Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Alejandro (Part 2)

Decided it was time to write more tales of the black sword…enough with these Elf and Northman posts!

By the black sword, I am speaking of Blackrazor of course, not Kas’s wretched short sword, nor Elric’s infamous rune blade.

“Big Al,” my brother’s fighter character Alejandro, was the only player that ever wielded Blackrazor on a long term basis. Why no one else chose to retain the blade after winning it from White Plume Mountain, I can only guess. Certainly, not all characters could meet the alignment restriction. Some perhaps wanted the reward money for turning it in. Others already possessed weapons they considered “better;” I’m just not sure any realized the potential power of the weapon.

Let us recall what Blackrazor does…it sucks souls and transfers life force from its victims to its wielder (I won’t say “its master,” as with an infinitely increasing ego, no mortal could ever truly master Blackrazor). This transferred life force comes in two forms: increased hit points, and temporary bonus levels “to fighting ability.”

Back in the day, fighters shared many of the same responsibilities that a tank/warrior in the World of Warcraft has…namely: absorb damage and draw “aggro.” Of course, drawing aggro in the Old School is accomplished a little differently…instead of having special skills or talents that “taunt an opponent” you simply do the old fashion thing: hit him as hard and as often as possible so that he refuses to ignore you.

Blackrazor’s special powers turn the AD&D fighter into the ultimate tank. Increasing hit points make the fighter a huge “meat shield” even without clerical support. Increasing combat ability means more attacks per round + more chance to hit which = more damage output. Coupled with the threat of soul-sucking, a wielder of Blackrazor is going to draw a LOT of “aggro.” And that’s even before adding the haste ability.

If memory serves, Blackrazor was the last weapon found by Alejandro and Co. in their conquest of White Plume Mountain. Whelm was discovered first, though for the life of me I can’t remember how they dealt with Ctenmiir…I am guessing Isaiah got a lucky “turn” roll and they looted the hammer before he returned. Wave was next, and while they got “blown out the top” (as is wont to happen in that encounter), they returned shortly thereafter for the Blackrazor.

No one ever believes the “doughty hobbit warrior” is anything other than a disguised monster and a trap. Never. Whether this is due to the Venger-Halfling switcheroo in an early episode of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, or just the sheer un-likelihood of encountering a friendly henchman-type in the middle of a volcano/dungeon…who knows? The point is, everyone draws down and attacks this lil’ guy at first opportunity. He’s neither a great surprise, nor a great challenge.

Anyway, pulling Blackrazor last, many adventuring parties may never actually get the chance to use it in battle and see what its capable of…perhaps this is why they have no qualms parting with it after the adventure. In the case of Al’s party, they decided to accompany Nix and Nox to the Indoctrination Center before leaving (I'm guessing my brother and his friend had no idea the meaning of the word “indoctrination” or its shady implications). Once they realized things were no good (I had to make up a mage Keraptis on the fly), they fought their way out…and here Blackrazor first demonstrated its power.

Alejandro must have already been around 8th to 10th level when the party began their siege on WPM. I’m pretty sure he was in the 9-10 range as the party had recently completed the Desert of Desolation series (I3-I5) withOUT the aid of Blackrazor. Can you imagine my brother’s surprise as he downed one of the Efreeti? Suddenly Alejandro rocketed to 19th or 20th level fighting ability (an efreet having 10 hit dice) plus an extra 40-50 hit points. Even if Alejandro had gained an ACTUAL ten levels, he would have only gained 30 hit points (3 per level after 9th). A fighter’s fighting ability maxes out at level 17 with two attacks per round and the best “to hit” rank in AD&D. Activating Blackrazor’s haste function at this point simply turned him into a one-man killing machine (4 attacks per round!).

Once Blackrazor had “fed” on a single opponent, the contest was over. Keraptis may have killed one or two henchmen before Al downed his first efreet, but the fighter was unstoppable thereafter. Big Al exited the Mountain with an effective level around 35 or so and probably double his normal max hit points.

There was no way Alejandro would relinquish Blackrazor after this first taste of power. A new legend had been born.

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