Magic Resistance in OD&D

Sometimes it's amazing how complete the original D&D game was, including mechanics that we come to think of as being later developments or missing entirely. Case study: Numerous times I've stated that there's no "magic resistance" in the LBBs, until Sup-III (Eldritch Wizardry), with its varous demon types.

Turns out that's not quite correct. There was an example of magic resistance in the LBBs, exactly as we associate with later AD&D (75% resistance vs. 11th level caster, +/-5%/level, etc.). The wrinkle is, the only place this appeared was in the earliest printings of the game in the entry for "Balrogs". This appeared on Vol-2 p. 14 (between dragon and gargoyle), but after legal skirmishing with the Tolkien estate, it was taken out and replaced with a clever little Tom Wham illustration. (Which solves my personal mystery of how there's a Thief in that picture, but no thieves in the actual LBB rules themselves yet.) You can see other places the Balrog was or was not successfully removed from later editions, in the the blank spot in the monster Reference Sheets (again, between dragon & gargoyle), in the wandering monster tables (replaced by Spectres in Vol-3 p. 11, blank lines in PDF versions Vol-3 p. 18-19), inclusion in variant damage additions (Sup-I p. 17), etc., etc.

When the Balrogs got snipped out, so did the "magic resistance" mechanic, until much later publications.

Discussion at DragonsFoot from last year: http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=36874


  1. Fascinating! I'd never heard of this before, nor seen the original stats. Wonder if the whole episode in LotR where the Balrog breaks Gandalf's hold portal spell was the genesis for this particular mechanic (not saying it is, just that that is what comes to mind when I think of Balrogs and a resistance to magic)