The Guardian – Over-Powered or Not?

A few magazine reviews ago, I came across Lewis Pulsipher’s description of an over-powered character class. It goes thusly:

“A party of ninth and tenth level magic-users, clerics, and fighters hunts for a lich. Among them is an eighth level ‘Guardian’ character, a class devised by the DM and used by the players. They come to a door. The guardian listens – he hears something. Then he looks through the door with his X-ray vision. Telling the others it’s too dangerous for them in there, he turns ethereal and walks through the door. Five minutes later, he opens it. ‘It’s OK now. It was just 10 mind flayers, and when they attacked me psionically my mental boomerang defence scrambled their brains.’ The party shake their heads and look for spoils.” – Lewis Pulsipher, White Dwarf 25


Maybe not.

First, the guardian in the example is 8th level. He’s a bit behind the others in level (as would be a paladin), but not dramatically so. The 9th or 10th level magic-users he’s adventuring with can do some pretty spectacular stuff with their spells, and the magic items the other characters have could well duplicate many of the guardian’s abilities.

Second, there seems to be an unwritten assumption that the things this “guardian” does are the tip of the iceberg. Maybe they are. But if they aren’t – if that’s it – then maybe he’s not so powerful.

“Ah,” you say, “but he took out a whole room of mind flayers!”

Well, actually, the room of mind flayers took out the room of mind flayers – the guardian just had the ability to turn mental attacks back on the attacker.

With that in mind, I have decided to rehabilitate the mythical guardian class, and give it a proper write-up to see just how over powered it really would be. So, with no further ado …


Image from HERE – just because I like it

Day in and day out, brave men and women descend into the depths of the earth in search of treasure. Along the way, they hunt down and destroy all manner of terrible evils, and for that, the world must be grateful. It so happened that one day, many years ago, a band of Lawful monasteries decided they must do more than they had done to encourage this behavior. The masters of the monasteries developed a new, powerful training regimen, and recruited from among their ranks their most promising students. They put these students through this regimen, and found the vast majority of them not up to the challenge. Those few who did succeed became known as guardians.

Guardians are always on the lookout for danger, and have potent abilities to survive it and even turn attacks back on attackers. They are mediocre warriors, it is true, but are proficient with armor and thus difficult to injure. A guardian may not turn the tide of battle by her presence, but she can serve as the impenetrable rock on which the tide of battle breaks.

Requirements and Restrictions: Guardians must have a minimum scores of 9 in Strength, 11 in Constitution and 13 in Wisdom. They must also be Lawful in alignment. They may wear any armor and use shields, and can fight with any weapon.

Guardian Skills

Find Secret Doors—Guardians have a 2 in 6 chance to note the presence of secret or concealed doors.

Find Traps—Guardians can attempt a task check to discover traps in a room or on an object. Alas, they have no special skill at removing traps once found.

Listen at Door—Guardians can attempt a task check to hear faint noises through doors or in other circumstances.

Guardian Abilities

Guardians are only surprised on a roll of 1 on 1d6. They can extend this protection to up to one comrade per three levels. Thus, if all in a party of adventurers except the 4th level guardian are surprised on a roll of “2”, the guardian can allow one additional comrade to avoid that surprise.

2nd level guardians learn the secret of phasing through matter (but not energy). A guardian can walk through up to 2 inches of matter per level per day. Thus, a 6th level guardian could walk through up to 12 inches of matter, total, during the course of a single day. This could amount to walking through a single 1-ft thick wall, or four 3-inch thick doors.

A 4th level guardian gains the ability to peer through matter, as though wearing a ring of x-ray vision. She can do this once per day per four levels (i.e. 1/day from 1st to 4th level, 2/day from 5th to 8th level, etc.)

A 6th level guardian can attune themselves to one form of energy (acid, cold, fire, electricity or sonic) per day, gaining the ability to ignore hit point damage from that energy. The guardian can ignore 1 point of damage from that energy per level over the course of the day. Thus, a 9th level guardian who attuned herself to fire could ignore up to 9 points of fire damage during the course of the day.

Guardians maintain a shield around their minds. At 1st level, this blocks all spells and abilities that read or detect their minds. They can also choose to block out telepathic communication. By 3rd level, this protection extends to a +4 bonus to saving throws against illusions and mental attacks, such as confusion, fear, feeblemind, ego whip, id insinuation, phantasmal killer and the mind blast of the pernicious thelids. When a guardian of 6th level or higher passes a saving throw against a mental attack, she reflects that attack back on the attacker, who must pass their own saving throw to avoid the attack.


