Weather Made Easy

If you’re running a wilderness campaign, you know that at some point you have to think about the weather. Weather can create interesting challenges for a party of explorers, or even just lend to the mood of a session. Referees can always just arbitrarily determine the weather based on their needs, but for long treks across the wilderness seem to call for randomized weather.

I’ve tried a few different schemes for randomly determining weather in my years of writing hexcrawls, but for the last couple of years have used a system that I think is relatively easy, and provides something usable, rather than trivial.

In each of my later hexcrawls, I begin my section on regional weather with this:

“You can use the following tables to determine the overall weather conditions during a hex crawl. The table is divided into the four seasons. Temperature is determined by rolling 1d6 and comparing the roll to the chances of temperature being freezing (below 30°), cold (31-60°), mild (61-85°), warm (86-95°) or hot (96° or higher). Freezing, cold and hot temperatures might require the adventurers to take steps to avoid negative consequences. Precipitation is a percentage chance. If the temperature is below freezing, the precipitation is snow (10% chance of hail). The TK can decide how much rain or snow falls during the day and its duration based on how much she wishes the weather to hinder the players.”

This is followed by a table like this:

Western Wood

Winter Spring Summer Fall
Freeze 1-2 1 1
Cold 3-5 2 1 2
Mild 6 3-5 2-3 3-5
Warm 6 4-5 6
Hot 6
Rain 55% 45% 45% 40%

The table provides a bare-bones account of the weather on any given day, which the TK can flesh out as much or as little as he likes.

The upper portion determines the general range of temperature based on the season, rolled on D6, while the last line is the percent chance of precipitation that day rolled on D%. If the weather is freezing, any precipitation that comes up is snow or maybe hail. Otherwise, precipitation is rain. How much rain? That’s up to the TK. If the TK wants the rain/snow to be a real problem for the PC’s, then it is heavy. Otherwise, it’s a moderate or light rain that provides mood and interest, without becoming a major pain in the butt.

Making the Tables

To make the tables, I could just make up the numbers willy-nilly. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but I usually like to keep things more realistic. To that end, I choose a city in an environment like the one I’m simulating, and look it up on Wikipedia.

If I’m lucky, the Wikipedia page has a table like this one for Rio de Janeiro:

To figure out the percent chance of precipitation, I just take the total of the average days of rain for the three months that make up a “season”, such as December, January and February for Summer (I almost wrote “winter” until I remembered I was working south of the equator), and divide by 90. In this example, Rio would have a 32% chance of rain during the summer season.

I then take the average high, daily mean and average low for each of those three months, and rate it using the scale mentioned above and repeated here: Freezing (below 30°), cold (31-60°), mild (61-85°), warm (86-95°) or hot (96° or higher).

That gives me 9 temperature readings for each season – I use those to determine the chance on a D6 of a day falling into one of those temperature ratings. Using Rio in the summer again, we get the following temperature ratings:

DEC JAN FEB
Average High Mild Warm Warm
Mean Mild Mild Mild
Average Low Mild Mild Mild

So, we have 7 milds and 2 warms. Seven divided by nine is 78%. Multiply that by 6 (i.e. D6) and you get 5. That means a 5 in 6 chance of mild weather. We don’t need to do the calculation for warm, in this case – it would be 1 in 6, but if we had more temperature ranges, we would use the same procedue for each. Naturally, the Referee can intervene a bit in these figures. Because Rio can get quite hot in the summer, I decide to go 1-4 = mild, 5 = warm and 6 = hot.

You do this same process for the other seasons, and you end up with a table like this:

Rio de Janeiro

Winter Spring Summer Fall
Freeze
Cold
Mild 1-6 1-5 1-4 1-5
Warm 6 5 6
Hot 6
Rain 17% 29% 32% 26%

So, if I’m running some adventurer in the region around Rio during the summer – maybe they’re searching for some ancient ruins or a satellite that crashed in the region – I roll 1d6 and d%, On the d6, I get a “6”, meaning it’s a hot day. On the % I get a 53, meaning no rain – just humidity.

Stunt Spectaculars

Wow, have I been busy the last couple weeks, at work and home – so I apologize for a lack of posting. Before I get to the meat of the post, a couple quick notes:

1. I jumped on MeWe about a month ago, and it hasn’t pissed me off yet, so you can find me over there if you look.

2. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the last week cleaning up and organizing this blog. I’ve worked on the categories and tags to make finding things easier, cleaned up some blog post titles, etc.

It’s a wonderful thing exploring the cinematic past. I think it is safe to say that, for most of us, there are far more movies that have been made that we haven’t heard of than we have heard of. More importantly, some of your favorite movies are ones you have never heard of. Not everything in the past was a gem, of course, but there are some goodies hiding out there.

Two movies I’ve seen in the past couple months qualify for me as “recent unknowns” that I ultimately enjoyed. Both of them are stunt heavy, and call to mind the days when non-CGI stunts dominated action movies. The crazy stunts started early in Hollywood, though they were far more often the purview of comedies than action films. One can draw a straight line from Buster Keaton’s astounding stunt-filled comedies of the 20’s and 30’s to Jackie Chan’s astounding stunt-filled comedies of the 80’s and 90’s (and beyond).

The Stunt Man (1980)

The Stunt Man is the story of a fugitive (Steve Railsback) who becomes a stunt man to escape the authorities. He becomes involved in a love triangle – well, sorta – involving the director he works with (Peter O’Toole) and his protege actress (Barbara Hershey, pre-lip expansion). The stunts are amazing, but the movie is really about the domineering director and the mystery of the man’s fugitive past. They do a good job of making you nervous about who this stunt man really is … aided considerably by the fact that Railsback had previously played Charlie Manson. His face is enough to make you think something terrible is lurking beneath the surface. No spoilers here – you’ll have to watch it to find out how it comes out.

The Junkman (1982)

This is a weird little movie that is extremely stunt heavy. It took H. B. Halicki two years to get it made, but boy did he get it made. There is a mega-car chase with explosions that is worth the ticket of admission. The Junkman is part of a trilogy with Gone in 60 Seconds and Deadline Auto Theft, two other b-movies worth watching if you dig car movies. The Junkman is not as complex as character study as The Stunt Man, and does not have the heavy hitter status of a Peter O’Toole, but it’s still a fun flick for a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Dragon by Dragon – June 1982 (62)

Today we move into the Summer of 1982, in which from sheer boredom nerds everywhere looked forward to the new Dragon magazine. After all, it’s not like there were any good movies or shows in ’82 …

Of course I’m joking – Airplane II was released in 1982. It was nice to see Shatner in a movie – he was otherwise pretty quiet that year.

Still – summer is a great time to nestle under the air conditioning and read – what did Dragon have to offer other than a famous and fantastic cover image?

First things first – I just found out something about this ad

Apparently, among those D&D players are Alan Ruck and Jami Gertz. Just found this out from Old School FRP on Tumblr. Gertz was super nerd-cute back in the day, if that makes any sense at all. And Ruck … hey, you know Cameron and Ferris played D&D at some point.

First cool article in this issue is on Faerie Dragons. I don’t know why, but I always loved faerie dragons in D&D – it may have been the illustration in Monster Manual II. I think I owned MM2 before I had the original Monster Manual, and I know I had it before I owned the Fiend Folio, so the monsters there loomed large in my estimation of the game. I also remember an exact copy of the MM2 faerie dragon appeared in a video game that a buddy and I used to play at 7-Eleven. It was a fantasy game, very anime in its feel, and I wish I knew the name of it. Maybe a reader knows?

Anyhow -the faerie dragon was created by Brian Jaeger, and until reading the article, I forgot about how they changed color as they aged. I think its a fantastic monster – well doen Mr. Jaeger.

The special dragons section in the mag also presents Steel Dragons by Pat Reinken (with a really cool illustration) and Grey Dragons with another cool illustration. I’m not sure about the artist – I feel like I should know that symbol, but it’s not coming to me.

Roger Moore then presents “Evil Dragon Armors” in the “Bazaar of the Bizarre”. Plate armor made from dragon scales is as D&D as heck, and one of the things the game should highlight more than it does – you know, those things that tap right into the imagination, things that every 12 year old knows is cool whether they’ve heard of D&D or not.

For fans of standardization, Gary Gygax presents some info on spellbooks – the types (standard and traveling, the traveling spellbook containing a fourth of the spells of a standard book), the cost (standard spellbooks cost 1000 gp for materials + 100 gp per spell level of spells contained within, traveling spellbooks are 500 gp + the same), the size (standard are 16″ tall, 12″ wide and 6″ thick, traveling 12″ tall, 6″ wide, 1″ thick) and so on. Great article for those who like the details, completely unnecessary for those who like to keep it light and imaginative.

This is followed up by four long-lost magical manuals in Ed Greenwood’s “Pages from the Mages”. I’ve mentioned this before, but while Forgotten Realms did nothing for me as a setting, Greenwood’s articles about the Realms were massively inspirational for me. They are all worth reading.

But wait – there’s more … the NPC class “The Scribe”, by Ed Greenwood. I was always hooked on NPC classes as a kid, and it killed me that I could see the names of classes in the Dragon indexes they would publish, but had no access to the classes that came along before I was a reader/subscriber. The scribe could actually be a pretty awesome companion to an adventuring party. They can wear any armor and use any weapon, but always attack as a first level fighter. So – not useless in a fight. On top of that, they have some neat special abilities involving writing, and can cast some spells from scrolls.

