Sunday, 25 November 2012

Consider the Badger

Life in the forest
is Black and White
[Edit Sep 1st 2013: a lot of people are coming to this page from Google, presumably in connection with the badger cull being carried out by the government. Just a quick note to say that this page, just like the National Farmers Union page on badgers and TB, is fantasy. Bovine TB is mostly spread by infected cows in cramped transportation and holding systems with other cows, not badgers. In fact, the badgers are probably catching it from the cows. The current culling reflects farmers' superstitious fear of, well, basically anything wild which goes back to pre-history and is a cultural artefact of rural life. Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled programme.]

Somewhere in Vornheim, or while talking about Vornheim, Zak said that the encounter tables are for "days when something important happens" and this melds well with what wilderness encounter tables in AD&D are about. The chance of an encounter, BtB, increases in the wilderness not because there's more happening there, but because when something does happen it is more likely to be worth detailing.

While travelling across plains in the middle of a country, a party will typically have four or five days between encounters, meaning that a mounted party will probably go from point to point without any encounter at all. This doesn't mean that they see nothing and nobody on the way. Quite the opposite - they're probably meeting people all the time: innkeepers, farmers, hunters, other travellers and so on. But none of these are likely to do anything of note.

So, by the same token, things should only appear on the encounter tables if they have some potential to generate an "interesting" encounter.

"My road; my rules"
Countryfile charity calander 2013 just seems wrong to put together a wilderness forest encounter table without badgers on it! If there's one land-animal that says "forest" to me it's deer the badger (clearly, this is influenced by where I live and many people would probably think of bears first, but they were hunted to extinction here several centuries ago). In any case, the badger is just one of several problematic real-world animals that appear in the MM: crows, ravens, even camels hardly set the pulse racing (unless you're the camel driver who offered to kiss his camel for a fiver when we were in Egypt. He seemed a bit too keen to me - and "kissing the badger" is a fairly rude mediaeval term, so let's not even go there).

The answer has to be that when the party encounter "normal" animals, then there must be more to them than meets the eye. There is something "interesting" about them. This is, after all, a fantasy game not an episode of Springwatch.

One thing to remember is that all animals in AD&D can speak, if you have the right spell or have a 3rd level monk with the party (indeed, plants can speak too). So long as the animal's intelligence is not listed as "non-", any encounter may have some value just as a chance to look for clues when trailing someone or looking for some particular location. Speaking with animals, however, is restricted to normal real-world animals and technically does not include even the giant versions which come under the heading of monsters and so require speak with monsters instead.

And some animals have surprising levels of intelligence and even alignments - wolverines are semi-intelligent (not just "animal") and are evil; similarly with worgs and winter wolves. Dolphin are "very" intelligent and lawful good.

Also bear in mind that speak with animals has a pacifying effect on animals and their companions, so it can come in handy when facing, say, a bull elephant in a bad mood.

Morale is also important, as animals below "low" intelligence have a simple 50% morale score and will probably need to check this on a round-by-round basis, so prolonged combat with normal animals is very unlikely and even predators are unlikely to persist if they encounter serious resistance.

So, anyway, you've rolled a badger encounter. What's interesting about this badger? Here's 20 ideas (unless otherwise noted, 2-5 badgers of 1+2 HD are encountered as normal):

Frank Miller
does Springwatch
  1. One badger is a reincarnated NPC (d6: 1-3: druid; 4+ roll on table DMG p175) previous level: 1d6+6. Roll reaction as normal, but unable to speak common.
  2. Badgers are being ridden by (invisible) pixies. Roll the pixies' chance of in-lair (5%) to see if this is a patrol around their home. If not, they are looking for a party of evil adventurers they have heard about. 
  3. A single badger with a gun (6 bullets, 1d8 per hit, treats all AC as 10 plus magic and dex, ranges: 2/4/6), leaning against a tree and smoking a cigarette. Very sweary and taciturn but can speak common. Motivation and history at DM's discretion but generally very bitter about something other than being a badger. If you don't like the gun, use a light crossbow instead.
  4. Badgers are sitting inside a circle of small standing stones (2' tall). They seem to be concentrating. The stones are a magical trap set up by a hunter.
  5. One badger leaps from a tree onto the head of one party member, while the rest attack in an attempt to drive the party away from their nearby sett. If spoken to, will say that a ranger taught them about ambushes.
  6. Tiny badger in a silver cage laying beside the path. Lost pet/victim of aristocratic child who passed here recently. If taken from the cage, the badger will return to full size and attack anyone nearby once before fleeing. The cage will similarly miniaturize anything which can be tempted into it (the top hinges back and is big enough for any animal smaller than a wolf or large dog). Magic resistance works against the cage at base chance. The cage is not very strong.
  7. Badgers are armed in platemail (AC 0) with small halbards (treat as two handed hand axes). They have been enchanted and equipped by a nearby hermit wizard (alignment: any non-good).
  8. Badgers are actually recently dead, animated, and have diseased bite. Treat as zombies for weapon effects, initiative etc. Only one attack, the bite for 1-3, but each bite is an exposure to a communicable disease as per DMG p13. All the badgers will have the same disease (% roll on p14) but roll occurrence and severity separately. A hag or annis lives nearby and is responsible for the state of the badgers.
  9. Badgers have rabies and are aggressive, attacking people and mounts. Treat as above but this is a natural disease and always affects the brain/nervous system with acute (one-off) occurrence and a base +4 on severity.
  10. The badgers have recently moved into area and are simply aggressively barring the party's route in an attempt to claim it as part of their new territory.
  11. Badgers have golden fur, only noticeable in the dark, which grants them +2 to AC (they detect as magical too). If obtained by a party this fur can be used to create a +2 shield (one pelt); +2 gnome-sized (2 pelts), dwarf-sized (3 pelts), elf-sized (4 pelts), or human-sized (6 pelts)  "leather" armour. However, this armour will likewise glow in the dark and receives no bonus to saves against fire-based attacks. The badgers are sacred to the god Pan (or equivalent).
  12. The badgers attempt to join the party (by staying near to them and travelling in parallel). If communication is possible they will say that they are fleeing "a monster". If the party allows the badgers to remain with them, a hell-badger will attack everyone within 1d8 turns. This is a demonic giant badger, AC6, 6" move, HD 7, breath fire as hell hound (ie 7hp damage, 1" range), damage: 1-6/1-6/2-12, immunities as per demons, +1 or cold iron to hit, 30% magic resistance, 1hp/turn regeneration if not killed. If the giant is killed the badgers turn into humans from a distant land who explain they were cursed many years ago to assume animal shape and be pursued by the demon, taking a new shape each year. They are all princes in their distant home and can offer great reward if returned. They are 0-level.
  13. Five bipedal (normal sized) badgers materialize at some distance from the party (normal rules apply, including surprise). They are dressed in Arab-style clothing and carry scimitars and maces. Two are fighters (4th level), one is a cleric (also 4th), one a magic user (3rd level), and one a thief (6th level). They have an orb which has transported them here from their world where the level limits mean that they can not fight a tyrant they call "The Weasel" and its henchmamals; they have come to this world to seek aid. They are all NG. The orb translates for their leader and can transport any willing subject within 1", but will not activate for non-badgers.
  14. The badgers run up to the party and attempt to get their attention. If they can not open communication within five minutes, they run on. The badgers are brothers who have been polymorphed by a nearby witch who has likewise turned their sisters into swans. The brothers know that a party of hunters is in the area and that their sisters are in grave danger.
  15. The badgers are squaring up to a giant badger which has been transformed into a monster by drinking from a nearby pool in a ruined monastery. If the party attack the giant, the normal badgers will join in, otherwise the giant will attack the party anyway while the smaller ones escape.
  16. The badgers are encountered in a dip, clearing, coomb, or glade which also contains a 12' tall stone statue of a badger sitting up on its haunches. The eyes of the statue are overgrown with weeds but are sapphires of great size worth 2000gp each. The badgers will avoid the encounter but try to stay within 3" of the statue. If the statue is molested in any way, the badgers all become giant badgers and attack the intruders.
  17. The ground gives way beneath a mount or party member and angry badgers attack from the ruins of their sett. Any mount suffers 1d6 damage, and its rider must save Vs death or also take 1d6.
  18. The badgers are mounted on black bears and carry spears (treat as medium lances if they charge). Unless attacked, they simply watch the party pass from some high ground. Local legend speaks of the "striped knights".
  19. The badgers have collars studded with minor gems (mostly garnet; each badger has 3-6 red gems of base value 100gp. They are the escaped pets of a 7th level illusionist who is looking for them (10% chance per round of the illusionist arriving). He is very protective of the badgers and will reward their capture or avenge their loss as appropriate.
  20. The badgers are vampiric and each point of damage done by their bite (the 1-3 damage attack) restores them by the same amount (to a maximum of 10hp). Anyone killed by the badgers becomes a badger like them if the body is not buried in holy ground by the next full moon.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


