There will come a day when the April edition of The Dragon will be full of jokes. Based on the cover, I’d say that day was not in April of 1980.
The aforementioned cover is by Dean Morrissey, and it is inspired by that issue’s short story by Gardner Fox, “The Cube from Beyond”, a Niall of the Far Travels story. Mr. Morrissey is still a working artist – you can see some of his pieces HERE.
Let’s check out 10 cool things about issue #36 …
1) NIALL OF THE FAR TRAVELS
First and foremost, I’m always a sucker for a good sword & sorcery tale by Gardner Fox. Here’s a sample:
“Now Thavas Tomer was a doomed man. He had fled down the halls and corridors, seeking sanctuary—where no sanctuary was to be found. At his heels had come Niall, his great sword Blood-drinker in his hand, seeking to make an end to this magician-king who had slain and raped and robbed all those against whom he had sent his mercenaries.”
If somebody could figure out a way to make a random idea generator that plucked passages from fantasy stories, I bet it would be a great way to come up with adventures or campaigns. Three different passages from the same book might inspire three very different campaigns.
2) ALIGNMENT STRUGGLES
An interesting “Up on a Soap Box” by Larry DiTillio, regarding him running an adventure he normally ran for adults for some adults and teens at a convention. Here’s an excerpt:
“In the same game another incident occurred, again with that same Paladin player. This one involved a mysterious monk smoking a substance from a hookah which he offered to certain party members. My friends accepted somewhat overeagerly, while the Paladin again asked me that question. Was smoking a drug against his alignment? Now, I’m not a junkie, nor do I think drugs are of any benefit to teen-agers (no high is as good as your own natural openness to things at that age), but I have had a good deal of experience with a whole gamut of consciousness-altering substances and would be hard pressed to declare them categorically evil.”
The first incident involved a dungeon room where sex could be purchased. In both cases, the paladin inquires whether these acts are against his alignment. It’s a tricky question, and does get to a problem with alignment – i.e. the interpretation of what it means. No answers here, but an interesting problem, and an interesting article.
In this issue, Gygax chimes in with some stats for Conan. It’s funny, but I was actually searching for this article recently, looking for inspiration for maybe making some revisions to the barbarian class in Blood & Treasure.
In doing so, I found some comments on websites that this article was a mistake, in that the weird rules changes needed to simulate Conan showed the weakness of the D&D system. I disagree – D&D is a game. Conan was a character in stories. No random rolls there, no comparisons of hit rolls and Armor Class. That a game cannot simulate something in a story is not a condemnation of the game (which, in D&D’s case, was not designed specifically to simulate Conan stories in the first place).
So, how does Conan shake out? Well, which Conan. The piece actually presents Conan at different ages – 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70. Neat idea. We also see how his fighter and thief levels change through his ages. His fighter level runs from a low of 4 at age 15 to a high of 24 at age 40 … and then back down to 12 by the time he’s 70.
How does a level drop? Well, there’s really no way to do it in the game, but I thought about using a rule that each year without adventuring might result in a character losing 10% of his earned XP. If you don’t stay in practice, you get rusty and, therefore, lose levels. Just a thought.
So, let’s look at Conan at age 25.
Conan, Human Fighter/Thief: Level 12/8; HP 132; AC 16; ATK attacks 5 times every 2 rounds; Str 18/00, Int 15, Wis 10, Dex 20, Con 18, Cha 15; AL Chaotic Neutral (good tendencies); Psionics–Latent–animal telepathy, detect magic, precognition, mind bar.
Conan gets the following special abilities:
- When he rolls a total of “21” to hit, he scores double damage.
- He is 75% undetectable in underbrush and woodlands.
- He surprises opponents 50% of the time.
- He is only surprised on a roll of 1 on 1d20.
- He gets a +4 bonus on all saves.
- Poison can knock him unconscious, but never kill him.
- He regains hit points at double the normal rate, and regains hit points at the normal rate even without resting.
- He has 25% magic resistance if he is aware that magic is being used against him.
- His psionics are all latent – he does not know he has them, and cannot consciously choose to use them.
- When wielding an off-hand weapon, he can parry one attack per round with it.
- He can move at a trot all day without tiring.
- His trails are 75% undetectable.
- His vision and hearing are 50% better than normal.
- When he pummels people, his opponents are treated as slowed; his fists are treated as mailed even when bare.
- When grappling, his effective height is 7′, and his effective weight is 350 lb.
- He gets a 15% bonus to overbearing attacks
- He does unarmed damage as though armed with a club
4) PITY THE HALF-ORC
In “Sage Advice” by Jean Wells …
“Question: Why can’t half-orcs be raised, especially if they are 90% human as the Players Handbook says?
Answer: The Players Handbook does not say that half-orcs are 90% human. It says that 10% of them (from which player characters are drawn) resemble humans enough to pass for one under most circumstances. Genetically, a true half-orc is always 50% human. Half-orcs cannot be raised simply because they do not have souls. I went right to the top for the answer to this one, and according to Gary Gygax himself, ‘Half-orcs cannot be raised-period.'”
It occurs to me that the inability to raise demi-humans was a balancing factor in old D&D for all of their special abilities.
5) IS THAT ULTRA-POWERFUL MONSTER A DEITY?
Len Lakofka tries his hand at setting all those deity-killing PC’s right by setting down some truths about the gods. How many DM’s, I wonder, design their pantheon specifically for one day fighting high-level adventurers?
Here are Lakofka’s definitions for deity-hood:
1. Has 180 or more hit points
2. Can cast a spell or has a power at the 20th level of ability
3. Can fight or perform acts as a 20th level Lord or 20th level Thief
Those who cannot do this are not deities. This includes Jubilex, Ki-rins and Yeenoghu. Baal, Orcus, Tiamat and Bahamut, on the other hand, are deities.
