Bring Some Muscle Into the Dungeon

1958. Steve Reeves plays Hercules and not only is a legend born, but a new genre of action/adventure – Sword & Sandals: the heroic adventures of oiled bodybuilders strangling things with their bare hands, bending bars and lifting gates.

We have lots of interesting characters running around fantasy roleplaying games, and plenty have 18’s in Strength, but none of them are true musclemen. Until now …

Requirements & Restrictions
Strength 15+, at least 6’ tall

Musclemen wear no armor, only the hides of the animals and monsters that have slain. They can use shields

Musclemen can wield any weapon, but double-handed weapons are preferred

Hit Dice: d12

Skills: Bend Bars/Lift Gates, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Jump, Swimming

Advance As: Fighter

Special Abilities
Musclemen are capable of using their muscles to influence reactions, either through charm and awe, or sheer intimidation. Musclemen can modify reaction checks with their Strength score rather than Charisma score if the TK deems the situation appropriate.

Musclemen add 1.5 their strength bonus to attacks and damage when armed with double-handed weapons.

Musclemen treat creatures as one size category smaller for grapple and bull rush attacks.

Once per day, a muscleman can call on an adrenaline rush and either re roll a failed strength check with a +2 bonus or double their strength bonus on a single melee attack and damage. They can also make sundering attacks with their bare hands.

A muscleman spends a great deal of time in training. Every four levels, beginning with fourth level, they can deduct one point from intelligence, wisdom or charisma and add it to their strength score.

Musclemen gain additional skills as they advance in level if their strength score is high enough.

Burst Chains and Iron Bands (Level 3, Strength 16) – A muscleman can burst chains and iron bands simply by flexing their chest muscles or biceps.

Toss Dwarf (Level 5, Strength 17) – Musclemen can toss gnomes (Str 17), halflings (Str 19) and dwarfs (Str 21) at opponents. Treat this as a ranged attack with a range of 10 feet. If the muscleman misses, the tossed character gets no attack, loses their turn and suffers 1d4 points of damage. If their attack hits, the tossed character makes an attack as though charging, and the mere act of throwing them scores 1d6 points of damage for gnomes, 1d8 for halflings and 1d10 for dwarves, plus the muscleman’s strength bonus.

Hammer Nails (Level 7, Strength 18) – A muscleman’s sinews are iron hard, allowing him to hammer nails with their bare fists. Difficulties include hammering sharp items larger than nails, or hammering into materials harder than wood.

Bite Through Chains (Level 9, Strength 20) – A muscleman’s jaws are such that he can bite through metal. In addition, he can bite characters that he grapples (treat as an additional unarmed attack).

Of Armsmen and Puissants

I’ve put in some yeoman’s work on the Weird Fantasy Edition of Bloody Basic, and, in the process, had some inspiration for what I think I’m calling the Sinew & Steel Edition.

Sinew & Steel is designed to be a version of Bloody Basic with no magic or supernatural elements at all. In other words, it is role-playing in the real (well, mostly real) Middle Ages, with all the filth and plague you would expect from such a thing. Naturally, Sinew & Steel only has human characters, and they may (at least for now) take levels as armsmen (with the subclasses of barbarian, cavalier and cleric), thief (with the subclasses of assassin, charlatan, hedge wizard and minstrel) and scholar (specializing as a lawyer, theologian or leech). The game will feature some simple rules for strongholds, warfare, storming castles (rather than dungeons) and sieges. When you take out spells, monsters (outside of human and animal monsters) and magical treasure, you sure make a concise game, so I’m trying to fill the pages with other useful materials.

I need to get back to work on the next issue of NOD, and I need to set up my own little playtest of GRIT & VIGOR, but I think I might be able to complete Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition and Bloody Basic – Sinew & Steel Edition by sometime around mid-summer. And, of course, “midsummer” brings up the possibility of doing a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic. ‘Zounds, that would be fun!

Now, the armsman … or as the class is known in the Weird Fantasy Edition, the puissant.

The armsman uses the spell casting ability of the magic-user as a basis for using combat feats. I’ve brought this idea up before, and I’m certainly not the first person to think of it, but I thought I might post the class here for your enjoyment and use.

THE ARMSMAN
The armsman is a trained warrior, a master of fence, who is designed to dominate utterly the field of battle. While any sort of historical warrior can be portrayed using the armsman class, most wear heavy armor and carry the most potent weapons they can.

REQUIREMENTS & RESTRICTIONS – Armsmen must have a Strength score of 9 or higher. They can be of any religion, and they can use any weapon and wear any armor.

SPECIAL ABILITIES – Armsmen have the ability to perform feats of combat excellence while fighting. An armsman can perform a limited number of feats per day, based on their level and the level of difficulty of the feat. Armsmen know only a limited number of feats, beginning with three first level feats at first level. An armsman learns a new feat each time they advance in level. They might also learn additional feats from other armsmen.
At sixth level, an armsman gains a retainer. The retainer is a loyal companion under the control of the armsman’s player. The retainer is rolled randomly on the retainer table at the end of this section. The TK should roll ability scores for the retainer and assign them a name and religion. The armsman must pay for his retainer’s room and board. Arsmen receive 25% of the XP earned by the armsman.

FIRST LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. ARTFUL DODGE – You avoid one enemy attack this round, provided you are capable of moving.

2. CLEAVE – If you slay an opponent this round, you get an extra attack against another opponent within reach.

3. CRITICAL HIT – One successful attack you strike this round does an extra 1d6 points of damage.

4. FAR SHOT – You double the range of a missile weapon attack.

5. FIGHT BLIND – You can make one attack while blind without suffering any penalty on the attack.

6. GUARDS & WARDS – You accept a penalty to hit, and gain a bonus equal to that penalty to your own Armor Class.

7. IRON FIST – You may deal 1d4 points of damage with an unarmed strike this round.

8. POWER ATTACK – You accept a penalty to hit, and if your attack is successful gain a bonus equal to the penalty to damage.

9. QUICK – You add +1 to your initiative roll next round.

10. SHIELD BASH – You may attack with a shield at no penalty, scoring 1d4 points of damage if successful.

11. SWORD & DAGGER – You may attack with two weapons you are holding this round. One weapon can be of medium weight, the other must be light. The light weapon attacks at a penalty of -4 to your attack roll.

12. WEAPON FOCUS – Choose one weapon. For the remainder of this combat, you gain a +1 bonus to hit with that weapon.

SECOND LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. BULL RUSH – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked out of your way (up to 5 feet).

2. DEFLECT ARROWS – For one minute you can negate hits on you from missile weapons with a successful Reflex saving throw.

3. DISARM – Any opponent you successful attack this round is also disarmed of their weapon or any other item they are holding.

4. FEINT – Any opponent you successful attack this round is fooled into moving into an awkward position, and is denied an attack on their next turn (whether this round or the next).

5. GRAPPLE – Any opponent you successfully attack with an unarmed strike this round is also held and pinned by you. This pin is maintained until they make a successful attack roll against you.

6. STUNNING FIST – Any opponent you successfully attack with your unarmed strike is dazed for 1d4 rounds. While dazed, they may not move or attack, but can defend themselves.

7. SUNDER – Any opponent you attack this round also has their weapon, shield or some other item they are holding sundered in twain. Fragile items are broken instantly. Wooden items have a 2 in 6 chance of surviving. Metal items have a 4 in 6 chance.

8. TRIP – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked prone to the ground.

THIRD LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. GREAT CLEAVE – As long as you keep slaying opponents, you keep gaining extra attacks against new opponents within reach.

2. SHOT ON THE RUN – You may make a full run and still shoot or throw missiles without any penalty to your attacks.

3. SNATCH ARROWS – As deflect arrows, but you actually catch the missiles and may immediately, out of turn, throw them back at your attackers (if they are within range).

4. SPRING ATTACK – You may make a move, attack, and then make a second move.

5. WHIRLWIND ATTACK – You make one attack against every opponent within reach of your weapon. A penalty equal to the total number of attacks you are making is applied to each and every one of these attacks. Attacking five people, therefore, results in a -5 penalty to each of those five attacks.

BARBARIAN SUBCLASS
An armsman with a Constitution of 13 or higher can opt to be a barbarian. Barbarians are wild and woolly warriors from the wilderness. They eschew the civilized ways of normal armsmen. Barbarians do not gain the feats of an armsman and they cannot use armor heavier than maille. Barbarians can go berserk in one combat per day per level. While berserk, the barbarian deducts two from her Armor Class, but scores double damage with successful melee attacks. In addition, barbarians can climb sheer surfaces and move silently as thieves (see below).