Oh, good. A post about economics.
One of the top topics for campaign designers is that of economics in the game world. I've suggested elsewhere that AD&D isn't the right game for this, as there are some design goals which are fundamentally incompatible with a realistic economy. However, that just means that DMs have set about rebuilding the AD&D economy from scratch.

To me, the only real purpose of this (beyond the enjoyment of the DM) is to give players a way of relating to the cost of things. If a new player's character picks up a gem in game and is told (by some passing dwarf) that it's worth 700gp, what generally happens is that the player then says "is that a lot?"

More experienced players are a bit more apt to translate "700xp" into "2% of my next level" and be happy with that, but metagaming the economy like that doesn't satisfy the world-builder in all of us.

So, answering the question "is that a lot?" leads us off down the path of economics and that path can end up in some very strange places. One such place is The Tao of D&D, a blog which has over the years detailed the author's attempts to build a consistent economy as opposed to a realistic one - a wise choice in my view - and also to this weirdo post here where I look at the questions of "what does 'rich' mean?" and "why is the Middle East so bloody important?". The relation to D&D specifically is about zero, but I think there is some interesting stuff for the campaign designer to think about. Maybe not, but I've not got anything else ready so it'll have to do.

Kings and Things
Richard the Lionheart once had a ransom paid for his release which came to something like 6 tons of silver (100,000 marks or £66,666). If we simply convert that into the value of an equal weight of silver today it would be about £16m and in AD&D terms it is 438,857gp.

The AD&D term is a lot of gold; the modern value isn't a lot for a king. It's certainly not representative of what £67k was worth in 1194 (the deadline for payment). Or is it?

In fact, if you are reading this blog, it's fairly certain that you are far richer than old Richard was. The £16m figure is actually probably too high and the reasons for this are of some interest when trying to think about the value of money in a campaign. So what does it mean to be rich?

All economics, at the very bottom, boils down to the question of how much work a person can "command", that is to say in physical terms how much energy they can use in their life to do things that they want done. And the very first chunk of that energy is what is used to keep the person alive, followed by any children they may have who are dependant on them.

Early Yuppies
In a society where no one manages to get beyond this basic level - probably a society that humans have not had for maybe a million years or more - then the concept of wealth comes down to things that are inherent in ones own body - essentially physical strength. The best hunter has the most energetic diet and is by that standard the richest member of the tribe or family.

What our king of the veldt has is more calories at his disposal than the other members of the society. What he needs to express this wealth is a way in which to transfer those calories outside of himself; a way to exploit the excess energy in his diet to improve his life. For our beefy Homo ergaster, that probably meant bullying smaller people into doing things for him, including of course having sex and perhaps cooking meals - the origins of married life! More seriously, the beginnings of what would become mediaeval society with the rich at the top with mistresses and large families of bastards and whole houses filled with servants.