Roger Moore has another article in this, on the point of view of half-orcs and on the gods of the orcs. Again – great for their inspirational value even if you don’t want to use Moore’s concepts in your particular game. Here’s a neat bit from the article on the gods of the orcs:

“The division of orcs into separate tribes (Evil Eye, Death Moon, Broken Bone, etc.) is usually made along cult lines. The tribal symbol is the holy symbol of the orcish god the tribe holds as its patron. Each patron god seeks to make his followers more powerful than those of the others, since their own power derives from the relative power and might of their worshipers.”

Orc tribes are pawns of their gods, who care little for their followers beyond what they can do for the god. Why are the orcs causing trouble? Their god or goddess told them to – that’s all they need to know.

The magazine contains a full adventure for Top Secret set in Chinatown written by Jerry Epperson. I know little about the game, so I can’t really review it.

Gordon Linzner has a bit of fiction in the issue, “The Feline Phantom”. As is usual for this review series, I present the first paragraph:

“The river of school children flowed past her hips, occasionally rising to her ribs, but Evelyn Slade was exceptionally tall and stood firm against the current. The stream engulfed the monorail she’d just stepped from, then split into a score of individuals motivated by only one thought: Grab the best seat. All viewing locations were, by design, equally good; but try telling that to a nine-year-old New Yorker! Fortunately,
one ride above the Wild Asia exhibit — where Bronx Zoo visitors watched from mobile “cages” as animals roamed in comparative freedom — had proved sufficient.”

Lenard Lakofka presents magic for merchants in “Leomund’s Tiny Hut”. The idea is that members of merchant guilds can gain access to some simple spells, mostly cantrips, but also a few “mysteries” like alarm, appreciate, bell, drowsiness, glue, grab, hound, lapse, lock, pacify, panic and spin. Master guild members can get some 1st and 2nd level magic-user spells. There’s a part of me that likes the idea of lots of spellcasters floating around a campaign world, and another part of me that likes to keep magic more rare. For the former part of me, this is a groovy article.

Phil Meyers and Steve Bill present “Zadron’s Pouch of Wonders”. If you are familiar with AD&D, you’ll get the idea. Reach into the pouch and pull out a randomly determined something. I actually love that kind of stuff – spices up a game and creates wonderful surprises.

After the reviews, we get some Wormy – the cyclops and his cyclops dog are playing D&D …

… plus some ideas on strength by Phil and Dixie, and a few cartoons in Dragon Mirth.

But before we leave – check out this beauty …

Only $40 on Ebay for the Atari 400!

Take a Hard Ride

As I am currently in the middle of writing a GRIT & VIGOR supplement for adventures in the “Old West”, I’ve been reviewing some favorite westerns. Today, the subject of Take a Hard Ride came up, and it occurred to me that working up some character stats for the film’s three heroes and main villain would make for a good post.

Take a Hard Ride was released in 1975, and starred Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly and Lee Van Cleef. A “spaghetti western”, it was filmed on location in the Canary Islands, and had as its three heroes some names made well known in the “blaxploitation” films of the 70’s. The movie does not come off as a gimick to me, though – Jim Brown plays Pike, a classic western hero, Fred Williamson is awesome as a Maverick-esque anti-hero Tyree, and Jim Kelly brings something akin to Kung-Fu into the picture as Kashtok, a man raised by Native Americans.

The story involves Pike transporting $86,000 to his boss’ ranch – he made a promise on his boss’ deathbed to do it, and he aims to get it done. Hunting down Pike, his allies and the money is Lee Van Cleef as Keifer, a bounty hunter and Kane, a corrupt sheriff, played by Barry Sullivan.

It’s well worth a watch … and if you want to put those characters into action in a game of G&V, here’s my take on their stats:

(For those wondering how I determined levels – I just used the actor’s ages at the time the movie was made, minus 16 years as a guide)

Pike (Jim Brown)
Lawful Good Cowboy, 8th level

S 16 I 12 W 11 D 15 Cn 13 Ch 11
HP 40
AC 11
ATK +5
F8 R8 W11

Knacks: Handle Animal, Ride Mount

Skills: Appraise Value (Livestock), Endure, Gamble, Handle Animal*, Jump, Ride Mount*, Survive Outdoors, Track

Feats: Bum Rush, Exploit Weakness, Mounted Combat, Power Attack, Pugilist

Weapon Proficiency: Club, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun

Special: +2 save vs. fear and anxiety, temporarily increase two physical ability scores, delay damage (8 rd), rope and ride, choose exceptional horse, surprised (1 on 1d8, or normal while sleeping), no penalty grappling creatures one size larger than cowboy