THE CAVALIER SUBCLASS
An armsmen with a Dexterity score of 13 or higher can opt to be a cavalier. Cavaliers specialize in mounted combat. They suffer no penalty for fighting on horseback, and gain three special feats not available to other armsmen.

1. RIDE-BY ATTACK – While charging on a mount, the cavalier may attack at any point during the charge – in essence, making a move, attacking, and then moving again.

2. SPIRITED CHARGE – The cavalier deals double damage with his weapon attack while charging on a mount.

3. TRAMPLE – The cavalier can trample opponents with its mount by simply riding over them. The mount gets no attacks that round other than trampling, dealing double hoof damage to all in its path unless they pass a Reflex saving throw, in which case they cut the damage in half. The cavalier may still attack with his own weapon while trampling.

THE CLERIC SUBCLASS
An armsman with a wisdom of 13 or higher can opt to become a cleric. Clerics are religious knights or fighting priests. While clerics must have a religion, the extent of their faith is up to them. One can be a fighting bishop and give only cursory lip service to their faith. Clerics can bless, as theologians (see Scholar below).

The Landsknecht

Click to make larger … you know, so you can actually read it

The landsknechts – roughly translated as lowland vassals – were the preeminent mercenaries of Europe in the 16th century, surpassing the famous Swiss pikemen when they defeated them at the Battles of Bicocca and Marignano. The landsknechts were first formed in 1487 by Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, as an imitation of the Swiss pikemen. Like the Swiss, they relied primarily on the pike with support from crossbowmen, arquebusiers, halberdiers and swordsmen. The landknechts probably reached their height during the Thirty Years War (which is why I’m featuring the class in this issue).

What roll could a landsknecht play in dungeon exploration? It is a common practice to bring retainers into a dungeon to help overpower enemies and soak up their attacks for the player characters. The landsknecht is a master of soldiers, a captain in the field. The landsknecht may not be as powerful a front-line warrior as the fighter, but he brings friends and knows how to use them.

Experience Points: As Fighter

A landsknecht is not trained to fight solo, like a fighter, but rather in a company of warriors. When he starts his career, he is a slightly less powerful fighter, though he receives a +1 bonus to hit with spears, pikes and other polearms due to long training with these weapons.

As the landsknecht advances in level, he adds men-at-arms to his company. At each level beyond 1st, the landsknecht adds a single man-at-arms to his company. The man-at-arms equipment is rolled on the table below:

D10 ROLL
1-5. Pike (or spear), leather armor, dagger
6-8. Arquebus (or heavy crossbow), leather armor, scimitar
9. Halberd, leather armor, dagger
10. Greatsword, leather armor, dagger

These men-at-arms are the landsknecht’s personal guard, and do not count as his retainers. Retainers can still be hired separately by the landsknecht, and are commanded by him, but they do not benefit from his special abilities as his personal guard does.

A 3rd level landsknecht adds a trabant to his personal guard. The trabant is a 2 HD warrior armed with a greatsword, dagger and ringmail.

A 5th level landsknecht adds a kaplan (chaplain) to his personal guard. The kaplan has the same alignment and patron deity as the landsknecht. He fights as a 2 HD warrior and casts spells as a level two adept. The kaplan is armed with a light mace, buckler and chainmail shirt.
Once per day, a 6th level landsknecht can inspire his personal guard to amazing levels of courage. As long as he is within 10 feet of them, they enjoy a +1 bonus to save vs charm and fear effects, and a +1 bonus to hit and damage for one battle.

A 7th level landsknecht adds a führer (guide) to his personal guard. The guide fights as a 2 HD warrior and has the track and survival skills as a 2nd level ranger.

Once per day, an 8th level landsknecht can inspire his personal guard to greatness. All troops within 30 feet of the landsknecht gain 1 Hit Dice, an additional +1 bonus to hit and damage, and a +1 bonus on all Fortitude saving throws for the duration of one battle.

A 9th level landsknecht adds a standard bearer (and personal standard) to his personal guard at 9th level. The standard increases the fighting ability of his special troops (trabant, kaplan, führer) by one hit dice, and grants his entire personal guard a +1 bonus to save vs. fear and magic spells. The standard bearer fights as a 3 HD warrior, using his standard as a quarterstaff. He also carries a dagger and wears a breastplate.

