Dragon by Dragon – April 1982 (60)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but things have sure been stressful lately. I’ve been working hard and praying for peace, and trying to relax with old TV shows, old movies and some podcasts about fun things. I will readily admit that my interests tend towards the old – movies from the 30’s and 40’s, TV from the 60’s through 80’s, “bronze age” comics, old games, etc. There’s something about the design and awkward charm that really get me, not to mention nostalgia for places and people I’ll never see again.

To that end, before I present the wonders of Dragon Magazine #60, I must say goodbye to an old family friend. When I went over to my dad’s house to help work on his patio this week, he let me know that the old Panasonic microwave had finally radiated its last cup of tea.

We bought the microwave back in 1980 (two years before this particular Dragon magazine was published), and I still remember where the shop was, though it’s long since been replaced. It was my parents’ first and only microwave oven. I don’t have any deep emotional attachment to the item, really, but I was rooting for it to stay operational forever. Still, 40 years is pretty damn good for an appliance.

So, farewell Panasonic – I learned to cook hot dogs in you, enjoyed chocolate candy my mother made in you, consumed waaay to many Tony’s microwave pizzas heated by you in my formative years (as in “forming a husky body”) and found about 20,000 cups of water placed in you for heating and subsequently forgotten by my dad. Salute!

Now – to Dragon Magazine. This baby was published in 1982 – so it is still prior to me discovering D&D, which would have been 1984. I don’t remember ever checking this one out from the library, so the contents are new to me – and as always, this is less a review than a “here’s what I dug about this issue”.

We start with an ad for a video game called Temple of Apshai. No memory of this one, but I do agree with their sentiment about slaying monsters. It came with a 56-page “book of lore”, which reminds me of the old Ultima and Might & Magic games that I had. Ultima had a cool cloth map (a tapestry, you know), and M&M had a book with all the spells and stuff in it. A little perusal of the interwebs reveals it was part of a trilogy, and that there are many places to download/play it, including the good old Internet Archive.

Nerd alert:

Dear editor:

There are a couple of problems with Robert Barrow’s article, “Aiming for Realism in Archery,” in issue #58 of DRAGON™ Magazine. From my standpoint, it seems that the good author spends too much time with modern archery and has read nothing of medieval history dealing with the subject.

I mean, the writer of that missive is probably correct … but jeez – can’t I just roll 1d20, maybe do some damage, and move on with my life. I’m not sure there’s any real value to re-creating an historical battle, but I’m positive that re-enacting a fictional fight with some orcs is positively goofy, to quote Jan Brady.

The first big piece in this issue is “All About Elves”. You get Roger E. Moore’s “The Elven Point of View”, with super cool Erol Otus art – the ultimate elven fighter/mage. I really dig the idea that only elves can be fighter/mages. There are, of course, lots of cool ideas in the article – Roger E. Moore is one of my favorites. Roger and Georgia Moore then present the Elven Gods – these are the additions to the pantheon beyond Corellon Larethian in Deities & Demigods. These days, I’m more apt to make up my own, but as a kid, articles like this were eye-openers to me. Notions I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

Speaking of elves – here’s a question from Sage Advice:

Why are elven thieves always children?

Anyone who has a relatively recent edition of the Dungeon Masters Guide will probably think this question doesn’t make sense. The latest edition of the DMG lists 100+5d6 as the starting age for player-character elven thieves (page 12). This puts them into the “young adult” range according to the Age Categories chart (page 13) for high elves — the only kind of elves who can be player characters. However, it wasn’t always so. Earlier editions of the DMG gave 50+5d6 as the starting age, which would indeed mean that all elven thieves would start their adventuring lives as “adolescents” of 55 to 80 years old. Fortunately, this inaccuracy was spotted and corrected in later editions; anyone with an old book can simply make the appropriate change in the text.

Who else likes the idea that only elven teenagers become professional thieves? Sometimes, the “mistakes” are more fun and more inspirational than the corrections.

We also get the “Half-Elven Point of View” by Roger E. Moore to round things out.

Gygax’s “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” is a big load of cantrips. AD&D cantrips were 0-level spells before later editions pumped them up and made them more useful. I think it would be cool to make these available to non-magic-users on scrolls. Most of these cantrips require the player to really use their imagination and creativity to make them useful in a dungeon adventure – so naturally, I love them.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I absolutely love the illustrations some companies used to illustrate the miniatures they produced. They always look cooler than the actual miniatures, and I just think they’re little works of art.

Ed Greenwood has an article on firearms for D&D which is aptly named “Firearms”. A semi-controversial subject, since Gygax went the direction of “gunpowder doesn’t work in a fantasy world” and many adopted that idea. As with so many articles in these days, it’s pretty thorough, and looks to me like it would blend nicely into the game. Handguns, for example, do 2d3 damage, firing every other round, with a max range of 50 – so they aren’t going to dominate the game. It might be a cool idea to use orcs in the way Tolkien did, as harbingers of the soulless machine age, and arm them with gunpowder weapons, while the heroes use the “elegant weapons of a more civilized age.”

I often include the first paragraph of short stories in Dragon, so here’s a sample of “Wear Wolf” by an unknown author:

The head of the Cheetah seemed to smile mockingly at me. You’ve forgotten something, I could almost hear it say. I resisted the urge to answer back, But I always forget something when I’m late. There are enough aFnimate objects to talk to; talking to inanimate ones is a waste of time.

Dragon #60 includes a complete game – Flight of the Boodles – by Chuck Stoll of Louisville, KY. It recreates the epic journey of the boodles through the “Grumjug-infested passes of the Snagrock Mountains”. The art makes it look like a fun game to me. The map and counters are included – with a little work you could probably recreate them in a cleaner format and print them out to play the game. Each player takes the side of the Boodles or Grumjugs, purchases the pieces they are going to use in their force, and then goes at it, the Boodles trying to break through the mountains and the Grumjugs trying to stop them. Basically – a fun little wargame.

This is an April issue, so April Fools Day jokes was a requirement. In this issue we get one pseudo-joke – the Jester NPC class by Roger E. Moore – who had some thief abilities – climb walls, pick pockets, catch objects – and some jester spells (levels 1 to 8). The spell list is not extensive, but the spells are pretty darn good. I think you could do a great campaign where a hidden evil threatens a kingdom, and the evil in question is a high level jester who wants to sieze the throne for his own, or maybe who is trying to spread chaos for the chaos gods.

Roger Moore also does “Midgets in the Earth” – a comical version of the usual “Giants in the Earth” articles presenting D&D stats for literary characters. This one gives you the likes of Eubeen Hadd, 20th level halfling thief, and Morc the Orc, 12th level snaga orc idiot. The Dragon’s Bestiary follows up with monster stats for Donald Duck by Tom Moldvay (which could work well in RuneQuest-inspired games) or any game where you’d like your PC’s to get whooped by an angry duck, the Tasmanian Devil by Steven Sullivan, the Jolly Green Giant by Michael Nystul (name sounds familiar), Marvin the Martian by David Cook (which one could use as the basis for a whole planet of martians in a cosmic adventure), Baseball Bugbears by Karl Kesel and Tom Richmond (probably a reference to the Bad News Bears) and the Werebeaver by Jeff Goetz (which looks suspiciously like Jerry Mathers). They’re all joke monsters, but all usable as well.

To follow up on the April levity, you get an in-depth article on the Pooka by Michael Fountain. I’ve seen many takes on this monster, which would take some real skill to make work in a game, as there’s such a big emphasis on illusion.

You also get some background stuff for agents in Top Secret, some variant scenarios for Trojan War and a big article on Alignment (since it’s the 80’s and there were many articles on alignment).

“Wormy” by Dave Trampier presents the secret handshake of trolls … which, of course, I cannot show in all good conscience.

“What’s New with Phil and Dixie” by Phil Foglio looks at minigames, including one called “Escape from Cthulhu” that just includes a short incantation …

And a tall order!

Fare well, lads and lasses, and find some love and happiness amid all the troubles of the world. Better yet – be the love and happiness in a troubled world!

Dragon by Dragon – March 1981 (47)

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

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

‘The height of absurdity’

Dear Editor:

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

The height of absurdity indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air elementals do not favor the “flesh time”.

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

Neat ideas for fire plane monsters!

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

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

Dig this awesome art …

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

Here’s a slick excerpt:

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

Fire-gems for night hags. Nice.

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

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

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

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

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

In case you needed such a table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also a nice little Otus sketch:

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

You can pick up a used copy at Amazon.

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

Very Disney-esque, this one.

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

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 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!

Dragon by Dragon – October 1977 (10)

Can you feel the chill in the air – that crisp chill of Autumn? Well, of course not. It’s July in the here and now, and just reading a magazine from October isn’t going to change that unless you have a rather powerful imagination or have been dipping into the pseudo-pharmaceuticals. Let’s see what Gygax & Co. had in store for us 35 years, when the leaves of Lake Geneva were beginning to change*

October 1977 starts off with a firecracker (mixing my seasons again), as Jon Pickens presents D&D Option: Orgies, Inc. The Mule Abides has already brought this article to prominence in the OSR, but I think it’s worth mulling over again.

The article posits the problem of too much wealth in the game. To this end, Pickens decided that treasure should only be translated into XP when it was spent. Since you can only have so many suits of platemail, 10-ft. poles and weeks of iron rations, players need something else for which to spend their gold. Pickens provides the following avenues of expenditure:

1. Sacrifices: Gold given directly to gods or demons; any character can do this
2. Philanthropy: Lawful’s can give gold to charity – but not to hirelings or fellow PC’s, of course
3. Research: This is for magic-users and alchemists.
4. Clan Hoards: Dwarves and other clannish folk can give their money to their clan.
5. Orgies: Fighters (not paladins or rangers), bards, thieves and all chaotics (except monks) can spend their money on wine, women and song

There are, of course, additional guidelines to these expenditures (i.e. how much can be spent in a night or week, etc.), but I love the idea and the restrictions. Even better, he has two appendices to the article – one on gambling and one on the effects of orgies on psionics (and in my opinion, the mere existence of this appendix should make you want to include both orgies and psionics in your next campaign).

Izzat what a female goblin looks like?

Daniel Clifton has the task of following up on Orgies, Inc., and does so with Designing for Unique Wilderness Encounters. It’s a nice little article, containing random tables for determining what the terrain looks like when a few pesky wandering monsters show up in the wilderness. The tables generate the vegetation, slope, etc., but don’t provide any guidance for how this terrain impacts the battle, which is probably a good thing.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh presents Random Monsters – by which he means monsters generated randomly, not random wandering monsters. Naturally, I need to generate at least one (which I suppose I really should include in Blood & Treasure):

Intelligence: Highly intelligent (I have a budding genius on my hands here!)
Alignment: Chaos
Type: Mammal (which means it might be a ninja)
Speed: 12
Armor Class: 7 (would have been a 6 if it was a reptile; for B&T it’s a 12)
Hit Dice: Level -2 (level being the level of the dungeon … hmm let’s pretend we’re on the 9th level of our dungeon, so 7 HD)
Hit Dice Modifier: +0 (so, 7 HD … odd that I need to roll for the HD and then roll to modify it)
Damage: 1d8

Now I need to roll for special characteristics, which is an odd percentile table. For a 7 HD monster, I’m going to assume it works as follows:

01-39 – none
40-74 – one
75-89 – two
90-100 – three

I roll a “92” (no, really, I swear it) and thus my monster has three special characteristics. I need to roll d24 for these (if you don’t know how to roll d24, I just feel bad for you) and come up with the following:

1. Hostile to clerics
2. Has anti-magic shell
3. Hostile to magic-users

I have a very hostile monster, apparently. But he doesn’t hate cans … he hates spellcasters. This makes his anti-magic shell make pretty good sense (ah, the wisdom of dice!)

I now roll another D% to see if it has “other characteristics”, and a roll of “61” tells me it does not (otherwise, it could have some insect characteristics).

Last batch of rolls determine the physical description:

Size: Medium (6 feet)
Limbs: 2 legs, 3 arms
Exterior: Feathers
Coloring: Spotted white and grey

So, what do we end up with?

Medium Magical Beast, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

Hit Dice: 7
Armor Class: 12 [7 for Swords & Wizardry]
Attacks: 3 claws (1d8)
Move: 30 [12 for Swords & Wizardry]
Saves: F 10, R 10, W 11 [9 for Swords & Wizardry]
XP: 700 (CL 8)

Almesiths are strange beasts that are spawned from the residual energies of powerful spellcasting, living embodiments of nature’s abhorrence of magic. They are most often encountered in the deeper levels of dungeons, and seek out spellcasters for destruction. Almesiths look something like owlbears, and can be mistaken for those sorcerous creations. They differ in size, being no taller than a man, coloration, being covered in dark grey feathers on their arms, legs and backs and softer, white and grey spotted down on their bellies, and in two additional curiosities: They lack mouths, having instead a stirge-like tubular beak that juts 3 feet from their faces, and in that they have a third arm that juts from their chest. Almesiths attack with their large, hooked claws, and generate a natural anti-magic field (as a 7th level caster) in a 60-ft. radius. In combat, they always focus their attacks on spellcasters (clerics, druids, magic-users and sorcerers first, bards second, assassins, paladins and rangers third), ignoring attacks by non-spellcasters even when it threatens to kill them.

In the Design Forum, Richard Gilbert presents Let There Be Method To Your Madness. This is another in the series of “dungeons should usually make some rational sense” articles; the attempt to bring the retro-stupid branch of the RPG world to heel that persists to this day. I think these two camps can best be described as Phoebe vs. Rachel.

Next up is a mini-game … Snit Smashing, in which a Bolotomus waits to smash the Snits that run from the ocean so they can plant their snotch in a Snandergrab. If the Snit player manages to multiply more rapidly than the Bolotomus player can smash them, he or she wins. For the Bolotomus to win, he or she must destroy all of the Snits.

When you’re through smashing snits, you can proceed to P. M. Crabaugh‘s next article, entitled Weights & Measures, Physical Appearance and Why Males are Stronger than Females; in D&D (weird use of a semicolon). If the feminists in the audience are getting their hackles up, they might want to read the article first, they might want to read the article first. The article posits an additional 3d6 stat – Size – which can translate into bonus hit points and a modifier to carrying capacity. Yeah, males get some extra carrying capacity … and females get a +2 bonus to Con and a +1 bonus to Dex, and men get called “thick-fingered clods with facial hair”. The old “trash men to keep the feminists from calling you insensitive names” ploy. A classic.

Beyond the ability modifiers, the article has a mess of random tables for generating a random appearance (did you know males have a 30% chance of having facial hair). I don’t know that I’d use this for generating a PC, but it could be useful for generating general ethnic physical and cultural characteristics, if you want to get away from “these people look like Vikings, and these people look like East Asians and these people look like …” trend in campaigns.

The next article is Gaining a New Experience Level by Tom Holsinger. He explains that what D&D and EPT really need is some sort of dangerous ritual for characters to undertake when they have enough XP to advance in level. To which I reply, “Huh?” Favorite line in the article:

“The sacrifice of humans is generally forbidden in a populated area because too many people get upset.”

The article is actually pretty tongue-in-cheek, and would make for an interesting campaign. Essentially, it creates a sub-game that involves getting the gods’ attention with sacrifices or sacrilege, then assuming the “proper physical and psychic attitude, i.e. complete exhaustion”, which, Holsinger assures us, can only reliably be done by becoming thoroughly inebriated, during which the Emissaries of the Gods, the Great Pink Elephants, come to the character and imbue them with their new Hit Dice and special abilities. The level limits for elves, dwarves and halflings are, he tells us, because they have a harder time getting drunk. It is also why high level characters move out of town and build castles – with more hit points, they have to get super shit-faced to attract the attention of the gods, and that might mean burning things down and causing other massive disruptions to the lives of the common citizenry. This article actually dovetails nicely with Orgies, Inc. and together they could make for one hell of a fun campaign.

Next up, Edward C. Cooper‘s The Tactics of Diplomacy in Stellar Conquest. Honestly, I don’t know the game and so I’m not going to comment on the article.

In Wormy, the eponymous dragon is contemplating stumping some angry dwarves with a riddle. They’re angry because Wormy stole their bowling balls to use on his pool table. Meanwhile, Fineous Fingers is under attack by a whole guild of murderous hobbits.

