Originally Posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/06/becmi-immortals-set-review.html
D&D Immortals Set (1986)
I am reviewing both my rather beat up and water damaged version of the Immortal set (I only have the book, not the box) and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG.
A couple of notes. The set now lists Frank Mentzer as Author. No mention of Dave Arneson nor Gary Gygax here. The year is 1986 and Gygax had been removed from TSR the previous October. Frank had been very closely allied with Gary so his time at TSR was also going to come to an end soon. The Immortals rules and the module The Immortal Storm would be his last books for the company. This had two rather obvious impacts on these rule books. First, the art that had been getting more sparse with each set now hits an all-time low. No in quality mind you! But in terms of amount. There is just not that much art in these books.
Secondly, it also meant that the company focused more on its perceived cash cow, the AD&D line. Gary had been talking about the AD&D 2nd Edition game, but now that project was turned over to Dave "Zeb" Cook of the B/X Expert Set rules. Others have played the conjecture game of what might have been, so I will not go into that here. What I will say though is it left Frank and the BECMI line alone for the Immortals set to go into some very weird directions.
If BECMI is the ultimate update of the OD&D rules, then the Immortals rules cover part of what Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes.
Players' Guide to Immortals
32 pages, color covers, black & white art.
Your character, now 36th level and has pretty much done everything from dungeons to the planes hears the call to become an Immortal! Certainly, this was the goal of those quests and battles. Immortality. But now the game, both actually and metaphorically, has changed. Just like when you moved from Jr. High/Middle school or Grade school to High School you go from being the most powerful of mortal kind, to the least powerful of the immortals.
This book covers how your character now becomes an Immortal. There are five spheres, four of which characters can access, detailed here. These are the same spheres that have been hinted at since the Companion set and introduced in the Masters set; Matter, Energy, Though, Time, and Entropy. characters choose one of the first four usually corresponding to the class they had in life; Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, and Cleric respectively.
Experience points gained will alive now become PowerPoints on a 10k to 1 basis. We get our first hints at a proto-point buy system in D&D here since PowerPoints can be spent. Now the Initiate Immortal can begin to do some Immortal things. PowerPoints are used for a lot of things, but mostly for magical or spell-like effects. Your sphere will determine which ones you can do easily and which ones are harder.
There are a lot of interesting rule changes along the way. AC is now Ascending for Immortals; so Immortal AC 20 is the same as mortal AC of -20. AC 0 is the same. Ability scores can be raised. First to a max of 25 (the AD&D max of the time) but also all the way to 100!
In a lot of ways the PP mechanic is similar to what we see in other Point Buy systems used for super heroes. It makes sense really.
Though for all of it's detail there is very little information on what an Immortal should do. Right now they seem, at best, super-powered mortal characters. There is some implicit ideas, but nothing spelled out yet.
DM's Guide to Immortals
64 pages, color covers, black & white art.
The DM's book spends some time covering the planes of existence. While a lot on specific planes is left vague, there is a lot of details on how planes are designed. The artwork and some of the notes appear as if the author and artists were checking on what the AD&D team was doing "down the hall" there is a unique feel to the BECMI multi-verse. A lot of emphasis is given on "doing it yourself" including room for the DM to pencil in their own % for monsters occurring.
There is a bit more here about the planes, in particular the Prime plane. We learn that the Known World doesn't just look like Earth from 150 Million Years ago, it IS Earth from then. This explains the map a bit better. We also learn that this Earth is the predecessor to our lands. Though, in the spirit of everything else in the book, this can be changed. The Solar system is the same, save for a few notable differences. Mercury and Pluto are not in their orbits yet and between Mars and Jupiter where the asteroid belt is there is a planet called Damocles. Fitting named for a doomed planet but doesn't fit with the names of the Roman Olympians. Damocles will be destroyed and the two largest pieces will fly off to become Mercury and Pluto. Imaginative to be sure! But Mercury is only 35 million miles and Pluto is closer to 3 billion miles from the sun. The asteroid belt is roughly 300 million miles from the sun. So Damocles is not really in the middle of that. No big deal, this is D&D not Astronomy. I DO however love the idea of a doomed planet in the current or future asteroid belt. Maybe a MiGo outpost or something like that. I want to talk more about the Known World/Earth a little more in just a bit. Plus there is one more bit of information I want to collect.
It would be interesting to compare and contrast the multiplanuar mechanics and rules here with the various Manual of the Planes.
This is followed by the Immortal Campaign. Or, what do Immortals do? There are some ideas given but for the number of rules on immortal characters and planes you would expect some more to be honest.
Our "Monsters" section is now called "Creatures" since they "cannot be adequately called monsters." All these monsters...creatures now have expanded stat blocks to cover their immortal statuses.
One of the first things I noticed were the inclusion of demons to roster of D&D BECMI monsters. I am not sure why this surprised me since these are the same demons from Eldritch Wizardry. Well...same in name but these demons got a serious upgrade. Let's compare. A Succubus in AD&D is a 6+6 HD creature (average hp 33), her physical attacks are not great, but her kiss drains 2 life energy levels. In BECMI a Whispering Demon has 15* HD and 70 hp! Oh and her AC is -6. Orcus and Demogorgon have 39 and 40 HD with 620 and 660 hp respectively! Yikes! We do get some art of them.
In addition to being able to summon other demons Orcus and Demogorgon can summon Gargantua.
We get more inhabitants of the nightmare dimension like the Diabolus which are...checking the description...well they basically tieflings. And they can take any human class. So all the Grognards out there complaining about "monster races" have no ground to stand on. Here are the rules from 1986.
The Dragon Rulers are updated to Immortal stats and so are some of the elemental rulers. There is the Megalith and it is ... WHAT??? More on that in a bit!
A few more creatures and some, ok a lot, of tables on magic.
Crisis on Infinite Urts
So there are a couple of new-to-me bombshells in the Immortal rules. First, the world of the PCs, aka the Known World is Earth of 150 mya. Secondly, this Earth is in actuality a creature known as a Megalith ("big rock") and it is known to the Immortals as "Urt."
It's tucked away in two different places, but this is a revelation really. The Known World as living planet known as Urt. Imagine what the "Mystara" line might have been about had this thought continued? No Hollow World to be sure. Frank Mentzer pretty left TSR soon after this and the Immortal Storm were complete, so we never really got to see what his ultimate vision was. We do know that Gygax considered his Oerth and later Aerth for his Dangerous Journeys to all be alternates of Earth. Aerth was a little more on the nose about it. Frank was set to design parts of Oerth a few years back, but that project fell through. It might have been the closest we would have seen to a fleshed-out Urt.
At some point between 1986 and 1991 (the publication of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia) the world of Urt became Mystara.
So here at the end of all things what can I say about the Immortals rules? It is an inconsistent set of rules to be sure. There are a lot of really interesting ideas connected together with bits of fluff that may, or may not, work well. The concepts of Immortals is a compelling one and D&D would come back to it in big ways at least two more times with Wrath of the Immortals and Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition where Immortally was the goal after 30th level.
Still. One can be impressed with the scope of the rules and how it caps off a set of rules that began in 1983 but has roots going back to 1977 and to the dawn of D&D. For that reason, it gets a few points more than it might have gotten on its own.