Part 4

1) Meta 2) Misc. 3) Religion





D1: I've found a mistake in the latest D&D product; where can I report it?

If you discover a major typo or other mistake in a D&D publication, such as the infamous 'damage/dawizard' transposition, or a reversed or missing map or table, feel free to write in and report it. The contact address for errata reports is WotC's Customer Service address; they will see to it that the appropriate editors are notified of the error and/or are castigated for it. If the error alters gameplay (such as a spell with a statistics block that is contradicted in the spell description) include the word "Errata" in the subject field of your e-mail, along with the book and page number.

There is not much need to post reports of typos or errata for all to see unless it actually affects gameplay in some way, such as a drastic misalignment in the columns of a table or mislabeled maps in modules.

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D2: Where can I find a list of official D&D errata?

Official errata files for the 3rd ed. books are available on WotC's webpage.

The official errata for the 2nd ed. core books and the Player's Option books are available on WotC's web page. You can find the official errata for the 1st printing of the original PH2, as well as a list of Forgotten Realms errata, on various sites around the net. TSR at one point also released an official errata page for the first printing of the Complete Psionics Handbook; electronic copies of it are floating around and shouldn't be too tough to find.

Other than that, look through the Sage Advice column in back issues of Dragon Magazine; every once in a while, that column has included an official correction of an error.

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D3: What is a PBEM and how do I get into one or start one?

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on there, Tex, that there's three questions in one. In way of an answer, PBEM (or PBeM) stands for "Play By E-Mail," campaigns which are run via the DM sending out turns to each of the players, who respond with their characters' intended actions. Such campaigns are the outgrowth of Play-By-Mail baseball leagues, the Illuminati PBM, and just plain *D&D PBM's.

To get into a PBEM, monitor rgf.announce and wait. When you're done with that, wait some more. After that, wait a couple of whiles. By that time, somebody probably will have posted a message to rgf.announce indicating that they are starting (or that an opening has appeared in) a PBEM; rules for character submission will usually be included. Follow the rules and mail off a character. If the PBEM chooses your character, you're in. There. That wasn't so hard, was it?

If you don't want to wait that long (and it could be as quick as tomorrow, or it could take several months), you could try to start up your own PBEM campaign. However, be warned--running a PBEM might sap any and all free time you think you have and then some, and isn't necessarily as easy as it might sound. For a wealth of helpful tips, tricks, and suggestions for running as well as playing a character in PBEM's, read "An Argosy of Play By E-Mail Advice," which can be found on Sean Reynolds' web page.

Another excellent place to look for information on PBEMs is, which has a plethora of files on the topic, from advice to listings of currently active PBEMs.

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D4: What are the best *D&D books and/or modules to get a hold of?

This depends on who you ask. Everybody has their own opinions on which products are great and which are trash. However, there was a survey done by Anthony Brooks on rgfd and ADND-L of every *D&D product TSR had ever put out, as of around January 1995. It rated each product on a 0-10 scale, based on the average of all of the responses, and included comments on the products by the people who responded. Only those products which received 5 or more votes appeared in the listings, but there were comments included on several non-listed products.

The results of that survey were used as the starting point for an ongoing survey on the web. This survey includes every D&D and AD&D product TSR has published up to the current date, as well as every AD&D-compatible product which Judges Guild published. Since it is ongoing, the results will naturally change from week to week, as more people vote and new products are added. The current "best" (8.0 out of 10 or higher) and "worst" (3.0 out of 10 or lower) are listed at

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D5: What do those letter/number combinations on older modules and handbooks stand for?

Up until late 1994, TSR game every product an alphanumeric code, as well as a numeric product code. The letter codes were based in some way on the product, and the number following the letter designated which one in the series it was. For example, Against the Giants was G1-3, the Vault of the Drow was D1-3, and Queen of the Demonweb pits was Q1. Some codes were based on other factors; for example, Competition modules for tournament use were given a C designation, and the Special series was labeled with an S.

This use carried over into 2nd ed., with the Players HandBook Reference series (PHBR), Dungeon Masters Guide Reference (DMGR), and Historic Reference (HR) series, as well as the GA/R (General Adventure/Reference) RA/R (Ravenloft Adv./Ref.), WGA/R (World of Greyhawk Adv./Ref.), et al. series. Late in 1994, TSR decided that this system was getting out of hand (what with the Fighter's/Wizard's/Thief's/Cleric's Challenge series being given HHQ1-4 !?), and dropped the system. Now, products are only coded by product number, numbers-only code used internally by the company to track products & sales.

