|Ability or Spell||Range||Range|
|Drow female move||15||15|
|Drow male move||12||12|
|Javelin & atlatl||9||9|
|Continual light radius||6||24|
One of the lessons that we can take away from this is that seemingly minor changes to a ruleset (in this case, fiddling with numerical values for spell ranges) can really make enormous difference in gameplay upon close inspection. Consider the situation in the D1-3 modules, where much of the action happens as a high-level PC party (with my players always carrying continual light without fail) navigates a mostly wide, straight, arbitrarily long tunnel in the underearth, and encounters various Drow watchpoints. I assume that we run the situation tournament-style, and that the Drow are tasked with automatically ambushing any intruders (perhaps flagged by anyone carrying a bright light source into the dark underworld):
- In AD&D, the continual light radius is only 6". Hence, the Drow can use any of their longer abilities such as dispel magic, lightning bolts, ice storms, magic missiles, javelins, hand crossbows, etc. at range, by surprise from the darkness without needing to enter the area of light, pretty much at will.
- In OD&D, the continual light radius is a large 24". Therefore, at best the Drow can use slow or lightning bolt at the very edge of the illumination – and to use anything like a dispel, darkness, hand crossbow, etc., requires that they commit to actually entering the light radius (and thus being revealed and suffering numerous penalties) before making their attacks.
Other thoughts: Running my game under OD&D-like rules, I initially presumed that the party depending on a continual light spell would be to their detriment – that it would be darknessed away at the first encounter, and then they would be nearly blind for the fight. But closer inspection here shows that (again under this ruleset at least), it's a very effective way to keep the Drow at bay, and mostly beyond the range of their attacks without them actually entering the light, being revealed, and suffering penalties. Also: A high-level party will have so many resources with which to re-create their magic light, that the illumination battle will likely just switch back-and-forth every round.
In addition to all that, my high-level players customarily use an advance scout with infravision and invisibility out in front of the main party (and its light source), so that even if the Drow are alerted to the intruding light, the advance scout will likely be in their midst and need adjudication for what they can perceive (at the very least, noting unusual geographic formations, side cave entrances, etc.)
Perhaps the final lesson is how complicated all the special-ability interactions can get when Gygax went into lavish-magic-on-everyone design mode. In particular, I have a really hard time wrapping my head around the thematics of why, for all their light-hating and vulnerabilities, Gygax also gave every Drow trooper the dancing lights and faerie fire abilities. (Faerie fire isn't even visible as far as the Drow infravision range, so I'm not totally sure what the point was there.) Got any ideas for how that makes sense?
Last thing – To give myself a better idea for the proceedings, I took the encounter map in module D1 and actually noted the locations of individual NPCs and their expected ambush tactics. If I run it again I think that will give me a much better grip on where all the many moving parts will be to these encounters. (The result winds up looking a bit like late 3E/early 4E encounter design, and for that I apologize.) Obviously, if you're planning on playing through this adventure (specifically AD&D Module D1), then you should skip the following link because it does contain SPOILERS. Otherwise, comments or other ideas welcome: