or a game that celebrates its rich history as well as its current implementations, a column such as D&D Alumni always seemed like a natural fit for the website, which is why I initially proposed this series back in 2006. This column is a means to help unearth and consider treasures of the game. Starting early on with a Brief History of Warduke*, D&D Alumni has touched upon everything from dice and minis in the game, to its monsters and villains, and on to its adventures and settings.
What I enjoy about this column—what I enjoy about Dungeons & Dragons in general—is the fact that we’ve barely touched upon the vast, vast trove of potential topics. There’s so much more to be considered and discussed. Next month, for example, we’ll take a further look at the 1st Edition rulebooks that have been announced for re-release, and we’ll cover their impact on the game.
This month, I wanted to start things out by taking a quick tour through the D&D website. We’ve recently refreshed the homepage and created an interior content page (Daily D&D), as a means to help our divergent audiences (new and experienced users) better navigate the website.
When D&D Alumni debuted, it was quite a different website experience around here altogether. In fact, through the wonders of the Way Back Machine, we can show you how the D&D homepage has looked at various times in its life.
2000: “The adventure begins now!” At least, it begins for our coverage of 3rd Edition, including a preview of Dragon 274 (the first 3rd Edition issue):
2003: By now, the left-hand navigation has certainly expanded, and the homepage largely focuses on presenting the most recent articles:
2005: The navigation took on its distinct dungeon map aesthetics, and the homepage presents the most recent articles and products arrayed in the right-hand column:
2008: Here’s our initial 4th Edition site, with tabbed content panels and expanding navigation. It retains its right-hand product array:
Against the Giants: Round Two
In the southeast corner of Chief Nosnra’s treasure room there originally appeared to be a broken barrel. This was but an illusion, “for it is actually a well-made and water tight cask which contains a map showing the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and an obsidian box. In the latter is a chain of weird black metal and instructions written in hill giant on a sheet of human skin. The instructions show that the chain is a magical device which is to be looped into a figure 8. Thus shaped, it will transport up to six persons in each circle of the figure 8 to the glacial rift if one of their number holds the map.”
In Chris Perkins’s revised series, Against the Giants, a similar clue can be found in Nosnra’s steading. “Buried under the gold is a wooden scroll tube containing a map. The map is drawn on a ragged piece of dwarf skin and marks the locations of the hill giant steading, the stone giant warrens, the glacial rift of the frost giants, and the hall of the fire giant king.”
However, no similar magic device accompanied the map, which would have allowed characters to have an automatic means to reach the continuing locations. Instead they would need to negotiate their own way to the giants’ later hideouts—and this month, the series moves on to the frost giants’ glacial rift.
As described in the original, “The whole place is windy and very cold. Visibility atop the rift is about 150'. The wind at the bottom of the rift is worse still, and visibility there is only 30'. The floor of the rift is a maze of snow and ice hillocks and mounds, with peaks of ice and rock thrusting up here and there like fangs. Movement through this howling maze of cold is reduced to 50% of normal. Due to wind force and eddying currents, levitation or flying there will cause movement in a random direction equal to one-half the distance flown or levitated.”
And that’s just the approach to the frost giants’ lair.
Repeating our introduction from last month, the G-series was originally published back in 1978. That same year, it was played in the Origins Convention in a tournament that involved “over 275 players and judges in two days of grueling, torturous fun honed sharp by the nature of the competition. Teams of nine each adventured through up to three rounds slaying giants and other fearsome monsters . . .” Dragon 19 provided a description of the final events by the winning team, with the following players and DM notes:
Round 2: The first round led us to the hill giant’s stronghold . . .
Players: The second leg of our quest, the frost giant’s lair, proved to be an icy maze of caves surrounding a windy, snowbound glacial rift. We found a war party preparing for a raid and once again used fireballs to good effect—killing all of them. In this realm, fireballs proved to be the most effective weapon available as they almost completely obscured all vision and allowed our thief to strike from behind (which almost always guaranteed a kill).
