Saturday, November 6, 2010

More Used Treasure

I've got a ton to blog about, not the least of which is our last session on Thursday (fairly kick-ass and a good illustration of how I tend to run my gaming sessions...i.e. "wingin' it"). But right now I am going to post about something

[hold on...sorry. I'm at Barnes & Nobles right now and I had to switch to the other side of the table so I wouldn't be staring at Glen Beck's bullshit face in front of me...makes me want to set fire to the book stand. What a piece of shit...]

...okay, as I was saying, picked up a little piece of history yesterday at Gary's: the AD&D Dungeon Masters Adventure Log from 1983, complete with Erol Otis cover (check out the awesome hats). And only $3!

Now FYI, this is the kind of thing I absolutely refused to spend money on (or holiday/birthday present "slots") when I was a kid. Even before computers and spread sheets, I was never much interested in purchasing pre-scripted "log sheets." For one thing, I already had paper upon which to write (even though I wasn't much of a note taker...). For another thing, I was never one for writing IN my books. Oh, I have a few D&D books that have lightly scribbled pencil marks, notes in them (notably Deities & Demigods/Legends & Lore...amazing how often we felt the need to note in THAT particular tome). But nothing that couldn't be erased. I just didn't like to mark up my books (I still remember being pissed when my little brother got me the Unearthed Arcana for my birthday and wrote a HUGE-ASS "happy birthday" PEN! the front cover. Today, I'm glad he did, but at the time I couldn't believe he'd be so inconsiderate as to mar the pristine white pages...).

So "log books" or "character sheet" books with their finite supply of useable pages were NOT high on my list of "must have" gaming supplies.

And even today it's not usually something I'd pick up. Even though I could certainly use something to keep ready notes (when I blog my next game session, I'll try to note all the time-waste that occurs because I've got shitty notes), it's not something I'm terribly interested in owning, even for practical purposes. Hell, I still have notebook paper (if I'd ever bother to use it).

So why did I bother to pick it up at all? Well, while I'm not much of a historian of the game...not even a real collector, in flipping through the book I found several interesting things.

First off, it has some nice illustrations showing all the AD&D types of armor...exactly what they look like...and illustrating the various obscure entries on the PHB's weapon table, especially the various pole-arms. Wow. I wish I'd had THAT as a kid. How often did I wonder what the heck a "military pick" looked like? Or the difference between a horseman's flail and a footman's flail? Or a bec de corbin? At least the UA detailed the various pole arms, but that wasn't published till 1985...the DM Adventure Log was published in 1983 and would have been mui useful, if I'd had it.

Also of minor interest: several of the log sheets were filled out by the book's prior owner. While they are all filled out in pencil (and had I picked this up as a kid I'd probably have erased the entries), looking at it now I am interested in seeing how other kids were approaching the game, what their table was like, how many players were involved, etc. It's interesting, that's for sure.

For example, only three logs are completed. All seem to be AD&D groups, and each group seems to have played in a different adventure. The first group consists of four players: Damon, Robert, Nick, and Bryan. The 2nd log contains four players as well: Don, Jerry, Damon, and Harald. The 3rd log only shows three players: Day(mon), Gerry, and Robert. In this last log, Damon apparently played 3 characters and Gerry played two characters. There's no notes in the book to indicate who the owner/scriber/DM of the game was, but I don't think it was any of the named players as there are entries for specific "NPCs" in each log. The handwriting looks like grade school kids...similar to what would have been found in my own "logs" of the past had I ever kept any. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say the unnamed DM was probably player Damon's older brother.

Characters are all mid-to-high level (6 is the lowest of any entry, 11 the highest) and magic items are extensive, leading me think that they played this kind of thing "fast and loose" just as I did when I was 10 or 11 years old...the idea was to have a cool game and try out neat things like a cloak of arachnidia or horseshoes of zephyr (there's also plenty of +4 gear and weapons as well as a 9th level paladin with a +5 Holy Avenger sword and a couple of 6th level characters with "gold dragon mounts"). I know I've blogged before how cool B/X D&D is and how easily it can be applied to most types of fantasy scenario one would care to play, but the reality is that my earliest childhood forays into D&D looked a lot like these guys...three or four players, sporting the coolest gear (I'm surprised someone's not wearing the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd), and facing off against "10 warg wolves, 14 bats, 3 red dragons, and 4 strahd (?) zombies.

