September 1980 is the time.
Between the covers of a Dragon Magazine is the place.
I’m pressed for time today, so let’s get down to business and discover the top ten best things about Dragon Magazine #41 (then I need to kill weeds, mow the yard, get a haircut, edit Mystery Men! and commission art).
1. METHODISTS AND MELEE
Our first article is a time capsule of what was going on in the RPG world at the time, namely the backlash by pseudo-religious folks against D&D.
Written by Arthur W. Collins … or more properly Reverend Arthur W. Collins … who created the neutral dragons from a few issues ago, this one seems like a “let’s get a religious guy who digs D&D to write an article about how great the hobby is, so the other religious people who hate D&D will look worse.”
For example …
“The non-churched population generally views the Christian faith (and religion in general) in terms of a body of rules and regulations designed to keep one from enjoying oneself. This is a false view, but a prevalent one, and voices in the Christian community have been raised of late saying that such things as Dungeons & Dragons are questionable at best (damnable at worst). The double effect of misunderstanding and misguided righteousness on either hand have made fantasy role-playing games a hot topic in the religious community. It is my purpose to lay out a Christian understanding of the uses of fantasy, and then speak from a pastoral perspective on the value of role-playing games.”
It’s a fine article, and worth reading.
Side note – although I cannot be sure, this might be the fellow himself.
2. JIM HOLLOWAY
Holloway is beginning to appear in Dragon at this point (I think I mentioned him in the last review), which is cool with me. I was always a big fan of his stuff – it had an Osprey quality about it that I always liked – grounding the fantasy in some gritty reality. He’s still learning at this point – the cover is him as well, and isn’t as crisp as later Holloway covers will be. Still – it’s fun watching these artists grow.
3. MOLDVAY’S GIANT IN THE EARTH
Such a great series of article, if for no other reason they offer wonderful opportunities to argue with other nerds about which fictional character could kick which fictional character’s ass.
This one includes stats for some female fantasy favorites, and a couple fellows from the sagas.
C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry (14th level fighter with 18/49 strength)
H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha (27th level cleric, 9th level fighter with ability scores ranging from 15 to 18/00 – I’m guessing her player used the “roll 20 dice, take the best 3 method”)
Robert E. Howard’s Valeria (17th level fighter, 8th level thief)
Sigurd Fafnirsbane (20th level fighter, 12th level magic-user, 8th level cleric) – this fellow also includes a bit on the Norse runes
Starkad (23th level fighter)
4. DRAGONS HAVE ONE MORE REASON TO WORRY
This issue has two interpretations of the effects of bathing in dragon’s blood, via the sage of Sigurd / Siegfried.
The first is by Robert Plamondon, who gives us the following:
1. AC benefit is one step for every 10 hit points of the dragon, dropping fractions.
2. Successive applications are cumulative to AC 0 (or AC 20 using ascending AC).
3. The only way to beat AC 0 is to slay Tiamat or Bahamut, who give AC -2 and AC -6 respectively.
4. The formula for combining armored skin with actual armor is AC = AC of armor + AC of skin -10. So, AC 9 skin and AC 8 armor combine for AC 7 (=9+8=17-10=7). The formula works for ascending AC as well.
5. The dragon must be dead and must have been slain with edged or piercing weapons. Initial damage cannot have been delivered by heat, cold or electricity. Poison ruins the blood. The magic in the blood lasts for 1 hour. Only one person may bathe in the blood.
6. The toughening of skin is permanent, and only protects against attacks that would pierce the skin, so the bonus can be added to saves against poison needles).
7. There may be a weak spot, where the blood did not cover. The DM knows this, and perhaps assassins could discover this weak spot as well.
The second way to go is Moldvay’s. He points out in the original myth, Sigurd does not bathe in blood, but rather accidentally sucks a blood-covered finger and gains the ability to speak with animals.