After killing two snow leopards we then proceeded to kill every giant we could find. A search after one such slaughter revealed a chest with special armbands and treasure which we took with us. Once again, the questioning of a dead giant guard provided the information we needed to continue our quest to the next giant stronghold.
DM: What is truly amazing about this second round is how much they didn’t kill and still managed to get into the third and final round. . . . However, clever questioning led to clues which compensated for the low kill ratio.
Look for the “Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl” coming soon to Dungeon. The "Steading of the Hill Giant Chief" and "Warren of the Stone Giant Thane" are available now.
1st Edition Re-Releases
You’ve no doubt seen the announcement that we’re re-releasing the 1st Edition Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual, with a portion of proceeds going to benefit the Gary Gygax Memorial Fund.
Next month, we’ll be examining these books in greater detail and exploring their impact on the game. Until then, Mike Mearls shared a few words regarding the re-releases and how they pertain to D&D Next:
Mike: Back on January 9th, we announced our plans for the future of the D&D RPG. Many fans have focused on the specifics of game mechanics, approaches to creating campaigns and adventures, and methods of presentation. The project we’re undertaking is more than just a revision of the D&D rules, it’s a new approach to how we look at D&D as a whole. The release of the classic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game is part of our plan to make it clear that we support all versions of D&D, from the original white box set to the newest 4th Edition expansions. D&D has a long and rich history—one that we intend to embrace and support even as we move into the future.
And with that, let’s end with a look at the potion miscibility table!
If you’re not familiar with this entry in the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, it might be fair to say that it rather nicely summed up the spirit of the book’s miscellany. Just after the section on magical research, the material on page 119 touched upon use of magic items.
On this page, we learned that combining two potions at once, or ingesting a second potion if a first one was already in effect, often led to random, occasionally disastrously painful results! As corner case as such an event might be, the table presented in the DMG, I feel, was just one of many such entries that fueled DMs’ imaginations about what other unexpected events can—and often should—happen in their games.
So emblematic was this simple table, that in 3rd Edition we went on to recreate the potion miscibility table for April Fool’s. In 4th Edition, others took up the cause, with a version of the table appearing in Kobold Quarterly!
Potion Miscibility Table
01: EXPLOSION! Internal damage is 6–60 h.p., those within a 5' radius take 1–10 h.p. if mixed externally, all in a 10' radius take 4–24 hit points, no save.
02–03: Lethal poison results, and imbiber is dead; if externally mixed, a poison gas cloud of 10' diameter results, and all within it must save versus poison or die.
04–08: Mild poison which causes nausea and loss of 1 point each of strength and dexterity for 5–20 rounds, no saving throw possible; one potion is cancelled, the other is at half strength and duration. (Use random determination for which is cancelled and which is at half efficacy.)
09–15: Immiscible. Both potions totally destroyed, as one cancelled the other.
16–25: Immiscible. One potion cancelled, but the other remains normal (random selection).
26–35: Immiscible result which causes both potions to be at half normal efficacy when consumed.
36–90: Miscible. Potions work normally unless their effects are contradictory, e.g. diminution and growth, which will simply cancel each other.
91–99: Compatible result which causes one potion (randomly determined) to have 150% normal efficacy. (You must determine if both effect and duration are permissible, or if only the duration should be extended.)
00: DISCOVERY! The admixture of the two potions has caused a special formula which will cause one of the two potions only to function, but its effects will be permanent upon the imbiber. (Note that some harmful side effects could well result from this . . .)
Roll for miscibility secretly whenever it occurs. Give no uncalled-for clues until necessary.
*Regarding Warduke: I started with him for no better reason than that I’ve considered him to be one of the more compelling figures in a game chock full of compelling characters—D&D’s version of Boba Fett, in a way. He holds a position of honor in my cubicle.
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll).