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Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for-

Usury, or the lending of money at interest or, even more broadly, using money to make money, ie. investing and expecting to get a larger return than you invested; in the medieval period this is known as usury and is strictly forbidden to Christians*. Jews and Muslims have similar usury laws, but those laws, as I understand them, only apply to other members of their own faith; this is one reason why European Jews were driven into money lending as a profession during the medieval period**. Since the practice of usury is the basis of free market capitalism it is pretty easy to see why the term has degraded over time to simply mean "Charging exorbitant interest rates", like mafia-style loan sharking.

U is for Ultravision. Seriously, what is the point. Infravision wasn't already dumb enough? I understand, some creatures see outside of our normal human visible spectrum, making it all scientific in AD&D was just a waste of time and DMG space, plus it made dumb-ass rules lawyers try and find exceptions to how and why they worked or didn't work from both sides of the DM's screen. That is just annoying.

U is for Undead. I have to admit, I always feel like I forget to use them, like I have to be reminded. I think that's odd since they are so iconic to D&D and they make the Cleric class feel special and all. My wife particularly loves to hate undead. I have liked a lot of published novels (and D&D adventures too for that matter) that have featured the undead fairly prominently. Hammer horror films and other "classic" style monster movies were always favorites of mine as a kid, thanks to Monster Movie Matinée. The Lost Boys and Fright Night both hit during my prime AD&D playing years, and it's not like I have never used undead monsters in my campaign, they just, maybe, get a little under used. I love to use Vampires as evil bosses*** and I have had some real good runs with them campaign-wise.

U is for Underwater Adventures. I have never really given this a go, the logistics of it are kind of annoying, it might as well be space flight. I am glad that EGG gave us the rules for it all in the DMG if we wanted to give it a try and the monsters for it in the MM, but I just always gave it a pass. Maybe if I got some DM to show me how it's done right and inspire me it'd be different, but right now, and for the last three decades, I just haven't been feeling it.

U is for Umber Hulk an apparently completely randomly generated monster or EGG had a serious phobia for giant quasi-magical beetles. I guess nobody really likes bugs and giving them some really freaky powers just makes them worse. So, created at random or subject of an intense Gygax nightmare?

U is also for Unicorn, which makes for a nice symmetry with the Umber hulk; a purely EGG D&D monster right next to a wondrous creature from medieval myth and legend in the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual; it kind of sums up the wild ride that you're about to take when you roll up a character, now doesn't it?

*It's one of those bits in the Bible that we modern folk like to ignore, medievals just found legalistic loopholes to avoid the sin of usury, like using Jews as middlemen since they were exempt from specifically Christian rules; it works the other way too, when was the last time you saw a Christian keeping kosher?

**Being largely banned from practicing a wide range of other professions probably didn't help much there either.

***By Vampires, I feel I have to clarify here because of some modern muddying of the mythos, I mean the traditional menacing bad-ass, not an angst-ridden wuss and not a sparkly fairy.