Dragon by Dragon – February 1981 (46)

Happy Easter boys and girls. I hope you have a good one – family, friends, fun and a little time for relaxation and meditation. Hopefully, you also have some time to read this review of Dragon 46 (and White Dwarf 23).

I’ll level with you here. The first time I saw this cover, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. There are a few other “cute” Dragon covers, but this one sorta took the cake. It’s not a bad cover, though, and actually relates to a new comic in this issue – Pinsom by Steve Swenston. It’s a style of fantasy I always digged, and one which I wish had had more coverage in Dragon. Check the end of the article for another glimpse of Swenston’s work.

Moving on …

First up – an advertisement (no, not for anything I did)

Yes, for those of us who lived through the transition, there was home entertainment BEFORE Dungeon!, and home entertainment AFTER Dungeon!. You young whippersnappers have no idea.

In all seriousness, if you’ve never played the game, I highly recommend it (at least, the old version that I used to have – I don’t know if they done any crappy re-imaginings lately). It just occurred to me that it might be cool to combine Dungeon! with Talisman – at least, with the “classes” in Talisman.

The first bit of content in this issue is a short story by J. Eric Holmes, “The Sorcerer’s Jewel” – so always worth a read. Great art by Roslof to go with it! Here’s a sample (of art and text) …

“When Tarkan departed from The Green Dragon, only minutes later, Zereth pushed Boinger off the end of the wooden bench on which they both sat. “Follow him,” he ordered, “and be secretive about it.” It was midnight when the little thief returned. His elven companion had left the tavern common room and gone upstairs to the rented room the two shared, but when Boinger roused him he dressed and came down. The noisy crowd at the bar and fire served their secret purpose better than whispering in their room, where ears might be pressed to the adjoining wall.”

That image to the right just screams D&D to me, and the story does as well. I’ll admit I’m not much of a reader of the fiction in The Dragon, which I should probably remedy at some point, given that I dig Gardner Fox, Homes and Gygax. More importantly, It would be interesting to glean some bits of useful lore from the stories that ostensibly come from actual gameplay.

Here’s another Roslof from that issue:

Love the halfling.

This issue goes pretty heavy into variants on Divine Right (which I don’t have) and touches on The Tribes of Crane (which I never played). I mention this in case people have do have or have played those games want to check out the issue.

The “Dragon’s Bestiary” features the Gaund by Ed Greenwood. Greenwood’s monsters are always well thought out, and seem to point to the direction in which games were moving at the time, which I guess you could call fantasy realism.

I’m more enthused about Roger E. Moore‘s “This Here’s Tyrannosaurus Tex”, a Boot Hill Scenario based on The Valley of the Gwangi.

For those who do not know of The Valley of the Gwangi

I haven’t seen it in a long time – I need to put it on the list.

Among other things, the article includes a hit location chart for the t-rex …

01-20  Tail
21-50  Rear leg
51-55  Forearm
56-75  Abdomen (1% chance of mortal wound)
76-85  Chest (5% chance of mortal wound)
86-00  Head and neck (2% chance of mortal wound)

Also this handy guide to killing a t-rex with dynamite

“For every two sticks of dynamite used against a Tyrannosaur in one attack, there is a cumulative 50% chance of stunning it for one turn (10 seconds), a 25% chance of inflicting a wound or wounds (d10: 1-2 = one wound, 3-5 = two wounds, 6-8 = three wounds, 9-0 = four wounds), and a cumulative 10% chance of killing it outright. This percentage is reduced by 20% (for stunning, wounding, and killing) for each 2” (12’) that the monster is distant from the explosion. For example, 20 sticks of dynamite exploded 4” (24’) from a Tyrannosaur has a 460% chance of stunning it (500-40=460), a 210% chance of wounding it (250-40=210) and a 60% chance of killing it (100-40=60). Treat any amount of dynamite greater than 40 sticks as 40 sticks.”

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh follows up with another Boot Hill article, “How to ease the Boot Hill identity crisis”. I love the first paragraph …

“Everyone seems to have a place in Boot Hill except the player-characters, who have to be content with a place on Boot Hill. They wander in out of nowhere, invariably causing much havoc and then moving on.”

I have to admit, that sounds pretty good to me – not sure I want to remedy that situation. However, if you do, you’ll find a random table of identities for a Boot Hill character. I dig the fact that female characters have a 2% chance to be nuns. I’d love to play a gunslinging nun.

The feature of this issue is “The Temple of Poseidon” by Paul Reiche III. The intro has nothing to do with the adventure, but it does delve into TSR history …

“I wrote The Temple of Poseidon early in the spring of 1980 as part of an application for employment at TSR Hobbies, Inc. Having grown tired of fourteen straight years of school, I decided to take some time off from college and work full-time for a change. The problem was where to find a job. I had already had several, all of which were boring or (as was with the case with piano moving) physically undesirable.

A year earlier, TSR had hired my good friend Erol Otus as a staff artist. After visiting Erol out in the chilly wastes of Wisconsin, and learning that—contrary to what I had heard—the men and women of TSR were not evil, hateful creatures, I decided that perhaps a job with TSR was the kind of change I was looking for. So with several years of playing experience and authorship of two fantasy roleplaying supplements under my belt (Booty and The Beasts and The Necromican co-authored with Mathias Genser and Erol Otus) I started work on the Temple of Poseidon.”

He goes on to say the adventure was inspired by Lovecraft and CAS – and it’s a great dungeon crawl. Well worth reading and running.

Another dandy by Roslof – casting a spell from a scroll

Here’s a cool bit:

“Time and the way the party spends it plays an integral part in this adventure. Exactly 10 turns after the characters descend the spiral staircase and enter the alien base, the evil priests of Ythog Nthlei will succeed in freeing their master. The only way to prevent them from attaining their goal is to kill them before the end of 10 turns. If they succeed, Ythog Nthlei will instantly move to Room 31 with his treasure: The priests will remain in their room.”

“Giants in the Earth“, by Tom Moldvay, opens things up for contributions. So, no giants this time. Dang.

Time for some sage advice …

Question: What happens when a cornered (as in a deep pit) undead creature is turned?

Answer: The act of turning undead (by a good Cleric) compels the victim to turn directly away from the Cleric and move as fast and as far away as possible for 3-12 rounds. When it is physically impossible for the creature to keep moving away, it will retreat to the most remote (from the Cleric) location in the area and continually face away from the Cleric and his/her holy symbol. — J. Ward, W. Niebling

So basically, it’s like the cleric telling the undead to go stand in the corner and think about what they’re done.

And now we come to the comics, and Steve Swenston‘s Pinsom.

Cool stuff.

And so ends the chronicle of February 1981’s Dragon Magazine. But what were those knuckleheads in the UK up to?

At a minimum, the White Dwarf cover for Feb/Mar 1981 (that would be #23) was putting off a very different vibe than The Dragon. It’s definitely an image with which to conjure.

This issue of WD starts a series by Lewis Pulsipher, “An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons”. Good series, and worth the read for the newcomers to the hobby – although I’ve always thought learning to play these games is much better done by joining an existing group and playing. In the early days of the hobby, though, this wasn’t always possible and many groups were learning as they went.

Next up is an interview with Marc Miller, covering his origins and the origins of Traveller. If you’re a fan, you might want to give it a look.

You might also enjoy a look at the Marc Miller of 1981 …

The “Fiend Factory” this issue has the Flymen by Daniel Collerton, with art by Russ Nicholson – great monsters, though they’re only a half-inch tall. However, with a handy shrink ray, they could give a party of adventurers plenty of trouble as they look for a way to return to normal size.

Here are the Blood & Treasure stats, first for the tiny-sized fly men in a swarm, and then for the fly men as they would appear to shrunken adventurers:

Flyman, Tiny Humanoid: HD 0 (1 hp), AC 14 (20 when flying), ATK special, MV 5′ (Fly 30′), SV F16 R16 W16, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Swarm surrounds a person’s head blinding them (-4 to hit, 1d4 automatic hits per round), tiny weapons are poisoned and people have a 1 in 20 chance of being allergic and suffering ill effect; roll 1d8; 1-7 renders the area stung swollen and useless, taking 1d4 turns to set in and then lasting for 1d20+24 turns. An 8 means the character falls into a coma in 1d4 rounds and dies in 1d20+24 turns unless the venom is neutralized.

Drone, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 0 (3 hp), AC 12, ATK nil, MV 20′ (Fly 50′), SV F13 R16 W17, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Strength of 17, semi-intelligent, 1d10+10 appearing.

Artisan, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 1, AC 12, ATK 1 weapon, MV 20′ (Fly 50′), SV F 13 R15 W15, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Usually armed with unpoisoned daggers, their skill in metalwork surpasses the dwarves.

Warrior, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 3, AC 14 (carapace, shield), ATK 1 weapon + poison, MV 20′ (Fly 50′), SV F12 R14 W14, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Carry shields, carapace like studded leather, armed with short bow, short sword, dagger, poisoned weapons (save vs. poison, if save suffer 1d6+4 damage, if fail die instantly), allergic people suffer -4 penalty to save, weapons have enough venom for 5 strikes.

Flyguard, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 9, AC 16 (chain, shield), ATK 2 weapon + poison, MV 30′, SV F9 R10 W11, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Carry composite bow, longsword and dagger (poisoned as above), can size-change and have size rods, ride wasps.

Flymage, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 6, AC 16, ATK 1 weapon + poison, MV 30′, SV as 12th level magic-users, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Can size-change and have size rods, has innate powers (locate insects, summon insects, insect plague, creeping doom, size change to medium size for 30 rounds) and powers granted by their god, Ssrrpt’ck (must pray for 5 rounds).

There are five fly mages per hive, and each has extra powers depending on his role. There is the Master Attack, Master Defense, Master Healer, Master Knowledge, Master Worshiper.

The article also includes info on other types of flymen, the Northflies and Sandflies. Awesome stuff – seek it out and use it, for crying out loud. The flymen would make an incredible side trek in a dungeon or wilderness. In fact, the issue includes “The Hive of the Hrrr’l”, also by Daniel Collerton, so you’re all set.

Also: The flymen’s heads can be hollowed out and used as masks.

In addition:

Magic-User 4, Cleric 3

Range: Touch
Duration: 30 rounds

Spell causes a creature to shrink by a factor of 144 (human down to 1/2″ in height).

Spell Focus: A telescoping rod (costs 1,000 gp) that must be pushed in while the spell is being cast.

The White Dwarf isn’t done yet – you also get a new class, The Elementalist by Stephen Bland, the Khazad-class Seeker Starship for Traveller by Roger E. Moore, and A Spellcaster’s Guide to Arcane Power by Bill Milne. That last article involves a spell point system for spellcasting. There are also some keen magic items.

All in all, a really good issue of White Dwarf … in fact, I give it the nod over The Dragon this time around.

Happy Easter folks!

Dragon by Dragon – December 1980 (44)

When Christmas rolled around in 1980, a young me was still four years away from role playing games, though I did get this slick bike:

Found HERE!

A year later, I decided I like the Steelers better, and was stuck with a Cowboys bike – c’est la vie. I grew up in Las Vegas, so I was pretty fluid in my “favorite team” selection – I switched to the Raiders in 1984 when I was the only kid on my bus who picked them to beat the Redskins in the Super Bowl – I only did it to avoid going with the crowd.

Still, if you were already plays RPG’s in 1980, this issue of Dragon, #44, was what you were perusing over a cup of hot chocolate with some Rankin-Bass on in the background. It looks like a dandy – with a mini-game and everything!

As is often the case, the first thing that caught my eye was the ad by Ral Partha. They usually have the first ad in these old Dragon magazines, and this one is for a number of boxed adventure games they did. The games included miniatures, and look pretty cool.

I found a site with some pictures of the miniatures.

And the mannequin in the hooded robe just gave me an idea for a monster – I’ll post that later in the week.

Dig this missive from Mrs. Lori Tartaglio from Mercerville, N.J. She covers bearded female dwarves and Iran hostage crisis all in one letter.

“Dear Editors:

Will this endless quibbling never cease? Who CARES if female dwarves have beards or not? (TD#41) Why not let each DM or player or gaming group decide for themselves, for Ghu’s sake?!

Answer me this: Will the fact of dwarven women having or NOT having beards affect the outcome of the game in any major capacity? In my humble opinion, the answer is “no.” Not, of course, unless the DM has designed a “beard catcher” as one of his nasty little traps, and a female character of the dwarven persuasion (although no one ever had to persuade me to be a Dwarf-lady!) happens to be one of the party who’d sprung the trap and. . .

OY! This is getting out of hand! Now you’ve got me doing it!

C’mon, EGG and the rest of you guys! Grow up! If you’re going to argue, then do it about something worthwhile — like “do we go techno and nuke Iran off the face of the earth or do we send in a party of chaotic neutral fighter-mage mercs to teleport the hostages home and drop the Ayatollah with a black arrow.”

And by the way – I mentioned a few reviews ago that I was going to commission some bearded lady dwarf art, and I did, from Denis McCarthy – this will appear in the second edition of Blood & Treasure.

Just as some older issues of Dragon had stats for fictional western heroes for Boot Hill, this issue does the same for some fictional secret agents for Top Secret. The article is written by the developer and editor of the game, Allen Hammack.