For more information on what the letter/number codes stood for, see the complete TSR Product Guide maintained by Gavin Bartell and found in Word format.

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D6: What font does TSR use for Planescape and where can I get it?

The Planescape font is called Exocet (technically it's two fonts, Exocet Light for regular text and Exocet Heavy for titles, etc.); it is a commercial font sold by Emigre. You can see a sample of it and purchase it at Emigre's web page. Visitation is a free font which is quite similar to Exocet and is available on various and sundry pages throughout the web.

For a list of this and other fonts that were used by TSR & WotC for *D&D adventures and accessories over the years, see the TSR Font FAQ.

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D7: What is the chance of rolling up a character with all natural 18's?

If one is using the basic 3d6 method of character creation, this means rolling 18 sixes with 18 dice. The chance of this happening is thus 1/6^18, or 1/101,559,956,668,400. (This assumes fair dice, of course.) In other words, "slim to none, but technically possible." If one uses the 4d6 and drop the lowest die method, the chance of getting a character with six stats of 18 is 1/54^6 or 1/24,794,911,296. A little more likely than when using 3d6, but you still have a better chance to win the jackpot in most state or national lotteries than to get a character with all 18's.

For the chances of getting 18's with most of the other "standard" methods, see

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D8: I heard there are some official *D&D modules on the web. Where are they?

Yes there are. Not just modules, either. Several sourcebooks and accessories as well, some products that for one reason or another were pulled from the production schedule and published on the web instead, and a lot of brand new web-exclusive characters, maps, adventures, enhancements, etc. Here are the URLs to the pages for the free material:

3rd. ed. D&D Downloads,3
Previous edition D&D downloads

Wizards of the Coast has also undertaken the project of making almost every out-of-print item ever published by TSR available in PDF format either for free at the "previous edition" page above, or for a low cost through an online store. To see what the store currently offers, go to

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E1: Wasn't there a Saturday morning cartoon about *D&D?

Yes, there was. Dungeons & Dragons was produced by Marvel Productions, premiered on September 17, 1983 on CBS, and ran for three seasons. The main characters were all real-world people who rode the new "D&D" roller-coaster at the local theme park and somehow got transported by the Dungeon Master to a fantasy world. Each of the main characters had a personal magic item, and a vast majority of the show's plots revolved around the evil Venger trying (and failing) to get their items so that he could become all-powerful, while the heroes tried to find portals back to the "real" world and failed to use every one for one reason or another. The first episode was available on video at one point (though it is currently without a distributor), so it may be possible to find them at conventions, in video stores, or in In the early 00's, Fox reran the show as part of their FoxKids lineup (though with an altered title sequence), so there is a good possibility that the entire series will eventually find its way to video.

The main characters were:

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E2: What *D&D-specific comic books have been published?

There have been a number of comic series over the years which dealt with various TSR worlds, almost always published by DC in conjunction with TSR. Here is a list of known *D&D comic books:

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E3: Whatever happened to SnarfQuest, What's New?, Wormy, and Yamara?

For those who don't recognize those names, all four were very popular, long-running sequential art features in Dragon at one time or another, and references to and queries about these regularly crop up on the group. (Other regular features have been Fineous Fingers, Pinsom, Tal'n'Alan, The Twilight Empire (Robinson's War), Floyd, and Knights of the Dinner Table; these don't come up for discussion nearly as often as the main four). In alphabetical order:

SnarfQuest, by Larry Elmore, began in issue #75 and ran for several years. The episodes were collected together into a single book in the late 80's (reprinted in the early 00's, so it should be possible to track down a copy), and a special one-shot episode appeared in Dragon #200. Larry currently works freelance, and his material graces the pages of many a D&D product.

What's New? with Phil & Dixie, by Phil Foglio, first appeared shortly before issue #50 and ran until issue #84, when Phil decided that exactly three years was long enough and left to work on other projects. One of those projects was the comic book adaptation of Robert Asprin's Another Fine Myth; Phil, Dixie, and the dragon made a special guest appearance in issue #5. The entirety of the Dragon run of What's New, as well as two new episodes ("How They Met", and the long-threatened "Sex and D&D"), was published in two parts in 1991 and 1994 by Palliard Press; it is currently still available. Episodes of What's New? appeared in every printed issue of the Duelist magazine, save the last one; though those strips were based on collectible card games rather than role-playing games (also, Dixie was officially declared to be a blonde rather a redhead). In November 1999, What's New? returned to the pages of Dragon Magazine.

Wormy, by Dave Trampier, ran concurrently with What's New? and SnarfQuest. It ended suddenly in the middle of a story, and has been the center of no small amount of confusion and consternation. What is known for certain is that Dave solicited orders for a Wormy collection at one point (around Dragon #102), but for whatever reason, it fell through and was never published (everyone who ordered a copy got their money back). No one, and I mean no one, in either the gaming or art industries has seen or heard from him since; though it is known for certain (through his family) that he is still alive and well, just not working with either games or art. Without his permission, there is zero chance for a Wormy collection to be printed within our lifetimes. The closest you can get is the Dragon Magazine archive CD-ROM, which includes all of the published strips. As for the reason Wormy was dropped from Dragon in the first place, therein lies a mystery. The most likely story to surface so far (as told by an artist who was with TSR at the time) is that Trampier wanted more money and threw a major tantrum over the issue, at which point the editors returned the remainder of the episodes to him, unpublished. Since neither Trampier nor the editors of Dragon at that time will comment on the issue, this story cannot be verified.

Yamara was the most recent strip of these four; it ended its several-year run in 1996. A Yamara collection (up through at least the episode from Dragon #202, and including descriptions of each of the characters) was released around 1994 and is currently available from Steve Jackson Games. Yamara is now available as a web strip, at The creators of Yamara can be reached at

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E4: While we're talking about it, what ever happened to Erol Otus?

The man whose art is usually either wildly loved or loathed is currently doing well for himself in the the computer game industry. He has worked on "Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Final Unity" by Spectrum Holobyte, and "Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters", among other popular games. He's still illustrating, too, just not very much for RPGs--see for some album covers he's done. He apparently doesn't have a website of his own, but an e-mail address for him is listed on Slade's " Ex-TSR" list.

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E5: Wasn't there a TSR module that was banned?

No, there have not been any "banned" modules; but there was one which was recalled & re-released in a different form, thus making the original a rare find.

The story, according to Frank Mentzer (ex-TSR editor), is that back in 1980, a lady named Jean Wells wrote an adventure for TSR entitled "Palace of the Silver Princess." It was edited by Frank Mentzer, with art by Erol Otus. It was published in 1981 for D&D Basic characters as module B3, levels 1-3, and had an orange cover.

Shortly after publication, TSR discovered many serious flaws in the dungeon layout and also had it pointed out to them that some of the included artwork was of very questionable taste, almost bordering on pornographic in a couple of instances.

So for the first (and possibly only) time in TSR's history, they recalled a product. Every copy of B3 TSR could locate was returned and destroyed. Then TSR heavily revised the module, fixing the errors and inserting new art. It was re-released shortly thereafter, only with a green cover this time.

However, not every copy of the original version had been returned. The first time this was publically discovered was at the auction at the 1984 GENCON, where one came up for sale and went for $300. Several other copies have come up for sale since. Those that were sold on a few years ago sold for around $100 to $250. With the advent of eBay and the "must-have-it" mind-set that seems to have come with it, those that have sold on web auctions have generally sold for five to ten times higher.

For those interested in seeing what all the hubbub was about, a scanned copy of the module can be downloaded for free from WotC's web page.

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E6: Wasn't there already a FIFTH edition of D&D?

Yes and no. When the D&D game was split into "Basic" and "Advanced", the "Basic" version of the rules went through five editions in the time that the "Advanced" version of the rules went through only two. The word "Basic" was dropped from the name of that version of the game around the time that 2nd ed. AD&D was released--so there really was a fifth edition of a game called just "D&D". However, TSR stopped producing Basic D&D soon after that, and the current game is the third edition of the "Advanced" version of the rules, just without the word "Advanced."

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E7: When the current version of D&D is revised, will all of my old sourcebooks be obsolete?

As is often the case, the answer is both yes and no. Whenever a game as extensive as D&D is officially revised and republished, no revision can immediately replace absolutely everything that had been in print, so certain "key" products generally remain in print and are considered generally compatible with the new system until a new product can be published that covers that segment of the game--which can take a few years in some cases, if not longer.

