Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Meditating on Morale

Among the many musings I made about combat according to Holmes the other day, I asked this question based on Holmes equating morale with a saving throw:

Does this mean Charisma measures some kind of magical aura that inspires people to loyalty or fear?

Surprisingly, Richard of Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse answered, "yes." This got me thinking, especially since none of the standard saving throw categories lend themselves nicely to morale. Since Holmes says of Charisma:

A character of charisma below 13 can not hire more than 5 followers, and their loyalty will be luke-warm at best — that is, if the fighting gets hot there is a good probability they will run away. On the other hand, someone with a charisma of 18 can win over a large number of followers (men or monsters) who will probably stand by him to the death.

what if the morale saving throw were directly linked to Charisma? The target number on a d20 could be determined with the following formula:

Morale = [Character's Charisma + level] - HD of the monster.

Any pluses in a HD (such as the Hobgoblin's 1+1) are added to the roll. Monsters would have to roll over the target in order to make their save and henchmen would have to roll under.

For example, let's take a 1st level fighting-man with a 12 Charisma and his henchman fighting a band of Lizard Men with 2+1 HD. If the henchman had to make a morale saving throw, he would have to roll under an 11 on a d20 while adding one to the roll. The Lizard Men would have to roll over an 11 while adding one to their roll.

Assuming all things are average and equal, a character with a 10 Charisma would have a 55% chance of a henchmen failing the morale saving throw and a 50% chance of a 1 HD creature failing the morale saving throw. This falls right in the percentile range of a 6 or a 7 morale (58% and 41% respectively) using the 2d6 morale rules in B/X.

What I like about this formula is that it makes both Charisma and HD more meaningful. An Ogre is less likely to run away from a group of 1st level adventurers than a group of 5th level adventurers — unless one of those Charisma scores was 5 better than the Charisma scores of the 5th level group.

Any thoughts?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Elves & Dwarves

Those familiar with the works of Tolkien know that the origin of the orc is a deliberate breaking and twisting of elves by the evil guile of Melkor/Morgoth (the main antagonist of The Silmarillion). Given the influence Tolkien seems to have on Holmes, I think it is fair to assume a similar origin for orcs — they are a twisted version of elves (possibly as an attempt at a more malleable slave-version of elves by the humans of the suggested ancient civilization).

Using this as a point of departure, note the languages Holmes grants to the beginning Elf character:

Elves can speak the languages of orcs, hobgoblins and gnolls

Given that orcs are elves twisted beyond recognition suggests that the reason that elves know the language of the orcs is because it is a dialect of elvish. It follows that so, too, are the languages of the hobgoblin and gnoll. This suggests that hobgoblins and gnolls are either other twisted elves or a further twisting of orcs.

This vision is reinforced by the languages given the beginning Dwarf character:

Dwarves can all speak the languages of gnomes, kobolds and goblins.

Holmes essentially calls gnomes chaotic good hill dwarves:

Gnomes are similar to dwarves, whom they resemble. They are smaller, have longer noses and beards and inhabit low-land and hill burrows rather than mountains.

Kobolds are also described as a kind of dwarf:

These evil dwarf-like creatures behave much like goblins, but are less powerful.

The goblin behavior in question suggests that goblins, too, are a kind of dwarf:

They always attack dwarves on sight.

In other words, gnomes are chaotic dwarves, goblins are evil dwarves as are kobolds (possibly even a derivative of gnomes, due to their size). Therefore, the languages given the beginning dwarf character are likely all dialects of the original dwarven language.

This all suggests a very interesting definition of goblinoid, given how Holmes describes the hobgoblin:

Hobgoblins are big, powerful goblinoids

Since the suggested origin of hobgoblins is the elf and the suggested origin of the goblin is the dwarf, the term goblinoid seems to mean any race whose origin is the twisting of a progenitor race (such as elves or dwarves).

Given this statement by Holmes:

At the Dungeon Master's discretion a character can be anything his or her player wants him to be.

it follows that should one want to play a gnome, goblin or kobold that one could simply use the dwarf class as a template and, likewise, orcs, hobgoblins and gnolls could use the elf class as a template.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Tolkien

For any one who has spent any amount of time reading blogs in the OSR corner of the internet, Appendix N is a very familiar term, because it is part of our shared experience of this hobby. In fact, if I understand correctly, when Goodman Games tosses their hat into the arena of FRPGs with Dungeon Crawl Classics, it is largely an exercise in tapping into source material like that found in Appendix N of the 1ed DMG.

In contrast, neither Homes or Cook provide much of a list of literary source material. I have yet to find anything at all in Cook (I am guessing he was quite comfortable with the list provided by Molday in his Basic Edition) and the only thing that resembles an Appendix N in Holmes reads as follows:

The imaginary universe of Dungeons & Dragons obviously lies not too far from the Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkien's great Lord of the Rings trilogy. The D & D universe also impinges on the fantasy worlds of Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, Gardner F. Fox, classical mythology and any other source of inspiration the Dungeon Master wants to use.

I find this fascinating in both its brevity and its emphasis. Whereas other editions of D&D obviously invite payers to celebrate in a smorgasbord of pastiche of both fantasy and science fiction, Holmes seems to elevate Tolkien above every other entry in his abbreviated list of potential sources.

This emphasis is not limited to this list, either. He cites Tolkien twice in his monster section. He says of specters:
The "Nazgul" of Tolkien fall into this category.
And of wights:
Barrow wights (as per Tolkien) are nasty nearly immaterial creatures who drain away life energy levels when they score a hit in melee, one level per hit.
In addition, he uses the word hobbit on five different occasions for halfling. For example, in his explanation of the Cure Light Wounds spell:

During the course of one melee round this spell will heal damage done to a character, including elves, dwarves and hobbits.

He also mentions balrogs in a pair of explanations. For example:

Large or powerful creatures like demons, balrogs and dragons may be highly resistant to certain kinds of spells especially if thrown by a magic-user of lower level than their own level.

Having now spent the amount of time that I have with Holmes, I am not really all that surprised by how large a shadow Tolkien casts over this particular edition of the game. It explains the underlying culture implied by Holmes that moves from paganism to Christianity, because Tolkien's own devout Catholic faith heavily influenced the stories he told about Middle Earth. It also helps to understand the Dungeon as NPC that seems to ooze from the pages of Holmes. It can be understood as an expression of Tolkien's vision of the Long Defeat — where heroes descend into the depths to fight evil, knowing that even if they win today, ultimately they will fail.

There was a time in my life when I would have resented this overt homage to Tolkien and his creation. He was never, and may never be, one of my favorite fantasy authors. I do appreciate him, however, and I have come to realize that his influence over me has been more profound that I ever imagined. As such, I now appreciate the way that Holmes has allowed Tolkien to influence his edition of D&D. In many ways, this influence has resulted in a version of D&D that I have always wanted to play.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Eutychius the Martyr

Today is the feast day of the martyr St. Eutychius of Melitene. Interestingly, what we know of his life story is in stark contrast to last week's subject, St. Constantine. Where there is a plethora of information available about the first Christian Emperor of Rome from multiple sources and multiple points of view, the following is what can be found on the official website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese:

All information concerning this Martyr has been lost, except that he presented himself before the tyrants, mocked the idols, suffered many unspeakable torments, and was finally drowned in the sea.

This is particularly interesting, because despite this dearth of information, St. Eutychius is still the primary saint celebrated today in the Greek churches.

I must explain that within Orthodoxy, there is a very strong connection to local tradition, which differs from local church to local church (where local church is the bishop and all of the parishes in his jurisdiction). For example, on Palm Sunday, it is customary for Russian Orthodox communities to use pussy willow branches instead of palm leaves. These local traditions include the adoration of local saints.

In other words, just because a saint is remembered in Greece, does not necessarily mean that they will be in Russia, the Middle East, Romania, etc. St. Eutychius is one such saint, enjoying prominence in the Greek tradition; however, not so much in other localities.

Having read the hymns of the feast, it possible to determine three things about him:
  • He learned about Christianity from the Apostles themselves (thus, he lived during the first century A.D.).
  • His hands were bound, he was enclosed in a leather bag and thrown into the sea.
  • Despite this, his relics were somehow recovered and a church was built up around these relics (now lost).

I can't help but wonder if it is this ancient provenance and the fact that Melitene is now in Turkish hands that St. Eutychius holds the imagination of the Greek tradition despite how little we know of his life. Regardless, I think it is pretty cool.


The Shrine of the Unknown Saint

This is an encounter area that can be placed in the wilderness or in a dungeon near a body of water. Despite being neglected for centuries, the iconography within is in pristine condition. They depict a saint who was taught by other well-known saints, who challenged idolaters and who was martyred by being thrown into the sea.

Those of Lawful (or Good) alignment who pray within will be granted one of the following for the next 24 hours:

1-3 The swimming movement of merfolk — 120' (40')
4-5 The effects of a Water Breathing spell
6 Both of the above

Those of Chaotic (or Evil) alignment who even enter will suffer the affects of a Confusion spell.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Alignment Redux

Over the past couple of days I have been musing about alignment. These musings have garnered some excellent commentary and food for thought. From it, I have come up with a hypothesis as to why alignment (especially in a multi-axial model) seems to be so clunky:

  • As can be seen by my initial attempt at pulling a working alignment system out of Holmes & Cook, there is more than a little ambiguity between alignments and between axis. For example, not only is Neutrality difficult to differentiate from Chaotic, but Lawful is difficult to differentiate from Good.
  • This ambiguity makes it difficult to understand the necessity for, the process of and the means by which mechanics such as the Protection from Evil spell work (especially given an alignment system that does not define evil).