To Robert’s system, Moldvay would make the following changes:
1. Armored skin and armor do not stack – use the better of the two.
2. The blood must be the dragon’s heart blood.
3. Only the character that delivered the killing blow can get the benefit of the blood.
5. MAGIC DOORS
Alan Miller in the Bazaar of the Bizarre has a nice random table of magic door abilities, which include intelligent doors, wizard locked doors, illusions, doorknobs that cast fear and doorbells.
6. PRIMITIVE COMPUTER GAMES
There’s a nice article reviewing several Avalon Hill computer games from back in the day. These babies were for the TRS-80 and Apple Pet, and were loaded via cassette. They cost $15 in 1980, which corresponds to about $43 today.
What I really found interesting was the size of these programs, which ranged from a low of 8.5 K to 15 K. Boy, they could do a lot with a byte back in the olden days.
“A final note here about pirate copies. Computer programs are just like books and games; they have copyrights. The manufacturer charges the customer for what it costs to research, produce, package, and distribute the games. Some profit is thrown in on top of all this. Without the profit they wouldn’t be in business . . . and you wouldn’t get the games! They are not out to gouge the public. Our markets (oil excluded) are still competitive; if someone else can make a better product for less, the expensive line will either lower prices or fail.
Unlike the recorded music industry, the home computer game field is in its infancy, and there is no real standard yet for just how to market such things. Some companies cloud their programs in machine language, which makes the game harder, but still not impossible, to copy. What it does do is make the program, and the game, next to impossible to change. Other manufacturers, and I heartily applaud Avalon Hill for doing so, put their programs in BASIC (the language most hobby computers speak). This allows the gamer to “play” with his game. You can modify each program in a thousand ways to customize it as you see fit. A gamer can look at every facet of his copy of a board game, throw out the rules he doesn’t like, and make up new ones to suit his fancy. A computer program is no different; let’s keep it this way—and respect those copyrights!”
William Fawcett has a neat article with skirmish rules for 25mm Napoleonic figures. Obviously, I won’t republish them here, but they are well worth a look. If you just added a fantasy supplement to these bad boys …
SIDE TREK – RIDES NEEDED
Yeah, the old days were sure different. Dig this little tidbit …
RIDE NEEDED: I would like to go to Dundracon ’81 and I need a ride from the Los Angeles area. I will help pay for transportation. John Salguero, 449 East Avenue R-7, Palmdale CA 93550.
(Note: Requests and offers for rides to/from convention sites will be printed in this space free of charge for anyone who sends notification to Rides, c/o Dragon Publishing, P.O. Box 110, Lake Geneva WI 53147.)
8. MONSTER ART
The “Dragon’s Bestiary” in this issue features the Silkie by Tom Moldvay. Good monster, and indicative that the game had already started moving beyond the dungeon.
What I really liked about this, however, was the art by Roslof.
Likewise – Ed Greenwood’s Tomb Tapper is all well and good, but dig the art!
9. FINIEOUS FINGERS
I didn’t love this strip like I loved Wormy, but it was probably more D&D than Wormy and probably the first good effort of translating the game into a comic strip. Here’s a nice collection of NPC’s for your own game:
10. THE HALLS OF BEOL-DUR
This is a full adventure by Dave Luther, Jon Naatz, Dave Niessen and Mark Schultz. You have to love an adventure that starts with this:
“It is highly preferable that a large party begin the adventure (attrition will take its toll), and it is essential to the success of an expedition that most, if not all, party members be 8th level or higher.”
It also has a formula for an “original procedure for saving throws” which is really a system for ability checks:
“Roll 3, 4, or 5d6 (the number of dice varies) and subtract one point from the dice roll for every two levels of experience the character has attained. Compare the resulting number to a specified ability (this also varies), and if the adjusted dice roll is less than the character’s score for the ability in question, the saving throw is considered made.”
It’s a solid dungeon delve, with tricks, traps and monsters galore. Also some pretty neat art.