Tyree (Fred Williamson)
Neutral Gunfighter, 7th level

S 13 I 10 W 11 D 16 Cn 12 Ch 13
HP 35
AC 11
ATK +6
F10 R10 W13

Knacks: Bend Bars, Gamble, Move Silently

Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure, Gamble*, Lift Gates, Sleight of Hand

Feats: Ace Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot

Weapon Proficiency: Brass knuckles, club, dagger, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun

Special: Extra attack, specialist firearm (revolver), +4 AC fighting defensively, +2 initiative with firearm

Kashtok (Jim Kelly)
Chaotic Good Boxer, 6th level

S 15 I 12 W 13 D 16 Cn 14 Ch 9
HP 42
ATK +5
AC 16
F9 R8 W12

Knacks: Survive Outdoors, Track

Skills: Acrobatics, Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure, Hide in Shadows, Jump, Lift Gates, Listen at Doors, Move Silently

Feats: Dodge, Elusive Target, Far Shot, Lightning Reflexes

Weapon Proficiency: Bo staff, club, compound bow, jo staff, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, spear, tomahawk

Special: Extra attack, unarmed damage 1d6+2, 70’ movement, stunning attack (5/fight), deflect arrows

Kiefer (Lee Van Cleef)
Neutral Evil Ranger, 9th level

S 11 I 12 W 13 D 16 Cn 14 Ch 10
HP 54
ATK +8
AC 12
F7 R11 W12

Knacks: Track

Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Hide in Shadows, Lift Gates, Move Silently, Ride Mount, Survive Outdoors, Track*

Feats: Blind Fight, Brawler, Great Fortitude, Improvise, Intuition, Mounted Combat, Pugilist, Rough & Tumble

Weapon Proficiency: Club, dagger, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun +1

Special: Avoid surprise, specialist terrain (desert Southwest)

 

Looking Back – Space Princess

Do you know I’ve been doing this blogging / game writing nonsense for about 10 years? Wow. That was never the intent. In fact, there was no intent – just me goofing around. I certainly never intended to write and publish books when I started.

So here I am, all these years into whatever the heck I’m doing, and I figure maybe it would be fun to look back. Today, I decided to jot down a few thoughts about an early publication of mine, and probably a mostly forgotten one, called Tales of the Space Princess.

Space Princess started out as my response on a message board thread that asked why science-fiction rpg’s had not become as popular as fantasy rpg’s, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. I don’t remember the other responses to the thread, but they were all genre-specific. My theory was that it had nothing to do with sci-fi vs. fantasy. D&D worked because it was a game above all else. Players controlled characters who wandered around a maze in search of treasure. Monsters and traps hindered them. Simple. Anything could be grafted onto D&D, and with each fun thing you added to the mix, D&D became itself more popular. It just so happened that the game was born out of a fantasy supplement to a medieval wargame.

The problem with early sci-fi games, I figured, was that they set out to replicate sci-fi movies and stories. RPG’s aren’t very good at that. Stories have plots, with characters under the writer’s control. They have pre-determined outcomes, which is anathema to games. Checkers works because you don’t know who will win – black or red. Dungeons & Dragons, early on, was the same way. If the characters died delving for treasure, you made new characters. Their death didn’t disrupt a plot – the characters were not central to a story, they were just “avatars” of the players. As a game, this works beautifully. In a novel, it would suck.

I went on to surmise that a sci-fi D&D could have been as popular as the fantasy D&D with the same focus on being a game that borrowed the trappings of science fiction. I took Star Wars as an example. In Star Wars, Luke, Ben, Chewie, Threepio and Artoo venture into the Death Star to rescue Princess Leia from Darth Vader. If we make this more generic, we get a party of adventurers go into a space fortress to rescue the space princess from the dark lord.

Of course, this got my brain popping, so I decided to actually write the game I was describing. I had published a few NODs and Pars Fortuna (more on that in another post), so I figured why not try something else new. I didn’t exactly base the rules entirely on the SRD because I wanted to try some new things. The characters, for example, didn’t have levels. You could start them out as novices, veterans or old-timers – their skills improved with age, but they got fewer luck points to get you through scrapes. This was designed to deal with the fact that, in the source material, you had young Luke Skywalker, old Ben Kenobi and Han Solo somewhere in the middle. How do you make a game work so that different “levels” of characters could adventure together? I had a similar challenge in Mystery Men – the Superman/Batman conundrum. Did my idea work? I decided to use “luck” as a balancing mechanism. Did it work? Heck – that’s for others to decide.

