Jon Peterson posts Mordenkainen in 1974
  • Jon Peterson posts Mordenkainen in 1974


    In a topical subject, given the recent release of Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, Jon Peterson has posted the original 13th-level version of Mordenkainen by Gary Gygax in 1974, along with some other historical iterations of the character, which was Gygax's PC for many years.



    Check out his blog post for more, including the 16th-level 1980 Blume version which Gygax decried back in 2003.

    "The information in the ROGUE'S GALLERY was quite fallacious, made up im many cases when we refused to give Brian our PCs' stats. Rob respected my wishes and didn't use Mordie's actual stats and information, and whatever was written thereafter based on those works continues the error.

    It is my PC, and I do play him now and again, although it's been a couple of years since he last adventured."


    There's more at the link above. It's a really interesting article.
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    Comments 92 Comments
    1. TwoSix -
      Look at those stats, talk about a munchkin!
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      Yeah do as I say, not as I do - very common in rpg example Pc's. I am reading the new Runequest Glorantha, and with 3d6 they've managed 11, 11, 13, 15, & 17 with the example character - yeah right!
    1. Yaarel -
      Quote Originally Posted by TwoSix View Post
      Look at those stats, talk about a munchkin!
      The originators of D&D rolled hundreds of strict-3d6 characters.

      ... The super-lucky outliers are the only characters they kept.
    1. Yaarel -
      Heh, reminds why I only use point-buy arrays.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Neat! Peterson has a remarkable ability to uncover all sorts of documents you'd think would be long-lost to time.

      One wonders what was on his spell list, but considering the date, I imagine the answer would must be “all of them.”
    1. Vymair's Avatar
      Vymair -
      Not surprised to see the high charisma. Henchmen and followers were really important in early D&D and charisma was a key factor in determining the quantity and the loyalty/morale those followers and henchmen had towards their liege.
    1. bedir than's Avatar
      bedir than -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yaarel View Post
      The originators of D&D rolled hundreds of strict-3d6 characters.

      ... The super-lucky outliers are the only characters they kept.
      Or they were the only ones that stayed alive long enough to be famous
    1. Shadowdweller00's Avatar
      Shadowdweller00 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Vymair View Post
      Not surprised to see the high charisma. Henchmen and followers were really important in early D&D and charisma was a key factor in determining the quantity and the loyalty/morale those followers and henchmen had towards their liege.
      You're joking, right? Charisma was the original dump stat...
    1. Istbor -
      I am still amazed at how high Exp totals used to need to be.
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      In ye olde days you would play a PC for years and still be 9-10th level and do dozens of adventures. No level 3 after one module for the most part.
    1. Vymair's Avatar
      Vymair -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shadowdweller00 View Post
      You're joking, right? Charisma was the original dump stat...
      As I've heard it, in the very early days, Gary and his friends mostly played wizards and had henchmen and hirelings to do the fighting. Being able to keep those henchmen and hirelings loyal was important. This style of play quickly disappeared as the game went into broader release and people formed larger parties of player characters. At that point charisma became the dump stat, but if you look at AD&D, you can still see the rules around henchmen and hirelings that was a relic of an earlier style of play.
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      And my current S&W game is 3d6 for stats and there are a couple PC that have very nice stats. Most have a couple 6-7 range numbers though. We will see who survives.
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yaarel View Post
      The originators of D&D rolled hundreds of strict-3d6 characters.

      ... The super-lucky outliers are the only characters they kept.
      ... or are the only ones that survived.

      Edit: Oops! Someone beat me to it!
    1. TerraDave's Avatar
      TerraDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yaarel View Post
      The originators of D&D rolled hundreds of strict-3d6 characters.

      ... The super-lucky outliers are the only characters they kept.
      I think EGG confirmed this (or something close to it) in the Q&A thread on ENWorld. 4d6 was introduced so that the player would keep the character.

      Quote Originally Posted by Shadowdweller00 View Post
      You're joking, right? Charisma was the original dump stat...
      Those henchman rules are right there in the AD&D PHB, if you used them Cha was a great stat. B/X had retainers...same idea. And you could also do the fighter with the wizard retainer.

      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      In ye olde days you would play a PC for years and still be 9-10th level and do dozens of adventures. No level 3 after one module for the most part.
      Mmm, this says otherwise doesn't it? We know they played a lot, thought this wasn't EGG's only character. But you have to assume they found a lot of treasure, as monsters counted for little XP.
    1. jgsugden's Avatar
      jgsugden -
      D&D is an offshoot of mass warfare miniature gaming. The idea of having a high charisma so that you could have an army of followers was not just in the rules, but was something that was part of the vision of the game.

