Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Treasure in RuneQuest and D&D

One of the pleasures of immersing myself in the RuneQuest rulebook (its Chaosium second edition anyway) is seeing the many ways in which it, despite superficial appearances to the contrary, is still very much part of the same gaming culture as Dungeons & Dragons. Consider the following passage, which begins Chapter IX: Treasure Hoards:
The only reason anyone would go out and fight any of the monsters depicted in the previous chapter is reward. Some monsters may be terrorizing the countryside, and a desperate citizenry will pay to have a pest exterminator come in. Others may be natural enemies with whom one is feuding, and still others may have come hunting the characters! But the main reason to fight monsters is the probability that they have been gathering loot, just as you have.
It's paragraphs like this that make it hard for me to credit any notion that RuneQuest is not, at its core, very similar to D&D -- but, then, given the origins of its rules system in the Perrin Conventions, is this really a surprise? I don't mean to downplay RQ's genuine differences, both mechanical and philosophical. However, I don't think they're as great as some would have it nor do I think that, at least in its original second edition, the game cannot be called "old school" by any useful definition of the term.

That said, shortly after the paragraph quoted above comes another paragraph that does, I think, highlight a real difference between the two seminal fantasy RPGs:
A hoard should reflect the relative toughness and numbers of its guardians. The following list tries to do this by giving a treasure factor for a monster, based on individual capacities.
Treasure factors are tied to a table, ranging from 1 to 100, divided into groups of 10, with each higher group have a greater chance of treasure (and more of it). Monsters gain treasure factors based on their hit points, chances to hit, damage done, armor, spells, and so on. Thus, the more mechanically powerful a monster, the greater the odds of its having nice loot.

D&D, meanwhile, uses a treasure type system, which divides a table into 26 lines (one for each letter of the alphabet), with each having a different chance of treasure of varying sizes and compositions. These types are then assigned to monsters by non-mechanical criteria -- an example of Gygaxian naturalism at work. Thus, the reason any given monster has any given treasure is because it "makes sense" according to some in-game logic rather than purely mechanical considerations.

As one might expect, I actually prefer the D&D approach in this case. The notion that more powerful monsters ought to have more and better treasure, as implied by RQ's treasure factor system, doesn't hold much weight for me. Indeed, I think treasure factors cross a line in my imagination, one that divided the game mechanics from the world they're meant to simulate. There certainly are problems with the treasure type system but I think, on balance, they do a better job of creating and presenting a coherent world than do treasure factors.

Paradoxically, I'm increasingly coming to dislike D&D magic items, or at least the way they're usually presented and used. They're generally too mechanical and un-special, compared to their RuneQuest counterparts. Indeed, the RQ rulebook notes that "We feel that each treasure should be unique, a carefully crafted reward for the intrepid Adventurer who has managed to overcome monsters and avoid traps to reach the final goal." It's a viewpoint I find myself increasingly sharing, especially now that, in my Dwimmermount campaign, there are multiple examples of the same magic item among the Fortune's Fools.

In future, I plan to be a lot more circumspect, perhaps even going so far as to adopt Jeff Rients's suggestion (a link to which I can no longer find) that each magic item in the D&D rulebook is unique -- if you find a sword +1, you find the sword +1 and no one else will ever possess one unless they pry it out of your cold, dead hands. Maybe that's too strong a correction to D&D's long-standing tendency to reduce magic items to collections of game mechanics devoid of any mystery, but I don't think the approach presented in the rules works as well as I'd like it to.

In any case, more food for thought arising from my continued forays into RuneQuest.

45 comments:

  1. Partisan of 4e that I am, I'll admit I'm seriously considering ditching its stock magic items and introducing more fantastical fare for precisely the reasons you list in that last paragraph.

    ReplyDelete
  2. James,

    I agree. But the wonderful thing about older versions of D&D is how easy it is to ignore the mechanical nature of magic items. In my own effort to make magic items special in my own campaign, I've been giving out a lot of one-shot items (like, scrolls and potions) and making other magic items far more rare and special. They might have been items used by a saint, for example. Whenever a magic weapon is found, it always has a name and a unique property (hopefully a dangerous one). Sure, that sword does great against goblins, but you can't use any other weapon when fighting goblins and you have to make a save v. magic to not fight goblins. My players are already sensing that magic is a dangerous thing to play with, which is a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Re: Treasure types, of course OD&D only has 9 (A-I), AD&D having 26 (A-Z).

