Dragon by Dragon – June 1982 (62)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But before we leave – check out this beauty …

Only $40 on Ebay for the Atari 400!

Dragon by Dragon – January 1982 (57)

Wow – 1982. I was ten years old (well, nine in January) and still a couple years away from learning about Dungeons & Dragons. Thirty-six years ago – much as changed, and much has not. I guess all these years later, we can be happy that people are still playing D&D and AD&D and other “old school” games. Let’s start the new year by looking at the new year in 1982 in gaming …

Let’s start with the cover, because it’s pretty different from the traditional fantasy fare. We have a woman, maybe modern, knitting dragons (or something like them) onto a blanket  and the dragons are becoming real and flying into the fireplace, all while a strange painting of a man or woman looks on. The tragedy is that I can’t quite make out the signature, and I didn’t see the artist’s name in the magazine.

Update: Nathan Irving writes me to let me know the artist is Dean Morrissey, who provided covers for 16, 18, 28, 60, 84 and 91.

The first big article is “Modern Monsters” by Ed Greenwood. It’s a great article, giving modern (in 1982) vehicles and firearms stats for D&D. The article also goes into some of the pitfalls of pitting “medieval” characters against modern characters. It really all goes to the point that jumping from one reality into another was assumed to be a regular feature by our elders in the hobby. Here’s one insight you might enjoy:

Magic will ultimately determine the fate of an AD&D party in a modern setting. It is the party’s “heavy artillery,” and must be expended with caution, for it is not wholly renewable. Magic users without spell books will be unable to regain their spells.

Lenard Lakofka presents some useful ideas and tables in “Shield and Weapon Skills”, including this insight about shields after he watched some folks from the SCA put on a demonstration of medieval fighting:

Fully 60% of the blows are caught by the shield. Second, a trained fighter who normally uses a broadsword is a much poorer fighter when using a battle axe for the first time. To place these facts in terms of AD&D™ rules, some minor rule changes are proposed. A shield will now give +2 to armor class instead of just +1.

He also presents some rules for determining how long shields last in combat. My favorite scheme is for shields to have to make an item save whenever an attack roll is a natural ’20’.

The tables I mentioned are for determining an NPC’s weapon proficiencies, but they could also be used to determine an NPC’s armaments.

In the “Sorcerer’s Scroll”, one E. Gary Gygax presents some more details about the Greyhawk setting – a good read for those who use that campaign setting.

In “In Search of a James Bond”, Mark Mulkins covers how in a TOP SECRET game one could work for three different operational bureaus at the same time without sacrificing experience points. What Mark covers in three pages I would just hand wave.

Up next is an article I kinda dig called “Random Magic Items” by Pete Mohney. It’s a collection of some groovy little random tables for generating magic items. I’ll generate three of them now:

1) A magic girdle, not cursed, that gives a +1 bonus to all saving throws.

2) An amulet shaped like a double-headed axe that allows the wearer to control animals once per week.

3) A hat that provides a +1 bonus to intelligence – we’ll call it a thinking cap.

If you’re a player of DragonQuest, this issue has an article about magicians by Jon Mattson. Since I’ve never played the game, I can’t comment on the merits of the article.

This issue’s Giants in the Earth covers a couple characters I don’t know – C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine and Vanye (with art by Jim Holloway) from the books Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan and Fires of Azeroth, Lynn Abbey’s Rifkind from Daughter of the Bright Moon and The Black Flame, and two characters created by Robert E. Howard – Belit and Dark Agnes. Howard. Belit is a Chaotic Evil 10th level fighter in this write-up, though I would probably go Neutral Evil given her devotion to Conan since I conceive of Chaotic Evil as being utterly self-interested.

The special feature of this issue is an AD&D adventure called “The Wandering Trees” by Michael Malone. It is intended for characters level 6th to 9th. The adventure begins thus:

Long ago, so far back that even the elves are not sure when, Termlane Forest was the home of a tribe of tree-worshipping men. These men built a great temple at the heart of The Forest, where they worshipped their mysterious tree-gods.

The adventure concerns a forest of moving trees with only two safe ways through, and a lost temple somewhere in between. It’s a hell of a dangerous forest, so beware. The adventure also includes stakes for the Phooka.

In “Up on a Soapbox”, there are two essays – one by Brian Blume on the problems with playing evil characters in games, and another by Roger E. Moore on the benefits of playing rpg’s with women.

Michael Kluever has an interesting look at “The History of the Shield”. It’s a good primer for those who like to get crunchy. It’s not a short article, and it is well researched with a useful bibliography.

There’s a great insight into 1982 geekdom in “The Electric Eye”, namely the results of a survey regarding to what high tech goodies readers of the magazine had to play with. The results:

  • 46% have an Apple II or Apple II+
  • 38% have a TRS-80
  • 20% have an Atari 400 or 800
  • 9% have a CBM
  • 6% have no computer
  • 6% have a S-100
  • 3% have a North Star
  • 3% have a VIC
  • and 20% have some other computer

The bottom line, apparently was:

Who is the average Electric Eye reader? He’s a 17-year-old male high school student. He has owned a 48K Apple-l I+ with a disk drive, a printer, and a joystick or a paddle set for about a year. He has spent a little over $100 on software, but he mainly either copies out of magazines or does it himself. He reads The Electric Eye for the program listings and reviews, but he is also interested in other facets of computer gaming.

As always, I leave you with Wormy


Dragon by Dragon – December 1981 (56)

Ho ho ho – Merry Christmas 1981!

Let’s be honest, Christmas and the 1980’s were made for each other … or at least it sure seemed that way when I was growing up in the 80’s. Christmas had a certain magic in those days that was lost by the 1990’s. I’m sure it had nothing at all to do with me growing up, getting a job, getting married and having a child.

Enough of that – let’s see what the Dragon brought us for Christmas …

First, a bit of opinionating from Kevin Morgan

“There is no need to change the monk character class of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.”

So there you go. If you were planning on changing the class, you can stop.

For what it’s worth, I agree with Mr. Morgan in some respects – too often a class is considered “broken” or underpowered because it doesn’t do what somebody wants it to do. Doesn’t mean the class is wrong, just means its the wrong class for the player. In AD&D days, of course, things had to be official, which is why the wrong monk for you meant the wrong monk for everyone, because we couldn’t just have a bunch of different monks running around making people happy. That would be (small “c”) chaos!

Speaking of redesigning classes, the first big article of the mag is “Singing a new tune – a different bard, not quite so hard” by Jeff Goelz. For those new to the old school, bards were once very powerful folks, far more than in modern games. It was a tough class to qualify for and as is mentioned in the article, the revised bard class of the Player’s Handbook took forever to  enter – one had to go through a succession of other classes first. The article here tries to make a slightly less powerful bard that can be played right from first level like any other character.

A couple takeaways: First, the opening vignette has two of the greatest character names ever: Jake Armageddon, half-orc fighter/assassin and Alphonse Armageddon, half-orc cleric/assassin. I salute you Mr. Goelz.

