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 – May 1979 (25)

May 1979 – the author of this post was 7 and about 5 years away from discovering Dungeons & Dragon. Let’s see what I was missing …

First and foremost – awesome cover. Well done!

A Part of Gamma World Revisited by James M. Ward

Not exactly a title one can conjure with, but the article itself is probably useful to most Gamma Worlders. It covers the history behind the Cryptic Alliances, and might be helpful for campaign play. What I found interesting was the geography of the alliances:

Brotherhood of Thought – started at the University of California, but spread up and down the west coast and into the Rockies.

Seekers – The Seekers are Texans

The Knights of Genetic Purity – don’t say

Friends of Entropy – headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska

The Iron Society – they’re found in all bombed out areas – seems like Pittsburgh would have been a great headquarters

The Zoopremists – started in the mountain range near Torreon, Mexico

The Healers – Duluth, Minnesota

Restorationists – Boston and Providence

Followers of the Voice – their most successful group is in an underground base in the Appalachians south of Charleston and west of Raleigh – they’re led by a bunny-girl (i.e. female hoop)

Ranks of the Fit – began near Memphis, Tennessee by a circus bear who had its mental faculties increased a thousand fold; their civilization has spread as far north as Cincinnati and as far south as Baton Rouge, presumably along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

The Archivists – mountains between Butte, MT and Billings, SD and Idaho Falls, MT

Radioactivists – based below Atlanta in the flattened peninsula that was Florida

The Created – have surrounded St. Louis with warbots

Judging and You! by James M. Ward

This is a collection of tricks of the game judging trade, especially for Gamma World and Dungeons & Dragons.

The Tug of the Machine by Allen Evans

A bit of fiction. One column’s worth. And I can’t copy paste it. Sorry.

The Armada Disasters

This is a nice history of naval operations and the clash of nations in the 16th century, and most particularly about the Spanish Armada and its disastrous clash with the English.

From the Sorcerer’s Scroll: The Proper Place of Character Social Class in D&D by Gary Gygax

This covers the introduction of social classes to characters in D&D. It mentions that the initial idea came from MAR Barker’s Empire of the Petal Throne. Gygax points out that Tekumel has a well-thought out culture and social structure, and the lack (or possible lack) of such a structure in D&D makes using social class problematic. He suggests a very simple table for determining social class:

01-75 – Common background
76-95 – Aristocratic background
96-00 – Upper class background

He then goes on to question the use of birth tables and social class, and I have to agree. I suppose if a campaign focuses on social class and the interaction within classes and between classes – something like you’d get in Flashing Blades – it makes sense. If you’re doing the whole Conan thing – plundering tombs and such – I don’t see much point to it.

Armies of the Renaissance by Nick Nascati

Part III of this series, this one covers the Condotierre and The Papacy. Great introduction:

“If Woody Allen would ever decide to turn his comedic talents to writing history, the result would very probably read like a history of Italy in the Age of the Condotierre. Few periods in history could possibly be as full of petty squabbles and pointless maneuvering, as this age when greedy, mercenary captains controlled the destiny of the Italian City-States. Warfare was formalized to the point where it almost became a life-size chess match, with few fatalities. However, their military system does assume a certain importance in our study of the period.”

Well worth the read for wargamers doing this period.

Would the Real Orc Please Step Forward? by Lance Harrop

Here’s an interesting article subtitled “Dealing with the Proliferation of Orcish Miniatures”. Interesting for two reasons.

One is that it covers “orc genealogy and taxonomy” – always fun to see somebody dissect make-believe like that. Lance draws a family tree of evil humanoids, putting orcs, ogres, kobolds, hobgoblins and goblins all on branches of that tree, with hobgoblins and goblins forking off from the same branch. Pretty standard idea these days, maybe kinda new in those days. He then lays out some ideas on how to take this system and use it when selecting miniatures, since back in the day miniatures were a bit more generic – i.e. an ugly humanoid miniature could just as easily be used as a kobold as it could for a goblin.

The other interesting thing about this article is that there was a need to deal with the proliferation of orcish miniatures. I’m guessing that nerds in the Middle Ages were worried about similarly silly things – it runs deep in our breed.

He also provides a picture of several of the miniatures of the day …

Finally, he provides this guide to wargaming with orcs:

1. All goblin races dislike the sunlight, so lower their morale in the daytime.

2. Kobolds and Gnomes will almost instantly attack each other, so have them make obedience checks when they are in charging distance. The same with goblins and dwarves and lesser orcs and elves. Great orcs, man orcs, ogres and hobgoblins will not generally disobey.

3. Orcs of different tribes will also attack each other, as will all goblin races, but powerful leaders can keep them in check, so adjust the die roll against the level of the leader.

4. Usually only great orcs and man orcs will fight in formations, the others will fight en masse.

The Traveller Navy Wants to Join You by R. D. Stuart

An article that covers new career opportunities in Traveller. I don’t play Traveller, so I don’t know that I can comment on how well these are written, but I bet it would come in handy if you were doing a Star Trek-esque Traveller campaign.

Gamma World Artifact Use Chart by Gay Jaquet

This article swaps out the artifact use charts in Gamma World for a more complex and abstract system. Personally – I’ll stick with the charts. I think they’re fun.

An Alien in a Strange Land by James M. Ward

Ward wrote quite a bit for this issue, huh?

This is a bit of Gamma World fiction that seems to be taken from actual play:

“Blern had left those mutated fools of Entropy with an organization that should last until the time it decided to return and take over again. Riding off, on a very reluctant Brutorz, had carried with the act a certain satisfaction in a finished job that was well done. The miles were quickly eaten up under the hooves of the Brutorz and soon Blern was in territory that it had never visited or heard about before. Days passed into a sort of boredom that was unusual for the mutant. It got so that it was wishing for an attack by anything, just to break the monotony, and almost with that thought, Blern spotted the group.”

Excerpt from an Interview with an Iron Golem by Michael McCrery

Interview with a Vampire was written in 1976 – I’m wondering if this article was a play on that. Either way, this one reminds me of the skits that appear in the last 15 minutes of Saturday Night Live. Essentially, another piece of fiction drawn (I’m guessing) from actual play.

War of Flowers by William B. Fawcett

Another nice wargaming article, this one on the Aztecs. I like this bit …

“The Aztec “empire” was in fact a conglomeration of city states that formed rather fluid coalitions which were normally centered on the most powerful cities found in the area of present day Mexico City. In these coalitions there were normally one or two major powers who, by their size and military strength, were able to compel the lesser cities to join in their efforts. When a city was ‘conquered’ the result was the imposition of tribute and economic sanctions rather than social or political absorption, as occurred in Europe or China. This tribute was reluctantly paid to the victorious city only until some way to avoid it was found (such as an alliance to an even more powerful city). Any political or military alliance was then ruled entirely by expedience, and quickly and easily dissolved.”

This is pretty much how I envision all the city-states in NOD. Why? Better for game play in my opinion.

Xochiyaoyotl by Neal M. Dorst

This is a concise set of rules for Pre-Hispanic Mexican wargaming.

Varieties of Vampires by R. P. Smith

This article tackles all the various vampire legends from around the world. It suggests using the same basic game stats for all vampires, but then adds different move rates and environments for the different vampire legends, along with descriptions:

Asanbosam (Africa): Men (9 hit dice), women (8 hit dice), or children (7 hit dice) who look normal except for a pair of books instead of feet. They can charm at minus 3, (except against clerics, whom they avoid) and can throw a single sleep spell per night. They can call 3-18 leopards or 2-12 tigers. Only a cleric can kill the asanbosam.

Burcolakas (Greece): It has a swollen, tense, hard skin. It can scream once per night which deafens all in hearing range for 24 hours, no saving throw. It can also kill, not only by draining life levels, but by naming its victim by name and commanding the victim into a fatal action. It can imitate any voice it hears, with as much of a chance of being detected as an assassin has of being discovered in disguise. It controls 10-100 rats, but no wolves. To defeat: cut off and burn its head.

Great idea – wish I’d thought of it. My favorite bit from the article … “Hence, any body left unguarded without a Bless spell from a cleric will become a vampire within seven days.” Use that rule, and I promise the cleric will hold onto those bless spells. Nobody needs that stupid henchmen you used for cannon fodder coming back to haunt you as a vampire.

