Category Archives: AD&D

Modding The Sleep Spell

I’m an AD&D 1e player & GM. There are parts I really like about it. Recently I was thinking about the lowly Sleep spell and how it has the same efficacy for all levels of spell caster.

I see two different ways to mod the spell without making it over-powered. After all, magic missile adds more missiles, fireballs adds more hit dice.

Number of Dice

By changing the number of dice used with a formula of an additional die per 5 levels, it raises both the minimum and the maximum. The high end of the hit dice affected don’t change, but rather the chances of affecting an ogre. Boosting the chances from 50% to 75% and finally automatic. Why shouldn’t a name level Wizard be able to take out an ogre? An ogre with maximum hit points has 33 and the average damage from an 11th level fireball is 38.5 hp.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level Wizard 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 5d4 (5-20) 6d4 (6-24)
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 3d4 (3-12) 4d4 (4-16)
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 2d4 (2-8) 3d4 (3-12)
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4 (1-4) 1d4 + ½ d4 (2-6)
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

Size of Dice

Changing the size of the dice raises only the maximum affected, but use similar changes for the top tier as in the number of dice example.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 4d6 (4-24) 4d8 (4-32)
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 2d6 (2-13) 2d8 (2-16)
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 1d6 (1-6) 1d8 (1-8)
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4 (1-4) 1d6 (1-6)
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

Other Possibilities

A third possibility would be to allow the spell to affect up to 5 to 6 HD creatures on a 1d4, with a roll of 4. However, there aren’t many monsters in that category, other than NPCs. At that level, I’d give a saving throw if they were affected.  But to me, boosting the level does make it seem overpowered.

Another possibility would be to increase the Area of Effect, so instead of a 3″ diameter circle. For example, add 1″ at 6th level and another 1″ at 11th level. This wouldn’t change the number affected, just the size of the affected area.

A final way to mod this spell would be to boost the minimum. At 6th -10th level make the minimum affected be half the count, and at 11th+ make the minimum 75% of the count, such as below.

Hit Dice No. Affected 1st – 5th level 6th – 10th level 11th level +
Up to 1 HD 4d4 (4-16) 4d4+4 (8-16)* 4d4+8 (12-16)**
1+1 to 2 HD 2d4 (2-8) 2d4+2 (4-8)* 2d4+4 (6-8)**
2+1 to 3 HD 1d4 (1-4) 1d4+1 (2-4)* 1d4+2 (3-4)**
3+1 to 4 HD 1d4/2 (1-2) 1d4,1 (1),2+ (2) 2 Creatures
4+1 to 4+4 HD 1d4, 3 or 4 (0-1) 1d4, 2-4 (0-1) 1 Creature

* Add 1 to all 1’s rolled
** Add 1 to all 1’s & 2’s rolled

If one wants a more powerful sleep spell, one could make an Improved Sleep of a higher spell level. There is nothing to prevent a PC from researching this. Some ideas for this are for affecting either higher hit dice creatures, or perhaps creatures unaffected by sleep. The latter might require some ingredient from a ghast, since their touch affects elves. Discovering this spell when up against an enemy spell caster would really get the players’ attention.


I’m not sure if I will add one of these to my house rules. I had to write this out so I could pull back and consider the ramifications for game balance. I don’t often mod spells, but this one captured my attention. At time like that, I just need to write it out. Then I can come back later and review it after I have had time to ponder it.

Have you modded the sleep spell? Did you make it more or less powerful?

My Experience With The Satanic Panic

My direct experience with the so called Satanic Panic of the late 1970’s early 1980’s, is mild compared to some. I never had to burn any books, nor did I witness any being burned. I think my experience is probably what most experienced – being shamed into silence and avoiding stirring the pot.

40 years ago, in the spring 1977, my brother, Robert, talked me into buying the Holmes Basic Dungeons & Dragons. It was Christmas of 1978 that we traveled to Colorado and spent Christmas with the family of Dad’s sister. Mom gave me a copy of the AD&D Player’s Handbook.  My aunt commented saying are you sure that’s a good idea, giving them that book? My Mom was not one to be intimidated, and said, “No, I read it, it’s just a game.” Nevertheless, there was no gaming until we got home. This was mostly because we had so many other things to do and were surrounded by so many cousins and all the electronic gadgets, plus all the snow.

The effects of the panic were more implied displeasure, and keeping out of sight to avoid confrontation. I was raised to care way too much about other’s opinions. I don’t think that was my parents’ goal, but that was the message I lived. We lived in a small town that was all white. It was not a welcoming town for many. Still, we made trips to the mall 20 minutes away as often as we could, and got our TSR supplies from the hobby shop there. I even subscribed to Dragon magazine.

Some of the churches actively frowned on D&D, but not the one we attended. We knew which neighbors to avoid the topic of D&D, and usually which kids at school. We did start a club in our high school, but we weren’t stupid. It was called the Science Fiction Book Club to avoid issues. I was its first president. Each week, we played a different RPG after school to get a taste of each one. So we did play D&D in school, and regularly took our D&D books and Dragon magazines to school. We used money we raised to go to the Renaissance Festival, and to ConQuest in Kansas City. both were close enough to drive.

Science Fiction Book Club
Science Fiction Book Club – I’m the one with a beard.

I was interviewed by the school newspaper about the club, and the article mentioned the list of games we played, one of them being “Camel World.” It should have read Gamma World. We had a good laugh about it. That’s all I recall about the article. I wish I still had it.

We ended up with a “controversy” in the local newspaper. Someone wrote a letter to the editor about how bad Dungeons & Dragons was. It went on about promoting sacrifice with a picture of some woman on an altar under the heading Judges Guild. One of our group wrote a brilliant response. He wrote, “calling Judges Guild Dungeons & Dragons is like calling football Spalding.” The guy who wrote that was a couple years behind me in school. He did just as he said and opened a game store, which is over 20 years old and doing quite well.

Going off to college didn’t end the subconscious care I took to avoid advertising that I played D&D and other RPGs. I waited until I found that someone else played before I spoke up. While in college I played occasionally at school, but played a lot when home on breaks and over the summer.

I did a paper in high school on Franz Anton Mesmer and how Mesmerism evolved into modern hypnotism. I re-used that paper in college, with some updates. I used that knowledge a couple of times to hypnotize some friends. One loner of a guy who thought dice were somehow evil, but always sat there doing some sort of dice game with himself*, burst in and rebuked us in the name of God. That was the most intense and negative experience I think I’ve ever had about something that hurt no one. Others rose to my defense and shooed him away. [*I think he was calculating odds from rolling a pair of dice. He found that acceptable because it wasn’t a game. I think because he found enjoyment in it, it was a loophole for him to play a game. He did similar things with the equally evil deck of cards.]

After college, I answered the call to ministry and went to seminary. I was close to home then, so I played almost every weekend the first year or so, until I had a church to serve on the weekends. I bought Mega Traveller as I thought a science fiction RPG would be more acceptable. But I never played it, even though I spent a lot of time getting a campaign ready. [I recently sold those books.]

I married soon after seminary, and my now ex-wife was very much against D&D and “magic and demons”. There was no convincing her otherwise. It was a big surprise when she bought our oldest son Yu-gi-oh cards, with all of their talk of magic and spells. She also let both boys watch the Yu-gi-oh cartoon. Oddly, she didn’t see the contradiction. I spent my marriage with my books packed away most of the time, except for rare occasions that I got to play in my brother’s campaign. Moving into a new church with boxes labelled D&D got the whispers started. I “knew” I couldn’t talk about it. I didn’t know how to approach the topic in a positive way.

I took a break from serving churches 19+ years ago, and just didn’t go back. After my divorce, my sons and I played for the first time and they had a blast. We played regularly for a while. We had a two year interruption and then played nearly every weekend for almost a year. With my granddaughter’s arrival just over two years ago, we came to another hiatus. My granddaughter likes to roll my red dice and the “big dice”. It will be a few more years before she is ready for RPG’s.

I started this blog soon after my sons and I first started playing. I wanted to chronicle stories from back in the day, and some of our new experiences. When things ground to a halt with my campaign, I found Roll20 and the current weekly AD&D campaign I am in. Roll20 was after I spent way too much time trying to get my D&D fix playing Lord of The Rings Online.

It is only as I have gotten older and care a lot less about other’s opinions that I have freely let people know I play D&D. I really appreciate The Escapist‘s article on trying to do magic from D&D. That article will give you some good belly laughs. A resource like The Escapist is a great boon for our hobby, and does a lot to counter the ignorant. Countering the willfully ignorant is a different matter. Another helpful thing is Read an RPG in Public Week, three times a year. Let the world know we are here and not going away! I wish we had something like that back in the day.

I started attending game conventions again, with the local Marmalade Dog, here in Kalamazoo. I then attended UCon in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, and made some new friends who talked up Gamehole Con and Gary Con. Meeting up with a lot of people in the hobby who care a lot less about what others think, is a good thing. I was in a local DCC game for over a year until it went on hiatus.

I have come to realize that most of my silence about loving D&D is that I wanted to avoid arguments about it. The stress and hassle of someone unloading their crap on me was in itself a burden. I spent so much time avoiding the headache I feared from others’ disapproval, that I denied myself a lot of fun and potential new friends. That is, I think, the worst thing about the Satanic Panic. Books can be replaced, and gaming groups can be found, but the lost potential to find laughter and enjoyment in life, and new friends can never be recovered.

Rather than live with that sense of loss, look forward to what potential there is! I have friends all over the country and across the world thanks to Roll20 and different game conventions. We have a common frame of reference that allows us share in the fun. I have played with friends from different cultural and economic backgrounds, with different tastes in music and religion, and widely different takes on politics. I have even played in games I wouldn’t have tried had I not gone to a con and been made to feel welcome. In hindsight, I wasted a lot of energy avoiding fun.

Rather than edition wars and arguments about politics, we can gather around the table to defeat the bad guys, save the world, and share in the creative experience as co-creators of imaginary worlds. The vivid imagery I have in my mind from time spent at the table, and the laughter about so many situations can never be taken from me. I have made some good friends, and I’ll have their back if ever they need me.

Bonus Content: Here’s how I’ll deal with any “Christians” who want to defecate on my hobby.**

If I am every confronted by someone who thinks D&D is of the devil, then I will throw their beliefs right back at them. I will point out that Satan is the “father of lies”, and wants us to believe that he has more power than he does. He wants to distract us from being the salt of the earth, and instead be wet blankets for honest fun. Satan wants us focused on things that don’t matter, and forget to help those in need: the poor, the hungry, the orphan, the widow, the stranger. I’ll also point out that I know a lot of atheists that are better Christians than many who claim to be Christians. If that doesn’t work, I’ll take off my shoes and knock the dust off of them and walk away. (I hope I’m wearing sandals if that ever happens.)  For people who distort the Good News into a list of don’ts, and ignore the logs in their own eyes, I have no problem exposing their hypocrisy and using the Bible to combat them. The truth hurts, BS kills.

I’m the kind of person who thinks of the perfect response well after the fact. In this case, decades later. I hope that I and no one else is ever in that position. If you are, feel free to use my planned response.

**See, a Master of Divinity is good for something besides the power to say no to fudge.

Funny Spam Comments

The spam filter on my blog does a good job at catching spam comments, so all I have to do it delete it. I glance at each suspected spam on the off chance it isn’t really spam. I haven’t had a false positive in a long time. But I have had 3 recent spam comments that were funny because of the particular blog posts that received them.

I will give a screenshot of what I see in my spam comments and the link to the actual article involved.


A rant about how "bad" American women are.

A rant about how “bad” American women are. This is the least humorous of the bunch. It is only funny because of just how “bad” American women are according to the spam comment. The article is about Random Generation of Creatures From The Lower Planes in the 1e DMG. I deleted the most egregious part of the comment and blocked out the web address.

Supposed follower of my blog trying to learn from me.
Supposed follower of my blog trying to learn from me.

This comment doesn’t make a lot of sense, other than they hope to learn from my glob. The article it was posted to is Magical Protections in AD&D.

I saved the best for last.

Comment suggesting I write about life.
Comment suggesting I write about life.

I received this comment a couple weeks ago, and have gotten it more than once. It suggests that I write about life as a comment on part two of a pair of articles on Undead in AD&D. Part 1. Part 2.

If I get anymore comments that are particularly funny when paired with the article they are on, I will update this post.

Any other bloggers out there ever get any good comments that are enhanced by the choice of article they are placed?

147 Consecutive Sessions

Tonight is session 147 of the Wednesday night AD&D game I play in on Roll20.

We’re into our third year on the calendar too!

This will be the last game in my streak of not missing a game, as I will be at Gary Con 9 next week.

I’m the only player to have played in this many sessions, and with the same character since the start. A dwarf, now maxed out at enough XP for level 8 fighter, but not until he can gain a point of strength. There is a mad scientist type who has offered a risky chance at improvement…. That is on hold until after we save the world.

We’re in a dangerous situation tonight. Hoping to resolve it so I don’t miss the resolution….. (I’d rather my character die when it’s me rolling the dice.)

Looking forward to lots of game time next week/end!

I wrote an article about a year ago on session 100.

And I interviewed our DM.


Wow! We ended the session so close to achieving our goal. My dwarven fighter is keeping the monster occupied. Very tough, we’ve done a lot of damage to it, so far none of us are hurt. DM & other players nice enough to move the game to Tuesday night next week, so I won’t miss the game. All since my player has the greatest chance of death. AWESOME!!!

AD&D Core Books Print On Demand!

This week WotC released the core books of AD&D as print on demand (POD). That is, the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide. [Affiliate links, a portion goes to help me buy more stuff to use & review.]

My Stack Of AD&D Manuals Less One PH And one DDG
My Stack Of AD&D Manuals Less One PHB And one DDG

They clock in at $24.99 each, plus shipping. At that price, they are a bit more than some table copies you can occasionally find. However, a LOT cheaper than the nicer copies from a few years ago.

