Stunt Spectaculars

Wow, have I been busy the last couple weeks, at work and home – so I apologize for a lack of posting. Before I get to the meat of the post, a couple quick notes:

1. I jumped on MeWe about a month ago, and it hasn’t pissed me off yet, so you can find me over there if you look.

2. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the last week cleaning up and organizing this blog. I’ve worked on the categories and tags to make finding things easier, cleaned up some blog post titles, etc.

It’s a wonderful thing exploring the cinematic past. I think it is safe to say that, for most of us, there are far more movies that have been made that we haven’t heard of than we have heard of. More importantly, some of your favorite movies are ones you have never heard of. Not everything in the past was a gem, of course, but there are some goodies hiding out there.

Two movies I’ve seen in the past couple months qualify for me as “recent unknowns” that I ultimately enjoyed. Both of them are stunt heavy, and call to mind the days when non-CGI stunts dominated action movies. The crazy stunts started early in Hollywood, though they were far more often the purview of comedies than action films. One can draw a straight line from Buster Keaton’s astounding stunt-filled comedies of the 20’s and 30’s to Jackie Chan’s astounding stunt-filled comedies of the 80’s and 90’s (and beyond).

The Stunt Man (1980)

The Stunt Man is the story of a fugitive (Steve Railsback) who becomes a stunt man to escape the authorities. He becomes involved in a love triangle – well, sorta – involving the director he works with (Peter O’Toole) and his protege actress (Barbara Hershey, pre-lip expansion). The stunts are amazing, but the movie is really about the domineering director and the mystery of the man’s fugitive past. They do a good job of making you nervous about who this stunt man really is … aided considerably by the fact that Railsback had previously played Charlie Manson. His face is enough to make you think something terrible is lurking beneath the surface. No spoilers here – you’ll have to watch it to find out how it comes out.

The Junkman (1982)

This is a weird little movie that is extremely stunt heavy. It took H. B. Halicki two years to get it made, but boy did he get it made. There is a mega-car chase with explosions that is worth the ticket of admission. The Junkman is part of a trilogy with Gone in 60 Seconds and Deadline Auto Theft, two other b-movies worth watching if you dig car movies. The Junkman is not as complex as character study as The Stunt Man, and does not have the heavy hitter status of a Peter O’Toole, but it’s still a fun flick for a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Dragon by Dragon – January 1982 (57)

Wow – 1982. I was ten years old (well, nine in January) and still a couple years away from learning about Dungeons & Dragons. Thirty-six years ago – much as changed, and much has not. I guess all these years later, we can be happy that people are still playing D&D and AD&D and other “old school” games. Let’s start the new year by looking at the new year in 1982 in gaming …

Let’s start with the cover, because it’s pretty different from the traditional fantasy fare. We have a woman, maybe modern, knitting dragons (or something like them) onto a blanket  and the dragons are becoming real and flying into the fireplace, all while a strange painting of a man or woman looks on. The tragedy is that I can’t quite make out the signature, and I didn’t see the artist’s name in the magazine.

Update: Nathan Irving writes me to let me know the artist is Dean Morrissey, who provided covers for 16, 18, 28, 60, 84 and 91.

The first big article is “Modern Monsters” by Ed Greenwood. It’s a great article, giving modern (in 1982) vehicles and firearms stats for D&D. The article also goes into some of the pitfalls of pitting “medieval” characters against modern characters. It really all goes to the point that jumping from one reality into another was assumed to be a regular feature by our elders in the hobby. Here’s one insight you might enjoy:

Magic will ultimately determine the fate of an AD&D party in a modern setting. It is the party’s “heavy artillery,” and must be expended with caution, for it is not wholly renewable. Magic users without spell books will be unable to regain their spells.

Lenard Lakofka presents some useful ideas and tables in “Shield and Weapon Skills”, including this insight about shields after he watched some folks from the SCA put on a demonstration of medieval fighting:

Fully 60% of the blows are caught by the shield. Second, a trained fighter who normally uses a broadsword is a much poorer fighter when using a battle axe for the first time. To place these facts in terms of AD&D™ rules, some minor rule changes are proposed. A shield will now give +2 to armor class instead of just +1.

He also presents some rules for determining how long shields last in combat. My favorite scheme is for shields to have to make an item save whenever an attack roll is a natural ’20’.

The tables I mentioned are for determining an NPC’s weapon proficiencies, but they could also be used to determine an NPC’s armaments.

In the “Sorcerer’s Scroll”, one E. Gary Gygax presents some more details about the Greyhawk setting – a good read for those who use that campaign setting.

In “In Search of a James Bond”, Mark Mulkins covers how in a TOP SECRET game one could work for three different operational bureaus at the same time without sacrificing experience points. What Mark covers in three pages I would just hand wave.

Up next is an article I kinda dig called “Random Magic Items” by Pete Mohney. It’s a collection of some groovy little random tables for generating magic items. I’ll generate three of them now:

1) A magic girdle, not cursed, that gives a +1 bonus to all saving throws.

2) An amulet shaped like a double-headed axe that allows the wearer to control animals once per week.

3) A hat that provides a +1 bonus to intelligence – we’ll call it a thinking cap.

If you’re a player of DragonQuest, this issue has an article about magicians by Jon Mattson. Since I’ve never played the game, I can’t comment on the merits of the article.

This issue’s Giants in the Earth covers a couple characters I don’t know – C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine and Vanye (with art by Jim Holloway) from the books Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan and Fires of Azeroth, Lynn Abbey’s Rifkind from Daughter of the Bright Moon and The Black Flame, and two characters created by Robert E. Howard – Belit and Dark Agnes. Howard. Belit is a Chaotic Evil 10th level fighter in this write-up, though I would probably go Neutral Evil given her devotion to Conan since I conceive of Chaotic Evil as being utterly self-interested.

The special feature of this issue is an AD&D adventure called “The Wandering Trees” by Michael Malone. It is intended for characters level 6th to 9th. The adventure begins thus:

Long ago, so far back that even the elves are not sure when, Termlane Forest was the home of a tribe of tree-worshipping men. These men built a great temple at the heart of The Forest, where they worshipped their mysterious tree-gods.

The adventure concerns a forest of moving trees with only two safe ways through, and a lost temple somewhere in between. It’s a hell of a dangerous forest, so beware. The adventure also includes stakes for the Phooka.

In “Up on a Soapbox”, there are two essays – one by Brian Blume on the problems with playing evil characters in games, and another by Roger E. Moore on the benefits of playing rpg’s with women.

Michael Kluever has an interesting look at “The History of the Shield”. It’s a good primer for those who like to get crunchy. It’s not a short article, and it is well researched with a useful bibliography.

There’s a great insight into 1982 geekdom in “The Electric Eye”, namely the results of a survey regarding to what high tech goodies readers of the magazine had to play with. The results:

  • 46% have an Apple II or Apple II+
  • 38% have a TRS-80
  • 20% have an Atari 400 or 800
  • 9% have a CBM
  • 6% have no computer
  • 6% have a S-100
  • 3% have a North Star
  • 3% have a VIC
  • and 20% have some other computer

The bottom line, apparently was:

Who is the average Electric Eye reader? He’s a 17-year-old male high school student. He has owned a 48K Apple-l I+ with a disk drive, a printer, and a joystick or a paddle set for about a year. He has spent a little over $100 on software, but he mainly either copies out of magazines or does it himself. He reads The Electric Eye for the program listings and reviews, but he is also interested in other facets of computer gaming.

As always, I leave you with Wormy

Save

Mannix!

Mike Connors recently passed away. He’s best known for playing Joe Mannix, private investigator, on the TV show Mannix, which ran from 1967-1975. Great show, and one of my all-time favorites. It was also an odd duck for its time because it forewent the idea of a detective with a gimmick (fat, wheelchair-bound, old, etc.) and just created a detective in the hard-boiled tradition.  James Rockford was probably Mannix’s spiritual successor on television.

Mannix is an interesting character with an interesting history, and that interesting history makes him a perfect character for a game of GRIT & VIGOR.

R.I.P. Mike Connors, and thanks for the fine entertainment.

Joe Mannix
High school football and basketball star, Korean War veteran, former P.O.W., mercenary in Latin America and current private investigator

5th level fighter, 7th level private eye

Strength: 13 / +1
Dexterity: 14 / +1
Constitution: 16 / +2
Intelligence: 11
Wisdom: 13 / +1
Charisma: 11

Hit Points: 3d6 + 4d10 +14
Armor Class: 11
Attack: +4
Saves: F11 R10 W12

Feats: Pugilist, Power Attack

Knacks: Athletics, Communicate, Drive Car, Endure, Pilot Aircraft

Fighter Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure*, Jump, Lift Gates, Ride Mount

Private Eye Skills: Cant, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand, Track (humans only)

Class Abilities: Note clues and concealed items, mull things over, backstab +2d6, extra attack vs. opponents with 3 or fewer Hit Dice

Equipment: Colt Detective Special (1d6), 1975 Chevrolet Camaro (in the show’s final season, but Mannix drove an astounding array of cool cars over the course of the series – check Wikipedia’s entry for a list)

Dragon by Dragon – October 1979 (30)

We’re baking here in Vegas , so perhaps a nice magazine from the fall of 1979 will put me into a cooler mindset.

I know – The Dragon #30! That’s the ticket!

But, of course, October isn’t about being cool. It’s about being horrified. ’79 was a good time for that, and not just because of the Carter administration. ’79 was The Amityville Horror, Alien, Phantasm, The Brood, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Dracula … and I never saw any of them. Frankly, not a horror movie fan. Let’s get to the magazine.

First – the cover. What a great cover. I love covers with lots of little details, lots of things to get the brain ticking.

Dig this from the opening of Kask’s editorial:

“As I am writing this (11 Sep), DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is getting the publicity that we used to just dream about, back when we were freezing in Gary’s basement in the beginning. If we had our ‘druthers’, it would not have happened in such a fashion. By now, as you read this, I hope the mystery surrounding the disappearance of James Egbert has been happily resolved. Whatever the circumstances of the incident, it has been a nightmare for his parents and family, as well as for TSR Hobbies, Inc. It has been speculated that James was involved in some sort of D&D game that went beyond the realm of pencil and paper roleplaying, and may have mutated into something tragic. D&D was seized upon as a possible connection to the disappearance, for a variety of reasons. First, James was an avid player. Indeed, I have met him at past conventions,
and he used to subscribe to TD.”

And so it begins. In case you don’t know, James Dallas Egbert III was a student at … well, you can read about it at Wikipedia. This may have made D&D more famous, but it also started the backlash against it by morons everywhere dedicated to ruining innocent fun. Worst of all, it led to the TV movie Mazes & Monsters, starring a young Tom Hanks. Not all the Money Pit in the world can make up for that.

The Game’s the Thing … and I Used to Think GenCon Stood for General Confusion
by Kim Mohan

You might recognize Mohan’s name. He was a the new kid at TSR when he wrote this review of GenCon XII. In short – he liked it.

Where the Orcs Are
by Steve Brown

This article features a bitchin’ miniature diorama by Steve Brown. He wanted to enter it into the miniatures contest at GenCon XII, but it didn’t fit into any categories. Nevertheless, it was awesome, and had to get some love, so …

I’m going to assume the picture in the article doesn’t do it justice. Actually, there are a dozen photos, and the underground orc castle looks incredible. Brown says it took him a year to do the thing, and it carried a price tag of $4000 at the con (which would be about $13,000 in todays dollars, proving that the geek community has never been all that swift with their time and money … thank God).

Leomund’s Tiny Hut: Good Evening
by Lenard Lakofka

This was the first of the Leomund’s Tiny Hut’s, which were usually interesting articles that covered all sorts of gaming topics. This one, appropriately enough, is about vampires. It digs into the AD&D vampire, going in depth on its abilities and answering questions gamers might have had about the monster. For example:

1) Once the vampire’s hit points are calculated (it has 8+3 HD), they do not vary – i.e. you do not re-roll hit points when it regenerates in its coffin. Back in the day, there was an idea that adventurer’s re-rolled their hit points for each adventure (an idea I actually kind of like – to represent when people are super on their game, and when they aren’t).

2) Vampires don’t want too many lesser vampires under their control – really no more than 4. It sounds like the vampire wants to make sure there are plenty of living people to feed on, so he has to take care. Like a shepherd and his flock. And lesser vampires don’t create more lesser vampires.

3) Here’s one that got me: “The Vampire’s existence on the Negative Material Plane …” Wow – dig the idea. Maybe it was widespread. A negative material plane, duplicate of our own in some ways – but probably a nightmarish version – inhabited by the undead who also have an existence in the positive material plane. Neat. And what a great place to set an epic adventure!

4) It takes 1-4 segments for a vampire to transform (a segment is a second, for those not steeped in the timekeeping of AD&D), but only 4 if the vampire is surprised. After one segment to adjust, it can be mobile. When a combat round was predicated on segment-by-segment actions, this would be valuable information.

5) It still takes a magic weapon to damage a vampire in bat form.

6) A vampire in gaseous form “scattered to the four winds” can reform in 1-100 segments (i.e. less than 2 minutes). Also – DM’s should pre-set a hit point total at which a vampire will go gaseous.

He also gives some ideas about how to properly dispose of vampires, the spells they are immune to, details on regeneration, “lesser” vampires, summoning and charming, etc. It reminds me of the “Ecology of …” articles they used to do.

Observer’s Report: ORIGINS: Chaos With a Happy Ending
by Fantasysmith

To begin with, a note:

“This OBSERVER’S REPORT is written by the same person that does FANTASYSMITH’S NOTEBOOK. He prefers to do both under the pseudonym FANTASYSMITH, for reasons that he has made clear to us, and which we will honor.”

I think I just realized that Fantasysmith was, in actuality, Richard Nixon! I have no proof yet, but I’m launching a new Kickstarter to raise $1 million to help me get to the truth.

And now, I have to quote the first line of the article:

“Fluid sugar draws bees, fluid filth draws flies, and fluid situations attract the chaotic. This last was the case at ORIGINS ’79.”

Sheer poetry.

And now, an advert …

Cool module. Cool art. And remember, “tell them you saw it in The Dragon”.

From the Sorcerer’s Scroll: New Setting for the Adventure
by Gary Gygax

Here, Gygax talks about the relationship between TSR and TSR Periodicals, and his relationship as publisher vs. Tim Kask as editor and … yeah, I know. Who cares?

He then talks about the “Mugger” article from a couple issues back, and how it is both funny and great inspiration to look at different settings for games, in this case, the mean urban streets. Gary also gives us the lowdown on an adventure he’s working on in which adventurers in a city in the World of Greyhawk delve under that city and somehow end up in a subway tunnel in the modern world. He gives these guides for the particulars:

– In the city setting, magic will work, although cleric spells above third level will not. Of course, firearms also work.

– The perils of the place — police, street gangs, muggers, criminals of other sorts, citizens with
karate training or able to box, those with guard dogs, etc. — will be numerous and different.

– Weapons aren’t difficult to rate according to damage. Electricity will be interesting — low-tension AC giving but 1d6 damage (4d6 if the party is well grounded), low-tension DC doing 1d6 each segment until the victim is freed, and high-tension DC doing 1d20 in the same manner.

– Cars will inflict 1d4 damage for each 10 mph of speed. Small trucks will get a d6, large ones a d8, and trains a d10 for each 10 mph.

– Each special character (guard, policeman, street tough, mugger, etc.) will be given a level roughly corresponding to those of AD& characters, although the type of dice used will be non-standard.

– If the adventurers survive and manage to return to their own place in the multiverse, they will have little in the way of treasure — at least in all probability. Firearms will not work in the World of Greyhawk, of course.

He ends by pointing out that Schick and Moldvay make some of the heroes in their Giants in the Earth series too powerful. Now’s a good time for me to preview the way I’m rating fictional and real NPC’s in GRIT & VIGOR – by the number of years they’ve been active:

The New, Improved Ninja
by Sheldon Price

This is a set of rules extensions for the ninja class, which was published at some point in the past – I don’t remember the issue, and they don’t mention it here.

