Grit & Vigor – Sample Characters

I’m finishing up on the final editing of Grit & Vigor this week (and maybe next), and thought folks might be interested in seeing a few randomly rolled up characters for the game.

The four characters below were created using the normal character generation rules – nothing special, no cheating – and should give you an idea of what 1st level characters might look like in the game.

For the first character, I’ll include a few notes in italics. Keep in mind I’m still editing and testing a bit, so there could be some changes between these fellows and the final product.

Emerson McLeod

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 13 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 17 (+2 bonus)
Charisma: 16 (+2 bonus)

Ability scores are rolled in the “traditional way” (whichever traditional way you like). The bonuses and penalties are as in Blood & Treasure. In this case, I rolled 3d6 in order for the first two characters, and then 4d6 drop the lowest in order for the second two. Honestly – roll the dice however you want!

Alignment: Chaotic Good
Class: Rogue (Private Eye)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 5
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F15 R13 W14

Again, nothing too foreign here. Alignment has much less meaning in this game, since it isn’t bound up on lots of spells and special abilities. The game has four main classes – fighter, scholar, rogue and daredevil, and multiple sub-classes. Private eye is a sub-class of rogue.

Background: Won the big game at school, got chemistry set as kid, talked way out of many scrapes
Knacks: Athletics (Str), Chemistry (Int)
Skills: Cant (Cha), Crack Code (Int), Gather Intelligence (Cha), Hide in Shadows (Dex), Listen at Doors (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Search (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Track (humans only) (Wis)
Feats: Dodge, Improvise
Weapons: Brass Knuckles, Switchblade, Pistol, Revolver
Abilities: Backstab (x2 damage), notice concealed items (1 in 6), notice clues (2 in 6), note deception (4 in 6), get a hint (Will save, mod by Int)
Drive/Hunger: Tobacco

Backgrounds are rolled randomly, usually three rolls, and replace the concept of “racial abilities”, giving starting characters bonus knacks, feats and ability score adjustments. The game uses the same task system as B&T, and feats in this one are not optional. Drives and hungers help flesh out a character – this guy has a tobacco addiction, so he’s probably a heavy smoker.

Starting Money: $80
Spent: $73.85
Gear: Revolver, 20 bullets, lock pick set, switchblade, brass knuckles, business clothes, overcoat, concealed carry holster, standard flashlight, binoculars, fake identification, camera, camera film

The money system uses dollars as a catch-all. I’m still playing with the values, but this gives an idea of a starting character’s equipment. Characters start with $5 to spend per point of Charisma (to keep it from being a dump stat).

Alvin “Doc” Bailey

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 6 (-1 penalty)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 14 (+1 bonus)
Wisdom: 7 (-1 penalty)
Charisma: 10

Alignment: Neutral
Class: Scholar
Level: 1
Hit Points: 5
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F15 R14 W13

Background: Sneaked out for beer and girls, raised in poverty, worked on a farm
Knacks: Move Silently (Dex)
Skills: Chemistry (Int), Communicate (Cha), Crack Codes (Int), Display Knowledge (Int), Electronics (Int), Mechanics (Int) and Search (Wis)
Feats: Improvise, Toughness
Weapons: Dagger, Revolver
Abilities: Special focus (engineering), jury-rig devices, maximize performance
Drives/Hungers: Danger, Superstition

Starting Money: $50.00
Spent: $41.16
Gear: Dagger, revolver, 12 bullets, smoke grenade, tear gas grenade, gelatine, acid vial, electronics kit, chemistry set, travel bag, casual clothes, hip holster

John Harrow

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 14 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 9
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 10
Charisma: 14 (+1 bonus)

Alignment: Neutral Evil
Class: Fighter (Duelist)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 8
Attack Bonus: +1
Saves: F13 R14 W15

Background: Worked as prize fighter, worked summers on a boat, took fencing lessons from an old master
Knacks: Seafaring
Skills: Bend Bars & Lift Gates (Str), Break Down Doors (Str), Gymnastics (Dex), Jump (Str)
Feats: Dodge, Exploit Weakness, Two-Weapon Fighting
Weapons: Cavalry Saber, Foil, Dagger, Pistol, Rapier
Abilities: Dominate foes, specialist weapon (x2 damage with rapier)
Drive/Hunger: Superstition, Vanity, Women

Starting Money: $70
Spent: $60.65
Gear: Pistol, 50 bullets, 2 daggers, business clothes

Sally Rae Stewart

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 14 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 9
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 14 (+1 bonus)
Charisma: 14 (+1 bonus)

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Class: Daredevil (Grease Monkey)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 7
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F13 R13 W14

Background: Studied physics, raised in poverty, helped out in the garage
Knacks: Mechanics
Skills: Appraise Value (Motor Vehicles) (Int), Drive Car (Dex), Mechanics (Int), Ride Bike (Dex), Search (Wis)
Feats: Improvise, Modern Archimedes, Stuntman
Weapons: Club, Dagger, Revolver
Abilities: Treat wrenches as maces, maximize performance (motorcycles, cars), increase top speed by 10%, can apply combat feats to vehicles, +1 to hit vehicles, + level in damage to vehicles
Drive/Hunger: Money, Tobacco

Starting Money: $70.00
Spent: $38.50
Equipment: Monkey wrench, revolver, 10 bullets, casual clothes, tool belt, CB radio, mechanical tool kit, duct tape (2 rolls), car opening kit, road flares (3), rope (150’)

Laser Mage, Because Why Not? [New Class]

Image found HERE

Sometimes, you need a weird class to shake things up. The laser mage is one of those classes that starts as a phrase that pops into your head, and then begins to take shape as you let your mind wander and explore. I saw a guy with a wand covered in crystals who could do interesting things with light – something like a combination of illusionist and evoker, but more focused. I pictured something of a magical duelist, a class for people who had played everything and were ready to figure out how to make something new work for them, or people who didn’t want their class abilities to lock them into a particular role.

LASER MAGE

Laser mages are arcane wash-outs. They never quite got the hang of magic in general, but showed a weird interest in, and ability with, the light spell. Light is to the laser mage what read magic is to normal magic-users – the key spell without which they cannot operate. They know it so well, they can cast it from memory.

To produce multiple effects with this single spell, the laser mage needs a light projector. The projector looks like a rod or thick wand. It is a hollow metal tube about one foot long and tipped with a faceted rock crystal. The crystal is cut by the laser mage, so as they progress in level their skill as a gem cutter increases as well. They also learn how to use other translucent gemstones, faceted or curved, to increase the effectiveness of their spell, or produce additional effects.

Requirements
Intelligence and Dexterity of 13 or higher

Armor & Weapons
As magic-user

A 1st level laser mage can cast the light spell at will. Casting this spell through his light projector is how he manifests all of his other abilities, not including his skill as a gem cutter and his ability to appraise the value and quality of precious stones.

The first thing a laser mage learns to do is project rays of light through the crystal at the end of his light projector. These rays have a range of 20’ and require a ranged attack roll to hit. The ray’s effect depends on the laser mage’s level and, of course, how intense they want it to be.

These improved rays, and the other special light effects gained by the laser mage are dependent on the laser mage improving the main gemstone in his light projector. This must be done at the following levels, with a gem of a stated value (or higher): 4th level, 100 gp, 6th level 500 gp, 8th level 1,000 gp, 10th level 2,500 gp and 12th level, 5,000 gp. The gem must be polished and cut by the laser mage himself, requiring a gem cutting task check (Reflex task, modified by dexterity, skilled).

At 3rd level, a laser mage can project a beam of light from the projector that can be used as a sword. The beam deals damage as the ray would, and requires a melee attack to hit.

By adding additional colored gemstones to the light projector, the laser mage can project 10’ cones that influence emotions (Will save to resist) as follows: Red gems cause rage or dispel fear effects, blue gems calm emotions or dispel charm effects, yellow gems cause crushing despair or grant a +1 bonus to reaction checks, and green gems cause fatigue (for 1 turn) or inspire good hope.

Finally, the 1st level laser mage can use his light projector to analyze materials, gases and liquids. A knowledge task check is required to interpret the results (Will task, modified by Wisdom, skilled), which determine the material’s content, and which can detect magic.

