Page By Page: Gary Gygax’s DMG part 2

First Edition Dungeon Masters Guide Beareded Man Examines Gem by Darlene PekulThe 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. First Edition Dungeon Masters Guide This Had Better work Adventurers In Mouse Costumes art by Will McLeanI 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.

First Edition Dungeon Masters Guide Bearded Sage Examines Tome art by Darlene PekulDexterity 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.

First Edition Dungeon Masters Guide Dave Get The Barbarian In The Corner Another Drink Quick Axe Throw Cartoon Art by Will McLeanSages 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.

First Edition Dungeon Masters Guide Chainmail Adventurer Gives A Pair of Swords to Henchmen

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

25 thoughts on “Page By Page: Gary Gygax’s DMG part 2”

  1. The reason that the Dexterity bonus was applied to armor class regardless of type was because the round in AD&D was 1 minute. I believe you will come across the explanation later on in the DMG that mentions this (probably in the section that deals primarily with combat), though it’s as an aside.
    Combat in 1e is meant to be pretty abstract – not just one roll per swing, but essentially several swings traded back and forth over the period of a minute, with a check (the attack roll) to determine if any connections were made and if so, the amount of damage accumulated over that minute was determined by the weapon damage roll. This is a pretty straightforward carryover from the original D&D, where the term ‘hit points’ wasn’t actually used. “Dice for accumulated hits’ were used to determine how many hits a character could take before dying.

    1. Thank you, that’s very informative!

      I’ve been vaguely aware for awhile now that combat in first edition was significantly less involved than it is in the editions I’m used to. I didn’t know, however, that is was quite so abstracted.

      I really look forward to playing a few games of 1st edition once I get my Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual.

      1. Yeah, page 61:

        Because of the relatively long period of time represented by the round, dexterity (dexterity, agility, speed, quickness) is represented by a more favorable armor class rating rather than os a factor in which opponent strikes the first blow.

        The idea of the abstract 1 minute round does kind of break down when you consider missile fire though, as the number of attempts consumes ammunition (and thus can’t be as abstract as parry, feint, thrust. Just don’t look too closely at that and wave your hands a lot.


        1. Based on what little I know, it seems to me that I would most prefer a blend of modern and oldschool with regards to combat. Heavily weighted towards the modern.

        2. If you use the 1e combat round, it still works ok – missile discharge occurs at a different phase than striking blows. I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for LS, but the ‘phased’ nature of the 1e combat round is quite a bit different than the scrum of 3e and later – missile fire and spellcasting occur at different portions of the round than melee does.

  2. It’s more abstracted, but I don’t know that I would say it’s less involved, if using the rules as written. Weapon speed, space required, and weapon versus armor class, plus the way that initiative and the combat round plays out, makes 1e combat pretty involved. Many people decided that it was in fact too complicated, and ignore the weapon speed, space, and weapon vs AC rules. This carried over into the revised rules (otherwise known as 2e) as many of the systems in 1e had been put into an ‘optional’ category, and were then dropped completely by 3e’s arrival.
    I expect that, as you continue your delve through the 1e DMG, you will discover there’s not a whole lot of similarity between 1e and 3e, and it’s not that 1e is simpler to run – it’s just quite a bit different than 3e. I’m looking forward to your continued exploration of the game system – particularly the combat and initiative rules. It’s been fun to look at the rules I’ve been familiar with for 20 years or so through a fresh perspective!

    1. Weapon speed, space required, and weapon V. armor class all sound very interesting. I imagine there’s a good reason they were dropped from the game, but maybe there’s a way they could be re-integrated into the game without losing efficiency. I’d certainly like to give it a try once I learn more about what those systems entailed at the time.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my trek through the DMG. It always feels a little self-indulgent when I write these posts. But if somebody likes it, then I can keep going!

      1. The main reason I think they were dropped was because of the additional complexity in a pretty complex combat encounter. I know when I played 1e in high school, those rules were thrown out the window because we wanted ‘simpler’ combat. Long afterwards (having run and played OD&D with the Chainmail man-to-man combat system), I can see how they add to the full flavor of fighting in 1e. It’s still not a perfect fit, but I have to think that 2e actually managed the most interesting aspect of weapon speed via the (optional) individual initiative rules.

  3. I just wanted to compliment you and your blog. I am still new to tabletop gaming and appreciate your insight. You have a new reader.

  4. Originally, the charisma stat was almost entirely dedicated to hirelings, retainers, and henchmen. It determined how well you could bargain with them (the reaction adjustment), what their loyalty would be, and how many you could command. This also makes sense when you think about the wargaming history of the game (and connects to your post about military history). What is charisma good for in war? Leading soldiers. Thus, that is how it was used in the game.

    This is almost entirely different from how the stat is used in 3E, where it is the prime requisite for sorcerers and bards, and gives bonuses in interpersonal skills like intimidate and diplomacy. Those skills could be used to engage with hirelings in 3E potentially, but there was a layer of abstraction added that made it less clear (and more versatile potentially, as charisma could also be used more obviously for something like seduction).