It's like my buddy Steve talking about how his old DM used to let the players "just pick monsters out of the Monster Manual" to play as characters.

The truth of the matter is that DESPITE being a game "for ages 10+" or "12+" AD&D was a damn complicated game for a kid to try to figure the hell out without guidance. It took a couple years of B/X, a couple years of exploring the PHB, DMG, and MM and around age 13 or so before my friends and I ever got anything resembling a mature, coherent game campaign...but we were self-teaching without mentors or a midwest wargaming culture. kid was playing an 8th level magic-user named Raistlin...

This is one of the reasons I get so down on recent incarnations of the Dungeons & Dragons game. It is far too reliant (in my opinion) on folks who already have a grounding in table-top RPGs (especially Old School D&D)...I can't see new players picking up 4th edition books and being anything but daunted and put-off. "Why bother reading all this stuff when I can just log on to Call of Duty 4 and start having fun immediately?" Ah, well...I'm not going to go down that road of discussion today...

The MOST interesting thing about the DM Adventure Log, and the REAL reason I spent $3 on it had nothing to do with analyzing past players, nor any interesting illustrations. The main reason I purchased it was for the "Sample Adventure Log" that has been filled in on the back cover. Here are the player names: Dave Cook, Helen Cook, Kevin Hendryx, Jeff R. Leason, Steve Marsh, Jolan Moldvay, Rebecca Moldvay, Tom Moldvay, Lawrence Schick, and Jean Wells...a friggin' who's who of TSR design staff from 1983, including the authors of B/X, their spouses, and the guy who wrote White Plume Mountain! Talk about totally cool!

Now I have no idea if the characters described are any reflection of their actual gaming...I know that A) the characters in the Rogues Gallery were based on actual characters, though ones "toned down" for the publication, and B) if I was writing a book like this (even today) I would certainly have included real world players/characters as examples, rather than just "making shit up." But who knows? Just in case there IS any "real world correlations" I will list the entries here, just for the sake of folks' curiosity:

Dave Cook: "Fred 9802." Male Dwarf Fighter 5th level, Lawful Neutral.
Helen Cook: "Knock Grafton." Male Human Thief 7th level, Neutral.
Kevin Hendryx: "Black Dougal." Male Human Ranger 7th level, Lawful Neutral.

[interesting that Black Dougal, quite different from his appearance in Moldvay's Basic rules, is a ranger, and that his alignment is "lawful neutral" unlike the PHB's stipulation that rangers must all be "good" in alignment]

Jeff R. Leason: "Harry Furryfoot." Male Halfling Fighter/Thief 6th level, Chaotic Neutral.
Steve Marsh: "Illysio Morningstar." Female Half-Elf Fighter/Magic-User 5th level, Lawful Good.
Jolan Moldvay: "Yolanda Mirabilis." Female Human Magic-User 6th level, Neutral Good.
Rebecca Moldvay: "Sister Rebecca." Female Human Cleric 7th level, Lawful Neutral.
Tom Moldvay: "Morgan Ironwolf." Female Human Fighter 8th level, Chaotic Good.
Lawrence Schick: "Elron Hubbard."
[really, man? Really?]
Male Elf Magic-User/Thief 6th level, Chaotic Neutral.
Jean Wells: "Lakesla." Female Gnome Illusionist 7th level, Lawful Good.

Owners of Moldvays Basic set will recognize the names of Morgan Ironwolf, Black Dougal, and Sister Rebecca (is Fred 9802 "Frederik?" Who knows?) from the examples of play within its pages. With the exception of Black Dougal, all seem similar to their B/X incarnations.

The adventure notes would seem to indicate a fairly extensive adventure session, with lots of loot and a vast array of monsters (including 3 wights and a large adult black dragon). Again, I'd imagine this isn't from an actual adventure, but filled in for the sake of providing a nice "sample sheet." Still, the notes in the "Unusual Events" section are interesting:

- Morgan Ironwolf's Constitution +1 from magic chair [JB: a very un-standard item/trick]

- Fred 9802 talked back to Odin - and lived! [JB: ah...remember when gods and goddesses used to pop up in adventures? I do...]

- Black Dougal slain by fire giant [JB: and he's down again!]

- Knock Grafton pocketed ring of delusion without knowledge of party [JB: there are three thieves in the party, two of whom are Chaotic Neutral, and Helen Cook is the only one with a secret stash? And her character already had a magic ring of invisibility per the character notes...what a ring hog!]

