Monday, September 7, 2020

Elric in D&D

I've never been much of a fan of Deities & Demigods, though I owned it, of course. Why wouldn't I? I have always had decidedly completionist tendencies and being an unabashed TSR fanboy, there was no chance I wouldn't purchase this book as soon as I was able to do so. It's true I didn't get much use out of it, but I still proudly displayed it on my bookshelf, right next to the Monster Manual

One thing that always bugged me was the strange acknowledgement at the front of the book: "Special thanks are also given to Chaosium, Inc. for permission to use the material found in the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonean Mythos." My copy of the book didn't include either of those mythoi and neither did the copies of any of my friends. I eventually learned from older gamers that the first printing of the book did include these chapters, but I could never find any evidence that it was true. In fact, it wasn't until college that could verify these stories; my roommate actually owned a copy of the legendary first printing and I finally beheld it with my own eyes.

These are the stats of Elric, as well as an illustration of him by Jeff Dee. Like so much in Deities & Demigods, I remember being struck by how powerful Elric is, not simply in terms of his ability scores but also his many classes and their levels. I never quite understood the logic of giving literary heroes so many classes, when such things were explicitly impossible under the AD&D rules. I remember, too, my puzzlement at assigning the Chaotic Evil alignment to Elric. He never struck me as evil himself. Most of the terrible things that happen in the stories are not due to his direct action, but I suppose that's a matter of interpretation.

More interesting to me were the stats for the sword Stormbringer.

Stormbringer was the ultimate magical sword in the mind of my friends and I. Forget Excalibur or Glamdring or Durendal, Stormbringer was what everyone wanted and fantasy roleplaying games have been filled with blatant rip-offs of the deadly runeblade for as long as I've been gaming. As you can see, Stormbringer is every bit as powerful as you'd imagine, putting Blackrazor to shame.

It's worth noting that the earlier Gods, Demigods & Heroes supplement for OD&D also included the Melnibonéan mythos, though I was somehow unaware of this fact until many years after I acquired a copy of the book. Interestingly, Elric's stats therein are quite similar in many respects, though, in keeping with the generally lower power level of OD&D, they are not quite as egregious. The same is true of the stats for Stormbringer. Looking at them now, I find myself reminded of why I generally prefer OD&D to AD&D: the power curve is less steep and more human. Even the mightiest of fictional characters translated into OD&D are a far cry from the absurdities they become in AD&D. This is a topic to which I shall return in future posts.

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