The text is based on the reprints from a few years back. the layout is close to the original, but there is at least one new errata introduced in the PHB. It is interesting that the original PHB was never fixed for its errata. I don’t know if the re-prints fixed that errata or not.

We found a typo during play the other day on the cleric spell progression chart on p. 20 of the PHB. It is OK in the original PHB. The asterisk indicating max 6th level spells is on 5th level spells in the re-print.
The wisdom table on p. 11 is correct.

I don’t see a way to report such things to One Bookshelf or WotC. I’m not sure if they even care. It is minor, but could add to arguments if not known.

I’ve expanded to 5 table copies for players, plus my original PHB my Mom got me for Christmas way back when. I also have the OSRIC Player’s Guide, and the OSRIC full lay flat.

So if $75 plus shipping is too much for physical books, look for older original copies. Or, you can go with the OSRIC lay flat which is the rough equivalent of all three volumes on Lulu for $15.50 plus shipping.

I think this is a smart move on the part of WotC. For a bit of a time investment in converting older titles to nicer PDFs, they get a PDF sale, and for those who want it in physical form, they get get the sale, instead of those who take their PDFs to Lulu or other sources to get a hard copy. I mentioned this a while back here, here, and here.

They’ve added the original D&D books and in the last few weeks Chainmail to the list of PDFs available.

I would like to see Holmes Basic, so I can have a table copy instead of the copy I bought to replace my original that I gave to my little brother when I went off to college.

I have a page just for the AD&D PDFs that I will update as POD is added.

40 Years of Playing D&D!

For some reason, for the past many years, I had it in my head that my brother and I started with Holmes Blue Box in 8th grade. [To me the cover of the box and manual is what I see in my mind’s eye when I think of D&D.]

However, a couple weeks ago, someone mentioned that the AD&D Monster Manual came out in 1978, and I know that we had to wait for all of the AD&D books to come out.

I called my brother tonight and confirmed that it was actually 7th grade that we started.

So in March/April of this year, I will have played D&D for 40 years!

I’ve changed the header to indicate this here on the blog, and on my G+, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’m working on a reorganization of the blog. I wish I had this on my radar then. When I thought I had another year to go, I was not in a hurry. At this point it will just be a note on the header art like I did with the existing header. Thankfully, most of what I am doing is cosmetic and doesn’t require too much technical fiddling.

Now I have to think about some meaningful articles to use throughout this milestone year….

My youngest son turns 20 on Wednesday, so now it will be easy to remember – just add 20 to his age and I’ll have the right count. I’m usually really good with dates. But not keeping a diary from back in the day, or recalling the right starting point made it impossible.

AD&D at Gamehole Con with Luke Gygax

Luke is just a regular guy, nice and we had a lot of fun with the module he ran.

He didn’t have his pre-generated characters for the adventure. While we were rolling up characters, I mentioned to him an idea that I had read about, and written about here and here, for spell casters to write down the page numbers of their spells next to the name of the spell. He had never heard of that simple idea and liked it. Cool! Even those from back in the day can still learn something new.

A bad roll for placement of a fireball by a different player left a few other players rolling up new characters so we could finish the adventure.

The one bad experience in the whole thing was that DURING PLAY people kept coming up to Luke and asking for pictures and autographs. I wish that he had asked them to wait until we had a break or were done.

I missed out on autographs because I didn’t realize there was an organized autograph table that different guests had a scheduled time for autographs. That’s on me for not paying attention. I kept seeing so many of the old guard that I wanted autographs, but it was always when they were in the middle of a game, or I had grown tired of lugging my items to be signed. My parents taught me good manners, and if it means my paltry collection doesn’t get signatures, then so be it. I can live with it. The memory of visiting with them means more to me than a signature. I know to pay attention next time and read the big sign with the schedule that was up the first day….

Magical Protections in AD&D

This is the third part in a three part series of articles spawned by my research into undead in AD&D. [Part 1] [Part 2]

One or another of the various forms of magic circle are mentioned by name among various spells, scrolls, and decorations in the various AD&D manuals. These are all based on real world symbols used in various magic practices. Some claim to be from antiquity, some seem to be more recent inventions.

I began looking into these circles in the context of AD&D and undead, but wondered a bit why certain ones seem to be efficacious against demons, and others devils. I will touch on just enough of what Wikipedia says about these things to give context.

Pentacle does not refer to five, but is any object used as protection. It can even be a hexagram, six pointed star, or other shape. Often a talisman. Modern practitioners distinguish a pentacle as a star inside a circle, where a pentagram is a five pointed star.

Pentagram – 1 point up = good, 2 points up = bad.

Magic Circle – In mathematics: , and magic:  (using salt or chalk)

Thaumaturgic Triangle – Thaumaturgy = magic or miracles. . Here’s more on the thaumaturgic triangle/circle.

