Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Mystery of the 18 Pages of Notes

Briefly, for any who may not be familiar, the basic context is this:  Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson began a collaboration on Arneson’s ideas for a Napoleonic naval game.  The modus operendi of this collaboration was that Arneson wrote sections of rules and mailed it to Gygax, who edited and retyped them, and added his own material.  Mike Carr was brought in for further edits and additions and the result was published as Don’t Give up the Ship in 1972.

In November (or thereabouts) of that same year Arneson demonstrated his fantasy adventure game to Gygax by hosting a dungeon adventure in which Gygax was a player.  A new collaboration began, and within a few weeks, Arneson mailed to Gygax a packet variously reported as containing 16, 18 or 20 pages of notes (herein I’ll just go with the middle # of 18 for convenience).  Rob Kuntz, the only person besides Gygax known to have read them, described the packet as notes “based off of EGG’s Fantasy Supplement to the rules Chainmail (Gygax & Perren, Guidon Games 1971) but with copious additions of formulas which I faintly (at least then) equated to those from the miniatures game Strategos N (David Wesely, 1967)”. Lord of the Green Dragons weblog MONDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2009.  Elsewhere he further explained “I came away with virtually no understanding of a cohesiveness or structure to it at all, but it obviously made sense to Dave as he was judging it.” ODD74 Proboard forums, “Lake Geneva Gaming Group?” July 21st, 2010

What was in those 18 pages of Notes?

Precisely?, heck if I know.  Until or unless more comes to light the exact content of the first packet of material Dave Arneson sent to Gary Gygax must remain a mystery.  However I can identify with a high degree of confidence material Dave Arneson sent to Gygax very early in the process of writing D&D.  In other words, material that either was in those 18 pages, or if not, must have followed shortly thereafter as Gygax worked on the initial drafts of D&D.

How is this possible?  To date, there are two known sets of D&D draft material.  The Dalluhn (Beyond This Point be Dragons) manuscript and the Mornard Fragments.  There’s no precise way to date either of these except to say that Mornard predates Dalluhn, though both are almost identical, and while neither of these documents is complete, Dalluhn appears to be missing only some material regarding spell descriptions and domain management.   Terminus post quem for the Mornard fragments can be reasonable stated as late August 1973, as that is when Michael’s freshman year began, taking him from Lake Geneva to Minneapolis.  Michael has indicated that Gygax made the photocopies at his request so he could have them for running games when he went to college.  Roughly speaking, they seem to represent the state of the game about 6 months in, give or take a few months.

As a basic premise, we can assert that if there is any material by Dave Arneson present in either of these drafts it must obviously have been given to Gary before he typed them. 

How much of any such Arneson material stems from those original 18 pages is a matter of sheer conjecture, but it stands to reason that a large portion of it should come from that first, perhaps largest, perhaps only, packet of rules. 

Presently, I’m aware of no original copies of Dave Arneson’s notes, but we are fortunate to have The First Fantasy Campaign.  Arneson basically gathered a hodge podge of his campaign notes going back to 1971, probably most of what he had extant, and handed it off to Judges Guild for publication.  The young editor, Bill Owen, was somewhat starstruck by Arneson and treated the material with kid gloves.  Though many complain about the jumbled layout and unexplained details, Owen’s minimalist approach thereby preserves a valuable record, albeit one that is sometimes difficult to follow.  However, in that respect it is not particularly worse than the 3lbb’s.

Now I realize there is a longstanding narrative that the material Arneson sent to Gygax over the course of the game’s development was “useless” and Arneson’s contribution was one only of the general concept of the game.   Readers familiar with the history of Gygax, Arneson, and TSR will realize such a narrative might be taken with a grain of salt.  Plenty of salt follows below.

In theory, and as we are about to discuss, in reality, if Arneson contributed any actual material to D&D, that is to say, if Gygax actually used any of the so called useless stuff, the FFC ought to contain at least some of it in a primal, pre-edited form.  Indeed, some, if not all of those 18 pages could well have been right in front of our eyes since 1977.

