Monday, August 20, 2018

Lack of Scale Considered Harmful

The first and biggest mistake in the foundation of D&D was not specifying any units of scale in the Chainmail Man-to-Man Combat rules.

In general, specifying units of scale (for figures, time, and distance) was usually among the very first things stated in traditional wargames, often before the actual start of the rules themselves. For a specific example, these are given in the third paragraph of the Chainmail mass-combat rules, preceded only by a statement on what the Middle Ages were, and what size and brand of miniatures are recommended (p. 8). These Chainmail mass-combat rules came with a respectable pedigree of playtests, refinement, and editorial corrections; in the second paragraph, they reference the prior "LGTSA Medieval Miniatures Rules... the rules have been thoroughly play-tested over a period of many months..." (p. 8). Jon Peterson in Playing at the World tells us, "The LGTSA medieval miniatures rules resulted from Gygax's expansion of Jeff Perren's original four-page ruleset..." (p. 30), published in Domesday Book #5 (July 1970). Also, "The core system of Chainmail adheres closely to the earlier LGTSA rules; for example, the movement and missile combat system charts are copied verbatim..." (p. 40). Furthermore, these rules themselves were influenced my older systems such as those of Tony Bath, etc. (p. 31). As a result of this legacy of a wargame refined by diverse hands, we find that the scales of time and distance, movement and missiles, found in LGTSA/Chainmail mass-combat are fundamentally reasonable and match well with real-world data. 

But with the publication of Chainmail, we also get a new 3-page section on Man-to-Man Combat which, relatively speaking, appears to come out of nowhere. It does not claim to come with a history of playtesting, appears relatively slapdash, and is likely the conceptual work of a single author (Gygax?). Notably, while one figure now represents one man, there are no specifications given for time or distance units on the table; it seems to have not even been considered at all. Broadly speaking, these rules try to "cheat" the issue by silently assuming that the mechanics for mass-combat can be used without alteration in man-to-man combat ("Generally speaking, the rules for 1:20 scale apply to man-to-man missile fire...", p. 25) and so forth.

Of course, there are some things in the world for which, when we "zoom in" on them, the characteristics appear the same as when we "zoom out"; for example, fractals are geometric figures which act in this fashion, and are therefore called "scale invariant". You can almost get away with the assume-everything-is-the-same approach for movement (if distance and time are changed in proportion), and melee combat. But it's precisely with missile combat where the problems and contradictions spring into plain sight -- ranged combat is distinctly not "scale invariant".

Here are two of the top absurd positions that this oversight forced Gygax to defend constantly in later a years as a result of this initial oversight: (1) That man-to-man combat took place at the same 1-minute action cycle as Chainmail, and that therefore only one sling or crossbow-shot could be made per minute, etc.; and (2) That effective missile ranges were at the same 10-yards-per-tabletop-inch scale, such that it was feasible to shoot an individual man at 210 yards outdoors with a longbow, which is patently ridiculous. (See OD&D Vol-3 p. 8 and 17; AD&D PHB p. 39).

Of course, a claim is made that the distance scale shortens to 1" = 10 feet in the indoor/underworld environment (OD&D Vol-3, p. 8). As a result of this, magic spells likewise grow and shrink depending on whether they are used indoors or outdoors. In Dragon #15 Gygax writes what seems to be a correction and apology on the issue after Len Lakofka points out the problem here. Gygax calls the existing result "ridiculous" and that "the blame for the possible ignorance of player and Dungeon Master alike rests squarely on my shoulders" (read the article and my past analysis on it here). This altered rule, that magic ranges change indoors-to-outdoors, but areas-of-effect do not,  then gets incorporated into the AD&D PHB (p. 39), in a rather screechy all-caps passage, below:
For purposes of the game distances are basically one-third with respect to spell and missile range from outdoors to indoors/underground situations. Thus most ranges are shown as inches by means of the symbol ", i.e. 1", etc. Outdoors, 1" equals 10 yards. Indoors 1" equals 10 feet. Such a ratio is justifiable, to some extent, regardless of game considerations.

