Slumming Once Again

After having reviewed David Lewis Johnson‘s fine Gathox Vertical Slum recently, I was delighted to be given the chance of reviewing a recently released adventure for the setting called Quake Alley Mayhem.

From the introduction:

“GVS2: Quake Alley Mayhem is a tournament-style module set in the world of Gathox Vertical Slum, for use with Swords & Wizardry White Box or a similar old school system, focusing on a team of fresh gang members and their attempt to retrieve an artifact for their boss.”

The adventure is nicely done, with a tidy set-up that meshes well with its setting, plus the bonus of being a tournament module – you don’t see many of those lately – and with an emphasis not on fighting, but on dealing with traps. In other words, like the Gathox setting as a whole, it’s not the same old thing.

Quake Alley Mayhem centers around a machine that one gang, the Kermen, stole from another gang, the Purple Rockets. They have this item hidden in – appropriately enough – their hideout. The adventurer’s task is to get it back, and it will not be easy. The chambers through which they must pass are trapped – not all of them, but most of them – and are sometimes guarded by monsters. In addition, the hideout is in a quake-prone area; every 20 minutes there is a quake, and every quake has the chance of altering the hideout’s layout or even dealing damage to the adventurers.

The room descriptions in the 40 page module take up 8 pages, and are well laid out for easy reading and use. The module has a brief introduction, rules on running the quakes, a guide to tournament scoring and random tables for rumors, random encounters, reactions and death and dismemberment. There is a list of three contracts the adventurers can take on to earn additional points in the tournament scoring and to spice up the mission a bit with extra goals. There are also seven pre-generated characters with character sheets so that players can get right down to business. The module also provides a Module Tracking Sheet for the GM and a blank character sheet. And, of course, the module has lots of nice art by David.

Quake Alley Mayhem is a nice introductory adventure for the Gathox setting, and at only $6.99 I heartily recommend it.

Dragon by Dragon – February 1981 (46)

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

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

Moving on …

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s another Roslof from that issue:

 

 

Love the halfling.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another dandy by Roslof – casting a spell from a scroll

Here’s a cool bit:

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

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

Time for some sage advice …

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

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

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

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

Cool stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition:

Size-Change
Magic-User 4, Cleric 3

Range: Touch
Duration: 30 rounds

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter folks!