And that’s it for October 1977. Good issue, I think. I have to run and set up an inflatable pool now, but I have a couple neat ideas in store for next week. Oh, and I finished writing Blood & Treasure yesterday …

Would they be changing in October? I’ve lived in Las Vegas my entire life – Summer temperatures only finally end around the last week of October, and the leaves may not change here until well into December. Basically, I have no idea how seasons are supposed to work.

Cave Brawl – The Rules

Rules of Play

Flip a coin to determine which team starts out with the ball – or simply discuss and come to a decision. The team with the ball is the offense, the team without the ball is the defense.

The defense coach moves first. All of the players begin the game in the “tunnel” leading to the playfield, and thus each one must be moved from their goal cave. The light colored square counts as the first square of their movement.

Play proceeds in turns. The defense coach makes the first move, then his opponent, and so on.

On a coach’s turn, he may move all of his players.

A player can move as many squares as they have movement points and take one action. A player that has been knocked down can stand up and take one action, but cannot move.

All actions are resolved by comparing one of the attacker’s ability scores to one of the defender’s ability scores to derive a modifier. If the attacker’s score is higher, then the modifier is a bonus equal to the difference between the two scores. If the defender’s score is higher, then the modifier is a penalty equal to the difference between the two scores. The attacker rolls 1d20 + the modifier to resolve the action. If the roll is equal to or greater than 10, the action is a success. If not, the action is a failure.

The following actions can be attempted in Cave Brawl:

Block: A block is an attempt to push an adjacent opposing player. Compare the blocker’s BT score to the defender’s BT score to derive the modifier. If successful, the blocker may move the defender one square in any direction. If they have any movement left, they can follow up an end the turn adjacent to the defender. The victim of a successful block suffers 1d6 points of damage. Deduct this from their hit point total. If the roll is a failure, the blocker’s turn is over.

Tackle: A tackle is an attempt to knock an adjacent opposing player over, forcing them to drop the ball. Compare the tackler’s BT score to the defender’s BT or CD score (whichever is higher). If the tackle is a success, the defender is knocked down and loses 2d6 hit points. If they were carrying the ball, it bounces into an adjacent square chosen by the defender. If the tackle is a failure, the tackler is knocked down in the square they occupy and loses 1d6 hit points.

Pass: A pass is an attempt to throw a ball from a passer to a receiver. Compare the passer’s PK score to a difficulty class (DC) based on the range of the attempted pass. For each opposing player adjacent to passer, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty.

Short Range (1-5 squares) = DC 4
Medium Range (6-10 squares) = DC 8
Long Range (11-20 squares) = DC 12

If the pass is successful, it is on target and the receiver may attempt to catch it and then move. If the pass is a failure, it lands 1d6 squares away from the receiver, placed by the passer’s opponent.

Catch: This is the attempt by a player to catch a ball that has been passed to them. Compare the receiver’s CD score to the same DC as for the original pass. For each adjacent opposing player, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty. If successful, the receiver now holds the ball and can move their allotment of squares. If the catch is failed, the ball is placed one square away from the receiver by the opposing coach.

Kick: Kicking works as passing. The ball is aimed at the tiny hole above the goal tunnel of the opposing team. A successful kick instantly ends the game in victory for the kicking team. The DC of the kick is determined by range, measuring from the kicker to the goal square. For each opposing player adjacent to kicker, the d20 roll suffers a -1 penalty.

Short Range (1-5 squares) = DC 14
Medium Range (6-10 squares) = DC 17
Long Range (11-20 squares) = DC 20

If the kick is a failure, the ball is placed 1d6 squares away from the goal square by the opposing coach.

Pick Up Ball: A ball that is loose on the ground can be picked up by a player. The player must move to the square containing the ball and pick it up. That player’s movement ends in that square.

A team that scores a goal by kicking wins the game automatically.

By moving the ball into the opponent’s goal square, a team scores one point. The first team to score an agreed upon number of points (3 can be considered the default) wins the game.

When a point has been scored, the ball is given to the opposing team and play begins again with each team in their goal tunnel. As always, play begins with the defender.