For those keeping score, here’s some stuff you should know …

Strongest secret agent – John Steed, followed by Derek Flint and James Bond

Most charming secret agent – John Steed, followed by James Bond and Derek Flint

Most courageous secret agent – James Bond, followed by Derek Flint and a tie – Jim Phelps and Number 6

The weakest stats belong to Maxwell Smart and Napoleon Solo. I don’t want to criticize, but not making Emma Peel the most charming seems crazy … at least from my perspective. The article has full stats for all the agents, which is pretty damn cool.

Gregory G. H. Rihn presents one of the articles that could only be from the early days of the hobby – “Fantasy Genetics I – Humanoid Races in Review”. The article gives scientific names for the fantasy races. Elves, for example, are homo sapiens sylvanus, while orcs are homo sapiens orc. Those two races have to be homo sapiens able to breed with good old fashioned homo sapiens sapiens. I guess they should also be able to breed with homo sapiens neanderthalensis. An elf neanderthal crossbreed would give strong math skills, great strength and pointed ears – so Vulcans, essentially. He makes the kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears part of the genus Australopithecus and ogres Ramapithecus. This is an interesting idea, and points to a time when the look of the fantasy races was not established – yeah, there was art in the Monster Manual, but it wasn’t treated as carved in stone.

This is followed up by “Fantasy Genetics II – Half-Orcs in a Variety of Styles” by Roger Moore. This is a cool little article about the fact that half-orcs are always half-human. So you get some monster stats for orc-kobolds, orc-goblins, orc-ogres, orc-bugbears, orc-hobgoblins and orc-gnolls. Short and sweet, and it would be a nice addition to the half-orc playable race.

But we’re not done yet, because John S. Olson gives us “Fantasy Genetics III – What Do You Get When You Cross?”, which is designed to discourage weird crossbreeds. I wonder if the author is this guy from Rice University?

Which, of course, brings us to the end of this discussion. There could be absolutely no more to write on the subject of fantasy genetics – the topic has been so thoroughly dealt with that to continue would be folly!

To paraphrase Johnny Carson, “Not so fast jelly doughnut breath!”

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh brings us “Fantasy Genetics IV – Half + Half Isn’t Always Full”. Honestly, I cannot see the point of this article. Moving on …

Here’s a little piece from Sage Advice that might quash the whole murder hobo mystique:

“Question: Is it okay for a Monk (Lawful Neutral) to sneak up on an opponent and then backstab? (Is this act chaotic? Is this evil?)

Answer: The act of killing a victim without knowing if he/she is truly an enemy (in other words, killing a complete stranger without knowing if he/she presents a threat) is a chaotic act. The act of killing an opponent with the knowledge that there is some other way to overcome him/her is an evil act. It would seem permissible for the Lawful Neutral Monk (or any other similarly aligned being) to attack a known enemy from the back, when circumstances make it necessary to kill that foe. —J. Ward, W. Niebling”

So, if the orcs don’t attack first, and you attack without trying to talk to them, you’re evil.

When I see ads like this:

I always do a search hoping to stump BoardGameGeek.com – hasn’t happened yet.

I know nothing about the game, but the miniature illustrations are cool, and the name “hellborn” is awesome – also Avenging Angels and Saints and Giant Knights. I found the rules for sale for $12.95 by the Gaming Gang and bought a copy – I’ll review them later this month (probably).

This issue’s “Giant in the Earth” switches authorship from Tom Moldvay to Dave Cook. Dave writes stats for C.S. Lewis’ Reepicheep (LG 7th level fighter) and Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger (LN 16th level fighter with special sage abilities). Challenger’s Express hunting rifle is given a 300 yard range and 2d6 damage, in case you’re interested.

In 3rd edition, all the monsters got stats. In 1st edition, many of the monsters got stats, here and there, haphazardly. Len Lakofka‘s article this issue, “Monsters: How Strong is Strong” is one of those early efforts to codify these issues, and shows the gradual march of the game from “rulings not rules” to “a rule for everything”.

It’s predicated on the fact that a belt of hill giant strength gives a fighter damage that a hill giant doesn’t get, which, of course, cannot be permitted to persist. I guess. For those interested, bugbear chiefs are as strong as ankhegs, but not as strong as gorillas, who are as strong as black bears, but not as strong as carnivorous apes and brown bears. Kobolds roll 4d4 for strength, while leader types have d4+13 strength. He also gives a bit on “how to calculate the combat ability of a monster”. I was going to put in an excerpt, but dang is it long!

Next up is the aforementioned mini-game – “Food Fight” by Bryce Knorr (this guy?). This is set in a high school and features some early art from Bill Willingham (see to the right – maybe that’s Morgan Ironwolf when she was in high school). Make no mistake – for a mini-game about throwing food, it has pretty exhaustive rules. All of the foods have numerous stats, such as:

Ice cream with attack mode D has Range 1, Hit No. 8, App. Damage of 1d6+2, no ability to stun, but the number to splat is 5, slipperiness is 2 and APE is 5. There are different stats for attack mode F and attack mode T.

Oi! I now have a strange desire to make a rules lite version of the game.

By the way, this piece by Jack Crane from the fiction in this issue is all kinds of groovy …

This issue also has a long article by William Fawcett on the Judge’s Guild (I just noticed a Kickstarter popped up for a JG collection), along with reviews of nine of their products.

Speaking of reviews, Mark Herro offers up some reviews of early computer games (or super modern computer games, by the standards of 1980). You can see one of them, Android Nim, in action below:

He also reviews Dungeon of Death and Time Traveller.

Roger Moore has a new monster in the bestiary this month – the Koodjanuk, a monster from Elysium, and the Cryoserpent. I especially like the cryoserpent art. The B&T stats are below:

Koodjanuk, Large (30′ wingspan) Outsider: HD 8, AC 22 [+2], ATK 1 bite (2d6) or 2 talons (4d4), MV 50′ (Fly 110′), SV F8 R6 W8, AL NG, XP 800 (CL 9), Special-Magic resistance 75%, cast cleric spells as 12th level clerics, use psionics, 15% chance found with other good creatures of the upper planes.

Cryoserpent, Huge (50′ long) Monster: HD 12, AC 19, ATK 1 bite (4d6), MV 20′, SV F4 R7 W8, AL CE, XP 1200 (CL 13), Special-Magic resistance 25%, immune to cold, vulnerable to fire, gaze paralyzes creatures with 4 HD or less (save negates), tongue freezes water (12,000 square feet, 6″ deep, lasts 12 minutes), hollow tongue can fire 120′ freeze ray (48 damage, save negates), tongue may launch a 4″ diameter ball of ice (120′, +4 to hit, explodes when hits target for 4d6 damage in 10′ radius) – can use these last three powers up to a total of 6 times per day.

The bestiary also includes the ice golem by Rich Baldwin.

That’s it for #44. As always, I leave you with Wormy …

I miss Bender.

But what about White Dwarf?

The Dec 1980/Jan 1981 issue has the usual cool cover, though the color of the lettering could have been a bit better.

This issue includes aristocracy for Traveller by Rick D. Stuart, some cool magic items for AD&D, a very cool NPC class by Lewis Pulsipher called Black Priests. Here are the highlights:

Black priests must have Wis, Dex and Cha of 13 or higher. They roll d6 for hit points, and they must be evil. If they change alignment, they become thieves. They can wear up to leather armor and use shields when not using thief skills.

A black priest’s chance to move silently and hide in shadows is doubled in their own evil temples (neat touch). They are -1 to hit and damage with swords, and +1 to hit and damage with daggers, and -2 to hit with ranged weapons other than throwing knives. Black priests can “backstab” with a strangling cord (1d8 damage, must have Str 7 or higher to use). They rebuke undead and cast spells as evil clerics, and they can call upon the Lords of Evil to summon a monster each battle (lots of rules governing this ability).

They gather followers at high levels, including other black priests, displacer beasts, gorgons, hill giants werewolves, minotaurs, invisible stalkers (summon 1/wk), trolls, undead and nightmares. Great class!

This issue has an adventure (as most did) – “The Search for the Temple of the Golden Spire” by Barney Sloane. It is intended for seven 2nd-4th level characters.

The monster section goes big time, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Ian Cooper (one of them, Ky, is a Supra-Lich), Capricorns by Roger Moore, Crystal Golems by Robert Outram, and Ungoliant, Queen of the Spiders by Peter Cockburn.

Ungoliant, Huge Outsider: HD 38 (225 hp), AC 26 (Body) 14 (Belly) 24 (Eyes) [+3], ATK Bite (3d12 + swallow whole for instant death on natural 20) and 2 legs (2d12) or 2 palps (1d12), MV 90′, SV F3 R3 W3, AL CE, XP 38,000 (CL41), Special-Magic resistance 80% (50% of which is from her unlight (see below), and can be dispelled), immune to psionics, body oozes contact poison (Poison IV, -3 to save), breath 30′ x 30′ x 30′ fear gas 3/day, 10 eyes function as beholder, except 7th eye fires a matter agitation ray (as the psionic discipline) – one eye fires at a random target every 2 rounds, summon 3d10 phase spiders to cover her retreat.

Ungoliant is the originator of all spider kind. She is swathed in unlight (awesome concept – it’s equivalent to 5 darkness spells). She swallows gems, gaining 1 hp per 10 gp value. If she is seriously wounded, she rears up, exposing her belly, and attacks with her bite and 6 legs (2d12). If her unlight is dispelled with five continual light spells, then additional magical light deals 3d10 damage or destroys one of her eyes. A magic whip is embedded in one of her legs. In the hands of a chaotic evil creature it is a +5 flaming whip, +8 vs. good that inflicts 6d6 damage, or 12d6 in the hands of someone with a strength higher than 18.

Wow! Lolth is a piker in comparison.

Lewis Pulsipher also contributes a bit on an explanation of character stats in D&D. Here’s the interesting passage:

“Dragon breath, after all, does not burn the skin to a crisp (or freeze it) – a slightly ludicrous notion even if dragons are magical. Rather the superheated (or supercold) air, if it fills the lungs, does the damage. A victim of dragon fire dies because his lungs are destroyed, and it’s clear enough that turning one’s head away and keeping one’s mouth and nose shut will help reduce the damage.”

So save vs. dragon’s breath involves turning one’s head and holding one’s breath. Interesting concept.

That’s it for the White Dwarf, folks – and this post. Have fun!

Dragon by Dragon – August 1980 (40)

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

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



A letter to the editor:

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

Apparently, the modules were “filler”.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Now you know.


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

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

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

Only you can prevent fire damage

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

And dig that werejaguar illustration that accompanied the article.


I thought this ad was unique:

I’m guessing the art for Spellbinder was late …


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

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

Such a scene is ridiculous.”

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

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

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


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


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

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


Read more about it


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

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

Here are the Blood & Treasure stats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragon by Dragon – April 1980 (36)

There will come a day when the April edition of The Dragon will be full of jokes. Based on the cover, I’d say that day was not in April of 1980.

The aforementioned cover is by Dean Morrissey, and it is inspired by that issue’s short story by Gardner Fox, “The Cube from Beyond”, a Niall of the Far Travels story. Mr. Morrissey is still a working artist – you can see some of his pieces HERE.

Let’s check out 10 cool things about issue #36 …


First and foremost, I’m always a sucker for a good sword & sorcery tale by Gardner Fox. Here’s a sample:

“Now Thavas Tomer was a doomed man. He had fled down the halls and corridors, seeking sanctuary—where no sanctuary was to be found. At his heels had come Niall, his great sword Blood-drinker in his hand, seeking to make an end to this magician-king who had slain and raped and robbed all those against whom he had sent his mercenaries.”

If somebody could figure out a way to make a random idea generator that plucked passages from fantasy stories, I bet it would be a great way to come up with adventures or campaigns. Three different passages from the same book might inspire three very different campaigns.


An interesting “Up on a Soap Box” by Larry DiTillio, regarding him running an adventure he normally ran for adults for some adults and teens at a convention. Here’s an excerpt:

“In the same game another incident occurred, again with that same Paladin player. This one involved a mysterious monk smoking a substance from a hookah which he offered to certain party members. My friends accepted somewhat overeagerly, while the Paladin again asked me that question. Was smoking a drug against his alignment? Now, I’m not a junkie, nor do I think drugs are of any benefit to teen-agers (no high is as good as your own natural openness to things at that age), but I have had a good deal of experience with a whole gamut of consciousness-altering substances and would be hard pressed to declare them categorically evil.”

The first incident involved a dungeon room where sex could be purchased. In both cases, the paladin inquires whether these acts are against his alignment. It’s a tricky question, and does get to a problem with alignment – i.e. the interpretation of what it means. No answers here, but an interesting problem, and an interesting article.


In this issue, Gygax chimes in with some stats for Conan. It’s funny, but I was actually searching for this article recently, looking for inspiration for maybe making some revisions to the barbarian class in Blood & Treasure.

In doing so, I found some comments on websites that this article was a mistake, in that the weird rules changes needed to simulate Conan showed the weakness of the D&D system. I disagree – D&D is a game. Conan was a character in stories. No random rolls there, no comparisons of hit rolls and Armor Class. That a game cannot simulate something in a story is not a condemnation of the game (which, in D&D’s case, was not designed specifically to simulate Conan stories in the first place).

So, how does Conan shake out? Well, which Conan. The piece actually presents Conan at different ages – 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70. Neat idea. We also see how his fighter and thief levels change through his ages. His fighter level runs from a low of 4 at age 15 to a high of 24 at age 40 … and then back down to 12 by the time he’s 70.

How does a level drop? Well, there’s really no way to do it in the game, but I thought about using a rule that each year without adventuring might result in a character losing 10% of his earned XP. If you don’t stay in practice, you get rusty and, therefore, lose levels. Just a thought.

So, let’s look at Conan at age 25.

Conan, Human Fighter/Thief: Level 12/8; HP 132; AC 16; ATK attacks 5 times every 2 rounds; Str 18/00, Int 15, Wis 10, Dex 20, Con 18, Cha 15; AL Chaotic Neutral (good tendencies); Psionics–Latent–animal telepathy, detect magic, precognition, mind bar.

Conan gets the following special abilities:

  • When he rolls a total of “21” to hit, he scores double damage.
  • He is 75% undetectable in underbrush and woodlands.
  • He surprises opponents 50% of the time.
  • He is only surprised on a roll of 1 on 1d20.
  • He gets a +4 bonus on all saves.
  • Poison can knock him unconscious, but never kill him.
  • He regains hit points at double the normal rate, and regains hit points at the normal rate even without resting.
  • He has 25% magic resistance if he is aware that magic is being used against him.
  • His psionics are all latent – he does not know he has them, and cannot consciously choose to use them.
  • When wielding an off-hand weapon, he can parry one attack per round with it.
  • He can move at a trot all day without tiring.
  • His trails are 75% undetectable.
  • His vision and hearing are 50% better than normal.
  • When he pummels people, his opponents are treated as slowed; his fists are treated as mailed even when bare.
  • When grappling, his effective height is 7′, and his effective weight is 350 lb.
  • He gets a 15% bonus to overbearing attacks
  • He does unarmed damage as though armed with a club


In “Sage Advice” by Jean Wells …

“Question: Why can’t half-orcs be raised, especially if they are 90% human as the Players Handbook says?

Answer: The Players Handbook does not say that half-orcs are 90% human. It says that 10% of them (from which player characters are drawn) resemble humans enough to pass for one under most circumstances. Genetically, a true half-orc is always 50% human. Half-orcs cannot be raised simply because they do not have souls. I went right to the top for the answer to this one, and according to Gary Gygax himself, ‘Half-orcs cannot be raised-period.'”

It occurs to me that the inability to raise demi-humans was a balancing factor in old D&D for all of their special abilities.


Len Lakofka tries his hand at setting all those deity-killing PC’s right by setting down some truths about the gods. How many DM’s, I wonder, design their pantheon specifically for one day fighting high-level adventurers?

Here are Lakofka’s definitions for deity-hood:

1. Has 180 or more hit points
2. Can cast a spell or has a power at the 20th level of ability
3. Can fight or perform acts as a 20th level Lord or 20th level Thief

Those who cannot do this are not deities. This includes Jubilex, Ki-rins and Yeenoghu. Baal, Orcus, Tiamat and Bahamut, on the other hand, are deities.

He also states that deities get their special abilities from the Outer Planes, while lesser beings get their powers from the inner planes or from deities.

Much more here, including abilities from ability scores of 19 or higher (or 25+ for strength).

It looks like the blueprint used for the later Deities & Demigods / Legends & Lore books.


Now that’s a great illustration for selling a monster book. You can pick up the PDF HERE.


Turns out there was a prank hiding inside this issue after all – technically The Dragon #36 1/2.

We have articles about how to make the most out of your pet dragon, some new monsters (see below), keeping your players poor with the tax man, Bazaar of the Ordinary (web of cob), a random table (d30!) of things to say when you accidentally (or maybe not accidentally) summon Demogorgon, Leomund’s in a Rut (expanding character footwear options), this month’s module – a 10×10 room with nothing in it (map provided), and an add that includes Detailed Advanced D&D, the next step in fantasy gaming.

As for one of those new monsters:

The Keebler, Small Fey: HD 0; AC 13; ATK none; MV 40′; XP 50; AL N (good tendencies); Special-Magic resistance 60%, bake cookies (Will save at -4 or charmed); Spells-3/day-create water, purify food & drink, slow poison, create food & water, neutralize poison, locate object (edible substances) – as though by 7th level cleric.

7) The Mongols

Neat article by Michael Kluever on the history, weapons and tactics of the Mongols. Mongols done the way they were are probably pretty underused in fantasy gaming – they were a pretty fascinating group, and a campaign that includes a rapidly expanding Mongol Empire (wherein PC’s leave town, adventure in a dungeon, and come back to find the town razed or absorbed into the empire) would be pretty cool, especially if that expansion ends up being crucial to the game.

How was the typical Mongol warrior equipped:

Armor ranged from none to leather to scale armor, plus conical helms (leather for light cavalry, steel for heavy cavalry) and small, circular shields made of wicker covered with leather; they also wore silk undershirts that apparently helped to minimize damage from arrows when they had to be removed from wounds

Two composite bows, one for short range, one for long range; they used armor-piercing arrows, whistling arrows to signal and incendiary arrows (tipped with small grenades – apparently the Duke boys didn’t invent the idea); each warrior carried two quivers with 60 arrows in each

Heavy cavalry also carried a scimitar, battle axe OR horseman’s mace, a 12′ long lance with a hook for yanking warriors off their horses and a dagger

Light cavalry carried a lighter sword, two to three javelins and a dagger

8) Giants in the Earth

This edition, by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay, includes:

Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (17th level fighter, 10th level thief, 8th level cleric)

Lovecraft’s Richard Upton Pickman (King of the Ghouls, 9th level fighter)

Thomas Burnett Swann’s Silverbells (forest minotaur 15th level ranger, 13th level paladin)

The last one caught my attention, since I’d never heard of the author. The idea is that the original stock of minotaurs, termed forest minotaurs here, were neutral good defenders of the woodlands and the fey creatures who lived therein. You can find his books for sale at Amazon.

9) A New Way to Track XP

Experience points, like alignment, are a perennial sub-system people are trying to improve. In this version, XP are based on actual damage inflicted (modified by the strength of the opponents), and for deeds actually done. To whit:

For non-magical monsters, you get 5 XP per point of damage done, multiplied by the difference between the monster’s AC and 10

For magical monsters, 10 XP per point of damage done, same modifier.

For spellcasting in combat, 10 XP per level of spell

For spellcasting in a hostile situation, 5 XP per level of spell

Thieves get XP for gold stolen, maybe only if they grab a larger share than the other members of their party

Not a bad idea, really.

10) The Fastest Guns that Never Lived

This is a reprint, collection and expansion of articles I remember covering many reviews ago. Designed for Boot Hill, it’s a pretty fun article for fans of westerns, and a great opportunity for fan debates. If you think it’s bunk, you can blame Allen Hammack, Brian Blume, Gary Gygax and Tim Kask.

So, let’s get to the winners in each stat:

Fastest Gun in the West: (1) Clint Eastwood, (2) Bob Steele, (3) Paladin

Slowest: Pancho

Most Accurate Gun in the West: (1) Clint Eastwood, (2) Will Sonnet and Col. Tim McCoy, (3) Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Paladin and Lee Van Cleef

Least: Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright

Bravest Gun in the West: Charles Bronson

Most Cowardly: Pancho

Strongest Gun in the West: Hoss Cartwright

Weakest: Will Sonnet

Somebody was in love with Clint Eastwood, huh?


Todd Lockwood (that one?) brings us the monster of the month, a race of warm-blooded flying reptile dudes. Here are the Blood & Treasure stats.

Krolli, Large Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2 to 6; AC 17; ATK 1 bite (1d6+1), rear claw (1d8+1), hand (1d8 or by weapon +4); MV 20′ (fly 40′); AL varies; XP 200 to 600; Special-High dexterity, multiple attacks, acute senses, surprised on 1 on 1d6, 25% magic resistance.

They are encountered in lairs, with 3d20 in lair, 25% females and young, with 2-3 and 1/2 HD each, and 1d8 7+2 HD chieftains. Encountered among men, they are usually mercenaries or slavers, and could be found as body guards or military officers.

They have high natural strength (20) and dexterity (23).

They may be of any class, though 95% are fighters. Of the remainder, 70% are clerics. They cannot wear armor, but often carry shields. They are almost never thieves or assassins.

Side note – I really loved Lockwood’s stuff for 3rd edition D&D – a very worthy artist to carry that torch, I think.

Hope you enjoyed this review … I leave you with Tramp

Dragon by Dragon – October 1979 (30)

We’re baking here in Vegas , so perhaps a nice magazine from the fall of 1979 will put me into a cooler mindset.

I know – The Dragon #30! That’s the ticket!

But, of course, October isn’t about being cool. It’s about being horrified. ’79 was a good time for that, and not just because of the Carter administration. ’79 was The Amityville Horror, Alien, Phantasm, The Brood, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Dracula … and I never saw any of them. Frankly, not a horror movie fan. Let’s get to the magazine.

First – the cover. What a great cover. I love covers with lots of little details, lots of things to get the brain ticking.

Dig this from the opening of Kask’s editorial:

“As I am writing this (11 Sep), DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is getting the publicity that we used to just dream about, back when we were freezing in Gary’s basement in the beginning. If we had our ‘druthers’, it would not have happened in such a fashion. By now, as you read this, I hope the mystery surrounding the disappearance of James Egbert has been happily resolved. Whatever the circumstances of the incident, it has been a nightmare for his parents and family, as well as for TSR Hobbies, Inc. It has been speculated that James was involved in some sort of D&D game that went beyond the realm of pencil and paper roleplaying, and may have mutated into something tragic. D&D was seized upon as a possible connection to the disappearance, for a variety of reasons. First, James was an avid player. Indeed, I have met him at past conventions,
and he used to subscribe to TD.”

And so it begins. In case you don’t know, James Dallas Egbert III was a student at … well, you can read about it at Wikipedia. This may have made D&D more famous, but it also started the backlash against it by morons everywhere dedicated to ruining innocent fun. Worst of all, it led to the TV movie Mazes & Monsters, starring a young Tom Hanks. Not all the Money Pit in the world can make up for that.

The Game’s the Thing … and I Used to Think GenCon Stood for General Confusion
by Kim Mohan

You might recognize Mohan’s name. He was a the new kid at TSR when he wrote this review of GenCon XII. In short – he liked it.

Where the Orcs Are
by Steve Brown

This article features a bitchin’ miniature diorama by Steve Brown. He wanted to enter it into the miniatures contest at GenCon XII, but it didn’t fit into any categories. Nevertheless, it was awesome, and had to get some love, so …

I’m going to assume the picture in the article doesn’t do it justice. Actually, there are a dozen photos, and the underground orc castle looks incredible. Brown says it took him a year to do the thing, and it carried a price tag of $4000 at the con (which would be about $13,000 in todays dollars, proving that the geek community has never been all that swift with their time and money … thank God).

Leomund’s Tiny Hut: Good Evening
by Lenard Lakofka

This was the first of the Leomund’s Tiny Hut’s, which were usually interesting articles that covered all sorts of gaming topics. This one, appropriately enough, is about vampires. It digs into the AD&D vampire, going in depth on its abilities and answering questions gamers might have had about the monster. For example:

1) Once the vampire’s hit points are calculated (it has 8+3 HD), they do not vary – i.e. you do not re-roll hit points when it regenerates in its coffin. Back in the day, there was an idea that adventurer’s re-rolled their hit points for each adventure (an idea I actually kind of like – to represent when people are super on their game, and when they aren’t).

2) Vampires don’t want too many lesser vampires under their control – really no more than 4. It sounds like the vampire wants to make sure there are plenty of living people to feed on, so he has to take care. Like a shepherd and his flock. And lesser vampires don’t create more lesser vampires.

3) Here’s one that got me: “The Vampire’s existence on the Negative Material Plane …” Wow – dig the idea. Maybe it was widespread. A negative material plane, duplicate of our own in some ways – but probably a nightmarish version – inhabited by the undead who also have an existence in the positive material plane. Neat. And what a great place to set an epic adventure!

4) It takes 1-4 segments for a vampire to transform (a segment is a second, for those not steeped in the timekeeping of AD&D), but only 4 if the vampire is surprised. After one segment to adjust, it can be mobile. When a combat round was predicated on segment-by-segment actions, this would be valuable information.

5) It still takes a magic weapon to damage a vampire in bat form.

6) A vampire in gaseous form “scattered to the four winds” can reform in 1-100 segments (i.e. less than 2 minutes). Also – DM’s should pre-set a hit point total at which a vampire will go gaseous.

He also gives some ideas about how to properly dispose of vampires, the spells they are immune to, details on regeneration, “lesser” vampires, summoning and charming, etc. It reminds me of the “Ecology of …” articles they used to do.

Observer’s Report: ORIGINS: Chaos With a Happy Ending
by Fantasysmith

To begin with, a note:

“This OBSERVER’S REPORT is written by the same person that does FANTASYSMITH’S NOTEBOOK. He prefers to do both under the pseudonym FANTASYSMITH, for reasons that he has made clear to us, and which we will honor.”

I think I just realized that Fantasysmith was, in actuality, Richard Nixon! I have no proof yet, but I’m launching a new Kickstarter to raise $1 million to help me get to the truth.

And now, I have to quote the first line of the article:

“Fluid sugar draws bees, fluid filth draws flies, and fluid situations attract the chaotic. This last was the case at ORIGINS ’79.”

Sheer poetry.

And now, an advert …

Cool module. Cool art. And remember, “tell them you saw it in The Dragon”.

From the Sorcerer’s Scroll: New Setting for the Adventure
by Gary Gygax

Here, Gygax talks about the relationship between TSR and TSR Periodicals, and his relationship as publisher vs. Tim Kask as editor and … yeah, I know. Who cares?

He then talks about the “Mugger” article from a couple issues back, and how it is both funny and great inspiration to look at different settings for games, in this case, the mean urban streets. Gary also gives us the lowdown on an adventure he’s working on in which adventurers in a city in the World of Greyhawk delve under that city and somehow end up in a subway tunnel in the modern world. He gives these guides for the particulars:

– In the city setting, magic will work, although cleric spells above third level will not. Of course, firearms also work.

– The perils of the place — police, street gangs, muggers, criminals of other sorts, citizens with
karate training or able to box, those with guard dogs, etc. — will be numerous and different.

– Weapons aren’t difficult to rate according to damage. Electricity will be interesting — low-tension AC giving but 1d6 damage (4d6 if the party is well grounded), low-tension DC doing 1d6 each segment until the victim is freed, and high-tension DC doing 1d20 in the same manner.

– Cars will inflict 1d4 damage for each 10 mph of speed. Small trucks will get a d6, large ones a d8, and trains a d10 for each 10 mph.

– Each special character (guard, policeman, street tough, mugger, etc.) will be given a level roughly corresponding to those of AD& characters, although the type of dice used will be non-standard.

– If the adventurers survive and manage to return to their own place in the multiverse, they will have little in the way of treasure — at least in all probability. Firearms will not work in the World of Greyhawk, of course.

He ends by pointing out that Schick and Moldvay make some of the heroes in their Giants in the Earth series too powerful. Now’s a good time for me to preview the way I’m rating fictional and real NPC’s in GRIT & VIGOR – by the number of years they’ve been active:

The New, Improved Ninja
by Sheldon Price

This is a set of rules extensions for the ninja class, which was published at some point in the past – I don’t remember the issue, and they don’t mention it here.

This version of the ninja is based on the book NINJA: The Invisible Assassins by Andrew Adams, published in 1970 by O’Hara Publications, Inc. of Los Angeles, California. Yeah – you can get it at Amazon.com.

The article starts out with weaponry. Here are some highlights:

In the hands of a ninja, the hankyu (short bow) fires at twice the normal rate.

There is a 5% chance per day of searching that a ninja can find 1d6 plants that work as caltrops.

It takes one week, and costs 2 sp, to make metal claws for the hands and feet.

Staves had small missiles attached to one end that could be thrown by flicking the staff.

Poison water guns have a range of 60′, and produce a cone of water 10′ wide at the base and 60′ high. The main use is to blind eyes – it takes 1d12 rounds to clear the eyes.

The weird signs the ninja makes (called kuji-kiri) are not magical, but they restore his morale and entrance non-ninjas (saving throw allowed).

Ninjas have two kinds of sandals – essentially they can replace the soles. One gave better traction, the other a more silent step.

Ninja can wear up to chainmail, and they can pad it so it remains silent without adding encumbrance.

Ninja can foretell the weather in the short term. Which is nice, because when assassination just ain’t paying, they can becomes TV weathermen.

They are also “earth aware” – can find good places for ambushes – and “man aware” – can manipulate people.

There is a huge list of special ninja equipment, from special torches to swimming flippers and rocket arrows.

There is a section on poison (the substance, not the metal band). Gyokuro is a poison that causes slow death – it kills the ill in a few days, and the healthy in 70. Wouldn’t that be a fun way to end a PC’s life. “Sorry Bill, you suddenly collapse dead in the street while haggling over that beaver tail soup. Turns out a ninja poisoned you a couple adventures back.”

Ninjas can make laugh-inducing poisons at level 4, sleep-inducing poisons at level 6, and insanity-inducing poisons at level 8.

Ninjas also have healing abilities, mostly on themselves, but I would think they would work on others.

Basically, ninjas are awesome.

Lankhmar: The Formative Years of “Fafhrd” and “The Mouser”
by Dr. Franklin C. MacKnight

For those not in the know, Lankhmar is not only the setting of Fritz Leiber’s stories of Fafhrd and the Mouser, but also a game. This article is written by a friend of his, and thus witnessed the birth of the Nehwon stories and the game. From the author:

Lankhmar wasn’t just a game, it was an adventure. The pieces were not mere abstractions, but heroes with personalities with which one identified. It provided an esthetic thrill unequaled in my experience in any other game anywhere.”

Starring Barry Gibb as Fafhrd

Add Lankhmar to the list of games I want to play. The article goes on to explain how the game was originally played (before it was turned into something more commercially viable in 1976 – see HERE).

We also get this tidbit about Harry Otto Fischer:

“Harry not only looked like Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy but had a similarly extroverted temperament and wit. The famous puppet could have been copied from him!”

The article is a must read for folks who love the stories. Great background stuff.

Design Forum: Boot Hill? Sure! But What Scale?
by Ralph Wagner

That title is such an artifact of its time. We don’t live in a magazine world anymore, and whenever something passes from now to then to what, so many little things pass with it. I’m only 43 years old, but the then I was born into is rapidly becoming a what. I think my childhood and the childhood of people born in 1900 have more in common than my childhood and people born just 20 years later.

Oh – the article. It’s about what scale miniatures to use with Boot Hill. Personally, I would have gone with these bad boys:

Found at Etsy … already sold. Damn.

Designer’s Notes: Flattop: A Long Game but a Strong Game
by S. Craig Taylor, Jr.

This is a discussion of Flattop, a game that covers the Coral Sea-Solomon Islands geography during 1942, specifically the three carrier-to-carrier battles of that year, Coral Sea, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz. Mr. Taylor was the game’s designer and developer, and he has a few insights about it, in particular about victory points and the difficulty in writing a truly original game. Sounds like a pip. And a great cover, by the way.

Up on a Soap Box: Standardization vs. Playability
by Bob Bledsaw

He discusses the value of standardization in a game, but also its limitations. Wow – I’m sure you didn’t see that coming. Mostly, he describes how he does his own campaigns – how he handles the races and technology and religion. Could be some useful stuff to the newbies – after all, at this point almost everyone playing the game was a newbie. By being a basic framework, D&D opened the doors to a whole new world, and everyone was feeling out what they could and couldn’t do in that world.  What a great time.

And look at this little ad that popped up on page 21:

Things are about to get weird. If you are reading this and haven’t heard of Arduin, look it up.

Armies of the Renaissance
by Nick Nascati

This is Part V, and covers the armies of Eastern Europe – Poland, Hungary, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It’s a good article – one page, two column, and covers the basic very nicely. What if we came up with a big d% table with 100 entries that determined a first level fighter’s starting equipment, based on various historical warriors (and maybe Buck Rogers thrown in just for fun). Might have to do that for the blog.

Tournament Success in Six Steps
by Jon Pickens

Tournaments were such a big deal in the old days. I wasn’t a con-goer then (or now, to be honest), so my only exposure to them at all was in some of the old AD&D modules I owned, which had a section on using the module in a tournament, with the points scores, etc.

Here a quick version of Jon’s rules for success:

1) Get in – i.e. sign up for a game. If you don’t get in the first round, sign up for the second.

2) Use magic to get rid of obstacles that would take too long to overcome the old fashioned way.

3) Have a plan (always a good idea).

4) Pay attention to the DM, and if something seems amiss, question him. He might only give out certain bits of information if the right questions are asked.

5) Don’t waste time.

6) Never quit – avoid combat as much as possible, but if you have to do it, do it with extreme prejudice.

Finally, never argue with the DM. If you think he or she screwed up, bring it up politely.

Out on a Limb

Ah – letters to the editor time. Here’s a dandy:

Q: “Something has been bothering me about the Druid class in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. That is, I know of a couple of people in Chapel Hill who don’t know each other, but they are both the ‘Great Druid’.

A: “The stricture regarding the number of high level Druids is on a per world basis.”

He kindly didn’t add, “dumbass”.

Geek Rage of the Week:

“En garde, Master Rahman and those of you who defend such shoddy pieces of work such as Bakshi’s. (I’ll refrain from referring to it as the ‘Lord of the Rings’).”

Good Advice of the Week:

“It is my contention that all “good” referees should make it their duty to change large portions of the concepts presented in any given role-playing game.”

Terrible Augury of the Future:

“As you may have noticed last month, Wormy has returned. Wormy’s creator got married and moved to California, but he promises that Wormy is back to stay. As to more of Dave’s art, that is up to him and his job in CA. One can always hope . . .”

Cool ad for Dragon Tooth Fantasy Figures:

I haven’t done a random encounter table based on a mini’s ad in a while, so here goes:


1. Rogue or thief (roll 1d4 for level) in leather doublet with short sword, mounted on light warhorse. Wears cloak and floppy hat. Will do anything to steal your purse.

2. Sorcerer (roll 1d5 for level) in the middle of casting one of his highest level spells. Will be extremely cross if you mess it up.

3. Swordsman (roll 1d6 for level) armed with sword and spear.

4. Rictus, the Zombie King; zombie with 12 HD and the strength of a hill giant (+4 damage).

5. Swordsman Kane, a neutral evil 8th level fighter from the terrible north, escaping his love of a good woman who threatened to turn his heart to good. Has +1 scale mail and greatsword.

6. Sorceress (roll 1d8 for level); she holds the mystic Moon Staff of Myrmidor, which can cast all sorts of cool light spells, and confusion and which can cast hold monster, at will, against lycanthropes. She rides a light warhorse.

7. Cleric in mitre with mace. Roll 1d10 for level. He is suffering a crisis of conscience, as he caught mother superior stealing milk and didn’t damn her.

8. Fool or jester, recently released from his master’s service and very hungry. He is a 1st level assassin.

9. Bard or harpist (roll 1d12 for level) in puffy velvet clothes and a great hat. He carries a silver longsword and a golden lyre that charms fey, 4/day. He rides a dapple grey light warhorse. He is arrogant and good-natured.

10. Swordsman Roland (level 9 fighter), with scale mail, +2 shield (axes stick to it on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6) and a major chip on his shoulder towards paladins and rangers (they think they’re so awesome).

Also, found this old issue of Popular Mechanics about painting Dragon Tooth miniatures.

Also, dig this 1978 catalog (which I’ve probably already posted at some point).

Giants in the Earth
by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay

This edition of G in the E features Piers Anthony’s Sol of All Weapons (LN 20th level fighter, 14th level monk), Tanith Lee’s Zorayas (LE 23rd level magic-user) and Clark Ashton Smith’s Maal Dweb (LE 20th level magic-user).

I dug the little advert for Cities, by Stephen Abrams. I did a search and found that he did a few versions of this book, including one for Runequest. I think I’m going to by myself one. I’m intrigued. If I do, I’ll post a review.

The Dragon’s Augury

The games reviewed in this issue are Spellmaker reviewed by Bruce Boegman, Black Hole reviewed by David Cook and Down Styphon reviewed by Kenneth Hulme.

Spellmaker (1978, by Eric Solomon) pits powerful wizards against one another, trying to transport a princess to their castle to win the game. The reviewer calls it a “rare gem”, and I must admit, it sounds pretty cool. The spells are card-based, and I’d love to see a deck of them.

Black Hole (1978, by Robert A Taylor) pits two mining cartels against one another to capture a donut-shaped asteroid with a black hole tethered in the middle. The review is positive, so it might be a good con game for two.

Down Styphon! (1977, by Mike Gilbert) sounds pretty interesting. It is based on the book Lord Kalven of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper, in which a Penn. State trooper is transported to a parallel earth where the secret of gunpowder is controlled by a bunch of priests. The trooper knows how to make gunpowder, better weapons and he knows something about the “future” of warfare. The game is a miniatures wargame in the musket and pike era. It is apparently a very playable game with only OK layout and some missing stats for artillery (which are provided in the review).

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Orlow’s Inventions Can Liven Up Your Life
by William Fawcett

This article could be a great blog post – a random list of minor magic items that include spoons of stirring, brooms of sweeping, needles of sewing, amulets of caterpillar control, socks of dryness and matches of many lights. This stuff would be so great for putting in a wizard’s tower. Just awesome – if you can find a copy of this issue, find it for this. I’d post the random table, but it’s a little more than I’d be comfortable sharing considering the mag is copyrighted.

So, Different Worlds gaming mag. Never heard of this. I hunted down some descriptions, and apparently some issues you can still buy. I love the art in the ad, and would love to see a sample issue in PDF. There is so much buried treasure out there for gaming!

I also have to share this ad, for on heck of an artist for hire …

… who is still out there working, thankfully.

Dig Tramp’s minotaur in Wormy. So cool.

Dragon’s Bestiary: The Curst
by Ed Greenwood

I’m not sure if this is the first thing in the magazine by Ed Greenwood or not. The curst are still roaming about in the Forgotten Realms setting. Humanoids (98% are human stock) that have been cursed and cannot die, they are chaotic neutral, retain their class abilities except psychic powers and magic, gain infravision 90′ and apparently have no sense of smell. In modern parlance, they would be a “template”.

Finieous Fingers shows us what failing a surprise roll looks like.

And that does it for The Dragon #30. A pretty good issue, overall, with lots of interesting artifacts of the old days of gaming that I love. Seriously – find a copy and check out the minor magic items article – well worth it.

Dragon By Dragon – August 1979 (28)

It’s August 1979, and you’re standing in front of a magazine rack. Which magazine do you choose?

Well, too bad. I’m not reviewing Playboy (more’s the pity). You’re going to have to be happy with The Dragon #28.

We open this issue with this:

“It is fun to be unique. It is fun to be part of something unique. Sometimes, though, some of us forget just how strange all of this stuff is to the uninitiated. In the eyes of the mainstream of contemporary culture, what we do — play “games” — is decidedly different. Some would even
call it strange …”

Kask ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie. The funny thing is – as much as Gary and Dave’s little game has influence modern video games, those of us who still play the pen & paper varieties are still considered strange. People I work with are always a little surprised – not sure quite how to react – when I mention that I write role playing game books. Interesting to hear in the comments how many of us are “open gamers”.

Well, this issue opens up with a biggee – “The Politics of Hell” by Alexander Von Thorn. Van Thorn has an author page at Amazon.com, and (if it’s him) a Twitter account. If you have any questions about Hellish politics, feel free to contact the author directly.

The first line is: “Author’s note: The following article cannot be considered the official doctrine of either Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or the Roman Catholic Church. However, it is compatible with AD&D, and except for the parts about Asmodeus it is not in conflict with works on demonology as generally accepted by Catholic exorcists, thus enjoying tacit approval by the Church.” You know, just in case you were worried about your AD&D game rubbing the Catholic exorcists the wrong way.

The article pretty much sets up the political landscape of AD&D’s version of Hell, as we came to know it through the Monster Manuals, with Asmodeus on the top of the heap. It also includes stats for Satan, Belial, and Astaroth (with art).

Next, Jake Jaquet presents The Dungeon Master’s Guide – possibly the most useful RPG book ever made. The article is a collection of comments and reminiscences by people who were involved with the project, including Jeff Leason, Len Lakofka, Lawrence Schick, Jean Wells, Allan Hammack, Mike Carr, James Ward, Darlene Pekul and Gary Gygax, in an exclusive interview with The Dragon (I’m sure it was quite a coup to land that interview!)

Up next, Dan Bromberg writes “A Short Course in D&D. This is an interesting article about folks at Cranbrook Prep School setting up a 2 week course in D&D for incoming freshmen. They ended up charging $1.50, plus another $1.50 for low impact dice (the DM didn’t have to pay). The course books were a copy of Basic D&D and the Player’s Handbook. Given the fact that I still find rules in AD&D I didn’t know existed, a course like this might have been useful to me when I was a kid.

Time for some war gaming – “The Cavalry Plain at Austerlitz” by Bill Fawcett. This is a nice description of the battle that pitted the cavalry of Napoleon’s France against Austria and Russia. It is followed up by an article on “Simulating the Cavalry Plain”, also by Mr. Fawcett. He gives a nice overview of the order of battle on both sides, along with victory conditions for each side. Highly useful for folks playing Napoleonic war games.

I didn’t get interested in the Napoleonics until I started reading Military History magazine in college. Now I’m super excited to get GRIT & VIGOR published so I can write up a Napoleonic supplement to it.

Next up – alignment time! Gary Gygax opines on Evil: Law vs. Chaos in “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll”. In this, he defines the characteristics of Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil … and then let’s Neutral Evil fall where it may. He defines “evil” as the desire to advance self over others by whatever means possible, and always by the foulest means possible (emphasis mine). I like this, because it makes no qualms about what evil characters are in AD&D – they’re villains. They’re not misunderstood, and they’re not necessarily realistic depictions of human beings. Just theatrical villains you can take some enjoyment in beating the crap out of (or in playing, if you’re in the mood to foreclose on orphans and tie maidens to railroads). The Law vs. Chaos element is the desire to create a world ruled by evil vs. evil for its own sake. Now you know.

Dig this ad:

Looks like Judge’s Guild got into computer games early. The only thing I can’t figure is whether or not this was a licensed game. Here’s the article on the game at Wikipedia … and here, apparently, is a clone …

Allen Hammack writes “Six Guns & Sorcery”. If this sounds familiar, you might remember it from the old DMG, where they provided guides for conversions between AD&D and Boot Hill and AD&D and Gamma World. If you need a quick bravery stat, you can use the following:

Subtract the following from 100 for each class:

Cleric: 2 x Wisdom
Fighter and Monk: 1 x Wisdom
Magic-User: 3 x Wisdom
Thief: 4 x Wisdom

Maybe more interesting are the damage dice for some Old West weapons – Derringers do 1d4 damage, other hand guns do 1d8, shotguns do 1d10 and dynamite sticks do 4d6 damage. With these values, I wonder why they were so worried about including firearms in D&D.

Phil Neuscheler now writes “Fantasy Smith’s Notebook”. This was intended as a series of articles concerning the modeling of miniatures for D&D.

“When you have small amounts of cash to start with, you may wish to get adventurer character figures first, and use a substitute for monsters in your miniature games. After all, you will continue to play your own character(s) no matter what kind of monsters you encounter, so you’ll use the character figure more often than any individual monster. Monsters are simply not cost effective.”

The article provides contact information for several miniature makers active at the time. I wondered how many were still in the business today:

U.S. Airfix – I remember these guys making airplane models – maybe snap-together models. They still produce figures, though I’m not sure they have any ancients or medievals anymore.

Archive Miniatures – These guys appear to be defunct.

Garrison (Greenwood & Ball) – Sadly closed for business. Name sounds more like a law firm.

Grenadier – These folks appear to now be owned by Mirliton. Free downloads at the link.

Hinchcliffe Models Ltd – Still alive, but owned by Hinds Figures Ltd.

Heritage Models Inc – now defunct.

Jack Scruby’s Miniatures – there’s a Jack Scruby line at HistoriFigs. Also found a catalog from 1972 at Amazon.

Martian Miniatures – couldn’t find them online.

Miniature Figurines Ltd (Minifigs) – alive and kickin’ with a Tripod site.

Ral Partha Enterprises – still around, and pushing the resurgence of Chaos Wars. I always wanted to get into these minis when I was a kid, but the money just wasn’t there.

Next up is “Armies of the Renaissance – Part IV The English” by Nick Nascati. This covers the Welsh longbow and its importance to the rise of English military power, as well as their deadly combination of bill, pike and musket. They wore less armor than other armies, but appear to have had a high level of discipline. Also notable is the adoption of the red coat in the late 1600’s.

You might remember Lance Harrop from last week’s installment of Dragon By Dragon – this week we’re looking at his “Elvish Tactics in Fantasy Miniatures”. Not surprisingly, elvish tactics are all about speed and maneuverability. Lance gives us the following order of battle:

The light archers, light horse archers and light cavalry are there to harass the enemy. The light archers are protected by the light infantry. The medium infantry are the main line of troops, with the medium archers behind them. The elite heavy infantry are the reserve, and the medium mounted infantry and heavy mounted infantry are fast deployment reserves. The medium cavalry are the shock troops, and the heavy infantry are the elite elvish knights.

As always, Mr. Harrop gives a few notes about elves:

* They use silver to denote rank, not gold
* They do not use red or black leather
* High elves wear blue and white, middle elves green and white, low elves dark green and tan, sea elves sea green and sky blue and dark elves browns and blacks
* Elves are concerned with having a unified front

Next, Gygax sounds off in Up On A Soap Box – in this edition, on manufacturer conventions. You can imagine how fascinating this article is 35 years after it was written.

In Out on a Limb, we present this week’s Great Moments in Nerd Rage:

“This brings me to a point that I didn’t want to write about when I started this letter: spell points. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF FORGETTING SPELLS!!!!!!!” – Mark Jacobs

And in response:

“Gee, it’s always so much fun getting letters from unproven critics who think they have some inner track on “the way of things.” As to what may or may not be absurd, let me say this; if you don’t like it, why give me all of this grief? D&D has always made a point of being nothing more than guidelines for structuring a game, and stating so.”

Oh wait – some more:

“Your argument that healing is too slow is specious, and naive. You obviously have never been in a combat situation yourself, nor have you apparently even participated in something such as the Society for Creative Anachronism’s mock battles.”

God, I love this hobby (and God – I hate this hobby).

We now have another installment of The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar. An excerpt:

We have next a full board game by Tom Wham – The Awful Green Things from Outer Space. I won’t go into much detail here – the rules look pretty simple, the game is tied in with Znutar above, and I love that they used to do things like this in The Dragon.

Len Lakofka’s Bazaar of the Bizarre presents Potions of Forgetfulness, Rings of Silence, the Horn of Hadies (their spelling, not mine), the Chime of Warning, the Apparatus of Spiky Owns (a play on Spike Jones, God bless him), Leomund’s Plate and Cup, and a slick little guide for generating random magic-user spell books. To whit:

Jon Mattson now gives us “Level Progression for Players and Dungeon Masters”. This is actually a guide to how many XP players and Dungeon Master’s earn for playing different games. I kinda love this – would be a blast to introduce to the blogosphere. I have to reproduce the level charts:

“Giants in the Earth” time! Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay (my hero) give us the following literary giants given AD&D stats:

Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark (15th level fighter) – I have to admit, I was bored to tears by the one Eric John Stark book I read; they also include stats for Northhounds (4 HD)

Lord Dunsany’s Welleran (A Lawful Good ghost that possesses anyone who picks up his sword)

James M. Ward now gives us “Monty Strikes Back”. He was the original Monty Hall Dungeon Master, you might remember, who gave out tons of great treasure. This is another story of a game played with many of the early entrants into the hobby.

“We were on a winter level tonight and were far from pleased. It was Friday, one of our usual D&D nights and we were going down into a refrigerated level of Monty’s that we had found weeks before. We had all made fur coats for our figures and most of the group was going down. Robert, Jake, and Dave (I) (Tractics boys through and through) were going down as their 20th level fighters; Brian (a tractics lover too, but a fanatic on Western Gunfight) was going as his 21st level thief/fighter/cleric dwarf; Ernie, Dave (II), and I were going down as wizards of the 18th level (just little guys); Freddie was his stupid high level sword carried by a flesh golem from Jake’s golem squadron; Tom and Tim went as druids (probably because they liked all types of herbs).”

In “The Dragon’s Augury”, we have reviews of Divine Right by TSR, Sorcerer by SPI, and a book, America B.C.: Ancient Settlers in the New World by Barry Fell. Still for sale at Amazon, and four stars!

“The Dragon’s Bestiary” gives us Jake Jaquet’s Slinger. Here are the basic stats in B&T format:

Tiny Magical Beast, Low Intelligence, HD 3, AC 17, ATK 1 spine (1d4 + poison IV), MV 60, F15 R11 W15, AL N, XP 300.

These little buggers, which look like iguanas, can throw their tail spines about 20′. They are vulnerable to fire.

Fineous Fingers, Fred and Charly are stealing a Palantir in this issue.

And that wraps up issue #28. It’s always nice to leave with a song, and since Spike Jones was mentioned …

Dragon by Dragon – July 1979 (27)

I just drove in from Cedar City, and boy is my car tired.

Vaughn and Pfundstein – Go watch their play – it is excellent

I use that by way of an explanation for why this post is showing up now, rather than this morning. My daughter and I traveled to the Utah Shakespeare Festival to watch The Taming of the Shrew, starring Brian Vaughn as Petruchio and Melinda Pfundstein as Katherine. It was fabulous. If you get the chance, visit the festival. Now I want to do a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic in iambic pentameter. I’m not sure that’s possible, but boy would it be a fun challenge.

And now that I’ve given some love to the USF, it’s time for a review of The Dragon #27, published 36 years ago this month – time for a baby to be born, grow up, and begin yelling at kids born when 4th edition was published to get off his lawn. As he should, the grubby little beggars.

The ads the issue opens up with aren’t new, but I did notice this bit:

Great artifact of the size of the hobby 36 years ago.

The first article in this issue is “Agincourt: The Destruction of French Chivalry”, a game review by Tim Kask. As he writes, “Ah yes, that’s a Dunnigan game.” As in James Dunnigan. As an avid reader of his excellent books How to Make War and The Quick and Dirty Guide to War, this piqued my interest in the game review (I also note that Al Nofi did the historical research – I love his CIC articles at Strategy Page). Kask praises how he makes the game feel like the period, reflecting the fact that the French mostly defeated themselves at Agincourt. He finds it both a very complex game, and a very playable game.

To my delight, the review was followed by an article from Dunnigan himself – “Agincourt: Designer’s Notes”. One extract:

“I would say the single most difficult aspect that I had to incorporate into the design of Agincourt, were the combined arms and doctrine factors that were critical to the outcome of the battle, This is best shown by looking at the rules covering crowding and fugitives and their effect upon morale.”

I note this, because it’s similar to what I try to do with Bloody Basic and articles on fantasy campaigns in NOD (and not always successfully) – how do you interject the feel of the subject you’re covering without making the game needlessly complicated. It brings to my mind the idea of first principals.

Keeping the theme alive, Steve Alvin now writes “The Political and Military Effects of Agincourt on the Hundred Years War”. I love history – majored in it in college – and I know most war game buffs have at least some regard for it, but I wonder how popular articles like this were back in the day. I hope very. I wonder how they would play now?

Get your scissors out, because Jeff Swycaffer‘s article “Elementals and the Philosopher’s Stone” has a full-color cutout. In the article he mentions the four elements of Greek philosophy and the elementals they inspired … and then remarks on the twelve new types of elementals discovered by “a mad philosopher”. These would be the quasi-elementals and/or para-elementals. I can never keep them straight. Swycaffer visualizes the placement of the elementals thus:

“To visualize the placement of the elementals in the scheme of reality, imagine a globe. The equator is divided into eight segments: air, cold, water, moisture, earth, heat, fire, and dry. Thus the circle is complete, with dryness adjacent to air. This is reasonable, as the alchemists of the 1200s depicted the elements in this fashion. Here water is both cold and moist, and both air and fire are dry.

This is merely the plane of the equator, however. At the south pole, evil. Good and evil are the poles of the physical world, and no one element is more evil than good, or vice versa.”

He then goes on to explain how the elements interact with good and evil – these are the qualities, which include pleasure, fertility, beginning, light, ending, darkness, pain and barren. He explains that the “elementals of good and evil” are the demons of Eldritch Wizardry, D&D Supplement III and the angels of Stephen H. Domeman that appears in The Dragon #17. He then goes on to describe, in basic terms, the elementals of qualities. For example:

“ENDING: Appears as a normal human. Closes doors (as a wizard lock), dispels good magic, and curses as an Evil High Priest.”

For those who need to know, the Ending Elemental has 2 HD, movement of 9, does 1d6 damage per hit, has AC 9 (remember, this is old “lower is better” AC), and is friends with air, water and cold elementals.

“From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” this month is by a guest writer – Bob Bledsaw. He created a little something called Judge’s Guild, which produced some of the great little gems of the OD&D era. He covers all the things JG had done at that time for D&D – a nice little bit of horn blowing, but well deserved I think. I liked this quote:

“Ya don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and ya don’t mess around with the play balance …”

Truer words were never spoken.

Next up is an “Out on a Limb”. God, this is classic geek-fight material, and it should surprise nobody that these are the folks that invented the internet. An example, from an extremely long letter to the editor by Ray Rahman of Minnesota. The first paragraph of his letter:

“Upon reading Mark Cummings’ review of Ralph Bakshi’s film THE LORD OF THE RINGS, I became as concerned about Mr. Cummings’ ethics as he was of Mr. Bakshi’s morals. His review of the film begins dramatically with the statement: “Your film is a ripoff! Yes, rip off! I know that the expression has moral connotations, and that you haven’t done anything wrong legally; but I happen to believe that moral obligations often make demands that go beyond the demands of laws. So stay with me for a few paragraphs, and I’ll explain why your film is immoral … Let me start by saying that I’M not an outraged purist.”


Next up is an ad for Boot Hill, a game I know little about but would love to explore. I’ve been hankering to do a sort of Old West Bloody Basic, but I’m waiting until Grit & Vigor is finished so I can base it on those rules.

Gary Jordan now presents a variant that might delight fans of the recent Marvel movies, “Tesseracts: A Traveller Artifact”. The idea is using these not as a way to confuse mappers (as they had previously been presented to DM’s), but as a boon to the players of Traveller. Really, it comes down to using matter transmitters to move folks around a ship.

Up next is a new cartoon to The Dragon called “The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar, A Starship on a Mission of Empire”. I don’t remember this from the era of Dragon magazines I grew up in, so I wonder how long it survived.

Gary Jordan now chimes in with another Traveller article on Star System Generation. This is a scheme for filling hex maps, filling in the presence of planets, star ports, etc.

In the Designer’s Forum, “Divine Right” is covered again (it was TSR’s newest game), by Glenn and Kenneth Rahman (there’s that name again – can’t be a coincidence, can it?).

Lance Harrop now presents “A Quick Look at Dwarves”. This is a long article on how dwarf armies are organized, with an accompanying chart.

Wow – they got into it in the old days, didn’t they. Still, there are lots of great ideas – the dwarven engineers, miners, masons, etc. forming divisions of the army. He adds the following at the end of the article:

On Painting Dwarves: Elite units of dwarves should have white beards (reminds me of the Graybeards units in Warhammer), dwarf armor should be shiny and a mix of metals, dwarves don’t seem to have national colors (“don’t seem” – well, they aren’t real, so I suppose they don’t) but use colors to designate individuals, and whatever you do, don’t make your dwarves too gaudy.

On Dwarvish Tactics: Vanguards always drive towards the dwarf commander, dwarves love to tear into orcs, dwarf morale is very slow to break and dwarves are known to leave the field of battle after their leader is killed, but they do not rout – they just walk off slowly, carrying his body.

The Design Forum continues now with Jay Facciolo writing about “The Emerald Tablet”. This is a miniatures war game published by Creative Wargames Workshop (side note – imagine how many games there are out there that have never been cloned, for good or ill). I love the name. The game was an attempt to make something that was neither too specific or vague, and which incorporated magic into the rules, rather than just overlaying magic atop ancient or medieval warfare. If nothing else, you have to appreciate the cover I found at BoardGameGeek.

It sounds like an interesting take, with each unit in the game begin given one of four orders before the game begins – attack, skirmish, hold or support (another unit). These orders can only be changed during the game by one of the figures representing the players. Interesting idea, and requires a great deal of thought before the game starts. The magic segment of the game requires quite a lot of explanation, and appears to be, if not complicated, then at least engrossing. It even comes with a bibiolography (and a bit of cheesecake)

“Giants in the Earth”, one of my favorite features, comes next. I really need to do something like this myself in NOD – maybe I should let people vote on G+.

This edition includes the following literary giants:

Alan Garner’s DURATHROR (13th level fighter/Dwarvish paladin)

Fritz Leiber’s FAFHRD (20th level fighter/8th level thief) and THE GRAY MOUSER (18th level fighter-thief)

Edgar Rice Burrough’s JOHN CARTER OF MARS (30th level fighter)

Eh – never heard of ’em.

Robert Camino writes “Go Boldly Where No Man Has Gone Before: Expanding Imperium. This is a variant which requires two sets of the game, the boards being connected by eight jump routes which are always charted by the players (whatever that refers to). Love the art!

Great advert comes next, for Tome of Treasures, published by GRP Enterprises of Arlington, VA. The tagline got me “Plumb the depths of the Cube of Time and the Bow of Precognition. Explore the effects on hapless orcs of the Sword of Rout. Gems, jewelry, and 172 brand new, quality magic items are described …”

Jerome Arkenberg now presents “The Mythos of Africa in Dungeons & Dragons. This is one heck of a tricky subject, as treating Africa as though it a single culture is ridiculous. The article presents many gods. For creatures, we get:

“In this category fall: witches, ghosts, were-lions, were-hyenas, and fairies. These are all the same as in the D&D Monster Manual.”

Turns out, we had all the African monsters we ever needed. I have a feeling that either the article was too long and something had to be cut, or the research was just too difficult back in the 1970’s. The article also includes many heroes.

The “Dragon’s Bestiary” presents the Horast, created by Mary Lynn Skirvin. Also known as a “whipper beast”, a very rare creature with a whip-like tail that deals 4d6 damage. This one didn’t make it into the MM, but fear not, for the article ends with this:

“By gracious arrangement with the author of AD&D, Gary Gygax, monsters appearing in this column are to be considered OFFICIAL AD&D MONSTERS.”

So, if you need a monster with a whip tail, D&D has you covered. Officially.

Comic strip time. We have Finieous Fingers (their spelling, not mine), which again includes some nudity of the female variety – D&D was a game for grown-ups, after all.

No, I’m not going to show it this time. Finieous’ butt from the last post will have to suffice.

In “Bazaar of the Bizarre” (the elements are all coming together, aren’t they), Gygax presents the Bag of Wind. Write your own jokes, folks.

Dig the back cover, kids:

Looks like I need to up my game with NOD.

Fun issue, with plenty for D&D’ers and war gamers. Check it out if you can find a copy.

Dragon by Dragon – June 1979 (26)

Two years ago, I was writing a series of weekly blog posts on the old issues of Dragon magazine – something like reviews with a bit of crunch mixed in. And then I stopped. And I don’t remember why.

Well, now I’m starting again. So … journey back in time with me to June of 1979, when the Bee Gees were dominating the charts with Love You Inside Out

Oh – that’s Wanda Nevada. Brooke Shields. Groovy.

Anyhow – into this golden age of entertainment comes Dragon Magazine, Volume III, No. 12 with a kickin’ cover depicting some Napoleonic war game action, and of course much more. Let’s dive right in.

The first thing we’re greeted with is a great full-page Ral Partha advert, noting that “The Little Things Make a Noticeable Difference”. If you’re in my generation of gamers, Ral Partha is just branded into your brain. They were so prevalent in the pages of magazines, and had some great adverts. Honestly, I never messed with miniatures back in the day. I got into the Citadel stuff in late high school and through college, and bought a few Ral Partha minis then, but I really missed the companies hey day. Alas.

On the contents page, we are made aware that this issue marks the beginning of Gay Jaquet’s reign as assistant editor, assisting T. J. Kask, that is. I note this only to point out that TSR appears to be growing.

Another ad now, for the Origins! 79 convention in Chester, Pennsylvania. Do you think the geeks that now trod those halls know the gaming history of the place? Probably not.


Looks like a cool college – love the brick work. I’m from Las Vegas – we live in a world of stucco and sandstone, so the brick stuff always impresses me. What can I say – I’m a cheap date.

Next, we have a status update on Gencon XII, and a notice that they’re looking for judges and events for the con. We also get a full con schedule, some prices on back issues of The Dragon (back issues are $2.10 a pop, or $6.88 in today’s dollars. Not a bad price).

Oh yeah – and a McLean cartoon involving the confusion between rocs and rocks. I love watching his art style grow in these early issues. There was some solid young talent in gaming back in the day. I wonder what they paid him per cartoon?

Now we reach the first article – “System 7 Napoleonics: Miniatures Meet Boards”, by Kask. I’m not going to delve too deeply into the article itself, which reviews the game System 7 Napoleonics by GDW, which uses cardboard counters in place of miniatures, and is thus cheap compared to using the lead, but I will point this out:

“The problem with establishing a campaign in a college club, whether it be D&D; TRAVELER, or a Napoleonics, is one of continuity. Each semester, some of the stalwarts say goodbye and depart for “the real world.” This can be especially traumatic if one of those departing owns the French Army, or what passed for it in terms of collective club figures.”

Funny to think how wrapped up the game used to be with issues like this. I suppose it still goes on to this day – maybe some college kids could chime in in the comments below and let us know if they still deal with this. Personally, I’m an old fart, and I do my gaming on G+ these days.

This article is followed up by another article on System 7, by Rich Banner (the designer), called “Necessity is the Mother of Innovation”. If you were into this new game, this was your lucky month, because this article is followed up by a Q&A with Banner.

Speaking of GDW (or Game Designers’ Workshop), we are now treated to a full page ad for their new expansion for Traveler, Imperium – Empires in Conflict: Worlds in the Balance. Great title.

From the Dungeon Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva (no longer there, I’m afraid), we have an ad for 4th Dimension, the Game of Time & Space, produced by TSR (sort of – click here for more). Apparently, you play a Time-Lord (does the hyphen grant immunity from BBC law suits?) commanding an army of Guardians, Rangers and Warriors in some sort of board game battle.

Next we get back into some D&D goodness, with “Giants in the Earth”. Great series of articles, giving game stats to literary characters (why don’t I do that in NOD?). This is a particular goody, because we get Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever (14th level thief, Str 15, Int 18 (56%), Wis 13, Dex 18 (93%), Con 15, Cha 16 – sounds like Vance was cheating on his dice rolls when he rolled up Cugel, and what’s with the percentiles – I thought they only did that with Strength scores in AD&D?), Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane (30th level fighter, 20th level magic-user, 14th level assassin – how many XP would that take?) and Talbot Mundy’s Tros of Samothrace (15th level paladin). I love Cugel, I’ve heard of Kane (but never read him), but Tros was new to me.

Ah – this is included:

Note: For the game purposes of these heroes: Dexterity 18 (00) gives +4 on Reaction/Attacking, -5 Defensive adjustment and three attacks per round for high level fighters. Constitution 18 (00) gives fighters +4.5 per hit die bonus

Oh, and Judge’s Guild (hallowed be their name) was hawking the Treasury of Archaic Names by Bill Owen. Struggle no longer for heroic character names!

Up next, “What of the Skinnies?” by James W. S. Marvin, a Starship Troopers variant. Not going to lie – caught a bit of the movie, never read the book, have never laid eyes on the game they’re referencing here. This might be the greatest article on the topic ever, and I’ll never know it. Moving on.

Edward C. Cooper gives some tips on “The Placement of Castles” in Lord and Wizard. Article aside, L&W sounds like a pretty cool game: “Mighty, magical holocausts, awe-inspiring Dragons, weird and terrible monsters, military battles on a grand scale. Which of the combatants, Order or Chaos, shall win? And can the forces of Neutrality maintain the precarious balance of power . . . An exciting, fast moving game of movement and combat in a fantastic world, where skill and strategy will decide the winner.” Another board game – the RPG’s are still in their infancy, after all, and at this point most RPG’ers have probably come to the game from board games and miniature war gaming. Makes sense.

Joe Curreri writes “35th Anniversary of D-Day Remembered”. There were lots more veterans of that day alive at the time, and their kids were the ones playing all these silly games. The page also has an ad for Lyle’s Hobby & Craft Center in Westmont, Illinois. Sadly, also no longer there.

In the Design Forum, James McMillan writes about “The Solo Berserker for William the Conqueror-1066. This article presents solitaire rules for the aforementioned game, with a little history on the berserkers. He includes the note that Eystein Orre, one of Harald Hadrada’s men, was called “the Gorcock”. If you’re reading this and play a barbarian or berserker in some game, please consider renaming your character “the Gorcock”. For me. For Eystein. For America.

Next up, David Sweet presents game stats for “Chinese Undead”. We have stats for Lower Souls, Lost Souls, Vampire-Spectres, Sea Bonze, Celestial Stags and Goat Demons. Boy, stats were simple in those days:

Also this:

Look out!

Fantasy 15s has a full page ad for 15mm miniatures allowing you to “re-create the mass battles of Middle Earth – at prices you can afford!” I wonder if there’s a source for cheap men-at-arms so fighter lords can do the same thing. The reproduction ain’t great, but the art in the ad is pretty cool …

The next article includes Boot Hill additions, revisions, and triva (!) by Michael Crane. The have a great “Fast Exact Hit Location Chart” that could be useful for duels, but also just combat in general (especially missile combat):

And, because it wouldn’t be a real D&D mag from the old days … “Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme” by Carl Parlagreco. This article tries to lay out what you can and cannot do with each alignment. Helping people is something Good characters do, apparently, while trusting in organizations is something for Lawfuls. Here are a couple samples:

Chaotic Good … will keep their word to other of good alignment, will not attack an unarmed foe, will not use poison, will help those in need, prefers to work alone, responds poorly to higher authority, and is distrustful of organizations

Neutral Evil … will not necessarily keep their word, would attack an unarmed foe, will use poison, will not help those in need, may work with others, is indifferent to higher authority, and is indifferent to organizations.

I think this is actually a much more useful way to look at alignment that getting philosophical with it, especially for people new to the game. Of course, you need a reward/penalty mechanism with alignment to make these strictures matter.

Next is Kevin Hendryx’s “Deck of Fate”, with illustrations by Grey Newberry. This is a great magical tarot card deck. Characters draw cards, and get magic results based on what they draw. For example:

II – Junon – The Goddess: No effect for non-clerics. For clerics, permanently boosts their Wisdom score to 18 and gains use of one spell of the next higher level.

In other words – it’s a pretty powerful magic item – an artifact really. You could probably make one heck of a quest into a band of adventurers having to retrieve all of these magic cards.

Rick Krebs now provides “D&D Meets the Electronic Age”. Boy, they had no idea. Dig it:

Over the years access to photocopiers and mimeograph machines have aided many Dungeon Masters in copying maps, charts and even publishing their own zines, all to the expansion of their campaign. But, the recent electronics explosion has now brought another tool to those DMs fortunate to have access to them: the micro-computer. We were one of those fortunate groups to gain the use of a 4K (4,000 bit) memory, BASIC speaking microcomputer.

Charles Sagui now writes “Hirelings Have Feelings Too”. It’s a short article that provides some guidelines for paying hirelings to keep them around. According to Charles, hirelings should be payed two years salary in advance, plus a share of the spoils – either an equal share, or a percentage. Non-humans, he says, will not hire on for salary alone – except orcs – but will also demand to be supplied with equipment and weapons to go into the dungeon. Elves, he says, don’t like to go into dungeons as hirelings – they like fresh air and trees too much. They don’t care much for gold, but they will demand a fine cut gem or magic item + 15% of treasure. Dwarves can be greedy at times – they want four years salary and 15% of treasure. And if you try to give a +3 returning warhammer to somebody else, there’s a 65% chance the dwarf will try to steal it. Orcs will go in for one year salary and 2-5% of treasure, and will only work for chaotics. They are prone to run away when confronted with a difficult fight and have a bad habit of killing their employer in his sleep and stealing all his stuff. I guess turn-about it fair play in a dungeon.

Charles also says that hireling NPCs will only go into the dungeon once – after that, they retire to blow their hard-earned gold on “strong drink and their favorite vice.” Once their money is gone, they might go back in with the PC’s – and if the PC’s paid well last time, they’ll be more loyal. Loyalty ratings for hirelings aren’t used much these days, but they were an important system in a time when hirelings and henchmen were the norm for D&D.

Michael Crane also contributes “Notes from a Very Successful D&D Moderator”. This is a chance, he says, for the moderators (i.e. game masters) to share their tips and tricks after many players have shared ideas for beating dungeons. The article is pretty much about one-upmanship between the DM and the players. A nice historical piece, from when the game was (and was supposed to be) a competition between the DM and the players.

Gary Gygax now chimes in with his “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” with “D&D, AD&D and Gaming”. The article discusses the origins of role-playing games, of fantasy war gaming, and of role-playing within fantasy war gaming. It’s a nice retrospective, and Dave Arneson’s innovation of giving players individual roles to play is mentioned. Gygax also takes pains to explain that AD&D is a different game than D&D – not an expansion or revision. As Gygax explains:

“Where D&D is a very loose, open framework around which highly imaginative Dungeon Masters can construct what amounts to a set of rules and game of their own choosing, AD&D is a much tighter and more structured game system.”

Which also explains why I like D&D better than AD&D. I like my games loose and imaginative. The article lays out the future of AD&D. And then this towards the end:

“For those of you who wondered why I took certain amateur publishing efforts to task, it was because they were highly insulting to TSR, D&D, this magazine, and myself.”

Nerd fights. They never end.

Kevin Hendryx now presents a variant game for D&D in the modern era called “Mugger!”. Welcome to the 1970’s. Technically, it is Mugger! The Game of Tactical Inter-City Combat, 1979. Each player plays a mugger, gaining experience for each successful mugging and gathering loot. The goal is to “… amass as large a horde of experience points as possible while carrying out one’s crimes and eventually gain a seat in the U.S. Congress …” The times, they ain’t a changin’ all that much, are they?

Random encounters include 1d2 cops on their beat, 1d3 roving squad cars, 1d6 tougher muggers, 1d8 street gangs, 1d20 Hare Krishna fanatics and 4d6 stray dogs.

Oh, and you pick up 1,000 XP for stealing 10 kg of plutonium.

Here’s the level chart:

It’s actually a pretty long article, and though tongue-in-cheek would probably be fun to play one night with some friends. It strikes me that the old city map from Marvel Super-Heroes would come in handy on this one.

Lots of articles in this issue. Next is “Birth Tables and Social Status” for Empire of the Petal Throne, by G. Arthur Rahman. EPT was still a major component in gaming in this period, and its generally featured in every issue of The Dragon. It provides a very long table for generating birth and social status, and this translates into skills, spells and the like for the character. Looks good to me.

Apparently, Grenadier was pushing their new line of licensed Gamma World miniatures with a full page ad. You can see some unpainted models HERE and some painted ones HERE.

Len Lakofka’s “Bazaar of the Bizarre” is “Blueprint for a Lich” in this issue. This is an in-depth article on how high level magic-users and clerics become liches, including a recipe that involves 2 pinches of pure arsenic and 1 measure of fresh wyvern venom (under 60 days old). Don’t mix this one up at home, kiddies.

The would-be lich then drinks the concoction and rolls the D%

1-10: No effect whatsoever, other than all body hair falling out
11-40: Come for 2-7 days – the potion works!
41-70: Feebleminded until dispelled by dispel magic. Each attempt to remove the feeblemind has a 10% chance to kill the drinker if it fails. The potion works!
71-90: Paralyzed for 4-14 days. 30% chance of permanent loss of 1d6 dexterity points. The potion works!
91-96: Permanently deaf, dumb or blind. Only a full wish can regain the sense. The potion works!
97-00: DEAD – star over … if you can be resurrected.

First – I can actually use this in the online game I’m running.

Second – awesome random table for generating liches – they’re either a bit paralyzed, could be blind or deaf, or maybe are completely normal. Side-effects are a good idea for major potions.

Gary Gygax now provides tables for “Putting Together a Party on the Spur of the Moment”. This generates a PC party quickly, with tables and rules for generating quick ability scores, level, armor, weapons and magic items. I think this made it into the DM’s Guide. Which DMG you ask – come on, there’s really only one.

Thomas Holsinger provides a “Strength Comparison Table”. He provides a strength table from 0 to 18/00, with monster equivalents, hit bonuses and damage bonuses. It’s inspired by Dave Hargrave’s Arduin Grimoire II. FYI – Leprechauns are stronger than Brownies, and Pixies are stronger than Leprechauns, just in case you were going to run an all-fey remake of Over the Top. (Google it!)

Jeff Neufeld now provides a review of a play-by-mail game called Tribes of Crane (which is mis-written as Tribes of Tome in the first sentence). We also have reviews of Ice War. (Soviet/US confrontation), Mercenary (a Traveller book), The Battle of Monmouth and Grenadier Figure Packs and a very long review of Battle Sphere with lots of cool illustrations.

The Dragon’s Bestiary (formerly Featured Creature) presents the barghest, so you now know which decade to blame for those little bastards.

Next comes “The Adventures of Fineous Fingers, Fred & Charly”.

Who says old school fantasy is all about scantily clad females?

Great article title by Rod Stephens – “The Thief: A Deadly Annoyance”. Amen to that. He laments the misuse of thieves in dungeons, because they’re really meant for urban environments, where they can steal from high-level NPC’s and other players – because PC’s have more money than just about anybody in the game. He isn’t wrong.

We finish up with some full page ads for GenCon XII, TSR’s new game Divine Right (notes that T.M. Reg. has been applied for – so don’t try anything funny) and Space Gamer (subscribe to get a free game – Ogre, Chitin I, Melee, WarpWar or Rivets).

A packed issue, and a reminder that The Dragon was a full-bodied gaming magazine at the time, and not just TSR’s house organ.

Hope you enjoyed the review – have a happy Sunday and a great week ahead.

Dragon by Dragon – December 1978 (21)

Just imagine all the spiffy Ronco products people were unwrapping on Christmas day in 1978! A few folks might have also been perusing the December 1978 Dragon magazine while they were waiting for Christmas lunch or dinner. Let’s see what it included …

First up, we have a groovy little advert from Ral Partha that would make a good elven army list or encounter list. Let’s make it random …

01-05. Wood Elf Archers (Longbow and Shortsword)
06-25. Wood Elf Infantry (Longbow and Longsword)
26-30. Woof Elf Cavalry (Lance)
31-50. Sea Elf Pikeman
51-60. High Elf Swordsmen
61-75. High Elf Spearmen
76-95. High Elf Cavalry (Two-Handed Swords)
96-100. Elfin Command Group – Elf Commander (5th level fighter/magic-user), Elf Lieutenant (3rd level fighter/magic-user)

First article this issue is a revisit of the Search for the Nile game. This is basically a response to the article in the last issue of The Dragon by the games creator.

Okay – have to share this next ad with everybody …

Next up, we have a neat little table of titles for powerful NPCs by Brian Blume. This one works like the old menus at Chinese restaurants – choose one bit from column 1, one from column 2, etc. Here are a couple examples:

The Lord Protector, His Most Distinguished Illustriousness, The Crown Prince Bob, the Incomparable Slaughterer of Dragons

The Guildmaster, Her All Triumphant Laduyship, Lady Cassandra, The Terrible Scythe of Honor

Kinda groovy – worth checking out. I’ll probably turn it into a random table and use it for Nod now and again.

Willie Callison now presents a Cure for the “Same-Old-Monster” Blues. Every long-time DM has gone through this. Mr. Callison’s suggestion is to look at the world around you and draw inspiration from nature. The giant snake, for example, can be described as any real species of snake – different types of attacks, different color patterns, etc. You get the idea.

Callison also provides the next article – Inflation in D&D. In 1978, inflation would have been foremost on people’s minds, and Willie complains about the lack of realism inherent in the D&D economy – i.e. too many gold pieces floating around. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really give any solutions to the problem. So, kind of a pointless article.

Prophet Proofing (or how to counter foretelling spells) by David Schroeder attempts to throw a monkey wrench into spells like clairvoyance, clairaudience, wizard eye, ESP and x-ray vision. I’m generally not a fan of ideas on how to screw up powers that players should rightly be able to exercise with the characters. I mean, a fighter with a high strength and two-handed sword sure does kill lots of orcs – shouldn’t there be a way to screw that up? Sneaky tricks are a good thing in D&D – keeps the players on their toes – but at the same time, the clever use of spells to overcome obstacles is one of the points of the game.

Sensible Sorcery is an article by Ronald Pehr that explores ways to make researching spells more difficult for magic-users. I think I’m detecting a theme in this article.

Robert Wagner (no, probably not him) now delivers a Boot Hill Encounter Chart. The chart is for town encounters, and is divided into two parts – Town till 8 p.m. and Town after 8 p.m. The early chart gives a 1 in 6 chance of an encounter, while the late chart gives a 2 in 6 chance. Early encounters include pickpockets, various job offers (a very good idea!), being shot at by 1 or 2 people, being mugged by 1 or 2 people, being falsely arrested or have 1 or 2 deputies after you. The late encounters include jealous husbands, being challenged to a gun fight, seeing a bank robbery, more job offers and being arrested by a U. S. Marshall (maybe this guy!). It’s a very good chart, and easily adaptable to a fantasy game or one set later than the Old West period.

Rod Stevens delivers Encounters with Personality. Here, he provides a few ideas on giving monsters and NPCs a bit of history and personality for encounters. Did DM’s actually not do this back in the day? Perhaps – old D&D had a few elements of wargame/boardgame to it back in the day, but articles like this show the progression to a more story-based game. A couple examples:

1. BLARG: Ftr. Cha/Evil. Hobgoblin. Blarg hates everything but ogres. These he emulates but they hate him.

3rd 20 5 16 7 7 6 8 6 +1 +1 shrt. sd.

8. CLARENCE LINDIR: Ftr. Law/Good. Human. He is a constable who is always accompanied by 11 other constables. He will do anything to make an arrest including arresting jaywalkers, people with water in wine skins, or anything else he can think of. He often makes up absurd charges. When in court he will then charge resisting arrest if the party didn’t come peacefully. Of the hundreds of arrests he has made, he has only gotten 2 convictions. The townspeople pointedly ignore him and call him “Clarence the Clown” behind his back.

1st 9 7 1 7 9 1 0 9 7 8 + 2 + 2 mace & spear

Next come the game reviews. Olympica is set in 2206, where a human colony on Mars is being conquered by a group mind called “The Web” (prescient in a way, huh?). One player controls the assault group being sent by the U. N., while the other player defends the Web generator from the assault.

Don Turnbull of Cambridge, England presents a section of his Greenlands Dungeon – The Hall of Mystery. It’s quite a long description, but it involves riddles (sort of), mirrors (one a mirror of opposition, the other of life trapping containing a succubus) and a host of monsters in rooms. I will share the map …

Gary Gygax pops in next with a strategy guide for Rail Baron. I’ve heard good things about this game (one wonders if it could have been used in concert with Boot Hill), but I’ve never played it. Since I haven’t played it, I won’t chime in on how good a guide it is, but it does look as though it’s quite thorough. In fact, I think it might be the longest article in the magazine.

A couple more game reviews follow. King Arthur’s Knights, which reviewer S. List describes as being similar to TSR’s DUNGEON. Players choose to be a knight errant, knight at arms or great knight, which increasing levels of power and obligations, as well as tougher victory conditions. The map was apparently gorgeous, the rules book 16 pages long and there were 11 decks of small cards. There are several Magic Places on the board, and on each one places a magic treasure and magic guardian.

Timothy Jones now presents some optional rules for DUNGEON. There are new characters (halfling, dwarf, cleric, thief and paladin), new prizes (including a bag of dung!) and new monsters (red dragons, blue or white dragons, witches, evil wizards and evil priests).

T. Watson then has a review of Tolkien’s Silmarillon. Watson describes it as the bible of Middle Earth, with the Valar as the angels, Melkor/Morgoth as Lucifer and the elves as the chosen people. Watson seems to like it, despite it being long and dry, but also seems to indicate that it’s for folks who really want to know more about the imaginary Middle Earth.

In James Ward’s Monty Strikes Back, we get another installment of gonzo dungeoneering done right. Here’s a sample:

“The three ancient white dragons guarding the door were no problem. It was just a matter of running in the chamber hasted and invisible and throwing three hold monsters at things. They didn’t have any treasure, they were just there to slow us down a bit. As we walked through the door ‘Monty gave his “evil” chuckle (which always meant we were in big trouble) and we were told that we were sliding down a sheet of glare ice. We wound up pinioned against a mass of ice spears and everybody but Freddie had taken damage. He then thought it would be a great idea to use his flaming power to melt the spears away. Ernie and I, knowing the horrors Monty could think up, tried to stop him but it was too late. We were hit from above by partially melted ice stalactites and again Freddie was the only one unhurt.”

This was my point about D&D once being something like a wargame/boardgame. The fun was in moving around the pieces, not telling their life stories.

And that’s it for December. The reviews were interesting, a few of the articles useful, but honestly not among the best issues I’ve read.

Enjoy your Saturday gang!

Dragon by Dragon – October 1978 (19)

Hey – almost have my months synced here! October 1978 and Dragon blows in with what appears to be a pretty full issue. Let’s begin …

First thing I see this issue, other than the editorial, is “The Battle for Snurre’s Hall”, the tournament for the Origins ’78 D&D Tournament. Good recap of the winning team’s tactics, and reminds you of the game aspect that I think sometimes gets buried under the “role play” aspect.

How Many Ettins Is a Fire Giant Worth: Competitive D&D by Bob Blake

And then this article reminds me of the importance of role play in the game. Basically, this is an article about scoring competitive modules. Given my intense interest in such things …

A Compendium of Diverse D&D Player Personalities by Mike Crane

Hmmm … maybe the next article holds something interesting …

Gamma World – A New List of Treasures To Be Found by Gary Gygax

Thanks EGG! A nice random table (1-100) of relics for Gamma World. We have a home donut maker, wire cutters in fair condition (an amazing find), a plastic box of 50-100 assorted screws (you know these are going to be used to stud a club, right), a leather bag of dice, etc.

Gamma World – More Excerpts from the Journals of Hald Sevrin by Gary Jaquet

This one covers the history of Gamma World in the Black Years. Apparently, it was hard, but people adapted.


Or “Wormy 8 Ball” to my 12-year old brain.

Wormy swoops in (thank God) and provides some light entertainment – if you consider a tree troll being ripped apart light entertainment. Beware blue demons!

The thing that always made me wonder about Wormy was the trolls. Trolls were supposed to be complete bastards, right? But these guys were pretty cool. As a kid, the Monster Manual was as canon as it came, and this was the first introduction I had to “it’s my world, I can do whatever I want”. Good training for a young DM.

The Lowdown on Wishes by Kevin Thompson

The thing is, wishes have absolutely no place in a game. In a story, they’re fine. But in a game, nothing but trouble. Great line …

“Most DM’s want to be fair about wishes but don’t want Player characters to take undue advantage. So they kill them.”

The article tries to get into the science behind wishes. Mildly interesting, but very “campaign world” specific in a way. The idea is that wish spells are empowered into devices by wizards to allow non-wizards to use magic. They may vary in strength, and might have alignment restrictions as well (i.e. a lawful wish cannot be used for something chaotic). Thompson divides wishes into four classes:

CLASS I: Creates purely physical (mundane) objects or occurrences

CLASS II: Creates living, non-magical beings, weak magical equipment and duplicates magic-user spells up to 5th level

CLASS III: Creates living, magical beings (but only the weakest type), moderately strong magic items and can duplicate any magic-user spell and cleric spells up to 4th

CLASS IV: Can do almost anything except granting more wishes in any way, shape or form.

Not a bad schema, really.

Planning Creative Treasurers by Dave Schroeder

Dave gets into thinking more about treasures – why is that orc carrying a bunch of gems, for example, or using a theme with a treasure horde. He refers to these as toolkits, for example …

“A thief’s toolkit could contain a +1 dagger, a gem that glows in the presence of traps, a set of Gauntlets of Dexterity, a skeleton key that would raise its user’s chances of opening locks, or a pair of “waldos”, that would allow him to open trapped chests from a distance. Don’t forget a periscope for peeking around corners, or perhaps a bag of holding for the loot. Disappearance Dust would be useful, as would a Gauntlet of Etherealness that would let pouches and pockets be picked tracelessly.”

The Mythos of Australia by Jerome Arkenberg

Another in the line of mythos articles, and if you’ve ever dipped your toes into the Australian myths, you know they are quite interesting and tough to adapt to D&D. The beauty of the Greek and Norse myths is that so many of them read like comic books.

Systematic Magic by Robin W. Rhodes

I love it when geeks begin “rationally” explaining why it makes no sense that a magic-user with charm person in his book could ever earn enough gold/experience to figure out hypnotic pattern, since charm person is clearly a control spell and hypnotic pattern a mental spell.

Spells here are divided into these different categories, which have different prime requisites. Control spells, for example, have charisma as a prime requisite, while nature spells have constitution as their prime. Holy spells only have the lawful alignment as their prime requisite.

Lawful characters begin with two holy spells. Neutrals get one 1st level spell from (I guess, the language is confusing) the category that matches their highest ability score. Chaotics aren’t mentioned, and a character can never have more than two new spells at any one time.

The chance to miscast a spell is equal to the level of the spell divided by the prime requisite. So, dispel magic, a 3rd level defense spell, would have a 3/15 chance of miscast if the caster had a constitution of 15, i.e. 20% chance of miscast. DM determines the side effects of a miscast spell.

Casting a spell costs one point of its prime requisite per spell level – so that dispel magic spell would cost 3 points of constitution. One point is recovered for every turn (minute or 10 minutes, depending on the version of the game) not spent in melee.

A new spell must be successfully cast once per spell level before the caster can learn another spell of that level.

Only two fields of magic can be learned at a time.

A bit fiddly, but a neat idea. Wonder how it works in real play. Again, though, you can see the future divides of gaming even at this early stage – more rules vs. fewer rules, “logic” vs. gonzo, etc.

The Fastest Guns That Never Lived, Part III by Allen Hammack

This third in a series examines several more characters from western shows and gives them Boot Hill stats, including Bret, Bart and Beau Maverick, Will and Jeff Sonnet, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, James Coburn (fuck, I want to play James Coburn in a game of Boot Hill), Robert Vaughn, Tim Straum, Kid Shelleen and Jason McCord. I love that the article mashes up characters and actors.

A Mixture of Magic and Technology: Gamma World Review by Robert Barger

When people say magic and technology don’t mix, it really burns the author. Hallmark of a geek – being annoyed at differing opinions. He mostly covers the ease with which one can combine Gamma World and D&D, which is something I like as well. Moving on …

Spell Determination for Hostile Magic-Users by Steve Miller

This is a quick article to randomly determine what spells an NPC magic-user might have, inspired by a bunch of players bitching when a randomly encountered enchanter threw and ice storm and fireball at them and wiped out their PCs. My response to this problem …

Honestly, it is good to vary the spells a bit, but on the other hand, do players ever apologize for destroying the kick-ass villain you designed in some dungeon you worked all month to stock? No, they don’t. You shouldn’t either.

Charts for Determining the Location of Treasure by Ronald Guritzky

Nice random table of treasure locations – very helpful when you write a lot of this stuff.

1) The location of the treasure
1-6 Chest
7-9 Urn
10-12 Bag
13-13 Pot
16-17 Loose
18 Carried
19 Hidden (Wall, Floor, Secret Compartment, etc.)
20 Ref’s Choice

2) There is a one in four chance that a treasure has a trap in it.

3) Traps
01-20 1-8 Daggers (1 in 6 poison)
21-36 1-6 Arrows
37-46 1-3 Spears (1 in 6 poison)
47-62 Gas
63-78 Poison Lock
79-88 Monster in Chest (Pay attention to monster’s size)
89-92 Exploding Chest (2-7 dice of damage)
93-95 Chest Does a Spell At Person
96 Chest Acts as Mirror of Life Trapping
97 Intelligent Chest (2nd -7th Level Magic User)
98 Lose One Level of Experience
99 Lose One Magic Item
00 Roll Twice

4) Gasses (Roll 6 sided die for first digit and 4 sided die for second digit)
11-12 Obscures Vision (Players run into each other, miss treasure, etc.)
13-14 Blinds Player 01-100 Hours
21-22 Fear During Next 2-9 Fights
23-24 Sleep 6-36 Rounds
31 + 1-4 Points to Random Ability (8 hours) (1 in 10 permanent)
32-33 Sick: Return to Surface (1 in 6 in coma)
34 Paralyzation
41 Stone
42 Death!!
43 Polymorph to Monster or Animal 10’R.
44 Amnesia (1-20 days, 1 in 6 permanent)
51-52 Change Alignment
53-54 Slow (As slow spell)
61-62 Haste (As haste spell)
63 Cloud Kill
64 Go Berserk! Attack Friends!

I dig this ad for Star Trek miniatures. Even though Star Wars gets more notice, I think Trek, being born of episodic TV, might be a better fit for RPG’s

Footsteps in the Sky by ???

Fiction …

“All he could do was walk on the air as normals could walk on land and his four older brothers repeatedly told him that it was the most useless of all mental mutations. After Reveral’s long training sessions for manhood, he was finally beginning to believe his brothers’ taunts. His oldest brother Fer-in and his next oldest, Serpt, both could teleport themselves vast distances and had easily passed their tests of manhood. Karn, the brother closest to him in age, could read minds and, with great effort, control them, given time. He was even now on his test of manhood, but no one doubted that soft spoken Karn would do anything but succeed. Reveral was starting to be concerned with his own chances at surviving the test.”

Wormy Again …

He’s back, and that blue demon just bit a giant pool cue hard.

And that does it for October 1978. A few nice articles, a few that did nothing for me at all. Have fun this weekend!