Thus, in order to come up with a better alignment system with more than one axis, these axis need to be clearly defined. Once that definition is in place, there needs to be a means by which to understand why such things as a Protection from Evil spell are efficacious.

Keeping in mind that I am still in the midst of my thought experiment with Holmes & Cook, I am going to try and cast my net a little further out, taking into consideration some of the conclusions I have made about the implied culture and civilization of Holmes. I say this because I believe that one of the problems of the two axis alignment system (especially as presented in Holmes and Cook) is that both axis delve into ethics and morality. This should properly be limited to one axis — Good and Evil.

In order to differentiate the Law/Chaos axis from the Good/Evil axis, I think it necessary for it to represent an allegiance or loyalty to a certain concept, culture, and/or set of behavior. An excellent example (postulated by J.D. Higgins) is honor. Rather than an ethical system, honor is an adherence to a set of behaviors. Thus, it is possible to be amoral but honorable (the Japanese Yakuza can be understood this way, for example).

Implied in this hypothetical amalgam of Holmes & Cook is an ancient human culture that was steeped in powerful arcane magic. This civilization came crashing down, most likely from the collapse of a slave economy and a revolt by those very slaves. Some of these were very likely dragons and giants.

There is also a classical civilization that existed prior to the modern civilization. I postulated a number of possibilities for what this classical civilization might have looked like. For the purposes of this exercise, I will be opting for a pagan civilization which was either led by dragons and giants or that sees them as liberators.

Given that arcane magic is dangerous, that divine magic is relatively new when compared to arcane magic and that there is an implied move from paganism to a psuedo-Christianity if not Christianity itself, we can set up the modern civilization in opposition to the classical civilization.

Thus, Law is a loyalty to the modern, Christian-leaning civilization that marshals in the use of divine magic and Chaos in an adherence to the classical, pagan civilization that seeks to restore the arcane might of the ancients. Tied in with this is the idea that the classical civilization sees non-human monsters as liberators/leaders. Modern civilization, in contrast, sees humanity as proper leaders. Since the former wants to re-discover the power of the ancients and the latter holds the ancients up in opposition to the monster-led classical civilization, both have a reason to go delving into ancient ruins to find their magics.

In terms of mechanics, both Cook and Holmes equate Evil with enchanted monsters in some of their spell descriptions. Since these creatures are inherently magical and since Clerics (practitioners of divine magic) have the most resistance to this inherent magic, it follows that Protection from Evil and Dispel Evil ought to be renamed Protection from Chaos and Dispel Chaos — due to the strong association that Chaos has with this ancient magic. Neither spell is reversible — they purely represent the resistance afforded to those who align themselves with the Church over the influence and consequences of the ancient arcane magics.

Does this, then, mean all magic-users must be Chaotic? Though thematically it may very well make sense, it is certainly possible to have magic-users who see the advancement of the modern civilization over the classical as absolutely essential. They could understand, for example, that arcane magic by itself is inevitably corruptive. Bolstered and aligned with divine magic, however, arcane magic can be properly used without being corruptive.

Detect Evil, on the other hand, deals primarily with ethical and moral behavior. Therefore it can remain as written — able to detect thought and intention.

To summarize, my hypothetical alignment axis would look something like this:
  • Lawful Good: Supports the modern civilization through a strong moral and ethical behavior. A typical Christian would be a good example.
  • Lawful Evil: Supports the modern civilization by any means necessary. An Inquisitor would be a good example.
  • Neutral: Animal
  • Chaotic Evil: Seeks to restore the classical civilization to glory by any means necessary. Most dragons and their followers are good examples.
  • Chaotic Good: Seeks to restore the classical civilization by using arcane magic for the benefit of all/the group. Elves are a good example.

This set-up answers some conundrums and has some interesting implications:
  • Holmes has the displacer beast with a neutral (evil) alignment. This, then, could mean that despite having animal intelligence, displacer beasts display enough guile to appear to have amoral and unethical behavior.
  • Several dragons are listed with both a chaotic alignment and a neutral alignment. This implies that either there is a larval stage in a dragon life cycle that merely has animal intelligence or that being so closely associated with ancient magics has cursed entire dragon populations to be nothing more than animals. The neutral/chaotic evil alignment for white dragons seems to indicate this latter option and that these dragons were more affected than other dragon populations.
  • Holmes lists fire giants as Lawful Evil while Cook gives them a Chaotic alignment. Storm giants in holmes are Chaotic Good while in Cook they are Lawful. This suggests that the giant population is split. For some reason, there are some fire and storm giants that have rebelled against the classical civilization and now support the modern one.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Evil

While answering Roger's question this morning I realized that I had failed to utilize the various spells with Evil as part of their monicker in trying to figure out what Holmes & Cook might mean about evil as part of an alignment system. Between the two, there are four of these spells:
  • Detect Evil
  • Dispel Evil
  • Protection from Evil
  • Protection from Evil 10'r.
Let me begin with the latter two, since they are supposed to be the same spell with a different area of effect; however, since the basic spell is in Holmes and the radius spell is from Cook, we are given two different views on how the spell works:

Protection from Evil — This spell hedges the conjurer round with a magic circle to keep out attacks from enchanted monsters such as elementals, invisible stalkers, demons, etc. [Holmes]

Protection from Evil 10'r. — This spell circles the caster with a magical barrier that will protect all friendly creatures within 10' of the cleric, magic-user or elf. The spell serves as some protection from "evil" attacks (attacks by monsters of an alignment other than the caster's). [Cook]

These two appear to contradict each other. Cook is dealing with an alignment axis of Law-Neutrality-Chaos, so "evil" needs to be redefined — as an alignment other than the caster's. In reality this isn't that far off from Holmes' version, in that Protection from Evil is a reversible spell in Holmes. Thus, it ostensibly protects the caster from those of differing alignments.

What is missing in Cook, however, is the implication that the spell will be ineffective against Neutrals. Intriguingly, though, two of the three examples Holmes gives for "enchanted monsters" have, according to Cook, a neutral alignment.

If, however, neutral = animal then it is possible to say that the spell has no effect on animals and therefore maintain the implication of not affecting neutrals despite Cook's presentation of the invisible stalker and elementals.

Unfortunately, this doesn't say much about evil as an alignment. The examples of enchanted monsters given by Holmes have less to do with alignment than they do with summoning magics. This continues the theme that arcane magic is inherently dangerous and potentially corrupting, but doesn't really say anything to what an evil alignment looks like.

Dispel Evil — This spell will banish or destroy any enchanted or undead monster that comes in range if the creature fails its saving throw vs. Spells. [Cook]

Cook aligns the undead with Chaos, and, as noted above, there are several examples of enchanted monsters that are neutral. Once again, this says less about alignment than it does about the nature of arcane magic.

Detect Evil — A spell to detect evil thought or evil intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Poison, however, is neither good nor evil. [Holmes]

Given that the word evil isn't really explained, this, too, isn't much help for defining evil as an alignment; however, it does speak to the notion of meta-gaming. The way Holmes describes this spell, it is possible to detect evil from a Lawful Good creature and completely fail to do so from a Chaotic Evil creature, depending upon the circumstance. Holmes gives the Referee a lot of leeway as to how this spell can be implemented.

I suppose one might be tempted to take these spells and postulate that divine magic is good and arcane magic is evil. Personally, I do not want to go there. From a practical point of view, it appears to prevent magic-users and clerics from being in the same adventuring party. Having someone else's choice of class impose upon everyone else what they can and cannot be is not fun (I've been there with barbarians and paladins).

From a personal point of view, I do not believe that any part of creation is inherently evil. God called His creation very good. What makes something good or evil is in how we use it. This is why I prefer describing arcane magic as dangerous rather than evil.

More on Alignment

I have found that one of the topics that always gets comments (and more so than most other topics) on this blog is alignment. Yesterday's post was no exception. One line of these comments usually questions why alignment is even necessary. An example of this is a comment from Roger over at roles, rules & rolls in response to my claim that spells like Protection from Evil require an alignment mechanic (and thus require alignment):
Why not just call it "Protection from Unholy," define that as undead and extraplanar creatures (plus whatever other monsters you think the spell should protect from) and leave it at that?

This is a good question, especially when one looks at Protection from Evil in Holmes and Dispel Evil in Cook:

Protection from Evil — This spell hedges the conjurer round with a magic circle to keep out attacks from enchanted monsters such as elementals, invisible stalkers, demons, etc.
Dispel Evil — This spell will banish or destroy any enchanted or undead monster that comes in range if the creature fails its saving throw vs. Spells.

Evil is clearly equated with enchanted monsters and the undead. Therefore, Roger's question deserves an answer.

It's in the game. This is particularly important given this thought experiment. I am not trying to create my own definitive version of D&D with all the house rules that I think are best for my game Rather, I am trying to create the one that I would have played back in 1981 with only the Holmes & Cook editions available to me, and given a slight prejudice for Holmes over Cook when there is a difference. As such, I need to figure out what exactly these rule-sets mean by alignment (especially since it does have mechanical function).