Beyond the rules, I tried to pack the game with all sorts of sci-fi stuff just the way D&D packed in the fantasy tropes. The playable species included humans, of course … which included anything that was basically humanoid and didn’t have special powers … androids and gynoids and “aliens”. The alien species had rules to allow all sorts of alien species to be created, either in imitation of species from existing sci-fi properties – such as vulcan and wookies – or something completely invented by the player.

The classes in the game are psychic, scientist, scoundrel, space ranger and star warrior. Looking through the book for the first time in years, I realize that I had forgotten about my sample characters in the game – Athena Laserwolf, the human star warrior (and an obvious homage to Morgan Ironwolf), Scrimshaw McGurk, the human scoundrel, and Zazzix, the alien psychic. The original art in the project was done by Jason Sholtis, and it was fantastic. It’s fun to rediscover things you wrote long enough ago to have forgotten!

For monsters, I tried to hit the highlights of sci-fi. Space brothers from UFOlogy rub shoulders with the ro-man from Robot Monster and martians from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The olvugai from Pars Fortuna made it into the game – I love sticking things from one of my games into others, to keep them all in the same “universe” – as did H.G. Well’s martians as zarks, the vulcans and klingons as red and blue voltans and the vampire from TV’s Buck Rogers made it in as the space vampire. I stuck girallons in the game because they were inspired by the white apes of Burrough’s Mars, and flail snails because I love flail snails. The point was to mix and match all sorts of nonsense to build gonzo space fortresses (i.e. dungeons), and that was what I did. I also included a way to build random (or non-random) alien animals.

I kept the equipment pretty simple, with some basic gear like weapons and spaceships, and then super-science gear – essentially the same as magic items.

Gameplay was designed to be divided into two phases. The first was the exploration of the space fortress to find and rescue the “space princess”, which can be an actual captive princess or a captive prince, or super weapon, or space station plans, or whatever you want it to be. The second phase is where the adventurers escape in their spaceship. They need a few turns before they can jump into hyperspace, and in the meantime have to battle some enemy fighters, a la Star Wars. Just as old D&D didn’t really deal with life outside of dungeon delving and stronghold-building, Space Princess kept it simple.

Space Princess … it originated in a message board discussion, turned into a chance to try new things in a game, It was a fun little experiment for a new author. Looking through the game, I’m actually pretty impressed with how much stuff I packed into a 44 page game! I guess maybe I should pull Tales of the Space Princess back out and give it another go. My daughter had a blast testing it when she was 14, and I think we have the old character sheets tucked away somewhere …

Dungeons and Dragons in 3-D

And by 3-D, I don’t mean a movie, but those splendid D&D action figures made by LJN in the 1980’s.

Figure this one out. Dungeons & Dragons hits big with kids in the 1980’s. It hits so big that it gets a Saturday morning cartoon and an action figure line. But here’s the weird part – the cartoon and action figure line are separate, as in barely any overlap. Why?

TSR was almost an overnight success, and its leadership wasn’t necessarily ready for prime time. Anyone who knows the TSR story knows this, so there’s no need to cover it here. By the 1980’s, toy companies and cartoon makers had figured out how to join forces and sell crap to kids – G.I. Joe, Transformers, Go-Bots, Chuck Norris’ Karate Kommandoes, Rambo … they were all doing it. But not TSR.

Instead of Hank the Ranger and the gang, the action figure line featured a collection of characters of whom nobody had ever heard, with no real adventures or exploits to inspire childhood play. Some of the action figure line made an appearance in the Shady Dragon Inn (a book I love, by the way), and in a module called XL1 – Quest for the Heartstone, but that was about it.

And since I’m complaining – remember how the G.I. Joe figures had the cool file card on the back of the packaging with data on the character, and how Transformers came with stats that required the red translucent plastic to read. I mean – Transformers had ability scores! Did D&D figures have that? No. The game that’s all about ability scores and character sheets doesn’t use this on their packaging. Jeez!

OK – Complaining over – let’s take a look at the toys the younger siblings (yeah, right!) of D&D geeks were enjoying in the 1980’s, along with some handy links to buy these sweet babies …

There were apparently two waves of figures, which were divided into GOOD and EVIL sides. The top dog on the good side was Strongheart Good Paladin. I had this figure as a kid, and it was pretty groovy – nice cape, sword. I also dig that it looks something like a real knight. Strongheart showed up in the D&D cartoon, although there he was armed with a magic golden hammer.

Strongheart also got a bitchin’ mount – Destrier Mighty Battle Horse. He looks like he works the same way the Star Wars tauntaun did, where you stick the rider into a spring-loaded door atop the mount, with the rider’s legs molded onto the horse’s body.

Other mounts included a nightmare and bronze dragon.

