Friday, February 19, 2016

Armor of the Gods: Dots and Dashes

Quick observation regarding OD&D Sup-IV: Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes (Kuntz & Ward, 1976): In some stat blocks the key "Armor Class" is followed by a colon, while in other places it is a long dash. This makes it very easy to mistakenly read many ACs as negative when they're really not. As one example, these Egyptian deities on p. 6 both have the same AC:


If you consistently misread the ACs followed by dashes, you'd have a lot of very weak creatures (like, otherwise playable low-level monsters) with ridiculously hard ACs: for example, in its first appearance in this work, the 6th-level Naga would be given AC −5, whereas in the later Monster Manual it more clearly appears with AC 5.


The majority of entities, even greater gods, tend have ACs capped at 2 (plate), the same as for monsters in the original rules. The only creatures I see listed in Sup-IV with truly negative ACs are: the Fenris Wolf (AC −2), the Midgard Serpent (body AC −4), and the Earth Queen (AC −3). For more of the rare monsters who have negative ACs in OD&D, see: Sup-I (elder dragons and will-o-wisps), and Sup-III (demons and ki-rin).


8 comments:

  1. And yet, the first printing of negative ACs is the first edition AD&D books. Clearly Gygax wasn't misreading stuff, but wanted to add more stages to the system.

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    1. Maybe I'm misreading you here? There are in fact some negative ACs listed in OD&D Supplements I, III, and IV. Just not very many of them, and it's easy to misread in parts of Sup-IV.

      Key example: The table of extended armor classes in OD&D Sup-I, p. 15.

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    2. @ Delta:

      Ah, you know what? I didn't even bother reviewing 'em.
      : (

      Strange then that there wouldn't be negative ACs in GDG&H.

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  2. Speaking of Sup-III, there are a number of typos as late as the 9th printing of that. Type V demons are listed as having AC 7; combined with its fairly low 7 HD, that would make them almost comically easy to defeat for a party accustomed to fighting Type I-IV demons. It's also clear that EGG intended for it to be AC -7, as that's what it became when the Type V demon showed up in the AD&D Monster Manual.

    The daggers and double daggers used to indicate special features are also messed up; Orcus is mistakenly indicated to have the double-move "hop" ability that belongs to the Type II demon, and nobody has the symbols that the legend says represent 12-sided or 20-sided hit dice - presumably, the intention was for Orcus to have 12d12 hit points and Demogorgon to have 10d20, but that's not what the booklet actually says!

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    1. You're right, good points! Particularly what was intended for the Orcus & Demogorgon hit dice.

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  3. Always bugged me that 1E Iron Golems have platemail AC (3) when it seems way undervalued. Any idea why they were so hesitant to assign negative ACs to monsters?

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    1. All I can say is that negative numbers are the top stumbling block for my students, and historically in the West weren't accepted until a very late date (17th century). In short: people hate 'em.

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