It is not uncommon for a landsknecht to lose troops, of course. Any troops lost from his personal guard can be purchased in a settlement (town-sized or larger) at a cost of 10 gp per soldier plus equipment costs. Special troops can be purchased for 100 gp plus equipment costs.

Precision Swiss Dungeoneering

Image by Joshua Sherurcij

I honestly don’t know. I go on a walk. A funny idea pops into my head, which I quickly dismiss. Then a couple more thoughts pop in to flesh out the original idea, and the next thing you know I’m writing up a Blood & Treasure class called the Switzer. On the other hand, one of the founders of the hobby was of Swiss origin, so maybe this class is way overdue!

The Switzer

Switzers are folks from mountainous regions who live up to several flimsy stereotypes (and outright fabrications!) and delve in dungeons. Hey, the inspiration behind this idea is pretty sparse, just do me a favor and roll with it.

Switzers advance in level as rangers.

A life in the mountains has given the 1st level Switzer (regular) a knack at noting unusual stonework and slopes as a dwarf (or count these abilities as skills if the Switzer is a dwarf). Switzers also have an innate money sense. They can calculate a number of coins and the value of gemstones with 80% accuracy. When buying goods, they can make an Intelligence check to either find a bargain (10% discount) or to find superior merchandise (pay a 50% premium, gain a +1 bonus to checks or attacks when using the item).

Switzers must remain true neutral for their entire careers, but they have mercenary hearts and can commit Lawful, Chaotic, Good or Evil acts at the cost of 10 gp per Switzer level. A Switzer who strays from neutrality becomes a normal fighter with the fighting ability of a cleric until he or she receives an atonement spell.

The mountain homes of Switzers are lousy with mad wizards and scientists, so 3rd level Switzers (mountaineer) thus gain particular skill at combating one of their most common and hideous creations, the flesh golem. Against a flesh golem, a Switzer gains a +1 bonus to hit and scores double damage on a successful hit. At 7th level (hellebardier), the Switzer’s innate familiarity with clockworks gives him a similar advantage against iron golems, antikytheres, automatons (i.e. mechanical men) and other clockwork creatures.

A 4th level Switzer (gardist) becomes a master of the pole arm and pike, gaining a +1 bonus to hit and damage with them. When fighting in formation, the Switzer also gains a +1 bonus per 5 fellow warriors (similarly armed) in the formation to Armor Class, up to a +4 bonus.

A 5th level Switzer (Alpinist) can undertake a quest, guided by a divine vision, to find and gain the service of an unusually intelligent, strong, and loyal St. Bernard to serve him. If the Switzer’s dog dies, he must wait until gaining another level of Switzer to undertake the quest again.

The St. Bernard has the following stats:

St. Bernard, Medium Magical Beast: HD 2+2; AC 16; ATK 1 bite (1d6); MV 40; F12 R12 W16; AL N (LN); XP 200; Special—Resistance to cold, cask of wine (produces enough restorative brandy to restore a total of 2 hp per Switzer level per day), low intelligence.

A 6th level Switzer (yodeler) can cast a small collection of spells by yodeling. The spells are drawn from the following list. The Switzer can cast as many spells as the paladin (see B&T Player’s Guide).

Level One: Cause fear, charm person, daze, hideous laughter, message, open/close, sleep

Level Two: Animal trance, daze monster, enthrall, hold person, rage, shatter, sound burst

Level Three: Charm monster, confusion, crushing despair, good hope, speak with animals

Level Four: Dominate person, hold monster, repel vermin, shout

An 8th level Switzer (Reisläufer) gains the ability to manufacture magical cheeses. The cheeses must be created from the milk of a magical beast (one with the proper equipment, of course), and can be infused with a spell effect that duplicates one of the monster’s special abilities or one spell up to 4th level that the monster can cast. Making the cheese takes as long as brewing an equivalent potion, and requires a proper kitchen.

A 10th level Switzer (Burgrave) can choose to establish a stronghold in the wilderness and gain followers (see High Level Play below). The lands controlled by the burgrave are called a canton. A Switzer who commands a canton attracts 1d6 men-at-arms per level, 1d6 first level Switzers who wish to train under them and one 3rd level Switzer to serve as a leutnant. These Switzers should be generated as characters under control of the player.