Anyway. The point is that wealth resides in that ability to get your work done for you. In the tribes of 1m years B.C., that meant exploiting the 1500 or so calories that your companions generated per day (they were smaller, so I'm guessing on the 1500 figure). The total wealth of the tribe is basically 1500 units minus some value needed for simply living times the number of members (don't carp - I know there are lots of little corrections to this figure). That's pretty limited and you can perhaps see where I'm going with this when I say that the computer I'm typing on now is doing than 1½ times that 1500 figure for me per day even when idling.

At one point ancient humans seem to have gone down two routes to solve this limitation on energy production. One was a pretty common evolutionary strategy, one which the dinosaurs are probably the best know exponent of - size. Big, heavy with massive jaws and jaw muscles to allow more calories to be extracted from the environment.

Extinct. But happy.
The alternative evolutionary path was trod by our ancestors who developed larger brains which could think about how to get more energy instead of simply beating it out of the world around them. For whatever reason the environment changed and the big-jaws flopped and the big-brains made the first truly unique human break-through by working out how to make and use fire.

Fire allowed energy to be harvested from trees - a foodstuff previously of very little interest to humans. Fire released energy to keep us warm, meaning we didn't have to simply huddle in a cave or whatever and we could go into new lands away from our tropical home, but more importantly it could be used to breakdown cell walls in food without using chemical energy drawn from our own reserves. That meant that we could be more active after eating and have less of our bodies devoted to digestion. The evolutionary pressure was now on to find better things to do with the energy we had saved and the answer to that for the next million years and more was "stick it in the brain".

Talk About Slaves
As brain size increased, at some point verbal communication became a viable means to express abstract concepts that had been limited to those that could be mimed in some way. That meant several things were now introduced into the human world including giving orders, lying, and expressing moral judgements. In other words, religion and slavery became much more practical.

Entertaining and nutritious too!
Slaves were probably around before this in the form of captured members of other tribes (still quite a common feature of life in primitive cultures today). But language and the ability to give orders makes a slave into a much more useful tool and the value of them must have greatly increased. A slave represents another source of work which the owner does not have to do for themselves and, in extreme cases, may not even have to be properly fed. Owning slaves has been a major sign of wealth for much of human history for the simple reason that a slave is wealth in a much more real way than a gold coin is (Roman law recognized this fact in its terminology so that gold was a minor possession and a slave a major one). If times get really hard, you could always eat a slave while a gold coin is of no use to you!

"OK, too much fire now!"
So, fire probably allowed true specialists for the first time - people who could do something other than nurse or hunt. In some cases these were simply the elderly and the handicapped but I'd give good odds that the first priests appeared at this time and that they were priests of fire deities or spirits (I'm also sure that there was religion before this but I'm not sure that a priestly class could have had a permanent fixture in human society). We probably also got our first kings too. These specialists existed simply on the energy of others and what could be produced by fire from wood and as brains improved in a virtuous circle with new ways of harnessing fire we eventually arrived at the next big step up in the energy game: agriculture.

Farming is a concerted effort to gather solar energy and convert it into something we can use for work. Both crops and animals are raised to give food which is used to power workers who build things, design things, even write things down, all in a pyramid of power with the most specialized (and least physically exerted) at the top. Indeed, pyramids seem to have been a feature of this stage of development.

If we stop here and have a look at a member of the Egyptian nobility, say, we can have a look at his or her sources of wealth. There's the food produced on the aristocrat's land for a start. The energy generated by the workers has gone up since Homo ergaster to something like 2200 calories per male worker. Whereas King Ergaster could only command the energy of whoever he could reach, Lord Gypo has hundreds of people to work his fields, and the profit from those fields (meaning the calorie value of the crop minus what the farmers have to be given to allow them to live) in addition. This profit, in the form of grain and meat, can be given to other people as payment which in turn frees them from having to go and work their fields (or own any fields at all) or used to support slaves to waft cold breezes across the lord's brow on hot days. So how wealthy is the Egyptian lord compared to you or me? The answer is that we're probably better off because of something that happened just before the death of Richard I.