    One of my favorite Dragon articles from 1980 (Dragon #39, "Uniformity, Conformity, or Neither?" by Karl Horak) analyzes stuff like this and more-or-less correctly predicted the number of races, classes, spells, equipment, treasure items, healing rates, etc. that would appear in 3E 20 years later.

    Re: Magic items, there's a core sensibility to D&D which I would not dare fiddle with. I ask: What about all the NPCs in the world, other adventurers, serjeants & lieutenants, pirate captains, sentient monsters, Drow societies? Combinatorically, there simply have to be some commonalities to magic gear to supply all these types in the world. I have no problem with wizards having certain "stock" enhancements (+1) they can easily create, with other "special" masterpieces (named, intelligent swords) being unique. (Solid design principle: Many of the low-level, few of the high-level.)

    Note that in AD&D a special status is given to "miscellaneous magic" in this regard: "MISCELLANEOUS MAGIC... The number of such items is great in order to make it improbable that there will be duplicates in a campaign - or at least not more than 2 or 3." [DMG p. 136]

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Jeff Rients's suggestion (a link to which I can no longer find) that each magic item in the D&D rulebook is unique -- if you find a sword +1, you find the sword +1 and no one else will ever possess one unless they pry it out of your cold, dead hands."

    Perhaps this post is the one you meant?
    Excluding the middle.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can see one vorpal blade or one flaming sword, but just one +1 weapon in the world is maybe going a bit far, even for low magic worlds. Suddenly every weak item becomes an artifact.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This concept seems to have been in early D&D.

    From the Holmes rules: "The [treasure] tables are
    designed to maintain some sort of balance between the
    value of the dungeon's treasures and the risks involved
    in obtaining it."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Why shouldn't a tougher monster have better treasure? I may be misunderstanding your logic here, as it seems perfectly sensible to me that the biggest, nastiest beastie in the area would keep the best stuff for itself.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's important to note that many games' attempts to be as little like D&D as possible are more about marketing, branding, consumer perception and other decidedly un-fun business-y stuff.

    I firmly believe that classes, levels, hit points and many other conventions originated in D&D are legitimately better mechanics that give all editions of D&D a competitive advantage.

    Yet many games eschew these mechanical elements because then there's no marketing "point of difference".

    Basically, when you market your game, the first question you have to answer to a consumer is "what does this game do better than D&D".

    For years, rather than try and compete on *that* level, game after game has instead tried to get the customer to answer the question "what does this game do DIFFERENT than D&D".

    Often this comes from purposely avoiding better mechanics (like classes and levels) and other times through going after a different genre, like sci-fi.

    The reason being that D&D has proven such a "killer app" that attempting to say "we're a better game than D&D" or convincing the consumer of that anyway, has always proven to be a non-starter.

    Basically I'm saying games like Runequest claim to be totally different from D&D for marketing reasons as much as anything else.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Re: Treasure types, of course OD&D only has 9 (A-I), AD&D having 26 (A-Z).

    True! My head's been in "AD&D mode" lately, so forgive my error, though the general point still stands.

    Note that in AD&D a special status is given to "miscellaneous magic" in this regard: "MISCELLANEOUS MAGIC... The number of such items is great in order to make it improbable that there will be duplicates in a campaign - or at least not more than 2 or 3." [DMG p. 136]

    Given their large number, the likelihood of having two or more of them in a given campaign is small, which is why I've never had a problem with adding more miscellaneous magic items into the game.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Perhaps this post is the one you meant?

    It is. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can see one vorpal blade or one flaming sword, but just one +1 weapon in the world is maybe going a bit far, even for low magic worlds. Suddenly every weak item becomes an artifact.

    That's sort of the point and, judging from the RQ supplement Plunder, that's the vibe Chaosium was probably going for. That said, I agree that treating really minor magic items as unique brings with it problems of its own. A better solution might be to eliminate "generic" magic items entirely and make even lowly ones unique and interesting in their own right -- no more sword +1 but instead The Sword of Sir Evad FilzArn (which might well confer only a +1 bonus but has a history attached to it).

