Sunday, February 25, 2024

Dungeon Masters Companion: Monster List (Other Planes)

The monster list for Other Planes in the Companion Set rules mainly involves elemental creatures, including those from the Basic and Expert Sets with elemental origins,* and others which are new

*as described in Eldritch Wizardry

Elementals take double, normal, or no/minimal damage from attacks according to the principles of dominance and opposition, as explained in the section on Elemental Magic in Part 3: The Multiverse

The elemental principles of dominance and opposition.

Other Planes:

Aerial Servant ("Haoou") - from AD&D 1e Monster Manual

Basilisk - from D&D Expert Set

Cockatrice - from D&D Expert Set

Djinni (Lesser, Greater "Pasha") - Lesser version from D&D Expert Set

Efreeti (Lesser, Greater "Amir") - Lesser version from D&D Expert Set

Elemental - from D&D Expert Set

Gorgon - from D&D Expert Set

Helion - distant relatives of the Sun Brothers ("Sollux") from X2

Horde - life forms comprised of hundreds of insect-like bodies, enemies of kryst and undines

Hydrax - crab-like creatures made of ice, enemies of undines and kryst

Invisible Stalker ("Sshai") - from the D&D Expert Set

Kryst - urchin-like beings comprised of golden crystal spikes, enemies of hordes and hydrax

Medusa - from the D&D Basic Set

Plasm (Normal, Giant) - skeletal creatures comprised of elemental material and ectoplasm

Salamander (Flame, Frost) - from D&D Expert Set

Undine - featureless, snake-like beings made of water, enemies of hydrax and hordes

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Dungeon Masters Companion: Monster List (Prime Plane)

The Monster List in the Companion Set rules was divided into two parts: the Prime Plane (Apparition to Will o' Wisp*) and Other Planes (Aerial Servant to Undine).

*the Will o' Wisp was famously left on the cutting room floor, although not removed from the header for the section

The creatures include Beholders and Blast Spores, larger versions of Dragons, a couple of brand new monsters (Drolem, Gargantua), nine powerful new Undead, several new monsters from previous modules (X2, X4, X5, X7, M1, M2), and a few from Cook/Marsh that didn't make it into Mentzer Expert.

Illustration by Jeff Easley

Prime Plane:

Apparition - a form of Undead (see Phantom)

Banshee - a form of Undead (see Haunt); the earlier version from B4 was designated as a "Lesser" Banshee in AC9

Beholder (from Greyhawk)

Blast Spore (from AD&D 1e Monster Manual)

Dolphin (from Blackmoor; X7)

Dragon - Large and Huge versions of those in the D&D Basic Set

Dragon Turtle - from OD&D vol. 3/AD&D 1e Monster Manual; Cook/Marsh

Drolem - a dragon-golem

Druj - a form of Undead (see Spirit)

Gargantua (Carrion Crawler, Gargoyle, Troll) - huge versions of smaller monsters, the products of research of the mad wizard Gargantua (mentioned in CM1)

Ghost - a form of Undead (see Haunt)

Golem, Mud (from X2)

Golem, Obsidian (from M2)

Grab Grass (from X2)

Gremlin (from X2)

Haunt (Banshee, Ghost, Poltergeist); the earlier version from B7 was designated as a "Lesser" Haunt in AC9

Malfera (from X5)

Manscorpion (from X4)

Manta Ray (Normal, Giant) - from Blackmoor; X7

Mujina (from X5)

Odic - a form of Undead (see Spirit)

Phantom (Apparition, Shade, Vision)

Poltergeist - a form of Undead (see Haunt)

Revenant - a form of Undead (see Spirit)

Rock or Cave Toad (from M1)

Shade - a form of Undead (see Phantom)

Shark (Bull, Mako, Great White) - from Cook/Marsh; similar to Sharks in the AD&D 1e Monster Manual; Wereshark (from Holmes)

Snow Ape (from M1)

Spectral Hound (from X5)

Spirit (Druj, Odic, Revenant)

Vision - a form of Undead (see Phantom)

Weasel, Giant - from Greyhawk/AD&D 1e Monster Manual; Cook/Marsh

Whales (Killer, Narwhal, Sperm) - from Cook/Marsh; - similar to Whales in the AD&D 1e Monster Manual

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Dungeon Masters Companion: The Multiverse

The Dungeon Masters Companion included a section on interplanar adventures, focusing on the inner planes* (the Ethereal and four Elemental Planes).

