Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Two Most Famous Rogues of Fantasy

Art by Keith Parkinson
I am, of course, speaking of Chert and Gord.  Oh, wait, no I'm not.

Since Dungeons & Dragons was inspired by the swords & sorcery literary genre, the natural next step was to model – in game terms – concepts and characters from that genre.   Also, since Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories form a veritable cornerstone of that genre, an adaptation of that duo was inevitable.

In the earlier days of Dragon magazine (or The Dragon as it was then known), Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay contributed a feature called 'Giants in the Earth' wherein notable heroes of fantasy were presented in D&D terms.  Of course:
These heroes are all in some fashion exceptional, and thus they deviate a bit in their qualities and capabilities from standard D & D. Also, most originated in other universes or worlds, and so were not bound by the same set of restrictions that apply to the average D & D character. Some are multi-classed, for example. This system has been used to describe the skills and abilities of the characters as they appear in the literature, even though some of these combinations and conditions are not normally possible. In addition, some minor changes have been made in order to bring them in line with the game and to enhance playability.
The rules were such that special accommodations were necessary to portray the characters.  Because they come from “other worlds or universes,” they are “not bound by...[D & D's] restrictions.”  This would seem to be explanation enough, but the apologia continues with reference to how the characters “appear in the literature” and the necessity of bringing them “in line with the game.”  Yet, just as the rules are open to interpretation, so are works of fiction and the characters within. Over the years, Lankhmar's finest rogues have been depicted as D&D characters in a variety of ways.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were given the 'Giants in the Earth' treatment in the twenty-seventh issue of The Dragon (July, 1979).  Here is Fafhrd's listing.

(The) Dragon #27 (July 1979)
Notice that, just as there is a percentage for 18 Strength, there are percentages associated with 18 Dexterity and 18 Constitution.  Here, Fafhrd is a 20th level fighter/8th level thief.  However, “Fafhrd's youth was spent as an apprentice skald” and he “retains some of his training as a skald, and in this respect he can be treated as a second level bard (without the druidic spells).”  Also, Graywand, Fafhrd's weapon, is treated as a +2 sword.

Deities & Demigods™ Cyclopedia
The following year, the Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia was published with a different version of Nehwon's favorite sons.  Here Fafhrd is a 15th level ranger/13th level thief/5th level bard.  His linguistic aptitude is described:  “he can read and write all of the major ones of Nehwon and there is an 80% chance he will understand any obscure one he is exposed to.”   Also, he “is able to climb walls and hide in shadows with a +20% over his usual thiefly base.”  His wisdom has dropped by one and his Armor Class is 3 instead of zero, but at least he has gained a hit point and his strength has increased from 18(94) to 18(00).  Additionally, Graywand is no longer a magic sword, but the name of any bastard sword he carries.

Lankhmar: City of Adventure
In 1985, the pair appeared in the Lankhmar: City of Adventure sourcebook.  Schick, in his Heroic Worlds, claimed this was “one of the best settings for AD&D.”  The characters are presented in three power levels, described as age groups.  Fafhrd is still a ranger/thief/bard, but he doesn't use any spell abilities.  Also, as a thief, his level has decreased substantially but “he climbs as a 15th level thief and is not subject to any modifiers for ice and snow when cling (sic).”  He also gets +3 on any saving throw against cold.  His strength has diminished to 18(75), his intelligence reduced to 15, and his wisdom has fallen to 10.  His dexterity became 17, his Armor Class 6, but his constitution increased to 19.  No mention is made of his affinity with languages.

Lankhmar: The New Adventures of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser
Finally, in 1996, TSR published Lankhmar: The New Adventures of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser.  Instead of a mere sourcebook, it was a distinct, boxed set role-playing game.  The system was a simplified form of – and eminently compatible with – 2nd Edition AD&D, but it is interesting that TSR created a 'starter set' using the Lankhmar setting.  It was then possible to represent the pair of heroes without 'altering' the rules.  The characters are still presented in terms of three power levels, but Fafhrd's only class is 'warrior'.  Also, his wisdom has descended to 9.  Because of his background, he has “a +3 bonus when attempting a climbing proficiency check” and “a +3 bonus to survival (arctic) proficiency checks.”

(The) Dragon #27 (July 1979)
The Gray Mouser was originally presented as an 18th level fighter/thief with 18(63) intelligence and 18(00) dexterity.  With this incarnation, the Mouser has a +3 cloak of protection.  Both of his weapons, Scalpel and Cat's Claw, are considered to be +3 weapons.  In addition, the Mouser is very adept with the sling, which he can fire very quickly and accurately (+3 to hit, 3 times per melee round).

Deities & Demigods™ Cyclopedia
In Deities & Demigods, The Gray Mouser has turned from Chaotic Neutral to True Neutral and is considered a 15th level thief/11th level fighter/3rd level magic-user.  The Mouser's wisdom has declined and his intelligence is 18 (no percentile), but all of his other attributes have increased.  Just as with Fafhrd, his 'magic items' are now considered to be conventional.

Lankhmar: City of Adventure
The Mouser's abilities have subsided somewhat in Lankhmar: City of Adventure, with a reduction in every score save dexterity and constitution.  His aptitude as a magic-user has a ceiling of 3rd level regardless of 'maturity'.  “He is extremely streetwise,” the description attests, “particularly in Lankhmar, receiving a +2 bonus on all rolls for finding information, bargaining and dealing with bureaucratic systems.”

Lankhmar: The New Adventures of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser
The only change of abilities in the Mouser's next version is a reduction of wisdom from 11 to 9.  Interestingly, just as his magic-user level is frozen at third, so has his thief level become static at seventh.  Wait...the listed class is not 'magic-user' but 'black wizard'.  The distinction is not cosmetic as it is with 'fighter' and 'warrior', the 'black wizard' class is a product of the Lankhmar setting.

According to the character class description:  “Those who study black magic have learned to manipulate – though not necessarily master – the essences of death, decay, and even evil itself.”  (As might be expected, this is in contrast to the 'good' magic of white wizards.  Since there is no cleric class in the Lankhmar setting, spells normally reserved for clerics have been appropriated by the white wizards.)  Because of their nefarious activities, black wizards suffer “afflictions.”  When a black wizard reaches fifth level – and at every level increase thereafter – a roll is made upon the affliction table.  Oh, you would like to see this table?  Your humble host obliges.  In the decades prior to Dungeon Crawl Classics, here is how 'corruption' was handled:

If, for any given level, an affliction is rolled that was applied to the black wizard at an earlier level, “the sorcerer has managed to avoid disfigurement for the time being and does not have to roll again until another level is earned.”

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