Help, My Half-Elf Is Pregnant! The 11 Strangest Questions From The D&D ‘Sage Advice’ Column
As this week's release of John Rogers and Andrea DeVitos's excellent Dungeons & Dragons #2 proves, D&D and comic books go together like... well, like escapist fantasies set in worlds with super-powerful characters that are built on tenuous, ever-changing rules. And like comics, the D&D rules invite all sorts of questions to figure out just how the hell they're supposed to work.
For over thirty years, that was the domain of Dragon Magazine and their "Sage Advice" column, where players could write in with problems to get semi-official answers. Unfortunately for fans of esoteric, incredibly specific knowledge everywhere, the column is no more (having since been replaced by, you know, the Internet), but my pal Mike Sterling recently sent me a link to a searchable archive of 680 "Sage Advice" questions and answers culled from over a hundred issues of Dragon.
Most of them are simple rules questions and people trying to figure out what exactly the difference is between the glaive, guisarme, guisarme-glaive and guisarme-volge (answer: not much), but there are some truly amazing glimpses of nerd minds at work in there. And luckily for you, you don't have to spend the hours going through all of them, because I've found the best and dropped them onto some snazzy parchment for your reading pleasure! So strap on your elven chain, make your save vs. rules lawyering, and enjoy The 11 Strangest D&D Questions Ever Asked!
#1. Ranged Bad Touch: I'll cop to editing these questions a little, mostly cutting out extraneous information on obscure 2nd Edition D&D loopholes that we're all better off not reading about, but here it was more of an aesthetic choice, as the blunt answer carries an emphasis plain text just doesn't get across.
#2. Bows Don't Kill People, Archers Do: I'm honestly not sure if this one is a product of the D&D player's signature love of minutiae and specificity or just the printed version of rolling your eyes when you're asked something that's right there in the book.
To be fair, though, the Sage actually does provide the rules for how much damage you'll do if you actually beat someone over the head with a longbow, thus ensuring that longbow-beatings would rise dramatically just after this issue was published.
#3. Imaginary Racism: It's been observed before that D&D is often a game where a bunch of people invade underground settlements and cold start massacring creatures and taking their gold because they have green skin and fangs, but this?
No souls? Seriously, who wrote that part of the Monster Manual, David Duke? And don't even ask if they can get married under Greyhawk law.
#4. +2 Miter of Binding Edicts: This one cracks me up for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that asking how to "spice up" one's D&D game makes it sound a lot like a marriage that's gone into a rut:
But beyond that -- and the obvious hilarity of "well, now that I've slayed Ashardalon the Red Dragon, I guess it's back to the Vatican" -- there's the core problem itself. Far be it from me to tell you how to have fun, but if you're tired of dungeon adventures, perhaps Dungeons and Dragons is not the game for you. Just a thought.
#5. The Sanctity of Same-Alignment Marriage: While getting the phrase "chaotic evil lady magic-user" was a bonus I was prepared for, I honestly wasn't expecting the rest of this one:
If only all the politicians worrying about defining marriage knew that the answer was in the pages of Dragon Magazine. As for me, well, call me old fashioned, but when it comes to cross-alignment marriage to villanous sorceresses, I'm a fundamentalist. It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Evil-Lyn.
#6. Guinivere Is Officially Off the Market: And speaking of paladin marriages, we have this:
Is it just me, or does the Sage seem a shade too protective of his character here? Maybe it's just the phrasing and the use of the word "allow," but I can't help but read it as "as long as you exist in my campaign world young lady, you'll obey my rules on dating!"
Also, the fact that the second half of the answer is assuring players that despite his commitment to Lawful Goodness, your paladin's plumbing still works. Good to know.
#7. The (Elven) Kids Are All Right: What? Someone thinks this question might not make sense?! Perish the thought!
As it turns out, the question refers to a misprint in the "starting age" tables (misprints in tables being a menace that killed more adventurers than all the dragons in the game combined), but I like to imagine it's actually a question about these young Elves today with their saggy chainmail and their low-rider war ponies. And that hippity hop lute music! Thieves, the lot of 'em!
#8. Legolas, You Are NOT The Father: This is quite possibly my favorite question in the entire collection, and while I tried not to put too many of the long answers in, this one's got too many gems to pass up:
First off, writing into a magazine about D&D to ask how you should handle an unplanned pregnancy is basically the greatest thing anyone has ever done with their life. Second, the fact that actual advice is given. Third, that the Sage offers up his thoughts on medicine from "this time period," as though historical accuracy didn't go completely out the window once the wizards showed up and started casting Magic Missile at Gelatinous Cubes.
Finally, the phrase "it is not fair, but that is life." Well, no. It's actually not life. It's a game. Specifically, it's a game where you specifically are constantly bringing up the phrase "game balance" to explain why a magic hat can't turn a dwarf into a ninja, so I'd say the concept of "fairness" should probably not be dismissed so readily.
#9. I Would Suggest Barry White: Similarly, we've got this one:
Man, I don't know how the Sage runs his campaigns, but in my game, I'm the first person you should talk to. Ladies.
#10. Crom, I Have No Tongue For Quiche: All right, I'm calling shenanigans on this one.
Quiche gets a bad rap, but as my pal (and rival comics blogger) Dave Campbell once pointed out, quiche is SCRAMBLED EGG PIE, often served with bacon and wine. That's the most barbarian-friendly food there is, with the exception of raw dinosaur tenderized by your own fists. And that's real.
#11. LASERS: I joke around a lot, but really, this question, sent in regards to the infamous Expedition to the Barrier Peaks adventure, is what it all comes down to:
That is a serious question about whether a magic spell could stop a laser gun. Someone, somewhere, was having an argument about this, and Dragon provided a forum where they could appeal to a higher authority and find a definitive answer.
And that is amazing.