Monday, March 31, 2014

Thoughts on a shared Universal Monster Universe

So there's talk about Universal doing a reboot of 2004's Van Helsing, in the hopes of starting off a shared universe along the same lines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Apparently Bob Orci is starting off with a Mummy film (which could be a great place to start). Now, I might argue that Universal already did such a thing back in the 1930's and 40's, with their crossover films that connected classic monsters like Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolfman, and Dracula into a very loose and ad-hoc continuity. (Egads, does that put Abbott and Costello in the place of Agent Coulson as "the glue"???)

Two of the weaknesses in the 2004 Van Helsing, I thought, were the secret monster-hunting society and the attempt to cram a ton of monsters into the single film right off the bat. In fairness, the Marvel model hadn't yet been established, where a film focuses tightly on one character, which then leads into another, and another, with minor shared characters darting in and out of the continuity, and then you see the big team-up film that raises the stakes for the whole shared universe, which then leads into the next batch of single-character movies, etc., etc., etc.

I think it's a great model, but it takes time to lay the groundwork, and it can't be rushed into. That's exactly what I think Sony is doing with their Spider-man franchise (a Sinister Six movie next, but no Black Cat? Really?) and Warner Brothers is doing with the DC Universe (straight from a stand-alone Superman film to a huge mix-up with at least Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aqua Man). If Universal has the confidence to play the long game, they could come out with a really well-established shared universe around their monster properties.

Let's take an inventory of what, exactly, we're talking about, in terms of "A List" monsters:

  • Dracula
  • Frankenstein's Monster
  • The Wolfman
  • The Invisible Man
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Doctor Jekyll/Mister Hyde
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • The Gill Man (aka the Creature from the Black Lagoon)

More than enough to sustain a whole slew of films, if they're plotted together properly. There are also a ton of "B List" monsters and characters that could be woven in and amongst them, like the Mole People, Maleva the gypsy from the Wolfman, Van Helsing, Doctor Frankenstein, Ygor, Else Frankenstein, the Cult of the Cobra, the Creeper, etc.

One issue that would have to be addressed is the question of what time-period the movies would take place. Dracula and the Monster are immortal, but the other characters certainly aren't. Dracula originally takes place in the early 19th century, while the Creature from the Black Lagoon was set in the 1950's. Some sort of compression of time-frame would be needed, and some sort of "glue" the way S.H.I.E.L.D. binds the MCU together.

It's also something of the inverse of the MCU, since the monsters are the central, and repeating, characters. Heroes can come and go, but the monsters endure.

I picture this without a single overarching "glue", but rather more direct movie-to-movie connections. So there would be van Helsing as protagonist in a couple of Dracula movies, and a Frankenstein origin film followed by a Bride of Frankenstein-inspired story with Dr. Praetorius as protagonist, then Dracula would move over to Frankenstein, trying to force Frankenstein's son to repeat the experiment, introducing Maleva, then a Wolfman origin story set in the same town as Frankenstein, with a lot of the same secondary characters, and then a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film with a lab assistant who will later become the Invisible Man, and so forth.

I think if they don't try to rush things, Universal has the potential to really put together an effective shared universe, treating the material seriously and still recalling the heyday of Universal monster movies where mash-ups between monsters were commonplace. Today we call that a shared universe, and if it's done deliberately, setting things up in one film that payoff in another, it can really work.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Has fandom become too prudish and unoriginal? (NSFW)

I happened across some photo galleries of cosplaying (although there wasn't a word for it back then, it was just "wearing costumes") from science fiction conventions in the 1970's. It made me wonder, has fandom gotten too prudish and puritanical, too Politically Correct, and too slavishly imitative of mass media?

(NSFW below the fold)

Friday, March 28, 2014

RIP Dave Trampier

Another of the greats from the early days of the hobby has passed away. Dave Trampier, who lent his unique and wonderful artistic style to the early books and magazines by TSR, died on Monday at age 59. He turned his back on the RPG world many years ago, but we never turned our back on him.

Update: This news has been confirmed, and worst of all, comes just as it seems that Mr. Trampier was set to start a return to the gaming world, with a convention appearance. The tragedy, and loss to the gaming world, is doubled.

Some of my favorite pieces by the late, great, Tramp:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dexcon / OSWARP registration now live!

