Holier Than Thou

I’m currently working on Blood & Treasure Monsters II, which involves fleshing out a few monster notes I’ve accumulated over the years. You know the sort of thing – monster concepts I just haven’t had time to flesh out. Among these concepts are three angels, the cherubim, seraphim and ophanim. These are the kinds of folks you just don’t want to mess with, especially if you’re chaotic. At the end of this article, I’ll talk about what I’ve just released, what I’m about to release, and what I’m going to try to release in 2018.

Image to the right of a cherub in humanoid form by Martin Harris, used under the Creative Commons license

Type: Outsider
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 20
Armor Class: 25 [+3]
Attack: 2 kicks (4d6)
Move: 60′ (Fly 120′)
Save: 7; MR 55%
Intelligence: Super
Alignment: Lawful (LG)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 10,000/23

SA—Magic use (cleric spells, up to 9th level)

SD—Immunity (cold, electricity, fire, energy drain, magic missile, mind effects, petrification, poison, surprise and trap the soul), see invisible creatures, discern lies, protection from evil II and true seeing always active

SP—animate object, blade barrier •••, change self, commune, comprehend languages, control weather •, cure blindness/deafness, cure disease •••, cure serious wounds •••, detect evil, detect magic, dimensional anchor, dispel magic, earthquake •, ego whip •, feeblemind •, fire storm •, flame strike •••, heal, holy word •, insect plague •, intellect fortress •, invisibility II, limited wish •, mental barrier •, mind blank •, mind thrust •, polymorph any object, psionic blast •, psychic crush •, raise dead •••, random action •, read magic, remove curse, remove fear, resist cold, restoration •, shape change •, speak with dead, symbol (any) •, teleport without error, thought shield •, tower of iron will •, wind walk

The cherubim are the second highest in rank among the angels, after the solars. Called great, mighty and blessed, they appear as huge shedu with four wings and four faces, those of an angel, a dragonne, a gorgon and a gold dragon. They guard the passages from the Astral Plane to the upper planes, keeping fiendish beings out.

The dragonne head of a cherub can, four times per day, emit a powerful roar that forces all within 120′ to pass a saving throw or fall unconscious for 1d4 rounds.

The gold dragon head of a cherub can, three times per day, breathe forth a 60′ long cone of fire that deals 6d6 points of damage, or a similar cone of weakening gas that has the same effect as a ray of enfeeblement.

The gorgon head of a cherub can, five times per day, breathe a 60′ long cone of gas that turns creatures that fail a saving throw into salt, even if they astral or ethereal.

If a solar should be destroyed, a cherubim is uplifted into a new solar to take his place in that rank.

Type: Outsider
Size: Huge
Hit Dice: 18
Armor Class: 25 [+3]
Attack: Slam (5d6) or trample
Move: 60′ (Fly 150′)
Save: 8; MR 50%
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Lawful (LG)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 9,000/21

SA—Magic use (cleric spells, up to 9th level, magic-user conjuration spells, up to 6th level)

SD—Immunity (cold, electricity, fire, energy drain, magic missile, mind effects, petrification, poison, sleep and trap the soul), see invisible creatures, discern lies, protection from evil II and true seeing always active

SP—astral projection ••, blade barrier •••, commune, comprehend languages, control weather •, cure blindness/ deafness, cure disease •••, cure serious wounds •••, detect evil, detect magic, disintegrate •, dispel magic, ego whip •, etherealness •••, feeblemind •, fire storm •, flame strike •••, heal, hold monster, holy word •, intellect fortress •, invisibility II, limited wish •, mental barrier •, mind blank •, mind thrust •, polymorph any object, psionic blast •, psychic crush •, raise dead •••, random action •, read magic, remove curse, remove fear, resist cold, restoration •, speak with dead, symbol (any) •, teleport without error, thought shield •, tower of iron will •, wind walk

Ophanim, also called Thrones and Elders, are living symbols of justice and authority (and just authority). They appear as beryl-colored wheels within wheels. The rim of the outer wheel is covered with hundreds of eyes, and the entire angel is wreathed always in divine radiance that heals the good and harms the wicked.

The space within the ophan’s wheels can be occupied by another creature, usually an angel. In this manner, the ophanim are used as chariots, or mounts, by other angels and lawful deities.

The radiance surrounding an ophan grants Lawful creatures the regenerate special ability, and deals 3d6 points of fire damage per round (double to undead) to non-lawful creatures.

An ophanim on the ground can trample a creature by rolling over it, dealing 6d6 points of damage. When flying, they can rotate so rapidly as to cause a whirlwind, like that created by an air elemental, for one minute.

Ophanim can emit up to four rays per round from the eyes on their rim. They can choose from the following:

Amethyst: Command
Silver: Hold monster
Gold: Polymorph
Sapphire: 6d6 cold damage
Emerald: Cure serious wounds
Ruby: 6d6 fire damage
Platinum: Fear
Diamond:6d6 electricity damage

Type: Outsider
Size: Huge
Hit Dice: 16 [Regenerate]
Armor Class: 25 [+3]
Attack: Bite (4d6 + constrict)
Move: 40′ (Fly 120′)
Save: 9; MR 75%
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Lawful (CG)
No. Appearing: 1d3
XP/CL: 8,000/19

SA—Magic use (cleric spells, up to 9th level)

SD—Immunity (cold, electricity, fire, energy drain, magic missile, mind effects, petrification, poison and trap the soul), see invisible creatures, discern lies, protection from evil II and true seeing always active

SP—animate object, blade barrier •••, change self, commune, comprehend languages, control weather •, cure blindness/ deafness, cure disease •••, cure serious wounds •••, detect evil, detect magic, dispel magic, earthquake •, ego whip •, feeblemind •, fire storm •, flame strike •••, heal, holy word •••, insect plague •, intellect fortress •, invisibility II, limited wish •, mental barrier •, mind blank •, mind thrust •, polymorph any object, psionic blast •, psychic crush •, raise dead •••, random action •, read magic, remove curse, remove fear, resist cold, restoration •, shape change •, speak with dead, symbol (any) •, teleport without error, thought shield •, tower of iron will •, wind walk

The seraphim are burning serpents with burnished gold scales and six copper wings. They are messengers from the upper planes and foot soldiers of virtue.

Creatures within 30′ of a seraph suffer 2d6 points of fire damage from the intense heat unless they are lawful in alignment, in which case they are unaffected.

A chaotic creature constricted in its coils must roll 1d20 under their Wisdom score or have their alignment shifted to neutral for 3d6 days. This power does not work on chaotic outsiders, but it does leave them confused for 1d6 rounds.

A seraph can breathe a cone of divine fire that is 120′ long and deals 6d6 points of fire damage to most creatures, but 9d6 to chaotic creatures and 12d6 to the undead.


A week ago I published the e-book for Blood & Treasure Esoterica Exhumed, an expansion to the game with numerous new races, classes, weapons, armor, spells and magic items, as well as optional rules for psionics, 0-level characters and proficiencies. The e-book is $7.99 cheap.

Later today (I hope), I’m putting NOD 33 up for sale. It features an Africa-inspired hex crawl, a continuation of the one first published in NOD 16. It has a pantheon of African deities, mostly drawn from West Africa, a new hero, villain and plot outline for Mystery Men! and a dungeon for OSR games.

In 2018, I’m aiming for three hard covers (and will probably finish two).

Blood & Treasure Monsters II is a sure thing, as I’m about 75% done with it right now. I’m waiting for a cover by Russ Nicholson (you can see a mock-up below).

Myths & Legends will collect numerous pantheons I’ve published in issues of NOD, as well as many as yet unpublished. I’m probably 35% done with this baby.

