A Skeleton For Every Occasion (18 of them, in fact!)

Image from Wikipedia

The old fashioned skeleton is a great monster for low level parties – maybe even mid-level parties in large enough numbers – but I thought I’d put my mind to making a skeleton for every level. Enjoy …

Medium Undead, Neutral (N), Non-Intelligent; Gang (1d6)

HD: 2
AC: 15
ATK: 1 cleaver (1d4+1) and 1 saw (1d4 + rend flesh)
MV: 30
SV: F15 R15 W12
XP: 100 (CL 2)

Sawbones are animated skeletons that have had cleavers grafted to the right arms and serrated blades attached to their left arms, in both cases replacing their hands. Victims of a saw-blade attack who suffer maximum damage must pass a Reflex saving throw or suffer an additional 1d4 points of damage from the blade sawing at their flesh and bone. If said victim is wearing armor, they instead make an item saving throw for their armor; failure indicates the armor has been damaged and loses one point of its armor bonus until repaired. No armor can lose more than half its armor value (rounding down) from this attack.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

HD: 3
AC: 15
ATK: 2 claws (1d4) or by weapon
MV: 30
SV: F14 R14 W13
XP: 300 (CL 4)

Dry bones are animated skeletons capable of drawing the moisture out of the surrounding environment, including creatures. The dry bones always generates a 10-ft. radius area of blight (per the spell). Once every 1d4 rounds it can generate a cone (10′) of desiccating wind that deals 3d6 points of damage to most living creatures and 3d8 points of damage to plant creatures and water elemental creatures (Fortitude save for half damage). Any liquids within the cone must pass an item saving throw or be destroyed (including magic potions, which save at +1). Other items might also be ruined, as determined by the Treasure Keeper.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), resistance to fire

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d6)

HD: 4
AC: 15
ATK: 2 claws (1d6) and skull (1d4 + poison III)
MV: 30
SV: F14 R14 W12
XP: 400 (CL 5)

Hurlers are skeletons that can remove their skulls and hurl them at targets. If these skulls hit, they bite the target for 1d4 points of damage and inject Poison III into them (Fortitude save to negate poison). The target must also make a Fortitude saving throw or the skull clamps down on them and continues to deal bite damage (but not inject more poison) each round thereafter until the target can make a successful grapple attack against it to remove it. A hurler can continue to fight without its head, and if it gets the chance can pick it back up and throw it again. A hurler skull can only be thrown by the hurler it belongs to.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

HD: 5
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws or talons (1d6) or by weapon
MV: 30 (Fly 40)
SV: F13 R13 W11
XP: 500 (CL 6)

These skeletons are covered in leathery flesh and have two large, bat-like wings sprouting from their backs. They are more intelligent than normal skeletons, and use their ability to fly to full effect.
Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (LE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d6)

HD: 6
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d6) or by weapon (1d8)
MV: 30
SV: F12 R12 W11
XP: 600 (CL 7)

Dragon bones are skeletons that rise from chromatic dragon teeth that have been sewn into the ground. The skeletons rise fully armed and armored, with scale mail (the color approximates the color of the dragon to whom the teeth belonged), shield and longsword or battle axe. These skeletons are immune to either fire, electricity, acid or cold, depending on their dragon “parent”.

Black Dragon: Acid
Blue Dragon: Electricity
Green Dragon: Acid
Red Dragon: Fire
White Dragon: Cold

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), resistance to energy (see above), magic resistance 5%

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

HD: 6
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d4 + blood drain) or by weapon (1d6)
MV: 30
SV: F12 R12 W10
XP: 600 (CL 7)

Bloody bones are skeleton covered in a sheen of slimy, red blood. They are especially difficult to grapple (DC 20), though why one would want to is beyond me, and they are surrounded by a 5-ft. radius of blood that acts as a grease spell. Creatures struck by the bloody bone’s claws must pass a Fortitude save or those claws pierce the flesh for an additional 1d4 points of damage and then begin draining blood at the rate of 1 point of constitution damage per round until the bloody bone’s grasp is broken, either with a successful grapple attack, or with an attack from a weapon that deals at least 6 points of damage.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (NE), Average Intelligence; Yawn (1d4)