Edited 9/19 – Made a correction in the text and added an ability

The Chevalier

Whether knights in shining armor or blackguards, chevaliers are the mailed fist of the feudal order, serving their suzerain in war and peace. At the heart of a chevalier’s pride (or arrogance), is his coat of arms, a symbol of his puissance at arms and place in the great chain of being. From a chevalier’s armorial, he draws powers beyond the simple hack and slash of the average fighter.

The chevalier is a sub-class of fighter who gains special abilities from the invocation of his coat of arms, in particular from his the tincture of the field (or main tincture of the field, since some are divided) and from the charge.

Requirements

Strength of 9 or higher and Charisma of 13 or higher. A character that does not have a Charisma of 13 or higher can still enter the chevalier class, but does so as a 0-level character called a squire (see below)

Armor Allowed

Any armor except padded, leather, studded, ring (i.e. scale or better), and bucklers and shields

Weapons Allowed

All weapons

Skills

Riding

XP Requirements

As fighter

Special Abilities

Before we cover the special abilities of a chevalier, we must address the concept of a 0-level chevalier, the squire. Some men are not born as wealthy or well-connected as others, yet they still have the drive to become knights. These poor souls (i.e. folks with low charisma) can still enter the service of a suzerain, holding the rank of “squire”.

A squire earns experience points just as any other character, but can only spend them to increase his or her charisma. One point of charisma can be purchased by the squire for 200 XP. When the squire achieves a charisma of 13, he or she becomes a 1st level chevalier and their experience points are reset to 0.

The first step to becoming a chevalier is to draw up a coat of arms. A perusal of the internet can assist in this, and your Treasure Keeper can make sure you haven’t copied the arms of an existing NPC or PC in the game world. The tincture and charge of a chevalier’s arms determine their special abilities, so read the entire description of the class before designing your arms.

A 1st level chevalier (armiger) can invoke their tincture once per day. The special ability associated with the tincture lasts for one hour. If a chevalier has more than one tincture on his arms (i.e. he has divisions), they must choose which tincture is their “main tincture” at 1st level. At 5th level, the chevalier can invoke their tincture three times per day.

Argent (Silver/White): The chevalier gains use of feat Fast.
Azure (Blue): The chevalier gains the use of the feat Expertise.
Ermine/Vair (Furs): The chevalier gains the use of the feat Alertness.
Gules (Red): The chevalier gains the use of the feat Power Attack.
Or (Gold/Yellow): The chevalier gains the use of the feat Iron Will.
Purpure (Purple): The chevalier gains the use of the feat Great Fortitude.
Sable (Black): The chevalier gains the Trickery skill.
Vert (Green): The chevalier gains the Tracking skill.

A 3rd level chevalier (cavalier) can invoke the charge on his coat of arms to gain a special attack or defense, most of them the equivalent of a spell. A 3rd level chevalier can invoke his charge once per day. A 10th level chevalier can invoke his charge three times per day.

Angel: Cure serious wounds (per the spell)
Arm: Strength (per the spell)
Bear: Chevalier can grapple (as though he has the Improved Grapple feat) for 1d8 points of damage
Bee: Chevalier can summon a giant bee (per summon monster IV)
Boar: Chevalier can continue to fight for 1d6 rounds after reaching 0 hit points, as a boar
Bull: Forceful hand (as the spell, though the attack bonus is only +8)
Castle: Stoneskin (per the spell)
Cross: Holy smite (per the spell)
Deer: Haste (per the spell)
Devil: Inflict serious wounds (per the spell)
Dolphin: Chevalier can swim at a speed of 80, as a dolphin, even when armored
Dragon: The dragon charge on his shield releases a breath weapon in a 15-ft. cone that deals 3d6 points of damage of an energy type associated with the color of the chevalier’s dragon charge
Eagle: Fly (per the spell)
Estoile/Mullet: Psionic blast (per the spell)
Fleur-de-lis: Magic vestment (per the spell)
Fox: Charm monster (per the spell)
Griffin: Magic circle against evil (per the spell)
Harp: Fascinate as a bard of the chevalier’s level
Harpy: Can captivate per the special attack of the harpy
Heart: Immune to fear
Leopard: Invisibility (per the spell)
Lion: Heroism (per the spell)
Mermaid: Water breathing (per the spell), and can swim without penalty in armor
Owl: Dispel magic (per the spell)
Phoenix: Continual flame (per the spell)
Raven: Deeper darkness (per the spell)
Rose: Suggestion (per the spell)
Salamander: Protection from energy (fire) (per the spell)
Serpent: Sticks to snakes (per the spell)
Sphinx: Confusion (per the spell)
Spur: Phantom steed (per the spell)
Sun: Searing light (per the spell)
Sword/Axe: Keen edge on a weapon of the same general type as the charge (per the spell)
Tree: Barkskin (per the spell)
Wolf: Chevalier can summon 1d4 wolves (per summon monster IV)
Wyvern: Poison (per the spell)

A 4th level chevalier (knight errant) can inspire courage in his henchmen and retainers, giving them a +2 bonus to save vs. fear effects as long as they are within the sound of his voice.

