Dragon by Dragon … April 1978

Niall armors up like a barbarian!

Dragon #13 is a mixed bag. Mostly good, a little wasted space (in my opinion of course, one man’s waste is another man’s … hmmm, that’s not going to sound right … skip it). Let’s take a look, shall we …

Tim Kask starts off with his editorial spiel, noting that this is the first of the monthly Dragons. It is also the April Fool’s edition, which we’ll regret a little later on. Gencon moves this year from the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva (the what in where?) to the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha – they needed more room. TSR Periodicals is also planning a move to a bigger building.

Shlump Da Orc (I’m guessing that’s a nom de plume) produces a surprisingly long article on figuring out how heavy giants are and how much they can lift. In fact, it is multiple efforts to answer this pressing question (one of the ones that suggests to me D&D was already beginning the process of moving from practice to theory with some folks). One formula explains that a 30-ft. tall giant should weigh 11.75 tons, have a 16′ 9″ chest and an 8′ long torso. Would you care for the semi-official weight formula?

Anyhow … the bit on how much a giant could pick up is a bit more interesting, if for no other reason than because of the following assumptions they use about the average human:

The average person can:

1) Carry his full weight on his back
2) Hold in his arms 3/4 of his weight – dead weight that is balanceable
3) With difficulty pick up half his body weight in dead weight
4) With difficulty pick up half his body weight in a struggling animal
5) With mild difficulty pick up 1/4 of his body weight a struggling animal with two hands
6) Fairly easily pick up 1/4 of his body weight in one hand of dead weight, balanced and somewhat symmetrical

Maybe these guidelines will prove useful to you one day.

The other useful bit is the weight (pounds per cubic foot) of various substances, such as:

Aluminum: 170 pounds
Brass, Forging: 525 pounds
Copper: 560 pounds
Iron, Malleable: 450 pounds
Gold: 1,205 pounds
Platinum: 1,340 pounds
Silver: 655 pounds
Steel, Cold Rolled: 500 pounds

Agate: 160 pounds
Beeswax: 60 pounds
Bone: 110 pounds
Diamond: 200 pounds

etc.

This one actually came in quite handy for something I was just writing for NOD, and definitely will be transcribed into an Excel document for future use in my writing. Thanks 30-year old Dragon!

Rob Kuntz now treads into dangerous territory with Tolkien in Dungeons & Dragons. I’m not sure if this was pre- or post-lawsuit. This one is an official pronouncement on the “position on D&D in conjunction with other worlds of fantasy which influenced it conception and specifically to clear up the fallacious beliefs regarding Tolkien’s fantasy as the only fantasy which inspired D&D”

The article mostly boils down to “D&D does not simulate Middle Earth, nor is it intended to, so please stop your nerd-whining”. This continues to be a problem in gaming, primarily in that many people forget that these are games, which by design are about allocating scarce resources to achieve victory (which, actually, is also what life is about), and not make-believe sessions in which whatever you want to happen does.

More interesting than this article is the inset by Brian Blume The Bionic Supplement for Metamorphosis Alpha. Bonzer! Random dice roll to replace your parts with bionic bits, and what those bits do. Totally worth reproducing in its entirety:

Jon Pickens is in next with an equally awesome article – D&D Option: Demon Generation. We begin with a kick-ass piece of art …

The article gives a way to generate additional “Types” of demons, with the following assumptions – all demons have Hit Dice and Gate ability appropriate to their level, all of Level III or less are vulnerable to normal weapons, the rest being vulnerable only to magical weapons, Magic Resistance 50% at Level I, increasing by 5% per level thereafter and special abilities based on the demon’s level. The powers are divided into 6 levels, and frankly, this looks like a blueprint for a demon class. I won’t reproduce it all, but worth checking out.

Jerome Arkenberg now presents the Japanese Mythos for D&D – again, very extensive article on the gods, goddesses, monsters and heroes of Japanese myth and legend, though the info on each god/demon/hero is pretty light. If you want a super rules-lite version of D&D, imagine if all you knew about a character was his Armor Class, Hit Points, Movement Rate, Magic Ability (i.e. level of magic-user or cleric), Fighter Ability and Psionic Ability.

Up next is the April Fool’s bit – a couple pages of song parodies. The less said the better.

Tim Kask now presents WARLORD: Correcting a Few Flaws. Since I know nothing about the game, I won’t comment on the article. Sounds like a fun game, though.

Gardner F. Fox now presents The Stolen Sacrifice, another adventure of Niall of the Far Travels (not to be confused with Niall of the Just Running to the Corner for Ice).

“The man moved silently through the shadows, keeping always to the darkest places. He moved as an animal might, his body poised for instant action, a big hand on the hilt of the longsword by his side. His eyes darted from a doorway to the far corner, where the wind blew a length of scarlet silk hanging from the wall. Caution was in his great body, for he knew that should he be seen this night, death would be his reward.”