HD: 7
AC: 15
ATK: 2 slams (1d4) or by weapon (1d6)
MV: 30
SV: F12 R12 W10
XP: 700 (CL 8)

A lazy bones looks like a normal skeleton, though it is always wrapped in a black cloak. The skeleton constantly emits a strange, piping noise that acts as a sleep spell (Will save to resist; sleep for 1 hour). It gives off a 10-ft. radius aura that drains strength. Each foot of distance one travels within this aura forces a character to pass a Will saving throw or suffer 1d3 points of strength damage. Strength returns at a rate of 1 point per hour after one leaves the lazy bone’s aura.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Howl (1d4)

HD: 7
AC: 15
ATK: 2 claws (1d4) or by weapon (1d6) or scream (see below)
MV: 30
SV: F12 R12 W11
XP: 700 (CL 8)

A screaming meanie can emit a piercing scream, once per battle and lasting for 4 rounds. This scream does not prevent it from attacking with claws or weapon. All within a 30-ft. cone must pass a Fortitude saving throw or be struck deaf for 1d6 hours and must also pass a Will saving throw or flee from the screaming meanie for 1d6 rounds.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (NE), Average Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 8
AC: 15
ATK: 2 claws (1d4) or by weapon (1d4 + poison IV)
MV: 30
SV: F11 R11 W9
XP: 800 (CL 9)

Black bones are the animated remains of skilled assassins. They generate a field of impenetrable darkness 20 feet in radius and are also under the permanent effect of a silence spell. Naturally, a black bones can see through its own darkness, though the darkvision of other creatures does not pierce it. They are always armed with poisoned daggers. A black bones can backstab as an assassin for triple damage.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Large Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d3)

HD: 8
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d6)
MV: 30
SV: F10 R11 W10
XP: 800 (CL 9)

Bone spurs are animated from the remains of ogres. They are covered with barb-like growths that slash and tear at the flesh of creatures engaged with them in hand-to-hand combat. All creatures engaged in melee combat with a bone-spur must pass a Reflex save each round or be slashed for 1d4 points of damage. If 4 points of damage are scored, the bone barb detaches from the bone-spur and becomes caught in the victim’s flesh or clothing. The next round, the barb grows into a full-sized skeleton (per the normal skeleton stats) that can make a free grapple attack on its victim. A bone-spur can produce a maximum of ten skeletons in this way.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons)

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d3)

HD: 9
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d4 + 1d6 fire)
MV: 30
SV: F11 R11 W9
XP: 900 (CL 10)

A blazing bones appears as a skeleton wreathed in flame. All creatures within 10 feet of the monster are affected as though by a heat metal spell, and all in melee combat with the skeleton must pass a Fortitude save each round or suffer 1d4 points of fire damage. Once per day, a blazing bones can breath a cone (20′) of fire that deals 4d6 points of damage (Reflex save for half damage).

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), immune to fire, vulnerable to cold

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d3)

HD: 9
AC: 16
ATK: 2 claws (1d4 + 1d6 cold)
MV: 30
SV: F11 R11 W9
XP: 900 (CL 10)

A bone chiller appears as a skeleton clad in a thick layer of ice. All creatures within 10 feet of the monster are affected as though by a chill metal spell, and the ground to a 20-ft. radius around the monster is covered in frost and ice (per a grease spell).

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), immune to cold, vulnerable to fire

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d3)

HD: 10
AC: Variable
ATK: 2 claws (1d8)
MV: 30
SV: F10 R10 W8
XP: 1000 (CL 11)

Bronze bones are skeletons covered in a coating of metal. Despite the name, the metal varies, determining the monster’s Armor Class as well as special abilities:

Bronze: True bronze bones have an AC of 17 and can heat metal around them in a 5-ft. radius.

Steel: Steel bones have an AC of 18; wooden weapons that hit them (including metal weapons with wooden hafts) must make an item saving throw or be broken.

Lead: Lead bones have an AC of 16 and are surrounded by a 30 ft. radius aura of slow (per the spell) that permits no saving throw (though it is countered by a character under the effects of the haste spell).

Mithral: Mithral bones have an AC of 19; in the presence of light, all creatures within 10 feet of a mithral bones must pass a Fortitude save each round or be blinded for 1d6 minutes.