Outre Dark is a guide to the planes in the NOD cosmos. I’m maybe 15% done with this one, but it should be pretty fun to write.

Of course, I’ll still be making issues of NOD and expanding the NOD campaign setting, and I should get the Pars Fortuna revision out, which will also serve as a preview of the revisions I’d like to do on Bloody Basic in 2019.

Mars, Venus and Beyond

If you have read Blood & Treasure Second Edition, you might already know that I had a sample planar system that resembles the old geocentric model of the universe combined with Gygax’s idea of the outer and inner planes. At some point, I’m going to expand on these ideas and write a book called The Outre’ Dark – sort of my version of the Manual of the Planes.

To that end, I’ve already written an article in NOD on the planet Pluto, which stands in for the negative energy plane in Nod’s cosmos. This week, I’ve been playing with maps of Mars and Venus (or Martis and Veneris) for the Nod setting, and thought I’d show them off here, along with a few notes on the settings.


In the Nod cosmology, Mars is a planet of Neutrality, over which the forces of Lawful Neutrality and Chaotic Neutrality fight a never-ending war.

  • The humanoid Martians come in a multitude of colors, from purple to amber to burnt sienna (and even some maroons living below the surface). They spawn via spores and do not nurse their young. They may have been engineered by a Zetan civilization that destroyed the plane with atomic weaponry before leaving Martis for Nod, where they were involved in founding the Nabu civilization (destroyed in a similar cataclysm).
  • They are joined on Martis by green mutants in the wastelands and bat people in the mountains.
  • The purple Martians are the most civilized (LN). They dwell in hive cities connected by canals.
  • The amber Martians dwell in the north, and might be considered pragmatic Neutrals.
  • The burnt sienna Martians are nomads (and former seafarers).
  • Atop Olympus Mons there is a monastery of weird Zen Neutral monks.
  • Martians wear little armor (or clothing) and arm themselves with swords, whip-swords, daggers, darts, jezzails and pistols.
  • The Martians also use flying ships (skyremes) levitated by weird rays.
  • There is a plant in the Martian deserts that oozes plastic nodules, which the Martians melt down and use to make a variety of objects.
  • The moons of Martis (those little specs underneath the planet) are home to ghouls, who launch themselves into space when astral ships approach too close.


Veneris is the positive energy plane in Nod’s cosmos. I mixed the idea of positive energy = life with the old ideas of Venus as a jungle world. The map is still in the “rough draft” stage. It is partly inspired by this post at Malevolent and Benign.

  • Humanoid Venusians come in two varieties – the cyan-skinned cave dwellers and the jade-skinned tree dwellers. They are beset by many evils on the planet, for it is populated by numerous beastmen.
  • Venus has very little technology, and all of it in the hands of the gold amazons, who dwell in flying cities. Their sons, the myrmidons, are seafarers and defenders of humanity.
  • Most of the peoples of Veneris have neo-stone age technology, maybe some in the chalcolithic age – giant stone cities, simple weapons, etc. Very Flintstones.
  • There are dinosaurs (though not of the earthly varieties) and other prehistoric animals.
  • Beneath the surface of Veneris is a core of positive energy, which erupts from time to time from volcanoes.
  • The plant life of Veneris is a riot of color. It grows very quickly – a trail cut with machetes would disappear in mere minutes.
  • There are massive oozes on the planet that rise from the seas and cause ecological havoc.
  • The mountains are made of solid gemstone.


I’m adding this one after the fact, having just finished the map. I’m picturing a world almost devoid of plant life with a thin atmosphere where all the real action is under the surface, where the powerful elementals dwell. On the surface, where adventurers are likely to spend their time, there are cities of crystal people who dominate their fellows by dominating the mineral springs they must bathe in to survive, and plundering metallic men who serve the greedy shaitan. I’m using the old idea that Mercury always had one side facing the Sun and the other in perpetual darkness – in this case, the cities of Parahelios and Nyx mark those spots.