He also states that deities get their special abilities from the Outer Planes, while lesser beings get their powers from the inner planes or from deities.
Much more here, including abilities from ability scores of 19 or higher (or 25+ for strength).
It looks like the blueprint used for the later Deities & Demigods / Legends & Lore books.
Now that’s a great illustration for selling a monster book. You can pick up the PDF HERE.
6) APRIL FOOLS!!!
Turns out there was a prank hiding inside this issue after all – technically The Dragon #36 1/2.
We have articles about how to make the most out of your pet dragon, some new monsters (see below), keeping your players poor with the tax man, Bazaar of the Ordinary (web of cob), a random table (d30!) of things to say when you accidentally (or maybe not accidentally) summon Demogorgon, Leomund’s in a Rut (expanding character footwear options), this month’s module – a 10×10 room with nothing in it (map provided), and an add that includes Detailed Advanced D&D, the next step in fantasy gaming.
As for one of those new monsters:
The Keebler, Small Fey: HD 0; AC 13; ATK none; MV 40′; XP 50; AL N (good tendencies); Special-Magic resistance 60%, bake cookies (Will save at -4 or charmed); Spells-3/day-create water, purify food & drink, slow poison, create food & water, neutralize poison, locate object (edible substances) – as though by 7th level cleric.
7) The Mongols
Neat article by Michael Kluever on the history, weapons and tactics of the Mongols. Mongols done the way they were are probably pretty underused in fantasy gaming – they were a pretty fascinating group, and a campaign that includes a rapidly expanding Mongol Empire (wherein PC’s leave town, adventure in a dungeon, and come back to find the town razed or absorbed into the empire) would be pretty cool, especially if that expansion ends up being crucial to the game.
How was the typical Mongol warrior equipped:
Armor ranged from none to leather to scale armor, plus conical helms (leather for light cavalry, steel for heavy cavalry) and small, circular shields made of wicker covered with leather; they also wore silk undershirts that apparently helped to minimize damage from arrows when they had to be removed from wounds
Two composite bows, one for short range, one for long range; they used armor-piercing arrows, whistling arrows to signal and incendiary arrows (tipped with small grenades – apparently the Duke boys didn’t invent the idea); each warrior carried two quivers with 60 arrows in each
Heavy cavalry also carried a scimitar, battle axe OR horseman’s mace, a 12′ long lance with a hook for yanking warriors off their horses and a dagger
Light cavalry carried a lighter sword, two to three javelins and a dagger
8) Giants in the Earth
This edition, by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay, includes:
Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (17th level fighter, 10th level thief, 8th level cleric)
Lovecraft’s Richard Upton Pickman (King of the Ghouls, 9th level fighter)
Thomas Burnett Swann’s Silverbells (forest minotaur 15th level ranger, 13th level paladin)
The last one caught my attention, since I’d never heard of the author. The idea is that the original stock of minotaurs, termed forest minotaurs here, were neutral good defenders of the woodlands and the fey creatures who lived therein. You can find his books for sale at Amazon.
9) A New Way to Track XP
Experience points, like alignment, are a perennial sub-system people are trying to improve. In this version, XP are based on actual damage inflicted (modified by the strength of the opponents), and for deeds actually done. To whit:
For non-magical monsters, you get 5 XP per point of damage done, multiplied by the difference between the monster’s AC and 10
For magical monsters, 10 XP per point of damage done, same modifier.
For spellcasting in combat, 10 XP per level of spell
For spellcasting in a hostile situation, 5 XP per level of spell
Thieves get XP for gold stolen, maybe only if they grab a larger share than the other members of their party
Not a bad idea, really.
10) The Fastest Guns that Never Lived
This is a reprint, collection and expansion of articles I remember covering many reviews ago. Designed for Boot Hill, it’s a pretty fun article for fans of westerns, and a great opportunity for fan debates. If you think it’s bunk, you can blame Allen Hammack, Brian Blume, Gary Gygax and Tim Kask.
So, let’s get to the winners in each stat:
Fastest Gun in the West: (1) Clint Eastwood, (2) Bob Steele, (3) Paladin
Most Accurate Gun in the West: (1) Clint Eastwood, (2) Will Sonnet and Col. Tim McCoy, (3) Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Paladin and Lee Van Cleef
Least: Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright
Bravest Gun in the West: Charles Bronson
Most Cowardly: Pancho
Strongest Gun in the West: Hoss Cartwright
Weakest: Will Sonnet
Somebody was in love with Clint Eastwood, huh?
11) BONUS COOL – THE KROLLI
Todd Lockwood (that one?) brings us the monster of the month, a race of warm-blooded flying reptile dudes. Here are the Blood & Treasure stats.
Krolli, Large Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2 to 6; AC 17; ATK 1 bite (1d6+1), rear claw (1d8+1), hand (1d8 or by weapon +4); MV 20′ (fly 40′); AL varies; XP 200 to 600; Special-High dexterity, multiple attacks, acute senses, surprised on 1 on 1d6, 25% magic resistance.
They are encountered in lairs, with 3d20 in lair, 25% females and young, with 2-3 and 1/2 HD each, and 1d8 7+2 HD chieftains. Encountered among men, they are usually mercenaries or slavers, and could be found as body guards or military officers.
They have high natural strength (20) and dexterity (23).
They may be of any class, though 95% are fighters. Of the remainder, 70% are clerics. They cannot wear armor, but often carry shields. They are almost never thieves or assassins.
Side note – I really loved Lockwood’s stuff for 3rd edition D&D – a very worthy artist to carry that torch, I think.
Hope you enjoyed this review … I leave you with Tramp