- Sister Rebecca falls in valiant combat with a black dragon [JB: I'm not sure what I find more interesting: the apparent death of Sister Rebecca (never detailed in the B/X books), are the fact that she is described as "falling in valiant combat" by the opposed to Black Dougal the ranger simply being "slain by a fire giant." Was BD's death as ignoble as his death by poison detailed in the Basic book? Was this a common theme of a particular player character?]

All right...that's enough for that. The log sheets really are pretty practical in their set-up (I made a similar "script sheet" for my White Plume Mountain game the other evening, but I didn't have neat little boxes to display "marching order" and "light sources"...two things I am constantly asking my players for!). With the magic of cheap technology, I might just go photocopy some of these pages...I'm sure it would a lot easier to keep adventure notes for posterity using something like this. Heck...the book is even three-hole punched! That's cool!


  1. I am horrible with record-keeping. Most my games become a great art of impromptu, and when the night is done, my notes rarely cover what happened.

    New players are hard to come by, normally because of the reasons you've outlined here; video games are instantly gratifying where table-top is less so. I'm lucky to have found the people I have.

    So in terms of notes, I'm curious: do you take them in an ongoing notebook, or beside graphs you illustrate throughout the night? I'd love to become more organized.

  2. I'd love to know what "banded mail" is supposed to be. The description in the DMG doesn't really sound like anything historical. I always assumed "splint mail" was lorica segmata but looking at the description I guess I'd say it is Asian lamellar? What about brigandine?
    I can understand the temptation to just stick with leather, mail, and plate.

  3. Mike,
    Banded is essentially the Lorica Segmenta worn by the legionares. Almost plate, but not quite~ (Incidentally the stuff is suppposed to be -very- flexible and mobile.) Splint is more similar to the Asian Lamellar, with short bands running vertically. At least thats the way I've always understood it.

    Man, those notes make me wish my oldschool D&D book didn't grow legs and walk off someplace :/ I definetly recognize those names even though it's been forever. You're going to make me have to hunt down some old bookstores here now since all the bloody game shops have closed.

    It seems the most oldschool thing I have intact is the old Buck Rogers game. Simply amazing setting, particularly if you didn't realize they were all wearing fishbowls for helmets. (the CRPG's were pretty solid too.)

  4. What a great find, JB! I'd like to check it out someday. You may be interested in seeing my DM's "helper" book. Can't remember the exact name of it right now, but it was printed around the time of 2nd edition. Don't scream just yet, it's not neccesarily only for use with 2nd edition, but rather will work with any edition...Heck! almost any game, I suppose. It gives you all kinds of ideas for plotlines, big baddies, random encounters, etc etc etc...It even gets into subplots and stuff, I think. Man, I really gotta dig some of those old books out of storage!


  5. If nothing else, Otus' cover makes me want to fight a gnoll. :)

  6. Dave Cook certainly mentioned, I think in his article in Dragon detailing why he was leaving TSR, that he started playing D&D using 'crinkly slick' copies of the key tables and played a dwarf named Fred 9801, who died, so he rolled up Fred 9802, etc.

  7. I've always really liked the DM's Adventue Log and own several copies. They are quite easy to find on eBay and don't go for too much. I don't think that many people used them; most copies only have a couple pages filled out, if any. I make sure to write the dates of my games at the top, so I have the records for the majority of my games going back to '87.

    I've wondered before if Fred 9802 was some sort of reference to 6025, the Dead Kennedys drummer. It probably isn't, but the band's logo appears a couple times in Erol Otus' Gamma World art, so it got me thinking along those lines.

  8. @ Grey and Mike: Neither the Splinted nor Banded look anything like Lorica Segmenta. The splinted most resembles this:

    While the banded resembles something closer to this:

    ...along with greaves and samurai spaulders.

    [both these images are found under the entry for "plated mail" in wikipedia]

    @ Doc: I don't scream at your stuff!

  9. BX,
    Interesting to see how that evolved like everything else then. The first time I saw an actual picture in that is in Frank Mentzers old campaign level players guide; it's shown as something that looks like lorica over a hauberk minus the distinctive shoulders. By 2E for the arms and equipment guide it's shown as a lorica with splint basically being some wierd inverted variant. (Incidentally I like your picture better.)
    That said, I would still take a lorica over all of these!