Dragon by Dragon – January 1982 (57)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bottom line, apparently was:

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

As always, I leave you with Wormy

Save

Dragon by Dragon – November 1981 (55)

Getting back on the blogging track means getting back into the Dragon by Dragon articles.

This week, I’m going to take a look at Dragon #55, from November 1981. This one has a really good beginning – a cover by Erol Otus. The best thing about the cover – I have no idea what that monstrous thing is. This, to me, lies at the heart of old school games – the freedom to invent something new every game, or to add all sorts of fun details to things old and well-known without the need to invent new mechanics.

I think one of the downfalls of 3rd edition D&D was the attempt to standardize fantasy. Standardization may be important for “branding”, but it’s terrible for creativity. I think many corporations these days are cutting their own throats by pushing “branding” over creativity.

On to the review …

First, a moment of righteous anger from the letters page:

“A lot of people seem to have a warped view of how to create a character. Some think you start off at 20th level with all the magic you can carry. Others have the strange notion that you get experience from taking damage. (A character in my world was nearly cut in half by a weapon hit and demanded he get experience for it: Why didn’t he just beat his head against a wall until he achieved godhood?)”

I enjoyed that bit – well said Greg Fox of Scotia, New York

Second, a note of the beginning of the end of Old School in Ed Greenwood’s review of the Fiend Folio

“The beauty of the AD&D rule system is its careful attention to detail, “serious” (i.e., treating monsters as creatures in a fantasy world, not as constructs in a fantasy game) tone, and consistency. The FIEND FOLIO Tome mars this beauty. In its pages this DM finds too much lack of detail, too many shifts in tone, and too many breaches of consistency.”

Here we see the cleaving of the playership – one side needing a “serious” imaginary world and the other just needing a fun place to play for a few hours. I’m in the latter group, and of course love the Fiend Folio. It’s probably not a surprise that I don’t much are for Mr. Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms setting – though I mean no disrespect to Mr. Greenwood. He’s a hell of a creator, and deserves great respect in the gaming world. It just sounds like we’re looking for different things from our gaming.

I’ll note one more line from the review:

“Perhaps it should have been a D&D® book, not one for the AD&D™ game.”

Guess that’s why I always liked the D&D rules better than the AD&D rules.

I will indulge my sense of humor for reviews one last time here, with this peach from a second review of the Fiend Folio.

“First, the names of the dragons are given in the wrong order. If you look in the Monster Manual under the entry indexed as “Dragon: White” you would see at the top of the description, “White Dragon (Draco Rigidus Frigidus).” The Latin name of the dragon is put in parentheses after the English name. But in the FIEND FOLIO under “Dragon, Oriental” a subtitle will read, “Li Lung (Earth Dragon),” with the Chinese name first and the English name in parentheses. Now, who is going to call this dragon “Li Lung” when “Earth Dragon” is much easier to remember? The names should have been given in reverse form (Oriental name last) for the sake of convenience, if nothing more.”

The joy of writing for nerds. At least the reviewer was focusing on the big picture, and not nitpicking.

Now to the feature articles:

Dinosaurs: New Theories for Old Monsters by Lawrence Schick raises the problem we still face with these creatures that we don’t face with fantasy monsters – we don’t know enough. We know more now than we did then, of course, which means we could well be revising monster stats for these beasts forever. This is why I prefer using dinosaurs in my games as though they were fantasy monsters based on what you got in old movies … with just a dash of what we now know (the potential for brilliant plummage, for example) to make them weird.

Gary Gygax has a nice article covering some of the peoples of Oerth. This was reprinted in the old Greyhawk boxed set, and I remember reading it there and thinking “Wow, I didn’t realize you could make this kind of thing up.” It was one of those “unknown unknowns” to me as a kid. I mean, the world is full of people, so I guess people in a D&D world will look like people in our own world, so you don’t really need to describe them. I had a lot to learn about the joys of fantasy.