So the next step then is to go through the FFC and look for material that parallels the content of the D&D draft material, most particularly material that is evidentially pre 1974.  Now I realize most readers will not have either the Mornard fragments or the Dalluhn manuscript to hand, however, corresponding sections are also found in the 3lbbs so, where appropriate, I will give the relevant pages for reference.


Weapon and Armor Prices
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
4/5
BK1:4
Vl 1:14,15
Bk1:16


Some of the equipment falls into this category also.

Construction and Prices
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
5/5
Bk 1:11,12
Vl 3:21
BK 1:17,18

Admittedly, there are no special clues in the construction costs list in the FFC to permit dating.  Some of the items are identical in price to Daluhn, some not, and some items not shared between the two.  There can be little doubt that the concept and detail of construction costs originate with Arneson, dating back to some extent to his Napoleonics campaign.  The very drawing of the construction costs found in the first 4 printings of D&D appears to be another example of Arneson’s art, though I have yet to see this verified.

Personnel Costs
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
5/5
Bk I:11.12
Vl 3:22,23
Bk 1:15

As with construction costs, so with personnel.  In fact it is very interesting that the Pesonnel (specialists) and construction costs are found together in both Dalluhn (where they are called special agents) and the FFC.  The FFC list is clearly antecedent to Dalluhn as the FFC list contains things like “eagle rider” and “red silk” slave, whereas Dalluhn generalizes these to “Flying animal rider” and “Female slave”.

Wilderness Encounter Matrix
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
34/23
BK 1:7,8
Vl 3:18
BK 1:32

See this post for discussion http://boggswood.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-howling-wilderness.html  Note that the FFC table also includes notes on the range of possible numbers of monsters appearing.

Evasion
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
34/23
BK 1:10
Vl 3:20
BK 1:38

In addition to the Encounter Matrix for wilderness play, Arneson also devised the first wilderness evasion table with the familiar decreasing chance to escape with increasing numbers in the party.  The table in the FFC is a simple d6 roll, and though we have no record of it, it wouldn’t surprise me if Arneson developed a somewhat more complicated % based one now lost.  Certainly the Evasion tables in the draft material and published game are much more developed, as is the similar table in AiF, but these all clearly stem from the initial idea found in the FFC.
 
Map Movement
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
34/24
BK 1:10,11
Vl 3:16
N/A

This is a fun one I haven’t discussed before.  There’s lots to suss out here and a lot could be written, but I’ll stick to basics and try to keep it brief.  The categories are mostly the same in all lists, except D&D drops Tarns and adds a few creatures in Dalluhn like balrogs, efreets and jinn and lastly brooms get added to the published game.  .  The FFC gives a full table of individual rates of hexes traveled for the categories of Mountains, Woods, Deserts, Swamp and Normal/Max.  The D&D (drafts and published) simplifies movement to a single rate with a penalty modifier for terrain.  In the published game (not in Dalluhn) the penalty is specified by number for Mountains, Swamps, Fords, Woods, Deserts, and Tracks Through Mountains.  Only “Tracks Through Mountains” adds to the FFC categories.  For watercraft, all the lists have a normal and swamp rate.  Roughly speaking, the D&D numbers are adjusted lower than the FFC figures by either 1 or 2 hexes for most things, except men on foot, which is half the FFC number.  

On the surface then the D&D movement table is the Blackmoor table, simplified to one column, expanded to cover a few more creatures and with the numbers tweaked a little bit.  Deeper in however, it is more convoluted.  First, both the Dalluhn draft and the FFC movement rates are given in 10 mile hexes, but in published D&D, though it has the same numbers as the draft, they now represent travel through 5 mile hexes.  So despite having the same numbers, the distance traveled in published D&D is only half as far as in the Dallunhn draft.  Second, the D&D drafts and published D&D indicate the rates of hexes traveled are for one day of travel.   Startlingly, however, the FFC table represents hexes traveled per WEEK.  Heh.  I imagine that little word was possibly scribbled in later, and not present on the notes Arneson sent to Gygax, who assumed perhaps the rates were per day.    