    ReplyDelete
  12. Unique magic items have a lot of appeal, and they are also an administrative headache.

    In one of the later B-series modules, the main hoard includes the fabled "Sword of the Rock." This would be a non-intelligent +1 sword (or maybe +2) with no special powers. Nevertheless the character who claimed that sword as a first-level fighter-- now a dual-class 9th level magic-user will still-- when he's out of spells and otherwise desperate, pull out "The Sword of the Rock." He doesn't know its "plus" value and he doesn't know whether it might have some untapped special purpose.

    On the other hand, this only works because I remember what The Sword of the Rock is. Just like I know that the "Wand of Necks and Pear Trees" is a wand of paralysis. But that's it. I can't remember any more unique magic items and so I have to just tell people, "It's a cloak +1."

    ReplyDelete
  13. This concept seems to have been in early D&D.

    I recalled that passage after I'd written my post, but I'm not sure there's much justification for the claim, given that there's no necessary connection between a monster's power and its treasure type and, moreover, so much of a treasure trove is determined randomly that, without fudging, a referee can't ensure that a lone orc doesn't possess a suit of plate mail +1 or that a dragon has any magic items at all in his hoard).

    ReplyDelete
  14. Which I always loved. Explaining why that dragon has no treasure, deciding he was just attacked by another band of adventures a few towns over and has moved into the area to found a new lair, and is desperate for treasure.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Why shouldn't a tougher monster have better treasure? I may be misunderstanding your logic here, as it seems perfectly sensible to me that the biggest, nastiest beastie in the area would keep the best stuff for itself.

    Should, say, a dinosaur have a greater likelihood of having gold or magic items than a much-weaker troll? I dislike the treasure factor system mostly because it doesn't take into account a monster's intelligence, society, place in the campaign setting etc., all of which should, in my opinion, have more to do with the kind of treasure it likely has than how tough it is to kill.

    ReplyDelete
  16. >>I recalled that passage after I'd written my post, but I'm not sure there's much justification for the claim

    Justification or no, it suggests that treasure was intended to be balanced by risk, whether the tables actually achieve that or not. If you assume authorial infallibility with respect to the design the sure, but the intent seems clear.

    >>moreover, so much of a treasure trove is determined randomly that, without fudging, a referee can't ensure . . .

    Randomness does not effect the argument. All that is needed is that the expected treasure value be proportional to the risks of obtaining it. For example, a single kobold might have a 1/1 billion chance of having that plate mail +1, whereas an ancient red dragon might have, say, 1/4 or something. Sure, that odd kobold might have the fancy armor, but if you're looking for good loot I wouldn't go trolling for kobolds. Sorry, I'm a bad, bad person . . . :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I dislike the treasure factor system mostly because it doesn't take into account a monster's intelligence, society, place in the campaign setting etc

    Ah yes, that makes more sense, and I agree with you. That said, I'm not sure D&D is entirely immune to this problem, as it's still possible for skeletons to be carrying around bags of gold, and so on. But yes, generally, I agree.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I did something similar to Fr Dave. Expendable items (potions, scrolls, and variants) were much more common than "permanent" items. Eventually, even the low-powered permanent items felt too common for my taste, so I instituted a "chance of failure" system. It ran something like this: if a user deployed a magic wand (for example), each use would require the roll of a D20. Should a "1" be rolled, the wielder would then have to make a save vs. death, based on the level of the item's creator. (I kept index cards for many items, with creator, history, &c.) If the save failed, the item "broke" and was thereafter useless. It didn't happen often, and the players seemed satisfied, and it helped make the items themselves seem more precious.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Basically I'm saying games like Runequest claim to be totally different from D&D for marketing reasons as much as anything else.

    To be fair, I don't think Chaosium itself hyped RQ's differences as much as did its fans, which may well explain why -- in addition to its oddities -- I never got into RQ as much as I should have.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Unique magic items have a lot of appeal, and they are also an administrative headache.

    Oh, granted. I don't mean to be too down on D&D's approach. After all, it works. My problem is more that, as the years dragged on, the convenience of the system became more and more exaggerated and it tended to (in my opinion) bleed a lot of the wonder and mystery out of magic items.