Ahoy, east coast gamers! It's two cons for the price of one (well, one-half, actually - see below).

This July 2-6 will find the Dexcon convention in beautiful Morristown, NJ (an hour from NYC by train, less if you're driving), as well as the first-ever OSWARP (Old School Wargaming and Role Playing) convention on that Friday and Saturday.

Featured events are the Ogre Macrotures game on Friday afternoon and an all-new OSR Team Dungeon Crawl event on Saturday, with an enormous ballroom-sized dungeon layout and multiple teams playing concurrently, using a simplified version of the Basic D&D rules. Should be a blast.

If OSWARP is successful, it'll be spun off into its own convention in September 2015. So let's make it a spectacular success!

Now, here's a special deal for us old-school gamers:

First, get your hotel room (if you want/need one - it's a gorgeous hotel and very friendly to the gaming cons, the convention rate is $125 a night).

Second, submit any game master proposals you might have. If you volunteer to run enough games (64 player-hours' worth if you're getting the special OSWARP membership), you get comped into the convention altogether. Types of games we're looking for:

  • Old-school RPGs (Basic, AD&D, White Box, BECMI, Metamorphosis Alpha, Boot Hill, T&T, Runequest, Traveller, C&S, FASA Star Trek, etc. etc. etc.)
  • OSR retro-clones and associated games (OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, S&W, C&C, DCC, Barbarians of Lemuria, etc. etc. etc.)
  • Wargames (hex and counter types and others, like Afrika Korps, Third Reich, War in Europe, Campaign for North Africa, Kingmaker, Starfleet Battles, other AH/SPI/Victory Games/etc. - doesn't have to be from the 80's)
  • Miniatures (historical miniatures from any era, Chainmail (with or without the fantasy supplement), Battlesystem, etc.)
  • Anything else you think would be appropriate for an "old school" convention
Make sure you select OSWARP in the "type of game" section in the form. And when you do send in a game proposal, let me know either in the comments here or by email, so I have some idea of what's coming. I'll be doing regular updates as games come in, so as to drum up interest, and have some ideas for stuff at the con that requires I know what's on the horizon.

Third, when you register for the convention, use the code OSRDX17PX30, and you'll get a $30 discount off a complete membership. To take advantage of this deal, you must sign up for 4 Oswarp-labeled events once the schedule is posted, or two OSWARP events and the OSR Team Dungeon Crawl. (Which, if you're reading this blog, you were probably going to be doing anyway, but just in case...)

That means you get into Dexcon, and can play as many RPGs, board games, video games, LARPs, miniatures games, and wargames as you can put into your schedule over 96 hours for just $40, including all the OSWARP games you can handle. That's pretty damn good. (If you're just planning on coming for the Friday/Saturday OSWARP programming, that's still the best option to choose, in terms of price.)

Please feel free to spread this news far and wide, so we get as many old school gamers in for OSWARP as we can. The east coast is going to have its OSR con, now let's make it fantastic!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing

Want to see what appears to be some prototype figures from the upcoming D&D Attack Wing game? The one based on the hit games Star Wars X-Wing and Star Trek Attack Wing? Of course you do!

That comes from the Dice Tower Twitter feed, by the by. Coming to stores this October!

To which, I have but one response:

D&D 5th Edition News from GAMA

ENWorld has a nice recap of the highlights from Wizards' presentation on the upcoming 5th edition of D&D. You can read the whole thing here, but the gist of it is:

  • Organized play will be set in the Forgotten Realms, and 5E will kick off with the Tyranny of Dragons story, which centers on the cult of Tiamat. (No word if that also means there will be a Living Realms.)
  • The D&D boxed starter set will be "gorgeous."
  • There will be a PH, DMG, and MM. Only one PH (we'll see how long that lasts). All the "iconic" monsters will be in the MM.
  • They will continue to make previous editions available.

Alas, nobody was allowed to take pictures. Hopefully WotC will be putting some up on their website soon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Scarce spell components

I'm currently reading a translation of a couple of the Black Books from Swedish folk-magic, and one thing that struck me was the really interesting items (what D&D-me would call "material components") are needed to properly do the spells. For instance:

  • A "blade of regret" - a steel weapon that was used in some way that the user later regretted.
  • Filings from the wedding ring of a bride who lost their husband on their wedding night.
  • A Rowan twig that has been gathered on Maundy Thursday.
  • A pea that has been grown in the eye-socket of a human skull.
  • A headpiece worn by a baby that was baptized in the same church that you were.
  • A horseshoe from a horse that has thrown its rider, killing him.

