D&D General Lethality, AD&D, and 5e: Looking Back at the Deadliest Edition

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
If I were to speculate, it would be that Gygax's assumptions were so strongly built around playing Men that correcting the language of the other existing rules simply wasn't a concern whenever they introduced Halflings to the game. I think it's pretty clear from Gygax's statements that he was very much interested in a fantasy world driven by heroes that were Men. Though we should remember that the rules were not in a digital document in the early 1970s, and neither was anyone in TSR particularly experienced in the publishing industry.

Interesting.

So to extrapolate from this, perhaps the Raise Dead rule was written, then halflings were added, and the fact that Halflings couldn't be raised from the dead was just an unfortunate by-product of the labyrinthine rules.

Building on that, when the spell was revisited for AD&D, Gygax noticed this, and made the deliberate decision to exclude Elves and Half-Orcs.


I can buy all of this. Definitely a working theory. But it still doesn't explain why, if the distinction is the spirit/soul thing per Deities and Demigods, why a Rod of Resurrection, and only the Rod, works.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
If I were to speculate, it would be that Gygax's assumptions were so strongly built around playing Men that correcting the language of the other existing rules simply wasn't a concern whenever they introduced Halflings to the game. I think it's pretty clear from Gygax's statements that he was very much interested in a fantasy world driven by heroes that were Men. Though we should remember that the rules were not in a digital document in the early 1970s, and neither was anyone in TSR particularly experienced in the publishing industry.

Interesting.

So to extrapolate from this, perhaps the Raise Dead rule was written, then halflings were added, and the fact that Halflings couldn't be raised from the dead was just an unfortunate by-product of the labyrinthine rules.

Building on that, when the spell was revisited for AD&D, Gygax noticed this, and made the deliberate decision to exclude Elves and Half-Orcs.
Seems like a reasonable theory. Still curious about the WHY for "elves, orcs, half-orcs, and the other creatures specifically mentioned in the NONHUMANS' DEITIES section of this work" as Deities & Demigods enumerates. The latter book also says that the latter critters eventually reincarnate on their own, unlike ensouled creatures.

I can buy all of this. Definitely a working theory. But it still doesn't explain why, if the distinction is the spirit/soul thing per Deities and Demigods, why a Rod of Resurrection, and only the Rod, works.
It is weird. Maybe Resurrection was originally intended to be able to do so, being a more powerful (7th; as high as they went) spell. Direct hand-of-the-deity stuff. Deities and Demigods does talk a little about the distinction between Raising and Resurrecting (see below), although that book reiterates the restriction on both Raise and Res.

Deities & Demigods:
A resurrection spell functions in a different manner from a raise dead: the cleric literally recalls the soul from the plane of its deity back into its former body, where flesh and blood have been magically restored to the bones. As this involves the cooperation of the deity on the plane where the soul was, clerics must use extreme caution in employing this spell. If a cleric resurrects a being of radically different alignment, the cleric’s deity (who gave the cleric this power) may be greatly offended. Similarly, if a cleric resurrects a being of different alignment simply to serve the purposes of the cleric or his or her deity (to extract information, for example), the deity on the plane where the soul was may be highly displeased and may take appropriate action
 

Voadam

Legend
The 1e Rod of Resurrection allows half-orcs and elves to be brought back, but does require extra charges compared to other races.

Rod of Resurrection: This rod enables the cleric to resurrect the dead — even elven, dwarven, gnome, or halfling — as if he or she were of high enough level to cast the spell, and no rest will be required as the rod bestows the lifegiving effects. The rod can be used once per day. The number of charges used to resurrect a character depends on class and race:
cleric 1
druid 2
fighter 2
paladin 1
ranger 2
magic-user 3
illusionist 3
thief 3
assassin 4
monk 3
bard 2

plus
dwarf 3
elf 4
gnome 3
half-elf 2
halfling 2
half-orc 4
human 1

Multi-classed characters use the least favorable category. The rod cannot be
recharged.

The rod seems to be optimized for LG holy humans.
 

And question 2! Reincarnation was an available spell (Druid 7, MU 6). How common was the use of this spell on PCs instead of raise dead or resurrection in your AD&D campaigns, and why?
It was used quite a bit. Thing is, players usually hoarded wishes, probably not using one to get access to a raise dead spell when needed. However, if someone got reincarnated, and rolled such that they would live out their days as a donkey or something, then suddenly a wish was on the table to make things right.
Snarf mentioned the soul/spirit distinction earlier in the discussion. This already got covered in the thread.



This has certainly never been part of core D&D lore. Unless maybe it got introduced in one of the 2E elf variants? AD&D is quite clear that all the demihumans, elves included, have lifespans and die of old age eventually.
AD&D 2e PHB, page 24 (in original printing), chart 11 (ages), asterisk associated with elf age limit: "* Upon attaining this age, an elf does not die. Rather he feels compelled to migrate tosome mysterious, other land, departing the world of men."
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The rod seems to be optimized for LG holy humans.
Yes, it's another fun piece of D&D's implied setting, a "humanocentric" one where demi-humans are intended to be secondary, deuteragonists more than protagonists.

AD&D 2e PHB, page 24 (in original printing), chart 11 (ages), asterisk associated with elf age limit: "* Upon attaining this age, an elf does not die. Rather he feels compelled to migrate to some mysterious, other land, departing the world of men."
Nice find! Now that you quote it, that does sound familiar.

Nothing like it in 1st edition that I could locate. I double-checked Moore's "The Elven Point of View" article from Dragon, too. The "Death due to age" section in the 1E DMG (page 15) gives examples for a dwarf, half-orc, and high elf for maximum lifespan determination, but doesn't give any such asides on the elf re: what happens when they reach that age being anything other than death.
 