Actual effective range of an arrow shot from a longbow is around 210 yards maximum, in clear light and open terrain. Underground, with little light and low ceilings overhead, a bowshot of 210 feet is about maximum. Archery implies arching arrows. Slings are in this category as are hurled darts and javelins, all arching in flight to achieve distance. Crossbows are a notable exception, but under the visibility conditions of a dungeon setting, a yards to feet conversion is not unreasonable.

Magic and spells are, most certainly, devices of the game. In order to make them fit the constrictions of the underground labyrinth, a one for three reduction is necessary. It would be folly, after all, to try to have such as effective attack modes if feet were not converted to yards outdoors, where visibility, movement, and conventional weapons attack ranges are based on actual fact. (See MOVEMENT.)

Distance scale and areas of effect for spells (and missiles) are designed to fit the game. The tripling of range outdoors is reasonable, as it allows for recreation of actual ranges for hurled javelins, arrows fired from longbows, or whatever. In order to keep magic spells on a par, their range is also tripled. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT OUTDOOR SCALE BE USED FOR RANGE ONLY, NEVER FOR SPELL AREA OF EFFECT (which is kept at 1" = 10') UNLESS A FIGURE RATIO OF 1:10 OR 1:20 (1 casting equals 10 or 20 actual creatures or things in most cases) IS USED, AND CONSTRUCTIONS SUCH AS BUILDINGS, CASTLES, WALLS, ETC. ARE SCALED TO FIGURES RATHER THAN TO GROUND SCALE. Note that the foregoing assumes that a ground scale of 1" to 10 yards is used.

Now, a couple things to note about this passage. One: a cursory justification for the feet-to-yards conversion is made for missiles ("little light and low ceilings overhead"). Two: absolutely no justification is attempted for the expansion of magic spell ranges; it is purely a matter of raw game balance ("devices of the game... designed to fit the game"). In fact, to my knowledge, Gygax never attempted any in-world explanation or rationalization for this phenomenon. (You can of course make up your own: Do magic energies follow ballistic trajectories and get limited by ceiling height? Is every underworld locale uniformly imbued by dark counter-energies that reduce magic effects? Not to say that any such claim is in any rules text.) Ultimately Gygax hangs his hat on, "It would be folly, after all, to try to have such [magic] as effective attack modes if feet were not converted to yards outdoors, where visibility, movement, and conventional weapons attack ranges are based on actual fact." But this ignores the actual actual fact that shooting an individual man at 210 yards with a longbow is sheer lunacy in the first place.

Here's the thing that occurred to me a few days ago, and that I'm embarrassed at how many years it took me to observe: The whole notion of indoors-versus-outdoors is a false path and a distraction. The real issue is whether the action is at mass-scale or man-to-man-scale. Which again, is the original error, the essential oversight in the new section of Chainmail.

Let's look at some data. There's a notable real-world circumstance in our favor; modern archery competitions in the United Kingdom have the exact distinction that we're looking for here. There's standard target archery, at a fairly close range, with a target passingly close to the size of man; and separately, clout archery at a distance near the limit of a classic longbow, with a relatively huge target area (fundamentally simulating shooting at an army). Specifically: standard target sizes are 122 cm in diameter (approximately 4 feet, or 2 foot radius). Clout archery for adult men is held at 180 yards range, with a target area 12 feet in radius, and a central "clout" (bullseye) of 18 inches radius (that is, about the size of the entire short-range target, or roughly a single man's area).

Here are results for the Yorkshire Archery 2018 Clout tournament. For more, here are results from the National Clout Championships of 2016. Here's a data analysis by myself (ODS spreadsheet) of the latter tournament for the Gentleman's Longbow event . Some results of that analysis (N = 30, discounting last two outliers with only one point between them): The average hit rate on the 12-foot radius target at 180 yards was just 42% (ranging from 11% for the bottom-performers, to 83% for the winner). The average hit rate on the central bullseye/clout -- about the size of a man (assuming a totally immobile, defenseless one) -- was only 1%!. (Even the winner himself only scored a 1% hit rate on the centermost target; the two runners-up scored 6% and 8% bullseye rates, but these may be considered pure luck since their overall accuracy was not as good as the winner's, and in any event represent the equivalent of natural-20's for these almost-England's-best-archers).

The central lesson here is that it can be effectively impossible to hit a target in man-to-man combat at long range (1% vs. the central clout), while being completely feasible against a larger area/group of men (42% vs. the larger target, roughly the same chance D&D gives a 1st-level man to hit an unarmored opponent). If we take the small 18 inch = 1.5 foot radius as roughly the area of a single man, then the larger 12-foot target is equivalent to some 64 men in formation ((π(12)^2)/(π(1.5)^2) = 64). If we were to double the target radius again, to 24-feet and some 256 men, then this would be a 90%-something shot, nearly unmissable (using ArcherySim on GitHub). For emphasis: With a longbow at around 200 yards, hitting an individual man is a 1% shot or less, while hitting an army is a 99% shot a more. The cases are exact binary opposites. Note that Chainmail mass-combat had no rules or penalties for missile range, and we find this to be completely reasonable; but keeping the same or a minimal range penalty for man-to-man combat is, as Gygax would say, "ridiculous".

Some conclusions: One, the maximum effective range for man-to-man missile combat should be set at around 40 yards; this is especially true for a target that is mobile and defending itself (note that the real-world data above assumes a completely immobile, defenseless, unarmored target; hit rates should obviously be lower if that is not the case). This is true whether indoors or outdoors. Note that the legacy of this glitch has led to ranged attacks never being close to right in any edition of D&D. Over 40 years later, and in 5E D&D (from what I can tell), a 1st level fighter shooting a longbow at a mobile, active single man at maximum range of 200 yards still has a 42% chance to hit (AC 10 with +2 attack bonus, i.e., target 8 on 20, with disadvantage); coincidentally exactly the same rate that the UK's champion clout competitors actually have against an immobile, barn-sized target. That's twisted.

Two, in classic D&D, there should have been greater care taken in specifying scales, and distinguishing between the man-to-man and mass-combat situations; the two are not equatable. A random example: In D&D Vol-3, the Aerial Combat and Naval Combat sections seem to be closely related; they refer to each other in places, stipulate the same playing area, turn sequence, and written orders (compare p. 25 and p. 30), etc. But in truth, Aerial Combat is intended for man-to-man scale (each figure a single creature), whereas Naval Combat is intended for mass-scale (each ship model carrying tens or hundreds of men; missile fire as per Chainmail mass rules on p. 30, etc.; at least until a boarding action occurs and then we are directed to switch maps and rulesets to the man-to-man basis on p. 31). These are very different situations, requiring different distance and time units, tabletop missile ranges, turning radii (another characteristic that is definitely not scale invariant), etc., and this qualification should have been highlighted in the original rules.

Three, by Gygax's logic in the PHB, we should also calibrate the range and effect of magic spells on the reduced basis for game-balance purposes ("It would be folly... [for magic to contradict] where visibility, movement, and conventional weapons attack ranges are based on actual fact"). Again, irrespective of being indoors or outdoors; that is not a relevant distinction. Note that once this physical reality of the magic spell range is set by man-to-man scale, it implies that apparent range and usefulness in the mass-scale context is much reduced. Example: In Gygax's later Swords & Spells mass combat rules, spell ranges in inches are copied verbatim from the D&D rules, and hence have extraordinarily long-range effects on the battlefield (e.g., 24" for a fireball, i.e., 240 yards). Reversing the reasoning, we now consider that if the spell range was fixed at 40 yards, as per man-to-man missile fire, then on the mass-scale battlefield a fireball would only be usable at 4" or something like that. That's a fairly major change (perhaps in Book of War?), but upon reflection, it may be a better simulation of magic effects as seen in pulp literature and similar traditions. Some of the higher-level spells meant to influence large areas outdoors might prove troublesome, however.