Circle of Protection – see magic circle

It seems that nearly all of these symbols can be worn as amulets as jewelry or designs on clothing, or even temporary/henna tattoos, or tattoos on the skin. For the purposes of RPG’s they don’t need to be detailed, just know that they can be drawn or carved on the ground/floor.


p. 42 – Magic Circle, Pentagram, Thaumaturgic Triangle used with the spell Aerial Servant.

p. 65 – Circles of Protection interrupt, but do not dispel charm person/monster, etc.

“Magic circles of protection (spells or specially drawn) will break the communication link and seemingly cause the charm to be broken, but unless magically dispelled, or until the power of the magic wears off, the effect is again evident when the charmee is outside such protection.”

p. 117 – Magic Circle is needed to create magic user scrolls.

“Clerics must have prayed and specially sacrificed to their deity, while magic-users [and illusionists?] must have drawn a magic circle and remain uninterrupted.”

pp. 128-129 – Protection scrolls generate a magic circle (not globe) around user. The below quotes are under scrolls of protection from demons, but the next section says that scrolls of protection from devils work the same way.

“The circle of protection generated springs out-wards from the scroll reader in a 10’ radius. No demon protected against can penetrate the circle physically or magically or in any way, but the person(s) within can launch attacks, if otherwise possible, upon demons. The protection moves with the reader of the scroll.”

“Note that the protection radius is not an actual physical globe, and if the user forces a demon into a place from which further retreat is impossible (e.g., a corner), and then continues forward until the demon would be within the radius of the circle, the demon is not harmed, and the protection is considered
voluntarily broken and disappears. There is no way in which this can be used as an offensive weapon.”

p. 218 – Appendix I – Magic User Furnishings lists magic circle, pentacle, and pentagram.

p. 41 – Glyph of Warding – This goes more in depth to various types of glyphs, which can be used to guard, repel, or damage. While this is a third level cleric spell, I don’t see why other spell casters couldn’t use similar spells.


p. 47 – Third Level Cleric spell Glyph of Warding. Not a lot of specifics, have to turn to the DMG p. 41.

p. 50 6th level cleric spell Aerial Servant requires one of a Magic Circle, Pentagram, or Thaumaturgic Triangle. The cleric’s holy symbol or a religious artifact can also be used.

pp. 61 & 62 6th level druid spell, Conjure Fire Elemental. Neither concentration nor a magic circle are needed for protection/control.

p. 67 1st level MU spell Protection from Evil – “requirement of powdered iron and silver as the material components for tracing the magic circle”

p. 79 5th level MU Conjure Elemental spell. “N.B. Special protection from uncontrolled elementals is available by means of a pentacle, pentagram, thaumaturgic triangle, magic circle, or protection from evil spell.” This adds pentacle to the list of round inscriptions that provide protection.

pp. 86 & 87 7th level MU spell Cacodemon. “The spell caster must be within a circle of protection (or a thaumaturgic triangle with protection from evil) and the demon confined within a pentagram (circled pentacle) if he or she is to avoid being slain or carried off by the summoned cacodemon.”


The Description of the Ensnarement spell on p. 60 goes into detail about what the various round magical protections are used for:

  • Magic Circle – (for creatures from the upper planes or the Astral Plane)
  • Pentagram – (for creatures from the lower and infernal planes).
  • Thaumaturgic Triangle – (for creatures from the Ethereal, Elemental, or Concordant Opposition planes)

There is also the difference between drawn and inscribed protective symbols on page 60 in the description of the magic user spell Ensnarement. A drawn circle could be smudged/distrubed. An inscribed or carved circle would need to be prepared in advance and would require a skilled craftsman to do it correctly. The benefit being that they cannot be disturbed so easily.

p. 62 – 7th level MU spell Torment has another mention of these devices.

The term glyph does not occur in it as per a search of the PDF, other than in the list of third level cleric spells.

This manual does not list any monsters.

The term pentacle does not occur in it as per a search of the PDF.


This manual does not contain the term pentacle. Nor magic circle, Nor pentagram. Nor pentacle. Nor thaumaturgic triangle. Nor glyph. Holy water is only mentioned as a spell component. No mention of Circle of Protection.

Oriental Adventure’s list of monsters does not contain the word undead, and turn is not used in relation to undead.


No mention of glyph, pentagram, or thaumaturgic triangles.
p. 16 – pentacle vs. demons.
p. 20 – magic circles vs. devils.
pp. 43 & 44 – Only ghasts & ghouls are mentioned as being kept out by circles of protection. The ghast requiring powdered cold iron.

NOTE: Cold iron is terrestrial iron, and hot iron is meteoric iron. From the Wikipedia article, it seems that steel made from cold iron counts as cold iron.