At 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th level, the laser mage can add a gemstone worth at least 50 gp to the handle of his light projector to improve the projector’s function. The laser mage determines the improvement gained at each level. Only one improvement can be applied to any given light effect. The potential improvements are: Double range, double duration, impose -2 penalty to saves against the effect and add +1 to hit on ray attacks.

Laser mage’s can create the following additional effects with their light projectors, based on their level and provided they have added the proper stone’s to their light projector:

A 9th level laser mage may open an academy. He attracts 1d6 gem cutters (0-level), 1d6 men-at-arms, 1d6 1st level laser mage students and a 3rd level laser mage to act as his lieutenant.

Dragon by Dragon – August 1980

It’s chilly outside, but this edition of Dragon by Dragon goes back to the balmy summer days of 1980, with the August issue of Dragon! Fantasy and sci-fi films were all the rage in August 1980, from Smokey & the Bandit II to Xanadu to Final Countdown. Well, the last two are fantasy/sci-fi. The first is sort of fantastic.

Let’s see what fantasy & sci-fi offerings the good folks at TSR were serving up …

AUGUST 1980 DRAGON TOP TEN

#1 – PEOPLE CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT ANYTHING

A letter to the editor:

“Dear Editor:
I must get it off my chest: Why do you print so many modules? I agree that it’s a nice concept, a magazine and a module for only $3.00, but there are some people who could do without them and be able to afford this almost perfect magazine. If you must put a filler of some sort in here, why not. make it a game?”

Apparently, the modules were “filler”.

AD BREAK

I’ve seen some interest in Boot Hill and western RPGs recently on Google+, so I thought this ad might be of interest:

I’ve seen many Boot Hill articles, but this is the first ad I remember seeing.

#2 – THE DUELING ROOM

This will sound odd to some readers, but one of the things I like about early D&D was the lack of desire to make it immersive and real. There was already that strain in some players and game masters, but the early breed seemed content to play it as a game that didn’t have to make much sense. Characters had crazy names and did crazy things.

Thus my appreciation for “The Dueling Room” article by Jeff Swycaffer. It’s a place for two players to pit their characters against one another. Why? Because it sounds like fun. Because my character can beat up your character – no he can’t – yes he can – prove it!

Naturally, the dueling room has some random tables attached to it, because the room changes as the duel proceeds, including some “odd events” like fireballs bursting into the room and absolute, unalterable darkness for 6-11 turns. Sounds like fun.

I seem to remember some folks on G+ doing a D&D fight club – this would be the perfect arena for fights like that.

I think I’ll put designing something similar on my list of articles I need to finish for this poor, neglected blog.

SIDE TREK

“Digging the burial mound or building the funeral pyre requires 1-6 hours of labor, depending on the softness of the soil and the availability of firewood. Another 1-3 hours is required for preparation of the body, final rites and actual interment or cremation.” – George Laking

Now you know.

#3 – FLAMING OIL

Flaming oil (and it’s modern cousin alchemist’s fire) have long been popular because they seem like a way to break the melee rules and kill things that would otherwise be difficult to kill. My players have hurled or prepared to hurl flaming oil quite a few times.

“Don’t Drink This Cocktail – Throw It!” by Robert Plamondon is an examination of the stuff. This is one of those articles that deeply explored a D&D concept … to death one might say. The desire to make gaming very complex was there from the start, and the cycle of “more complexity” to “more simplicity” is ongoing. I’m old and crusty enough now that I’m pretty thoroughly stuck in the “keep it simple” camp.

Still, as long as this article is, the rules are pretty easy to boil down:

Only you can prevent fire damage

1 – Make attack roll. If you miss, roll d12 to determine which direction (1 = “1 o’clock”) it goes.

2 – Roll d20 – on a “1” it didn’t break, on a “2” it didn’t light.

3 – If you hit, you score 2d6 damage in round one, and 1d6 in round two.

4 – Splash is3′, creatures get a saving throw (vs. poison) or take 3 damage. Armor doesn’t help.

The article touches upon the flammability of dungeons, and then includes this gem:

“Additionally, rumor has it that pyromaniac players are sometimes attacked by a huge bear in a flat-brim hat who fights with a +6 shovel.”

#4 – THE OTHER WERE

Roger E. Moore presents a number of additional were creatures in this article: Werelions, wereleopards, werejaguars, weresabres (as in sabre-tooth tigers), weredires (as in dire wolves), wererams, wereweasels, weresloths (yep), werebadgers and werebisons.

Not a bad collection. I often just hand wave alternate were creatures and use the existing were creature stats I think are closest – such as using the werewolf for a wereleopard, but why not use this quick and easy chart of monster stats instead:

And dig that werejaguar illustration that accompanied the article.

AD BREAK

I thought this ad was unique:

I’m guessing the art for Spellbinder was late …

#5 – GIVING THE UNDEAD THEIR DUE

The article “Giving the Undead an Even Break” by Steve Melancon starts as follows:

“A 22nd-level Mage Lich approaches a band of adventurers. Suddenly, an 8th-level Cleric presents himself forcefully. The DM rolls 19 on a 20-sided die, and the Lich runs in terror.

Such a scene is ridiculous.”

Is it? If the game is meant to be “realistic” to you, or you’re looking for high drama, I suppose it is. If you’re playing a game, then it’s not so bad. Clerics turn undead. The lich is undead. So be it. Monopoly is equally ridiculous, but it’s just a game. So what?

If this does bother you, though, this article might help. It uses a percentile roll for turning undead, to make the tough undead harder to turn. There’s some cross referencing involved as well.

Personally, I’d just allow “name-level” undead a saving throw against the turning effect, giving them another chance to resist. Simpler, probably just as effective.

#6 – INTERNATIONAL MEN OF MYSTERY

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh wrote a nice little article on globe hopping for international spies, for the Top Secret game. It’s nothing fancy, just a d% table of 100 “fun” places to visit on a spy adventure. The game master can use it to help design a convoluted plot – roll for a starting point, then roll three or four more times for where clues might lead … with a few false clues thrown in to make it tough. I won’t reproduce the table here, but check out the issue and the article, especially if you’re doing a Cold War spy game.

SIDE TREK

There’s a long article in this issue about how fantasy worlds should operate, which is interesting but, really, “say’s who?” It is a worthwhile article to read, though, with some neat concepts and tables – again, I suggest one find a copy of the magazine – but what I wanted to point out was an early piece by Jim Holloway for TSR.

If I had the money, and the interest was out there, I’d love to do an expanded Sinew & Steel with art like this in it.

AD BREAK

Read more about it

#7 – MONSTERS

Josh Susser created a pretty cool monster for this issue. The fire-eye lizard is something like a tiny dragon (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo or violet) with blazing, luminescent eyes it can use to blind creatures. It can also make a prismatic sphere of its own color that lasts for 3

turns. Lizards of different colors can cooperate to add layers to the sphere or lizards of the same color can make larger spheres with a longer duration.

Here are the Blood & Treasure stats:

Fire-Eye Lizard, Tiny Magical Beast: HD 1+2 (females 1+3); AC 16; ATK 1 bite (1d4 for males or 1d4+1 for females); MV 5 (F120, S30); F16 R13 W16; XP 100; Special-Blind, prismatic sphere.

I also dig Ed Greenwood’s wingless wonder (illustration to the right), but would mostly love to play one in a game. Here are the quick stats:

Wingless Wonder, Small Aberration: HD 2+2; AC 12; ATK 9 or 12 tentacles (1 + constrict); MV 20; F16 R15 W13; XP 200; Special-Radiate continuous anti-magic shell, immune to fire, eats gems (cannot digest them, 1d4+4 in stomach), psionic blast when killed (-4 to save).

The issue also has stats for Pat Rankin’s flitte and Lewis Pulsipher’s huntsmen.

#8 through #10 … well, nothing. Not as much caught my interest this issue. There were some magic items for Runequest, and some D&D magic items folks might like, and the aforementioned very long article about making faerie “real” in your campaign worlds. Tom Wham also wrote some additions for The Awful Green Things from Outer Space.

See you next time, hopefully with some new content for your game.