An 8th level chevalier (worthy) earns the right to build a castle and either start an order of chivalry (becoming a “knight commander”) or swear fealty to a royal personage (becoming a “baronet”). A chevalier with a castle attracts 1d6 men-at-arms per level, 1d6 first level chevaliers who wish to train under him and one 3rd level chevalier to serve as his castellan. These chevaliers should be generated as characters under control of the player.

Dragon by Dragon – June 1976 (1)

Who drew it? Couldn’t find it in the issue.

Yeah, everyone else does the whole “review every issue” or “review every page” thing, so why the heck can’t I?

Other than Great Britain and Iceland finally ending their codfish war (such a terrible waste), the first issue of The Dragon (formerly The Strategic Review) was probably the big highlight of June, 1976. So what does this little gem contain?

We have an article by Fritz Leiber, the man himself, talking about his wargame Lankhmar and giving a brief tour of Nehwon. Leiber closes this article with a bit on houris. Here’s an adaptation for Blood & Treasure (you know, the game I haven’t actually released yet).

Every hero (4th level fighter) attracts a houri as one of his followers provided he has a charisma of at least 15. The houri requires upkeep to the tune of 100 gp per month. As Leiber explains, a houri is so “slimly beautiful” that she “make all men their helpless slaves and intoxicate even a Hero to madness”. In play, this works as follows:

– Houris have 1d4 hit points (i.e. they can be killed by a dagger). They wear no armor, and may only wield a dagger themselves.

– All 0 or 1 HD male humans, demi-humans and humanoids within 10 feet of a houri must pass a Will saving throw or move directly toward the houri, rapt with fascination and unable to attack her (unless they are attacked by someone else, in which case the spell is broken).

– All higher level male characters within 10 feet of a houri must pass a Will saving throw or have their effective level cut in half.

Sounds like a useful follower to have, but heed the Mouser’s warning – “Women are ever treacherous and complicate any game to the point of sheerest insanity.”

Larry Smith provides a guide to running the Battle of Five Armies using the Chainmail rules.

Wesley D. Ives provides a task resolution system, as he informs us that a “more standardized system is needed” than DM’s just making it up as they go along. New School and Old School were clashing even back in 1976.

The system works by determining randomly a type of dice (by rolling d% and adding the attribute to be tested), from d4 to d12, rolling it and multiplying it by the attribute to be tested to find the percentage chance of success.

So, let’s say I want to jump across a chasm. This involves strength, and my dude has a strength of 13. I roll d% and get a 35. I add 13 to 35 and get 48, which tells me I need to roll a d8. I roll it, get a 5 and multiply that by 13, giving me a 65% chance of success. See – much easier than saying “roll under your strength” or “roll a save vs. paralyzation” or “roll 1d6 – you succeed on a 1 or 2”. Thank goodness for systems.

James M. Ward asks whether Magic and Science are compatible in D&D. Of course, he thinks it is (else it would be a pretty boring article). He introduces a race of people called the Artificers who use a trio of interesting high-tech items.

Lee Gold delves into languages. She notes that humanoids have a 20% chance of speaking Common, which makes much more sense than 3rd edition allowing dang near every sentient creature in the multiverse speaking Common (and thus negating the point of even having languages).

Jake Jaquet tells the tale of “The Search for the Forbidden Chamber”. Check it out for a picture of the infamous “Greyhawk Construction Co. LTD” and a Recyclesaurus.

Len Lakofka presents some miniature rules that were apparently going to be used in a 64-man elimination tournament at GenCon.