What this really means is that you will not be able to purchase much material published before the revision as "in print" material; it does not mean that that material is useless. All rules-light setting" material (such as descriptions of people, places, and things) and "story" material (such as the plots, locations, and characters of adventures) is still usable, but you will need to convert any accompanying rules to the new edition. Any books that were "rules-heavy," are generally quickly superceded by new material, but there may still be helpful sections in the older products--even material that cannot be used directly as is due to rule changes can often be used to help give a player ideas for how to create a particular type of character and how to better role-play that sort of character. Depending on how extensive the changes are, this may be easy to do on the fly, or it may be intensive enough to take time some DMs would rather spend on prepping characters and subplots.

In addition, just because a game system or edition has been superceded by a new version doesn't mean that no one uses it. There are still groups out there who play "Original" D&D, 1st ed., 2nd ed., Basic D&D, and various combinations of any or all of those. The most important element is not what version of the rules you use, but rather that you have fun while you play.

For online discussions, it is always assumed that you are talking about the latest version unless you state otherwise, so if you want to bring up or ask about the way something worked in a previous version, please label that clearly so that people who are not as familiar with old rules don't waste time their time and yours trying to "correct" you.

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E8: What was removed from Deities & Demigods?

The first printing of Deities & Demigods included the mythoi of Cthulhu and Melnibone. The ideas behind the Cthulhu mythos were in the public domain at that time, but copyright on the Cthulhu books in print was owned by Arkham House, who had licensed Chaosium to create a Cthulhu RPG based on those books. TSR thought the public domain status allowed them to create game representations of whatever Cthulhu creatures they desired, and so that mythos was added to Deities & Demigods. TSR then contacted Michael Moorcock, who gave permission for TSR to include the Melnibonean mythos in Deities & Demigods. However, again, Chaosium had already arranged for a license to create an Elric RPG. Chaosium became upset that TSR was apparently violating Chaosium's licenses, and the print run of Deities & Demigods was halted while the two companies sat down to talk. Eventually, they agreed that TSR could continue printing the books with the two mythoi as is, on the condition that a note be added to the preface: "Special thanks are given to Chaosium, Inc. for permission to use the material found in the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonean Mythos." The printing plates were changed, and the first printing continued.

When the time for a second printing came, the Blume brothers decided that a TSR book should not contain such a prominent reference to one of their competitors. They decided to remove the two mythoi, and thus the need for the note. (Apparently, Gary Gygax offered to write up two new mythoi to fill the space, but the Blumes decided they could make more money charging the same price for a book with fewer pages.) Later, the book--still without the two mythoi and the note--was republished under the name "Legends & Lore."

When Legends & Lore was updated to 2nd ed. AD&D, several more mythoi were removed, namely the Babylonian, Finnish, Nonhuman, and Sumerian mythoi; the Central American mythos was renamed the Aztec mythos. Contrary to rumor, the Newhon mythos was never removed, and, in fact, was included in the 2nd ed. L&L, probably due to the simple fact that it is TSR who owns the license to produce Lankhmar materials. The deities of the nonhumans were reintroduced in Monster Mythology.

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E9: Was Legends & Lore really originally a 1st ed. book?

As a matter of fact, yes. As stated in the above question, Legends & Lore was a reprinting of Deities & Demigods, and was later recast into a 2nd ed. book.

Here is the publishing history of *D&D general mythological supplements. First, there was D&D. A supplement called Gods, Demigods, & Heroes came out. Then, there was AD&D. A book called Deities & Demigods came out; it included the Cthulhu and Melnibonean mythoi, among others. TSR decided to remove those two mythoi, as described in the above question, but kept the Deities & Demigods name and otherwise keep the book the same. Later, TSR decided to repackage the book by giving it a new cover and an orange spine like the other new printings of the AD&D hardcovers, and renamed it Legends & Lore. Inside, it was identical to the later version of Deities & Demigods. Then there was 2nd ed. AD&D. This new version of the game needed its own book of mythoi, so TSR updated and rewrote the info in Legends & Lore, removed a few mythoi, renamed another, and released it to the public. For 3rd ed., there was a general return to "classic" names, so the world once again saw a book titled "Deities & Demigods." It was rewritten from scratch, however, and the only resemblance to the original book was the title.

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E10: What happened to my favorite campaign world?