This version of the ninja is based on the book NINJA: The Invisible Assassins by Andrew Adams, published in 1970 by O’Hara Publications, Inc. of Los Angeles, California. Yeah – you can get it at Amazon.com.

The article starts out with weaponry. Here are some highlights:

In the hands of a ninja, the hankyu (short bow) fires at twice the normal rate.

There is a 5% chance per day of searching that a ninja can find 1d6 plants that work as caltrops.

It takes one week, and costs 2 sp, to make metal claws for the hands and feet.

Staves had small missiles attached to one end that could be thrown by flicking the staff.

Poison water guns have a range of 60′, and produce a cone of water 10′ wide at the base and 60′ high. The main use is to blind eyes – it takes 1d12 rounds to clear the eyes.

The weird signs the ninja makes (called kuji-kiri) are not magical, but they restore his morale and entrance non-ninjas (saving throw allowed).

Ninjas have two kinds of sandals – essentially they can replace the soles. One gave better traction, the other a more silent step.

Ninja can wear up to chainmail, and they can pad it so it remains silent without adding encumbrance.

Ninja can foretell the weather in the short term. Which is nice, because when assassination just ain’t paying, they can becomes TV weathermen.

They are also “earth aware” – can find good places for ambushes – and “man aware” – can manipulate people.

There is a huge list of special ninja equipment, from special torches to swimming flippers and rocket arrows.

There is a section on poison (the substance, not the metal band). Gyokuro is a poison that causes slow death – it kills the ill in a few days, and the healthy in 70. Wouldn’t that be a fun way to end a PC’s life. “Sorry Bill, you suddenly collapse dead in the street while haggling over that beaver tail soup. Turns out a ninja poisoned you a couple adventures back.”

Ninjas can make laugh-inducing poisons at level 4, sleep-inducing poisons at level 6, and insanity-inducing poisons at level 8.

Ninjas also have healing abilities, mostly on themselves, but I would think they would work on others.

Basically, ninjas are awesome.

Lankhmar: The Formative Years of “Fafhrd” and “The Mouser”
by Dr. Franklin C. MacKnight

For those not in the know, Lankhmar is not only the setting of Fritz Leiber’s stories of Fafhrd and the Mouser, but also a game. This article is written by a friend of his, and thus witnessed the birth of the Nehwon stories and the game. From the author:

Lankhmar wasn’t just a game, it was an adventure. The pieces were not mere abstractions, but heroes with personalities with which one identified. It provided an esthetic thrill unequaled in my experience in any other game anywhere.”

Starring Barry Gibb as Fafhrd

Add Lankhmar to the list of games I want to play. The article goes on to explain how the game was originally played (before it was turned into something more commercially viable in 1976 – see HERE).

We also get this tidbit about Harry Otto Fischer:

“Harry not only looked like Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy but had a similarly extroverted temperament and wit. The famous puppet could have been copied from him!”

The article is a must read for folks who love the stories. Great background stuff.

Design Forum: Boot Hill? Sure! But What Scale?
by Ralph Wagner

That title is such an artifact of its time. We don’t live in a magazine world anymore, and whenever something passes from now to then to what, so many little things pass with it. I’m only 43 years old, but the then I was born into is rapidly becoming a what. I think my childhood and the childhood of people born in 1900 have more in common than my childhood and people born just 20 years later.

Oh – the article. It’s about what scale miniatures to use with Boot Hill. Personally, I would have gone with these bad boys:

Found at Etsy … already sold. Damn.

Designer’s Notes: Flattop: A Long Game but a Strong Game
by S. Craig Taylor, Jr.

This is a discussion of Flattop, a game that covers the Coral Sea-Solomon Islands geography during 1942, specifically the three carrier-to-carrier battles of that year, Coral Sea, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz. Mr. Taylor was the game’s designer and developer, and he has a few insights about it, in particular about victory points and the difficulty in writing a truly original game. Sounds like a pip. And a great cover, by the way.

Up on a Soap Box: Standardization vs. Playability
by Bob Bledsaw

He discusses the value of standardization in a game, but also its limitations. Wow – I’m sure you didn’t see that coming. Mostly, he describes how he does his own campaigns – how he handles the races and technology and religion. Could be some useful stuff to the newbies – after all, at this point almost everyone playing the game was a newbie. By being a basic framework, D&D opened the doors to a whole new world, and everyone was feeling out what they could and couldn’t do in that world.  What a great time.

And look at this little ad that popped up on page 21:

Things are about to get weird. If you are reading this and haven’t heard of Arduin, look it up.

Armies of the Renaissance
by Nick Nascati

This is Part V, and covers the armies of Eastern Europe – Poland, Hungary, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It’s a good article – one page, two column, and covers the basic very nicely. What if we came up with a big d% table with 100 entries that determined a first level fighter’s starting equipment, based on various historical warriors (and maybe Buck Rogers thrown in just for fun). Might have to do that for the blog.

Tournament Success in Six Steps
by Jon Pickens

Tournaments were such a big deal in the old days. I wasn’t a con-goer then (or now, to be honest), so my only exposure to them at all was in some of the old AD&D modules I owned, which had a section on using the module in a tournament, with the points scores, etc.

Here a quick version of Jon’s rules for success:

1) Get in – i.e. sign up for a game. If you don’t get in the first round, sign up for the second.

2) Use magic to get rid of obstacles that would take too long to overcome the old fashioned way.

3) Have a plan (always a good idea).

4) Pay attention to the DM, and if something seems amiss, question him. He might only give out certain bits of information if the right questions are asked.

