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[Let's Read] The AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1e)

rstites

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I'd also note that pretty much ever PC character sheet in existence had a little row for writing every AC in the game and what you needed to hit for that, so as to avoid doing any math at the table. That is a form of table look-up, just one that involves a single row rather than an actual matrix. Really, THAC0 probably comes out of that more than anything. You can look at what was necessary to hit AC0 and just shift over X number of locations to figure out the best AC you actually hit.

I'm running a 5e game right now, so no tables. One of the big benefits of 5e's compressed math is making that on-the-fly addition simpler than before. In 4e, I found that the number of times we needed to roll a d20 and then add a two digit number gave pause to some of the players I regularly play with now. Single digit works out ok for them. I don't see that there's any overall net win in arithmetic at the table vs. tables. It's just down to personal preference.
 

rstites

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Or you have the Glornathan GM screen, which has every table on the game printed on it and color-coded.
Every D&D screen I've ever seen has all the tables on it too. You have two combat tables, a saving throw table, and a turn undead table, and that's it.

RQ really doesn't need a screen in my experience. You have a couple of fumble tables and that's really it, which you consult about once every other session. I can't think of any other tables in the game. Does the new version have even more?
 

Felix

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I think it came down to a decision big tables were aesthetically unpleasing, or possibly felt old fashioned. The attack matrices in 1e take up a page and a half. The THAC0 table in the 2e PHB is about an eighth of a page.

As I mentioned, I skipped 2e for Rolemaster, where each individual weapon gets its own page of an attack table, sort of combining THAC0 and adjustment based on armor class vs. weapon and a few other factors, so I don't feel this way. :)

Moving on...

APPENDIX G: TRAPS
This feels like an incomplete section. Roll d100, and find out which of 46 traps the PCs may encounter. A lot of them are variants. Rather than an entry for trapped door, you’ve got door, falling; door, one way; door, resisting; door specific; door spring. Similarly, there’s nine types of poison gases, causing effects from fear to weakness. I’m not totally sure how all of those are supposed to work. Does “specific door” indicate you come to a place where you need to pick which of the doors is safe to open since the other ones lead to man-eating tigers?

There’s also no mechanical descriptions. What happens when a character lands in a spiked pit? Is it just normal falling damage with something added for the spikes, or is it “time to roll up a new character?”

APPENDIX H: TRICKS
Gygax starts by suggesting may readers who have been DMs for a while won’t need his advice:
DMG p216 said:
Most experienced Dungeon Masters will probably already
have a proud repertoire of clever and innovative (not to mention unique and
astounding) artifices, deceptions, conundrums, and sundry tricks which will put to
shame the humble offering which follows. Nonetheless, this enumeration might
serve for those who have not yet had the experience and seasoning necessary to
invent more clever devices to bring consternation to overbold and incautious
characters.
He suggests you take typical dungeon features -- altars, doors, fountains, idols, etc. (as well as a few non-typical ones like force fields) -- and combine them with a couple of special attributes which could bring weal, woe, or just change.

The examples he gives tend to do multiple things; it’s not just going to be a doorway that teleports you to a random spot when you walk through it; it may be at least a doorway that takes you to a dangerous spot if you don’t say the proper phrase or a treasure if you do say the correct word.

A few of his suggested tricks:
  • An arch that vanishes and reappears throughout the dungeon on a roll of 1 in 20. Walking under it randomly changes the person’s sex, grows them to giant size, shrinks them to brownie size, or teleports them to a room where gems grow on plants. If it disappears as they’re walking under it, they’re trapped until it reappears
  • A fountain of jet black stone with carvings of a gargoyle and a nymph. When the PCs enter the room the gargoyle asks a riddle, and sprays poison on them if they get it wrong. If they get it right, the nymph recites a poem which contains an important clue.
  • A bunch of shriekers which have become covered with yellow mold spores surrounding a pedestal. If struck, the spores spray throughout the area.

APPENDIX I: DUNGEON DRESSING (MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS AND POINTS OF SEMI-INTEREST FOR CORRIDORS AND UNPOPULATED AREAS OR TO ROUND OUT OTHERWISE DRAB PLACES)

Fairly self explanatory. And I can totally see how putting in some of these at random could cause a party in an old school adventure to waste hours. For example, one of the items on the “odors” table is a smoky smell. Mention that to a group and they’ll start debating if there’s a red dragon nearby, or what monsters cook their food before eating it in case they need to be on the lookout for ogres (I am not sure if they necessarily cook their victims in D&D, though in Warhammer FRP they are, or were at some point, fussy gourmands).

