Monday, February 11, 2013

Top 5 Weirdest Charts in the DMG

Gary Gygax was nothing if not thorough.  Recently I revisited the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide (Right up there with the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract as the key books of my formative years) and I was blown away by the massive amount of charts and tables that occupy a substantial portion of the book’s 240 content crammed pages.  There seems to be a numerical representation of just about anything that one could imagine. Fortunately for us, Gygax thought of it first and saved us the headache about wondering on this stuff. Of course, the important stats like Attack Charts and Saving Throws are in there, but I am much more interested with some of the more odd content in there.  Has some of this stuff ever been used?  Was Gary trying to micromanage every game of D&D played around the world by having a hand in seemingly every event that occurred everywhere? Was he worried that some bizarre situation would arise and the DM would have no idea what to do? 

I went through the book and chose my favorites.  Here are the Top Five Weirdest Charts in the 1st Edition DMG:

5) Type of Harlot. There is a section in the back of the book that contains numerous charts for randomly determining NPC’s that the party may come across in an urban setting. Okay, I’m with you here, there is some purpose to that and it could be fun.  A nighttime roll of 44-50 means the party has come across a Harlot! Sounds exciting!  The odd thing is that the Harlot roll further yields a secondary roll that goes into more detail for the specific type of harlot. (Along with Drunk it’s the only NPC type that gets a roll for more info. That’s odd. And telling.) Among the Harlot subtypes available for perusal are the Slovenly Trull, Brazen Strumpet, Saucy Tart, and Aged Madam. That’s quite a list! And I am also slightly suspicious of Mr. Gygax’s vast knowledge of the world’s oldest profession.  I guess adventurers need to do something to blow off steam after all those lethal dungeons crawls. 

4) Maximum Height of Opponent that Can be Stunned by a Monk.  The poor Monk, as if it’s d4 Hit Die and bizarre set of abilities isn’t rough enough (not to mention that at high levels Monks are required to fight one another to the death in order to keep advancing), now there is a set in stone guideline for how tall someone can be if they are going to be stunned.  Considering the types of giants and heavyweight monsters out there, it’s not all that good.  A monk needs to be 10th level to stun someone that is 8 feet tall. Which pretty much includes any type of giant, troll, dragon, ogre, etc…

3)Spy Failure Table. I’m not sure I understand this section of the DMG at all.  There is a chart showing an Assassin’s chance to successfully spy on something based on level and difficulty.  But the better chart is the one that shows what happens to the spy if they fail.  If they are caught and a roll of 81-95 turns up the spy is caught with proof of their spying and then they are tortured.  This then leads to another chart that details the torturing of the worthless spy (1-2 dead, 3-4 reveals everything, 5-6 turncoat). Of course there is an additional note stating that if they spy was fanatical he will just kill himself instead.  I don’t know about any of this. Isn’t that an adventure? Shouldn’t all this stuff be roleplayed out? Where can I hire a fanatical spy?

2) Unexplained Sounds and Weird Noises.  This is located in the Dungeon Dressing section of the DMG, just some details to spice up an otherwise randomly built dungeon.  I do feel that this chart is a bit of an oxymoron.  I mean, the title says that they are Unexplained Sounds, but then it goes on to explain what they are.  Okay, let’s see how this works. 

DM: You are walking down the dimly lit stone passage and you hear a noise.

Player: (worried) What does the noise sound like?   

DM: (rolls dice) A gong. 

Player: What sort of gong?

At this point the DM would then consult the type of gong chart located on the next page.  I’m kidding about that, it’s actually located in the DMGII.

The entire Dungeon Dressing section is absolutely bizarre and remarkable in it’s thoroughness.  There is a chart that describes the Air Currents in the dungeons.  Yes, 15 different types of Air Currents are detailed including such diverse items as “Breeze, slight” and “Breeze, slight, damp”. 

1)Damage Taken by Lycanthropes During Transformation Due to Armor Worn.  Wow.  I don’t know what to say about this.  Does it matter? Does a DM really need to consult a chart for this? Is it important to know that a were-tiger will take 2-5 points of damage if they are wearing splint mail when they begin to transform? I really hope that somewhere in the long annals of D&D a character has died from this damage.  That would be the ultimate tribute to Gygax, for both his legendary lethality and his superhuman attention to detail.    

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