One of a couple of things. Despite their popularity in some groups, sales of products for some worlds--for example, Mystara, Spelljammer, and Dark Sun--end up dipping very low. People use the worlds, but simply not enough buy new products for those worlds to warrant the company putting time and money into R&D for those worlds. Therefore, active promotion for those worlds is dropped, and on is sent on developing existing worlds that still sell well, or for new worlds that may spark interest.

Another possibility is the fact that some campaign worlds are designed to be limited in scope--they are active for a certain number of years, after which point are longer actively supported. Al-Qadim was one of these; it was conceived to be a two-year project, but due to its popularity, TSR opted to extend the project an extra year.

With the coming of 3rd ed. D&D, WotC initially cut back all active game worlds to only two: Greyhawk, which is the setting used for any "generic world" adventures for which only the PH & DMG are needed, and Forgotten Realms, which is the setting used for any adventures that go beyond the PH & DMG into new and/or optional rules and similar situations. After a few years of that situation, and after the d20 project got off the ground, Ravenloft and Dragonlance were licensed to other companies for development as new d20 worlds. Also around that time, Kenzer & Co. licensed the entire 1st ed. AD&D game system to be revised and released as their "Hackmaster" game.

At this point, the only new "official" material for any other worlds appears in Dragon magazine, Dungeon magazine, and WotC's web page. WotC may re-examine the potential of these campaign worlds after a few years on the shelf. At some point, they may decide to bring some or all of the defunct worlds in some form--perhaps as an annual adventure collection, perhaps as full-blown product lines, perhaps as something in between.

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E11: Where did all the devils, demons, daemons, and the rest go?

According to some sects, they have been banished to the last of the infinite layers of the Abyss by an indescribable force known only as Pae-Sae. Thus was removed one of the Six Signs of Evil in the world.

However, according to MC8 (the Outer Planes Monstrous Compenium Appendix), as well as material for the Planescape campaign setting, they never left. What happened was that sages discovered that the names commonly used for them are not necessarily the names by which these creatures refer to themselves. Thus, the creatures you know as devils call themselves Baatezu; demons call themselves Tanar'ri; and daemons call themselves Yugoloths. Several of the Outer Planes themselves also have had their "local" names discovered; these planes' names have trickled down into common usage by residents of the Prime Material almost as quickly as the names of the planes' residents have. A real-world example of this situation would be the Germans, who call themselves "Deutsch", but were generally called "Alemanni" by the Romans, and are called "German" by English-speakers, "Allemands" by the French, and "Tedeschi" by the Italians. Just as with the Germans, the "popular" names of these creatures and locales are not really incorrect, merely a different term for the same creature or locale (and no term is as commonly used for denizens of the Lower Planes as the ever-popular "Oh %$#@!!"); the "popular" names are still in wide circulation on the worlds of the Prime Material plane, and generally indicate a personal preference rather than any ignorance. TSR started used both sets of names towards the end of 2nd edition's run, and some of each set of names are used in 3rd ed., so it really does come down to a question of personal preference over "correctness".

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E12: Who is this Cthulhu guy, anyway?

Once and for all, Cthulhu is a fictional character. Anyone who tells you differently is pulling your leg. The Cthulhu mythos (including the infamous Necronomicon and Miskatonic University) was the creation of H.P. Lovecraft, originating in a group of science fiction/horror stories he wrote in the early twentieth century. Several of his friends, including August Derleth, decided to also write stories about the octopoid being whose visage drives men insane, and these tales, along with Lovecraft's own, form the basis of the "Cthulhu Mythos." Cthulhu himself is portrayed as a being from the stars who sleeps in his temple on an Atlantis-like sunken island and thinks of humans much the same way humans think of ants or rats. Cthulhu stories are still being written today by friends and fans of Lovecraft. For more information, see alt.horror.cthulhu.

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E13: What are the major changes in AD&D, 2nd ed. from 1st ed.?
When the time came to write the 2nd edition of AD&D, TSR took the opportunity to take some of the changes made in later 1st ed. supplements and some of what seemed to be the more popular house rules, and merged them together with the rules presented in the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. Some of the changes were important alterations, some were made into "optional" rules, and others were merely cosmetic additions. What follows is a list of the major changes, compiled by Lawrence "DMGorgon" Mead and Ian Malcomson.