Up to this point (12th century), almost all energy was derived from what came in from the sun on a daily basis. There was some buffering in the form of forests and grain storage but forests could not be harvested faster than they would grow and grain would not keep for years in barns so, although there were reserves that could be dipped into if needed the annual energy production of the human race was based pretty strictly on what proportion of that year's solar output it had captured. This is most obviously seen in the close correlation between bad weather and poor harvests and starvation in the period, which was a global pattern only slightly alleviated by the limited international shipping capabilities of the time.

But back, many millions of years before King Ergaster first beat up a smaller tribe-member for the nice joint of meat he was eating, the sun had shone down upon the Earth and that energy was captured and some of it, a small proportion, was stored away.

"So, you chaps are all dwarves, eh?"
In 1199 the king granted a charter for the extraction of this energy in Newcastle Upon Tyne, in the form of coal. Some coal exploitation had been made before this and it would take a few centuries for technology to get to the point where it could be used on a large scale but once it did we hit another virtuous circle where the extraction of coal released more energy, allowing more and more clever humans to be freed from manual work and go to university and discover better ways to extract more coal and so on. The Industrial Revolution had arrived. Coal production in England went from 2.7 million tons in 1700 to 10 million tons in 1800 and 250 million tons in 1900.

All the way down our history, increases in available energy were accompanied by increases in population - the additional energy was quite literally used to make more people - and the Industrial Revolution was no exception.

From 1801 to 1901 the population of Great Britain and Ireland went up by a factor of  x2½, while the energy extracted from coal went up by x92½. Assuming that agricultural production increased linearly with population (which is not true, but in the end it doesn't matter), this means that the average British person had 37 times more energy available to them in 1901 than in 1801. Or, to put it another way, they were 37 times richer and things were about to go even wilder as, in 1899, oil came on the scene.

Today, Britain's 65m people consume about 35 million calories (in the dieting sense of the word) each per year in the form of energy which has not derived from the year's sunshine (ie, oil, gas, nuclear etc.) for every man, woman, and child.

So, how rich am I? I have the equivalent of 44 adult male slaves working for me day and night (and so does my wife, and so would any children we had*). If I had to employ them at average wages they'd cost me a bit more than a million pounds per year. Even if I subtract what I pay for all that energy, I can assure you that I'm quids in. Very few Roman nobles would have had this number of slaves and even if they did, they still would not have had any way of travelling from Rome to London in an afternoon, so even that million quid doesn't actually reflect the value of these imaginary slaves.

*[edit: this would mean that the UK would have 2.9 billion slaves wandering about doing what we use machines and oil/coal/nuclear for!]

One reason that slavery died out in advanced nations is that technology does the same work without all that messing about with feeding and housing them, not to mention the risk of rebellion. Once there was a feasible alternative weakening the ruling class's dependence on slave, the moral pressure was able to push through the abolition, which is unlikely in the extreme to have succeeded in, say, 1607 compared to 1807. In America, where large parts of the nation were very technologically backward compared to, for example, New York, abolition had to wait a bit longer and in modern India and China the practice continues under various guises as rock-bottom housing and food costs continue to make slaves more economical than even quite basic machines. Once that changes, the moral argument will magically become important to the ruling elites.

How Things Have Changed
Back to the main feature: This figure gives some idea of how wealthy people like Bill Gates are today compared to Pharaohs and the "Emperors" of the Middle Ages. It also gives some impression of how difficult it is to compare modern prices to old ones. It's not just that some things are easier to make or do now because of technology, but that everything is cheaper, especially food.