5) Don’t waste time.

6) Never quit – avoid combat as much as possible, but if you have to do it, do it with extreme prejudice.

Finally, never argue with the DM. If you think he or she screwed up, bring it up politely.

Out on a Limb

Ah – letters to the editor time. Here’s a dandy:

Q: “Something has been bothering me about the Druid class in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. That is, I know of a couple of people in Chapel Hill who don’t know each other, but they are both the ‘Great Druid’.

A: “The stricture regarding the number of high level Druids is on a per world basis.”

He kindly didn’t add, “dumbass”.

Geek Rage of the Week:

“En garde, Master Rahman and those of you who defend such shoddy pieces of work such as Bakshi’s. (I’ll refrain from referring to it as the ‘Lord of the Rings’).”

Good Advice of the Week:

“It is my contention that all “good” referees should make it their duty to change large portions of the concepts presented in any given role-playing game.”

Terrible Augury of the Future:

“As you may have noticed last month, Wormy has returned. Wormy’s creator got married and moved to California, but he promises that Wormy is back to stay. As to more of Dave’s art, that is up to him and his job in CA. One can always hope . . .”

Cool ad for Dragon Tooth Fantasy Figures:

I haven’t done a random encounter table based on a mini’s ad in a while, so here goes:

d10

1. Rogue or thief (roll 1d4 for level) in leather doublet with short sword, mounted on light warhorse. Wears cloak and floppy hat. Will do anything to steal your purse.

2. Sorcerer (roll 1d5 for level) in the middle of casting one of his highest level spells. Will be extremely cross if you mess it up.

3. Swordsman (roll 1d6 for level) armed with sword and spear.

4. Rictus, the Zombie King; zombie with 12 HD and the strength of a hill giant (+4 damage).

5. Swordsman Kane, a neutral evil 8th level fighter from the terrible north, escaping his love of a good woman who threatened to turn his heart to good. Has +1 scale mail and greatsword.

6. Sorceress (roll 1d8 for level); she holds the mystic Moon Staff of Myrmidor, which can cast all sorts of cool light spells, and confusion and which can cast hold monster, at will, against lycanthropes. She rides a light warhorse.

7. Cleric in mitre with mace. Roll 1d10 for level. He is suffering a crisis of conscience, as he caught mother superior stealing milk and didn’t damn her.

8. Fool or jester, recently released from his master’s service and very hungry. He is a 1st level assassin.

9. Bard or harpist (roll 1d12 for level) in puffy velvet clothes and a great hat. He carries a silver longsword and a golden lyre that charms fey, 4/day. He rides a dapple grey light warhorse. He is arrogant and good-natured.

10. Swordsman Roland (level 9 fighter), with scale mail, +2 shield (axes stick to it on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6) and a major chip on his shoulder towards paladins and rangers (they think they’re so awesome).

Also, found this old issue of Popular Mechanics about painting Dragon Tooth miniatures.

Also, dig this 1978 catalog (which I’ve probably already posted at some point).

Giants in the Earth
by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay

This edition of G in the E features Piers Anthony’s Sol of All Weapons (LN 20th level fighter, 14th level monk), Tanith Lee’s Zorayas (LE 23rd level magic-user) and Clark Ashton Smith’s Maal Dweb (LE 20th level magic-user).

I dug the little advert for Cities, by Stephen Abrams. I did a search and found that he did a few versions of this book, including one for Runequest. I think I’m going to by myself one. I’m intrigued. If I do, I’ll post a review.

The Dragon’s Augury

The games reviewed in this issue are Spellmaker reviewed by Bruce Boegman, Black Hole reviewed by David Cook and Down Styphon reviewed by Kenneth Hulme.

Spellmaker (1978, by Eric Solomon) pits powerful wizards against one another, trying to transport a princess to their castle to win the game. The reviewer calls it a “rare gem”, and I must admit, it sounds pretty cool. The spells are card-based, and I’d love to see a deck of them.

Black Hole (1978, by Robert A Taylor) pits two mining cartels against one another to capture a donut-shaped asteroid with a black hole tethered in the middle. The review is positive, so it might be a good con game for two.

Down Styphon! (1977, by Mike Gilbert) sounds pretty interesting. It is based on the book Lord Kalven of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper, in which a Penn. State trooper is transported to a parallel earth where the secret of gunpowder is controlled by a bunch of priests. The trooper knows how to make gunpowder, better weapons and he knows something about the “future” of warfare. The game is a miniatures wargame in the musket and pike era. It is apparently a very playable game with only OK layout and some missing stats for artillery (which are provided in the review).

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Orlow’s Inventions Can Liven Up Your Life
by William Fawcett

This article could be a great blog post – a random list of minor magic items that include spoons of stirring, brooms of sweeping, needles of sewing, amulets of caterpillar control, socks of dryness and matches of many lights. This stuff would be so great for putting in a wizard’s tower. Just awesome – if you can find a copy of this issue, find it for this. I’d post the random table, but it’s a little more than I’d be comfortable sharing considering the mag is copyrighted.

So, Different Worlds gaming mag. Never heard of this. I hunted down some descriptions, and apparently some issues you can still buy. I love the art in the ad, and would love to see a sample issue in PDF. There is so much buried treasure out there for gaming!

I also have to share this ad, for on heck of an artist for hire …

… who is still out there working, thankfully.

Dig Tramp’s minotaur in Wormy. So cool.