Incidentally, this does make better sense of the once per day wandering monster roll.  One issue that crops up with this roll in D&D is location of the encounter.  If a group travels 3 hexes a day in normal movement and they have an encounter, in what hex does it take place and what about those other “adventures” skipped over in the other hexes?  The travel rate on foot in Blackmoor however is 6 hexes per week with one day of rest – that is one hex per day, and one roll per hex, typically.  
                                                                                                                                      

Magic Items Table
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
88/61
BK I:13
Vl 2:23
Bk 3:36

Below is a one for one comparison of the Items tables from the FFC and Dalluhn.

Order
Appearing in Table
FFC – Magical Items Summary table
Order
Appearing in Table
Dalluhn Table 26 – Special Items Determination
1
Weaponry – swords
1
Weapons (swords)
2
Weaponry – Armor
2
Armor
3
Weaponry – bow and others
3
Miscellaneous Weapons
5
Formulas & potions
4
Potions
6
Books etc, - Technical manuals and Formula scrolls
5
Scrolls
7
Books etc, - Maps: Treasure
9
Maps –treasure
8
Books etc, - Maps: Equipment (misc magic)
10
Maps – Miscellaneous Magic
9
Books etc, - Maps: magic
11
Maps – Magic and Treasure

-
6
Rings

-
7
Wands
4
Equipment (various magical/techiical things)
8
Miscellaneous Magic


Without even considering the percentages involved, one can easily see how the Dalluhn table is derived from the FFC table.  The topics line up quite nicely, except in Dalluhn what amounts to miscellaneous magic is moved from 4th position to the bottom of the table and rings and wands inserted along with it.  Maps remains the last topic on both tables however.  Incidentally, wands show up elsewhere in early Blackmoor material such as the Lake Gloomin stocking lists.  Rings however do not, and appear to be a genuine Gygax addition to the game.

Monster Details
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
89-92/61-63
Bk 1:24-30
Vl 2:5-21
BK 3

(Dragons, Orcs, Bandits, Nomads, Trolls, Ogres, Wights, Ghouls, True Troll, Rocs, Basilisk, Balrog, Giants) (See Jon Peterson appendix to PatW for an excellent cladistic analysis)

Monster stats: % lair, number appearing, lair and/or carried treasure, variable damage and Hit Points
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
89-92/61-63
BK 1:9
Vl 2:3,4
BK 3:31

The pre D&D FFC monster list referenced--+ above, mentions % lair, the variable range of number appearing, and the content of lair treasures and walking around treasure in several places.  Most of these appear in other pre D&D material in the FFC also.   Some monsters have them and some don’t.  These stats, of course are formalized for all monsters as column headings in the Monsters Table of the drafts and printed D&D, along with Movement, Hit Dice, and Armor Class.

There’s a few posts where I talk about Hit Points, but this one discusses the history aspect best: http://boggswood.blogspot.com/2014/08/on-creation-and-evolution-of-hit-points.html

Variable Damage – the damage mechanic of Blackmoor is Not the method adopted by D&D.  In Blackmoor, damage was a matter of the level or power of a being such that higher level beings rolled more dice, called “hit dice”, to determine damage, and judging from certain player accounts, damage seems to have been shared – at least on low level foes.  While D&D does allow some instances of multiple dice of damage, it is mostly just 1 die rolled.  The point where both agree is the idea of using a random die to determine damage in the first place.

Silver, Gold, Jewels, and Miscellaneous, Treasure categories & percentages
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
89/61
BK 1:12
Vl 2:22
BK 3:33

The Treasure Type Tables in Dalluhn (Prize Matrix) have the following categories of treasure in the following order:
            Magic; Copper; Silver; Gold; Gems/Jewelry. 
The First Fantasy Campaign™ has the following categories of treasure for dragon hoards as found in the pre D&D monster list:
             Miscellaneous Goods; Silver; Gold; Jewels.  
Note that only “copper” is missing from the FFC list, though the FFC also makes no distinction between gems and jewelry.

