Posts Tagged ‘everybook’


Thursday, April 10th, 2014

s13I found this Appendix N pseudoscience in A. Merritt’s 1918 book The Moon Pool:

My theory is that the moon rock is of some composition sensitive to the action of Moon rays; somewhat as the metal selenium is to sun rays. […] When the light strikes them they release the mechanism that opens the slab, just as you can open doors with sunlight by an ingenious arrangement of selenium-cells.

Now I didn’t know anything about selenium except vaguely that it’s probably an element. Maybe you know more than me. Maybe you know that it was discovered in 1817, named after the moon, and used in light sensors from the 1870s until the 1970s. Maybe you know that its few commercial uses nowadays include glassblowing and as an ingredient in baby formula. Well, you’re very smart. I had to hit wikipedia to learn all that.

Here’s why selenium is a nice drop-in in a D&D game.

It sounds familiar and scientific, without having any specific connotations to most players (unless your players are all smarter than me too). It’s a little more technological-sounding than the traditional D&D magic materials (adamantium, mithril), and so it matches well with the strangely scientific bent that’s demonstrated by D&D dungeon builders, with their elevators, gas traps, and other automatic devices. Its use is an ancient secret of a bygone empire.

It’s steampunk. It was exciting during the Victorian era: Alexander Graham Bell used it in a photophone, which is a largely forgotten 1870’s version of fiberoptics, and it was still cool in 1918 when Merritt was writing. Like all great steampunk technologies, it’s been superseded by other technologies. (Silicon is a more efficient semiconductor, and polyvinylcarbazol a more efficient photoconductor, than selenium.)

It’s got a cool name. Selene is the Greek moon goddess’s name that also gave Selune her name. “Selenium” suggests some moonlight-drenched stone, maybe mined on the moon, maybe holy to its goddess, that calls to the heavens. It’s convenient that, in real life as in Merrit’s horror fantasy, it can be used to drive sun-powered (or moon-powered) devices.

OK, how do you use it in D&D?

In my last game session, the players captured a giant squid space ship, piloted by mind flayers, with a cargo of selenium in its belly. The PCs sold it to starfaring elves. The elves alloy it with mithril to make +1 mithril weapons. There’s a catch: selenium swords are sensitive to sunlight the same way drow weapons are, and they’re prone to damaging “sun rust”. (This is a further development of an idea I had before.

You could also use it the way selenium is used in real life, or in The Moon Pool, except magicked up: a selenium sensor can cast a spell under specific light conditions just the way a Magic Mouth can speak words under specific conditions. This ties into another idea I’ve blogged about, an electrum mirror, but with a different metal.

Selenium could be used to make magic items that only function in moonlight. A selenium sword that’s normal during the day and a +1 glowing sword in moonlight is a nice minor magic item that’ll be valuable to low-level characters.

Throw a pinch of selenium dust in the air and the light of a full moon shines down, even in a dark dungeon. This could be useful for banishing shadows, spotting werewolves, or summoning fairy creatures.

Real life selenium is poisonous, but I bet that D&D adventurers carry little vials of selenium powder (“moon dust”). A mouthful of this stuff turns you into a fey creature, which means you’re immune to charm and don’t need to sleep. You don’t need rest either: you’re immune to the effects of exhaustion for a full day. You can hustle all night and day if you have to. Over good roads, you might be able to cover 200 miles. Disadvantage: your blood runs thin. Every time you take an injury, you take 1d4 extra damage. Furthermore, after 24 hours, the exhaustion catches up to you.

critical failures that lead to treasure

Friday, October 25th, 2013

“Fari! Duck!” Havilar cried. The second head slammed into her side and threw her into the lake. The icy water shocked her every nerve and she nearly gasped in surprise. The blue light of the water was all around her, and for a moment she couldn’t tell where the surface was and where the lake bottom lay. … She turned, trying to find some purchase, some touchstone that would point the way. And found herself facing a dark, jagged hole in the rock. … She ran her fingers over the freezing stone, the chiseled edges of runes still clear. No wonder it had been lost to the ages.
-Lesser Evils by Erin M Evans

It’s often a misstep that leads to a discovery. That’s quite common in adventure novels, and it’s a nice little encounter-design reminder: a dungeon can use a few easter-egg discoveries that can be found only by meticulous search OR by some sort of catastrophic failure. If everything goes well for the party, they’ll probably miss a treasure or two.