Second, the bard in this article is a great class that is very playable. It won’t be a stranger to many players of modern iterations of D&D – d6 for Hit Dice, some skills, some fighting ability, some spellcasting (illusionist and druid). Good stuff, especially if you’re running first edition and a weird-o like me comes along wanting to play a bard.

Bill Howell follows up the first article with “Songs instead of spells”. Here, Mr. Howell introduces “songs of power” sung by the bard in place of spells, with a complete song list and some details of songs not already covered as existing spells. Here’s one, done up as a spell for Blood & Treasure:

Satire (Conjuration)

Level: Bard 5          Range: Special          Duration: Special

This song is used against a prominent public figure who behaves incorrectly. The target of the spell has his or her charisma score halved until they atone for their misdeeds … unless their deeds are not really misdeeds. If the target’s actions are not truly objectionable in the moral climate of the region, the bard’s charisma is halved instead until they move at least 50 leagues away, and they may not return to the region for one full year.

This spell is actually right up my alley.

“Map hazard, not haphazard” by William Hamblin is one of those articles that has slightly lost its efficacy with time. It concerns using topographic maps in fantasy games – a good idea and a good discussion – but also includes addresses one can use to order sample maps. The internet has made finding maps like these much easier.

A touching sentiment

Gary Gygax’s “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” in this issue covers protection circles (and the like) plus news from the northern Flanaess. It includes some illustrations and descriptions of magic circles and pentagrams, and God knows this article would have run afoul of the “D&D is Satanic” crowd back in the day. I can remember it being included in the old Greyhawk box set. He also describes the Wolf Nomads, Bandit Kingdoms, Duchy of Tenh and Rovers of the Barrens, all of which shows up in the box set as well. Brings back good memories of a wide-eyed kid reading this stuff and realizing that making up a whole world was something you could actually do.

The big feature this issue is a Top Secret scenario called “Mad Merc” – a mission set on a tropical island. It is written by Merle M Rasmussen and James Thompson, and whether you play TS or not, the materials here are super useful and there is a metric ton of it – maps, descriptions of complexes, etc. There’s a nuclear-powered drydock, native peoples caught in the crossfire and a “mad merc” named Strikewell.

The Dragon’s Bestiary this issue features Lewis Pulsipher‘s shroom, which isn’t a mushroom man, but rather a creature that looks something like a thin bear with a dog-like head that can dimension door and prefers capturing foes and holding them for ransom rather than outright killing them.

Shroom, Medium Monster: HD 4+3, AC 14, ATK 2 paws (1d6), MV 30′, AL Neutral (CN), INT low, CL/XP 5/500, NA 1d8, SA-Dimension door, subdue, surprise (4 in 6), hug.

Richard Lucas’ colfel is a big, fearsome beetle from the Negative Energy Plane, which means level drain ladies and gentlemen. Michael C. Reed’s gem vars are humanoid creatures composed of precious stones and created by magic-users. I like all of these monsters, any one of which could be a great addition to a game filled with players who have read the existing monster manuals cover to cover. I think surprises are what makes playing these rpgs fun.

Dragon 56 also has reviews of Task Force Games’ Survival/The Barbarian (positive, but the reviewer thinks they’re too simple for some gamers), Dawn of the Dead (“The game is fast-paced and a fair amount of fun, despite its decidedly macabre nature”) and GDW’s The Argon Gambit/Death Station (very positive) and Fighting Ships: Traveller Supplement 9, which the reviewer found interesting reading, but maybe not super useful for the rpg itself.

There are also book reviews, a holiday gift-giving section focused on books and the continuation of a series that looks at game design.

All in all, not an exciting issue, but I liked the bard class and the bestiary was good.

As always, I leave you with Wormy – have fun and be kind to one another.

You’re seeing Tramp take it to another level here


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!

Dragon by Dragon – September 1980 (41)

September 1980 is the time.

Between the covers of a Dragon Magazine is the place.

I’m pressed for time today, so let’s get down to business and discover the top ten best things about Dragon Magazine #41 (then I need to kill weeds, mow the yard, get a haircut, edit Mystery Men! and commission art).

Our first article is a time capsule of what was going on in the RPG world at the time, namely the backlash by pseudo-religious folks against D&D. 

Written by Arthur W. Collins … or more properly Reverend Arthur W. Collins … who created the neutral dragons from a few issues ago, this one seems like a “let’s get a religious guy who digs D&D to write an article about how great the hobby is, so the other religious people who hate D&D will look worse.”

For example …

“The non-churched population generally views the Christian faith (and religion in general) in terms of a body of rules and regulations designed to keep one from enjoying oneself. This is a false view, but a prevalent one, and voices in the Christian community have been raised of late saying that such things as Dungeons & Dragons are questionable at best (damnable at worst). The double effect of misunderstanding and misguided righteousness on either hand have made fantasy role-playing games a hot topic in the religious community. It is my purpose to lay out a Christian understanding of the uses of fantasy, and then speak from a pastoral perspective on the value of role-playing games.”

It’s a fine article, and worth reading.

Side note – although I cannot be sure, this might be the fellow himself.


Holloway is beginning to appear in Dragon at this point (I think I mentioned him in the last review), which is cool with me. I was always a big fan of his stuff – it had an Osprey quality about it that I always liked – grounding the fantasy in some gritty reality. He’s still learning at this point – the cover is him as well, and isn’t as crisp as later Holloway covers will be. Still – it’s fun watching these artists grow.


Such a great series of article, if for no other reason they offer wonderful opportunities to argue with other nerds about which fictional character could kick which fictional character’s ass.

This one includes stats for some female fantasy favorites, and a couple fellows from the sagas.

C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry (14th level fighter with 18/49 strength)

H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha (27th level cleric, 9th level fighter with ability scores ranging from 15 to 18/00 – I’m guessing her player used the “roll 20 dice, take the best 3 method”)

Robert E. Howard’s Valeria (17th level fighter, 8th level thief)

Sigurd Fafnirsbane (20th level fighter, 12th level magic-user, 8th level cleric) – this fellow also includes a bit on the Norse runes

Starkad (23th level fighter)


This issue has two interpretations of the effects of bathing in dragon’s blood, via the sage of Sigurd / Siegfried.

The first is by Robert Plamondon, who gives us the following:

1. AC benefit is one step for every 10 hit points of the dragon, dropping fractions.

2. Successive applications are cumulative to AC 0 (or AC 20 using ascending AC).

3. The only way to beat AC 0 is to slay Tiamat or Bahamut, who give AC -2 and AC -6 respectively.

4. The formula for combining armored skin with actual armor is AC = AC of armor + AC of skin -10. So, AC 9 skin and AC 8 armor combine for AC 7 (=9+8=17-10=7). The formula works for ascending AC as well.

5. The dragon must be dead and must have been slain with edged or piercing weapons. Initial damage cannot have been delivered by heat, cold or electricity. Poison ruins the blood. The magic in the blood lasts for 1 hour. Only one person may bathe in the blood.