Along with Strongheart, the forces of good included …

Elkhorn Good Dwarf

Melf/Peralay Good Elf

Mercion Good Cleric

Northlord Good Barbarian

Ringlerun Good Wizard

Bowmarc Good Crusader

Deeth Good Fighter

Hawkler Good Ranger

Northlord looks like he borrowed his helmet from Dark Helmet. Mercion is apparently super hard to find these days, in case you happen to be sitting on one and need a quick infusion of cash. Also, notice how the slightly realistic Strongheart gives way in the second wave to the somewhat silly-looking Bowmarc. ‘Tis the way of things, I’m afraid.

This brings us to the evil figures. I don’t know who the leader of EVIL is, per se, but Warduke EVIL Fighter (above) has to be their coolest figure – he’s like the Boba Fett of D&D action figures. His quest to do horrible things to people is aided and abetted by such jerkwads as …

Kelek EVIL Wizard

Zarak EVIL Half-Orc Assassin

Drex EVIL Fighter

Grimsword EVIL Knight

Mandoom EVIL Warrior

Zorgar EVIL Barbarian

You can’t say that the forces of evil were underrepresented here – plenty of foes for the good guys. It’s really a very good toy line that I think would have been pushed over the top with an accompanying cartoon. Zarak, the other figure I had, might have showed up in the cartoon. I definitely remember that Kelek and Warduke were in an episode of the cartoon series.

There were three “giant” figures in the line – Ogre King, Young Male Titan and Mettaflame the Fire Giant. I don’t know if the dragonne was a mount or just a monster. Ogre King is pictured below:

Along with the articulated figures, there were numerous molded figures in the line. As a kid, I assumed they weren’t really for playing alongside the other figures, but maybe I was wrong. I’m trying to remember how they measured up to Strongheart, but frankly – it’s been too dang long. I remember having the troglodyte and goblin and two men-at-arms, but there were also skeletons, a bugbear, troll, hook horror and some others. The hook horror is pictured below.

Finally, the existence of Castle Greyskull meant that every good toy line needed a playset to go with it. D&D got the Fortress of Fangs, which is admittedly not super awesome – at least, not as great as Greyskull.

Lazy Sunday on the Couch

Well, 2021 has begun and I’m out of gas, so here are a couple things I watched this week that I found notable for weird reasons.

Up first is an episode of Lights Out entitled “Beware This Woman”.

Frankly, the show didn’t do much for me. The story was okay, but then you have Veronica Lake without her classic 40’s hairdo – very upsetting! What amazed me was the fact that Phil Hartman apparently traveled back in time to appear in the episode. When I looked up the actual actor, I discovered that he was Glenn Denning, and that was about it. To my mind, the lack of biography and credits for Mr. Denning proves that my Phil Hartman theory is correct.

In all seriousness, given what happened to Hartman, I’d love to believe he escaped his fate and was still entertaining people somewhere out there.

Lights Out originated on radio, and the episodes are worth finding – moody and creepy and very well done.

I also watched Murder Is News this week, a 1937 mystery.

Again, not a tremendous storyline, but I love b-movie mysteries from the 40’s, and I dug that the lead character, reporter Jerry Tracy, worked for the Daily Planet. Tracy was flying high in 1937, but a year later that new guy Clark Kent and ace reporter Lois Lane would be getting all the attention and poor Jerry was out of luck!

Tracy was played by John Gallaudet, who was in a favorite old TV show of mine, Burke’s Law – it was like the Love Boat of detective shows (which makes sense, since it was produced by Aaron Spelling). Also appearing in the cast was John Hamilton, who would later play Perry White in The Adventures of Superman.

OK – a lazy post today I know, but maybe the rest of you are feeling lazy as well and could use a couple hours of mediocre black and white entertainment to round out the day. Be well, everyone – and I hoped you remembered to eat some black-eyed peas on January 1st – we’ll need all the help we can get to deal with 2020 II: Electric Boogaloo!

Not Since the Leg Lamp …

… has an old man been so excited about something.

In this case, a gift I gave myself, which I know sounds bad, but this was one thing I could not resist:

The C64 – a retro computer based on the Commodore 64 and Vic-20!

All my friends had Ataris, and I wanted one sooooo much, but my dad wanted a computer that did more than play games, so I got a Vic-20. To this day, I am thankful for how responsible he was. The Vic-20 had games, of course, and I love them – Radar Rat Race and Gorf come immediately to mind. But I also learned some basic BASIC on the old Vic-20, and I still use a little of that knowledge to this day. I can still remember cracking open a computer magazine and spending hours typing in pokes and peeks to generate a static image of a jack-o-lantern or Christmas tree on the TV … only to know that when the computer was turned off, all that work was gone!

For the  children in the audience … let me take you back to time when console TVs doubled as computer monitors and programs were lost when you turned off the computer (unless you had the Commodore datasette!) It also meant that when dad got home from work and it was time for the news, you were done playing with your computer without some serious begging!