Fineous Fingers finds out that just walking up to an evil wizard’s stronghold is stupid …

Yeah, you hate him, but DM’s love him. Meanwhile, Wormy introduces barbecued dwarf burgers.

We round it out with James Ward explaining a few tricks for adventurers – the kind of things that remind you that, at least back in the day, it really was a game, meant to be played and the rules exploited.

That’s it for #13. All in all a pretty useful issue, and especially good if you enjoy Gardner Fox.

Deviant Friday – Hannah Christenson Edition

One of the joys of doing these Deviant Fridays, besides the fact that they require very little effort on my part, is that it reacquaints me with artists on deviantART that have sometimes fallen off my radar. Hannah Christenson – Nafah on deviantART – is one such artist. She has a beautiful, fairy tale – children’s book illustration quality to her art. The way the energy of the art seems bound to the structure really makes her art work for me. Heck – she makes illustrations of items come alive for me. Enjoy, and make sure you visit her page, maybe offer some encouraging words and if she’s selling a print, consider buying one.

Codpiece of Power [Magic Item]

When attached to one’s armor, the codpiece of power actually just sits there, doing nothing. No powers at all. The magic is in the satisfaction of kicking someone’s ass while the codpiece of power stares at them with that smug look on its face.

That, or it permits the wearer to invoke the power of a potion of heroism once per day when facing a foe tougher than they are, or when outnumbered at least 3 to one.

Or maybe it can attack a foe per the lion shield (or shield of the lion, or whatever it’s called)

Or once per day, when you rub it, it answers one question for you, per the augury spell.

Any other ideas what this puppy might do?

The image above, and the images in the past post, are by Wendelin Boeheim

Armor Up Like a Barbarian

Once upon a time, there was pretty realistic armor floating around in the fantasy realm – the stuff you would expect out of folks who did a little research at the local library. And then the 1980’s arrived on the scene …

In the spirit of ridiculous, barbarian-style armor, I present the following scheme:

Armor is for cowards, and nobody likes or respects a coward – not buxom serving wenches, not grizzled men-at-arms, not squirrely thieves, not fat merchants and certainly not the local lord with a quest that needs fulfilling.

In old school parlance, being unlikable = low charisma.

In a barbarian milieu, armor = cowardice.

The barbarian uses piecemeal armor. Each fledgling barbarian hero can decide, at character creation, to buy as many pieces of armor as they like – well, up to 8 anyways. Each piece costs 25 gp, improves one’s Armor Class by 1 and reduces their charisma score by 1. A barbarian cannot allow their charisma to fall below 3, so starting out with low charisma puts a solid ceiling on how much armor you get to wear as a barbarian. This doesn’t sound fair? By Crom, barbarians don’t whine about life not being fair – go be paladin you lousy #$%#%.

For each piece of armor you order, you roll on the following table – after all, only a real poser would actually go out and buy mismatched, piecemeal armor – barbarians pick it up off the bodies of the slain.


Note: Bits and straps of leather don’t count here – just metal. Leather up all you want.

1. Helm (5% chance of wicked horns – if you have horns, you keep your point of charisma)

2. Sabatons (if this is your only piece of armor you lose an extra point of charisma – what kind of dork walks around with nothing but metal shoes)

3. Breastplate or shirt or mail or scales (+2 AC and -2 charisma)

4. Arm (right or left, your choice sport)

5. Leg (right or left, you choice sport)

Always protect yer fightin’ leg!

6. Shield (why does a shield dock your barbarian street cred? Because you should be wielding a honking big two-handed sword or axe, jerkwad)

7. Shoulder guards (if your charisma is still 15 or higher, you can add a cape; otherwise it would just make you look like a stupid poser)

8. Gauntlet (5% chance of being spiked, which grants +1 bonus to damage each time you score a hit in combat)

9. Mail Loincloth (add mail brassiere if female, unless you want to kick it amazon style)

[You can Google “chainmail loincloth” on your own, chief]

10. Disc Armor (not as dorky as a breastplate, but still shows a lack of self-confidence, which is like a taped up pair of eyeglasses to a barbarian)

You can scrounge other pieces as you adventure, but note – adding a piece still means losing charisma, which means fewer retainers, lower reaction checks and probably some kind of penalty to carousing.

Don’t worry Conan, we can forgive the horned helmet … just not the acting

Eine Kleine Monster Art

One of my artists on Blood & Treasure, Jon Kaufman, has just posted a compilation shot of most of the monsters he illustrated for me on DeviantART. Check it ..