    ReplyDelete
  21. If you assume authorial infallibility with respect to the design the sure, but the intent seems clear.

    I guess, for me, the question is whether there are any other discussions of treasure types and their use that might shed more light on this question. I don't want to discount Holmes entirely, but it's clear to anyone who reads his rulebook that it's very idiosyncratic in places and is sometimes out of sync with the rest D&D. Though Gygax approved it, he was waist-deep in working on AD&D at the time and, by his own admission, didn't give it the attention it needed, which is why it includes stuff like the Dex-based initiative, roll-to-hit magic missile spells, and references to witches as a sub-class of MU, among other things.

    ReplyDelete
  22. That said, I'm not sure D&D is entirely immune to this problem, as it's still possible for skeletons to be carrying around bags of gold, and so on.

    Skeletons have no treasure type FWIW, but the larger point remains.

    ReplyDelete
  23. To be fair, I don't think Chaosium itself hyped RQ's differences as much as did its fans, which may well explain why -- in addition to its oddities -- I never got into RQ as much as I should have.

    I see that as a symptom of the same disease though.

    I think you could argue that the existence of RPG fans who WANT to identify themselves as "fans of something that's not D&D" is a heck of a good reason for companies to market their games that way.

    It's like the hipster kids who gravitate to Apple because it's different.

    Do games like Vampire market themselves that way to "create" (or attract) RPG fans who want something different?

    Or do the guys clearly looking for a different experience clue companies in that the opportunity exists?

    If I could answer these questions, I'd just play the stock market for a living ;)

    ReplyDelete
  24. There certainly are problems with the treasure type system...

    I'm curious what, in your opinion, some of those problems might be...

    ReplyDelete
  25. It also depends upon what your definition of magic items are. For example, in my games, which were high magic, weaponsmiths could make magic weapons, and are in fact the normal source of them. Meticulous craftmanship has it's own magic. Not that there were many smiths capable of forging +5 weapons in existence in the world, let alone ones holy enough to forge holy avengers, but there were enough to ensure that there was a small supply of "magic" weapons constantly available somewhere in the world.

    But these are all munition quality "magic" weapons. Not enough to be explicitly mentioned, although generally admired.

    The true magic weapons were the legendary ones that were named, that had histories and destinies. The artifact level magic weapons.

    [Which reminds me to recommend Weapons of the Gods on how to really handle the construction and implementation of magic weapons in a game.]

    So Glamdring wasn't just a +2 Longsword, +4 vs Orcs & Goblinkind, but rather an artifact level item of much greater power. It had a name.

    D&D always struck me as having this much greater level of magic, especially since I didn't consider the player character heroes to be anything remarkably special in the context of the campaign. In other words, while they were in the campaign, the campaign wasn't about them.

    Runequest on the other hand didn't really have that much in the way of magic items. Most treasure was exactly that: treasure. Clacks, and wheels, and lunars, with the possibility of jewellery. The real treasures, such as were presented in Plunder were worth far more than their weight in gold. Or were easily implementable, but came with horrible penalties (such as the infamous Dragonewt armour).

    The idea of D&D treasure was pervasive through a lot of the early hobby. But things soon changed. People started considering other things having equivalent worth, and so trade goods and artwork and the like started appearing in hoards. Just as treasure maps went from being actual maps, to journals, keys, and even paintings and mosaics showing what the ruins looked like when they were whole (very useful for working out where the Royal Mint used to be located, for example).

    ReplyDelete
  26. Skeletons have no treasure type FWIW, but the larger point remains.

    Ha, yes, that will teach me to draw examples from a game I've barely played! But thank you for acknowledging the point, despite the fuzziness of the details, so that I don't look too silly! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  27. James: "...no more sword +1 but instead The Sword of Sir Evad FilzArn (which might well confer only a +1 bonus but has a history attached to it)."

    I'd say "too much work!". Sounds a lot like the road that late-era games take, transforming "Fighter Level 1" into multi-page starting backstories...

    For example, for my recent "Corsairs of Medero" game, I sat down and rolled up a whole bunch of pirate ship index-cards I could grab at random later on. See Vol-2 p. 5: Each has a Ftr8-9 captain, a few Ftr5-6 lieutenants, several F4 mates -- each with 3x5%/level chance for items. Not too bad by the book, but if I'd committed to making a "story" for each of the dozens of items rolled up... wow!