The most obvious example of this trope is the treasure or secret door at the bottom of a hidden pit. If you want to strip the idea to its most basic form, the very idea of a monster guarding treasure is central to D&D: you pass through a misfortune to get a reward.

More specifically, here are some situations where a creature’s successful attack reveals an otherwise well-hidden treasure.

  • A few of the crystals in the chandelier are actually diamonds. If the kobolds cut the rope, dropping the chandelier on top of you, you might notice that a handful of the crystals didn’t shatter on the flagstones.
  • There’s a glowing dagger inside the purple worm’s belly.
  • The glass hill is too slippery to climb, but on a critical hit, the angry hill giant hurls you to the top.
  • The purple teeth of a Night Smiler break off in the wound. Cure Disease will prevent further damage. Otherwise, in the ensuing fever, the bite mark’s pattern of red, inflamed skin spells a password that will let you enter Death’s kingdom alive.
  • A roc takes you to its jeweled nest.
  • The halfling squeezes into a tiny tunnel, where he is dragged into a ghoul lair. For as long as it takes them to eat him alive, they crouch on a pressure plate that opens a valve that pours holy water into a sunken bath. Any further living offerings taken by the ghouls will cause more holy water to be dispensed.
  • If you disregarded the advice of the druid and enter the Oakwood carrying anything made of oak, 2-40 Acorn Men will zip down from the trees and attack, riding holly leaves. Each holly leaf is attached to 1-3 goodberries.
  • If the Lurker Above is killed while it’s on the ceiling, it turns to stone. Otherwise, when it drops onto its victims, it reveals a planetarium on the ceiling. Touch a planet and you fall asleep for 8 hours or until awakened. While asleep, you have accelerated hex-crawl adventures on that planet: each day of sword-and-planet adventure takes a turn.
  • If you’re cursed by the water weird, you turn to liquid, flow through the grate in the floor, and drain into a cave, where you re-form next to the ladder of a smuggler’s hideaway containing magic drugs.
  • the month door

    Monday, July 29th, 2013

    For all of Mira’s assurances, nothing was simple about entering the cavern, in Farideh’s opinion. First, there was a climb up a nearly sheer rock face, the stream that seemed to trickle out the broken door pouring down on her head. She hauled herself up onto the narrow ledge behind Mira, not wanting to consider how they would get back down.
    Lesser Evils by Erin M. Evans

    One of the things I liked about Mike Mornard’s old-school dungeon crawl was that there was a significant cost to entering the dungeon each time. You had to negotiate past a mad wizard on each trip. This encouraged you to stretch your resources, which made things a little more tense.

    You can’t come up with a gimmick like that for every dungeon, of course. But you can come up with a gimmick like that for a LOT of dungeons.

    In the passage above, the difficulty is simply a dangerous climb to the dungeon entrance. That’s not bad at all. (In the book, there’s also time pressure on the dungeon excursion – another classic.)

    Another way to increase the dungeon-entry cost is to institute, not a fixed cost, but a lottery. Every time you open the door, there’s a visible risk. In the simplest case, there’s a wheel-of-fortune roulette wheel on the door, and it spins every time you open the door. If you get double zeroes, something bad happens. Maybe a trap is spring, or maybe the dungeon just collapses, leaving you unharmed but burying any treasure you hadn’t looted yet.

    Free-associating from the idea of an ancient roulette wheel, I’m thinking of one of those round calendars like the Mayan calender.

    The Mayan calandar has 20 months – convenient for D&D random number generation! But luckily, a 12-month calendar comes with its own die as well.