To wrap this up, we look at a quote from Gygax in The Strategic Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (April 1976), in his article "The Dungeons & Dragons Magic System" (p. 3), that some of us have been considering recently:
Magic in CHAINMAIL was fairly brief, and because it was limited to the concept of table top miniatures battles, there was no problem in devising and handling this new and very potent factor in the game. The same cannot be said of D & D. While miniatures battles on the table top were conceived as a part of the overall game system, the major factor was always envisioned as the underworld adventure, while the wilderness trek assumed a secondary role, various other aspects took a third place, and only then were miniatures battles considered.
This is somewhere between a strange thing to say and a ghastly oversight (that underworld adventures came first in the calibration of D&D magic, and miniatures battles a distant fourth), because in terms of time and distance, exactly the opposite is the case. The mass-combat miniature scales were carefully figured, and the underworld scales simply taken by theft of the same and without any real consideration. Even in the SR 2.2 article quoted above the issue continues to entirely escape Gygax's attention (the topic being only a defense of the Vancian memorization and daily-limit conceits). If only some assistant had been able to point that out at the earliest date.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Teleport Traditions

I do get a little weirded out when SF gets deeply injected into my fantasy. The top examples in OD&D for me are probably the spells ESP, telekinesis, and teleport. In particular, that latter spell's instant-death possibility always looked out-of-synch with other spells or pulp fantasy traditions (e.g., consider spell-casting screwups which land Cugel the Clever on a different continent, or Harold Shea in the wrong plane of reality). I previously wrote about it 4 years ago this month. From Vol-1:

Teleport: Instantaneous transportation from place to place, regardless of the distance involved, provided the user knows where he is going (the topography of the arrival area). Without certain knowledge of the destination teleportation is 75% uncertain, so a score of less than 75% of the percentile dice results in death. If the user is aware of the general topography of his destination, but has not carefully studied it, there is an uncertainty factor of 10% low and 10% high. A low score (1-10%) means death if solid material is contacted. A high score (91-100%) indicates a fall of from 10 to 100 feet, also possibly resulting in death. If a careful study of the destination has been previously made, then the Magic-User has only a 1% chance of teleporting low and a 4% chance of coming in high (10-40 feet).

For some time I've wanted to identify what part of the literature most inspired this. It certainly seems more SF than fantasy, but tracking that down in Appendix N is foiled because it doesn't list SF sources, only fantasy. Some of my top prospects previously have been Arthur C. Clarke's Travel By Wire! (his first short story, 1937), de Camp and Pratt's Harold Shea stories (listed in Appendix N as the first among the "most immediate influences upon AD&D", 1941-), and possibly Star Trek, especially their "Day of the Dove" episode (1968). See also many other entries at TVTropes' Tele-Frag article.

But at this point I'm pretty confident in theorizing that the most immediate influence on the teleport spell itself is Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination (1957). Having recently read it, I'd say that it has at least a 90% correlation with the D&D spell. Crucially, we know from other places that Gygax definitely read Bester: on ENWorld he wrote, "That list was just a sampling of the SF authors I have read. Good grief, Poul Anderson, ERB, Alfred Bester, Eando Binder, Edmond Cooper, and a host of others aren't on it..." And this book was one of really just two novels for which Bester is known. (Major thanks to capvideo on the OD&D Discussion board for digging this quote up.)

Here are some bullets in which Bester's The Stars My Destination synch up with the D&D spell:

  • Teleporters ("jaunters") have a strict need of exact knowledge of their destination. Chapter 3 details people taking a class in that exact skill, opening with:
    "Bravo, Mr. Harris! Well done! L-E-S, gentlemen. Never forget. Location. Elevation. Situation. That's the only way to remember your jaunte co-ordinates. Etre entre le marteau at l'enclume. [Being between the hammer and the anvil.]"
  • Furthermore, the custom/requirement is that people visit a certain location in person, traveling there by conventional means the first time, and make a detailed study of the place, before being able to teleport there. Again from Chapter 3:
    The men were brought down from General War Hospital to the jaunte school, which occupied an entire building in the Hudson Bridge at 42nd Street. They started from the school and marched in a sedate crocodile to the vast Times Square jaunte stage, which they earnestly memorized. Then they all jaunted to the school and back to Times Square. The crocodile reformed and they marched up to Columbus Circle and memorized its co-ordinates. Then all jaunted back to school via Times Square and returned by the same route to Columbus Circle. Once more the crocodile formed and off they went to Grand Army Plaza to repeat the memorizing and the jaunting...