Interior of a Wormhole.  Illustration by Jeff Easley

The Ethereal Plane:

A short description of the Ethereal Plane is given, also covering movement.*

An aspect of travel to the Ethereal Plane that is often glossed over, is that travel to the plane is by transformation of the body (and possessions) of the traveler to an ethereal state.  It's the process of becoming ethereal that transports the individual to the Ethereal Plane.

Everything on the Ethereal Plane, including travelers from the Prime Plane, is composed of ether of varying densities:
...the gray fog of the Ether may be dense or thin, varying by what is nearby on the Prime Plane. Nearby water appears as dark Ether, and rock, earth and wood as even thicker Ether. Dense rock and heavy metals (lead, gold, etc.), appear as solid Ether (ectoplasm). Fire on the nearby Prime Plane appears as bright Ether.
Dungeon Masters Companion, pg. 18

Earlier, it's stated that "All light sources function normally (a torch or lantern shining light to 30’ range, magical light to greater ranges, etc.), but they only light the Ether, not reaching into wormholes or into the Prime Plane." - but how does an ethereal torch or lantern work?

Gravity does not exist on the Ethereal Plane, but the direction of gravity on the Prime Plane can be sensed.  A fly spell enables movement, according to the density of ether (it's possible to move through solid ether, but not ether corresponding to metal or lead on the Prime Plane).

Elemental Planes:

The Elemental Planes are described as parallel universes, although with matter composed of a single element.
When a planet exists on an Elemental Plane in roughly the same “position” as a planet on the Prime Plane, natural vortexes and wormholes appear, connecting the planets on each Plane. Thus, for the “normal” D&D world, there are four other planets in similar positions, one on each of the Elemental Planes.
Dungeon Masters Companion, pg. 19

Travel to the Elemental Planes is via wormholes.   "Air exists, and the flow through the wormhole provides a gravity of sorts."  However, "Creatures and things in a wormhole are magically changed into the “proper” element when they reach the Elemental Plane..."

Also, "The network of permanent wormholes between the Prime and Elemental planes looks similar to the roots of a plant; each small wormhole joins a larger one, until all the smaller wormholes connect to one huge wormhole connected to the Elemental Plane itself."

The Ethereal Plane is the "glue" that binds together the Prime and Elemental Planes.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Dungeon Masters Companion: The War Machine

The Dungeon Masters Companion contains a 6-page section describing the War Machine rules, a versatile system to quickly resolve mass combat scenarios.

Illustration by Larry Elmore

Frank Mentzer credited Garry Spiegle, Doug Niles, Mark Acres, and Carl Smith for the development of the War Machine rules:

They merged years of experience in wargames with the current range of fantasy role playing styles.  The resulting system can handle the clash of armies without miniatures or boardgames—and thus, the very roots of the D&D game surface once again.

Frank Mentzer, Preface to the Companion Set rules

The War Machine:

Each body of troops is given a rating for their quality.  When combat occurs, this “Battle Rating” is modified for battle conditions (terrain, number of opponents, morale, etc.) and each player rolls d%, and adds the modified Battle Rating of the troops.  The high roll wins the battle.

A mini-adventure in the Dungeon Masters Companion "The Fall of the Black Eagle" showcases the new rules.  The setting is the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, and involves the defeat and destruction of the infamous Black Eagle Barony.

The rules also featured in X10 "Red Arrow, Black Shield", CM1 "Test of the Warlords", CM2 "Death's Ride", and CM6 "Where Chaos Reigns"

Additional Reading:

Spiegle revisited the War Machine rules in Dragon #109 (May, 1986) in which he covered naval, scouting, and artillery rules, in addition to some refinements to prevent distortions during special cases.

*see also "Assembling Armies in the D&D Known World" by Bruce Heard, in Dragon #191 (March, 1993)

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Dungeon Masters Companion: Tournaments

The section on Dominions in the Dungeon Masters Companion includes rules for Tournaments, or Tourneys, including field lists (involving hand-to-hand combat, archery, or wrestling competitions) and jousts.

Rules for jousts appeared in Chainmail, and were revisited for OD&D in an article by Jon Pickens in The Dragon #17 (August, 1978).  The Companion Set rules present a simplified version, allowing for quicker resolution.

Illustration by Larry Elmore

A mini-adventure in the Dungeon Masters Companion "The Golden Dagger" showcases a tournament.  The setting is the County of Garette.*

*the DM is advised "You may place the County of Garette in any of your structured Dominions, changing any material as needed, or may change the name to match an existing NPC dominion."

