Baskets of Notes

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

Was just looking at some old post and thinking about how far we've come in getting a better handle on those early days of D&D. 

For a very long time, just about everyone, myself included, bought into the message to varying degrees that Arneson was a hack who got more than he deserved.   Twas said he couldn’t write, didn’t write and was just some sloppy idea guy guilty of sour grapes.

Of course, old Dave really was a decent and kind gentleman and actually a pretty good writer, and his writings, if somewhat obscure, are clear and cogent.  Check out Trapman, DNA/DOA or Longtooth Lounge, for examples.

A lot of hay has been made over Tim Kask talking about the difficult task he faced when handed a “basketful of notes” that contained an apparently haphazard collection of materials for Supplement II.

Dave likely was a bit haphazard with his notes but the whole thing with Supplement II "basket of notes" is misleading.

Baskets holding project materials were standard operating proceedure at TSR in the early days, so the Supplement II notes were no different from any other project in that regard.  Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the basket in question had been collected and futzed over for some time by Brian Blume as the original editor on the project.  Indeed, it was Blume who tossed in the monk character.  Its likely that the material Arneson had mailed in contained a manuscript and table of monsters (the Giant creatures), the Hit location section, the TotF, The disease section, and a character class manuscript with Assasin and Sage, and a few things Kask cut out.  Among the cut material was probably the "Special Interests" and "Investments" sections Arneson included in The First Fantasy Campaign.  The rest of the material likely was a jumble of notes from Brian Blum and disparate materials written by Steve Marsh.  Its not fair to blame Arneson for that.  Tim Kask has made no secret of his feelings towards Arneson, so it is not surprising that his readers infer the basket of notes to be a defect peculiar to DA.  In any case it is to Tims credit that he pulled it all together into a fascinating little book.

For anyone interested in exploring the make -up of SII further, I have a post on the authorship of various sections HERE. 

Secrets of Monster Manual

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

The AD&D Monster Manual occupies an interesting space in D&D history.  Interesting because it was published years before the rules for the “Advanced” game itself.  Mike Carr’s 1977 introduction – only 3 years after D&D was published and roughly contemporary with Arnesons publication of the FFC – mentions D&D 13 times to AD&D’s 4 times.
Its been observed that the MM falls somewhere between OD&D and AD&D in conformity to the rules, and many regard it as an OD&D supplement with a few extras and indeed, for several years until the publication of the AD&D players handbook, it effectively was.
Mostly, that’s just an artifact of curiosity, but there exists on page five and the top of page 6 a mostly forgotten and rarely sited section called “Explanatory Notes” by Gary Gygax.  This little section has information not found in other OD&D or AD&D books (excepting Dieties and Demigods, where it is largely repeated verbatim), that goes a long way to clarifying the intentions behind a number of the OD&D monster stats that directly relate to in game play choices.  In Particular:
FREQUENCY:  Now this is an interesting stat.  For example, we are told a rare creature has an 11% chance of appearing in an “area or region”.   This seems to be unused information.  I suppose you could look at the tables of all the creatures that might be in a given kind of area – mountains lets say – roll percentiles repeatedly until you had narrowed the creatures to one “frequency” type - Rare lets say - and then roll against the list of rare creatures to find the one encountered.  I don’t think anybody really did this nor do I get the sense that the random encounter tables in the DMG are really keyed with this stat in mind (although they could be, I dunno).
NUMBER APPEARING:  Not explained.  We are told it is an “average” “guideline””to be altered … as the need arises”.  We are also told “It is not generally recommended for use in establishing the population of Dungeon Levels.”
So, what does it represent?  Well, looking back to Frequency, we could safely assume the number appearing is the population in “a region or area where it might be an inhabitant”.  This could mean a “region” of a dungeon level, presumably but not usually an entire level.
The alternative meaning is that Number Appearing is how many monsters would be randomly encountered if PCs stumbled onto them as wandering monsters.  This is how many have understood it.
Hmm, lets look a little further and see if there are more clues.
% IN LAIR:  We’ve looked at this one back in August, but here is something else interesting “…where it domiciles and stores its Treasure.  If a monster encountered is not in its lair it will not have any treasure unless it carries “individual” treasure…”
Which ties in to:
TREASURE:  these are the types listed on a table which can appear with a monster listing.  About these types Gygax writes that they “… are only found in lairs of monsters as found above.”; and “The use of treasure type to determine the treasure guarded by a creature in a dungeon is not generally recommended.”
Frequency covers “an area or region”
Treasure Types are meant for the domicile (Lair) in an area or region, not an individual creature and not as an isolated dungeon treasure of the sort used when placing a monster in a room.
Number Appearing should represent the creatures who will have the assigned treasure type in an area or region.  Otherwise, there is a guide given for region, a lair, and treasure to be found, but none for how many inhabitants may be found there.  If somehow the Number Appearing was not meant to function in harmony with the other stats but referred to wandering, out of lair encounters it would make more sense to list individual treasures for the wanderers, not lair treasures for the unknown number of the “domicile” population.