      Regardless, the original gamers seem like they were huge cheaters. There is a lot of stuff in their original characters that was highly improbable from a statistical standpoint.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Gary Alan Fine’s study, Shared Fantasy, while falling later than this era, still is one of the earliest professional examinations of gaming. And in it, he describes cheating within the hobby as “rampant.”

      Whenever I find myself dealing with a cheater, it’s some consolation that this is something that people have been dealing with since the dawn of the hobby.

      Quote Originally Posted by jgsugden View Post

      Regardless, the original gamers seem like they were huge cheaters. There is a lot of stuff in their original characters that was highly improbable from a statistical standpoint.
    1. AmerginLiath's Avatar
      AmerginLiath -
      Quote Originally Posted by Vymair View Post
      As I've heard it, in the very early days, Gary and his friends mostly played wizards and had henchmen and hirelings to do the fighting. Being able to keep those henchmen and hirelings loyal was important. This style of play quickly disappeared as the game went into broader release and people formed larger parties of player characters. At that point charisma became the dump stat, but if you look at AD&D, you can still see the rules around henchmen and hirelings that was a relic of an earlier style of play.
      Vymair’s take is also what I’ve read from every early Original Campaign player, as well as my own experience talking to older players as a guy introduced to late-1st edition as a child in the 80s. Both mechanically and stemming from its wargaming roots, the original game was very heavily built around henchmen and hirelings (look at the Monster Manual’s retention of mass numbers of enemies, such as running into a hundred goblins), even if only to carry out all the treasure needed to gain levels in a GP-to-XP system. Charisma was the stat used to manage these bands (which were themselves a sort of preparation for managing large bands in domain play at Name Level).

      As years went by, and a combination of the proliferation of convention modules (which focused on a small band of adventurers acting in a limited time scale) and the proliferation of D&D novels (which focused on tight knit parties of characters) taught the second generation of tables what the game looked like, Charisma became less useful as a party-management tool and was on its way to becoming a “dump stat” among min-max gamers, especially as D&D later began to experiment with more then-modern point-based systems in 2nd edition.

      If anything, when one looks at old edition PHBs and sees what attributes give what bonuses when, Charisma was almost always one worth pumping up if a player didn’t have particularly high rolls or had an extra good roll, because it was the rare attribute than gave incremental advances (it’s bonuses to dealing with henchmen and hirelings) from a low number on instead of not giving any bonuses until 15. So, no, Charisma only became a plausible “dump stat” around 1995 or so, if not 2000 (depending if one is considering it’s change of use in 3.0 vs the rebalancing of options in Skills & Powers), although it’s use in game culture was declining after about 1986.
    1. Mercule's Avatar
      Mercule -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yaarel View Post
      The originators of D&D rolled hundreds of strict-3d6 characters.

      ... The super-lucky outliers are the only characters they kept.
      I prefer to think the super-lucky outliers are the only characters that survived long enough to have meaningful play. If they practiced what they preached, there should be scores of corpses laying in dungeons just to end up with the occasional Mordenkainen. I'm sure there was a lower limit to what they considered "playable", but I expect they were willing to deal with more than a few dead PCs, as well -- if for no other reason than the others at the table would give them crap if they didn't "play it where it lay".

      And, as Yaarel says, this is why I only use point-buy. I don't love the standard array, but playing a character with a 13 high at the same table as someone with a 13 low sucks so much worse.
    1. Sacrosanct's Avatar
      Sacrosanct -
      I think a lot of people are forgetting that stat increases via magical items and magical encounters in adventures were pretty common back then. And seeing as how it took FOREVER to get to level 12 or higher, it stands to reason that all of these PCs had many of their stats increased.


      Combine that with the fact that higher statt'd PCs tended to live longer, and it's entirely plausible that no cheating was involved.
    1. Sacrosanct's Avatar
      Sacrosanct -
      Quote Originally Posted by Vymair View Post
      As I've heard it, in the very early days, Gary and his friends mostly played wizards and had henchmen and hirelings to do the fighting. Being able to keep those henchmen and hirelings loyal was important. This style of play quickly disappeared as the game went into broader release and people formed larger parties of player characters. At that point charisma became the dump stat, but if you look at AD&D, you can still see the rules around henchmen and hirelings that was a relic of an earlier style of play.
      Hiring retainers was a big deal back then. Pretty much every early module also stressed or at least made mention about how they were important. In a game where a kobold could kill a PC with one hit, having retainers was pretty crucial. So CHA was only a dump stat for those who didn't want to live long
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