Does not contain the terms: glyph.

A pentacle is mentioned on p. 35 for conjuring greater demons.

A pentagram is mentioned on p. 27 for protection from demonkind. & p. 28 for blocking entry of demons into the material plane.

pp. 128-129 – Xag-Ya & Xag-Yi “A circle of protection (spell, magic circle, thaumaturgic triangle, or pentagram) will repulse attacks of either kind of creature.”

Magic circle – p. 44 provides protection from devils.

Holy & unholy water are mentioned as affecting some creatures from other planes, or undead.

Turn Undead is only mentioned as the ability of some creatures.


Magic Circles vs devils.
Pentacle vs. demons

Holy Water is mentioned by how it affects undead and other evil creatures, like demons.

No glyph.
No Rune.
Pentagram none mentioned.
Thaumaturgic Triangle none mentioned.
Circle of Protection none mentioned.

Manual of the planes – glyph on p. 12 or in spell lists. No magic circle. No circle of protection. No pentacle. No pentagram. No thaumaturgic triangle.


I only have a legal PDF without the Cthulhu & Melnibone mythos, and I don’t want to get out a hard copy and read right now.

Glyphs only mentioned on p. 44 as part of the word hieroglyphs in the Egyptian mythos section. pp. 50 & 51 have some hieroglyphs.

Runes mentions on p. 99 in the Norse Mythos section.

No pentacle. No magic circle. No thaumaturgic triangle. No circle of protection.

Holy/Unholy water is mentioned for creatures that are susceptible to it or for imersion of some sacrifices in it.

Pentagram is only mentioned on p. 69 as the symbol of Tyche.


Holy Water is only mentioned as a spell component and as as doing damage to undead.
Pentacle is mentioned in the cacodemon spell and as decoration in a mage’s room/tower.

Pentagram is mentioned as decoration in a mage’s room/tower.
magic circle is mentioned for the same spells in AD&D and in decoration in a mage’s room/tower.

Thaumaturgic triangle is mentioned vs. demons.
Circle of protection is mentioned as a generic term vs. demons & devils.


There is a disparate and scattered use of various terms across the many manuals I searched in PDF form.

All of the protective designs are basically circular/surrounding. They can also be used to contain things within them. So to simplify, I will simply use the term “magic circle” to include all of them.

If magic circles work for ghouls and ghasts and demons and devils, I would rule that they would work for other undead. Similar to the effect of a holy/unholy symbol. I would rule such circles would need to be enchanted/blessed/prayed over by a cleric of sufficient level to turn such a creature. Using an existing mechanic is always easiest.

The use of salt, powdered chalk, and cold iron filings in such circles describes the effort and care needed to draw/pour a circle.

I’m a theater of the mind player, so I don’t need all the drawing and elaborate symbols in detail. I would rule that spell casters of all classes would have to refer to books, scrolls, and communal knowledge to learn symbols, but unless the player(s) involved were feeling particularly creative/inspired, there is no need to draw anything.

Other types of creatures, such as Lycanthropes are kept somewhat at bay by wolvesbane and belladonna, such items mixed in with other ingredients and runes & glyphs could make a magic circle to protect one from Lycanthropes or keep a Lycanthrope contained to protect the person and others. Page 128 of the DMG mentions a scroll of protection from Lycanthropes. Included in the possible list of creatures such a scoll is good for is shape changers in general, such as doppelgangers, and druids of sufficient level.

Another type of creature for which there are protection scrolls are elementals. Using the existing rule metric, I would rule that magic circles would protect against elementals, but require items of that element. For example, fire for fire elementals. Another DM might rule opposite elements to contain them, so water/earth, air/fire, or whatever the DM views as opposite. I guess corn starch would be good vs. water elementals, if corn (maize) exists in your world.

Undead in AD&D Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about Undead in AD&D, with a focus on the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide.  [Part 1]  [Part 3]

I got a lot of likes and comments on it, some wanting to see what I had to say about the Fiend Folio.

So today, I will touch on undead as mentioned in the other books in my collection. As someone with a BA in history, and learning to do research via card catalog and actually handling and reading books, the search features of PDFs and other electronic media is so handy. I will ignore the AD&D books I have in physical form, but have not gotten the PDF form.

To be thorough, the Unearthed Arcana does not have any monsters, so no undead there.

Oriental Adventures’ list of monsters does not contain the word undead, and turn is not used in relation to undead.

Fiend Folio
Different searches gave different results.
“turned as” only brought up the Apparition
p. 12 Apparition turned as spectre.

