Monday, May 30, 2011

Poll Results: Scrolls



The other week, after a series of posts regarding the origin of thieves' potentially risky use of magic scroll spells, I asked the question: "Does it make sense to transcribe scroll-spells to book-spells?"

The results are pretty decisive -- even after pointing out that somatic components (AD&D-style) would probably be missing from the magic words on the scroll, 86% of voters chose "yes, it does make sense". So apparently that's a consensus for one less thing to tinker with in classic D&D.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Super Saturday: Thor Puzzler #4

So by now you should be aware that once, Thor could transform into his mortal secret identity of Don Blake (and back) by tapping his stick/hammer on the ground. But here's a question -- Can Don/Thor make this transformation if somebody else taps the cane nearby?

Answer: Yes.



And no.



(Pages from JIM/Thor #105, 138. Plot/writer Stan Lee. Penciler Jack Kirby. Dates 1964, 1967.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chi is for Charisma

A common question when people see one of my short character stat-blocks: "What is the X for?" Because they're looking at something like: "S17, I10, W13, D12, C15, X10". (For example, see my cut-down character sheets here.)

And my answer is (the title probably gave it away): "That's a Greek letter 'Chi' which is standing in for Charisma". From Wikipedia: "charisma (pl. charismata, adj. charismatic; from the Greek χαρισμα, meaning 'favor given' or 'gift of grace')" This being my minimally-clever way of having a one-character abbreviation for each ability (and dodging the two-"c" issue between constitution & charisma).

This week's edition of Delta's D&D Hotspot has been brought to you by the letter Chi.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Balanced Dice in Dragon Magazine

One of the most-viewed posts on this blog (currently #3 in all-time number of views) is the article on "Testing a Balanced Die", with a simple presentation of the well-known Pearson's Chi-Square Test. What I just recently found out is that this was anticipated by D.G. Weeks in a Dragon magazine article more than 25 years before: "Be thy die ill-wrought? Only those that pass the chi-square test can play" (Dragon #78, Oct-1983, p. 62-65). Somehow this escaped my attention all these years (I don't think that I had a physical copy of this issue back in the day).

Not much of a surprise that Weeks' procedure was equivalent to the one I presented (it's very much a standardized process from circa 1900, at the advent of modern statistics). One thing he did differently: Whereas I presented chi-square values at the 5% significance level, which is sort of customary (only 5% chance that an unbiased die accidentally exceeds the given values), he gave two numbers, at the 10% and 1% significance levels (saying that if it exceeds the first, then the die is maybe-possibly biased, and if it exceeds the second, then there is overwhelming evidence that it's biased). He also presented a listing of BASIC program code you could type in (at the time, it was fairly common in Dragon magazine) that would do the tabulations and calculations for you. In addition, it could categorize the data in case you were testing a hypothesis that a specific known face or group of faces was coming up more frequently.

See below for Weeks' presentation of testing a d8 for fairness (80 total rolls, per face E=10, SSE = 76; concludes that the die is unbiased; same conclusion as from my presentation: SSE < X*E = 14.067*10 = 140.67). Compare to my scratch paper included at the bottom here.



Weeks' table of critical values for X at the 10% and 1% significance levels:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Super Saturday: Thor Puzzler #3

You should know that once-upon-a-time, if Thor lost contact with his hammer, he would transform into the mortal form of Don Blake. Clearly true on Earth (where Thor was sent to learn humility). But could this occur in Asgard?

Answer: Sometimes yes.




And sometimes no.



("Yes" pages from JIM/Thor #153, 194. "No" pages from Jim/Thor #92, 116. Plot/writer Stan Lee [except Gerry Conway #194]. Penciler Jack Kirby [except Joe Sinnott #92, John Buscema #194]. Dates 1963-1971.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Origins of Thieves Using Scrolls - Commentary

In the last two postings, I presented archetypal scenes of thieves miscasting spells by (a) Fritz Lieber's Gray Mouser, and (b) Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever. Now for some analysis:

Commentary

The scenes of Cugel and the Mouser are obviously similar in numerous ways. Both feature roguish, self-aggrandizing characters with minimal training in magic, who with difficulty manage to cast powerful spells, and produce highly unexpected effects. The scenes were both written and published within a span of two years (1964 and 1966). Both character/stories are included by Gygax in the AD&D DMG's "Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading".

