Rainbow Fantasy III – The Champion

I wind up my little Rainbow Fantasy series of tributes to children’s TV fantasy action shows with a class based on probably the two best such shows, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra, Princess of Power.

The Champion

Champions are warriors that draw their power from an oath to defend a Lawful place, institution or divine entity. They often appear as shining knights, and preach a philosophy of mercy, honesty and generosity. Although implacable foes of Chaos, they are not killing machines; a champion would prefer to subdue evil or convert it to goodness if possible, rather than simply slay it.

Requirements & Restrictions

To be a champion, a character must have the following minimum scores: Str 9, Wis 11 and Cha 13.

Champions must be Lawful in alignment. They can use all armors, shields and weapons.

A champion who ceases to be Lawful or whom grossly violates the champion’s code of conduct (see below), loses all special abilities, including the services of their mount (see below). The fallen champion may not progress any further in levels as a champion until she atones by gaining enough experience to gain another level without the use of her special abilities and while acting in perfect accordance with his alignment and code of conduct.

Champion Skills

Champions add their level to the following task checks:

Healing—Champions are knowledgeable about applying bandages, mending broken bones and compounding medicines, unguents and tinctures. They can stop wounds from bleeding, and with a successful check grant a +1 bonus to save vs. ongoing poison and disease.

Riding—Champions are capable of fighting while mounted at no penalty, and can use this task for dangerous (and awesome) stunts.

Champion Abilities

A champion must take a sacred oath to a Lawful cause or entity. Her sword (or other weapon) becomes a symbol of this oath. If a champion comes into the possession of a better weapon, she may transfer her oath to it.

A champion is immune to disease, and can cure disease once per week per 5 levels attained. Her touch can calm emotions (as the spell) three times per day. Comrades adventuring with a champion receive a +2 bonus to save vs. mind-affecting effects.

A 2nd level champion can heal wounds (her own or those of others) by touch. This is called the “laying on of hands”. Each day she can heal a total number of hit points of damage equal to twice her champion level. She may choose to divide her healing among multiple recipients and she does not have to use it all at once.

A 3rd level champion gains the ability to amplify her heroic powers once per day by invoking her sacred oath while holding aloft the weapon on which she took her oath. This exact form of this amplification can be chosen by the champion. To simulate this, the champion receives a number of Power Points equal to her level divided by two (rounding up) per day. One power point can be spent to gain a +1 bonus to attack or save or a +2 bonus to Armor Class or damage or a +10′ increase to speed. These power-ups last for 10 minutes. Three power points can be spent on an augury, strength or haste spell effect with duration as the spell’s in question.

A 4th level champion can undertake a quest guided by a divine vision to find and gain the service of an unusually intelligent, strong, and loyal mount to serve her in her crusade against evil. This champion can choose from one of the following mounts: Celestial warhorse, pegasus, spotted lion, tiger or unicorn (female champions only). Treasure Keepers can add other animals to this list as they wish.

The mount and its location appear in a vision. The location is no more than a week’s ride away, and the challenge involved in claiming it should be difficult but not impossible.

For every three levels the champion gains after 4th level, her mount gains one Hit Dice.
A champion wielding a weapon sword can deflect rays, beams and magic missiles a number of times per round equal to half their level (rounding down). Instead of automatically deflecting a ray, the champion can try to aim the deflection. To do this, the champion must roll 1d20 under her dexterity score; if the save is successful, her target must pass a saving throw or be struck by the ray, beam or magic missile. This ability does not work against lightning bolts or fireballs. A 3rd level champion can also choose to convert the ranged attack into a color spray spell. A 6th level champion can convert the ranged attack into a rainbow pattern. A 9th level champion can convert the ranged attack into a prismatic spray.

Swearing Fealty

A 9th level champion can swear fealty to a Lawful outsider, becoming their agent and champion on the Material Plane. The champion is charged to defend a Lawful realm under the protection of the outsider in question. To aid her on her quest, the champion gains the services of 1d4+2 followers. Roll on the following table to discover what sort of followers the champion attracts:

Roll d%
01-08  Automatons (1d6)
09-12  Crystal men (1d3)
13-20  Dwarves (1d6)
21-28  Elves (1d6)
29-36  Gnomes (1d6)
37-44  Hawk men (1d6)
45-64  Men-at-arms (1d6)
65-70  Nixies (1d4)
71-74  Pixies (1d3)
75-76  Shambling mound (1)
77-78  Bard (level 1d6+1)
79-80  Butterfly (level 1d6+1)*
81-82  Duelist (level 1d6+1)
83-86  Fighter (level 1d4+1)
87-90  Magic-user (level 1d4+1)
91-92  Monk (1d4+1)
93-96  Scout (level 1d6+1)
97-00  Sorcerer (level 1d4+1)

* See THIS POST for the butterfly class


A 12th level champion may conquer an evil stronghold and sanctify it for her own use or simply construct a stronghold of her own. The stronghold must be a symbol of goodness for all the land, not just a mere construction of stone and metal. When a champion occupies a stronghold, she adds 1d4+2 more followers to her retinue, plus 60 Lawful men-at-arms of a type determined by the champion.

Champion Codes

Champions live their lives by a code of virtue, and must also abide the following strictures:

• Must always seek to knock foes unconscious rather than killing them – killing is a last resort.

• May not own more than 10 magic items.

• May not retain more wealth than needed to support herself, her henchmen and to maintain her castle.

• May only employ Lawful henchmen. Champions may adventure with non-Lawful characters, but must make at least a small attempt to reform them, and must, at the end of each adventure, explain how that adventure taught a sound moral lesson.

Besides these rules, champions must abide by a code of conduct that demands honesty, mercy and generosity above all things.

Rainbow Fantasy I – The Butterfly

There are so many kinds of fantasy to choose from. Old D&D was a mish-mash of everything from King Arthur to Hammer films to Elric (which is why I love it), Warhammer does dark and gothic, there are the oiled up barbarians from 80’s movies, fairy and folk tales, weird fantasy and horror … and also what I would have called in my youth “girly fantasy”.

OK – don’t get up in arms over the nickname, but when I was growing up this was the stuff more girls liked than guys. I think most folks know what I’m talking about – rainbows, unicorns, pegasi, fairies, etc. Let’s call it “Rainbow Fantasy”.

While Rainbow Fantasy may have ended up in 80’s TV cartoons and on junior high school folders, it started long before that. Old fairy tales made some use of it, Baum’s OZ, where people cannot die is within this category, and the “hippies” during the psychedelic 60’s who were besotted with flowers and nature and pleasure in all its forms certainly used it. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is like a hex crawl through this sort of fantasy.

Where Rainbow Fantasy has gotten short shrift, I think, is fantasy role playing games. I remember when a few guys in the neighborhood and me starting playing some D&D back in the 80’s. We invited a neighborhood girl (a close friend of mine, practically a sister) to play. She created a Rainbow Fantasy-style elf character, and we all looked at her like she was insane. He had a cutesy name. D&D just wasn’t for cutesy names.

Well, of course D&D is for cutesy names or whatever else you want to cram into it. It’s a system, not a genre. Jeff Rients said it best when he said, “You play Conan, I play Gandalf. We team up to fight Dracula.” As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate all sorts of things I didn’t as a kid, especially something as strange and creative as Rainbow Fantasy.

With that in mind, I’m going to write a few articles to bring a little rainbow into the deep, dark dungeon. Up first is a character class called the Butterfly, inspired by an old piece of fantasy art from a magazine that had very little to do with fantasy. I’ll then discuss the ways we can treat alignment and quests in this sort of fantasy to make it work, and I’ll follow up with a discussion of how existing classes and races might work in a rainbow fantasy campaign as well as introduce one more class.

You play She-Ra, I’ll play the Last Unicorn. Dracula will never know what hit him.

The Butterfly Class

Butterflies are a mystic calling of some people. Those with a lust for wandering in wide meadows of cool grass and chatting with hummingbirds, those who wish to escape the bonds of the earth and the boundaries of the mind. They can see the beauty of life and nature despite the ugliness and sorrow, and seek to spread that beauty far and wide. The butterfly is like a light in the darkness.

|Requirements & Restrictions|

Ability Scores: Dex 11, Cha 13

Alignment: Non-chaotic

Armor Permitted: None

Weapons Permitted: Club, dagger, sling, staff

|Butterfly Skills|

Butterflies add their level to the following task checks:

Communication: Butterflies can communicate with creatures that speak languages they do not understand. Much of this is through empathy and hand gestures (but not THAT hand gesture – it’s just so crude).

Fly: Butterflies can perform all manner of aerobatic stunts while flying with their natural wings or while mounted on flying mounts.

Handle Animals: Butterflies can calm frightened and hostile animals, and tame wild animals. They can teach tame animals simple tricks.

Move Silently: Butterflies can walk slowly and lightly without making a sound.

|Butterfly Abilities|

Butterflies can see auras. This includes magic auras generated by spells, magic items and the like, and alignments (Law, Chaos and Neutrality).

A butterfly can speak with all animals and is always considered a friend by non-predatory beasts. These animals will help a butterfly whenever she requests it, as long as it does not put them in direct danger and as long as she treats them with respect and kindness. A butterfly gets a +2 bonus to reaction checks with predators, and might be able to convince them to help her given the right inducements.

A 2nd level butterfly can shrink to tiny size, about 6 inches tall, and grow butterfly wings. She can do this once per day per two levels. At this size, the butterfly can fly at a speed of 60 feet per round. In this form, she can weave magic (see below). The butterfly can remain at this size for as long as she likes, and can return to normal at will.

A 3rd level butterfly can grow butterfly wings while at full size and use them to fly at a speed of 40 feet per round. She can do this once per day per three levels.

At 4th level, a butterfly can take the form of a cloud of butterflies. She can do this once per day per four levels. Treat this as the same as a magic-user taking gaseous form.

Whenever a butterfly is flying, she leaves behind a trail of glitterdust (per the spell) which falls on any creature beneath her flight path.

Butterfly Spell List

1st level – Audible glamer, calm emotions, charm person, color spray, dancing lights, detect secret doors, faerie fire, goodberry, hypnotism, light, reduce person, sleep

2nd level – Continual light, cure light wounds, darkvision, glitterdust, hold animal, invisibility, pyrotechnics, reduce animal, summon swarm (insects only), web

3rd level – Blink, cure moderate wounds, daylight, hold person, invisibility sphere, shrink item, sleep II, speak with plants

4th level – Charm monster, cure serious wounds, false forest, giant vermin, invisibility II, rainbow pattern

Butterfly Class Table

LVL XP HD ATK SV 1 2 3 4
1 0 1d4 +0 15 1
2 1,500 2d4 +0 14 2
3 3,000 3d4 +1 14 3 1
4 6,000 4d4 +1 13 3 2
5 12,000 5d4 +1 13 3 3 1
6 24,000 6d4 +2 12 3 3 2
7 48,000 7d4 +2 12 3 3 3 1
8 100,000 8d4 +3 12 4 3 3 2
9 200,000 9d4 +3 11 4 3 3 3
10 300,000 10d4 +3 11 4 4 3 3
11 400,000 +1 hp +4 10 4 4 3 3
12 500,000 +1 hp +4 10 4 4 4 3
13+ +100,000 +1 hp 5 4 4 3











The Antiquarian

When I forget my phone at home, I usually spend lunch writing in a little notebook rather than reading. Today I had a few ideas for a class, which I present before in “thumbnail sketch” format, rather than fully realized.

This fellow will probably find his way into Esoterica Exhumed in a more fleshed-out form.

The Antiquarian …

– Rolls d4 for hit points

– Fights and saves like a magic-user

– Can read obscure languages

– Collects dusty tomes, books, scrolls – carries them on his back, so he’s hunched over – provides protection from back stabs

– Can call up the ghosts of the past to help him (knowledge, fighting, etc. – “Julius Caesar, I choose you”) – I figure this will work a little like an illusionist’s shadow conjuration spells

– Legend lore, as a bard (or more so)

– Use magic scrolls to cast spells; can always identify potions and scrolls

– Can recall ways to fight monsters (“Egad, I nearly forgot that ogres are allergic to dust mites”) – while fighting a monster, but only if the group doesn’t have what they need – they can use the method in future fights, though, and get a +1 to hit the monster

– Has bad eyesight from all the reading – easier to surprise

– Resistance to magic – 3% per level to divination, enchantment and illusion; 1% per level to necromancy, transmutation, etc.


Spider Mage

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

The Spider Mage

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

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

Requirements and Restrictions

As the normal magic-user class

Spider Mage Skills

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

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

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

Spider Mage Abilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spider Mage Advancement


The Animorph, an Animal for All Seasons

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

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

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

The Animorph

The animorph can change into an animal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Info:

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

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

The Guardian – Over-Powered or Not?

A few magazine reviews ago, I came across Lewis Pulsipher’s description of an over-powered character class. It goes thusly:

“A party of ninth and tenth level magic-users, clerics, and fighters hunts for a lich. Among them is an eighth level ‘Guardian’ character, a class devised by the DM and used by the players. They come to a door. The guardian listens – he hears something. Then he looks through the door with his X-ray vision. Telling the others it’s too dangerous for them in there, he turns ethereal and walks through the door. Five minutes later, he opens it. ‘It’s OK now. It was just 10 mind flayers, and when they attacked me psionically my mental boomerang defence scrambled their brains.’ The party shake their heads and look for spoils.” – Lewis Pulsipher, White Dwarf 25


Maybe not.

First, the guardian in the example is 8th level. He’s a bit behind the others in level (as would be a paladin), but not dramatically so. The 9th or 10th level magic-users he’s adventuring with can do some pretty spectacular stuff with their spells, and the magic items the other characters have could well duplicate many of the guardian’s abilities.

Second, there seems to be an unwritten assumption that the things this “guardian” does are the tip of the iceberg. Maybe they are. But if they aren’t – if that’s it – then maybe he’s not so powerful.

“Ah,” you say, “but he took out a whole room of mind flayers!”

Well, actually, the room of mind flayers took out the room of mind flayers – the guardian just had the ability to turn mental attacks back on the attacker.

With that in mind, I have decided to rehabilitate the mythical guardian class, and give it a proper write-up to see just how over powered it really would be. So, with no further ado …


Image from HERE – just because I like it

Day in and day out, brave men and women descend into the depths of the earth in search of treasure. Along the way, they hunt down and destroy all manner of terrible evils, and for that, the world must be grateful. It so happened that one day, many years ago, a band of Lawful monasteries decided they must do more than they had done to encourage this behavior. The masters of the monasteries developed a new, powerful training regimen, and recruited from among their ranks their most promising students. They put these students through this regimen, and found the vast majority of them not up to the challenge. Those few who did succeed became known as guardians.

Guardians are always on the lookout for danger, and have potent abilities to survive it and even turn attacks back on attackers. They are mediocre warriors, it is true, but are proficient with armor and thus difficult to injure. A guardian may not turn the tide of battle by her presence, but she can serve as the impenetrable rock on which the tide of battle breaks.

Requirements and Restrictions: Guardians must have a minimum scores of 9 in Strength, 11 in Constitution and 13 in Wisdom. They must also be Lawful in alignment. They may wear any armor and use shields, and can fight with any weapon.

Guardian Skills

Find Secret Doors—Guardians have a 2 in 6 chance to note the presence of secret or concealed doors.

Find Traps—Guardians can attempt a task check to discover traps in a room or on an object. Alas, they have no special skill at removing traps once found.

Listen at Door—Guardians can attempt a task check to hear faint noises through doors or in other circumstances.

Guardian Abilities

Guardians are only surprised on a roll of 1 on 1d6. They can extend this protection to up to one comrade per three levels. Thus, if all in a party of adventurers except the 4th level guardian are surprised on a roll of “2”, the guardian can allow one additional comrade to avoid that surprise.

2nd level guardians learn the secret of phasing through matter (but not energy). A guardian can walk through up to 2 inches of matter per level per day. Thus, a 6th level guardian could walk through up to 12 inches of matter, total, during the course of a single day. This could amount to walking through a single 1-ft thick wall, or four 3-inch thick doors.

A 4th level guardian gains the ability to peer through matter, as though wearing a ring of x-ray vision. She can do this once per day per four levels (i.e. 1/day from 1st to 4th level, 2/day from 5th to 8th level, etc.)

A 6th level guardian can attune themselves to one form of energy (acid, cold, fire, electricity or sonic) per day, gaining the ability to ignore hit point damage from that energy. The guardian can ignore 1 point of damage from that energy per level over the course of the day. Thus, a 9th level guardian who attuned herself to fire could ignore up to 9 points of fire damage during the course of the day.

Guardians maintain a shield around their minds. At 1st level, this blocks all spells and abilities that read or detect their minds. They can also choose to block out telepathic communication. By 3rd level, this protection extends to a +4 bonus to saving throws against illusions and mental attacks, such as confusion, fear, feeblemind, ego whip, id insinuation, phantasmal killer and the mind blast of the pernicious thelids. When a guardian of 6th level or higher passes a saving throw against a mental attack, she reflects that attack back on the attacker, who must pass their own saving throw to avoid the attack.


A 9th level guardian can establish a stronghold in the wilderness. The stronghold must be placed in such a place to resist attacks from the wilderness, for example between mountains inhabited by ogres and giants and a human or demi-human settlement. Once constructed, the guardian attracts …

Dragon by Dragon – May 1981 (49)

May of 1981 saw me turn 9. I hadn’t heard of D&D back then (and wouldn’t for another 3 years), but if I had heard of D&D, and subscribed to Dragon Magazine, this is what would have shown up in my mailbox that month.

Pretty cool cover, right? There’s more inside, in a 12-page section dedicated to the work of Tim Hildebrandt.

Of course there’s more than just my Hildebrandt in this issue … let’s check it out.

First up is a new ad by Ral Partha, this time featuring their new line-up of Adventurers miniatures. I got curious this time and decided to look up Ral Partha’s address – 5938 Carthage Ct, Cincinnati OH.

It came up with this impressive edifice:

I’ll show off a few more old RPG addresses in this post if I get a chance.

Now that we’ve looked at Ral Partha’s old digs, let’s get to the fun of complaining readers, in this case William G. Welsh, on the archer class in last issue:

“Second — “Kobolds, goblins, dwarves, gnomes and halflings cannot become archers.” In the last chapter of the third book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are no less than three incidents where the effectiveness of hobbit archers is demonstrated. Also, refer to the AD&D Monster Manual, p. 50, under halflings, under special attacks, note “+3 with bow or sling.”

This stuff kills me. The answer from the editor was:

“None of the ideas presented in articles in DRAGON magazine are official rule changes or additions, unless the article specifically says so (and there haven’t been very many of those). The people who write articles that we publish aren’t trying to get everyone to play the way they do, and we certainly don’t hold that opinion ourselves. As is the case with many of the game rules themselves, the articles in DRAGON magazine are suggestions, ideas and alternatives.”

It amazes me when that has to be said, but if comment sections on the internet have done anything, it’s to prove that things like that still need to be said. Could various school systems around the globe please spend a few minutes explaining to people what “opinion” means?

The meat and drink of this issue, other than the special art section, is about tournaments. No, not knights trying to poke each other with lances and Robin Hood splitting an arrow, but D&D tournaments. If I’m honest … I have no interest at all in them, but I’ll try to give them a quick review.

The first article discusses fairness in scoring tournaments, giving a long list of actions that should go into scoring points, and explaining that DM’s need to make sure players know how they’ll be scored. Sounds logical to me.

The next bit discusses improving on the Slave Pits tournament adventure, followed by Mentzer’s reply that “It isn’t that easy”. I can remember getting the Slave Pits module as a kid (I guess about 4 years after this issue was published) and being confused about the whole tournament concept – how you didn’t use the full map, and scored things. As a kid, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to care about this stuff or not.

Strangely enough, the article complaining about the adventure is really complaining about the size of the teams in the AD&D Open, specifically that nine-person teams are too large. Mentzer explains the problem – not enough Dungeon Masters at the tournaments. Can’t argue with that.

Dig this:

Old Horny indeed. Let’s hope those horns on his head were the source of his nickname. And here, keeping with the theme of this post, is Dragontooth Miniatures old location:

Or is it? A Hilton? I’m thinking perhaps the old building was torn down and replaced. That, or Conrad Hilton had a secret hobby.

The next few articles are a bit too timely to make sense to talk about here – GenCon is growing, , GenCon East fills the Origins ‘hole’ (I’m sure that’s not as filthy as it sounds) and there are nine ways to win the painting contest at GenCon.

Okay, enough of that convention stuff. Next up: Samurai!

This is an interesting take on the character class. The editor’s note mentions that the author, Anthony Salva, holds a first degree black belt in Hapkido. The class that follows is heavily influenced by this, and it’s really a bit more like an alternate monk than the samurai most people would expect.

That said, it’s a pretty groovy class. It’s tough to make it in – you need Str 15, Dex 17 and Int 15 to qualify, but the class is open to gnomes, halflings, elves, half-elves and humans.

This version of the samurai cannot use armor, but his AC improved by 1 per 4 levels. They can use two-handed swords, short swords, bows and staffs, and a samurai of 4th level or higher can obtain his “personal weapons”, which are sacred to him. It mentions the weapons of honor – “Katana, Wakizashi and Nunchakos” are described later in the article.

Apparently Dragon Magazine got there first. Source

The samurai’s special abilities are as follows: Jump front kick (-3 to hit, 2d6 damage), judo throw, ceremony of fealty-weapons of honor (4th level; and here it mentions that katana do 1d12 or 1d10 damage, wakizashi 2d4 or 1d8 and nunchako 1d8 damage), sweep and double chop (5th level), crescent kick/side kick combination, back roundhouse kick, illusionist spell ability (8th level), “360” and downward kick, the slaying hand (10th level), flying side kick (requires movement, -3 to hit, 1d20 damage) and a samurai who becomes a shogun (13th level) has a 25% chance to obtain 30 psionic power points. They go on a bit later to mention they can reduce falling damage, hide in shadows and move silently as a thief, and can dive and roll over obstacles.

This class would probably be a blast to play, especially as a gnome. I’ve often thought that the monk would make a pretty good “cartoon hero” class, and this version of the samurai has me thinking of Samurai Champloo and other anime samurai. If anyone has experience with this class, please drop a note down below and let us know how it went.

Merle Rasmussen now brings us a nice Top Secret article about special ammunition – armor-piercing, dumdum, gyrojet, duplex, etc. Lots of stats (and I mean lots with a capital “L”), but probably useful info for other games as well.

Karl Horak has an article called “Getting a world into shape”, which gets into different shapes for campaign worlds, as in cylinders, polygons, etc.If you want a campaign world in the shape of a 20-sided die, this is the article for you.

Giants in the Earth in this issue presents some Poul Anderson characters – Holder Carlsen (14th level paladin) and Hugi (5th level gnome fighter). The art by Roger Raupp is great:

He’s always fantastic with knights and warriors. The article also has stats for T. J. Morgan‘s Ellide (6th level fighter)

G. Arthur Rahman has an article on historical names – Anglo-Saxon, Byzantine, etc. Very useful then, less so now with the resources of the internet at one’s disposal.

Jon Mattson‘s article “Monster mixing – AD&D creatures adapted to a C&S campaign” show that Dragon was not yet the house organ for TSR that it would become (though it always had more outside content than White Dwarf once it became GW’s house organ). While the article is quite useful for players of Chivalry & Sorcery, it also has an interesting piece at the end – a flowchart of AD&D monster predation:

And now you know.

Up next in the magazine is the section on Tim Hildebrandt‘s art. I’d post some images (aside from the cover above), but a Google search (or clicking on the artist’s name up above) will do you more good these days. Take a look – I think you’ll like what you see. I will post this quote from the interview with the artist:

“One thing leads to another thing leads to another thing and you start growing and growing. Things keep expanding, and the more I do myself, the more I see that there is to learn.”

Lots of wisdom in those words.

The Dragon’s Bestiary in this issue features the Loren Kruse’s Nogra (“a small creature with long, sharp claws which somewhat resembles a hairless lynx”). The basic stats for Blood & Treasure are below:

Nogra, Small Magical Beast: HD 2, AC 15, ATK 1 bite (1d4), MV 20′, SV F12 R11 W15, INT Low, AL Neutral (N), XP 200 (CL 3), Special-Body secretes a substance which absorbs all light (including into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums), liquid is also a contact poison (save or blinded for 2d4 rounds), light sensitivity

Leonard Lakofka has a new class for this issue (which hopefully doesn’t do halflings wrong) called the Alchemist. Another old Dragon classic. It seems like such an obvious class for D&D, but it’s tricky. My version was essentially Dr. Jekyll, to give it a twist and make more than a guy who isn’t remotely as useful as a magic-user. Lakofka’s is, in fact, not an adventurer.

Lakofka’s alchemist has to have Str 9, Int 10, Wis 6, Dex 9, Con 14 and Cha 16 to qualify, and they must be human, elf or half-elf, with only the humans hitting the highest levels. They only earn XP by “plying their trade”, not adventuring. They can make pottery, blow glass, identify potions, manufacture poisons and manufacture magic potions. It’s a useful class, and could be adjusted to be an adventurer, but as a non-adventuring NPC I’m not sure why one needs to go to the trouble of having levels. It seems like a “novice-veteran-master” approach would work just as well, or even just “the alchemist can do what the DM to needs her do” concept. That being said, Lakofka always puts a lot of work into these things, and his alchemist is no different and thus is worth the read.

Gary Snyder now gets into the weeds on the issue of wishes and how to adjudicate them. This brings up a great point about fantasy gaming and gamers. I’ll often be watching some TV show or movie and think, “That plot element would never work in a game – the players would kill that guy in a heartbeat / or they would never touch that statue, ’cause statues are always trouble in a dungeon.” The idea of wishes probably seemed so simple when the game was first written, and then creative players got hold of the concept and made DM heads explode. Snyder gives ten rules to keep wishes in check which have largely been adopted into the game.

It’s followed up by a short article/story about wishing by Roger E. Moore.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh has an artcle about travel and clothing in DragonQuest.

If you need a time keeper program in BASIC, Mark Herro has you covered in this month’s The Electric Eye. Blast from the past to see those IF … THEN statements and GOTO commands. I learned BASIC on a VIC-20, which is actually still sitting in my closet.

Side note – I love this Grenadier miniature …

Great sculpt

Side note II – A bit of Wormy

And now on to White Dwarf 25, the June/July 1981 issue. I’ll keep this one brief, and just cover the bases:

Lewis Pulsipher has the third part of the Introduction to D&D series, covering spellcasters. Great art in this one.

Trevor Graver has Optional Skill Acquisition for Travellers. This one ditches the random tables (which are pretty cool) for a skill point system. Control vs. Chaos, the eternal struggle in game design.

Roger Musson has a nice article on The Interesting Dungeon – worth the read.

Tony Chamberlain & Paul Skidmore have an interesting “clerical AD&D skirmish for a large number of players” called Lower Canon Court. This is another one that would probably be fun to play with a big group on Google+.

This issue has some clever magic items – the bowl of everlasting porridge, the bell of watchfulness – a notion on determining handedness in games by Lew Pulsipher (left-handed males 8%, females 4%), and Roger E. Moore has a bit on fake torture items.

Andy Slack has Vacc Suits in Traveller.

Dream Demon!

The Fiend Factory this issue is themed The Black Manse, and has stats for Dream Demons (which are really cool) by Phil Masters, the Incubus by Roger E. Moore, Brain Suckers by John R. Gordon and the Guardian by Simon Tilbrook. As always, the art is top notch. It’s a shame there was never a Fiend Folio II – so many great monsters were left behind.

Lewis Pulsipher‘s second article this issue is on “What Makes a Good AD&D Character Class”. I would answer – people want to play it and it doesn’t screw up the game. This is pretty much what he says, focusing especially on the class not being overpowering. His example of an overpowering class makes me actually want to create it – The Guardian class he posits can listen at doors, use x-ray vision, become ethereal and has a psionic boomerang defense that kills some mind flayers. I dig it.

And that’s that … Have fun on the internet!

Dragon by Dragon – April 1981 (48)

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there in blog land – and happy April Fools Day, since this week we’re looking at an April issue of Dragon – #48, from good old 1981.

Before I hit the magazine, though, I’m going to do a little advertising – NOD 29 is now out as a PDF, at Lulu.com and Rpgnow.com. This one has the second half of the Trollheim hex crawl, the third part of the d20 Mecha series featuring some mecha stats that could be useful for all sorts of sci-fi games, Aaron Siddall‘s very cool Hyperspace campaign notes for GRIT & VIGOR, which combines Lovecraft with good old fashioned rocket-powered sci-fi, Tony Tucker’s take on the luchador class for GRIT & VIGOR, a Quick & Easy mini-game pitting luchadores vs. the Aztec Mummy, a random class generator (along with a couple random classes that came out pretty good), info on using interesting historic coins in treasure hoards, the Laser Mage class and a couple tidbits for SPACE PRINCESS. All sorts of fun for $4.99.

And now, ladies and gents, on to the magazine.

We begin with an Arms Law ad, and a few thoughts on said ad by the writer of the blog:

That first bit is the problem – death being only one blow away with Arms Law. Many would argue that it’s more realistic than D&D combat … and they’re right. That’s precisely the problem. We already live in the real world, where death is one blow away. That’s why most of us live boring lives and indulge in fantasy for our excitement. I’m not sure injecting that kind of realism in fantasy is worth the trouble. A realistic game for the sake of the challenge, on the other hand, can be quite engaging. Just a thought.

And now, God forgive me, I’m going to show another old ad. I like the tagline – “not for everybody” – clever. Here’s a post about the game.

I might have mused about this before, but is anyone out there making new retro-computer dungeon crawls? For those in the know – would it be hard? I think it might be fun to create some relatively simple games with simple mechanics for those who want to just do some old fashioned dungeon crawling.

The theme for this issue is Underwater Adventuring. I can attest to how hard it is to write underwater adventures – or at least adventure locales for my hex crawls. So much of what we take for granted on the surface doesn’t work underwater. The first article, “Watery Words to the Wise” by Jeff Swycaffer, does a nice job of hitting the highlights of what does and does not work underwater. No rules, just sound advice.

Up next is the “Dragon’s Bestiary”, which features the Water-Horse by Roger E. Moore, Golden Ammorite by Roger E. Moore and Sea Demon by Ernest N. Rowland Jr. Nothing earthshaking here, but solid monsters for an underwater (or close-to-water) game.

The “Bazaar of the Bizarre” is also aquatically inclined, all by Roger E. Moore.

Naturally, Dragon Magazine comes through with its annual April Fools Day supplement, this one with its own cover (for Dragon #48-1/2). Truth be told, I think I like it better than the actual cover.

This month we get a bit on the Accountant character class and a game called Real Life with a nice bit of character generation:

We also get “Saturday Morning Monsters”, with stats for Bugs Bunny (CG 15th level illusionist), Daffy Duck (CN and totally nuts), Popeye (LN 9th or 18th level fighter), Rocky (LG 12th level fighter) and Bullwinkle (LG 13th level fighter) and Dudley Do-Right (LG 18th level paladin).

Back into the real magazine, Tim Lasko has an article on the druid called “The Druid and the DM”. It’s a general overview of the class as presented in AD&D, along with some suggestions for rule changes involving druid spells, many involing the use of “greater mistletoe”, changing the druid’s initial age and how his age works in-game (kind of weird idea – not sure why I should use it, or whether it would be worth the trouble), giving them the sage’s ability to answer questions about flora and fauna (good idea, but doesn’t require rules in my opinion) and a few other bits. It’s a combination of unnecessary complication, rules for things that don’t really require rules and ticky-tack little bonuses. Not bad, per se, but not terribly useful.

Players of Top Secret, which appears to be making a comeback these days, might enjoy “Doctor Yes”, a scenario written by Merle Rasmussen and James Thompson. The scenario is set on a floating island and appears to be engaging and thorough – rules for underwater adventuring in TS, and a large complex with traps and dangers. You also get stats for such personel as Chuck Morris, Bruce Nee and “Sweetbeam” Leotard.

“Giants in the Earth” presents Ursula K. LeGuin’s Sparrowhawk (N 21st level Illusionist/20th level Magic-User) and Andrew Offutt and Richard Lyon’s Tiana Highrider (CG 12th level Fighter/12th level Thief).

Michael Kelly‘s “Instant Adventures” is a neat article with a list of adventure types, along with the materials they require and the time involved in preparation. A few examples:

Assault/Raid (Bodysnatch), requires a small military encampment and takes about 20 minutes to set up.

Feud, Inter-family, requires a brief history of the feud and the feuding families, as well as a reason for the involvement of the characters; takes a couple hours to prepare.

Smuggling, Weapons, requires a war and revolutionaries in need of weapons and supplies, as well as a source for those weapons and supplies; takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

At a minimum, it’s a great source of ideas for games.

Lakofka‘s “Mission Control” article dovetails nicely with it, being a way of detemining how tough the bad guy faced by adventurers should be. In a nutshell, it is based on the total XP of the party, that determining the level of the big bad guy and how much treasure/magic items he should have. The article gets pretty wordy and “in the weeds”, but the basic ideas are solid and useful.

And so ends Dragon #48, as usual, with a frame from Wormy …

And now begins White Dwarf #24, the April/May 1981 issue. The issue starts off with a great cover – barbarian woman and a sort of Bronze Age warrior-type before a stepped jungle pyramid with dragons or pteranodons buzzing about. Good stuff. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say again that in my opinion the quality of layout and art in White Dwarf was superior to Dragon in this period. Dragon’s layout was never inspired, but the cover art got much better as time went on. Both magazines are a pain in the butt to read for folks without premium peepers, but that’s not their fault, just Father Time’s.

The first highlight for me in this issue of White Dwarf is some a beautiful piece of art by the great Russ Nicholson:

It suggests a great scenario – the adventurers captured and stripped of their toys – that’s hard to implement. Most players don’t dig it, and there’s usually an idea that if you’re putting them through it they’re going to live through the experience. An assumed guarantee of survival takes the fun out of the scenario. Still, if you can find the right kind of players, it makes for a great game.

I found the review for a game called Quirks – the game of unnatural selection interesting. Ian Livingstone gave it a good review and it sounds like an interesting concept, wherein players create weird plants and animals and have to adapt them to survive changing climates and challenges.

WD24 also has a detective class with some interesting abilities (10% chance of noticing disguised assassins), some sage abilities, thief abilities, spells and tracking. I think I’d enjoy playing a Halfling Shamus (4th level detective).

Mark Byng has an AD&D mini-module called “The Lair of Maldred the Mighty” which is, if I’m honest, kind of hard to read for an old fart like myself. Not his fault – a layout issue.

Monster Madness has a few “of the more eccentric monsters to have graced the White Dwarf letter box” – in this case the Bonacon by David Taylor, Llort by Andrew Key, Todal and Marcus Barbor, Tali Monster by Craig Edwards, Dungeon Master by Malory Nye. For fun, the DM is below in B&T format:

Dungeon Master, Medium Humanoid: HD as many as he likes; AC 16 (chainmail and judge’s shield), ATK special, MV 30′, SV varies, AL CE usually, Special: 30% chance he will follow adventurers around a dungeon telling them what they can and cannot do, rolls for wandering monsters when characters make any noise at all, reading of the rules (sleep spell), consults matrices and confuses attackers, not spell affects him unless you can persuade him otherwise, weapons do half damage, susceptible to bribes of 500 gp or more (treat as charm person).

That’s that, boys and girls. Have fun, do something nice for mom and then do something nice for everyone else.

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!

Lucky Bastards

There are two ways to survive as an adventurer – you can be good, or you can be lucky. The lucky bastard uses the latter approach. For him, the luck comes naturally – he’s always had it, and hope he always will.

Requirements & Restrictions
There are no ability score or alignment requirements for lucky bastards.

They are capable of wearing up to leather armor, but cannot use shields. They are limited to simple weapons like daggers, staves, spears and darts.

Special Abilities
Lucky bastards can find secret doors as an elf. Elven lucky bastards increase their chances to do this by 1 in 6.

Whenever an event in a game must target a random adventurer, a random determination of the lucky bastard is re-rolled. If the second roll targets the lucky bastard, then he is the target of the event.

Illustration by William Heath Robinson

Each game session, a lucky bastard starts with a luck score of 4. He can increase this by +1 if he holds a lucky rabbit’s foot*, by +1 if he holds a lucky horseshoe*, and by +2 if he happens upon a loose copper piece (only one) in a dungeon and repeats the magic phrase “Find a copper, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck”.

The luck score can be used for two things. First, it can be used as a bonus to any sort of d20 roll. Second, it can be used to negate damage. To negate damage, the lucky bastard must roll below his luck score on 1d6. If successful, hit point damage sustained from one attack form is negated. Whenever a lucky bastard uses his luck score (whether successfully or not), it is reduced by 1.

A 3rd level lucky bastard can, once per game, share his luck with another creature within 30’ of him. This means he lends his luck score to another creature for one round. When the luck score is shared and used, it is reduced by 2 points, rather than just 1 point.

A lucky bastard can re-roll one failed d20 roll per game session for every four levels he has attained (thus once at 4th level, twice at 8th level, thrice at 12th level, etc.).

A 6th level lucky bastard can steal an opponent’s luck once per day. When an opponent rolls a d20, the lucky bastard can, once he knows the result of the roll, take it for his own. The opponent must re-roll, and the lucky bastard must use his opponent’s first roll as his next d20 roll.

Lady Luck has smiled on the lucky bastard … but for how long. Every session a lucky bastard is played carries with it a cumulative 1% chance that Lady Luck turns her back on him. If this happens, the lucky bastard loses all special abilities for that session and the cumulative 1% chance resets itself for the next session.

A 9th level lucky bastard can build and operate a tavern/inn in a settlement, attracting 1d6 servers (one is an ex-thief, level 1d4), a bartender (ex-fighter, level 1d4), a groom and 1d10 regular customers (roll their identities as though they were henchmen). The tavern will, of course, be very successful. For every regular customer the lucky bastard has, he earns 1 gp per month. The tavern earns an additional 1d10 gp per month beyond the regulars. The lucky bastard can call on one favor per month from his regular customers, including using them as henchmen on his continuing adventures. If a regular customer is killed on an adventure, he is not replaced, and the lucky bastard must pay a 100 gp fee and lose all favors for 1d6 months.

* A rabbit’s foot and horseshoe are made lucky when they are blessed by a cleric (Lawful, if you use three alignments, Chaotic Good if you use nine) of at least 6th level.