Running "The Golden Dagger" in Norwold during CM1 "Test of the Warlords"** or in Vestland following X13 "Crown of Ancient Glory" are both good options.

**a tournament is also organized as part of the Spring Festival when the PCs arrive in Norwold in module CM1 "Test of the Warlords" (1984).

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Dungeon Masters Companion: Dominions

According to the Companion Set rules, the D&D fantasy world is loosely based on medieval Europe, before the invention of the printing press (circa 1440), and without firearms.

However, the Lands and Environs of the D&D Wilderness, based on the map of the Continent in module X1 "Isle of Dread", also include regions inspired by various cultures in Central Asia, the Middle East, and North America.

This renders the dominion system, the development work for which is credited to Garry Spiegle in the Preface to the Companion Set, somewhat challenging to integrate.

"The Lands and Environs of the D&D Wilderness" are a culturally diverse region not particularly suited to the dominion system as described in the Companion Set rules

The pseudo-feudalism described in the Companion Set may apply to:

  • the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (a grand duchy is technically a monarchy)*
  • the Kingdom of Vestland (more so based on its description in module X3 "Curse of Xanathon", rather than as originally described in module X1 as a state composed of many petty "kingdoms" loosely united under one ruler, similar to Vikings)

*in module X12 "Skarda's Mirror" by Aaron Allston, a history for Karameikos is given wherein Duke Stefan progressed from Baron to Count to Duke (not Grand Duke), which differs from the history given in GAZ 1 "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos", also by Allston

The dominion rules do not seem appropriate for:
  • the Principalities of Glantri (a magocracy, comprised of a number of independent principalities, wherein most decisions are left to the various local councils of elders and the princely stewards)
  • the Ethengar Khanate (based on the clans of the central Asian steppes)
  • the Heldann Freeholds
  • the Soderford Jarldoms (ruled by “Jarls" - Earls, similar to independent counts)
  • the Atruaghin Clans
  • the Republic of Darokin (a plutocracy, that is, the government is run by the wealthiest merchant families)
  • the Emirate of Ylaruam (ruled by an Emir, a King of tribes)
  • the Kingdom of Ierendi (the king and queen are only figureheads, with actual rule being held by a few, co-equal, aristocratic families, making Ierendi an oligarchy)
  • the Minrothad Guilds (a syndocracy, the government is run by the heads of the various trading guilds)
  • the Empire of Thyatis (an autocracy resembling the medieval Byzantine empire, which never adopted true feudalism)

"Continental Overview of Wendar and Denagoth" in relation to the Northern Wildlands, Norwold, and the Lands and Environs of the D&D Wilderness

In X11 "Saga of the Shadow Lord" and X13 "Crown of Ancient Glory", both released after publication of the Companion Set, author Stephen Bourne incorporates land grants as rewards for the successful completion of each adventure:

Module X11:
A grateful Wizard-King will offer each member of the group the title of baron or baroness and a dominion covering 2-3 hexes each, in the plains and forests bordering the Northern Wildlands.
Module X13:
The PCs may be granted the Duchy of Estine, the Barony of Gallma, the Barony of Krenholme, the Viscounty of Finhagen, the County of Vander Plett, the Barony of Darnen, the Viscounty of Glenfork, or the Barony of Brinforth*
*other fiefdoms mentioned in X13 "Crown of Ancient Glory" include the Duchy of Rhoona, the Duchy of Estine, and the County of Darien.

The Kingdom of Norworld in CM1 "Test of the Warlords", a vast region north of the Lands and Environs of the D&D Wilderness, was conceived in order to showcase the Companion Set dominion system to its full advantage.

Dominion Administration:

The section on dominion administration in the Dungeon Masters Companion covers dominion income and expenses, tournaments, confidence levels, and titles.*

*a very handy Dominion Worksheet was included in AC6 "Player Character Record Sheets" (1985)

Additional Reading:

"Meanwhile, Back at the Fief..." by Thomas M. Kane, in Dragon #125 (September, 1987)

Bruce Heard elaborated upon dominion economics in Dragon #187 (November, 1992); population and food in Dragon #189 (January, 1993); and Economics III - working it out, in Dragon #190 (February, 1994) which covered population growth, new villages, and mining.*

*see also "How Many Peasants?" in About Bruce Heard and New Stories (October 21, 2017)

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Players Companion: Demi-human Clans

The political leader of a clan is called the Clanmaster, the spiritual is the Keeper of the Relic.  A player character does not normally gain any of these titles; they require great amounts of work and time, leaving none for adventuring.  The highest rank normally achieved by a PC demi-human is that of Clanholder.  A Clanholder serves the clan, and may indeed own the structure of the clan stronghold, but does not control the clan members.

