Saturday, March 25, 2023

My Life As A Gamer: This Is No Pansy Dandy With A Lute

The Bard is in the Player's Handbook (PHB) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition (AD&D1e), but it is not the class that any other edition presents. You'll find it on p. 117; it's Appendix II, and explicitly marked as optional if it is allowed at all.

You cannot enter play with a brand-new 1st level character as a Bard. You have to go through two other classes first before you can qualify to become a Bard, and both of those classes as well as the final qualifications. Those classes are Fighter and Thief, two classes with nigh-antithetical ethos despite a certain synergy to their skillsets, which then must trained by a Druid before achieving 1st level as a Bard.

That's a lot of play time just to pick up a lute and be a pansy git. Therefore, we can conclude that this Bard is not.

As with the Druid, this version of the Bard takes its inspiration from the Celts as known in the 1970s; the lengthy qualification track is meant to mirror the profession career track of a Bard in an abstract and playable form.

Take a man who began as a burgeoning warlord, who then became a skilled thief or spy and maybe a gang-leader, before kneeling before the Hierophants to achieve initiation in the Bardic Schools- and make no mistake, that is what that final step with the Druids is about.

Force, Guile, Wisdom synergized into a cohesive whole. That is the Bard- and seen by this perspective it is no surprise that The Forgotten Realms' most notorious not-so-secret society (The Harpers) were full of them and as such were so believable in being so effective.

Friday, March 24, 2023

My Life As A Gamer: Do You Believe Him Or Your Lying Eyes?

The Illusionist is a sub-class of the Magic-User, and it is the only such sub-class in the Player's Handbook (PHB) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition (AD&D1e).

Like the Magic-User, the Illusionist is a spell-casting specialist. He has no ability to wear armor, and his weapon choices are just as limited. Because the Illusionist also carries a spellbook, he is often mistaken as a Magic-User. Sometimes the Illusionist bothers to correct this mistaken assumption, and other times he does not.

In acknowledging the utility of that ambiguity one also sees why and how what drives the Illusionist is not what drives the Magic-User. The Magic-User is obsessed with knowing the truth of the cosmos, for which the use of magic is the practical application. The Illusionist is obsessed with liminality--the space between two distinct states of being, both Is and Is Not simultaneously--for in that space the Illusionist sees power. "What is believed to be true is true, and therefore belief is power."

The Illusionist, therefore, is a man that knows the value of seeming and how it can overrule substance. The class's spell list reflects this, as does the fact that he does not start with read magic but instead three random 1st level spells and his ability to wield the cosmic power that Magic-Users pursue comes at the end of his career because that is the point where his command over the seeming (alter reality) becomes potent enough to dictate the substance of existence.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

My Life As A Gamer: The Master Of The Secret Knowledge Of Creation

The Magic-User is one of the four core classes in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition. Like the Fighter, the Magic-User--being the second of the four original classes in D&D's development--is simply, yet broadly, defined.

In particular, the Magic-User is first and foremost defined as the mirror opposite of the Fighter: the expert in the craft of compelling supernatural power for worldly ends, at the expense of acumen at war, command, and combat.

The key feature of the Magic-User is his spellbook. This is tied to the class's focus on Intelligence, as that Ability is what determines a Magic-User's ability to learn spells in all ways.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

My Life As A Gamer: He Speaks For The Trees

The Druid is a sub-class of the Cleric, and the only such sub-class in the Player's Handbook for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition.

Like the Cleric, the Druid is a supernaturally-empowered agent of a divine power. Unlike the Cleric, the Druid serves a power representing the natural world instead of some form of civilization or tribal mythology, and as such what powers he wields as well as the price demanded to pay for it are different- and greater.

This is abstracted into the Ability Score requirements to qualify for the class, the Alignment restriction, and at the higher levels they are required to either wait for an open slot or to beat an incumbent in a fight as Monks do. They are trained and initiated in this religion, reflected in the starting ages for fresh 1st level Druids entering play.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

My Life As A Gamer: When Van Hellsing Received Ordination

The Cleric is one of the four core classes of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition.

Unlike the Fighter and the Magic-User, the Cleric is not the broad archetype put into a playable form. It is "Van Hellsing: The Class".

(I have an entire post about how the Cleric came to be, and why it's not Generic Priest Class; read it here. I will not repeat myself.)

Monday, March 20, 2023

My Life As A Gamer: Reviewing The Mechanics Of Magic Use In AD&D 1st Edition


This week I will write about the four spell-casting classes in the Player's Handbook (PHB) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition (AD&D1e): Cleric, Druid, Magic-User, Illusionist. The second and the fourth are sub-classes, respectively, of the first and the third.

For those of you more familiar with later editions, you will see what became the formal "Divine" and "Arcane" spilt here.

All of these classes share the feature that they are subject to the rules governing spell acquisition and spell-casting. This post will run down those shared rules, some of which are scattered about the entire ruleset for this edition. Do not be surprised if I hit upon something that's been depreciated, ignored, or misunderstood for decades- much like the Fighter's ability to command hirelings was.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

My Life As A Gamer: The Isle Campaign (Structure Outline)

(Continuing from last week.)


The core of the campaign is the overworld exploration. Early on this is concentrated on the area around the Patron's stronghold as the Patron seeks to pacify, secure, and fortify the core of his Domain's economy and thus enable the logistics needed to push forward towards the tower.

Adventurers, being (more or less) free agents, will be wise to use exploration to seek out opportunities to find new locations to delve into before rivals or enemies do. Patrons are wise to establish and maintain good relations with such adventurers to benefit from their discoveries.

The mid-game begins for a Patron when they've secured their stronghold's immediate area out to any natural barriers, lock down the chokepoint(s) such as a mountain pass or a river, and expand into the nearby region. Adventurers by this point may be reaching Name Level and seek to establish Domains; this would be a good opportunity to do so.

With the frontier, the front pushed out comes a new cohort ready to repeat the process anew. This is the point when I expect Patrons will make contact.

The wilderness gets more dangerous the closer that you get to The Tower. The unique treasures to be found in the dungeons are able to explain how and why this is so, and that knowledge will be useful during play.