New Spells and a Way to Use Them

New magic-user spells – fun to create, but hard to get into a game. After all, a magic-user only has so many spells he can cram into a spellbook, and when it comes time to choose, the average magic-user is going to go for the most useful, and thus usually the most standard, spells in the game. Detect evil might be boring, but it sure is useful.

Since I was inventing a bunch of new spells yesterday, I also went to the trouble of inventing a way magic-users can actually use them. It’s a highly complex set of rules …

FIRST, A MESSAGE FROM OUR SPONSOR

NOD magazine begins its fabulous eighth year with a full hex crawl covering the crumbling empire of Nomo, a Romanesque city that has lost its emperor. As the empire slowly falls, opportunity for adventures abound. The hex crawl includes three mini-dungeons and hundreds of places to visit.

Other features include:

Two old school classes, the Centurion and Dervish, as well as ideas for anti-classes designed to foil fighters, magic-users and thieves.

Rules for playing poker in GRIT & VIGOR, as well as a gambler sub-class

A host of new “eye monsters” for Blood & Treasure and other OSR games

Plus some ideas on votive orders and on introducing the most horrific concept into fantasy gaming ever conceived … Taxes!

AND NOW, BACK TO OUR STORIES

… that are actually not complex at all, and very simple. I call it Quasi-Spell Research

With an hour’s meditation, a magic-user can prepare any magic-user spell permitted by the Referee. The magic-user must have an open “spell slot” for the spell to do this. Once a spell has been prepared in this way, it can never be prepared with quasi-spell research again. It can, at some point, be learned and added to the magic-user’s spell book in the normal way, but not using this method. The magic-user also cannot use quasi-spell research to acquire a spell for making a magic item – she cannot use it to scribe a scroll, brew a potion, etc.

Since we have a rules lite way of accessing all sorts of new spells, how about a few new spells?

Black Sun (Necromancy)
Level: Anti-Cleric 3, Magic-User 3
Area of Effect: 120′ radius
Duration: 1 minute per level

Sunlight in the area of effect becomes gray and wan. It does not harm creatures normally harmed by sunlight, such as vampires.

Fantastic Transformation (Transmutation)
Level: Magic-User 9
Range: Touch
Duration: 10 minutes

This spell requires three subjects plus the caster. All four participants must be holding hands. Upon casting the spell, a bolt of cosmic energy erupts from the spell caster’s hands and travels through the subjects. When it ceases, all four participants in the spell are transformed. The subject with the highest strength score gains the benefit of the stoneskin spell. The subject with the highest dexterity score gains the benefit of the fire shield spell. The subject with the highest wisdom gains the benefits of the improved invisibility spell. The subject with the highest intelligence score takes in the properties of an ooze. If one subject qualifies for more than one of these transformations, they choose which one they want, and the runner-up then takes on one of the other transformations. All transformations last for 10 minutes and then cease.

Freak Out (Illusion)
Level: Magic-User 5
Range: 30′
Duration: See text

You may target all creatures within 30 feet of you with waves of psychedelic weirdness. Creature with 0 to 4 HD are confused for 1 minute. Creatures with 5 to 9 HD begin dancing around like crazy beatniks for 4 rounds and are fatigued for 10 minutes. Creatures with 10 or more HD are stunned for 1 round while they ponder the cosmos, man (and engines that run on water, man – water!), and then fatigued for 10 minutes from the heavy thinking.

Light Fantastic (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: See text
Duration: 1 hour

A beam of light departs the magic-user’s fingertip and proceeds in a direction chosen, bouncing off of solid objects as it goes generally in the direction determined by the caster. The light beam extends for a maximum of 90′ and lasts for one hour, suspended in the area cast. Any creature stepping through this beam of light must pass a saving throw or fall prone on the floor, having tripped (over) the light fantastic.

Melt (Transmutation)
Level: Magic-User 8
Range: 90′
Duration: 10 minutes

For ten minutes, the landscape and all inanimate objects around you seem to melt and bend. They become porous and strange. Walls can be walked through with a d20 roll under a character’s Wisdom score, and creatures can walk on walls and ceilings as though they were the floor. Weapons deal only 1 point of damage (plus strength modifier), and rigid objects become flexible. Everything in the landscape changes color into a brilliant, psychedelic pallet, including living creatures. After the spell ends, all sentient creatures must pass a saving throw or be sickened for 1d6 rounds. Creatures who are sickened must also pass a save or suffer 1d6 points of Wisdom damage.

Mystic Fire of Phango (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 4
Range: 30′
Duration: Instantaneous

The mystic fire reaches out from the spell caster’s fingertips, like hands of liquid white flame, to caress the skull of the target. The spell attempts to erase from the mind of the target their three highest level spells that are also of a level the spell caster can cast. Thus, a 7th level magic-user could erase spells no higher than 4th from a target’s mind.

If the target’s highest vulnerable spells number more than three, then each spell is nominated by the target in turn and the spell caster decides if they wish to target that spell.

For each of the three to be erased, the target can choose to release the spell from their mind, or suffer 1d6 + spell level points of damage to their synapses and retain the spell. Thus, retaining an 8th level spell would inflict 1d6+8 points of damage to the target.

Recharge (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous

The magician uses their own body as a battery to recharge a wand or staff. For every point of Constitution damage or every 1d6 points of hit point damage they are willing to accept, they add 1 charge to a wand or staff.