The creature feature presents the ever-loving Bulette (pronounced boo-lay, except not really), with an illustration that is really quite good. The reproduction isn’t perfect, but it’s a nice action shot featuring three armored warriors (God, do I prefer realistic armor to some of the fantasy nonsense that seems to predominate these days). The stats note that its mouth has 4-48 pts and its feet 3-18 points – i.e. 4d12 and 3d6. It took me a minute, but I finally realized this was the damage they dealt.

The description notes that it is a hybrid of armadillo and snapping turtle, and that, when full grown, they can dwarf a Percheron (a draft horse that originated in the Perche Valley of northern France of course – man, don’t you guys know anything?)

Mapping the Dungeons is a neat little feature, presenting the names of active DM’s. The FLAILSNAILs of its day, I suppose.

Joe Fischer gives tips on mapping a wilderness. He uses colors for the terrains and simple symbols for features – triangles for hamlets, squares for towns, circles for cities and crosses for fortresses. Circle any of these for ports. Article has a nice Conanesque barbarian illustration as well.

Peter Aronson adds four more levels onto the illusionist, as well as a few extra spells (1st – ventriloquism, mirror image, detect illusion*, color spray*; 2nd – magic mouth, rope trick, dispel illusion*, blur*; 3rd – suggestion, phantasmal killer*, illusionary script*, dispel exhaustion*; 6th – mass suggestion*, permanent/illusion* (no – the slash doesn’t make sense to me either), shadow/monsters III*, programmed/illusion*, conjure animals, true sight*; 7th – astral spell, prismatic wall, maze, vision*, alter reality*, prismatic spray).

The spells marked with an asterisk are detailed in the article, in case you wondered who invented phantasmal killer. Lots of classic spells here. Alter reality apparently works like a limited wish, but you first create an illusion of what you want to happen, and then the … spell description cuts off.

Lin Carter and Scott Bizar present “Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age”, which reminds you of how important wargaming still was to the hobby then. I think wargaming is pretty basic to the experience, really, which is why I threw some basic rules into Blood & Treasure for mass combat. I’m hoping to test them out this weekend with the daughter. She doesn’t know this yet – so keep it under your hat.

Gary Gygax (you might have heard of him) gives rules for hobbits and thieves in DUNGEON!, a game I so completely regret getting rid of I’d like to punch myself in the face.

“Garrison Ernst” (pseudonyms are as much a part of the history of this hobby as dice and beards) presents a chapter of “The Gnome Cache”, in which he gives an introduction to Oerth and its place in the cosmos. Oerth is a parallel Earth with the same basic geography as Earth, it claims, save Asia is a bit smaller and Europe and North America a trifle larger. It is peopled by folks similar to ours, with similar migrations, but it separates from Earth about 2,500 years ago. He also explains the difference in scientific laws (i.e. magic vs. technology) and that nobody knows what lies in the Terra Incognita of Africa and across the Western Ocean.

It might be fun to draw the nations of Oerth on a map of Europe. We’ve all heard that Gygax’s campaign was originally set in a fantasy North America, but here he says Europe, so perhaps Europe it should be.

Larry Smith now chimes in with the three kindreds of the Eldar – the Silvan (or Wood Elves), the Sindar (or Grey Elves) and the Noldor (or Exiles, the greatest of the elves). Apparently they all have a chance each game year of crossing the sea to the land of Valar – that would be a fun house rule to spring on players of elf characters.

“Say Bob, roll d% please”

“Okay … got a 9”

“Sorry Bob, your 6th level wood elf just went to the land of Valar. Roll up a new character.”

The wood elves can advance as fighters as far as they want, but are limited to 2nd level magic-user spells and may not use wands or staffs and have a 10% chance of going to Valar each year. Sindars are the regular D&D elves (and have a 25% chance of going to Valar each year). Noldor are uber elves with no level restrictions and with a 150% bonus to ranges and effects of spells. They have a 5% chance of going to Valar after performing a great deed.

Which begs the question, why would you ever play a non-Noldor elf?

Note: Totally digging the art in this issue.

Not a bad issue. Lots of goodies. I like the houri bit for fighters, the elves going across the sea is fun, and you get some neat hints about Lankhmar and Oerth from the guys who invented them. Worth the read.

Warriors Six

Looking at the duelist class that I posted last night, I thought it might be a good idea to “roll up” the various fighting classes and see how they stack up in comparison to one another. My method was as follows:

Used Hamete dice server to roll up a set of stats using 3d6. I was going to re-roll until I got a set that would allow all the classes, but got lucky on the first try. The array was 16, 16, 16, 10, 8, 8 and was used for all of the different characters.