Katherine Kerr has a nice piece on Robin Hood (he has a price of 200 gp on his head, you know). She makes him a 12th level fighter, Chaotic Good, with some pretty high ability scores. This brings up a thought – that D&D is actually better at depicting cruel reality than heroic fantasy in some ways. After all, when we try to model heroes of fantasy literature in D&D, we have to make them very high level and usually give them very high ability scores. Much of the “evolution” of D&D over the years seems to have been an effort to make it more amenable to fantasy heroes than the original game. Sounds funny to say this, given the presence of “heroes” and “super-heroes” in OD&D.

Oh – I should add that Will Scarlet is an 8th level thief, Little John a 10th level fighter, Friar Tuck a 7th level cleric and the evil Sheriff (lawful evil, to be precise) a 6th level fighter.

“It has been recorded, in the lost scrolls of Caractos the Scribe, of which only fragments now exist, that… from the ice-world of Northumbria, many ages ago, there came a youth named Niall, son of Thorkon the Mighty, who was destined to roam the world as he knew it, and to whom was to be given the appellation, the Far-Traveler…”

So begins another tale of Niall by Gardner Fox.This is good, old-fashioned pulp barbarian stuff, so worth a read for old school sorts like myself.

Speaking of old school, this issue has a Basic D&D adventure called The Creature of Rhyl by Kevin Knuth (could this be him?).

The adventure scores one old school point with reversed names – King Namreh (Herman) and Prince Laechim (Michael). It involves treking into the wilderness to hunt a giant monster and rescue the prince from an evil magician.

My only quibble with this dungeon is the presence of some pretty decent magic items on the upper level without too much guarding it. This may be because there are a couple tough monsters lurking in the lower levels that have to be dealt with. There is a nice puzzle room here, and overall it seems like a good rescue mission sort of adventure.

Pat Reinken (perhaps this fellow?) has a nice article on the tactics of escaping danger, mostly covering magic items that help you get away from danger in one piece.

The Dragon’s Bestiary features the Devil Spider with awesome Erol Otus artwork, which makes sense since Otus invented the monster. The monster is predicated on trying to escape from sticky webs, in such a manner as to make for an exciting fight. It’s a tough monster, so don’t play with it unless you’re high enough level not to end up spider food.

Jeff Brandt introduces the Surchur, which is quite a horrifying thing, humanoid with a mass of tentacles in place of a head. It’s a mid-level monster that doesn’t have many tricks up its sleeve, but which could still give a party lots of problems. Kind of a good Lovecraftian thug.

Ed Greenwood presents the dyll in this issue, essentially a swarm of flying leeches.

The final monster is Craig Stenseth‘s poltergeist, the spirit of chaotic gnomes from Limbo and Gladsheim sent to the Material Plane to spread chaos. Nice origin idea for them.

Speaking of monsters – the magazine reviews a cool miniature called the “gorillasaurus”, which is actually a hybrid of gorilla and rhinoceros (so maybe gorillaceros would have been a better name). The image is terrible in the magazine, but I found a good shot at the AD&D 2nd Edition Holdout blog that tells a good story about using it in-game.

For comic fans, this issue has an early Snarfquest, a nice Wormy entry and a What’s New?.

As always, I’ll leave you with some Tramp and his wonderful little tree trolls …

God bless – be kind to one another – and have some fun for crying out loud!

Dragon by Dragon – October 1979 (30)

We’re baking here in Vegas , so perhaps a nice magazine from the fall of 1979 will put me into a cooler mindset.

I know – The Dragon #30! That’s the ticket!

But, of course, October isn’t about being cool. It’s about being horrified. ’79 was a good time for that, and not just because of the Carter administration. ’79 was The Amityville Horror, Alien, Phantasm, The Brood, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Dracula … and I never saw any of them. Frankly, not a horror movie fan. Let’s get to the magazine.

First – the cover. What a great cover. I love covers with lots of little details, lots of things to get the brain ticking.

Dig this from the opening of Kask’s editorial:

“As I am writing this (11 Sep), DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is getting the publicity that we used to just dream about, back when we were freezing in Gary’s basement in the beginning. If we had our ‘druthers’, it would not have happened in such a fashion. By now, as you read this, I hope the mystery surrounding the disappearance of James Egbert has been happily resolved. Whatever the circumstances of the incident, it has been a nightmare for his parents and family, as well as for TSR Hobbies, Inc. It has been speculated that James was involved in some sort of D&D game that went beyond the realm of pencil and paper roleplaying, and may have mutated into something tragic. D&D was seized upon as a possible connection to the disappearance, for a variety of reasons. First, James was an avid player. Indeed, I have met him at past conventions,
and he used to subscribe to TD.”