Another way in which they are similar is that they aren't using scrolls in the sense of D&D's single-use magic items. Cugel is using a "workbook", and the writing remains afterward for him to double-check and confirm exactly where his mistake was. Mouser is working from a single sheet of parchment, but again, the writing remains afterward (his companion suggests he use it a second time, and his sole counter-argument is how it failed the first time). This isn't too surprising, since to my knowledge, the D&D Magic Scroll is purely an in-game invention to provide a single-shot magical effect. I can't think of any source prior to D&D that features an item exactly like that, with disappearing writing once the magical charge is released (can you?).

So these are really just "regular" spells in each case, in that the rogues are forced to memorize them prior to casting -- Cugel has "established the activating sounds carefully within his mind" (in the canonical Vancian sense), and the Mouser must keep "eyes tightly shut while the last sentences of the rune were being recited and the great forbidden words spoken; even the tiniest blink would nullify the Great Spell."

A difference: In Cugel's case, the story is explicit in that the surprise magical effects (imprisonment reversed to freedom; transporting enemies reversed to transport of self) are definitely due to misspeaking syllables on the caster's part ("Cugel hastily consulted the workbook and saw that in error he had transposed a pair of pervulsions, thereby reversing the quality of the spell."). But in Vance's Gray Mouser story, the truth is left ambiguous. Possible causes suggested in the text are that (a) the Mouser may be "doing the spell backwards", (b) the sorcerers of Gwaay were lying about being of the "First Rank", or (c) "Sheelba had underestimated its power". Option (a), a miscast by the Mouser may in fact be the most reasonable (destruction of sorcerers other than the First Rank, reversed to destruction of sorcerers only of the First Rank) -- even though the text goes so far as to directly state that "he finished without flaw" [p. 729], this may be understood as coming from an untrustworthy narrator, directly on the heels of "He almost stuttered midway through the word 'slewerisophnak'". It seems unlikely that Gwaay's less-numerous sorcerers are weaker, lying, and that simultaneously the Mouser is himself an undiscovered sorcerer of the First Rank (as he tries to rationalize at one point) -- although it seems equally unlikely that Sheelba would give him a spell expected to cause his own destruction when normally cast. In summary: the situation with the Mouser is left murky.

Personally, I would prefer to simulate these scenarios via multi-classing (as opposed to a unique thief ability with scrolls), saying that Cugel and the Mouser had some low levels in magic-use/wizardry, and that low-level wizards could try to use high-level spellbooks with some significant chance of failure. That seems a truer representation of what's really happening in these cases; although admittedly it's not a mechanic that otherwise exists in classic D&D (excepting the kernel of a system in Chainmail itself for delayed or non-effective spells).

Note that in the history of D&D, scrolls came first (in the OD&D little brown books, Vol-2), and thieves appeared second (in OD&D Supplement I, Greyhawk). So in some sense the thief ability could be grafted onto the pre-existing one-shot magic item, without giving them possibly unbalancing access to any wizard's full spellbook (and the same goes for other low-level wizards). If the timing of the development had been reversed, I doubt we'd see this mechanic exactly as we do.

Finally, one thing that always bothered me about scrolls in AD&D (and truthfully, drove this particular investigation) is the question: If scrolls are purely magical words on paper, and lack any somatic (gestural) or material components, then how can wizards transcribe scroll-spells into fully memorizable book-spells? (That is, presumably they would lack the usual hand-gestures, et. al.) But one solution I can see is to roll back to the OD&D understanding (as is often the case). OD&D has no requirements for somatic or material components. Likewise, in neither Vance nor Leiber are arcane gestures emphasized -- in each case, it is the words of power alone that are highlighted, the supernatural syllables that must be carefully formed and do the work (even with the caster's eyes closed; possibly with an exception of simply naming and pointing at the target). So if we synthesize these trio of observations and say that magic spells are spoken words only, then whatever is read from a magic scroll is the same as the full spell formula itself (again, possibly substituting a target's name, etc.), and it makes sense to transfer from one to the other, in both directions. We would have to discard the Gygaxian elaborations in AD&D as being an unnecessary and possibly contradictory development, but then it wouldn't be the only case of that.

Poll question -- Does it make sense to transcribe scroll-spells to book-spells? (Results here.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Origins of Thieves Using Scrolls - Cugel the Clever

Continuing the investigation of the origins of D&D thieves being able to use magic spells from scrolls. Monday: Fritz Leiber's Gray Mouser. Today: Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever.