Adamantine: Adamantine bones have an AC of 20; non-adamantine weapons that hit them must make an item saving throw or be broken; weapons that break deal only half damage.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), resistance to fire, immune to electricity

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

HD: 10
AC: 17
ATK: 2 claws (1d6)
MV: 30
SV: F10 R10 W8
XP: 1000 (CL 11)

Funny bones are capable of separating into their constituent parts and then re-assembling. When struck for 4 or more points of damage by a physical attack from a bludgeoning weapon (or force effect), the funny bones separates into two demi-skeletons, each with 5 hit dice, a single attack and a movement rate of 20. These demi-skeletons can also be divided into piles of bones with 2 hit dice, no attacks, and a movement rate of 10. Demi-skeletons and bone piles can reassemble by touching. If 3 demi-skeletons (or 6 bone piles) manage to come together, or a full funny bones and a single demi-skeleton or 2 bone piles comes together, they form a creature with 15 hit dice, four attacks and a movement rate of 40. These creatures can only be divided (into funny bones) by scoring at least 8 points of damage. Two of these super-skeletons can join together to form a 20 hit dice mega-skeleton with six attacks. Mega-skeletons can only be divided (into super-skeletons) by scoring at least 16 points of damage.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), regenerate

Medium Undead, Lawful (LG, NG, CG), High Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 11
AC: 18
ATK: 2 slams (1d4+1) or heavy mace (1d6+1)
MV: 30
SV: F10 R10 W7
XP: 1100 (CL 12)

Holy bones are the animated remains of lawful high priests. In effect, they are living reliquaries, sealed into plate armor (15% chance of being +1 plate armor) and armed with a heavy mace (15% chance of being a +1 heavy mace). Holy bones function under a permanent protection from evil effect, and in each of their bony fingers they can score a single cleric spell (two spells each of levels 1 through 5) that can be cast once per day. They are typically left as guardians of the catacombs under monasteries.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), magic resistance 25%

Large Undead, Neutral (N), Non-Intelligent; Solitary

HD: 12
AC: 18 [+1]
ATK: 6 slashes (1d8) and bite (1d6 + poison -see below)
MV: 40
SV: F8 R9 W7
XP: 3000 (CL 14)

A skelepede is a massive centipede-shaped monster composed of hundreds of humanoid or animal bones. They are non-intelligent and usually left as brutish guardians by necromancers. The clicking sound of the monster’s myriad components forces attackers within 10 feet to pass a Will save each round or suffer from a confusion effect. Targets bitten by the monster must pass a Fortitude save or succumb to a bone-softening poison. Targets who fail this save suffer 1d4 points of constitution damage and lose 5 feet from their normal movement rate.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), regenerate, magic resistance 30%

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 13
AC: 18 [+1]
ATK: 2 claws (1d6) or spell (see below)
MV: 30
SV: F9 R9 W6
XP: 3250 (CL 15)

A crystal skull looks like a skeleton composed of a crystalline substance as hard as steel. Their bones glow with a light as powerful as that produced by a lantern, and so long as this light is not suppressed by magic darkness (the monster has magic resistance 50% against magical darkness effects), it can use one of the following spells: At will-dancing lights, hypnotic pattern, searing light; 3/day-prismatic spray, sunbeam; 1/day-prismatic sphere, sunburst.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), magic resistance 30%, immune to fire, acid and electricity, vulnerable to sonic damage

Medium Undead, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 14
AC: 16 [+1]
ATK: 2 claws (1d6 + energy drain) or symbol (see below)
MV: 30
SV: F8 R8 W5
XP: 3500 (CL 16)

A skeletrix is a skeletal figure, usually garbed in women’s clothing and always painted in bright patterns that are actually glyphs of power. A skeletrix can use each of the symbol spells once per day, and can generate two symbols per round. The touch of a skeletrix drains 1 level (Will save to negate). Their presence causes fear (as the spell) in creatures with 5 or fewer Hit Dice.

Special Qualities: Immune to illusions and all mind-affecting spells, weapon resistance (edged and piercing weapons), magic resistance 45%

Dragon by Dragon – July 1978 (16)

Dragon #16 holds great promise based on the cover alone – a bad-ass barbarian and the word “ninja” …

To begin with, a gentle commentary from Kask regarding the amount of fiction in the magazine:

“Due to the length of the conclusion of THE GREEN MAGICIAN, we found it necessary to add an additional four pages this issue. Contrary to what some Philistines might think, this is not a fiction magazine. The Philistines I refer to are the ones that don’t want to see any fiction at all in these pages. To forestall the howls, the extra four pages were added to compensate, not that the story NEEDS compensating for.”

Gerald Guinn kicks this issue off with a rebuttal to a letter criticizing The Cthulhu Mythos Revisited. An entertaining exchange one would now expect to see … well, on every message board and blog frequented by geeks.

Jerome Arkenberg brings us the Near Eastern Mythos. Like the other articles in this series, it keeps it short and sweet and covers quite a bit of ground – everyone from An(s) to Ziusudra(s). The heroes in this article would be especially useful for swords and sandals campaigns – heck, this article, a map of the Near East and a few dungeon maps would be all you need to run a great campaign. The scorpion men are worth a look …

Scorpion Man: HP 240 (holy crap!), AC 1, MV 20″, Magic as 15th level wizard, fighter ability as 15th level lord and Class I psionic ability.

Okay, gonzo stats, but a sweet piece of art. I also love the fact that the “artifacts” presented would, in modern D&D circles, be considered fairly weak magic items.

After the Near Eastern mythos, we have the big article of the issue – The Ultimate NPC: Ninja – The DM’s Hit Man by Sheldon Price. I can hear the audible gasps of the “dick DM” crowd and the clicking of their teeth. To be honest, they have a point, but I think the article also needs to be seen in the context of the time. With characters bouncing around from game to game, there was the real danger of a ridiculously powerful character (probably played by a cheater) showing up to ruin everyone’s fun.

Here’s the rundown – Ninjas are limited to 16th level and must be neutral; they cannot use psionics. Their special abilities include seeing in the dark, tracking (as ranger with 20% penalty), simulate death, poison use (lots of rules here), far travel (2nd to 5th level 50 miles a day, 6th to 9th level 75 miles per day, 10th level or higher 100 miles per day – a unique ability), they prefer no armor but will wear leather or chainmail and they have a special shield called a neru-kuwa, they attack as a fighter, can attack open-handed as a monk and use judo as a samurai (originally in … uh, some other issue), they get a save vs. all damage, save as magic-users of one level higher against spells and can attack with any weapon at a -3 penalty, save ninja weapons they have mastered and weapons associated with a disguise class they have learned. Otherwise they save as a fighter. Their disguises are learned randomly. The article goes on a bit … go read it. It’s actually not too shabby in terms of being overpowered, especially since it’s assumed that one or two ninjas will be taking on an entire party and their retinues.

James Ward does another The Adventures of Monty Haul #3. This involves Freddie and his love of the weird. A sample:

“We appeared on a frosty plain of ice and snow with four Storm Giants swinging their weapons and Monty chuckling something about “minor guards”. We heard the sound of three clubs and a magic sword going smash, smash, smash, and chop. Mike’s gargoyle was a grease smear on one of the clubs, Tom’s Monk was down to one hit point, Dave’s cleric was really hurting, and Jake’s golem had one of its arms cut off by the vorpal sword. Robert clove one in two with his sword while Ernie’s and my cold rays took care of two more (and the sword, we found out a bit later). The last one was missed by the rest of the group, but it didn’t miss me for thirty-six points of bruises and nicks. With the next round, we were able to finish the giants off before the last one did any more damage. They didn’t have a copper coin’s worth of treasure on them, and we weren’t pleased. After a bunch of cure spells and a raise dead on the gargoyle, we still hadn’t figured out what to do about the golem’s arm. We just let it go and traveled on. Tim and Brian put on some of the dead guard’s clothes (which everyone thought was a good idea) and we were on our way towards a batch of caves.”

E. Gary Gygax covers a bit of ground in the Sorcerer’s Scroll with Role-Playing: Realism vs. Game Logic; Spell Points, Vanity Press and Rip-offs.  The essence is – some people are morons when they propose fixes to D&D, and they are an irritation to Gygax not because of vanity, but because they don’t understand game logic. Two quotes:

“The uniform element amongst these individuals is a complete failure to grasp the simple fact that D&D is a game. Its rules are designed and published so as to assure a balanced and cohesive whole.”

“D&D encourages inventiveness and originality within the framework of its rules. Those who insist on altering the framework should design their own game. Who can say that such an effort might not produce a product superior to D&D? Certainly not I.”

The bit about Weapon Expertise being stupid considering that any fighting-man worth his salt would practice with all arms all the time is funny, considering he had just published the AD&D Player’s Handbook with the weapon proficiency rules.

In a Design Variant article, Charles Sagui explains Why Magic Users & Clerics Cannot Use Swords. In essence: For balance in the game, and Tolkien didn’t write D&D, so I don’t care if Gandalf could use a sword. Sagui works out a system where clerics can use edged weapons, but whatever damage they score with those weapons must be paid with by losing spells or, if they’re out of spells, losing their own hit points. Weird, but kinda fun.

A. Mark Ratner presents Metamorphosis Alpha Modifications. This one covers the lack of mutants having a leadership potential, and thus being unable to use devices and weapons they find. I’m not sure that wasn’t the intention in the rules, but Ratner proposes a mechanical aptitude ability for mutants. More importantly, he presents a great big chart of mutated animals, including pigmy elephants, so you know it’s legit.

Next up is the second part of The Green Magician by L. Sprague deCamp.

“Shea’s intention was to jerk the blade loose with a twist to one side to avoid the downcoming slash. But the point stuck between his enemy’s ribs, and, in the instant it failed to yield, Nera’s blade, weakened and wavering, came down on Shea’s left shoulder. He felt the sting of steel and in the same moment the sword came loose as Nera folded up wordlessly.”

Hard not to fall in love with Belphebe.

Wormy involves Irving the imp selling dwarf burgers to a hungry crowd that includes a wereboar. Frank the tree troll takes him out with a club. Almost forgot Dudly and Frank – excellent characters. The gaming world really lost out when Wormy ceased.

Fineous Fingers, meanwhile, turns back to help his pals against the evil knight.

We finish up with a Design Forum article by James Ward on Game Balance. This involves the rate at which magic item treasure is given out – Gygax, Kask and Kuntz all want it restricted – Ward, on the other hand, loves it. He introduces the idea of Game Equilibrium. In this concept, the DM doesn’t care how much magic the players have. He uses plenty of it in his hordes … but he lets the defenders of those hordes use the magic items. In essence, Ward embraces the DM vs. players concept wholeheartedly, like a great big game of Spy vs. Spy. Not a bad style of play, in my opinion, if everybody involved is a good sport.

Well – I got steaks to grill. Have fun on the internet folks, and make sure you buy a copy of Blood & Treasure!

Drawing Dungeon Maps in Excel – A Quick Tutorial

Well, I think I just about have this whole mapping in Excel thing down, so why not share the techniques with everyone else. Quick note that I’m doing these maps with the latest, greatest versions of Excel and Paint and nothing else.


The first step is setting up your grid. In general, this involves eyeballing the fields into squares, and then adding a border to all of those squares using whatever color you like. In the example below, I’m using a light blue.


Now, I color in all of those squares with the same color blue, and then cut out the passages and chambers by changing those squares to “no color”, though I suppose coloring them white would work just as well.


At this stage, you can add in walls using thick lines (again, using the same color as above), doors (they’re just small rectangles), stairs (see below, took me a while to get these right), pillars, statues, etc. The newer versions of excel also allow you to freestyle draw shapes, which are good for irregular pools. For pools, I do a tight, white dot pattern over the blue. For chambers that are going to be natural caverns, just get the overall shape right at this stage.

The secret door is just an “S” (Arial 12 pt.) in a text box with no outline and no background.

The stairs are a long trapezoid, no outline, with a pattern of vertical lines or horizontal lines, depending on the direction the stairs face. Yeah, I’m kinda proud of figuring that one out – I originally tried drawing in the lines, but could never get the spacing correct.


To make the pointed room, I added a couple right triangle shapes of the blue color. I then add room numbers using Arial Narrow, 9 point. You can also add outlines of rounded shapes over rooms, coloring in the bits outside the outline in the next step.


We now highlight our map, hit CONTROL-C to copy, and open up MS Paint. In Paint, we paste in the map. If we want to turn any of our passages or chambers into tunnels or caverns, we just use the paintbrush (same color as background) to draw in the natural walls.

And, lo and behold, we have a workable dungeon map. It’s not perfect, and there are some limitations, but it’s not bad for using a couple pretty basic programs. Whether this will work with the Open Office version of Excel, I don’t know – I’d love to hear from somebody who tries it out.

The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea

Well, with all the hex numbers stripped off … just ask the archaeologist who had to trudge through snake-ridden wilderness to find the remains of Rhapta.

The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea was a Greco-Roman production that jotted down, very succinctly, the major ports of the Erythaean Sea, which translates as Red Sea, but which included what we would call the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

How’s this for keeping it brief and lively …

1. Of the designated ports on the Erythraean Sea, and the market-towns around it, the first is the Egyptian port of Mussel Harbor. To those sailing down from that place, on the right hand, after eighteen hundred stadia, there is Berenice. The harbors of both are at the boundary of Egypt, and are bays opening from the Erythraean Sea.
2. On the right-hand coast next below Berenice is the country of the Berbers. Along the shore are the Fish-Eaters, living in scattered caves in the narrow valleys. Further inland are the Berbers, and beyond them the Wild-flesh-Eaters and Calf-Eaters, each tribe governed by its chief; and behind them, further inland, in the country towards the west, there lies a city called Meroe.
3. Below the Calf-Eaters there is a little market-town on the shore after sailing about four thousand stadia from Berenice, called Ptolemais of the Hunts, from which the hunters started for the interior under the dynasty of the Ptolemies. This market-town has the true land-tortoise in small quantity; it is white and smaller in the shells. And here also is found a little ivory like that of Adulis. But the place has no harbor and is reached only by small boats.
Just throw in a magic fountain and some rampaging orcs, and you’re all set.
You might want to work out a periplus of important towns for your own campaign and give a copy to the players. Keep it vague, hint at some coolness, and then let them have at it.
Oh, and due to looking up the Wikipedia article on the periplus (cool word), I discovered the Himyarite Kingdom, which became a Jewish monarchy on the Arabian Peninsula that exercised great control over the frankincense and spice trade. The Arabian Peninsula, with all the interesting kingdoms and empires surrounding it, and the possibility of lost cities and tombs within it (I’m looking at you, Irem), would be another great locale for a RPG campaign. 
Hell, what am I saying? The entire Erythaean Sea would be a kick-ass place for sea-borne adventures in the vein of Sinbad. I really need a duplicate-inator to make multiple me’s – there’s just so much writing I would love to do.

Dragon by Dragon – June 1978 (15)

First page of the magazine … Fantasy Air Cavalry from Ral Partha. It’s a good start, let’s see how they finish.

Best line in Kask’s editorial this time …

“In the past year, we have met and overcome all obstacles in our path save one: the U.S. Post Offal.”

The more things change …

First article is Dragon Magic by Michael Benveniste. This is in the D&D Variant series (God, I love seeing that in an official TSR publication).

“The magic used by dragons is tempered by their nature. Dragons
are creatures of rock and wind, having little use for plants and water.
They feel little need for offensive spells, believing that their own body
and deadly breath fulfill this need.”

What follows is a spell list for dragons, and this idea: All dragons have a secret name they will reveal to nobody, under no circumstances. A legend lore or wish reveals a clue, but not the name, nor does commune or similar spells. A limited wish just confirms or denies a guess. Speaking the dragon’s name dispels all of his spells, and allows the speaker to demand one – just one – service from that dragon. Nice concept for driving a game: “We can’t get to the top of the Godmountain without the help of the Dragon of Peaks, and to do that we need to learn its true name.”

The spell list has all sorts of new dragon spells, including 1st level – Breath Charm, Charm Avians, Evaluate Item, Locate Lair, Magic Pointer, Werelight; 2nd level – See Other Planes, Wall of Gloom, Weave Barrier, Weight Control (boy, could you make money selling this one, as long as no phen phen is involved); 3rd level – Binding Spell, Hold Mammal, Mesh, Negate Enchantment I, Revelation, Servant Summoning I, Water to Wine, Wood to Sand; 4th level – Attack Other Planes, Rock to Sand, Seek, Turn Magic, Work Weather. There are some great, evocative names in there, and the more I read, the more I liked the idea. One sample …

“Water to Wine: A dragon loves good wine. This spell allows the dragon to convert any water (including salt or tainted) to wine valued even by Elves. Amount: 20 gallons per age class.”