And so it begins. In case you don’t know, James Dallas Egbert III was a student at … well, you can read about it at Wikipedia. This may have made D&D more famous, but it also started the backlash against it by morons everywhere dedicated to ruining innocent fun. Worst of all, it led to the TV movie Mazes & Monsters, starring a young Tom Hanks. Not all the Money Pit in the world can make up for that.

The Game’s the Thing … and I Used to Think GenCon Stood for General Confusion
by Kim Mohan

You might recognize Mohan’s name. He was a the new kid at TSR when he wrote this review of GenCon XII. In short – he liked it.

Where the Orcs Are
by Steve Brown

This article features a bitchin’ miniature diorama by Steve Brown. He wanted to enter it into the miniatures contest at GenCon XII, but it didn’t fit into any categories. Nevertheless, it was awesome, and had to get some love, so …

I’m going to assume the picture in the article doesn’t do it justice. Actually, there are a dozen photos, and the underground orc castle looks incredible. Brown says it took him a year to do the thing, and it carried a price tag of $4000 at the con (which would be about $13,000 in todays dollars, proving that the geek community has never been all that swift with their time and money … thank God).

Leomund’s Tiny Hut: Good Evening
by Lenard Lakofka

This was the first of the Leomund’s Tiny Hut’s, which were usually interesting articles that covered all sorts of gaming topics. This one, appropriately enough, is about vampires. It digs into the AD&D vampire, going in depth on its abilities and answering questions gamers might have had about the monster. For example:

1) Once the vampire’s hit points are calculated (it has 8+3 HD), they do not vary – i.e. you do not re-roll hit points when it regenerates in its coffin. Back in the day, there was an idea that adventurer’s re-rolled their hit points for each adventure (an idea I actually kind of like – to represent when people are super on their game, and when they aren’t).

2) Vampires don’t want too many lesser vampires under their control – really no more than 4. It sounds like the vampire wants to make sure there are plenty of living people to feed on, so he has to take care. Like a shepherd and his flock. And lesser vampires don’t create more lesser vampires.

3) Here’s one that got me: “The Vampire’s existence on the Negative Material Plane …” Wow – dig the idea. Maybe it was widespread. A negative material plane, duplicate of our own in some ways – but probably a nightmarish version – inhabited by the undead who also have an existence in the positive material plane. Neat. And what a great place to set an epic adventure!

4) It takes 1-4 segments for a vampire to transform (a segment is a second, for those not steeped in the timekeeping of AD&D), but only 4 if the vampire is surprised. After one segment to adjust, it can be mobile. When a combat round was predicated on segment-by-segment actions, this would be valuable information.

5) It still takes a magic weapon to damage a vampire in bat form.

6) A vampire in gaseous form “scattered to the four winds” can reform in 1-100 segments (i.e. less than 2 minutes). Also – DM’s should pre-set a hit point total at which a vampire will go gaseous.

He also gives some ideas about how to properly dispose of vampires, the spells they are immune to, details on regeneration, “lesser” vampires, summoning and charming, etc. It reminds me of the “Ecology of …” articles they used to do.

Observer’s Report: ORIGINS: Chaos With a Happy Ending
by Fantasysmith

To begin with, a note:

“This OBSERVER’S REPORT is written by the same person that does FANTASYSMITH’S NOTEBOOK. He prefers to do both under the pseudonym FANTASYSMITH, for reasons that he has made clear to us, and which we will honor.”

I think I just realized that Fantasysmith was, in actuality, Richard Nixon! I have no proof yet, but I’m launching a new Kickstarter to raise $1 million to help me get to the truth.

And now, I have to quote the first line of the article:

“Fluid sugar draws bees, fluid filth draws flies, and fluid situations attract the chaotic. This last was the case at ORIGINS ’79.”

Sheer poetry.

And now, an advert …

Cool module. Cool art. And remember, “tell them you saw it in The Dragon”.