The idea is that it's not that the item itself is innately valuable; no 500 g.p. gems to be crushed up or anything, but that the circumstances of its creation are so rare that an ordinary item becomes valuable due to its provenance. I kinda like that idea as a mechanism for keeping some more powerful spells rarely used, even though they might end up in someone's spell book. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Let's Read: Greyhawk Adventures (Part 4)

Ehlonna, looking remarkably like Counselor
Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation
...and just be aware this series is going to take a while to get through the whole thing. I'll try to step up the pace a bit.

Ehlonna of the Forests is our next entry. Her avatar sees to have been demoted in power more than any of the previous entries. In the gold box, she was an 11th level druid, 12th level ranger, and 10th level magic-user (incidentally, that should give you some idea of the power level intended for the original 1E rules). In this book, she is merely a 10th level magic-user. There is little in the book that is new concerning her, but her clerics are given the information necessary for the 2E rules (their spell spheres), and a new spell, stalk, a 2nd level spell which renders the beneficiary virtually undetectable in natural surroundings. Curiously, however, there is no mention of its impact on surprise, which seems an obvious mechanic that would be impacted by such a spell. The remaining information on the faith of Ehlonna is unchanged; we learn she is honored mostly between the Kron Hills, Ulek, and the Wild Coast. Again unsurprising given the emphasis on the central Flanaess as an adventuring locale.

Fharlanghn is next (skipping Erythnul from the original gold box), whose avatar loses his 20th level thief abilities, staying strictly a 9th level magic-user/9th level illusionist. As before, we learn nothing new about his priesthood or faith, although they do have a unique spell, footsore, a 4th level curse to inflict on others that effectively makes any journey seem to take twice as long as it actually does. Flavorful, perhaps, but not something I'd probably take on an everyday basis. A weak entry.

We then skip over Heironeous and Hextor (!) and go to Incabulous. His avatar undergoes some odd transformations compared to the earlier material; where he was once am 18th level cleric, 18th level illusionist, and 13th level thief, he is now a 13th level cleric and 13th level magic-user. There is again no new information on his clerics or religion, other than that needed for the 2nd edition rules, although they do have a new spell, plague, which is a 4th level spell that weakens enemies (and can spread to others in range), but only for a limited time, after which the effects wear off. I would have liked something a bit more... virulent... especially for a 4th level spell.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Save the date, my fellow grognards - the Oswarp con is coming!

The first Oswarp ("Old School Wargaming and Role Playing") convention, to be held concurrently with this year's Dexcon convention, will be held in Morristown, NJ Friday July 4th and Saturday the 5th. The hope is that next year we can spin it off to its own stand-alone OSR convention in September 2015, but I think the fact that we have the support of a well-established gaming convention will really help get things off the ground.

So now's the time to take that vacation day if you need to travel on Thursday! (The good news is that there will be a boatload of regular games happening on Thursday, if you get in and feel the urge to play one of those newfangled games the kids are all talking about these days.)

We will be looking not only for people to come and play games, but also for people to step up and run games. And it doesn't have to just be D&D or retro-clones, either. I think if we have things like Gamma World, Boot Hill, Marvel Superheroes, Conan, Chivalry & Sorcery, Tunnels and Trolls, Runequest, Traveller, Twilight: 2000, etc. etc. etc. it would be all kinds of awesome!

Plus, I'm hoping to get a much larger representation from the old-school wargaming crowd as well. Bring us your Panzerblitz, your MechWar, your NATO, your Dune, your Kingmaker, your Third Reich, your Afrika Korps! And miniatures too - how cool would it be to have a game or two of Chainmail or Tractics or some 6mm Napoleonics on the schedule!?

The official sign-up won't be up for a bit (I'll trumpet the news far and wide when it is), but I wanted to put it out there for folks to make plans. Let's hear about your ideas for events - there will most certainly be another Ogre Macrotures game, and ye gods, what would be more appropriate than having a multi-day Gettysburg miniature campaign on the 4th of July? Step up to the plate, my friends, and let's put an east coast OSR convention on the map!