    As their horizons expanded (and their powers returned) they would memorize jaunte stages in widening circles, limited as much by income as ability; for one thing was certain: you had to actually see a place to memorize it, which meant you first had to pay for the transportation to get you there. Even 3D photographs would not do the trick. The Grand Tour had taken on a new significance for the rich...

    The bandaged C.P.O. nodded dubiously and stepped up on the raised stage. It was of white concrete, round, and decorated on its face with vivid black and white patterns as an aid to memory. In the center was an illuminated plaque which gave its name and jaunte co-ordinates of latitude, longitude, and elevation.
  • Teleporting blindly without awareness of the co-ordinates (including co-ordinates of the point of departure) is almost sure to land one in solid matter, resulting in explosive death. Chapter 5 is set in a lightless, labyrinthine prison under Gouffre Martel (a real-world cavern complex in the French Pyrenes), so situated because it's the only way to keep prisoners unaware of their bearings and thus unable to teleport. Nonetheless, some try it out of desperation and this is called a "Blue Jaunte":
    But every so often... once or twice a week (or perhaps once or twice a year) came the muffled thud of a distant explosion. The concussions were startling enough to distract Foyle from the furnace of vengeance that he stoked all through the silences. He whispered questions to the invisible figures around him in Sanitation.

    "What's them explosions?"


    "Blow-ups. Hear 'em a long way off, me."

    "Them's Blue Jauntes."


    "Blue Jauntes. Every sometime a guy gets fed up with old Jeffrey. Can't take it no more, him. Jauntes into the wild blue yonder."
  • Finally, there is at least one case of the protagonist believing that he has mis-teleported high, resulting in falling from a significant height and being injured. Now, this turns out not to actually be the case -- the building to which he's teleporting has been ruined and the particular floor gone missing -- but his first sure instinct (combined with emphasis on remembering "elevation", above) indicates that this is a well-known possibility. From Chapter 8:
    He jaunted to Robin Wednesbury's apartment in the lonely building amidst the Wisconsin pines. It was the real reason for the advent of the Four Mile Circus in Green Bay. He jaunted and arrived in darkness and empty space and immediately plummeted down. "Wrong co-ordinates!" he thought. "Misjaunted?" The broken end of a rafter dealt him a bruising blow and he landed heavily on a shattered floor upon the putrefying remains of a corpse.

Some other minor details in Bester's work that may or may not match the D&D rules: (1) The teleporter is self-motivated, that is, they can only move themselves, not stay in place while forcing another object to jaunte. This matches OD&D and the AD&D line; B/X allowed the possibility of teleporting another target instead, but no other edition followed suit. (2) That said, a teleporter can carry with them as much as they can physically pick up. There are at least two instances in the book of characters struggling to lift another person and hence teleport with them. B/X mentions the caster's normal encumbrance as a limit, 1E introduced a formula for how much extra weight can be touched and taken with the caster (e.g., 700 pounds at 13th level), and later editions sequentially increased that limit (e.g., in 5E any caster can take 8 other creatures). (3) There is an acknowledged limit of 1,000 miles per teleport for any person, and longer trips are made in sub-jauntes of this length (explained in the Prologue). This also implies no extra-world teleports, not through space, and not across the planes.

Can you think of any work other than The Stars My Destination, of which we can document Gygax's prior knowledge, which better parallels the D&D teleport spell?