Og and the Trollheims

The southwest corner of Og

No, not an ogre garage band. Og is the northeastern potion of the Land of Nod, where the fake vikings and such live. The Trollheims are a range of mountains, just south of the larger White Mountains, that divide Og from the Motherlands.

I’m in the middle of writing a hex crawl set in a small corner of Og which includes the northern chunk of the Trollheims and a sliver of the Golden Steppe. This particular portion contains the city-state of Azsor, where King Mogg rules. The first campaign I ran in Nod was set in and around Og, stretching from the far eastern city-state of Azdak (where a mysterious murder was committed), and covering the halfling land of Yore (where a town was burned down), Azsor (where a human ranger raised by dwarves Frank and Estelle joined the party), the White Mountains (where a cloud giant was assaulted and insulted), Isithul (where something happened that I don’t entirely remember) and back to Azdak, where the murder was solved through no work of the party (don’t run murder mystery campaigns with people who don’t care about murder mysteries) and the next campaign was set up for Mu-Pan.

Anyhow – here’s some setting information I’ve written for Og, with more to come!

Og
The northern lands of Thule are also known as Og, after the great river which drains them into the sea. The Og looms large in the lives of the people, and most treat it as a god.
South of the river is the Golden Steppe. North of the river are forests, marshes and chill grasslands. The lands are ringed by mountains. The Trollheims and White Moun-tains border it on the west, and the shadowy, ill-famed Black Mountains on the north.

Within those mountains, forests and marshes live humans, dwarves, elves, halflings and humanoids. This hex crawl only covers the extreme southwest corner of Thule, which include the northern portion of the Trollheim Mountains and the extreme western fringe of the Golden Steppe. Within these confines is the great city of Azsor, a city-state of humans and dwarves ruled by the legendary King Mogg.

History of Og
In days best left forgotten, much of Og was covered by a great sheet of ice that spread from the Sea of Stars to what is now the country of Mab. At the edge of the ice sheet, a simple human people scraped out a stone-age existence. The land was rough and wild. Nod was much drier then, and the great desert of the south all but en-compassed what is now steppe-land. The greatest re-source of Og was its herds of mammoth.

As that age of ice passed, a shallow sea was formed, attracting strange denizens of the deep to build cities be-neath the waves. Great forests sprang up in the wake of the retreating glaciers. The trees grew unnaturally tall, attracting the attention of the ancient elves.

At this point in time the elves already ruled the human civilizations of the Motherlands. They now resolved to settle the great forests of Og. All that stood in their way was the shallow sea and its inhabitants. These creatures were older than the elves, but technologically backwards. The elves were at the height of their powers and arrogance, and a cabal of elven wizards decided the easiest way to eliminate the fish folk was to drain their shallow sea. Through unknown means (well, I know them … if you read the hex crawl, you might discover the secret as well), they accomplished this task, leaving in the sea’s place a great river that flowed from the White Mountains to the Sea of Stars.

The elves and their human subjects now surged into Og. They besieged the citadels of the firbolg giants and drove them into hiding. The goblin folk were driven into the mountains, and the primitive humans they found were enslaved and carried away. These slaves toiled endlessly on the elven walls and towers of their now mythic city of Isithul. Isithul’s location is now a mystery. Its walls were built of green stone, it is said, and within its halls walked the greatest wizards the elves ever produced. They had come for a grand project – a way to travel between worlds.

When the grand project was finally completed, it rivaled the ancient Crown Stone in power and achievement. Although it appeared as nothing more than a giant vessel covered in beaten gold, at its heart lie an engine powered by mysterious crystals that could bend space and time. It was the height of elven achievement, but it displeased the Kabir, the ancient gods of the elves. Asur, chief amongst the gods, instructed Nudd to destroy this vessel before it could do any harm. Although his quest was long, and fraught with peril, Nudd eventually succeeded in destroying the elven starship, scattering its mysterious crystal shards in the process.

When the Great Rebellion of Dwarves and Men occurred, and the Crown Stone was destroyed, the great network of standing stones went with it and the elves lost their ability to maintain the magical civilization they had created. The ethereal winds swept over the landscape, spawning monstrous beasts and aberrations and destroying the elven aristocracy’s monopoly on power.