A 9th level guardian can establish a stronghold in the wilderness. The stronghold must be placed in such a place to resist attacks from the wilderness, for example between mountains inhabited by ogres and giants and a human or demi-human settlement. Once constructed, the guardian attracts …

Dragon by Dragon – June 1981 (50)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how long ago, in human terms, 1981 was. Of course, 35 years is a drop in the bucket in cosmic terms, but for a 44-year old man, it’s significant. Having a brain that absorbed the early ’80s one day at a time, it just doesn’t seem old, sometimes like it was just yesterday.

Enough of that. Dragon #50 came out 35 years ago this month, and here’s what the 5th anniversary issue has to offer.

We begin, of course, with the cover by Carl Lundgren. Very nice piece of work, and certainly appropriate for the issue, depicting as it does a dragon hovering over its hoard of treasure (or it it the dragon’s hoard?)

As I so often do, I’ll start with an advertisement for a new “family board game” by TSR …

I’m picturing those old game covers or ads from the 1960’s that show a smiling family playing a board game. Little Susie having to tell mom she’s “The Duke of New York – A-number-one!” I just watched the movie a couple days ago, so it’s fresh in my mind.

It should come as no surprise that they have a page for the game at

The game was written by “Zeb” Cook, who also wrote the Expert D&D set.

Now that I’ve dispensed with TSR’s homage to Snake Plissken, let’s get to the first article in this anniversary spectacular – Gregory Rihn‘s “Self defense for dragons”. The article purports to give “everyone’s favorite foe a fighting chance”. The article posits that dragons, as they were written in 1981, were too easy to defeat by a large, well-organized party, especially given the treasure to be gained by defeating them. This would prove to be an important article to later editions of the game, for it expands the dragon’s attacks quite a bit, adding 2 wing buffets, 2 wing claws, a foot stomp and tail lash. In essence, it gives the dragons enough attacks to hit all the attackers likely to be surrounding it in a fight. He goes on to give a couple ideas for good dragon tactics.

This is followed up by Lewis Pulsipher‘s “True Dragons: Revamping the monster from head to claw”. It appears that the theme of this issue is that dragon’s just ain’t good enough. Pulsipher gives a long table with many more age categories and a few additional powers, including shapechanging (I like this one), causing terror and some special powers. One of them – two heads – I’m planning on adding to Blood & Treasure. It also has random tables of spells known, a random table of breath weapons, with the old standards as well as a few new ones – radiation, stoning, windstorm, hallucinogen, negate magic and polymorph. All goodies! Here’s Pulsipher’s take on radiation:

Those failing to roll a d20 lower than their constitution become unconscious and will die of a wasting “disease” in 1-4 days. The “disease” is cured by Cure disease and Remove curse. Effects of the disease are only slowly repaired by the body after the cure. A victim might look ravaged five years after his cure if he was near death, and this may affect his charisma.

Radiation as a curse. I dig it.

Overall, I think I like Pulsipher’s take better, using special powers instead of additional attacks to get the job done. Both would go into beefing up dragons in later editions.

Colleen A. Bishop hits on baby dragons with “Hatching is only the beginning …”, which covers little dragons from egg to birth. It’s a long article, with lots of tables. Maybe worth a look if you’re planning on having a baby dragon in the party for a while.

Robert Plamondon gets us off the dragon train and introduces some folks called the Kzinti. I don’t suppose they need much introduction to the folks who read this blog. They’re tough customers here, with 4+4 HD and two attacks per round. A small group could really bedevil a party, and they’re Lawful Evil to boot. The article covers their arrival on D&D campaign worlds, their religion, social organization, magic, psionics, etc. Very thorough for a monster entry, but no info on them as a playable race.

For those interested in the history of the hobby, David F. Nalle‘s reviews of some old time ‘zines may be of interest. He covers Abyss by Dave Nalle, Alarums & Excursions (such a great name) by Lee Gold, The Beholder by Mike G. Stoner, The Lords of Chaos by Nicolai Shapero, Morningstar by Phillip McGregor, Pandemonium by Robert Sacks, Quick Quincy Gazette by Howard Mahler, The Stormlord by Andreas Sarker, Trollcrusher, The Wild Hunt by Mark Swanson and Zeppelin.