“undead table”
p. 19 Coffer Corpse as wraith
p. 83 Son of Kyuss as mummy

“undead” finds the three above, plus the following:
p. 26 Death Knight – can’t be turned. (I would argue against that.)
p. 51 Huecuva turned as wight
p. Necrophidius (death worm) not an undead so can’t be turned.
p. 71-72 Penanggalan – one form can’t be turned. true form turned as wraith.
p. 73 Poltergeist – wandering poltergeist turned as skeleton, in its “home” turned as ghoul.
pp. 75-76 – Revenant – cannot be turned motivated by sheer force of will. (Magical protections and turning would have a chance and might require a high level cleric for turning in my opinion. Liches combine their force of will with magic, so why not be able to turn a revenant? )
p. 78 – Shadow Demon turned as Special.
p. 78 – Sheet Ghoul turned as spectre
p. 78 – Sheet Phantom turned as wraith
p. 79 – Skeleton Warrior – no chance to turn (they are lich-like, why not turn as a lich or special?)
p. 97 – Yellow Musk Zombie – not a true undead, so can’t be turned. (I’m ok with that. In a sense they are like golems, automata, or animated statues. A druid might be able to turn a plant/fungi type creature.)
p. 115 Undead Subtable that includes MM1 & FF undead on one encounter by terrain table. (There is no such table in MM2.)

There is no revised Turning Undead Table in the Field Folio. I think this would be really handy if you are going to use the undead from this book.

p. 21 Crypt Thing – It does not say it is undead, but its name gives one that initial idea.

Monster Manual 2:

After trying to find one term for searching ended up being “undead” for the Fiend Folio, I stuck with it in other PDFs.

p. 100 Phantoms “Phantoms are often mistaken for ghosts, haunts, or groaning spirits, but they may not be turned as undead. The clerical spell exorcism will dispel a phantom.”  (I would argue that such a thing can be turned. Perhaps as a higher order undead or special.)
p. 109 Skeletal Animals turned as normal skeletons.
p. 32 Demilich – ghost form and wraith form, only ghost form can be turned. (I argue that all “true” undead can be turned.)
p. 131 – Juju Zombie – turned as a spectre
p. 131 Zombie, Monster – turned as a ghast

There is no combined undead sub table with all the undead by terrain type, as we found in the Fiend Folio. Neither is there a revised turn undead table.

I built my own updated turn undead table. It is crude, but illustrates the information one may wish to include.

The groaning spirit (banshee) falls between the mummy and spectre in hit dice, so as I suggested in yesterday’s article, use that to help decide how a cleric can affect it.

TYPE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9-13 14      
Skeleton 10 7 4 T T D D D* D* D* Poltergeist, Wandering (FF p. 73) Skeletal Animals (MM2 p. 109)  
Zombie 13 10 7 T T D D D D* D*      
Ghoul 16 13 10 4 T T D D D D* Poltergeist, “At Home” (FF p. 73)    
Shadow 19 16 13 7 4 T T D D D*      
Wight 20 19 16 10 7 4 T T D D Huecuva (FF p. 51)    
Ghast 20 19 13 10 7 4 T T D Zombie, Monster (MM2 p. 131)    
Wraith 20 16 13 10 7 4 T D Coffer Corpse (FF p. 19) Penanggalan (True Form) (FF p. 71-72) Sheet Phantom (FF p. 79)
Mummya 20 16 13 10 7 4 T Son of Kyuss (FF p. 83)    
Groaning Spirit                          
Spectreb 20 16 13 10 7 T Apparition (FF p. 12) Sheet Ghoul (FF p. 78) Juju Zombie (MM2 p. 131)
Vampirec 20 16 13 10 4      
Ghostd 20 16 13 7 Demilich, ghost form (MM2 p. 32)    
Liche 19 16 10      
Special**f 20 19 13 Shadow Demon (FF p. 78)  

Of course, if I missed an undead creature, please let me know.

I also searched my OSRIC PDF and found the following information:

Turning Undead table on pp. 129 & 130 lists the same creatures as on the table on page 75 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Monsters are organized by type, so Undead are all in one place on pp. 245-252, each undead has a type number to know how easily it is turned, from 1 to 13 for fiends (term used for demons & devils.). NOTE: Some undead from the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual 2 are included, and others not. I don’t know why this might be other than author preference or copywrite issues.

Banshee (Groaning Spirit) (turned as type 13) This is the same as Special! Wow! That makes a banshee seem even more powerful.

Coffer Corpse (turned as type 7)

Ghast (turned as type 6)

Ghost (turned as type 11)

Ghoul (turned as type 3)

Lich (turned as type 12)

Mummy (Turned as type 8)

Poltergeist (Turned as type 1 or 3)

Shadow (turned as type 4)

Skeleton (turned as type 1)

Spectre (turned as type 9)

Vampire (turned as type 10)

Wight (turned as type 5)

Wraith (turned as type 7)

Wraith (turned as type 7)

Normal (turned as type 2)
Monster (turned as type 6)

Zombie, Juju (turned as type 9)

So one ends up with quite a lot of varied undead, 27 by my count. I am sure there are many new undead ideas in all of the OSR and perhaps other editions of D&D that I am not familiar with. I won’t continue this exercise with other versions of D&D, or OSR products at this time. If I did, it would only be those resources I already own in PDF. It still takes an hour a book to do all the searches I do.