Note: Because some of the changes actually occurred with later 1st ed. books such as Unearthed Arcana and the Dungeoneers Survival Guide, or in the pages of Dragon Magazine, players who adopted the rules presented in those books saw fewer changes to the core rules when 2nd ed. came out. When a change was made with UA or DSG, that is noted below. Also, some of the affected rules were often ignored by 1st ed. players, and/or are often ignored by 2nd ed. players, so the changes listed below may not be "major" for all players.






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E14: What are the major changes in D&D, 3rd ed. from AD&D, 2nd ed.?

While most of the changes between 1st edition and 2nd edition AD&D were minor enough that both could easily be seen as two versions of the same game, the designers of 3rd edition D&D started from scratch and overhauled everything. What follows is a very incomplete list, as there are far too many changes to list here.




  • All spells are now in a single alphabetical list, with a line in each describing which classes can access it and what spell level it is for each class.
  • All spells have been extensively overhauled, with many added, dropped, renamed, altered beyond recognition, etc.
  • Magic resistance is now called "spell resistance."
  • Fireball no longer fills an area of 33 10x10x10 cubes; rather, the blast extends 20 feet in all directions, including around corners. Thus, a mage standing more than 20 feet from the blast point will always be outside the area of effect, no matter what the layout of the area is.
  • Stoneskin now lets characters ignore the first 10 points of damage from every successful attack. If an attack deals more than 10 points of damage, the difference still gets through; if an attacker has a +5 weapon or greater, all of the damage gets through. The spell lasts until it has prevented 10 points of damage per caster level, up to a maximum of 150.
  • The cleric spell list has been rearranged to be on a 9-level scale instead of a 7-level scale.
  • All spell writeups now include a comment about how spell resistance applies to the effects of the spell.
  • Spells generally have casting times of 1 action, 1 round, 1 minute, 1 hour, etc. Mages who cast a 1 action spell can also move up to their full movement for the round. Mages who cast a 1 round spell can move up to 5 feet that round.


    • Monsters do not all get d8 for hit dice; some may get d4, others may get d12. Bonuses to the final hit point total can now far exceed +3. All monster listings include the average number of hit points, so that "standard" examples of that creature can be easily created without rolling dice.
    • There is now a save against undead energy drain to see whether it is temporary or permanent. Energy drain gives a character "negative levels," which apply a cumulative -1 to all rolls and will kill a character if they are equal or greater than the character's Character Level.
    • Monster xp now varies depending on how much of a challenge the encounter is to the PCs.
    • Special abilities are listed as Extraordinary, Spell-like, or Supernatural, to better judge how they interact with other abilities (such as spell resistance) and whether or not they can be disrupted in combat.
    • Monsters now have STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA, as well as saving throw bonuses, just like PCs.
    • Monsters can gain levels in "character" classes, and their monster hit dice count as levels of "Monster."
    • Dragons have been made significantly more dangerous and deadly than before.


    • All PCs, NPCs, deities, and locations mentioned in the PH and DMG are taken from the world of Greyhawk.
    • Far, far too many details to list here.

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    E15: What is the Gazebo story? And what's the Head of Vecna?

    Both of these are gaming stories that have been told and retold so many times that they have taken on the air of urban legends--where the original DM is a "friend of my sister-in-law's uncle's second cousin" and if you track that path down, it turns out to be just that, a story. However, in both of these cases, the original tellers are known, the original versions are archived on the web, and both stories really happened!

    The Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo, by Richard Aronson, is about a player who didn't know that a gazebo is a hutlike building typically found in parks, and had his character attack one. The story was originally written in 1986, and various versions of it can be found all over the web. One such place is the rec.humor.funny webpage; another includes some background by the original author on how the story spread.

    Whereas the tale of Eric and the Gazebo is about how lack of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, The Head of Vecna, by Mark Steuer, is more of a morality tale about how greed can make you stupid. Most *D&D players have heard about the Hand and Eye of Vecna, powerful artifacts which require the owner to cut off his own hand or eye in order to gain the powers. In this case, the characters found what they thought was the Head of Vecna, and ended up with several headless--and thus very dead--characters. The full story can be found on the web.

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    E16: Isn't there a humorous "Dungeons & Dragons" skit out there?

    Yes, there is. Written and performed by the Dead Ale Wives, the skit is a popular request of the Dr. Demento radio show. An audio file of the skit is available on the Dead Ale Wives' homepage. The sketch is also available on cassette or CD on the "Dr. Demento's 30th Anniversary" album.