Cugel the Clever's Spell

This occurs at the very conclusion of the book The Eyes of the Overworld (also known as Cugel the Clever), published in 1966, by Jack Vance. [Even more SPOILERS below -- this is basically the "punch line" to the entire novel!] This book began with Cugel unsuccessfully trying to rob the mansion of the wizard Iucounu, being caught, and then being banished by a spell of transport to a far distant land. Over the course of the book, Cugel has quested all the way back and finally turned the tables on Iucounu, capturing him and taking over his mansion. (More info at Wikipedia.) Pages below are from the Orb Edition: Tales of the Dying Earth (2000).
Days went by and Iucounu's trap, if such existed, remained unsprung, and Cugel at last came to believe that none existed. During this time he applied himself to Iucounu's tomes and folios, but with disapppinting results. Certain of the tomes were written in archaic tongues, indecipherable script or arcane terminology; others described phenomena beyond his comprehension; others exuded a waft of such urgent danger that Cugel instantly clamped shut the covers.

One or two of the workbooks he found susceptible to his understanding. These he studied with great diligence, cramming syllable after wrenching syllable into his mind, where they rolled and pressed and distended his temples. Presently he was able to encompass a few of the most simple and primitive spells, certain of which he tested on Iucounu: notably Lugwiler's Dismal Itch. But by and large Cugel was disappointed by what seemed a lack of innate competence. Accomplished magicians could encompass three or even four of the most powerful effectuants; for Cugel, attaining even a single spell was a task of extraordinary difficulty. One day, while applying a spatial transposition upon a satin cushion, he inverted certain of the pervulsions and was himself hurled backward into the vestibule... [p. 284]

Returning to the great hall, he consumed the repast set forth by Jince and Skivvee, his two comely stewardesses, then immediately applied himself to his studies. Tonight they concerned themselves with the Spell of Forlorn Encystment, a reprisal perhaps more favored in earlier eons than the present, and the Agency of the Far Despatch, by which Iucounu had transported him to the northern wastes. Both spells were of no small power; both required a bold and absolutely precise control, which Cugel at first feared he would never be able to supply. Nevertheless he persisted, and at last felt able to encompass either the one or the other, at need. [p. 286]
Some days later, Cugel is himself the subject of an attempted robbery by a con-man named Fianosther. A struggle ensues, Iucounu is momentarily freed, but Cugel again gains the upper hand on both his opponents.
With great care he bound the arms of his enemies, then stepping into the great hall possessed himself of the work-book which he had been studying.

"And now -- both outside!" he ordered. "Move with alacrity! Events will now proceed to a definite condition!"

He forced the two to walk to a flat area behind the manse, and stood them somewhat apart. "Fianosther, your doom is well-merited. For your deceit, avarice and odious mannerisms I now visit upon you the Spell of Forlorn Encystment!"

Fianosther wailed piteously, and collapsed to his knees. Cugel took no heed. Consulting the workbook, he encompassed the spell; then, pointing and naming Fianosther, he spoke the dreadful syllables.

But Fianosther, rather than sinking into the earth, crouched as before. Cugel hastily consulted the workbook and saw that in error he had transposed a pair of pervulsions, thereby reversing the quality of the spell. Indeed, even as he understood the mistake, to all sides there were small sounds, and previous victims across the eons were now erupted from a depth of forty-five miles, and discharged upon the surface. Here they lay, blinking in glazed astonishment; though a few lay rigid, too sluggish to react. Their garments had fallen to dust, though the more recently encysted still wore a rag or two. Presently all but the most dazed and rigid made tentative motions, feeling the air, groping at the sky, marveling at the sun. [p. 287]
I'll interrupt at this point to note that the Spell of Forlorn Encystment was translated directly to AD&D's 9th-level spell Imprisonment -- reversible to a spell of Freedom, complete with "a 10% chance that 1 to 100 other creatures will be freed from imprisonment at the same time if the magic-user does not perfectly get the name and background of the creature to be freed" [AD&D PHB p. 92]. Continuing with the rest of the story:
Cugel uttered a harsh laugh. "I seem to have performed incorrectly. But no matter. I shall not do so a second time. Iucounu, your penalty shall be commensurate with your offense, no more, no less! You flung me willy-nilly to the northern wastes, to a land where the sun slants low across the south. I shall do the same for you. You inflicted me with Firx; I will inflict you with Fianosther. Together you may plod the tundras, penetrate the Great Erm, win past the Mountains of Magnatz. Do not plead; put forward no excuses: in this case I am obdurate. Stand quietly unless you wish a further infliction of blue concentrate!"

