The second in my continuing series on the 1979 Dungeon Master’s Guide, written by Gary Gygax. This post begins with the section “Money” on page 25, and continues through Loyalty of Henchmen and Allied Creatures on page 37. You can see the first post in this series here.
Player Character Expenses Gary recommends that players be forced to spend a certain amount of gold each month on general upkeep. This covers all the numerous costs which are too painstaking to track during the game itself: the cost of meals, lodging, ale, minor tools, etc. This is something which actually exists in Pathfinder. You can find it under “Cost of Living,” on page 405 of the Core Rulebook. In many ways, I think the Pathfinder system is more elegant than Gary’s, but I’ve never heard of anyone actually using it. I’ve even failed to implement it myself. That’s something I need to improve on.
Reputed Magical Properties of Gems Every edition the game has some type of list which itemizes the various values of gems, but I love that Gygax devoted half of a page to explaining the type of magic each gem is related to. I can’t speak for the historical accuracy of the list, but gems and other precious stones have been said to have magical properties throughout history. Gygax specifically states that simply owning a stone does not grant any magical benefit. Rather, the purpose of the list is to give game masters a frame of reference they can draw from when creating magical items. If an NPC gives the party a magical stone to ward off a curse, then the GM can make the stone Topaz, whereas if a wizard wants to make a Ring of Guile, the GM can require them to hunt down some Serpentine.
Helmets A common argument in the tabletop community centers around helmets. Some think they should add to a player’s armor class, while others (including myself) argue that a helmet is part of whatever armor the player is already wearing. If anything, players should receive an AC penalty for not using a helmet! Gygax takes an interesting position on this issue: if no helmet is worn, then roll a d6 along with each attack roll. If a 1 is rolled (1-3 for intelligent creatures) then the head is attacked directly, and it only has AC 10.
Dexterity Armor Class Bonus I find it very interesting that the 1st edition AD&D rules say that a character wearing heavy armor does not lose their dexterity bonus to their Armor Class. The restrictions on players are generally more harsh in older editions than they are in newer ones. But perhaps I’m simply misunderstanding because I lack a proper background in how Armor Class worked during this era.
Hirelings There is a lot of emphasis placed on the search for hirelings, and bartering with them for their services. I find this idea intriguing. As a player, I imagine that once I’ve established a stronghold, I’ll try to recruit NPCs I meet during my adventures to come work for me. If I meet a city guard or blacksmith I like, I offer them a sum of money to come live in my stronghold, and spend their days guarding my treasure, or making my weapons. As a GM, I imagine each NPC added to the player’s stronghold as a possible adventure hook. Maybe the blacksmith has a gambling debt, and somebody will come to collect on it. Maybe the city guard is a deserter from a massive army which demands the players turn him over.
Sages I don’t recall when I first encountered the concept of sages–wise and elderly keepers of knowledge. But from the first time I heard about them, I was fascinated. There’s something romantic about the life of a scholar, and I’ve always enjoyed having my players encounter them. For a long time now, I’ve allowed players who fail a knowledge check by 10 or less to know of a sage who can answer their question. But I’ve always been interested to know more about the oldschool origins of these characters. And Gygax did not disappoint me. Very few topics have received three full pages worth of coverage in the DMG so far, so I’m quite happy! There’s a lot of information on how to randomly generate a sage’s fields of knowledge. And I particularly like the idea of hiring a sage, and having permanent access to their immense knowledge on a given topic.
How would you utilize a sage within your stronghold who knew everything there is to know about, let’s say, birds? It might seem useless, but I’ve found that “useless” resources can be a huge benefit, if you figure out how to use them properly. Perhaps this sage could advise you of a method to coax carrier birds to land in your citadel, and allow you to intercept messages from other kingdoms. Or maybe their knowledge could provide the fortress with a source of food during a long siege?
Henchmen I’ve never been at all satisfied with the way D&D 3.x/Pathfinder handle followers. The leadership feat has always struck me as clunky and difficult to use, so I’ve been surprised to learn how differently followers were handled in older editions of the game. Rather than being an obscure ability which only a few players will pursue, it seems as though Gygax expected every player to eventually acquire a few NPC hangers-on. The system for recruiting them is a great deal more advanced, detailed, and elegant than the one presented in Pathfinder. I particularly like the fact that a full page is devoted to calculating a creature’s loyalty. The extremely simple loyalty system described in the Leadership feat has never sat well with me.
The comparison between oldschool and modern methods of attracting followers is something I would like to go into in more detail, but it will require a full post to do so. I’ll hold off on that for now.
Favorite Quotes from this Section
“Such short-term employment cannot last beyond one week’s time, and the sage will thereafter not be available for at least one game month — as there are more important and constructive things to be done than answering foolish questions, anyway!” -Gygax, DMG, Page 33
“Thus, suppose a sage is asked a question out of any of his or her fields of knowledge. If the question is of general nature, the sage will hedge and talk around the point, or just possibly sit and look wise for 4-6 rounds before answering that the question is beyond his or her learning…” -Gygax, DMG, Page 33