It has a wargaming pedigree. Alignment has its roots in Chainmail. This is the origin of its mechanical properties and consequences. As I've pointed out before, I am as much of a war gamer as I am a role-player (in some ways more so). In fact, there are plenty of scenarios where I would choose an evening of war gaming over an evening of role-playing (especially if minis were involved). As such, I have a soft spot for those elements of D&D that harken back to its wargaming roots.

Unholy is an alignment. The reason that the Cross has the ability to ward off the undead is not because of the Cross, but rather the God who willingly was crucified upon the Cross in order to defeat death. In other words, the Cross is able to drive off the undead because God Himself works through the Cross. There is a catch, however. If we do not believe in the power of the Living God to affect our lives, our own pride and sin get in the way. Only by properly aligning oneself with God do we allow God to work in and through us.

Having spent much time with the saints by reading their lives, as well as spoken with priests who have had to do exorcisms, I know that evil is a real thing. It can be seen, felt, heard etc. (thus, being able to "detect" it isn't necessarily meta-gaming, especially if you skin it with a "I have a bad feeling about this" kind of vibe). It has power, but only if we allow it to — by aligning ourselves with it. Therefore, as much as I'd like to dump the whole alignment system because it doesn't work as nicely as I'd want, there is a theological reality to it that I, as a Christian, truly appreciate.

This is why I keep revisiting the idea. Despite my reservations, I think it is useful and potentially evocative enough to keep around.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Alignment

As I've stated before, and despite my own attempt to re-imagine it, Alignment is one of the least satisfying aspects of D&D for me. Despite this, one has to deal with it on some level, because there are mechanics within the game tied to the alignment system (Protection from Evil, for example). Unfortunately, Holmes and Cook use two different versions of the alignment system and neither is very helpful. Let me begin with Cook, because he uses the simpler Law-Neutral-Chaos axis:

Law (or Lawful) represent respect for rules, and willingness to put the benefit of the group ahead of the benefit of individuals. Lawfuls respect fairness and justice.

Chaos (or Chaotic) is the opposite of Law. A chaotic is selfish and respects no laws or rules. Chaotics cannot be trusted.

Neutral (or Neutrality) is concerned with personal survival. Neutrals will do whatever is in their best interest, with little regard for others.

I have big problems with this explanation. To my mind, doing "whatever is in their best interest, with little regard for others" is a very good definition for "selfish" — the first word that describes Chaos. What is the difference? To boot, "willingness to put the benefit of the group ahead of the benefit of individuals" can also be selfish and have little regard for the law (especially in places where individualism is codified into the law, as it is in the U.S.). It also very well describes such totalitarian and (I would argue) evil regimes as Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. Neither of these "lawful" societies were trustworthy.

Ultimately, Cook's explanation of this alignment system is meaningless. Unfortunately, Holmes is not much better:

Characters may be lawful (good or evil), neutral or chaotic (good or evil). Lawful characters always act according to a highly regulated code of behavior, whether for good or evil. Chaotic characters are quite unpredictable and can not be depended upon to do anything except the unexpected -- they are often, but not always, evil. Neutral characters, such as all thieves, are motivated by self interest and may steal from their companions or betray them if it is in their own best interest. Players may choose any alignment they want and need not reveal it to others. Note that the code of lawful good characters insures that they would tell everyone that they are lawful. There are some magical items that can be used only by one alignment of characters. If the Dungeon Master feels that a character has begun to behave in a manner inconsistent with his declared alignment he may rule that he or she has changed alignment and penalize the character with a loss of experience points. An example of such behavior would be a "good" character who kills or tortures a prisoner.

Once again, there is no real distinction between Neutrality and Chaos. The explanation that Neutrals "are motivated by self interest and may steal from their companions or betray them if it is in their own best interest" sounds an awful lot like Chaotics who are "quite unpredictable and can not be depended upon to do anything except the unexpected." I do appreciate Holmes' take on Lawful, however, because it allows for both good and evil codes. The only guidance for what is good or evil, though, is whether or not one is willing to torture and kill prisoners.

Holmes does provide a diagram of his two axis alignment system. Regrettably, this, too, is mostly useless because the various examples it provides are meaningless fictional and mythical monsters with little cultural or historical reference. The only concrete example he gives is demon, for Chaotic Evil. He further muddles things by the way he assigns alignments to monsters. For example, Brass Dragons (which he uses as an example for Chaotic Good on his diagram) are listed as neutral/chaotic good. White dragons are neutral/chaotic evil while red dragons are chaotic evil/neutral. What is the difference? Further, displacer beasts are neutral (evil) and black puddings have no alignment at all.

Fortunately, Cook is a bit more consistent in assigning alignment to monsters, and this actually helps to clarify a few things. With a few exceptions, animals — normal, giant and fantastic — dominate the neutral monsters. Thus, in practice, neutrality is more about behaving as an animal in nature would. Or, to put it another way, neutrality approximates animal intelligence.

All undead are Chaotic. This strongly suggests that Chaos is related to the unholy and unnatural.

The list of Lawful creatures is very short:
  • Blink Dog
  • Dervish
  • Pegasus
  • Roc
  • Storm Giant
  • Treant
  • Unicorn
Derivishes are described as being fanatically religious and the others can be easily associated with being guardians or symbols of the natural world in balance.

If we accept that neutrality = animal (and therefore jettison the notion that all thieves are neutral), we can glean from both Holmes and Cook the following adjectives for Law, Chaos, Good and Evil:

  • Law: religious, natural, follows a code of behavior
  • Chaos: unholy, unnatural, selfish, untrustworthy
  • Good: merciful
  • Evil: merciless

While still not wholly satisfying, it is still more useful than the explanations provided by either Holmes or Cook while still trying to adhere to those explanations.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Combat

The more time I spend with Dr. Holmes and his Basic Edition, the more fascinated I become and, frankly, more surprised. I find that I am having to leave my own preconceived notions and prejudices at the door, because Holmes is constantly challenging them. This is no less true of the way he seems to envision combat.

As a point of departure, let us look at the Combat Sequence as it is found in Cook:
Each side rolls initiative (1d6)
The side with initiative acts first:
  1. Morale checks, if necessary
  2. Movement
  3. Missile fire combat
  4. Magic Spells
  5. Melee combat
Each remaining side them completes the above actions in order.


In Holmes, combat initiative is determined individually by Dexterity. Where Dexterity scores are relatively similar (within 1 or 2 points) a d6 is rolled to see who goes first. Dexterity of monsters is rolled on the spot. This order is static.

Interestingly, this style of initiative actually plays very nicely into the Variable Weapon Damage table I came up with by melding concepts from both Holmes and Cook. Characters with low Dexterity are incentivized to use bigger, slower weapons. If they are going to be going last in combat anyway (due to a low Dex), why not go with the slower weapons and do more damage? It also makes pole-arms (which automatically win initiative on round one) very valuable.


Though morale is mentioned by Holmes, there is no codified rules for them. He mentions henchmen loyalty in his explanation of Charisma. He also mentions in his description of Hobgoblins that they have a +1 to their morale. Interestingly, he equates this with a saving throw vs. fear. Does this mean Charisma measures some kind of magical aura that inspires people to loyalty or fear? It would be interesting to see what would happen if a morale check was actually a save vs. spell/death ray, etc. (Which one do you use?) I must admit, however, that having successfully used the morale rules from B/X for years (and given that they are very clearly laid out in Cook), I am very much inclined to use them rather than the nebulous saving throw that Holmes seems to suggest.


Holmes describes movement in a combat round this way:

Movement (if any) is usually at a sprint; an unarmored man can move 20 feet per melee round, a fully armored man only 10 feet.

This is radically different from the 60/90/120 feet implied in Cook (and what I am far more familiar with). The reason for this departure is that Holmes understands combat as a unique sub-system of time and movement:

There are ten "rounds" of combat per turn. Each round is ten seconds, so a combat turn is shorter than a regular turn

Indeed, rather than combat being an abstract representation of a flurry of blows, each round reflects single blows by each person participating in combat:

Melee is the most exciting part of the game, but it must be imagined as if it were occuring in slow motion so that the effect of each blow can be worked out.

Since combat is less abstract, movement and position become far more important. Indeed, Holmes suggests that

the Dungeon Master should be guided by the actual placement of the figures on a paper sketch or on the table in deciding how many opponents can engage as melee starts, always keeping in mind the dimensions of the dungeon itself.

Missile combat

This placement becomes critical when it comes to missile fire because Holmes limits the use of missile fire in a couple of significant ways. Firstly, he states:

unless in a very high roofed area, all slinging, as well as long range fire, is not possible.

Secondly, he states several times that missile fire is not possible once melee begins:

Once the party is engaged in melee, arrows can not be fired into the fight because of the probability of hitting friendly characters.

[When] melee is joined, after which no missile fire is permitted because of the danger of hitting friendly forces.

Remember that spells and missiles fired into a melee should be considered to strike members of one's own party as well as the enemy.