    ReplyDelete
  28. My DMG still has the pencilled in numbers representing the total number of each item in the game world. In some cases this was unlimited (brooms of flying - every coven has a few) but others were much more limited. There were two rings of regeneration and only 1 each of the different dragonslayers (red, green etc).

    Sometimes I used internal logic (like the dragonslayer swords) but mostly I used the value of the item as sa guide to its rarity. I may even have had a simple division factor for most of the items.

    If a "used up" item was rolled, then there was simply nothing.

    I think the low-level swords and armour should be pretty unlimited under the guise of simply being well-made rather than truly magical but each to their own.

    ReplyDelete
  29. >>it's clear to anyone who reads his rulebook that it's very idiosyncratic in places and is sometimes out of sync with the rest D&D.

    I claim that this statement can be made with regard to any early D&D book, and arguably for any D&D book across any and all editions. I suspect there's a whole discussion to be had around the reasons for this and the early development of the game. (To that end, if you could point to resources for parties interested in these questions, I'd be grateful.)

    At any rate, I'll give you next the 1e DMG pages 92: "Any treasure possessed by weak, low-level monsters will be trifling compared to what numbers of stronger monsters might guard." Later on the same page: "In more inaccessible regions there will be stronger monsters - whether due to numbers or individual prowess is immaterial. These creatures will have more treasure, at least those with any at all."

    It seems very clear to this reader that Gygax had in mind some reasonable correlation between treasure and "its guardians", albeit not a nonsensical one. (Early in that section he does say "All monsters would not and should not possess treasure!")

    ReplyDelete
  30. I find (AD&D) that I'd rather give some uniqueness through description and "fluff" than make every magic item unique--it's honestly just too much bookkeeping to remember how each is supposed to be different. Again a reason for AD&D: a standardization house rules that lets you save your DMing energy for the situations of the game itself instead of houseruling every last thing.

    At one point I was part of a fun thread on Dragonsfoot (2-3 years ago? 4?) about the assumptions of the AD&D world. One, I think, is that the world used to be a lot more magical than it is now. The sacrifices needed to make magic items by the rules are pretty great, far too much for most to bother except for immediate use (and then generally scrolls and potions are going to come first and most often). But "at some point," the nature or science of magic made it much easier. I think it's up to your campaign to decide (or not) why this was so. But at any rate, it seems to be part of the assumption of the game, which is why so many daggers and long swords +1 are out there floating around. I have no problem with that or with saving the real special stuff for the much rarer, more special items (like the ranger in my group has an intelligent frostbrand shortsword that he named Gary after using a wish (!) to change its alignment from LE to NG. Gary knows much.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The thing I really liked about RQ was the treasure->training economy. I felt like it gave a much better reason for the PCs to always be seeking money (especially since I had abandoned D&D's XP for GP).

    Sometimes I miss being able to give out more D&D style magic items, and I did occasionally hand out something special. I never actually used anything from Plunder (or if anything, no more than one or two items).

    The lack of magic swords definitely creates a different vibe.

    Power crystals were a neat way to power up PCs (since everyone is a spell caster), either to provide a power battery, or to put spirits into.

    Frank

    ReplyDelete
  32. It might be piling on, but I've come to a similar solution to magic items becoming generic as FrDave and others have posted.
    In "Not Another +1 Sword" I discuss my naturalistic and mechanical reasons for increasing the frequency of expendable magic and decreasing permanent magic. Following up with "Not +1 Swords", I show how I've tried to make the lower power magical items remain unique through their history and qualities.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I quite like the Bard's Tale and its take on magic items.

    +1 items are Mithril, +2 are Admantite and +3 are Diamond.

    Anything better, or more unusual, than that, is named, e.g. Kael's Axe.

    I haven't implemented much of this in my own campaign world but it's there ready for when the players find some more generic magic items, which as I use a treasure deck, could be at any point in the near future.

    What I have done to date, though, is a mishmash of different ideas and systems. Some magic items can be levelled up and have their own sheets that I hand out containing elaborate histories of the item in question, but these are rare. Many are named and have unique properties attached to them, not quite as rare. And some are just plain old +1, and it's these I'll be switching to the Bard's Tale CRPG system for.. no more +1 finds; they'll be finding mithril from now on, as it's just cooler.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I'm curious what, in your opinion, some of those problems might be...