From the Sorcerer’s Scroll: New Setting for the Adventure
by Gary Gygax

Here, Gygax talks about the relationship between TSR and TSR Periodicals, and his relationship as publisher vs. Tim Kask as editor and … yeah, I know. Who cares?

He then talks about the “Mugger” article from a couple issues back, and how it is both funny and great inspiration to look at different settings for games, in this case, the mean urban streets. Gary also gives us the lowdown on an adventure he’s working on in which adventurers in a city in the World of Greyhawk delve under that city and somehow end up in a subway tunnel in the modern world. He gives these guides for the particulars:

– In the city setting, magic will work, although cleric spells above third level will not. Of course, firearms also work.

– The perils of the place — police, street gangs, muggers, criminals of other sorts, citizens with
karate training or able to box, those with guard dogs, etc. — will be numerous and different.

– Weapons aren’t difficult to rate according to damage. Electricity will be interesting — low-tension AC giving but 1d6 damage (4d6 if the party is well grounded), low-tension DC doing 1d6 each segment until the victim is freed, and high-tension DC doing 1d20 in the same manner.

– Cars will inflict 1d4 damage for each 10 mph of speed. Small trucks will get a d6, large ones a d8, and trains a d10 for each 10 mph.

– Each special character (guard, policeman, street tough, mugger, etc.) will be given a level roughly corresponding to those of AD& characters, although the type of dice used will be non-standard.

– If the adventurers survive and manage to return to their own place in the multiverse, they will have little in the way of treasure — at least in all probability. Firearms will not work in the World of Greyhawk, of course.

He ends by pointing out that Schick and Moldvay make some of the heroes in their Giants in the Earth series too powerful. Now’s a good time for me to preview the way I’m rating fictional and real NPC’s in GRIT & VIGOR – by the number of years they’ve been active:

The New, Improved Ninja
by Sheldon Price

This is a set of rules extensions for the ninja class, which was published at some point in the past – I don’t remember the issue, and they don’t mention it here.

This version of the ninja is based on the book NINJA: The Invisible Assassins by Andrew Adams, published in 1970 by O’Hara Publications, Inc. of Los Angeles, California. Yeah – you can get it at Amazon.com.

The article starts out with weaponry. Here are some highlights:

In the hands of a ninja, the hankyu (short bow) fires at twice the normal rate.

There is a 5% chance per day of searching that a ninja can find 1d6 plants that work as caltrops.

It takes one week, and costs 2 sp, to make metal claws for the hands and feet.

Staves had small missiles attached to one end that could be thrown by flicking the staff.

Poison water guns have a range of 60′, and produce a cone of water 10′ wide at the base and 60′ high. The main use is to blind eyes – it takes 1d12 rounds to clear the eyes.

The weird signs the ninja makes (called kuji-kiri) are not magical, but they restore his morale and entrance non-ninjas (saving throw allowed).

Ninjas have two kinds of sandals – essentially they can replace the soles. One gave better traction, the other a more silent step.

Ninja can wear up to chainmail, and they can pad it so it remains silent without adding encumbrance.

Ninja can foretell the weather in the short term. Which is nice, because when assassination just ain’t paying, they can becomes TV weathermen.

They are also “earth aware” – can find good places for ambushes – and “man aware” – can manipulate people.

There is a huge list of special ninja equipment, from special torches to swimming flippers and rocket arrows.

There is a section on poison (the substance, not the metal band). Gyokuro is a poison that causes slow death – it kills the ill in a few days, and the healthy in 70. Wouldn’t that be a fun way to end a PC’s life. “Sorry Bill, you suddenly collapse dead in the street while haggling over that beaver tail soup. Turns out a ninja poisoned you a couple adventures back.”

Ninjas can make laugh-inducing poisons at level 4, sleep-inducing poisons at level 6, and insanity-inducing poisons at level 8.

Ninjas also have healing abilities, mostly on themselves, but I would think they would work on others.

Basically, ninjas are awesome.

Lankhmar: The Formative Years of “Fafhrd” and “The Mouser”
by Dr. Franklin C. MacKnight

For those not in the know, Lankhmar is not only the setting of Fritz Leiber’s stories of Fafhrd and the Mouser, but also a game. This article is written by a friend of his, and thus witnessed the birth of the Nehwon stories and the game. From the author:

Lankhmar wasn’t just a game, it was an adventure. The pieces were not mere abstractions, but heroes with personalities with which one identified. It provided an esthetic thrill unequaled in my experience in any other game anywhere.”

Starring Barry Gibb as Fafhrd

Add Lankhmar to the list of games I want to play. The article goes on to explain how the game was originally played (before it was turned into something more commercially viable in 1976 – see HERE).

We also get this tidbit about Harry Otto Fischer:

“Harry not only looked like Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy but had a similarly extroverted temperament and wit. The famous puppet could have been copied from him!”

The article is a must read for folks who love the stories. Great background stuff.

Design Forum: Boot Hill? Sure! But What Scale?
by Ralph Wagner

That title is such an artifact of its time. We don’t live in a magazine world anymore, and whenever something passes from now to then to what, so many little things pass with it. I’m only 43 years old, but the then I was born into is rapidly becoming a what. I think my childhood and the childhood of people born in 1900 have more in common than my childhood and people born just 20 years later.

Oh – the article. It’s about what scale miniatures to use with Boot Hill. Personally, I would have gone with these bad boys:

Found at Etsy … already sold. Damn.

Designer’s Notes: Flattop: A Long Game but a Strong Game
by S. Craig Taylor, Jr.

This is a discussion of Flattop, a game that covers the Coral Sea-Solomon Islands geography during 1942, specifically the three carrier-to-carrier battles of that year, Coral Sea, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz. Mr. Taylor was the game’s designer and developer, and he has a few insights about it, in particular about victory points and the difficulty in writing a truly original game. Sounds like a pip. And a great cover, by the way.

Up on a Soap Box: Standardization vs. Playability
by Bob Bledsaw

He discusses the value of standardization in a game, but also its limitations. Wow – I’m sure you didn’t see that coming. Mostly, he describes how he does his own campaigns – how he handles the races and technology and religion. Could be some useful stuff to the newbies – after all, at this point almost everyone playing the game was a newbie. By being a basic framework, D&D opened the doors to a whole new world, and everyone was feeling out what they could and couldn’t do in that world.  What a great time.

And look at this little ad that popped up on page 21:

Things are about to get weird. If you are reading this and haven’t heard of Arduin, look it up.

Armies of the Renaissance
by Nick Nascati

This is Part V, and covers the armies of Eastern Europe – Poland, Hungary, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It’s a good article – one page, two column, and covers the basic very nicely. What if we came up with a big d% table with 100 entries that determined a first level fighter’s starting equipment, based on various historical warriors (and maybe Buck Rogers thrown in just for fun). Might have to do that for the blog.

Tournament Success in Six Steps
by Jon Pickens

Tournaments were such a big deal in the old days. I wasn’t a con-goer then (or now, to be honest), so my only exposure to them at all was in some of the old AD&D modules I owned, which had a section on using the module in a tournament, with the points scores, etc.

Here a quick version of Jon’s rules for success:

1) Get in – i.e. sign up for a game. If you don’t get in the first round, sign up for the second.

2) Use magic to get rid of obstacles that would take too long to overcome the old fashioned way.

3) Have a plan (always a good idea).

4) Pay attention to the DM, and if something seems amiss, question him. He might only give out certain bits of information if the right questions are asked.

5) Don’t waste time.

6) Never quit – avoid combat as much as possible, but if you have to do it, do it with extreme prejudice.

Finally, never argue with the DM. If you think he or she screwed up, bring it up politely.

Out on a Limb

Ah – letters to the editor time. Here’s a dandy:

Q: “Something has been bothering me about the Druid class in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. That is, I know of a couple of people in Chapel Hill who don’t know each other, but they are both the ‘Great Druid’.

A: “The stricture regarding the number of high level Druids is on a per world basis.”

He kindly didn’t add, “dumbass”.

Geek Rage of the Week:

“En garde, Master Rahman and those of you who defend such shoddy pieces of work such as Bakshi’s. (I’ll refrain from referring to it as the ‘Lord of the Rings’).”