To Select a Mythos by Bob Bledsaw

This article covers creating a mythos for one’s campaign. I like that he pushes a “screw reality” concept and chooses fun over strict realism.

Arms and Armor of the Conquistadores by Michael H. Kluever

Another article about fighting on Old Mexico. This one gives a history of the Spanish conquest and then describes the weapons and armor of the different troops.

Not a bad issue. Like the vampire article quite a bit, could have done without so much fiction. The “helpful tips” stuff is helpful for folks new to gaming – not so much for an old fart like myself. If I was doing some Aztec vs. Spanish wargaming, this issue would have really been a boon.

Okay folks – see you tomorrow when I have a new goofy character class you might enjoy.

Dragon by Dragon – March 1979 (23)

I haven’t delved into an old Dragon for a while, so I thought tonight was as good a night as any to do a new “Dragon by Dragon”. What does March 1979 have in store for us?

I often like to start with an ad, and this one has a dandy for Fourth Dimension, the game of Time and Space. You get to play a Time Lord in this one, with an army of Guardians, Rangers and Warriors. No dice in this game – all about the strategy.

In terms of articles, the first one up is about playing EN GARDE! (love the days of capitalized game names) as a solitaire game. Folks might find a use in the Critical Hits table.

Die Roll. Result (Damage Points)
1-10. Light Leg Wound (Base 20 + 16-sided die roll)
11-20. Light Left Arm Wound (Base 20 + 16-sided die roll)
21-30. Light Right Arm Wound (Base 20 + 16-sided die roll)
31-40. Light Head Wound (Base 20 + 16-sided die roll)
41-50. Light Body Wound (Base 25 + 16-sided die roll)
51-60. Serious Leg Wound (Base 50 + 120-sided die roll)
61-70. Serious Left Arm Wound (Base 50 + 120-sided die roll)
71-80. Serious Right Arm Wound (Base 50 + 120-sided die roll)
81-90. Serious Head Wound (Base 50 + 120-sided die roll)
91-99. Serious Body Wound (Base 100 + 120-sided die roll)
00. DEAD

Love the 16-sided dice and 120-sided dice – not sure how that was accomplished, though I’m sure a dice whiz can inform us in the comments. If modifying for use in “traditional fantasy games”, you could maybe replace “Base 20 + 16-sided die roll” with 6 + 1d6 or something like that.

Next is some fantasy fiction by Gardner F. Fox – “The Thing from the Tomb”. The first paragraph goes thus …

“Niall of the Far Travels reined in his big grey stallion, lifting his right hand to halt the long column of riders who followed him across this corner of the Baklakanian Desert. In front of him, and far away, he could make out a dark blotch on the golden sands toward which he was

Jeff P. Swycaffer presents “Mind Wrestling”, a variation on psionic combat. To be honest, I still regret not throwing in a psionics appendix into Blood & Treasure. The idea here is that two people are attempting to push a cloud of power suspended between them into their opponent’s mind. The system uses a double track to represent the “field” of combat. Attackers secretly declare an outside or center attack, defenders secretly divide their Psionic Strength between outside and center defense, and then the attacker’s Psionic Strength (+40 or doubled, whichever is less) is compared to the defender’s strength. If a ratio of 2:1 is achieved, the marker is moved one space. If a ratio of 3:1 is achieved, it is moved two spaces. The attacker then has his psionic strength returned to normal and loses 3 points, and the defender loses twice as many points as his marker was pushed back. Simple system, and would probably be a fun game-within-a-game, especially for psionics-heavy campaigns.

Carl Hursh has rules and guidelines for water adventures on the Starship Warden. Lots of monster stats, including craboids and gupoids.

Michael Mornard presents notes on armor for fantasy games, maybe the first article to talk about how D&D armor and weapons is heavier than real armor and weapons.

Gygax’s Sorcerer’s Scroll presents the random generation of creatures from the lower planes – always a fun one, and I highly suggest people use it when sicing demons of various types on their players. You can either use it to generate additional “types” of demons, or use it to alter the appearance of existing types.

James M. Ward presents an article I’m excited about – Damage Permanency (or How Hrothgar One-Ear Got His Name). This system is used when a person is reduced to 1 or 2 hit points. When this happens, there is a 50% chance of no permanent damage, a 20% chance of needing magical healing to heal properly, and a 10% chance of being maimed unless wish or a 5th level or better clerical healing spell or device is used.

What follows are a number of tables – one to determine the area of the body damaged, and tables for each body location to determine what happens. Head damage, for example, is as follows:

1-12 Hearing Loss
13-24 Sight Loss
25-36 Speech Impaired
37-48 Charisma Impaired
49-60 Intelligence Impaired
61-72 Wisdom Impaired
73-88 Fighting Ability Impaired
89-100 Spell Ability Impaired

Of course, more detail follows. “Spell Ability Impaired” mean that the person loses one level of spell ability – i.e. a 3rd level magic-user would have the spells of a 2nd level magic-user.

The Design Forum features “Dungeons and Prisons” by Mark S. Day. Essentially, it covers the idea that dungeons should have some prison cells, and gives a few notions about how one might use them.

And that does it for Dragon in March 1979 – a useful little issue. One parting shot …

Ah – the good old days were just getting started in 1979!

Soon, I’ll review the latest adventure offering from Tim Shorts – Knowledge Illuminates!

Dragon by Dragon – October 1978 (19)

Hey – almost have my months synced here! October 1978 and Dragon blows in with what appears to be a pretty full issue. Let’s begin …

First thing I see this issue, other than the editorial, is “The Battle for Snurre’s Hall”, the tournament for the Origins ’78 D&D Tournament. Good recap of the winning team’s tactics, and reminds you of the game aspect that I think sometimes gets buried under the “role play” aspect.

How Many Ettins Is a Fire Giant Worth: Competitive D&D by Bob Blake

And then this article reminds me of the importance of role play in the game. Basically, this is an article about scoring competitive modules. Given my intense interest in such things …

A Compendium of Diverse D&D Player Personalities by Mike Crane

Hmmm … maybe the next article holds something interesting …

Gamma World – A New List of Treasures To Be Found by Gary Gygax

Thanks EGG! A nice random table (1-100) of relics for Gamma World. We have a home donut maker, wire cutters in fair condition (an amazing find), a plastic box of 50-100 assorted screws (you know these are going to be used to stud a club, right), a leather bag of dice, etc.

Gamma World – More Excerpts from the Journals of Hald Sevrin by Gary Jaquet

This one covers the history of Gamma World in the Black Years. Apparently, it was hard, but people adapted.


Or “Wormy 8 Ball” to my 12-year old brain.

Wormy swoops in (thank God) and provides some light entertainment – if you consider a tree troll being ripped apart light entertainment. Beware blue demons!

The thing that always made me wonder about Wormy was the trolls. Trolls were supposed to be complete bastards, right? But these guys were pretty cool. As a kid, the Monster Manual was as canon as it came, and this was the first introduction I had to “it’s my world, I can do whatever I want”. Good training for a young DM.

The Lowdown on Wishes by Kevin Thompson

The thing is, wishes have absolutely no place in a game. In a story, they’re fine. But in a game, nothing but trouble. Great line …

“Most DM’s want to be fair about wishes but don’t want Player characters to take undue advantage. So they kill them.”

The article tries to get into the science behind wishes. Mildly interesting, but very “campaign world” specific in a way. The idea is that wish spells are empowered into devices by wizards to allow non-wizards to use magic. They may vary in strength, and might have alignment restrictions as well (i.e. a lawful wish cannot be used for something chaotic). Thompson divides wishes into four classes:

CLASS I: Creates purely physical (mundane) objects or occurrences

CLASS II: Creates living, non-magical beings, weak magical equipment and duplicates magic-user spells up to 5th level

CLASS III: Creates living, magical beings (but only the weakest type), moderately strong magic items and can duplicate any magic-user spell and cleric spells up to 4th

CLASS IV: Can do almost anything except granting more wishes in any way, shape or form.

Not a bad schema, really.

Planning Creative Treasurers by Dave Schroeder

Dave gets into thinking more about treasures – why is that orc carrying a bunch of gems, for example, or using a theme with a treasure horde. He refers to these as toolkits, for example …

“A thief’s toolkit could contain a +1 dagger, a gem that glows in the presence of traps, a set of Gauntlets of Dexterity, a skeleton key that would raise its user’s chances of opening locks, or a pair of “waldos”, that would allow him to open trapped chests from a distance. Don’t forget a periscope for peeking around corners, or perhaps a bag of holding for the loot. Disappearance Dust would be useful, as would a Gauntlet of Etherealness that would let pouches and pockets be picked tracelessly.”