I can buy all of this. Definitely a working theory. But it still doesn't explain why, if the distinction is the spirit/soul thing per Deities and Demigods, why a Rod of Resurrection, and only the Rod, works.

Amusingly, Greyhawk does include the first description for Rod of Resurrection that I'm aware of:

Rod of Resurrection: A rod which allows its user to resurrect just as if he were a
thoughts to any creatures behind doors or walls within its range. It functions as an ESP
Medallion on a roll of 6, as well as when it is tried for the first time.

It's a bit confusing because the second two lines are duplicated from Medallion of Thought Projection, which appears later on the same page.

There is a page with corrections in my copy, however:

Rod of Resurrection: (This should read) A rod which allows its user to resurrect just as if he
were a 15th level patriarch. It is usable but once per day. It contains 20 charges, and it cannot
be recharged.

However, there is no Clerical spell or ability called "Resurrection" at all in Greyhawk or Men & Magic. There is Raise Dead (5th) and Raise Dead Fully (7th). The only benefit of Raise Dead Fully is that you don't suffer the exhaustion of Raise Dead. Interestingly, however, a 15th level Patriarch cannot cast 7th level spells. The only Clerical spell effect in the game that restores life available to a 15th level Cleric when Rod of Resurrection is first printed is Raise Dead.

I do also see other things of interest. Dwarves in Greyhawk includes this text: "Dwarf clerics are found as high as 7th level (Lama), and they can cure and resurrect their own. These clerics are also fighters." And Elves includes: "Among the elves there are clerical types as high as 6th level (Bishop) who interact only with their own kind. These clerics (fighter/magic-user/cleric types) have magical ability limited to the 6th level (Magician)." Note that 7th level (Lama) Clerics can cast 5th level spells like Raise Dead, but 6th level (Bishop) Clerics cannot.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
AD&D 2e PHB, page 24 (in original printing), chart 11 (ages), asterisk associated with elf age limit: "* Upon attaining this age, an elf does not die. Rather he feels compelled to migrate tosome mysterious, other land, departing the world of men."

That is so bizarre to me that they added this in 2e. 1e had elves dying (albeit at advanced ages). See 1e DMG 13 (ages), 15 (character death due to age), with a specific example of a high elf's maximum age.

Why did they re-add a specific Tolkien reference given that they had otherwise been scrubbing them? Yet again, the rules of D&D move in mysterious ways.
 

Nice find! Now that you quote it, that does sound familiar.
Nothing like it in 1st edition that I could locate. I double-checked Moore's "The Elven Point of View" article from Dragon, too. The "Death due to age" section in the 1E DMG (page 15) gives examples for a dwarf, half-orc, and high elf for maximum lifespan determination, but doesn't give any such asides on the elf re: what happens when they reach that age being anything other than death.
That is so bizarre to me that they added this in 2e. 1e had elves dying (albeit at advanced ages). See 1e DMG 13 (ages), 15 (character death due to age), with a specific example of a high elf's maximum age.
Why did they re-add a specific Tolkien reference given that they had otherwise been scrubbing them? Yet again, the rules of D&D move in mysterious ways.
Potential (conjectural EDIT: disproven) idea: -- 2E leaned heavily into magical aging as a cost for the most potent of spells (wish, limited wish, raise dead, resurrection, and haste for some reason). Looking at the aging charts, they squished elves into starting out in the 100s (even for clerics, who previously started well over 600 years) and then put their max age at 750 instead of 1000-2000. It's possible that they (Zeb and whomever helped with this) were trying to bring elves back in line with dwarves in terms of this expendable resource they were using to tamp down on high-level spell (ab)use*, but without breaking anyone's notion that elves thousands, not many-hundreds, of years.*note that the actual aging was never the issue, it was the successive number of system shock checks you made each time you were magically aged
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Potential (conjectural) idea: -- 2E leaned heavily into magical aging as a cost for the most potent of spells (wish, limited wish, raise dead, resurrection, and haste for some reason).

Oh, the rules for spells and aging were in 1e as well, and ... let's say I have my suspicions about haste ....

ST.Wink+of+an+Eye.png


ETA- I do think you might be on to something about making sure that Elven characters don't get a free pass on avoiding the deleterious effects of aging, though. That does seem very Zeb to put in.
 

Voadam

Legend
Potential (conjectural) idea: -- 2E leaned heavily into magical aging as a cost for the most potent of spells (wish, limited wish, raise dead, resurrection, and haste for some reason). Looking at the aging charts, they squished elves into starting out in the 100s (even for clerics, who previously started well over 600 years) and then put their max age at 750 instead of 1000-2000. It's possible that they (Zeb and whomever helped with this) were trying to bring elves back in line with dwarves in terms of this expendable resource they were using to tamp down on high-level spell (ab)use*, but without breaking anyone's notion that elves thousands, not many-hundreds, of years.*note that the actual aging was never the issue, it was the successive number of system shock checks you made each time you were magically aged
1e has the same magic aging, it is not a 2e change.

1e DMG pg 13

Unnatural Aging:
Certain creatures will cause unnatural aging, and in addition various magical factors can do so. The following magic causes loss of life span, aging the practitioner as indicated. See also DISEASE for other unnatural aging causes. (Longevity potions and possibly other magical means will offset such aging to some extent.)
Magical Aging Causes
casting alter reality spell 3 years
casting gate spell 5 years
casting limited wish spell 1 years
casting restoration spell 2 years
casting resurrection spell 3 years
casting wish spell 3 years
imbibing a speed potion 1 year
under a haste spell 1 year
Note: Reading one of the above spells from a scroll (or using the power from a ring or other device) does not cause unnatural aging, but placing such a spell upon the scroll in the first place will do so!
 

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