While you can roll randomly on the tables, the book suggests making sure things make sense. So if you’re not going to put a dragon by the smoky smell, maybe have the remains of a fire started by adventurers who unwisely made camp in the dungeon.

Categories include:
  • Air currents (e.g., slight updraft)
  • Odors (e.g., rotting vegetaiton)
  • Aur (e.g., hazy with dust)
  • General features (e.g., splintered clubs, cracked ceiling, pottery shards), to be placed 60’ or more apart.
  • Unexplained sounds and weird noises (e.g., faint giggling, splashing)
  • General furnishing and appointments (e.g., buffet, loom, wall sconce) [Random use is suggested only for rounding out features.)
  • Torture chamber furnishings (e.g., barrel of oil, pillory)
  • Magic-user furnishings (e.g., alembic, stool)
  • General description of container contents (e.g., lumps, viscous)
  • Miscellaneous utensils and personal items (e.g., walking stick, tinder box) (Designed for random items in a given area)
  • Clothing and footwear (e.g., frock/pinafore)
  • Jewelry and items typically bejewelled (e.g. choker, seal) (I feel this would have made more sense in the section on gems and jewelry or treasure since you’re normally not going to leave an amethyst-studded anklet sitting around at random).
  • Food and drink (e.g., pickles) (A footnote mentions that the DM will need to fill in a lot of details on varieties of foods like meat and greens, which were curtailed in the interest of space.
  • Condiments and seasoning (e.g., vinegar) (There are only six items on this table, but wait till Appendix J for more on herbs.)

Appendix I ends with the CHAMBER, ROOM, AND OTHER SPACE LIST, which is helpful when you need to determine what type of room they’ve entered in the dungeon. Choices range from bestiary to great hall to salon to wells.

Next: Shakespeare said rosemary’s for remembrance, but Gary Gygax said it was used as a germicide, muscle tonic and to fight off evil spirits. What else did the Bard (probably a nickname since he doesn’t seem to have taken any levels in fighter or thief AFAIK) get wrong about herbs? Find out in Appendix J!
 

DMH

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Dreams of Ruin does something cool with tricks and dungeon dressing- in combination they are magical phenomena that can be studied to tease out the secrets of the Forest of Woe. That is so easy to change to just about any serious problem the PCs face and forces the party to raid ruins for their parts rather than their loot.

Dragonsfoot 21 has a long article (~30 pages) that expands the container contents table. With a few rolls the DM can have all kinds of mundane and weird stuff to describe, the latter to invoke wonder in those players who like the idea of robbing labs.
 

Beckett

Golden Wyvern Adept
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One interesting thing that Appendix E has is the names for the six Type VI demons (Balor being just the name of one of them). Without looking, I think it had a couple names for Type IV and V.
 

Felix

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Dreams of Ruin does something cool with tricks and dungeon dressing- in combination they are magical phenomena that can be studied to tease out the secrets of the Forest of Woe. That is so easy to change to just about any serious problem the PCs face and forces the party to raid ruins for their parts rather than their loot.
Dreams of Ruin is a fascinating hard-fantasy OSR campaign which I wish had gotten a bit more attention. (Even the economic model Geoff Grabowski used to sell it was interesting.) It's been a while since I read it, but I remember one of the details which makes a lot of sense after reading the castle building and wilderness exploration rules: the non-magical classes have quite a few advantages in exploring the woods, which is hell on casters, especially unprepared ones. Casters will want to spend their time in other dimensions doing research and trying to raise the vast fortunes needed to do research.
 

Sleeper

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One interesting thing that Appendix E has is the names for the six Type VI demons (Balor being just the name of one of them). Without looking, I think it had a couple names for Type IV and V.
Yep, and because I like the names:

Type IV demons: Bilwhr, Johud, Nalfeshnee
Type V demons: Aishapra, Kevokulli, Marilith, Rehnaremme
Type VI demons: Alzoll, Balor, Errtu, Ndulu, Ter-soth, Wendonai

From the MM, we know "Balor is a type VI demon of the largest size." and "Six are known to exist."
 

Felix

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I really do need to look at Appendix E I guess in conjunction with the Monster Manual. But that's a challenge for another day.