The Mythos of Australia by Jerome Arkenberg

Another in the line of mythos articles, and if you’ve ever dipped your toes into the Australian myths, you know they are quite interesting and tough to adapt to D&D. The beauty of the Greek and Norse myths is that so many of them read like comic books.

Systematic Magic by Robin W. Rhodes

I love it when geeks begin “rationally” explaining why it makes no sense that a magic-user with charm person in his book could ever earn enough gold/experience to figure out hypnotic pattern, since charm person is clearly a control spell and hypnotic pattern a mental spell.

Spells here are divided into these different categories, which have different prime requisites. Control spells, for example, have charisma as a prime requisite, while nature spells have constitution as their prime. Holy spells only have the lawful alignment as their prime requisite.

Lawful characters begin with two holy spells. Neutrals get one 1st level spell from (I guess, the language is confusing) the category that matches their highest ability score. Chaotics aren’t mentioned, and a character can never have more than two new spells at any one time.

The chance to miscast a spell is equal to the level of the spell divided by the prime requisite. So, dispel magic, a 3rd level defense spell, would have a 3/15 chance of miscast if the caster had a constitution of 15, i.e. 20% chance of miscast. DM determines the side effects of a miscast spell.

Casting a spell costs one point of its prime requisite per spell level – so that dispel magic spell would cost 3 points of constitution. One point is recovered for every turn (minute or 10 minutes, depending on the version of the game) not spent in melee.

A new spell must be successfully cast once per spell level before the caster can learn another spell of that level.

Only two fields of magic can be learned at a time.

A bit fiddly, but a neat idea. Wonder how it works in real play. Again, though, you can see the future divides of gaming even at this early stage – more rules vs. fewer rules, “logic” vs. gonzo, etc.

The Fastest Guns That Never Lived, Part III by Allen Hammack

This third in a series examines several more characters from western shows and gives them Boot Hill stats, including Bret, Bart and Beau Maverick, Will and Jeff Sonnet, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, James Coburn (fuck, I want to play James Coburn in a game of Boot Hill), Robert Vaughn, Tim Straum, Kid Shelleen and Jason McCord. I love that the article mashes up characters and actors.

A Mixture of Magic and Technology: Gamma World Review by Robert Barger

When people say magic and technology don’t mix, it really burns the author. Hallmark of a geek – being annoyed at differing opinions. He mostly covers the ease with which one can combine Gamma World and D&D, which is something I like as well. Moving on …

Spell Determination for Hostile Magic-Users by Steve Miller

This is a quick article to randomly determine what spells an NPC magic-user might have, inspired by a bunch of players bitching when a randomly encountered enchanter threw and ice storm and fireball at them and wiped out their PCs. My response to this problem …

Honestly, it is good to vary the spells a bit, but on the other hand, do players ever apologize for destroying the kick-ass villain you designed in some dungeon you worked all month to stock? No, they don’t. You shouldn’t either.

Charts for Determining the Location of Treasure by Ronald Guritzky

Nice random table of treasure locations – very helpful when you write a lot of this stuff.

1) The location of the treasure
1-6 Chest
7-9 Urn
10-12 Bag
13-13 Pot
16-17 Loose
18 Carried
19 Hidden (Wall, Floor, Secret Compartment, etc.)
20 Ref’s Choice

2) There is a one in four chance that a treasure has a trap in it.

3) Traps
01-20 1-8 Daggers (1 in 6 poison)
21-36 1-6 Arrows
37-46 1-3 Spears (1 in 6 poison)
47-62 Gas
63-78 Poison Lock
79-88 Monster in Chest (Pay attention to monster’s size)
89-92 Exploding Chest (2-7 dice of damage)
93-95 Chest Does a Spell At Person
96 Chest Acts as Mirror of Life Trapping
97 Intelligent Chest (2nd -7th Level Magic User)
98 Lose One Level of Experience
99 Lose One Magic Item
00 Roll Twice

4) Gasses (Roll 6 sided die for first digit and 4 sided die for second digit)
11-12 Obscures Vision (Players run into each other, miss treasure, etc.)
13-14 Blinds Player 01-100 Hours
21-22 Fear During Next 2-9 Fights
23-24 Sleep 6-36 Rounds
31 + 1-4 Points to Random Ability (8 hours) (1 in 10 permanent)
32-33 Sick: Return to Surface (1 in 6 in coma)
34 Paralyzation
41 Stone
42 Death!!
43 Polymorph to Monster or Animal 10’R.
44 Amnesia (1-20 days, 1 in 6 permanent)
51-52 Change Alignment
53-54 Slow (As slow spell)
61-62 Haste (As haste spell)
63 Cloud Kill
64 Go Berserk! Attack Friends!

I dig this ad for Star Trek miniatures. Even though Star Wars gets more notice, I think Trek, being born of episodic TV, might be a better fit for RPG’s

Footsteps in the Sky by ???

Fiction …

“All he could do was walk on the air as normals could walk on land and his four older brothers repeatedly told him that it was the most useless of all mental mutations. After Reveral’s long training sessions for manhood, he was finally beginning to believe his brothers’ taunts. His oldest brother Fer-in and his next oldest, Serpt, both could teleport themselves vast distances and had easily passed their tests of manhood. Karn, the brother closest to him in age, could read minds and, with great effort, control them, given time. He was even now on his test of manhood, but no one doubted that soft spoken Karn would do anything but succeed. Reveral was starting to be concerned with his own chances at surviving the test.”

Wormy Again …

He’s back, and that blue demon just bit a giant pool cue hard.

And that does it for October 1978. A few nice articles, a few that did nothing for me at all. Have fun this weekend!

Dragon by Dragon – September 1978 (18)

Another week, another Dragon magazine. The last one was chock-full of stuff, how about this issue.

Traveller: The Strategy of Survival by Edward C. Cooper

As I was thinking, “I don’t remember any Traveller articles showing up before in The Dragon” I hit this line in the article, “I took advantage of the opportunity to observe the TRAVELLER phenomenon first hand” – ah – so this is at the dawn of Traveller.

I’ve never played Traveller, but I did create a character once (I was creating one character for every game I had a PDF of … though I skipped Exalted because after the first few steps I realized I just didn’t care enough to bother with it). This article appears to be about – well – keeping a character alive in Traveller. My favorite bit:

“Several other similar occurrences proved to me then that the success or failure of a character in most cases cannot be traced to “dice or chance” as often as it can to poor handling on the part of a player. I was both surprised and disappointed that some players even blamed a character or given situation for their own bad decisions. But then again, I was extremely excited, awed, by the skill some showed in manipulating their character’s life.”

That hits the spot for an old schooler – though it also shows that there were plenty of people back in the old days who were waiting for the new days with baited breath. Different strokes for different folks!

Reviews – Traveller, The Emerald Tablet, Imperium …

Well, imagine that! The reviewer appreciates that Traveller is not just D&D in space, but rather has its own “unique flavor and style”. The review is quite extensively, and I highly recommend it (yeah, I’m reviewing a review) for folks who don’t really know what Traveller is all about.

The Emerald Tablet is a set of fantasy wargame rules. The reviewer likes them, but admits he doesn’t know much about wargames. He likes that the magic system is based on ritual magic, which I know some people dig, but I always think it’s overrated. On the other hand – dig this sheet of Astral Force cards (click to enlarge … trust me, click it – click it now) I found at Boardgamegeek.com …

I don’t know what Phul does, but, hmm – anyways.

Imperium is another Game Designer’s Workshop product, a board game written by people who really love sci-fi literature. Apparently, Imperium is a game about the Terrans bumping up against the Imperium and the two sides fighting.

Pellic Quest is a computer moderated RPG (apparently a good thing, because computers are jerks like Dungeon Masters – see, the seeds of the new school were always there). Another sci-fi game, you start controlling a small planet in one of six roles (emperor, crusader, brigand, trader, droyds (robotic destroyers) or the zente (insect alien warriors). Each role needs different “winning points” and then go about making it happen.

Oh, and those zente …

Pretty sweet.

