Men and Magic Examination Part 2

This examination rounds out the rules portion of Men and Magic, that is, everything but the spell description. There’s really nothing else that grabbed me like I described in Part 1.

As far as things I’ve always overlooked and want to make a point to use in my next campaign, I have to say the rules on henchmen/hirelings/retainers are it. I’ve always known the rules were there, just never bothered to use them. Upon re-reading, though, I can see where their inclusion not only makes characters more survivable, it also makes for good role playing. The idea of the party’s fighter having 2 or 3 bully boys following him around is amusing. The image of a cleric cajoling his posse into joining him for evening prayer is likewise funny.

What’s really intriguing though, is the part about

“Monsters can be lured into service if they are of the same basic alignment as
the player-character, or they can be Charmed and thus ordered to serve. Note,
however, that the term “monster” includes men found in the dungeons, so in this
way some high-level characters can be brought into a character’s service, charisma
allowing or through a Charm spell.” (Men and Magic, pg 12)

I can see a 1st or 2nd level Magic-User running around with a cult following, especially the way Charm works (remains in effect until dispelled).

There’s also a cool little section about setting things up so that if your character gets killed he can have a cousin or whatever waiting in the wings to claim all his shit and sally forth on his own adventures.

So far, this has been a very enjoyable experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what I may have missed in the spell descriptions next.

Men & Magic Examination Pt 1

Here is one of the first areas to catch my eye. It has long been common practice to allow players to rearrange numbers by lowering one stat to raise another, typically on a 2-to-1 ratio. Now, I’m not saying this is any different. All I am saying is that it is open to another interpretation. The compelling statement in this case is this Clerics can use strength on a 3 for 1 basis in their prime requisite area (wisdom), for purposes of gaining experience only. (Men & Magic, pg 10-11)” I believe this can mean that the stats don’t actually change. The “secondary” ones listed merely act to supplement the Prime Requisite. That does make sense, when you consider the advancement paradigm as a whole. There is a relative dearth of direct mechanical bonuses of the sort found in later additions. In the LBBs ability was measured more importantly by level. Rising through the levels could be aided by greater natural ability, but it was only in the attainment of levels that “bottom line” ability was measured. In other words, the character’s ability to influence events in-game was almost solely dependent on level. Thus, any bonus that resulted in a character rising through the levels more rapidly could be construed as the realization of a natural aptitude or innate talent.

Within that paradigm, bonuses to earned experience are very important. Far broader in application, if taking longer to realize, they actually help shape the character, moreso than simple bonuses. Of course, bonuses to-hit and damage make a Fighter better able to survive to higher levels. Yet, a bonus to XP will get the Fighter to the higher levels more quickly, which improves his chances to hit, while also speeding access to more hit points. In later editions power creep came in with the granting of stat bonuses, in addition to XP bonuses.

This was always something of a sore spot for me. In the latter editions, experience did not mean as much as raw ability. A 1st level Fighter with a very high STR in AD&D could have the same chance to hit as a 3rd level Fighter of average STR, and would do significantly more damage. D&D combat has always been about modelling the result of the combat, not the blow-for-blow of it, and over the course of a fight, experience should win out. But, I digress.

I think it is also compelling that only the non-primes get a direct mechanical bonus, and very small ones, at that.

On the whole, I like the idea of interpreting this as the secondary stats listed serve to “buff” the Prime Requisites, but otherwise remain unchanged. I’ve included the full passage of relevant text below, I hope I’m not crossing any copyright lines by doing so.