Dragon’s Bestiary: The Curst
by Ed Greenwood

I’m not sure if this is the first thing in the magazine by Ed Greenwood or not. The curst are still roaming about in the Forgotten Realms setting. Humanoids (98% are human stock) that have been cursed and cannot die, they are chaotic neutral, retain their class abilities except psychic powers and magic, gain infravision 90′ and apparently have no sense of smell. In modern parlance, they would be a “template”.

Finieous Fingers shows us what failing a surprise roll looks like.

And that does it for The Dragon #30. A pretty good issue, overall, with lots of interesting artifacts of the old days of gaming that I love. Seriously – find a copy and check out the minor magic items article – well worth it.

Dragon by Dragon – June 1979 (26)

Two years ago, I was writing a series of weekly blog posts on the old issues of Dragon magazine – something like reviews with a bit of crunch mixed in. And then I stopped. And I don’t remember why.

Well, now I’m starting again. So … journey back in time with me to June of 1979, when the Bee Gees were dominating the charts with Love You Inside Out

Oh – that’s Wanda Nevada. Brooke Shields. Groovy.

Anyhow – into this golden age of entertainment comes Dragon Magazine, Volume III, No. 12 with a kickin’ cover depicting some Napoleonic war game action, and of course much more. Let’s dive right in.

The first thing we’re greeted with is a great full-page Ral Partha advert, noting that “The Little Things Make a Noticeable Difference”. If you’re in my generation of gamers, Ral Partha is just branded into your brain. They were so prevalent in the pages of magazines, and had some great adverts. Honestly, I never messed with miniatures back in the day. I got into the Citadel stuff in late high school and through college, and bought a few Ral Partha minis then, but I really missed the companies hey day. Alas.

On the contents page, we are made aware that this issue marks the beginning of Gay Jaquet’s reign as assistant editor, assisting T. J. Kask, that is. I note this only to point out that TSR appears to be growing.

Another ad now, for the Origins! 79 convention in Chester, Pennsylvania. Do you think the geeks that now trod those halls know the gaming history of the place? Probably not.

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1436714251332!6m8!1m7!1scz6zKvyptBHn3Dg5DGMjQA!2m2!1d39.860951!2d-75.353605!3f295!4f0!5f0.7820865974627469

Looks like a cool college – love the brick work. I’m from Las Vegas – we live in a world of stucco and sandstone, so the brick stuff always impresses me. What can I say – I’m a cheap date.

Next, we have a status update on Gencon XII, and a notice that they’re looking for judges and events for the con. We also get a full con schedule, some prices on back issues of The Dragon (back issues are $2.10 a pop, or $6.88 in today’s dollars. Not a bad price).

Oh yeah – and a McLean cartoon involving the confusion between rocs and rocks. I love watching his art style grow in these early issues. There was some solid young talent in gaming back in the day. I wonder what they paid him per cartoon?

Now we reach the first article – “System 7 Napoleonics: Miniatures Meet Boards”, by Kask. I’m not going to delve too deeply into the article itself, which reviews the game System 7 Napoleonics by GDW, which uses cardboard counters in place of miniatures, and is thus cheap compared to using the lead, but I will point this out:

“The problem with establishing a campaign in a college club, whether it be D&D; TRAVELER, or a Napoleonics, is one of continuity. Each semester, some of the stalwarts say goodbye and depart for “the real world.” This can be especially traumatic if one of those departing owns the French Army, or what passed for it in terms of collective club figures.”

Funny to think how wrapped up the game used to be with issues like this. I suppose it still goes on to this day – maybe some college kids could chime in in the comments below and let us know if they still deal with this. Personally, I’m an old fart, and I do my gaming on G+ these days.

This article is followed up by another article on System 7, by Rich Banner (the designer), called “Necessity is the Mother of Innovation”. If you were into this new game, this was your lucky month, because this article is followed up by a Q&A with Banner.

Speaking of GDW (or Game Designers’ Workshop), we are now treated to a full page ad for their new expansion for Traveler, Imperium – Empires in Conflict: Worlds in the Balance. Great title.

From the Dungeon Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva (no longer there, I’m afraid), we have an ad for 4th Dimension, the Game of Time & Space, produced by TSR (sort of – click here for more). Apparently, you play a Time-Lord (does the hyphen grant immunity from BBC law suits?) commanding an army of Guardians, Rangers and Warriors in some sort of board game battle.

Next we get back into some D&D goodness, with “Giants in the Earth”. Great series of articles, giving game stats to literary characters (why don’t I do that in NOD?). This is a particular goody, because we get Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever (14th level thief, Str 15, Int 18 (56%), Wis 13, Dex 18 (93%), Con 15, Cha 16 – sounds like Vance was cheating on his dice rolls when he rolled up Cugel, and what’s with the percentiles – I thought they only did that with Strength scores in AD&D?), Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane (30th level fighter, 20th level magic-user, 14th level assassin – how many XP would that take?) and Talbot Mundy’s Tros of Samothrace (15th level paladin). I love Cugel, I’ve heard of Kane (but never read him), but Tros was new to me.

Ah – this is included:

Note: For the game purposes of these heroes: Dexterity 18 (00) gives +4 on Reaction/Attacking, -5 Defensive adjustment and three attacks per round for high level fighters. Constitution 18 (00) gives fighters +4.5 per hit die bonus

Oh, and Judge’s Guild (hallowed be their name) was hawking the Treasury of Archaic Names by Bill Owen. Struggle no longer for heroic character names!

Up next, “What of the Skinnies?” by James W. S. Marvin, a Starship Troopers variant. Not going to lie – caught a bit of the movie, never read the book, have never laid eyes on the game they’re referencing here. This might be the greatest article on the topic ever, and I’ll never know it. Moving on.

Edward C. Cooper gives some tips on “The Placement of Castles” in Lord and Wizard. Article aside, L&W sounds like a pretty cool game: “Mighty, magical holocausts, awe-inspiring Dragons, weird and terrible monsters, military battles on a grand scale. Which of the combatants, Order or Chaos, shall win? And can the forces of Neutrality maintain the precarious balance of power . . . An exciting, fast moving game of movement and combat in a fantastic world, where skill and strategy will decide the winner.” Another board game – the RPG’s are still in their infancy, after all, and at this point most RPG’ers have probably come to the game from board games and miniature war gaming. Makes sense.

Joe Curreri writes “35th Anniversary of D-Day Remembered”. There were lots more veterans of that day alive at the time, and their kids were the ones playing all these silly games. The page also has an ad for Lyle’s Hobby & Craft Center in Westmont, Illinois. Sadly, also no longer there.

In the Design Forum, James McMillan writes about “The Solo Berserker for William the Conqueror-1066. This article presents solitaire rules for the aforementioned game, with a little history on the berserkers. He includes the note that Eystein Orre, one of Harald Hadrada’s men, was called “the Gorcock”. If you’re reading this and play a barbarian or berserker in some game, please consider renaming your character “the Gorcock”. For me. For Eystein. For America.

Next up, David Sweet presents game stats for “Chinese Undead”. We have stats for Lower Souls, Lost Souls, Vampire-Spectres, Sea Bonze, Celestial Stags and Goat Demons. Boy, stats were simple in those days:

Also this:

Look out!

Fantasy 15s has a full page ad for 15mm miniatures allowing you to “re-create the mass battles of Middle Earth – at prices you can afford!” I wonder if there’s a source for cheap men-at-arms so fighter lords can do the same thing. The reproduction ain’t great, but the art in the ad is pretty cool …

The next article includes Boot Hill additions, revisions, and triva (!) by Michael Crane. The have a great “Fast Exact Hit Location Chart” that could be useful for duels, but also just combat in general (especially missile combat):

And, because it wouldn’t be a real D&D mag from the old days … “Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme” by Carl Parlagreco. This article tries to lay out what you can and cannot do with each alignment. Helping people is something Good characters do, apparently, while trusting in organizations is something for Lawfuls. Here are a couple samples:

Chaotic Good … will keep their word to other of good alignment, will not attack an unarmed foe, will not use poison, will help those in need, prefers to work alone, responds poorly to higher authority, and is distrustful of organizations

Neutral Evil … will not necessarily keep their word, would attack an unarmed foe, will use poison, will not help those in need, may work with others, is indifferent to higher authority, and is indifferent to organizations.

I think this is actually a much more useful way to look at alignment that getting philosophical with it, especially for people new to the game. Of course, you need a reward/penalty mechanism with alignment to make these strictures matter.

Next is Kevin Hendryx’s “Deck of Fate”, with illustrations by Grey Newberry. This is a great magical tarot card deck. Characters draw cards, and get magic results based on what they draw. For example:

II – Junon – The Goddess: No effect for non-clerics. For clerics, permanently boosts their Wisdom score to 18 and gains use of one spell of the next higher level.

In other words – it’s a pretty powerful magic item – an artifact really. You could probably make one heck of a quest into a band of adventurers having to retrieve all of these magic cards.

Rick Krebs now provides “D&D Meets the Electronic Age”. Boy, they had no idea. Dig it:

Over the years access to photocopiers and mimeograph machines have aided many Dungeon Masters in copying maps, charts and even publishing their own zines, all to the expansion of their campaign. But, the recent electronics explosion has now brought another tool to those DMs fortunate to have access to them: the micro-computer. We were one of those fortunate groups to gain the use of a 4K (4,000 bit) memory, BASIC speaking microcomputer.

Charles Sagui now writes “Hirelings Have Feelings Too”. It’s a short article that provides some guidelines for paying hirelings to keep them around. According to Charles, hirelings should be payed two years salary in advance, plus a share of the spoils – either an equal share, or a percentage. Non-humans, he says, will not hire on for salary alone – except orcs – but will also demand to be supplied with equipment and weapons to go into the dungeon. Elves, he says, don’t like to go into dungeons as hirelings – they like fresh air and trees too much. They don’t care much for gold, but they will demand a fine cut gem or magic item + 15% of treasure. Dwarves can be greedy at times – they want four years salary and 15% of treasure. And if you try to give a +3 returning warhammer to somebody else, there’s a 65% chance the dwarf will try to steal it. Orcs will go in for one year salary and 2-5% of treasure, and will only work for chaotics. They are prone to run away when confronted with a difficult fight and have a bad habit of killing their employer in his sleep and stealing all his stuff. I guess turn-about it fair play in a dungeon.

Charles also says that hireling NPCs will only go into the dungeon once – after that, they retire to blow their hard-earned gold on “strong drink and their favorite vice.” Once their money is gone, they might go back in with the PC’s – and if the PC’s paid well last time, they’ll be more loyal. Loyalty ratings for hirelings aren’t used much these days, but they were an important system in a time when hirelings and henchmen were the norm for D&D.

Michael Crane also contributes “Notes from a Very Successful D&D Moderator”. This is a chance, he says, for the moderators (i.e. game masters) to share their tips and tricks after many players have shared ideas for beating dungeons. The article is pretty much about one-upmanship between the DM and the players. A nice historical piece, from when the game was (and was supposed to be) a competition between the DM and the players.