Up next are a couple more D&D Variants. First, we have Pits by Richard Morenoff. It’s a pretty neat set of random tables to determine the contents or type of a pit. One possibility is a “citizen”, which consists of the following: Pipeweed grower, shipbuilder, hatmaker, beer merchant, sculptor, fisherman, locksmith, tool merchant, weapon merchant, teacher, loan shark and trapper. Old D&D means that 1 in 1000 pits found in a dungeon holds a pipeweed grower.

N. Robin Crossby of Australia next presents Random Events Table for Settlements and/or Settled Areas. This one is based on the current season (word to the wise, Spring and Winter are safer than Summer and Autumn). There can never be enough tables like this.

James Ward is up next with Monty and the German High Command, another expose of the gaming goings-on within TSR in 1978. The accompanying illustration brings me joy …

This one involves some WW2 Germans facing off against orcs, storm giants, manticores, an EHP (if you don’t know, you need to study your D&D history a little more closely), a warlock, heroes and superheroes, and trolls, all in an attempt to take a castle.

Jim Ward also presents some thoughts on Wandering Monsters, providing a list of Fourth Level wandering monsters. Takes me back to the game’s origin as a, well, game.

Jeff Swycaffer now presents Notes From Another Barely Successful D&D Player, a follow-up to Ward’s article in issue II/7. He tells of playing a “Maladroit”, who can’t cast spells, fight for a damn, pick locks or lead men. Instead, he lies like a rug. Some good ideas here – worth a read.

Jerome Arkenberg writes The Gospel of Benwa (is he referring to … hmmm) in Dragon Mirth, in which he extoles the Benwanite Heresy, that holds that all the problems in the world are due to the struggle between the Gods of Law and Chaos, and that only victory by the Gods of Neutrality can end misery on earth.

Gygax‘s From the Sorcerer’s Scroll covers D&D Ground Area and Spell Area Scale. Herein, he claims the confusion of 1″ = 10 feet indoors and 1″ = 10 yards outdoors will be cleared up in ADVANCED DUNGEON & DRAGONS. He explains how this originally came to pass – namely that the original scale was 1″ = 10 yards in CHAINMAIL, and that the 1/3 scale was devised by Arneson when he turned the tunneling and mining rules of CHAINMAIL into the dungeon rules of what would become DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. He also explains here that one turn = one scale minute in CHAINMAIL, but that for dungeon movement it was altered to one turn = ten minutes, since mapping and and exploring in an underground dungeon is slow work. The key here is that area of effect is always 1″ = 10 feet, even outdoors. So, there you go.

David Tillery is next with Weather in the Wilderness. This always seems to be such an obvious thing to do, but it has rarely paid off for me in a game. I usually just roll for inclement weather conditions when there’s to be an outdoor fight, to make the fight more interesting. Tillery has a pretty solid system, it seems – reminds me of the World of Greyhawk system.

Next, we have an ad announcing “TWO IMPORTANT NEW RELEASES FROM TSR”, those releases being GAMMA WORLD (love the original font) and the AD&D Player’s Handbook.

Next, we have Stellar Conquest: Examining Movement Tactics by Edward C. Cooper. Since I don’t know the game, I won’t go into it much, but I did enjoy the art:

Not enough space ships have giant pincers, in my opinion.

Next we have some fiction by L. Sprague deCampThe Green Magician.

“In that suspended gray mists began to whirl around them, Harold moment when the Shea realized that, although the pattern was perfectly clear, the details often didn’t work out right.

It was all very well to realize that, as Doc Chalmers once said, “The world we live in is composed of impressions received through the senses, and if the senses can be attuned to receive a different series of impressions, we should infallibly find ourselves living in another of the infinite number of possible worlds.” It was a scientific and personal triumph to have proved that, by the use of the sorites of symbolic logic, the gap to one of those possible worlds could be bridged.”

Funny – I just read this bit recently.