Get Bleeped

Monsters can come from the unlikeliest places, but this one came from a doodle (see below) on a scratchpad while I was on a conference call.


Never had an art lesson – can you believe it? *

Type: Construct
Size: Small
Hit Dice: 3+1
Armor Class: 16 (20 vs. metal)
Move: Fly 60′
Attack: Zap (5′/1d6 electricity) or slam (1d4 + 1d6 electricity)
Save: 15
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral (LN)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 300/4

SD—Resistance (acid, fire), immunity (electricity, mind effects)

SP—See below

Bleeps are constructs that hail from the Astral Plane. They materialize on other planes to learn about their ecosystems, recording data and testing inhabitants, before returning from whence they came (wherever that may be). Whether they are in control of themselves, or serve another species, is unknown. Bleeps communicate in a stilted, robotic voice. Due to their time on a given plane recording information, they have a 75% chance to speak the language of any creature they encounter.

Bleeps are surrounded by an electromagnetic field, which gives them an AC 20 against metal objects. Against spells that involve metal hurlants, they enjoy a +3 bonus to saving throws. This also allows them to zap creatures up to five feet away with electricity and their touch is also electrifying.

The bleep’s main weapon, though, is its ability to conjure replicas of creatures using pure energy. This acts as the different “summon monster” spells, I through IX. They can use one spell at a time, and while they use that spell, they lose a number of hit points equal to the level of the spell. Thus, a bleep using summon monster IX loses 9 hit points while the spell is active. When the spell is deactivated, the hit points return. If a bleep is destroyed while conjuring a monster, the monster disappears and the bleep, reduced to 0 hit points, does not suddenly pop back to life.

The interior of the construct is something like a geode, being a composition of weird crystals covering the interior of the metal shell. A sphere of ethereal nth metal floats in the center of this metal shell while the monster is functional, held in place by an inner electromagnetic field. When the monster is no longer fuctional, and if it is opened, the nth metal quickly floats upward at a rate of 30 feet per round, probably to never be seen again unless someone has a handy silver net with which to catch it.

* This is a lie – I took an art class in high school. I just suck at drawing.

Three New Monsters

Boy, have I been on a roller coaster ride lately. Work continues on the Blood & Treasure Second Edition Monster book, but has been slow due to some medical issues. Amidst the stress and activity, I’m still editing and working on some one-page dungeons that will be included in the book. Hopefully won’t take too much longer, but you can’t rush these things, and medical issues certainly have to take precedence over make-believe.

In the meantime, I managed to cobble together a few new monsters for your edification and enjoyment over lunch. The artwork is my half-assed sketch of a brazen godling …

Parrot Man

Type: Humanoid
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 12 + armor
Move: 30′
Attack: Bite (1d3) or by weapon
Save: 16; 20 vs. mental control
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Varies
No. Appearing: 1d10
XP/CL: 50/1

Parrot men look very much like human beings, except for their parrot’s beak and their brilliantly hued skin, often spotted in place or marked with whorls or jagged stripes, especially on the arms and legs. They are garbed in looks tunics, perhaps to better show off their skins with which they take a terribly amount of pride, and they rarely carry more than staff slings and truncheons to defend themselves. Warriors are almost unknown among them, though some become thieves (up to 9th level) or magic-users (up to 6th level).

Parrot men are noted for a singular lack of original thinking. What they read or hear they believe and repeat until they’ve heard something new. This makes their alignments highly variable (exposure to a new alignment has a 3 in 6 chance of persuading the parrot man to adopt it), yet always lacking in conviction.

Brazen Godling

Type: Outsider
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 9+3
Armor Class: 17
Move: 40′
Attack: 2 slams (2d6)
Save: 12; 9 vs. mental effects; MR 25%
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 4,500/11

SD-Immunity (disease, poison), resistance (electricity, fire)

Brazen godlings are formed from the heroic frustrations of the weak and cowardly, becoming encased with demon stuff on the Astral Plane and then deposited in a sheath of bronzed flesh in the wastelands of the Material Plane. They are universally handsome and mad.