    In fact, I have a d12 with the months on it, just begging for its own house-rules subsystem. Maybe this is it!

    In order to open the door, you have to spin the stone calendar disk on the door. We’ll associate a god or demon with each month. The evil god, or the scariest demon, is associated with January (or a roll of 1 on the d12).

    We could further tie the dungeon to the die roll: based on the season you roll, the dungeon is altered. If one god is associated with lightning, then lightning crackles down the hallways and powers otherwise inoperable machines. Or maybe it’s based on the season. If you roll a spring month, the dungeon walls are covered with climbable ivy: some new areas are now accessible. In winter, snow and ice coat the floors, and you need winter clothes to avoid exposure damage. In summer, it’s hot, and the dungeon’s pools and rivers are dried up, revealing treasures and secrets. Fall? Well, fall is a time of death and decay. So, business as usual in the dungeon.

    6 magic inks

    Friday, March 1st, 2013

    The Lensman was rocked to the heels, but did not show it. Instead, he took the captain’s pen – his own, as far as Willoughby was concerned, could have been filled with vanishing ink – and wrote George Olmstead’s name in George Olmstead’s bold, flowing script.
    -E. E. Smith, First Lensman

    In 1950, when Doc Smith wrote the sci-fi novel First Lensman, disappearing ink was still reasonably hi-tech: it had been a major espionage tool as recently as World War II. Now it seems a little quaint and dated, which means it’s time for it to make the transition from SF to fantasy.

    Not only is disappearing ink a good trick for a RPG character’s reportoire, ink itself seems like a fruitful avenue for new magic items, untapped by the standard D&D magic-item list.

    Here are some ink bottles that might be available at the local apothecary. Each ink bottle can be used to write a dozen pages.

    Disappearing ink: Twelve hours after you write with it, the writing disappears. Great for messages that must not fall into the wrong hands, and signing contracts that you don’t want to keep. It’s entirely alchemical so it doesn’t radiate magic.

    Burning ink: Twelve hours after you write with it, the ink catches fire, burning the paper it’s on, along with anything flammable nearby, unless it’s caught. Even better for signing contracts you don’t want to keep. It radiates faint magic: a suspicious notary/wizard using Detect Magic will have to make an Intelligence Check to notice it.

    Exploding ink: As soon as the ink is dry, any writing turns into Explosive Runes. Great for wizards on the go. The ink and the runes radiate strong magic.

    Courtier’s ink: As you write, the words re-form behind your pen into elegant phrases and flowery compliments. Your handwriting is also slightly improved. Grants your letter a +3 to Charisma checks to anyone who is impressed by well-expressed sentiments. This is widely used at courts, and too expensive for the starving poets who covet it so very, very much.

    Sewer Ink: The reverse of Courtier’s Ink turns any writing into a collection of shocking profanity, ill-turned phrases and deadly insults. It applies a -6 to Charisma checks. Unlike Courtier’s Ink, the writing does not re-form for twelve hours, and your handwriting is not altered. This ink is most often used for practical jokes and venomous plots.

    Poison Ink: This oldie but goodie causes pages to slightly cling together so that readers must moisten their fingers to turn the pages. It’s also a deadly poison: twelve hours after a careless reader ingests the ink, he or she must make a saving throw or take 3d6 damage and be helpless for the next twelve hours. This saving throw is repeated every 12 hours until a successful save is made.

    Characters may make a hard Wisdom or Intelligence check, or an easy History, Pulp Literature, Rare Poisons, Dastardly Plans, or other appropriate skill check to realize that the pages are poisoned.

    Poison ink can also be used as a normal poison, on weapons or in food.

    D&D names from the 17th century

    Friday, February 22nd, 2013

    Here are some 17th century historical figures with D&D names:

    From Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver:

    On 16 August 1688, I met Liselotte von der Pfalz, Elisabeth Charlotte, duchesse d’Orleans, who is known to the French Court as Madame or La Palatine, and to her loved ones in Germany as the Knight of the Rustling Leaves, at the gate of a stable on her estate at St. Cloud on the Seine, just downstream of Paris.