I ignored race – I wanted to compare and contrast the classes without any other interference; likewise, I didn’t use the optional feats

I placed each character at 6th level, to see how they stacked up in the “sweet spot”

Hit points were average for the class’s Hit Dice

I gave each character the best armor permitted by their class

Thus, the Warriors Six …

BARDRA

Barbarian, Level 6 (Shield-Biter)

STR 16 (+2); DEX 16 (+2); CON 16 (+2); INT 8 (-1); WIS 10; CHA 8 (-1)

HP 45; ATTACK +5; AC 18 (ring + shield); SAVES – FORT 8; REF 11; WILL 13

Abilities: Land speed +10 ft., rage (2/day, two attacks per round, +2 to Str-related tasks, -2 AC), foes gain no tactical advantage from flanking, sneak attacks or invisibility, immune to extra damage from sneak attacks by thieves of 8th level or less

Skills: Bending Bars (8), Breaking Down Doors (8), Climbing (8), Jumping (8), Surviving (13), Swimming (8)

DAVOS

Duelist, Level 6 (Daredevil)

STR 10; DEX 16 (+2); CON 16 (+2); INT 16 (+2); WIS 8 (-1); CHA 8 (-1)

HP 39; ATTACK +5; AC 17 (leather + buckler); SAVES – FORT 11; REF 8; WILL 14

Abilities: Add intelligence bonus to AC, +2 to hit with special attacks, +4 AC when fighting defensively, +2 to initiative rolls

Skills: Balancing (8), Jumping (13)

FARRO

Fighter, Level 6 (Grognard)

STR 16 (+2); DEX 16 (+2); CON 16 (+2); INT 8 (-1); WIS 8 (-1); CHA 10

HP 45; ATTACK +5; AC 21 (plate + shield); SAVES – FORT 8; REF 11; WILL 14

Abilities: Attack twice per round

Skills: Bending Bars (8), Breaking Down Doors (8), Riding (11)

MALA

Human Monk, Level 6 (Monk)

STR 10; DEX 16 (+2); CON 16 (+2); INT 8 (-1); WIS 16 (+2); CHA 8 (-1)

HP 33; ATTACK +3; AC 15 (unarmored); SAVES – FORT 8; REF 8; WILL 8

Abilities: Flurry of blows (extra attack, -1 to hit an all attacks), stunning blow (1/day; save or stunned for 1d4 rounds), unarmed attacks (1d6 damage, treat as though from +1 weapon); deflect arrows (1/round), land speed +10 ft., reduce fall by 20 ft., immune to all normal diseases

Skills: Balancing (8), Bending Bars (10), Breaking Down Doors (10), Climbing (10), Jumping (10)

PARSIFON

Paladin, Level 6 (Knight)

STR 16 (+2); DEX 8 (-1); CON 10; INT 8 (-1); WIS 16 (+2); CHA 16 (+2)

HP 27; ATTACK +5; AC 18 (plate + shield); SAVES – FORT 10; REF 14; WILL 11

Abilities: Smite chaotic creatures (3/day; +2 to hit, +6 damage), heal damage (6 hp/day), immune to fear, turn undead as 3rd level cleric, paladin spells (1 x 1st), remove disease 1/week

Skills: Riding (14)

RUMACK

Human Ranger, Level 6 (Pathfinder)

STR 16 (+2); DEX 16 (+2); CON 10; INT 8 (-1); WIS 16 (+2); CHA 8 (-1)

HP 27; ATTACK +5; AC 19 (chain + shield); SAVES – FORT 10; REF 8; WILL 11

Abilities: Giant Slayer (+2 to track, extra attack each round vs. giants), ranger spells (1 x 1st)

Skills: Climbing (8), Hiding (8), Moving Silently (8), Surviving (11), Swimming (8), Tracking (11)

ANALYSIS
A quick analysis of the stats (just ranking the classes and assigning some points for best – second best – third best) makes me think the Fighter and Ranger are okay, the Barbarian might be a little too okay, the Paladin a little weak (mostly because he needs those high scores in Wisdom and Charisma – perhaps I could improve his saving throws) and the Duelist comes off as the weakest. I might boost the duelist’s Hit Dice to d10 from d8 and look into some additional skills and perhaps another special ability. Of course, it will really come down to playtesting to see what’s what.