So now Cugel applied himself to the Agency of Far Despatch, and established the activating sounds carefully within his mind. "Prepare yourselves," he called, "and farewell!"

With that he sang forth the spell, hesitating at only one pervulsion where uncertainty overcame him. But all was well. From on high came a thud and a guttural out-cry, as a coursing demon was halted in mid-flight.

"Appear, appear!" called Cugel. "The destination is as before: to the shore of the northern sea, where the cargo must be delivered alive and secure! Appear! Seize the designated persons and carry them in accordance with the command!"

A great flapping buffeted the air; a black shape with a hideous visage peered down. It lowered a talon; Cugel was lifted and carried off to the north, betrayed a second time by a misplaced pervulsion.

For a day and a night the demon flew, grumbling and moaning. Somewhat after dawn Cugel was cast down on a beach and the demon thundered off through the sky.

There was silence. To right and left spread the gray beach. Behind rose the foreshore with a few clumps of salt-grass and spinifex. A few yards up the beach lay the splintered cage in which once before Cugel had been delivered to this same spot. With head bowed and arms clasped around his knees, Cugel sat looking out across the sea. [THE END; p. 287-288]
Coming Friday: Commentary and analysis.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Origins of Thieves Using Scrolls - Gray Mouser


From their first appearance in D&D Sup-I Greyhawk, high-level thieves were given the opportunity to use magic scrolls, with some associated chance of the spell being reversed.

Thieves of the 10th level and above are able to understand magical writings, so any scroll that falls into their hands can be used by them - excluding spells which are clerical in nature. However, with spells of the 7th level and above there is a 10% chance that the effect will he the reverse of that intended (due to the fact that even Master Thieves do not fully comprehend such great magic). [OD&D Sup-I, p. 4]
As usual, some small modifications were made to this rule through AD&D 1E and 2E. In 3E this was transmogrified into a rogue-only skill called "Use Magic Device", which more generally gave that class some random chance to use any magic items which were otherwise reserved for other classes.

The origins of this skill are fairly well known, as similar scenes occur for both Fritz Leiber's the Gray Mouser, and Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever, each whom at some point use magical writings with highly unexpected results. However, I had trouble digging up the specific key passages online, so I figured I'd research, comment, and critique them in a scholarly way here on the blog.

The Gray Mouser's Spell

The following is from the novella The Lords of Quarmall, first published in 1964, later collected in the book Swords Against Wizardry. While Fritz Leiber wrote almost all of the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser stories, the characters were originally conceived by his friend Harry Otto Fischer, with this particular story being the one initiated by Fischer himself. He's reputed to have written the first "10,000 words" circa 1936, with the story being finished and published by Leiber in 1964 -- which by my counting would indicate that Fischer wrote the two setup pieces below, and Leiber the later culmination. (As an aside, the physical descriptions of the two characters were based on Leiber & Fischer themselves -- see more at Wikipedia.) Pages noted below are from the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks #18: The First Book of Lankhmar (2001).

To follow the action here [SPOILERS follow, of course], it's probably important to understand that the story revolves around two hostile, debauched, magic-using brothers, Gwaay and Hasjarl, each controlling part of an enormous labyrinthine fortress that extends into the bowels of the earth ("... certain passageways beneath it ran deep under the Sea and extended to certain caverns wherein might dwell some remnant of the Elder Ones", p. 681). Gwaay (who has hired the Mouser) has a group of 12 sorcerers of the First Rank serving to defend him from magical threats. Meanwhile, Hasjarl (who has coincidentally hired Fafhrd) has a group of 24 sorcerers of the Second Rank (i.e., lesser) constantly employed in trying to send magical diseases and plagues at Gwaay. And thus we have --

In the opening scene:

"If it's magical helpings you lack," the Mouser retorted boldly, "I have a spell or two that would frizzle your elder brother's witches and warlocks!" And truth to tell the Mouser had parchment-crackling in his pouch one spell -- though one spell only -- which he dearly wanted to test. It had been given him by his own wizardly mentor and master Sheelba of the Eyeless Face. [p. 672]
Later:

His tone was unmistakably rebuffing, nevertheless the Mouser, dreading a dull evening, persisted, "There is also the matter of that serious spell of mine which I told you, Prince -- a spell most effective against magi of the Second Rank and lower, such as a certain noxious brother employs. Now were a good time --" [p. 691]
Much later, as events rise to a climax -- in Gwaay's Hall of Sorcery, at the table with the dozen major magicians:

"... And by the blood of that one whom it is death to look upon..."