Pulsipher has another article, a very long one with way more math than needed to deal with gaze attacks in D&D. Personally, I let people close their eyes entirely (and open themselves to all sorts of trouble), or try to avoid the monster’s gaze and suffer a penalty to hit, etc.

Larry DiTillio’s article on the glyphs in his campaign world didn’t do much for me.

The Chapel of Silence by Mollie Plants is a prize winning dungeon at IDDC II. It’s a relatively small dungeon, but looks like a good one. It begins with all the adventurers having a strange dream, and goes from there – maybe a well-worn idea now, but clever back in the day.

Back to rules articles, “The Ups and Downs of Riding High” by Roger E. Moore covers flying mounts. Its a pretty thorough look at all the potential flying mounts in AD&D at the time, and covers their diet (most are carnivores), advantages, disadvantages and how much weight they can carry. It’s a useful article to keep in your pocket, in case somebody starts flying around on a dragon and you need some ideas on how to spice up the experience.

This advert caught my eye …

At first, I assumed it was the old computer classic, but it’s something entirely different.

The Dragon’s Bestiary presents the Giant Vampire Frog by Alan Fomorin. How do you not love these guys?

Here’s proof that Mark Herro was nobody’s dummy …

“Home computers may be the most important new consumer appliance to come along in decades. Any device that can control household lights and appliances, edit and type letters and reports, selectively monitor United Press International and the New York Stock Exchange, and play some great games besides, may be almost indispensable in the years to come.”

Word up!

This issue had a couple cartoons of note. First, an argument that persists to this day …

And an old take on Batman vs. Superman … or Batman and Superman vs. something else

And as always, we finish with a bit of Wormy, as we begin to move into the wargaming story line …

Have fun on the internet, and for God’s sake, be kind to one another!

Dragon by Dragon – May 1981 (49)

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.

Dig this:

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 …

Great sculpt

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.

Dream Demon!

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.

And that’s that … Have fun on the internet!

Dragon by Dragon – February 1981 (46)

Happy Easter boys and girls. I hope you have a good one – family, friends, fun and a little time for relaxation and meditation. Hopefully, you also have some time to read this review of Dragon 46 (and White Dwarf 23).

I’ll level with you here. The first time I saw this cover, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. There are a few other “cute” Dragon covers, but this one sorta took the cake. It’s not a bad cover, though, and actually relates to a new comic in this issue – Pinsom by Steve Swenston. It’s a style of fantasy I always digged, and one which I wish had had more coverage in Dragon. Check the end of the article for another glimpse of Swenston’s work.

Moving on …

First up – an advertisement (no, not for anything I did)

Yes, for those of us who lived through the transition, there was home entertainment BEFORE Dungeon!, and home entertainment AFTER Dungeon!. You young whippersnappers have no idea.

In all seriousness, if you’ve never played the game, I highly recommend it (at least, the old version that I used to have – I don’t know if they done any crappy re-imaginings lately). It just occurred to me that it might be cool to combine Dungeon! with Talisman – at least, with the “classes” in Talisman.

The first bit of content in this issue is a short story by J. Eric Holmes, “The Sorcerer’s Jewel” – so always worth a read. Great art by Roslof to go with it! Here’s a sample (of art and text) …

“When Tarkan departed from The Green Dragon, only minutes later, Zereth pushed Boinger off the end of the wooden bench on which they both sat. “Follow him,” he ordered, “and be secretive about it.” It was midnight when the little thief returned. His elven companion had left the tavern common room and gone upstairs to the rented room the two shared, but when Boinger roused him he dressed and came down. The noisy crowd at the bar and fire served their secret purpose better than whispering in their room, where ears might be pressed to the adjoining wall.”

That image to the right just screams D&D to me, and the story does as well. I’ll admit I’m not much of a reader of the fiction in The Dragon, which I should probably remedy at some point, given that I dig Gardner Fox, Homes and Gygax. More importantly, It would be interesting to glean some bits of useful lore from the stories that ostensibly come from actual gameplay.

Here’s another Roslof from that issue:

Love the halfling.

This issue goes pretty heavy into variants on Divine Right (which I don’t have) and touches on The Tribes of Crane (which I never played). I mention this in case people have do have or have played those games want to check out the issue.

The “Dragon’s Bestiary” features the Gaund by Ed Greenwood. Greenwood’s monsters are always well thought out, and seem to point to the direction in which games were moving at the time, which I guess you could call fantasy realism.

