Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Rangeress and the Remorhaz

Hobgoblins have baboon faces...just so you know

Observant readers have doubtless noticed a new tab among the row of pages.  This new page features the entire rules to Adventures in the Dungeon, a game by Gary Gygax.  In 2011, Zenopus Archives posted about the game and even provided comprehensive charts and summaries.  Yet there are some observations your humble host would care to make and – in this regard – Thoul's Paradise presents Gary's rules the way Gary wanted you to see them.  The only difference is that certain terms claimed as intellectual property by Wizards of the Coast have been replaced with 'Ocular Terror,' 'Cadaver Creeper,' and 'Brownish Brute.'

Adventures in the Dungeon was published as part of The Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album from Troubador Press in 1979.  The album consists of alternating pages of (uncolored) art by Greg Irons with the facing pages providing a narrative that describes and connects the images.  The story is about a stalwart band of adventurers exploring a dungeon; many 'colorful' details are mentioned to aid anyone using the album for it's intended purpose.  The rules for Adventures in the Dungeon are presented at the bottom of the narrative pages, one or two paragraphs per page.

Troubador Press claimed copyright to the album, but TSR claimed copyright to the “illustrations of AD&D monsters and text.”  Supposedly, Gygax wrote that text but he held the copyright to Adventures in the Dungeon separately.  I find this interesting.  Was this a way for Gary to get some income separate from TSR's slice of the pie?  The second sentence of the rules begins, “Normally a Dungeons game...”  Note that Gygax doesn't say “an AD&D game” or “a Dungeons & Dragons game” or even “a role-playing game” – he says “a Dungeons game.”  Was this done to avoid using the D&D trademark in a work copyrighted by Gygax and not TSR?

In full, that second sentence reads, “Normally a Dungeons game has very few actual rules and the play is controlled by a Dungeon Master.”  So, in the same year that the Dungeon Masters Guide was released, Gygax made the claim that the “Dungeons game has very few actual rules.”  I wonder if the irony was intentional.

The 'dungeon map game board' was clearly derived from the 'sample floor plan' in the Holmes basic game book.  Was Gary's copyright supposed to include this derivative work?  What about the “illustrations of AD&D monsters” on the game board?

In the game, players control characters that fight monsters in a dungeon and – if successful – recover the Holy Talisman of St. Cuthbert.  In less than 2,400 words, Gygax presents a game that capably conveys the essence of (1979) D&D play.  There are four characters, each with its own abilities:  Paladin, (Dwarven) Fighter, Wizard, and...Rangeress.  Adventures in the Dungeon and discussions thereof are likely the only places where the word “Rangeress” occurs (or will ever occur).  I can understand why Gygax would want to avoid using a thief or a cleric in this introductory game.  For commercial purposes, I can understand why Gygax would want to include an obviously female character.  A sorceress rather than wizard may not be ideal because it could be seen as the 'weakest' character.  A female Dwarf is out of the question, of course.  What's left?  Paladina?  Paladinette?  Given these considerations, 'Rangeress' sort of makes sense.

After a monster is defeated, the dice are rolled.  (The game requires two normal dice.)  If the result is 12, then the characters find the Holy Talisman.  I would change it so that if doubles are rolled (other than boxcars), the characters find a healing potion that allows a character to recover one hit.

The movement rate is nine squares per turn, but if a monster is not encountered, the characters move an additional nine squares.  Why nine squares?  Why not point-to-point movement?  I would change it so that if the characters travel nine squares and do not reach a 'monster area,' a check is made for wandering monsters.  If an exact score of seven is rolled on the dice, the characters would encounter a party of goblins.  Otherwise, there would be no wandering monster encounter that turn.  The number of goblins in the party would equal the number of characters; they would have one hit each and perhaps a -1 to their attack.  There would be no possibility of treasure.  This 'wandering monster' nuisance would cause players to plan movement.  It also introduces the possibility that the characters may die after finding the Holy Talisman but before exiting the dungeon.

Gygax offers a scoring method with only four possibilities; essentially, the number of surviving characters after the Holy Talisman is found.  Gygax encourages players to keep track of their scores because with repeated “runs through the dungeon,” players should find it easier to accomplish the goal.  Instead of a four-option scoring system, I would have players total the characters' remaining hits.

'Area 10' features a remorhaz.  Why a remorhaz?  Why?  It's a very rare monster that inhabits “only the chill wastes” (according to the Monster Manual).  Gygax uses a remorhaz, but there are no dragons in the dungeon.  Why use a remorhaz when you could have used a dragon?


  1. Why a remorhaz? Why?

    That's the question we all have to ask ourselves.

  2. Remorhaz are the shit, that's why. Check that moustache. Like something out of a Chinese hell.