Cosmic Encounter is a sci-fi variation on draw poker.  Apparently it is simple and easy to learn, and, most importantly, fun, although the hype that one really has to get into the head of the alien race they control is wrong. The game combines several elements of classic, abstract games, and I want people who think they’re game designers to embrace this notion. Don’t begin with setting, begin with rules and get to know all sorts of old card games, board games, etc. Then apply setting to the game rules. This is how D&D was born and manages to remain so popular – it works as a game. Well, it used to, anyways.

INSANITY, or Why is My Character Eating Leaves? by Keven Thompson

A worthwhile article – insanity is tough to handle in games. Kevin Thompson devises first a saving throw vs. insanity (which makes sense given the time period). The saving throw is based on a matrix between Intelligence and Wisdom – find the number, add character level to it, and then try to roll 1d20 beneath that number. Neat idea (and I’ll be using it in a post this week).

If you fail the save, you roll d12 (always nice to see the d12) on an insanity chart.


1. Nutty
2. Kleptomaniac
3. Perverse
4. Psychotic Hatred
5. Childlike Trusting
6. Schizoid
7. Severe Paranoia
8. Acute Paranoia
9. Gibbering
10. Suicidal
11. Violent
12. Catatonic

The good thing about this list is that it is more behavior based than clinical. It’s pretty easy to see how these “insanities” could impact actual play in a game.

New Spells in D&D! by Paul Suliin

(Love the use of the exclamation point)

This article introduces new spells created by an actual play group using the rules for spell research in Dragon #5. The editor chimes in with the admonition that every spell needs to have a loophole via which it can negated somehow.

The new spells include Nature Call, Magic Missile II, Moon Runes, Flamebolt, Mystic Rope, Pit of Flame, Word of Warding, Force Field, Extend I, Shatterray, Wall of Water, Extend II, Beam of Blasting, Conjure Djinn/Efreet, Density Control, Extend III, Combine I, Call Spirit, Rust Monster Touch and more.

Let’s convert a couple to Blood & Treasure

Magic Missile II
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: Medium (150 ft.)
Duration: Instantaneous

As magic missile, but this spell conjures either one +2 arrow or two +1 arrows, with a like amount added for every fifth level advanced beyond 3rd (i.e. two +2 arrows or four +1 arrows at 8th level, three +2 arrows or six +1 arrows at 13th level, etc.)

Density Control (which would also make a great power for Mystery Men!)
Level: Magic-User 6
Range: Personal
Duration: 3 minutes

The spellcaster can alter the density of his body from a gas to steel. Such changes alter the spellcaster’s Armor Class, so that at minimum density he is immune to physical weapons, and at maximum density he is AC 18 and his hands strike as swords (1d6 damage). Density may be altered throughout the duration of the spell, and items in contact with the spellcaster’s body when the spell is cast are altered along with him.

Magic: Governed by Laws of Theory by Thomas A. McCloud

Man, I used to roll my eyes at these when I was a kid – theory? dude, I want a new class, new race, new spells, new adventures, etc. But I’m an adult now, so … naw, I still think the same way.

This one attempts to draw inspiration on the how’s and why’s of magic in D&D by examining such sage tomes as the 1960 Encylcopedia Britannica and Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Dude – it’s a game. Of course magic is treated casually. Real estate is treated pretty casually in Monopoly because it’s also a game – move and countermove, risk taking, a random element. Don’t overthink it!

Let Your Town Have A Purpose, or, How To Design A Town In Boot Hill by Mike Crane

Sometimes I think Jay Ward wrote the titles of these articles (bonus Nod points to anyone who gets that reference). Mike covers the best scale (1″ = 20′) to draw the map, the need to think about why the town is there in terms of who settled it and what they do (dude, it’s there to give gunslingers a place to have gun fights), etc. To be completely honest, articles like this are a waste. A bunch of random tables for generating an Old West town would have been much more helpful, or just a suggestion of watching some old episodes of Bonanza. Sorry – guess I’m in a salty mood at the moment.

Reviews Continued … Alpha Omega

Okay, apparently we’re not done with reviews yet. Alpha Omega was Battleline’s first stab at a sci-fi game. The reviewer thinks it reminds him of Buck Rogers or Star Wars … and that’s not an endorsement, according to the reviewer. After all, if we can’t beat all the fun out of sci-fi and make it boring and cerebral, then what’s the f-ing point? (I am in a mood). Here’s a sample of the review …

Alpha Omega is billed as “A game of tactical combat in space,” a claim supported by the rules.

Okay then. Apparently, the art is superb on the counters, but they’re hard to read, and the scale (one hex equals one light second) and turn time (6 seconds) are weird for space fights. The game is also two-dimensional, rather than three-dimensional, although the reviewer doesn’t think three dimensions would have any bearing on the game, and thus might as well not be there. The game is really just naval combat on a board that looks like space. The weapons are not realistic (just names, really), so the game also lacks believability (a bugaboo that has never bothered me personally) – hell, they named a couple alien ships Akroid and Balushi – the bastards. Uggh – life’s too short for this. Game looks fun to me, and the cover is pretty cool.

The Chamber of the Godgame by Mick McAllister

The what of the what? It’s a short article describing a dungeon chamber based on a scene in John Fowles’ “grand metaphysical dungeon novel” The Magus. I won’t go into it – find the article or find the book.

Gamma World: Fire Report; Setting Up The Campaign by James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet

Neat little behind the scenes look at the why’s and wherefore’s of turning Metamorphosis Alpha into Gamma World.

Birth Tables – Boot Hill by Stephen Blair

This one’s a collection of random tables. Let’s roll on them and see what we get …

Social Class: Ranch Related (didn’t know that was a social class, but okay)

Profession of Father: Homesteader (ah, now I get it)

Birth Order: Bastard (makes sense)

Skills: Facility with numbers (this bastard can multiply!)

Initial Purse: $75

Size of Spread: 5,120 acres

Guidelines for Mixing Campaigns: Androids, Wizards, Several Mutants, and Liberal Doses of Imagination, Well Blended by James M. Ward

This article is a quick guide to converting D&D characters to MA characters. D&D characters get a radiation resistance of 3, and MA creatures get no save vs. magic. Magic armor completely disrupts protein and disruptor blasts (good to know). The shielding, metal and energy fields of the Warden stop crystal balls and helms of teleportation from working (it’s science, dude, deal with it). Good article – reminiscent of the treatment in the old DM’s Guide.

Monkish Weapons and Monk vs. Monk Combat by Garry Eckert

Apparently, Garry read a book about Japanese weapons and decided to apply what he learned to monks (who are drawn from Chinese fact and folklore, not Japanese – oi!). Skip it.

Effective Use of Poison by Bill Coburn

Quick article that defines poison as Class A, B or C.

Type A is in potion form, and includes Arsenic and Hemlock. It kills 80% of the time in 2d4 minutes and if it doesn’t kill, leaves a person stricken for 1 week (meaning half strength, dexterity, constitution and movement).

Type B is in the form of gas, darts, cobras and needles. A neurotoxin, it brings death 50% of the time in 4d4 days and leaves people stricken for 1d3 days after being unconscious 30 minutes after poisoning for 1d4 days.

Type C comes from monsters. A hemotoxin, is has a 10% chance of killing a character in 1d4 days, and leaves people stricken for 1d10 days after being unconscious 1 hour after poisoning for 2d4 days.

Armor in this scheme provides a bonus to save vs. poison (-2 penalty for no armor, no adjustment for leather, +1 for chainmail and +2 for platemail).

Not a bad little system, really.


Finieous Fingers and his pals meet the evil wizard, and discover that a good initiative roll and a magic wand go a long way towards evening the score between fighters and magic-users.

In Wormy, the trolls make the mistake of breaking one of Wormy’s pool balls. Jeez I miss this comic. Who has the next Wormy in them?

The Childhood and Youth of the Gray Mouser by Harry O. Fischer

This is Harry’s version of the Gray Mouser’s youth, Harry having been a major help in creating all of the major characters of Nehwon back in the day. It begins …

“Mokker was the Prince of Pimps in the Street of Whores in Lankhmar. He could just as easily have been King. He was tastefully and expensively dressed, with massive gold and jeweled rings one or more to a finger. He was exceedingly complex; calculating, sometimes ruthless, vulnerable to fits of whimsy, possessing an almost perpetual erection (as it behooves a whore-master to have), and more. He was generous, and delighted in both the giving and getting of surprises. His whores loved him for this, in addition to the fact that he felt not the slightest hesitation about correcting or revenging a wrong to one of his, no matter how slight the transgression. Mokker was a thorough and practical rogue given to sudden impulses, possessing large eyes, a sensual mouth and plump cheeks; a merry companion and a deadly enemy. He was clever, aware of it, and arrogant.”

No, D&D wasn’t for kids just yet.

Next we have this …

Okay then.

Non-Player Character Statistics by ???

This is another quickie – random tables for determining NPC stats based on their personality. Kinda cool. I’ll roll one up – we’ll say a madame from Tremayne named Durla …

Pride (Ego): Little – =1-% greed, -1% work quality

Greed: Loans things, sells items for normal* prices

Quality of Work: Normal

Okay, well, now I know. I think I’ll stick to my method in Blood & Treasure (on sale now!)

And there you have it, along with some nice little comic panels from McLean. Lots of stuff packed into 34 pages, and not a bad read overall. The spells were fun, and I like the poison rules. The reviews got me to look up some old games I’d never heard of, and the insanity rules put an idea in my head I’ll explore more this week.

Have fun boys and girls, and don’t be the last geek on your block to get Blood & Treasure

Dragon by Dragon – August 1978 (17)

No, I didn’t stop doing Dragon by Dragon, just got busy last week. Now that I’m back, let’s see what the August 1978 issue (number 17) has to offer.

First and foremost, we have a cover that reminds me of some of the pinball machines of the era, or perhaps the side of the bitchin’est van to ever ply the byways of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Article #1: Vampires in the Dungeon by Clayton J. Miner

The article seems to work off the notion that vampires are total party killers, which may be true, depending on the level of the party. The article goes on to explain why, taking into account their different abilities and how to use them to best effect – including charming multiple party members and having them wait to be drained of blood later, using the dungeon rodents as a spy network, etc. Some of the article seems to assume things about vampires that I don’t think were addressed in the rules – i.e. the older a vampire is, the more resistant it is to holy symbols (which may be true, if you’re considering the vampire’s Hit Dice correspond with age). It also posits the best ways to destroy a vampire. Not a bad article, but to be frank, the monster description and a little imagination from referees and players would be just as good.

Article #2: Chainmail Revisited – Jousting in D&D by Jon Pickens

Ah – anyone who has tilted in the FLAILSNAILS Jousting Tournaments run by the excellent Mike Davison is already aware of these rules. This article works on addressing a few perceived shortcomings of the rules, i.e. “I’m a Lord, and he’s a lowly Level 1. IT ISN’T FAIR!”

There is also a cartoon from Will McLean, who will go on to be, in my opinion, one of the shining lights of Dragon’s humor department for many years to come.

Article #3: Dragonlord review by Glenn Williams

If I’m honest, I never spent much time reading reviews in Dragon Magazine. Reading reviews to old games is even less interesting to me, but I’m going to do it anyways. Williams finds the art, by Morno, to be top drawer. The game concerns battles between dragon riders. Williams points out that the map, while pretty, is screwed up because it shows everything from the side, when it really should be top-down. In addition, the map sections do not align correctly, and the grid is a set of Cartesian squares – a hex grid would have been better. The rules, Williams says, are also too complex. Still, he likes the concept, and thinks the game can be improved, such as playing it with the Warriors of the Green Planet map.

I couldn’t find the game online for sale, but there are some other Wee Warriors products at EBay.

Article #4: Faceless Men and Clockwork Monsters

Why wasn’t that the name of an actual game? This article presents a Dungeons & Dragons adventure aboard the Starship Warden (from Metamorphosis Alpha). I’m pretty familiar with this story, but if you haven’t read of this genre-bending excursion, you should try to find it.

Next comes a great add from Dragon Tooth Fantasy Figures, proclaiming the war between the Saurian Empire and Amphibian Confederacy. Love the art …

 I think I get more inspiration from the ads of Dragon Magazine than the articles – quick, dynamic ideas with catchy art.

Article #5: A Wizard with a Difference by James M. Ward

Love the editor’s note …

“ED. Note: The following is recommended as a source of bedevilment to be used by DM on their NPC’s. Some of the possibilities here will drive the average group of PC’s wild when trying to deal with running NPC‘s.”

Prepare for a piece of pure opinion by yours truly – D&D is more fun when the DM is trying to kill the characters. I don’t mean by cheating, but by being a clever, inventive bastard.

The article presents the idea of specialist wizards, using the following types: “Wizard of Aggression”, “Wizard of Defense”, “Wizard of All Things Rustic”, “Wizard of Control”, “Wizard of Tenaciousness” (yeah, I’m picturing Jack Black), “Wizard of Detection”, “Wizard of Fire” and “Wizard of Movement”. One can see some overlap with the later specialists – Conjurer, Necromancer, etc., but these do sound more fun.

The concept is that these wizards get two spells of their specialty per level (I think, the rules could be a bit clearer) and have a percentage chance of casting them based on the level of the spell and the level of the magic-user. Ward suggests these wizards are best used as NPC’s, which is a good point. The average NPC has a short lifespan in combat, so doesn’t necessarily need a vast list of spells, many of which are designed for exploration, which the NPC doesn’t need.

There are plenty of new spells or modified spells – a really fun article to read.

Article #6: Sights & Sounds in Dungeons & Dragons

Another one of those darned useful sets of random tables, this one for random sounds and random sights in a dungeon. Both use a d20, though the sounds table actually runs to 21, with 21 being a bit of a joke (rattling dice/dungeon master’s scream of anguish/garbage disposal/etc.)

Article #7: Variant Monster Dept.

This article gathers a few monsters, including the Magic Munchkin by Michael Kolakowski, the Scholar by Patricia LaPointe, and the Crs’tchen by Dennis Chapman. I love the fact that none of them share the same statistical arrangement – heck, the Munchkin has no stats to speak of. Just for fun, I’ll convert the Scholar for Blood & Treasure:

Medium humanoid, Neutral (N), High Intelligence; Symposium (1d10+10)

HD: 1 to 3
AC: 10
ATK: By weapon
MV: 30
SV: 1 HD = F15 R15 W12 / 2 HD = F14 R15 W12 / HD 3 = F12 R14 W11
XP: 1 HD = 100 (CL 2) / 2 HD = 200 (CL 3) / 3 HD = 300 (CL 4)

Scholars are short, bearded men in tweed robes with leather patches on the elbows. They smoke foul-smelling pipes than can produce enough smoke to provide an obscuring mist. There are three levels of scholars.

Instrictors (1 HD) know two spells, confusion and read obscure languages. Confusion is cast by answering a simple question, the answer being in an obscure language.

Associate Profussors (2 HD) know three more spells: Fear, time stop and book missiles. Fear takes effect after muttering about term papers being due. Book missiles works as magic missile, save the books inflict 1d8 points of damage.

Fool Profussors (3 HD) have three ultimate spells. The first is power word stun (the incantation being “Surprise Quiz Today”). Academic dust does 3d6 points of damage and can paralyze the mind for 2-4 turns.  The final spell is cause boredom, which works as a sleep spell that affects any level/HD of creature.

One powerful incantation causes scholars to be seized by instant cardiac arrest – “Tenure denied”.

Article #8: The Monk and Bard in ‘DUNGEON!’ by Jon Pickens

Always love Pickens’ stuff. This one introduces the bard and monk into games of DUNGEON!. I love that game – so sorry that I got rid of my copy years ago. I need to find a copy online (and yeah, I know Hasbro is going to do a reprint – I’d rather have an old game – I’m weird that way).

Article #9: Tesseracts by Gary Jordan

These have been covered nicely at Aeons & Auguries. Jordan covers putting cubic tesseracts into a dungeon do drive map makers nuts. A worthy goal!

Article #10: Ogre Piece by Piece by Jerry Epperson

I’ll admit it. I played it years ago, and found it somewhat boring. If you do love the game and want some variations from 1978, find this article.

Article #11: Design Journal – Boredom and the Average D&D Dungeon by James Ward

If you know James Ward, you know “average” probably ain’t happening in any dungeon he’s written. In this article, he described the idea of filling new dungeon levels with “areas of history” – i.e. themed sections based on history, like an Ancient Egypt area with minions of Set, evil high priests of Set, an 11th level grave robber thief, etc. He also covers Ancient India, The Far East and The Future Machine Age. Good advice, of course, especially for fun-house dungeons.