From left to right (vaguely – we’re all geeks here, so I’m sure you can suss it out): Behir, Centaur, Horned Devil, Wight, Mummy, Marilith, Nalfeshnee, Hengeyokai (Fox), Sahuagin, Ghaele, Bat Monster, Locathah, Succubus, Flail Snail, Cockatrice, Shedu and Gnoll.

You can also buy the illustration as a print, if you are so inclined.

In other news, I’ve finished editing the Player’s Tome for Blood & Treasure! I still need to tweak the layout a bit, but the Player’s Tome should be on sale pretty soon. Next step is the larger Treasure Keeper’s Tome. Still, I’m getting there little by little.

Thinking About Angels

We often talk about under-used (and over-used) monsters in D&D, but I rarely hear people bring up angels as an underused monsters. But think about it … aside from the railroady-save-the-world-from-elder-evil games, most D&D concerns a bunch of plunderers and tomb robbers. Even though some might be, technically, lawful, why wouldn’t some angelic vengeance show up once in a while when the party violates a consecrated tomb and carries away the burial goods or busts in on some humanoids who aren’t, at that moment, breaking God’s Law (or Whoever’s Law) and slaughter them wholesale, carting away their treasures. Angels in the game seem to just show up when a (technically) Lawful character summons them for help.

“Sure, mortal, I understand how hard it is to murder your way to riches. Let me help you out with some free healing because you’re technically on my team!”

I think there are a few reasons why this attitude predominates.

1) In a culture with Judeo-Christian roots (whether you believe or not, the roots are there), fighting angels seems wrong – i.e. not just non-lawful, but deeply chaotic. Fine for an “Evil Campaign” perhaps, but just weird otherwise.

2) The GM/Ref is “God”. You can fight berserkers, orcs, basilisks, balrogs, flail snails, etc. all day long, and it makes sense, because they’re just supposed to be there. But if an angel shows up and scolds the party with a fireball, it must be because the GM is trying to punish you for wrecking his dungeon/world.

3) History might be another problem. For generations, supposed believers in The Book wore their religion on their sleeve while engaging in plunder and slaughter. Angels didn’t punish them, so why should they punish us? We often posit – “What would a fantasy world be like if The Gods were real?”, but not  – “What would a fantasy world be like if Vengeful Enforcers of the Ten Commandments were real?”.

4) Finally, we tend to take a very soft, Michael Landon sort of view of angels in popular culture. You know, technically the adventurers are the good guys (or at least mostly focus their killing and robbing on evil folks), so, you know, the angels are kinda sorta on their side.

But how about a more unforgiving view of angels. Angels are relentless enforcers of the deity or deities of Law on the Material Plane. They take orders from an entity that is right, by definition, always right (maybe this entity is always right in your campaign, or maybe Lawful entities think he/she/it always is). “Thou shalt not kill” isn’t a suggestion, its a rule. You go around killing things, even wicked things, and eventually you’re going to run into some divine interference (maybe a cumulative 1% chance per killing, first you tangle with a lesser deva, and then work your way up to a Solar).

These are angels that encourage the concept of “martyrdom for one’s beliefs” (i.e. pacifism in the face of sure death, ’cause the point is to die with your alignment intact, not with the most XP or GP), not the “muscular Christianity” of the 19th century. Steal a pound of gold, lose a pound of flesh. It’s a different view of angels than we usually get, but isn’t that the point? Players won’t see it coming, and you can finally get some use out of the those solars, planetars, devas, archons, eladrin, etc. that are taking up space in your favorite monster book.

Anyhow – just a thought.

Dragon by Dragon … February 1978

The cover of this baby trumpets an exclusive preview of Andre Norton’s D&D novel, Quag Keep! Let’s see what else this issue has to offer …

The first article is Leon Wheeler‘s The More Humorous Side of D&D, which, if I’m honest, is the literary equivalent of “Let me tell you about my character”. My preference was for the little illustration …

Simple but effective line art … something missing from the more modern products, I think. But maybe I’m just an old fart.

Up next is a “D&D Variant” – A New Look at Illusionists by Rafael Ovalle. Rafael’s illusionist has a 7% chance per level of discerning an illusion created by a creature (i.e. rakshasa, succubus, leprechaun) and, if I’m reading this correctly, always can tell another illusionist’s handiwork. Their spells can affect astral and ethereal creatures because they involve light. A few new spells are added as well, including improved displacement, sensory displacement, discord, gaze of umber hulk, create spectres and basilisk gaze.

Jerome Arkenberg now provides us with The Persian Mythos. This is a quick list, and provides an Armor Class, Move, Hit Points, Magic Ability, Fighter Ability and Psionic Ability for each of the deities. Vohu Manah, “Good Mind”, for example, has the following stats:

Armor Class: 2

Move: 18″

Hit Points: 250

Magic Ability: Wizard – 20th

Fighter Ability: Lord – 15th

Psionic Ability: Class 1

Short and sweet, and probably enough to run a combat, if a combat was actually needed.  I’m sure more modern players will scoff at the AC, which would be 17 or 18 in modern games, but with 250 hit points and all that magical and fighting ability, it’s probably sufficient to clean a few old school clocks. More importantly, a combat encounter with this guy in old school rules would last about as long as it would with new school rules, just without a page of stats that will largely turn out to be useless.

