Monday, February 20, 2017

Notes on OD&D - Part 33

Continuing on with the 4th Level Clerical "Spells"...

Men & Magic
  • p33 - Explanation of Clerical Spells - 4th Level
Neutralize Poison: A spell to counter the harmful effects of poison. Note that it will not aid a character killed by poison, however. It will only effect one object. Duration: 1 turn.

As it turns out, a "turn" is a trick issue in OD&D. But the most it can be is 10 minutes. Which, in my opinion, even at its best, makes this a kind of really pretty rinky dink spell. 1 turn? And THEN you dieeeee! I don't know. Sounds like that should have had a longer duration to me. But then again, it's a little hard to tell from this distance. When they played this game in 1974 they may have been doing stuff with poisons that I'm simply not aware of, and there's a reasonable chance that it makes sense in the context of the way they used to play. Not sure. But in my current World if this spell lasted 1 turn, and then the player character perished, then my players would probably never take this spell. Kinda sure about that.

On the other hand it may be that while the spell lasts for 1 turn, it does mean that the poison never again has an effect because it's been neutralized. But then why have it with any Duration at all in that case? Mmm... meh. Looks a little borked up to me either way. And add to that there is a good chance that the "turn" spoken of is not 10 minutes, but 1 minute, and it just goes down hill from there. My players would revolt.

I rate this spell 1 Star out of 5 for uselessness.

Cure Serious Wounds: This spell is like a Light Wound spell, but the effects are double, so two dice are rolled and one pip is added to each die. Therefore, from 4 to 14 hit points will be removed by this spell.

Ok that's not bad. I'm down with that. Solid clerical spell there. Yup.

I rate this spell 4 out of 5 for usefulness.

Protection from Evil, 10' Radius: this spell is the same as that for Magic-Users.

Recap: Protection from Evil: This spell hedges the conjurer round with a magic circle to keep out attacks from enchanted monsters. It also serves as an "armor" from various evil attacks, adding a +1 to all saving throws and taking a -1 from hit dice of evil opponents. (Note that this spell is not cumulative in effect with magic armor and rings, although it will continue to keep out enchanted monsters.) Duration: 6 turns.

Ok, now I'm a bit mystified. They don't really treat Clerics in OD&D the way I expected. I thought Clerics would be the 'clearly religious dudes' who fight Evil (or the opposite). in which case, I would think that Clerics would have at least some advantage over Magic-Users when it comes to dealing with the Evil guys. But in this case we can see that it's a big "Nope" on that. Interesting, and sheds a little more light on this dig through the dusty tomes of ancient gaming. I do wonder if there was really no distinction made between Clerics and Magic-Users in the fight against Evil (or the opposite). I tend to think they'd have focused on that somehow, and maybe this spell is just an anomaly in an otherwise sensible game-universe... maybe. Curious.

I rate this spell a 4 Stars out of 5 for Usefulness (it is useful after all).

Turn Sticks to Snakes: Anytime there are sticks nearby a Cleric can turn them into snakes, with a 50% chance that they will be poisonous. From 2-16 snakes can be conjured (roll two eight-sided dice). He can command these conjured snakes to perform as he orders. Duration: 6 turns. Range: 12" (360').

Hmmm... not seeing this as the most useful spell in the world, though it is interesting. Summoning poison snakes in the middle of an opposing group of villains could cause them to panic, possibly, and maybe if you're lucky do some damage. Especially if they are poisonous. So that could work. I'm sure there are other creative ways to use this spell as well. Clearing out a tent of guards, or some such comes to mind. But still... I'm thinking that for 4th Level this is wackadoodly lame. Maybe it's just me, but I can't fathom taking this spell until there just ain't nothing left to take. Probably.

I rate this spell 2 Stars out of 5 for uselessness.

Speak with Plants: This spell allows the Cleric to speak with all forms of plant life, understanding what they say in reply. Plants so spoken to will obey commands of the Cleric, such as part to allow a passage and so on. This spell does not give the Cleric the power to command trees as Ents do. Duration: 6 turns. Range 3" (90').