The Book of Elder Magic

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

is now available here

and in print on Lulu.

So, what's this thing Boggs?  Well, it started as a fairly obvious idea: convert all the spells from Dragons at Dawn and Supplement into use for OD&D and then collect them (the non redundant ones anyway) together with all the OD&D spells prepared for Champions of ZED.  Create a nice little booklet for use at the table.  This was something I wanted for my games.  So that's what I started to do.  Then I thought, "Hey, the Dave Arneson Blackmoor books have OGL spells and some of them are kinda cool, why not convert them to OD&D so they get some use in the OSR?"  So I went through the Blackmoor books and started picking cherries.

Then I thought "Hmm, what about Dave's players creations - Fred Funks Freds World, Richard Sniders Powers and Perils, and Dave Megarry's Pentantastar?  And there's still a bit left to mine out of Adventures in Fantasy too...."  For Freds World I got permission to use a few spells; the others, being very different systems and being non OGL material could not be direct sources, but could serve as sources of inspiration in a few instances.

I ended up with a whoping lot of spells.  There's some 57 pages worth.

For good measure, I also threw in some of D@D supplement I magic notes, adapted to OD&D play; the reworked and expanded section on Spell Books from Holmes to Level 12, and the Dragons at Dawn spell magic redone as an Alchemist class, matching Arneson's brief notes on the class.

It's good stuff, and directly portable into any of the Classic or OD&D retroclones.  I'll be getting a lot of use out of this one, and maybe some of you will too.

I's in standard (US) 8.5 * 11 paper size, because that seemed the most practical.  I'll be converting my pdf to booklet when I print, so I left the font big enough (11 point) so as to still be legible, for those who may wish to do the same.

Rescue Lotsa!

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

I hope everyone had as great a holiday weekend as I did.  This weekend was the annual Council of Five Nations – the worlds second oldest gaming convention after Gencon, so they say – held by the Schenectady Wargamers Association, and it was a blast.  I ran two events and participated in another – a playtest of Adventurer, Conqueror, King run by Tavis Allison.
I’m not much for after action reports for game sessions.  My eyes tend to glaze over when I try to read them and I write them even less often.  But such a great weekend deserves a little tale telling.
The First game I ran was a Dragons at Dawn event recreating one of the earliest Blackmoor adventures.  In 1971 Dave Wesely was home on leave from the army and joined Dave Arneson and the Boys on an expedition into the dungeons of Blackmoor.  Orcs had recently driven out Baron Fant and taken over the place.  Somehow they had also managed to kidnap Lotsa, daughter of the Elven king.  The elves promptly surrounded the place with an army and offered 10,000 GP and marriage to Lotsa (temporarily) to any rescuer.
For players I had only one of my usual D@D crowd, but once we had all our characters rolled up and the stragglers all setteled we got off to a great start.  SWA’s resident grognard (played D&D since 74) led the gang as Atroz the hedge knight and wasted little time with all the obvious passages and quickly discovered the elevators in the basement pillars.
I won’t do a step by step, but its fascinating to watch an experienced group of players make all the right moves and use the right tools to get the job done.  I guessed finding Lotsa in a 20 level dungeon might be a bit challenging, but the wizard used a location spell to discover an object known to have been in Lotsa’s possession when she disappeared.  A captured orc in the general area and use of a ward on a passageway to block the chasing hordes, and a tranqulize spell on a unruly Lotsa are some of the highlights.  In short, mission accomplished and a great time had by all.  Oh, and twas the lady wizard who won the bride….
Mention should also be made of the next game I ran.  Dave Arneson’s Haunted Lighthouse using OD&D, CoZ rules.  That was interesting in that I had 11 players at the table, 4 of whom were youngsters with their parents.  Again, efficient play ruled the day with the group sussing out and destroying the baddie (Atroz pushed him off a ledge into the nethervoid) with only one fatality.
And to round out the Blackmoor goodness of the con, Travis, unbeknownst to me, set his ACKS playtest in Blackmoor dungeon.  I might be proud to say that the humble Mage I played was one of only two characters to survive, escaping unscathed, except that was mostly due to hiding in the back and running like heck.  At least I wasn’t the player who managed to get killed twice by the same monster…..    Good Times.

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Game Archaeologist/Anthropologist, Scholar, Historic Preservation Analyst, and a rural American father of three.
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