    This is a pretty awesome name for a semi-exiled, itinerant princess. It seems to have been the real nickname of Liselotte von der Pfalz. From her letters, it seems that she was a tomboy princess who preferred hunting to fancy-dress balls, and, as she says elsewhere, swords to dolls. It would be pretty easy to fit Lisolette, the Knight of Rustling Leaves, into any D&D campaign.

    And how about this name? In a 1660 passage from his diary, Samuel Pepys mentions “Sir Harbottle Grimstone, Speaker for the House of Commons.” How about that name? It sounds almost aggressively, implausibly D&D, and I had to double-check that it was a real guy.

    magic from the time of Newton

    Friday, February 15th, 2013

    Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle is about the era of Newton, Samuel Pepys and the foundation of the Royal Society: it’s the transition period where you’d stop using D&D to model contemporary scientific belief and start using d20 Modern. From the point of view of fantasy fans, periods like this are productive. As magic goes under the microscope, its formulae are recorded in lab notes.

    Take this passage from Quicksilver, inspired by a real experiment conducted by the Royal Society:

    Sir Robert Moray came to visit, and ground up a bit of the unicorn’s horn to make a powder, which he sprinkled in a ring, and placed a spider in the center of the ring. But the spider kept escaping. Moray pronounced the horn to be a fraud.

    The description of this experiment, by which they prove that unicorn’s horn does not kill venomous beasts, raises some questions: where did they get the unicorn horn? Let’s put that aside. The D&D takeaway here is that, if magic does work, unicorn horns (and unicorns) should be very dangerous to venomous creatures. Let’s say that a touch from a unicorn horn forces a creature to make a save vs. its own poison or suffer its effects. A creature’s immunity to poison does not protect it against this effect. This is the sort of using-its-own-power-against-it magical judo you’d expect from a good-aligned creature like a unicorn.

    Daniel… read the graffiti cut in the stone by prisoners of centuries past. Not your vulgar Newgate Prison graffiti–most of it was in Latin, big and solemn as gravestones, and there were astrological diagrams and runic incantations graven by imprisoned sorcerers.

    One thing we know about the incantations of imprisoned sorcerers: none of them are Knock or Teleport. Here is one of the real Tower of London carvings, etched the sorcerer Hugh Draper in 1561:

    It looks just like the kind of thing I doodle in meetings. In D&D terms, it actually looks less like a spell and more like a spellbook: something you’d carve once, and then consult while doing innumerable astrological readings.

    The D&D inspiration I get from this carving: a spellbook is a collection of shortcuts and pre-computed values. A wizard can’t be permanently separated from his or her spellbook. Given enough time, the wizard can re-compute and re-draw the various calculations and diagrams necessary to cast spells, even with nothing to write with but a stone wall and a tiny piece of metal. I like to think that in 1562, after a year or so of turning his dungeon cell wall into a spellbook, Hugh Draper was able to memorize Teleport and get the hell out of the Tower.

    more magic and monsters from Quag Keep

    Friday, February 8th, 2013

    From Andre Norton’s silly D&D novel, Quag Keep:

    Memory once more moved in Milo’s mind, opening grudgingly another door. It was a gar-eagle-the greatest of all winged creatures (save, of course, a dragon) that his world knew. The very beating of those wings churned up snow as the bird descended. And when it came to perch at last on a rock a little farther ahead, closed its fifteen-foot wings, and twisted its head downward toward the elf-over whom it would have towered another head’s length had they been meeting on level ground-even Naile pushed back a fraction.

    Many fantasy worlds provide their own version of a roc, from Tolkien’s giant eagle to John Norman’s tarn from the Gor series which Arneson used in his own campaign. I’m not sure where the gar-eagle came from: was it a reference, conscious or otherwise, to John Norman’s Gor? or just a nonsense fantasy world?