Some five hundred years ago, humans led by a spellcaster called Louhi battered down the gates of Isithul and formally ended the reign of the elves in Og.

Four hundred years ago, the red-skinned Qum’al of the steppe sacked the encampment of Ulu-Than, Imperator of Harady. Drunk on plunder, they then turned their attentions to the verdant lands to the north of the River Og. In short order they conquered the small stone forts of the Isithul (the name now given to the people of Louhi). The Isithul were soon overrun from the White Mountains to the Sea of Stars. By three hundred years ago, the Qum’al had established hill forts from Azsor to Luhan, and cause-way villages on the lakes of Mab. Only in the Valley of Yore did they meet strong resistance from the better organized and more technologically advanced Feafolc (halflings). Yore would be sorely pressed in those days, but it never fell.

Throughout the lands of the Qum’al, every hill fort be-came a tribal state, and raids and war were common. The clan elder system of the steppe Qum’al was gradually re-placed by the strong leadership of war chiefs. Gradually, the greatest of these war chieftains carved kingdoms out of this chaos. Such ancient Qum’al kingdoms as Luhan, Mab, Irith, Zhuul, and Krakon were forged, only to fall and then rise again as life degenerated into a circle of blood feuds and ill-conceived wars of conquest.

Two hundred years ago, seafaring invaders from Yama hit the Amber Coast of modern Luhan. The Nakdani, fleeing their sinking homeland, drove their war galleys to Luhan and began colonizing. The petty Qum’al kingdoms united in a war against the invaders, led by the mighty lords of Azdak, the Luors. The war raged intermittently for 100 years before ending in a draw, the invaders holding the coast, the Qum’al the hinterlands. Nakdani kingdoms such as Ozid, Morr, Ellik, Vac, and Gyora were founded.

By one hundred years ago, through marriage and trade, the great kingdom of Luhan was formed under a high king, the self-same lords of Azdak. The Qum’al and Nakdani had become one folk, now called the Luhano. High king after high king undertook great public works, such as repairing the ancient trade roads of the elves. Wooden forts were constructed to keep the rampaging Vadda under control, mines were established in the hills and mountains, and an iron industry was firmly established.

When a high king fell out of favor, the magnates of Luhan would withdraw their support and challengers would march with their supporters to the gates of Azdak. The fields to the north of Azdak drank much blood over the centuries, as royal dynasties rose and fell.

To the west, the country of Mab led a quiet, contemplative existence. The people lived in small lake settlements. Peace was made with the elves, though contact between them and humanity remained quite rare. Fortunately, there was enough contact to produce the present White Queen of Mab. She, like her fathers and mothers before her, is a sorceress of great power.

In the foothills of the White Mountains, life remained simple and unorganized until the war chieftain Mogg forged an alliance with a dwarf lord and founded the Golden City of Azsor about 50 years ago.

The present day finds Azsor’s king merry, Azdak’s asleep on his throne, the Isithul dreaming of a new golden age, and the White Queen alone in her tower, reading the stars and beginning to fret over things yet to come.

An early map I made of Og when I was still calling it Thule – note the “Barrier Peaks”

Mystery Men – Out of the Shadows

Two years ago to this day, I announced that Fat Goblin Games was going to produce a revised version of Mystery Men!, with new art, new layout, etc. To that end, I pulled the existing version off the digital shelves.

Well, 730 days later, the revised Mystery Men! did not materialize. I took a stab at a collaboration, and in this case it didn’t work out. Chalk it up to earned experience (without a 10% XP bonus because of my low Wisdom score).

Fortunately, my contract with those folks is over, and Mystery Men! is back. I have re-instated the original MM!, digital and print, to my spotlight on Lulu.com. As before, the PDF is free, the print version costs $7.99.

You might want to hold off on buying the print version, though, because the next step is the official, long-awaited revision of the game, which will be released in early 2016. I need to get GRIT & VIGOR on sale first, partially because I just need to get it done, and partially because I want to make sure MM! and G&V are generally compatible. Once it is out, I will tweak the revised text I wrote two years ago, work on the layout, and get that sucker up for sale. I’m hoping for January release.