I’m more enthused about Roger E. Moore‘s “This Here’s Tyrannosaurus Tex”, a Boot Hill Scenario based on The Valley of the Gwangi.

For those who do not know of The Valley of the Gwangi

I haven’t seen it in a long time – I need to put it on the list.

Among other things, the article includes a hit location chart for the t-rex …

01-20  Tail
21-50  Rear leg
51-55  Forearm
56-75  Abdomen (1% chance of mortal wound)
76-85  Chest (5% chance of mortal wound)
86-00  Head and neck (2% chance of mortal wound)

Also this handy guide to killing a t-rex with dynamite

“For every two sticks of dynamite used against a Tyrannosaur in one attack, there is a cumulative 50% chance of stunning it for one turn (10 seconds), a 25% chance of inflicting a wound or wounds (d10: 1-2 = one wound, 3-5 = two wounds, 6-8 = three wounds, 9-0 = four wounds), and a cumulative 10% chance of killing it outright. This percentage is reduced by 20% (for stunning, wounding, and killing) for each 2” (12’) that the monster is distant from the explosion. For example, 20 sticks of dynamite exploded 4” (24’) from a Tyrannosaur has a 460% chance of stunning it (500-40=460), a 210% chance of wounding it (250-40=210) and a 60% chance of killing it (100-40=60). Treat any amount of dynamite greater than 40 sticks as 40 sticks.”

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh follows up with another Boot Hill article, “How to ease the Boot Hill identity crisis”. I love the first paragraph …

“Everyone seems to have a place in Boot Hill except the player-characters, who have to be content with a place on Boot Hill. They wander in out of nowhere, invariably causing much havoc and then moving on.”

I have to admit, that sounds pretty good to me – not sure I want to remedy that situation. However, if you do, you’ll find a random table of identities for a Boot Hill character. I dig the fact that female characters have a 2% chance to be nuns. I’d love to play a gunslinging nun.

The feature of this issue is “The Temple of Poseidon” by Paul Reiche III. The intro has nothing to do with the adventure, but it does delve into TSR history …

“I wrote The Temple of Poseidon early in the spring of 1980 as part of an application for employment at TSR Hobbies, Inc. Having grown tired of fourteen straight years of school, I decided to take some time off from college and work full-time for a change. The problem was where to find a job. I had already had several, all of which were boring or (as was with the case with piano moving) physically undesirable.

A year earlier, TSR had hired my good friend Erol Otus as a staff artist. After visiting Erol out in the chilly wastes of Wisconsin, and learning that—contrary to what I had heard—the men and women of TSR were not evil, hateful creatures, I decided that perhaps a job with TSR was the kind of change I was looking for. So with several years of playing experience and authorship of two fantasy roleplaying supplements under my belt (Booty and The Beasts and The Necromican co-authored with Mathias Genser and Erol Otus) I started work on the Temple of Poseidon.”

He goes on to say the adventure was inspired by Lovecraft and CAS – and it’s a great dungeon crawl. Well worth reading and running.

Another dandy by Roslof – casting a spell from a scroll

Here’s a cool bit:

“Time and the way the party spends it plays an integral part in this adventure. Exactly 10 turns after the characters descend the spiral staircase and enter the alien base, the evil priests of Ythog Nthlei will succeed in freeing their master. The only way to prevent them from attaining their goal is to kill them before the end of 10 turns. If they succeed, Ythog Nthlei will instantly move to Room 31 with his treasure: The priests will remain in their room.”

“Giants in the Earth“, by Tom Moldvay, opens things up for contributions. So, no giants this time. Dang.

Time for some sage advice …

Question: What happens when a cornered (as in a deep pit) undead creature is turned?

Answer: The act of turning undead (by a good Cleric) compels the victim to turn directly away from the Cleric and move as fast and as far away as possible for 3-12 rounds. When it is physically impossible for the creature to keep moving away, it will retreat to the most remote (from the Cleric) location in the area and continually face away from the Cleric and his/her holy symbol. — J. Ward, W. Niebling

So basically, it’s like the cleric telling the undead to go stand in the corner and think about what they’re done.

And now we come to the comics, and Steve Swenston‘s Pinsom.

Cool stuff.

And so ends the chronicle of February 1981’s Dragon Magazine. But what were those knuckleheads in the UK up to?

At a minimum, the White Dwarf cover for Feb/Mar 1981 (that would be #23) was putting off a very different vibe than The Dragon. It’s definitely an image with which to conjure.

This issue of WD starts a series by Lewis Pulsipher, “An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons”. Good series, and worth the read for the newcomers to the hobby – although I’ve always thought learning to play these games is much better done by joining an existing group and playing. In the early days of the hobby, though, this wasn’t always possible and many groups were learning as they went.

Next up is an interview with Marc Miller, covering his origins and the origins of Traveller. If you’re a fan, you might want to give it a look.

You might also enjoy a look at the Marc Miller of 1981 …

The “Fiend Factory” this issue has the Flymen by Daniel Collerton, with art by Russ Nicholson – great monsters, though they’re only a half-inch tall. However, with a handy shrink ray, they could give a party of adventurers plenty of trouble as they look for a way to return to normal size.

Here are the Blood & Treasure stats, first for the tiny-sized fly men in a swarm, and then for the fly men as they would appear to shrunken adventurers:

Flyman, Tiny Humanoid: HD 0 (1 hp), AC 14 (20 when flying), ATK special, MV 5′ (Fly 30′), SV F16 R16 W16, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Swarm surrounds a person’s head blinding them (-4 to hit, 1d4 automatic hits per round), tiny weapons are poisoned and people have a 1 in 20 chance of being allergic and suffering ill effect; roll 1d8; 1-7 renders the area stung swollen and useless, taking 1d4 turns to set in and then lasting for 1d20+24 turns. An 8 means the character falls into a coma in 1d4 rounds and dies in 1d20+24 turns unless the venom is neutralized.

Drone, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 0 (3 hp), AC 12, ATK nil, MV 20′ (Fly 50′), SV F13 R16 W17, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Strength of 17, semi-intelligent, 1d10+10 appearing.

Artisan, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 1, AC 12, ATK 1 weapon, MV 20′ (Fly 50′), SV F 13 R15 W15, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Usually armed with unpoisoned daggers, their skill in metalwork surpasses the dwarves.

Warrior, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 3, AC 14 (carapace, shield), ATK 1 weapon + poison, MV 20′ (Fly 50′), SV F12 R14 W14, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Carry shields, carapace like studded leather, armed with short bow, short sword, dagger, poisoned weapons (save vs. poison, if save suffer 1d6+4 damage, if fail die instantly), allergic people suffer -4 penalty to save, weapons have enough venom for 5 strikes.

Flyguard, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 9, AC 16 (chain, shield), ATK 2 weapon + poison, MV 30′, SV F9 R10 W11, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Carry composite bow, longsword and dagger (poisoned as above), can size-change and have size rods, ride wasps.

Flymage, “Medium” Humanoid: HD 6, AC 16, ATK 1 weapon + poison, MV 30′, SV as 12th level magic-users, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Can size-change and have size rods, has innate powers (locate insects, summon insects, insect plague, creeping doom, size change to medium size for 30 rounds) and powers granted by their god, Ssrrpt’ck (must pray for 5 rounds).

There are five fly mages per hive, and each has extra powers depending on his role. There is the Master Attack, Master Defense, Master Healer, Master Knowledge, Master Worshiper.

The article also includes info on other types of flymen, the Northflies and Sandflies. Awesome stuff – seek it out and use it, for crying out loud. The flymen would make an incredible side trek in a dungeon or wilderness. In fact, the issue includes “The Hive of the Hrrr’l”, also by Daniel Collerton, so you’re all set.

Also: The flymen’s heads can be hollowed out and used as masks.

In addition:

Magic-User 4, Cleric 3

Range: Touch
Duration: 30 rounds

Spell causes a creature to shrink by a factor of 144 (human down to 1/2″ in height).

Spell Focus: A telescoping rod (costs 1,000 gp) that must be pushed in while the spell is being cast.

The White Dwarf isn’t done yet – you also get a new class, The Elementalist by Stephen Bland, the Khazad-class Seeker Starship for Traveller by Roger E. Moore, and A Spellcaster’s Guide to Arcane Power by Bill Milne. That last article involves a spell point system for spellcasting. There are also some keen magic items.

All in all, a really good issue of White Dwarf … in fact, I give it the nod over The Dragon this time around.

Happy Easter folks!

Dragon by Dragon – December 1980 (44)

When Christmas rolled around in 1980, a young me was still four years away from role playing games, though I did get this slick bike:

Found HERE!

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.

“Dear Editors:

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. Rihn presents 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 – 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!