Dragon by Dragon – May 1982 (61)

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

If I had been into D&D in 1982, though, I know I would have enjoyed issue 61 of Dragon Magazine. We have a moody wizard cover by Susan Collins, some articles on weapons and fighting without weapons (always rich territory for needlessly complex rules in early AD&D), monster cards and a module! Shall we proceed …

First up, we get some illusionist cantrips by Mr. Gygax. These “0-level” spells were brand new, and were designed to make the spellcasters more “magical” – i.e. doing interesting things with a wave of the hand like magicians in books and movies. Naturally, later editions didn’t get the point, and turned them into yet another level of spells. The cantrips in this issue are for illusionists, and include colored light, dim, haze, mask, mirage, noise, rainbow and two d’lusion. For readers unaware of what old-style spells looked like, and what old-style cantrips looked like, here’s an example:

Two-D’lusion (illusion)

A of E: 4 sq.”

CT: 1/6 segment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragon by Dragon – April 1982 (60)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but things have sure been stressful lately. I’ve been working hard and praying for peace, and trying to relax with old TV shows, old movies and some podcasts about fun things. I will readily admit that my interests tend towards the old – movies from the 30’s and 40’s, TV from the 60’s through 80’s, “bronze age” comics, old games, etc. There’s something about the design and awkward charm that really get me, not to mention nostalgia for places and people I’ll never see again.

To that end, before I present the wonders of Dragon Magazine #60, I must say goodbye to an old family friend. When I went over to my dad’s house to help work on his patio this week, he let me know that the old Panasonic microwave had finally radiated its last cup of tea.

We bought the microwave back in 1980 (two years before this particular Dragon magazine was published), and I still remember where the shop was, though it’s long since been replaced. It was my parents’ first and only microwave oven. I don’t have any deep emotional attachment to the item, really, but I was rooting for it to stay operational forever. Still, 40 years is pretty damn good for an appliance.

So, farewell Panasonic – I learned to cook hot dogs in you, enjoyed chocolate candy my mother made in you, consumed waaay to many Tony’s microwave pizzas heated by you in my formative years (as in “forming a husky body”) and found about 20,000 cups of water placed in you for heating and subsequently forgotten by my dad. Salute!

Now – to Dragon Magazine. This baby was published in 1982 – so it is still prior to me discovering D&D, which would have been 1984. I don’t remember ever checking this one out from the library, so the contents are new to me – and as always, this is less a review than a “here’s what I dug about this issue”.

We start with an ad for a video game called Temple of Apshai. No memory of this one, but I do agree with their sentiment about slaying monsters. It came with a 56-page “book of lore”, which reminds me of the old Ultima and Might & Magic games that I had. Ultima had a cool cloth map (a tapestry, you know), and M&M had a book with all the spells and stuff in it. A little perusal of the interwebs reveals it was part of a trilogy, and that there are many places to download/play it, including the good old Internet Archive.

Nerd alert:

Dear editor:

There are a couple of problems with Robert Barrow’s article, “Aiming for Realism in Archery,” in issue #58 of DRAGON™ Magazine. From my standpoint, it seems that the good author spends too much time with modern archery and has read nothing of medieval history dealing with the subject.

I mean, the writer of that missive is probably correct … but jeez – can’t I just roll 1d20, maybe do some damage, and move on with my life. I’m not sure there’s any real value to re-creating an historical battle, but I’m positive that re-enacting a fictional fight with some orcs is positively goofy, to quote Jan Brady.

The first big piece in this issue is “All About Elves”. You get Roger E. Moore’s “The Elven Point of View”, with super cool Erol Otus art – the ultimate elven fighter/mage. I really dig the idea that only elves can be fighter/mages. There are, of course, lots of cool ideas in the article – Roger E. Moore is one of my favorites. Roger and Georgia Moore then present the Elven Gods – these are the additions to the pantheon beyond Corellon Larethian in Deities & Demigods. These days, I’m more apt to make up my own, but as a kid, articles like this were eye-openers to me. Notions I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

Speaking of elves – here’s a question from Sage Advice:

Why are elven thieves always children?

Anyone who has a relatively recent edition of the Dungeon Masters Guide will probably think this question doesn’t make sense. The latest edition of the DMG lists 100+5d6 as the starting age for player-character elven thieves (page 12). This puts them into the “young adult” range according to the Age Categories chart (page 13) for high elves — the only kind of elves who can be player characters. However, it wasn’t always so. Earlier editions of the DMG gave 50+5d6 as the starting age, which would indeed mean that all elven thieves would start their adventuring lives as “adolescents” of 55 to 80 years old. Fortunately, this inaccuracy was spotted and corrected in later editions; anyone with an old book can simply make the appropriate change in the text.

Who else likes the idea that only elven teenagers become professional thieves? Sometimes, the “mistakes” are more fun and more inspirational than the corrections.

We also get the “Half-Elven Point of View” by Roger E. Moore to round things out.