Two things, then, are going on. Firstly, movement is limited, not only because combat rounds are so short, but to allow for missile fire to be part of the game. Wandering monsters will represent a large number of combats, and these encounters happen at a distance. Since missile fire ends once the sides are engaged in melee, small movement rates necessitate tactics and resource management when closing with a group of wandering monsters.

Secondly, Holmes appears to envision missile fire in terms of volleys rather than in uber-accurate shots made by marksmen. When firing in a volley, archers aim in arcs — and this is especially true of slingers. This is how they get distance. Thus, when in a confined space, long range is not possible. Though Holmes does state that missile fire is not possible once melee is engaged, he does hint at the possibility — as long as you are willing to chance hitting your own party. This is exactly what would happen if a volley rained down on a melee.

In other words, combat according to Holmes is more war-game than RPG. Personally, I do not see that as a problem, given that Holmes still errs on the side of simplicity. However, it does bring with it an interesting pre-supposition.

Proficiency with a missile weapon does not equate to marksmanship. It means you are able to launch a missile at a general area, not necessarily a specific target. An interesting implication is that when firing at a group, targets ought to be determined randomly. This is an easy way to simulate the possibility of hitting your own party members when in melee.

Given that Holmes leaves the door open to both firing into melee (risking damage to your own) and to classes far beyond the four archetypes, here we see the suggestive shape of a marksman-type character. Since he mentions the ranger sub-class, it follows that by limiting weapon & armor choice, the ranger could target specific opponents, choose to fire into melee without doing damage to his own party and have the ability to fire at long range indoors.

As an aside, I wouldn't so severely limit the sling. Having seen these things in use, I believe it would be possible to fire indoors at closer ranges.


Holmes allows spells to be cast prior to missile combat:

When there is time, or when a magic-user says he is getting a spell ready, magic spells go off first. This is followed by any missile fire…

I think this is fair. Note what Holmes says about casting spells while engaged in melee:

If he [the magic user] is personally attacked he can't concentrate to use his magic but must draw his dagger and defend his skin!

Thus, if spells came after missile fire, a spell caster might never be able to cast any spells (where getting hit by a missile interrupts the casting).

Interestingly, Holmes allows magic users to use magical staves and wands as melee weapons — despite the fact that, as far as normal weapons are concerned, they can only use daggers.

Magic does raise an interesting problem not addressed by Holmes. Since turns inside and outside of combat are radically different (100 seconds vs. 10 minutes), what relationship do they have to spell duration? Since Holmes describes combat turns as resulting "in at least as much muscular fatigue" I think that the answer to spell duration depends on when the spell is cast. If cast outside of combat, normal turns apply. Inside combat, combat turns apply. This should encourage planning ahead…


There are few interesting quirks here as well. Holmes allows for up to three abreast in a 10 ft. wide corridor:

One would not expect to get more than two or three figures fighting side by side in a ten foot corridor, for example.

Attacking from behind only garners a +2 to hit (but the target does not get to use a shield). There is also the ability to Parry. This has to be done prior to the attack. Doing so subtracts 2 from the attackers die; however, if the attack succeeds by rolling the exact target number, the parrying weapon breaks!

Finally, there is this juicy little blurb:

If an opposing figure is killed or withdraws, the attacker may advance or pursue immediately — if the player desires — or he may take some other action.

I am sorely tempted to interpret "some other action" to include another attack against someone in melee range. The question becomes, is this choice available to everyone, or just fighting men? Personally, I am leaning towards the latter.

All-in-all, I find myself truly intrigued by Holmesian combat and am itching to try it out…

Monday, May 23, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Strength Spell

The Strength spell, found in Holmes, reads as follows:

Strength — Level 2; Range: 0; Duration: 48 turns
This spell increases a fighter's strength by 2-8 points, a thief's by 1-6 points, or a cleric's by 1-4.

Upon reading this, my first reaction was to say, "to what mechanical effect?" The only mechanic given to the Strength characteristic by Holmes is the 10% experience bonus for fighters with a Strength of 13+. Since he bothers to mention thieves and clerics, Holmes must have something other than experience in mind.

Personally, I can see (and am interested in) three mechanical effects for Strength:
  • Damage
  • Opening Doors
  • Encumbrance
Within Holmes, Damage seems to have the strongest case:
  • Gauntlets of Ogre Power grant an addition 2d4 damage in HTH combat
  • A Potion of Giant Strength grants 3d6 HTH damage
  • Ray of Enfeeblement gives a 25% reduction in damage to its victims.
Encumbrance appears to have the weakest, because there really isn't a codified encumbrance rule:
A character with 600 gold pieces is likely to be considered as being heavily loaded, as the weight of the other equipment normally carried will make the character's load in the neighborhood of 75 pounds minimum (a fighting man will be far more loaded down, but it is assumed that such individuals are trained to be stronger and so able to carry more weight).
Opening Doors also doesn't seem to have much of a case, other than the fact that both Thieves and Magic Users have ways of increasing the odds of opening a door without the monster behind the door learning of their presence.

The duration of the spell (48 turns!) suggests that the spell has something to do with encumbrance or opening doors, rather than damage; however, there is already an encumbrance saving spell (Tenser's Floating Disc) that explicitly states that it can carry 5,000gp. Since encumbrance has such a weak case, I think this eliminates it as an option.

With damage, there are two directions to go: emulate the Gauntles of Ogre Power or emulate Ray of Enfeeblement. The first would add dice to damage rolls and the latter would add a % of the damage rolled. Given that Fighters seem to benefit more than Thieves or Clerics these two options could be parsed thusly:
  • Fighters +2d4, Thieves +1d6, Clerics +1d4 damage.
  • Fighters +50%, Thieves +25%, Clerics +1 damage.
Given that the average damage done per round is going to be between 3.5 and 5.5, the first option is going to be more powerful. One might also simplify the latter to:
  • Fighters +3, Thieves +2 and Clerics +1
When compared to the 2nd level Cleric spell Bless, this last option seems rather balanced. Bless affects a whole party with a +1, whereas Strength would give a potentially higher bonus to an individual; however, Bless lasts only 6 turns.

The base chance for knocking down a door is 2 in 6. If a three tiered bonus were used, it might look like this:
  • Fighters 5 in 6
  • Thieves 4 in 6
  • Clerics 3 in 6
While I am really interested in both versions (and I really like the idea of adding damage dice), I think the 48 turn duration strongly suggests the door opening application, rather than damage. There is also the reality that Ogres are said to have 18 Strength — but that isn't what gives them extra damage because 18 Str characters don't have any damage bonus. The door opening option becomes especially evocative when one remembers Holmes' description of dungeon doors:
Doors are usually closed and often stuck or locked. They have to have the locks picked or be smashed open. A roll of 1 or 2 indicates that a door has been forced open. Of course, if the party has to hit the door several time's before getting their roll of 1 or 2, there is no possibility of surprising the occupants of the room.

The Strength spell, then, becomes an especially useful tool for a party has no thief — it drastically increases the party's chance of surprising monsters in rooms. Even when a party does have a thief, it makes the party that much more stealthy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Magic Missile

Inevitably, when dealing with Holmes, one must come to terms with his unique version of the spell Magic Missile. I have to admit, I have been avoiding this. I have never been much of a fan of the spell, especially the more familiar it-automatically-hits version. It seems like such a waste of a spell slot, especially when compared to the much more useful Sleep or Charm Person. Personally I've seen Detect Evil put to better use than a Magic Missile spell.

Thus, knowing that Holmes requires a to-hit roll with his version, I did not much look forward to having to deal with this reality. After spending some time with the actual verbiage of the spell, however, I think the Holmes version may very well be my favorite version of the spell:

A conjured missile equal to a magic arrow, and it does 1 die roll plus 1 point (2-7) to any creature it strikes. Roll the missile fire like a long bow arrow (Missile Fire Table). Higher level magic-users fire more than one missile.

Note that there are two different actions in this description. The missiles are conjured and they are fired. Note also that at higher levels, magic-users fire more than one missile but they don't conjure more than one missile.

The implication is that the conjuring and the firing can happen at different times — how else can a magic-user fire more than one missile if he only conjures one at a time?

Thus, a magic-user could spend his down time prepping a quiver-full of magic missiles (and I personally would limit the possible total amount to one quiver) that could then be fired off as necessary. Given that Holmes deals with levels 1-3, this implies that a magic-user will be able to fire an additional missile per round at 4th level and every 3 levels after that (three missiles at 7th, etc.). These missiles would be all be one-use items that could only be fired by the magic-user who conjured them.

Since it appears that magic-users start off with all the 1st level spells that they know based on their Intelligence, this allows a player to be more creative with their low-level spell choices. One need not go the offensive route. With twenty magic missiles ready to go off whenever they are needed, a player is free to choose a utility spell instead.

