Monday, October 6, 2008

Archaic Game Material of the Week

The first AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide was one of the great D&D books of all time. The appendix alone would be a stand-alone book (maybe several) in the WotC world of D&D. One of my favorite parts of this DMG is what I'll discuss here. It was a small item that helped a DM add a lot of flavour to his game. It was in the Money (Gems & Jewelry) section (pp25-27)... The gem randomization tables.

That's right, table with an s. Plural. You could determine a generic gem type for treasure, or, if you wanted, increase or decrease its value with a roll of the die. That 10gp bit of turquoise might be a particularly fine piece and worth a bit more, or have some small problems that lessen its value. It might also be of a great size, bringing it up to semi-precious value (50gp base). Now all this was before proficiencies (2nd edition AD&D), before skills (3e through 4e). This one little concept could add a lot to a skill challenge run game. The rogue with a good appraisal skill might pawn off pretty, but worthless stones on fellow players or NPCs. The unskilled cleric might take a smaller amount from a merchant for a high quality stone. Throw a gem cutting skill/profession into the mix, and you are looking at characters doing masterwork items that could be required for certain magic items, or to add a bit of World of Warcraft/RuneScape flavour, your character could earn quite a bit of that small-round-yellow cheddar! (Yo, I'm from the streets of Waterdeep, biznatches!)

Aside from the value variance, there was a chart of gem types and what their superstitious properties were. This had no rules-lawyer effect on play, but could be used for stylistic issues. Healers might favor some stone over others because of their "healing" properties. A new spell might need a bit of onyx as a component because it "causes discord amongst enemies." (pp26-27)

In the end, the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide is such a good book, that you can find uses for it regardless of which edition you play. If you still have it, break it out when designing an adventure. If you are a story-teller type player, get it for additional backstory or behavior cues (hey, if you're not playing 1st edition, having the DMG can't be that big of an issue).

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