So sonorously invoked the Mouser, as with eyes closed and arms outstretched he cast the rune given him by Sheelba of the Eyeless Face which would destroy all sorcerers of less than First Rank of an undetermined distance around the casting point -- surely for a few miles, one might hope, so smiting Hasjarl's warlocks to dust.

Whether his Great Spell worked or not -- and in his inmost heart he strongly mistrusted that it would -- the Mouser was very pleased with the performance he was giving. He doubted Sheelba himself could have done better. What magnificent deep chest tones! -- even Fafhrd had never heard him declaim so.

He wished he could open his eyes for just a moment to note the effect his performance was having on Gwaay's magicians -- they'd be staring open-mouthed for all their supercilious boasting, he was sure -- but on this point Sheelba's instructions had been adamant: eyes tightly shut while the last sentences of the rune were being recited and the great forbidden words spoken; even the tiniest blink would nullify the Great Spell. Evidently magicians were supposed to be without vanity or curiosity -- what a bore!

Of a sudden in the dark of his head, he felt contact with another and a larger darkness, a malefic and puissant darkness, of which light itself is only the absence. He shivered. His hair stirred. Cold sweat prickled his face. He almost stuttered midway through the word "slewerisophnak". But concentrating his will, he finished without flaw.

When the last echoing notes of his voice had ceased to rebound between the domed ceiling and floor, the Mouser slit open one eye and glanced surreptitiously around him.

One glance and the other eye flew open to fullness. He was too surprised to speak.

And whom he would have spoken to, had he not been too surprised, was also a question.

The long table at the foot of which he stood was empty of occupants. Where but moments before had sat eleven of the very greatest magicians of Quarmall -- sorcerers of the First Rank, each had sworn on his black Grammarie -- was only space....

Very quietly he stood up and silently walked in his ratskin moccasins to the nearest archway, across which he had drawn thick curtains for the Great Spell. He was wondering just what the range of the spell had been, where it had stopped, if it had stopped at all. Suppose, for instance, that Sheelba had underestimated its power and it disintegrated not only sorcerers, but... [p. 728-730]
As it turns out, the Great Spell has in fact disintegrated all of Gwaay's sorcerers to a fine gray ash, and not touched any of Hasjarl's sorcerers (or anyone else). A few pages later:

His voice trailed off. It had occurred to him to wonder why he himself hadn't been blasted by his own spell. He had never suspected, until now, that he might be a sorcerer of the First Rank -- having despite a youthful training in country-sorceries only dabbled in magic since. Perhaps some metaphysical trick or logical fallacy was involved... If a sorcerer casts a rune that midway of the casting blasts all sorcerers, provided the casting be finished, then does he blast himself, or...? Or perhaps indeed, the Mouser began to think boastfully, he was unknown to himself a magus of the First Rank, or even higher, or -- [p. 732]
And a little bit later, as the Mouser and his companion speculate on their next move:

Ivivis frowned. "Gwaay used to say that just as sword-war is but another means of carrying out diplomacy, so sorcery is but another means of carrying out sword-war. Spell-war. So you could try your Great Spell again," she concluded without vast conviction.

"Not I!" the Mouser repudiated. "It never touched Hasjarl's twenty-four or it would have stopped their disease-spells against Gwaay. Either they are of the First Rank or else I'm doing the spell backwards -- in which case the tunnels would probably collapse on me if I tried it again." [p. 740]
In the next blog: Cugel the Clever by Jack Vance.

(Photo by BoristheFrog.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Super Saturday: Thor Puzzler #2

We know that if Thor throws his hammer, then it will fly back to him. But, if he drops it or has it somehow lifted from him, can he call it back then?

Answer: Sometimes yes.





And sometimes no.




("Yes" pages from JIM/Thor #112, 139, 151. "No" pages from JIM/Thor #90, 191, 194. Plot/writer Stan Lee [except Gerry Conway #194]. Penciler Jack Kirby [except Al Hartley #90, John Buscema #191, 194. Dates 1963-1971.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cut-Down Character Sheets


Today, cut-down character sheets of the type I've been using lately for OD&D (OED house rules). Two per standard page; click the image for a PDF file.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Super Saturday: Thor Puzzler #1

You may know that Thor (in his early era) had a vulnerability in that, if he lost his grip on his magic hammer for more than 60 seconds, he then turned back into the mortal doctor Don Blake. Today's question -- When this accident occurred, did the hammer turn back into a walking stick, or not?

