Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Monster Manual as a Work in Progress

It's interesting to note some of the odd things that turn up in a careful reading of the Monster Manual. Remember that this was the first of the AD&D books to be written, and some curious textual artifacts are still contained within it.

For example, in describing the Wand of Orcus, the Monster Manual states, "Other powers of this device as rumored amongst mortals are dealt with in another book." Could it be that the title of the Dungeon Masters Guide was not yet firmly established when the Monster Manual went to press? Impossible, as it was mentioned elsewhere. Did this just fall through the cracks?

Another, when describing the many and varied powers of the demon prince Yeenoghu; "magic missile (3/day, 6 missiles/cast), each doing 2-8 points of damage and having a +2 to hit;". +2 to hit? For a magic missile? Again, is it possible that the property of the magic missile to always hit its target was not yet firmly established?

There are many others, of course; spell names that are subtly different (detect invisible objects or detect invisible, as opposed to detect invisibility, etc.). Some are simply curious names that are never really explained, although I can, I think, figure out what raise dead fully does.

None of this detracts from my love of the original, of course; quite the opposite. It's interesting to remember that there was a time when Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was still not yet fully published, and I like the fact that even one of its core books reflects upon the whole as a work in progress.


James said...

I'm a little stumped as to what project image is;

It's not a reference to the 6th lvl MU spell?

Joseph said...

Well damn! I looked and looked, and somehow my eyes just never hit that line. Thanks, James!

Carter Soles said...

I like this baroque, not-always-internally-consistent quality of the early AD&D manuals as well. Nice post!

biopunk said...

The more I read the details on any of the 1E spells and effects of 'invisibility', the more I tend to believe that there were originally many, many more permutations than the three basic types of effects presented.

Was there any major changes between 0D&D and AD&D with regards to the rules?

Adam Thornton said...

Two really obvious ones. Naked AC was still 9, rather than 10, when the MM was written, and it's a five-alignment, rather than a nine-alignment, system.

Joseph said...

Adam: But are there any examples of those conventions in the Monster Manual as published? That's the sort of oddities I'm talking about here.

The_Myth said...

A few years ago I read a post somewhere that notes that the MM seems to actually the LAST OD&D book. If you read the PC race (elf, dwarf, halfling) descriptions you will see the class and level limits match those in the OD&D Greyhawk supplement and not the PHB.

As with Adam, I also noticed the 5-point alignment system )with lots neutral tendencies in parentheses), which now makes me think that there really was a link to the Homes rules (thus the Magic Missiles needing a roll to hit).
Obviously it is a VERY transitional document in the early printings (at least).

Brooks Rownd said...

The funkiness and obscure arcana is why the original AD&D will always be my RPG of choice!

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Speaking of the MM, do you know what edition that is? I'm trying to figure it out so that I can be right when I say "Edition X" if someone asks what rules I'm using.