Today's challenges are:

APPENDIX J: HERBS, SPICES AND MEDICINAL VEGETABLES
I may be miscounting, since my mouse might have slipped somewhere, but this section contains approximately 173 “vegetable flavorings and seasonings which were or are reputed to have medicinal and/or magic properties.” Gygax says that more research will be needed on the part of the reader to get comprehensive information about these, he just lists a couple of purporsed uses and powers.

Unless the DM wants to do some research or come up with a system of hedge magic that peasants can use to make asefetida into a good love potion/aphrodisiac, most of this is for flavor, or things you might require for various magic items/potions.

A handful of herbs and flowers here, like the lotus, are marked with a ?. I wonder if Gygax had meant to come back to them, or let the players come up with their own system. I’ve been reading Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth series recently, where the lotus is associated with Chuz, Lord of Madness, but maybe someone with a background in Eastern medicine would assign it something else.

I can’t quite do a full alphabetical sampler since a couple of letters are missing, but here’s as complete as I can get taking one from each available letter to give you an idea of what’s there:
  • Adrue: anti-vomiting, sedative
  • Borage: coughs, lung infections
  • Cherry gum: respiratory infection, food substitute
  • Ergot (rye smut): hemorrhaging, venereal disease (Note: While WebMD notes it’s unsafe, it lists several purported uses for one of the most dangerous fungi in human history.
  • Fig: demulcent
  • Garlic: coughs, colds, blood purifier, detoxifier, kills parasites/wards off vampires
  • Hellebore: Heart tonic (rootlets are poison)
  • irish moss: coughs, scalds, burns
  • Jurubera: anemia
  • Kelp (seawrack): thyroid, heart, arteries, much more (Note: apparently it was always some sort of miracle cure)
  • Leek: same as chives
  • Marigold: fevers, varicosities, eyes, heart
  • Nux vomica (poison nut): stimulant, debility tonic
  • Oregano: germicide, pain killer
  • Paprika: anime movie, stimulant, poultice
  • Quince: eye disease, dysentery, skin disorders
  • Rosemary: germicide, muscle tonic/drives off evil spirit
  • Scullcap (madweed): nervous disorders, rabies
  • Tea: poison antidote (Note: So this apparently wasn’t a Douglas Adams reference in the Doctor Who season 2 episode “The Christmas Invasion.”)
  • Watercress: blood tonic (anemia)
There’s relatively few associated with outright supernatural powers here, And since healing tends to be abstracted into “cure wounds,” “cure disease,” “cure blindness,” and “neutralize poison,” unless you are trying to find a salve that can clot a cut from a Sword of Wounding some of these aren’t easy to translate into game effects. But I do like the idea of the section, and the apology for including so few options and merely incomplete details about these. It’s a nice humblebrag.

APPENDIX K: DESCRIBING MAGICAL SUBSTANCES
This is a bunch of adjectives you can use to describe magical potions, salves, etc. There’s categories for appearance/consistency (e.g., oily), transparency (e.g., phosphorescent), Taste and/or odor (buttery); A variety of colors and subcolors (e.g. violet --> plum).

Pretty self explanatory, especially for a game where you can’t recognize a healing potion as always blue.

APPENDIX L: CONJURED ANIMALS
Conjure Animals is a Level 6 Cleric and Illusionist spell (Druids get Animal Summoning spells instead) which lets the caster call up animals with total hit dice equal to their own, in a ratio of their choice. The example in the PHB involves a 12th level caster deciding whether to call one 12-HD beast, two 6-HD, three 4-HD, etc. I don’t know if you’re supposed to be able to vary, because if you can’t, a caster with a level that is a prime number is screwed. Actually beasts with N+1 HD count as a quarter HD higher; N+2 as half a hit die, etc. so a 15th level caster only gets twelve 1+1 HD animals.

While the caster controls the rough power level, they don’t control the specific animal summoned. That’s determined, when possible, by rolling on a chart. Your 6-HD monster may be a Brown Bear (40% likely), or a lion, giant porcupine or tiger (20% each).

Due to a limited number of the animals, some of the charts are limited. There’s only one 9 HD beast (the rhino). And because you can only call a beast into the appropriate environ, at 13 or 14 HD, you’ll get either some type of whale or a land mammal. At 15+, only whales are available. Whales cap out at 36 HD. Warning: do not face casters capable of summoning 36 HD whales.

It would make sense to move on to Appendix M at this point, since it is a very similar theme but I am real tired so we’ll pick up with it tomorrow. Maybe we’ll also get to a few literary influences on the game too.
 
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