Sunday, August 12, 2012

Non-Human Characters and Monsters in High Fantasy

The optional rules (for “advanced players only”) regarding non-human player characters barely encompasses half of page 110 in Jeffrey Dillow's High Fantasy role playing game.  These rules provide a handful of game mechanic details only; the 'color' which otherwise abounds in the book is absent.  Options are presented for Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits*, and Giants.

Elves can see further in the dark than humans and, by virtue of their keen hearing, they can “detect invisible persons.”  Elves also have magic resistance which is cumulative with magic resistance gained as a wizard.  As a balancing factor:  “Due to their highly magical nature no elf may touch or remain in contact with any type of metal.  This means elves may not wear any type of metal armor.”

Dwarf player characters are limited to Jeweler or Armorer for subclass options, but they gain +10% on those abilities.  Dwarves also “gain + 5 percent when using hammers and axes.”

Hobbits cannot use two-handed weapons and suffer a penalty of ten to their offense in melee.  However, they receive “a plus 10 when using missiles.”

Player character giants are not allowed to have a subclass, but they “may use two-handed weapons in one hand” and “may add 10% to their encumbrance.”  Giants range in size from seven to ten feet.

The Creature Descriptions, according to Dillow, “includes many of the common creatures from mythology and fantasy novels.”  Dillow presents a 'Creature Table' consisting of approximately two-and-a-half pages which provides essential statistics for a variety of creatures both real and fantastic.  Dillow also supplies “brief descriptions” for just over thirteen pages.  The reader is left with the impression that Dillow intends his 'Creature Table' to be used in conjunction with the AD&D Monster Manual.

High Fantasy has the familiar Gygaxian variety of dragons differentiated by color/metal (including Chromatic and Platinum).  The nature of their breath weapons is not disclosed (hence the need for the Monster Manual).  Dillow provides the following advice in the description for dragons:  “Use dragons sparingly and take the time to build up folklore and habitats for them...”

There are also five types of demon – numbered one through five.  (With 'Balro' listed separately, 'Type VI' would have been redundant.)  Without details about the different types, one is obliged to consult the Monster Manual.  There are also all of the different Monster Manual giant beetle types (except 'water' – perhaps the most under-utilized of the giant beetles).

It seems that Dillow first presented the 'Carrion Creeper' as the 'Carrion Crawler,' given that the word “Creeper” appears slightly off-set after “Carrion” in the Creature Table.

Dillow defines 'Gnoll' as “a cross between a Gnome and a Troll. It does not regenerate.”  Trolls come in hill, stone, woods, river, and tunnel varieties which “can possess other abilities but it is up to the judge to assign them.”  Gnomes “fight with stone spears and axes” and give dwarves a bad name because the gnomes “are the ones who truly lust for gold and gems...”

I have no idea how Dillow decided to assign statistics to various creatures.  A giant rat, while still smaller than a lion, has Offense and Defense scores that are slightly higher than a lion's and puts a dire wolf to shame.  (However, a dire wolf has 5% magic resistance.)  A giant slug is tougher than a tyrannosaurus rex and has a 25% magic resistance besides; a saber tooth tiger is tougher than them both (but lacks magic resistance).  Also, in High Fantasy, if a kobold and an orc get into a fight, smart money is on the kobold.

*  Why spell out hobbit but leave the 'g' off of Balrog? Perhaps by the time Dillow wrote High Fantasy, 'hobbit' had encroached sufficiently into the language to become “genericized.” In my Second College Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (© 1978), 'hobbit' is defined as “[a]n imaginary being having a very small human form with some rabbitlike qualities and characterized by sociability, domesticity, and a peace-loving nature.”


  1. Are elves allowed to use metal weapons?


    1. There is no explicit statement in this regard; however, my interpretation of the spirit of the rules is -- no, they cannot.

      One can argue that the hilt of a metal weapon is not necessarily metal but -- using the same logic -- a person could wear metal armor over a leather jerkin and not be in contact with metal.

      Archery is still possible without metal arrowheads, but what do elves do about melee? Staves? Bone knives?

  2. Just found this tonight while searching for High Fantasy. Glad to see it's getting more exposure. I managed to get a copy a few years ago and it's a nice little gem.