D&D General High Gygaxian: Time To Post Your Favorite Purple Verbiage

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
It's beginning to look a lot like Gax-mas
Everywhere you go
Take a look back at AD&D, it should fill you unbridled glee
With "antipathy" and "magocracy" and words you don't know


We often refer to "High Gygaxian" or the "purplish prose of Gygax" here at EnWorld, and I thought I'd start a thread about, well, just that very topic! Speaking for myself, I know that reading the interminably long sentences filled with dense verbiage that would make H. P. Lovecraft say, "Get to the point already," did wonders for my reading comprehension. After all, if you wanted to play the game, you had to start by comprehending what was even written!

Fun fact- many people say that Gygax wrote that way as over-compensation for his lack of formal education.

This thread, then, is for people to post their favorite examples of "High Gygaxian." It can be a specific word, turn of phrase, sentence, or paragraph. Whatever floats your boat or captured your imagination at the time.

I will start by posting a passage that many people consider a canonical example of High Gygaxian from module D3, Vault of the Drow:
The true splendor of the Vault can be appreciated only by those with infravision, or by use of the roseate lenses or a gem of seeing. The Vault is a strange anomaly, a hemispherical cyst in the crust of the earth, an incredibly huge domed fault over 6 miles long and nearly as broad. The dome overhead is a hundred feet high at the walls, arching to several thousand feet height in the center. When properly viewed, the radiation from certain unique minerals give the visual effect of a starry heaven, while near the zenith of this black stone bowl is a huge mass of tumkeoite -- which in its slow decay and transformation to lacofcite sheds a lurid gleam, a ghostly plum-colored light to human eyes, but with ultravision a wholly different sight.

The small "star" nodes glow in radiant hues of mauve, lake, violet, puce, lilac, and deep blue. The large "moon" of tumkeoite casts beams of shimmering amethyst which touch the crystalline formations with colors unknown to any other visual experience. The lichens seem to glow in rose madder and pale damson, the fungi growths in golden and red ochres, vermillions, russets, citron, and aquamarine shades. (Elsewhere the river and other water courses sheen a deep velvety purple with reflected highlights from the radiant gleams overhead vying with streaks and whorls of old silver where the liquid laps the stony banks or surges against the ebon piles of the jetties and bridge of the elfin city for the viewers' attention.) The rock walls of the Vault appear hazy and insubstantial in the wine-colored light, more like mist than solid walls. The place is indeed a dark fairyland.


This is another great passage, from the description of Assassins in the PHB-

Just as do thieves, assassins have six-sided dice (d6) for determining the number of hit points (q.v.) they can sustain. Assassins are evil in alignment (perforce, as the killing of humans and other intelligent life forms for the purpose of profit is basically held to be the antithesis of weal). They can, of course, be neutral as regards lawful and chaotic evil. As mentioned above, assassins have thieving capabilities and their own ability functions. Because they can use any sort of shield and weapon, they are generally superior to thieves in combat.

I always enjoyed this passage, from the DMG entry on Heward's Mystical Organ-

In the pages of the Fables of Burdock there is mention of a musical instrument of large size, an organ of such power that the mighty and terrible enchantments possible to cast by playing upon it are only hinted at. Heward’s Organ has 77 great and small pipes, a console with many keys of black and white beneath 13 ivory stops, and 3 great foot pedals. The bellows which sends a rush of wind to the pipes is said to be worked by a conjured and chained air elemental of huge size. Each stop causes the pipes to sound in a different voice, while the keys vary the notes, of course. No one is certain what purpose the foot pedals serve. Despite the ravages of time which have silenced some of its pipes, and abuse and neglect which have supposedly mode some keys and stops unworkable, the Organ can still work mighty magicks when properly played.

The would-be conjurer must be most careful, however, when attempting to work this relic/artifact, for pulling the wrong stops can cause the summoning of something undesired or the casting of the wrong type of spell. If the wrong keys are depressed - or the right ones are not - something called up might be unbound or the magic might backfire. Similarly, the alignment of the caster or manipulator of the Organ might be changed by improper playing.

After the powers and effects of the Organ have been determined by you, decide which stops and what key sequence/combinations will do what. (If you are conversant with musical notation, you can write tunes if you like, and make your players actually perform them on a piano or other instrument. Otherwise, pick some appropriate songs and give clues so that the player character can hum different ditties, i.e. "Fly Me to the Moon", "That Old Black Magic", "Thot Old Devil Moon", "You've Got Me in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea", "The Monster Mash", etc.).


Why this passage? Because it combines a lot of things that I associate with High Gygaxian- hints of things without explanation. Lots of verbiage to explain simple concepts (explain to me the concepts of what an organ looks like!). Bizarre and unnecessary throat-clearing (if you play the wrong notes, or if you don't play the right ones .... really?). And, of course, the truly strange suggestions (make your players play the piano!) combined with anachronisms (how about they hum the monster mash?).

Truly a tour de force. Only thing it is missing is dweomercraft.

What about you? Any examples of High Gygaxian you want to share and/or inflict upon us?
 
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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Controversies aside, one of my favorites has always been the Random Harlot Table.
random_harlot_table.jpeg

Specifically, the thesaurus-driven list of options suggests very different experiences and different ways to play up the encounter that might otherwise be limited by a rural teen's exposure to prostitution as filtered through primetime police procedural TV shows on the big 3 networks.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Controversies aside, one of my favorites has always been the Random Harlot Table.
View attachment 339640
Specifically, the thesaurus-driven list of options suggests very different experiences and different ways to play up the encounter that might otherwise be limited by a rural teen's exposure to prostitution as filtered through primetime police procedural TV shows on the big 3 networks.

The thing that always got me is that it's a differentiated list that also contains, "typical streetwalker."

I mean, "I'm a cheap trollop, not your typical streetwalker!"

Still, would make for a good documentary.... When Tables Go Too Far: The Story of Gygax and the Random Harlot Table.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Fun fact- many people say that Gygax wrote that way as over-compensation for his lack of formal education.
I don't know how much of this is true, or because he was a huge fan of Jack Vance, and Vance preferred to write using....an expanded vocabulary. I know for me, my writing style is heavily influenced by the books I read when I was younger and the style the author used for those.
 

Dausuul

Legend
We often refer to "High Gygaxian" or the "purplish prose of Gygax" here at EnWorld, and I thought I'd start a thread about, well, just that very topic! Speaking for myself, I know that reading the interminably long sentences filled with dense verbiage that would make H. P. Lovecraft say, "Get to the point already," did wonders for my reading comprehension. After all, if you wanted to play the game, you had to start by comprehending what was even written!
...And now you're a lawyer*. :)

*At least, that's the impression I got from your postings during the OGL fiasco -- please correct me if I'm wrong.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Controversies aside, one of my favorites has always been the Random Harlot Table.
View attachment 339640
Specifically, the thesaurus-driven list of options suggests very different experiences and different ways to play up the encounter that might otherwise be limited by a rural teen's exposure to prostitution as filtered through primetime police procedural TV shows on the big 3 networks.
For a religious guy, EGG clearly put a lot of thought into this table.
 




Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.
To be fair, he was running what we'd now call a West Marches game, with people coming and going all the time, all over the various maps. He was trying to track what everyone was doing, and time records were important for that playstyle.

Of course, a relatively small number of people were playing that way, almost as soon as D&D was commercially released, and strict time records didn't matter for most of them.
 
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