Dragon by Dragon … April 1977

Ah – spring of 1977. I’m sure after the big Bucharest earthquake and the discovery of rings around Uranus, people were almost too worn out to delve into another issue of The Dragon, but delve they did!

The cover for this issue was by “Morno”, AKA Brad Schenck, who you can find at deviantART. He’s mostly known for his contributions to Arduin and computer gaming, and he has lots of nice retro sci-fi material in his gallery. Check it out.

First article is by Guy W. McLimore, Jr.An Alternate Beginning Sequence For Metamorphosis: Alpha. Article begins with a neat little graphic of old pseudo-computer code … takes me back to programming BASIC on my old Vic-20. Good times. The article takes a while to get to the point, describing a clone bank on the Warden. [Hey – just got it – James Ward – Warden – damn I’m slow]. The meat of the article is a little d% table to determine whether you are human, a latent mutant or a true mutant and how many mutations and defects you have. Do the new versions of WOTC Gamma World delve into defects at all? I dig that defects are just part of character creation back in the day … you play the cards the dice deal you.

The article continues with many more tables, including more detail for latent mutants and the number of programmed ship skills one might have, including some special psychic skills for humans only.

The author would go on to be a part of the Doctor Who RPG, Mekton Empires and a host of products for Star Trek and Starfleet Command.

Ronald C. Spencer, Jr. (another junior … I smell conspiracy) presents Sea Trade in D&D Campaigns. This one springs from a campaign being played on the ballistic missile sub USS Benjamin Franklin … I love the stuff that comes from actual play. In this case, a fighting-man wanted to set up a shipping business on the side – smart guy!

D&D produces two wonderful sorts of rules. On the one hand, you have the super simple, elegant rule – like shields will be splintered – and on the other hand, the baroque set of charts that put a warm glow into the hearts of people like me, even if we never plan on actually using them. This one has a single chart and a few assumptions – one page to cover the whole concept. I like it.

The basics of the system are set up as a number of assumptions. To be brief … (1) Cargo is not specified; (2) small merchant ships can carry a max value of 10,000 gp, large merchants 50,000 gp; (3) ships have to pay a pilot fee of 500 gp for small ships, 2,500 gp for large ships and a 5% import tax based on the value of the cargo; (4) profit/loss is determined with a dice roll (i.e. the neat little chart) and is based on the number of ports the ship bypasses (i.e. the further you go, the more you make, but the more likely you are to lose a ship to storms or pirates).

The ship owner invests in a cargo and then gives sailing orders to hit ship – where to go, which ports to bypass, how much profit/loss to accept (if a port is bypassed to avoid a loss, it counts as a bypassed port – I suppose this involves ignoring a bad roll and trying again). Ultimately, the DM (or D/M as he writes it – love this period when things were not yet settled and official) makes the percentile roll and money is either lost or made.

Ships are delayed 1d4 weeks at ports other than their home port, and when ships are lost at sea the owner is notified 1d6+2 weeks later. Neat system, which I’ll happily use in my Blood & Treasure campaign, assuming anyone goes to the trouble of buying a ship or investing in one.

M.A.R. Barker now chimes in with a painting guide for Legions of the Petal Throne. I can’t imagine how anyone in the hobby back in the day could have resisted buying the Tekumel material … very evocative. Love the art.

Morno (Brad Schenck) now provides some fiction in the form of The Forest of Flame. From now on, I will present one random paragraph from each bit of fiction …

Some obsure glory, had thought Visaque, must belong to one who unlocked the musty secrets of the tome; the dream was even now fresh on him. Weeks, then months of spare hours were spent in the attempt of understanding the mysterious text. By the time its crabbed script was half-deciphered the task became somewhat simpler, and often he read in the small hours its forgotten tales by candlelight. He read of the Elder Days and the Days To Come: of heroes, mages, and of strange devices . . . of Crowyn the Worme’s Bane and of his star-crossed blade; Of the strange curse of Vyckar the Grim; Akor the Valkrian, Nokra Negreth, the Red Branch heroes . . . all the warriors and their impeccable deeds. And then, the mages: Bran-Herla whose soul was lost by the wide waters; Vergil Magus; Garanyr the Heart-Misled; of Myrddin, of Verbius, Therion, and the loremaster Isaac Decapole D’alsace . . . and in an indefinite reference on a faded page, was inscribed the name of Vishre Vishran. When Visaque first read that name it struck an eerie chord within him, as if of a misplaced memory. Even now the name was uncomfortably close to an identity. Yet for contemplation there was, today, no time. That the mage was called an Ipsissimus, he knew, but knew not the rank so named. For all his study (so unclear in the remembering . . .) all Visaque had learned was that Vishran dwelt in the Castle Arestel, atop the mountains eastward. (Arestel . . .)

In the Designer’s Forum (that’s a neat idea … a place where game designers can just add a few bits and pieces and corrections to their games – if any designers out there want to talk about their stuff in NOD, let me know).

This forum is by James Ward, with Further Rules, Modifications and Clarifications for Metamorphosis Alpha. He goes into mutations for taller mutants (roll 1d20 for additional height, add one “striking die” for each four feet above normal height – you can get some tall freaking mutants in MA!), shorter mutants, additional body parts, wings and some psychic powers.

Next, there’s an add for D&D miniatures. They guarantee satisfaction. Fantasy Forge has some neat Tekumel miniatures (I wonder how many are still out there, painted and waiting to be used), followed by an ad for Space Gamer out of Austin, TX.

After the adverts, we get chapter 6 of the Gnome Cache. I quote from the summary …

Unable to resist the wanderlust any longer, Dunstan has robbed his father’s strongbox and set forth on his quest for adventure and glory.

In his naivete, Dunstan casts his lot in with a band of scurrilous cutthroats, believing them to be adventurers sharing his noble pursuits.

Our hero learns the true nature of his erstwhile companions, and his pockets are the poorer for it. Dunstan parts company from the band, narrowly escaping apprehension by the Warders. In the confusion, he ‘liberates’ a horse, and sets off for Huddlefoot, there to spend the night in the stables.

Our would-be knight acquires a would-be squire, and strikes a bargain with Evan to travel with his caravan to Rheyton and Nehron. This arranged, he takes care of the incriminating horse, spinning a tall tale of being on official business. This done, they await departure . . .

David W. Miller presents: D&D Option: Determination of Psionic Abilities, giving some additional ways people could pick up psionics in the game. I kinda dig the baroque nature of psionics in old D&D, though I don’t remember if we ever used them or not. Maybe one or two characters were lucky enough to develop them.

Jim Hayes and Bill Gilbert cover Morale in D&D – an important system when you consider the game’s wargaming roots and the importance of wandering dungeons with large bodies of men-at-arms and torch bearers. This one has a couple charts, lots of modifiers and … honestly, I’d rather just roll 2d6 and be done with it.

In Fineous Fingers, we get a visit from Bored-Flak, the Bolt Lobber, who has a firing sight on his finger. He saves the party’s bacon and then disappears into the dungeon.

The Featured Creature is the Death Angel by John Sullivan. Not the toughest monster in the world – 7 Hit Dice (d8’s, it notes) and AC 4 (or 15, in modern games), but it does a death scythe that forces people to make a save vs. death at -3 (and you lose a point of constitution if you fail). If you can take this sucker on at range, you’re okay … except it can teleport at will. They also have 95% magic resistance. Fortunately, they only attack their intended victim – essentially somebody who has pissed off a god or demi-god. The take away here … leave those gemstone eyes in the idol alone!

Next (and final) add is for the old dungeon geomorphs – only $2.99.

All in all, a decent issue, but not spectacular.