It’s actually a pretty thorough list, and includes several heroes and archdemons.

Hey, check out the ad for this game …

Breaking new ground, those fellas.

In the Design Forum, James Ward lends us Some Thoughts on the Speed of a Lightning Bolt. In the article, he sings the praises of the new rule (or variant rule) on melee rounds in Eldritch Wizardry. It’s an odd article that, these days, would just be a post on a forum discussing the new TSR book.

James Endersby and John Carroll now offer another “forum comment” describing a Ship’s Cargo from some game they played involving a voyage to Japan.

James Bruner now has an article about The Druids. Probably a good synopsis of the current knowledge on druids, but much of what people thought of the druids in the 1970’s has turned out to be faulty. Still, some of it appears to be dead on, and I’m sure it was a useful article in its day, if only to veer people away from the “Druid = Fantasy Hippy” syndrome that sadly persists to this day.

Another neat ad …

If the Persian gods weren’t enough for you, Rob Kuntz now presents The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragons. Apparently, J. Eric Holmes was primarily responsible. So, here’s what you all want to know …

Cthulhu

Armor Class: 2

Move: 12″

Hit Points: 200

Magic Ability: (see below) [when you see below, you see nothing about magical ability]

Fighter Ability: 15th level

Psionic Ability: Class 1

Those who see him must save vs. fear, and if released from his sleep, all within 100 miles must save or go insane. He regenerates 10 hit points per round, can teleport 1/2 mile, is resistant to water, cold and vacuum and can call 10d10 deep ones up from the sea bottom. He retreats from the Elder Sign. He can attack physically and psionically each round – meaning, I suppose, that he can make an attack and use a psionic power each round.

A later issue has stats for Conan. When I come across it, I’ll have to pit Conan vs. Cthulhu and see how it turns out.

Another great ad, this time for All the World’s Monsters vol. 2.

It is followed by a quick, unbiased review for the new AD&D Monster Manual. The review calls it “An absolute must for every D&D enthusiast everywhere”.

The preview of Norton’s Quag Keep is next …

Milo Fagon, swordsman, and Naile Fangtooth, were-boar berserker, have met in an inn in the Thieves’ Quarter of Greyhawk. They have one thing in common, each wears on his wrist a wide copper bracelet in which are set a number of unusually shaped dice. Puzzling over this strange bond, they are also uneasily aware that something momentous is about to happen to them both, though they cannot see that any of the other people in the inn are paying any attention to them. 

Well, not a terrible issue – the pantheons might have come in handy, but much of the rest seems like the equivalent of chit chat. We finish with the following …

NOD 15 – FInally Ready to Download

I don’t know why, but this one was like pulling teeth for me …

This issue features the final three Hellcrawls – Phlegethon, Malebolge and Cocytus, and the astonishing thing heroes must do to escape Hell! Also a Handy Dandy Cavern Generator, a gaggle of arch-devils and demon lords, magical bracelets, variations on the blue dragon and some random Silver Age nonsense for your Mystery Men! game. 70 pages.


The PDF is available now for $3.50.

The book will be available in a week or so after I get my review copy and make sure all is well.

Later today … Dragon by Dragon

Tomorrow … Some Thoughts on Angels

Next Week … Who knows?

Deviant Friday – Ming Doyle Edition

If I was starting up a brand new sci-fi/fantasy pulp fiction magazine (and I’m not), one of the first artists I would hit up for black and white interior art would be Ming Doyle, MysteryMing on DeviantART. She has a great off-kilter style with strong lines that show a mind at work behind them. Dig it, Nodians …

http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1 HeroesCon ’12 pre-commission: Jem by ~mysteryming on deviantART

Had to do it; my daughter is watching these recently …

http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1 Big Barda Redesigned by ~mysteryming on deviantART

Great redesign

http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1 Aquagirl by ~mysteryming on deviantART

Because there isn’t a surfeit of eel-punching on the internet

http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1 Corpse Flower by ~mysteryming on deviantART

Because … uh, it’s weird

http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1 TLA alien design by ~mysteryming on deviantART

Because I dig it

http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1 Vlad the Impaler by ~mysteryming on deviantART

If a guy wearing a skirt of severed heads isn’t in your dungeon somewhere, you just aren’t getting it …

http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf?1 Bride of Frankenstein by ~mysteryming on deviantART

Love the bride … excellent character design from the very beginning