The FFC also lists a percentage of each treasure category present in the hoard, 50% gold, for example, and varies the kind of treasure present for different dragons.  This idea is carried into the D&D treasure table as a percentage chance of different kinds of treasure.  In Arneson’s dragon tables, the amount of treasure (if any) is tied to the age/strength of the dragons via how many “hits” it has, and a formula.  D&D divorces this specific strength of creature formula from treasure amount, devising instead differing treasure “types” of greater and lesser values and varying content which then can be matched to stronger or weaker monsters.  So, as in the FFC, the D&D Treasure Type tables do parse out the kinds of things present in a treasure and how common they are, but unlike the FFC the amount is not tied to a creature’s combat strength, but rather to random chance within a given treasure type.

The “Treasure Types” themselves have no equivalent in the FFC, but the use of a lettered system may perhaps stem from Arnesons lettered magic swords list, which he used to randomly stock treasures in Blackmoor dungeon.

Dragon Subdual and Sleeping Dragons
FFC  1977/1980
Dalluhn
3lbb
AiF
89/61
Bk 1:29
Vl 2:12
n/a

The dragon section in the FFC monster list yields even more evidence of direct input, through the idea of subdual and the free attack.

The FFC rule for a free attack on a sleeping dragon reads “If in lair, 80% chance its asleep
(free Chop)” and that is almost identical to this quote from the Dalluhn draft “If a Dragon is
encountered in its lair there is a chance it will be asleep. Use a 100% reckoning, base 80% for White and decreasing in probability to 55% for Golden. If the Dragon(s) is (are) asleep, they can be surprised, and a free chop is gained.”

Aside from the use of the word chop, the real clincher, is the nearly identical use of the statement regarding 80% probability of a free attack on a sleeping dragon.  This 80% rule in the FFC and the Dalluhn draft is completely different from that given in 1st print D&D.  In D&D the rule is that there is a 60% chance for white dragons to be asleep descending to only 10% for Golden.

Magic potions and scrolls

As can be readily seen in the pre D&D sections of the FFC, the existence of both magical potions and magic bearing scrolls was an important part of the early Blackmoor milleau, readily adopted into D&D.  Though the exact type of potions and spells was greatly expanded and changed, a few of the Blackmoor originals survive in the game to this day.  This post about Loch Gloomen shows some examples:  http://boggswood.blogspot.com/2014/08/stocking-blackmoor-wilds-in-1972.html

Character Levels and Experience Points

Okay, this one I’m not going to reference because it is a basic idea in all the works.  Secondly there’s no direct definition of either of these things in Arneson’s material, and no way to guess what reference may have been in the material Arneson sent to Gygax.  It is entirely probable that the concept of character growth, levels, and experience points were among the things Arneson and Gygax conversed about verbally, though some references to each of these were presumably in the material packets Arneson mailed in for the game manuscript.  For more on levels see this post:  http://boggswood.blogspot.com/2012/02/infamous-characters-and-history-of.html
Arneson’s development of experience points is discussed here: http://boggswood.blogspot.com/2014/08/on-creation-and-evolution-of-hit-points.html

Character Ability Scores

No real need to reference this one either since all the appropriate information can be found in the post:  http://boggswood.blogspot.com/2012/12/character-sheet-clues-part-ii.html

Post Dalluhn Material? 
There’s one more, very important section of the FFC I’ve talked about before, but for the sake of completeness will revisit here.  The magic swords matrix section.  77:67  The Magic Swords Matrix section is clearly Arneson’s draft, used and reworked by Gygax for the magic swords section of the 1st print D&D.  Perhaps the most obvious example is this paragraph:

            “Minions that are directed to take up the Sword whose origins are different than that of            the directing party and are not acting as free agents (i.e. they are under the player's             power), will suffer damage at half the normal rates. In special cases (see Special Table),        players may not suffer damage, may be forced to change sides, may be freed from any         spells they are under, may lose or gain powers." (FFC 77:68)

In D&D 1st print this becomes:

            “If a non-player character is directed to take up a sword the damage will be only one-   half that stated above, for the party is not acting as a free agent. Additionally, the sword            might cause the one who took it up to be freed from a spell, change alignment, or    otherwise gain powers which would remove them from the service.” (M&T 74:27)