Gary Gygax now chimes in with his “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” with “D&D, AD&D and Gaming”. The article discusses the origins of role-playing games, of fantasy war gaming, and of role-playing within fantasy war gaming. It’s a nice retrospective, and Dave Arneson’s innovation of giving players individual roles to play is mentioned. Gygax also takes pains to explain that AD&D is a different game than D&D – not an expansion or revision. As Gygax explains:

“Where D&D is a very loose, open framework around which highly imaginative Dungeon Masters can construct what amounts to a set of rules and game of their own choosing, AD&D is a much tighter and more structured game system.”

Which also explains why I like D&D better than AD&D. I like my games loose and imaginative. The article lays out the future of AD&D. And then this towards the end:

“For those of you who wondered why I took certain amateur publishing efforts to task, it was because they were highly insulting to TSR, D&D, this magazine, and myself.”

Nerd fights. They never end.

Kevin Hendryx now presents a variant game for D&D in the modern era called “Mugger!”. Welcome to the 1970’s. Technically, it is Mugger! The Game of Tactical Inter-City Combat, 1979. Each player plays a mugger, gaining experience for each successful mugging and gathering loot. The goal is to “… amass as large a horde of experience points as possible while carrying out one’s crimes and eventually gain a seat in the U.S. Congress …” The times, they ain’t a changin’ all that much, are they?

Random encounters include 1d2 cops on their beat, 1d3 roving squad cars, 1d6 tougher muggers, 1d8 street gangs, 1d20 Hare Krishna fanatics and 4d6 stray dogs.

Oh, and you pick up 1,000 XP for stealing 10 kg of plutonium.

Here’s the level chart:

It’s actually a pretty long article, and though tongue-in-cheek would probably be fun to play one night with some friends. It strikes me that the old city map from Marvel Super-Heroes would come in handy on this one.

Lots of articles in this issue. Next is “Birth Tables and Social Status” for Empire of the Petal Throne, by G. Arthur Rahman. EPT was still a major component in gaming in this period, and its generally featured in every issue of The Dragon. It provides a very long table for generating birth and social status, and this translates into skills, spells and the like for the character. Looks good to me.

Apparently, Grenadier was pushing their new line of licensed Gamma World miniatures with a full page ad. You can see some unpainted models HERE and some painted ones HERE.

Len Lakofka’s “Bazaar of the Bizarre” is “Blueprint for a Lich” in this issue. This is an in-depth article on how high level magic-users and clerics become liches, including a recipe that involves 2 pinches of pure arsenic and 1 measure of fresh wyvern venom (under 60 days old). Don’t mix this one up at home, kiddies.

The would-be lich then drinks the concoction and rolls the D%

1-10: No effect whatsoever, other than all body hair falling out
11-40: Come for 2-7 days – the potion works!
41-70: Feebleminded until dispelled by dispel magic. Each attempt to remove the feeblemind has a 10% chance to kill the drinker if it fails. The potion works!
71-90: Paralyzed for 4-14 days. 30% chance of permanent loss of 1d6 dexterity points. The potion works!
91-96: Permanently deaf, dumb or blind. Only a full wish can regain the sense. The potion works!
97-00: DEAD – star over … if you can be resurrected.

First – I can actually use this in the online game I’m running.

Second – awesome random table for generating liches – they’re either a bit paralyzed, could be blind or deaf, or maybe are completely normal. Side-effects are a good idea for major potions.

Gary Gygax now provides tables for “Putting Together a Party on the Spur of the Moment”. This generates a PC party quickly, with tables and rules for generating quick ability scores, level, armor, weapons and magic items. I think this made it into the DM’s Guide. Which DMG you ask – come on, there’s really only one.

Thomas Holsinger provides a “Strength Comparison Table”. He provides a strength table from 0 to 18/00, with monster equivalents, hit bonuses and damage bonuses. It’s inspired by Dave Hargrave’s Arduin Grimoire II. FYI – Leprechauns are stronger than Brownies, and Pixies are stronger than Leprechauns, just in case you were going to run an all-fey remake of Over the Top. (Google it!)

Jeff Neufeld now provides a review of a play-by-mail game called Tribes of Crane (which is mis-written as Tribes of Tome in the first sentence). We also have reviews of Ice War. (Soviet/US confrontation), Mercenary (a Traveller book), The Battle of Monmouth and Grenadier Figure Packs and a very long review of Battle Sphere with lots of cool illustrations.

The Dragon’s Bestiary (formerly Featured Creature) presents the barghest, so you now know which decade to blame for those little bastards.

Next comes “The Adventures of Fineous Fingers, Fred & Charly”.

Who says old school fantasy is all about scantily clad females?

Great article title by Rod Stephens – “The Thief: A Deadly Annoyance”. Amen to that. He laments the misuse of thieves in dungeons, because they’re really meant for urban environments, where they can steal from high-level NPC’s and other players – because PC’s have more money than just about anybody in the game. He isn’t wrong.

We finish up with some full page ads for GenCon XII, TSR’s new game Divine Right (notes that T.M. Reg. has been applied for – so don’t try anything funny) and Space Gamer (subscribe to get a free game – Ogre, Chitin I, Melee, WarpWar or Rivets).

A packed issue, and a reminder that The Dragon was a full-bodied gaming magazine at the time, and not just TSR’s house organ.

Hope you enjoyed the review – have a happy Sunday and a great week ahead.