February 2009

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5


Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

February 17th, 2009


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 can end:

(1) The players can, at any time of their choosing, make their way out of the dungeon and end the session for the evening.

(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 Escaping the Dungeon! tables were designed, with a tip of the hat to Jeff 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.)



Situation Chance of Escape
You don't know where you are. 25%
You know where you are. 50%
You have a clear and unhindered path of escape. 75%

CHALLENGE 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.)

SMALL COMPLEX: If the characters are attempting to escape from a lair or other small complex, increase the chance of success by 10% to 20%.

MAKING 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 below.



1d10 Result
1 You escape unharmed.
2 You escape but have been permanently altered (maimed, permanently polymorphed, replaced with a double, etc.).
3 You escape but have been injured. You suffer 1d6 x 1d6 points of damage. (If this kills you, see result #8.)
4 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.
5 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.
6 You have become lost.
7 You have been transformed into a monster (undead, lycanthrope, mind controlled, etc.).
8-9 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.
10 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.

February 18th, 2009


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".

Why 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".

Some 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 used is the 1981 Basic Set designed by Tom Moldvay, and that only briefly. I originally came to D&D by way of the 1983 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 largely 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.

Of course, even though I've never played OD&D, I've learned quite a 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.

But 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

I'm 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 practical.

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 rules 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 many.

(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.)

February 19th, 2009


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 the clever ingenuity it shows on the part of Nintendo's game designers.

(EDIT: 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 involved.

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 musical instrument."

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 necessary to orchestrate the instrument into a complex musical arrangement.

I mean, sure, on one level it's perfectly trivial.

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 1970 when 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 Castle Blackmoor."

February 20th, 2009


Before I even began to read the OD&D rulebooks, I made a resolution: For 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".

The 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 of it?

To a very real and large degree, of course, this is 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.

Nor is there any way to actually play OD&D "by the book". Not only are 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 Gary Gygax was in large part responsible for the writing of these rulebooks. And while I will praise Gygax for many things, the man 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 interpretations.

The result is something like a palimpsest. The OD&D rules are the ur-document of all roleplaying games, but the 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 things 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 been another.

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:

This 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 noted.
All 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.

These 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".

That's it.

(What 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.)

My 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 it.

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.

In 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 Adventures" 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, the Chainmail rules, or both.

The "Underworld & Wilderness Adventures" booklet also contains this passage on pg. 25:


The 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.

The really fun part? That section on "Land Combat" comes immediately after a multi-section breakdown on player-run Baronies. Because of the unclear layout 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.

It's 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 us sees our own pattern of light and shadow cast upon the wall.

And 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 liberates them: When there is no objective rulebook -- when the rulebook itself requires through its own inadequacy that 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.

February 21st, 2009



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): 

Strength 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. [...]

Intelligence 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. [...]

Wisdom 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 players.

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.



Then everybody 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...

To be continued...

February 22nd, 2009



Go to Part 1

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 knew.

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 view.

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 themselves."

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 centipedes. 

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.



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 still alive?

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.

And thus Nichol survived... for now.

To be continued...


PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5