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.


… 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 – 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 – February 1981 (46)

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

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

Moving on …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s another Roslof from that issue:

Love the halfling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another dandy by Roslof – casting a spell from a scroll

Here’s a cool bit:

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

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

Time for some sage advice …

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

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

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

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

Cool stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition:

Magic-User 4, Cleric 3

Range: Touch
Duration: 30 rounds

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter folks!

Dragon by Dragon – November 1980 (43)

It’s time for another review of the grand old Dragon, and this time with a special guest appearance by White Dwarf #21. I figure, why not look at what WD was up to during the same month of Dragon I’m reviewing – see how the gaming communities in the US and UK differed.

First, though, we’ll dip into the Dragon and see what $3 got you back in 1980.

As you might be able to tell from the cover, this issue presents a new version of the Witch as an “NPC” class, written by Bill Mulhausen and revised and edited by Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay. The first was back in Dragon #20, from November of 1978. I guess November is the month for witches.

This version is much like the one that will appear a few years later, dividing the witch into low (level 1-16) and high (level 17-22) orders. This is reminiscent of the AD&D druid. Here are a few of the essentials of the witch:

Requirements: Intelligence and Wisdom must be 15 or higher, must be human or elf (and elves are limited to 9th level, and can multi-class as witches).

Hit Dice: d4 to 11th level, +1 hit point per level thereafter.

Attack and save as magic-users.

Witches receive bonus spells for high Intelligence, as a cleric does for high Wisdom. Their chance to know each spell and such are as for a magic-user. For younger readers, AD&D magic-users had a percent chance to be able to learn any given spell of a level. This was based on their intelligence. You had to roll for each spell to see if a magic-user could learn it. So yeah, you could conceivably have a magic-user who couldn’t learn magic missile, fireball or lightning bolt.

The witch has rules for followers (gains 1d10x20 at 9th level if she establishes a place of worship), and rules about how many apprentices she can have.) She can apply for membership in the high order at level 10 if her Intelligence and Wisdom are 16 or higher and if she possesses a magic crystal ball, mirror or libram. High order witches can advance to 22nd level, and they receive special high order spells at each level from 16 to 22.

Besides their spells, they can brew poisons and narcotics, which they learn as they advance in level. This includes sleep (3rd level), truth (4th level) and love potions 6th level). She can read druid scrolls with no chance of failure, magic-user and illusionist scrolls with a 10% chance of failure and cleric spells if the spell is also on the witch’s spell list (8th level).

Witches can manufacture one magic candle per month at 9th level. The candles can cause love, offer magical protection, heal damage and other effects. She gets a familiar at 10th level, can brew flying ointment at 13th level, control dolls at 15th level, can fascinate with her gaze at 17th level, use limited wish at 21st level and shape change at 22nd level.

The witch has 8 levels of spells, which involve lots of charming, divination, some healing and a few offensive spells. It’s a cool class, but I can’t help but think you’d be just as well off with a magic-user.

Dave Cook (that one) offers some survival tips for the Slave Pits tournament at GenCon XIII. I only mention it here because those adventures went on to be classics when they were published as modules.

We also learn in this issue that Frank Mentzer won the 4th Invitational AD&D Masters Tournament at GenCon XIII. Dig that crazy shirt …

Speaking of great Dungeon Masters, this issue has a DM Evaluation Form for players to fill out. Here’s a sample …

This runs on for several pages and 43 questions! A couple issues ago, a reader complained that the adventures in the magazine were filler. This, ladies and gentlemen, is filler. I’m guessing GenCon kept them busy.

The Bestiary has some choice bits …

This is an amazon, art by Erol Otus (of course), monster by Roger E. Moore. I’d detail the monster stats here, but frankly, they’re humans and the women do all the “men’s work” and vice versa. Not much to see here – but the art is cool.

Todd Lockwood has a monster called a Tolwar that is basically a trunkless elephant who can telekinetically throw boulders (2d12 damage). They serve as loyal mounts.

Tolwar, Large Monster: HD 6, AC 15, ATK 1 slam (2d4) or 2 boulders (900’/2d12), MV 40′, SV F10 R11 W17, AL Neutral (N), XP 600 (CL 7), Special-Hurl boulders, only surprised on 1, telekinesis (100 lb), catch boulders with telekinesis (75%).

Ed Greenwood presents the lythlyx, a weird spiral creature that whips, constrict and drain blood from people.

Lythlyx, Large Aberration: HD 6, AC 19, ATK 1 whip (2d6 + constrict 3d6 + blood drain 1d4), MV 15′ (Fly 20′, Swim 20′), SV F13 R14 W11, AL Neutral (N), XP 600 (CL 7), Special-Blood drain can be used to heal monster (heal 1 hp per 4 hp taken), immune to charm, command, fear, hold monster and sleep, psionic attacks (all).

Now, give me a bunch of amazon warriors on tolwars hurling boulders at a band of adventurers who have stolen some amazon gold and are hiding in a half-ruined wizard’s tower, and you’ve got an adventure.

Philip Meyers has an article about disbelieving illusions, or more specifically phantasmal force. He comes up with a little system based on the intelligence of viewer and how suspicious they are about what they’re seeing. In the table below, situation 1 represents a character who has been informed about the illusion, and 6 is where the character expects to see what the illusion is depicting – in other words, 1 is super suspicious, and 6 is not suspicious at all.

The number is the percent chance of disbelief. It is increase by +20% if olfactory or thermal components are expected but not present, +20% if aural components are expected but not present, +10% if victim of illusion is an illusionist, -10% if victim is surprised and +10% if victim’s Wisdom is 15 or higher.

I reckon you can do about the same by giving a bonus to save vs. phantasmal force as opposed to improved phantasmal force or spectral force.

This issue contains a Traveller adventure called Canard. I won’t comment, because I’ve never played Traveller, but if you’re a fan, it’s probably worth checking out.

Two reviews which might be of interest – the first a Game Designers Workshop (not Games Workshop, as I originally posted) offering called Azhanti High Lightning, about fighting aboard a giant starship. The review was positive, but wonders whether or not they should have tried to tie it to Traveller.

They also review SPI’s DragonQuest, their first “serious” foray into Fantasy RPGs. The reviewer likes it – the intentional rather than random character generation, the action points in combat – but does not care for the way experience is handed out. Overall – positive review, and another reminder that Old School gaming was already becoming “Old School” in 1980.

I’ll also note Hero, by Yaquinto Games. It was an “album game” – “The physical layout is like that of a double record album. The components are stored in the pockets, while the playing surface is printed on the two inside faces.”

Very cool idea, and it would be fun to see something similar done these days, especially considering the connection between Old School gaming and bitchin’ Heavy Metal album art.

I liked this comic …

A scroll of illiteracy would be a great cursed item in a game.

A fair issue of Dragon, with a couple notable bits.

So, what was White Dwarf up to in November (really Oct/Nov) of 1980.

First – cool cover, but there are much better WD covers yet to come. You also notice, right off, that the layout of WD is much more professional than for Dragon at this point. Dragon makes some improvements over the years, but frankly never looked as good, and by the 1990’s and 2000’s looked terrible.

In this issue, Andrew Finch presents some cool material inspired by The Chronicle of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever. We have a new class, Lore Lords, who combine the spell-casting ability of magic-users and clerics, along with d8 hit dice and studded leather armor. Fortunately, this is balanced by a high XP requirement. Similar classes are the Rhadamaerl, who specialize in the lord of stone, and Hirebrand, who specializes in the lore of wood. There are also Bloodguards, who serve as bodyguards for Lore Lords, songs of summoning and words of power. Having never read the Thomas Convenant books, I cannot rate how accurate these classes are, but for fans they’re probably worth checking out. One bit I liked for Lore Lords was their ability to communicate telepathically with one another. A cool house rule might permit magic-users with intelligence and wisdom of 15 or higher to communicate this way with one another.

Roger E. Moore (yeah, that guy) presents a merchant class. It’s actually pretty close to the Venturer class I did, and I promise I hadn’t seen this write up when I wrote mine. Moore’s merchants can open locks, appraise items and use suggestion and command when speaking with people. These are all percentage skills, like those of the thief. Good class.

Azhanti High Lightning gets a review in this issue – positive as in the Dragon.

The Fiend Factory has several cool monsters, the Brothers of the Pine, Chthon, Enslaver, Micemen, Dragon Warriors, Grey Sqaargs and Cyclops. Here are some quick stats:

Brothers of the Pine, Medium Undead: HD 3, AC 15 [+1], ATK 1 weapon, MV 30′, SV F15 R15 W12, AL Chaotic (LE/NE), XP 1500 (CL 5), Special-Cast one 1st level druid spell per day, shrieking wail (save or flee for 1d8 turns), immune to cold, resistance to electricity, vulnerable to fire, only plant-based spells affect them.

Chthon, Medium Aberration: HD 8, AC 20, ATK nil, MV 0′, SV F13 R- W9, AL Chaotic (LE), XP 800 (CL 10), Special-Mineral intellect that hates all animal and plant life, especially intelligent, control up to 20 plants and animals (save to negate).

Enslaver, Tiny Aberration: HD 2+1, AC 14, ATK special, MV 10′, SV F19 R17 W12, AL Chaotic (CE), XP 200 (CL 3), Special-Blindsight 30′, 90% chance of hiding among rocks, dominate creatures that touch them (save negates), hosts freed from domination must make system shock roll or die, hosts are immune to pain and mind effects.

Micemen (crossbreed of brownie and orc!), Small Humanoid: HD 1-1, AC 13, ATK 1 javelin and dagger, MV 30′, SV F14 R16 W16, AL Chaotic (LE), Special-Infravision 90′, shun bright lights, surprise (4 in 6). Despite the picture, I’d like to see these dudes as evil piglets dressed as Robin Hood.

Dragon Warrior (made from dragon teeth), Medium Construct: HD 5+1, AC special, ATK 1 weapon, MV 20′, SV F14 R14 W14, AL Neutral (N), XP 500 (CL 6), Special-Cannot speak, obey commands, last for a number of turns equal to the dragon’s age category, +1 to hit, +2 to damage, attack as 6th level fighters, immune to parent’s breath weapon type, sleep, charm and hold, clad in scale armor and armed with broadsword, disintegrate when killed or dispelled.

Grey Sqaarg, Medium Construct: HD 6, AC 22, ATK 1 grapple, MV 20′, SV F14 R14 W14, AL Neutral (N), Special-Constructs built by ancient dwarves, never initiate attack, fight with strength bonus to hit and damage equal to combined modifiers of attackers, grapples to incapacitate people, made of solid stone, magic resistance 30%.

Cyclops, Large Giant: HD 6, AC 14, ATK 2 claws (1d6), bite (2d6), MV 30′, SV F10 R14 W14, AL Chaotic (CE), Special-Hypnotic stare, -1 to hit melee, -2 to hit ranged, +2 save vs. illusion, prefer to eat demi-humans to humans, breed with human females.

White Dwarf #21 also contains a sci-fi boardgame called Survival and a dungeon called the Tomb of the Maharaja. It is, I’m afraid, quite short and not terribly interesting.

All-in-all, some pretty cool stuff from the Brits in November 1980 – and of course, lots of art by Russ Nicholson.

Well, that does it for this edition of Dragon by Dragon. As always, I leave you with Tramp …

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 – August 1980 (40)

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

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



A letter to the editor:

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

Apparently, the modules were “filler”.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Now you know.


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

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

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

Only you can prevent fire damage

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

And dig that werejaguar illustration that accompanied the article.


I thought this ad was unique:

I’m guessing the art for Spellbinder was late …


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

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

Such a scene is ridiculous.”

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

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

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


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


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

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


Read more about it


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

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

Here are the Blood & Treasure stats:

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

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

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

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

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

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