Interestingly, we can see approximately when the FFC text was written.  We know it was not in the original 18 pages of notes for certain, but had to have been sent in by Arneson some time later.  The swords section is not found in the Dalluhn draft or Mornard fragments, and that’s very suggestive, but more telling is a reference in the Matrix text to the “magic section” of the “rules” (77:69).  The clearest evidence however is the instruction given to roll randomly for the cleric spell a holy sword has on the cleric spell tables – amended by “If the roll indicates no spell (i.e. such as a 5 on a level 4 curate) you get two more rolls..” (77:70, 80:44)  Intriguingly, the Magic swords text consistently refers to “curates” where cleric is intended, possibly indicating a fluctuation in the name of the class, but the important thing to note is that here the FFC tells us there were less than 5, 4th level spells.   However, 1st print D&D actually has 6, 4th level spells listed. The Dalluhn draft, on the other hand, has only 4, 4th level cleric spells.  So we can be sure that the Magic sword matrix section of the FFC refers to a draft of the “rules” at a similarly early level of development.

Now I should also mention a few other things which appear in D&D that have very strong connections to Arneson but are not found in the FFC:

1)      The Turn Undead table – look to the discussion posted in September on this one, but let me just say I’d bet dollars to donuts that this table was in those 18 pages.
2)      The naval warfare section – naval warfare was certainly Arneson’s forte and certain details, particularly regarding monsters are repeated and expanded on in Arneson’s Supplement II.  It is very likely Dave wrote the draft of this material.
3)      Monsters – Black Pudding, Ochre jelly .  These two classic baddies were staples of early Blackmoor.  Ochre Jelly, btw owes much to the silicon monster of Star Trek.
4)      Investment Areas  - One of the more curious things in OD&D, investment areas appears in the drafts and printed work as an unexplained list of things, like, roads, tourism, and trade.  We can be sure this list came from Arneson, as making these sort of investments is a well attested activity of the early Blackmoor players, and to even earlier campaigns in the Twin Cities.  The lack of explanation in OD&D seems a puzzling gap in the rules, and possibly may indicate that Gygax had only a similarly bare list from Arneson to work from.  Arneson does attempt to fix the situation in the FFC, where we find a post D&D essay on the given investment areas and how they are to function.

            Of the material discussed above, only the magic swords rules and the naval warfare section are absent from the Dalluhn draft.  Certainly that does not establish anything conclusive, but it does suggest most if not all the other material was present in those 18 pages and that the naval warfare and magic swords sections – both of which are a few pages long – were sent in later, after Dalluhn was prepared.

Conclusion:

Regardless of how things may later have been portrayed, I think in 1973 Gary Gygax had a great respect for Dave Arneson’s ideas and creativity and made a genuine effort to include them in the D&D game, true to Dave’s vision, to the degree that he thought he could make them workable and consistent with the rules framework he developed.  In other words, I believe he deliberately meant to be inclusive of Dave as a co-author.  I’m reminded in this respect of something Tim Kask reported as occurring in 1975 as he edited Arneson’s Blackmoor Supplement II.  When young Tim complained that the Monk was a bad idea and should be dropped from Arneson’s Supplement II, “Gary told me to go ahead and put it in as it was part of Dave's milieu…” Dragonsfoot forum,  Q&A with Tim Kask Friday October 16, 2009.  I think the Gary Gygax of 1973 held a similar view toward Dave’s rules material, which he did his best to rework and edit into D&D.  To draw a movie analogy, it is as if Gygax took Arneson’s script, rewrote much of the dialog and added a host of new scenes, but kept the story and plot largely intact.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Did HD equal Level in early Blackmoor?


We’ve discussed character levels in early Blackmoor before here: http://boggswood.blogspot.com/2012/02/infamous-characters-and-history-of.html

So building on that discussion, Lets consider some statements from original player Greg Svenson.

“There were only three levels at the time: flunky, hero and super hero. We were all flunkies at the start. He became a hero when he mastered the magic sword we found during the adventure. I don't remember when the level advancement became one level per new hit dice….”