Article #12: A Short History of Adamantite by Charles Sagui

Short indeed. He labels adamantite as an alloy of Mithril, Carbon, Iron and a few secret ingredients – technically known as Mithriferral Carbide. It is 4/5 the weight of steel, and provides a +2 on AC and hit probability for weapons. It is much more expensive to work and much more difficult to enchant. Sagui gives some prices for different armors (plate armor is 20,000 gp, chainmail 14,000 gp, daggers 1,500 gp) as well.

Article #13: Messengers of God: Angels in Dungeons & Dragons by Stephen H. Dorneman

Dorneman introduces the idea (new at the time, of course) of some non-omnipotent Lawful beings to counter all those devils and demons. He describes four types of angels – Type I (Angel of Wrath), Type II (Angel of Healing), Type III (Archangel of Mercy) and Type IV (Seraphim). Honestly, it never occurred to me to use “types” of angels to counter the “types” of demons. Neat article.

Article #14: Natural Armor for Monsters in Monsters, Monsters by Doug Miller

This one is just what it sounds like. If you don’t have Monsters, Monsters, it won’t do much for you.


Fineous Fingers is saved from the Antipaladin by the evil wizard, because he needs a thief – not a bad way to handle an encounter in your next game, especially if the needed character is a major pain in the ass to the rest of the party.

Wormy plays a nasty trick on some goblins and tree trolls.

Article #15: Warp War review by Tony Watson

Warp War was a mini-game by Metagaming (click here for Warp War on Boardgame Geek).

From the description, it almost sounds like Car Wars in space – you have to build your ships and then use them to fight over star systems. Watson likes it, and I must admit it sounds fun.

And that brings us to the end. This one is pretty packed, with lots of great articles. Definitely one to look out for!

Dragon by Dragon – July 1978 (16)

Dragon #16 holds great promise based on the cover alone – a bad-ass barbarian and the word “ninja” …

To begin with, a gentle commentary from Kask regarding the amount of fiction in the magazine:

“Due to the length of the conclusion of THE GREEN MAGICIAN, we found it necessary to add an additional four pages this issue. Contrary to what some Philistines might think, this is not a fiction magazine. The Philistines I refer to are the ones that don’t want to see any fiction at all in these pages. To forestall the howls, the extra four pages were added to compensate, not that the story NEEDS compensating for.”

Gerald Guinn kicks this issue off with a rebuttal to a letter criticizing The Cthulhu Mythos Revisited. An entertaining exchange one would now expect to see … well, on every message board and blog frequented by geeks.

Jerome Arkenberg brings us the Near Eastern Mythos. Like the other articles in this series, it keeps it short and sweet and covers quite a bit of ground – everyone from An(s) to Ziusudra(s). The heroes in this article would be especially useful for swords and sandals campaigns – heck, this article, a map of the Near East and a few dungeon maps would be all you need to run a great campaign. The scorpion men are worth a look …

Scorpion Man: HP 240 (holy crap!), AC 1, MV 20″, Magic as 15th level wizard, fighter ability as 15th level lord and Class I psionic ability.

Okay, gonzo stats, but a sweet piece of art. I also love the fact that the “artifacts” presented would, in modern D&D circles, be considered fairly weak magic items.

After the Near Eastern mythos, we have the big article of the issue – The Ultimate NPC: Ninja – The DM’s Hit Man by Sheldon Price. I can hear the audible gasps of the “dick DM” crowd and the clicking of their teeth. To be honest, they have a point, but I think the article also needs to be seen in the context of the time. With characters bouncing around from game to game, there was the real danger of a ridiculously powerful character (probably played by a cheater) showing up to ruin everyone’s fun.

Here’s the rundown – Ninjas are limited to 16th level and must be neutral; they cannot use psionics. Their special abilities include seeing in the dark, tracking (as ranger with 20% penalty), simulate death, poison use (lots of rules here), far travel (2nd to 5th level 50 miles a day, 6th to 9th level 75 miles per day, 10th level or higher 100 miles per day – a unique ability), they prefer no armor but will wear leather or chainmail and they have a special shield called a neru-kuwa, they attack as a fighter, can attack open-handed as a monk and use judo as a samurai (originally in … uh, some other issue), they get a save vs. all damage, save as magic-users of one level higher against spells and can attack with any weapon at a -3 penalty, save ninja weapons they have mastered and weapons associated with a disguise class they have learned. Otherwise they save as a fighter. Their disguises are learned randomly. The article goes on a bit … go read it. It’s actually not too shabby in terms of being overpowered, especially since it’s assumed that one or two ninjas will be taking on an entire party and their retinues.

James Ward does another The Adventures of Monty Haul #3. This involves Freddie and his love of the weird. A sample:

“We appeared on a frosty plain of ice and snow with four Storm Giants swinging their weapons and Monty chuckling something about “minor guards”. We heard the sound of three clubs and a magic sword going smash, smash, smash, and chop. Mike’s gargoyle was a grease smear on one of the clubs, Tom’s Monk was down to one hit point, Dave’s cleric was really hurting, and Jake’s golem had one of its arms cut off by the vorpal sword. Robert clove one in two with his sword while Ernie’s and my cold rays took care of two more (and the sword, we found out a bit later). The last one was missed by the rest of the group, but it didn’t miss me for thirty-six points of bruises and nicks. With the next round, we were able to finish the giants off before the last one did any more damage. They didn’t have a copper coin’s worth of treasure on them, and we weren’t pleased. After a bunch of cure spells and a raise dead on the gargoyle, we still hadn’t figured out what to do about the golem’s arm. We just let it go and traveled on. Tim and Brian put on some of the dead guard’s clothes (which everyone thought was a good idea) and we were on our way towards a batch of caves.”

E. Gary Gygax covers a bit of ground in the Sorcerer’s Scroll with Role-Playing: Realism vs. Game Logic; Spell Points, Vanity Press and Rip-offs.  The essence is – some people are morons when they propose fixes to D&D, and they are an irritation to Gygax not because of vanity, but because they don’t understand game logic. Two quotes:

“The uniform element amongst these individuals is a complete failure to grasp the simple fact that D&D is a game. Its rules are designed and published so as to assure a balanced and cohesive whole.”

“D&D encourages inventiveness and originality within the framework of its rules. Those who insist on altering the framework should design their own game. Who can say that such an effort might not produce a product superior to D&D? Certainly not I.”

The bit about Weapon Expertise being stupid considering that any fighting-man worth his salt would practice with all arms all the time is funny, considering he had just published the AD&D Player’s Handbook with the weapon proficiency rules.

In a Design Variant article, Charles Sagui explains Why Magic Users & Clerics Cannot Use Swords. In essence: For balance in the game, and Tolkien didn’t write D&D, so I don’t care if Gandalf could use a sword. Sagui works out a system where clerics can use edged weapons, but whatever damage they score with those weapons must be paid with by losing spells or, if they’re out of spells, losing their own hit points. Weird, but kinda fun.

A. Mark Ratner presents Metamorphosis Alpha Modifications. This one covers the lack of mutants having a leadership potential, and thus being unable to use devices and weapons they find. I’m not sure that wasn’t the intention in the rules, but Ratner proposes a mechanical aptitude ability for mutants. More importantly, he presents a great big chart of mutated animals, including pigmy elephants, so you know it’s legit.

Next up is the second part of The Green Magician by L. Sprague deCamp.

“Shea’s intention was to jerk the blade loose with a twist to one side to avoid the downcoming slash. But the point stuck between his enemy’s ribs, and, in the instant it failed to yield, Nera’s blade, weakened and wavering, came down on Shea’s left shoulder. He felt the sting of steel and in the same moment the sword came loose as Nera folded up wordlessly.”

Hard not to fall in love with Belphebe.

Wormy involves Irving the imp selling dwarf burgers to a hungry crowd that includes a wereboar. Frank the tree troll takes him out with a club. Almost forgot Dudly and Frank – excellent characters. The gaming world really lost out when Wormy ceased.

Fineous Fingers, meanwhile, turns back to help his pals against the evil knight.

We finish up with a Design Forum article by James Ward on Game Balance. This involves the rate at which magic item treasure is given out – Gygax, Kask and Kuntz all want it restricted – Ward, on the other hand, loves it. He introduces the idea of Game Equilibrium. In this concept, the DM doesn’t care how much magic the players have. He uses plenty of it in his hordes … but he lets the defenders of those hordes use the magic items. In essence, Ward embraces the DM vs. players concept wholeheartedly, like a great big game of Spy vs. Spy. Not a bad style of play, in my opinion, if everybody involved is a good sport.