2016 is going to be my year of revisions. Mystery Men! will probably be first. Blood & Treasure will follow, with new covers I commissioned, as well as Pars Fortuna (I was going to make it Blood & Treasure-compatible, but I might make it Bloody Basic compatible, since those games have a similar vibe) and Space Princess (aiming at G&V compatibility for that one as well). In the meantime, I’ll keep publishing NOD and Quick & Easy games, and I’ll begin working on combining old issues of NOD into full-blown hex crawl adventures in their own right, and pulling those old mags off the market to let them become collectors items. I’m also in talks with a friend to design a nice, new Land of Nod website. Should be fun.

So keep your eyes peeled, folks, the mystery men are on their way!

Dragon by Dragon – July 1980

It’s been too long since I did a review of The Dragon. Between work and trying to write/edit a few games, Sundays have been just packed, but today I’m diving back in. This week, we’re examining The Dragon #39, released in July of 1980. I can remember those days. I was 8, and I think the entire country was just about fed up with the 1970’s. Despite what you might have picked up in a revisionist history class, the 1970’s sucked. Hard. In RPG land, though, things were heating up – new companies, new games, and TSR and D&D were about to hit the heights.

So, what did July’s issue have to offer? Let’s check out this edition’s Top 10 cool things.

As we often do, we start with an advertisement. This time from Iron Crown Enterprises. I’m trying to remember if I’d seen an I.C.E. advertisement in The Dragon yet, and I don’t think I have. God knows, we’ll see plenty in the issues ahead.

I must say, there’s a bit of humor in an ad that looks like that and boasts about “fine graphics”.

They also left their state off the address – did everyone know where Charlottesville was back in the day?

Anyhow – they would go on to produce some pretty good material – from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.

#1: COMPUTERS

Here’s a sign of the times:

“Snap! Crackle! Zap! THE DRAGON computes! Recently, we’ve acquired a TRS-80 computer here at THE DRAGON (for those of you into home computers, it’s the Level II with 16K memory, a 16K expansion interface, two floppy-disc drives, and a printer). In addition to using it in conjunction with Mark Herro’s ‘Electric Eye’ column, we’ll now be able to look at a few of the plethora of game programs now available on the commercial market, and (hopefully) do some reviewing on our own. Please hold off on sending us your own home-brew programs for a bit yet; we’ll have our hands full with what’s on the market already. But electronic gaming is looming on the gaming horizon, and THE DRAGON is going to be ready for it.”

Personally, I don’t think electronic gaming will ever catch on.

#2: FANTASYSMITH

Fantasysmith did some really nice miniatures articles, and the art was always top notch. This one in particular deserves an airing after 35 years:

The one thing left off this guideline: Be good at painting. When I did the miniatures thing, I had no problem choosing the goal  … I was just often less than successful in getting there.

#3: THE ANTI-PALADIN

Really, this should be Cool #1, because this article by George Laking and Tim Mesford introduces a “beloved” element of old school gaming – The Anti-Paladin!

We start with awesome art (not sure who drew it), and then move on to the class itself.

The anti-paladin was an NPC class, meaning it couldn’t be used by players. To that end, it gives a guide on rolling up the anti-paladin’s scores, using 12+1d6 for strength, for example, or 10+1d8 for constitution. Charisma has a special formula that uses 1d4: a “1” equals 3, a “2” 4, a “3” 17 and “4” 18. On a charisma of 18, there’s a 25% chance of having an exceptional charisma. Anti-paladins with very low charisma cause fear, while those with very high charisma will charm humanoids and other monsters.

I bring the above up to show how different the game was in the old days. There was much more willingness to invent new sub-systems to do things.

Anti-paladins roll d10 for hit points, gaining 3 per level after 9th. They get a host of special abilities, including causing disease and wounds, protection from good, backstabbing, poison use, rebuking undead and demons, a special warhorse and cleric spell use at high levels. Their special swords are called unholy reavers, which is, by the way, pretty sweet.