This vision of the spell becomes especially evocative when one thinks of the Elf. What else would a bunch of elves have in their quivers other than a score of magically conjured arrows?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Constantine

Today is the feast of St. Constantine and his mother St. Helen. Constantine is one of those historical figures that demonstrates the axiom that winners write the history books, because he is so many different things to so many different people:
  • To those who want to dismiss the authority of the bible, he is the guy who edited the Bible and had books that didn't call Jesus God removed.
  • To those who wish to dismiss the holy days of the Church, he was a pagan who worshipped the sun and had Christmas moved to December 25th.
  • To those who want to dismiss the authority of the Church, he took over the Church and had Jesus declared a God at the First Ecumenical Council.
  • To some Protestants (who wish to justify separating themselves from the historic Church), he became Christian for political reasons and corrupted the Church.
  • To medieval Roman Catholics, he is the one through whom the popes claimed temporal power.
  • To many modern Christians he is the first Christian emperor of Rome, the founder of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) and the one who signed the Edict of Milan, which made it legal to be a Christian in the Roman Empire for the first time in history.
  • To Orthodox Christians, he is given the title Equal-to-the-Apostles because his choice to follow Christ led thousands to the Church.
  • Personally, he is a wonderfully flawed human being (Thank God they all are, otherwise I wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of ever following in their footsteps). Nonetheless, his choice to follow Christ has had such a profound affect upon history that there probably isn't a single person alive today that hasn't felt its consequences.
What I find inspiring about this list is that it reminds me of an old-school rumors table. There is a lot of wisdom in those tables. In fact, I would argue that they are a key to running a successful campaign — sandbox or no.

Every story has at least two sides (if not many more, as can be seen above). Allowing space for all of these different versions of events or things in your campaign world breathes life into a campaign. Without much effort it creates creates mystery — what is the truth? The beautiful part is that you don't even necessarily need to know what the truth really is. The players will decide for themselves, bringing about a greater truth than any Referee could come up with on their own.

I would also encourage any would-be Referee to think this same way about the actions of the player characters themselves. Just because the PCs have had a successful foray into the dungeon doesn't necessarily mean that the townsfolk, the demi-humans who live in the forest, the thieves' guild, etc. will see it in such a positive light. On the flip side, a we-barely-got-out-alive-(and-some-didn't) expedition might seem down right heroic to some.

Just as the rumor table can be the genesis for all kinds of adventures, so, too, can the cultivation of differing interpretations of overall campaign themes as well as PC actions. It is a small (and relatively easy) way to have a living campaign world where character action means something (and often something different depending upon who you ask).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Monsters

As I've pointed out before, Cook makes a distinction between the monsters in the Expert edition and those found in the Holmes Basic edition:

The monster section has been greatly expanded to include wilderness areas and deeper dungeon levels than were covered in the D&D Basic rules.

Cook also reinforces this distinction by providing two types of No. Appearing — dungeon and wilderness encounters.

Given that Holmes seems to paint a picture of the Dungeon as an otherworldly place that might even spontaneously produce wandering monsters in response to the adventuring parties that delve into its depths, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the monsters found in Holmes that are not found in Cook. Ostensibly, these beasts are primarily dungeon creatures; however, this view is tempered a bit when one looks at the wilderness encounter tables provided by Cook.

Despite this, however, if one eliminates all those monsters used by Cook in his wilderness encounter tables, one is still left with a fascinating list of monsters:

  • Carrion Crawler
  • Doppleganger
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • Grey Ooze
  • Green Slime
  • Giant Tick
  • Minotaur
  • Ochre Jelly
  • Owl Bear
  • Rust Monster

This list becomes even more fascinating when those monsters from Cook that are not used in his wilderness encounter tables are added (* = are also found in Holmes):

  • Black Pudding*
  • Caecilia
  • Cockatrice*
  • Cyclops
  • Elementals (including Djinn and Efreeti)
  • Golem
  • Hell Hound*
  • Invisible Stalker
  • Purple Worm*

This list can be roughly broken down into three categories:

1. Maintenance/Clean-up Crew
  • Caecilia
  • Carrion Crawler
  • Gelatinous Cube
  • Grey Ooze
  • Green Slime
  • Giant Tick
  • Ochre Jelly
  • Purple Worm
  • Rust Monster
2. Combo Creatures
  • Cockatrice
  • Cyclops
  • Doppleganger
  • Minotaur
  • Owl Bear
3. Magical Constructs/Summoned
  • Elemental
  • Golem
  • Hell Hound
  • Invisible Stalker

Taken together, these monsters playfully suggest an intelligence behind their existence. The Maintenance/Clean-up Crew could be magically created "fire and forget" janitors. The Combo Creatures could be magical experiments. The Magical Constructs/ Summoned creatures most obviously require come kind of magic spell to bring them into existence/this plane. They all also suggest that something went horribly wrong somewhere along the line.

I am inclined to understand this intelligence to be the ancient civilization suggested by Holmes' Wand Spells, Ring Spells and Potion Spells. It gives the Tower of Babel theme a nice Frankenstein's monster vibe. Not only did the ancient humans turn their back on God, they tried to do better than God by trying to become gods themselves. In their delusional pride, their creation turned out to be a monster, which brought the whole civilization crashing down around them.

Using this particular image amplifies Holmes' vision of the Dungeon. It becomes a magical scar left upon creation by those that wished to be gods. It becomes a blight — the ever-changing mother of monsters. I am even tempted to say that ancient magic attracts Dungeon activity. For example, when ancient magic items — even as minor an item as a +1 Sword (Greater) — are successfully removed from the Dungeon, it begins to move towards the item's new home in order to reclaim the ancient magic. This would, in part, explain why the Dungeon has so much magic and treasure buried within and why adventurers are always tempted to delve its depths. It also explains why Zenopus of the sample dungeon in the back of Holmes disappeared 50 years ago and why today there are no stairs that go to deeper depths of the Dungeon. It successfully recovered its magic and has moved on...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Saving Throws

There are some major discrepancies between Holmes and Cook when it comes to Saving Throws. For example, Cook has Thieves begin with worse saving throws than Holmes, but the opposite is true when it comes to Dwarves and Halflings. Cook does answer a pressing question in Holmes — what do Elves save as: Fighting Men or Magic-users? Cook has them somewhere in between (a logical conclusion given Holmes' justification for Elves having a d6 for HD — it falls in-between the d4 of Magic-users and the d8 of Fighting Men).

While all of this is interesting, these discrepancies don't really mean much. Whether or not one chooses Holmes or Cook to begin with, eventually one can only really go with Cook because he is the one who provides saves for higher level characters.

Nonetheless, Holmes does give us a fascinating take on what a Saving Throw is:

Even when a magical spell has been properly thrown, it does not always work. Anyone subjected to magical attack rolls a special die to see if the magic took effect (see below). This die roll is called a "saving throw" because if you roll the correct number (given in the chart below) or any higher number, you are unaffected or "saved."

Note those two very intriguing words: magical attack. Indeed, when he describes Dwarves, he states:

They are sturdy fighters and are especially resistant to magic as shown by their better saving throws against magical attack.

Given the fact that Dwarven saving throws are better across the board than any other class, this means that every time a character makes a save it is against a magical attack.

In other words, the bite of a giant spider and the breath weapon of a dragon are not natural — they are magical. This throws a gigantic wrench into the assumed naturalism used by Gygax, Arneson and their progeny (like myself). It also adds credence to the notion that the Dungeon is a magical, otherworldly place that has its own agenda.

This view, however, doesn't stop me from asking a few questions and making some assumptions from a naturalistic POV. Ignoring the demi-humans for a moment, Clerics have the best saving throws to begin with. The non-spell casters (Fighters and Thieves) have the worst. If one looks at the name-level of each of class, however, while Clerics still have the best saves, Magic-users have the worst.

This seems to indicate that being associated with divine magic consistently makes the Cleric more resistant to magical attacks than any other class. In contrast, while it initially gives them an advantage over non-spellcasters, being associated with arcane magic makes Magic-users more susceptible over time to magical attacks than any other class.

This reinforces the idea that the arcane magics of the ancients, while powerful, are dangerous. It also continues to suggest that civilization has made a move away from paganism towards some kind of Christianity — being strongly associated with the Church helps protect one from the nasty magical effects of the pagan (and ultimately evil) ancient civilization that still plague the world.

This pattern also holds true in context of the demi-humans, where the one race most closely associated with arcane magic (the Elf) is the most vulnerable to magical attacks. It begs the question, however, why demi-humans are overall more magic-resistant than humans.

One simple answer is to assume that the ancient civilization so closely related to powerful arcane magic (and the turning away from God to produce an evil slave economy) was a human civilization. The very close association humans had for so long with such powerful arcane magic made them all far more vulnerable to magic attacks than the demi-humans — especially those that never dabbled in magic like the Halflings and the Dwarves.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Holmes & Cook: The Dungeon

In my recent post about the thought experiment of creating an amalgam of the Holmes Basic & Cook Expert editions of D&D in isolation from every other version of the game, I started going down a bit of an unfamiliar road. Taken in isolation, Holmes seems to suggest that the dungeon is an otherworldly kind of place that is almost a character unto itself.

This suggestion garnered several comments reminding me of the naturalism used by both of the game's founders, Gygax and Arneson. Let me be clear: although the first two D&D books I ever owned were the Holmes Basic and the Cook Expert editions, I never really learned how to play the game until someone taught me. That person did so using 1ed. Thus, I have played with the naturalistic assumptions of Gygax and Arneson from the beginning. One need only look at my take on Rot Grubs to see that naturalism plays a very large role in the way I go about this hobby. This is, in large part, why I find this rather non-naturalistic vision of the dungeon that I am seeing in the pages of Holmes so fascinating.