Explanation of Abilities:
The first three categories are the prime requisites for each of the three classes, Fighting-Men, Magic-Users, and Clerics. (See the Bonuses and Penalties to Advancement due to Abilities tableĀ  which appears hereafter.)
Strength is the prime requisite for fighters. Clerics can use strength on a 3 for 1 basis in their prime requisite area (wisdom), for purposes of gaining experience only. Strength will also aid in opening traps and so on.
Intelligence is the prime requisite for magical types. Both fighters and Clerics can use it in their prime requisite areas (strength and wisdom respectively) on a 2 for 1 basis. Intelligence will also affect referees’ decisions as to whether or not certain action would be taken, and it allows additional languages to be spoken.
Wisdom is the prime requisite for Clerics. It may beĀ  used on a 3 for 1 basis by fighters, and on a 2 for 1 basis by Magic-Users, in their respective prime requisite areas. Wisdom rating will act much as does that for intelligence.
Constitution is a combination of health and endurance. It will influence such things as the number of hits which can be taken and how well the character can withstand being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc.
Dexterity applies to both manual speed and conjuration. It will indicate the character’s missile ability and speed with actions such as firing first, getting off a spell, etc.
Charisma is a combination of appearance, personality, and so forth. Its primary function is to determine how many hirelings of unusual nature a character can attract. This is not to say that he cannot hire men-at-arms and employ mercenaries, but the charisma function will affect loyalty of even these men. Players will, in all probability, seek to hire Fighting-Men, Magic-Users, and/or Clerics in order to strengthen their roles in the campaign. A player-character can employ only as many as indicated by his charisma score:

In addition the charisma score is usable to decide such things as whether or not a witch capturing a player will turn him into a swine or keep him enchanted as a lover. Finally, the charisma will aid a character in attracting various monsters to his service.
Bonuses and Penalties to Advancement due to Abilities:
(Low score is 3-8; Average is 9-12; High is 13-18)

Prime requisite 15 or more: Add 10% to earned experience
Prime requisite 13 or 14: Add 5% to earned experience
Prime requisite of 9 – 12: Average, no bonus or penalty
Prime requisite 8 or 7: Minus 10% from earned experience
Prime requisite 6 or less: Minus 20% from earned experience
Constitution 15 or more: Add +1 to each hit die
Constitution 13 or 14: Will withstand adversity
Constitution of 9 – 12: 60% to 90% chance of surviving
Constitution 8 or 7: 40% to 50% chance of survival
Constitution 6 or Less: Minus 1 from each hit die*
Dexterity above 12: Fire any missile at + 1
Dexterity under 9: Fire any missile at -1
* minimum score of 1 on any die

Note: Average scores are 9-12. Units so indicated above may be used to increase prime requisite total insofar as this does not bring that category below average, i.e. below a score of 9.

More than meets the eye

Ok, so, like I said, I’m back in the old school vibe. Part of that lead me back to the excellent essays at Philotomy’s OD&D Musings ( If you’re an old schooler who’s never read these musings, stop reading this and go there now. I’ll be here when you get back. If you have read them before, read the again, they are that good.

Reading (more accurately re-reading) made me want to really dig into the LBBs. See, I started really getting into D&D with my best friend at the time. He begged and borrowed the books long enough to hand copy them (the LBBs and Greyhawk). He taught me, was always the DM, and never relinquished his hard-won copies. So, back then I never actually read the rules. Eventually I did buy a white box, but by then I thought I knew it all already, so didn’t read it. Then came AD&D. Long story short, while I’ve read bits and pieces, I’ve not read them cover to cover.

When my old school urge fell on me, I immediately decided to set the Way-Back Machine for 1976 and avail myself of all the Supplements released by that time. Upon reading Philotomy’s excellent advice to read the LBBs with a fresh eye, I decided it was high time I do so. All I can say, is DAMN!

Sure, there are numerous references to Chainmail. But, for a book that weighs in at a svelte 30+ pages, digest sized at that, this is a remarkably complete character book. The most remarkable thing about Men & Magic, though, is its internal consistency. Individual systems and subsystems have been picked apart and criticized piece-meal for years. They’ve been ridiculed, laughed at, and called outdated. And all that was said from the instant Runequest arrived on the scene. The thing is, the systems and subsystems don’t exist in a vacuum. They are all part of a cohesive whole, and when they are left alone to function in that environment, they function unbelievably well.

This post isn’t going to be a guided tour of all the things I never realized were in there. It is an introduction to a series of posts offering guided tours of things I never realized were in D&D from the very beginning. Most of the time those earliest versions are still better than systems and methods designed with 40 years of collective design experience informing them. So far these has been a very rewarding experience, and I hope that by sharing it with you, perhaps you’ll be inspired to reacquaint yourself with the prototype from which all others sprang.