Friday, March 14, 2014

D&D is eeeevil!

Timothy Brannan earlier posted a couple of nifty videos from the 1980's "D&D is evil" craze. I thought I'd post a few photos of a bit of my own collection of "Satanic Panic" memorabilia, specifically the D&D thingamabobs.

The one at the top, I think we're all familiar with ("NO! NOT BLACK LEAF! NO! NO! I'M GOING TO DIE!"). And the 80's clothes are spot-on. But the one on the right (subtitled "Adventure or Abomination?") was published by Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network back in 1992. It's just a pamphlet, but you can hopefully read at least part of it below:

"The Truth About Dungeons & Dragons" is a much more substantive work (91 pages, published in 1991). Here's a page taken at random:

Heh. I'll spare you the more Pagan or Satanist oriented pieces of my collection (books like Painted Black), but some day I might recount my time as a featured guest on Talk Back with Bob Larson. :-)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

D&D slips to fourth place

According to ICV2's Internal Correspondence, D&D has now slipped to fourth place in overall sales in the retail sphere, behind Pathfinder, Star Wars, and now Fate.

This shouldn't be surprising, and the Q2 numbers are likely to be just as dismal for D&D. With the imminent release of 5th edition, and no 5th edition material being generally available until July (other than a few pdf offerings that don't register in the retail sales channel), customers are holding their collective breath for the new edition.

Look for D&D to vault back into first place come Q3. The interesting question will be how it fares once it gets over the initial bounce.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Swords of the Damned hard copy now available!

Woo-hoo! "Swords of the Damned," the first-ever novel based on Adventures Dark and Deep™ novel is now available in hard copy! Here's the cover blurb:
Morcar, a professional adventurer down on his luck, is shanghaied into attempting his riskiest mission yet – venturing into the labyrinthine tunnels underneath the ancient city of Graybarrow. Accompanied by a band of desperate renegades and rogues, he faces both the dangers of the unknown depths and a force that lies beyond death itself, with cultists and warriors on his trail. Can he conquer the Swords of the Damned, or is he destined to join their ranks...
You can get the softcover book from here, and don't forget that the ebook format is of course still available directly from the author via (sorry, there's no way to buy them both at the same time due to licensing).

It's really a nice book, and if you're a fan of Adventures Dark and Deep or fantasy fiction in general, you should definitely check it out.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Let's Read: Greyhawk Adventures (Part 3)

Next up is Celestian, "The Far Wanderer." Again, we see some of the verbiage in the description taken verbatim from the earlier Guide to the World of Greyhawk. His stats once again go down - in the earlier work he is a 14th level magic-user and 15th level ranger, but his avatar is merely a 13th level magic-user. His magic resistance also gets cut in half, although the power of his magical abilities is given a bit of a boost.

Perhaps one of the worst offenses is that the book actually cuts out information about his priesthood that gives it some color (literally). In the earlier Guide, we learn that there are seven orders of priesthood, and each has an identifying robe color and identifying gemstone. Those details are lost in the Greyhawk Adventures book, but we do learn that temples to Celestian are built far away from city lights, to make it easier for his priests to gaze upon the stars. Apparently light pollution is a problem in the Flanaess!

A rather frivolous depiction of
Celestian that doesn't quite match
the description in the book...
The fact that clerics of Celestian have a working knowledge of astronomy and navigation is a good touch (although giving them a formal skill, like the earlier sage abilities of the priests of Boccob might have been warranted), and they not only get bonus spells from the regular spell lists (like feather fall and levitate), but also have one spell unique to their priesthood: meteors, a 4th level spell that summons 2-5 meteors, each of which does 1d4+4 h.p. of damage. It recalls one of the powers of Celestian's avatar, and again is a nice touch. Clerics of Celestian sacrifice 10% of their earned x.p. for the privileges. (The illustration accompanying the meteors spell, I note, is the same as originally accompanied the description of the Rain of Colorless Fire in the original Greyhawk folio.)

Following Celestian is St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel, well-known to Greyhawk fans as possessor of the famous relic, the Mace of St. Cuthbert. We are told that his following in the Flanaess is large and widespread, if concentrated in the central portion of the continent (i.e., around the city of Greyhawk).