Part of the reason I even went down this road was Cook's introduction where he has a whole section on how to use the "early" edition of Basic D&D with his Expert Edition. In this section he states:

The monster section has been greatly expanded to include wilderness areas and deeper dungeon levels than were covered in the D&D Basic rules.

Note how Cook differentiates wilderness from the dungeon. His presentation of monsters reinforces this distinction. The stat block provided by Cook adds a few more pieces of information that Holmes does not. One of these is No. Appearing. Here he gives two ranges. The first is for dungeon encounters. The second is for wilderness encounters. Further, he makes a distinction between the dungeon and the lair. He gives an example of a Gnome lair in the back of the book — something that looks like the sample dungeon in the Basic Edition, but which instead of having wandering monsters have 5 times the the normal number range of the monster living in the lair. Cook also states:

A zero means that the monster will only be encountered in a dungeon (or in wilderness) if specially placed by the DM.

Subsequently, there are over fifty monsters that are not normally found in dungeons, ranging from the antelope to the T-Rex. There is also one example that does not appear in the wilderness: Black Pudding.

My own naturalistic mind could see the Black Pudding thriving in a wilderness setting. One might argue that its vulnerability to fire might suggest that it can't be exposed to sunlight over the course of several hours or dry out, etc. I would counter that this would simply mean that it is a nocturnal hunter and its amorphous shape would easily allow it to find shelter from the sun during the day. Thus, I ask: Why would Black Pudding only be found in a dungeon?

These distinctions made by Cook between the wilderness encounter and the dungeon encounter as well as the wilderness monster and the dungeon monster only reinforce a Holmesian view of the dungeon where:

Ochre jellies, green slime, black puddings, etc. are randomly distributed, usually without treasure, most often in corridors and passageways.

My naturalistic mind also questions why the sample dungeon provided by Holmes has eight empty rooms. I grew up playing this game where every single room seemed to have a purpose — every room had something inside of it, even if it was simply dripping water, a funny smell or a pile of bones. Holmes' empty rooms are devoid of anything:

Room E is always an empty room. The size of the rooms and the number of doors is variable, as shown on the Dungeon Master's map.

Why should a third of all dungeon rooms always be empty? Why aren't they being used? Why haven't they been used sometime in the past? Why no other description than empty? Ironically, my own naturalistic thinking leads me to a very un-naturalistic answer: because the dungeon wants it that way.

Given that wandering monster encounters are always tailored to the size of the adventuring party and/or the level of the dungeon, given that that there is the implication that there are monsters that can normally only be found in dungeons (including virtually all monsters unique to the Holmes edition!), it is not much of a stretch to imagine that the dungeon is in constant flux. The reason that there are so many empty rooms in a dungeon is because they are new enough that no one has had time discover them and/or move in. The dungeon itself is a character in the game, constantly shifting and changing its shape so as to challenge those that dare to enter into its depths.

Personally, I find this Holmesian vision absolutely fascinating and even compelling. My naturalistic mind has been flailing about trying to find an explanation for why dungeons should behave this way. Thus, far I have not been able to find a satisfying answer; however, I am beginning to believe that one may not really be necessary.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Isidore the Martyr of Chios

St. Isidore, celebrated today, is credited with bringing Christianity to the Greek island of Chios, where his faith was made public to the commander of the Roman fleet under the Emperor Decius in the third century. When the saint refused to worship idols, he was beheaded.

His story reveals the value that Christians placed upon the bodies of the faithful in the ancient world. After his execution, the body of St. Isidore was shoved into a cistern and placed under guard. St. Myrope, a young Christian woman (celebrated on December 2), was willing to be tortured and killed in order to recover the body of St. Isidore.

The name Isidore in Greek means straight spear and reveals a bit about the saint and his occupation. The Orthodox Church celebrates a number of military saints and St. Isidore is one of them. He was an officer in the navy.

In my current campaign, all adventuring clerics are deacons, one of the three orders of ordination in the Church. This ordination happens prior to their adventuring career; however, recently I've been having second thoughts on this. Labyrinth Lord and 1ed + give clerics spells at first level. Despite the fact that the players in my current group would complain, I am coming around to prefer the OD&D and B/X version of cleric which does not get a spell until 2nd level. This transforms the cleric's first level of experience into a right of passage, where they prove themselves. This vision allows room for ordination to the adventuring deaconate to be delayed until clerics are due to be able to cast 3rd level.

This is all a round-about way of re-casting the military saint. I wouldn't blame anybody for seeing St. Isidore as a fighter or a even paladin; however, I would challenge this view and argue that the military saint is actually a cleric. Being a soldier explains the fighting ability and the proficiency with armor. Note that St. Isidore brings Christianity to the people of Chios — very cleric-like behavior. Finally, the OD&D and B/X vision of the cleric, with no spells at first level, leaves room for saints like Isidore to be seen as low-level, non-ordained clerics.


The Anchor of St. Sulita

This device appears to be a smooth stone weighing about 100 lbs., with two holes carved in it. It will radiate strongly of magic if detected for. Its efficacy will be revealed when a rope is threaded through the holes and it is used as an anchor. If the person throwing the anchor into the sea pictures a destination within one day's travel, the anchor will unerringly pull the ship to that destination; however, the path taken will always be a straight line. Therefore, any obstacles will affect the boat accordingly (it will be pulled ashore on an island, be torn apart by rocks, sunk by holes being torn in the bottom by coral reefs, etc.). The Anchor may be used in this way once per day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Holmes on Traps

Given the relative comfort (and even enthusiasm) for traps that have a save or die! mentality around the OSR, I was rather taken aback by the following advice given by Holmes to the would-be Dungeon Master:

Traps should not be of the "Zap! You're dead!" variety but those which a character might avoid or overcome with some quick thinking and a little luck. Falling into a relatively shallow pit would do damage only on a roll of 5 or 6 (1-6 hit points at most) but will delay the party while they get the trapped character out.
Coupled with the rule that traps only go off on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6 when characters go by/over them, Holmes' vision of traps reminds me of Monty Python's send-up of the Spanish Inquisition.

This is only reinforced by his suggestions for traps other than the fall-into-the-pit variety:

Hidden rooms, movable walls, teleportation devices, illusion rooms, dead ends, etc., make interesting variations.

Having spent some time meditating on this, I have arrived at another Aha! moment. This advice about traps says less about Holmes' philosophy on save or die! than it does about his vision of what a dungeon looks like. The key phrase in his advice is "delay the party."

All of this advice is in context of stocking dungeons. Holmes very specifically says, "Many rooms should be empty." Indeed, he follows his own advice in the sample dungeon where 8 of the 22 rooms are keyed as "E" for empty. Only 9 of the 22 have monster encounters. Holmes suggests that a few special items be placed first, followed by a random assignment of monsters and treasures where a 1-2 on a d6 indicates a monster. If one assumes that the group of pirates and the 4th level magic user are the "few items" placed by Holmes in his dungeon, that gives a ratio of 7 encounters to 20 rooms — approximately 2 in 6. This suggests that a proper dungeon is basically divided equally into three types of rooms:
  • Those with monster encounters.
  • Those that have something of interest, but no monsters.
  • Those that are empty.
Thus, if such a large segment of the dungeon is monster-less and even empty, why would the primary function of a trap be to "delay the party?"

I believe the answer lies in the way Holmes presents wandering monsters. Holmes states that:

The number of wandering monsters appearing should be roughly equal to the strength of the party encountering them.

This strength is determined by the number of HD the monster has when compared to the level of the party or the level of the dungeon. Thus an average encounter of 1 HD creatures would have around 2-6 individuals. If encountered on the third level of a dungeon or by a third level party, this number should be tripled.

In other words, the main danger of dungeon exploration is not traps, or "boss" encounters but wandering monsters! Thus, traps are not meant to be dangerous in and of themselves, but rather in slowing down the party so that there are more chances of the Dungeon Master rolling a '6' during a wandering monster check.

This suggests that the dungeon is an ever-changing wilderness that can never be tamed. When one asks the very reasonable question "where do these monsters come from?" my own reading of Holmes implies that the answer is the dungeon itself.

Thus, the Holmesian dungeon is not really akin to a lair, where monsters live. Rather, it seems to be a character unto itself — constantly adjusting in order to challenge the adventuring parties that dare to explore its secrets.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Religion

One of the interesting implications of the Wand Spells, Ring Spells and Potion Spells found in the Scroll Magic Items table in Holmes is that divine magic is a recent phenomenon. Holmes states:
The spells written on scrolls can be read only by magic users, except the protection spells.

Thus, all of the various spell effects in Wand Spells, Ring Spells and Potion Spells that emulate Cleric spells fall under arcane magic, not divine magic. The implication is that divine magic did not yet exist. Given that Holy Symbols in Holmes are not generic pseudo-pagan symbols but crosses, divine magic finds its source in a pseudo-Christianity if not in Christianity itself. Thus, the transition from the implied ancient civilization of the powerful arcane knowledge found in Wand Spells, Ring Spells and Potion Spells to the current civilization where much of that arcane knowledge is lost and divine magic is present is a transition from paganism to Christianity.