    Odd note: in looking for prior references to “gar”, I found this veteran’s organization, whose symbol is an eagle.

    Milo did not need the faint, musty smell of corruption that wafted toward them from that crew to know that these were liches, the Undead. Their body armor was the same color as the dust that had been their outward tomb for so long. They even wore masks of metal, having but holes for eyes and nostrils, which hung from their helmets, covering their faces. The masks had been wrought in the form of fierce scowls, and tufts of metal, spun as fine as hairs, bearded their chins to fan outward over their mail corselets. They poured up from the hold, swords in hand-strange swords curved as to blade-which they swung with a will. And the Undead could not die. Milo, as he reached the surface of the deck, saw Naileboar savage one of the Undead with his tusks, breaking armor as brittle as the shell of a long-dead beetle, in fact breaking the liche almost in two. But its feet continued to stand and the torso, as it fell, still aimed a blow at its attacker. “ALL-LL-VAR!”

    In this passage, “lich” is used as a general term for undead. In fact, these liches sound more like skeletons or zombies – undead fighters, not undead wizards.

    If Andre Norton encountered, or heard of, a spell-casting lich in her dungeon crawl, there’s actually no reason that she would have believed that the creature’s spells were an integral part of its lichiness. After all, before D&D, “lich” just means “corpse”. But for me, decades of D&D tradition and fantasy imitation have made “lich” synonymous with “skeleton spellcaster”, so this passage just seems weird.

    There were women secrets that even the wizards could not fathom. Milo had heard tell of them. He shook his head as if to loosen a pall of dust from his mind, as he had in part from his body. Women magic-cold. Moon magic. . . . All men knew that women had a tie with the moon which was knit into their bodies. What she wrought here might be as alien to him as the thoughts and desires of a dragon — or a liche — if the dead-alive had thoughts and not just hungers and the will of Chaos to animate them. Yet Milo could not turn away — for still that trilling enticed, drew him. Then she spoke, though she did not turn her head.

    This “moon magic” stuff reminds me of the back of Sign of the Labrys, another book by a female Appendix N author:

    There was life also, for he started once and nearly spun off into the dust, as the sound of shrill and loud croaking made him think, with a shiver he could not entirely subdue, of that horror tale told about the Temple of the Frog and the unnatural creatures bred and nurtured therein to deliver the death stroke against any who invaded that hidden land. That, too, occupied the heart of a swamp, holding secrets no man of the outer world could more than guess.

    Temple of the Frog! That’s from the 1975 Blackmoor supplement. Just how much did Andre Norton know about D&D? Did she have the rulebook and all the supplements? Are her lore changes made in ignorance, or was her novel set in a consciously house-ruled version of D&D? So confusing.

    magic and monsters of Quag Keep

    Friday, February 1st, 2013

    From Andre Norton’s bizarre D&D novel, Quag Keep:

    “We light no more fires. That feeds them,” the cleric continued. “They must have a measure of light to manifest themselves. We must deny them that.”

    “Who are ‘they’?” growled Naile. He, too, slewed around to look without.

    “The shadows,” returned Deav Dyne promptly. “Only they are more than shadows, though even my prayers for enlightenment and my scrying cannot tell me what manner of manifestation they really are. If there is no light they are hardly to be seen and, I believe, so weak they cannot work any harm. They came yesterday after Ingrge had ridden forward. But they are no elven work, nor have I any knowledge of such beings. Now they gather with the dark-and wait.”

    This is a great D&D monster, perhaps more interesting than the classic D&D Shadow. It works especially well in 5e, which does distinguish between darkness, light, and the “shadowy illumination” in which these monsters thrive.

    I’d say that these monsters can move around, but not attack, in the darkness beyond the PCs’ torchlight; can attack from shadows; and are helpless and possibly even damaged when inside an area of bright light.

    “Is it not true that a spell once used, unless it can be fed from another source, will not answer again?”