Silky Smooth (Necromancy)
Level: Magic-User 1
Range: Touch
Duration: See below

At the magician’s touch, the victim loses all of their hair or fur, being left with silky smooth skin. Creatures without hair are unaffected.

Sinister Suspicion (Illusion)
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: 120′
Duration: 24 hours

The target of this spell scans as evil (Chaotic) to detect evil spells for 24 hours.

Sun Shower (Evocation)
Level: Cleric 3
Range: 240′
Duration: 1 round

Particles of light shower down on an area 40′ x 40′ x 40′. Creatures harmed by sunlight suffer 3d10 points of damage (no saving throw) in the affected area.

Supercharge (Evocation)
Level: Magic-User 4
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous

The magician supercharges a wand. On its next use (and only its next use), the wand can expend two charges to cast its spell at either double the range, double the duration or increased damage. Damage is increased by +1 point of damage per dice of damage it normally inflicts. Thus, a three dice lightning bolt would do 3d6+3 points of damage if cast from a supercharged wand.

Transmute Skin to Tongue (Necromancy)
Level: Magic-User 7
Range: 30′
Duration: 1 hour

This bizarre curse changes a creature’s skin to the texture and color of a tongue. Their skin now tastes whatever it touches, a highly disconcerting sensation that requires a saving throw each turn to avoid becoming sickened (for sentient creatures) or frightened (for non-sentient creatures). Creatures without a skin (oozes, energy creatures) are unaffected. The affected creature’s appearance is likewise disconcerting to others, who must pass a save to avoid reacting with revulsion.

Transmute Sound to Light (Illusion)
Level: Magic-User 4
Area of Effect: 30′ radius
Duration: 1 minute

This spell converts all sound in the area of effect into light. The form of the light depends on the sound; singing, for example, might produce a lovely light show, while arguing would cast a harsh reddish light on the area.

Battles, in particular, create a vivid, violent strobe effect, with each clash of arms producing a flash of light. The effect is disorienting, and each creature in the area must pass a saving throw to avoid becoming dizzy (-1 to AC, -1 to hit, each miss in combat by 4 or more points resulting in the attacker falling prone). The dizziness ends when one leaves the area, for outside the area one hears the sounds and does not see the lights.

The Coming of the Triphibians

The triphibians have their origin in a delightful Japanese film with numerous titles, the most common in the U.S. of A. being The Monster from a Prehistoric Planet. Another title (Gappa: The Triphibian Monster) refers to the monsters in question being triphibians. I really dig that word, so I decided to make them into more useful monsters for the average fantasy/sci-fi game – i.e. I resized them as humanoids rather than uber-massive kaiju. Here then, are the triphibians, compatible with Blood & Treasure and other OSR games.

Triphibian

Type: Humanoid
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 15
Attack: Slam (1d4) or by weapon
Movement: 30′ (Fly 90′, Swim 30′)
Save: 16; +3 vs. poison
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d6*
XP/CL: 200/3

SD—Immunity (electricity), resistance (fire)

Triphibians look like beaked humanoids with scaly skin and large wings which they can fold onto their backs, nearly hiding them. They are emotional creatures, and their scales change colors to match their emotions. They are not desirous of contact with other species, and do their best to maintain a wide buffer between their lands and those of other creatures. In their own territory, they are highly aggressive towards intruders, especially when they are protecting their eggs and their young. In battle, they fight with swords, spears, bows and javelins, and sometimes use shields.

Triphibians can fly and they can breath underwater, making them a triple threat. Nations that have gone to war with them find their skies blackened by their warriors dropping heavy stones or bombs, and their boats falling prey to their attacks from underwater. Triphibians do not believe in fair fights, and use their abilities to the fullest to get an advantage.

Triphibians dwell in tribes of 1d6 x 60 warriors and twice as many noncombatants. They usually make their home underwater near thermal vents or in secluded mountain strongholds near lakes. It is not unusual for 1d6 tribes to live within a mile of one another, forming a confederation.

Triphibian tribes are commanded by a 6 HD king or queen who can breath a 10′ cone of electricity (2d6 damage) three times per day. These kings and queens undergo a secret ritual that increases their size to Large and their intelligence to High. The king or queen is attended by a bodyguard of 3d6 warriors with 2+1 Hit Dice. There is a 36% chance that a tribe has a spell caster, usually an adept (roll 1d4 for level). This philosopher, as the triphibians call them, is a spiritual teacher to the people, attends the king or queen on matters of state, conducts public rituals (including coronations) and joins the tribe in battle.

NOTE: These monsters would work very well in a PARS FORTUNA campaign, substituting for the larger humanoids like gnolls and bugbears that appear in traditional fantasy. By adding ray guns and such to their weaponry and putting them in serene bubble architecture above or below the sea, they would also work in a sci-fi setting such as Space Princess.

Bloody Basic (Revised) Stats

Size: Medium
Type: Humanoid
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 16
Movement: 30′ (Fly, Swim)
Attacks: Slam or Weapon
Saving Throw: 16
Alignment: Neutral
CL/XP: 3/300

Spider Mage

I’ve been needing to get back into the nitty gritty of daily blog updates for a while – it’s just hard with all the writing and layout and editing and such that I’ve involved myself in. So, here’s another shot at it, based on tiny inspiration and a bit of “hmm – I guess nobody has done that before”.