Flash forward to 2020 – I come across the C64 retro computer (I already do not remember where I saw it). It is apparently already released in Europe … but an unknown release date in North America. I had to have it. I hit Amazon, and lo and behold, it was available for pre-order. Pre-order I did!

I was not, however, going to hold my breath until it arrived, because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t. Just seemed to good to be true, and without a set release date – probably was not going to happen. Sure enough, a week or so after ordering it the shipping date was pushed back. And then pushed back again. Now it was supposed to arrive in mid-December. Yeah – right!

Out of sight, out of mind, and then I get an email notice … sometime around mid-December … that an order has shipped. I had a couple Christmas gifts for the fam on order, so I assumed it was one of those. Happily, I was wrong.

Here it is folks:

It’s a beaut!

And someday, if I’m really good and my puppy gives me a couple free minutes, I’ll get to play with it. I can’t wait!

(By the way – I still have that Vic-20 stored away in the closet – it’s the stuff I’ve gotten rid of that I regret, not the stuff I kept.)

I hope you folks get something you want for Christmas this year, or whatever holiday you might celebrate, and I also hope you get something you need.

Love and peace, folks!

Dragon by Dragon – May 1982 (61)

Wow – May of 1982. I was on the verge of being 10 years old, so probably 2 years away from discovering D&D, three from Tolkien and may five from superhero comic books. My only nerd-cred at the time was probably reading encyclopedias. What I do remember being excited about in 1982 – and begging to get for my birthday – were these new army figures called G.I. Joe. Have you seen these things? They’re like Star Wars figures (which I loved), but military (which I loved)! Awesome! I don’t remember exactly what I got that birthday, but I know I got a few of them, and I think I got the jet pack launch pad thingee. Unfortunately, within just a couple years I was done playing with toys, so I never had more than the originals and Doc. Good times, though!

Two-D’lusion (illusion)

A of E: 4 sq.”

CT: 1/6 segment

This cantrip is virtually the same as a phantasmal forces spell in most respects. The caster creates a two-dimensional illusion of whatever he or she desires. If any viewer observes it from an angle of more than about 45° from its horizontal or vertical viewing axis, the nature of the illusion will become immediately apparent. It is dispelled by touch or magic (dispel illusion or dispel magic). The illusion is invisible from the side or the rear. It lasts as long as the caster concentrates upon it. To effectuate the cantrip, the caster must speak a phrase descriptive of the illusion while making a circular motion with his closed hand.

Just so you know, “A of E” is “area of effect” and “CT” is casting time. I think 1/6 a segment would be 1 second, but I might be wrong on that. It’s been a while since I played AD&D.

It wouldn’t be until high school that I discovered Warhammer, and thus White Dwarf magazine. 

I always dig Giants in the Earth, either because it covers characters I know, or introduces me to new characters. This issue we get C. J. Cutliffe Hyne’s Deucalion, John Norman’s Tarl Cabot and Charles R. Saunders’ Dossouye. While I am aware of Cabot and have read some Saunders, I have never experienced first hand the characters described in this issue. I have, however, read Hyne’s The Lost Continent: The Story of Atlantis, from whence Deucalion comes (well, not really – it’s from ancient mythology really), and I can recommend it. A ripping yarn that, in my opinion, was reminiscent of Conan and such barbarian literature long before REH got his sandaled hero off the ground.

I always wanted one of those Dragonbone electonic dice rollers as a kid. A quick search on ebay revealed none for sale. Oh well – maybe some day.

Next are “Without Any Weapons …” by Phil Meyers and then “… or with a … Weird One” by Rory Bowman. The first has new rules for pummeling in AD&D, the rules for which were never very satisfying and always overly complex. They could have been quite simple, but the gaming zeitgeist of the time was all about complexity – a far cry from the old days when the game was the thing. The later article introduces new weapons for AD&D such as atlatls, blow guns, chakrams, bullwhips, etc. I had no interest in complex fighting rules, but always liked new additions like the weapons article.

For the gnome-curious out there, Dragon 61 had some groovy articles by Roger E. Moore about the littlest adventurers in AD&D. “The Gnomish Point of View” fleshes out the gnome characters – of course, your campaign may vary from Moore’s ideas, but it was always helpful, especially when I was young, to see how these things could be fleshed out. It is followed up with “The Gods of the Gnomes” – Baervan, Urdlen, Segojan and Flandal. Of course, Garl Glittergold was introduced earlier. I can remember thinking Flandal Steelskin was cool.