    After your foray into AD&D, I would highly recommend looking at OD&D (the 3 LBBs and supplement 1 and 2) as well. It is amazing how much of the core of AD&D was fit into those 3 – 5 little booklets, and some of the OD&D systems are actually more elegant (at least in my opinion).

    1. I’ve actually read large portions of OD&D. I have printouts of the three books included in the wood grain box, but I found them insufferable to read. It seems like every rule requires you to reference Chainmail in order to understand it. I don’t have Chainmail, so there were huge gaps in my understanding as I tried to get through the books. Not to mention that the tables are sloppy to the point of being almost incomprehensible.

      The most valuable thing I read was the (very lengthy) description of the Charisma attribute, which I found inspiring. I’d really like to completely reform the 3e ‘leadership’ nonsense to conform more closely to OD&D.

      I’m sure I’ll return to OD&D at some point. Probably after I have real copies of the books, and a copy of Chainmail and Outdoor Survival at the ready.

      1. I don’t really understand Chainmail rules myself, and I haven’t found that to detract from the OD&D booklets personally. I just ignore the references to Chainmail and assume the alternate combat system. There are a few spell descriptions which assume knowledge of the Chainmail spells, I suppose. Outdoor Survival is definitely not necessary; the only thing used is the map.

        In general, I feel that sometimes Gary added complexity for complexity’s sake to AD&D. Which is not to take away at all from the immense achievement that is the original DMG.

        Delta has some much better examples than I would be able to come up with:

        1. Thanks for eating up 30 minutes of my time while I read over those posts! x’D Those were quite informative, it’s too bad he didn’t keep up with it.

          Maybe I ought to give OD&D a second chance sooner than I had planned to. Though I’d still like to have a copy of chainmail around.

          1. I personally feel this post is one of the most concise examples of Chainmail man-to-man combat: Swords of Minaria. He’s recently started posting again, which is pretty great: I stumbled upon his Chainmail posts last year, and feared his blog was not long for the world.

  5. I love 1st edition, but I always hated the one minute combat round, largely because thew abstraction never seemed very good to me. I can take or leave weapons vs. AC, but I hate speed factors (sure, daggers are faster, but pikes have reach!), and I once had a fight between my cleric and a single orc last for 30 minutes of game time (5 mins real time. Weird, yeah?) because we couldn’t hit each other with our single attack per round for 30 rounds. And it never did work with missile fire, as was pointed out by Brendan. I just dealt with it at the time, but the 6 second round is IMHO one of the things that 3rd edition got exactly right. According to the internets (an unimpeachable source of information!) the WOTC staffers would stand around the office and see how long an action took, and that’s how they decided the round structure.

    1. We agree on this. I’ll give the 1 minute combat round a try when I finally sit down to play 1st ed, but I’ll confess I much prefer the tactical, grid-based combat of Pathfinder. This is one issue where I am firmly opposed to most of the OSR.

      1. One other minor thing to keep in mind is that the one minute combat round is not the only way to do abstract combat. Basic D&D, for example, has 10 second rounds.

        I just checked, and the 2E PHB has one minute rounds too! In the 10 years I played Second Edition, I never played with rounds that were one minute long.

        1. I would think that a 10 second round is hardly any more abstract than a 6 second round, and there you can reasonably fit in multiple attacks per round and have each attack be an attack.

          With 3e when you’d start hitting 4 attacks in 6 seconds it almost seems like it’s just not quite enough time.

      2. I think my biggest problem with the ‘tactical’ nature of 3e is that it’s all half-measures. There’s no facing and you can attack into any square, but you can be flanked? Even while flanked, you can still deal out an attack of opportunity to someone moving through a square you threaten? And of course the use of a square grid as opposed to a hex makes for ridiculous hacks like the 1-2-1 movement cost rule when moving diagonally. It’s wargames-lite rules, imo. As mentioned above, missile discharge actually occurs on a different phase of the combat round (as does spellcasting) than striking blows.

    2. I would think that whiffing 60 times in a row would be a lot more annoying than the notion that the fight took 30 minutes.

        1. Whiffing is rolling a miss. The fight took 10 minutes of real time, and that was annoying. It took 30 minutes of game time, which was bizarre, in that I’ve never before or since had a RP experience where the combat took LESS time in game time than in real time. Whiffing 60 times in a row? It was transcendentally bad. I broke through the illusion and into reality, and now I know why the caged bird sings and what the sound of no hands clapping is. My group thought that my head would asplode. Because our GM was a conservative Mormon, I had already installed mental software to filter out my filthy sailor cursing. It almost broke that day, but instead I just made “wibble-wibble” noises for 30 seconds until my brain returned from the higher dimensions after a little vacation with Cenobites. So yeah, it was bad. That was one of the two reasons I quit playing D&D for other RPGs for about 3 years (heresy!).

Comments are closed.