I also find it interesting that so many of the arcane spells available to this ancient arcane civilization are Control spells (Control Dragons, Control Giants, Control Plants, etc.). This implies a kind of Tower of Babel, found in the eleventh chapter of Genesis:
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

One of the keys to understanding this story is to understand the phrase "they had brick for stone." When understood metaphorically, the Tower of Babel is a story about a society that not only turns its back on God, but tries to replace God. Therefore, "they had bricks for stone" refers to the human condition. Stones are free individuals, none of whom are exactly alike — each has a unique place in the world. Bricks are uniform. Therefore, people become disposable as society forces all people to be exactly the same. Everyone must conform and be interchangeable. The Tower of Babel is a vision of slavery.

Given the amount of Control spells available to the implied ancient civilization in Holmes, it is very easy to imagine a culture built upon a slave-economy. Thus, while this ancient culture had access to immense arcane power, in trying to exercise that power sans God, it became oppressive and evil. In doing so, they doomed themselves.

It is very easy to imagine a slave revolt led by dragons and giants that brings this ancient civilization to a very abrupt and violent end.

The Quondam (or classical) civilization that existed between this ancient civilization and the current one implied in Holmes could take on several different forms:
  • A Christian civilization who is rescued from the dark era of dragon and giant domination through the coming of Christ. This civilization, for a variety of reasons, is in decline. The current game takes place when the outward regions of empire have been abandoned.
  • A pre-Christian civilization that tries to turn back to God but repeats the same mistakes as the ancients. The coming of Christ marks the end of this classical period — He comes as this civilization is in collapse.
  • A pagan civilization that purposely seeks to regain the power and splendor of the ancients (possibly either lead by dragons or giants or lead by those that see these monsters as liberators). Christ comes to rescue humanity from this slavery. With this version, the current civilization would have pockets of Christians in a sea of pagans still trying to hold on what once was.
Despite the appearance of a negative outcome, the end of the Tower of Babel story is actually a happy ending. As human beings we are properly stones, not bricks. We are meant to have distinct and unrepeatable shapes, sizes and colors. Each of us is called to add something truly unique to the world.

Personally, I find this to be a beautiful image from which to understand and appreciate the OSR. Each of us has a unique way of doing this hobby that we all love. I find it interesting that Holmes — the edition that introduced me to this hobby — so powerfully implies this vision of the game.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Potion Spells

There is one more category of ancient spells implied by Holmes in his Scrolls Magic Items table: Potion Spells. Like Wand Spells and Ring Spells, there are those that duplicate known spell effects (Invisibility, Haste [Speed], Fly, Healing, Clairvoyance, Fire Resistance, Levitation, ESP and Polymorph Self); however, there are quite a few that continue to infer an ancient civilization that had immense arcane magic that is now lost.


This functions much the same as the 3rd level Clairvoyance spell, so it is also 3rd level.

Control Animal

Similar to the Ring Spell Animal Control, it specifies that the spell affects only normal or giant animals, not fantastic ones; however, it does not specify small, medium or large. Regardless 3d6 animals are controlled without a save. This suggests a 5th level spell.

Control Dragon

There are several types of this spell — each one tailored to a specific type of dragon (interestingly, Holmes only has stats for four types, whereas Cook suggests there are six). This spell controls 1-3 dragons and there does not seem to be a saving throw. This suggests a 6th level spell.

Control Giant

Similar to Control Dragon, there are different versions for each type of giant and it controls 1-4 individuals without a saving throw. Another 6th level spell.

Control Human

This is identical to the Ring Spell.

Control Plant

This is similar to the Ring Spell as well.

Control Undead

This controls 3d6 HD of undead, seemingly without saving throws. This seems to duplicate the reverse of Turn Undead. Given that it takes a 9th level Cleric to automatically turn every type of undead, this spell should only be available at 9th level or later. Thus, it is a 5th level spell.


The closest extant spell to Diminution is Polymorph Self, a 4th level spell. Since the transformation is less powerful (there is only one form — a 6" tall version of the target), it suggests a 3rd level spell.

Gaseous Form

Similar in effect as Dimension Door (a 4th level spell) without the benefit of not being a gas that cannot affect its surroundings. Thus, it is a 3rd level spell.

Giant Strength

This is a specific version of Polymorph Self, but without the external physical change. This suggests a 4th level spell.


See Diminution.


This is similar to Giant Strength, although it has a diminishing affect the higher level the target. This suggests a 3rd level spell.


This is a super-version of Protection from Evil and Bless. This suggests 3rd level spell.


This is not similar to any extant spell and is extremely powerful. This not only suggests a 6th level spell, but a very expensive physical spell component (say, 10,000+ gp per year gained through the spell).

Treasure Finding

This is similar to the Wand Spell Metal Detection; however, it is more specific. This suggests a 2nd level spell.

Potion Spell Table

  1. Clairaudience (3rd level)
  2. Control Animal (5th level)
  3. Control Dragon (6th level)
  4. Control Giant (6th level)
  5. Control Undead (5th level)
  6. Diminution/Growth (3rd level)
  7. Giant Strength (4th level)
  8. Heroism (3rd level)
  9. Invulnerability (3rd level)
  10. Longevity (3rd level)
  11. Treasure Finding (2nd level)
  12. Roll Twice
As with Wand Spells and Ring Spells, this powerful arcane knowledge is lost and can only be found through adventuring.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Ring Spells

As he does with Wand Spells, Holmes lists Ring Spells under Scrolls in his Magic Items tables. Like Wand Spells, there are those that duplicate known spells (Invisibility, Fire Resistance and Telekineses); however there are several that suggest even more powerful ancient arcane magic than those found in Wand Spells.

Animal Control

Charm Monster (a 4th level spell) affects any one creature like charm person unless they are 3HD or less, in which case 3d6 creatures are affected. Animal Control specifies animals, as opposed to any creature; however, no saving throw is indicated. In addition, 3d6 small animals, 2d8 medium-sized animals or 1d6 large animals are affected. It requires concentration. As such, I think it a 4th level spell.


This is an intriguing special effect. It is a curse that requires its victim to do (nearly) the opposite of what is requested of them. Holmes gives the example that if told not to kill themselves, victims of the spell might attempt to kill others. As a curse, it requires a Remove Curse spell to remove. The closest special effect found in an extant spell in either Holmes or Cook is Confusion (a 4th level spell). It only controls its victims for 12 rounds. This suggests that Contrariness is 5th level.

Control Human

Whereas Charm Person affects one individual, Control Human may affect up to 6HD at one time and all saves are at -2. This suggests that Control Human is a 2nd level spell.

Djinni Summoning

Although Conjure Elemental (a 5th level spell) conjures creatures with a greater HD, a Djinni has several spell-like special abilities. While Conjure Elemental has an indefinite duration (vs. 1 day with Djinni Summoning), it requires concentration and Djinni Summoning does not. Therefore Djinni Summoning is also a 5th level spell.

Plant Control

Growth of Plant is a 4th level spell and affects 3000' sq. Plant Control can affect 1d6 large plants or a 10'x10' area of smaller plants. This suggests a 3rd level spell.

Protection (Plate +1)

Shield grants an AC 2 vs. missiles and an AC 4 in melee. Protection from Evil (1st level) gives a +1 to saves. Thus Protection (Plate +1) is 2nd level.

Protection +1, 5'r.

Protection from Evil 10'r is 3rd level; therefore Protection +1, 5'r. should be 2nd level.

Spell Storing

There really is no extant spell in either Holmes or Cook that is similar to this effect. Given its extreme power and utility, I would say that it requires 1000gp/spell level stored in the object prepared (x10 the amount required to create a scroll in Holmes) and is a 6th level spell.

Spell Turning

This effect is similar to Anti-magic Shell (6th level) which affactes all spells coming in or out, canceling them for a duration of 12 turns. Spell Turning affects 2d6 spells directed at the caster and reflects them back. This suggests a 6th level spell.

Water Walking

Water Breathing is a 3rd level spell. This suggests that Water Walking is a 2nd level spell.


This curse affects defense, attack and carrying ability. Curse (the reverse of Bless) is a 2nd level spell that lasts 6 turns. This suggests that weakness (which can only be removed with a Remove Curse spell) should be at least 3rd level.

X-Ray Vision

Wizard Eye (4th level) has a range of 240', has infravision and a duration of 6 turns. X-Ray Vision can see through either 30' (stone, etc.) or 60' (wood, etc.) and has a duration of 1 turn. This suggests a 2nd level spell.

Ring Spell List

  1. Animal Control (4th level)
  2. Contrariness (5th level)
  3. Control Human (2nd level)
  4. Djinni Summoning (4th level)
  5. Plant Control (3rd level)
  6. Protection (Plate +1) (2nd level)/Protection +1, 5'r. (2nd level)
  7. Spell Storing (6th level)
  8. Spell Turning (6th level)
  9. Water Walking (2nd level)
  10. Weakness (3rd level)
  11. X-Ray Vision (2nd level)
  12. Roll Twice
Like Wand Spells, these are ancient spells that have been lost and therefore can only be gained by finding them through adventuring.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Today the Orthodox Church commemorates an interesting event. St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes in one of his extant letters:

At about the third hour of the day, an enormous Cross, formed of light, appeared in the heaven above holy Golgotha and reaching to the holy Mount of Olives, being seen not by one or two only, but manifest with perfect clarity to the whole multitude of the city; not, as one might suppose, rushing swiftly past in fancy, but seen openly above the earth many hours in plain sight, and overcoming the beams of the sun with its dazzling rays.