The Spider Mage

Not every apprentice magic-user has it in them to be great wizard (see the Laser Mage, for example). This drives some into weird cults, such as that of the Arachno, the Spider God. Whispered about by the apprentices in the corners at wizard gatherings, Arachno is a secretive god who grants great powers upon those mages willing to enter his service. His living idols are said to lurk under most great cities, in some otherwise abandoned cellar or sewer tunnel or whatnot.

An apprentice willing to enter Arachno’s service must first find one of his living idols (a giant spider) and then parlay with it, offering gifts and oaths and the like. If the giant spider finds the apprentice acceptable, he sheds a spiky hair, which the little magi must use to tattoo Arachno’s symbol onto his forearm. This allows the apprentice to enter the spider mage class. Most spider mages will go on to make their tattoo really boss, and they will add others to their body as they advance.

Requirements and Restrictions

As the normal magic-user class

Spider Mage Skills

Climb Walls—As the thief skill of the same name.

Lore—As the magic-user skill of the same name.

Poison Use—As the assassin skill of the same name.

Spider Mage Abilities

Spider mages cast magic-user spells using the same rules as magic-users. To learn advanced spells, spider mages have a percentage chance equal to their intelligence score minus the spell level.

Spider mages enjoy a +2 reaction bonus with spiders and spider-like creatures, and a +2 bonus to save vs. their poison.

Starting at 2nd level, and at every even level thereafter, a spider mage grows an additional arm. This arm is a normal human arm in every respect, and it bears the same tattoo on its forearm that the spider mage gave himself when he became a spider mage.

For every two additional arms a spider mage grows, he can cast one additional spell per round.

Spider mages learn how to prepare their spells with modifications. Attack spells come in the form of touches, rays, lines (like lightning bolt), cones and blasts (like fireball). Spider mages can prepare an attack spell of one type as an attack spell of another. This sometimes changes the level of the spell.

Lines and rays retain their same range. Cones have a length equal to half the length of a ray or line version of the spell; likewise, ray or line versions of a cone spell have a range equal to twice the length of the cone. Blast spells have a range as line and ray spells equal to their blast radius, and a length as cone spells equal to half this.

Turning lines into cones and vice versa does not change a spell’s level. Turning a cone or line into a ray lowers the spell level by one. Turning anything into a blast increases the spell level by 1. Turning a blast into a line, ray or cone lowers the spell level by 1, and into a ray by 2.

At every even level, a spider mage must bring a sacrifice with levels or hid dice equal to the level he wishes to attain to feed his spider patron. This gruesome feast increases the giant spider’s hit dice by +2 and gives it magic use . This magic use starts at first level magic-user spells, and advances by one spell level with each subsequent feast.

Spider Cult
To advance to 12th level, a spider mage must kill his spider patron and bathe in its ichor. When he does this, he starts a spider cult to Arachno, gaining 3d6 adherents (normal humans), 2d6 guardsmen (men-at-arms), 1d6 acolytes (1st level anti-clerics) and a consort (male or female) who is a 3rd level spider mage, as well as a giant spider (large size, 4 HD) to serve as his mount and as the cult’s living idol.

Spider Mage Advancement

 

Dragon by Dragon – September 1981 (53)

Glory be – I finally have enough time this weekend to do another Dragon by Dragon, this one on issue #53 from September 1981.

The first thing I noticed about this issue was the cover. This was not an issue I had as a young nerd, but the cover painting by Clyde Cauldwell, which makes it seem very familiar.

I started playing D&D in 1984, introduced by a friend, Josh Tooley, in 6th grade. He watched his older brother play with some friends, and so with a hand-drawn map on notebook paper, a d6 and a vague recollection of what went on, he ran me through a dungeon during recess. I was hooked, and convinced my parents to get me the game – in this case Moldvay Basic purchased at Toys ‘r’ Us – for Christmas. Good times.

So, let’s see what TSR had to offer 35 years ago.

One of the best things about these magazines in the old days were the advertisements. All these games – and God knew what they were – with all this art. It was all so new to me when I was a kid. Take this ad from I.C.E.

I never had any of their games, but I always admired the art in the adverts – and can you have a cooler name for a company than Iron Crown Enterprises?

Jake Jaquet’s editorial this issue was just the tip of the iceberg …

“There is a bit of a new trend in gaming that I find a bit disturbing, and perhaps it should be food for thought for all of us. I refer to the recent interest in so-called “live” games, especially of the “assassin” or “killer” varieties.”

I remember back in 7th grade some kids running T.A.G. – The Assassinatiom Game. All who participated had to draw the name of another player and kill them – which meant pointing at them and saying “bang”. The victim would then hand his slip over to his assassin, and so it would go until the game was over. Alas, but 2nd period it was all over – a couple morons tried to assassinate their victims in class, and the administration called the game off. I suppose now we would have all been expelled.

Enough of this memory lane stuff, let’s get on to the offerings:

“Why Isn’t This Monk Smiling?” by Philip Meyers brings up the shortcomings of the monk class, and tries to improve on it. The point is actually well made – the idea of suffering through many very weak levels to be powerful at high levels may appear balanced, but it doesn’t work well in practice. To fix things, Philip introduces a new level advancement chart, plays with the rate at which the monk improves its abilities, and adds some new special abilities, some of them psychic. He also makes it easier for the monk to hit those higher levels, without always having to fight another monk.

