- Gygax went super-long with the monster description (obviously lots of loving care for it; at 1½ pages it was surely the longest monster writeup up to that point), and the details are arguably too fiddly; lots of +1 or +2% bonuses here and there.
- Likewise, you're in the territory where Gygax can be criticized as making overly long spell-like ability lists that are hard to remember, use, and don't have much theme for the DM. Between the base abilities, high-level abilities, and powerful female abilities, there's 9 different possible effects to track. It's pretty easy for me to then forget about the actual wizard/cleric spell lists and major magic items when I'm trying to juggle all the little-to-big special abilities every drow has. And if drow hate light and have exceptional infravision, then why give them both dancing lights and faerie fire? That's hard to make sense of.
- That said, for the record-setting length and density of the encounter writeups (different levels, abilities, lists of magic and exceptional items, spells, etc.) the drow are indeed "weak fighters but strong magic-users". The majority are, after all, just 2nd level fighters with reduced hit points, and I'm always surprised when they start falling to the 9th-level adventurers with one or two hits. (I shouldn't be, but for some reason based on detail and page-length, I still am.) The various and sundry +1 arms/armor/dexterity bonuses really don't make much difference against PCs of that level; the drow footsoldiers go down real fast, regardless of the TLC taken on their lovingly detailed descriptions.
- My mental image going in is that encounters will start with the drow using their darkness abilities and then the rest of the fight will be in the gloom. (Note: In my game darkness just extinguishes light sources and spells in the area, doesn't create persistent globes of anti-light, and thus doesn't inhibit drow or others' infravision; this is generally complimented by my players.) But the thing I failed to take into account was the fairly deep resources of a high-level party; usually there's a wizard who can counter-cast a new light spell or someone lighting a new torch every round. So over a half-dozen round melee, we were mostly just flipping the light switch on-and-off every round from PCs to NPCs.
- The other thing I didn't quite consider is the high likelihood that, at this level, both parties will have effectively invisible or somehow undetectable scouting leads on each side. What happens when scouts from both sides actually pass each other by, and the two parties are effectively intermixed when combat begins? Did you properly account for all the interactions of sight, light visibility (both within and without), infravision, and range of missile and spell attacks as you set up your deadly ambush? That can get really complicated and convoluted really fast.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
More on Gygax's Drow
Following up on the topic this week of Gygax's dark elves as they were introduced in the AD&D GDQ modules -- as I prepped & ran the D1 adventure the other week, I got a chance to recollect and reflect on a few weird or surprising things with the Drow there, which I wanted to document here. Before anything else, there is the issue of little or no guidance as to how Drow initially confront or react to surface adventurers in the underworld (attack? challenge? ignore? ask for documents?) -- see the last post and comments at the end. But beyond that: