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 – June 1978 (15)

First page of the magazine … Fantasy Air Cavalry from Ral Partha. It’s a good start, let’s see how they finish.

Best line in Kask’s editorial this time …

“In the past year, we have met and overcome all obstacles in our path save one: the U.S. Post Offal.”

The more things change …

First article is Dragon Magic by Michael Benveniste. This is in the D&D Variant series (God, I love seeing that in an official TSR publication).

“The magic used by dragons is tempered by their nature. Dragons
are creatures of rock and wind, having little use for plants and water.
They feel little need for offensive spells, believing that their own body
and deadly breath fulfill this need.”

What follows is a spell list for dragons, and this idea: All dragons have a secret name they will reveal to nobody, under no circumstances. A legend lore or wish reveals a clue, but not the name, nor does commune or similar spells. A limited wish just confirms or denies a guess. Speaking the dragon’s name dispels all of his spells, and allows the speaker to demand one – just one – service from that dragon. Nice concept for driving a game: “We can’t get to the top of the Godmountain without the help of the Dragon of Peaks, and to do that we need to learn its true name.”

The spell list has all sorts of new dragon spells, including 1st level – Breath Charm, Charm Avians, Evaluate Item, Locate Lair, Magic Pointer, Werelight; 2nd level – See Other Planes, Wall of Gloom, Weave Barrier, Weight Control (boy, could you make money selling this one, as long as no phen phen is involved); 3rd level – Binding Spell, Hold Mammal, Mesh, Negate Enchantment I, Revelation, Servant Summoning I, Water to Wine, Wood to Sand; 4th level – Attack Other Planes, Rock to Sand, Seek, Turn Magic, Work Weather. There are some great, evocative names in there, and the more I read, the more I liked the idea. One sample …

“Water to Wine: A dragon loves good wine. This spell allows the dragon to convert any water (including salt or tainted) to wine valued even by Elves. Amount: 20 gallons per age class.”

Up next are a couple more D&D Variants. First, we have Pits by Richard Morenoff. It’s a pretty neat set of random tables to determine the contents or type of a pit. One possibility is a “citizen”, which consists of the following: Pipeweed grower, shipbuilder, hatmaker, beer merchant, sculptor, fisherman, locksmith, tool merchant, weapon merchant, teacher, loan shark and trapper. Old D&D means that 1 in 1000 pits found in a dungeon holds a pipeweed grower.

N. Robin Crossby of Australia next presents Random Events Table for Settlements and/or Settled Areas. This one is based on the current season (word to the wise, Spring and Winter are safer than Summer and Autumn). There can never be enough tables like this.

James Ward is up next with Monty and the German High Command, another expose of the gaming goings-on within TSR in 1978. The accompanying illustration brings me joy …

This one involves some WW2 Germans facing off against orcs, storm giants, manticores, an EHP (if you don’t know, you need to study your D&D history a little more closely), a warlock, heroes and superheroes, and trolls, all in an attempt to take a castle.

Jim Ward also presents some thoughts on Wandering Monsters, providing a list of Fourth Level wandering monsters. Takes me back to the game’s origin as a, well, game.

Jeff Swycaffer now presents Notes From Another Barely Successful D&D Player, a follow-up to Ward’s article in issue II/7. He tells of playing a “Maladroit”, who can’t cast spells, fight for a damn, pick locks or lead men. Instead, he lies like a rug. Some good ideas here – worth a read.

Jerome Arkenberg writes The Gospel of Benwa (is he referring to … hmmm) in Dragon Mirth, in which he extoles the Benwanite Heresy, that holds that all the problems in the world are due to the struggle between the Gods of Law and Chaos, and that only victory by the Gods of Neutrality can end misery on earth.

Gygax‘s From the Sorcerer’s Scroll covers D&D Ground Area and Spell Area Scale. Herein, he claims the confusion of 1″ = 10 feet indoors and 1″ = 10 yards outdoors will be cleared up in ADVANCED DUNGEON & DRAGONS. He explains how this originally came to pass – namely that the original scale was 1″ = 10 yards in CHAINMAIL, and that the 1/3 scale was devised by Arneson when he turned the tunneling and mining rules of CHAINMAIL into the dungeon rules of what would become DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. He also explains here that one turn = one scale minute in CHAINMAIL, but that for dungeon movement it was altered to one turn = ten minutes, since mapping and and exploring in an underground dungeon is slow work. The key here is that area of effect is always 1″ = 10 feet, even outdoors. So, there you go.

David Tillery is next with Weather in the Wilderness. This always seems to be such an obvious thing to do, but it has rarely paid off for me in a game. I usually just roll for inclement weather conditions when there’s to be an outdoor fight, to make the fight more interesting. Tillery has a pretty solid system, it seems – reminds me of the World of Greyhawk system.

Next, we have an ad announcing “TWO IMPORTANT NEW RELEASES FROM TSR”, those releases being GAMMA WORLD (love the original font) and the AD&D Player’s Handbook.

Next, we have Stellar Conquest: Examining Movement Tactics by Edward C. Cooper. Since I don’t know the game, I won’t go into it much, but I did enjoy the art:

Not enough space ships have giant pincers, in my opinion.

Next we have some fiction by L. Sprague deCampThe Green Magician.

“In that suspended gray mists began to whirl around them, Harold moment when the Shea realized that, although the pattern was perfectly clear, the details often didn’t work out right.

It was all very well to realize that, as Doc Chalmers once said, “The world we live in is composed of impressions received through the senses, and if the senses can be attuned to receive a different series of impressions, we should infallibly find ourselves living in another of the infinite number of possible worlds.” It was a scientific and personal triumph to have proved that, by the use of the sorites of symbolic logic, the gap to one of those possible worlds could be bridged.”

Funny – I just read this bit recently.

Next up … Fineous Fingers runs away from Grond the Anti-Paladin.

After that, a full page pic of Wormy counting his gold over a backgammon board.

The next article is Random Encounters for BOOT HILL, by Michael E. Crane. This should be useful for folks who play Old West games. It includes such things as mounted bandits, homesteaders in wagons, unarmed clergy, soldiers, indians, etc.

And so ends the June 1978 issue of The Dragon!

L. Sprague DeCamp Is Awesome!

Okay, maybe the title of the post should be “Edd Cartier is Awesome!” My first introduction to Mr. DeCamp was in discussions of how he ruined REH’s Conan stories by over editing them. Knowing nothing else about the guy, I tended to look on him as a bit of a villain. Later, I discovered he was favored by EGG, and just finished reading his Harold Shea stories, which I found enjoyable. Then I discovered these delightful pieces of art by Edd Cartier at Golden Age Comic Book Stories (follow this blog if you follow nothing else) from a story called The Hand of Zei

 

 

 

 

 

Nobody who can write something that inspires these gonzo images can be all bad. I have to find a copy The Hand of Zei. I have to believe the fictional creators of Encounter Critical were inspired by this story when they were penning their magnum opus in the 1970’s.