Good Advice of the Week:

“It is my contention that all “good” referees should make it their duty to change large portions of the concepts presented in any given role-playing game.”

Terrible Augury of the Future:

“As you may have noticed last month, Wormy has returned. Wormy’s creator got married and moved to California, but he promises that Wormy is back to stay. As to more of Dave’s art, that is up to him and his job in CA. One can always hope . . .”

Cool ad for Dragon Tooth Fantasy Figures:

I haven’t done a random encounter table based on a mini’s ad in a while, so here goes:

d10

1. Rogue or thief (roll 1d4 for level) in leather doublet with short sword, mounted on light warhorse. Wears cloak and floppy hat. Will do anything to steal your purse.

2. Sorcerer (roll 1d5 for level) in the middle of casting one of his highest level spells. Will be extremely cross if you mess it up.

3. Swordsman (roll 1d6 for level) armed with sword and spear.

4. Rictus, the Zombie King; zombie with 12 HD and the strength of a hill giant (+4 damage).

5. Swordsman Kane, a neutral evil 8th level fighter from the terrible north, escaping his love of a good woman who threatened to turn his heart to good. Has +1 scale mail and greatsword.

6. Sorceress (roll 1d8 for level); she holds the mystic Moon Staff of Myrmidor, which can cast all sorts of cool light spells, and confusion and which can cast hold monster, at will, against lycanthropes. She rides a light warhorse.

7. Cleric in mitre with mace. Roll 1d10 for level. He is suffering a crisis of conscience, as he caught mother superior stealing milk and didn’t damn her.

8. Fool or jester, recently released from his master’s service and very hungry. He is a 1st level assassin.

9. Bard or harpist (roll 1d12 for level) in puffy velvet clothes and a great hat. He carries a silver longsword and a golden lyre that charms fey, 4/day. He rides a dapple grey light warhorse. He is arrogant and good-natured.

10. Swordsman Roland (level 9 fighter), with scale mail, +2 shield (axes stick to it on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6) and a major chip on his shoulder towards paladins and rangers (they think they’re so awesome).

Also, found this old issue of Popular Mechanics about painting Dragon Tooth miniatures.

Also, dig this 1978 catalog (which I’ve probably already posted at some point).

Giants in the Earth
by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay

This edition of G in the E features Piers Anthony’s Sol of All Weapons (LN 20th level fighter, 14th level monk), Tanith Lee’s Zorayas (LE 23rd level magic-user) and Clark Ashton Smith’s Maal Dweb (LE 20th level magic-user).

I dug the little advert for Cities, by Stephen Abrams. I did a search and found that he did a few versions of this book, including one for Runequest. I think I’m going to by myself one. I’m intrigued. If I do, I’ll post a review.

The Dragon’s Augury

The games reviewed in this issue are Spellmaker reviewed by Bruce Boegman, Black Hole reviewed by David Cook and Down Styphon reviewed by Kenneth Hulme.

Spellmaker (1978, by Eric Solomon) pits powerful wizards against one another, trying to transport a princess to their castle to win the game. The reviewer calls it a “rare gem”, and I must admit, it sounds pretty cool. The spells are card-based, and I’d love to see a deck of them.

Black Hole (1978, by Robert A Taylor) pits two mining cartels against one another to capture a donut-shaped asteroid with a black hole tethered in the middle. The review is positive, so it might be a good con game for two.

Down Styphon! (1977, by Mike Gilbert) sounds pretty interesting. It is based on the book Lord Kalven of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper, in which a Penn. State trooper is transported to a parallel earth where the secret of gunpowder is controlled by a bunch of priests. The trooper knows how to make gunpowder, better weapons and he knows something about the “future” of warfare. The game is a miniatures wargame in the musket and pike era. It is apparently a very playable game with only OK layout and some missing stats for artillery (which are provided in the review).

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Orlow’s Inventions Can Liven Up Your Life
by William Fawcett

This article could be a great blog post – a random list of minor magic items that include spoons of stirring, brooms of sweeping, needles of sewing, amulets of caterpillar control, socks of dryness and matches of many lights. This stuff would be so great for putting in a wizard’s tower. Just awesome – if you can find a copy of this issue, find it for this. I’d post the random table, but it’s a little more than I’d be comfortable sharing considering the mag is copyrighted.