Brazen godlings attack with their fists or, when they have lost them, the black tentacles that lie beneath their flesh, for every brazen godling is really a black, tentacled demon heart encased in a tall, strong humanoid body. Attacks against the brazen godling that deal damage have a chance on a d20 equal to that damage of tearing away a bit of the monster’s outer flesh. Roll on the table below to discover what it has shed.

D12 Body Part
1. Leg, left lower
2. Hand, left
3. Posterior
4. Arm, right lower
5. Leg, right thigh
6. Arm, right, upper
7. Leg, left thigh
8. Arm, left lower
9. Hand, right
10. Leg, right lower
11. Arm, left upper
12. Head (reveals tentacle, giving an extra attack each round)

When head and limbs have been removed, the next attack destroys the torso and permits the demon within to be attacked directly. It has 30 hit points and the same stats presented above, save it can only be damaged by magic weapons of +1 or better. The demon heart has five black tentacles (one hidden in each limb, and one curled up in the head), which continue to ooze the creature’s black tears (see below).

A brazen godling, while it retains its head, cries tears of black ichor that have the same properties as unholy water. In melee, these tears may land on attackers, forcing them to save or fall into a terrible despair (-2 to attack and save) for 24 hours. When the being’s flesh is removed, the demon heart continues to secrete this ichor in battle.


Type: Monster
Size: Small
Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 13
Move: 20′ (Fly 150′)
Attack: Talons and bite (1d4) or laser rays (2d6 fire)
Save: 16
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 100/2

Laserhawks are large birds of prey with scaled skin and golden feathers. They can emit laser rays from their eyes, both directed at the same target. The rays permit a saving throw, and if that is failed deal 2d6 points of fire damage to their target.

Laserhawk blood can be used to make an unguent that provides complete immunity to fire, but at the cost of one’s eyesight. Both effects last for 24 hours, even if the unguent is washed off.

Dragon by Dragon – March 1981 (47)

It’s been a little while since I had the time to review a Dragon Magazine, but today is the day!

I’m going to kick it right off with a letter to the editor …

‘The height of absurdity’

Dear Editor:

I finished reading my December issue of DRAGON magazine in a rage. I refer to the letter from the player (“Lowly Players”) who says his DM won’t let his group subscribe to DRAGON magazine because therein are things meant only for the DM.

The height of absurdity indeed.

Aside from overwrought readers, what else does #47 offer?

Up first is the AD&D exam, which might be fun to put on Google+ for a prize … something to think about. It looks like it’s mostly True or False, which suggests starting with contestants in brackets like the NCAA basketball tournament.

A letter about the elemental planes by Steven Kienle brought up a couple neat ideas, to whit:

“Play on other planes gives the DM a chance to introduce new magic items into the campaign without “overloading” the prime material world, perhaps altering their characteristics or their effects to conform with how they would operate in the alien environment.”

Nice idea – offer up some magic items to help survive on the plane, but make them useless elsewhere.

“Because of the strangeness of our appearance to natives of other planes, a character’s Charisma would be reduced by from 1-3 points in attempts to communicate or deal with the creature (but never going below 3). The amount of the reduction depends on how dissimilar the two creature types are; for instance, it might be -1 on the elemental plane of earth, because both life forms have solid bodies, but it would be greater on the elemental plane of air, where the native life form does not have a solid body.”

Air elementals do not favor the “flesh time”.

“Natives of the elemental planes need not be entirely alien and original; but might be adaptations of creatures found on the prime material. For example, a spider native to the plane of fire would appear as a ball of fire with eight tongues of flame sticking out of it. Most undead creatures would appear different on an elemental plane, since they would be the undead form of a creature native to that plane. For instance, a skeleton on the plane of fire would appear as a network of flames instead of a structure of bones.”

Neat ideas for fire plane monsters!

The letter reminds me of the old Dragon material, where it was people throwing around clever ideas without “ruling” them to death.

It is followed by a complicated thing about using search patterns while traveling astrally, yadda yadda yadda …

Dig this awesome art …

It’s a collection of weird planar monsters by Patrick Amory (this guy?), including the wirchler (seen above), the aruchai (blobs of flesh from Limbo), the phoenix from Elysium, the furies from Tartarus, the mapmakers from Pandemonium, the flards of Nirvana and the sugo from Acheron.

Here’s a slick excerpt:

“The Wirchler originates from the plane of Gehenna, the Valley of Flame. Fire is their natural habitat, much as air is ours. They are, however, known to leave their dreadful home in groups to search for new prey. At present they pay precious Fire-gems to the Night Hags in Hades in return for Larvae to torture.”

Fire-gems for night hags. Nice.

Leonard Lakofka then takes a special look at the thief. It’s a nice article, covering some things he thinks players miss about playing a thief – picking more pockets, sneaking into camps to steal things or make maps, etc. He also adds a percent chance to set traps, beginning at 26% at first level and topping out at 80% at 15th level. Makes sense to me. He includes a modifier for high or low dexterity, and the following racial adjustments: Dwarves +15%, gnomes +10%, halflings +8%, half-orcs +4% and elves -5%.

Lakofka also adds this tidbit: Multiply Intelligence by 12 to discover the percentage chance that a character can read and write in a language he speaks. This would only impact characters with an intelligence of 8 or lower.

Giants in the Earth presents stats by Katharine Brahtin Kerr for P. Vergilius Maro’s Camilla (a Chaotic Good 10th level fighter) and Medea, Tamer of Dragons (a Chaotic Neutral 18th level magic-user with sage abilities).

Here’s a quick bit from Top Secret by Merle M. Rasmussen – determining handedness of agents:

01-89: Character is right-handed
90-99: Character is left-handed
00: Character is ambidextrous

In case you needed such a table.

Here’s the good stuff – a game by David Cook called Crimefighters, for simulating the heroes of pulp fiction. I wonder if anyone has done a retro-clone of this game?

Here’s the “mysterious power table” for making Shadow-esque characters:

1 – Command
2 – Confusion
3 – ESP
4 – Fear
5 – Foresight
6 – Hypnotism
7 – Invisibility
8 – Luck
9 – Shadow Control
10 – Sight

Combat is measured in seconds in a clever system that requires one to state their actions and then roll initiative. Changing one’s actions mid-stream introduces a 1 second penalty.

It comes with an adventure – “The Case of the Editor’s Envelope”. The set up isn’t unlike what I did with Mystery Men!

It looks like a very playable system, with plenty that can be used by folks playing other games.

It’s times like these I wish I had the time to whip up a quick game on Google+ – would probably be a blast.

Boy, some of those alien ships in Cluster look familiar:

Also a nice little Otus sketch:

And then there’s Jim Holloway’s illustration for Tony Watson‘s review of Task Force Games’ Robots!.

You can pick up a used copy at Amazon.

I leave you, as always, with a bit of Tramp

Very Disney-esque, this one.

Have fun on the internet, and don’t give into rage if you discover somebody won’t let their players read the Dragon.

Hell is for Geniuses

In working on my Blood & Treasure revision, I started thinking today about one of the aspects of monsters that often gets overlooked – intelligence. Starting in AD&D, monsters started getting intelligence ratings, and I think most referees note them and use them to help play a monster encounter, but I wonder whether they really take them into consideration.

Let’s take Hell for an example.

Illustration by Thomas Theodor Heine

Many devils have a high intelligence rating, making them the equivalent of college graduates or even geniuses. A few are super geniuses – and we’re not talking Wile E. Coyote super geniuses, but the real deal – folks smarter than Einstein, Elon Musk and Tony Stark put together. They’re also lawful (evil, but lawful), which means they can work together. Imagine it – thousands of super geniuses working together to create a tech boom in the depths of Hell.

There is some literary precedence for this idea. Milton, in Paradise Lost, noted that the rebel angels used engines of war – possible cannon – in their battle against the Heavenly Host. This was probably an early version of casting “modern” warfare, with its noise and smoke and fire, to our typical vision of Hell, or a Hellish landscape.

We could go a step further, and let the devils in a campaign go full steampunk. What a surprise for high level adventurers, who are expecting the cover to a heavy metal album, and instead enter a nightmarish “World of Tomorrow” when they visit Hell – something more Kirby-esque than classical art. This would also mean that the allies of Hell on the Material Plane would have access to some interesting “magic items” – cannons of course, but also rocket packs, difference engines, steam-powered tanks, etc.

This could make for an interesting campaign, as Hell embraces sorcery and super-science and begins equipping mad wizards and anti-clerics with steam-era technology to conquer the Material Plane, with the adventurers left to discover what this stuff is, how it works, where it comes from and, ultimately, how to stop it. Maybe they’ll need to engineer a rebellion in Hell – the low-order devils against their masters, like something from Metropolis. Or maybe they’ll need to ascend the Seven Heavens and petition the solars and planetars for help in storming the Hellmouth – thousands of aasimars and elves and dwarves brightly arrayed against an undead army that looks like it might have crawled out of the trenches of the First World War!

It could be epic.

Illustration by Thomas Theodor Heine

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!

The Ocean is the Abyss

I like the idea of taking the building blocks of D&D and then twisting it around a bit. I did a post some time back about changing the planes into different time periods. In my own NOD setting, I combine the concept of the planets with the planes, and I put Hell smack dab in the center of the world, fueling all those evils that haunt the dungeons of the world.

Today I was thinking about the idea of the Leviathan, and it occurred to me that it might be interesting to combine a campaign world’s oceans with the concept of The Abyss – i.e. the plane of chaotic evil demons. The demons dwell in the absolute black, inky depths, and their minions occupy the continental shelves and lurk just beneath the waters that lap the shores of the world.

Imagine the place the evil sea races would hold in such a campaign world. They would be more directly the servants of Chaos (i.e. the Sea) in its war against Law (i.e. the Heavens), with the land the battleground between the two. Orcs, despite their presentation in Tolkien and thus D&D, seem to have had a connection to the sea in folklore, and it would be simple enough in a campaign world to make this connection more implicit – making them Chaos’ “beach head” against the air breathers.

Many myth systems personify Chaos and the Sea as one in the same entity, and make it the mother of monsters. In the old reckoning of the ancient Israelites, the land masses floated in the ocean, the Abyss, and this would place that cold plane of evil beneath the earth, and thus in a wonderful place to disgorge horrors into the equally inky black landscape of the campaign world’s dungeons.

Astral Anglers

Saw a picture of ice fishing, and this idea popped into my head.


Large Outsider, Chaotic (NE), Average Intelligence; Solitary

Astral anglers look something like crystaline gulper fish, with massive mouths and long, thick bodies. Their bodies are largely transparent, but the creatures organs are a pulsating pink, and thus can be seen through the monster’s flesh.

HD: 8
AC: 18
ATK: Bite (2d6 + swallow whole)
MV: 40
SV: F8 R9 W9
XP: 800 (CL 9)

Astral anglers appear to exist for the express purpose of eating and swimming. They never speak, and their eyes show not a glimmer of intelligence. In fact, they explorers, slowly mapping the myriad psychic eddies and flows of the Astral Plane, imprinting their knowledge on their gemstone brains.

Mapping an infinite plane is hungry work, of course, which leads to the astral angler’s strategy for hunting. The monster extends a lure into the Material Plane, and when something grabs it, the monster yanks them into the Astral Plane to be swallowed.

An astral angler opens portals into the Material Plane by opening its mouth and expelling a weird humming sound. This weakens the barrier between planes, creating an invisible portal that can be noticed by some creatures as a ripple in space.

Through this portal, the beast extends something like a tongue. This tongue is long and pink in reality, but it is charged with psionic particles, such that in the Material Plane it appears as something the monster’s prey envisions as their fondest desire. The particles pick up needs and wants that a group has in common, so the tongue appears as the same to thing to all. This is an illusion effect, and can be overcome in the normal way.

When a creature touches the tongue, they stick fast to it unless they pass a Will saving throw. A person stuck to the tongue is suddenly jerked through the invisible portal and into the Astral Plane. The portal remains open for 10 minutes, and others can move through it without difficulty.

The original victim that is jerked in is immediately attacked by the astral angler using its bite attack.

Times, Not Planes

This morning, I spent a few moments reading THIS POST. Go on. Click it. Don’t be afraid.

This is the multiverse. It’s a straight line and the Prime Material is Now. Have fun!

It’s a nice little exploration into time, and it got me thinking.

In the traditional D&D cosmos, we have a Material Plane (both Prime and Alternate, of course), Elemental Planes, Astral Planes, etc. While reading the above linked post, the bit about the hell hole Earth used to be – asteroids, volcanoes, magma and such – got me thinking about the Elemental Plane of Fire. I guess really it sounds more like the Para-Elemental (or is it Quasi-Elemental? Dang you Gygax!) Plane of Magma. Either way, it made me think about a system whereby there are no alternate planes, just alternate times.

Plane shifting is actually time shifting, and everyone who is anyone throughout the history of the cosmos wants to get in on the here and now (i.e. the current campaign you’re running) because it’s super bitchin’ and has stuff like assassins, manticores, coffee, magic swords and polymorph self.

So those fire (and magma, and lava and whatever) elementals do not come from the Plane of Fire, they come from many millions of years ago, representing the dominant life forms on Planet X (or whatever you choose to call the place where fighters slay dragons and thieves remove traps in your campaign) when it was just a ball of hot rock beset by asteroids and volcanoes. Water elementals and their ilk come from a more recent past, when the planet was covered by oceans and the only annoying material lifeforms they had to contend with were microbes (ah, the good old days).  When a magic-user conjures them, he is plucking them from their own time and dropping them against their will into the here and now.

Metron or Planetar?

With this system, you replace the idea of demons/devils/angels/demodands/daemons (need I go on) with weird alien creatures from the distant past and distant future. Entities of Pure Chaos (i.e. the slaad) hail from that rainbow period before the Big Bang. The entities of Pure Law dwell at the end of the universe, when heat is gone and there is no change or movement. What dwells in the periods between is up to you. Maybe demons come from the period just after the Big Bang. Maybe solars/planetars/devas are the enlightened future of humanity, their powers derived from genetic manipulation and nanobots rather than magic as magic-users understand it. Just dress them up like the super-advanced aliens from Star Trek and go to town (“Ah, you primitive humans are so violent. To show our enlightened superiority to you, we will pit you against each other in a fight to the death rather than sit down and explain things to you because we’re so amazingly advanced.” Never made sense to me. The whole “humans are ultra-violent and deadly” thing seems a little off as well, when you consider our species has gone from a population of 2 to 7,000,000,000 …). Heck, just gating in a mecha to fight an air elemental (that hails from the time of the gas cloud that precedes the creation of the Solar System, of course) could make the whole concept worth while.

It could make for an interesting variation for your campaign. If you keep the secret of the universe from your players (and they don’t read this post) it might be enjoyable for them to slowly piece it all together and, if they become high enough level, to try to bend the system to their advantage. It also gives entities from the recent future/past a reason to be messing with their recent past/future, as they seek to bend the system to their own advantage, with the hapless PC’s caught in the middle.

Something to consider.