This letter was written to Emperor Constantius, a strong supporter of Arianism. As someone who championed the Council of Nicea, which saw Arianism as heresy, St. Cyril understood this as a sign of the righteousness of his cause against Arianism. He wrote to the Emperor trying to get him to support the Nicene position.

I can't help but note that the wikipedia entry on St. Cyril disregards this event as merely a dream:

Cyril of Jerusalem wrote a letter to Constantius in 351 discussing different aspects of the Christian faith and more interestingly discusses his dream of a burning cross

This, despite the fact that several ancient writers speak about it as an event witnessed by soldiers, men, women and children...


Supernatural Events Table

What happens…
  1. Local body of water turns red with blood.
  2. Sky goes dark for 1d6 days.
  3. Religious symbol appears as a bright light in the sky.
  4. All animals of a certain type die: 1 = birds; 2 = cattle; 3 = fish; 4 = amphibians; 5= cats; 6 = rodents
  5. A pest population explodes: 1 = flies; 2 = rats; 3 = frogs; 4 = lice; 5 = locusts; 6 = moths
  6. A local geographic feature begins to bleed.
  7. The sky starts to rain fire.
  8. An epidemic resistant to magical healing sweeps the land.
  9. Entire populations fall into a deep sleep.
  10. The dead walk.
What is the cause…
  1. Natural phenomena.
  2. Magical attack by enemy forces.
  3. Collateral damage of a nearby magical battle.
  4. An ancient artifact turned itself on.
  5. An extra-planar rift.
  6. An extra-terrestrial event.
  7. An incursion from the Deep Dark.
  8. A magical experiment gone wrong.
  9. An illusion.
  10. A party of adventurers really messed up.
What the locals think…
  1. It's a reason to revert to an old/new religion.
  2. It's a reason to throw a big party.
  3. It's the end of the world.
  4. It's an omen telling of the return of a dead king.
  5. It shows that a recent political event was blessed.
  6. It shows that a recent political event was cursed.
  7. It's a certain race's fault: 1 = minority human; 2 = elf; 3 = dwarf; 4 = halfling; 5 = goblinoids; 6 = orcs
  8. It's a certain class's fault: 1 = magic users; 2 = clerics; 3 = fighters; 4 = thieves
  9. It's a call for sacrifice: 1 = gold; 2 = magic items; 3 = animals; 4 = gems; 5 = rare spices; 6 = humans
  10. It's normal.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Give Me B&W Art

Today, over at Grognardia, James asked a very interesting question:

What are your feelings about the increase in the illustrations per page we see in a lot of contemporary gamebooks? Do you like it? Do you view it as essential? And, most importantly from my perspective, has this increase affected your feelings about games and game products that don't include as much artwork as you might see in, say, a WotC or Paizo offering?

I find it interesting because, when it comes to my gaming products, I much prefer B&W art over the elaborate art offered up by the likes of WotC and Paizo. One could argue that this is because I am an old fart who came into the hobby with that often amateurish art of the 70s and I am doing nothing other than indulging in nostalgia. While there might be some truth to this, I don't believe it is a fair assessment of my own feelings on the matter.

At the root of my feelings is the idea of freedom and participation. While there are exceptions, overwhelmingly B&W art is suggestive while full color art is authoritative.

B&W art invites me to participate in it by purposely leaving out details (color) and gives me the freedom to fill in the details. Indeed, the most endearing, enduring and evocative art in the hobby for me is all B&W. The art that has inspired is B&W. The art that has affected the way I imagine my worlds and specific aspects of it are B&W.

Full color art (4C) fills in all those details for me. It doesn't invite my participation at all — especially the high-detail 4C art of WotC and Paizo. They authoritatively state: "This is what this looks like. Period." I am not invited to the party. I am actively being discouraged from Doing It Myself. Though there are examples of 4C art out there that are endearing, enduring and evocative (Erol Otis immediately comes to mind), overwhelmingly, 4C art is absent from my imagination when I go about this hobby because its authoritative nature leaves no room for my participation.

Thus, if you want to invite me to the table, give me some B&W art and leave the 4C at the door.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Wand Spells

What is a Wand Spell? This is one of those questions that Holmes forces us to ask, because in his magic items tables under Scrolls is listed the "Any wand spell" scroll without any further explanation as to what Wand Spells are, though it seems that they are spells only usable by magic-users:
Select the spells from the appropriate list by some random method. The spells written on the scrolls can be read only by magic-users, except for the protection spells.
Indeed, when one combines Holmes with Cook there are a number of wands that directly duplicate magic user spells:
  • Wand of Fire Balls (Fire Ball)
  • Wand of Illusion (Phantasmal Force)
  • Wand of Lightning Bolts (Lightning Bolt)
  • Wand of Polymorphing (Polymorph Self & Polymorph Others)
However, this leaves us with eight wand effects that either are unique, or are mechanically different than the spells that they emulate.

Wand of Magic Detection

This wand has a range of 20' and has no given duration (I am assuming this to be instantaneous). The 1st level magic user spell has a range of 60' and a duration of 2 turns.

This is obviously a less powerful spell, but Detect Magic is a 1st level spell. Do we introduce 0 level spells? I am sorely tempted to say that 0 level spells can take up a 1st level spell slot at an exchange for three 0 level spell slots. Thus, this Wand Spell could be memorized three times, but only take up one 1st level spell slot. Personally (though I am tempted to introduce the idea of 0 level spells) I think I would rather have it as a 1st level spell that when cast, allows the caster to use the instantaneous effect three times in a 24 hr. period.

Wand of Enemy Detection

There are no mechanics available for this wand in either Holmes or Cook (the stats are in Moldvay's Basic). Given that other Wands of Detection are 20' and instantaneous, I'll work from there.

The closest spell available that this wand seems to emulate is the 2nd level Cleric Spell Know Alignment. Both Holmes and Cook give this spell a range of 10'; however, in Holmes it has a duration of 2 turns and in Cook it has a duration of 1 round.

The Wand Spell has a greater range, but garners less specific information. The spell level would therefore depend upon which version of Know Alignment is used. If Holmes, then the Wand Spell is 1st level. If Cook, then it is 2nd level.

Wand of Secret Door & Trap Detection

Given that Cook separates these effects into two different wands, I am going to assume that they are two different spells, only one of which has any semblance to an extant spell — Find Traps, a 2nd level Cleric spell. Find Traps has a range of 30' and a duration of 2 turns. Both duration and range are greater than the Wand Spells, which have a range of 20' and are instantaneous. This makes both Wand Spells 1st level.

Wand of Metal Detection

Given that this has similar mechanics to Secret Door Detection (which also has no semblance to any extant spell), I will also classify this Wand Spell as 1st level.

Wand of Fear

The 2nd level Cleric Spell, Cause Fear (the reverse spell version of Remove Fear) causes 1 creature to flee in fear for 2 turns. In contrast, the Wand Spell creates a cone 60' long with a base of 30' affecting every creature within for 1-3 turns. This suggests that the Wand Spell should be 3rd level.

Wand of Cold

Though Cook seems to indicate that Cone of Cold is an extant spell, it does not appear in his spell lists. The wand does the same amount of damage as a Wand of Fire Balls (6d6), which suggests that it should do the same amount of damage as the spell Fire Ball — 1d6/spell caster level. Although the total area affected is smaller than Fire Ball (a 60' long cone with a base of 30 is 900' sq. vs. approximately 1264' sq. of a 40' sphere), that area is a bit easier to control. Whereas fire will conform to what ever space it is in to create the 1264' sq. ft., I can't imagine extreme cold would. This makes the Wand Spell 3rd level.

Wand of Paralysis

The extant spell that has similar effects as the Wand Spell is Hold Person, a 3rd level Magic User Spell. Hold Person only affects humans, demi-humans, and humanoids the size of an ogre or less. Up to 1d4 creatures may be affected, though if only 1 is targeted, it saves at a -2. The duration is 1 turn/caster level. The Wand Spell affects every creature within a cone 60' long and a base of 30'. The duration is 6 turns. This suggests that the Wand Spell should be 4th level.

Wand of Negation

The Wand of Negation cancels the effect of another wand or staff for one round. Dispel Magic affects all magic effects within a 20' x 20' cube, depending upon the level of the spell caster; however, it specifies that it does not affect items. Dispel Magic is 3rd level. I am inclined to make the Wand Spell 1st level.

Wand Spell Table

  1. Cone of Cold (3rd Level)
  2. Cone of Fear (3rd Level)
  3. Cone of Paralysis (4th Level)
  4. Enemy Detection (1st Level) [assuming Holmes trumps Cook]
  5. Magic Detection (1st level)
  6. Metal Detection (1st level)
  7. Negation (1st level)
  8. Secret Door Detection (1st level)
  9. Trap Detection (1st level)
  10. Roll Twice

Wand Spells are of ancient origin and represent lost magical knowledge. They are not available at the beginning of the game nor are they available for purchase through any Wizard's Guild or higher level Magic User. They must be found. Remember, Magic Users must roll according to their Intelligence in order to be able to learn these spells. Otherwise, they can only be used in scroll form.