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My social media discussions on the 1st Edition AD&D (“1e”) stat blocks for archdevils and demon lords gave me a thought that I doubt is in any way controversial, but there’s certainly a counter opinion to it. I was asking how one would determine the hit dice of, for example, Asmodeus, when it isn’t given in the 1e Monster Manual. His stat block simply gives his hit points as 199, which isn’t evenly divisible by any of the D&D dice (not even the virtual d3). The answer was given in appendix E of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which provides the THAC0 – yes, there’s THAC0 in 1e! – for all of these creatures. In this discussion, someone brought up Lolth’s unusually low hit point total (66), but her stat block also gives her hit dice as a parenthetical, so I assumed that by the Fiend Folio, everyone figured out how bad the omission was. Interestingly enough, that’s incorrect, because both Bahamut and Tiamat in the Monster Manual have both their hit points and hit dice disclosed in their respective stat blocks. I have no idea why the archdevils and demon lords weren’t given express hit dice.
But now I’m off on a tangent. Let me get back to my non-controversial point. When 4e came out, there was a design decision to allow PCs to fight the gods themselves. Though some sources said these were mere avatars, some referred to them as the actual gods. I remember in one of Paizo’s adventure paths released around the time of (just before?) Pathfinder, the adventure ended with 20th-level characters facing Demogorgon, with the option of one of them replacing Demogorgon as the head asshole in charge in the Abyss. Clearly that was the Demogorgon they were facing. Back then (which isn’t that long ago), I thought that was awesome. “Epic” level mortals should be dealing with world-ending events that affect the galaxy as a whole, if not the entire universe. That’s sounds both epic and divine. This was consistent with how I approached the 1e Deities and Demigods as a kid, which I thought was an invitation for PCs to fight gods, steal their shit, and wreak havoc. (Who reads the preface of any of these books? Certainly not I.)
My discussions on 1e have brought me back to Oerth so to speak. As “epic” as mortals are, they’re still mortal. There should still be a line drawn between the mortal world and the divine world, even if mortals can get a good glimpse of that higher plane. If mortals want to fight gods (not merely their avatars), then they should ascend to godhood to do it, but that would be another game altogether. My friend and I have discussed this a bit for our game, and my thought is that we should allow fights with the divine at ultra-high levels only if the game system itself changed in some significant way at those levels. The underlying engine would be the same, but it would feel very different, thus justifying the jump in the PCs’ competition. For 3.5 and 4e players that have played epic level in those systems, I’m talking about deviations that go beyond what those editions provided. In those systems, epic level was merely lower levels but with bigger numbers. There must be a greater change than that because I imagine fighting an actual god would require more than what mortals usually employ. I threw out a couple of ideas that I think might work, but I’m not giving those away just yet. 🙂
In any event, no one is fighting the Asmodeus in my 1e games unless they have a death wish.
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