Keep It Moving
Ungawa demands action! If the offense (i.e. the team with the ball) has not moved the ball for two turns, Ungawa’s priests release one of the following terrors from their animal pits. Roll 1d6 to determine the beast:

.nobrtable br { display: none }

Roll Beast POW DMG MV
1 Stirge Swarm 2 1d6 4
2 Smilodon 6 2d6 6
3 Stegosaurus 8 3d6 5
4 Giant Snake 4 1d6 6
5 Mastodon 10 3d6 5
6 Pteranodon 4 1d6 7

Special: The victim of a pteranodon attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they are picked up and carried off the field of play, never to return. The victim of a giant snake attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they are constricted and unable to move until they make a successful Block attack against the snake. Each round they are constricted, they suffer automatic damage. The victim of a stirge swarm attack must roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they lose one point from each of the ability scores (BT, CD and PK).

The released animal either emerges from the left cave or right cave (flip a coin). It heads towards the nearest player on the team that has failed to advance and attacks. After that, the animal moves toward and attempts to attack (if it moves far enough) the nearest player from either team. The animal does not leave the field of play until a point is scored or the animal is killed.

To attack, compare the beast’s Power value to the defender’s BT or CD (whichever is higher) and roll 1d20 as normal. The type of beast determines the number of hit points the player loses on a successful attack. The beast rolls a number of 1d6 equal to its Power value to determine its hit points.

Attempts to block or tackle a beast are made by comparing the attacker’s BT to the beast’s Power value.

League Play
League play can be accomplished by forming a number of teams and then having each team play each other team, recording wins and losses, during the season and allowing the two teams with the best win-loss records play a championship at the end of the season.

Alternatively, you can put the teams in brackets, allowing them to play an initial round of games, the winners playing each other in successive rounds until only two teams remain.

Players that do not survive a game are replaced by new players for the next game. Each player that survives a game can improve one of their ability scores (BT, CD or PK) by +1. No ability score can be improved higher than a score of “8”.

Cave Brawl – The Teams

As mentioned in the last post, Cave Brawl is played by two teams of nine players each (yeah – you can do 7 or 11 or whatever – don’t sweat it). There are five different factions (well, four really) that compete in the games. Coaches pick a faction and choose their player types and then roll stats for those individual players. Each team has to have at least five players of the “basic” type – i.e. an Amazon team has to have at least five amazons, the other four positions can be “special” players.

Each of the four main factions (I know I said five before – just keeping reading, you’ll see what I mean) has three player types each. Each player has five statistics to keep track of:

Block and Tackle (BT): This measures the player’s overall strength and ability to shove others around.

Catch and Dodge (CD): This measures the player’s overall agility, quickness and hand-eye coordination.

Pass and Kick (PK): This measures the player’s ability to put the ball where they want.

Move (MV): This is the number of squares the player can move each round.

Hit Points (HP): This is the amount of injury a player can take before they are removed from play. A player has 1d6 hit points for every point of “Block & Tackle” they have.

For each player, roll 1d6 to determine their BT, CD and PK scores, modifying the roll for the player type (see tables below). Once the BT is determined, roll for HP. A player’s MV score is determined by their player type.


The amazons are fierce woman warriors from the dinosaur-infested jungles. They are quick, agile and bloodthirsty.
.nobrtable br { display: none }

Player Type BT CD PK MV
Amazon (Basic) +0 +0 +0 5
Acrobat (Special) -2 +2 +0 6
Queen (Special) +0 +0 +2 5

Special: Acrobats have the ability to vault over opposing players. An acrobat can move to a space adjacent to an opposing player and attempt a DODGE roll (see tomorrow’s post for how you do this). If successful, place the acrobat on the other side of the opposing player and allow her to continue her movement.

The cavemen and their ape allies dwell in the hills. Frankly, they mostly show up in hopes of tackling some amazons.
.nobrtable br { display: none }

Player Type BT CD PK MV
Caveman (Basic) +0 +0 +0 5
Cave Ape (Special) +2 +0 -2 4
Monkey (Special) -2 +2 -2 5

Special: For an opposing player to attempt to BLOCK or TACKLE a cave ape, they must first test their courage by roll 1d6. On a roll of “1”, they quake in fear and lose their turn.

The cold-blooded reptilians venture up from their super heated vents beneath the ground to show their dominance over the pathetic mammals.
.nobrtable br { display: none }

Player Type BT CD PK MV
Lizard Man (Basic) +1 +0 +0 4
Kobold (Special) -2 +3 +0 3
Troglodyte (Special) +2 +0 -2 4

Special: Troglodytes are surrounded by a terrible stench. Any opposing player beginning their turn adjacent to a troglodyte must roll 1d6. On the roll of a “1” they are too busy retching to take a turn.