So, Different Worlds gaming mag. Never heard of this. I hunted down some descriptions, and apparently some issues you can still buy. I love the art in the ad, and would love to see a sample issue in PDF. There is so much buried treasure out there for gaming!

I also have to share this ad, for on heck of an artist for hire …

… who is still out there working, thankfully.

Dig Tramp’s minotaur in Wormy. So cool.

Dragon’s Bestiary: The Curst
by Ed Greenwood

I’m not sure if this is the first thing in the magazine by Ed Greenwood or not. The curst are still roaming about in the Forgotten Realms setting. Humanoids (98% are human stock) that have been cursed and cannot die, they are chaotic neutral, retain their class abilities except psychic powers and magic, gain infravision 90′ and apparently have no sense of smell. In modern parlance, they would be a “template”.

Finieous Fingers shows us what failing a surprise roll looks like.

And that does it for The Dragon #30. A pretty good issue, overall, with lots of interesting artifacts of the old days of gaming that I love. Seriously – find a copy and check out the minor magic items article – well worth it.

The Greyhawk Tomb of Horrors Company – A Campaign Notion

I’m still reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (it’s not a small book), and I’m now reading about the various merchant companies that held monopolies to trade with various colonies of the U.K. This got me thinking about using a similar concept in fantasy rpg’s.

In this case, you would have countries or city-states establish control over a mega-dungeon and the immediate region around it. This actually makes some sense, when you consider the incredible wealth (monetary and magical) held in a mega-dungeon. For a fun campaign, you would probably want to establish multiple mega-dungeons in a campaign world, with different countries controlling them.

Each of these mega-dungeons has a different adventurer company that holds a monopoly on its exploration and exploitation, with a percentage of all proceeds going to the government that gave it the charter. The adventurer company might be a joint stock company, in which different NPC’s (wealthy merchants, sinister types, aristocrats, and the adventurers themselves) hold stock, with an annual dividend based on how well the adventurers have done in their explorations. The adventurer company could have multiple adventurers in it, of varying levels – so players could have multiple adventurers, bringing new ones in at times as old adventurers die off or rise to higher levels and need apprentices and squires.

Moreover, as the adventurers hit the name levels, the strongholds they establish could be in the region of the mega-dungeon, as a means for the company to control the area. Of course, rival nations would want to wrest control of the dungeon away from the company and its country, so now wargaming can enter into the campaign. The adventurers might also get involved in conquering other mega-dungeons, and even establishing their own companies to exploit them.

As adventurers become more wealthy, they can attempt to buy more shares in the company, maybe rising the level of directors and having to engage in all the intrigue that surrounds big money and royal courts.

I imagine this could make for a fun framework for running a campaign.

Dragon by Dragon – September 1977 (9)

Let’s get right into it, shall we? Because the first page we see past the cover is this …

Let the edition wars begin, I guess. Note the “For 3 or more adult players” [emphasis mine]. TSR would learn a little something about the purchasing power of the younger set in a few years.

The second page is an ad for 25 mm Minifigs D&D miniatures, which such evocative names as “5 Different Hobgoblins” and “10 Kobolds”. You can see some painted versions HERE, HERE (didn’t know hobgoblins were so randy) and HERE.

OK – to the meat of the issue. Our first offering is from Gygax, and is entitled Varied Player Character and Non-Player Character Alignment in the Dungeons & Dragons Campaign. The article is about the problems that alignment presents to DM’s. The line that caught my attention early in the article was:

“The most common problem area seems to lie in established campaigns with a co-operating block of players, all of whom are of like alignment. These higher level player characters force new entrants into the same alignment, and if the newcomers fail to conform they dispatch them.”

Nice to know that DM’s used to have help from the players in terms of managing alignment. It sounds like players with high-level characters could be real dicks back in the day.