“Quest for the Midas Orb” by Jennie Good is the included module in Dragon 61. It was the third place winner at IDDC III, and I’ll admit I don’t know what that is. Here’s the introduction:

“Long ago in the land of Gnarda lived the worshippers of Kalsones, the god of wealth and power. Kalsones was a fair god who treated his followers kindly. As proof of his fairness and kindness in an era long past, he had presented the people with an artifact called the Midas Orb. Legends say if the Orb is held in one hand and another object is touched with the index finger of the other hand, the object touched will turn to pure gold.”

The adventure is a groovy dungeon crawl with some cool ideas in it. Well worth the read and probably well worth the exploration.

The “Dragon’s Bestiary” includes the Firetail by Ed Greenwood, the Umbrae by Theresa Berger, the Light Worm by Willie Callison and the Tybor by Jeff Brandt. Here’s the Light Worm for Blood & Treasure:

Light Worm by Willie Callison
Type: Monster
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 14
Attack: Bite (1d6 + Poison IV)
Movement: 20′
Save: 16
Intelligence: Animal/Low
Alignment: Neutral
No. Appearing: 1 (25% chance of 1d3)
XP/CL: 1,200/6

SD – MR 75%, Immune (charm, hold, illusions), vulnerable (cold, fire)

Light worms are dungeon denizens with poisonous bites. They look like giant snakes with black underbellies and violet and light blue bands on their backs. The monster’s have two small bumps above their eyes, and stubs on their underside – perhaps vestigal legs. Victims of the light worm’s bite must save vs. poison (at +1 from the first bite, and a cumulative -2 penalty for each additional bite) or die in 1d8 minutes.

There is a 35% chance each round that the worm creates a 20′-diameter sphere of colored lights around victims within 120′. All creatures within the sphere are made dizzy for the first three rounds of their entrapment (-2 to attack, cumulative). In rounds four and five, they are so dizzy as to be incapacitated, and in round six they fall unconscious for 1d10+1 minutes, during which time they are devoured by the monster if at all possible.

Creatures that save against the sphere of lights are only made dizzy for three rounds, shaking off the effect thereafter. Dispel magic, mind blank and true seeing cut through the sphere of lights, as does a helm of telepathy.

The sphere of lights can be generated once every 12 hours.

Light worms are stunned for 1d3 rounds by the sticks to snakes spell, and the spell cancels a sphere of light currently in play.

The Monster Cards described in this issue were really cool. Each one depicts a monster painting on the front, and the stats on the back. If you can find some out in the wild, grab them, cherish them, and use them to kill player characters.

There is an article about introducing aging into the Ringside game, of which I know nothing. It is followed up by the “Jo-Ga-Oh – Little People of the Iroquois” by Conrad Froehlich. These are stats for three “monsters” that are quite groovy.

Gary Gygax has a supplement to Top Secret. Again, I know next to nothing about this game, but I like the level titles for infiltrators – snitch / foist / inside man / plant / ringer / contact / insinuator / penetrator / subversive / infiltrator. Given the title for 8th level, I guess we can assume that’s James Bond’s level. The article also has info on different types of missions, the XP value of them, and other notes. 

Boy – What’s New? With Phil and Dixie was just the best when you were in junior high …

It was fun discovering Phil Foglio’s art in old Star Trek fanzines. Everybody has to start somewhere!

Tramp’s Wormy has some gorgeous artwork – he was just getting better and better!

That, folks, is a wrap! Have fun folks, and please be kind to one another. 

Missing in Action

Holy Smokes – I missed the entire month of November on this blog! I do have a good excuse, though … the newest member of my party, Toby the 1st level Dingo.

I’m only half joking about him being a dingo – apparently he is a mix of Labrador retriever, border collie and Australian cattle dog. Those Australian cattle dogs have dingo blood, so I’ve enjoyed calling him my little dingo, or saying in my best bad Australian accent “the dingo IS my baby!”

For the last month, I’ve been chasing the little dingo around, playing with him, disciplining him, being chewed on by him. Exhausting! We’re finally to the point where I can put a computer on my lap and type for a few minutes each night. It’s also been busy busy busy at work, due to our network going down for a week. I’ve been scrambling to catch up – the fourth quarter reports are looming, and missing a week’s worth of data collection has not helped matters.

That’s my life at the moment – work and puppies. God knows it could be worse. On the bright side, I have my GRIT & VIGOR supplement, High Frontier, ready to go. I just need to combine the PDF files together (which I just realized I cannot do on my “new” laptop computer, because the software is on the old Samsung) and upload them to Drivethru and Lulu. That should be fun – I haven’t uploaded anything for a while. I should have the next NOD issue up pretty soon as well – it’s written and laid out – just needs the final touches.

So, until next time, this is your erstwhile blogger signing off. I’ll update everyone when High Frontier is available, and I’ll endeavor to get a post up this weekend – probably a Dragon by Dragon review. Have fun and please be kind to one another!