The avatar of St. Cuthbert is a 16th level cleric (compared to 22nd level cleric/8th level druid in the Guide), armed not only with his eponymous bronzewood cudgel as well as his famous mace; a mace of disruption +5 which causes those struck to lose a point of INT permanently on a natural 20, as well as having magical powers. The powers ascribed to the Mace (bless by touch, know alignment once per day, tongues at will, and remove curse seven times per week) don't match up to the power slots given in the original Dungeon Masters Guide, but that's not a fault of Greyhawk Adventures, as the description is taken verbatim from the earlier Guide to the World of Greyhawk.

Clerics get to cast shillelagh, ESP, and friends each once per day at various levels. They also have a new spell, beguiling, a 2nd level spell that combines the effect of charm spell with increasing damage on the club upon which it is cast. There's no new information about the priesthood or its functions, but there are some nice details which are taken verbatim from the earlier Guide. Aside from learning of the spell spheres of the clerics of St. Cuthbert (since the book covers both 1st and 2nd edition), there's really nothing new.

Sphere of Annihilation in Action!

And that's not CGI. It's real (and it talks!). Muhahaha...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Let's Read: Greyhawk Adventures (Part 2)

Next up are the deity-specific rules, and working alphabetically we come first to Boccob. Boccob's avatar is an 18th level magic-user with 62 h.p. (in the Glossography he was 24th level in both magic-user and illusionist with 354 h.p.) with several special abilities, including the dreaded Disc of Concordant Opposition. The Disc is somewhat lessened in power from its first mention in the Glossography; it can only be cast once per day instead of once per round, now affects creatures 10 HD or less rather than 13 HD or less, and does a maximum of 50 h.p. of damage.

Boccob, from the Dragon
Magazine article
I confess this is one thing I don't like about the avatars as they are presented in this book. Setting aside for the moment the fact that they're not mentioned earlier - the game evolves and new ideas come in all the time - they seem woefully underpowered even so. The avatar of a Greater Deity is only an 18th level magic-user? That seems to take "nerfing" to an extreme. His avatar does now have a Staff of the Archmage that combines a staff of the magi with a wand of conjuration, and can absorb 24 spell levels per day, but it hardly seems to make up for what the god himself has lost.

Clerics of Boccob are now granted "limited sage ability" in the "supernatural and unusual" major field, with one special category for every 4 points of INT. That's a nice touch, and makes sense given the god's sphere of influence. If they build a stronghold, they can essentially get a free crystal ball, with a few minor differences. They retain the ability to use magic items at 10th level, and have a new spell - disc of concordant opposition - which is a 6th level cleric spell that works like a watered-down version of the ability the deity has. We don't learn anything new about the religion of Boccob; everything is recounted from the Guide, in some cases word for word.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On the 5th Edition Release

By now, most of you have probably already heard about the listing for the D&D 5th Edition Players Handbook (and starter set) that were put up, seemingly accidentally, on Barnes and Nobel's website, and taken down soon thereafter. I happen to think this was a genuine mistake (it's happened before with WotC) and not a deliberate goof being played on the fans (like the recent release of the track listing for the Captain America Winter Soldier soundtrack - don't click on the link if you want to avoid a possible spoiler, but I don't think it's real).

First, the timing. I think that the date listed, August 19th, makes absolute perfect sense. WotC already said summer 2014 was the release time-frame, and I said last year that a GenCon release is going to be the way WotC goes, and having the core rulebooks available to the public the Tuesday after GenCon would only be logical. Which also means that, if my calculations are correct, the rules are done by now (or 99%) and the book is moving into editing and layout in order to have books for the booth at GenCon and in the distributors' warehouses in August.

Second, it's good to see that they won't be calling it "D&D Next" any more. It's just plain D&D. So I guess that means it's safe to start calling it 5th Edition now. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Finally, the price. A lot of people have been... um, expressing their opinions... on the retail price point of $49.95 for the Player's Handbook. Presumably the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide will be the same. While that is definitely more expensive than the $34.95 retail price of the core books for 4th edition, it actually doesn't compare too unfavorably with the buy-in price of the original AD&D books in 1979, once you account for inflation - $125 in today's dollars.