Better dying through chemistry
What made aristocrats powerful was their control of the energy supply in the form of agriculture. They were the landowners and they had a stranglehold on the means of feeding the population. The reason the British aristocracy lost its grip on power in the early 20th century was that the relative importance of food as an energy source was becoming lower and lower and the World Wars simply demonstrated how important chemical energy had become by blowing millions of people to bits with it. In the face of what could be done with the output of an oil well in Persia, owning a lot of fields in Kent simply didn't cut it anymore and real political power shifted to those who controled oil and gas supplies, where it remains today.

In fact, the number of calories which we consume from modern food is greatly outweighed by the number of calories - derived from fossil fuels - which goes into its production, in the "West" at least. So agriculture is marginalized even more as what we have of it would wither without the oil industry.

Almost Time to Shut Up
Against that sort of background, it's impossible to compare an agrarian fantasy game setting's economy with ours in any sensible way. We can't even really look at real-world historical economies and use them because our games have magic, including cure disease and, presumably, NPC spellcasters throwing "bless crop" around the place too. An on top of that, there's probably a few strange creatures knocking about that make a difference too. A pair of stone giants could radically transform the economics of a town if they hired themselves out for pay, and animated dead or statues even moreso as they won't want paying.

Given all this, I think the best advice is to forget "realism" completely and pick a number to represent the conversion from game currency to modern real currency and then just think to yourself "how big a purchase should that be" or, more usefully "how big a purchase do I want that to be?" If you make a mistake, then invent a reason why the price seems different; magic being the fall back for everything.

Why are gems so valuable in AD&D? There was an ancient war of wizards who used gemstones to power Über spells and they actually consumed major proportions of the available gems. Why are bows so expensive? Ents make it too dangerous to harvest the high quality trees needed for the best bows. Yadda yadda yadda.

About 7sp in Old Money
As an example of a figure for conversion, I suggest taking what you think is a minimum wage per year and working from there. So, if you say that £12,000 is an absolute minimum modern wage and you want the poorest hirelings to be asking for a gp per month, then 1gp=£1000, 1sp=£50, and a cp is a fiver. Player wants to buy a small horse buggy? A Fiat 500 is about 9 grand, so that's 9gp. Want a posh carriage with all the trimings? A Rolls Royce will set you back in the region of £200-300k, so 200 to 300gp. Nice house? 250gp. Mansion maybe a few thousand gp. Meal for two at a cheap place? 3cp At a really fancy place? 2 or more sp.

You get the idea. [edit: just for the record, I use a figure of 1gp=£100, 1sp=£5, 1cp=50p but it really is a matter of taste]

Consistency is good, but realism is impossible and probably not worthwhile even if you could manage it, so don't waste time chasing it. You could divide this ratio by 10 and not worry about it. Who cares if a gold piece is worth only £100? or £50? The point is to give you some consistent basis for comparing items, even if the relative costs are almost certainly screwy compared to what they were in a Middle Ages which had no magic.

Assuming that you even want to bother, of course. Just using the book prices is probably not going to annoy anyone who's having fun fighting the evil queen and rescuing the handsome Prince.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Other Side of the Humanocentric Fence

Here Be Humans
Having lost three long posts to Blogger's horrible HTML editor and had a stew about it for a week or two, I'm going to restrain myself to a simpler post format for now than I would like. I suspect in the long run I'm going to have to dust off my own website to post the sort of material I would like.

Anyway, part of the lost posts included this introduction to a scenario:

In the woods north and west of our kobold cave live many creatures who habitually avoid human contact. They know that where the humans go, farms and fields and towns and cities follow and space within these is found only for a select few of the wild's people, even when patronizingly granted the term "demi-humans".
So even those that are not violently opposed to the world of humans dislike what it represents. King of these are the centaurs, of all the intelligent races the one with the most claim to the title of "demi-human", but by nature probably the one least interested in making that claim. They run free in the forests and glades, strong enough to fight most threats and fast enough to avoid most of the rest. The human village to the south is of no interest to them.
Until now.