Also interesting was this, about Gary’s Greyhawk Campaign:

“The Greyhawk Campaign is built around the precept that “good” is the desired end sought by the majority of humanity and its allied races (gnomes, elves, et al.). I have this preference because the general aim is such that more than self-interest (or mental abberation) motivates the alignment. This is not to say that a war of lawful good against chaotic good is precluded, either or both opponents being allied with evil beings of lawful or chaotic alignment. What is said is that most planned actions which are written into the campaign are based on a threat to the overall good by the forces of evil.”

Probably sounds a bit rail-roady to some of the old schoolers out there. If I’m honest, the article somewhat meanders a bit and didn’t really teach me much on its professed subject, other than to conclude that a variety of alignments is a good thing in a campaign. So that’s settled.

Next up is the continuation of The Finzer Family, the longest damn story I think I ever saw in a Dragon Magazine. I’m going to skip the continuation, just as I skipped the first part, but I will draw notice to this:

The gaming world is taking shape!

I’m going to post this next ad for miniatures because, frankly, they’re pretty dang nice. I tried to find some painted samples online, but came up short.

Almost 20 pages later, we’re finally done with the Finzer Family, and onto an article by MAR Barker entitled Seal of the Imperium. The article is designed to answer reader questions, but the first declaration of Prof. Barker is an interesting one regarding the difference between “real” Tekumel and the “game” Tekumel:

“Just to point up the contrasts, let me cite some differences: (a) “real” Tékumel has a lot less magic and magical paraphernalia lying about than one picks up in the game — with all the Thoroughly Useful Eyes and spells of revivification possible in the game, no citizen of Tsolyánu would ever have to die! — and there would be heaps of treasure and goodies for all”

The eternal problem with D&D. As Prof. Barker explains:

“All of these things, plus the ever-useful Divine Intervention, make it a LOT easier to succeed in the game than in “real” Tsolyánu. The same is true of “Monopoly” or “Alexander the Great”; games abstract, simplify, and simulate only those parts of “reality” which the designer feels are crucial.”

In other words – “Don’t sweat it, it’s just a game”. Good advice, then and now.

Brian Blume now rides in with The Fastest Guns that Never Lived (Part II), a list of actors from old westerns, along with their stats for Boot Hill. You have no idea how much this makes me wish I had the Boot Hill rules, just for the chance to put the Cisco Kid and Poncho on the trail of Lee Van Cleef.

James M. Ward now presents Tombs & Crypts. It’s a neat little graph for randomly generating the contents of a tomb or crypt. The table allows one to roll a d12 to get a set of modifiers for several other tables that determine the treasure in the crypt (gold pieces, gems, jewelry, misc. magic items, special items and artifacts) as well as the guardian and structure of the tomb. I’ll reproduce those last two tables:

Guardian
01-30: None
31-50: Magic spell (wizard lock, curse, etc.)
51-80: Invisible stalkers (1d4)
81-99: Creature from the 6th level monster chart
100: A stronger monster + roll again for another guardian

Tomb Itself
01-40: 1 room/cave/mound of dirt
41-50: Hall with spring trap of some type and a secret door at the end of it
51-60: A 2-6 room/cave complex with many doors leading to other areas trying to lure the robbers away
61-80: 1-10 rooms/caves with a secret door to the tomb and 1-10 traps in the rooms
81-90: 1-10 rooms with 1-20 corridors, with 2-20 traps guarding the rooms and tombs and a secret door
91-99: 1-10 connecting rooms with traps, secret doors, and magical guard spells (wizard locks, symbols, etc.) guarding the way
100: 1-20 rooms with traps, secret doors, and a being guard. It requires a special word to open the final door to the tomb. The word should not be found in the tomb.

Next cool ad:


I found a shot of a painted one HERE.

Almost to the end, and I discover another famous first for Dragon …

When you combine Basic D&D, White Dwarf, Wormy and a long article about alignments, I think you might be able to peg September 1977 as the beginning of the modern era of D&D.

See you next week, when I give the Blood & Treasure mass combat rules a whirl with the Battle of Gaudin’s Ford, pitting a moot of halflings against a rampaging orc tribe.

Oh yeah – the cover – no room for it up above, but it is pretty groovy …

New game – stat the cover.

HORST HAMMERFIST, 5th level fighting-man with psionic powers, an amulet of advanced mathematics and a +2 ray gun of lightning.