then things get even more complicated.)
Coming into the session, I had concluded
that the passage meant this: For the purposes of gaining XP you use
your prime requisite ability score as a base value and then add in
these 3-for-1 and 2-for-1 scores as modifiers off of this base value.
So, for example, if a Cleric has a Wisdom of 14, Strength of 9, and
Intelligence of 10 their prime requisite for purposes of XP would be 22
(14 + one-third of 9 + one-half of 10).
But when we actually started running the
math at the table, we quickly realized that this didn't make any sense.
Using this interpretation, it would be almost impossible for a
character to not
gain the maximum XP bonus as a result of their prime requisite score.
A closer examination of the "Bonuses and
Penalties to Advancement due to Abilities" table on pg. 11 seemed to
confirm that this interpretation was in error, as it clearly read:
"(Low score is 3-8; Average is 9-12; High is 13-18)". (And if we uesd
my interpretation, that would not be the actual distribution for the
purposes of the table.)
Then we noticed a rule crammed in on the
bottom of this page:
Note: Average scores are 9-12. Units
so indicated above may be used
to increase prime requisite total insofar as this does not bring that
category below average, i.e. below a score of 9.
That passage confused us for awhile because
it's grammatically incorrect. In that sentence structure "that
category" refers to "prime requisite total" -- and how could increasing your
prime requisite total ever result in it being brough below a score of 9?
In reality, of course, what the passage is
trying to say is that the "units so indicated above" cannot be reduced
below a score of 9. And this led us to the interpretation that
this was an actual modifier to the ability scores. In other
words, clerics could give up 3 points of Strength to gain 1 point of
Wisdom. But then we re-read and clearly noted the "for purposes of
gaining experience only" phrase.
So then somebody said, "Well, maybe it just
means that you can use these other scores instead of your
prime requisite for the purposes of experience points." But about five
seconds of math showed that was even more nonsensical. (When would a
cleric ever have 5 Wisdom, but 18 Strength?)
We circled around the issue several times,
but eventually came to a workable conclusion: You can permanently trade
in ability score points as indicated to gain a bonus to your prime
requisite for gaining experience (but not the actual ability score
itself). So a cleric could, for example, reduce their Strength from 12
to 9 and thereby gain a +1 bonus to their prime requisite.
This sounded like a horrible deal to me, but
several of the players took it.
After debating the rules for adjusting prime
requisites, we had some fun with the unfortunately worded
Language rules on pg. 12.
The "common tongue" spoken throughout
the "continent" is known by most humans. All other creatures and
monsters which can speak have their own language, although some (20%)
also know the common one. Law, Chaos, and Neutrality also have common
languages spoken by each respectively.
Did you spot it? You may not have if you've
been accustomed to the tropes of D&D through other editions. I
didn't notice it myself until I was reading that passage out loud to my
While the "common tongue" is known by most
humans, it's only known by 20% of non-humans.
Elves and dwarves aren't human. Ergo, Veera
the Elf and Nichol the Dwarf only had a 20% chance of knowing the
common tongue. We rolled the dice to check it... and they didn't. We
had a brief discussion about how Warrain the Wizard was going to have
to act as a translator for both of them (he was the only party member
with an Intelligence score high enough to learn their languages), but
then the good ol' alignment languages came to the rescue: Everybody
quickly changed their alignment to Lawful and the crisis was averted.
rolled their starting gold and started buying equipment. A few players
had some misunderstandings regarding how encumbrance worked (thinking
that the cost
of the item in gold pieces also determined its encumbrance cost), but
we quickly got that sorted out.
As the equipment itself, there was some
consternation at discovering that all weapons did the same damage per
hit. Assembling the old school adventuring kits, on the other hand, was
no problem: Two of the players at the table were the only two players
I've ever seen defeat the Tomb of Horrors.
They knew what they were doing.
At this point we realized we had forgotten
to roll for hit points, so we did that. This went... poorly. Hit point
totals for the table: 6, 2, 1, 1, 2. With the exception of Veera, the
entire table had glass jaws.
This boded ill for their dungeon delving. A
few of them asked me to let them reroll, but I shook my head: The whole
point was to play it by the book. And by the book they went...
Now that the PCs had been created, I gave
them the brief background I had developed to get them launched straight
into the one-shot: They had come to the small duchy of Thracia.
Recently there had been a gold rush of sorts on artifacts from the
ancient Empire of Thracia, and their own researches in the libraries of
a distant kingdom led them to believe that they knew the location of
the richly accoutered Burial Chambers that had been built during the
height of the Empire.
At this point I pulled out the Rumour Table
from The Caverns of Thracia.
Following the module, I had each of the players roll 1d4 to determine
how many rumours their character would know. And then I asked each of
them in turn whether they wanted to let the other PCs now what they
All of them said yes, and the randomly
generated results gave them various tidbits: One had read a tale of a
man who had stumbled out of the jungle raving about "tombs of gold".
The dying words from his bloats lips were, "Beware the yellow death!"
Another had encountered a collector in the small logging village on the
edge of the jungle -- he offered to pay them a hefty bounty on any
legitimate Imperial Thracian artifacts. A third had discovered in an
ancient tome a reference that said, "In the Empire of the Thracians,
even the statues have been given motion and life."
And so forth. All of these were spontaneous
riffs off of the barebones information given from the rumours table.
Then I got to the last PC, Nichol the Dwarf.
His player said that she didn't want to share her information openly.