SIDE TREK – ALIGNMENT AND GODWIN’S LAW

Why was alignment discussed so much back in the old days? Because alignment was a stand-in for philosophy – moral and ethical philosophy anyways. That made it interesting for lots of people, and contentious as well. A good example is the “Up On a Soap Box” in this issue, in which the following question is asked:

“Is something right just because we think it is right? If Hitler feels that it is right for him to kill six million Jews, is that morally acceptable?”

The first superhero rpg. Review here.

Heavy stuff for a game magazine. Alignment has become a throw away in many modern games, or has been rendered down into the faction rules it appears to have grown from. The discussions are still being had, though, in the gaming community and beyond.

Oh, and the answer to the above question is NO.

#4: ERA in RPG

Well, we’ve already mentioned Hitler and the Holocaust in an article about alignment, why not delve into equal rights?

The article is “Women Want Equality and Why Not?” by Jean Wells and Kim Mohan, and there’s a follow-up called “Points to Ponder” by Kyle Gray. I’m not going to delve too much into the contents of the article, but I suggest you find a copy online (it’s there) and read through it. It’s worth comparing and contrasting what was being discussed 35 years ago with what is being discussed today.

#5: LAKOFKA’S RANDOM SPELLS

Len Lakofka writes an article called “Starting from Scratch” about starting a new campaign and rolling up a new party. The bit I liked was the random tables for rolling up starting spells. For magic-users it’s pretty straight forward – roll once on each table for a magic-user’s three starting spells:

He also suggests a limited number of starting prayers for clerics – 1d4+2 to be exact, with those spells being rolled randomly and modified according to the cleric’s instructor’s alignment.

The article covers much more ground than this, of course, so it’s worth reading.

#6: GIANTS IN THE EARTH

You know I always like these little Moldvay gems. This edition contains two Norse legends.

Bodvar Bjarki (16th level chaotic good fighter), the son of a Norwegian prince who was turned into a bear during the day. Bjarki wields Lovi, a +3 sword, +6 vs. magic-users.

Egil Skallagrimson (14th level chaotic neutral fighter) who became a viking.

The article also contains a small table of runes.

SIDE TREK: FANTASY VS. REALITY

A question to the sage:

“Question: Why can’t human, half-elf and elven Magic-Users wear armor and still cast spells? Elves and half-elves who are Magic-Users and Fighters can, so I don’t believe it is because of the iron in their armor or weapons. If it is because of training, then Magic-Users could be able to learn how to wear armor and cast spells at the same time—and even a human Magic-User/Fighter could train to acquire the ability.”

My answer – it’s a made up rule to keep the game balanced, you knucklehead. Stop rationalizing make-believe!

#7: GOOD HITS AND BAD MISSES

This article by Carl Parlagreco is one of the classics. It covers critical hits and fumbles, which it describes as “two of the most controversial subject areas in D&D”. His system is fine enough, but the random tables for the effects of critical hits and fumbles are what makes it really groovy. A sample – critical hit effects of missile and thrusting weapons – follows:

#8: OLD SCHOOL AIN’T NEW

I loved this piece by Karl Horak:

“Several months ago I came across a member of the minority that hasn’t acknowledged Gary as final arbiter. The campaign he ran was based on the original spirit of Chainmail instead of the latest revisions. To say the least, the game was fresh and unorthodox. His foundation was the 3rd edition of Chainmail and his vague recollections of the three-volume set of Dungeons &Dragons, which he never purchased.”

Testify, brother!

#9: OLD SCHOOL ADVERTS

I dig the image in the ad to the right – makes you wonder what the Hell is going on. I’m going to turn this into a little side trek into comic books.

When I used to collect the things, the covers were a shorthand blurb about the story in the issue – the idea was to get a kid at a news stand to plunk down their money to find out what was going on.

Now comic book covers are mostly pin-ups, I suppose because they’re aimed at an different audience. They’re usually very well drawn, but personally, I prefer those old covers. They fired the imagination, and were pretty fun. In fact – when I find an old issue, those covers still induce me to buy them. The pin-ups – not so much.

#10: TRAMP

Of course …

That’s all for this week. Hopefully the pace will slow down and I can get another one written next Sunday. I will have some updates this week from the next hex crawl in NOD.