Add to that the fact that there will inevitably be discounts at places like Amazon and B&N. Just look at the screencap from B&N to the left - 25% off. And Amazon will probably go even lower. Now, there's no denying whatsoever that the availability of online discounts is going to hurt brick and mortar game stores. But that seems to be less of a problem with the retail price than it is with the existence of online discounts in the first place; people who are price-conscious are going to go online whether the retail price is $49.95 or $39.95. And most of the ones who are willing to spend the extra money just to patronize their FLGS are going to be willing to spend an extra $10 as well.

Plus there will almost certainly be a pdf version of the rulebooks available, now that WotC has decided to re-embrace ebooks through Although you never know about that - they might get it in their heads that the books will be pirated if they offer a pdf. Because, you know, not releasing pdfs yourself is a sure-fire way to make sure they never get put onto Bittorrent.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Let's Read: Greyhawk Adventures (Part 1)

I thought it might be interesting to go through one of the often-overlooked pieces of Greyhawkiana out there, somewhat in-depth. The Greyhawk Adventures hardcover book, "designed and coordinated" by Jim Ward, featured writing by at least seven other people, including Skip Williams and Nigel D. Findley. Published in 1988, it features a cover by Jeff Easley and interior art by nine artists, some of it rehashed from earlier products. It was the last of the 1st Edition AD&D hardcover books, and its cover states that it is compatible with both 1st and 2nd edition AD&D.

It is 128 pages long and features a plain two-column format with calligraphic drop-caps beginning each major section and a plain top line with a vegetative flourish separating the text from the section title in the header of each page. Occasionally there are more elaborate vegetative flourishes on the bottom of pages, presumably to take up whitespace, which recall the vegetative illuminations in the Guide to the World of Greyhawk.

The dedication, disappointingly but perhaps not surprisingly, is to Jim Ward's fans, rather than to the man who created the Greyhawk setting in the first place, Gary Gygax. The book was published during the Lorraine Williams years, so this conscious distancing of the book and setting from its creator is to be expected.

The introduction, in addition to providing an overview of the books contents (deities, monsters, heroes, spells, magic items, geography, and rules for zero-level characters), implies that the book was produced due to intense pressure from the fans of the setting: "This book was created out of the demand by those GREYHAWK game lovers for more information."

The first section is "Deities and Clerics of Greyhawk." It describes the deities that are covered in the book as "the most influential deities", which includes:

  • Boccob
  • Celestian
  • St. Cuthbert
  • Ehlonna
  • Fharlanghn
  • Incabulos
  • Istus
  • Iuz
  • Nerull
  • Pholtus
  • Ralishaz
  • Ulaa
Given that five out of the twelve deities are considered "major deities" (the highest of the ranks of deities in Greyhawk, although the rank of "intermediate god" hadn't yet been applied to the Greyhawkian pantheons), this is somewhat incongruous, as the Guide to the World of Greyhawk states on p. 62 that "In general, the greater gods are too far removed from the world to have much to do with humanity, and while they are worshiped, few people hold them as patrons."

The Greyhawk Adventures book, on the other hand, states that "the gods often visit the Prime Material Plane in avatar form to aid their worshipers or just to enjoy themselves," and that there is usually at least one avatar of a god in the city of Greyhawk at any given time! It also says that battles between godly avatars in the city are not uncommon. This is somewhat unique, and I don't recall that being mentioned in any of the past or subsequent works dealing with the city. 

It is the case that, when the Guide to the World of Greyhawk was written, the concept of avatars wasn't being used. But it does seem a stretch to say that the aloof greater deities would then send their avatars down to the city of Greyhawk to brawl with other gods in the streets. 

Each deity is given a detailed description that includes his or her alignment, their worshipers' alignments, spheres of control, holy symbol, color, and the plane on which they dwell. Their avatars are given more mundane monster-like stats such as hit dice, movement, armor class, etc., as well as a full listing of statistics (STR, INT, WIS, etc.). Finally, their clerics are described in detail, including alignment, raiment, x.p. penalty (necessary to separate them from "baseline" clerics because these clerics get special abilities and access to unique spells, depending on the deity they serve), which weapons they are allowed, and the spell spheres, an explicitly 2nd edition concept. Interestingly, spell spheres are described as "an optional rule in the second edition AD&D game, and can be ignored if the DM wishes."

Up next: the deity-specific sections.