Monday, August 6, 2018

More Dungeon Treasure

Looking at the OD&D random dungeon treasure table from Vol-3:

Consider that their are 7 rows/"tiers" to that table. (Tier 1 = level 1, Tier 2 = levels 2-3, etc.). I randomly generated a sample of 1,000 treasures from each tier. Statistics are as follows:

And compiling the relative frequencies into a chart shows us this (note that the x-axis is quasi-logarithmic, using the 1-2-5 preferred numbers series):

Note how incredibly skewed the first two tiers are (i.e., dungeon levels 1-3). For example, at level 1 the median treasure is only 60 gp (in OED games we translate this to sp, but costs are all cut down in proportion, so purchasing-power is identical). 85% of the time you'll get a treasure less than 100 gp, which adds up to negligible XP for the party. But if you roll positively on the 5% gems/jewelry chance, then that treasure will be likely in the 1,000's of gp's (even possibly on the order of 40,000 gp maximum!). If you were to roll consistently and faithfully using this table then it's possible that you never get any large-value treasure in a given 1st-level dungeon (granted that by the book less than 1/3 of rooms have any treasure at all); or alternatively, you might have one outstanding treasure worth 20,000 gp sitting by some zombies or giant frogs (as happened the other day when I was doing some rolling experiments).

I think this highlights the need for the DM to intentionally place one or two "big hauls" on the first few levels of the dungeon, including gems and/or jewelry, in order to support PCs advancing levels at all before hitting lower levels of the dungeon. I think that Paul S. would further suggest that players be made aware of this from the get-go as an initial quest/mission/ante to get the action started. If one accesses the more advanced tiers, the gem/jewelry frequency increases, and therefore treasure gets a lot more evenly distributed at those levels (that is, by tier 4/level 6, about half of all random treasures have either gems or jewelry or both), which might indicate that we can then rely on the random method more for a useful amount of treasure.

Monday, July 30, 2018

OED Monster Database v. 1.06

Recent small updates to the OED Monster Database recently (to version 1.06):
  • Reordered the last few columns
  • In EHD listings, replaced '*' with more obvious '?'
  • Inserted EHD listings into the generated stat blocks.
Also, I removed the separate document for EHD listings, because that turned out to be a pain to maintain (DRY principle and all that). Just see the OED Database spreadsheet (including stat blocks) to see that. 

Monster Database at OED Games Add-Ons

Monday, July 9, 2018

Dyson's Delve at Paul's Gameblog

Nothing new from me at the moment: go check out Paul's Gameblog to see what I was doing over the long holiday weekend. (Updates as Paul adds more posts this week.)

Monday, July 2, 2018

How Tall is that Humanoid?

Let's look at all the height-values explicitly given for monsters in OD&D Vol-2 (there aren't that many; mostly just giant types) for some kind of pattern.

We assume the following: Hit dice are related to strength. And strength is related to cross-sectional area of the body. (This is certainly true for simple physical systems, where compressive strength is a function of area. It is broadly true in muscle physiology. However, it varies between individuals of a species based on gender, training, etc.)

Below we map the hit dice of various OD&D Vol-2 creatures to the square of their stated height (i.e., something proportional to their cross-sectional area). We include Men as a known quantity from the real world (taking 5' 8" as the mean height of medieval men). Also, we exclude Fire Giants as a rather obvious outlier (they are given proportions that are notably dwarfish, likely an allusion to the deformed god Hephaestus and many other mythological smiths/craftsmen).

Of course, we do not expect that these game values were set up with any kind of mechanical system in mind (on the other hand, it's pretty intuitive that strength and size should be increasing together). That said, we do find that a regression on these values gives a 96% coefficient of determination; a good match.

So if we want to invert this and use it as a rule-of-thumb, given that hit dice are given for every monster and height is usually not, we could say roughly that height (in feet) = √(27.71 HD) = 5.3 √HD5√HD.

Let's spot-check a few simple values. For Men (HD 1), our rough estimate would give 5√1 = 5×1 = 5 feet. For Ogres, we get 5√4 = 5×2 =10 feet (whereas the book says they "range from 7 to 10 feet in height"). For Stone Giants, we get 5√9 = 5×3 =15 feet (precisely the book figure). And so forth; it seems to work pretty well for creatures with man-like proportions.

