Dragon by Dragon – December 1979

Depending where you are when you read this, good morning, good afternoon, good evening or good night. It’s Sunday, which means it’s time to crack open the vault and review another issue of The Dragon. Technically not the last of the 1970’s (that would be December 1980), but for most folks, the end of the decade.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Cool Things in The Dragon #32

Side note – cover by Phil Foglio, which means his contributions to the magazine’s comics section shouldn’t be too far away. Always a highlight for me back in the day.

Yes, because of Dixie. I’m a red-blooded American male, and I make no apologies for it.

ONE | GOOD ADVICE

When question about super high level characters (as in, “no freaking way they got there fairly), ED gives the following sage advice …

“Cheating, yes, but who? If you refuse to play with these sorry individuals, they are only cheating
themselves of the feeling of accomplishment that comes from having honestly earned a level advancement. To each his own . . .”

Good advice then, and good now. Learn to enjoy losing spectacularly at games, and you will find them twice as enjoyable as you used to.

TWO | POISON

Charles Sagui has an article on “Poisons from AA to XX” that I enjoyed. I always like articles written from a position of authority concerning make-believe stuff, and this one has several firm rules for poisons that you might not have known:

1) Poison is restricted to Neutral and Evil characters when used against human or humanoid types … against dungeon monsters, anyone can use poison.

2) Alchemists alone distill and manufacture poisons – magic-users, thieves and assassins who are caught making poisons are told immediately to “cease and desist” – imagine, slapping a cease and desist order from the Alchemist’s Guild on a PC! Apparently, if the order is ignore, the PC “will receive a visitor who will see to it that he stops permanently.” – Sounds like a fun encounter to run.

3) Alchemists learn to make poison at one strength per level of experience up to the 5th, beginning with level 0, strength “AA”. At 6th, the alchemist can make strength “S” sleep poison. After 6th, he learns to make one strength per two levels, through strength “J” at 16th level. Type “X” can be made by 20th level alchemists, type “XX” by 25th level alchemists. Alchemists through 4th level make only ingested poisons. From 5th to 8th level, they make ingested plus water-soluble poisons. From 9th to 16th they learn to make contact and gaseous poisons.

4) Assassins are the main customers, and they dictate to the alchemists who can buy poison. Locksmiths are granted permission by the assassins to put poison needles and gases in locks and chests so the rich can keep their possessions safe. – This suggests that the thieves and assassins are not on the best of terms.

5) Any character is permitted to buy strength “S” sleep poison. Thieves, by paying the assassins 500 gp per level, are permitted to buy strengths “AA”, “A” and “B” poison. They may buy up to 60 vials of “AA” per year, up to 30 vials of “A” and up to 15 vials of “B”. Magic-users can pay 1,000 gp per level to get the right to coat darts and daggers with “AA” and “A” poison. The same buying restrictions for thieves apply.

6) A small vial of poison is enough to coat 6 arrowheads, 8 darts, 12 needles or 1 dagger or spear point. Two vials will coat a short sword. Three will coat a long or broadsword, four a bastard sword and five a two-handed sword. Each coating lasts for 2 successful hits, and up to 5 coats can be applied to a blade at a time. One vial is equal to one dose when swallowed.

7) Evil humanoids should never use more than “AA” poison. If they are employed by a powerful evil NPC, they may use up to “D”.

8) Poisons found in dungeons are:

0-50% – ingested
51-80% – water-soluble
81-90% – contact
91-100% – poison gas

9) Damage from poison is taken at a rate of the minimum hit point damage for the poison per melee round (which would have been a minute, back in the old days) until max damage rolled is met. So, a poison that deals 1-10 damage would do 1 point of damage per round. If you rolled “6” damage, it would deal 1 point of damage per round for 6 rounds. A poison that did 5-100 damage would deal 5 points of damage per round.

10) When you save vs. sleep poison, you act as though slowed for 3 rounds.

11) When using poison-coated weapons, each time you draw the weapon or return it to its scabbard, you have to save by rolling your Dex or less (on 1d20, I assume), minus 1 for water-soluble and -3 for contact, or you suffer max poison damage. You also have to make a Dex save every other round for water soluble and every round for contact poison that the weapon is used in combat to avoid poisoning yourself. This applies until the weapon is washed, even if the weapon does not have enough poison left to poison opponents in combat.

12) Silver weapons will not hold poison, not will magic weapons. Normal weapons that are poison-coated gives them a dark discoloration, so everyone will know the weapon is poisoned.

Lots of rules, but actually pretty useful ones. The article then goes on to detail the different poison strengths – I won’t reproduce those here.

THREE | WEAPONS OF ASIA

This is a companion article to the armor article from last issue, also by Michael Kluever. Here’s a bit on the Chu-ko-nu, or repeating crossbow.

“An interesting variation was the repeating crossbow (Chu-ko-nu). It propelled two bolts simultaneously from its wooden magazine, which held a total of 24 featherless quarrels, each approximately 8.25 inches long. The bolts were contained in a box sliding on top of the stock and moved into firing position by a lever pivoted to both. The throwing of the lever forward and back drew the bowstring, placed the bolt in position and fired the weapon. Chinese annals relate that 100 crossbowmen could project 2,000 quarrels in fifteen seconds. The repeater crossbow was used as late as the Chinese Japanese War of 1894-95.”

Apparently I need to include it in Grit & Vigor.

FOUR | SINISTER SEAWEED

You got some interesting articles back in the day. This one, by George Laking, is about aquatic megaflora, and its danger to adventurers. The info in the article was designed by the Mid-Columbia Wargaming Society of Richland, Washington. With a little searching, I found a picture of Mr. Laking and some society members from a 1978 newspaper. The internet!

So, you’re first thought it – screw seaweed, bring me dragons!

You fool!

Apparently, megaflora stands capture oxygen in vast bubble domes within their branches. Within this bubble dome, there is a bunch of dry limbs and twigs from this megaflora. The interior of the dome resembles a quiet, dry forest surrounded by thick trunks. Bubble dome heights range from 4 to 40 feet, depending on the size of the stand.

Where’s the danger. Well, the stands can capture ships for 1-12 hours, making them vulnerable to aquatic monster attacks.

The bigger danger is bubble dome “blows”! The domes are temporary structures. In some cases, the gas cannot escape and pressure builds up until it explodes, throwing dry branches and limbs 2d10 x 10 feet into the air in a huge fountain of water and foam! Ships will fall into the void left, and then be slammed by the walls of water rushing back in, possibly destroying the ship. A blown stand looks like a peaceful lagoon with walls of megaflora around it, quickly growing in to fill the clearing. This will be the lair of aquatic monsters, guarding the treasure left by ships destroyed in past blows.

A third danger is that pure oxygen is poisonous to people. Divide the height of the dome by 10 and take this as a percentage chance per hour that a character absorbs too much oxygen into her bloodstream. A character who reaches this threshold, upon leaving the dome, must make a save vs. poison or immediately die.

Also – pure oxygen is extremely flammable. Let’s say you light a torch inside the dome …

“(1) The initial explosion of gas would create a 6-20 die fireball of incandescent oxygen, depending on the size and depth of the bubble dome (depth of dome divided by ten equals hit dice). The size of the fireball would be half as large as the initial dome after the explosion of the gas. Saving throws would be applicable.

(2) Following the initial explosion, the fireball would immediately rise to the surface with a subsequent catastrophic inrush of ocean water onto the previously dry dome interior. Each character would have to undergo a check for system shock as the walls of water met with implosive fury. A character saving vs. system shock would only take 3-10 (d6) of damage. Failing to save means immediate death!

(3) Finally—should the character survive—an immediate check vs. oxygen poisoning would be necessary to determine if he/she had exceeded the critical threshold at that point. If so, that character would have to make an additional save vs. poison per oxygen poisoning (above).”

Frankly, a weird bubble dome dungeon would be awesome, and a great challenge. A ship gets stuck and attacked by aquatic ogres. Adventurers follow them down to retrieve something important, find a massive bubble dome with a dead, maze-like forest within it. They have to work fast to avoid being killed by too much oxygen, and there is a chance that it explodes and the ship is drawn down into sea and crushed.

FIVE | THE BEST LAID PLANS

From Gygax’s “Sorcerer’s Scroll”:

“In a previous column I mentioned that I would set up an adventure where the players would end up in the city streets of the 20th century. Well, I knocked together some rules, put the scenario together, stocked the place with “treasures” of a technological sort, and sprinkled some monsters (thugs, gangs, police, etc.) around.

Much to my chagrin, Ernie the Barbarian was leading the expedition. When his party emerged from the subway—and despite the general blackout in the city due to the power failure caused by their entry into this alternate world—he stopped, looked, listened and then headed back for the “safety” of the “real world!” Some people really know how to spoil a DM’s fun …”

Damn players.

SIX | SAGE ADVICE

From Jean Wells in “Sage Advice”:

“The subject is dwarven women and whether or not they have beards. Last spring when we were working on the final editing of the Dungeon Masters Guide, I tried to get Gary Gygax to change the section on dwarves so that dwarven women would not have beards. Needless to say, I was not very successful.

What I didn’t realize was that for some strange reason (completely unknown to me), I had started something. I did not understand the full impact of what I had done until I went to GenCon this year. Many people stopped me in the hall to either agree with me wholeheartedly, or disagree with me and then tell me that I was crazy. Everyone knows that dwarven women have beards, they said. It did not stop there. Oh, no! We have even been getting mail on this issue. It is not too bad, but I don’t like being accused of making an issue out of the subject.

One thing that everyone who has taken sides in this issue fails to remember is that Gary Gygax wrote the Dungeon Masters Guide and it is his book. He can say whatever he wants to. You can agree with him or side with me, but either way, the person who has final say in his or her campaign is the DM. So, for all the people who have written in to agree with me or to agree with Gary, and for those who haven’t yet but were planning to, please save your breath. Gnome women don’t have beards (this is true and I am glad). Dwarven women may indeed have beards, Gary, but not in my world.”

Yeah, there have always been gamers who A) didn’t get that it was make-believe, and there was therefore no right or wrong, and B) didn’t get that their own opinion isn’t law.

Also this question:

“Question: We are having an argument over an issue that has us divided. My friends say that with a ring of telekinesis they can make an arrow spin at the speed of light and then release it, having it do between 100 and 600 points of damage to their target. I say this is impossible! What do you think?”

God – I remember these fools.

Finally:

“Question: I am having a romance with a god, but he won’t have anything to do with me until I divorce my present husband. How do I go about divorcing my husband?”

Ye Gods!

BONUS AD!

For sale – crappy t-shirts.

Actually, I would wear one of these with a ridiculous amount of pride. I’m super tempted to lift the graphic and make one online for myself.

Looks like the Barbarian Shop was in a private residence:

SEVEN | INSECTOIDS

Len Lakofka presents in this issue his insectoids, which are just the humanoid races with insect characteristics grafted on. For example: Scorpiorcs. For Blood & Treasure, they would look like:

Scorpiorc, Medium Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2; AC 16; ATK 2 pincers (1d6) and weapon; MV 40; SV F15 R12 W13; XP 300 (CL 4); Special-Surprised on d8 (due to eye stalks), move silently (70%), back stab x2.

Scorpiorcs never use flaming swords or carry any sort of flame. They also never use armor, but may carry a shield. They speak Scorkish and broken Orcish. They can advance as fighters from a beginning “level” of 2 to a top rank of 4.

I also have to mention the “skags”, which are a blend of scorpion, kobold, ant and goblin. This is actually a sort of “monster class” – dig it:

BONUS AD

Great title. Found HERE at Boardgame Geek. Stephen Fabian did the art, so it has be worth a few bucks based on that alone.

EIGHT | TRAVELER POLITICS

I’ve never played Traveler, so I can’t comment on the utility of this article about diplomats in the Traveler Universe. I can, however, draw attention to this table, which may prove useful to people:

I’m sure somebody can adapt this to their game, when trying to figure out an NPC’s s power base in some fantasy or sci-fi city.

NINE | DRUIDS

William Fawcett has a long article on “The Druid in Fact and Fantasy”. A tough subject, because so little is known, or at this point, can be known. I’m not going to dwell on the historical bits in the article, but I did like this:

“DECLARATION OF PEACE
A new Druidic ability

Although the Druid, due to his involvement with life, is unable to turn undead, his role of the peacemaker gives him a similar ability with most humanoids. Before or during any armed combat if he has not struck any blow, a Druid has the ability to make a Declaration of Peace. This declaration has a 10% plus 5% per level (15% 1st level, 20% 2nd, etc.) chance of causing all armed combat to cease for two rounds per level of the Druid. This does not affect magical combat in any way, nor will it stop a humanoid who is in combat with any non-humanoid opponent. Once the combat is stopped, any non-combat activities may take place such as cures, running away (and chasing), blesses, magic of any form, or even trying to talk out the dispute.

After peace has been successfully Declared, combat will resume when the effect wears off (roll initiatives), or at any time earlier if anyone who is under the restraint of the Declaration is physically harmed in any way. This could be caused by an outside party or even by magic, which is not restrained by the Declaration. A fireball going off tends to destroy even a temporary mood of reconciliation. Once a Druid strikes a blow or causes direct harm in any way to a member of a party of humanoids, he permanently loses his ability to include any member of that party in a Declaration of Peace. The Declaration of Peace affects all those within the sound of the Druid’s voice, a 50’ radius which may be modified by circumstances.”

He also has quite a few magic cauldrons and some thoughts on herbs. Good read overall.

TEN | MIRTH

Well, it’s funny to DM’s

ELEVEN | THE FELL PASS

An adventure in this issue – “The Fell Pass” by Karl Merris!

Check out the map:

That hatching seems reminiscent! A also hereby challenge Dyson Logos to include more giant, disembodied hands on his very excellent maps.

The adventure takes place in geothermally heated caverns, and includes cave bears, ogres, a spidersilk snare, gray ooze, manticores, griffons, shadows, trolls, pit vipers, Vlog the Ogre …

… and Xorddanx the Beholder:

I love the heck out of that art, which is by Merris himself!

I did some searching, and I’m pretty sure I’ve found him online. He appears to be a Brony now, and might have no interest left in D&D, but if I can commission a piece of fantasy art from him, I’ll let you know …

FINAL SHOT

2 thoughts on “Dragon by Dragon – December 1979

  1. Oh, wow! I didn't know Cloud Wander had anything in The Dragon. He writes fanfiction now. Three of his stories are actually on my “Favourites” list (guy who made the site's British, so he spells stuff weird). Small world…

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