    There is also a "movie" of sorts of this skit, called "Summoner Geeks." A group named Volition took the audio file and added video with some of their computer game characters playing the various roles in the skit. The video can be found on Volition's web page.

    The Dead Ale Wives also did a sequel of sorts, in which the non-gamer girlfriend of one of the players sits in on a game session.

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    F1: Is *D&D really the tool of the Devil?

    No. See GAMA's response to this, a seminar on which is summarized below. Another place for information on this subject is the Internet posters' response to role-playing & Satanism in the* FAQ.

    This is a slightly edited version of a very informative post by Steffan O'Sullivan (

    A report on Mike Stackpole's "Satanism & Gaming" seminar at Northeast Wars, Burlington, VT, March 20, 1993.

    Mike Stackpole is the chair of GAMA's "Industry Watch" committee. (GAMA, for those who don't know, is the GAme Manufacturer's Association, which exists to promote the hobby.) Mike is also the author of many gaming books from many companies, including Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes and Battletech novels.

    As such (and, in fact, long before he was head of the Industry Watch Committee), Mike has been very interested in anti-gaming attitudes that exist in the media and what we, as gamers, can do about it.

    Much of his talk was background: he told of Pat Pulling and the formation of BADD (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons), Dr. Radecke, Cruel Doubt, etc., etc. He then went on to describe how's fought this anti-gaming media blitz: research. Yes, the answer is largely plain, simple, non-glamorous research.

    Mike has researched every single case of so-called "gaming-related" suicides and murder. To this day he still carries on correspondance with two murderers in prison, whose cases BADD touted as having been gaming-influenced. He has written statements from both men that gaming had nothing to do with it: they were sick individuals long before they heard of roleplaying. Likewise, he has testimony concerning every single case the enemies of FRPs have ever touted - that he knows about, that is. He admits there are cases he knows nothing of - more on that in a bit.

    [snip a section about radio shows]

    Mike feels the battle is going well. GAMA has only taken an active role in combatting anti-gaming attitudes since 1989, but great strides have been made. Pat Pulling has been discredited, as have some of the other big names who were lambasting gaming. The media is still attracted to the flash of fantasy gaming and a link to crime, but law enforcement has become aware that such links are illusory. Mike says that GAMA has spoken to many gatherings of law enforcement people and come across as responsible businessmen who really don't want their customer base committing suicide, since it would hurt sales. (It's amazing how putting it that way can convince those in power! They understand such arguments.) GAMA has also told law enforcement that they don't want gaming being used as an insanity plea, and will give them facts to combat this defense in any case. This is how you win over your opponents: by joining them in ways they can understand.

    The talk ended with a "what can you do?" His suggestions, summarized, are as follows:

    1. Don't try to "freak the mundanes." If someone says they've heard these games are evil, and can they come watch one, don't put on devil's horns and have fog flowing out of a bowl on a candle-lit table. Just be yourselves and have a good game. If you ever do have a chance to call in to a radio or even TV station that is discussing a case of gaming & crime, please be polite and intelligent. In other words, be a responsible gamer.

    2. Tell your local game store to download and print out some pamphlets GAMA has produced as educational tools. Most game store owners would be glad to have something they can show worried parents. More information on how to get these pamphlets is included below.

    3. If you hear of any cases where people are claiming gaming is related to a murder, suicide or other crime, let GAMA know right away so they can investigate it. Use the address below.

    4. If you hear of an out-of-town "big name gaming expert" coming to condemn RPGs, contact GAMA as soon as possible! Mike says there is a small discretionary fund that will let him fly in to debate such people and discredit them. It's easy for him to discredit such folk because he's been researching these cases since 1985, and has all the facts on his portable computer. It would be harder for you, and you might end up losing a debate, which would not be good.

    GAMA contact information:

    The Game Manufacturers Association
    80 Garden Center, Suite 16
    Broomfield, CO 80020 USA

    Phone: (303) 469-3277
    Fax: (303) 469-2878

    GAMA's main informational pamphlet is called "Questions & Answers About Role-Playing Games." It is available for free on GAMA's web page, along with a second pamphlet titled "How to Deal with Parents" and written specifically for store owners, also available for free. GAMA has also produced several brochures & pamphlets about using games to teach various subjects, which are available (along with the above two) on GAMA's web page.

