Saturday, November 16, 2019

OD&D v1: Men & Magic

I got hooked on the Holmes Basic Set as my re-entry to the hobby, back in 2009.  From there, I worked backwards to discover the OD&D rulebooks, using them as a natural extension to the Holmes Basic rules, when I started playing D&D with my son.

D&D volume 1: Men & Magic (Jan 1974)

The first volume broadly covers preparations for starting a campaign, including the various character classes/races, basic equipment, encumbrance, "alternative" (to Chainmail) combat system, saving throws, spell tables, magical research, and spell books.

Men & Magic also contains a section on "Character Alignment, Including Various Monsters and Creatures".  Each player character must choose between Law, Chaos, or Neutrality.  A table on page 9 lists creatures in three separate columns, one for each alignment:

Alignment Table, from Men & Magic.

A similar table appeared previously in the Chainmail rules:

"Alignment Table" from Chainmail.

Note the equating of "Good" with "Law" and "Evil" with "Chaos".  Neutral creatures are "non-aligned", rather than representing a "third" side of their own.  They can join forces with "Law" or "Chaos", or neither, although have a pre-disposition for "Law".

In a later section, Men & Magic states "Law, Chaos and Neutrality also have common languages spoken by each respectively."  In their earliest form, therefore, alignment languages were actual spoken languages, used among creatures of the same alignment.

If one regards the conflict depicted in The Battle of Brown Hills as a part of the prehistory of the OD&D setting, then "Law" and "Chaos" might be considered to represent ancient languages, now mostly forgotten, eventually becoming:
the special set of signs, signals, gestures, and words which intelligent creatures use to inform other intelligent creatures of the same alignment of their fellowship and common ethos
1e DMG, pg 24
As the cosmic conflict between Law and Chaos faded in subsequent editions of D&D, so too might the conflict have represented a primordial one in the PCs game world.  Perhaps, like the two sides of "the Force" in Lucas' Star Wars, discounted by some as mere legend.

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