Ok that's potentially quite useful, especially if plants can communicate with each other. There are those who say, after all, that plants form a vast communications network over the surface of the earth. Did you know that? So they may be privy to a great deal of very interesting information. So there could be a potential bonanza in being able to communicate with plants. They might even be able to tell you where the enemy is lurking. So yeah, I'd say this could be pretty darn useful. And it would suddenly make Clerics stand out as "really good to have around". I would definitely take this one.

I rate this a 5 out of 5 Stars for usefulness.

Create Water: By means of this spell the Cleric can create a supply of drinking water sufficient for a party of a dozen men and horses for one day. The quantity doubles for every level above 8th the Cleric has attained.

Roger that. If you're hauling through the desert, or expect to be trapped in a dry dungeon for a long time, this could be useful. Otherwise, not so much. Under some rare circumstances it could be a life saver, but I would still shy away from taking this one.

I rate this a 2 Stars for uselessness.

And so there we have it. The 4th Level Clerical spells. Sorry, but I'm not really impressed with this set. Maybe 5th will make it all worthwhile. Stay tuned to find out next time when we cover 5th level Clerical spells.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Some Thoughts Regarding Tolkien's Aragorn

I wrote this as a comment to this Wonderful thread, and I thought I'd share it on my blog here.

The original post is about how Aragorn of the Books differs from that of the movies, and why. Interesting post. The comments were also very worth reading, and this post is in reply to one which suggested that Tolkien's hero was something our modern world can not quite accept because our culture does not allow us to have unadulterated heroes any longer. "We expect our heroes to be flawed and human, and have doubts about their true potential which they must overcome as they grow and change", as the OP puts it. So my comment here is in response to this idea.

I would also add that there may have been an underlying purpose behind Tolkien’s work that should also be considered. As a professor of Anglo Saxon literature at Oxford Tolkien was steeped in the medieval classics. It was not merely plot devices and literary conventions that occupied Tolkien’s mind, but the spirit of the age of which he wrote.

I read that Tolkien was teaching at Oxford when World War I broke out. He went and enlisted like all patriotic Englishmen. He survived honorably through the worst that the war could throw at him, and from those experiences he gave us such scenes as the nine black riders hunting the hobbits in the wilderness. I read that during the war Tolkien got caught behind enemy lines, and nine mounted German cavalrymen hunted him through the murky woods. I mention all of this to give a rational for saying that we should allow Tolkien the gravitas he deserves.

I think if you asked him, Tolkien would say that Aragorn, as he wrote him, was an embodiment of heroism for all time. In the same way that Thucydides wrote the Peloponesian War “for all time”. Aragorn is meant by Tolkien to be an example, a paragon of what it means for a human being to have a true noble virtue.

I think Tolkien believed that having a myth of our own in the 20th century was something we desperately need as a civilization. We’ve been, I think he felt, mechanized and automated into a heedless lumpy mass, and ground to dust by the weight of our burdens under a sauron-like malevolence known as “Progress”.

I think Tolkien, who saw his share of horrors, believed in the eternal truths of justice, goodness, and love and felt that they must be enshrined anew generation by generation, or the knowledge of them is lost. And that happens only at the last gasp of any civilization.

By renewing the legend of the Good King, through Aragon, I think Tolkien may have felt more that it was his means by which to pass on to the next generation the awe and love of Majesty itself. Love in its majesty is awesome, I think Tolkien would say, because it is Goodness and Strength personified. And each generation must have its champions to pronounce it again so that the people remember and are renewed as well.

My impression is that Tolkien knew something our contemporary angsty age has forgotten. He knew why we could no longer tolerate reading about true nobility. He watched as the old world was torn asunder around him, and the last vestiges of nobility uprooted and destroyed. I think he understood the modern plight far better than most of us do today. He was there before and after the Great War. And I believe there are those who would say, and rightly, that there is a vast gulf between the worlds of Before The War, and after it. And his literature, I feel certain, was his way of reminding us of what was lost.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. I think we should honor Tolkien by trying to understand not only what he wrote, but why, and also what its true influence has been on all of us who are enamored by his wonderful stories. One of the reasons I think we are so attached to them is because they present us with a rare vision of nobility that in the deep recesses of our hearts we still admire.