6. The toughening of skin is permanent, and only protects against attacks that would pierce the skin, so the bonus can be added to saves against poison needles).

7. There may be a weak spot, where the blood did not cover. The DM knows this, and perhaps assassins could discover this weak spot as well.

The second way to go is Moldvay’s. He points out in the original myth, Sigurd does not bathe in blood, but rather accidentally sucks a blood-covered finger and gains the ability to speak with animals.

To Robert’s system, Moldvay would make the following changes:

1. Armored skin and armor do not stack – use the better of the two.

2. The blood must be the dragon’s heart blood.

3. Only the character that delivered the killing blow can get the benefit of the blood.


Alan Miller in the Bazaar of the Bizarre has a nice random table of magic door abilities, which include intelligent doors, wizard locked doors, illusions, doorknobs that cast fear and doorbells.


There’s a nice article reviewing several Avalon Hill computer games from back in the day. These babies were for the TRS-80 and Apple Pet, and were loaded via cassette. They cost $15 in 1980, which corresponds to about $43 today.

What I really found interesting was the size of these programs, which ranged from a low of 8.5 K to 15 K. Boy, they could do a lot with a byte back in the olden days.

Also this:

“A final note here about pirate copies. Computer programs are just like books and games; they have copyrights. The manufacturer charges the customer for what it costs to research, produce, package, and distribute the games. Some profit is thrown in on top of all this. Without the profit they wouldn’t be in business . . . and you wouldn’t get the games! They are not out to gouge the public. Our markets (oil excluded) are still competitive; if someone else can make a better product for less, the expensive line will either lower prices or fail.

Unlike the recorded music industry, the home computer game field is in its infancy, and there is no real standard yet for just how to market such things. Some companies cloud their programs in machine language, which makes the game harder, but still not impossible, to copy. What it does do is make the program, and the game, next to impossible to change. Other manufacturers, and I heartily applaud Avalon Hill for doing so, put their programs in BASIC (the language most hobby computers speak). This allows the gamer to “play” with his game. You can modify each program in a thousand ways to customize it as you see fit. A gamer can look at every facet of his copy of a board game, throw out the rules he doesn’t like, and make up new ones to suit his fancy. A computer program is no different; let’s keep it this way—and respect those copyrights!”


William Fawcett has a neat article with skirmish rules for 25mm Napoleonic figures. Obviously, I won’t republish them here, but they are well worth a look. If you just added a fantasy supplement to these bad boys …


Yeah, the old days were sure different. Dig this little tidbit …

RIDE NEEDED: I would like to go to Dundracon ’81 and I need a ride from the Los Angeles area. I will help pay for transportation. John Salguero, 449 East Avenue R-7, Palmdale CA 93550.

(Note: Requests and offers for rides to/from convention sites will be printed in this space free of charge for anyone who sends notification to Rides, c/o Dragon Publishing, P.O. Box 110, Lake Geneva WI 53147.)


The “Dragon’s Bestiary” in this issue features the Silkie by Tom Moldvay. Good monster, and indicative that the game had already started moving beyond the dungeon.

What I really liked about this, however, was the art by Roslof.

Likewise – Ed Greenwood’s Tomb Tapper is all well and good, but dig the art!


I didn’t love this strip like I loved Wormy, but it was probably more D&D than Wormy and probably the first good effort of translating the game into a comic strip. Here’s a nice collection of NPC’s for your own game:


This is a full adventure by Dave Luther, Jon Naatz, Dave Niessen and Mark Schultz. You have to love an adventure that starts with this:

“It is highly preferable that a large party begin the adventure (attrition will take its toll), and it is essential to the success of an expedition that most, if not all, party members be 8th level or higher.”

It also has a formula for an “original procedure for saving throws” which is really a system for ability checks:

“Roll 3, 4, or 5d6 (the number of dice varies) and subtract one point from the dice roll for every two levels of experience the character has attained. Compare the resulting number to a specified ability (this also varies), and if the adjusted dice roll is less than the character’s score for the ability in question, the saving throw is considered made.”

It’s a solid dungeon delve, with tricks, traps and monsters galore. Also some pretty neat art.

That will do it for Dragon 41, folks. Not the best issue, but a good one overall. Enjoy the day, the Super Bowl, the sunshine, etc. 

Dragon by Dragon – June 1980 (38)

It’s Fall here in Nevada – finally. Summer usually lingers until Halloween (or Nevada Day, if you prefer) and then gets its back broken. But Dragon #38 was published in June of 1980 – summertime!

The guy on the cover is appropriately attired for summer, though somewhat less so for adventuring. It’s worth remembering that the male equivalent of the chainmail bikini was the fur underwear that graced many a barbaric warrior in the 1980’s (and professional wrestlers – it was really the heyday of violent men in their underwear).

So, onto the ten best things about Dragon #38!

We start this post with an advertisement.

The first is S3 – Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the special Fifth Anniversary Module! Only $8.00 – approximately $23 in today’s dollars. Am I selling my stuff too cheap? Well, I’m not writing classic modules, so probably not.

#1 … In the Weeds with Dragons

I’m not trumpeting this article because it’s a truly great addition to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Rather, because it takes me back to a day when these sorts of “scholarly” articles about the game were not so unusual.

Lakofka was a master of them (and he perhaps still is). He had a penchant for digging into the elements of the game, thinking deeply about them, and then reworking them for his campaign. Were they better for the attention? I suppose that’s a matter of opinion … but I like that he did it.

In this article, he presents new percentage chances for dragon’s speaking and casting spells. He also comes up with the chances that dragons might cast spells other than magic-user spells. He also presents a three new dragons – Brown, Orange and Yellow. The brown dragon has faerie fire and lightning breath weapons, the orange dragon color spray breath weapon (I dig this) and the yellow dragon has breath weapons that cause disease and blindness.

#2 … Redacted

Merle Rasmussen writes an article about a new game … Top Secret. I never played it, but was always intrigued. I did a quick check, and didn’t see anything about a retro clone of this one – maybe some fan out there can create one. In the meantime, I would suggest checking out Bill Logan’s White Lies. Looks awesome.

#3 … Memories

Speaking of spies and espionage … the Cold War. The advertisement to the right was one of many games about nuclear destruction (or its bizarre aftermath) from the period. I’m never sure if the people writing them didn’t want it happen a little. This one also brought to mind Supremacy. Fun game – I played it often. I remember the f-u move in that game was, when it was obvious you were going to lose, to nuke your own territory and launch a nuclear winter so that nobody won. Tricky, weird, stupid game, but lots of fun with friends. Right up there with RISK and Axis & Allies.

#4 … Gygaxian Sugar Coating

The old man himself speaks on the idea that good characters must be stupid …

“Good does not mean stupid, even if your DM tries to force that concept upon you. Such assertions are themselves asinine, and those who accept such dictates are stupid.”

Which begs the question: Is Raggi the Gygax of his day?


“Female dwarves are neglected not because of male chauvinism or any slight. Observers failed to mention them because they failed to recognize them when they saw them. How so? Because the bearded female dwarves were mistaken for younger males, obviously!”

I was never big on bearded female dwarves, but I think I’m changing my mind. Time to commission an all-female dwarf party illo for the new Blood & Treasure.


Always wondered what the heck the deal was with the ducks in that game. Was it Howard the Duck inspired?

#5 … The Seven Magical Planets

Super cool article by Tom Moldvay with great art by Darlene.

The article draws on Agrippa to present the magical correspondences of the different classical planets for use in gaming. For example, here’s the entry for the Sun.


Archetypal Plane: Light (or the Positive Material).

Description of Archetype: A blond, golden-skinned child holding a sceptre. A rooster crowing. A lion roaring. A sleeping gold dragon. The phoenix rising from flames. An individual with a tawny complexion, yellowish eyes, and a short, reasonably hairless, handsome body. A wise, honorable personality, courageous to a fault, but constantly seeking praise.

Planetary Powers: Magic concerned with money. Fortune and destiny in general. Any operation involving peace, harmony, and friendship. Long life and health. Transmutation of the elements. Spells involving light; magic whose prime purpose is goodness.

Color: Gold, or bright yellow.

Metal: Gold.

Stones: Amber, Topaz, Heliotrope (Yellow Jasper), Cat’s Eye

Agate, Citrine, Jacinth.

Plants: Sunflowers, Saffron plants, Ginger, Gentian, Celadine, Dittany, Lotus trees, Laurel trees, Poliginia, Ivy, any vines which climb toward the sun.

Animals: Lions, Roosters, Eagles, Rams, Boars, Shellfish, Worms, most Beetles, the Phoenix, a Cockatrice.

Day: Sunday.

Numbers: 1, 6, 11, 66, 666.

Selected Deities: Sol, Helius, the Titans Theia & Hyperion, Samas, Tai Yang Ti Chun, Tionatuh, Brigit, Apollo, Suya, Vishnu, Asar, Ra.

Angel: Michael.

Angelic Order: The Shinanim.

Devil: Surgat. (possibly also Mephistopheles).

Demon Order: Type III Demons.

Spirits: Dardael, Hurtapel, Nakiel, Vianathabra, Carat, Haludiel, Machasiel, Burchat, Suceratos, Capabile, Och, Sorath, Aquiel.

Tarot Trumps: The Sun, The Wheel of Fortune, The Hanged Man.

This is just one of those really useful articles for generating gaming ideas.

#6 … True Confessions

I freaking love the line drawings for miniatures they used to do in The Dragon. I want to make them all into characters. And, most importantly, I want to learn how to draw something that cool in such a small, compact package.

#7 … Another Damn Ad …

I know, but look at this thing!

#8 … The Civil War

The Electric Eye article by Mark Herro looks at two games – Civil War and Star Trek. Why is this so cool … because when I was a young nerd, my father borrowed a book of programs from an old nerd he worked with and I typed the Civil War program into a computer and played it. So help me God. To kids out there, I might as well be explaining about the day the guy who invented fire showed me how it was done.

#9 … The Flolite

Sometimes it’s the monster’s stats that make you want to use it. Sometimes its the art. For the flolite, it’s the art.

And dig the Dyson-esque hatching on the verges of the lights. So cool.

So what about the stats for Kevin Readman’s little beastie? Here’s the B&T version:

Flolite, Medium Aberration: HD 5+1; AC 15; ATK 1 tentacle (1d4+1); MV Fly 30′; CL/XP 7/1250; Special–Excellent sight and hearing, 30′ radius daylight around creature, when deals max damage with tentacle it drains 1 point of Strength and gains 1d8 hit points, frenzy against flying creatures (+1 to hit, +3 damage).

The monster’s eye, if harvested, protects an adventurer from the level or prime requisite draining abilities of vampires, night hags, wights, etc. What a great adventure hook – the adventurers know they have to take on a vampire in her castle, or follow a night hag into the Astral Plane to retrieve the Christmas dreams of the children of Sombertown, and to avoid the energy drain they must first venture into the desert after some flolite eyes.


A game by Brian Blume in this issue – Ringside – that simulates boxing. “Match the pros or create your own fighters.”

I admit, I’ve never been into boxing, but this sounds like a fun game for a Saturday afternoon. Invite some friends over, make a championship belt, and have some fights.

The game is pretty simple – Agility, Endurance, Counterpunch and six punches. Combat uses a punching chart. There are basic rules, advanced rules and campaign rules, and stats for 30 of the greats, including Ali, Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano.

And that’s it for Dragon #38 – June 1980. Find a copy and enjoy, boys and girls!

Dragon by Dragon – May 1980 (37)

To be completely honest, The Dragon was not the biggest thing that happened in May 1980.


That being said, it may have been the biggest thing that happened in RPG’s that month, and that’s good enough for me. Let us delve into the top ten things about The Dragon #37.


Arthur W. Collins fills in the alignment gap of dragons in this article, and introduces the gemstone dragons we have all come to know and love (well, some of us). These are dandy creatures, especially if you’re into psionics. What follows are some quick stat blocks in Blood & Treasure style for the gemstone dragons (all adults, max. hit dice):

Crystal Dragon, Large Dragon: HD 6; AC 18; ATK 2 claws (1d4) and bite (2d6); MV 20′ (Fly 50′); SV F9 R9 W9; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day dazzling cloud that cause blindness, 10′ cone), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (35%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 50% chance of speaking, 30% chance of magic-use, druid spells (1/1/1/1), magic-user spells (1/1/1), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Topaz Dragon, Large Dragon: HD 7; AC 19; ATK 2 claws (1d4+1) and bite (2d8); MV 20′ (Fly 50′); SV F9 R9 W9; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day dehydration gets rid of 3 cubic feet of liquid per dragon hp and deals 1d6+6 Str damage to creatures, 10′ cone), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (40%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 60% chance of speaking, 35% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Emerald Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 8; AC 20; ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (3d6); MV 20′ (Fly 60′); SV F6 R8 W8; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day; sonic vibration knocks people unconscious for 1d6 x 10 minutes or deafens them for same if they save), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (50%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 70% chance of speaking, 40% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/2/2/1), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Sapphire Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 9; AC 21; ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (5d4); MV 20′ (Fly 60′); SV F6 R8 W6; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day, sonic vibration disintegrates a number of hit points equal to the dragon’s hit points), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (55%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 80% chance of speaking, 45% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/2), magic-user spells (2/2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Amethyst Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 10; AC 22; ATK 2 claws (1d8) and bite (5d6); MV 30′ (Fly 80′); SV F5 R7 W5; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day shriek like a banshee), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (65%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 90% chance of speaking, 50% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/1/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/1/2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Sardior the Ruby Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 11; AC 23; ATK 2 claws (1d10) and bite (5d8); MV 30′ (Fly 80′); SV F5 R7 W5; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day shriek like amethyst dragon or dazzling cloud like crystal dragon), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (75%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 100% chance of speaking, 100% chance of magic-use, druid spells (3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3), magic-user spells (3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Inflict one on your players today!

Side Trek #1 – Fiends!

“On other fronts, it seems likely now that TSR and Games Workshop have reached a final agreement regarding the publication of the Fiend Folio …”

Love the Fiend Folio. Love it.

Side Trek #2 – Calling Mr. Hall

“Question: My character is a 9th-level Druid changed to a Magic-User (he is now 10th level as a M-U). I want to be able to put my previously owned Apparatus of Kwalish inside my newly acquired Mighty Servant of Leuk-O. Then I would have the ultimate weapon …”

#2. Happenstance

So I’m knee-deep in writing Black Death, which is set, vaguely, during the Thirty Years War and the Wars of Religion. What article do I happen to come across, but “Armies of the Renaissance by Nick Nascati Part VI – Landsknect and Reiters”.

Apparently, the Landsknecht army (and my game) should include:

Infantry – pike-armed, in the style of the Swiss pikemen they were trying to counter

Light Cavalry – dressed as landsknechts, armed with arquebus or crossbow – trained as skirmishers and scouts

Ritters – armored lancers with full plate, battle lances and longswords, and plate barding for the horse

Reiters – black-armored pistoliers, they took two form – light reiters wore a shirt of mail and heavy reiters wore half-plate; both carried three wheellock or matchlock pistols and an estoc

The landsknechts were true mercenaries – a good war to them was one with lots of prisoners they could ransom!

#3. Magic-Users are Experience

T. I. Jones presents a very long article about magic research for magic-users and clerics. I think it’s one of those interesting pieces that tried to deal with all that treasure that was floating around in AD&D. The idea, which I generally ascribe to, is to keep the players needing money, and that keeps them delving into dungeons. The DMG had training costs, which we never used when I was a kid and which I now understand were kind of important to the game. There was also the expense of one day setting up a stronghold. This article gives another – magic research. For example:

“Research in one’s own library will require that such a library have been acquired and built up over the course of several levels of experience. It should be not only difficult but expensive to acquire such a library—a minimum expenditure of 10,000 gold pieces per level of the spell to be researched is recommended. That is, if a Magic-User is to research a second-level spell, he should have spent at least 20,000 gold pieces on his library.”

#4. Libraries

Speaking of libraries, the next article, by Colleen A. Bishop, is a random book generator. Let’s build a library shelf by rolling some percentile dice:

Our shelf contains 250 scrolls (holy cow! – I’m not rolling up all of those) and five books. There’s a 4% chance of a scroll being magic, so there should be 10 magic scrolls on the shelf. The books are two histories of particular castles, a book about the inferiority of kobolds to human beings, and another about how humans are better than dwarves and an alchemist’s notebook in which the writing is too difficult to read.

This would be an excellent random table to automate, to produce large libraries quickly.

#5. Giant in the Earth

Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay present another batch of literary heroes for D&D. This time, the article does not include any character stats. Rather, it describes the rationale used by the authors for creating their stats. The article includes a great passage about doing stats for Tolkien’s creations …

“As far as writing up the characters from Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy, we would love to try our hand at them. Unfortunately, the Tolkien estate is known to be fanatically paranoid about the slightest possible infringement of rights (whether real or imagined). We were also unwilling to attempt them because 90% of the Tolkien fans would be unhappy with the results, regardless of what they were. In the end, we decided it was simply too much hassle to write up Tolkien characters.”

Yeah, this would be post-lawsuit.

The article has a nice table comparing AD&D to D&D levels, which I reproduce:

AD&D 21+ = D&D 40+ / equivalent to demigods, for characters with magically extended lives or who are in close contact with the gods

AD&D 17-20 = D&D 30-30 / the max. an exceptional character would obtain in a single lifetime

AD&D 13-16 = D&D 20-29 / average for heroic characters

AD&D 9-12 = D&D 10-19 / normal minimum for any hero

AD&D 5-8 = D&D 5-9 / this line was actually missing from the article

AD&D 1-4 = D&D 1-4 / low-level cannon-fodder

#6. Urban Encounters

Here’s a nice table folks should find some use for …

#7. Nothing New Under the Sun

From the letters to the editor …

“Unfortunately, I do not feel so good about Mr. Fawcett’s article, “Angels in Dungeons and Dragons.” Yes, I did read the article’s opening statement about the source material being both religious and fictional in nature. As a DM, I will admit that the concept of having angels for the deities of a mythos is intriguing. However, it is the source material that bothers me. Let us remember that much of the article was derived from the Holy Bible, and as far as I’m concerned that is not a book to be taken lightly! Games are games, but the Word of God is not something to be used in such a manner.

I happen to believe in the Bible. However, I also happen to believe in the Constitution, and I respect your right to print what you wish. But I think that “Angels in Dungeons and Dragons” was in extremely poor taste.”

#8. Magic Items

Some goodies in the Bazaar of the Bizarre this month. Here’s an inventory:

Mirror of Speed
Mirror of Confusion
Mirror of Memory
Mirror of All-Seeing
Yefar’s Great Mirror (all by Gerald Strathmann)
Rod of Singing by Robert Plamondon (cursed  item)
The Discus Shield by Roger E. Moore

#9. Vulturehounds

A cool monster by Chris Chalmers and Dan Pollak. Quick stat block

Vulturehound. Small Magical Beast: HD 2; AC 15; ATK 2 claws (1d3) and bite (1d6); MV 50′ (fly 30′); SV F13 R11 W18; AL Neutral (N); Special-None.

They run around in groups of 4d6, and have voracious appetites. I think they’d be a great encounter in dry hills.

Side Trek #3 – I love McLean!

Always loved the art style, and the humor

#10. The Pit of the Oracle

A module by Stephen Sullivan, with a nice cover image by Jeff Dee in which a fighter is either doing a bad-ass, casual back strike against a troglodyte, or in which a fighter is about to get his ass kicked by a couple troglodytes.

The module contains a dungeon and a town (and a Temple of Apathy), as well as some other nice art pieces by Dee, Roslof, Otus and Sutherland. You can tell the elements of D&D’s most classic phase are all coming together.

The map has all sorts of notations on it, which makes me think the adventure is a bit complex … but it also looks really cool. Hey, maybe that’s just the art talking.

And that’s Dragon #37 – happy Sunday folks and have a groovy week ahead.

Thinking About Aquatic Dragons

No, not one of these. Although …

Over the years, there have been many versions of aquatic dragons published on-line and, if memory serves, in the venerable Dragon. As I’ve been writing a very aquatic hexcrawl lately, I’ve been looking at all the tools available, including aquatic versions of surface monsters, such as the aquatic ogres, aquatic trolls and aquatic hobgoblins. Naturally, it seemed a good time to work on a few more, so in the Damnable Sea you’ll also meet aquatic kobolds (telchines) and some aquatic orcs. I’ve also been thinking about how aquatic versions of the chromatic dragons might work. Here are a few notions:

First and foremost, we’re going to replace their legs with sea turtle-like flippers. The fins are clawed, so they can keep their claw attacks, but they also gain a swim speed. Question – swim speed equal to land speed, or faster. With their flippers, their land speed should now be about half what it used to be. Do they keep their wings? Not sure.

Obviously, the beasts can breath in water, but it might be worth making them amphibious. Depends, I suppose, on whether you want them following adventures out of the sea. Personally, I’d remove their ability to breath air entirely – leave the surface to the traditional dragons and the water to the aquatic dragons. Besides, trying to outrun an enraged aquatic dragon to the surface could make for a neat challenge in a game.

Since they spend their time underwater, you might want to replace a dragon’s chance of speech with a chance for telepathy.

As for the different breeds:

Black – Black dragons are already semi-aquatic, so it might make sense to leave them alone. If I were going to do a purely aquatic version, I might make them bottom dwellers who mostly lurk in the very deep, dark oceans, where their scale color gives them good camouflage. Since many deep sea fish are rather weird-looking, that might be fun to carry over to the aquatic black dragons – a glowing form of bait, maybe one that detects as magical to draw in greedy adventurers. As for their acid breath, I’d maybe make it an acidic slime that coats their body or a cloud of acid they belch from their mouths.

Blue – The lightning-breathing blue dragons seem to mesh nicely with the idea of electric eels. I’d replace the lightning breath with a shocking ability, and make it extend to some radius – maybe 10 feet, maybe more, maybe tied to the dragon’s size. I think giving them an eel-like face and body would also be cool. Maybe they make their lairs among the coral reefs.

Green – Imagine aquatic green dragons lurking among the kelp beds. Since they’re known for being poisonous, what if they have poisonous spines like a puffer fish or maybe they’re based on sting rays, with similar body shapes and stream-lined heads.

Red – Red dragons are all about fire, which makes their presence in the water tough to deal with. They could make the water super-heated and boiling, though, so that might work. I might give them a more mottled appearance – maybe more purple than red. Perhaps they dwell around submarine volcanoes, and thus are immune to poison and fire, and perhaps they have a weird appearance like those deep sea aquatic black dragons. Better yet, let’s give them hammer heads because, well, because it would look cool. In fact, basing red dragons on sharks would be a pretty good idea, given their similar outlooks on life. If they don’t dwell around volcanoes, I’d put their lairs in sunken treasure ships.

White – The first thing that pops into my head when thinking about aquatic white dragons is them dwelling in nomadic pods in the cold, arctic seas. In fact, an orca theme might work well with aquatic dragons, with maybe some white seal fur and walrus tusks. White dragons aren’t known for being terribly smart, so we can make these fellows more dumb predator than mastermind. Rather than a frost breath, they could breath a cloud of chemicals that flash freezes the water and everything in it.

I’d love to hear your ideas about “aquatizing” the chromatic dragons in the comments.

Dragon by Dragon – April 1979 (24)

April of 1979 – those heady days of stuff that was happening and things and stuff. Okay, I’m too lazy at the moment to look up what was happening back then, but hey – who cares, right? We know the Dragon was happening, so let’s focus on that.

What did the Dragon have to offer in 1979? More importantly, can we use any of this stuff now?

Lost Civilizations (A Fantasy Supplement for Source of the Nile) by J. Eric Holmes

When you see Dr. Holmes as the author, you know you’ve got some quality material in your hands. Hell, I’ve never even played Source of the Nile and I know this article has to have something useful in it. The article is all about adding some fantasy to the more realistic game of African exploration, specifically of the sort you might get in an H. Rider Haggard or E. R. Burroughs novel.

First up, I love the list of explorer types used in Source of the Nile: Missionaries, Doctors, Zoologists, Geologists and Adventurers. If you were doing an RPG of Victorian exploration, you have your class list right there.

His idea is that when you enter a completely uninhabited hex, there is a chance of it containing a lost city (a roll of 2-3 on 2d6). If in a desert, the city is uninhabited. Otherwise, it is inhabited by survivors of lost Atlantis. The people use bronze weapons and wear ornaments of gold and gemstones, and then you roll dice to determine the city’s organization. Roll 1d6; on a 1-3 the city is ruled by a warrior-king with 1d6 x 1d6 x 1d6 + 10 warriors; if the roll is 4-6 it is ruled by an evil high priest and a white goddess who command 1d6 x 1d6 x 1d6 + 5 warriors. I include this bit because it could be adapted to almost any hex exploration style fantasy game.

When exploring an uninhabited desert city for treasure, you roll 1d6: 1-2 he discovers that the ancient gods still live, his expedition is destroyed and he escapes completely mad; 3-4 traps kill half his askaris and bearers, but he escapes with a bag of diamonds and rubies worth $500 and the secret passages are closed off forever; 5-6 he loots the city for $1000 worth of gems and $200 worth of gold.

This brings to mind something I once did for a game. I was starting with characters above 1st level, and they were from various places in my campaign world (Nod – you might have heard of it). For each character, I came up with one past adventure for each level, each adventure leading them from where they were born to where the adventure was to start. In this way, I gave each player a bit of knowledge about the campaign world and some cool tidbits about their characters. Something to consider.

Keeping the Magic-User In His Place by Ronald Pehr

A classic of old Dragon (hell, a classic of modern articles as well, in as much as it addresses the idea of “balance” between characters). Ronald includes a few ideas of controlling these damn wizards so they don’t mess up the game. Interesting, because it introduces the idea of forced fairness to the game – i.e. I want the game to go one way, but the rules aren’t allowing that to happen. Think of the article previous – the explorer explores a lost city and you roll a dice and that determines what happens – amazing wealth or complete insanity. That’s it. Why? It’s a game, and those are the rules, and playing the game is more important than winning. Or, to state it another way, winning or losing should be a product of the game experience, not a preconceived idea that the game play must support. Why not have wizards who “ruin” the game with fireballs and charm spells? Let everybody have their time to shine, and play it smart. A fireball is a tricky thing, and over reliance on them might be a wizard’s undoing.

Chinese Dragons by David Sweet

One day, these fine monsters will appear in the Fiend Folio, and they were always pretty cool. In fact, it might be fun to do something similar with occidental dragons, replacing the red-blue-green-etc. dragons with ones based on the famous dragons of European myth.

Another Look at LYCANTHROPY by Jon Mattson

This article throws in the idea of different types of lycanthropes that a bitten character might turn into. They are as follows (in summary):

A. Turns completely into the lycanthrope that bit him; i.e. new alignment, etc.
B. Remains in human form, but takes on the mentality of the lycanthrope.
C. Character takes lycanthrope form, but retains his own mentality.
D. As A, but only changes under a full moon or great stress.
E. As B, but only changes under a full moon or great stress.
F. As C, but only … well, you know.
G. Under full moon or great stress, changes into a hybrid of beast and man.

Under option G, he actually writes, “This may sound something like the “Incredible Hulk,” but that is the general idea.” Love it.

There is also a percentage chance for figuring out the character’s new alignment. The new lycanthrope has half the character’s spells and abilities while in lycanthrope form and some modifiers to his ability scores.

Another great quote:

Note: To many people it may seem strange that a wolfs constitution would be better than that of say a bear, but remember that wolves often survive through incredible hardships such as hunger and cold, and I’ve yet to see a bear do as well.

What the?

Ultimately, this is a pretty cool article as it allows the chance that a PC can remain a PC and an interesting party member even after succumbing to lycanthropy.

Roman Military Organization, A Classic Warfare Update by Gary Gygax

An interesting article on the organization of the Roman army.

A Viking Campaign in the Caspian Sea by James E. Brunner

This is a nice history of an actual (well, I assume actual) Viking foray into the Caspian Sea for plunder. A sample:

“In the tenth century the Caspian Sea lay like a great pearl in an ocean of endless steppes and towering mountains. The prows that cut its placid waters belonged to poor fishermen and merchants from every land. Unlike the Black Sea that lay to the west, no northern pirate fleets had ravaged its shores and carried off its great wealth. To the north and the east lay the powerful Khazar Khanate whose capital, Itil, on the Volga Delta, controlled the major trade route to the north. Any merchant or pirate that sought wealth in the Muslim lands to the south had first to deal with the Khazar Khan, whose greed was legendary.”

Primarily interesting to me as it reminds me of Howard’s Vilayet Sea and the adventures had in and around it. When you find fantasy that interests you, take the time to find the reality that underlies it. You might find it even more inspirational.

The article also includes rules for fighting the Battle of Barda’a using Classic Warfare.

The Melee in D&D by Gary Gygax

Here, Mr. Gygax offers up some thoughts on how melee combat is supposed to work in D&D, specifically it seems to answer the complaints of folks who would like more realism in the system. A few important points:

– The game is mostly about creating fantasy personas and their adventures, and that means more than just fighting

– Hack and slash shouldn’t be the first resort of characters

– The system isn’t too unrealistic – it’s built to ensure relative speed of resolution without bogging the ref down in paperwork or creating a high probability of character death

Here’s a bit I found interesting:

“Don Turnbull stated that he envisioned that three sorts of attacks were continually taking place during melee:

1) attacks which had no chance of hitting, including feints, parries, and the like;

2) attacks which had a chance of doing damage but which missed as indicated by the die roll; and

3) attacks which were telling as indicated by the dice roll and subsequent damage determination.

This is a correct summation of what the D&D melee procedure subsumes. Note that the skill factor of higher level of higher level fighters — as well as natural abilities and/or speed of some monsters — allows more than one opportunity per melee round of scoring a telling attack as they are more able to take advantage of openings left by adversaries during the course of sparring. Similarly, zero level men, and monsters under one full hit die, are considered as being less able to defend; thus, opponents of two of more levels of hit dice are able to get in one telling blow for each such level or hit die.”

An article well worth the read.

DUNGEON – More Variations on the Theme by George Laking

This is a collection of extra rules for the DUNGEON game. Since it’s being published again, this might be a good article for folks who love it.

Armies of the Renaissance by Nick Nascati

This is the second part of an article from last issue (I think – too lazy to look at the moment). It covers The Swiss. I’ve long thought the Swiss would be an excellent folk on which to model dwarf armies.

Narcisstics by Darrel Plant and Jon Pitchford

Some monster humor of the disgruntled geek variety, statting up jocks and their female groupies as monsters. I’d convert them to B&T format, but the format in the article is hard to make out, and frankly they’re not just worth it.

Psionics Revisited by Ronald Pehr

This variant takes some of the random chance out of the powers psychic characters receive, tying them more closely to their professions (or so the article says). It appears to divide the powers into two categories: Cognitive Powers and Kinetic Powers, adding a few new powers to the game.

Disease by Lenny Buettuer

This is a set of tables for determining how long it takes a disease to kill a person, and what symptoms are suffered in the meantime. The fatality interval goes from immediate to 10 months, based on a percentile dice roll. Another table determines how many symptoms are suffered and a third what those symptoms are. Honestly – a great idea and one I wish I’d thought of. After all, why do I care what the disease is called? All I want to know is how long the adventurer has to live (more on this below) and what happens to him until he can receive healing.

The other thing I got from this article is the point of diseases in the game. There are many ways to die in D&D, and each should offer up different challenges to the players. Disease in this case becomes a race to be cured.

Bergenhome ’77: the CAT’s Test of American Armor by Stanley Schriefer

If nothing else, this article presents an interesting moment in the history of the magazine. The article is about how well American armor (as in tanks) did in a NATO competition. No stats here. None. Not tied to any game. Just military news that might be interesting to wargamers.

The Return of Conan Maol by Paul Karlsson Johnstone

Weird little article about bagpipers and such.

Choir Practice at the First Church of Lawful Evil (Orthodox): The Ramifications of Alignment by Lawrence Schick

Another interesting article about the three-tier alignment system and their relationship to gods and the powers of those gods. It also divides the three alignments into several “sects” or versions of each alignment. Lawful, for example, is divided into the following:

(A) Absolute Order (High Law)
(B) Harmony/Goodness
(C) Justice/Vengeance
(D) Knowledge
(E) Evolution (Social Darwinism )
(F) War

It then gives information on each of these versions of alignment – its tenets, its practitioners, it’s prime deity. Here’s one example:

Law: JUSTICE/VENGEANCE (Monks, Paladins, Assassins)

Tenets: Good (Law) must be rewarded and Evil (Chaos) must be punished. All creatures are judged impartially by weighing their “good’ and “evil” deeds. Transgressors will be punished according to the depth of their depravity. Criminals must be diligently pursued until brought to justice. (Examples of this alignment’s enforcers might include Solomon Kane, The Shadow, Mr. A., and Javert.)

Prime Deity: MARLY
AC: -4 HP: 300 MOVE:24”
MAGIC: Standard plus See Past plus Detect Truth/Lie.

Honestly – one of the most usable alignment articles I’ve yet read. A great take on the subject, and quite usable. Bonus: Nice piece of art!

Naming People, Places and Things in Petal Throne by G. Arthur Rahman

This article provides a random table for generating the rather non-European names common to MAR Barker’s campaign world.

Monty Haul and the Best of Freddie by James M. Ward

Another adventure in the annals of Monty Haul. A sample:

“The Bronze Dragon was of tremendous size for its breed, measuring over 80 hands long and able to rear to a height of more than half that. The creature had gleaming claws as sharp and damaging as scimitars; buffed with gold dust. Its fanged jaws were kept sharp by biting heavy platemail vests that were a part of its horde. Its massive scaled body rested regally on an altar made of its own gold and silver. Chalices of platinum and coffers of gems and jewels were all about, arranged to please the delicate sensibilities of the dragon. Its giant eyes, that had been but a moment before closed in dragonslumber, opened, aware of the tread of footsteps down the echoing marble corridor, designed for just that echoing effect.”

In Defense of Extraordinary Characters by Rodford E. Smith

A very quick bit about why high level characters make sense, giving as examples from literature Odysseus, Daedalus, Hercules, John Carter, Conan and “everyone’s favorite Kryptonian.” So there you go.

The Society for Creative Anachronism by Allen Hammack

An overview of the society and their doings. These days, this would be what we term a “web page”.

And there you have the April 1979 issue of The Dragon. Not a bad issue all told, with at least two or three articles that I think most folks would find useful.

Dragon by Dragon – June 1978 (15)

First page of the magazine … Fantasy Air Cavalry from Ral Partha. It’s a good start, let’s see how they finish.

Best line in Kask’s editorial this time …

“In the past year, we have met and overcome all obstacles in our path save one: the U.S. Post Offal.”

The more things change …

First article is Dragon Magic by Michael Benveniste. This is in the D&D Variant series (God, I love seeing that in an official TSR publication).

“The magic used by dragons is tempered by their nature. Dragons
are creatures of rock and wind, having little use for plants and water.
They feel little need for offensive spells, believing that their own body
and deadly breath fulfill this need.”

What follows is a spell list for dragons, and this idea: All dragons have a secret name they will reveal to nobody, under no circumstances. A legend lore or wish reveals a clue, but not the name, nor does commune or similar spells. A limited wish just confirms or denies a guess. Speaking the dragon’s name dispels all of his spells, and allows the speaker to demand one – just one – service from that dragon. Nice concept for driving a game: “We can’t get to the top of the Godmountain without the help of the Dragon of Peaks, and to do that we need to learn its true name.”

The spell list has all sorts of new dragon spells, including 1st level – Breath Charm, Charm Avians, Evaluate Item, Locate Lair, Magic Pointer, Werelight; 2nd level – See Other Planes, Wall of Gloom, Weave Barrier, Weight Control (boy, could you make money selling this one, as long as no phen phen is involved); 3rd level – Binding Spell, Hold Mammal, Mesh, Negate Enchantment I, Revelation, Servant Summoning I, Water to Wine, Wood to Sand; 4th level – Attack Other Planes, Rock to Sand, Seek, Turn Magic, Work Weather. There are some great, evocative names in there, and the more I read, the more I liked the idea. One sample …

“Water to Wine: A dragon loves good wine. This spell allows the dragon to convert any water (including salt or tainted) to wine valued even by Elves. Amount: 20 gallons per age class.”

Up next are a couple more D&D Variants. First, we have Pits by Richard Morenoff. It’s a pretty neat set of random tables to determine the contents or type of a pit. One possibility is a “citizen”, which consists of the following: Pipeweed grower, shipbuilder, hatmaker, beer merchant, sculptor, fisherman, locksmith, tool merchant, weapon merchant, teacher, loan shark and trapper. Old D&D means that 1 in 1000 pits found in a dungeon holds a pipeweed grower.

N. Robin Crossby of Australia next presents Random Events Table for Settlements and/or Settled Areas. This one is based on the current season (word to the wise, Spring and Winter are safer than Summer and Autumn). There can never be enough tables like this.

James Ward is up next with Monty and the German High Command, another expose of the gaming goings-on within TSR in 1978. The accompanying illustration brings me joy …

This one involves some WW2 Germans facing off against orcs, storm giants, manticores, an EHP (if you don’t know, you need to study your D&D history a little more closely), a warlock, heroes and superheroes, and trolls, all in an attempt to take a castle.

Jim Ward also presents some thoughts on Wandering Monsters, providing a list of Fourth Level wandering monsters. Takes me back to the game’s origin as a, well, game.

Jeff Swycaffer now presents Notes From Another Barely Successful D&D Player, a follow-up to Ward’s article in issue II/7. He tells of playing a “Maladroit”, who can’t cast spells, fight for a damn, pick locks or lead men. Instead, he lies like a rug. Some good ideas here – worth a read.

Jerome Arkenberg writes The Gospel of Benwa (is he referring to … hmmm) in Dragon Mirth, in which he extoles the Benwanite Heresy, that holds that all the problems in the world are due to the struggle between the Gods of Law and Chaos, and that only victory by the Gods of Neutrality can end misery on earth.

Gygax‘s From the Sorcerer’s Scroll covers D&D Ground Area and Spell Area Scale. Herein, he claims the confusion of 1″ = 10 feet indoors and 1″ = 10 yards outdoors will be cleared up in ADVANCED DUNGEON & DRAGONS. He explains how this originally came to pass – namely that the original scale was 1″ = 10 yards in CHAINMAIL, and that the 1/3 scale was devised by Arneson when he turned the tunneling and mining rules of CHAINMAIL into the dungeon rules of what would become DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. He also explains here that one turn = one scale minute in CHAINMAIL, but that for dungeon movement it was altered to one turn = ten minutes, since mapping and and exploring in an underground dungeon is slow work. The key here is that area of effect is always 1″ = 10 feet, even outdoors. So, there you go.

David Tillery is next with Weather in the Wilderness. This always seems to be such an obvious thing to do, but it has rarely paid off for me in a game. I usually just roll for inclement weather conditions when there’s to be an outdoor fight, to make the fight more interesting. Tillery has a pretty solid system, it seems – reminds me of the World of Greyhawk system.

Next, we have an ad announcing “TWO IMPORTANT NEW RELEASES FROM TSR”, those releases being GAMMA WORLD (love the original font) and the AD&D Player’s Handbook.

Next, we have Stellar Conquest: Examining Movement Tactics by Edward C. Cooper. Since I don’t know the game, I won’t go into it much, but I did enjoy the art:

Not enough space ships have giant pincers, in my opinion.

Next we have some fiction by L. Sprague deCampThe Green Magician.

“In that suspended gray mists began to whirl around them, Harold moment when the Shea realized that, although the pattern was perfectly clear, the details often didn’t work out right.

It was all very well to realize that, as Doc Chalmers once said, “The world we live in is composed of impressions received through the senses, and if the senses can be attuned to receive a different series of impressions, we should infallibly find ourselves living in another of the infinite number of possible worlds.” It was a scientific and personal triumph to have proved that, by the use of the sorites of symbolic logic, the gap to one of those possible worlds could be bridged.”

Funny – I just read this bit recently.

Next up … Fineous Fingers runs away from Grond the Anti-Paladin.

After that, a full page pic of Wormy counting his gold over a backgammon board.

The next article is Random Encounters for BOOT HILL, by Michael E. Crane. This should be useful for folks who play Old West games. It includes such things as mounted bandits, homesteaders in wagons, unarmed clergy, soldiers, indians, etc.

And so ends the June 1978 issue of The Dragon!