    The biggest issue is that there's little guidance given on what each treasure type represents. You can more or less figure it out by looking at them and decide that this type is appropriate for this kind of monster, but it's never really drawn out.

    That and the differences between some of the types is a mite small to justify there being as many as there are.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'd say "too much work!". Sounds a lot like the road that late-era games take, transforming "Fighter Level 1" into multi-page starting backstories...

    You cut me to the quick! :)

    Believe me, I am sympathetic to this complaint; it's a very valid one. I simply find, in play, that D&D magic items are frequently a little too bland for my tastes these days. I'd like to make them a bit more interesting, exotic, and even dangerous. As written, they're too trite and "technological."

    ReplyDelete
  36. It seems very clear to this reader that Gygax had in mind some reasonable correlation between treasure and "its guardians", albeit not a nonsensical one. (Early in that section he does say "All monsters would not and should not possess treasure!")

    You're probably right, but the game as written doesn't really get this point across well and the system itself works against it. Plus, as you note, there's also the assumption that many monsters won't have treasure at all and that some treasures will be left unguarded, lying around to be found by clever adventurers.

    All that aside, you're correct: Gygax did see some kind of connection between difficulty of obtaining a treasure and its value to the characters. I personally think that's nonsensical but I can't deny that Gary intended it.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Like many of the other commenters, I have also house-ruled that most + # swords are simply well-crafted and not actually magical. Borrowing a page from Philotomy, in my campaign ALL truly magical swords are not only unique but possess intelligence and alignment. Many magical swords are able to communicate. Even touching a sword of the wrong alignment can cause damage. The swords often confer magical powers on their wielder and may dominate them (a la Stormbringer). It *is* trickier to keep track of, but I just treat the unique sword as another NPC.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I've always thought there was one type of low-level magic sword missing: a magic sword that had no adds to-hit or to-damage, but still allowed you to hit creatures vulnerable only to magic weapons.

    ReplyDelete
  39. "You cut me to the quick! :)"

    Have a swig from my jug of healing as recompense. :)

    ReplyDelete
  40. <<>>

    Wasn't there a Magic Sword spell (or some similar name) in 1st Edition AD&D that enchanted weapons to do exactly that? It made your weapon a +1 longsword to allow you to hit otherwise weapon resistant creatures but had none of the other bonuses that comes with magic weapons (to hit bonus/damage bonus)?

    I seem to recall that spell existing, and, at the time with my youthful campaigns being what they were, not seeing the point of the spell because "Real" magic weapons were incredibly common.

    Now, I can see the point of the spell in a campaign where a true +1 sword might only be a once-in-a-lifetime sort of find, or at least uncommon enough to make running across a wraith or something a real hazard.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Coldstream:

    Wasn't there a Magic Sword spell (or some similar name) in 1st Edition AD&D that enchanted weapons to do exactly that? It made your weapon a +1 longsword to allow you to hit otherwise weapon resistant creatures but had none of the other bonuses that comes with magic weapons (to hit bonus/damage bonus)?

    Was there? If so, I missed it completely. (Which wouldn't be surprising.) Maybe it was in a later supplement or magazine article?

    Security word: "gunha," a Hill Giant war cry.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Anthony:

    Well, I no longer have copies of the 1st edition rulebooks handy, hopefully someone will, but both Labyrinth Lord AEC and OSRIC have "Enchant Arms/Weapon" spells which do exactly what we were talking about, so I'm pretty sure they were basing those off of the original AD&D spell. I think the AD&D spell also went by "Enchant Weapon" or "Enchant Sword" or some such.

    Interestingly, both the LL and OSRIC spells are Level 4 spells, which a magic-user wouldn't get until they reached Level 7. I would assume the AD&D version would be the same. It puts this spell on the same level as things like Ice Storm, Wall of Fire, Dimension Door and the Polymorphs. Powerful and important spells.

    This might give us some insight as to how uncommon or rare "real" magic weapons were supposed to be at some point in AD&D. Otherwise why would this spell be necessary at all? I can't think of too many campaigns from my youth where you didn't have a true +1 weapon by level 7.