For more serpentine creatures (like Tolkien-style dragons), we might say they have double the length given by this formula. In fact, we can check against the only other creature with a stated length in Vol-2: the Purple Worm, of which it is said that "some reach a length of 50 feet". Assume this is for the largest of the species, i.e., 6 pips per hit die, so 15 × 6 = 90 hit points. This equates to standard monster hit dice of 90 / 3.5 = 25. And our rule-of-thumb would estimate the corresponding serpent length as 2×5√25 = 2×5×5 = 50 feet. Well, isn't that nice.

Bonus: How Heavy is that Humanoid? This happened to come up (half-jokingly) in our game last weekend. Spring-boarding off the above, this needs to be proportional to the cube of the square-root of hit dice, that is, HD^(3/2) = HD^1.5. For the coefficient (multiplier), we back-calculate from information on the Corpulence Index (CI): We find that one can very roughly use weight (in pounds) = 100 × HD^1.5. For a somewhat better estimate, use 120 as the multiplier. For a value in stone-weight, use 8 as the multiplier. (Compare to "How Heavy is My Giant?" in Dragon #13, which relates height to weight but not hit dice.)

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Master's Monastery, Ep. 6

Juno 30, 4729.
  • Continuing personae: Long Tim (Hobbit Ftr3), Brother Maccus (Human Ftr3). After the dreadful encounter with ghouls last time, other new PCs need introduction.
  • New PCs: Aslak Jam Saskin (Elf Ftr2/Wiz1), a peddler of holy water and haunted by the spirits of earlier dead dwarven wizards; Dusteg Bronzehide (Dwarf Thf3), a trap-searching expert. Interesting side note: The party Strength scores are now 15, 17, 17, and 18; this is assessed as "Darwin having written OD&D".
  • Aslak JS makes use of the rule to "send[s] messengers to whatever place the desired character type would be found (elf-land, dwarf-land, etc.)" (Vol-1, p. 12), specifically elf-land, putting out a call to hire brave (but hopefully cheap and not-so-wise) elven adventurers. Three show up and two are hired after haggling on price and treasure shares (100 or 150 sp up front, and 1/8 each of all treasure); Tamar the Miller (Elf Ftr1/Wiz1; chain, war hammer) and Yulia the Ape (Elf Ftr1/Wiz1; chain, silver dagger, Str +1).
  • Brother Maccus makes use of the "Rumors, Information, and Legends" rule (Vol-3, p. 23) on two evenings at the inn; pays out 90 sp and gets two tidbits: (1) the hexagonal chamber in the dungeon is to be feared; (2) there is a powerful necromancer in the woods not far to the north. After some debate and purchase of healing potions, the group decides to return to the monastery dungeon and seek the priceless fire opal once more.
  • Into the pit; skirting the entry bone-mound, to the large empty ceremonial chamber. There, the secret door is closed and the makeshift steps gone. The group returns to the wood store in the dungeon, gets more logs, and recreates the climbing apparatus. Through the raised secret door into the crypt section. 
  • Look into the crypt-chambers to the immediate east and south; looking carefully for more lurking/hidden ghouls. Find hundreds of more bodies and skeletons in niches along all the walls; no exits and no obvious treasures, acting with utmost caution, the group backs out and searches elsewhere.
  • Passing through the alcove guard post, the party is surprised that 8 animated skeletons destroyed earlier have been replaced; combat is once again engaged. This goes fairly well, with the bulked-up party chopping down skeletons left and right with swords, polearms, and halberds. It is over in less than a minute, a pile of shattered bones beneath their feet. 
  • Further south, off a smaller hallway to the west, a very old and locked, heavy oak door; silence behind it. Dusteg tries to pick the lock but it seems jammed. The three strongest members line up to kick it down together; this works, and the door snaps inward. Within: a single stone sarcophagus. Dusteg enters to search the walls. At this, the lid scrapes open and a hideous figure stands up; clearly dead, black leathery skin, hairless skull, old robe and gold medallion, fairly crackling with foul energy. A mummy? Dusteg runs and with Tamar slams the door shut; the creature within pulls on the door, almost beating their combined strength. The others back up 20 feet and pull out missile weapons. The two let go of the door and duck and run; the rest launch arrows and bolts which all shatter helplessly against the creature's hide. The thing launches at the plate-armored Maccus, rolling poorly; chalkboard-sound of nails gouging his shield.