The monk isn’t out of the fire yet. Steven D. Howard writes in “Defining and Realigning the Monk” a few questions and answers about the monk, mostly to cover why they can’t do some things (answer – I guess it wouldn’t be lawful) and how to once again handle the whole limited number of monks over 7th level. This issue’s Sage Advice keeps the hits coming, with more discussion of the good old monk.

Dude – I had those. Still have some of them, as a matter of fact. Love that packaging, and I always dug that logo.

Next up is Andrew Dewar’s “The Oracle”. This character class always seems like a obvious choice for gaming, but because it deals with the future (which turns out, it is not possible to predict), pulling it off is always tough, both in terms of the abilities, and making it a playable class. Of course, the oracle here is an “NPC class”, meaning not meant for players, but we all played them anyways.

The oracle can cast divination spells, and can use some other divination abilities. It must have an Int and Wis of 14 or higher. Oracles can be human, elf or half-elf. Advancing beyond 11th level requires the oracle to challenge a higher level oracle to a game of riddles (which makes no sense if this is an NPC class … and there is actually half a page spent discussing advancing in level over 11th level).

The innate abilities are various forms of divination – rhabdomancy, arithomancy, etc. – which the class has a percentage chance of using successfully at different levels.

Lewis Pulsipher has a nice introduction to heraldry in “Understanding Armory”. It’s a great primer for those interested in the subject.

Roger E. Moore has the lowdown on “Some Universal Rules – Making Your Own Campaign – and Making It Work”, which covers exactly what he says. He gives a step-by-step on how he designed an original campaign world, based on nothing but his imagination. He also gives a nice set of ways from getting from one universe to another:

1. Cross-universal caves – always go from one world to another.
2. Teleport chains – a length chain of a weird metal that, when surrounding a group and the ends joined pops them into another world.
3. Rings or amulets – like the fabled Ring of Gaxx
4. Rooms and corridors at the bottom of a dungeon
5. Cursed scrolls
6. Angry wizard with a new spell
7. Wish
8. Magical items causing etherealness
9. Psionic probability travel
10. Magic spells (astral spell, plane shift)
11. Mutational planar travel (i.e. Gamma World)
12. Artifacts
13. Advanced technology
14. Acts of the gods

He also notes Dorothy’s ruby slippers

Judith Sampson has a really interesting article called “Adventuring With Shaky Hands”, in which she describes playing the game with choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy. Worth a read.

In “Larger than Life”, David Nalle covers “The Bogatyrs of Old Kiev”. Here are a few highlights:

Prince Vladimir I, The Saint, is a LG 13th level fighter in +5 chainmail with a +3/+4 broad sword. Ilya Muromets is  a LG 20th level fighter – a Cossack with long blond hair – with a mace that scores 2d10 damage.

He also has stats for Baba Yaga, though I don’t know how they compare to the later version in the famous Dancing Hut adventure.

Speaking of adventures, this issue has “The Garden of Nefaron” by Howard de Wied. This adventure won first place in the Advanced Division IDDC II, so it has that going for it, which is nice. This puppy includes some wilderness and a dungeon, and is meant for a large group of relatively high level characters. It also includes some nice Jim Holloway art, one of my faves.

The dungeon has a ki-rin as its caretaker, there are corridors and rooms filled with magic mists, illusions and a really great map (with Dyson-esque cross-hatching).

 

#53 also has some Top Secret material by Merle M. Rasmussen, with scads of spy equipment.

The Dragon’s Bestiary covers Argas (by James Hopkins II), lawful good reptilian humanoids that gain powers from devouring magic, Oculons (by Roger E. Moore), which are enchanted monsters created by magic-users as guardians (and which look super cool) and Narra (by Jeff Goetz), which are lawful human-headed bulls.

Len Lakofka has some extensive info on doors in his Tiny Hut and Matt Thomas does some work on the AD&D disease rules in “Give Disease a Fighting Chance”.

If you like triffids, you’ll like “The Way of the Triffids” by Mark Nuiver. Let’s do a triffid in Blood & Treasure stats:

Triffid

Type: Small to Large
Size: Plant
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 7
Attack: Stinger (10′/1d3 + poison)
Move: 10′
Save: 14
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N) with evil tendencies
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 600/7

They can hide in foliage with 94% chance of success, and they attack with a stinger. The stinger requires two saves vs. poison. If the first is saved, it means instant death. If the second is failed it means blindness and 2d4 additional points of damage.

For the Traveller fans, Dennis Matheson presents “Merchants Deserve More, Too”, which covers character creation for merchants.

Another great ad. I’d dig one of these shirts.

Besides reviews and such, that’s it for September 1981 … except for the comics.Here’s a dandy from Will McLean …

And though no Wormy this month, here’s one of the nifty D&D comics by Willingham …

Khellek shouldn’t be confused with Kellek

“That’s the pepper – right down the middle!”

Or Kelek, Evil Sorcerer

Apparently a popular name among magic-users.

Have fun, guys and gals!

Get Bleeped

Monsters can come from the unlikeliest places, but this one came from a doodle (see below) on a scratchpad while I was on a conference call.

Bleep

Never had an art lesson – can you believe it? *

Type: Construct
Size: Small
Hit Dice: 3+1
Armor Class: 16 (20 vs. metal)
Move: Fly 60′
Attack: Zap (5′/1d6 electricity) or slam (1d4 + 1d6 electricity)
Save: 15
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral (LN)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 300/4

SD—Resistance (acid, fire), immunity (electricity, mind effects)

SP—See below

Bleeps are constructs that hail from the Astral Plane. They materialize on other planes to learn about their ecosystems, recording data and testing inhabitants, before returning from whence they came (wherever that may be). Whether they are in control of themselves, or serve another species, is unknown. Bleeps communicate in a stilted, robotic voice. Due to their time on a given plane recording information, they have a 75% chance to speak the language of any creature they encounter.

Bleeps are surrounded by an electromagnetic field, which gives them an AC 20 against metal objects. Against spells that involve metal hurlants, they enjoy a +3 bonus to saving throws. This also allows them to zap creatures up to five feet away with electricity and their touch is also electrifying.

The bleep’s main weapon, though, is its ability to conjure replicas of creatures using pure energy. This acts as the different “summon monster” spells, I through IX. They can use one spell at a time, and while they use that spell, they lose a number of hit points equal to the level of the spell. Thus, a bleep using summon monster IX loses 9 hit points while the spell is active. When the spell is deactivated, the hit points return. If a bleep is destroyed while conjuring a monster, the monster disappears and the bleep, reduced to 0 hit points, does not suddenly pop back to life.

The interior of the construct is something like a geode, being a composition of weird crystals covering the interior of the metal shell. A sphere of ethereal nth metal floats in the center of this metal shell while the monster is functional, held in place by an inner electromagnetic field. When the monster is no longer fuctional, and if it is opened, the nth metal quickly floats upward at a rate of 30 feet per round, probably to never be seen again unless someone has a handy silver net with which to catch it.


* This is a lie – I took an art class in high school. I just suck at drawing.

Secret Ability Scores

Of course he has an 18 charisma – just ask Juanita and Thelma Lou

I was recently thinking about self-awareness. How many people have you known who were not nearly as charismatic or intelligent as they thought they were? Their failings seem obvious, but are blissfully unaware of them. I thought that this might offer a fun and interesting way for veteran players to liven up their old games.

In most fantasy games, characters have ability scores. These scores are rolled by the player and known to the player. This knowledge plays a role in the player’s choice of their character’s class or career, and it influences their actions in the game.

But what if players did not know their character’s ability scores? Might make for an interesting game, no?

(Or maybe a complete disaster)

It all hinges, to use Blood & Treasure as an example, on wisdom. Wisdom deals with awareness, not only of one’s surroundings, but of oneself. A character with even average wisdom should be able to gauge how intelligent and charismatic they are … and how wise they are. The wise man knows what he knows not, so to speak. Characters with low wisdom, on the other hand, assume natural abilities they do not actually have. If wisdom is low enough, they may even be unaware of their physical limitations. A foolish man can talk himself into anything, after all.

Here’s the idea – a player rolls his or her ability scores with their eyes closed. The GM writes them down. If you’re rolling ability scores in order, all the better. If not, the player can decide which score gets the highest roll, then the next highest, and so on. There will be some clues if you’re doing it this way, but no system is perfect.

In all cases, the player does not know his or her character’s wisdom score unless it is 13 or higher. If lower than 13, roll a dice – on a 1-3 they think it’s average and on a 4-6 they think it is high.

If the character’s Wisdom score is 13 or higher, the player gets to know all of her ability scores.

If the character’s Wisdom score is 9 or higher, the player gets to know his physical ability scores and either his intelligence or charisma score (his choice). The mystery score is believed to be high.

If the character’s Wisdom score is 6 to 8, they get to know their physical ability scores, but not their mental scores. You just tell them that their intelligence and charisma are high and leave it at that, regardless of the actual score.

If the character’s Wisdom score is 3 to 5, they don’t know any of their ability scores, but are simply told that they are all high, again, regardless of the actual scores.

Now, this creates a certain difficulty, as classes often have ability score requirements for entry. You could tell the player that their character, who they think has a high intelligence, cannot cut it as a magic-user, of course, but then the player should know they have an intelligence lower than 9.

I can think of a couple ways to go with this:

1) If they pick a class for which they cannot qualify, they instead become a wash-out and end up as a fighter or thief (assuming they can qualify for those classes). They might still act like a wizard or priest, but they won’t be and they’ll know it and probably resent the hell out of those who actually did enter the class of their choice.

2) Another way to go is to permit them entry into the class with lower scores, and apply an XP penalty to their advancement. Maybe a -10% for every score that isn’t up to muster. These are characters who try really hard, but it takes them forever to get the hang of things.

The idea here is to produce Barney Fifes in your game – characters who have to get in over their heads a few times before they slowly figure out their limitations. Characters who insist they should try to decipher the magic rune because they have the highest intelligence, even though their intelligence is actually a ‘6’. Characters who bumble and stumble a bit, just like we do in real life.

Dragon by Dragon – August 1981 (52)

With the 2nd edition of Blood & Treasure essentially done (well, almost done), I can get back on track with these Dragon reviews. Number 52 is from August of 1981, and features a Boris Vallejo cover of a butterfly-winged dragon and beautiful naked woman … which of course is a rarity for a Boris painting. Boris gets a little full article inside the magazine as well.

So – I’ve got Mystery Science Theater 3000 on the television and a gin gimlet in my belly, and I’m ready to show off the bits and pieces that I found useful and/or inspirational in #52 …

First and foremost, a nice piece of comic/advertising work by Bill Willingham, one of my favorites from the olden days.

This involves the adventurers Auric, Tirra and the wizard Khellek (who does not appear to be this guy – scroll down a bit). Auric is an ill-armored fighter, Tirra could be a thief or fighter and Khellek is a wizard. They tangle briefly with a jackalwere and then … to be continued.

The first real article is dedicated to the much maligned cleric class. “The Role of the Cleric – Warriors with Wisdom” is by Robert Plamondon, and it does a nice job of explaining the class, some of its inspirations and ways to play it well. If the image below, by Jim Holloway, doesn’t make you want to play the class, I don’t know what will …

The article has a few nice bits that might stir the creative juices of players and GM’s out there, such as a list of acts of worship, in order of potency:

1. Thinking religious thoughts.
2. Formal prayer.
3. Attending rites or church services.
4. Feasts, festivals, fasts, self-punishment, vigils- as part of religious rites.
5. Sacrifice of valuables.
6. Dying in a holy conflict.
7. Killing an enemy in a holy conflict.
8. Sacrifice of an unbeliever.
9. Sacrifice of an unwilling believer.
10. Sacrifice of a willing believer.

#10 seems like a dicey prospect for Lawful clerics.

Douglas Loss adds a bit more with his article “The Land is My Land …”, including this bit about clerics and swords, including this from The Song of Roland

Turpin of Rheims, finding himself o’erset,
With four sharp lance-heads stuck fast within his breast,
Quickly leaps up, brave lord, and stands erect.
He looks on Roland and runs to him and says
Only one word: “I am not beaten yet!
True man never failed while life was in him left!”
He draws Almace, his steel-bright brand keen-edged;
A thousand strokes he strikes into the press.
Soon Charles shall see he spared no foe he met,
For all about him he’ll find four hundred men,
Some wounded, some clean through the body cleft,
And some of them made shorter by a head.
— The Song of Roland, Laisse 155

So Turpin got to swing a sword, why doesn’t your cleric? Well, to start off with, Turpin also doesn’t get to cast spells or turn undead. Douglas thinks the rule should be thrown out, because its not “realistic” and because in AD&D the mace is as good as sword. I disagree – swords are more than just a damage range, but the “no sharp weapons” rule also takes many magic weapons out of a cleric’s hands, thus helping the old fighter stay relevant.

Douglas Loss is back with “The Sense of Sacrifices”, and this is a neat one about the chances of deities granting clerics spells they aren’t high enough in level to cast. It all hinges on sacrifices of inanimate objects (valuable or symbolic, of course), animals and sentient creatures of a wildly different alignment than the cleric. To boil it down – 2% per 100 gp value of inanimate objects, symbol items 5%, animals 2% (or 3% if it is favored by the deity) and 5% for sentient beings. The chance shouldn’t be higher than 50%, and each subsequent miracle should have a 5% penalty applied if the cleric tries this too often.

Sage Advice is cleric-centered as well. I enjoyed how this answer began:

Q: What happens when a Resurrection or a Raise Dead is cast on an undead?

A: Hmmm. It stands to reason …

In other words – crap, we hadn’t thought of that.

For lovers of the old school, the cleric stuff is followed by two articles concerning the new Basic D&D set. The first is written by J. Eric Holmes, author of the first edition, and the second by Tom Moldvay himself. Holmes has the longer article, and it explains the hows and whys of Basic D&D. Holmes fans have probably already read it, but if they haven’t, I would highly suggest it.

For modern gamers, Paul Montgomery Crabaugh’s “The Undercover Job Guide” can be useful … especially if they’re setting a game in 1981. Written for TOP SECRET, it covers a number of jobs and gives you some ideas on their access to travel and their salaries. Here are a couple of items:

Home Economics: travel potential moderate to high; starting salary $20,000/year (variable); almost no connection with what the field is normally thought of to include: agents in this field will very likely be chefs, or connected with the creation of fashion or decoration: female agents have a good chance of being models (salary quite variable).

Physical Education: travel potential high; starting salary quite variable; almost certainly an agent will be an athlete in this AOK: by preference, one in a sport played throughout much of the world. Tennis is an excellent choice; golf, soccer and track & field are also good.

Yeah, a pair of spies who work in a high school would be pretty fun.

This issue’s Giants in the Earth by Katharine Brahtin Kerr covers Prospero (Lawful Good 14th level magic-user), his pals Ariel (a neutral “high-grade” air elemental – I would have gone sylph, mostly because Ariel is a sylph) and Caliban the chaotic evil half-orc, and Circe (chaotic neutral 18th level magic-user). Here’s a nice bit …

The best way to get the upper hand over Circe is to possess the strange herb known as moly. The god Hermes gave Ulysses some of this herb, said to grow only in Olympus. With it, Ulysses mastered Circe’s magic and made her turn his crew back into men from swine. If the DM wants moly available in the campaign, it should either be fantastically expensive or else a gift to a cleric from his or her god.

If a character wears moly, all of Circe’s polymorph spells will fail against that character, and the power of her other spells against that character will be weakened considerably; the character should get a +2 on all saving throws against her magic. Circe cannot touch this herb to steal it away, nor can her maidservants.

For more information on moly, click HERE.

We also learn Circe’s spell list: 1st-charm person, comprehend languages, friends, read magic, sleep; 2nd-detect invisibility, ESP, forget, ray of enfeeblement, web; 3rd-fly, hold person, dispel magic, slow, suggestion; 4th-charm monster, confusion, fear, polymorph other, massmorph; 5th-animal growth, feeblemind, hold monster, passwall, transmute rock to mud; 6th-control weather, enchant an item, legend lore; 7th-charm plants, mass invisibility, vanish; 8th-mass charm, polymorph any object; 9th-imprisonment.

Dragon #52 also has a groovy little Gamma World adventure by Gary Jaquet called “Cavern of the Sub-Train”. This might sound like a subway romp in the ruins of New York, but it’s actually a romp through something more like Elon Musk’s hyperloop. This network spanned the entire North American continent.

The adventure is left open-ended, so should come in handy to folks playing post-apoc games.

Victor Selby and Ed Greenwood introduce the Rhaumbusun in Dragon’s Bestiary. Here’s a quick B&T-style statblock:

Rhaumbusun, Small Monster: HD 1+2; AC 13; ATK 1 bite (1d3); MV 20′; SV 16; Int Low; AL Neutral (N); NA 1d2; XP/CL 100/2; Special-Gaze attack (40′ range; paralyze for 3d4 turns)

Lewis Pulsipher has some interesting, peaceful gas-filled beasts called pelins. Not much for a fight, but they’re semi-intelligent, so maybe they could be helpful in completing a quest if the players are smart enough to be nice to them and attempt communication.

Michael Kluever gives a nice history of siege warfare in “Knock, Knock!”. Worth a read for people new to the subject.

Up next are three – count ’em three – takes on the bounty hunter class by Scott Bennie, Tom Armstrong, and Robert L Tussey and Kenneth Strunk. Lets judge them by the most relevant part of the class – the class titles!

The use of revenger, head hunter and manhunter are nice, but the inclusion of esquire by Armstrong wins the competition. Anything that can bring Bill & Ted into the conversation can only be good for a D&D game.

Hey – what the heck is this?

A Google search brings up a computer game designed for use with the Fantasy Trip. Pretty cool!

There are reviews of some cool miniatures from Ral Partha (hill giant, storm giant, cold drake), Heritage USA (hill giant and beholder and superheroes and supervillains), Castle Creations (condor and skull splitter giant), Penn-Hurst/Greenfield (a plastic castle), Citadel (ogre, giant spider) and Grenadier (the dragon’s lair), as well as Basic Role-Playing, TIMELAG and Dungeon Tiles.

Not a bad issue – more advice-centric than number-y, but you get bounty hunters and a paralyzing lizard, so what the hey!

I leave you as always with Tramp

Remember – never trust gamers discovered in the wild!!!

The Animorph, an Animal for All Seasons

How the time does fly, and the world robbed of my nonsense for a couple weeks while I prepared nonsense of another sort.

Here’s a quick rundown – finished editing the B&T Monster book – yay! – so I should get it up for sale soon. Just need to work in the changes, fix some images, etc. This could be a rough week for my mom, so I have no idea how much RPG work I can get done, but the last weekend was productive, so we’ll see. I’m also about half-way there on NOD 30. I’ve been so into writing rulebooks the last few months I’m really missing writing the fun stuff.

In the meantime, here’s a little half-baked idea for gaming fun …

The Animorph

The animorph can change into an animal.

Skills
Animorphs are skilled at handling animals and riding (which they can do with no riding equipment at no penalty).

Abilities
An animorph can shift shape once per day per level (and shifting shape means from one form to another, but not back – that counts as a different shift), can only take the form of natural animals, and cannot take an animal form with more Hit Dice than they have levels. While in animal form they retain their own mentality (though not the ability to speak) and current hit points, but make attacks as though they were that animal (i.e. as a monster, with no bonuses for Strength or Dexterity, multiple attacks if the animal has them, special abilities if the animal has them, etc.) rather than as a character.

Animorphs gain an additional +1 bonus to save vs. polymorph and other transformations. They are immune to lycanthropy.

3rd level animorphs can speak to animals (non-magically). 6th level animorphs can also take the shape of giant insects, provided they do not normally have greater than animal intelligence.

Animorphs can deal damage to monsters only hit by silver or magic weapons if they have more levels than the monster has Hit Dice.

At 9th level, animorphs begin attracting animal friends. At each level from 9th to 12th level, an animorph attracts a number of HD of animals equal to their level (thus 9 HD of animals at 9th level, another 10 HD of animals at 10th level, etc.) These animals serve faithfully, but if killed are not replaced. The animorph can add these animals all at once, or over time, and they can only add animals native to the environment in which they currently reside.
Animorphs are wanderers – they cannot construct a stronghold of their own, though they can reside for up to a month at the stronghold of an ally, or in a village (but never a town or city).

Other Info:

RQ Wisdom 13+, Cha 11+
HD d6 (+2 hp per level after 10th)
W/A Can use light weapons, can wear up to leather armor (but must remove it to take animal shape)
ATK As druid
SV As druid
XP As fighter

Edit: Added a bit about hit points and such – nothing major

Three New Monsters

Boy, have I been on a roller coaster ride lately. Work continues on the Blood & Treasure Second Edition Monster book, but has been slow due to some medical issues. Amidst the stress and activity, I’m still editing and working on some one-page dungeons that will be included in the book. Hopefully won’t take too much longer, but you can’t rush these things, and medical issues certainly have to take precedence over make-believe.

In the meantime, I managed to cobble together a few new monsters for your edification and enjoyment over lunch. The artwork is my half-assed sketch of a brazen godling …

Parrot Man

Type: Humanoid
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 12 + armor
Move: 30′
Attack: Bite (1d3) or by weapon
Save: 16; 20 vs. mental control
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Varies
No. Appearing: 1d10
XP/CL: 50/1

Parrot men look very much like human beings, except for their parrot’s beak and their brilliantly hued skin, often spotted in place or marked with whorls or jagged stripes, especially on the arms and legs. They are garbed in looks tunics, perhaps to better show off their skins with which they take a terribly amount of pride, and they rarely carry more than staff slings and truncheons to defend themselves. Warriors are almost unknown among them, though some become thieves (up to 9th level) or magic-users (up to 6th level).

Parrot men are noted for a singular lack of original thinking. What they read or hear they believe and repeat until they’ve heard something new. This makes their alignments highly variable (exposure to a new alignment has a 3 in 6 chance of persuading the parrot man to adopt it), yet always lacking in conviction.

Brazen Godling

Type: Outsider
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 9+3
Armor Class: 17
Move: 40′
Attack: 2 slams (2d6)
Save: 12; 9 vs. mental effects; MR 25%
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 4,500/11

SD-Immunity (disease, poison), resistance (electricity, fire)

Brazen godlings are formed from the heroic frustrations of the weak and cowardly, becoming encased with demon stuff on the Astral Plane and then deposited in a sheath of bronzed flesh in the wastelands of the Material Plane. They are universally handsome and mad.

Brazen godlings attack with their fists or, when they have lost them, the black tentacles that lie beneath their flesh, for every brazen godling is really a black, tentacled demon heart encased in a tall, strong humanoid body. Attacks against the brazen godling that deal damage have a chance on a d20 equal to that damage of tearing away a bit of the monster’s outer flesh. Roll on the table below to discover what it has shed.

D12 Body Part
1. Leg, left lower
2. Hand, left
3. Posterior
4. Arm, right lower
5. Leg, right thigh
6. Arm, right, upper
7. Leg, left thigh
8. Arm, left lower
9. Hand, right
10. Leg, right lower
11. Arm, left upper
12. Head (reveals tentacle, giving an extra attack each round)

When head and limbs have been removed, the next attack destroys the torso and permits the demon within to be attacked directly. It has 30 hit points and the same stats presented above, save it can only be damaged by magic weapons of +1 or better. The demon heart has five black tentacles (one hidden in each limb, and one curled up in the head), which continue to ooze the creature’s black tears (see below).

A brazen godling, while it retains its head, cries tears of black ichor that have the same properties as unholy water. In melee, these tears may land on attackers, forcing them to save or fall into a terrible despair (-2 to attack and save) for 24 hours. When the being’s flesh is removed, the demon heart continues to secrete this ichor in battle.

Laserhawk

Type: Monster
Size: Small
Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 13
Move: 20′ (Fly 150′)
Attack: Talons and bite (1d4) or laser rays (2d6 fire)
Save: 16
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 100/2

Laserhawks are large birds of prey with scaled skin and golden feathers. They can emit laser rays from their eyes, both directed at the same target. The rays permit a saving throw, and if that is failed deal 2d6 points of fire damage to their target.

Laserhawk blood can be used to make an unguent that provides complete immunity to fire, but at the cost of one’s eyesight. Both effects last for 24 hours, even if the unguent is washed off.

Random Berserking

Going berserk in combat is such a chaotic thing (small “c” chaotic, of course) that it seems like a perfect place to stick in a random table.

I thought about making a random berserking table for the barbarians in Blood & Treasure Second Edition, but space constraints and a desire to avoid excess dice rolling (I know, for some there cannot be enough) I didn’t. Still, I wrote it, so I might as well get it out there!

Berserkergang

Roll 1d10 and add your barbarian level (or half your fighter level, if your GM swings that way). You may roll once for the combat, or roll each round, with the effect lasting for that round and then ending.
d10
Effect
1-6
+1 to attack, +2 to damage; +1d6 damage vs. non-humanoids
5-11
+1 to AC, +2 to all saving throws
12-15
Two attacks each round
16-18
+2 to attack, +4 to damage; +2d6 damage vs. non-humanoids
19-20
Immune to fear and spells of 2nd level or lower; +1d6 damage to spell casters
21
Opponents must save or be frightened
22
Continue fighting after reaching 0 hit points; save vs. death at end of combat or die
23
Immune to spells of 5th level or lower; +2d6 damage to spell casters
24
Three attacks each round
25
Roll twice, combine results
While berserk, you cannot cast spells, make ranged attacks (other than throwing things), retreat from combat, make or follow complex plans, stop attacking a foe until you or it are dead, and when you kill one foe you must move on to the next closest foe.