The demi-human races care little for human politics, and Clanmasters and Keepers do not seek human dominion titles.  But a PC Clanholder may seek and achieve a title (Baron, Count, etc.) by representing the clan in its dealings with humans.  Permission must first be obtained from the Clanmaster and Keeper, but this is a common practice (especially if the PC owns the stronghold).

Illustration by Larry Elmore

Each demi-human clan has a sacred item, called a “Relic,” which is kept in the center of the clan stronghold.  The Relic is tended by a Keeper and 2-8 aides.  The Relic in each dwarven clan is a Forge of Power;* in each elven clan, a Tree of Life;** and in each halfling clan, a Crucible of Blackflame.

*see XS2 "Thunderdelve Mountain" (1985)
**see CM7 "The Tree of Life" (1986)

The position of Keeper is hereditary; each Keeper passes the secret knowledge of the tending and use of the Relic to his or her son or daughter, never writing down any details, lest they be stolen.  This secret knowledge includes details of constructing a special item, as given in each class description.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Players Companion: Strongholds

Upon building a stronghold,* a PC attracts followers (low-level NPCs).

*construction details are given in the Expert Set rulebook, pg. 23
**see also "Castles revisited" by Bruce Heard, in Dragon #193 (May, 1993)

A fighter with enough money may build a castle regardless of level.  When a fighter reaches Name level, the character is eligible for selection as a Baron (or Baroness).  Once a fighter has become a Baron or Baroness, up to 50 Normal Men and Fighters of levels 1-3 will come to apply for jobs and training.  Specialists may also be hired.

When a cleric reaches Name level, a castle may be built.  50-300 loyal troops of the same alignment will come to help the cleric.  Most will be Normal Men, with Fighter leaders of up to 3rd level.  In addition to mercenary troops, the cleric may attract other low-level clerics to serve the church.  These clerics will be of 1st-3rd level, and of the same alignment as the cleric.

Upon reaching 11th level,* a magic-user may build a tower.  When a tower is built, up to 6 magic-users of levels 1-3 (and of any alignment) will come seeking training.  Up to 12 normal men will also come, seeking to become magic-users.  Their intelligence scores will usually be above average, but many will probably become discouraged and quit after 1-6 months.

*a throwback to the OD&D rules, in which 11th level was Name level for magic-users

Upon reaching Name level, a thief may construct a hideout (a fortified house in a city, a cave network, etc.).  When a Hideout is built, a thief character will gain 2-12 1st level thief apprentices, sent by the Thieves’ Guild.  At least one NPC thief will be a spy from the Guild, sent to keep an eye on the character's progress.

Illustration by Larry Elmore

The Players Companion includes additional information germane to fighters:

Strongholds are maintained through peasant workers (5% of the population of the dominion), while the ruler is directly served by Retainers and Servitors.

A Retainer is a noble-born person, or an unusually loyal follower.  A Servitor is a faithful servant, often gaining the job through inheritance.  The many types of common Servitors include Armorer, Barber, Carpenter, Cellarman (Wine Steward), Cooks, Dairyman, Falconer, Forester, Gardener, Grooms, Kennelman, Miller, Portalman, Potter, Poultryman, Stonemason, and Weavers.

Details regarding advisors and other officials are also given.  The most common advisors are Artillerist, Castellan, Chaplain, Engineer, Guard Captain, Herald, Magist, Chief Magistrate, Reeve, Sage, Seneschal, and Steward.  Other officials include Bailiff, Chamberlain, Equerry, Magistrates, Marshals, Provosts, Sheriffs, and Wardens.

Special Positions:

When the title of Count is acquired, a PC is offered 1-6 Squires by the lesser rulers of the dominion.

A Squire is the son of a Noble, who acts as a servant while being trained as a fighter.  Squires become 1st level fighters after 6 months of training, and then gain at least 1 level of experience per year.  A Squire’s training is finished when he reaches level 5; the Squire then returns home, and is usually replaced by another (beginner) Squire.

A Lady-in-Waiting is the daughter of a Noble within the ruler’s realm, acting as a servant but actually in search of a husband.  From 1-4 Ladies-in-Waiting will be sent to a PC Count only if the PC is female or is married.  Ladies-in-Waiting are trained and closely watched by the matron of the stronghold.

Additional Reading:

"Who lives in that castle?" by Katherine Kerr, in Dragon #80 (December, 1983)