Today we move into the Summer of 1982, in which from sheer boredom nerds everywhere looked forward to the new Dragon magazine. After all, it’s not like there were any good movies or shows in ’82 …
Of course I’m joking – Airplane II was released in 1982. It was nice to see Shatner in a movie – he was otherwise pretty quiet that year.
Still – summer is a great time to nestle under the air conditioning and read – what did Dragon have to offer other than a famous and fantastic cover image?
First things first – I just found out something about this ad
Apparently, among those D&D players are Alan Ruck and Jami Gertz. Just found this out from Old School FRP on Tumblr. Gertz was super nerd-cute back in the day, if that makes any sense at all. And Ruck … hey, you know Cameron and Ferris played D&D at some point.
First cool article in this issue is on Faerie Dragons. I don’t know why, but I always loved faerie dragons in D&D – it may have been the illustration in Monster Manual II. I think I owned MM2 before I had the original Monster Manual, and I know I had it before I owned the Fiend Folio, so the monsters there loomed large in my estimation of the game. I also remember an exact copy of the MM2 faerie dragon appeared in a video game that a buddy and I used to play at 7-Eleven. It was a fantasy game, very anime in its feel, and I wish I knew the name of it. Maybe a reader knows?
Anyhow -the faerie dragon was created by Brian Jaeger, and until reading the article, I forgot about how they changed color as they aged. I think its a fantastic monster – well doen Mr. Jaeger.
The special dragons section in the mag also presents Steel Dragons by Pat Reinken (with a really cool illustration) and Grey Dragons with another cool illustration. I’m not sure about the artist – I feel like I should know that symbol, but it’s not coming to me.
Roger Moore then presents “Evil Dragon Armors” in the “Bazaar of the Bizarre”. Plate armor made from dragon scales is as D&D as heck, and one of the things the game should highlight more than it does – you know, those things that tap right into the imagination, things that every 12 year old knows is cool whether they’ve heard of D&D or not.
For fans of standardization, Gary Gygax presents some info on spellbooks – the types (standard and traveling, the traveling spellbook containing a fourth of the spells of a standard book), the cost (standard spellbooks cost 1000 gp for materials + 100 gp per spell level of spells contained within, traveling spellbooks are 500 gp + the same), the size (standard are 16″ tall, 12″ wide and 6″ thick, traveling 12″ tall, 6″ wide, 1″ thick) and so on. Great article for those who like the details, completely unnecessary for those who like to keep it light and imaginative.
This is followed up by four long-lost magical manuals in Ed Greenwood’s “Pages from the Mages”. I’ve mentioned this before, but while Forgotten Realms did nothing for me as a setting, Greenwood’s articles about the Realms were massively inspirational for me. They are all worth reading.
But wait – there’s more … the NPC class “The Scribe”, by Ed Greenwood. I was always hooked on NPC classes as a kid, and it killed me that I could see the names of classes in the Dragon indexes they would publish, but had no access to the classes that came along before I was a reader/subscriber. The scribe could actually be a pretty awesome companion to an adventuring party. They can wear any armor and use any weapon, but always attack as a first level fighter. So – not useless in a fight. On top of that, they have some neat special abilities involving writing, and can cast some spells from scrolls.
Roger Moore has another article in this, on the point of view of half-orcs and on the gods of the orcs. Again – great for their inspirational value even if you don’t want to use Moore’s concepts in your particular game. Here’s a neat bit from the article on the gods of the orcs:
“The division of orcs into separate tribes (Evil Eye, Death Moon, Broken Bone, etc.) is usually made along cult lines. The tribal symbol is the holy symbol of the orcish god the tribe holds as its patron. Each patron god seeks to make his followers more powerful than those of the others, since their own power derives from the relative power and might of their worshipers.”
Orc tribes are pawns of their gods, who care little for their followers beyond what they can do for the god. Why are the orcs causing trouble? Their god or goddess told them to – that’s all they need to know.
The magazine contains a full adventure for Top Secret set in Chinatown written by Jerry Epperson. I know little about the game, so I can’t really review it.
Gordon Linzner has a bit of fiction in the issue, “The Feline Phantom”. As is usual for this review series, I present the first paragraph:
“The river of school children flowed past her hips, occasionally rising to her ribs, but Evelyn Slade was exceptionally tall and stood firm against the current. The stream engulfed the monorail she’d just stepped from, then split into a score of individuals motivated by only one thought: Grab the best seat. All viewing locations were, by design, equally good; but try telling that to a nine-year-old New Yorker! Fortunately,
one ride above the Wild Asia exhibit — where Bronx Zoo visitors watched from mobile “cages” as animals roamed in comparative freedom — had proved sufficient.”
Lenard Lakofka presents magic for merchants in “Leomund’s Tiny Hut”. The idea is that members of merchant guilds can gain access to some simple spells, mostly cantrips, but also a few “mysteries” like alarm, appreciate, bell, drowsiness, glue, grab, hound, lapse, lock, pacify, panic and spin. Master guild members can get some 1st and 2nd level magic-user spells. There’s a part of me that likes the idea of lots of spellcasters floating around a campaign world, and another part of me that likes to keep magic more rare. For the former part of me, this is a groovy article.
Phil Meyers and Steve Bill present “Zadron’s Pouch of Wonders”. If you are familiar with AD&D, you’ll get the idea. Reach into the pouch and pull out a randomly determined something. I actually love that kind of stuff – spices up a game and creates wonderful surprises.
After the reviews, we get some Wormy – the cyclops and his cyclops dog are playing D&D …
… plus some ideas on strength by Phil and Dixie, and a few cartoons in Dragon Mirth.
Glory be – I finally have enough time this weekend to do another Dragon by Dragon, this one on issue #53 from September 1981.
The first thing I noticed about this issue was the cover. This was not an issue I had as a young nerd, but the cover painting by Clyde Cauldwell, which makes it seem very familiar.
I started playing D&D in 1984, introduced by a friend, Josh Tooley, in 6th grade. He watched his older brother play with some friends, and so with a hand-drawn map on notebook paper, a d6 and a vague recollection of what went on, he ran me through a dungeon during recess. I was hooked, and convinced my parents to get me the game – in this case Moldvay Basic purchased at Toys ‘r’ Us – for Christmas. Good times.
So, let’s see what TSR had to offer 35 years ago.
One of the best things about these magazines in the old days were the advertisements. All these games – and God knew what they were – with all this art. It was all so new to me when I was a kid. Take this ad from I.C.E.
I never had any of their games, but I always admired the art in the adverts – and can you have a cooler name for a company than Iron Crown Enterprises?
Jake Jaquet’s editorial this issue was just the tip of the iceberg …
“There is a bit of a new trend in gaming that I find a bit disturbing, and perhaps it should be food for thought for all of us. I refer to the recent interest in so-called “live” games, especially of the “assassin” or “killer” varieties.”
I remember back in 7th grade some kids running T.A.G. – The Assassinatiom Game. All who participated had to draw the name of another player and kill them – which meant pointing at them and saying “bang”. The victim would then hand his slip over to his assassin, and so it would go until the game was over. Alas, but 2nd period it was all over – a couple morons tried to assassinate their victims in class, and the administration called the game off. I suppose now we would have all been expelled.
Enough of this memory lane stuff, let’s get on to the offerings:
“Why Isn’t This Monk Smiling?” by Philip Meyers brings up the shortcomings of the monk class, and tries to improve on it. The point is actually well made – the idea of suffering through many very weak levels to be powerful at high levels may appear balanced, but it doesn’t work well in practice. To fix things, Philip introduces a new level advancement chart, plays with the rate at which the monk improves its abilities, and adds some new special abilities, some of them psychic. He also makes it easier for the monk to hit those higher levels, without always having to fight another monk.
The monk isn’t out of the fire yet. Steven D. Howard writes in “Defining and Realigning the Monk” a few questions and answers about the monk, mostly to cover why they can’t do some things (answer – I guess it wouldn’t be lawful) and how to once again handle the whole limited number of monks over 7th level. This issue’s Sage Advice keeps the hits coming, with more discussion of the good old monk.
Dude – I had those. Still have some of them, as a matter of fact. Love that packaging, and I always dug that logo.
Next up is Andrew Dewar’s “The Oracle”. This character class always seems like a obvious choice for gaming, but because it deals with the future (which turns out, it is not possible to predict), pulling it off is always tough, both in terms of the abilities, and making it a playable class. Of course, the oracle here is an “NPC class”, meaning not meant for players, but we all played them anyways.
The oracle can cast divination spells, and can use some other divination abilities. It must have an Int and Wis of 14 or higher. Oracles can be human, elf or half-elf. Advancing beyond 11th level requires the oracle to challenge a higher level oracle to a game of riddles (which makes no sense if this is an NPC class … and there is actually half a page spent discussing advancing in level over 11th level).
The innate abilities are various forms of divination – rhabdomancy, arithomancy, etc. – which the class has a percentage chance of using successfully at different levels.
Lewis Pulsipher has a nice introduction to heraldry in “Understanding Armory”. It’s a great primer for those interested in the subject.
Roger E. Moore has the lowdown on “Some Universal Rules – Making Your Own Campaign – and Making It Work”, which covers exactly what he says. He gives a step-by-step on how he designed an original campaign world, based on nothing but his imagination. He also gives a nice set of ways from getting from one universe to another:
1. Cross-universal caves – always go from one world to another.
2. Teleport chains – a length chain of a weird metal that, when surrounding a group and the ends joined pops them into another world.
3. Rings or amulets – like the fabled Ring of Gaxx
4. Rooms and corridors at the bottom of a dungeon
5. Cursed scrolls
6. Angry wizard with a new spell
8. Magical items causing etherealness
9. Psionic probability travel
10. Magic spells (astral spell, plane shift)
11. Mutational planar travel (i.e. Gamma World)
13. Advanced technology
14. Acts of the gods
He also notes Dorothy’s ruby slippers
Judith Sampson has a really interesting article called “Adventuring With Shaky Hands”, in which she describes playing the game with choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy. Worth a read.
In “Larger than Life”, David Nalle covers “The Bogatyrs of Old Kiev”. Here are a few highlights:
Prince Vladimir I, The Saint, is a LG 13th level fighter in +5 chainmail with a +3/+4 broad sword. Ilya Muromets is a LG 20th level fighter – a Cossack with long blond hair – with a mace that scores 2d10 damage.
He also has stats for Baba Yaga, though I don’t know how they compare to the later version in the famous Dancing Hut adventure.
Speaking of adventures, this issue has “The Garden of Nefaron”by Howard de Wied. This adventure won first place in the Advanced Division IDDC II, so it has that going for it, which is nice. This puppy includes some wilderness and a dungeon, and is meant for a large group of relatively high level characters. It also includes some nice Jim Holloway art, one of my faves.
The dungeon has a ki-rin as its caretaker, there are corridors and rooms filled with magic mists, illusions and a really great map (with Dyson-esque cross-hatching).
#53 also has some Top Secret material by Merle M. Rasmussen, with scads of spy equipment.
The Dragon’s Bestiary covers Argas (by James Hopkins II), lawful good reptilian humanoids that gain powers from devouring magic, Oculons (by Roger E. Moore), which are enchanted monsters created by magic-users as guardians (and which look super cool) and Narra (by Jeff Goetz), which are lawful human-headed bulls.
Len Lakofka has some extensive info on doors in his Tiny Hut and Matt Thomas does some work on the AD&D disease rules in “Give Disease a Fighting Chance”.
If you like triffids, you’ll like “The Way of the Triffids” by Mark Nuiver. Let’s do a triffid in Blood & Treasure stats:
Type: Small to Large
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 7
Attack: Stinger (10′/1d3 + poison)
Alignment: Neutral (N) with evil tendencies
No. Appearing: 1
They can hide in foliage with 94% chance of success, and they attack with a stinger. The stinger requires two saves vs. poison. If the first is saved, it means instant death. If the second is failed it means blindness and 2d4 additional points of damage.
For the Traveller fans, Dennis Matheson presents “Merchants Deserve More, Too”, which covers character creation for merchants.
Another great ad. I’d dig one of these shirts.
Besides reviews and such, that’s it for September 1981 … except for the comics.Here’s a dandy from Will McLean …
And though no Wormy this month, here’s one of the nifty D&D comics by Willingham …
If I hadn’t been so busy with writing 2nd editions, I could have done this review in the same month it was published, just 35 years later. Oh well – can’t always get things done as quickly as you would like. On with the review …
Let us begin with one of my favorite bits of old D&D lore – the definitive statement regarding make believe:
“First, an AD&D magic-user is not a fighting class. He or she resorts to a dagger, dart or quarter staff as a last resort. His or her main interest (read, only interest) is magic.”
In “Make Your Own Aliens” by Roger E. Moore we have a nice set of table for making random alien species for Traveller. You don’t see too many “modern” issues of Dragon kicking off with articles for a non-TSR game, and there are more to come. As to the article’s utility, let’s make a random alien:
Our new species lives primarily on land. They have bilateral symmetry and one brain, so they probably won’t be too alien to us. Their brain is in a head, they have no tail and they have 2 feet (I’m starting to think I’m randomly creating human beings). They have 2 arms … but only three fingers and toes on each hand/foot. They also have plantigrade feet which are more like paws than human feet. These aliens are omnivorous hunters, so they are communal, cooperative and aggressive. They weight 50 kg (or 110 lb.) on average. They have no natural weaponry or armor and are covered with feathers or down. They are warm-blooded creatures, give live birth and have two sexes. Their primary sense is auditory, and unlike humans they have light-enhancing vision and heat-tolerant tactile sense.Their auditory organs on on their body rather than head. The roll of the dice say they don’t have any special abilities, but I’m going to roll one anyways and come up with a chameleon-like body covering.
Not too bad – quite a few rolls, but not too many. I’m deciding they are mostly covered with down that can change color to blend in with woodland settings. They have a mane of longer feathers around their neck, and this is what they hear through. I’ll assume they are a primitive people – something like bad-ass barbarians – who are hired as mercenaries by criminal types as body guards.
This article is followed by four more Traveller articles, including one by Marc Miller. Since I’ve never played the game, I can’t really tell you if they’re great or not, but if you play the game, checking out this issue may be worth your while.
At this point, it’s worth noting a couple ads of interest. The first is a sign that the big boys were getting interested in this weird D&D thing that was all the rage … Mattel’s Dungeons & Dragons game! It looks like a real hoot – just a wee bit before I was aware of the game, so I don’t remember seeing any. Alas.
Our next ad of interest comes from Mr. Arneson and Mr. Snyder – Adventures in Fantasy, a complete and consistent system of fantasy rpgs (no shot intended there, I’m sure). This is the second edition of the game, produced after Arneson bought back the rights from Excalibur Games using his settlement money from TSR. Ah – the drama of the rpg industry!
Up next we get back into D&D territory with William Lenox‘s Winged Folk, a new monster. They look like humans with wings, and they are essentially humans with wings with slightly better Hit Dice and AC. Great art with the article, though, and I like the bit about females have 1d4+1 carvings made from wood, gems, etc. Of course, there will only ever be one group of winged folk for me.
Hell yeah! These guys also get some info on being used as playable race, and honestly, the art by Todd Lockwood is pretty great.
Lakofka has an article about what it takes for a character to become 1st level. It gives some XP requirements to become 1st level, after going through a couple pre-1st level stages. Fighters, for example, can begin as 0-level recruits, then move on to becoming 0-level men-at-arms before finally becoming 1st level veterans. I think I like the level titles best (of course I would). It has a bit more about running 0-level characters – good stuff.
If you’re into RuneQuest, or just dig their rules for cults you should check out Eric Robinson’s “The Worshippers of Ratar” for an example of one
I know nothing of Metagaming’s MicroGame #2: Chitin, so I can’t comment much on the article “A New Breed of Bug” by Ben Crowell, but I do like the art by Paul Jaquays.
Up next are two articles addressing the Lawful Good alignment, and specifically how it impact paladins. This was always a popular topic in the old days – much argued over, much lamented. The prolific Roger E. Moore wrote “It’s Not Easy Being Good” and Robert J. Bezold added “Thou Shalt Play This Way: Ten Commandments for Paladins”. I can only imagine how many letters in subsequent issues of Dragon will address these articles.
If you like mini-games, you’ll like this issue, for it includes “Search for the Emperor’s Treasure”. It has a map and counters and looks like it’s lots of fun.
How about this questionaire in this issue’s The Electronic Eye?
How many big disks do you have? Paddles?
Also, special mention for the most tortured spelling of “Basics” ever …
The winged folk were a bonus in this issue, because we still get a “Dragon’s Bestiary” by Mark Cummings. He created a fun monster called the Dark Dweller, close kin to trolls, but 1000 times better because of this …
Yep, they ride the Antrodemus dinosaur! Underground!! This issue also has stats for Pirahna Bats!!! Good for the DM, bad for the players.
All in all, I declare this a groovy issue, mostly for the monsters, all of which would have a place in my campaigns.
As always, I leave you with Tramp.
That Wormy will never be a theatrical animated film is really sad. Sometimes, stories don’t have happy endings.
May of 1981 saw me turn 9. I hadn’t heard of D&D back then (and wouldn’t for another 3 years), but if I had heard of D&D, and subscribed to Dragon Magazine, this is what would have shown up in my mailbox that month.
Pretty cool cover, right? There’s more inside, in a 12-page section dedicated to the work of Tim Hildebrandt.
Of course there’s more than just my Hildebrandt in this issue … let’s check it out.
First up is a new ad by Ral Partha, this time featuring their new line-up of Adventurers miniatures. I got curious this time and decided to look up Ral Partha’s address – 5938 Carthage Ct, Cincinnati OH.
It came up with this impressive edifice:
I’ll show off a few more old RPG addresses in this post if I get a chance.
Now that we’ve looked at Ral Partha’s old digs, let’s get to the fun of complaining readers, in this case William G. Welsh, on the archer class in last issue:
“Second — “Kobolds, goblins, dwarves, gnomes and halflings cannot become archers.” In the last chapter of the third book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are no less than three incidents where the effectiveness of hobbit archers is demonstrated. Also, refer to the AD&D Monster Manual, p. 50, under halflings, under special attacks, note “+3 with bow or sling.”
This stuff kills me. The answer from the editor was:
“None of the ideas presented in articles in DRAGON magazine are official rule changes or additions, unless the article specifically says so (and there haven’t been very many of those). The people who write articles that we publish aren’t trying to get everyone to play the way they do, and we certainly don’t hold that opinion ourselves. As is the case with many of the game rules themselves, the articles in DRAGON magazine are suggestions, ideas and alternatives.”
It amazes me when that has to be said, but if comment sections on the internet have done anything, it’s to prove that things like that still need to be said. Could various school systems around the globe please spend a few minutes explaining to people what “opinion” means?
The meat and drink of this issue, other than the special art section, is about tournaments. No, not knights trying to poke each other with lances and Robin Hood splitting an arrow, but D&D tournaments. If I’m honest … I have no interest at all in them, but I’ll try to give them a quick review.
The first article discusses fairness in scoring tournaments, giving a long list of actions that should go into scoring points, and explaining that DM’s need to make sure players know how they’ll be scored. Sounds logical to me.
The next bit discusses improving on the Slave Pits tournament adventure, followed by Mentzer’s reply that “It isn’t that easy”. I can remember getting the Slave Pits module as a kid (I guess about 4 years after this issue was published) and being confused about the whole tournament concept – how you didn’t use the full map, and scored things. As a kid, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to care about this stuff or not.
Strangely enough, the article complaining about the adventure is really complaining about the size of the teams in the AD&D Open, specifically that nine-person teams are too large. Mentzer explains the problem – not enough Dungeon Masters at the tournaments. Can’t argue with that.
Old Horny indeed. Let’s hope those horns on his head were the source of his nickname. And here, keeping with the theme of this post, is Dragontooth Miniatures old location:
Or is it? A Hilton? I’m thinking perhaps the old building was torn down and replaced. That, or Conrad Hilton had a secret hobby.
The next few articles are a bit too timely to make sense to talk about here – GenCon is growing, , GenCon East fills the Origins ‘hole’ (I’m sure that’s not as filthy as it sounds) and there are nine ways to win the painting contest at GenCon.
Okay, enough of that convention stuff. Next up: Samurai!
This is an interesting take on the character class. The editor’s note mentions that the author, Anthony Salva, holds a first degree black belt in Hapkido. The class that follows is heavily influenced by this, and it’s really a bit more like an alternate monk than the samurai most people would expect.
That said, it’s a pretty groovy class. It’s tough to make it in – you need Str 15, Dex 17 and Int 15 to qualify, but the class is open to gnomes, halflings, elves, half-elves and humans.
This version of the samurai cannot use armor, but his AC improved by 1 per 4 levels. They can use two-handed swords, short swords, bows and staffs, and a samurai of 4th level or higher can obtain his “personal weapons”, which are sacred to him. It mentions the weapons of honor – “Katana, Wakizashi and Nunchakos” are described later in the article.
Apparently Dragon Magazine got there first. Source
The samurai’s special abilities are as follows: Jump front kick (-3 to hit, 2d6 damage), judo throw, ceremony of fealty-weapons of honor (4th level; and here it mentions that katana do 1d12 or 1d10 damage, wakizashi 2d4 or 1d8 and nunchako 1d8 damage), sweep and double chop (5th level), crescent kick/side kick combination, back roundhouse kick, illusionist spell ability (8th level), “360” and downward kick, the slaying hand (10th level), flying side kick (requires movement, -3 to hit, 1d20 damage) and a samurai who becomes a shogun (13th level) has a 25% chance to obtain 30 psionic power points. They go on a bit later to mention they can reduce falling damage, hide in shadows and move silently as a thief, and can dive and roll over obstacles.
This class would probably be a blast to play, especially as a gnome. I’ve often thought that the monk would make a pretty good “cartoon hero” class, and this version of the samurai has me thinking of Samurai Champloo and other anime samurai. If anyone has experience with this class, please drop a note down below and let us know how it went.
Merle Rasmussen now brings us a nice Top Secret article about special ammunition – armor-piercing, dumdum, gyrojet, duplex, etc. Lots of stats (and I mean lots with a capital “L”), but probably useful info for other games as well.
Karl Horak has an article called “Getting a world into shape”, which gets into different shapes for campaign worlds, as in cylinders, polygons, etc.If you want a campaign world in the shape of a 20-sided die, this is the article for you.
Giants in the Earth in this issue presents some Poul Anderson characters – Holder Carlsen (14th level paladin) and Hugi (5th level gnome fighter). The art by Roger Raupp is great:
He’s always fantastic with knights and warriors. The article also has stats for T. J. Morgan‘s Ellide (6th level fighter)
G. Arthur Rahman has an article on historical names – Anglo-Saxon, Byzantine, etc. Very useful then, less so now with the resources of the internet at one’s disposal.
Jon Mattson‘s article “Monster mixing – AD&D creatures adapted to a C&S campaign” show that Dragon was not yet the house organ for TSR that it would become (though it always had more outside content than White Dwarf once it became GW’s house organ). While the article is quite useful for players of Chivalry & Sorcery, it also has an interesting piece at the end – a flowchart of AD&D monster predation:
And now you know.
Up next in the magazine is the section on Tim Hildebrandt‘s art. I’d post some images (aside from the cover above), but a Google search (or clicking on the artist’s name up above) will do you more good these days. Take a look – I think you’ll like what you see. I will post this quote from the interview with the artist:
“One thing leads to another thing leads to another thing and you start growing and growing. Things keep expanding, and the more I do myself, the more I see that there is to learn.”
Lots of wisdom in those words.
The Dragon’s Bestiary in this issue features the Loren Kruse’s Nogra (“a small creature with long, sharp claws which somewhat resembles a hairless lynx”). The basic stats for Blood & Treasure are below:
Nogra, Small Magical Beast: HD 2, AC 15, ATK 1 bite (1d4), MV 20′, SV F12 R11 W15, INT Low, AL Neutral (N), XP 200 (CL 3), Special-Body secretes a substance which absorbs all light (including into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums), liquid is also a contact poison (save or blinded for 2d4 rounds), light sensitivity
Leonard Lakofka has a new class for this issue (which hopefully doesn’t do halflings wrong) called the Alchemist. Another old Dragon classic. It seems like such an obvious class for D&D, but it’s tricky. My version was essentially Dr. Jekyll, to give it a twist and make more than a guy who isn’t remotely as useful as a magic-user. Lakofka’s is, in fact, not an adventurer.
Lakofka’s alchemist has to have Str 9, Int 10, Wis 6, Dex 9, Con 14 and Cha 16 to qualify, and they must be human, elf or half-elf, with only the humans hitting the highest levels. They only earn XP by “plying their trade”, not adventuring. They can make pottery, blow glass, identify potions, manufacture poisons and manufacture magic potions. It’s a useful class, and could be adjusted to be an adventurer, but as a non-adventuring NPC I’m not sure why one needs to go to the trouble of having levels. It seems like a “novice-veteran-master” approach would work just as well, or even just “the alchemist can do what the DM to needs her do” concept. That being said, Lakofka always puts a lot of work into these things, and his alchemist is no different and thus is worth the read.
Gary Snyder now gets into the weeds on the issue of wishes and how to adjudicate them. This brings up a great point about fantasy gaming and gamers. I’ll often be watching some TV show or movie and think, “That plot element would never work in a game – the players would kill that guy in a heartbeat / or they would never touch that statue, ’cause statues are always trouble in a dungeon.” The idea of wishes probably seemed so simple when the game was first written, and then creative players got hold of the concept and made DM heads explode. Snyder gives ten rules to keep wishes in check which have largely been adopted into the game.
It’s followed up by a short article/story about wishing by Roger E. Moore.
Paul Montgomery Crabaugh has an artcle about travel and clothing in DragonQuest.
If you need a time keeper program in BASIC, Mark Herro has you covered in this month’s The Electric Eye. Blast from the past to see those IF … THEN statements and GOTO commands. I learned BASIC on a VIC-20, which is actually still sitting in my closet.
Side note – I love this Grenadier miniature …
Side note II – A bit of Wormy
And now on to White Dwarf 25, the June/July 1981 issue. I’ll keep this one brief, and just cover the bases:
Lewis Pulsipher has the third part of the Introduction to D&D series, covering spellcasters. Great art in this one.
Trevor Graver has Optional Skill Acquisition for Travellers. This one ditches the random tables (which are pretty cool) for a skill point system. Control vs. Chaos, the eternal struggle in game design.
Roger Musson has a nice article on The Interesting Dungeon – worth the read.
Tony Chamberlain & Paul Skidmore have an interesting “clerical AD&D skirmish for a large number of players” called Lower Canon Court. This is another one that would probably be fun to play with a big group on Google+.
This issue has some clever magic items – the bowl of everlasting porridge, the bell of watchfulness – a notion on determining handedness in games by Lew Pulsipher (left-handed males 8%, females 4%), and Roger E. Moore has a bit on fake torture items.
Andy Slack has Vacc Suits in Traveller.
The Fiend Factory this issue is themed The Black Manse, and has stats for Dream Demons (which are really cool) by Phil Masters, the Incubus by Roger E. Moore, Brain Suckers by John R. Gordon and the Guardian by Simon Tilbrook. As always, the art is top notch. It’s a shame there was never a Fiend Folio II – so many great monsters were left behind.
Lewis Pulsipher‘s second article this issue is on “What Makes a Good AD&D Character Class”. I would answer – people want to play it and it doesn’t screw up the game. This is pretty much what he says, focusing especially on the class not being overpowering. His example of an overpowering class makes me actually want to create it – The Guardian class he posits can listen at doors, use x-ray vision, become ethereal and has a psionic boomerang defense that kills some mind flayers. I dig it.
Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there in blog land – and happy April Fools Day, since this week we’re looking at an April issue of Dragon – #48, from good old 1981.
Before I hit the magazine, though, I’m going to do a little advertising – NOD 29 is now out as a PDF, at Lulu.com and Rpgnow.com. This one has the second half of the Trollheim hex crawl, the third part of the d20 Mecha series featuring some mecha stats that could be useful for all sorts of sci-fi games, Aaron Siddall‘s very cool Hyperspace campaign notes for GRIT & VIGOR, which combines Lovecraft with good old fashioned rocket-powered sci-fi, Tony Tucker’s take on the luchador class for GRIT & VIGOR, a Quick & Easy mini-game pitting luchadores vs. the Aztec Mummy, a random class generator (along with a couple random classes that came out pretty good), info on using interesting historic coins in treasure hoards, the Laser Mage class and a couple tidbits for SPACE PRINCESS. All sorts of fun for $4.99.
And now, ladies and gents, on to the magazine.
We begin with an Arms Law ad, and a few thoughts on said ad by the writer of the blog:
That first bit is the problem – death being only one blow away with Arms Law. Many would argue that it’s more realistic than D&D combat … and they’re right. That’s precisely the problem. We already live in the real world, where death is one blow away. That’s why most of us live boring lives and indulge in fantasy for our excitement. I’m not sure injecting that kind of realism in fantasy is worth the trouble. A realistic game for the sake of the challenge, on the other hand, can be quite engaging. Just a thought.
I might have mused about this before, but is anyone out there making new retro-computer dungeon crawls? For those in the know – would it be hard? I think it might be fun to create some relatively simple games with simple mechanics for those who want to just do some old fashioned dungeon crawling.
The theme for this issue is Underwater Adventuring. I can attest to how hard it is to write underwater adventures – or at least adventure locales for my hex crawls. So much of what we take for granted on the surface doesn’t work underwater. The first article, “Watery Words to the Wise” by Jeff Swycaffer, does a nice job of hitting the highlights of what does and does not work underwater. No rules, just sound advice.
Up next is the “Dragon’s Bestiary”, which features the Water-Horse by Roger E. Moore, Golden Ammorite by Roger E. Moore and Sea Demon by Ernest N. Rowland Jr. Nothing earthshaking here, but solid monsters for an underwater (or close-to-water) game.
The “Bazaar of the Bizarre” is also aquatically inclined, all by Roger E. Moore.
Naturally, Dragon Magazine comes through with its annual April Fools Day supplement, this one with its own cover (for Dragon #48-1/2). Truth be told, I think I like it better than the actual cover.
This month we get a bit on the Accountant character class and a game called Real Life with a nice bit of character generation:
We also get “Saturday Morning Monsters”, with stats for Bugs Bunny (CG 15th level illusionist), Daffy Duck (CN and totally nuts), Popeye (LN 9th or 18th level fighter), Rocky (LG 12th level fighter) and Bullwinkle (LG 13th level fighter) and Dudley Do-Right (LG 18th level paladin).
Back into the real magazine, Tim Lasko has an article on the druid called “The Druid and the DM”. It’s a general overview of the class as presented in AD&D, along with some suggestions for rule changes involving druid spells, many involing the use of “greater mistletoe”, changing the druid’s initial age and how his age works in-game (kind of weird idea – not sure why I should use it, or whether it would be worth the trouble), giving them the sage’s ability to answer questions about flora and fauna (good idea, but doesn’t require rules in my opinion) and a few other bits. It’s a combination of unnecessary complication, rules for things that don’t really require rules and ticky-tack little bonuses. Not bad, per se, but not terribly useful.
Players of Top Secret, which appears to be making a comeback these days, might enjoy “Doctor Yes”, a scenario written by Merle Rasmussen and James Thompson. The scenario is set on a floating island and appears to be engaging and thorough – rules for underwater adventuring in TS, and a large complex with traps and dangers. You also get stats for such personel as Chuck Morris, Bruce Nee and “Sweetbeam” Leotard.
“Giants in the Earth” presents Ursula K. LeGuin’s Sparrowhawk (N 21st level Illusionist/20th level Magic-User) and Andrew Offutt and Richard Lyon’s Tiana Highrider (CG 12th level Fighter/12th level Thief).
Michael Kelly‘s “Instant Adventures” is a neat article with a list of adventure types, along with the materials they require and the time involved in preparation. A few examples:
Assault/Raid (Bodysnatch), requires a small military encampment and takes about 20 minutes to set up.
Feud, Inter-family, requires a brief history of the feud and the feuding families, as well as a reason for the involvement of the characters; takes a couple hours to prepare.
Smuggling, Weapons, requires a war and revolutionaries in need of weapons and supplies, as well as a source for those weapons and supplies; takes about 20 minutes to prepare.
At a minimum, it’s a great source of ideas for games.
Lakofka‘s “Mission Control” article dovetails nicely with it, being a way of detemining how tough the bad guy faced by adventurers should be. In a nutshell, it is based on the total XP of the party, that determining the level of the big bad guy and how much treasure/magic items he should have. The article gets pretty wordy and “in the weeds”, but the basic ideas are solid and useful.
And so ends Dragon #48, as usual, with a frame from Wormy …
And now begins White Dwarf #24, the April/May 1981 issue. The issue starts off with a great cover – barbarian woman and a sort of Bronze Age warrior-type before a stepped jungle pyramid with dragons or pteranodons buzzing about. Good stuff. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say again that in my opinion the quality of layout and art in White Dwarf was superior to Dragon in this period. Dragon’s layout was never inspired, but the cover art got much better as time went on. Both magazines are a pain in the butt to read for folks without premium peepers, but that’s not their fault, just Father Time’s.
The first highlight for me in this issue of White Dwarf is some a beautiful piece of art by the great Russ Nicholson:
It suggests a great scenario – the adventurers captured and stripped of their toys – that’s hard to implement. Most players don’t dig it, and there’s usually an idea that if you’re putting them through it they’re going to live through the experience. An assumed guarantee of survival takes the fun out of the scenario. Still, if you can find the right kind of players, it makes for a great game.
I found the review for a game called Quirks – the game of unnatural selection interesting. Ian Livingstone gave it a good review and it sounds like an interesting concept, wherein players create weird plants and animals and have to adapt them to survive changing climates and challenges.
WD24 also has a detective class with some interesting abilities (10% chance of noticing disguised assassins), some sage abilities, thief abilities, spells and tracking. I think I’d enjoy playing a Halfling Shamus (4th level detective).
Mark Byng has an AD&D mini-module called “The Lair of Maldred the Mighty” which is, if I’m honest, kind of hard to read for an old fart like myself. Not his fault – a layout issue.
Monster Madness has a few “of the more eccentric monsters to have graced the White Dwarf letter box” – in this case the Bonacon by David Taylor, Llort by Andrew Key, Todal and Marcus Barbor, Tali Monster by Craig Edwards, Dungeon Master by Malory Nye. For fun, the DM is below in B&T format:
Dungeon Master, Medium Humanoid: HD as many as he likes; AC 16 (chainmail and judge’s shield), ATK special, MV 30′, SV varies, AL CE usually, Special: 30% chance he will follow adventurers around a dungeon telling them what they can and cannot do, rolls for wandering monsters when characters make any noise at all, reading of the rules (sleep spell), consults matrices and confuses attackers, not spell affects him unless you can persuade him otherwise, weapons do half damage, susceptible to bribes of 500 gp or more (treat as charm person).
That’s that, boys and girls. Have fun, do something nice for mom and then do something nice for everyone else.
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’
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 Kerrfor 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:
Inflation was rough as hell, but if you could scrape it together you could get a new Tandy TRS 80 PC for $150 (or $390 in today’s dollars). This year would see the release of the hostages in Iran, the first flight of the space shuttle Columbia and an attempted assassination of President Reagan.
For the geek set, it was an embarrassment of riches in the movie theaters – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mad Max 2, Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Halloween, Escape from New York, Clash of the Titans, Time Bandits, Scanners, Excalibur, Dragonslayer and, of course, the finest film ever made, Cannonball Run.
How did the venerable Dragon kick off 1981? Let’s see …
From the art in the first article, it would appear it was stinking up the place.
Actually, Robert Plamondon‘s article “Gas ’em Up and Smoke ’em Out” reviews how gases and smoke would work in a dungeon environment. It’s a sign of the times, as Old School (which I now realize means pre-1980) gaming gives way bit by bit to realism, at least for game designers and article writers. Here’s a sample:
“Using the rule-of-thumb design specs of 500 cubic feet per person of room volume and 24 cubic feet per minute per person of ventilating air, and applying a little algebra, we find that the ratio of incoming air volume to room volume is about 1:20.83.”
This article uses a little math and engineering, but also comes across with some useful bits for referees:
A room with standard ventilation will take about 2 hours and 20 minutes for poison gas or smoke to go away. Even without ventilation, poison gas will eventually react with everything in the room and become harmless.
Poison gas costs between 1,000 gp and 6,000 gp per trap.
Gas masks should be easy for an alchemist and leather worker to put together, but inventing them will take 2d4 months and 1d6+1 x 1,000 gp, with a 50% chance of success.
A successful save vs. poison gas means holding one’s breath and escaping the gas. A failed save means breathing the gas and dying. Initially one falls unconscious and dies 5 rounds later.
People who know about the presence of poison gas get a +4 bonus to save against it.
Plamondon also provides a nice table of poison gases, which may come in just as handy for modern games and fantasy games:
Oh, and THIS GUY might be the Robert Plamondon of the article.
The Dragon Tooth miniatures ad would make a nice deep dungeon encounter table:
High Elfin Hero-King in Dragon Helm (Elf Fighter 8/Magic-User 7, helm controls dragons, longsword, chainmail, shield)
Rogue or Thief, Skulkingly Caped (Human Thief 1 or 9, rapier and dagger)
Sorcerer, Sorcerering or Sorceress, Sorcerering (Human Magic-User 9, staff)
Swordswoman armed with Sword and Spear (Human Fighter 3, longsword and glaive)
Rictus, the Zombie King (Zombie with 10 HD, scimitar, skeletal horse)
Gladius-Hero in Roman-Style Armour (Human Fighter 4, breastplate, shield, short sword)
Barbarian Hero wearing Vulture Helmet and Fur (Human Fighter 4, scimitar, leather armor and shield)
Rachir, the Red Archer-Ranger/Fighter with Bow (Human Ranger 3, composite bow, long sword, leather armor, shield)
High Elfin Warrior Maiden Armed with Sword (Elf Fighter 4, broadsword, chainmail)
Gundar the Barbarian with Axe and Sword (Human Fighter 9, leather armor, battle axe, longsword)
Subotai the Mongol-Swordsman with Shield (Human Fighter 3, scimitar, dagger, chainmail, shield)
Swashbuckler Fighter with Cutlass and Dagger (Human Fighter 5, scimitar, dagger)
Next up, we have a couple old school NPC classes – the Astrologer by Roger E. Moore and the Alchemist by Roger E. Moore and Georgia Moore. These are nice and short classes, and could probably be adapted as non-classed NPCs with interesting abilities by most GM’s. Of course, I’d also love to see them used as PC’s in a game.
Here’s a taste of the astrologer:
Here’s a nice bit from the alchemist class:
“For the creation of homonculi, it is suggested that Pseudo-Dragon venom and Gargoyle blood be among, the. required ingredients, as well as the Magic-User’s own blood, since these items bear some relationship to a Homonculous’s poisonous bite and appearance. Costs and time for making a Homonculous are outlined in the Monster Manual.”
“Formulas for manufacturing cockatrices may be found in L. Sprague de Camp’s book, The Ancient Engineers, Chapter 9, “The European Engineers.” Additional notes appear in The Worm Ouroborous, by E. R. Eddison, “Conjuring in the Iron Tower.” Note that de Camp’s book refers to the cockatrice as a “basilisk,” and tells of an alchemical way of making gold from burnt “basilisk” parts.”
One more reason to read Eddison’s book, and now I want to find de Camp’s as well.
Oh Hell, and this:
“At the Dungeon Master’s option, cloning may be performed by biogenesis-studying Alchemists; this should be considered a very powerful (and very rarely performed) ability that will entail expenditures of 100,000 g.p. or more.”
Philip Meyers‘ article “Magic Items for Everyman” covers random magic items for NPC’s. They’re quite extensive and worth taking a look at.
Bazaar of the Bizarre has a couple nifty magic items. The Eidolon of Khalk’Ru is a real pip if you have a cleric or magic-user in the party (and who doesn’t?). There’s also the Bell of Pavlov, box of many holdings, ruby slippers, ring of oak and pet rocks – man I want to pit a guy with three pet rocks up against an unsuspecting party.
But hey – we’re not done with new classes yet. Len Lakofka presents a new fighter or ranger sub-class, the Archer. Really, it’s the archer, a fighter sub-class, and the archer-ranger, a ranger sub-class. This is accompanied by whole host of advanced rules for missile fire in D&D.
Archers get fewer melee attacks per round than fighters and more missile attacks than fighters. They get an additional +1 with magic bows and arrows. If their intelligence is 9 or higher, they also learn some magic-user spells at 7th level. At 3rd level they learn to make arrows, and they learn to make bows at 5th level.
The main bonus for archers are bonuses to hit and damage, which get pretty big at high levels.
The big feature of this issue was the Dragon Dungeon Design Kit – a bunch of cardboard pieces you could use to create tabletop maps of the dungeon rooms adventurers encountered. You got wall sections, treasure chests and all sorts of dungeon dressing.
Michael Kluever‘s article “Castles, Castles Everywhere” is a nicely researched article about castles. Worth the read.
Roger E. Moore is back again with “How To Have a Good Time Being Evil”, a lighthearted look at the subject. Think over-the-top silver age comic book evil rather than the genuine article. One bit I especially liked was this, as it is a good description of the Chaotic / Evil alignment:
“Now for the group goals. Anyone who’s played Monsters! Monsters! already knows what the goal is in an evil campaign. The goal is to beat up on the good guys. The goody-good Paladins, sneaky Rangers, and less-than-macho elves are going to get what they deserve. What right have they got, breaking into our lairs, killing our underlings and friends, and taking away the treasures we worked so hard to steal? Besides, what we’re doing is the way of the universe. Only the strong survive. Nice guys finish last. I’m number one. If you help all the wimps get ahead in the universe, you undo natural selections and evolution, which is trying to make us tougher. Might makes right. And so on. Working up the goals and general background philosophy of an evil campaign is not difficult (and is actually a little disturbing, as some people say such things in seriousness. How little we know about our own alignments …)”
I think the true test of a great monster is great art. Well, maybe not, but a nice piece of art makes we want to use a monster, regardless of its stats. To whit, the skyzorr’n by Jon Mattson:
Art by Willingham, of course. It’s actually not a bad beastie – nomadic insect people.
Skyzorr’n, Medium Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2+1, AC 16, MV 20′, ATK 1d4 claws (1d4) or 1d2 by weapon; AL Chaotic (LE), Special–Bite for 1d4+1 plus poison, surprise 1-3 on 1d6, immune to natural paralysis (not spells) and 90% of poisons, +2 to save vs. heat and cold attacks, resistance to edged and piercing weapons.
They inhabit deserts and badlands in hive communities (70% underground). They are matriarchal, ruled by queens (they look like grotesque bloated spiders) with High intelligence. They use weapons 50% of the time (longswords, scimitars, military forks, spears and slings). If two claw attacks hit, they get a bite attack. The poison deals 1 point of Strength and Dexterity damage for 2d4 turns.
Read the issue to get the full description – very cool. They also have sand lizards by Marcella Peyre-Ferry and dust devils by Bruce Sears.
I wonder if WOTC would consider making a monster book with all of these creatures in it?
Well – that’s all folks. No White Dwarf supplement this time, since it was bi-monthly. I’ll hit it next week (God willing and the creek don’t rise).
A year later, I decided I like the Steelers better, and was stuck with a Cowboys bike – c’est la vie. I grew up in Las Vegas, so I was pretty fluid in my “favorite team” selection – I switched to the Raiders in 1984 when I was the only kid on my bus who picked them to beat the Redskins in the Super Bowl – I only did it to avoid going with the crowd.
Still, if you were already plays RPG’s in 1980, this issue of Dragon, #44, was what you were perusing over a cup of hot chocolate with some Rankin-Bass on in the background. It looks like a dandy – with a mini-game and everything!
As is often the case, the first thing that caught my eye was the ad by Ral Partha. They usually have the first ad in these old Dragon magazines, and this one is for a number of boxed adventure games they did. The games included miniatures, and look pretty cool.
I found a site with some pictures of the miniatures.
And the mannequin in the hooded robe just gave me an idea for a monster – I’ll post that later in the week.
Dig this missive from Mrs. Lori Tartaglio from Mercerville, N.J. She covers bearded female dwarves and Iran hostage crisis all in one letter.
Will this endless quibbling never cease? Who CARES if female dwarves have beards or not? (TD#41) Why not let each DM or player or gaming group decide for themselves, for Ghu’s sake?!
Answer me this: Will the fact of dwarven women having or NOT having beards affect the outcome of the game in any major capacity? In my humble opinion, the answer is “no.” Not, of course, unless the DM has designed a “beard catcher” as one of his nasty little traps, and a female character of the dwarven persuasion (although no one ever had to persuade me to be a Dwarf-lady!) happens to be one of the party who’d sprung the trap and. . .
OY! This is getting out of hand! Now you’ve got me doing it!
C’mon, EGG and the rest of you guys! Grow up! If you’re going to argue, then do it about something worthwhile — like “do we go techno and nuke Iran off the face of the earth or do we send in a party of chaotic neutral fighter-mage mercs to teleport the hostages home and drop the Ayatollah with a black arrow.”
And by the way – I mentioned a few reviews ago that I was going to commission some bearded lady dwarf art, and I did, from Denis McCarthy – this will appear in the second edition of Blood & Treasure.
Just as some older issues of Dragon had stats for fictional western heroes for Boot Hill, this issue does the same for some fictional secret agents for Top Secret. The article is written by the developer and editor of the game, Allen Hammack.
For those keeping score, here’s some stuff you should know …
Strongest secret agent – John Steed, followed by Derek Flint and James Bond
Most charming secret agent – John Steed, followed by James Bond and Derek Flint
Most courageous secret agent – James Bond, followed by Derek Flint and a tie – Jim Phelps and Number 6
The weakest stats belong to Maxwell Smart and Napoleon Solo. I don’t want to criticize, but not making Emma Peel the most charming seems crazy … at least from my perspective. The article has full stats for all the agents, which is pretty damn cool.
Gregory G. H. Rihnpresents one of the articles that could only be from the early days of the hobby – “Fantasy Genetics I – Humanoid Races in Review”. The article gives scientific names for the fantasy races. Elves, for example, are homo sapiens sylvanus, while orcs are homo sapiens orc. Those two races have to be homo sapiens able to breed with good old fashioned homo sapiens sapiens. I guess they should also be able to breed with homo sapiens neanderthalensis. An elf neanderthal crossbreed would give strong math skills, great strength and pointed ears – so Vulcans, essentially. He makes the kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears part of the genus Australopithecus and ogres Ramapithecus. This is an interesting idea, and points to a time when the look of the fantasy races was not established – yeah, there was art in the Monster Manual, but it wasn’t treated as carved in stone.
This is followed up by “Fantasy Genetics II – Half-Orcs in a Variety of Styles” by Roger Moore. This is a cool little article about the fact that half-orcs are always half-human. So you get some monster stats for orc-kobolds, orc-goblins, orc-ogres, orc-bugbears, orc-hobgoblins and orc-gnolls. Short and sweet, and it would be a nice addition to the half-orc playable race.
But we’re not done yet, because John S. Olson gives us “Fantasy Genetics III – What Do You Get When You Cross?”, which is designed to discourage weird crossbreeds. I wonder if the author is this guy from Rice University?
Which, of course, brings us to the end of this discussion. There could be absolutely no more to write on the subject of fantasy genetics – the topic has been so thoroughly dealt with that to continue would be folly!
To paraphrase Johnny Carson, “Not so fast jelly doughnut breath!”
Paul Montgomery Crabaugh brings us “Fantasy Genetics IV – Half + Half Isn’t Always Full”. Honestly, I cannot see the point of this article. Moving on …
Here’s a little piece from Sage Advice that might quash the whole murder hobo mystique:
“Question: Is it okay for a Monk (Lawful Neutral) to sneak up on an opponent and then backstab? (Is this act chaotic? Is this evil?)
Answer: The act of killing a victim without knowing if he/she is truly an enemy (in other words, killing a complete stranger without knowing if he/she presents a threat) is a chaotic act. The act of killing an opponent with the knowledge that there is some other way to overcome him/her is an evil act. It would seem permissible for the Lawful Neutral Monk (or any other similarly aligned being) to attack a known enemy from the back, when circumstances make it necessary to kill that foe. —J. Ward, W. Niebling”
So, if the orcs don’t attack first, and you attack without trying to talk to them, you’re evil.
When I see ads like this:
I always do a search hoping to stump BoardGameGeek.com – hasn’t happened yet.
I know nothing about the game, but the miniature illustrations are cool, and the name “hellborn” is awesome – also Avenging Angels and Saints and Giant Knights. I found the rules for sale for $12.95 by the Gaming Gang and bought a copy – I’ll review them later this month (probably).
This issue’s “Giant in the Earth” switches authorship from Tom Moldvay to Dave Cook. Dave writes stats for C.S. Lewis’ Reepicheep (LG 7th level fighter) and Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger (LN 16th level fighter with special sage abilities). Challenger’s Express hunting rifle is given a 300 yard range and 2d6 damage, in case you’re interested.
In 3rd edition, all the monsters got stats. In 1st edition, many of the monsters got stats, here and there, haphazardly. Len Lakofka‘s article this issue, “Monsters: How Strong is Strong” is one of those early efforts to codify these issues, and shows the gradual march of the game from “rulings not rules” to “a rule for everything”.
It’s predicated on the fact that a belt of hill giant strength gives a fighter damage that a hill giant doesn’t get, which, of course, cannot be permitted to persist. I guess. For those interested, bugbear chiefs are as strong as ankhegs, but not as strong as gorillas, who are as strong as black bears, but not as strong as carnivorous apes and brown bears. Kobolds roll 4d4 for strength, while leader types have d4+13 strength. He also gives a bit on “how to calculate the combat ability of a monster”. I was going to put in an excerpt, but dang is it long!
Next up is the aforementioned mini-game – “Food Fight” by Bryce Knorr (this guy?). This is set in a high school and features some early art from Bill Willingham (see to the right – maybe that’s Morgan Ironwolf when she was in high school). Make no mistake – for a mini-game about throwing food, it has pretty exhaustive rules. All of the foods have numerous stats, such as:
Ice cream with attack mode D has Range 1, Hit No. 8, App. Damage of 1d6+2, no ability to stun, but the number to splat is 5, slipperiness is 2 and APE is 5. There are different stats for attack mode F and attack mode T.
Oi! I now have a strange desire to make a rules lite version of the game.
By the way, this piece by Jack Crane from the fiction in this issue is all kinds of groovy …
This issue also has a long article by William Fawcett on the Judge’s Guild (I just noticed a Kickstarter popped up for a JG collection), along with reviews of nine of their products.
Speaking of reviews, Mark Herro offers up some reviews of early computer games (or super modern computer games, by the standards of 1980). You can see one of them, Android Nim, in action below:
He also reviews Dungeon of Death and Time Traveller.
Roger Moore has a new monster in the bestiary this month – the Koodjanuk, a monster from Elysium, and the Cryoserpent. I especially like the cryoserpent art. The B&T stats are below:
Koodjanuk, Large (30′ wingspan) Outsider: HD 8, AC 22 [+2], ATK 1 bite (2d6) or 2 talons (4d4), MV 50′ (Fly 110′), SV F8 R6 W8, AL NG, XP 800 (CL 9), Special-Magic resistance 75%, cast cleric spells as 12th level clerics, use psionics, 15% chance found with other good creatures of the upper planes.
Cryoserpent, Huge (50′ long) Monster: HD 12, AC 19, ATK 1 bite (4d6), MV 20′, SV F4 R7 W8, AL CE, XP 1200 (CL 13), Special-Magic resistance 25%, immune to cold, vulnerable to fire, gaze paralyzes creatures with 4 HD or less (save negates), tongue freezes water (12,000 square feet, 6″ deep, lasts 12 minutes), hollow tongue can fire 120′ freeze ray (48 damage, save negates), tongue may launch a 4″ diameter ball of ice (120′, +4 to hit, explodes when hits target for 4d6 damage in 10′ radius) – can use these last three powers up to a total of 6 times per day.
The bestiary also includes the ice golem by Rich Baldwin.
That’s it for #44. As always, I leave you with Wormy …
I miss Bender.
But what about White Dwarf?
The Dec 1980/Jan 1981 issue has the usual cool cover, though the color of the lettering could have been a bit better.
This issue includes aristocracy for Traveller by Rick D. Stuart, some cool magic items for AD&D, a very cool NPC class by Lewis Pulsipher called Black Priests. Here are the highlights:
Black priests must have Wis, Dex and Cha of 13 or higher. They roll d6 for hit points, and they must be evil. If they change alignment, they become thieves. They can wear up to leather armor and use shields when not using thief skills.
A black priest’s chance to move silently and hide in shadows is doubled in their own evil temples (neat touch). They are -1 to hit and damage with swords, and +1 to hit and damage with daggers, and -2 to hit with ranged weapons other than throwing knives. Black priests can “backstab” with a strangling cord (1d8 damage, must have Str 7 or higher to use). They rebuke undead and cast spells as evil clerics, and they can call upon the Lords of Evil to summon a monster each battle (lots of rules governing this ability).
They gather followers at high levels, including other black priests, displacer beasts, gorgons, hill giants werewolves, minotaurs, invisible stalkers (summon 1/wk), trolls, undead and nightmares. Great class!
This issue has an adventure (as most did) – “The Search for the Temple of the Golden Spire” by Barney Sloane. It is intended for seven 2nd-4th level characters.
The monster section goes big time, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Ian Cooper (one of them, Ky, is a Supra-Lich), Capricorns by Roger Moore, Crystal Golems by Robert Outram, and Ungoliant, Queen of the Spiders by Peter Cockburn.
Ungoliant, Huge Outsider: HD 38 (225 hp), AC 26 (Body) 14 (Belly) 24 (Eyes) [+3], ATK Bite (3d12 + swallow whole for instant death on natural 20) and 2 legs (2d12) or 2 palps (1d12), MV 90′, SV F3 R3 W3, AL CE, XP 38,000 (CL41), Special-Magic resistance 80% (50% of which is from her unlight (see below), and can be dispelled), immune to psionics, body oozes contact poison (Poison IV, -3 to save), breath 30′ x 30′ x 30′ fear gas 3/day, 10 eyes function as beholder, except 7th eye fires a matter agitation ray (as the psionic discipline) – one eye fires at a random target every 2 rounds, summon 3d10 phase spiders to cover her retreat.
Ungoliant is the originator of all spider kind. She is swathed in unlight (awesome concept – it’s equivalent to 5 darkness spells). She swallows gems, gaining 1 hp per 10 gp value. If she is seriously wounded, she rears up, exposing her belly, and attacks with her bite and 6 legs (2d12). If her unlight is dispelled with five continual light spells, then additional magical light deals 3d10 damage or destroys one of her eyes. A magic whip is embedded in one of her legs. In the hands of a chaotic evil creature it is a +5 flaming whip, +8 vs. good that inflicts 6d6 damage, or 12d6 in the hands of someone with a strength higher than 18.
Wow! Lolth is a piker in comparison.
Lewis Pulsipher also contributes a bit on an explanation of character stats in D&D. Here’s the interesting passage:
“Dragon breath, after all, does not burn the skin to a crisp (or freeze it) – a slightly ludicrous notion even if dragons are magical. Rather the superheated (or supercold) air, if it fills the lungs, does the damage. A victim of dragon fire dies because his lungs are destroyed, and it’s clear enough that turning one’s head away and keeping one’s mouth and nose shut will help reduce the damage.”
So save vs. dragon’s breath involves turning one’s head and holding one’s breath. Interesting concept.
That’s it for the White Dwarf, folks – and this post. Have fun!
It’s been too long since I did a review of The Dragon. Between work and trying to write/edit a few games, Sundays have been just packed, but today I’m diving back in. This week, we’re examining The Dragon #39, released in July of 1980. I can remember those days. I was 8, and I think the entire country was just about fed up with the 1970’s. Despite what you might have picked up in a revisionist history class, the 1970’s sucked. Hard. In RPG land, though, things were heating up – new companies, new games, and TSR and D&D were about to hit the heights.
So, what did July’s issue have to offer? Let’s check out this edition’s Top 10 cool things.
As we often do, we start with an advertisement. This time from Iron Crown Enterprises. I’m trying to remember if I’d seen an I.C.E. advertisement in The Dragon yet, and I don’t think I have. God knows, we’ll see plenty in the issues ahead.
I must say, there’s a bit of humor in an ad that looks like that and boasts about “fine graphics”.
They also left their state off the address – did everyone know where Charlottesville was back in the day?
Anyhow – they would go on to produce some pretty good material – from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.
Here’s a sign of the times:
“Snap! Crackle! Zap! THE DRAGON computes! Recently, we’ve acquired a TRS-80 computer here at THE DRAGON (for those of you into home computers, it’s the Level II with 16K memory, a 16K expansion interface, two floppy-disc drives, and a printer). In addition to using it in conjunction with Mark Herro’s ‘Electric Eye’ column, we’ll now be able to look at a few of the plethora of game programs now available on the commercial market, and (hopefully) do some reviewing on our own. Please hold off on sending us your own home-brew programs for a bit yet; we’ll have our hands full with what’s on the market already. But electronic gaming is looming on the gaming horizon, and THE DRAGON is going to be ready for it.”
Personally, I don’t think electronic gaming will ever catch on.
Fantasysmith did some really nice miniatures articles, and the art was always top notch. This one in particular deserves an airing after 35 years:
The one thing left off this guideline: Be good at painting. When I did the miniatures thing, I had no problem choosing the goal … I was just often less than successful in getting there.
#3: THE ANTI-PALADIN
Really, this should be Cool #1, because this article by George Laking and Tim Mesford introduces a “beloved” element of old school gaming – The Anti-Paladin!
We start with awesome art (not sure who drew it), and then move on to the class itself.
The anti-paladin was an NPC class, meaning it couldn’t be used by players. To that end, it gives a guide on rolling up the anti-paladin’s scores, using 12+1d6 for strength, for example, or 10+1d8 for constitution. Charisma has a special formula that uses 1d4: a “1” equals 3, a “2” 4, a “3” 17 and “4” 18. On a charisma of 18, there’s a 25% chance of having an exceptional charisma. Anti-paladins with very low charisma cause fear, while those with very high charisma will charm humanoids and other monsters.
I bring the above up to show how different the game was in the old days. There was much more willingness to invent new sub-systems to do things.
Anti-paladins roll d10 for hit points, gaining 3 per level after 9th. They get a host of special abilities, including causing disease and wounds, protection from good, backstabbing, poison use, rebuking undead and demons, a special warhorse and cleric spell use at high levels. Their special swords are called unholy reavers, which is, by the way, pretty sweet.
SIDE TREK – ALIGNMENT AND GODWIN’S LAW
Why was alignment discussed so much back in the old days? Because alignment was a stand-in for philosophy – moral and ethical philosophy anyways. That made it interesting for lots of people, and contentious as well. A good example is the “Up On a Soap Box” in this issue, in which the following question is asked:
“Is something right just because we think it is right? If Hitler feels that it is right for him to kill six million Jews, is that morally acceptable?”
Heavy stuff for a game magazine. Alignment has become a throw away in many modern games, or has been rendered down into the faction rules it appears to have grown from. The discussions are still being had, though, in the gaming community and beyond.
Oh, and the answer to the above question is NO.
#4: ERA in RPG
Well, we’ve already mentioned Hitler and the Holocaust in an article about alignment, why not delve into equal rights?
The article is “Women Want Equality and Why Not?” by Jean Wells and Kim Mohan, and there’s a follow-up called “Points to Ponder” by Kyle Gray. I’m not going to delve too much into the contents of the article, but I suggest you find a copy online (it’s there) and read through it. It’s worth comparing and contrasting what was being discussed 35 years ago with what is being discussed today.
#5: LAKOFKA’S RANDOM SPELLS
Len Lakofka writes an article called “Starting from Scratch” about starting a new campaign and rolling up a new party. The bit I liked was the random tables for rolling up starting spells. For magic-users it’s pretty straight forward – roll once on each table for a magic-user’s three starting spells:
He also suggests a limited number of starting prayers for clerics – 1d4+2 to be exact, with those spells being rolled randomly and modified according to the cleric’s instructor’s alignment.
