“Light! More light!”

The latest batch of figures I’ve painted.

There’s a ton of good stuff at Philotomy’s OD&D Musings. One thing I’ve been intrigued by lately is that in OD&D, demi-humans could not see in the dark. The ability to see in the dark was a big motivation for me when I made nonhuman AD&D characters way back when. Because we rarely got to high enough levels to worry about level limits, there was usually no reason to be a human unless you wanted to play a human-only class like a Paladin or Monk. Being able to see in the dark (with “infravision” in AD&D, or with more logical kinds of night vision in later editions, which followed the lead of pretty much every other RPG in this regard) far outweighed the nominal benefits of being human. When I read about the original restrictions on infravision in Philotomy’s essay, it helped me make sense of the many several old D&D figures that appear to be demi-humans carrying torches and lanterns, not to mention certain classic illustrations of the AD&D Player’s Handbook .

What do AD&D dwarves need with a torch?


I really like the idea of denying demihuman PCs infravision. And not just because it would encourage the use of awesome torch and lantern bearers, but that is certainly part of it.

A Citadel Dwarf. He was actually made for their fairly recent boxed set of Warhammer Fantasy Battles (“Battle for Skull Pass“). There is a whole unit of miners with candles on their helmets in that set, which is totally awesome.  A lantern plus three candles on his helmet…this guy is gonna light up a hallway.  And with that beard, may spontaneously combust.

An old Citadel Dwarf. One of my favorites, although almost every Citadel Dwarf from the late 19080s is pretty cool, pumpkin-sized heads or not.

That’s one HELL of a nose, too.  Also n.b. that old school Dwarves are not always carrying those iconic* axes.  Why don’t more Dwarves carry swords?  They’re expert smiths, and making an axe is not exactly the high water mark of the weapon smith.

A Grenadier hireling from the hirelings set, circa 1980?

A Heritage Dwarf adventurer, circa 1979 or 1980, from the Dungeon Dwellers line. N.b. she has no beard. Sorry about the blurry pic.  She has a crossbow, which is not a bad idea for a hireling.  No sense rushing in to close combat.

The group from behind.  Note the backpacks.  All dungeon delvers should have backpacks.

The lone human, also a Grenadier figure from the Hirelings set. The camera is looking slightly down on all these guys, making them look a little distorted, but only slightly more so than they really are.

The quote used as the title of this post? Supposedly Goethe’s last words. And the last words of many an adventurer, I suspect.

*Every time WotC uses the term iconic character,  as if there is exactly one Platonic ideal for each race/class, I want to hammer a nail into the floor with my forehead.  I almost never actually do, though.

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Published in: on May 13, 2010 at 2:06 am  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Awesome post – all the times I’ve admired that drawing of the dwarven miners, it never occurred to me that they wouldn’t need a torch to see! Damnit…

    I agree that ‘iconic’ is very much overused – but if you keep hammering nails with your head, you’re going to wind up in the Jim Rose Circus…

    • It just occurred to me that infravision is not in color so the dwarves might want torchlight to see gems, etc. But for the reasons Tom mentions (fear the dungeon!) I like the OD&D rule.

  2. I really love no one sees in the dark. It makes a dungeon scary. I think I would consider a torch light templets.

    Here is a comprimise though let elfs/dwarfs see outlines upto 2 torch radius. Give them half the penealty for blindness. But they can’t tell what the shape is that they see. Just bits of movement…

  3. couple more ideas

    All monster have infravision but can see only 60′. No other vision so they all don’t come running when PC walk around with torches.

    Dragons (other powerful monsters) have light beams from their eyse like flashlights. Really scary.

    Surface Orcs/goblins lost infravision.

    Thief Hide abiltiy is oriented to hiding from infravsion. Other characters just don’t have the skill/gear. Give them x2 % just to hiding vs humans.

    Light spell generates no heat and gives PC a chance to surpise monsters, but = candle not torch (10′)

    Torches have a chance to go out if you run (1:3)
    or drop them (1:6 per round). Lanterns have a chance to break (1:3) spilling flaming oil. But if they don’t they burn till the end of their oil. Makes lanterns more dangerous for low levels.

    • Great ideas. Need to reality test running with torches and lanterns.
      I’d still be inclined to give elves NO extra sight underground though.
      ALL monsters with infravision have glowing (red?) eyes.

  4. I meant droping a lantern.
    In gernal it very hard to keep a torch buring for a run speed think of all the trouble the have with the olymipic torch.


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