Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Questions

The obvious one to do for Q was Quests, but instead, based on something I read this week, I am going to go with Questions instead.

I happened to be perusing an online repository of old Sage Advice articles, from old Dragon magazines, I found an interesting exchange. The question that was asked was can elves and half-orcs be Raised from the dead? The answer, surprisingly, was, “No, they cannot. They do not have souls, and therefore a wish must be used to bring them back”. The implications of this response were what got me thinking.

The first implication that I get from this is that elves, who are not subject to Raise Dead spells and have no souls, are not really “alive”. I take this to mean that elves cannot die (unless by unnatural causes). I suppose that this is not a shocking revelation, as elves have been seen of at other times as being immortal. However, the raises some interesting questions. Does this make elves completely invulnerable to anything which could affect the soul (say, Magic Jar or Trap the Soul spells)? We already know they are immune to Sleep and Charm spells… does this have anything to do with their lack of a soul? If an elf has no soul, then what exactly DO they have that provides that “spark of life”? There are, as far as I can tell, an awful lot of possible implications to this, involving healing and survival of elves. Because they lack a soul, does this mean, no elves can EVER be raised from the dead via other means like Reincarnation? (Obviously, a Wish would put all bets off) Some interesting food for thought.

Similar questions arise from the implication that half-orcs have no souls. How does THAT happen? Humans, obviously, have souls. Does this mean that orcs have no soul, and as such, pass this quality on to half-orcs? If that is true, then does this extend on to other humanoid races? Exactly what DOES qualify one for having a soul? Does this mean there are many races would have invulnerabilities to certain types of possession magic? Or an inability to be affected by raising magic? This could really turn a campaign on its ear!

As I perused the Sage Advices, I found a few other food for thought things as well… for instance: did you know that paladins will only associate with parties which are good (but not LAWFUL good) aligned on a “single-expedition basis”? This would make it EXTREMELY difficult to use a paladin in an extended campaign, as you would have to have a group that is completely Lawful Good, which I think is pretty rare. Another interesting point: in a discussion about Girdles of Giant Strength, it notes, “while the strength of a giant is given, the giant’s innate toughness is not conferred upon the wearer. This means that while a giant could smash its fist through a wooden door, a human would break bones when doing it. While a giant could hurl bars apart, a human would rip flesh in the attempt.” I think that this makes Girdles of Giant Strength a lot less appealing. Does it not imply that, while you might have the strength of a giant, trying to lift something substantially heavier would likely crush the hapless user, as they would be trying to lift enormous weights with spindly little human bones? It kind of makes the Girdles a lot less appealing. Another question: when explaining a Hold Person spell, it says that literally every muscle in a person’s body is rendered motionless, even to the point of being unable, “to expel the breath that carries the sound forth from its source”. So, does that mean that someone who is subject to a Hold Person spell is unable to breath, or that their heart stops beating? Would this not be an easy way to kill someone? The final thought I pondered while gleaning the Sage Advice columns concerned a question about why other classes couldn’t imitate thiefly skills like Hide in Shadows and Climb Walls. The response was, “Even though the thief abilities have rather unimpressive, mundane names, they are indeed special abilities and can be successfully performed only by someone who has had, and continues to take, training in the thief profession. In a standard AD&D campaign, there can be no deviation from this rule — and it is a fact of “life” as much as it is a rule of the game. Only thieves can employ abilities described as unique to that class, just as clerics can do only what clerics are described as being capable of.” It went on to cover a fairly clear and specific explanation about why thieves and ONLY thieves should ever be able to do the things thieves do, including THIS gem of a phrase: “Any DM who settles for less than this attitude from player characters and still allows them to rise in experience levels as if nothing was amiss is doing the playing group and the game a disservice.” Again, I can sort of see the rationale for this, but I can also see the rationale for allowing regular characters to try this stuff. It definitely made me think of how (or IF) I would handle this in my own campaigns.

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