    This is another bizarre feature of the Quag Keep version of D&D. Each character can use each spell once. It actually seems more like Mazes and Monsters than D&D in some ways – or perhaps Arneson’s original magic system.

    While we’re on the magic system…

    They backed Deav Dyne who swung his beads still as he might a whip advancing on the black druid who cowered, dodged, and tried to escape, yet seemingly could not really flee. The prayer beads might be part of a net to engulf him, as well as a scourge to keep him from calling on his own dark powers. For to do that, any worker of magic needed quiet and a matter of time to summon aides from another plane, and Carivols was allowed neither.

    In this version of D&D, does “any worker of magic” need quiet and time to cast any spell? If so, can spells not be cast in combat? Or is this stricture only placed on summoning spells? (Maybe the latter. In the Greyhawk supplement, the “monster summoning” spells do specify that they come with a “delay: one turn.”)

    treasure from Quag Keep

    Friday, January 25th, 2013

    From Andre Norton’s flawed D&D novel, Quag Keep:

    “Warrior.” Now he addressed Naile directly. “To my Lord, money is nothing. A year ago he found the hidden Temple of Tung and all its once-locked treasures are under his hand. I am empowered to draw upon them to secure any rarity. What say you to a sword of seven spells, a never-fail shield, a necklet of lyra gems such as not even the king of the Great Kingdom can hope to hold, a-“

    How about that? 3 D&D treasures that have never been written up. Google reveals that the only reference to any of “sword of seven spells”, “never-fail shield” or “lyra gems” is from Quag Keep. So what do they do exactly?

    The problem is that they seem like they might be a bit too powerful. Specifically, the “never-fail shield” seems like it should protect you from all harm, which is obviously overpowered. Let’s say that, once a day, you can use the never-fail shield to block one attack or spell, but you must decide to use the shield’s power before the attack roll or saving throw.

    As for the sword of seven spells: it’s probably equivalent to a combined +1 sword/scroll with 7 random spells on it, except that only Fighting Men can use the spells. Once each spell has been used, it can’t be used again. When all 7 spells are used, it’s nothing but a +1 sword.

    It’s possible that when you use up a spell, you use it up only for yourself, so once you’re finished with it, you should hand it to the Fighting Man next to you.

    As for lyra gems, they’re probably nonmagical, but clearly very valuable. Maybe they’re the next price category of gems, above diamonds.

    “Masterly — masterly and as evil as the Nine and Ninety Sins of Salzak, the Spirit Murderer.”

    This is an offhand comment that I’m throwing in because this Salzak, the Spirit Murderer sounds awesome. Use Salzak as your campaign villain and you will be using a bit of Greyhawk canon that hasn’t been used since 1978.

    Quag Keep: alternate-history D&D

    Friday, January 18th, 2013

    Quag Keep is a bizarre book. It’s the first D&D novel (it was published in 1978, so it was written before Advanced Dungeons and Dragons came out). It’s by Andre Norton, an Appendix N author and a well-respected fantasy/sci fi writer, above the level of most licensed-setting writers. And yet it’s neither a great novel nor a great D&D book.

    It seems to be based on a alternate-dimension version of Greyhawk D&D: there are many ideas that are quite interesting, but don’t appear anywhere else in D&D canon. Perhaps this can be explained by the book’s blurb:

    “In 1976, Andre Norton was invited to play a new sort of adventure game, Dungeons & Dragons. Its creator, E Gary Gygax, introduced Norton to his world of Greyhawk. After a session of world building, role playing, and fantasy adventuring, Norton wrote “Quag Keep”, a tale of six adventurers from our world who journey to the city of Greyhawk in order to aid a wizard and unlock the secrets of the stronghold of “Quag Keep”.”

    It makes a lot of sense that Andre wrote this after a session of D&D, not multiple sessions, and presumably without a lot of subsequent input from Gary.

    The book is interesting as a piece of D&D history. It’s also interesting as a different take on D&D: a way D&D could have gone, had it taken a different branch in the road. Who knows, maybe it has some ideas worth bringing back into D&D canon.