So I took her into the next room and generated her rumours there.
This had an interesting result: Nichol'
kingdom, it turned out, had been plagued by a death cult dedicated to a
God of Death known as Thanatos. Efforts to wipe out this cult had
failed, but Nichol had discovered that the cult had first arisen in the
Thracian Empire. He had come to these jungles hoping to find some
secret lore which would allow him to destroy the cult. He had hired the
others as mercenaries and treasure-seekers. They remained ignorant of
his true purposes.
At this point I rolled 1d8 to randomly
determine the compass direction from which they would approach the
surface ruins above the Caverns. And, in short, order they were pushing
their way through the jungle trees in a generally northwesterly
direction when they first spotted a large, ruined building coming into
The walls of the building were mostly
intact, but it was thickly choked with trees and they could see that
several trees were actually growing through the roof here and there.
They began circling the building, trying to
find some means of entrance. They didn't find any, but they did spot a
5' shaft driven into the earth nearby. They dropped a fiery brand down
the hole. About 70' or so down it landed on finished stone... perhaps
there were some columns? It was hard to tell.
They decided not to descend that way, and
instead continued circling the building. They found no designed means
of egress (which was strange), but they did find a spot on the eastern
wall where a tree had literally grown through the wall.
Climbing up, Veera the fighter looked into
the ruin. All of the interior wall had long since been destroyed and
she could see a wide stairway leading down into the earth. The rest
clambered up after her and they headed over to the stairs.
Lighting torches they headed down the
stairs. These bottomed out into a long hall covered in bat guano. The
bats were still there -- hundreds of them clinging to the ceiling. They
stirred with angry agitation at the torchlight, prompting the party to
douse their torches and switch to a lantern (which could shielded in
such a way that the light would not illuminate the upper reaches where
the bats were roosting).
Ghaleon the Cleric moved to the front, using
his 10-foot pole to tap carefully on the floor. (Anything could be
hidden under that thick layer of bat guano.) Coming to the end of the
hall they discovered a large alcove with the ruined remnants of a
statue. There were also two doors: One spiked shut with an iron piton;
the other slightly ajar.
(There was a funny bit of player interaction
here based on the description of the way dungeon doors behaved from
"Underworld & Wilderness Adventures":
Doors must be forced open by
strength, a roll of 1 or 2 indicating the door opens[...]. Most doors
will automatically close, despite the difficulty in opening them. Doors
will automatically open for monsters ["What? Like at a grocery
store?"], unless they are held shut against them by characters. Doors
can be wedged open by means of spikes, but there is a one-third chance
(die 5-6) that the spike will slip and the door will shut.
So when they found a door that was slightly
ajar, Warrain said, "Careful. I know that doors don't just stay open by
Of course, in retrospect, this is less
funny. It was advice they would have done well to heed.)
Ghaleon and Veera began discussing how they
should go about opening the door. Veera was inspecting the frame of the
door carefully. Ghaleon started probing it gently with his 10-foot pole.
Nichol lost patience with this and pushed
the door open. On the floor of the room beyond, he found an injured
lizardman stretched out next to the dead bodies of 12 giant
Before he had a chance to react, however,
the three lizardmen waiting in ambush leapt out. The others could only
watch in horror as the lizardmen beat Nichol to the floor with their
clubs. Warrain quickly cast a sleep
spell, however, and all of the lizardmen fell instantly unconscious.
Ghaleon moved into the room, carefully
blessed each of them, and then caved in their skulls with his mace.
While he was doing that, the rest of them gathered up the giant
centipedes -- the lizardmen had aleady eaten the meat from two of them,
but the other 10 of them would give them rations for the better part of
a week... assuming the meat wasn't poisonous to non-lizardmen. (It
wasn't. I checked randomly.)
Veera, meanwhile, was poking through the
rubble of the ruined statue in the hall. She recovered its original
head, revealing the statue to have been of the goddess Athena. Warrain
was fairly certain it would fetch a good price from the collector back
in the logging village. They bagged it. Then Ghaleon threw Nichol over
his shoulder and they retreated into the jungle.
DIGRESSION ON SURVIVAL
At this point, a brief digression is called
for regarding the matter of Nichol's survival from his brutal beating
at the hand of the lizardmen.
In OD&D, there are no negative hit
points. If you reach 0 hp, you die. And Nichol hit 0 hp. So why was he
Well, because of this table:
Constitution 15 or more:
Add +1 to each hit die
Constitution 13 or more:
Will withstand adversity
Constitution 9 - 12:
60% to 90% chance of surviving
Constitution 8 or 7:
40% to 50% chance of survival
Constitution 6 or Less:
Minus 1 from each hit die
Chance of surviving... what?
The rules don't say. The description of
Constitution itself says that, "It will influence such things as the
number of hits which can be taken [which it does] and how well the
character can withstand being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc."
But Constitution doesn't offer any bonus to
the saving throws for resisting paralyzation. Should I interpret these
rules to mean that effects like paralysis have a chance of killing a
character and that the survival percentages for Constitution reflect
the odds that they won't? That doesn't seem likely to me.
So what I eventually came up with was that I
could use these percentages to determine whether or not a character
actually survived at 0 hp (while being rendered unconscious and
requiring assistance to recover). I'm 100% certain, given my knowledge
of how later editions of D&D worked, that this is not what
these table entries meant. But if all I had in front of me were these
three booklets, that's what I would have worked out for myself.