Answer: Sometimes yes.





And sometimes no.





The last page above is particularly interesting. Expect to see it a few more times.

("Yes" pages from JIM/Thor #106, 109, 153, 181. "No" pages from JIM/Thor #83, 88, 183, 194. Plot/writer Stan Lee [except Gerry Conway #194]. Penciler Jack Kirby [except Neal Adams #181, John Buscema #183, 194]. Dates 1962-1971.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Leather vs. Chain

Here's an interesting thread (several years old) at MyArmory.com testing various weaponry against padded linen and good mail armors. Lots of nice pictures.

Executive summary -- Arrows are stopped by both types. Slashing with a sharp blade can work against padded, but is basically futile against mail. Thrusting attacks can work against both (even mail, if the weapon is long/heavy like a 2-handed sword or spiked poleaxe). A heavy poleaxe can be used to chop mail, and while the links maintain structure, the person beneath is likely smashed to pieces.

So really, I read this as a nice test between the basic armor types that OD&D calls "leather armor" (which I assume is mostly layers of padded linen, with an outer coat of leather, i.e., a padded jack) and "chain-type mail". You might rule-ify this by saying that swords have no extra bonus (as base armor level), axe/hammer/halberd get +2 vs. chain (i.e., making chain & leather equivalent), but arrows are -2 vs. leather (again, chain & leather equivalent). That's quasi-similar to what the OD&D Sup-I/AD&D weapon vs. AC charts (and my house rules) do, except for the arrow part which is actually reversed (and simply ignored in my OED).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bismarck for Two


One thing I've recently learned is that the incredibly asymmetric Avalon Hill game Bismarck (previously discussed here) is really an excellent choice for me & my girlfriend to spend an evening playing. On my side (British), I get to play a pretty in-depth wargame with lots of air & naval units, tracking fuel and coordinating search operations, etc. On her side (German), she gets to move her 2 elusive ships per turn and then spend most of the evening doing her knitting & drinking tea, waiting for me to finish my move. At some point things start blowing up and one or the other of us gets a whole lot happier.

It seems like we're both improving our skill with the game; as of this writing we're 2-to-2 in recent games. An interesting choice when you've got one player significantly more "hardcore" than the other.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Fell Into the D&D World" Stories

Here are two examples of fiction in which the protagonists start out in the "real world", and are soon transported/fall into a "D&D world" (a world based explicitly on a fantasy role-playing game), with a short observation on each. Maybe you can think of other examples.


Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon

Of course, the most obvious example is the famed Dungeons & Dragons animated TV series which ran on CBS from 1983-1985. Per Wikipedia, "The general premise of the show is that a group of children are pulled into the 'Realm of Dungeons & Dragons' by taking a magical dark ride on an amusement park roller coaster." And of course this show has something of an advantage (and an obligation) in being able to refer to D&D and various pieces of associated IP by name.

Let's look at the character classes assumed by the starring characters. There are (left-to-right in the picture): an acrobat, magician, ranger, barbarian, thief, and cavalier. Can't help but notice that's a pretty Unearthed Arcana-heavy party.

And one other thing: No clerics. Or cleric sub-classes.


Guardians of the Flame Series

Another example is the long-running Guardians of the Flame series of novels by writer Jorl Rosenberg, published from 1983 to 2003. Notice that's the exact same starting year as the D&D cartoon (nearing the end of D&D's greatest fad-popularity peak). From Wikipedia: "The series is about a group of college students who participate in a fantasy role-playing game, and are magically transported to the world of the game by their gamemaster." Here, D&D is not mentioned by name, but the reference is clear.

Consider the classes assumed by the main protagonists in this case: A fighter, a thief, a high-level-wizard (later engineer), a dwarf berserker, and a low-level wizardess. In this case, there is also a cleric in the original group, but she is written out of the action halfway through the first book (a horrifying assault puts her in a near-catatonic state, and she is left behind at a healing tabernacle). She re-appears in book 4, only to then give up her powers to save another character.

So for the vast majority of this 10-book series: No clerics. Although there is a healer organization mentioned in the first book, they aren't a factor in the rest of the series.



Possible discussion question -- What is it about clerics that fails to interface with fantasy literature? Even when the setting is explicitly based on D&D game rules?