    ReplyDelete
  43. coldstream: yep, Enchant Weapon is a 4th level spell in 1E, and lasts 5 rounds per level for the one weapon (or two projectiles) touched.
    Interestingly, the spell makes the weapon magical 'equivalent to a +1 weapon' but has no bonuses.

    Note that 7th level is also the level at which a wizard can make potions. So an oil that imparts this property to a weapon could be a replacement for the ubiquitous '+1 swords' commodity items. I find that replacing those generic +1s with single use items works. They're actually treated like treasure, hoarded and used only by considered choice.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Red:
    yep, Enchant Weapon is a 4th level spell in 1E, and lasts 5 rounds per level for the one weapon (or two projectiles) touched.

    That explains it. I always played multi-classed T/MUs or F/T/MUs, so my character never reached the elevated heights of 7th-level as a wizard. I'd forgotten that spell ever existed. :D

    ReplyDelete
  45. It's important to note that many games' attempts to be as little like D&D as possible are more about marketing, branding, consumer perception and other decidedly un-fun business-y stuff.

    I firmly believe that classes, levels, hit points and many other conventions originated in D&D are legitimately better mechanics that give all editions of D&D a competitive advantage.



    Often this comes from purposely avoiding better mechanics (like classes and levels) and other times through going after a different genre, like sci-fi.

    The reason being that D&D has proven such a "killer app" that attempting to say "we're a better game than D&D" or convincing the consumer of that anyway, has always proven to be a non-starter.


    ***

    While there is a basis for some of this, in large measure it is not correct. Point by point:

    1. At least for Metagaming’s Melee and subsequent TFT games, they were motivated by a desire to deal with D&D’s shortcomings, at least as Steve Jackson perceived them to be (in large measure I agree with his views, BTW) – and not the marketing stuff you bring up. I don’t have it in front of me, but I believe this motivation was mentioned in the designer’s notes to Melee in an early issue of Space Gamer.

    2. You can firmly believe all you want, but it amounts to nothing more than a strongly held opinion rather than objective fact. Hit points, in particular, are a very poor mechanic, creating as many problems as they solve. And while I do not object to classes and levels, I hardly think they are the greatest way to handle character definition and development. There is certainly no objective basis for claiming they are “the best.”

    3. Had Metagaming not been run by an over-emotional twit (i.e. Howard Thompson, the Evil One) than the TFT RPG rules would have continued to provide significant competition to the bloated D&D/AD&D system. Indeed, had the full up rules set been released on schedule (i.e. in 1978 timeframe) before the AD&D DMG came out, TFT might well have stolen a good chunk of the D&D market share, perhaps even beating it out altogether. This last is speculation, but I base it on the following facts:

    (a) In spite of Metagaming company’s small size relative to TSR, the TFT system was, according to some survey’s, second only to D&D in terms of popularity. And this in spite of the fact that the TFT “DMG” (i.e. In the Labyrinth) wasn’t released until mid-1980, a full year after the AD&D DMG came out.

    (b) The TFT rules set was objectively superior, being overall much better written and easier to learn and play. Not that the system was without flaws, but what flaws there were could be fairly easily corrected. The flaws in D&D/AD&D require vastly more effort and experience to correct.

    (c) TFT was much less expensive than D&D/AD&D, coming in at about half or less the price for comparable products. (On the other hand, you get what you pay for – certainly the AD&D hardbounds were much more durable than the paper covers of TFT)

    (d) TFT was also a much more flexible rules set than D&D/AD&D. Though intended for a quasi-Mediaeval setting like D&D, the TFT rules could much more easily accommodate other genres (modern, sci-fi, etc.) than D&D ever could. The later GURPS system (based partly on TFT) took this to its fullest. Had Metagaming not gone under, they would have been releasing various supplements/worldbooks (this was mentioned in Interplay, and would have included a Superheroes and Wild West supplements, among others)

    In sum, D&D had (and still has, really) quite a few significant problems. Mechanically, many of the rules are just futzy and poorly reasoned (even when the basic mechanic is, in fact, viable). As a result, at least some early systems arose as a result of trying to find a better set of rules than D&D, and not, as alleged, because of simple marketing gimmicks.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.