Well – I got steaks to grill. Have fun on the internet folks, and make sure you buy a copy of Blood & Treasure!

Dragon by Dragon – May 1978 (14)

I would have been 6 years old for this one, and 6 years away from discovery D&D. Let’s see what it has to offer …

First up, winners on that “Name the Monster” contest. Conrad Froelich of Wyoming, OH was the winner with “The Creature Some Call Jarnkung”. Runner’s up were Cursed Crimson Crawler by Thomas & Edward McCloud and The Ulik by Ann Corlon (who sez women didn’t play D&D back in the day). The winning stats were as follows:

Jarnkung, Large Magical Beast, Chaotic (NE), High Intelligent: HD 5; AC 3; Atk 1 tail (2d6) and 1 or 2 weapons; Move 20 (or 9 for S&W); Save F10 R11 W12 (or 12 for S&W); XP 500 (CL 6); Special: +1 or better weapon to hit, magic resistance 20%, detect thoughts (ESP) at will, may have psionic powers.

A. Mark Ratner now gives a review of Space Marines (not the later effort by Games Workshop), a game which he designed. Apparently it is a modified Tractics which owes something to Starguard. I wish that meant something to me. What did I learn about Space Marines from this article? Well, it has things like Nuclear Damper Fields, Mekpurrs (inspired by the killer herbivores from Satan’s World by Anderson), canineoid, rauwoofs, hissss*st (based on The Time Mercenaries by Philip High) and Klackons. The article has many rules ideas and additions for the game – mostly involving air combat and underwater combat. Makes it sound like a cool game.

J. Ward offers up a review of Nomad Gods. Unfortunately, this is another game I haven’t played or read, so I can’t comment much about it. Likewise with Tony Watson’s review of Cosmic Encounter.

Barton Stano and Jim Ward present Robots as Players in Metamorphosis Alpha. This one gets down into it, giving players structure points (115) and power points (100) to spend on propulsion, computer units, armor and various physical devices like quills, lead shielding and grasping claws. While this seems like a logical way to handle robots, it also stands as a preview of where RPG’s were going in terms of character building.

Michael McCrery now presents Excerpt From an Interview With a Rust Monster. Apparently this hinges on an NPC who was polymorphed into a rust monster, and now sometimes shows up as a wandering monster in McCrery’s dungeon.

Cool miniatures ad for spaceships …

Five sizes for each, which brings to my mind the ship sizes I used in Space Princess – starfighter, shuttle, corvette, star cruiser and dreadnaught. For their part, the ships are Galactic Dreadnaughts, Galactic Attack Carriers, Galactic Battlecruisers, Stellar Cruisers and Stellar Destroyers. OK – their names are better – I’ll give them that.

Gygax writes From the Sorcerer’s Scroll on D&D Relationships, the Parts and the Whole. This one gets into the edition mess that was forthcoming for TSR – i.e. what is the “Basic Set”, will the Original game be around much longer and what is Advanced D&D.

James Ward pops in now with Monty Haul and His Friends at Play. This appears to be a satirical piece about the folks at TSR. I dug the accompanying art:

And now, a peeved letter to the editor about the Cthulhu Mythos from the February issue. This is classic geek one-ups-manship at its finest, for example:

“First, the Elder Gods, after they defeated the Great Old Ones, stripped Azathoth of a lot of his power, so his hits should be lowered to 200 to 225.”

“If you’re wondering who is number one — YOG-SHOTHOTH his hits should be raised to 400. You can say that is rather powerful; you’re damn right. The Great Old Ones are so powerful, that the total power of the Elder Gods could not destroy them; only imprison them.”

“These may seem trivial, but if Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Augest Derleth, or Robert Howard saw your use, they’d roll over in their graves not once but at least ten times.”

Another one from James WardThe Total Person in Metamorphosis Alpha. This is a set of random tables for determining a character’s background. I always think these are most useful for Referees working out NPC’s.

Next we have an ogre fight in Wormy and Fineous Fingers being offered up as a sacrifice for a dark knight.

Gregory Rihn writes Lycanthropy – The Progress of the Disease. You can tell D&D is getting more advanced now and a little less free-wheeling for some folks in 1978. I dig this paragraph:

“A low-level werebear who takes six rounds to change fully would fight as follows: round one, normal level; round two, level minus two; round three, level minus four; round four, bear minus four; (claws and teeth have reached minimal offensive effectiveness) round five, bear minus two; round six, normal bear ability. Of course somewhere in here he has to shed his clothes.”

I like the idea of a lycanthrope changing during the course of a battle. The article includes a level table, which I would think was for adjudicating lycanthropes with class levels in the game – it has columns for “Changes Per Day”, “Chance of Involuntary Changes”, “Time Required for Change” and such – except it also has XP for each level. I guess it makes sense – XP determine one’s “lycanthrope level” separately from one’s normal class level.

And that’s it for #14. A few good bits in this one, but not my favorite issue. Even though I don’t always get much use for the articles in these issues, I still find the environment of gaming inspiration in these magazines. Well worth reading, especially for folks who have no grounding in the history of the game.

Dragon by Dragon – July 1977 (8)

Vincent Price?

And so we come to #8, which kicks off with an article on The Planes from Gary Gygax, subtitled “The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relations in D&D”. I guess this has to be considered a pretty important article, as it sets up the famous “Wheel” cosmology that will come to be a basis of AD&D (both editions) and achieve its full flowering in the Planescape setting. I personally don’t use it these days, but I think you have to admit it was a clever way of setting up a cosmos and finding a place for all the various gods and goddesses.

Tony Watson now offers a more practical article: The Development of Towns in D&D. The advice in the article is quite sound, from what I can tell. I like his advice for inns and their patrons, to whit:

Falgrave’s – where non-humans frequent and and stay when in town. Falgrave is a dwarf himself and up on non-human gossip. 3-18 patrons, 2/3 of which shall be non-human and ½ will be warriors; the rest will be townspeople, nonhumans of other classes. 1-4 will be non-human wayfarers or merchants.

Simple and seems like it would work well. For populating the town, he suggests rolling up dozens of characters and then assigning them, based on their ability scores, to different jobs … or you could just fake it. He divides them into Warriors, Magic-Users, Clerics, Townspeople and Specialists (referring to the “myriad of new characters types that have lately appeared”, which I assume means new classes from The Dragon). He suggests rolling 3d4 for the ability scores of the townspeople or 2d6 for women rolling Str and Con (he apologizes to liberated women reading the article) and children rolling scores. Watson then provides a small chart for determining alignment, age, personality, loyalty, initiative and level. Initiative, in this case, does not mean combat initiative order, but how bright and energetic an NPC is.

Up next is a story by Harry O. Fischer: The Finzer Family – A Tale of Modern Magic.

There have also been wicked magicians, but they only last a short time and are soon taken care of by the public or by other magicians. The evil ones are generally weak and unsuccessful people with little powerful magic. This is fortunate for all of us. Once in a while a powerful and good magician may go mad and do considerable damage before he is controlled or eliminated, but these cases are very rare. So any magicians you are likely to meet or to know, or to perhaps discover, are almost sure to be honorable, peaceful, and wise people — like the Finzers . . .

No offense, but this one went on so long I got bored skipping through it.

Next we have a sneak preview of Introduction to: Gamma World. It begins:

Man, from Australopithecus africanus and homo erectus erectus to homo sapiens recens, has existed on earth for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of years. During this time, one skill, one particular talent has set him apart from every other creature — his ability to conceive and create tools. Indeed, man has been defined as “the toolmaking animal.”

Next to an ad for Archive Miniatures (that includes pictures of a Wind Child, Dragon Newts and Dracula & Vampire Women) is an article by Rob Kuntz on gems and jewelry that is essentially a collection of useful tables for determining first the carats of the gem, then the value and then the type based on the value. My only disagreement is that it uses gems like “idicolite” and “tanzanite” that just don’t seem very romantic.

Brian Blume asks, So You Want Realism in D&D? It’s a bit of a jab at people that have written to complain about the lack of … well, you know.