From my previous post, it is apparent that as Arneson developed early Blackmoor, flunky, hero, superhero did not really function as “levels” as we would think of them today, but more like level titles or social ranks – the sort of things we sometimes call tiers – that were nevertheless very important divisions as far as rule differences were concerned.   Characters also had “levels” of ability within these rankings as either “warrior” levels or “magic” levels, and sometimes in both.  It is the meaning of “level” in early Blackmoor and the interplay of level and title that I want to explore here. 

Lets look at one of the earliest documents in the FFC we have for Blackmoor, dating to before Kurt Krey’s character became a Bad Guy, and so apparently from 1971.  That is the Blackmoor Military Manpower Distribution (initial).  I’m reordering the list in terms of HD and leaving off the manpower figure for clarity:

Personna
Hit Dice
Earl of Vestfold
9 +1
Baron Fant
8 +2
Svenson
8 +5
Inspector General Snider
6 +1
Bandit
6 +1
Baron Jenkins
6 +2
Captain Krey
4 +1
Merchant
4 +1
Wizard of the Wood
-
Elves, Dwarves, Peasants, Men
-

Keep in mind that Hit Dice have nothing to do with Hit Points.  That is a change that Gygax makes during the process of writing D&D.  Hit dice here mean damage dice.
Notice that hit dice are only given for “warrior” player characters. Elves, Dwarves, peasants, “men” and the “wizard of the wood” have nothing.  It is a safe bet that where nothing is indicated, 1 Hit die can be understood.  Greg Svenson tells us, “My recollection is that a flunky or man-at-arms rolled 1d6, a hero rolled 4d6 and a superhero rolled 8d6 for damage.”  http://odd74.proboards.com/thread/4186/layer-od-archaeology?page=2

Damage apparently could be shared across multiple opponents as in EPT, as Greg says: “For what it's worth, I remember Svenny killing over 200 orcs in one battle and 112 orcs in another.”

Okay, note however that 4 of the 8 characters in the list have HD that don’t fit the pattern – the Earl has 9 and the Bandit, the Inspector General, and a baron have 6 HD.  Now, going back to Svensons opening statement, notice what he says in the second half – “. I don't remember when the level advancement became one level per new hit dice….”

That statement always nagged at me because in D&D it is not accurate to say you get one new HD per level.  Fighters kind of do up to level 10, but not really since there are several instances where it is a HD + a bonus number, not a simple 1 HD per level progression.  Now maybe Gregg was actually remembering something, consciously or not, from early Blackmoor, or maybe it is just coincidence, but I think he was really on to something with the idea.

One hit die per level is exactly the sort of simple progression we might expect in early Blackmoor, and explains the 6’s and 9 in the Military Manpower table.  We can recast the table this way:

Personna
Warrior Level
Level Title
Earl of Vestfold
9
Lord
Baron Fant
8
Superhero
Svenson
8
Superhero
Inspector General Snider
6
Hero
Bandit
6
Hero
Baron Jenkins
6
Hero
Captain Krey
4
Hero
Merchant
4
Hero
Wizard of the Wood
-
-
Elves, Dwarves, Peasants, Men
-
Flunky

So what about all those +1’s +2’s etc.?  They clearly don’t progress in any consistent pattern, varying from player to player.  So it is not like the 7+1  HD, for example that each seventh level D&D fighter has.

There may be a clue from the Wizard of The Wood.  The wizard was played by Pete Gaylord, and we have his character sheet.  This is the sheet published in Peterson’s PatW that I discussed in a series of post beginning in September of 2012.  It was probably not the character’s first sheet, but nevertheless dates from 1972 or no later than very early 1973 since its contents predate the D&D playtest period.  According to the sheet, the wizard is level 7 (initially), a fact which seems to confirm that level is separate from level title in Blackmoor, since Blackmoor followed exactly the titles in CHAINMAIL™, and there are only 5 (sorcerers, warlocks, magicians, seers, wizards).

As we’ve discussed, the character sheet has a list of weapons and a target number for each weapon.  One of the wizards weapons (the battle axe) however, has a +5 noted after the target number. 

Given that Hit Dice in Blackmoor are damage dice, I believe the +x numbers in the Military Manpower list  reflect a bonus each character may have with their principle weapon, perhaps due to the weapons magical properties, or perhaps just their personal proficiency.