This was an attempt to summarise what I think things must look like from the non-humanocentric side of the default AD&D world. It's quite common to ignore the attitude of non-human non-evil races when building an AD&D world, I think. Generally worlds seem to get divided into "humans and allies" and "enemies of humans", and this applies to some degree to Greyhawk as well as later settings. It is true that several demi-human states and locations in Greyhawk are referred to as being to one degree or other xenophobic but the overall picture is that humans and non-evil intelligent races all sort of get along.

This isn't the picture one gets from just reading the DMG and the PHB. Let's have a show of hands, which demi-human races like humans?

Human Fan Club meeting
threatens  to become rowdy

Answer: no one.

Yes, that's right. Not a single PHB playable race actually likes humans. Not halflings, not dwarves, not elves.

All right, then; who is suspicious of humans?

Answer: dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, and half-orcs are all listed as thinking of humans "neutrally, although some suspicion will be evident".

It can be argued that in a D&D world, suspicion is the natural ground state of any meeting between strangers, but even so the picture is not one of friendly co-operation between allied races. In UA the picture remains the same except that the two new elven types are actively hostile to humans (moreso than drow!).

The DMG's inhabited area encounter tables bear out this image of a world where "inhabited" is synonymous with "inhabited by humans". Across the board in temperate areas, ogres are more frequently encountered than elves (even in forests) or and orcs than dwarves (even in mountains). Centaurs,  sylphs and their like do not appear at all. Where humans go, intelligent non-evil races leave.

The presence of the evil humanoids on the encounter tables probably represents a desire for a little bit of risk in overland travel during play but it also has an implication that the humanoids are actively resisting or attacking the humans in a way that the demi-humans are not.

"The woods are a resource?
Good luck with that one..."
By and large, Gygax's first edition humanocentric default world means that safe areas are images of an idealized mediæval 11th or 12th century Europe, where magic works and clerics can heal the sick and cure the blind etc. But Europe did not have any dwarven populations living within its borders and its woods were a resource rather than an elven holt.

It's a bit like the red-squirrel/grey-squirrel situation in the UK today. The greys don't actually directly compete with the reds; they're just a bit better at surviving - they're stronger and they have sharper minds. Similarly, humans in AD&D have the ability to rise to levels beyond anything the demi-humans can, and in the long run that's enough to make the latter retreat instead of fight.

"Look at me! I'm 13th level!"
There's an old story about Sparta. An alliance of Greek city-states were facing some foe (probably Persia) and the Spartan general was laying out out the battle-plan. Some of the other cities' generals objected to the Spartan making these decisions without consultation them, because Sparta had only supplied some of the soldiers. The Spartan went outside and tells the assembled me to stand up. Then he says "All the potters, sit down", and all the potters sit down. Then "All the smiths, sit down" and they sit down too. He proceeds to name various skills and professions until only the Spartan troops are still standing at which point he says "All the soldiers, sit down" and, obedient to their laws, the Spartans sit down together. The General turns to the others and says "Sparta has not supplied 'some' of the soldiers; we have supplied all of the soldiers. That is why I am in charge."

Must remember...humans are our allies....
The evil humanoids, of course, simply want to conquer everything else and so there is scope for the humans and demi-humans to unite against an implacable foe. But in the end, Sparta provides the big guns and so Sparta is in charge. The humans supply all the arch-mages and all of the lords* and all of the high priests and in the end that is what makes the 1st edition AD&D world a world of humans and the wilderness a place where one meets not just dragons and trolls, but elves and gnomes and centaurs.

I think there's scope here for making the wilderness a bit more complex than it often seems and both high and low level adventures in it rather less clearly defined in terms of what a party of humans can assume in terms of who will help and who will hinder them.

*Yes, yes. STR 18 dwarves can be 9th level fighters. Don't fuss.