  • Everyone flees, running back up the long northern hallway. Maccus is slower than the rest, and the creature keeps pace; gets an attack at +2 and no shield; lashing at his ankles, again fails to connect. Rounding two corners, rolls are made to see if the creature follows (Vol-3, p. 2); these fail, the monster returns to its lair, and the party catches its breath.
  • With few options, the party returns south; looks at the door which is shut but clearly no longer locked. Further south, small tunnels; to the east a dead end. To the west a small dead-end room with sarcophogus; this has merely a long-dead body and no treasure. A bit further south another likewise. Now time for a wandering monster check: this comes up "6" so something comes down the dead-end tunnel at the party; another roll indicates it is this same weapon-immune undead creature (which the DM just added to the encounter table after the PCs released it). Long Tim spots it as others are searching for secrets and everyone gasps.
  • Aslak JS fires an arrow at the creature's gold medallion, but the shot goes wide. Tamar tries to hit it with her war hammer and this does nothing. Dusteg throws his silver dagger and connects; the creature recoils, silvery burning smoke wafting from the wound! Tim misses the medallion with his hobbit's two-handed sword. Maccus drops his sword with a clang, grabbing for the embedded silver dagger (success) and tries to hit with it (fails). Yulia also strikes with her silver dagger (the only other such weapon the party has), but also misses. The creature lashes out randomly; strikes Yulia for 4 points and drains her Wizard-class level permanently.
  • Aslak casts protection from evil. Tamar casts magic missile and the creature takes full damage. Dusteg throws a normal dagger; hits it in the black eyeball, but it gets spit out with no effect. Tim severs the medallion, it falls off, but this also has no effect. Maccus connects with the silver dagger and the thing weakens. The undead misses its next attack; around the table again, mostly with no effect; and then Maccus finally gets position and finishes it off, twisting the dagger deeply in its dead-again chest, silver smoke billowing into the air. The group pick up its gold medallion and silver bracelets and give a healing potion to Yulia.
  • Party decide to return to the village and sell this loot and recover. Split up 178 sp and 410 XP each (or 118 sp and 205 XP for the hirelings). Long Tim advances to 4th level; succeeds in mastering the ability to double-strike with a melee weapon.
  • The next day, the party decide to explore the nearby northern woods for the necromancer of note, one "Akharis the Astonishing". It rains but the group take some rations and head off anyway. After a half-day's march, into the trackless woods; the encounter roll "6". A short distance ahead they are spotted by 3 giant snakes (20' long each) wrapped around an ancient, withered tree. The snakes slither down to attack, and most of the party uses various hiding powers to disappear in the bushes. Brother Maccus is left standing alone with no such special abilities. He looks (success) for a thick cluster of downed trees where only one snake can get through at a time, and stands at that point. The first giant snake slithers through and bites his shield; a miss. The whole group launch attacks, cutting and stabbing it multiple times. It bites Maccus' leg and starts coiling around him; before it can crush him it is finished off, but the next is upon them. Again Maccus is bit and wrapped; and again the thing is split up. The third is likewise attacked and defeated. Beyond the tree, the party spots a wide and deep ravine and on the mesa beyond, an a tall tower surrounded by trees. Having no obvious way (or time) to cross, they return to the village.
  • Open questions: Can the party contact the necromancer, and will he/she/it be happy to see them? Does the party have any way to defeat the ghouls and find the fire opal in the dungeon -- if it exists at all? With Long Tim having reached maximum level as a Hobbit fighter, is there any way to cheat the rules, say, by training with a stronger or higher-level fighter? We shall see.