The article covers much more ground than this, of course, so it’s worth reading.
#6: GIANTS IN THE EARTH
You know I always like these little Moldvay gems. This edition contains two Norse legends.
Bodvar Bjarki (16th level chaotic good fighter), the son of a Norwegian prince who was turned into a bear during the day. Bjarki wields Lovi, a +3 sword, +6 vs. magic-users.
Egil Skallagrimson (14th level chaotic neutral fighter) who became a viking.
The article also contains a small table of runes.
SIDE TREK: FANTASY VS. REALITY
A question to the sage:
“Question: Why can’t human, half-elf and elven Magic-Users wear armor and still cast spells? Elves and half-elves who are Magic-Users and Fighters can, so I don’t believe it is because of the iron in their armor or weapons. If it is because of training, then Magic-Users could be able to learn how to wear armor and cast spells at the same time—and even a human Magic-User/Fighter could train to acquire the ability.”
My answer – it’s a made up rule to keep the game balanced, you knucklehead. Stop rationalizing make-believe!
#7: GOOD HITS AND BAD MISSES
This article by Carl Parlagreco is one of the classics. It covers critical hits and fumbles, which it describes as “two of the most controversial subject areas in D&D”. His system is fine enough, but the random tables for the effects of critical hits and fumbles are what makes it really groovy. A sample – critical hit effects of missile and thrusting weapons – follows:
#8: OLD SCHOOL AIN’T NEW
I loved this piece by Karl Horak:
“Several months ago I came across a member of the minority that hasn’t acknowledged Gary as final arbiter. The campaign he ran was based on the original spirit of Chainmail instead of the latest revisions. To say the least, the game was fresh and unorthodox. His foundation was the 3rd edition of Chainmail and his vague recollections of the three-volume set of Dungeons &Dragons, which he never purchased.”
#9: OLD SCHOOL ADVERTS
I dig the image in the ad to the right – makes you wonder what the Hell is going on. I’m going to turn this into a little side trek into comic books.
When I used to collect the things, the covers were a shorthand blurb about the story in the issue – the idea was to get a kid at a news stand to plunk down their money to find out what was going on.
Now comic book covers are mostly pin-ups, I suppose because they’re aimed at an different audience. They’re usually very well drawn, but personally, I prefer those old covers. They fired the imagination, and were pretty fun. In fact – when I find an old issue, those covers still induce me to buy them. The pin-ups – not so much.
Of course …
That’s all for this week. Hopefully the pace will slow down and I can get another one written next Sunday. I will have some updates this week from the next hex crawl in NOD.
It’s Fall here in Nevada – finally. Summer usually lingers until Halloween (or Nevada Day, if you prefer) and then gets its back broken. But Dragon #38 was published in June of 1980 – summertime!
The guy on the cover is appropriately attired for summer, though somewhat less so for adventuring. It’s worth remembering that the male equivalent of the chainmail bikini was the fur underwear that graced many a barbaric warrior in the 1980’s (and professional wrestlers – it was really the heyday of violent men in their underwear).
So, onto the ten best things about Dragon #38!
We start this post with an advertisement.
The first is S3 – Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the special Fifth Anniversary Module! Only $8.00 – approximately $23 in today’s dollars. Am I selling my stuff too cheap? Well, I’m not writing classic modules, so probably not.
#1 … In the Weeds with Dragons
I’m not trumpeting this article because it’s a truly great addition to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Rather, because it takes me back to a day when these sorts of “scholarly” articles about the game were not so unusual.
Lakofka was a master of them (and he perhaps still is). He had a penchant for digging into the elements of the game, thinking deeply about them, and then reworking them for his campaign. Were they better for the attention? I suppose that’s a matter of opinion … but I like that he did it.
In this article, he presents new percentage chances for dragon’s speaking and casting spells. He also comes up with the chances that dragons might cast spells other than magic-user spells. He also presents a three new dragons – Brown, Orange and Yellow. The brown dragon has faerie fire and lightning breath weapons, the orange dragon color spray breath weapon (I dig this) and the yellow dragon has breath weapons that cause disease and blindness.
#2 … Redacted
Merle Rasmussen writes an article about a new game … Top Secret. I never played it, but was always intrigued. I did a quick check, and didn’t see anything about a retro clone of this one – maybe some fan out there can create one. In the meantime, I would suggest checking out Bill Logan’s White Lies. Looks awesome.
#3 … Memories
Speaking of spies and espionage … the Cold War. The advertisement to the right was one of many games about nuclear destruction (or its bizarre aftermath) from the period. I’m never sure if the people writing them didn’t want it happen a little. This one also brought to mind Supremacy. Fun game – I played it often. I remember the f-u move in that game was, when it was obvious you were going to lose, to nuke your own territory and launch a nuclear winter so that nobody won. Tricky, weird, stupid game, but lots of fun with friends. Right up there with RISK and Axis & Allies.
#4 … Gygaxian Sugar Coating
The old man himself speaks on the idea that good characters must be stupid …
“Good does not mean stupid, even if your DM tries to force that concept upon you. Such assertions are themselves asinine, and those who accept such dictates are stupid.”
Which begs the question: Is Raggi the Gygax of his day?
“Female dwarves are neglected not because of male chauvinism or any slight. Observers failed to mention them because they failed to recognize them when they saw them. How so? Because the bearded female dwarves were mistaken for younger males, obviously!”
I was never big on bearded female dwarves, but I think I’m changing my mind. Time to commission an all-female dwarf party illo for the new Blood & Treasure.
Always wondered what the heck the deal was with the ducks in that game. Was it Howard the Duck inspired?
#5 … The Seven Magical Planets
Super cool article by Tom Moldvay with great art by Darlene.
The article draws on Agrippa to present the magical correspondences of the different classical planets for use in gaming. For example, here’s the entry for the Sun.
Archetypal Plane: Light (or the Positive Material).
Description of Archetype: A blond, golden-skinned child holding a sceptre. A rooster crowing. A lion roaring. A sleeping gold dragon. The phoenix rising from flames. An individual with a tawny complexion, yellowish eyes, and a short, reasonably hairless, handsome body. A wise, honorable personality, courageous to a fault, but constantly seeking praise.
Planetary Powers: Magic concerned with money. Fortune and destiny in general. Any operation involving peace, harmony, and friendship. Long life and health. Transmutation of the elements. Spells involving light; magic whose prime purpose is goodness.
Tarot Trumps: The Sun, The Wheel of Fortune, The Hanged Man.
This is just one of those really useful articles for generating gaming ideas.
#6 … True Confessions
I freaking love the line drawings for miniatures they used to do in The Dragon. I want to make them all into characters. And, most importantly, I want to learn how to draw something that cool in such a small, compact package.
#7 … Another Damn Ad …
I know, but look at this thing!
#8 … The Civil War
The Electric Eye article by Mark Herro looks at two games – Civil War and Star Trek. Why is this so cool … because when I was a young nerd, my father borrowed a book of programs from an old nerd he worked with and I typed the Civil War program into a computer and played it. So help me God. To kids out there, I might as well be explaining about the day the guy who invented fire showed me how it was done.
#9 … The Flolite
Sometimes it’s the monster’s stats that make you want to use it. Sometimes its the art. For the flolite, it’s the art.
And dig the Dyson-esque hatching on the verges of the lights. So cool.
So what about the stats for Kevin Readman’s little beastie? Here’s the B&T version:
Flolite, Medium Aberration: HD 5+1; AC 15; ATK 1 tentacle (1d4+1); MV Fly 30′; CL/XP 7/1250; Special–Excellent sight and hearing, 30′ radius daylight around creature, when deals max damage with tentacle it drains 1 point of Strength and gains 1d8 hit points, frenzy against flying creatures (+1 to hit, +3 damage).
The monster’s eye, if harvested, protects an adventurer from the level or prime requisite draining abilities of vampires, night hags, wights, etc. What a great adventure hook – the adventurers know they have to take on a vampire in her castle, or follow a night hag into the Astral Plane to retrieve the Christmas dreams of the children of Sombertown, and to avoid the energy drain they must first venture into the desert after some flolite eyes.
#10 … I AM THE GREATEST!
A game by Brian Blume in this issue – Ringside – that simulates boxing. “Match the pros or create your own fighters.”
I admit, I’ve never been into boxing, but this sounds like a fun game for a Saturday afternoon. Invite some friends over, make a championship belt, and have some fights.
The game is pretty simple – Agility, Endurance, Counterpunch and six punches. Combat uses a punching chart. There are basic rules, advanced rules and campaign rules, and stats for 30 of the greats, including Ali, Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano.
And that’s it for Dragon #38 – June 1980. Find a copy and enjoy, boys and girls!