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 – March 1981 (47)

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

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

‘The height of absurdity’

Dear Editor:

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

The height of absurdity indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air elementals do not favor the “flesh time”.

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

Neat ideas for fire plane monsters!

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

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

Dig this awesome art …

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

Here’s a slick excerpt:

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

Fire-gems for night hags. Nice.

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

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

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

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

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

In case you needed such a table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also a nice little Otus sketch:


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


You can pick up a used copy at Amazon.

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

Very Disney-esque, this one.

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