Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sage Advice Compilation

I know this has been posted on several other blogs, but I figured I'd make note of it here anyway, since some of you might not have seen it. Here's a compilation of 680 questions and answers from the "Sage Advice" column of Dragon magazine, starting with the first appearance of the feature in issue 31 and going until issue 134. That's not a complete compilation by any means, but it's a large one nonetheless and it's useful as an aid in seeing how both the questions and the style of responses changed over the years.

I'm well known as a critic of "Sage Advice," thinking the willingness to provide "official" solutions to matters not covered in the rules (as opposed to genuine omissions in them) revealed a shift in the way TSR viewed its role as publisher of D&D. What's interesting, though, is that many of the earliest responses to questions are quite humorous and reveal a certain disdain for the demands of players to have ex cathedra statements with which to bludgeon their fellow players into submission (not to mention bewilderment at the sorts of things some player felt needed answers). I didn't start reading Dragon until the late 50s or early 60s, so I missed out on many of the really amusing "Sage Advice" columns, alas.

21 comments:

  1. I remember when issue 31 came out and we saw the question about the paladin, we decided they were playing the serial-killer version of AD&D. :)

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  2. You might also find this ongoing project in the second edition Dragonsfoot forums: Sage Advice.

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  3. #24 is very interesting. We always played it like a 1st level magic user.

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  4. A useful resource but I hate the format.

    I ended up copying and pasting all of them into a single spreadsheet so I could do searches, if needed.

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  5. You know, I've always thought of them as so, but it seem strange to see it in print: Orcs are mammals. Orcs -> Mammals. Nope, still weird.

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  6. Half-Orcs and Elves don't have souls?

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. It's pretty good but some of the Sage's advice could of been handed out a little better. Such as #23 when they columnist actually advices the DM to basically give up and "blow up" his world if a character is too powerful. why not simply advised the DM to have the character go on a long journey or gets to involved with his sorcery and magical practices to adventure for an indefinite about of time. Ah well, I guess even a wise-old Sage can't be perfect every day...

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  9. Nope, fauxcrye; that's in the PH (under resurrection, or raise dead, or something...)

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  10. The tone of a lot of the early Advice might have something to do with the fact that Jean Wells was the Sage. By all accounts she was a prickly pear.

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  11. It was later made explicit in Deities & Demigods. Humans, dwarves, halflings, gnomes and half-elves have souls, which means they can be raised/resurrected and stay in the Outer Planes for eternity after death.

    Elves, orcs, half-orcs, bugbears, centaurs, ettins, giants, gnolls, goblins, hobgoblins, ixitxachitl, kobolds, kuo-toa, lizard men, locathah, mermen, ogres, satyrs, and troglodytes have spirits, can't be raised/resurrected, and get reincarnated after spending a while in the afterlife, as do any other creatures of Low or higher intelligence that the DM chooses.

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  12. @Jason:

    half-orcs must be mammals, because they can be assassins.

    (Real Ultimate Power reference)

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  13. There was always something about that column that reminded me too much about catechism class (thus I appreciate James' comments). Questions like do dogs have souls? What about cave men?

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  14. I found this quote from #5 in Dragon 31 fascinating.

    "I don’t understand how or what happened or even if all the gods were in this battle, but if you enjoy playing this way, feel free to do so. I don’t want to spoil your fun."

    Paints a very odd and contradictory picture.

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  15. Two things. One, how does it make any friggin' sense that, if orcs and elves don't have souls, that half-elves have souls but half-orcs don't?

    Two: I love the fact that Gary's Word is automatically official AD&D canon. Combine this with the "IF YOU DON'T PLAY WITH EVERY JOT AND TITTLE OF AD&D THEN YOU ARE NOT PLAYING AD&D" from TSR Gary, and the evident peevishness in Sage Advice when they're having to retcon things (like magical elfin chainmail, or psionic elves) that Gary *changed his mind in print about*, and this paints a very funny picture. All those poor excommunicants, who didn't even know they were excommunicated until they finally got hold of Dragon #59 and Learned They Were Doin' It Wrong!

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  16. Imagine what it was like when you were learning the game, or other learning horror stories you have heard about. I think that, while this feature may not have been for you, it might have been useful to other people. I am pretty sure I have heard that TSR used to run a help line that you could call and ask questions. I think Sage Advice would have been aimed along these lines. I imagine they would have gotten many more questions than they published and probably only the most interesting, common or strange ones saw print. Even if the actual questions were not helpful then maybe just the process of how to answer the question would have been of use to a young, struggling dungeon master. Even then, you are still free to ignore them, the same as you are of any of the published rules.

    Regards,

    John.

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  17. I have to give credit that a bit of a dialogue does occur across the letters. For example the entry about "how long does a Carrion Crawler paralysis last" is followed up later by another letter writer and corrected to be in line with the Ghoul, plus they add rules for the Ghast. The original answer that it lasts for 24 hours seems extreme and totally pulled out of the hat.

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  18. Evan wrote: "Paints a very odd and contradictory picture."

    I don't see it that way. They're expressing to all readers that the play style described doesn't fit the company's intention or concept of play, so as to not encourage it among Dragon's readership.

    But the writer clearly understands that they can't control how the person plays the game, and I think we all agree that it looks pretty silly when they try to make such commandments. So the writer ends up telling the person, "You like it, knock yourself out." while sending everyone else a clear signal that the person is "doing it wrong".

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  19. There was also a Q&A column in early issues of Polyhedron. It covered not just AD&D and D&D but also the other games (Gamma World, Boot Hill, etc). Each issue usually had some questions for each game.

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  20. @ jonhendry2

    On second reading, I believe you're right.

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  21. This is so hilarious. They take the time to submit their issues as a way of "telling on each other." I find it funny because it seems that most of these problems would be solved with a simple GM call. There are things my players do that are not in the rulebooks and some things that they can't do because it doesn't make any sense for them to do it. Like #3, "sorry guys, you kill the donkeys with the weight you put on them, you can try to ride them but they're dead" or 4 "you're a paladin, why would you take pleasure in torturing a helpless victim regardless if it is evil or not." It seems ridiculous that people take the letter of the law to such an extreme that only official calls from the makers of the game or their affiliates can determine the outcome of in game actions.

    Am I wrong in saying this?

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