Gygax’s “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” is a big load of cantrips. AD&D cantrips were 0-level spells before later editions pumped them up and made them more useful. I think it would be cool to make these available to non-magic-users on scrolls. Most of these cantrips require the player to really use their imagination and creativity to make them useful in a dungeon adventure – so naturally, I love them.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I absolutely love the illustrations some companies used to illustrate the miniatures they produced. They always look cooler than the actual miniatures, and I just think they’re little works of art.

Ed Greenwood has an article on firearms for D&D which is aptly named “Firearms”. A semi-controversial subject, since Gygax went the direction of “gunpowder doesn’t work in a fantasy world” and many adopted that idea. As with so many articles in these days, it’s pretty thorough, and looks to me like it would blend nicely into the game. Handguns, for example, do 2d3 damage, firing every other round, with a max range of 50 – so they aren’t going to dominate the game. It might be a cool idea to use orcs in the way Tolkien did, as harbingers of the soulless machine age, and arm them with gunpowder weapons, while the heroes use the “elegant weapons of a more civilized age.”

I often include the first paragraph of short stories in Dragon, so here’s a sample of “Wear Wolf” by an unknown author:

The head of the Cheetah seemed to smile mockingly at me. You’ve forgotten something, I could almost hear it say. I resisted the urge to answer back, But I always forget something when I’m late. There are enough aFnimate objects to talk to; talking to inanimate ones is a waste of time.

Dragon #60 includes a complete game – Flight of the Boodles – by Chuck Stoll of Louisville, KY. It recreates the epic journey of the boodles through the “Grumjug-infested passes of the Snagrock Mountains”. The art makes it look like a fun game to me. The map and counters are included – with a little work you could probably recreate them in a cleaner format and print them out to play the game. Each player takes the side of the Boodles or Grumjugs, purchases the pieces they are going to use in their force, and then goes at it, the Boodles trying to break through the mountains and the Grumjugs trying to stop them. Basically – a fun little wargame.

This is an April issue, so April Fools Day jokes was a requirement. In this issue we get one pseudo-joke – the Jester NPC class by Roger E. Moore – who had some thief abilities – climb walls, pick pockets, catch objects – and some jester spells (levels 1 to 8). The spell list is not extensive, but the spells are pretty darn good. I think you could do a great campaign where a hidden evil threatens a kingdom, and the evil in question is a high level jester who wants to sieze the throne for his own, or maybe who is trying to spread chaos for the chaos gods.

Roger Moore also does “Midgets in the Earth” – a comical version of the usual Giants in the Earth articles presenting D&D stats for literary characters. This one gives you the likes of Eubeen Hadd, 20th level halfling thief, and Morc the Orc, 12th level snaga orc idiot. The Dragon’s Bestiary follows up with monster stats for Donald Duck by Tom Moldvay (which could work well in RuneQuest-inspired games) or any game where you’d like your PC’s to get whooped by an angry duck, the Tasmanian Devil by Steven Sullivan, the Jolly Green Giant by Michael Nystul (name sounds familiar), Marvin the Martian by David Cook (which one could use as the basis for a whole planet of martians in a cosmic adventure), Baseball Bugbears by Karl Kesel and Tom Richmond (probably a reference to the Bad News Bears) and the Werebeaver by Jeff Goetz (which looks suspiciously like Jerry Mathers). They’re all joke monsters, but all usable as well.

To follow up on the April levity, you get an in-depth article on the Pooka by Michael Fountain. I’ve seen many takes on this monster, which would take some real skill to make work in a game, as there’s such a big emphasis on illusion.

You also get some background stuff for agents in Top Secret, some variant scenarios for Trojan War and a big article on Alignment (since it’s the 80’s and there were many articles on alignment).

“Wormy” by Dave Trampier presents the secret handshake of trolls … which, of course, I cannot show in all good conscience.

“What’s New with Phil and Dixie” by Phil Foglio looks at minigames, including one called “Escape from Cthulhu” that just includes a short incantation …

And a tall order!

Fare well, lads and lasses, and find some love and happiness amid all the troubles of the world. Better yet – be the love and happiness in a troubled world!

Dragon by Dragon – March 1982 (59)

Well, a day late and a dollar short, but late is better than not at all.

It was in March of 1982 that thousands of people all over the world were unwrapping Dragon #59, with that groovy cover by James Holloway.

So, here’s ten cool things about this issue:

1. The More Things Change …

In “Out on a Limb” we get two arguments/laments/complaints that will feature heavily in RPG discussions for … well, forever probably. First, on over powered PC’s

Ugh! And as if that weren’t enough, when I related this to a friend of mine, he merely sneered derisively and began telling me about what his 50th-level ranger (D:30, S:35) would do to such a wimp. I began to feel dizzy.

And

… I have found that evil characters not only have the most fun, but they add spice and intrigue to the campaign, which helps the other players enjoy it more.

Overpowered characters and evil characters. If you’re dealing with them in your own game, know that you’re not the first, won’t be the last and no, there’s no answer to your problem. Just roll with and try to have a good time.

2. Cantrips

Ah, the introduction of cantrips, or 0-level spells, to AD&D. Now, in 1982 they were something different than they would be later. The 0-level spells were really very simple and not powerful at all, unless somebody knew how to be creative with them. They let you add salt to food or shine up a shield. The bee cantrip was probably the closest you were going to get to an offensive spell, and it’s not detailed in this issue. Still, I remember as a wide-eyed kid thinking that cantrips, like everything else the brain trust at TSR did, were awesome.

3. Giants in the Earth

I always love this feature – stats for literary characters, which also served as a way of introducing little squirts like myself to fantasy literature. This issue has Poul Anderson’s Sir Roger De Tourneville (NG 10th level fighter), a 14th century English warrior who took over an alien spaceship that planned on conquering the Earth. I’ve never read The High Crusade, but I must say I’m intrigued.

It also has stats for L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s Harold Shea (CG 7th level fighter with special spell abilities). Depending on when you discovered fantasy literature, you might have heard that de Camp and Pratt were tantamount to devils for some of their pastiches of other authors’ works. Again, being an innocent at the time, I took such crimes for granted. Fortunately, I grew up, picked up some paper backs, and found I rather enjoyed some of their original works. Remember kids – don’t take anyone’s word for it when it comes to art – positive or negative – check it out and see what you think.

The article is rounded out with Alexei Panshin’s Anthony Villiers (NG 10th level ranger, 7th level thief) and Clifford D. Simak’s Mark Cornwall (LG 4th level fighter with full sage abilities) and Snively (LG 3rd level gnome fighter with special spell abilities).

Dig also the way things were defined back in the day. “X level something with special sauce”. I think they would have been better off statting up these characters as monsters – use class levels when you need a handy thumbnail sketch. If you have to color too far outside the lines, use freeform monster stats.

4. Gypsies

Even though by 1982 the game had been around for a while, there were still some archetypes left to explore. Gypsies have their place in fantasy stories for sure, but also in old school horror. What would Larry Talbot have done without them?

This article is pretty in-depth, and includes a gypsy fortune-telling chart, and a couple cool new spells. For the chart – read the magic. For one of the spells, look below:

The first is Summon Equine Beings, a “‘druid” spell which may be cast by nobles of third level (bard) or better, or by any of the magic viols. The spell is similar to call woodland beings but brings to the aid of the gypsies one type of the following equine or quasi-equine beings:

4-16 ponies, burros, or donkeys
4-16 horses or mules
4-8 centaurs
1-4 hippogriffs/pegasi/hippocampi
1-2 unicorns

The likelihood of attracting hippocampi is extremely rare, but if the spell is cast on the seashore or in a boat, they have as good a chance of being affected as any other equine being. The number of beings summoned is doubled when the spell is cast by the Great Viol of Pharaoh. All wild equine beings save at -5; domestic horses, mules, ponies, etc., at -4; warhorses and other trained steeds (pegasi, etc.) at -1. A paladin’s warhorse saves normally. Gypsies are always on good terms with any creatures summoned, so no loyalty check applies.

5. Monsters

This issue has Ed Greenwood’s bleeder, which looks like a beholder but has blood-sucking tentacles instead of eye stalks, Michael Parkinson’s Stymphalian birds and Roger Moore’s spriggan. I love spriggans, and have used Stymphalian birds in NOD, though not the version presented here.

6. Traveller

Full admission – never played it, but was always aware of it. I did mess around with character creation once, but that’s it. God knows that TRAVELLER has a big fan base out there, and this issue has two items for the game. The first are stats for a group of characters that appear in a short story in the magazine, “Skitterbuggers”. The second is a full fleshed out spaceport/adventure – “Exonidas Spaceport”. Now, not being a TRAVELLER aficionado, I can’t really review these items – but check them out if you love the system or just need some brain fuel for a sci-fi game. Heck, with all the Star Trek stuff I’ve been playing with lately, I’m sure I could make use of the space port plans if nothing else. The art is quite groovy as well.

 

7. Halflings

Dragon had a neat series of “Point of View” articles, which examined the different races (and I think maybe some monsters) in depth. Roger Moore writes here about the halflings. Now, of course, none of this has to be taken as gospel, but it’s surely one take on the subject, and useful for folks who were knew to fantasy gaming. It also includes a bunch of halfling deities which found their way into Legends & Lore. I can definitely remember when, as a kid, I did take this stuff for gospel … and loved it!

8. Poisons

Well, if you’ve decided to spice up a game with an evil PC, you’ll surely want some poison to play with. This issue has more poisons than you’ll know what to do with, and it’s a neat reminder of how the old game worked – everything hand-made, nothing standardized and simplified. Personally, I miss it … and don’t miss it. Depends. Here’s a sample poison:

GHOUL SWEAT: A scummy green gel, used like Chayapa. Smells like rotten meat. Its effect is to paralyze for 5-10 (d6 + 4) rounds. It acts immediately. Save for no effect, made at +1.

9. What’s New with Phil & Dixie

I mentioned Phil Foglio’s contribution to Star Trek fanzines a post or two ago, and now here he is as I was introduced to him, in Dragon. I always like the strip, and appreciated the humor … and yeah, had a total crush on Dixie.

Unfortunately, I can’t leave you with Wormy this time, because it didn’t appear. Drat the luck. All in all, a groovy issue with lots of good ideas.

Have fun boys and girls, and be kind to one another!

 

Dragon by Dragon – November 1981 (55)

Getting back on the blogging track means getting back into the Dragon by Dragon articles.

This week, I’m going to take a look at Dragon #55, from November 1981. This one has a really good beginning – a cover by Erol Otus. The best thing about the cover – I have no idea what that monstrous thing is. This, to me, lies at the heart of old school games – the freedom to invent something new every game, or to add all sorts of fun details to things old and well-known without the need to invent new mechanics.

I think one of the downfalls of 3rd edition D&D was the attempt to standardize fantasy. Standardization may be important for “branding”, but it’s terrible for creativity. I think many corporations these days are cutting their own throats by pushing “branding” over creativity.

On to the review …

First, a moment of righteous anger from the letters page:

“A lot of people seem to have a warped view of how to create a character. Some think you start off at 20th level with all the magic you can carry. Others have the strange notion that you get experience from taking damage. (A character in my world was nearly cut in half by a weapon hit and demanded he get experience for it: Why didn’t he just beat his head against a wall until he achieved godhood?)”

I enjoyed that bit – well said Greg Fox of Scotia, New York

Second, a note of the beginning of the end of Old School in Ed Greenwood’s review of the Fiend Folio

“The beauty of the AD&D rule system is its careful attention to detail, “serious” (i.e., treating monsters as creatures in a fantasy world, not as constructs in a fantasy game) tone, and consistency. The FIEND FOLIO Tome mars this beauty. In its pages this DM finds too much lack of detail, too many shifts in tone, and too many breaches of consistency.”

Here we see the cleaving of the playership – one side needing a “serious” imaginary world and the other just needing a fun place to play for a few hours. I’m in the latter group, and of course love the Fiend Folio. It’s probably not a surprise that I don’t much are for Mr. Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms setting – though I mean no disrespect to Mr. Greenwood. He’s a hell of a creator, and deserves great respect in the gaming world. It just sounds like we’re looking for different things from our gaming.

I’ll note one more line from the review:

“Perhaps it should have been a D&D® book, not one for the AD&D™ game.”

Guess that’s why I always liked the D&D rules better than the AD&D rules.

I will indulge my sense of humor for reviews one last time here, with this peach from a second review of the Fiend Folio.

“First, the names of the dragons are given in the wrong order. If you look in the Monster Manual under the entry indexed as “Dragon: White” you would see at the top of the description, “White Dragon (Draco Rigidus Frigidus).” The Latin name of the dragon is put in parentheses after the English name. But in the FIEND FOLIO under “Dragon, Oriental” a subtitle will read, “Li Lung (Earth Dragon),” with the Chinese name first and the English name in parentheses. Now, who is going to call this dragon “Li Lung” when “Earth Dragon” is much easier to remember? The names should have been given in reverse form (Oriental name last) for the sake of convenience, if nothing more.”

The joy of writing for nerds. At least the reviewer was focusing on the big picture, and not nitpicking.

Now to the feature articles:

Dinosaurs: New Theories for Old Monsters by Lawrence Schick raises the problem we still face with these creatures that we don’t face with fantasy monsters – we don’t know enough. We know more now than we did then, of course, which means we could well be revising monster stats for these beasts forever. This is why I prefer using dinosaurs in my games as though they were fantasy monsters based on what you got in old movies … with just a dash of what we now know (the potential for brilliant plummage, for example) to make them weird.

Gary Gygax has a nice article covering some of the peoples of Oerth. This was reprinted in the old Greyhawk boxed set, and I remember reading it there and thinking “Wow, I didn’t realize you could make this kind of thing up.” It was one of those “unknown unknowns” to me as a kid. I mean, the world is full of people, so I guess people in a D&D world will look like people in our own world, so you don’t really need to describe them. I had a lot to learn about the joys of fantasy.

Katherine Kerr has a nice piece on Robin Hood (he has a price of 200 gp on his head, you know). She makes him a 12th level fighter, Chaotic Good, with some pretty high ability scores. This brings up a thought – that D&D is actually better at depicting cruel reality than heroic fantasy in some ways. After all, when we try to model heroes of fantasy literature in D&D, we have to make them very high level and usually give them very high ability scores. Much of the “evolution” of D&D over the years seems to have been an effort to make it more amenable to fantasy heroes than the original game. Sounds funny to say this, given the presence of “heroes” and “super-heroes” in OD&D.

Oh – I should add that Will Scarlet is an 8th level thief, Little John a 10th level fighter, Friar Tuck a 7th level cleric and the evil Sheriff (lawful evil, to be precise) a 6th level fighter.

“It has been recorded, in the lost scrolls of Caractos the Scribe, of which only fragments now exist, that… from the ice-world of Northumbria, many ages ago, there came a youth named Niall, son of Thorkon the Mighty, who was destined to roam the world as he knew it, and to whom was to be given the appellation, the Far-Traveler…”

So begins another tale of Niall by Gardner Fox.This is good, old-fashioned pulp barbarian stuff, so worth a read for old school sorts like myself.

Speaking of old school, this issue has a Basic D&D adventure called The Creature of Rhyl by Kevin Knuth (could this be him?).

The adventure scores one old school point with reversed names – King Namreh (Herman) and Prince Laechim (Michael). It involves treking into the wilderness to hunt a giant monster and rescue the prince from an evil magician.

My only quibble with this dungeon is the presence of some pretty decent magic items on the upper level without too much guarding it. This may be because there are a couple tough monsters lurking in the lower levels that have to be dealt with. There is a nice puzzle room here, and overall it seems like a good rescue mission sort of adventure.

Pat Reinken (perhaps this fellow?) has a nice article on the tactics of escaping danger, mostly covering magic items that help you get away from danger in one piece.

The Dragon’s Bestiary features the Devil Spider with awesome Erol Otus artwork, which makes sense since Otus invented the monster. The monster is predicated on trying to escape from sticky webs, in such a manner as to make for an exciting fight. It’s a tough monster, so don’t play with it unless you’re high enough level not to end up spider food.

Jeff Brandt introduces the Surchur, which is quite a horrifying thing, humanoid with a mass of tentacles in place of a head. It’s a mid-level monster that doesn’t have many tricks up its sleeve, but which could still give a party lots of problems. Kind of a good Lovecraftian thug.

Ed Greenwood presents the dyll in this issue, essentially a swarm of flying leeches.

The final monster is Craig Stenseth‘s poltergeist, the spirit of chaotic gnomes from Limbo and Gladsheim sent to the Material Plane to spread chaos. Nice origin idea for them.

Speaking of monsters – the magazine reviews a cool miniature called the “gorillasaurus”, which is actually a hybrid of gorilla and rhinoceros (so maybe gorillaceros would have been a better name). The image is terrible in the magazine, but I found a good shot at the AD&D 2nd Edition Holdout blog that tells a good story about using it in-game.

For comic fans, this issue has an early Snarfquest, a nice Wormy entry and a What’s New?.

As always, I’ll leave you with some Tramp and his wonderful little tree trolls …

God bless – be kind to one another – and have some fun for crying out loud!

Dragon by Dragon – October 1981 (54)

Has it been that long since the last Dragon by Dragon? Time flies and time is tight, but there should always be time to travel down through that great gaming oak to the roots and ferment in the brew of our elders.

What the hell am I talking about? The bourbon is doing its job. Let’s get started on issue 54 of the venerable Dragon and see what inspiration we can pull from this issue. Yeah, this will be less review and more “what’s cool that we can use today”.

Cool Cover

How about those angry trees on the cover by Jack Crane. How about a high level druid illusion spell:

Maddening Wood
Level: Druid 7
Area of Effect: One 6-mile hex of woodland per druid level
Duration: One season

The druid enchants a woodland with terrible phantasms. When one approaches the woods proper, the trees loom over them and seem to animate, with grotesque faces and bony claws. Creatures with fewer than 3 HD must pass a saving throw vs. fear or be frightened away. Those who are not afraid initially may plunge into the woods, but things grow worse before they get better. With each step, a save is required for creatures one additional HD higher (i.e. one step in and creatures with 4 HD must save, the next requires creatures with 5 HD to save, and so on). If a creature becomes frightened, all creatures with fewer HD must save again. As one moves deeper into the woods, the wind whips up, the owls hoot, the foliage closes in and becomes more noisome … until one has gone 10 paces in, when the illusory magic ceases and the woods become normal once again.

Eternal Complaint Dept.

“My “lack of realism” argument is very well supported in all of the AD&D entries. By taking a close look you will find an incredibly large amount of monsters in a relatively small area, which, in most cases, has not the means to support even a few of the creatures presented.”

Ruins: Rotted and Risky – but Rewarding by Arn Ashleigh Parker (R.I.P.)

Here’s the first article I dug in this issue, covering ruins – the much neglected cousin to dungeons in D&D. The article contains ideas on designing ruined cities (and thus non-ruined cities), and I love the asumptions made in the article. These are fantasy cities from the mind of Mr. Parker, and they’re awesome. Here’s a few thoughts I enjoyed:

1. Give the players a map showing the perimeter of the ruins, with credit going to the party thief. This saves time, and doesn’t give too much away.

2. Go through the map and decide which buildings are monster lairs; don’t determine what the building actually is until the players investigate.

3. The table of buildings that might be in a ruin (and thus also useful for randomly determining building use in a city)

4. Random bank vault contents! (also useful in modern games, I would think)

5. “The chance for a given thief to open the lock on a bank vault is computed by multiplying the height of the vault (in stories) by 20, and subtracting that number from the thief’s normal percentage chance to open a lock. Thus, a 17th level dwarven thief with a dextereity of 17, who would have an adjusted open-locks chance of 119% for normal locks, has only a 49% chance of cracking a third-story vault, and no chance to open a vault on the sixth story, because the adjustment for the vault’s height (6×20=120) is greater than 119.”

This is what made AD&D great.

6. Private residences are 1d4 stories high. 10% are unusual and were owned by …

7. How long does it take to find a particular building:

 

The Righteous Robbers of Liang Shan P’o by Joseph Ravitts

Cool article with NPC stats for some bad boys of the Water Margin. They include Kung Sun Sheng (“Dragon in the Clouds”), Tai Chung (“The Magic Messenger”), Chang Shun (“White Stripe in the Waves”), Li K’uei (“The Black Whirlwind”) and Shih Hsiu (“The One Who Heeds Not His Life”).

This is followed up by a Giants in the Earth covering E. R. Eddison‘s Four Lords of Demonland.

I Want One of These

Would also be a great game – Wizard Dragon Dwarf Assassin

Beware the Jabberwock by Mark Nuiver

This one presents stats for the Jabberwock, along with a stunning piece of art. The B&T stats are:

Jabberwock

Type: Monster
Size: Huge
Hit Dice: 10 to 12
Armor Class:
Attack: 2 claws (4d4), bite (3d12 + swallow) and tail (2d12)
Movement: 20 ft.
Save: 12
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Chaotic (NE) or Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL:

SQ-Surprised (1 in 6), darkvision 90 feet, detect vorpal blade (1 mile range)

Notes: Jabberwocks mature as do dragons. They have a fearsome gaze (creatures less than 4+1 HD; frightens; frightened creatures must pass a second save or be paralyzed with fear for 2d4 rounds). Tail attacks anyone behind the creature, with a -2 penalty to attack.

Cavern Quest by Bill Fawcett

Worth mentioning this module for AD&D, which is also a sort of quiz with a system for scoring. It’s strange, but probably worth checking out, especially if you want to prove you’re better at AD&D than a friend … or foe! Each room gives you a number of options, usually preparations and actions. Based on your choices, you score points and prove your superiority over other dungeoneers. Cavern Quest could be a fun thing to run on G+ using the polling function, but it is probably too long to make it work.

Cash and Carry for Cowboys by Glenn Rahman

If you need some price lists for an Old West game, this is worth checking out. I wish I’d seen it before writing GRIT & VIGOR.

Bottle of Undead by Bruce Sears

A magic item in the Bazaar of the Bizarre. It is basically an efreet bottle that spews [01-20] a ghost, [21-35] banshee, [36-55] 1d3 spectres, [56-70] 1d2 vampires or [71-00] 1d6 wraiths.

This Makes Me Happy …

As always, I leave you with Tramp …

Dragon by Dragon – September 1981 (53)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also notes Dorothy’s ruby slippers

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Triffid

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Khellek shouldn’t be confused with Kellek

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

Or Kelek, Evil Sorcerer

Apparently a popular name among magic-users.

Have fun, guys and gals!

Dragon by Dragon – August 1981 (52)

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

#10 seems like a dicey prospect for Lawful clerics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Hmmm. It stands to reason …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on moly, click HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey – what the heck is this?

 

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

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

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

I leave you as always with Tramp

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

Dragon by Dragon – July 1981 (51)

If I hadn’t been so busy with writing 2nd editions, I could have done this review in the same month it was published, just 35 years later. Oh well – can’t always get things done as quickly as you would like. On with the review …

Let us begin with one of my favorite bits of old D&D lore – the definitive statement regarding make believe:

“First, an AD&D magic-user is not a fighting class. He or she resorts to a dagger, dart or quarter staff as a last resort. His or her main interest (read, only interest) is magic.”

And now you know!

In “Make Your Own Aliens” by Roger E. Moore we have a nice set of table for making random alien species for Traveller. You don’t see too many “modern” issues of Dragon kicking off with articles for a non-TSR game, and there are more to come. As to the article’s utility, let’s make a random alien:

Our new species lives primarily on land. They have bilateral symmetry and one brain, so they probably won’t be too alien to us. Their brain is in a head, they have no tail and they have 2 feet (I’m starting to think I’m randomly creating human beings). They have 2 arms … but only three fingers and toes on each hand/foot. They also have plantigrade feet which are more like paws than human feet. These aliens are omnivorous hunters, so they are communal, cooperative and aggressive. They weight 50 kg (or 110 lb.) on average. They have no natural weaponry or armor and are covered with feathers or down. They are warm-blooded creatures, give live birth and have two sexes. Their primary sense is auditory, and unlike humans they have light-enhancing vision and heat-tolerant tactile sense.Their auditory organs on on their body rather than head. The roll of the dice say they don’t have any special abilities, but I’m going to roll one anyways and come up with a chameleon-like body covering.

Not too bad – quite a few rolls, but not too many. I’m deciding they are mostly covered with down that can change color to blend in with woodland settings. They have a mane of longer feathers around their neck, and this is what they hear through. I’ll assume they are a primitive people – something like bad-ass barbarians – who are hired as mercenaries by criminal types as body guards.

This article is followed by four more Traveller articles, including one by Marc Miller. Since I’ve never played the game, I can’t really tell you if they’re great or not, but if you play the game, checking out this issue may be worth your while.

At this point, it’s worth noting a couple ads of interest. The first is a sign that the big boys were getting interested in this weird D&D thing that was all the rage … Mattel’s Dungeons & Dragons game! It looks like a real hoot – just a wee bit before I was aware of the game, so I don’t remember seeing any. Alas.

 

Our next ad of interest comes from Mr. Arneson and Mr. Snyder – Adventures in Fantasy, a complete and consistent system of fantasy rpgs (no shot intended there, I’m sure). This is the second edition of the game, produced after Arneson bought back the rights from Excalibur Games using his settlement money from TSR. Ah – the drama of the rpg industry!

 

Up next we get back into D&D territory with William Lenox‘s Winged Folk, a new monster. They look like humans with wings, and they are essentially humans with wings with slightly better Hit Dice and AC. Great art with the article, though, and I like the bit about females have 1d4+1 carvings made from wood, gems, etc. Of course, there will only ever be one group of winged folk for me.

 

Hell yeah! These guys also get some info on being used as playable race, and honestly, the art by Todd Lockwood is pretty great.

Lakofka has an article about what it takes for a character to become 1st level. It gives some XP requirements to become 1st level, after going through a couple pre-1st level stages. Fighters, for example, can begin as 0-level recruits, then move on to becoming 0-level men-at-arms before finally becoming 1st level veterans. I think I like the level titles best (of course I would). It has a bit more about running 0-level characters – good stuff.

If you’re into RuneQuest, or just dig their rules for cults you should check out Eric Robinson’s “The Worshippers of Ratar” for an example of one

I know nothing of Metagaming’s MicroGame #2: Chitin, so I can’t comment much on the article “A New Breed of Bug” by Ben Crowell, but I do like the art by Paul Jaquays.

Up next are two articles addressing the Lawful Good alignment, and specifically how it impact paladins. This was always a popular topic in the old days – much argued over, much lamented. The prolific Roger E. Moore wrote “It’s Not Easy Being Good” and Robert J. Bezold added “Thou Shalt Play This Way: Ten Commandments for Paladins”. I can only imagine how many letters in subsequent issues of Dragon will address these articles.

If you like mini-games, you’ll like this issue, for it includes “Search for the Emperor’s Treasure”. It has a map and counters and looks like it’s lots of fun.

How about this questionaire in this issue’s The Electronic Eye?

How many big disks do you have? Paddles?

Also, special mention for the most tortured spelling of “Basics” ever …

 

About the only reference I found was on the Internet Archive.

The winged folk were a bonus in this issue, because we still get a “Dragon’s Bestiary” by Mark Cummings. He created a fun monster called the Dark Dweller, close kin to trolls, but 1000 times better because of this …

 

Yep, they ride the Antrodemus dinosaur! Underground!! This issue also has stats for Pirahna Bats!!! Good for the DM, bad for the players.

All in all, I declare this a groovy issue, mostly for the monsters, all of which would have a place in my campaigns.

As always, I leave you with Tramp.

 

That Wormy will never be a theatrical animated film is really sad. Sometimes, stories don’t have happy endings.

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

Overpowered?

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 …

THE GUARDIAN

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.

Stronghold

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 – June 1981 (50)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how long ago, in human terms, 1981 was. Of course, 35 years is a drop in the bucket in cosmic terms, but for a 44-year old man, it’s significant. Having a brain that absorbed the early ’80s one day at a time, it just doesn’t seem old, sometimes like it was just yesterday.

Enough of that. Dragon #50 came out 35 years ago this month, and here’s what the 5th anniversary issue has to offer.

We begin, of course, with the cover by Carl Lundgren. Very nice piece of work, and certainly appropriate for the issue, depicting as it does a dragon hovering over its hoard of treasure (or it it the dragon’s hoard?)

As I so often do, I’ll start with an advertisement for a new “family board game” by TSR …

I’m picturing those old game covers or ads from the 1960’s that show a smiling family playing a board game. Little Susie having to tell mom she’s “The Duke of New York – A-number-one!” I just watched the movie a couple days ago, so it’s fresh in my mind.

It should come as no surprise that they have a page for the game at Boardgamegeek.com.

The game was written by “Zeb” Cook, who also wrote the Expert D&D set.

Now that I’ve dispensed with TSR’s homage to Snake Plissken, let’s get to the first article in this anniversary spectacular – Gregory Rihn‘s “Self defense for dragons”. The article purports to give “everyone’s favorite foe a fighting chance”. The article posits that dragons, as they were written in 1981, were too easy to defeat by a large, well-organized party, especially given the treasure to be gained by defeating them. This would prove to be an important article to later editions of the game, for it expands the dragon’s attacks quite a bit, adding 2 wing buffets, 2 wing claws, a foot stomp and tail lash. In essence, it gives the dragons enough attacks to hit all the attackers likely to be surrounding it in a fight. He goes on to give a couple ideas for good dragon tactics.

This is followed up by Lewis Pulsipher‘s “True Dragons: Revamping the monster from head to claw”. It appears that the theme of this issue is that dragon’s just ain’t good enough. Pulsipher gives a long table with many more age categories and a few additional powers, including shapechanging (I like this one), causing terror and some special powers. One of them – two heads – I’m planning on adding to Blood & Treasure. It also has random tables of spells known, a random table of breath weapons, with the old standards as well as a few new ones – radiation, stoning, windstorm, hallucinogen, negate magic and polymorph. All goodies! Here’s Pulsipher’s take on radiation:

Those failing to roll a d20 lower than their constitution become unconscious and will die of a wasting “disease” in 1-4 days. The “disease” is cured by Cure disease and Remove curse. Effects of the disease are only slowly repaired by the body after the cure. A victim might look ravaged five years after his cure if he was near death, and this may affect his charisma.

Radiation as a curse. I dig it.

Overall, I think I like Pulsipher’s take better, using special powers instead of additional attacks to get the job done. Both would go into beefing up dragons in later editions.

Colleen A. Bishop hits on baby dragons with “Hatching is only the beginning …”, which covers little dragons from egg to birth. It’s a long article, with lots of tables. Maybe worth a look if you’re planning on having a baby dragon in the party for a while.

Robert Plamondon gets us off the dragon train and introduces some folks called the Kzinti. I don’t suppose they need much introduction to the folks who read this blog. They’re tough customers here, with 4+4 HD and two attacks per round. A small group could really bedevil a party, and they’re Lawful Evil to boot. The article covers their arrival on D&D campaign worlds, their religion, social organization, magic, psionics, etc. Very thorough for a monster entry, but no info on them as a playable race.

For those interested in the history of the hobby, David F. Nalle‘s reviews of some old time ‘zines may be of interest. He covers Abyss by Dave Nalle, Alarums & Excursions (such a great name) by Lee Gold, The Beholder by Mike G. Stoner, The Lords of Chaos by Nicolai Shapero, Morningstar by Phillip McGregor, Pandemonium by Robert Sacks, Quick Quincy Gazette by Howard Mahler, The Stormlord by Andreas Sarker, Trollcrusher, The Wild Hunt by Mark Swanson and Zeppelin.

Pulsipher has another article, a very long one with way more math than needed to deal with gaze attacks in D&D. Personally, I let people close their eyes entirely (and open themselves to all sorts of trouble), or try to avoid the monster’s gaze and suffer a penalty to hit, etc.

Larry DiTillio’s article on the glyphs in his campaign world didn’t do much for me.

The Chapel of Silence by Mollie Plants is a prize winning dungeon at IDDC II. It’s a relatively small dungeon, but looks like a good one. It begins with all the adventurers having a strange dream, and goes from there – maybe a well-worn idea now, but clever back in the day.

Back to rules articles, “The Ups and Downs of Riding High” by Roger E. Moore covers flying mounts. Its a pretty thorough look at all the potential flying mounts in AD&D at the time, and covers their diet (most are carnivores), advantages, disadvantages and how much weight they can carry. It’s a useful article to keep in your pocket, in case somebody starts flying around on a dragon and you need some ideas on how to spice up the experience.

This advert caught my eye …

 

At first, I assumed it was the old computer classic, but it’s something entirely different.

The Dragon’s Bestiary presents the Giant Vampire Frog by Alan Fomorin. How do you not love these guys?

 

Here’s proof that Mark Herro was nobody’s dummy …

“Home computers may be the most important new consumer appliance to come along in decades. Any device that can control household lights and appliances, edit and type letters and reports, selectively monitor United Press International and the New York Stock Exchange, and play some great games besides, may be almost indispensable in the years to come.”

Word up!

This issue had a couple cartoons of note. First, an argument that persists to this day …

 

And an old take on Batman vs. Superman … or Batman and Superman vs. something else

 

And as always, we finish with a bit of Wormy, as we begin to move into the wargaming story line …

 

Have fun on the internet, and for God’s sake, be kind to one another!