The next page shows off several miniatures, including Rhino Riders from Dragontooth Miniatures. I’ve admitted before that I’m a sucker for fantasy characters riding on inappropriate mounts, so this one is right up my alley. I found a picture online …

Given the size of the rider compared to the rhino, it almost has to be a giant of some sort.

Featured Creature this time presents a kick-ass piece of art by Erol Otus and asks people to name it and give it some stats. Let’s do the same thing here in the comments!

James Ward provides Still More Additions to MA, a list of new monsters that includes Jawed Lilly Pads (awesome), radiation vines, poison thorn grass, tigeroids, bulleroids (no hemorrhoids), rabners, gygarants and sotherlan.

And so ends issue #8! Not bad, but the one story was waaaaaay too long (and is only part 1!!!). What relevant stuff was there was pretty decent.

Dragon by Dragon … April 1977 (6)

Ah – spring of 1977. I’m sure after the big Bucharest earthquake and the discovery of rings around Uranus, people were almost too worn out to delve into another issue of The Dragon, but delve they did!

The cover for this issue was by “Morno”, AKA Brad Schenck, who you can find at deviantART. He’s mostly known for his contributions to Arduin and computer gaming, and he has lots of nice retro sci-fi material in his gallery. Check it out.

First article is by Guy W. McLimore, Jr.An Alternate Beginning Sequence For Metamorphosis: Alpha. Article begins with a neat little graphic of old pseudo-computer code … takes me back to programming BASIC on my old Vic-20. Good times. The article takes a while to get to the point, describing a clone bank on the Warden. [Hey – just got it – James Ward – Warden – damn I’m slow]. The meat of the article is a little d% table to determine whether you are human, a latent mutant or a true mutant and how many mutations and defects you have. Do the new versions of WOTC Gamma World delve into defects at all? I dig that defects are just part of character creation back in the day … you play the cards the dice deal you.

The article continues with many more tables, including more detail for latent mutants and the number of programmed ship skills one might have, including some special psychic skills for humans only.

The author would go on to be a part of the Doctor Who RPG, Mekton Empires and a host of products for Star Trek and Starfleet Command.

Ronald C. Spencer, Jr. (another junior … I smell conspiracy) presents Sea Trade in D&D Campaigns. This one springs from a campaign being played on the ballistic missile sub USS Benjamin Franklin … I love the stuff that comes from actual play. In this case, a fighting-man wanted to set up a shipping business on the side – smart guy!

D&D produces two wonderful sorts of rules. On the one hand, you have the super simple, elegant rule – like shields will be splintered – and on the other hand, the baroque set of charts that put a warm glow into the hearts of people like me, even if we never plan on actually using them. This one has a single chart and a few assumptions – one page to cover the whole concept. I like it.

The basics of the system are set up as a number of assumptions. To be brief … (1) Cargo is not specified; (2) small merchant ships can carry a max value of 10,000 gp, large merchants 50,000 gp; (3) ships have to pay a pilot fee of 500 gp for small ships, 2,500 gp for large ships and a 5% import tax based on the value of the cargo; (4) profit/loss is determined with a dice roll (i.e. the neat little chart) and is based on the number of ports the ship bypasses (i.e. the further you go, the more you make, but the more likely you are to lose a ship to storms or pirates).

The ship owner invests in a cargo and then gives sailing orders to hit ship – where to go, which ports to bypass, how much profit/loss to accept (if a port is bypassed to avoid a loss, it counts as a bypassed port – I suppose this involves ignoring a bad roll and trying again). Ultimately, the DM (or D/M as he writes it – love this period when things were not yet settled and official) makes the percentile roll and money is either lost or made.

Ships are delayed 1d4 weeks at ports other than their home port, and when ships are lost at sea the owner is notified 1d6+2 weeks later. Neat system, which I’ll happily use in my Blood & Treasure campaign, assuming anyone goes to the trouble of buying a ship or investing in one.

M.A.R. Barker now chimes in with a painting guide for Legions of the Petal Throne. I can’t imagine how anyone in the hobby back in the day could have resisted buying the Tekumel material … very evocative. Love the art.

Morno (Brad Schenck) now provides some fiction in the form of The Forest of Flame. From now on, I will present one random paragraph from each bit of fiction …

Some obsure glory, had thought Visaque, must belong to one who unlocked the musty secrets of the tome; the dream was even now fresh on him. Weeks, then months of spare hours were spent in the attempt of understanding the mysterious text. By the time its crabbed script was half-deciphered the task became somewhat simpler, and often he read in the small hours its forgotten tales by candlelight. He read of the Elder Days and the Days To Come: of heroes, mages, and of strange devices . . . of Crowyn the Worme’s Bane and of his star-crossed blade; Of the strange curse of Vyckar the Grim; Akor the Valkrian, Nokra Negreth, the Red Branch heroes . . . all the warriors and their impeccable deeds. And then, the mages: Bran-Herla whose soul was lost by the wide waters; Vergil Magus; Garanyr the Heart-Misled; of Myrddin, of Verbius, Therion, and the loremaster Isaac Decapole D’alsace . . . and in an indefinite reference on a faded page, was inscribed the name of Vishre Vishran. When Visaque first read that name it struck an eerie chord within him, as if of a misplaced memory. Even now the name was uncomfortably close to an identity. Yet for contemplation there was, today, no time. That the mage was called an Ipsissimus, he knew, but knew not the rank so named. For all his study (so unclear in the remembering . . .) all Visaque had learned was that Vishran dwelt in the Castle Arestel, atop the mountains eastward. (Arestel . . .)

In the Designer’s Forum (that’s a neat idea … a place where game designers can just add a few bits and pieces and corrections to their games – if any designers out there want to talk about their stuff in NOD, let me know).

This forum is by James Ward, with Further Rules, Modifications and Clarifications for Metamorphosis Alpha. He goes into mutations for taller mutants (roll 1d20 for additional height, add one “striking die” for each four feet above normal height – you can get some tall freaking mutants in MA!), shorter mutants, additional body parts, wings and some psychic powers.

Next, there’s an add for D&D miniatures. They guarantee satisfaction. Fantasy Forge has some neat Tekumel miniatures (I wonder how many are still out there, painted and waiting to be used), followed by an ad for Space Gamer out of Austin, TX.

After the adverts, we get chapter 6 of the Gnome Cache. I quote from the summary …

Unable to resist the wanderlust any longer, Dunstan has robbed his father’s strongbox and set forth on his quest for adventure and glory.

In his naivete, Dunstan casts his lot in with a band of scurrilous cutthroats, believing them to be adventurers sharing his noble pursuits.

Our hero learns the true nature of his erstwhile companions, and his pockets are the poorer for it. Dunstan parts company from the band, narrowly escaping apprehension by the Warders. In the confusion, he ‘liberates’ a horse, and sets off for Huddlefoot, there to spend the night in the stables.

Our would-be knight acquires a would-be squire, and strikes a bargain with Evan to travel with his caravan to Rheyton and Nehron. This arranged, he takes care of the incriminating horse, spinning a tall tale of being on official business. This done, they await departure . . .

David W. Miller presents: D&D Option: Determination of Psionic Abilities, giving some additional ways people could pick up psionics in the game. I kinda dig the baroque nature of psionics in old D&D, though I don’t remember if we ever used them or not. Maybe one or two characters were lucky enough to develop them.

Jim Hayes and Bill Gilbert cover Morale in D&D – an important system when you consider the game’s wargaming roots and the importance of wandering dungeons with large bodies of men-at-arms and torch bearers. This one has a couple charts, lots of modifiers and … honestly, I’d rather just roll 2d6 and be done with it.

In Fineous Fingers, we get a visit from Bored-Flak, the Bolt Lobber, who has a firing sight on his finger. He saves the party’s bacon and then disappears into the dungeon.

The Featured Creature is the Death Angel by John Sullivan. Not the toughest monster in the world – 7 Hit Dice (d8’s, it notes) and AC 4 (or 15, in modern games), but it does a death scythe that forces people to make a save vs. death at -3 (and you lose a point of constitution if you fail). If you can take this sucker on at range, you’re okay … except it can teleport at will. They also have 95% magic resistance. Fortunately, they only attack their intended victim – essentially somebody who has pissed off a god or demi-god. The take away here … leave those gemstone eyes in the idol alone!

Next (and final) add is for the old dungeon geomorphs – only $2.99.

All in all, a decent issue, but not spectacular.