Monday, June 17, 2013

Badgers? We don't need no stinkin' badgers!

Well, if you want to kick your RPG game old school... yeah, you do.

The night before the North Texas RPG Con kicked off this year, I had the privilege of playing the old TSR Board Game Knights of Camelot with Steve Winter, Erol Otus, and Dennis Sustare. (See the pics here.) So, during the game, the knights on their various quests across the map have various encounters, including some of the animal variety. That list includes harts, boars, wolves, palfreys (a medieval horse), brachets (an archaic name for a bitch hound), and badgers. Yes. Badgers. Then Erol said something that intrigued me (and I'm paraphrasing here as I don't recall exactly what he said)... "Those TSR guys loved badgers." Why wouldn't they? Lake Geneva is only about an hour-and-a-half from UW, home of the badgers. Gary moved to Lake Geneva in his late childhood. TSR co-founder Don Kaye grew up there. D&D contributor Rob Kuntz was born and grew up there. That's not to say there wasn't a medieval pedigree for the badger; after all, it was hunted for sport (though it was considered inedible).

So what's the badger's pedigree with early TSR games? Of the items of note below, I have not listed badgers where they appear in wandering monster tables and the like. (Please note, this list is by no means exhaustive, just based on some of the searchable PDFs I have on hand. If you have any additions, please leave a comment. Thanks!)

Knights of Camelot Board Game: This game includes badgers among the animal encounters. (As mentioned above.)

Gamma World (1st edition): includes an animal called the "badder." It is a "badgeroid" species organized into a society "equal to that of the medieval period in human history."

Metamorphosis Alpha (1st edition): includes a mutated animal called the "metaled one (badger)." It's a 3-foot long badger whose fur has mutated to be composed of hard mineral, "giving it a sort of armor." Best of all, this highly-intelligent creature can mentally paralyze an opponent (assuming the opponent is within 6', because the damned thing is near-sighted!)

1e Monster Manual: Of course it's in here, but there's no pic. How cool would a Tramp or Otus badger illustration have been? Oh. The description does include hit dice and damage notes for the giant badger. The badger has subsequently been included in Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989), Monstrous Manual (1993), Monster Manual (2000), and Monster Manual v.3.5 (2003).

1e Player's Handbook: The first creature on the reincarnate list for the 7th level druid spell Reincarnate is a badger (p.64).

1e DM Guide: One of the likely animals for the 4th-level druid spell Animal Summoning is a badger (p.45). For the 7th-level druid spell, Reincarnate, the badger is the example given of reincarnating the character as an animal (p.35); yes, of all the animals they could have chosen for the example, they chose the badger. Also, the badger one of the animals listed for the bag of tricks magic item (p.139) and as a conjured animal (p.222).

Dragon Magazine #69: The badger is one of the forms that Greyhawk deity Obad-Hai may assume (p.29). On a side note, this is the second Dragon magazine I ever bought.

Dragon Magazine #122: In a profile on artist Jeff Butler (pp.68-69), there is mention of the comic The Badger that was drawn by Butler (created by Mike Baron). What the article doesn't mention is that Butler was quarterback for the Wisconson Badgers in 1977, but stopped because of a series of concussions.

Module S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: Encounter Group 3 in Gnome Vale (p.10) includes animal handlers and 3 giant badgers.

Module Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits: For Lolth's hopefully final attack on the fortress of Kandelspire (gate to the kingdom of Maldev), she has assembled an army that includes 8,000 gnolls, 2,000 bugbears, et al., and 50 giant badgers!

AC1: The Shady Dragon Inn: The character Begol Burrowell (p.23) was once "...trapped by a rabid badger and had to burrow his way through eight feet of soil to freedom."

Mentzer Companion Rules - Players Companion Book: "Badger" is the name of one of the characters in the "The Arena of Garald the Blue" adventure included in the book (p.60).

BTW, Swords & Wizardry Complete includes a giant badger, but no regular variety; Swords & Wizardry White Box has neither (the Oe books did not have a badger, though Blackmoor does include a giant beaver). Also, the standard version of Labyrinth Lord has no badgers, but the Advanced Edition Companion does (the B/X books didn't have any badgers, but 1e obviously did).

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