To keep the size of this article under control, I will have a separate article on holy water and magical protections in AD&D. If all goes well, I will post it tomorrow.

NOTE: All the links for the AD&D books are Affiliate Links that help me support my RPG/Blogging habit.

Undead in AD&D

I was reading up on the various undead in the Monster Manual, and noted which ones in their descriptions specifically mentioned throwing holy water on them would hurt them. [Part 2] [Part 3]

For some reason, the articles on ghouls, ghasts, shadows, ghosts, and liches do not mention them being affected by holy water. I thought this was wrong, so I turned to the DMG and found on p. 65 “All forms of undead, as well as creatures from the lower planes (demons, devils, night hags, night mares, nycadaemons, etc.) are affected by HOLY WATER.”

Similarly, “Paladins, lammasu, shedu, ki-rin, and similar creatures of good alignment (or from the upper planes) are affected by UNHOLY WATER.”

In addition to affecting undead, on p. 228 in the glossary of the DMG, it says, “Useful as a weapon against undead or to slow the effects of poison.” Further on p. 115 it slows the effects of becoming a lycanthrope or undead for 1-4 turns.

I also found the bit on holy/unholy areas having an affect on the ability to turn on p. 66 of the DMG.

And of course the ability to make holy/unholy water is limited to at least a 5th level cleric with a font. Fonts are limited to one per religious edifice. and can only be used once per week. See pages 114-115 DMG. If there is a sudden outbreak of undead, the availability and cost of holy water will be a factor. Determining the day of the week the cleric makes holy water will determine just how many spells for healing or other purposes the cleric has prepared that day. Of course, this will only be an issue if there is only one cleric of sufficient level to create holy water.

Some undead have the ability to create like or lesser versions of themselves, from those they have slain. Skeletons and Zombies lack this ability, but Ghouls have it. The AD&D ghoul is the closest analog to zombies in relatively recent media that cause those killed by them to become one of them.

Ghasts are a “super ghoul”, in that their paralyzing touch can affect elves, but it doesn’t mention that those killed by a ghast become a ghast. I would rule that they do, since they are otherwise identical to ghouls.

Of the higher order undead, mummies, ghosts, and liches victims do not become undead. Of these, only a ghost’s victims are permanently dead. The ghost is the only undead with such an unforgiving and irreversible condition. I would rule that a limited wish, wish, or alter reality spell could change that.

Draining powers have some variability. Shadows drain strength, while wights, wraiths, spectres, and vampires drain levels. Ghosts are the only one that age.

Oddly, only the ghoul and the ghast are mentioned as being repulsed by circles of protection. I would rule that the right efforts put into such protections would be effective. This only makes sense, since holy symbols in the hands of clerics are beneficial.

The different speeds of undead is also interesting. The slowest are zombies, mummies, and liches at 6″. The fastest land speeds are ghasts and shadows at 15″. With flying speeds of 18″ for vampires in bat form, to 24″ for wraiths, and 30″ for spectres.

It appears that only ghouls and ghasts get 3 attacks per round. All the rest only get 1 attack per round.

The fear affect by some undead is quite powerful, either causing one to flee, or be inactive with fear, in the cast of a mummy, or flee in fear if under 5th level for a lich. The fear effect of a lich is even greater than that of a huge ancient dragon which “only”
affects up to 4th level characters/4 HD monsters. Since a lich is at least an 18th level magic user, it makes sense that their fear effect is greater, as an 18th level magic user, who acted smartly, should be able to take out an ancient dragon on their own. Thus, the power of a lich could easily result in a cooperative agreement between the lich and an ancient dragon.

The groaning spirit (banshee) is an undead, but is not listed on the turning table. It falls between the mummy and the spectre in hit dice, so consider its special abilities and defenses when deciding where to place it on the turning table.

I find it interesting that a wight has more hit dice than a ghast, but the ghast is harder to turn. With that exception, the turning table on p. 75 of the DMG is in HD order.

As I prepared the image to go with this article, I realized that Dave Trampier seems to have illustrated all of the undead.

Of course, this is only the undead in the original Monster Manual. A separate article or more may be needed to review the undead in the Fiend Folio, Monster Manual II, and other AD&D resources.

Read Part 2 here.

NOTE: All the links for the AD&D books are Affiliate Links that help me support my RPG/Blogging habit.