The witch doctors and their sorcerous spawn are not about to let a bunch of mundane warriors be Ungawa’s favorites. It’s a matter of witchdoctor pride!
.nobrtable br { display: none }

Player Type BT CD PK MV
Zombie (Basic) +2 -2 -2 3
Goblin (Special) -2 +2 +0 4
Witchdoctor (Special) -2 +0 +0 5

Special: Zombies, when “killed” are not removed from play. Each round after death, the controlling coach can roll 1d6 for each dead zombie. On a roll of “1”, the zombie re-awakens with 1d6 hit points.

Witchdoctors can cast one curse during the course of the game. This curse knocks 1d6 points from a designated target’s BT, CD or PK score (witchdoctor’s choice).

The final “faction” are the exiles – members of other factions who have been cast out for breaking one taboo or another. A team of exiles can choose its members from any of the other four factions, but must still have 5 basic players and only 4 special players.

Unfortunately, exiles don’t become exiles because they work and play well with others. Any time a member of one faction is adjacent to the member of another faction on his same team, and not adjacent to an opposing team member, he or she must roll 1d6. On a “1”, the player attacks the old rival with a TACKLE and otherwise loses his or her turn.

So, why not throw together a sample team of exiles to test things out. My 9 player team looks as follows:

#1 Boris the Zombie: HP 26; BT 8; CD 3; PK 4; MV 3; Special: Revive.

#2 Una the Amazon: HP 1; BT 1; CD 2; PK 4; MV 5; Special: None.

#3 Ook the Caveman: HP 26; BT 6; CD 1; PK 2; MV 5; Special: None.

#4 Sherp the Lizard Man: HP 29; BT 7; CD 1; PK 4; MV 4; Special: None.

#5 Bela the Zombie: HP 15; BT 5; CD 0; PK 1; MV 3; Special: Revive.

#6 Aurora the Acrobat: HP 13; BT 4; CD 3; PK 2; MV 6; Special: Leap.

#7 Tawa the Witch Doctor: HP 3; BT 0; CD 2; PK 3; MV 5; Special: Curse.

#8 Urg the Cave Ape: HP 11; BT 4; CD 4; PK 3; MV 4; Special: Fear.

#9 Vexxs the Troglodyte: HP 26; BT 8; CD 3; PK 1; MV 4; Special: Stench.

Looks like Una is going to be my default passer, but she’s going to have to be protected – Jim McMahon could take a hit better than her. Urg is a little disappointing as a cave ape, but on the whole it looks like I have some pretty stout bruisers on my team – they may be able to outlast their opponents if they can’t outplay them.

The game rules for Cave Brawl!

Image of amazon from PARS FORTUNA, drawn by Mike Stewart.

Other images by Jeff Preston, used via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Are You Ready for Some Cave Brawl?

This idea sort of popped into my head the other day, so I ran with it …

Every year, in the Lost Valley of Dinosaurs, the various tribes and clans gather at the ancient stone arena to pay tribute to Ungawa, the Great God of the Valley. This involves a sacred religious observance in the form of a ball game, in which the various factions of the Valley test themselves in the arena, with the losers “passing through the sacred fire” to visit Ungawa in person. Strangely, most folk in the Valley prefer to avoid this particular honor.


The arena is a square pit, about 21 yards wide by 21 yards long and 30 feet deep. Four caves open into this pit. Two serve as the respective goals of the two teams that compete in the game, the other two link to animal pits, just in case Ungawa is feeling a bit squirrely and wants to spice up the game.

On the board above, the light squares represent the team goals, the black squares the caves to the animal pits.

The goal is simple – put the ball into the other team’s goal area. This can be done by carrying the ball physically into the opponent’s goal area, or kicking the ball into a fairly small hole (about 3-ft in diameter) located about 20 feet above the pit floor and directly above the other team’s goal cave. Carrying the ball over the goal is worth a single point – three points wins the game. Kicking the ball into a hole wins the game outright!

Tomorrow: The Teams – Amazons, Cavemen, Reptilians and Witchdoctors!