Next up … Fineous Fingers runs away from Grond the Anti-Paladin.

After that, a full page pic of Wormy counting his gold over a backgammon board.

The next article is Random Encounters for BOOT HILL, by Michael E. Crane. This should be useful for folks who play Old West games. It includes such things as mounted bandits, homesteaders in wagons, unarmed clergy, soldiers, indians, etc.

And so ends the June 1978 issue of The Dragon!

How About Some Free Jack Vance?

I’ll do a Dragon by Dragon later today, but wanted to share this in the meantime. Jack Vance has a website, maintained by family and friends, and they currently have an e-book of The Chasch up as a free download, with, they say, more to follow. If you’re a fan, or if you’ve never experienced Vance, visit the site and give it a look-see.

If you want to know more about The Chasch, you can read a bit at Wikipedia.

Blood and Treasure Players Tome Now Available!


I used an exclamation point because I’m excited … whether anyone else is, I have no idea. But, the Players Tome is now up for sale at Lulu.com in three flavors:

E-BOOK  $7.99



If you purchase the hard cover, email me (you can find the address in the right-hand column) with a copy of the lulu.com receipt and I’ll give you a link and password to download the PDF for free (please God let this work without a hitch!).

I’m about 80% finished with editing the Treasure Keepers Tome. When I finish editing, I’ll create and order a review copy, and when I make final changes, I’ll put the Treasure Keepers Tome and Complete Editions up for sale. IMPORTANT – If you want the Complete Edition that puts the Players Tome and Treasure Keepers Tome together in the same book, PLEASE DO NOT order the Players Tome today. Be patient … it’s just around the corner.

Getting There is Half the Annoyance

Before our regularly scheduled post, a brief word from our sponsor …

The print copy of NOD 15 is now available for sale. Click on the picture of Lucifer to the right to find the sales page. Remember, the money you spend on NOD goes to supporting artists and buying presents for my wife and daughter. Now back to the post …

I was thinking about overland travel yesterday. I use the following overland travel rates in Blood & Treasure, which I lifted from Col. Sir Garnet J. Wolseley’s excellent The Soldier’s Pocket-Book for Field Service, based upon his military service during the 19th century.

The rates are as follows (miles per day):

Ass/Donkey – 16
Camel – 20
Dog – 10 (i.e. dog sled)
Elephant – 18
Griffon – 6 on foot / 18 on the wing (yeah, a few of these weren’t from Col. Wolseley’s book)
Hippogriff – 16 on foot / 32 on the wing
Horse – 16
Humans – 6 in a large group, 12 in a small group
Llama – 15
Mule – 16
Ox – 5
Pegasus – 16 on foot / 36 on the wing
Reindeer (team) – 75

This is easy enough to use – allows players and referees to plot things out (i.e. the Temple of Doom is 30 miles away, we can get there in 3 days on foot if we don’t hire a bunch of men-at-arms, etc.)

To make it a little more organic, though, you could randomize it. In essence, let the adventurers roll a number of D6 per day to see how much progress they make each day. To keep it simple, divide those numbers above by 3.5 to find out how many dice to roll, rounding down. If the party has a druid or ranger with it, or a native guide, let them roll an extra D6. If traveling through especially tough terrain, roll D4’s instead.

So, if traveling by donkeys, a group rolls 4d6 to see how many miles they cover in a day.

Another way to go would be to assume on major problem per day (if you’ve ever done a family road trip, you know this is probably generous) that the adventurers have to solve, usually through wise preparation. If they don’t, they lose 1d6 miles of travel (maybe more) on that day. Some problems could include:

Monster Attack (can be solved by surprising the monsters and running away)

Heat Exhaustion (can be solved by wearing the proper clothing, drinking a double ration of water, etc.)

Injured Animal (can be solved by having extra mounts or pack animals, or casting the appropriate spells)

Broken Wagon (assuming wagons are being used – boy, would they slow you down – could be solved by having the proper tools and replacement parts or being able to cast spells like make whole or mending)

Illness (random minor complaint that can be solved with the proper spells – cure disease, purify food and water – assume it strikes at least half the party, maybe the half with the lowest Constitution scores)

You get the idea. This would reward smart planners and maybe provide some color to the journey.