    I’ll read Quag Keep and look for its idiosyncrasies and see if I can figure out ways to use any of them in a game.

    OK, here’s the basic premise: a bunch of real-world people get sucked into a game of D&D, where they are railroaded into an adventure via a geas. OK Go!

    Boar helm, boar cloak-memories and knowledge Milo did not consciously search for arose. This other was a berserker, and one with skill enough to turn were-boar if he so desired.

    1978 was well before the introduction of the Barbarian class, so the berserker here is either a Fighting Man or some unique pre-barbarian class. It seems like the latter, since at high level, the character gains the ability to turn into a were-boar. It’s an interesting idea for a class. I actually seem to remember reading something similar to this in an early piece of Dragon Magazine fiction, so maybe there was a fan-made Berserker class floating around somewhere.

    Nor was he surprised that the stranger should have the pseudo-dragon as a traveling companion or pet, whichever their relationship might be. For the weres, like the elves and some others, could communicate with animals at will.

    More details about the Berserker class! And also, incidentally, details about the elven race that you won’t find in the PHB: they can speak Animal.

    This makes me think that it might be kind of cool to add a few languages to the usual D&D collection of Common, Goblin, Lawful Good, etc: maybe 5 or so animal language (Wolfish, spoken by mammal predators; Deer, spoken by mammal herbivores; Avian, spoken by birds; Piscian, fish; etc.) Let them be taken as bonus languages just like any other language. Maybe they would be restricted to “weres, elves and some others.”

    The eternal war between Law and Chaos flared often in Greyhawk. It was in a manner of speaking a “free city”-since it had no one overlord to hold it firmly to his will. For that reason it had become a city of masterless men, a point from which many expeditions, privately conceived and planned for the despoiling of ancient treasures, would set out, having recruited the members from just such masterless men as Milo himself, or perhaps the berserker only an arm’s length away. But if those on the side of Law recruited here, so did the followers of Chaos. There were neutrals also, willing to join with either side for the sake of payment. But they were never to be wholly depended upon by any man who had intelligence, for they might betray one at the flip of a coin or the change of the wind itself.

    As a swordsman Milo was vowed to Law. The berserker had more choice in such matters. But this place, under its odors of fresh and stale food, stank to Milo of Chaos.

    As D&D has gone on, the importance of the battle between Law and Chaos has gradually diminished. in 1978, it was still a big thing. But the importance of the “eternal war” in Quag Keep is maybe even more important than it is in the OD&D rules. It’s explicitly a game-world concept, like race, not a meta-game concept like class or hit points. Furthermore, it’s a palpable thing: Milo can smell it.

    Speaking of in-game concepts: as a “swordsman” (an OD&D level title for Fighting Men, right?) Milo is “sworn to Law.” It’s hard to say exactly what this means in QD&D (Quag Keep D&D), but it might mean that a) all Fighting Men are lawful and b) OD&D level titles aren’t metagame descriptors: they are the names of in-world military orders or ranks.

    Berserkers, apparently, don’t have to be lawful: more evidence that they’re a separate class from Fighting Men.

    “Deav Dyne, who puts his faith in the gods men make for themselves.” There was exasperation in the wizard’s voice as he spoke the name of the next. By his robe of gray, faced with white, Deav Dyne was a follower of Landron-of-the-Inner-Light and of the third rank.

    Perhaps the most interest thing about Quag Keep is that nearly everything that I think of as a game-only concept turns out to be explicitly known by the characters in the novel. Deav Dyne is a third level (or rank) cleric. Furthermore, he wears a color-coded robe that shows that he is a third level cleric. When he advances to fourth level, he’ll get a new robe.

    This makes it more plausible that Milo’s title of “swordsman” is also an identification of his character level. (Furthermore, later in the novel, someone says that Milo is “a swordsman, a rank that marks you as a seasoned fighting man.”)

    The other interesting thing from this passage: Deav wears a robe. In QD&D, clerics are clothies.