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    F2: Yeah, but is *D&D really the tool of the Devil?

    Not for many people, no. The rest of this answer assumes the reader is Christian, so if that doesn't apply, the reader may wish to skip ahead to the next question.

    When one reads a fantasy novel, for example, C.S. Lewis' series The Chronicles of Narnia, one will probably come across many things which, in the real world, could be considered evil--or at the very least, non-Christian. Magic use, satyrs, dragons, talking animals, man-beasts, battle, killing, and miracles are all examples of such things which many Christians would look at askance if they showed up in the real world. However, the book is not the real world. Most people can sufficiently differentiate between the real world and a fantasy world to tell that Susan's Horn of Summoning isn't something one is going to stumble across when cleaning out your Uncle Pete's attic, and isn't something worth trying to construct.

    Fantasy role-playing is essentially a form of interactive fiction. The players and game master work together to tell a story, but do so from the characters' perspectives rather than from an omniscient third-person perspective.

    For those people who are strong in their faith, and can tell the difference between fiction and reality, there isn't a problem. During the game, they realize that none of it is any more real than the Tooth Fairy. When the game ends, they go on with their lives. If they choose, they can even use the game and the fictional characters therein to try to explore different elements of their faith, such as how to react to extreme bigotry and prejudice, what the best approach is to certain situations like warfare in a violent world, what can happen if one takes a single element of a religion too far, or even what can happen if one strays too far from one's faith. In this way, the game can be used as an aid to faith, helping to quantify it and build it up. The game can also be use to simulate The Good Fight, allowing one to pretend to directly defeat evil and restore hope in the players that it is also possible to defeat the more insidious and harder to nail down evils of the real world. Or it can be just a game, used as a way to get together with some good friends for an evening of fun and relaxation.

    However, for those people who are not strong in their faith, or who have problems differentiating between fiction and reality to the point where they start trying to live in the fantasy world, there very well could be a problem. For such people, shaking their faith or feeding their fantasies can be dangerous things. They could fall away from the church, decide they like a fantasy religion better, or completely retreat into their fantasy world. One should be very careful of these things when gaming with such people--I'm sure most gamers have met a couple people at one time or another for whom the game is a bit too real, or for whom game elements start to spill over into their real life, or for whom the game becomes the chief element in their lives; these are the kinds of people we're talking about here.

    In other words, the game itself is not inherently evil, not really a tool of the Devil--though, like anything and everything in this world, the Devil can use it as a tool to get into our hearts, just like books, movies, stray thoughts, money, possessions, and so forth. If one feels the game is interfering with one's faith, then one should stop playing the game. This is an individual choice, just as with anything else that starts to interfere with one's faith--significant other, pursuit of money, car, tv set, anything. This does not mean one should start a crusade against it, since it may not interfere with others' faith, only that one should work to keep it out of one's own life. However, for those who have a firm foundation in their faith and can tell where the fictional world ends and the real one begins, there isn't any more of a problem than with reading C.S. Lewis' Narnia books--which, by the way, use a fantasy world to tell the story of Christianity and show examples of many of its tenets.

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    F3: Isn't Al-Qadim actually one of the holy names of Allah?

    No. Well, not really. Al-Qadim is an adjective meaning "the ancient" or "the old". In that context, it might be occasionally used by Muslims to refer to Allah, but it is normally used as a regular adjective in everyday speech. A Christian equivalent would be claiming "eternal" is a holy name reserved for God; I don't think many people actually believe the word "eternal" is reserved solely for use of referencing God, and Al-Qadim is not reserved solely for use of referencing Allah.

    For what it's worth, Jeff Grubb and the creative team behind the Al-Qadim setting did their homework, checking English-Arabic dictionaries and asking professional linguists and Arabic speakers how the term was currently used in the Islamic world in order that they could avoid offending anyone. "Al-Qadim" is what they came up with.

    More recently, Mr. Grubb asked about this matter on the newsgroup soc.culture.arabian; the responses he got confirmed the above, and one also added that it depends on part on the pronunciation: the pronunciation TSR used (short A sound, stress on the second syllable) means "the ancient", while a pronunciation with a long A sound and a stress on the first syllable means "the approaching" or "the next one". No mention of this term being used as an official alternative for "Allah" was given in any of the responses, and several mentioned that it is an everyday adjective.

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  • Continue on to Part 5

    Copyright © 2001 by Joel A. Hahn